Monthly Archives: November 2018

Dragon’s Kin: A Training Regimen

Last chapters, Kindan got an egg and hatched it successfully. Tarik is entirely sour on it, but everyone else in the camp seems to want to try and help. Including Nuella, although it’s getting a lot harder for her to disguise herself as her brother because puberty is starting to arrive…

Dragon’s Kin, Chapter IX, Content Notes:

Walk, baby, walk, come you to me.
Soon, baby, soon, you’ll walk away from me.

That’s…depressing. Also, true, but still. I’m beginning to believe that most of these rhyme snippets we’re seeing are from the folk music traditions of Pern, since it doesn’t seem likely that these are creations of the Harper Hall. This means having to grapple with whether Yanus was just a fundamentalist and his belief that women shouldn’t be making music is extreme, or whether there’s a general belief that songs are the province of the Harper, or whether those snippets we saw in the later books about Robinton collecting and distributing songs are supposed to be the norm.

All the same, this seems a lament about how quickly children grow up and become adults, which seems a rather apt song to be singing for the people of this particular camp, given the disaster that caused more than a few young children to have to cut their childhood short so they can work in the mine.

The chapter proper opens with Zist complaining there isn’t a whole lot of written material in anybody’s archives about watch-whers and even less about the care, feeding, and training thereof. Despite, as has been pointed out repeatedly, whers supposedly being important enough to keep around all the way to the Ninth Pass. We could certainly speculate that every wher-handler throughout Pern’s history has been of the class that is either illiterate or not socially high enough to have access to writing implements and parchment, but if we do that, we also almost have to say there’s been an unbroken line of succession from, say, Wind Blossom to whenever the now is, and that succession line has been able to orally transmit everything someone needs to know about being a handler from the person who was a handler before them. It’s not impossible, but it is improbable. I am reminded of how Shankolin was about to learn the craft secrets of Norist, before Norist was exiled for his role in the AIVAS attacks. Oral tradition does seem to be very important on Pern.

And speaking of puberty, it has apparently come to Kindan, now that he’s twelve, and his voice is cracking and making it difficult for any sort of singing to happen well. Furthermore, now that Kisk is nearly full-grown, Kindan will start having to use her in the mines soon, which will end the Zist-Kindan partnership for good. This upsets Kindan a great deal.

Nuella, for her part, recognizes the new mine shaft is rather close to the secret passage that lets her traverse between Natalon’s house and the mine, and Kindan thinks it would be great training for Kisk (and himself, he realizes, after Nuella points it out) to navigate in the dark.

It goes about as well as planned, with Nuella and Kisk doing fine in the darkness and Kindan eating his shins a lot until he gets a little more used to navigating without his eyes. (Nuella also tells him to stop trying so hard to hear everything, which annoys Kindan more about how she seems to be able to understand everything in the dark and he doesn’t understand anything.)

Once he’s able to visualize the layout of the mine, including the new shaft, Kindan realizes it’s a good plan for being able to live and work without risking worker or coal to the voracious appetites of Thread (because Thread eats carbon-based everything, and coal is mostly carbon. The More You Know…)

“That’ll be a good thing for the next Pass,” Kindan said aloud.
“Only if the Camp is proved,” Nuella responded. “Otherwise it’ll all be a waste, like Uncle Tarik’s Camp.”
“What do you know about that?” he asked, intensely curious.
“Shh!” Nuella hissed. She added, in a whisper, “We’re getting near the end of the passage. I’ll tell you later.”

We’d like to know, too, thanks!

Regrettably, while being a lovely example of foreshadowing, this exchange also makes Tarik’s behavior make less sense to me. Yes, he might be bitter and jealous that Natalon is getting the chance where he failed, but that seems like motivation to make it succeed so there’s a place to live, rather than wanting it to fail and nobody having space to hang their hard hats. I suppose it could be “I want it to fail enough that I’ll get elected, and then I can magically make it prosper,” but that’s a fine needle to thread, and I don’t think Tarik has the skill for it. Or, at least, Tarik in the hands of this author collaboration doesn’t have it. Tarik reminds me too much of Toric and his supposed clever machinations to be any better than Toric about the delicate art of politics.

The theme of teenagers realizing what’s obvious to them is not to others continues, as Kindan successfully manages to talk Nuella out of leading them into the mines.

“And no one’s supposed to go into the mines without the shift leader knowing. What if there were a cave-in? We’d be trapped.”
“I suppose you’re right about that,” she admitted after a moment’s silence. “I hadn’t thought about it before.”
Kindan snorted, remembering how he had had to remind Nuella to put on a hard hat–there was a shelf of them behind the secret door into the passageway. Everyone who went into the mines was taught to wear a hard hat as a matter of reflex.

Kindan gets his in return when he slams into one of the curves of the secret passage face-first after forgetting to count his steps. And then gets admonished to listen before opening the secret door, so as not to give away its existence. The first Nuella smothers a laugh for, the second, not so much, but at least they remember to bring something to shield Kisk’s eyes with. That way, when they encounter a bright fire, they can keep Kisk safe and not in pain.

Also, it might be my twentieth century instincts interfering again, but when someone says “hard hat,” I think of strong plastics. Of course, helmets have been around for a very long time, and made it of metals and alloys. So I’m going to chalk it up to a vestige of language, point out that the strange anachronistic language seems to be everywhere, and move on.

There’s only a couple points of interest in the subsequent scene with M’tal ,and both have to do with watch-whers. The narratively later part is that watch-whers understand dragon speech, in much the same way they appear to understand humans sending them pictures and such. This is fascinating to M’tal, despite what he just says earlier (which is the other interesting bit):

“Apparently, watch-whers have become forgotten on Pern.”
M’tal frowned. “I don’t like that. They were clearly bred from the same source as dragons, so there must have been a need for them. We shouldn’t have lost that lore.”

No kidding. I can see, say, Wind Blossom trying to erase all her data in shame at not having been able to breed a better dragon, but watch-whers still exist, and they’re being bred, and they’re being kept as sentries at the very least, so someone should have that data, and even just as Harper gossip, somewhere it should be written down. Of course, if it is gossip, there’s no guarantees that it can be found easily and quickly, but what they think they know about whers should be written somewhere.

Nuella is incensed that she didn’t get to meet the dragonrider, but she substitutes an incisive probe into what happened as a poor second. Kindan notes Nuella has learned the art of good questioning (although he doesn’t make the connection that Zist does the same, and Nuella has been Zist’s student for a while now), and the plan is going to use Dalor as the person who knows what’s going on.

Nuella is sour that she can’t pass as Dalor any more because of their height difference. Kindan points out there are other aspects that are changing as well, which leads to Nuella confirming to Kindan that she’s crushing on Zenor (after earlier saying that the reason Dalor is going along with their plan is that she threatened to expose Dalor’s crush)…and then threatening Kindan over the disclosure of that knowledge.

At which point we get useful information about how the mine is laid out and how things are mined – things that Kindan and Dalor are likely to know, and Nuella seems to have picked up by being around everyone, given that she uses specific terminology (“the new street”) to describe the space.

“Streets” run the length of the seam (east-west), “avenues” the width (north-south), and the style of working the seam is “room and pillar”, where large pillars of coal are left behind to support the rock and prevent a cave-in. It’s also noted as the only practical method left with the tools and people available for the mining.

So naturally, they head for the newest street, which Kindan looks at dubiously because it has extra supports built in. Nuella tells him that’s Natalon’s way and that Tarik thinks it a waste of time and people to add extra support. Even though Tarik is also spreading rumor about how the mine isn’t safe enough based on all the accidents. And Nuella highlights this incongruity by mentioning that Tarik claims his own mine was too dangerous to work based on pockets of bad air. The narrative notes he time indicates she didn’t believe that claim at all.

Nuella, however, did bring them here to see if they could teach Kisk what bad air smells like, as Natalon is making a new street to probe whether the problem that killed Dask runs the entire western part of the field. Eventually Nuella and Kindan get in an argument about whether or not Nuella can teach anyone anything, just based on her having to help with raising the baby, and the argument is enough to mask the fact that bad air has infiltrated their space.

So they get to teach Kisk what (one of the) bad air smells is, and in return…

The watch-wher took a breath and let it out with a rasp. She looked up thoughtfully at Kindan and chirped, Errwll.
“Stale,” Kindan repeated, taking another breath.
Kisk took another breath. Errwll.
“You’ve learned a word!” Nuella exclaimed.
Kindan have her a look and was glad she couldn’t catch it. “I can’t see how you can say that errwll sounds like stale.”
“I didn’t say that. I said that you’ve learned a word. Now you know that when Kisk chirps ‘errwll’ she’s telling you the air is stale.”
A look of comprehension dawned on Kindan’s face. “You mean, she’s teaching me her language?”
“I doubt watch-whers have a language. Even the dragons don’t have a language–feet male noise for emphasis but they don’t speak. They don’t need to, they use telepathy,” Nuella said. “But that doesn’t mean the two of you can’t work out ways to communicate together.”

Nuella is wrong. All creatures that communicate have a language. That humans don’t understand it has nothing to do with whether it exists or not. But it is good that Kisk is making the same noise to indicate the situation at hand, so that Kindan knows which response to give to that noise.

The rest of the chapter is essentially everyone getting away from the bad air, since they’ve been standing in it the whole time and they’re starting to get a headache from it. Nuella thinks of this as a good discovery, Kindan reminds her that he knows this already because of rescuing her earlier, and Nuella gives him a sincere thanks for the rescue. And that’s chapter IX. Progress, it appears.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 2nd, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still more than ready for a court to start insisting, since no other governmental entity will, that trans people exist and are entitled to protection under law.)

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 have the franchise are able to use it. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: Egg!

Last chapter, we found out that Natalon promised a winter’s worth of coal for just the chance for Kindan to get a watch-wher egg, but the dragonrider who (eventually) answers the call turns out to be a terrible asshole and the local Weyrleader. With everything seeming lost, Zist calls in a favor from a different Weyrleader he helped out earlier on in life, and preparations are made to not only get Kindan to the right place, but also the right time, as it’s been a day or two since the deal was supposed to happen, thanks to Weyrleader Asshat.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter VII and VIII: Content Notes:

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

This chapter is the shortest one of the book (and only now does it ping at me that this V-shape of novel has been in place in just about all of the chaptered books so far) and could be summed up in a single sentence: “Kindan gets the egg.”

What we learn about Kindan and watch-whers, however, is worth the price of going through the book. At the end of the last chapter, Kindan overheard that the fate of the camp rests on whether or not he can successfully raise a watch-wher to help in the mines. Which is a pretty big thing to put on his shoulders. But also makes me wonder how other mines are doing, since the introduction implied that Natalon’s choice to use watch-whers was experimental. Even with the constant sabotage, is Natalon doing better or worse than other mines in terms of injury and fatality? We don’t know.

In any case, the travel back in time for a day takes slightly longer than M’tal said it would (five coughs instead of three), and Kindan gets a slight reassurance from Gaminth that they’re nearly there because of the extra time.

Kindan’s instructions from Aleesa might do great in a technical challenge from the Great British Bake-Off:

“I’m to bow to the queen and make my way toward the clutch. If she lets me, I’m to choose an egg and take it, bowing again and walking backward.”

Seems simple enough, right? Except that’s clearly not all of it, because otherwise it wouldn’t be such a fraught affair. Kindan, running on instinct, proves that he learned a lot more from Danil than he knew.

He cleared his throat and murmured the soft chirps that his father always used when entering Dask’s lair.
Behind him he heard a surprised remark from Aleesa. “Well, at least the lad knows what to say to her.”
[…Kindan approaches, trying to sound friendly…]
When he was close to the queen, he held out his right hand. There was not much of a scar left from where his father had slit his thumb pad to blood him to old Dask. He altered his sound to a reassuring tongue tell and showed her his palm. She ran her tongue over it. It was a nice, dry tongue. Sometimes Dask’s had been skinny and not at all something you wanted licking you. He increased his trill to what he thought was a glad “Thank you.”
[…more of Kindan’s thoughts about whers, including that Dask was chosen to sire a couple clutches. Kindan yawns. …]
“Excuse me,” he said, deathly afraid he had insulted her. “I’m tired. We went back in time to get here and–well, I’m afraid.”
He bowed to her and formed the image in his mind of Gaminth and their journey back in time from tomorrow.
The queen gave a surprised chirp and Kindan got the impression that she’d picked up the image from his mind.

Which she most likely did. Kindan is successful in selecting an egg at random (“Eeeny meeny, tipsy teeny, ah vu bumberini. Isha gosh bumberosha, nineteen hundred and two. I pick you.” is the actual chant, which seems like nonsense words through a lot of it.) and trills his thanks before leaving. Kindan then successfully asks without asking what to feed a newly-hatched wher (oat porridge and fresh blood mixed together for the first three months, then meat when the wher can properly chew), and everyone goes back to the place and time where they came from.

Kindan using what he learned informally from his father rings true to me, mostly because as I get older, the things that Dad tried to teach me about tool usage and other bits of knowledge have come in handy when I remember them, despite not really being interested in the things at the time. In Kindan’s case, it’s probably more true that he didn’t have the opportunity to learn it, being the youngest, but he still apparently picked up enough to be helpful and successful in collecting an egg.

Now that’s he’s gotten it, we’re on to Chapter VIII, which means a new rhyme-chant:

Watch-wher, watch-wher in the egg,
Grant to me the boon I beg.

I’m almost always saying these as skip-rope or jump-rope chants, rather than as songs or poetic forms, because they scan to that so well for me.

Chapter VIII starts with Kindan admitting to Zist he knows squat about raising and training a watch-wher. Zist promises to help (and send a few messages with questions, if needed) in what way he can. Zenor is awed by the egg, but the actual hatching takes place in the middle of the night, three days after retrieving and returning with the egg. Kindan hatches a green, then remembers that watch-whers teethe and resolves to get something to help with that pain. When he’s done feeding her, and feeding her, and feeding her – it takes three giant pots of porridge before the watch-wher is sated. And then Kindan realizes he has to cut himself so that the watch-wher knows whose blood she answers to. Zist offers to sharpen the knife, and Kindan is a bit squeamish on the matter, so he is going to ask Zist to do the cut. After he shows Zenor the hatchling, since Zenor was in the mine when it all went down. Zist makes the cut, and the hatchling laps up plenty of blood from Kindan for the bond.

Kindan has to sleep with the watch-wher and free around it near constantly, not because it needs that kind of care, but because Zist makes a sensible remark that there are people in the camp that might wish the new wher harm.

Like Tarik, who seems to have a constant stream of complaints.

“It’ll eat more than it’s worth,” was Tarik’s first dour comment. Later, it was “And how long before it’s ready to go down the mines?”
“When does that ugly creature reach its growth?” was the next snide remark. “Not much use as it is now, is it?”
And yet again, “Natalon paid how much coal for that bag of bones?”
Kindan’s hatred of the head miner’s uncle grew steadily greater with each return visit and insulting comment.

He found himself afraid to leave the watch-wher unattended, not only for fear of what Tarik might do, but also for fear of what the watch-wher might do it of its own fright. The poor thing had already nearly bitten Zenor once when he arrived early one morning and threw back the heavy curtain draped down behind the door to protect the watch-wher’s delicate eyes.

Which is to say, Tarik’s an asshole, and Zenor nearly got bit because he wasn’t thinking and exposed a watch-wher to bright light. Neither of those seem like the sort of thing that would be conducive to a young child raising something essential.

Kindan, for his part, finds his nerves unraveling at having to constantly take care of the watch-wher, although this does give him an appreciation of what Zenor went through when his younger sisters were born and young. So when Nuella appears and gives him a break to collect food, Kindan takes it, and then realizes that it may not have been the best idea when Zist pointedly asks about what happens if Nuella has to raise an alarm. The watch-wher gets fed, Nuella suggests meat scraps as a dietary change, which makes everyone much happier, especially the wher, who eventually gets a name — Kisk. Because wher naming convention is apparently some letters of the handler and the -sk extension to indicate a wher.

There’s also a remark from Kindan that Nuella isn’t going to be able to pretend to b be her brother for much longer, which suggests that Nuella is starting to show some anatomical differences.

The chapter closes out with Kindan taking Kisk on a walk after she makes it apparent that she wants to go outside at night. Along the way, he meets Cristov, who wants to see the wher for himself, as it appears the house is divided about whers.

“I know my father doesn’t like them,” Cristov continued breathlessly, holding out a hand palm-up to the watch-wher, “but my feet says we should respect them. She says, ‘A grown-up makes their own decisions.'”

Which is very useful advice. And comes in handy, even if Cristov doesn’t yet have practice at it, when Tarik and Dara both end up intruding on the scene of Cristov being locked affectionately by Kisk. Tarik is his usual caustic and dismissive self, and Dara not only gives him the evil eye for it, she asks politely how Kindan and Kisk are doing.

So now we have a small watch-wher and the boy who gets to train her. Which is fabulous, except for the part where, well, nobody has a fucking clue what they’re doing. But they’ll believe in their ability to adapt, and it will likely turn out well.

Training starts next week.