How it Began
Pern is an earth-like planet settled by humans who wished to escape a war-torn, space-faring society by setting up a low-tech agrarian colony in a remote sector of the galaxy. Initially they took little notice of the red planet which also circled their sun Rukbat, unaware that its highly eccentric orbit would take it from the remote Oort Cloud to the heart of the solar system and back again every 250 years. Eight years after they landed, the path of this wanderer brought it near Pern. The deadly spores it towed in its wake began to rain down in silvery strands, which quickly devoured all organic material--plant, animal, and human--it came in contact with.
The panicked settlers suffered heavy losses from this first fall of what they named Thread. Using their remaining technology, they urgently set out to learn as much as they could about it. The bad news: it would fall every three days for six hours, and Falls would continue for 50 years. After a 200 year Thread-free Interval, another Pass would begin. The good news: it could be killed with fire, water, or freezing temperatures. Pilots were quickly drafted to fly the colony's small collection of sleds to combat the Falls with flamethrowers. But this was only a temporary solution; the sleds would wear out, as would the battery packs that fueled them. The colony had not counted on needing to replace them, and didn’t have the tools and materials necessary to do so. What the colonists needed was a renewable air-force to combat the deadly rain of Thread. The newest inhabitants of Pern looked to a native life-form to supply their need.
Small Saviours The small fire-dragonets, so named for their resemblance to mythical Terran dragons, were naturally equipped to fight Thread. They not only could breathe fire (after consuming a phosphine-bearing rock, firestone) but also could teleport themselves out of danger. These engaging creatures had a spark of intelligence, and they empathically bonded with their human owners when they hatched. The fire-dragonets did their best to shield their human friends during that tragic First Fall, but they simply weren't large enough to offer full protection.
Enter geneticist Kitti Ping Yung. This extraordinarily gifted woman manipulated the DNA of the fire-dragonets to produce a number of large eggs on which the hopes and future of the colony rested. The eighteen dragons which successfully hatched (shortly after Kitti's death) immediately each Impressed a young adult and surprised them by telepathically speaking their own names to their chosen partner. When they reached their full growth, the dragons would be able to breathe fire and fly to battle Thread with their riders on their backs.
The Different Dragons Like the fire-dragonets, the dragons came in five colors. The golden queens were the largest of the breed and they mated with the bronze or brown that managed to catch them, producing the next generation of dragons. While the smaller blues didn't have the stamina for a gold's mating flight, they proved much more maneuverable against Thread--as did the numerous greens, the smallest of the dragons. The amorous greens proved unable to bear eggs as the golds did, by design of Kitti Ping.
Kitti tinkered with the genetic code for the dragons in other ways as well. The gold dragons proved unable to produce flame after chewing fire-stone, but this did not keep the breeding queens from battling Thread as Kitti might have intended. The women who partnered them simply carried mechanical flame-throwers. The dragons of each generation were somewhat larger than their forebears, until the optimum size was reached shortly before the Ninth Pass. The differences in size between the five colors also grew more distinct because of this, and in modern times the browns are no longer able to successfully compete against the larger bronzes in the mating flights of queens. These modern beasts are many times the size of the original 18 dragons.
Pern Society The structure of Pern's society developed over the years to one well-suited to support the dragons and riders, freeing them to protect the planet's population from Threadfall. The dragonriders lived and trained in extinct volcanoes they called Weyrs. Each Weyr would be led by the riders of the senior queen and her bronze mate. Food was tithed to the Weyrs by those that farmed the land and lived together in caves and stone buildings known as Holds, each led by a Lord and Lady Holder. Other goods were tithed by the various autonomous Crafthalls which trained their members in particular skills under the guidance of an elected Craftmaster.
The Beginning of the Story The original story opens just prior to the Ninth Pass. Most technology and knowledge - including their Terran origin - has been lost to the population by this time. The wandering planet that brings the Threads to Pern is now known as the Red Star. Five of the six Weyrs are empty and most of the people of Pern don't believe that Thread will fall again--a result of an extra-long Interval of over 400 years, or Turns as they are now called, since the previous Pass. The return of the Red Star threatens disaster for Pern, unless a strong-willed woman can be found before the last golden egg hatches, and a young, visionary man can find a way to unite and lead his fellow dragonriders.
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