Turnover at Landing—1.1.31 Present Pass Aivas—Aivas Adjusted Turn 2553
Since it was not at all unusual for dragonriders to be found poring over
the volumes in the extensive Aivas archives, F’lessan, rider of bronze
Golanth, was not surprised to see a girl wearing the shoulder knots of a
green rider from Monaco Bay deeply engrossed in study. What did strike
him as odd was that anyone at all was here in the main archive reading
room during Turnover. Tonight the planet, north and south continents,
would officially celebrate the beginning of the thirty-second Turn of
the present and, hopefully, final Pass of Threadfall. Even through the
thick walls of the building, he could hear drums and occasionally the
sound of the brass instruments from Landing’s Gather Square.
Why wasn’t the girl, especially a green rider, out dancing? Why wasn’t
he? He grimaced. He was still trying to overcome the carelessly lustful
reputation that he had earned early in this Pass. Not that he was any
different from many bronze and brown riders. “Just more noticeable,”
Mirrim had told him in her candid fashion. Mirrim had astonished
everyone, including herself, when she had Impressed green Path at a
Benden Weyr Hatching. Being T’gellan’s weyrmate had mellowed her natural
assertiveness, but she never spared him her blunt opinions.
The girl was engrossed in her study of a foldout page depicting Rukbat’s
planetary system, spread across the tilted reading desk. Not everyone’s
reading choice certainly, F’lessan thought.
Many of the younger riders, who would see the end of this Pass in
sixteen Turns, were studying to become proficient in another craft. In
that way they would be able to support themselves once the traditional
tithe to the Weyrs ceased. While Thread still fell, Hold and Hall would
continue to support the dragonriders, in exchange for aerial protection
against the voracious organism that could destroy anything but metal and
stone. But when Thread ceased, so would that support. Those riders whose
families owned holds or halls might simply be reabsorbed, but weyrbred
dragonriders like F’lessan had to find another way. Fortunately for
F’lessan, he had discovered Honshu, in the foothills of the great
Southern moun- tain range, and since the Weyrs had wrung out of the
council that loosely governed the planet the concession that
dragonriders might claim holdings on the Southern continent, F’lessan
had claimed Honshu as his. He had based most of his argument on the fact
that he intended to restore and preserve the Ancient habitation and its
splendors for everyone to enjoy. He had used every ounce of his
considerable charm and every jot of guile with other Weyrleaders,
Craftmasters, and Lord Holders in order to secure that title to himself.
And once the formidable intelligence of the Artificial Intelligence
Voice Address System—Aivas—and the combined might of all the Weyrs of
Pern had diverted the orbit of the menacing Red Star, he had begun to
spend all the time he could spare from his duties as a Benden Wingleader
in refurbishing Honshu.
F’lessan had never been a studious youngster—his interests as well as
his concentration span had been limited to escaping lessons whenever he
could and having the greatest amount of fun. Impressing bronze Golanth
had imposed discipline at last, because there was no way he would
neglect his dragon. He had learned a determination and focus that had
resulted in his becoming one of the most adept riders, held up as a fine
example—at least of riding—by weyrlingmasters.
Honshu had become another passion. The Ancient holding, with the
splendid murals in its main hall, had exerted a strange compulsion on
him from the start: to preserve the ancient treasures found there and to
discover as much as possible about its founders and residents. With the
boyish impudence that was his most ingenuous characteristic, he had
appointed himself Honshu’s guardian and caretaker. He had worked harder
than anyone else in clearing out the muck and mold and restoring the
fabric of the place. Tonight he had a puzzle he wanted to solve. He had
specifically chosen this time to come to the Aivas facility, hoping to
be its sole visitor. He preferred not to share his research—his
fascination with Honshu was at odds with his reputation.
You protect Honshu. I like being there very much, said his dragon,
Golanth, from where he had settled himself in the hot noontime sun among
the dragons who had brought their riders to Landing’s Turnover
festivities. Good sunning places, clear water, and many fat herdbeasts.
Still paused quietly on the threshold of the reading room, F’lessan
grinned. You found it. We’ll keep it.
Yes, Golanth agreed amiably.
F’lessan stuffed his riding gloves into the Turnover gift of a fine
carisak, giving the wide cuffs a good push; the new wher-hide leather
was stiff, despite the good oiling he had given it yesterday evening.
The carisak had been presented to him by Lessa and F’lar. He rarely
thought of them as “mother” or “father”: they were his Weyrleaders, and
that was more relevant. His birthing day, his Impression Day—the day
marking the advent of Golanth into his life—and Turnover were, however,
always recognized by some gift from them. F’lessan didn’t know if this
was occasioned by their need to remind him of his parents, or themselves
of their son. Fostering was the rule in a weyr, so no child was without
several people, not necessarily the birth parents, who took special
interest in him or her. As F’lessan grew up and saw how easygoing life
was in a weyr, and the conformity required of children in the holds, he
was as glad he’d been weyrbred.
He gave the gloves one more shove to store them completely, but still he
hesitated to enter the room. He didn’t want to disturb the single reader
who was so engrossed in her study that she was unaware of him standing
No one has ever disliked your company, said his dragon.
I don’t like to break into such concentration, F’lessan replied. How do
we know she isn’t studying an alternative occupation for After?
Dragons will always be needed on Pern, Golanth said stoutly.
Golanth was fond of making that observation. Almost as if Golanth, too,
needed to reassure himself. Maybe it was just the mind-set of a bronze
dragon—or more likely Mnementh’s in particular, since F’lar’s great
bronze took a keen interest in the subtle tuition of any bronzes hatched
on Benden’s sands. However, succeeding F’lar as Weyrleader of Benden was
most certainly not in F’lessan’s future plans. F’lessan earnestly hoped
that F’lar would lead the Weyr out of this Pass: a triumph in itself,
over and above what F’lar had done at its beginning with the slender
force he’d had available then. Being Wingleader suited F’lessan’s blithe
personality, especially now that he had claimed Honshu as his special
domain. Now, if the Weyrleaders—or rather F’lar—would just come out and
say that he and Lessa would retire there, no one would dare contest his
Unlike the position of Lord Holders, the Weyrleadership was not
hereditary. A good example was the recent stepping down of R’mart and
Bedella of Telgar. To establish the new leadership, the challenge had
been for the best bronze in the Weyr to fly the first junior queen ready
to mate. J’fery, rider of bronze Willerth, was now Telgar’s Weyrleader,
and Palla, golden Talmanth’s rider, was Weyrwoman. F’lessan knew them
both well, and knew they would lead Telgar Weyr well under Threadfree
If we don’t make the arrogant mistakes that the Oldtimers did, F’lessan
added to himself, and expect to continue receiving the perquisites due
the Weyrs during a Pass, once there is no more Thread.
A movement brought him back to the present. The girl’s boots scraped
over the stone floor as she recrossed her ankles. She was hunched
forward over the reading desk and now leaned her elbows on the table.
Her profile was well lit by the softly disseminated light, and she had
thinned her lips over whatever it was she was reading. She frowned, then
sighed over the wide page. F’lessan saw the well-defined arch of a black
eyebrow as her frown relaxed. She had a long and very delicately formed
nose, he observed with mild approval. Her hair, a midbrown sparking with
red as she moved, was clipped short on top to reduce sweating under her
helmet. Left long at the nape of her neck, the wavy mass reached halfway
down her back, where it was neatly cut off in a straight line.
She turned her head abruptly, suddenly aware of his scrutiny.
“Sorry. Thought I’d have the place to myself,” F’lessan said genially,
striding forward, his dress shoes making very little sound on the stone
Her startlement suggested to him that she, too, had thought she could
study in solitary quiet. She was in the act of pushing back her chair
when he held out a hand to prevent her from rising. Most riders knew who
he was: he made a habit of flying Thread with the two southern Weyrs and
usually attended every Impression. The latter was sheer indulgence on
his part, for at each Impression, he and Golanth reaffirmed their
lifelong commitment to each other.
Now that he could see her full face, he recognized her.
“You’re Tai, aren’t you? Zaranth’s rider?” he asked, hoping he
You always do, Golanth murmured.
She’d Impressed, unexpectedly, nearly five Turns ago at Monaco Bay.
She’d come south, though he couldn’t remember from where. There had been
so many people flooding through Landing since Aivas was discovered in
2538. While she couldn’t be much older than her mid twenties, he
wondered if she’d been part of the workforce during those astonishing
five Turns of Aivas. After all, Aivas had demonstrated a distinct bias
for green dragons and their riders.
F’lessan stepped forward, extending his hand to her. She looked
embarrassed, dropping her eyes as soon as their hands had clasped
politely. Her handshake was firm, if brisk almost to the point of
rudeness, and he could feel some odd ridges, scars, on the back of her
hand and on her forefinger. She wasn’t pretty; she didn’t act sensual,
the way some green riders did, and she was only half a head shorter than
he was. She wasn’t too thin, but the lack of flesh on her bones gave her
a slightly boyish appearance.
“I’m F’lessan, Golanth’s rider, of Benden.”
“Yes,” she said, shooting him a sharp look. Her eyes were set at an
unusual upward slant, but she looked away so quickly he couldn’t see
what color they were. Oddly enough, she flushed. “I know.” She seemed to
gather breath to continue. “Zaranth just told me that Golanth had
apologized for disturbing her nap on the ledge.” She flicked him another
almost contrite glance, awkwardly clasping her left wrist with her right
hand so that the knuckles turned white.
F’lessan grinned in his most ingratiating fashion. “By nature, Golanth
is very considerate.” He gave a little bow and gestured toward the
volume open on the reading desk. “Don’t let me disturb your studies.
I’ll be over there.” He pointed to the far right.
He could just as easily work in the alcove as in the main room and not
intrude on her solitude. In no time at all he had collected three of the
records he thought most likely to contain the information he sought, and
brought them to the smaller reading desk in the alcove. A narrow window
gave him a view of the eastern hills and the barest sparkle of the sea.
He seated himself, placed the piece of paper that he had brought with
him on the table, and started riffling through the thinly coated plastic
pages of the COM Tower records. He was looking for one name: Stev
Kimmer, listed in the colony records as Stakeholder on Bitkim Island,
now called Ista Hold. He needed to find any connection between Kimmer
and Kenjo Fusaiyuki, who had been the original Honshu Stakeholder.
In his careful clearing of debris in the ancient dwelling place, he had
found the initials SK carved or etched on several surfaces: on the metal
worktop in the garage of the ancient sled and on several drawers. No
other inhabitant had defaced or initialed anything. The only SK not
listed as going north in the Second Crossing—when the Thread-beleaguered
colonists had resettled at Fort—was Stev Kimmer. Previous research
revealed that the man had disappeared with a sled after Ted Tubberman’s
illegal launch of an appeal for help from old Earth. Kimmer had not been
seen again. The loss of a functional sled had been officially regretted;
Kimmer’s absence had not.
Excerpted from The Skies of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. Copyright © 2002 by Anne McCaffrey. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.