Last time, the dragonriders intervened in a humanitarian crisis on the borders of Bitra, and continued to gather large swaths of evidence that Chalkin is unfit and needs to be impeached.
Dragonseye: Chapter X: Content Notes: Ablism, Patriarchal Norms
Chapter X begins with the attempt to convince Jamson of Chalkin’s bad behavior, but Jamson is unconvinced that such behavior is possible, and also has no desire to go out and verify things for himself because it’s winter in High Reaches. M’shall points out that Chalkin’s complaint about dragonriders not attending to his urgent signal is void because Weyrs have the right to refuse service to anyone (much like the Crafts do) with sufficient justification, and he and Bridgeley leave before Jamson can respond. But Jamson is still not convinced. “One simply does not impeach a Lord Holder overnight! Not this close to Threadfall,” he says, and he’s right that the process shouldn’t be easily doable, but at this point, there’s enough evidence that a trial should be getting underway shortly. Azury, who lives at Southern Boll, in much warmer climate, is not convinced initially, but does take up the offer to do his own interviews and see if there are liars or exaggerations going on. He comes back convinced, and the three go to see Richud of Ista, who is out fishing and has a lot of dolphins by his boat, because he claims the dolphins understand him. (We know, of course, that they do. One would think that the people of this time know as well, given that they’ve had access to the computers until recently.) Richud is on board, but asks that they hold the vote on a day he isn’t out fishing.
Which leaves Jamson. This time, they go back with Azury and with Iantine’s drawings.
“Very good idea, if Jamson will accept the proof as genuine,” the Southern Boll Holder said skeptically.
Which is exactly what happened.
“How can you be sure these are accurate?” the High Reaches Lord Holder said when he had leafed through the vivid and detailed drawings on Iantine’s pad. “I think the whole matter has been exaggerated out of proportion.” He closed the pad halfway on the stark sketch of the hanging man.
It is entirely possible that what I am about to say is strongly influenced by the fact that I’m writing it in a time where the President of the United States and several of the high officials of his government and campaign are currently being investigated as to whether they accepted and directed the machinations of a foreign government to interfere in an election, and then appear to have taken actions to obstruct the truth from coming out, but if Jamson turns out to have been bribed or bought off by Chalkin, I’m noting that I’ve called it all the way back from here.
Not that the narrative wants to give me the satisfaction, as right after Jamson dismisses them firmly, his son, who has been conveniently listening outside both times, offers to provide what help he can to get Jamson on board, while noting that Jamson’s memory and faculties have started to deteriorate over the last year. Paulin, the party’s next stop, volunteers that the son has been increasingly shouldering the responsibilities of running the Hold, but he can’t declare Jamson unfit and take over, even though Paulin knows who’s likely running the show there. Paulin praises the new learning scheme for including Charter rights in it, as well as rote learning as a method in times where databases are not available, to which he gets a side-eye from a significant body of research that flatly contradicts that idea, but characters know only what their writers know.
The action shifts back to Iantine, painting Zulaya, but it’s K’vin’s perspective as the viewpoint character, so that we can continue to sexualize the Weyrwoman while she sits. K’vin is pleased that Zulaya is wearing the red dress, as well as having her hair done up in such a way that uses the combs he got for her at the last Turn’s End celebration. He mentally praises the expression Iantine has painted on her face, and there’s a short flashback where he gets convinced that the idea of portraits of everyone in the Weyr is a good idea, if for no other reason that to remember who was there when the inevitable happens during the Fall.
Zulaya calls a halt, examines the portrait and is slightly unnerved at the way the eyes of the portrait follow the viewer around the room, before they turn to the issue of hot klah and whether or not Iantine’s sketches were enough to convince everyone.
Iantine grinned as if, K’vin noted with a twinge of jealousy, totally at ease with the Weyrwoman. Few were, except Tisha, who treated everyone like an errant child, or Leopol, who was impudent with everyone.
K’vin’s jealousy has to get him in trouble at some point in this narrative, since we keep coming back to it. But also, Tisha seems to be Manora and Silvina rolled together and I could have double-checked to make sure that line wasn’t Piemur instead of Leopol. Characters need to be differentiated more instead of the stock tropes of a type of character.
As it is, Zulaya mentions that Jamson is not fully there mentally, and getting worse, according to her sources, but Jamson would have to abdicate for anyone else to take charge according to the Charter, which everyone has been rereading or relistening to, and noting that it gives a lot of leeway to the Lord Holder to do things, although it’s immediately followed by “he’s [Chalkin] abrogated almost every right the holders are supposed to have” such as denying the trial by jury required before stripping a holder of their lands. There are also apparently provisions for collusion or mutiny, and a process by which a formal list of grievances can be delivered to the Lord Holder. Jamson’s reluctance to interfere in another’s business and skepticism about the drawings is met by Zulaya remaining (justifiably) upset about the violence done to the pregnant women.
“How are they?” K’vin asked.
“One has delivered prematurely, but she and the babe will be all right. The others…well, Tisha’s doing what she can…getting them to talk it all out before it festers too much in their minds.”
“They can swear out warrants against the guards–” Iantine began.
“They have,” Zulaya said in a harsh tone, her smile unpleasant. “And we have the guards. As soon as the women feel strong enough to testify, we’re convening a court here. And M’shall wants to try the murderers he’s holding at Benden.”
“Two trials, then?”
“Yes, one for rape and one for murder. Not at all our usual winter occupation, is it?” Zulaya said in a droll tone.
K’vin remarks that the Charter is actually rather detailed, and asks the obvious question about whether they can hold trial of another Hold’s men for actions they took in that Hold.
They can. “Justice can be administered anywhere, provided the circumstances warrant,” we are told. But all the same, the three agree to keep the idea only between those that have to be involved, so as not to provoke things that could get in the way, like Chalkin showing up.
That ends the chapter, but I want to keep talking about a couple things. First, I’m actually kind of surprised that the Charter document is as detailed as we are told. I was envisioning it more like the United States Constitution, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – a fairly broad document that would then be hammered out by subsequent legislation and court decisions establishing the boundaries and implementations of those rights. But apparently the Charter has specific things spelled out in it that are planet-wide no-nos, such as rape and murder. I’m glad they’re there, because it suggests there was a little more thought put into things than has been implicated before. I’m also a bit interested in how the provision of justice being applicable everywhere runs up against the autonomy of the Holder in their Hold. If it’s legal to defraud someone in Bitra, but Telgar prosecutes any and all cases of fraud vigorously, what happens when at a Fort Gather, a Telgarian can conclusively prove that the Bitran game is rigged so that nobody can win it? Whose law applies – Fort, Telgar, Bitra, or just the Charter? And who is recording these decisions for posterity?
Second, it appears that we have found the missing counselors and psychologists, and, as usual, it is untrained headwomen taking on these roles, without compensation or acknowledgement of what they are doing. Not just in emotional labor terms, which is a construction that might not have been available to the author, but the standing assumption that the headwoman is essentially the Weyr mother and confidante, so any issues like this that would need a sensitive touch go straight to her. I’d be interested in a story where we get to see all the work the headwoman does on a regular basis, just so that we can see how much gets piled on her shoulders. And who does she turn to when she needs help with everything?
Next chapter is going to start with the trials. I can hardly wait to see what constitutes the justice system at this point in Pernese history.