Last time, Fiona got gaslit by the Weyrleaders and T’mar into thinking her problem with T’mar’s cavalier attitude toward safety and life was really her own hangups about being in a role where she might have to let people die to save others or to keep the dragonriders as a whole going. Those two things are not actually related to each other, but Fiona went and apologized to T’mar for giving him a public dressing-down about the safety of his passengers because the Weyrleaders insisted she do so.
Dragonheart, Chapter 11: Content Notes:
Right after Fiona apologizes to T’mar, Nuella and Nuellask (who has added letters to her name, probably signifying the very tight bonds the two have at this point) arrive and have a conference with the Weyrleaders, a conference Fiona is eventually invited in to. Fiona knows how to greet Nuellask and where to scritch because of some time spent with Forsk. Nuella is amused about this for reasons not fully related to the watch-wher.
“But sometimes, when I was lonely, I’d go into her [Forsk] lair and curl up with her when I was tired.”
“From catching tunnel snakes, no doubt,” the woman, whom Fiona realized must be Nuella, guessed with amusement in her voice. “Kindan complained of it to me on several occasions.”
“Complained?” Fiona repeated, feeling irked with Kindan. “I got a quarter mark for each head!”
“And never got bitten, except the once,” Nuella added approvingly.
Fiona looked at her in surprise. “How did you–how did Kindan know about that?”
Nuella laughed. “No one keeps secrets from harpers for long.”
“But I treated myself and kept the cut hidden!”
“You still needed stores and you had to ask someone, even if hypothetically, about treating snakebites,” Nuella replied, her voice full of humor. She held out a hand, which Fiona took and shook eagerly. “I’m Nuella, as you’ve no doubt guessed.” She continued. “And rest assured, no one would have known except that Kindan was keeping such a careful watch over you.”
Fiona was too embarrassed to reply.
I thought it was a particularly good idea to ask Kelsa if there’d ever been songs written about treating snakebites,” Nuella confided approvingly.
“She wrote one just afterward,” Fiona remembered, then groaned, glancing over to the older woman in horror, “and she consulted Father on it! You don’t suppose she told him…?”
Nuella laughed and shook her head. “I have no idea,” she replied. “All I know is that after the song was written, Kindan showed up at my camp very agitated and tried to slyly teach the song to me.”
“He was afraid you were going to go after tunnel snakes?”
Nuella shook her head, her grin slipping. “I’d already done that,” she confessed. “I think he was just trying to be certain that I knew how to handle the bites if I ever did again.”
With a shock of horror, Fiona realized that Nuella was referring to her first watch-wher, the green Nuelsk, who had died of snakebite.
Oh, so that’s what happened to Kisk-Nuelsk. Is this the first time anyone has mentioned the change between the green and the gold? If it happened before, I would have thought I mentioned it. *rummage through notes* Nope. Got nothing. So we learn of the fate of Nuelsk through Fiona’s memory, which doesn’t then explain Nuellask’s existence at all, since, last I checked, the only known gold watch-wher was Aleesk.
I’m a lot dubious about “Kelsa wrote a song about snakebite,” but that’s mostly because I can’t imagine how terrible the Archives really are at the Harper Hall if every solution to “how do we remember this stuff?” really is “Write a song about it!” I know there’s the Teaching Songs, and presumably, there’s a standard Harper repertoire, occasionally influenced by those who have the gift of music, like Menolly, Petiron, and Kelsa, but it seems like everything having a song is just too much of everything. Maybe Verilan is slightly pleased that Kindan and Vaxoram burnt some amount of the materials on the Archive, because they can’t have all been winners.
Also, I’d like to take a moment to give a shout-out to both Fiona and Nuella for hunting tunnel snakes, especially to Fiona for making some very good wages killing them (and only suffering the one bite.) This is effective storytelling in that it tells us, the reader, that Fiona has always been a fireball who was going to chafe hard at the restrictions society was imposing on her, and it lets us know that Nuella might be one of the few characters who understands Fiona and the two should probably become fast friends, if not confidantes.
Nuellask meets Talenth, who wants to play, but regrettably, everyone has to finish up their war council meeting, and H’nez gets his nose tweaked twice in swift succession.
“I still think it’s a bad idea,” H’nez grumbled. “The Records say nothing of watch-whers fighting Thread–”
“Actually,” Cisca interrupted smoothly, “they do.”
“When?” H’nez asked abruptly.
“As of last night, when I wrote the report,” the Weyrwoman told him.
H’nez was not amused. “If they’re so useful, why was there no mention before?”
“I doubt anyone ever thought to mention it because it was obvious,” K’lior told him. “Watch-whers watch at night and guard holds–we all know that. Probably no one thought it worth mentioning that at night they also guard the holds from Thread.”
“We haven’t trained for this,” H’nez protested.
“I accept responsibility for that,” K’lior said.
“If all goes well, we won’t need you,” Nuella assured H’nez.
“Not need…?” H’nez repeated, his tone full of disbelief.
“If the weather holds, the Thread will all be dead,” Nuella said, “and then neither dragon nor watch-wher will have to fight.”
K’lior, that’s a fantastic explanation. Too bad that it’s completely wrong, since we saw at the end of the last book that Wind Blossom insisted this knowledge stay secret for still unfathomable reasons. Because plot, I suppose. And that mention Cisca makes of watch-whers fighting Thread will also be forgotten through time, even though it should be repeated with every generation to make sure it doesn’t get lost again.
Nuella’s jab at H’nez is pretty good, too, in terms of popping someone’s ego appropriately. Of course, I still believe H’nez shouldn’t be anywhere but Telgar.
The new day dawns promisingly, with snow, and Fiona and Tintoval wonder if just asking dragons and riders how they feel might give a good bead on figuring out how sick the dragons are, but Cisca points out the mental bond can bleed from dragon to rider and spoil any results. Tintoval asks for Xhinna’s help in preparing for the injured, and Xhinna’s sense of duty wins out over her desire to “beat the weyrlings at sacking firestone,” as Fiona puts it. Fiona seems to be accreting a nexus of strong women to herself, which I approve greatly of, and hope they all break off and start their own Weyr and throw all the social conventions to the wind. (It won’t happen, but I wish, okay?) There’s a short scene that’s basically “we’re so glad we have the right firestone now,” and another that’s “K’lior is worried things are going to go pear-shaped because his dragonriders aren’t running on high alert,” before we get to Zenor and Nuella (now happily married) having a fight about whether or not Nuella needs to go out with Nuellask to fight the Thread. Zenor says she needs to think about her children and family and staying alive to raise them. Nuella says it’s her duty to be out there leading the charge, even if Nuellask knows how to run the operation herself. Two of her children, Zelar and Nalla, overhear, and Nalla tips the scales in Nuella’s favor by quoting the statement about how dragonriders must fly when Thread is in the sky, even though Zelar says it’s not the same thing.
“No flying upside down,” he chided her.
“It musses up my hair,” Nuella responded, not–Zenor noted–necessarily ceding to his request.
“Bring her back,” Zenor said to Nuellask. “She and I have more babies to make.”
“Gladly!” Nuella responded with a laugh. “I want six, at least.”
“Excellent,” Zenor agreed, his eyes dancing.
“And Nuellask wants a few us clutches herself, I’m sure.”
“Which is a good thing,” Zenor said, “as it seems your babies start with hers.”
I am glad Nuella and Zenor are agreed about the relationship they have with each other, and they seem to be doing well in parenting. It might be the healthiest relationship I’ve seen on screen out of all of these books, and a large part of it is because Zenor seems willing to let Nuella be who she is, rather than expecting her to be wife and mother solely.
So K’lior’s bad feeling is right, as the weather is too warm and the corresponding Thread count too high for the watch-whers to consume themselves, so a quick makeshift team, including Cisca and an already hurt Nuella, rallies the whers and has them direct the flamethrowers where they need to go and shoot. Which gets them through the night, but not without some burrows slipping through, which turn out to be well-established in the wrong places, necessitating the destruction of a forty year-old forest. K’lior is pretty pissed about the necessary destruction, and apologizes to Lord Egremer about it. Egremer asks for the loan of some weyrlings to help ease some things and save some time in the rebuilding. Which sparks an idea in K’lior, who thanks Egremer for his inspiration and then hightails it back to Fort Weyr to explain to Cisca that if they throw the weyrlings back in time, they’ll have enough time to mature fully and then pop back as full dragonriders ready to kick Thread and take names. Cisca thinks it’s brilliant. The rest of the war council, sans H’nez, is on board. H’nez, however, has landed on K’lior’s shit list, finally.
“No one knows if this is going to work, anyway,” H’nez said. K’lior glanced sourly in his direction–H’nez had been late in joining the fight the night before.
We’ve finally found out what it is that gets you on the Weyrleader’s bad side, and…well, of course it has to do with fighting Thread instead of being an asshole. Which, we note, H’nez continues to be.
K’lior turned to T’mar. “When can you be ready?”
“In two hours,” T’mar replied. “When do you need us back?”
“Excuse me,” H’nez said, “but I think I should be the one to go.”
K’lior turned to him with a raised brow.
“I’ve had the most experience leading flights of dragons; I’ll be the best at training them and handling their injuries,” H’nez explained.
“T’mar is handling the weyrlings now,” K’lior said. “and the decision as to who goes is mine.”
H’nez flashed angrily. “Then pick me.”
K’lior eyed him with distate for a moment, then turned his attention back to T’mar. “The healer will need to stay here.”
T’mar nodded in agreement.
“Weyrleader!” H’nez snapped through gritted teeth. All eyes turned to him. “If you will not let me lead the Flight back to Igen, then I demand that you send me to another Weyr.”
“H’nez!” M’valer gasped.
K’lior merely nodded. “I can not send you until this illness has been cured,” he told H’nez. “at that time, however, you may go to any Weyr that will have you. In the meantime, as we have more wingleaders than wings, you are to fly in M’kury’s wing.”
H’nez nodded stiffly, rose from his chair, and rushed out of the room, ignoring K’rall’s and M’valer’s outraged expressions.
Oh, for fuck’s sake, finally. I still think it a terrible thing that K’lior waited until H’nez did himself in by his own words and actions, instead of sending him off or demoting him to a flyer as soon as it became apparent he was unsuited to leadership, but there’s probably some unwritten rule somewhere that I’m not aware of, being just a reader of the book and not fully immersed in dragonrider culture and how bronze riders work. Anyway. H’nez has been neutralized for the moment, although I’m not counting him out to try something when he thinks nobody is looking, because guys like him don’t just slink off or merely wait their time out.
Fiona offers to go back in time, but she’s nixed because she’s the heir and there’s no way they’re risking the juvenile queen on this mission. As Fiona explains it to Xhinna, the riders are going to use the position of the Red Star, and then calculate what it should look like Ten Turns ago to get their picture, which should sound rather familiar to us, given that the position of the Red Star was what was used for the giant time hops that Jaxom and Ruth led, and several other intentional-or-otherwise time hops that have been done before. Given that dragonriders keep time by the Red Star, which is apparently the most regular object in their orbit, it makes sense that it keeps getting used for time-point fixation. So T’mar and the weyrlings pop back in time to do their thing, which resolves a certain number of the paradoxes involved and will hopefully bring those weyrlings back to full alertness when they stop crossing their timelines. Xhinna and Fiona and F’jian all talk about the lack of riders in the Weyr, and how they would much rather be in the past, growing up, even though their dragons can’t actually carry them, much less send them back in time.
When Fiona yawns, Talenth tells her to go to bed, and says she’ll be in shortly, but she has to think first. Which is the latest in a few signs that Talenth might not be like other dragons, but it’s been small things like Fiona can tell Talenth to listen for other riders, and that works perfectly well, but is actually somewhat unusual for dragons when noted. Fiona is awoken in the middle of the night by the same mysterious queen rider she saw before, who has an imperative for Fiona and Talenth: come back with her to Igen Weyr, so that the other weyrlings will see them go and do the same thing themselves. Because this rider, whomever she is, is from the future and now has to make sure that her own past happens as she remembers it. So Talenth, Fiona, and Terin make the hop with the queen rider. Xhinna is left behind at the insistence of the queen rider, which I’m sure will sour whatever relationship Fiona and Xhinna had. And the chapter closes with Fiona puzzling out who this mysterious rider might be from the future.
Who was this person? Fiona wondered. Who rode a gold and could bring them back in time?
A growing sense of wonder overcame her as she considered the most obvious answer: Could this be Fiona herself, come back from the future?
Well, if it is, we have the Lessa Paradox all over again. Although, I suppose, given the chronologies involved, it would first be called the Wind Blossom Paradox, or the Lorana Paradox, long before it became the Lessa Paradox. In any case, we keep having these situations that are extremely vulnerable to the Bootstrap Paradox happening with greater frequency as the new author settles in, and that’s not a trend that I want to see continue. Aside from my annoyance at how directly Pernese time travel interferes with itself and the grumble I have about the bootstrap paradox, the reliance on time travel as the solution to all problems and the construction of narratives that require time travel to solve makes it sound like the new author doesn’t feel confident in their ability to tell the story they want. There’s so many more things on the table to pick up and run with, like the terrible similarity between Lady Holder and Weyrwoman that Fiona is experiencing. Or how all the people that Fiona keeps putting in positions of usefulness see the world. There’s Thread and heretofore unseen illness and a lack of knowledge that is punishing everyone and a race against the clock to find a solution. That’s good enough without having to bring time travel into it. There’s so much going on that things that could be explored more get rushed past. Maybe not all of it makes it into the final work, but Fiona is more of a plot device than a character at this point.
Chapter 12 starts next week.