Last time, we actually got to see what the attackers were up to, and there were torture threats, and a plan was decided on for tracing back the Luddites to their leader.
The Skies of Pern: Part 1: Segments VI, VII, VIII, and IX: Content Notes:
It is now 1.2.31, and Haligon is paying a call on Fort’s Runner Station Master, Torlo, who we met, along with Tenna, in the short story Runner of Pern. There’s no word back on a trace from Crom, Tenna’s out on a run, and so Torlo offers formal hospitality to try and figure out what Haligon is up to. Haligon, for his part, is trying not to upset Torlo. Fire-lizards carrying messages hasn’t destroyed the runner system, and Haligon picks up that Torlo might not have a lot of love for the Smiths, but he does find at least some common ground that they both think the Healers have benefited well and spread their new knowledge freely from the AI. Torlo says that the Runners don’t permit propaganda books to travel on their network, but things are still frosty between them, and Haligon is able to finally get Torlo to admit that he thinks the Runners are going to be displaced by either dragons (Haligon tells him they’re too expensive and there aren’t nearly enough riders considering the service) or by the radio devices being developed by the Smiths (Haligon points out the devices lack the necessity infrastructure, like communication satellites, to be truly long-range items, and that they’re very expensive). Haligon’s explanations seem to at least mollify Torlo.
We note that terrestrial line-of-sight radio and telegraph will be available once towers can be erected that will not be destroyed by Thread, but even then there will still likely be need for Runners until you can cover the planet in radio relays. At which point we kind of hope a forward-thinking Runner develops PT&T in partnership with the Harper Hall and things go from there.
Haligon, for his part, after wishing Tenna would espouse him, goes back home to sort petitions, and we switch over to the Keroon Printer Hall on 1.3.31, where Tagetarl is dealing with the problems of having a printing press but not a spell-check program. He needs the dictionaries updated and to figure out a way of spotting errors before they print hundreds of copies. (I presume he knows he needs proofreaders, but even then, as we know in our days here on Terra, things still slip through.)
A sound puts Tagetarl on alert, but it’s Pinch, announcing himself with casual and improper grammar. (“It’s me” is improper – me is an object descriptor, so it should be “It is I”, because I is the subject descriptor. Unlike many of the other problems with the language, I’m more than willing to believe this particular error has persisted through all this time.) Tagetarl calls Pinch out on his grammar, before revealing to us that ever since the propaganda books have shown up, the Printer Hall shreds anything that’s not perfect. Tagetarl also says he has jobs available for anyone that has the skills to proofread. Pinch then reveals the reason for his visit.
Keroon has all sorts of hill folk, you know, the kind that don’t want their kids Harper-taught or Healed. Then there’re the ones who aren’t really hill folk. Who get too many visitors and have had very interesting indoor occupations.”
I still want to know about these “hill folk” and how they came to be, because they’re the best foil I have for the rest of the planet’s social structure. Are they survivalists? Cultists? A group shunned from polite society surviving on the fringes?
Pinch, of course, asks for paper and inks to sketch the people who clearly don’t belong among the backcountry folk, while eating some for himself and his fire lizard. While he sketches the visitors received with fanfare, we get Pinch’s heritage – and the implication that Nip was not the only spy out in the world. Nip trained Tuck (“another nonconformist”, according to the narrative) and let Sebell see inside that world. Tuck trained Pinch (and at least two others), even as Sebell put Piemur to work in much the same way as Nip put Sebell. Pinch will provide other sketches after some sleep, but Tagetarl uses his own fire lizard to send the first few sketches to Sebell, and we pop over to Benden Weyr.
F’lessan is present for a pre-Threadfall briefing of Wingleaders, and although his mind wanders a bit wishing the Weyrleader would take some time off, he comes back to attention in time to get his wing’s assignment. Mostly, at this point, we’re learning that some greens are used as reservists to bring in extra firestone sacks (I thought this was some part of Weyrling duty.) and that F’lessan thinks about what it would be like to fly with Tai. But that gets pushed away in the loading and looking and eventual fighting of Thread.
And then we take a five day time skip to Monaco Bay, where Tai is, as she watches Zaranth stare intently at trundlebugs working in their straight lines. There’s a little bit of “some bugs are terrible, but trundlebugs are okay, and also, bugs and floods are a really good reason to sleep and live off the ground” before we get to just how much progress has been going on.
Tai’s little house was just beyond her hammock: all of its shutters were open to let in what wind there was, the fine-net screens preventing the entry of airborne insects. The afternoon breeze r generally wafted away those clinging to the material. The diurnal ones departed at dusk, the nocturnal ones were noisier but photosensitive. A tall spire of solar panel provided Tai with what power she needed: for lights, the warmer plate, the cold box, and for the occasional hot air during the worst of the cold weather–which, to her, was never as cold as it had once been in Keroon’s foothills.
Quite a bit of progress, indeed. And Pern presumably has all the right minerals and materials needed to construct such complex things as solar panels, refrigerators, and heaters.
The actual point of the trundlebug, though, is that its path would take it into Zaranth’s nostril, so Zaranth moves it out of her way. Not physically, by exhaling or moving her body, but mentally, to Tai’s great surprise.
AIVAS predicted this, and was actually disappointed that the dragons hadn’t developed their telekinetic abilities significantly in the interim. Tai doesn’t know this, of course, and would have lots of questions on the how, except that someone has called for help in dealing with a very large group of felines and T’gellan is turning out half the wing to fight them, including Tai.
Zaranth is very apt at hunting, and after a close call with a camouflaged feline, snags one with a move that snaps its spine before whirling and snapping the neck of its hunting partner. Tai briefly considers trying to lift the cats onto the dragon, so as to skin them away from the pests, but realizes they’re way too heavy for her, and so she gets to work on them, skinning one before taking a break to see how the others are doing.
Dragons also apparently really like the taste of big feline, as Zaranth is apparently drooling while Tai does her work.
One of the herders, Rency, provides Tai with water and fans get to get all the insects off, and offers to accompany her back to he second to help skin it, an offer Tai accepts. Rency is described as having “a short bow and a weyrhide carrier full of the sort of barbed arrows that would be needed to bring down felines”, and I have trouble believing that this is a recent invention, given that the Pernese have been hunting flying creatures for a very long time, and have had some sort of standing military at each Hold for a little less than that. Perhaps they’ve never redeveloped, say, the English longbow and it’s phenomenal stopping power, but it seems reasonable that bows and arrows have been around for quite some time.
Tai offers to help move the herdbeasts in the right direction, since they’re terrified of dragons, and it turns out T’gellan and Mirrim had the same idea. So they do. And then plan to go for a swim once the herds are moving in the right direction again.
That’s the end of Part 1. We’ve spent a lot of time on only a few days. The Luddites look to be the A plot, but F’lessan, Tai, and Zaranth figuring out what, exactly, makes the dragons able to use telekinesis on things they’re not carrying looks to be a respectable B plot, as everyone prepares for the eventuality of After.
More next week.