Last time, everyone expected Readis to show, but when he didn’t, only T’lion made a concrete effort to find him, and Toric was chastised for his plans before his settlers were allowed to go settle, but without any being beholden to Toric for the privilege. With an unstated threat left in the balance and the Southern Weyr relocated, everyone believes Toric is no longer a threat. We know better, but Toric isn’t likely to rear his head again in this book.
Which means there’s only one loose thread to tie up before we finish – how is Readis doing on his own?
The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter XIV and Epilogue: Content Notes: None
Readis continues in his Menolly pathway, having to spend a Threadfall under cover that’s barely adequate, before finding a cove cave system that has the right attributes for both humans and dolphins to coexist. Readis’s impulsiveness has left him without several useful tools and items, and without making amends to Persellan and telling T’lion where he was and seeing if he was okay for his role in the book destruction.
And he has no bell to attract dolphins, even if the place would be perfect for it.
Such concerns are pushed from his mind in the more immediate concerns of finding for and making tools that will allow for sleep and getting food. Readis goes searching for fire lizard clutches when he’s not making tools, as having a fire-lizard is essentially having a link back to everyone else, but no luck there. He does manage to fashion himself a flotation vest and test it out before taking a nice long swim out.
And even with no bell, a dolphin finds him. And tells him all the pods are looking for him, once they’re properly introduced. Readis asks the dolphin not to say that they’ve found him, but in saying he wants to be a dolphineer, Readis finds out that the other dolphins have been summoned anyway. They’re all very excited at the prospect of dolphineers, nearly swamping Readis in their exuberance.
Readis insists he doesn’t want to be found by humans, but also leads the dolphins back to his idea of where the Dolphineer Hall could be. Well, more hangs on while the dolphins escort him in. Who then comment about his “horsss”, the runnerbeast, and approve of his choice of place. They also mention the general 1:1 ratio of dolphins to dolphineers in the past.
And then ask him a necessary question.
“How people know to be dolphineers if no one knows who you are?” Delfi asked.
If Readis had needed any confirmation of how intelligent dolphins were, that remark certainly clinched it.
“Well now, you have a point, Delfi,” he said, settling more comfortably on the ledge, his feet dangling. “Just tell folks that there is now a dolphineer and a dolphin crafthall.” Readis wasn’t exactly certain how one established a crafthall, but Master Benelek had and so had Master Hamian, when he decided to specialize in the plastic materials the Ancients had made so much use of. Someone had to start someplace, sometime, and for a good reason. He believed he had one; the care of the dolphins who had been neglected by humans for so long in their struggle to survive Threadfall
It’s as good a reasoning as any, as it’s not like there’s a regulatory authority that permits and licenses new Crafts. The council of Craftmasters might want to have a vote in the matter as to whether to let Readis establish himself in such a way, but odds are that Readis will never hear about it until well after he’s already well-established.
After figuring out that the dolphins essentially go wherever there’s a bell, Readis remembers he has no bell, and after a discussion among themselves, the dolphins promise to come back with one tomorrow.
Which they do – although the bell is missing a clapper and needs a lot of work done to take off rust and accumulated years of disuse before it will be serviceable. Which Readis gets to, making a clapper and scraping off all the grime caked on over the course of the next two days, earning a lot of scraped and swollen knuckles before getting everything hung, including a bell pull for the dolphins to use from the water.
He rings in a Come-in sequence and then finds there’s basically the pod right there, and they have great fun ringing the bell, even if it threatens to deafen Readis and completely spooks his runner. Definitely an outside bell. The dolphins are enthusiastic and tell him he needs flippers, a mask, and a tank so that he can go long distance with the pod. Which sobers Readis up about his missing possessions very far away from where he was. But even then, the dolphins say they’ll keep him safe and take him out on expeditions, where they keep him fed and watered and give him the things they recover from sunken ships.
They’re also pretty good with the humor.
“We find. We bring. You fix. You ring.” Loki said. He identified her by the splotch on the side of her melon.
“Loki! You’re a poet! Did you know that?” Readis exclaimed.
“Yes. I poet. I know it. See?”
Some jokes are apparently timeless.
Eventually Readis puts his horse/runner outside to give him some range. Unfortunately, that means waking up one morning to find one of the large cats has made a meal of it. Eventually Readis starts another garden in the space where the pasture was. And life continues, until a single dolphin rings his bell to get a bloodfish off.
What should tip Readis off is that this dolphin doesn’t have any of the Silly Animal speech pattern. And that she has a name that’s the same as one of the original dolphins. But the pieces don’t come together for Readis that he’s talking to the Tillek, even though he compliments her speech and she tells him about all the other dolphineers at Monaco Bay, Paradise River, and so on. Instead, it crushes Readis’s hope that he’s going to be the very first dolphineer. And also, he’s nearly eighteen. Which means this interim has been about, what, seven Turns without anyone really noticing the passage of time? Or being told?
Readis immediately readjusts his goals to possibly having himself turned into a proper Holder with his land, even as Theresa asks to swim with him, and then thumps him into the water to emphasize it’s not actually a request.
So Readis swims with Theresa, without his vest, right out toward the Great Western Current, but he is shielded from the fact that Idarolan and Alemi’s ships are out there by Theresa’s body. Once he sees those ships, Readis realizes that he’s been had, that Theresa is the Tillek, and that he’s being escorted to a gathering of the dolphineers. Who also have in their company his family, several Weyrleaders, Master Samvel, Masters Menolly and Sebell, Alemi, and Idarolan.
“Well, Readis, lad,” Master Idarolan said, planting his hands on his hips and grinning at him. “Led us a fine and merry chase you have, lad.”
“I wanted to help the dolphins,” Readis said, speaking to his father despite the press of other important people around him. “No one else was.”
Jayge took Readis’s arm and pressed it affectionately, his expression wistful. “We know that now, son. And I honor you for what you did that day, despite what I said, and felt, at the time.”
“I should have never said what I did,” Aramina murmured right beside him, be there were tears in her eyes when he looked around at her.
Ah, there we go. It took a few years, but Jayge and Aramina are ready to apologize and understand. I feel very cheated, though, that we didn’t get to see what happened that caused the breakthrough. A perfectly good moment of character development, that could have been accompanied by an actual serious search for Readis, would have been nice. But as things are, and because the narrative has always been steadfast at avoiding the parts that would be the most interesting to see, we stayed with Readis, oblivious to the changes going on around him. Clearly a lot has changed while he was away, and yet we get to see none of it, instead we may have to accept the new world.
And speaking of the new world, Readis is actually here because the Tillek has formally requested the creation of a Dolphincrafthall and wants Readis installed as the Dolphineer, Craftmaster of the Dolphincraft.
But he needs some soup and klah to warm up first, and there’s plenty of new clothes and other things destined for him and his Hold (Kahrain, because that was the name the Ancients had for it and Readis hasn’t given it another name) to fix it up properly and build in the Dolphincrafthall. It turns out Readis was found out because T’lion flew over the seaside caves and knew it would be perfect for dolphins, and so they’ve known he was there for a few sevendays.
The actual chain of events ends up being that the pod of Paradise River were upset when Readis left, so they and the Eastern pods asked around and got nothing. They then asked the Tillek to talk to Idarolan about when dolphineers were coming back. Who told Oterel, who talked to T’bor, who relayed it to Menolly and Sebell. Menolly and Sebell learned about the disappearance from Alemi and forwarded all their knowledge on to the Benden Weyrleaders. They remembered a fragment from Robinton, so they consulted D’ram, who knew the right videos from AIVAS to view. Armed with that data, the Tillek went to Paradise River to ask Jayge and Aramina.
“She asked us,” Jayge said, looking slightly embarrassed while Aramina ducked her head and nervously twitched the hem of her tunic, one of her Gather tunics, Readis now noticed, “if we objected to your becoming a dolphineer.”
“It is an honor to be asked,” his mother said softly, hesitantly, before raising her head to look him straight in the eye. “I was once asked to accept an honor”–she shot Lessa a quick glance–“and could not. I cannot stand in your way, Readis.”
Oh, dear Aramina. That had to have been psychologically horrible for you, and somehow I don’t think it’s helped you with your own trauma all that much. I wonder whether it might be a good thing for Aramina to stand on a Hatching Ground as a candidate now, to go through with what she didn’t want to before. It’s not likely, especially in the era of dying Thread, that Aramina would Impress, but it might be good for her at this juncture to get exposure therapy.
As things are, though, Readis is to be instructed by the Tillek and have his Dolphineer exams administered by her until he can ascend to the role requested of him. And coming (and removing the bloodfish from her, which was situated very close to her genitals) indicated he passed the entrance exam.
The dolphins sing to announce the return of the Tillek, who calls Readis in to swim with them. The sailors say they’ll drop off the supplies at his cave.
“We’re proud of you, son,” his father said just as Readis arched himself into a dive over the railing and into the sea, carefully assuming at the space left free for him by the dolphins waiting there.
And that’s the closure that Menolly never got, nor Alemi, really, to know that her parents approved and were proud. Because Yanus doesn’t. And he’s a jerk.
The epilogue has the remaining humans discuss the increased pace of life with the reintroduction of technology, and the realization of what the lonely sounds they had been hearing all this time were. Everyone toasts the future without Thread, and the book comes to a close.
It’s a good last chapter, and brings to a close one of the things that had been forgotten from the beginnings. There’s still a little clock to be run out on Thread, and possibly at least one book to be written in the Post-Thread era, because the social upheaval that comes with the ability to be always out on the surface of the planet will be huge.
Instead, though, we end up spinning backward in time all the way back to the Second Pass to possibly retell a story of people who forgot they had Thread to deal with. So next time, we look out for a Red Star Rising through a Dragonseye.
Which title should I use for it?