Last chapter, Robinton balked that Fax could just say no to education in his hold, and further more that his fellow Harpers aren’t forcing the issue. The narrative then tried to pass off the idea that the original charter survived all this time instead of being a rediscovery of the AI. Those two things created a situation where it should be incredibly difficult for Fax to pull off the same crap that Chalkin did.
The Masterharper of Pern: Chapter X: Content Notes: Fat-shaming
We are in a training montage, of sorts, from the beginning of the chapter, as it says Robinton spends three years at High Reaches, before noting that Faroguy certainly seems on top of everything, except Fax, which Mallan speculates might be because Fax is Faroguy’s from another woman before his legitimate heirs were born. Lobirn squashes that line of thought, and we are then treated to an account of “how Robinton lost his virginity.” Robinton’s grown up handsome, and Mallan goads him into dancing with a young holder girl, Sitta, who is interested in him, too, and then just manages to conveniently be wherever he is by chance. And welcomes him home from a trip with food and drink and an offer to warm his bed. (There’s also another woman, Marcine, who has her eye on him, but Sitta is so good at being everywhere she gives up, and Triana’s only really interested in him as a dance partner…) There’s even the equivalent of the sock on the door — tipping a chair against the table as an indication of a do not disturb.
Here’s how Sitta’s described:
It wasn’t that he hadn’t noticed her, with her delicately slanting eyes and her tiny figure, set off by the bright dark blue of her Gather dress.
And now I’m a little less okay with this. Mostly because it seems to be “huge guy, tiny girl” and a vaguely Asian fetish possibly going on, but also a bit because a name like “Sitta” suggests South Asian ancestry rather than East Asian and I’m a little annoyed that the author doesn’t seem to want to do the research.
In any case, Sitta is mostly a fling for Robinton, and the narrative shifts over to another name drop situation – Carola is ill, and the only other available queen is Nemorth, who bonded with Jora, who is afraid of heights. (Which makes me think of the person who trained the Rowan, also afraid of heights and imparting it on to the Rowan.)
Carola dies afterward, and Robinton knows before everyone else because he feels Simanith’s grief, but he doesn’t say anything. Soon after, Robinton is recalled to the Harper Hall for a new assignment. Lord Faroguy sends Robinton in with a full purse of money and a solid recommendation. F’lon has a laugh about how it won’t “matter a pile of old ashes” that Jora’s terrified of heights when Nemorth is ready to mate. Before having a laugh at Robinton when Simanith just drops off the edge rather than leaping into the air to get the speed to go into hyperspace. Robinton asks Simanith for a little warning the next time.
Robinton’s return means getting to see his mother again, which is slightly disturbing because she looks older and he’s not ready for that. He also sees Silvina again, and the child has become a pretty woman in his absence. And then there’s business and reunions and Master Gennell also telling Robinton that he should let go of Fax’s decisions about education.
“We can only do so much, Rob, and are wiser not to trespass where a harper’s life might be endangered.”
Robinton blinked in surprise. “Endangered?”
“There have been such problems before, lad, and there will again, but somehow it comes right. As long as Fax keeps his ideas to his own hold, I can do nothing. Nor is it wise to. That’s something you learn as you go on. Cut your losses when you have to. One small hold in the northern lands is not as vital as a larger one nearer home, as it were.[…]
Cocowhat by depizan
This keeps happening? And yet Pern still hasn’t created a solution, regardless of the “autonomy” clause? It’s okay that generations get lost on the regular and then have to be accounted for later? Just…insert last week’s rant, even more so now that we know that this is a thing that happens on the regular. That this hasn’t been fixed in this long is still highly improbable.
Gennell assigns Robinton to Benden and advises against arriving with F’lon, because Benden’s Holders and Benden’s Weyrleaders are not getting along with each other right now. Which gives Robinton time to catch up with his mother and to get told by both F’lon and Merelan that Silvina clearly fancies him. Petiron is off at Tillek, so it’s a nice time for Robinton, catching up and singing songs with Merelan. He knows something is different, but he can’t put his finger on it.
So Robinton travels by ship and learns he won’t get seasick, that he can handle runnerbeasts, that the Dawn Sisters exist, and that just about everywhere he goes, he can play an evening and get the best meal and bed available.
Except, of course, in a place where Harpers are distrusted. A small hold where Targus, the holder, is not happy to have a Harper, but his wife, Kulla, is more than hospitable to him. (Even if his runner doesn’t like the place.) Targus gives us a little insight as to why places might not be all in favor of Harpers.
“Preferable?” sneered Targus as his thick and slightly greasy fingers gathered the mark piece from Robinton’s palm. “Harper words. What’s wrong with ‘Is that good?’ Or do you always have to show off your larnin’?”
“Why’s Pa hate music so?” Erkin asked.
“He says harpers sing lies,” Mosser said, malice in his twinkling eyes.
“Didn’t hear a one,” their mother said stoutly. Then she waggled her finger at Mosser. “Nor you, neither, or you’d’ve stirred yourself out of the room when your pa left. […]”
And again, there is this tantalizing prospect of an entire space outside the narrative where people don’t believe in Harpers, not because their lords are actively keeping them away, but because they think the Harpers are spinning some sort of lie. If only these people would be more specific about what they believe, other than “they’re elitist, with their education and fancy words.”
Robinton makes it to Benden without further incident, and is greeted by Raid and Hayara, who bring him up to speed on everything (Maizella is about to be married, and has been helping the Hold Harper, joint-ail is affecting all sorts of people). After a quick call back to which staircase he should be using, Robinton goes to help Master Evarel in the classroom, and that starts the second stay. Eventually, Evarel admits to being old and retires to the south, leaving Robinton in charge of Benden. And not too soon after, Nemorth almost gets flown and F’lon is pissed about it, because Jora faints when Nemorth gets into heat (remember that bit where queen riders see through the eyes of their dragons?) and that makes Nemorth very concerned.
But it happens, eventually, and Nemorth has a clutch, and Robinton is entirely wistful about the fact he never got the chance to be a dragonrider. F’lon complains that Maizella’s spouse is fish-faced (Robinton agrees with this privately) and that he doesn’t believe in Thread. Which gives Robinton the opportunity to ask about the rift between Hold and Weyr, and apparently we’re back to the problem where the interval has caused disbelief in the reality of Thread.
The feast at the Weyr is fantastic (and, as another way of making sure that we understand the hierarchy, green riders help to serve the extra guests, while bronze and brown riders take seats to be served), but the narrative can still take time to shame Jora.
She was pretty enough, in a sort of overblown way, but was already getting more plump than was healthy for a rider, not to mention for a young woman. She was flushed with the success of her young queen, Nemorth, and making what appeared to be giddy confessions to Lady Hayara, who merely listened with a polite smile plastered on her face.
His [F’lon’s] tone turned disdainful. “Not only is she afraid of heights, but she’s nervous with Nemorth, and if S’loner hadn’t been helping, she’d’ve let the queen eat before her mating flight.” He snorted in contempt.
So, for what other purpose than “the narrative wants a chew toy” did Jora Impress? Yes, we have to eventually line up with whatever was said previously about her, which was also negative, but I would have thought that being terrified of heights would have been a draconic disqualifier. The rest of it is fat-shaming and the narrative forgetting that life in a Weyr would be the most food-secure situation a person could find themselves in. It’s quite possible that Jora is still adjusting away from starvation mode. Or that she would be perfectly healthy, were it not for the narrative.
Robinton leads the musical festivities, and that seems to keep spirits high, at least until Nemorth interrupts them by announcing the death of S’loner’s dragon, Chendith, and the deaths of both S’loner and Lord Maidir (eventually confirmed when Lady Hayara goes back to Benden and can’t find him) in what is determined to be an accident – S’loner had been having chest pains, so it’s possible a heart attack killed him at the crucial point, and Chendith took Lord Maidir with him, because he was the unlucky passenger. Lady Hayara said that Robinton’s music had been possibly mending the rift, but she couldn’t hear because Jora was talking (she didn’t say so specifically, but the implication is clear). Jora, of course, is far too drunk and passed out to be easily revived (because narrative chew toy), and the party gets broken up pretty soon afterward.
F’lon is unhappy that Robinton asked C’gan for transit back. Robinton points out that F’lon just lost his father, which F’lon dismisses as unimportant because Weyrbred and tell me again why Robinton isn’t also having trouble with this? He’s been concerned that Merelan will die soon, and he’s still stuck in the situation where Petiron won’t acknowledge him, so why is he still so put together? Is he going to fall apart once the immediacy wears off? The text notes that Robinton is envious of the fact that F’lon had a relationship with his father. But the chapter ends with Robinton heading back to Benden, so there’s going to be other crises to deal with before Robinton can process his own feelings.
I realize this is Act II, where the tragedies happen and the old guard gives way to the new characters, but these stories don’t seem to have situations where someone, say, lives a full life and then passes away in their sleep. Except Robinton himself. Everything seems to change in violence. Which might seem like a good idea to make backgrounds more interesting, but it also means just about all the main characters have tragedies and traumas in their backgrounds, too.
And maybe I’m starting to get sick of it.