Monthly Archives: March 2021

Deconstruction Roundup for March 26, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is currently enjoying a puppy break with a co-worker.)

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 feel like it’s a bit silly for an entity to be considering more fully opening now, when there’s the possibility of a vaccine happening. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Code: Synchronization Points

Last time around, Piemur was made fun of for his appetite, recognized that Menolly has found her niche, and was supposed to go to Nabol, but instead finds himself an unwilling passenger during a dragon fighting Thread. Before the part of the Southern Weyr plot in The White Dragon steals Ramoth’s queen egg, which means Lessa wants some dead dragonriders. In this backdrop, and one of a plot against Jaxom that Piemur is still supposed to gather more information about so it can be thwarted, we pick back up with the action.

Dragon’s Code, Chapter Six: Content Notes:

Which reminds me, that we’re also supposed to believe/remember that dragonriders have a code that they live by, even though it’s never been codified or referred to before now.

Chapter Six begins with a mud-encased dragon and their rider stealing back the stolen queen egg, but the narrative, all throughout this chapter, chooses not to mention that it’s Jaxom and Ruth at work doing this. Those fans with sufficiently long memories or who have done a reread will know immediately that it’s Jaxom and Ruth at work, but someone who is just joining the series would have a little bit of mystery involved as to who this particular dragon and rider is. It’s not really all that important, other than as a sync point of where the previous narrative is, because after this re-thieving, instead of following the mud-covered dragon, we stay with those that the mud-covered dragon stole from. Or, rather,, we stay with Meria and B’naj, who also have a plan to sneak in and steal the egg to give it back to Benden, so there’s a bit of a Gambit Pileup on Aisle Seventh. (Seventh is the name of B’naj’s dragon, which makes me wonder if all of his egg-mates were similarly numerically named.) Because someone else has already swiped the egg, Meria and B’naj want to get more information, just in case the egg is being swiped for some other purpose than to return to Benden. However, Meria and B’naj do not exactly get a pleasant welcome from T’kul and B’zon.

T’kul saw her first. “What are you doing here?” he shouted. “Was it you, healer? Did you take the egg? You traitor!” He was furious. “It was ready to hatch—just another day, maybe two. We could’ve had new blood for the Weyr!” His tone was full of venom, and Salth, his dragon, growled, halting Meria in her tracks as she shook her head in denial.
“Wait, T’kul! B’zon, please, you have to listen to us,” B’naj pleaded, running up to stand beside Meria, arms straight and fisted hands taut on either side of his big, barrel chest. He was a tall man and well known for his strength, but T’kul, swelling with outrage, seemed to tower over him.
“It’s a brave man who lands a mere brown in the path of two bronzes, B’naj. Or a foolish one. Get out of our way!” B’zon, the other bronze rider, hollered. Both bronze dragons hissed and bared their teeth at Seventh, spurred on by the anger and sense of urgency they felt from their riders. The smaller blue dragon, however, stood his ground unflinchingly. [Hang on, didn’t T’kul just say he was a brown?] The bronzes bristled, stamping their feet.
[…Meria and B’naj plead more with the angry bronze dragonriders, trying to convince them that they had good intentions and did a terrible thing…]
“Leave off with your healer platitudes, Meria,” B’zon called snidely. “You left our Weyr of your own free will.” He pointed his index finger at her and then stabbed his chest repeatedly to punctuate his next words. “You mean nothing to us now!” His cruel tone cut through the morning air like a scythe. Meria caught her breath in a single gasp and then looked away. This had been her greatest fear: that she would not be able to get through to them—now, when they needed help the most.

Well, that gives us some more information about what kind of person Meria is, and what apparently she is a Weyr Healer who left Southern. Right, apparently, before the dragons have gotten themselves sick with something that having a practicing Weyr Healer would be a really nice thing to have. Especially since the exiled dragonriders are unlikely to be able to get any bright or promising students from Oldive or the Beastcraft to help them keep their dragons healthy. Assuming, that is, that there’s been sense knocked into some Craft somewhere that they should understand draconic anatomy and the like, which, y’know, given Benden’s isolationist policies, nevermind.

Of course, T’kul and B’zon are not exactly in their rational capacity right now, given that their otherwise-flawless plan of stealing a queen egg and jumping back in time to keep it hidden from Benden has just been blown up by someone and now there are convenient people to rage against standing in front of them trying to dissuade them from feeling their rage. And B’naj adds on that there won’t be any additional opportunities to steal the egg back, because the other Weyrs will be on guard against that tactic happening again.Upon hearing that the egg has been kept for ten days, B’naj and Meria wince, because that length of time demonstrates pretty clearly to Benden what the intent of the Southerners were. Meria realizes that Benden could decide to exact revenge on them and nobody would blink twice at them for doing it.

B’zon broke the silence with the thought that was uppermost in all their minds. “What are we going to do now?” he asked, his tone bleak. “Our dragons are all off color, more than half of them. And none of the greens in our Weyr fly to mate anymore—they’re too old.
“I think I know why the dragons are off color,” Meria declared, trying to sound encouraging. “And it has naught to do with the lack of an active queen.”
“No!” T’kul shouted, his face purple with rage. “You don’t get to do anything now, when it’s too late! I won’t allow you to ease your guilt for abandoning the Weyr!” He stood staring fiercely at Meria for what seemed like an age, and then he turned and mounted Salth without a backward glance. B’zon quickly followed suit and the pair took to the air, climbing into the bright, early-morning sky before finally disappearing into the lightless void of between.

And, that feels like the “greens” there is a misprint as well, like that should be “golds,” since Meria picks up that thread by talking about an absent queen. Unless there’s some sort of thing where dragons that can’t get off end up suffering serious damage to themselves. I would have expected such an idea more from Todd that Gigi, though, honestly.

So, in much the same way that Piemur doesn’t get believed and the plot gets artificially extended because he wasn’t able to rest before having to give his report (after a decision that was out of character for him about safely traveling in the South), we have another artificial plot extension because Meria and B’naj arrive right after T’kul and B’zon have the egg stolen from them, and therefore they’re definitely not in any sort of mental state that would allow them to listen to and accept Meria’s help to get their dragons back to being healthy again. We still don’t know why Meria left, but “hostile work environment” certainly seems like it would be one of the possible reasons why. So we’ve already had two artificial plot extensions in this case.

The plot moves back to the unnamed rider-dragon pair as they fret on how to get the egg back to the right place and time, get observed by fire-lizards, jump into the middle of a Threadfall (where Jaxom gets his Threadscore scar), and then finally get themselves back to the right place and time to deposit the egg before disappearing, mission accomplished. Which we already covered. Then we hop back to Southern, where T’ron has found both his voice and his fury about what just happened.

“You should be flogged by each and every member of this Weyr! What have you done?” he demanded again, his voice rising as he spat out the last word, glaring darkly at Mardra and T’reb, and then at the ashen faces of T’kul and B’zon.
[…The explanation is unsatisfactory to T’ron, who spares a thought for a different outcome while he’s giving them the business…]
It was a pity that B’naj and Meria hadn’t been successful in regaining control of the egg and returning it to Benden. That would have been the best outcome.

Well, that’s interesting. The way it’s passed, it sounds like T’ron knows of and approved Meria and B’naj going to steal the thing back and take it to Benden as an apology for the hotheads in his own ranks. Which would imply much of the shouting and anger is performative, of the “I can’t believe what kind of terrible people you are that you you went ahead with this terrible plan after I tried to warm you off of it!” Except T’ron had left the room before the full plot was unveiled to Mardra, so he did not know directly. (Maybe indirectly, but the narrative says that when T’kul and B’zon come back in a rage, accusing others of stealing the egg away from them, they’re met with blank looks, which is supposed to mean the plan wasn’t intended for general knowledge where T’ron could have overheard it. It’s a tangle.)

T’ron, realizing the entirety of Southern Weyr is hosed by this decision, decides the correct course of action is to flee to some other point in time, where they can hide sufficiently from Benden until everything blows over or they come up with a better plan on how to apologize to Benden for the theft. And we get a lot more about what the code supposedly is that they’ve violated so terribly by stealing the egg, even as T’ron wonders why he “should feel so invigorated in the face of such disaster.”

“You foolish people have breached an inviolable code. Your desperate actions have contravened every fiber of what we are—and debased the valor of all our dragons. This act has undermined the very foundations of our purpose—and our future—violating the code of trust our dragons placed in us from the moment their minds graced ours.”
“But the egg would have saved the Weyr!” B’zon cried.
“And what would have happened when the egg hatched? The Weyrs in the north would have retaliated. Think about it! Our fragile order would’ve fallen asunder with tit-for-tat squabbling that would escalate among the riders into outright fighting, pushing the dragons to the point of combat! Then our focus would get skewed from our true purpose and, quite possibly, Threadfall would go unchecked. Imagine the devastation. Can you?
“If Thread were to gain the upper hand and be allowed to fall unchecked, it could ruin a Holder’s entire crop, leave us short of food supplies, burrow underground, and spread. That would lead to more arguing, blame laying, fighting, until the very fabric of the Weyrs, the Holds, and the Crafts would be irreperably rent.”
“But they have the egg! They took it back!” Mardra cried, her features contorting in anguish.
“And you still cannot see what you have done?” T’ron shouted, shaking his head. The dragonriders looked at their Weyrleader, varying degrees of defiance mingling with confusion on their faces.
“You may have defeated our defenders!” T’ron roared, glaring from T’kul to Mardra and then to B’zon and T’reb.
Shouts rose from the dragonriders outside, and scores more dragons joined in. Mardra suddenly seemed to understand the import of T’ron’s words, for her shoulders drooped and she covered her face with her hands. T’kul stood immobile next to her, slowly shaking his head as if the true outcome of their actions was finally resolving into a clear picture in his mind.
Once a proud and respected member of her Weyr, Mardra reacted as if wounded, the cries from the riders outside seeming to cripple her, and as if all the stuffing had been knocked out of her with one invisible blow, she crumpled to the floor. Her hands slid from her face as she wept, and Loranth, feeling her rider’s dreadful despair, keened loudly in response. All the dragons, nearly twelvescore of them, added their voices to Loranth’s lament, filling the air with the shocking, heartrending sound of their anguish.
T’ron stood motionless, appalled to see the woman who’d once helped him lead Pern’s oldest Weyr through Turns of fighting Thread so thoroughly undone. T’kul knelt beside her, his face suffused with shock.

So, we’re supposed to believe that the dragon’s code is a non-aggression pact? That no matter what happens and matter how much everyone might hate everyone else, they’re never going to do anything directly about it? That…would explain a surprising amount of why nobody ever does anything despite the large and mounting evidence count that their leaders are incompetent and need to be dealt with for the good of everyone. If they really believe that the entire society will be torn asunder at the slightest reciprocated provocation from one Weyr to another, because they’ll be too busy fighting each other to fight Thread, then I can’t say all that much good about the stability of the famed unchanging society. Additionally, there haven’t exactly been people on Pern or accepted channels on Pern for people who have issues with each other to get them worked out, assuming they’re on the same level of privilege. Dueling seems to be the first, last, and only resort for when something has become intolerable, and when duels happen, people end up dead. And then revenge cycles start. It’s almost like there should have long since been a resurgence of the profession of the lawyer/legist/diplomat, and not in the half-assed way that the Harpers are in 2.0 Ninth Pass, and, as is the perpetual complaint around here, the presence of the psychologist and therapist (and probably several of the cottage industries that spring up around the idea of wellness, whether they think of it as something that psychoactive chemicals can help with or rigorous training and discipline of the mind and body, or that being able to talk out their issues with a nonjudgmental figure will help them come to making decisions and dealing with the traumas of life.)

Also, I definitely don’t get the “defeated our defenders” remark, unless we’re supposed to understand, entirely from context and/or previous reading, that the other time-skipped are the people likeliest to come to Southern’s aid if Benden should decide that exile isn’t good enough for the Southerners and decide they want to do something more permanent. And that by stealing the egg from Benden, the Southerners have placed themselves beyond the pale and become acceptable targets for Benden’s wrath. Possibly even to the point where not only are they acceptable targets, but Benden will be forced to come after them to preserve their own honor after the stealing of the egg. If that’s the case, though, they could have been a lot less cryptic about it. The way it’s written, it could easily be read that T’ron thinks that Benden is their best defender against further issues. Which is nonsensical, but editors, people.

After T’ron delivers his decision, the action swaps back to Piemur, who is contemplating both the horrors of the Threadfall he just went through and the greater horror yet of dragons fighting each other. Piemur also tries to sneak something new into the 3.0 revision that hasn’t been there before:

Piemur knew that if any Weyr fell short of its necessary complement of dragons, the deficiency was made up whenever possible by the other Weyrs. Weyrleaders only had to make the request, and the required dragons were moved accordingly, even queens.

Without the slightest hint of self-recognition that such a request might only be honored if their Weyrleader is on good terms with another Weyr that they’re willing to lend you the dragons. Piemur assumes that it’ll just happen, apparently including exiled dragonriders. (And, even though the comment section disagrees with me, I…wouldn’t put it past a Weyrleader to want to get rid of a troublesome queen rider (or to try and break a headstrong one) by sending her down to Southern so that she will be grateful for her own Weyr’s assholery in comparison to what happens at Southern.

Piemur recalled the Masterharper and Sebell discussing how F’lar had instigated the revision of antiquated practices. Despite the resistance from some of the [time-skipped], F’lar’s foresight had improved how the Weyrs functioned, and especially how they interacted with one another and with the other societal groups. From what Piemur knew, all the Weyrs except Southern were up to fighting strength, and although none of them, apart from Benden, had a clutch of eggs currently hardening on their Hatching Grounds, the queens in the other Weyrs were all in good health.

Instigating revisions sounds a lot like “Look, you lot, you can’t just go around everywhere taking whatever and whoever you want, we have to keep the people happy, pay no attention to all of the ways I’ve been a hypocrite about this up to this point.” The time-skipped are probably skeptical, because they didn’t do any such thing, and they got along perfectly fine with their Holds and Crafts by keeping them in complete terror of what dragons and dragonriders could do to them, or allow to happen to them, but the Benden Weyrleader wins out, and perhaps, very slowly, the time-skipped that went along with him realize that it’s actually kind of nice not having to intimidate everyone all the time.

As it is, Piemur realizes he’s spoken a lie about all the other queens being in good health, and he pieces together all the bits he’s heard to come to the conclusion that the South really did steal the egg. He sends for Farli to take a message to Robinton outlining his conclusions, but Farli and another gold fire-lizard arrive, Farli with a message attached to her and both fire-lizards with pictures of angry dragons in their heads. The message is from “S”, who Piemur takes to mean Sebell, and says that the egg is safe and for Piemur to stay put and wait for him to arrive. Piemur is ecstatic at this, thinking it means the Southerners came to their senses and returned the egg. When J’hon comes by later, with provisions and clothes for Piemur, along with a different message from Sebell, his news is that Benden has mounted a full guard on the Hatching Ground after the theft and return of the egg, that tensions are still high, because nobody saw anyone return the egg, oh, and also, that the Southerners can’t be contacted by Ramoth, who can “speak with every dragon, in every Weyr.” (That’s new.) Which we know is “they’ve gone to some other time period to figure this out” and, if we remember Moreta, Lorana, or Fiona, we know there are ways of disappearing from the senses of other dragons, and almost all of them involve hyperspace and/or time travel. Not that Piemur knows, or should know, this, since time travel is theoretically the biggest secret of the dragons. He can’t logic his way through their actions, though.

Why right a wrong—return the egg—and then go into hiding? With the theft of the egg, the Southern [time-skipped] had put themselves in an impossible position, but disappearing into thin air only made them appear guilty of something more. What had they been thinking? Piemur knew exactly what it felt like to be on the fringes, part of something yet not, included and discarded, all at the same time. Shards! Didn’t the [time-skipped] know they could never fit in if they stayed in hiding?

Spoken like someone without an ounce of self-awareness in their own head. And, also, someone who doesn’t fully understand the situation that he’s supposedly been observing, because exile’s not “go away for a few years, then come back when you’ve paid your debt to society” on Pern. It’s a death sentence and full exclusion, and Piemur doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to.
J’hon explains the new protocols requiring all incoming dragons to announce themselves and Lessa’s blanket ban on fire-lizards, since someone’s fire-lizards were used to spy on Ramoth and alert the thieves when she was away feeding so they could steal the egg. Piemur needs this explained in detail to him, and then he has context for Farli’s images of angry, flaming dragons, which he dismisses as fire-lizards being silly. J’hon says it’s not as silly as he thinks, because there are angry dragons around, and the chapter ends.

So Piemur’s had two near-death experiences with Threadfall at this point in the book, which I think makes him the leader of non-dragonriders who have had fully-described close calls with the stuff across the series, since we can add one more from Dragondrums.

We’re halfway through the book and we haven’t even really started the “plot against Jaxom” bit, instead choosing to look at the B-side of the early parts of The White Dragon. It’s filler, because conveniently, nobody believed Piemur when he said Southern Weyr was planning something, and conveniently, the people that Meida tried to convince about the sickness of the dragons were the just-enraged riders who had the egg they stole stolen back from them. This book seems to be something that’s trying its best to follow the already laid-out timeline and find something to fill it with, rather than starting at this point here, after the egg has been returned, after the dragonriders have vanished, right when the plot against Jaxom is starting to crescendo. Here’s the spot where Piemur is ready for action, rather than spending his time lamenting his inability to sing and otherwise marking time.

So next week, we not only start the second half of Dragon’s Code, we start the actual book.

Deconstruction Roundup for March 19, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is currently enjoying a puppy break with a co-worker.)

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 feel like it’s a bit silly for an entity to be considering more fully opening now, when there’s the possibility of a vaccine happening. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Code: Getting On With The Plot

Last time, everyone else recognized that the plot Piemur was overhearing involved not Crom, but Ruatha, and did their best to provide Jaxom with more protection against attackers, while telling Piemur that he gets to go on assignment to Nabol and pick up additional intelligence about that plot, since the current Harper got made on his assignment.

Dragon’s Code: Chapter Five: Content Notes:

To break up the serious bits, Chapter Five shifts us over to Piemur at the dining hall, where Silvina good-naturedly calls him a walking stomach and says she’s going to need to call in for more food if he’s staying for any amount of time.

“Ah, here, Silvina, it’s only a bite to eat,” Piemur said through a mouthful of wherry meat as he looked over his shoulder at Fort’s headwoman.
“That’s what I’m worried about, lad: If the whopping great mound of food I see on your plate is only a ‘bite,’ I’d hate to see what you call a meal these days!”
“But it tastes so good, Silvina. I never cease to wonder how Cook always makes such scrumptious food,” Piemur said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, Silvina produced a small square of cloth and deftly draped it across Piemur’s lap as she sat down next to him on the long bench. He took the hint and raised the cloth in his hand, making a big show of daintily dabbing at the corners of his mouth to prove to Silvina that all her Turns of trying to knock manners into him had actually paid off.
“It’s good to see you, Piemur,” Silvina said with real warmth in her voice, briefly resting a hand on Piemur’s shoulder. “It’s been alarmingly quiet around here without you.”

So not only do we have Piemur as the stereotypical teenage boy with a bottomless appetite, he’s apparently the teenager who doesn’t have any manners and doesn’t understand how to use a napkin. (Or, more properly, doesn’t bother with his manners because he’s a teenage boy.) I feel like this is the first time I’ve seen anything like a linen napkin or similar in this series with regard to the Harper Hall. The platters of meats and the feasting, yes, but maybe I’m doing that thing where I fill in details from my own studies about what I would expect a place like Pern to use (trencher bread) rather than letting the narrative convince me that the Harpers all learn to eat with the same grace and manners of Lords and Ladies because they’re likely going to end up doing so and they don’t want to appear rude or uncivilized. (And possibly the other guilds do, as well.)

Silvina asks after Farli, surprised she’s not here with him. Piemur thinks she’s with Stupid, and Silvina chides Piemur for coming to the food before taking a bath to wash off the smell of the road, specifically telling him that’s where his next stop should be before bed. Or going to see Menolly, since she’s been marking papers for Domick for a while and could use a break. And also that there will be bubbleberry pies with the evening meal.

This seems a softer characterization than the Silvina of before, who was much less joking about everything as she made sure the Hall ran well (because she’s the Hall’s Headwoman, not Fort Hold’s, as she is described in that passage. There’s a fair bit of conflating Diet Holds and the Harper Hall here.) and who didn’t seem all that fond of Piemur’s tendency to get himself in trouble. But it’s possible that Piemur has become less irritating to her in his absence, so she can be fond of him when he returns. I’m not really fond of her making jokes about his appetite, either, since it seems like there would be plenty of other things to joke about, rather than the stereotypes of a teenage boy.

Piemur takes Silvina’s advice, though, and gets himself cleaned up and into a different change of clothes before going to see Menolly. Who is happy for the distraction. And also calls him Pie, which still makes me blink and also reminds me that I’m supposed to pronounce his name differently in my head than I have been for years. He calls her “Loll” in return, which makes even less sense as a nickname for her. “Noll” I would believe, and maybe this is a typographic error, except he does it again not to soon afterward, so it’s not a typo. But it doesn’t make sense how that became her nickname.

Piemur asks about the current crop of apprentices and Menolly says there’s “A few bright ones know their stuff backward, and there’s the rest, who’ll be good musicians but never truly outstanding,” and I want to know by what standards Menolly is judging this lot, because she’s an expert, surrounded by experts, and there’s a good chance her idea of what’s “good” versus what’s “outstanding” is supremely skewed by the fact that she has the best musicians in the world as her fellows and as the instructors.

Piemur also sees Menolly in a different light after she remarks that he finally managed to get taller than her (since Piemur was one of the shortest apprentices, we remind ourselves), but it manages to both avoid being about her physicality and her sexuality, which is pretty rare for a Pern book.

Menolly’s appearance had changed, too, Piemur reckoned. She was no longer the shy, gangly, all-arms-and-legs girl he’d befriended when she’d first arrived at the Harper Hall. Her curly dark-brown hair and sea-green eyes were the same, but there was something different about her, something he couldn’t identify. And then it dawned on him: Menolly looked completely at ease. She had once been the new girl who was treated as an outcast: maybe because she came from a seafaring hold, maybe because she had an unusually large number of fire-lizards answering to her. Now as Piemur looked at his friend he saw that she was truly content, comfortable with her life. She’s found the place where she belongs, he mused.

I’m curious about this as well, because it seems unlikely that Menolly would be able to sit in a comfortable position at the Hall without some backing from, say, Robinton. Or someone else with enough clout to punish or dismiss people who thought Menolly couldn’t be anything because she was a girl. Did Morshal find himself assigned to another location once it became clear Menolly was starting and was bringing more girls in? Does Shonagar have to change his methods of beratement and verbal abuse when there are girls in his class? Did all of Menolly’s problems get handled, mostly quietly and outside of her view, by others? Or is it, like it was in earlier books, that Menolly has learned the ways of the Hall and how to apply them so well that she’s basically one of the guys now, and that allows her to be content and secure in her position, as opposed to being sniped at from both students and faculty?

The plot continues with Menolly asking Piemur to sing along with her fire lizard fair in their vocal exercises, something Piemur declines, claiming his attempts at singing still end in him croaking, but he does appreciate the music they make and he tries to hide his panic at being asked to sing from Menolly. After that, they discuss Piemur’s intelligence and what Robinton intends to do with it, along with his assignment to go into Nabol. (Piemur complains about the entire Hold and region, melodramatically, according to himself, but it does help him and Menolly smile.)

Piemur wakes up to drum messages, most of which are regular business, although he takes time to sardonically comment on a request on one:

a group of holders from Keroon offering to barter, to anyone and everyone, sackloads of tubers from their bumper crop, for literally anything else that was on offer. Piemur smiled: Trust that lot from Keroon to always want what they don’t have!

Cocowhat by depizan

That doesn’t make any sense at all! There’s an excess from Keroon and they’re trying to trade that extra for goods they don’t have. It’s not like there’s a worldwide market where the Keroonians could already see that, say, Bitra and Telgar are looking for tubers at a specific price that Keroon can decide whether or not they want to sell at that price or negotiate more. The trader trains that go through Keroon might already have enough tubers, and so do all their other stops, and it’s not like anyone here has advanced refrigeration and storage technology, such that they could sell their excess to a warehouse or store their excess in a warehouse until there was demand again. Piemur 1.0 was characterized as someone on the lookout for a quick mark or a bit of a grift, which would make him more likely to go “tough market” rather than, “lol, greedy Keroonians”, unless there’s something in his backstory that imparted that attitude. And if there is, that needs to be shown. It’s not.

What the narrative wants to tell us, though, is the message from Igen saying the expected Threadfall hadn’t happened, and then a chime telling Piemur he’s going to be late for his meeting with J’hon to go to Nabol. The next few paragraphs are the textual equivalent of the sequence where someone is trying to get to their destination and have all of these obstacles that get in their way, as they try to eat what scant breakfast (bread and cheese, in Piemur’s case) they’ve scooped up into their hands while they run. Before Piemur barrels into the Weyr bowl, and then we stop for a few paragraphs as Piemur marvels at the preparations being made and how neither dragons nor riders collide or get in each other’s way in their dance of preparation.

All of Piemur’s rush turns out to be for nothing, because the off-schedule Igen fall has the Fort contingent choosing to go up earlier than scheduled so they don’t get caught out-of-phase. N’ton apologizes to Piemur after explaining this, and Piemur settles in to wait. It’s only a couple hours (suspicious to Piemur, because Threadfall runs last longer than that) before a messenger arrives and says J’hon is ready to take Piemur to Nabol. In the subsequent conversation, J’hon complains that they’re out of sequence, as well, and N’ton sent the majority of the riders back to Fort on standby, ready to go when Thread does actually fall.

So Piemur gets sent to Nabol, and we get a description of what it’s like for him to traverse the void of hyperspace.

Yet there wasn’t anything that could prepare Piemur adequately for the silent nothingness, or the panic that rose up in him as all sensations fell away, sparing him nothing, not even the comfort of touch. They seemed to hang there, and time, too, played out strangely between. Although Piemur knew they would emerge into daylight in the same amount of time it would take him to count to three, those few moments always felt like hours. Just when he thought he couldn’t bear it any longer, they burst out into the skies southwest of Nabol Hold.

Which is a very different experience of the space for the dragonrider, as they seem to be able to move, think, and otherwise treat hyperspace like it were normal, apart from the occasional time knot or ghost of a dragonrider appearing to them for plot purposes. Piemur doesn’t even get the comforting reminder that he’s riding on a dragon, apparently, just a complete lack of external input that lasts for slightly longer than an eternity, even if it only actually lasts for about eight seconds or so. Now I wonder whether that’s the same feeling for other passengers. It certainly makes the “good job, lad, you didn’t wet yourself on your first trip through hyperspace” comment from Ninth Pass 2.0’s Masterharper of Pern more relevant and sensical.

The danger hasn’t passed, though, because J’hon and Piemur pop out at Nabol during a Threadfall. Which springs J’hon and Mirth into immediate action to fight the stuff, rather than them trying to find a safe place to set Piemur down before vaulting off to fight. Instead, Piemur has to go through the roller coaster ride of a dragon actively engaged in fighting Thread, which has Piemur wonder both “how dragonriders remained hale and hearty when they endured such aggressive airborne maneuvers” and “moving so fast and changing direction at such high speed that Piemur thought his arms might be ripped from their sockets.” Which, y’know, fighter pilots have specific things to help them deal with the intensity of the G-forces involved. Pern seems to have lap bars like the whole thing is a roller-coaster ride instead, and we’ve seen how effective those things are when queen riders are supposed to let others die and keep themselves alive.

At a point during the Threadfall, Piemur notices a sliver of Thread landing on his bag, and in sheer terror, shucks it off, before realizing that might allow for a burrow to happen, but Mirth tracks and flames it before the Thread-infested bag can touch the ground. At that point, the help that J’hon has called for arrives, and Piemur gets an up-close view of what it looks like for dragons to fight Thread. After the fighting’s finished, J’hon takes Piemur to Nabol, as promised, but because of the delay, Piemur’s contact isn’t present. While they think about what the best course of action for that is, the news comes through that Ramoth’s queen egg has been stolen and the gold dragon is out for blood. As is her rider. But then we have Piemur’s 3.0 characterization show up again, and it actively gets in the way of the narrative.

“But I don’t understand, J’hon, there must be some mistake. Who would steal the queen egg?” Piemur asked, still holding on to the dragonrider’s arm. Mirth bugled again loudly.
“It could only be the [time-skipped]—the exiled ones down in the south. Their queens no longer rise to mate, and their bronzes are dying off.”
Piemur shook his head as he stared, disbelieving at the shocked dragonrider.
“With the illegal trading they’ve been doing—and all those covert raids and routing parties, plus the endless flouting of our ways and customs—the [time-skipped] have been doing everything they can to get the attention of the Weyrs in the north. It’s as if they actually want to incite discord among us.”
“But I can’t believe it, J’hon. Tehre must be some mistake. Some way you can settle this—;you’re all guardians, after all.”

Ninth Pass 3.0 Piemur’s credulity stings pretty hard in this time and era, especially for a reader in the United States, even before the worst that was yet to come from our era, because this argument sounds exactly like the one from self-described “centrists” who wanted (and still want) the two political divisions to be able to come together and forge partnerships and be able to professionally get along, when it’s become not just clear but brazenly obvious that one side believes “bipartisanship” means “we get what we want and you suffer and die” and the other is trying desperately to find any excuse they can not to believe this, because they believe fighting back against that threat will only make them look bad, rather than the real data that says their supporters want them to fight back hard, because their lives are at stake.

It’s also wrong for Ninth Pass 1.0 Piemur, who would have taken this new piece of information and put it together with his own information and been able to deduce the shape of the plot that’s just happened, because 1.0 Piemur is already pretty hardened against the idea that the exiled dragonriders are honorable or otherwise worthy of any part of his respect. (3.0 Piemur will get to it in the next chapter.) Instead, we have someone confronted with the reality of their times and choosing to disbelieve it, because it doesn’t fit their own mental model. Which, regrettably, is also pretty accurate about humans, and especially humans who are deeply invested in certain things being true because it’s a fundamental part of their mental model of everything. As it does with people who are very deep into the wickets of a conspiracy theory, evidence that they’re wrong reinforces Piemur’s belief that it’s a mistake, instead of dispelling it.

“And they’ve betrayed us, Piemur. Betrayed our code!” J’hon shouted, giving full voice to his anger and outrage.
Piemur stared at the young wingsecond, slowly shaking his head in denial.
“Don’t you see? It’s as if they’ve stolen a newborn child from his parents, Piemur! Stolen the most precious, the most revered among us. They’ve been fighting every little improvement we’ve brought about, always flouting the changes we’ve made. And even though all of us look to Benden as the premier Weyr, they refuse to do so. Now this, Piemur! It’s absolutely the final straw!”
[…Piemur continues to play the part of the disbeliever…]
“They’re trying to force our hand, Piemur! They want to go back to their old ways—the way they lived four hundred Turns ago! And they’re trying to force Benden’s hand to step down, to yield to them.” Mirth turned his head toward J’hon, who locked eyes with him.
“What is it? What’s he saying now?” Piemur asked.
“They’re talking about dragon fighting dragon!”
“No!” Piemur cried. “Dragons don’t fight one another!”

J’hon is being recalled by N’ton’ or possibly, Mirth is being recalled by Ramoth or a similar queen summons, for obvious reasons, so the conversation stops there, leaving Piemur to contemplate the horrors of dragons fighting dragons by himself. Or, he will be in the next chapter, as J’hon and Mirth disappearing into hyperspace is the end of Chapter Five.

Also, here’s the graft that we’re not supposed to notice too terribly, even though it’s a call to the title of the book. Before this, there’s never been reference to a dragonrider code, whether formalized or informal. There have been rules of behavior, and consistent decisions made about who gets enriched and who gets disempowered, but there’s never been any mention that every dragonrider who signs on has a set of principles and ethics that they have to obey or they risk being thrown out of the club. Quite the opposite, actually, as more than a few Weyrleaders have condoned or perpetrated acts that would have rightfully gotten them Shunned or executed on the spot, had they not been dragonriders. So, no, I don’t think there are oaths or ethics or other things that are formalized in any sort of way with regard to dragonriders, because that would mean there were mechanisms of discipline and of giving discipline to those who transgressed that were something other than “whatever someone of a higher color, rank, or the Weyrleader/Weyrwoman think is appropriate for you, so don’t aggravate them.” At least the Lords own it by having a court process, and 2.0 Ninth Pass has the petitions and appeals process that goes through the Harpers, for what good that does. The dragonriders have always at least implicitly been “we don’t have to follow rules, because we’ve got great big fucking dragons,” even if they hint at things like “don’t aggravate a queen dragon or her rider” as a possible check on them.

We’ll be seeing more references to this unstated and unformalized set of beliefs and actions that all dragonriders just know and have internalized as we go along, as it’s the parallel track to the Dragondrums/White Dragon narrative that’s happening in the next theater over. So, it’s probably going to be an exercise in futility, but we should probably pay attention to what is apparently part of this Dragon’s Code. Right now, as best I can tell, it’s composed of a few statements:

  1. Dragonriders are better than everyone else and don’t have to follow any of their rules or social conventions.
  2. Dragonriders don’t fight each other.
  3. Dragonriders don’t steal another queen’s egg(s).

And that’s basically it. We’ll see if there’s anything more to add to it by the time we get done.

(And also, there’s still nothing stopping the dissatisfied from warping themselves back to their own time, unless they already know that the sickness affecting their dragons affects their time-sense.)

Deconstruction Roundup for March 12, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is contemplating what happens after they run out of Pern to spork.)

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 feel like there will be energy to do things again once those countries that failed to handle their pandemics well manage to struggle back up to functioning. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Code: Still Rehashing Everything

Last time around, rather than being taken seriously, Toric, Robinton, and Sebell assumed that Piemur’s story of a plot between dragonriders and men of Nabol was fever speech from being out in the sun too long, and Piemur was reassigned to map more. While climbing a cliff to map it, however, he finds himself caught out in the middle of Threadfall, and has to be rescued by N’ton, which results in him taking a splashdown.

And thus, having lost the opportunity to kill this plot before it gets going, we continue on in this book.

Dragon’s Code, Chapter Four: Content Notes:

Chapter Four opens with information about the grubs that keep the South free of Thread and that allow both Southern Weyr and Southern Hold to be constructed on more spacious ideas and with greater vegetation around, because the grubs have also imparted the self-healing ability we saw the trees and plants have when the Brown Rider Rapist was on his stint here. The narrative puts up a good question and leaves it hanging there for us (or itself) to try and answer.

To any casual observer, the dragons and riders of Southern should have been content with their lot, living in a tropical paradise away from what they viewed as meddling by Benden Weyr and the other northern Weyrs, but that was not the case. A small group of men were deeply dissatisfied with their lives in the Weyr, ill at ease and increasingly dogged in their wish for change. Their disquiet could be felt as a palpable energy by the other members of the Weyr and was beginning to fester and spread, like a disease. It didn’t help that so many dragons were actually ill, poisoned by their ill-fated attempt at mining firestone. Now a heated debate spilled out of the open windows of the Weyrwoman’s quarters, easily audible for any weyrfolk to hear.

So what is the trouble in paradise? T’ron (marked as Southern Weyrleader, although in this argument it feels like T’kul is the one in charge, honestly) and his faction feel going forward in time was a complete mistake, given the situation the Southern Weyr is in. T’kul counters with the argument that the dragonriders were already starting to feel itchy to do something and have meaningful purpose when Lessa came back to fetch them, loath as he is to admit that Lessa was right about that. T’ron remains unconvinced and blames the heat for the ill health of the dragonriders, which the narrative has already told us is wrong.

Mardra, however, is sick of the circularness of the argument and has a practical solution to propose.

“It’s not one thing or the other,” Mardra said. “We should’ve broached these concerns with Benden long ago. I’ve told you this already!” She glared first at one man and then the other, a thinly veiled look of contempt in her expression. “Your perverse desire to protect the autonomy of the Weyr has pushed us all too far!” An uneasy silence followed before she spoke again.
“Relations between our Weyr and Benden are now at an irrevocable low, and they, most likely, would not aid us now even if we possessed the gumption to swallow our pride and ask for help!” Mardra’s tone was reproachful. She began to pace the length of the table with slow, deliberate steps, her arms crossed in front of her body, hands holding opposite elbows, a bitter expression on her face.
“But what should we do?” T’ron asked, looking first at T’kul and then to Mardra, an air of desperation in his tone.
“Must I hear that question again and again, until I fear my ears might bleed?” Mardra snapped, staring skyward, a note of disgust in her voice.
T’ron rubbed the middle of his abdomen distractedly. “We should never have come forward, my friends. I’m sorry. Isn’t hindsight a curse?” He shook his head, his shoulders bent forward, as if he carried a mssive burden.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated, not looking at the others as he quickly left the room.

Nobody seems willing to take Mardra up on her offer, though, and even try to open negotiations again with Benden. Now, it’s entirely likely that Mardra is right and that Benden isn’t really going to offer much help, but the Benden Weyrleaders I remember would probably have Lessa saying that it’s better to let the Southerners die out completely and her partner saying that such an act would be uncharitable. Something to the order of “dragonrider bros before hos”, even if not expressed that vulgarly. Also, unless all of them were involved in the poisoning incident in the mine, there’s nothing really stopping the people who feel they’ve been given a raw deal from warping themselves away back to the time period they left. Apart from the Question Song, really, and even if a small amount of dragonriders reappeared after a few years and lived out their lives to the end as part of Benden, or as small Weyrs of their own, assisted as much as possible by Benden, by the time of the end of the Long Interval, there still would only be the one Weyr left and Lessa would still be trying to retrieve dragonriders from her past into their future. There’s no causality problem with dragons hopping themselves back in time along the same pathway that they warped forward on so as to get the kind of retirement they think they deserve. If that happened, then the neatly pointed-out discrepancy of “within five generations” could become accurate for this Ninth Pass, rather than completely wrong, as the retired dragons held on, perhaps, for another generation or two until they finally died out and Benden withdrew their support staff back to themselves to focus on keeping one Weyr alive, instead of trying to support all of them. So, barring the convenient excuse of all of those who want to go back being sick enough that doing a time warp would be inadvisable, there’s nothing stopping them from going back.

After T’ron leaves, Mardra and T’kul confirm with each other that there will be no new eggs on the sands, given that Loranth’s last clutch had clear genetic defects (not that they know enough about genes to call it that, but it seems to be that dragons have many of the same problems as human women when it comes to late-age pregnancies and the complications that come from that due to the age of the eggs) and that Merika’s queen won’t be able to do anything of the sort, either. T’kul then pulls in T’reb to explain the plan he’s hatched with the men of Nabol.

“They want us to help them take land of their own. Up in the north, near Nabol. They know the young lord of Ruatha has not yet been confirmed, so his lands would be in contention if he were to suffer a misadventure.”
“Jaxom?” Mardra asked. “Wasn’t his sire that upstart Fax? The man who took whatever he wanted?” T’kul and T’reb both nodded. “Jaxom’s that hold-bred youngling who cracked the unhatched egg on Benden’s sands several Turns ago.”
“That’s correct, Weyrwoman. The egg bore a white dragon.”
“An aberration if there was one,” Mardra exclaimed, her lips curling back from her teeth in distaste. “The egg should have been left unhatched!”
“No one has ever heard of a Lord Holder being a dragonrider, Weyrwoman. The men from Nabol think it vastly unfair that the young Ruathan lord has been allowed to keep his lands and have a dragon. Of course, Benden has sanctioned this—with Lessa’s connection to the lad.”
One of Mardra’s brows rose up. “And what do they expect us to do?”
“They want help disposing of Jaxom so they can take his lands in a coup. If he’s dead, his runt of a dragon will fly between and suicide. No loss to any of the Weyrs, to my reckoning.”
[…Mardra asks if they’ve already agreed to it, and what they’d be getting in return. T’reb explains that there’s a queen egg hardening on Benden’s sands right now, which would be no trouble to steal, which would be only right and fair for them to take for saving the hides of Benden and all “their precious upstart crafters and holders”, and he’s already picked out an excellent hiding spot to keep the egg until it’s ready to hatch. Mardra is not fully on board with this plan, even when she eventually assents to it…]
“Do you have any idea what would happen if we got caught?” Mardra asked, clasping her hands together, her fear supplanted by the burgeoning possibility of hope. She knew then, as she uttered those words, that she had given her full approval and commitment to an unheard-of and deeply deplorable act.

Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about characterization here, compared to Ninth Pass 1.0, which we are supposed to believe this integrates with. The Mardra that was part of Dragondrums, especially, seemed to be much haughtier and concerned about the quality of good she was being shipped, and T’ron was much more strident about a lot of things (and he tried to knife the Benden Weyrleader to avoid having his own power usurped). So this much more apologetic T’ron, and a Mardra who has reservations about swiping the dragon egg, is a much more sympathetic portrayal of them than was previously put into play. This author feels that the time-skipped were treated unfairly by Benden and is trying to make them a much more sympathetic bunch, even as she keeps them on the rails of the plot that the White Dragon has already sketched out.

Which, y’know, for 2018, really stings. Like, in the US, it’s the middle of an administration that was put into power with the deliberate intention of reifying and reinforcing WASP hegemony, and in the UK, there’s a government in place that wants to relive the glory days of Empire and separate themselves from a economic union that’s good for them, because they don’t want to feel beholden to anyone who isn’t them and have to do anything other than reify the WASP hegemony. Plus, although we’re a year ahead of Jeannette Ng delivering a well-deserved scorching of John W. Campbell in her acceptance speech for what is now the Astounding Award, we’re definitely in the space and time where a wildly popular author of a wizarding boarding school series has very firmly thrown her lot in with trans-exclusionary radicals. (Although the comic of the League of Disappointing Authors that first came to mind is from the end of 2019, so maybe I’m ahead of myself, but I don’t think I am.) So, an author that is giving space and sympathy to the people who are ultimately going to participate in stealing a dragon egg because they feel entitled to it and giving aid and assistance (or at least agreeing to it) to killing a child because he’s straddling two worlds that hate him equally and so that his lands can be usurped by others is not exactly landing well to me. And in this space and time of 02021 in the United States, where we had an armed insurrection in the service of trying to preserve an overt WASP hegemony despite the lawful election of someone else, and the entire amount of the Black Lives Matter movement in 02020 and the continual and clear complicity and active assistance the police give to maintaining that hegemony, as well as a response to a pandemic where people were deliberately left to die because they weren’t going to vote for, kiss the ring of, or the ass of, that hegemony and meekly accept their place as chattel and untouchable-class citizens, the idea that these particular villains should be sympathetic, even as they espouse supremacist beliefs, that lands entirely and completely wrong to me. The author has no knowledge of the future, but what was already bad has only gotten worse in the intervening time. So, no, I can’t muster much sympathy or empathy for Mardra deciding to go with the plan she apparently knows full well is deplorable over the plan of asking for help from Benden (even though she pointed out that Benden has every reason to spite them if they went that route.) We know that it’s an already pre-determined plan, but I think in this case, it’s better for the villains to stay villainous. And if we did that, we could have a really good examination of why Piemur has such sympathy for them and why it is misguided. Possibly even with a certain amount of Pirmur being stubborn about his beliefs and sympathy in the face of evidence.

And speaking of Piemur, he’s dropped back off at Southern and told to stay there until he’s sure there’s no more Thread to fight, with N’ton’s concern at Thread falling out of phase evident. Piemur is certain that he needs to act and do what is right, which in his case means stopping the men of Nabol against striking at Crom, his home Hold, but since he doesn’t know when the plan is going to happen, he doesn’t have an immediate lead to follow. Fairly quickly, though, he resolves that he’s going to go back to Southern Weyr and gather more intelligence, in defiance of Robinton’s orders for him. And if this were something other than a Pern book, I would say that it would be perfect for Piemur to turn out to be the person with the confidence of the mediocre white man, but whose insistence on defiance ends up causing more problems and solving none, but this is Pern, and Piemur is enough of a main character that he is going to turn out fine in the end. He’s really being set up to have a breakthrough and do very well, with how much time he spends moping about and thinking thoughts like these

How would he ever feel like he truly belonged anywhere if he always felt like an outsider? He wished there were someone he could talk to, but whom? He couldn’t think of a single person who would understand how it felt to be a failed singer with no discernible harper skills.

Despite, you know, the near inevitability that all of the men in the Harper Hall have had to go through puberty and their voice change, which would be all of the Harpers, save Menolly and any who came after her. Probably including the Voice Master himself. This sort of self-centered pity is normal, absolutely, but the narrative seems to be treating it as fact, rather than as Piemur being overdramatic. Or, if we wanted to use the characterization for Piemur from Dragondrums, that Piemur might have an understandable hesitancy to be vulnerable around any of the other harpers, since the kids in the drumheights tried to kill him and the adults didn’t notice what was going on, so what use would they be in this particular situation?

After Piemur makes up his mind to continue spying, because he isn’t going to let anyone attack Crom (which they won’t be, not that he knows this), the scene shifts over to Sebell, arriving at the Harper Hall in nondescript clothing, which fools a couple of apprentices and almost fools a journeyman, but the journeyman recognizes Sebell’s face and gives him a greeting. “Journeyman Master Sebell” is apparently his official title as the successor to Robinton. Sebell describes a little bit of the grandeur of the Great Hall of Fort and the light that gets into Robinton’s office, where the doors are rarely closed. Robinton greets Sebell without looking up from his star charts, and after the door closes, Sebell gives his report.

“It’s remarkable, really: All these Turns after his demise, Lord Meron’s plans to sow conflict within his family have, quite unbelievably, taken seed. Though Lord Deckter has a firm hand and has vastly improved the Hold since he inherited, it seems he’s been powerless to undo the damage created by Meron when he was alive.”
“Shells, but the man’s reached out from beyond to disoblige us yet again! He behaved vilely to all beholden to him, playing one branch of his family off the other for the sheer pleasure it gave him. And with the tenacity of a tunnel snake, he fell ill and stubbornly took an age to die! His legacy, it seems, is set to thwart us once more.” Robinton spoke heatedly and then held up a hand in a beg-pardon gesture at his uncharacteristic outburst.
“He was a deviant, indeed,” Sebell said, a fleeting look of distaste on his face before his features settled back into their usual benevolent demeanor.

As I recall, Lord Meron was also banging Kylara and thus indirectly responsible for the incident that killed Wirenth and Prideth, and his and Kylara’s relationship seemed to be one where Kylara was consenting to masochism, so Sebell’s choice of “deviant” seems to have a couple different layers to it.

Sebell continues to explain about the group of people who were planning on going South bu then instead turned around and started agitating in the North instead, and suggests to Robinton that Piemur’s report in Southern might have some merit to it since both Crom and Ruatha are close to Nabol. Sebell also mentions that the spy he was using got burned by getting to close to oneof the plotters, Jerrol. Lacking more concrete information, Sebell and Robinton are about to move in when Piemur and N’ton knock on Robinton’s door, and Piemur delivers a new report. Piemur’s decision to defy orders has resulted in actionable intelligence, because he was able to hear discussions of Jaxom, specifically,

“I only arrived at the tail end of their conversation, but T’reb told Mardra they had to ensure Lord Jaxom was out of the way or the men from Nabol wouldn’t keep silent.”

Pressed on the details, Piemur suggests that the lack of silence would be about the involvement of the time-skipped in the plot against Jaxom. The ramifications of a plot against Jaxom spool out (“the self-styled Lord Fax” is mentioned, except while he was in power, at least in Ninth Pass 2.0, nobody called his bluff and they let him be a lord in deed as well as name), with Robinton worried that a successful coup would embolden others to try and overthrow their own lords. Sebell then connects the dots with something he heard from his own spy about a discussion of how easy it would be to get rid of Ruth.

How could anyone in their right mind think to harm one of the noble creatures who unconditionally risked their lives for their world and everyone on it? Piemur was shocked. The very idea beggared belief!
Sebell drew a deep breath and continued. “They were debating whether Ruth was fierce like the other dragons—they know he hasn’t learned to flame yet. Candler heard one of them say they’d have no real difficulty in dealing with a runt like Ruth.”
“He’s not a runt!” N’ton exclaimed, trying to keep his voice under control. “He’s a sport!”
“Yes, of course, but these men are not well educated in the ways of dragons and the Weyr. They only know about land.”
“All they need to do to put Ruth out of the picture is get rid of Jaxom.” Piemur realized too late that his uncensored thoughts had just tumbled out of his mouth.
“Oh, no! My pardon, please, N’ton, I meant no disrespect at all. I like Jaxom! And what little I know of Ruth, too.” Piemur’s face started to color under his deep tan.

This Piemur is weird, okay? Ninth Pass 1.0 Piemur would need to be told that what he just said was too blunt for the room, rather than recognizing it himself. Or he would recognize he was being blunt, but he wouldn’t care enough about it to apologize or to try and phrase things differently. Also, I could imagine non-Harpers having a fright at the possibility of someone wanting to get rid of a dragon, but the Harpers are keeping tabs on everyone who might be involved in anti-society plots, so I would have thought all of them, especially the spy corps, would have to learn to entertain the idea that some people are willing to behave radically in service of dismantling or evading the society as constructed.

The council resolves to provide additional protection for Jaxom, both from dragonriders and harpers (which will help fuel Jaxom’s feelings of being hemmed in on all sides), and Robinton assigns Piemur to go to Nabol to get the information they will need about the plot. This has a distinct feeling of “no good deed goes unpunished” for me, but there’s also the part where Piemur bucked orders to get this information, so it makes sense to stick him on the reconnaissance part, since he’ll probably try to put himself on it if he’s assigned elsewhere. (That part is at least consistent with Piemur 1.0) With a final section of Piemur musing that it might be better for him to be away from the Hall, because everything going on there reminds him of his inability to sing and make music, Chapter Four ends.

We’re a full third through the book and we’ve got a plot set up, motivation for our villains, and we have still managed to avoid violence against women. Although it’s really beginning to look like Piemur is going to have an outsize influence on things, and he’s being set up to be a hero with such tragic feelings and that, when the time is right, he’ll have an epiphany and/or breakthrough and things will be better than they were again. Possibly because of some tragedy that happens along the way that gives him the motivation to push through, or the plot will finally decide that his waiting period is over and he can go forward into the maturity of adulthood.

I would really prefer that he gets over this emo phase sooner rather than later, since it seems pretty clear that the trajectory he is on will result in him overcoming this puberty-induced setback before the book is over. (Even though it already seemed to be over by the end of Dragondrums, but whatevs.)

Deconstruction Roundup for March 5, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is fundamentally unable to understand how some people think that the option to deliberately cause mass deaths is the correct option when there’s an option that doesn’t cause mass deaths at all.)

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 wondering whether what the 90% that is covered by Sturgeon’s Law consists of. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Code: An Artificial Plot Extension

Last time, Piemur observed an exchange between a dragonrider (T’reb), a Nabol man (Toolan), and an artist the man conned into creating some pictures of a space (Cramb), uncovering a little bit more detail about the plot hinted at in the first chapter. Apparently, the Nabolese help the dragonriders, the dragonriders help the Nabolese capture some land over their border and bring it under their control.

Piemur is also completely morose about his loss of singing voice and feeling aimless while he marks time doing things for Robinton.

Dragon’s Code, Chapter 3: Content Notes:

Also last time, Piemur had trouble hearing all of this because of the extremely loud background music of Yakkity Sax, as he continued to have all sorts of near-discoveries, culminating in his shock causing him to hit his head, get discovered, and have to flee both Toolan and Cramb. Which causes him to lose his hat and have to trudge back to Southern Hold in the hot sun. And it’s this plot-required decision that gets us going.

Toric says hello to Piemur and mentions his lack of hat at the beginning of this chapter, while Piemur leads Stupid to the trough and then starts splashing his own head with the water in the trough. So, y’know, the sort of thing that’s already a sign that Piemur is suffering from something and probably shouldn’t do anything but get cooled down. But because nobody knows this (and because Piemur isn’t going to say anything, which is something finally consistent with the characterization of the other Piemur from the original books), there will be yet more Yakkity Sax playing going on in this chapter. Before we get to that part, however, Toric has news for Piemur about Southern.

“The [time-skipped] sent word yesterday: They’re no longer permitting anyone from outside to enter their Weyr.”
Piemur jerked upright, sending droplets of water flying from his hair. He stared at Toric, his thirst forgotten, a frown creasing his burnt brow as he wondered if this latest development had anything to do with T’reb and the two men he’d been spying on.
“Can you believe it? Mardra and T’kul say that we’ve brought illness to their Weyr,” Toric spat, and Piemur had no toruble hearing the disgust in the Lord Holder’s tone. “Not a word from T’ron, though. His opinion on the matter is anyone’s guess.”

T’ron is still in charge, although Piemur notes that T’ron seems to be leaving most of the talking to T’kul.

It’s such a shame that these dragonriders don’t have any previous accounts of dragons getting sick and needing to be cared for to draw upon. Or, for that matter, any accounts of a raging pandemic and what the best options are for dragons and riders to keep safe from spreading the disease around. There aren’t any songs about heroic dragonriders who discovered vital information about their dragons, and how an entire communication system is built around encoding that information. Or a ballad of some sort about a heroic dragonrider who rushed to deliver inoculation serum to a wide area, seeming to break the boundaries of space and time itself with her speed because that was the best way to stop the disease in its tracks. These things are utterly, completely lost to these people, apparently, including to the people who are the nominal keepers of records and recorders of history in song. (Yes, I’m being harsher on this author than the others, but that’s because this author has had the benefit of having both previous authors available to pick, choose, and otherwise incorporate continuity from.)

“An illness is raging among the dragonriders, halp wat do?” is certainly a well-trod story decision for a Dragonriders of Pern novel, but because this is a Ninth Pass story, I feel like there should be some call-backs here.

Moving forward with the plot, after some physical description of Toric, Piemur voices his thought on Southern:

Even though the Southern Weyrfolk were no longer in favor with Benden Weyr, Piemur didn’t think they were all such a bad bunch. He reckoned only a small group of the Southern [time-skipped] were actually troublemakers, and that other members of the Weyr had stayed on with them out of loyalty.

I still don’t think it’s been fully explained why, other than reverence and awe for dragonriders that Anne’s Piemur never had nor obtained, why this Piemur is suddenly very willing to give the Southerners the benefit of the doubt. Also, the Piemur of Dragondrums, the one who was bullied severely and nearly killed by a “small group of…troublemakers” with either the collusion, assistance, or indifference of everyone else, seems like the last person who would be willing to say that it’s probably just a small group of troublemakers in the middle of a mostly-blameless whole.

Also, I think it’s clear enough for us in the 21st c. of Terra, in watching parliamentary politics, and the fact that we have specific language around bystanders and how they need to be trained to intervene, rather than look the other way, when things go, and especially now having seen the last decade of oppositions that work to obstruct everything when they are out of power, dismantle everything while they are in power, and provide cover for their own when they commit terrible acts, up to and including inciting and encouraging insurrection and violence against members of the government or deliberately withdrawing from international cooperation and accordances so their buddies can profit and the rest of us suffer, we might have a dim view of the idea that there’s only a few bad apples and the system behind them would simply vanish if all the bad individual actors were removed. Piemur was nearly killed by that attitude on Prime Universe Pern.

At this point, I’m willing to say this book is an Alternate Universe of Pern, a Ninth Pass that happened on some other timeline that looks like ours, that has a lot of the samely-named characters, and who might look mostly familiar to us, but are not the same people. Because otherwise we have to believe two mostly opposite Piemurs exist at the same time.

Back to the plot. Having digested the news, Piemur says that he’ll need to send a message with the additional development of the Southern closure of their borders, and Toric tells him not to bother, as he already did it and N’ton and Robintion are alreaedy inbound. Which they are, and Sebell is with them. When Lioth arrives, Piemur has managed to recover a hat, which is good, but there’s no indication that Piemur’s had a rest or recovered from everything he did in the sun.

Toric and N’ton both greet with “ ’Day”, which seems like an interesting contraction, and N’ton addresses both Toric and Piemur as “So’Holders,” so in this Pern AU, there’s a lot more contraction of language, it appears.

N’ton then does an acrobatic dive dismount off of Lioth, something that “filled him [Piemur] with awe even though he’d seen it dozens of times in the past,” proving that even in this alternate world, dragonriders still really enjoy taking risks with their life if they can show off to someone else. And then, from there, we get more of Piemur showcasing his awe of dragonriders, in this loving, almost purple, prose description of N’ton (compare to the significantly shorter description of Toric that I’ve left unquoted if you’re following along):

Standing almost two meters in height, N’ton, like most dragonriders, was supremely physically fit and carried his long, strong frame with a casualness that matched his easy manner and pleasant nature. All dragonriders had an indefinable presence, a strength akin to an electric force that radiated around them. Some folk attributed the dragonriders’ unique energy to the lifelong connection they shared with their dragons, or to their higher-than-average levels of empathy. Whatever its source, when dragonriders entered a room, they often charged the atmosphere with a buzz that could also infect others around them. N’ton, though relatively young, carried himself with an air of maturity as if he were much older than his Turns. His light-blue eyes had one or two creases at the cornersl his symmetric, handsome face bore a striaght nose and strong chin, and he seemed to be utterly unaware of how striking a figure he cut. Piemur had heard women gasp when they saw the Fort Weyrleader for the first time.

And, of course, after a few books where we were able to at least acknowledge the idea that dragonriders have the privilege of being able to be several of the identities on the queer spectrum, we have to remember that it’s the women who are gasping when they see N’ton. Certainly not any journeyman Harpers who spend significant and loving detail on the physique of the Fort Weyrleader.

The other possibility is that the energetic field that Piemur attributes to rumor, or dragons, or empathy, or some other thing might be the dragonriders themselves exuding the Shield of Sexiness, or whichever the relevant game trope is that gets people to do what you want and to listen to you because you’re hammering on their subconscious that you’re the sexiest, strongest, bestest person ever. Like a permanently on Charm Person status or something. Since, y’know, Pern is a world that explicitly acknowledges psi abilities and selects for dragonriders people who have high psi abilities with regard to telepathy and empathy, maybe it’s an unacknowledged, uninvestigated reality of Pern that every dragonrider has at least one rank in Memetic Sex God(dess), and that there are occasionally people like Lessa who have a lot more of it and the ability to control it a lot better, and those people become Weyrwomen, and usually Weyrwomen of legend, through their skill and power.

Which might actually resolve the problem I had about Masterharper Robinton being able to feel Lessa’s powers in Ninth Pass 2.0 – since he’s canonically able to inspire this same sort of sex god status in others, and he can talk to the dragons and they talk back to him, and the reason Robinton’s not a bronze rider himself is because Petiron would never let him go to do it, so basically, I guess we were supposed to conclude that Robinton would have been one of the best dragonriders that ever was, but instead gets to tbe the greatest and sexiest musician that ever way. Lucky for Robinton that he also happened to have perfect pitch and all the other musical talents that Petiron demanded of him in addition to all of this dragonrider power stuff. This would, now that I think about it, possibly also explain what the blue riders are looking for when they go on Search, and with a little worldbuilding, could also explain why the blue dragons and riders are the ones with the uncanny knack for finding candidates – maybe they’re the most sensitive to the Sexy field?

Robinton, a Mary Sue? Perish the thought. But also, this is a disturbingly effective underlying worldbuild and could explain a lot of things, if this were one of the core underlying assumptions that never actually gets expressed anywhere.

We’re getting off-track here, ever so slightly. I’m speculating that Piemur might have the hots for N’ton, if only slightly, and in the world of 2018, that should be a thing that can be said without worry that the readers are going to be upset about it. Or so I think. But instead we have this last line of “no homo, bro” and we have to sigh and grumble about representation again.

After some exposition about the architecture of the place and Toric calling for refreshments, Piemur takes a seat in the shade, only to recognize that he’s got a fierce headache, an upset stomach, and he’s still radiating heat. All of which sound like he should be venting his heat somewhere and trying to cool himself back down before he passes out from heatstroke, but that’s not going to happen because he still has to make his report to Robinton and Sebell before he can go get himself cooled off.

And then we get something like the Menolly-equivalent, but who ran away from the dragonriders, Meria.

Piemur had met Meria on the day she first arrived at Southern Hold. She had left Southern Weyr and, needing shelter—no one on Pern, even on the Southern Continent, would choose to live in the open, under the threat of Threadfall—had sought succor from Toric. As far as Piemur knew, Meria had never offered an explanation as to why she had left the Weyr, which was something Piemur often speculated about.

Except now I want to know how old Meria is, because if she’s old enough to have aged out of the queen candidacy system, she would be an excellent character or learning about what happens to queen candidates after they’re no longer being treated as potential dragonriders. Also, it’s a woman who left the Weyr. We already knew that the men supposedly can leave the Weyr and be Randian supermen wherever they go, but here it appears to be that women who leave have to immediately go find someone to protect them.

(Also, Prime Universe Piemur got Stupid by living through a Threadfall and then went, “Huh, maybe I can do this out here without needing to be in a Hold at all.” And also, Menolly managed it for a while herself. So maybe people don’t choose to do things this way, except Prime Universe Piemur, but there’s nothing in this section of Piemur remembering his own experiences out in the open during Threadfall.)

Toric, when explaining why he’s called the council says “As my message stated, the Oldtimers—my pardon, I meant the Southern Weyrleaders—formally closed their Weyr to us yesterday.” Which, I think this is the first time where anyone has begged a pardon for using that particular nickname. That it’s coming from Toric could be in character, but there’s no indication that Toric is being sarcastic or insincere with this correction, for this or for Toric following up with not being too concerned about the dragons not flaming Thread, because grubs will keep them protected, but he says he’s worried that he can’t send his tithes and there won’t be dragonriders flying over his skies. Robinton asks Toric if he’s informed Benden, and Toric says he hasn’t, not that it would be worth anything anyway.

Prime Universe Toric is a schemer who would be overjoyed to short the dragonriders their tithes for his own profits and tell nobody about it. I can’t imagine him being the kind of person who would willingly invite Robinton or N’ton to his place and give them the opportunity to sniff out any of his schemes while they are in action. So, yeah, this is still weird characterization world. Because there’s no noted insincerity or other kind of indication that Toric is anything other than serious about this, and the Toric I am used to might be brought up short because his rudeness is showing too much, but I can’t imagine Toric offering a sincere beg-pardon for anything involving dragonriders.

Robinton asks for Piemur’s report, but because he’s still heatstruck, he talks about the plot that he discovered and the people he shadowed, but he’s having trouble remembering the correct order of events, how long he spent chasing this thing, and why it relates to being asked about the Southern Weyr. It’s very broken sentence structure, and Piemur is very clearly making an effort to recall events correctly and tie them ogether in a coherent narrative. Sebell seems interested, but Robinton doesn’t, and during the subsequent conversation, Piemur interrupts to press his point, and gets subtly rebuked, apologized for, with the heat blamed, and led off by Sebell to get into the shade so he doesn’t embarrass himself further. A Piemur who hasn’t been heatstruck would be significantly more coherent and able to explain what’s going on to everyone, but instead, he loses his opportunity to convince Robinton and Sebell of the plot that’s afoot, whatever it might be. Because of the timelines and events yet to come in this book, this is because Piemur can’t be spoiling an extremely important event before it comes to pass, but it seems like a contrivance, in this case, meant mostly to make sure the book doesn’t end prematurely.

I am reminded, at this point, that stupid decisions are a regular part of our lives, and so it’s entirely plausible that Piemur brought this upon himself, but it still seems like all of these things are set up in a carefully-orchestrated domino chain meant to make sure that Piemur isn’t taken seriously prematurely and the book can proceed.

In the conference afterward, Piemur tries again to explain what’s going on, but it’s still not coming out any more coherently than it did in the initial conference, and Piemur believes that Sebell doesn’t believe him either. Sebell plays into that with the next assignment he has for Piemur.

Piemur, before N’ton fetched us this morning, the Master and I discussed your role as a scout. This new position the Southern Weyrleaders have taken has changed everything. The Master thinks it might be best if you concentrate on mapping again. You’ve done more than your fair share of scouting for now.”
[…Piemur presses his case, but Sebell asks whether T’reb actually said anything or whether it was Toolan and Cramb speculating, without explaining that making an accusation like that against a dragonrider, without proof, is suicidal…]
“You’ve done good work, Piemur, but I think you may have been out in the hot sun for longer than is healthy. It’s obvious to me that you’re not behaving like yourself. Why don’t you get out of the heat and rest? When you’re ready, the Master thinks you should map the terrain near that steep bluff to the west of here. You know where I mean, don’t you?” Piemur nodded. “You always talk about how much you like climbing, so this should be a welcome task.”

And Piemur gets a lift to the cliffside that he’s being asked to climb and map from N’ton, but it’s not enough to stop the bad feelings.

[…]Piemur had started his journey in an unnaturally foul humor, unable to shake the feeling that Master Robinton no longer valued him, that he’d made a fool of himself in front of Sebell, N’ton, and Toric. Ever since that afternoon it had been hard to keep his spirits on an even keel. He felt as if he didn’t fit in anywhere anymore. Throughout the last fourteen days he’d mentally argued with himself about returning to Southern Weyr to discover more of what the [time-skipped] were planning with the men from Nabol, and every time his better sense won out and he convinced himself not to act contrary to Master Robinton’s orders, he felt like a coward, willing to do anything in order to fit in. Where had his gumption gone? Had he lost so much of his strength of character along with his singing voice that he was no longer able to act on his own?

There’s also that thing where disobeying the direct orders of a superior is much more likely to get you canned or hurt than promoted, could worsen relationships that are already fragile, and could result in serious damage if an unfounded accusation were leveled against people who have the ability to make your life completely miserable. Piemur might be at least subconsciously recognizing that being wrong about this would make him an extremely attractive scapegoat if everything goes entirely pear-shaped, and his self-preservation instincts are kicking in.

That said, this particular train of thought is familiar, at least the part where messing up once means that everyone hates you and no longer wants to have anything to do with you. The bit of “and then I’ll hare off and Show Them All” is less familiar to me, but I understand the idea of desperately wanting to be proven right or at least get back into the good graces of others. This is still Alternate Universe Piemur, though, because he’s thinking about disobeying, rather than just going off and doing it. And we learn that he got advice from his foster-mother, Ama, to follow his instincts when he wasn’t sure what to do. And that the diminutive nickname form of his name is “Pie,” which means I’ve been pronouncing his name completely wrong in my head for this entire series.

As he’s climbing, Piemur hums a tune he used to sing, but one of the jumps doesn’t come easy, because puberty changes still give him an unsettled voice, which aggravates him. Yet again, he feels like he’s been discarded from his Hall because of his voice cracking, but eventually he starts climbing again. Farli appears to try and warn him of something, but the images are all jumbled and Piemur doesn’t get anything about it. Farli then projects a single image of Piemur climbing very quickly, before chittering loudly and disappearing, but Piemur doesn’t understand the import of it until something catches his attention in the periphery. Once he turns to see what it is, he proves Farli right by scrambling up to try and outrun the Thread that Farli was trying to warn him about.

So, we’re splitting Menolly’s origin story between two people, with Meria as the one who ran away from safety and then was brought to another place, and Piemur gets to do the fitting himself into a cave that’s barely big enough for himself. Since he already has a fire-lizard, however, he doesn’t have to try and feed a fair of just-hatched ones. And, as it turns out, Farli is interested in helping defend her bonded human and giving him some additional breathing room.

What was that sound? He could hear something like gushing liquid or rushing air—or maybe a combination of the two. It grew louder. Through his tightly-closed eyelids Piemur could sense an orange glow. His eyes snapped open just as flame spewed in front of the rock face, and Piemur wondered if he was dreaming. Then another burst of fire flared in front of his eyes and, hissing, Farli flew into the cave.
She must have flown off to find firestone when she first caught sight of the Threadfall, Piemur thought in amazement. He knew that fire-lizards, like dragons, could chew firestone in order to breathe flame, but he’d never seen it before.

And, unlike their bigger cousins who had their genes messed with according to someone with extreme views about gender roles, chewing firestone to flame doesn’t affect the fertility of the fire-lizards at all.

After flaming out, Piemur sends Farli to poke N’ton’s fire lizard and relay his location, which allows N’ton and Lioth to come out and otherwise flame a swath through the rain long enough for Piemur to jump from his hiding space and supposedly land on Lioth. Which he does, but Piemur is unable to stick the landing, so N’ton has to grab him by the tunic to keep him alive, and after a frantic quick warp (where we hear the communication between N’ton and Lioth, even though Piemur would not have), N’ton dumps Piemur into the local body of water, saving him from Thread and from falling to his death. Which ends the chapter, as Piemur asks for a moment to recover himself after all of that excitement.

So, yeah, other than also giving us many more reasons to believe this is an alternate Pern out of continuity (or at least out of characterization) with the original series, this particular chapter seems to be mostly there to make sure that the plot doesn’t get spoiled too early and to give Piemur some peril, as well as to continue hammering on the idea that Piemur is awkward and clumsy and all out of sorts with the person that he used to be before his voice cracked and everything changed. If there’s something useful later on in the story from this, that’s fantastic and will give this chapter some usefulness, but otherwise, this doesn’t appear to do a whole lot of lifting toward the narrative in any sort of way.

On the positive side, we’ve made it three chapters, a whole quarter of the story, without any sort of sexual violence done or threatened to anyone! Nor do we have any extraordinarily young characters being pressured into becoming dragonriders and/or young characters engaging in sexual behaviors because their dragons will compel it from them soon enough. (I think we’ve had exactly two women with speaking lines at this point, which is not so great.)