Last time, Kindan and Nuella got down to the business of training Kisk in the mines. Which involved Kindan having to learn how to navigate in the dark. Nuella learning about safety equipment and procedure for the mine, and deliberately exposing themselves to potentially harmful air so as to teach Kisk what it smells like. Kisk, for her part, provided a consistent vocalization for Kindan to clue him into what to listen for in case that bad air smell returns.
Dragon’s Kin: Chapter X: Content Notes:
Hot air rises, cold air falls,
These are thermodynamic laws.
There were other things, as well, like Nuella revealing her crush on Zenor, and the tiny detail that nobody but Dalor knew they were actually in the mine doing this. Which is relevant in that it’s Zenor giving them both a dressing-down for the plan, based on the potential for disaster it had.
While we let Zenor chew them both out for a bit, that that rhyme up top doesn’t. At least, it doesn’t for me, because of the way I pronounce the “ll” and the “w”. Perhaps it does for others.
In any case, the back and forth continues, despite Kindan’s efforts to try and squash it, until Kisk interrupts Kindan to indicate there are visitors.
[…] Kisk nudged him with her head, stood up off her front legs, and flapped her tiny wings at him, making a throaty chirp. Kindan cocked an eyebrow at her. Kisk repeated herself, complete with chirp.
“You two, we’re going to have company,” Kindan said.
“What?” Zenor said. “How do you know?”
Kindan gestured. “Kisk told me. A dragonrider.” The watch-wher shook her head firmly, unmistakably. “Two dragonriders?” Kisk nodded vigorously.
“You’ve been practicing!” Nuella exclaimed delightedly. “What’s it like?”
“Well,” Kindan said, consideringly, “it’s almost like I get images from her–but it’s not. And I guess it’s more like communicating with a fire-lizard than with a dragon. Or maybe somewhere in between. Whichever way it is, she tells me until I understand her.
I thought Menolly was supposed to be the person who rediscovered what talking with fire lizards was like after it disappeared with the colonists, but perhaps I am wrong and it hasn’t disappeared yet. Also, if this is how good of communicators whers are, then it makes even less sense about how all of their lore has been lost, because there could be a lot more continuity of teaching or just rediscovering this fact repeatedly over time.
We get a little bit more about why Tarik is still around, despite all the reasons for him to disappear, and it’s…that Natalon is afraid of the rumors he’ll spread about Nuella?
“His mother was blind too, you know. He’s afraid it’s passed on, that any daughter we kids have will be blind, to. And he’s afraid that it makes him look weak–as if anyone would care. It’s not like he’s the one who’s blind.”
[…Kindan tries to be comforting and suggests out might pass by Larissa, the new sister…]
“I could see just fine until my third Turn and then, over the course of a year, everything got blurry and dim.”
“I think that’s why Father keeps him around,” Nuella said. “He’s afraid Tarik will spread tales. He’s afraid about what’ll happen to me, if I’ll ever get married–“
That “year” is in the original, which suggests that the editors didn’t quite catch everything they needed to.
More importantly, though, what does Natalon actually fear from Tarik? “My daughter has no marriage prospects” shouldn’t even register unless Natalon expects Nuella to marry up. Or be promised, sight unseen, to someone else. “My son won’t have any marriage prospects” is a bigger threat, but since this affliction seems to only affect the women of the family, that doesn’t seem like it would stick to Dalor. More pressingly, though, if the mine fails, nobody has marriage prospects. Or, for that matter, any means of living where they would care about such things. A successful and wealthy miner can negotiate marriageability. A failed one can’t. So, really, Tarik is the one with the most to lose, and who should be the most afraid of his social standing, not Natalon.
Then again, abusive relationships don’t always follow logic, and Tarik really does look like he could fit the profile.
Kindan wants to know how Nuella will take care of herself, but Nuella chews him out for saying platitudes like he’ll always be there for her, because she knows that mining is dangerous, and Kindan is likely to be in the middle of dangerous. Kindan says he can get out of anything, and the whole thing eventually ends up with Nuella realizing that Kisk might see heat rather than light, and that would explain why watch-whers don’t go out in the daytime. An unknown man comments it’s an interesting theory before we spin the clock back to how the sentry child, Renna, saw the arrival of the two dragonriders, J’lantir and M’tal, who talk about there being someone here who has the potential to be a queen rider…and also “so gifted and not able to Impress,” according to J’lantir, because well, if the girl is blind, she clearly couldn’t Impress, because that’s done through eye contact. Except it isn’t, because Nian Impressed without actually fully making eye contact until the very end of the process. So I’d be in to guess that Nuella could probably Impress even without seeing the dragon. Except perhaps through the eyes of the dragon, maybe?
Renna wonders where there could be such a blind child, since she’s been everywhere and knows everyone, and there are no blind children. Except for the second floor of Natalon’s hold, where she hasn’t been, that is. And that could hide such a child.
Before we see the fullness of Renna’s thoughts and plans, though, we go back to the dragonriders, who are introduced to Nuella and Kindan. (Kisk had talked to Gaminth when they arrived, which is how Kindan knew they were here.) J’lantir is a Wingleader at Ista, tasked with finding more information about watch-whers in the same way that M’tal is interested. J’lantir and Nuella devise a test to see how Kisk actually does see.
Very soon he and Nuella were engrossed in devising a complete test of the watch-wher’s sight.
“We could just ask her,” Kindan said to himself.
M’tal smiled at him. “But then it’d take away all their fun.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” Nuella said with her usual lack of deference. She put at hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry–I meant, my Lord.”
“She’s like that with everyone,” Kindan murmured.
“She’s got good hearing, too,” M’tal agreed, with a twinkle in his eyes. He turned to Nuella. “Nuella, I think that we will all be working together quite a great deal, so I think it best if we dispense with formalities and just get on with things–what do you say?”
Nuella’s eyes got very big. She nodded, speechless.
Kindan asks if that really means using names, and J’lantir replies it seems fair, and when Zist arrives, J’lantir will say he was just telling Nuella that he prefers less formal addresses by friends. Even though it was M’tal who was talking there.
Also, even when not the focus, Benden is always the best Weyrleader, it seems, since M’tal is the first to suggest the lack of honorifics. In any case, Natalon arrives to greet the riders, Zenor is willingly pulled into their preparations, Zist helps Kindan perform a simple experiment about whether whers see heat more than light (they do), and everyone gets down to the business of learning what they can about watch-whers, now that the Ista Weyrleader has charged his riders with finding and writing down everything related to the care and feeding of a Weyr in Threadfall, including watch-whers, which is what J’lantir was assigned.
It’s confirmed that dragons can talk to watch-whers, and the dragonriders think they might be a good early-warning system to alert dragons about Threadfall, but Nuella squashes that idea by pointing out watch-whers are nocturnal. The dragonriders then suggest watch-whers could have been useful emergency broadcast systems for various holds that were snowed-in last winter and had no way of contacting anyone about their status.
J’lantir suggests developing a standardized training system for watch-whers and their handlers so that everyone can communicate with each other, and with dragons, with a shared set of words and concepts. He and Nuella spend the next three evenings, when J’lantir can leave Ista, hashing it out with each other before J’lantir has to head back to Ista for a readiness check. Kindan asks whether watch-whers could transit through hyperspace, and both Nuella and J’lantir conclude it wouldn’t work, because human eyes can’t visualize the heat map that a watch-wher would need to successfully warp themselves, since dragons theoretically need a picture of where to go to safely make their own transits. As infrared technology is a long way off, there’s no real reason to believe that anyone on the planet, except Nuella (who mentions she might be able to imagine it) could provide a sufficiently detailed mapping.
Nuella misses having J’lantir around to talk to, which makes her cranky, until Kindan convinces her that more training for Kisk is a good idea. And we learn that the mines are only worked three days out of seven, with two more spent bagging and grading coal, shoring up the mine (and cutting trees), and helping the Camp. The last two days are “free”, in that so long as there aren’t any Camp tasks that need attention, the miners are free to do what they want.
We also learn that Nuella has demanded Kindan wear a blindfold while down in the mines training, so that he can learn to navigate in the dark and keep his counts running even while thinking about other things. And that bruised shins and bruises from Nuella any time he forgot have contributed to this awareness, even if his map isn’t as detailed as hers.
Which is why it’s disturbing to both of them that the supports they’re expecting in the space Tarik is assigned to aren’t there, and then, aren’t thick or wide enough to be correct when they are found. There are also avenues running off the street that suggest someone is already mining the coal, despite Natalon’s insistence that the seam be explored fully before any real mining started. This suggests a lot of things, but the narrative only tells us that the two decide to train on the other street instead before a disagreement about whether Kisk should be trained in how to dig someone out, and then Kindan figuring out how to play hide and seek with Kisk, until something very interesting happens.
It was then, just on the edge of sleep, that Kindan thought he saw something–a glowing shape, like someone curled up in a tight ball just like he was. No, he corrected himself in amazement, it is me!
He heard the soft padding of Kisk’s feet as she made her way over to him. In his mind’s eye, he saw the shape get closer, saw the head become more resolved–not a face, but a sort of smudged oval-shaped rainbow–and then became obscured as bright jets, the orangeish-yellow color of flame, came streaking over it. He felt Kisk’s warm breath blow gently through the straw over his face, seeming to perfectly match the flame he was imagining.
Kisk bleeked happily.
It turns out that Kisk can transmit her sight to more than just Kindan – Nuella can see through Kisk’s eyes as well, which results in tears of joy for her. Kisk can’t provide a lot of details, since she still only sees heat sources and diffusions, but it’s enough for motor movements and other such things. I’m guessing it’s a bit like the visual effect created for the Daredevil movie where Matt Murdock takes a beautiful woman out into a rainstorm so that he can see her fully using the movement the rain makes on her to create the picture.
Now knowing much better how Kisk sees, hide and seek becomes a much more interesting game to play with all sorts of people, and Kindan and Nuella start training Kisk on how to find people even with all sorts of stuff getting in the way of her heat-vision. Nuella also gets Zenor to change shifts to Tarik’s shift, with the idea that Zenor will see and report what Tarik has been up to in his section of the mine.
And, as time goes on, Nuella gets increasingly more frustrated that the dragonriders haven’t come back to continue Kisk’s lessons.
“But nothing’s happened. And I’m no help at all.”
“You’ve helped me.” Kindan told her softly. Kisk gave a reassuring chirp and walked over to butt Nuella’s shoulder with her head. “And Kisk. We wouldn’t know half what we know if it hadn’t been for you. Soon we’ll be ready to go into the mine and–”
Nuella’s derisive snort cut him off. “Sure, you’ll go into the mine and then what? What will I do then? ‘Thank you, Nuella, you’ve been a big help, now you can go back to your room. And don’t get caught!’ ” Her voice choked on the last word and she buried her head between her knees.
Kindan didn’t know what to say and the silence between them stretched out interminably. Finally he opened his mouth to speak, only to see that Nuella had held up a hand and cocked her head in the direction of the curtains at the doorway to the shed.
“You may as well come in,” she said out loud. “You’ve heard too much already and I just don’t care anymore.”
After a moment the curtains rustled and a small figure could be seen in the dim glow light. It was Renna.
“You look just like Dalor,” the figure exclaimed. It was Renna.
And the rest of the chapter is introductions and the arrival of J’lantir, and the revelation that Renna is who Dalor has a crush on, and that the crush is requited.
Let’s tackle this quoted but in reverse order. Good that Renna is clever enough to put it all together, even though the narrative has Nuella say that Renna followed her only because she looked like Dalor and Renna has the crush on Dalor. But Renna’s remark that Nuella looks like Dalor could only make sense tempered with “when she’s in disguise” or “looks like him in the face,” because we’ve already established from Kindan and Nuella that they’re different heights and that there’s a strong likelihood that Nuella is starting to develop breasts. Dalor and Nuella are, as best I can tell, fraternal (thanks, Digitalis) twins of different body configurations. So, I’m going to assume that Renna means it in those configurations because it makes sense to do so, even if it’s not literally true.
However the most important part is that Nuella is right. She doesn’t have anything to look forward to and is likely to end up stuck even more tightly in her room and the area once Kindan and Kisk take on regular mine work. There’s no prospects for her, other than perhaps lessons with Zist, and it’s unlikely she’s going to be introduced to the world at large while Natalon is still afraid of a nonexistent issue. Nuella has every right to be utterly bitter about the fact that everyone has been ablist and has been hiding her while she could have been doing something significant this entire time. Although I don’t know if she would have accepted the idea of being a caretaker for small children being her lot in life as a young woman.
Given the presence of a new author, though, I can hope that this one doesn’t end with Babies Ever After, right? For any of our protagonists?