Dragonseye: Finally….oh.

Last chapter, there were finally enough stars aligned for the council to take action against Chalkin, and they summarily impeached him and drew up plans to capture him in his hold to inform him of their decision and sentencing.

All without giving him the option to defend himself in the court.

We also learned about yet another atrocity that was known to someone, but nothing was actually done about it.

Dragonseye: Chapter XIII: Content Notes: Crimes Against Humanity (Torture), Sexism, untreated PTSD

As one might guess, the actual capture is anticlimactic – even though the watch-wher sounds an alarm, nobody investigates. Everyone gets into Chalkin’s chambers, and while the first daughter doesn’t scream, the second one does. That alarms the guards, but as soon as Paulin announces Chalkin is impeached, and those who stay loyal will join him in exile, the guards say “Fuck it, we’re out,” just as the reinforcements arrive.

And then Chalkin wakes up.

Chalkin showed every fiber of his cowardice, trying to bribe one Lord Holder after another, with hints of unusual treasure if they assisted him. If anyone has been in the least bit tempted, their resolve was strengthened when the broken, shivering wrecks were released from “cold storage.”
“The place was full,” Issony said, looking shattered by what he had seen on that level. “Border guards, most of them, but they didn’t deserve that from Chalkin!”
Even the hardiest of them would bear the marks of their incarceration for the rest of their lives.

Hang on. This is from the character who, last chapter, mentioned that a girl had died from a week in that space while he was there, but now, now he’s shattered by the presence of men in the area who have suffered the same treatment. These men are mostly the same people who were, just a few chapters ago, committing atrocities against others.

“Iantine? Did you bring…ah, you did. Do a quick sketch of them, will you,” Issony said, pointing to the two so close to death: the two who had been castrated for rape. All that could be done for them was to ease their passing with fellis juice. “To show S’nan. In case he has lingering doubts as to the justice of what was done here today.”

Issony, you’re an asshole. You couldn’t manage compassion for the girl killed in this manner, but fellis is ready for the castrated rapists to overdose on so they go quietly.

This scene would go over much less problematically, actually, if Issony wasn’t there at all. Iantine has been portrayed as both sympathetic and empathetic throughout the book. Since he’s the one with the artistic talent anyway, he can be making sketches of his own accord, to make evidence of what happened here, as a stark reminder to the council of their utter failure to act when they had the evidence that horrible things were happening to innocent people. Iantine would be rightly shocked and scarred again at seeing something worse than what he had already thought was the worst thing someone could do to others. Issony being present screws with what is supposed to be a moment of genuine realization and horror, because he’s seen this before, and he didn’t do anything about it.

As it turns out, the raiding party, having secured Chalkin (who of course has a breakdown that confirms him as guilty and gives the council yet more crimes to conflict him of) is soon greeted by Vergerin himself, who has been hiding as a stablehand ever since he realized that Chalkin would be likely to kill him if the council ever got around to removing Chalkin from power. And we know he’s good, too. The narrative tells us.

He had unwound the layers that clothed him and stood with a quiet dignity in the midst of the warmly dressed riders and Lord Holders. It was that innate dignity that impressed Paulin. Nor was he alone in noticing it.

See? He’s very clearly a noble and upright character, because despite the fact that he’s got the smell of shit all over him, he exudes a dignified aura that all the assembled nobles notice.

And then, probably because the narrative still fails to recognize that it’s giving legitimacy to the person who just got deposed, Vergerin references the succession gamble himself and confirms Chalkin cheated, and Paulin nods his approval that Vergerin kept his promise, despite all the evidence present for the last several chapters that Chalkin is a monster that has been doing horrible things to his people all the time he’s been in power.

Chalkin appears, sees Vergerin, accuses him of breaking the promise, and tries to hurt him, but is restrained by other Lords. His wife, Nadona, accuses Vergerin of taking everything from her and Chalkin, and appeals to her brother, the Lord Holder of Nerat, to do something. She gets nowhere with this appeal, and the narrative takes pride in telling us “Irene took some pleasure in applying the slaps that cut Nadona’s hysterics short.” Because slapping women around to sit them up is a time humorous and totally okay thing to do on Pern, we’ve established, no matter how much of an abuse it is on Terra.

As Chalkin is hauled out for exile, Paulin takes Vergerin to the nearest room and pours him a drink, “impressed by the man’s control in a difficult situation.” Nadona, having seen the writing on the wall, has chosen to stay behind and raise her children, rather than follow Chalkin into exile, backed by her excellent knowledge of what her Charter rights are. It takes five men (and a knockout blow from Bastom, as it turns out later) to load Chalkin on the dragon that takes him to exile on one of the islands.

Iantine’s portrait of Chalkin is noted, laughed at for being what it is, and then ordered taken down and fixed to what Chalkin actually looks like. Iantine himself is glad for the opportunity to correct it and thinking a bit about possibly seeing if Debera would take him on as a mate before K’vin returns him to Telgar, where Leopol shows that he really is a palette swap of Piemur.

“One, you rode away on a Fort Weyr dragon. Two, you’ve been gone overnight so something was up. Especially when the Weyrleaders are gone, too. Three, we all know that Chalkin’s for the chop, and four, you’ve come back with a portrait and it isn’t the one you’ve done here.” Leopol spread his hands.” It’s obvious. The Lords and Leaders have got rid of Chalkin. Impeached, deposed, and exiled him. Right?”
[Iantine nocomments.]
“But I’m right about Chalkin, aren’t I? He won’t get ready for Threadfall, he’s been far too hard on his people, and half the Lord Holders owe him huge sacks of marks in gambling debts.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh my GODS and GODDESSES why hasn’t this been mentioned until now? If Chalkin has that kind of leverage on the Lords Holder, this should have been a much tougher sell to get him removed. All Chalkin has to do is threaten to expose or collect the debts and he should have sympathetic votes in the council. Even if he’s committing atrocities within his own borders, the leverage he has should be enough to stop anyone else from acting against him, especially if it requires unanimity.

Plus, the scene we had with Chalkin would be playing out differently. Rather than trying to bribe everyone with new riches, Chalkin should be threatening to call in every debt that he has and bankrupt all the Lords he can if they continue to depose him. Chalkin can’t be both the mastermind of a planet-wide gambling operation and not smart enough to realize what leverage he has on everyone else. It doesn’t work that way. Chalkin is either Stupid Evil and the mastermind is yet uncaught, or he’s competent and would know to go straight for the gambling debts.

Iantine’s attempts to not give away any information to Leopol are wrecked by Tisha essentially asking him the same questions, which the narrative suggests is a consequence of everyone already knowing the things that Iantine is trying to protect. Iantine answers Tisha, to Leopol’s great amusement, and Iantine asks a very good question that gets a very creepy answer.

“Do I have no privacy here?” Iantine demanded, raising his hands in helplessness. “Is there no way to keep secrets?”
“Not in a well-run Weyr there isn’t,” said Tisha.

We’re supposed to believe these are the good guys, but cult, cult, cult! Strange sexual practices, an unnaturally cheery attitude toward everything, a society that claims to actively prevent people from having secrets. Pernese Weyrs or Stepford, Connecticut? This should be terrifying to Iantine based on the trauma he suffered at Bitra and the things that he’s observed since. Like this:

He didn’t really want to show the latest drawings he’d done. The two castrated rapists had died shortly after he finished the sketches. He intensely regretted how pleased he had been with their sentences. Had they any idea of what additional torment Chalkin would inflict on them when they asked to be returned to their hold? No, or they wouldn’t have gone.

These are not normal things to witness. And to sketch as evidence. Iantine very much needs space to process these things and a trained counselor to talk them out with, but the only person who might function in that role has just told him that his confidence will not be kept. Iantine should be ready to crack, if he hasn’t already done so a few times over.

And in this case, it wouldn’t necessarily help to have someone open the painting that he was ashamed of and start howling in laughter, which is what Tisha and Leopol do on seeing what Iantine painted to Chalkin’s satisfaction. The narrative, however, just says

Iantine was in sore need of a good laugh, and if his inner anxieties kept him from joining in wholeheartedly, at least he was made to grin.
Tisha’s amusement alerted the rest of the Weyrfolk to Iantine’s return, and the table was shortly surrounded by people having a good laugh over what Chalkin had considered to be a “satisfactory portrait” of himself.

Because Iantine had a direct line to the author, I guess, because there’s nobody in any of this sequence that outright says that’s why they’re having such a loud laugh. It would be just as easy for Iantine, in his more fragile state, to assume that everyone was laughing at his workmanship, rather than the ridiculousness of Chalkin. But that doesn’t happen, because magically being able to intuit the right reason, as well as to set aside the terror and trauma that he’s witness to be able to smile. When Iantine talks to K’vin, a few scant hours later, though, he sounds a lot more like someone who might be suffering a touch (or more) of PTSD.

“How many people Chalkin had in those appalling cells,” Iantine said, blurting it the words before he realized what he was saying.
K’vin put a sympathetic arm around his shoulders. “I think I’ll be a few bad dreams over that myself,” and he gave a deep shudder. “Perhaps you’d best get some rest…”
“No, I’d rather not, if you’ve something else for me to do,” Iantine says truthfully.

No, K’vin, you won’t. Because you are bonded on a telepathic and empathic level with another creature that will help you get over it fairly quickly, aided by your own sense of justice. Iantine doesn’t have that, and is looking specifically for things to do so that he doesn’t have to think about it. Iantine needs a serious debrief and some therapy, neither of which he will get.

The narrative shows us a touch of how K’vin’s not all that upset about it, as he and Iantine talk about the portrait that Iantine did of Zulaya, and it’s pretty clear, even to Iantine, that K’vin’s more upset about having a beautiful woman (that he might even be in love with) as his Weyrwoman who doesn’t have any affection for him at all in that way. Iantine notices, but doesn’t say anything, about how the public pairing of the Weyrleaders doesn’t have any of this clear emotional content that K’vin is showing now.

The chapter itself, after having put us through all of this characterization and drama, ends with Clisser going to Kalvi with the plans drawn up for the astrological reminder structure, what we now know of as the Eye Rock and the Finger Rock, and Clisser asks Kalvi to have it done by the solstice. That’s it. If that’s supposed to be our breather, it belongs on the next chapter. Otherwise, it’s just mood whiplash.

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3 thoughts on “Dragonseye: Finally….oh.

  1. genesistrine December 28, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    even though the watch-wher sounds an alarm

    It’s hilarious to me that this method still works 2000 years later. That’s Pern all over. No-one learns anything.

    All Chalkin has to do is threaten to expose or collect the debts and he should have sympathetic votes in the council.

    Yeah, the internal politics should have been way different in that case. Though not necessarily sympathetic votes – if the Lords in debt decided that they’d be cancelling their debt by impeaching Chalkin then that could be the turning point for getting him out.

    Except in AMC’s mind I suppose gambling debts/loans wouldn’t be cancelled any more than Vergerin’s obligation to stand by staking his inheritance rights was.

    despite the fact that he’s got the smell of shit all over him, he exudes a dignified aura that all the assembled nobles notice.

    It’s pure Monty Python and the Holy Grail, isn’t it.

    If only a rabbit would show up and rip all their faces off.

  2. depizan77 December 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    “Border guards, most of them, but they didn’t deserve that from Chalkin!”

    Why? I mean, I guess Chalkin just does whatever’s most evil at any given moment, but it seems like not punishing the returned border guards and playing up the “unfairness” of the other Holds’ treatment of them would be good internal politics.

    As it is, no wonder Chalkin’s people all turn on him the moment they can. There’s nothing in it for them, even if they’re also terrible people.

    These men are mostly the same people who were, just a few chapters ago, committing atrocities against others.

    Ah, but they’re men, and therefor people. Whereas that poor girl was a girl and, if I remember right, a drudge, so doubly not people.

    Issony, you’re an asshole.

    Agreed. So much.

    All Chalkin has to do is threaten to expose or collect the debts and he should have sympathetic votes in the council. Even if he’s committing atrocities within his own borders, the leverage he has should be enough to stop anyone else from acting against him, especially if it requires unanimity.

    This should DEFINITELY have come up earlier, but I can actually see it working against Chalkin if enough Holders have debts to him. If it’s a few, he can control them, but if it’s too many, they should be eager to get rid of him and wipe out their debts.

    (Though I am still weirded out that this guy that no one likes, who is known to be dishonest, somehow managed to be successful at running a gambling empire. I mean, I know, we all know that the house always wins and loads of people gamble anyway. But Chalkin seems way beyond “the house always wins” and, besides, it seems modern casinos mostly sell themselves as if it’s entertainment, with the winnings as a background incentive. I am so not getting that vibe from anything around Chalkin.)

    Also, I don’t think the fact that the Pernese suffer from serious gambling problems has ever come up before or since.

    Chalkin is either Stupid Evil and the mastermind is yet uncaught, or he’s competent and would know to go straight for the gambling debts.

    This, too.

  3. Silver Adept January 7, 2018 at 2:05 am

    It is truly amazing how some tactics still work after all that time.

    Chalkin’s debts should have been mentioned a lot earlier, because they’re potential leverage on everything. Even if they were used as one more reason to get him out, unofficially, of course.

    As for the gambling problems of Pern, Moreta and Nerilka talk a bit about races being watched and bet on, and I think there was at least one part much earlier where Robinton gave Sebell a wink and a nod about how he never gambles, followed up with a comment to make sure that Sebell collects all his winnings, or something. Gambling games might be the most prevalent form of entertainment on Pern.

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