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.