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.
“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.