IX. Benden, the Second Weyr
Benden Weyr was founded during the First Interval by Michael Connell, also called Mi-hall, eldest son of Sean and Sorka Connell, and his wife, Torene. Pern needed more dragons, and Fort was at last
up to full strength. Though he was only in his twenties when he led his force of dragons and humans eastward, he was the one allowed to establish the new Weyr because the administrators in Fort
realized he was a canny leader who inspired trust in those who followed him and would lead them responsibly. Mihall Connell was the first to bear the title of Benden Weyrleader.
The Weyr was named to honor Admiral Paul Benden, over his objections. It was established in the eighteenth year of the colony.
Mihall grew up in the Lower Caverns of Fort Weyr under the care of a foster mother. Sorka loved her children, but she had little time to look after them, as most of her time went to taking care of
Faranth. Would-be dragonriders had to make the same decision to give up the care of their children into someone else's hands. A young dragon required too much attention to allow a man or woman to
spend adequate time and love raising well-adjusted children. Extending the family to include fosterers and the half brothers and half sisters who sometimes resulted from mating flights between riders
married to other people was the first wedge to break into monogamous relationships in the Weyr.
Mihall Connell grew up wanting to ride dragons. He spent as much time in the Weyr as he could, learning about the care of dragons and helping out in the Lower Caverns. The records are unclear, but
it is believed that his bronze came from the fourth Hatching of Faranth's eggs.
Torene, brought up in Ruatha, showed an aptitude for anticipating the needs of sick creatures. As a child, she began to spend more and more time at the Weyr, encouraged, like other empathic
children and adults, to start getting to know dragons as early as possible. Young Torene exhibited extraordinary empathy, which made her a natural candidate for a queen egg. Once she Impressed, it was
discovered that her ability to hear other dragons' telepathic voices did not fade as the bonds between weyrmates grew stronger. Torene's strength of purpose was one of the key elements in forming a
second group of dragonriders that was independent from the first.
Mihall, called M'hall, chose Benden Weyr's location because he saw the potential of the natural cavern which would become the Hatching Ground. The upper deck was terraformed, but the rest he left
unaltered. At his urging, the miners who helped construct Benden Weyr opened up and smoothed out caverns and corridors that already existed in the volcanic matrix, rather than chopping whole rooms out
with the steadily depleting resource of the stonecutters. Thus Benden Weyr has a more natural feel to it than Fort.
Benden's architecture may not be as elaborate as that of Fort Weyr, but the style is the same. These two Weyrs and Holds, and Ruatha, their contemporary, feel old. The rooms are of irregular shapes
but have smooth walls. Closet niches are cut at intervals in the walls of corridors and large storage chambers. Colored cement is used for accent and for filling in broken places in the stone.
The Bowl is full of light sand. The lake, which covers a good quarter of the bottom of the Bowl, is of sweet water kept clear by
water plants, snails, algae, and grasses. Indigenous water lilies float on the surface. Like the Earth flower of the same name, these flowers' petals are white, but the leaves are triangular in shape,
much like those of the herb woad. Their edible roots, which also have a triangular cross-section, taste like water chestnuts. The herdbeasts live near the lake and are kept away from the place where
the dragons bathe.
Bendens Lower Caverns are not as high-vaulted as Fort's, and they are more spread out. The separate levels are tiered, making use of the myriad bubbles in the strata. The passages between the
deepest side caverns are very narrow, but they are ventilated to the upper air. Massive passageways lie between the largest caverns at ground and first level. The firepits scored at the top of this
and every other domicile on Pern are intended to be set ablaze during Threadfall to prevent Thread from falling down the ventilation shafts and infiltrating the Living Caverns.
The ventilation system uses fans run by water from the upper reservoirs dripping slowly into a bucket weighting the chain that moves the props. Geothermal energy runs the service shafts by use of
thermal sinks. Twin tubes run down through the rock to red-hot stone—water is pumped down one, and the steam comes up the other. Steam is used to heat the higher weyrs, as well as to provide
hydraulic assist for the heavy trays in the service chutes.
By the end of the First Pass, there were over twenty thousand people in the Northern Continent. Benden Weyr was swelling as Fort had. Most of the Ancient Timers' rooms were sealed as the holders
moved out to stakeholds across the continent. The only folk left in Benden Weyr beside the dragon-folk were those who worked in the Lower Caverns as support staff for the Weyr. Vegetables were
originally raised in the hydroponics tanks, and grain grew in carefully protected fields near the Weyr. When the Pass ended, Benden Hold was constructed.
Benden Weyr, though less fancy on the inside than Fort and built on a smaller scale, has a warmer ambiance. Benden's original portion was built when there Was still fuel to run the stonecutters.
The hallways were cut high and square, and walls were slagged to perfect smoothness. But when supplies began to run out, the inhabitants of Benden Weyr merely knocked the rough corners off natural
caverns and cavelets, smoothing only the floor of corridors. All six Weyrs were treated with stonecutters to provide ventilation and thermal heat. The sites for the last four were chosen during the
first Interval and carved out somewhat while the stonecutters lasted.
The stonecutters were put to use in other places, too. Ventilation grilles cover air shafts drilled through the heart of the mountain, bringing fresh air through the fire pits into the deepest
caves in the Weyr. The Star Stones and Eye Rock are smaller than those at Fort, but they are of a higher quality. The Stones in the other Weyrs were made with hammer and chisel and have a more rustic
look; the Eye Rocks are more like the eyes of needles than of beasts or men.
Benden Weyr is bigger now than it was even at the height of its human population. Rooms that were once occupied by the Ancient Timers are used for storage or just sealed off. Very large weyrs that
originally were shaped by two dragons now have only one, but there are more weyrs.
The labs and hydroponics tanks in the rear corridors of Benden Weyr are only now being rediscovered. The knowledge to use the devices sealed in these rooms has long disappeared. A design printed on
the wall is a reproduction of Kitti Ping's genetic code of the dragons, which the current Weyrfolk cannot translate.
The Queen's Weyr
Once the Present Pass began, Manora, the headwoman, was delighted to be rid of the Turns of penury into which the Weyr had fallen. Mustering her work force, she turned to refurbishing the Weyr from
the inside out. Lessa's apartments were the first project tackled by the women of the Lower Caverns. As soon as Lessa Impressed Ramoth, Manora went to work and had the Weyrwoman's rooms in fine shape
by the time of the first Threadfall.
The room off the side of the queen's weyr is decorated in tapestries of warm colors dyed and spun in Manora's spare moments: green, clear yellow, orange, lavender, and red. Only the best furs are
on the bed in the Weyrwoman's chamber. Benden Hold is famous for patchwork quilts. Lessa was given a few that are sewn in intricate geometric patterns and creative variations on traditional designs.
Even Ramoth's couch has a fancy coverlet. To keep the cold out, the great couch is covered with straw and rushes, then covered over with a padded quilt. Lessa's is the most elaborate weyr. She has
both a bathing room and a service shaft, and the ventilation ducts carry warm air up into the room. All is kept spotlessly clean, and the tapestries are beaten or refurbished often to keep the dust
The Support Structure of the Weyr
The Weyrs get their food and other goods from tithe trains that come in from the Holds that they protect. Manora is the overall manager of the Lower Caverns of Benden. She keeps in close accord
with the Head Cook, who is in charge of arranging meals from the time the food arrives at the Weyr to the moment it is set on the table. She has stewards and bookkeepers to look after each detail.
Several workers are needed just to keep track of supplies. Men, women, and children work at tasks assigned to them by Manora, who keeps master lists of their talents and responsibilities.
Manora and her well-trained assistants can gear up for emergencies or births very quickly. There is a step-by-step set of instructions to follow for each situation.
Girls who are found on Search who do not immediately Impress wait for their chance but continue to live a normal life in the Weyr. They might fall in love and have babies, and find other functions
to fulfill. Even if they never Impress, they are not sent away. Once a girl has been chosen on Search, it means that she is found to have superior empathy and strength of character, two traits the
Weyr wishes to perpetuate in its bloodlines.
Not all women who live in the Lower Caverns were found on Search. The Weyr's lifestyle calls to young, adventurous folk, as well as those so desperate to leave the place in which they were born
that they would rather go Holdless than stay. Women who are unhappy in their home Holds frequently seek a place in the Weyr. If they can provide a good reason for being taken in , such as possessing a
necessary skill, they will be allowed to stay for life. If they were abused in their Holds, they are often placed in other Holds, away from their abuser. Women in the Weyrs need not marry if they do
not want to, nor have child after child until they are old and worn-out, as they might be expected to in the Holds.
Weyrwomen often welcomed these em-pathic or talented women to the Lower Caverns. A great attempt has always been made by the Weyrwoman to find exactly the right person to foster her children, not
only because a queen dragon requires so much care, but because a Weyrwoman has other responsibilities as well. As a foster mother, Manora is one of the most sought after women in Benden Weyr. She has
had as many as eleven or twelve fosterlings at a time.
When a child begins to develop a strong individual personality, its mother will get together with the available foster mothers and the Weyrwoman to decide who would be the best person to raise it.
No rivalry is involved in the decision. The importance of such a decision is to find who will be best suited to raising a happy child from a baby of its particular temperament.
The Weyr's firm belief is that there is no reason for a child to be unhappy. Fostering brings out the best talents and joy in a youngster who would otherwise be neglected by his rider parents and
grow up hating dragons for taking them away, to the detriment of the entire Weyr. The whole system of dragonriders was established as total support and care for dragons. The support system for the
dragon-riders, the Lower Caverns, must also be well run for the benefit of all those who rely upon it.
Children of the Weyr learn early to develop their most outstanding talents, which become their
second jobs if they Impress. A child's natural talent is optimized through training and direction, but he has to learn to demonstrate it. Each child has many opportunities, from the time he
shows a talent through the time he grows up. From the time he is old enough to take on responsibilities, he is sent on chores. Gradually the child's aptitude is revealed and encouraged.
If there is no need in the Weyr at that moment for that particular talent, he is placed outside the Weyr in an appropriate Hold beholden to the Weyr, or farther afield if the Lord of a Hold should
know of a need elsewhere. Crafthalls do allow recognition for apprentice training in the Weyr.
A Weyrbred man or woman who fails Impression can always fall back on the job for which he was trained. If he or she has no specific talent, the dragonriders' women put their heads together to
decide what the non-rider person can do. Men who grow up in the Weyr who do not Impress or do not want to Impress can easily work in the Weyr as support personnel, providing they can get along with
those who live there.
Each night Manora receives from the Head Cook a list of what he needs, so that the supplies can be brought in from the remote storage caves by drudges and children. Major events like Hatchings are
planned more than a sevenday in advance, using supplies kept in a reserve cavern and set aside for special occasions. Spices and wines are seen to by Manora personally.
Under the Head Cook are chefs who are in charge of certain parts of meal preparation. The baker takes care of all breads and rolls on a daily basis, assisted by a light pastry chef, whose duties
are limited except on special occasions, when he is put in charge of desserts and fancy, filled entrees. The salad and vegetable cook employs aunties and uncles to clean and chop greens and peel roots
for the pot. The hearth chef sears roasts and whole fowl on the spit hearths in the open air outside the main cavern.
A long range of solid fuel cookers in the kitchen is where most of the cooking is done. Some are set aside specifically for stovetop, bakery, or simmering areas.
The kitchen in Benden Weyr has a lower roof than the one in Fort, and the chamber opens right out into the Weyr Bowl. The night hearth is in a sheltered alcove rather than a separate room. The
night hearth cook is usually a baker, with the task of making rolls and cereal for the morning, but he also needs to have an expert hand with stews and casseroles.
Food is served at regular hours, but the night hearth always has a pot of stew or soup simmering, a kettle of fresh klah, bowls of dried fruit, and a basket of bread rolls. After the Present Pass
began, there was always fresh fruit, the gift of grateful holders.
A steward, male or female, supervises the preparation of the meals, and another sees to its serving by a host of helpers of all ages. Meals are served in the big refectory, which is a broad, low
chamber with uneven ceilings like a rathskeller, with a couple of drudges or assistants in charge of serving each long table. The Lord Holders' table, where guests of honor are seated when dining with
the Weyr, is farther away from the hearthfire, to avoid unpleasant odors and smoke from the cooking. The other tables are closer to the fires. They're warmer, but not necessarily more comfortable.
The watch-rider generally alerts those in the Weyr that a tithe train is on its way. Children without pressing duties gather around the caravan as the train enters the Weyr. The beastdrivers and
wagoneers are often kindly to children, bringing candy and fruits especially for them.
As the sacks and baskets are unloaded, stewards working under Manora sort the shipments into the various food groups, depending on the peculiarities of storage for each item. Bulk items that need
dry storerooms—milled flour, grains, lentils, legumes, dried meat and fish, and sweetening - are carried to caverns that lie just down the corridor from the drying hearths.
Cattle are driven down to the beastfolds near the lake in the Weyr Bowl, where the Weyr's herder notes their number and type. The beasts are kept separate from the Weyr's flocks and herds until it
is' clear that they are without disease. This precaution is automatic since the plague in Moreta's day.
The beastherds at Benden Weyr are just big enough at any time to give every dragon in the Weyr a meal. The Lord Holders send the scrag ends of their own herds for the dragons' herds. The Weyrfolk
hunt for most of their meat, supplementing with the odd herdbeast, the younger stock sent by the Lord Holders, domestic wherry herds, and meat animals.
Root vegetables go into a cavern with an immense heap of sand for drainage to keep the roots from rotting. The northern farms raise many kinds: sweet potatoes, swedes, parsnips, turnips,
fingerroots, redroots, and several strains of tubers.
Leafy vegetables, cheeses, and fruits go into cold storerooms with running water that are stocked with ice brought in every two or three days from the snowy wastes to keep them fresh. These items
and all fresh meat are used up first.
Meat is fresh-killed when it is needed. A hunting dragon can bring back many carcasses slung across its body behind the rider or dangling over its neck behind the forepaws.
Before the Pass began, fresh food was in sparse supply. Dragonriders had to go out hunting for meat and gather vegetables and herbs themselves. Only the loyal three, Benden, Bitra, and Lemos Holds,
sent tithe trains to the Weyr, but their goods were far from being the best produced in those Holds. Fresh vegetables and tender meat were rare treats. Dragonriders would bring the women of the Lower
Caverns out to the forests and shorelines to gather what they could themselves. They had to go all the way into Nerat for numbweed and wild fruit. The Holds were not generous to the gleaners.
Once Thread began to fall, the Weyr was inundated with donations, not only of food but of other commodities. Nerat sent numbweed and delicacies of fresh fruit, such as berry preserves, apples, and
pears, as well as Pernese fruits and fruit ale, a popular drink in that Hold. The Tannercraft in Igen included first-class hides of all grades, from that used for riding straps to glove leather.
The Weyr employs a number of crafters full-time. The Hold tanner is needed to treat hides for clothing and riding gear. He teaches riders to choose hide and make their own riding straps, but his
biggest job is making shoes and boots for the hundreds of dragonriders and thousands of support staff who live in Benden.
Clothes are made by tailors and leather-crafters, but, especially during an Interval, clothes making is a spare-time occupation of dragonriders. Evenings will often be spent discussing types of
stitching and how to get the most out of pieces of fabric and hide. The best thread is made from the guts of a certain kind of wild wherry.
Those without sufficient skill to make their own garments barter other skills with those who have. A man might trade fifteen yards of ribbon to a tanner for a pair of shoes. Another may exchange
his fine embroidery for a dress tunic. The Weyr encourages every talent needed to survive. It has had to be self-sufficient every Interval since it was founded.
Hunting is a spare-time occupation of extreme importance to Weyr survival. Riders bring in feral cattle, big fish, whersports, and wherries to supplement the meat brought into the Weyr by supply
Wherries taste rather like turkey. No part of the big avian is wasted: The offal provides food for fire lizards; the guts are used in sewing and for bowstrings and bolos; the ichor is good for
polishing furniture and treating leather; and a wherry carcass is likely to be found in the soup kettle the morning after the roast is eaten.
Dragons need a certain amount of boron to survive, the way that animals bred from Earth prototypes need calcium. Boron occurs in the skeletal structure of all Pernese animals, like wherries, and
those whom the biogeneticists adjusted to synthesize it. Without boron, dragons and other native creatures die of a form of scurvy.
Benden Weyr's herds are large enough at any given time to feed all the dragons one square meal, but dragons frequently hunt wild wherries or a herdbeast from a neighboring farmhold. Permission is
always sought before a rider lets his beast hunt, in order that the Weyr may keep good relations with those outside of it.
F'lessan is a hunter of wild wherries by training. He hunts on foot, as a rule, using snares or a form of crossbow to bring the big avians down. He also hunts tunnel snakes with snares and lances,
since one of those weapons is not enough by itself to kill the clawed and sharp-toothed menaces.
Longbows and crossbows are used almost exclusively in forests, where there is the wood to make them and no room to employ other hunting implements. Bolos and slings are also popular for hunting.
The Weyrs do a lot of their own knitting and spinning. They shear their own ovines for fleece, and more comes on the supply trains. The Weavercraftmaster sends a teacher to the Weyr to demonstrate
the basic skills for treating fleece. Everyone knits, usually using the hair of adapted ovines as yarn. The Weavercrafthall has tailors and dyers permanently assigned to Weyrs with which it is on good
A very special spare-time occupation is brewing. The competition is fierce among dragonriders to make the best beer, which vies with klah for the most commonly quaffed beverage in Benden Weyr.
Fortunately for the rivals, there is more than one kind of beer. One dragonrider will make the best stout, another will produce the best lager. Some of the deepest, coolest caverns are ideal for
storing kegs and bottles.
During a Pass of the Red Star, dragon-riders have little time to do anything for themselves. Holders and Craftmasters, nervous about protection from Threadfall, become very willing to give the
dragonriders anything they want, including supplying some of the things that the Weyr has been accustomed to creating for itself. After Turns of being ignored, suddenly the dragonriders are the most
important people on Pern, and they are human enough to take advantage of the situation. There are some abuses, but the give and take quickly levels out.
The Weyr harper or Weyrsinger is a journeyman or Master from the Harper Hall whose job is to educate the children of the Weyr, provide entertainment, and keep records of Hatchings and other special
events. Just like in a Hold, the harper will give musical instruction to children who show aptitude for playing or singing.
C'gan was an exception among Weyr harpers in that he Impressed blue Tagath. None of the others have ever Impressed dragons in the pursuit of their duties, although some have offered themselves as
OATHS AND MALEDICTA
The Pernese of the Present Pass have forgotten the meaning of such expressions as “Jays,” short for Jesus, and “by all that's holy,” among others brought to the planet by the settlers. One
oath whose meaning was lost when the last dolphineer died was “Go for a blow,” loosely translated as “Go soak your head.” Some of the others have remained intact, such as “by heaven”
(meaning the sky), or “fardles,” a useful expletive. Pernese swear words do not pertain to sex or religion, since the former is not considered to be dirty, or concealed as unnatural, and the
latter simply does not exist in the society. Instead, exclamations denote danger, the Red Star, oaths of binding, excretory functions, and inconveniences.
Wherry teeth: nonsense; I don't believe you
Crackdust, shards: expletives indicating annoyance or disbelief
That's well dusted: It's nasty or unpleasant
He was born under the Red Star: someone evil or generally disliked or unlucky
Bend a tail: defecate
A hunk of firestone; all gas and ash: a braggart or a blowhard
Has a dragon's two stomachs: a “hollow leg,” endless appetite
Tail fork first: backward
Wherry hunt: “wild-goose chase,” a fruitless, foolish quest
Like trying to draw an inside straight in Bitra: an impossibility
Hatching fire lizards: building castles in the air
Shaffit!: irritation expletive
Chew it raw and swallow: accept the inevitable
A dragon among the wherries: cat among the pigeons
Smokeless Weyrling: a disparagement meaning useless
By the first shell: The first Hatching is of noteworthy importance to those who revere dragonkind. They swear by the beasts and men who protect them from the danger of Threadfall. Many Pernese
oaths are of a similar character, in which a rider will pledge his behavior (or his disbelief) by the first Egg of Faranth's clutch (the first of the fertile queens) or the egg of his own dragon.
Expletives in the same vein depict broken or damaged eggs (“shards,” “scorch the shell and sear the skin,” or “shells”).
“Through Fog, Fall, and Fire” is reminiscent of the vow of the American postman, who promises to deliver the mail “through rain and sleet and dark of night.” Like a good Celtic triad,
it names three disasters or trials through which one must pass to prove faith.
A Weyrling will be assigned to make sure glowbaskets are filled with fresh handfuls of glows, to help clean rooms or to carry out waste. Common rooms get cleaned by the headwoman's staff, though
sometimes that chore is assigned as a punitive duty to a dragonrider who has committed some small peccadillo. Each individual weyr is supposed to be cleaned on non-Thread days by its inhabitants. A
rider is expected to keep his own room clean, but not all do. Sometimes a rider's non-Impressed weyrmate, male or female, takes over the domestic duties. The assigned jobs are usually tedious but not
difficult. Hard labor is assigned only as punishment for malfeasance.
Another unloved duty is cleaning the latrines and filing the water supply. The lavatory facilities inside Benden were made while Mihall's men still had probes and stonecutters to mold rock. Long
chimneys leading down to sewers were topped by seats with holes. A reservoir at the top traps water to clear the chimney.
Usually an individual weyr will consist of a big room with a stone couch worn smooth by centuries of dragon hide. Access to a sun parlor just behind the ledge on the Bowl is through a natural or
constructed baffle to keep the wind out. The air is warm in the dragon's chamber. Dragons have slower circulation than humans and sometimes need a thin rug on their couches to protect them from cold,
but once they are asleep, they do not care.
In most Weyrs a rider sleeps in a small chamber just off the dragon's weyr. Benden Weyr uses rope-frame beds, spread with strong bags for reeds, grasses, straw, or down. Sometimes this is no more
than an alcove, but in the fancier, earlier Weyrs, it is a separate room, sometimes with a sliding door and even a bathing chamber.
Occasionally a Wingleaders chamber will have a lounge attached where the leaders can meet. If a rider knows of a vacant weyr he'd rather occupy, he can discuss the possibility of relocating with
Not all of the individual weyrs have sanitary facilities. The Weyr continued to grow long beyond the day that the stonecutters ran out of fuel. When Benden reached its full complement of 350
dragons, the masons, who were then working with simpler tools, broke through behind natural ridges into volcanic air pockets to form rudimentary weyrs. Junior riders who hoped for better quarters
worked to clean up the rough walls and floors on their own, or traded up to new quarters when a weyr fell vacant.
Dragons who are over a Turn in age excrete while
between. The excretal opening is concealed in the spade-shaped end of the tail, pressed closed by the forked end. Before the dragonets learn to fly
between to evacuate, the Weyrlings on punishment duty have the job of mucking out the Weyrling Barracks.
Weyrlings are also assigned to sack the firestone that the junior dragonriders bring in from the mines or from surface scars in the volcanic rock of the mountain range. It is a hard, dusty job, but
it is vital to Threadfighting to have enough sacks prepared to last the Fall.
As an aid to help them practice flying, Weyrlings are put on “elevator duty,” riding the thermal currents up and down in the Bowl. The young dragons and riders provide lifts for people from the
floor of the Bowl or another weyr to wherever they want to go. The women of the Lower Caverns make use of the service when they are carrying food to or intending to clean weyr. The service shafts in
Lessa's and the other Weyrwomens' chambers exist only there and in another few weyrs.
Apprentice healers in the Weyr are given basic first-aid training by other healers. If they show special aptitude for human medicine, those young healers who emerge during the Interval are sent to
the Crafthall in Fort Hold for instruction. During the Pass, there is plenty of on-the-job training. Most dragonriders of any length of service have scars on face, hands, shoulders, and upper body.
The onerous, smelly job of gathering and boiling numbweed is usually done by the women of the Lower Caverns and the Weyrwomen, but any idle pair of hands is likely to get drafted to help.
Healers who are also dragonriders are often asked to perform litter duty if there is an accident on the mountains outside the Weyr in one of the Holds. Telgar Hold frequently calls on Telgar Weyr
or Benden for help during the heavy snows. Dragons can carry medical litters with straps thrown across the rumpjust above the base of the tail. Generally one of the smaller dragons, blue or green,
draws this duty. The procedure is dangerous and requires considerable flying skill from the Weyrling. Unless it is absolutely necessary to move a wounded human, temporary accommodations are
established wherever the accident occurred. It is easier to bring a healer to an injury than the other way around.
Dragonriders suffer from a host of kidney and back problems brought on by the cold of
between. Weyrwomen and other females who fly frequently often have bouts with cystitis. The healers have effective remedies that have been used for centuries for these ailments.
Those who Impress dragons tend to live longer than those who do not, but during a Pass the chances of a fighting dragonrider outliving his career are limited. During Intervals, they live very long
The availability of good beer and the occasional bottle of wine gives rise to the next necessity: the morning draught. Inveterate tipplers make use of concoctions to stave off drunkenness,
including tincture of asparagus. For those who have overindulged and cannot carry it or had not had the forethought to take something ahead of time, Manora or her assistant Felena will administer the
morning draught, also known as the “killer cure.” It is an herbal brew, made with asparagus and willow and a handful of other items, and it tastes terrible. But it works every time.
Teas and tisanes exist for every small ailment a person might suffer. Purges are dispensed as a handful of herbs in the morning klah of someone who has been suffering from blockage. Headache teas
are made of sage, wintergreen, and willow in varying proportions according to taste. Everyone drinks klah, which is brewed from the bark of local shrubs. The best teas come from Upper Nerat, upper
Southern Boll, and the highlands of Ista. Mint, lemongrass, and verbena are grown in the Weyr Bowl. Nerat and upper Southern Boll supply citrus. The headwoman of one Weyr will trade its local herbs
with another to fill her stock of medicinals.
Dragons are rarely ill. If for some reason a dragon is not flying, whether from illness or injury, a dragon healer will keep a close eye on the dragon s color and skin tone. Frequently a grounded
dragon will save up his excreta for five days or so and go
between as soon as he can. Sometimes a younger dragon will misjudge how long he can wait and will need to be helped out with a purge, which affects both dragon and rider. The Weyrling will then
learn to watch how thick his beast s tail is getting.
A badly injured dragon is treated just like a Weyrling; his rider will need to bathe him and muck out his quarters.
Gambling followed man into the stars. The dragonriders amuse themselves at odd moments in the evening by practicing gambling tricks and sharping each other at games of skill.
Prestidigitation, or sleight of hand, is the special trick of Bendenites. The secrets are jealously guarded and revealed to no one outside the Weyr. The practitioners are forbidden to exercise
their skill to turn a profit for fear of alienating holders, but they amuse and befuddle those who cannot see the trick. Benden Holders, on the other hand, have not been issued any warnings not to run
games and tricks for profit, often to the detriment of the greener riders.
Dragonriders will bet for money on practically anything, especially complicated wagers on the outcome of Hatchings. Such things are winked at, because the Leaders know their men have to have some
Jugglers trained in the Harper Hall for amusement pass their skills on to any rider who cares to try. Benden riders pride themselves in having more dexterous hands than any other Weyr on Pern.
The inviting eastern sweep of the mountainside drew the founders of Benden Hold to this valley from the Weyr and the abandoned stakes of Thessaly and Roma in the year 22 after Landing. They found
that there was an impressive warren running through the cliffs that needed little additional excavation to create a large and well-proportioned Hold.
The stonecutters were brought in to smooth out the walls and to create partitions and steps between chambers. The roadway between the Hold and the Weyr was slagged down on three sides at bedrock
level and the trench filled in with layers of flagstone, then broken rock, then gravel, making it self-draining and easily maintained.
Benden's face is far less forbidding than that of Fort Hold, with a smaller main entrance. The Hold was built to house about seven hundred people initially, but some of the less accessible caverns
were redesignated as storerooms. Benden now has a population between five and six hundred, and serves as the central hub for eight to ten thousand more in smaller holds around it and over the chain of
mountains along the coast.
Benden Hold supports itself by demanding that holders spend a certain amount of time working in the Hold fields or caverns, unless they supply food directly to Hold stores. The Crafthalls tithe
time or craft-works in exchange for support from the Hold. During an Intervals, this form of taxation is not strictly enforced. Benden's fields are fertile, and the Hold can trade for what it needs.
Toward the beginning of a Pass, however, there is a scramble among holders and crafters to get the Lord Holder well disposed toward them so that they will get preferred accommodation in the Hold
Benden was one of only three Holds that remained loyal to its Weyr during the Second Long Interval, as Lord Raid continued the Tradition without questioning or understanding. He coerced Bitra and
Lemos, the other major settlements beholden to the Weyr, into following his lead. In the Council of Lords before the attack on Benden Weyr, Raid also managed to sway Nerat to his side.
Benden has carefully guarded treasured patterns for patchwork, which it uses for clothing as well as for quilts. Ornate sleeveless padded vests in patchwork worn over shirts are a trademark of the
fashionable Bendenite. Embroidery is a skill many take up to pass the long evenings.
Benden cultivates nut trees in specially protected orchards on the slope below the Hold. The soil is rich enough and has sufficient drainage to raise the walnuts for which Benden is known, and also
almonds and hazelnuts. Wedgenuts (Brazil nuts) and pecans come from Nerat. Benden raises a lot of tubers, which make a fine-grained bread when the holders want a change from breads made of wheat
The Bakecraft in Benden makes sweet breads for which they are justly renowned. The Winecraft trades grape yeast with them for baked goods. Journeymen bring in quite a few marks at Gathers for their
fmgerroot loaf, soda-rising bread with raisins, citrus cake frosted with soft, sweetened cheese, and crumbly nut bread. Another delicacy is a puffy oil pastry with layers of nuts and sweetening.
The Hold raises its own klah trees. Everyone but infants drinks klah. Children frequently mix theirs with sweetening and milk until they get used to the pungent infusion. Beer is always available,
but the wines are kept locked up, and the Steward keeps the key. Ordinary wines are available in the evenings, but the good wines are kept for special occasions.
In one of the oldest sections of the Hold lies the Benden Winecrafthall. It announces its presence even in the dark with the reek of centuries worth of yeast and spoiled grape juice. Here, as in
Tillek, the craft of viniculture has been practiced for over two millennia. The wine caverns are believed to be one of the reasons this particular system of caves was chosen for the new Hold.
To the unpracticed eye, this cavern resembles the Winecrafthall in Tillek. Racks upon racks of crocks and bottles lie in shadowed corners out of the way of clumsy feet. The air is always cool and
moist, circulating with the open air through ventilation shafts many dragonlengths high.
The winepresses in which the grapes are squeezed are stone tuns fifteen inches thick, cut from the very rock of the Hold with the same amazing precision as the corridors and floors. Wood has always
been so scarce that traditional wooden “stomping vats” were never viable.
Apprentices hurry in and out of the storage caverns carrying withy baskets of grapes held high over their heads, and others (frequently as punitive duty) press out the juice in the traditional
manner in the stone winepresses. The atmosphere is heady and rich with yeast. Many winecrafters wear cloth masks over their noses and mouths to keep from inhaling too much yeast and sneezing.
Journeymen oversee rows of apprentices at the stone tables, who sort the grapes and discard the unsuitable ones into overflowing, stinking bins that are hauled out and washed by other wrinkle-nosed
apprentices (another punitive duty). Still other journeymen follow the Winecraftmaster from vat to vat, tasting when invited and listening carefully as he expounds upon secrets of the craft.
Mastervintner Gorton holds court here. He is a garrulous, fleshy man in a leather apron who bears the marks of his profession: a nose with a bulbous end and a tracery of burst capillaries, and a
complexion like a sunrise. Gorton likes his wine. His consumption is formidable, and he appears always to be slightly inebriated, but never enough to reveal the secrets of his Craft.
12 ounces melted clarified butter or fat 4 ounces oil 32 ounces pulverized Benden nuts powdered bark spice (optional) 40 leaves of flour-and-water dough stretched to paper thinness 12 ounces
granulated sweetening l/4 ounce strained citrus juice 6 ounces water 1/4 ounce sweet syrup
Mix butter and oil. Cut dough to shape of the baking pan by laying the pan on top of stacked leaves. Butter the inside of the baking dish. Gently place one leaf of dough into pan, fitting carefully
along the bottom of the pan. The leaves are very fragile, so fold to pick them up, and unfold when in place in the pan. Brush with butter-and-oil mixture. Repeat with nine more sheets. Sprinkle 3
tablespoons of powdered nuts (with optional spice to taste) on tenth leaf. Open two more leaves of dough on top of nut mixture, buttering each in turn. Repeat with the nut mixture and two more leaves
until all are used up. As soon as the last two leaves are used, brush the top with butter and oil. With a very sharp knife, score the top of the pastry lightly lengthwise into four, and then draw the
knife diagonally to make lozenge-shaped portions. Bake in a 325° oven for 90 minutes.
Combine the next three ingredients in a saucepan. Cook until the sweetening dissolves. Boil for five minutes, or until a drop of it forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water. Remove from heat;
stir in syrup. Cool. As soon as the pastry is baked, remove from oven and pour the sweet mixture over it. Cool the pastry to room temperature. Serve.
Gorton has been in the Benden Wine-crafthall for many Turns. He is not so much an artist as a scientist. He keeps close track of what he does to a new vintage so he can duplicate the results later
on. He carries in a case slung from his belt a rock crystal cup with silver chasing made especially for tasting wine. The crystal will not pick up any flavor from the wine, nor add any to it.
Gorton, who can heave a barrel or stomp grapes with the best of them, starts the picking every harvest. Crying encouragement to his apprentices, he works furiously to set a good example, then steps
back to watch everyone else work.
Benden produces the whole range of wines, from the finest white to fruit wines and ice wines, and even a small quantity of retsina.
Everywhere in the caverns are the one-and two-liter glass bottles and ceramic gallon crocks sealed with wooden stoppers covered over with lead foils or solid seals made of vegetable lipids. Pern
has no beeswax or cork trees to seal bottles in the Earth fashion. Huge wooden barrels and knee-high kegs line the low end of the airless secondary cavern just off the corridor from the alcove that
serves Gorton as an office. Not all of the barrels contain wine. Benden makes a fairly good beer of its own and trades with Telgar for the best of their brewing.
The barrels are made on strakes manufactured from ancient patterns of the original barrels brought to Pern by the colonists. These odd contraptions force wood into the right shape with springs and
shave the lengths to bend in the right direction. Now that hardwoods are becoming more available, Gorton can replace some of the ceramic and glass barrels that his craft has been using for so long to
eke out the supply.
In order to keep his palate pure, Gorton never touches sweets. He claims they spoil his ability to distinguish between vintages. His figure attests to his other weakness; he cannot resist fresh
bread. But there is always a handful of sweets in his pocket for children. Gorton has a soft spot for youngsters, though he and his wife, Warra, have none of their own.
Gorton always looks forward to attending the Fort Hold festivities where the Wine-craft sells or barters wines. He has a jocular animosity for Tillek Winecraftmaster Dikson. They have carried on
the traditional friendly rivalry between Benden and Tillek that has gone on as long as both Holds have been producing wine. Dikson tries to improve the range of Tillek wines, while Gordon experiments
with fruit wines and cordials. There is a fair competition between Gorton and the Tillek Winecraftmaster every year to formulate the tastiest, smoothest spring wine, a delicate drink that is spiced
with woodruff herb.
Gorton knows that Dikson has planted craft spies in his Hall from time to time, but there has never been a successful one. He has kept Benden's mystique intact. The secret of Benden wine is in the
glass-lined, pressurized air seal tanks from the three gutted colony ships, brought to Benden by Rene Mallibeau, the man honored as the first Winecraftmaster. The perfect hermetic seal of the tanks
ensures that maturing wine never loses the “angel hair” of a quality vintage, and they can be siphoned without effort.
Robinton is an old friend of Gorton, who keeps a supply of “specials” to send to the Masterharper for his personal enjoyment. The “specials” need not have been of Gortons own pressing. The
wine caverns are huge, and there is plenty of storage room. Gorton knows where there are secreted wines two to four hundred Turns old. The Winecraft releases good aged wines for accessions of Lord
Holders, celebrations, Hatchings, births of heirs, and other important occasions. The wines are indicated by the name of the Winecraftmaster and the number of the Turn in his career that it was
pressed, such as Gorton 7, Gorton 11, Gorton 14 (reputed to be the best white wine ever), Darvik 17, Darvik 12, Anneke 5, and so on.
Naturally, there is tremendous rivalry among the Winecraftmasters as to who gets to be the Benden Master. As each Master lives a fairly long time, many a young apprentice has grown old in
frustrated anticipation. The chosen candidate comes into office with the facility for tasting inbred, then trained to the highest standard.
Not all of Benden's Winecraftmasters have been men. The accolade has been passed to talented daughters, too. Anneke, the Master two before Gorton, was named to the office by her father on his
Because the secrets of the Benden wine-craft are passed along at the last possible moment, some secrets have been lost because the Master died untimely and did not have a chance to reveal them to
anyone. Many Masters, as they lay dying, have whispered to their successors, “… Never let them have the vats…”