Last time, Kindan and Lorana continued to prove they should have apprenticed to the Healers, while Tullea continued to show signs of being time-split without anyone putting two and three together, and the dragonriders continued to scramble to try and put together enough dragons to successfully fight Thread.
Dragonsblood, Chapters 14, 15, : Content Notes: Consent Issues, Dragon Mating Flights, Cruelty to Clearly Intelligent Species
(Fort, Third Pass, Day 6, AL 508)
Dragonriders scan the skies
Dragons flame, Thread dies.
So, a variation on the poem from the last chapter, then.
The chapter starts with the Fort Weyrleader, K’lior, preparing to fly his first Pass against Thread. What’s interesting about this is Cisca, his Weyrwoman, almost certainly has human-human telepathy, in the repeated ways that she can figure out what he’s thinking, even as he tries to hide it from her, and even when he didn’t say anything aloud at all. This is not remarked upon by the narrative in any way outside of K’lior’s confusion at how his thoughts can be so transparent to Cisca. Despite, outside of a small and select number of sentences in this entire series, human to dragon telepathy has been the norm and what is expected. The narrative is not drawing attention to the oddity, and therefore it is important in some way for us to remember that telepathy works between humans, as well.
More immediately, K’lior can’t help but be a monogamous Weyrleader, although he at least goes far enough to acknowledge that there should be all sorts of relationships in the Weyr.
He and Cisca had already formed a strong attachment before her gold rose for the first time, and while he understood and accepted the ways of the Weyr, he was honest enough to admit that he did not want any other dragonman entwined with her.
And there we are again. Good bronze and gold riders are monogamous and het while bad ones aren’t, and all the other colors are freewheeling orgy factories. It’s like there’s a stereotype on display here about gay people and promiscuity but someone is trying really hard not to be as obvious about it as their mother was.
Anyway, we cut to D’gan
proclaiming yet again that all his dragons will fly, including the sick ones. And justifying being an abusive asshole by wondering why nobody takes his shooting at the level he intends it.
“We have only two hundred and twenty-two fighting dragons,” he repeated, ignoring the startled looks on the faces of the other dragonriders milling about the Lower Caverns. They should be used to his shouting by now, he reflected. They should know that his roar was always worse than his flame.
That’s not saying much, given that his “flame” is making sick dragons fly, accusing them of “shirking” if they don’t want to train because they’re sick, physically abusing people he considers beneath him, not caring who gets press-ganged into dangerous and deadly work, and so on, and so on. Yet here he is, proclaiming in his own head that he’s not really all that bad. Just loud. It’s not like he does anything to warrant terror.
Except, you know, that when, yet again, he says no to the idea of the sick dragons taking a Fall off to recover (“Harper, I heard no ‘buts’ in the Teaching Songs.”), he characterizes it as a “repeated revolt” against his leadership.
But no, to listen to him tell it, it’s everyone else that’s the problem. Why hasn’t he been replaced, deposed, exiled, or otherwise had, say, a massive amount of desertion in protest of his “leadership” before the Weyrs quarantined themselves?
Then on to C’rion, who is hoping that a small area to cover in Fall and the new tactics to account for losses will make his Fall one without casualty. His Weyrwoman, Dalia, reflects on the losses and on a gain — Jassi, filling in for the lack of a Weyr Healer after his dragon died, has essentially become an authoritative figure in running the Weyr. So much so that Dalia thinks she should stand as an egg candidate.
Back to K’lior, who arrived in the right place, but apparently, facing away from the Threadfall’s approach. They get reoriented in time.
Back to C’rion, who pops in with a small concern about the weather, which is affecting the fall and making it unpredictable. It’s his terrible luck that a Thread clump lands directly on him from above and scores him and his dragon, Nidanth, so much that they both go to hyperspace to die, leaving J’lantir in charge of running the fall.
Then to Kindan and Lorana, and the reality that Lorana continues to feel each dragon’s death quite keenly, and Kindan, after being summoned by Arith, discovers that Lorana had been sketching each of the dragons and riders as they die. Not in full detail, but enough to get the point across. To his credit, Kindan asks for scented oil. To his detriment, he doesn’t actually explain that he wants it so he can give Lorana a massage, which he does, first with her neck, then up her hands and arms, and then he get and legs. He’s skilled enough that Lorana enjoys it greatly, and basically falls asleep after he is done, but the narrative doesn’t even bother with the two sentences it would take for Kindan to explain and ask Lorana if that’s what she wants. He does say that it’s obvious her hands are cramping because of the number of drawings, but he doesn’t, say, ask if she wants to be touched while she’s having some serious grief and trauma.
Which makes it that much sharper of an issue when the next scene starts.
In the morning, Lorana woke suddenly with a burning passion, fierce and nearly frightening in its intensity.
Kindan ducked his head in, eyes snapping with emotion. “Tullea’s Minith has blooded her kills.”
“She will mate soon,” Lorana said, stretching her senses and feeling the young queen’s passion. She looked up at Kindan, her eyes warm but also challenging. “Stay with me?”
Kindan gave her a surprised, half-hoping look. Lorana sat up in her bed and patted it.
“I’ve never been near a dragon’s mating flight,” she explained.
I…find that hard to believe, to be honest. Just because the regularity of them would suggest as much, but Lorana has also been in the Weyr for a while. Unless the sickness is also curbing a dragon’s sex drive, the greens should be still trying to get someone to chase them. And, presumably, being in the Weyr for this long has given Lorana ample opportunity to understand what goes on during a mating flight, if she hasn’t had it drilled into her directly because she’s a queen rider and will have to follow the procedure herself soon enough.
The way the narrative phrases it, it’s like they want Lorana to say she’s never had sex before, so that her first time can be with Kindan, the golden boy. The way they’ve phrased it, though, I’m way more worried that Lorana hasn’t been given enough information to understand and consent to what is about to happen to her.
Except Lorana had fire lizards, and back a few chapters, she specifically mentioned that she’s been through fire-lizard mating seasons, so the difference should be understanding the degree to which the emotions affect people.
Except Lorana is already well-poised to understand this, given how keenly she’s been feeling everyone’s death. So Lorana might understand completely. But I still don’t think she would say that she’s never been near a flight before.
Kindan moved to her and, at her beckoning, sat on the bed beside her.
“The emotions from dragons mating are very strong,” he said, his voice low.
At that moment, Lorana gasped as she felt Minith being caught in her mating flight and–
When she could speak again, she leaned up and captured Kindan’s mouth with hers, kissing him deeply.
Kindan responded by clutching her more tightly, returning her kiss as ardently as she had given it. Like dragons entwined, they drew together, burning with a passion born on dragonwings.
Afterward, they broke apart, still touching each other loosely. Lorana looked at him as he lay beside her and traced the line of his jaw lovingly. Kindan turned his head, caught her hand, kissed it, and released it again, all with a gentle smile.
Cocowhat by depizan
Not so much the fade to black, but for the swiftness involved before Kindan can, say, explain to Lorana anything at all and see whether she really wants him there. It will be explained later that the mating flight was shorter than usual, so perhaps Kindan thought he had more time to explain, but when Pellar was with Aleesa, they had time to arrange everyone and gather some form of consent, or at least acknowledgement of what was about to happen. Maybe the author felt that Lorana patting the bed and asking Kindan to stay was consent enough, but by that point, Lorana is probably already being influenced by Minith. Kindan, likely, too, but any of the bronzes in flight. So meaningful consent is shot by the time it could be sought.
And also, depending on how much of other books had been plotted or written at this point, how is Kindan reacting to this based on the trauma of Koriana’s death? Has it been long enough that Kindan feels a pang but has moved on? Is he still mourning for her more than thinking about new relationships? Was he working up the courage to ask Lorana?
That it’s essentially “Kindan and Lorana are totally fine with this and very affectionate torward each other after the mating” skips over a lot of very important questions about how the mating drug works and what everyone actually thinks about it afterward, when they’re not under dragon-influence.
The next scene, after Lorana tells Kindan that B’nik’s dragon flew Tullea doesn’t help.
Tullea walked with the obvious soreness of a woman recovering from her dragon’s mating. B’nik looked equally uncomfortable.
Lorana, on the other hand, moved through her pain, a smile close to her lips, her hand entwined in Kindan’s, projecting the sense that the pain served a purpose that she accepted and welcomed.
Cocowhat by depizan
SEX SHOULD NOT BE PAINFUL.
Seriously. And I would like to believe that dragonriders, to this point, have figured out that if mating flights are going to involve a lot of sex and friction, that there would be lube of some sort easily to hand. And also, perhaps, something to help keep weight off and muscles from getting sore, like hammocks or swings or other things. These should all be solved problems at this point out of necessity. Because the Weyrs are used to this and are culturally much less uptight about sex, or so we get told. And they have mating flights fairly commonly.
K’tan (who is narrating) continues to dissect the flight, wondering why Tullea and B’nik don’t look nearly so happy, before recounting that Tullea couldn’t or didn’t want to control Minith (likely didn’t, given that Tullea looked at B’nik, screaming at her to get her dragon under control, “with a smirk in her eyes”), which led to eating whole beasts rather than just sucking them dry of blood, and that the flight part was pretty short, with Minith diving into the pack of bronzes and getting flown by B’nik’s Caranth.
A short mating flight, gorging on her food–those spoke of a small clutch and more problems for the Weyr with a Weyrwoman who would not control her dragon.
Given that Tullea then acts extremely swiftly to evict Kindan and Lorana from doing research in the Records Room and tells M’tal’s wing to move themselves, essentially, as far away from her as she can send them, I don’t think the problem they should be gearing up for is an out-of-control Weyrwoman.
Lorana still wants to go to Fort to raid their records, but there’s no pathway to that until B’nik shows up and offers to personally escort them while Minith and Tullea are still asleep. Which gets Kindan to Zist for a conference, but first, B’nik (who is way better, in Lorana’s opinion, when he’s not having to be Tullea’s man, just to continue driving home how much we’re supposed to think of Tullea as a shrew) explains to Lorana and us about the consequences of timing it, although he only mentions extreme tiredness, rather than the other consequences that we’ve seen happen from prolonged time splitting.
B’nik and Lorana conference with K’lior and Cisca about numbers and strength.
Cisca was even taller than her Weyrleader, a brown-eyed, brown-haired beauty with a strong, cheerful face. She was much more buxom than Lorana, but she carried herself proudly, her stride neither apologetic nor flaunting.
It’s not quite “She breasted boobily down the stairs”, but I’m not entirely sure how Lorana can tell that Cisca has achieved the socially acceptable balance between apologizing for her rack and shoving it in everyone’s vision.
After talking about fighting strength, we switch to the Harper conference, where no real headway has happened there at all. The only message from High Reaches has been “Wait”, and all Verilan has is the certainty that each successive incident of Thread and sickness is roughly halving the number of available fighting dragons to the point where there won’t be enough to succeed in all of two more Falls, based on the attrition rate.
There’s a jump back to the Weyrleader conference, all now ensconced in Fort’s Records Room where, finally, after a full day of nothing, Cisca finds a mention that a very specific room was built, after much argument, at Benden Weyr at the end of the First Interval. Then back to the Harpers, where everyone has confirmed Verilan’s figures, and Kelsa brings up having rediscovered a fragment of a haunting song, which kickstarts Kindan’s memory enough that he is able to sing back the song he had only a glance at before he had to try and help put out the Archive fire. Kindan is now certain the song refers to Lorana, the “young healer lass”, even though the rest of the song is still opaque. Before more can be put to use on the song, Lorana bursts in and tells them, tearily, that Arith has gotten sick. And that’s chapter 14.
Ecosystems are constantly changing, adapting to new life-forms, while simultaneously life-forms are adapting to the ecosystem. To engineer a change to an ecosystem is to commit to a lifetime of monitoring.
–Glossary of terms, Ecosystems: From -ome to Planet, 24th Edition
(Tillek Hold, First Interval, AL 58)
Chapter 15 starts with fog as Wind Blossom begins her “vacation” at Tillek. It’s very apparent it’s not a real vacation, as Wind Blossom has requested “a bell, a coil of rope, and some planking” from the local Lord, Malon, to accompany a shelter. Malon has no idea why Wind Blossom would want such things.
Insert another caustic rant about how fast knowledge gets lost on Pern, with extra spice because it stands credulity that in fifty years, everyone just about everyone has forgotten that the dolphins talk and can be summoned by bells and are otherwise quite happy to work with people.
It’s premature, because within a few pages, the narrative will tell us that Malon “soon guessed” the reason that Wind Blossom came to Tillek and he tries to dissuade her with the thought that the water is too cold this far north. Wind Blossom is persistent, though, and intends to get the result she is looking for. My point still stands, though, that if Malon can “soon guess” that Wind Blossom is trying to call the dolphins, then he shouldn’t be nearly as clueless as he appears about the materials she requested earlier.
I realize this is an author trying to avoid spoiling a very important point of the series up to this point, but it has the effect of unnecessarily complicating every section after this point and not being clear about what is going on, leaving a new reader without a clue, even as the older readers nod and smile, assuming their own memories are good enough to recall how someone summons a dolphin.
Plus, the title of the leader of all the dolphins is The Tillek. So that particular Hold should have a longer, not shorter, memory.
In between those events, though, we have another instance of foreshadowing, where Wind Blossom discovers that the watch-wher of Tillek has been chained up.
Wind Blossom turned to Tillek’s leader and looked up at him with deadly intensity. “Why is it chained?”
“Oh, Tilsk here was always getting into mischief,” Malon said dismissively. “It’s for its own good.”
“Watch-whers are ‘he’ or ‘she’,” Wind Blossom corrected sternly. [Which fans the editors missed her calling Tilsk an it not two sentences above. Wind Blossom would have said she, because…] “This one is a green; that makes her a ‘she’.”
[…Wind Blossom is very annoyed that nobody has been training with the watch-wher and what that means for the loss of knowledge…]
“What if we start chaining up dragons?” she asked, nodding in satisfaction when both Malon and M’hall recoiled in horror. She looked back up at Malon. “It is the same thing, to chain a watch-wher.”
Wind Blossom also pointedly remarks that chained watch-whers can’t accomplish their purpose of eating Thread when it falls at night, which surprises Malon to learn. And then he agrees to keep that knowledge secret so as not to alarm the Hold, rather than spread out widely so everyone knows to take good care of their watch-wher. So that knowledge will get lost at the next major disaster.
There’s a quick scene between Emorra and Tieran as they try to reduce the surface of the dragon illness problem, with no apparent success, before returning to Wind Blossom, who has successfully contacted the dolphins and had them retrieve some things that were “lost” during the Crossing. M’hall notes the success and Wind Blossom points out to him that these things are on loan, rather than retrieved, and at some point will need to be lost again. Which makes me wonder again about what the plot actually was in terms of throwing away all the equipment during the fleeing, as if that was the exact point decided where there would be no further need for their high tech.
Especially, as the equipment is unveiled, they have significant amounts of power still left in them. The equipment turns out to be a genetic code viewer and sequencer, as well as a mapper that will help those reading genes to understand what they’re looking at. The chapter closes on Wind Blossom agreeing with Tieran that it would be easier for their future descendants to use the equipment in their time, if only they could be taught how to do it.
And one last note, the ships in orbit have collected the name Dawn Sisters from the astronomy students looking at them through a telescope.
So, we are setting ourselves up for a giant time-twist plot that is likely going to make me wonder a lot of things before all is said and done, and only some of them are going to have anything at all to do with the paradoxes that are being invoked or sidestepped because the authors wanted a plot to work more than they wanted to think about the consequences of that plot. That is definitely not a headache I am looking forward to.