Monthly Archives: January 2021

Deconstruction Roundup for January 29th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is currently concerned that people are going to see the preventative measures being rolled out and assume they don’t need more preventative measures after that.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are starting to think about what other content is needed. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Tempting Fate

Last time, Xhinna had her wing returned to her so they could take on the extremely dangerous task of observing the world from orbit so that they could anticipate correctly when Thread would fall on their space and be able to defeat it and to know how much longer they had to wait before all of the dragons on the island could shuttle themselves back to The Future with a fighting force that would be more than sufficient to kick The Asshole out of Telgar and provide enough dragons to all the Weyrs so they can ride out the current Fall at their projected casualty rates. The green and blue riders are the ones who are going up high enough that they might end up with oxygen deprivation, so they’re going to have supports from gold riders who intend to catch them if they fall out of the sky.

Sky Dragons, Chapter 18: A Fall Through Nothing: Content Notes:

This chapter starts with the understanding that the new riders are not going to be expected to warp all the way up to the airless spaceships on their first try, but instead are going to follow the Dawn Sisters around the planet, with specific attention paid to the time when the Dawn sisters pass above Benden, High Reaches, and Telgar, since those are going to be the three points used to calculate the appropriate offsets and to provide the early-warning system that will be needed so that the work done on the Isles isn’t lost to an un-noticed Threadfall.

Except…the Dawn Sisters are supposed to be in an orbit where they don’t appear to move across the starscape, which means their orbit speed is the same as the planet, and so I can’t imagine that they’re a useful reference for anyone for the design that’s being spoken about here.

“What we’ll do next is we’ll keep coordinated watches over Benden, Telgar, and High Reaches—from our height, we’re certain to spot any Threadfall that occurs during daylight.”
“So the groups will let the Dawn Sisters pass out of sight?” Jerilli said.
“Yes, we’ll set it up so that each of the three groups over the Northern Continent watches for eight hours—split into eight pairs each—and we’ll set up a twenty-four hour watch here, plus we’ll have an all-day guard set up at the easternmost tip of the Eastern Isle in case Thread comes at night.”
[…when asked about what happens if Thread happens at night, Lorana says “They’re working on it.”…]
“Our mission is to find the Thread when it falls on the Northern Continent at the same time that it’s falling here,” Xhinna told them.

I’m going to say that’s something an editor and proofer did not catch, because that’s flat-out wrong. The whole point of this satellite observations system is to find Thread falling before it arrives and catches the Eastern Isle unprepared, and to communicate where and when it was sighted so that the Eastern Isle can synchronize their schedule and know when they’re up next. They already have one temporal reference that they can figure out at least an approximate offset against, so, at least to me, still, the only thing they’re lacking, knowledge-wise, is whether the temporal reference they have is the true First Fall or whether it’s only the first observed fall and there’s one or more Threadfalls that happened before that one that would have fallen on supposedly-uninhabited land or sea, including the Island Weyrs That Doesn’t Exist.

The plan, as described here, seems to be to send people up, using the Dawn Sisters as their reference point for the first pairing, then have each subsequent pairing pass the image to the next pairing at the switch, so that the observers are at fixed points in the sky and can watch the planet turn underneath them while Rukbat shines. The problem with this plan is that a geostationary orbit means that the Dawn Sisters are in the same place in the sky (which is what has been observed about them), and so the picture of the planet underneath them will be the same, modulo how much of the planet is illuminated by Rukbat. Instead, what the dragonriders need to do is warp themselves “up” from their launch points to low Pern orbit and maintain their own fixed positions to observe the illuminated phase of the day, and that requires multiple launch points. Because if the riders stayed in one singular observation point above the planet, eventually they’d have a shift in darkness where they would be unable to observe anything at all. Which also makes me wonder what Pern’s axial tilt is, since there are clearly seasons, and whether or not the stations chosen are really the right idea, since the correct answer of “how long should we be observing this space” is “however long it’s illuminated enough that you can spot Thread”. So “eight hour shifts” might be true at a very specific season, and be entirely wrong for the rest of the Turn. Unless-maybe the observation points that are envisioned are in line with the equator (the ecliptic?) and therefore will have the least seasonal variations in terms of illuminated time, but that would require someone to have an idea of what settlements were passing underneath them so as to have an idea about the right time offset they’ll need, which, I suppose, could be trained. The trickiest part about this is that the Dawn Sisters can really only be used for one launch reference, because they are always staring at the same piece of planet underneath them.

Which is to say, I don’t think this plan has been explained very well, and I’ve already given far more thought about how to make it actually work to get the desired results (observe the planet while illuminated to spot Threadfall and use those geo-temporal coordinates to calculate a correct offset and synchronize the Threadfall schedule for the Eastern Island) than the authors probably put in when writing the plan.

Since they’re already too far into the day to warp without risking themselves to the time knot, T’mar, instead has a plan, explained through Xhinna, and explicitly referred to as an experiment, for the dragons to give them an idea of how much atmosphere they actually have – by feeding their dragons a steady diet of firestone and having them flame, they can check how much usable air is available for breathing to humans and dragons. What they’re watching for, in addition to the power of the flames, are the signs of anoxia, which are described as “rather like being drunk,” and “Color starts to go from your sight and you get really sleepy.” When there are questions about whether or not they’ll keep flaming through the darkness, Xhinna reveals a second experiment in mind to test and see whether good breathable air sinks as the temperature gets colder, such that riders won’t be able to climb quite as high. While the fighting dragons are being trained to flame, the queens are being trained in the use of the “agenothree throwers” that “burn Thread out of the sky”, but are explicitly not flamethrowers of any sort, only acid tossers.

The climbing experiment goes according to plan, with the dragons flaming up to the normal ceiling altitude, then doing controlled hyperspace warps up a kilometer, testing on whether they can flame, then repeating the procedure with another kilometer warp and flame test. Eventually, at seven kilometers above the surface they launched from (possibly sea level?), there’s complaints of cold and an inability to flame, and Lorana calls them all back to the ground immediately. In the headcount that Xhinna takes instinctively, she realizes there’s one missing, and immediately sounds the alarm to find Mirressa, who is falling from the sky, still strapped into her rider. Having sounded the alarm, a staircase of queen, bronze, and brown dragons arranges themselves to gently lower Mirressa and Valcanth to the ground, where it becomes clear that neither dragon nor rider is breathing. Xhinna performs the beginnings f what might be CPR while someone calls for a board, but before we get too far into the wickets of what rescue breathing and medical techniques for restarting someone have survived to this point, instead we get the dragonriders and dragons using their mental powers to kickstart both dragon and rider back to breathing.

She turned to see Lorana and Jirana standing by Valcanth’s head, their eyes closed, their bodies taut, expressions strained.
Tazith! Xhinna called. Valcanth must breathe! She reached out to the rest of her wing. Help Valcanth breathe!
She moved over to Lorana and stood behind her and Jirana. For one startled moment, she noticed he two were breathing in unison and then she closed her eyes, reached out, and joined in. She felt others come join her, bound in by the will of their dragons, even as she felt Taria position herself with Mirressa.
And slowly, the cold, still shape of the dragon changed. A twitch, a judder, and then—
“She’s breathing!” Jirana’s cry was marked by sobs and a heaving chest. “She’s breathing!”
“They’re both breathing!” Taria exclaimed.

So that’s convenient, and yet another dimension of dragon abilities that I would have expected to get retained over time, much like this dragon staircase that we first saw in the Ninth Pass. Unless it was being used in all sorts of places and just not explicitly called out.

Anyway, on what should be a happy occasion that an accident has been prevented, Jirana has bad news for Xhinna.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Jirana whispered into Xhinna’s hair. “It’s the Sight.”
Xhinna stiffened as she heard the words. Jirana added, “It’s not over. It’s going to get worse.”
Xhinna pulled back and, with all the tenderness of a big sister, kissed Jirana’s tears away before hugging her once more and whispering back, “Thank you for trusting me.”
Jirana sniffed and slowly got herself back under control. With one final grateful nod, she pulled away from Xhinna, saying, “I’m all right now.”
Xhinna gave her a half-smile and stood up. “Of course you are.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Someone, anyone, please rediscover the art of therapy on Pern. Because this small girl is being tortured by the narrative with future visions that she’s been taught not to tell other people about, and apparently they’re the kind of visions of bad things happening to the people she cares about. It’s trauma on top of trauma for Jirana, and she doesn’t really have a support system she can turn to about this. Maybe her brother and mother, since they had the most experience with Tenniz and what he said and did, but they’re probably also going to be on Team Jirana Don’t Say Anything To Anyone. And this torture is being inflicted on the brown girl with the nomadic heritage, just so we’re clear.

Mirressa, once revived, describes the situation as being cold, then abruptly very warm and cozy, and not really thinking there was any danger in the fact they were falling because it was still warm and cozy. Which sparks off a lot of self-recrimination about whose fault it was that Mirressa passed out and nobody noticed until Xhinna was doing a headcount and realized one was missing. Bekka eventually cuts across the recrimination by declaring that it’s best for every rider to experience something close to anoxia for themselves so they know what their telltale signs are and can warp themselves away before they need catching. Jirana suggests holding their breath until they can’t any more, which turns into a counting of how long everyone can hold their breath as they experience the beginning signs of running out of air, (a “slow count of seventy” is the top form, held by R’ney and Avarra. Xhinna manages sixty-seven and Taria fifty-three.) At which point, their dragons learn how to gather the bubble of air around them and hold it while they’re up in space, and they practice going up to the heights and coming back down again. Xhinna nearly gets hypnotized by seeing the planet below before Lorana firmly calls her and Tazith back, so hopefully Xhinna understands how easy it is to lose track of time and air when you see something beautiful.

Also, in this segment, there’s something tantalizing about the relationship that Mirressa and Jepara have developed. Mirressa was introduced to us as someone in the vein of Meeya, “so biddable” that I feel like she would be just as much of a problem for Jepara to get a useful rise out of her as she had trouble with Meeya.

“We can always send up replacements,” Xhinna said. “We lose less time sending up a replacement early than trying to catch a falling dragon.”
“Shards, that’s too true!” Jepara murmured from where she sat next to Mirressa. Mirressa looked up and made a face, but Jepara, to Xhinna’s surprise, merely shushed the green rider and stroked her hair while, on the other side of her, Meeya patted the green rider’s shoulder.

Which, at least to me, helps cement the idea that Jepara being a brat as a role she takes on, because in this situation, when things got all too real, instead of picking a fight, she just soothes Mirressa and strokes her hair, which are pretty intimate gestures. And perhaps this Jepara has gotten better at communicating in the meantime, so that when she’s sparring with Bekka or bratting to anybody else, they know it’s an act and they’ve chosen to participate in it with her. Which doesn’t break the enforced het rule among gold riders, as I’m pretty sure there are plenty of ways that Jepara can get her brat on that have nothing to do at all with who she has sex with.

Moving forward again, Jirana is still pretty morose about what it to come, including about “losing friends” and not reacting well at all to Xhinna trying to get her not to mourn their loss before it happens. On the scene change, we have Xhinna consulting with Taria about what to do as they get their children ready for bed, apart from telling Javissa, because Xhinna didn’t offer Javissa’s support. Of course, there’s nothing precluding having both Xhinna and Javissa’s support for Jirana, but Pern is that kind of place where asking for help is seen as weakness rather than sense, especially because Javissa is the one with the most experience around how to handle Seers, having, y’know, been married to one for most of his life.

“She must be awfully lonely…”
“How can she be? She’s got the whole Weyr watching over her, five queen riders who positively adore her, and every Weyrleader hanging off her very words!” Taria shook her head. “It’s a wonder she’s not more spoiled than she is.” Xhinna gave her a sharp look, but Taria just smiled. “And you, my dear, are among the worst!”
“Really?” Xhinna said, examining her feelings critically. She hadn’t thought she’d doted on the youngster overmuch, but perhaps…
“And I’m next in line,” Taria said, chuckling.

And Xhinna was soclose to being able to understand, before Taria knocked her off course. Because that instinct about being lonely is the right one to have. There’s nobody exactly like Jirana alive that we know of, burdened with the ability to see the future and have to decide on whether to try and prevent it or to let it happen, because the pain that will happen in the short term will be essential to the long-term success of everyone. Knowing who’s going to survive and who isn’t if the best timeline is allowed to happen. It’s the same sort of loneliness that Xhinna might be very familiar with, as the first woman rider of a blue dragon, thrust into a leadership role that she basically did not want from the start, and with everyone looking at her, either as proof that women should never be allowed to ride blues or as the beacon of hope and the glass ceiling crusher that will pave the way for others. The pressure on both Xhinna and Jirana is immense, and they might be the only two people who have a clue about how to handle it and to help each other handle it. But from the outside, to Taria, it looks like Jirana has all the attention that she could ever want, and a gold dragonet to boot, and it’s a miracle that it hasn’t all gone to her head and made her stuck up like some of the other gold riders she could name. If the authors were intentional about this in any sort of way, I’d be pretty impressed at how they made it easy for us to make the right inferences and draw the correct conclusions so subtly, but I can’t grant them that intentionality at all, because they’ve never demonstrated anything like it before.

Instead, the narrative leads us in the direction of believing Taria that Xhinna is indulgent and spoiling everyone.

Taria’s soft breathing was comfort enough to lull Xhinna quickly off to sleep. She had slept for several hours, she was certain, when she woke and spied a pair of small eyes peering from the entrance. Through long practice, she extended a hand from underneath the covers and beckoned the child to join them. Naturally, it was only a matter of moments before the bed was filled with cold, squiggly children. Taria surfaced long enough to roll an eye at Xhinna’s lack of discipline, and then she was asleep once more, while Xhinna reveled in the squirmy warm bodies that were a small portion of her children.

“You’ve too many babies,” Taria had said when Xhinna had broached the idea of getting pregnant again after Xelinan’s birth. In reply to Xhinna’s startled look, Taria had explained, “Not only yours, but all the blues and greens.”
There was truth in Taria’s words, for the tight-knit group of blue and green riders that inhabited Sky Weyr, as well as many from the other Weyrs, had all asked Xhinna to stand in their place if, in the Turns to come, anything should happen to leave their babies without parents. Neither Xhinna nor Taria could deny these heartfelt requests, no more than could the others so honored. Xelinan had many fathers, including K’dan, T’mar, R’ney, X’lerin, Colfet, Seban, and all the bronze riders among the weyrlings that Xhinna had brought to the Sky Weyr more than two Turns before. The children played together and were watched together by various honorary parents and real parents, and it was a relief to know that, in the worst of cases, the children would all still have the love and support they’d need.
It also meant that all the children were well-adjusted and cheerful, not so reliant on any one parent that the loss would be tragic to them.
It really was one of the greatest gifts Taria had given her—to be able to build and grow a family that was freely shared and fully loved.
Which was why, Xhinna thought as she tried to drift back to sleep, Jirana’s sorrow so upset her. Not just for the strange green queen rider, but also for what it meant for her extended family.
It’s going to get worse. Jirana had never been wrong

And that’s the end of Chapter 18, and I have so many questions about all of this. First and foremost, this whole parenting inter-twining system sounds like what was described as the communal raising system that Pern supposedly had in the very earliest books, but rather than acknowledge this as it is, or have Xhinna do a flashback to her and Taria’s time before they became dragonriders, when they were taking care of a nursery/daycare of children and say that it’s not that different, or even just pop back to the times where Finoa used to do something like this with the kids of Telgar Weyr, the whole thing passes basically without a call-back and in support of the idea that Xhinna is an indulgent parent, along with Taria, rather than anything else.

I also note that the foster father list is almost exclusively bronze riders for Xelinan, and that the way this is written makes it sound like a lot of the blue and green riders are asking Xhinna to be the just-in-case parent for their children, too, because they’re all trying to get the highest-ranking person they feel comfortable with as the death-parent. It’s kind of morbid, in its own way. Because in theory, only Xhinna knows about Jirana’s proclamation, and so I guess we’re supposed to think that these other riders are thinking about being killed when Thread arrives, but I can’t help but think that if Pern kept operating on the communal fostering system that it keeps making gestures at, instead of having taken this shift into nuclear parenting with extended family, it would be a lot less dramatic to have people making arrangements to make sure their children will be looked after if they should die during Threadfall. (And also, Xhinna’s come a long way from being a pariah because she was a lesbian raising kids, to being one of Fiona’s favorites and invited to take part in her apparently weird child-raising, to having her own children and being he person that others want to have as part of her own bed full of youngsters with her lesbian lover. Except, of course, that they both seem remarkably okay with getting pregnant and having children through sex with penises, which continues to cause problems about whether or not the authors understand what “lesbian” means.)

Anyway, since that’s the end of the chapter, it’s a good stopping point for us, and we’ll pick up again next week. Maybe with a little more concern and caution, or an actual plan that makes sense for this orbital observation.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 22nd, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is glad to see the back end of the last four years and glad to see the new administration is already going to work getting rid of what terrible they can.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

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

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are feeling like you have a little more time, energy and focus to be able to go forward with. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Additional Danger For No Gain

Last time, there was a lot of tell without showing, where we heard secondhand about how Fiona et al. dealt with The Asshole insisting that Telgar was his Weyr again and that he should be in charge of it (retreat to friendly ground and bide time until coming back with way more dragons that The Asshole has so as to out-might-makes-right him), how the dragon explosion has resulted in the creation of multiple Weyrs with their own leaders and seconds, and we heard about the fact that Jepara bested Fiona for the privilege of letting gold dragons go up to low-Pern orbit to spot Thread falling soon enough to get the Weyrs prepared to flame it.

Sky Dragons: Chapter 17, Continued: Content Notes:

There’s just one tiny thing about sending these dragons up to observe. Specifically, they already know when Thread is going to fall, within a very short window.

“The first Threadfall was over Benden Weyr and Bitra Hold on the first day of the new Turn,” K’dan said as he, M’gel, R’ney, Danirry, Xhinna, and Fiona were clustered around the Council table in the stone hall early the next morning.
“So we’ve got a bit under a month,” Fiona said. Colfet had been called upon to use his navigational skills in reading the night sky to verify that they currently were in the seventh day of the last month of the Turn, the five hundred and seventh Turn since Landing.

That’s AL 13.7.507, but this book doesn’t have any time markers for the chapters, but that lets us link up what’s going on with what happened in the previous books. That might be the only time reference we get for the whole book, and maybe we can construct a timeline from that single reference.

More specifically, however,

Cocowhat by depizan

Why is there a plan to send dragons up into space if they know what the time is exactly, and when Thread started falling, if Colfet can read the stars to this exactness. This should be “okay, people, we have less than a month to get our shit in order and prepare ourselves for warping back to our normal time. Start packing up, as best you can, and get your greens into the firestone queue so that we don’t leave any eggs behind for the snakes or the cats.” (Although, one would have hoped that, knowing this, there would have been a stop day for the greens well before this point, so there won’t be any eggs left unhatched when it’s time to go home.) The narrative then tries to explain that there’s still some potential variance because having one point of alignment doesn’t mean that they know what the time offset for the Isles are and there’s always the possibility that the known Threadfall point happens after the first fall on the Isles, and so the orbiting watchers are going up so that they can get both of those matters handled and schedules aligned by providing the correct start times and places for Threadfall that can be fed into the charts to know where to start reading from. Except that there’s an easy way to determine your time offset, and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with warping through time and possibly risking getting entangled in the time knot (because it still exists because it hasn’t been unraveled yet, even though the unraveling of it presumably happened all across time, at least as I understand it). You figure out who gets sunrise first, Isle or Benden, then have Dragonrider 2 light a time candle or other timekeeping device when Dragonrider 1 mentally transmits that the sun has just broken over the horizon in the place where the sun comes up first. When the sun breaks over the horizon in the second space, the candle is blown out and the time marks are measured. So then, if you have a Record that at least says the day when Thread first fell on Benden, you only have to watch a small envelope of time in relation to that to catch the first Fall on the Island. Unless, of course, there’s black dust before that or some other sign that there would have been a Threadfall, but it froze and died before it could arrive. I would like to think that such things would also have been recorded in the Records because it’s something out of the ordinary and previous Records have said to be on the lookout for frozen black dust, because that is an indication that you got lucky and didn’t have to deal with Thread. Anyway, the point is that you only have to watch for a certain amount of time, presumably no more than a cycle before the known earliest point, just in case there’s something that falls live on the Island that would be black dust in Benden.

The actual logistics of who is going up and in what quantities means that there’s going to be some extra help brought in from other Weyrs to make sure there’s enough numbers to rotate through watchers without anyone risking passing out from a lack of air, and to have catchers up in the sky just in case someone, human or dragon, faints from anoxia and starts falling down. With that settled, then thoughts turn to the practicalities of making sure that all the dragons are ready to meet Thread when it falls, which means firestone training (and stealing/mining enough firestone for this to do that for all the fighting dragons to be cognizant), and this means that the time of the greens breeding is coming to an end.

“Well, I suppose it’s about time we had the greens chewing firestone,” Fiona said. “Another set of mating flights and we couldn’t find enough Candidates to match on all Pern.”
Xhinna flicked her eyes away so that the Weyrwoman couldn’t guess her thoughts—for it was clear to her that Fiona was miffed that the greens had so outproduced the queens, going so far even as to produce six queens on their own. But there was no denying the truth in what Fiona had said—they were now at a point where another round of clutching would leave Western unable to support the increased dragon and human populations.
In addition to the original 128 older dragons, there were 1,558 who had two or more Turns of age.

Okay, so now we have to contemplate the idea that this secret operation had no opsec breaches or inadvertent observations by anyone, land-dweller or shipmeister, about the fact that there are dragons and dragonriders on a supposedly uninhabited isle for three whole years. And that the families of the people pulled as candidates don’t talk to others about the fact that their girls and boys were collected on Search by dragonriders who weren’t aligned with any known Weyr. (Or, conversely, that there are enough people on Pern in and around Nerra’s sphere of influence who don’t have family or don’t have family that will miss them or want to talk about them or investigate if they disappear to a strange place.) And that nobody asks questions about where the gold is coming from and the goods going to (although I think the authors tried to half-handwave this by mentioning all the trader involvement in things and that the traders, of course, are excellent at keeping secrets, especially when the one with the Sight is asking them to) or balks at taking worthless metal in exchange for giving up things that they might feel they need to survive the post-plague period. The more I think about this, the more I think everyone on Pern actually knows what was going on, but because the dragonriders said “it’s a secret, we can’t break time,” they chose not to say anything about the clearly weird people claiming to be dragonriders, or the dragons were like “nope, sorry, we’re wiping our presence from your minds after we leave, so you will have no memory of any of this, gotta preserve time,” and nobody knows that the dragons are doing this except the dragons. It’s extremely improbable they managed to carry on a secret that big for that long. That’s conspiracies of the kind that most people on Terra would start fashioning you a hat made of aluminum foil to wear if you believed in them.

In addition to firestone training, there’s bad news delivered that Xhinna’s wing is being broken up and riders reassigned or given command of their own wings.

The hiss of surprise came from every mouth.
“It’s time,” Fiona said. She turned to Xhinna and smiled. “While we all know blues aren’t supposed to lead wings, we’ve seen too many bad examples of the results of following Tradition too closely.” She looked toward M’gel as she added, “This is not to say that the current leadership is wanting in any way. But I’m sure that it comes as no surprise to any of you when I say that the Weyrwoman [sic] and I were willing to let this wing continue in its present form because we recognized that most of its leadership came not from those riding bronzes but—”
“A blue!” Danirry cried, exultantly, patting Xhinna’s shoulder hard.
[…the queens stay with Xhinna, who’s getting a special task, K’dan explains, and who was apparently the speaker of the above sentence, even though Fiona is the one who continued talking. The bronze riders follow K’dan and Fiona in for their new assignments…]
K’dan paused in the doorway and turned back, smiling. “Of course, Wingleader Xhinna will need to plan the details with her wing.”
Xhinna opened her mouth to protest. She’d given up the position once already and had no desire to add to her duties, but Fiona caught her eye and waggled a finger at her.
“No good deed goes unrewarded,” Danirry remarked in an aside to Xhinna.
“Don’t even think about trying to wriggle out of it,” R’ney added just as firmly.
Xhinna nodded in resignation, but her eyes sought out Taria’s. The green rider met them with her own dark eyes and held her gaze for a long moment before her lips curved up in a smile.
Coranth says Taria won’t let you out of doing diapers, Tazith relayed. Xhinna’s blue eyes danced and she returned Taria’s grin with a small smile.

Xhinna also gets some reinforcement from other Weyrs to help her in this task. Also, in this chapter, I’m really beginning to believe that Book Two here is a fragment of what would have been another novel, but was instead published with this one because that novel was never going to be finished due to the untimely death of one of the partnership. Because we’ve been hearing Xhinna recap things that we already presumably know from the first part, like the reason why they’ve succeeded at breeding so many dragons.

The queens landed first, as was their right, and Jirana came bounding over, followed by the five other young girls who had Impressed the green queens. They were al fit and tan, as was to be expected from their days spent lying under the sun guarding the Hatching Grounds against tunnel snakes. The girls were all near Jirana’s age—much younger than normal for a Candidate—but they had all formed the strange connection with their queens before the Hatching. It was their ability to hear the unhatched queens that protected the sands from the depredations of tunnel snakes, aided by the growing population of Meeyus and older Mreeows.

Then again, in the disguise of a supposedly innocuous recap, we’ve managed to make the infinite scream even more terrifying, because Jirana is no longer the only one with this connection, and apparently it’s a connection that’s forged more easily by children who are younger than the standard Candidate age, so we’re pairing girls that I have a sneaking suspicion are before the age of puberty, just based on the fact that the new author likes them really young, with dragons that aren’t out of their eggshells yet, but who can tell where all of the tunnel snakes are, which is apparently an ability they lose when they come out of the shell and make their full bond with their rider? And those are gold dragons, so they’re also ticking their clocks as well, even despite Jirana’s confidence that Laspanth won’t rise until they’re both ready, but aigh. I feel for all six of those girls and what they’re going to be subjected to.

The plan, as such, is for the greens and blues to go up and observe things, and for the queens to watch the blues and greens and catch them if they pass out and start falling down.

“It’s like guarding the eggs, only harder,” little Devon piped up. She was just a sevenday younger than Jirana—much to the other’s disgust at losing her position as the youngest queen rider on Pern. Even so, she had been the first to be picked by Jirana when she and Xhinna had gone on Search for riders for the green queens. Now, nearly three Turns later, she and Jirana were nearing adolescence, while Kimmy, the eldest by two turns, was beginning to giggle at the looks given her by the younger bronze riders.
Xhinna had had little chance to see any of them since their Impression, but they’d all seemed pleasant, sweet, and just a little different—marked, as it were, by their strange queens with whom they could communicate before they were Hatched.
“They don’t have the Sight, too, do they?” Xhinna had asked Jirana after the five had all Impressed exactly as the young trader girl had predicted.
“I don’t think so,” Jirana had said, giving the question her full attention and adding with a shrug, “They might.”

And, I was right, at least some of them haven’t even made it to adolescence. The infinite scream only gets louder about this plotting and characterization decision of the green queens.

And while the narrative is trying to play this off as “well, it’s because they’re queens hatched from greens in unusual circumstances,” I don’t see any reason why, apart from a rule, written or otherwise, that you don’t take girls this early for Search, as to why this is something specific to these six, since Jirana seems to believe they don’t necessarily have the Sight or anything like it. (Although it would make sense that precognitive or other types of esper abilities would be spread across the planet, since basically everyone is selecting for those genes and powers, whether as dragoniders or trying to become them. It certainly wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for there to be multiple lines of psi powers, but then the authors might have to put in some work about how or why there aren’t more of them going around.)

As it is, the plan is getting put in place, and there’s one last arrival, Bekka, who makes an even dozen of queens. And while the narrative tells us that Jepara can’t find it in herself to behave like a brat toward Lorana, she’s more than happy to do it for Bekka, imperiously saying that Bekka will take the dawn shift, since she was late (although she was late because she had to go be a Healer first). And then there’s this exchange, which Xhinna will admit is odd, but has come to the conclusion that it’s mostly harmless.

“When did your queen rise?” Bekka demanded hotly. She and the other queen rider had locked horns on so many occasions that Xhinna had feared they would finally come to blows, but so far, their arguments had dissipated just short of that. After a while, Xhinna decided their bickering was just their way of being friendly to each other. She’d seen them stick up for each other’s best interest countless times in the past two Turns, but it still seemed to her a strange way of expressing affection.
“Before yours, certainly!” Jepara snapped back.
“Enough,” Xhinna growled, cutting her eyes to the horrified looks of the other blue and queen riders. “Bekka—that would be great. I think Jepara has just volunteered to precede you—”
“I did not!” Jepara snapped. Xhinna lowered her head toward her with raised brows and the queen rider sighed, saying to Bekka, “Don’t expect any klah.”
“You’d probably spit in it,” Bekka shot back.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Jepara said sweetly.
“Children,” Xhinna said to the two of them, earning her a pair of dark looks—both of them were as near her age as made no difference.
“Are you sure you’d like them watching out for you?” Avarra asked in a choked voice.
“Absolutely,” Xhinna said. “I’d trust them with my life.”

Vitriolic Best Buds between queen riders? Well, maybe, if Jepara’s found a partner to be a brat to and Bekka enjoys putting the brat in her place. And earlier on, we’d had Bekka call Jirana her “weyrmate”, even though we’ve also had the narrative make sure we know that she’s hanging out with J’riz a lot, who is going to be a heartbreaker as he’s gotten older. Like, even if we’re not able to go far enough to say that Bekka’s bi or pan, there does seem to be a lot of big Top energy from her, something that both Jepara and Jirana might gravitate toward and want to have in their life. But it’s also just as likely that Bekka and Jepara dislike each other and want to tweak each other, but both know what their status is in society and will back each other to the hilt against anybody else, because they can’t afford to let any of them get picked off or turned against them.

The narrative proceeds then, with the setting of the watch and advances to dinner, where we find out that there’s been a lot of construction going on since the beginning – what was X’lerin’s broom tree weyr has been converted into the High Kitchen – a completely enclosed space constructed with “pinus wood” that also provided a model for other winter housing for dragonriders in the broom trees, so I guess they haven’t been shivering up in the treetops this entire time. And there’s more than just one rider who has the knowledge needed for the Lumbercraft, or whichever one it is that handles forestry. So, at dinner, some of the new riders want to sit with Xhinna, because she’s the O.G. woman riding blue.

slightly more than half of all the new green riders and and just a bit more than one in three blue riders were women, a tremendous break with Weyr tradition brought about mostly because of the dearth of able-bodied males of suitable Searching age.
Xhinna suspected that Nerra might have slightly “stacked the deck” [did we know there was card-playing and cheating like that coming from Bitra before this?], as R’ney had once described it, assiduously succoring girls by getting them into her orphanage, but whether or not that was true, she doubted that the Lady Holder’s [Lord Holder’s!] discrimination would matter much in the long term. Able-bodied men and lads had been drafted first into the recovery after the Plague, and all too often women had been left to shift for themselves, with the tragic result that many young girls had been left homeless and starving.

But also, I call bullshit! The only reason that able and healthy bodies would have been abandoned in the aftermath of the Plague would have been if there was a deliberate decision to do so, as the people who are subsistence farming are going to be worried about whether they have enough bodies at all, much less who they are. We’ve already heard that women are working the fields, and if men and boys are being drafted into recovery efforts (which, to me, sounds like the Lords Holder are demanding their vassals restock and repair them, which will cascade down through all of the land grants until you have families whose most able-bodied men and boys have been drafted to help out someone higher-ranked than them and they have to rely on their women, girls, and animals (if they have any left) to be able to till the land and keep things going. There are possible orphans who have no relatives that would be potential candidates for both orphanage and dragonriders, but anyone who had a relative probably has had that relative claiming them as another person who can work, even if feeding them adequately is less possible on their own and would need help from the people who have stores and are at least nominally expected to release them to help their vassals. So if so many women have been given up (as Danirry was, as these candidates are), it’s because they were deliberately given up by someone.

That’s not out of character for Pern, as they seem like the kinds of people who would have a completely wrong bias that believes women are useless and should be discarded if they can’t get married advantageously. Or that they’re only good for keeping kitchen and can’t possibly also farm while maintaining their womanly duties. But this explanation as to why there are so many women doesn’t work as its described.

Soon, rigid, inflexible old-timers like D’gan [ASSHOLE] were going to be confronted with the new reality. Given both Fiona and Nerra’s harsh words, Xhinna was hoping she’d have the chance to see his reaction firsthand, although she was the first to bet against his “dying of apoplexy at the mere sight,” as Fiona had so cheerfully predicted.
There was an equally vigorous discussion of the possible reaction of Weyrwoman Tullea to the new organizations. There, Xhinna was in agreement with Fiona’s prediction that the tetchy Benden Weyrwoman would be at least secretly and maybe even openly ecstatic.
The betting was spread more evenly upon the reactions of the various Lord Holders, Fiona covering all wagers against her father having a negative reaction. She seemed surprised to have no takers, but having played several games of chance with Fiona, Xhinna was reasonably sure the blond Weyrwoman was bluffing.

Which needs some interpretation and parsing, but I think is supposed to mean “Xhinna thinks Fiona is trying to sucker people into betting against her by acting surprised that nobody’s taking advantage of her cover offer.”

Also, I have a sneaking suspicion at why so many people are in hock to Bitra and have a profound hatred of them, if the Pernese can’t help themselves from wagering on these sorts of things in such great quantities and combinations. And also, I’d bet with Xhinna against Fiona on “dying of apoplexy,” and instead put my marks on “enraged and openly attempts to defy the new reality.” And we’ve already seen that Tullea has depths that she doesn’t usually let out, and Fiona already knows this, so it’s not surprising that she’s betting that Tullea will be a lot happier about more women riders. Half of green riders and about a third of blue riders as women is a pretty impressive set, but also, there’s no threat to the established order in this, because there are no women brown riders or bronze riders. Xhinna is an exception that’s allowed to continue as a Wingleader because Fiona and T’mar want her to, and all of the blues and greens are still cannon fodder, essentially, and have no real access to any power structures in the dragonriders. They’re going to be a flash in the pan and then be actively covered up by those dudes who are affronted by the break with tradition, probably with the help of Harpers and others. But this particular situation should cause, for at least a few generations to come, urban legends and stories about how once upon a time, there was something close to parity in the dragonriders (in certain colors anyway).

The narrative proceeds with Xhinna receiving a complaint that the observation assignment is insulting and beneath the women riders, when they should be using their flame to destroy Thread when it arrives. Seban and Xhinna manage to explain to them that the observation duties they’re being tasked with is the sort of thing that will save the entire Isles and all the dragons and riders that have been built up to this point, so instead of being saddled with an errand and treated like weyrlings, they’ve actually been given the highest honors for keeping Pern safe. The riders who were going to protest recognize and accept the logic involved, as well as Xhinna pointing out that neither X’lerin nor H’nez would appoint anyone as a Wingleader who they thought was a fool.

“Do you still want to protest?”
“No,” Jerilli said,” going quite red. “I think I want to hide.”
“Don’t do that!” R’ney told her. She looked over at him. “Wingleaders are supposed to make mistakes,” he continued, glancing toward Danirry as his face expanded into a grin, and the two continued in unison: “That’s why they have wingseconds—”
Xhinna joined in: “—to correct them!”

And that’s the end of Chapter 17, and I have to admit that I do like this attitude, and the way that it acknowledges that leadership is often a matter of teamwork and being able to recognize when things have gone sideways and bring them back on track. Which, in this time, if this were the thing that’s the guiding principle of all fighting wings, you would have inexperienced wingleaders being supported by very experienced wingseconds who can help them learn how to lead properly. Given, however, that this entire population, save the hundred-plus time travelers from Fiona’s time period, has been hatched in the time that Xhinna has been back, I don’t think there’s enough experienced wingseconds to be able to help all of the newly minted wingleaders learn how to do things correctly. In every other situation, though, the bronze riders have mentorship from more experienced bronze riders to draw upon.

The orbital observation plan begins in earnest next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 15th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is pretty sure the last term of US Presidency will be looked on as a masterclass in what not to do if you have any belief in keeping the country alive.)

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

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 more than ready for the next administration to devote all their non-pandemic resources to making sure there is accountability to the last person. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Actual Politics! (Secondhand)

Last time, we shifted into Book Two, having successfully figured out that some dragons are mature enough in their shells to be able to sense the presence of other lifeforms burrowing toward them and to communicate this out to their prospective, already chosen dragonrider candidates, who then use bigger dragons and dragonets to dig to those spots and then crush-kill-destroy with those dragonets, but also with trained murderbeasts who have been raised from kittenhood to go after those tunnel snakes, who appear to have an ingrained hatred of any native Pernese life form that might be related to them as well, and that includes dragons, since their fully-matured forms tend to attack, even though it’s a bad idea, generally, to pick a fight with something much bigger than you, even if you have numbers. Taria and Xhinna made up with each other, and rather than being axed on the spot, J’keran has been made into the weyr’s drudge and forbidden from drinking.

And there’s a fucking lot of babies to go along with the dragon eggs that have been laid all across the continent, as a finally successful repopulation measure. When we last left our intrepid heroes, Fiona had popped back in time to help oversee this mass hatching project, and she was just about to explain why she’s more than happy to be here in the past, even with the additional headaches of existing twice or more in time, rather than stay home and deal with the Asshole that they pulled out of a rift in time of his own making.

Chapter Sixteen: The Battle Of Friends: Content Notes:

Which means, yes, actual politics! However, it’s politics as filtered through Fiona and the new hotness Telgar Weyr, not that I would believe The Asshole’s account of the weather without checking for myself. There’s going to be extensive quoting of this section because it’s what should have been the B-plot of this entire book.

“So there’s D’gan [ASSHOLE], all high and mighty until his Kaloth collapses from the injection of the dragon sickness cure, and then he starts bellowing and raging all over the place until we could calm him down and get him back to his weyr,” Fiona had said as she brought Xhinna up to date on the several days they’d spent back in Telgar Weyr. She shook her head trying to shake her anger out of it. “And then, last night, acting like he was the Weyrleader…”
“Well, he was,” Xhinna said.
“Half a Turn ago before he and all his dragons were lost between,” Fiona agreed. “But not now.”
“He has over three hundred riders who think otherwise,” Lorana disagreed from where she sat nearby. “And they’re planning on riding Fall with High Reaches today.”
Fiona made a sour face. “You should have heard him go on about the new firestone,” she said. “He practically accused me of sabotage for ordering the old stuff removed, and then one of his bronze riders nearly jumped out of his skin when one of our weyrlings dropped a rock in a bucket by accident.” She brightened. “After that, he changed his tune, but he never said anything to me.”
“He’d hoped to ignore us,” Jeila said.
“He might still succeed,” T’mar said. Fiona shot him an angry look and the bronze rider raised his hands defensively. “He’s got almost more dragons than all the other Weyrs put together,” he pointed out. “We’re all exhausted, and his riders are still in their prime, ready for anything. We really can’t reject his aid.”
“And the blues and greens we brought back would have needed a sevenday at least to learn to chew firestone,” Fiona said in agreement. “So D’gan [ASSHOLE] can ignore us, leave us out of the Fall, and we have nothing to do about it,” she ended bitterly. She sighed and sat back dejectedly in her chair. Xhinna threw her a questioning look.

Not a good start to shame someone’s dragon for being squeamish around needles. Or for possibly having a reaction to the cure. If this were a place with any sort of testing protocols, they would have taken notes and figured out that so many percent of dragons have reactions to the inoculation and to then warn riders that this is a possibility, especially of that reaction tends to cluster in certain types of dragons. I might be judging them harshly because I’m still in the middle of the pandemic, but I also feel like all of these “we’re totally SFnal! We’re trying for harrrrrrd science” sorts of things means that I get to be harsh on them for not really managing the hard science bits. If they were willing to sit in the pocket of being a soft science fiction series or a science fantasy, I probably would be more forgiving of the whole affair. And also, I’m sure The Asshole’s ego felt extremely threatened at this open display of weakness from his dragon, so he was most likely looking for something to retaliate with or to stroke his own feeling of self-importance.

Lorana is being a very practical person at this point, however – The Asshole has three hundred newly-immunized dragons and no perception that any time has passed since his ill-decided trip to nowhere, so of course he expects to take over again and resume as if he hadn’t just gotten his people stuck in a time loop for a significant amount of time, to the point where his weyr has been empty long enough to be taken over by someone else. Nobody is going to challenge him, of course, are they? He certainly doesn’t have to be thankful or grateful to anyone for pulling his ass out, because that would be unmanly, and he has three hundred of his boys to say he’s right, what are you going to do about it?

This makes me wish that the time knot could have been selectively unwound – take care of all the ones who were seen as being potentially good folks, and then leave the rest of them to collapse into hyperspace properly. But I’m sure that goes against the Bro Code.

He is at least appreciative that they no longer have to worry about blowing themselves up from a misplaced firestone rock or an accident. Not, again, that he would show such an appreciation, because that would be acknowledging that other people have worth, other than himself, so that can’t happen at all.

“And another thing,” Fiona said, gesturing toward Shaneese, who sat nearby. “Remember how the weyrfolk were when we first arrived?”
Xhinna nodded, her stomach clenching in anger. The weyrfolk were used to D’gan [ASSHOLE]: He demanded their instant respect and was not very caring when it came to women.
“Well, Shaneese’s L’rat is alive and well,” Fiona said, her lips curled in anger, “and he believes T’mar is a poacher.” She shook her head. “He even told T’mar: ‘As you’ve a woman already, I want mine back.’ ”
“Shaneese tried to deal with it diplomatically,” Jeila said with a sour look, “but that didn’t work.”
“We were like a Weyr within a Weyr,” Fiona said with an expression that was alarming both for its ferocity and its resignation. “When we found your first message, it was nothing to find enough volunteers—”

You see why I think this should have been the b-plot for this entire book. Or, in the worst case scenario, an entire book unto itself, because I’m pretty sure there’s more than enough material in “The Asshole is back and nobody is adjusting well, oh hey, here’s a message from Xhinna, should we go back now? No? Okay things are even more terrible, hey look, there’s a second message from Xhinna, have fun, Asshole, we’ll be back.” to fill out a full book, if needed.

Also, this whole thing pretty well shot to hell the happy polyamory idea that we’ve been working on with Fiona, but I can se that just as much L’rat being possessive and jealous and allowed to be so because he’s a bronze rider (although it’s not confirmed what his dragon is) than any sort of viscerally negative reaction he has toward a good polyamory. Because he’s one of The Asshole’s, in fact, and they say The Asshole wasn’t particularly good toward women, that gives weight and credence to the idea that L’rat is a possessive asshole all on his own, and is assuming, just like The Asshole, that everything is going to immediately snap back to the way it was, even though there has been significant time lapsed in between when they left and when they returned.

If it were The Asshole by himself, he’d be overruled and sent somewhere in exile, but unfortunately, he’s got three hundred dragonriders under his command and they apparently need his strength to fight Thread with until Xhinna’s experiment can pop back into existence in the correct time and tell him and anyone who isn’t getting with the new world order can go fuck off. Even though, especially with Fiona and Lorana’s help, they could probably hit a pinpoint shot and arrive within a short time of their own disappearance, or Fiona’s story might include a detail of how The Asshole was found very neatly poisoned by someone, but nobody saw anything and nobody confessed to everything, and so T’mar and Fiona reasserted themselves, offered people who don’t want to join up the nice island off the coast that has the full roughing it experience for those that have excess toxicity to bleed off, and things are doing so much better now, so that when you’re ready to come back, we’ll all be so happy. Because Shaneese can run a kitchen that will more than happily figure out a way to make something completely toxic that nobody knows anything about except what they put in it and who it was supposed to go to. Fiona wouldn’t know the full extent of what Xhinna had planned at this point, but I’m pretty sure she would be entirely happy to be rid of a troublesome dragonrider that is screwing with her perfectly well-run Weyr, thank you very much. The Asshole shouldn’t be a problem at this point, but apparently we need him for the dramatic tension, or something. Because what he’s also done is something that should have gotten him straight-up knifed.

“And then D’gan [ASSHOLE!] came up to us, saying there was a Fall at High Reaches and wanting to know how many of our riders could haul firestone for his fighting dragons.”
She changed her voice to a mocking imitation of the old Telgar Weyrleader: “ ’I don’t allow shirkers in my Weyr.’ ”
“Uh oh!” Xhinna said.
“I told him: ‘This is my Weyr, bronze rider’ and he said, ‘We’ve no need for impertinence’ and then, can you believe it? He turned to T’mar and said, ‘If you can’t control your women—and you have far too many of them if you ask me—’ ”
“He didn’t!” Xhinna and Taria exclaimed in unison.
Finoa nodded solemnly and then looked up at them, eyes blazing, but it was Jeila who, with awe in her voice, said, “And then she said, ‘Enough. You will be silent now.’ ”
H’nez, Jeila, and T’mar all broke into laughter.
“I thought he was going to burst, the way his eyes bulged,” Jeila continued. “Shards, I didn’t even think he could even speak, but just as he was about to, all three of our queens bellowed as one. The old queen called back, but she didn’t sound like she was angry, only resigned.” She glanced toward Fiona, continuing, “So the Weyrwoman said—”
“ ’We’re leaving. We’ll be back when we’re needed,’ ” Fiona said.

As I was saying, That Asshole performed a public diss of a gold rider and her bronze rider and ordered them to take on weyrling slash young rider duty. That he didn’t end up running into someone’s knife repeatedly for that is really rather interesting. That he didn’t end up sprouting a knife from when Fiona kicked him in the nuts before shivving him is also impressive. It doesn’t seem like he has a reason to keep existing for the plot, now that his time knot’s been resolved, and it would be a really nice present to the readers who have had to read about his asshole behavior if he were to get knifed, poisoned, or booted off his dragon back into hyperspace on some trip. His riders are important, but they can be brought to heel. There’s no reason for him.

Okay, part of the reason they all came back was to see their children and parents and lovers, too. And they brought Mekiar, too, the wise potter. Xhinna gestures at the fact that there are a lot more Weyrs represented here than just Telgar, and so there’s more to this story than just Fiona deciding she needs more dragons to take her Weyr back.

“So when we went to leave, D’gan [ASSHOLE!] tried to block us, but the queens put an end to that.”
“He didn’t give up, did he?” Taria asked. She’d known him from her childhood at Telgar Weyr.
“Oh, no!” Fiona exclaimed. “It wasn’t until the others”—she waved a hand at the non-Telgar riders—”arrived that things were finally sorted.” Her smile dimpled. “You see, I thought that if we were going to do this, we should be certain not to do it by halves.”
“But what of the other Weyrs?” Taria objected. “Surely they didn’t—”
“Ah, but they did!” Jeila said with a laugh. “In fact—” and she waved a hand for Fiona to finish the story.
“Lorana spoke with them,” Fiona said. “You should have seen the look on D’gan’s [ASSHOLE] face when he saw them. And then I told him, ‘The others are a parting gift, as it were.’ ”
“Others?” Xhinna asked.
“That’s just what D’gan [ASSHOLE] said!” Jeila laughed. “Because when he looked up he saw not only all our Eastern weyelings and riders but—” and again she waved for Fiona to finish.
“Not only Tullea on her Minith, but Sonia of High Reaches on Lyrinth, Cisca of Fort on Melirth, and Dalia of Ista on Bidenth all gliding in for a landing—and all looking as though they were going to have more than a few words with Telgar’s old Weyrleader.”

I still would like all of those queen riders to have knives in hand and be ready to stabstab as their “more than a few words”, but it’s probably supposed to be that no dragonrider could stand a coordinated verbal assault from all the queen riders united against them. Given That Asshole’s stated position toward women, however, I can entirely see him not listening to a word they say to him and dismissing them all as woman unworthy of his time and attentions. So they would still need to get his attention in some more physical way. And supposedly, this would be the right time for someone to wince about what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on a united front of angry gold riders, but that particular part only seems to show up when there’s roaring involved. Like, what if all three of those gold riders and their dragons had been able to enforce “You will be silent now.” until they decided to let him talk again, and the Asshole was stuck trying to lead a Weyr when he couldn’t speak? Gold riders are, after all, supposed to be terrifying enough that nobody willingly gets on their bad side. Even if nobody actually deigns to say why. This would be a perfect time to demonstrate why.

Anyway, the rest of this chapter is surveying the successes that have happened, now that there’s a way of keeping the tunnel snakes at bay, but there’s still a nagging issue in Xhinna’s head despite being so close to their goal time to back to the future. Because Jirana, after all, isn’t behaving like they’re out of the woods yet, so Xhinna (finally) is still nervous about what is yet to come.

And there’s also this bit of logistics that gets completely glossed over:

The days of mating flight after mating flight—with the horrifying specter of battles between mating queens and mating greens—were nearly done, and besides, Xhinna and her riders had learned how to to distract and separate amorous dragons safely.

I want to know how they did this! Mostly because that seems like knowledge that should have been preserved so that, just in case you end up with a situation where a queen rider is slow about getting her gold away from a mating flight, you don’t have them trying to kill each other over the boys. Something that could have been really helpful in the Ninth Pass, say, when some people noticed that Kylara’s not exactly the promptest about keeping her dragon well away from the festivities, and Lessa could order some additional drills to be run for a just-in-case situation. It’s yet another one of those times where something that’s been learned in the past should have been kept to the future because it’s really super-useful. I know that there’s long enough between these times that anything can get lost, but this is really feeling like this author is saying that their world is going to be so much better than the previous author, when what they’ve achieved is to be more than the previous author, in some things that are good, and many things that are not good.

So that was our dose of politics! An asshole was an asshole who expected everyone to accept him as the person in charge because he was the one who went before, and nobody could really stand up to him, even though they gave him an earful (and that he ignored) about it, thinking that something short of running a knife through him or otherwise physically removing him would change his methods or attitudes. Especially because he’s got 300 flunkies with dragons who think they’ve done great under his leadership. So, in that way, it was perfectly Pernese politics, because there was no way that either author was going to let soft-power Fiona and her love technique defeat the Ultimate Manly Man. On we go.

Chapter 17: Journey to Starlight

Chapter 17 opens with Xhinna being summoned to “the stone,” the Hold that Xhinna was hauled off to so that she could get some sleep and that has now become the primary space where the cats live. It turns out the cats are not quite a perfect solution to the tunnel snakes, but they’re renewable enough that they’ll do.

The Mreeows and the Meeyus preferred any of the six-limbed creatures of Pern as their prey, so enlisting them to protect the dragons had its drawbacks—particularly as the Mreeows grew older and less controllable by human or dragon.
The solution had been to retire the intractable beasts to one of the many islands that dotted the oceans surrounding the great Eastern and Western Isles of Pern. Xhinna’s own Scruff had been one of the first to be so placed, and a pang of sorrow went through her even as she realized it was prompted by the sight and smell of the cages and the noise of the latest litter of little Meeyus

So it looks like we’ve found a humane way of retiring those cats that get too unruly or uncontrollable, which is very nice, actually. I’d expect them to have been put down when their usefulness had expired, but it very much seems like Ted instilled a complete hatred of dragons in his cats and that part, at least, took very well. But since this entire solution is temporary enough to get things back up to fighting strength, solutions that have to be renewed periodically will do just fine. Xhinna also mentions that she should talk to Jirana about making sure all of the Green-queens (because that’s not confusing at all to figure out that they’re talking about gold dragons hatched from green dragons, rather than anything else) are prepared and have said all of their proper goodbyes when it’s time to go, as they won’t be bringing any cats back with themselves when they hop forward in time.

Xhinna wonders what she did wrong that she’s being called in, which is exactly the correct feeling to have given how well she’s been treated by her own Weyr leadership, but T’mar is quick to reassure her that she is not in any trouble and has not done anything wrong. At which point we are introduced to the logistical arrangement and affiliations of the residents of the Isles, minus the place where Fiona and them already are for their first visit.

To comfortably house and support all the dragons and riders, it had been decided in the first month after the arrival of Fiona and the other 126 dragons to spread out throughout the Western Isle. Sky Weyr—the name had stuck, despite all of Xhinna’s protests—they created five additional Weyrs: Midriver, Southriver, Southern, Western, and Nothern.

And with names like that, no wonder Sky Weyr stuck, it’s the only one that’s got any sort of creativity attached to it. The other Weyr names that were created were similarly unimaginative – Southern on the continent, Eastern as the next one created, Western, I think, was the name for the observatory, and in this era, I think the first one that Fiona did the first time around was something they called Eastern. As a general thing, Pernese names are either people names or directions. Which doesn’t bode well for the creativity of the people involved, or the people writing them. No wonder it takes them so much time and effort to understand even the most basic of things, much less the things that they have tutorials for from much more advanced progenitors.

Fiona’s desire to spend time with her children and K’dan had grown from inclination into permanence. While T’mar had taken the lead in everything, he was too good a leader not to involve everyone, and so it was mutually decided that H’nez and C’tov, as the next two most experienced wingleaders, would be the temporary Weyrleaders of the Northern and Southern Weyrs. X’lerin, ever tactful, offered to relinquish his leadership at Sky Weyr to K’dan and, as a consequence, was assigned to start Midriver Weyr—an assignment made permanent when his Kivith flew Indeera’s queen Morurth when she rose. There was no established Weyrleader at Western Weyr, which was ably run by the Weyrwoman, Garra, with T’mar aiding as needed in the leadership that W’vin and his brown Jorth provided to the adult riders.
Xhinna’s wing was not, to her surprise, disbanded. In fact, both the queen and bronze weyrling riders insisted on staying with her at Sky Weyr in spite of the lure of better positions elsewhere. But at Xhinna’s insistence and in defiance of Fiona—who had been delighted at the notion of a blue wingleader—the young bronze riders themselves had rotated through the leadership of the fledgling wing, able to lean on the assistance of Xhinna and R’ney as wingseconds.
The queens and their riders, naturally, had become the business of Fiona as Weyrwoman, but with Taria’s connivance, Xhinna had found herself compelled to take on much of that, as well, as Fiona had, in a very unconvincing tone, apologized for being too busy with her other duties.
Danirry had been elevated to wingsecond, third in command of what was still known as Xhinna’s wing, when the work had become too much for the combined efforts of Xhinna, R’ney, and whichever bronze rider had the position.

So we have a Weyr run by a woman and a brown rider and none of the bronze riders seem to be objecting to this, that they are somehow being usurped in some way or another. I would have expected H’nez to object for Tradition’s sake, even though he has his own Weyr to run. When we last left him, Jeila seemed to be curbing his worst tendencies, so perhaps her ability to do so has only improved in the interim. And while K’dan and Fiona are nominally in charge at Sky Weyr (and T’mar is the Southriver Weyrleader), I have a sneaking suspicion that all of the day-to-day matters are being run by Xhinna all the same, because Fiona still believed very firmly that Xhinna wants to lead and will not be satisfied unless she is leading. Plus, all of that entirely unconvincing stuff about her other duties being too much for her to properly look after the queen riders that Xhinna has been capably taking care of. Also, I wonder how Jepara feels about the fact that X’lerin is now installed at a different Weyr with a different queen rider and all of her efforts to make nice with him have gone for naught. We don’t hear from her in any of this, though, and all we get is that Xhinna feels sorry that Jepara’s gold isn’t going to rise before they head back to their original time. Why she feels sorry about that, we don’t know, so we have no idea if it’s genuinely sorry that the now-changed Jepara won’t get a chance to shine, or sorry because she thought X’lerin might be a good match for Jepara mixed with relief because Jepara’s still not mature and seasoned enough to take on the leadership of a Weyr, even with X’lerin’s help. The narrative is not interested in this, though, instead turning its attention to the conference and why Xhinna got called into it: the assembled Weyrleaders would like Xhinna to start keeping watch for when Thread starts falling…from low-Pern orbit, so there’s enough warning time for the dragons on the Isles to take action if they’re threatened. Yes, they’re suggesting that Xhinna and others fly up to the Dawn Sisters part of space and scan the planet for the telltale sign of Threadfall on the way, rather than keeping watch on the ground, or at least in the breathable atmosphere, for that selfsame thing. Also, don’t they have the charts and the experience of having been caught out on Eastern to know when the first Threadfall is going to arrive? If they’re concerned things are going to fall out of sequence, I can see wanting to post a rapid-response team that will spot the Thread, jump back six hours to warn everyone about it, and then go join the fray after they’ve warped themselves back in time so as to prevent paradoxing themselves. Instead, we have a plan to send up people to low-Pern orbit, outside the atmosphere, to scan the entire planet to see where the Thread is going to fall and go from there. I, personally, really love the idea of the orbital observation platform, but I would want them to construct something sealed so that when the dragon warps in with their air bubble, they don’t have to expend significant amounts of energy holding that air bubble around themselves. And with a regular timetable and a stable orbit (which might take a few tries), they could have one dragon warp out and then an hour later, have the next dragon warp in, and stagger it in such a way that there’s not too much time where the planet is unoberved. But I’m thinking about this like it’s a science fiction story, instead of a fantasy with science fiction elements bolted on.

Jepara demands to know what’s going on and that the entire wing should be gathered for it, which raises a protest from Meeya that it’s not their wing any more, except that it is, because Fiona gave them back, and this is what Jepara points out. Also adding to the theory that dragonriders magically have all the right skills to do everything else they need to do, and those skilled are properly distributed so that there doesn’t have to be a lot of outside help, if any at all, we have Meeya’s secret skill turn out to be “good at herpering” in the same way that Danirry turned out to be “good at engineering.”

Of al the riders, she had the best memory after Fiona. In fact, she had spent all her spare time with K’dan and Fiona learning Ballads and writing Records. She had a good voice and was often in demand, singing solo or duet with the harper.

I kind of hope this means that Meeya takes over as Weyr Harper and does the job that K’dan was supposed to do in the first place, before he was promoted beyond the level of his incompetence, failing up to becoming Weyrleader of Sky Weyr while someone else does the actual running of the place. She seems like she would be good at the job of instructing and keeping records and singing and giving someone a piece of her mind when they warrant it.

As Xhinna describes it to her wing, she mentions that Fiona is only saying the greens and blues are going to go up and have a look at the world from above. Jepara is not having any of that.

Xhinna waved a hand. “No, just us,” she said, waving toward the other blue and green riders.
“What?” Jepara cried, glancing to her fellow queen riders for support. “Why not us?”
“Because we can lose greens and blues, not queens,” Alimma replied. For all that she tried to sound bitter about it, Xhinna could hear the excitement in the young rider’s voice.
“No! No, by the Egg of Faranth!” Jepara cried. “We ride with you.”
“You’ll have to take that up with Fiona,” Xhinna said.
Jepara shot her a startled look. “Didn’t you ask her?”
Xhinna shook her head. “The matter didn’t come up.”
Jepara harrumphed and rose to her feet. “Well, then, I’ll bring it up right now!”
As she stormed off, Taria and Alimma rose behind her, saying in chorus, “This I’ve got to see.”
“Two Marks says she wins,” Xhinna ventured calmly.
All eyes turned toward her. “Against Fiona?”
Xhinna nodded slowly. […and then has seconds of food, which is long enough for the argument to happen,…] before they heard a triumphant shout and the sound of people racing back to their gathering.
“She won!” Taria said to Xhinna in amazement.
Xhinna smiled, laid her plate to one side, and held out a hand, palm up. “Pay up.”

Nobody said they were taking up Xhinna on the bet, and as I recall, at least from the Ninth Pass books, two marks is a hefty wager! That was the entirety of what Robinton gave to Menolly for her Gather time so that she could enjoy herself and possibly get some interesting new goods for herself. Like, Robinton, who presumably is rolling in cash as the Masterharper, might be making two mark wagers without thinking about it with other senior harpers, but I can’t imagine an of these dragonriders being willing o give up hat kind of cash, even if they think it’s a sucker bet. Also, what are the dragonriders doing with money? They live as a collective that shares resources, labor, and assets because they have to keep and raise giant flamethrowers to protect the planet from harm, but more importantly, they’re here on an island where nobody but Nerra supposedly knows they’re there, so what need do they have of money if the gold dust is enough to keep them in food and supplies? Are there dragonriders sneaking off-site to participate in Gathers back in time? Why is there anyone making money wagers in this space, because they haven’t had a need for it for the entire time they’ve been here? It would make much more sense for Xhinna to wager something like “dirty diaper duty for a week” as the stakes for Jepara beating Fiona in the argument.

Also, the authors choose not to show us the actual argument between Jepara and Fiona, which, y’know, if you were looking for somewhere in the narrative to show the reader that Jepara has matured and become a more well-rounded leader and gold rider and/or that having to raise Meeya into someone with a spine has helped temper Jepara into less of a brat to everyone, this would be a great spot to do it with. You could even slip in some bits about how much Fiona’s temperament has also changed, and that with her men and her children, she’s no longer got the sense of adventure that would have had her up there with the rest of them, looking down on the world. Or how Fiona was always doing her own reckless things to try and build a family, and now that she finally has one, she doesn’t have to be so reckless any more. We’re three quarters of the way into thie book, and we’ve been spending so much time with Xhinna, Jepara, and the Skies, this would be the place to narratively signal that we’re moving away from Fiona, Lorana, and their men as the main arc, and that we’re going to keep with Xhinna, Taria, Jepara, and the Skies for the rest of this book and into the next one. (Even though there isn’t going to be a next one, a series like Pern, at least in this sense of it being Todd’s authoring arc, is always gesturing at a next book, even if that next book never gets written.) Xhinna is, according to Jirana’s vision, going to have to physically disarm Fiona to get the good end and avoid the bad one, and Jepara managing to disarm Fiona in the arena of words and stubbornness would be a good reminder and foreshadow of what Xhinna still has yet to do. There’s so much that can be done here that’s left by the wayside because the author’s not willing to show a previous book protagonist being defeated on screen. And maybe it wasn’t an argument or a defeat. Maybe Jepara came up, all ready to have it out with Fiona about this, and Fiona simply said, “Okay,” after Jepara asked. Jepara wins, but Fiona retains the upper hand by refusing to engage with Jepara on something that she really wants to have a fight over. Xhinna might have bet not that Jepara would out-argue Fiona, but that Fiona was wise enough to sidestep the argument and give Jepara what she wants, because Jepara wouldn’t listen to Fiona if she forbade him anyway.

So, Xhinna wins her bet, and we’re going to stop for this week here, on this note, rather than the absolute WTF that’s waiting for us in the next paragraph that’s going to make this low-Pern orbit plan entirely superfluous.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 8th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is looking on as insurrectionists and thugs attempt to overthrow the government.)

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

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 hoping for a boring and competent year this year, as opposed to the roller-coaster ride of the last. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Throwing The Rules Out The Window

Last time, we finally reunited Xhinna and Taria, and figured out that the cats are actually quite effective hunters of the tunnel snakes, when they have the opportunity to kill them, although cats and candidates aren’t enough to deal with a concerted assault on dragon eggs. And, apparently, Taria and Xhinna made up with each other, even though Xhinna also killed Taria’s pet, Razz, on instinct when Razz was trying to protect Xhinna from a tunnel snake attack, because “I’m trying to kill you” and “I’m trying to protect you” look basically the same when the tunnel snake is trying to take your head off. Also, Jirana took a hit that required significant surgery, and rather than do something sensible, like ask the dragons to block Jirana’s pain, they have the pain be redistributed to others, which causes them all to get identical-looking welts in the space where Jirana got clawed in sympathy pains, including Taria, which kind of makes me wonder if her child took some of that pain on, too.

Sky Dragons: Chapters 15 and 16: Content Notes:

Chapter 15: A Greeting Foretold

Despite being a short chapter, this one wants to play merry hell with all sorts of things that were otherwise established. And yes, the beginning of this chapter tells us that Xhinna and Taria are back together, everything forgiven, as if Taria had never left. J’keran, on the other hand, will have a much rougher time of it, but we’re not getting to him yet.

Instead, during this night, now that Xhinna’s convinced of the reality of Laspanth and that Jirana found her and made a bond with her, Xhinna also thinks that the idea of the greens and blues coming before the other colors of fire-lizard is also true and then wonders about how the first queen fire-lizard made sure that she was protected from tunnel snakes. Which gives Xhinna an idea, and she goes over to Laspanth’s egg and mentally asks where the tunnel snakes are.

Laspanth, where are the tunnel snakes? she thought, hard, at the form inside the egg.
Nothing. And then— she heard it first, a rustling, rock-moving noise, slithering, sliding. And then suddenly it was as if the ground beneath her were lit with glows, showing map lines where tunnel snakes burrowed, digging and rising toward their helpless prey…
“Xhinna? What is it?” Bekka cried.
Xhinna realized she had been screaming. […So she calls people to herself, shows them how she got Laspanth to give her the map…]
Beyond her, dragons bellowed in anger and excitement. Xhinna felt Tazith, pictured a large site underground, heard the blue digging furiously and then roaring with glee as he surprised a group of tunnel snakes and tore them to pieces with his jaws.
All around her, the dragons roared, the riders cried, and the night air was rent with the sounds of dying tunnel snakes.
A noise altered Xhinna and she spun as she saw Jepara approach with Scruff on her lead, chewing on something greenish and spitting out bones, buzzing with pride in her achievements.
“She got six!” Jepara cried happily. “And Saruth got three.” She grabbed Xhinna and hugged her, as Scruff ran in circles, wrapping her lead around the two of them. “And Saruth can hear the tunnel snakes, she can spot them. She says that Laspanth showed her how.”
Xhinna saw Taria approaching, eyes wide in surprise. Xhinna bent down and picked up the Mreeow. “This is Scruff—she killed six tunnel snakes.”
“She’s pretty,” Taria said, letting the grime-stained Meeyu sniff her.

So now people know that at least some dragons in-egg are developed enough to do communication with humans, and also, they are able to sense the presence of attacking tunnel snakes. Which immediately begs the question of why those dragonets weren’t communicating before, to dragons, to their mother, even if they haven’t figured out how to do it with the humans around them. Even if it were the humans and dragons who were digging to kill the things, that would be self-preservation involved.

Secondly, apparently the cats are predisposed to kill the tunnel snakes if they encounter them, and are happy to try and dig them up, if given the opportunity. And the dragons and dragonets are much better at digging than the cats are, really, so we’re back to the question of why, other than for plot reasons, it takes the cats to figure out all of the necessary things to mount an effective snake defense. (They’re cute, and it’s good they’re effective, so I suppose they’re good for situations where there’s no space for dragons to do their thing.) I mean, maybe we’re supposed to think of Laspanth and Jirana as the super-most-special of dragons, for figuring out this completely novel way of doing things, but that says a lot more about the lack of communication before this than it does about the special status of Jirana and Laspanth. New Powers As The Plot Demands is a trope, but when it’s done this nakedly, without working it in or otherwise trying to make it seem less like it’s the first time this has happened, and it changes things this drastically, well, I suppose there’s little else to do but sigh about the Todd books and try to work this new knowledge in.

Plot-wise, now that there’s a solid and repeatable tunnel snake defense in place, we kick back to how the problem of J’keran got handled.

Xhinna assigned J’keran to guard Jirana, saying, “If she dies, you die.”
The brown rider had been abject in his apology, but it hadn’t spared him her wrath. True to her word, she’d beaten him to a pulp, limiting her revenge to a swift kick where it hurt the most, followed by a double-fisted blow to his chin as he collapsed.
He had awakened, groaning, to find a knife pointed at his neck.

Cocowhat by depizan

Ah, no, that’s not beating someone to a pulp if you kick them in the nuts and then hammer them with an uppercut that knocks them out. Beating someone to a pulp is kicking them in the nuts, then punching them in the face and body, repeatedly, until you’re satisfied they’re going to have a network of bruises sprout everywhere that you’ve hit them. J’keran may have a hell of a shiner when everything’s done, but Xhinna decided not to beat him to a pulp, if that’s all she did. Unless we’re seeing an editing problem here, where the word that’s “limiting” in the quote is actually supposed to be “finishing”. so it would be “finishing her revenge with a swift kick.” With that note, we continue.

“Say it,” Xhinna growled, standing above him. “You know the words.”
J’keran swallowed, feeling the tip of the knife prick his skin. “Wingleader, I have struck another in anger; my life is forfeit.”
“Louder, so the others can hear,” Xhinna said, flicking her knife to the left and right before resting it, once again, under the point of his chin. J’keran’s eyes followed her blade, saw those standing around them in a tight knot. HE recognized X’lerin, K’dan, W’vin, bronze rider J’sarte, T’rennor and—V’lex.
“Weyrleader, my life is forfeit. I struck another in anger,” J’keran said more loudly, his eyes darting toward X’lerin, his heart sinking as he acknowledged his shame. The person above him was no longer a mere girl, a mere blue rider, and upstart. He’d been wrong not to accept what he’d seen, arrogant to think he might know better.
He had clenched his jaw tight as he felt the knife bite into his skin. He would not cry out; he would at least die with honor.
The blade stopped. “Your life is forfeit,” Xhinna said, standing back, sheathing her knife, and gesturing for him to rise. “You live for the Weyr now.”
J’keran rose slowly and knelt before her, head bowed, ignoring the drop of blood that had spilled to the ground.
“Wingleader, my life is yours,” he said.

Cocowhat by depizan

Uh, wait, at what point did that rule come into existence? Has it always been thus, and we’ve just had a lot of dragonriders decide that it’s not worth hitting each other and instead they take their frustrations out on the Holders and everyone else? And also, this seems like the sort of thing where there would be a lot of dead dragonriders if striking another in anger is a death sentence. Everything we’ve seen to this point is a lot of effort to try and make sure that there are not all that many dead dragonriders at all. And also, that whole thing with Fiona and the stuffing suits could have had a lot more effect or be a much more important thing that needed to happen if the penalty was death for striking another dragonrider and Fiona has a bunch of very irritated, very cranky dragonriders who will otherwise be condemning each other to death for going at each other. No, this doesn’t make sense at all, and it feels like there’s something else at work here that the authors haven’t bothered to explain to us – like, I can entirely see the thing being “the punishment is commensurate to the crime, so since you tried to kill Xhinna, J’keran, she gets to control how your life ends,” but this would involve having to talk about politics. Or for X’lerin and K’dan to be visibly doing leadership all throughout this book, such that we have a pattern of what discipline is in the Weyr that can be relied on that isn’t related to what Xhinna has been trying to do. Instead, we get this appearing from a place where the only thing we’ve seen before is the clear expectation that Xhinna will be able to beat the snot out of J’keran when she gets her hands on him, which was never fully explained, either, in any official capacity, but more like something that everyone knows and therefore nobody has to explain to anyone else. So we’re still guessing about all of this.

As for J’keran’s thought processes here, shame is certainly a word that can be used, because it has a meaning that doesn’t actually require J’keran to feel any remorse for what he’s done. This entire sequence feels wrong, because I don’t see J’keran actually being sorry for any of his actions. He’s sorry for how this turned out, and he’s sorry that his discipline is happening publicly in front of people he had hoped to bring to his side and the leadership he had hoped to convince to eventually blame everything on Xhinna. (Which they still will, I’m sure, if something else goes wrong.) He misjudged Xhinna’s competence and ability, yes, and her ability to survive massive wounds, but that doesn’t mean that he thinks of her as anything more than the girl, the blue rider, and the upstart. I expect him to be more upset about the fact that he’s going to be held to whatever punishment he has to go with, because if she had killed him, he would have at least died with honor and being seen as a man. But we’re supposed to believe that this arrogant asshole has seen the error of his ways and now respects Xhinna as a person.

“Heard and witnessed!” the crowd called. Behind him, he heard dragons roar, heard his beautiful, precious Perinth among them. He would live. He could fly again, fight Thread as he was meant to do.
He glanced up at Xhinna and was surprised when she winked at him, reached down and slipped her forearm behind his, and heaved him to his feet.
“Live long, brown rider,” she told him quietly. As he looked into her deep blue eyes, he saw that she truly meant it.
“Thank you.”
“One more thing,” she said, raising a hand warningly. “You belong to the Weyr, and so for it, I say: You may not drink again unless the Weyrleader gives leave.”
“As you say,” J’keran said, bowing his head once more.
And now, he followed Jepara’s orders without a word, collecting the best scraps from the newly-butchered herdbeasts, placing them in a clean light bowl, finding a wooden hammer, and placing all the items near to Jirana’s hand.
Then, at Jepara’s gesture, he sat and waited as the sun slowly rose into the sky.

This would feel so much more realistic if J’keran recognized that Xhinna is essentially telling him that she wants him to live for a long time so that he’ll stay in this shameful position, at the beck and call of the Weyr, for the rest of his life. He might be glad that he’ll get to do his dragonrider duties, but at this point, he’s farther down on the power list than the green riders are, and for as much of an arrogant asshole that he was before, and how toxically masculine the culture of Pern is, I can’t see him being anything other than royally pissed that he’s been denied his leadership, denied getting to see tradition upheld, denied getting anybody away from Xhinna, and as the final nail in the coffin, denied both an honorable death and the ability to drink away the pain. It’s not impossible that J’keran is a different person, like V’lex was insisting, but there has to be a lot more work done in that regard to make me believe it than what we’ve been shown.

(If he really is changed, and to this degree, then Xhinna got Jepara again by giving her another person who won’t sass her and give her what she wants in underlings. But I still don’t really believe that at all about him.)

Getting back to the plot, right after this, Laspanth hatches, and wouldn’t you know it, she’s a gold dragon, all the same, proving that the greens can produce gold (and presumably bronze) dragons after all. (I misread things earlier, clearly. “Green queen” apparently refers to golds that have hatched from greens, not greens that have hatched and then get to have eggs. I’ll have to fix wherever I’ve been wrong about that in earlier posts.) And with Laspanth’s arrival, and being fed, everyone rejoices about the idea that the dragons are saved, even though neither Jirana nor Xhinna wants to take the credit that the other is trying to foist on them. And with that, Book One comes to a close, almost 75% of the way into the novel.

Book Two is called The Sky Dragons, and there’s a timeskip that happens in this space before we pick back up with Chapter 16, because Fiona’s arrived.

Chapter 16: The Battle of Friends

This is a very short chapter, and it starts with Xhinna and Fiona fighting with wooden swords and Xhinna complaining that even though it’s “soft wood”, it still hurts when she gets hit by Fiona in the chest, despite the padded leather armor. Because she’s “got a baby to nurse,” which I’m taking to mean Taria gave birth. Fiona tells Xhinna that that complaint won’t work, because she’s also nursing and Xhinna’s been striking her in the chest at least as much as Fiona’s been giving. The important thing to help us realize just how much time has passed is that Fiona turns to look at the fact that there are two kilometers of eggs on the beach sands, as well as several new Flights worth of dragons. Fiona says there’s two thousand more fighting dragons, and Xhinna mentions 2300 people that have been funneled through Nerra to “rebuild the dragon strength of Pern,” so there might be some support staff there in addition to the queens that are probably not considered part of the fighting dragons, because all of those dragons need space, of course, and people to take care of them. All of this, of course, is still a secret to anybody other than Nerra, which also explains some amount of the devastation that was attributed to the plague and makes it supposedly less terrible, even though it was still very terrible. Having established all of this, and marveled at it, Jirana says that within half a Turn, at most, they’ll all be back in their regular timeline. And there’s a fashion choice that I’m trying to puzzle out.

She [Jirana] wore the light robe that was used as both towel and body covering by so many of the Weyr’s beach worshipers—she’d been part of one of several parties speckled up and down the beach who’d mixed their rest with swimming and sunbathing.

I’m pretty sure it’s not Jirana in a terry cloth bath robe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the authors were thinking about saris and decided they didn’t want to mention them by name, perhaps. Or maybe there’s something else that I’m not thinking of, but it seems interesting that there’s a beach-wear contingent, given how much it’s been an assumed part of dragonrider (and everyone else’s) culture to strip off and take a swim whenever they want to exercise, or wash, or other sorts of things where taking a swim would be a good idea. Before this, though, we haven’t had this idea of both clothing and towel together. It almost suggests like there has been innovation and invention, rather than strict adherence to tradition. Maybe the Sky Weyr has been busting traditions in all sorts of ways.

After this, Jirana looks at Mirressa caring after the babies with “a look of pain” that both Fiona and Xhinna notice and seem to understand the context of, even though we get nothing and instead, it turns out that Xhinna and Fiona are sparring because Jirana saw the future and it’s apparently an essential skill that Xhinna needs to have to avoid a bad future. But Jirana isn’t saying what it is that she’s seen, and so she keeps telling Xhinna she needs to practice more and get better at it. After that, Xhinna plays a little with Xelinan, who is her son, and so that bit earlier about nursing is not for Taria’s baby, but her own, and Xhinna agrees to do a diaper wash in exchange for Mirressa continuing to look after Xelinan. Mirressa apparently has two of her own, but loves babies and looking after them. There’s a big mystery afoot in the Weyr, though, and it’s one that only Xhinna can answer.

“Taria’s got R’ney watching Tarena and Taralin. Don’t you think it’s nice that he’s so helpful?”
“I do,” Xhinna agreed with a slow smile. “But if you think after all these months that you’ll get me to tell you who’s the father, you’re sadly mistaken.”
Mirressa sighed. “It’s just that it’d be a help, you know—”
Xhinna stopped her with a quickly raised hand, then just as quickly returned to her task.
“You’ve got the whole island guessing,” Mirressa persisted.
“Good,” Xhinna said, finishing with Xelinan’s diaper and leaning down to plant a big kiss on his beaming face. “It makes a pleasant diversion and reminds everyone that we are all entitled to our secrets.”
“I suppose,” Mirressa allowed.

In theory, there should be a clue as to who the father is in Xelinan’s name, since boy children have been named in some combination of their parents names. But the narrative has also been very cagey about who the father that Xhinna had in mind would be. And also, apparently, her plan to get someone to impregnate her with a mating flight or something similar worked, and whomever the father of the baby is, he’s not going around claiming that he knocked up the legendary wingleader. Which means he’s either also very content to keep Xhinna’s secret (which seems extremely unlikely, given the bragging bro-culture that Weyrs run on). Which makes me think that Xhinna was remarkably quick about what she wanted, and waited until the father was completely in the mating flight frenzy before getting in, getting what she wanted, and then getting out before the mating flight finished and he came back to himself. Which, like, that’s the sort of thing that should make anyone afraid of Xhinna, because if she can do sex that stealthily, she can probably do anything else equally as well and quietly, so some people should be afraid they’re going to get stabbity-stabbed if they cross the Wingleader.

Mirressa presses Xhinna for information about the upcoming meeting of the leadership team, but Xhinna says she doesn’t know a whole lot anymore, because she “had a baby and am quite happy to let others handle the bigger problems.” Because, with all of those dragons, nobody is relying on a blue rider with excellent leadership and improvisation skills when they have full cohorts of properly colored dragons to fill the ranks with, regardless of their leadership role. Which makes Xhinna happy, because the target’s off her back, at least for now. That said, there’s also a human baby boom going on, and that’s caused a cloth shortage.

rinsing and recycling were more crucial now than ever, now that cloth was in short supply with the added need to provide diapers and baby clothing.
It was an unanticipated side effect of the widespread realization that here on the Western Isle and now, back in time before the Third Pass, was the best time for women who rode blues, green, and queens to complete their families.

Unanticipated side effect, my entire ass. Xhinna was specifically talking about the people trying and succeeding at getting themselves pregnant, and herself being mostly sanguine about this, several chapters ago. The only thing that might have been unanticipated was the rush of people that they needed to get in front of dragons once it was a guarantee that the eggs would not get killed by tunnel snakes before they were able to develop. (Which also makes me wonder how well that operation scaled up. Lots of Mreeow kittens and their handlers and these specific special dragons that can communicate while still in the egg? After a certain point of getting killed by dragons and cats alike, one wonders if the tunnel snakes would learn to give a wide berth of where the dragons are. Then again, there are still humans hunting them at this point, so the tunnel snakes probably aren’t smart enough to recognize the danger zone when they are in it.)

And, while I can’t be sure about this, it seems like it’s more than just Nerra who’s in on the secret of all of this.

“Fair trade” was a phrase borrowed from the traders who had grown in importance and meaning as the inhabitants had outgrown Sky Weyr and overflowed throughout the Western Isle. It was all the result of Xhinna’s simple message, left nearly three Turns back at the Red Butte, […by Tenniz’s grave.] It seemed more than fitting to Fiona, Lorana, and Xhinna that the dragonriders saved by the vision of the trader be willing to borrow from his people’s customs and his bequests—particularly the strange Sights that his daughter, Jirana, had provided.

Well, either that or the dragonriders are perfectly happy with appropriation of trader culture, which is equally as likely as having wholesale imported an entire trader network to the Western Isle to help with the logistics of keeping everyone supplied. But that also basically means that the great conspiracy has more people in it than they would like us to think, even if it would be really smart of Xhinna to have thought of this, specifically because traders don’t interact much and aren’t seen as particularly anything in society, so they would certainly be able to succeed at pulling off all of this without anyone asking questions or trying to dig too deeply. Which also says bad things about how the society thinks of and treats the traders.

Taria arrives promptly, apparently on cue because apparently, whenever Xhinna starts thinking and worrying about Jirana, someone arrives to shift her mind off of Jirana and on to something else. There’s a little bit of worry about what’s going to happen when Laspanth gets old enough to go mating, but Xhinna says Jirana’s not concerned.

“Her queen will be old enough soon.”
That doesn’t worry her,” Xhinna said, recalling a recent conversation with Jirana. “She’ll rise when we’re ready,” Jirana had assured her. Laspanth, the first of six “green queens” was still small for a gold and clearly growing, so perhaps there was no reason to doubt Jirana on this. That hadn’t stopped Fiona from bringing the matter up with Xhinna, nor Xhinna from worrying about it.

But does Fiona bring it up with Jirana, or does she just endlessly fret about it to Xhinna? Because Fiona is also a gold rider, and therefore the person with the most experience about what Jirana’s experience might be like when that time comes. And I somehow doubt that the plan that Xhinna had for educating the greens and blues will fly with the gold riders. Of course, the right answer to this might very well be “sic Jepara on the new gold riders and she’ll make sure they get properly educated, if out of spite more than anything.”

In any case, even though Taria’s been sent as a distraction, she knows it’s not always the most effective option.

“Hrmph!” Taria said. “One, you’re impossible to distract when you’ve your mind on something; and two, if I wanted to distract you, I wouldn’t be talking about it.”
[…there’s more diaper washing…]
The dark-haired rider was right on both counts: Xhinna would not let herself be distracted when she thought something was important; and regardless, no matter how important her thoughts, Taria could always distract her if she really desired.
In the past two Turns their relationship had grown both stronger and freer than Xhinna could possibly have imagined. They no longer needed to be in sight of each other and constantly touching; in fact, they now took joy in being able to recount separate adventures, to revel in the strength of their bonds rather than railing against them.
Xhinna could feel that special connection with Taria, that increased joy in her presence, the knowledge that they were free enough to go their separate ways without fear of hurting each other, and the greater joy that, when they could, they preferred each other’s company above all others. Not that they were exclusive—they couldn’t quite be, because of the nature of their bonds with their dragons. Taria was willing to cheer when Tazith outflew browns to catch other greens; Xhinna was willing to stand in honor as Coranth was caught by another blue. But Xhinna and Taria had learned to adjust and thrive in those situations. What mattered most was what they chose—not what dragon passion compelled.
As it was with them, so it was with the other greens and blues throughout the Western Isle.

Which very much sounds like a mature dragonrider relationship, although there still seems to be a certain amount of “the riders of the dragons that are having sex have to have sex with each other,” rather than being able to make sure that their preferred partner is nearby when the mating flight stuff happens so that while the dragons are having the sex they want, so are the riders. This author still can’t really conceive of allowing Xhinna and Taria and any other nominally-lesbian riders to forego penis in its entirety. Even though he’s writing that idea on the page that what Xhinna and Taria choose is more important than what the dragons are lusting after.

Xhinna and Taria talk a little bit more about what it might be that has Jirana on edge, but get no further at guessing, and we learn what the message was that Xhinna left for everyone saying they were ready for them: Come. Yep, just that one word, left at Red Butte, the second message left, and far enough apart from the first so that the timelines would stay intact.

And at this point, we have a convenient stopping place, because next week, we’re going to actually hear about the politics of what happened when Fiona let the Asshole out of his cage. No one will be surprised that he decided he was going to be an asshole.And it will even be the people who were there telling the story. What it won’t be, however, is the actual scene itself being written in, but a fairly thorough recap. I still think this book would have been better if we’d bounced between present and past with their different problems before this merge point, but at least we’re getting something about how Telgar Weyr was when the old guard came back and thought they could pick up where they left off.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 1st, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who wishes you a better year for this year than last year was.)

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 hoping for a boring and competent year this year, as opposed to the roller-coaster ride of the last. Or for any other reason, really.