Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

Dragongirl: Exceptionalism

When we last left Fiona, she was about to talk to Ellor about borrowing Tintoval to have a look at the much-recovered T’mar, who regained consciousness after his bronze was involved in three mating flights and their attendant energies, even if Kindan and Lorana were the ones physically present to keep Zirenth on task. In one of those mating flights, Fiona came to herself to find herself and Kindan having sex, and she angsted quite a bit about whether or not she was stealing Kindan away from Lorana, even though Lorana, at least for the moment, has been the one engineering their getting together and saying that she’s perfectly fine sharing Kindan with Fiona. T’mar, apparently, thought that being a Weyrwoman meant loving more than one person, but since he had this explanation given to him while he wasn’t in full possession of his faculties, one wonders whether he’s really truly okay with all of it, including the possible sex, or whether T’mar believed “love” was much more metaphorical than physical.

Dragongirl, Chapter 13, continued: Content Notes:

So, over some food, Fiona expresses her desire to borrow Tintoval.

Ellor pursed her lips before responding. “You’ll bring her back?”
Fiona gave her a look of surprised hurt in reply.
“It’s just that so many people seem to stay in your wake once attracted,” Ellor said, working hard to keep her expression neutral. “Lorana, Kindan, even that weyrwoman from High Reaches, Jeila.”
“I think Jeila chose Telgar more for H’nez than me.”
Ellor shook her head. “And why do you think H’nez is at Telgar?”
The question caught Fiona off balance. “He’d been fighting with K’lior, he wanted to be posted to another Weyr.”
“All true,” Ellor said, clearly believing none of those reasons to be the principal one.

Because that was the first open Weyr that he could go to, and K’lior said it was a good idea. We know that. Ellor, however, seems to suggest that there’s more than that as a reason.

“I’ve no love for H’nez!”
“No,” Ellor said. “And I’m sure he knows that, too.”
“So why would he want to be at Telgar?”
Ellor sighed, clearly debating something with herself before deciding to say, “Because you are good for him.”
Fiona raised her eyebrows in response.
Ellor gave her a quick grin. “Sometimes, even when we don’t want to admit it, we know that someone has something we can learn from them.”
“H’nez can learn from me?”
Ellor nodded. “And you can learn from him.”
“He’s not without hs strengths,” Fiona admitted reluctantly. “And Jeila seems to be a good judge of character.”
“And while I’ve never known him not to be a bit bullheaded, H’nez is perceptive enough to know his own weaknesses,” Ellor said. “And driven enough to strive to remove them.”
“I certainly see ‘driven,’ ” Fiona said, taking a sip of her klah.

Cocowhat by depizan

This is some bullshit, man. Perhaps more formally: Your Honor, I object. The narrative is presenting facts not in evidence. It’s entirely in the keeping of how these books are being written, and how the narrative keeps insisting that H’nez is something other than a bronze rider with an overinflated sense of ego, and that Fiona keep noticing these hidden depths to H’nez and the others when they act like something apparently different than their core person, but it’s still pretty clear that H’nez would much rather be in charge and running the place his own way, in his very traditionalist no-women-with-power-ever style. We’ll have to see whether being partnered up with Jeila rounds the edges off or causes some actual change, but no, H’nez has yet to demonstrate that he can do any of the things that Ellor attributes to him. Which Fiona rightly snarks at, because she hasn’t seen any of it, either. That the narrative is still on this idea of making H’nez redeemable makes me worry that he’s going to turn out to be important to the plot in some way, rather than just being the asshole rider that has to be put in his place or flung out somewhere else that will be better-suited to him.

After this exchange, and promising to get Tintoval back quickly to Ellor, Tintoval agrees to going on the trip, with a request to stop by the Healer Hall and collect a few of the newly-minted journeypeople for the trip, so as to get them field experience and “tantalize some of them with the allure of Weyr life.” In conversation with Betrony, the Masterhealer, Fiona asks if he’d be willing to take on Bekka (and Seban) as apprentices. Betrony asks a few questions about Bekka, understands that she’s cast in the same mold as Fiona(?) and Tintoval, and says that he’ll take them. That gets a little clearer with an exchange of jokes about how Fiona apparently learned a bit herself about Healing, which she attributes to “[a]ll those lessons you gave me,” prompting the response that Betrony thought she was asleep for most of his lessons. And also making me wonder whether the Healer Hall has the same “send your daughters to us to learn useful arts” arrangement that the Harper Hall has, and if so, whether this is replicated across the planet, or whether it’s a quirk of Fort Hold being so close to the Healer (and Harper) Halls that the children of Fort’s Lord get trained in both of those places for at least some amount. I’d personally enjoy for it to be a worldwide thing, and wonder whether the daughters of the Big Lord Holders get rotated around all of the Crafts to learn some useful arts as part of learning how to run a household and to see where their strengths and weaknesses might be. (Which would be way cooler, of course, if those daughters weren’t treated as second-class characters only there because their daddies bought some training for them to make them more marriageable instead of a viable pool of potential apprentices to draw from. One good thing about the Toddverse is that it’s much more populated with women as part of at least a few crafts, even if they’re not evenly distributed across everything.)

We also are treated to Fiona making light of something that she was furious about in the first book of the series.

As she climbed up behind Tintoval, she said loudly, “Healer, be sure the others are properly hooked on with the riding straps. The weyrfolk are under strict orders to let plummeting healers fall.”
Tintoval turned back long enough to give Fiona a droll look, recalling their first meeting and how Fiona had been rebuked for risking the life of a queen and her rider for a mere healer, before turning back and making sure the others were secure. Fiona craned around her side to make her own inspection and, satisfied, sat upright before ordering Talenth to leap once more for the sky.

I assume this has to be a joke, because I don’t think Fiona has had so much of a personality change in her time at Igen that she would seriously say something like this. That said, it’s a joke that really only works between her and Tintoval. For the other Healers on board, unless they have the context, that wouldn’t be funny at all. And given how furious Finoa was in the beginning, I don’t understand why she would choose to make fun of this, unless her attitudes really have changed significantly since she chewed out a bronze rider for not having enough straps and for flying dangerously enough that the new healer might have been endangered. This would be the part where having the narrative give us some extra description as to how Fiona delivers this makes all the difference in figuring out how it was intended and how it was received. Because this sort of thing might really sour someone’s initial impression of Telgar Weyr if they think the Weyrwoman is seriously being cavalier with their lives and safety.

The trip to Telgar is uneventful, and the three healers, named Birentir (used to be a Harper, now a Healer), Cerra, and Lindorm, all clamber up to the correct Weyr, where they meet Kindan and Lorana. Cerra has apparently met Kindan before, and Birentir offers profound thanks to Lorana for what she’s done to save everyone, which Lorana is ambivalent about. At that point, since Tintoval has very pointedly not said or done anything (which Fiona understands as Tintoval saying that she’s not going to lead things), Birentir turns his attention to T’mar, asking questions about how long it’s been since the concussion and what roused him. When Fiona provides some of those answers, Birentir is “dismissive”, which sets Fiona’s blood boiling and probably sets up what happens later – when Birentir chases a tangent about who’s actually in charge, and tells Kindan that Zist will be waiting for his report, Cerra cuts him off and Fiona throws him out.

“Oh, please!” Cerra cut him off. “Would you get out of the way, so we can see to the patient?”
I am examining him,” Birentir said haughtily.
“No, you’re not,” Fiona declared, gesturing for him to move away from T’mar. “In fact, you’re just leaving. I think you’ll find some food in the Dining Cavern.”
“You can’t–” Birentir spluttered in amazement “I’m the senior here and you’re–you’re just a girl!
Shh, Talenth! Fiona called as she felt her queen readying to bellow in angry support of her rider.
“You idiot,” Bekka snapped, with an impertinence that surprised everyone, “she’s the Weyrwoman, she can do whatever she farding well pleases!”

Well, good to know that certain ableist terms have gone all the way through to the far future, even though by the time the book was written, I think 21st c. Terra is pretty well on the pathway to understanding that IQ means nothing and that the term “idiot” is used solely in insulting ways. But, of course, the strangest of things survive in Pern.

Secondly, though, how is Birentir able to mistake Fiona for “just a girl,” given that she’s clearly a gold rider and therefore has to have at least some level of importance in the Weyr that she’s in? I could see Birentir mistaking Fiona for a junior queen rider, because, as best I can tell, nobody really walks around with their dragon color and rank on their sleeves all the time. (Well, maybe the bronze riders do.) So perhaps Birentir didn’t know he was insulting the Senior Weyrwoman when he gave her a dismissive look. The only plausible explanation I can think of as to how Birentir manages to step in it so thoroughly is if he’s just completely dismissed any woman as being competent at the healing arts. Despite being in the presence of Master Tintoval and Journeywoman Cerra, you know. Which, sure, that’s entirely plausible for Pern and for dudes, but it still sounds like the kind of thing that it takes a really specific combination of ego, lack of tact, and lack of intelligence to manage. On the gripping hand, there are more than enough stories of our era about how women have had to fight their own doctors to get their pain and symptoms recognized as something other than hysteria or something psychological, so&hellip:.

Anyway, getting back to the second half of Fiona giving Berentir the business:

“Shh!” Fiona said to Bekka. “You’re hurting T’mar’s ears.” She turned to the older healer, saying coldly, with all the dignity learned from Turns watching her father deal with such arrogance, “Journeyman Birentir, I believe that we no longer have need of your services.”
“I–” Birentir’s eyes shifted around the room nervously and he licked his lips. “I’m sorry if I offended, Weyrwoman.”
“I’m sure,” Fiona agreed, gesturing for him to move away. “My headwoman’s name is Shaneese, you might meet her in the Kitchen Cavern.”
Reluctantly, Birentir rose and backed away from the group, his lips moving as he searched for some words that might heal his breech.

So Cerra and Lindorm take over, with Bekka’s help, and while neither Cerra nor Lindorm admit to not having much experience with head injuries, everyone else has plenty of confidence in them because they, at least, knew not to irritate a Weyrwoman in her own Weyr. Which is a pretty terrible thing to base a decision on, but whatever, because Bekka takes charge (as she should, since she’s one of the few characters that’s been given regular agency, even if it keeps getting classified as something impolite) and starts describing the problem – T’mar needs to move, and if they were certain that he doesn’t have spinal injuries or other such things, Bekka would have him get moved, in his sheets, to the pool so he can soak, clean, and possibly move around a bit. Cerra wants to know where Bekka got her knowledge, and in the course of that conversation, Fiona tells them that Bekka has been accepted to the Healer Hall. Bekka jumps for joy at this, and then everyone turns to the question of how to figure out whether T’mar has injuries that would prevent him from moving, with Cerra referring to Bekka as “apprentice Bekka” to reflect her change in status. Cerra takes the lead and shows Bekka how to feel along the head and neck to see if there’s something out of place or wrong. Bekka, practicing on Cerra, points out something wrong, Cerra confirms this, calls it a misalignment, and then pops the offending bone back into place, then has Bekka practice on Lindorm before pronouncing that Bekka’s ready to try it on T’mar. None of the three healers finds anything amiss, so they move T’mar to the bath and lower him into the water. Fiona notes that Lindorm doesn’t hesitate to get his clothes wet to make sure that T’mar is properly cradled and ready to be gently lowered into the bath.

For the next part of the examination, Lindorm mentions they’ll have to strip T’mar of his clothing, which apparently turns into a subtle test of whether Bekka’s ready for the work of healing or not.

“Perhaps Bekka should be excused,” Lindorm said.
“Not if I’m going to be a healer,” Bekka said. Her expression changed and she glanced down to T’mar. “Unless you don’t want me, Weyrleader?”
T’mar smiled. “Were you the one who changed the bandages on my leg?”
“Yes,” Bekka replied offhandedly, not seeing any connection.
“She’s been watching mothers give birth since she could crawl,” Seban said by way of assurance.
“But if you’re going to be embarrassed, Weyrleader, I promise I won’t look,” Bekka said in assurance.
T’mar’s lip twitched. “Do what you must, healer.”
Bekka’s face flamed into a brilliant smile at the compliment.

So now everyone can be sure that seeing naked bodies, as well as gruesome injuries, doesn’t bother Bekka enough to think that she might not have the stomach for being a healer. The plot continues with a further examination of T’mar’s spine, and Bekka suggesting there’s no spinal cord damage because T’mar was completely twitchy while she was changing the bandages on his leg. Cerra and Lindorm are satisfied that there’s no physical damage, but they’re still not sure that there hasn’t been brain damage from the injury, and so they want everyone to be on the lookout for mood changes, memory loss, and other related injuries. (They also refer to it as a brain that’s been hurt, so we continue to have a patchwork understanding of medicine in Pern that’s still best described as “knowledge as the plot demands it.”) With everyone satisfied that T’mar is going to live, there’s a little bit about head injuries, muzziness, and the suggestion that perhaps a future someone is still doing time-travel stuff because Fiona and company are still feeling pretty terrible, even though Tullea cleared up pretty significantly after her stint was finished and she reunited with herself. Fiona also decides to send Seban with Bekka, on the idea that Seban will also present himself as an apprentice, either to healers or harpers, and tells him he doesn’t have a choice in the matter, anyway. (Mostly.) So the group of people heading back to the Healer Hall and Fort are getting themselves ready to go. When Tintoval says she’ll go get Berentir, Fiona tells her not to bother. Tintoval gives her the raised eyebrow, and Fiona explains how she knows that Berentir lost someone in the Plague, a daughter about Fiona’s age, and that he was sick himself, before vowing to become a Healer to prevent it from ever happening again.

“ ’Arrogance is usually born of fear,’ ” Fiona said, nodding toward Kindan, who had told her that many Turns ago. Kindan jerked in surprise, delighted that she’d remembered. With a wry grin, she added, “I seem to have made it a habit to collect arrogant people.”
“It’s because you conquer your fear,” T’mar spoke up from his bed. All eyes turned toward him. “You still feel it, but you don’t let it rule you.”
“I don’t know about that,” Fiona said. The thought flustered her and she sought a means to divert herself from it. “Regardless, I think that we should get everyone back soonest, including Bekka and Seban.”

You know, I think I’m going to go with T’mar here and say that he’s right that Fiona keeps attracting arrogant assholes because she’s a young girl with confidence. I’m going to say his reasoning is entirely wrong, however, because despite Pern claiming to be Galt’s planet, saying they’re all attracted to Finoa’s confidence because they want some for themselves? Nah, brah. They keep coming to try and take Fiona down a peg, and then find out that she won’t take shit from any of them. Fiona then decides she wants to keep them somewhere so they won’t do anyone else any more harm, and if they’re lucky, they might learn how not to be assholes to other people and get over their own egos. Or maybe they stay because they can’t believe that Fiona wasn’t bothered by them and they want to keep going at her until they find out it’s not an act or an affectation. As befits her ability to maintain telepathy with Lorana and the other things that Fiona has already accomplished, Fiona got the Iron Will trait, and there will be many a person who goes up against that and loses spectacularly. The narrative supports my theory, at least in the sense that when Fiona goes down to see Berentir next, after telling T’mar point-blank that if he doesn’t get rest, she’ll kill him, Fiona again demonstrates that she’s not going to be intimidated by anybody.

She was not surprised to see Berentir at one of the pottery wheels, working the clay under the tutelage of Mekiar.
“How is he doing?” Fiona asked, startling the older healer and causing him to ruin the bowl he was forming on the spinning wheel.
“He is learning,” Mekiar replied drolly, glancing up to Fiona. “I would say that at this moment he is learning patience.”
“Good,” she replied. “See that he does.”
Birentir looked askance at her words.
“You’re staying,” she told him. Birentir’s eyes widened in surprise. “Bekka and her father are going back to the Healer Hall and I don’t need you there causing her grief on a daily basis.”
“You would prefer me causing ‘daily grief’ here?” Birentir asked with a flash of humor.
“You won’t be causing me daily grief, healer,” Fiona assured him. She softened her tone as she confided, “I’m more worried about fighting Thread without enough dragons.”

Birentir suggests that Verilan could help with the questions Fiona has, to which Fiona quips that Birentir does have a brain in his head, once he gets past the fact that Fiona’s young. And then the two of them talk about Birentir’s family lost to the Plague, and how Fiona will have Birentir’s stuff sent from the Healer Hall. Birentir thanks her for the second chance, and all of the people who are heading to Fort get on Talenth and Zirenth, and they all do the hyperspace hop successfully.

There’s still more left in this chapter, even though it’s only a few pages long, but there’s going to be more relationship talk and angst, and this is another good stopping point in the narrative, because we’re about to get more information about how potentially prevalent polyamory actually is on Pern. So we’ll stop here for this week and pick up again next week.

Dragongirl: Picking Up The Pieces

Last time, Talenth went on her mating flight, and while Fiona wasn’t gripped by fear about it (other than needing some talking-through asserting her control over her dragon), it still turned out pretty terribly for her, because unbeknowst to Fiona, Lorana and Kindan were providing a lift for Zirenth to fly in competition, and when Zirenth won the flight through Talenth chasing him for running away, Fiona came back to herself finding that she was boning Kindan. Fiona immediately felt terrible about it. Lorana strongly suggested she engineered the whole thing, along with telling Fiona that she’s entirely okay with the two of them sharing Kindan between themselves.

Dragongirl, Chapter 13: Content Notes: Racism,

Bronze and gold,
Fleet and bold.
Entwined as one,
Passion’s done.

(Telgar Weyr, morning of AL 508.2.13)

The chapter opens with confirmation that Jeila intends to stay at Telgar and take H’nez as her weyrmate, before the conversation turns to how unprecedented it will be to have both of Telgar’s queens clutching and raising their eggs on the same grounds. Jeila makes fun of H’nez being bony, and then has to change the subject. She wants to talk about Fiona’s flight, but that avenue gets cut off quickly once a short whispered summary of what happened is delivered to Jeila. Instead, the conversation turns to T’mar, who apparently is much improved than he was before both mating flights happened.

“Anyway, Seban said that afterward, he thought he heard T’mar murmur something,” Fiona said, returning to their original topic.
“He spoke?” M’tal asked, surprised. “What did he say?”
“ ’Three times,’ ” Fiona answered, trying and failing to hide her blush.
“Three times?” H’nez repeated in confusion. “What does that signify?”
“I, when we were back at Igen, I decided that I needed some…instruction.” Fiona found herself blushing even redder.
“With T’mar?” Jeila asked, her eyebrows arching high. She pursed her lips tightly, even though there was a definite upward curve to them, before adding judiciously, “From what I’ve heard, he would have been an excellent instructor.”
“Anyway, as with all his lessons, I insisted that we perform the exercise three times,” Fiona finished lamely.
“I see,” H’nez said, his voice more diplomatically neutral than Fiona had thought possible. He glanced at her, asking, “So you feel that he was recalling the same reference?”

M’tal instead comes to the conclusion that a third mating flight could revive T’mar entirely, but before much can be done to elaborate on that, Fiona is called away by Talenth because T’mar is much more active than before.

I’m not going to fault Fiona for being embarrassed about asking for sex from T’mar before her mating flight. I would have thought Weyrs would be glad that Fiona made a decision to have some practical experience of what sex is like before her dragon’s mating flight ensures she’ll know. T’mar was not the person I would have wanted for Fiona, because he’s still a bronze rider and an asshole, but given that Fiona had a limited repertoire of people to select from that weren’t, say, her own age at the time, I’m not going to put Fiona at fault for any of those decisions.

I do wonder why everyone is having a laugh at Fiona’s expense about her embarrassment. I would expect this kind of “ha, ha, you’re nervous about sex” to be present between bronze riders or other dude riders, because Pern is absolutely the place that is going to have that kind of toxic locker room talk, but this seems to be another one of those things that if the supposed power of the Weyrwoman to make your life miserable were actually true, they wouldn’t be even hinting at making fun of her about this.

Plot-wise, what Talenth is calling Fiona over for is that T’mar and Zirenth are both agitated, and while there have been sobering recollections in the Records about head injuries and the bad prognosis for people who don’t wake up in the first day after receiving those injuries, Lorana and Fiona both determine that the agitation is because both rider and dragon are reacting to the fact that there’s a mating flight going on at Fort right now, and so Lorana and Kindan hop on Zirenth, Fiona feeds them coordinates to make sure they arrive on time (by popping them back in time a touch) and then there’s some fretting about whether T’mar will survive, and also some concerns about what might happen if Zirenth successfully wins the mating flight, which would potentially put Kindan and Lorana in charge at the Weyr, since they’re nominally the people flying the dragon on the flight.

The thought of the flight possibly pulling Lorana and Kindan away from Telgar leads Fiona toward more recriminations about the situation she has been pulled into.

But was it Talenth, really? Fiona asked herself, recalling her thoughts from the day before. How much of the outcome had been her own desire?
You love Kindan, she told herself. You always have.
Ah, but how much of it was because he was safe? she taunted herself. How much because he was always there, out of reach, a constant reminder of things lost, of hopes never achieved?
He had Lorana now.
And would you poach his love away from her? she chided herself.
It’s only poaching if you refuse to share, the thought came to her with the force of the spoken word. This was not herself, Fiona realized, this was Lorana.
I would never hurt you!
I know, Lorana responded. Fiona got the impression that Lorana was straining, exerting herself, and needed to focus on solely on the events immediately before her. With a soft touch, Fiona released the attachment, with the gentle wish that Lorana be happy.
“What am I?” Fiona asked herself aloud. Did other queen riders behave this way? Had there ever been such a connection? What would happen? How could she handle this?

This seems like the sort of thing that might be part of Records somewhere, even if they’re the diary entries of queen riders agonizing over this themselves. Or that would be part of rumors spread among the Lords and Ladies Holder and the children within earshot. Or that had been mentioned in some offhand conversation Fiona heard between weyrlings, or riders, or the women of the lower caverns, or somewhere. I realize that it makes for a lot more drama for Fiona to be thinking and angsting about this on her own, and that it’s also probably developmentally appropriate for her, if she were a normal teenager in 21st c. Terra, to keep all of this internal. Here on Pern, though, and especially among the dragonriders, Fiona has peers. She has people that she can ask, whether of her contemporaries, or by looking in the Records to see if this situation has ever happened before. Because Zenor spouting off in the last book can’t have come ex nihilo.

I realize that asking the Records to actually be useful is a fool’s errand, but since they somehow only seem to have bits when they’re important to the plot, they continue to have me wonder why they’re still there. Even with every Weyr having a Harper, there doesn’t seem to be any organization or filing system to the records. Even if they don’t like being archivists, the Harpers should at least be able to file according to the Archivist’s system, because it should have been drilled into them like everything else.

While the mating flight is happening at Fort, Fiona is keeping watch on T’mar, who wakes up and tells her “three times” himself, before Fiona comes to a conclusion about what is going on.

“I love you.” The words were hers. And, in saying them, she realized it to be true. He was a hard taskmaster, a person steadfast in his convictions, sometimes angry, always thoughtful, often kind. But, as his heart beat, so did hers.
“Kindan?” T’mar’s question was barely above a whisper but the name was spoken clearly.
“I love him, too,” Fiona said. She gave him a sad smile. “You’ll have to make do with someone who loves more than one man.”
“ ’Course, you’re a Weyrwoman,” T’mar said, struggling to open his eyes. “ ’S your job.”
“Shh!” Fiona whispered, gently rubbing his brow. “Close your eyes, you’ve got to rest, regain your strength.”
“As you say, Weyrwoman.”

Okay, so that’s a quick conclusion to come to after all of that angst. Also, at this point, I wish T’mar wasn’t concussed, because his reaction to that idea would tell us loads about what the default setting for something like this will be. Instead, there’s a strong argument that because T’mar is still loopy, he still doesn’t understand the complete ramifications of what Fiona has told him. He’s Weyrleader, after all, and if there’s a presumption of monogamy while Weyrleader and Weyrwoman (dragons chasing mating flights notwithstanding), then T’mar being accepting at this point would tell us whether he’s bucking tradition for Fiona’s happiness or whether there ever was any expectation of monogamy for either partner during the Weyrleadership. Given that the narrative has already pulled the stunt of “Fiona says something, another person agrees while they’re potentially in an altered state, but they definitely understood Fiona in all her particulars and agreed to it.” once, we’re probably going to find out later on that T’mar entirely understands Fiona, Kindan, and Lorana are going to be a triad as well as the partnership he has with Finoa, and he’s going to be completely fine with sharing.

Kindan and Lorana return, and Seban and Bekka come back to help examine T’mar, and what Kindan discovers about T’mar has him wanting to send out for a second opinion. Fiona thinks of borrowing Tintoval from Fort. And will also conveniently be able to give her congratulations to Cisca on the mating flight on the same trip. Fiona has a couple of questions on the way in about whether or not Talenth would lay more than one gold egg and whether Lorana would stand to re-bond to another queen, should there be one available. But nothing comes of her thinking at this point, and soon after landing, Merika, Bekka’s mother, says hello and the two talk about how Bekka has been good to Telgar, even though she’s missed at Fort, too.

“And for all that I love her, and she’s the youngest of my four, she’s worse than a nest of tunnel snakes some days.”
“Which is probably why she’s so dear to my heart,” Fiona said. “I made a fair number of marks hunting tunnel snakes.”
“I thought you two were well-matched,” Merika said in a tone which indicated that that had been a part of her willingness to let her youngest go to Telgar. “And I’d be doing both of you a disservice if I didn’t admit that I was much the same at the same age.” She smiled as she added, “After all, it takes a fair bit of flirting to catch the eyes of a blue rider, duty or no!”

There’s a little more back-and-forth about love, including the phrase “love loves love,” which Fiona recognizes as a sign that her arrangement is being talked about in other Weyrs. Once back on task, Fiona indicates she’s here to see Tintoval, and then asks where Ellor is. Merika directs Fiona to the Dining Caverns.

I want to take a look at this segment. Like Fiona, I’m “not certain how to deal with the question of blue riders and their duty.” Merika is talking about being independently-minded and chasing what you want to have, but at least previously, the thought was that the green and blue riders were primarily, if not exclusively, interested in other men as their partners. But, as we’ve discussed in earlier entries, in Toddverse Pern, there are either a lot more het men riding greens and blues, or there are a lot more bi men riding greens and blues. And also, wasn’t it just in the last book where blue riders were supposed to be flighty and quick and energetic, but not slow and steady. So now I don’t know if Merika is calling it difficult because a blue rider flits about and wants to flirt and sleep with all sorts of people (which I would have expected to be the hat of the presumably-insatiable green dragons and their riders), or whether it’s because Seban wasn’t actually all that interested in her at all, and through persistence and possibly an arrangement to have a child, Merika managed to get Seban to sleep with her and enjoy it, even if he didn’t prefer it.

Despite Fiona’s confusion, however, she doesn’t press the issue, and Merika doesn’t actually explain anything. So they instead get to have a boggle at yet another thing that might have been unprecedented.

“And by the First Egg, we’ve never heard of one bronze rider being Weyrleader to two Weyrs!” She shook her head and chuckled. “Awkward, that’d be.”
“Awkward, indeed,” Fiona said, wondering if such a thing had ever occurred in all the Records. Once again, she regretted the necessity that kept the Records of the Weyrs seperate. She wondered how much more could be gleaned from reading the Records of all the Weyrs combined? She pushed the thought from her mind, returning to her present issue.

Which is asking where Ellor is. Also, Fiona has a really good point. Why are the Records of each Weyr separate from each other? Why aren’t Records pooled or copied from each of the Weyrs to some central repository somewhere so that someone can study all of them together and draw cross-references from them? Or, even better, because a depository system is one of the best ways of producing redundancy in case, say, a Weyr is abandoned for not having a queen dragon and not many fighting dragons in it, why aren’t copies of other Weyrs’ Records deposited in the Records rooms of every other Weyr? As best I can remember, it’s never actually been said as to why the Weyrs don’t share their records. And if the Archivist of the Harpers has the old tomes of Hold records, why not also get copies of the tomes of the Weyr records? Copying all of that material regularly would keep a lot of the apprentices very busy while they are learning about proper archival practices. (And again, summary documents should also exist of those works, too, and then the originals transported to somewhere that will be good for preserving them over time. Since dragons can go anywhere at all in the world, there’s no reason not to have copies of the originals somewhere that will be preserved and then to have the summaries available to refer to anything that’s not in the current volume that’s being added to.) Despite a lack of clerics and their scriptoria for the relentless copying of books, it seems like the sort of thing that would once again independently evolve. Except for the part where, despite all the Records that exist, Pern is remarkably uninterested in its past, or in documenting things for its future, or in any sort of things that written Records would be actually useful for.

Getting back to the plot, Fiona goes to see Ellor, who is ready to throw her out of the kitchen until she sees who has come to see her, and then is all smiles and hugs. And possibly showing a little bit more as to why Xhinna has been such a heatsink of negativity.

“They’ve been most kind to me at Telgar. Shaneese is the headwoman and she’s quite something.”
Ellor’s lips pursed disapprovingly. “I’ve heard of her,” she said shortly. “She’s got trader’s blood, hasn’t she?”
“There’s nothing wrong with trader’s blood,” Fiona rebuked her softly. “And, in case you’ve forgotten, I’m beholden to traders for my time in Igen.”
Ellor allowed her frown to fade. “Of course you are,” she said. “Not that they didn’t profit from the encounter, by all rights.”
“Profit was had by all,” Fiona agreed. “And is there harm in that? The Weyrs work to the profit of Pern by providing protection; our wares cannot be bartered, should we frown upon those who can?”
Ellor shook her head, her expression mulish as she admitted, “No, I suppose we can’t.”
She looked up and met Fiona’s eyes squarely. “Why, you certainly have your father’s way about you to shame me in my own hearth.”
“I don’t mean to shame you,” Fiona said soothingly. “I merely wish to be fair.”
“Fair!”
“And it’s not that you aren’t, Ellor,” Fiona hastened to add. “If it weren’t for you–”
“What?”
“If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t know half of what I know about running a Weyr,” Fiona told her. “Not to mention how to cook.”

At which point the conversation shifts away from Ellor’s racism and antagonism to food, which is a much safer topic for everyone, since it means letting Ellor be the older and wiser instead of having to confront that Ellor has some deep-seated prejudices against traders and those that have trader blood.

So, yeah, with this display, I have a much bigger idea of why Xhinna might have been blamed for everything. Ellor the headwoman has heard that Shaneese has trader blood, and that’s a negative thing. You know, Roma ancestry, dark skin, that sort of thing. There’s an immediate shift to blame it on the profit-making off the Weyr, but that’s not the first thing that Ellor thought of. I suppose it’s better that they’re finally bringing the prejudices up to the surface, instead of having all of them baked into the society and everybody denying they exist. But this is still very much a 20th-21st century Terran prejudice. Which is great if you’re trying to use the medium of the science fiction novel to talk about things in your current society. Except, as we’ve noted, this is not a vision of grace and subtlety in the way that it’s handling trying to be more socially progressive. (I am also reminded that Melanwy was critical of Xhinna in similarly racist ways, so maybe it’s a Fort headwoman tradition to be racist toward anyone who isn’t white-skinned?)

I, personally, would find Ellor to have a much better time of it railing against people making profit off of the Weyr’s protection. Because the Weyrs were initially set up with rules in mind to make sure they didn’t accumulate power and wealth, even though they haven’t actually held to any of that at all. In the perfect Weyrs-Pern relationship, the Weyrs get everything they need so they can have a near single-minded devotion to the task of protecting the planet from the all-devouring Thread, which they provide to everyone else as their way of earning their keep. Someone making a profit off of trading with the Weyrs might be rightly seen as taking advantage of people who don’t have anything to spare, feeding their own greed at the expense of the protectors of the planet. Now, of course, we know that the Weyrs have done plenty of amassing wealth to themselves over time, so getting gouged a touch by the traders in return is necessary redistribution, but there’s a much more fruitful antagonism going on there based on what we’ve seen on screen about Pern.

The one part that is entirely accurate here, though, is how, after being called out by Fiona, Ellor immediately makes a big scene about how she’s being “shamed” for her racist viewpoints, and Fiona scrambles to reassure her that she doesn’t really think that Ellor is racist, and that she has some good points, too. As anyone who has dealt with a Nice White Lady, or anyone being called to account for their -ism that prioritizes their fragility over learning and doing better, it can be really frustrating when the other person wants to make it about how they are feeling, what their reaction is, and how it should be about them, instead of the people being wronged.

There’s still a lot more to go in this chapter, so I’m going to call a break point here, with Fiona and Ellor settling down to talk for a little bit and catch up with each other, despite the bad footing they’ve gotten off to. And, apparently, for Fiona to have another small revelation about how unique and well-suited she is to running Telgar Weyr.

Dragongirl: A Full-On Disaster

Last time, the several Weyrs giving Telgar an assist on their Threadfall met up to run over logistics, but also to give Lorana, Fiona, and Terin time to examine the box left by Mother Karina and discover that there’s a lot more sacrifice intended for Lorana than just the loss of her gold dragon. There was also plenty of opportunity for Fiona to get substantially pissed off about the possibility of having her Weyrwomanship be taken out from under her if the other gold dragon rose before her, with the additional possibility that it might mean H’nez was Weyrleader in name and not just temporary.

And Weyrwoman Sonia was apparently just dismissive of Fiona, at least until Fiona let her at the pottery wheel, which seems to have improved her opinion of Fiona (or at least Telgar) markedly.

Dragongirl, Chapter 12: Content Notes: Non-negotiated mating-flight fueled sex, an entire Gordian Knot of consent issues,

Chew stone,
Breathe fire.
Wheel, turn,
Fly higher.

(Telgar Weyr, Threadfall, 508.2.11)

I mean, it’s a pretty good way of describing Threadfighting, I suppose.

When we last left Fiona, she and Lorana had discovered they could communicate with each other telepathically, without dragon intervention needed.

Which is why this chapter picks up with the Threadfall happening very far away from this revelation, so that we don’t have to follow that particular anything and can instead spend paragraphs about the dragonriders wondering why this Thread is falling strangely, before T’mar’s Zirenth takes a hit and pops into hyperspace to go back to Telgar. The narrative follows Zirenth back, but shows from Lorana, Fiona, and Terin’s perspective how much Zirenth is hurt. The real disaster is when one of T’mar’s riding straps breaks, pitching him dangerously off the dragon, who does his best to try and catch his rider, but instead slams him into the stone and knocks him completely unconscious. Which them requires Lorana and Fiona to both hold Zirenth back from warping into hyperspace on the belief that his rider is dead. In a burst of adrenaline that’s set up like Fiona does a small time hop herself, Fiona manages to catch T’mar before turning her full attention on Zirenth to keep him from disappearing. Kindan and Lorna arrive and Kindan instructs Fiona not to move until they can determine whether or not T’mar’s got a broken neck in addition to his shredded leg. Between Bekka, Lorana, Kindan, and more than a few stout folk, they manage to get T’mar into a queen’s weyr where Zirenth can be nearby, even if T’mar is comatose. Then the rest of the injured come through, and it’s a disaster for fatalities and pretty terrible on casulties. Which eventually leads to a shift change for the people looking after T’mar, after Fiona and Shaneese have basically put everyone else to bed to rest. Fiona calls up Bekka and Seban and very pointedly tells Lorana and Kindan they are not going to sleep in chairs, and instead, are going to sleep in her bed so that she doesn’t freeze. Which gives Kindan the opportunity to tell the same story about Fiona’s excursions that Fiona told Lorana last chapter.

“The bed’s so large, you two probably won’t even notice me at all.”
“I doubt that!” Kindan said. He glanced toward Lorana. “When she was still a child, her favorite trick was to figure out a way to get me to stay the night at Fort Hold, then crawl into bed with me.” With a snort, he added, “By morning, she’d have me either on the floor or stuck in a corner.”
“I’ve gotten older,” Fiona said with a sniff. “I’m much better at sharing.” She shivered again, pulling the other two closer to her and asking with wide-eyed woefulness, “Besides, you don’t want me to freeze?”
“No, not after all your kindness,” Lorana said. She glanced at Kindan. He frowned, but said nothing.

That’s pretty solidly manipulative, Fiona. It’s getting clearer than the defining characteristics of Fiona are that she’s ambitious and she doesn’t seem to care all that much about her methods, so long as those methods get the results she wants. Which, we might note, has now included getting to share the same bed with Kindan and Lorana a couple of times at this point. Kindan certainly seems to have an objection to this, but he’s going along with Lorana in this matter. And yet, nobody is actually talking about anything, despite the clear questions at this point about what Fiona’s intentions are for Kindan. And possibly Lorana, since Fiona has still been more than willing to share her bed space with Terin and Xhinna despite their being paired off with others. Boundaries are important for everyone in a relationship, or a friendship, or in stopping someone from being led on.

Especially when there’s about to be a mating flight. Which is what Fiona wakes up to, her own dragon starting the process of the mating flight. Kindan and Lorana bolt for Zirenth immediately, leaving Fiona to herself, but with the same instructions that just about every gold rider gets told about it: don’t let her gorge. Fiona manages it, with help from the strange voice that continues to assist her at various points in time. At this point, Fiona thinks it sounds like Lorana, but Lorana continues to deny that it’s her. As it is, there’s the gestalt merge, and Fiona/Talenth slip past all of the bronzes chasing her, although she’s curious about Zirenth, and why he seems to be running away from the pack. Which turns out to have been a trap to bait her into getting close enough for him to catch her.

Ginirth [H’nez’s dragon] bellowed a challenge, climbed up toward her, and reached for her with his claws, but she folded her wings and slipped by him easily.
Nearby Gaminth roared in delight and turned sharply to give chase.
Ladirth was last, flagging.
Zirenth was ahead of her and, to her surprise and consternation, the bronze beat away from her, pulling farther away.
With a roar of outrage, Talenth put on a burst of speed and clawed her way up beside him.
Just as she looked toward him again, to issue a challenge and a triumph, the bronze flipped himself on his side, his claws reaching for her and grasping her tightly.
Talenth screamed in surprise at the maneuver and then–

And then there’s mating, because apparently Zirenth found the best way of getting Talenth close enough to catch her. There’s just one problem with this setup – T’mar is comatose. So who’s merged with the dragon? And more importantly, who’s standing in his stead for the part where the riders mate along with the dragons?

“It is time to bring them home,” a voice spoke low in her ear, respectful, soothing, loving. Lorana.
The man whose body was wrapped around hers was too short to be T’mar. Fiona recovered her senses enough to realize T’mar was still in bed, eyes slitted open but otherwise motionless.
Who?
An arm touched her shoulder, soft, warm, not the man holding her. Fiona felt the love of that touch. Even as she started to recover from the frenetic events that had so completely controlled her, Fiona realized the depth of that love. And as she did, with a mental gasp, she knew without doubt whose body was twined around hers.
Kindan.

Don’t, a voice touched her softly, stilling her incipient alarm. The voice sounded something like the strange voice Fiona had heard so many times before, but she realized, just then, that it was only Lorana’s voice; it had none of the echo she had come to associate with with that other voice.
Kindan must have felt her stiffen, for he suddenly surged backward, away from her.
“No,” Lorana spoke aloud. Fiona felt the arm that had touched her shoulder slide around her side and felt the tension as Lorana moved her body closer to them, holding them together in her arms. “This is my moment, too.”

I don’t even know where to start on this. Lorana will deny that Fiona arranged for this to happen this way, which is true, and I want to yell at all three of them that they could have sat down and talked for a few fucking minutes about what the plan was and if everyone was on board with it before Talenth rose to mate and we wouldn’t have Fiona completely freaking out at the fact that because of the mating flight, she’s boning the person she’s desperately wanted to, but hasn’t because he’s partnered with someone and she wants to respect that. If anyone arranged this, it’s Lorana, and she should have come clean with it as soon as possible, instead of putting it into motion, hoping for this result, and then telling both of them that they shouldn’t do anything about this because she is sharing in this moment and it’s hers, too. This could have been easily fixed with a conversation. With hearing out why her partner might be reluctant to do this, with hearing out why Fiona might have hesitations about doing this, because this situation right here, where nobody was in control of themselves and this happened, is exactly the worst possible outcome. Because they can acknowledge that it happened, and then have to deal with all the complicated feelings that can come out of that and having done it under the influence of a mating flight, or they can pretend it never happened, and everything can be made super-awkward any time they’re near each other, because it still happened even though they both agreed not to talk about it at all. And there’s still Lorana to figure into all of this, because Kindan and Fiona might both go “Lorana’s putting on a brave face for what happened, but this had to have devastated her, and so we’ll both try extra hard not to have Fiona and Kindan in the same anywhere at all.” and then make it super-awkward for everyone because nobody believes Lorana when she says she’s cool with all of it, because nobody bothered to talk about it in the first place before there was fucking. Seriously, polyamory requires open and honest communication in all places, including the idea of “hey, I think we might make a good triad, what do you both think about it?”

And, actually, if we hop over a plot point, we see Fiona having these specific kinds of anxieties.

What now? Fiona asked herself as she eased into the warm tub. What do I do now? I didn’t mean for this to happen.
Lorana and Kindan had a bond; she had no right imposing herself on it. And yet…if it hadn’t been for Lorana, T’mar’s Zirenth would have gone between forever, and just as surely as the dragon died, the rider would have been lost with him.
She couldn’t lose T’mar. She cared for him too much. And the Weyr needed him, needed him as Weyrleader. H’nez was too rigid, too much like the old leadership.
But…Lorana. What about her? Surely she deserved better than–
Don’t.
[…it’s neither Talenth nor Lorana who discourages this line of thought…]
Was this part of the price that Lorana must pay? Fiona’s brows furrowed in anger at the thought. No, she would not let it be. She was no thief of hearts, and she would do everything to avoid hurting this woman, who had paid so much already,.

Fiona is already feeling guilty at what happened and who it was with, because she feels like she took Kindan from Lorana or did something selfish and hurt Lorana. Lorana may not be hurt at all by this. She might have wanted this to happen. But nobody actually said anything. Or negotiated, or proposed, or suggested, or acted in any way that would let all three of them air out their feelings, talk through what they would want to have happen in the future, or otherwise make it clear where the boundaries of their relationships were and what they wanted to do moving forward. And now there’s going to be a lot of recriminations that could have been avoided.

Getting back to the plot, there’s an additional wrinkle that has to be ironed out.

“A good mating flight,” M’tal’s voice boomed out. He nodded toward Fiona respectfully.
“But it solves nothing,” H’nez said, brooding. “Zirenth flew Talenth: Does that make T’mar Weyrleader?”
“So it would seem,” M’tal agreed.
“But he is not capable,” H’nez protested. He gestured irritably toward Fiona, Kindan, and Lorana. “So incapable that we don’t see him where he should be.”
“He was there,” Fiona said softly. “And what he could not do himself, he ceded to Kindan for him.”
“He’s not even a dragonrider–how can we call him Weyrleader?”
“This discussion needs to come later,” M’tal declared, pointing H’nez toward the door. “Now it is time for the dragons to return to the weyrs, and for their riders to rest.”
“Hmmph!” H’nez snorted, but he preceded the other bronze riders to the exit.

H’nez is the right person to articulate this problem, because that allows the narrative to dismiss it as him being a sore loser. In doing so, though, the narrative gives tacit approval to the idea that maybe you don’t need a Weyrleader to run a weyr. Even if it is to spite H’nez, what the functional conclusion is that all you need is Fiona to keep doing what she’s doing, with some help from the other riders, and you can have a perfectly good Weyr. Since M’tal has been shown to be a rabble-rouser and someone who’s not afraid of strange ways of doing things, he’s on board with the idea, but I’m not sure the narrative would actually condone this idea any more than H’nez does. And it’s not going to matter, anyway, because the situation as it stands is going to be changed in such a way that nobody has to worry about how to run a Weyr when the Weyrleader is comatose, but that’s not going to be revealed for another chapter or two.

Fiona gets herself up and takes herself to dinner, where there’s a short suggestion that Fiona might again be acting like she’s twice in time, based on how Tullea took it, along with some amount of information about a mating flight that happened at Fort Weyr. It’s the same piece of information M’tal told her in the last chapter, that Caranth flew Minith, which should have been before anyone knew about it at all. Before anyone can really digest this, Jeila’s Tolarth decides today is also a good day for a mating flight, having been away while Talenth was having hers. There’s a small fret about what might happen with two queens close by, but apparently, Talenth is so fast asleep that there’s no danger that she’ll decide to fight Tolarth for the bronzes. So Kindan and Lorana dash off again to help with Zirenth, and Mekiar takes Fiona to the pottery wheels to give her hands and mind something to do while the mating flight rages around her. And it kind of works, with Mekiar giving her instruction to focus on the clay and let it work, but Fiona is eventually pulled into Lorana and Kindan’s gestalt with Zirenth for some part of the flight, and when she returns to herself, the clay’s a wreck. Mekiar shrugs at it, points out his own work, a “mix of wings and limbs, as though dragons and riders were clutched in the same mating embrace”, and says that he’s not sure it’ll fire well. Fiona says it’s beautiful all the same, and Mekiar agrees, before folding it all back into a lump of clay, saying that some things of beauty are there just for the moment.

Ginirth, in this case, wins the battle for Tolarth, which is no surprise to Mekiar.

“About as I would have expected,” Mekiar said. Fiona raised an eyebrow at him questioningly. “There was a way the lass looked at the lad, and she came back here on purpose.”
Fiona nodded once more in understanding. Then a thought struck her. “And me? Could you tell?”
Mekiar smiled. “You, Weyrwoman, love everyone.”
Fiona looked at him in confusion.
“It’s your way,” he told her gently. “And it would be foolish to deny it.” He saw the pained look in her eyes and added, “If your heart is big enough, there is nothing better than to love as many as you can.”
“And is my heart big enough?”
“Only you know the answer to that.”

And that takes care of Chapter 12.

I’m happy that everyone here seems to be completely on board with the idea of Fiona having as many lovers as she feels she can have, because that’s very different than what has been the case so far, but the way that this has been done so far has been very much the worst way of going about doing it. Additionally, we’ve been hearing a lot about how Fiona doesn’t want to impose herself on Lorana and Kindan’s realtionship, but things have been remarkably devoid of Fiona’s inner life herself. Like, there’s the entire commentary about how Fiona loves everyone and her heart is supremely open to all, but we have seen remarkably little of Fiona’s inner life and thoughts on the matter. The last thing we heard from her, essentially, was that she felt like she wasn’t really ready for this, but she had sex with T’mar and apparently she might love him (which, yeah, no, not nearly enough experience for that) but she’s also still got the hots for Kindan. She found out that Kindan was presumably off the market, but apparently not. And while the narrative has told us that Fiona is nope-never-not-happening with Xhinna, I think that’s a failure of narrative instead of one of Fiona.

We’ve gotten to yet another point where having done a little bit of research beforehand would have been the very best thing for the author to do about how people get into polyamorous relationships and how that might translate to Pern, rather than insisting that because the author knows it’s going to turn out fine, the people involved also know it’s going to turn out fine, and so it really doesn’t matter how things were achieved.

More next week.

Dragongirl: Pre-Mating Flight Syndrome

Last time, the congregation that came to Telgar stuck around for a bit, giving plenty of awkward moments for Fiona and Kindan to interact, for Records to be consulted (and everyone to go “Oh, shit” at the numbers involved), for Lorana to receive her gift from Mother Karina, which contained a depressing prophecy from Tenniz about how Lorana still has a lot more suffering to do for the sake of the planet.

Oh, and also, Lorana’s pregnant by Kindan, Fiona brazenly invited M’tal to strive for Talenth’s mating flight, and instead ended up with an additional queen who is also close to mating flight time, which could very easily ruin Fiona’s plan to run Telgar the way she wants to and to give H’nez the cold shoulder about being Weyrleader while she was at it.

Dragongirl, Chapter 11: Content Notes:

Heart pound,
Blood flow,
Soar high,
Mate nigh.

(Telgar Weyr, late evening, AL 508.2.10)

Gee, that’s not a clue over what’s about to happen, is it?

Shaneese, in addition to having had the Records room cleaned, apparently has also cleaned out two more queens’ weyrs, so Jeila and her dragon and Lorana are both stationed in proper quarters without Fiona having to fret or worry about it. Because Terin is staying with F’jian for the night (which makes Fiona wonder how that’s going to work, given that F’jian has to fly in the morning, because we still apparently need to have regular reminders of the implications that those two are banging, despite Terin’s age), Fiona is somehow stuck with an empty bed. Which, as we know, Fiona absolutely detests.

Before I can get a good windup of a complaint about how just a few chapters before, we had Xhinna, Taria, and the younglings all in the bed, with a standing invitation to come back anytime, they show up and offer to keep Fiona company. Lorana pops in a little later, and Fiona invites Lorana to share in the bed, and to bring Kindan if she wants to as well.

“I used to sneak out of bed when Kindan was visiting and curl up with him when I was younger.” She smiled fondly at the memory, then gestured to the children nearby. “It made me feel like I had family, sleeping all together, so I’m passing it along.”

Uh, Fiona, that might not be the right memory to share, given that you’re still a bundle of confused feels about Kindan, he might be the same about you, and oh, yes, he’s also gotten Lorana pregnant. So unless you are ready to bust out the “y’know, why don’t we all three form a triad and share Kindan” as your proposal, it might not be the best idea to talk about the times when you were a child and slept snuggling next to Kindan?

Lorana’s reaction is not that, however, but a memory of a tragedy of her own, specifically what happened the last time she had family.

“My father was a breeder, ranging between the holds and the locals thought we’d brought the Plague. They were going to kill him and us.” She squeezed her eyes tight against the memory. “I remember feeling cold, oh so cold! And then realized that my mother, brother, and sister were cold and stiff. I cried out and Sannel, my father, rushed from the doorway. It was then that he realized what had happened and he turned back to the holders, shouting, ‘They’re dead! Now leave me with my daughter while we’ve still a chance!’
“So my last memory of family is with the cold and dead.” Lorana was silent for a long moment, her head hung low. “And then I had Garth and Grenn and I lost them and Arith to the illness.” She raised her head to meet Fiona’s eyes grimly. “So you see, everything I love dies.” She glanced nervously back toward the weyr she’d left, the one with Kindan sleeping in it.

Fiona swears to Lorana that she won’t die, and that nobody else is planning on it, either. Which prompts one of the children to ask about whether Lorana has half a heart (because of the discussion earlier about the possibility of Talenth dying), which Fiona uses to encourage the children to surround Lorana with their love and help her out. Stalwart children they are, they say that Talenth sends good dreams and they pledge their hearts to help Lorana regrow hers. At the very end of the segment, Fiona notices Kindan joining the cuddle pile in the bed and smiles.

Lorana’s story is Fiona’s story as well, in the sense that she’s the last of her family, only with a father left, and having been whisked away to the dragons and fallen in love with a Harper named Kindan. I suppose the thing that’s separating them at this point is that Lorana, the explicitly Asian-coded one, has lost her relatives, her fire-lizards, and her dragon, and Fiona hasn’t lost her father (who is remarrying and has already gotten his next wife pregnant) or her dragon (thanks to Lorana). It feels like their similar losses could be a point of shared understanding, even though the more recent history is much more heavily weighted toward loss on Lorana’s side. Because I feel a lot like what would help all of this situation with Lorana, Fiona, and Kindan is if they all actually talked about it. But that’s not apparently in the cards. Instead, after the youngsters and Lorana shuffle off to the baths, we get an indication that Fiona is different in her own specific way. Lorana hears all the dragons, but Fiona has the dragon that can apparently speak to anyone and does so at her request. And this interesting fragment.

“That with our love, she’ll grow her heart back?” Kindan spoke up, startling her. Fiona realized the harper had been awake in the other room for the whole exchange, merely feigning sleep, and now, the way his eyes explored her left her feeling uncomfortable, his maleness, the spicy smell of him, unnerved her.
“Yes,” she said, rising from her position all too near to him and moving toward her quarters. Her eyes flashed as she looked back at him and snapped, “You, of all people,. should know that!”
Kindan’s look of hurt and confusion almost made her relent and return to him. Almost.
[…Fiona heads to the bath and sees all the children there, decides against it, and, through Talenth, invites Jeila to breakfast when she offers to be helpful…]
After a slight pause she [Talenth] added He is quite confused.
He? Fiona wondered to herself.
Kindan.
She remembered another time, Turns back. A time before she’d gone to Igen, when hatchling Talenth had woken, creeling.
What is it?, Fiona had asked, rushing to the young queen’s weyr.
He hurts, Talenth had said with a whimper.
I’m sorry, Fiona had said, not knowing how else to respond.
He hurts and you feel it, Talenth had said. How is it that you feel it?
“He”–Kindan? Did he still hurt now? And did Fiona still feel it? He shouldn’t be hurting now: He had Lorana. And she, Fiona, shouldn’t be feeling his hurt for the same reason. Still…
It wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be fair to Lorana, it wouldn’t be fair to Kindan. And, she thought, it wouldn’t be fair to T’mar, either.
But does that mean it has to be unfair for me?
Fiona shook her head, dislodging the thoughts from her mind.

I’m guessing the segment with Kindan suddenly being too close and too male and too much still has to do with Talenth being very close to rising and that overloading Fiona’s senses and thoughts with someone that she still apparently would desperately like to bang, at least in this heightened state of arousal. The piece after that could be either Talenth being confused by how humans can empathize with each other, Talenth hinting at some other thing that Fiona might have in her toolbox of special psychic powers, or Fiona just having a wash of emotions and memories flowing over her with no particular regard for anything at all. But I can’t tell, because the author isn’t signposting well on this on how Fiona is reacting to all of it, other than she seems to be seriously considering on whether to chase Kindan all the same. Fiona really needs to have her polyamory explanations in order if she’s going to do that, because with the story that Lorana just relayed, Fiona coming after Kindan is probably going to look more like a poach than a share. After all, Fiona still has a dragon and a Weyr, even if she’s eventually going to be a second to Jeila. Lorana has done the thing that saves all the dragons, but she’s got nothing to herself and Tenniz’s prophecy suggests that she’s going to suffer more before all is said and done.

Breakfast will be strategy discussions, which will include the Weyrwoman of High Reaches (who will be providing support and assistance for the day’s Fall), when she arrives, but before things can get too far underway, Norik arrives with a request for a transfer to another Weyr. The memories of the place are getting to him, and there’s too much pain for him to feel like he can do the job well. He’s hoping Kindan will swap him, which M’tal gently kiboshes by pointing out that Kindan was assigned at his request, before noting that if he decides he wants to set up shop at Telgar, maybe Kindan would follow him. Fiona asks about Salina, and M’tal says she might also want a change of locale. To which Bekka (who arrived with Norik) says that if Lorana’s staying, they’d better find a proper midwife. Norik points out they have three, although he still doesn’t believe Bekka when she says that Lorana’s pregnant.

M’tal has one other thing to ask Fiona about, obliquely, with regard to his potential change of venue.

“Caranth flew Minith,” M’tal murmured close to her ear. Fiona turned to him, realizing the bronze rider had been watching her carefully.
“I’m glad for her, then,” Fiona said, trying to sound as if she meant it. She’d caught the older rider’s meaning easily enough and was perversely irritated that he should make the comparison between herself and Tullea.
“Being a weyrwoman sometimes means putting your hopes beyond those of others,” M’tal told her sympathetically. He patted her shoulder. “But it doesn’t mean that you should be miserable.”
“Being a weyrwoman means doing my duty,” Fiona replied, her eyes grim. She rose from her seat and said in parting, “And, if you’ll excuse me, I must be attending to it.”

The way I’m reading this, I think M’tal is trying to suggest that having H’nez as a Weyrleader wouldn’t be a terrible thing for Fiona, even if it meant having someone she didn’t particularly want to bone in the position. And that he is possibly offering himself as a bedmate for her if it comes to pass, so that she won’t be completely miserable for the term of the Weyrleadership. Which, you know, if that’s what he wanted, that’s what he could say, instead of saying something that might set off the already-on-edge Fiona by comparing her, even obliquely, to Tullea and her moods. And also, for as much as M’tal said that Kindan was a dull-glow, he’s demonstrating much the same thing. I wonder how much the boys are attributing this to Fiona being proddy so that they don’t have to examine themselves to see if they might have fault in the matter themselves. However, I’m pretty sure this interpretation is one of many, and yet again, the author’s inability to signpost is making this much more confusing than helpful.

Fiona rumbles off to get things moving for Threadfall, denying completely that she’s upset to Xhinna before asking for the help of the youngsters to get the aid tables set up. By mentioning that High Reaches riders will also be present, the activity level of the Weyr picks up considerably with the idea in mind of showing off the best of what they can do to another Weyr. Shaneese has already enlisted Mekiar and a group to collect and sack the firestone, so Fiona doesn’t have to do that, and Lorana stops by to see if she can help with the medical issues. Fiona is understandably hesitant, but they both hope for no casualties at all.

“You never really get numb to all the pain and screaming,” Lorana said absently.
Fiona gave her an intense look. “They say you can feel dragons.”
Lorana nodded.
“What’s it like?”
“It’s like breathing,” Lorana told her. “Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s marvelous, but always it’s just something I do.”
“But you didn’t always.”
“Actually, I think I did,” Lorana told her. “I only knew what I was doing after I Impressed Garth and Gren.”

Which leads to the story of how Lorana sent her fire-lizard back in time, then sent Arith back in time, and then harnessed the missing Weyr to send back the most important message that ends up saving the dragons. Fiona points out that it means Lorana saved the planet three times already, and she tries to express her gratitude, but the time has arrived for the Threadfall, so once again, it’s cut short. Fiona asks Talenth to stand as watch-dragon, which Lorana comments on as odd, and so we get a capsule summary of “Fiona must have learned from Bemin the value of having a responsible sentry, and also because of the penance she had to do for ‘one of her more foolish stunts’,” as the narrative puts it, so we’re confirmed that Fiona saw it the same way T’mar did, and without ever having to explain what it actually was that she did wrong and how T’mar or anyone else knew that she had done it.

The arrival of Weyrwoman Sonia and the rest of High Reaches seems calibrated to give as much insult to Fiona as can be crammed into a short amount of time. Sonia notices Fiona, but addresses Lorana with her first words, and then flat-out says “Tullea’s a bitch.” as her way of trying to make friends. Sonia disclaims that bitchiness is not a requirement for Weyrwomen, but when Fiona points out that Cisca’s nice, Sonia again dismisses her and focuses again on Lorana, which makes Fiona’s blood boil. Even offering the question of hospitality to Sonia gets no response from her, and Lorana very specifically points out that Weyrwoman Fiona has seen to her needs admirably. Jeila appears with a tackle-hug to Sonia, and Sonia asks about her situation and who she might have her eye on.

“And where will you spend this night?” Sonia asked, cocking her head questioningly toward Jeila. The other weyrwoman’s eyes slid over to the Telgar riders, picking out H’nez.
Fiona was surprised by her own feelings when she noticed the other girl’s look–how dare she? Lorana’s hand tightened on her shoulder comfortingly while Fiona fought to control her jealousy–even as she sought to analyze the strength of the emotion. It wasn’t like her, she had no real feelings for H’nez–did she?

No, she does not have feelings for H’nez. H’nez is an asshole. What Fiona has feelings for is the possibility that some other dragon might rise to mate before Talenth does, and not only will Fiona be stuck as the Second behind someone else, she’ll have to acknowledge H’nez as the Weyrleader. What Fiona wants most of all is to be in charge of a Weyr, so that she can run it herself, her way, and not have everyone yelling at her or looking down on her because they think she’s not suited to the role or that she’ll be too much of an independent to willingly follow the Weyrleader in everything that he does. Fiona is jealous, but her jealousy extends exactly as far as there is competition. Because if she doesn’t get to be Senior at this particular time, it’ll be a very long time before the opportunity comes up again.

Sonia inquires if Jeila has an interest in becoming senior at Telgar, and Jeila says she’d be more than happy to be Fiona’s second, which finally gets Sonia to notice Fiona, but she’s still very skeptical of Fiona’s ability to handle it. Terin pipes up with Fiona’s three years at Igen, which doesn’t impress Sonia much, and neither does Shaneese’s endorsement of Fiona. Fiona makes a snap decision that I don’t understand the reasoning for at all, and drags Sonia with her to see Mekiar and the pottery wheel. (Also, Lorana can hear Fiona talking to Talenth and Talenth replying in turn, which makes Fiona very happy that Lorana can at least share in the joys of dragons, even if she doesn’t have one of her own.) The pottery wheel and Mekiar absolutely charms Sonia, and she inquires as to what it would take to get one set up for herself. Mekiar doesn’t really want to give away the secret or have other people making pottery, but Fiona overrules him by talking about how it clearly makes Sonia happy, and that the materials that High Reaches produces will be very different than Telgar’s in taste and choice of glazes. Sonia is willing to make the trade. Jeila wants a turn at the wheel, but Sonia’s not done, and Mekiar suggests that they could have another wheel set up by the end of the day. So, there’s a whole lot of Weyrwomen and gold riders in the clay space, having a ball of a time with each other.

Fiona giggled and, in explanation to all the heads turned to her in surprise, said, “Who would have thought that getting dirty could be so much fun?”
Sonia did not take her eyes off her work as she replied, “Me, for one.”
“Sonia!” Jeila exclaimed in a reproving tone. The High Reaches Weyrwoman snorted in delight at the younger woman’s outrage.
They’ve met the Benden Riders, Talenth called suddenly, even as Tolarth and Lyrinth bugled loudly.
How are they doing? Fiona heard a voice ask Talenth. She glanced behind her to Lorana, who met her eyes with a wide-eyed look of amazement.
“You heard me!” Lorana said, her voice soft with shock. Fiona grabbed her hands and nodded her head.
Yes.

And that’s the end of the chapter. (Because it will become important later, there’s also a mention of the new flamethrowers, so the idea that Fiona planted in the past has apparently come to fruition in this time period.)

But also we have a new wrinkle in the psi powers on display on Pern. It’s not an illogical extension that people with the ability to communicate telepathically with the dragons might also be able to communicate telepathically with each other. Even though it seems to be much more like Lorana is the universal receiver and Fiona the universal transmitter, and most other people are only attuned to the frequency of their particular dragon. In any case, now Lorana and Fiona have even more of a bond than they might share over Kindan, depending on how that goes. Are they going to explore this in any way in the next chapter?

No, of course not. There’s men to focus on so that we don’t have to go through the process of figuring out how to get Fiona and Lorana talking with each other about everything.

Dragongirl: The Next Crisis

Last time, Lorana arrived and saved all the dragons with serum developed from the blood of immune dragons. Now that we no longer have to worry about dragons dropping dead (although there’s a significant amount of everything with regard to how many dragons have already died before this solution was developed and delivered), the plot can move forward to the next immediate crisis.

Dragongirl: Chapter 10: Content Notes:

With my life and my dragon’s
I pledge ever to learn,
I pledge Thread to burn,
I pledge to guard all Pern.

(Telgar Weyr, later, AL 508.2.10)

The latter two seem to be pretty common for dragonriders, but that first one, I have yet to see in actual action. Possibly because of the guild systems that keep most knowledge as trade secrets, possibly because there are very few dragonriders at the upper echelons that have felt like they needed to learn anything. Weyrwomen, perhaps, yes, but certainly not those perfect specimens of dragonrider kind, the bronze riders.

Chapter Ten begins with Lorana being prescribed fellis to rest after it becomes clear to everyone that things are very not okay for Lorana – she’s described as crying for ten minutes straight, after which she curls up into a ball and falls asleep. Bekka declares that she’ll keep an eye on Lorana, and all the other assembled should go to the Dining Cavern and have food. Bekka will not be dissuaded from this course, and so Fiona drags M’tal over to do just that. Along the way, it becomes evident to Fiona that Talenth’s ability to talk to all people is not normal queen dragon behavior (even if it is generally a thing that all dragons can do, the choice not to having been mostly social convention rather than limited ability), but M’tal thinks of it as an excellent example for them all, rather than as some really weird thing that Fiona does.

Once the guests are all settled in, Shaneese comes over to give Fiona a gentle ribbing about everything.

“So?” she demanded of Fiona, “have you got everything the way you like it once more? All jumbled, rattled, and running just your way?”
Fiona grinned and she nodded in agreement. “Next, I’ll send you back in time to Igen: It needs a good cleaning.”
M’tal, who seemed torn between rising to Fiona’s defense and jumping in on Shaneese’s side, choked on his klah. Fiona gestured to him. “This is M’tal. He’s been to Igen, so he knows how dirty it is.”
“My lord,” Shaneese said, inclining her head, her manner sobering abruptly, her next words directed equally to M’tal and Fiona, “I hope you’ll forgive my banter. You brought news we never expected to hear.”

Even though I suspect Terin is much more Fiona’s familiar choice for being headwoman, Fiona has clearly won over Shaneese enough that they can exchange some jokes with each other. And Shaneese has enough sense to realize she should cut it out in front of someone who might not understand that it’s a joke.

M’tal toasts The Asshole, because, in spite of himself, he ended up being key to the temporal communication that allowed for Lorana to have the correct information to develop the cure. There’s a recap of the story involved so far while Norik is sent for. Once he arrives, the story finishes up by resolving the mystery of High Reaches’ silence, which was Tullea and crew waiting their necessary time to develop enough dragons with the immunity so they could then shuttle blood all over the planet and cure the remaining dragons. As they’re getting to the part where the massed dragon deaths send a word back in time (to Norik’s obvious skepticism), Kindan arrives, having been chased out by Bekka, and proceeds to sing Wind Blossom’s Song for the assembled. Which hits everyone with the feels and makes Norik want to learn it and perform it as soon as possible. On the second performance, Finoa gives Kindan a massage and comforting words to the point where the narrative suggests that Kindan has mistaken her for Koriana.

Before we can continue along that line, however, Fiona asks about how soon things can return to normal, which itself provokes the realization that there aren’t actually enough dragons in the world, even with the infusion from the time-shifted dragons, to last out the Fall, assuming normal amounts of casualties and fatalities. At this realization point, Lorana enters the room, asks about the box, learns nothing has happened in that regard, and then returns to the topic of not enough dragons. Bekka expresses her confidence in Lorana.

“You’ll think of something,” Bekka told her confidently. “You saved the dragons of Pern; there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Lorana kept her gaze on Fiona and only she shared the great pain in her eyes as they both recognized the error in Bekka’s statement.
“I’ll get some klah,” Shaneese said hastily, putting actions to words with the air of one grateful for an excuse to avoid an awkward exchange.
“It needs warming,” Fiona agreed.

The error here, I guess, is in mentioning Lorana’s accopmlishment of saving all the remaining dragons and having confidence in her. Even though Bekka watched her father’s dragon die and saw what happened to him as a result, so if she’s speaking from a place of ignorance, it’s only of not having had a dragon of her own to worry about dying or having one die. Perhaps it’s a case of Too Soon, then? Because even in the middle of recognizing what’s lost, someone should also be talking about what was good. (Even if that might trip a certain amount of survivor’s guilt and recrimination about what could have been.)

After this, they talk a little about the box and the things inside it. Kindan asks whether Lorana will try to Impress anew (which didn’t work out so well for Brekke) before both Lorana and Fiona insist that Kindan will get another opportunity of his own to stand on the grounds, even though he’s too old for the traditions and he didn’t succeed in ten Turns’ worth of tries before. (Of course, he was also dealing with the Plague and a lot of other exigent circumstances, as well, so perhaps he wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Might still not be.) The way that Lorana declares it pings something in the back of Fiona’s head, and she gives voice to her question.

“Did you bring us back in time?” Fiona asked her suddenly.
“Me?” Lorana repeated in surprise. “Lorana?” M’tal said at the same time, giving Fiona an odd look. “She was at Benden the whole time.”
“The whole time,” Fiona repeated. Lorana looked no less confused and Fiona dropped the notion with a frown, explaining by way of apology, “Someone brought Talenth and me back in time to Igen–a gold rider.”
“You mean a weyrwoman,” Kindan corrected absently, his attention directed toward Lorana.
I don’t know, Fiona said to herself with some surprise. Why is it that I always say “queen rider” or “gold rider” but never “weyrwoman?”
“We wouldn’t have gone if she hadn’t urged us,” she said. “If she hadn’t made is sound like we’d already done it.” She glanced toward Lorana. “Her voice sounded something like yours.”

The narrative very clearly wants us to pay attention to this distinction of language. There’s no doubt that the rider is on a gold dragon, but there’s something that suggests the rider is not someone who is in charge of a Weyr, and we’re supposed to think of this as a paradox. After all, as far as we know, there aren’t any gold riders who aren’t in the Weyrwoman succession line. Unless, say, it was someone pulling the Moreta switch, riding someone else’s dragons with their permission while their own dragon stayed behind. But since we’re three Passes before that, nobody actually knows how this might be accomplished.

Lorana suggests that she might go back to the Hatching Grounds, because it’ll be nice to hear the dragons again. M’tal explains Lorana’s “hears all dragons,” Kindan corrects it to “feels all dragons”, and the topic turns to mating flights, where it turns out that not only is Talenth on queen-rising watch, so is Jeila’s Tolarth.

“But she’ll be going back to Benden, won’t she?” Fiona asked.
“Not if she’s any sense,” M’tal said with a chuckle. Fiona looked at him, confused, and he explained. “Tullea can be…a little difficult.”
“I imagine she’ll be better now,” Lorana opined diplomatically. She told Fiona, “She’d been timing it back to High Reaches Weyr so her temper was difficult.”

And Bekka asks Fiona if she was like that while she was timing it herself, just so the narrative makes sure that we don’t mistake Tullea’s bitchiness as being completely the fault of her being twice in time. Because there’s apparently some necessary point of being petty enough to ensure that since Tullea was mean to Lorana, there’s no way of explaining it away as something other than “Tullea’s a bitch.”

After making sure this petty point is said, the assembled leaders sit down to discuss the problem of the dragon understaffing. And we get actual numbers in a table about how many fighting dragons and queens there are at this point in time, arranged in Weyr locations from the northeast to the southwest across the planet.

High Reaches   328 2
Fort           156 1
Telgar          40 2
Igen             0 0
Ista           307 2
Benden         197 1
Total         1028 8

Kindan then provides what proper numbers should be: three thousand fighting dragons and up to thirty queens. Which makes my logistics brain go “can this planet ever actually support a full complement of fighting dragons at their current technology level?” If we undershoot significantly the actual costs and say one dragon will take approximately one knight’s fee worth of material for the dragon and their rider, that’s anywhere from 1000-5000 acres of land, according to The Other Wiki. One thousand dragons right now needs a million acres at minimum, in this system. 3000 dragons needs three million acres to support themselves. That’s about 4700 square miles. The contiguous United States is about three million square miles, so if you need only one knight’s fee for one dragon and their rider, there’s plenty of space available for all of them on Pern. Even if each dragon takes several knight’s fees for themselves, since Pern is a Parallel Earth, presumably there’s enough land available, even if we remember that the Southern Continent is officially interdicted, so we’re not working with the full land mass available to everyone.

That’s just for the dragons, though, because then we need to also think about all the land needed for the people who will support the dragons. If each dragon and rider needs the hundreds of people in support of their needs, then three thousand dragons and riders needs tens of thousands of people to support and provide them with their necessary supplies. And those people need supporters of their own as well. So just for dragon support, we’re talking about large concentrations of people and resources that have to be mined, grown, harvested, and so forth. Then those populations also need their own populations to support them, and I’m starting to get concerned about sanitation and its related issues as it relates to cities in this time period, the network of transportation and traders needed to move all of those goods around to the right places, what the timelines are on goods and production, how that all changes (and is planned for) when every so often, everything stops because there is lethal rain outside that prevents the movement of everything. I already know that I’ve thought about this way more than the authors have, but I’m still not sure there’s enough population that’s working the land in whichever ways are needed to provide for everything. And possibly not enough land for everything, either.

Anyway. H’nez arrives at the party to talk about the logistics and how many new dragons can be expected to be produced in the next two cycles of mating for this Turn. (448 on average.) Which is not a whole lot, and it still takes two more Turns for those dragons to mature to fighting strength and size. H’nez suggests doing the time warp again, but that idea is nixed because if they had done it, they’d already know they’d done it, and since they didn’t, they didn’t. Plus, Fiona points out what we’ve been talking about beforehand, that large groups of dragons need supplies and will naturally draw attention to themselves, even when they’re trying to be subtle or keep to themselves. They check with the traders anyway to see if they’ve done it, but the traders say no. And this is all on the assumption that the dragons manage to fly their Threadfall without taking any hits that takes a dragon out of commission long enough for them to miss the next Fall, which Norik points out and asks Kindan about what the likely casualty counts are. Kindan says he has some ideas, but his numbers are skewed by the sickness, and so he was hoping to take a stare at the Harper archives to see what the likely numbers are during a normal-ish Threadfall. Which leads to some friction when Kindan forgets who he’s talking to, and unlike with Shaneese, Fiona is not on board with the familiarity.

“We have Records here,” Fiona reminded him. “And, in fact, I suspect our Records are more complete with regards to Weyr details–”
“You’d be surprised, Fiona,” Kindan interrupted her with a grin. It was a moment before he noticed the reproachful looks of both M’tal and H’nez, and even then, it took him longer to realize their cause.
“I mean, Weyrwoman,” he corrected himself, flushing in surprise. To Fiona, he apologized, “I’m sorry, but I still remember you as someone whose diapers I changed.”
Fiona’s eyes flashed angrily even as the warmth seemed to vanish from the room.
“Thank you, harper,” she told him coldly, “I still remember you as the one who couldn’t save my sister’s life.”
But she was instantly contrite, even before M’tal’s exclamation: “By the First Egg, Kindan, it still surprises me that you can be such a dull-glow at times!”
Fiona made a face and placed a hand on Kindan’s arm. “I’m sorry, that was uncalled for,” she said even as she flinched at the anguish in his eyes. “I will never forget that I owe you my life.”
“You’ve grown up,” Kindan said after a long, thoughtful silence. “I guess I haven’t adjusted to it, Weyrwoman.”
“I’ve lived three Turns you don’t know,” Fiona said, hoping to put the incident behind them. “I’ve not just thirteen Turns, I’ve nearer seventeen.”
“I’ll try to remember,” Kindan said. He pursed his lips tightly in consideration before adding, “And I’ll try to remember that you’re not your sister.”
“Again, I’m sorry,” Fiona said. “I can only guess how much you loved her.”
“Perhaps,” H’nez suggested diplomatically, “we should examine the Records?”
Fiona could almost kiss the man for his tact.

These are the sorts of things that might be helped with, say, counseling and therapy, because Fiona is trying to say (and has been trying to say, in the face of everyone telling her otherwise) that she’s sufficiently mature to take on these decisions that she’s been forced to make for the last three years. She’s been senior Weyrwoman for a very long time now, and yet everyone still wants to think of her as a child (because she hasn’t had a mating fight yet, maybe, although there’s plenty of infantilizing other Weyrwomen, too). Fiona clearly looks like Koriana enough that it’s causing Kindan problems of his own about keeping the past and present separated, which, perhaps if he had any opportunity to grieve the Plague and everything he lost from that, he might be better able to have good interactions with Fiona. Or maybe he declares that Fiona brings up memories he can’t handle and sends some other competent Harper in his place. Kelsa, maybe, except she’s pregnant. Nonala, then.

Fiona at least apologizes for her outburst. Kindan promises to try harder to remember, but doesn’t actually apologize for his own conduct.

The trip to the Records Room is generally uneventful for the boys. Bekka declares Jeila “not pregnant”, which draws some eyes, but she has an explanation.

“My mother’s a midwife,” Bekka explained nonchalantly. “After a while, you just know.”
Fiona saw the way Bekka’s eyes lingered on Lorana and how the older woman’s lips tightened in surprise. Fiona glanced toward M’tal and the bronze rider met her eyes with a slight, confirming note of his own. The air went out of Fiona’s lungs with a finality that surprised her. He’d told her that Kindan and Lorana had formed a bond; why did it bother her so much now to see the truth?

Why, indeed, if Zenor wasn’t blowing smoke up Fiona’s ass about how many lovers a Weyrwoman could take. It’s probably the most definitive no signal that Kindan has sent to this point, perhaps, and that’s one that Fiona can finally take notice of, but even then, I still wonder.

Lorana, Terin, and Fiona hang back so that Lorana can see what Tenniz made for her and placed in the box. What comes out is a caduceus, except with a dragon head, and there are holes where other things might hook in to the badge in front of them. The note that comes with it is not encouraging: The way forward is dark and long. A dragon gold is only the first price you’ll pay for Pern. Fiona and Terin immediately try to do damage control about Tenniz’s prophecy, including swapping Fiona’s pin for Lorana’s (with a “waspish” promise to tell Kindan to buzz off if he inquires about it) and telling a lie of omission about the note, such that they mention the dragon gold, but not the part that says Arith was only the beginning. Lorana confirms the pregnancy, as well, to both of them and asks them to keep basically everything quiet to Kindan.

In the Records Room, the Records are mostly useless, but not so much that there aren’t some educated guesses happening and painting a pretty bleak picture of what the numbers will be. Kindan comes up with an average of three percent losses for each Fall (“nearly three dragons in every hundred” is what is said, which is convenient for Terran readers to understand, but is not what I would expect to see as the unit of measurement. “A half-wing in every flight” would be more what I would expect. ), which M’tal checks his own numbers and says that’s better than Benden’s five percent. Lorana checks their numbers against queen clutches and finds matches as well.

The others looked at her in surprise, so she explained, “Well, it makes sense that the queens would have to replace the losses. So a quick really of clutches should roughly match the losses…and it does.”

Bless you, brilliant Lorana. Although it does mean we have some questions about how often queens rise to mate if they have to replace up to fifteen dragons lost over every Fall, which happen at least twice-monthly. If the average clutch is around thirty, that would mean needing about a clutch’s worth of dragons to be ready for fighting every month for fifty years. Given that it also takes about a year and a half for those clutches to come to fighting maturity, those Weyrs must be stuffed to the gills with new dragons right before Falls begin, from the near-constant mating flights happening. Which also makes me think that the time-twisted queens and the ones with the immunity should be having mating flights as constantly as they can, because they presumably know they’re not at full fighting strength, which means eggs on double or triple time. (Yes, not all of those dragons that become out of action are killed, but there’s still a substantial number to make up for the ones that are, and to fill ranks for the ones that do fall out.)

Having come to grim conclusions about the fighting strength of all the Weyrs, the people present decide they’re not going to say any of this to their people at all. After a short discussion about whether or not Telgar’s dragons will be ready to fly the next day, H’nez thanks M’tal for his help. M’tal is amused at this apparently transparent ploy to dismiss him, and Fiona formally invites him to stay as long as he likes…using herself and Talenth as an enticing reason why.

“Lord M’tal, you are welcome to stay in Telgar as long as you’d like.” She gave H’nez her brightest smile as she added, smugly, “You might have heard that my Talenth will be rising soon and I’m sure she would be very pleased to have your great Gaminth as a suitor.”
“Fiona!” Terin murmured warningly under her breath.
M’tal inclined his head toward the Weyrwoman, his eyes twinkling as he glanced toward H’nez. “I shall certainly consider the offer, Weyrwoman.”

I realize that Fiona is trying to make H’nez sweat and not feel like he has a lock on being Weyrleader. And quite possibly trying to express how much Fiona really doesn’t want H’nez at all in that position, which, in a world where things weren’t decided by mating flights, would have some actual heft and weight in the decision. But she’s once again offering her body, even if by proxy, to someone much older than she is as part of this ploy. If Fiona were in a world where this was the only way for her to exercise her power of getting what she wants, then I would still want more calculation and reasoning from her that she knows what she’s doing before I would believe this is Fiona doing it and not the author indulging in their id using her as a convenient proxy.

It’s also giving weight to the theory that Fiona deserves those nasty looks and declarations that she’s a brat because she behaves like one, and the narrative is carefully eliding over those things because it wants us to sympathize with her, instead of having to deal with the reality of having decided to make someone unlikable as a protagonist and leaning into that.

Plus, Fiona’s plan gets blown up anyway.

“I’d like to stay here,” Jeila added from where she sat in Fiona’s bed. “Tolarth will be rising soon,”–she glanced toward H’nez–“and I think that Telgar would benefit from two queens.”
“But doesn’t Weyrwoman Tullea expect you back in Benden?” Fiona asked quickly, suddenly feeling less smug.
“I suspect that Weyrwoman Tullea would be glad to see Tolarth established here,” M’tal observed, inclining his head toward H’nez. “For the benefit of all Pern.”
“With two queens so close to rising–” Fiona began, feeling suddenly very outmaneuvered.
“Not to worry, Weyrwoman,” H’nez assured her. “As you know, it is easy for the other queen to take herself away temporarily.”
“You want what’s best for the Weyr, don’t you?” Jeila added.
“Of course,” Fiona said.

Because Tullea is still apparently difficult to work with, even though she’s gone through her period of being time-split at this point. And also, because the means potentially that Fiona won’t stay Weyrwoman if Tolarth rises to mate first, and that puts Fiona back in a position she doesn’t want to be in, as a second to someone else. She already had enough trouble with Cisca about it, and Jeila is far too much of an unknown quantity, not to mention the possibility that it might be H’nez as Weyrleader along with her. This entire gambit makes it seem a lot more like the other dragonriders don’t approve of Fiona and how she’s running the place, that they would leave another queen so close to her mating flight in Fiona’s territory. Maybe their opinion of Fiona is that she’s much more cut in Tullea’s mold than Lorana’s, and they don’t want to deal with both of them as Weyrwomen. The already unrealiable narrative destablizes further in that case. With Anne writing, we could be certain the narrative was on the main character’s side, even if the main characters were committing terrible acts. With Todd, it seems, there’s a lot more uncertainty of whether the narrative is on the side of the viewpoint character, and it might be that in these stories, the narrative is on the side of the partriarchy, even as it uses a viewpoint character who is doing small things that upset that partriarchy and who isn’t necessarily interested in being a polite, demure, deferential Weyrwoman, for which she is published swiftly and harshly.

The dinner that everyone has that night is unsettling for Fiona, but she can’t put her finger on why things are both good and irritating for her. At least not until the pottery master leans in and explains it to her.

“Your queen,” he said, “she’s going to rise soon.” He nodded. “I can see it in the way you’re acting.”
“Me?”
“Yes,” Mekiar replied. “You don’t quite know how to feel, you can’t concentrate, you’re irritated, happy, sad–”
“How did you know?” Fiona interrupted sharply.
“I’ve seen many a mating flight,” Mekiar told her. He gave her a grim smile. “Judging by you, I’d say you’re going to have your hands full when the time comes.”

And on that ominous note, Chapter Ten finishes.

Also,

I am of the opinion that these differences in behavior before a mating flight are modeled on the popular conception of pre-menstrual women transforming into bitchier versions of themselves. Now, given that Fiona has not experienced this before, she doesn’t necessarily know what her own symptoms are going to be that indicate the pre-mating flight condition. If she was wise, she might have even tried to take note of how Cisca’s behavior changed in the lead up to her own situation, especially since that’s what her changes were chalked up to. Our asking about Tullea from Lorana. Or even asking Jeila what it’s like for her, given that Jeila is self-aware that Tolarth has going to rise soon.

But we get none of that, no awareness from Fiona, and it falls to a man to explain to her what is going on because she couldn’t possibly know herself.

Dragongirl: Showing Seams

Last time, Talenth continued to be sick, but Fiona essentially invited everyone she could over for a sleepover so they would feel less panicked about the new queen of Telgar having a death sentence. And also, but making an appearance around the Holds surrounding Telgar, she’s also established that the old order is done, at least where she’s concerned. The problem is that she has all of these other bronze riders around that might very well reinstate it once they have the power.

Dragongirl: Chapter 9: Content Notes: homophobia,

Weyrwoman, mind the Weyr:
For all things prepare
And set the best fare
Lest all should despair.

(Telgar Weyr, early morning, AL 508.2.10)

Well, isn’t that a useful encapsulation of the contradictions required to be a Weyrwoman. Prepare for everything, even the things you couldn’t possibly have planned for, but never let it show that you’re stressed or that things might be in trouble, or you’ll cause mass panic and despair in all the riders. We saw a little bit of that with Cisca telling Fiona not to let her fear overwhelm her, because that emotion is apparently contagious. I would like to know if Fiona’s anger and outrage is also contagious and whether other riders get much more touchy when the Weyrwoman is justifiably aggravated at what she’s being put through. It really seems to be selective about when those feelings get through and which ones do. And since we’ve only ever heard about Fiona’s famous temper, instead of seeing it at work, we won’t know how much of it, if any, bleeds through to others.

Chapter Nine, after a small amount of checking in to make sure that Talenth is still sick, starts properly with some moralizing about where the children are and what they are doing.

“She has the Weyrwoman’s permission!” Fiona heard Taria declare stoutly in Xhinna’s defense.
“Yes, she does,” Fiona said, opening one eye to peer at the scene in front of her. Several women, their lips tight with disapproval, were shepherding children out of the weyr. “Talenth enjoys the company.”
“It’s not normal!” one of the older women complained, dragging two children in tow behind her.
“Really, they shouldn’t be disturbing you,” another woman declared. “And with your poor dragon…”
“Talenth likes them,” Fiona retorted. She gestured vaguely to the women. “She likes the company; you could join us if you’d like.”
Several of the women looked positively affronted by the suggestion and hurried out of the weyr even faster, but some paused, looking wistfully at Talenth.

I have a strong suspicion that this objection has almost nothing to do with Talenth. Fiona, after all, would be the one to know what Talenth thinks about this matter. I think the correct thread to pull on is the first remark, about how something like this is not “normal.” Given that we have at least two, and likely more, ideas of what “normal” is in regard to Pern, we have to be much more explicit about whose normal we are talking about. Weyr culture has always been textually spoken of as significantly more libertine than the Holds and Crafts that surround it. What we’ve actually seen in the page has been steadily undermining that description, too the point where we are at now, where it seems like Weyrs hold the same morals and prejudices as the Holds and Crafts around them, instead of discarding them based on the unique political and cultural situations of the Weyrs. For example, children are supposedly raised communally in the Weyr, to the point where they supposedly don’t have strong attachments to their biological parents. If that were the case, then moving the crèche up to the Weyrwoman’s quarters for the night, by her request, shouldn’t be that much of an issue, so long as the caregivers have gone up, too. It might be out of the ordinary to have a Weyrwoman with an interest in seeing all the children, but I don’t think it would produce a normative judgment, and once both Weyrwoman and queen dragon have said it’s okay, that argument should stop.

A second possibility that the person making the normative statement is an unwilling transplant from a Hold or Craft, like Tevona, and therefore the arrangement is somehow odd comparatively. Despite the Harper dormitories that found themselves with not-men as members and seemed to have managed to adapt (even if it was under threat of greater violence), and the understanding that in vassalage feudalism, only those who were well-off could afford to have and maintain houses with more than one room in them. Perhaps the objection is that Seban, an older man, is in bed with the young Weyrwoman, other young women, and the children. Given how little concern there has been from either narrative or characters about differences in age when the sex rays are active, I would need significantly more textual convincing that this is seen as a problem. Furthermore, the narrative tells us that Taria is defending Xhinna, so there’s a strong suggestion that Xhinna’s presence is the thing that’s considered not normal.

If that’s the case, though, I have to ask a stupid question. Where, exactly, is the belief that Xhinna’s behavior is non-normative coming from? For an audience of the early 21st century of Terran history, the answer is clear for anyone exposed to the strains of Abrahamic religion that are virulently against any sexual behavior that doesn’t originate in a marriage contract and will accept the possibility of pregnancy as a result of that behavior. Pern, however, is nominally a-religious, having left that short of thing behind, and the cult of the dragonrider doesn’t, to my knowledge, have any tenets about sexual purity or what relationships are allowed. It would be flagrantly hypocritical for the sex-rays-mean-orgies dragonriders to take a stance on forbidding any kind of relationship or partnership, given Weyrs have gay men, bi men, het men, and het women canonically present, and it has been basically been stated on the page that polysexual and polyamorous Weyrwomen are absolutely possible. There’s already enough of the potential spaces regarding sex and love filled in that it would be ludicrous to assume the rest of that potential space doesn’t also exist.

Holders might have opinions about those subjects, but I would imagine those opinions are about property, marriage, inheritance, and bloodline, rather than about a normative or moral component. Kindan took grief for the impropriety of possible sex, even if there wasn’t any, and there’s always been a few scattered bits here and there about the illegitimate offspring of Holders and their sons, but it’s always been in relation to marriage prospects, class awareness, property, and inheritances, rather than a marked focus on the morality or immorality of the sexual act itself.

So where is this normative judgment about Xhinna (and/or the children) sleeping in the same bed as Taria and Fiona coming from? There doesn’t seem to be any basis for it in Pernese society at all. (In fact, I would suggest that of all the possible relationship configurations that not-dragonriders might object to, lesbianism is the least likely of the lot.) If his is supposed to be an attempt to add representation, that’s great, but this might be the sort of thing where someone gets grumpy about the representation being put in there without any thought of how to integrate it into the story and make it flow naturally.

Taria apologizes for the scandal. Fiona tells her there’s nothing to apologize for, and that any of the ones not being taken away by a parent are welcome to stay. Which flabbergasts Taria and also puts her between the decision to disobey the Weyrwoman and pissing off the women who are under-explicably against this decision.

“May I join you?” Shaneese called softly as she climbed up to Talenth’s weyr. She smiled at Fiona. “I heard you were accepting sleepovers.”
Several of the disapproving women gaped at Shaneese in surprise and anger, but she dismissed them curtly. “If you don’t want to be here, with your Weyrwoman, then leave.”
She eyed them carefully as she added “But if you don’t want to be with your Weyrwoman now, when she stands by you, you might want to ask yourself whether you want to remain in this Weyr?” She smiled grimly at them. “There are plenty of small holds lying fallow–you’ll not lack for a roof or food.”
“Where’s the best place to sleep?” Vikka asked, two children waiting eagerly behind her. She nodded to Shaneese, then to Fiona, saying “My lady, I only just found out about your kind offer.” She released the children, gently shooing them toward Taria and the others. “There are many of us here who have slept with dragons but none with a queen.”

Fiona welcomes everyone in, suggests that F’jian’s Ladirth could also use company, which draws a crack about how Bekka will keep everyone awake. Seban defuses that by pointing out that Bekka learned from her mother, the midwife, that any baby she woke up was her responsibility to get back to bed. And eventually, everyone does get back to bed.

After this sequence, it seems the normative judgment is that it’s not normal for a Weyrwoman to be so open and sharing of her space, and that standard operating rules seems to have been that anyone who has to interact with the Weyrwoman was being an imposition on her time. Which sounds a lot like a rule The Asshole might have put into practice for himself and extended it to his Weyrwoman. And, y’know, old habits die harder, especially when they are inflicted and enforced by an abusive asshole. But for something like this, where Fiona is behaving in unexpected ways, I would believe confusion was the main reaction, not anger, and that would be directed at Fiona, not at Xhinna. It’s this same odd dynamic of how Xhinna somehow manages to collect heat and aggravate everyone around her, even though we haven’t seen this happen on page. We’re even going to get an example of Xhinna being doing something that could be aggravating, which happens right after a parade of children wish Talenth a good morning and good health while Fiona and Seban pretend to sleep through it.

“I know you’re pretending,” Xhinna said right beside Fiona. “You snore when you’re really sleeping.”
“I do not!” Fiona replied, eyes snapping open. Xhinna smiled at her, leaned forward, and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.
“Of course not, Weyrwoman,” she agreed cheerfully. “Did you sleep well?”

Which is designed to get a rise out of Fiona, but is nowhere near the degree of negging that happened in the last book about Fiona’s weight.

The plot continues mostly with Fiona wanting to spend time with Talenth to store up a lot of good memories before her inevitable death, with Talenth insisting they have plenty of time left, still. T’mar arrives to indicate that Ladirth is still fine, and to snicker that F’jian and Terin managed to “find some distraction from their cares” with all the attention the dragon is getting. He jokes about having to worry about the dragons getting spoiled. Seban pulls him up short by reminding him of the illness, and T’mar has the good grace to look apologetic for it. Fiona invites T’mar to breakfast, which he refuses. Fiona chides him for being too embarrassed by his gaffe to accept the invitation, and so T’mar joins them. Where we get to see the chapter’s poetry fragment in action, further confirming that Weyrwoman is really Lady Holder with dragons to care for, too.

She forced herself to be cheerful throughout breakfast and teased Xhinna, Terin, and Taria for their hollow-eyed cheeks and evident fatigue, but she knew she was just putting up a front, a trick she’d learned Turns before when she was still a toddler at her father’s Hold.
“A Holder is the hope of all,” Lord Bemin, her father, had told her solemnly once Fiona had been having a tantrum. “When you laugh, they are happy.” He lowered his chin as he asked her, “And when you misbehave, how do you think they feel?”
She’d understood, even then, what he meant, though it was Turns before she truly grasped the concept of leading by example. It was a strange thing: Even if she was feeling sad herself, just displaying cheer to others would inevitably cause her to cheer up, as well.

That’s brutal. Fiona never really did have a childhood at all. Or at least, all of her childhood was in those moments she had where she wasn’t under the thumb of her father. Which makes the understanding that being a Weyrwoman is exactly the opposite of what she wanted it to be all that much more cruel. Without the support system Fiona has, at this point, I would expect her to be a broken shell.

Fiona, when confronted again by the likelihood of Talenth’s death, spontaneously gives Xhinna a big hug and tells Xhinna that she loves her, quoting what Xhinna said about having half a heart back to her. Before the feelings can blossom any more, however, Shaneese arrives and asks if she can show Fiona one of Telgar’s treasures. Fiona diplomatically replies “At Fort Weyr, we treasured our people” and Shaneese replies say Telgar does, as well, before introducing Fiona to Mekiar, the weyr pottery master. Since Fiona has never seen a pottery wheel at work, there’s a little bit of explaining the odd motions involved before Fiona gets plopped into the working space, figures out how to keep the wheel moving, and then is given some hands-on instruction from Mekiar about how to shape the clay (which she has apparently also never seen on a wheel before) and to what kinds of forms the clay might take when being shaped into a vessel. Fiona, having been thrown into something she has no understanding of, looks for some support.

“What takes your fancy, Weyrwoman?”
Instead of replying, Fiona shot Shaneese a reproving look. The headwoman met it stubbornly.
“Don’t look at her, she knows nothing,” Mekiar said. His hand closed around her fingers gently. “Let yourself feel the clay, Weyrwoman, see how you can change it–”
“Relax!” Shaneese suggested.
“Go away, master your kitchen,” Mekiar snapped in response, turning his attention once more to Fiona as he muttered, “She’s good at bossing, not at feeling.”

And so Mekiar guides Fiona through deciding what she wants this lump of clay to be (eventually, she decides on a soup bowl), and then, when she’s finished, she slows it to a stop and asks Mekiar what happens now. If she dislikes it, he says, she can turn it back into a lump of clay and try again. If she does like it, they fire it and, assuming it survives, she gets to glaze it, and then they fire it again. And if it survives all of that, then it becomes a bowl that she can eat out of. Fiona seems satisfied, so Mekiar cuts the bowl off the wheel and then casually mentions that it looks lonely. Fiona decides that perhaps she’d like to make about twenty of them for Bemin’s upcoming wedding to Kelsa. Mekiar suggests making twenty-three. “Two spares to allow for accidents and one just in case.” Before that, though, he suggests that Fiona try some other form, like a mug. Which she tries for, and gets frustrated that she can’t attach the handle immediately to the mug. She apologizes for taking up Mekiar’s time, which he waves off because teaching is part of his work, and when Fiona finally decides to take a break, Mekiar mentions that having some food might be a good idea, since it’s past noon. Fiona profusely apologizes for taking his time again, and invites him to lunch. Mekiar waves it off, saying that the clay sometimes absorbs him for days (Fiona notes that it would be perfect for someone who has lost their dragon, which Mekiar has) and says that he would rather watch Fiona’s clay to make sure it didn’t get any ideas while it was drying.

Which conveniently heralds the arrival of Lorana, M’tal, Kindan (who absolutely mistakes Fiona for her sister, Koriana, before crushing her in a hug), and a queen rider, Jeila, with her queen, Tolarth, all of whom have serum from the cure Lorana developed, then injected into Tullea’s dragon before she spun herself back three Turns to develop enough dragons and serum to cure all of the sick dragons in the current time. So Fiona no longer has to worry about her dragon dying on her. And neither does anyone else. This is happy-making for those who still have dragons, but there are still all the others who have lost theirs, including Lorana, to think about.

Speaking of, here’s how Lorana is described:

Her dark hair was straight, her skin not as pale as Fiona’s, her dark eyes bright and set slightly slanted in her face. She had a beauty that was born of motion and grace.

Which I am not particularly fond of, mostly because it’s not very descriptive at all, except, of course, for the slanted eyes, as if we needed further confirmation that stereotypes are alive and well. And I’m getting a bit of “she’s Asian-dsecended, so of course she looks like someone who is graceful.” And capable of Waif-Fu, I’m sure, should we ever have need for Lorana to go stomping mudholes.

Jeila is described in a similar manner:

Her skin was darker than Lorana’s; she looked to have trader blood like Shaneese, she had the same bright, dark eyes, the same white teeth, and the same light air of cultivated assurance.

I am also wondering where the author is getting their eye descriptions from, because Fiona has “dark eyes bright” and Jeila has “bright, dark eyes” and in neither case does anyone talk about iris colors. I guess we’re supposed to fill in all the details based on whatever stereotypes we want to imagine for an East-Asian descended woman and a Roma-descended woman. (Or, remember what description we received about Lorana from her book, although I think that since the reveal of “she’s a descendant of Wind Blossom” was kept until the very end, we didn’t actually get anything useful out of it.) While I know that mirror scenes are supposed to be bad writing, the economy of description by this particular author makes it difficult to envision the physical looks of anyone at all without resorting to whatever stereotype we have in mind.

Getting back to the plot, Kindan apologizes for mistaking Fiona for Koriana, and says she looks so much like her. M’tal then points out the reason why he made Kindan wear the brooch that Fiona found the gold for, indicating he eventually figured out that Fiona had been the person who found the gold and asked for the brooch, so he had Kindan wear the finished product to show it off. Before more explanation happens, the serum is starting to be injected, and Talenth reassures Fiona that she always knew things were fine, because Fiona apparently told her as much, suggesting that the mysterious gold rider of the future is indeed Fiona. As all the dragons are injected with the serum, it’s noted one of the side effects is feeling tired, which becomes a problem because there’s a scheduled Threadfall tomorrow, not that H’nez thinks much of it. M’tal offers to fly the Fall with him, which H’nez accepts without accepting. Food arrives, having been sent for by Fiona (“food for foolish riders” was the call), and everyone tucks in and tries to encourage and insist that everyone eat, even as there are repeated exclamations of joy at the fact that the dragons are cured. For her own part, Fiona is both glad and angry that Kindan mistook her for her sister, as well as a bit surprised that she gives a damn about that at all. And with all the potential exhaustion, Fiona sends out to have weyrs made up for all the guests.

It ends up being Bekka’s admiration and thanks, even though Lorana couldn’t save her own dragon or Seban’s, that breaks Lorana into uncontrolled crying. The narrative says, through Fiona, that it’s because Lorana is finally allowing herself to realize that the nightmare of dead dragons is finally over and that she was the person responsible for bringing about this bright future. I’m not convinced that is the case, though. Because everyone who has come through to this point has been basically celebratory about the fact that the dragons in their lives are not going to die, and the are not going to have to go through the grief and loss that comes with that in the immediate future. For Lorana, that’s not a joy she gets to participate in. Bekka, in her attempt to be sympathetic and empathetic to Lorana, has just reminded her of all the dragons who didn’t make it. Including her own dragon. Lorana might have had a breakdown because she was thinking about all the dragons that she didn’t save, by not knowing, by not working fast enough, by not being smart enough to understand it in time. Including the entire fighting dragon contingent (or so) of Telgar Weyr, even though their sacrifice was used to complete the paradox loop so that the information present would be the right information so as to allow for a cure. So the chapter ends with Fiona trying to comfort Lorana by reminding her by all of the dragons whose lives she has saved with this serum and cure, but it’s quite possible that Lorana has just been reminded of all the dragons that have died, and what that felt like, instead.

Now that we have a significant amount of our cast here at Telgar, next week we’ll go into more about what to do to rebuild the decimated dragon stock so they can survive out the Pass.

Dragongirl: Damage Control

Last time, Fiona volunteered herself to Telgar to reconstruct a Weyr after the unmitigated disaster of That Asshole. Which lead to the discovery of some interesting notes left behind by Mother Karina for her, Terin, and Lorana. Fiona and her volunteer rider corps went through the formal funerary rite for the lost dragonriders, which almost went completely pear-shaped when nobody at Telgar was willing to complete the ritual for The Asshole, before Bekka volunteered herself, and then the other Weyrleaders came and volunteered themselves for maximum dramatic effect.

Dragonheart, Chapters 7 and 8: Content Notes:

Heart and mind together
Impressed, bound forever.

(Telgar Weyr, early morning, AL 508.2.9)

Chapter 7 kicks off with Fiona nestled in bed with many of her friends and allies: Xhinna, Terin (with F’jian), and Bekka (with Seban). Fiona is glad that everyone from Fort is getting along with everyone from Telgar, and vows to have no factions in her Weyr.

And then it’s Talenth that gets the cough. Which makes Fiona very depressed, even though she’s pretending to be okay for everyone else. When Fiona goes to the kitchen to see what’s cooking, she’s told she should sit down and people will come serve her. It doesn’t get through to her why, even though she did do as she’s told, until Terin explains that it’s about continuity, not about being useless.

“There are people here to care for you; it’s their duty.”
“I was just–”
“I know,” Terin said, her tone softening. She leaned in closet to Fiona. “They need to know they’re needed, you can’t change them too quickly.”
Fiona ducked her head meekly and Terin, who knew her too well, snorted. “Just give them a sevenday before you put everything on its ear.”

It’s actually nice to see that Fiona continues to behave out of the ordinary for A Weyrwoman, since she still hasn’t actually been raised in what being a Weyrwoman fully entrails for years before taking control. Since she’s used to running things her way, it’s going to cause some amount of “that’s not how we do it” wherever she goes.

A convenient example arrives with H’nez, who is upset that there aren’t enough dragons to send out a watch rider, and who also ends up on the other side of Fiona’s unexpected nature.

“We’re shorthanded,” Fiona agreed. “Perhaps I should visit Nerra first.”
H’nez pursed his lips tightly.
“You’re not one of those who thinks women shouldn’t be Lord Holders, are you?” Fiona asked, glancing at him sharply. She was willing to bet he was: H’nez had always struck her as a stickler for tradition.
“If I ever were,” H’nez replied slowly, his eyes dark, “my experience with Weyrwoman Cisca–and with you–would have cured me.”

Nice dodge. Given what we’ve seen of H’nez before, the answer to Fiona’s question is “yes, absolutely, women should never be Lord Holders,” but H’nez is smart enough to realize saying that in front of Fiona will set her against him, which means he can kiss his interim Weyrleader position goodbye when there’s a mating flight.

But also, now that we see one who is a Lord Holder, It makes the problem of Thella that much worse. Now there’s precedent that could have been cited by Thella to make her case, and it would have forced everyone to find a real reason to tell her no other than “she’s a girrrrrrrrrrrrl.”

H’nez voices concern for Talenth, instead of Fiona, and admits that Fiona is probably the person that should go meet with the Lords of the area, given how The Asshole dealt with them before his timely death.

Afterward, the conversation turns to a lack of firestone supply and the need to dispose of the supplies of the old unstable firestone. Shaneese says the disposal bit will be taken care of, and the riders discuss how to get new supply in. Eventually, the party to go to Nessa is set as Fiona, Norik, Bekka, and Seban. There’s some tension between H’nez and Norik, which has Fiona recall another problem H’nez had in his past, with a Harper this time, and it contributed to the decline of health for a Weyrwoman. Tell me again why H’nez isn’t stuck on the lowest of duties permanently again?

A quick hyperspace warp to Crom later, Norik warns Fiona about exactly what kind of situation she’s stepping into.

“D’gan [ASSHOLE] was a difficult man,” Norik said as they circled above the watch heights of Crom Hold scant moments later. “He used Lord Fenner harshly and provided no aid when the Plague struck.”
“He supported Fenner’s son, Fenril, didn’t he?” Fiona asked.
“He did,” Norik agreed blandly. “His concerns were the Weyr and its proper tithe. He felt that Fenril would provide that.”
“Was Fenril the man who let his people starve while he drank his cellar?” Bekka asked Seban.
“He was,” Norik said.
[…Bekka proclaims she would never do that if she were in charge…]
“So, Lady Nerra has no call to love our Weyr,” Fiona said in surmise.
“No, my lady, she does not,” Norik agreed.

No other Hold does, either, really. And it’s brought into sharp relief when Norik shouts about how hospitality is very lacking if there are arrows being pointed at the dragons and their riders when they arrive to see Nerra. The tension is removed, however, once Fiona names a guard, names herself, and delivers the news of the tragedy of Telgar and that the Weyr is under new management. Having won over Nerra, by being herself and not an asshole bronze rider, Fiona also gets Nerra as a companion to talk to Valpinar of Telgar, who is also not disposed to see dragonriders in a good light, because of The Asshole. Fiona and Nerra warping to Telgar Hold ends chapter 7.

Also, shouldn’t she be Lord Nerra of she’s the person who holds the title of Lord Holder of Crom? I know we’re supposed to think of her as just caretaking out until a man can come along and re-establish pepper male domination, but since she’s doing the job, she should get the proper form of address. (And now, I suddenly understand a little bit more why titles are about the place and not the person, because Nessa, Lord Crom, makes perfect sense and conveys the correct information, where Lady Nessa can easily suggest she married or otherwise has her title by virtue of someone else.)

My heart is a dragon
Soaring in the sky;
My heart is a dragon
Flaming from on high.
My heart is a dragon
Filling all with love;
My heart is a dragon
Protecting from above.

(Telgar Weyr, late evening, AL 508.2.9)

At dinner that evening, Fiona relayed the results of her meetings with Lord Valpinar and Lady Nerra to H’nez and the other wingleaders.
“Apparently,” she recounted, “D’gan [ASSHOLE] had once gone so far as to tell Valpinar that his attitude would buy him grief from the skies.”
“He wasn’t threatening to let Thread burrow, was he?” H’nez asked in shock.
“Lord Valpinar was left to draw his own conclusions,” Fiona said, her fury abated by the brobze rider’s appalled reaction.
“You assured him–”
“I told him that we would do our duty to Hold and Hall as long as we had breath to draw,” Fiona said. H’nez nodded approvingly and the other bronze riders added their fervent agreement. She smiled, adding, “And I’ve arranged that Tevora can go back to the Smithcrafthall.”

We knew that The Asshole was, well, an asshole, but threatening to either let Thread devour an entire Hold or to burn it to ashes themselves (which could also be “grief from the skies”) is pretty far beyond the Moral Event Horizon. (We know that because even H’nez is shocked at this threat.) And makes me wonder what kind of resources The Asshole expended to keep all of his Holds tithing to him, because it very much seems like it wouldn’t have taken much for his entire space to ignite rebellion. Or to assassinate him at a Games or any other space through various means or methods. Possibly even by Impressing dragons themselves and then using that power to oppose him. Some method somehow that might poison the relationship between dragonriders and everyone around them for a long time, but would at least get the person who is threatening them with destruction out of power.

I’ll admit that it’s an interesting exercise, that Todd seems to be leaning into things going terrible when there’s a Weyrleader who doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself, but it’s rapidly running away from realistic because there’s never any sign that anybody fought back, whether in subtle or obvious ways, even though it seems to be a universal constant that The Asshole was hated by everybody he came in contact with. Even in the worst of fascist dictatorships, there are pockets of resistances that show up, even if they don’t last all that long. Or aren’t all that effective at causing big changes.

But also, kudos to Fiona by getting follow-through on her promise that Tevora would be able to go back to the Smithcrafthall, like she wants, rather than having to remain a prisoner in a place that kidnapped her and held her against her will for years.

The plot proceeds by having Xhinna introduce Taria, a “beautiful dark-skinned, dark-haired, aquiline-nosed girl near her age” who is apparently in charge of the nursery and the younglings and has needed someone else to help out. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Fiona, after seeing Taria, is basically shipping Xhinna with her. Fiona extends the invitation for Xhinna and Taria to share the same bed she has, prompting Xhinna to remark that Fiona uses friends as blankets. Taria declines, saying it would be better to stay with the children, but Fiona suspects there’s hidden meaning in her statement. Fiona wonders if Taria ever sings, because Finoa really like Taria’s voice, but also realizes it’s likely that she’s lost Xhinna for a while. Another coughing dragon turns out to be F’jian’s, and Fiona makes sure that Bekka and Terin go to be with F’jian as he hits the panic point about having a dragon that will die within the next two weeks. So Fiona gathers her stuff and goes to sleep with Talenth in the Weyr, instead of in her bed. While Fiona dozes, Seban asks to share space with her, and curls up next to her. Which is fatherly enough for Fiona that when Seban points out there’s nobody here to see her, and there wouldn’t be any harm even if they did, she starts crying from all the stress she’s been under, with sick dragons and political maneuverings and trying hard to be the Weyrwoman who sets the mood for the entire Weyr, and Seban absorbs it and behaves like a parent comforting a child to her. Eventually, Fiona falls asleep, but gets awoken by the appearance of Xhinna, Taria, and the kidlets from the dorms. Fiona waves them in and tells them to get the bedding from her quarters and bring it out.

“We wouldn’t–we couldn’t–” Taria began nervously, clearly alarmed at the thought of sleeping on the Weyrwoman’s bedsheets.
“Taria,” Xhinna cut her off with a kindly shake of her head. “This is Fiona, my friend. If she says she doesn’t mind, she’s not lying, she means it.”
[…the children get settled in on Fiona’s bedding, and it turns out that Seban was only faking sleep through this sequence…]
“They’ll settle down soon enough,” she told him.
“What I cannot figure, my lady, is your ability to surround yourself so easily with love,” Seban replied, his voice mixed with awe, affection, and a sense of rightness.
Fiona couldn’t think how to answer him: for her, having friends was as natural as breathing.

After everyone gets settled, Fiona asks a drowsy Talenth to relay to Xhinna that she loves her, since Xhinna’s too far away for Fiona to say it herself. Xhinna sends back a similar love response, and the entire pile falls asleep.

The last part of the chapter is Fiona being awoken by the children reacting to the green mucus coming out of Talenth’s nose and having a small panic of their own over the possibility that Talenth might die and how it will affect Fiona.

“They say that when a dragon dies, the rider loses half her heart with it.” Aryar sniffed. “How can the Weyrwoman life with only half a heart?”
“Her heart is big enough, even just half, and with our love, it’ll grow back,” Xhinna’s voice came quietly out of the darkness. She scooped up the youngster in her arms, prepared to carry her back to the others.
As Xhinna’s steps receded into the distance, Fiona heard Aryar declare, “You have my love, Weyrwoman! I’ll help you grow your heart back!”

Which is adorable and wonderful and something that hopefully cheered Fiona up greatly, even though we don’t get to know how it affected her.

I think Seban has the word more accurately than Fiona does, when he calls it love and she calls it friendship, but that’s mostly because of how other people react to Fiona, and not what Fiona calls it. What Fiona calls it is what it is to her, even if it seems vastly different to everyone around her. I still think that Fiona would be a great example of a bi or pan character, and that she would be great representation, but we’re still in an era where having characters that are something other than het is daring, and we really are still operating in a binary of het or gay at this point in history. We really haven’t completely opened up the possibilities in normal discourse, so literature hasn’t really followed in a giant mainstream way. Which is too bad, because Fiona has all the trappings of being a large amount of representation in a series that could definitely use some, and she wouldn’t even have to do all the lifting herself, because Xhinna can still be her entire lesbian self, and so can Taria, and Terin and Seban can be people who might be het but also just really enjoy a good cuddle with a friend. Like, there’s so much potential here, if everyone would just admit to it and be okay with it, but it doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon, even from Terin, despite having spent nigh-on three years with Fiona, as well. And while there’s a maxim of publishing that suggests people who aren’t trying to write things can often end up writing them exactly correct, it’s still a second-class idea for people to get representation by having to read what’s there, knowing it was unintentional, rather than being able to read what’s there and have it confirmed on the page.

More next week.