Last chapters, Robinton got a son, who is special needs, and an apprentice, who is incredibly talented and can soak up things like a sponge.
Fax engineered F’lon’s death, and the worst that happened to him is that his travel visa was immediately revoked, instead of his life.
The Masterharper of Pern: Chapters XVIII and XIX: Content Notes: “Mercy” infanticide ideation, fat-shaming, abuse,
This chapter opens with what should have been going on all the time – Nip reports, on his travels, that mysterious acts of sabotage are plaguing Fax’s territories. Timber burnt, grain blighted, mines collapsed, fishing ships disappear, rebellions in the provinces which are put down brutally, but otherwise nothing that overthrows Fax, but does keep his energy focused on trying to keep his territory together.
Terathel dies, Larad is confirmed, and there’s a problem in the account of such things.
There was a brief flurry when Larad’s elder half-sister, Thella, insisted that the Conclave had to hear her right to the Holding. Lord Tesner of Igen, the most senior of the Holders, was outraged at her impudence and refused her admittance. The other Lord Holders and Masters were only too happy to second his motion. Robinton looked for her during the following reception, wanting to see a woman who was brave enough to speak up as eldest in the Bloodline by there was no sign of her. He often wondered what happened to her because she disappeared from Telgar Hold shortly afterward.
I’m mostly calling bullshit on the idea that Robinton wanted to meet the brave girl, since he’s not doing too great on the bit where girls are flocking to the Hall. And the narrative makes no note of his vote on the proposal to reject Thella. The narrative is covering your ass, Robinton.
And tries to do so big time when this gem appears.
Robinton wished he had more contact with [F’lon’s sons], and not only because they were F’lon’s lads. He could have wished for one of them as his. He had once wished that Camo wouldn’t survive his first Turn, as so often happened to babies.
Cocowhat by depizan
Cocowhat by depizan
You are a terrible person, Robinton. And your attitude is still far too common among parents of disabled children, or children on the autism spectrum, and even here in 21st century Terra, we have people praising infanticide as a way of relieving the poor suffering parent of their burdensome child.
Furthermore, what’s happened to the state of medicine if we’ve gone from “we can perform an appendectomy on you” to a clearly high infant mortality rate. Midwifery and obstetric care can’t have taken that big a nosedive in this shirt time period, right?
Nip arrives, reports Fax is up to something, belatedly realizes what, and both he and Robinton ride to Ruatha to try and prevent the tragedy we already know has happened. Nip and Robinton realize they’re too late, and ride immediately to Fort to sound the alarm. The Lords ride in to demand Fax knock it off, and Fax calls them out to invade him, if they want him gone that bad, and threatens them that he’ll kill them all for trespass on his territory if they don’t get out by nightfall. The Lords leave, and then set to arguing about what they could have or should have done to get Fax to listen. Robinton splits off from that group, because he’s pissed and has no intention of listening to recriminations and what-ifs.
And yet, they apparently can’t unite enough right now, in their rage, to raise a force to surround Fax and then meticulously invade him from all sides and grind him into dust? They’ve had every pretext and justification in front of them. They’ve just seen slaughter and invasion. They have every right under the Charter to blockade, starve, and crush Fax. Why aren’t they?
Because the plot says we have to wait, or the continuity won’t line up. Some good the Charter has done, having been so meticulously retroactively applied to that continuity. It made much more sense when the Charter was lost to everyone.
The rest of the chapter is essentially Nip telling Robinton it was a bad idea to do the thing. Chapter XIX opens up with real progress on the matter: The Crafts, mostly silent to this point, say “get forked, Fax” and pull out as many of their personnel as they can and refuse, in the face of bribes and lucrative incentives, to go back to those spaces. The Healers are the only ones who don’t, Oldive says it’s a matter of principles, and nobody gives him or the Healers grief over it.
Then there’s a training montage, of sorts, that plays out over five Turns while Robinton (and everyone else, apparently,) waits for instability to topple Fax from the inside. Sebell turns out to be ferocious at physical exercises and a quick hand and mind in helping everyone else out, gathering his journeyman rank, and being sorely missed by Robinton on his year abroad at Igen. Sebell also suggests that Trailer, an excellent drummer with a penchant for shirking work and playing pranks, might be best apprenticed to Nip. Which is a smash, and Trailer becomes Tuck, Nip’s shadow and oh my gods the puns are terrible.
As much as Sebell is essentially young Robinton, Tuck is young Nip and delivers the news that someone is seriously sabotaging Ruatha, who is on their fourth (fifth?) steward without any ability to turn a profit.
“Hmm. That’s interesting. A kind of subtle rebellion?”
Tuck gave the sort of snort that Nip affected. “With that bunch of drudges? They’re the most useless incompetents I’ve seen. And since I’ve been north–” He gestured with a thumb. “–I’ve seen every sort of way to avoid hard work that’s been invented. And then some. The only jobs that get done in a halfway decent fashion are helped along by an overseer with a whip standing over the workers. Fax has only so many men and too many holdings.” He grinned broadly. “Though his supply of metal-knotted whips seems inexhaustible.”
“What could be happening there?” Robinton asked, more or less rhetorically. “If there is no one able to foment trouble, is it trouble, or pure carelessness on the stewards’ parts?”
The answer, I suspect, lies with Auric Goldfinger.
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.
Ruatha is on four or five here, and should be getting intense scrutiny from Fax as to why it can’t seem to do anything right. That should be opening up other opportunities for the outside forces to chip in and harry Fax and make him spread his resources dangerously thin. If the forces arrayed against Fax are interested in doing so, they could spark rebellion against him. But again, for plot reasons, nobody is doing anything, and it doesn’t make any sense. Even one Weyr of dragons would be enough to obliterate Fax many times over. Admittedly, that ruins their non-interference policy, but we’ve all forgotten Chalkin at this point, and I don’t think the dragons would suffer too much bad press for making Fax disappear.
And because the narrative still can’t let go of it, even in death, Jora is shamed.
Robinton had had the details from a letter sent to Master Oldive by Lord Raid’s journeyman healer, who had been brought by R’gul to try to keep the weyrwoman alive. Remembering how Jora had gorged herself at the Impression Feast–and that had been Turns ago now–he had no trouble believing that the woman had died of overeating. The healer had been appalled at the state she was in and had agreed that she should be interred between.
Cocowhat by depizan
Oh, wow. So now we get to the point where Jora is apparently so grotesque that even in death everyone agrees she should be dropped off in hyperspace rather than being buried in ground (as, presumably, the rest of everyone is). And “overeating” is not a cause of death. Choking is. Heart attack is. Suffocation is. Any one of a number of complications that can happen to someone is. But “overeating” is not a cause of death.
Furthermore, nobody seems to have given a tunnel snake’s ass about why someone might feed themselves that significantly. We already know Jora was violently afraid of heights. (And that Pern has no psychiatrists or psychologists.) Did having bulk help her feel more connected to the ground?
Did Jora have a condition that made her feel perpetually hungry, or one that made making fat way easier than burning it? What kind of food insecurity did Jora experience, and how much of that might be driving her choices regarding food and the way her body stored energy? The healers of a far future, pseudo-Latin Christendom society sound far too suspiciously like the medics of our own time, both in being willing to chalk up any malady to Death Fat and in refusing to consider any other course of action other than “have you considered losing weight?” as viable. The narrative said Jora was fat at the beginning of the series as well, but it’s added an extra degree of fat-shaming in the interim.
Before the narrative dwells too much on this, a runner arrives with a message for Robinton to “do a Nip and Tuck” and make for Ruatha, because Fax and dragonriders are on a forced march there. Silvina and Sebell object to Robinton going, although Silvina eventually helps him perfect his drudge disguise.
So Robinton disguises himself and gets inside as a drudge to help clean the place up before Fax gets there, then gets sent down to take care of Fax’s animals. And there’s a moment that would be good character development if it weren’t such a non-apology.
Although he knew very well that the drudges in the Harper Hall and Fort Hold were well cared for, he discovered a heretofore unexpected sympathy for those whom life had deprived of the wit or energy to achieve more than such lowly positions.
Because unless you’re visibly disabled, it can’t be the machinations of a system designed to make most people subsistence farmers and essential house slaves as to why you’re a drudge. You must be too lazy to apply yourself to better things.
Robinton eventually manages to trade himself up to guard thanks to a clothes change and therefore get himself in the room where it happens. I’m glossing over the fact that all the drudges and soldiers have rough speech phonetically rendered so as to make them bumpkins rather than the smooth-spoken Harpers and Lords. So we get to see the same scene from the beginning of the series from the perspective of Robinton, with the exception that apparently Robinton can feel ripples of power in the room (remember, the series started with the idea that Lessa had some amount of psi power and was using it), but knows it isn’t the dragons or their riders that are the source of it. And a few other touches.
“Oh, dead, dead, poor Gemma. Oh, Lord Fax, we did all we could, but the journey…” She ran to where Fax was sitting.
Casually Fax slapped her and she fell sobbing in a heap at his feet.
Robinton saw [the eventual Benden Weyrleader] reach for his dagger hilt. Women in the Weyr were rarely treated in such a harsh manner. It would definitely go against a dragonrider’s grain.
Excuse me while I laugh at this idea, given how the Benden Weyrleader will treat Lessa. Robinton should be more concerned that the son will die in the same way as the father. But that is not mentioned, and the scene continues, with Robinton noting the drudge (Lessa) is much less drudgey than she was when she left, before Fax punches her out and then gets into the fight with the Benden Weyrleader. At the utterance of the “dragonwomen” sneer, Robinton makes the comparison, noting that the son has his temper much better in hand than the father did.
Fight, death, et cetera. The younger of the two sons asks if anyone else wants to contest the outcome, and then Robinton finally gets a “second good look” at Lessa and recognizes who she is supposed to be. He also immediately tags her as the source of the strange behavior and waves of power, because she’s a full Ruatha-blooded woman, and the narrative really hopes we haven’t been fans since the beginning, so that we don’t notice the tinkering to get the old to rejoin the new.
Nip frightens Robinton by appearing, and then Robinton users his position and the friendly dragonriders to convince Fax’s remaining soldiers to head back without further issues. They set to getting rid of the body, getting Jaxom a nurse, and getting word out for successors to go in and claim their holds back. And the book ends with the watch-wher trying to protect Lessa and her disappearance to Benden.
The acknowledgements right after, on the other hand, rather than being a retread of narrative, are quite fascinating.
As usual, I am indebted to a variety of people for their help and input in writing this volume, not the least of whom is Master Robinton (aka Frederic H. Robinson), who was quite upset that I had ended his life so abruptly. I would suspect it of a tenor, but for a baritone to insist on another encore is almost unheard of. But I have recently been asked–via the impressive Del Rey Web site–to explain certain facts that had not previously been brought to light about Pern pre-Dragonflight history. As Robinton had a fine Pernese hand in most of it, it behooves me to tell the story from his viewpoint.
This time, my gratitude to Marilyn and Harry Alm as first readers is immense since they saved me from several time discrepancies and inconsistencies. Their knowledge of Pern is extensive and better remembered than mine at times.
And there’s also many thanks to the musical helpers.
But that acknowledgement pretty well admits this book is Retcon: the Novel for Pern. And why it has such a hagiographic viewpoint toward Robinton and wanted to remake him into a much better person than he is.
I chuckle slightly at the comment about avoiding discrepancies and paradoxes, given that this is what the series book and the continuity editor is for, but also that the entire published canon is still being published, and so one could theoretically look things up as needed. But also a bit because having timeline readers when you are trying to rework the timeline entirely strikes me as the person who fixes the obvious holes and then leaves the things that are going to become holes soon enough as “repeat business.”
And so, we put another novel in the books and instead turn our eyes to one of the short stories, “Runner of Pern,” which might shed some light on the network of communications that traverses the planet.