Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

Dragon’s Time: Deductions and Stories

Last time, we spent time with Fiona as she tried to puzzle out the situation between F’jian and Terin, with a side order of Xhinna and Taria keeping their feelings to themselves about whether they’re wired wrong to be women and have blue and green dragons. Fiona swiftly and remorselessly attempts to disabuse Terin and Xhinna of the notion that they’re somehow wrong, but she’s fighting years of Xhinna and Taria being told they’re wrong for being lesbians despite it not having any precedence at all in Pernese society. (Because there have been no on-page lesbians until those two) Fiona diagnoses it as the time-twisted muzzy-headedness and prescribes caffeine as the solution.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter Four (continued): Content Notes: Patriarchy, Misogyny, child cruelty and abuse

After Fiona realizes that the sensation she had earlier, with the dizziness and the double-dragon speak, might be her dragon talking to her from two different points in space at the same time, we go back to Terin and F’jian. F’jian is determined to make me eat my earlier words about being happy at being in the reserves, describing it as “the harder duty” as he lays out what the rehearsal schedule will be before the night Threadfall that’s coming up. We have another sequence where Terin wakes up because F’jian feels like he’s gone, but he’s there, and he’s telling Terin that she’s beautiful and that he loves her and that she should sleep. Which is now beginning to sound a bit more like what Kylara was doing in observing herself at earler points in time, except it’s F’jian coming back over and over again to see Terin. Which suggests that one of the two of them is going to bite it soon, and if F’jian keeps coming back to see Terin, it might not be F’jian that’s going to die. After all, “This is yours and no other’s” was all that Tenniz said to Terin in prophecy, and if it meant that she would get a gold dragon, then that part’s already done and Tenniz has no more future words for Terin.

We skip ahead to Terin finding Fiona in the Records room to call her to food, but it’s dinner, not lunch, and while Fiona is apologetic, Terin suggests that Fiona needs to have someone force her to take breaks and eat. Fiona counters and gets the heat off herself by correctly pointing out that Terin has the muzzy-head, too, and then insisting that Tern share what’s going on in her life.

So, Terin told her about the night before.
“He’s not seeing anyone else,” Fiona said firmly. “I would have heard if he was.”
“Then what is he doing?”
“I hate to say it, but could you be dreaming?”
“Like you about Lorana?”
“Perhaps,” Fiona said, waving a hand to ease the tension. “And for the same reasons, it would be it would make sense for both to be dreams.” Terin’s eyebrows went up. “Me, for dreaming what I’d like, you for dreaming what you fear.”

I imagine Fiona being pretty half-hearted about this, since she doesn’t really want to believe that she’s dreaming herself, and that she really wants a better answer than that. Fiona suggests secret training and Terin shrugs about how useful that would be. They both dismiss the entire contingent going back in time to Igen, and Tern pleads with Fiona that if they’re going somewhere else, to some other time, that Fiona would take Terin along with her, please. At the possibility of Southern as a destination (by which they mean the Southern Continent, not Southern Weyr, which won’t be established for a long time), Fiona dismisses it because they might “get infected with the dragon sickness or worse.” This would be handy for someone who studied the genetics module to tell them that they wouldn’t get infected with the old dragon sickness, because the new genetically-modified dragons don’t have the same pathways of infection as the old ones do, but there’s always the possibility that proximity to dragons would help the old infection mutate faster and try to figure out how to infect the new dragons.

As Fiona and Terin arrive to dinner, the story gets repeated again to L’tor, the wingleader of the on-loan-from-Benden contingent, and Fiona suggests someone getting her a guard to make sure that she eats and sleeps and knows what time it is. Shaneese, ever-powerful henchwoman, has a suggestion of someone who would be perfectly suited to the job, but she’s not sure if she should give him over to Fiona. It’s Jeriz, who is Tenniz’s son (the one who he said wouldn’t get precognition), sent by Mother Karina to Fiona. At the initial meeting, Fiona says hello and extends her hand, but Jeriz isn’t very talkative, which annoys Shaneese greatly. Also, more evidence to the theory that Fiona is an empath as well as telepathically linked to Lorana.

The boy looked up and Fiona was pierced by his brilliant green eyes, eyes that were set in a swarthy trader face and looked out from under unruly, long black hair. Fiona was shocked at the beauty of the boy just as she caught his hidden fury, anger, rage, and–beneath all them–his great fear and loneliness.

Remember, of course, that Tenniz also said that green was an unlucky color among the traders, so it’s possible Mother Karina sent him out to somewhere where his eyes wouldn’t be a problem. Also, it’s likely she sent him out here because Tenniz or someone else saw it happening, and you can’t break time.

Anyway, Fiona tempts Jeriz first with the prospect of getting to see a queen dragon up close, and then with a trade that will be mutually beneficial to them both. If she can lead Jeriz into the right pathway to make the trade, that is.

“Are you willing to make a trade?”
“What for? I’ve got nothing!”
Ah! Fiona thought to herself. Another who cannot see their own worth.
“I could trade you nothing for nothing, but it seems a poor choice.” Fiona said. She frowned for a moment. “How about this: I help you and you help me.”
“You’re a Weyrwoman, you don’t need my help.”
“Then you’ll come out best in the bargain, won’t you?”
[…Fiona explains that she needs a minder to keep her on schedule for eating. Jeriz, after saying anyone can do that, asks what Fiona can do for him…]
“What’s the most important thing for a trader?”
“Trade,” Jeriz said simply.
“Knowledge,” Fiona corrected him. He gave her a thoughtful look. “Trade is easy, knowing when to trade and what to trade, that’s hard.”
[…Fiona offers to give Jeriz the run of the Records while she’s in there and to keep whatever knowledge he picks up as his price in trade…]
Jeriz’s breath caught and he exhaled, his shoulders slumping, his eyes going back to the ground. He seemed to completely fold in on himself even as he shook his head once, silently.
Suddenly, Fiona had a thought. “I can teach you to read, too.”
Jeriz’s eyes locked on hers and he took a step forward so he could whisper into her ear, “And you won’t tell anyone?”
“No one,” Fiona swore solemnly, hiding her exultation at having guessed correctly. She lowered her voice so that only he coule hear her, “Not even Shaneese.”
Jeriz stuck his hand in hers and shook it firmly. “Deal.”

I mean, Shaneese is still in the room with them while Fiona is working out this deal to teach Jeriz to read, even though she says that not even Shaneese will know. Unless they’ve been conducting these negotiations very quietly, which would preclude the need for Jeriz and Fiona to get closer to whisper to each other, Shaneese now knows that Jeriz is illiterate. Because Shaneese never leaves the room, even though, presumably, for this scene to work as written, Shaneese would need to not be in hearing distance of either Fiona or Jeriz in between her last line, which is right after Fiona explains that knowing where to put the chalk mark is much more important than the chalk mark itself.

So, somewhere in here, Shaneese mysteriously left, or the blocking changed so that Jeriz and Fiona are far enough away from Shaneese for this conversation to work. The scene hops forward to Fiona talking to Jeriz about the complication to his illiteracy – he told Kindan he could already read. And we have an interesting conversation about what the expectations of literacy are on Pern.

“Not everyone on Pern reads, you know,” Fiona said as they reached Talenth’s weyr.
“Traders do!” Jeriz stopped, looking at the huge queen who lay in front of him, her head raised, staring at him intently.
“Here, you’re weyrfolk,” Fiona told him.
“They said you knew how to trade,” Jeriz said, unable to tear his eyes from Talenth.
“I’m flattered,” Fiona said. “But I’m a Lord Holder’s daughter, I was taught since I was very young.” She paused. “And I read a lot.”

We have worldbuilding here that contradicts what I would have thought was the standard for a Harper education. Even though it would be more appropriate for the time period Pern loosely basses itself on to have a large swath of illiterate folk, we’ve always been taught that letters and numbers are a standard part of the Harper education for everyone.

Jeriz gives a very flowery greeting to Talenth, that Kindan approves of, nearly causing Jeriz to topple with the sneakiness of his entrance. And then while Fiona is willing to call Kindan a friend, Jeriz isn’t sure which of the honors of being a Harper or a Weyrlingmaster is more important, and therefore the correct form of address to him.

“He’s a weyrlingmaster and a harper,” Jeriz said, clearly torn as to which honor ranked higher. Decisively he squared his shoulders and looked up at Kindan. “Harper and Weyrlingmaster, I hope I cause no offense.”
“None at all, provided you are willing to call me Kindan in private,” the harper returned easily, striding forward with a steady gait and extending his hand. “And how shall I call you?”
“My name iz Jeriz,” the boy said. “I’m the Weyrwoman’s drudge.”
The swat to the back of his head was neither hard nor expected.
“No drudge,” Fiona snapped. “You’re here to help as weyrfolk or trader, whichever you wish.”
Jeriz raised his hand to his head, but said nothing.

*snaps fingers* And here I thought we might get a resolution to that issue. On the relative scale of how important the Pernese think things are and how willing they are to try and spite them, I’d say Weyrlingmaster wins out because the dragonriders are much more highly respected than the Harpers are.

Also, how interesting it is that Fiona gives Jeriz an immediate dope slap to the idea that he’s the Weyrwoman’s drudge. I’d call him the Weyrwoman’s page, but that particular office doesn’t exist on Pern, as best as I can tell, unless it’s part of the Lord Holder world. Fiona is very clearly wanting to reinforce the idea that Jeriz has a higher social status than a drudge. Even though there’s a high percentage of on-page drudges being people who have learning or physical disabilities, so Jeriz is not wrong with that description. That suggests the possibility traders also have drudges, which doesn’t make sense to me, given their nomadic lifestyle and descent from people who have historically been marginalized. It doesn’t seem right to suggest they might subject their own children to drudgery as has been described in the books so far. (Maybe Jeriz picked it up in context from all the places the traders have visited.)

Anyway, Jeriz gets hustled into the bath to clean up, after Fiona sympathizes with him about being small for his age and apparently getting into a lot of fights about it. And suggests that he would probably be hunting tunnel snakes in a Hold, because he’s small enough to fit in the tunnels to do it with. After the bath, Fiona combs his hair and we advance again to Terin asking politely if she can join Kindan, Fiona, and Jeriz in Fiona’s bed. Jeriz, of course, got invited in when it was clear to Fiona that he was shivering in his cot.

Once Fiona sends Kindan and Jeriz to get themselves ready, and then asks Terin about what’s going on. Terin says the strange thing happened again, but F’jian says he swore that he couldn’t say where he was going, and that Terin would understand. Terin, of course, doesn’t understand at all. I presume that it has something to do with the additional time-twisting that’s going on that hasn’t been made clear to us.

“Terin,” Fiona began slowly, feeling out her words. “Do you love him?”
“I don’t know,” Terin said quickly. Then she shook her head. “No, that’s not true. I love him, I just don’t know if I can trust him.”
“I understand,” Fiona said. Terin wasn’t a jealous soul, Fiona knew, but she wanted certainty in her life. Fiona was sure that if F’jian had another love and was honest with Terin about it, she’d eventually come to accept it. She merely wanted a solid relationship, with the rules known.
Even though, with nearly fourteen turns, Terin was as old as some who were already settled, she was still young enough to be unsure of herself, to want to take things slowly. Perhaps more slowly than F’jian, but that was her right and her decision. Fiona couldn’t fault her; she’d waited for her own time.

Cocowhat by depizan

That doesn’t make any of this better! Terin’s thirteen, and apparently plenty of people have settled down into long-term relationships by this age. There’s no reason for them to be this young, aside from the clear fetish this author has for very young girls getting into relationships. Also, how does Fiona know that Terin craves stability and would be entirely okay with F’jian taking a lover, just so long as she knew about it? I’m not saying she’s wrong, because being up front and communicating is pretty key to having a working polyamorous relationship, but I think we’re hearing Fiona’s empathic and telepathic skills at work again, giving us information that Fiona wouldn’t otherwise know.

Also, what happens to those young women who don’t end up in a relationship and don’t have a dragonet to cement their status in the hierarchy? What happens to them and where do they go? There seems to be an assumption everyone will get paired off at some point, barring Shaneese, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she Beatrice’d her way out of getting attached to any man until Fiona set her up with T’mar.

And it is in that context that we get Fiona and Terin’s assessment of Jeriz.

“So that’s Tenniz’s son,” Terin said as she watched the small boy follow Kindan out. She waited until they were out of earshot before adding, “He’s cute!”
“It’s the eyes,” Fiona agreed. “He has the most beautiful eyes.”
“He is going to have a full Flight of admirers when he gets older,” Terin predicted.
“Two, if he’s not picky,” Fiona agreed. “That is, if he decides to stay with the Weyr.”

I would like to read this as Fiona suggesting that if Jeriz turns out to be bi- or pansexual, he’ll have quite a few more people interested in him than if he’s only interested in one gender identity. It’s far more likely that Fiona is just making a comment about what standards Jeriz will have about taking lovers, but I’m having a moment of really wanting to explicitly queer this story more than just the explicit lesbians and the possibly-gay or possibly-bi riders that are in the background.

And also, I’d like to remind the reading audience that Weyr culture is still theoretically pretty libertine about sexual attitudes, and so there shouldn’t be a whole lot of disapproval attached to the idea of Terin wants to have a go at Jeriz. Or if Fiona does. When he’s old enough.

Right. Plot. The breakfast table has Fiona being informed that all of the weyrlings are concerned they’re going to die because they’re all muzzy-headed. And bless Fiona for being someone who inherited the SCIENCE! gene, because she devises a series of tests to figure out whether the newest crop of weyrlings are feeling things as bad as the O.G. time-twisted. So Fiona is setting herself up as the original generation, Terin is going to be used along with the other new generation weyrlings, and Jeriz is going to join the drill as the control (not that it’s mentioned that way) because he has no dragon at all and shouldn’t be affected. With that settled, apparently, it’s pregnancies all around, as Fiona suspects that Shaneese is pregnant by T’mar and has been trying to hide it from her. Fiona gets to this by opening with how much Terin is worried about F’jian, which nets her a dirty look from Terin. (Apart from “babies are the natural and wanted outcome for every woman ever,” what is with all of this “everybody’s pregnant! But they’re being cautious about saying so” going on?)

Fiona then explains that Jeriz is working out pretty well, once he stopped freezing himself in the cot and accepted being warm in Lorana’s bed. Shaneese doesn’t seem to be impressed with this, but she resists Fiona’s pressing question as to what she has against Jeriz. Instead, she tells the other half of the story about the time she spat in Tenniz’s soup.

“I left because I was shamed,” Shaneese said. “Tenniz shamed me.”
“How?” Fiona asked, eyes wide with surprise, prepared to hear the worst.
“No,” Shaneese said quickly, “he did nothing like that.” She sighed. “In fact, I think he told the truth. And, perhaps if I’d been older, I would have appreciated the gift he gave me.” She snorted at a memory and looked up to meet Fiona’s eyes. “Instead, I spit in his soup.”
[…Shaneese explains she was sixteen and pretty at the time. Fiona and Terin say she still is pretty, which she waves away…]
“For a woman, a man must be worthy,” Shaneese continued. “And so, when Tenniz said what he said…”
“What horrible thing did he say?” Fiona asked. “That you were ugly?”
“He said that I would be second wife and enjoy it,” Shaneese said, looking directly at Fiona. “That I would gain great honor and much happiness after a time of sorrow.”
“Yeah, he always seemed to speak in riddles,” Terin agreed.
“Among the traders, being second wife is considered a great shame,” Shaneese said with a sigh. “Rarely do we even consider such things and almost always in times of great hardship.” She sighed again. “And then, the first wife is always considered the better, the superior.”
[…Shaneese didn’t believe Tenniz, Tenniz didn’t understand why Shaneese wasn’t happy about his vision of the future, and so Shaneese spat in his soup…]
“I suppose that beats tunnel snakes in the bed,” Terin said, glancing meaningfully at Fiona.
“It was only one!” Fiona protested. “And you said you wouldn’t tell anyone!”
“Seems to me,” Terin said, taking another roll and buttering it, “that if you two are wives to the same man, you ought to share such exploits.”
Fiona thought on that and nodded, telling Shaneese, “It was Kindan, Turns back when I was a child and he’d been ignoring me.”
“A tunnel snake?” Shaneese repeated?
“It was only little,” Fiona said in her own defense. “And I screamed a warning before he got in the bed, so he wasn’t bitten.”
“Tunnel snakes are rare in the desert,” Shaneese said. “But they are very deadly. You’re lucky you weren’t caught.”
“Oh, believe me,” Fiona said, rising from her chair and rubbing her behind in painful memory. “I was caught!”

Somehow, I can understand Fiona’s putting Kindan’s life at risk as a thing that kids do and get punished for rather than Shaneese getting punished for giving Tenniz a spit soup for essentially saying that Shaneese would take a shameful position and enjoy it. It’s like a precognitive telling a daughter in a 20th century Terran religiously conservative household that she’s going to become a porn star and love every moment of it. Why, other than internalized misogyny and patriarchy, would you punish Shaneese for doing what she did? Does the person with the Sight suddenly become immune to the consequences of what they are saying? Or is this yet more of the author not paying attention and letting their background radiation of “boys will be boys” infect this idea so that Tenniz gets away and Shaneese gets punished?

So I can understand why Shaneese might have it in for a child that looks a lot like his father, and reminds her of the place where she came from. And I can’t think of this particular instance of excusing Tenniz and punishing Shaneese as intentionally representative of the privilege accorded boys in trader culture, because I feel like Mother Karina is supposed to be seen as a strong and powerful woman who doesn’t need a man. Someone who Fiona could look up to as a way of running her Weyr with an iron fist. (And Terin, too, potentially.)

At the same time, there’s still no solid reason why the traders are people with beliefs in monogamy as the most important thing, even if they’re willing to entertain the idea of a second wife as an economic necessity. Because that suggests that women can’t survive on their own in trader culture, and again, Mother Karina basically says “nope” to that. And individualistic traders really doesn’t make sense in crossing the desert and in conducting business, because if you have a resource and everyone needs it, hoarding the resource results in everyone getting harmed or dying, and their hurt and dying eventually redounds on to you, because they have something that you need for your continued survival and not hurting. So why should someone who is going to be second wife feel shame for it, given how many ways there are for someone’s husband to die that neither he nor his wife would have any control over?

The traders are grouped in trains and such because that’s how they all survive together. Especially if there’s any sort of prejudice against trader groups anywhere. Given who they are supposed to be based on, and they clear stereotype being set up of them as shrewd and clever people looking out for their own interests that goes with it, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the prejudices that 21st c. Terra has about traveling folk survived, even if the authors really really want us not to believe that.

After all, the authors still haven’t figured out that the religion they claim left by the front door has gone around to the unlocked back door and set up in the kitchen. And the nearly-completely-consistent characterization of drudges as people with mental disabilities that means it’s entirely okay for them to be treated as less than human. Because the Shunned contain among their number plenty of people who were accused by powerful people of things they didn’t do or Shunned for things they refused to do for the powerful. Why would we believe even the silent claim that other prejudices have left Pern?

Plot-wise, Fiona and Tern go to see Kindan, and there are warm-up stretches and Fiona makes a discreet suggestion to Kindan for the training to go much like it did at Igen, with gliding and seeing flight and otherwise having both the humans and the dragonets do the drill together so that they’ll be strong dragons by the time they’re ready to fly and fight. Having split the group the way he likes, with Tara at the head of the third group, Kindan sticks Jeriz in the second group, telling them that Jeriz is playing the role of a rider from another Weyr. (Who, by implication, wouldn’t know what to do in a Telgar drill, and that hurts the idea I had earlier about drill being mostly standard instead of highly individualized.) Fiona and Terin each take one of the other groups under the same premise, but we only get to see that there is running and stretching and a little bit of drill, “wheel left, right, and form to line ahead. He had them practice “flying” between each other, taking care to avoid touching their outstretched fingers–“wings”–while making the maneuvers progressively more complicated.” Which, again, sounds like the kind of thing where each of the various weyrlings would have a number role and rotate through the roles so they have experience being able to do any of the necessary parts their wing will need to do (since it’s explicitly said that all weyrlings should also expect to be able to lead the drill, even if in practice, it’ll only be browns and bronzes doing it). Also, I have to ask why dragons would be flying between each other in the middle of a literal firefight against Thread. That sounds like the kind of thing that gets dragons injured and killed because they were expected to do precision flying.

Of course, maybe all of this drill and such is an attempt to make the riders not panic and the dragons not completely break their lines and instinctually pursue Thread to the detriment of their higher-order thinking. Which doesn’t seem to be working, given how much the narrative has talked about the riders feeling superfluous or gestalting with their dragon during the fight. Do, tell me again why the riders have to be on the dragons to make it work, and why we can’t have dragons without any flame do a hyperspace hop for a refuel, then pop back to their start position for a new run. We still have the problem of the mental feedback coming from dragons dying or getting injured, but then we’re not also exposing the much flimsier and easier to kill riders to Thread as well.

We’re almost through this chapter, but it’s worth stopping here so that we can devote sufficient time to screaming for the rest of the fuckery left to come. More next week.

Dragon’s Time: Who Do You Believe?

Last time, Tenniz died. After trading aphorisms with Lorana under the stars (but not exactly the same phrases), which Tenniz suggested was because Lorana’s descended from traders, but the narrative never actually confirmed or denied. Having watched Tenniz die and buried him, Lorana had a flash of inspiration about what to do now, and disappeared into the timestream.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 4: Content Notes: Sexism, Misogyny, Toxic Pregnancy-Positivity, Lesmisia,

Dragons and riders rise
To the sky
Look above you, scan wise
Time to fly
Time to flame
Thread from sky.

(Telgar Weyr, AL 508.7.23, later that evening) – which is two days after Chapter 2’s time marker, so it’s later that evening from when Chapter 2 left off.

If this is a dragonrider poem, I have questions about how the dragonriders in the last book were somehow caught by surprise by Thread falling above their heads, since you know, one of these poetic bits literally tells them to do the thing that the adventure party is reputed to never do when they enter a new room. And it’s in the context of Thread-fighting, so it’s even more egregious that these riders didn’t look up when they didn’t see what they were expecting. (And that they don’t come at a target space and time from high and drop to an appropriate altitude then they know for certain they’re above the Fall.)

Anyway, Chapter Four is not concerned with the still increasing amount of WTF that the poetic fragments are causing here. Instead, we start with C’tov telling F’jian to have a serious caffeine infusion because he wasn’t able to stay upright on his dragon. I already know the answer is “because MANLY BRONZE RIDER machismo would be so insulted if they did it,” but if F’jian is having this much trouble staying awake and upright, shouldn’t someone ground him? Since dragonriders seem to be organized in at least a loose sense of military ranking, even if F’jian is a Wingleader and a bronze rider, at the very least, T’mar should be able to tell him to sit his ass down until he’s actually able to handle his flying flamethrower properly. Because he won’t do them any good in that condition, even if they need all the dragons they can scramble. Instead, C’tov suggests taking a higher dose of stimulants. Which leads to J’gerd making some other suggestions about what might be occupying F’jian’s stamina.

“Probably a longer night before that,” J’gerd added with a knowing grin from farther down the table. F’jian ignored him, pouring himself some more klah.
“J’gerd, you should drink less of that wine,” H’nez said, “unless you like flying sweep.”
The brown rider gave the wiry bronze rider a startled look and shook his head swiftly. He apologized to F’jian, “Sorry, I meant no disrespect to your lady.”
“You’re a good lad, J’gerd,” C’tov said, coming over behind the brown rider and resting his hands on the other’s shoulders. “Not too bright, but good.”
The others roared with laughter at C’tov’s ribbing and J’gerd turned red, shaking his head in chagrin.
“Don’t listen to him anyway, F’jian,” another rider called. “You know he’s just jealous.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Ugh, the toxicity, it oozes. Not to mention that kind of thing would trip my embarrassment squick so hard and have me hoping that I could just take meals at some other time than when everyone else is. Plus, we learn yet again that there is a certain amount of prestige attached to various roles when it comes to Thread fighting. Riding sweep is apparently not one of the favored ones, despite it being important for making sure that no burrows get past all the flamethrowers on the ground and in the air. But, of course, the glory is in fighting the invader as it arrives, not playing cleanup after all the fun is done.

Also, Terin is at this point, a whole thirteen. And has been in the relationship with F’jian for the last three years. Yeah. It’s a wonder they’re still together, honestly, given F’jian’s apparent maturity level. If the fight that had Terin aggressively cleaning a queen’s weyr is an indication of how they have conflict with each other, I am very surprised that they’re still together. Especially now that Terin has her own power base to rest upon and doesn’t have to curry favor with anyone if she doesn’t want to.

On the plot, Fiona asks Terin how she’s feeling, and Terin responds that she’s also flattened-tired, which gives Fiona some thoughtful thinks about the possibility that Terin and F’jian might be time-twisted. Which Terin guesses at, but also, we have to re-evaluate what kind of relationship Terin and F’jian have had for the last three years.

“So you’re not the reason F’jian is so tired,” Fiona guessed.
“Fiona!” Terin said with a bite in her voice. Heads swiveled in their direction and Terin’s face blushed to match her hair. [Ah, did we know that Terin has red hair? Seems like it’s a bit of an in-joke that there’s always someone with flaming red hair in each book…] More quietly, she added, “I told you, I’m not ready.”
Fiona cocked her head inquiringly.
“Closer to when Kurinth rises, that’s when,” Fiona said. “There’s no point in rushing things.”
“No,” Terin said quickly. The Weyrwoman’s eyebrows rose. Just as well as Terin knew Fiona’s mind, Fiona knew Terin’s. “Well, maybe.”

At which point Terin outlines her worries about what she heard from the previous night and Fiona suggests going up to see F’jian and make sure that everything’s okay.

Also, I’m pretty sure I have been operating for the last several books of Terin and F’jian’s relationship on the idea that they are absolutely knocking boots with each other. Now, based on the quoted bits above, I think we’re supposed to believe that Terin and F’jian have not been doing that for the last three years. Which makes me wonder about what F’jian has been doing if/when his bronze goes chasing greens or the various gold mating flights that he’s been around for, as well. We saw that the watch-wher community had basically made it the rule that whatever happens during a mating flight doesn’t count because nobody is in control of themselves for much of the mating flight, but we’ve never had that officially confirmed for the dragonriders. Nor have we had full proof that any rider could hold themselves fully back from the gestalt while their dragons were going after it. Except the Son of the Benden Weyrleaders, even though he eventually willingly gave into it. This smells very firmly of retroactive continuity at work. Perhaps this is one of the changes that was insisted on by Anne in her return to the world? Stop having the really young characters have lots of sex with each other and others? (Yeah, right.)

As it is, Terin points out on the way to see F’jian that Fiona isn’t nearly as muzzy-headed as Terin and F’jian appear to be, which Fiona shrugs off as possibly having gotten used to it enough, which is not the first explanation that I would go for, which is that Fiona isn’t currently time-twisted, and F’jian and Terin both are. Terin finds a F’jian wrapped in the blankets, but when she goes to touch him, she finds that this F’jian is really cold. Fiona calls for Talenth, but gets an echoed version of her in her head and a big swarm of dizziness before passing out completely.

The next scene is Fiona explaining to an assembled crowd of worriers that she’s fine and what happened to her that had her passed out. Apparently, Talenth called for Bekka when Fiona passed out, and Fiona files that away for future reference by thinking in her own head that people that dragons know by name tend to end up with dragons of their own in the future. Not that Bekka was having any of it the last time Fiona tried to drag her in front of a clutch of eggs (and with good reason.) Fiona knows that Bekka is hiding something from her, but Kindan isn’t encouraging that line of thinking, insisting that Fiona needs to rest and wrapping her up in his arms in the bed to help with this.

“Every day with you is a treasure,” Kindan told her feelingly.
Fiona found herself idly amazed at his words; they were the nicest thing she’d ever heard him say.

And if Kindan and Fiona’s relationship were based more on pantsfeels and banging than the crush that Fiona has on Kindan and Kindan’s crush on Koriana being acted out on Fiona, that would be a step up in the intimacy level. Instread, I want to know how far the pit has to be dug for something like this to be something that gets over the bar of “best thing said ever,” because that seems like the sort of thing you would say to someone that you were in love with on the regular. Except for the part where Kindan really has been working out his issues about not getting to have Koriana with Fiona and hasn’t actually said a whole lot about whether he loves Fiona, since he was the most resistant of the three to the idea of having Fiona along with Lorana. If only Pern had kept the art of therapy so that everyone could talk to people about what they were feeling and eventually learn how to communicate with each other. Alas. [/sarcasm]

The next morning, Fiona and Terin check in on each other, and Fiona advises Terin to keep an eye on F’jian, because despite the fact that F’jian slept the night with Terin, Fiona is keeping in her head the detail that the F’jian they first encountered was very cold, like he wasn’t in bed all night. Because, consistently for Fiona’s character for this book (and that I’m writing that says something), she’s willing to believe Terin rather than gaslight her about what happened! (Consistency across two whole chapters is a terrible thing to have to celebrate, but here we are.) Terin embarrasses herself by calling after Fiona, who’s headed to the Records room, about whether she intends to find more dizzy Weyrwomen. Which is what Fiona’s headed to do, and Terin intends to follow her, except she has to feed Kurinth, and then oil her, and then she’s too engrossed in caring for her dragonet to remember what she was doing before. (Terin believes that she’s neglecting her dragonet shamefully with all of the other things that she’s still doing, which says a lot about how much the psychic bond rewrites a person who has formed it.)

Fiona, however, makes it to the Records Room, and for once, we get a description of what might be contained in the Records and how they might be organized!

The Weyrwoman Records were broken into several sections through hundreds of Turns of practice. Some sections were devoted to the tallying of goods received, some to the parceling of those goods throughout the Weyr, others again to injuries and losses. And then, dusty and disregarded, was a special section set aside for the musings of the Weyrwomen themselves.
At Igen Weyr, Fiona had quickly grown bored with the sort of gossip she’d read in the old Weyrwoman Records. At the time, her interest in babies lasted long enough to coo over them and hand them back to their rightful owners.
Now, as she glanced down at her belly, she accepted that she needed a slightly more enlightened outlook.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Apparently, the Weyrwoman records aren’t hidden in with the others, they’re separate, and furthermore, the reason the Weyrleaders don’t look in them, I guess, is because they’re apparently clearly marked as to which ones are the records of tithes received and materials distributed and which ones are “the diary of the Weyrwoman.” Since the Weyrwoman, and not, say, the headwoman, is in charge of making sure all the supplies are accounted for. I’m pretty sure someone is uncritically recreating the idea that the Lady of the House is responsible for all of the accounts and in charge of the servants, even if the person who actually handles the day-to-day operations and is someone else. (And has been for some time, because, after all, all the way back in Nerilka’s Story, there was some glee about Anella being utterly unsuited to the running of a household and not knowing what it all entailed.)

Anyway, apparently, all you have to do to keep a record out of the eyes of the boys is to make sure it’s very clearly labeled as the Weyrwoman’s diary and nobody will touch it for fear of cooties. Even though it would be a prime source of understanding for a Weyrleader or anyone else who wants to know what the Weyrwoman is thinking about.

Also, I stridently object to the use of the word “enlightened” to describe Fiona’s outlook change, especially because Fiona was thirteen at the time she went back to Igen. Most thirteen year-olds that I know of wouldn’t be interested in learning all of the details about the process of making and raising babies, especially not as advice from the adult women in their lives. Of course, that’s with a viewpoint that considers thirteen year-olds to still be children with childhood still to happen before they become adults, and that’s not really an attitude reflected on Pern, where it seems like 12/13 is the time when someone gets married in the nobility and where a lot of the gold riders Impress their dragons. So there’s a certain amount of “well, if you weren’t interested in sex and pregnancy before, you’re going to have to get interested soon, because the boys aren’t going to wait around until you are ready” that’s built into Pern (and that’s another reason why F’jian supposedly waiting for years seemed weird to me, because I can’t imagine him actually agreeing to that when everything that he’s been told up to that point has essentially been “once you get your dragon, you’re set for status and you can have anyone you want.”

Fiona, at the time, wasn’t interested in all the details. That she is now older and interested in the details is not “enlightenment,” unless you believe that every person who can carry a baby should be carrying one, that their highest purpose and calling in life is to want and have babies, and that everyone who can carry a baby secretly wants at least one. Which has been the unofficial cultural expectations of the narrative and their endings, even though it has been very careful not to slip into that overtly, by talking about methods of abortion and having characters who are very clearly living fulfilled lives that do not have children of their own.

Now, it’s entirely possible that I’m reading too much into this because, as we will see, Fiona, at least as the narrative describes her, does want children and has always wanted children (in the abstract, at least, since at Igen she was disinterested in the baby gossip, according to the narrative).

She was always going to have children, there was never any question in her mind. And she was going to have girls and she was going to have boys and she was going to love them all. She knew a large part of that was her reaction to being an only child after the devastating Plague that had killed so many throughout Pern–including all her brothers and sisters. But she was also honest enough with herself to accept that she liked the idea of babies, that she liked the idea of toddlers. She knew enough, from her turns in Fort Hold, about the problems each presented, but she had grown up in a world where each new child, each squall, each smelly diaper was something quietly treasured. There was always a small pang of sorrow in the coos and aahs of the older folk around Fiona as they eyed new babies. She could see the babies that they’d known before the Plague echoed in their sad eyes.
And Fiona also recognized that part of her wanted babies to make up for those that her older sister, Koriana, could never have.
And now, apparently, she needed to know a lot more about the whole situation, particularly those babies with dragonrider parents. She knew Bekka too well now, and the look she’d given Birentir had been a special look, the look Bekka gave when she was afraid and didn’t want to scare anyone else.
Unfortunately for Bekka, Fiona had seen and recognized that look. And, fortunately for Fiona, the Weyrwoman knew just what to do about that–even if it meant poring through stacks and stacks of musty, old, boring Records.

Scratch that last suggestion, and also, Pern needs therapists. Because all of those reasons that Fiona thinks are hers for wanting babies are strongly influenced by people that are not Fiona. Fiona has noticed that the older folk miss their own children, and think of new children as precious. Fiona wants to have children because her older sister died from the Plague before she could have any. Fiona wants children because she hated growing up as an only child and never got the experience of having living siblings to grow up with. (I might also add in what was suggested in the last book, that Fiona wants children because she wants physical anchors of the people she loves (or at least lusts after) in case they are taken from her by Thread or other disasters.)

So why does Fiona want children? The narrative is silent on this, hoping that we won’t notice it under the pile of “Fiona has been taught since she was very small that she has a duty to have children and she’s internalized this strongly enough to believe that it’s her own motivation.” And then what happens if Fiona has a child and finds out that she absolutely detests having a child that she can’t hand back to anyone to get away from her? She likes hanging around with the younglings, she likes cooing over the babies, but she hasn’t a clue about whether she’s willing to accept the responsibility of raising one when they’re full of shit. Or would we see Fiona’s small raised mostly by Xhinna, Taria, Terin, or committee, and so Fiona wouldn’t have to deal with the bad parts as well as the enjoyable ones, like how all dragonrider children nominally are?

Again, Pern needs therapists, because Fiona has a lot of trauma to work through before I’m willing to believe the narrative telling me that Fiona wants children because she wants children.

Getting back to the plot, Xhinna and Taria come to fetch Fiona for lunch, which gives Fiona the opportunity to grill them both for information, since the weyrlings are apparently the best information network in the weyr, since they’re essentially invisible. Fiona asks about F’jian, and the response she gets says there’s more to it than she’s been told.

The room grew suddenly tense and Fiona felt Taria try to shrink into herself. Fiona gave Xhinna a challenging look.
[…Xhinna says it’s only talk…]
“What sort of talk?” Fiona asked as they started down the queens’ ledge.
“He’s worried, Weyrwoman,” Taria spoke up, much to Fiona’s surprise. She’d always seemed the more diffident of the two, silent and willing to let Xhinna take the lead, but it was clear that Taria had her own mind. That much had been clear for a long time, really, just as it was clear that Taria had spent much of her time since meeting Xhinna exalting in her presence. “He’s worried that he won’t survive, that he’ll leave Terin before…”
“Before his time,” Xhinna finished diplomatically.

Fiona inquires further about whether or not F’jian is stepping out on Terin, but both of them say it’s not the case, and insist they would tell Fiona about things that would upset her if she really wanted to know. (Xhinna says this by way of saying she hasn’t said anything at all about Lorana, which tells Fiona that there are actually some lines that Xhinna won’t cross at all. Which, y’know, I’m beginning to believe the theory that Fiona has a low-grade empathic or telepathic field on at all times, because she seems to be really good at intuiting other people’s emotions and thoughts and the true meaning of the same.)

Fiona “suggests” that the three of them have lunch in private, which earns Fiona a “strained” look from Kindan and an approving comment from Shaneese. Xhinna and Taria try to dance their way around whatever’s bothering them, but Fiona is not going to be dissuaded from figuring it out, and eventually, she manages to extract from Xhinna and Taria their worries.

“It’s not the others,” Xhinna said. “Kindan wouldn’t let them and–”
“They’re a good lot, all round,” Taria said. “I’ve known most of them all my life and they’ve never said a mean word–except when we were all little and silly.”
“But the dragons–”
“I can’t help if I don’t know,” Fiona told her friend in a calm voice.
“Fiona, is it possible that it’s wrong for dragons to Impress women?” Xhinna blurted.
“No,” Fiona said instantly. “Not at all.”
“Golds, sure,” Xhinna agreed in a contentious tone.
“No, your Tazith chose you, Xhinna,” Fiona said. She glanced toward Taria. “Just as Coranth chose you.”
“But we’re so tired,” Taria protested. “All the time.”
“And you feel like you’re walking through thick mud,” Fiona said. The others looked at her in surprise even as Fiona continued. “And you’re slow, you can’t do sums, you’d do anything for a nap, and when you wake, you still feel tired.”
“Yes,” Xhinna agreed. “That’s the muzzy-head?”
“Yes.”

Holy fuck, someone actually communicated for once! Admittedly, it was more like pulling dragon’s teeth, but they finally arrived at a useful conclusion and information.

Also, what the fuck?

Cocowhat by depizan

Not as much Kindan putting an immediate squash on any thought that Xhinna and Taria don’t belong in the weyrling group, because that’s his job to do, and he has quite a bit of practice getting young boys to shut the fuck up about whether or not girls belong in the previously-hallowed halls of only dudes. (Still negative millions of points for not actually making it so that Xhinna and Taria can focus on being dragonriders instead of having to do second shift as well, but it is at least consistent characterization for Kindan to want to squash any sort of bullying possibilities that might arise in his cohort.) Instead, despite this being the fourth book in a series where the muzzy-headedness has been known since the first, and deduced as to what the cause of it was from the same book, apparently nobody says anything about it? Or Kindan is yet again failing at his job because he didn’t line up all the recruits on day one and say “if you are experiencing this set of symptoms, that’s normal, you’re just currently twice in time. The best solution we have for it so far is for you to drink the highly-caffeinated beverage on the regular. We don’t know why giving your system a jolt like this works, but it does.” Or for Bekka or Birentir to do the same, because this muzzy-head is a known thing and has been for a while. Especially when it’s something that could affect whether or not someone can stay on their dragon or follow and memorize their drill, this seems like something that would be important for the Weyrlingmaster to mention. Instead, Fiona tells both Taria and Xhinna to drink plenty of klah because it keeps the muzzy away, and gathers an insight into her own fainting dizzy spell as possibly what happens when two copies of your dragon exist in the same time and they both talk to you. That would certainly be very disorienting.

We’re going to stop here for the plot because it’s a convenient scene break, and I still have one more thing to say about this entire exchange, which is that I think Shaneese needs to do some more henching and re-put the fear of, well, whatever the equivalent of the deity would be on Pern. Because we had earlier wagging tongues about Xhinna and Taria that disapproved of their relationship, and/or Xhinna’s skin color, and while both of them are fast off the line to reassure Fiona that the weyrlings aren’t making any suggestions (or that Kindan is coming down hard on anyone who does), they’ve clearly had enough exposure to other people thinking they’re an aberration, unnatural, or otherwise wrong to have internalized their symptoms as a result of their unnaturalness, rather than as something that can (and should) have been explained to them as a result of their being somewhere else in time at the same time. (It also still reads weird to me that lesbianism is seen as weird or wrong in the first place, but in the context of the supposition above that all people who can get pregnant must be pregnant, then lesbianism would get clucked at because it wasn’t producing any babies.)

This whole thing also has a certain ring of the situation where the teenage character suffers through the things that are definitely hurting them and not telling the people who can help with it because they’re too busy or don’t want to be a bother or think that someone will think less of them if they couldn’t handle it all themselves. Which would be a thing that would happen with dragonrider culture indoctrination and in being the new curiosities, so they would have to perform twice as well to get half the recognition. And the fact that this is making sense for Pern says a lot about the failures of the worldbuilding to build a really good place for everyone and the complete successes of the worldbuilding about being consistently terrible to women and girls who are in unique circumstances or very male-dominated ones. (Also, we did that beat in the Harper Hall trilogy, about suffering in silence. And, to some degree, with Kindan. Like, at this point it’s a trope and should probably be let go of gently.)

We’ll kick back into the plot next week.

Dragon’s Time: So Much To Unpack

Last time, we got about halfway through a chapter of Lorana sitting with Tenniz for what he says is the last day of his life, which has been happening in a sort of unhurried way, given that Tenniz has apparently made his peace with this fact and is fulfilling what he saw in the past, spending his last day with Lorana.

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 3: Content Notes: Death

Where we left off, Tenniz was in the process of explaining to Lorana that he’s come to terms with his own demise and that he’s not wasting his time on anger or seriousness, which would have been a better sell for me had Tenniz mentioned that he spent plenty of time already being mad and serious about the short amount of time that he had in life and the knowledge that he’s cursing his daughter with the same thing.

What’s also about to get weird is that Tenniz is about to start quoting proverbs and Lorana is about to start finishing them. Tenniz suggested earlier in the chapter that Lorana might have trader blood in her, which I suppose is our cue to think about what happens, but Lorana doesn’t say anything like “My dad used to say these things” or anything else that’s specific enough to be used that would be a clue as to where she picks up the parts of these proverbs. Because she also didn’t spend three years in the past with the traders to where she might have picked some of this up.

Anyway. On the idea that there isn’t going to be any more wine for them tonight, this sequence is what starts the really weird. Earlier, Lorana finished one of Tenniz’s phrases:

“Only a parched man really knows water,” Tenniz said, again in the tone of a trader saying.
[…and then fills a pot with water…]
“Only a dying man really knows life,” Lorana said, glancing at Tenniz.
“So it is said,” Tenniz agreed quietly. “But just as it is the path of wisdom in the desert to bear water, so it is the path of wisdom to learn life.”

Which, I suppose, could be worked out from the context of their conversation, but then it starts getting into direct quotations that Lorana has no business knowing, or if she does know them, the narrative forgot to tell us how.

“ ’Parched, you shall drink’ ” Tenniz quoted.
“ ’Hungry, you shall eat,’ ” Lorana said, hearing the catch in Tenniz’s voice confirm that she strangely knew the right words.
“ ’And–‘ ”
Lorana joined in with him–“ ’the stars shall guide you to your sleep.’ ”

And then the narrative jumps ahead to Lorana and Tenniz stargazing, as if “strangely knew” doesn’t ask for an explanation, or Tenniz confirming his guess that Lorana’s been around traders enough to have picked up a few aphorisms. or something. Tenniz has changed into the robes crafted for him to be buried in, but suggests that they can use a blanket for his burial shroud and gifts the robe and accompanying cloak to Lorana, saying “the dead have no belongings” as another trader aphorism. Lorana is understandably squeamish about carrying the goods of the dead, but Tenniz insists that since he’s still alive now, he can gift it to Lorana and everything will be fine. Lorana surmises this has to do with another prophecy and accepts the gift. (The cloak and the robes both have the emblem of a gold dragon flying over water, so it’s not like this hasn’t been prepared with Lorana in mind specifically.)

The stew is ready for eating, and it turns out Lorana’s understanding of trader norms goes to deeds as well as aphorisms.

Together they pulled the stew off the fire. Tenniz ladled the hot, pungent mix out of the pot and presented Lorana with the first bowl. Sensing tradition, Lorana took it with a grateful nod, then passed it back to him. Tenniz’s eyes lit as he took it and nodded in thanks.

This reminds me again of the Talents series, where there’s a character who is able to speak all of the many languages in the poor sector, where eventually it’s explained that they can access the language centers of the brain of the person they’re talking to, allowing them to speak the language as fluently as the other person because they’re basically borrowing their fluency. Since we know Lorana has the telepathic connection to Fiona that’s conscious and above-board, maybe this ability to speak aphorisms she has never heard and perfectly replicate customs she’s never seen is a low-level manifestation of Lorana’s telepathic ability. The narrative doesn’t particularly care about the explaining, as it has more important things to get to, apparently.

Lorana invites Tenniz to warm himself by Minith, which is something he treats with awe and wonder, and Minith says she doesn’t mind directly to Tenniz, which is even more awe and wonder from Tenniz about it. The stew itself is extremely spicy, which Tenniz suggests is a metaphor for life, and Lorana struggles through both having the very spicy stew and with coming to terms with the fact that she aborted her child (and possibly that she’s on deathwatch with the person responsible for that, but the narrative doesn’t say this), and eventually, Lorana seems to come to terms with it through some call-and-response aphorisms with Tenniz.

She felt ritual engulf her one more. “Even in the dark, there is still light.”
“ ’We are stars in the darkness,’ ” Tenniz replied with agreeing ritual.
“We burn bright, beacons for others,” Lorana said.
“ ’We cannot see our own light, only those of others,’ ” Tenniz continued.
“Our light lights others,” Lorana said, suddenly chilled with the power of the words, the sense of meaning that grabbed her, held her.
“ ’As their light lights us,’ ” Tenniz agreed, translating her words into the trader sayings of old. He glanced over to her and told her quietly, “You do not know our words exactly, but you have a trader’s ear for truth.”
“And so while there are stars, there can never be darkness,” Lorana said.
“ ’And in the darkness, there is always light,’ ” Tenniz finished.

So it’s not exactly the same words, apparently, but it’s close enough to hum a few bars, but now I want to know where this particular ritual comes from. Is it a dragonrider ritual, a beastcraft ritual, a family ritual, something they said at Fort, or at Telgar, or something else? Because the presence of this kind of ritual speech, much like the funerary rite we saw when Fiona took over Telgar, continues to betray the assertion that Pern has no religion. Or, we should figure out how trader wisdom got out to the people who aren’t traders and then twisted. Or we should acknowledge that Lorana’s powers are always a little on and she’s picking up on something from Tenniz. Some sort of acknowledgement. Or maybe there was something here that got cut and the authors didn’t read it back for continuity or their readers didn’t notice that this part was unexplained. (Or they did, and they were thanked and ignored.)

The narrative, though, leaves us with nothing to explain this, as it jumps ahead to Lorana waking up from having fallen asleep, and in the interim, Tenniz has died. Lorana does the duty she promised to Tenniz, wrapping him in the blanket, taking him to the hollow that Tenniz had described as where he wanted to be buried, and constructing a cairn above the gravesite of two hundred and fifty-seven brilliant white stones. (We know the exact number because Lorana was absently counting each stone as she put it in place.)

Having buried Tenniz, Lorana despairs of not knowing what to do going forward, even as she realizes that all of the funerary ritual and rite that she’s done was intended for her, to come to peace and bury her unborn child, and Tenniz happened to be the convenient excuse to talk to, and then eventually buried as proxy (as well as being buried himself). As she looks at the sky, she sees a single star, still burning in the sky before the sun comes up, and this apparently produces a flash of insight.

One last star burned bright, flaring with the rays of the morning sun. One star that was no star at all.
“I know what to do, Tenniz!” Lorana cried, tears streaming down her face.
“And you knew!” She almost laughed at the trader’s trick and she quoted him once more: “In the darkness, there is always light!”
“I know what to do!” Lorana cried loudly, startling Minith. She raced toward the queen, shouting “Come on, Minith!”
She pointed a finger skyward, straight at the brilliant light in the sky. Dragon and rider rose in the cold morning air, circled once, and then winked out, between.

Which is all and good for Lorana, figuring out what to do, but not so great for the reader. Because the star that isn’t a star could refer to a planet like the Red Star, or one of the ships in orbit around the planet, which were supposedly forgotten about until there were optic telescopes able to see them again. Or, perhaps, some other solution entirely that the authors have decided to keep from us and suggest that if we want enlightenment, we have to follow the same leap to a conclusion that Lorana did. I recognize that one of the tenets of writing certain types of mysteries is that the reader is supposed to have the same clues as the detective and be able to solve the mystery if they can follow the same logic, but for this to work, we all have to have the same clues. Instead, it’s been a chapter of Lorana behaving like she understands trader culture perfectly, and Tenniz remarking that she’s doing a really good job of following along, even if she doesn’t have the exact words down, so there’s the possibility that there’s a shared understanding that didn’t have to be articulated between them that we would need to know to fully follow along. Instead, we get a dragonrider jumping into the sky after jumping to a conclusion, and since the next chapter goes back to Fiona’s time, we’ll have to wait to figure out what’s going on.

Dragon’s Time: On Deathwatch

Last time, we set up the mystery of the present, involving F’jian’s disappearance late at night (where he’s showing all the signs of doing additional time travel), and Fiona got gaslit by the people who really should have been supporting her about whether or not she saw Lorana for long enough for Lorana to capture a sketch of her and then disappear back into time again.

Dragon’s Time, Chapter 3: Content Notes: Mortality

In darkest night I find you,
The sisters of tomorrow:
Heralding the dawn.

(The Unknown Time of Lorana and Tenniz)

There’s no time marker for this chapter, as it starts with Lorana and Tenniz, and apparently, Lorana doesn’t know where she is, or the narrative doesn’t want us to know where she is, but it’s pretty obviously in the time where Fiona is back in time, because Lorana has felt both infant Lorana and teenage Lorana before making sure she doesn’t accidentally reveal herself to Fiona before her time. So that gives us, essentially, a three-year window of time to work with, and, presumably, Tenniz has already arranged for his prophecies to be delivered at the appropriate time, so there’s really no harm in saying when they are that I can fathom, but maybe we’re supposed to think of this as a timeless space, somewhere that’s not governed by the demands of time.

Anyway, the chapter starts with Lorana asking Tenniz whether or not he could possibly be wrong about this being his appointed place and time to die. While Tenniz admits to the possibility, and that he would be super-embarrassed to be wrong about this particular one, he hasn’t been wrong before, despite seeing only glimpses, so, despite Lorana’s questions, he knows that today is the day that he’s going to die. And Tenniz intends to make his last day a pleasant one. Lorana is not so inclined toward the reality of death, as someone who still presumably has some time before her, but Tenniz has made his peace and knows Lorana has at least a couple of times already about her dragon dying and her baby dying. Tenniz mentions that he has a daughter and a son, in an offhand way also mentioning how old he is, that suggests it’s not just miners and dragonriders who decide they’re going to have kids young.

“You’ve a son and a daughter?”
“I’ve nearly twenty Turns,” Tenniz said.
“But you knew you were going to die,” Lorana said.
“I did and I do,” he said. He gave her a wry look. “As are we all in our own time.”
Lorana accepted that with a nod. “It must be hard on you,” she said.
“No harder than it was for you,” the young man replied. Lorana’s eyes misted as she caught his meaning. “We faced hard choices.”

All the way back at the beginning of this Third Pass set, I believe Kindan and Zenor didn’t really blink at the idea of getting married at twelve, to have kids and start a family, because the expectation was that they would be dead from mining by thirty. The dragonriders of this pass seem very keen on making sure their candidates, for fighting or for queen dragons, are about this same age. And, I forget how old Pellar was when he was part of thw watch-wher mating flight, but they’d arranged it all by age groupings, too, I think. Tenniz, however, knowing he’s going to be dead before he’s twenty, that I can understand him deciding that he wants to experience as much as he can before its his time, and that presumably would include things like sex and having children. Especially, as Lorana deduces in a little bit past the quoted section, because the traders want to make sure that the Sight continues to be passed down through the generations.

“They’re trying to keep this Sight of yours alive, aren’t they?”
“Among the traders it has saved countless lives,” Tenniz told her. “Even for myself, I would say it was more blessing than curse.”
[…skipping over some talk about breaking time that we’ll get back to in a minute, as well as Tenniz suggesting Lorana has some trader blood in her, because of her father’s profession…]
“You’ve been seen by others,” Tenniz said.
“Your father?” Lorana guessed.
Tenniz shook his head. “My mother,” he told her. “The Sight can go to either man or woman.”
“But only one,” Lorana guessed. “The Sight only comes to one in each generation.”
Tenniz gave her a wry look. “See? You prove my point,” he told her triumphantly.
“It was a guess,” Lorana said acerbically.

The point, in this case, being that Lorana has some trader blood in her, I guess, because someone without it wouldn’t have come to such a correct conclusion so quickly. I think it’s much more likely that, y’know, Lorana used LOGIC! It’s super-effective! but that’s me. Also, if the Sight only comes once a generation, that also means that whomever gets it is also apparently condemned to an extremely short life, as it seems to be the sort of thing where the previous holder has to die before the new one will start getting their visions. This is the first time we’ve seen any of the superpowers come with super-drawbacks, and it’s not necessarily a good look that it’s the traders, the nomad-expies, the Roma-types, that get their powers with such severe consequences. Plus, with the way that the traders want to keep the Sight alive, that suggests there’s some pretty intense pressure on the one who has it to have children before they go, so that one of their descendants will carry the gift/curse into the next generation. That’s yet another reason for people who are barely teenagers to start having those kinds of relationships, and further fodder for the textually-supported theory that the new author really has something about relationships and sex happening as young as possible.

(Also, I’m putting this out here just as something in case it turns into a bigger thing later, but given what we know now about the remaining time that Anne had left in her life, one wonders whether these conversations are both serving the plot and a dialogue between new author and old about what it means to be getting old and thinking about one’s death much more firmly. It’s not necessarily intentional, but there’s clearly a reading of the conversations this way if we want to go with it.)

Getting back to the bit that we skipped over, Tenniz tells Lorana that she’s heard everything she needs to know to avoid breaking time, and Lorana suggests that J’trel tried to break time, all the way back when he explained that he tried to go back in time and show his mother his new dragon, but he couldn’t visualize the coordinates well enough to make the jump. Tenniz suggests that many more people will try to break time, but none of them will succeed, but all of these failed attempts are the sorts of things that can be explained away by other means, not because the timeline actively interfered with them. It’s never clear what level of detail is needed to do the hyperspace hop. Presumably, the recognition points drills are supposed to help (and there were instances of pictures not being detailed enough to do a warp to), but it’s never said, say, that envisioning a person in enough detail as you remember them is a good enough anchor to warp back to them, or whether all that means is that you’ll try to appear in the same place that they are, which would be catastrophic for them. And it’s clear that Pern has a calendar system of some sort, even if they might not have timekeeping devices outside of the henges and the positions of the planets, so would it be possible to tell your dragon to do something based on a numerical conception of time and place, like “Fort Hold, five thousand feet above, thirty years ago today” and have that succeed? Jaxom successfully jumped fifty years into the future by adjusting a chronometer in his mental picture, and Lorana has jumped forward into the future by arranging the planetary bodies in the sky to match her intended destination, so there’s no reason to suggest that J’trel couldn’t have learned how to do that hop from the available information at hand and then tried to pop back in time. Again, the incuriosity of the Pernese works against their assertions that time can’t be broken, because nobody has really tested the limits of what they can do with the time travel. They figure out a use for it for things like saving themselves by doubling up on their Thread passes, or by sending weyrlings into the past to mature on borrowed time, but nobody has really done a lot of trying to mess with time in ways that would expose any fundamental weaknesses of continuity or to find things that the timestream really will not accept happening. The kinds of things where trying to warp back in time to prevent someone else’s death always has you appearing at the wrong time to prevent it, or the wrong place to get there in time, or any number of situations where it’s very clear that this is a fixed point that cannot be adjusted. Like, even when Kylara was observing herself repeatedly, over and over again, all we got out of that was people saying “What a vain bitch” and not “now we have to be very careful in and around that time and place because there are so many Kylaras there observing the one that time is pretty delicate in that space.”

I feel like I’m repeating myself. I probably am repeating myself, but a vague “time can’t be broken” really isn’t enough to explain away how, in all of the times that people have known about this ability, they haven’t really tried to use it to prevent a disaster or to spend more time with their loved ones or those kinds of things. Getting back to the plot, there’s a lot of companionable silence, making food (where Lorana marvels at the supplies that Tenniz has with him, and suspects Nuella’s hand in arranging all of this, since it’s good quality things and well-adjusted to Lorana and Tenniz’s preferences), talking about Jirana, Tenniz’s daughter, who will be the next one in the line to be blessed/cursed with the Sight, and Lorana trying to weasel as much information as she can get about the future out of Tenniz by trying to get him more drunk than she is and lead him into conversations where he’ll reveal information. This doesn’t work at all, but we do get a snippet of something that would have been fleshed out a lot more had the authors decided that they were going to admit there’s a mythology or a folk religious practice on Pern.

“You have mentioned your wife,” Lorana said, trying a different tack, “tell me about her.”
Tenniz thought for a moment before answering. “She has the prettiest green eyes,” he said. “I fell in love with her the moment I saw them.” He glanced at her wryly. “Green is such a dangerous color here on Pern, I suppose it seems strange of me to admire it so.”
“We need green to grow,” Lorana said with a flick of her fingers. “Just as Thread needs it to survive.”
“And sucks the land dry,” Tenniz said, his voice suddenly cold and hollow. Lorana met his eyes, but the trader lowered them.

This is the sort of thing that I would expect to happen on a world with a functioning mythology. Green is a bad color, because Thread devastates when it finds green. What does that mean for green-eyed people? Are they always looked on with suspicion? Do all of the Holds, Halls, and Crafts studiously avoid green in their heraldry because it’s seen as an invitation to destruction? Does any good at all come in green, or is that a forbidden color completely? What does that mean for green dragons and their riders? Did some of the cultural prejudice against green leak over, combined with green dragons’ much more amorous natures, such that green riders are tolerated because they’re needed but they’re not really liked by anyone? (And what would that say for Taria?) Did everyone think it completely appropriate that Mirrim, the troublemaker, the opinionated, got a green dragon because a green suits her nature so entirely properly and because they think of her as a curse to be inflicted on others?

All of these questions might not be answered, but this kind of worldbuilding, and thinking through the implications thereof, is what helps bring a culture to life and make it consistent. But again, that would mean that the authors would have to admit that even though the Ancients attempted to discard religion and superstition in their society, it came back in almost as soon as they weren’t looking. Because humans try to make meaning of things, and sometimes that making meaning involves conclusions that seem logical based on experience, even if they’re not logical at all in the formal or the scientific sense.

As Lorana and Tenniz continue to talk, Tenniz recounts that Shaneese spat in his soup because Tenniz said she would gladly share her man, which we have seen around the edges that it’s an insult, but I don’t think we’ve been with the traders long enough to know their culture and understand why that would be the case. From what we’ve seen, the dragonriders are by reputation freewheeling orgies, even if they’re a lot more monogamy for the Weyrleaders, the Lords are nominally marriage-monogamy but practically it seems that the Lords and their sons get to stick their dicks wherever they would like, so long as they don’t make the mistake of officially marrying or acknowledging more than one woman at a time, and the Crafts are a big question mark about how they handle all of these things, although they do have some amount of marriage ritual, even if we haven’t seen a corresponding insistence on monogamy, because that usually requires religion, and Pern doesn’t have one, officially. So the traders, other than their very weird mashup of Roma and aphorism-loving Arabian stereotypes (which we are about to see in full display), we don’t have a flipping clue what their values are with regard to monogamy and marriage to know why sharing her man would be such a problem. It’s like there’s a cultural assumption from the authors that has gone unquestioned in their work, because of course every society would construct itself in a religiously-Abrahamic way and morality unless otherwise mentioned. (Which reminds me of the absolute shitfit I threw at the AIVAS dying scene, because that underlying Abrahamic assumption was naked there, and the reader was expected to not even notice whose morals were on full display.)

Anyway, having mentioned Fiona, the talk turns to Lorana and her loss and Lorana asks Tenniz whether or not the price was worth it. Tenniz ducks the question and reframes it in such a way that Lorana is the sole person responsible for figuring out whether the price of her baby was worth it, with is a pretty dick move, Tenniz, considering you’re the one that made the prophecy that prompted it. Have a look:

Eyes bright with tears, Lorana nooded. Again, she said, “Because I don’t think Fiona would forgive me–”
“No,” Tenniz cut her off. She glanced at him in shock. In a hard voice, he continued: “You know better. She’s no stranger to hard choices. Tell the truth.”
Lorana let out a small sob and lowered her eyes. “I don’t know if I can forgive myself.”
“Yes,” Tenniz agreed. “That’s the truth.”
“And?” Lorana prompted, her voice pleading.
“And that’s the question only you can answer,” he said, pursing his lips in a grimace. “Always, in the end, only we can answer our own questions.”

Which might be good advice to someone who isn’t in the middle of grieving her own loss, with someone who has asked to inflict another loss on her through the certainty of his own incoming death. “Only you can know whether it was worth it,” may be accurate, ultimately, but it’s still a pretty terrible idea to throw at Lorana.

The plot moves forward to Lorana waking from a midday nap, worried that by falling asleep she might have missed Tenniz’s death, but Tenniz is still alive, and so they go about preparations for the evening meal, with Lorana listening hard to make sure that Tenniz is still alive, since in the darkening sky, it’s increasingly hard for her to see whether or not he still breathes. But there’s still time and lessons for Tenniz to impart to Lorana.

“Is it possible that you see too much of tomorrow? That seeing what you see causes you to give in? That you might die because you catch your death of cold tonight?”
Tenniz was silent for a long moment. “That is the greatest danger of knowing too much about the future.”
Lorana absorbed his words thoughtfully, lowering her eyes. For a long moment her mind churned on its meaning, on all that it meant and then–“You tricked me!” she shouted with a laugh. “You just wanted me to teach me the lesson you’ve already learned Turns before!”
“Yes, my lady,” Tenniz agreed with a light chuckle. “I did.”
“How can you be so happy at a time like this?” Lorana asked him, suddenly serious and angry, really angry in a way that embarrassed her, made her feel small and vindictive.

For as much as everyone talks about not being able to break time, I would have expected a certain amount of Calvinist fatalism to have set in for everyone. After all, if you can’t break time, why bother trying to do anything at all? Everything proceeds according to what has happened, is happening, and will happen, and there’s nothing anyone, even those with time machines, can do about it. That’s not Seldon’s psychohistory that predicts the big things but can be snarled and foiled by individuals, especially individuals with interesting abilities that can wreck the plan, that’s “everything is foreordained, so you won’t have the brilliant idea until you’re fated to, you won’t be able to save anyone other than what’s destined, why bother attempting agency in any form when it’s all written on the timeline from beginning to end?” I think everyone is supposed to be comforted or empowered by the fact that what is seen is often a fragment of the whole that comes to pass, and those results are way better than what was seen, and that pressing for more certainty would make it less possible for those good results to happen, but there still have to be a few people who understand this secret who have fallen into despair over it. (And a few others, I would guess, who have gained a sudden flash of enlightenment, as they have grasped the entirety of the Tao in that moment. Or who have beheld the wheel of death and rebirth in its entirety and declared this to be their last incarnation.)

Also, Lorana’s angry reaction is on point, really, as Tenniz is taking his existence lightly on what he says is going to be his last day in existence. Of course, he’s going to be sage about it in response, because he’s supposed to teach Lorana several things, but anger is one of those stages of grief, and it’s a natural response to get angry with someone who seems to be giving up on life.

“If I thought being somber and serious would give me another day with my wife, I wouldn’t be here,” Tenniz replied. He stood up with his supplies and moved toward the fire. “But I’ve known for Turns this day would come, I’ve had turns to adjust to the notion that I would die before my daughter was born, would never live to see my son a man.” He turned back to her. “I cannot see how being angry or solemn would make it any easier for me.”
He gestured around the plateau and beyond to the beauty that was unfolding in the setting sun; the promise of a brilliant night of stars. “I choose not to wrap myself up in grief over things I cannot change, cannot control, and, instead, take joy in all the gifts I’ve been presented. Rather than rail against the moments I cannot have, I will cherish those I do–rather than squandering them in useless rage.”
There was a long silence.
“It is strange,” Tenniz began again, in a softer, less emotional tone, “how those who expect to see tomorrow have so little appreciation for it.”
“I was talking to myself, wasn’t I?” Lorana said after a moment.
“ ’All the words we say aloud are heard by at least one pair of ears,’ ” Tenniz agreed with the tone that made it clear he was reciting another Trader proverb.

Not having been in a position where I know I’m dying, my days are numbered, and having made my peace with that, I don’t really understand Tenniz well enough at this point. Perhaps when I am older and more aware of my own mortality, I will be able to understand Tenniz better. This sequence is much the same, though, of pushing the responsibility for Lorana back on Lorana. It’s the same idea as the dragonriders who are happy at knowing when their own deaths will happen so they can get all of their affairs in order and leave nothing undone before going back to meet their destruction. I can understand how it would be freeing, in many ways, to know exactly the allotment of life you have and to be able to plan your life accordingly, to make sure that every day that you live has no wasted time in it, to not bother with many of the things that someone who doesn’t know how long they are going to live has to worry about. At the same time, I think back to the myth of Pandora (which would be really helpful right now, if Pern hadn’t discarded all of the stories of those who came before, y’know?) and that I’ve heard two different versions of the tale, one where in with all of the evils that Pandora let loose, there was also Hope, which made all of the evils bearable, the other where Pandora managed to slam the box shut before the last evil got out, which was Foreknowledge, the one that would have gifted all of humanity with the ability to completely see their own timelines, and what would happen, and that would essentially crush us all because we would know everything that was to happen.

For as much as this is apparently supposed to be Lorana working through her own grief and coming to terms with the decisions that she made regarding her own baby (decisions that might have been preventable if, say, Lorana had taken smaller hops rather than larger ones by charting out where in the future she could land that wouldn’t have Thread (or other people) around, and then similarly hopping backward in time in short enough hops to keep her child alive, or, just possibly, sending someone else to the picture in Lorana’s head. But no, the narrative has decreed it, through Tenniz, and so it must be done.) it’s also a meditation for Tenniz, who has known this day would come for all of his life and has been preparing for it. No, really.

“One of the gifts of the Sighted is to know our last night,” Tenniz said. He gave her a crooked smile. “It’s more of a blessing to know of a certainty that this night, and no other, will be my last.”

Lorana asks him the obvious question of what Tenniz is doing out here rather than spending his last night with his family and the people who love him best, which Tenniz doesn’t even answer at all, instead pulling out vegetables (carrots, tubers, onion, celery) and herbs to add to the evening meal.

It has to be a certain amount of painful, seeing your own death and knowing when it is going to happen, and knowing that you’re going to be denied the possibility of long life because of your ability to see into the future. What would be more helpful for Tenniz, even though I would probably complain that the doesn’t have the maturity to pull it off convincingly, because of his age, is for Tenniz to have talked about how he already got most of his anger out of the way early on, and how the things he’s said about others haven’t exactly been welcome, so he’s already had a life’s worth of being angry at everything and he made a decision to, as best he could, stop putting energy into being angry. The way that it is now, Tenniz is being painted as the wise sage who has transcended the petty human emotions around life and death, and at nineteen, unless he did some serious sitting underneath an enlightenment tree, he’s just not believable to me. (Which isn’t to say it isn’t possible, more things are possible than are dreamt of in our philosophies, but that this depiction is either leaning into exoticizing Tenniz, which is a bad take, or making him wise beyond his years and very easily mistakable as condescending to someone who is going through the third major grief trauma of her life, which is also a pretty bad take. Tenniz needs to be human here to be relatable, and the authors aren’t managing it, as much as they would like to be.

We’ve also crossed into the point where Lorana is, despite supposedly not having any trader blood in her that she knows of, is able to complete the trader aphorisms that Tenniz is quoting, but we’ll leave that for the next entry, as the night starts to go on and Tenniz spends his last amount of time with Lorana.

Dragon’s Time: More Balls To Juggle

Last time, we found out the book that had been promised wasn’t this book at all, and then watched as Lorana jumped forward into the future, hoping to get help for the past, only for Tullea, older and wizened, to rebuff her and send her back. The narrative then lingered long enough for us to find out that Tullea is actually less of a terrible person that she was to Lorana, and her causticness was because Lorana mentioned how Tullea had behaved, and the You Can’t Break Time rules that have never been explained were invoked, even though we see that things turned out all right for the dragons. Lorana even gets to have a kid, eventually. Although she’ll die never knowing of Tullea as anyone other than a bitch.

And Lorana met Tenniz and didn’t kill him immediately, but that’s because Tenniz is already going to die in a very short amount of time. (at least, that’s my headcanon) Tenniz then asked Lorana to bury him when he dies and showed Lorana where the gravesite is going to be.

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 2: Content Notes: Gaslighting

Rise up,
Fly high,
Flame thread,
Touch Sky.

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.7.21)

Rather than staying with Lorana and Tenniz as they wait for Tenniz to die and have cryptic conversations about the nature of time, we pop back to Fiona and Kindan. Fiona is reassuring herself with Tenniz’s prophecy to her as she tucks into bed, despite the terrible day she’s had with Tullea being upset and Lorana being gone beyond the reach of Fiona’s ability to find her. Because if Lorana’s bit is true, then hers must be, too. Kindan is humoring her, mostly, and the narrative hops over to B’nik and Tullea, who have gone to the kitchen to talk (at T’mar’s suggestion, which I would like to read as less of a suggestion and more of a command in the vein of “take a walk unless you want your face caved in”) Tullea wants to send people back in time and do again what happened in the past, but B’nik (and Kindan, who has gotten Fiona to fall asleep) point out all the known safe time for this opportunity has passed. They also have a quick discussion about the placebo effect without mentioning it by name. Tullea is unmoved by the discussion of Fiona’s force of belief, preferring to sit in the cold hard reality of the numbers that are available. Tullea also points out that Lorana’s plan is a failure, at least as she sees it.

“So, if Fiona is right, Lorana has gone to the future to ask for dragonriders to help us,” C’tov said, looking to T’mar and Kindan for confirmation.
“Yes,” Tullea agreed, glancing toward the door. “So where are they?”
“I imagine it would take time to convince them,” H’nez said.
“Time then, not now,” Tullea said, shaking her head. “If Fiona was right, then Lorana would already be back and our Weyrs would be full.”

Before anyone has to admit that Tullea might be right, B’nik calls things off for the night, and as they are walking away, reminds Tullea that Lorana did save B’nik’s life. Tullea says she’s grateful for that singular thing and nothing else.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that, for whatever reason, the people who will be arriving in time are going to do so when they are most needed and not a moment sooner, because it seems to be a thing on Pern that any time travel solution doesn’t happen until the last possible moment. This is with people claiming early on that many people don’t have the skills to do pinpoint hops and so there always needs to be a certain amount of slippage built into any time hop. Unless the person who is doing time travel is always the most excellent of visualizers and passes theirs along. In any case, Tullea is mostly right. If Lorana had succeeded in the future, even if it took a lot of loops and things to do in that future time, the future dragons should be arriving shortly. If this were a series where time travel had been studied like it should be, the people in the know should know what the average slip is over time and be able to say “Well, the average temporal displacement error is about three days, so if they’re not here by then, we can safely assume the future trip plot’s target time isn’t this time window.” Because it’s quite possible that the future Weyr’s memory is that it took until all of the remaining Weyrs had combined their fighting strength into one flight stationed out of Telgar and then the big explosion of new dragons happened, because then they could be sure we weren’t going to accidentally telefrag anybody important to their own timelines. But that would mean thinking things through, and we’ve already demonstrated plenty that the authors are not doing that.

We pop over to Terin and F’jian, who have made up from the fight about F’jian getting far too much into his cups. Terin goes to feed her new dragon, with Fiona appearing with a bucket of scraps, which she passes on to Terin upon seeing she’s awake, before going to get food on her own. At being informed Bekka and Birentir are making the rounds of the injured dragons, Fiona is ready to abandon breakfast to go be the Weyrwoman in charge, but is told very firmly by both T’mar and Shaneese that she needs to sit and eat and take care of herself and the baby. (There’s also a bit where Fiona says she wouldn’t be up to klah, is informed she wouldn’t be getting any, anyway, because Bekka’s forbidden it to her, provoking the reaction that Bekka takes on too much responsibility and everyone else snarking at Fiona about where Bekka might have learned such things from.) F’jian arrives, apologizes for being late (to which Fiona points out that F’jian was helping Terin feed her dragon), and the discussion resumes with logistics of how many dragons are available and how they’ll need to be organized.

He [F’jian] opened his mouth for a smile and was startled when it expanded into a huge yawn.
“Somebody had a good night,” C’tov muttered to H’nez.
“F’jian, you’ll take the light wing,” T’mar declared, glancing over to catch his reaction. “You’ll be responsible for firestone and our reserve.”
F’jian nodded glumly; he’d expected no less for being late.

This isn’t quite a whatfruit thing, because it’s actually pretty easy to see the reason why F’jian is disappointed. But that deserves some digging into. As a United States reader in the 21st century, the hyper-masculine bro culture that bronze riders are patterned against have both explicit examples, the military and police forces of the United States being one of the easiest to call to mind, and less explicit examples that are woven in pretty tightly (“bros before hos,” and the continually shifting definition of what’s appropriately masculine and what isn’t, which is set against an underlying assumption that being unmasculine is a thing to be feared, called out, and otherwise shunned) into the culture. It’s background radiation to the point where it’s a cultural assumption rather than a thing that has to be explicitly stated. There’s obviously a glory culture in bronze riders, such that being held back in the reserves is seen as a punishment or something unworthy. Given the current way that Thread is eating lives left and right, it seems like the right attitude for this situation is to be happy (or secretly happy) to have been assigned to the reserves, so that you and your wing have less exposure to getting eaten by Thread. But no, F’jian is unhappy that he’s not going to have as much opportunity to get himself killed as everyone else is. It’s not a position that I understand myself, being far too fond of my own existence to want to be in a profession where there is a possibility that I might die, even in one where there’s the possibility for accolades and being feted as a hero if you survive long enough to enjoy them. Maybe having a dragon as a psychic companion that’s been bred and genetically engineered to want to fight Thread would change my psychic makeup and make me much more willing to have a go at getting myself killed, but sitting here where I am now, it seems to go against the basic tenets of survival to be disappointed that you’ve been assigned to the wing with the highest possibility of survival.

The dragonriders need to get themselves used to new wing configurations, as Benden is lending them some riders so they can have enough to keep fighting for their next fall. There’s a whole day allotted for this, because there’s a certain blithe assumption that since the dragonriders have done this before, they should have no trouble integrating new people into their formations. Which would be true if the training was in some standard way, such that someone could say, for example, “You’re a four” to the incoming rider and that would take care of most of the things that need to be dealt with. That’s how my collegiate marching band handled it, with the understanding that the people who were arriving into the formation had been practicing the various roles while they were not in the formation. There might be a couple of things that have to be done differently or that might need some special attention and drilling, though. Being a four was helpful for the first part of the pregame show, but after that, there needed to be more specific instructions for getting everyone in place for the various formations to come afterward. For the dragonriders, however, I have always envisioned that they do things in a fairly straightforward manner, sweeping in their lines and flaming the leading edge, with the next group taking their place behind them and carving the same swath, with each group rotating in at their appointed times so as to get as much as they can on their level, and then having the next group at the next altitude sweep the same way to collect what the first altitude missed, and so on until you get to the scramblers at the lowest level tagging all of the things that have gotten through the formation layers. Then again, I also assumed that dragonriders would choose to fight Thread in the places where they know the thermals and currents, rather than trying to fight it on ground that is terrible and unpredictable and likely to cause lots of injuries and deaths.

Anyway, point being, it shouldn’t be a difficult thing to integrate the other riders into your own, assuming (and why would I do that, now that I think about it) that everyone uses the same system for positions and drilling. If that’s not the case, then the complaint about not having enough time is an important one, and really, what should happen is for the Telgar riders to reform themselves into new wings and the Benden riders to stay in their own formation and the solely important thing is to make sure that everyone stays at their proper altitude. But it’s been a long-running thing of mine with this series that we don’t really see a whole lot of how the Threadfighting works, logistically, and we really should, given how much it takes importance in the stories.

The next two scenes introduce (one of) this book’s mysteries, which is the F’jian is both completely loving and happy with Terin and also sneaking out at night from their bed for unknown purposes, although there’s a woman’s voice involved. The weird is set up first with F’jian setting out dishes and gazing into Terin’s eyes and telling her she’s super-beautiful (they’re both very young, remember) and then Terin waking up in the middle of the night to hear F’jian talking to someone and then flying away, then waking to F’jian crying over her and telling her that she’s beautiful again. Because this is highly out-of-character behavior for F’jian, we stay with Terin as she tries to puzzle out exactly what’s going on with F’jian, with Fiona adding an additional wrinkle of having had Lorana come to her early in the morning and sketching her. Fiona didn’t get a good look at Lorana, and Lorana didn’t say when she would be returning, so the assembled basically think that Fiona is having a pregnancy dream.

Cocowhat by depizan

This would work in a world where, say, the ability of dragons and their riders to travel through time wasn’t already widely known and we don’t already have a giant time travel plot currently underway. At this point, everyone should be “oh, you got a visit from Lorana, okay, did she say anything important?” rather than

Bekka spoke up, her tone gentle. “Sometimes when people are pregnant they have strange dreams,” she suggested.
“It wasn’t a dream!” Fiona declared. “I was awake!”
“You said that Lorana woke you,” Bekka said. “I’ve heard of people who think they’re awake and having conversations and they’re only dreaming.”
“It was real!” Fiona cried, her voice rising as she glanced around at the disbelieving faces gathered around her.
“I dream of my daughter sometimes,” Birentir said to her gently. “I dream of her being almost as old as you are now, Weyrwoman.”
“It wasn’t a dream!”
“Could it have been?” Kindan asked her gently. “Could it not just have been a pleasant dream?” He paused, glancing into her eyes as he added in a wistful tone, “Sometimes I dream of your sister and she’s smiling at me.”
“It wasn’t a dream!” Fiona roared, flying to her feet and glaring angrily at everyone. “I know when I’m dreaming. It was real!”
She glanced around, saw no acceptance in the eyes of the others, and, with a sob, raced out of the Cavern.

AAAAAAIGH.

There’s no reason for them to disbelieve her! It’s like they think that since Lorana’s gone beyond the reach of their dragons to find her, on Minith, that she’s dead instead of somewhere in the future. Although she’s also in the past as well. This is one of those things where narrative tools become slightly unwieldy to describe what’s going on, and it also again highlights the question of how little the dragonriders appear to know about how their time travel powers work and what the timeline will and won’t accept for changes and the possibility of grabbing someone from their own timeline at a specific point and depositing them all over the rest of the timeline so they can accomplish what’s needed.

Instead, they collectively decide to gaslight Fiona about what she saw, starting with Bekka, which is not the character that I would use for that. Kindan, yes, Birentir, yes, T’mar, yes, because they’re all dudes who have a high chance of being ignorant, but not Bekka. Bekka’s not old enough to know enough, despite being a prodigy, and also there are all of these handy male characters nearby who, as they point out, are much more inclined to say that Fiona’s hallucinating in her grief at losing Lorana because they have all lost people and sometimes think on them fondly. Bekka might provide the unintentional nail in the coffin by saying that she’s known that occasionally pregnant women have dreams in which they think they’re awake, but she should be the last person speaking, not the first.

Anyway, apparently we need this sequence where everyone believes that Fiona is hallucinating a Lorana coming to her to draw her and then disappear again so that Fiona can end up in the Records room with a chip on her shoulder (and, actually, so that we can learn that some of Telgar’s records really are set in stone (“thin, fragile slivers of hardstone with the words deeply chiseled in them”)), but rather than letting her go through the whole thing in a tear, the mustiness of the room makes Fiona nauseous and she ends up passing out while looking at the Records and drooling a bit on them, a thing that T’mar razzes her for for when he comes back from training for lunch and Fiona is in the bath, having a soak and a sulk about the fact that she fell asleep in the Records Room. (Bekka also, at the end of the last segment, suggests Fiona has twins in her pregnancy.)

In any case, after T’mar gets done teasing Fiona, he also points out that F’jian has been fatigued to the point of nearly falling off his dragon, a thing noted in comparison to everyone still feeling muzzy-headed, which hasn’t had an explicit call-out in a while, so I guess it had mostly faded into the background with everyone’s continual caffeine consumption. Except now that Fiona’s been on a juice regimen instead of klah, she should be feeling the effects of being in time again. Maybe the falling asleep in the Archives is supposed to hint at this, although everyone in that context seems to be thinking it’s because Fiona’s stressing out completely about everything and she should not do that, to which the immediate retort is that someone should do something about actually relieving her stress, instead of complaining endlessly about the lack of dragons but not taking proactive steps to obtain more of them from other time periods, or delegating some, if not all, of Fiona’s duties so that she doesn’t have to do as much. But given how nobody is working to relieve Xhinna of all her burdens, we have our answer about that.

T’mar thinks that if F’jian were timing it repeatedly, more than the others, he’d feel the effects more. Fiona suggests, instead, that F’jian might be exhausted because he’s banging Terin a lot, or because Terin’s pregnant herself and it’s keeping F’jian up at night. (All the narrative says is “one for which congratulations might be in order”, so I have to interpret.) At this point, I wish there were specifics involved in what kind of feeling people get when they’re multiply-in-time, so that some Healer could ask F’jian about his symptoms and go “yeah, he’s timing it a lot more” rather than “no, he’s timing it like the rest of you, but this is garden-variety exhaustion on top of that.” Because this is the sort of thing that the Pernese should know as soon as they discovered the ability of their dragons to time travel. (At this point, insert the standard rant here about how uncurious and unscientific the Pernese are, despite that curiosity being essential to their survival several times around.) So we shouldn’t have to speculate about whether or not F’jian is tripping on time or not, because we should already know.

As it is, after T’mar leaves, Fiona remembers the upcoming fall is a night fall and asks if T’mar has thought about needing to train with the watch-whers for making sure the flamethrowers can be directed appropriately. Which he has, but it’s scheduled for a couple days from now, and Fiona closes out the chapter reminiscing about the fourth vial, and what it did to Arith, and whether Nuella was given instructions on when to use the fourth vial (which, again, would doom the watch-whers to extinction, as there’s only one known gold watch-wher to transform). After having traversed Lorana’s tragedy, Fiona remains resolute that she saw Lorana and wasn’t hallucinating, and that ends Chapter 2.

Dragon’s Time: More Time Travel Complexity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragon’s Time: Chapter 1: Content Notes:

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

No time marker for this chapter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragongirl: The Prophecy Comes True

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

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

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

(Telgar Weyr, early evening, AL 508.7.17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cocowhat by depizan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cocowhat by depizan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will all turn out right

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.7.21)

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

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

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

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

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

However, the nonsense continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragongirl: Deliberately Out-Of-Character Behavior

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

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

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

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

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.6.25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Telgar Weyr, morning, AL 508.6.28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cocowhat by depizan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragongirl: Birth In The Middle of Death

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

Dragongirl, Chapter 20: Content Notes: Terminating Pregnancies

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

(Telgar Weyr, early morning, AL 508.6.19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cocowhat by depizan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cocowhat by depizan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragongirl: But Not Too Quickly

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

Oh, and Tullea being Designated Bitch.

Dragongirl: Chapters 18 and 19: Content Notes:

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

(Keroon Threadfall, morning, 508.5.21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cocowhat by depizan

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

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

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

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

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

(Telgar Weyr, evening, AL 508.5.26)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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