Last time, the Benden Weyr crew called in Camp Natalon’s miners to help them clear a rockslide that turned out to house one of the secret rooms mentioned in very old records. The narrative went out of its way to portray Tullea as selfish, jealous, and otherwise the perfect example of a terrible Weyrwoman, in comparison to the all-loving Lorana and the full-of-determination Salina.
Dragonsblood: Chapter 16: Content Notes: Misogyny, Authorial Railroading
Where we left off, Tullea had just opened the secret room and passed out from the old air that came rushing out. The Natalon miners are sent on their way, despite there being more rockslides to clear that are likely to contain secret rooms, because what they’ve discovered is enough for B’nik and Kindan to believe they’ll be occupied for a while.
What have they discovered? Something wondrous, but the narrative is still very insistent on showing us at every opportunity what a brat Tullea is supposed to be.
Tullea elbowed her way past the others and raced to be second into the rooms. She paused just past the threshold, not so much for fear of bad air but in amazement at what she saw. Most the far wall was covered from floor to ceiling with a drawing of several ladderlike columns composed of weird interconnected varicolored rods and balls.
“Look at this!” Regellan called out, pointing to the drawing, as the others flooded into the room.
Tullea glanced at the wall drawing, made a hasty scan of the room, and then headed unerringly for something glittering on an open shelf at the other end of the room.
Kindan entered the room and stared wide-eyed at the drawing. Then a flash of movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention and he turned just in time to see Tullea pocket a small, silvery object. Before he could move to intervene, she was picking something else up from the counter.
“What are these?” she asked, holding up a crystal clear glass vial. She shook it, examining the powder-like substance inside, then casually placed it back on the counter and picked up another.
There were four vials in all, Kindan noticed. The countertop bore not only dust-free spots where the vials had been placed. Each clear spot was centered over a colored mark: red, green, blue, and yellow.
His eyes widened as Tullea negligent;y put the fourth vial back on the countertop, well away from any of the colored marks.
“Do you remember which vial went where?” he asked her shortly, trying to see if he could guess the original position of the last vial she’d picked up.
“No,” Tullea replied with a shrug.
“I think it’s important,” Kindan told her. B’nik came up beside him and frowned at the misplaced vials.
“I’m sure you’ll figure it all out,” Tullea replied with a dismissive wave of her hand, turning to explore a set of cabinets. After some fiddling, she discovered they were magnetically locked and spent several moments opening and closing them before noticing what was inside.
At which point B’nik hastily ushers Tullea out with the need to send the Camp Natalon miners home, and that she needs to let Kindan and K’tan do their work.
There seems to be an adjective the author is going for here. “Childish” is what comes to mind when describing Tullea’s behavior, elbowing her way in for the prestige of having been in there early, then stealing something and letting something else get put out of order, without any consideration as to whether it might be important, and then breezily dismissing it as something other people will fix, before getting distracted by the magnetic enclosures on the cabinets. Curiosity isn’t a thing to discourage in this case, but there’s also precious little information available about what this room is and what it’s for, unless you recognize the drawings on the wall, which I do, since I’m used to seeing models with rods and balls used to describe the genetic makeup of things. But these generations of Pernese down the line do not, or at least, their understanding of genes doesn’t include this particular representational model.
Anyway, the author seems very interested in making us want to hate Tullea, for all the potential damage she’s doing to making Benden Weyr find themselves a cure, stealing things, rearranging others, and otherwise not caring. It’s a marked departure, actually, from the Tullea that we’ve seen so far, who is cold and calculating and ultimately wants to protect her position more than anything. Unless we’re supposed to have always seen that Tullea tries to protect her position, and B’nik, by aggressively trying to bring everyone and everything under her control. (Which we have seen exactly how well that works to this point, so…)
Kindan and K’tan discuss the contents of the room and talk about what the use of the various vials is likely to be, in conjunction with the syringes for injection discovered, but they get nowhere. They do find another door, but it’s not responding to them in any sort of way. Lorana comes down to the room, because Arith is coughing and not sleeping well, and that means Lorana’s not sleeping well. By herself, Lorana is already able to make a lot more sense out of what the room’s purpose is, because she notices similarities between all the drawings on the wall, but more importantly, she realizes that there are four patterns on the wall, and there are four vials, one underneath each drawing.
Were the patterns supposed to tell someone which vial to use? Could it be the knowledge represented by those drawings had been so common when they were first drawn that no one had ever considered that the method of them might be forgotten and that was why there were only the vials and the drawings? Read the drawings and pick the vial?
Yes, indeed, friends, why would you put cryptic drawings somewhere that you expected your descendants to find and then not leave them a key to interpret those drawings and discover what the solution to their problems might be? There’s no instruction manual, no paper or plastic copy of information that might be useful to decoding what’s going on. Sure, what you would need to teach someone how to interpret a genetic code and get useful information out of what’s there is not an easy undertaking, but it would behoove someone to leave a complete copy of information in as many places as there are supposed to be supplies or other things. And, also, that’s the readon why the Camp Natalon miners should have moved on to the next rock slide, because if there were specific rooms (plural) mentioned in the record, discovering one does not mean you’ve discovered all of them.
Had they been working on other rockslides to see if they contained secret rooms, Lorana might not be feeling a significant time crunch on curing Arith and keeping her from dying. As it is, she can feel Arith’s life ebbing away, and Arith knows it as well. So Lorana grabs a little of each of the vials and a syringe to inject it into her in hopes that the combination of each of the vials will be enough to save her dragon.
There’s a quick interlude where Tullea is once again trying to interfere with Lorana’s progress.
B’nik was shoved roughly awake. He tried t squirm away from his tormentor, but the shaking continued.
“Get up!” Tullea shouted in his ear.
“Mmmph, what is it?” B’nik asked blurrily. He turned on his side, facing Tullea, his eyes blinking furiously as he tried to see in the dim light.
“I need to talk to you,” she told him.
“Can’t it wait until daylight?” he asked.
“Of course not,” Tullea snapped. “It’s about Lorana.”
“What about her?”
“I don’t want her going to the Oldtimer room.” Tullea said. “She’s to be kept away.”
“For her own good,” Tullea snapped back. Her eyes darted to her dressing table. B’nik’s sleep-muddled mind recalled that she had been playing with something silver and small before she’d gone to bed. He didn’t recall her having a silver brooch or jewelry box.
“What harm could she get into?” he replied, sitting upright.
“I don’t know,” Tullea said, not meeting his eyes. “I just don’t want her there. It’s not her job anyway.”
“She knows something about healing,” B’nik protested. “She’s been helping K’tan–”
“–Let her help with the injured dragons,” Tullea said. “But she’s not to–”
“Shh!” B’nik said, raising a hand. “Someone’s coming.”
That turns out to be J’lantir, who’s come to beg for more dragons to fly Thread with in three days’ time. B’nik promises reinforcements, and J’lantir pops back to Ista.
Let’s pull back to what Tullea is doing. She doesn’t know why, but she neds to keep Lorana away from the room, and while this could be put down to antagonism and jealousy (and, I think, having just read how Tullea behaved around the secret room, that’s the conclusion we’re supposed to draw), but we still have this giant problem of nobody wondering whether Tullea’s time-split.
As with everything else, there isn’t enough detail over any of the books to let an astute long-time reader know with certainty that this is the case, but Tullea’s behavior has been markedly different for the last three Turns. If it were consistently parts of her personality that are not present, it might suggest that being time-split means some aspects of your personality disappear to constitute the other person at the same time. Tullea’s obsession with Lorana and what she’s doing might also be a clue that Lorana is the key to whatever caused the time-split, although Tullea is the least reliable narrator about Lorana’s role and what should be done with her, because she’s literally splitting herself between two places at the same time, and that can’t be good for the mental health.
In this light, Tullea’s intense curiosity and theft might be important to making sure the paradox doesn’t happen. Which would be both neat and complicating if it turned out the Tullea that jumped back in time has some sort of control to make sure the events of the past happened as she remembered then. (Bootstrap paradox still applies, though — what happens on the first run?) Or can send her past self messages that get distorted in transit.
We’ll never know, and by this point, I think the narrative wants our patience with Tullea to shatter, right before Lorana suffers a tragedy with Arith, so that we’ll be in the frame of mind necessary to agree with whatever punishment gets sent Tullea’s way for her incivility.
The chapter closes out with Lorana mixing and injecting Arith with a mixture of all four serums. It does not go well for Arith, who complaints that it itches, and then that everything is very, very wrong, before Arith disappears entirely from Lorana, never to return. Lorana thinks Arith might have felt some other presence to go to, based on a very small sliver of feeling, but basically, Lorana is without her dragon, because Arith has gone to where she can’t be found, and is likely dead or has accelerated the process of Arith’s death. To put it mildly, Lorana screams as that part of her psyche is ripped from her, and collapses, having passed out from the strain of trying to hold on to Arith.
Chapter 17 next week.