Monthly Archives: November 2020

Deconstruction Roundup for November 27th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is watching as slowly, there seems to be some amount of normalcy returning, even though it’s far too late for things to have been normal.)

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.

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 ready to do your best Edvard Munch impression because all the other people around you insist that they can’t possibly be parted from others, even though that’s the most likely thing to get them to permanently part them from others. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Meddling With The Past

Last time, Xhinna got promoted, not that it’s going to do a whit of good in dealing with the problems she has to fend off. And we got to see that Jirana’s come into her prophetic ability. And, as usual, Pern could really do with some therapists. But there was also the part where Xhinna engaged in some good parenting, in letting Jirana see that she’s scared out of her mind at all of this, as well, and keeps going anyway.

Sky Dragons, Chapter Seven – A Deed Redone: Content Notes:

As soon as Xhinna realizes the Plague flag is flying over Crom, she wants to leave in a panic, but Tazith tells her that they haven’t gone back far enough to be in the Plague, and Jirana points out a group of people to land nearby that might be able to explain why a Hold is still flying Plague when it’s been gone for several years at this point. Xhinna, however, is not having it and says she can’t risk them being wrong, so she warps them ahead in time to Red Butte. Which proves K’dan’s theory right, that the knot is a single point in space-time, rather than a barrier that prevents all travel, and also proves us right that said knot should be easily avoidable by warping through time on a different vector and then coasting in to Telgar by some other method. As it is, Xhinna came to Red Butte to test the theory, and to leave a message, and Jirana comes because she’s Seen that she leaves an offering at her father’s grave. And uses the opportunity to call them both out.

“You don’t trust people,” Jirana said. “You try to do it all yourself.” She shook her head and then turned back to her father, saying, “Maybe you can do it, but we can’t.”
“Are you talking to me or your father?” Xhinna asked in a soft, encouraging voice.
“Both of you,” Jirana said. “He’s dead, so he can’t hear me; you’re afraid, so you won’t hear me.”

Having been told off, Xhinna agrees to pop back in time to Crom to placate Jirana and leaves her message. After Jirana gets Xhinna thinking about what situation Jirana’s sending them back to, specifically, how Nerra ended up being in charge at Crom, Xhinna realizes there’s a hole in the official story large enough to fit a dragon into, and they pop back in time. Not too close, according to Tazith, so they arrive about ten minutes after they depart. In case we ever wondered what the real time window is that someone can disappear and reappear in without any ill effects.

Anyway, after Jirana tells Xhinna that everything she sees of the future is a might, rather than a certainty, Xhinna decides to trust Jirana and the two of them approach the smaller camp that’s set up outside the Hold, where most of the people there are starving. And suspicious of someone who claims to be a Telgar rider, a woman, on a blue, because, oh yeah, that’s unprecedented. All the same, Xhinna and Jirana get in to see Nerra, who wonders how someone she’s never met before knows her name, and the same for Jefric, one of her guards, at which point Xhinna realizes that she’s treading on thin temporal ice and does her best to stop Jirana from spilling all of the beans about what the future holds while still threading the needle of giving Nerra what she wants. Which is essentially that Tazith and a strike force will go in, get the gates of the Hold open, and then the rest of those camped outside will retake the place that’s theirs. In exchange, Xhinna asks for Candidates for her Search, all women, because Nerra says she won’t be able to spare any men. They do manage to wrangle a private audience with Nerra, where Jirana informs her of the situation in the future as best she can, much to Xhinna’s annoyance. After navigating a little bit of warranted suspicion, Tazith deposits everyone in the courtyard and Nerra retakes her hold by appealing to the patriotism and honor of those guarding it to open the gates and have everyone go together to confront her brother. Who they do, eventually, find and bring before her.

“I found him in the drudges’ quarters, my lady,” Jefric said, his voice filled with deadly rage. He mouth worked for a moment as he fought for words. “He was, ah, entertaining.”
“Brother?” Nerra said, glancing at the man standing before her. “Would you care to explain?”
Fenril whimpered, but said nothing.
Nerra flicked her gaze away from him, eyes blazing. It was a long moment before she could bring herself to look once more at him and say, “Brother, why is it that the people of this Hold have been denied the food they harvested, the food saved for such a terrible Plague as the one that passed through us nearly two Turns back?”
“Still,” Fenril mumbled.
“Pardon?”
“Still Plague,” Fenril said defiantly.
Nerra turned to Tormic. “Is this true?”
Tormic reddened as he stammered, “M-my Lady, Lord Fenril said the Plague was outside the Hold, that we were in danger—
“Not so,” Nerra said, cutting him short. “No Plague, except for that of empty bellies, starving people. And that ends now.”
“Our stores are running low,” Tormic said.
“We’ll share what we have,” Nerra said. “There are farms desperate for seed—seed that should have come from the Hold.” She turned back to Fenril. “Father, with his dying words, set upon me the charge of this Hold. You have denied it for these past two Turns and our people ahve starved from your neglect. What say you?”
“I—I—,” Fenril stammered, shaking his head. “Not right. D’gan [ASSHOLE] would never support—”
“It is up to the Conclave of Lord Holders to confirm a Lord Holder, not a Weyrleader,” Nerra told him sternly. She waved to one of her guards, who moved to place a restraining arm on Fenril’s shoulder. “Until that time, brother, you will be kept under guard—”
“On what charge?”
“Treason,” Nerra told him calmly. “To the holders in your charge, to your father, and to me.” She nodded at the guard. Paying no attention to Fenril’s gabbled protests as he was led away, she turned to Tormic. “I need to see the Storemaster soonest.”

One wonders exactly what kind of “entertaining” Fenril was doing that would work up such a rage. Given that this is about food and hunger, it could be read that Fenril was feasting in the drudges’ quarters, giving rise to anger that he was keeping himself fed at everyone else’s expense. Or that he was feeding perfectly good food to the drudges, who should never have been given anything but scraps and slop as befitting their station. Or that Fenril was availing himself of other possible pleasures of various drudges, who would not be in a position of power to tell him no. (The latter was the thing I thought of first, because it’s Pern, but the others are also possible.)

Just as interesting, however, is what Fenril says about the Asshole of Telgar, and what Nerra’s response is to him. In Pern-as-described, the Weyrleaders mostly keep their noses out of the business of the Lords Holder, so long as those selfsame Lords provide sufficient tribute of sufficient quality sufficiently quickly and sufficiently often that the dragonriders are placated. In the Pern we’ve experienced, as well as what we’ve seen about how the Asshole at Telgar thinks about traditions and those who bend them or dare to exist outside of them, and how much he’s been a hands-on kind of person about getting what he wants, Fenril has a valid argument that Crom has to manage the opinions and aggravation of their Weyrleader, lest they be hit with tribute demands they can’t manage or the Asshole decides to forego or be late to Thread defense at Crom because of the non-traditional leader that it has. These are things, of course, that can be handled, planned for, or worked out, but it’s going to take someone of iron will and really good popularity rating to stay in power when potentially both the Lords and the Weyrleader are calling for Nerra’s ouster, or trying to put subtle and obvious pressure on her to resign her post and let someone who they will see as legitimate hold Crom instead. Possibly by blessing their marraige to Nerra, regardless of what Nerra thinks about it, or some other method. And, although it hasn’t happened yet on the timeline, the reader who has been following this series as the books are published already knows how Thella was treated when she made her case for becoming Lord Holder, and how that was resoundingly rejected in favor of Larad. (Yes, we already know that Nerra holds Crom in the future, and Jancis got confirmed as a Mastersmith, if not The Mastersmith, but for someone who lacks that knowledge, Fenril is essentially laying out what kind of tradition is going to be bucked and who might be made potential enemies if Nerra goes through with this idea and insists on being the person in charge and pressing the birthright claim that she says her father gave her, and not Fenril. Even so, on a world like Pern, it’s pretty clear that unless Nerra has allies in the Conclave and better-than-ironclad documentation of her claim, they would be entirely unlikely to give it to her, and they might not do so anyway, so long as there’s some other male relative that they can confirm instead of having to let a woman be in charge. Especially if doing so keeps the Lords in Telgar’s domain in the good graces of the Weyr they rely on for protection against Thread.

As things are, with Nerra back in charge at Crom, Xhinna and Tazith are tasked with shuttling the people who are worst off from starvation to the Hold from the camp, which they do until Xhinna’s too tired to continue, then after a night’s sleep, Xhinna and Jirana are tasked with running the Storemaster out to the outerlying holds to see how bad things really are. Tormic tags along as well, and that ends the chapter.

Chapter Eight – A Journey Through Twilight: Content Notes: Survival Sex Work, Implied Underage Sex

As one might expect, when it comes to starving everyone while feasting in your own hold, things are far worse than expected, in that several Holds no longer have anyone alive, between the Plague and the starvation that followed, but Xhinna and her company are able to spread the news that there’s someone competent holding at Crom again, promise people to help things out, mention there’s plenty of land for the taking that needs rebuilding and reworking, and otherwise get morale moving in a positive direction.

We also find out what the message is that Xhinna dropped at Red Butte:

It had been the Storemaster’s suggestion to shape a stone into a wide prism with their message for the future inscribed on all sides. The message was simple: “Back three Turns in Western. Send help.”

So they did take our advice, eventually, and carved a message in a stone and left it for someone to find. Just not as immediately, or in the most logical place, but you can’t break time, and Red Butte was where the future folks said they found the message. There’s so much sensible action being taken at a time long past when it was sensible to do it.

While Xhinna was out doing her thing and making sure the world outside was ready to support Nerra, Jirana has apparently found all five Candidates that they’re supposed to collect and bring back for Coranth’s clutch. The first one that Xhinna sees reminds her way too much of herself.

Xhinna guessed she was an orphan of the Plague. The girl met her gaze and lifted her chin with feigned pride; Xhinna had made that same pose herself too many times not to recognize what it was.
“Alimma,” Jirana said, moving forward. “This is Xhinna. She rides in Search.”
“Search?” Alimma repeated, her eyes shining briefly with hope, then dimming. “Did you want me to find you some likely boys?”
She is one, Tazith said, with a certainty that surprised his rider.
Two are meek—they’ll ride greens but fight well; the other is strong but hurt.
“No, thank you,” Xhinna replied, tousling Jirana’s head as she added, “The looking’s already been done.”
Alimma’s eyes lit.

I’m not really happy about the idea of “meek” being a quality of a green rider, because it smacks me too much of how Jepara is treating Meeya. Now, if all of those “meek” girls end up having the same kind of attitude that will put those gold riders (or any other rider) firmly in their place, then “meek” is less of an issue, although it still means that someone will have to be bullied to the point of where they snap, which probably won’t have great consequences for them.

I do like, however, that Alimma has caught on to what it means that they’re assembled and Xhinna is telling them that there’s no need to go looking for any boys. And I think this next question that Xhinna is going to ask is remarkably on point for what these candidates are going to be asked to do.

“Which of you knows how to handle fractious children?” Xhinna asked, eyeing them carefully.
“I do,” the thinnest of them replied. She had a haunted, fragile look about her. She looked starved, gaunt. Xhinna thought she could put on at least a stone or two in weight if given the chance.
“Danirry lost her family in the Plague when she had fifteen Turns,” Nerra explained, her eyes going dark with a rage that Xhinna could almost feel radiating from her. “She was shunted from aunt to uncle, and never fed.”
“You’ve seventeen Turns?” Xhinna asked.
“Only queens take girls,” Danirry said.
“Or greens or blues,” Xhinna said. She could not help taking on a tender expression as she added, “Like my Tazith.”
“You’re a wingleader?” Alimma asked, pointing to her rank knot.
Xinna nodded. She was surprised how the notion no longer seemed strange to her.

It’s amazing what you’ll get used to when you’re not given a choice to accept or refuse it. I still think that Xhinna would feel and be more comfortable if she had actual support behind her, but if she continues to be treated like a wingleader, she’s going to start believing that she is one.

Also, I don’t think this is the first time that “stone” has been used as a weight measure. Even if it is, though, considering that it’s already a region-specific sort of measurement in our time, I have trouble believing it survived all the way across the space and time, because at a certain point, I expect all metric and SI units to win out, especially in a society that was good enough to cross the stars. But, this far into the series, with as many times as I’ve complained about the lack of linguistic thinking regarding worldbuilding, one more thing won’t destroy it all. Or any more than it was already destroyed.

The scrutinizing of the other girls continue.

“I’ll go, if you want me,” Mirressa said, giving Xhinna a coy look. She had a high, childlike voice. Xhinna guessed that she had thirteen Turns, maybe less.
I can see why some bronze riders hate this, Xhinna thought. Mirressa was cute in a childish way but no more; to have one so young make eyes at her left Xhinna feeling uneasy, like she needed to wash ehr hands. Then she realized Mirressa was scared and trying to appear older than she was.
She has strength, Tazith told her. Mother strength.
Yes, now Xhinna could see it. She could imagine this girl grown into motherhood, fiercely fighting for her children, taking on all opponents—and winning.
“We’ve a chance that there will be greens in the Hatching,” Xhinna said to her. “Would you be willing to ride a green dragon?”
“And fight Thread?” Mirressa asked, suddenly coming alive, her voice no longer simply bubbly but determined.
“Yes.”
Mirressa stepped forward. “I’ll do it.”

According to Kindan-Fiona scale of when to get married or partnered, thirteen is someone who is right in the prime of her eligibility. And after so many books of people going “young girls paired with older men is entirely okay and to be encouraged” and earlier, we had everyone going “that J’riz kid is going to have a lot of suitors, men and women alike, because he’s really fine and he’s going to grow up into someone even more fine,” when it comes to someone trying to flirt with Xhinna so that she’ll get chosen to go to Sky Weyr, Xhinna is suddenly “gah, no, now I understand why some of the bronze riders hate this,” as if there have been any bronze riders that we’ve seen that have ever raised any sort of objection to the idea of banging a young girl if and when her queen dragon decides it’s mating flight time. Or any osrt of objection to banging anyone they have their eye on because they’re too young or they’re trying too hard to get in their pants. This feels a lot more like an author hitting their own personal squick boundary, about older girls and younger girls, and deciding to make their squick Xhinna’s squick, rather than taking a step back and recognizing that the way they’ve written this sentence suggests that most bronze riders don’t give a fig about how old the person who’s trying to flirt with them is, and that it seems to be a widely-known tactic that if a dragonrider comes on Search, you do your best to be sexy to them, because that increases your chances of getting brought along, even if you never Impress. Which, as we have documented over all the other books, even if you don’t Impress, being part of the Weyr is almost always the pinnacle of food security. So there are plenty of women who would happily trade the potential of being caught in an orgy for knowing where they next meal is coming from. Like Danirry.

“I bite them when they get ugly,” Danirry said, glancing at her fingernails, which were bitten to the quick.
“Then you should never bite them,” Xhinna said, smiling at the surprised look on the girl. “You’ve got pretty hands, and they’ll look prettier with nice nails.”
Danirry jerked her hands from Xhinna’s as though stung. Xhinna turned to Nerra, who gestured, urging patience.
“Don’t you need to get your things?” Xhinna asked.
“No, nothing’s mine—I should leave it for the next girl,” Danirry said.
Xhinna bit her tongue on a sharp retort. The girl was clearly convinced she was worthless. She wondered why both Jirana and Tazith thought she would Impress. Xhinna’s nose twitched, and she realized that Danirry had not cleaned her clothes in a while, either.
“Danirry, why don’t you go check on Mirressa and Jirana,” Nerra said, gesturing toward the exit. The girl nodded once and scuttled away, her shoulders slouched, her bare feet dragging on the floor.
“A dragon won’t put up with that,” Xhinna said as soon as the girl was out of earshot.
“She gives the others her food; gives them the new clothes,” Nerra said, shaking her head with a sad smile. “She’s lost half a stone’s weight since she came here.”
“What happened?”
“The Plague, the famine that followed, aunts and uncles who had too little of their own, who fed her last, worked her hardest,” Nerra said. She frowned, eyes narrowed. “She came here from somewhere nearby, but won’t say where. She arrived in my camp two days before you, half-dead with hunger.” She paused. “She bartered down to the very last thing she could offer for food, until that final time.” Nerra sighed. “She’s not the first and she won’t be the last, I’m afraid. But after that, she lost interest in eating.”
“We’ll take care of her,” Xhinna said. She could guess how Danirry could become the fighter Tazith and Jirana had seen in her. The thought of what the girl had gone through filled her with rage. “Did you find the one who made that last ‘barter’?” she asked, her voice low with anger.
“She was old enough—though far too thin for anyone to think she was of age,” Nerra said.

Just in case we needed reminding that Pern is a Crapsack World for anyone who isn’t a high-ranking Crafter, Lord, or any form of dragonrider. The way this is, it sounds like Nerra is concerned that there are young girls engaged in the sex trade, but not so much that she’s going to do anything about it, even if those girls are underage. And this is in a world, we might recall, where if you’re in the sex trade and the local official doesn’t like you, or you refuse them, then you can be branded as Shunned and exiled out of society because you stood up for yourself. Xhinna’s pissed off at the way that Danirry’s been treated by everyone in her life, because she has enough similarities of indignity and of people treating her terribly that she can empathize entirely with Danirry’s life. Nerra is the person who can actually do something about it, now that she’s Lord Crom, but it sounds like she doesn’t care enough to take action on the matter. Nor that she cares enough that people are literally bartering away everything they have that they think might be of value in exchange for surviving another day. Which, y’know, maybe Nerra’s internalized the rhetoric about everyone fending for themselves and how the poor are poor because that’s their destined lot in life, but it seems like if that were the case, she wouldn’t have fought so damn hard to get her Hold back and to specifically charge her brother with dereliction of duty to his Holders. So, yeah, that’s supremely jarring to hear Nerra be so cavalier about the prospects of women and girls bartering sex for food. (Especially with as much emphasis on virginity that Holder culture appears to have.)

Once everyone is loaded, Xhinna, Jirana, and company head to Azeez’s trader caravan at a specific point in time for Jirana to collect the last of the candidates that they’re going to need. If they can get past the remarkably enthusiastic boy who is absolutely convinced they’re there for him, instead. After a little small talk with Azeez about the Sight and the good and bad that comes with it. Anyway, Jasser is superemely convinced of two very wrong things at once:

“Aliyal, it’s Jirana! She’s come back and she’s older—she’s come back because she loves me!”
“I do not!” Jirana said, squirming out of her grandfather’s arms and turning to stand in front of the boy. “You’ve got red hair and no trader’s got that!”
“Jirana!” Azeez growled.
“I wouldn’t say anything bad about red hair,” Xhinna called warningly.
“Aliyal, we came for you! We ride in Search,” Jirana said, dodging around Jasser and racing to leap into teh arms of a young willowy teen whose red hair shone even in the gloom.
She is the one, Tazith confirmed.

Which would normally settle the matter, except Jasser has no intentions of letting Aliyal go without him, threatening (credibly, apparently) that if they leave, he’ll run away and find Aliyal anyway. Which has their mother, Aressil, asking if there’s enough room for both kids and her to go. Which seems like an impasse, except Mirressa asks if they can carry the extra people if the people already aboard ditch their belongings. Which is true, but what’s actually true is that Tazith can carry everybody and their cargo, with nothing and nobody left behind, and with everyone arranged to go, Jirana complains that this is not the picture she saw and Jasser tweaks her slightly by telling her that she doesn’t see everything. But, with everybody loaded, Tazith and passengers return to Sky Weyr and the chapter ends.

Spoilers: Taria’s not going to be happy to see them, since they don’t look like people who will be immediately useful to the war effort, even if they’re supposed to be the candidates for the dragon eggs. But there’s also something else going on with her that makes me want to go Oh Author No, so we’ll save that for the next time.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 20th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is watching as someone continues to insist that reality is unreal, surrounded by persons who think it’s a good idea to feed those delusions.)

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.

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 ready to do your best Edvard Munch impression because all the other people around you insist that they can’t possibly be parted from others, even though that’s the most likely thing to permanently part them from others. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Promoted To The Level Of Your Competence

Last time, Xhinna and R’ney talked about Jepara, where R’ney imparted wisdom and Xhinna hatched a plan to get Jepara back in line, then X’lerin and Xhinna talked about J’keran and Jepara, and Xhinna told X’lerin about the plan to get Jepara back in line and decidd they were going to help J’keran continue to be a pain in the ass, because his PTSD frightens them and they don’t want to end up like him. It wasn’t all that many pages in the book, honestly.

Sky Dragons: Chapter 6: A Knot On The Shoulder: Content Notes: Neuroatypical stereotypes, Sexism, Bad Bosses, Self-Sacrificing Bad Attitudes

“No good deed goes unpunished” was an old saying—an Ancient-Timer saying according to some—and Xhinna realized, ruefully, that it was still valid when X’lerin gave her his latest surprise two days later.
“Wingleader?” Xhinna echoed, eyes wide. “You want me to be a wingleader?”
“And that’s an order,” X’lerin said to Xhinna, with a smug look. K’dan stood nearby, a huge grin spreading across his face as he, clearly forewarned, took delight in Xhinna’s amazement.
“We’re only just making it official,” the harper told her. “After all, it’s that or Weyrleader—”
“But I ride a blue!”
“And we’ve already told you that it’s not the dragon, it’s the rider,” K’dan reminded her.
[…Xhinna presses then for details, and finds out she’s being put in charge of the queen wing…]
“We felt they needed someone like you,” X’lerin interjected.
“What?” Xhinna asked, brows high. “A girl?”
“No, a leader,” X’lerin retorted. “I’ve got my hands full with my wing and the queens are too much on their own for any bronze rider.” He cut his eyes slyly toward K’dan as he added, “Even a harper.”
“We’re merely recognizing your authority in a way that can’t be argued,” K’dan added.
[…Xhinna realizes both X’lerin and K’dan understand she’s going to be challenged, and concludes that X’lerin has decided to “delegate difficult tasks and distance himself from painful decisions.” like trying to handle Jepara when he’s got the only mature bronze dragon here…]
“Some won’t like it,” Xhinna pointed out.
“Do you mean J’keran?” X’lerin asked, raising an eyebrow. “I’ll manage him.”
Actually, she’d been thinking of Jepara and the other young queen riders, but Xhinna could think of nothing else to say, glancing from young bronze rider to older harper until K’dan burst out in laughter.
“You should see your face!”
Xhinna glared at him.

Paragon of maturity, K’dan is.

That said, I still agree with Xhinna that she’s being given the rank without the support and told to go fix a problem that’s going to need the bronze riders to back her up publicly. X’lerin doesn’t have the experience to recognize that Xhinna needs more than a promotion to be effective, and K’dan has never been shown on page to have any sort of leadership ability, despite routinely being significantly older than most of the cast of the Fiona books and around people who, well, theoretically can lead. Fiona, if she were here, would simply bowl over anyone who gave Xhinna trouble about her new rank, although with her empathic abilities, she might frame it in such a way that they don’t realize they’ve pissed off the Weyrwoman until T’mar takes strips out of their hide for what they did.

Giving Xhinna the official rank doesn’t actually solve the problem that needs solving, it just means that Xhinna can formally call it insubordination or conduct unbecoming a dragonrider when she tells X’lerin and K’dan who needs to sit in the sin bin. On Pern, with people like J’keran around, it seems the only available solution to the problem of Xhinna’s authority is that she beats the insubordination out of the first higher-colored dragonrider that disrespects her, and all the leadership riders just look on and shrug when people look to them to stop the fight before it gets out of hand or someone gets seriously hurt. If it’s J’keran who mouths off to Xhinna, even better.

This is a shitty solution, let’s be clear. But the solution that requires less shed blood is the one where senior leadership imposes punishments for anyone disrespecting or refusing to follow the directives of Wingleader Xhinna, regardless of their dragon color, and there’s nobody here who can think of that, much less pull it off.

Xhinna, after finding out who she’s going to be in charge of, picks R’ney as her second, which is a good decision, because R’ney is likely to respect Xhinna and be willing to serve with her, but it’s also a necessary decision so that when Xhinna gives an order and the other dragonriders look at R’ney with the idea of “is she fucking serious?”, R’ney can give back to them “Yeah, she’s serious, do it.” and it’ll be on a brown rider Wingsecond’s orders rather than the blue Wingleader’s, in their minds, when they follow through with it. So they can feel better about who is giving the orders and that their entire social paradigm hasn’t been upset and that they’re not “really” having to follow a girl on a blue who’s been duly and properly promoted.

The narrative then has Xhinna in full “everyone is giving me a headache mode” in the context of delivering the news of her choice to us, to the point where she explodes at R’ney when she comes to see her and Rowerth throws dirt on her for a digging project.

Xhinna let out a deep sigh, telling herself that, as K’dan had recently reminded her, the first duty of a leader is to control herself, particularly her temper. Xhinna’s protest that she wasn’t a leader, merely a blue rider, had been met with contemptuous snorts from both X’lerin and K’dan.
“It isn’t the color of your dragon but the force of your personality,” K’dan had told her. X’lerin had nodded in firm agreement. They’d gone on to talk about what it meant to be a leader and how some, regardess of their dragons, were better suited than others—J’keran was the counterexample.

Except, of course, that the color of her dragon is an impediment to being seen or being effective as a leader, and for as much as everyone says that Xhinna is leader material, her leadership very specifically comes out only when she doesn’t have anyone to defer to, and so she has to lead. This isn’t surprising, given that what we know of Xhinna’s upbringing, and the way that she’s been treated by everyone. Because she’s basically been traumatized all her life, the idea of stepping into a leadership position is seen as providing more attack surface, not rewarding someone as they deserve for a job well done. Xhinna’s suffered enough that she would like to fade into the background, please, but instead she’s a woman riding a blue dragon and now people are pushing her again to go into leadership.

If only there were some fucking therapists on this rock to help Xhinna with her issues and find ways of coping with them and becoming the shining leader that everyone apparently sees in her.

Anyway, R’ney’s having Rowerth dig because he wants to know how much time it would take the dragonets and the full-size dragons to remove all the dirt on top of the stone that’s on the top of the plateau. The way this is presented, it still feels to me like R’ney might not be as neurotypical as the people around him, because he seems to expect Xhinna to follow along with his idea and instantly understand why Rowerth is digging. Once he explains all the steps that he’s skipped to get to the current point, Xhinna understands, but a leap like that, and the other ways that R’ney is described doing similar hops makes me wonder. The narrative passes it off as having Smith training and a Smith brain, for the most part, but there’s something there that makes me wonder. Especially because of the way that Fandarel, the Smith, was coded in the originals, and seemed to be recruiting people with the ability to both grasp complex things and to get entirely lost in a flow state while they were working on things – the kind of stuff associated with ADHD and the autism spectrum. Add in Fandarel’s monomania with efficiency, and it only becomes a stronger read. Knowing that the traits of neuroatypicality manifest differently in girls and women than they do in men, it’s possible Mastersmith Jancis has it, too, but it really seems to be that the Smithcrafthall has become tightly associated with autism and other neuroatypicalities. There was the scene during Fiona’s time twist at the Smith Hall where the Smiths all essentially left their workplace messy to give the Headowman something to clean up, and they assumed she enjoyed doing it as well as looking after all of them. Which, y’know, still makes them assholes because they’re dumping all of that work on her and blithely assuming she’ll do it because she’s a woman, but there’s a possibility that this assholism is a mixture of neuroatypicality making it hard for them to keep a clean workspace and the societal expectations they’ve had drilled into them that women are for cleaning up after them. (There’s probably a more fascinating analysis for someone else in the idea of seeing how well the Smithcraft maps onto neuroatypicality. I can’t say that it does with authority, or with enough confidence, since meeting one person with autism means you’ve met one person with autism and sweeping generalizations don’t usually work.)

Getting back to the matter of Xhinna’s temper, there’s also this part about how she and R’ney work together well as a team.

“And where are you supposed to be right now?” Xhinna asked.
R’ney’s face fell. “Taria’s with Razz and Jirana.”
“You left a pregnant mother and a child together with a Mrreow?” Xhinna roared, unable to contain herself. Bekka had only needed one quick inspection of Taria before pronouncing her officially pregnant.
R’ney wilted for a moment, then said mulishly, “The Meeyu is sleeping and they’re on the outside of the cage.”
“Oh,” Xhinna said in an apologetic tone, “sorry.” In an attempt at further apology, she waved her hand at the hole that had provided the dirt still festooning her best riding gear and asked, “So what did you find?”
“I’d only just started, blue rider,” R’ney replied. He was too gentle—mostly—to roar back at her. The few times he had, though, she’d thoroughly deserved it and had, as soon as she’d cooled down, been grateful for his criticism.
“One of the duties of a second,” R’ney had said as he dismissed her apology back then, “is to have the courage to tell his leader when she’s wrong.”
“Keep doing that, please,” Xhinna told him.
“Is this another of those times when I’m wrong and need to apologize?” she asked now, feeling humbled.
R’ney thought about it for a moment and then shook his head. “No,” he said, “this is one of those times when you should bite my head off and feed it to the Mreeows for endangering our young.”
“Okay,” Xhinna said. “By my count, then, we’re about even.”
“I don’t keep count,” R’ney told her. “But if I did, I’d say that I was in your debt from the first.”
“Well, then, I’d say that now we’re even because I was keeping count,” Xhinna told him drolly.

Which is to say, they work pretty well as a team. And Xhinna has a healthier relationship to her emotions than Fiona does. Then again, Xhinna also doesn’t have the possibility that her emotional state could become the entire emotional state of the Weyr through a poorly-understood contagion mechanism, so she’s much more allowed to let off steam. With good reason, given how much of a bad idea it is to leave a child and a pregnant person around potentially dangerous wildlife. After R’ney fully explains the plan and also says that Tazith can’t join in yet because he’s cacluating based on Rowerth’s known rate and that he would have to recalibrate for Tazith (which Xhinna doesn’t quite fully understand, but chalks it up to not having Smith training), we get Xhinna demonstrating that same instinct about the dangers of large cats, even when they’re small.

Jirana was awake when Xhinna got to the cage. She was just outside the bars, leaning in with one arm to pet the nearest Meeyu. Xhinna broke into a run when she saw her and tackled the child, scooping her up and rolling her out of the way.
“Never do that!” Xhinna cried as Jirana burst into frightened tears. “You can’t trust the Mreeows!”
“I was only petting it,” Jirana cried. Taria woke up at the commotion and looked over in alarm.
“I must have dozed off,” she said in apology. Her eyes narrowed as she took in the tableau. “What are you doing with Jirana?”
Xhinna explained quickly and Taria shook her head. “They wouldn’t hurt her.”
“Not like Coranth,” Xhinna retorted hotly. “They’d maul her first, probably hamstring her, and then—” She broke off, seeing the growing terror in Jirana’s eyes. She took a deep breath and brought her worries under control. “Sweetie,” she told the young girl, “you can’t just think that every soft furry thing is going to be good all the time.”
“She’s right,” Taria said, giving Xhinna a pointed look. “Sometimes you can’t be too careful.”
“No,” Xhinna corrected, “you can never be too careful.” Taria had grown moodier and more worried as her pregnancy really took hold and the Hatching neared.

I have a lot of sympathy for Xhinna here, because she’s the one that’s trying to prevent everyone from getting hurt or killed, because while the cats may be cuddly at this point, that’s no guarantee they’re not going to grow up into things that would much more happily kill or maim than be petted. And nobody else seems to be seeing things the same way that she is, or at least admitting that her point of view is a valid one and that they should be much more careful around the kittens. Xhinna’s paranoia is based in the real responsibility she feels to make sure everyone gets back alive, and because she loves the people she’s trying to protect. If she had a therapist to talk to, she might be able to articulate why she needs to shield everyone from all potential dangers, and to recalibrate herself so that she’s assessing the potential dangers accurately and appropriately, and is better able to communicate her fears and worries to the people involved.

That said, for as much as Xhinna is exploding at everyone because of the intense pressure and stress she’s under to be the Most Exceptional Woman, she’s doing a damn fine job of parenting with Jirana.

“Are you two fighting again?” Jirana asked, having recovered from her fright. She looked at Xhinna and then Taria. “I thought you loved each other.”
“We do,” Xhinna told her. “But we can love each other and still disagree.”
Taria snorted. “And people, even dragonriders, can be wrong,” she said. “The smart ones are those who admit it.”
“I was coming to tell you that I’ve arranged to go Search,” Xhinna said as she released Jirana. She was surprised when the girl grabbed her hands and began to rub them.
“I like your hands,” Jirana told her softly. “I feel safe in them.”
Taria glanced sharply at the little girl, then up into Xhinna’s eyes. Her lips quivered for a moment, and then she confessed, “I do, too.”
The tension seemed to drain out of the air as Xhinna met her eyes.
“I get scared sometimes,” Xhinna said softly. She felt Jirana pause in her rubbing, then resume it again as though she were performing some sort of healing massage, like her brother J’riz.
“I’m terrified all the time,” Taria replied. She glanced down at her belly, still flat, at the Meeyus in their cage and then, fleetingly, toward the sandy beach where Coranth’s eggs lay.
[…Taria is reassured there are people with the eggs, and Xhinna calls for Tazith to come collect them…]
“My mother gets mad when I fight,” Jirana said.
“I get mad when I fight,” Xhinna admitted. “Sometimes it’s hard not to, though, isn’t it?”
“You mean it doesn’t get easier when you get older?” Jirana asked in surprise.
“It gets easier to stop being mad,” Xhinna told her. “And it gets easier to decide not to be mad. But sometimes you still get mad.”
“Oh.” Jirana raised her hands for Xhinna to pick her up. Even at ten, the child was small enough that she was nothing to carry, and Xhinna slung her on one hip with the practice of a child-minder and walked toward Tazith. Jirana leaned in suddenly and kissed Xhinna’s cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Xhinna said, returning the kids with a big, loud smack.

I mean, Xhinna was a child-minder for she was a dragonrider, so she would have that practice.

This sequence is also so good. Adults discussing their emotions and engaging in good parenting practice about showing children that yes, sometimes there are fights, but also, there is making up and admitting that grownups sometimes get mad and get scared and have to work through their conflicts with others. What’s missing from this sequence is men and boys. (Sorry, Tazith, but for this point, you don’t count.) This scene and sequence would be so much better if it were K’dan and X’lerin talking to J’riz, because dragonrider culture is built so strongly on toxic ideas of masculinity that don’t allow someone to show emotions that would be perceived as weakness. J’keran is self-medicating his PTSD with drinking, but also is projecting so much of his insecurity into bravado that he’s a liability. It would be so much better if K’dan or X’lerin could take him aside and say that it’s okay to be scared shitless about all of this, about the possibility of dying in Threadfall, about the pain of seeing so many others who were friends die to disease and Thread, and to let him talk about it in a supportive environment. But instead, it’s Xhinna and Taria talking to Jirana, safely away from the possibility that their frankness with emotions will get anywhere near the boys or the men.

The narrative progresses to K’dan letting Lurenth out for a swim, and once it’s clear that the dragonets can float and swim, it’s decided they can come out to the water in rotations to build their muscles. Exercise matters settled for the dragons, K’dan demonstrates more intelligence than he’s ever had to at this point in trying to explain why the hell the time knot continues to exist, despite it being unraveled in the future.

“Anyway,” he said, gesturing to the drawing on the sand, “I was thinking that perhaps between has a shape to it.”
“A shape?”
“Well, perhaps not a ‘shape’ so much as something that defines it,” K’dan said. “That between is a way through both space and time, so I thought that time and space have a meaning in between.”
“I don’t understand,” X’lerin said. Beside him, Xhinna nodded vigorously in agreement.
“I don’t know if it can be put into words,” K’dan said, pointing again to the drawing, “which is why I tried to draw it.”
“And this drawing shows?”
K’dan pointed with the stick to the part of the drawing farthest from them. “Let’s say that that line represents where Fiona and everyone else went. Our ‘present’ if you will.”
“About three Turns from now,” X’lerin said by way of agreement.
“A bit more, I think,” K’dan said. “I’ve checked with Colfet. He’s been looking at the stars and he thinks we’re back in the summer three Turns before the Third Pass.”
He pointed to a spot on the drawing. “That dotted line represents the time when D’gan [ASSHOLE] and the old Telgars jumped between.”
“And that other line?” X’lerin said, pointing to the line that ran from some point in the future to the top line of the drawing, the “present” line.
“That’s the line representing Fiona’s jump between times,” K’dan said. He pointed at the big hole where the two lines met. “And that hole is the knot they formed when they crossed paths.”
“And?” X’lerin prompted.
“We know from Xhinna that the knot was still there when she tried to jump,” K’dan said. “And we know from your arrival that the knot doesn’t prevent people from jumping back in time, only from jumping forward.”
[…they talk about the experience to confirm that C’lerin wasn’t affected going back…]
K’dan raised his stick and drew a new line close to them. “I think you’d be safest if you went back in time from here and then came forward once more.” He drew connecting lines from the “now” position to some place back in time and then back again.
“Yes,” Xhinna said, frowning at the drawing. “That could work.”

More intelligence, certainly, but not the most intelligence, since K’dan’s conclusion is that people should hop backward in time and stay behind the “now” line, rather than understanding that if you’re going to posit the knot as a specific coordinate of space-time, at the intersection of two vectors, the easiest way to avoid it is to change your own vector, as has already been pointed out by the commenters here. If trying to warp directly from the Isle to Telgar means you hit the knot, then you warp to somewhere out of the way, then stay in that spot and warp to your desired time point, and then fly or warp to Telgar once you’re past the time boundary. It’s a longer journey, sure, and you might have to rest the new dragonets more to make sure they’re able to do the hop without anyone getting lost, but that’s the matter of surviving long enough for the dragonets to do the time hop, rather than hunkering down for years upon end in a lethal sort of place so that your vector changes enough that it passes through where Fiona’s already cleared the knot.

And what’s most aggravating about this is that K’dan seems to grasp the idea of shifting vectors, with the way that he’s positing that people hop back in time first and then forward to their new destination, as a way of avoiding the time knot, but he doesn’t go all the way to the logical conclusion of being able to route around that particular break in the network. Ugh.

So, instead, they all conclude they need to raid the Igen mine back in time, keep the fact they did it a secret, because nobody knew they did it, and K’dan suggests that while they’re there, they can save some lives of people they know disappeared in the past, because if nobody saw them die, then it’s just as likely they were snatched up by a time-traveling dragon going on Search, right? (And this is why you don’t use time travel as a primary plot mechanism, because while cheating like this is a way of getting out of a scrape, or if you’re staring down the prospect of throwing penguins, once you do it enough, the readers are going to be paying more attention to the gaps than the story itself.)

In any case, in the preparations for going back to Search, Jepara has Opinions about her involvement.

“I should come with you. You’re weyrbred—you won’t know what to say,” Jepara said when Xhinna explained her plans to her gold riders. Xhinna couldn’t hide her surprise at the other’s offer. Jepara pressed on, “As a Lord Holder’s daughter, it’s my right.”
[…Xhinna nixes the idea, because losing a gold rider is never a good plan…]
“Well, then, who’s going to take over if you don’t come back?
Taria hissed, too angry to form words.
“Just as long as it’s not you,” Meeya chimed in.
“Nobody asked you, Meeyu,” Jepara snarled back. “Shouldn’t you be milking milchbeasts for your kin?”

Before things can escalate, Xhinna cuts them off and puts Bekka in charge while she’s gone, to Bekka’s astonishment. (Not to mine. Bekka’s already proven that she will stomp all over anybody who gets in her way if she gets the right excuse to do so, and she’s the one who is least likely to have patience with Jepara if she starts swanning around like she owns the place. So Bekka’s a logical choice.) That said, Jepara is absolutely going to get her ass beat by Meeya (or Bekka) and nobody is going to stop them from doing so. I’m surprised Jepara didn’t take a end up taking a backhand from Xhinna, since what she said sounded to me like a backhanded offer of help, saying that Xhinna won’t know how to address a Lord Holder to get candidates.

As it is, Jepara’s not going anywhere, but Jirana says she has to go, because that’s how she succeeds at getting her queen dragon, Laspanth. Who is a queen dragon, she says. Jepara is dismissive and insulting, and says that eighteen Candidates aren’t going to fit on a “tiny” blue, which Xhinna again does not backhand her for, but Jirana says they only need five, because only three greens and two blues will hatch from Taria’s clutch. After declaring such, Jirana shakes herself and seems to return to reality, asking if she really said all the things that she thinks she did in her dream-state. Which is our confirmation that Jirana has inhereited her father’s gift and she’s now the seer for the group. Xhinna and Taria take Jirana to Javissa to talk to her about her experiences with Tenniz and to ask whether Jirana might be faking the Sight, but Javissa points out that Jirana never saw her father, so there’s no way that she would know how to fake it. So, despite Taria’s misgivings about the matter, they take Xhinna takes Jirana on Tazith with her. And where Jirana warps Tazith to is Crom Hold, currently flying the Plague flag. That ends the narrative for Chapter 6, with the potential terror that Jirana has just dumped them in a hot zone for a plague that is virulent and deadly. Most of that part will be resolved next week, but there’s a spot to examine in the space in between where Javissa confirms Jirana isn’t lying and Jirana and Xhinna go back in time, and it’s another spot where there’s some stuff going on that needs a good therapist to help with.

“To be honest, if I could, I’d prefer to leave Jirana behind—”
“What?” Taria exclaimed. “Why?”
“Because K’dan could be wrong,” Xhinna told her. “It could be that no one can go between times.”
“X’lerin and the others—”
“I should have said, can go forward between times,” Xhinna corrected herself with a wave of her hand.
“But you’re not,” Taria said, “you’re going back—” She broke off.
“And then I’ve got to come back,” Xhinna said, nodding to confirm Taria’s unspoken conclusion. “That’s where the problems will come, if any.”
“Why can’t X’lerin go?” Taria asked. “He’s the Weyrleader.”
“It makes more sense for me to go,” Xhinna said. She said nothing, waiting for Taria to think of the reasons herself.
“You’re expendable,” Taria said at last.
“It’s my fault we’re in this mess—it was my decision to come here,” Xhinna said, not quite disagreeing.
“That’s unfair!” Taria said. She half-turned to glance at the distant broom trees that housed Sky Weyr. “Did X’lerin say that to you?”
“No,” Xhinna replied, “I said it to myself.”
“You take too much on,” Taria said.
“Someone’s got to find the Candidates. Who better than Tazith?”
Taria’s lips tightened; she couldn’t argue with that—it was well-known that blues were good at searching out Candidates and it was obvious that Sky Weyr couldn’t afford to risk X’lerin and Kivith, the only mature bronze.

Except, of course that they can risk X’lerin, since there are immature bronzes of the same general age as the immature golds, unless I’m misremembering. What that would do is put K’dan in a situation where he might have dragon-induced sex with someone not Fiona or Lorana, which would be a no-good very bad thing by the narrative, but something I would expect dragonriders to have protocols for. What the bigger horror is, most likely, is the possibility that the gold dragons might be flown by lesser colors than bronze, and that would be scandalous. But, since Xhinna already proven she can run the place and keep everyone safe, if X’lerin bites it, she can do it again, and hopefully this time with greater support from everyone else around her. And, as the person in charge, she could stomp J’keran into the ground with her authority.

We all know this isn’t how the society operates, though, and so instead it’s Xhinna who is potentially risking herself if things go sideways. Because she feels expendable, rather than indispensable, which, admittedly, is pretty much what she’s been getting from the senior leadership, or the people she thinks should be the senior leadership, so it’s not an entirely unwarranted feeling. Yet more ways in which Pern falls down in giving support to the people who need it most.

In any case, Xhinna’s trip back in time to the plague flag-flying Crom Hold next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 13th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is watching as someone provides a laundry list of things that would be covered by norms that might instead have to be covered by laws, to all of our detriment.)

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.

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 feeling less and less like you’re going to have a whole lot of accomplishments this year, excepting “we managed to get through it, despite the odds.” Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Not This Again

Last time, Taria had sex with R’ney in the joy of Coranth clutching, and the narrative couldn’t decide whether Xhinna was supposed to be jealous that Taria cheated on her or joyous that Taria found someone good to have a child with, so we can’t tell whether Xhinna deep-sixed her jealousy to sublimation depth or whether Xhinna was just upset that she wasn’t told about what happened, and after a cooling-off period to get over that, she’s genuinely happy about what happened.

Sky Dragons: Chapter 5: Content Notes: Neglectful parenting, spanking as punishment,

However, we also have a situation coming on, which is that the previous attempt at getting Jepara to believe she has the entire emotional health of the Weyr on her (and all of the other gold riders) didn’t stick, and she’s still behaving like she’s supposed to be someone superior. Y’know, like how the entire dragonrider culture is set up?

Anyway, after Jepara insults Xhinna and Taria for inviting R’ney into their relationship, Xhinna gives back to her that proof-texting from tradition is a bad idea, because it tends to include things that would be terrible for them, too. (Jepara would be bound to find a rider from the Weyr she’s going to be part of, apparently, which, I suppose, is the potentially terrifying reverse of the idea of throwing a mating flight open to anyone.) When Jepara heads off, R’ney remarks to Xhinna that Jepara’s being a pain in the ass, Xhinna agrees that F’denol dosn’t know how to handle her, and then we get this idea:

The miner’s daughter was a handful and getting more so every day. Bekka wanted nothing to do with her, nor did X’lerin, who, alone among the bronze riders, showed both sense and tact in dealing with her.
Jepara found her position as gold rider a role she relished: paramour of so many dragonriders, queen of all she surveyed.
“You’re the one who can tame her,” R’ney said. “You’re immune to her charms and she’s attracted to your power, even as she can’t understand its source.”
“And how, brown rider, did you get to be so astute?” Xhinna asked archly.
“Five older sisters,” R’ney said with a sigh. “You get to know what’s happening pretty well.”

This is a trope that I’m not sure I know what to do with. Being a dude around a bunch of sisters is not a guarantee that they’ll be able to understand social dynamics or anything else that’s considered the province of women by people who don’t understand that dudes play dominance games as well, only some of which end up with people threatening or following through with duels. But the trope almost always seems to be “only dude in a family that’s an Amazon Brigade has extra insight and ability when it comes to understanding women / a surprisingly large amount of skills that are feminine-coded and turn out to be useful in courtship / playing Cyrano to someone else’s courtship.” If they’re not consumed with toxic masculinity, anyway (looking at you, early-seasons Jaune Arc). And it almost always seems to be that the dude in this trope is the last child in the family, so they get to see the entirety of the interactions of their older siblings to gain this insight. Like, would it be such a bad thing for R’ney, as a most likely to be bisexual man (despite, again, there being very little mlm on screen for any of the brown, blue, or green riders that isn’t used to make them look kind of camp gay) to be someone who understands these interactions better than most because he’s in them more than most? Can’t he just be “I have the lived experience of trying to date and work with many people, including people of Jepara’s type, so I recognize her when I see her?” rather than it being somehow attributable to being sixth in a family of five girls and him, as if it were a fact of the universe that five sisters are all going to develop personalities that clash and provide this male child with special insight?

Also, can we talk about the idea that Xhinna has to “tame” Jepara? Because that sounds really on the line of how people thought about Kylara, and we know how that turned out. Or, say, what happens to Pona, or Halana, or any other woman who’s been deemed to be uppity or snobbish. Jepara does need to recognize that she’s not queen of the roost, but everyone else also needs to recognize that she’s behaving as her cultural cues are telling her to.

And, since the sisters were mentioned, they’re going to get talked about and used as illustrative examples. After Xhinna gets done doing some manipulation of her own, of course.

Meeya, the sweet young rider of Calith, came forward to congratulate them, batting her eyes at R’eny in an obvious attempt for his attention. Xhinna led the conversation elsewhere and steered her in toward G’rial, the bronze rider from Fort. Xhinna thought he possessed the sort of quiet strength that the girl seemed desperate to have.
“Good choice,” R’ney murmured when he had the chance. “He’s smart enough to know when to say no, and that’s rare.”
“In a man?”
“In anyone,” R’ney replied.

Which brings me back to whether Xhinna submerged her jealousy and possessiveness or doesn’t have it at all. Because, presumably, Xhinna shouldn’t care about whether or not R’ney wants to bed Meeya, so long as everyone’s consenting and aware, but instead, she steers Meeya away and to someone else. Now, it’s possible R’ney was sending signals that he’s not interested, but if that’s the case, the narrative forgot to tell us that, so instead it looks like Xhinna staking claim over R’ney for Taria’s sake, regardless of whether that’s what R’ney wants. Even if G’rial is the right fit for Meeya, in that he’s going to be someone that respects her and will wait until she’s ready to engage, rather than allowing her to rush herself into something she doesn’t want, Meeya was trying to get R’ney’s attention, and there’s nothing in there about what he feels about that, only that he approves of Xhinna’s choice for Meeya. Consent is a two-way street, after all.

Xhinna’s manipulation and Jepara reminds R’ney of his sisters, so we get a story out of him about one of his sisters getting her comeuppance.

He glanced after Jepara and back toward Meeya. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “they both remind me of my sisters.”
“Really?”
“Yes,” R’ney said, grinning. “I remember when Sevra, the youngest and prettiest—and knew it—decided she could get away with baiting Nerena, who was the shyest and meekest.”
“And?” Xhinna asked. “What did your parents do?”
“Nothing,” R’ney said with a smirk. “They knew Nerena pretty well. One day, when Sevra had been at her worst for over a sevenday, Nerena blew her top and cut off all of Sevra’s hair while she slept.” R’ney shook his head. “She thought she had the best hair.”
“And what did your parents do then?”
“They said, ‘Sevra, maybe now you’ll not taunt your sister so much,’ ” he replied, shaking his head and grinning at the memory. “You’ve never seen such outrage. Sevra learned two lessons from that.”
“Two?”
“Maybe four, now that I think about it,” R’ney said, lifting a hand and ticking off fingers as he said, “She learned that if you push someone too far, no matter who, they’ll fight back. She learned that no one will support her when she’s wrong, no matter how pretty and demanding she is. She learned what it’s like to be the ugly duckling in our smithhall; it took her months for her hair to get back to its old length. And,” he finished, ticking off the fourth finger, “she learned there’s no point in demanding justice when you’re being unjust yourself.”
“A lot of lessons,” Xhinna said, feeling a pang for sisters and brothers she never had.
“I learned a lesson, too,” R’ney said.
Xhinna raised an eyebrow.
“Just because she’s shy and modest, doesn’t mean a person won’t stand up for herself.” He paused a moment before adding, “Did you know that Jepara has taken to calling Meeya ‘Meeyu’?”
“Oh,” Xhinna said, rolling the notion in her head as an evil grin spread across R’ney’s face. Then she smiled, too. “You’d think she’d be smart enough to realize that those baby Meeyus will be Mrreows one day.”
“You’d think,” R’ney agreed. Xhinna raised a hand and laid it on his shoulder. “You know, brown rider,” she said, “it’s worth repeating. I really couldn’t think of a better father for Taria’s child—if that’s to be.”
R’ney turned red and placed his hand gently on top of hers. “I would like to take credit for having planned it in advance, but in all honesty, I can’t,” he told her. “In other circumstances, the same thing might have happened with anyone nearby.”

(I note, with amusement, that the story of the ugly duckling has survived into the Pernese Teaching Ballads, since that’s a literary reference I wouldn’t have expected to be present at this point in time.)

In an earlier era, I would have been very happy that everything turned out this way and Sevra got what she deserved, since nobody else was willing to do anything about her. Because in an earlier age, there were a lot of things that I considered unjust happening that were not being handled by any of the grownups around, so it would have been satisfying to be able to take matters into my own hands in such a way and then to have the grownups be on my side about having done it. Nowadays, with time, and possibly both maturity and wisdom, I see the whole thing as a failure that it got to this point. Like, we’re supposed to draw the obvious parallels that both Sevra and Jepara are brats who need to be put in their place. In the next section of the narrative, Xhinna says that she’s not stomping Jepara’s airs into the ground because she wants to give her the opportunity to right herself, a chance that Vaxoram never got, since he was never allowed to recover from his “mistake”, as it’s characterized. That said, Xhinna has a plan on how to achieve this, whish she whispers to R’ney, who thinks it’s a fabulous idea, “a lesson that Nerena would have loved!” Whereupon we learn that Nerena also died in the plague. And then they turn to baby names to close out the section. But there’s still this problem of how a situation that’s allowed to get to this level, where there’s going to be pretty forecful consequences brought down, feels like a failure of everything.

But before we get into Xhinna and X’lerin discussing Jepara, where Xhinna has come to X’lerin to get approval for her plan, the two of them discuss J’keran, and it sets itself up as a dichotomy between how they’re handling a grown man versus handling a young girl.

“And J’keran?”
Xhinna paused a long time before answering. “He does his work, he’s a good trainer, he’s—”
“Tired, bitter, scared, worn out,” X’lerin broke in, saying the words she was trying to avoid.
Xhinna took a breath to protest on the brown rider’s behalf but let it out again, nodding her head once in curt agreement.
“You wouldn’t believe how often I’ve found him drunk,” the young bronze rider said mournfully.
“But after all he’s done—all they’ve done—isn’t it our job to give him and all those with him new hope, new encouragement, and the rest they so desperately need?” Xhinna asked. She continued, “I’ve seen him fighting. I’ve seen him come back Fall after Fall when his friends and fellow riders haven’t, I’ve seen the light go out of his eyes, the fear come into them.”
“Are we all going to be like that?” X’lerin asked, allowing just the slightest of his dread to leak into his voice.
“No,” Xhinna declared passionately. “That’s what we’re here for, we’re here to see to it that we live, that Pern lives, or that if we have to die, it’s for only the best reasons.”
“Sky rider.” X’lerin said. He said it not for the title but to honor her—Xhinna. It was the title that many of the riders, particularly those that Xhinna had brought back in time herself, had started calling themselves.
[…Xhinna tells C’lerin they need to get new experience to give them hope and love life again, since, oh yeeah, there’s still no psychologists to help with the very clear PTSD and survivor’s guilt that J’keran and company are suffering under…]
“For now, what do you suggest we do with J’keran and the others?”
“Keep them busy, but not too much,” X’lerin said after a moment’s thought. “Put them on duties that mix them with more of us ‘youngsters’, let them work with the weyrlings, get to know the new queen riders and bronze riders.”
“And figure out a way to brew something with kick—more than what J’kerans’ made so far.” X’lerin gave her a surprised look. “They’re going to need to get very, very, very drunk a number of times in the next three Turns. They’ll need a chance to drink some of their nightmares into oblivion.” She frowned sadly, knowing it wasn’t the best solution, but she’d seen it work often enough that she wasn’t willing to give up on it just beacuase it would mean having to clean up after drunken men, having to sort out blows, having to assert authority over them.
“But if they get drunk, what if they don’t listen to us?” X’lerin asked.
“There are six queen weyrlings here,” Xhinna reminded him. “How badly do you think they’re going to behave?”
“Point.”

So, with J’keran and others exhibiting signs of PTSD, of acting out and disrespectfully to the people who are here to help them survive the next few years, and of already being blitzed when they’re needed for work, Xhinna’s best solution is to try and help them find reasons to live again, which is good, but also to brew something so strong it will knock them out, or at least flat on their asses to try and get the nightmares to stay at bay. It’s a wonder there aren’t more dragonriders throughout all of these series that have been expressing PTSD, since during Threadfall, it’s fifty years of warfare and not knowing whether on the next Fall it’s your life that’s going to be lost or your best friend’s or your lover’s. Like, that kind of stress situation is bad for everyone, and adding alcohol to it isn’t going to make it better, even if it seems like it would be a good idea. Even then, with all of that, the solution is essentially “we need them as workers, so we’re going to continue letting them behave badly.” Which is going to explode messily, because abusers that are allowed to keep abusing are going to keep abusing, and eventually, when consequences finally catch up to them, it’s going to be terrible. Xhinna feels constrained about what she can do, not to mention what kind of political situation would develop if Xhinna, blue rider, told J’keran, brown rider, to go find some other Weyr to be part of. X’lerin, as the bronze rider, is the person with the political power to act, with the case laid out in front of him, but he lacks the will to do it.

With Jepara, however, because she’s a girl, even if she has a gold dragonet, there’s no such hesitance about putting her in her place…on Xhinna’s part.

“And you, Weyrleader, will have all this time to impress those queen riders with your skills.”
“And which of all these young queen riders did you pick out for me?” X’lerin asked.
“It’s not my job to suggest that you use your eyes, man,” Xhinna told him brusquely. X’lerin braced at her tone. She relented, adding, “But to my tastes, I find Meeya’s shyness a bit too much; Jepara needs a strong hand and a man smart enough to see past where she is now to where she will be when she’s older.”
“She’ll be Weyrwoman,” X’lerin said without any doubt.
“Not with that attitude of hers,” Xhinna said. “The bronzes have as much coihce as the queen in who rules the Weyr. If she doesn’t mend her ways, she’ll be queen-second for all her days.”
“She’s strong-willed.”
“She’s spoiled and she toys with people,” Xhinna said. “She hasn’t yet begun to see them as real, as subject to pain, as worthy of love.”
“But she’s Halla and Pellar’s daughter!”
“And that’s the mistake everyone makes with her,” Xhinna said. “They think of her famous parents and they don’t see the child.” She recounted R’ney’s tale of his two sisters.
“Oh, so she needs someone to cut her hair!” X’lerin said when she’d finished.
“No, she needs someone to paddle her bottom until she can’t sit,” Xhinna said. “But for a reason so good she can’t argue the punishment.”
“I wouldn’t care to—” X’lerin began, shaking his head.
“And that is why she’s so spoiled,” Xhinna cut him off. “Because no one cares to.”
“In all honesty,” X’lerin told her in a quiet, sincere voice, “I’d really prefer if you rode a queen.”
“Why, thank you!” Xhinna said, truly flattered. She changed her tone and smiled devilishly as she said, “And if I did, I’m sure that my queen would be happy to outfly you.”
“Probably,” X’lerin agreed. “There certainly is one thing you’ve taught me already.”
“One thing?”
“Don’t judge a rider by his—or her—dragon’s color.”
“Even gold,” Xhinna agreed.

Which also says that Halla and Pellar have achieved a certain amount of fame and respect from the dragonriders because of Fire Hold supplying them with the firestone they need that’s safe to use, but Xhinna’s insight here is that Jepara hasn’t been allowed to exist as her own independent self for basically ever, and that all of her power and influence is intrinsically tied to other people. And that X’kerin would really rather that Xhinna were a queen rider, so that she could execute the plans in her head and everyone would listen to her, rather than having to have her backstoppped by a greater authority than her own blue rider, especially when it comes to handling browns, bronzes, and gold weyrlings.

It’s a failure of parenting that Jepara has come to this point, but it’s not a failure of discipline not taking, if that makes sense? Back in Chapter Two, Xhinna had mentioned that Halla and Pellar had so many duties as the Lord and Lady of Fire Hold that they had neglected their daughter and assumed she would be able to keep up with them, but Fire Hold, remember, is the Hold where the Shunned or otherwise excluded have a shot at redeeming their names and rejoining society so long as they are willing to endure hard labor and otherwise operate on something close to a zero-tolerance policy for slipping back into older habits and ways. So, presumably, they’re not unversed in handing out discipline to people, and they love their daughter. Being presented in contrast to J’kerans’ constant drunkenness, I think we’re supposed to draw the conclusion that Halla, Pellar, and everyone else is being an enabler to Jepara in the same way they’re being enablers to J’keran by not busting his ass every time he steps out of line or shows up plastered. The sympathy they have for both of their situations prevents them from being assertive with their boundaries. At least until the point where someone whose boundaries either Jepara or J’keran have trod on too forcefully or often snaps and exacts revenge on them. Which, in this society, based on the story about Nerena and Sevra, is seen as proper justice and a good thing that the person who was being bullied fought back, when that’s the sign that all other avenues have failed or been proven ineffective. (Which is a slight step up from 21st c. Terra that will punish the person fighting back much more severely for doing so, because they’re obvious, when much of the bullying is either subtle or plausibly-deniable and the people who are best positioned to handle the matter are not invested with the ability to do so. Which is not an endorsement for corporal punishment in schools, because that teaches the wrong lesson, essentially that people only get punished because someone in greater power exercised that power on them, so the solution to the problem is to be someone who has so much power they’re untouchable.)

The thing is, Jepara has been in the situation of being seen as someone else’s child for all her life, as Xhinna points out. This kind of situation should be pretty common for any daughter of a Lord Holder, honestly, because she’s used to being a person who can trade on her parents’ influence to make sure that she doesn’t get in too much trouble. It happens to be that in all of the other stories, though, when the daughter goes to the Crafts or to the dragonriders, she’s stuck in a situation that doesn’t acknowledge her power and instead imposes its own, usually abusively. Jepara just happens to be the daughter of the one Lord Holder that the dragonriders will actually respect, because they’re essential to the dragonriders. Even then, though, I suspect she wouldn’t end up being able to do what she’s doing now, but then Jepara ends up getting a gold dragon, and therefore never ends up in a position where she’s going to have to strike out on her own and make a life for herself, so that she can have something that she can claim as hers, rather than it being seen as something she got because of her dragon, or her parents. And in dragonrider society, being a queen rider means being dismissed as being a woman and not really the person in charge, except when it’s her fault for not doing something or for doing something. With enough time and disdain, Jepara would probably turn into something like Tullea, who is basically seen as bitchy, but also who ends up being someone who has a mind and can speak it openly.

And because Xhinna stomped on Jepara’s pride earlier by telling her she’s not allowed to have it, she’s cut off a useful avenue of trying to get through to Jepara and get her on a path where she can be appropriately proud of what she does without spilling over too far into dangerous pride that could get someone killed. *sigh* Whatever it is that Xhinna has planned to humiliate Jepara, it’s wrong, even if it’s going to be treated by the narrative as correct and appropriate for her, like it has been every time the narrative has been presented with a child that hasn’t had the opportunity to be themselves, or that has been shipped off somewhere to be molded into what the patriarchy thinks is appropriate for her.

It’s really hard to parent children, and even the best parents are going to fail at it, but on Pern, the blame is always placed on the child, with the idea being that with enough abuse disguised as discipline, the child will be properly broken. I would much rather enjoyed Xhinna, as the person from humble origins who rose to a place of prominence despite herself not really wanting to, being the one to understand Jepara well enough to guide her away from the path she’s on to something that will make her into a confident gold rider who can handle the requirements of the job, mystifying everyone who thought Jepara was simply a spoiled, wherry-faced brat who needed to be spanked until she was obedient.

At least we’re out of Chapter 5. Hopefully the next chapters aren’t nearly as terrible.

Deconstruction Roundup for November 6th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is now seeing how effective someone’s suppression campaign was and trying not to panic about it.)

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.

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 rwere hoping for a repudiation so clear and obvious, anyone on Luna Base would have seen it outside their windows. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: The Biolgical Ticking Time-Bomb

Last time, the narrative telegraphed to us that J’keran is the antagonist we are supposed to root against, while also, presumably unintentionally, showing us that J’keran is allowed to thrive and flourish because of the way that dragonriders are stonkingly incompetent at enforcing proper order and discipline in their ranks. (Which is par for the course of Pern, frankly, but the dragonriders are the closest thing we have to a military structure in this case, and so if anyone is supposed to have figured out how to make things work, they’re the supposedly safe bet.)

Sky Dragons: Chapter Four, continued, and Chapter Five: Content Notes: Pregnancy, rape culture, ableist language

So, after that complete lack of help all around to Xhinna, we have the kittens (called Meeyus by Jirana because that’s the sound they make), one of whom dies despite their best attempts. Jirana, we are told, has apparently grown into the phase of life where she wants to butt heads with Xhinna and feel her independence, which gets Xhinna thinking about Taria, who is also a strong advocate for the Meeyus, and something that Taria apparently now wants, which is kids.

That Taria was passionate for and delighted by children was something that Xhinna had known and acknowledged since they’d first met. Indeed, Xhinna shared that love—she enjoyed snuggling with the small twins, cheering on the efforts of toddlers, the looks of awe she’d get from the older children. She wanted a child of her own someday—maybe more than one—and when the time was right, she’d have one.
But the time wasn’t right. No more than the time was right for Taria.
And yet—
Xhinna frowned as she recalled the number of times she’d heard Taria’s delightful laugh punctuating the speech of some deep-voiced male. Sometimes it was R’ney, other times W’vin, and sometimes J’keran.
Well, she thought, mentally rubbing her hands to shake off her line of thinking, this isn’t getting anything done.

Cocowhat by depizan

This is another one of those “what we are told the Weyr is like and what we are shown the Weyr is like” conflicts. While Xhinna and company are currently in special circumstances, it feels like the author is forgetting that both Xhinna and Taria were both minders of the communal nursery, and despite the current weirdness where apparently there’s a lot more of children being raised by their parents, there presumably are still plenty of weyr children whose parents aren’t particularly invested in their raising or who don’t think of themselves as having any obligation to the care and feeding of the child once it’s been birthed. Xhinna should have plenty of children to choose to foster herself as soon as she gets back to Telgar. But, instead, Xhinna is apparently considering body birth rather than adoption/foster care. Because Xhinna is a smart and capable leader, I assume, when the time is right, she’s going to let herself be around some of the boys when Tazith goes chasing a green and get herself pregnant by surrendering her own lack of interest to her dragon’s complete interest in another dragon. But the thought of getting pregnant and having body birth doesn’t cause Xhinna revulsion or some other reaction where she wishes for a better method than having to let a penis near her. And doesn’t appear to cause anything like that in Taria, either. Almost like the author couldn’t let lesbians be lesbians and instead has to make them into bisexuals to make sure nobody gets the idea that either Xhinna or Taria might not be interested in the Almighty Penis after all.

Bisexual Xhinna and Taria with preferences for women would be fine. It would even be good representation, barring the problem that they’re basically the only people on Pern who are like that, but still, there’s obviously plenty of bi dudes, so there should be plenty of bi women, too. (Not that anyone on Pern is trans or nonbinary, but those particular fronts haven’t been fully dragged into the Discourse at this point in history, so there’s no incentive to put a token character as a way of attempting to get brownie points.)

In any case, Xhinna and Tazith go on a long mission, which leaves Xhinna with a terrible headache. And to help with that terrible headache, Bekka orders J’riz to practice massage and chirocpracty on her, not that it’s given that name. But Bekka talks about things getting out of alignment as J’riz walks on her spine to put everything back in place. This is apparently a technique she learned at the Healer Hall, which probably deserves a whatfruit but is actually in line with the fact that we’ve had crystal energy healing with Pellar and, really, Pern seems like the kind of place that would have a robust business in pseudoscience along with whatever fragments of actual science have successfully managed to survive, no thanks to the Healers themselves.

In any case, having been massaged and realigned thanks to J’riz, Xhinna feels a lot better physically. And then realizes that J’riz is learning how to be a Healer from Bekka, and comes to the conclusion that it’s not a bad idea.

“That was wonderful, green rider,” Xhinna said, glancing down at the boy’s brilliant green eyes. He truly was beautiful, and he was growing quickly into an incredibly handsome young man.
In many respects, he reminded her of Fiona: both thrived on attention. That was probably just as well, Xhinna thought, for a boy—nearly man—as pretty as he was would garner lots of attention whether he wanted it or not.
And, Xhinna realized, with Bekka to watch out for him, he’d be safe. She realized that he needed to be safe, that he needed someone who was like Bekka: not just big sister, but something more.

Cocowhat by depizan

Is it me, or is that entire passage sinister and creepy? I don’t have any objections to Xhinna admiring the aesthetics of J’riz, but also, if Jirana’s ten (mentioned in the bit I summarized about the Meeyus) he definitely hasn’t escaped the teenage years. Not to mention, just after the quoted section, he’s going through puberty right at that moment, with his voice cracking twice in the subsequent conversation and short-lived tickle attack from Bekka to J’riz. And yet, we’re supposed to believe that Xhinna has come to the same conclusion that everyone does about him, and that Jeriz is going to turn heads as he gets older and settles into his adult body. The way Xhinna characterizes it, though, it sounds like there are going to be a lot of riders taking a sexual interest in J’riz, once Qinth is of age to fly a mating flight, regardless of whether he feels old enough or ready for it. Which is pretty much the same attitude that Fiona and Bekka had about their own first flights, with no real option of “no, I don’t feel ready for this, will the lot of you go away, please?” available for these teenagers expected to abruptly transition into adult roles. Plus, given that Qinth is a green, I have a sneaking suspicion that any objections J’riz might put up would be ignored in favor of a narrative that says he secretly enjoys all the attention and sex, because, after all, he’s a green rider, and they’re all sluts.

Xhinna thinks that Bekka will keep J’riz safe, and that he needs to be safe. I don’t know how much Xhinna observed of Shaneese, Fiona, Terin, and the rest abusing him at Telgar, but if she saw enough of that, she’s placing an awful lot of trust in Bekka that she’s not going to turn out the same way. And it feels like Xhinna, as someone who knows firsthand how terrible it can get, would take a more active role in trying to protect and mentor J’riz, rather than leaving it solely in Bekka’s hands. Since Bekka has a queen, she has pull with all of the other dragons, but there’s still a worrying amount of possible abuse in J’riz’s future that Bekka will either condone or not know that she’s supposed to stop.

The tickle fight ends up waking Pinorth, Bekka’s dragonet, and then they both have to go feed and oil her. The next scene is the adults discussing around the campfire about Taria and Jirana’s interest in the Meeyus, J’keran having collected extra duties (presumably punitiviely, because there’s also some missing supplies), and how Jirana wants to grow up so fast and get the Sight so she can see whether or not the entire enterprise everyone is on will mean a thing on the cosmic scale. It’s not like she’s living in a society that thrusts adult life on children as young as twelve, where many of her role models basically had to skip their childhood so they could get on with the business of saving the planet and the dragons, and where she knows she’s going to get a skill that could help everyone’s morale by being able to tell them that the future is going to turn out all right, even if she can’t tell them about the details of it. Jirana wants to help, and she is trying to find the best way that she can, much to the consternation of all the adults around her that want her not to grow up so fast. In an environment and culture that’s screaming at her that she needed to grow up yesterday.

The chapter ends on the realization that when Coranth clutches, they’re going to have to try and figure out how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the last set of eggs, and that there’s still no really good space for Coranth to clutch. Which, conveniently, leads into Chapter Five, where Coranth has decided it’s time to clutch and found her own spot.

Chapter Five: By Hearts Sundered

Coranth clutching is a surprise to Xhinna, who learns of it after the fact.

Xhinna was furious with Taria for not getting instructions from her, furious with Coranth for her choice, and hurt that neither of them thought to tell her or Tazith so they could return rather than continue their long scouting

Xhinna’s understandably upset. Something like a clutching might be like when the water breaks to begin labor, but that’s the sort of thing that a loving partner tells their partner about when it happens, rather than just going straight to the hospital and checking themself in to start the labor process.

There’s some additional hurt involved in this particular clutching, though.

Xhinna clenched her jaw as she circled down over the sandy beach and picked out Taria among the others. The green rider looked up at her and then quickly to her side where R’ney stood. He offered her his hand and she took it before looking back up toward Xhinna and waving. Why did Taria feel she needed R’ney’s support? Xhinna wondered.
Shh, there is nothing wrong, Tazith told her. His tone was as matter-of-fact as his earlier acceptance of her praise.
Unless I make it wrong, Xhinna thought to herself, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. She ran toward Taria, grabbed her and scooped her up, spinning with her in her arms as she planted a great kiss on her partner’s lips.
[…eighteen eggs. Xhinna makes a favorable comparison to Talenth, which sets Taria on defense instead, and instead of defusing, things get more tense, until…]
She’s acting like she’s just had a mating flight, Xhinna thought in surprise. Her eyes narrowed as she saw the way R’ney moved, half toward Taria, half away from Xhinna.
Could they…
Yes, Tazith told her calmly. Xhinna’s face blanched as she looked from R’ney to Taria and back.
“X’lerin’s coming,” she said abruptly, turning back to her blue. She jumped up on to him and urged him skyward.
Airborne, with her back to erveryone and everything, Xhinna let her tears flow.

So, somhow, in all of this, Coranth went to clutch, Taria went with her, R’ney came with them, and R’ney and Taria ended up having sex. And nobody thought to inform or ask Xhinna about any of this before it happened.

Xhinna’s got a legitimate grievance here, in this Pern, where there’s clear indications of exclusivity and monogamy that have bled over from the Terra of the writers and the readers. In the Pern where the dragonriders behave as they’ve been described, rather than with these imported cultural values, Xhinna would be legitimately upset only if she and Taria had agreed to exclusivity or at the very least to informing each other if they decided to take a new lover or partner, or what happened during a mating flight if it wasn’t Tazith that caught Coranth. This is why communication is your friend in any relationship you have, because it allows people to set the rules and, hopefully, makes it easier to have later conversations if someone wants to renegotiate or change the agreement to something different, or even just to talk about their feelings about how the relationship is going and whether they’re happy in it at all. (It doesn’t always work, especially if one of the parties in the relationship isn’t actually interested in an equal relationship or in anything other than asserting their power and/or getting only what they want, but a person like that should be dumped when it’s safe to do so and to get and stay away from them.)

Another reason why I could see Xhinna getting upset is she might feel like Taria’s been pretending with her, or holding a secret from her. We don’t know if Xhinna would be okay with Taria sleeping with some of the boys as well as being with her or whether Xhinna wants someone who’s only interested in women, or whether Xhinna really doesn’t care who Taria sleeps with so long as they all know they’re secondary to the relationship that Xhinna and Taria have between themselves. And in that other Pern, where there’s communication and relationship contracts are discussed beforehand and revisited and renegotiated, this would all be something the narrative would have to establish or explicitly tell us so as to justify why Xhinna’s feeling this way. In this Pern, however, we simply graft on that Xhinna’s hurt by Taria’s infidelity to their monogamy, and with a dude no less, and we let the reader’s cultural assumptions do the heavy lifting.

The authors realize that they need to do at least a little bit of explaining, thankfully, as when Xhinna goes to Bekka to try and get another massage (J’riz is asleep, though), Bekka is able to discern the cause of Xhinna’s distress.

“Is this your first big fight?”
“Maybe our last,” Xhinna said, working to keep the fear out of her voice and not at all surprised that Bekka could imagine the cause of her headache.
“Only if you’re an idiot,” Bekka said. “And I never saw that in you.”
“She and R’ney—”
“And what do you expect?” Bekka cut in. “You practically threw them at each other! All it lacked was you publicly blessing the union.”
Xhinna took a step back, stricken. Had she? Had she done this to Taria and not realized it?
“She wants children,” Bekka said, changing tack. “You want children.” She gave Xhinna a shake. “Didn’t you learn anything from Fiona?”
“I—”
“To be honest,” Bekka cut in, “I think you should be grateful it was R’ney and not J’keran.”

I’m with Xhinna on this one. I didn’t see anything in the previous chapters that suggested that Xhinna was throwing R’ney and Taria at each other or otherwise implying that it was fine with her if the two of them banged, unless we’re supposed to assume that having him sit near them at dinner or otherwise not throwing a jealous fit and being supremely territorial about Taria when any of the boys are around qualifies as approval for them to bang if they find themselves in that situation. Which, if that’s the case, is another of those imported values being assumed to exist, rather than it being explicitly spelled out. Because right now, it seems like Pern runs on values much closer to the nominally evangelical Mike Pence’s rule of never being alone with a woman that’s not his wife rather than the culture that’s been described. I do not like this alternate Pern that keeps interfering in the worldbuilding.

Before Bekka can steamroll Xhinna any more, K’dan drops by to offer a sympathetic ear to listen, and Bekka bundles them both to go back to the beach where Coranth’s clutched. They have a conversation on the way where K’dan admits he hasn’t got a clue about how to move forward, which shocks Xhinna into the realization that everyone is flying by the seat of their pants in this situation, which apparently frees her up to be able to apologize for her reaction to R’ney and Taria.

That it’s Xhinna apologizing means that she thinks she’s in the wrong about this, or at least that she’s in the wrong about how she reacted to all of it. R’ney and Taria also offer apologies for what happened.

The brown rider viewed her approach apprehensively, saying as soon as she was in earshot, “Xhinna, I’m sorry. The excitement of the clutching, and Taria—well, there are no excuses.”
“Only apologies,” Xhinna said. The brown rider lowered his head in shame. Xhinna moved forward and touched his shoulder lightly. “Mine should be the first.”
R’ney gave her a startled look.
“You’re a good man, hardworking, conscientious,” she told him. “I’ve always known that Taria wanted children and that someone would have to help in that.” She shrugged. “I was surprised and hurt that Coranth clutched without me, that Taria didn’t tell me, and then to find out that you two had…made your decision without my knowing…well, it was too much for me all at once.”
“It wasn’t so much a decision as a heated moment,” R’ney said. “And if it hadn’t been, perhaps we would have kept our senses enough to tell you.”
Xhinna shook her head. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t.” R’ney gave her a look of surprise. “It had to happen sometime, and this really couldn’t be a better time.”
[…Xhinna explains the timing is excellent for Taria to give birth before all the dragons decide they’re going on their first mating flights…]
“Certainly,” R’ney replied, surprised at her recovery. “And I can assure you that it won’t…I won’t…we won’t—”
“Have another moment of passion?” Xhinna filled in, easing him out of his embarrassment. Guiltily, R’ney nodded. “I certainly hope you don’t mean that! Taria wants more than one child, you know. And you’ve got a duty to Pern.”
“I wasn’t thinking of duty,” R’ney admitted miserably.
“R’ney, I can’t think of anyone I’d like to see more as father to Taria’s children,” Xhinna told him emphatically. She turned, looking around. “Now I’ve got to talk to her, too.”
“Can I come?”
“Brown rider, you made yourself part of my family when you fought to save the hatchlings,” Xhinna told him. “Of course you may come.”
Taria was too shocked by the approach of R’ney and Xhinna, moving together companionably, to think of running away.
“I’m sorry,” Xhinna said, her words crossing Taria’s. The green rider did a double take and Xhinna moved shyly toward her and then suddenly they were together, arms wrapped around each other, hugging tightly, crying and babbling at the same time, neither able to hear the other.
“I wanted you here,” Taria said, waving toward R’ney. “And then…the feelings from Coranth…the Meeyus…Razz…I wanted what they had.”
“It’s okay,” Xhinna said, hugging her and stroking her hair. “It’s okay. It’s your right, it’s your body, it’s your choice.”
“But I should have asked you,” Taria said, pulling away far enough to look into Xhinna’s eyes. “It wasn’t right.”
“It was passion, Taria,” Xhinna said. “It’s the passion I love in you.”
“I think I’m pregnant,” Taria told her quietly, her eyes glancing beyond her to R’ney, then back. “Is that all right?”
“It’s perfect.”

So Xhinna sinks her own feelings on the matter and apologizes for being jealous and it’s framed as being equal to Taria and R’ney having had sex in a moment of passion. What’s hinted at there, but isn’t spelled out, is that Coranth’s joy at clutching might have inspired the moment of passion between the two riders. Given how much happens during mating flights, if that was the case (“Coranth’s emotions bled over to us and we did this”), then in the Pern-as-described, that would be exactly the thing to say, as explanation. Or even as an excuse for something that wasn’t actually dragon-influenced. Because in Pern-as-described, there presumably is an established protocol of how to handle dragon-influenced things, and in that case, Taria and R’ney might be embarrassed at getting overwhelmed, but there’s no real reason for them to be ashamed of it. And Xhinna might be unhappy that this happened without anyone telling her about it, she would be able to say, essentially, “dragon overwhelmed them, Taria’s still my partner and a lesbian, and actually, this was probably a good thing, since we know that Taria’s wanted to body-birth a child,” in the way that she does here in this narrative. At which point the apologies make sense: “Sorry we didn’t tell you, Coranth didn’t give us warning and then we were overcome by emotion, and by then, you were here and saw what happened.”
“Sorry I got jealous, what happens with dragons stays with dragons, and actually, this is perfect timing, now that I think about it.”

But that doesn’t happen in Pern-as-written, and instead, we get reinforcement of the idea of Taria as being bi, rather than a lesbian, and I am disappointed that Xhinna is potentially the only lesbian on Pern again. *sigh*

Just as there was no way to hide the eggs on the sands, there was no way that the news of Taria and R’ney’s new relationship could remain secret in Sky Weyr. Xhinna defused any tension by very obviously dragging R’ney over to sit with her and Taria. She noted with humor how T’rennor, rider of green Kisorth who had lost all of her eggs in the Hatching sands at Eastern, smiled hopefully in R’ney’s direction. With less enjoyment, she saw the way V’lex eyed the brown rider reflectively, saw J’keran’s angry glower, heard W’vin extend his congratulations to all.

And then they talk about R’ney’s preferences in partners, showing that V’lex isn’t his preferred body type, Taria is, and oh, look, here’s a bisexual brown rider right on the page, as if that’s the most normal thing in the world.

And then Jepara comes by to sling needles at their group.

They glanced up as F’denol and Jepara approached, hands linked.
“Congratulations,” the bronze rider said to Xhinna and Taria, “you’re the first to clutch here in the Western Isle.”
“I think it’s generous of you to be so free,” Jepara said to Xhinna. Her tone didn’t match her words.
“Taria is not mine,” Xhinna told her firmly. “I don’t own her.”
Jepara’s face hardened and Xhinna saw the way her hand clenched F’denol’s.
“If I did,” Xhinna continued, “then I’d be the sort to say that you should be seeking out the company of a High Reaches rider.”
“But—” Jepara gasped then subsided as she absorbed Xhinna’s words. Jepara was from High Reaches, it would be expected that she would return there—and that, according to Tradition, she would partner with a High Reaches rider. “Oh.”
F’denol reddened, looking embarrassed at the queen rider’s discomfort. Xhinna gave him a grin to ease his worries, saying, “I’m not like that. Hearts do what they do, and we’re best when we adjust.” She made a shooing gesture toward them with both hands and added suggestively, “Wasn’t there someplace you wanted to be?”
F’denol needed no further urging, but Jepara moved more slowly, a certain reluctance in her stride.

At this point, it seems like Xhinna’s jealousy from before was either part of an earlier draft that escaped the editors, or that Xhinna has sunk her feelings on the matter as far down as she needs them to go so that none of it shows to anyone else.

For the remainder of the chapter, the conversation is going to turn to Jepara, and I have thoughts about that, as well, so I’m going to stop here, in the space of confusion, because there’s still yet more wisdom to be dispensed before we get done with this chapter, and Jepara is the target for all of it.