This is a chapter where I would probably have had plenty to say on a first reading, but on the re-read it’s mostly “Yes, that’s how I remember it going.”
Val Con’s reached back into his Agent of Change conditioning to gain an advantage in the battle (to ensure Miri’s safety, where he would not have taken such a risk on his own account), and there are already signs that there are going to be consequences.
I wonder when Val Con learned to recognise the Gyrfalks’ battle cry; as far as I recall, nobody had occasion to use it during the very brief period he and Miri were travelling with the Gyrfalks. Maybe Miri’s been using it while they’ve been sparring.
In which Grom Trogar demonstrates the extent of his power.
It is not that Grom Trogar rules unchallenged, but that he has confidence that he can overcome whatever challenges are presented to him. This confidence is presumably based in past experience (I expect gaining and retaining the highest position in the Juntavas would have involved many challenges), but it seems to have led to him becoming incautious.
And so he puts himself in a position where his limits are discovered — very publicly, in front of delegates, security guards, unit managers, and all. None of whom, I notice, seem to be at all eager to avenge his death. Somebody who approaches challenges the way he does probably wasn’t winning any popularity contests; there are likely to be people in the crowd who are glad to see him go. The others might not be confident that they can take the Turtles even through superior numbers — or, if they think they have a chance there, perhaps they’ve asked themselves a question that doesn’t seem to have even occurred to Grom Trogar: If we do kill these two, who’s going to come and ask what happened to them?
That’s a beautiful detail about Edger and Sheather taking the time to ensure nobody might injure themselves by tripping over the lump of wall they removed.
Things are heating up, with two hazardous situations developing in parallel. Although I don’t think they’re actually occurring simultaneously; I have a feeling the Edger subplot might be getting stretched out through the book instead of occurring at a consistent pace.
The radio news report Miri doesn’t listen to is presumably connected to the Bassilan rebels that were mentioned in passing the first time Zhena Trelu took Val Con and Miri in to Gylles.
In which Grom Trogar has found no cause to change his decision.
Grom Trogar claims at the beginning of this chapter that he regrets most deeply that he has found no cause to change his approach. He’s lying, but chances are he’s really going to regret it before long.
And frankly he can’t have been looking very hard: Justin Hostro found plenty of cause, and he only got given an hour to look for it.
Come to think of it, it’s interesting that Trogar got five days to consider, when Hostro only got one hour. Part of it, I expect, is deference to his more exalted station; as the Chairman of the Juntavas entire, his decision needs to weigh the needs of a hundred worlds instead of just one. And the situation is somewhat less urgent this time, with Miri and Val Con no longer in imminent danger of attack from the Juntavas.
I kind of wonder, though, if part of it is that Trogar did such a good job of offending Edger in their first meeting that Edger decided he needed five days to cool off, or else he might do something rash.
First-In Scout Shadia Ne’Zame is a new character, though we’ve met at least one member of her family before. Clonak ter’Meulen is an old character whom I’m very pleased to be re-acquainted with. (At least, he is in chronological order. I believe this is his first published appearance, though Val Con mentioned him a few chapters ago.)
This is a difficult chapter to say anything about, partly because it’s so short and partly because the things I do want to say — regarding Auxiliary Headquarters and the fact that the garbage run, these days, is not so boring as Scout Ne’Zame believes — come from remembering things from earlier readings that we haven’t got up to yet in this re-read.
I do wonder how Shadia and Clonak came to be such close friends as their banter suggests. It’s made clear that they’re quite different in age, so it’s unlikely that they were anything so obvious as classmates at the Academy.
In which Edger and Sheather meet the Chairman of the Juntavas.
Here’s one indication that Trogar is lying to Edger: he says that Hostro has reported nothing about what happened on Lufkit, beyond the bare fact that he had Miri and then he didn’t — but he knows, without either of the Turtles mentioning it, about Costello threatening Watcher. (Or perhaps they did mention it, before the scene started, when they were explaining how they came to be standing in his office. What do you think?)
That’s an interesting bit of symbolism, the way Edger’s demonstration reduces most of the Juntavas-controlled worlds on the map to rubble — and the more so for the fact that it was just an incidental effect of Edger’s main intention.
Val Con mentions that Korval has been led by “thirty-one generations of yos’Pheliums”. If we assume a round figure of a thousand years since the founding of the Clan, that gives an average spacing of 30-35 years between generations, which is not unreasonable and accords with the information we have about the ages at which various yos’Pheliums have become parents.
It does, however, contrast interestingly with the information established elsewhere that the number of actual Delms to date has been 85. That works out to an average of 2-3 Delms per generation, and each Delm holding the post for an average of slightly over a decade. And we know that there have been stretches where there was only one Delm in each generation, and Delms who have borne the ring for as much as fifty years, so there must also have been periods when the turnover was even more rapid than the average suggests.
The message from Priscilla, with its implication that Korval is enquiring into matters relating to the doings of the Department, leaves Val Con determined that they must do something, and soon. It remains to be seen, however, what can be done.
Priscilla’s witch-sense offers another perspective on what Val Con’s mind has become: a citadel, ringed around with walls and ramparts that might not be passed, and himself a fire hidden deep in its heart.
Which raises the question: Who built the metaphorical citadel? Val Con, attempting to keep the Department from getting in and prevent them gaining control of his deepest self? Or the Department, to prevent him getting out?
Miri is right: Val Con is trying to hide parts of himself from her. We have that not only in this chapter, when he declines to attempt more than the most cursory musical sketch of himself, but in the previous chapter, when his joy at being able to hear her life-song was mixed with hope that she would not be able to hear his. Given the life he was leading before he met Miri, it’s understandable that he might be reluctant to expose her to the details, but it strikes me that lack of communication is not wise in a long-term committed relationship. Even if he doesn’t want to reveal details, it might help to be honest about the fact that he is keeping something hidden, and about why. It may even be that, having been acquainted with the problem, Miri may be able to help him with it, the way he helped her when she was afraid of how he might react to knowing the real her. It’s a thing partners and lifemates do.
When I first read the Liaden novels, I had to stop in the middle of this chapter for several weeks, because my copy of Partners in Necessity had a binding error and contained a repeat of pages 609-656 where pages 657-704 should have been. (When I reported the error to Meisha Merlin, they very kindly sent me a new copy without charge, for which I’m still grateful.) If you happen to know of anyone who owns the copy with the inverse problem, get in touch — maybe we’ll be able to find an eccentric collector who’ll buy the pair of them as a matched set…
Time’s moving strangely again. There’s mention of a tune Hakan was playing on his guitar “three days ago”, which might be on the day Val Con and Miri met him and he persuaded Zhena Trelu to let Val Con use the piano; three days seems a reasonable period for them to find time to line their schedules up so he can come and tune the piano. But Zhena Trelu says it’s been “three weeks” since Miri and Val Con showed up, and the day before they met Hakan Miri said it was “barely a week”. That would suggest that it’s been over a week since they met Hakan, and while that’s possible and it’s also possible that the occasion three days ago was not the first time they heard Hakan playing his guitar, it seems less likely that Hakan would let a whole week go by before seeing to the piano.
In other, less ambiguous, time-related news, it’s three years since Zhena Trelu’s zamir died, which makes this local year 1478. Whatever that might mean in comparison to the Standard Calendar.
The conversation between Miri and Zhena Trelu outside the locked door is another of my favourite moments in this novel.