Category Archives: Deconstruction: Pern

Dragon’s Kin: The Fine Art of Negotiation

Last time, Kindan was moved out of his family house for someone else, and came to reside with Master Zist, who has begun training him in the ways of the Harper, based on the recommendation from the previous Harper. There’s also some connection between the two that I’m hesitant to articulate yet, because there’s no evidence to support it, other than the way Zist has behaved this far about Kindan’s mother.

Dragon’s Kin, Chapter V: Content Notes:

A baby’s laugh, a mother’s sigh,
Sweet things make a day go by.

The action returns with Kindan telling Master Zist about the incoming trade caravan. Zist manages to avoid being caught out on his own ignorance of what this means by turning it into a task for Kindan to figure out how to get everything done so that the camp will be ready to welcome the traders. Kindan, for his part, succeeds admirably at the task by insinuating that he’s on orders from Zist to ask for the preparations, before heading to the mine to deliver the news to Natalon himself.

Zenor is the person working the air pumps that keep the miners from suffocating while they work, and he’s grumpy about not getting any action, at least until Kindan points out the position of trust he’s obtained by working the pumps. Zenor gives Kindan a sack of glows to take with him and lowers him down to the mine itself.

We might note that Kindan is not suffering any symptoms of PTSD, trauma, or terrible memories in any of this, nor is he having flashbacks or any other sign that being in the place that killed most of his family and the watch-wher is affecting him psychologically in any way. I find this highly improbable, given the magnitude of the trauma.

While he’s down there, Kindan studies the shoring of the mine shaft and reflects a bit that there aren’t enough people in the camp to cut trees to make more shoring. There’s no indication that Kindan has any feelings about whether more shoring would have saved anyone. Kindan delivers his message, puts the responsibility of assigning the new apprentices on Zist and Swanee (the camp supplier), using the same phrasing that Zist used to sidestep his own responsibility (“it would be an interesting challenge”), and goes to leave. Natalon offers to walk him back, and then asks Kindan pointedly how many coal drays (so it is the carts, and not the creatures, as was pointed out in the comments of an earlier post) the traders had with them. Kindan isn’t sure, and thinks it was four. Natalon says they have enough coal for five, almost six, and so if the traders came with six and not four, there’s a problem.

The camp could supply many of its own needs–lumber, coal, meat, some herbs and greens–but they needed flour, fabric, finished metal goods like pickaxes, spices, all the little incidentals that made living more than just drudgery.

Wait a minute. You’re telling me this mine camp doesn’t have a Smith on-site, despite the clear need for someone to do repair work, and that it doesn’t mine anything but coal for export? Despite also being in a remote location that traders only visit so often? There’s a supply chain assumption here that doesn’t make any sense at all. I would expect the mine to be much more self-sufficient and trade for luxuries and city-made stuff, not for basics like pickaxes.

Those goods had to be paid for, and coal was the way the camp paid for them. Traders preferred bagged coal, dry and ready to sell. They charged a penalty for wet coal, and another penalty for loose coal.

And where, praytell, is the camp getting the cloth / bags and the bindings for the coal so that the traders can have their ready-for-market material already set to make pure profit with? Probably from those same traders, so their “penalty” for coal that will dry by the time it gets to market and again for loose coal sounds much more like a company store line, with people taking advantage of the people who can’t get their goods except through trader caravans. I presume that money (in marks) is available at this point, but apparently the mine doesn’t get out have any of it?

If the caravan had only brought four coal drays, then the camp could only buy goods equal to that amount. But if the caravan brought six coal drays and Natalon only had enough for slightly more than five, there might be a bigger problem: No trader made a profit hauling half-filled wagons or, worse, empty ones. The trader could well decide to move on to another Camp in hopes of getting a full load. There’d be another caravan along soon that’d take what bagged coal Camp Natalon had, but it’d be at least another month.

Cocowhat by depizan

In what universe does this even pretend to make sense? The setup presumes that there are other Camps nearby that can fill coal orders, and that Camp Natalon will be entirely passed by if they can’t fill everything up immediately. Like the traders move back to their base immediately after collecting a load and then set out again to the next camp to do the same thing. That’s extremely inefficient, as opposed to taking out the number of drays you need to visit a cluster of Camps and fill up and sell goods, and then maybe send the full ones back while the empty ones continue on to the next camp. The traders presumably should know about how much each camp will produce in the time between visits, and bring with them enough to haul what’s going to be available.

And this also assumes that each of the traders charges/barters the same as each of the others, which, unless all the traders are part of a guild or monopoly company, is ludicrous. Camp Natalon should know which trader companies will give them six drays worth of goods for six drays of coal, and which ones will give them five drays of goods for six drays of coal.

None of this makes sense. Which suggests nobody really thought about the economics of this whole they were writing it. *sigh*

As it is, Kindan and Natalon discuss what to do with regard to filling that sixth theoretical dray, which Natalon scolds Kindan for not actually counting, and they both conclude it will mean getting the trader to stay an extra day for enough coal to be bagged and loaded. Which Kindan also foists off on Zist to make happen. Zist, for his part, is happy Kindan set things in motion, is not happy at all that Kindan put Natalon’s problems in his lap, and realizes he’s going to have to bargain with the traders because Swanee is too honest to be effective.

“Traders are honest in their own way, too: They’ll always give you what you pay for, but they don’t go out of their way to be sure to give you their best price. That takes bargaining. Traders love to bargain.”
From the glint in Master Zist’s eyes, Kindan got the impression that the Harper enjoyed bargaining himself.

So Zist dumps responsibility for the entertainment of the night into Kindan’s lap, since Zist is no longer being Harper, but administrator.

This conversation also leads into a discussion about lies and secrets. Kindan feels like he lied to Natalon and the others because Zist didn’t give him explicit instructions for what he said. Zist suggests this is being a good subordinate by accomplishing the things that were desired, even without explicit phrasing and permission.

“A subordinate does walk a tender line between lies d truth. A subordinate is supposed to guess what his leader wants and guess correctly.” He wagged a finger at Kindan, eyebrows crunched together in warning. “You don’t want to be wrong when you’re my subordinate.”

I’d argue, at least from Kindan’s perspective, that he already guessed wrong three times while acting as a subordinate – the number of drays, the arrangements for the apprentices, and the trader negotiations, as all three have had negative consequences for Kindan, even if they might have been the right things to do in the broader narrative.

Kindan shrugged in weary acceptance. “But what about at the birthing? You didn’t ask me to see to it that Nuella was present, and we fooled Margit and Milla. If that’s not a lie, it’s certainly stretching the truth.”
“That was a difficult situation,” the Harper agreed. “You did well, by the way. Lies and secrets are related, Kindan. Secrets breed lies. Because Natalon wants to keep Nuella a secret, for reasons that I’m not allowed to tell you, you had to create some deceptions.”

Welcome to the world of grownups, Kindan. The world is not so black and white anymore.

Kindan offers possibilities as to why Natalon might want to hide Nuella, confirming that she’s both a girl and blind, but Zist sees through the ruse, offers no information, and tells Kindan to keep his conjectures to himself.

“So when is a secret a bad thing?”
“A secret’s a bad thing when it can be used to hurt others, or when it hides a hurt,” Master Zist said quickly. “You’ve an obligation, again as a harper, to expose a secret like that when you find it.”
“What sort of secret is that?” Kindan asked, mentally running through the small list of secrets he’d discovered about other people.
Master Zist made a sour face. “I once knew a man, who when he’d taken too much wine would lose his sense and temper. When he did that, he’d beat his children.” His lips tightened. “That’s that sort of secret.”
Kindan shivered at the thought. “So a bad secret is the sort of secret that when people know it, they can help?”
Master Zist considered his words before responding. “I suppose you could say that,” he replied.

I can feel the pull of the new author here, given that this is the first time that I’ve seen an explicit condemnation of child abuse. Even so, it’s couched in someone being an angry drunk. It’s progress, most definitely, but it’s a far cry away from a blanket condemnation of abuse of children (which the Masters of the Harper Hall have done with abandon, along with the seemingly accepted practice that beating your own child for disciplinary reasons is entirely okay) or a condemnation of abuse in general (which the dragonriders are definitely very guilty of on screen). It is better than it was. There’s still a long way to go.

Less heavily, Zist seems to have noted that Kindan has a tendency to use Exact Words and that he needs to be careful about what he tells Kindan, because the way he says it will be equally as important as the point he’s trying to make.

The traders arrive, with six drays, and Kindan ends up with the responsibility of fostering the apprentices for the mines that have come with the traders. He deftly foists four on Tarik’s house, having sweet-talked Dara with tales of the status she would gain in the camp, while knowing Tarik would be much less pleased, because he loved privacy. Two go with Toldur, and one with Norla when Kindan suggests that he’ll be working opposite shifts from Zenor, so Norla will always have an adult to talk to. (Norla, we recall, is managing the crèche and therefore might not have all that many opportunities to talk to someone that can converse back.)
Having settled the newcomers, Kindan returns to get ready for the party, to find Nuella crying in the study because Zist missed their scheduled lesson and she’s worried it means Zist isn’t happy with her. Kindan fills her in on what’s been going on in the camp today. Nuella is surprised the head of the trader group is a girl, and we can see the touches of the new author again.

Nuella sniffed. “I heard Milla say that a girl could be a baker or a mother, but that was all a girl was good for. She was complaining to Mother about it.”
“I can’t understand why Milla would complain,” Kindan said without thinking. “She’s a pretty good baker.”

That’s the first time I’ve heard gender stereotyping come out of the mouth of a woman, and the fact that Kindan’s reply is noted by the narrative as being thoughtless feels like the influence of at least one author trying to pull Pern closer to the sensibilities of the audience reading it by at least giving lip service to the idea that such stereotyping is wrong. Perhaps this is a reaction to the terrible way that Mirrim has been treated up to this point, even though this is set well before Mirrim?

Nuella details the worries everyone in the house has about whether or not the new child is going to turn out blind like Nuella is, as well as expressing her happiness that Master Zist keeps all the furniture in the same place. Kindan remarks that he gets yelled at when he moves the furniture (presumably without knowing the reason why until he deduced Nuella is blind and that she visits on the regular).

“He’s [Natalon] afraid we’ll be shunned,” she said bitterly.
“Shunned? But you’ve done nothing wrong,” Kindan said, wondering why the ultimate punishment–expulsion from society–could even be considered.
[…Nuella corrects Kindan’s assumption that it’s that kind of shunning, while indicating that Natalon’s mother was also blind…]
“My father’s afraid that people will wonder what’s wrong with him, if his children are blind. And they won’t trust him. And he’s afraid no one will marry Dalor.” With a catch in her voice, she added, “He doesn’t think I’ll ever get married.”
[…Kindan points out the absurdity of the plan to keep Nuella secret, and she agrees with him…]
“And what a choice bit of gossip she’d [Milla] make of you,” Kindan replied.
“She would, indeed,” Nuella agreed, adding bitterly, “And then Uncle Tarik would spread the word throughout the camp. ‘If he can’t make decent children, what sort of miner can he be?'”
Kindan considered her words carefully. He could see Tarik saying such spiteful things, and he could imagine there would be someone who would listen. Certainly Tarik’s cronies would. And they’d repeat the gossip. And, if anything went wrong, like the bad air in the hold, there’d always be some who would start believing the gossip.

Another strong case for why Natalon has all the excuse he needs to throw Tarik and all his cronies out for just the suspicion of sowing dissent and gossip in the camp, much less any of the other possible suspicions he could toss onto him.

But let’s unpack these statements about how Nuella’s blindness will somehow reflect terribly on Natalon, in contravention of every patriarchal impulse and reality that Pern has put forth. I sense the hand of our new author here, but he hasn’t done enough in text to set up the possibility that Natalon could be blamed 5 it, because the only two people that we know for certain have this blindness are Natalon’s mother and Nuella. The blindness seems to have skipped a generation, and we don’t know if any of Natalon’s sisters have the same affliction, or any brothers do. Based on the evidence we do have, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that the blindness will only ever affect women in the bloodline. (I’m not sure how, if at all, the genetics for that would work, but in the three generations that we know, only women have been afflicted.)

Furthermore, given that Pern is supposed to model the time period and scientific advancements of Latin Christendom, there’s no way that I can think of where they would place the blame on Natalon. Given that it took a rather long time after Henry VIII kept killing his wives to figure out that whether a daughter or a son is born is based on the sperm and not the egg, I can’t see the toxic patriarchy of Pern suggesting in any way that a man’s genes might be the reason for a disabled child. It would be far more likely (and consistent) for all the blame to be laid on Natalon’s wife. I’m sure Tarik could find a way to spin that into something about Natalon’s ability to make good decisions (“He married a woman that produces defective children! He can’t be trusted to make life and death decisions about the rest of us!”) or some other way of calling into question Natalon’s ability to lead, but it would likely all be through Natalon’s wife, not Natalon himself. (At least where children are involved.)

In any case, Nuella was hoping to get to come out, but the cave-in happened. Here we finally acknowledge that it was traumatic for Kindan:

Kindan felt his throat tighten as he remembered all that had been lost in that cave-in. Master Zist had kept him so busy that it was only in his sleep–his nightmares–that he remembered the past, and his family.

I’m not sure this is also realistic, but I don’t have childhood trauma.

Kindan and Nuella discuss how Zenor came to make her acquaintance and how much Nuella has been helping them both out (her blindness has, naturally, enhanced her hearing and smell accordingly), and they both decide to make Nuella up to look like a trader girl so that she can go out among the Gather attendees for the evening. As it turns out, Nuella can also play pipes, so Kindan gets an extra person to play some songs when he goes to listen into the crowd.

It’s as he thought – everyone else thinks Dara did great by fostering the apprentices, but Tarik (and Dara, because Tarik is terrible) are not happy about the lack of privacy that comes with it.

There’s a small scare when Natalon enters, but he doesn’t stay long, and a longer conversation between Kindan and Zenor about exactly how daft Kindan is to put Nuella on the stage. Kindan asserts that the disguise will be enough to keep her safe. He’s wrong, as Natalon and Jenella have a strong impression about, if not outright recognize, Nuella on stage, but Kindan provides a convenient excuse to not have to acknowledge it by pretending the girl is a trader.

There’s singing from Kindan, accompanied by pipes from Nuella, that results in some thunderous applause, and then Kindan hands off Nuella to Zenor for dancing while Zist picks up his fiddle to provide music. The Master has an opinion on the dancing:

“They’re too young to match, and you’re too young to be matchmaker,” Master Zist whispered in Kindan’s ear when the song was over.
“They’re friends,” Kindan replied. “And at a Gather the only thing they can do together is dance.”

Kindan goes out to listen, and hears Panit, one of Tarik’s men, talking down watch-whers (despite having been saved by one) and not thinking it a big deal that the apprentice that had a watch-wher didn’t show up with the traders.

Afterward, we hear of the successful negotiations between Zist and the traders for the extra day, and the narrative teases about why Natalon doesn’t jettison Tarik, and why Tarik hates Natalon, but neither Kindan nor Zist had any insight into it, so nothing happens. Instead they talk about why the apprentice with the watch-wher didn’t come to Camp Natalon.

“From what I gather,” Zist continued, “and she [Trader Tarri] was very circumspect about it all, it seems the apprentice in question decided that his Master’s wrath was less troubling than life in this Camp.”
“The only thing I fear more than my Master’s wrath is death,” Kindan said with an apologetic look at the Harper.
Master Zist laughed. “Yes, and that was exactly Trader Tarri’s observation.”
“So you think the apprentice was afraid of dying in the mine?”
“Or losing his watch-wher,” Master Zist remarked.

I realize that this is supposed to be read as a bit of jokey exaggeration, except Kindan didn’t seem to be joking, Zist has already demonstrated he can be a terrible person, and by this point, we’ve already seen callous attitudes toward the lives of apprentices and watch-whers. If Zist’s laugh is anything but serious, he’s misread the situation entirely.

The chapter closes out with the presence of even more trader caravans, the new apprentices getting set to build a new mine entrance, Zenor grumbling that he still isn’t actually able to go into the mine, and Kindan realizing that he and Zenor are drifting apart because their lives and schedules have become radically different. He’s also spending and enjoying more time with Zist and Nuella as a Harper apprentice. And spending more time doing these things that makes him happy.

There is one bit that needs addressing:

Sevenday after sevenday, caravans rolled in at all hours of the day, loading up with coal and heading back out again to Crom Hold, or farther to Telgar, where the Smithcraft made the steel that rimmed the wheels of the drays, formed the bodies of the pot-bellied stoves and ovens that Milla so loved, was turned into plowshares, dragon’s tack, and countless other things that could only be made from steel.

And again, I don’t understand why there isn’t a Smith in the camp, because there’s clearly a need for steel for both miners and traders and someone to craft the steel into usable things. Coal-fired furnaces that can help forge steel are clearly a thing, but why is the nearest steel a caravan away in Crom or Telgar? I don’t think the miners can wait that long if their equipment breaks, especially not in winter.

It is nice seeing logistics being thought about, because the dragonriders were generally uncaring about the hows so long as the tribute arrived, but Camp Natalon doesn’t even seem to have all the necessary personnel.

More next week.

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Dragon’s Kin: What I Don’t Know Can’t Be Used To Hurt Me

Last chapter, Kindan was orphaned by a cave-in that claimed the lives of his father and several of his brothers. Dask died because Natalon chose to prioritize the rescue over keeping Dask alive long enough to be useful beyond the rescue. We learned through this that watch-whers aren’t so tightly bonded to their handlers that they immediately die if their handlers do.

And now, there is what happens afterward.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter IV: Content Notes: Grief, childbirth

I am too big to cry
And my voice is too shy
To sing my sad, sad song
Or say the words I long
To say to you–good-bye, good-bye.

You know what? Fuck the idea that there’s ever a time that someone is too big to cry, especially in boys and men. That’s toxic bullshit.

Chapter IV starts right after the funeral, with Kindan realizing that as the youngest of nine, neither his father nor his brothers were ever really all that intimate with him. Kindan thinks he should have done more, like the carving that Jakris did or the drawing Tofir did. Those two have been adopted by other families, Jakris to a woodworker’s family that will welcome an older child and his talent, and Tofir to Crom, where his drawing talents will possibly be put to use in cartography and mapping of mines.

Kindan has no noted talent, and therefore has not yet been adopted out. Zenor gets his father’s job in the mine. Because someone has to work to put food on the table, even if it’s a child, when you have no safety net. And that will essentially kill his studies, dooming Zenor to always be a miner until an accident or disease claims him.

(There’s part of an answer to the question of how Kindan would have to address Natalon, once the Mine becomes official – Natalon becomes a minor holder. But it still doesn’t say what titles should be used.)

Master Zist arrives to take Kindan to a meeting with Natalon and Tarik. They are entertaining the idea of letting Kindan stay in the camp and be fostered, rather than sending him to his sister.

Hang on a bit. There are at least three brothers still in the camp and the family. Yet they’re not kept together, even though there’s demonstrated talent enough there that both of them could apprentice to someone in the town (Jakris) or learn a useful trade to help in the mines (Tofir), and use that to keep their brother in the house? That seems suspect.

Tarik has eyes on Kindan’s house for his own growing family, however, and suddenly the picture starts sharpening. Even more so when Kindan asks about the investigation into the collapse, and Natalon says the best evidence they have is that Danil’s group dug into loose rock and that caused the slide.

Kindan points out that Dask said there was bad air, and he smelled something in the mine as well. Tarik says none of the people he talked to smelled anything, and is dismissive of the fact that it would be possible to have a small pocket explode and not be detected by the watch-whers beforehand.

Tarik turns to wanting to take the house.

“Well,” Natalon said slowly, “if Kindan doesn’t mind.”
“It’s not his house to give,” Tarik said sourly. “The house will have to be emptied when Thread comes, anyway.”
Kindan flushed at Tarik’s brusque manner.

Tell me again why Natalon hasn’t expelled Tarik already? He seems to be doing nothing more than being an asshole, undermining Natalon’s leadership, and causing trouble for others, at least when he isn’t ignoring safety regulations and getting watch-whers killed or driven away. Yes, they’re family, but there are a lot of very convincing reasons why Tarik should have long been given the hook. Much like Toric. And Tarik wants to move in as soon as possible, which makes him an even bigger asshole for displacing Kindan.

As to where he goes, apparently the rules for fostering are that kids need fostering should go to the person with the least amount of children, and as it turns out, there’s a Master Harper in the room with no kids of his own. Neither Zist or Kindan is keen on this, but Natalon decrees it, and Kindan gets help from other adults on the camp to move his stuff to the Harper’s cottage.

His stuff turns out to be his clothes, his bed, blankets, more clothes that he knows his sister will want, and a table of his mother’s that had old music inside. The rest, with Kindan’s agreement (although the narrative suggests Kindan isn’t fully cognizant of what he’s agreeing to) well be distributed to those who are in need.

The upshot, such that it is, is that Kindan gets his own room. And can have as much food as he needs, rather than the prospect of not getting anything to eat. (Sis always saved something for him, Kindan says.)

There’s also some insight into the complexity of people.

“You didn’t get along with Kaylek, did you?” Master Zist inquired gently.
Kindan shook his head. “No, not until just before–” He looked troubled. “Zenor, my friend, he told me that Kaylek saved his life.” Tears formed in Kindan’s eyes. “He was always mean to me, but he saved Zenor’s life.”
“It’s a bit hard to grasp, isn’t it?” Master Zist commented. “I have been surprised how often people who only seem to be bad have turned out to be selfless when it really matters.”
Kindan nodded in wordless agreement.

People behave differently around family than anyone else. And, often times, will push others out of the way when needed.

Zist goes into an explanation of what Harpers nominally do: music instruction and performance, gathering of information, assistance and smoothing ruffled feelings when needed. Also observation and keeping secrets (and letting others keep theirs). Zist instructs Kindan not to try and overhear conversations he has in the study or his kitchen, and that if Kindan wants to talk about something, Zist will tell him if that’s a secret to be kept.

All of this is prologue to Zist saying that Jofri had left notes that Kindan showed promise and aptitude toward Harpering, and that Zist will be teaching Kindan that trade starting tomorrow.

Which is in addition to things like being the oldest boy not in the mines, and thus in change of the children runner/watch squadron, or helping other kids trim branches cut down by adults.

Zenor is in the mines, and his mother is essentially the day care for all the working mothers doing gardening, planting fields, or cutting trees. Which has the useful consequence of making sure the widow whose son is in the mine has plenty of human contact. Zist suggested this arrangement for that reason, so it’s not really an accident.

Kindan overhears complaints from visitors about how the mine seems to be doing well now, but the future may not be great. And has to explain to Master Zist why people talking about “working the pillars” is a bad sign (because it means you’re either in a hurry and not going to be there long or you’re running out of coal and not going to be there long).

Zist, in return, trains him in the Harper craft, including grabbing Kindan by the ear when he trips Tarik’s son and wants to beat him for his taunts. Zist then assigns Kindan the chore of doing the laundry at Tarik’s house until he can list three virtues of Tarik’s son.

It takes Kindan two days. At which point, Zist tells him to describe the house. Not as he remembers it, but as it is. And Kindan can actually remember a lot of the details, when pressed.

Kindan turns out resourceful as well when he goes looking for Dalor after he misses a watch shift. Recognizing the smell of bad air suffusing Natalon’s house, Kindan raises a fire alarm with his voice, then gets Zist to do the same, and then dashes inside to open windows and let the gas out. Given that the bad air has a characteristic smell, it’s probably methane or hydrogen sulfide that’s the gas in question.

Now, since this is Natalon’s house, that means both Dalor and Nuella have to be pulled out, along with Natalon and his wife. Kindan notices the extra person, and swiftly gathers enough people and blanket cover to get all of the children to Zist’s, hopefully without anyone else noticing. Whereupon Kindan reveals that he knows Nuella’s name, but also that he knows to keep secrets.

It turns out the chimney of the house was blocked in, by accident, supposedly, but as Kindan hears while playing drums for the gathering,

there’d been minor accidents once or twice a week since the cave-in that had killed his father and Dask.

Along with other sentiments that things aren’t going great for the mine. Which culminates in Panit, identified as one of Tarik’s cronies by Kindan, questioning whether “the problem’s not watch-whers, but leadership.”

I’d say, at that point, it sounds like someone has been sabotaging the mine. Natalon already has excuse enough to send the most likely suspect on a very long vacation trip, not that anyone actually does those sorts of things, even with evidence. Does Natalon not feel like he has enough authority to throw someone out? There’s already someone openly questioning his leadership. For any other Lord, that would certainly be enough to give them the hook. Why not here?

When Dalor comes to the house and says that his mother’s in labor, Zist sends him to the Healer, Margit. Kindan says the Healer isn’t much for midwifery, and the two who did it most were Silstra and Harper Jofri. Neither of whom are here, but it turns out that Harpering is Zist’s second career, having taken up singing after being thrown out of the Healer Hall. Kindan and Zist engineer a plot to have Dalor and Nuella switch off every so often during the birthing, with each wearing identical clothing and cap so that none can tell the difference, although Margit is a bit suspicious that Dalor knows so well where baby things are kept, since that’s usually taught to daughters. Despite being a month premature, the new daughter is healthy and alive, and we learn that Zist, having done the actual baby catching, also had a daughter of his own once.

Having done the early morning delivery, everyone goes to their actual work, and this it’s Kindan who gets to spot a trader caravan coming. And that’s Chapter IV, which seems mostly to have been “strange, suspicious things keep happening at the mine, and also, a birth, and still no answers as to why Nuella can’t be acknowledged openly.”

Kindan does seem to be picking up the Harper Craft fairly quickly, though. Perhaps a bit scarily.

Dragon’s Kin: The Inevitable Tragedy, Again

Last week, a wedding! And some interesting backstory for the new Harper, and yet more about a girl who lives to sneak out but isn’t actually allowed out.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter III: Content Notes: Whatever the equivalent of fridging is for parents dying to make orphans, cave-ins, speciesism, dying animal companions,

Watch-wher, Watch-wher in the night,
Guard our Hold, keep it right,
When the morning sun does come,
Watch-wher, then your job is done.

Unless you’re in a mine, and then you might have quite a shift ahead of you.

Kindan is slowly adjusting to life without his sister – he’s become her, unofficially, in terms of waking everyone up and making breakfast and keeping the fire going. Danil is asking him to check in on Dask, as well. But otherwise, things continue as they have been. Well, except that Master Zist is a terrible teacher, berating his students for their shortcomings. Sula’s letters because she wants to bake, Kaylek’s maths because he’ll need to figure out how to prevent cave-ins. Only Kindan has apparently escaped, but it’s actually because he decided that he’s going to go all-in on trying to be the best student he can be at all times. Which paradoxically allows him to find diplomatic restraint and to help Kaylek with his maths.

The action slows down the first day that Kaylek is to join his brothers in the mine, in that Kindan accompanies his brothers to see them off, we see that Zenor is accompanying his father for today, and we are told that Dask has been very on edge recently, which makes nobody happy.

That’s your foreshadowing warning. It goes downhill from here.

The children in Master Zist’s class notice that something has gone wrong first, because it’s too quiet and the background sound they’re used to isn’t there. Then the children see coal dust coming from the mine shaft. Not too soon after that, the mine alarm sounds and every child old enough to be of help is running full-speed to the mine shaft, lessons forgotten. Zist, having not been informed by his predecessor about what to do in case of emergency (or much of anything at all about mining, it seems), keeps the younger children with him and starts to rehearse ballads with them to try and keep their minds off what is happening outside. The mine alarm sounding again crushes that hope, and then we shift over to Kindan, arriving at the mine to the sight of a very wounded Dask.

Kindan asks what happened, as Dask leads him into the shaft.

Dask gave him the sound for “bad air.”
“Why didn’t you warn them?” Kindan asked.
Dask made an annoyed bleek and then the sound for “fast.”
“It happened too fast?” Kindan repeated. The watch-wher nodded.

It sounds like anyone can learn to handle a watch-wher if they go through enough training to understand them and care for them. Which does make you wonder why they aren’t more widespread in later Passes, but that’s chronology questions that become thorny when your setting is chronologically earlier and your publication date is chronologically later.

Kindan concludes the cause was an explosion of gas, because that’s the only thing that could take Dask by surprise. Dask leads the rescue party to the right part of the cave-in be then begins furiously digging, ignoring his own wounds in an attempt to get to the trapped miners. Kindan can’t discourage Dask from this, and when he appeals to Natalon, we are fairly starkly reminded that watch-whers will never be seen as more than pets or equipment.

Natalon looked over at the watch-wher. “We need him here now, especially as he seems to know where our men are.”
“But…he could bleed to death,” Kindan cried, tugging at Natalon’s sleeve.
“Do what you can for him but don’t stop him, lad,” Natalon said. “Your father’s on the other side.
[…Kindan runs out and asks Margit, the healer, for bandages for Dask…]
“You want my good bandages for the watch-wher?” she demanded, affronted.
“If he bleeds to death before he finds your mate, it’ll be your fault!”
“Why, you impertinent little scut!” Margit responded, stopping at him with the towel she had in one hand.

Kindan swipes bandages anyway, and is trying to get Dask to slow down, but Dask hisses at him and digs harder until he breaks through to the trapped miners. Kindan is sent to shout for stretchers, and by the time he gets back, it’s too late for Dask.

Back in the shaft, Dask was lying in a lump, his big eyes fitfully gleaming. He didn’t even pick up his head as Kindan knelt beside him. The first of the rescued men was being hauled out on a stretcher as Kindan tried to staunch the ichor that streamed out of the neck gash.
“Oh, Dask, what have you done to yourself?” he keened as he felt the unsteady neck pulse.
Dask curled his neck, placing his head on Kindan’s lap and sighing sadly. Kindan began to scratch behind Dask’s ears, soothing the beast as well he could. And so, having led the rescuers to the trapped men, Dask finished his life.

Excuse me for a moment.

“We’ll get the dead ones out now,” Natalon said. He paused beside Kindan, patting his head kindly. “Your father’s neck was broken, lad. And your brothers are half buried under rubble. We’ll get their bodies before night falls.”
Kindan sat there a long time, holding the heavy head of the watch-wher, absently scratching ears that were turning stiff, his lap covered in green ichor, until Natalon returned for a final inspection.
“Still here, boy? Come, it’s nearly dark.”
“But Dask is dead, Natalon.”
Natalon crouched down beside the boy and saw his tear-streaked face. He mopped some of the tears from the coal-dust-smeared face and touched Kindan tenderly on the head.
“There’s a big hole not too far away from here where I will see he is buried, Kindan, but you must come with me now. It’s all over down here.”
Natalon had to help the grieving boy to his feet, ignoring Kindan’s repeated request to stay by the watch-wher.
“He made a good end, Kindan. He was a fine beast.”

Well, I can fairly clearly see the influence of the new writer, who has managed to convey the terrible disaster that happened, but also the utter callousness that everyone else seems to have toward Dask, and the way that Natalon is not helping with the grieving process, nor did he lift a hand when Kindan told him that his best hope for finding those trapped miners was bleeding out in his desperation to get back to them. So they’ve also earned this, too.

Zenor, we find out, survived. Because (to twist the knife) Kaylek shoved him out of the way of the rockfall. And Chapter III ends with Kindan holding Zenor’s hand all the way through the night, as they sleep. Margit, when she discovers this, covers Kindan with a blanket.

So, Natalon’s mine has no watch-wher, and has lost a significant amount of experienced hands to the disaster. Kindan has lost his family, except for his sister and a couple brothers. And because Pern has no social safety net, the mine will re-open soon and children far too young to be working that kind of job will have to.

I think this is the first time we’ve seen the details of the tragedies wrought by humans, and that our main character will become special not through his talents, but through his tragedies.

Well, I said I wanted a lower decks episode, didn’t I? Perhaps I am getting my wish, possibly with an author somewhat attuned to view terrible things are for the serfs of Pern.

Dragon’s Kin: Goodbye Ally

Last week, we puzzled over why there aren’t more watch-whers in service for the mines, I got extremely mad that someone who wilfully disregarded safety protocols is still around, and the plot says there’s a wedding about to happen. Fun.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter II: Content Notes: Weaponized Anger

New additions to the song mean what we have so far is:

In early morning light I see,
A distant dragon come to me.
Its skin is bronze, its eyes are green;
It’s the loveliest dragon I’ve ever seen.

The narrative itself stays with Kindan being rudely awakened by Sis (Silstra, who is getting married) and then dumped out of bed by Kaylek, who seems to have acquired the bully family member role for this story. Kindan was hoping for more sleep to remember his dream, because it had his mother in it. This is important because his mother died during his birth, and while Sis and his father don’t blame him for this, all of the other siblings in the family apparently do.

Is it just not a thing in these stories for people to have all of their parents alive and healthy?

The narrative then illustrates that Sis might be Kindan’s only ally among the siblings, as Jakris, an older brother, forces him to toss out the washwater and clean the basin it was in, since he used it last of all of them, which guarantees Kindan is the last to eat breakfast. Additionally, were it not for Sis turning them around and making them clean their own dishes, the other siblings would have left all the dishwashing for Kindan.

I would not be surprised at all if Kindan has very strong opinions about whether he wants his sister to marry.

Kindan is told to go see Janella for his chores, but habit (and wanting to avoid making Sis unhappy) takes him to the mine entrance, where he thinks it might be a good idea to change out the glowbaskets, even though the mine is closed. Hearing voices in the mine, he calls out and meets an old man who tells him he’s supposed to be at the Harper’s cottage. After Kindan leaves, a young girl who remains hidden from view offers to take the old man through a shortcut that will get him to the Harper’s cottage before Kindan, and who has the same sort of giggle as the unknown person who diverted Kaylek in the last chapter. But we follow Kindan instead, where Zenor tells him that they’re auditioning to sing at the wedding, and that Kaylek (who can’t stay in tune and apparently sounds like a gravel slide) has already been told he’s not suitable. He enjoys singing, the narrative tells us through Kindan, but he doesn’t have the talent.

When called in to the cottage, Kindan recognizes the old man’s voice and is ready to tell him off for entering without permission, only for his brain to catch up to him and realize the old man is a Harper and belongs there. Kindan gets chewed out for being rude, the Harper insults Kaylek, and then the audition begins in earnest, after the Harper notes his specialty and Mastery is in voice and uses his voice and projection to try and intimidate the two boys. Then we get his name, Master Zist.

Zist has faint echoes of Shonagar, in that he spends a significant amount of time yelling at the boys about their posture and breathing before they start singing, but he’s needlessly cruel to Kindan, having him practice a difficult song for the wedding through lunch and using the circumstances of Kindan’s birth against him.

“You are not listening to me! You do not pay the slightest attention. You can master this song, you just choose not to. Oh, you are such a waste! To think your mother died giving birth to you! You’re not worth it at all.”

Unsurprisingly, Kindan quits the cottage in a rage, and almost immediately runs into his sister, who is all starry-eyed about how the man who taught their mother her favorite song is here. Kindan gets an idea from this, goes back to the cottage, and sings back to Zist that same song. We only see the first four lines of it, which conveniently happen to be the four lines of song that we’ve collected so far from the beginning of the two chapters.

“In the end, he looked truculently at the Master and said” I can, too, sing. My sister says that I can sing as well as my mother. My sister says that I am worth it. And my father, too. And they should know–they were there when I was born.” Tears streaked down his face, but he didn’t care. “My sister said that my mother’s last words were that I wouldn’t need much caring but I’d be worth it.”
Master Zist was in shock. “That voice,” he muttered to himself. “You have her voice.” He looked up at Kindan and there were tears in his eyes, too. “Lad, I’m sorry. I get should have said…I had no right…Could you sing it again, please? You have the same lyric quality she had.”
[Kindan tries, but he’s still choked up with grief and anger, and Master Zist goes to get tea to help ease his throat.]
“I drove you too hard, lad. I have never driven a student so hard. I shouldn’t have done it to you, either. It’s just that–that I want this to be the best day for your sister and your father. I want to give them that.”
“So do I,” Kindan said.

And here I feel the influence of the new author as well. Students who talked back to the masters or flounced like that were likely to be beaten in the original run. Here, instead, Kindan manages to bowl over the Master (and who turns out to be the MasterHarper) and get him to apologize for treating Kindan like shit.

Based on this exchange, I also want to know what kind of relationship Master Zist had with Kindan’s mother, because I wouldn’t expect sounding like someone to reduce a Harper to tears if there wasn’t special significance to it.

With a proper relationship established, Zist abandons trying to force Kindan to sing what he wants and instead decides to work with what’s available and familiar, which is what he should have been ready to do as soon as he arrived. The two of them have a conversation about how Dask, the watch-wher, can fly at night and they conclude that perhaps the air is heavier at night and that helps Dask get aloft. Zist makes note to investigate it further when he gets back to the Harper Hall.

Given that we’ve already established watch-whers can use hyperspace and are bonded, likely telepathically, to a human, it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch for them to have or use the telekinetic abilities to augment their otherwise anatomically unhelpful wings and get themselves aloft. And they would fly at night because of the high photosensitivity of their eyes.

But since this is the Third Pass, and we haven’t recovered that scientific data yet, it’s entirely plausible to believe the “thicker air provides more buoyancy” suggestion, based on what is observable.

Kindan and Zist rehearse better, although Kindan learns the hard way that proper singing is exertion of the body and the muscles, before Danil arrives with a fresh suit of clothes. Zist has tea and pastries available. We learn there’s a trader custom for a bride and groom to spend their wedding night in a trader caravan, and that the MasterTrader of Crom insisted that tradition be followed.

Kindan is sent outside while Danil and Zist talk, and with nothing better to do, Kindan wanders and thinks about how the camp will change when it’s time for Thread. He not sure he actually wants to be a miner, nor is he particularly keen on the idea of being stuck under stone for fifty years. But he rationalizes it away by saying that firestone, coal, iron, tin, nickel, copper, and salt are all necessities of Pern, and by thinking about all the things that Dask can do now (a canary that can dig and haul ore, and a useful help for night shift miners) and the plans that Danil has for Dask. Even that, though, is mostly experience-based rather than any formal education, although there’s the possibility that Kindan might be considered to stand for a watch-wher egg (which sounds a lot like the Impression ceremony, just without the fanfare). Danil calls Kindan back for more rehearsal, Zist cryptically remarks that Danil is “quite a man” before beginning, and then we’re off to the wedding.

Kindan isn’t sure he looks anything more than silly, but Zist reassures him that he looks fine. We learn that traditionally, weddings are performed so that the sun rises as the vows are completed, but because Dask is part of the ceremony, it will be at sunset instead, with a bonfire lit as the vows are completed.

Dask can, indeed, fly, and like the fire lizards, sings with the music while using glows to illuminate both bride and groom as they make their entrances. The wedding goes off without a serious hitch (Zenor forgets his entrance because he’s still marveling at Dask, and Kindan has to improvise his song a little bit to accommodate Dask singing along), and as Kindan is headed back to change into his everyday clothes, he meets Nuella, who asks him to bring her to the party. Kindan recognizes her, but willingly helps her get to the party and get food to eat before going off to a spot where Nuella won’t have to worry about being seen.

Zenor is already there, and Nuella contrives a spilled cup to get Kindan to head back to the party and replace it. Nuella and Zenor talk, both about how Kindan thinks Nuella is a trader girl, rather than her real identity as Dalor’s twin (and therefore Natalon’s daughter). There’s an unstated reason as to why Nuella wants to stay hidden, but it involves a fear of Natalon’s. Zenor notes that Nuella can’t stay hidden forever. Nuella wants Zenor to teach her how to dance, at some point in the future.

Kindan, for his part, gets sent off to bed by Kaylek on his fourth trip for food, and wakes up cold (because a brother has stolen all the blankets) and then realizes the regular routine he’s accustomed to is no longer going to happen, because Sis will be gone. So he makes fire and breakfast and klah, and the oldest, Dakin, is happy to not have to do it himself, and accompanies Kindan to the trader caravan to bring klah to the happy couple and say his goodbyes. Journeyman Jofri is also going with the caravan, and gives Kindan advice about Master Zist, as well as an admonition that “He’s been through hard times” that I’m very interested in learning more about. The rest of the family and much of Natalon’s arrive to also say their goodbyes, and the trader caravan is off. Danil thanks Natalon for the wedding, and Natalon signals that it’s time to get back to work. That ends Chapter II.

Kindan is probably in for some changes.

Dragon’s Kin: Away From The Weyrs

I’m thrilled you’re still here and wanting to continue. Of course, we might end up catching up to the current set of Pern at some point, which will be rather different to have to wait for new material to work with when we get there. There’s still a half-dozen or so books to work through first, however.

We’re in collaboration territory now. This is a dual-billed book, with the more famous author on the top of the book, and the lesser one underneath. It remains to be seen whether this is a true partnership between two people or whether this is more like James Patterson collaborations, where I suspect the “with” author did most of the work as Patterson did enough to get his name as the name that sells the book. It’s a chapters book rather than a parts book, which makes things easier for good stopping points, and we shall see if we can detect the influence of the second author on the first. In a perfect world, that would mean things get better, but we will have to see.

Dragon’s Kin: Prologue and Chapter I: Content Notes:

The SFnal prologue returns, and it’s sporting some new verbage. For example, we now have explicit mention that the settlers “had set out to create an idyllic, low-tech farmers’ paradise, escaping the ravages of the late Nathi Wars.” Which I find interesting, given that, at least for me, “low-tech” seems to have also meant that medical care and governmental structure also went very low-tech, with the results being the various plagues that afflict the population that’s been enclosed by Thread.

The new prologue also says First Fall happened eight years after the arrival of the colonists, which I’m very sure is a retcon of some sort, because that’s a nearly sensible amount of time for everything to have gotten set up to be taken by surprise by Thread.

Then we get the story of the abandonment of Southern, the genetic engineering of Kitti Ping that creates dragons, Wind Blossom’s “mistake” that creates watch-whers, and the reorganization of society into Lord Holders, Weyrleaders, and the Crafts, who are noted to be democratic institutions from the outset, in that their MasterCrafter (and this is now the official way to refer to the head of the craft, with the camel case) is always elected.

Here, though, the Prologue diverges from its predecessors in that it starts to set up the story proper, rather than talking in generalities about the glorious society and the awesome dragonriders. Partially because our setting for this story is the end of the Second Interval, and also because new author, I think. Where previous books in the series might use a part of Chapter One for a little bit of exposition, possibly from the viewpoint character, here the omniscient narrator takes care of it themselves.

The Prologue says that Pern relies on coal, mostly to forge steel for plows, wheels, and joints for dragonrider gear, and the easily-mined veins have been tapped out. So the MasterMiner, Britell, sends out journeymen with the techniques of mining into mountains and tells them that those who succeed in establishing themselves will be promoted to the Mastery. Britell’s secret favorite is Natalon, who shows “a willingness to experiment” and is taking watch-whers as well as miners to his camp.

[Natalon] had enlisted watch-whers, hoping to use their abilities to detect tunnel snakes and bad air–both the explosive gases and the odorless, deadly carbon monoxide which could suffocate the unwary.
From what Britell had heard, the watch-whers were something of a mystery–their abilities ignored as commonplace.
Britell planned on watching that Camp carefully, particularly keeping an eye on the work of the watch-whers be their bonded wherhandlers.

Cocowhat by depizan

(That may be a record for “fewest pages before Cocowhat.”)

I don’t mind that watch-whers fulfill the canary role for miners, but I do want to know how they learned about those abilities and also why they aren’t in widespread use in the mines. Tunnel snakes are a problem, sure, but we saw what kind of destruction got wrought when someone sparked a pocket of explosive gas when Shankolin was in the mines as punishment. And carbon monoxide is a silent killer. If they already know that watch-whers can protect against those things, then why isn’t every potential mine assigned a watch-wher for safety purposes? I can’t think of a feasible reason why they would be “ignored as commonplace,” save perhaps a mine whose entire inhabitants are prisoners and there is only a small amount of guards there to keep them in line. I know Pern has enough indifference to prisoner life that they wouldn’t invest in safety, but these are theoretically all miners and people that the narrative would think of as good.

Having set the stage, Chapter I begins, not with a temporal mark, but a rhyming couplet:

In early morning light I see,
A distant dragon come to me.

Since it sounds like a song, it’s probably going to be worth putting all of these couplets together if the author doesn’t do it somewhere in the text.

Our viewpoint character for Second Interval Pern is Kindan, and he is getting the best vantage point he can for what is eventually revealed to be a trader caravan (using “drays” – draybeasts – oxen? – to pull the wagon.) Furthermore, one of the residents of that caravan, Terregar, is betrothed to Kindan’s sister, and wedding preparations are in full swing at the camp.

Interspersed with this is a layout of the valley, as Kindan describes it, with temporary housing, coal processing facilities, the mine proper, a proper hold for when Thread returns, and the Harper’s quarters. (We do not seem to have any issues at this point with nonbelievers at the end of this Interval.)

Kindan, we find out, is the child of the watch-wher’s bondmate, Danil, and had the watch-wher, Dask, is “the camp’s sole remaining watch-wher.” Which says there were more, but the mountain’s dangers likely claimed the others.

I’m already starting to see the signs of influence from the new author, though, as we’ve learned more about watch-whers fan we have in all the previous books, and then there’s this sequence that gives us a much more realistic picture of how dragonriders are seen (and where they go):

The thought of Impressing a dragon, of becoming telepathically linked with one of Pern’s great fire-breathing defenders, was the secret wish of every child on Pern. But dragons seemed to prefer the children of the Weyr: Only a few riders were chosen from the Holds and the Crafts. And no dragon had ever visited Camp Natal on.
“You know,” Zenor continued, “I saw them.”
Everyone in Camp Natalon knew that Zenor had seen dragons; it was his favorite tale. Kindan suppressed a groan. Instead, he made encouraging noises while hoping that Zenor wouldn’t dawdle too much longer or Natalon would be wondering at the speed of his runner–and might remember who it was.

We might finally be getting a lower decks episode, now that at least partial control of the narrative and where it goes is in the hands of someone else.

As Zenor runs off, having collected Kindan’s message and extracted a promise from him to help wash the watch-wher as payment, we learn that Natalon is twenty-six and in charge of the camp, and that since the camp hasn’t yet become an official mine, Natalon isn’t “Lord Natalon” and nobody knows how to address him. Which makes me wonder how the order of titles works on Pern. In Natalon’s case, I would assume that in the lack of any other title, he should probably be addressed by his guild rank, Journeyman. Of course, that assumes there isn’t another title that could be used, or that Natalon isn’t the kind of person who would self-style to something before becoming an official Lord. Or Master, because proving the mine would also grant him his Mastery. So if the mine succeeds, which title gets used, and if they both do, which one comes first? Is he Lord Masterminer Natalon, Masterminer Lord Natalon, or something else? And if his successor is also a Masterminer, what then? Masterminer Alain, Lord Natalon?

Zenor opts for grabbing Natalon’s sleeve, which interrupts him in an argument. Tarik, whom scuttlebutt says is pissed that he didn’t get to lead the camp and is actively trying to show Natalon as unworthy, is fighting both Danil and Natalon about the importance and efficacy of the watch-whers, and where effort should be put with regard to roadways or mine supports. Zenor is also ill-disposed to Tarik because his son, Cristov, beat Zenor after Zenor unwisely insulted Tarik. We don’t know what the comment was, just that the resulting fight left bruises.

Ah, also, Tarik is Natalon’s uncle, which might also explain some of the animus.

“We must use our labor wisely, Uncle,” Natalon answered soothingly. “I decided it made more sense to fell more trees to use in the mines for shorings.”
“We can’t afford any more accidents,” Danil agreed.
“Nor lose any more watch-whers,” Natalon added. Zenor hid a grin as he saw Kindan’s father nod in fierce agreement.
“Watch-whers aren’t much use,” Tarik growled. “We’ve made do without them before. And now we’ve lost two, and what’ve we got to show for it?”
“As I recall, watch-wher Wensk saved your life,” Danil answered, his voice edged with bitterness. “Even after you refused to heed his warnings. And I believe that your abusive behavior is what decided Wenser to leave with his watch-wher.”
Tarik snorted. “If we had enough shoring, the tunnel wouldn’t have collapsed.”
“Ah!” Natalon interrupted. “I’m glad to hear that you agree with my reasoning, then, Uncle.”

I realize that the Pernese attitude toward the preservation of lives is, at its very best, callous, but in what universe does someone who ignored safety protocols and caused the deaths of others get to stay at that mine? Yes, there’s no OSHA, but it seems like that offense should have resulted in immediate expulsion. And if not that, severe consequences, regardless of whether that person is family. Even more so if it could be proven that their behavior drove away a vital safety check. To say that they’ve managed without the whers has an undertone of not actually caring about the death toll of the miners that come to work. Again, in a prison mine setting, this makes sense, but theoretically these are all volunteers and employees. They stand to profit tidily if they stay alive. Anyone reducing those chances, especially through a disregard for safety, is dangerous and should be sent away until they can prove they will obey the safety protocols.

Zenor takes a small detour on the way back to chat with Nuella, who is very eager to meet a new Harper, if one has come in the caravan, and is very tired of being inside all the time (at the insistence of her parents, apparently). Such that she plans to dress up in trader colors and dance at the feast tonight and nobody will be the wiser.

Kindan, for his part, at the feast mostly eats and listens for gossip. Right about the time the bubbly puts pies are ready, his just older brother, Kaylek, comes to tell him to wash the watch-wher, intending to prevent him from getting any pies. Danil saves him from that fate, but insists that the job be done very thoroughly after the bubbly pies. Danil then steers said son toward a craft girl he wants him to meet.

The rest of the chapter watch-wher washing, which is unremarkable, really, except that Kindan twigs to the fact that Zenor has someone shadowing him and asks about his detour earlier (but gets no details, even after that shadow is instrumental in diverting Kaylek from discovering Zenor and giggles a bit after Kindan heads to bed), and that watch-whers can go through hyperspace without needing a clear picture from their bondmate, something dragons supposedly can’t do (or don’t do, or whatever handwave is necessary for the disaster of Moreta to have happened / will happen). At least, that’s how I’m reading Dask disappearing to the pond to get a bath and then returning by the same method, because Danil is nowhere to be seen when this happens. Here’s another thing that dragons could learn from something they consider beneath them, but manage not to do in all those Passes and Intervals that the watch-whers have been around.

Next week, a wedding, I guess.

Ever The Twain: A Jaxom Ploy

Last week, we met Nian and Neru, twins who might or might not have a telepathic bond with each other, who were plucked from their coastal hold on Search – the dragons were sure of Nian, and Nian hid Neru well enough from the dragons that they took him as well, just in case. There was some tacit admission that the Weyr lives a lot better than the Hold they came from does, a designated Mean Girl who turns out to also be a fainter at wounds everyone agrees were pretty nasty to see, and a day of chores and food for everyone.

Ever The Twain: Content Notes:

The second morning dawns with a gong alarm to wake everyone up. Nian is a bit disoriented, but still very focused on the idea that Neru needs to Impress. As morning chores are being assigned, the dragons start humming to indicate the hatching is about to start, and everyone heads back, full of nerves, to change and go to the grounds. Nian sees Robina while she’s washing up and the narrative isn’t willing to cut Robina a break.

Robina was in the washroom, vigorously brushing her blond hair with her fingers.
“I don’t think the dragons will notice your hair, Robina,” Nian said encouragingly, but the girl glared at her.
“That’s all you know, twinling,” she snapped back, a petulant expression on her face. Her brushing increased in vigor, and she swore that she saw that sand still fell from her locks. “Let me alone,” she added nastily.

Yes, what a bitch Robina is, because she’s pretty, and blonde, and might still have sand in her hair despite her best efforts and someone is insulting her by referring to that hair after treating her poorly yesterday. There’s no way for Robina to know that Nian is being serious and nice with her comment. But the narrative is more than ready to pile on her for being upset at the protagonist.

And then it’s the hatching in earnest. As seems to be the case with all of the hatchings we’ve seen, a bronze pops out first and everybody says how that’s a good sign. The second egg to hatch is the queen, and this bit happens, because Robina deserves no sympathy:

Robina was already hastening toward the little queen, though she was clutching at her stomach as she approached. It amused Nian that the snotty Robina was also subject to nausea and nervousness.

Yet not a little while before, Nian declared in her own head that she would “die of shame if she spewed up all that porridge and redberry jam.” Empathy is still a finite resource on Pern, only for the deserving and the worthy.

Despite hearing a voice in her head declaring themself to be very hungry, Nian is still very focused on Neru, who is having some serious anxiety that everyone around him is Impressing and none of the dragons seem to be showing the slightest interest in him. Before he can get too far into that idea, though, the queen dragon trips Nian and walks up her back to get her attention, giving her a mental earful about how hungry she is and wondering if Nian can even hear her. Quinth, as she calls herself, has also given Nian a nosebleed by tripping her, and can’t really understand why Nian is so focused on her brother, instead of giving Quinth the attention and food she clearly deserves. Quinth does get fed. The Ista Weyrwoman comes by and helps Nian get clean, commenting on how it was obvious to everyone but Nian that Quinth wanted her from the moment her shell cracked. “Queens are very determined,” we’re told.

This turn of events, of course, sets off Robina.

“How did it happen that she was chosen by the queen and not me?” demanded Robina, standing in front of them, pointing an accusatory finger at Nian.
I didn’t choose her, Quinth said to Nian, flicking a wingtip at Robina in dismissal.
“Well, this is outrageous!” Robina retorted, as she dodged Quinth’s wing tip for fear of being pushed into the hot sands. When she regained her balance, Robina placed her hands on her hips while tapping one toe in the sands.
“There are green dragons hatching, Robina,” the Weyrwoman said pleasantly, pointing to the right. As Nian glanced in that direction, she saw Orla patting a green dragon with one hand and shoving meat toward it with the other.
“They are the most valuable dragons in Threadfall,” the Weyrwoman said. “And far more difficult to train. Take a challenge once in your lifetime, Robina. It would do you good.”

We haven’t met the Weyrwoman until now, and there’s no textual explanation as to why the Weyrwoman would know Robina by name and disposition. Perhaps we’re supposed to assume that Robina has been here long enough and loud enough to attract the Weyrwoman’s attention, being the daughter of the Masterfarmer might mean she was Searched first. And the author certainly seems to believe this is putting her in her place, except for one small thing…

Eyes wide with outrage, Robina stamped toward the exit, head high. Amazingly enough, a shiny wet green dragonet was stumbling after her as fast as it could go.

…all of those things that are supposed to be terrible about Robina underlie something quite positive, as she’s attracted the attention of a dragonet. I can’t tell why, honestly, unless this is supposed to be a final snub at her, that she’s good enough for a dragon, but not the one she wanted, or that we’re supposed to snicker at how quickly she’ll lose her snobbish demeanor as the lowest ranked dragonrider and/or how that attitude will be raped out of her over time as her green dragon rises to mate again and again. (Mirrim remained Mirrim with Path, so that’s no guarantee.)

As it is, Neru has come back to an egg that’s got a serious crack in it, and is verbally encouraging the dragon inside to break out. Nian moves to go help her, but the Weyrwoman holds her back.

“We’ve discovered that if an egg doesn’t crack on its own, the occupant is probably damaged and it is best to leave nature to take her course.”
“And let the dragon die?” Nian was appalled.

Well, shit. This confirms that we can’t be post-Ruth, then, because that would have overturned that kind of thinking, or at least made them think twice about it. This hatchling has made at least one crack in the shell, which is more than Ruth did, I believe, so there’s even more of a chance there’s a viable dragonet inside.

Nian asks her dragon for her advice, and finds out that her dragon may be much more suited to her personality than she wants to admit.

A Hatchling must break his own shell? she asked her dragon.
It shows the strength of the dragon within, Quinth informed her.
How do you know that? You’re only just hatched yourself.
There are things dragons know instinctively about other dragons, Quinth replied with a faint reproof in her mental tone.
But my brother has to Impress, Nian said in almost a moan, her eyes on the shell of the egg beside her brother, who was stroking the casing and urging its occupant to try again.
It is as hungry as I was, Quinth told Nian. It only needs food.
Tell the Weyrwoman so we can break its shell for Neru.
There are some things one must do for one’s self, Quinth replied. I made it and I was hungry. I am still hungry.
As Nian scraped another handful of meat out of the bowl, nearly the last, she had a sudden, decisive idea.

Nian puts two and four together and hatches yet another Indy Ploy, loudly declaring she needs more meat for the glutton and then telling Quinth to trip her as she passes by the egg. Quinth does so eventually, and surprise, surprise, Nian manages to put the heavy bowl right on the egg as she falls down, smashing enough of the egg to free the dragon within. Neru Impresses Larinth, a bronze, and Nian gives her some of Quinth’s food bowl to feed him with, which sets Quinth off that her rider was giving her food to some other dragon, but other riders immediately provide enough food bowls that Quinth has to shut up and swallow the meat being shoved in her mouth or choke on it.

The Weyrwoman and the Weyrlingmaster check Larinth out to make sure he’s okay, even as Quinth assures Nian that he is definitely okay in that same tone that suggests it’s obvious to her.

I still don’t understand why a Weyr wouldn’t want to try and improve their fighting strength, if the other dragonets know whether there a viable dragon in there or not, but apparently Pern is so hardcore Rand that apparently Kitti Ping programmed it into their DNA, and so no help is ever given to any dragon ever.

Having satisfied themselves with Larinth’s health, the Weyrwoman asks if Nian’s trip was as accidental as it seemed. Nian sticks to her story that Quinth was hungry and trying to get at the meat scraps in the bowl. I’m not sure anybody actually buys it, and Nian is pretty sure that the Weyrwoman didn’t buy it, and as the twins get helped off to the barracks, H’ran gives Nian a wink, suggesting he knows the truth, but there’s a live dragon who’s made an Impression, so nobody is really going to do anything about it. Conna comes to congratulate them, which makes Nian worry that she’s going to say something about the circumstances of their search, but she just grins and says, “It is always what the hatchling decides, my dear,” and that’s it. Nobody is going to say that Neru is somehow not legitimately a dragonrider. H’ran even seals it by using the contracted form of Neru’s name when they enter the space in a little while.

Once they actually get on their way to the barracks, we see that the green that was chasing Robina caught up to her, and Robina is intently and blissfully shoving food into the dragonet’s mouth.

All that’s left, really, is for Neru to thank Nian for all her help and admit that he had a giant fit of jealousy (his first about Nian) at the fact that Nian was very clearly Searched and he wasn’t. Nian confesses she was horrified at the thought of stealing his dream and being separated from him in the same day. Neru points out that as a queen rider and a bronze rider, they are going to be separated, since Nian’s queen will become a junior queen at some other Weyr, while Neru stays put at Ista. But since they both have dragons, Quinth reminds them, they’ll always be no more than a thought away, and never alone.

There’s a lot spoken about, but not actually elaborated on, how strong the bond might have been between the twins before the dragons, and what it might have been like if only Nian had Impressed, and hints, again, at what the economics of Pern are like, and not nearly enough of people standing a bit slack-jawed at how much nicer everything is in the Weyr compared to home. And why that might be.

Well, that’s it. Those were the last words that we have credited solely to Anne McCaffrey. At the first author, anyway, the Dragonriders of Pern is finished. Everything past this point attested to the series is officially attributed with or solely to her son, Todd. We can stop now, if you want. We can keep going, if you like – there’s at least seven more books’ worth if we go into and through Todd’s work. Or we can switch gears, if you like – there are other Anne series, or perhaps there are other works you’d like to go on a similar ride with.

It took a few years to get there, but we’ve ridden it out.

It’s been quite the time spent with all of you, and I’ve had a lot of fun (and cocowhats) trying to puzzle this thing out and resolve the narrative issues and prejudices and figure out how this place actually works. (Poorly.)

So there’s one more book series, with a co-authors credit between Anne and Todd, next, if we continue. About miners and watch-whers. It looks like it might be shedding some light on a spot that we haven’t seen in focus yet, which always makes me happy, and anticipate another continuity snarl.

If you’re in board with it, we’ll start Dragon’s Kin next week.

Ever The Twain: A Twin Story

Last time, we saw the beginning of what Pern will look like in the immediate aftermath, as the dragons wind down their protective duties (ish) and the wealth gap between the haves and haves-not seeks to widen itself exponentially.

However, we have a short story to go to before we move on. This one was also collected and published in A Gift of Dragons, in this millennium, no less. 2002 is the year in question, and we have twins as protagonists.

Ever the Twain: Content Notes: Faint-shaming

Our story starts with a little self-insert fantasy from Neru, often called Ru, flying with his dragon called Nerith, before being abruptly called back to reality by having someone in his peer group step on his Berserk Button, calling his twin sister, Nian, “Ninny.” Neru threatens Flamel, the responsible party, with “yet another bloody nose”, suggesting this is not the first incidence of this sequence. Flamel is up for some boxing, but one of the other children, Orla, intervenes long enough that the adults arriving on scene dismiss the children as a lot to go to their lessons with the Harper. Who is explicitly tagged as being unhelpful in the matter, having called it “childish bickering” when the last fistfight in the matter erupted in front of him. Typical Harper behavior, given what we’ve seen from inside the Hall.

We get the first taste that these twins might be more than just a pair born together as Nian contemplates the upcoming reality that the twins are going to be separated soon.

Being the more reserved twin, she couldn’t imagine life without her brother at her side, even if she could always sense him. When her parents had moved Neru to a bedroom in the lean-to, she had spent many wakeful nights without his comforting presence beside her, even though she was well aware that boys and girls were always separated when they got to a certain age. But being in totally different places…She gave herself a mental shake. It would do no good to worry now.

Neru’s prospects seem to be an apprenticeship at a Hall somewhere, later suggested that he might be a good fit for the Harpers, while Nian can look forward to being married off to “a farmer on the North Shore.” Nian will later mentally voice her unhappiness at that idea, having met her prospective husband and found him dull. The twins, however, have hatched a plan to see if they can’t Impress a pair of fire-lizards, so they can send messages to each other over the distance and not feel so far apart. Orla gently teases Neru about the possibility of being a dragonrider, and that since there’s a queen egg, it’s possible Nian might manage it, too.

“Who would want a Ninny for a rider?” Nian asked scornfully.
“You shouldn’t call yourself that, Ni,” Ru said with a fierce scowl. “A ninny you’re not. Don’t even think it of yourself.”
Nian glanced gratefully at her brother.
“You can’t let the teasing of a dimwit like Flamel get to you,” Orla said with equal severity. “As we used to say, ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you’.”
Nian gave a snort and wished she could shake off such jibes as easily, but she didn’t have that kind of confidence. No one ever teased Orla. Orla was self-assured and pretty, with very curly black hair that framed her oval face. Her nose was straight and small, her mouth wide and friendly. Orla had all the feminine qualities that Nian did not see in herself. She didn’t consider herself even marginally attractive.

I’m guessing this is at least set somewhere in the AIVAS, if not post-AIVAS period, mostly so that I don’t have to wonder, yet again, how ancient-even-for-colonists phrases and words managed to survive the future, and also this long on Pern. If the computer exists or existed, I can handwave it as old slang becoming fashionable again with the youngsters.

More importantly, though, I can’t say I’m at all pleased with the way that nobody is taking the problems of the kids seriously, not even the kids themselves. Names do hurt, and they can and do affect the way children develop. Children internalize the messages you put in front of them, like “Girls aren’t good at math and science,” or, perhaps as we learned with Piemur’s hazing, “The adults won’t intervene until someone gets seriously hurt.” I suspect Nian might also be internalizing “pretty people don’t get picked on,” which is… maladaptive, to put it nicely.

That said, Nian and Neru, so far, sound like actual children and siblings, and are protective of each other, even if nobody else is going to be. So when Flamel lays into Neru again about his obsession with becoming a dragonrider, Nian tries to defend him, although Flamel doesn’t treat her as a serious threat. He does treat Orla’s threat to reveal that he picks on them because he has a crush on Nian seriously, and beats a hasty retreat before it can actually be said aloud. “I pick on you because I like you” is another trope of childhood I despise, but thankfully this is the only time it gets used.

As the kids head in for their lessons, we find out that not only is Orla pretty, she’s a fairly skilled weaver and appears to be the only child that might be considered for an Artist’s Hall, which we haven’t seen exist since Hall Domaize all the way back in time. Apparently they survived? Or maybe were revived in the AIVAS times? But now Orla’s starting to look like a perfect person, which might set some teeth on edge if she weren’t a secondary character.

Before the lessons can get started, though, there’s a wild clamor that dragons have come on Search to Lado Hold, and so the children are lined up as prospective candidates for the blue and green riders to examine. There’s one man (R’ditk) on the blue and two women (Sarty and Conna) on the greens, further confusing the time this story takes place, but suggesting it’s at least past the point where Mirrim has impressed Path, or it’s on the revised timeline where there have always been green women riders and nobody actually noticed until it was pointed out.

In either case, there’s a good crop from Lado Hold – Orla and Chaum are picked up straight out, and while everyone hopes that both twins are selected, the initial foray looks like Nian will go and Neru won’t. This distresses Nian, because if that holds she’ll “have deserted him [Neru] and stolen his dream all in the same moment.” Nian is not having that.

Her change of opinion is enough that Oswith calls Conna in for a consultation.

She is very strong! Oswith told her rider. I can hear her, Conna. But she will not go without him.
Remaining at Oswith’s side, Conna looked at the twins.
“What is your name?” she asked Nian.
“Neru and Nian,” the twins chorused in unison.
[…Neru goes through the same despair Nian did…]
“Have you ever been separated from each other?” Sarty asked, startling everyone.
“No, rider Sarty,” Neru replied.
“We’re just better together at everything,” Nian added stoutly.

The riders point out that the dragons have only really been interested in Nian, distressing Palla, the twins’ mother. The riders also say that it’s customary to ask the Lord and at least one parent for permission to take the children on Search, which I don’t remember being part of the process at all. There were some mentions of people who had been held back from it, but that sounded more like Lords or parents who were adamant their child had other plans, rather than denying a request made in the first place.

Seeing the possibility that they might be separated and Neru’s dream crushed, Nian comes up with a gem of an Indy Ploy to postpone the separation and asks if Neru can accompany her as family to the hatching, since it’s unlikely anyone else from Lado Hold will make it.

Conna paused a moment and looked at her dragon, lost in a telepathic conversation.
The boy is strong but his twin shields him from me, Oswith said to her rider. I cannot see his potential clearly. Perhaps he should come along as a candidate, too.
“Oswith is undecided about Neru as a candidate, but we will bring him with us regardless,” Conna said finally. Both twins let out their breath in a rush. “Never fear, Nian, your brother will remain with you until the Hatching. There is, however, no guarantee that any of those selected on Search will Impress; the hatchlings make that decision.”

And since we have yet to have a story where a viewpoint character actually failed to get a dragon, we still don’t know what happens if they don’t actually Impress.

Also, Oswith had mentioned not a few paragraphs earlier that Nian wasn’t going to come without Neru. Oswith was very certain about Nian’s potential. Yet that same potential is interfering with Oswith evaluating Neru. I’m a bit surprised that nobody went, “Well, shoot, this one has to come with us with that kind of potential, so we should totally go along with this idea she’s floating.” Oswith and Conna seem much more ambivalent about the whole matter than I would have expected, since they discovered such a strong potential in Nian.

There is a flurry of packing and goodbyes, and we find that Nian is still firmly in the camp of “Neru has to become a dragonrider,” even if she’s less certain about her own prospects. When they arrive as candidates at the Weyr, as part of the tour and explanation, there’s something that makes me wonder if becoming a rider, or even getting Searched for it, is something that people aspire to for mundane reasons as well as religious and majestic ones:

“There’s always something to eat for hungry riders. We keep klah, soup, and porridge warm all day and all night.” She pointed to a hearth at the far end of the cavern where, indeed, pots sat at the back, keeping warm. “And fresh bread when it’s ready.”
Ru grinned at his sister. He was always hungry, now that he was growing tall and filling out his bones. Pretty soon he’d be taller than Nian.

Coming from a place where a bad harvest or a bad catch might mean starvation, to be told there was infinite food available might make someone scheme to figure out how to stay at a Weyr even if they never Impressed. Instead, we get a joke about the neverending appetite of teenage boys, and the tour continues, where the candidates get shown where they will be staying while they wait.

She pointed to the curtained passage that led to the baths and necessaries.
“And we expect everyone living in the Weyr to be clean for breakfast and dinner every day.

So not only is there infinite food, but indoor bathing and toiletries. Perhaps a Lord Holder’s child wouldn’t be impressed by this, but there’s a lot more excitedness about choosing one’s alcove than there is at the fact that for at least a little while, all of these people are going to be fed, housed, and can care for themselves with extravagance.

After the tour, and a snack, the Weyrlingmaster, H’ran, introduces himself and runs through how the candidates know if a dragon is theirs, and also many of the common dangers associated with dragonets finding their match. He shows them the barracks, and then the eggs themselves, as several of the unprepared do the “Hatching dance” on the hot sand. They go amongst the eggs, and we’re introduced to Robina, the Masterfarmer’s daughter, who will be taking on the role of the designated stuck up snob, who believes she was promised the queen egg. After the candidates meet the eggs some, H’ran gathers them to help out with necessary chores, like changing the dressings on dragons that were hurt in the most recent Threadfall. The twins get on with C’tic and Brith, helping peel and replace the dressings on the dragon with speed and a good touch.

And then someone faints, and we are reminded that dragonriders are not good people.

To one side of the infirmary, one of the other riders exclaimed in dismay, “Shards. We’ve got another fainter. Someone get me a cold compress while I brush the sand off her; she certainly hit the dirt with a bang!”
Neru peered around those gathered to assist the fainter and he chuckled. “It’s the girl in blue, Ni,” he said with a little smirk. “The one who fancied your egg.”
“There’s usually one who’s not good with wounds,” C’tic said. “Has someone brought the restorative? That one will make a fine rider!” His tone was sarcastic.
“You’d think she’d be used to injured animals, being the Masterfarmer’s daughter,” Nian murmured to her brother.
“Now, she can’t help the way she is,” Neru said with considerably more charity than his sister expressed, “even if she was promised the gold.”
“I’d pity the gold,” Nian replied.

The author really has a problem with women who exist outside a fairly narrow band of possible personalities. And tends to use other women to deride them, so as to set up minimum solidarity between the women against their hostile world.

Neru is also right – some people faint at the sight of blood, and perhaps Robina’s dragon is much more messed up than Brith. But given that the narrative already shamed a queen rider for vertigo and for getting fat, it’s at least consistent in being terrible about possible queen rider ailments.

Brith also gives the twins a thrill by responding directly to them when Neru asks a question. Neru thinks it might be a sign of legitimacy, and Nian lets on again that the twins might share a telepathic bond of their own.

“And you can always hear them?” Nian asked. “I can usually hear my twin brother–especially if he’s in trouble.”
“Ah, I thought you two looked alike.”
“Oh, we’re not completely alike,” Nian said. “Neru’s much stronger and smarter. He’ll make a splendid dragonrider.”
“You both will,” C’tic surprised her by saying.
“How do you know that?”
“My dragon told me so,” C’tic said, and his smile was kind, not teasing.

After finishing the changing of bandages, the twins all of they can help again. Brith takes the opportunity to suggest that Nian might find a good career as a dragon healer. Nian is surprised by the suggestion, but the dinner bell rings before there’s any explanation on why Nian is startled.

We also finally get an acknowledgement of how different the situation at the Weyr is compared to Lado Hold.

“Hey, this is great food,” Neru said after he took his first heaping forkful.
“It’s meat, you mean,” Nian said, teasing her brother.
“Makes a great change from all that fish,” Neru replied, selecting yet another slice from the platter in the center of the table.
“Just don’t make a pig of yourself here,” she added in a low tone so no one else would hear her. “We’ve never gone hungry, you know, and we must uphold the honor of Lado Hold.”
“Humph,” Neru grunted and gestured around the table where the other candidates were equally as diligent in reducing the contents of the various serving dishes. “Tell that to the others.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Nian said with great dignity.

Yes, this is worth mentioning – I’d bet most of the candidates have had to deal with scarcity and hunger, and I’d bet almost all of them have not had meat except for very special occasions. Because herdbeasts and milchbeasts are extremely resource-intensive, and if nobody can put a sharp stone, stick, or arrowhead through the brain of a wherry at distance, it’s grains, roots, crops, maybe fruit, and maybe fish for your diet. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the candidates have an adverse reaction to having that much meat in a single meal to process, because their bodies have not gotten used to it from having a meat-rich diet.

Nian also acknowledges the oddity of having a Harper/singer in the Weyr playing regularly, since the Hold Harper only performs intermittently and it’s a special occasion when he does.

And they both grin at the perpetual availability of hot water as they decide they want a bath before others think about it when dismissed for the night. I think they’re at least peripherally aware that Weyr life is several steps up from Hold life, but they’re not acting like they’ve been transported up to a standard of living that would be nearly inconceivable.

Nian’s bath and shampoo brings back a memory of asking why her mother married, if she doesn’t like fish, which nets a very practical answer: they loved each other, the husband had land, even if she didn’t know it was going to smell of fish, and he could provide food for everyone, even if it is just fish for dinner (although he also apparently spends significantly to put some beef on the table on occasion). Nian could look forward to some or none of those things in her arranged marriage.

Robina interrupts the memories by angrily demanding when Nian’s going to be done, since she was first in, and then insults her as a “…twinling from a fish hold. I suppose it’s as well if we let you get really clean.” Which provokes Nian to point out that Robina must really need to clean all the sand out of her hair (from fainting), and then Orla tells Robina to stop nagging, and Robina stomps off, which conveniently (but not intentionally) gives Nian the opportunity to give her bathroom to one of the other girls waiting, which sets Robina off even more, but Nian is moving away from that space and can’t hear any more of it.

After a bit to herself, Orla asks to come in and talk with Nian. They start with Robina. Orla focuses on how she’s never seen a Master’s daughter be so arrogant. Nian focuses on how pretty she is in a single line before talking about how she fainted and how that has to count against her. Then they both admit that the wounds they saw on the dragons were “stomach-churning”.

Cocowhat by depizan

I guess I’m unreasonable in expecting that might elicit sympathy instead of scorn, like it did for Debera when the boys were confronted with the reality of having to carve their own dragon food.

The conversation between Orla and Nian ends with Orla desperately wishing for Nian’s straight hair (which makes me immediately want to picture Orla as Black in a world without proper hair care products) and Nian saying she wouldn’t want straight hair if she had it.

Since the hatching starts next, we’ll take a break and pick back up next week.