Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

All The Weyrs of Pern – A New World Approaches

Well, then, we’ve firmly crossed genres now. What started as an exercise in Our Dragons Are Different has fully transformed itself into a hybridized science fiction story and the technology of the Ancients is now rushing in to fill what was a gap. With the rediscovery of the artificial intelligence in the South, clearly Pern is about to undergo a massive change. Not even the Harpers can stop what’s coming next.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Prologue and Chapter One: Content Notes: Misgendering

A mercifully short Prologue (without the backported spoiler data, now that the truth is known) opens with AIVAS returning to awareness after a long sleep, plugging a hole about how it could have stayed functional – occasionally the winds swept the ash and dust off the solar panels so that the batteries could recharge. We’re also told that AIVAS was tasked with the function of destroying Thread before it went to sleep as a primary priority task, which I don’t recall happening anywhere in Dragonsdawn, and also, I find it unlikely that an intelligence that was being used to help run Landing and several other stakes would prioritize Thread over continued operations. Then again, I’m also not a colonist, nor an author fighting with a story that’s clearly a square peg being sanded down to fit the round hole.

AIVAS observes Ruth, and categorizes him as an anomaly, but is as excited and nervous as an AI can be that has been waiting 2525 years for humans to come back, wondering if Thread has already been defeated and what new tasks will await if this is the case.

But then comes Chapter One, and while the AIVAS remains the narrator, sort of, the timekeeping system in place returns to the native Pernese one. Present (Ninth) Pass, 17th Turn. That’s a near-Whatfruit problem by itself, because AIVAS would have no conception of the time, since all it has done at this point is make a magical shift to comprehensiblity and then tell the story of the Ancients that we have collected in Dragonsdawn. There hasn’t been time to learn the strange timekeeping system the descendants have.

Anyway, the narrative picks up as AIVAS is telling the story to an increasing audience of Lords Holder, Craftmasters, and Weyrleaders, with accompanying pictures and graphics to illustrate. Once finished, everyone sits in awe for a moment. Robinton asks why the story stops so abruptly, and AIVAS points out that it received no new inputs. Fandarel wants to know if AIVAS can help rebuild the lost technology of yesteryear (affirmative), and the Benden Weyrleader…wants the place cleared out before more questions can be asked and nobody allowed in without express permission.

It falls to Lessa to be the amazed character, expressing wonder at everything seen and heard (rather than, say, Piemur, who would fit the bill nicely, or Jancis, if it had to be a woman), which AIVAS deflects by asking about whether the dragons are the descendants of Kitti Ping’s efforts. We’re told that Ramoth is the largest dragon on Pern, to Lessa’s discomfort, and the characters find out that AIVAS has external sensors it can access.

And then there’s the question of Ruth.

“And the white one?” Aivas went on. “It–”
“He,” Jaxom said firmly but without rancor, “is Ruth, and I am his rider.”
“Remarkable. The bioengineering report indicated that there were to be five variations, imitating the genetic material of the fire-dragons.”
“Ruth is a sport,” Jaxom replied. He had long since stopped being defensive about his dragon. Ruth had his own special abilities.

On the one hand, hooray for proper pronoun insistence, about twenty or so years before it became a social issue, not that the author could have foreseen it. On the other hand, here’s another one of those impossible slang pieces showing up. Admittedly, my variation of English doesn’t use “sport” to mean “an entity with genetic variance” in common speech, even though it does exist. The only other place I’ve seen it is in A Wrinkle In Time, and there it seems to have a pejorative meaning, even if everyone seems to be using it positively, as Jaxom is here. But there’s no reason for me to believe that the people of the Ninth Pass understand genetics well enough to understand mutations and variations enough to have a slang word for it that matches the slang of 20th c. Terra. Ruth is quite literally the first dragon on record to have a variation like this, after all. Perhaps the Masterfarmers and Beastmasters and herders have a basic grasp, since they likely engage in all sorts of breeding for traits, but there’s no evidence, unless we take it as truth that the Harpers were able to arrest the language so completely, that this word would survive Pern’s environment.

After talking about Ruth, there’s a little bit about proper titles to use when addressing the assembled crowd. AIVAS indicates surprise at the presence of Lemos Hold, considering it knows far more about Bart than the descendants do (just wait until they mention Bitra Hold), but shifts quickly to happiness at the idea of Telgar Hold. The Benden Weyrleader refocuses the discussion by asking AIVAS what it knows about Thread.

The standard scientific explanation of how Thread gets to Pern and its periodic return goes entirely over everyone’s head, including Fandarel. But there is a temporal calibration moment, from Robinton.

“With due respect, Aivas, we do not understand your explanation,” the Harper said wryly. “A great deal of time has passed since Admiral Benden and Governor Boll led the settlers north. We are currently in the seventeenth Turn–what you call a year, I think–of the Ninth Pass of the Red Star.”
“Noted.”

No, no, no, no, no! Not just “Noted.” There’s no reference point for that to make any sense. In a non-quoted part of the explanation, AIVAS admits that there’s up to a decade of potential variance between when Passes start and end. All it knows is that there have been eight passes before this one and this one is currently in year seventeen. Eight Passes of fifty years plus 17 = 417 years. Plus eight intervals of 250 years = 2417 years accounted for. AIVAS indicated it had been 2525 years – 2525 – 2417 = 108 years of flux that has to be dealt with. Not to mention that it hasn’t actually been definitively established that the Turn and the year are identical. What if the colonial calendar developed leap years? Or any number of timekeeping oddities that could have developed. The AI should still be getting to relate to things in Landing terms, not Ninth Pass terms.

Anyway, the Benden Weyrleader, after finding out that AIVAS has some theories about how and where Thread comes from, asks the big question – can entropy be reversed…err, is it possible that the threat of Thread can be removed? AIVAS answers in the affirmative – if Pern is willing to relearn what the colonists knew, is willing to reconnect AIVAS to the databases on the starships, and is willing to put in the time and effort to perfect all of this new knowledge.

The Benden Weyrleader is on board, because Sacred Duty. The Lords Holder are definitely on board, because no longer having to pay tribute or defer to the Weyrs would be highly profitable for them.

AIVAS only now asks for the Records of the various Halls and Holds so that it can make an assessment of the planet’s current tech levels and scientific understanding and formulate a plan to get Pern up to an appropriate level to beat Thread. After that, the assembled leaders determine that it would be best to restrict AIVAS to only those present in the room and Jaxom, so as to avoid having everyone making requests of it or getting to monopolize its time. A short discussion breaks out about who gets to use the machine first, when AIVAS points out that it doesn’t have to be limited, assuming some parts of technology are still intact. (They are.) AIVAS shows the necessary parts and says that they can be assembled, if all intact, into twelve workstations, which would both solve the problem of access and provide a foundation of knowledge and application toward building the technology needed to defeat Thread. AIVAS prints the necessary blueprints and component lists, mentions it will need some extra material (and that paper will do in a pinch, causing some grins), and then Lessa insists everyone gets sleep. Robinton will have none of it, of course, but his objection is curtailed by the fact that Piemur spiked his wine cup with fellis juice.

Fandarel takes charge of finding the materials and getting people to assemble everything for the morning, and most of the assembled file out for the night, leaving Piemur alone with the AI for a bit (even though Jancis is sleeping and Menolly and Sebell have arrived). AIVAS tells Piemur that it’s going to need more power than the solar panels to be able to run itself, and suggests rebuilding the hydroelectric facility in some way to do it.

AIVAS also solicits from Piemur, by only understanding what colonists would understand about a harper, and not knowing the extra functions of the Harpers, what exactly the Hall does, Sebell and Menolly, Robinton’s special status as retired Masterharper (and he uses the words heart attack to describe what happened to Robinton – not necessarily wrong, given what little we know of Healer terminology and knowledge, but not necessarily what I would expect someone on Pern to call it), and useful cultural data about who can be addressed without title and who insists on it, as well as new knowledge for AIVAS about the abilities of dragons.

“The culture and societies of your present-day Pern have evolved and altered considerably from the early days of the colony. It is incumbent on this facility to learn the new protocol and this avoid giving unnecessary offense.
[…]
Without intending any offense, is it currently acceptable to maintain the sports of the breed?”
Piemur snorted. “You mean Ruth? He and Jaxom are exceptions–to a lot of rules. He’s a Lord Holder and shouldn’t ever have Impressed a dragon. But he did, and because they thought Ruth wouldn’t survive long, he was allowed to be raised.”
“That is contradictory.”
“I know, but Ruth’s special. He always knows when he is in time.”
[…AIVAS asks for more information, having known about the ability to go through space…]
…So if a dragonrider times it without his Weyrleader’s express permission, he gets royally reamed–if he hasn’t come to grief messing around with timing, that is.”
“Would you be good enough to explain in what circumstances timing is permissible?”

Today is apparently slang day on Pern, as a “reaming” is not something I would expect anyone on far-future Pern to use correctly. But also, it kind of makes sense for it to be Piemur involved in all this casual conversation with AIVAS.

Piemur tells AIVAS the story of Lessa’s Ride, which prompts the AI to ask how many Long Intervals there have been (hey, look, chrono-correction! It’s like someone has been listening to me well before I started). Sebell and Menolly arrived with the records. Piemur hopes to get them to startle when AIVAS talks to them, and so introduces Sebell (described as “browner than ever”, which I can’t decide is a comment about a tan or that Sebell has actually been brown and nobody has thought to mention it) and “Master Menolly, Pern’s ablest composer.” (emphasis mine).

Menolly passed her Master exam! Woo-hoo! Couldn’t we have seen this as the B-story to Renegades, instead of the retreading of Dragondrums? I’m sure it would have been a lot more interesting and told a lot more about Pern.

Belatedly, Piemur remembers the security setup, and so has to ask Menolly and Sebell to leave so that he and Jaxom can feed the records into AIVAS. Menolly drags Piemur to bed, so it’s just Jaxom and AIVAS and a long night of scanning. And talking about Ruth’s time sense and the dangers of hopping about in time, at least to start. AIVAS is them also able to extract a working knowledge of roles, responsibilities, and politics on Pern while Jaxom turns pages. Jancis (who has also apparently passed her Master examination at some point? I thought she was introduced as a Journeywoman in the last book…) takes over for a bit before AIVAS calls a halt due to low energy reserves. Jancis then goes to brew klah and Jaxom and Ruth exchange a worry about whether the dragons will become superfluous when Thread is permanently beaten. And a good example of expected Pernese slang.

“A most felicitous happening, dear friend, not that it matters a lead mark how you and the other dragons came to be,” Jaxom said stoutly.

Although it does raise some other questions, like why Pern considers lead coins to be worthless, since it was supposedly a resource-poor world.

There’s also a little bit more about pronouns in a bit of a reversal of how AIVAS initially treated Ruth.

It? He? Referring to this–this entity–as an ‘it’ seemed impolite. The masculine voice was so rich and lively. Yet Aivas called it/himself a machine, the product of an advanced technological culture and, for all its knowledge, an inanimate device. Jaxom felt more comfortable thinking of Aivas as real, real as his own flesh-and-blood self.

Use the pronouns that the entity prefers, rather than your own ideas, but of course, someone would argue that this particular issue isn’t a relevant thing yet, so how could the author have known?

The rest of the chapter is the arrival of many dragons and important people. Lessa seems a bit put out that AIVAS is asleep when she has all these dignitaries present to see him, and the assembled crowd are told of how Sebell and Menolly couldn’t do anything, prompting the Benden Weyrleader to approve based on the obedience to orders and Fandarel to approve based on the fact that it’s a machine doing exactly as requested.

With no computer to talk to, Fandarel decides to make efficient use of time and go to the caves to gather the materials requested for making workstations.

It’s a magical world out there, once again. Time to go exploring.

The Renegades of Pern: The Last Loose End

Last time, the story of Thella came to its inevitable end at the sharp end of Jayge’s sword after one last attempt at revenge. With Toric brought to heel and Thella gone, and most of the others mentioned in the prologue either dead or enslaved, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything left to do, but then again, sometimes there’s a need for a winding down.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XVI: Content Notes:

(Southern Continent, PP 17)

(The Next Day)

(This entry requires Unicode characters, otherwise it won’t make sense. most browsers have it in place, but just in case…)

Last chapter, woo! Which begins with Piemur awakening and being teased by Jancis that something exciting is going to happen today, but only after he swims, eats, and submits to ministrations. The thing itself is a blueprint describing the ad-min an-nex for a thing known as aivas. Which also has ceramic tiles and solar panels, according to the plans. Which gets Piemur in an excavating mood. But he needs Robinton’s help. Who pulls a green rider to take them there, which Robinton says is this enough for Piemur and Jancis, but not him, and besides, he has work to do…

“Lessa wasted little time distancing Weyrs from our problems,” the Harper said, more amused than offended. “However, you two go on. Not only is a green beneath my consequence, but I must construct a report on this matter for Sebell.

[Recordscratch]

“Beneath your consequence,” you say? Let’s not let our egos inflate quite so much, retired Masterharper. Whatever they would like to send you, accept gracefully.

Continuing…

Yesterday may have broken one thorn in the sides of the Lord Holders but–” He sighed deeply. “–only one, and it behooves me to sweeten the inevitable furor. I am thankful that Jayge is confirmed as a holder. I doubt Larad, or even Asgenar, will feel that the lad exceeded his authority, but he’s new to his honors. Some may feel he ought not to have killed Thella. The Telgar Bloodline is an ancient, and generally an honorable one.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Seriously, does nobody proofread the book for continuity? Larad disowned Thella earlier in the book. That, to me, would indicate any privileges of her bloodline would be revoked. And she’s also been out marauding and committing theft and murder. Plus, hell, since it’s Pern and all the Lord Holders are dudes anyway, she’s a woman, so that shouldn’t provide her any protection, either. I would expect the Lords Holder to essentially say, “Never liked the bitch anyway. Sorry, Larad, but it’s true.” That there is some sort of potential uproar about a holder killing a woman because her bloodline is older than his seems off. I might believe “jumped-up trader just offed a valuable community member and/or powerful bargaining chip for marriage,” but Thella was neither of those things, either, by her own actions and words.

As best I can tell, there should be no reason for anyone to be mad about Jayge killing Thella, except perhaps Larad. Because she’s family to him, even though he disowned her.

In any case, Piemur and Jancis head out, where they are met by Jaxom and Ruth, who they let in on their plans, and get help from Jaxom to excavate the solar panels. At which point, they decide to send out for Fandarel to see if he can make sense of the materials. He does, ish, but he also has the clout to round up an excavation team and get them to unearth the annex. There isn’t enough time to go in before night, so Fandarel calls a halt. Jaxom heads back to Ruatha, understanding that Sharra, who is “pregnant again”, will be annoyed to not be able to see for herself. (Babies ever after. Way to take a spirited woman out of the narrative there.) Ruth drops off Piemur and Jancis at Cove to report to Robinton, who is suitably impressed, and distressed that there’s so much stuff to catalogue and analyze from this location that nobody will be able to accomplish it in their lifetime, and it’s unlikely they’ll get what they already have done by the end of this Pass.

Jancis chides Piemur on his choice of name for Stupid as they take care of the runner. Piemur relates his story of going on walk to avoid being exiled by Toric for making eyes at Sharra, then talks Jancis through all the objections she raises about why Toric didn’t want to pair up Sharra and Jaxom. When Piemur asks about himself, she teases him and then the two of them have sex, with a nice fade to the next morning after one line alluding to the part where sex is involved.

The next morning is the final stages of the excavation of the admin building and the annex. Piemur seethes that everyone has one again taken over a thing that was private and small, even though he knows that Jancis can’t take precedence over Fandarel. When Fandarel and Robinton are ready to go in, Piemur demands that Jancis go first, by right if it being her hunch. The two Masters agree, and Jancis and Piemur set foot inside first.

Right now, I should mention that there’s a running theme of how Piemur believes Jancis needs to assert herself more and get what’s hers, with his help. Considering whose granddaughter she is, I don’t think it’ll be a problem, but there is this entire world and narrative’s weight losing back at her and telling her to do no such thing, unless she wants horrible consequences. Like Thella, Brekke, Mirrim, Kylara, and Lessa, y’know?

As it is, the party explores the area, and then gets into the room, where small red lights illuminate a few things, but the room itself is slowly lighting up and coming to life. Piemur can read the labeling on a light (panels charging) before it switches over to green, and notices the workstations that might have keyboards, though he has no concept of what they might be.

And then comes the big payoff.

“That corner says ‘AIVAS’, Piemur said excitedly, pointing to the obvious.
Robinton had turned to view the corridor walls and recognized familiar artifacts. “Charts,” he said.
  

Oops. Sorry. What was actually said was


r`NiTqR71[T 51Y 7zRx^5,T2$

Sorry, universal translator is a bit fuzzy, apparently. It said

VoicePrint non reconnu

You get the point. The book itself actually states what is said in intelligible language to the reader and then forces us to realize that the party in the room can’t understand it through dialogue. Not only is it confusing, this is a great example of why writers get told “show, don’t tell”. Especially for what happens next, after the party and the voice talk at each other and only have a few words in common, specifically the names of Benden, Boll, Keroon, and Telgar. Eventually, it seems like there’s some about of intelligibility filtering through.

“It sounds testy, but I think I’m getting the hang of its accent. My name is Robinton. I am Masterharper of Pern. This is Fandarel, who is Mastersmith in Telgar Hold. With us are Journeywoman Jancis and Journeyman Piemur. Do you understand me?”
“Lingual shifts have occurred, Robinton. Modification of the language program is now required. Please continue to speak.”
“Continue to speak?”
“Your speech patterns will be the basis for the modification. Please continue to speak.”
“Well, Masterharper, you heard it,” Piemur said, rapidly recovering his composure. “Here, sit down.” He pulled the chair from under the desk, brushed the seat off, and made a flamboyant gesture.
Master Robinton looked aggrieved as he sat. “I always thought the Harper Hall had succeeded very well at keeping the language pure and unadulterated.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Cocowhat by depizan

!

Cocowhat by depizan

!!!

Cocowhat by depizan

Let’s recap. The descendants of the colony have unearthed the system their ancestors used at Landing. Which has not been damaged enough in the intervening time, due to the ash, and therefore can spring to life again once enough power is given to it. This same system is artificially intelligent and was programmed with enough foresight and a running process to be able to scan for linguistic shifts, and successfully manages, in a matter of minutes, to adjust for two thousand revolutions’ worth of linguistic drift, despite the barest of shared words, and even then, not necessarily with the same accent or inflection. All hail the engineer that made this miracle. Because apparently when they built it, they could speak Koine Greek and Old English, or something.

We alsohave (yet more) confirmation that the Harpers have been charged with the task of suppressing innovation planet-wide since the inception of the guild, by according themselves the power of keeping the language static. Suddenly, Yanus’s fanatical insistence that Menolly conform and the Benden Weyrleader’s insistence on TRADITION have context, and it makes them even more horrible. Robinton, you’re a monster. Pern is a horrid dystopia.

After introductions are made, Jancis provides the idea of what a woman speaking sounds like, and everyone learns that the Dawn Sisters are spaceships, although they don’t support life at the moment, Jaxom arrives, pouts a bit that they started without him, and then Piemur finally clues Robinton in on the magnitude of what’s been found.

“you do realize, Master, that here is the key you’ve been hoping to find. A talking key. I think if you can just ask it the right questions, you’ll find out all the answers. Even some you didn’t know you needed to know.”
“Aivas,” Master Robinton said, straightening his shoulders and directing his next remark to the green light. “Can you answer my questions?”
“That is the function of this apparatus.”
“Let us begin at the beginning then, shall we?” Master Robinton asked.
“That is a correct procedure,” Aivas replied, and what had been a dark panel suddenly became illuminated with a diagram that those in the room identified as similar to one found in the flying ship Jaxom had discovered. Only this diagram had such depth and perspective that it appeared three-dimensional, giving the awed observers the feeling that they were hovering in space, an unthinkable distance away from their sun. “When Mankind first discovered the third planet of the sun Rukbat in the Saggitarian sector of space…”

And that ends the book, with the AI recounting the story of Landing and the trip to Pern.

The Renegades of Pern: Hurry Up, Already!

Last chapter, there was more excavation and discovery, this time with discovery of the warehouse and its accompanying stores, still shrink-wrapped. And Toric went off to smash someone he felt was taking things away from him. Yeah, that’s it.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XV: Content Notes: Sex-negativity, Ridiculous Masculinity, Patriarchal Attitudes

(Present Pass, 17)

The chapter starts by continuing where the last left off – cataloging the discovered stores. Piemur wonders aloud whether the Ancients were clueless about Thread when they landed, because the way Landing is laid out has lots of windows, and then the clear scramble northward to caves without windows, demonstrating a deductive reasoning that many of the people more in charge than him clearly lack. They’re trying to match up the markings in the storehouses with the manifests that Piemur found the first day he went into the warehouse, but soon enough, he calls a break and then disguises it as a business trip to Paradise River.

He climbed on behind the girl, well pleased with himself. It would be perfectly legitimate for him to put his arms around her during flight.

And you’re still a creep, Piemur, for arranging yourself that way and not asking Jancis’s consent or opinion on the matter. Admit your crush and be willing to suffer the consequences.

Instead, there is bickering about the purpose disposition of the goods in their discoveries.

“It’s one thing if they contain artifacts — but otherwise they are being useful, efficient.” He threw in that word more out of pique than as a humorous reference. “They’re not being desecrated or misused. They’re not inviolable. They’re certainly durable.”
“Then you believe we should use the shirts and boots and other materials in that cavern?” Jancis turned on him, her eyes flashing and her jaw set in a determined line.
“If they fit, why not?”
“Because it’s–it’s profane, that’s what!”
“Profane? To wear a shirt because it’s a shirt and was made to cover nakedness; boots because they’re boots and made for walking? I don’t understand you.”
“It’s a misuse of historical relics.”
“Besides the building slab, Master Fandarel’s using some of those drills — sharpest steel he’s ever seen.”
“Grandfa is not wasting them!”
“These aren’t being wasted, either,” Piemur declared. He raised his hands up high in frustration, then brought them down smartly to his sides. “Go read the bloody carton labels! That’s what you came down here to do. I’m going back to the hold. Jayge’s right about the heat of the day. It affects some people’s thinking.”

And there’s a spat, and heat, but Piemur’s wits aren’t dulled enough to not notice the invading force landing on the beach and spreading themselves out. He wakes up and warns Jayge, and picks up some weapons to fight. Both Jayge and Piemur do try to fight the group of attackers, but they are overwhelmed and both knocked out, with the hope of Aramina having done as ordered and gotten herself and the kids. In the blackout, the viewpoint changes to Jayge, who comes to trussed up uncomfortably. But he does hear that Aramina escaped and that Thella has a plan to make Jayge suffer first and then die, with the knowledge that Thella has Aramina and has tortured her first. Thella also has complaints about the quality of the hired help, after they complain about how difficult it was to get by Jayge’s dogs.

“There were six of you, with swords and spears! More than enough to take a drudge slut.[…]

Here I had thought that drudge didn’t need any additional bits on it to be the worst insult ever. But apparently there had to be that extra knife twist for the woman. Although we have seen men for drudges, I also suspect that the “drudge” insult is meant mostly, if not exclusively, for women, so the “slut” part is just extra on top of that.

Secondly, how exactly is it that the word “slut” survives? Promiscuity is baked into dragonrider culture, and while the Holders have a lot more invested in keeping their women from having sex outside of approved channels, I don’t see that particular insult sticking around for a couple thousand years, even with a dedicated group trying to make everything static. Not to mention that it would have had to have survived long enough to be part of FSP slang before that. Language evolves.

Jayge is considering his options with regard to how to get out of his situation and some smug satisfaction that Thella’s searching is not going to be in the places where Aramina is. He can’t actually get out of his ropes, but good things happen to those in the favor of the narrative…

“Easy!” a quiet voice cautioned.
“V’line?”
“K’van.” The bronze rider was already sawing at Jayge’s bonds. “Aramina yelled — a good knack to rediscover at a moment of crisis. Heth responded. I can see why. Did Thella leave only the one guard?”
[…logistics and the knowledge that Aramina is safe…]
“You rescued Ara?” Jayge reeled more from relief than physical weakness.
K’van steadied him, eyes twinkling. “Plucked her out of the trees this time — her, Jancis, and the two children. Had to leave the canines behind.”

Well, previous theory goes out the window, then. Aramina apparently still does have the knack, and it was just slowly fading into the background. I wonder what it was, then, about that particular dragon that she didn’t hear them.
Jayge requests K’van to get help in dealing with Thella. K’van refuses, considering it a matter of Hold business and that fulfilling the request would be seen as interference, even as he helps get everyone unbound and back up to fighting condition. He’s hoping he won’t catch too much hell for what he’s already done because Heth heard Aramina and that was the end of the discussion.

Then, because it’s Pern, there’s time spent making sure all the women and children get to safety, including Aramina.

Aramina bristled. “I’m not running away again, Jayge Lilcamp!”
“I think you’d make it a lot easier for Jayge if you were out of Thella’s range,” K’van said firmly. “You and the children. Let him deal with her. It’s going to come to that one way or another, you know.” And with that the bronze dragonrider looked Jayge squarely in the eyes.
“And long overdue!” Jayge said savagely. “Go on, Aramina. She won’t find me such an easy mark this time.”
[…the defenders get themselves ready with weapons, a second dragonrider arrives, but is prevented from joining by K’van, and Farli returns with a report of having found Alemi and his men and reported what was going on to them…]
Jayge caught Aramina’s hand add she gets a fishing spear. “Oh, no, my love. You will take yourself and our children as far away from here as possible. Do you understand me? There’s no time to argue the point. You’re going.”
“And Heth and I will make sure she does.” K’van said unexpectedly, taking Aramina by the arm. “That much I can do.”
She hesitated one brief moment, then acquiesced, her shoulders drooping. “Just don’t let her slip away again, Jayge. I don’t ever want to be faced with this again.”

Uggggggh. Your masculinity is getting in the way of logic, Jayge, because Aramina is probably strong and capable of introducing Thella to Mr. Pointy based on the fact that she’s been doing the work of your Hold and raising your children, too. But no, we can’t have a competent heroic woman in the presence of men because Pern is all about the penis’s divine right of rule. (Which is, incidentally, how this whole Thella thing started anyway.)

In any case, Jayge and his five well-armed friends try to sneak up on Thella…who has fifteen underlings that they can see. Having Aramina along would have cut the odds to almost two to one with a surprise element. Having the dragonriders along would have made it better, too, but the mounted martial force apparently chooses not to interfere on anything that doesn’t directly affect them. Which makes it all the more problematic for Jayge to refuse Aramina’s help, after K’van refuses – he’s going to need all the help he can get!

The plan, such that it is, is to release the hounds, use them as a distraction (and possibly to do some damage) to pick off as many of Thella’s men as possible, then confront her when the odds are in their favor.

Thella also has a less than flattering description at the hands of Jayge, which could be some sort of metaphor about how her interval cruelty manifested in outward ugliness, but that would be for a different story.

Thella’s patience, such that it is, has worn thin and she orders her men to gather fellis plants and set them ablaze so as to smoke Aramina out of the trees. The first attempt is stopped by the man sprouting a knife on his back, and then Jayge orders the assault, having both humans and canines attempt as much killing as possible.

Jayge attempts to intimidate Thella using the idea of the loudness of his sword being drawn. Except that swords, when sharp, should be silent, not loud, and dragging an edge across a thing to make it be loud will dull things. Admittedly, one could easily make this mistake, since Audible Sharpness has been a trope for a very long time.

In any case, Thella and Jayge lock blades, and Thella taunts Jayge while circling him. Jayge has a small wonder as to why Thella might be doing that, but is too focused on responding to her insults to really think about it. Unfortunately for him, Jayge finds out that Thella isn’t bluffing about her skill with weapons, and he only barely avoids getting killed several times, until he is able to back Thella up against a tree (lucky) and then block her attacks and wound her severely on one arm (for Armald), then the other (for the lost people and horses in the ambush), and then across the middle, for Readis.

Before he can deliver the killing blow, though, Aramina stops him, at least until Thella tries one last time to get to Aramina and Jayge runs her through to protect his wife. Thus ends Thella.

The Benden Weyrleaders arrive as soon as Threadfall ends, and both of them are immediately in K’van’s face for “involving himself in a holder dispute.”

Cocowhat by depizan

I’m a bit chuffed at this particular choice of language, because this entire book has been all about denying Thella the opportunity to be a Holder, mocking her for being Lady Holdless, and otherwise denying her legitimacy to achieve that office. This, in the official opinions, is not a holder dispute, because there aren’t two holders opposed to it. If that was what was keeping K’van out of it, then he should have been able to charge right in without fear.

The remainder of Thella’s crew will be shipped off to be drudges for others, Thella’s death is meant to be used as propaganda against someone else getting the same ideas, at least for a while, and Lessa leans hard on Aramina to come back to Benden and be a queen rider, since that hearing dragons thing is a specialty of the Ruathan bloodline, and it might pass on to her daughter, too…

That ends the chapter. It has certainly taken long enough to get Thella, but this is not the last chapter of the book, because there’s apparently still something left to do after Toric is humiliated and Thella killed. (Thella is still a waste of a good villain. She was perfectly designed to expose and exploit the flaws and the problems associated with the society Pern created for itself, and instead gets wasted as greedy and vain instead of oppressed and sympathetic.)

The Renegades of Pern: Digging For More Artifacts

Last chapter, Piemur and Robinton excavated the communications tower of Landing and absconded with maps of the place left by the Ancients. And everyone confirmed Jayge and Aramina as the people who hold Paradise River, which alerts Thella to their presence. Thella, ravaged by a disease, gathers recruits and heads south to try and get revenge again…

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XIV: Content Notes: Glass Ceiling Misogyny

(Present Pass, Turns 15-17)

…but we’re not going to stay with that. Instead, it’s Piemur again, and in a montage of sorts as we advance two years, basically, with achievements in circumnavigation of Pern, the dangers of the Southern Continent, aided by Harper stories, drying up the land rush that would have normally happened, (of which I suspect the Conclave of Lords were more than happy to have sent off their excess sons, and possibly daughters, to die and not split their lands), and allowing small holds to be established all over the inhabitable lands there. Another Weyr is designated in the South, called Eastern Weyr, initially led by T’gellan, that also ends up being a training Weyr for new riders and a Weyr for older and convalescent riders, too. K’van takes over Southern from D’ram by succeeding at a mating flight, and D’ram retires to Cove Hold with Robinton and Lytol. Alemi, Menolly’s brother, does good for himself by taking over the seahold attached to Paradise River. The excavations continue, giving Fandarel enough parts to potentially reassemble a flying sled and Robinton much hope that answers will soon be found about the Ancients and how they got to Pern.

Oh, and also, three births, all sons, all on the same day.

According to Silvina, Menolly gave birth to Robse between one note and the next; Sharra had slightly more difficulty producing Jarrol; and Nemekke arrived, two weeks before he was due, just before midnight, Benden Weyr time. Robinton and Lytol, deciding that they were the spiritual grandfathers of Menolly’s and Sharra’s sons, drank to their health, and that of Brekke’s second boy, with sufficient wine to have drowned all three.

Naming conventions of Pern, always interesting – Robse is clearly named after Menolly’s two great loves, Jarrol is named after Jaxom and Lytol, but Nemekke is interesting – Brekke provides the tail, but I would have expected the Brown Rider Rapist to have insisted that his name be present in her son’s naming.

As for Piemur, he keeps busy with Robinton, with Menolly and Brekke sending him pretty girls to help with cataloging everything, although none catch his eye, partially because they’re all making eyes at Robinton, who is still apparently the prettiest man in the Hold. Eventually the Cove Hold gets an annex and an expansion to house the large amounts of records generated, pieces housed, and the staff of apprentice archivists. Robinton’s monomania is contrasted with the problem of his aging body and possible beginnings of senility or memory issues. The fire-lizards aren’t as much help as we think, as they apparently only remember very important events in their history, like Landing, the volcanic eruption, and the stolen egg incident, because dragons flamed fire-lizards. But finally, Robinton asks the right question, the one we’ve been asking since the beginning.

“They can’t have kept so few copies!” the Harper insisted. “And we have the maps as examples of the durability of their materials — so where are the rest?”
“There were lapses in record-keeping,” Lytol agreed solemnly. “We now know there must have been a terrible fire in one portion of Fort Hold’s lowest level; we are also agreed that plague decimated Hall, Hold, and Weyr on three separate occasions. We may never learn our history.” He seemed as resigned to that possibility as the Harper was resistant to it.

We’ve seen two of those plagues – Moreta/Nerilka is one, the one that broke out soon after the move north was mentioned in passing in First Fall, and that leaves us with one major plague as-yet to be discovered. That, at least, accounts for the written record being less than what it could be. Orally, if enough key Craftmasters die before passing on their knowledge, then gaps appear. It still seems like a very long time to be on the decline and not rediscovering or inventing new things, because presumably the problems that need solutions still exist.

Sticking with Piemur, he gets to observe an earthquake, err, earthshake, collapse the map building from dragonback, which aborts his and Robinton’s plans to go digging. Back at Cove Hold, Piemur vents his frustration.

“It’s really rather simple,” Piemur muttered to the girl who was passing around soup and klah. “The next time all the fire-lizards flick off in a storm, you can expect another shake.”
“Are you certain of your facts?” she asked skeptically.
“Yes, on the basis of personal observation,” Piemur replied, not certain if he liked being challenged so quickly. Then he noticed the twinkle in her eye. She was not unattractive, with a mop of very curly black hair, gray eyes, and a fine log nose — he always noticed noses, since he regretted his own snub of a nose. “I’ve been in the South nearly ten Turns and that shock was nothing.”
“I’ve been here ten days, and I found that shock on settling, journeyman. I don’t recognize your colors,” she added, nodding at his shoulder knots.
He winked at her and assumed an arrogant pose. “Cove Hold!” He was extremely proud to be one of a half-dozen entitled to wear those colors.
Her reply brought the gratifying reaction he had expected. “Then you’re journeyman to Master Robinton? Piemur? My grandfa mentions you frequently! I’m Jancis, Telgar Smithcrafthall journey woman.”
He made a disparaging sound. “You don’t look like any Smithcrafter I’ve ever seen.”
A dimple flashed in her right cheek when she smiled. “That’s exactly what my grandfa says,” she said, snapping her fingers.
“And who might your grandfa be?” Piemur asked obediently.
Her smile had a touch of mischief as she turned with her tray to serve others. “Fandarel!”
“Hey Jancis, come back!” Piemur shot to his feet, spilling soup over his hands.

Apparently, Piemur does like being challenged that way. He may have finally found someone that gives as good as he does. Or, perhaps, he’s intrigued by this pretty woman also being a Smith, and therefore strong and capable. Either way, I think we’ve found a match.

Robinton intercepts Piemur before he can pursue Jancis and offers him the opportunity to go examine some new underground ruins discovered when the earthshake collapsed some of what was covering them. While everyone is dithering about who should go in, Piemur shimmies down, which starts a mad scramble to follow. The discovery is lots and lots of plastic-wrapped goods and artifacts, meaning they’ve found the warehouse and stores. This will make more than a few people happy, especially Fandarel.

While they sit around for others to come and see it all, too, the narrative takes a shift over to Toric, who is livid that one of his Holders, Denol, has decided the island he’s administering will do just fine as an independent hold. Toric is having none of this, calls forth his henchmen to go rough them up, and dispatches a message to Benden asking for support.

“Toric,” Kevelon said, “you can’t expect dragonriders to take punitive action against people–”
“No, no, of course not. But this Denol will soon see that he cannot maintain his position on my island!”
[…Ramala arrives with word of the discovery at Landing. Toric dismisses it as unimportant….]
“I want all the single men aboard the Bay Lady by midday, with suitable supplies of weapons, including those barbed spears we’ve been using against the big felines.”
[…Toric dispatches his messages…]
Never had Toric expected to be challenged in his own Hold, and by a jumped-up drudge of a crop picker. He would pick him over, so he would!

Toric’s Berserk Button, then, is any time someone tries to take something from him he considers his. Also, a bit rich that someone who ditched a fisher hold to make his own fortune would be so disparaging of someone else trying to do the same idea.

That said, I always did wonder what would happen when someone made this kind of claim. Since there’s no police force except the dragonriders, and they don’t interfere, matters of contract and who owns what apparently are settled by force of arms. I wonder if Denol has enough witnesses for their own claim, too.

Having shown us where Toric will be, the action goes back to Robinton receiving the message from Toric and delivering it up to the Benden Weyrleaders, while exploration of the storehouses continues apace. Piemur gets drafted by Jancis to help with measurements, and after a little bit, and Jancis wondering how the Ancients cut stone so easily, Piemur gives in a little to his inner misogynist.

“You haven’t actually worked metal, have you?” Piemur finally blurted out, unable to contain himself any longer. She was not a fragile-looking girl, but neither did she have the bulging muscles of most make smiths he knew.

Piemur, comparing men and women on musculature is going to go nearly nowhere. If you want to know how strong she is, you should let her arm-wrestle you or something. But since Pern’s other Crafts have basically said “NO GIRLS”, except the Smithcraft, Piemur has never had to get used to women in the Crafts. Fandarel has been taking women for his craft ever since the Benden Weyrleaders thought it was weird all the way back in the original trilogy, so really, Piemur, you should be used to women Smiths being strong.

Jancis continues.

“Yes, the Crafthall required me to, but not the heavy stuff,” she answered absently, more intent on measuring the archway than on his questions. She gave him the measurements. “There’s a lot more to smithing than working hot metal or glass. I know the principles of my Craft, or I’d not have walked the tables.” She cocked her head at him, the dimple appearing with her grin. “Can you craft every instrument a harper plays?”
“I know the principles,” Piemur said with a laugh and then held up the glowbasket to see into the next chamber. “What have we here?”

And Jancis continues to give as good as she gets, so there’s a clear attraction from Piemur going on. He confirms this for us with a hope to distract Jancis from their purpose.

The discovery of note in this case is a lot more records, like the evacuation plans, and some other important documents. The interesting thing here is that Jancis comments on the “funny shape to these letters”, which suggests that computer printout is different enough to be odd, but not enough to be unreadable, which makes me wonder what typeface printouts came on. And again, the fact that two thousand years plus of culture hasn’t drifted the written language enough to be useless is highly suspicious. To prevent the cavern from being washed out in a storm, the dragons of the Benden Weyrleaders are going to act as umbrellas. There’s a bit of talk about dragons as designed creatures in very old Records over lunch, where the spoils of the morning’s exploration are discussed. And that’s the end of the chapter. Hooray, exploration and exposition with artifacts. And threatened war. With the Thella story still unresolved.

The Renegades of Pern: New Discoveries

Last time, we finally reached the end of The White Dragon and got to see the Humiliation Conga Line from Toric’s perspective as his plan for Sharra unraveled. Which means, hooray, new content!

…what do you mean, there’s only four chapters left?

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XIII: Content Notes:

(Present Pass, 15.10.23)

The new material starts with Piemur and Robinton – Piemur finally mentions Paradise River Hold to Robinton, and we find out that Piemur is officially reassigned as journeyman to Cove Hold by Sebell. Considering his role in getting Toric humiliated, it’s probably a self-preservation thing for Sebell. The two of them discuss all the excavation going on at Landing (which has apparently regained its name?) and how finding artifacts is great for Fandarel and Wansor to reconstruct, but not so great for Robinton, who wants more information about the culture and life of the Ancients. After a little while of Robinton complaining about being too cooped up for his own liking, both he and Piemur get a friendly dragonrider to take them to Paradise River Hold.

Which switches to Jayge’s perspective as the dragon sweeps in, so that we can observe that it’s a green, and Jayge judges it to be older, based on “whitened muzzle and puckering wing scars” (another contradiction to the assessment of Landing about longevity of dragons. Perhaps they show their rider’s age more than their own.) He’s happy to see Piemur, although a bit afraid of the other guests until Piemur reassures him that they are trustworthy.

Aramina faints. According to Jayge, it’s from the shock of hearing dragon voices again, but considering that the promise from D’ram to Toric about more dragons flying over the continent, I would have thought Aramina would have more opportunities to hear dragon voices again. Even though Paradise River is pretty far away from Southern, as best I can tell, Aramina has pretty good range for hearing. That, and with fighting wings attacking Thread, I would expect the mental traffic to increase in volume, number, and tempo. I’d believe it more if it were some form of PTSD that got invoked any time dragons are near, considering how much that talent caused her stress and danger.

As it turns out, Aramina fainted for another reason.

“Jayge,” she said in a low, constricted voice, “I didn’t hear her!”
“You didn’t?” Jayge thought to keep his voice low. “You didn’t?” he repeated with more confidence. “Then why did you faint?”
“Because I didn’t!” In that pained reply, Aramina managed to convey her conflicting emotions to Jayge.
He pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently and murmuring over and over that it was all right. It did not matter if she did not hear dragons anymore. She had no need to. And she must not be afraid. No one would censure her. She must relax and compose herself. Such a shock was not good for the baby.

Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t think there was a known way of suppressing the telepathic talent, or any known instances where it went away with time. Perhaps we can say that Aramina is out of practice enough, or has trained enough to be able to turn it off and on, albeit unconsciously. Then again, she also has a fair of fire-lizards of her own, trained and helpful, as we find out when everyone gets the tour. Robinton is pleased as punch to get to see all of the artifacts and buildings, and suggests sending Perschar (his spy in Thella’s group) to sketch out everything here. He also offers Zair to carry messages back, which both Jayge and Aramina hesitate on, because they’re not sure what their official status is. Robinton dismisses that worry with a statement that two Harper witnesses have seen they’ve established an excellent Hold here and so they’ll happily back the claim they have to Paradise River Hold.

Which is the first time Jayge has heard the name. Aramina suggests Lilcamp Hold as an alternative, but she likes Paradise River as a name. Jayge thinks naming it after himself might be presumptuous, and asks if Robinton could find a way to bring his relatives here, so that the whole family can go to work building the Hold up into something much more impressive. Robinton offers the services of the dragon that he flew in on to get them there. They also go around and mark the boundaries, create official maps and witness them, and otherwise set Jayge and Aramina up as the people in charge of Paradise River Hold.

Robinton says he’ll talk to Lessa about why Aramina can’t hear dragons any more, and suggests that “moving from girlhood to womanhood” might have something to do with it, which is…a possible explanation. If it were true, though, that would suggest that either dragons or Pernese are set up in such a way that once a candidate ages out, the dragons don’t take any more interest on them any more. Another legacy of Kitti Ping, perhaps.

The next scene is Robinton and Piemur at Landing, where Perschar is sent off to Paradise River after mentioning a curious mound that might be a multi-level building. So Robinton and Piemur go over to the Minercraftmaster in charge, Esselin, to request workers to help excavate. They are also joined by Breide, Toric’s representative, who has an eidetic memory for all the contributions of all the workers for all of the excavations, and is reluctant to spare anyone at all to help, but two men are eventually freed to help the Harpers out. After pointing at a thing and telling Breide to go look over where the commotion is, the Harpers and their miners get to work trying to figure out what kind of building they have, but the “rodmen” can’t provide anything useful in the hour they were given – walls and a hollow spot. Once the rodmen leave, Robinton tells Piemur to dig in the hollow spot, even though all the tools are elsewhere. With the help of branches and fire-lizards, Piemur enlarges the hole enough for both of them to go into. There’s some broken glass on the floor, but there’s a big discovery – maps in plastic of all the settlements the Ancients made on the South, and that give a proper scope of how big the continent is. Naturally, Robinton has Piemur help him pull all the maps off the wall and use the fire-lizards to sneak them back to Cove Hold for further study. All that’s left is to act disappointed (with the assistance of an “Out to lunch” sign) and then go back and study the real things with the Benden Weyrleaders, Fort Weyrleaders, Jaxom, Lytol, Fandarel, Wansor, and Sebell.

With the usual caveat that one does not manage to keep written language any more static than spoken language over the course of two thousand years, let’s see what’s been unearthed.

There were two maps of the Southern Continent, each with different legends on them: the largest one was inscribed with the ancient names and showed clearly defined areas. A second showed the terrain in great detail, including hill and plain contours, and river and ocean depths. The third and smallest continental map, the labels done in minute lettering, had superscriptions of numerals below each name. The fourth map was of “Landing” itself, with each of the squares named and other sections marked INF, HOSP, WRHSE, VET, AGRI, and SLED REP. A fifth plate, which Piemur and N’ton suggested could represent the area to the south of the grid, indicated underground caves. The last one showed several sites, one clearly labeled MONACO BAY, another the pointed peninsula just east of Cove Hold, and the third Paradise River. The wide strand along the sea on both sides was covered with figures in orange, yellow, red, blue, and green.

Okay, so on addition to the improbable that they can read the words on the page, that’s five maps where there were supposedly only two, and furthermore, the odds that the systems for notation would be anything compatible in two thousand years of time, much less with as much lost knowledge as there has been in that time, is even more improbable. There should be no way that these maps are comprehensible at all, much less with the ease in which Robinton and everyone around is interpreting them.

Yes, I know, realism in a dragon story. But someone authorial brought this on themselves when they decided this wasn’t just a fantasy place, but a place of science and degradation of that science over time.

In any case, Robinton and Piemur let slip Paradise River Hold’s existence and that it’s inhabited, and then how nice the place is, and finally, who is actually inhabiting it, which makes both Benden Weyrleaders do their Ricky Ricardo (of I Love Lucy) impressions. After all of that gets squared away, and the assembled leaders appear ready to let Jayge and Aramina Hold what they have, Wansor breaks in with the realization that the dragonless Ancients must have had flying machines, since they don’t have any signs of having made trails or tracks for ground travel. Which just means more questions for everyone. Even though they have time-traveling dragons and could just jump their way back and forth to see what’s going on. Lessa and Jaxom both could manage it, especially with Ruth. And if they landed in Moreta’s time, she’d probably join in.

In any case, Jayge and Aramina are confirmed in their hold, which eventually means that Thella learns they’re alive. And we learn that Thella is alive, but much less healthy than before.

Her mind seethed over that now indisputable fact. Aramina had been rescued and was alive and well in the south, enjoying prestige and comfort while she, Thella, had nearly died from a noxious and debilitating infection that had left her scarred. Had either Dushik or Readis reached the appointed meeting place, she would have fared much better. As it was, it had been weeks before she had recovered from the fever.
Weak and unable to focus her mind on new plans, Thella had drifted, carefully avoiding holds until she found herself a secluded valley in Nerat, where quantities of food easily gathered had somewhat restored her to help. She had been appalled at the scarring on her face and the wisps that were all that was left of her once luxuriant hair. All Thella’s misfortunes could be traced back to that whelp spawned by an insignificant trader, who had prevented her from finding a miserable girl who could have made life so much more predictable.
Periodically she had comforted herself with the torments Aramina would have suffered before succumbing to terror and starvation in that dark and slimy pit. She still had to settle accounts with the trader, and she thought long and pleasantly about how she would wreak her revenge on Jayge and the entire Lilcamp train.

And we’re back to the Toric story being nonessential again, because Thella and Aramina and Jayge aren’t done yet. Until the excavation discovers something like, say, a working interface to a computer system left behind by the original colonists, anything not involved with the Thella plot is fluff for wordcount.

In any case, the chapter finishes with Thella swearing her revenge and trying to get enough recruits to sail south. Because Thella is apparently like the mob, and Pern has no such thing as a witness protection program to help people disappear properly, instead of having let the world think they were dead. It’s harder, but we know Thella will succeed eventually and there will have to be a final reckoning in the South. Maybe in the last chapter.

There’s going to be a certain amount of “this is all your fault, Piemur,” I’m guessing, once Thella and crew appear, since Piemur is the initial reason why anybody even knows they’re alive.

The Renegades of Pern: Action in the South, finally!

Last chapter, more pieces got moved, dragons died, riders changed, and we got ever closer to the end of The White Dragon and the promise that we might actually go somewhere with this Southern plot.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XII: Content Notes:

(Present Pass, 15.10.19)

“Young Lord Jaxom, with Piemur, Sharra, and Menolly, has found a vast settlement, buried under volcanic ash and dirt,” D’ram announced excitedly.

YES!

This is where the story should start, after Jayge and Aramina are done with Thella. It’s a little bit before the end of The White Dragon, so it’s good for getting everyone back up to speed with what happened, since we’ve spent nearly a decade in other Passes, expanding the mythos and exploring origin stories. Now we can come back to the story at hand from a different perspective and charge ahead.

This chapter opens, after the announcement of the discovery, with Toric learning how big things really are on the South, as well as the Hold for Robinton, while hoping that he can hold Benden to promises and negotiate with Sebell about who he will and won’t take for Southern, now that he’s official. Sebell takes the opportunity to quote a fragment of a very old record.

“‘When man came to Pern, he established a good Hold in the South,'” Sebell murmured, his eyes shining almost reverently, “‘but found it necessary to move north to shield.'”

Toric isn’t sure he believes it, but everyone troops over to the dig site in the morning all the same. Not before we get some interesting information, though.

“An older man needs interests that involve him in life. Don’t worry, Sebell.”
“At least about your Master’s health,” Toric said sardonically. “He’s got both Menolly and Sharra, hasn’t he?”
D’ram realized that his mention of Toric’s sister had not been as circumspect as it might have been, just as he also remembered that Menolly was Sebell’s wife.

Wait, when did that happen? I remember Menolly and Sebell having a fire-lizard fling, and Menolly declaring her love for Robinton, and Robinton trying to pass Sebell off on Menolly, but there appears to have been a joining while we were faffing about in the South rehashing another book! This, we lose an opportunity to see what sort of ceremony happens when houses get joined, or Crafters marry. It’s a perfect opportunity for worldbuilding and it sailed on by.

As they circle the site, Toric reflects bitterly that he can’t have the whole continent to himself and that he has to let stupid Northerners in. He recognizes that Fax failed because he tried to use fear. He thinks greed works a lot better. Past that, there’s no denying the place was inhabited, but Toric thinks the Ancients were pretty stupid to have built in the shadow of the volcano and out in the open where Thread could get them. Hindsight is always perfect, Toric.

After landing, Toric joins the crew of Craftmasters and Weyrleaders with the intent of stopping encroachment on “his” continent, with a dismissive assessment of Jaxom and the project of excavation. At least until they open up a place and discover artifacts. Then Toric regrets encouraging everyone else, and excuses himself back to Southern.

The action stays with the excavation, with Piemur composing a quick message for Jayge and Aramina, describing what had been found, and gets a short reply before the fire-lizards burst in with Jaxom and Ruth and news of the discovery of the shuttles, which the fire-lizards confirm with imagery of the first settlers arriving, giving us yet more reason to believe that the fire-lizards have a collective memory that outlives each individual one. Assuming, that is, that fire-lizards aren’t as long-lived as the dragons would be without the Impression bond.

Everyone, including Robinton, traipses out again, and the discovery of the maps on the walls of the rooms convinces Piemur that Toric shouldn’t hold the whole continent any more.

Also, somewhere in this time, Toric has kidnapped Sharra, because the next scene starts with Toric in a fight with his other siblings over Sharra and Jaxom. Toric thinks Sharra can match better than the young Jaxom and Ruatha, the siblings think it’s a good match, being to a rider, an intelligent lord, and to someone of her choice, instead of her suppressing her desires for him. Toric dismisses them all with a warning not to interfere, and summons Dorse, Jaxom’s stepbrother (who was mentioned in the last chapter as a person coming south with a good recommendation, but I didn’t think would become important) to stand guard over Sharra, as well as instruct his own fire-lizards in what to do with Sharra’s. Satisfied that Sharra won’t be going anywhere, and thinking he needs to accelerate the plan to be fully confirmed as a Lord Holder, Toric goes to bed.

The next day, Toric goes over to get Jaxom away from Sharra. And now we get to see what happened with Lessa…

“Holder Toric,” the boy said casually, over his shoulder.
“Lord Jaxom,” Toric replied in a drawl that made an insult of a title.
Jaxom turned slowly. “Sharra tells me you do not favor an alliance with Ruatha.”
Toric smiled broadly. This was going to be entertaining. “No, lordling, I do not! She can do better than a table-sized Hold in the North!” He caught the Harper’s surprised look.
Suddenly Lessa, a hint of steel in her eyes, appeared beside Jaxom. “What did I hear, Toric?”
“Holder Toric has other plans for Sharra,” the boy said, more amused than aggrieved. “She can do better, it seems, than a table-sized Hold like Ruatha!”
Toric would have given much to know who exactly had repeated his words to Sharra. “I mean no offense to Ruatha,” he said, catching the flicker of anger in Lessa’s face though her smile remained in place.
“That would be most unwise, considering my pride in my Bloodline and in the present Holder of that title,” the Weyrwoman said.
Toric did not the casual time of her voice.

Wait, hold on. Toric is mad at whomever told Sharra, because somehow that got relayed to Jaxom? When he just insulted Jaxom in front of a Harper (intentionally) and in front of Lessa (unintentionally)? Also, even though he’s small and white, Ruth exists and could be used to make Toric’s life a merry hell. Or bring down dragons who would help with that.

Resuming this uncomfortable situation…

“Surely you might reconsider the matter, Toric,” Robinton said, as affable as ever despite the warning in his eyes. “Such an alliance, so much desired by two young people, would have considerable advantages, I think, aligning yourself with one of the most prestigious Holds on Pern.”
“And be in favor with Benden,” Lessa added, smiling too sweetly.
Toric absently rubbed the back of his neck, trying to keep his smile in place. He felt unaccountably light-headed. The next thing he knew, Lessa had put her arm through his and was escorting him to the privacy of her mound.
“I thought we were here to dig up Pern’s glorious past,” he said, managing a good-natured laugh. His head still swam.
“There’s surely no time like the present,” Lessa continued, “to discuss the future. Your future.”

Ah, there’s that Sith Lord Lessa that I’ve missed for so long, giving Toric a mind-whammy to soften him up so that he can be given everything he has, but not the actual continent itself. Toric talks about what he’s claimed, but, as we know, the meeting is to keep him occupied while Jaxom rescues Sharra. At which point Toric basically loses it.

Toric felt his composure leave him. “You! He thrust his arm out at Jaxom, wanting to do many things at once, especially swat down that — that — impudent excresence. He was livid with the indignation of being under obligation to that — that lordling! That leggy, undeveloped boy! He wanted to rend Jaxom limb from body, but little though the white dragon might be, he was bigger than Toric, stronger than any man, and both dam and sire were not far away. There was nothing Toric could do but swallow his humiliation.

And the rest of this chapter plays out as it did in The White Dragon, with Jaxom getting blessing to marry Sharra and Toric headed back to discuss the size of his actual Hold.

How nice for Toric to finally notice how outgunned he was when things finally blew up in his face with Jaxom and Sharra.

Hooray, we’ve finally made it to the end of the last book in this timeline we left. That means we only have a few chapters left and we will actually start moving forward again from this point. It’s time for some new content! I’m so excited.

The Renegades of Pern: Still Treading Water

Last time, we skipped ahead in time, with more of Piemur attempting to explore the South, and finally getting to go range away from Toric. Where he met Aramina and Jayge and their tiny tot Readis in the ashen remains of Paradise River Hold. I’m loath to believe that a continent change is enough to dissuade Thella from pursuing them both out of revenge, but there’s plenty of places to hide in the South, so maybe that’s it.

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XI: Content Notes: Sexism

(Present Pass, 15.08.28 – 15.10.15)

The chapter starts with Saneter desperately wishing Piemur was there, as T’kul and B’zon have gone off (to their deaths, if I recall correctly), the other dragons are making a racket and there isn’t a fire-lizard to be found anywhere. Which puts Toric in full panic mode, because something is happening that Benden probably needs to know about and there’s no way of contacting them fast enough for it to be relevant. They both then hear the cries of dragons at the death of one of their own, and Toric rushes out to find out what happened. He’s intercepted by D’ram, who is the new Weyrleader of Southern, relaying the news that we have already heard about how Salth overexerted himself in the mating flight, so basically the time of the old guard has come to a close, all hail Benden who controls all and sees all.

Toric is very pleased with this development, although he hides it well enough to adopt a neutral tone about T’kul’s death. The narrative then lets us contrast his quiet ambition with Mardra’s loud and public grief, which disgusts Toric because he’s heard more than enough of Mardra and T’kul fighting. Toric heads back to Southern, musing on how much he needs Piemur.

Speaking of, we switch scenes to Piemur, Jaxom, and Sharra (and Ruth and fire-lizards), at the cove where Menolly and Robinton washed ashore, delivering the news of T’kul’s death and Robinton’s heart attack.

“That arrogant, addlepated, insufferably egotistical, altruistic know-it-all!” Piemur shouted, springing to his feet. “He thinks Pern won’t manage without his meddling, without him knowing everything that happens in every Hold and Hall on the entire planet, North and South! He won’t eat properly, he doesn’t rest enough, and he won’t let us help him even though we could probably do the same job even better than he can because we have more sense in our left toenails than he does.” He knew that Sharra and Jaxom were staring at him, but he could not stop. “He’s wasteful of his strength, he never listens to anyone, even when we try to get him to see sense, and he’s got this wild idea that only he, the Masterharper of Pern, had any idea of the destiny of Weyr, Hold, and Hall. Well, this serves him right. Maybe now he’ll listen. Maybe now…”

It’s nice to know how much you care, Piemur, but I’m quoting you mostly for truth, because that really is what Robinton has been doing this whole time. And getting away with it, because it’s nice to have a direct line to the author and the author’s designated avatars. Piemur learns of this from the information about how the dragons kept Robinton alive. He decides Sebell doesn’t need to know about Jayge and Aramina at Paradise River Hold for now.

Piemur also has an opinion about the relationship between Jaxom and Sharra.

Piemur knew that, but he just did not like the idea of Sharra and Jaxom together. Perhaps Toric saw it another way. An alliance with the Ruathan Bloodline, and a kinship with the Benden Weyrwoman, Lessa, might prove invaluable to him.
[…Farli gives Piemur the missing piece of the queen egg puzzle, as the fire lizards all flock to Ruth forever…]
Piemur was unhappily sure of Jaxom’s feelings toward Sharra. And, knowing her as well as he did, he was dismally convinced the attraction was mutual. Either if neither of them knew it yet. Or maybe they did. But Piemur did not intend to make it easy for them. He would have to think of distractions.

And what might your reasons be for wanting them not to get together, Piemur? As you have noted, the alliance of bloodlines might be good, and would certainly help bring Toric further into a solid legitimacy argument for Southern. If that’s what you’re working for, then Sharra and Jaxom are a good match. But I suspect Piemur still thinks he has a chance for her. Bad Piemur.

Jaxom’s recovery is a useful excuse for delay, and so Piemur makes himself useful by helping create maps of his notes, detailing his system for measurement and observation, and telling stories.

“Those big spotted felines, by the way,” he told Sharra, “are not local to Southern. I saw them all along my way.” He tapped his elongated map. “Farli always warned me soon enough to avoid a direct encounter, and I’ve also seen some huge canines no cook would ever want to use as a spit turner.”

So we have very large dogs or wolves along with the cats that have no reason to be here? What exactly were these colonists thinking, bringing the large animals with no reason for being there? They had the opportunity to tailor their ecosystem to their liking. And yet, they seem to have brought and released things that are lethal.

As things go, Piemur’s distractions go on long enough for the arrival of people to build Robinton’s retirement home, which allows him to melt away into the thicket. He still wants to tell Sebell about Paradise River, but since he doesn’t know where Sebell is, he’s not going to exhaust Farli trying to find him. So Piemur sends back maps to Toric and others, and bides his time until things are complete, and takes the tour with Sharra, marveling at the craft on display, until the point in time where Robinton summoms him.

Since we’ve actually already seen that, the scene shifts away back to Toric, who is gathering allies for a meeting with D’ram, Sebell, and N’ton. Toric is suspicious of D’ram poking into his business at the Hold. The meeting group are talking about the reestablishment of Southern, and say they want to have the dragons fly and hunt the wild game, so they won’t be needing as much tithe – and they brought their own staff with them, so the ones currently attached to the Weyr can return to the Hold. Toric wonders what dragons will be able to see on hunting flights, which could spoil his plans. But also,

He could appreciate D’ram not wanting those slatternly drudges about a freshened Weyr. He did not want them about Southern, either. But there was an easy solution for that.

Okay, so slatternly has two definitions: “untidy and dirty through habitual neglect” or “of, relating to, or characteristic of a slut or prostitute”. While it’s entirely possible that Toric means the first, I suspect the second is what is meant, because Pern rarely passes up the opportunity to demean women, especially sexually. Toric’s solution, while unstated, isn’t going to be good for the drudges, who are already treated horribly.

There’s also a gift from Fandarel, a telescope (sorry, “distance-viewer”) that comes along with some casual commentary about wanting to open up regular trade with the North and that the mines Toric is operating could be the sites of ancient mining as well.

No, it was not compensation he was getting, Toric reflected. No matter how smoothly their ideas were presented, his full cooperation was expected. Those bloody [time-skipped] and that wretched queen egg had done him more damage than he had supposed! But he could make certain not to lose so much as a fingerlength of land he already held, or the riches above and below the soil. He also knew the place N’ton must have seen. Sharra had reported it to him the previous Turn. He had marked the huge lake and the three rivers that flows from it on his private map. He must be very careful. He must seem to cooperate while sending reliable men and women to hold what ought to be his.

Which will be quite difficult to do, Toric, against dragonriders. They’re bigger, stronger, and much more likely to cause discord among the people. They also have the Harpers supporting them. So you are still basically trusting that you can hide your work from them, now that they are quite literally in your backyard and looking for land of their own. Good luck with that, Toric.

Realizing he’s over a barrel, Toric does his best to be friendly to his visitors, and we cut back to Robinton, convening a meeting of himself, Jaxom, Sharra, Piemur, and Menolly. Robinton is ready to find more evidence of the Ancients, with a fairly detailed plan of how to do it. Piemur feeds him useful places to go looking, but keeps Paradise River from him for later. Just before their party sets out to find more things to show Robinton, Wansor and Oldive arrive. Oldive pronounces Jaxom fit for travel and lectures them on keeping Robinton alive. Wansor brings a bigger telescope with him, which they point at the Dawn Sisters and discover that they are the spaceships that brought the Ancients to the planet. Piemur is incredibly happy at this discovery, and the chapter ends with no real progress or novelty again.

Looking at b-roll is fun and all, but I still have yet to figure out what Toric’s purpose or conflict is, other than that he’s been smuggling and expanding, which isn’t illegal unless the dragonriders say it is. Thella’s been removed from the narrative, and so there’s no driving action that I can figure out for this chapter. We really need to be moving forward, because the book is about to be done.