Tag Archives: skimmer

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 24


In which there are meetings and partings.

I’m still inclined to the idea that Tolly is the specialist Jeeves is sending with Tocohl. Conversely, this implies that Jeeves is the colleague who encouraged Tolly to settle on Surebleak, which raises the interesting question of what enterprise they might have been colleagues in.

I haven’t the faintest idea what High Judge Falish Meron (whose name is given here for the first time) might want with Val Con. Based on past performance, this probably means I haven’t been paying attention and it will be obvious as soon as it’s said.

Smealy’s meeting with Miri is sure to go badly for somebody, but I’m not confident in guessing who. Miri might send him out with his tail between his legs, the way Val Con did, but he’ll be more inclined to fight back this time, because he needs a success to show his colleagues. He might be tempted to do something foolish because Miri is small and female, in which case he’d be making a mistake in underestimating Miri – not just because she’s ex-merc and Korval, but because she grew up on Surebleak, and was pretty tough already before she was either of those other things. I suspect the Syndicate Bosses are similarly underestimating Surebleak’s population in thinking the campaign of examples will make them roll over.

This House

In which Mil Ton Intassi tells a story, and it has an effect.

“This House” is one of a very few Liaden stories that have no connection with Korval and their doings, and few indications of where it fits relative to the other stories. (Though, speaking of relatives, Mil Ton Intassi has the same surname as someone who has appeared in connection with Korval, a fact which went right past me when I read the story in isolation but hit me straight between the eyes as soon as I started reading it this time.) The only time cue is that it must be set some time after “A Day at the Races”, since skimmer racing was a new thing then and is an established thing in “This House”. At that, it’s probably set further after “A Day at the Races” than I’ve placed it, but since it doesn’t connect with any other story, I decided that grouping the skimmer stories together would be more appropriate than being strict about chronology in this case.

The story was originally written for an anthology in which each story was inspired by a song, and is itself inspired by the song “This House” from Janis Ian’s album Breaking Silence. The lyrics of the song are on Janis Ian’s web site, if you’re interested in comparing them. (But watch out; that link goes to a page that autoplays music.)

Tomorrow: Conflict of Honors, picking up from the second chapter. (The first chapter/prologue, we did already, last week.)

Certain Symmetry

In which Pat Rin executes the will of Fal Den ter’Antod.

The other reason I placed “Shadow Partner” before “A Day in the Races” was that I knew this was up next, and it follows on from the end of “A Day at the Races” in a way that I felt would go better without another story intervening.

This is one of my favourite Liaden short stories. It has several shining personalities in it, not least of them Pat Rin himself. I also admit a certain fondness for the sense of humour evinced by the man in the back room, though I’m not keen on the nature of his work.

(A couple of side notes about Pat Rin: First, his field as a gamer is again cards and not dice. Second, there’s a nice though not surprising bit of continuity in the names that appear in Pat Rin’s social circle; in particular, the names of yo’Lanna and bel’Urik, which also appeared in yos’Phelium’s social calendar in the days when Daav was delm.)

This story also has a special place in my regard for another reason: it is the story which brought me to a conscious understanding that Liadens have a number of cultural hang-ups regarding the face, which brought together and shone new light on all the moments in other stories where Liadens were careful not to look another person too long full in the face, or felt distress at meeting someone whose face was distinctly marked (whether by dirt, injury, or deliberate decoration), or sought privacy before wiping a sweaty brow or rubbing a sore nose.

And I recall the sense of epiphany when I realised that this is not just an arbitrary bit of alien culture, but is complemented by the other famous marker of Liaden culture, the use of modes and bows to express thoughts and emotions — or, to put it another way, the fact that in Liaden speech all the messages that a Terran might convey through facial expression are transferred to other parts of the body. Terrans in conversation have to pay close attention to each other’s faces or they’ll miss part of what’s going on; in Liaden culture it’s impolite to pay close attention to another person’s face — and communication has been arranged so that it’s possible to carry out a conversation without doing so.

Tomorrow: “This House”

A Day at the Races

In which Val Con scores a victory over a field of skimmers and an aunt.

Speaking of families of consequence, here is Korval again. Anne and Er Thom have died since we saw them last, and Shan is now First Speaker, holding the clan in trust for when Val Con becomes Delm — though Val Con seems no more eager to do that thing and to give up the Scouts than his father was. (One suspects he’s going to find it harder to put off once the “your father was Delm at your age” card enters play, but he has a few years up his sleeve yet before he reaches that age.) For that matter, Shan is not keen on being First Speaker, and looks forward to being able to hand it off to Nova and head out on the Dutiful Passage. (Presumably there’s an age restriction of some kind, else Nova would be First Speaker already; she’s clearly better suited for it temperamentally.) And in the mean time, Shan races skimmers, and Val Con spends time with bartenders…

This is a case where the right ordering of a story is unclear, not because it’s not certain when it takes place, but because it’s certainly taking place at the same time as another story. I chose to put “Shadow Partner” first, since most of that story takes place before this one begins (and this ends after that does, if only by a paragraph or two), but they would not do badly the other way round.

Tomorrow: “Certain Symmetry”

Shadow Partner

In which business at The Friendly Glass is done properly or not at all.

Some years have passed since “To Cut an Edge”. Val Con is now a full Scout, and a First-In Scout at that. (Our point-of-view character here doesn’t know what that means, but there’s an explanation in Chapter Ten of Scout’s Progress, where it’s mentioned that one of Aelliana’s students achieved that distinction.)

I see that Clarence O’Berin is still in business, which is pretty good going, considering the impression we were given in “The Beggar King” about the expected longevity of a person in his position. I know I read “The Beggar King” before I first read this story, because I did the chapbooks in publication order, but I don’t recall whether I noticed his name there before.

I get the impression that Ceola and Min are the only two members of their family; when one of their relatives is mentioned, it’s in the past tense. That would seem to suggest that Min, as the elder, would be the head of the family, but she doesn’t go any higher up the pole than elder sister, even when she’s trying to convince Ceola to sell the bar, and the right to make it an order for the best good of the family would be an obvious tool to use. Perhaps such things as delms are only for families of consequence, and not for families that are reduced to two people living over a bar in the lower Mid-Port.

Tomorrow: “A Day at the Races”