Thanks to the superhuman efforts of Lessa, F'lar, and the dozens of others who populated Ninth Pass Pern, it appeared that the Red Star's orbit would change and Thread would be forever a ghost of the past. A new era was set to dawn.
A new era indeed.
The Federation of Sentient Planets, responsible for colonizing Pern some 2500 years before, had once again sent a ship to that distant corner of the galaxy. There to study the Oort cloud, the ship was astonished to witness an explosion on Rukbat's most erratic planet. Further investigation made it very clear that this was no natural occurrence.
Within the week, communication had been established with the inhabitants of this "lost" planet, using the link set up on the Yokohama. Delighted and surprised, the leaders of Pern set up a contract with the FSP, agreeing to allow a research colony to be developed on the Southern Continent, with an eye toward mutual enhancement of both cultures. Thus Alpha Base was constructed in the Cibola Plains.
The FSP had big plans. It is not everyday that you discover that a culture left to die has not only survived, but thrived beyond all imaginings to a point where they could alter the very course of their future. And then there were the dragons...
To better facilitate a study of not only the Pernese culture, but the biology of its diverse inhabitants, the FSP wanted full access to the population. Suspicion of the outsiders was great, however, and not all on Pern were so happy about their presence.
In order to please everyone, it was decided that a new Weyr would be formed, composed entirely of volunteers who would understand the impact of interaction with the FSP.
Full technological resources were once again at the disposal of the Weyrbuilders. Not only the leftovers the original colonists had to work with, but everything the FSP could offer. The best workers from all over the planet were drafted to assist in the designing and construction of the new Weyr and accompanying Hold. Many compromises were made, and the resulting Weyr was not quite like anything seen before. All the comforts of a nice, roomy, cliff-side cave plus all the technological trimmings to make life grand.
But how do you turn on the lights?
A little over a Turn later, the Conclaves met and Dawnsisters was officially baptized as the newest Weyr of Pern. According to the ancient tradition (but also in concession to the volunteers-only policy), the first gold to rise who wanted the post would take the leadership. Barely a sevenday later, had Taliath risen to be caught by bronze Wyoth. Arwyn and M'kel accept the challenge and privilege of taking over the new Weyr. By election of the Holders Council, Perrin and his wife Geri are chosen as Lord and Lady Holder of Dawnsisters Hold.
With the Weyrleaders and Holders established, volunteers from all Weyrs, Holds, Halls, and crafts began arriving in droves.
The Weyr was designed at full capacity, with enough space for 290 fighting dragons, five adult queens, 250 weyrlings, and 500 non-rider staff. It was also fully equipped as an FSP laboratory, with more bells and whistles than the Pernese knew what to do with. But that was half the fun and most of the mystery.
Taliath laid a clutch that promised to provide a smashing success of a first hatching, complete with a gold egg. All seemed to be running smoothly as the new Weyr proceeded into its first turn (that is, year).But then tragedy struck. An out of phase threadfall blew in over the Weyr, and before the wings could get organized, thread had entered the open-air hatching sands and claimed all but 17 of Taliath's clutch. The fighting wings also sustained heavy loss. Though the gold egg was preserved, the tragedy marked the Weyr.
In an occasion almost joyful enough to counterbalance the disastrous threadfall, the first hatching at Dawnsisters produced seventeen healthy dragons, of which, not just one but two dragons were gold. Ondelle, impressed to gold Beliath, and Kyeada, impressed to gold Xynth, became the first native goldriders of Dawnsisters.
But for all the joy of the hatching, the new Weyr's founding years were rife with problems.
Leadership proved to be unstable, as gold Taliath mated with Wyoth only twice before choosing a new mate, a bronze barely out of weyrling training. D'yar's new status as Weyrleader caused more than a little nervousness in the ranks of Pern's Weyr leadership, but other events caused even this to take second place in their minds.
The exchange of information with the FSP was, for the most part, proving highly beneficial for both the Pernese and the FSP. New medical technology, new crafting techniques, and new histories were introduced. The FSP gained new insight into Pernese culture and the functioning of the Oort cloud they had originally come to study.
But not all was well.
Barely two years after establishment, a plague ran through Dawnsisters territory and out into the rest of Pern. No species of animal - including humans - escaped entirely unaffected. For most, the illness was passing, but for the wherries, the end had come.
Discovering that the plague's origins lie with the FSP's attempt to integrate a foreign species, the Councils flew into a rage and decided the FSP were no longer welcome. They were given three months to pack their backs and get the hell out of orbit.
And to all appearances, that is what they did. All of them, that is, except a contingent of deserters who decided that life on Pern had become too much a part of them to leave. Some had children who had impressed dragons; still others had simply fallen in love with the planet itself. With no legitimate way out of their FSP contracts, the deserters faked an illness, saying that it was claiming lives more quickly than they could be evacuated. Their bodies counted as dead, the FSP left without them, leaving only a satellite beacon in place to mark their passage.
Dawnsisters Weyr suffered more than just surface wounds during the fallout. The inhabitants of the Weyr, formerly so enthusiastic to be part of this marvelous experiment, were disappearing quickly, eager to return to more stable, normal Weyrlife.
It was decided that Dawnsisters would be disbanded. The FSP deserters were to remain secluded at their base, to have no interaction with the regular Pernese. Protesting this as unfair to the Offworlders (as the remaining FSP came to be known) who had establisher permanent ties to Pern and Dawnsisters through their own free will - not to mention unfair to the riders who had worked so hard for the new Weyr, young D'yar argued before the council and managed to obtain for Dawnsisters the right to continue operations. The conditions of the agreement were that Dawnsisters would be completely independent of the rest of Pern - a self-contained unit that would take care of its own supply and defense needs.
Starting over with a small core of those who had been committed to the project from the beginning, Dawnsisters became a collection point of misfits, outcasts, and those seeking unusual new challenges. Arwyn and Taliath remained the senior pair, although a goodly amount of shuffling continued among the bronzeriders and junior goldriders.
Tragedy struck again one day in late spring as Taliath rose on a mating flight. An accident during the flight crippled the gold. She was caught by bronze Boreath in time to save her life, but she would never fly again. Boreath's rider, R'ken, became Weyrleader until such a time that a new senior gold pair could be decided. At that point, Arwyn and Taliath would move to Dawnsisters Hold to function as watch pair.
There were two junior gold pairs at that time, and of the two, Mirinda's gold Fayrenth was the first to rise. More mature of the two, everyone was happy to have Mirinda installed, hoping she could bring some new stability to the Weyr leadership. True to this expectation, R'ken has continued as Weyrleader and the small Weyr has prospered under their care.
Everything seemed to be going well for the misfit Weyr. New riders from outside were unusual, as the Weyr's peculiar reputation continued to spread, but her resident gold dragons continued to produce fine clutches. Many recent graduates of weyrling training were quick to leave Dawnsisters for more "normal" locales, and it's hard to say if this helped or hindered the Weyr's general reputation.
In late summer, Turn 30, a new calamity arose that no one on Pern could have foreseen: asteroids from a passing comet pelted the unguarded planet, leaving devastation in their wake. Ista Island was almost entirely destroyed. Its inhabitants were evacuated in decent time to the Cibola Plains of the Southern Continent. Northern and Southern continent alike suffered from the onslaught.
Through monumental efforts on behalf of those who could afford to help (including Dawnsisters Weyr), many lives were saved and the damage continues to be slowly repaired. Although their help and early warning may have improved the general feeling of the rest of Pern towards Dawnsisters, there is still a long way to go.
the borders of her own territory, not all
feeling is warm and
grateful toward the Weyr. The vast multitude
of people evacuated from
Ista Island were hard pressed to find enough
conditions. After a tidal wave born of the
Disasters further diluted
their numbers, many found themselves living in
a situation not much
better than refugees. Camps were formed around
those with dynamic
personalities and promises of better things to
come. Over the next
couple years, all but one of the Camps
disappeared, residents finding
their way to proper holds, to the Weyr, or to
the central cramp. New
Ista Camp, as it came to be known, was
settling more solidly into its
location in the Cibola Plains, but promises
from the Weyr for help
establishing more permanent residences were
slow in coming. Leaders of
the Camp have intentions to eventually
establish the place as an office
Holding, but progress is slow and conditions
also suffered from the
effects of the Disasters. Uncharacteristically
cool summers and long
winters caused problems in many crops over the
planet. Droughts in
places, and excessive rainfall in others only
started to return to more
normal conditions three years after the
events. Three years also gave
most people enough time to get used to the new
landscaping, new holding
situations, and slowly increasing role that
Dawnsisters is trying to
play in world affairs.
One project, undertaken by Junior Weyrwoman Ondelle, aims to bring the wherries back to life. Several failed attempts have been made over the past several years, though the most recent plan, involving a trip with full scientific lab staff into the past, seems to hold promise that other attempts have lacked. Ondelle hopes that the return of the wherries could mean the full return of Dawnsisters into the good graces of the Council.Little does she know that another unexpected presence on the planet may threaten that ambition.
Two shuttlecraft full of FSP personnel have recently made emergency crash landings on the surface of Pern. Because, after all, what sort of military organization would really just leave a planet because they were asked?
Observation of Pern by the FSP continued even after they were officially booted off the planet. A research vessel, the Aberdeen, arrived in orbit during Turn 30 to compile the data that had been collected and to continue observations. Unfortunately, they were not alone.
Sabotage by an unknown enemy eventually caused the ship to become a doomed vessel, uninhabitable and on a crash course for the Red Star. Captain Megan Campbell ordered an emergency evacuation. The Aberdeen impacted with the Red Star barely minutes after the last shuttle was launched. The evacuees did the best they could to clear obstacles and get back into open space, but two shuttles were forced to emergency landings on the surface of Pern. One wound up in Omega territory, the other on an island in an as-yet unknown ocean.
At this moment in history (winter, Turn 33), the presence of the FSP back on Pern is not yet known outside of Omega Territory. Holder ambitions are mounting as a wedding between Rafe Brady of Omega and Lady Tolna of Cibola draws near. A sea monster has taken up residence in the waters around the Weyr, and the first viable gold egg in over five years is warming on the sands.
All references to worlds and characters based on Anne McCaffrey's fiction are © Anne McCaffrey 1967, 2000
All rights reserved, and used by permission of the author.
The Dragonriders of Pern® is registered U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, by Anne McCaffrey, used here with permission.
Use or reproduction without a license is strictly prohibited.