Tag Archives: Val Con yos’Phelium’s Middle River blade

Alliance of Equals – Chapter 11

Dutiful Passage

In which you wait ages for one, then two show up at once.

It’s still not clear what manner of person Stew’s expert is; a courier ship registered out of Waymart could be just about anybody. It may imply something that Stew doesn’t recognise the name straight off; that suggests he asked for an expert from someone he knew could provide one, but that he didn’t contact the expert directly.

The name of the expert’s ship, for what it may be worth, seems to have a Biblical derivation: Ahab was a famously wicked king, and Esaias is an alternate transliteration of the prophet who is usually rendered in English as Isaiah. (Which makes an interesting juxtaposition, if that’s what the referents are.) These days the name Ahab is more familiar as the name of the obsessive hunter in Moby-Dick, which strikes me as a bit ominous.

It’ll be interesting to see how the metaphor of Padi as the bowl develops. It occurs to me that the idea of weapons and art coming together in harmony is also applicable to her father, who’s been struggling with that himself at least since his visit to Weapons Hall. (It also occurs to me, on a more mundane note, to wonder if Shan ever did find out how the potter planned to deal with bulk orders.)

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 40

Sherman’s Shootout
Expert Round

In which the people make their feelings known.

Nelirikk has a new surname: nor’Phelium. I wonder whose idea that was, and what it signifies. I tried to see what could be gleaned from seeing who else has had a surname with the nor’ prefix, but there hasn’t been anyone – which might be significant in itself.

I like the bit about Nelirikk feeling under-equipped with only four handguns, six knives, explosives, arm-chains, and zhang-wire. (We’ve seen zhang-wire before, only romanised slightly differently: “jang-wire” was the name of the weapon Sed Ric the pirate carried for self-defence in Scout’s Progress.)

I was surprised to see Yulie. Makes sense a man with his shooting ability might want to come along to an event like this – but this is Yulie, who doesn’t do well with strangers and has been actively avoiding the city for as long as we’ve known him and longer. That he’s in the city now, having trusted somebody else to watch his farm and his cats (a Scout, he says, perhaps Tan Ort?) says a lot about how much he’s benefited from the changes on Surebleak.

For the final chapter of the book, we return to the main theme. Pat Rin’s making a deliberate point by standing unarmed in the middle of the argument: he could have shot quite a few people if he’d wanted to, but he wants people to understand that his leadership isn’t just about who can shoot who the fastest.

I may have got a bit sniffly at the bit about the people opening the road that they own.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 22

Boss Nova’s House
Blair Road

In which there is a nice dinner followed by serious conversation.

I find it interesting that Kezzi’s triumph at school is reported by Syl Vor, and vice versa.

The phrase “something so trivial as an apparent breach of contract” has an edge to it, coming after Val Con’s lecture on the importance to Liadens of the making and keeping of contracts. One might suppose that in the general way, the Liaden attitude about self-reliance being what it is, a breach of contract would be resolved between the parties to the contract without bringing in any outsiders, so a breach of contract wouldn’t normally be taken to the Council of Clans unless it developed into a major situation. This is not the general case, however – for one thing, the Council of Clans is one of the parties to the contract in question.

The mention of Quin in this context makes me belatedly wonder whether his current project – which is, you will recall, to gain piloting experience by flying off somewhere for several weeks – was already planned, or if it was invented as a way to keep him out of reach of any more Balance-seekers while his family determined whether any more are to be expected.

Val Con’s aunt Mizel would be his mother’s sister Sinit, who was appointed Nadelm Mizel in Mouse and Dragon and presumably has succeeded to the Delm by now. (She also formed an alliance with yo’Lanna in that book, so that mention is another pointer.) Seeing her mentioned now as still in contact with Korval, with Aelliana’s return in prospect, makes me wonder how she is going to react to having her sister come back from the dead.

Prodigal Son

In which Scout Commander yos’Phelium returns to the scene of the crime.

I haven’t read this story since a while before the first time I read Ghost Ship, and there’s quite a bit more to it than I remembered. I remembered the mirrored scenes with Miri at the beginning and end, and I remembered everything that happened at the Explorers Club, but the entire middle section I’d completely forgotten about. It’s a much better story with the middle in.

(I recognised the bits with Nelirikk that were included in Ghost Ship, of course, because I’ve just finished reading that, but I remember thinking both times I read Ghost Ship that those must have been new additions to the course of events.)

Speaking of the mirrored sections at the beginning and end, I noticed on this re-read that the opening scene is also reflected in the middle, with Hakan and Kem taking the places of Val Con and Miri, and the place of the rocking chair being taken by a different rocking chair.

I Dare – Chapter 55


In which the Captain acts for the safety of the passengers.

The mode of Ultimate Authority, which is referred to twice in this chapter, has, perhaps unsurprisingly, not come up much before: three times in the series up to this point. Priscilla adopts it briefly when putting Sav Rid Olanek in his place at the end of Conflict of Honors; Commander of Agents is said in Carpe Diem to use it when dealing with his underlings; and Val Con, greeting the Tree in Plan B, places the Tree in the position of ultimate authority.

The fact that it’s used twice in this chapter, and by whom, is the central conflict in a nutshell: the first is Commander of Agents again, and the second is Miri when she takes on the melant’i of Liad’s Captain. And I think it says something that, whereas Miri adopts the mode temporarily and in a situation where she is in fact the duly-appointed ultimate authority until the emergency is resolved, the Commander is not only self-appointed but apparently expects to be regarded as the ultimate authority all the time.

There’s a leap near the end of the chapter that I’ve never been able to follow. After the doomsday weapons are activated, ter’Fendil says he can deactivate them if Val Con gives him the control device, and Val Con does. Then it cuts to another scene, and when it cuts back everybody’s running for their lives and talking about the urgent need to do something before the weapons break out and start killing everybody. Is there something missing, or is it just me missing something?

I Dare – Chapter 34

Erob’s Clanhouse

In which the woes of Yxtrang have nothing to do with those who serve as soldiers in Jela’s line.

I like that Diglon Rifle does the best at poker, on a table that includes two Explorers and a Scout: it’s a reminder that just because he’s used to doing what he’s told doesn’t mean he can’t think for himself.

There’s a nice point of view play in this scene: we get a Nelirikk’s-eye view of the terrifying Clutch Turtle, and only later is it mentioned that it’s Sheather, whom Val Con so recently described with some accuracy as “one step from timid”. (Mind you, even though it is timid Sheather, I fully believe that in a situation where his friends were actually threatened by Yxtrang he’d be capable of everything Nelirikk fears of him.)

And now Nelirikk and the new recruits are going to be, I expect, the first Yxtrang ever to set foot on Liad – except of course that the whole point of this chapter is that they’re not Yxtrang.

Plan B – Chapter 15

Erob’s Hold
Freeze-Dry Prison

In which the Lytaxin Combined Forces gain a new recruit.

Val Con reporting Nelirikk as an example of a “potentially sapient race” is one of my favourite moments in a chapter with many excellent moments.

Incidentally, Val Con’s account of their first meeting confirms that he held the rank of captain before being promoted to commander, though that still seems to me backward from the way I’m used to seeing ranks work. Come to think of it, the same thing is visible this chapter with the mercs — Commander Carmody outranks Captain Robertson — but I don’t think I ever paid that much attention before because I figured a merc unit might use whatever ranks it likes, and it makes sense for Suzuki and Jase to be the Commanders when they’re the ones in command of the unit. For that matter, it’s been mentioned in the past that the individual in command of the Scouts is the Scout Commander, which is presumably different from being a scout with the rank of Commander. At this point, I’m about ready to just throw up my hands and go on to a less confusing subject.

The name of Nelirikk’s “toy”, the Shibjela, calls back (or forward, if one is reading in publication order) to a weapon called a “shib” that Jela carries in Crystal Soldier. The two weapons don’t actually seem very similar beyond being worn, contrary to their names, concealed in the belt; Jela’s shib is described as more like a whip, with a flexible ceramic cutting edge that can slice through bone. Perhaps it was the product of old technology since lost, or perhaps what was lost was a detailed description of what it actually was, and either way the Shibjela is somebody’s best attempt to recontruct it with the knowledge and technology available.

I did wonder briefly if the medic named Chen, who comes to attend to Nelirikk at the end of this chapter, was the same person as “Doc Tien”, who saw to him when he was first brought in, give or take someone’s attempt to pronounce a name from an unfamiliar culture. But Chen is male and Tien was female, so that’s unlikely.

I wonder what it says about the Yxtrang worldview that they have one God of Quartermasters but multiple Gods of Irony.

Carpe Diem – Chapter 68


In which Val Con meets Tyl Von sig’Alda, Clan Rugare.

Given that it’s been suggested that Cloud targets the user’s most traumatic memories, it’s interesting that its effect on Tyl Von sig’Alda seems to have been to make him forget basically everything about being an Agent of Change.

(Also interesting: that although he is confused when Val Con mentions his ship, he doesn’t hesitate when Val Con asks for his first aid kit. Presumably carrying one of those is a basic pilot thing that he was doing even before he fell into the hands of the Department.)

sig’Alda’s recollection of his occupation suggests he’s not a former Scout, unless he left the Scouts for some reason to become a pilot-for-hire. I was going to say that it seems unlikely a Scout would choose such a course, but then I remembered that we know of a Scout who did very nearly that, and choice didn’t come into it: Val Con’s own father was called home from the Scouts to serve the necessity of his Clan, and later became a courier pilot at least partly because it was the closest he could get, while still serving the necessity of his Clan, to being a Scout again. And it could also happen more directly, that a Scout might be called home to serve the Clan’s necessity by being a pilot-for-hire, if the Clan’s necessity were that all its children be supporting it with paid occupations. (I think I’ve just argued myself out of believing that we’ve learned anything definite about whether sig’Alda was a Scout.)

Carpe Diem – Chapter 66


In which Tyl Von sig’Alda is a man with a plan.

sig’Alda shows a blind spot again: even after he carefully notes the fact that Val Con is heading for Miri’s last known location, it doesn’t occur to him that Miri herself might be the objective. Granted, he doesn’t know that Val Con knows Miri’s location, but then again he doesn’t know he doesn’t, and given how many of his scenarios involve pre-arranged plots against the Department you’d think a simple pre-arranged rendezvous wouldn’t be difficult to consider. But no; sig’Alda can’t imagine Val Con arranging to meet up with Miri, at least not for her own sake, because he can’t imagine wanting to see Miri again.

The Department really does spend a lot of time considering scenarios in which people are plotting against them, it seems. An occupational hazard of spending all one’s time plotting against people, perhaps. It shows up again when sig’Alda, having concluded that Val Con and Miri were deliberately signalling to someone on the radio, decides it was most likely a pre-arranged signal to a co-conspirator. (It’s interesting that he doesn’t consider the possibility that they might have been signalling to him, although to be fair I suppose that would seem less likely after Val Con’s marked lack of enthusiasm when he answered the signal.)

Carpe Diem – Chapter 35

Springbreeze Farm

In which there is war in Bentrill.

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.