Thendara House is the second book in the Renunciate sequence of the Darkover series. Darkover is a very big paracosm with often-conflicting plots and world building. Feminist issues often come up in this series, given that the Darkovan cultures are strongly patriarchal and women–except for the Renunciates–are considered second-class citizens. Renunciates or “Free Amazons” enjoy greater freedom and exemption from the various restrictions and laws that keep Darkovan women second-class and entirely reliant on their male family members. I’m leaving out the Social Darwinism and the eugenic/ablelist stuff because that needs an article all its own.
MAGDA: I, Magda Lorne, will provide you exposition while I wait to turn in my resignation. I am a Terran woman of two worlds, who grew up in Caer Donn–my notions of honor align more closely with the Darkovan culture. I pretended to be a member of the “Free Amazons” in order to move about freely so I could rescue my ex. Needless to say, I got caught. Now I’m going to be joining the Renunciates and my gal pal Jaelle, who has married my slightly misogynistic ex Peter is going to be working at the Terran HQ.
CHOYLANA ARES: Hi! I’m your boss, and you’re not resigning–we’d like to learn more about these Darkovans! Terran Society is Multicultural, while also being very condescending!
MAGDA: I will not spy for the Terranen!! Er, I mean, I feel that this would be a conflict of interests.
CHOYLANA: I will continue to be condescending and insist! I will play upon your conflicted sense of loyalty and talk about understanding differences! And it’s not like I can go out there! Darkover is the world of pasty white folks.
MAGDA: *Goes to the Guild House*
*Meanwhile, JAELLE, more or less happily married has to put up with a lot of annoyance and a new husband who is kind of clueless and stepping on every trigger she owns. Hey PETE? YOUR WIFE HAS SEVERE PTSD DUE TO ABUSE AND WATCHING HER MOTHER DIE, BUY A FRACKING CLUE. The boding, it is fored.*
JAELLE: *Is not settling in very well.*
TERRAN ENCLAVE: *Is extremely stupid and refusing to acknowledge her customs and culture.*
JAELLE: Um. The machine is not recognizing me when I put my ID card into the slot.
TERRAN PERSON: Oh, you have to say your name right. Say, “Mrs. Haldane, Peter,”
JAELLE: Um, my name is JAELLE N’HA MELORA, you see, Renunciates don’t–
TERRAN PERSON: *Speaking slowly.* “MRS. HALDANE, PETER.”
JAELLE: *TWITCH.* My name is JAELLE N’HA MELORA!
READER: Um, didn’t the “Mrs. husband’s first name, husbands last name” format go completely out of fashion from the sixties or so onward?
TERRANS: *Also have the stupidest security system ever because they ignore people wearing the correct uniform, but go off if you’re not wearing the uniform. Also, they’re annoying as heck.*
JAELLE: *MORE TWITCHING AT THE STUPID* Argh, I don’t even–what is with these people?!
TERRANS: *Are oblivious to the stress they are causing! Insist on talking to her as if she’s the stereotypical native who is afraid of the medical equipment stealing her soul!*
JAELLE: *TWITCH**Later, JAELLE meets up with her brand new husband who is an ass and scolds her during dinner for not wearing the uniform, which she doesn’t like because it’s uncomfortable and immodest. Of course, her discomfort isn’t important because It’s All About Him. This does not go over very well. THE BODING IS FORED.*
READER: Aaand, now you know why Magda divorced his ass: he is a twit.
CHOYLANA: Hi! Mind if I sit here so I can recruit you?!
JAELLE: *Has never seen a dark skinned person!* Sure, I don’t want to talk to my asshole husband right now anyway!
CHOYLANA: *Is friendly and sympathetic and actually less of a twit to JAELLE than she is to MAGDA! Or more likely, JAELLE responds to her the way she would to an Older (female) Authority Figure.*
PETER: *is being a dick because he thinks CHOYLANA stole the job that wasn’t actually his to begin with.*
JAELLE: *is picking up on his thoughts, and is now TWITCHY because her laran (telepathy) doesn’t surface that often.*
*Meanwhile MAGDA is learning about the Renunciates! She is also being treated like a slightly stupid person, and pretty much feels like a stupid person because she can’t cook, or sew, or take care of her own horse and has very few useful skills except those from having been in Terran Intelligence (which is often an oxymoron anyway). In addition, a battered woman seeking protection from her abusive husband turns up, which causes a great deal of excitement.*
MAGDA: *Has never heard of domestic violence* What happened to cause those injuries?
CAMILLA: *Helping the abused woman, and has close personal experience with having been abused.* She was beaten up–I have scars like these as well.
JAELLE’S PTSD: *HI JAELLE! LET’S HAVE A TRAUMATIC NIGHTMARE ABOUT YOUR MOTHER’S DEATH WHILE YOU WERE ESCAPING FROM THE DRYTOWNS.*
PETER HALDANE: Honey, it’s okay, you’re all right–
JAELLE: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA COUSIN KYRIL!!
PETER HALDANE: Um, no. Count the fingers. See? Five, not six. PETER, not Chester the Molester Cousin KYRIL.
READER: *Harbors deep dislike for most of JAELLE’S family. Feels slightly less like kicking PETER’S ass.*
CHOYLANA: Wants to learn more about Darkovan culture!
JAELLE: Asks that she be called by her right name, and not by her husband’s name. Also mentions that some Renunciates have worked as day labor for the Terrans.
CHOYLANA: Um. No female names are listed.
JAELLE: They were emmasca and would have used male names.
JAELLE: *Explains about emmasca who are women (or men) who are either naturally not quite male or female (due to being part chieri) or who have had a partial sex-change operation, or who have been castrated.*
TERRANS: *DEEPLY TRANSPHOBIC AND HOMOPHOBIC OMG.* Bzuh-whut.
*More shenanigans as CHOYLANA sticks her foot in her mouth up to her knee and triggers JAELLE’S extreme PTSD for the Dry Towns where she grew up. CHOYLANA manages to calm JAELLE down and learns that not all Renunciates are mercenaries, and many of them have quite ordinary professions!*
WADE: Hi, HALDANE’S SQUEEZE I need your help getting this spy guy to pass as Darkovan!
JAELLE: ...Die in a fire Terranen I am not anyone’s “squeeze!” *gives advice.*
ALESSANDRO LI: *IS DEEPLY SUSPICIOUS CHARACTER.*
MAGDA: *Is not adjusting very well! And also, thinks she might be gay.*
RENUNCIATES: *Are not adjusting very well to MAGDA, especially RAFAELA who is frankly, a bitch.*
MAGDA: *Is having culture shock.*
RAFAELA: *is a bitch!*
WADE THE BOSS-MAN’S SON: *Turns up and is a dick.*
MAGDA: *Is this close to laying a smack down on someone.*
*Stupid Ex-Husband comes back with HIRED THUGS to beat up all the evil Renunciates who are protecting his wife KEITHA from being beaten up by his skuzzy self.*
MAGDA: *Lays smack down, forgetting little things like IF SOMEONE SURRENDERS YOU ACCEPT THEIR SURRENDER*
HIRED THUG: Bzuh-what?
RENUNCIATES: *Are really pissed at Magda because this is an expensive problem*
MAGDA: Meep. Sorry?
RENUNCIATES: And she won’t even apologize!!
MAGDA: I said I was sorry!!
RENUNCIATES: We are deeply offended that she won’t apologize!
JAELLE: *comes for a visit and pitches a fit on MAGDA’S behalf.*
RENUNCIATES: *Blah blah meangirls blah*
JAELLE: *Deeply pissed off!*
RENUNCIATE: *A meeting is held and the Free Amazons decide they won’t vote MAGDA off the FEMINIST RAFT.*
*Meanwhile, JAELLE’S LARAN would like to have a talk with her.*
JAELLE’S LARAN: HI. WHY DON’T I COMPLICATE YOUR LIFE STILL FURTHER? *TELEPATHY! PSYCHOMETRY! WEIRD OUT OF BODY STUFF!*
RABBIT: *is ded*
JAELLE’S LARAN: BWAH-AHAHAHAHA. LET’S TAKE MAGDA ALONG FOR THE RIDE THROUGH THE OVERWORLD.
FORBIDDEN TOWER: *sigh* Shoo, go home.
*Then back to TERRAN HQ.*
PETER: *is a dick*
VARIOUS OFFICIAL TYPES: We’re going to make rude and stupid comments because the Darkovans are willing to help recover a downed plane in exchange for monies which is rude because it’s our plane!
PETER AND WADE: Um, no. POLITE IS GOOD.
VARIOUS: Why should we have to be polite. *grumble grumble* Stupid neo-barb nobles!
EVERYONE+JAELLE: *Of to see the wizards COMYN*
GUARDS: Hi, let us show you where to go and keep you out of trouble.
JAELLE’S AUNT ROHANA: JAELLE! Sweetie! *hugs*
JAELLE: I’m distantly related to the COMYN, but really I’m not important at all you see. I AM ONLY A RENUNCIATE NOT A COMYN.
ROHANA: I need to talk to you dear! *Drags her off for a private talk* Sweetie, your uncle is dead and KYRIL is in charge of the Domain now but what I really want to talk to you about is why I want to ruin and complicate your life! Let me give you a lot of exposition and give a crack brained idiotic theory about what happened to someone you coincidentally are friends with.
READER: I swear to Avarra, EVERYONE on Darkover is related to each other, and they ALL REALLY DO KNOW EACHOTHER.
ROHANA: Honey, the only reason we let you play at being a Free Amazon is because we had plenty of heirs for the Aillard domain, and you didn’t have laran at the time, but now we don’t and you do. We don’t want the female line to die out, so…
ROHANA: Yes dear, but it’s not all bad!
JAELLE: Yes, yes it is.
*Back at the Renunciate GuildHouse, MAGDA is bored out of her skull.*
CAMILLA: Hi MAGDA, Hi KEITHA, we’re going to be volunteering to stop a forest fire, wanna come with?
CAMILLA: Remember, don’t talk to strange men and remember the buddy system. *Is allowed to chat guys up.*
KEITHA: Why is she allowed to talk to them like that.
READER: Because she’s older and has more experience interacting with men as an equal and you’re still a n00b.
*MAGDA is on the fire lines, KEITHA’S in the back up position with the women who are total bitches and hate Renunciates. There is some comparison that guys are actually in some ways less hostile toward Renunciates as long as the Renunciates make it clear the guy is not going to get any. Women seem to have an innate feeling of resentment and rivalry.*
DOM DAMON: Hey, kid, I need you to send a message to DOM ANN’DRA who is totally not former Terran Op ANDREW CARR.
MAGDA: *straightens* Right away vai dom! *runs off risking life and limb.*
DOM ANN’DRA: *Is swearing in Terran, but covers quickly.* Hey kid–
MAGDA: *delivers the message*
FOREST FIRE: OMNOMNOMNOM
DOM ANN’DRA: *Grabs MAGDA, who despite best efforts gets her boots burnt off.* OMG I’M SO SORRY I DIDN’T REALIZE YOU WERE A GIRL!! *And in Intelligence or something, what the heck are you doing here impersonating a Renunciate?!
FERRIKA THE HEALER WHO IS ALSO A RENUNCIATE: ANN’DRA! You are such a dork. And yes, she’s a Renunciate. *eyeroll* Here, let me take care of her. Shoo.
*MAGDA gets bandaged up and various people decide to help her and her feet. MAGDA also gets a trippy dream where she is helping the Comyn leroni bring the rain. Said rainmaking is something which is greeted with mixed disapproval by the commoners who would like their god-descended rulers to MYOB, thanks.*
EXPOSITION PROVIDING WOMAN: They are from the Forbidden Tower and are always mucking around doing unnatural things like–like helping people with their magical laran. Why, they’re even teaching commoners how to use it. They’re even more unnatural than you horrible disgusting Free Amazons!!
*At the same time, various Terrans are also trying to participate, under disguise.JAELLE wants to see if MAGDA is there, but gets told to go home it’s dangerous for her in her “condition.”
MAGDA meanwhile realizes that CAMILLA is totally awesome.
Later there is a Festival and the Terrans are invited up to the castle where they are all bunched up and being incredible twits. One of them wants to call out ANN’DRA LANART and force him to “regularize” his status since he is really ANDREW CARR. MAGDA manages to temporarily talk the idiot out of doing something so stupid. She meets up with JAELLE and they talk a bit, then MAGDA very politely makes brief social contact, which unfortunately causes the Idiot Boss to try confronting ANDREW. MAGDA does the I Resign Boogie, which no one wants to accept because she’s the only one there with half a brain. There is a huge blow up that eventually results in the Final Break between JAELLE and PETER.*
MAGDA: *Yay, more partying with my fellow Renunciates! And CAMILLA!*
PETER: *Drunk and stupid* MAARRRGAAAALLIIII JAELLE’S MEAN! MAKE HER SEE REASON!!
MAGDA: WTF? No.
PETER: But, but, nothing is going the way I want it toooo!
RANDOM DRUNK MENSCH: Aw dude, no. Leave those girls alone, come party with us over here…
CAMILLA: *Sweeps MAGDA off her feet.*
MAGDA: *Feels vaguely guilty for sending mixed signals*
MAGDA’S MEANINGFUL DREAM: Hi, so I hear you’re feeling conflicted and your worried about JAELLE. Here, have some weird symbolic stuff involving you and your sexual identity as a lesbian woman!
RENUNCIATE: HEY MARGALI, Some weird dark skinned woman wants to talk to you!
CHOYLANA: Hi, I didn’t realize it was still a holiday, can we talk about all kinds of stuff? And can I push my agenda where YOU DON’T RESIGN because really, you are way too talented and if you resigned I’d be surrounded by idiots?
MAGDA: You make the offer sound so tempting. Don’t eat the eggs, everything else should be safe for your religious views.
CHOYLANA: You are so kind, let’s talk about cultural differences!
MAGDA’S LARAN: HI HOW ARE YOU, WHY DON’T I MAKE YOUR LIFE MISERABLE–OH, AND ALSO, YOU CAN HAVE CAMILLA’S EMOTIONAL ANGUISH AND ABANDONMENT ISSUES.
RAFAELA: *is hungover*…Go rest, it looks like YOU’RE the one with a hangover.
CAMILLA’S LARAN: HIYA CAMI, I BROUGHT A FRIEND!
CAMILLA’S PTSD: MWAH-HAHAHAHAHA!
MAGDA: *To the Rescue!* CAMILLA!
CAMILLA: *When she’s a little more sane.*…Jaelle has the Ardais gift of catalytic telepathy, which is why our laran is activating.
PREMONITION OF DOOM: Hi, JAELLE’S gone after ALESSANDRO, who is a moron. Sadly, JAELLE is also stupid.
MAGDA: ARGH FML.
CAMILLA: Go find her, I’ll talk to the Guild House mother.
JAELLE: *Is having a CRAPPY day and is pissed off at her husband who is a TOTAL BASTARD. Why hadn’t she seen that? ARGH.*
READER: Um, because you were in a tight space at the time and the honeymoon period is over?
JAELLE: *Continues having a crappy day, and sees Peter.* I want a divorce.
PETER: Baby, no–I’m sorry for being a dick.
JAELLE: No, really, I’m divorcing you.
PETER: Please, baby, everyone’s staring.
JAELLE: The only thing you care about is what other people think. Except when it’s me. I’M DIVORCING YOU.
TERRANS: Mr and Mrs. Haldane, we need to talk to you.
ROHANA: Hi, JAELLE, you need to come with me because your daughter will rule Aillard! I’ll just totally ruin someone else’s life as well as yours because you need to stop being foolish and come be a good little girl.JAELLE: NO.ROHANA: You have no choice.JAELLE: I SAID NO! LEAVE ME ALONE! *hissy fit. Stomps off.*
BETH: Oh hey, you’re all dressed in native garbs, so you’re off to find ALESSANDRO LI?
BETH: Oh, he went up to check on something to do with ANDREW CARR, he left you message.
JAELLE: O_O …He went up into the Kilghard hills. By himself. In bad weather. In bad, confusing terrain. OFFS. *rushes off, swearing not to be delayed by stupid people anymore.*
PETER: *is oblivious* JAELLE! You said we should talk.
JAELLE: No, I said I’m divorcing your ass. GO AWAY I HAVE TO FIND LI AND STRANGLE HIM BECAUSE HE’S AN IDIOT.
PETER: No, you’re not leaving, you’re pregnant! You’re my wife and should do what you’re told!!
JAELLE: SHUT UP NAO.
PETER: No, if I have to tie you up, you’re staying!
JAELLE’S PTSD: HI
*Fight ensues, JAELLE wins, and isn’t sure whether PETER’S alive or not, in a panic, she leaves to find ALESSANDRO LI.*
*To sum up: ALESSANDRO LI is a moron and goes up into the hills alone. JAELLE intends to go after him, and has a fight with PETER, who is also a moron. MAGDA has a premonition that JAELLE is in danger and goes after JAELLE. Chances of this ending well: slim.*
KIRESETH POLLEN: HI WHY DON’T I GIVE YOU HALLUCINATIONS!
JAELLE: FML. *flounders. Has sense to realize that this could be Very Bad for her baby. LOTS OF HALLUCINATIONS*
MAGDA: *Flailing along until she reached JAELLE who at first isn’t convinced she’s really there.*
KIRESETH POLLEN: LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED
*Things get strange and scary, and Jaelle has a miscarriage.*
FORBIDDEN TOWER: *Comes to the rescue!*
ANDREW CARR: You guys got lots of guts, don’t worry, we’ll find you. And ALESSANDRO.
ALESSANDRO: *Deeply embarrassed.* Um. Thanks everyone. I’ll do what I can about removing certain annoying obstacles, like annoying superiors.
PETER: *Is not dead after all. Pity.*
All’s well that ends well…unless you know what happens to “The Forbidden Tower” that is.