Dragon Harper: Actually Moving Forward

[Mari Ness defends Kylara in this week’s post, and does a solid job of showing all the ways that Kylara gets screwed over by the narrative and the society that she lives in. Both Kylara and Brekke can be tragic victims of the society and the narrative. They do not have to compete.]

Last time was a lot of disease porn and unnecessary deaths. And Kindan working miracles to keep people alive, which finally meets Lord Bemin’s standards of “good enough to date my daughter”, long after his daughter is dead.

Dragon Harper, Chapters 15 and 16: Content Notes: Jumping up and down on someone’s trauma triggers,

Rider, dragon, tried and true
All life’s hope now lives with you
Dragon, rider, work and toil
Save the earth, save the soil.

Chapter 15 opens with more advancing of the time-travel plot by having the wing that got drilled in recognition points dispatched to other Weyrs to act as guides to find the smaller holds in their lands and distribute supplies or note their deaths. M’tal is worried whether everyone will be fine, and C’rion points out that if something terrible happened in this mission, the people who are here now wouldn’t be here, because people who die in the past wouldn’t exist in the present. Everyone agrees that the Timey-Wimey Ball is still a bad idea to try and explain or understand, but they are concerned that they can’t strip fruit forever.

The narrative spins back to Kindan, who wants to study Lenner’s notes, and is told that he can have one of the rooms upstairs. Which turns out to be Koriana’s room, specifically chosen for him by Lord Bemin to work in.

And Kindan is apparently supposed to just get on with this work in the room of the girl he loved, with all of the reminders of her around, and the fact that she hasn’t been dead all that long?

“Inconsiderate asshole” is the least foul thing I can say about Bemin.

As Kindan works through the notes, he stays to cry (and say that’s a bad idea because it will run the ink), and falls asleep at the desk. Bemin finds him, gets him out of his dirty clothes and puts him to bed, where Kindan has dreams of Koriana, and also the cruelty of waking up to a world without her. Bemin talks frank logistics with Kindan about keeping the place alive by having enough hale bodies to actually do the work. Kindan takes it as a compliment (“treating me like a son”) and then sets to the task of bathing and clothing himself. And there’s another useful nugget of information that would have been much more useful to be put earlier in the story, or even to make something interesting out of it, or to provide context as to why Koriana was always at loggerheads with her parents.

“Bannor was much bigger than you, but Koriana liked to dress man-style whenever she could, so I thought you might fit in her clothes.”

He does. (“nearly a good fit on him.”)

And also, why wasn’t this talked about more? Koriana seemed perfectly okay with letting her opinions be known, and she spent significant time with the Harpers, and yet we didn’t hear anything about how she hated dresses. Or that she didn’t dress in dresses when she was around the Harpers, and they thought it a good idea because she was an active person. We don’t know why Koriana liked dressing man-style. Did she do it for greater freedom of movement? Because it would piss off Lady Sannora? Because Koriana really wanted to be one of the guys, since they got all the privileges and fun? Because we and the narrative have been misgendering Koriana the entire novel and nobody, save perhaps Kindan, would ever know? Why does Koriana like dressing masc? Alas, we won’t know, because this comes out only after Koriana is dead and can’t tell anyone.

The plot doesn’t spend any time on this, but gets back to Kindan going over Lenner’s notes and piecing together what the likely course of infection-to-symptoms-to-death (or recovery) is and how long each phase is likely to take, and after a short conversation with Kelsa and Verilan, Kindan asks Valla to go get J’trel for an in-person conference where Kindan can detail a plan to save people, at the risk of the dragonriders. What’s the plan?

That’s chapter 16.

Step by step
Moment by moment
We live through
Another day.

Which is essentially what Vaxoram told Kindan, and then Kindan took up as a rallying cry after Vaxoram ran out of days.

Kindan’s plan is solid – wait until everyone is sure there have been no new cases of flu, wait three weeks after that and then send in the dragons and their riders to help make the Holds run again. Thirty dragonriders and dragons together can do a lot of the work of other people. Only one Weyrleader actually hears the plan, M’tal, but because it’s a good one, every Hold gets help from the Weyrs surrounding. And there’s a lot of work to be done, cleaning out and clearing out and the reality of “Three large mounds outside the Healer Hall were covered with fresh earth, waiting for spring to cover them with green.”
The Harper Hall’s Headwoman, Selora, survived, which is a huge boon to standing the place back up. She’s the only one not a young apprentice that did, so recalls are out to the Harpers that survived to come back and take up teaching positions. As it turns out, based on seniority, Zist is to become the new Masterharper as the oldest surviving Harper.

Selora sends all of the outcasts to the Archives, and Kindan suggests Verilan lead the recovery efforts, based on his familiarity. Verilan takes it up with a vengeance and organizes several squadrons of apprentices to sort and refile, then start recopying damaged records as they are discovered.

Kindan gets pulled from the task by a single drum message: Report. Despite not actually saying who he wants, everyone in the Archives insists that Zist is calling for his apprentice from the mines, so Kindan needs to get there on the double.

They’re right, and Zist is annoyed that Kindan hasn’t got a full report ready for him yet, so that is what Kindan gets to do in front of Zist for several hours, write the whole affair down. Tears spring to his eyes as he writes about the last days of Vaxoram, and it turns out Zist has been reading the report as Kindan has produced each page.

He was surprised a moment later when behind him Master Zist snorted and exclaimed, “You’ve a long ways to go before you’re a Master, what do you mean making Vaxoram a journeyman?”
Kindan turned to respond hotly. “Vaxoram earned the right. For all I knew, I was the last Harper on Pern.” His voice cooled as tears filled his eyes once more. “It was all he wanted.”
” ‘Want’ is not all that makes a journeyman,” Zist replied acerbically. In a softer tone, he added, “But Journeyman Vaxoram had earned the right.” He gave Kindan a firm nod. “And so the Records will show.”

Zist then calls for the Songmaster to report, and asks Kindan who will show up. Kelsa, he replies, because she’s the best, and she does. Zist tells her to take Kindan’s report and her knowledge of the events of the plague and turn it into a song, to be premiered tonight, after giving her a little grief about whether she actually holds the title (and is told, although he already knows, that the Master is dead).

Zist calls for the Voicemaster and asks Kindan who will show up. Nonala, he says, because she’s the best. And she does. Zist tells her that she’s going to premiere the song that Kelsa is writing right now. She demands her choice of singers, after proving she the right person for the job by calling Kindan’s voice “passable at best,” even when he wasn’t suffering from puberty.

We find out that Dalor is in charge at Camp Natalon, because Natalon and his wife also died of the plague, as did everyone between seventeen and twenty-one. Nuella is fine, as are Zenor and Renna. And Jofri is being summoned back to be Zist’s second in command.

Zist calls one more time, for the Archivist, and Kindan tells him Verilan will show up.

“He should be been made journeyman long ago, but he’s too young.”
“Age is not my concern,” Zist replied. “Experience and maturity are what counts.”

Verilan shows up, proclaims the Archives will be restored by the evening, and is unperturbed at Zist giving him grief about being just an apprentice and claiming to be the Archivist. Zist charges Verilan and the scribes with copying out Kindan’s report for every hold, major and minor, and with copying Kelsa’s song, for similar distribution, and it all has to be done by dusk. Verilan nods and sets to it without a word.

After that’s done, Zist sends Kindan to the kitchen with a message that there’s a new song tonight. Which means Kindan ends up being sous chef for Selora, conveniently keeping him out of the way of everything while the others work. When he and the others finish, they are sent back to change, and there are new clothes in the right hue for all of them to change into. Everyone finds the clothing a little rough around the edges, especially with the apprentice rank marks just tacked on.

It’s not until the group arrives at the dining hall and sees a very large crowd of dignitaries that they start to suspect something is up and this is not the usual dinner. It turns out this is a promotion dinner. Kelsa is called first, promoted to Journeyman as Songmaster. Then, when all are seated, Nonala is called and promoted up as Voicemaster. Then Verilan, as Archivist, although he believes it should be Kindan at the table. Kindan reminds him that he’s lucky to be here at all, considering he’s still officially banished, since nobody has promulgated any sort of reversal of that ban, and then helps him get to his Journeyman table.

After the food, Zist rises again.

“It is the rule of the Harper Hall that a person cannot be promoted until they’ve eaten one meal in their present rank,” Zist said. There was a gasp from all the apprentices and journeymen as these words registered amongst them.
Jofri rose beside Zist and they walked over to the journeymen’s table.
“Journeyman Verilan,” Jofri said soberly, “please rise.”
“Me?” Verilan squeaked. “No, it should be Kindan.”
“Get up, Verilan,” Kelsa commanded him. “Get up, or we’ll lift you.”
Reluctantly Verilan rose.
[…only one other has done this feat, Murenny, and Verilan is the youngest Master on record, we are told. Then, it’s time for Nonala and choir to sing the song Kelsa composed from Kindan’s report. It’s called “Kindan’s Song.”…]
Step by step
Moment by moment
We live through
Another day.

Fever consumes us
Death surrounds us
Still we succeed through
Another day.

That’s at least what we get to hear of it, anyway, as Kindan is lost in the grief and memory of what happened. Until he realizes the song’s been done for a while, and there are people standing behind him. M’tal and Bemin escort Kindan, as “Step by step, moment by moment, Kindan walked the tables.”

So he gets his promotion after all. (As well he should after all of this. If the Harpers didn’t take him, I think the Healers would promote him based on field experience alone.)

And, for the less than a page epilogue, it’s mostly “M’tal made good on his promise to take Kindan as Weyr Harper for Benden.” And one last rhyme:

Harper in your garments blue
Sing a song of tales quite true
Harper with your drum so loud
You make us all feel quite proud.

Which is entirely a pack of lies, based just on this book, but even more so based on the other books in this series. And in other series, too. It’s supposed to be a moment of triumph, but it’s just one more lie.

There is, at the end, authors’ notes in case we didn’t believe that influenza can do all of the damage it did, talking about pandemics happening every three to five years, and explaining that during the flu outbreak in 1918 CE, the immune systems of eighteen to twenty-one year olds were so aggressive at combating the flu that they would attack the lungs of the person infected, causing a death by drowning. Which is why this particular flu on Pern strikes that same population so devastatingly.

I still have questions, though, about epidemiology and Pern and how they keep managing not to notice that clustering people together tends to have bad effects on the population’s health. Because Thread forces this. Or would, were it not for dragons, but there seems to be a tacit agreement that the dragons don’t protect everything. Given what Thread does where it burrows, though, it seems way more likely that the dragons really do protect everywhere where Thread comes in viably hot, because they don’t want to deal with the devastation afterward.

Or they keep forgetting things like vaccinations and they somehow manage not to transmit all the data they need to between generations, or if they do, nobody has actually indexed any of it so that when a pandemic breaks out, they can just consult and go “I need the Records of Lemos Hold, volume four, and the Masterhealer’s Treatment Manual for flu.” It makes for less dramatic storytelling, sure, but presumably, the Pernese have always had the history of Terra and the other worlds the colonists came from, and so this should not be new knowledge in any sort of way, even if the colonists wanted to jettison a lot of the knowledge they had accumulated in their own worlds. Epidemics like this result in lost lives, sure, but why do they also always seem to result in lost knowledge, too?

Also, now that we’re at the end, it seems like almost all of the chapter starts from this book, once we get past the hatching, are likely excerpts from the song Kelsa wrote for Kindan. Maybe they could be arranged in some sort of coherent order to get an idea of how it worked.

We’ve landed at a stopping point for this series, having followed the Harper’s path to this point. Next week, we’ll spin the clock back again and pick up the other strand of the narrative to come, this one involving dragonriders rather than miners and harpers. This is also a solely-Todd affair, so no more hiding behind the other author (if such a thing happened.)

Dragonsblood starts next week.

4 thoughts on “Dragon Harper: Actually Moving Forward

  1. genesistrine May 24, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Harper in your garments blue
    Sing a song of tales quite true

    Harper in your garments blue / Be a damn sight more use if you (sang a song that told people what to *do* in crises rather than anodyne doggerel).

    how they keep managing not to notice that clustering people together tends to have bad effects on the population’s health. Because Thread forces this.

    Well, it does. Humans on Pern are basically limited to living only where there are suitable cavesystems to hide in. So they should have a good general knowledge of how to control epidemic disease, including barrier nursing techniques. But nope, those have been forgotten so Kindan can have brilliant ideas.

    And everything he learned is going to be forgotten in a generation or two anyway, because nobody’s going to write the Epidemic Prevention Measures Teaching Song or Kindan’s Handbook of Plague Nursing or A Healer’s Textbook of Epidemiology.

    presumably, the Pernese have always had the history of Terra and the other worlds the colonists came from, and so this should not be new knowledge in any sort of way, even if the colonists wanted to jettison a lot of the knowledge they had accumulated in their own worlds.

    Well, going by the Second-Pass-set book they didn’t bother to reinvent the printing press when the computers finally failed, so any knowledge no-one bothered to memorise went then.

  2. WanderingUndine May 25, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Reaction count for Dragon Harper: 3 cocowhats (including a proposed coco-meteor), 9 “Surrounded by assholes,” 7 “Homer shouts a bad word,” 3 “Cats says F this,” 2 “Ten Duel Commandments,” and 1 “Rejected!”

    That’s a record number of “Surrounded by assholes” and “Homer shouts a bad word.”

  3. WanderingUndine May 27, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    Also a “Ten Duel Commandments” record, because the only previous use of it was 1 time in Dragonseye.

  4. Silver Adept May 29, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    It really doesn’t make sense, how all of this knowledge that came with them just gets thrown away or otherwise lost without any organized effort to preserve it. They clearly have the capability to make books, so why aren’t they using them to pass knowledge down through the generations, copying and recopying? Like, one of the exams for a Journeyman Healer (or Harper) should be to copy out their own copy of a book that covers the essentials of disease control, or music theory, or some other thing. We should have a million manuals scattered across Pern, or everybody’s Record book has a thing in the front of it that summarizes the important parts of their recent past, or something.

    All of this is a familiar complaint at this point, though. It doesn’t make sense, even when you factor in that the original colonists intended for a significant amount of their knowledge and technology to be lost over generations as they retreated more into their pastoral fantasy land.

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