Last week, we were introduced to Halanna, who the narrative painstakingly painted as a stuck-up pain in the ass of a Holder’s daughter before taking a certain amount of glee in abusing her to take her down a peg.
The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter IV: Content Notes:
The end of the concert has Merelan and one of Halanna’s brothers talking about her marked improvement in attitude and singing ability, having learned to play some instruments, as well as the suitability of dance partners of Halanna, before the brother asks Merelan to dance. Even so, Merelan notices that Petiron is so deep in conversation he fails to notice when Robinton plays with a group of nursery students, but she’s also afraid that Petiron will eventually notice that Robinton is very much the prodigy. The narrative frames this first as Halanna noticing Robinton’s talent, even though she hasn’t really interacted with him much, and then we hear about all the works Robinton has composed and the drum he made… and how Merelan found it very hidden away and learned that Petiron’s commentary for it was that it wasn’t good enough for the Harper stamp that would have let it be sold.
Merelan realizes, essentially, that she can’t talk to Petiron about Robinton, because Petiron will never actually be proud of his son unless his son is essentially perfect in all ways. Which still leaves her with the issue of her gifted child, as Kubisa tells her about how Robinton is able to help teach a child with a learning disability far better and more patiently than Kubisa can. This is a frankly impossible position for Merelan to be in.
And then Robinton learns about Thread, described this time as “bad Thread fell from the sky and hungrily are anything living it touched, from grass to runner- and herdbeasts, and even people.” But Kubisa also says it’s unlikely that Thread will fall in their lifetime. The day after that, actual dragons and their riders come to the Harper Hall.
And Robinton is bold enough to go up and secretly touch one, while thinking about how different the hide is from the watch-wher (ol’ Nick) and wondering if they’re both in the same family of dragons. The dragon (Cortath) answers Robinton, and the two have a conversation about the trip that Robinton’s parents are going on and Robinton’s desire for safety for them. When all is said and done, though, it seems like Robinton gets in trouble for the whole sequence.
“Robinton!” his father roared, scowling his amazement. Robinton risked a nervous glance at his mother and saw her slight smile. Why was his father angry with him? He hadn’t really been doing anything wrong, had he?
“Cortath says he’s enjoyed conversing with your son, Master Petiron,” M’ridin said with a reassuring chuckle. “There aren’t that many children these days who will, you know.”
Robinton’s sensitive ears caught the plaintive note in the tall, bronze rider’s voice. He opened his mouth to say that he’d be happy to talk to Cortath any time, when he saw his mother raise her finger in signal for him to be silent and noticed the deepening scowl on his father’s face. So he looked anywhere but at the adults.
“Out of the way now, boy,” his father said, gesturing urgently.
The narrative helpfully supplies that Robinton believes Petiron would have struck Robinton for bothering a dragon. Because the cult of the dragonriders means a lot less people feeling like they can talk to them that aren’t dragonriders.
Robinton also becomes more secretive about his compositions after having met the dragons, which is a serious change, but the narrative quickly jumps forward to the next time dragons come to the Hall. Robinton bolts to see if Cortath is among them, but he’s not present. But there’s also an exchange between dragons that Robinton gets to hear.
I call myself Kilminth and my rider is S’bran. What is your name?
As if you’ll remember, said another dragon voice. It was the very dark bronze one. It is only a child.
Who hears dragons when they speak, so I will talk to him while our riders are busy. It is nice to talk to a child who hears.
He’s not old enough to be Searched.
Don’t mind Calanuth, Kilminth told Robin in a somewhat supercilious tone. He’s too young to have much sense.
Who’s talking about having some sense?
Oh, curl up in the sun, and then Kilminth lowered his head down to Robinton.
That’s the most conversation I’ve heard between two dragons in all these books that wasn’t interpreted through one dragon. And it’s snark between them, no less. Makes me wonder what the opinion of the dragons has been on all of these strange human things they’ve been dealing with.
In any case, Robinton and Kilminth have a conversation about whether dragons being able to see above themselves makes them dizzy and how the dragons know when Thread is returning before S’bran returns and is happy to see there’s a child there talking to the dragons. Robinton innocently inquires whether it’s possible to be both a dragonrider and a Harper, and there’s a lot of laughter, but no actual response one way or another. Which leads to Robinton not holding out a lot of hope for the prospect.
They hadn’t told him if he could be a harper and a dragonrider. So that probably meant he couldn’t be. Which would please his mother. She had set her heart on his being a harper, and that would take a lot of hard work and many years.
Robinton continues to keep his conversations with the dragons close to the vest, even when he has a dream of dragons trying to tell him something and a harper that was taken on Search riding the color of dragon that he would eventually Impress.
That ends Chapter IV, without anyone having triggered off Petiron’s rage. Can we make it two?