Monthly Archives: December 2020

Sky Dragons: Approaching The Halfway Point

Last time, Xhinna and company figured out what went wrong with the eggs that didn’t get eaten by tunnel snakes, and instituted a policy of having riders and dragons sleep next to the eggs to keep them warm enough to develop properly. Also, Jirana introduced herself to her dragon. And, eventually, all of Xhinna’s subordinates made sure she got shipped off for some necessary rest after she pulled two all-nighters in a row out of anxiety over the reality that everyone is looking at her and waiting for her to fail on this hatching, so they can categorically dismiss women riders.

Sky Dragons: Chapters 13 and 14: Content Notes: Accidental pet death,

Chapter 13: Attack From Beneath

Xhinna awakens to R’ney appearing with caffeine and rolls (with butter available), but R’ney won’t tell Xhinna about anything going on until she’s eaten food. We get a quick summary of all the things that happened while Xhinna was out, which mostly involves yet another big cat attack, which was eventually handled by the humans and the dragons. This is all stuff that Xhinna believes could have been handled, so why is she awake now? Apparently, Jirana is saying there’s a litter of kittens that they absolutely need to go rescue, and Jepara, of all people, is inclined to let Jirana have her way on the matter. Jirana tells Xhinna that this litter is one of those things that has to happen, but that she can’t tell her the details. So, realizing that Jirana’s asking because of the future, and that Jepara is willing to indulge in this, Xhinna turns immediately to practical mode, asks about things like building a proper pen, and then devises a system where specific riders and Candidates, including herself, will take charge of raising the Meeyus and training them, so that they won’t end up trying to maul or kill the humans or dragons. Jepara says that if the cats aren’t trainable and turn dangerous, she’ll kill them herself, and Jirana suggests that if cats attack dragons, it’s because they’re confused, and maybe the dragons can talk to the cats to get that straightened out. Having decided they’re going at it, the weyrpeople set themselves into motion to build a pen for the kittens and to go find them so they can be rescued, taking direction from Jirana about the location of the cats.

Xhina hustled the child toward Tazith even as the trader girl prattled off orders. As Tazith bore the three of them skyward, Xhinna had a horrible thought: What would Jirana be like as a Weyrwoman?

Further increasing Jirana’s reputation, the Meeyus were exactly where she said, exactly as old as she said, and exactly the same numbers she’d said. Xhinna found herself torn once more between belief in all the girl’s predictions and incredulity that one so young, even Tenniz’s daughter, could know the things she claimed to know.

The thought of what Jirana would be like as a Weyrwoman, to me, is effective. Assuming she had enough buy-in from her weyrpeople to follow through with things when she had a Sight about them. Presumably, with a little more maturity, Jirana will stop being disbelieved because of how young she is, despite the fact that she still hasn’t missed, yet.

Since they’re still wild, when Xhinna picks up one of the kittens the wrong way, it takes a swipe at her with its claws, which results in Xhinna grabbing it by the scruff, which works as effectively as grabbing any other cat or kitten by the scruff as a behavior modifier. So all the kittens successfully get back to the camp, where there’s milk and a pen waiting for them. And this part, where despite having fawned over Danirry earlier, R’ney doubts her ability to construct a pen.

“Rough wood, rough work, but it’s sturdy.”
“How far down did you go?”
“I had the dragons bounce on them,” Danirry said. “They’re a good meter, meter and a half in the ground.”
R’ney seized one of the stakes and pulled; it bowed but didn’t move. “Good,” he said, glancing over at her. “Good work, Danirry.”
The blue rider beamed at the compliment.

I like the visual of dragons bouncing up and down on the stakes to drive them into the ground, and the excitement and enjoyment they might have had about doing that, since the dragons seem to enjoy having fun like that. I’m less impressed with R’ney’s decision to test the stakes himself, because that makes me shift the tone of his compliment from something genuine to something more like “I’m surprised this woman knows how to do anything competently, but it’s good work and I should say so.” Which, remember, Danirry was the one who suggested the right designs for them to use to sift the gold out when they were clearing away all the dirt, and presumably helped build the things. If Danirry says that it’s solid, there’s been no evidence to believe the contrary. And, if he doesn’t believe her, or he wants to check just to be sure, he can probably ask the dragons about it. Or, if this is something just to satisfy his own need to be sure that the cage is going to hold, he can say “I believe you, but I have to check for myself because otherwise I’ll have An Whole Anxiety about it” or something else that indicates that it’s really his own thing. Or he can wait until Danirry’s gone and check it himself. Because doing it right in front of her, right after she said what she did about it, is a pretty clear signal that he doesn’t believe her. But Danirry apparently is super-happy at the compliment that follows the diss and doesn’t frown or otherwise react to the insult.

Having figured out who is getting cats, we get their names in pretty rapid-fire: Jirana’s is Meesha, Xhinna’s is Scruff (which Jirana disapproves of), Jepara’s is Tawny, and V’lex and T’rennor, who each get one, are called Mee and Yu.

V’lex named his Mee, and T’rennor, not to be outdone, went with Yu. Xhinna tolerantly said nothing, reminding herself sardonically that the two, after all, were green riders.

Aliyal gets the last one, calling it Amber. Also, didn’t we just have a bit a little while ago about how Xhinna supposedly saw the depths in both V’lex and T’rennor and how they’re not just supposed to be the butt of jokes, but complete people all to themselves? Yet here we are, with Xhinna going “well, they’re green riders, so I suppose this is the sort of naming we should have expected from them,” as opposed to “Oh, of course the two who are pretty similar and in love with each other would come up with puns for names, especially after the first one started it.”

Xhinna remarks that Aliyal’s the quietest of the new riders, but she’s formed a good bond with Alimma, who seems to treat her well. Mirressa offers to help Jepara with Tawny, so that gets most of the new riders involved with raising kittens. Which Xhinna is fine with, especially since she’s also fine with the idea of killing all of those kittens with her bare hands if they step out of line with her or threaten eggs or people. Cats are cats, though, and, as anyone who has been around them long enough knows, xkcd #231 applies. And also, because of how cute kittens are, the prospect of getting hold one or otherwise interact with one can be used as an excellent bribe/goad.

It seemed that everyone in the extended camp had to touch, pet, fondle, or hold one of the Meeyus in the next several days.
To keep the litter from getting too frightened, Xhinna decided that only those who had done more than their share on any particular day would be allowed to handle a Meeyu. The competition worked and industry picked up immensely.
The effort lasted for three days until Xhinna, sensing she was straining the Weyr too much, decided to end it, allowing each individual Meeyu handler to set his or her own schedule.

This seems like a reasonable way of domesticating the cats, or at least making them less likely to go after humans and dragons, which is one of the desired effects. They also do something correct later on where halters and leads are fashioned for each of the cats, so the cats are going to learn early that wearing leash and halter is just a thing that happens, rather than something new, scary, and a thing to fight.

And, apparently, this entire Weyr runs on Cute, whether it’s being cute, having the opportunity to hold the cute, or trying to gestate some cute of their own. I also wonder what the “strain” is that’s being caused to this Weyr by Xhinna’s proclamation. Is it that in all of three days, what qualifies as more than their share has jumped to unsustainable levels and people are risking injury in trying to achieve peak effectiveness? Are people trying to sabotage other efforts so that they can seem above and beyond in comparison? Are *gasp* bronze riders being expected to pitch in and contribute their full amount, rather than sitting on their asses and ordering everyone else around? Is the Weyrleadership suddenly finding themselves having to lead and assign people and find things for them to do and they’re running out of excuses to give or busy work to do? Why is this causing strain? It would be really helpful to tell us about what the status of Sky Weyr is in relation to their supplies and places and everything.

Instead, we stay on the interpersonal level. The next scene starts with Jepara waking Xhinna up and saying the dragons are noticing something is wrong. But first we have this:

The difficult queen rider had chosen to sleep with Xhinna, ostensibly for warmth and proximity to Scruff but really, Xhinna had quickly realized, for advice on relationships. Apparently X’lerin was being aloof to her, spending more time in the company of the other weyrwomen, and Jepara was near frantic with worry.
Their conversation had turned intimate and Xhinna was not surprised to learn that Jepara had not realized that one love was much like the other, no matter who gave it or to whom it was given. When they finally decided to sleep—after the topic had been talked over far longer than Xhinna cared—Jepara had rolled over with her back to Xhinna in a clear statement. Xhinna had smiled to herself, and was not at all surprised when, sometime later, Jepara heaved a huge sigh, rolled back over, and draped an arm lightly around her. Cold nights made for the strangest of bedfellows. Xhinna thought as she rested her head on the pillow nestled up against the egg she was warming. She considered rudely forcing Jepara to move around to the far side of the egg, but Tazith was already there and little Scruff would complain at being wakened, having just found the perfect spot at the back of Xhinna’s knees.

I mean, I suppose that Xhinna’s the one person in the camp who wouldn’t be seen as a threat to X’lerin if Jepara confides in her, but there’s also the part where Xhinna is pretty much Kinsey 5.999 and so she doesn’t exactly have a lot of tools in her belt on how to get men to pay attention to her. And, as the narrative tells us, Xhinna is not exactly feeling like she wants to help Jepara with her boy woes, especially if, as it appears, Jepara seems to be more interested in maintaining her place at the top of the hierarchy and not that she’s particularly interested in X’lerin as a person. (Xhinna’s not being particularly written in character here, either, with her thought of “one love is much like the other,” which is pretty rich given that up until very recently, she and Taria were the only women with interest in other women. So I would expect Xhinna to be “if you want him, sink your claws into him and never let go,” not “eh, one lover is much like the next, don’t be so concerned that you’re losing your shot at being X’lerin’s Weyrwoman.”)

Before we can get too much farther into why Xhinna still dislikes Jepara, she recognizes Tazith is also awake, and that has her feeling for Scruff’s lead and her own knife, in case she has to fight something off again. Because that went so well the last time. Aliyal eventually also joins the party trying to figure out what’s going on, apparently awoken by her kitten. Eventually, through the cats sniffing and the humans investigating, they discover there’s a tunnel snake inside the dragon egg by lifting it up. Xhinna keeps the egg tilted to expose the tunnel snake, the kitens try to kill it, and eventually Aliyal kills it with Xhinna’s knife, and both Scruff and Amber go to town feeding on the fresh corpses of both tunnel snake and dragonet, because the tunnel snake had already killed the dragonet before being discovered. Which then triggers recriminations from Xhinna because they lost a dragonet, but X’lerin doesn’t take Xhinna to task, just states that now they know that the sands aren’t safe (which they knew before) and that the cats can be helpful against the snakes (proving Taria correct.) And then he tells her to figure out how to keep the rest of the eggs safe. Xhinna’s relieved, apparently, that X’lerin hasn’t decided to yank her authority, and then calls a meeting immediately to figure out how to avoid a repeat of this incident. None of the suggestions really work, because the Hold they’ve been creating doesn’t have enough rock space to hold all the clutches, and they might not be able to transport enough sand anyway. Xhinna hits on a moment of foreshadowing when she complains that it would be easier if the dragonets could talk, but the narrative continues on to Xhinna going around and basically telling everyone who asks that they’re working on a solution and they’ll figure it out shortly. Which apparently bolsters their spirits, but sinks Xhinna’s further because she’s at an impasse. Jirana tries to be resolutely cheerful at Xhinna, but fails, and then dashes off rather than answer Xhinna’s question about what’s wrong. And that’s chapter 13.

Chapter 14: A Body Torn

Chapter 14 opens with more dread, and a big fog, and a little bit of Xhinna admitting that the kitten was cute, and might turn out to be trainable after all. Then a muffled voice in her head tells Xhinna to follow, Javissa shows up asking if Xhinna’s seen Jirana, and the two of them recruit J’riz and Bekka to help her go find Jirana, eventually helped out by Jirana sending a picture of the stars above her so that Tazith has a warp coordinate. Which puts them, eventually, in the middle of a melee that involves humans, cats, and tunnel snakes all fighting in a big and dark cave. But first there’s this:

“You stay here,” Xhinna said.
“I’m coming with you,” Javissa said. “That’s my daughter.”
“And my sister,” J’riz added, moving up beside his mother, his belt kninfe drawn.
“And my—” Bekka cut herself off. “My weyrmate, if nothing else.”

I feel like there’s something really good in that space from Bekka. It could also be something that Bekka wanted to declare, but realized her claim was subordinate to “daughter” and “sister” from her biological family. That said, in previous places, “weyrmate” has often had the implication that the people in the weyr together are sleeping together, which would be yet more of a child sex fetish on display, but would also end up breaking the rules about gold riders being exclusively het. So that’s probably not it, but the pause there could really be usefully significant in a world where there aren’t quite so stringently-defined gender roles involved.

So, after all hell breaks loose, because the tunnel snakes are attacking the sands, Razz is killing snakes, but also frightening candidates, and J’keran is trying mightily to restore some form of order and rally his people to fight (and failing miserably, for obvious reasons), Bekka eventually finds Jirana, but she’s apparently hurt, because while Bekka is saying Jirana will be all right, Xhinna recognizes the tone of voice as the one that Bekka uses when she’s lying through her teeth, and what Xhinna heard earlier was Razz growling and being aggressive. Which means what happens next is pretty predictable.

With berserk rage, Xhinna went charging toward Bekka, slicing through snakes or anything that looked like them and looking for the large amber eyes of the attacking Mreeow.
A roar alerted her and she spun, falling backward as she thrust her knife forward. A huge male Mrreow flew over her, snagged her knife, yanking it from her hands even as its roar turned to a bellow of pain.
She scrambled to retrieve her knife and turned to face the Mreeow if it returned. Panting hard, she tried to hear anything but the sound of her breath.
There was motion above again and she pivoted, slashing the air, splitting the tunnel snake in half before spinning around again at the first touch of a large paw.
The Mrreow had flung itself into the air with a menacing growl, and as Xhinna turned, thrusting her knife out to protect herself, she felt a second tunnel snake’s claws rip into her scalp just before the Mreeow’s paw connected with it and flung it far.
But it was too late for the Mrreow. Xhinna’s knife and her instincts moved faster than her brain, and in the startled moment she had to recognize that the Mreeow had attacked the tunnel snake and not her, its momentum and hers drove the sharp dirk hard into its chest.

And so Xhinna kills the Mrreow that was trying to protect her, and worse, it’s Razz, which she recognizes as soon as she sees the collar. That’s essentially the thing that breaks Xhinna, and she goes into a sobbing rage at everyone, especially Bekka, about how they all need to do something to save Razz, that it was an accident, all the excuses that won’t do anything. Xhinna sobs at R’ney, at Bekka, at Taria, who are all understanding that Xhinna didn’t mean it. Xhinna eventually demands a bandage, and then starts tearing her shirt to try and patch the hole and bandage up Razz, even though everyone there knows it won’t bring the cat back to live. But it seems to provide some closure for Xhinna to do it, and for Razz to get buried (Tazith digs the hole) and yet another apology, this one to Razz and Taria about not listening to them about the cats. A lot of people, including X’lerin and K’dan and others show up to help with the burial, which pings Xhinna’s radar that something’s wrong, and eventually, Bekka comes to get her and we realize why Jirana didn’t want to tell Xhinna about what was bothering her – apparently Jirana saw herself being severely mauled during this sequence, to the point where Bekka is afraid that moving Jirana will cause lethal damage to her, and didn’t want to worry Xhinna. Jirana, says to “ask the queens” and “trust”, which makes as much sense as Tenniz usually did. Xhinna is not having anyone else dying on her watch, and so when Bekka complains about it being too dark to perform effective surgery, Xhinna warps Bekka and Jirana on Tazith to the middle of the day to provide the necessary light.

She felt Bekka’s astonishment and worry. The cold of between could do horrible things to an open wound. They came out above the beach, where Pinorth bugled in surprise. The sun was high above, and the sands were warm with the noon heat.
“Enough light now?” Xhinna called as Tazith began a gentle spiral to a soft landing on the sands.
“If the cold of between didn’t kill her,” Bekka said, jumping down and reaching up to receive the stricken girl.

That’s kind of fascinating, actually. I know that very cold things can cause necrosis and that frostbite is not a thing to be fucked around with, and the riders have heavy warm gear to try and keep the cold of hyperspace out, but the dragonriders have, to this point, warped through time and space without particularly caring about the consequences to their faces exposed to the cold of hyperspace.

Or, for that matter, worrying about oxygen deprivation while traveling through both space and time, which was a problem for Lessa (admittedly, Lessa’s time hop was bigger than theirs). It seems perfectly likely that whatever the dragons do to make sure themselves and their riders stay safe and warm as they warp their way through hyperspace is the thing they use for passengers, whether they’re also seated on the dragon or in the hands of the dragons themselves. So unless it were something tearing Jirana apart more, or some other thing, I would have assumed that the cold of hyperspace was being warded away in the same way as it always is. (Then again, there’s that thing where hyperspace causes miscarriages and the cold is blamed for it. So, somehow, we have people who regularly warp through the cold of space with skin exposed who somehow are extra concerned about babies and the injured with regard to this, and then we also have to remember that warping into hyperspace is the most effective way of stopping Thread from devouring you whole, and the assumption on that is that the extreme cold is the effective way of killing the organism. So somehow we have lots of things being potentially frozen, and yet the dragonriders don’t, as best as I can tell, try to cover everything up, unless those “helmets” that we’ve heard referred to all the time are actually full head-covering items with glass or something else that allows the rider to see through. We’ll have to chalk it up to yet another situation where things weren’t fully thought through, I guess. Or that I’m being super-nitpicky, well beyond what any reader should be expected to be about it.

Getting back to the plot, Xhinna manages to puzzle out what Jirana was asking for in “trusting” and “asking the queens”, specifically, to have the queen dragons transmit Jirana’s pain to all the other people around her so that Jirana will stay still enough for Bekka to operate on her and patch her back together. Which is really good as a narrative thing of people working together and collectively bearing the pain of the person they’re trying to help, but doesn’t make any sense in biology. If the queen dragons can transmit the pain and share it so that Jirana doesn’t experience it, the queen dragons can block the pain entirely. And, if I recall correctly, Fiona had Talenth do something like that to a dragon to ensure that they held still long enough for surgery to succeed and take on them, so presumably the queens, especially massed, should be able to block basically any signals from Jirana’s injuries from reaching her brain or anywhere else, for that matter, so that she doesn’t experience it or twitch or otherwise potentially harm herself in a reaction to the pain she’s going through. That, of course, would require someone to have a working understanding of how the nervous system works and how anesthetics work, and otherwise be a properly trained Healer in a system that has proper Healing knowledge. It might take several queens working in concert with Laspanth (as is happening here, and remember Laspanth is still in her egg) to use the correct conduit to get those pain signals blocked and dampened, but that’s the better idea, rather than intercepting and transmitting that pain to other people. (I could totally see the queens and/or Laspanth transmitting pain as a way of being angry with the humans that have allowed things to progress to the point where Jirana got hurt that much, or someone asking to take on some of that pain out of guilt that Jirana got hurt to this degree, but it seems suspect that the default idea is to transmit the pain to others so that Jirana relaxes enough to stay still and be operated on.)

We get a description of what the experience is like for Xhinna.

Pain! She gasped, she went rigid—she didn’t twitch or move a muscle, she just felt pain—roaring, furious pain, and with it, terror: She was dying. She rode down the terror, calmed it, soothed it, held the pain, examined it, compared it to other pains, the pain of her shoulder, the pain of childbirth to come, of Threadscore, of—
“Xhinna!” a voice cried. “Xhinna, it’s done.”

For however long it took while Xhinna was focusing and applying meditative technique to the pain, Bekka got Jirana stitched up and she’s going to be fine. Weirdly enough, the experience of taking the pain has also left a physical reminder.

Xhinna felt a painful twinge in her own belly and, wincing, lifted her tunic to stare down at herself.
“Xhinna, what’s wrong with your stomach?” Bekka asked, peering at the reddened skin.
Xhinna didn’t answer her, turning instead to the dark-haired queen rider beside her. “Jepara, how’s your stomach?”
Wordlessly, the queen rider lifted her tunic to reveal three parallel red welts, matching Xhinna’s.
“We took the pain, didn’t we?” Jepara asked then, smiling at Xhinna. “It had to go somewhere.”
“What about the others?” Xhinna glanced over her shoulder at the figure that trailed them silently. “Taria, raise your tunic.”
Surprised, the green rider lifted her tunic above her distended belly. There were three welts across it.

Xhinna remembers Taria putting a hand on her and helping out, and then kisses each of the three welts, before listening to the baby, and then accepting an apology from Taria about listening to J’keran and having drank his stuff (“We’ve got better,” Xhinna offered shyly. / “Not until the baby comes,” Bekka growled tersely from beside the sleeping Jirana, which is an oh holy fuck whyyyyyyy would you say that, Xhinna?) and apologizing again for the death of Razz. Jirana stirs, repeats her request to ask the queens for help, is assured by Xhinna that they did that to help with Jirana’s pain, and Jirana falls back asleep before saying anything more. That’s Bekka’s cue to throw everyone out, and the chapter ends with Xhinna being surprised at Taria slipping her hand into Xhinna’s. I’m not all that surprised, given that everything that happened is likely to be considered a lovers’ spat between them, and also, J’keran is right there to be a scapegoat for everything that went wrong in all of these situations. So, because Taria never fell out of love with Xhinna (and Xhinna didn’t fall out of love with Taria), it seems pretty natural for both of them to want to pick up where they left off and pretend the whole thing didn’t happen, as much as such a thing can be pretended away.

In chapter Fifteen, we’ll finally get to see what happens to J’keran.

(I say approaching the halfway point, but there aren’t that many chapters left in this book and my electronic copy says we’re about 70% of the way through, so it’s not actually halfway through. It just seems like this is the halfway point of the narrative, where we’ve resolved the initial problem and can now devote our full attention to the greater scope problem. The next chapter will resolve Book One, meaning that Book Two is only 30 percent of the whole text, but again, it feels like we’ve made it to the halfway point. Maybe Book Two was going to be developed more, and the untimely death of one of the authors stopped that from going forward. Even if it has been acknowledged that Todd was doing the writing and Anne was a creative consultant. In a more romance-like book, getting Xhinna and Taria back together would be much closer to the end, so whatever is yet to happen is apparently something bigger than this beat in the book. Unless the authorial ultimate endgame is not actually Xhinna/Taria but something else. There’s still some unknowing father of Xhinna’s child to resolve, after all.)

Deconstruction Roundup for December 25th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is hoping you are all doing well and having happy holidays.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorum Press

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

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 this year has been a complete trashfire and you are glad to see its ass end. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Taking A Second Crack At It

Last time around, Xhinna spent a lot of time having a heart-to-heart with V’lex about J’keran, managed to come to the conclusion that he’s a people-pleaser and thrives on being useful even though it makes him the butt of the joke and vulnerable to being preyed upon by assholes like J’keran, and eventually decided to put him and T’rennor in charge of training the blue and green rider weyrlings. And we all had a lot of WTF about that and about the way in which dragonriders react to the idea that Danirry did sex work to survive.

Sky Dragons, Chapter 12, continued: Content Notes: Intenet to Rape,

This segment gets underway with Xhinna reporting to X’lerin her decision on who to put in charge of the weyrlings, and the war council discusses what to do about the thefts, with the suggestion that Xhinna should be out looking for her mate to steal her back from J’keran. Xhinna’s not, because she’s willing to let Taria experiment and see if the Mreeows are able to fend off the tunnel snakes when they come to get the eggs. After informing the Weyrleadership, she talks to R’ey privately about the decision, and mentions she’s glad to be able to start doing normal work again. R’ney points out that she’s going to have a great time talking to her own councils, but they’re all going to say “Whatever you think, Xhinna” back to her when she asks for advice.

“Because I’m a girl,” Xhinna said. She smiled at his look of surprise. “Because I’m the first blue rider who’s a woman, and they know that everyone will be looking to me to see whether a woman can do the job.”
R’ney said bitterly, “Even if you manage to handle all that’s in front of you, there are some who will still say that girls can’t ride dragons.”
“Particularly blues,” said.
“Especially blues,” R’ney agreed with a firm nod. “The naysayers would be completely addled and wherry-brained, of course, but that won’t stop them a bit, or they’d have died out Turns before.”
“So you’re not angry?”
“I’m worried, scared, horrified, and…slightly terrified at your resolve,” R’ney said. “But I suppose if Lorana can lose her child to save Pern, you would consider no less.”

I mean, of course R’ney’s going to be supportive, but also, he’s got reasons other than Taria and Rowerth, because Xhinna is pretty competent at leadership in her current role, and I still feel that she’s constrained and nervous about it because she knows that she’s not getting any support from the upper ranks. As a skunkworks project, it’s been pretty damn successful under her watch, so she should be getting a lot more credit than she actually is. But, of course, it’s running in the face of the all-powerful TRADITION, and that means there will always be people who see no reason to change, or change so drastically, despite their living in what could be a potentially extinction-level event. In that sense, written from the wry look of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the way that the demands and requests of the Movement for Black Lives have been, it’s probably the most accurate writing either author has done, and it’s unlikely that it’s intentionally been set up this way.

On the plot, R’ney and Xhinna continue to talk about the eggs and the tunnel snake attacks. The detail that some of the eggs were full of dragonet fetuses, but they weren’t alive, is poking at the back of Xhinna’s brain, and while R’ney doesn’t provide any immediate additional help, he recognizes that it’s a problem that will have to be solved if they want to have viable clutches and so he starts to think about it as well. It takes Xhinna complaining that she’d done her job too well and everybody is paired (or better) in a warm bed and she’s stuck by herself and freezing before she recognizes what the missing component is. In a right and proper eureka moment, Xhinna pulls on her robe and goes to see R’ney to inform him immediately of the decision.

R’ney, however, was not alone, and realizing that, Xhinna felt herself blush mightily.
“What?” R’ney asked.
The body next to him quivered and a head popped out. Danirry. Her mouth made a big O of surprise when she caught sight of Xhinna, and she said, in a small voice, “I was cold.”
Xhinna smiled and clambered in on the other side of R’ney, elbowing him over to get into the warmest spot.
“Shards, you’re freezing!” he yelped when her foot connected with his.
“And so was that egg!” Xhinna said, grabbing for his pillow and laying her head on it, feeling warm and suddenly very satisfied.
“What egg?”
“That one of Coranth’s, the one that was dead,” Xhinna said, closing her eyes and letting the delicious warmth creep all over her. She could have kissed R’ney when he wrapped an arm around her and drew her closer. “The sands aren’t hot,” she explained as she snuggled happily against R’ney’s flat chest.
“And the eggs froze,” he said with awe and sorrow in his voice.
“ ’s right,” Xhinna said. “We’ll plan in the morning.”
And in moments, to R’ney’s amusement, the young wingleader was gently snoring.

It feels like the narrative is teasing us with the idea that Danirry, who was crushing hard on Xhinna, and who Xhinna might have a bit of a crush back on, was doing more than keeping warm by being in R’ney’s bed, and I can see Xhinna being embarrassed at the fact that she woke R’ney up when he had a guest over, but the narrative doesn’t really resolve this idea of whether Danirry was staying warm or something else. Xhinna, however, just hops in to snuggle and everyone’s fine with that because Xhinna is blessed with the narrative, much like how all of Fiona’s bed-sharing was blessed by the narrative, even while she was having friends help keep the bed warm as well as her lovers being in it with her. And also because R’ney probably understands that he’s not likely going to be sleeping with Xhinna unless she tells him that’s her plan. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but this seems like on of those things that’s supposed to tease the reader and possibly get the dudes to think that R’ney is a right proper stud, bedding all of these supposed lesbians left and right.

The next morning is spent, true to her word, planning on trying to figure out how to keep the eggs warm, with R’ney providing a visual demonstration for Danirry about the difference in temperature during the day and at night by abruptly flinging the blankets off of the sleeping women, to much shouting and glaring as they get the point. The secondary plan is trying to find good rock and starting to build a Hold for them so that they can get inside occasionally and out of sleeping in the treetops. The question of keeping the eggs properly heated is eventually resolved with the idea of having sleeping bodies surrounding them, dragon on one side, humans on the other, radiating enough heat to allow the eggs to keep growing without being frozen without getting too much eat and cooking them, like the presence of bonfires might. To help with the building, Xhinna suggests going and recruiting Candidates for the current projected clutch early. Bekka notes it will also be a strain on their food resources, but Xhinna goes ahead, with V’lex, and over three trips, picks out eighteen potential candidates for the dragons, fifteen girls and three boys.

“Not enough boys to Search?” V’lex commented, watching the new group being guided into three rows of six each by J’riz, Jirana, Alimma, and two of the green riders.
“Most of the lads old enough are working the fields,” Xhinna said. “Those three were the only male Candidates we could find in a hundred.”
“Three in a hundred?” V’lex asked, aghast.
“Too many died in the Plague and the rebellion, Nerra told me. More daughters lived,” Xhinna replied. “With so few men to take their holdings, and too many mouths to feed, many sent their daughters where they could.”
“There were women in the fields, too,” T’rennor said. “With the men dead, they had no choice.”
“So we fly with women,” V’lex said, nodding toward Xhinna. “If they’re all like you, we’ll have no problem.”
“It’s the browns and bronzes that worry me,” Xhinna said. “I don’t think any of the boys here would be taken by one of them.”
“Well, that’s a problem for another day, isn’t it?” T’rennor said easily.
“It is,” Xhinna agreed easily.
“They all look so sad,” T’rennor said. “They’ll need feeding and care.” He frowned. “It’s a pity we couldn’t have saved the others. So many died just after the Plague.”

That’s just the thing, V’lex. All of the women candidates shouldn’t have to be Xhinna, or like Xhinna, to be good dragonriders. It’s an interesting tell about how the mentality is, even after having seen Xhinna at work to this point. If everyone’s like a Xhinna, then they’re going to be fine, but if they’re not like a Xhinna, then they’re women instead. Which, you know, is exactly the problem that I’ve been talking about with regard to the Exceptional Woman. Women of all sorts should be able to ride dragons, if the dragons choose them. But the men have very specific ideas about who acceptable women are for the Weyr, and while they’ve given some ground grudgingly to the idea that women could ride blues and greens, they’d still be much happier, clearly, if there were no women but gold riders. Maybe gold riders and Xhinnas, but that’s as far as they’re willing to go. But V’lex is still very clearly distraught at the idea that only three boys in a hundred were able to be spared as Candidates, and while the narrative does a good job at putting it next to the context of “there aren’t enough of them available because Plague,” I feel like V’lex’s disappointment should be read as “we’re getting more girls, when we should be getting more boys”, even if he ends up in the position of “well, they can be Xhinnas, and that’s all right.”

I’m not surprised at all that they ended up with so many women, given how much time and effort the authors have put into telling us again and again that Pern functions on primogeniture, and that the oldest sons are expected to inherit everything. So they were never going to be available. Second sons are, in Terran history, the “spares” to the heirs, and so they usually go either to the clergy or to the military, neither of which Pern claims to have much of, even though it’s pretty clear the Harpers are the high priests of the cult of the dragonriders, and there’s at least some amount of standing police force and likely a bailiff system for the Lords Holder, even if they inexplicably don’t spend their time trying to enlarge their territory at the expense of their neighbors. So between Plague and military exercises, there’s going to be a shortage of available sons, and an excess of available daughters, since it’s likely many of their marriage prospects were ruined by the deaths of their intended betrothed, by their “keeping” male relatives, or by their siblings, such that they have to work their own holdings rather than being married off to be in charge of someone else’s. (Although, that said, I suspect in many of the smaller holdings, women and wives were and are just as hard at work as the men are, whether also being in the fields or in all of the other tasks of running a household and creating the necessary goods for survival and tithing. Sure, there are guilds, but guilds and Gathers are for luxury shopping, for finery, rather than for the things that are going to have everyday use, at least every time we’ve been shown one.) So if dragonriders come looking for people to take away to the sands, the only people that are going to be able to send people back with them are people who feel like they don’t have enough resources to feed all of their family. And since daughters are liabilities until they’re married, and it’s unlikely there are a lot of men looking for marriages right then, yeah, it was always going to be primarily women and girls coming with the dragonriders. Which makes me wonder what it was about those three boys that brought them on the journey with the dragonriders. I could make an inference from Xhinna’s concern about browns and bronzes that all of the boys they got are gay, rather then het or bi, and so they’re useless to their families for bringing in a good woman to help make better household alliances. And potentially stereotypically effimately gay, such that the idea of putting them to work in the fields would be useless because they’re not strong and able to do the farming at the necessary clip to ensure survival, even if it turns out they might have some very good skills in other arenas that could be developed once the threshold of “don’t starve, don’t freeze, don’t die from Plague” is reached. But nothing is really said about these candidates, other than V’lex is distressed that there aren’t more of them.

The plot itself moves forward where Kisorth clutches in the same space that Coranth did, prompting a flurry of activity and assignment to test out Xhinna’s new theory that the eggs need to have a significant amount of heat applied to them at all times if they want to survive. Jirana also walks up to one particular egg and introduces herself to Laspanth, her queen, which prompts Xhinna to look aside at her and go “that one doesn’t look like a queen, dear,” to which Jirana basically dismisses her in the way that children do when you’re being oblivious and just don’t understand. Actually, let’s quote that more in full:

Jirana walked directly over to one small, brownish one and touched the shell gently. “Hello, Laspanth, it’s me.”
“Jirana, I don’t think that’s a queen,” Xhinna said. “And besides, don’t you want to wait until you’re older?”
“Nope, it’s her,” Jirana said with childlike certainty. “And I’m the right age now.”

While I support the idea of children being the experts about who they are and what identity they want to take on at all points in their childhood, I still have to point out that Jirana is ten, maybe eleven by the time of the hatching, and that if J’riz’s time period is any indication, once Jirana has a dragon, the clock starts ticking on her first sexual experience, and that’s going to leave her awfully young, at least by my standards, for such an experience. And I’m also bereft of the knowledge of whether on Pern, puberty starts early enough that Jirana would have a body that is ready for sex and potentially childbirth by the time she starts becoming sexually active because of Laspanth. There’s the “we’re getting married at twelve, because we’ll die at thirty” miners, but no understanding whether that is a universal constant or whether this has been an extended Author Fetish about very young people making very sexual decision. Or, I suppose, an author doing their best to try and provide some amount of Fan Disservice around the idea of very small children becoming permanently bonded to creatures that radiate sex rays that affect everyone with a sexual thought in their bodies, but if that were the case, I would expect many more characters to want to wait until the very last minute before getting their dragons, rather than jumping in with both feet at the very beginning of their eligibility periods.

Which is to say, Pern is still creepy as fuck, even though we’re not really supposed to be paying that close of attention to this aspect.

Moving on, because I’ve peeked ahead while trying to make sense of a lot of this book, this entire “Jirana is going to Impress a queen” is the setup for a lateral thinking puzzle, because as far as everyone knows, gold dragons don’t hatch from green eggs, I don’t blame Xhinna here for her skepticism, because what Jirana is saying and doing is highly improbable, treating a dragonet in egg as a being that is developed sufficiently to understand her and that Jirana knows which egg is going to be hers. All the same, she hasn’t been wrong yet about her foresight, so somewhere along the way, there should be something pinging in the back of Xhinna’s head to at least plan for the idea that Jirana’s entirely right, because she hasn’t recorded a miss yet for things she’s seen. Xhinna actually ponders this puzzle herself later in the chapter.

The child was a mystery: She had led them right so many times and yet—it was still hard to believe her claims. No one had ever heard of a queen egg coming from a green, not even among the fire-lizards. And here was this girl claiming not only that her egg was a queen, but also that she was in communication with the queen and already knew her name.
It was against all tradition, Xhinna thought wearily as she made her way back to Tazith.
I trust the little one, the blue offered as he drifted back to sleep, curling comfortably around his rider.
I worry about her, Xhinna said. She bears a lot on her shoulders. Maybe too much.
As Xhinna drifted off to sleep, she thought she felt a tendril of love coming from the direction of Jirana and her egg.

And there’s the extra ironic echo here that Xhinna says all of this goes aginst tradition when she’s basically the most erect digitus impudicus to tradition [TRADITION!] on the planet and she’s encouraging everyone else to break traditions or otherwise have a very casual and loose relationship to them. But sometimes you can’t see the big picture when you’re literally in the middle of it and focused on so many other things.

Spinning back a bit, Bekka and Xhinna are both completely in anxiety mode about this clutch and their techniques, because they are yet again in uncharted territory about how to pull this thing off successfully, even if by now, you would think they would have developed some additional safety standards, protocols, or devices that would make it easier to detect if tunnel snakes have been there or to drive them off preemptively. Xhinna stays up the entire night pacing, earning her a telling-off from Jirana that she’s disturbing the sleep of the dragons, which Xhinna is again skeptical of, and Jirana offers no reasoning apart from “trust me” on the idea of getting the eggs to all hatch successfully. X’lerin consults with Xhinna in the morning about the reality that Coranth has also likely clutched, but nobody can figure out where it is. Xhinna swears she’ll feed Taria Candidates if necessary, if they can find the clutch. When X’lerin mentions the possibility of Taria being right about Mreeows, Xhinna says she’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it, and internally expresses confidence in the idea that Taria is holding out on them out of sheer stubbornness, before hoping that if Taria turns out to be wrong about the Mreeows, that she’ll come back to Sky Weyr and “accept the consequences.”

X’lerin looks questioningly at Jirana and gets a capsule summary of what Jirana has asserted to everyone. X’lerin looks at her with pity, because it’s clear that Jirana’s wrong, right before Xhinna wonders why there are two fertile varieties of dragon and fire-lizard, before X’lerin relays secondhand that Verilan speculated in the fire-lizard department, the greens probably came first, along with the blues, and that the browns, bronzes, and golds came later on, so that it would be entirely possible for a gold fire lizard to hatch from a green fire lizard egg. So it’s theoretically possible that a gold egg might have been produced from a fertile green, which X’lerin admits is a possibility, but he and the society that’s been built around the dragons and their riders is still too used to the rules that say greens get sterilized as fighting dragons and golds are the only ones who lay eggs, and therefore golds are the ones that produce more golds and all the other colors. Even though it’s literally a green clutching in front of them, they’re still working on wrong ideas that greens only produce more greens, blues, and maybe a brown in the rare occasions where they’re allowed to clutch and their eggs come to the ability to hatch.

And besides, they would probably argue they have more important issues to deal with at the moment.

“All this clutching is giving people ideas.”
X’lerin raised an eyebrow, so she explained: “Many of our women riders here are either pregnant or trying.”
“That won’t be a problem, will it?” X’lerin asked, frowning.
“I don’t know,” Xhinna replied. “We’ve got more than two Turns before we go back to fight Thread, and they’ve got at least a turn before their dragons are ready to fly, so this is the best time for them to start a family.”
“So you’re encouraging them,” X’lerin guessed.
“Not that so much as letting the facts speak for themselves,” Xhinna said. “And it’s helping the older riders, too.”
“How so?”
“They’ve got an investment in the future,” Xhinna said. “Not only do they see these riders as their future wingmen, but they also see their children as a part of them, part of the wings, part of the Weyrs when we come back.”
“It gives them something to live for,” X’lerin said.
“Exactly,” Xhinna agreed. With a twinkle in her eye, she added, “And something to do in the meantime.”
“So am I to hope that you’re taking your own advice?”
“I will, when the time is right,” Xhinna said.
“Didn’t you just tell me that that time is now?”
“I’ve my duties,” Xhinna said, turning away from him.
“It’s a duty of a wingleader to see the future,” X’lerin told her softly. “I know that not all blue or green riders can find it in themselves to be parents.”
“I’ll be a parent,” Xhinna said.
“There’s Taria’s child,” X’lerin agreed soothingly.
“No, I’ll be a parent myself,” Xhinna told him. She smiled at his look and added, “I’ve got a proper father in mind for my child—he just doesn’t know it yet.”
“And so you’re waiting for the right time?” he guessed. “A mating flight, perhaps?”
“Perhaps,” Xhinna agreed lightly. “Now, if we’re done here, I’d best do the rounds.”

Oh, for…

There are words to describe the amount of Wrong embedded in that entire exchange, but they probably require the Julia set equations as a starting point. As has been noted, Sky Weyr is not exactly fat on supplies, so pregnancies and childbirth seem like the last things to be encouraging in this time, even if I really do believe that people who feel desperate and unanchored and worried they’re going to die in this strange land and time would be trying really hard to father and to birth children, as a way of having their legacy secured and passed on to the next generation. Especially since they’re cut off (by the choices of their leadership!) from all the other Weyrs and people, so it’s not like they have the usual adoption pool to work with as well. But also, the Weyrs as they were described so much earlier, in the very beginning of the series, with the communal raising of children and the abandonment of parental ties, excepting perhaps the naming convention, have been completely demolished by this 2.0 version of the Weyrs, where everyone is intimately involved in parenting their own children, except when they have to hand them off to minders like Xhinna so they can do their necessary work without kids underfoot. This might be one of those situations where Xhinna would really like to discourage children, but she knows that if she tries, she’s not going to be listened to, and so instead she rationalizes it as something that will help the riders feel anchored and give them something to keep living for. (That it’s true doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any less of a rationalization.)

Then there’s the part about “doing one’s duty” or “taking one’s advice” where we have this odd fragment of a thing where Xhinna’s only romantically and sexually attracted to women, but still intends on going through body birth in a society that doesn’t have IVF or any other artificial insemination methods. Which is still one of those “I don’t think these authors can conceive that lesbians actually exist and don’t want anything at all to do with men” things that I really want to dismiss as “he’s a dude, of course he can’t conceive of the idea of anyone willingly existing and being perfectly fine without The Almighty Dick” at this point. It just annoys me a lot that Xhinna and Taria were supposed to be lesbians but are instead being portrayed much more as bi with a preference for women, and that I would have willingly gone along with it if they were, from the start, portrayed as bi with a preference for women.

The biggest fractal WRONG of this, however, is that Xhinna basically straight-up admits that she intends to accomplish this task of getting herself pregnant and giving body-birth by taking advantage of the sex rays to rape the unsuspecting father while they’re both under the influence. Not “I’m going to tell the prospective father that at a convenient mating flight, I intend for us both to have sex and for me to get pregnant, and for us to discuss whether he wants to stay involved in parenting or to stay far away from it all,” not “Oh Faranth, I fucking hate dicks with bodily revulsion, but because I want to get myself pregnant, I’m going to try and stick by who I want to be the father for the next mating flight and tell him that he’s only going to be the sperm donor for my kid, nothing more,” but instead, “I’m going to get myself pregnant by fucking someone during a mating flight when we’re both out of our minds so I can get pregnant, and I don’t intend to tell him about it before it’s too late to stop it from happening. Or at all.” And while I have no doubt that a lot of people in this society, and probably on Pern, too, would look at that kind of situation and think that the prospective father was some sort of stud or otherwise extra manly person for having nailed the lesbian (and possibly hope that having had a taste of dick, she would decide that’s what she really wanted), the thing is that it’s still taking advantage of an altered state on someone, rather than asking for their consent beforehand. And it’s entirely possible that the person selected as the father will be traumatized (and has been traumatized) over the mating flight sex. Remember Tai and how much was made about how it should have been delightful and she should have been able to choose her lovers, instead of riders saying “she’s a green rider, of course she wants it” and proceeding accordingly? Not that Pern seems to be the kind of place that would recognize what Xhinna’s planning as a traumatic event that needs counseling or assistance, given how difficult it is for Terrans who are taken advantage of in such a way to find people to both believe them and take them seriously that it was traumatic for them. It’s Xhinna doing things in the toxically masculine way that the culture she joined does things and not seeing anything wrong with it, and it just makes me sigh.

The plot proceeds with Alimma essentially telling Xhinna that, after her second all-nighter, assisted by caffeine, that Xhinna needs to actually sleep, and she’s not taking “no” for an answer. Xhinna protests that they can’t take her away, that she needs to keep being visible and leading, and Alimma tells her point-blank that she’s going to crack if she keeps at it, and that will be just the ammunition her detractors need to declare Xhinna a failure, so for her own sake, and everybody else’s, they’re taking Xhinna to the first completed room in the new Hold, where she’s going to sleep. Bekka tries out a new recipe on Xhinna that’s got enough fellis in it to knock her out, but it tastes good, rather than bitter. The promise is that they will come back to wake Xhinna up when there’s a problem that requires her attention and no sooner. Chapter 12 ends with Xhinna dropping off to sleep, having been drugged and settled in a very comfy and warm bed, with a long pillow along the wall side.

Which is probably a good thing for Xhinna, as trying to pull back-to-back all nighters (and not nearly getting enough sleep in the days before that) is going to contribute pretty strongly to Xhinna going insane, and I mean psychosis, not cutesy ableism. The body needs sleep, it is an essential function, and the longer you stay awake without it, the more your mind unravels. Which is something that Healer Bekka might actually know, based on the fluctuating amount of knowledge present in any given Healer at any given time, but even so, that Xhinna’s main subordinates essentially gang up on her, with the Weyrleader and the Healer’s blessing, is a good thing for all of them. Xhinna will likely thank them after she’s slept and regained her own mental balance. Even if she’ll then almost immediately slip back into “the pressure is all on me to succeed or fail, I am carrying the entire weight of everything on my shoulders” mode, because the leadership is still doing sod-all about actually being leaders, as best as I can tell.

What will be the thing that they go fetch Xhinna for? Jirana. And Meeyus.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 18th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is on the lady day before holiday vacation. How weird to believe that you might have made it all the way.)

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

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

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 watching what happens with distribution, and are almost ready to hope that things are on the pathway to an end of the nightmare. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Things That Fail To Make Sense

Last time, Xhinna filed the new riders into the hierarchy, which involved trying to figure out what she was going to do about someone who’s crushing on her (and whose crush she might return), and someone who needs to be able to have healthy boundaries. The crush turns out to be a first-rate engineer, so she gets shipped off to R’ney to help with his schemes, and the one who needs boundaries is given to Jepara, who complains that she’s not having any fun with someone who she can’t sass. Xhinna tells Jepara to figure out how to get Mirressa to be a good playmate, which she grumbles at, but accepts. And then Taria came by for a night, but Xhinna said the wrong name in her sleep, and now Taria’s fled, believing Xhinna doesn’t love her any more and has moved on.

Sky Dragons, Chapter Twelve: Stretching Bonds: Content Notes: Misogyny, Sexism, Abuse apologia,

This chapter starts with yet more evidence that J’keran and Taria are stealing from Sky Weyr to survive, and Xhinna continuing to think and talk with R’ney and X’lerin that it’s a better option to be stolen from than the alternative, even though she’s worried about how that’s going to look with regard to her authority.

Xhinna sighed. That Taria had chosen to leave the Weyr spoke volumes about Xhinna’s leadership; she was constantly aware of that. That some might be sympathetic to J’keran and Taria was also a given. What worried Xhinna more was that some would consider it acceptable to permit theft of their own hard-won food. That might mean more than sympathy—it might mean active aid and rebellion.

Wait, what? No.

Cocowhat by depizan

These things do not follow from each other, especially since Xhinna is pretty unmistakably saying that she’d rather have J’keran and Taria stealing from them than having them starve or die.

“It’s hard to say no to someone who’s begging,” Xhinna agreed with a neutral expression.

She’s probably okay with it for Taria’s sake, but that still means she’s okay with it. So the thought of “someone’s stealing our food” transforming into “Sky Weyr will revolt” doesn’t quite make sense to me. It’s unlikely that anyone’s going to revolt on X’lerin, not after what happened with J’keran, because J’keran was the kind of person who could gather enough people to him to actually rebel. Nobody else seems to be gathering that kind of steam.

If we continue further, though, I suppose we can read between the lines to see where Xhinna’s logic is about how theft can lead to insurrection.

Xhinna’s enforced rest had eroded her authority among those who had to see her doing to believe she was leading. She’d heard snippets of conversations among the older riders when she’d been feigning sleep: “She’s not a proper wingleader; when she rides at all, it’s just a blue!”
When she’d mentioned it to R’ney, the brown rider had grown very silent. His silence told her he’d heard the same and worse. Under her questioning he admitted as much. Xhinna felt that the resentment stemmed from worries about the clutches to come and whether the eggs would hatch.
“All Pern riding on her!” one of the older green riders had snorted derisively when he thought she was asleep. She recognized the voice: it was V’lex. Apparently she had failed to keep her opinion of him from showing, and he was reciprocating in kind, with interest. T’rennor followed along meekly, which was unnerving.

And there we have something that implies banks, or at least moneylenders, which is never mentioned or thought about on Pern, despite multiple currencies and a clear system of valuation between those currencies. Which I am entirely sanguine about existing! But they’re never mentioned.

Also, Xhinna, worries about the clutches and eggs is not the reason why those older riders are so dismissive of you. R’ney, at least, has a clue, even if he doesn’t understand how far his reasoning should extend.

Many of the male blue riders resented her, more for her gender than her authority.
“You’re a threat to them,” R’ney said, scowling. “Not only are you better than them, you’re a girl, too.” He shook his head. “They’re afraid you’ll take all the greens from them and they’ll be shamed through all Pern.”
[…Xhinna says R’ney can have all the smelly boys he wants, who R’ney is perfectly happy to have. X’lerin thinks there’s more to it than that…]
“Seeing you up and about will not convince those who have decided you’re not a proper rider,” he said unhappily. “The only thing they’ll judge you by is your success at the Hatching.”
“But even T’mar couldn’t guarantee that when we were back at Eastern,” R’ney protested.
“And that’s another thing,” X’lerin began, reluctant to add more problems to the pot. But Xhinna gestured for him to go on and the bronze rider said, “There are many, particularly among the older riders, who think you tricked T’mar and Fiona into bringing us all here.”
“Tricked?” Xhinna asked, eyebrows raised. “T’mar and Fiona?”
“Hot heads and slippery tongues,” X’lerin said. “But they think they should have stayed back at Telgar and left you to shift for yourself.”
“I don’t like where this is going,” R’ney said.
“Without the older dragons, we can’t survive,” X’lerin told Xhinna frankly. “The ones who were born in Eastern are solidly with you, but the ones who came with J’keran…”

Plus, they need Candidates for the new clutch, which has Xhinna thinking that V’lex might be talking to J’keran on the down-low, and that leads Xhinna to conclude that it’s possible the Mreeow attack that killed some of their herdbeasts was Razz being sent to prove a point that Mreeows are trainable (at least, if you catch them while they’re kittens).

X’lerin, however, is wide of the mark, in my opinion, when he says that Xhinna will be judged by the success or failure of the next Hatching, unless he and all the others are going to be engaging in that judging. Shit rolls downhill, we understand, but for Xhinna to be right that everyone is depending on her to get them through alive means that the Weyrleadership is allowing or even encouraging that attitude to flourish, rather than stomping all over it and insisting that the buck stops with them. Then again, as we’ve already documented, X’lerin and K’dan try hard to avoid taking any real responsibility for anything that might backfire or paint them in a negative light, so…

I think the most accurate statement of why everyone is against Xhinna is R’eny’s statement that’s ostensibly about the male blue riders, because Xhinna represents a threat to the established order, and if she can do the job of a male rider, and a Wingleader at that, and do it better than all of the boys, then that’s a whole lot of fragile masculinity being threatened by a competent woman. If Xhinna continues to succeed, and continues to produce competent women riding blues and greens, soon enough those women might branch out into browns and bronzes, and then you might have two women running a Weyr, because a woman’s bronze caught a gold, and then it’s clearly anarchy in the dragonriders, because male supremacy is no longer assured. Better to try and make Xhinna into a failure and an aberration than to admit that there’s nothing they know about the past apart from tradition and wrong assumptions that suggests women aren’t supposed to be riding any and all of the colors.

Rather than dwell too much on this, the narrative has Xhinna going through stretching exercises to make sure that the scarring doesn’t rip itself open and the structures that were good at keeping Xhinna healed get told it’s time for them to release and allow Xhinna her full range of motion back. (Having broken a couple of fingers, it takes a while for those structures to break down and return motion to the immobilized parts.) Sky Weyr also has to move the herdbeast pen, as the final attack on it spread the guts of the slaughtered herdbeast all around the pen, which really indicates to Xhinna that someone is trying to make a point, which allows Xhinna to discover that Jepara is handy with an axe for building as well as a bow and arrow for killing, even as she continues to be annoyed with V’lex and suspicious that he’s in contact with J’keran.

In happier news, the scheme that R’ney and Danirry hatched to separate the gold dust from the dirt worked to perfection, and they have two kilograms worth of gold to trade with, to which Bekka has already compiled a shopping list of things to get for Sky Weyr. Which will presumably be traded through Nerra as they also go looking for Candidates for the upcoming clutches. And Xhinna throws some excellent shade on K’dan.

“We thought you’d be pleased,” X’lerin said. Xhinna cut a look over to K’dan, but the harper shrugged and said, “I’ve been working with the weyrlings—this is as much news to me as it is to you.”
Xhinna was not entirely surprised at this admission, but it was a shock to realize that for all of K’dan’s age and wisdom, it would not have occurred to him to keep a closer eye on R’ney and X’lerin in this matter, particularly when they started acting so smug. She would have. But then, she was naturally inquisitive and…she’d had months of practice. Before that, she’d had even more time with children, and as she was coming to realize more and more, children were great teachers of human nature.

Once again, this is the person who supposedly was going to succeed Master Zist as the person in charge of the Harpers and the spy networks they have. A real winner, that one.

The fact that R’ney’s already got a kilo bagged and ready to go has X’lerin telling Xhinna that’s why she’s a wingleader, because she creates wingseconds that are this good at what they do, before we get to the part where Xhinna and V’lex have a sit-down and a heart-to-heart about everything. Which meanders a lot in its ways, but also provides a significant amount of choice quotable material. After they get it out of the way that V’lex and J’keran are in contact, V’lex claims that J’keran’s changed. When Xhinna presses on whether J’keran’s sober, V’lex only says that he’s given up the rotgut, which doesn’t mean he’s necessarily sober, just not prone to drinking lethal concoctions. Plus, V’lex seems very interested in T’rennor, and that piques Xhinna’s curiosity.

Green and blue riders, she was discovering, were hard to keep in one category. With browns it was even more so. Only the bronzes and queens were steadfast in their preferences. The rider of a female green could be the dominant partner in a relationship, although that role was more prevalent among blue riders. And while the male riders of greens were more likely to prefer male partners, it wasn’t always the case. Based on her experience of the past four Turns, the only thing that seemed certain to Xhinna was that when dragons rose to mate, passions flowed freely, with the controlling passion being that of the dragon’s over the rider. At all other times, riders were free to follow their own hearts.

There’s a certain amount of no shit involved in this, but I’ve seen a whole lot of extratextual material calling this the official retraction of the most infamous extratextual statement made about Pern and its riders. And even then, it’s still “bronzes and golds are always het, just so we’re clear, but it’s possible that maybe blues, browns, and greens don’t fit nicely into stereotypes about what kind of role they take on in relationships.” Which should have been abundantly clear to anybody right from the beginning of Pern and the way that the world has been set up and all of it explained.

So Xhinna flatters V’lex a touch, blue rider to green riders, about how they’re the real stars of any given Threadfall, since the browns and bronzes are all really too big to do much more than get themselves hurt, even if they do have a certain amount of stamina that’s needed for the length of Threadfall. And it works, with V’lex puffing up a bit before becoming immediately contrite about how Tazith hasn’t actually flown Threadfall yet, but Xhinna dismisses that as something that she will do, and then segues into how it looks like V’lex is taking on a mentorship role with T’rennor. And then there’s this odd thing that would probably make more sense to me if I understood honor-based cultures better.

V’lex nodded. He glanced up at her, really looked in her eyes, and she saw something new, something different in him. V’lex might never be the sort that Xhinna could like personally, but his half Turn of flying Thread had made him someone she would respect.
“J’keran said you were a coward in that fight,” V’lex said, eyeing her carefully.
“I was,” Xhinna said. “I was wearing only a tunic and I was trying to convince him I wasn’t his enemy. I didn’t want to fight and, in the end, I didn’t fight—I was trying to show him that the eggs were hollow, that the tunnel snakes had gotten to them.”
“That’s what I said,” V’lex told her. She didn’t think the green rider had told J’keran this from the start, though. She imagined that this admission was from a more recent conversation.

Can you really call it cowardice if one of the people isn’t trying to fight and the other is addled out of their mind? Like, I recognize that J’keran wants to spin this in as good a light for himself as he can, but everyone else knows that he was out of his mind, too, and that should make any declaration of his suspect, even from people who are sympathetic to him. Then again, we did just go through four years of an administration where there was no such thing as a lie too far to the followers of the administrator, no matter how divorced from reality the lies and the conspiracies got, so it’s possible that V’lex was more inclined to believe J’keran’s account than everybody else’s. That Xhinna goes along with it is something I’m chalking up to her trying to get at a deeper understanding and push past any surface insults to try and recruit V’lex into her own fold. If Xhinna gets defensive here, I suspect it’ll push V’lex further toward J’keran, since that’s what our own research about convincing people to change their mind shows. And, besides, she has a different lever that she can use on V’lex instead. After V’lex lets slip that T’rennor’s also talkig to J’keran, Xhinna sees her opportunity.

“But T’rennor’s not listening to him anymore, is he?” Xhinna asked softly. V’lex looked up at her and nodded. “He’s listening to you.” The green rider said nothing. “And so what matters is what you’re going to tell him.”
“It shouldn’t be this hard,” V’lex said grumpily. “A rider should rise and flame, throw firestone, burn Thread, and rest.” He frowned again. “And greens aren’t supposed to fall in love with other greens.”
“Perhaps that was the tradition,” Xhinna said, and he looked up at her questioningly. “Traditions are good when the times are the same.” She made a gesture, throwing the question to him.
“But times aren’t the same,” he said, finding some new hope in that realization. “If they were, we wouldn’t have the greens clutching.” He licked his lips and continued hastily “If my Sarinth were still young, hadn’t chewed firestone, then she’d be clutching, too.”
Xhinna nodded, not quite sure what point the green rider was trying to make, but supporting him in his effort.

It’s babies. Babies for his dragon to look after, but it’s absolutely babies. Because it’s always babies.

Also, I’m not sure whether the “greens” in “greens aren’t supposed to fall in love with greens” are supposed to be green riders or green dragons. Because if it’s green dragons, I would have assumed gender-essentalist Kitti Ping would have engineered that out her dragons just to be sure that dragons are always het forever, even though after a green chews the firestone, there’s really no reason why they should be exclusively het, since they’re not going to be having any kids, no matter who wants to mate with them. If it’s green riders, which I suspect it is, then

Cocowhat by depizan

Because that’s just silly. We’ve been told and shown relationships between men all over the dragonrider culture, in all sorts of potential dynamics and disparities of power, but we’re supposed to believe that green riders, the ones whose dragons go off on sex jaunts a lot, aren’t supposed to fall in love with each other and want to partner up? I’d ask what possible purpose such a tradition or rule could serve, except I already know what the answer is. Can’t have the designated and socially sanctioned receivers of everyone’s dragon-induced sex urges end up in love with each other and therefore perfectly happy to partner with each other during mating flights instead of being passed around by all the riders whose dragons are involved in the flight.

More meta-ly, can’t have two people who are designated as the passive role falling in love with each other. If they did that, then who would wear the trousers and be the active, initiating partner? You couldn’t possibly expect us to believe that would happen, could you? It continues to show much the authors expected all their relationships to be het, or at least to follow the pattern or one person being more masculine or manly and the other being passive and womanly, even if it’s two (or more) men or two (or more) women. Anyone who has ever been around any number of relationships at all knows at least one of those relationships that is counterexample to that pattern and works perfectly fine, thank you very much. We complain about the lack of editors and research done all the time in this series, sure, but this particular instance really smacks with how wrong it is, and how much I have to wonder whether names and orientations were changed to try and update a narrative for the times, but without the follow-through of making sure things actually made sense after they were changed.

Getting back to the plot, it turns out that this realization that V’lex wants babies is a galaxy brain moment for Xhinna about what kind of person V’lex is.

There were depths in this man, Xhinna realized, that Fiona, with her blunt enthusiasm, would never have seen, never even known were there, desperate for nuture. In far too many troubling ways, this man was like Taria in male form: one of the natural parents and caregivers that nuture all those around them. She could see how V’lex, surrounded by desperate males, all lonely and far away from their home and even their own time, would have been willing, eager even, to provide all the comfort he could. It was part of his nature: He would give without question if it provided ease to others.
Fiona had once remarked that she couldn’t understand why he was so popular. Xhinna could understand that now. The Weyrwoman operated by demanding and receiving adoration and admiration; she loved everyone and expected love in return, thrived on it. It just wasn’t in her nature to yield to the demands of others—she simply wasn’t made that way.
And because she wasn’t made that way, and also, Xhinna admitted, because Fiona had been so young and uncertain in herself, she couldn’t have seen where V’lex should have behaved differently. Fiona probably did not even realize what he had done to this day, merely assuming that the green rider was happy because he was in such high demand, just as she was happy in the same situation. V’lex was also somewhat like Mirressa: a person who could not say “no” even if it was in her best interest. And so his time in Igen had cemented him in the role of the butt of jokes, the first to come running and the last to leave. When the old Igen riders had joined the Weyr, they had naturally attracted those most like them. It must have been a relief for V’lex to have someone else—T’rennor, for example—suffer as he had, glad of the attention, miserable with the shame.
If it hadn’t been for J’keran’s attentions to Taria, Xhinna would not have noticed, leaving the fighting dragons to X’lerin. X’lerin wouldn’t have noticed because, untrained, he had to accept J’keran’s authority within his wing. Without malice or anger, she wondered idly if V’lex might have indirectly launched the brown rider in Taria’s direction. Not that it mattered—J’keran, so drained by the repeated Falls and the losses, would have gravitated toward Taria, someone who would satisfy his desire to mold and dominate. As much as J’keran and the others had created V’lex’s behavior, the green rider’s behavior had affirmed J’keran’s; the two were like poles of a magnet, tilting the one always away from what attracted the other.

So Xhinna concludes that V’lex and J’keran are now more rivals than friends, and that (because of the earlier greens don’t fall in love with greens statement?) V’lex is breaking with tradition.

At the same time, what the hell, Xhinna? Or, as it tends to be, what the hell, authors? This set of revelations is as much apologia as it is explanation, that twisted dance of “yes, J’keran’s the kind of person who is and would be an abusive ass toward anyone at all, but if Taria and V’lex (and Mirressa) weren’t so damn nuturing and caring people, then J’keran wouldn’t be able to victimize them so easily.” I mean, yes, this is Rand’s paradise, and there is so much going on in this world where people are brazenly and viciously hurting and killing others because they have the power to do so, but it really grinds on me how often the answer to “this person took advantage of another person’s kindness, kind nature, neuroatypicality, trust, etc.” is not “that person did a bad thing and should make restitution,” but “the victim needs to toughen up / learn how not to trust people / learn how to get their revenge on others.” We haven’t yet managed to make it a default of our society here that abuse is solely the fault of the abuser and to extend that all the way through every facet of our existence, and to hammer hard on it in the school-age, instead of encouraging the bullied to not be so weird so they don’t get targeted, as if somehow there’s some amount of normal a person can be that will stop them from being the target of a bully once it’s been established that some people are immune from prosecution and some people will not be protected from victimization. It’s yet one more reason to hate Pern, because it fucking runs on this idea at least as much, if no more, than the 21st century Terran society that I’m experiencing. (Which makes K’dan and X’lerin’s passivity in the face of clear evidence that something is going wrong all too accurate, unfortunately.)

Having had her revelation that V’lex is someone who has the same kind of desire to be helpful and pleasant to everyone, even if it doesn’t come with a promise to stomp everyone into the ground that takes advantage of his nature (or Taria’s, or Mirressa’s), Xhinna suggests that things are going to be different and better for T’rennor, because he has V’lex to help him, and commiserates with him about how there really aren’t any good spots for a dragon to lay eggs. And then Xhinna asks V’lex to do something, but it’s not spelled out exactly what it is.

V’lex considered her words and his stance altered, became more upright and decisive. Yes, a different man, Xhinna mused. I was wrong to judge him. “So, green rider, she asked, holding out her hand, “are you ready to break more traditions?”
A smile slowly spread across his face. He reached for her hand and then, with a graceful pull, brought her into a tight hug. Emotion warped his voice as he spoke firmly into her ear, “Yes, Wingleader, I am.”
“Good, then here’s what I want you to do,” Xhinna said, hugging him tightly before pushing back so that she could meet his eyes.
“What, Wingleader?”
She told him. She was careful in her explanation and blunt in her language, causing him to blush at least twice.
Just as hard?” V’lex asked when finished.
“Harder,” Xhinna said emphatically. “I want no one to think you were kindhearted.”
“But—”
“You’re going to ride Fall with them, so do what you must, green rider,” Xhinna said firmly.
“J’keran—”
“Isn’t here,” Xhinna reminded him. “And he rides a brown. So he doesn’t understand about blues and greens.”
V’lex’s eyes lit and he nodded emphatically. “No, Wingleader, he certainly doesn’t!”
“I’ll let X’lerin know.”
“And the boy?” V’lex inquired. “J’riz?”
“Ceratinly the boy,” Xhinna said. “He rides a green; he needs to know.”
“So that’s four greens and two blues?” V’lex asked, verifying the numbers.

What it’s going to turn out to be, at least as best I can tell by peeking ahead, is that V’lex and T’rennor are going to be Xhinna’s assistants in training the green and blue riders about how to best use their dragons in battle. But the way that it’s described here, it also sounds like V’lex is being charged with explaining, and possibly demonstrating, what the sex life of a green rider is going to be like, in as rough of language and demonstration as can be done, even to the newly dragonridered, so they understand what others are going to believe they’ve chosen in Impressing a green dragon. Because we’re not told what it is, apart from the fact that Xhinna uses language that makes V’lex blush, I feel entirely justified in saying that at least some, if not most, of what Xhinna is telling V’lex to teach to the others has to do with their sex life.

And, to finish out this section, we once again have the idea that a woman doing sex work in exchange for the basic necessities of life is a moral wrong on Pern, despite not that many books earlier, people being Shunned because their customers weren’t satisfied with the sex they were receiving from people doing sex work (whether voluntarily or involuntarily), and it was pretty well implied that some of the Shunned used sex work as their method of survial. (Although, the people we saw doing that deliberately were part of the villain brigade, because Pern has the double standard firmly in place that any woman who wants to use her sex appeal in unapproved manners is dirtybadwrongevil but women using their sex appeal to help resolve the pantsfeels of protagonist men are to be celebrated and raised to high positions. (Unless they’re being fridged, of course, to give those same protagonist men manpain and motivation to keep living through a plague.))

“Danirry will have to catch up, she’s off with R’ney on survey,” Xhinna said. “But I expect you to schedule that with her, don’t let her shirk.”
“She’s the scrawny one, isn’t she?”
“She was starved and sold the last thing she had for food,” Xhinna told him.
“Did they catch the man?” V’lex asked, his features suddenly hard, his hand going to his belt knife. Xhinna’s respect for him rose another notch.
“No,” she replied with the same set expression. V’lex noted it and for a moment, they stood reevaluating each other, finding the defensive, guiding parent that was part of the core of each of them.
“You’d’ve taken care of them if they had,” V’lex said, loosening his grip on his knife and smiling at Xhinna.
“Justice is now in letting her heal, letting her see that not all men take,” Xhinna said.
“I’ll bear that in mind.”
“She’s got a strong will and a good heart, green rider,” Xhinna said.
“And she looks manly,” V’lex said, as though it were a compliment. He nodded to himself. “She’ll ride her blue well, she’s got a good comformation.”
“She’s not a dragon, V’lex!” Xhinna said in exasperation. “It’s ‘physique’ you mean.”
“Physique, then,” V’lex said. “I’m not all that good with words.”
“Well,” Xhinna said to ease and hurt feelings, “she might prefer conformation to physique.”
“She might at that,” V’lex agreed. He smiled at the wingleader, adding, “And, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll try to make her ‘physique’ more womanly—put enough weight on her bones that she won’t be pulled off her dragon by the first sack of firestone tossed her way.”
“Do that, please.”

So I have to still be curious about why everyone seems to react so strongly and negatively to the idea that Danirry engaged in sex work in exchange for survival. It’s twice now that we’ve heard it constructed as “she sold/bartered the last thing she had” which suggests that there was some amount of choice or equality in the decision, when the dragonrider reactions to that phrasing suggest that the thing they are extremely concerned about was that it wasn’t free choice at all in that bargain. Which is an interesting needle to thread, given how basically all dragonriders will be subjected to sex rays that many riders use as justification for doing things they might not otherwise and blaming it on the dragon. When this happened with Nerra, Nerra seemed unconcerned because Danirry was of age to make that kind of bargain, even though she didn’t look anything like she had that many years. But both Xhinna and V’lex seem to think that coercing someone into sex is an unacceptable action that deserves death and punishment. Or, perhaps they believe that the bargain could not have been fair in any circumstance and the person should be taught a lesson about not trying to make deals with people who are in no situations to be able to bargain freely? This is another one of those occasions where the morality of the authors and their time period as leaked through into the far future society, because Pern-as-described seems like the kind of place that wouldn’t bat an eye at someone trading sex for food, if that’s what they had to bargain with.

Unless, of course, “sold the last thing she had” is the polite euphemism for someone taking what they wanted by force, which says a lot about how much victim-blaming would normally go on in this society, if a completely coercive act is euphemised into making it seem like two parties had an equal bargain between themselves. The act itself is despicable, and a regular byproduct of the governmental and social systems as described, so I appreciate the little gesture that the most powerful people in the world and social structure are against it, but it doesn’t feel organic to the setting, nor is it at all consistent with anything else about this world or how those dragonriders conduct their business in any other aspect of the world.

Or perhaps the dragonriders are making a value judgment about a person’s virginity or sexual experience and saying that such a thing is far more precious to be bartered with than basely for food, but that’s not a sentiment I would believe coming out of a dragonrider’s mouth at all, given, y’know, sex rays and the very clear implications and statements that dragonriders take what they want from Holds and elsewhere, and if you’re lucky, they’ll ask first. If this were Lady Nerra talking about how she wanted to go find the person who made someone give up their virginity for food, I’d believe it a lot more than it coming from Xhinna and V’lex, because Lady Nerra is part of a society that values such things highly and tries to make sure that virgins are married off successfully to create alliances and increase family wealth. Even if she’s also in a society where the Lords and their sons are not exactly asking for consent from any of the other women they’re going to see to satisfy their own sexual urges, looking at you, Jaxom.

I do like the idea that V’lex would find Danirry’s manly figure attractive, but then they go and ruin it with the idea that very clearly, what Danirry needs to put on some weight so her figure becomes more womanly. It would have been a far better idea to just have V’lex say that he doesn’t want Danirry to be knocked out of the saddle by the first firestone sack thrown at her, rather than the gay man saying that he wants a woman to develop a more womanly figure. Maybe this is another situation where he’s being not good with words, but *gestures at all the other times in this book and other books where the authors insist that everyone is het, bi, or pan, even though that’s not how the distributions go.*

Chapter 11 was so short and this chapter is too long, but we’re at a stopping point, with V’lex and T’rennor being assigned to help drill the blue and green rider weyrlings, so we should stop at this point and pick things back up again next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 11th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is at the point in time where it’s pretty clear that one of the powerful political parties needs to be dismantled into naught., but won’t be because they represent too large of a percentage of the real views of the population.)

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

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

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 realizing there’s less than a month to a calendar turning over, and that the next year may involve a certain amount of hope. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: And Good Riddance!

Last time, dragons hatched, which was good. And Xhinna got stabbed and sliced through good when J’keran and Taria both took a wrong, if supported by their perceptions, interpretation that Xhinna was trying to destroy eggs, when the tunnel snakes had already gotten to most of them. Xhinna was out for a very long time, missed dying by that much, and then, when she was able to walk again, ended up going through the entire ritual of welcoming new riders into her wing. And the Weyr, apparently. So, now with J’keran and Taria gone, but new dragons, the Sky Weyr has to continue trying to survive when they could just teleport away and through time from a different place and avoid the time knot entirely.

Sky Dragons, Chapter Ten: An Easy Problem, and Chapter Eleven: A Cry In The Silence: Content Notes: Gender essentialism,

Chapter Ten starts with Xhinna continuing to recover, and Bekka impressing on Xhinna that she needs to actually recover, rather than try to get herself back into the full swing of things as immediately as possible.

“And if you try to slip out by yourself, I should tell you that I’ve had Pinorth order Tazith not to fly you anywhere until I say it’s okay.”
Xhinna turned to her in surprise, then pointed a finger at her own chest, and said defiantly, “Wingleader.”
Bekka shook her head, pointing a finger at herself. “Healer. It’s my job to see to it that you are alive to do yours.”
[…Bekka explains to Xhinna that ther’s the possibility that she might never be able to fly a Fall again, if she heals wrong or not enough…]
“I’ll get better,” Xhinna declared.
“Yes,” Bekka agreed. “But there are other things you can do, other things than flying a Fall.”
“Like what?”
“Like your other duties to Pern,” Bekka said. “To provide heirs worthy of you, to care for them and be there for their triumphs.”
“I can do that and still ride Falls,” Xhinna said.
“You could have before,” Bekka told her, shaking her head sadly. “But whether you can still ride Falls, we won’t know for a while.”

Cocowhat by depizan

I continue to appreciate that the authors understand that “medic” outranks everybody when it comes to doing their job, but that moment of appreciation is crushed immediately by Bekka telling the lesbian that one of her “other duties” to Pern is to go through body birth, presumably more than just once. Earlier we did have Xhinna entertaining the thought of body birth and having a child of her own, when the time is right, so she’s not so repulsed by penis-in-vagina sex that the option is a non-starter, but the idea that it’s a duty for every woman to have children is utterly and completely nope for me, and continues to show that the authors can’t really conceive of a woman who’s solely and only interested in women and sex with women. Sure, it might be “lie back and think of the queen dragon” or “pick out a green rider you like and fuck them while the dragons are in a mating flight”, but that’s not what the authors suggest that Xhinna is thinking or that she has any sort of revulsion reaction to the idea, only that she insists that she’ll be able to both fight Thread and have babies. These authors haven’t got a clue about how to write a lesbian, and every passing chapter makes it clearer that they either really shouldn’t have tried, or they should have consulted with sensitivity readers or actual women who love women to understand how this works. Or how to convincingly write someone with a preference for women who’s not opposed to men in specific circumstances, or something. Because this is seriously cringe. And it only gets worse, as during a mating flight that is first Coranth (but that already finished before Tazith gets any blood in him), then Kisorth, T’rennor’s green, also decides it’s a good time for a mating flight, and this causes Xhinna distress.

Kisorth! T’rennor! Xhinna thought. T’rennor: no!
For all that she wanted Tazith to triumph, to have the joy of mating, she loathed the thought of being with the green rider. It was not that he was a man—it was that he was the wrong man: too meek, too easily led, too willing to be the butt of jokes for the fleeting attention it provided. V’lex had immediately taken him under his wing—as V’lex and J’keran had spent much time together, none of which improve T’rennor’s self-esteen. In fact, the opposite was occurring: T’rennor seemed daily to become more pitiful. Xhinna knew that X’lerin was aware of it, too, but neither he nor Xhinna had found a way to help the younger man and, it was true, for all their flaws on the ground, J’keran and V’lex were superb riders who were happy to teach T’rennor all they knew, provided he did not outfly them.

Which pretty well cements it for me that Xhinna is supposed to be bisexual, not lesbian, because these authors can’t actually conceive of a lesbian, much less write one, so that’s what we’ll have to go forward with.

Also,

Because the narrative seems determined to make Xhinna into an asshole just as much as everyone else around her. There’s the same reasoning that got Xhinna stabbed, with saying “Yeah, there are people being assholes, but we’re not doing anything about that, because they’re good workers, good fliers, and we’re going to look the other way on the rampant bullying going on.” Like, sure, Xhinna might conceivably have been okay with going along with things because her authority and position were precarious and depended on the people perceived to be in charge supporting her, but she’s been stabbed and honored and respected and at this point, I can’t imagine Xhinna giving two shits about the niceties any more, because of where they got her. And, y’know, because V’lex is a green rider, walloping him would be seen as right and proper discipline coming from someone higher-ranked. But instead we have this “Oh God no, T’rennor’s a wimp! I couldn’t possibly fuck him because he’s the antithesis of a good masculine man” coming out of Xhinna’s mind, and furthermore, everyone knows that T’rennor’s behaving in a specific way, but it doesn’t seem like anybody’s actually asked what the problem is or tried to determine where things are coming from. If it was J’keran, again, yet more reasons to have chucked him out on his ear long before anyone got stabbed. But, as we have seen from all the stories told and thoughts done about how things work on Pern, apparently the right and proper thing to do is wait until T’rennor explodes and takes revenge on everyone who he thinks has wronged him and then everything will be fine, because now that T’rennor’s learned to stand up for himself, everyone else will respect him and he’ll be able to always enforce healthy boundaries with everyone else. Even though that’s not in any way, shape, or form, how any of that actually works.

In a bit we skipped over to close this particular loop about how Xhinna has to be bisexual, Xhinna goes to sleep (before the mating flight wakes her up), having taken a slightly fellis-dosed drink, and there’s someone who crawls into bed with her that she eventually identifies as Javissa, which sends her mind spiraling about why Javissa is there.

If Jirana was someone she loved like a sister, could she not accept Javissa’s extension of this sister-love? What, Xhinna wondered, would it be like to have a mother that loved her?
An image of Fiona swam into her mind. Fiona, who had taken her in when she’d been virtually shunned; Fiona, who had stood for her, who had loved her like a sister but treated her, at least sometimes, like a daughter. Fiona, who wasn’t quite a mother, nor quite a sister.

In case we needed reminding that Xhinna’s an orphan as well, and that everyone on Pern inexplicably hates her for being a lesbian. They hate her so much that they put her and Taria in charge of minding the children, without any sort of care or worry until Fiona and the plot arrived and suddenly they needed to detest lesbians thoroughly for plot reasons, so that Fiona could gently push away Xhinna’s crush and behave in ways that set tongues wagging like they always hadn’t about everything. As opposed to here on Terra, where even in the 21st century, there’s still panic about whether having gay men, lesbians, or trans and gender nonconforming folx in extended proximity to children will mean those children will somehow be forced or indoctrinated or otherwise change their identities against their will to whatever they’ve been exposed to, rather than seeing an example of the person they feel like they could be and feeling validated and slightly more emboldened to try living as the people they know they are.

Anyway, now that the mating flights are done (and that J’keran’s brown basically interfered with Tazith going after T’rennor’s green, which prompts a serious WTF from Xhinna), the narrative continues along with reports that stuff is definitely being stolen from their camp, which Xhinna chalks up to J’keran and Taria and basically says that it’s all right, even as Javissa points out that losing those supplies is going to make it harder for all the people in the Weyr, including the new residents, to have enough for themselves. Xhinna and Javissa discuss who the new riders will be assigned to, with Danirry and Mirressa assigned to Javissa, who intends to both train and mother them. Xhinna gets Aressil, who she thinks will be a perfect assistant for R’ney and his Smith schemes, and then they’ll rotate. Javissa also tells Xhinna that she has to keep Jirana or she’ll be kept to quarters on Bekka’s orders. Which Xhinna is upset with, but also knows better than to cross her headwoman (who has threatened to tan her hide if she doesn’t play along) and the Healer who’s already proven she has no qualms about using her dragon to make sure that Xhinna behaves.

The downside of the arrangement turned out to be proximity to Danirry. The blue rider followed Xhinna around like a lovesick child. Mirressa was only slightly less difficult. She was so biddable that Xhinna could not imagine her ever saying “no” to anyone. Friendliness and loyalty were one thing, but downright subservience was entirely another, and Xhinna started planning on how to help Mirressa into a more healthy relationship with the others around her—before someone like J’keran plied her with drink and addled her wits.
The worst of it with Danirry was that Xhinna couldn’t quite settle her own feelings about the new rider. Her sense told her that at some point, Danirry would feel compelled to become her lover, that she might grow out of it in the future—the other woman was still too traumatized to consider relationships anything but fleeting. Xhinna suspected that part of Danirry’s recovery involved her first being attracted by Xhinna and her position of power, and then pulling away as she became her own person and owner of her heart, body, and spirit.
Thin and small as Danirry was from malnourishment, Xhinna thought she looked like a younger version of herself—or Taria. Hence the attraction and also the fear.

And look, we’ve supposedly got another person who is at least interested in women, but the narrative is very quick off the line to tell us that it’s probably just Danirry being attracted to Xhinna’s status, and she’ll get over it as she grows into being her own person. But, y’know, Danirry can be attracted to Xhinna’s position and interested in women and getting her into a safe and more stable mindset that’s not been scarred by trauma doesn’t also mean she has to give up her attraction to other women. What it mostly means is that Xhinna is being a responsible person by trying to redirect Danirry away from her because she’s unsure Danirry can give meaningful and free consent. Danirry is going to become important again in a bit, but for now we’ll leave her so that we can progress in the plot.

That Mirressa is so “biddable” seems like the sort of thing that would have to be trained out of any non-weybred woman that becomes a dragonrider, given what kind of societal pressure is put on women to be biddable so they can be properly married off and kept firmly under the control of the men in their lives. Up to this point, though, we haven’t had any woman riding a dragon that hasn’t been strong-willed and able to articulate her opinions and otherwise be independent of men, including Taria (until she was needed for the plot). All the gold riders have an independent streak, even if they eventually settle into mostly monogamous het relationships, and the only women riding other colors until Xhinna were Mirrim, whose independence and acidity are seen as integral to her character (and also profoundly negative) and Tai, who has been so repeatedly traumatized by other riders that it’s impossible to gather any meaningful data from her about what her attitude was before her trauma. So, it would seem like a regular reality for riders in general would be to have their subservience trained out of them, to remind them that they’ve jumped castes to the most powerful one, but that women riders would need some extra work because they’ve been socialized since birth to never outfly any man ever, lest they be punished severely for it. I wonder how trying to get the women to come out of their shells is going with Meeya, since Xhinna and R’ney seem content to let her explode all over Jepara as a way of teaching them both a lesson.

Furhtermore, Xhinna correctly intuits that everything her riders do will rebound onto her even more so.

Xhinna had known that when she’d first accepted this group of women that she was treading a difficult path. Being known as the first weyrlings of a green’s clutch and the first fighting riders to train under a female wingleader, they would be judged, their every failure seen as a sign that even if women might right dragons, they could not lead dragons against Thread. And the judgments upon them would fall tenfold upon Xhinna.
“Good enough with those others have trained,” she could imagine the older riders saying of her, “but not really up for it where it counts.” They’d nod knowingly and one would say, “Aye, a gold or even a green is a woman’s mount. A blue’s unnatural.”
These women, under her leadership, would prove them wrong, and it was up to her to make it so, whatever the price.
So, what was the right price to pay for Danirry’s self-esteem?
And how much of this is about her and how much about me? Xhinna asked herself harshly. She began to see how easy it would be to abuse her power, to convince herself she was only acting in the interests of the Weyr.
These were the sorts of questions she usually brought to Taria. Together they would talk them over for hours until by some strange fusion of words and gestures, they would arrive at an unspoken conclusion.
So what would Taria say? Xhinna wondered as she asked Rowerth to have R’ney come meet her. The answer came to her instantly: She would say I love you; you will do what’s right.
That was her old Taria. What would the new one say?

And this is actually kind of frustrating, because an author that can write correctly how much pressure is being put on Xhinna and how much she and all of hers are going to be judged and either dismissed as Exceptional or used to prove that women don’t belong should be able to write better characterizations and motivations across the board, but this is not the case. The narrative knows how to be sympathetic to people, how to get them in their best understanding, and yet, time and time again, it seems to spend that sympathy on the wrong people or to have characters be hostile to others that it would make more sense for them to be sympathetic to, instead. The inconsistency is aggravating. (The consistent parts are also aggravating, true.) If it were consistent, we could at least say that the authors intended this, or if they didn’t intend it, they didn’t know any better or were playing into a blinkered spot, but this inconsistency suggests that they do know better and don’t make a decision to either lean into knowing better or to have characters not know better, but use whatever’s handy for making things work at that moment in time. Which is something your editors and beta readers should be able to help you with and make suggestions about. (Insert standard remark about this series being Beyond Editors well before this point.)

Admittedly, it is nice to have a character that is thinking through the consequences of their decisions and making considerations about how their actions will land and what perceptions are likely to result from them. That it’s Xhinna who is doing this, and basically nobody else, would be a caustic indictment of the bronze and gold riders, or of all the men riders in general, in the hands of a better author. It could be used to surface an understanding of the immense amounts of privilege accorded to high-status riders who don’t have to think about what their actions will look like to everyone else, and who get to blithely pass judgment on everything and have their word taken as the truth, regardless of how true what they proclaim is. Xhinna could be a useful vehicle for examining and being critical of the whole system, even if as a character, she’s completely invested in maintaining that system for the small amount of power she’s been granted and because she definitely wants to Show Them All about how wrong their perceptions are. Even if that’s going to be doomed to failure because there’s no way that she can do it alone, and the chances of it happening only get marginally better with each generation of rider she trains that goes out into the world and lives up to the impossible standard.

Rather than spend time on these weighty matters and examine them, the narrative hurries us forward and then also introduces an additional complication to everything. R’ney has a plan, but in his usual way, he leaves out the explanation and expects Xhinna to follow his thought processes and understand from the word “rain” to mean “dig channels in the dirt, such that when the heavy rains come, all the soil will wash away, leaving only bare rock behind.” They do eventually get to that point with explaining, but Xhinna has to ask all the questions to get him to tell her that much. What’s the complication?

There, standing in front of her, was a completely different person. The gaunt ghost Danirry was not there; the fawning, love-struck Danirry was also absent. Instead, there stood a vision of beauty, a young woman growing into adulthood, a look of joy and belonging etched deep into her eyes, a smile on her lips, a passion for life radiating from her.

So Xhinna’s plan to get Danirry to see her as only human (including a human that has to piss) gets sidelined by Xhinna catching a glimpse of what Danirry can grow into (while she’s in communication with her dragon), and she catches feelings. Xhinna engineered a ruse to get Danirry to go away for a bit so that she could consult with R’ney, but he’s never had someone in love with him, only been in love with someone else, and they got together, before his lover (a he) died, so his advice to Xhinna is to go for it with Danirry.

Who, when she comes back, turns out to be much smarter than she looks. R’ney has hit upon the idea that the dirt he’s going to be sluffing off has gold dust in it that could be harvested.

“Especially if we did it in several places,” Danirry added. With Xhinna’s weight removed from her, she’d sidled around to stand on the wingleader’s left. “It would be easy then.”
“You’ve miner training?” R’ney asked, suddenly interested in her.
“No,” Danirry said, “but our old harper insisted we learn all about mining, as well as the Ballads and reading and writing.”
“Wise of him,” R’ney said, his expression dismissing her once more.
“You’d be better with a cyclone chute—it’ll fling the gold out,” she added. R’ney’s eyes boggled. “And if you build it right, the gold’ll fall down into a catchment and the dirt will continue on over it.”
“You, young rider, have just become my assistant!” R’ney declared. He glanced at Xhinna pleadingly. “I can have her, can’t I?”
“I was told to stay with the wingleader!” Danirry objected, moving back behind Xhinna as if for protection. “She needs someone to watch over her.”
“I do,” Xhinna agreed calmly, savoring the way R’ney’s eyebrows went up in disbelief and the set of his jaw as he prepared to argue with her. “But Mirressa’s also got that duty.” Behind her Danirry made a small noise of discomfort, not quite a whimper. “What I really need are good eyes and ears that can go where I can’t and report back.”

And with the bribe of getting to ride Tazith, Danirry is attached to R’ney to help with the project of getting the dirt off and the gold separated from the dirt. Which also helps with Xhinna’s goal of trying to get Danirry separated from her and coming into her own as herself. (And to get Danirry separated from Xhinna so that Xhinna can sort out her own feelings for Danirry and how much, if at all, she wants to encourage or act on them.) Danirry will help both of those goals by continuing to be useful and to provide R’ney with reminders not to underestimate what skillsets people are bringing to Sky Weyr. Danirry pretty clearly absorbed enough of the engineering knowledge imparted by the harper to help R’ney construct the thing they want correctly, and presumably, R’ney will be effusive with the praise for her help and insight into making the right devices to do the job, so that will help, even if Danirry is in the same sort of “notice me, senpai!” loop that Xhinna was with Fiona.

The match was perfect, and under R’ney’s concerned guidance, Danirry began to blossom. […] That R’ney was neither threat nor competition was especially easy on on the blue rider, and Xhinna was amazed to see near-daily transformations in the way Danirry acted and behaved.

Which is to say, someone found a niche, was encouraged to put it to use and explore it, and was supported from their higher-ups in the doing of the thing and had her opinions listened to and considered by the same. You know, the kind of thing that builds confidence in yourself and gives you the opportunity to learn and stretch and do things that you are interested in, which reinforces a sense of self-worth and value to the community around you. It’s a perfect formula for someone blossoming into the person they always could be. Imagine what Xhinna could do if she were similarly supported.

So, with Danirry sorted, Xhinna’s attention turns to Mirressa, who she has assigned to Jepara, and Jepara is pretty pissed about that.

“She’s a sop!” Jepara complained the next day. “She’ll do anything—anything—I tell her to.”
“And why does this bother you?” Xhinna asked.
“Because—because—ooh!” Jepara threw her hands up in disgust, unable to find words to describe her feeling.
"So fix it," Xhinna said quietly. Jepara stopped mid-tirade and turned to her with eyes wide in astonishment.
"You can't be serious?" Jepara said. "The girl's got no spine! You may as well put a puddle on her green's back, instead of a rider."
[…they continue to bicker about the virtues of green riders and how Mirressa clearly has something, since she was chosen by a dragon…]
"Well…how will I know if I've succeeded?" Jepara demanded. "How will I be able to tell when that puddle of mud grows a spine?"
"When that puddle of mud cuts off all your hair or turns your bottom red," Xhinna told her, fighting back a grin.
Jepara's jaw dropped and she raised a finger at the wingleader. "You—how did you—he told you! It was your idea!” One of her hands snaked around to her behind and she gave the Weyrleader a long, simmering look. “I couldn’t sit for a sevenday,” she said, growling.

I would like to believe the finger raised at Xhinna was the digitus impudicus, because that seems remarkably in-character for Jepara, even if what was probably intended was that Jepara pointed at Xhinna or something similarly innocuous.

However, I notice the narrative doesn’t actually give us a reason as to why Jepara can’t stand Mirressa’s obsequiousness. Not that many chapters before, Jepara was being harsh to Meeya, and somewhere in between where Xhinna described her plan to get Jepara’s butt beaten until she couldn’t sit, Jepara did something that caused that plan to be put into action, but whatever that action was that triggered the punishment is also conveniently not present. The glare she gives to X’lerin suggests he was the one who paddled her, but the last point we left Jepara at where she could get paddled was in Bekka’s care, (Jepara shows up as one of the people trying to rouse the Weyr on Xhinna’s orders during the tunnel snake attack) and I don’t have too much trouble envisioning Bekka (or Javissa) not liking the attitude she takes with them and taking it out on her, with X’lerin shrugging and telling Jepara to respect her elders.

However, the thing that grates here is that her characterization up to this point by the narrative and others is as a bully and someone trying to put on airs and give orders to others. So why would Jepara be anything other than thrilled at the prospect of having someone she can properly boss around and who will just take it from her? Unless, as genesistrine has pointed out repeatedly, what Jepara actually enjoys is sassing people, rather than bullying them. If that’s the case, then she would have zero fun with someone who doesn’t fight back and would find it annoying that Mirressa isn’t giving her what she wants. To borrow terminology from the kink community, Jepara is a brat, in that specific kinky context, even though she’s still far too young for any responsible person in 21st century Terra to engage in consensual kink with her. (There is an argument that, since Pern is a place where very young children get married, start families together, and otherwise assume (or are forced to assume) the responsibilities of adulthood, the age for consensual kink on Pern would be similarly lowered to whatever the marriage age is, but I want someone who is better equipped to deal with those kinds of conversations to do it, because there would be a lot of things that need to be addressed about the age of majority, the questions of adulthood, squicks with regard to the sexualization of children, the questions of whether kink is physically or psychologically a good idea for a body that hasn’t matured into its adult form, and a lot more things that people who study this stuff, rather than being an armchair literary commentator, should be talking about.) And because of that youngness, that leaves Jepara in a situation where she might know that’s the kind of kinky content that she wants from a partner and in her life, but she can’t get it from the people around her by saying that’s what she wants. I’m rummaging around in long-term memory about the conversations we had about Kylara and Meron and the part of their relationship where she appeared to engage in consensual kink with him, but what I remember was that we noticed in short order that the problem, according to the narrative, was that Kylara was slumming it with Meron, rather than that her kinky desires were somehow wrong. And there was the bit where Zulaya kept goading K’vin into being the kind of partner that she wanted, without ever actually telling him that’s what she wanted, because romance tropes, or something like that. So maybe it could be possible for Jepara to state up front that she wants to have a partner that will punish her for being a brat, spanking or otherwise, and have that respected. The flip side of that, though, is that if Jepara’s aware enough to know that’s what she wants from her partners, she also has a responsibility to make sure that she’s only being a brat around people who have consented to that from her.

And I recognize that I’ve already thought far longer and more complex-ly about this entire thing than the authors did in creating her character and giving her this characterization, but fandom is for over overanalyzing, is it not? And I would much rather like to have the world where this is the trigger for Xhinna to notice that what she expected was for Jepara to bully Mirressa into standing up for herself, but instead it’s Jepara complaining at her that she’s not getting what she wants, and Xhinna being able to tease out from Jepara what she actually wants, and find a way of getting Jepara to find what she wants, as well as getting Mirressa what she wants.

As it is, after Jepara goes off to try and train Mirressa to fight back against her, Xhinna seems reasonably satisfied with the work she’s done.

Perhaps, Xhinna thought, things were looking up. All she had to do was find Taria and kill J’keran and all would be right with Sky Weyr. Well, maybe not kill, she corrected herself; even if the brown rider’s transgression warranted it, there had to be a better way. The man had been addled out of his wits, after all.

And that’s the end of Chapter Ten, but also:

Cocowhat by depizan

That’s enabling behavior. They’ve been making excuses for J’keran for a very long time, and it resulted in Xhinna nearly being killed. And if we had a characterization of Xhinna as someone who is normally forgiving, or as someone who can logic her way into an understanding that J’keran alive is a better net benefit than J’keran being dead, then I would accept this framing more. Xhinna hasn’t been established as either of these people, and also, she’s the wronged person in this affair and has every right to be both bitter and to want to end J’keran’s life, since he attempted to end hers, drink or no drink. Us Terrans still try and punish people for the acts they committed while under the influence of mind-altering substances, even if the punishment for those things is to try and divert (some of the most privileged) people into a treatment plan or other non-incarceration option on the understanding that incarceration doesn’t really do much in trying to get people clean from drinking. But so far, J’keran has made drink, gotten drunk, gotten Taria drunk, stolen Taria from Xhinna, nearly killed Taria and/or the child with drink, nearly killed Xhinna because of what he believed and did while drunk, fled with Taria, and interfered with Tazith during a mating flight. The amount of personal offenses piled up against Xhinna is pretty massive. Even if Xhinna understands that he did a lot of those things while drunk, he still did those things and it’s entirely okay for her to carry a grudge and to want to kill him for the offenses that he’s performed. The first time Xhinna tried to suggest violence, Bekka suggested otherwise. This time, the narrative is trying to tell us that Xhinna’s thinking otherwise. Like the narrative doesn’t want to conceive of the idea that a woman might want to exact physical revenge on a man for the wrongs that have been done to her, and that she would be justified in doing so based on what he’s done to her. (And entirely justified in expanding that physical violence out to the people that allowed this to happen to her through their failure of leadership.) Because every other strong woman who’s wanted to revenge herself for the wrongs done to her has been smacked down strongly by the narrative or other characters.

Chapter Eleven: A Cry In The Silence

Chapter Eleven is really short, and consists entirely of a case of mistaken identity. Xhinna awakens from sleep with an unfamiliar body sleeping next to her, who is “shivering and crying. And cold, very cold.” Since Taria’s gone off to who-the-fuck-knows, Xhinna makes the assumption that the cold person next to her is Danirry, and says so, which causes the person laying next to her to stiffen and then run away. Xhinna belatedly realizes the body next to her wasn’t Danirry’s, and with the fluttering of dragon wings, wakes up fully enough to recognize that it was Taria trying to have a cuddle and that what Xhinna said makes it sound like she’s already gotten over Taria and taken a new lover. But it’s too late for Xhinna to explain, even as she shouts at the retreating dragon that she can explain. When Danirry appears, awoken by Xhinna’s shouting, Xhinna passes it off as a bad dream.

And so we have another problem that develops because nobody actually communicates. Taria could probably find some way of meeting with Xhinna to talk about things and try to work through them and otherwise communicate. Xhinna might decide not to take up those requests, but it’s a damn sight better than waiting until everyone is asleep and then cuddling up to Xhinna like everything is fine, and then running away before anyone notices her. Or, if Xhinna wants to talk to Taria, she can probably leave a note buried in with the supplies most likely to be filched the next time with a request to talk at a certain day and time. But no, because so much of conflict and drama in these books stems from a complete inability to talk to each other, instead we get this situation that will have to be resolved later on in the book. Which gets an entire chapter to itself, so as to highlight its’ importance, that Taria and Xhinna really and truly are broken up from both sides, despite neither of them having actually talked to each other and made that decision, but instead worked on assumptions and their own insecurities to blow this up into something bigger than it might actually be. (Plus, there’s J’keran, who might be preventing anything like open and honest communication from happening, because he’s an abusive shitweasel.) Which, y’know, that is a way that relationships happen, but as we noted in a past post’s comments, it seems that only the non-cis, non-het relationships are plagued with these kinds of communication problems.

More of this soap opera next week, most likely, and a small amount of plot just to make sure time moves forward.

Deconstruction Roundup for December 4th, 2020

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is engaging in the Infinite Scream about how many people are going to blithely assume that being around people is more important than keeping them safe from infection.)

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 watching all of the court cases go against someone and still aren’t completely sure that there isn’t going to be one last extinction burst. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Assholes Gonna Asshole

Last time, Xhinna, Jirana, and Tazith went out to assist Lady Nerra commit a coup of her brother and retake Crom Hold, which netted Xhinna candidates for Coranth’s clutch that Jirana says are the people she’s seen be present, along with a stop off to collect a red-haired trader child as the last candidate they need. Who came with a couple extra people, because her brother wasn’t letting her go anywhere, and her mother didn’t want to lose both of her children to a Weyr and never see them again.

Sky Dragons, Chapter Nine: A Knife In the Dark: Content Notes: Gender essentialism, alcoholism, attempted murder

Taria had made her annoyance with the new weyrfolk obvious in the disdainful look with which she greeted them—her expression made it obvious that, as far as she was concerned, they were all girls, there weren’t enough of them, and they seemed so woebegone—and things had gone downhill from there. “And we’ll make up what they lack from our stores or our own supplies. I’m pretty sure some of my older clothes will fit them easily.”
“You don’t have any old clothes—you left them all at Eastern,” Taria snapped.
“J’keran has volunteered—”
“J’keran?” Taria interrupted. “He isn’t going to time it, is he?”
Xhinna was momentarily taken aback by Taria’s sharp reaction. Finally, she said, “I think he’s already gone, along with W’vin and V’lex.”
“What if he—they get caught in that knot?”
“K’dan was careful to give them a good image,” Xhinna said. “Tazith and I both checked it.”
“But—” Taria snapped her mouth shut and stormed off, leaving Xhinna hurt and confused.

Xhinna may be hurt and confused, but the reader is probably supposed to infer that Taria has started really caring for J’keran’s welfare, much more than that asshole actually deserves. Why would Taria care whether J’keran gets caught in the knot, unless there’s something more personal going on? Plus, Taria’s behaving a lot more like J’keran and being snappish to the person that she nominally loves and wants to be with.

To confirm the suspicions that Taria and J’keran seem to be an item, despite the fact that J’keran’s technique, if we want to call it that, is to neg everybody within hearing distance and especially to belittle Xhinna, we have this, when everyone’s around the dinner fires,

He [J’keran] had an arm around Taria, who looked quite comfortable. Xhinna noted that, from time to time, he would look around surreptitiously before bringing a flask to his lips. Once she saw him offer it to Taria, who giggled happily.

So it seems pretty clear at this point that for reasons not disclosed to us, Taria and J’keran seem to be hitting it off quite well indeed.

Which, again, if we want Taria to be bi, we should have really been clear about this from the beginning, and Taria should have been up front about it when she decided to start dating Xhinna so that Xhinna could make the decision about whether she wanted to be with someone who would also want to have sex with icky boys. And the two of them also probably needed to be up front about what their expectations of exclusivity were regarding their relationship, because lesbian Xhinna has a much smaller dating pool to deal with than a bi Taria does.

Which is to say, the whole relationship between Xhinna and Taria in this book has been handled with the same amount of finesse, skill, and communication as any other relationship, but there’s the additional costs of their relationship being the stand-in for all potential relationships of their type. That, and neither of these authors has ever had a fucking clue about what a healthy relationship looks like, so I’m not willing to extend them any grace about this one, since it’s also writing outside their claimed lived experiences.

And speaking of J’keran, he’s still being an asshole, so it’s extra-special weird that Taria is having anything to do with him at all, much less becoming really chummy and close to him. It’s like the authors want to invoke the trope of how all women, excepting the lesbian, want bad boys, but they’re not willing to say it, or they think Taria would be interested in J’keran’s negging and want to stay with him, or they still think that all of this is fine because Xhinna didn’t mark her territory. If Taria’s interested in sex with dudes, she has R’ney, and Xhinna basically said she was okay with that. Or Taria could have any other interested dude. J’keran seems like the sort of person that Xhinna would object to Taria seeing, because he’s an asshole.

Unfortunately, nobody has decided to squash him, and so everyone is still waiting for X’lerin to put him in his place, apparently.

J’keran’s eyes narrowed. “Where’s the rest of our wing?”
“Hunting,” X’lerin replied easily. “Xhinna found a nest of wherries and they’ve all gone after them.”
“Ah, Wingleader Xhinna,” J’keran muttered softly. “I’m sure that’s the best use of her abilities.”
“It doesn’t matter, J’keran,” X’lerin replied, “as I am the one who set the work.”
“And she did so well in finding five Candidates,” J’keran said. “I can see why you’d want her hunting wherries.”
“We’ve time enough to get more,” X’lerin said codly. He nodded to W’vin and V’lex, saying, “Once you get the goods stored, you can join the hunt or rest as your dragons need.”
“Weyrleader,” W’vin said with a firm nod to X’lerin and a beckoning look toward V’lex and J’keran. They each gave X’lerin quick nods, though J’keran’s was sketchy, barely perceptible—just short of insult.
A noise overhead heralded the return of the hunting party. X’lerin glanced up as the others were departing and declared loudly enough for his voice to carry, “Ah, good! They’ve each got a wherry! We’ll be able to celebrate our bounty tonight.”
In a quiet voice that only carried to X’lerin’s ears, K’dan said, “He’s pushing you, you know.”
“I know,” X’lerin replied with a sigh, running a hand through his hair. “I know.”
“I think he’s angry that they didn’t get lost.”
Caught between?
K’dan nodded. “We’re need to keep an eye on him.”
“Ive heard that he’s got a new brew going,” X’lerin said. “He’ll be trying the first batch tonight.”
K’dan’s brow creased. “How can it be better than any of the others?”
“Rumor,” X’lerin laid stress on the word, “has it that he’s found a secret ingredient and does a double brew.”
“Wonderful,” K’dan said in a tone that belied the word.

And I know that Xhinna made the call earlier to decide to pursue stronger intoxicants and to leave J’keran in charge of the stills, but I still have to ask why, given that J’keran continues to be the kind of person that should not be put in charge of anything at all, and that should have already been punted from this time and these people before he can do something even worse than what he already has.

So the new people get the orientation tour, and Xhinna sees Taria being very chummy with J’keran and moves to break things up, but Jirana tells her the eggs are in danger and they need to check on them. Of course, there’s nothing that appears to be visibly wrong with them. Even so, there’s additional guard assigned, and I’m beginning to have that moment of “but didn’t we learn in the last book that the tunnel snakes came up underneath the shells and ate the dragons from below, and did so in such a way that none of the sentries or the dragons noticed? So wouldn’t a more effective tunnel snake deterrent have to be something that caused seismic waves or some other thing that would deter the underneath assault?” But even if someone could articulate such a plan, there’s nobody here with the engineering knowledge to build a thumper that could run autonomously. Well, maybe R’ney, but I’m not sure.

However, Taria’s becoming more and more upset that she’s not getting what she wants with regard to either herself or her dragon.

“I don’t know where we can find ninety Candidates on short notice,” Xhinna said.
“It shouldn’t be short notice—you should have gotten more!”
“And feed them with what?” Xhinna asked, throwing an arm in the direction of the burnt plateau. “Clothe them with what?” She shook her head. “And we’ve no place to put them.”
“Well, why don’t you do something about it? You’re the great wingleader!”
“R’ney thinks—”
“R’ney, R’ney, R’ney!” Taria interrupted with another scathing tirade. “It’s R’ney do this, R’ney do that—it’s no wonder I don’t see him any more, you’re besotted with the man!”
“He does good work,” Xhinna said. “He doesn’t like to stop until he’s got the job done right.”
“Well, maybe you should assign me as one of his jobs. He hasn’t bothered to be around much lately!”
No, Xhinna realized, he hadn’t. It had been J’keran who’d spent the most time with Taria. It had been J’keran who had figured out what could be brewed for alcohol, and it had been J’keran who had been keeping Taria up all hours—the green rider had staggered back to her bed in the middle of the night nearly every night since Xhinna had returned with the Candidates.
“He needs to relax,” Taria had said when Xhinna brought it up. “You said so.”
“But the baby—”
“I don’t drink that much,” Taria had said. “Don’t you think I would be careful with R’ney’s child?”
Xhinna had turned away at the question, the first of many digs and reminders that the child was Taria’s and R’ney’s, not hers.
Day by day, she felt herself becoming more distant from Taria, as though each day the eggs lay on the Hatching sands, something died in her friend, as though each day Taria grew more pregnant, she lost some spark of life, some sense of control or hope.

Cocowhat by depizan

What in the blistering fuck is going on here? Because what this sequence suggests is that Taria is feeling put out that she’s not getting enough sex in her life (which, y’know, could possibly be chalked up or handwaved as pregnancy hormones, since there’s a certain amount of documentation on the matter), but then we also have the narrative suggestion that Taria’s becoming an alcoholic because J’keran’s the one who’s paying attention to her as well as plying her with alcohol. Because “I only drink a little” is a giant crimson flag for someone who is trying to downplay that they’re actually drinking a lot. And, again, I wish I had a better idea of the contours of Xhinna and Taria’s relationship, because the lack of sex is something that’s fixable, assuming it’s permissible in the bounds of the relationship. And Xhinna said she doesn’t own Taria, so that seems like that part is taken care of (except for the part where Xhinna was extremely angrily jealous and then deep-sixed it for Taria’s happiness). But is Taria specifically craving penis, or is she craving intimacy from a partner, which is something she could ask for from either R’ney or Xhinna if people would just fucking communicate.

The fight continues, though, because Taria’s feeling like Xhinna hasn’t done enough for her dragon, either, in getting enough candidates for her eggs or in letting Razz, Taria’s favorite Meeyu, try to protect the dragon eggs from the tunnel snakes, an idea Xhinna is not keen on because of the potential catastrophe that will happen if Taria is wrong about Razz and she attacks the humans or the dragonets. Taria insists it’s just a matter of training, like what happens to dragonets, but Xhinna’s unconvinced. For as much as Xhinna tries to convince Taria that she’s doing everything she can, Taria doesn’t believe her.

“Shards to K’dan!” Taria shouted. “Shards to X’lerin and all the others—they aren’t here! They put you in charge and you’re killing our hatchlings!” Tears streamed down her face. “You’re killing them, and you’ll do nothing to stop it.” Her lower lip trembled as she added, “I don’t think you want them. Maybe you don’t want to remember it, Xhinna, but you’re a woman. Not a wingleader, not a blue rider, a woman! And we’re supposed to protect the young.”
Xhinna’s eyes boggled at Taria’s words and so many things bubbled through her mind that she couldn’t say any of them.
“Go on, Xhinna,” Taria said, waving her away. “Go bring the queens back to the Weyr. Pretend you’re a wingleader with them—maybe they’ll believe you.”
Xhinna started to say something, to rage at her, but she didn’t have the energy. She’d done so much for his Weyr, worked so hard. She had no energy left for this lunatic bickering. With a sigh, she turned toward the beach and Tazith.

Cocowhat by depizan

I could also chalk this up to hormones and alcohol and J’keran whispering things in Taria’s ear as he provided her with the attention she craved, but that would be letting these authors get away with Taria saying some extremely hurtful tihngs and not examining the gender essentialism on display right there. So nah, brah, that’s not just hormones talking. That’s Pernese culture, deeply inculcated with the idea that women are, first and foremost, supposed to be mothers, and that they should raise and protect kids. Although, if we put this idea in contrast to Kitti Ping’s insistence that green riders would make terrible mothers, we could also discount anything that Taria is saying, because as a green rider, she doesn’t have the instincts or the knowledge to be authoritative about what women should be doing. But that’s doing Taria a disservice and buying into a different part of the toxic patriarchy that is Pern, and we don’t want to do that, either. Which is to say, what the fuck, man?

Taria says that Xhinna is pretending not to be a woman by being a blue rider, by pursuing her career as a dragonrider, and by not joining with Taria in demanding that all the resources available be put toward sustaining and finding candidates for the eggs. Like, “pretend to be a wingleader” and “subordinate these parts of your identity to being a woman as the single most important thing” is straight-up TERF bullshit. Xhinna identifies as a woman, who loves women, and the narrative has not given us any explicit anything from Xhinna’s point of view that she’s trans or even questioning her identity. The “impressed a blue” is certainly interpreted by lots of people around her as a sign that Xhinna’s deepest desires are to do what the boys do, to act like them and get a rank like them and otherwise be a man, but Xhinna has never expressed word one about this. So the farthest I would be willing to entertain for labels for Xhinna is “butch”.

This is 2012 when this is being published, so we’re well into the space and time where “bathroom bills” are being discussed and passed, and The Discourse is alive and well about what being trans means, and whether transness is inherently binary, and whether transitioning “really” means that you’re the other gender, or whether the genitals you were born with forever define your “real” identity, as opposed to any other identity that you might be “pretending” to do, whether to deny your essential womanhood or so that you can get access to women’s spaces and then proceed to attack and violate women as a man. To have this kind of rhetoric being thrown at the singular lesbian on Pern is yet more reasons why I am ever-grateful to the public library for having bought it so that I haven’t had to give a cent to the authors (excepting for whatever fraction of my tax dollars goes toward maintaining the ebook licensing for the copies that I’m using.) Pern is really good as a setting, but the actual canon finds new lows to sink to with each new book.

In the next scene, Xhinna is just about to go and find some more Candidates to try and make Taria happy when Jirana stops by and says there’s no time to find more Candidates because the eggs are hatching. Xhinna WTFs at Jirana, saying that eggs don’t hatch during the night, but Jirana stands firm that now is the time, and so Xhinna decides to show Jirana that she’s wrong.

Taria was there, and so was J’keran, on guard—
Xhinna’s blood pounded when she heard the sounds coming up from the sands below. She heard Taria and J’keran plainly enough and let out an angry sigh. What they were doing clearly wasn’t guarding.
“We should go back,” Xhinna said. “It’s past your bedtime.”
“I’ve heard those noises before,” Jirana said matter-of-factly. “I’ve heard them with Taria and J’keran before.”
That was something Xhinna didn’t want to hear, and her blood boiled as she thought of all the taunts her firend had thrown at her, when for nights she and the brown rider had been partying when they were supposed to be guarding—
“Hear that?” Jirana said, cupping hands to her ears and turning her head for the best sound. “The eggs are rocking.”
Unable to hear anything over the pounding of the surf, Xhinna urged Tazith lower. She kept her head turned away from the place where she’d heard J’keran and Taria—the green rider was her own woman and could could make her own choices.

Kids know more than most people give them credit for. This is one of the constants of the universe, but it still makes me smile that Jirana acknowledges the existence of sex so easily and casually, even if it further inflames Xhinna about the choices that Taria is making. And then there’s that bit in there about Taria being her own woman who can make her own choices, so it’s not infidelity that’s happening, since it doesn’t seem to be a transgression of relationship boundaries for Taria to sleep with whomever she wants. I’m pretty sure Xhinna has opinions about the class of company that Taria’s keeping, but there doesn’t seem to be any hard limits or nos around who Taria sleeps with. (Xhinna, you have my sympathy about all of these stresses and insults that you’re being subjected to without merit or reason from everybody else. Being consummately professional in the face of all of this is difficult, and you have done excellently.)

As she gets lower, Xhinna does hear what Jirana has been talking about, but in addition to the sounds of eggs trying to hatch, Xhinna hears the sounds of tunnel snakes attacking dragonets and jumps off Tazith to try and get them to go away. Which is interpreted as Xhinna trying to destroy the live eggs with her knife, according to the interrupted coital couple. Which doesn’t work, because the eggs she’s rolling away don’t have big enough holes to show the damage. J’keran pulls out his belt knife to try and stop Xhinna, and Xhinna, recognizing a good idea when she sees it, pulls her own to try and hack open a shell to show them that the dragons inside are already dead. But that’s interpreted as hostility to match J’keran’s, and he tackles her to prevent her from doing what she plans on doing with the knife.

“I won’t let you!” he growled. Xhinna rolled just in time, although J’keran’s knife tore the sleeve of her tunic. “She’s with me, that’s all there is to it. You know the rules!”

Cocowhat by depizan

Wait, hang on, what? What rules? WHAT RULES? I didn’t see any rules. Nobody said anything explicit about relationships and how they’re formed, broken, or changed. Unless that whole bit of “Xhinna didn’t mark her territory and defend Taria from everyone, so very clearly Xhinna is fine if anyone else tumbles Taria” implication that was going on is actually a rule and people are expected to aggressively send off anyone who starts showing an interest in their partners? If that’s the case, then someone has to actually say it out loud or otherwise acknowledge it as part of the culture explicitly. Because otherwise, J’keran’s asserting that by fucking Taria, he’s got an exclusive claim to her? That doesn’t track, like, at all. (And we’re stuck again in Pern-as-described and Pern-as-written being significantly different than each other, and that difference driving conflict.) So this doesn’t make any sense at all. Seriously. Not that it’s going to matter much for the forseeable future.

“J’keran, hold!” Xhinna cried. “The eggs are dead, J’keran!”
“Only if you’ll kill them!” J’keran cried, overcome by rage and righteousness. “You’d kill all Pern in your jealousy.”
“No,” Xhinna said. She heard the cracking again and dodged away from him, turning toward the sound. If she could just get J’keran to—
She missed his motion and his knife came slicing down her back, as a thin line of pain and then a hot searing agony. Behind her, Tazith roared in challenge and leapt into the air, ready to tackle the brown rider, prepared to challenge his dragon.
And then, suddenly, before Xhinna could slip aside, regain her composure, try to reason with the drink-addled man, she slipped on a rock, knocked her head against the ruined egg, cracked it open, and—vaguely, she heard a series of bellows above her as her sight dimmed and her breath fled her lungs.

There’s no reasoning with the drunken rage-filled man who has come to a wrong conclusion. Of course, if J’keran were sober, he still wouldn’t be reasoned with or diverted from his conclusion, because it just looks bad for Xhinna no matter how she tries to spin this. She’d need to have a swarm of snakes pop up while she’s trying to scare them off for anything to possibly get through his drunk skull.

There is one good thing out of this, though, and that’s that Xhinna doesn’t die. So no Bury Your Gays, at least. But she is out for nine days, touch and go about whether she’s going to stay alive, and when she does come to, Bekka basically tells her that she’s not to use her mouth to speak, and to relay any questions or answers through Tazith. Which is how Xhinna learns that Jirana was correct, that there were only five candidates needed, two blues, three greens, so Xhinna is no longer the only woman riding blue, at least. Alimma and Danirry got the blues, the other three the greens, just as predicted.

What happened to Taria and J’keran?

“Taria and J’keran fled,” Bekka said. “I wanted to find them, but K’dan stopped me.”
Why?
“She asks why,” Jirana supplied.
“Because of that vile drink J’keran had been brewing,” Bekka said. “K’dan said something about bad brew that I don’t understand—sensible people drink wine—and told me that until the effects wore off, the two of them were a danger to one and all.” She sniffed. “The stuff was bad in small doses, dangerous in large ones, and lethal if they’d drunk another bottle.”
Taria! Xhinna cried, full of fear for her pregnant friend.

Since Xhinna’s awake, Jirana is dismissed, since she’s been staying by Xhinna for the entire time, and in the subsequent inspection, Bekka tells Xhinna how close she came to death, because

“[…]it would have not only ruined your kidney but ruptured your intestines, and then the only thing I could do would be to give you lots of fellis mixed with that idiot drink of J’keran’s.”
“Rotgut, K’dan called it,” J’riz said softly.
J’keran was out of his head, Xhinna reminded herself as they rolled her back over—painfully—to a more comfortable position. He thought I was jealous, in a rage, addled as he was. It’s a wonder I’m alive.
“Gonna bea’ ihm to pu’p,” Xhinna spluttered through lips too dry to speak, a throat suddenly raging with thirst and roasting with fever.
“If that’s what you think is best, blue rider,” Bekka responded. But her tone begged Xhinna to reconsider.

So now I’m curious about what this thing in J’keran’s brew that’s apparently made it “bad brew.” It could be a distilled alcohol that’s been made improperly and contaminated with methanol or other no good, very bad things, but casual research suggests methanol poisoning does not turn someone into a rage monster that can wield a knife effectively and precisely. Quite the opposite, actually, so we have to fall back on the possibility that J’keran’s brew, instead, contained mandrake, ergot, mugwort, or some other substance that made it poisonous, such that someone might still have too much ethanol in their system and be a rage monster, but also might have some other compounds coursing through their bodies and brains that made them a danger to themselves and others and that would have happily killed them from ingesting too much. And perhaps, knowing this, we can possibly have a more solid footing of back-explaining Taria’s changes in moods as being related to her increased drinking and possible drinking of things that had hallucinogenic or other mood-altering compounds and poisons in them. At which point I am very concerned for the fetus and worry that it will be born with fetal alcohol syndrome or some other drinking and/or drug-related condition because of how much Taria has consumed in the pregnancy. All the same, even if the changes were mostly related to hormones and alcohols, that still probably means that Taria believes the things she said to Xhinna, because a lot of what alcohol does is lower inhibitions so that people say what they believe, without the filter that normally gets in the way. So Taria’s still spouting TERF rhetoric, regardless of where she picked it up from, and that’s not acceptable. Even if there are potentially more pressing concerns with regard to her health and the health of her fetus.

I look askance at “rotgut” surviving, mostly because I look askance at a lot of slang surviving, but I suppose it’s a perfectly cromulent word that could be used to describe things, so maybe it didn’t survive, but it got reinvented again.

And also, I want to know why Bekka believes Xhinna should turn away from deciding to beat J’keran to a pulp. J’keran’s provoked everybody more than enough times, and Xhinna in particular, to be beaten to a pulp multiple times over. Since Xhinna’s the one who’s been hurt most, next to Taria, she should be accorded the honor of first crack at him, with everyone else following after she’s done, assuming she left anything for a follow-up.

The last scene for this chapter is Xhinna finally managing to leave the medical tent under her own power, after another fourteen days of healing. Which leads immediately into the formal acknowledgement of the new riders into Xhinna’s wing, with their knots crafted from the remains of the bloody tunic that Xhinna came into the hospital with.

It was a Weyr tradition that the wingleader made the rank knots and the Weyrleader bestowed them. Xhinna had been moved to tears when X’lerin, K’dan, and W’vin has insisted that this time, they would make the knots instead.
“Kneel,” Xhinna said to the girl standing in front of her. Danirry was still gaunt, though she had begun to fill out, and now her eyes glowed with love for her blue dragon. With Jirana’s help, Xhinna slipped the rank knot over over Danirry’s wrist and slid it up to her shoulder, pinning it there.
“Rise, rider,” X’lerin said, “and join the ranks of Sky Weyr.”
It still felt funny for Xhinna to say “Sky Weyr,” but X’lerin had embraced the name with a fervor that had surprised her.
“I am Danirry,” the girl said as she rose, her voice carrying clearly around the cluster, “rider of blue Kiarith, rider in Xhinna’s wing, rider of Sky Weyr!” She raised her right hand into the sky and clenched it tightly into a fist, jerking it back down in the ancient gesture calling riders to fly.

The rest of the ritual is formal greetings to and from the rest of the Weyr, and then Danirry does something not in the ritual books in circling back around behind Xhinna and stating that she stands behind Xhinna. Which repeats with all of the other riders from the Hatching. And then with all of the riders from the previous hatching, who had not otherwise formally joined the Weyr, since this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, and the queens and bronzes “were due to fly with other Weyrs when they were old enough.” Which makes Xhinna really proud about the honor that’s being shown her, and she manages to close the ritual with the right language of formal presentation of her riders to the Weyrleader.

Which also closes out the chapter on a high note, since one has been needed for this entire time. There’s just a lot of additional stuff going on that’s not well-explained and that relies on that lack of explanation to generate its conflict, conflict that could have been averted with people talking to each other and otherwise setting limits and boundaries with each other about it before situations exploded.

And the worst thing is that I know the situation’s not resolved, so we’re still going to have to deal with this at some point in the future. For now, however, we’ll stop and pick things back up next week.