Last chapter, Robinton and Merelan went to Benden Hold to escape Petiron’s abuse. Robinton made a plot-important friend in Falloner and his performance of the Question Song has netted him an invitation to Benden Weyr, which is where we pick up.
The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter VII: Content Notes:
Falloner slips off the wrong side of Falarth, the transport dragon, so as to not have to be officially acknowledged, and introductions are made of the headwoman of the Lower Caverns, the Weyrsinger, C’gan, who is a blue rider, and Miata, who handles lessons at the Weyr.
I can’t remember if there have always been Harpers at Weyrs or not, but the distinction of C’gan being a singer is apparently an important one, because not five paragraphs later, Robinton is wondering whether or not he can be both Harper and dragonrider, despite theoretically having met someone who is both of those roles in C’gan. (I’m also not thrilled that the person interested in singing is described as slight and boyish and, according to draconic typing, very much gay, because it sounds like the stereotype of camp gay.) Robinton’s wonderings stop at Impressing a bronze or a brown, and don’t go any further.
Falloner gives Robinton the tour, including the crevice where everyone spies on the eggs in the Hatching Ground and some of the spaces he probably shouldn’t be in, like the Archives. There’s also a week and a nod to how Robinton is going to be both old and a workaholic:
As they flashed by, Rob caught a glimpse of his mother talking to some of the old aunties and uncles at one of the tables. Well, that duty would be over, so he wouldn’t have to nod and smile at the oldsters. The look of them, not to mention sometimes their smell, distressed him. People shouldn’t get that old. When harpers could no longer work, they went back to their birthplaces or down to the warmer, southern holds.
I’m going to note that the narrative is pinging about with various nicknames for Robinton, which seems like something characters would do. The narrative, I would expect, would stick with a single name.
Also, not cool about the older people, Robinton. They’re boring to you now, but many of them hold the memories you’re going to need.
Finally, it seems very weird to me that Pern, which is generally a very whitebread cultural approximation of Latin Christendom, has this universal thing of “everyone is everyone’s auntie and uncle.” Which isn’t to say there weren’t extended families and more than a few kinship bonds between families in the same space, but it seems very out of place that it has extended to the point where even people who aren’t in the same space you are get the respectful titles due to an elder. (Even if they do smell.) Given how things are set up in the planet, it doesn’t seem like it would have developed the cultural idea of everyone older than you being an aunt or an uncle. But maybe I’m the one being weird.
The tour continues until the dinner bell rings, and Robinton gets to sit with Falloner. There’s more reference to Noodle Incidents as everyone who’s a grownup tells Falloner to behave, and we see a young Manora, currently given charge over Larna, whom Falloner declares needs to be taught manners, even if all that happens is the teachers get in trouble. Robinton can sense that the grouping around Falloner often have issues with each other, and diverts the topic where he can back onto safer ground. Before food, and then singing, where the important part is that there a dragon that tells Robinton that the dragons listen to the music as well, and that S’loner gives Robinton a wink when he says as much aloud at the end of the night. Then it’s back to Benden Hold the next morning.
Where there is a package waiting for them from the Harper Hall – Petiron has written something new and Gennell has sent it along. Merelan plays it, of course.
“I think I can say,” she began slowly, “without fear of contradiction”–a little smile turned up the corners of her mouth–“that this is the most expressive music your father has ever written.” She wrapped both arms around her gitar. “I think he misses us, Robie.”
He nodded. The music had definitely been more melancholic, where his father usually wrote more…more positive, aggressive music, full of embellishments and variations, with wild cadenzas and other such flourishes. Rarely as simple, and elegant, a melody as this. And it was melodic.
She picked up Master Gennell’s note. “Master Gennell thinks so, too. ‘Thought you ought to see this, Merelan. A definite trend toward the lyric. And, in my opinion, quite likely the best thing he’s ever written, though he’d be the last to admit that.'” Merelan gave a little laugh. “He’ll never admit it, but I think you’re right, Master Gennell.”
Don’t take him back, Merelan. Also, Gennell, you’re being an asshole, although there’s a fifty-fifty on whether you realize it. Because if Merelan wouldn’t have wanted to see this from Petiron himself, then you’re helping Petiron by sending it under your own seal. It can be the sweetest love song in the universe, and it’s still a thing that Merelan might not actually want to hear or see, because Petiron is still an asshole, even if not having her there is changing his compositions and inspiring new ideas. There are lots of assholes who use their breakups and relationships as song fodder. (There are good artists that do the same.)
It’s just that this seems a lot more like a dude playing a piano in the front lawn of his girlfriend’s house and vowing not to quit until she takes him back. It sounds romantic, if you don’t play attention to the details.
Chapter VIII is a big chapter, so we’ll leave off here. But just peeking in, I can see that there’s talk of going back to the Harper Hall.