Category Archives: Deconstruction

Dragon’s Time: More Time Travel Complexity

Well, we were sold the idea that this would be Dragonrider, but there’s a Note To Readers right in the beginning of this book to tell us that this is not that thing, but some other thing entirely. In fact, this particular work is neither Dragonrider, as was advertised, nor After The Fall Is Over, which appears to have been a planned work closing out the Dragonriders of Pern by showing us what happened in the time after the Red Star was pushed out of orbit to the point where it no longer drops Thread on Pern. What it is is a collaboration, and one that was apparently worked upon by both sides and where Anne, the older author, is trying to communicate that she’s getting better about sharing and changing. Let’s take a look:

–and, I must confess, I am still a bit possessive when it comes to the futures of F’lar and Lessa. Still, I did talk over some of my ideas with Todd, and he sent me a long list of questions in response that proved thought-provoking, inspiring, and challenging.
I head read and enjoyed his Dragonheart and Dragongirl, and the truth is, the excitement was catching. And so I said: “You know, Todd, how hard it is for me to share…maybe you could show me how?”
Todd got the message and quickly agreed. And it’s been a lot of fun.
[…Anne is very proud of what they’ve made and eager to start on Dragonrider…]
Already we know that Dragonrider will break new ground and old tradition; still, Todd’ll do most of the writing and I’ll do the tweaking and critiquing, just as before.
And after that, who knows? He’s been so good about allowing me to take part in moving his characters around the playing board…maybe I’ll finally let him play with him play with my characters!

Perhaps I am jaded, having worked my way through so many of these works with a critical eye and repeatedly being proven time and time again that Pern is probably on a Bad Timeline, if not the Worst Timeline, but this does not reassure me at all about the work that is being done, in multiple directions.

First, if what Anne says is true, and that for some amount of their collaborative work, potentially including the very first book that was marked as a collaboration between the two, Todd has been doing the bulk of the writing and Anne has been critiquing and otherwise tweaking, then the era of the second author starts farther back than I had initially thought, and all the faults of previous endeavours should be reapportioned appropriately to match this burden of writing versus editorial. It doesn’t mean anyone comes out looking any better, only worse.

Second, the way this is set up is that Todd was the one who had to share and show his mother the way, rather than his mother being the one to decide to share and let Todd write in her era of Pern. Which sounds far much more like a parent telling the older child that they have to be the good example and share with the small child, including those things that the older child would like to keep to themselves, thanks. Which the older child does, because they know very well that if they don’t share whatever the small child demands, they’ll end up having it taken away by the parent as punishment for their “selfishness”.

Not that it would have gone any other way, because we have mentioned before that Anne was the kind of person who made stringent demands of her fans as to what they could do in her sandbox as well. I haven’t really seen any evidence that she was any less stringent with Todd, and this letter seems to confirm that.

Going onward to the note for readers new to Pern, it still says the Red Star’s orbit is cometary, which is right, even though we established a very, very long time ago that no cometary orbit like that would actually stick around throwing spores for fifty years. After the general thing, which still seems to go “authoritarianism, yay!”, we end up with a summary of the last three books in capsule form, a chronology of the major events that have happened so far, and a map of Pern. And then we get into:

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 1: Content Notes:

The way forward is dark and long.
A dragon gold is only the first price you’ll pay for Pern.

No time marker for this chapter.

This book opens with Lorana hurtling herself through time, knowing full well that this decision is going to kill her unborn child, but justifying it because of the problem of the dragons dying out and, apparently, because she believes she’s the only one who can accomplish the feat of jumping into a future past her own present time.

She was the only one with a sure sense of time and place–a gift, she thought, from her special link with all the dragons of Pern–and only she could make the journey forward to such an unknown, unseen time. She used the Red Star to guide her, picturing it and the stars in their stations where they would be fifty turns from her present.

Except that the method she describes, setting the stars and the Red Star into their proper place for a forward jump, is something that anyone who went to Igen or learned from the traders at Igen should be able to do. The precision of the jump is presumably dependent on the ability of the rider to visualize precisely, but Lorana doesn’t actually have to do this jump herself if what she’s planning on doing is grabbing dragons from the future and bringing them back to fight in the past, so they can ensure their own future. (At this point, Pern’s timeline is held together with string and tape and is praying they’ll get through this space without one of the paradoxes completely breaking everything. And, as we established all the way back where the time travel was first discovered, time travel stories become more and more about the time travel. At this point, it’s all about the time travel.)

All of this is to say that Lorana could have prevented the death of her unborn child by delegating the task of jumping into the future to someone else. I don’t want this to sound like this is the fault of anything but the narrative, however, because the narrative did tell us about the star method and anyone who had trained on it that was still alive would be able to use it. There’s no actual need for Lorana, specifically, to do this thing, other than to fulfill Tenniz’s prophecy and make things even more tragic for Lorana to have sacrificed her child for this. Because, for whatever reason, the narrative of this entire series has decided that when they need someone to suffer tragedy, it’s Lorana, or it’s Kindan if Lorana can’t actually suffer that particular tragedy, or it’s Fiona if neither of them are available.

And to twist the knife in, even more, Lorana’s trip to the future will yield her no dragons at all to come back with her, because when she comes to in the future, she’s dealing with the one person in her life who wouldn’t give her a drink in the middle of the desert, Tullea.

“Help?” Lorana said. She realized that word wasn’t enough and, after another breath, asked, “Will you send help?”
“Dragons from the future?” Tullea said. “Simple, quick, efficient! Oh, yes, no worries for those left behind.” She snorted and added viciously, “Oh, no! No, dragon-stealer, you won’t find any dragons in the future!”
“None?” Lorana opened her eyes only to find the room completely dark.
“None for you,” Tullea snapped back. “You were always meddling when you should have left things alone.”
“Where’s B’nik?” Lorana asked.
“Where’s his jacket?” Tullea retorted. She barked a bitter laugh. “Between, that’s where! Where you left it!”

And since the room is darkened, of course, Lorana can’t see anything, and Tullea hustles her to get going and leave already. Lorana tries to reach out to sense any dragons, only for Tullea to slap her back to herself and rush her onto Minith and send her away to time coordinates that Tullea has provided for her.

After Lorana disappears back in time, Tullea summons back the dragons that have been waiting in hyperspace so as not to give away the game, and then is unhappy at a much older Fiona about having to be bitchy at Lorana, because it means, apparently, that Lorana never learns the truth about Tullea.

“She said that you were horrible to her, gave her not one moment’s kindness.” She paused and added, “Nor one clue.”
“So she’ll never know,” Tullea mused to herself. “She never found out.”
“No,” Fiona replied sadly. “She never had a chance to learn how you’d changed.” She smiled at the older woman. “But I did.”

Which does not impress Tullea at all, and she grumbles at Fiona that she’s played her part in this, now it’s time for Fiona to let her go to her rest. Tullea does ask if Fiona ever got the opportunity to tell Lorana, but Fiona says she didn’t learn until it was too late. Tullea finally asks Fiona not to tell the current Benden Weyrleader, who is apparently Lorana’s son, and whose Weyrwoman is apparently Tullea’s daughter, about the fact that Lorana was here that night.

So, that’s not a good sign for Lorana at all, in that she is apparently going to die before she can find out that Tullea isn’t as terrible as she thought. Which does naturally lead into the question of what changed Tullea. At the end of the last book, we saw Tullea and B’nik’s relationship change from “bitchy Weyrwoman who may or may not still be multiply-in-time, who is very protectively jealous of B’nik, and the Weyrleader who isn’t quite sure how to handle her” into “strong Weyrleader who no longer has time for his Weyrwoman’s moods and bitchiness, for which she loves him even more now that he’s taken her firmly in hand and shown her her proper place.” This was because B’nik thought he was slated to die doing time travel. Which turns out not to have been the case, at least for the incident they thought was the problem and that Tullea had begged Lorana to find a solution to. Did Tullea just continue to be that way after B’nik’s death was averted? Or has there been enough time elapsed in this time tangle that Tullea is finally free of the time-twisting aggravation that made her unpleasant and her actual, unsplit self was finally able to come through, where everyone got to realize that Tullea is actually reasonable and helpful when she’s not having herself fractured across time and space? We saw a little bit of that Tullea when she came back from her own three-year warp and thanked Lorana sincerely for everything that had happened.

Because that question goes unanswered, we still don’t know whether the muzzy-headedness that Fiona has been suffering from and trying to stave off with massive caffeine doses is what Tullea has been suffering from, but instead of making her perpetually tired, it makes Tullea perpetually wired. Which would be a common point of empathy between them and might lead to smoothing over their relationship, but that would be removing Tullea from Designated Bitch status before the narrative wants to, and also doing some worldbuilding about how time travel affects dragonriders. At times, this narrative seems allergic to worldbuilding, and at other times, it seems like it wants to worldbuild hard on things that only make things worse. It’s not a good combination.

Geting back to Lorana, I really would not want her to die in a Moreta kind of way, jumping to no destination at all, or anything like that. We’ve still got one more book to get through, after all, so unless the last book is going to fully focus on Fiona, we’ve still got time for Lorana to do things and discern what it is that her purpose in history is. The time-jump that Tullea gave her, however, was not back to the original time Lorana departed from, but to a different time and place, where she pops out over Red Butte and essentially crashes to sleep from the time travel. Then she meets who it is that she has come back to see, and it’s Tenniz, who is camping out here because he has already seen his future, and knows that Lorana is the person that he is going to die in the company of.

Apparently, to hear the narrative tell it, Tenniz only saw a glimpse of the future, and didn’t know that what his prophecy was going to do was cause the termination of Lorana’s pregnancy. Lorana cries at his shock and apology, and then asks Tenniz if she’s paid enough. Tenniz replies that he doesn’t know, and this is about the time where I wish that someone would tell Lorana a small comforting lie. Even if Tenniz doesn’t know, he could say it in language that would be better for Lorana and might help her avoid being a perpetual state of grief about everything.

Lorana reaches out, reminded of a memory of Fiona, and can feel her in both places at this point in time, but she pulls back before Fiona can follow her all the way back to where she is, since neither of those Fiona have met Lorana yet, and it would be a bad idea to spoil time. Which, conveniently, is the next discussion that Lorana and Tenniz have, about cheating time. Lorana provides the example of Ketan, and Tenniz nods and says that what he sees comes to pass, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what he sees is exactly what happens. And divulges something particularly morbid.

“Among those born with this gift, it is common that the first thing they see is their own death.”
“Your death?” Lorana asked, wide-eyed. “Here? With me?”
Tenniz noddded twice.
“That must be horrible!”
“Not really,” Tenniz said. “I first started seeing around my eleventh Turn, and so seeing myself all ‘grown up’–as I thought then–seeing myself talk to someone whom I was really pleased to meet, was quite an enjoyable image.”

I wonder if there’s a sense of “when” that comes along with this sight, so that 11 year-old Tenniz or so knows not only that he’s seen his death, but he also knows that it’s going to be coming in ten years, or twenty, or something like that. It likely does, if the Sight as described here hews with the way that precognitives were described in the Talents series, since there’s a chapter, or a short story, or a short story that was adapted for a chapter, or something, anyway, where a precognitive makes a bet with a very wealthy man that he can predict the very minute of his death. Said very wealthy man is also suffering from a seemingly incurable disease that would normally kill him much sooner than the date that the precognitive says. So the wealthy man takes the bet, beats the disease (maybe it’s cancer and he goes into remission?) and then throws a party on his death day, where the very minute ticks down, and the narrative rather coyly tells us that because of all the excitement in that minute, his heart gives out and he died. Afterward, someone close to him thanks the precognitive for what he did for the wealthy man, because the wealthy man’s determination to prove the precognitive wrong is what helped him beat the disease and live a full twenty years longer than he would have otherwise. And thus, it becomes a perfect example of what Tenniz is saying, as well: the precognitive is right about the minute of the death, but for all the wrong reasons. A person wearing the Benden Weyrleader’s jacket is observed riding a bronze dragon and dies to Thread. What actually happens is that it’s another rider in the Benden Weyrleader’s jacket and his dragon has been dusted so as to look bronze in the light. Many time travel kinds of stories use this device so that they don’t have to adjust a timeline or worry about the many-worlds theory. Thankfully, after using it as a primary plot device for one book, JK Rowling got rid of the time travel device, and it didn’t reappear until the presumably canonical but generally disregarded stage play that involved time travel and did invoke the many-worlds theory version of time travel to achieve its end.

Getting back to the point I was making, if there’s an accompanying sense of when that goes along with it, that can’t be great for Tenniz, and I wonder how he arranged his life, in subtle and obvious ways, with the knowledge that he was running on limited time, and that he knew how much it was that he had left. I imagine he would have wanted to cram as much as he could into that limited amount of time, so that he wouldn’t feel like he missed out on anything before his time came. I can believe his serenity at this time having arrived, especially since he also has a racking cough that can’t have made his quality of life all that great for the whole time he’s had it.

The plot has Lorana and Tenniz discuss the dangers of revealing too much of the future, and in doing so, as Lorana explains what happened with Tullea and Tenniz offers subtle commentary on the matter, Lorana works out that she could have been played by Tullea, especially if she ended up telling someone like, say, Fiona, about what happened while she was in the future, such that the dragons hide in hyperspace, Tullea slaps her to stop her from noticing them, and time keeps its shape and sends Lorana back to Tenniz instead of back to her original time. Tenniz nocomments Lorana’s logic, but points out that what she’s come up with is equally as plausible as what she had thought before, and thus it’s a bad idea to reveal too much about the future, lest someone end up locking in a future that they don’t actually want.

Tenniz and Lorana both get up, as Tenniz has more things to show Lorana, and wants to do so while he still has time to do so. He says that Lorana and he are going to have a better time at some point in the future, and also that he’s seen how Lorana looks when she “piled the rocks.” Which took Tenniz some time to figure out, but he’s realized that what it means is that Lorana buries him after he dies. So Tenniz is taking Lorana to the place where he would like to be buried after he’s gone, and asks Lorana to bury him when he’s dead.

And that ends the chapter. With someone who Lorana has not met until now, and who has caused her an immense amount of pain with his prophecy and all the results from it before meeting him, asking her to bury him after his death. Which, if we think about it, means that Tenniz isn’t done hurting Lorana yet, since in addition to his prophecy of doom, Tenniz has arranged it so that Lorana can watch him die from something that is already clearly impacting his health. While there are some people in our lives that we wouldn’t mind watching die in a slow and painful manner, I don’t think that Lorana has that opinion of Tenniz (not yet). Plus, Lorana is the person who has seen and felt so much death of dragon and human alike, and yet the narrative is shoving more of this on her.

Much like how Tullea supposedly changed, but Lorana never found out, it seems like all of Lorana’s life is going to be tragedy, either experienced or witnessed. It’s actually kind of hard to remember that Lorana was the protagonist of the first book of this sequence, because since that book (and in that book), she had some temporary successes, but otherwise has been plagued with survivor’s guilt and a prophecy that tells her she can’t ever have actual happiness, because greater tragedies are yet to be visited upon her. It’s weird, because I thought we had trained authors out of the practice of writing novels where the point is to inflict as much tragedy on someone before killing them. The last bastion of that, as best as I had thought, were the stories where queer people weren’t allowed to have happy endings, and we’ve been trying to get those stories out of the canon as well.

So we’ll leave Tenniz asking Lorana to bury him for now and pick up with Chapter 2 next week.

Dragongirl: The Prophecy Comes True

Last time, we spent a significant amount of time revolving around pregnancy. Whether in giving advice to Fiona about terminating hers, should she desire it, having a new cohort of dragonriders come into being (including Terin, who got Tolarth’s gold egg), or Fiona suffering from a fever and being singularly worried about losing hers, which is where we left her last time. (And frankly, there still isn’t enough talking about relationships, because that would mean the author would have to work through the possibility that at least one of the merry quad might not actually be polyfriendly at all.)

Dragongirl, Chapters 23, 24, and the Epilogue: Content Notes: Termination of Pregnancy, Despair, Sexism

Cold between,
Freezes harm.
Wear jacket,
Keep warm.

(Telgar Weyr, early evening, AL 508.7.17)

This poem is terrible, and if it’s part of a Teaching Song, that’s even worse. Just, ugh, hire a poet already to write these things, they’ll do far better at it.

I intend to get all the way to the end with this post. We’ll see if we manage it.

Chapter 23 opens with Fiona waking up from the fever she caught by going into hyperspace while wet. It has conveniently knocked her out of coherence for four days, but Fiona’s fine (it’s not Plague), the baby’s fine, Lorana’s fine, Lorana’s baby is fine, and there have been several visitors and messages to make sure that Fiona is fine. Once Terin is reasonably sure Fiona is actually fine, she goes back, claiming she has a dragon to tend, to which Fiona teases her that it’s much more likely there are weyrkids and F’jian tending the dragon, and Terin airily says it’s both before departing.

Fiona decides to sit at the high table that evening, to show everyone she’s okay, and believes that this was a good decision based on what she gets as feedback that night:

She was glad she had. The relief visible on the faces on some of the weyrwomen was more than ample vindication of her decision.
“You rest up now, Weyrwoman!” one of the most sour of them had called as Fiona departed. She was joined by a chorus of agreeing voices, the most heartening of which was one who said, “We don’t want anything to happen to our Weyrwoman!”
Our Weyrwoman. The phrase resonated in Fiona’s mind and cheered her. It had not been all that long since the old Telgar weyrfolk had looked on her with stern faces. Now she was theirs–and they worried about her. It wasn’t just that this was her Weyr, now they were her weyrfolk, too. The realization brought a smile to her lips.

…and yet I can’t help but wonder if this is more due to Shaneese’s henching than a genuine concern for Fiona. Because I would absolutely believe that most excellent henchwoman Shaneese would have arranged, with threats of terrible penalties to those who didn’t go along with it, for Fiona to get a cheerful boost from the weyrwomen specifically for the purpose of putting her in a good mood as she recovers from her illness. If, after all, the morale of the Weyrwoman is as crucial as everyone seems to be telling her, then making sure Fiona is cheerful is a very serious affair. I’m almost imagining one of the “sour” ones getting ready to go off-script, only for Shaneese to appear where Fiona can’t see her and make a threatening gesture. Or for the sour one to be gently poked with something she knows is sharp as a reminder of what fate might befall her if she doesn’t stay in line.

As it is, there’s also a clue as to why the practice of women riders who weren’t gold riders died out, although I’m not sure it’s supposed to be seen as anything extraordinary.

“And who is handling her [Xhinna’s] brood now that she’s Impressed?”
“She is, for the most part,” Kindan said, his tone going grave.
“I can talk with Shaneese,” Fiona said.
“No,” Kindan said. “I think we should see how this works out.”
Fiona’s agitation prompted him to explain. “If we are to have more women riders, we’re going to have issues like this.” He paused consideringly. “Xhinna and Taria have been handling it well, so far.”
“But what about when they start flying?” Fiona asked.
“That’s two or more Turns in the future and the children of her brood will all be that much older,” Kindan said.
Fiona made a note to herself to spend more time with the weyrlings. She admitted that the reason she hadn’t done so earlier was partly that she didn’t want to monopolize Kindan’s time and partly that she didn’t want to become embroiled in any issues regarding the women riders; she’d heard enough mutterings from H’nez.

Cocowhat by depizan

Dragonets are, from all accounts, needy to the point of being a full-time responsibility by themselves in their early stages, and you’re telling me that Xhinna and Taria have to juggle that (one dragon each, recall) and still do the childcare, raising, and looking after duties they had before? Plus weyrling drills and the like?

This sequence was clearly written by someone who has no fucking clue how much work childcare is. The appropriate Administrative Division for my locality that handles child cares mandates there be one adult for every 15 children at all times those children are in the care of the child care, if all of those children are of school age (so at least 5 or 6 years of age). If there are any younger children, the ratio goes down because those children need more intensive monitoring and supervision. I have never gotten the feeling that Xhinna and Taria have less than 30 school-age children between them for responsibilities of looking after. Maybe I’m wrong, but descriptions like “brood” certainly suggest there are a lot of kids that need to be handled and looked after. And the author thinks that the responsibilities of caring for, feeding, and otherwise looking after a dragonet can be added to the already large amount of responsibilities of child care.

If the author knew what they were talking about, someone would swat Kindan upside the head for suggesting that women who are riders should also be required to handle all of their childcare duties in addition. Fiona might not know enough about raising a family to do it herself, since she’s an only child and Bemin didn’t have any more while he was raising her. Lorana, on the other hand, canonically does have siblings, and was probably required to look after them from a very early age, in addition to any Beastcraft things her father was doing. So it would be entirely appropriate for Lorana to give Kindan a dope slap for the suggestion.

Unless, of course, the point is to drive women candidates away from ever wanting to Impress anything other than a gold dragon. I can see many an interested woman going “hell no, I’m not getting a dragon if these chuckleheads won’t let up on my other duties to take care of it.” (In fact, Bekka said just that when Fiona tried to get her to stand at the last hatching.) Giving credence to this idea is the remainder of this scene’s conversations about the women riders:

“How are they working out?”
“Well, actually,” Kindan said, sounding pleased, “there are only four girls, Xhinna with her blue, the rest greens.”
“I wonder if that will change, in future Hatchings,” Lorana mused. [NOOOOOOOOPE!]
“It takes a particular sort of woman to be a blue rider,” Kindan said.
“It takes a particular sort of person to be a blue rider,” Fiona corrected drowsily. “I can understand greens far more easily.”

Okay, so Kindan deserves another dope slap for sounding pleased that there are “only” four women in the fighting ranks. This one he deserves to get from Fiona, since she’s the one who’s been championing the idea of women and girls in the fighting ranks. (And possibly another one for suggesting that Xhinna is somehow super-weird for being a blue rider.)

Additionally, I don’t know if I’m supposed to be reading more into the “I can understand greens” comment from Fiona than just “oh hey, they’re female dragons and female riders. That makes sense.” Because if it is, then the author deserves a dope slap, too, for forgetting characterization. Although there’s a good enough case for the author getting one on the principle of writing this scene at all. (Not to mention how much we’d be paying out on someone who took the bet that there would be no relief for Xhinna, because she’s just so good at childcare that surely she can juggle the responsibilities of dragon and human children without needing any additional support, staff, or breaks. And, again, Xhinna is explicitly coded as not white, so there’s the extra racist dimension, too, in the belief that Xhinna can take on much more responsibility than the average weyrwoman. (Not Fiona, because Fiona has to perpetually project happiness and never being upset at anything, and that kind of emotional labor is fucking exhausting.)

Plot-wise, Lorana has a nightmare about the cold people next to her, which were, in her brain, the dead people she was next to during the Plague. And then Fiona gets hustled to rest by everyone when she tries to get Lorana to take rest because of her pregnancy. That’s Lorana, Terin, Shaneese, and Bekka (who has come back to Telgar) all ganging up on Fiona and hustling her away from everywhere to sleep. We have an interlude of a routine (although still with casualties) Fall and the lightened mood in the Weyr afterward, where there is far too much drinking, and then to the morning after that, where Fiona deliberately wakes up and annoys T’mar, but not quite as much as Terin lit into F’jian in the morning, according to the narrative. Fiona finds Terin trying to clear out a weyr for Kurinth, entirely incensed about F’jian’s behavior.

“Thinks he can stay up all night!” She snorted. “Expects me to carry him back to his weyr!” Another cloud of dust erupted. “Wants me to bring him breakfast!”
[…Terin’s vigor coats Fiona in a cloud of dust. Terin apologizes for it, and Fiona points out that Terin moving into her own weyr has some useful benefits…]
“And people who get too much into their cups will have to find their own weyr, without disturbing you or–” Fiona paused, glancing around in surprise “–where are your usual helpers?”
“I don’t know if I’ll have them anymore,” Terin said. “Most of them were taken away last night by their mothers.”
Fiona thought that that was probably just as well. She could also imagine how the older, Thread-seasoned bronze rider might find it difficult to maintain his best behavior surrounded by small ones who viewed him with awe.

Cocowhat by depizan

For the principle of “why are we making excuses for dudes again?” among other things, but also, I think Fiona’s wrong with her reasoning. Because Terin, remember, has a gold dragon to care for. She’s going to be a Weyrwoman somewhere, at some point, and depending on how things shake out, she might become the Senior Weyrwoman at Telgar at some point. And since pissing off the Weyrwoman is a bad idea even with the best of intentions, I have a feeling all those children were removed because gold riders are entitled to the luxury of only caring for their dragon and are not to be bothered with pedestrian concerns or given anything but the finest of helpers when they want them. It would be unseemly for a Weyrwoman to be raising or minding children, after all, based on the bit I skipped over quoting from a few chapters ago about how the weyrwomen thought Fiona had done something terrible in agreeing to look after the children while Tolarth was minding her clutch.

So here’s the stark privilege contrast that the author may or may not have been intending to set up, where the blue and green riders only have additional duties piled on them, and the gold rider basically has all of her duties (and charges) removed so that she can focus on her dragon. And, eventually, presumably, to learn the task of running a Weyr (and how that’s somehow different than all the headwoman-ing that Terin did at Igen in the past.).

After letting Terin enjoy one more moment of schadenfreude by mentioning that weyrling drill was about to start (and then adding the detail that the weyrlings and Kindan were, of course, quite loud), Fiona goes to see Lorana, who is still trying to puzzle through how to save B’nik from his observed fate, but she can’t see any way of breaking time. Lorana again repeats that the only thing that’s known is that someone wearing the Weyrleader’s jacket did these things, and that the dragon looked like a bronze, so everyone assumes it’s B’nik who has done this thing. Rather than spend more time on the mystery, which might give away something, we go on to the dinner, where Fiona suggests new living arrangements for everyone in the Weyr – she and T’mar would retake the traditional Weyrleader / Weyrwoman quarters, and house T’mar’s wing above them, which also conveniently puts Fiona close to Kindan (and Lorana) in the Weyrlingmaster’s quarters. H’nez and his wing would move into the spaces vacated by Fiona and T’mar (and his wing?), so that he would have only a quick jaunt to see Jeila, and F’jian and his wing would be stationed somewhere that was far away from Terin and in a very noisy and noisome locale, one that T’mar immediately recognizes as the place where someone gets put because they’re on the Weyrleader’s or, in this case, Weyrwoman’s shit list. T’mar groks that he’s being asked about this as a formality, and formally says yes to it, and then we go on further still to Terin again sweeping out a Weyr, but this time she’s been crying and fretting about the possiblity of losing F’jian, who got drunk because he’s afraid of dying and afraid of watching all the others around him die. Fiona’s platitudes don’t work on Terin, but she is at least able to convince Terin to talk to F’jian about her worries.

Which gets her out of the way for Lorana to arrive and take a very curious interest in the way that the dust sparkles in the air, making the nominally brown dirt look gold or bronze. Which, if Fiona were better at spotting the gears turning in someone’s head, especially in Lorana’s, since she’s telepathically connected to her and all, would make Lorana’s sudden insistence on seeing Ketan a tip-off that Lorana has seized upon an idea. But Fiona doesn’t twig to it, even as she helps transport Lorana to Benden and then agrees to leave Lorana there and go back on Talenth. Lorana and Tullea both help this idea along by pointing out that Lorana can get back using Minith. Lorana goes to see Ketan and asks him about his dragon. Which would otherwise be stabbing someone in the trauma, except Lorana wants Ketan to remember what his dragon very specifically said, because it’s integral to her plan. Which she then explains sufficiently for us to get a glimpse as to what’s about to happen.

“Would you be willing to steal B’nik’s jacket?”
“Steal his–” the healer jerked upright and jumped out of his chair. “Steal his jacket? But I’ve no dragon!”
“No dragon now.”
The healer’s expression slowly changed from one of surprise and despair to one of hope.
“I’m not offering you much,” Lorana cautioned. “A chance to ride Drith again, and to make a difference–”
“My lady, to be a dragonrider again, just once!” Ketan shook his head, his eyes brimming with tears. “For that, I’d do anything.”
“First, the jacket.”
“And then?”
“We go to High Reaches.”
“High Reaches?” Ketan looked perplexed and then illumination struck. “Oh! And then the wherhold, no doubt.”
“We’ll see Nuella,” Lorana agreed. “But not until after.”
“And then?”
“And then, K’tan, you’ll get your last ride.”

And on that plot, the chapter ends. So, as has been hinted all along, since nobody actually saw who was wearing the jacket, Ketan will swipe it, his brown dragon Drith will roll in the dust to change his apparent sheen, and then K’tan will save several lives at different points in time before dying to a clump of Thread.

Which he will happily undertake, because it means, even if for a short while, he’ll be paired up again with his dragon. And also, well done, author, for engaging in a little bit of real series continuity. Something that was done in a previous book has a bearing on a later one.

The way forward is dark and long.
A dragon gold is only the first price you’ll pay for Pern.

(Fort Weyr, second hour, AL 507.11.18, Second Interval.)

Which reminds us that all of this action has taken place in less than a year. And also, as the last proper chapter, breaks with the often-terrible rhymes to instead tell us about Tenniz’s prophecy for Lorana. The chapter as such is really more of a summary that says “It all went according to plan.” Lorana went back in time, reunited K’tan with Drith, recruited a wing from Ista to follow K’tan, explained the purpose of the vial to Nuella, and then made one more jump back in time to say her goodbye to Fiona, mentally, rather than in person, before climbing aboard Minith and the both of them jumping to some unknown destination as the end of the chapter.

And Lorana was counting coughs during her hyperspace trips. Not that it matters, because, as we’ll find out in the epilogue, this last jump went on for far too long for her to keep her pregnancy. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

It will all turn out right

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.7.21)

The Epilogue begins with Fiona realizing that she hasn’t seen Lorana recently (when she has enough brain to think about it after all of her Fall work), asking Bekka, and then after she realizes she can’t find Lorana and Talenth says she can’t find Minith, she asks Kindan and explains Lorana’s last steps to him. Before they can logic things out that much, Tullea comes storming into the scene, riding behind B’nik, and trying to find “that dragon-stealer”, which I suppose is one step up from calling Lorana “dragon-killer” as she did previously. Tullea fills them in on the part where Ketan swiped B’nik’s jacket, B’nik mentions that D’vin and Sonia told them Lorana was at High Reaches, which Kindan understands as the location of the fourth vial. Fiona intuits the reason for the dust from this, explaining to the others about Lorana’s obsession, which T’mar catches on to and realizes everyone was wrong about the color of the dragon being flown, leading Fiona into putting together the next piece of the puzzle about how K’tan got a dragon to go with his jacket and commend Lorana on a brilliant plan.

Which, unfortunately, leaves the grouping no closer to figuring out where Lorana and Minith have gone. Kindan states the obvious.

“Then she’s gone,” Kindan declared in a flat, dead voice. The others looked up at him. “She went with Drith and K’tan.” He pursed his lips grimly. “That’s why he gave the vial to Nuella. She knew there is no hope, so she went as best she could.”
“No!” Fiona’s voice was loud, clear and defiant. “She didn’t do that.”
Kindan frowned at her and shook his head. “Your problem, Fiona, is that you don’t know when to quit.”
“Of course I don’t,” Fiona agreed, her eyes flashing angrily. “You taught me that.”
“Me?”
“ ’Step by step, moment by moment,’ ” Fiona said, repeating the words of Kindan’s song from the Plague. “Vaxoram said those words to you. You remembered them; you didn’t give in when the Plague threatened to kill us all.” She jabbed a finger at him, her eyes welling with tears. “You saved my life when even my father had given in to despair.” She reached out and grabbed his chin in her hand, forcing him to meet her eyes. “I won’t let you give in.”
“She’s dead, Fiona!” Kindan shouted, jerking out of her grasp. “She’s gone between, her grief too great, and she’s left us. She knows we’re doomed and she couldn’t bear to keep watching us all die slowly, dragon by dragon.” He turned to Tullea. “So she kept her word to you and then she left.” He turned back to Fiona. “She’s gone. You can’t hear her, can you?”
Fiona shook her head, lips quavering. “No, I can’t.” She looked up at him again, declaring stoutly, “But just because I can’t doesn’t mean she isn’t alive, Kindan. She won’t give up, she loves you too much.”

Not that I expect anyone to be rational at this point in time, but Fiona, Tullea said “dragon-stealer”, not “dragon-killer”. If Fiona had gone with Drith and taken Minith into hyperspace on a one-way trip, Tullea would know, since, after all, it’s her dragon that would be dead. Tullea wouldn’t be looking for Lorana to give her a piece of her mind, Tullea would be trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart as her connection to Minith was lost. Because even if it was hidden until the plot came into existence, at this point, there wouldn’t be any residual Minith to be connected to. Again, I’m not expecting anyone being super-retraumatized right now by having their wife die on them yet again to exercise logic, nor the person who is being super-retraumatized right now at the prospect of one of her family dying, but Tullea, she hasn’t got a stake in this other than that she’s pissed that Lorana stole her dragon. And, if she stops and thinks for a moment, she can tell them both they’re spouting nonsense, because Tullea is here and pissed off, rather than trying to follow her dragon into oblivion.

(Which would make for a really bad Beyond Between situation, in this case. Arith is already dead and gone, so there’s no way for Tullea to go get her and do the reunification thing, plus, Arith was a small, rather than a full-grown, so I don’t know if it would work at all. I suppose it might be something to the order of “Lorana and Arith, both dead, pass on to Beyond Between, while Minith has to wait for Tullea to die, or to hitch a ride on another dragon and rider pair that is about to go to hyperspace, where she can meet up with Minith again and they can go together,” but there’s a lot of ifs involved. And also, if not for the existence of Beyond Between, we wouldn’t even have to consider this scenario at all.)

However, the nonsense continues:

“She’s left me you,” Kindan said bitterly. “She could leave me knowing that you’re still here. In fact, she probably left because of you.”
Fiona’s eyes flashed and her hand leaped up, the sound of her slap startling everyone.
“Don’t ever say that,” Fiona told him savagely. “Don’t ever think that.”
“Because the truth hurts too much?” Kindan asked, raising a hand to massage his stinging cheek.
“It’s not the truth,” Fiona said quietly. “The truth is that she loves us both.”
“She loved her brother and sister, too, Fiona,” Kindan replied, his anger suddenly gone, his voice matching hers. “She couldn’t save them, either.”
“She wouldn’t give up,” Fiona declared. She looked up at him. “She learned it from you, just as I did.” Kindan’s eyes widened and his head jerked up at her words, as though stung once again. Fiona shook her head. “She’ll pay any price, Kindan, she’s already–oh!”

Which is the point where Fiona realizes that Tenniz’s prophecy has, in fact, come true, and that he was entirely literal, instead of figurative. T’mar picks up the right conclusion immediately afterward – Lorana has gone ahead in time on Minith, a journey that would certainly be too many coughs in hyperspace for her child to survive. Thus:

The way forward [in time] is dark and long. A dragon gold is only the first price you’ll pay for Pern. [You’ll also sacrifice your child.]

Having figured out the true meaning of the prophecy, Fiona declares that it’s now their job to be ready for her, with all of their love, when she returns. And that ends the book.

And all of that speculation about how Lorana was throwing Kindan at Fiona because she was concerned about the prophecy? Spot on, well done all. Because Kindan comes to precisely that conclusion as to the reason why Lorana was shipping them so hard, so that Kindan and Fiona would have each other to keep living with and they wouldn’t pine after Lorana.

There’s also an interesting phrasing right before Fiona declares that they’re going to wait with love until Lorana gets back.

If Lorana had gone so far in time that Fiona could no longer hear her, Lorana had gone too far for her pregnancy to survive.

Which suggests that it is still possible to be connected to a dragon or dragonrider that is slightly out of time-phase with you. The only other instance we had of this time phase problem was Moreta, who jumped ahead several months, so clearly Lorana is well beyond that boundary, but maybe this is the key to the question that I couldn’t figure out before as to how T’mar had known that Lorana had time-skipped herself before reappearing at the appropriate point? He could feel two Talenths when he only should have been feeling one, and therefore he knew that Talenth had timed it instead of going there directly? Which would mean quite the connection was forged between the two of them while they were in Igen, long before they started banging. Quantum entanglement, perhaps?

In any case, this book is finally, finally over, and we can proceed to the fourth book in this increasingly inaccurately named trilogy, where we will find that Lorana successfully jumped into the future to bring back the fruits of the various Hatchings so they can save their own asses and grow up to go back in time and save their own asses. I mean, this isn’t the first time that this author has deliberately provoked a bootstrap paradox to make it possible to solve a problem that was killing off all the dragons, so what’s one more glaring rip in continuity?

There is a moment of levity here in the back matter that is too good to pass up on, and so, for your amusement, I present the promotional card for the next book, Dragonrider, that was present in my electronic copy.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books are some of the most beloved science fiction novels in the world. Over the past few years, though, she has allowed her son Todd to take over the reins of Pern–molding the world and its stories with his own vision, while always maintaining the spirit and caring Anne has imbued into her novels.

Upon reading Dragonsblood, Dragonheart, and the book in your hands, Dragongirl, though, Anne was so enchanted by the story Todd was crafting and the characters he was bringing to life that she asked his permission to join in the final drama of his tale of Pern.

We are extremely pleased that the follow-up to Dragongirl is once again going to feature a collaboration between mother and son, as Anne and Todd McCaffery work together to bring you the next exciting book in the Pern series: Dragonrider.

I cannot read that card with anything other than a feeling that Anne was brought back, or at least, her name was brought back, so as to make the stories sell better again. Or that Anne was not, in fact, pleased at all with the work that Todd had done and made it a condition of further work in the series that she be allowed to collaborate (or control) what was going on. The prose is just a little too purple for me to believe that Anne, who, we recall, laid down fairly strict rules about what her fan clubs and their fiction efforts could and could not do with the setting and the characters, was thrilled with the direction that this trilogy has taken with only Todd’s name on the front and asked to be allowed back into the writing club. He got to try it out as being the sole author of Pern, and something, whether it was sales, complaints, reading over the work, whatever it was, made it so she wanted to reassert control over the place and its spaces. She’s the original, and he was working at her pleasure. Whatever it was, she wasn’t pleased.

So, on we go, then, with a collaboration officially at the helm again. What fresh whatfruit await us? We’ll find out, starting next week, when we take a look at Dragon’s Time, which is what the book that is promoted as Dragonrider here actually ends up being titled.

Dragongirl: Deliberately Out-Of-Character Behavior

Last time, there was a hatching, which caused a small amount of chaos in Telgar Weyr, as Kindan, newly-minted Weyrlingmaster, had charges to deal with, including Taria, now a green rider, and Xhinna, now a blue rider, after Talenth, Fiona, and Xhinna worked to get a viable dragonet out of a much thicker than expected shell. Unlike when Jaxom had to bash open Ruth’s shell himself, and it caused problems, Talenth has the supposedly maternal instinct that gold dragons were bred to have.

And the dragon numbers continue to go down, and there’s no viable solution that’s being discussed, even though at least one of them (jump into the future, then come back to the past) should be doable, based on the astronomy training that some of the Telgar riders have to figure time by the presence of the planets and stars. Whatever time-travel solution is going to be the correct one, it hasn’t been figured out yet.

Dragongirl, Chapters 21 and 22: Content Notes: The Patriarchy

Eyes faceted,
Eyes fearful.
Hearts beating:
Beat as one.

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.6.25)

This chapter starts with Fiona seeing Terin arrive at the Hatching Ground, where Terin has a small fret about the possibility of being a queen rider at her very young age. To which Fiona dismisses the concern as “you’re not much older than I was when I Impressed mine, and you’re older than both Xhinna and Taria” Which neatly sidesteps having to think that hard about how young all of the candidates are for Impression and how much having a dragon through puberty has to change the entire experience. I forget whether or not there were any canonical explanations as to why the candidates for dragons needed to be that young, but I’m pretty sure we had more than a few speculations about neuroplasticity or other such concerns. It’s just hard to imagine the wisdom in giving a hyperspace-capable flamethrower to anyone in the 12-18 age range. Perhaps that’s why the training for weyrlings is so strict about what they can and can’t do (although that still needs to be more explanation and understanding and less secret tests).

Terin notes the large amount of girls on the sands, and Fiona suggests that now that Xhinna and Taria have set the example, some of those girls might be more interested in fighting dragons rather than the single queen egg. Terin thinks about the possibility of having a fighting dragon to fight alongside F’jian with, before ultimately rejecting the idea and settling on being a queen rider. Even though she’s also chided Fiona for thinking that fighting in the queens’ wing means not risking being hit by falling Thread right before settling on going for a queen. Fiona was surprised at that, because it appears to have involved a certain amount of reading between the lines in the Igen records that Terin pored through while Fiona was elsewhere.

Fiona nodded, surprised the youngster had taken note–it was not something often mentioned. Fiona suspected that part of that was because the Weyrwomen traditionally kept the Records–they certainly edited them!–and did not want to make the dangers of the queens’ wing too apparent to any nervous Weyrleader.

Which again makes me wonder about what the Records actually do and function as, as they seem to be statistical data sets, narrative of important events in their space, and notes (maybe even coded notes) between Weyrwomen about running the place and dealing with subordinates. And all of this, potentially, under the necessity of making it all appear palatable to the Weyrleader if they should decide to consult the Records for any particular reason. And all without a standardized form or indexing system so that any information stored in the Records can be retrieved when needed. Records really are a plot device more than anything.

As the plot moves forward, the new day dawns with the reality of Tolarth’s clutch starting to hatch. As Fiona looks around and sees a well-rehearsed sequence of Candidates shucking their nightclothes and putting on their white candidate robes, she suspects Terin’s hand in this organization. Terin confirms her hand in everything while putting her own robe on, Kindan arrives with a well-organized group of weyrlings to watch the second hatching, and everyone arranges themselves as needed. Bekka’s not there, having snorted and dismissed the idea of being able to take on even more responsibility, and Lorana’s pregnancy had apparently cut off any further discussion of her return to the sands to stand. Fiona spares a snark for Kindan, in that she doesn’t believe his lack of Candidate robe will deter his dragon, whomever it may be, and then Impression happens. The plot only stays with it long enough to confirm that Terin gets the new queen, Kurinth, before skipping ahead to Fiona lamenting that it didn’t take all that long for everything to happen. Kindan didn’t get a dragon this time around, either, but Fiona fully intends to keep throwing him at each clutch until he does. Lorana is not feeling particularly sanguine about all of this, but Bekka mostly dismisses it as Lorana being a pregnant woman. Which has Fiona reflect on her own status of pregnancy, and the new feelings that are coming with it, before the chapter ends. (It’s quite short.)

Dragons soar,
Dragons thrive,
Dragons flame–
Keep Pern alive.

(Telgar Weyr, morning, AL 508.6.28)

Chapter 22 starts with Tullea arriving at Telgar, to Fiona’s confusion. Tullea is here to see Lorana and implore her to save B’nik from the “someone wearing the Weyrleader’s jacket saved people in the past before he dies” situation that is yet to happen. Lorana initially thinks Tullea’s visit is about Ketan, the one who lost his dragon to the plague, but Tullea dismisses that concern by saying that Ketan crawled into a wineskin and hasn’t come out yet. Tullea implores Lorana to help her, because she can’t lose B’nik, but Lorana replies with the same things that we, the readers, have been told to accept without any explanation: you can’t break time, and what has been observed will have to happen. Even when Tullea threatens to take herself and Minith on a one-way trip to hyperspace after B’nik dies, Lorana is apologetic, but unmoved. Tullea puts Minith at Lorana’s disposal, and Lorana says she should see Ketan.

The next scene is Fiona checking with Bekka to make sure that both of them are safe to travel through hyperspace, before going to see Ketan, who is, indeed, in the throes of severe depression and despair, because the situation still looks entirely no-win, and he doesn’t see any reason that he should live for anything. And then we skip forward to Tullea confidently saying that Lorana will figure out a way of escaping B’nik’s apparent doom, with B’nik being less confident about that idea. We also get to see how B’nik’s impending demise has changed his relationship with Tullea and everyone else in the Weyr.

In an odd way, it was somewhat refreshing to realize that the problems of who would lead the Weyr were soon going to be out of his hands. He found himself spending more time relaxing, more time enjoying each new dawn, more time bouncing children on his knee when he visited the Lower Caverns–even despite Tullea’s pointed remarks about their parentage, parentage he didn’t dispute, much to her annoyance and his amusement.
In a way, B’nik mused, what I’ll miss most is how I’ve changed. Knowing that he was going to die, B’nik no longer had a reason to put up with Tullea’s antics or demands and Tullea had dropped them as soon as she’d accepted that he was going to die. Their relationship had grown steadily stronger, more intimate, restful.
If he had one regret, it was that he could not live long enough to see how their new relationship would unfold.

I’m not particularly fond of the trope of how people suddenly end up in a loving relationship when the relationship changes sufficiently (whether by death or birth, really) that some sort of maturity dawns and things become beatific. Especially with Tullea as the example of this, because this makes her into someone who is putting up a front of being mean and terrible, but in the presences of the right man, in the right scenario, she becomes soft and kind and loving and much more the feminine ideal of Pern. It makes her a tsundere, rather than keeping her as someone who is opinionated and interested in getting her own way.

Additionally, constructing it as “once B’nik stops caring, he stops putting up with Tullea, and by not putting up with Tullea, he finally gets the ideal relationship they both want with each other,” very much still blames Tullea as the root cause of all the problems in their relationship. I still have issues with the characterization of Tullea and her designation as a strident, bitchy woman, but she was at least a change from the mold of Weyrwomen who use their soft power and their sex appeal to get the riders to do what she wants. And now, the narrative strongly implies to us that B’nik just needed to man up enough to stop caring about what Tullea thinks, and faced with the presence of a Proper Man, Tullea fell both in love and in line. Which is at least consistent for Pern, even if it’s yet another example of the core problem of basing your entire world on uneaxmined tropes of patriarchal relationships.

The narrative also lays out an implication that the B’nik who knows he’s going to die has been sleeping with anyone that he wanted to or, depending on the age of the child he’s bouncing, has already been sleeping with anyone he’s been interested in before this. That Tullea is upset about this is another one of those things that betrays the supposedly liberal attitudes of the Weyrs about sex. What care should Tullea have that B’nik is sleeping around, so long as he’s still discharging his duties as Weyrleader? What care should anyone have if Tullea were sleeping around, so long as she could still be an effective Weyrwoman? In the nominally “we don’t care about parenting, we raise children communaly” Weyr, anyway. But, of course, every author has been aggressively promoting het monogamy in their relationships involving gold riders, with the exception of Fiona.

(As has been pointed out, though, if the thing driving Lorana to throw Kindan and Fiona at each other is to make sure Kindan has a replacement for Lorana when the inevitable disaster hits, then it’s likely that the intended, Platonic ideal of relationships in the tangled quad would be Lorana/Kindan, Fiona/T’mar, and not really any sort of crossover element involved at all. Possibly still Shaneese/T’mar, since Fiona, as best I can tell, is the only gold rider who hasn’t been desirous of strict monogamy. And treasuring the memory of the time she had with Kindan because of the mating flight, even if she wouldn’t take any action to try and get more, since Kindan has Lorana and they seem happy together.)

The narrative jumps over to T’mar and Lorana, where everyone essentially has a Bad Feeling about the future to come. Fiona has basically put Lorana on suicide watch and, at least according to T’mar’s belief, is sublimating all of her other worries about everything into her singular worry about Lorana’s physical and mental health deteriorating, before popping back to Tullea sending B’nik off to fly Fall and then B’nik at the Fall, where the early arrival of Thread puts the assembled dragons into disarray, and the presence of winds around the mountains causes further chaos, in apparently much the same way that the desert winds caused disarray in M’tal’s wings. Which is still odd, given that one would expect the seasoned riders to understand the winds around the mountains and how that would affect the way that Thread and dragons work. The chaos cascades back to Lorana, and in response, Fiona dispatches herself and Bekka to go to Benden and High Reaches to help with the casualties. At High Reaches, Fiona and Sonia have a conversation about the acute amount of stresses Lorana is under, including Tullea’s request for Lorana to find a way to cheat time and Tenniz’s various prophecies. Sonia points out that Fiona got quite the responsibility with “it will be all right,” because it puts the onus on Fiona to make sure that everything is all right (rather than what Fiona has been interpreting it as, that things will turn out fine despite all the problems). Fiona very much wants to relieve Lorana’s burdens, but Sonia suggests that burdens shared will not actually be burdens lessened when it comes to Lorana. Before they can explore that thought that much further, an injured dragon comes barreling in. Sonia is surprised at how well Lyrinth and Talenth work together to bring the injured dragon in safely, but then is consumed with the need to do dragon and human healing for this dragon and all the other injured ones. The purpose of the visit to High Reaches, narratively speaking, becomes a little clearer, though, at the end of this segment.

Hours later, covered in ichor, exhausted, cold from the afternoon winds that had picked up, Sonia turned from the younger Weyrwoman in time to be wrapped warmly in D’vin’s arms.
“Her,” Sonia said, as she struggled to breathe in the bronze rider’s tight embrace, “her too.”
D’vin raised an eyebrow in surprise but reached out and dragged Fiona into his embrace. He was surprised to see Sonia wrap an arm around the other woman, surprised to see Fiona return the embrace, and suprised by how tightly the younger Weyrwoman squeezed him back. Most of all, he was surprised by one thought: Sonia doesn’t share. Apparently, that had changed.

I mean, it could also be that Fiona has been instrumental in helping treat the injured over the last several hours, in addition to being under a significant amount of stress having to do with her own Weyr and various prophecies that involve her and the people around her, and deserves thanks as much as Sonia does, but no, this is apparently another instance of Fiona’s magic working and getting people to share where they wouldn’t normally.

Fiona is staying the night at High Reaches, Sonia has decided. And this is very much Sonia’s decision, but it’s played in the narrative as a moment of levity, which is desperately needed at this point.

“You are going to stay here the night, they’ll manage without you,” Sonia said as she eyed a nightgown thoughtfully and threw it toward the younger Weyrwoman. It would be big but it would do, she decided. “Put that on.”
“But–”
“The correct answer is: ‘Yes, Weyrwoman’ ” D’vin called out drolly. “In fact, the only answer is–”
“Yes, Weyrwoman,” Fiona dutifully finished, chuckling. She’d drunk too much wine, she could feel her cheeks heating and tingling with the effects as she added superfluously “That’s the answer at my Weyr, too.”
“So you’ve got them well-trained,” Sonia said.

Which I like, just as a piece of writing, as there’s a certain amount of “Yes, Chef!” energy involved with this. More seriously, this continues to highlight the ambiguity about whose domain is whose when it comes to the running of the Weyr, and how much leverage any given Weyrwoman really has about the running of their space. It’s possible that D’vin is smarter than the average bear and has realized it’s in his best interest to let Sonia do things in her domain expertise and to support her with his authority so that the people who would look to him for command see him doing what Sonia wants, so they do the same things as well. Which we might also have to apply to T’mar and Kindan (definitely not to H’nez) at Telgar as well, which explains (along with Shaneese, who is still the best henchwoman a Weyrwoman could want) how Fiona is, for the most part, able to exercise her own influence and make the place run well.

Plot-wise, as Fiona is getting ready for bed, she reaches out to Lorana, who tells her firmly to stay where she is, which reveals to Sonia, who can read the look on Lorana’s face, that Fiona has the direct telepathic contact with Lorana. Fiona implores Sonia to keep that secret secret and also confesses quite a bit of her feelings for Lorana, which reintroduces a certain amount of ambiguity about how Fiona feels about the women and girls she cares for intimately.

“If Lorana hadn’t held Zirenth when T’mar was injured, he would have gone between.”
“And so you and Lorana…?”
Fiona shook her head, blushing furiously again. “Kindan,” she said in a small voice.
“Whom you’ve always wanted,” Sonia said.
“Yes,” Fiona said in a whisper, eyes lowered in shame. She raised them again to meet Sonia’s. “But I want Lorana, too. Like a sister, only more.” She paused, groping for words and then shook her head when she couldn’t find them, saying desperately, “I never realized that love is so different.”
Sonia quirked an eyebrow upward in question.
“I love Kindan,” Fiona said slowly, trying to make her meaning clear, “and I always will. I want children with him.” She paused. “But I want to help Lorana raise her children.”
Fiona hadn’t heard D’vin’s quiet footsteps approaching behind her so she started when he spoke up softly, “If she’s cut, you bleed?”
“Yes,” she said. “But not like with Kindan or T’mar.”
“A heart grows when you love,” D’vin said, carefully keeping his eyes on Fiona. “The more you love, the more you can love.”
“As a Holder, I was expected to marry,” Fiona said. She shook her head slowly. “I was expected to have only one man.”
“A queen rider doesn’t have that choice,” Sonia said.
“Her queen chooses in the mating flight,” Fiona said in partial agreement. “But she chooses all other times.”
“A good Weyrwoman–”
“–has the Weyr’s best interests at heart,” Fiona cut in, smiling at the older woman. “I know that.”
Sonia gave her a wicked look, as she said, “But a Weyrwoman doesn’t have to be good all the time!”

Okay, so in this context, the earlier comment about husbands and lovers very much looks like “one husband, who I could hope that I might grow to love” rather than “one husband, and perhaps, if we maintain discretion, one man that I might actually love.” So there’s that. (I do like Sonia implying that she hasn’t exactly been a dutiful monogamous Weyrwoman herself, even if Moreta is still the only one we’ve seen on screen take an outside lover from the Weyrleader.)

Additionally, though, this sequence reminds me of how Fiona came back from her three years in the past and understood that she didn’t have pantsfeels for Xhinna, not in the same way that Xhinna might have had for her. Sonia seems to be practical about the possibility that Fiona and Lorana might have had sex since their dragons were involved in sex as well. And the complete lack of judgment or hesitation on Sonia’s part either means Sonia is a badass ally or this idea isn’t a novel concept. (And therefore, Xhinna the lesbian should not actually be as uncommon as she actually is.) With the handy language developed from splitting out romantic attraction and sexual attraction out into different axes and spectra, things that haven’t really fully developed for the author at this time, I’d say that Fiona is at least biromantic, if not panromantic, even if she seems to be heterosexual, and she’s struggling with finding useful terminology for that part.

Also, Fiona really needs to talk through her feelings of guilt and shame about how she and Kindan got together, because she’s broadcasting that issue on as wide a band as she can here. I have a feeling it’s related to the part where Kindan has yet to indicate that he feels any sort of comfort about the relationship arrangment that he is currently part of. Because Kindan seems to be very much someone who wanted to be in a monogamous het relationship, and instead he finds himself in a quad that he doesn’t understand or want, because of mating flights and Lorana’s machinations.

Maybe if Kindan came to an understanding and even possibly acceptance of what was going on (even if the explanation really is “Lorana knows you have the hots for me, and she wants to make sure that I’m not left bereft of someone I love ever again, given how much that wrecked me with Koriana and it wrecked her with Arith”), then Fiona could settle into feeling like the relationships she has are okay. And she can work out exactly what her feelings are toward Lorana, whether they’re “I want us to co-parent our children and share Kindan between us” or “I have romantic feelings toward Lorana, sexual feelings toward Kindan, and I really just want us all in the same bed together, is that too much to ask?” or something else. This seems like really rich material for fanfic, honestly, since it’s a complex tangle of emotions and ideas and nobody seems to be talking about it at all on the page.

Anyway, this discussion closes out with something that I woule have expected to trigger Fiona mightily, even though it doesn’t.

Fiona’s face took on a sober look. “I’m only beginning to understand love,” she said slowly. “I’m beginning to see that there are many types.” She turned to face D’vin. “There are two men in my life right now, Weyrleader.”
D’vin nodded, understanding the unsaid part of her words. He smiled, gesturing toward Sonia. “I’m glad, because there’s only one woman in my life!”
“And that woman is cold and she wants to get warm,” Sonia declared, grabbing Fiona’s hand and tugging her along. “So let’s stop chattering out here and get under the blankets!”

Cocowhat by depizan

Like, that’s one of the worst possible things you could say about this, D’vin. Fiona is having trouble coping with her complex feels and you say “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with any of that shit, because I’m in love with exactly one woman, isn’t that great?” In any story other than Pern, I’d be willing to extend the benefit of the doubt that D’vin didn’t mean to be an asshole about it, but it’s probably, daresay even likely, that D’vin did mean exactly that and doesn’t care that he’s being an insensitive asshole to Fiona. Because the author didn’t realize how much of an asshole he’s being, there’s no reaction to it, but gah, what an asshole, D’vin.

The next morning, after a fitful reassurance from Lorana during the night, Sonia delivers yet another version of the same advice that Shaneese had given Fiona, although this time in the context of a warning.

“Remember: ‘Five coughs between, keeps the figure lean.’ ” Sonia told her warningly as Fiona sat astride Talenth and prepared to leave.
“At Telgar they say ‘seven,’ ” Fiona said. “But I’ll be careful.”
“So you want the baby?” Sonia asked, not able to keep the surprise out of her voice.

Which makes this mnemonic sound a lot more like folk wisdom, rather than some official piece of anything passed down. Which is entirely appropriate for the amount of birth control information and usage there is on Pern, but it’s interesting to see how the rhyme has stuck around, even if the number of coughs has somehow shifted around. In the next scene, which is still a lot of planning of the next Fall and T’mar telling everyone that he’s volunteered Telgar riders to help clean up any burrows from Benden’s last fall over Bitra (the one we saw B’nik have trouble with earlier), Fiona reveals to T’mar that she’s pregnant by using a similar phrasing:

“And we need the exercise,” she said in agreement, spearing him with a look as she added, “I don’t want to get fat after all!”
T’mar grimaced as the barb struck home but a moment later his expression changed. “You will be careful, won’t you?”
“As will Jeila,” Fiona said. “We’re not going that far and we’re not going to time it, so we’ll only get three coughs between.”
T’mar’s eyes took on a troubled look as he digested her words but he, wisely, merely nodded in agreement.

In the next paragraph, based on that reaction, Finoa grills T’mar about how he knew she was pregnant, which T’mar deflects with the idea that he was hoping it was true, but what makes the most sense in this context is that T’mar is also familiar with the phrasing and understands the cue that Fiona has left in her choice of words. Which suggests that the knowledge of hyperspace as an abortion service is much more widely knwon among dragonriders. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does change the understanding from a “women’s mysteries” idea that’s shared only between those who might want to avail themselves of the service to more generally known folklore present among dragonriders. I may be picking nits at this point, but there’s a lot about Pern that continues, even after all of these books, to remain nebulous that could do with a certain amount of making explicit. Which would at least change the complaints to the idea that the worldbuilding is inconsistent, instead of nonexistent.

The plot progresses at this point to Fiona taking her turn at spotting and burning Thread burrows. Although T’mar objects to her doing this at first, after he realizes he’s not going to get any help in the form of ground crews from Bitra (even though Thread burrows are routinely played up as things that could wip out a lot of things of economic consequence on Pern), T’mar lets Fiona and Jeila use their own flamethrowers in conjunction with dragons to burn out burrows. But all of that is essentially setup for the return, where Bekka is telling Fiona off for not bundling herself up properly on the way back from Bitra and catching chills. Lorana helps Fiona into bed, does a quick diagnostic of her own, and then settles Fiona into the bed, heating her with her own body and with extra blankets. The chapter ends with Fiona waking up briefly from a fever dream about losing her child, but eventually, she drifts back off to sleep, after being reassured things are fine.

I’m not entirely sure what narrative purpose this serves, unless it’s to show us that Fiona is very concerned about losing her child. But that seems like something that could be done with less dramatics that Fiona getting sick from traveling through the cold of hyperspace without having remembered to put her vest and jacket on to do it with. It would mean we’d need a new poem for Chapter 23, of course, and some other way of burning time, but I’m sure that could be arranged.

Dragongirl: Birth In The Middle of Death

Last time, the Weyrs of Pern continued to fight the rain of Thread, despite knowing for almost certainty that they were going to run out of dragons before all the eggs hatched and the dragonets got mature enough (and their riders well-trained enough) to be able to join the fight. The numbers have become so small that they’re starting to double-up on themselves, using the time-travel powers of dragons to go fly a Threadfall that they’ve already flown to help themselves. Unlike Moreta, where the author wanted to claim that the death was accidental (and then created a sort of purgatory to make sure dragons and riders were reunited in the end), this author suggests that those dragonriders that have seen themselves die simply go meekly on to their deaths when they re-fly the fall, instead of giving that one a miss and flying all the other ones they can, secure in the fact that they have armor against dying so long as they don’t go back to the one they are destined to die at until they’re ready to die. And so, the numbers of dragons continue to dwindle.

Dragongirl, Chapter 20: Content Notes: Terminating Pregnancies

Sands heat,
Dragons hum.
Shells crack,
Mates become.

(Telgar Weyr, early morning, AL 508.6.19)

The chapter starts with someone whose perspective we haven’t seen, possibly ever at all, and it’s really only there to give us a small glimpse into how the people in Telgar Weyr who aren’t dragonriders have been taking the disaster currently in progress. The answer is basically “not well,” with worries that Telgar has somehow brought massive losses upon itself because of the timing it. And Xhinna doesn’t understand how people can go willingly to their own deaths, but the riders are apparently much happier that they have certainty of knowing, and therefore they can put all of their affairs in order, say their goodbyes, and not leave anything undone. Which is a benefit, yes, if you can’t avoid it, but we’re still stuck in the Moreta problem. If you’ve witnessed your own death, or someone else has, can you otherwise act with impunity up and down the timestream until you go to your appointed end? Nobody seems interested in trying this, or in telling us about the person who tried to cheat their own death and invoked Final Destination on Pern. Because stories with time travel become more and more about time travel as it gets used to get out of situations.

Anyway, we’re with Xhinna mostly because this chapter is about Talenth’s clutch hatching, and we’re only with her long enough for Taria to tell Xhinna the eggs are hatching, and then we sprint away from them to Kindan, who is being told to put his candidate robes on by Fiona, who also intends to snag Xhinna, Taria, and Bekka theirs as well, and drag all of them down to the Hatching Grounds, where Fiona intends to supervise personally, rather than watch from the stands.

Taria impressed a green dragon, Coranth, who was very much trying to get her attention while she was trying to discount it, but Fiona points it out and so Taria accepts it. There’s also this:

Finally there were only two eggs left. One was rocking, the other seemed quiescent. Talenth craned her neck over to the still one and wailed.
“Maybe…” Fiona began, wondering how to gently tell her queen her fear that the egg was stillborn.
He needs help! Talenth leaped forward, her jaws agape. She bit at the egg gingerly with her fangs, just breaking the surface. From inside, a creel erupted and then a beak could be seen tearing away at the inner membrane.
Meanwhile, the other shell had torn open and a brown dragonet squirmed out of it, frantically searching for its mate.
“Help him!” Fiona cried, rushing forward to join her queen in freeing the still-struggling blue. Her words were unheard over the din of the creeling brown and the remaining Candidates were distracted by the din.
“He needs help!” Fiona shouted again, looking around frantically even as she reached the egg and bunched her hands into fists to pummel at the hard shell. She spied someone in the distance and shouted, “Xhinna!”

And so, instead of Ramoth going “eh, it’s a stillborn, get it out of the way,” we have Talenth actively trying to break a dragonet out of their shell. I don’t know if this is because everybody needs as many dragons as they can have, or because Talenth actually has whatever Kitti Ping thought of as good motherly instincts and therefore is trying to make sure that all of her children are fine. It’s pretty clear this blue is casting its distress on a wide band, and so it got noticed, but I would have thought that Ruth would have done the same, and yet, Ramoth is uninterested at all in one of her children, on the very Rand-inspired idea that if the dragon isn’t strong enough to break the shell, it’s not going to be useful to anyone. Which is to say that this particular scene appears to be the younger author’s take on Ruth’s hatching, and in this case, the dragons and the humans come out the better for it, in my opinion.

There is, of course, one tiny change for this situation, compared to Jaxom and Ruth, Xhinna runs over, as called, and joins in the attack to get the shell out, which puts her in proximity to the dragonet. Finoa senses what’s about to happen, and steps away to let it. Xhinna protests immediately.

“But blues are for boys!”
“What’s his name?” Fiona asked her softly, even as she moved forward to gently stroke the wings and back of the dragonet.
Xhinna dodged the answer, looking around frantically for any free Candidate. The blue creeled in a tone mixed with urgency and despair. Xhinna stopped her head in its frantic arc and slowly looked back at the blue.
“But I’m a girl!”
“I don’t think he cares,” Fiona said softly. Xhinna looked up at her, her expression a mix of horror and hope as Fiona repeated the ancient question. “What’s his name, blue rider?”
“Tazith,” Xhinna replied quickly, raising her arms once more to tear apart the shell. She took a deep breath and started smashing the shell open with all the fierceness of a mother protecting her child–or a rider fighting for her dragon.
“Louder,” Fiona called back, gesturing to the great expanse beyond them.
“His name is Tazith!” Xhinna shouted, turning her head back so that her words could echo strongly across the sands.
“Good, blue rider,” Fiona said, grinning at her friend. “Now let’s get him out of this shell.”

And Fiona’s unorthodox techniques win again, in the sense that Xhinna gets her blue, as predicted, and probably with a certain amount of glee on Fiona’s part that she’s getting to show up all of the stodgy old farts who believes that certain dragon colors are only for certain people. I can’t necessarily blame them, though, because until Xhinna, we haven’t seen an actual lesbian anywhere. And Xhinna is presumably of the correct disposition for a blue dragon, or she wouldn’t Impress. And she has her girlfriend in her weyrling cohort, so everything is coming up roses for Xhinna. Although I worry that Xhinna may have again traded one set of bullying for another set, which seems to be her hat in life. I’m sure the wagging tongues that have gone so far as to make the mistake of criticizing Fiona where she can hear it aren’t going to suddenly stop because Xhinna has a dragonet. I also expect us not to check in with Xhinna again in this book, unless there’s some very specific plot reason to do so, and instead, we’re going to go back to talking about her instead.

Immediately after shouting Tazith’s name to the rafters, the plot decides to go back to Kindan, Lorana, and Fiona, who are having a row about childcare, taking care of Lorana, and Kindan’s duties as Weyrlingmaster, and who is going to do all of those necessary things. Fiona wins the argument through stubbornness, mostly, and a little bit of logic that Kindan, as Weyrlingmaster, is going to be far too busy, so Lorana will be sharing bed with Fiona and T’mar when he’s not available. Because “T’mar is honorable,” which I think is essentially “T’mar’s not going to have sex with Lorana,” which, if people actually communicated about their relationship statuses and what was okay and what wasn’t, would probably have already been talked through, because T’mar has the main strength to handle Lorana’s back massages, and because Fiona is not going to sleep in a bed with too few people. Kindan suggests Xhinna will be enough for everyone, but Fiona points out Xhinna’s expertise is only with children, and not with dragons. Kindan tosses out the possibility of Jeila joining the sleeping crew, but Fiona says no, because Jeila’s going to need all the support she can get when her dragon hatches.

And then it gets out that Fiona hasn’t actually explicitly said all of this to T’mar, and everyone gets to help in breaking the news to him as the scene ends.

Cocowhat by depizan

But, again, rather than spend any time on real communication, the plot speeds forward immediately to examining the shells of the eggs of the newly-hatched dragons, and realizing the membranes they have are extraordinarily thick. They think the cure that keeps them from dying of the dragon plague has also produced these thicker shells, and they’llbe able to test this hypothesis when all the clutches hatch in the future, and they can make shell comparisons. In the middle of this, there’s a reference again to what’sbasically been the Question Song of this series, which talks about how long it takes for a queen dragon to clutch, how long from clutch to hatch, but there’s an additional fragment at the end, “and in a month, who seeks?” that nobody actually knows what it refers to, although they have some educated guesses about what it might be. Since it’s been mentioned repeatedly in this talk of eggs and dragons, it’s going to be plot-important, but we’ll have to wait and see how.

The talk returns to the continaully-dwindling supply of dragons, and the increasing amount of timing-it that is going to be happening, as well as the upcoming situation where someone wearing the Benden Weyrleader’s jacket will save people in the path before being consumed by Thread in a Threadfall past. Which then leads to Fiona, who we have been told, wants to have a large family, sounding like something I’ve associated with the idea of military wives.

“If you are going to get yourself killed, bronze rider, then I’m going to need something to remember you by,” Fiona told him firmly. As his lips quirked up in a smile, she added severely, “And more than just one good night.”
She put actions to her words and gave herself so completely and demanded so much of him that neither was in doubt afterward of the nature of the gift, the willingness with which it had been given, nor the love with which it had been received.
Later, in the afterglow, Fiona propped her head on one arm and told him, “And when you come back, you’re to make more time for Shaneese.” She smiled as she plumbed the depths of his expression. “As I told Lorana, I share. And I plan to get all the help raising children as I can.”

This is the part where I have to remind myself of Fiona’s age, and also to bite my tongue on the idea that Fiona is that thoroughly in love with T’mar, because I know for a fact that someone of that age can be in love, can get married, and stay together for a very long time, because it happened in my family. It’s possible, entirely, but the narrative seems very focused and invested in the physical aspects of T’mar and Fiona’s relationship to the exclusion of anything else. The narrative at least puts some interest in the emotional aspects of Kindan, Lorana, and Fiona’s relationship and makes it seem much more real, but T’mar, despite the insistence that it’s love and choosing, is really much more physical and more of a bond from their dragons than the people, or so it seems.

Now, Fiona does share well, and she’s already engineered it with Shaneese to make a pass or two at T’mar, saying it’s okay with her, and now she’s told T’mar that it’s okay with her to accept Shaneese’s advances. Which is a significant amount of communication, pretty explicit. Maturity! And naturally, what should happen next, but after the next fall, in the in-between of doubling up on the Fall, after Fiona heads off to say her goodbyes to those riders that won’t be making it back, but Shaneese sidles up with some nutmeg-spiced klah. There’s some flirting between them, where T’mar compliments how Shaneese makes up for the deficiencies that Finoa has by being young. Shaneese says she’ll have some hot massage stones ready for T’mar when he’s back. T’mar says he wouldn’t trouble Shaneese with that and keep her from sleep (Shaneese says it’s no trouble), suggests that Fiona could bring the stones (not a chance, she’s sleeping in the Hatching Ground with Jeila and Tolarth) and then says that it would be poor for him to send her back all the way across the Weyr after she drops off the stones without an escort, so, if she doesn’t mind him snoring, Shaneese could stay the night with him. Shaneese accepts, and then heads on to finish her duties. T’mar blows Fiona a kiss for her foresight, thinking it’s nice that she’s arranging for his happiness, before the thought turns to ash as he worries that Fiona might be arranging this because she plans or worries that something terrible is going to happen to her.

That night, Shaneese and T’mar discuss Fiona, and the question of whether Fiona is deluded and stubborn or whether she’s stubborn and will do anything she can to get others to live in her world instead. T’mar drifts off to sleep, and Shaneese resolves to keep up the relationship that Fiona has laid the groundwork for between herself and T’mar. Rather than linger on something that might not be about Fiona, the plot immediately fires off to Fiona, who is keeping watch over the younglings that are camped out looking at the second clutch of eggs, and shooing off the “shell-seekers”, which is something that Fiona doesn’t understand and Kindan, as Weyr Harper, can provide her with the information about.

(There’s also a paragraph about how there are apparently some people who think Fiona’s stepped in it by agreeing to look after the children, but the joke’s on them, because Fiona loves kids, even when they’re at their most child-like with interruptions and not actually sleeping when they should be, but I would have thought at this point, that people have figured out that Fiona would be good with kids, given everything she’s done so far,)

“For those who’ve Impressed, the purpose is obvious: The shard represents a memento, a good luck piece,” he explained. Fiona nodded in understanding, then flicked her eyes at him to continue. “For those who didn’t Impress, it’s more like a promise, a token of a future possibility.”

So Fiona gives Kindan a piece of Tazith’s shell, to complement Valla’s and Kisk’s that he already has, as a reminder that “some shells are harder than others. […] But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a hatchling coming forth.” Before they can muse more upon those things, Fiona takes Kindan to a secluded spot in the Hatching Grounds and the two of them have sex under Fiona’s promise that the sands will be “good for the muscles”, for which she smugly says she didn’t actually say which ones. And then she throws him out to go see Lorana, because Lorana also needs him. There’s an awful lot of what could be coded as desperation sex here, on an expectation that there will be a lot of dead people and dead dragons in the future.

It’s interesting that Fiona doesn’t know about this tradition, despite having been someone who Impressed a dragon and would probably have seen plenty of her compatriots grabbing shell fragments or other such things and could have asked at that point what they were doing and kept it in mind, but instead we have a man explaining to her something that she probably would have inquired or found out about long before now. Especially if she’s been shooing off the shell-seekers or otherwise trying to make sure they don’t overrun anything. To do that, Fiona would need to have an idea of why people would be looking for shell fragments. It’s a convenient way of getting Fiona to flirt (and more) with Kindan, and she’s still plenty flirty even after they have sex, but it doesn’t make narrative sense at all.

Kindan does go to see Lorana, who opines that Fiona is scared out of her mind and trying to hold on to everything that she can, and thus the sudden strong desire to get pregnant and have a child. But rather than dwell on that, or go further into the discussion about whether this is a good idea, and what Lorana might think about her own pregnancy (which we have heard very little about other than that she needs to have massages and other things to help her with the pain of it), or to show some empathy to Fiona because Lorana, Kindan, and Fiona have all experienced a significant loss of family due to the plague and they might all be super afraid of losing more people they care about (and in Lorana’s case, she has to experience a lot of losses of dragons), instead the plot jumps ahead immediately to the preparation for the next Threadfall, and how H’nez is entirely unhappy with the amount of dragons there are, even if he agrees that T’mar’s plan is the best plan, given their circumstances. The majority of the scene that isn’t logistics is Fiona comforting Jeila about the baby she’s going to have, and how Jeila is a tough desert girl who won’t cave in the face of problems. To which Jeila remarks that Fiona is every bit the problem that Jeila’s relatives said she was. And there’s some clunky phrasing here, but I think we’re supposed to take form the scene that Jeila realizes that Fiona is pregnant as well, but the narrative immediately jumps to the aftermath of the fall, where in teaching T’mar about a technique to help ease the pains of pregnant mothers, Fiona indicates that she’s pregnant as well. So, thankfully, we don’t have to guess at Fiona’s pregnancy.

Also, Fiona’s still not very old at all, even though we’ve spent a lot of time with her. So, on the principle that this entire world is encouraging very young people to get pregnant (despite the likelihood that said pregnancy will end up killing them),

Cocowhat by depizan

There’s a short scene where Lorana, Fiona, and Terin share a bath and talk about each piece of Tenniz’s prophecy and whether or not they’ve figured out what’s going on. Fiona thinks Terin’s going to get the gold dragon from Tolarth’s clutch, and is clinging hard to the idea that everything is going to be okay, which still leaves a lack of full understanding about what additional sacrifices Lorana will be making for Pern. But no additional progress is made, and instead we pop to the next day, where Shaneese tells Fiona she’s going to have to drink two glasses of juice (I could have sworn the juice was described in color or otherwise, but it’s not, which makes me think the juice was described earlier), which Fiona describes as “tart but sweet,” and tells Fiona to lay off the klah. Fiona gives Shaneese a raised eyebrow about how she knew that Fiona was pregnant. Shaneese retorts that Tenniz was not the only person who had gifts, and besides, it’s not like Fiona hasn’t been trying exceptionally hard to get pregnant. Shaneese also has a suggestion for Fiona.

“Talk to Bekka and Birentir before you get too far along,” Shaneese said, resting a comforting hand on the Weyrwoman’s shoulder.
Fiona turned again to look up at her questioningly.
Shaneese responded with a troubled look, then leaned down close to Fiona’s ear to confide worriedly, “This may not be the best time for you.” Finoa’s eyes widened but she said nothing. “If that’s so, there’s ways—”
“Ways?”
“ ’Seven breaths between keeps a body flat and lean’ is what I’ve heard,” Shaneese said, her tone devoid of any emotion.
“I’d heard eleven,” Fiona said. “Are you saying I should be careful going between?”
“At least you should know your choices,” Shaneese said.
[…Fiona muses on the tiredness of everyone around and realizes that losing the child to an accident borne of exhaustion is also a possible end to this scenario…]
“I’ll support you either way, Fiona,” Shaneese said, grasping some of the younger woman’s feelings better than the Weyrwoman did herself, “but I’d be remiss if I didn’t make you aware of your options and your risks.”
“Thank you,” Fiona said, aware that her tone was stiff but unable to control it. The thought of terminating the pregnancy was nearly as frightening as the thought of losing it to her fatigue.
Shaneese rubbed her shoulder affectionately. “Talk to Bekka and Birentir, they’ll know better.”
“I will.”

Some volumes ago, possibly back when we first learned about how popping through hyperspace causes abortion, I think there was a lot of speculation as to how widespread this knowledge is and how it might be spread in and outside of the Weyr. This entire exchange occludes almost as much as it illuminates as to how this information is spread, because it’s not “older wiser headwoman gives young and unknowing queen rider information about how hyperspace can affect pregnancy” because Fiona says that she’s heard a different form of the rumor, but not that she’s heard it at all. At the same time, there’s no marker that Fiona is asking the question about being careful sarcastically or in any tone of voice that suggests that Fiona already knows what Shaneese is suggesting and has known for quite some time, so yes, it’s nice that she’s saying this, but it’s not news to her.

More broadly, however, I can’t imagine this being something that a queen dragonrider just not knowing about or not hearing about from her contemporaries as soon as it became a thing that might be an issue. Fiona might not have learned about it from Cisca because before she time-hopped, Fiona wasn’t anywhere near needing to know about it. But now that she’s back, I would have expected someone to have told her after Talenth’s mating flight. Relatively soon after, possibly on one of their Weyrwoman visits to Telgar or on a visit from Fiona to their Weyr, if they thought Fiona was truly an innocent who didn’t know about this.

The earlier speculation also wondered whether or not this knowledge was common to certain classes of Lady Holder who might be transported regularly on dragonback, and whether there might, in fact, be abortion services for those Lady Holders that wished not to bear any more children than the ones they had, but obviously couldn’t refuse the Lords Holder without creating a major scandal. If that’s the case, Fiona might have been sheltered from this knowledge by being raised solely by Lord Bemin, but regularly hanging around the Healers and the Harpers and having a super-obvious crush on Kindan might have had that information imparted to her once Fiona was of age to have to worry about pregnancy as a possibility once she came into herself as a being capable of getting pregnant. Bemin might not know a damn thing about menarche and handling the bleeding, but Bemin is pretty clearly not the only person that Fiona has had contact with. So, presumably, some information could have been transmitted to her that way as well. Perhaps I’m focusing on all of the wrong things while there’s a big “Dragons are dying, ohnoes, how are we going to get out of this one?” question going on, (time travel, it’s obviously going to be time travel, we just haven’t been shown how yet) but these are the kinds of things that have a tendency to suddenly explode later, or to toss someone out of the world that’s been built because it’s a clear and obvious break with everything that’s been said or done before, and it distracts from the main plot because someone who is either fan or anti-fan will then have to spend cycles trying to figure out how it works.

Best I can tell from this exchange, the narrative is suggesting the knowledge of hyperspace abortion is something that’s common knowledge among the headwomen of the Weyr, but not necessarily common knowledge among the Weyrwomen, or at least not something they might think about on the regular. But that rings hollow for me, and I’m not sure why. (Also, again, we’re talking about very young women getting pregnant, which can’t be a good thing if their bodies aren’t developed sufficiently or well for the idea of having children.)

Anyway, Fiona refocuses her attention on the conversation all the leaders are having at the table, including H’nez’s continual grumpiness at the lack of dragons and similar grumpiness at Fiona’s apparent unwillingness to see that all signs point to the extinction of the dragons. Fiona drops the bombshell that Jeila’s pregnant on the leaders as a way of ducking the question, even though it’s also a promise to raise H’nez’s kid even if he’s not there to do so. The other leaders congratulate H’nez on the pregnancy, but it’s Kindan who saves the day by providing a real reason for potential hope by revealing that one of the vials from Wind Blossom was a way of transforming watch-whers into dragons, so even if all the dragons die out, they can come back, assuming there are still watch-whers to do so. (Or, more specifically, at least as I read it, there’s still one gold watch-wher able to do so, which means that Nuella and Nuellask are actually the last line of defense. Which means the fact that they’re being risked because the two of them are the most efficient information conduit to coordinate night Threadfall should come to the assembled dragonriders right about the time Nuella and Nuellask just barely dodge getting killed on one of those night raids.)

F’jian suggests throwing dragons forward in time to the end of the Pass, so they can rest, recover, breed, and then come back to save everyone’s ass at the appropriate time. The suggestion is dismissed as too difficult of a task to pull off, despite the fact that, in theory, Fiona and her weyrlings (and, presumably, others as well), were taught an accurate-enough way of time travel using stars and planets to the point where they should be able to hop forward fifty Turns. The only potential problem being that they might materialize where someone already is, but if Igen’s still abandoned, that gives them a safe point to pop into, especially if they leave notes for the future to say “hey, leave Igen alone because we’re going to need it for this time-travel stunt.”

Which leaves them with the problem of too many eggs and dragonets and not enough fighting dragons. C’tov talks about the same rhyme as Lorana had before and asks about the last stanza as well. Kindan tells the assembled that current thinking among the Harpers is that it’s just a rhyme added to make it more memorable. H’nez dismisses that idea as not something that Harpers are in a habit of doing, and Kindan admits that none of the other Teaching Songs have been embellished in that way. Fiona suggests the “in a month” might be the minimum time from hatching before it’s safe for a dragonet to goto hyperspace, which earns her more than a few raised eyebrows of her own. The chapter itself ends on everyone agreeing that two or three Turns is far too long to wait for the hatchlings to get mature.

Dragongirl: But Not Too Quickly

Last time, much of what we’ve been suffering through for the entire book – angst about polyamory, despite an increasing amount of material available that says this shouldn’t be as weird as it’s being made out to be, Fiona uncorking her rising stress levels on someone who provided a convenient excuse for her to do so by badmouthing Lorana and Kindan in her hearing, and continued confusion amount what actually qualifies as medicine and medical knowledge on Pern.

Oh, and Tullea being Designated Bitch.

Dragongirl: Chapters 18 and 19: Content Notes:

Chew stone,
Flame Thread.
Craft home,
Else dead.

(Keroon Threadfall, morning, 508.5.21)

The latter pair of this poem doesn’t make sense in its own context. Maybe it does in whatever the larger context of this fragment is, but dragonriders who are flaming Thread in the sky aren’t going to necessarily need to build themselves a home to wait it out in, and the people who are building homes to ride it out aren’t going to have giant flame-throwing dragons to fight it with.

Chapter 18 starts with M’tal again, getting ready for yet another Threadfall in his zone of control. While he’s complaining to himself about the lightness of his wings and the severity of the winds, somehow he manages not to notice that the winds have blown the Thread behind them, the Thread that they have arrived early to fight (M’tal explicitly says that they’re here early for the Fall) and it descends upon M’tal and kills him. And so, without ceremony or heroism, M’tal dies. I still don’t understand how neither M’tal nor any of his riders have figured out the winds of the space and determined some sort of effective fighting method, but maybe this is a once-in-many-years event that’s going on for months at a time. Or the idea of the phalanx and the square and other military formations have disappeared in the many hundreds of years of peace, and therefore there’s not enough imagination to figure out how to reorder the ranks so that lines don’t get surprised by things descending on them from behind. Maybe all that expertise has already died in the human and dragon plagues.

I also am less than happy that M’tal gets such a quick death, Not as terrible if M’tal were the only named person in a triad in the book, but still, there’s a lot of other characters that could be splatted in such a way to establish that things are weird. It’s potentially reading to me as a combination of Bury Your Gays and someone getting fridged for someone else’s motivation. Because, having killed M’tal, the action shifts immediately to Lorana and Fiona and the need for the riders of Telgar to time themselves over to Ista and take care of the Fall. Which means that Fiona has to hop back in time for an hour to tell Shaneese to get firestone sacks ready so that the riders can pop over immediately. Which Talenth helps her with, and smugly tells Fiona that she remembers what happened and that Fiona told her not to say anything about it. Which Fiona says is a good idea and then pops back to the future to inform T’mar about what he needs to do, where he needs to go, and when he needs to go to. Of course, nobody has any sort of idea to try hopping back just a little bit further in time to see if they can save M’tal, because You Can’t Change Time, and the death of M’tal is apparently a fixed point because someone else has observed it in some way. Which, when T’mar pops back in time, he does observe happen, and then finally shouts an alarm to the riders,and the two groups leapfrog each other, flaming a space above themselves which is then occupied by a dragon arriving from hyperspace, who then flames the space above them, and so on until the riders are above the Threadfall, at the edge of where breathing is comfortable, and finally, the dragonriders become effective.

Which makes me wonder, again, how this situation has come about. Because every other Fall is described as being on the level of (or possbly below) the dragons as it approaches on the horizon. Yet, this time, supposedly being early to the punch, M’tal and his group find themsleves below the Thread line and in the middle of it. I wonder how detailed the charts and such are, then, because if they’re at the detail of “Thread falls over Keroon today”, then the right place to be is outside of Keroon with scouts, one of which will signal the approach of Thread, so that all the others can then pop into place, form up, and give it a go. If things are more specific than that, you can narrow the space where the scouts are viewing, and then arrange and go from there. Especially in a place where it’s already known that the winds make it more difficult to fly and give Thread a certain amount of irregularity.

Anyway, the nuts and bolts of the fight are left to themselves, as the narrative heads back to Fiona and Lorana, and Fiona has a nice encouraging conversation with a young weyrgirl about the eggs on the Hatching Grounds. A thing that I didn’t mention in the last chapter was Fiona’s insistence that Xhinna is going to get to look at and touch the eggs on the Ground, and no, she doesn’t mean just the queen egg, so this gives some context for what’s about to happen.

“I’m only a girl,” the youngster replied, deflated. “I can’t imagine a queen will want me.”
“It still doesn’t hurt to look, does it?” Fiona asked.
The girl thought it over and shrugged. “It’d be better if I was a boy,” she said after a moment, frowning. “And even if I were, I’d be too young yet.”
“Dragons pick who they will,” Fiona said, gesturing to herself with a grin and then glancing significantly toward Lorana.
“Yes, Weyrwoman,” the girl replied dutifully.
Fiona snorted at the response and the girl gave her a startled look. “I’ll tell you this: It’d be hard to imagine a dragon Impressing someone who’s so certain she won’t.”
The youngster pondered upon that for a moment and then nodded solemnly. “Yes, Weyrwoman.”

Which, I’m sure, would be scandalous of someone with anything other than a gold dragon overheard Fiona, but Fiona has also been remarkably consistent about her belief that the fighting dragons are not the exclusive provenance of the boys, so her seeding the idea into the minds of other young girls is very much Fiona to a tee. And having had it happen once on camera, I am head-canoning that Fiona has been doing this off-camera for all sorts of young women as well, with the hope that when hatching time comes, she’ll be able to field a whole bunch of candidates for all the eggs, much to the consternation of the other riders.

After the exhaustions and casualties are tallied up, at the meeting of T’mar and Fiona, they realize that there aren’t a whole lot of bronzes left. Since they’re in leadership positions, and there’s a significant amount of people in leadership positions biting it during these Falls. To which Fiona suggests that bronze riders be preserved in the same way that queens are being preserved, so there’s always enough bronzes to have sex so the queens keep laying and hatching. Not, again, that this will mean much as the numbers continue to decline.

Before getting too far into the details on this, Fiona decides that it’s time to give her promised tour of the eggs, and sends Darri, the girl she spoke with above (who is all of eight) to go fetch Xhinna and Taria and have them bring whoever they have charge of to the Hatching Grounds so that they can see the eggs. Shaneese has some misgivings about this (“Just remember, my lady, that the behavior you encourage is what that will persist.”), but Fiona has thought about this, and intends to accept requests to see the eggs. Whcih she will promptly delegate to Xhinna and Taria (who have, all this time, still been taking care of children, despite, apparently, all of the chatter and clucking about how unnatural their relationship and orientation was) to manage. Fiona has very definitely thought this through, since T’mar gave his blessing on it, and because it will have a very particular useful effect.

“You’re not expecting them to get some of the weyrlads to watch the little ones?” Shaneese asked in wonder.
Fiona shrugged. “I imagine they’d even agree to diaper duty if the demand’s high enough.” She gave Shaneese a measured look, adding, “I think that Xhinna’s already well-proven she’s able to do a lad’s work, so why shouldn’t they have to show they can do a lass’s?”
Shaneese snorted loudly at the notion.
“And,” Fiona added a bit more seriously, “I think those who are willing to undertake some of the more demanding duties are exactly the sort who will appeal most to a new-hatched dragonet.”

Which does posit the question of what boys who are not of age to ride dragons are doing with their days, outside of something like sacking and digging firestone, because I can’t imagine a place like a Weyr where there isn’t a fairly constant need for bodies to do things, whether it’s run messages, run objects, keep an eye on things (or people), help with the weaving, or the knitting, or the pottery, or any of the many things that a Weyr would be doing on a daily basis. Given that there’s no farming for the boys to help with, that removes a big amount of their likely labor, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for them to do to contribute to the functioning of the Weyr. I would entirely believe there is a gendered division of labor, and that the matters of child-rearing, and especially of changing stinky babies, would fall entirely on women, but I do have to wonder what all the boys are doing.

Anyway, I’m all on board with this plan of Fiona’s to try and get everyone doing tasks they would have otherwise thought beneath them or for girls, so that they get the full experience of everything, with the promise of getting to see and touch the eggs as the reward. Fiona also mentions that she fully plans on making T’mar take shifts on diaper duty (I’m really just assuming these are cloth diapers of some sort and not trying to think too hard about how the word diaper survives all this time.) when Lorana gives birth. Which leads to further discussion about the relationship between all of them, courtesy of Shaneese.

“Not that it’s my place,” she told the younger woman, “but there aren’t many who don’t get jealous over time.”
“I know,” Fiona agreed with a sigh. “I’m not one of them, nor is Lorana.” She allowed a wary look to cross her face. “I’m not quite sure what T’mar wants. I think Kindan is still grappling with his feelings.”
“He probably always will be,” Shaneese said. Fiona looked up at her, trying to keep her worries from showing. “You look like the woman he first loved, you aren’t the woman he learned to love next, and yet…”
“And yet he loves me in spite of all that,” Fiona said, hoping that the words made the truth.
Shaneese nodded. “I think that’s so.” A moment later she added, “But T’mar?”
“He thinks he’s too old for me, although he’s not much older than Kindan,” Fiona said. “And he worries that his place is with me only because his bronze flew my gold.”
“But isn’t that so?”
“I can’t say for certain, but I don’t think so,” Fiona said. She met the older woman’s eyes squarely. “He was my first, I chose him. But I think more than that, I love him because because he’s honest with me and will tell me truths I don’t want to hear and trusts that I’ll listen to him and respect his words.”
“He is quite a man,” Shaneese said in agreement. She gave the young Weyrwoman a calculating look and raised her hand to wiggle a finger warningly underneath Fiona’s nose. “And if you do decide that he doesn’t suit you, don’t be surprised to find him with me instead.”
Fiona chuckled at the thought. “You are quite an attractive person,” she said. “And I believe that the two of you would make a good pair.” Then she chuckled mischievously.
“What?”
“Why don’t you find out, then?” Fiona said. The headwoman’s surprise was total, so with another chuckle Fiona turned away from her and started out to the Weyr Bowl, pausing only long enough to call back over her shoulder, “I see nothing wrong with sharing.”

Cocowhat by depizan

This is a very different Fiona than the one who came back to herself to find herself screwing Kindan. And the one who went back in time and raised a Weyr and decided that it would be a much better idea to be sexually experienced before her dragon rose to mate, and so she chose basically the only person she could choose that would be of the correct orientation and experience level to presumably give her a good education. With as much as Fiona seems to know about everyone else’s emotional states, it’s really aggravating to me that she still isn’t apparently doing any direct talking with anybody so that she can confirm her suspicions. Also, it’s been quite a shift from that Fiona who came back to herself to this one, who thinks that it would be fine with her if her headwoman also started banging the Weyrleader. At this particular point in time, if Fiona’s sharing, I would like to believe that it means that she’s come to terms and acceptance with her place in her relationships and is fine with things the way they are. Which again, would be nice to confirm by actual and direct communication with all the people involved. Fiona immediately does talk with Lorana about her latest decision, and the two of them talk about their feelings for each other, and how it had to be the four of them and the dragons involved for this whole thing to come about and be as good as it is.

The narrative then has Fiona look for Lorana as Telgar is preparing to fly another Thread elsewhere, and while nobody can find Lorana, Fiona gets more than a few excited children telling her stories about the eggs. Apparently, Taria and Xhinna are both worried their significant other is going to Impress a queen and go live somewhere else in the world, as if it were somehow impossible for someone to take their weyrmate with them when they went to a new Weyr. But at least the two of them are apparently talking about their fears and worries for each other, rather than the expanded polycule that seems to be doing its level best to make sure they never talk with each other directly.

While Fiona continues to search for Lorana, the narrative shifts to T’mar flying fall over Crom, which also apparently has the same problems with wind currents and bad air and Thread appearing out of place or phase, which results in another save from someone wearing the Benden Weyrleader’s jacket, but this time, the rider is not so lucky, and they and their dragon die. T’mar, of course, as soon as the Fall is done, rushes to tell Tullea of her Weyrmate’s heroic sacrifice, except there’s one major problem: B’nik is quite alive still. And now T’mar, B’nik, and Tullea are convinced they have witnessed B’nik’s death when he hops back in time at some point to fly Thread. And that’s the end of chapter 18.

A thing I have not seen nearly as much discussion of in time travel plots, in addition to the sometimes long lengths that the narrative goes to for ensuring that someone doesn’t see reality (so that it can be revealed later on that all the things they saw and heard were correct, but in the wrong context, such that instaead of someone being killed horribly, they survive just fine to go on), is that people don’t take advantage of their plot armor if someone really, truly, has seen them die in some way. Unless it’s a timeline where each action births new timelines, and what happens is really shifting among the timelines until the desired result is achieved, that is. But in a world constructed like this, where there’s only one timeline, it’s self-correcting, and things witnessed in the past are things that have to happen, right now, B’nik should be able to do just about anything without fear of dying, so long as he doesn’t wear his jacket when he goes to do it. (Of course, since nobody has actually seen the face of this now-dead rider, it’s not a guarantee that it’s B’nik.) Keep this idea in mind as we go into the part of the narrative where riders start witnessing their own deaths, because they have to start doubling up on themselves to have enough dragons to kill Thread.

Smither, tanner, crafter know
Where and how your work must go.
As prospers thus the dragon weyr
So will Pern be kept Thread clear.

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.5.26)

Okay, that scansion is terrible, and I feel like I’m tripping over the feet of this rhyme. Better poetry for Pern, please.

Because it is at this point where the plan to double up on themselves to fly Thread is put into action, after heated, stressful agreement by all the leaders present. Which produces this conversation:

“Are you sure you want to do this?” T’mar asked the brown rider.
“We know that I already did,” B’len said. He straightened as he looked toward Lareth, his brown. “I’ve had time to say good-bye, and that’s more than J’lantir had.”
B’len had come to Telgar as J’lantir’s wingsecond; they’d flown together for many long Turns.
“You know,” B’len said philosophically, “it’s really true that knowing you’re going to die gives you a greater appreciation for all that’s good in life.”
“Don’t be,” B’len told him. “I’ve had a good life and I know that I’ll die the way I wanted–taking Thread with me.”

But nobody suggests, say, living out to the end of the Pass or even longer, being an extra person to help in this situation, because, having witnessed his own death, B’len now has Plot Armor. If there’s only one timeline, and we know when and where his death is, then he’s functionally invincible until whatever time he decides to go back andn fulfill the timeline. We’ve only had, so far, one situation where someone traveled in time to a period beyond their own death, and while it was only for a day, Moreta did not suffer any apparent ill effects from it, other than her own dragon being unable to contact her in the future. But we’ve seen a certain amount of how that’s a function of time-travel, not necessarily of living past your own death. If there are enough riders who have witnessed their own deaths from all the Weyrs, they could form up to be the Invulnerable Flight and handle as much of the Threadfall remaining as they can, until the point where they have to go back in time because the timeline is choosing to self-correct or the strain of being in too many places at once dissipates them enough that they no longer are capable of doing anything and have to go back and finish themselves out. Since their deaths are a known and fixed point in time, they are essentially free to do whatever they feel like doing until they eventually go back and make sure the timeline is correct.

But instead of trying to exploit this loophole for all its’ worth, instead we have people meekly going back in time to fly their own deaths immediately, having said their goodbyes to everyone important to themselves in the interval. And after this, the narrative tells us that T’mar cries himself to sleep, which is a good thing to do when you’ve had to watch your subordinates die twice. And then Fiona wakes him up the next day with a cheeky grin and an insistence that there’s always something to live for, by which she means sex. And demonstrates what there is to live for with him. At breakfast, Fiona suspects, and then Jeila confirms worldlessly, that Jeila has also been demonstrating “one of the fruits of life” with H’nez. And then, further on, Fiona suspects, and Jeila confirms wordlessly, that Jeila’s pregnant, but she doesn’t want Fiona to say anything. Lorana’s not in good shape, based on the Benden casualties, and there’s frission about how they’re all running out of dragons and there won’t be fighting dragons in time, no matter how many clutches there are (one more reported, the junior at High Reaches, twenty-two, one queen egg.) Fiona tosses off what she thinks is a joke to T’mar about who should be the next Weyrlingmaster, but T’mar shocks everyone by immediately naming Kindan to the role. H’nez cries foul because Kindan’s not a dragonrider. T’mar and the rest point out that Kindan has the requisite experience in raising a watch-wher, a fire-lizard, having been involved in fighting Thread and flying dragons, and also already knowing all the lore required. And besides, he’ll be teaching them the appropriate songs, anyway.

Lorana asks whether that idea changes if Kindan gets his own dragon, but T’mar says no, because Kindan is still the most experienced person they can spare to the duty. So that’s “heard and witnessed” with C’tov and F’jian standing in as witnesses.

The rest of the chapter is everyone winding down for bed. Fiona throws Kindan at Lorana and tells him to comfort her, telling him that there are warming stones for massage by the bed for him to use before she heads off to T’mar, and determines that T’mar is thinking about throwing the entire cohort of remaining dragons at Telgar, save the queens, through the time-twist so that they have the greatest odds of survival. Which leads to talking a lot about how they’re all going to fight to the last dragon and watch-wher, which is suitably motivating for T’mar as well. Which means we have a lot of people appreciating Fiona. So, first, here’s how Kindan feels about her as she’s leaving to go find T’mar:

Kindan nodded vaguely, relieved that he hadn’t been required to ask the Weyrwoman to leave; particularly as it would have required him to ask her to leave her own quarters. Still, he felt awkward: She was so gracious in her behavior that he wanted to dash her off her feet and wrap her in his arms, yet at the same time he was pleased that she didn’t expect it.

And he has gratitude for Fiona’s foresight in having the warming stones and some oil delivered because he wouldn’t have thought of such things to help ease Lorana’s tension.

Here, also, is what T’mar thinks after Fiona delivers her to the last dragon speech:

“You,” T’mar said in voice choked with emotion, even as he wrapped his hands around her and dragged her tight against him, “are a gift.”
Fiona’s eyes welled with tears; she could find no words. A moment later she pushed back against T’mar and he looked down at her as she told him in a soft, firm voice, “You have to share me, you know.”
“I know,” T’mar said, his voice both soft and tender. His lips quirked up as he added, “You’re far too much for one man alone!”

Well, I’m glad that Fiona has at last articulated that part of the relationship to T’mar, even though it’s been clear what’s going on for all of this time. And that a conscious and fully-understanding T’mar has consented to it.

Both of these cases of appreciation, though, are for the things Fiona does to make things easier for her partners and to de-stress them. Which has value, absolutely. But this is also the sort of thing that a Weyrwoman is just expected to do for everyone, and not that long ago, Fiona was going to burst with all the stress that she’s been taking on for everyone else, even if she is trying to distribute at least some of it around for others to handle. What happens when Fiona cracks? (She won’t, of course, because she’s Fiona and the entire morale of the Weyr is riding on her not cracking.) Fiona needs some enforced self-care time, but nobody seems to be willing to stand up to her and tell her “today, the day after we have had a Fall, you are doing sweet fuck-all. There will be luxurious warm water baths, hot massage stones, and your choice of hot men to attend to your every need, and possibly even take to bed if you are so inclined to do so after you have had this day, but there will be no business crossing your brain today.” Possibly with Shaneese being told, in Fiona’s hearing, that anyone attempting to bring business to the Weyrwoman will be put on firestone sacking duty for the next three weeks, and that instruction includes the Weyrwoman trying to bring business to herself. It would probably drive Fiona up the wall, not knowing, but it’s not healthy for her to be in a continual state of stress, and working hard to make sure everyone else gets their down time without taking some for herself.

And that’s before the complications that start showing up in the next chapter. But we’ll get to that in time.

Dragongirl: Remembering There’s A Plot

Last time, the Weyrs redistributed their personnel to try and give enough riders to each other so that they could survive the next few Falls. So far, the attempts at keeping casualties down to acceptable levels have been failing, but the dragonriders are forging ahead. They’ve suggested doubling up on themselves to try and ensure their own survival once their numbers are too small, but they haven’t tried it yet to know whether it will work, because they’ll know they’ve tried it when they see themselves, and they’ll know how well it works when they’re saved by themselves.

Once again, as we stated early on, time travel plots become more about the time travel rather than about the rest of the plot.

Dragongirl: Chapter Sixteen and Seventeen: Content Notes:

Dragonrider
Dance in clouds
Soar to starts
Touch mountains
Skim rivers.

(Telgar Weyr, morning, AL 508.4.15)

This chapter opens with T’mar and Zirenth getting to fly together, finally, now that T’mar is healed enough to give it a go, or so the Healers think. Talenth is not going to join Zirenth, because she’s too egg-laden to go flying, which gives us a little banter about information likely gleaned from the Records about queen clutches, like “an early clutch is a small clutch” and “queen eggs are rare on the first clutch.” And now that we’re talking about pregnant dragons, we’re going to start talking a lot more about pregnant women. Which starts in one of the worst ways that such a thing can do.

T’mar’s encouraging talk was still not enough for H’nez and the bronze rider grumbled that when T’mar recovered, he’d request to be allowed to return to Fort Weyr.
“No you won’t!” Jeila had told him heatedly. “You’ll stay here, with me, where you belong.”
And that, as Jeila told Fiona later, was that. Although, Fiona thought with a grin, perhaps Jeila had produced some extra inducements as she had confided all this as a prelude to announcing her pregnancy.

Cocowhat by depizan

That’s not the way I would hope that news gets delivered, since I would expect it to be happy and joyous, not part of a certain amount of almost-blackmail, to hear the narrative describe it. The way this sequence goes through, it’s more like Fiona is grinning that Jeila convinced H’nez to stay, not out of “but we’re happy here” but out of “my dragon has eggs and I have a baby, so we’re not going anywhere at all.” Which wouldn’t actually be as much of a threat it appears to be in this narrative if Weyrs really were more communally raising their children than they actually are in these books.

Jeila is worried that she’s not going to carry to term, to which Fiona reminds her that her mother was built the same way and Jeila admits that she eventually had four kids. Jeila wants Bekka to attend her birth, and Fiona thinks she’ll start asking for Bekka and her mother, given that Lorana might be ready to give birth as well. Jeila inquires about whether Fiona might also need one, to which Fiona shrugs.

It was just possible that she was with child, but Fiona had always been erratic in her cycle, so she wasn’t entirely certain. Surely she hadn’t noticed any changes in her eating habits and, if she felt a bit more emotional, it was far too easy to ascribe to the current mood of the Weyr–even, all of Pern.

Although, with the way that everyone has also made fun of Fiona about getting fat, I also wonder whether that erratic cycle and mood swings might be due to some sort of mental issues she’s developed and predate the possiblity that she might be pregnant.

The narrative has no interest in examining what Fiona’s psychic landscape is like, instead turning to the dwindling supply of dragonriders available to everyone. The dragonriders decide to practice precise timing and sending themselves in the past, to the point where they are close enough to each other to see themselves. The only snippet of story we hear about all the jokes and stories Is this:

“I never knew I was that fat!” “We did!”

Which says something about what’s considered humor on Pern all the same, and that’s not really a thing that I’ve been all that fond of people using as humor at all. H’nez, at the conference of leaders, is dour about how many they have lost at Telgar, and no amount of comparison to the other Weyrs and the good company he’s keeping with his casualties gives him any comfort.

That night, Fiona spends a little time with he dragon, reassuring Talenth while she sleeps, before recognizing that Kindan has come to see her, and after a small comparison of how Lorana and Kindan feel very different mentally to her, she lets herself be swept up in his arms, and the narrative shifts to T’mar and the other riders who timed it back earlier complaining of the mother-of-all-hangovers, something very different than the thing Fiona was feeling when she was spending all that time at Igen and Fort together. Which could help us extrapolate that being near to each other while being twice in time has a much harder toll on them, if that’s what we’re supposed to get out of this. But, because nobody has systematically explored and then written down what timing it is like for themselves, we are still left to guess. And given how much of this story is about time travel, now, I’m sure we’re supposed to pick something up from how different this experience is, compared to other ones.

As the Threadfalls happen, Fiona makes sure that Lorana always has someone with her to see how she is doing and to comfort her from the ineviatable losses. By the time of the last scheduled Fall, Fiona has collected a support group of her own, headed by Rhemy, one of the younglings earlier who was involved in the discussions of helping people regrow their hearts, because Rhemy has figured out Fiona feels the same effects, although not to the degree that Lorana does. Which is about all that Fiona will admit to, is that she doesn’t feel things to the degree that Lorana does. Talenth isn’t helping any, in that she’s having disturbing dreams, somehow related to her clutching and hatching, but there isn’t any actual detail to go along with it, and, of course, there’s the steadily decreasing numbers of dragons and dragonriders to contend with. Which is to say, Fiona is stressed the absolute fuck out, but she’s not confiding in anyone, and she’s not actually talking about it. Why is this?

Fiona dug deep into herself to find enough cheer to to spread it to Talenth and counteract the dragon’s despair, but she realized that even her reserves were stretched. She knew how much the rest of the Weyr looked to her, how they shook their heads in amusement when they thought she wouldn’t notice over her ever-cheerful manner, how she managed to find something good even in the hardest of times. Oh, the old ones would prattle on and warn her that she was taking things too easily, but Fiona knew with a certainty that the mood of the entire Weyr was influenced by her cheerfulness and that mothers would tell their daughters, “See? The Weyrwoman’s not worrying, why should you?”
Dragonriders, too, took their cues from her, as did Jeila and even Lorana.

This is the same basic structure that we had earlier, about how Weyrwomen are perpetually always the Chief Morale Officer of their Weyr, so they’re not allowed to feel all that many negative emotions all that fully, lest they have an emotional contagion and start bringing down the emotional states of the people around them, too. It’s worse now, of course, because there’s no person that Fiona can turn to for relief of her own distress. Including what is happening as Fiona is struck by the resemblance between Jeila and Tanniz, which sends her into a spiral about what happened to Tanniz when the despair got to be too much for her, such that Fiona worries that Lorana might follow that same path. It’s a short worry, but all of this pretending to be the happiest person on earth has Fiona basically stuck as someone who can’t actually get away long enough to have a cry or a scream or otherwise to do something other than smile on the outside as he stress kills her on the inside. And she’s still not all that old and being thrust into this role. I’m having trouble figuring out how to articulate the kind of existential cry that must be going on with Fiona right now, because I’m not sure that it can be put into words, but I can definitely tell that it’s there.

Kindan arrives to try and help alleviate some of Fiona’s burden (although he was initially resistant to people trying to relieve Lorana’s burden, the narrative tells us that he comes around to it and begins to appreciate how much of that burden he had taken on himself, and doesn’t have to do any more), and after several times where Kindan believes everything has to do with pregnancies, whether Talenth’s or Lorana’s, Fiona finally lets him have it.

“It’s…everything,” Fiona said, throwing her arms open wide. “It’s that Talenth and Tolarth will both soon clutch, that we’re losing dragons every three days and all the clutches on Pern will be too little too late and that, on top of it all, she has a child coming into the world and she doesn’t know where she fits.”
“With me,” Kindan said with a decisive nod of his head.
“With us,” Fiona corrected. Kindan gave her a questioning look. “Here, in this Weyr–Telgar–where she’s central to everything, where she can speak to all dragons, coordinate with Nuella and the watch-whers, and be surrounded by those who love her.”
“So where is the problem?”
“The problem is with her, Kindan,” Fiona replied tetchily, surprised at his obtuseness. “The problem is that she sees all she is not–not a Weyrwoman, not a mother, not a mate–and it worries her.”
“How do you know so much about her feelings?”
“I didn’t,” Fiona said. “Mostly I learned it from Shaneese and Mekiar.”

Also not quoted was Fiona’s realization some time ago that Lorana is shielding her from the brunt of what she feels when dragons are lost. And somehow, we’ve managed to derail the part where Fiona is full up to bursting with her own issues and gotten re-centered on Lorana and her issues. Kindan continues in this vein by saying that Fiona probably understands something about pregnancy (gestures at the dragon), being a mate (doesn’t gesture at T’mar or himself, but could), and about being a Weyrwoman (because she is), and therefore Fiona is the perfect person to help Lorana through her issues. Even though Lorana seems to have been getting a lot worse over time. Fiona says she’ll give over Talenth if she could, which draws a very sharp rebuke from the arriving Lorana, and the chapter ends with the baby kicking Lorana. Which Fiona asked about to distract Lorana from being morose about the fact that Ista is flying Thread and they’re light dragonriders, like everybody else is. After both Fiona and Kindan said they loved Lorana.

And because the baby giving a kick is a great cliffhanger to end on, we go on to Chapter 17, where M’tal is getting ready to fly Thread.

Fly high,
Scan sky,
Brave all,
Fly Fall.

(Ista Weyr, afternoon, Al 508.5.5)

Although it’s not that specific Threadfall mentioned in the last chapter, but a different one. M’tal, we find, is sensibly keeping some of his troops out of the fight and others as a reserve wing in case more people are needed. In addition, he’s worried that Igen is going to give him difficulty, because the hot sands make for unstable and turbulent wind conditions, but he doesn’t let on about that.

At which point I am thinking about something I didn’t think about before, namely that Igen is a desert, and it’s been an abandoned Weyr for some time. If there’s no green in the desert, and M’tal is worried about Thread, does he need to be there? After all, if Thread falls on desert sand, with no carbon life for it to gorge upon, and only light and heat to bake it while it tries to burrow and find something useful, how much should he be worried about fighting it over the thermally turbulent sand? If the sand is over rock, he could theoretically let it fall there, and the Thread would die of starvation, right? And there would be nobody around to fault him for it, so long as all of the traders were inside the Weyr or a proper shelter, waiting things out, and the dragonriders do get all of the stuff that will fall on greener, more life-sustaining places. There’s got to be at least some part of this Fall that’s going over places where Thread won’t thrive. Since everyone is at limited capacity, the strategic decision would be to ring the dead zone, flame anything that threatens to get out of it, and otherwise pay minimal attention to the stuff that stays inside. M’tal’s got the charts, he should be able to say with a reasonable amount of certainty where the Fall is going to be and deploy accordingly.

What actually happens is far less tactically sound, but before we get there, there’s something to highlight in the ongoing saga of various polyamorous relationships, and it’s mostly that M’tal, Salina, and Dalia are doing just fine, thank you.

As he turned away from the two very different women in his life, M’tal found time to send a stray hope in Fiona’s direction that she, Kindan, and Lorana had managed to cement their relationship as well as he had with Dalia and Salina. It helped that both were mature women and not given to fits of jealousy. He couldn’t imagine Tullea in a similar situation but, he reflected as he clambered up Gaminth’s side, perhaps the Benden Weyrwoman would come to surprise him as well.

So, M’tal’s relationship is different than the Fiona quad in that Salina and Dalia have both ridden gold dragons, understand what being a queen rider and Weyrwoman entails, and they both understand that the partnership between Dalia and M’tal came about because of a mating flight. There’s a good chance all three of them also sat down and talked about what this triad of theirs meant. I also expected both women to have talked about what sorts of things would be expected from either of them, where they would cede to the other and where they would expect to be ceded to, and what they could do together. (Mostly because I would not expect a good, healthy relationship to have developed without talking happening.)

M’tal’s lack of imagination regarding Tullea is probably still predicated on the universal opinion that Tullea is far too much of a bitch to be able to hold down any kind of relationship with anyone other than B’nik, and far too jealous of anyone else to let B’nik have a relationship with anyone other than her. But the truth of the matter is likely that there would have to be a change in Weyrleadership for any of those scenarios to potentially come to pass, and at Benden, it seems to be the widespread opinion that B’nik is the only person equipped to deal with Tullea appropriately, so nobody else is going to really give it much of a go when that Weyrleadership is up for grabs.There will be enough to make everything look good, but not so many as to make anyone believe it is being seriously contested.

In any case, M’tal and crew arrive over Igen, only to have significant issues with the thermal currents coming from the sand, with the additional problem of that making the Thread fall erratically. Since the dragonriders are unused to fighting Thread in this kind of pattern, it’s basically chaos on the sands instead of the nicely-formed wings that they’ve drilled with. (So tell me again why scatter drills aren’t part of weyrling training on the regular? There was at least some hint of things as the “we’re running out of dragonriders” became more and more apparent, but it doesn’t look like that training was done well or done enough or otherwise such that the force remains coherent and effective in the face of a very different landscape?) Things are going pretty well for M’tal, but he almost gets destroyed by a clump approaching him from behind, before a dragon flames it out of existence and then disappears into hyperspace, so all M’tal gets is a good look at the jacket of the rider, which is very clearly the insignia of Benden’s Weyrleader. Several more times, this rider pops into existence to save dragonriders before disappearing again. M’tal immediately goes to see B’nik to give his thanks, except B’nik says he didn’t ride to the rescue of Ista during that Fall. M’tal is adamant that it was B’nik’s jacket, and so asks him the next logical question: who stole your jacket? B’nik denies that this has happened as well, so M’tal moves on to explanation three, that B’nik will, in the future, do this thing. Also of note is that the bronze dragon looked darker than usual, but that’s dismissed as a trick of the light.

Having informed B’nik of his theoretical upcoming action (and everyone commiserating about how they had hoped not to have to use that solution), M’tal goes back to Ista and the narrative goes on to Lorana throwing Fiona out so she can have some space to herself, because Fiona has been very solicitous about the status of the baby. Mostly because when the baby kicks Lorana awake in the middle of the night, Fiona gets woken up, too. And while Lorana is grateful that Fiona doesn’t take umbrage at this, she also needs to vent at someone about all of the things that are going on with the baby, as well as a resurgence of Tenniz’s prophecy in her dreams. The narrative hops away to Fiona, who has gone to the Kitchen Caverns to give Lorana space. Where Bekka and Seban are, since they’ve been called in to help with any possible birthings that might happen. And that conveniently puts them under the care of Birentir for their continued instruction. Bekka has been a useful pair of hands and knowledge for the midwives, but her instructions to Fiona are basically “Stop worrying about Lorana and her child.” Which includes going to sleep with T’mar that night, and all it is is sleep, even though Fiona wakes up in the middle of the night with a feeling that something terrible is going to happen.

The next scene starts with Fiona flagging down Terin and getting ready to have a catch-up, since Terin was last seen at the conference of the Lords, Leaders, and Masters, but Talenth going to the Hatching Ground and clutching her eggs interrupts the possibility of having to explain where Terin has been all this time. Fiona chides Talenth for not telling her what she’s doing, to which Talenth replies that she knows what she’s doing. Everybody is running to the Hatching Grounds, but when everything is done, Talenth puts out twenty-one eggs, none of which appear to be queen eggs. Fiona reassures Talenth that she did marvelously. Once Talenth is sleeping, T’mar wonders whether the early clutch, the low numbers of eggs, and the lack of a queen are related to the fact that these dragons have had their genes altered to make themselves immune to the dragon plague. Hopping over something I’ll get back to in a second, when Tolarth clutches, it’s twenty-two with a queen egg. Tullea’s Minith also clutches twenty-two with a queen egg, which gives credence to the idea that the new gene pool has reduced numbers significantly.

T’mar has some interesting advice for Fiona in one of the skipped-over sections that makes me continue to believe that a more knowledgeable author would be able to convincingly carry the polyamory aspects better:

“A queen often mates for the good of the Weyr, often against her rider’s desires or interests,” he said. “In the course of your life, there’s no guarantee that you might not find yourself with several partners.”
“Several more partners,” Fiona corrected with a smile.
“Riders are often much like their dragons,” T’mar allowed noncommitally, although his eyes gleamed humorously.

To T’mar, anyway, the idea that someone might not be monogamous for a lifetime should be expected for bronze and/or gold riders. He might be expecting serial monogamy, such that nobody has more than one long-term partner at a time (because, remember, one of the riders way back at the beginning of this set had two waiting for him in his Weyr and everyone seemed to facepalm at this idea as someone showing off, although they already acknowledged he seemed to have a different sex partner every night), but he’s making it pretty clear that there’s not supposed to be an expectation of someone mating once and sticking with that partner for the rest of one’s life. So this shouldn’t be nearly as strange a situation as everyone is making it out to be. Unless what’s strange about it is that there are non-dragonriders involved, or that there are women with two dudes instead of dudes with multiple women (or dudes with multiple men), but we don’t get to know what that is.

Fiona even confirms that this is the sort of thing that should be seen as pretty normal among dragonriders.

She knew they were talking about Talenth’s clutch and was certain that some of the conversations were condemning her for allowing Talenth to select Zirenth–as if she had a choice!–over a different dragon, one with a conscious rider and not the pairing of Lorana and Kindan.
Fiona was pretty certain that some of the more traditional weyrfolk were also chatting critically about her own choice of partners, but Turns of similar such chatter as she grew up at Fort Hold had inured her to the effects of such gossip–“Some people can’t live without carping” had been Neesa’s response Turns back when a very young Fiona had been taunted by some of the Hold youngsters.

So do dragonriders have control over their dragons and who they choose or not? Because the books have been see-sawing over this over the course of their publication runs. If they do have control, then some of the tongues wagging makes sense, but if they don’t, then I would have expected weyrfolk to shrug their shoulders and say “the dragons choose” and go on about it. Fiona certainly seems to be of the opinion that she doesn’t have control over who her dragon chose. Or who caught her dragon with their tricks and agility. And many of the other mating flights we’ve seen from the perspective of the dragonriders suggests that the gestalt is not something that you can resist forever, even if you can resist it to some degree.

Also, what’s this teasing that’s happening to Fiona in the past? Is she doing more than just hunting tunnel snakes as a child? Is she hanging out with boys as possible husbands or because she’s being trained to take over for Bemin? Are they gossiping about the possibility that Fiona might be interested in more than one boy? Or has been seen with more than one boy? Or is Fiona generalizing that the chatter has been about all of the unladylike activities that she might have gotten up to as a child and she’s just used to people complaining about her decisions so much that she doesn’t pay any attention to it at all?

Fiona’s reaction was quite different if she overheard any criticism or Lorana or Kindan, as one group of weyrfolk discovered when she overheard them.
“Lorana and Kindan saved the dragons of Pern!” Fiona roared at them. “And anyone who cannot give them all due honor for their sacrifices need not remain in this Weyr.”
The women blanched, one looking beseechingly in Shaneese’s direction.That was a mistake, as Shaneese bustled over to the group and weighed in heavily on Fiona’s side.
“I can see that you’ve all had too much idle time on your hands,” Shaneese had said in conclusion, “and I’m glad that you’ve all volunteered to help the healers with their medical laundry.” She glanced toward Fiona, who gave her a slight nod of encouragement. “The Weyrwoman and I are certain that you will give all your efforts to ensuring that all their fabrics and tools are thoroughly sterilized–steamed for a full ten minutes.”
Stunned beyond words, the women could only nod in mute agreement.

Shaneese is a perfectly excellent henchperson, always taking the side of the authority and doling out the punishments to make sure that everyone doesn’t badmouth the authority in their hearing.

Also, I must throw my hands up in the air and shout

Cocowhat by depizan

because oh Great Maker we’ve complicated the state of knowledge on Pern again. Because if they know how to sterilize, and they use that word, that makes me wonder what they knew in the time of the plagues that killed the humans and the dragons. Except, of course, that they apparently didn’t know anything, because Kindan had to reinvent various methods after coming to certain conclusions while being thrown into the middle of a plague situation. Stuff that the Healers presumably could or should have already known. But now, we’re talking about steam and heat sterilization of linens like it is common knowledge now, and always has been. Even though it didn’t get used at all when it would have been the most useful.

The only thing that’s different here is the degree to which the new author is contradicting themselves and daring us to point it out to them, compared to the previous author’s occasional attempts to hide it or pretend like nothing has happened. The usual issues apply of “where were the editors?” “where were the proofers?” and, most importantly, “where is the series continuity check?” Not that any of that matters, really, I suppose, but it is very much a thing that might cause someone expecting consistency to tear their hair out. And then the narrative trolls us, probably unintentionally, when there is talk about whether they can use the same knowledge Lorana and Kindan were taught to figure out whether or not the dragon clutch sizes are the new normal or not.

Kindan frowned. “I’m not sure how much of our knowledge of Wind Blossom is accurate; it seems that watch-whers were created more by design than by mistake.” He held up a hand to contain T’mar’s objections. “I think our Records from the times were purposely misleading.”
Weyrleader and Weyrwoman gave him shocked looks.
“It wouldn’t be the first time that Records were changed according to the feeling of the times,” Kindan said.
Fiona made a face and nodded in agreement. “I saw plenty of that in the Records at Igen,” she said. “It was obvious that those writing the Records had their own views of things.”
“And, as they were writing the Records, those were the views that are remembered,” T’mar said with an understanding nod of his own. “But that still doesn’t answer our question now.”

Well, that’s the first I’ve explicitly heard someone say that the Records are opinionated. Of course, it would be true, as all the Records that we have of our own times and places are opinionated, even if some of them want to say they don’t have bias or opinion, but what gets in and what stays out are definitely things that show opinion about the importance of whatever is being written about. It is interesting to see Kindan fairly unconcerned about the fact that the historical record of a time is being rewritten to re-suit the beliefs of a more modern era, and Fiona to give a negative opinion about the beliefs expressed in the Records she saw. Since Igen was The Asshole’s before he merged with Telgar, I can see why Fiona might not want to agree with those opinions about anything, even though supposedly the Weyrwoman is the one who is writing Records, at least for the most part. I would have expected the Harpers, the keepers of the supposedly static culture, to be a lot more upset about the fact that their historical records are being altered, but Kindan doesn’t seem bothered by it. What a difference the future will be, then, when there’s at least some idea of resisting the Harpers or that someone gets so nervous about his daughter’s musical ability that he looks for any excuse at all to hurt her and try to divert her away from the path of making catchy tunes.

Also, if the information in the Records is opinionated and biased, how does anyone looking at them know whether what they’re seeing is truth or BS, unless they regularly make comparisons between one set of Records and another? So tell me again why the Weyrs have to keep their Records separated?

As it is, the consistent low numbers has Lorana exceptionally concerned that the cure they came up with is having an unintended side effect of early and light clutching, and Tullea stops by in person to twist the knife on Lorana about it. Which nearly earns her getting slapped by Fiona, but Fiona stops just in time. Fiona tells her to be grateful she’s got a queen egg, as Talenth didn’t lay one. For that charity, Tullea says “I’m sure they’re all greens, given the way they were mated.” and Fiona shows restraint again by not pounding Tullea into the ground for that particular insult.

Supposedly, Tullea’s behavior was much improved by no longer being stuck in time, at least for the amount of time that they knew Tullea was twice around. There’s always the possibility that Tullea is still twice-in-time somewhere, but Tullea has really had her worst traits aggravated and made into her single point of characterization, to the point where she’s going after Lorana for nonsensical reasons. There’s no reason for this, though, narratively-speaking, it’s just there to have Tullea be terrible at Lorana.

And while Kindan and Fiona are trying to comfort her, Kindan mentions that the Records have plenty of mentions of multiple partnerships, which again makes me wonder what the fuck is the problem with this arrangement, then, if there’s all this evidence and Records and everyone seems to have known that this is the sort of thing that could have existed and did exist already. It’s starting to become more and more apparent that the only plot that doesn’t depend on people ignoring the evidence in front of them or behaving in ways that would seem to be strongly out of character for the amount of information available to them is the one about the dragons all dying off and needing to figure out some way of replenishing their ranks. Which is going to have some sort of time-travel solution involved.

In any case, the chapter ends with Fiona studying T’mar and having a little bit of angst about whether she should just leave Lorana and Kindan and just be partnered with T’mar, to which she gets a chide from Lorana (presumably, it doesn’t explicitly say who is telling her to stop) about her line of thinking. To which Fiona buries it and frets about what might happen if anybody got seriously hurt of killed, rider or dragon, and marvels about how Lorana can keep taking the pain of every dragon dying and still keep moving each day. (And also, that Fiona still expects two women in love with the same man to be an “endless well of jealousy and betrayal”, which it hasn’t been for her and Lorana, mostly because I still think Lorana has been on board with shipping Kindan and Fiona for a good long while.) Fiona eventually concludes there must be some counterweight of joy to all of the sorrow and eventually slips off to sleep at the end of the chapter.

We’re starting to work harder on the plot of the dying dragons at this point, and there’s only a few more chapters to go, so hopefully we’ll be done with this and then on to the next soon. I’m getting tired of characters not talking to each other, not taking what the others have to say as true, given a long track record of meaning what they say, and for characters to not behave in any way consistent with the setting that they have been put into and the logical conclusions that would be drawn from that. I can see why people who might have loved the original author’s materials (or at least be more willing to tolerate it) could be entirely put off by the new author’s take on everything. I wonder what the relative weightings of transformative fanworks are for the original First/Sixth/Ninth Pass settings are compared to this Third Pass setting.

Dragongirl: Reinforcements Have Arrived

Last time, all of the Weyrleaders and several selected Craftmasters and Lords learned that the dragons are going to die out from Thread attrition before the end of this Pass, long before they get the opportunity to reinforce their ranks with new weyrlings from all the mating flights that have been happening in the last few chapters. To have an opportunity to get there, the dragonriders are going to have to suffer less than two casualties for every Threadfall until their reinforcements are ready. Theres a plan involving using time travel to reinforce everyone that hasn’t proven it’s going to work, because nobody has observed it working yet.

Dragongirl: Chapter 15: Content Notes:

Weyrfolk, keep your riders true,
Help them to their battle hew.
Aid them, keep their troubles few
And thus thus grow their strength anew.

(Telgar Weyr, the next morning, AL 508.2.16)

Three new wings, headed by J’lantir, arrives at Telgar, with weyrfolk in tow, but Shaneese says there have been enough of their Telgar Weyrfolk willing to go south to warmer climates that there’s plenty of space for the incoming riders and staff. (Shaneese has also apparently been cleaning out the new spaces at as high a speed as possible to make sure that there’s housing for all of the new riders.

Fiona, for her own part, has been continuing to try and work through what the hell is going on with her quad. Lorana, for her part, seems to be consistent that things are fine and will continue to be that way.

She hadn’t expected to find Kindan awake; she’d been avoiding him, not certain if she would ever find the courage to discover if his prior passion was only dragon-flamed, but Lorana practically threw them at each other, insisting that she had to help in the Kitchen Cavern.
In the morning, Fiona was surprised to find that Lorana had crept in with them sometime during the night.
“Are you all right?” Fiona asked as she felt Lorana shift against her.
“I’m fine,” Lorana said.
“You are?” Fiona asked. Confused, she added, “Then why did you…you don’t mind?”
“No,” Lorana said.
[…Lorana also says she knows that Fiona would step in and raise her child if something happened to her, that she would happily raise any children of Fiona’s, no matter who the father was, and that Kindan loves Fiona…]
“I thought he loved me for my sister, for Koriana,” Fiona said.
“Maybe once,” Lorana said. “But after the mating flight, no.”
“But he doesn’t seem to notice me!”
“Notice you?” Lorana asked, smiling.
“I mean, until last night.”
“He did,” Lorana said. “But I don’t think he understands yet.”
“That he loves me?”
Lorana shook her head. “That he doesn’t have to choose.”
“I always thought that I would be married to a Lord Holder, one man, and maybe one love,” Fiona said.
“So did I,” Lorana said. “And I think I’ve found him.” She made a face as Fiona started to protest. “He wouldn’t be the man I love, if he weren’t in love with you, too.”

Well, there’s some actual confirmation (finally) about what the expectations were for Fiona regarding marriage and the likelihood that she would be allowed to officially have lovers other than her husband, even if she might practically have lovers other than her husband. And that Kindan, as a Harper, seems to have been mostly on the same page about all of this, and that he’s chosen Lorana as his one-and-only. And Lorana apparently also thought this, but has since come around to a different way of doing things. And Fiona is currently practically doing things a different way, more than happily jumping into bed with Kindan when Lorana presents the opportunity. And Kindan is apparently also happily taking advantage of Fiona’s availability and Lorana’s willingness to leave them alone.

We had a book with Lorana, and yet, I don’t remember there being anything in her personality that suggested she would be okay with sharing Kindan with anyone. And, as should probably be mentioned, Fiona’s still sixteen and everyone else in her quad is significantly older than she is. Which is not the sort of thing that’s going to necessarily result in very healthy relationships unless, say, there’s a lot of talking going on, and that’s not happening at all with these three. Lorana seems to think that by giving her permission for everything, the hard parts are all done, when it really means the hard parts are just beginning.

Not to mention that there’s still the whole matter of Fiona and Lorana’s telepathy, which they’re going to talk to Zist about, and also, that Lorana wants to keep her pregnancy a secret and…maybe wait until Fiona is pregnant, too?

“Did you tell him about the baby?”
“No,” Lorana said, amusement spilling out of her voice. “I was hoping we could present him with a double event, as it were.”
Fiona giggled. “That would be nice.”

I mean, it reads to me like Lorana is telling Fiona to wait to tell Kindan about her pregnancy until Fiona is pregnant as well, which adds an extra-special amount of NOPE to this. If so,

Cocowhat by depizan

I can’t imagine that going over well with Kindan at all. “Surprise, honey! I’m pregnant! You’re the father!”

“Surprise, lover! I’m pregnant! You’re probably the father!”

“Now you don’t have to choose between either of us! We’ll all be together, letting the Weyr raise our children.”

That, no, that’s not the way to keep a relationship. Babies are not a way to keep a relationship from cracking apart. In fact, they’re really good at breaking relationships. Not to mention, again, that Fiona is sixteen, as she will shortly remind us, and childbirth in a pastiche like Pern is dangerous, and possibly even deadly.

Cocowhat by depizan

The fractalness of the wrong. It’s huge.

Getting back to the plot, J’lantir arrives, Fiona notes that the preparations to make the riders used to warmer climate feel at homeand warm up will be appreciated, and introductions are made. First with J’lantir, then with C’tov, who is leading the delegation from High Reaches. The narrative shifts to T’mar being upset that things are happening and he’s not there to lead them, which mostly has Fiona and Lorana both threaten to sit on him (or have Birentir sit on him) until he’s well, pointing out that the Records are abundantly clear that the Weyrleader being in recovery is not a new thing. Realizing he’s outgunned, T’mar gives up, but suggests that his dragon could certainly use some exercise. Which lets out that Fiona and Lorana talk telepathically to each other as the four discuss the possibility of Kindan and Lorana on Zirenth, engaging in observation and reporting about how the Threadfall goes, since dragons are apparently not that great on details. So now it’s exercise for Zirenth to fly and for Fiona and Lorana to practice their telepathy. Jeila, T’mar, and Fiona discuss who should be in the lead for the Threadfall on the next day, based on their drilling, and Fiona says it should be J’lantir, based on performance. Jeila reluctantly concurs, based on his performance and his experience at leading, but that leaves H’nez disappointed. (Earlier, in an unquoted bit, H’nez acknowledged he was outranked by J’lantir.) For the most part, though, they acknowledge that as H’nez’s problem, and both Weyrwomen shout down T’mar’s suggestion at letting H’nez lead the contingent soon to arrive from Fort, because if J’lantir is going to lead, he needs to be able to arrange everyone as he sees fit, and because since everyone is now assigned to Telgar, they need to mix themsleves with each other and build strong bonds so they all think of themselves as Telgar riders.

Lorana and Kindan return on Zirenth, and Fiona chides them for having been chewing firestone and spitting flame, which Lorana and Kindan tease her right back about being jealous of flaming dragons. Eventually, both J’lantir and H’nez arrive for new orders. The important one is to integrate under J’lantir’s leadership as soon as possible. Secondarily, Fiona’s going to train Lorana and Kindan as much as possible about recognition points and the other parts of riding a flaming dragon that they’ll need, with the apparent assumption all around that eventually Kindan will have a dragon of his own, so he’s getting the training first, that’s all.

Finally, since it’s a night fall, there’s going to be a mission to go to Nuella and see if Kindan, Lorana, and Fiona (who dares anyone to tell her not to go) can figure out useful coordination between the watch-whers and the dragons so as to have a better night Fall without the terrible casualties that happened the last time the two tried to coordinate. Fiona also hears bits of people talking about her like she’s become impressive, based on her ability to attract quality talent to Telgar Weyr consistently. Fiona downplays this as a silly idea, but Jeila and Terin seem to believe it seriously.

The meeting with Nuella and Zenor goes well, starting off with resolving for Zenor what’s been going on lately.

“So, have you discovered the identity of your secret admirer?”
“I have,” Kindan said. He gestured toward Lorana on his other side. “And this is Lorana.”
“Ah?” Zenor said in surprise. “And…”
“It’s complicated,” Kindan said.
“Only to confused harpers,” Lorana said, reaching a hand forward to Zenor who shook it absently.
[…the circumstances of the situation are explained enough that Zenor and Nuella can deduce the results…]
“Shards, Kindan!” Zenor said, his eyes going wide. “Only you would have partnered with the two most amazing women on Pern!”
“Present company excluded, of course,” Kindan added with a half-bow toward Nuella.
“He bowed at you, Momma,” the girl said.
“I know, Nalla,” Nuella assured her daughter easily. “He learned manners at the Harper Hall.”

I do like Nuella getting in that dig at her husband about who he thinks are the most amazing women on Pern, but also, Zenor was the one who was all about Fiona having as many lovers as she wanted to have, so him having a certain amount of shock that there is actual polyamory going on seems a bit out of character. Unless, of course, he was putting on bravado with Fiona and is now shocked to find out that his advice actually worked, albeit not for the person he was giving the advice to. Well, he doesn’t know that it actually seems to have worked for Fiona, too. And he also doesn’t know that both of them are also having significant amounts of doubts and worries about the whole enterprise of having multiple lovers. So maybe his shock is just “Holy shit, that actually worked? I mean, of course it worked. I’m Zenor, and my advice never fails.”

Coordination with the watch-whers is definietly a go, in that Lorana can also talk to all the watch-whers as well as all the dragons. Which means that Fiona and Lorana can feed Nuella with images of what the dragons and humans see, Kindan can talk about the battelfield conditions, and Nuella can coordinate the watch-wher response and what the whers see so as to maximize the effectiveness of the dragons. Because all of them are putting their specialized talents into the field, Zenor and Fiona suggest that Lorana, Kindan, Nuella, and Zirenth come out to all four of the upcoming night Threadfalls to serve as an effective comms tower for all of them. Kindan can keep his eyes out for Thread approaching their position, Lorana can relay and coordinate the dragons, and Nuella can relay and coordinate the watch-whers.

Fiona, of course, is worried about Lorana and Kindan and wants them to stay safe. While still at the wherhold, she channels it into trying to get Sula’s dainty recipe out of her, but that tactic fails, and Fiona’s worry continues to mount all the way through seeing everyone off to their Threadfall. The first one isn’t that bad, although that means Kindan gets to continue seeing what lost dragons do to Lorana. It also means, however, that in addition to a blue dragon, J’lantir gets Threaded too much and disappears to hyperspace to die, his part in the plot over, which puts H’nez in charge in a battlefield promotion. (Thankfully, this had been discussed beforehand in an unquoted bit, so it’s not like the line of succession hadn’t already been planned.) Those two are the only fatalities, and there are only four injured, which is still more than the allowable casualty limit, and as best as is described to us, no riders start warping in from other times, so the desperation plan still hasn’t actually happened yet. At the time afterward, when Fiona can finally make it to her bed, Kindan is already there, and there’s grief sex between Fiona and Kindan, Lorana keeping watch over T’mar and thus conveniently not there.

Throwing despair away for passion, Fiona let her hands flow over his warm body, and had the reassuring pleasure of his hands moving in response. Slowly tehy maneuvered, touching, moving, silently, passionately.
Long afterward, Fiona reached a hand up to his cheek and stroked it gently. Kindan cupped her hand with his and smiled down at her.
“Three times,” he told her with a smile.
Fiona chuckled and raised an eyebrow in challenge.

Which, yes, grief sex is a thing, and the three of you are in a relationship, and Lorana doesn’t mind, but if the way that this is going to work is essentially that everyone is going to conveniently not be around each other when there’s sex involved, then that’s a thing that should probably be talked about and agreed to. Or at least mentioned, since Kindan and Fiona are the ones having the big hangups about the whole situation. Also, Lorana will also have her own grief to process, several magnitudes worse because she’s the one that gets to hear and feel everything that happens when the dragons die. Is Kindan also planning on having grief sex with her as well? Will Lorana want that? These are the sorts of things that help make relationships like this go, and it’s really feeling more and more like T’mar and Lorana are the secondary partners to Fiona and Kindan being partnered with each other. Which could also be a thing that gets talked about – maybe that’s what Lorana actually wants. Maybe she wants Fiona and Kindan to develop the strongest, most primary of the relationships, and then for Kindan to have Lorana as a secondary partner and for Fiona to have T’mar as a Weyrleader partner and then everyone is happy. But we don’t know, because nobody is fucking talking to each other. I realize I’m sounding like a record that skips back to the same place, but it seems like everyone is forging ahead in this relationship without the slightest thought given toward trying to figure out what everyone actually wants out of their relationships and whether they’re really, truly, okay with things the way they are. If they want this relationship to explode in a fireball, with very hurt feelings all around, this is exactly the way to proceed, but presumably, everyone wants things to work out okay, and that means engaging in a lot more communication than is actually going on.

T’mar is getting restless and wanting to push himself, but Fiona and Birentir tell him to take it slowly or else. At the time of the next Fall, however, T’mar has a mind to show Fiona that he can also keep up his end of the relationship as well.

“In the meantime, perhaps you’d care for a demonstration of my newly regained strength.”
Fiona gave him an arch look. “Are you so desperate to put yourself in a coma?”
T’mar snorted. “Really, Weyrwoman, I think you overestimate yourself.”
“Probably,” Fiona agreed. “But there are some experiments I’m not willing to try.”
T’mar’s expression softened at the tone in her voice. “So, exactly what experiments are you willing to try?”
Fiona snorted and waved for him to precede her into his quarters.
[…Lorana, Kindan, and Zirenth come back smelling of firestone, which puts T’mar on alert about how poorly things went…]
“You were in touch with Zirenth so much you nearly distracted him.”
“You were?” Fiona said, glaring at the Weyrleader. “Even while we…?”
“No, not then,” T’mar assured her hastily.
“I’m sorry,” Fiona said to Lorana, “if I had realized he was interfering, I would have distracted him more fully.”
“Don’t,” Lorana said with a smile for T’mar, “you’ll only encourage him.”
Kindan’s features sharpened grimly as he absorbed their banter, eyeing Fiona appraisingly. Fiona sensed that he was disappointed somehow and her elated mood evaporated.

You see, these are the sorts of things that are worth talking about in a relationship. Did anyone discuss whether Fiona and T’mar should have sex outside of mating flights? Did anyone discuss whether Kindan actually wants to hear about what Fiona is getting up to with T’mar? Does T’mar want to hear about what Fiona gets up to with Kindan? Does Lorana want to know everything, don’t hold back a single detail, Fiona? Does Fiona want to know if Lorana and Kindan are still having sex? These are things that need to be negotiated so that the relationship can be to the comfort of the people in it, or so that the people in the relationship can say they’re not comfortable with the terms being set and back out or re-set their exepctations and the amount of involvement they have in the relationship. Would T’mar and Kindan both object if Fiona decided to have a fling with someone else in the Weyr? Who knows?

It’s not like they’re the first relationship of this type, either, even though the author seems to be writing them that way. Cisca and Fiona both admitted as such in an earlier chapter, and yet, there doesn’t seem to have been any sort of acknowledgement that there might be wisdom in talking with people who have tried it before to get their advice about whether to form one of their own and what some of the pitfalls of that kind of relationship might be. Of course, that would mean the author would have to do some research into how these things work, instead of letting their id flow freely on the page and assuming or handwaving away any inconvenient details that don’t work with the plot. Which, fine, that’s the author’s decision to make, but, at least in my opinion, that hurts the story more than it helps, because now it’s just one more poor representation in fiction of a group that’s already marginalized outside of it.

Getting back to the plot, the last Fall was well over the line for casualties. As time goes on, Fiona notices that Kindan’s attitude toward her is getting significantly colder and more distant when relaying casualty numbers and going out to fly. Which only gets much worse after the next Fall, which also has casualties over the line. Fiona doesn’t understand why Kindan’s suddenly gotten very cold to her and confides in T’mar that she thinks Kindan hates her. T’mar agrees with her assessment, and points out that she’s the only one that he can safely hate, as Lorana feels all of their losses, and Kindan already hates himself more than enough. Fiona is “a living reminder of all his faults and failings”, and T’mar thinks that Kindan is afraid of loving her, a situation that he confesses to, as well, even though he adds that Fiona is impossible not to love. (Turns out that M’tal and T’mar talked a significant amount before he left for Ista, and those conversations turned out to have been relevant for both M’tal and T’mar, although neither of them knew it at the time, and for different reasons.) T’mar teases Fiona about figuring out a way to express her love for everyone, and Fiona tells T’mar to get his beauty rest, and at that point, the chapter ends.

Someone really needs to get these four talking with each other, in a judgment-free environment, preferably with a trained professional (that Pern doesn’t have) facilitating and making sure everyone understands each other’s positions and desires. If not that, each of them individually could use a counselor or confidante.

More next week.