Last time, we spent a significant amount of time revolving around pregnancy. Whether in giving advice to Fiona about terminating hers, should she desire it, having a new cohort of dragonriders come into being (including Terin, who got Tolarth’s gold egg), or Fiona suffering from a fever and being singularly worried about losing hers, which is where we left her last time. (And frankly, there still isn’t enough talking about relationships, because that would mean the author would have to work through the possibility that at least one of the merry quad might not actually be polyfriendly at all.)
Dragongirl, Chapters 23, 24, and the Epilogue: Content Notes: Termination of Pregnancy, Despair, Sexism
(Telgar Weyr, early evening, AL 508.7.17)
This poem is terrible, and if it’s part of a Teaching Song, that’s even worse. Just, ugh, hire a poet already to write these things, they’ll do far better at it.
I intend to get all the way to the end with this post. We’ll see if we manage it.
Chapter 23 opens with Fiona waking up from the fever she caught by going into hyperspace while wet. It has conveniently knocked her out of coherence for four days, but Fiona’s fine (it’s not Plague), the baby’s fine, Lorana’s fine, Lorana’s baby is fine, and there have been several visitors and messages to make sure that Fiona is fine. Once Terin is reasonably sure Fiona is actually fine, she goes back, claiming she has a dragon to tend, to which Fiona teases her that it’s much more likely there are weyrkids and F’jian tending the dragon, and Terin airily says it’s both before departing.
Fiona decides to sit at the high table that evening, to show everyone she’s okay, and believes that this was a good decision based on what she gets as feedback that night:
She was glad she had. The relief visible on the faces on some of the weyrwomen was more than ample vindication of her decision.
“You rest up now, Weyrwoman!” one of the most sour of them had called as Fiona departed. She was joined by a chorus of agreeing voices, the most heartening of which was one who said, “We don’t want anything to happen to our Weyrwoman!”
Our Weyrwoman. The phrase resonated in Fiona’s mind and cheered her. It had not been all that long since the old Telgar weyrfolk had looked on her with stern faces. Now she was theirs–and they worried about her. It wasn’t just that this was her Weyr, now they were her weyrfolk, too. The realization brought a smile to her lips.
…and yet I can’t help but wonder if this is more due to Shaneese’s henching than a genuine concern for Fiona. Because I would absolutely believe that most excellent henchwoman Shaneese would have arranged, with threats of terrible penalties to those who didn’t go along with it, for Fiona to get a cheerful boost from the weyrwomen specifically for the purpose of putting her in a good mood as she recovers from her illness. If, after all, the morale of the Weyrwoman is as crucial as everyone seems to be telling her, then making sure Fiona is cheerful is a very serious affair. I’m almost imagining one of the “sour” ones getting ready to go off-script, only for Shaneese to appear where Fiona can’t see her and make a threatening gesture. Or for the sour one to be gently poked with something she knows is sharp as a reminder of what fate might befall her if she doesn’t stay in line.
As it is, there’s also a clue as to why the practice of women riders who weren’t gold riders died out, although I’m not sure it’s supposed to be seen as anything extraordinary.
“And who is handling her [Xhinna’s] brood now that she’s Impressed?”
“She is, for the most part,” Kindan said, his tone going grave.
“I can talk with Shaneese,” Fiona said.
“No,” Kindan said. “I think we should see how this works out.”
Fiona’s agitation prompted him to explain. “If we are to have more women riders, we’re going to have issues like this.” He paused consideringly. “Xhinna and Taria have been handling it well, so far.”
“But what about when they start flying?” Fiona asked.
“That’s two or more Turns in the future and the children of her brood will all be that much older,” Kindan said.
Fiona made a note to herself to spend more time with the weyrlings. She admitted that the reason she hadn’t done so earlier was partly that she didn’t want to monopolize Kindan’s time and partly that she didn’t want to become embroiled in any issues regarding the women riders; she’d heard enough mutterings from H’nez.
Cocowhat by depizan
Dragonets are, from all accounts, needy to the point of being a full-time responsibility by themselves in their early stages, and you’re telling me that Xhinna and Taria have to juggle that (one dragon each, recall) and still do the childcare, raising, and looking after duties they had before? Plus weyrling drills and the like?
This sequence was clearly written by someone who has no fucking clue how much work childcare is. The appropriate Administrative Division for my locality that handles child cares mandates there be one adult for every 15 children at all times those children are in the care of the child care, if all of those children are of school age (so at least 5 or 6 years of age). If there are any younger children, the ratio goes down because those children need more intensive monitoring and supervision. I have never gotten the feeling that Xhinna and Taria have less than 30 school-age children between them for responsibilities of looking after. Maybe I’m wrong, but descriptions like “brood” certainly suggest there are a lot of kids that need to be handled and looked after. And the author thinks that the responsibilities of caring for, feeding, and otherwise looking after a dragonet can be added to the already large amount of responsibilities of child care.
If the author knew what they were talking about, someone would swat Kindan upside the head for suggesting that women who are riders should also be required to handle all of their childcare duties in addition. Fiona might not know enough about raising a family to do it herself, since she’s an only child and Bemin didn’t have any more while he was raising her. Lorana, on the other hand, canonically does have siblings, and was probably required to look after them from a very early age, in addition to any Beastcraft things her father was doing. So it would be entirely appropriate for Lorana to give Kindan a dope slap for the suggestion.
Unless, of course, the point is to drive women candidates away from ever wanting to Impress anything other than a gold dragon. I can see many an interested woman going “hell no, I’m not getting a dragon if these chuckleheads won’t let up on my other duties to take care of it.” (In fact, Bekka said just that when Fiona tried to get her to stand at the last hatching.) Giving credence to this idea is the remainder of this scene’s conversations about the women riders:
“How are they working out?”
“Well, actually,” Kindan said, sounding pleased, “there are only four girls, Xhinna with her blue, the rest greens.”
“I wonder if that will change, in future Hatchings,” Lorana mused. [NOOOOOOOOPE!]
“It takes a particular sort of woman to be a blue rider,” Kindan said.
“It takes a particular sort of person to be a blue rider,” Fiona corrected drowsily. “I can understand greens far more easily.”
Okay, so Kindan deserves another dope slap for sounding pleased that there are “only” four women in the fighting ranks. This one he deserves to get from Fiona, since she’s the one who’s been championing the idea of women and girls in the fighting ranks. (And possibly another one for suggesting that Xhinna is somehow super-weird for being a blue rider.)
Additionally, I don’t know if I’m supposed to be reading more into the “I can understand greens” comment from Fiona than just “oh hey, they’re female dragons and female riders. That makes sense.” Because if it is, then the author deserves a dope slap, too, for forgetting characterization. Although there’s a good enough case for the author getting one on the principle of writing this scene at all. (Not to mention how much we’d be paying out on someone who took the bet that there would be no relief for Xhinna, because she’s just so good at childcare that surely she can juggle the responsibilities of dragon and human children without needing any additional support, staff, or breaks. And, again, Xhinna is explicitly coded as not white, so there’s the extra racist dimension, too, in the belief that Xhinna can take on much more responsibility than the average weyrwoman. (Not Fiona, because Fiona has to perpetually project happiness and never being upset at anything, and that kind of emotional labor is fucking exhausting.)
Plot-wise, Lorana has a nightmare about the cold people next to her, which were, in her brain, the dead people she was next to during the Plague. And then Fiona gets hustled to rest by everyone when she tries to get Lorana to take rest because of her pregnancy. That’s Lorana, Terin, Shaneese, and Bekka (who has come back to Telgar) all ganging up on Fiona and hustling her away from everywhere to sleep. We have an interlude of a routine (although still with casualties) Fall and the lightened mood in the Weyr afterward, where there is far too much drinking, and then to the morning after that, where Fiona deliberately wakes up and annoys T’mar, but not quite as much as Terin lit into F’jian in the morning, according to the narrative. Fiona finds Terin trying to clear out a weyr for Kurinth, entirely incensed about F’jian’s behavior.
“Thinks he can stay up all night!” She snorted. “Expects me to carry him back to his weyr!” Another cloud of dust erupted. “Wants me to bring him breakfast!”
[…Terin’s vigor coats Fiona in a cloud of dust. Terin apologizes for it, and Fiona points out that Terin moving into her own weyr has some useful benefits…]
“And people who get too much into their cups will have to find their own weyr, without disturbing you or–” Fiona paused, glancing around in surprise “–where are your usual helpers?”
“I don’t know if I’ll have them anymore,” Terin said. “Most of them were taken away last night by their mothers.”
Fiona thought that that was probably just as well. She could also imagine how the older, Thread-seasoned bronze rider might find it difficult to maintain his best behavior surrounded by small ones who viewed him with awe.
Cocowhat by depizan
For the principle of “why are we making excuses for dudes again?” among other things, but also, I think Fiona’s wrong with her reasoning. Because Terin, remember, has a gold dragon to care for. She’s going to be a Weyrwoman somewhere, at some point, and depending on how things shake out, she might become the Senior Weyrwoman at Telgar at some point. And since pissing off the Weyrwoman is a bad idea even with the best of intentions, I have a feeling all those children were removed because gold riders are entitled to the luxury of only caring for their dragon and are not to be bothered with pedestrian concerns or given anything but the finest of helpers when they want them. It would be unseemly for a Weyrwoman to be raising or minding children, after all, based on the bit I skipped over quoting from a few chapters ago about how the weyrwomen thought Fiona had done something terrible in agreeing to look after the children while Tolarth was minding her clutch.
So here’s the stark privilege contrast that the author may or may not have been intending to set up, where the blue and green riders only have additional duties piled on them, and the gold rider basically has all of her duties (and charges) removed so that she can focus on her dragon. And, eventually, presumably, to learn the task of running a Weyr (and how that’s somehow different than all the headwoman-ing that Terin did at Igen in the past.).
After letting Terin enjoy one more moment of schadenfreude by mentioning that weyrling drill was about to start (and then adding the detail that the weyrlings and Kindan were, of course, quite loud), Fiona goes to see Lorana, who is still trying to puzzle through how to save B’nik from his observed fate, but she can’t see any way of breaking time. Lorana again repeats that the only thing that’s known is that someone wearing the Weyrleader’s jacket did these things, and that the dragon looked like a bronze, so everyone assumes it’s B’nik who has done this thing. Rather than spend more time on the mystery, which might give away something, we go on to the dinner, where Fiona suggests new living arrangements for everyone in the Weyr – she and T’mar would retake the traditional Weyrleader / Weyrwoman quarters, and house T’mar’s wing above them, which also conveniently puts Fiona close to Kindan (and Lorana) in the Weyrlingmaster’s quarters. H’nez and his wing would move into the spaces vacated by Fiona and T’mar (and his wing?), so that he would have only a quick jaunt to see Jeila, and F’jian and his wing would be stationed somewhere that was far away from Terin and in a very noisy and noisome locale, one that T’mar immediately recognizes as the place where someone gets put because they’re on the Weyrleader’s or, in this case, Weyrwoman’s shit list. T’mar groks that he’s being asked about this as a formality, and formally says yes to it, and then we go on further still to Terin again sweeping out a Weyr, but this time she’s been crying and fretting about the possiblity of losing F’jian, who got drunk because he’s afraid of dying and afraid of watching all the others around him die. Fiona’s platitudes don’t work on Terin, but she is at least able to convince Terin to talk to F’jian about her worries.
Which gets her out of the way for Lorana to arrive and take a very curious interest in the way that the dust sparkles in the air, making the nominally brown dirt look gold or bronze. Which, if Fiona were better at spotting the gears turning in someone’s head, especially in Lorana’s, since she’s telepathically connected to her and all, would make Lorana’s sudden insistence on seeing Ketan a tip-off that Lorana has seized upon an idea. But Fiona doesn’t twig to it, even as she helps transport Lorana to Benden and then agrees to leave Lorana there and go back on Talenth. Lorana and Tullea both help this idea along by pointing out that Lorana can get back using Minith. Lorana goes to see Ketan and asks him about his dragon. Which would otherwise be stabbing someone in the trauma, except Lorana wants Ketan to remember what his dragon very specifically said, because it’s integral to her plan. Which she then explains sufficiently for us to get a glimpse as to what’s about to happen.
“Would you be willing to steal B’nik’s jacket?”
“Steal his–” the healer jerked upright and jumped out of his chair. “Steal his jacket? But I’ve no dragon!”
“No dragon now.”
The healer’s expression slowly changed from one of surprise and despair to one of hope.
“I’m not offering you much,” Lorana cautioned. “A chance to ride Drith again, and to make a difference–”
“My lady, to be a dragonrider again, just once!” Ketan shook his head, his eyes brimming with tears. “For that, I’d do anything.”
“First, the jacket.”
“We go to High Reaches.”
“High Reaches?” Ketan looked perplexed and then illumination struck. “Oh! And then the wherhold, no doubt.”
“We’ll see Nuella,” Lorana agreed. “But not until after.”
“And then, K’tan, you’ll get your last ride.”
And on that plot, the chapter ends. So, as has been hinted all along, since nobody actually saw who was wearing the jacket, Ketan will swipe it, his brown dragon Drith will roll in the dust to change his apparent sheen, and then K’tan will save several lives at different points in time before dying to a clump of Thread.
Which he will happily undertake, because it means, even if for a short while, he’ll be paired up again with his dragon. And also, well done, author, for engaging in a little bit of real series continuity. Something that was done in a previous book has a bearing on a later one.
The way forward is dark and long.
A dragon gold is only the first price you’ll pay for Pern.
(Fort Weyr, second hour, AL 507.11.18, Second Interval.)
Which reminds us that all of this action has taken place in less than a year. And also, as the last proper chapter, breaks with the often-terrible rhymes to instead tell us about Tenniz’s prophecy for Lorana. The chapter as such is really more of a summary that says “It all went according to plan.” Lorana went back in time, reunited K’tan with Drith, recruited a wing from Ista to follow K’tan, explained the purpose of the vial to Nuella, and then made one more jump back in time to say her goodbye to Fiona, mentally, rather than in person, before climbing aboard Minith and the both of them jumping to some unknown destination as the end of the chapter.
And Lorana was counting coughs during her hyperspace trips. Not that it matters, because, as we’ll find out in the epilogue, this last jump went on for far too long for her to keep her pregnancy. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
It will all turn out right
(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.7.21)
The Epilogue begins with Fiona realizing that she hasn’t seen Lorana recently (when she has enough brain to think about it after all of her Fall work), asking Bekka, and then after she realizes she can’t find Lorana and Talenth says she can’t find Minith, she asks Kindan and explains Lorana’s last steps to him. Before they can logic things out that much, Tullea comes storming into the scene, riding behind B’nik, and trying to find “that dragon-stealer”, which I suppose is one step up from calling Lorana “dragon-killer” as she did previously. Tullea fills them in on the part where Ketan swiped B’nik’s jacket, B’nik mentions that D’vin and Sonia told them Lorana was at High Reaches, which Kindan understands as the location of the fourth vial. Fiona intuits the reason for the dust from this, explaining to the others about Lorana’s obsession, which T’mar catches on to and realizes everyone was wrong about the color of the dragon being flown, leading Fiona into putting together the next piece of the puzzle about how K’tan got a dragon to go with his jacket and commend Lorana on a brilliant plan.
Which, unfortunately, leaves the grouping no closer to figuring out where Lorana and Minith have gone. Kindan states the obvious.
“Then she’s gone,” Kindan declared in a flat, dead voice. The others looked up at him. “She went with Drith and K’tan.” He pursed his lips grimly. “That’s why he gave the vial to Nuella. She knew there is no hope, so she went as best she could.”
“No!” Fiona’s voice was loud, clear and defiant. “She didn’t do that.”
Kindan frowned at her and shook his head. “Your problem, Fiona, is that you don’t know when to quit.”
“Of course I don’t,” Fiona agreed, her eyes flashing angrily. “You taught me that.”
“ ’Step by step, moment by moment,’ ” Fiona said, repeating the words of Kindan’s song from the Plague. “Vaxoram said those words to you. You remembered them; you didn’t give in when the Plague threatened to kill us all.” She jabbed a finger at him, her eyes welling with tears. “You saved my life when even my father had given in to despair.” She reached out and grabbed his chin in her hand, forcing him to meet her eyes. “I won’t let you give in.”
“She’s dead, Fiona!” Kindan shouted, jerking out of her grasp. “She’s gone between, her grief too great, and she’s left us. She knows we’re doomed and she couldn’t bear to keep watching us all die slowly, dragon by dragon.” He turned to Tullea. “So she kept her word to you and then she left.” He turned back to Fiona. “She’s gone. You can’t hear her, can you?”
Fiona shook her head, lips quavering. “No, I can’t.” She looked up at him again, declaring stoutly, “But just because I can’t doesn’t mean she isn’t alive, Kindan. She won’t give up, she loves you too much.”
Not that I expect anyone to be rational at this point in time, but Fiona, Tullea said “dragon-stealer”, not “dragon-killer”. If Fiona had gone with Drith and taken Minith into hyperspace on a one-way trip, Tullea would know, since, after all, it’s her dragon that would be dead. Tullea wouldn’t be looking for Lorana to give her a piece of her mind, Tullea would be trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart as her connection to Minith was lost. Because even if it was hidden until the plot came into existence, at this point, there wouldn’t be any residual Minith to be connected to. Again, I’m not expecting anyone being super-retraumatized right now by having their wife die on them yet again to exercise logic, nor the person who is being super-retraumatized right now at the prospect of one of her family dying, but Tullea, she hasn’t got a stake in this other than that she’s pissed that Lorana stole her dragon. And, if she stops and thinks for a moment, she can tell them both they’re spouting nonsense, because Tullea is here and pissed off, rather than trying to follow her dragon into oblivion.
(Which would make for a really bad Beyond Between situation, in this case. Arith is already dead and gone, so there’s no way for Tullea to go get her and do the reunification thing, plus, Arith was a small, rather than a full-grown, so I don’t know if it would work at all. I suppose it might be something to the order of “Lorana and Arith, both dead, pass on to Beyond Between, while Minith has to wait for Tullea to die, or to hitch a ride on another dragon and rider pair that is about to go to hyperspace, where she can meet up with Minith again and they can go together,” but there’s a lot of ifs involved. And also, if not for the existence of Beyond Between, we wouldn’t even have to consider this scenario at all.)
However, the nonsense continues:
“She’s left me you,” Kindan said bitterly. “She could leave me knowing that you’re still here. In fact, she probably left because of you.”
Fiona’s eyes flashed and her hand leaped up, the sound of her slap startling everyone.
“Don’t ever say that,” Fiona told him savagely. “Don’t ever think that.”
“Because the truth hurts too much?” Kindan asked, raising a hand to massage his stinging cheek.
“It’s not the truth,” Fiona said quietly. “The truth is that she loves us both.”
“She loved her brother and sister, too, Fiona,” Kindan replied, his anger suddenly gone, his voice matching hers. “She couldn’t save them, either.”
“She wouldn’t give up,” Fiona declared. She looked up at him. “She learned it from you, just as I did.” Kindan’s eyes widened and his head jerked up at her words, as though stung once again. Fiona shook her head. “She’ll pay any price, Kindan, she’s already–oh!”
Which is the point where Fiona realizes that Tenniz’s prophecy has, in fact, come true, and that he was entirely literal, instead of figurative. T’mar picks up the right conclusion immediately afterward – Lorana has gone ahead in time on Minith, a journey that would certainly be too many coughs in hyperspace for her child to survive. Thus:
The way forward [in time] is dark and long. A dragon gold is only the first price you’ll pay for Pern. [You’ll also sacrifice your child.]
Having figured out the true meaning of the prophecy, Fiona declares that it’s now their job to be ready for her, with all of their love, when she returns. And that ends the book.
And all of that speculation about how Lorana was throwing Kindan at Fiona because she was concerned about the prophecy? Spot on, well done all. Because Kindan comes to precisely that conclusion as to the reason why Lorana was shipping them so hard, so that Kindan and Fiona would have each other to keep living with and they wouldn’t pine after Lorana.
There’s also an interesting phrasing right before Fiona declares that they’re going to wait with love until Lorana gets back.
If Lorana had gone so far in time that Fiona could no longer hear her, Lorana had gone too far for her pregnancy to survive.
Which suggests that it is still possible to be connected to a dragon or dragonrider that is slightly out of time-phase with you. The only other instance we had of this time phase problem was Moreta, who jumped ahead several months, so clearly Lorana is well beyond that boundary, but maybe this is the key to the question that I couldn’t figure out before as to how T’mar had known that Lorana had time-skipped herself before reappearing at the appropriate point? He could feel two Talenths when he only should have been feeling one, and therefore he knew that Talenth had timed it instead of going there directly? Which would mean quite the connection was forged between the two of them while they were in Igen, long before they started banging. Quantum entanglement, perhaps?
In any case, this book is finally, finally over, and we can proceed to the fourth book in this increasingly inaccurately named trilogy, where we will find that Lorana successfully jumped into the future to bring back the fruits of the various Hatchings so they can save their own asses and grow up to go back in time and save their own asses. I mean, this isn’t the first time that this author has deliberately provoked a bootstrap paradox to make it possible to solve a problem that was killing off all the dragons, so what’s one more glaring rip in continuity?
There is a moment of levity here in the back matter that is too good to pass up on, and so, for your amusement, I present the promotional card for the next book, Dragonrider, that was present in my electronic copy.
Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books are some of the most beloved science fiction novels in the world. Over the past few years, though, she has allowed her son Todd to take over the reins of Pern–molding the world and its stories with his own vision, while always maintaining the spirit and caring Anne has imbued into her novels.
Upon reading Dragonsblood, Dragonheart, and the book in your hands, Dragongirl, though, Anne was so enchanted by the story Todd was crafting and the characters he was bringing to life that she asked his permission to join in the final drama of his tale of Pern.
We are extremely pleased that the follow-up to Dragongirl is once again going to feature a collaboration between mother and son, as Anne and Todd McCaffery work together to bring you the next exciting book in the Pern series: Dragonrider.
I cannot read that card with anything other than a feeling that Anne was brought back, or at least, her name was brought back, so as to make the stories sell better again. Or that Anne was not, in fact, pleased at all with the work that Todd had done and made it a condition of further work in the series that she be allowed to collaborate (or control) what was going on. The prose is just a little too purple for me to believe that Anne, who, we recall, laid down fairly strict rules about what her fan clubs and their fiction efforts could and could not do with the setting and the characters, was thrilled with the direction that this trilogy has taken with only Todd’s name on the front and asked to be allowed back into the writing club. He got to try it out as being the sole author of Pern, and something, whether it was sales, complaints, reading over the work, whatever it was, made it so she wanted to reassert control over the place and its spaces. She’s the original, and he was working at her pleasure. Whatever it was, she wasn’t pleased.
So, on we go, then, with a collaboration officially at the helm again. What fresh whatfruit await us? We’ll find out, starting next week, when we take a look at Dragon’s Time, which is what the book that is promoted as Dragonrider here actually ends up being titled.