Monthly Archives: February 2020

Deconstruction Roundup for February 28th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still engaged in things that cannot be spoken of in detail.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are definitely going to have to see things through to a complete point. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Showing Seams

Last time, Talenth continued to be sick, but Fiona essentially invited everyone she could over for a sleepover so they would feel less panicked about the new queen of Telgar having a death sentence. And also, but making an appearance around the Holds surrounding Telgar, she’s also established that the old order is done, at least where she’s concerned. The problem is that she has all of these other bronze riders around that might very well reinstate it once they have the power.

Dragongirl: Chapter 9: Content Notes: homophobia,

Weyrwoman, mind the Weyr:
For all things prepare
And set the best fare
Lest all should despair.

(Telgar Weyr, early morning, AL 508.2.10)

Well, isn’t that a useful encapsulation of the contradictions required to be a Weyrwoman. Prepare for everything, even the things you couldn’t possibly have planned for, but never let it show that you’re stressed or that things might be in trouble, or you’ll cause mass panic and despair in all the riders. We saw a little bit of that with Cisca telling Fiona not to let her fear overwhelm her, because that emotion is apparently contagious. I would like to know if Fiona’s anger and outrage is also contagious and whether other riders get much more touchy when the Weyrwoman is justifiably aggravated at what she’s being put through. It really seems to be selective about when those feelings get through and which ones do. And since we’ve only ever heard about Fiona’s famous temper, instead of seeing it at work, we won’t know how much of it, if any, bleeds through to others.

Chapter Nine, after a small amount of checking in to make sure that Talenth is still sick, starts properly with some moralizing about where the children are and what they are doing.

“She has the Weyrwoman’s permission!” Fiona heard Taria declare stoutly in Xhinna’s defense.
“Yes, she does,” Fiona said, opening one eye to peer at the scene in front of her. Several women, their lips tight with disapproval, were shepherding children out of the weyr. “Talenth enjoys the company.”
“It’s not normal!” one of the older women complained, dragging two children in tow behind her.
“Really, they shouldn’t be disturbing you,” another woman declared. “And with your poor dragon…”
“Talenth likes them,” Fiona retorted. She gestured vaguely to the women. “She likes the company; you could join us if you’d like.”
Several of the women looked positively affronted by the suggestion and hurried out of the weyr even faster, but some paused, looking wistfully at Talenth.

I have a strong suspicion that this objection has almost nothing to do with Talenth. Fiona, after all, would be the one to know what Talenth thinks about this matter. I think the correct thread to pull on is the first remark, about how something like this is not “normal.” Given that we have at least two, and likely more, ideas of what “normal” is in regard to Pern, we have to be much more explicit about whose normal we are talking about. Weyr culture has always been textually spoken of as significantly more libertine than the Holds and Crafts that surround it. What we’ve actually seen in the page has been steadily undermining that description, too the point where we are at now, where it seems like Weyrs hold the same morals and prejudices as the Holds and Crafts around them, instead of discarding them based on the unique political and cultural situations of the Weyrs. For example, children are supposedly raised communally in the Weyr, to the point where they supposedly don’t have strong attachments to their biological parents. If that were the case, then moving the crèche up to the Weyrwoman’s quarters for the night, by her request, shouldn’t be that much of an issue, so long as the caregivers have gone up, too. It might be out of the ordinary to have a Weyrwoman with an interest in seeing all the children, but I don’t think it would produce a normative judgment, and once both Weyrwoman and queen dragon have said it’s okay, that argument should stop.

A second possibility that the person making the normative statement is an unwilling transplant from a Hold or Craft, like Tevona, and therefore the arrangement is somehow odd comparatively. Despite the Harper dormitories that found themselves with not-men as members and seemed to have managed to adapt (even if it was under threat of greater violence), and the understanding that in vassalage feudalism, only those who were well-off could afford to have and maintain houses with more than one room in them. Perhaps the objection is that Seban, an older man, is in bed with the young Weyrwoman, other young women, and the children. Given how little concern there has been from either narrative or characters about differences in age when the sex rays are active, I would need significantly more textual convincing that this is seen as a problem. Furthermore, the narrative tells us that Taria is defending Xhinna, so there’s a strong suggestion that Xhinna’s presence is the thing that’s considered not normal.

If that’s the case, though, I have to ask a stupid question. Where, exactly, is the belief that Xhinna’s behavior is non-normative coming from? For an audience of the early 21st century of Terran history, the answer is clear for anyone exposed to the strains of Abrahamic religion that are virulently against any sexual behavior that doesn’t originate in a marriage contract and will accept the possibility of pregnancy as a result of that behavior. Pern, however, is nominally a-religious, having left that short of thing behind, and the cult of the dragonrider doesn’t, to my knowledge, have any tenets about sexual purity or what relationships are allowed. It would be flagrantly hypocritical for the sex-rays-mean-orgies dragonriders to take a stance on forbidding any kind of relationship or partnership, given Weyrs have gay men, bi men, het men, and het women canonically present, and it has been basically been stated on the page that polysexual and polyamorous Weyrwomen are absolutely possible. There’s already enough of the potential spaces regarding sex and love filled in that it would be ludicrous to assume the rest of that potential space doesn’t also exist.

Holders might have opinions about those subjects, but I would imagine those opinions are about property, marriage, inheritance, and bloodline, rather than about a normative or moral component. Kindan took grief for the impropriety of possible sex, even if there wasn’t any, and there’s always been a few scattered bits here and there about the illegitimate offspring of Holders and their sons, but it’s always been in relation to marriage prospects, class awareness, property, and inheritances, rather than a marked focus on the morality or immorality of the sexual act itself.

So where is this normative judgment about Xhinna (and/or the children) sleeping in the same bed as Taria and Fiona coming from? There doesn’t seem to be any basis for it in Pernese society at all. (In fact, I would suggest that of all the possible relationship configurations that not-dragonriders might object to, lesbianism is the least likely of the lot.) If his is supposed to be an attempt to add representation, that’s great, but this might be the sort of thing where someone gets grumpy about the representation being put in there without any thought of how to integrate it into the story and make it flow naturally.

Taria apologizes for the scandal. Fiona tells her there’s nothing to apologize for, and that any of the ones not being taken away by a parent are welcome to stay. Which flabbergasts Taria and also puts her between the decision to disobey the Weyrwoman and pissing off the women who are under-explicably against this decision.

“May I join you?” Shaneese called softly as she climbed up to Talenth’s weyr. She smiled at Fiona. “I heard you were accepting sleepovers.”
Several of the disapproving women gaped at Shaneese in surprise and anger, but she dismissed them curtly. “If you don’t want to be here, with your Weyrwoman, then leave.”
She eyed them carefully as she added “But if you don’t want to be with your Weyrwoman now, when she stands by you, you might want to ask yourself whether you want to remain in this Weyr?” She smiled grimly at them. “There are plenty of small holds lying fallow–you’ll not lack for a roof or food.”
“Where’s the best place to sleep?” Vikka asked, two children waiting eagerly behind her. She nodded to Shaneese, then to Fiona, saying “My lady, I only just found out about your kind offer.” She released the children, gently shooing them toward Taria and the others. “There are many of us here who have slept with dragons but none with a queen.”

Fiona welcomes everyone in, suggests that F’jian’s Ladirth could also use company, which draws a crack about how Bekka will keep everyone awake. Seban defuses that by pointing out that Bekka learned from her mother, the midwife, that any baby she woke up was her responsibility to get back to bed. And eventually, everyone does get back to bed.

After this sequence, it seems the normative judgment is that it’s not normal for a Weyrwoman to be so open and sharing of her space, and that standard operating rules seems to have been that anyone who has to interact with the Weyrwoman was being an imposition on her time. Which sounds a lot like a rule The Asshole might have put into practice for himself and extended it to his Weyrwoman. And, y’know, old habits die harder, especially when they are inflicted and enforced by an abusive asshole. But for something like this, where Fiona is behaving in unexpected ways, I would believe confusion was the main reaction, not anger, and that would be directed at Fiona, not at Xhinna. It’s this same odd dynamic of how Xhinna somehow manages to collect heat and aggravate everyone around her, even though we haven’t seen this happen on page. We’re even going to get an example of Xhinna being doing something that could be aggravating, which happens right after a parade of children wish Talenth a good morning and good health while Fiona and Seban pretend to sleep through it.

“I know you’re pretending,” Xhinna said right beside Fiona. “You snore when you’re really sleeping.”
“I do not!” Fiona replied, eyes snapping open. Xhinna smiled at her, leaned forward, and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.
“Of course not, Weyrwoman,” she agreed cheerfully. “Did you sleep well?”

Which is designed to get a rise out of Fiona, but is nowhere near the degree of negging that happened in the last book about Fiona’s weight.

The plot continues mostly with Fiona wanting to spend time with Talenth to store up a lot of good memories before her inevitable death, with Talenth insisting they have plenty of time left, still. T’mar arrives to indicate that Ladirth is still fine, and to snicker that F’jian and Terin managed to “find some distraction from their cares” with all the attention the dragon is getting. He jokes about having to worry about the dragons getting spoiled. Seban pulls him up short by reminding him of the illness, and T’mar has the good grace to look apologetic for it. Fiona invites T’mar to breakfast, which he refuses. Fiona chides him for being too embarrassed by his gaffe to accept the invitation, and so T’mar joins them. Where we get to see the chapter’s poetry fragment in action, further confirming that Weyrwoman is really Lady Holder with dragons to care for, too.

She forced herself to be cheerful throughout breakfast and teased Xhinna, Terin, and Taria for their hollow-eyed cheeks and evident fatigue, but she knew she was just putting up a front, a trick she’d learned Turns before when she was still a toddler at her father’s Hold.
“A Holder is the hope of all,” Lord Bemin, her father, had told her solemnly once Fiona had been having a tantrum. “When you laugh, they are happy.” He lowered his chin as he asked her, “And when you misbehave, how do you think they feel?”
She’d understood, even then, what he meant, though it was Turns before she truly grasped the concept of leading by example. It was a strange thing: Even if she was feeling sad herself, just displaying cheer to others would inevitably cause her to cheer up, as well.

That’s brutal. Fiona never really did have a childhood at all. Or at least, all of her childhood was in those moments she had where she wasn’t under the thumb of her father. Which makes the understanding that being a Weyrwoman is exactly the opposite of what she wanted it to be all that much more cruel. Without the support system Fiona has, at this point, I would expect her to be a broken shell.

Fiona, when confronted again by the likelihood of Talenth’s death, spontaneously gives Xhinna a big hug and tells Xhinna that she loves her, quoting what Xhinna said about having half a heart back to her. Before the feelings can blossom any more, however, Shaneese arrives and asks if she can show Fiona one of Telgar’s treasures. Fiona diplomatically replies “At Fort Weyr, we treasured our people” and Shaneese replies say Telgar does, as well, before introducing Fiona to Mekiar, the weyr pottery master. Since Fiona has never seen a pottery wheel at work, there’s a little bit of explaining the odd motions involved before Fiona gets plopped into the working space, figures out how to keep the wheel moving, and then is given some hands-on instruction from Mekiar about how to shape the clay (which she has apparently also never seen on a wheel before) and to what kinds of forms the clay might take when being shaped into a vessel. Fiona, having been thrown into something she has no understanding of, looks for some support.

“What takes your fancy, Weyrwoman?”
Instead of replying, Fiona shot Shaneese a reproving look. The headwoman met it stubbornly.
“Don’t look at her, she knows nothing,” Mekiar said. His hand closed around her fingers gently. “Let yourself feel the clay, Weyrwoman, see how you can change it–”
“Relax!” Shaneese suggested.
“Go away, master your kitchen,” Mekiar snapped in response, turning his attention once more to Fiona as he muttered, “She’s good at bossing, not at feeling.”

And so Mekiar guides Fiona through deciding what she wants this lump of clay to be (eventually, she decides on a soup bowl), and then, when she’s finished, she slows it to a stop and asks Mekiar what happens now. If she dislikes it, he says, she can turn it back into a lump of clay and try again. If she does like it, they fire it and, assuming it survives, she gets to glaze it, and then they fire it again. And if it survives all of that, then it becomes a bowl that she can eat out of. Fiona seems satisfied, so Mekiar cuts the bowl off the wheel and then casually mentions that it looks lonely. Fiona decides that perhaps she’d like to make about twenty of them for Bemin’s upcoming wedding to Kelsa. Mekiar suggests making twenty-three. “Two spares to allow for accidents and one just in case.” Before that, though, he suggests that Fiona try some other form, like a mug. Which she tries for, and gets frustrated that she can’t attach the handle immediately to the mug. She apologizes for taking up Mekiar’s time, which he waves off because teaching is part of his work, and when Fiona finally decides to take a break, Mekiar mentions that having some food might be a good idea, since it’s past noon. Fiona profusely apologizes for taking his time again, and invites him to lunch. Mekiar waves it off, saying that the clay sometimes absorbs him for days (Fiona notes that it would be perfect for someone who has lost their dragon, which Mekiar has) and says that he would rather watch Fiona’s clay to make sure it didn’t get any ideas while it was drying.

Which conveniently heralds the arrival of Lorana, M’tal, Kindan (who absolutely mistakes Fiona for her sister, Koriana, before crushing her in a hug), and a queen rider, Jeila, with her queen, Tolarth, all of whom have serum from the cure Lorana developed, then injected into Tullea’s dragon before she spun herself back three Turns to develop enough dragons and serum to cure all of the sick dragons in the current time. So Fiona no longer has to worry about her dragon dying on her. And neither does anyone else. This is happy-making for those who still have dragons, but there are still all the others who have lost theirs, including Lorana, to think about.

Speaking of, here’s how Lorana is described:

Her dark hair was straight, her skin not as pale as Fiona’s, her dark eyes bright and set slightly slanted in her face. She had a beauty that was born of motion and grace.

Which I am not particularly fond of, mostly because it’s not very descriptive at all, except, of course, for the slanted eyes, as if we needed further confirmation that stereotypes are alive and well. And I’m getting a bit of “she’s Asian-dsecended, so of course she looks like someone who is graceful.” And capable of Waif-Fu, I’m sure, should we ever have need for Lorana to go stomping mudholes.

Jeila is described in a similar manner:

Her skin was darker than Lorana’s; she looked to have trader blood like Shaneese, she had the same bright, dark eyes, the same white teeth, and the same light air of cultivated assurance.

I am also wondering where the author is getting their eye descriptions from, because Fiona has “dark eyes bright” and Jeila has “bright, dark eyes” and in neither case does anyone talk about iris colors. I guess we’re supposed to fill in all the details based on whatever stereotypes we want to imagine for an East-Asian descended woman and a Roma-descended woman. (Or, remember what description we received about Lorana from her book, although I think that since the reveal of “she’s a descendant of Wind Blossom” was kept until the very end, we didn’t actually get anything useful out of it.) While I know that mirror scenes are supposed to be bad writing, the economy of description by this particular author makes it difficult to envision the physical looks of anyone at all without resorting to whatever stereotype we have in mind.

Getting back to the plot, Kindan apologizes for mistaking Fiona for Koriana, and says she looks so much like her. M’tal then points out the reason why he made Kindan wear the brooch that Fiona found the gold for, indicating he eventually figured out that Fiona had been the person who found the gold and asked for the brooch, so he had Kindan wear the finished product to show it off. Before more explanation happens, the serum is starting to be injected, and Talenth reassures Fiona that she always knew things were fine, because Fiona apparently told her as much, suggesting that the mysterious gold rider of the future is indeed Fiona. As all the dragons are injected with the serum, it’s noted one of the side effects is feeling tired, which becomes a problem because there’s a scheduled Threadfall tomorrow, not that H’nez thinks much of it. M’tal offers to fly the Fall with him, which H’nez accepts without accepting. Food arrives, having been sent for by Fiona (“food for foolish riders” was the call), and everyone tucks in and tries to encourage and insist that everyone eat, even as there are repeated exclamations of joy at the fact that the dragons are cured. For her own part, Fiona is both glad and angry that Kindan mistook her for her sister, as well as a bit surprised that she gives a damn about that at all. And with all the potential exhaustion, Fiona sends out to have weyrs made up for all the guests.

It ends up being Bekka’s admiration and thanks, even though Lorana couldn’t save her own dragon or Seban’s, that breaks Lorana into uncontrolled crying. The narrative says, through Fiona, that it’s because Lorana is finally allowing herself to realize that the nightmare of dead dragons is finally over and that she was the person responsible for bringing about this bright future. I’m not convinced that is the case, though. Because everyone who has come through to this point has been basically celebratory about the fact that the dragons in their lives are not going to die, and the are not going to have to go through the grief and loss that comes with that in the immediate future. For Lorana, that’s not a joy she gets to participate in. Bekka, in her attempt to be sympathetic and empathetic to Lorana, has just reminded her of all the dragons who didn’t make it. Including her own dragon. Lorana might have had a breakdown because she was thinking about all the dragons that she didn’t save, by not knowing, by not working fast enough, by not being smart enough to understand it in time. Including the entire fighting dragon contingent (or so) of Telgar Weyr, even though their sacrifice was used to complete the paradox loop so that the information present would be the right information so as to allow for a cure. So the chapter ends with Fiona trying to comfort Lorana by reminding her by all of the dragons whose lives she has saved with this serum and cure, but it’s quite possible that Lorana has just been reminded of all the dragons that have died, and what that felt like, instead.

Now that we have a significant amount of our cast here at Telgar, next week we’ll go into more about what to do to rebuild the decimated dragon stock so they can survive out the Pass.

Deconstruction Roundup for February 21st, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still engaged in things that cannot be spoken of in detail.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are definitely going to have to see things through to a complete point. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Damage Control

Last time, Fiona volunteered herself to Telgar to reconstruct a Weyr after the unmitigated disaster of That Asshole. Which lead to the discovery of some interesting notes left behind by Mother Karina for her, Terin, and Lorana. Fiona and her volunteer rider corps went through the formal funerary rite for the lost dragonriders, which almost went completely pear-shaped when nobody at Telgar was willing to complete the ritual for The Asshole, before Bekka volunteered herself, and then the other Weyrleaders came and volunteered themselves for maximum dramatic effect.

Dragonheart, Chapters 7 and 8: Content Notes:

Heart and mind together
Impressed, bound forever.

(Telgar Weyr, early morning, AL 508.2.9)

Chapter 7 kicks off with Fiona nestled in bed with many of her friends and allies: Xhinna, Terin (with F’jian), and Bekka (with Seban). Fiona is glad that everyone from Fort is getting along with everyone from Telgar, and vows to have no factions in her Weyr.

And then it’s Talenth that gets the cough. Which makes Fiona very depressed, even though she’s pretending to be okay for everyone else. When Fiona goes to the kitchen to see what’s cooking, she’s told she should sit down and people will come serve her. It doesn’t get through to her why, even though she did do as she’s told, until Terin explains that it’s about continuity, not about being useless.

“There are people here to care for you; it’s their duty.”
“I was just–”
“I know,” Terin said, her tone softening. She leaned in closet to Fiona. “They need to know they’re needed, you can’t change them too quickly.”
Fiona ducked her head meekly and Terin, who knew her too well, snorted. “Just give them a sevenday before you put everything on its ear.”

It’s actually nice to see that Fiona continues to behave out of the ordinary for A Weyrwoman, since she still hasn’t actually been raised in what being a Weyrwoman fully entrails for years before taking control. Since she’s used to running things her way, it’s going to cause some amount of “that’s not how we do it” wherever she goes.

A convenient example arrives with H’nez, who is upset that there aren’t enough dragons to send out a watch rider, and who also ends up on the other side of Fiona’s unexpected nature.

“We’re shorthanded,” Fiona agreed. “Perhaps I should visit Nerra first.”
H’nez pursed his lips tightly.
“You’re not one of those who thinks women shouldn’t be Lord Holders, are you?” Fiona asked, glancing at him sharply. She was willing to bet he was: H’nez had always struck her as a stickler for tradition.
“If I ever were,” H’nez replied slowly, his eyes dark, “my experience with Weyrwoman Cisca–and with you–would have cured me.”

Nice dodge. Given what we’ve seen of H’nez before, the answer to Fiona’s question is “yes, absolutely, women should never be Lord Holders,” but H’nez is smart enough to realize saying that in front of Fiona will set her against him, which means he can kiss his interim Weyrleader position goodbye when there’s a mating flight.

But also, now that we see one who is a Lord Holder, It makes the problem of Thella that much worse. Now there’s precedent that could have been cited by Thella to make her case, and it would have forced everyone to find a real reason to tell her no other than “she’s a girrrrrrrrrrrrl.”

H’nez voices concern for Talenth, instead of Fiona, and admits that Fiona is probably the person that should go meet with the Lords of the area, given how The Asshole dealt with them before his timely death.

Afterward, the conversation turns to a lack of firestone supply and the need to dispose of the supplies of the old unstable firestone. Shaneese says the disposal bit will be taken care of, and the riders discuss how to get new supply in. Eventually, the party to go to Nessa is set as Fiona, Norik, Bekka, and Seban. There’s some tension between H’nez and Norik, which has Fiona recall another problem H’nez had in his past, with a Harper this time, and it contributed to the decline of health for a Weyrwoman. Tell me again why H’nez isn’t stuck on the lowest of duties permanently again?

A quick hyperspace warp to Crom later, Norik warns Fiona about exactly what kind of situation she’s stepping into.

“D’gan [ASSHOLE] was a difficult man,” Norik said as they circled above the watch heights of Crom Hold scant moments later. “He used Lord Fenner harshly and provided no aid when the Plague struck.”
“He supported Fenner’s son, Fenril, didn’t he?” Fiona asked.
“He did,” Norik agreed blandly. “His concerns were the Weyr and its proper tithe. He felt that Fenril would provide that.”
“Was Fenril the man who let his people starve while he drank his cellar?” Bekka asked Seban.
“He was,” Norik said.
[…Bekka proclaims she would never do that if she were in charge…]
“So, Lady Nerra has no call to love our Weyr,” Fiona said in surmise.
“No, my lady, she does not,” Norik agreed.

No other Hold does, either, really. And it’s brought into sharp relief when Norik shouts about how hospitality is very lacking if there are arrows being pointed at the dragons and their riders when they arrive to see Nerra. The tension is removed, however, once Fiona names a guard, names herself, and delivers the news of the tragedy of Telgar and that the Weyr is under new management. Having won over Nerra, by being herself and not an asshole bronze rider, Fiona also gets Nerra as a companion to talk to Valpinar of Telgar, who is also not disposed to see dragonriders in a good light, because of The Asshole. Fiona and Nerra warping to Telgar Hold ends chapter 7.

Also, shouldn’t she be Lord Nerra of she’s the person who holds the title of Lord Holder of Crom? I know we’re supposed to think of her as just caretaking out until a man can come along and re-establish pepper male domination, but since she’s doing the job, she should get the proper form of address. (And now, I suddenly understand a little bit more why titles are about the place and not the person, because Nessa, Lord Crom, makes perfect sense and conveys the correct information, where Lady Nessa can easily suggest she married or otherwise has her title by virtue of someone else.)

My heart is a dragon
Soaring in the sky;
My heart is a dragon
Flaming from on high.
My heart is a dragon
Filling all with love;
My heart is a dragon
Protecting from above.

(Telgar Weyr, late evening, AL 508.2.9)

At dinner that evening, Fiona relayed the results of her meetings with Lord Valpinar and Lady Nerra to H’nez and the other wingleaders.
“Apparently,” she recounted, “D’gan [ASSHOLE] had once gone so far as to tell Valpinar that his attitude would buy him grief from the skies.”
“He wasn’t threatening to let Thread burrow, was he?” H’nez asked in shock.
“Lord Valpinar was left to draw his own conclusions,” Fiona said, her fury abated by the brobze rider’s appalled reaction.
“You assured him–”
“I told him that we would do our duty to Hold and Hall as long as we had breath to draw,” Fiona said. H’nez nodded approvingly and the other bronze riders added their fervent agreement. She smiled, adding, “And I’ve arranged that Tevora can go back to the Smithcrafthall.”

We knew that The Asshole was, well, an asshole, but threatening to either let Thread devour an entire Hold or to burn it to ashes themselves (which could also be “grief from the skies”) is pretty far beyond the Moral Event Horizon. (We know that because even H’nez is shocked at this threat.) And makes me wonder what kind of resources The Asshole expended to keep all of his Holds tithing to him, because it very much seems like it wouldn’t have taken much for his entire space to ignite rebellion. Or to assassinate him at a Games or any other space through various means or methods. Possibly even by Impressing dragons themselves and then using that power to oppose him. Some method somehow that might poison the relationship between dragonriders and everyone around them for a long time, but would at least get the person who is threatening them with destruction out of power.

I’ll admit that it’s an interesting exercise, that Todd seems to be leaning into things going terrible when there’s a Weyrleader who doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself, but it’s rapidly running away from realistic because there’s never any sign that anybody fought back, whether in subtle or obvious ways, even though it seems to be a universal constant that The Asshole was hated by everybody he came in contact with. Even in the worst of fascist dictatorships, there are pockets of resistances that show up, even if they don’t last all that long. Or aren’t all that effective at causing big changes.

But also, kudos to Fiona by getting follow-through on her promise that Tevora would be able to go back to the Smithcrafthall, like she wants, rather than having to remain a prisoner in a place that kidnapped her and held her against her will for years.

The plot proceeds by having Xhinna introduce Taria, a “beautiful dark-skinned, dark-haired, aquiline-nosed girl near her age” who is apparently in charge of the nursery and the younglings and has needed someone else to help out. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Fiona, after seeing Taria, is basically shipping Xhinna with her. Fiona extends the invitation for Xhinna and Taria to share the same bed she has, prompting Xhinna to remark that Fiona uses friends as blankets. Taria declines, saying it would be better to stay with the children, but Fiona suspects there’s hidden meaning in her statement. Fiona wonders if Taria ever sings, because Finoa really like Taria’s voice, but also realizes it’s likely that she’s lost Xhinna for a while. Another coughing dragon turns out to be F’jian’s, and Fiona makes sure that Bekka and Terin go to be with F’jian as he hits the panic point about having a dragon that will die within the next two weeks. So Fiona gathers her stuff and goes to sleep with Talenth in the Weyr, instead of in her bed. While Fiona dozes, Seban asks to share space with her, and curls up next to her. Which is fatherly enough for Fiona that when Seban points out there’s nobody here to see her, and there wouldn’t be any harm even if they did, she starts crying from all the stress she’s been under, with sick dragons and political maneuverings and trying hard to be the Weyrwoman who sets the mood for the entire Weyr, and Seban absorbs it and behaves like a parent comforting a child to her. Eventually, Fiona falls asleep, but gets awoken by the appearance of Xhinna, Taria, and the kidlets from the dorms. Fiona waves them in and tells them to get the bedding from her quarters and bring it out.

“We wouldn’t–we couldn’t–” Taria began nervously, clearly alarmed at the thought of sleeping on the Weyrwoman’s bedsheets.
“Taria,” Xhinna cut her off with a kindly shake of her head. “This is Fiona, my friend. If she says she doesn’t mind, she’s not lying, she means it.”
[…the children get settled in on Fiona’s bedding, and it turns out that Seban was only faking sleep through this sequence…]
“They’ll settle down soon enough,” she told him.
“What I cannot figure, my lady, is your ability to surround yourself so easily with love,” Seban replied, his voice mixed with awe, affection, and a sense of rightness.
Fiona couldn’t think how to answer him: for her, having friends was as natural as breathing.

After everyone gets settled, Fiona asks a drowsy Talenth to relay to Xhinna that she loves her, since Xhinna’s too far away for Fiona to say it herself. Xhinna sends back a similar love response, and the entire pile falls asleep.

The last part of the chapter is Fiona being awoken by the children reacting to the green mucus coming out of Talenth’s nose and having a small panic of their own over the possibility that Talenth might die and how it will affect Fiona.

“They say that when a dragon dies, the rider loses half her heart with it.” Aryar sniffed. “How can the Weyrwoman life with only half a heart?”
“Her heart is big enough, even just half, and with our love, it’ll grow back,” Xhinna’s voice came quietly out of the darkness. She scooped up the youngster in her arms, prepared to carry her back to the others.
As Xhinna’s steps receded into the distance, Fiona heard Aryar declare, “You have my love, Weyrwoman! I’ll help you grow your heart back!”

Which is adorable and wonderful and something that hopefully cheered Fiona up greatly, even though we don’t get to know how it affected her.

I think Seban has the word more accurately than Fiona does, when he calls it love and she calls it friendship, but that’s mostly because of how other people react to Fiona, and not what Fiona calls it. What Fiona calls it is what it is to her, even if it seems vastly different to everyone around her. I still think that Fiona would be a great example of a bi or pan character, and that she would be great representation, but we’re still in an era where having characters that are something other than het is daring, and we really are still operating in a binary of het or gay at this point in history. We really haven’t completely opened up the possibilities in normal discourse, so literature hasn’t really followed in a giant mainstream way. Which is too bad, because Fiona has all the trappings of being a large amount of representation in a series that could definitely use some, and she wouldn’t even have to do all the lifting herself, because Xhinna can still be her entire lesbian self, and so can Taria, and Terin and Seban can be people who might be het but also just really enjoy a good cuddle with a friend. Like, there’s so much potential here, if everyone would just admit to it and be okay with it, but it doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon, even from Terin, despite having spent nigh-on three years with Fiona, as well. And while there’s a maxim of publishing that suggests people who aren’t trying to write things can often end up writing them exactly correct, it’s still a second-class idea for people to get representation by having to read what’s there, knowing it was unintentional, rather than being able to read what’s there and have it confirmed on the page.

More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for February 14th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is engaged in,well, something for the next little while.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are reasonably sure you know what you just got yourself into, and are now committed to riding it out to the end. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: In Charge Again

Last time, Fiona had to get away from a mating flight in progress and took the opportunity to go back to Igen and do research about the reproductive cycle of dragons. Fiona could not find consistent exact answers, much to her frustration. Not too soon after returning and helping stand the Weyr back up again from their mating flight-induced orgies, The Asshole at Telgar telefragged his entire fighting strength because he was unable to put aside his pride for a moment and think about what the consequences of flying a sick dragon might be.

Dragonheart: Chapters 5 and 6: Content Notes: Discussion of Abuser Tactics, Kidnapping,

Weyrwoman, your duty is clear–
To the needs of the Weyr adhere,
Choose your mate with the greatest care
So all the weyrfolk will best fare.

(Fort Weyr, later [in the day than Chapter Four], 508.2.8)

I mean, it’s nice to see it spelled out so clearly here that the Weyrwoman’s most important job is to choose a good sex partner so he can run the place wisely and well. It’s a step up from being a Lady Holder, in that the Weyrwoman gets to choose from a limited set of eligible riders, instead of having her partner chosen for her by her father, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Chapter Five starts with Fiona heading to Telgar Weyr, since Talenth is the most senior queen not already in charge of a Weyr. (Apparently, the queens at Telgar have also died from this incident? Were they also following the bad coordinates? Were there no queens left behind as a precaution?) Fiona isn’t sure she’s up to the running of a full Weyr by herself, despite all the experience she received at Igen, but she’s going because it’s her duty. She asks for Terin and Xhinna to accompany her. Xhinna hitches a ride with her instead, along with Bekka and Seban, and when they arrive at Telgar, they realize the enormity of the work they’ll have to do to get the place running again, which is likely more of a morale problem than a logistics one, given that if only the dragonriders disappeared, all of the weyrfolk should still be there and able to run the shop under the headwoman’s direction.

As Talenth arrives, she lets out a pair of bellows that apparently say “This is mine, now, and we will prosper.” Fiona informs everyone she brought with her of this, and then the logistics mindset kicks in again. Fiona orders up klah and food when Talenth takes watch dragon spot, and is introduced to Norik, the Harper assigned to Telgar, who will have to memorialize all of what happened in song. Norik is pessimistic about the prospect of Telgar’s continuance, and Fiona gives him the business about how Telgar will thrive and fight Thread, backed by Talenth’s affirmative bugles. She introduces herself as “Fiona of Igen, Talenth’s rider,” which is her right, certainly, and also suggests that this is the best outcome for her, narratively speaking, because she’s going to want to be in charge and not simply Cisca’s second.

T’mar arrives with a promised complement of riders. F’jian mentions nearly everyone stepped forward to volunteer under Fiona, which is a good sign, but that also means Fiona has collected her longtime nemesis, H’nez. Because in the last book, he demanded, and K’lior granted, his request to transfer to the first open Weyr. And it was Telgar, as I suspected. But now it’s Fiona’s Telgar, instead of That Asshole’s.

The additional complication that comes with it is that since H’nez is the oldest bronze rider currently at Telgar, he’s interim Weyrleader. Fiona apparently doesn’t get a choice in the matter, and with that status, she can’t bounce H’nez from Telgar the moment he mouths off to her. The narrative, however, is still very invested in telling us that H’nez is not actually the asshole we’ve seen so far.

“Don’t be fooled by him,” Seban spoke up from where he sat, nodding toward H’nez, as he helped Bekka tend a pot near the hearth. Fiona shot him a surprised look and the ex-dragonrider explained, “He’s a good leader, he looks after his riders and makes them look after his dragons.”
“You were in his wing.”
“And proud of it, weyrwoman,” Seban declared. She noticed that he hadn’t stressed her title and took it for the reproof it was.
“He needs a smaller head,” she muttered.
“Unlike some,” Seban teased in response, surprising her at his hearing.
Fiona dimpled, then made a dismissive gesture with her hand and turned back to T’mar, who gave her a worried look.
[…they discuss who is interim Weyrleader, even though there’s no actual discussion…]
If H’nez noticed that he was the topic of conversation, he didn’t show it. In fact, Fiona realized, he was busy playing with some of the younger weyrfolk; he’d coaxed then out of hiding with the promise of sweets in return for work and information. He was, she admitted sourly, doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing.

Terin pops in to say that lunch will be ready soon, and Fiona sends Bekka out to meet as many people as she can in the next couple hours. The communal lunch’s logistics underway, F’jian helps Norik start the song he needs to write, and Fiona goes on to meet the women of the Weyr, after having a small stop where H’nez introduces her and helps smooth the feelings over of the children about the loss of their parents. The two of them then discuss H’nez’s temporary position and what the tradition of dragonriders is regarding vacant Weyrs (apparently, it’s “clean them out and reassign them as quickly as possible,” which is in keeping with the idea that dragonriders do not deal well with death at all, and prefer not to have to deal with that reality if they can sweep it under the rug.), and Fiona goes on to talk with the women of the Weyr.

Let’s stop and talk a little about H’nez, again, because he was doing really well being characterized as the person so locked into his traditions that he can’t ever be happy unless he’s surrounded by people who think the same way he does. He’s an old white guy who has tremendous amounts of privilege and the temerity to insist that it should be done his way, even though he’s not in charge at all. He would make a great foil for Fiona and anyone else trying to build a Weyr on better operating principles, because Fiona has seen what H’nez’s way of doing things is like and doesn’t want any of it. Instead of making him the antagonist to overcome or escape, though, everyone is making apology for him, and is showing us parts where Fiona supposedly rethinks her opinion of him after seeing that he has a range of emotion and action past being a jerk all the time.

The takeaway from this is not that H’nez is somehow a good person. He is not. The takeaway is that H’nez can choose to behave himself when he wants to, and totally not coincidentally, when he wants to is when he’s either threatened by a bigger authority or when he wants to garner sympathy to himself. For someone who has suffered under an abuser, H’nez rings a lot of bells. He’s terrible and mean to Fiona in a context where he can get away with it and not be called to the carpet, and he can be charming and good with others when it matters to him. I’m willing to bet that while he’s the temporary leader, H’nez will be in his best behavior toward everyone, in the hope that he will end up getting the Weyrleader job more permanently (at which point the façade drops). If he doesn’t get it, I fully expect him to lash out at anybody around him, but especially Fiona. And since we are seeing this narrative through Fiona’s eyes, she’s not experienced enough (or been exposed to the whisper network enough) to my grasp that H’nez is bad news, even when he doesn’t look like it. I’m pretty sure the narrator isn’t intending to give us such an accurate portrayal of an abuser, because if H’nez were actually supposed to be coded as a villain, he’d have no subtlety about it. That Fiona and the narrative treat him ambiguously to positively says he’s supposed to be read as a fundamentally good person with flare-ups of temper and a bronze rider’s ego, and he is not that thing.

As Fiona talks to the women of the Weyr, and assures them that they can find quarters for forty dragons so that none of the women who were living with dragonriders before will be displaced, we find out a few more things about the previous leadership and their decisions.

“Weyrleader D’gan [ASSHOLE] believed in the rights of the Weyr,” Vikka explained to Fiona. She jerked her head toward the blonde woman. “Tevora was a crafter’s daughter before…”
Fiona felt a moment of revulsion for the dead Weyrleader. She glanced at Tevora with renewed interest.
“Which craft?” she asked her quietly.
“Smith,” Tevora said with a snivel. “I was taken–”
“It’s an honor to be brought to the Weyr!” Shaneese snarled.
“It’s an honor when you want to go!” Tevora snapped back, advancing on the smaller woman angrily.
“No one stays at the Weyr against their will,” Fiona said, glancing around the room for any signs of similarly mistreated women.
“So you say!” Tevora shot back angrily.
“Yes,” Fiona told her. “So I say.”

And again,

This is unacceptable behavior, and a curious thing for Todd to bring forward (or backward) from Anne’s books. It’s not Our Heroes doing it, but it does make me wonder how many of the women at Fort were brought there against their will, as well. And I have a strong suspicion I know what purpose all of the unwilling (and many of the willing ones) were bright here for. If all they wanted was a Smith, they could have their pick of Smiths of any level, but they specifically went after Tevora. And while I think the narrative would like us to believe that’s specifically Telgar, I have no reason to believe any other Weyr behaves any differently.

And if I were Tevora, I would have good cause to be skeptical. Fiona is Weyrwoman in a Weyr that has, up until very recently, had all of its power and authority concentrated in the Weyrleader, who clearly didn’t give a damn about what anyone other than himself thought about the running of the place. Fiona can assert herself all she wants, but unless H’nez backs her, the dragonriders won’t do anything to fix the situation. So Fiona’s going to have to figure out how to work with H’nez, at least until she can get a different Weyrleader in charge, if she wants to make good on those promises she’s making.

Further compounding, although still realistic, is the way that other women in the group are telling Tevora that she should be proud of having been kidnapped, and probably assaulted, because rich and powerful men did it and because they are well provided for in their captivity. It’s not a pretty situation in any sort of way, and the details provided so far aren’t mitigating, they’re making it all worse.

Fiona is still reassurances for everyone, but Shaneese (the one who was just on Tevora’s case) goes hard at Fiona about giving them false hope, because there’s still no cure. When it turns out that she’s Fiona, sister of Koriana, and therefore conencted to Kindan, her assurances about how Lorana and Kindan are doing everything they can to help the dragons starts to carry more weight with them. When Fiona pivots to asking who the headwoman is, Shaneese says that’s her. Fiona gives her an out to step down, but Shaneese isn’t taking it, and we can kind of see why in the way that she starts giving orders to others to get them going back to work. She sems to be a headowman cut in Melanwy’s mold, and she’s already demosntrated a significant lack of sympathy. I wonder what will happen when she and Terin have a disagreement about how Telgar should be run, and who will emerge victorious in the tussle that will result, given how young Terin is (even though she’s very clearly capable of running a place, so long as she can get people to do what she wants).

Fiona offers to take Tevora back to the Smith hall, if she wants to go, but does so in front of Shaneese, and so what Tevora says in response may not be her actual opinion on the matter.

“When I go to the Smithcrafthall, I can bring you, if you like.”
Tevora glanced up nervously, then shook her head. “They probably think I’m dead.”
A mousy-haired woman reached over and patted her on the shoulder. “You are good with metal, Tevora, we could certainly use you here.”
“Dedelia, keep an eye on her,” Shaneese said to the mousy-haired woman. She glanced around the room and started calling out names. “Go help in the kitchen.”
To Fiona, she said, “Come on, Weyrwoman.” As she bustled out, she glanced over her shoulder and said to Dedelia, “And get them back to work, there’s clothes to be washed and mended, not to mention the weaving that’s been let go this morning.”

And thus, having ensured that Tevora will be going nowhere at all, Shaneese gives Fiona the tour of Telgar Weyr. Fiona goes along with it, possibly believing that her offer still stands and will be genuinely taken up if she says it again and Tevora wants to go, but Fiona hasn’t done enough to convince Tevora that she could actually say “Yes, I want out of this hellhole” and it would happen. Because Shaneese is the perfect headwoman for The Asshole At Telgar, who thinks it an honor to serve, and also clearly has no remorse for anyone who might want to take a small break for mourning the dragonriders that were lost. And is proud of the way that said Asshole enriched himself and the Weyr at the cost of others.

“The stocks are complete, we want for nothing.”
“We want for nothing” seemed to be a catchphrase for Shaneese and Telgar Weyr. Fiona was amazed at the amount of goods amassed in the storage rooms, at the quality of fabrics, hides, and metals that were on hand for the Weyr’s use.
“Say what you will about D’gan [ASSHOLE!], he never let the Weyr be shorted,” Shaneese said as she took in Fiona’s expression.

It’s becoming a big situation for Fiona – if she wants to rule in her way, she’s going to have to ditch H’nez and probably replace Shaneese as headwoman, once Terin has learned enough to smoothly step in and take over, with her own hierarchy of lieutenants set up to make sure there aren’t disruptions. Which isn’t to say that Fiona can’t pull it off, because she can, and already has shown that she has the ability to run a place, even if it’s not been scaled up to this kind of size. She’s just going to need a good complement of allies and loyal subordinates to do it well. And she’s going to need to make changes, because it’s also likely that The Asshole has terrible relations with all of the people sending him tithe. He might have gotten the highest quality materials, but, as we saw, he liked to do it by force, rather than by being the kind of person you would want to send your best material to because they were excellent neighbors and protectors.

During the tour of the stores, Fiona tells the keepers of the stores about Bekka and says to supply Bekka with whatever she needs from the stores. After getting the tour, Shaneese meets Terin, and apparently approves of her, at least for now. Terin mentions Mother Karina and Igen, which sends Shaneese out of the room. Terin worries she’s said something offensive, both Shaneese comes back with a box that’s a gift from Mother Karina. For you see, Shaneese is her granddaughter, and came to Telgar Weyr because Tenniz saw the future and she needed to come here. Of course, neither Tenniz nor Mother Karina are alive at this point, conveniently getting rid of the precognitive after he did his duty as The Exposition Child.

First, we are told there are two envelopes in the box, one for Fiona and one for Terin. Fiona’s envelope has a harp-shaped brooch in it, with a note expressing regret that Mother Karina won’t be able to give this is person and saying that Tenniz says things will turn out fine. Terin’s envelope holds a fitting that’s appropriate for riding leathers in the shape of a queen dragon, and a much shorter message: “This is yours and no other’s.” Both Fiona and Terin wonder if the envelopes got swapped, not choosing to remember that Fiona’s in love with a harper and Terin could more than easily Impress a gold dragon before she ages out.

The chapter closes out with Terin noting there’s a third envelope in the box, with the name “Lorana” on it. Which suggests that there’s a trip to Benden in the immediate future.

Mourn and grieve,
Wail and cry.
Remember those
Who no more fly.

(Telgar Weyr, later [on in the day than Chapter 5], AL 508.2.8) But not that immediate, apparently, as chapter six starts with Shaneese taking Fiona to her quarters and conveniently providing more information about the people who were last here. And continuing to provide more evidence that the The Asshole At Telgar more than lived up to his name.

“D’gan [ASSHOLE!] was a demnanding Weyrleader,” Shaneese said, glancing around the quarters with a frown. “He had no trouble taking what he felt was the Weyr’s due.”
“I’d heard,” Fiona said. “At Igen, we preferred to trade for goods.”
“That was before Thread,” Shaneese reminded her. She waved a hand, dismissing the issue. “Anyway, what D’gan [ASSHOLE] didn’t want, the Weyr couldn’t get.”
“I see,” Fiona replied, wondering how much Telgar’s weyrfolk had suffered for their Weyrleader’s whims. She brightened. “I think I prefer our Igen ways.”
“ ’Our Igen ways,’ ” Shaneese repeated to herself, eyeing Fiona critically. “And now, with Thread falling, Weyrwoman, what would those ways be?”
“Fair trade when possible,” Fiona said. “I’m holder bred: I know the demands of the Weyr. If the Weyr can’t live by the tithe then perhaps we can trade for our extra needs.”
“We could profit from trade,” Shaneese agreed.

Shaneese is a good target for working on to get things moving more to Fiona’s pace and idea. I still think she’s not completely on board, but knowing Mother Karina and being the people in the secret box probably gave Fiona leverage she wouldn’t have otherwise had in bringing Telgar Weyr around to her way of doing things. Also, engaging in trade is a good way of starting to repair the relationship Telgar Weyr has with all the holds that tithe to it. If Fiona strategically decides to take a couple losses in the service of getting later business and goodwill built up before Terin sharks them into the deal that’s actually the best for the Weyr, even better.

The point of Chapter Six, however, is that there’s a funerary rite that has to be performed and a Weyr to be encouraged. The first attempt at a meal table doesn’t go so well for Fiona, until Igen gets mentioned, which leads into everyone remembering their shared times, and F’jian points out the entirety of Fort Weyr volunteered to follow Fiona to Telgar, even though only some of them actually were able to come. That seems to win over the crowd. The narrative then jumps to the preparation for the funerary rite, and the way it works out, each of the dragonriders now of Telgar will have to stand for nine riders, Fiona ten, and the bronze riders eleven, as the roll is called for the lost dragons. H’nez says he’ll be the one to stand for the late Weyrleader, but H’nez doesn’t have the actual rank to do it properly, so he lets Fiona have it in a huff, and instead takes the son, D’lin, as one of his own to stand in for. H’nez and Fiona impress upon the riders that this is extremely important, and that if they do this, they stop being Fort’s riders and start being Telgar’s. The riders say they’ll follow Fiona, and so they, by extension, become Telgar’s riders.

We are then treated to the formal funerary rite for dragonriders. The name of the rider gone is called, one of the riders stands for the one who cannot answer, and then the rider’s family and children come forth to eulogize the lost rider, and the new riders affirm they stand for the lost ones. Then the family goes back and the next rider is called forth. This goes smoothly, until the last name is called.

“I call for D’gan, Weyrleader, rider of Kaloth the bronze,” Norik called out in the end.
Fiona moved forward. “I stand for D’gan,” she called loudly, her voice filling the air, her shoulders and head lifted high. She heard some harsh intakes of surprise from the weyrfolk and murmurs of approval. “I stand for him, for he has passed between.”
Norik nodded approvingly and held a long, expectant silence, before calling out, “Who stands with D’gan?”
No one moved. The silence grew. Tension filled the air. Finally, someone moved, a small girl separated from the crowd and moved to join Fiona. It was Bekka.
“I stand with D’gan,” she spoke up, her chin raised high, eyes defiantly searching the faces of the shamed weyrfolk. “I stand with D’gan,” she said again, “Telgar’s Weyrleader, the man who did his duty, no matter the cost.”

And I’m of two minds about this. I realize that it’s a thing that kills morale if the ritual has this long pause where nobody is willing to stand with The Asshole, but we might note that everyone who has mentioned him has said, either explicitly or implicitly, that he was an asshole who ruled by his own whim and fiat and got his entire Weyr killed because of his own arrogance and stupidity. There’s no reason for anyone in the Weyr to stand with him at all, even if the ceremony insists that someone should do so. And they might have, if it weren’t for the fact that all the people related to him are dead by one way or another. The office of the Weyrleader might need to be recognized, but the person who was in that office? He does not need to be lionized or remembered for anything other than what he was — an example to everyone else of how not to run a Weyr. Even Shaneese, fiercely proud as she is of what Telgar has, freely admits that they obtained all of those things because The Asshole decided that he wanted them and used force and threats to get them. There’s nothing laudable in his behavior, and many of the people in the Weyr have specific reason to be upset at him, because he got their mates killed.

So Bekka bites the bullet, realizing that the ritual can’t go forward unless there’s someone who says they’ll do it. The narrative wants us to think of Bekka as brave and the rest of the Weyr as cowardly or dishonorable for not standing behind their leader, but I think the narrative is misleading us in this particular regard. Bekka might be scanning the faces of the weyrfolk with a look that says, “Really? Nobody here was willing to take the hit? You knew him, I didn’t! Someone else should be up here!” but I don’t think she’s accusing them of something deeper than that, or that they should be ashamed of not really wanting to validate a terrible person.

Picking back up with the scene, the narrative makes me wonder whether Bekka’s decision was actually needed, and that if they’d waited just a little longer, the cavalry would have come in to rescue them, and nobody at Telgar would have had to stick up for someone who, by all rights, doesn’t deserve it.

A sudden noise burst faintly in the evening sky and the watch dragon bugled in amazement as, overhead, a huge phalanx of dragons descended steeply in the night air, their riders dismounting quickly and marching at speed toward Fiona.
At the edge of the ring they paused. One stepped forward.
“I stand with D’gan,” the rider called out. It was K’lior, Weyrleader of Fort Weyr. “He was a demanding man, he expected nothing less than the best of his riders. Fort stands with Telgar.”
Another rider strode forward, wearing Istan colors.
“I stand with D’gan,” the man said. Fiona didn’t recognize him. “He showed us the meaning of duty. Ista stands with Telgar.”
“I stand with D’gan,” a strong-featured man said as he strode forward. “He set high standards. High Reaches stands with Telgar.”
“I stand with D’gan,” B’nik, Benden’s Weyrleader declared a he stepped toward the center. “He showed me the meaning of valor. Benden stands with Telgar.”
A fifth man joined the others with a woman by his side, they were holding hands.
“We stand with D’gan,” the man said, raising their clasped hands high. “His last thoughts were for the Weyrs, his last warning was to all the Weyrs of Pern.”
The woman moved forward, turning challengingly toward Fiona. “Who stands for Telgar?”
“I do,” Fiona replied immediately, controlling her surprise at the woman’s unexpected behavior.
“I do,” the woman echoed then, meeting her eyes.
“I do,” the man at her side added.
“I do,” the High Reaches Weyrleader declared.
“I do,” B’nik, Benden’s Weyrleader affirmed.
“I do!” called Ista’s Weyrleader.
“I do!” K’lior said loudly, proudly, for Fort Weyr.
“I do!” H’nez’s voice rang in the night, joined almost immediately by T’mar, F’jian, and the rest of the riders.
“Telgar?” Norik’s voice rose above all the others. “Who stands?”
I do!” The riders and weyrfolk shouted back.
“Telgar!” Norik shouted, striding forward with a torch in his hand and lighting the bonfire that had been laid at the lakeside.
Overhead, watch-whers streamed by, bearing glows in their paws, lighting the night. Dragons roared in challenge.
“Telgar!” Norik shouted again.
“Telgar, Telgar, Telgar!” the gathering shouted back, filling the Bowl with a wave of sound that drowned out all echoes.
Telgar!” shouted all those gathered in the Weyr reborn.

And with that stirring performance, Chapter 6 comes to a close.

All of these eulogies from the Weyrleaders are carefully chosen, so they interpret his worst traits into something socially acceptable.

  • “He expected nothing less than the best”: “He was a mercurial asshole who didn’t tolerate the slightest bit of failure.”
  • “He showed us the meaning of duty”: “He refused to bend in any way from the rules and traditions, even when it was beneficial for him to do so.”
  • “He set high standards.”: “He expected the impossible, done yesterday, and without any complaint or dissent.”
  • “He showed me the meaning of valor.”: “He never backed down from anything or anyone, even when it would have been much better for him to do so.”
  • “His last thoughts were for the Weyrs.”: “Once he realized his mistake, and that it was too late, he thought about others.” Because others already knew that sick dragons messed up coordinates and occasionally took themselves on a one-way trip to hyperspace by accident.

Once that formality is finished, I note that immediately, everyone switches to the correct question: Who stands with Telgar? Which is a thing everyone can do without fear, worry, or endorsing The Asshole. And that brings the enthusiastic response from everyone, because it’s a thing they can be enthusiastic about. Because the riders and Weyrleaders have a vested interest in making sure that Telgar, the Weyr, survives and thrives, especially now that Fiona’s installed as Weyrwoman here. It means that Telgar might rejoin everyone else, get along, and coordinate in such a way that they don’t have to be worked around. Unless H’nez becomes formal Weyrleader there, then Telgar might have to endure another Weyrleader in the same vein as the last. And that would kill morale.

More chapters next week, now that we’ve learned much more about funerary rites and rituals than I ever thought we’d get in any story about the dragonriders.

Deconstruction Roundup for February 7th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still working their way through a long festival of short fiction.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are missing vibrant communities to talk about shared interests. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Readjustment

Last time, Fiona got back, only for everyone to basically treat her as the same girl who left, even after clear proof that she’s not. The narrative burned the Fiona/Xhinna ship to the waterline, and further twisted the knife by saying it would never happen, because all gold riders are forever het.

H’nez was an asshole when Fiona gave tribute to her friend, and Fiona slapped him for it. Before the narrative insists that she saw H’nez and his assholery in new lights, since she’s now more mature. Fie on redeeming H’nez, joys for Fiona being mature enough to handle him.

Dragongirl, Chapters 3 and 4: Content Notes: Assisted Death, Mating Flights

Wheel and turn
Or bleed and burn.
Flame and dodge
Or between, dislodge.

(Fort Weyr, AL 508.2.6)

The chapter starts with Tintoval marveling about how much older Fiona is, which Fiona replies to by saying she has trouble accepting everyone else isn’t also three Turns wiser. Solid burn, Fiona. With Terin’s arrival, the three are ready to begin their rounds seeing to the injured from the last Threadfall. Tintoval wants to stick to the human part of the dyad, but Fiona is insistent that Tintoval learn how to diagnose and deal with dragons as well. Their first patient, W’jer, has had his Threadscore infected some. Tintoval hisses, but Fiona is apparently stone-faced and reaches in for a specific thing to use on the infection.

“I’m going to have to clean out the wound,” Tintoval apologized to the rider as she took the proffered bottle. “This will sting.”
“No worse than Thread, I’m sure,” W’jer said gamely. He set his jaw tight as Tintoval gently poured the peroxide solution over his leg and it foamed as it ate away the infection.

Peroxide, you say? Usually, when someone says that, they’re talking about hydrogen peroxide, which I somehow doubt Pern knows how to manufacture at their current technology level, and which is also unstable and decomposes rapidly if not specifically taken care of. At this time, Lorana is trying to decipher genetics and figure out how to use advanced equipment, but we’re supposed to believe that Pern can casually manufacture a working peroxide mixture for wound care, and that they know the word and it has survived, rather than being turned into “wound water” or something like that. For something like this, it would have been easier and more accurate for dressings to be laid over honey, which has all the right properties, and assuming that bees adapted to Pern (or the native pollinators produce something that’s close enough), could easily be manufactured at the current tech level.

As it is, Fiona sends a note asking for fellis and wine down the service hatch and goes to examine the dragon. The dragon of the partnership has torn off their bandages during the night and spent some amount of time bleeding. Fiona chides the dragon and tells him to send Talenth a message if it happens again. She then asks Talenth to have Xhinna run up some needles and sutures in double dragon size.

She could have called down the service hatch, but Xhinna would be quicker, if she were available.

Which suggests there’s a lot of dumb waiter systems that connect dragon weyrs with the various weyrfolk. Which might be different than what we have envisioned for the system for Fort to this point.

Also, literally in the first book of this series, Wind Blossom was lamenting that suturing and surgery were becoming lost arts and the sterile sutures would no longer be able to be created. Yet, here we are in the Third Pass, and sutures have survived, by name, and with several different sizes of needle. So either Wind Blossom was wrong, or, more likely at this point, the author forgot what they had already written and didn’t consult their past work (or a series guide) to remember. And really, so long as there are weavers and people who do needlework (like the sweater-knitting dragonriders), there are going to be people who know how to stitch up flesh as well as stitch together yarn. Or, as we find out later on, fishers who can create sterile sutures.

“That’s double dragon size,” Fiona said. “Dragon size is used for most wounds; for wing-work we use regular human sutures; but this required the larger ones.” She paused, thinking back to her time at Igen Weyr in the past, when she’d had to learn all this on her own, by doing it. “When we were at Igen, we had the hardest time getting dragon sutures until I managed to explain what we needed to to the traders.”
“Where did they find sutures?” Tintoval asked, her eyes narrowed worriedly.
“They didn’t,” Fiona said with a shake of her head. “They discovered the Fishers use a similar rope and convinced them to produce a sterile version.”
“Clever.”
Fiona smiled in agreement. “I often wonder how much more we could do if we asked others to help us.”

So, it appears that technology hasn’t actually died out, although I wonder what Fiona means when she talks about a “sterile” version of sutures. Do they get boiled before they are used? Or is there some other antimicrobial thing done to them to make them sterile? And how are they transported so that they stay sterile? And how is all of this medical terminology surviving into the future when basic medical practices, like barrier methods, haven’t? I know it’s just a book, but there’s a lot of stuff here that’s making me wonder if the author has just decided not to care quite as much about the setting and just to let things appear or disappear as the plot needs. For as much as Pern claims to be part of the lineage of fiction that extrapolates from science, it doesn’t do a good job of the craft of writing, much less extrapolating consistently from science.

Xhinna is asleep and having “strange dreams,” according to Talenth, so Fiona asks Talenth to have Ellor find someone to send the sutures up. Cisca pops up on Melirth to deliver them and says that there needs to be a new crop of weyrlings to be shuttled around to do these things.

“We need some new weyrlings for this sort of work,” Cisca called as she waved in response.
“I’ll see what I can do!” Fiona shouted back, grinning.
“I’m talking with Melirth about the problem, too,” Cisca replied, grinning in turn. “A mating flight–or two–would also do wonders for morale.”
Fiona chuckled, then returned to the job of sewing up Janorth’s gash.

Cocowhat by depizan

Wasn’t Fiona absolutely terrified of the prospect of a mating flight at the end of the last book? But now that she’s banged T’mar exactly once (well, okay, three times), suddenly, she’s all aboard for the mating flight and the possibility that one of any number of bronze riders might end up having sex with her? And that she might be expected to pair up with them, at least for a while? Not all of them would be whatever she had with T’mar. Many of them might not be that at all. Unless, without telling us, we’re back to a situation where riders could have their preferred partners, regardless of what kind of flight is going on. The theory that the author is just making the characters and settings do whatever their plot demands has more credence all the time.

And then, after all of this, the author suggests they might have a clue after all about worldbuilding. Tintoval suggests to Fiona that she might do better with an apprentice of her own to help with that. They ask Terin if there are any children that could be spared for this idea, and they noodle a bit about where they would find a child, given that there are so many women that are working all the time.

“In the kitchen?” Tintoval asked, glancing around at the few helpers.
“In the tanneries, on the looms, in the pastures, in the storerooms, on spinning wheels, knitting, dyeing, tailoring, leatherworking, and metal-working,” Terin replied, adding, “and in the nurseries and classrooms with the children.”
[…Fiona remarks that Weyrs are basically like Holds, just with more women than men. Tintoval raises an eyebrow at that, and Fiona explains that boys who don’t get dragons go elsewhere…]
“They would find themselves welcomed in every Craft and Hall.” She waved a hand expansively around the Kitchen Cavern. “They’re well-fed and tended, trained to handle most any task so they would be a boon to any holder or crafter. And,” she concluded, “there’s all the prestige associated with the Weyr and being able to boast of weyrblood.”
“Dragonriders are healthier than most,” Tintoval mused. “The women are better-fed in the Weyr, too, so they also have a better chance of surviving childbirth. So it’s to a woman’s advantage to stay in the Weyr instead of leaving.”

And here, yet, it seems like the author has done at least a little research into what it takes to run a household, and how much of that work is being done by women in the Weyr. Many of those things sound like they would be covered by the guilds, so maybe several of those women at work are licensed guilders? Or, more likely, they’re doing the thing, but they won’t ever be recognized as part of the guild because they’re women. And I wonder just how much the dragonriders don’t actually know what’s happening or how much effort is put into making those goods they use and assume are just available.

At least this does finally answer, even if in a general and vague-ish way, what happens to all the candidates who don’t Impress dragons. The boys apparently go away to become valued workers and apprentices who contribute, and presumably will end up with some land of their own and families. The girls, on the other hand, have no intention at all of going back from where they came, and instead apply their considerable talents to keeping the Weyr running smoothly in exchange for a greater amount of freedom than they would have had otherwise and the understanding that when the dragons fly off on a mating flight, they might find themselves waking up from an orgy and possibly pregnant. Even if that is what happens, though, they’re more likely to survive it and they have a support system that will help raise the children, so they won’t have to do it themselves.

To my modern eyes, it seems like the best thing that can happen for a girl, in terms of the agency and autonomy she will have throughout her life, is to get Searched for a dragon and then fail to Impress, where she can join the working corps in the Weyr and make decisions about who, if anyone, she wants to partner with and possibly start a family with or otherwise leave with, when the time is right. There is the problem of the spontaneous orgies, but that seems like a thing that can be planned for, and if you are someone who really enjoys having sex with others, without having to do marriage commitments (or, as best I can tell, getting slut-shamed for it, since you’re not a Weyrwoman), then being a working woman in the Weyr is a pretty sweet gig. The author pretty clearly wants us to believe that being a gold rider is the best of all possible worlds, but following along with Fiona has thoroughly debunked that idea.

Getting back to the plot, Tintoval wants some assistants, like a dozen, from the older children. Terin suggests training some, and then having them train others. Fiona thinks it’s a great idea and indicates this is part of the reason why she made Terin her headwoman. Cisca is on board with the idea, and then we get something that makes a previous ick even more icky.

Cisca had little more than nineteen Turns of age; Fiona was less than three Turns younger than her now. And, in dealing with the sick, she had a least a full Turn’s greater experience. It was strange and difficult to remember: She was still the junior Weyrwoman, but the difference in age and experience had been nearly erased.

And now that bit in the last book about Cisca leering after the young weyrlings has context to “eugh” about. It’s still wrong, badly wrong, that someone of Cisca’s age is being joked about going after thirteen and fourteen year-olds, but I think the author wants us to believe it’s not as bad than if Cisca were in her late twenties or her thirties and going after the children.

Tintoval ends up asking about the midwives and wanting to learn how to do it, because most women prefer midwifery to Healers and the Healers don’t actually get to see and learn with pregnant people. Ellor is initially worried Tintoval is going to try and poach them, but once it’s clear it’s just for information, Ellor is okay with it. Eventually, they all settle on a particular child. Bekka apparently has some talent and doesn’t sleep much, so Tintoval thinks she’ll be a good fit. (She is.) Before we get to singing Bekka’s praises, there’s a small part where Ellor mis-ages Terin and gets corrected.

“She’s Merika’s eldest, three months shy of thirteen Turns.” She glanced at Terin, adding, “She’s older than you.”
“Not anymore,” Fiona corrected. Ellor’s expression dropped; she said nothing, but Fiona could feel the older woman’s anger.

So, apparently, in addition to “nobody ever gets to correct the bronze riders,” it’s either “nobody gets to correct the headwoman” or “nobody gets to correct their elders”, neither of which is particularly healthy for a working society.

Bekka is exactly what Tintoval expects: a younger version of herself. As it turns out, one of the sick dragons, Serth (a blue), is Bekka’s father’s, but nobody knows that until Bekka has already been told there’s little hope for Serth. S’ban (said father), to his credit, does not sugarcoat or deny that Serth is in bad condition, and everyone talks about Lorana and Kindan’s research and what progress, if any, has been made about trying to find a cure for the dragon sickness. Which leads to two important conversations: Serth and S’ban talk about what S’ban is going to do when he’s gone, and the consensus is that S’ban will stay behind for his daughter.

“I couldn’t leave my best girl!”
“You mean me?” Bekka whispered, glancing up at Serth in complete amazement that her father, who had been bonded with the blue dragon for tens of Turns before she was born, would ever for a moment consider her more important. “You’d stay for me?”
“That’s what we do,” S’ban assured her, “when we’re parents.”

Except I was quite certain that at least in the Ninth Pass era, or even the Sixth Pass Era, the concept of parents was mostly erased away and children were raised communally. Even the Son of the Benden Weyrleaders thought it a bit weird that his parents kept celebrating milestones of his life and giving him gifts because of their familial relationship. Yes, that’s pretty far on the future, but if the scheme described above, where the men of the Weyr either go on to learn a trade when they don’t get any dragons or get a dragon and spend all their time dealing with those responsibilities, is the way the place works, then paternity as a concept should be pretty weak.

The other important conversation is Bekka committing herself to the course of study to become a Healer. Tintoval mentions that it’s a long course of study, and Fiona asks Bekka to wait and see if she can handle seeing all the possible injuries before she sets herself on that course. Bekka doesn’t like the idea of something getting in the way of her decision, but acknowledges the wisdom of waiting to see whether it will work. They also lay out what it will take just to get in the door.

“You’ll have to get permission,” Fiona told her. “I imagine you’d need your parents’ and the Weyrwoman’s, and I suspect you’d need a recommendation from Tintoval.”
“And the Masterhealer would be to accept you,” Tintoval added. “Learning to be a healer takes a lot of study. Only the best can manage–”
“I’ll manage,” Bekka declared. “I’ll study!”

See above confusion about collective raising of children and discouragement of family connections, but I guess we can wave our hands and say it hasn’t happened yet. Also, given that the Plague is not that far in the rear-view mirror at this time, one would think the Masterhealer would take anybody that a field healer thought could handle the course of study, at least until they are back up to enough numbers where they can afford to be selective again about enrollment.

There’s another short conference between Tintoval and Fiona about Bekka, where Fiona suggests waiting to see how Bekka handles the loss of Serth before making any recommendations. Terin crashes the conversation, Fiona gets a vibe of jealousy from Terin about Bekka, and then sends Terin on her way with a specific set of rolls and dessert to fortify her through the night, where Terin is going to wait up with Bekka. Terin wonders how Fiona knows, and gets a compliment about her heart and her instincts, before Fiona says to call Talenth when it’s time. Tintoval doesn’t pick up on the language choice, so Fiona spells it out explicitly to her that Serth won’t last the night, and that’s the end of Chapter 3.

Eyes whirling red:
Anger or dread.
Eyes whirling green:
A happy scene!

(Fort Weyr, early morning, AL 508.2.7)

Chapter Four begins with the fact that Serth’s time has come. Fiona tells Talenth to inform Melirth of what is happening, but Melirth is asleep and Fiona doesn’t insist, because when she had reported on Serth’s sickness, Cisca hadn’t said anything, looking “distracted and unhappy”, and K’lior didn’t encourage Fiona to press the matter there, either. We are mentioning this because Cisca’s immediate reaction to when Serth takes the one-way trip is to be upset at Fiona for allowing it and telling Serth it was okay to go. That reaction will be cut off by something much more important and immediate, but Cisca is ready to go after Fiona for behaving like a Weyrwoman again.

When Fiona and Xhinna arrive, there’s a brief moment of appraisal before Fiona gets Terin and Xhinna to do useful things, like gathering all the people and bringing them to Serth’s Weyr. Tajen is present, which makes sense, since he’s gone through this process and can advise S’ban before and commiserate afterward. Others are as well, including H’nez, which surprises Fiona.

“S’ban flew in my wing,” H’nez told her quietly as he approached. Fiona could see that he was clearly moved even though he tried to hide it.
[…they talk a bit about Bekka’s plans…]
“The Weyrs raise strong women,” H’nez said, his lips pursed tightly at some hidden memory. Mother or lover? Fiona wondered, looking at the prickly, difficult, taciturn bronze rider in a new light.

I’m not opposed to H’nez having depth and characterization, but I am opposed to Fiona changing her opinion on whether he’s fundamentally an asshole based on this. This points out that H’nez is good to his own people, but we must remember that his own people doesn’t include Fiona, when it really should. He is right about the Weyrs raising strong women, however.

Once everyone is set, Fiona gives the okay for Serth to go. Unsurprisingly, S’ban (who will be Seban) tries to follow his blue and has to be restrained by all the other people surrounding him from doing so. Once the connection is broken, then it’s time for grieving, but the narrative skips ahead to Cisca getting ready to tear Fiona a new one because they didn’t wake her up and get her in attendance. However, a good bellowing and the statement “The bronzes are blooding their kills” from Talenth tells us what’s going on. Cisca tells Fiona to take Talenth and go, but, surprise, Fiona has no clue what the fuck is going on! When she tells Xhinna the bronzes are blooding their kills, Xhinna provides her with the necessary context, even as Fiona gets increasingly alarmed as to how Talenth is behaving.

“Anywhere! Melirth is rising to mate!”
As soon as the words penetrated Fiona’s brain she raced over to Talenth and forced the queen out and over the ledge, jumping on to her back and urging her into the air. Cisca’s bizarre rage made sense now: the Weyrwoman has been responding unconsciously to her dragon’s emotions.

We should probably note, if we haven’t before, that dragons apparently have strong emotions when they are in pre-mating syndrome, and I have a suspicion it’s always been patterned after the other PMS that humans would know about. (Shame on me for not noticing beforehand.)

I’m including this part because it’s a good reminder that women are equally capable of reinforcing patriarchal ideas as men are. Because Fiona very quickly dismisses Cisca’s anger as being related to the mating flight, which has a certain echo of “bitches be crazy,” which is a way of dismissing the very real grievances women might have. The degree of Cisca’s upset might be magnified by the mating flight emotions, but the underlying upset of “you usurped my position when you did this” is still legitimate, and one that Cisca and Fiona have been having to deal with since Fiona got back. With the additional complication that it has been only a few days since Fiona departed for Cisca. Fiona, and the reader, have been through the three years that Fiona spent in Igen, but for Cisca, it’s been terrible. Sick dragons, one of her juniors dead and the other presumed dead, and then the last junior comes back, but she’s not the girl that just got here and is the most junior junior. She’s been running a Weyr for three years all by herself, and she’s not really fitting back in with how things used to be. In a sense, Cisca has had the experience of a child growing up, and has been confronted with the reality that Fiona is no longer a child, and she can either refuse to admit it or she can readjust the way she thinks about Fiona and trust her to be a more mature and responsible person.

Also, there is no excuse at all this time about Fiona not knowing what the signs of a mating dragon are. There was a mating while they were back in Igen. There were several people that Fiona could talk to about those things who had some sort of experience about what it is like to be bonded to a dragon (or a watch-wher) that’s going into heat. Especially because Fiona was super-nervous about mating flights before she slept with T’mar. And if she’s feeling comfortable enough to riff with Cisca about how a big orgy would be good for morale, I would assume that she has had what a mating flight might be like described to her.

Lacking time and options, Fiona warps herself and Talenth to Igen Weyr, since it’s a familiar place. And still, apparently, a deserted place. While she waits out the mating flight, she heads back into the Records Room (which she thinks probably wasn’t touched since she was there last) and starts doing research. She’s trying to nail down the periods of time between things like clutching and hatching, or hatching and hyperspace capability, and even some basic questions like how many eggs there are in a normal clutch. Because all of these things have variance, however, Fiona keeps finding contradictory records about all of it, culminating in finding a fragment of a Teaching Song that she thinks applies.

Count three months and more,
And five heated weeks,
A day of glory and
In a month, who seeks?

Fiona concludes that the three months and more is from mating to clutching, the five weeks is from clutching to hatching, which is the day of glory. But the last part eludes her, because she isn’t completely sure that a dragonet of just one month could do the hyperspace hop. Not that anyone has tried, really.
While she’s here, Fiona really realizes that she’s changed significantly, to the point where she’d thought of Igen as her Weyr. She’s not completely sure that she’ll be able to go back to being Cisca’s second, but she’s willing to give it a try. Fiona pops back to Fort, knowing she’s going to have to step up with leadership, because many of the other weyrfolk are going to be still shaking off the effects of the mating flight.

(Except, perhaps, H’nez, who Fiona has felt getting extremely angry and drunk because K’lior’s dragon flew Cisca’s again, denying him the opportunity to take over, while she was doing her research at Igen. He’s still an asshole at heart, no matter how many different facets we see of him.)

Fiona’s return means trying to recruit some people to help her keep things going smoothly. Terin is with F’jian, so that’s out, but Bekka and Xhinna are together with Seban, so after telling Fiona that Xhinna “made the feelings okay”, which I am not sure what the meaning of that is, Bekka is recruited to help, while Xhinna stays behind with Seban. Fiona prompts Bekka to suggest what to start with (klah, she says, and tea), then asks her if there’s help available for putting together drinks and food for everyone. Bekka rounds up a crew of the youngsters to help, and Fiona rewards her with that by sending Bekka to the Weyrleaders with the food and drink when it’s ready.

Ellor arrives soon after Bekka leaves, and wants to talk about the details of the mating flight, and how Melirth didn’t really appear to want any of the ones that got to her, but that K’lior’s was the cleverest of the three (a group that included H’nez’s dragon) and basically waited Melirth out until she had no choice but to preserve herself, which allowed for the mating.

More and more, the way mating flights are described, it seems like the gold really doesn’t want to mate with anybody at all. In a more consent-friendly world, maybe the gold might have a preference, or the gold’s rider might have a preference, and that would be respected. But since we’re working in a world where initially, Good Girls Didn’t Want, we’re still kind of stuck with that choice, and that puts us in the situation where people are praising something that looks pretty nonconsensual, even if there might be some amount of consent involved. Ellor calls it “the only glimmer of hope since the fire-lizards were banished.” Which, hooray for a good solid orgy, but I was of the opinion that the Weyrs were sufficiently libertine that if that’s what was desired, it could be arranged, with or without the dragons. But again, the difficulties of working with an older series.

At the report that night, M’valer says that Benden is reporting there are ten dragons recovered from the sickness, which makes everybody’s eyebrows pop in hope. Cisca makes a suggestion that Fort riders go help Telgar out on their next flight, which makes all of the bronze riders at the table give her the side-eye. Cisca is nervous that the Asshole at Telgar is going to do something stupid, especially given that one of his dragons is among the sick.

H’nez glanced at her [Fiona, in this case], then said to Cisca, “You can’t ask a man like D’gan to–”
“See reason?” Cisca asked.
“Stand down in the face of his duty,” K’lior corrected her.
“No,” Cisca said with a sigh. “I suppose not.”

Cisca’s right. K’lior is putting a positive spin on it, but Cisca’s right. Because That Asshole will not see reason, because that would mean admitting to weakness, and he can’t do that, and really, neither will any bronze rider admit to weakness or accept correction. And, because this is ground that’s already been covered in a previous book, we know that The Asshole At Telgar is going to do something phenomenally stupid, because his ego won’t let him do anything else. And the majority of the rest of the chapter is feeling what Lorana does to rouse all the power of the Weyrs to try and find the lost Telgar and otherwise send the message back in time that will allow for Lorana and Kindan to succeed at re-engineering the dragons so they don’t die. And the incredible pain that comes from all that transpired so that Telgar Weyr lacks its fighting strength.

There’s still one more bit in here that’s worth talking about, and it doens’t have anything to do with what Telgar is doing. Where Tintoval and Fiona are discussing where Fiona went to avoid getting caught in the mating frenzy, Tintoval offers another useful piece of advice for Fiona.

“And did your search of the Records give you any hints on how to deal with Weyrwomen?”
Fiona shook her head.
“I would have thought as much myself,” Tintoval said to Fiona’s surprise. With a laugh, the Healer explained, “They were written by Weyrwomen, mostly.”
“Oh,” Fiona said, “I missed that.”
“So what would have helped were Records of how they dealt with their terrible, upstart, snappish, recalcitrant junior weyrwomen,” Tintoval said, smiling. “Take that and just reverse it for how to deal with Weyrwomen.”

While Fiona doesn’t want to pursue that right now, according to the narrative, it’s worth noting that the Weyrwoman now has yet more work lumped on her to document whatever the Weyr thinks of as important from year to year. Which makes me think about the difference between Records and songs. The Records seem to be the history of the place, in statistics and other data, but it’s the Harper Songs that everybody knows and refers to for history and procedure. And the Harpers are always male-dominated, so there’s another reinforcement that the men are more important than the women.

Also, I was of the opinion that the records were just supposed to be the data of the Weyr. Then again, in places where “data” is supposed to be, on Terra, we’ve found some of the best asides and other commentaries on the data mixed in, so I suppose it would make sense that somewhere in the Records, someone might find some of those commentaries left behind by previous Weyrwomen about what it’s like to do the job. And given how few other people head into the Records Room, it seems like it would be the perfect place to hide advice to someone’s successor, so that the boys never know what’s going on as the Weyrwomen advise each other throughout the years. (I like this headcanon a lot, actually, because I like all sorts of headcanons where the women are passing along their knowledge on how to run the world without letting on that the men aren’t really in charge.)

So, figuring out what to do with Telgar is likely to be part of the next chapter or two, as will Lorana’s triumph at finding the cure and then people having to get it injected into their own dragons so they can get immunity themselves. After that, then there will hopefully be new content moving forward.