Monthly Archives: November 2018

Deconstruction Roundup for November 30th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who hopes that you were able to avoid, or, barring that, tear a new arsehole in, all the -ists among your relatives at family gatherings this year.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are making sure that your feasts have gone well and that someone else is taking care of next year. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: No Hero’s Welcome. Sort of.

Last time, Nuella got called in to see if she could do what hadn’t been adequately captured on paper and get the wherhandlers trained to have a better bond with their whers. Nuella passed with flying colors.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter XII and XIII: Content Notes: Attempted murder

Harper, harper, sing me a song
Give me a tune that lasts all day long.

Which is their duty, we know, but this seems like a piece that might be in some other setting about the various professions and what they do.

Chapter XII opens with Nuella returning to the camp, with a shedload of new experiences from having been outside the camp. She’s had watered down Benden wine (eh), been introduced to fire-lizards (too flighty), and so forth (which were enjoyed).

She had simply not gotten used to being called “my Lady.” And the people who had said it to her! It was bad enough that M’tal, Weyrleader of Benden Weyr, had said it, but the Weyrleader and Weyrwoman of Ista Weyr had also called her that. C’rion had presented her with a gold necklace especially made just for her!
It was formed of links in the shapes of dragons, fire-lizards, watch-whers, and dolphins. Seeing the latter, Nuella had fearfully entertained the notion that the Istan Weyrleader might want her to teach watch-whers to talk to dolphins.

C’rion had no such intention, and Nuella admits not knowing the first idea about it.

Earlier, genesistrine mentioned that the necklace is important because it calls dolphins dolphins and mentions that they are capable of communication. So whatever the great loss of knowledge is that turns them into shipfish and removes the knowledge of how to tame and train fire-lizards hasn’t happened yet, shrinking the available window for the cataclysm fairly significantly.

Also, the call back to the Dolphins series is for, given that we know in the past and the future, someone will figure out how to talk to dolphins again.

Nuella finds it easier to connect handlers and their whers, and is able to cherish the accomplishments of her training as hers and hers alone, since being sightless is a benefit, not an impediment, to seeing as whers do. She also gets a lot of lore by working with all these handlers, which the narrative faithfully reproduces.

She couldn’t wait to tell Kindan that Kisk’s name had been predetermined–that watch-whers picked a name that matched their human’s, and that their names always ended in “sk”. Our that the watch-whers of the major Holds always named themselves after their Holds and bonded with someone of the Hold’s bloodline. Or that watch-whers sometimes outlived their humans and could re-bond with another human–or maybe she wouldn’t tell him that, she thought with a frown. It might upset Kindan too much to realize that if he had only known better he might have saved Dask. Well, she decided, perhaps not. From all she’d heard, Dask had been too injured to re-bond and was too determined to carry out Danil’s wishes to obey anyone else.

I realize whers are different creatures than dragons, but it doesn’t make sense why they would choose this naming convention over any other. Unless the narrative wants us to see them as pets and disposable creatures, compared to the dragons that are companions and characters in their own right. Because fire-lizards are named, like pets, with no convention. Dragons name themselves, but always with a “th” convention. Watch-whers name themselves and have a convention for it (“sk” makes no sense, given their relation to dragons. “sh,” on the other hand, would be exactly right, in my opinion), but their name is always the name of their handler or their stationed Hold. In that sense, watch-whers are kind of like Steven Universe Gems – each seen as the same, but identified individually only whren needed, and usually only through something like a serial number that indicates their origin. For as much as this book has been teasing at us that we’re going to get a good look at watch-whers, it’s not really delivering.

Also, we’re twelve chapters in to this book, and suddenly Nuella says that her mother has always been supportive of her all throughout her life. That’s not particularly supported by the text up to this point, at least in the sense that her mother has always been surprised that Nuella’s been out wherever Nuella has appeared in the narrative. It’s not impossible, certainly, since the story has focused on Kindan this entire time, but there hasn’t been any evidence so far to justify this:

Her mother, whose faith in her had never flagged, who had never allowed Nuella to feel held back in the least by her blindness, who had always shown her ways to make it into an asset, to use it to her advantage.

Which would be a much easier sell if Nuella had been the main character of this book. Which she absolutely could have been. But apparently the story of the blind girl who figured out the watch-whers isn’t good enough compared to the orphaned boy taking up his father’s profession. Keep this idea in mind as we traverse the next two chapters and get an idea of what this book could have been from the start.

For, you see, there isn’t a welcome party ready for her return because there’s been a major disaster in her absence.

“There’s been an accident,” Renna said, walking up beside her brother.
“It’s all my fault!” Zenor cried in a tear-choked voice.
“A cave-in,” Renna said.
“Kindan? Kisk? Are they okay?” Nuella asked in panic.
“They’re in the shed,” Renna said. “Kindan tried to go but Tarik forbade him and punched him when he tried to get in anyway.”
“Tarik?” Nuella repeated blankly.
“He’s no miner,” Zenor snarled. “I told Natalon when I saw their joists. He–your father went to look for himself. He was furious when he saw the state of Second Street. He made Tarik switch with him.” He took a deep breath and said in a rush, “I think they were shoring up the tunnel when it collapsed.”
“Father?” Nuella cried.
“And Dalor–all their shift,” Renna told her tearfully.
“Tarik,” Zenor said venomously, “said the cave-in was too long to dig them out.”
“Toldur tried anyway,” Renna added. “But they couldn’t get more than a meter. Toldur said that at least ten meters of the tunnel’s caved in. That’d take weeks to dig out.”
“Tarik put guards on the shaft after Kindan tried to bust in,” Zenor said. “There’s only a pump crew there now, trying to get clear air into the mine.”
Nuella started walking down the hill toward the camp.
“Nuella,” J’lantir called after her, “what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to see Kindan,” Nuella shouted over her shoulder. “I’m going to rescue my father.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Look at all that agency on display, for a plan of direct action, and not a man around to tell her she’s wasting her time or to try and stop her! That’s definitely the new author’s influence, and I like it!

However, that cocowhat is also for the fact that this series of events is classed as an accident by Renna. Of all the people involved so far, only Tarik would classify this as an accident. Because it conveniently has trapped the entire Camp leadership, save Tarik, in a space they can’t get out of and can’t get dug out of, because the supports were too thin and Natalon could be counted on to be there shoring then up. When the emergency crew of Kisk and Kindan tried to do their duty, Tarik stopped them, hurt Kindan, and posted guards to prevent further rescue attempts. Even if Tarik didn’t directly cause the collapse, which would be assuming facts not in evidence, he’s responsible for it and trying to profit off it. Call it what it is – sabotage and attempted murder. Tarik should be either dead or detained and his guards overwhelmed by an angry mob of miners trying to get their leader back. Tarik doesn’t even have a title to fall back on as to why he shouldn’t be hurt. And it would still allow for heroics.

Nuella and Kindan hatch a plan, to be aided by Cristov, whose respect for Natalon and earlier foreshadowing as the son who might not follow in his father’s evil footsteps comes to fruition, to use the secret passage to get in and rescue. When the hero band opens the door that contains the passageway, Toldur is there to greet them, whereupon both girls in the party stake their claim that they’re coming, and Toldur reveals he’s the one who had been keeping sure that the safety equipment was still sound, and that he wants some glows to light the way.

“No time,” Nuella said brusquely. “I’ll lead. I know this passageway like the back of my hand.”
“You can’t see the back of your hand,” Zenor muttered.
Nuella’s hand shot out, super-quick, and accurately whacked Zenor on the side of his head with the back of her hand.
“Who said anything about seeing it?” she asked sweetly. She walked into the closet and quickly slid open the secret door at the back.
“That’s got to hurt,” Renna added with no trace of sympathy for her brother.
Zenor grinned at her, still clutching his wounded head. “At least she’s not sulking anymore.”
“I heard that,” Nuella shouted back from the darkness.

We’re still in a dragonrider book, right? Because I haven’t seen anyone give that much (deserved) sass to anyone and not get punished for it. It seems like the new author has fully taken over for a while. It’s rather refreshing.

As the party works to the main shaft, there’s exposition about who built the passageway, and then Cristov’s axe comes in handy as the characters build themselves a crawlway into the mine from the secret passage. Then they sneak themselves down into the mine, and as they hurry along, worried about the remaining air supply in the caved-in area, Nuella tells Kindan about the naming conventions for watch-whers, and adds the whers change their names closer to their handlers based on the bond they have with them. Which keeps them going until they notice something is very wrong.

“Do you feel that?” Cristov asked. “I feel a draft–it must be the pumps.”
“In our out?” Zenor asked. “It feels to me like it’s blowing in.”
“Everyone freeze!” Toldur hissed.
“What’s wrong?” Nuella asked.
“Tarik’s blowing air into the mine,” Zenor replied in a dead voice.
“We’ll have to turn back,” Toldur said.
“Why?” Nuella cried. “We’re almost there! We can’t stop now!”
“Nuella,” Zenor said slowly, “with the air blowing in–it’s like adding coal to a fire.”
“No, it’s exactly like adding air to coal-gas,” Renna corrected. “It could cause an explosion.”
“He’s not doing it on purpose, is he?” Kindan asked. No one wanted to answer that question.

WHY NOT?! Murder. Murder! MURDER! What possible excuse or reason could someone hide behind right now that would make pumping air into a space that’s likely to explode and kill or further trap the people inside that would make this anything different than attempted murder?

Tarik is trying to kill everyone so that he can take over the mine. He’s been sabotaging it in word and deed after his own mine failed, and if Natalon doesn’t throw him out on his ass or have him hauled before whichever appropriate court of justice there is after this, I’m going to be very cross with him. (And also it gives credence to the idea that Pern really is the B Ark.)

Having been told the pumps need to be running correctly to mitigate the explosion risk, Nuella uses Kisk to contact J’lantir(‘s dragon) and through him, summons the MasterMiner, who “start[s] the pumps the right way. He is very angry with someone.” Name him, for all that’s holy on Pern. Say that it’s Tarik.

Instead, the group makes it to the spot of the cave-in, and while Kisk can’t see anyone, there’s too much coal and rock in between. So Kindan taps out drum code (which, remember, was supposed to be the secret Harper communication system that everybody knows and pretends not to) to ask how many are there, gets a response that Nuella can hear, taps a second question, and finds out they’re ten meters in, which, according to Cristov, means three days of round-the-clock digging to cover the eight meters reach them, which is a big nope for the air supply.

So, instead, Kindan proposes to send Kisk through hyperspace with Nuella on her back to collect the trapped miners. Nuella protests that watch-whers can’t, and Kindan points out that he saw Dask do it at the beginning of the book. Points to genesistrine for noticing the problem earlier, and now the authors have decided whers can do it again, now that they have to for plot reasons.

Nuella isn’t sure she can use Kisk that way, and she needs some reminding that she can create the right image in her mind, but Kindan insists, and says that Nuella needs to bond with Kisk, and after a lot of tapping back and forth, Kindan tells Nuella how everyone is arranged in the other side so that she can build the image in her head, and how everyone on their side will be arranged for the return trip. Chapter XII ends with Nuella and Kisk vanishing into hyperspace, and if Chapter XIII had any substance to it, I’d stop here for the week and leave it on a cliffhanger, but it doesn’t and so we don’t.

The plan succeeds thanks to the clear picture Nuella sends, everyone who is trapped grabs hold of Kisk and they warp back successfully, and the narrative moves out to the entrance of the mine for everyone to see the successful rescue operation. Presumably Tarik and company have been detained appropriately. (Finally.)

At this point, there are really only a few things left to do. First,

“I have an announcement,” [Natalon] said, pulling himself fully erect. He slipped his arm underneath Nuella’s and hugged her tight to his side. “This is my daughter, Nuella. She cannot see, so I kept her hidden from you all.” He paused. “I was afraid you would hold her lack of sight against her. And me.”
“But it is I who have been blind–and foolish,” Natalon continued. “Nuella was not blind in our dark mines. She could ‘see’ where others could not. And so she–with her friends”–Natalon gestured toward Kindan and Zenor–“and the watch-wher rescued us poor sighted miners.”
[…Janella arrives and wants to know who saved everyone. On finding out who it was…]
“This is my daughter, Nuella.” She looked down at Nuella. “She is my pride and joy.”

Yay, Nuella’s finally been brought into the light, figuratively speaking. It only took her rescuing the Camp had and several other miners before she was good enough for Natalon. Women really gotta do something spectacular to get noticed, y’know? Also, Natalon has his order wrong. He was more concerned about himself and his son than his daughter. But gotta save face somehow while admitting the facts that Nuella did good.

Second,

“She didn’t do it alone,” Zenor said unexpectedly in the silence. Kindan shot him a look of amazement that Zenor would do anything to risk harming Nuella’s acceptance into the Camp. “Her watch-wher helped.”
Zenor grinned at Kindan, adding in a voice pitched so that only he could hear, “You knew, didn’t you?”
“I was hoping,” Kindan answered just as quietly.
Zenor reached over and squeezed his friend on the shoulder, tightly, in thanks and acknowledgement of Kindan’s sacrifice.
“Her watch-wher?” Natalon repeated blankly, looking at how the green sat curled possessively about Nuella without so much as a glance toward Kindan.
My watch-wher?” Nuella repeated, turning toward Kindan.
Kindan nodded. “Ask her her name, Nuella.”
Nuella gave him an uncomprehending look, so Kindan explained, “Just like when you saw, but with words this time.”
Nuella’s face took on an abstracted expression that suddenly changed to pure delight. “She says her name is Nuelsk!” She leaped in the air and ran to Kindan. “Her name is Nuelsk! Oh, Kindan,” she cried, in bittersweet joy, “you’ve given me your watch-wher!”
Kindan hugged her tightly and then let her go, smiling. “I think she was always yours, Nuella, and I was just helping you raise her, not the other way around.”

And this is the part where it’s mage very clear, if the reader hasn’t picked up on it yet, that we’ve been following the wrong person the entire time for this story. Our at the very least that Nuella deserved to be a co-viewpoint character for this book, because while Kindan has the accident and gets the egg that hatches the wher that is eventually Nuella’s, there’s a far better story here in chronicling the adventures of the blind girl in the mine town who eventually does a great heroic deed and bonds with a watch-wher. Perhaps the authors didn’t feel like they could have expanded it out into a full narrative, but what we get with Kindan is much lesser than what we could have gotten, done well, with Nuella. Not to mention the challenge of writing a story where the main character can’t see. We would have learned just as much, if not more, about watch-whers by sticking with her.

I feel like Kindan has been a Decoy Protagonist this entire time. And that’s evidenced the biggest by the last things that have to get taken care of.

Zenor joined them, grabbing Nuella’s free hand. Kindan smiled as he watched Nuella squeeze Zenor’s hand back, tightly, and then wrap her arm around his shoulder.
“If you kiss him, then everyone will know,” Kindan whispered in Nuella’s ear.
“Good,” she whispered back. She grabbed Zenor’s face and kissed him soundly on the lips. The gathered crowd roared with laughter at Zenor’s obvious surprise.
[…Nuella asks about what Kindan will do now, since he no longer has to stay and care for the watch-wher…]
“I think I may help.” It was Master Zist. “This is an official letter from the MasterHarper of Pern,” he said, pressing a parchment into Kindan’s hands. Kindan unrolled it and nearly dropped it as he read the words.

Yep, Kindan gets to go off to the Harper Hall. Zist pragmatically suggests that Kindan might spend a lot of his time relaying what he knows about watch-whers, before leaning down and giving Kindan an endorsement for his ears only. Natalon asks what Kindan might study, Kindan replies he wants to sing, and that’s the end of the book.

So, yeah, I’m very curious to see where the narrative will go next, because it can either follow Kindan to the Harpers, choosing the kids interesting path, or stay with Nuella in the camp, which is the far more interesting one.

It also raises the question of whether watch-whers can also do the time-turner tango, if someone could somehow reconstruct a heat map from the past and use it as an anchor point.

It’s interesting the way that this story started a lot like the solo-authored Pern, and that influence continued to be felt through the book, but these last chapters are almost a sprint in terms of speed of plot resolution, but also in the way they very sharply change the direction the book is going in, as if the old author got bored or stuck and left it to the new author to finish everything, and quickly, because deadlines were fast approaching and a book needed to get out. I think it turned toward the better, most definitely, although because of the rush, there are a few things that didn’t get answered in this book, and that we may have to be in the lookout for in the next book(s), like what the special relationship between Master Zist and Kindan’s mother was, and whether Tarik got caught and brought before the Lord’s justice for attempting to kill family and others.

All of that said, there’s one last fragment of song to work with, for Chapter XIII:

Watch-wher, watch-wher, do you know
All the places you can go?

Which sort of cements this as an idea that this song is a creation of someone, possibly future Harper Kindan, about watch-whers. Here’s the song in its entirety:

Watch-wher, Watch-wher in the night,
Guard our Hold, keep it right,
When the morning sun does come,
Watch-wher, then your job is done.

Watch-wher, watch-wher in the mine,
Help save life, yours and mine,
Guide us in the darkest night,
With your keen unfailing sight.

Watch-wher, watch-wher in the egg,
Grant to me the boon I beg.
Watch-wher, watch-wher, guard us all,
With your dragon-summoning call.

Watch-wher, watch-wher, do you know
All the places you can go?

U I handily doubles as a plot summary for the parts of the book that involve watch-whers, although the song starts with the whers in the Holds, who are older and more familiar to the target audience, rather than the ones in the mines that may not be so familiar. It’s also a handy summation of the wher abilities that we learned about in this book. For someone in the know about watch-whers, set to a catchy tune, this would be a handy mnemonic song about both story and abilities. Well done, Kindan.

And that’s it. The list I’m using waited until after this book to suggest reading “Beyond Between,” which is odd, given the story itself is essentially the coda to Moreta, so if you would like to go back and read that again, you can now. I don’t think there’s any additional insight that I would gleam from it in this space, rather than having handled it immediately after Moreta and Nerilka. Except for the part that chronologically, “Beyond Between” was published the same year as this book, so the list in question’s notation of any time after Moreta is an acknowledgement of the fact that that coda was published several decades after the original book, probably under some pressure from fans who wanted to know if Moreta ever made it home.

And…well, now that I look ahead in things, it seems that the list I’ve been working with to this point isn’t going to be helpful any more, because now, well, they’re listing them in publication date order, and it, well, there are a couple crossing plotline streams. So, executive decision time – I’m skipping what is essentially the next chronologically published book to keep with the series started here, if the summaries I’ve skimmed are accurate about plot details. After these three get done, we’ll wind back to the book we’ve skipped and go through the trilogy that Todd wrote solo before coming back to the collaborative effort that leads to the last days of Anne, and then, assuming we’re still all here and interested by then, the latest author and entry into the series, which just arrived this year, which may or may not be the actual very end, depending on whether more stories come out in the next couple of years it will take to get us through to the present day.

Next up, then, is Dragon’s Fire.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 23rd, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who hopes that you were able to avoid, or, barring that, tear a new arsehole in, all the -ists among your relatives at family gatherings this year.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are making sure that your feasts have gone well and that someone else is taking care of next year. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: Making A Difference

Last time, we confirmed that watch-whers see heat signatures, which is what makes them so useful in places like the mines or the night. Nuella also gave Kindan an earful about how much it’s going to suck when Kindan hits the mines on the regular, and Renna was brought into the fold as people who know about Nuella.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter XI: Content Notes:

Watch-wher, watch-wher, guard us all,
With your dragon-summoning call.

It really feels like the pieces we’re getting that have to do with watch-whers are part of a single song, and all of them have hints at what they can do, so let’s see all of them all together, in order.

Watch-wher, Watch-wher in the night,
Guard our Hold, keep it right,
When the morning sun does come,
Watch-wher, then your job is done.

Watch-wher, watch-wher in the mine,
Help save life, yours and mine,
Guide us in the darkest night,
With your keen unfailing sight.

Watch-wher, watch-wher in the egg,
Grant to me the boon I beg.
Watch-wher, watch-wher, guard us all,
With your dragon-summoning call.

Peeking ahead, there is still one more chapters that have watch-wher related material in their chapter calls, so we don’t have the full song. But that feeling I’ve had of them as chants or skip-rope songs seems borne out if wherhandling is a folk Craft, one that is noticed by the nobility but not actually one that gets documented by the same because they think of it as beneath them. At least until it becomes pertinent to them.

The actual chapter itself begins with the very tail end of Kindan’s summary of why Renna knows what she knows, and how Zist has climbed down from his original place of anger at the secret. J’lantir explains the reason for his long absence – M’tal thought it a good idea to train the wherhandlers that are in Benden’s care the same way that Kisk has been trained, but apparently they’re stubborn.

“Many of the wherhandlers could not believe their watch-whers could talk to dragons, and still others refused to believe that there was anything any dragonrider could teach them about their friends.”

Well, that’s interesting. Previously, the world seems to have been divided into people who respect the dragonriders at all times and evil people, but here we have a bit more nuance that there might be a rivalry between dragonriders and wherhandlers, although I’m sure the dragonriders would only think of it as a one-sided one.

So, with a failure under their belt, J’lantir has come back to collect Nuella and have her demonstrate the process, rather than trying to work from the written instructions. Nuella starts to give Natalon’s excuses as to why she can’t go, before Kindan determines the real reason. He feels fear through Kisk and correctly determines the source.

“Nuella,” he said sincerely, “you have never been afraid of anything.”
Uncontrolled tears spilled from her eyes. “They’ll talk! They’ll laugh at me and they’ll–”
Kindan grabbed her in a hug be patted her back awkwardly. “No,” he said softly. “No, they won’t.”
“But I won’t know where to walk. I’ll stumble and trip over things, and they’ll know I’m blind!” she wailed.

Kindan’s reassurances aren’t enough to pull Nuella away from her entirely valid and legitimate concerns about people making fun of her disability. Along with the further knowledge that nowhere else other than Camp Natalon will be any sort of accessible for her. This might be the first time where we’re treating Nuella’s blindness with the seriousness it deserves in relation to Nuella, rather than in relation to any other person who is not Nuella.

And then it disappears in a wink, as Renna rouses Nuella by pointing out how her blindness has never mattered to Zenor, since he never actually mentioned it in describing the girl he was sweet on.

If it doesn’t matter to you,” Renna continued fiercely, “and it doesn’t matter to my brother, why are you being so blind that you can’t see that it doesn’t matter to anyone else?”

And it works. I realize that the stressed word on the disability is a literature trope, but these days it seems like a cheap ablism shot.

Furthermore, there’s exactly no guarantee that Nuella isn’t completely right, and there are very few societies that I know of where a disability like blindness wouldn’t cause at least some heads to turn and tongues to wag.

But Nuella goes forward with the idea anyway, and she experiences hyperspace as a meditative silence in the cold rather than the terror everyone else seems to experience it as. She has Renilan and Resk to train, and two children, Lord Darel and Lady Erla, that work with the hold’s watch-wher, also in attendance. The agreement with Natalon is such that if the training doesn’t work for her, she heads back to the camp immediately. Nuella agrees with not wanting to fail repeatedly, and took this pair specifically because they were the most stubborn.

Things get off to a rocky start, sort of.

“She’s just a girl!” a gruff old voice exclaimed as M’tal led her into a large, echoey room.
[…Nuella orients herself and says hello to Renilan by guessing his scent…]
She heard the old man’s sharp gasp and figured that he was still a meter distant. Then she heard him walk slowly toward her and felt his gnarled hand grasp hers firmly.
“My wife lost the use of her eyes three Turns before she passed on,” he told her softly. He sighed. “She had the most beautiful eyes. Like yours, lass.”

Hello, intersections of something. But also, that suggests that Nuella’s blindness has always been easy to observe if someone can see her clearly enough. Maybe cataracts or some other thing are present?

So Nuella being a girl works against her, but being blind in a similar way to Renilan’s late wife seems to work for her. As it is, Nuella starts by getting Lolanth to say hello to Resk, and then moves slowly, trying to get the feel for Resk.

After a moment, she turned back to Renilan. “May I touch him?”
“I don’t see why you’re asking me, lass,” the old man said with a snort. “You’re practically touching him now.”
“Manners,” Nuella replied tartly.
Renilan let out a bellow. “Ha! Put me right in my place, you did!” he said, still laughing. “Very well, on your head be it. At least you seem to know what you’re doing.”
“Thank you,” Nuella said. “But could you please tell Resk that it’s okay?”
Renilan sobered up. “Ah, I see what you mean. Good one, lass.” To his watch-wher he said, “Resk, let the lass touch you, there’s a good lad.”

Which eventually leads to eyeridge scritches, and the eventual enthusiastic licks from Resk convinces Renilan Nuella might know what she’s talking about. And that she might be able to succeed where J’lantir had a month to try.

By walking them through a visualization exercise to see things how their whers see them, Nuella is able to get the humans to better understand how their whers see, and thus open up avenues of communication and understanding between humans and whers (and eventually, dragons). To show the completeness of the change in his attitude, Renilan starts referring to Nuella as “Lady,” which she will eventually be entitled to, but is currently just a sign of respect.

Nuella also points out that whers can talk to each other, like dragons do, and sets in motion a communication chain-ask where Resk asks Lemosk on how to talk to the Benden Weyrwoman’s queen, Breth, then asks her to talk to Lolanth, which J’lantir confirms as a successful chain.

“By the Shell of Faranth!” J’lantir shouted, jumping with excitement. “It worked! It worked! It worked!” He bounced around the others in glee.
Throughout the waking hold, heads turned and Lolanth and Gaminth bugled from their cliffside perches.
“That’s fine, J’lantir, but you’d better tell my Weyrwoman what we are up to,” M’tal replied drolly. He turned to Nuella and bowed deeply. “My Lady, on behalf of Benden Weyr, I thank you.”
Nuella blushed scarlet from her head to her toes.

And that is the end of the chapter, where the Weyrleader remembers to thank the person that has made his life easier by starting a network of watch-whers that can relay useful information to dragons and their riders. Whether Nuella will get actual credit for any of this is likely up to forces well beyond her, and I’d bet the official record isn’t going to mention her at all, because that would mean admitting a blind girl from a mining camp was able to teach everyone something. Given the reluctance we saw with the dragonriders wanting to admit Tai and Zaranth taught them something because she was a green rider, I can only imagine the cover-up M’tal will engineer, even if the wherhandlers know the truth.

Also, an oath that makes sense. (And that someone used earlier in the book.) Good to know at least at this juncture, the name of the first dragon hasn’t been lost to time.

There’s only a couple chapters left, so something has to happen soon to resolve all our plot threads.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 16th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is waiting for the results of local measures that affect their job.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are making sure that all the people who used their franchise are tallied officially. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: Heat Vision

Last time, Kindan and Nuella got down to the business of training Kisk in the mines. Which involved Kindan having to learn how to navigate in the dark. Nuella learning about safety equipment and procedure for the mine, and deliberately exposing themselves to potentially harmful air so as to teach Kisk what it smells like. Kisk, for her part, provided a consistent vocalization for Kindan to clue him into what to listen for in case that bad air smell returns.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter X: Content Notes:

Hot air rises, cold air falls,
These are thermodynamic laws.

There were other things, as well, like Nuella revealing her crush on Zenor, and the tiny detail that nobody but Dalor knew they were actually in the mine doing this. Which is relevant in that it’s Zenor giving them both a dressing-down for the plan, based on the potential for disaster it had.

While we let Zenor chew them both out for a bit, that that rhyme up top doesn’t. At least, it doesn’t for me, because of the way I pronounce the “ll” and the “w”. Perhaps it does for others.

In any case, the back and forth continues, despite Kindan’s efforts to try and squash it, until Kisk interrupts Kindan to indicate there are visitors.

[…] Kisk nudged him with her head, stood up off her front legs, and flapped her tiny wings at him, making a throaty chirp. Kindan cocked an eyebrow at her. Kisk repeated herself, complete with chirp.
“You two, we’re going to have company,” Kindan said.
“What?” Zenor said. “How do you know?”
Kindan gestured. “Kisk told me. A dragonrider.” The watch-wher shook her head firmly, unmistakably. “Two dragonriders?” Kisk nodded vigorously.
“You’ve been practicing!” Nuella exclaimed delightedly. “What’s it like?”
“Well,” Kindan said, consideringly, “it’s almost like I get images from her–but it’s not. And I guess it’s more like communicating with a fire-lizard than with a dragon. Or maybe somewhere in between. Whichever way it is, she tells me until I understand her.

I thought Menolly was supposed to be the person who rediscovered what talking with fire lizards was like after it disappeared with the colonists, but perhaps I am wrong and it hasn’t disappeared yet. Also, if this is how good of communicators whers are, then it makes even less sense about how all of their lore has been lost, because there could be a lot more continuity of teaching or just rediscovering this fact repeatedly over time.

We get a little bit more about why Tarik is still around, despite all the reasons for him to disappear, and it’s…that Natalon is afraid of the rumors he’ll spread about Nuella?

“His mother was blind too, you know. He’s afraid it’s passed on, that any daughter we kids have will be blind, to. And he’s afraid that it makes him look weak–as if anyone would care. It’s not like he’s the one who’s blind.”
[…Kindan tries to be comforting and suggests out might pass by Larissa, the new sister…]
“I could see just fine until my third Turn and then, over the course of a year, everything got blurry and dim.”
“Does Tarik–”
“I think that’s why Father keeps him around,” Nuella said. “He’s afraid Tarik will spread tales. He’s afraid about what’ll happen to me, if I’ll ever get married–“

That “year” is in the original, which suggests that the editors didn’t quite catch everything they needed to.

More importantly, though, what does Natalon actually fear from Tarik? “My daughter has no marriage prospects” shouldn’t even register unless Natalon expects Nuella to marry up. Or be promised, sight unseen, to someone else. “My son won’t have any marriage prospects” is a bigger threat, but since this affliction seems to only affect the women of the family, that doesn’t seem like it would stick to Dalor. More pressingly, though, if the mine fails, nobody has marriage prospects. Or, for that matter, any means of living where they would care about such things. A successful and wealthy miner can negotiate marriageability. A failed one can’t. So, really, Tarik is the one with the most to lose, and who should be the most afraid of his social standing, not Natalon.

Then again, abusive relationships don’t always follow logic, and Tarik really does look like he could fit the profile.

Kindan wants to know how Nuella will take care of herself, but Nuella chews him out for saying platitudes like he’ll always be there for her, because she knows that mining is dangerous, and Kindan is likely to be in the middle of dangerous. Kindan says he can get out of anything, and the whole thing eventually ends up with Nuella realizing that Kisk might see heat rather than light, and that would explain why watch-whers don’t go out in the daytime. An unknown man comments it’s an interesting theory before we spin the clock back to how the sentry child, Renna, saw the arrival of the two dragonriders, J’lantir and M’tal, who talk about there being someone here who has the potential to be a queen rider…and also “so gifted and not able to Impress,” according to J’lantir, because well, if the girl is blind, she clearly couldn’t Impress, because that’s done through eye contact. Except it isn’t, because Nian Impressed without actually fully making eye contact until the very end of the process. So I’d be in to guess that Nuella could probably Impress even without seeing the dragon. Except perhaps through the eyes of the dragon, maybe?

Renna wonders where there could be such a blind child, since she’s been everywhere and knows everyone, and there are no blind children. Except for the second floor of Natalon’s hold, where she hasn’t been, that is. And that could hide such a child.

Before we see the fullness of Renna’s thoughts and plans, though, we go back to the dragonriders, who are introduced to Nuella and Kindan. (Kisk had talked to Gaminth when they arrived, which is how Kindan knew they were here.) J’lantir is a Wingleader at Ista, tasked with finding more information about watch-whers in the same way that M’tal is interested. J’lantir and Nuella devise a test to see how Kisk actually does see.

Very soon he and Nuella were engrossed in devising a complete test of the watch-wher’s sight.
“We could just ask her,” Kindan said to himself.
M’tal smiled at him. “But then it’d take away all their fun.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” Nuella said with her usual lack of deference. She put at hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry–I meant, my Lord.”
“She’s like that with everyone,” Kindan murmured.
“She’s got good hearing, too,” M’tal agreed, with a twinkle in his eyes. He turned to Nuella. “Nuella, I think that we will all be working together quite a great deal, so I think it best if we dispense with formalities and just get on with things–what do you say?”
Nuella’s eyes got very big. She nodded, speechless.

Kindan asks if that really means using names, and J’lantir replies it seems fair, and when Zist arrives, J’lantir will say he was just telling Nuella that he prefers less formal addresses by friends. Even though it was M’tal who was talking there.

Also, even when not the focus, Benden is always the best Weyrleader, it seems, since M’tal is the first to suggest the lack of honorifics. In any case, Natalon arrives to greet the riders, Zenor is willingly pulled into their preparations, Zist helps Kindan perform a simple experiment about whether whers see heat more than light (they do), and everyone gets down to the business of learning what they can about watch-whers, now that the Ista Weyrleader has charged his riders with finding and writing down everything related to the care and feeding of a Weyr in Threadfall, including watch-whers, which is what J’lantir was assigned.

It’s confirmed that dragons can talk to watch-whers, and the dragonriders think they might be a good early-warning system to alert dragons about Threadfall, but Nuella squashes that idea by pointing out watch-whers are nocturnal. The dragonriders then suggest watch-whers could have been useful emergency broadcast systems for various holds that were snowed-in last winter and had no way of contacting anyone about their status.

J’lantir suggests developing a standardized training system for watch-whers and their handlers so that everyone can communicate with each other, and with dragons, with a shared set of words and concepts. He and Nuella spend the next three evenings, when J’lantir can leave Ista, hashing it out with each other before J’lantir has to head back to Ista for a readiness check. Kindan asks whether watch-whers could transit through hyperspace, and both Nuella and J’lantir conclude it wouldn’t work, because human eyes can’t visualize the heat map that a watch-wher would need to successfully warp themselves, since dragons theoretically need a picture of where to go to safely make their own transits. As infrared technology is a long way off, there’s no real reason to believe that anyone on the planet, except Nuella (who mentions she might be able to imagine it) could provide a sufficiently detailed mapping.

Nuella misses having J’lantir around to talk to, which makes her cranky, until Kindan convinces her that more training for Kisk is a good idea. And we learn that the mines are only worked three days out of seven, with two more spent bagging and grading coal, shoring up the mine (and cutting trees), and helping the Camp. The last two days are “free”, in that so long as there aren’t any Camp tasks that need attention, the miners are free to do what they want.

We also learn that Nuella has demanded Kindan wear a blindfold while down in the mines training, so that he can learn to navigate in the dark and keep his counts running even while thinking about other things. And that bruised shins and bruises from Nuella any time he forgot have contributed to this awareness, even if his map isn’t as detailed as hers.

Which is why it’s disturbing to both of them that the supports they’re expecting in the space Tarik is assigned to aren’t there, and then, aren’t thick or wide enough to be correct when they are found. There are also avenues running off the street that suggest someone is already mining the coal, despite Natalon’s insistence that the seam be explored fully before any real mining started. This suggests a lot of things, but the narrative only tells us that the two decide to train on the other street instead before a disagreement about whether Kisk should be trained in how to dig someone out, and then Kindan figuring out how to play hide and seek with Kisk, until something very interesting happens.

It was then, just on the edge of sleep, that Kindan thought he saw something–a glowing shape, like someone curled up in a tight ball just like he was. No, he corrected himself in amazement, it is me!
He heard the soft padding of Kisk’s feet as she made her way over to him. In his mind’s eye, he saw the shape get closer, saw the head become more resolved–not a face, but a sort of smudged oval-shaped rainbow–and then became obscured as bright jets, the orangeish-yellow color of flame, came streaking over it. He felt Kisk’s warm breath blow gently through the straw over his face, seeming to perfectly match the flame he was imagining.
Kisk bleeked happily.

It turns out that Kisk can transmit her sight to more than just Kindan – Nuella can see through Kisk’s eyes as well, which results in tears of joy for her. Kisk can’t provide a lot of details, since she still only sees heat sources and diffusions, but it’s enough for motor movements and other such things. I’m guessing it’s a bit like the visual effect created for the Daredevil movie where Matt Murdock takes a beautiful woman out into a rainstorm so that he can see her fully using the movement the rain makes on her to create the picture.

Now knowing much better how Kisk sees, hide and seek becomes a much more interesting game to play with all sorts of people, and Kindan and Nuella start training Kisk on how to find people even with all sorts of stuff getting in the way of her heat-vision. Nuella also gets Zenor to change shifts to Tarik’s shift, with the idea that Zenor will see and report what Tarik has been up to in his section of the mine.

And, as time goes on, Nuella gets increasingly more frustrated that the dragonriders haven’t come back to continue Kisk’s lessons.

“But nothing’s happened. And I’m no help at all.”
“You’ve helped me.” Kindan told her softly. Kisk gave a reassuring chirp and walked over to butt Nuella’s shoulder with her head. “And Kisk. We wouldn’t know half what we know if it hadn’t been for you. Soon we’ll be ready to go into the mine and–”
Nuella’s derisive snort cut him off. “Sure, you’ll go into the mine and then what? What will I do then? ‘Thank you, Nuella, you’ve been a big help, now you can go back to your room. And don’t get caught!’ ” Her voice choked on the last word and she buried her head between her knees.
Kindan didn’t know what to say and the silence between them stretched out interminably. Finally he opened his mouth to speak, only to see that Nuella had held up a hand and cocked her head in the direction of the curtains at the doorway to the shed.
“You may as well come in,” she said out loud. “You’ve heard too much already and I just don’t care anymore.”
After a moment the curtains rustled and a small figure could be seen in the dim glow light. It was Renna.
“You look just like Dalor,” the figure exclaimed. It was Renna.

And the rest of the chapter is introductions and the arrival of J’lantir, and the revelation that Renna is who Dalor has a crush on, and that the crush is requited.

Let’s tackle this quoted but in reverse order. Good that Renna is clever enough to put it all together, even though the narrative has Nuella say that Renna followed her only because she looked like Dalor and Renna has the crush on Dalor. But Renna’s remark that Nuella looks like Dalor could only make sense tempered with “when she’s in disguise” or “looks like him in the face,” because we’ve already established from Kindan and Nuella that they’re different heights and that there’s a strong likelihood that Nuella is starting to develop breasts. Dalor and Nuella are, as best I can tell, fraternal (thanks, Digitalis) twins of different body configurations. So, I’m going to assume that Renna means it in those configurations because it makes sense to do so, even if it’s not literally true.

However the most important part is that Nuella is right. She doesn’t have anything to look forward to and is likely to end up stuck even more tightly in her room and the area once Kindan and Kisk take on regular mine work. There’s no prospects for her, other than perhaps lessons with Zist, and it’s unlikely she’s going to be introduced to the world at large while Natalon is still afraid of a nonexistent issue. Nuella has every right to be utterly bitter about the fact that everyone has been ablist and has been hiding her while she could have been doing something significant this entire time. Although I don’t know if she would have accepted the idea of being a caretaker for small children being her lot in life as a young woman.

Given the presence of a new author, though, I can hope that this one doesn’t end with Babies Ever After, right? For any of our protagonists?

Deconstruction Roundup for November 9th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is waiting for the results of local measures that affect their job.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are making sure that all the people who used their franchise are tallied officially. Or for any other reason, really.