Dragonseye: Stuck Until Subterfuge

Last chapter, a judicial process took place, which was legal by the laws of Pern and relatively without precedent, making it both judicial and extrajudicial at the same time. Unsurprisingly, the defense was less than spirited, and the defendants were convicted and exiled or castrated for their involvement.

Dragonseye: Chapter XII: Content Notes: Crimes Against Humanity (Torture, Murder)

None of this is enough to budge Jamson, though, who is incensed that “a Lord Holder’s right to deal with his own folk” was usurped by the trials, even as he agrees with the sentencing. Paulin and Thea stumble their way into a realization – if they can get Jamson to leave because of his health, Gallian will be invested, and then they will have a unanimity. Gallian is worried about jeopardizing his succession, but Thea assures him that things will be fine, and Paulin wants to get impeachment done before Chalkin retaliates against the people in his Hold. Which he will, of course.
Gallian is still nervous about all of this.

“I suppose I should get accustomed to making decisions, not merely carrying them out.”
Paulin clapped him on the shoulder encouragingly. “That’s exactly it, Gallian. And I’ll guarantee, not all the decisions you’ll be called upon to make will be the right ones. Being a Lord Holder doesn’t keep you from making mistakes: just make the right wrong ones.” Paulin grinned as Gallian tried to absorb that notion. “If you are right most of the time, you’re ahead of the game. And you’re right in this one for good reasons which you’re father declines to see.”

That’s a refreshingly honest take on leadership – yes, there will be mistakes, but try to make ones that don’t end in disasters.

Gallian wants to know what will happen to Chalkin once he’s impeached. Paulin says exile, because it’s the only way to make sure Chalkin doesn’t keep causing trouble. In the matter of succession, the uncle of the children, Vergerin, is mentioned as a potential, but Paulin thinks Vergerin gambled away his succession. Which, you know, might be an issue if anyone was willing to cede Chalkin enough respect to consider that a bet with honoring. As the two discuss heredity, Thea returns from her attempt to convince Jamson, which was successful – not because she convinced Jamson to leave over his own health, but with some acting and the application of rouge, Thea appeared sick enough that Jamson decided to take them both south until Thea recovered.

Thea then asks about succession, and is told about Vergerin, and Thea repeats that he gambled his succession away, before Gallian leaves to be appointed as the High Reaches Lord Holder pro tempore. What is to follow, of course, will be kept away from Jamson until it’s too late to object.

Four days later, when Lord Jamson and Lady Thea had been safely conveyed to Ista Hold, the rest of the Lord and Lady Holders and the Weyrleaders convened an emergency meeting at Telgar Hold and formally impeached Lord Chalkin for dereliction of his duties and responsibilities to Benden Weyr, for the cruel and unusual punishment of innocent holders (Iantine’s drawings were submitted as well as the proceedings of the recent trials), for refusing to allow the Charter to be taught so all would know their rights (Issony gave testimony on that account), and for denying these rights to his holders without due reason.

Let’s add one important detail to this decision – Chalkin is not present to give a defense. Gallian is surprised that there isn’t another trial, but Paulin says that Chalkin just had his. Again, Chalkin is not present at these proceedings, has no opportunity to give a defense, an explanation, or submit any evidence in his favor. Yes, the narrative and the characters have been doing their level best to prove to us that Chalkin is a monster, but if the case is that good against him, Chalkin should be able to offer his defense. The trickiest business would be figuring out how to get him to appear before the council, given the autonomy granted and the general non-interference of the dragonriders.

S’nan makes a point of refusing to use dragonriders to get Chalkin, but M’shall is totally for it, and the matter quickly becomes a question of “who has been enough in Bitra that they could produce a viable way of grabbing Chalkin and cutting off his ability to escape?” and “who will succeed Chalkin?”

Vergerin, of course, because he’s of the Bloodline, and they intend very firmly to follow the Charter on inheritance, even though there’s a third instance of “but he gambled it away”, which M’shall finally says something about how he heard Chalkin cheated on it. The dissonance is still…something. They’ve already impeached Chalkin, but they’re still totally willing to abide by a wager that involves him winning something.

To appease the council, Paulin says that each hold that has a child versed in hold management should send them so they can assist Vergerin in getting Bitra back up and ready in time for Thread. Which just leaves the question of getting Chalkin before he goes to ground. Issony and Iantine are called him, because they have the expertise of having lived there, and between the two, they help the Council plan how to cover all the possible exits.

But then there’s also one other thing about Bitra that we haven’t yet been exposed to.

“There’s another level,” Issony said, tapping the right-hand corner of the paper. “You were lucky not to visit it.” He gave a snort. “Chalkin calls it his cold storage.” The teacher glanced around the table. “A lot of small cubicles, some horizontal, some vertical, and none of them long enough or wide enough for the poor blighters shoved in ’em.”
“You can’t be serious?” S’nan’s eyes protruded in dismay.
“Never more,” Issony said. “One of the kitchen girls spilled a tub of sweetener and she was immured for a week. She died of the damp cold of the place.”

Cocowhat by depizan

And nobody found this abhorrent, or what?

There’s a wordto describe what kind of place that is. They’re oubliettes, which means they are places where people are put to be forgotten until they die. Issony is a teacher, and in theory knows what the Charter says and what the law was like, and yet he waits this long to talk about the place where murder and torture happens for things as small as spilling sugar. Murder is supposed to be punishable under the Charter, and yet it seems that the outsider thinks this is normal discipline between a Lord and his servants.

The chapter finishes with the plan drawn up and ready to go for the morning, at the point where the guards and the watch-wher are felt to be least effective.

We’re more than halfway through the book, with all sorts of heinous activities as having taken place, and now, finally, we’ve managed to get to the point of removing the Bitran Lord Holder, because a lot of people have either turned away or been bound by rules rather than trying to do good. No wonder their descendants can’t defeat Fax.

6 thoughts on “Dragonseye: Stuck Until Subterfuge

  1. depizan77 December 21, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Thea repeats that he gambled his succession away,

    How do you gamble your succession away? More importantly, how do you gamble your succession away to the person who you’d be succeeding?

    “Never more,” Issony said. “One of the kitchen girls spilled a tub of sweetener and she was immured for a week. She died of the damp cold of the place.”

    How in HELL did this not come up during the trial? If this is “normal,” what was Chalkin doing that was worse than normal? (Do we even want to know? O_o) If this isn’t normal, why in the name of all that’s holy would that NOT be part of “this is why Chalkin should be exiled into a volcano”?

    Pern gives me such a mighty headache.

  2. genesistrine December 21, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    How in HELL did this not come up during the trial? If this is “normal,” what was Chalkin doing that was worse than normal?

    I’m seeing a striking parallel to #MeToo there. How many people have come out of Bitra – and maybe other Holds – tried to tell people in authority what was going on and got a response of indifference, “just a drudge”, “autonomy!”, “what do you expect us to do about it”, “I’m sure you’re exaggerating”, “why would he do something like that?”, “stop being so dramatic”, “what are you trying to get by accusing a powerful man?” and so on?

    The neighbouring Lord Holders seem to have some idea that things are not good there, and Iantine’s Crafthall knows that anyone he hires gets ripped off, but no-one cares enough to find out in depth, and there’s no single authority that abuses can be reported to, so… welcome to Randtopia, I guess.

  3. Brenda A December 21, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    I guess they were so busy focusing on the people dying at the border that no one thought to bring up the people dying in the dungeon? Still weird that it wasn’t brought up in addition!

    As for gambling away succession, the story of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament comes to mind… older brother trades away his right to inherit for a bowl of stew, thinking it’s a joke, and then the younger brother takes him up on it…

  4. depizan77 December 21, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Wait… so Chalkin is Lord Holder because Vergerin gambled away his right of succession. That makes a lot more sense. (For certain values of sense.) But we’re still dealing with a different succession question, aren’t we? Vergerin gambled his right to inherit from his and Chalkin’s mutual father. But now we’re trying to figure out who can inherit from *Chalkin*.

    And this is why Pern needs lawyers.

    (Also people who aren’t made of suck.)

  5. Silver Adept December 21, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    @ depizan –

    We’ll find out (or I’ve glossed over) that what Vergerin gambled away was his right to contest a succession, and apparently everyone is okay to say that should be enforced even on this one, or something. It doesn’t make sense, because they’re still enforcing a debt that was given to the person they just impeached. One would think his word and contracts are void at this point.

    I agree with the #MeToo parallels, @genesistrine. There’s nobody with enough authority noticing or caring until things get to the point where they can’t ignore it and have to care, even if it is for reasons other than “this guy is murdering and exploiting people.” Even then, Jamson just doesn’t want to believe and stalls the whole process.

    Pern is a terrible place. And does need lawyers and an impartial court.

  6. genesistrine December 25, 2017 at 8:38 am

    One of the most important rules in the Charter: “NO TAKE-BACKSIES!”

    (Also applies when someone asks, “Hey, why should I be a peasant farmer just because my ancestors were dim enough to colonise a planet where they’d be second-class citizens?”)

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