Dragon Harper: Only One Kind of Tale

Last time, Fire Hold was established as the refuge of the Shunned, mining safe(r) firestone for the dragons in exchange for being able to participate in society again. I have to wonder whether this tradition has continued all the way to the Ninth Pass, or whether the firestone mines were eventually re-absorbed into the Miner’s Guild and are now worked by the appropriate professionals.

Halla and Pellar fell in love, despite the narrative giving us no reason to believe it. Cristov became C’tov, by Impressing a bronze dragon and went on to that life, instead of being the supervising miner for Fire Hold.

Dragon Harper, Prologue and Chapter 1: Content Notes:

But rather than sit and contemplate the kind of horror that comes from realizing the most valuable resource on the planet is mined, essentially, by prison labor that’s been given life sentences that they may not even deserve and that are still likely going to die prematurely from all the exertion of mining, we’ve decided that we’ve spent more than enough time with the common folk. We don’t care about that any more, because now we’re off to follow Kindan again, this time as a Harper Hall apprentice. Given what happened the last time we were at the Hall, I’m opening the betting pool now as to which chapter someone gets deadly-pranked or comes within an inch of their life at someone else’s hands.

The Prologue recycles a verse from a previous book,

Dragon’s heart,
Dragon’s fire,
Rider true,
Fly higher.

and is essentially J’lantir being pissed that his wing has disappeared for a sevenday and are coming back exhuasted, but also strangely prescient about what J’lantir’s mood will be about their return, claiming that it was J’lantir himself who gave that advice. It’s all the signs that the wing has gone back in time for something and has now had to live out the time they were in the past twice, which we all know is incredibly exhausting.

So, with the prologue dispensed, on we go to Chapter 1.

White robe, high hopes
Hatching ground, tight throats
Sands heat, eggs move
Shells crack, hearts prove.

(AL 495.8, High Reaches Weyr)

In the grand tradition of linked Pern books, Chapter 1 is going to be the Hatching where Cristov officially becomes C’tov, and it follows both Cristov and Kindan as they get themselves changed into the candidate’s robes. Cristov is still very certain that it should have been Pellar in his place, and we have some hindsight that only being in the third book of a trilogy can produce.

Turns back, he [Cristov] and Kindan has been enemies. Back then, Cristov had despised watch-whers, just as he’d been taught by his father. Kindan’s father had been a wherhandler, a person bonded to the ugly night-loving creatures who were only distant cousins to the great dragons that protected Pern. Infected by his father’s attitudes, Cristov had despised Kindan, and they’d fought many times as youngsters. In the end, however, Cristov had realized that it was Kindan who had been right and his father who had been wrong–and Cristov had found himself, at an early age, making a grown man’s choice of doing what was right instead of what was expected. He’d even come to regard the ugly watch-whers with respect bordering on awe. And now he greeted Kindan with a huge grin.

That’s not what I remember. I remember Cristov having a bit of a crush on Pellar, and being spurred to action to help Kindan by setting the mutilated corpse of Chitter in Master Zist’s abode, and it turning out that Cristov had to understand the use of the watch-wher (and also having Tarik get Shunned to the point of being nameless) before he could grow into the man that he is now. Because if he respected them, I’m not sure he’d call the whers ugly.

Also, even if Tarik was an unperson when he died, unless Cristov is fully, 150% on board with that rejection and loss of name, I think Cristov would refer to his father by name in his own head. And if he is on board with that rejection, then I would have expected him to have more issues than he did with everyone that kept dying around him and his own injuries. But no therapists, so he’s Just That Tough.

As everyone gets changed into their whites, Sonia (who is also standing as a candidate) realizes they’re short bodies for eggs, right before a last-minute gift of people from Benden arrives and she switches over to making sure everyone is arranged.

And then we are more forcefully reminded that Cristov also has a lot of issues to work through.

“I shouldn’t be here,” Cristov said. “I’m a miner.” Kindan shook his head and told him feelingly, “More than anyone you should be here, Cristov. You earned the right and you were Searched.”
Cristov started to explain that D’vin had come for Pellar, not him, but Kindan shushed him.

So Cristov is still very attached to the identity that his father beat into him, but not to the person that did it. And he has a massive dose of Impostor Syndrome going on here.

We can add on to that the usual problems that happen at a Hatching that are taken for granted:

Some of the Benden lads were too frightened and didn’t move out of the way of a creeling green. One youth was brutally trampled and tossed aside by the green’s awkward stumbling to lie in a bloody heap nearly a dragonlength away.

Because the mutilation of children is an acceptable cost for dragons to find their partners. It’s not like, say, they could build a fence and let the candidates and dragons look at each other until everyone had a match that was going to get one, and then the fence could be lowered and the feeding begin. Less hurt for everyone.

As it turns out, Kindan also has some issues to work through, as he watches Cristov Impress a bronze.

The grin on his [Kindan’s] face slipped as his mind was flooded with memories of Kisk, the green watch-wher he had once shared a bond with. He swallowed hard and squared his shoulders. I gave her up, he reminded himself, wondering if that perhaps rendered him undesirable to the hatchlings.
Briefly Kindan [orig. Cristov] recalled Nuella’s smile as he [orig. Kindan] encouraged her to ride the watch-wher between to the cave-in that had trapped her father, brother, and eight other miners. Only blind Nuella could have visualized the image needed to guide the heat-seeing watch-wher safely. So giving Kisk to her had been a good decision, everyone had agreed. And it meant that he [orig. Kindan] wasn’t trapped forever in the mines with a watch-wher. He was free to become a harper, maybe even a dragonrider…but not this time. He shook himself out of the reverie.

Yeah, the original forgot who was having the flashback while Cristov was making his new friend for life.

Yeah, everyone might think of it as a good decision, and it might have been exactly that, but it still hurts giving up something you loved and that you thought was going to be your friend for a good long time. Or something that was tying you down to a fate that you didn’t necessarily want, but felt obligated to see through to the end of that animal’s life because the animal, of course, doesn’t have the capacity to take care of itself (and the person who entangled you in this has no intention of disentangling because they put themselves in the position to be helpless and are using that specifically to stop you from moving on.)

I feel ya there, Kindan, is what I’m saying.

The thought-to-be-a-queen egg is a queen egg, Sonia Impresses her, and then, once the clutch is safely in the hands of the new generation, both the Weyrwoman and her dragon pass on in death. Which means B’ralar now has to get to know and work with a new Weyrwoman, and he and his dragons have to deal with grief and loss in equal measure of how much Sonia will have to adjust to the new realities of her position. Kindan, for his part, almost immediately puts the disappointment of not getting a dragon out of his mind and gets back to the business of being a Harper on site for such an event, and the next scene, told from M’tal’s narration, has him look on with approval as Kindan has wine for B’ralar and lots of upbeat songs and tunes for the occasion. He also approves of Kindan having requested Benden wine for the tables and the drinkings, whether in consolation or joy, and is a bit surprised to hear Kindan singing “a slightly off-color lullaby” late on in the night, before telling him point-blank that when Kindan reaches Journeyman, M’tal will ask for him to be the Weyr Harper for Benden, assuming that, at least in M’tal’s opinion, Kindan doesn’t Impress a dragon first. And that’s Chapter 1.

Am I a terrible person if I want to see what the off-color lullaby’s lyrics are printed as the interstitial poetry in between chapters? I don’t think so, and I think they would be excellent at providing us some much-needed worldbuilding depth by telling us what Pern (or at least the dragonriders) consider to be slightly outside the bounds of polite. Is it a lullaby that turns out to be singing to a penis’s erection, hoping it will droop and soften so that the singer can go to sleep instead of getting ravished again? Is it the kind of song that, if you actually listen to the lyrics, you realize it’s not about putting a child to sleep at all, but about a wild night on the town? What’s in that song, I want to know, and I also am a bit surprised that a song such as that is officially allowed to exist and be performed by representatives of the Harper Hall at all. Maybe it’s the company and the wine, so Kindan feels safe enough that nobody will remember what was sung, just that songs happened.

In any case, that should be enough tying things together at this point. As usual, I’m not actually sure what purpose this serves in terms of moving the narrative forward, but it introduced the players on a stage that had action to it, rather than having them all sit around a table. So we’ll go to the Harper Hall next chapter and follow Kindan and not remember that we had anything to do with this until it becomes startlingly important.

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10 thoughts on “Dragon Harper: Only One Kind of Tale

  1. WanderingUndine March 7, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Is it consistently common in this series for dragon hatchlings to semi-unintentionally kill or maim people seeking to Impress? I recall Ramoth doing so in the first Hatching ever portrayed, and no other instances of it, but I don’t remember much at all about other Hatchings.

    I’m also curious about the “off-color lullabye.” The phrase brought to my mind the bestselling “adults-only bedtime story” Go the Fuck to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach.

  2. Silver Adept March 7, 2019 at 11:41 pm

    It’s always seemed very consistent for me that when we get to see a Hatching in full, someone gets injured pretty severely because they’re apparently not paying attention to the dragons, or they’re getting in the way of the dragons trying to chase one that isn’t interested in them.

    Maybe I’m projecting, but I don’t think so.

    I really do want to hear that lullabye, because it’s the first thing where we’ve been told there is a color to be off of, even for Harpers. And yet, there’s nothing.

  3. WanderingUndine March 8, 2019 at 12:17 am

    Makes sense. I definition don’t recall such collateral damage in Dragonsdawn, but the only bits of other Hatchings I remember are Jax breaking Ruth’s egg and Oklina exclaiming ‘Her name is Hannath!”

  4. Silver Adept March 8, 2019 at 10:23 am

    I think there was a mauling in “The Smallest Dragonboy” and possibly one in Red Star Rising, and it’s entirely possible it happened in Jaxom’s and the one in the Sixth Pass, so it might not have been every single one, but they have been frequent enough that I’m starting to think of them as common to every hatching.

  5. genesistrine March 9, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Actually, it’s not, I’ve checked back and reported injuries are rare. There do seem to be actual fatalities at the first hatching in DF (Kylara’s referred to as “a survivor” of it), but that’s what spurs F’lar and Lessa to get the candidates visiting the eggs before they hatch, so they’re used to the grounds and the eggs and less likely to freeze with fear or startlement.

    Never the Twain has Nian walked over by her hatchling queen, but it’s clumsiness on the dragon’s part and Nian not paying attention because she’s focussing on how important it is that her brother impress.

    @Wandering Undine: I thought it must be something like “go to sleep you little sh*t” as well. How can you have an “off-color lullaby”?

  6. Silver Adept March 10, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Huh. Corrected, I stand. I’m not entirely sure where I got that idea, then. Maybe I extrapolated that if it happened only occasionally at the presumably most progressive Weyr, it would have been rife everywhere else.

    Or maybe I’m just aggravated at injury and loss of life when there should be well-developed practice about safety of candidates not too soon after the first incident, and that subsequent events makes me wonder if there’s a refusal to learn from the past.

  7. genesistrine March 10, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Oh, there’s plenty of incompetence and bad practice upcoming to hate on in this book, as I’m sure you already know, but to be fair Hatchings usually seem to be reasonably sensibly handled. Ramoth’s Hatching was a shitshow, but given that Benden had been a single Weyr with a single queen laying infrequently for goodness knows how long they’d had plenty of time to forget safety protocols, and given the average Pernese memory span…

  8. Silver Adept March 11, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Good point. And yes, it does look like there’s going to be plenty to yell about, but this is apparently not one of those things. Well, not directly, I guess, but things about memory and good practice do seem to come up whenever plot-critical information has been conveniently forgotten or exists in old and unreadable Records.

  9. genesistrine March 11, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Oh god do they ever. One of the things I really like about the Ramoth Hatching is that F’lar and Lessa actually did learn from what went wrong, figured out ways to stop it going so badly again and implemented them. That’s a horrifyingly rare thing on Pern – look at Moreta’s Ride. Is the Teaching Ballad warning about zoonotic disease and detailing the procedure for making vaccine? Of course not! It’s about noble tragic dragon and rider death!

  10. Firedrake March 11, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Perhaps an “off-colour lullaby” is something along the lines of “let’s go to bed now, and sleep later”?

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