Last time, the weyrlings went on a training montage, got hazed, and otherwise took their places as trainees in the order of the dragonriders. So far, they’ve been flying the long way to anywhere they’ve been going, and as their training progresses, Fiona is being pushed more and more firmly into the box of the Weyrwoman’s role, as opposed to the greater freedom she had when hopping back in time.
Dragonheart, Chapter 18: Content Notes: Terrible methods of instruction, sex rays, negging, fat-shaming
Having been trained with recognition points and getting drilled on being able to provide pictures that are clear enough for a dragon to use as hyperspace endpoints, T’mar finally announces that it’s time for the dragons to start using the hyperspace transit system. Their first trip is arranged in groups, where there are dragons and riders at each of the endpoints of the journey that can send imagery for the transiting riders to use for safe jumps. Each dragon goes individually, and each success is confirmed before the next step is taken. The first rider, D’lanor, shakes off the first image he gets as not good enough. T’mar nods and smiles, suggesting that this was a test to see if D’lanor would take a bad image and try to use it. If he did, though, that would mean dragon and rider getting lost in hyperspace. If that really was a test, and T’mar was willing to let D’lanor get anywhere close to using that image, then he’s even worse of an instructor than I had complained about before, because at that point, it’s possible both dragon and rider die to prove a point. Which, given that they’re doing this to replenish fighting wing strength, is something nobody should even be flirting with.
Fiona goes last, in a group by herself, after all the others have succeeded at their tasks. She wants to go to the wherhold, and gets a picture in her head of it. T’mar told her earlier that at a certain point she has to trust, and so Fiona trusts herself and shifts the position of the sky so she will appear at the wherhold at night, to say hello to Nuella and Nuellask. Fiona succeeds, gives her greetings, is told by Arella to take T’mar’s ire, and then hops back to the correct picture given to her, hoping that she won’t be caught. Afterward, she pops back to her original destination, where T’mar is waiting for her with an earful.
“There is always some idiot who thinks they are special,” he told them [weyrlings] icily. “Some dimglow who thinks the drills are too much effort, that they know everything.”
He turned back to Fiona, glaring at her.
“Fortunately,” he went on, turning once more to the weyrlings, “we have a solution for this sort of behavior.” He paused for a long while, long enough for the sense of dread and shame to lodge deep in Fiona’s chest, sucking all of the joy of her unauthorized adventure right out of her.
“Our Weyrwoman has volunteered to man the Star Stones for the next month,” T’mar told the collected group gravely. “That will enable the rest of us to continue our training.” He paused. “We are done for today. Go about your duties.”
[…Fiona apologizes to Talenth for “neglecting her duty” and “failing to set the example”, even though Talenth doesn’t have a clue what’s wrong…]
When the others were out of earshot, T’mar approached her. “There’s always one idiot,” he repeated. “I knew it would be you.”
“That’s why you sent me last,” Fiona guessed, her heart falling deeper into her chest.
T’mar nodded curtly, his eyes boring into hers as they welled with tears, and then he glanced away and strode off briskly without another word.
And so Fiona ends up failing another one of T’mar’s secret tests, but I have one question to ask: How does he know that she’s done it? The wherhold has been told Fiona will be arriving, and that T’mar is angry with Fiona, but really, if she pops back into existence at the correct picture that she’s been given, she presumaly should appear at the correct time as if she hadn’t taken any sort of detour. And yet, T’mar knows she’s done a time hop and is ready to chew her out about it when she gets back. The closest thing I have to a guess on that is that it created a situation, like in Moreta, where the dragonriders suddenly could not sense Fiona’s dragon, because she’d jumped into the future and became unavailable. Or, I suppose, if she’d jumped into the past, she’d become similarly unavailable. But it would have to be only for a short amount of time, at most, if, again, Fiona came back at the right time and place, and we’re back to asking how T’mar knew Fiona had slipped through time. Presumably, less skilled riders will appear offset from the time they were supposed to be, because their recall isn’t perfect and things are just a little out of place, and that makes it obvious, but there’s no sign that Fiona has been wrong about anything from the narrative.
Terin actually provides the reason why T’mar was so upset and set Fiona to the Star Stones as watch dragon for a month for taking an unauthorized trip through time by wailing about what might have happened if Fiona hadn’t returned and storming out of their shared quarters. That problem sets into Fiona’s mind as she does her duty (after apologizing to everyone in the Weyr multiple times for what she did, and convincing herself that she’s the only Weyrwoman ever to be condemned like this) as she becomes worried about the other riders and whether they’re going to return safely from their trips through hyperspace. The punishment also continues to twist Fiona’s mental state into castigating herself for something that she did successfully, “continually standing as an example of what not to do.” She puts on her best clothes and throws herself into congratulating the riders on their safe return “until she wondered how she could have ever thought the journey dangerous.” Which, as written, sounds like it negates the fear and shame put into her by T’mar about what she did.
Fiona took a risk with her life, and she survived it, and she didn’t understand how much of a risk it was until after she’d done it and then considered the consequences. It’s like someone driving and only realizing how dangerous what they were doing until they have a near-crash experience and it sets into their head in a way that no person telling them it’s dangerous can. Grounding Fiona wasn’t going to do anything more to get her to understand, and it had a strong likelihood of backfiring horribly if Fiona hadn’t understood what was going on. Instead of contrite, Fiona could have easily decided that it wasn’t a big deal what she did, since she did it correctly, and that the punishment set to her was unjust and unwarranted and she wasn’t going to learn a damn thing from it because she didn’t do anything wrong. Fiona figured it out herself, no thanks at all to T’mar, who went straight on to punishment. One can only hope that before lighting into Fiona, he explained the danger to the other weyrlings, because he sure as hell didn’t do it to Fiona. (Perhaps he correctly intuited that Fiona would figure it out herself, sincce he seems to be fond of the idea that the people under his care should figure it out for themselves.)
In the last sevenday of her punishment, Fiona found herself actually looking forward to the duty, finding it a time where she could spend hours in thought and moments in short communication with returning riders. Her thoughts were occupied by considering the stores for the Weyr, the trade with the outlying holds, and the functioning of the Weyr.
So Fiona is settling into the role of Weyrwoman nicely, then, or at least the role of Weyrwoman as envisioned by all the men around her, concerning herself with logistics and supplies rather than adventure. She’s becoming the Lady Holder that her father raised her to be, after all, just with dragons to consider as well as everything else. I’m sorry for her, because it means Fiona’s become yet another casualty of the patriarchy of Pern.
And speaking thereof, in Fiona’s quiet contemplation (and Terin’s return to her quarters and occasionally sharing the watch with her), Fiona is finding herself more and more concerned for Terin’s well-being.
Fiona turned as she heard Terin’s approach and wondered idly how she was going to handle the younger girl’s imminent womanhood. Fiona had noticed how Terin had started eyeing the older weyrlings and had teased her gently about it, adding her own cogent observations to ease Terin’s embarrassment but she was worried that, being the only eligible partner for most of the riders at the Weyr, Terin might find herself overwhelmed with offers or worse–frightened by the intensity of emotion if one of the older greens took to the skies in a mating flight.
It was something that concerned Fiona about herself, too. Neither Talenth nor the greens of her clutch were old enough yet to rise, but those of J’keran’s older dragons might rise again at any moment. How would Terin react when the emotions of a mating flight combined with her growing emotions as a woman? How would Fiona?
And, Fiona admitted with a deep sigh, how would she react to Talenth rising? She wasn’t ready for it, she admitted to herself, and it scared her.
Cocowhat by depizan
Hang on, wait, “only eligible partner for most of the riders at the Weyr?” I thought only the bronze riders were exclusively het. Are we saying that what’s left in the weyrlings are disproportionately bronze riders, or is someone pushing back against the extratextual material and suggesting that there is a bigger population of het riders in browns, blues, and greens than the original suggestions were? There are still too many dicks on the dance floor for Terin and Fiona, it’s true, but I thought that bronze riders were rare compared to the other colors in any given clutch.
Plus, Fiona is sitting on a time bomb, in the sense that soon enough, she’s going to become a sexual being because of Talenth, whether she wants this or not, and the expectation is that she’s going to go through with it, whether she wants that or not. Terin, in theory, has the option of refusing. Fiona doesn’t. And that should be terrifying to anyone in that position. (And would have been for Fiona the Lady Holder, too, although in theory she would have older women to help her through this and give her advice. Fiona doesn’t really have anyone at the Weyr who can help her with this.)
The topic drifts to the question of whether or not Fiona and Terin will be able to settle back into being juniors when they get back, even with all their experience, before T’mar arrives and warns Fiona that one of the greens has been looking like she’s ready to mate soon, and would Fiona go talk to the traders about the possibility and see if everyone is situated to handle that? Fiona’s fine with it, and when she admits she learned a lot from T’mar, she comes to the conclusion that she did so because he was the one from his groups of weyrlings who disregarded the drill and suffered the same punishment. T’mar admits to it and then says, if there are no interruptions, Fiona is welcome to return to the drill the next day after she affirms she learned the lesson at least as well as he did.
Of course there is an interruption, because the green that had been looking like she was ready to mate, Sarinth, goes into mating flight mode. V’lex, the rider, is having a lot of trouble controlling Sarinth and getting her to just blood, rather than gorge, so Fiona lends him some of her power to help bring Sarinth under control. After Sarinth takes off and the other dragons follow, Fiona is part of the gestalt merge before T’mar pulls her back and tells her that she and Terin have to go see to the trader children while the flight continues (and a significant number of the pursuing dragons’ riders start showing their interest in V’lex). What this means is that Fiona gets the unenviable job of explaining to the trader children what is going on.
“She’s on her mating flight, and she jumped into the sky daring the boy dragons to see if they could catch her.”
She smiled, adding, “She’s only thinking about how high she can fly, how much better she is than them, and–”
Suddenly, an overwhelming emotion, a sense of elation and climax flowed into Fiona and she was temporarily speechless. Beside her she heard Terin gasp and some of the older children also cried out while the youngsters all pointed skyward, crying, “Look, they’re falling!”
Fiona, with her back to the scene, shook her head. “They’re just playing. The brown caught the green and it’s part of the mating game.”
[…someone asks if there will be more dragons, but greens don’t lay eggs, because the firestone makes them sterile. Fiona has to fight more sex ray effects, and ends up finding Terin’s hand and drawing her into a crushing hug…]
“Sometimes it’s nice to hug a friend, just because you feel like it,” Fiona said over Terin’s shoulder to the youngsters. Some nodded solemnly, seeking out friends and hugging them with all the innocence of children. Encouraged, Fiona directed them into a larger hug, more children joining in until she, Terin, and all the trader children were in one giant hug.
There was one sudden, final, joyful shout from the distant dragonriders, one final thrill pouring through the knot of children, and then Talenth said, Winurth flew her.
I mean, as trying to attempt to handle the power of the sex rays in an age-appropriate manner, not bad at all. Not all that fond of the idea of “it’s a game,” but that’s also because I think it’s possible to explain these things in age-appropriate manners, and perhaps that if someone had done a better jo with Fiona and Terin beforehand, they wouldn’t be scrambling to try and figure out how to handle what’s going on. The narrative seems pretty clear that Fiona, Terin, and the older trader children understand the emotions and sensations they are experiencing, and the younger children do not. It also seems pretty clear that the younger children are experiencig the same kinds of emotions and sensations, but because they don’t have words for it (or cultural baggage attached to it), they dn’t understand fully what’s going on. Which goes a long way toward explaining how young children experience the sex rays. They’re not immune to it, but because they haven’t got the words for what they’re experiencing, they don’t understand it well enough to have a reaction to it. A nicely-threaded needle, the longer I look at it, but the implications are still terrifying for everyone around.
“I was scared,” Terin confessed, lowering her head so that Fiona could finish braiding. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted at the moment–I felt so overwhelmed, not myself.” She paused thoughtfully, then declared, “I want to be myself, not someone dragon-flamed.”
There has to be something in non-dragonrider society that essentially says that if sex rays are involved, whatever happens doesn’t count for anything regarding “deflowering” or any other thing where the cult of virginity still reigns. Which has to be exploited in so many ways by young adults. And it’s still got to be terrifying to feel these things and realize how easily someone’s boundaries could be overriden, or have them consent to do things they would not do sober.
Fiona goes to see T’mar with Terin and they both suggest that firestone drills should probably start soon, because if Sarinth wasn’t already chewing, she might clutch.
“Oh,” T’mar said, dumbstruck. He turned toward Terin and sketched a bow in her direction. “Well caught, headwoman.”
“I just thought…” Terin began only to break off, blushing. “It’s just that…” She glances helplessly toward Fiona.
“We women tend to concentrate on such things,” Fiona said dryly, recalling one of Kelsa’s choice phrases.
This is excellently done and very believable — the world of Pern is definitely set up in such a way that dudes don’t have to think about pregnancy at all, or at least only have to think about it in the same kinds of ways that dudes in our time think about it, in regards to wehther a pregnancy will affect their social status. Since dragonriders raise children communally and have no property to pass on to heirs, dragonrider men basically don’t have to give a damn about pregnancy ever. Only the women do. So it would completely slip T’mar’s notice that greens can clutch if they haven’t been chewing firestone until it was well after the point where they would have wanted to stop the clutch.
When they meet with the traders, there’s a lot of shrugs around about how to get firestone on short notice, because Sarinth’s mating flight has accelerated the timetable for when firestone would be needed by several months. While there’s no way of easily establishing direct trade with the Hold pumping out firestone, Fiona thinks to re-consult the map that had the gold marked on it to see if there’s firestone marked as well. Selecting a suitable candidate, they fly over to the spot, to find there’s a mine waiting for them. There are directions on the door to close the door when they’re done, and directions inside to take what firestone sacks they need. Both directions look like they might have been written in Fiona’s hand, but the weyrlings are not going to look a gift dragon in the mouth, and immediately set to hauling out the amount of sacks they’ll need to start firestone drill.
Having things so nicely laid out for them makes Fiona and T’mar wonder again whether a future Fiona has been laying out everything for past Fiona so she can experience them as future Fiona remembers, and that the extra-strength issues some of the riders and weyrlings are experiencing might be because they’re not just twice in time, they’re thrice or more in the same time, which produces the more pronounced effects.
After hauling back the sacks they can, Fiona sets in to some food, and T’mar negs her. He tries to be subtle about it and let Fiona draw her own conclusions, but he’s definitely negging her.
“What?” Fiona demanded, seeing his look. “Can’t a girl be hungry?”
“Of course,” T’mar replied smoothly, his eyes twinkling. “But it would be a shame if Talenth strained herself.”
“I am not fat!” Fiona declared hotly, suddenly folding the bread in two and forcing it into her mouth.
“Merely a growing girl,” T’mar agreed, his grin belying his demure tone.
“Hmph!” Fiona snorted around her mouthful. She chewed quickly and took a long swallow form her mug of iced water. “Flying that far is hard work.”
“For a dragon,” T’mar responded.
“You’re just afraid I’ll get taller than you!”
“I like tall women.”
Fiona fumed, lips thin, but realized that any further response would only fuel the wingleader’s jest.
“So, we’ll start with the firestone after lunch?” she asked, desperate to change the topic.
“Not you, unless you want to make Talenth sterile,” T’mar replied.
“I thought I might watch.”
“I’m sure you’d be welcome,” T’mar said, adding with his former humor, “and you could use the exercise!”
[…At the exercises, Fiona chides Talenth lightly for sleeping. Talenth points out she did all the flying. Fiona points out she did the hauling…]
“I’m not fat, am I?” Fiona asked Terin, who stood nearby, eager to watch.
Terin eyed her for a moment then said, “Well, you’re taller than me.”
“So I’m fat?” Fiona demanded, horrorstricken.
“I don’t know,” Terin replied thoughtfully. “You might just be growing. I think you’d have to ask Mother Karina.” She shrugged. “But what if you are?”
Fiona had never thought of herself as fat; she’d always been skinny–everyone at the Hold has pestered her to eat more. “You’re only skin and bones!” they’d always said.
But perhaps her time in Igen had put more than meat on her–and she just hated the idea. Especially, she hated the way T’mar teased her about it.
When I started this book, I thought H’nez was the biggest asshole around, but by this point, it seems like H’nez is the loudest, most obvious, and most vocal asshole, but T’mar is the biggest asshole by far. Teasing Fiona about her weight is a dick move. And also, we note that in various periods of time, having some junk in the trunk is considered a good sign, that someone has been well-fed and has not had to do manual labor for their entire life. And given that the Weyrwoman’s role has mostly been “Lady Holder, but with dragons,” and the fact that Cisca has always, always been described in terms that are meant to evoke her beauty at least as much, if not more, than her strength, it seems like Fiona getting a little bit of meat would be seen as something good, rather than something that requires derision, mockery, and negging.
Spurred by T’mar’s earlier comments about her weight, Fiona took to flying every day, often helping the traders by carrying loads slung under Talenth to their various depots scattered around central Pern.
Which, again, if that’s what he wanted her to do, he could have asked directly rather than taking shots at Fiona’s weight.
The chapter closes out with more drilling on recognition points, but at Fort Weyr, Fiona hits a wave of dizziness that indicates she’s too stretched in time, and retreats immediately to Igen, where F’jian is able to catch her as she slides off of Talenth. Fiona finds herself reacting strongly to F’jian’s concern, and that spikes off a panic moment in Fiona to end the chapter.
“My pleasure,” F’jian responded with more warmth than Fiona found comfortable. Had he been about to kiss her? Had she been about to kiss him?
They were the same age or nearly, but Fiona was startled by the flood of emotions that surged within her. I’m not ready, she told herself firmly. Her body disagreed.
Oh, yay, puberty in both rider and dragon now. And on that confusing mix of sensations, the chapter ends.
I haven’t been mentioning the time frames as much as I should, so it’s worth noting that most of these segments, where a new drill item or technique is introduced, the weyrlings usually spend months on that new technique, integrating it into their practice, so large chunks of the year are going by in a sentence or two of uneventful daily practice by the dragonriders and their dragons. There’s training montage bits there, but the narrative thinks of them as training montage bits and spends more time on the things that are not routine.
I can see the end in sight! Two chapters and an epilogue to go. Next week, Fiona goes to seek advice about her rebellious body, and then engages in courses of action on that advice. Or would, if she could remember what she said.