Monthly Archives: April 2020

Dragongirl: Remembering There’s A Plot

Last time, the Weyrs redistributed their personnel to try and give enough riders to each other so that they could survive the next few Falls. So far, the attempts at keeping casualties down to acceptable levels have been failing, but the dragonriders are forging ahead. They’ve suggested doubling up on themselves to try and ensure their own survival once their numbers are too small, but they haven’t tried it yet to know whether it will work, because they’ll know they’ve tried it when they see themselves, and they’ll know how well it works when they’re saved by themselves.

Once again, as we stated early on, time travel plots become more about the time travel rather than about the rest of the plot.

Dragongirl: Chapter Sixteen and Seventeen: Content Notes:

Dragonrider
Dance in clouds
Soar to starts
Touch mountains
Skim rivers.

(Telgar Weyr, morning, AL 508.4.15)

This chapter opens with T’mar and Zirenth getting to fly together, finally, now that T’mar is healed enough to give it a go, or so the Healers think. Talenth is not going to join Zirenth, because she’s too egg-laden to go flying, which gives us a little banter about information likely gleaned from the Records about queen clutches, like “an early clutch is a small clutch” and “queen eggs are rare on the first clutch.” And now that we’re talking about pregnant dragons, we’re going to start talking a lot more about pregnant women. Which starts in one of the worst ways that such a thing can do.

T’mar’s encouraging talk was still not enough for H’nez and the bronze rider grumbled that when T’mar recovered, he’d request to be allowed to return to Fort Weyr.
“No you won’t!” Jeila had told him heatedly. “You’ll stay here, with me, where you belong.”
And that, as Jeila told Fiona later, was that. Although, Fiona thought with a grin, perhaps Jeila had produced some extra inducements as she had confided all this as a prelude to announcing her pregnancy.

Cocowhat by depizan

That’s not the way I would hope that news gets delivered, since I would expect it to be happy and joyous, not part of a certain amount of almost-blackmail, to hear the narrative describe it. The way this sequence goes through, it’s more like Fiona is grinning that Jeila convinced H’nez to stay, not out of “but we’re happy here” but out of “my dragon has eggs and I have a baby, so we’re not going anywhere at all.” Which wouldn’t actually be as much of a threat it appears to be in this narrative if Weyrs really were more communally raising their children than they actually are in these books.

Jeila is worried that she’s not going to carry to term, to which Fiona reminds her that her mother was built the same way and Jeila admits that she eventually had four kids. Jeila wants Bekka to attend her birth, and Fiona thinks she’ll start asking for Bekka and her mother, given that Lorana might be ready to give birth as well. Jeila inquires about whether Fiona might also need one, to which Fiona shrugs.

It was just possible that she was with child, but Fiona had always been erratic in her cycle, so she wasn’t entirely certain. Surely she hadn’t noticed any changes in her eating habits and, if she felt a bit more emotional, it was far too easy to ascribe to the current mood of the Weyr–even, all of Pern.

Although, with the way that everyone has also made fun of Fiona about getting fat, I also wonder whether that erratic cycle and mood swings might be due to some sort of mental issues she’s developed and predate the possiblity that she might be pregnant.

The narrative has no interest in examining what Fiona’s psychic landscape is like, instead turning to the dwindling supply of dragonriders available to everyone. The dragonriders decide to practice precise timing and sending themselves in the past, to the point where they are close enough to each other to see themselves. The only snippet of story we hear about all the jokes and stories Is this:

“I never knew I was that fat!” “We did!”

Which says something about what’s considered humor on Pern all the same, and that’s not really a thing that I’ve been all that fond of people using as humor at all. H’nez, at the conference of leaders, is dour about how many they have lost at Telgar, and no amount of comparison to the other Weyrs and the good company he’s keeping with his casualties gives him any comfort.

That night, Fiona spends a little time with he dragon, reassuring Talenth while she sleeps, before recognizing that Kindan has come to see her, and after a small comparison of how Lorana and Kindan feel very different mentally to her, she lets herself be swept up in his arms, and the narrative shifts to T’mar and the other riders who timed it back earlier complaining of the mother-of-all-hangovers, something very different than the thing Fiona was feeling when she was spending all that time at Igen and Fort together. Which could help us extrapolate that being near to each other while being twice in time has a much harder toll on them, if that’s what we’re supposed to get out of this. But, because nobody has systematically explored and then written down what timing it is like for themselves, we are still left to guess. And given how much of this story is about time travel, now, I’m sure we’re supposed to pick something up from how different this experience is, compared to other ones.

As the Threadfalls happen, Fiona makes sure that Lorana always has someone with her to see how she is doing and to comfort her from the ineviatable losses. By the time of the last scheduled Fall, Fiona has collected a support group of her own, headed by Rhemy, one of the younglings earlier who was involved in the discussions of helping people regrow their hearts, because Rhemy has figured out Fiona feels the same effects, although not to the degree that Lorana does. Which is about all that Fiona will admit to, is that she doesn’t feel things to the degree that Lorana does. Talenth isn’t helping any, in that she’s having disturbing dreams, somehow related to her clutching and hatching, but there isn’t any actual detail to go along with it, and, of course, there’s the steadily decreasing numbers of dragons and dragonriders to contend with. Which is to say, Fiona is stressed the absolute fuck out, but she’s not confiding in anyone, and she’s not actually talking about it. Why is this?

Fiona dug deep into herself to find enough cheer to to spread it to Talenth and counteract the dragon’s despair, but she realized that even her reserves were stretched. She knew how much the rest of the Weyr looked to her, how they shook their heads in amusement when they thought she wouldn’t notice over her ever-cheerful manner, how she managed to find something good even in the hardest of times. Oh, the old ones would prattle on and warn her that she was taking things too easily, but Fiona knew with a certainty that the mood of the entire Weyr was influenced by her cheerfulness and that mothers would tell their daughters, “See? The Weyrwoman’s not worrying, why should you?”
Dragonriders, too, took their cues from her, as did Jeila and even Lorana.

This is the same basic structure that we had earlier, about how Weyrwomen are perpetually always the Chief Morale Officer of their Weyr, so they’re not allowed to feel all that many negative emotions all that fully, lest they have an emotional contagion and start bringing down the emotional states of the people around them, too. It’s worse now, of course, because there’s no person that Fiona can turn to for relief of her own distress. Including what is happening as Fiona is struck by the resemblance between Jeila and Tanniz, which sends her into a spiral about what happened to Tanniz when the despair got to be too much for her, such that Fiona worries that Lorana might follow that same path. It’s a short worry, but all of this pretending to be the happiest person on earth has Fiona basically stuck as someone who can’t actually get away long enough to have a cry or a scream or otherwise to do something other than smile on the outside as he stress kills her on the inside. And she’s still not all that old and being thrust into this role. I’m having trouble figuring out how to articulate the kind of existential cry that must be going on with Fiona right now, because I’m not sure that it can be put into words, but I can definitely tell that it’s there.

Kindan arrives to try and help alleviate some of Fiona’s burden (although he was initially resistant to people trying to relieve Lorana’s burden, the narrative tells us that he comes around to it and begins to appreciate how much of that burden he had taken on himself, and doesn’t have to do any more), and after several times where Kindan believes everything has to do with pregnancies, whether Talenth’s or Lorana’s, Fiona finally lets him have it.

“It’s…everything,” Fiona said, throwing her arms open wide. “It’s that Talenth and Tolarth will both soon clutch, that we’re losing dragons every three days and all the clutches on Pern will be too little too late and that, on top of it all, she has a child coming into the world and she doesn’t know where she fits.”
“With me,” Kindan said with a decisive nod of his head.
“With us,” Fiona corrected. Kindan gave her a questioning look. “Here, in this Weyr–Telgar–where she’s central to everything, where she can speak to all dragons, coordinate with Nuella and the watch-whers, and be surrounded by those who love her.”
“So where is the problem?”
“The problem is with her, Kindan,” Fiona replied tetchily, surprised at his obtuseness. “The problem is that she sees all she is not–not a Weyrwoman, not a mother, not a mate–and it worries her.”
“How do you know so much about her feelings?”
“I didn’t,” Fiona said. “Mostly I learned it from Shaneese and Mekiar.”

Also not quoted was Fiona’s realization some time ago that Lorana is shielding her from the brunt of what she feels when dragons are lost. And somehow, we’ve managed to derail the part where Fiona is full up to bursting with her own issues and gotten re-centered on Lorana and her issues. Kindan continues in this vein by saying that Fiona probably understands something about pregnancy (gestures at the dragon), being a mate (doesn’t gesture at T’mar or himself, but could), and about being a Weyrwoman (because she is), and therefore Fiona is the perfect person to help Lorana through her issues. Even though Lorana seems to have been getting a lot worse over time. Fiona says she’ll give over Talenth if she could, which draws a very sharp rebuke from the arriving Lorana, and the chapter ends with the baby kicking Lorana. Which Fiona asked about to distract Lorana from being morose about the fact that Ista is flying Thread and they’re light dragonriders, like everybody else is. After both Fiona and Kindan said they loved Lorana.

And because the baby giving a kick is a great cliffhanger to end on, we go on to Chapter 17, where M’tal is getting ready to fly Thread.

Fly high,
Scan sky,
Brave all,
Fly Fall.

(Ista Weyr, afternoon, Al 508.5.5)

Although it’s not that specific Threadfall mentioned in the last chapter, but a different one. M’tal, we find, is sensibly keeping some of his troops out of the fight and others as a reserve wing in case more people are needed. In addition, he’s worried that Igen is going to give him difficulty, because the hot sands make for unstable and turbulent wind conditions, but he doesn’t let on about that.

At which point I am thinking about something I didn’t think about before, namely that Igen is a desert, and it’s been an abandoned Weyr for some time. If there’s no green in the desert, and M’tal is worried about Thread, does he need to be there? After all, if Thread falls on desert sand, with no carbon life for it to gorge upon, and only light and heat to bake it while it tries to burrow and find something useful, how much should he be worried about fighting it over the thermally turbulent sand? If the sand is over rock, he could theoretically let it fall there, and the Thread would die of starvation, right? And there would be nobody around to fault him for it, so long as all of the traders were inside the Weyr or a proper shelter, waiting things out, and the dragonriders do get all of the stuff that will fall on greener, more life-sustaining places. There’s got to be at least some part of this Fall that’s going over places where Thread won’t thrive. Since everyone is at limited capacity, the strategic decision would be to ring the dead zone, flame anything that threatens to get out of it, and otherwise pay minimal attention to the stuff that stays inside. M’tal’s got the charts, he should be able to say with a reasonable amount of certainty where the Fall is going to be and deploy accordingly.

What actually happens is far less tactically sound, but before we get there, there’s something to highlight in the ongoing saga of various polyamorous relationships, and it’s mostly that M’tal, Salina, and Dalia are doing just fine, thank you.

As he turned away from the two very different women in his life, M’tal found time to send a stray hope in Fiona’s direction that she, Kindan, and Lorana had managed to cement their relationship as well as he had with Dalia and Salina. It helped that both were mature women and not given to fits of jealousy. He couldn’t imagine Tullea in a similar situation but, he reflected as he clambered up Gaminth’s side, perhaps the Benden Weyrwoman would come to surprise him as well.

So, M’tal’s relationship is different than the Fiona quad in that Salina and Dalia have both ridden gold dragons, understand what being a queen rider and Weyrwoman entails, and they both understand that the partnership between Dalia and M’tal came about because of a mating flight. There’s a good chance all three of them also sat down and talked about what this triad of theirs meant. I also expected both women to have talked about what sorts of things would be expected from either of them, where they would cede to the other and where they would expect to be ceded to, and what they could do together. (Mostly because I would not expect a good, healthy relationship to have developed without talking happening.)

M’tal’s lack of imagination regarding Tullea is probably still predicated on the universal opinion that Tullea is far too much of a bitch to be able to hold down any kind of relationship with anyone other than B’nik, and far too jealous of anyone else to let B’nik have a relationship with anyone other than her. But the truth of the matter is likely that there would have to be a change in Weyrleadership for any of those scenarios to potentially come to pass, and at Benden, it seems to be the widespread opinion that B’nik is the only person equipped to deal with Tullea appropriately, so nobody else is going to really give it much of a go when that Weyrleadership is up for grabs.There will be enough to make everything look good, but not so many as to make anyone believe it is being seriously contested.

In any case, M’tal and crew arrive over Igen, only to have significant issues with the thermal currents coming from the sand, with the additional problem of that making the Thread fall erratically. Since the dragonriders are unused to fighting Thread in this kind of pattern, it’s basically chaos on the sands instead of the nicely-formed wings that they’ve drilled with. (So tell me again why scatter drills aren’t part of weyrling training on the regular? There was at least some hint of things as the “we’re running out of dragonriders” became more and more apparent, but it doesn’t look like that training was done well or done enough or otherwise such that the force remains coherent and effective in the face of a very different landscape?) Things are going pretty well for M’tal, but he almost gets destroyed by a clump approaching him from behind, before a dragon flames it out of existence and then disappears into hyperspace, so all M’tal gets is a good look at the jacket of the rider, which is very clearly the insignia of Benden’s Weyrleader. Several more times, this rider pops into existence to save dragonriders before disappearing again. M’tal immediately goes to see B’nik to give his thanks, except B’nik says he didn’t ride to the rescue of Ista during that Fall. M’tal is adamant that it was B’nik’s jacket, and so asks him the next logical question: who stole your jacket? B’nik denies that this has happened as well, so M’tal moves on to explanation three, that B’nik will, in the future, do this thing. Also of note is that the bronze dragon looked darker than usual, but that’s dismissed as a trick of the light.

Having informed B’nik of his theoretical upcoming action (and everyone commiserating about how they had hoped not to have to use that solution), M’tal goes back to Ista and the narrative goes on to Lorana throwing Fiona out so she can have some space to herself, because Fiona has been very solicitous about the status of the baby. Mostly because when the baby kicks Lorana awake in the middle of the night, Fiona gets woken up, too. And while Lorana is grateful that Fiona doesn’t take umbrage at this, she also needs to vent at someone about all of the things that are going on with the baby, as well as a resurgence of Tenniz’s prophecy in her dreams. The narrative hops away to Fiona, who has gone to the Kitchen Caverns to give Lorana space. Where Bekka and Seban are, since they’ve been called in to help with any possible birthings that might happen. And that conveniently puts them under the care of Birentir for their continued instruction. Bekka has been a useful pair of hands and knowledge for the midwives, but her instructions to Fiona are basically “Stop worrying about Lorana and her child.” Which includes going to sleep with T’mar that night, and all it is is sleep, even though Fiona wakes up in the middle of the night with a feeling that something terrible is going to happen.

The next scene starts with Fiona flagging down Terin and getting ready to have a catch-up, since Terin was last seen at the conference of the Lords, Leaders, and Masters, but Talenth going to the Hatching Ground and clutching her eggs interrupts the possibility of having to explain where Terin has been all this time. Fiona chides Talenth for not telling her what she’s doing, to which Talenth replies that she knows what she’s doing. Everybody is running to the Hatching Grounds, but when everything is done, Talenth puts out twenty-one eggs, none of which appear to be queen eggs. Fiona reassures Talenth that she did marvelously. Once Talenth is sleeping, T’mar wonders whether the early clutch, the low numbers of eggs, and the lack of a queen are related to the fact that these dragons have had their genes altered to make themselves immune to the dragon plague. Hopping over something I’ll get back to in a second, when Tolarth clutches, it’s twenty-two with a queen egg. Tullea’s Minith also clutches twenty-two with a queen egg, which gives credence to the idea that the new gene pool has reduced numbers significantly.

T’mar has some interesting advice for Fiona in one of the skipped-over sections that makes me continue to believe that a more knowledgeable author would be able to convincingly carry the polyamory aspects better:

“A queen often mates for the good of the Weyr, often against her rider’s desires or interests,” he said. “In the course of your life, there’s no guarantee that you might not find yourself with several partners.”
“Several more partners,” Fiona corrected with a smile.
“Riders are often much like their dragons,” T’mar allowed noncommitally, although his eyes gleamed humorously.

To T’mar, anyway, the idea that someone might not be monogamous for a lifetime should be expected for bronze and/or gold riders. He might be expecting serial monogamy, such that nobody has more than one long-term partner at a time (because, remember, one of the riders way back at the beginning of this set had two waiting for him in his Weyr and everyone seemed to facepalm at this idea as someone showing off, although they already acknowledged he seemed to have a different sex partner every night), but he’s making it pretty clear that there’s not supposed to be an expectation of someone mating once and sticking with that partner for the rest of one’s life. So this shouldn’t be nearly as strange a situation as everyone is making it out to be. Unless what’s strange about it is that there are non-dragonriders involved, or that there are women with two dudes instead of dudes with multiple women (or dudes with multiple men), but we don’t get to know what that is.

Fiona even confirms that this is the sort of thing that should be seen as pretty normal among dragonriders.

She knew they were talking about Talenth’s clutch and was certain that some of the conversations were condemning her for allowing Talenth to select Zirenth–as if she had a choice!–over a different dragon, one with a conscious rider and not the pairing of Lorana and Kindan.
Fiona was pretty certain that some of the more traditional weyrfolk were also chatting critically about her own choice of partners, but Turns of similar such chatter as she grew up at Fort Hold had inured her to the effects of such gossip–“Some people can’t live without carping” had been Neesa’s response Turns back when a very young Fiona had been taunted by some of the Hold youngsters.

So do dragonriders have control over their dragons and who they choose or not? Because the books have been see-sawing over this over the course of their publication runs. If they do have control, then some of the tongues wagging makes sense, but if they don’t, then I would have expected weyrfolk to shrug their shoulders and say “the dragons choose” and go on about it. Fiona certainly seems to be of the opinion that she doesn’t have control over who her dragon chose. Or who caught her dragon with their tricks and agility. And many of the other mating flights we’ve seen from the perspective of the dragonriders suggests that the gestalt is not something that you can resist forever, even if you can resist it to some degree.

Also, what’s this teasing that’s happening to Fiona in the past? Is she doing more than just hunting tunnel snakes as a child? Is she hanging out with boys as possible husbands or because she’s being trained to take over for Bemin? Are they gossiping about the possibility that Fiona might be interested in more than one boy? Or has been seen with more than one boy? Or is Fiona generalizing that the chatter has been about all of the unladylike activities that she might have gotten up to as a child and she’s just used to people complaining about her decisions so much that she doesn’t pay any attention to it at all?

Fiona’s reaction was quite different if she overheard any criticism or Lorana or Kindan, as one group of weyrfolk discovered when she overheard them.
“Lorana and Kindan saved the dragons of Pern!” Fiona roared at them. “And anyone who cannot give them all due honor for their sacrifices need not remain in this Weyr.”
The women blanched, one looking beseechingly in Shaneese’s direction.That was a mistake, as Shaneese bustled over to the group and weighed in heavily on Fiona’s side.
“I can see that you’ve all had too much idle time on your hands,” Shaneese had said in conclusion, “and I’m glad that you’ve all volunteered to help the healers with their medical laundry.” She glanced toward Fiona, who gave her a slight nod of encouragement. “The Weyrwoman and I are certain that you will give all your efforts to ensuring that all their fabrics and tools are thoroughly sterilized–steamed for a full ten minutes.”
Stunned beyond words, the women could only nod in mute agreement.

Shaneese is a perfectly excellent henchperson, always taking the side of the authority and doling out the punishments to make sure that everyone doesn’t badmouth the authority in their hearing.

Also, I must throw my hands up in the air and shout

Cocowhat by depizan

because oh Great Maker we’ve complicated the state of knowledge on Pern again. Because if they know how to sterilize, and they use that word, that makes me wonder what they knew in the time of the plagues that killed the humans and the dragons. Except, of course, that they apparently didn’t know anything, because Kindan had to reinvent various methods after coming to certain conclusions while being thrown into the middle of a plague situation. Stuff that the Healers presumably could or should have already known. But now, we’re talking about steam and heat sterilization of linens like it is common knowledge now, and always has been. Even though it didn’t get used at all when it would have been the most useful.

The only thing that’s different here is the degree to which the new author is contradicting themselves and daring us to point it out to them, compared to the previous author’s occasional attempts to hide it or pretend like nothing has happened. The usual issues apply of “where were the editors?” “where were the proofers?” and, most importantly, “where is the series continuity check?” Not that any of that matters, really, I suppose, but it is very much a thing that might cause someone expecting consistency to tear their hair out. And then the narrative trolls us, probably unintentionally, when there is talk about whether they can use the same knowledge Lorana and Kindan were taught to figure out whether or not the dragon clutch sizes are the new normal or not.

Kindan frowned. “I’m not sure how much of our knowledge of Wind Blossom is accurate; it seems that watch-whers were created more by design than by mistake.” He held up a hand to contain T’mar’s objections. “I think our Records from the times were purposely misleading.”
Weyrleader and Weyrwoman gave him shocked looks.
“It wouldn’t be the first time that Records were changed according to the feeling of the times,” Kindan said.
Fiona made a face and nodded in agreement. “I saw plenty of that in the Records at Igen,” she said. “It was obvious that those writing the Records had their own views of things.”
“And, as they were writing the Records, those were the views that are remembered,” T’mar said with an understanding nod of his own. “But that still doesn’t answer our question now.”

Well, that’s the first I’ve explicitly heard someone say that the Records are opinionated. Of course, it would be true, as all the Records that we have of our own times and places are opinionated, even if some of them want to say they don’t have bias or opinion, but what gets in and what stays out are definitely things that show opinion about the importance of whatever is being written about. It is interesting to see Kindan fairly unconcerned about the fact that the historical record of a time is being rewritten to re-suit the beliefs of a more modern era, and Fiona to give a negative opinion about the beliefs expressed in the Records she saw. Since Igen was The Asshole’s before he merged with Telgar, I can see why Fiona might not want to agree with those opinions about anything, even though supposedly the Weyrwoman is the one who is writing Records, at least for the most part. I would have expected the Harpers, the keepers of the supposedly static culture, to be a lot more upset about the fact that their historical records are being altered, but Kindan doesn’t seem bothered by it. What a difference the future will be, then, when there’s at least some idea of resisting the Harpers or that someone gets so nervous about his daughter’s musical ability that he looks for any excuse at all to hurt her and try to divert her away from the path of making catchy tunes.

Also, if the information in the Records is opinionated and biased, how does anyone looking at them know whether what they’re seeing is truth or BS, unless they regularly make comparisons between one set of Records and another? So tell me again why the Weyrs have to keep their Records separated?

As it is, the consistent low numbers has Lorana exceptionally concerned that the cure they came up with is having an unintended side effect of early and light clutching, and Tullea stops by in person to twist the knife on Lorana about it. Which nearly earns her getting slapped by Fiona, but Fiona stops just in time. Fiona tells her to be grateful she’s got a queen egg, as Talenth didn’t lay one. For that charity, Tullea says “I’m sure they’re all greens, given the way they were mated.” and Fiona shows restraint again by not pounding Tullea into the ground for that particular insult.

Supposedly, Tullea’s behavior was much improved by no longer being stuck in time, at least for the amount of time that they knew Tullea was twice around. There’s always the possibility that Tullea is still twice-in-time somewhere, but Tullea has really had her worst traits aggravated and made into her single point of characterization, to the point where she’s going after Lorana for nonsensical reasons. There’s no reason for this, though, narratively-speaking, it’s just there to have Tullea be terrible at Lorana.

And while Kindan and Fiona are trying to comfort her, Kindan mentions that the Records have plenty of mentions of multiple partnerships, which again makes me wonder what the fuck is the problem with this arrangement, then, if there’s all this evidence and Records and everyone seems to have known that this is the sort of thing that could have existed and did exist already. It’s starting to become more and more apparent that the only plot that doesn’t depend on people ignoring the evidence in front of them or behaving in ways that would seem to be strongly out of character for the amount of information available to them is the one about the dragons all dying off and needing to figure out some way of replenishing their ranks. Which is going to have some sort of time-travel solution involved.

In any case, the chapter ends with Fiona studying T’mar and having a little bit of angst about whether she should just leave Lorana and Kindan and just be partnered with T’mar, to which she gets a chide from Lorana (presumably, it doesn’t explicitly say who is telling her to stop) about her line of thinking. To which Fiona buries it and frets about what might happen if anybody got seriously hurt of killed, rider or dragon, and marvels about how Lorana can keep taking the pain of every dragon dying and still keep moving each day. (And also, that Fiona still expects two women in love with the same man to be an “endless well of jealousy and betrayal”, which it hasn’t been for her and Lorana, mostly because I still think Lorana has been on board with shipping Kindan and Fiona for a good long while.) Fiona eventually concludes there must be some counterweight of joy to all of the sorrow and eventually slips off to sleep at the end of the chapter.

We’re starting to work harder on the plot of the dying dragons at this point, and there’s only a few more chapters to go, so hopefully we’ll be done with this and then on to the next soon. I’m getting tired of characters not talking to each other, not taking what the others have to say as true, given a long track record of meaning what they say, and for characters to not behave in any way consistent with the setting that they have been put into and the logical conclusions that would be drawn from that. I can see why people who might have loved the original author’s materials (or at least be more willing to tolerate it) could be entirely put off by the new author’s take on everything. I wonder what the relative weightings of transformative fanworks are for the original First/Sixth/Ninth Pass settings are compared to this Third Pass setting.

Deconstruction Roundup for April 24th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has switched from a time where there is no work to a time where it seems acceptable to demand a full work week in a remote manner.)

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.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 not entirely sure when the long now will end and things will start moving back toward the way they were, for better or worse. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Reinforcements Have Arrived

Last time, all of the Weyrleaders and several selected Craftmasters and Lords learned that the dragons are going to die out from Thread attrition before the end of this Pass, long before they get the opportunity to reinforce their ranks with new weyrlings from all the mating flights that have been happening in the last few chapters. To have an opportunity to get there, the dragonriders are going to have to suffer less than two casualties for every Threadfall until their reinforcements are ready. Theres a plan involving using time travel to reinforce everyone that hasn’t proven it’s going to work, because nobody has observed it working yet.

Dragongirl: Chapter 15: Content Notes:

Weyrfolk, keep your riders true,
Help them to their battle hew.
Aid them, keep their troubles few
And thus thus grow their strength anew.

(Telgar Weyr, the next morning, AL 508.2.16)

Three new wings, headed by J’lantir, arrives at Telgar, with weyrfolk in tow, but Shaneese says there have been enough of their Telgar Weyrfolk willing to go south to warmer climates that there’s plenty of space for the incoming riders and staff. (Shaneese has also apparently been cleaning out the new spaces at as high a speed as possible to make sure that there’s housing for all of the new riders.

Fiona, for her own part, has been continuing to try and work through what the hell is going on with her quad. Lorana, for her part, seems to be consistent that things are fine and will continue to be that way.

She hadn’t expected to find Kindan awake; she’d been avoiding him, not certain if she would ever find the courage to discover if his prior passion was only dragon-flamed, but Lorana practically threw them at each other, insisting that she had to help in the Kitchen Cavern.
In the morning, Fiona was surprised to find that Lorana had crept in with them sometime during the night.
“Are you all right?” Fiona asked as she felt Lorana shift against her.
“I’m fine,” Lorana said.
“You are?” Fiona asked. Confused, she added, “Then why did you…you don’t mind?”
“No,” Lorana said.
[…Lorana also says she knows that Fiona would step in and raise her child if something happened to her, that she would happily raise any children of Fiona’s, no matter who the father was, and that Kindan loves Fiona…]
“I thought he loved me for my sister, for Koriana,” Fiona said.
“Maybe once,” Lorana said. “But after the mating flight, no.”
“But he doesn’t seem to notice me!”
“Notice you?” Lorana asked, smiling.
“I mean, until last night.”
“He did,” Lorana said. “But I don’t think he understands yet.”
“That he loves me?”
Lorana shook her head. “That he doesn’t have to choose.”
“I always thought that I would be married to a Lord Holder, one man, and maybe one love,” Fiona said.
“So did I,” Lorana said. “And I think I’ve found him.” She made a face as Fiona started to protest. “He wouldn’t be the man I love, if he weren’t in love with you, too.”

Well, there’s some actual confirmation (finally) about what the expectations were for Fiona regarding marriage and the likelihood that she would be allowed to officially have lovers other than her husband, even if she might practically have lovers other than her husband. And that Kindan, as a Harper, seems to have been mostly on the same page about all of this, and that he’s chosen Lorana as his one-and-only. And Lorana apparently also thought this, but has since come around to a different way of doing things. And Fiona is currently practically doing things a different way, more than happily jumping into bed with Kindan when Lorana presents the opportunity. And Kindan is apparently also happily taking advantage of Fiona’s availability and Lorana’s willingness to leave them alone.

We had a book with Lorana, and yet, I don’t remember there being anything in her personality that suggested she would be okay with sharing Kindan with anyone. And, as should probably be mentioned, Fiona’s still sixteen and everyone else in her quad is significantly older than she is. Which is not the sort of thing that’s going to necessarily result in very healthy relationships unless, say, there’s a lot of talking going on, and that’s not happening at all with these three. Lorana seems to think that by giving her permission for everything, the hard parts are all done, when it really means the hard parts are just beginning.

Not to mention that there’s still the whole matter of Fiona and Lorana’s telepathy, which they’re going to talk to Zist about, and also, that Lorana wants to keep her pregnancy a secret and…maybe wait until Fiona is pregnant, too?

“Did you tell him about the baby?”
“No,” Lorana said, amusement spilling out of her voice. “I was hoping we could present him with a double event, as it were.”
Fiona giggled. “That would be nice.”

I mean, it reads to me like Lorana is telling Fiona to wait to tell Kindan about her pregnancy until Fiona is pregnant as well, which adds an extra-special amount of NOPE to this. If so,

Cocowhat by depizan

I can’t imagine that going over well with Kindan at all. “Surprise, honey! I’m pregnant! You’re the father!”

“Surprise, lover! I’m pregnant! You’re probably the father!”

“Now you don’t have to choose between either of us! We’ll all be together, letting the Weyr raise our children.”

That, no, that’s not the way to keep a relationship. Babies are not a way to keep a relationship from cracking apart. In fact, they’re really good at breaking relationships. Not to mention, again, that Fiona is sixteen, as she will shortly remind us, and childbirth in a pastiche like Pern is dangerous, and possibly even deadly.

Cocowhat by depizan

The fractalness of the wrong. It’s huge.

Getting back to the plot, J’lantir arrives, Fiona notes that the preparations to make the riders used to warmer climate feel at homeand warm up will be appreciated, and introductions are made. First with J’lantir, then with C’tov, who is leading the delegation from High Reaches. The narrative shifts to T’mar being upset that things are happening and he’s not there to lead them, which mostly has Fiona and Lorana both threaten to sit on him (or have Birentir sit on him) until he’s well, pointing out that the Records are abundantly clear that the Weyrleader being in recovery is not a new thing. Realizing he’s outgunned, T’mar gives up, but suggests that his dragon could certainly use some exercise. Which lets out that Fiona and Lorana talk telepathically to each other as the four discuss the possibility of Kindan and Lorana on Zirenth, engaging in observation and reporting about how the Threadfall goes, since dragons are apparently not that great on details. So now it’s exercise for Zirenth to fly and for Fiona and Lorana to practice their telepathy. Jeila, T’mar, and Fiona discuss who should be in the lead for the Threadfall on the next day, based on their drilling, and Fiona says it should be J’lantir, based on performance. Jeila reluctantly concurs, based on his performance and his experience at leading, but that leaves H’nez disappointed. (Earlier, in an unquoted bit, H’nez acknowledged he was outranked by J’lantir.) For the most part, though, they acknowledge that as H’nez’s problem, and both Weyrwomen shout down T’mar’s suggestion at letting H’nez lead the contingent soon to arrive from Fort, because if J’lantir is going to lead, he needs to be able to arrange everyone as he sees fit, and because since everyone is now assigned to Telgar, they need to mix themsleves with each other and build strong bonds so they all think of themselves as Telgar riders.

Lorana and Kindan return on Zirenth, and Fiona chides them for having been chewing firestone and spitting flame, which Lorana and Kindan tease her right back about being jealous of flaming dragons. Eventually, both J’lantir and H’nez arrive for new orders. The important one is to integrate under J’lantir’s leadership as soon as possible. Secondarily, Fiona’s going to train Lorana and Kindan as much as possible about recognition points and the other parts of riding a flaming dragon that they’ll need, with the apparent assumption all around that eventually Kindan will have a dragon of his own, so he’s getting the training first, that’s all.

Finally, since it’s a night fall, there’s going to be a mission to go to Nuella and see if Kindan, Lorana, and Fiona (who dares anyone to tell her not to go) can figure out useful coordination between the watch-whers and the dragons so as to have a better night Fall without the terrible casualties that happened the last time the two tried to coordinate. Fiona also hears bits of people talking about her like she’s become impressive, based on her ability to attract quality talent to Telgar Weyr consistently. Fiona downplays this as a silly idea, but Jeila and Terin seem to believe it seriously.

The meeting with Nuella and Zenor goes well, starting off with resolving for Zenor what’s been going on lately.

“So, have you discovered the identity of your secret admirer?”
“I have,” Kindan said. He gestured toward Lorana on his other side. “And this is Lorana.”
“Ah?” Zenor said in surprise. “And…”
“It’s complicated,” Kindan said.
“Only to confused harpers,” Lorana said, reaching a hand forward to Zenor who shook it absently.
[…the circumstances of the situation are explained enough that Zenor and Nuella can deduce the results…]
“Shards, Kindan!” Zenor said, his eyes going wide. “Only you would have partnered with the two most amazing women on Pern!”
“Present company excluded, of course,” Kindan added with a half-bow toward Nuella.
“He bowed at you, Momma,” the girl said.
“I know, Nalla,” Nuella assured her daughter easily. “He learned manners at the Harper Hall.”

I do like Nuella getting in that dig at her husband about who he thinks are the most amazing women on Pern, but also, Zenor was the one who was all about Fiona having as many lovers as she wanted to have, so him having a certain amount of shock that there is actual polyamory going on seems a bit out of character. Unless, of course, he was putting on bravado with Fiona and is now shocked to find out that his advice actually worked, albeit not for the person he was giving the advice to. Well, he doesn’t know that it actually seems to have worked for Fiona, too. And he also doesn’t know that both of them are also having significant amounts of doubts and worries about the whole enterprise of having multiple lovers. So maybe his shock is just “Holy shit, that actually worked? I mean, of course it worked. I’m Zenor, and my advice never fails.”

Coordination with the watch-whers is definietly a go, in that Lorana can also talk to all the watch-whers as well as all the dragons. Which means that Fiona and Lorana can feed Nuella with images of what the dragons and humans see, Kindan can talk about the battelfield conditions, and Nuella can coordinate the watch-wher response and what the whers see so as to maximize the effectiveness of the dragons. Because all of them are putting their specialized talents into the field, Zenor and Fiona suggest that Lorana, Kindan, Nuella, and Zirenth come out to all four of the upcoming night Threadfalls to serve as an effective comms tower for all of them. Kindan can keep his eyes out for Thread approaching their position, Lorana can relay and coordinate the dragons, and Nuella can relay and coordinate the watch-whers.

Fiona, of course, is worried about Lorana and Kindan and wants them to stay safe. While still at the wherhold, she channels it into trying to get Sula’s dainty recipe out of her, but that tactic fails, and Fiona’s worry continues to mount all the way through seeing everyone off to their Threadfall. The first one isn’t that bad, although that means Kindan gets to continue seeing what lost dragons do to Lorana. It also means, however, that in addition to a blue dragon, J’lantir gets Threaded too much and disappears to hyperspace to die, his part in the plot over, which puts H’nez in charge in a battlefield promotion. (Thankfully, this had been discussed beforehand in an unquoted bit, so it’s not like the line of succession hadn’t already been planned.) Those two are the only fatalities, and there are only four injured, which is still more than the allowable casualty limit, and as best as is described to us, no riders start warping in from other times, so the desperation plan still hasn’t actually happened yet. At the time afterward, when Fiona can finally make it to her bed, Kindan is already there, and there’s grief sex between Fiona and Kindan, Lorana keeping watch over T’mar and thus conveniently not there.

Throwing despair away for passion, Fiona let her hands flow over his warm body, and had the reassuring pleasure of his hands moving in response. Slowly tehy maneuvered, touching, moving, silently, passionately.
Long afterward, Fiona reached a hand up to his cheek and stroked it gently. Kindan cupped her hand with his and smiled down at her.
“Three times,” he told her with a smile.
Fiona chuckled and raised an eyebrow in challenge.

Which, yes, grief sex is a thing, and the three of you are in a relationship, and Lorana doesn’t mind, but if the way that this is going to work is essentially that everyone is going to conveniently not be around each other when there’s sex involved, then that’s a thing that should probably be talked about and agreed to. Or at least mentioned, since Kindan and Fiona are the ones having the big hangups about the whole situation. Also, Lorana will also have her own grief to process, several magnitudes worse because she’s the one that gets to hear and feel everything that happens when the dragons die. Is Kindan also planning on having grief sex with her as well? Will Lorana want that? These are the sorts of things that help make relationships like this go, and it’s really feeling more and more like T’mar and Lorana are the secondary partners to Fiona and Kindan being partnered with each other. Which could also be a thing that gets talked about – maybe that’s what Lorana actually wants. Maybe she wants Fiona and Kindan to develop the strongest, most primary of the relationships, and then for Kindan to have Lorana as a secondary partner and for Fiona to have T’mar as a Weyrleader partner and then everyone is happy. But we don’t know, because nobody is fucking talking to each other. I realize I’m sounding like a record that skips back to the same place, but it seems like everyone is forging ahead in this relationship without the slightest thought given toward trying to figure out what everyone actually wants out of their relationships and whether they’re really, truly, okay with things the way they are. If they want this relationship to explode in a fireball, with very hurt feelings all around, this is exactly the way to proceed, but presumably, everyone wants things to work out okay, and that means engaging in a lot more communication than is actually going on.

T’mar is getting restless and wanting to push himself, but Fiona and Birentir tell him to take it slowly or else. At the time of the next Fall, however, T’mar has a mind to show Fiona that he can also keep up his end of the relationship as well.

“In the meantime, perhaps you’d care for a demonstration of my newly regained strength.”
Fiona gave him an arch look. “Are you so desperate to put yourself in a coma?”
T’mar snorted. “Really, Weyrwoman, I think you overestimate yourself.”
“Probably,” Fiona agreed. “But there are some experiments I’m not willing to try.”
T’mar’s expression softened at the tone in her voice. “So, exactly what experiments are you willing to try?”
Fiona snorted and waved for him to precede her into his quarters.
[…Lorana, Kindan, and Zirenth come back smelling of firestone, which puts T’mar on alert about how poorly things went…]
“You were in touch with Zirenth so much you nearly distracted him.”
“You were?” Fiona said, glaring at the Weyrleader. “Even while we…?”
“No, not then,” T’mar assured her hastily.
“I’m sorry,” Fiona said to Lorana, “if I had realized he was interfering, I would have distracted him more fully.”
“Don’t,” Lorana said with a smile for T’mar, “you’ll only encourage him.”
Kindan’s features sharpened grimly as he absorbed their banter, eyeing Fiona appraisingly. Fiona sensed that he was disappointed somehow and her elated mood evaporated.

You see, these are the sorts of things that are worth talking about in a relationship. Did anyone discuss whether Fiona and T’mar should have sex outside of mating flights? Did anyone discuss whether Kindan actually wants to hear about what Fiona is getting up to with T’mar? Does T’mar want to hear about what Fiona gets up to with Kindan? Does Lorana want to know everything, don’t hold back a single detail, Fiona? Does Fiona want to know if Lorana and Kindan are still having sex? These are things that need to be negotiated so that the relationship can be to the comfort of the people in it, or so that the people in the relationship can say they’re not comfortable with the terms being set and back out or re-set their exepctations and the amount of involvement they have in the relationship. Would T’mar and Kindan both object if Fiona decided to have a fling with someone else in the Weyr? Who knows?

It’s not like they’re the first relationship of this type, either, even though the author seems to be writing them that way. Cisca and Fiona both admitted as such in an earlier chapter, and yet, there doesn’t seem to have been any sort of acknowledgement that there might be wisdom in talking with people who have tried it before to get their advice about whether to form one of their own and what some of the pitfalls of that kind of relationship might be. Of course, that would mean the author would have to do some research into how these things work, instead of letting their id flow freely on the page and assuming or handwaving away any inconvenient details that don’t work with the plot. Which, fine, that’s the author’s decision to make, but, at least in my opinion, that hurts the story more than it helps, because now it’s just one more poor representation in fiction of a group that’s already marginalized outside of it.

Getting back to the plot, the last Fall was well over the line for casualties. As time goes on, Fiona notices that Kindan’s attitude toward her is getting significantly colder and more distant when relaying casualty numbers and going out to fly. Which only gets much worse after the next Fall, which also has casualties over the line. Fiona doesn’t understand why Kindan’s suddenly gotten very cold to her and confides in T’mar that she thinks Kindan hates her. T’mar agrees with her assessment, and points out that she’s the only one that he can safely hate, as Lorana feels all of their losses, and Kindan already hates himself more than enough. Fiona is “a living reminder of all his faults and failings”, and T’mar thinks that Kindan is afraid of loving her, a situation that he confesses to, as well, even though he adds that Fiona is impossible not to love. (Turns out that M’tal and T’mar talked a significant amount before he left for Ista, and those conversations turned out to have been relevant for both M’tal and T’mar, although neither of them knew it at the time, and for different reasons.) T’mar teases Fiona about figuring out a way to express her love for everyone, and Fiona tells T’mar to get his beauty rest, and at that point, the chapter ends.

Someone really needs to get these four talking with each other, in a judgment-free environment, preferably with a trained professional (that Pern doesn’t have) facilitating and making sure everyone understands each other’s positions and desires. If not that, each of them individually could use a counselor or confidante.

More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for April 17th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is still contemplating trying to figure out how their time sheet works with these new working environs.)

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.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 have done your due diligence about keeping the economy running, and would like to start making money to cover all of the money that you’ve just spent. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Difficult People

Last time, Fiona got a lot of advice about her burgeoning polyamory, much of which just pissed her off or did not help alleviate her anxieties at all. Before revealing that this triad wasn’t as uncharted of territory as we have all been thinking, just that there weren’t many examples where everything ended well. So everything is not only complicated, there’s a lot of blame to go around for nobody communicating about something they most definitely have needed to communicate about. The one possibly good thing about this is that the Weyrs are finally starting to live up to their reputation as sexual libertines, but even that’s a stretch.

In addition to the tangle that is Fiona’s personal life, there’s still the problem that normal attrition is still going to wipe out the dragon population by the end of the Pass, leaving the planet basically defenseless unless they can figure out how to compress time and make enough dragons to keep things going.

Dragongirl: Chapter 14: Content Notes:

Sands heat,
Dragons prove.
Times meet,
Eggs move.

(Telgar Weyr, morning, AL 508.2.15)

Well, I assume that’s about hatching, but you never know what secret meanings are in poetry fragments and songs.

The chapter opens by proving Fiona and Mekiar right – Berentir has finally obtained the correct state of mind to be a decent healer. T’mar is apparently the terrible patient now. Birentir suggests this combative personality may be an effect from the head wound, and tells Fiona more privately that if T’mar isn’t his usual self in about a sevenday, she should send out immediately for the Masterhealer. And that T’mar needs to sleep and rest more than he is, which Fiona agrees with.

All the same, however, there’s a meeting of the Weyrleaders scheduled at Telgar in deference to T’mar’s need to not move and rest, which won’t be helping do any of that resting at all.

The healer nodded unhappily. He had reluctantly consented to Fiona’s suggestion only when she’d included the Masterhealer among the attendees. She was glad that he’d agreed: The man had visibly mellowed in the past two days, but he still had trouble thinking of her as anything else than a tall lass of thirteen Turns with her father’s lordly airs.

We’ve discussed some about how everyone is resistant to thinking of Fiona as three Turns older than they think she is, and it’s mostly because all of the long prose is contained in a very short amount of time, not counting the skip-back that Fiona did. At this point, though, she’s been established as the Weyrwoman of Telgar officially, so that’s going to have to start changing. Maybe Shaneese can help with that, since she’s a stellar henchwoman. All the same, while Mekiar spun it as a positive, it’s still true that Fiona has a knack for attracting people to herself that have significant difficulty accepting her as someone who has already been doing the job for a long time, or that like to bring up childhood anecdotes, or that otherwise continually infantilize and belittle her. Fiona handles them in turn, of course, but it has to be exhausting for her to have so many people in her Weyr constantly second-guessing her and questioning her. Her peer Weyrwomen, such as they are, seem pretty inclined to be worse about it than the people who have worked with her enough to know what’s going on, rather than supportive of Fiona as one of their own. I have a feeling that a lot of women who are in positions of power or authority understand Fiona’s situation all too well, and are probably also making the decisions to bring on talented and impressive people, even though they know it’s going to be hell having to deal with their constant condescension and second-guessing.

There’s an additional complication to all of this, and it comes with someone else joining the polyamory department. Sort of. M’tal hopped off to help out at Ista and make sure there were enough bronzes for their mating flight, and his Gaminth ended up as the victorious bronze, so now M’tal is the Istan Weyrleader instead of an experienced bronze rider around to help Fiona out.

“I thought he loved Salina!” Kindan had exclaimed angrily when Lorana told them that M’tal’s Gaminth had flown Istan Dalia’s Bidenth, making him Weyrleader of the southernmost Weyr. Salina had been M’tal’s mate for Turns; her queen was the first to die of the sickness.
“He does,” Lorana assured him with a puzzled look at his outburst.
“ ’How big is your heart,’ ” Fiona breathed to herself. She realized that M’tal, in giving her advice, may have also been advising himself.

So now we have not one, but two MFF triads (sort of – T’mar-Fiona-Kindan-Lorana is really a quad, but the thing that’s causing the greatest grief in their quad is the Fiona-Kindan-Lorana triad) both of them came about through the machinations of mating flights, both of them have a former queen rider as the first woman in the relationship, and both of them involve an established relationship adding a Weyrwoman. I wonder how many of the parallels of their relationships are going to be deliberate and how many are going to be accidental. We’ll have to see, won’t we?

Also, I would like to draw your attention to the different reactions between Kindan and Lorana at this news. Lorana is, for all intents and purposes, on board with this idea and accepts it as a normal reality. Kindan is hella confused, which suggests to me that he’s having the same issues in his own situation. He loves Lorana, but he’s also got Fiona in the mix as someone that Lorana, at least, thinks is good for them both, and his participation in a mating flight with Lorana involved having sex with Fiona, who apparently didn’t get it out of her system by finally having sex with who she thought was unattainable and who Lorana wants to keep around, even though Fiona presumably also has a Weyrleader that she loves and will probably also have some amount of fun sexytimes with once he’s able to participate in that kind of thing. Not to mention, Fiona is the kid sister of the girl he crushed hard on and who was ripped away from him by the plague, which can’t be good for him in trying to figure out whether he’s attracted to Fiona because of who she is, or because he sees her as the closest thing to Koriana he’ll ever get, or whether he’s not actually attracted to Fiona at all, but is instead wanting to keep her close because he doesn’t want to lose Fiona as a link to Koriana, or some other thing. In some other work, there would probably also be a very valid concern about how old Fiona is compared to himself and Lorana, and whether that’s taking advantage of her or whether the supposed differences in their maturity levels will cause problems or not, but this is Pern, and Pern doesn’t care about age gaps. Kindan’s probably not sure at all as to where he sits in relation to both Lorana and Fiona, and so I think he’s expressing that confusion by commenting on the apparent disconnect between M’tal loving Salina and his new partnership with Dalia.

Furthermore, of the seven people mentioned in these two polyamorous setups, Kindan’s the only one who hasn’t ever had a dragon, so until Lorana pulled him along for the ride for Zirenth’s mating flights, Kindan had precisely zero knowledge and experience about what it’s like to be gestalting with a dragon, and how much control you actually have when those things are going on. And while he’s been Weyr Harper for a while, I get the distinct feeling he’s not been as immersed in Weyr culture as we might want him to be, because doing so might rob him of Harper objectivity and ability to spy and report where needed. He’s not expected to ever be in a situation where he might be having sex with someone he didn’t fully consensually choose to have sex with, so he’s got no frame of reference as to how the situation that he finds himself in or what happened with M’tal is supposed to go, and what’s normal and what isn’t.

For that matter, neither do we, as the readers. Up until this point, Weyrleader-Weyrwoman on screen was basically monogamous, heterosexual, exclusive, and loving, although Moreta gave us at least a tease of an idea where it might be possible for a Weyrwoman to have a business relationship with her Weyrleader and take a lover that excited her, but the idea never went anywhere because it appeared to be the sort of thing that might cause strife and dissension in the ranks at a time where they needed to be unified. So we’re all in territory that’s been hinted at, suggested, teased, but never actually made explicit until this point, with the closest things we’ve gotten are one-off threesomes framed as nothing more than sex and an offhand mention that those kind of relationships existed, but they’ve always been off-screen, and most of them haven’t gone over well at all. We’re all feeling our way through things, despite the idea that something like this could (and possibly should) have been established or fixed well before this point in the canon. Perhaps it is a function of the 20th/21st c. Terran audience being ready for this kind of thing in their narrative that has brought it about. (They’re still all sucking at it, because nobody’s talking.)

Getting back to the plot, Kindan and Lorana went to Benden to retrieve the things they had received to have the ability to rewrite the dragon genetic code and stop the dragon plague before going to Ista, and now that they’ve come back to Telgar, they want to go to Tillek to throw them back into the water from whence they came. Fiona accompanies them, and they meet Lord Disaller of Tillek to ask him where to go so they can summon the dolphins and give them the packages for safekeeping. Disaller knows about the dolphins, and in a few call backs, references the ship Lorana was on at the beginning of her adventure (and the new one being built at Half-Circle Sea Hold (hi, future home of Menolly) will be named after her) and suggests that whales also made the crossing to Pern, although Disaller only refers to them as the “Deep Ones” and suggests they are equally as helpful as the dolphins are. As it turns out, they ring the bell, the dolphins come and take back the packages, and Lorana, Fiona, Kindan, and Disaller are treated to a relatively close view of several of the Deep Ones (who spout water out of themselves like a blowhole would). Lorana relays the communication from the whales and the dolphins as best she understands, since both of them are at least a little telepathic (having been given mentasynth all the way back in the books that covered Landing and First Fall) and Lorana is apparently a pan-species universal telepathic receiver.

After dropping off the equipment at Tillek, the three go to High Reaches Weyr, where Kindan and Lorana visit the Records Room alone, apparently to deposit material in there rather than retrieve anything. After that, it’s back to Telgar, where the plot jumps forward to the grand meeting, which not only contains Weyrleaders, but selected Craftmasters and Lord Holders as well so as to have a more rounded picture of what planetary defense is going to look like in the sequence to come. One of the Lords in attendance is Gadran of Bitra, and as is tradition, the Bitran Lord always ends up showing or having shown their ass in the past.

Kindan smiled. “That’s when he [Lord Bemin] was planning to install you as the next Lord Holder of Fort, so he was currying favor,” he told her. Shaking his head, he added, “Gadran has too many sons to ever consider such an outrageous idea.”
“So how ever did he approve of Lady Nerra?” Lorana asked.
“It doesn’t take a majority to seat a Lord Holder,” Fiona told her.
“Lord Gadran was the leader and sole member of the vocal minority,” Kindan noted.

I think “majority” here is a misprint, or someone using the wrong word at this juncture, based on the follow-up. Because “it doesn’t take a majority,” to be accurate, would mean that the vocal minority of one wasn’t enough to turn it down, so there were more than one affirmative votes to install Nerra, but there weren’t so many of them as to call it a majority, which suggests the option of Lord Holders to vote “present” or some other indication where they don’t approve or deny. So long as there are more votes to approve than to deny, even if there’s a honking huge swath of people with no opinion, the matter passes and even those who are neutral are bound by the decision? That seems like the perfect recipe for some very terrible politicking to get things passed that would hurt the majority and privilege only a few by getting just enough people to pass it and the rest to stay out of it, even though they know it will hurt them. Possibly with backroom deals?

It makes a lot more sense if the sentence is supposed to read something like “it doesn’t take a unanimity” or “it doesn’t take a unanimous decision” to seat a Lord Holder, which would allow for the very vocal minority of one to vote against and for the measure to pass, probably requiring a majority to do so. Or if the way that a Lord Holder gets seated is that all of the current Lords put forward names of who they want to see seated, and then all the Lords vote at once, and the person who gets the most votes gets seated in that spot. Which seems like the sort of thing that’s likely to create a Pirate King deadlock, with everyone voting for their candidate and nobody getting seated unless enough Lords can agree with each other on who to vote for to seat. It makes you wonder what the backroom deals of Lords are, but since this series has always focused on everybody except the Lords in detail, I doubt we’ll ever know.

As the guests begin to arrive, Lorana pretty nicely gets Kindan to recognize some of his own hypocrisy.

“By your leave, Weyrwoman, my lady and I will start conveying the Lord Holders to this meeting.”
“Who first?” Fiona wondered, feeling oddly stung at Kindan’s reference to Lorana as his lady. “Please, not Gadran!”
Kindan snorted. “You haven’t been so ill-behaved recently as to deserve that fate.”
“Thank the First Egg!”
“I think, with your permission, it will be your father–”
“And his lady,” Lorana added.
“I’d hardly think that Kelsa would accept being anyone’s lady!” Kindan said with a laugh.
“Yet you claim me,” Lorana retorted in a low voice.
Kindan looked surprised and groped for words, saying “I–I only thought–”
“You didn’t think, I’d say,” Fiona cut him off. She waved a hand toward Zirenth. “You’d best go.”
Sort it out later. Fiona wasn’t sure if this was Talenth, Lorana agreeing with her, or her own voice talking to Lorana. From the surprised look on Lorana’s face, it was clear that the older woman was just as unsure.

At this point, it looks like the most difficult part of sharing Kindan is going to be Kindan himself. Not that Fiona isn’t going to have significant angst about it, but she’s much further along toward coming to a good conclusion about what’s happening and being willing to sit in the pocket of “I love them both, so I’ll have them both for as long as they’ll both have me.” Kindan’s still at the point of “do I actually want to be in this relationship, and how is it going to be structured?” Is Kindan monogamous? Is he imagining this as a relationship where Lorana is his primary partner and Fiona a mating flight partner? We don’t know, and since we’re not in his head, we can only go by what he says, which isn’t much in Fiona’s hearing. He clearly hasn’t envisioned Lorana in the same mold as Kelsa which makes sense, because Kelsa and Nonala became apprentices at the Harper Hall and proceeded to take as little shit as they could from the rest of the apprentices. Although, Kindan played White Knight there, too, so maybe Kindan has a mentality where he wants to protect the people he’s in a relationship with. Lorana, he can, because she doesn’t have her dragon any more. Fiona, on the other hand, still does, and so maybe she’s outside his model of people that he can have a relationship with, because Fiona can fend for her self, and also wields a significant amount of power on her own.

After sending off Kindan and Lorana, Norik comes to Fiona to request that he be transferred to Benden Weyr, which Fiona is entirely on board with, before M’tal arrives from Ista earlier than expected. H’nez comes dashing up to make sure that tradition is satisfied, but Fiona is not having it.

“It’s traditional for the Weyrleader to greet guests,” H’nez said from the corner of his mouth as they approached the new Istan Weyrleader, putting up a cautioning hand and moving ahead of Fiona.
“Bronze rider,” Fiona said tartly, her hand grabbing his and pulling him back, “in case you haven’t noticed, I make my own traditions.”
“As you will,” H’nez said with a resigned sigh.

Which means Fiona dashes over to M’tal and gives him a crushing hug as greeting. They trade a little banter about how there’s still plenty of time for things to go pear-shaped before M’tal introduces Dalia and Salina.

“You, on the other hand,” Fiona said, “have been quite busy.” She glanced over toward Bidenth and was surprised to see not one but two women dismounting. Her expression cleared instantly and she turned to him with a look of contrition and pride. “Have you found how big your heart is?”
“Let us say that I’ve discovered that it is bigger than I thought,” M’tal replied, his voice soft and sounding troubled in the admission.
“And,” he added, “for all my Turns, I’ve discovered that you and I have much in common.” His eyes twinkled as he declared, “I should have told you that in my youth, I was considered something of a rebel.”
[…Fiona is amused, and M’tal introduces both Dalia and Salina to Fiona and H’nez…]
She wasn’t sure she agreed with Salina [that Fiona has “done more than most to make good [Lorana’s] loss”]; she cast a glance toward Dalia and wondered if the Weyrwoman had the same misgivings about her queen’s mating flight with M’tal’s Gaminth as she had with her Talenth’s mating flight with Zirenth. For all that Lorana denied it, Fiona was still not certain that the ex-queen rider was unhurt by Fiona’s mating-flight relationship with Kindan. And, deeper inside herself, Fiona was still not sure if her own heart was big enough to share a love.

These are normal doubts, and I think that even if Lorana point-blank told Fiona and Kindan that she specifically arranged to have them near each other for when the mating flight happened so that she could have them both, Fiona would still have doubts and misgivings about the situation. But it would go a long way toward opening up the necessary conversation that still hasn’t happened yet.

The rest of the scene is some banter about Jelia and who she’s staying with, Dalia deciding to go have a work with Birentir about his new assignment, and M’tal and Fiona going to see T’mar, who reiterates that he doesn’t have enough dragons to do his job and entreats M’tal to get people to spare Telgar some. Then they go to the meeting, where Verilan has pretty sobering news. Specifically, that soon enough, the number of dragons available to fight will be below the bare minimums noted in the Records. H’nez suggests that all that’s needed, then, is for the current crop to fight more efficiently and hold out long enough for the queens to lay, the eggs to hatch, and the new weyrlings to mature long enough to be considered effective fighters, which is a longer time period than their bare minimum of being old enough to fight, as the Records suggest that barely old enough dragons and riders take additional casualties than more seasoned and trained riders. Verilan points out there’s a bigger problem, however: long before clutching and hatching happens, there won’t be enough dragons to fight anywhere. At forty-seven weeks, there will be 59 fighting dragons. At which point Bekka pipes in that at thirty-eight weeks, they’ll be down to a single Flight (90 dragons) worldwide. There’s a certain amount of amusement at Bekka’s impertinence, even as Verilan actually manages to get her to (mostly) behave. Bekka and Terin are doing the calculations about how much better everyone has to get if they’re going to be able to ride out long enough to get reinforcements from hatchlings, which has Verilan suggest that Terin might do well apprenticed to the Harper Hall, which Fiona says she’ll suggest to Terin when the time comes.

The talk turns to mining the past to see if there’s something useful there. Mastersmith Zellany says they’ve got nothing but the “agenothree throwers inspired by Weyrwoman Fiona.” Tullea is unimpressed at the past’s help, and similarly unimpressed that Lorana and Kindan threw back technology from the past. H’nez shrugs, and the assembled Weyrleaders do agree to redistribute their dragons so that the places that are going to be doing the bulk of the fighting will have more dragons at their disposal. For their part, the Crafters and Holders say they’ll likely be able to provide better ground support, assuming the new flamethrower tech is effective and they get training.

“To be honest,” Lord Holder Bemin spoke up reluctantly, “we don’t really know how much better these new flamethrowers will perform until we’ve used them more.”
“I’m certain, my Lord, that they’ll do better than the old ones,” the Mastersmith said. “If only because your crews won’t have to worry about them exploding.”
That would be a relief,” Gadran said.

That might also mean getting more volunteers and being able to field more teams to find and dispatch burrows more effectively, if strapping on a flamethrower doesn’t have as much of a risk of a death sentence associated. (The old-style flamethrowers still don’t make any sense, given that they’re supposedly using a solid fuel.)

Tullea suggests time-twisting into the past again to give the next batch of weyrlings time to mature, but the idea is nixed as something that hasn’t already happened, and therefore won’t actually happen. M’tal suggests, instead, that fighting wings use time travel to appear when and where they are needed, and that they’ll need additional rest time in between time-travel fights. Which doesn’t violate any causality at this point, because nobody knows whether they’ve done it yet, because they haven’t seen themselves do it. Verilan lays out the likely schedule of how many Threadfalls each Weyr is going to have to fight, and a pact is made to provide extra support if needed to any Weyr that’s engaged in fighting.

Bekka calls back in with her and Terin’s calculations about casualty efficiency and says each Weyr has to lose two or less dragons in casualties that will take them out of the fight for the next Fall if there are to be enough dragons to catch up with the hatchlings. Verilan shakes his head at that number, given that no recorded Fall has ever had less than three casualties, and then goes to supervise calculating when each Weyr will fall below 90, according to the normal casualty patterns. M’tal senses the meeting has done what it need to and excuses himself to go train and prepare, and the meeting adjourns shortly afterward. The rest of the chapter is the goodbyes from the meeting, and Fiona having a shudder at someone having to deal with a night flight, and the possiblity that Kindan and Lorana might end up getting hurt if they have Zirenth out in a Threadfall. Joy and happiness for everyone, I guess.

So, one of the parallel plot lines is again that there’s a task that needs doing that requires the use of time travel to accomplish the impossible, and that it will be used in some novel way that’s not yet known. Then there’s also the plot line that is “Fiona’s personal life is a mess, and yet, in all of this, she has to run a Weyr.” Perhaps at some point, hopefully soon, everyone will get to sitting down and talking about things? Wouldn’t that be nice.

More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for April 10th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is contemplating trying to figure out how their time sheet works with these new working environs.)

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.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 somehow expected to do some amount of work that would primarily be public-facing while you’re still not able to face the public. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Entirely Appropriate Angst.

Last time, Fiona selected a cantankerous healer to be the Weyr Healer for Telgar, after dismissing him firmly when he mistook her for someone who didn’t know anything about anything. T’mar got moved around, Bekka got officially accepted to the Healer Hall, along with Seban, and right now, Tintoval is being delivered back to Fort Weyr safely, as promised.

Dragongirl, Chapter 13 (still), Content Notes:

Bekka has a slightly indignant squawk at appearing at Fort Weyr than the Healer Hall, but Fiona explains that she’s returning Tintoval, and that perhaps Bekka would like to talk with her mother first before dashing off to the Healer Hall. While the others are wondering about decorum, since Cisca appears to be on her way to greet the incoming party, Bekka pops off Talenth and dashes to her mother, hollering about how she’s going to be a Healer. Which neatly solves any problems about decorum. Cisca hustles the lot of them inside, and quizzes Fiona a bit about what her plans are and what Lorana’s plans are for the future. K’lior arrives soon after and inadvertently stirs the pot.

“Your’e not twitting her, are you?” K’lior asked Cisca after he’d had his first revitalizing sip of klah.
Cisca pretended not to know what he was talking about and K’lior snorted in response, telling Fiona, “She’s jealous, you know.”
“I am not!” Cisca said, her eyes flashing with anger.
“Just the other day, she said she wanted a group of men, too,” K’lior said, smiling wickedly at Fiona.
Fiona was out of her chair in an instant, her cheeks burning.
“Fiona!” Cisca called even as she batted at K’lior and Kindan and Lorana rose to follow the Telgar Weyrwoman. “I did not say that. I merely said that it must be hard–”
But Fiona merely turned back to her, saying carefully, “Weyrwoman, we’ve taken too much of your time,” before heading out to the Weyr Bowl and her queen.
Talenth! Tell Bekka and Seban we’re leaving!
“Fiona!” Lorana called form behind her. Fiona turned toward her, furious, her lips trembling. When Lorana caught up to her, she grabbed Fiona’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. “I don’t think she was trying to be mean. I think K’lior’s right: She’s just jealous.”
“Of what?” Fiona cried. “Of a mating flight?”
“No,” Lorana told her softly. “of us: what we are.”
“What are we?” Fiona asked quietly.
“Friends, I should hope,” Lorana said. “And more.”
“How can we be friends? We love the same person,” Fiona cried. She shook her head, tears flowing down her cheeks as she continued, “I can’t take him away from you, I swore I wouldn’t.” She looked up at Lorana. “Maybe it’s best if you and he were in another Weyr.”
“And what about T’mar?”
“I love him,” Fiona said, even as she realized, with the words, that he could be her anchor, he could save her from her misery.
[…Lorana asks about Zirenth and what happens with the dragon…]
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Well, that’s something you’re going to have to get over,” Lorana told her firmly. Fiona took a step back, straining at Lorana’s hold, her eyes wide. “If you love someone, you have to accept that sometimes you’ll hurt them, too.”

Not too soon after, K’lior and Cisca catch up and K’lior apologizes for his remarks. Lorana says that Finoa will forgive them, now that she knows that sometimes you end up hurting people you love.

I’m glad people are at least talking, and it’s an interesting nugget here that Fiona has the hang-up about two people loving the same person being a problem. This seems like the sort of thing that might have been part of her Hold upbringing coming through, not that Fiona attributes it to this, and neither does the narrative. Perhaps if Fiona is recalling a particular episode, idea, story, or some other thing she’s heard, witnessed, or experienced, we’d have a referent for why Fiona thinks so strongly about this and why it’s harder for her to accept the possibility that Lorana might be telling the truth about wanting to share. But no, we don’t get any of that. Instead, we get Cisca apologizing and something that makes all of the preceding everything with regard to how Fiona is feeling and acting make no sense at all.

As they walked back to the Kitchen Cavern, she leaned down and said quietly, “You have a knack for making your life difficult.”
“My father preferred the word ‘interesting’ ” Fiona said, glancing up into Cisca’s warm brown eyes.
“Well, just so you know, I’m not jealous,” Cisca told her. “I’ve seen a few of these relationships with the blue riders and the green riders and–”
“They don’t last,” Fiona finished for her. Cisca’s eyes widened. “I know, I’ve seen them too.”
“Just so you know what you’re getting into,” Cisca said. She looked measuringly at Fiona and then added more kindly, “Although, sometimes they do work out.”
“I know that, too,” Fiona said. “It takes a lot of work.”
“All relationships take work,” Cisca said. She shrugged. “Really, when you think about it, anything you care to do well takes work.”

Cocowhat by depizan

The easiest explanation for this is, of course, shoddy storytelling, because if Fiona and Cisca have already seen these relationships, and seen whether they work or don’t, then why is this the first time we’ve heard this mentioned? This is relevant experience and observations here. I would have expected it to be a greater part of Fiona’s thought processes, unless this hang up about stealing away Kindan from Lorana is that relevant experience throwing up a roadblock to contemplating the triad more seriously and positively. Really, though, we haven’t heard Fiona think about Rider Z, Rider Q, and Rider K’s triad that crashed when Rider Q got big-time jealous about Rider Z’s green needing to mate pretty frequently and Rider Z not always finding either Rider Q or Rider K for the sexytimes? That seems remarkably unlikely. And Cisca isn’t giving specific stories in this case, but instead talking about generic examples One would think she could be a bit more helpful in this regard than just saying “oh yeah, we’ve seen these happen before, haven’t they?”, Fiona going “Yeah, of course we have,” and then descending into the pedestrian, if still incredibly accurate, advice of “if you want it to work, you’re going to have to work at it.” One would think that Cisca, as Weyrwoman, would have somewhat more practical advice, having heard from the people who were in those relationships about how it worked (or didn’t),since maintaining morale and good cheer in the Weyr is one of the Weyrwoman’s duties.

As it is, Fiona drops off Tintoval, takes the rest of the party to the Healer Hall, where Zist immediately calls for a report from Kindan, so he and Lorana head up that way. Fiona formally presents Bekka and Seban as apprentices to the Healer Hall, and Cerra and Lindorm take them in to get them settled. After a short conversation with Betrony, Fiona hoofs it to the Hold so that she can talk with Neesa, the head cook and Fiona’s closest confidante while she was at Fort Hold. Fiona leads with the possibility that she’s done something horribly wrong, but starts telling the story, with encouragement from Neesa and Sallit, until it’s all told out.

“You’ve taken a load on your plate and that’s no mistake,” Sallit said, glancing to Neesa.
“But you’re not the first,” Neesa told Fiona soothingly.

Is that “not the first to have taken a load on your plate” or “not the first Weyrwoman / Lady Holder / important woman to be in a triad with another woman and her lover,” because if it’s the latter, why, again, haven’t we heard about this story or person or other thing that would be very helpful for Fiona to use in her contemplation?

“What should I do?”
“You do what’s right for you,” Neesa told her. “You do what your heart tells you.”
“But my heart–”
“If you go this way, understand that it’s hard,” Neesa said. “For some it works, but for most it doesn’t.”
“Lorana said there’d be pain.”
“She’s a smart one,” Sallit said. “There’s no love without pain, don’t let anyone fool you.”
“So I’m not terrible?” Fiona asked them. “I can do this?”
“I didn’t say that you could,” Neesa replied quickly. “Nor did I say that you couldn’t, either.” Fiona gave her a miserable look. “It’s your path, child. You’re the only one who can know for certain. And you’re not terrible.”

Having delivered this advice, Neesa sends Fiona back with a reminder that she’s special and her own person, and not to forget that, and that ends the chapter, basically.

Also, apparently, it’s that this isn’t the first time that people have tried polyamory, in Neesa’s recollection. But nobody is providing any specifics or stories about that. And they’re all saying the same thing, that it’s hard, and there’s the potential for hurt, but they’re not saying anything specific about what happened in any of the triads they’ve heard of. Or possibly were a part of, if either of them were. The reassurance to Fiona that she’s not terrible is wonderful and warranted, but with everyone speaking in generalities, even though they give the impression that this is something common enough for people to be able to recognize it’s the first time something like this has happened, I feel like the author didn’t do much for in-depth research on the topic so they could have more details available for the people who are giving advice and have supposedly seen attempts at this. It’s like they expect advice meant for monogamous couples to be equally as applicable to triads without having to take into account the third person and how that changes the dynamics and introduces complications.

This continues to be tell, not show, with regard to how these relationships have or haven’t worked, and while it’s doing an admirable job of allowing Fiona to stay concerned and have hangups about the potential consequences of going along with Lorana’s proposal, rather than diving in fully into the whole thing, it’s also frustrating because the narrative and the characters are talking about things that haven’t had their foundations laid so that they seem normal and well-supported by the narrative. This problem goes all the way back to Zenor confidently spouting off about how being a Weyrwoman totally means that you can have more than one lover at a time, despite Zenor not having any context, nor volunteering how he has that knowledge or came by that piece of information. Even if he were extrapolating from how Nuella has been with her gold watch-wher, that’s what someone should be mentioning about his statements. Zenor starts it by making an unsupported claim that everyone just accepts as true, and the truth of these claims is neither really fully supported with stories, experiences, or Records, but neither is it challenged by anyone, except perhaps Fiona in her own head, or otherwise characterized as being not true or a consequence of stories and rumors that people have made up. What I would expect is for someone to say “well, it’s not as widespread as all the rumors about dragonriders and Weyr life suggests that it is, but it’s not completely unheard-of, either. I think Riders ι and γ had a thing with Rider µ a few years back, why not ask them about it?” or “I can only remember it happening once to Lady Holder κ she’s since passed on, but her daughter probably remembers it vividly, why not go talk to her?” Something where we get some exposition from knowledgeable people, instead of everyone assuming something is true, without proof or evidence, only for Fiona to have a complete lack of resources to go to when she is contemplating this thing for herself and making it seem like it’s without precedent, even though she apparently knows it’s not.

At least we made it through the chapter, finally. More next week, probably with even more generic advice that’s not specifically applicable to Fiona’s situation.

Deconstruction Roundup for April 3rd, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who just managed to irretrievably torch a Firefox session, but thankfully, all the things on it could get lost, anyway.)

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.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

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 stuck in a liminal state that has no clear point where it will be finished. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragongirl: Exceptionalism

When we last left Fiona, she was about to talk to Ellor about borrowing Tintoval to have a look at the much-recovered T’mar, who regained consciousness after his bronze was involved in three mating flights and their attendant energies, even if Kindan and Lorana were the ones physically present to keep Zirenth on task. In one of those mating flights, Fiona came to herself to find herself and Kindan having sex, and she angsted quite a bit about whether or not she was stealing Kindan away from Lorana, even though Lorana, at least for the moment, has been the one engineering their getting together and saying that she’s perfectly fine sharing Kindan with Fiona. T’mar, apparently, thought that being a Weyrwoman meant loving more than one person, but since he had this explanation given to him while he wasn’t in full possession of his faculties, one wonders whether he’s really truly okay with all of it, including the possible sex, or whether T’mar believed “love” was much more metaphorical than physical.

Dragongirl, Chapter 13, continued: Content Notes:

So, over some food, Fiona expresses her desire to borrow Tintoval.

Ellor pursed her lips before responding. “You’ll bring her back?”
Fiona gave her a look of surprised hurt in reply.
“It’s just that so many people seem to stay in your wake once attracted,” Ellor said, working hard to keep her expression neutral. “Lorana, Kindan, even that weyrwoman from High Reaches, Jeila.”
“I think Jeila chose Telgar more for H’nez than me.”
Ellor shook her head. “And why do you think H’nez is at Telgar?”
The question caught Fiona off balance. “He’d been fighting with K’lior, he wanted to be posted to another Weyr.”
“All true,” Ellor said, clearly believing none of those reasons to be the principal one.

Because that was the first open Weyr that he could go to, and K’lior said it was a good idea. We know that. Ellor, however, seems to suggest that there’s more than that as a reason.

“I’ve no love for H’nez!”
“No,” Ellor said. “And I’m sure he knows that, too.”
“So why would he want to be at Telgar?”
Ellor sighed, clearly debating something with herself before deciding to say, “Because you are good for him.”
Fiona raised her eyebrows in response.
Ellor gave her a quick grin. “Sometimes, even when we don’t want to admit it, we know that someone has something we can learn from them.”
“H’nez can learn from me?”
Ellor nodded. “And you can learn from him.”
“He’s not without hs strengths,” Fiona admitted reluctantly. “And Jeila seems to be a good judge of character.”
“And while I’ve never known him not to be a bit bullheaded, H’nez is perceptive enough to know his own weaknesses,” Ellor said. “And driven enough to strive to remove them.”
“I certainly see ‘driven,’ ” Fiona said, taking a sip of her klah.

Cocowhat by depizan

This is some bullshit, man. Perhaps more formally: Your Honor, I object. The narrative is presenting facts not in evidence. It’s entirely in the keeping of how these books are being written, and how the narrative keeps insisting that H’nez is something other than a bronze rider with an overinflated sense of ego, and that Fiona keep noticing these hidden depths to H’nez and the others when they act like something apparently different than their core person, but it’s still pretty clear that H’nez would much rather be in charge and running the place his own way, in his very traditionalist no-women-with-power-ever style. We’ll have to see whether being partnered up with Jeila rounds the edges off or causes some actual change, but no, H’nez has yet to demonstrate that he can do any of the things that Ellor attributes to him. Which Fiona rightly snarks at, because she hasn’t seen any of it, either. That the narrative is still on this idea of making H’nez redeemable makes me worry that he’s going to turn out to be important to the plot in some way, rather than just being the asshole rider that has to be put in his place or flung out somewhere else that will be better-suited to him.

After this exchange, and promising to get Tintoval back quickly to Ellor, Tintoval agrees to going on the trip, with a request to stop by the Healer Hall and collect a few of the newly-minted journeypeople for the trip, so as to get them field experience and “tantalize some of them with the allure of Weyr life.” In conversation with Betrony, the Masterhealer, Fiona asks if he’d be willing to take on Bekka (and Seban) as apprentices. Betrony asks a few questions about Bekka, understands that she’s cast in the same mold as Fiona(?) and Tintoval, and says that he’ll take them. That gets a little clearer with an exchange of jokes about how Fiona apparently learned a bit herself about Healing, which she attributes to “[a]ll those lessons you gave me,” prompting the response that Betrony thought she was asleep for most of his lessons. And also making me wonder whether the Healer Hall has the same “send your daughters to us to learn useful arts” arrangement that the Harper Hall has, and if so, whether this is replicated across the planet, or whether it’s a quirk of Fort Hold being so close to the Healer (and Harper) Halls that the children of Fort’s Lord get trained in both of those places for at least some amount. I’d personally enjoy for it to be a worldwide thing, and wonder whether the daughters of the Big Lord Holders get rotated around all of the Crafts to learn some useful arts as part of learning how to run a household and to see where their strengths and weaknesses might be. (Which would be way cooler, of course, if those daughters weren’t treated as second-class characters only there because their daddies bought some training for them to make them more marriageable instead of a viable pool of potential apprentices to draw from. One good thing about the Toddverse is that it’s much more populated with women as part of at least a few crafts, even if they’re not evenly distributed across everything.)

We also are treated to Fiona making light of something that she was furious about in the first book of the series.

As she climbed up behind Tintoval, she said loudly, “Healer, be sure the others are properly hooked on with the riding straps. The weyrfolk are under strict orders to let plummeting healers fall.”
Tintoval turned back long enough to give Fiona a droll look, recalling their first meeting and how Fiona had been rebuked for risking the life of a queen and her rider for a mere healer, before turning back and making sure the others were secure. Fiona craned around her side to make her own inspection and, satisfied, sat upright before ordering Talenth to leap once more for the sky.

I assume this has to be a joke, because I don’t think Fiona has had so much of a personality change in her time at Igen that she would seriously say something like this. That said, it’s a joke that really only works between her and Tintoval. For the other Healers on board, unless they have the context, that wouldn’t be funny at all. And given how furious Finoa was in the beginning, I don’t understand why she would choose to make fun of this, unless her attitudes really have changed significantly since she chewed out a bronze rider for not having enough straps and for flying dangerously enough that the new healer might have been endangered. This would be the part where having the narrative give us some extra description as to how Fiona delivers this makes all the difference in figuring out how it was intended and how it was received. Because this sort of thing might really sour someone’s initial impression of Telgar Weyr if they think the Weyrwoman is seriously being cavalier with their lives and safety.

The trip to Telgar is uneventful, and the three healers, named Birentir (used to be a Harper, now a Healer), Cerra, and Lindorm, all clamber up to the correct Weyr, where they meet Kindan and Lorana. Cerra has apparently met Kindan before, and Birentir offers profound thanks to Lorana for what she’s done to save everyone, which Lorana is ambivalent about. At that point, since Tintoval has very pointedly not said or done anything (which Fiona understands as Tintoval saying that she’s not going to lead things), Birentir turns his attention to T’mar, asking questions about how long it’s been since the concussion and what roused him. When Fiona provides some of those answers, Birentir is “dismissive”, which sets Fiona’s blood boiling and probably sets up what happens later – when Birentir chases a tangent about who’s actually in charge, and tells Kindan that Zist will be waiting for his report, Cerra cuts him off and Fiona throws him out.

“Oh, please!” Cerra cut him off. “Would you get out of the way, so we can see to the patient?”
I am examining him,” Birentir said haughtily.
“No, you’re not,” Fiona declared, gesturing for him to move away from T’mar. “In fact, you’re just leaving. I think you’ll find some food in the Dining Cavern.”
“You can’t–” Birentir spluttered in amazement “I’m the senior here and you’re–you’re just a girl!
Shh, Talenth! Fiona called as she felt her queen readying to bellow in angry support of her rider.
“You idiot,” Bekka snapped, with an impertinence that surprised everyone, “she’s the Weyrwoman, she can do whatever she farding well pleases!”

Well, good to know that certain ableist terms have gone all the way through to the far future, even though by the time the book was written, I think 21st c. Terra is pretty well on the pathway to understanding that IQ means nothing and that the term “idiot” is used solely in insulting ways. But, of course, the strangest of things survive in Pern.

Secondly, though, how is Birentir able to mistake Fiona for “just a girl,” given that she’s clearly a gold rider and therefore has to have at least some level of importance in the Weyr that she’s in? I could see Birentir mistaking Fiona for a junior queen rider, because, as best I can tell, nobody really walks around with their dragon color and rank on their sleeves all the time. (Well, maybe the bronze riders do.) So perhaps Birentir didn’t know he was insulting the Senior Weyrwoman when he gave her a dismissive look. The only plausible explanation I can think of as to how Birentir manages to step in it so thoroughly is if he’s just completely dismissed any woman as being competent at the healing arts. Despite being in the presence of Master Tintoval and Journeywoman Cerra, you know. Which, sure, that’s entirely plausible for Pern and for dudes, but it still sounds like the kind of thing that it takes a really specific combination of ego, lack of tact, and lack of intelligence to manage. On the gripping hand, there are more than enough stories of our era about how women have had to fight their own doctors to get their pain and symptoms recognized as something other than hysteria or something psychological, so&hellip:.

Anyway, getting back to the second half of Fiona giving Berentir the business:

“Shh!” Fiona said to Bekka. “You’re hurting T’mar’s ears.” She turned to the older healer, saying coldly, with all the dignity learned from Turns watching her father deal with such arrogance, “Journeyman Birentir, I believe that we no longer have need of your services.”
“I–” Birentir’s eyes shifted around the room nervously and he licked his lips. “I’m sorry if I offended, Weyrwoman.”
“I’m sure,” Fiona agreed, gesturing for him to move away. “My headwoman’s name is Shaneese, you might meet her in the Kitchen Cavern.”
Reluctantly, Birentir rose and backed away from the group, his lips moving as he searched for some words that might heal his breech.

So Cerra and Lindorm take over, with Bekka’s help, and while neither Cerra nor Lindorm admit to not having much experience with head injuries, everyone else has plenty of confidence in them because they, at least, knew not to irritate a Weyrwoman in her own Weyr. Which is a pretty terrible thing to base a decision on, but whatever, because Bekka takes charge (as she should, since she’s one of the few characters that’s been given regular agency, even if it keeps getting classified as something impolite) and starts describing the problem – T’mar needs to move, and if they were certain that he doesn’t have spinal injuries or other such things, Bekka would have him get moved, in his sheets, to the pool so he can soak, clean, and possibly move around a bit. Cerra wants to know where Bekka got her knowledge, and in the course of that conversation, Fiona tells them that Bekka has been accepted to the Healer Hall. Bekka jumps for joy at this, and then everyone turns to the question of how to figure out whether T’mar has injuries that would prevent him from moving, with Cerra referring to Bekka as “apprentice Bekka” to reflect her change in status. Cerra takes the lead and shows Bekka how to feel along the head and neck to see if there’s something out of place or wrong. Bekka, practicing on Cerra, points out something wrong, Cerra confirms this, calls it a misalignment, and then pops the offending bone back into place, then has Bekka practice on Lindorm before pronouncing that Bekka’s ready to try it on T’mar. None of the three healers finds anything amiss, so they move T’mar to the bath and lower him into the water. Fiona notes that Lindorm doesn’t hesitate to get his clothes wet to make sure that T’mar is properly cradled and ready to be gently lowered into the bath.

For the next part of the examination, Lindorm mentions they’ll have to strip T’mar of his clothing, which apparently turns into a subtle test of whether Bekka’s ready for the work of healing or not.

“Perhaps Bekka should be excused,” Lindorm said.
“Not if I’m going to be a healer,” Bekka said. Her expression changed and she glanced down to T’mar. “Unless you don’t want me, Weyrleader?”
T’mar smiled. “Were you the one who changed the bandages on my leg?”
“Yes,” Bekka replied offhandedly, not seeing any connection.
“She’s been watching mothers give birth since she could crawl,” Seban said by way of assurance.
“But if you’re going to be embarrassed, Weyrleader, I promise I won’t look,” Bekka said in assurance.
T’mar’s lip twitched. “Do what you must, healer.”
Bekka’s face flamed into a brilliant smile at the compliment.

So now everyone can be sure that seeing naked bodies, as well as gruesome injuries, doesn’t bother Bekka enough to think that she might not have the stomach for being a healer. The plot continues with a further examination of T’mar’s spine, and Bekka suggesting there’s no spinal cord damage because T’mar was completely twitchy while she was changing the bandages on his leg. Cerra and Lindorm are satisfied that there’s no physical damage, but they’re still not sure that there hasn’t been brain damage from the injury, and so they want everyone to be on the lookout for mood changes, memory loss, and other related injuries. (They also refer to it as a brain that’s been hurt, so we continue to have a patchwork understanding of medicine in Pern that’s still best described as “knowledge as the plot demands it.”) With everyone satisfied that T’mar is going to live, there’s a little bit about head injuries, muzziness, and the suggestion that perhaps a future someone is still doing time-travel stuff because Fiona and company are still feeling pretty terrible, even though Tullea cleared up pretty significantly after her stint was finished and she reunited with herself. Fiona also decides to send Seban with Bekka, on the idea that Seban will also present himself as an apprentice, either to healers or harpers, and tells him he doesn’t have a choice in the matter, anyway. (Mostly.) So the group of people heading back to the Healer Hall and Fort are getting themselves ready to go. When Tintoval says she’ll go get Berentir, Fiona tells her not to bother. Tintoval gives her the raised eyebrow, and Fiona explains how she knows that Berentir lost someone in the Plague, a daughter about Fiona’s age, and that he was sick himself, before vowing to become a Healer to prevent it from ever happening again.

“ ’Arrogance is usually born of fear,’ ” Fiona said, nodding toward Kindan, who had told her that many Turns ago. Kindan jerked in surprise, delighted that she’d remembered. With a wry grin, she added, “I seem to have made it a habit to collect arrogant people.”
“It’s because you conquer your fear,” T’mar spoke up from his bed. All eyes turned toward him. “You still feel it, but you don’t let it rule you.”
“I don’t know about that,” Fiona said. The thought flustered her and she sought a means to divert herself from it. “Regardless, I think that we should get everyone back soonest, including Bekka and Seban.”

You know, I think I’m going to go with T’mar here and say that he’s right that Fiona keeps attracting arrogant assholes because she’s a young girl with confidence. I’m going to say his reasoning is entirely wrong, however, because despite Pern claiming to be Galt’s planet, saying they’re all attracted to Finoa’s confidence because they want some for themselves? Nah, brah. They keep coming to try and take Fiona down a peg, and then find out that she won’t take shit from any of them. Fiona then decides she wants to keep them somewhere so they won’t do anyone else any more harm, and if they’re lucky, they might learn how not to be assholes to other people and get over their own egos. Or maybe they stay because they can’t believe that Fiona wasn’t bothered by them and they want to keep going at her until they find out it’s not an act or an affectation. As befits her ability to maintain telepathy with Lorana and the other things that Fiona has already accomplished, Fiona got the Iron Will trait, and there will be many a person who goes up against that and loses spectacularly. The narrative supports my theory, at least in the sense that when Fiona goes down to see Berentir next, after telling T’mar point-blank that if he doesn’t get rest, she’ll kill him, Fiona again demonstrates that she’s not going to be intimidated by anybody.

She was not surprised to see Berentir at one of the pottery wheels, working the clay under the tutelage of Mekiar.
“How is he doing?” Fiona asked, startling the older healer and causing him to ruin the bowl he was forming on the spinning wheel.
“He is learning,” Mekiar replied drolly, glancing up to Fiona. “I would say that at this moment he is learning patience.”
“Good,” she replied. “See that he does.”
Birentir looked askance at her words.
“You’re staying,” she told him. Birentir’s eyes widened in surprise. “Bekka and her father are going back to the Healer Hall and I don’t need you there causing her grief on a daily basis.”
“You would prefer me causing ‘daily grief’ here?” Birentir asked with a flash of humor.
“You won’t be causing me daily grief, healer,” Fiona assured him. She softened her tone as she confided, “I’m more worried about fighting Thread without enough dragons.”

Birentir suggests that Verilan could help with the questions Fiona has, to which Fiona quips that Birentir does have a brain in his head, once he gets past the fact that Fiona’s young. And then the two of them talk about Birentir’s family lost to the Plague, and how Fiona will have Birentir’s stuff sent from the Healer Hall. Birentir thanks her for the second chance, and all of the people who are heading to Fort get on Talenth and Zirenth, and they all do the hyperspace hop successfully.

There’s still more left in this chapter, even though it’s only a few pages long, but there’s going to be more relationship talk and angst, and this is another good stopping point in the narrative, because we’re about to get more information about how potentially prevalent polyamory actually is on Pern. So we’ll stop here for this week and pick up again next week.