Monthly Archives: January 2019

Deconstruction Roundup for January 11th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is now back into the working groove.)

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

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

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 concerned about the ways in which so many people seem to be doing nothing in the face of existential threats. Or for any other reason, really.

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Dragon’s Fire: It All Comes Undone

Last chapter, we re-interleaved a bit with the previous book, as Kisk-Nuelsk hatched and Cristov and Pellar had a bonding moment over making sure that the watch-wher was safely brought into the world.

Also, Pellar’s return to the watch-wher camp resulted in both Pellar and Aleesk getting shot, because everyone assumed his return on dragonback wearing Harper Blue meant he had sold them all out to the people they hated the most, even though that wasn’t the actual case. But nobody sent any word ahead informing the camp of this, which is excusable for Pellar, because he’s still at most fourteen, but much less so for the adults around him who would presumably know better.

Dragon’s Fire: Book I: Chapter 6: Content Notes: Child Death, Murder Most Foul, Attempted Murder, The Consequences of Bad Decisions

(Camp Natalon, 493.10-494.1)

Pipes for playing, pipes for song,
Pipes to help the day along.
Pipes for laughter, pipes for joy,
Pipes for sorrow, pipes for boys.

Well, this looks familiar. The first couplet seems to be very related to the “Harper, Harper” snippet from the last book. The second part seems to be something to add on to it, although I am looking askance about the idea that pipes are a gendered instrument for boys. Because this has a long potential call-back from the idea that “tuning isn’t for girls” that caused so much of Menolly’s grief in her duology. Of course, since it’s boys all around, there isn’t going to be that particular type of issue, but it’s still grating how much women are prevented from doing things that should be doable by all of the people in the world.

The action starts with Cristov asking for pipe lessons, as Pellar told him to. Zist is initially hostile to the idea until Cristov presents the pipe that Pellar gave him, and Zist realizes who it’s from and immediately defrosts. It’s also here that we learn that a “pipe” is a recorder by the names of the Ancients, which means that musical instruction on Pern is much the same as it is on Terra, because recorders are one of the beginning instruments to teach to very small children, given that it requires no special embrochure or technique to play, and it’s small enough for small hands to make music with it. Cristov asks for secrecy from Zist about the lessons themselves, and Zist agrees to this, then says that the first lesson Cristov will have to go through is breathing. Which Cristov knows will be a beast because Kindan and Zenor both complained about breathing lessons from their time with Zist.

The narrative flips us back to Tenim…

…who is talking with Tarik about the egg that was purchased from Alessa. The problem being that since it’s a hatched egg and bonded to Kindan, there’s no value any more in the watch-wher. Tenim is significantly displeased about this.

Tenim’s journey had taken two more days than he had planned: profitable days, to be sure, considering the increased bulk of his well-hidden purse, but perhaps not profitable enough to make up for missing a chance at the egg.
“Hmmph,” Tenim snorted in disgust. “It’s no good to me now.”

Tarik then puts a bug in Tenim’s ear that finding a gold egg would be worth a significant amount more, and manages to get Tenim set to try and find the gold watch-wher. Tarik fervently hopes it’s a mission that Tenim won’t come back from.

Moran, for his part, has rounded up the children and is attempting to get away before Tenim can come back, although he doesn’t say as much. Halla, however, can read him well enough to know the truth, although she thinks she’s assigning her own feelings about getting away to Moran. And she can tell when the kids are going to need food. The narrative calls it “a sign of Halla’s forced maturity that she thought the way she did.” Halla is, after all, less than ten and in a leadership role for these kids.

At a sound from behind them, Moran stopped and turned.
“Perri,” Moran says in a tone that was equal parts exhaustion and worry.
Halla half turned and warned, “There’s no more feverroot.”
Moran rushed back to the fallen youngster. Perri had been bitten by a tunnel snake when he was playing at the outskirts of Hold Balan–or that’s what Halla guessed, for the toddler had never been much of a talker and refused to say anything about his injury. The wound had festered in the past several days, and he’d walked through the night in a half-fever.
Some noise or sigh caused Halla to stop and turn all the way back to the others. Instead of trudging after her, they were grouped in a semicircle. Moran was kneeling in the center.
As soon as Moran lifted his head up and looked at Halla, she knew. She sighed, too tired for anything else, wordlessly passed Nalli back to Moran, and grabbed at the handle of the shovel that hung down from her backpack. She was getting too good at digging graves.
A half hour later they trudged on, Halla more grimy than she liked, and only a few withered yellow flowers for the mound she left behind. She’d liked Perri, he’d just started to smile.

And the terrible things about this is that all of this poverty and misery is preventable. It’s deft writing to pull at the heart like this, with children dying from what is presumably preventable injuries and infections, if the people with the ridiculous amounts of wealth had even the slightest shred of empathy for the plight of others. If the new author was looking for a way to write an indictment of the world set up by the old one, the last two books have been stellar at doing so. I doubt that’s the intent, because that tends to mean less successful collaborations, but the effect is quite good.

Moran himself is suffering from what probably sounds familiar to anyone who is battling an impossible structural problem but themselves and without resources.

They look to you, Moran thought to himself as he led the group of children away from yet another grave, and you let them down.
How many graves did that make? He wondered idly and realized with dull relief that he couldn’t remember. This isn’t how things were supposed to be, Moran told himself. I was to find the Shunned, to set up meetings, to help them, Moran recalled. He had always wanted to make a difference, have ballads composed about him, make up for his unknown origins. Instead, somehow, he’d found himself only surviving one crisis to fall into another, never seeming to find the right place, the right answers, and always coming up with more complications. Every time he’d sworn that he’d locate the next harper, report in to the Harper Hall, something had happened to change his mind. He wanted to report his success; he could not bring himself to report failure. And so the Turns had passed. Turns, and Moran’s dreams had gone from saving the Shunned to simply finding food enough for those waifs he’d found along the way. Worse still, at times he’d squandered their spare marks for drink, or an evening’s comfort. Always, at the time, Moran had told himself that he deserved it–the drink or the warm company–and after, seeing the mute looks of the hungry children, had sworn never again. But again and again, he would give in to his base desires. With such dismal failures, how could he face Murenny or Zist?
He shifted Nalli on his back, looking hopefully back at Halla in hope of a trade. Her face was streaked with tears.
Moran swore at himself for his selfishness and trudged on.

If I were looking for a good description of what burnout mixed with depression was like, this passage might be my candidate for ur-example. Moran, like many missionaries, went out with the confidence of a simple reconciliation and returning of the Shunned, or at least setting up a way of taking care of them, and then, like all battle plans do, it all fell apart when reality ensued. Crushing poverty has long since had its effects on him, and he’s been in it long enough that he’s thinking like someone who is in poverty, prioritizing short-term benefits over long-term thinking, and then getting mad at himself because he’s still human and occasionally, creature comforts are what keep us from losing our grip on sanity. (Also, I note confirmation that the oldest profession continues to be so on Pern, so it’s likely that sex work is also operating under the threat of being Shunned if found out…or for refusing someone they can’t actually afford to.) Moran feels bad about it, because he’s still looking after children and the money could have fed them, but every parent needs a day off here and there, or a night out to remind themselves that they’re not just taking care of children.

It seems easy to shout at Moran and tell him to just go to the Harpers and have them take him and his children back, but that requires admitting that he can’t do it on his own, and that’s one of the hardest things to admit to anyone, including yourself, when you’ve gotten into a terrible situation. Plus, all the stuff he’s already done and would have to admit to is getting in the way. Whether he’s going to have to admit to himself that he’s a victim of systemic abuse or a perpetrator of a million petty and not so petty crimes that would sully his reputation as a Harper, he going to have to admit to failure. (He was set up to fail, and that he’s gone on this long is a miracle by itself.)

The first step, as some person named Bill said, is to admit that you have a problem. Whether that problem is “someone is abusing me,” “this relationship has come to an end,” or “I can’t save everyone,” it’s still a hard first step to get there, and there’s a lot of recrimination that happens afterward once that step gets made. And then the next step, and the next step after that, until you’ve finally come to terms with what the problem is and what can be done about it. In Moran’s case, there might be a lot, but he’s going to have to enlist the help of the Harpers to do it.

The plot continues on with a short interlude of Pellar returning back to the watch-wher camp, where Pellar continues to develop into his adult self as he spends time there, which strains certain relationships with the people around him. Arella and he are sleeping in separate beds, but close to each other. Polla is described as flirting with him, but also that she has a “grin more gap than teeth.”

Polla had flirted with him, but he’d ignored the offer woman, just as he and Arella found themselves ignoring each other–although with increasing difficulty. Some of the older girls Pellar had been teaching started flirting with him, too. Pellar politely redirected their attention, while he worried about what might occur the next time Aleesk rose to mate. His best hope was to be far away before then.

Despite the assurance from before that mating flight things were not relationship contracts, we note, because Arella turned out not to be only casually interested. If there were more proof that the mating flights didn’t end up in romantic entanglements, it seems like a mating flight orgy would be the appropriate way to satisfy all of those flirtatious requests without actually getting attached to anyone. Assuming that Pellar made it much closer to adulthood and consent by that next time.

As it is, the narrative settles into a longer chunk following Halla, who has immediate suspicions about two women who have joined their merry band of children.

Halla didn’t need for Conni to part her hair to guess at the big blue “S” that had been painted there with bluebush ink. Young as she was, Halla had a good idea of what had caused Conni to be Shunned by her Lord Holder, and liked neither the way that Conni looked at Moran–like a tunnel snake ready to pounce on its prey–nor, worse, the way Milera slavishly emulated her mother. And while Conni might be a few Turns past her prime, Milera had just gone from child to woman.
Halla had been around Moran too long not to guess that there was more to the harper’s acceptance of the two than just the kindness of his heart.

And so here begins the story of CinderHalla, as Conni and Milera manage to get into the group by offering to share their food…and apparently their bodies as well, much to Halla’s disapproval. But the food only lasts a meal, and Conni and Milera start to treat Halla as if she were their personal slave girl without losing any of their noses-in-the-air attitude about running the place.

I find this juxtaposition of the death of one of the children, Moran’s admission of his various vices and faults, and then the appearance of these two characters who are essentially there to be sexy and have their otherwise terrible selves ignored in favor of the fact they’re willing to put out extremely fascinating. The narrative is doing some pretty serious groundwork here to immediately run back any sympathy we might have for Moran from his self-confession of faults. It’s treating him the same way that it’s been treating Tenim — think terribly of this person for the actions they have committed, even as we demonstrate in their backstories that they’re basically human beings caught up in a terrible system and weren’t really given that many options to do actual good in their lives. From another angle, we could easily dismiss all of that under the rubric of “intent isn’t magic” and focus solely on the actions being taken by both men, and we would be justified in doing so. I think that ignores the institutional and systemic problems with Pern that give rise to these scenarios in the first place (and that Moran is essentially trying to deal with grief and depression), but it’s a legitimate take to have.

Halla has no illusions that neither Conni or Milera want the children around, but tolerate them for their food-gathering ability while the two women secure passage and other favors by doing sex work. There’s an entire “nice for the person they’re sleeping with, entirely mean and icy to Halla” segment with Milera while Halla’s fishing that ends in Halla having to gut much of her catch (of three fish) to feed Milera, because Milera’s the one in good graces at the moment. It’s basically a wicked stepsister routine, and there’s no point in quoting any of it. The end of the partnership is essentially that Milera steals their houseboat captain’s purse while he’s asleep, except he wakes up and raises the alarm not too soon after, and Halla ends up in the middle of a mob that wants to brand her with the S of the Shunned, despite the protestations from the actual victim of the crime that she didn’t do anything at all, until someone in Harper blue rescues her from the crowd. It’s not Moran. It’s Tenim.

Tenim very much wants to know where Moran is. Moran has essentially hidden Conni and escapes with her from the angry mob, but Conni wants to ditch the children as soon as possible. Moran doesn’t, and manages to convince Conni not to do so long enough to get through this particular segment, with Moran regretting that he let himself be fooled by a “voracious talker, stalker, and menace to all.” The action kicks back to Halla, who announces proudly that she’s found the missing kids and Moran. Tenim has found Milera.

Halla nodded, keeping her expression neutral. It was obvious that Tenim valued the pretty girl more highly than he did the missing youngsters–or herself.
During the day’s searching, Halla had found herself several times looking in a still pool of water or a shiny pot. Her reflection did not displease her.
She was still young and the features of her face were not fully formed, but they were serviceable. Probing brown eyes looked out from behind dark brown hair that could do with a wash. Her nose was straight and thin, her teeth were mostly white and strong, her lips were thin–perhaps they were too thin and that was the trouble, but she liked her smile. She had to admit that her eyes danced mischievously when she smiled, but she didn’t think that was such a horrible thing.
No, Halla decided, where she was most lacking was in the curves that Milera and, more so, Conni so proudly displayed. Halla couldn’t quite remember if she had ten or eleven Turns–Moran had insisted on teaching her to read and count, while Tenim had insisted on teaching her to hunt and track–but she was certain she’d have to be older and better fed before she’d develop any curves of her own. Anyway, she wasn’t even sure that she wanted such curves; it seemed to her that they would make running more awkward.

And she’s ten. Or eleven. But this jealousy makes a certain sort of sense, given that Halla is seeing what the boys are paying attention to, and it’s not her. At least, not right now, since we remember that Tenim still hasn’t tried to make good on his threat. Given what Halla seems to want to do with her life, she’s probably not going to develop the hourglass figure that everyone seems to want, because the athletic build doesn’t generally do a whole lot with the reserves of fat needed for curves. Older, yes, better fed, yes, but also a lot more idle than Halla is ever really going to be. Plus, with as food-insecure as she’s been for her entire life, there’s a good chance her puberty is going to be awkward at best.

As things go, the Tenim-led crew comes across a caravan of traders and hitches a ride with them. Since they’re all kids, and Halla managed to avoid the mob, when they’re checked for the mark of the Shunned, they all pass. (Halla knows for the truth that if she had been marked, Tenim would have thrown her out to make sure that he could get on the trader transport.) It turns out the trader caravan is Tarri’s, who we have seen a few times before in these books, and Halla warms up to Tarri almost instantly, and not just because Tarri understands that Milera is trading on something that won’t stay with her forever.

“You might even be trader blood. I’ve seen your features before. Or Boll blood–they get swarthy down there.”
Swarthy? Halla thought to herself. She’d never heard the word before.
“Your skin tans faster than the others, Tarri continued. “Some find your dark hair and eyes very attractive. When you get older, your features will sharpen and you’ll be glad you’ve got strong legs to run from all the men chasing you.”
Halla snorted.
Tarri shook her head and patted Halla consolingly. “And when you’re old, you’ll still have that great skin, lithe figure, and flashing eyes, while Milera will be a sagging, toothless, lardy mess.”
Halla could never imagine herself as old, but she could easily imagine Milera as toothless and lardy.

Because one of the standard things to get women to bond is to be catty about other women and their looks over time, clearly. Also, swarthy to me means someone of darker skin and complexion, suggesting yet again that there might be a better diversity of skin tone on Pern than even the authors were intending.

Halla has a minor BSOD when Tarri offers her half of her bed, which includes sheets, and gets a big enough pan to serve as a bath for Halla when Halla protests she’s not nearly clean enough for sheets. Tarri even offers to let Halla sleep in. In the company of such luxuries as towels, baths, Tarri washing and styling Halla’s hair, and a whole half bed to herself, Halla has her best night sleep ever, sleeping in until well after noon. She wakes up to an argument, where it becomes clear that Tenim and company have stolen from the traders and disappeared in the night. Tarri is trying to convince Veran, one of the other traders, that Halla had nothing to do with it.

“For the last time, Veran, she didn’t have anything to do with it,” Halla heard Tarri say. “She was asleep here with me.”
“If you say so,” Veran replied. “But what’s to say that she wasn’t hoping to steal from you, too?”
“She wasn’t.”
“And what makes you so sure?”
“Because I asked if she’d like bangs,” Tarri replied.
“Bangs?”
“You know, hair cut across her forehead,” Tarri said with a hint of exacerbation.
“But she didn’t have the mark of the Shunned,” Veran replied. “Why would it worry her?”
“That’s not the point,” Tarri said. “If she were living with people who were Shunned she would have known immediately what I meant and would have reacted differently.”
“So you’ve reached your judgment on a hunch,” Veran declared.
“As have you,” Tarri responded, her time gently chiding.

First, no, Tarri did not ask about bangs. We’ve skipped that section for quoting, but at no point did Tarri mention bangs. She just said “do your hair” to Halla. So that’s a thing the editor should have caught, or the author made explicit, or mentioned that Tarri knew she was fibbing slightly. The second bit, about both of them making assumptions, is entirely true. Halla has been traveling with the Shunned, and just had a giant scare about getting marked and before that, knowing how plenty of women hid their marks behind their hair. It just happens to be that Halla knows she’s not marked and has the same “weakness” for comforts that Moran does. Which is why Halla volunteers to go find the group that stole from the traders. “Because I don’t like walking, I like running even less, and I hate the thought of spending an me time worrying that someone might brand me Shunned,” she says.

We get confirmation that Jamal (from the very beginning) died from the infection from his broken leg and that Halla has no idea who her parents are. Veran is confused as to why Jamal couldn’t get treatment. Since they were unknown, Halla explains, they couldn’t get service.

“A trader, then–”
“Traders want marks,” Halla said. “Or trade.” Her tone when she said “trade” made Tarri blush.
Veran blustered at her words. “We traders–”
“–were happy enough to see that girl yesterday,” Tarri interjected. “At least the men.”
Veran weighed her words; from his expression it was obvious that he couldn’t argue with them but he didn’t like the way they set on his mind, either.

Point, Tarri and Halla. At least Veran doesn’t try to argue over what is pretty clearly true. He tries to go after Halla on a different tack of thievery, but Halla admits up front that she has stolen, even though she doesn’t like doing it, and Tarri backs up her justification for doing so.

It turns out that Tenim and Milera were the only ones who left and did the stealing, and it finally comes out that Zist has had the word out for Moran for Turns, although it apparently wasn’t a worldwide communication, and that they are concerned for what will happen to the Shunned when Thread comes again. Halla asks for the traders to adopt the children, which they will do, and Veran admits there’s some trade between traders and Shunned. “Most of the Shunned were sent out for good cause,” he says as a caveat, because we still can’t have people complaining the system itself is wrong and needs to be fixed, not even to themselves or among sympathetic ears.

As a final gift, Tarri and Veran trade the truth (“Traders don’t trade in lies,” Tarri says as a warning) about Halla, Moran, Tenim, and her life for a pack full of provisions so that Halla can go after Tenim and Milera. We get a statement that Conni got her Shunning not for selling her body, but for the murders of her lovers that followed shortly after, and Halla is essentially bid welcome to any trader fire on Pern from Tarri.

And then, some useful wordcraft, in the form of the textual equivalent of a Gilligan Cut.

“Fair trade,” he [Veran] said, offering the pack to her.
“Thanks.”
” ‘Fair trade’ is what you say,” Tarri corrected her.
Halla smiled. “Fair trade.”

—[Scene Change]—

“Fair trade,” Tenim said as he left the body by the gully. Milera had been a pleasant diversion, but she’d been a fool to think she could stab him while he was sleeping. She’d gotten closer than he’d liked; his shoulder was sore and hot where the dagger had scored.

I like this juxtaposition, even if I am a little eyebrow-raising that Tenim would use that exact phrase. It’s not quite natural enough for me to think of it as anything other than a contrivance, but it accomplishes the right idea with a bit of clever wordplay. I probably would have done it myself, honestly, if given the chance.

Tenim justifies his lethal response as self-defense, proving stopped clocks are still occasionally correct, and feels good about having stolen from the traders, taken Milera’s money and supplies, and is making good time on Moran and Conni, on whom he intends to revenge himself fully.

Scene changes again, this time to Moran and Conni, and Conni is getting drunk, after having gotten them both thrown out for being rude to someone that was putting them up. That said, there’s a good chance that the kids he left behind will get adopted and fostered out, and Moran, while cursing that Conni has brought him terrible fortune, has a hope spot that he might be able to return to the Hall, once he gets free of Conni. When Conni passes out from drinking, Moran relieves her of her money and then disappears.

He chooses poorly about where to go, but he follows a pair of bright lights in the sky to a camp, but he loses his footing, slides down a hill and then cracks his head on a rock and it knocks him out. The narrative cuts again to Pellar, who has noticed a trail heading to the wherhandler camp and is busy obliterating it when Halla catches up to him. After a quick establishment of trust and names, Pellar and Halla follow an urgent message from Chitter to get back to the camp, both of them working on creating a false trail because Halla knows Tenim is coming for Moran and will do what he can to steal and hurt whatever he comes across in the process.

And there’s Chapter 6, with several of the spilt storylines reconverging on the wherhandler camp, and Tenim, who continues to evade the death that will eventually catch up to him, for plot reasons, on the way there.

It will be nice to not have these fragmentary scenes bouncing all over the planet, at least.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 4th, 2019

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has had a pleasant set of holidays.)

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

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Libby Anne: Love, Joy, Feminism

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 ready for the clock to tick over to the new calendar year. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Fire: Betrayed

Last time, Pellar and Arella broke up, because he didn’t love her and she does love him, but not enough to wait for him. The logistics and the message about trading for watch-wher eggs went out far and wide, and several entities are interested. Plus, High Reaches Weyr is extending its protection for their camp for when the Shunned arrive to try and steal the valuable eggs.

Dragon’s Fire: Book 1: Chapter 5: Content Notes: Spousal abuse, child abuse

(493.10)

What’s that large and ugly thing?
A watch-wher, who shuns daylight’s sting.
Night’s its friend, its dark ally
Only in the cold to fly.

Well, if songs like that exist, I’m surprised that the watch-wher hasn’t linguistically become a thing to be hated and feared and used as a euphemism for ablist and other commentary, both inside and outside communities that use them for their purposes.

This chapter starts with Pellar sending Chitter in to the camp to announce his return.

The fire-lizard returned immediately, eyes whirling with fear, and wrapped himself around Pellar’s neck, clutching tightly and painfully.
I’m going in, Pellar thought to his frightened friend.

Cocowhat by depizan

In what universe is that danger signal so blithely ignored? Pellar doesn’t ask about details, doesn’t stop to think as to why Chitter is behaving that way, doesn’t even consider the possibility that something is different now than it was when he left. Nope, Pellar just charges right in without a thought. Just like he didn’t change anything when Arella thought he wanted post-breakup nookie.

And then, for the extra cherry on top of this narrative excrement, we’re immediately reminded that Pellar is a tracker, and so should be hyper-alert to changes in his environment.

It was still daylight and so not at all hard for Pellar to spot Jaythen’s hiding place before Jaythen spotted him. He was sure that if he hadn’t he would never have avoided the arrow Jaythen sent whizzing his way. The arrow buried itself up to the shaft in the hard-packed dirt where Pellar had been walking.
It will be hard to hide in blue, Pellar decided, abandoning any notion of using his woodcraft to elude Jaythen.

So Pellar is still wearing his Harper Blue rather than having changed back into the clothes he left with. That makes him easy to see. But Pellar still hasn’t tried to ascertain why, having left on good graces, he’s coming back to getting shot at again. Or, for that matter, he didn’t think to beat a hasty retreat and possibly change clothes or send in Chitter with a slate message asking what’s going on.

I wonder if Pellar has chalked it up to “These people are nutters anyway, there’s no sense to this,” since that has apparently been his thought on the matter, even after living with them for a while and seeing they’re not. The narrative doesn’t tell us anything, because Pellar’s in a panic, but you wonder.

“Did you sell us out for finery?” Jaythen yelled at the fourth arrow missed. He threw his bow aside and pulled a long dirk from his belt. “How good do you think it’ll look when your blood’s on it?”
Pellar dodged again, only to find himself gape-mouthed in unvoiced pain. He looked to his left and noticed an arrow sticking out of his forearm. Someone else had shot him. He caught sight of Arella rising up from her hiding place, eyes streaming with tears as she notched another arrow and aimed for his heart.
“I trusted you,” she yelled at him as she shot at him.

So, Pellar is going to die for not heeding the warning signs. Jaythen spoke of betrayal, but Pellar isn’t smart enough to put one and three together and figure out why. Mostly because he’s trying not to die. Pellar is pretty intensely ashamed of the fact that he’s about to be killed, along with a lot more intense emotions, and that’s enough to connect him to Aleesk, who pops out of hyperspace and takes the arrow for him. The pain and worry that Pellar feels brings Hurth out of hyperspace, and while the camp takes aim at the dragonrider, Aleesk makes it known there is to be no shooting of dragons, so Aleesa calls off the attack. And then someone finally gives Pellar a clue about how monumentally he’s fucked up.

Aleesa looked over to Pellar, he eyes hard as flint.
“You played your game well, little one,” she told him, her voice broken. She glanced up at the dragon hovering above her. “Now they will kill my Aleesk and there will be no more watch-whers, just as they wanted.” She shook her head, tears rolling unchecked down her cheek. “I trusted you, I truly trusted you.”

There’s the thing you didn’t think about, Pellar — nobody in the camp has any reason to trust a dragonrider, and if the camp saw you arrive by dragon, they think you’ve sold them out. Pellar knows the dragons aren’t going to be harmful, but nobody else does. And Pellar didn’t think to send a status update with Chitter, like he has with Zist before, so that everyone can keep appraised of the business deal and what’s going down. Admittedly, Pellar is also still very young. It’s only been six months since the last chapter, so Pellar is at most fourteen, and I don’t know many fourteen year-olds, now or then, that would be able to think through all of those things. The responsible adults in Pellar’s life, especially Zist, should be more helpful.

Instead, Aleesk gets shot saving Pellar from a completely avoidable tragedy if anyone has just bothered to stop and think for a bit.

With the situation resolved about not shooting at dragons or Pellar, the information revealed that dragons see watch-whers as cousins, and the horror of Aleesk taking a hit as the last known gold watch-wher, Pellar passes out properly so that we can advance the narrative. When he comes to, it’s Arella in his bed…

It was then that Pellar realized she was lying next to him, her body’s heat warming him. Arella guessed his thoughts from his expression and smiled wryly at him. “Don’t go getting any ideas, Harper Pellar. There’s no mating flight for months yet. I am here because it was my arrow in your arm, and I owe you.”
Arella’s eyes were bright as they looked deep into his. He reached over and stroked her cheek. She leaned into it and then drew back again, all business. “Are you ready to earn your keep?”

…and it’s nice that she’s trying, but the narrative is very much herding her in the direction that she can’t help but be in love with him. Not helping things is that Pellar’s slate is broken, so he has to rely on Hurth to transmit his voice.

“I would have killed you for betraying the watch-whers to their deaths,” Arella told him softly. “You understand? Wouldn’t you do the same if someone tried to kill Chitter?” She turned her head toward the watch-whers’ quarters. “And she’s the last of her kind.”
Pellar stared at her for a long while before nodding slowly. Tears rolled down Arella’s cheeks and she grabbed his right hand tightly. Pellar clenched back, and pulled her toward him. Surprised, Arella looked up from her kneeling position and crawled forward until her torso was cradled between his legs. Pellar pulled her hand back more, drawing her head toward him, and kissed her lightly on the forehead. Arella let out a sob and dropped her head against his shoulder.
“Besides,” she sobbed against his chest, “you left me. I loved you and you left me.”
Pellar let go of her hand and wrapped his free hand around her back, hugging her tight against him. He patted her soothingly. He knew he loved her, too, and he tightened his arm, but even as he did so he closed his eyes and saw a small mound with a thin bundle of yellow flowers.
Tears rolled down his face, dropped onto Arella’s cheeks, mingled with her tears, and rolled with them into his stained blue tunic.

It’s been only six months, and now Pellar loves Arella? When he didn’t before? That’s awful fast to have a change of mind. And also, Pellar is still at most, fourteen. His brain isn’t finished cooking yet, and neither is Arella’s at sixteen/seventeen.

In any case, all the people arrive for their chances at the watch-wher eggs, and from the cavalcade of dragons, it looks like the camp is on Telgar lands, since no Telgar dragon is present.

Also, until I see the body, Halla’s alive, because she needs to gut Tenim and smile while he dies messily.

Speaking of Tenim…

he’s currently having it out with Moran because the deal’s going down for watch-wher eggs and he doesn’t know where it is.

“Checking,” Moran repeated firmly. “Halla’s report is from Crom; we’ve still Telgar to hear from, and Miner’s Hold to the east–who knows?”
We don’t,” Tenim growled. “There’s a fortune changing hands and we don’t even know where.” He gave the harper a cunning look. “Think of the children you could help with that sort of money.”
Tenim smiled to himself as he saw his remark hit home. Oh yes, I know your loyalties, he thought, wondering how he could have ever thought of the older man as anything but a weakling.
Sure, it was true that Moran had found him, fed him, nursed him back to health when no others would do much as raise a hand for the son of a Shunned father and no one had time for his spineless mother. He never wondered anymore what had happened to her; the last he’d seen of her was the night she’d turned on his father and he’d struck her down. Tenim had learned not to argue with his father at an early age; in fact, at the same time that Tenim had learned that even if she’d had a will, his mother would never have used it in his defense.

Well, that’s depressing. And now there’s cycle of abuse stuff involved here, which makes Tenim more understandable and people can sympathize with his plight out here in the reading world, because unlike Menolly, Tenim doesn’t have a support structure coming in to save her from living in her own. There aren’t enough resources devoted to the problem, and there still seen to be no counselors on Pern, so it’s not like they could check Tenim in to therapy of any sort. Instead, he has to survive the best way he can, and that apparently means taking advantage of everyone that he can to make sure he has enough to live.

The way Tenim’s being played by the narrative, though, we’re not supposed to sympathize with him. Or, if we sympathize with the problems involved in his upbringing, we’re not supposed to sympathize with how he turned out. He’s still got it coming, from Halla, at least, and it will be a tragedy and a statistic.

Moran is potentially stuck in this cycle of abuse as well, because he wants to genuinely help people, it seems.

He [Moran] wondered again how he had come to this pass, how the boy he’d succored so long ago had turned into this sour young man, and again he remembered the many petty compromises, lies, wheedles, and thefts the harper had made to provide the next day’s food, to feed just one more helpless mouth, make one more small difference, only to find himself repeating the effort the next day, this time to feed even more mouths with even more theft and lies.

Which is how a person can end up doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Given, however, that Pern has no government aid programs, no religious charities, no social organizations at all who concern themselves with the welfare of the least people and the Shunned, Moran doesn’t have any other options than crime. I suspect, on any other “civilized” world in the federation the colonists came from, they would look on this situation with horror. (Unless they’re all Rand worlds, at which point I question how they stayed confederated for long enough to pull that colony ship off in the first place.) So, Moran ends up doing the only thing he can, for charitable reasons. If only he had proper support from his guild, and all the people that guild could browbeat into supporting their local populations or finding other ways than Shunning as punishment for crimes.

This also complicates Tenim more, because we can’t really say that he had the opportunity to choose another path than the one he’s been forced to walk his entire life. With Thella, for example, we could at least deceive ourselves into thinking she had a choice as to whether to accept the role her patriarchal society picked out for her. Her choice to rebel theoretically meant she accepted the consequences of her actions, harsh and lethal as they would become. Tenim didn’t get that choice, and yet the narrative wants us to believe that he deserves his fate as well, despite having been born to a Shunned father and taken in by a man who has no other choice than to lie, cheat, and steal to try and take care of the children he cares for. It’s contradictory and difficult to hold in your head condemnation for the morally wrong actions Tenim takes and the knowledge of his upbringing and lack of other options to escape this situation.

The plot advances with Tenim stalking off to go steal the one egg he knows will be somewhere – Camp Natalon. The narrative spins back to the watch-wher camp, where there’s still one egg left to hatch, and Jaythen is apologizing for being a butthead about dragonriders. Pellar gets sent out to make sure that Kindan’s egg hatches correctly, even though that potentially means Pellar will be expected to bond to the remaining egg. D’vin reminds Pellar his own destiny is in his hands and suggests again that Pellar could be a dragonrider. Pellar denies it to them, then recognizes (remembers, really, it should be) that not being able to speak isn’t actually an impediment to the job.

Pellar encounters Cristov, who Pellar mistakes for Tenim and attacks before recognizing who it is, and decides to leave the care of protecting the watch-wher egg in Cristov’s hands. At least, during the daytime. Pellar will take the night shift. Which works until the egg hatches, and then, well, Cristov is unhappy to see Pellar go.

It was obvious to Pellar that Cristov was looking for a friend, a surrogate older brother, someone to train him in what was right and how to live in the world. Pellar was amazed that the boy had already decided that Tarik was no such guide, had decided to abandon the teaching of his father and look instead for some other mentor.
[…Pellar explains he’s going to be gone for a long time…]
“How will you recognize me? How will I recognize you?”
Pellar smiled and pointed to Cristov’s heart and then his own.
[…Pellar gifts Cristov a pipe and tells him to get lessons from Zist…]
“Okay,” Cristov promised. Pellar sealed up his pack and shouldered it once more. As he turned to go, Cristov said, “I’ll try real hard.”
Pellar turned back and grabbed the youngster in a big hug. Then, as quick as he could, Pellar vanished into the darkness.
Two hours later, Pellar stood again in the plateau clearing.
Hurth, I’m ready, he thought.
We come, The dragon responded immediately. You sound sad.
I am, Pellar responded. How many children on Pern, he wondered, were like Cristov–trying to do their best without example?

That’s the end of Chapter 5. And, frankly, I’d like to get my slash goggles out for this exchange between Pellar and Cristov. They’re both far too young to be making full decisions about who they want to spend the rest of their lives with, but this could just as easily read as a declaration of a bit of a crush from Cristov. Neither Cristov nor Pellar might understand that this is what it is, because they’re so young, but it is nice to think about. If only the idea that men and men might get together in romance and sexuality wasn’t solely restricted to the dragonriders and waved away as a byproduct of completely hetero dragon mating. Regrettably, out here in our world, at this time we’re still not that far from the decision that decriminalized gay men in the States and opened the door to allowing them to get legal domestic partnerships, then full marriage rights. We’re still too far away from when that seems to be a normal facet of life.

As for what Pellar says, about children without role models, that seems to be a pretty likely occurrence even in the world of children who aren’t Shunned. Parenting seems to be a rare skill among the Pernese, and that includes the fostering parents of the various noble children in addition to the members who aren’t as much of the nobility. Rand Land applies to the kids as well, and that’s, frankly, terrible.