Dragon’s Kin: What I Don’t Know Can’t Be Used To Hurt Me

Last chapter, Kindan was orphaned by a cave-in that claimed the lives of his father and several of his brothers. Dask died because Natalon chose to prioritize the rescue over keeping Dask alive long enough to be useful beyond the rescue. We learned through this that watch-whers aren’t so tightly bonded to their handlers that they immediately die if their handlers do.

And now, there is what happens afterward.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter IV: Content Notes: Grief, childbirth

I am too big to cry
And my voice is too shy
To sing my sad, sad song
Or say the words I long
To say to you–good-bye, good-bye.

You know what? Fuck the idea that there’s ever a time that someone is too big to cry, especially in boys and men. That’s toxic bullshit.

Chapter IV starts right after the funeral, with Kindan realizing that as the youngest of nine, neither his father nor his brothers were ever really all that intimate with him. Kindan thinks he should have done more, like the carving that Jakris did or the drawing Tofir did. Those two have been adopted by other families, Jakris to a woodworker’s family that will welcome an older child and his talent, and Tofir to Crom, where his drawing talents will possibly be put to use in cartography and mapping of mines.

Kindan has no noted talent, and therefore has not yet been adopted out. Zenor gets his father’s job in the mine. Because someone has to work to put food on the table, even if it’s a child, when you have no safety net. And that will essentially kill his studies, dooming Zenor to always be a miner until an accident or disease claims him.

(There’s part of an answer to the question of how Kindan would have to address Natalon, once the Mine becomes official – Natalon becomes a minor holder. But it still doesn’t say what titles should be used.)

Master Zist arrives to take Kindan to a meeting with Natalon and Tarik. They are entertaining the idea of letting Kindan stay in the camp and be fostered, rather than sending him to his sister.

Hang on a bit. There are at least three brothers still in the camp and the family. Yet they’re not kept together, even though there’s demonstrated talent enough there that both of them could apprentice to someone in the town (Jakris) or learn a useful trade to help in the mines (Tofir), and use that to keep their brother in the house? That seems suspect.

Tarik has eyes on Kindan’s house for his own growing family, however, and suddenly the picture starts sharpening. Even more so when Kindan asks about the investigation into the collapse, and Natalon says the best evidence they have is that Danil’s group dug into loose rock and that caused the slide.

Kindan points out that Dask said there was bad air, and he smelled something in the mine as well. Tarik says none of the people he talked to smelled anything, and is dismissive of the fact that it would be possible to have a small pocket explode and not be detected by the watch-whers beforehand.

Tarik turns to wanting to take the house.

“Well,” Natalon said slowly, “if Kindan doesn’t mind.”
“It’s not his house to give,” Tarik said sourly. “The house will have to be emptied when Thread comes, anyway.”
Kindan flushed at Tarik’s brusque manner.

Tell me again why Natalon hasn’t expelled Tarik already? He seems to be doing nothing more than being an asshole, undermining Natalon’s leadership, and causing trouble for others, at least when he isn’t ignoring safety regulations and getting watch-whers killed or driven away. Yes, they’re family, but there are a lot of very convincing reasons why Tarik should have long been given the hook. Much like Toric. And Tarik wants to move in as soon as possible, which makes him an even bigger asshole for displacing Kindan.

As to where he goes, apparently the rules for fostering are that kids need fostering should go to the person with the least amount of children, and as it turns out, there’s a Master Harper in the room with no kids of his own. Neither Zist or Kindan is keen on this, but Natalon decrees it, and Kindan gets help from other adults on the camp to move his stuff to the Harper’s cottage.

His stuff turns out to be his clothes, his bed, blankets, more clothes that he knows his sister will want, and a table of his mother’s that had old music inside. The rest, with Kindan’s agreement (although the narrative suggests Kindan isn’t fully cognizant of what he’s agreeing to) well be distributed to those who are in need.

The upshot, such that it is, is that Kindan gets his own room. And can have as much food as he needs, rather than the prospect of not getting anything to eat. (Sis always saved something for him, Kindan says.)

There’s also some insight into the complexity of people.

“You didn’t get along with Kaylek, did you?” Master Zist inquired gently.
Kindan shook his head. “No, not until just before–” He looked troubled. “Zenor, my friend, he told me that Kaylek saved his life.” Tears formed in Kindan’s eyes. “He was always mean to me, but he saved Zenor’s life.”
“It’s a bit hard to grasp, isn’t it?” Master Zist commented. “I have been surprised how often people who only seem to be bad have turned out to be selfless when it really matters.”
Kindan nodded in wordless agreement.

People behave differently around family than anyone else. And, often times, will push others out of the way when needed.

Zist goes into an explanation of what Harpers nominally do: music instruction and performance, gathering of information, assistance and smoothing ruffled feelings when needed. Also observation and keeping secrets (and letting others keep theirs). Zist instructs Kindan not to try and overhear conversations he has in the study or his kitchen, and that if Kindan wants to talk about something, Zist will tell him if that’s a secret to be kept.

All of this is prologue to Zist saying that Jofri had left notes that Kindan showed promise and aptitude toward Harpering, and that Zist will be teaching Kindan that trade starting tomorrow.

Which is in addition to things like being the oldest boy not in the mines, and thus in change of the children runner/watch squadron, or helping other kids trim branches cut down by adults.

Zenor is in the mines, and his mother is essentially the day care for all the working mothers doing gardening, planting fields, or cutting trees. Which has the useful consequence of making sure the widow whose son is in the mine has plenty of human contact. Zist suggested this arrangement for that reason, so it’s not really an accident.

Kindan overhears complaints from visitors about how the mine seems to be doing well now, but the future may not be great. And has to explain to Master Zist why people talking about “working the pillars” is a bad sign (because it means you’re either in a hurry and not going to be there long or you’re running out of coal and not going to be there long).

Zist, in return, trains him in the Harper craft, including grabbing Kindan by the ear when he trips Tarik’s son and wants to beat him for his taunts. Zist then assigns Kindan the chore of doing the laundry at Tarik’s house until he can list three virtues of Tarik’s son.

It takes Kindan two days. At which point, Zist tells him to describe the house. Not as he remembers it, but as it is. And Kindan can actually remember a lot of the details, when pressed.

Kindan turns out resourceful as well when he goes looking for Dalor after he misses a watch shift. Recognizing the smell of bad air suffusing Natalon’s house, Kindan raises a fire alarm with his voice, then gets Zist to do the same, and then dashes inside to open windows and let the gas out. Given that the bad air has a characteristic smell, it’s probably methane or hydrogen sulfide that’s the gas in question.

Now, since this is Natalon’s house, that means both Dalor and Nuella have to be pulled out, along with Natalon and his wife. Kindan notices the extra person, and swiftly gathers enough people and blanket cover to get all of the children to Zist’s, hopefully without anyone else noticing. Whereupon Kindan reveals that he knows Nuella’s name, but also that he knows to keep secrets.

It turns out the chimney of the house was blocked in, by accident, supposedly, but as Kindan hears while playing drums for the gathering,

there’d been minor accidents once or twice a week since the cave-in that had killed his father and Dask.

Along with other sentiments that things aren’t going great for the mine. Which culminates in Panit, identified as one of Tarik’s cronies by Kindan, questioning whether “the problem’s not watch-whers, but leadership.”

I’d say, at that point, it sounds like someone has been sabotaging the mine. Natalon already has excuse enough to send the most likely suspect on a very long vacation trip, not that anyone actually does those sorts of things, even with evidence. Does Natalon not feel like he has enough authority to throw someone out? There’s already someone openly questioning his leadership. For any other Lord, that would certainly be enough to give them the hook. Why not here?

When Dalor comes to the house and says that his mother’s in labor, Zist sends him to the Healer, Margit. Kindan says the Healer isn’t much for midwifery, and the two who did it most were Silstra and Harper Jofri. Neither of whom are here, but it turns out that Harpering is Zist’s second career, having taken up singing after being thrown out of the Healer Hall. Kindan and Zist engineer a plot to have Dalor and Nuella switch off every so often during the birthing, with each wearing identical clothing and cap so that none can tell the difference, although Margit is a bit suspicious that Dalor knows so well where baby things are kept, since that’s usually taught to daughters. Despite being a month premature, the new daughter is healthy and alive, and we learn that Zist, having done the actual baby catching, also had a daughter of his own once.

Having done the early morning delivery, everyone goes to their actual work, and this it’s Kindan who gets to spot a trader caravan coming. And that’s Chapter IV, which seems mostly to have been “strange, suspicious things keep happening at the mine, and also, a birth, and still no answers as to why Nuella can’t be acknowledged openly.”

Kindan does seem to be picking up the Harper Craft fairly quickly, though. Perhaps a bit scarily.

3 thoughts on “Dragon’s Kin: What I Don’t Know Can’t Be Used To Hurt Me

  1. genesistrine October 13, 2018 at 11:50 am

    There are at least three brothers still in the camp and the family. Yet they’re not kept together, even though there’s demonstrated talent enough there that both of them could apprentice to someone in the town (Jakris) or learn a useful trade to help in the mines (Tofir), and use that to keep their brother in the house? That seems suspect.

    I think it’s just standard McCaffrey special-treatment-for-protagonists – the youngest orphan left alone in the house while the others are fostered/apprenticed out, even though we learn later that the previous Harper had tapped him for that Craft? Why wait, except to add a bit of unnecessary tension and let Zist be a grumpy arsehole again?

    Zist then assigns Kindan the chore of doing the laundry at Tarik’s house until he can list three virtues of Tarik’s son.

    This is an absolutely *superb* idea and I want the elder author to take it to heart. I want Meron’s 3 virtues listed right now. And Thella’s. And Toric’s. And Kylara’s. And, more to the point, Tarik’s. How come backstabbing, complainy, potentially sabotage-y uncle hasn’t been canned yet? Is he a really good mining engineer or field geologist? Got a knack for spotting where seams go? Did he put his life savings into the mine grubstake?

    Drifting back a bit, this book is all over the place about where whers stand in the culture – the general attitude seems to be “dirty disgusting animals” with no particular reason behind it. It would make more sense to have played up the “large aggressive guard-dog” equivalence, but they never seem to be characterised or feared as savage or potentially dangerous. If they were seen as large scaly pitbulls by most of society that might make sense, but… they just seem to be seen as shameful genetic mistakes. (And the whole “maybe they were designed for nightflying!” thing is just silly. If Wind Blossom had meant that she would have said so. It would work if whers were originally a native creature that the colonists ignored until they moved into caves and found them useful, but…*).

    But they are apparently enough in demand for Kindan to think he doesn’t have much chance of getting a wher egg, in spite of his dad being a wherhandler. So – what for? My nasty mind comes up with the idea of pit fights, but I can’t imagine the authors would go for that. So who wants whers for what, other than chained Hold nightguards?

    [*Also don’t get me started on how glows can now apparently act as spotlights. Ahahaha. Sure.]

  2. Silver Adept October 15, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    I wish I knew what was good about Tarik. I don’t think we’re going to get that, though – might humanize the villain.

    I’m not sure what the demand for watch-whers is outside of mines (that supposedly don’t want them) and Holds (unless all the minor Holders want them as night guards). But nobody seems to have really formed an opinion about them unless they’ve had to work with them in any capacity.

    (I can see glows becoming headlamps if there’s some serious work done in refraction and reflection with the glass smith’s, but that doesn’t seem like the kind of tech level pre-AIVAS Pern can achieve.)

  3. genesistrine October 16, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    I’m imagining junior author desperately trying to hint to senior author as she steams on with her usual ANTAGONISTS DOUBLEPLUSUNGOOD NOREDEEMINGFEATURES thing; look mum! Here’s a thought experiment! What if we…


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