Last time, there was a hatching, which caused a small amount of chaos in Telgar Weyr, as Kindan, newly-minted Weyrlingmaster, had charges to deal with, including Taria, now a green rider, and Xhinna, now a blue rider, after Talenth, Fiona, and Xhinna worked to get a viable dragonet out of a much thicker than expected shell. Unlike when Jaxom had to bash open Ruth’s shell himself, and it caused problems, Talenth has the supposedly maternal instinct that gold dragons were bred to have.
And the dragon numbers continue to go down, and there’s no viable solution that’s being discussed, even though at least one of them (jump into the future, then come back to the past) should be doable, based on the astronomy training that some of the Telgar riders have to figure time by the presence of the planets and stars. Whatever time-travel solution is going to be the correct one, it hasn’t been figured out yet.
Dragongirl, Chapters 21 and 22: Content Notes: The Patriarchy
Beat as one.
(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.6.25)
This chapter starts with Fiona seeing Terin arrive at the Hatching Ground, where Terin has a small fret about the possibility of being a queen rider at her very young age. To which Fiona dismisses the concern as “you’re not much older than I was when I Impressed mine, and you’re older than both Xhinna and Taria” Which neatly sidesteps having to think that hard about how young all of the candidates are for Impression and how much having a dragon through puberty has to change the entire experience. I forget whether or not there were any canonical explanations as to why the candidates for dragons needed to be that young, but I’m pretty sure we had more than a few speculations about neuroplasticity or other such concerns. It’s just hard to imagine the wisdom in giving a hyperspace-capable flamethrower to anyone in the 12-18 age range. Perhaps that’s why the training for weyrlings is so strict about what they can and can’t do (although that still needs to be more explanation and understanding and less secret tests).
Terin notes the large amount of girls on the sands, and Fiona suggests that now that Xhinna and Taria have set the example, some of those girls might be more interested in fighting dragons rather than the single queen egg. Terin thinks about the possibility of having a fighting dragon to fight alongside F’jian with, before ultimately rejecting the idea and settling on being a queen rider. Even though she’s also chided Fiona for thinking that fighting in the queens’ wing means not risking being hit by falling Thread right before settling on going for a queen. Fiona was surprised at that, because it appears to have involved a certain amount of reading between the lines in the Igen records that Terin pored through while Fiona was elsewhere.
Fiona nodded, surprised the youngster had taken note–it was not something often mentioned. Fiona suspected that part of that was because the Weyrwomen traditionally kept the Records–they certainly edited them!–and did not want to make the dangers of the queens’ wing too apparent to any nervous Weyrleader.
Which again makes me wonder about what the Records actually do and function as, as they seem to be statistical data sets, narrative of important events in their space, and notes (maybe even coded notes) between Weyrwomen about running the place and dealing with subordinates. And all of this, potentially, under the necessity of making it all appear palatable to the Weyrleader if they should decide to consult the Records for any particular reason. And all without a standardized form or indexing system so that any information stored in the Records can be retrieved when needed. Records really are a plot device more than anything.
As the plot moves forward, the new day dawns with the reality of Tolarth’s clutch starting to hatch. As Fiona looks around and sees a well-rehearsed sequence of Candidates shucking their nightclothes and putting on their white candidate robes, she suspects Terin’s hand in this organization. Terin confirms her hand in everything while putting her own robe on, Kindan arrives with a well-organized group of weyrlings to watch the second hatching, and everyone arranges themselves as needed. Bekka’s not there, having snorted and dismissed the idea of being able to take on even more responsibility, and Lorana’s pregnancy had apparently cut off any further discussion of her return to the sands to stand. Fiona spares a snark for Kindan, in that she doesn’t believe his lack of Candidate robe will deter his dragon, whomever it may be, and then Impression happens. The plot only stays with it long enough to confirm that Terin gets the new queen, Kurinth, before skipping ahead to Fiona lamenting that it didn’t take all that long for everything to happen. Kindan didn’t get a dragon this time around, either, but Fiona fully intends to keep throwing him at each clutch until he does. Lorana is not feeling particularly sanguine about all of this, but Bekka mostly dismisses it as Lorana being a pregnant woman. Which has Fiona reflect on her own status of pregnancy, and the new feelings that are coming with it, before the chapter ends. (It’s quite short.)
Keep Pern alive.
(Telgar Weyr, morning, AL 508.6.28)
Chapter 22 starts with Tullea arriving at Telgar, to Fiona’s confusion. Tullea is here to see Lorana and implore her to save B’nik from the “someone wearing the Weyrleader’s jacket saved people in the past before he dies” situation that is yet to happen. Lorana initially thinks Tullea’s visit is about Ketan, the one who lost his dragon to the plague, but Tullea dismisses that concern by saying that Ketan crawled into a wineskin and hasn’t come out yet. Tullea implores Lorana to help her, because she can’t lose B’nik, but Lorana replies with the same things that we, the readers, have been told to accept without any explanation: you can’t break time, and what has been observed will have to happen. Even when Tullea threatens to take herself and Minith on a one-way trip to hyperspace after B’nik dies, Lorana is apologetic, but unmoved. Tullea puts Minith at Lorana’s disposal, and Lorana says she should see Ketan.
The next scene is Fiona checking with Bekka to make sure that both of them are safe to travel through hyperspace, before going to see Ketan, who is, indeed, in the throes of severe depression and despair, because the situation still looks entirely no-win, and he doesn’t see any reason that he should live for anything. And then we skip forward to Tullea confidently saying that Lorana will figure out a way of escaping B’nik’s apparent doom, with B’nik being less confident about that idea. We also get to see how B’nik’s impending demise has changed his relationship with Tullea and everyone else in the Weyr.
In an odd way, it was somewhat refreshing to realize that the problems of who would lead the Weyr were soon going to be out of his hands. He found himself spending more time relaxing, more time enjoying each new dawn, more time bouncing children on his knee when he visited the Lower Caverns–even despite Tullea’s pointed remarks about their parentage, parentage he didn’t dispute, much to her annoyance and his amusement.
In a way, B’nik mused, what I’ll miss most is how I’ve changed. Knowing that he was going to die, B’nik no longer had a reason to put up with Tullea’s antics or demands and Tullea had dropped them as soon as she’d accepted that he was going to die. Their relationship had grown steadily stronger, more intimate, restful.
If he had one regret, it was that he could not live long enough to see how their new relationship would unfold.
I’m not particularly fond of the trope of how people suddenly end up in a loving relationship when the relationship changes sufficiently (whether by death or birth, really) that some sort of maturity dawns and things become beatific. Especially with Tullea as the example of this, because this makes her into someone who is putting up a front of being mean and terrible, but in the presences of the right man, in the right scenario, she becomes soft and kind and loving and much more the feminine ideal of Pern. It makes her a tsundere, rather than keeping her as someone who is opinionated and interested in getting her own way.
Additionally, constructing it as “once B’nik stops caring, he stops putting up with Tullea, and by not putting up with Tullea, he finally gets the ideal relationship they both want with each other,” very much still blames Tullea as the root cause of all the problems in their relationship. I still have issues with the characterization of Tullea and her designation as a strident, bitchy woman, but she was at least a change from the mold of Weyrwomen who use their soft power and their sex appeal to get the riders to do what she wants. And now, the narrative strongly implies to us that B’nik just needed to man up enough to stop caring about what Tullea thinks, and faced with the presence of a Proper Man, Tullea fell both in love and in line. Which is at least consistent for Pern, even if it’s yet another example of the core problem of basing your entire world on uneaxmined tropes of patriarchal relationships.
The narrative also lays out an implication that the B’nik who knows he’s going to die has been sleeping with anyone that he wanted to or, depending on the age of the child he’s bouncing, has already been sleeping with anyone he’s been interested in before this. That Tullea is upset about this is another one of those things that betrays the supposedly liberal attitudes of the Weyrs about sex. What care should Tullea have that B’nik is sleeping around, so long as he’s still discharging his duties as Weyrleader? What care should anyone have if Tullea were sleeping around, so long as she could still be an effective Weyrwoman? In the nominally “we don’t care about parenting, we raise children communaly” Weyr, anyway. But, of course, every author has been aggressively promoting het monogamy in their relationships involving gold riders, with the exception of Fiona.
(As has been pointed out, though, if the thing driving Lorana to throw Kindan and Fiona at each other is to make sure Kindan has a replacement for Lorana when the inevitable disaster hits, then it’s likely that the intended, Platonic ideal of relationships in the tangled quad would be Lorana/Kindan, Fiona/T’mar, and not really any sort of crossover element involved at all. Possibly still Shaneese/T’mar, since Fiona, as best I can tell, is the only gold rider who hasn’t been desirous of strict monogamy. And treasuring the memory of the time she had with Kindan because of the mating flight, even if she wouldn’t take any action to try and get more, since Kindan has Lorana and they seem happy together.)
The narrative jumps over to T’mar and Lorana, where everyone essentially has a Bad Feeling about the future to come. Fiona has basically put Lorana on suicide watch and, at least according to T’mar’s belief, is sublimating all of her other worries about everything into her singular worry about Lorana’s physical and mental health deteriorating, before popping back to Tullea sending B’nik off to fly Fall and then B’nik at the Fall, where the early arrival of Thread puts the assembled dragons into disarray, and the presence of winds around the mountains causes further chaos, in apparently much the same way that the desert winds caused disarray in M’tal’s wings. Which is still odd, given that one would expect the seasoned riders to understand the winds around the mountains and how that would affect the way that Thread and dragons work. The chaos cascades back to Lorana, and in response, Fiona dispatches herself and Bekka to go to Benden and High Reaches to help with the casualties. At High Reaches, Fiona and Sonia have a conversation about the acute amount of stresses Lorana is under, including Tullea’s request for Lorana to find a way to cheat time and Tenniz’s various prophecies. Sonia points out that Fiona got quite the responsibility with “it will be all right,” because it puts the onus on Fiona to make sure that everything is all right (rather than what Fiona has been interpreting it as, that things will turn out fine despite all the problems). Fiona very much wants to relieve Lorana’s burdens, but Sonia suggests that burdens shared will not actually be burdens lessened when it comes to Lorana. Before they can explore that thought that much further, an injured dragon comes barreling in. Sonia is surprised at how well Lyrinth and Talenth work together to bring the injured dragon in safely, but then is consumed with the need to do dragon and human healing for this dragon and all the other injured ones. The purpose of the visit to High Reaches, narratively speaking, becomes a little clearer, though, at the end of this segment.
Hours later, covered in ichor, exhausted, cold from the afternoon winds that had picked up, Sonia turned from the younger Weyrwoman in time to be wrapped warmly in D’vin’s arms.
“Her,” Sonia said, as she struggled to breathe in the bronze rider’s tight embrace, “her too.”
D’vin raised an eyebrow in surprise but reached out and dragged Fiona into his embrace. He was surprised to see Sonia wrap an arm around the other woman, surprised to see Fiona return the embrace, and suprised by how tightly the younger Weyrwoman squeezed him back. Most of all, he was surprised by one thought: Sonia doesn’t share. Apparently, that had changed.
I mean, it could also be that Fiona has been instrumental in helping treat the injured over the last several hours, in addition to being under a significant amount of stress having to do with her own Weyr and various prophecies that involve her and the people around her, and deserves thanks as much as Sonia does, but no, this is apparently another instance of Fiona’s magic working and getting people to share where they wouldn’t normally.
Fiona is staying the night at High Reaches, Sonia has decided. And this is very much Sonia’s decision, but it’s played in the narrative as a moment of levity, which is desperately needed at this point.
“You are going to stay here the night, they’ll manage without you,” Sonia said as she eyed a nightgown thoughtfully and threw it toward the younger Weyrwoman. It would be big but it would do, she decided. “Put that on.”
“The correct answer is: ‘Yes, Weyrwoman’ ” D’vin called out drolly. “In fact, the only answer is–”
“Yes, Weyrwoman,” Fiona dutifully finished, chuckling. She’d drunk too much wine, she could feel her cheeks heating and tingling with the effects as she added superfluously “That’s the answer at my Weyr, too.”
“So you’ve got them well-trained,” Sonia said.
Which I like, just as a piece of writing, as there’s a certain amount of “Yes, Chef!” energy involved with this. More seriously, this continues to highlight the ambiguity about whose domain is whose when it comes to the running of the Weyr, and how much leverage any given Weyrwoman really has about the running of their space. It’s possible that D’vin is smarter than the average bear and has realized it’s in his best interest to let Sonia do things in her domain expertise and to support her with his authority so that the people who would look to him for command see him doing what Sonia wants, so they do the same things as well. Which we might also have to apply to T’mar and Kindan (definitely not to H’nez) at Telgar as well, which explains (along with Shaneese, who is still the best henchwoman a Weyrwoman could want) how Fiona is, for the most part, able to exercise her own influence and make the place run well.
Plot-wise, as Fiona is getting ready for bed, she reaches out to Lorana, who tells her firmly to stay where she is, which reveals to Sonia, who can read the look on Lorana’s face, that Fiona has the direct telepathic contact with Lorana. Fiona implores Sonia to keep that secret secret and also confesses quite a bit of her feelings for Lorana, which reintroduces a certain amount of ambiguity about how Fiona feels about the women and girls she cares for intimately.
“If Lorana hadn’t held Zirenth when T’mar was injured, he would have gone between.”
“And so you and Lorana…?”
Fiona shook her head, blushing furiously again. “Kindan,” she said in a small voice.
“Whom you’ve always wanted,” Sonia said.
“Yes,” Fiona said in a whisper, eyes lowered in shame. She raised them again to meet Sonia’s. “But I want Lorana, too. Like a sister, only more.” She paused, groping for words and then shook her head when she couldn’t find them, saying desperately, “I never realized that love is so different.”
Sonia quirked an eyebrow upward in question.
“I love Kindan,” Fiona said slowly, trying to make her meaning clear, “and I always will. I want children with him.” She paused. “But I want to help Lorana raise her children.”
Fiona hadn’t heard D’vin’s quiet footsteps approaching behind her so she started when he spoke up softly, “If she’s cut, you bleed?”
“Yes,” she said. “But not like with Kindan or T’mar.”
“A heart grows when you love,” D’vin said, carefully keeping his eyes on Fiona. “The more you love, the more you can love.”
“As a Holder, I was expected to marry,” Fiona said. She shook her head slowly. “I was expected to have only one man.”
“A queen rider doesn’t have that choice,” Sonia said.
“Her queen chooses in the mating flight,” Fiona said in partial agreement. “But she chooses all other times.”
“A good Weyrwoman–”
“–has the Weyr’s best interests at heart,” Fiona cut in, smiling at the older woman. “I know that.”
Sonia gave her a wicked look, as she said, “But a Weyrwoman doesn’t have to be good all the time!”
Okay, so in this context, the earlier comment about husbands and lovers very much looks like “one husband, who I could hope that I might grow to love” rather than “one husband, and perhaps, if we maintain discretion, one man that I might actually love.” So there’s that. (I do like Sonia implying that she hasn’t exactly been a dutiful monogamous Weyrwoman herself, even if Moreta is still the only one we’ve seen on screen take an outside lover from the Weyrleader.)
Additionally, though, this sequence reminds me of how Fiona came back from her three years in the past and understood that she didn’t have pantsfeels for Xhinna, not in the same way that Xhinna might have had for her. Sonia seems to be practical about the possibility that Fiona and Lorana might have had sex since their dragons were involved in sex as well. And the complete lack of judgment or hesitation on Sonia’s part either means Sonia is a badass ally or this idea isn’t a novel concept. (And therefore, Xhinna the lesbian should not actually be as uncommon as she actually is.) With the handy language developed from splitting out romantic attraction and sexual attraction out into different axes and spectra, things that haven’t really fully developed for the author at this time, I’d say that Fiona is at least biromantic, if not panromantic, even if she seems to be heterosexual, and she’s struggling with finding useful terminology for that part.
Also, Fiona really needs to talk through her feelings of guilt and shame about how she and Kindan got together, because she’s broadcasting that issue on as wide a band as she can here. I have a feeling it’s related to the part where Kindan has yet to indicate that he feels any sort of comfort about the relationship arrangment that he is currently part of. Because Kindan seems to be very much someone who wanted to be in a monogamous het relationship, and instead he finds himself in a quad that he doesn’t understand or want, because of mating flights and Lorana’s machinations.
Maybe if Kindan came to an understanding and even possibly acceptance of what was going on (even if the explanation really is “Lorana knows you have the hots for me, and she wants to make sure that I’m not left bereft of someone I love ever again, given how much that wrecked me with Koriana and it wrecked her with Arith”), then Fiona could settle into feeling like the relationships she has are okay. And she can work out exactly what her feelings are toward Lorana, whether they’re “I want us to co-parent our children and share Kindan between us” or “I have romantic feelings toward Lorana, sexual feelings toward Kindan, and I really just want us all in the same bed together, is that too much to ask?” or something else. This seems like really rich material for fanfic, honestly, since it’s a complex tangle of emotions and ideas and nobody seems to be talking about it at all on the page.
Anyway, this discussion closes out with something that I woule have expected to trigger Fiona mightily, even though it doesn’t.
Fiona’s face took on a sober look. “I’m only beginning to understand love,” she said slowly. “I’m beginning to see that there are many types.” She turned to face D’vin. “There are two men in my life right now, Weyrleader.”
D’vin nodded, understanding the unsaid part of her words. He smiled, gesturing toward Sonia. “I’m glad, because there’s only one woman in my life!”
“And that woman is cold and she wants to get warm,” Sonia declared, grabbing Fiona’s hand and tugging her along. “So let’s stop chattering out here and get under the blankets!”
Cocowhat by depizan
Like, that’s one of the worst possible things you could say about this, D’vin. Fiona is having trouble coping with her complex feels and you say “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with any of that shit, because I’m in love with exactly one woman, isn’t that great?” In any story other than Pern, I’d be willing to extend the benefit of the doubt that D’vin didn’t mean to be an asshole about it, but it’s probably, daresay even likely, that D’vin did mean exactly that and doesn’t care that he’s being an insensitive asshole to Fiona. Because the author didn’t realize how much of an asshole he’s being, there’s no reaction to it, but gah, what an asshole, D’vin.
The next morning, after a fitful reassurance from Lorana during the night, Sonia delivers yet another version of the same advice that Shaneese had given Fiona, although this time in the context of a warning.
“Remember: ‘Five coughs between, keeps the figure lean.’ ” Sonia told her warningly as Fiona sat astride Talenth and prepared to leave.
“At Telgar they say ‘seven,’ ” Fiona said. “But I’ll be careful.”
“So you want the baby?” Sonia asked, not able to keep the surprise out of her voice.
Which makes this mnemonic sound a lot more like folk wisdom, rather than some official piece of anything passed down. Which is entirely appropriate for the amount of birth control information and usage there is on Pern, but it’s interesting to see how the rhyme has stuck around, even if the number of coughs has somehow shifted around. In the next scene, which is still a lot of planning of the next Fall and T’mar telling everyone that he’s volunteered Telgar riders to help clean up any burrows from Benden’s last fall over Bitra (the one we saw B’nik have trouble with earlier), Fiona reveals to T’mar that she’s pregnant by using a similar phrasing:
“And we need the exercise,” she said in agreement, spearing him with a look as she added, “I don’t want to get fat after all!”
T’mar grimaced as the barb struck home but a moment later his expression changed. “You will be careful, won’t you?”
“As will Jeila,” Fiona said. “We’re not going that far and we’re not going to time it, so we’ll only get three coughs between.”
T’mar’s eyes took on a troubled look as he digested her words but he, wisely, merely nodded in agreement.
In the next paragraph, based on that reaction, Finoa grills T’mar about how he knew she was pregnant, which T’mar deflects with the idea that he was hoping it was true, but what makes the most sense in this context is that T’mar is also familiar with the phrasing and understands the cue that Fiona has left in her choice of words. Which suggests that the knowledge of hyperspace as an abortion service is much more widely knwon among dragonriders. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does change the understanding from a “women’s mysteries” idea that’s shared only between those who might want to avail themselves of the service to more generally known folklore present among dragonriders. I may be picking nits at this point, but there’s a lot about Pern that continues, even after all of these books, to remain nebulous that could do with a certain amount of making explicit. Which would at least change the complaints to the idea that the worldbuilding is inconsistent, instead of nonexistent.
The plot progresses at this point to Fiona taking her turn at spotting and burning Thread burrows. Although T’mar objects to her doing this at first, after he realizes he’s not going to get any help in the form of ground crews from Bitra (even though Thread burrows are routinely played up as things that could wip out a lot of things of economic consequence on Pern), T’mar lets Fiona and Jeila use their own flamethrowers in conjunction with dragons to burn out burrows. But all of that is essentially setup for the return, where Bekka is telling Fiona off for not bundling herself up properly on the way back from Bitra and catching chills. Lorana helps Fiona into bed, does a quick diagnostic of her own, and then settles Fiona into the bed, heating her with her own body and with extra blankets. The chapter ends with Fiona waking up briefly from a fever dream about losing her child, but eventually, she drifts back off to sleep, after being reassured things are fine.
I’m not entirely sure what narrative purpose this serves, unless it’s to show us that Fiona is very concerned about losing her child. But that seems like something that could be done with less dramatics that Fiona getting sick from traveling through the cold of hyperspace without having remembered to put her vest and jacket on to do it with. It would mean we’d need a new poem for Chapter 23, of course, and some other way of burning time, but I’m sure that could be arranged.