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The Dragonlovers guide to pern
VIII. Fort, the First Hold
The Move North
Soon after the First Hatching, in the ninth year of the colony, it became evident that the Southern Continent was too unstable and dangerous to occupy. The earthquakes were increasing in frequency and intensity. Even though the stakeholds were gradually closed down as their inhabitants moved to safer quarters in the North, the colonists left behind much of their heavier equipment and other goods that they would not immediately need. They always meant to go back.
As the land grew more unstable, the agronomists examined the Northern Continent. It had only fifteen to twenty percent arable land, instead of the forty percent of the more fertile Southern Continent, but it was far less volcanic in character. The seismologists had underestimated how violent the reactions of the tectonic chains would be to the approach of the rogue planet. Until Mount Garben began to spew ash, they believed that any disruption would come from the three smaller cones along the great volcano's flank.
In the same year that the first dragons Hatched, one of the small mountains blew out ash toward the Jordan River, prompting the settlers to move personnel and irreplaceable equipment to Fort Hold immediately. Because of the paucity of transport, much of the machinery and supplies was sealed in the Catherine Caves for pickup later.
Curiously, the ever-helpful fire-dragonets absented themselves from the emergency moving preparations. At the time Mount Garben erupted, only the golds and a few of the bronzes were with their
human friends. The others were warily observing the eruption of the mountain. Because the fire-dragonets were so long-lived, it is believed that the image projected to Lord Jaxom came from creatures
who had actually seen the explosion, or their first- or second-generation descendants.
As construction of Fort Hold neared completion, the colonists found that they were running out of viable transport. The sleds and transports were wearing out. They might have lasted another twenty years under normal use, but the Pernese had to move people and things as quickly as possible. The original planners had never considered the need for a mass exodus.
There was some rivalry as to who would have use of the remaining power packs. Every task had to be judged for its importance to the settlement. The terraformers building the Hold and roads got first priority, because they were working toward the greatest good for the greatest number. What other packs remained were taken way from less vital projects, like Wind Blossom Ping's bio-genetic experiments, and put to other, more immediate uses.
By the colony's thirtieth year, it was clear that there would be no response to the one homing capsule that had been launched during the first crisis. The last of the transports had worn out fighting Thread and bringing colonists to the safety of Fort Hold. By this time, the dragons had bred up to sufficient numbers to take the place of the shuttles, thereby saving what precious supplies of disposable materials still remained for construction of shelter for the migrating colonists.
Tubers are kept over the cold season in sandpiles, along with swedes, parsnips, fingeroots, and turnips. One crop that is never neglected is the kitchen herb and spice garden. Clumps of herbs hanging overhead in the kitchens and corridors sweeten the air while they dry. At Fort and Nerat, the holders raise the whole range of herbs that the colonists brought with them to Pern.
Fort Hold grows sugar beets for sweetening, several varieties of berries, and wheat—all the ingredients needed for the bubbly pies its Bakercraft makes so well.
Fort Holders have a keen eye for style. Since they are so close to the Weavercrafthall in Southern Boll, Fort Holders get the news first on what is fashionable for each season. The Hold lies in the temperate zone, so the styles of dress vary with the seasons. In the cold season, fur-lined cloth garments are necessary in the stone corridors of the Hold and the Weyr, even though the thermal heating keeps off most of the chill. The holders wear floor-length dresses and pants through most of the Turn, though the weather gets very hot in the height of summer, when someone may reinvent the bikini or weave clothing out of grasses, depending on how much attention he or she wants to attract.
Tastes in clothing tend toward the ornate in Fort Hold. In the evening, the holders design new clothes, using stones and hammered gold or silver leaf and interesting dyed designs for adornment. The Hold is famous for its complex brocades, knit or woven on multiple looms. The knit brocades are done on needles as thin as sewing needles, using ordinary thread of sisal or cotton, but there's nothing ordinary about the results. Brocade jackets cut to the ancient Chinese pattern turn up from time to time.
Many patterns of weaving and embroidery are peculiar to Fort Hold. The weavers can produce cotton velvet, terry cloth, and other slubbed fabrics. A common cloth similar to denim is made for work clothes. There are no zippers on Pern; trousers close with button flaps, drawstrings, or a two-sided substance like Velcro. Long-sleeved boat-necked sweaters and bush trousers are recommended wear for going outside the Hold, as there are many plants to beware of in the brush: needlethorn, itch-leaf, saw grass, and other plants too useful to medicine or cookery to wipe out.
The inside of the Great Hall is spectacular. The stone is decorated with etched and painted line patterns of great complexity. Knotwork designs of African, Celtic, or Indian extraction arch high over the doorways and surround niches cut into the rock where statues and works of art are on display. The color on the wall designs is reapplied from time to time, but no one has ever tried to clean or repaint the etchings on the wide, arched ceiling.
The Lady Holder of Fort oversees the placement of valuable works of art left behind by her ancestors. In the Archives are oil paintings hundreds of Turns old, and fax pictures far older are treasured as heirlooms that make contemporary artists sigh with envy of the skill.
The Lord and Lady Holders' apartments are crammed with objects d'art, not unlike an eighteenth-century French salon. The rugs are very old and very fine. A small remnant of one of the first rugs to decorate the Hold is framed on the wall of the Lord Holder's apartment. Tapestries line the stone walls between the windows, lending vivid color to the otherwise unbroken gray.
In the fortieth year of the colony, when everyone on Pern but those on lerne Island had moved north, the calendar was reversed at winter solstice so that the months would coincide with the seasons, and their year begin as winter ended.
The most important Gather at Fort is the two-day celebration for Turnover, at the winter solstice. A Pernese Turn consists of 366 days, or 52 sevendays plus two days left over. Those two days of Turnover, called Turn's End and Turn's Beginning, are marked by special presentations by the Harper Hall.
Another festival is Crossing Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the Second Crossing.
There is a Harvest Gather every Turn, but the most important of these comes once every 250 Turns. The first Harvest Gather after a Pass ends is a major festival, held on the twenty-eighth (the last) day of the ninth month.
A celebration peculiar to Fort Hold and Weyr is the Firstday of the Weyr, the first day of the fifth month, dating from the fourteenth year of the colony. Each region has a celebration for the Weyr it is beholden to, but Fort's is special since it honors the first Weyr and the first of dragonkind.
Ruatha is the center for runnerbeast racing, but Fort, too, holds some race meets. Fort has no formal track. The races meet wherever there is a flat enough grassoid field lying fallow that season. The Fort Holders host many sailing races. Gaming meets are popular, too, such as board game tournaments or partnered chess on a big board, a Pernese variation of the Ancient game.
Fort Hold celebrates the Landing, but they have forgotten its real importance. Landing is considered to be the eighth day of the third month in Southern. After the plague, the celebration was remembered as Landing Day, but the reason for its name was lost. This day has come to be a planting festival for early crops.
The Gather stalls are stored in a back cavern until they are wanted. Each Craft has traditional places where they set up their pitches, unchanged in hundreds of Turns.
Some of the Crafts practiced on Pern have no central Crafthalls because they are simply too widespread or too routine. Among such occupations are winecraft, hunting, cooking, trading, and art.
A child who shows artistic tendencies is encouraged to develop his skills. He can apply himself to portraiture, sculpture, or whatever his talents suggest. Art is a random ability. The artist can be steered toward employment in whichever Craft will best allow him to perfect his talent to Mastership.
If he chooses to apply for training by a Craft, there are places for artists in the Weavercrafthall as pattern or fabric designers, or pattern assemblers, working with fabric either woven, knit, or sewn. Tapestry weaving is a good way for an artist to express himself. In a land in which everyone lives within stone walls, even bad tapestries can find homes, so the novice weaving is never wasted.
The Harper Hall is always eager to find accurate copyists and artists for scores and archives. For those who are good at working with their hands, there may be a place as an instrument crafter or ornamenter. The Smithhall uses a more technical kind of artist, one who is more accurate than imaginative. The smiths need draftsmen to make their drawings for them, but there is also a place for artists in that Craft to make fine jewelry.
An artist may be able to find work in a big Hold as a supernumerary, depending on the Holder's inclination. A fellow good with color might have a job painting signs or murals on the gray stone walls. The Pernese like gaudy colors. Some artists travel from place to place painting barns and signs for farmers and crafters.
The most common materials for sketching are charcoal on slate or bark. Paper is still too much of a luxury item for such a profitless venture as artwork.
This section of the Fort Hold complex was once the ground-level living quarters for those who had claustrophobia or a fear of heights. The Hall ceilings were cut immensely high, because the colonists had no idea what the rooms would be used for in days to come. That has worked out to the Craft's advantage, giving superb acoustics to the chorus room. The Hall is constructed around a central courtyard entirely made of stone. The windows are flanked by jointed metal shutters kept in good repair. The Great Hall has windows nearly three man-heights high.
Use two to four teaspoons of the mixture per cup of boiling water. Stir well. The klah should be thick, much like hot cocoa.
Sweetening comes from sweet cane or sugar beets. No bees survive on Pern, so beeswax and honey are unknown. The Pern colonists brought sugarcane cuttings and beet seeds with them, which they adapted to living in Pernese soil. Most of the cane come from Nerat, Boll, and Ista. Recipes in which honey is a traditional ingredient use cane syrup or molasses instead. The Bakercraft specializes in producing decorative sugars and icings. In the northern Holds, the Craft grows enormous crops of beets over the warm season, and barters extra sweetening with Holds and Crafts for other needed supplies.
On Pern, soap made of lye and fat is a very rare item. Instead, the Pernese rely on fuller's earth, lanolin, saponin root, oils, and sweetsand. Sweetsand, a naturally foaming fine sand, can get out the stench of firestone and works also on any other strong smell or heavy soil. Everyone bathes with it. Saponin root and lanolin are used for sensitive skin and fine hair. Fuller's earth, a rare clay, is good for the complexion and for cleaning certain kinds of fabrics. Oils and vegetable waxes are good for cleaning floors, and still other herbal oils make do for skin treatments. The recipe for soap still exists, but the chief ingredient, lye, is difficult to get. In order to make lye, water is run through hardwood ash. Hardwoods are so precious that to burn up a valuable supply of wood for soap is considered absurd. Toward the end of an Interval, when hardwood is in greater supply, someone to whom the recipe was passed down through the generations may save up all the scraps and sawdust and make a small quantity of scented bars as a luxury item. Now that hardwoods are being cultivated in Lemos and elsewhere, the Woodcrafthall intends to make soap a sideline.
The communications center high above the plain has continued in its function, exchanging radio sets for drums, right into the present day.
Unlike any other Craft or guild on Pern, harpers do not have any other official Crafthall except for the one in Fort Hold. The Harper Hall holds a great responsibility beyond those of simple education and entertainment: It is the receptacle and the preserver of Pern's history. Not only does a harper learn the Traditions, but he learns also how to teach them to others.
In order to maintain an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, the founder of the Harper Hall, Rudi Schwartz, established classes in a hall of the residence chambers specifically for teaching children during the day. The high ceilings made it an ideal room for scratch bands of musical enthusiasts to rehearse in the evenings.
The Harper Hall started out as a small Craft and ended up as the propaganda point and communications center for Pern. It has become the clearing point for information, as well as a Craft, responsible for the job of sorting out rumor from real news.
The harpers began as the teachers who gave children their basic instruction before sending them on to other assignments for which they showed aptitude, and as the musicians who entertained the Hold in the evenings after the day's work. Gradually the Craft evolved in a similar direction to the druidic tradition on ancient Earth: prognosticator, judge, and bard.
The Harper Halls purpose is the dissemination of information. The network of journeymen and Masters across Pern keeps all the Holds, Halls, and Weyrs in touch with one another. Musically skilled people can begin their apprenticeships in distant Halls, though the Harper Hall does not recruit outside students for its information-gathering service. Masterharpers prefer to study likely candidates at close range. A single misplaced or indiscreet message can badly damage the Hall's credibility as an unbiased judge.
Apprentices sponsored to the Craft by their local Masters are forwarded to the Harper Hall for further evaluation. If an apprentice is accepted by the Hall, he or she is given exhaustive instruction in voice, instrument making, composition and writing, and chorale singing, and must demonstrate proficiency in playing at least one instrument besides percussion. If, after his initial instruction, he shows talent in one branch of the Craft, the student may become apprenticed to the specific Master in charge of that specialty.
Not all apprentices are promoted to journeyman. Those who are take on new responsibilities, such as administrative duties. If they remain in the Harper Hall, they may be put in charge of some of their Master's apprentices. Chorale journeymen learn to arrange music and conduct a group of singers. Those who play instruments or sing well may be asked to pass those skills on to paying students and must learn to teach.
If a journeyman leaves the Hall, he may go to a large or major Hold, where he might be one of several harpers hired by the Holder. Telgar, Benden, High Reaches, Tillek, and Ista each have one or two Masters and a number of journeymen, depending on the number of children and elderly. In addition to teaching the children, the harpers entertain those too old to work.
A Hold may be without harpers if the Lord Holder is too stingy to pay a reasonable wage and no one will work for what he is willing to pay. In some small holds, a harper may be assigned to work for room and board, depending on the hold's importance to the Harper Hall.
A harper negotiates his own contract with the Holder seeking to employ him. He may choose privileges rather than marks, or a combination of perquisites and money, such as a few marks, a runner beast, a choice apartment, and certain edible (or drinkable) delicacies. Haggling for services can go just as smartly as any dicker at a Gather. If a harper is permanently assigned to a post, he is expected to settle down and marry a local girl. If he is temporary, he will probably make himself popular with the ladies, not limiting his attentions to a single one who will be brokenhearted when he leaves. One of his duties is to help arrange marriages for young men and women both inside and outside the Hold.
Journeyman harpers, known as “route riders,” teach at some of the lesser cotholds as they drop by each in turn, staying overnight and going on the next day, so they can cover an entire territory at least once a month. It is a strenuous position. Their job is to sing one or two songs, pick up any information, and pass the news from hold to hold.
A tactful journeyman may also be asked to dispense justice and officiate at weddings. If the disputers who requested his services are not satisfied with his decision, they can appeal to the Masterharper. Beyond him, they may go to the local Lord Holder or still higher, to a conclave of Lord Holders.
If a Lord Holder reverses a harper's decision, it is only courtesy to let the harper know why. The Lords need the Harper Hall as much as the Hall needs the goodwill of the Lord Holders.
Because of their position as justiciars and information bearers, harpers enjoy a sort of invulnerability that forbids anyone to hurt or mistreat them. It is the depth of bad manners to injure a harper. If a Holder is stingy or dishonest, the Hall withdraws its harpers from his Hold and blackballs him until he changes his mind, but if a Holder is actively brutal, all the other Crafts will join in the boycott and withdraw their Masters from the Hold. Traders might cease to stop there as word of the boycott spreads. The Crafthalls pride themselves on their autonomy, and they stick together when threatened. An economic sanction is a powerful coercion on Pern, as the sources for commodities are limited.
However, if a harper feels that a Holder is in dire need of a lesson, he may spread a satirical song about him. It is often a greater punishment to be laughed at than to have one's pockets pinched
by a boycott.
Literacy and education are handled on the apprentice system all over Pern. From the colony days forward, everyone has been taught by rote the fundamentals of reading, writing, and basic accountancies by his fosterer or Craftsmaster. The Hold harper takes over and teaches history and more specific subjects. From him children learn the Traditional songs and how to sing them. The songs are more than just musical entertainment—they embody the history of Pern, advice, warnings, and listings too tedious to learn without music.
Women in the Holds do not always learn to read, nor do some farmholders. Drudges are rarely taught to read. They are usually the mental defectives, given what tasks they can easily handle, most of which do not include the written word.
The harper's job of prognosticator altered somewhat to teaching the Pernese how to determine when to expect Thread and to prepare for it. The Sagas and Traditional songs instruct them what to look for and what to do.
The harper's job is to maintain the history of a place so that men will know their background and be able to learn from their ancestors' actions. He learns from the extensive Archives kept at the Hall by the Master Archivist, and passes along Traditions to the new generations who need to learn the perspective that history gives.
Children who live in outside holds learn from their parents in the warm season, and winter in a large or major Hold, where a harper teaches them. Children who live too far away or in a hold too poor to afford its own harper or to have many books and records are taught by a woman or elder of the family. They are further educated by roving journeymen harpers who cover a route, going from small hold to small hold all year round.
A child's education continues until he is fourteen, which is considered the age of reason and responsibility. At that time he begins full-time work. Unless he shows particular promise for music, he
will attend no more classes with the harper. Holders marry around age sixteen, and the girls have their children as soon as possible. By this age they will have absorbed as much education as they are
going to get.
Under the Masterharper in the Harper Hall, there are administrators and music Masters, journeymen, apprentices, students, and, provided by the Halls headwoman, cooks, stewards, and drudges. Outside the Hall, the Masterharper has charge of the Masters and journeymen who work in Holds and Weyrs, and oversees their judgments in cases of law, of which records are sent to him as soon as possible. Information gathered by the journeymen and Masters out of the Hall travels from Hold to Hall, or directly to the Harper Hall if it is sufficiently important.
At present, the Healercrafthall, too, occupies part of the Harper Hall. Over the long history of Pern, it has occupied several different locations as need dictated. It made the greatest sense, as
Pernese became more spread out over the smaller Northern Continent, to base the healers where requests for their assistance could be relayed the most quickly. Apprentice or journeyman harpers act as
messengers, translating the beaten measures and bringing news from the Drum Heights at greater speed than by any other means than dragonback or fire-lizard message tube.
The Masterharper has his own apprentices and journeymen, who report directly to him at all times, whose talents run beyond those of simple musical proficiency. He makes use of those who can make quick and reasonable decisions on their own. An apprentice cannot always report to his journeyman or Master in a sticky situation, and needs to be able to think on his feet. The Harper Hall “plays more than one tune” for Pern. Not only does it provide entertainment for every occasion, it effects important social change by helping people to accept new ideas.
Robinton, the most famous Master-harper of Pern, has technically retired, but his opinion, his expertise, and his good humor will be sought until he dies. He is a rueful, self-directed man who has a total understanding of his world and is just a little disappointed in those people in it who do not live up to their potential. He has a keen eye for human foibles and has the knack for expressing complicated concepts so that anyone can understand them. Robinton is a natural actor, a merciless imitator of other peoples voices and mannerisms. This trait got him in trouble frequently during his youth but became useful when he was asked to fill roles on behalf of the information-gathering branch of the Harper Hall. It was this side of him, as well as his musical talents, that eventually saw him elected Masterharper. His musical skills do encompass a great range; he composes and arranges instrumental pieces, as well as singable ditties.
Robinton has never married but has enjoyed a warm relationship with Silvina, the headwoman of the Harper Hall. They produced one son, Camo, who turned out to be retarded. Robinton could not bring himself to father any more children, lest they all turn out to be like the first. His misfortune is a source of melancholy to him.
It takes a man with a strong mind and a commanding personality to be the Master-harper. The Long Interval robbed the Hall of much of its purpose. If there was no need for dragons or Threadfall procedures, what need was there for harpers, except as teachers of the young and as evening entertainers?
With Robinton's assistance and faithful support, Benden Weyr was able to reestablish its authority on the eve of Threadfall. Privately, he has always had a mad crush on the Weyrwoman, partly because she is unattainable, and partly because she is unconsciously sexy. Publicly, he swears a greater allegiance to Benden wine, the finest pressings on Pern. He is not a classic alcoholic—he suffers none of the behavior changes or the physical marking of that disease—but he is a dedicated and consummate tippler with a virtually unmatched capacity. (Only the two Winecraftmasters of Benden and Tillek, and Mastersmith Fandarel, can boast greater tolerances.)
When Robinton retired, due to ill health, Master Sebell ascended to the position, though not the title, of Masterharper. Robinton moved to Cove Hold, where he instructs apprentices and journeymen sent to him from the Hall, and assists Lord Lytol in the excavation of the archaeological sites discovered by Lord Jaxom and the white dragon Ruth of Ruatha.
Composition Masters rarely waste hide and ink on apprentices. Most composition and design work in the Harper Hall (and in the Smithcrafthall) is done on sandtables. These tables are long, rectangular boxes divided widthwise into two compartments and set on raised trestles. The boxes are filled with very fine sand, almost powdered stone. The sand is dampened down with hand sprayers filled with water, which are kept on the dividers or in a bracket attached to the side of the table. Using a stylus, the composer or designer presses characters into the sand. A brush or the blunt end of the stylus is used to fill in errors. When the work is finished, the sand is allowed to dry, and then the surface is sprayed with liquid clay, a substance like plaster, to preserve the score or design. If the table is needed by another composer, the casting can be removed and brushed clean. When done carefully to a very specific depth, the casting can be daubed with ink and “printed” on hide. The clays are dissolved and reused over and over.
Songs are composed for all occasions: births, deaths, Lord Holder accessions and confirmations, weddings, and festivals; and to spread news.
Part of the harper's trade is the making and repairing of instruments. A harper can better understand the tonal qualities of the music he plays if he knows how to put together the instrument that produces it. A poorly joined guitar is more likely to produce false tones, thereby reducing the credibility of its player; a harp with an incorrectly made frame cannot stay in tune.
In the Harper Hall, apprentices begin their education in the crafting of instruments by learning about the tools they will use. All the traditional woodworker's tools are here: knives; saws; drafting equipment; oil, water, and glue tubs; brushes; awls; vises; forge and anvil; plus many designed especially for making musical instruments. The apprentice begins by making only the simplest ones: pipes, tabors and sticks, tamborines. When these are adjudged by the Instrument-Craftmaster to be fashioned correctly, the apprentice moves on to more complex joinery.
Journeymen should know how to make any instrument from frames, skins, metals, and lengths of wood. Masters who specialize in instrument crafting must know not only how to make the instruments and cases from scratch, but how to make the tools, and choose and prepare the raw materials, as well. Legend has it that the Instrument-Craftmaster can glance at a herdbeast in a field and judge how well its hide will sound stretched over a drum frame.
The Instrument-Crafthall is laid out in a large, L-shaped stone room. Heavy, smooth stone floor tiles are fitted together with scarcely a crack between them. The walls are lined to the ceiling
beams with instruments in all conditions: partially made, ill made, and Mastercrafted. Sandtables stand here and there around the room for use by the students and teachers when working on their
designs. At his own worktable, the Master keeps piles of cured record hides showing how instruments were crafted throughout Pern's history, telling which designs were favored and why, citing regional
preference, and so on. There are also tomes written by past Masters discussing which woods and metals are best for specific uses. Journeymen are encouraged to use one of these traditional designs when
crafting their personal gitars, as these will usually be the standard by which their skill is judged.
Instrument players in the Harper Hall have a wide choice of instruments. The instrument makers are allowed, even encouraged, to experiment in style. There are varieties of gitars, some with the traditional bell, some with big, curved bells like lutes or mandolins. There may even be a sort of banjo made by a talented journeyman. Students are taught to make many different kinds of flutes from reed, wood, or metal, or combinations of the three. They learn to make all kinds of percussion instruments—tambourines, tabors, conga, and bongos—and the full range of orchestral drums: snare, trap drums, kettle and bass.
Kettle drums, big-bellied frames made of copper or bronze, are used in the Drum Heights for sending messages. Ceramic, wooden, or brass-tongued xylophones and thumb-pianos make good accompaniment for certain kinds of songs. Menolly demonstrated her prowess to Master Jerint by constructing a bodhran, a shallow hand drum formed by stretching skin across a round frame with a crosspiece beneath for the player to hold. The bodhran is played with a knucklebone or two-ended stick. It is one of the most versatile of drums, and a skilled player can get many different sounds out of it.
Brass horns are of antique design because the Pernese cannot make anything more sophisticated at their level of mechanical development. They have coronets and trumpets, straight horns, a form of trombone, and bugles, but no flugel or French horns, or any other that need complicated valves. The technology does not exist to duplicate the synthesizers that came with the Landing group. Those wore out long ago or are still sealed in the Catherine Caves in the Southern Continent.
Harps exist in many styles. A wealthy Hold might have a floor harp, but even a lap harp is rare because of the lack of valuable hardwoods. Lyres or dulcimers, which are economical in size, are much more common. A journeyman in the Instrument-Craft will learn what to look for in suitable metals and woods. The newly formed Woodcraft in Lemos exchanges information and techniques with the Harpercrafthall. It is at Master Ro-binton's urging that such information not be so tightly held as craft secrets so that one man's death cannot throw a whole world into confusion, as it has in the past.
The Healercraft is one of the oldest Crafts on Pern. The colonists brought with them many different medical specialists, and medicine was one of the first programs for which they started apprenticing boys and girls. Once the children had the basic training in first aid, those who showed particular aptitude were encouraged to go on to further study.
Children and adults had to learn what plants and which animal bites or scratches were toxic on their new world. The ships brought many medicinal plants from Earth and First Centauri, which the colonists were able to adapt to Pernese soil. All the seasoning herbs and spices from the two worlds grew in the soil or in hydroponics tanks. Native herbs and shrubs underwent thorough tests to determine their uses in healing or cookery. Some discoveries were made by accident, such as that of numbweed.
The Healercraft doesn't have the technology to sustain defective humans. After twenty-five centuries on Pern, the race has been bred clean of most defects. The humans may have mutated somewhat over the years. Pernese humans live long lives and are still active in their eighth decade. Most of their ailments are a result of their environment.
Threadscore is a severe burn. The mycorrhizoid becomes tremendously hot during the fall through atmosphere and, if given the chance, will eat its way right through skin. The edges of a Threadscore are blackened and burned.
One of the most common treatments for Threadscore, like any other burn, is cold water. The wounds are immediately coated with numbweed to deaden the pain, but they are left otherwise uncovered to promote healing.
Most of the medical emergencies among the colonists were broken bones and births. The doctors taught field surgery to their apprentices who showed the most aptitude and had the strongest stomachs. Obstetricians got plenty of practice at their specialty. Pern grew from a population of 6,023 humans to thousands more within a few years. Since man had been living more healthfully, there were no terrible wasting diseases to decimate their numbers. The causes of cancer had been pinpointed and largely wiped out. Other degenerative conditions had been bred out of the race over the centuries. For those who still smoked before the colony embarked, a nonnicotine smoking substitute was distributed to help them break the habit. Tobacco was not considered important enough to grow in the newly tilled fields when foodstuffs were so much more desperately needed.
The main diagnostic center and surgical hospital was in Landing, until, partway through the ninth year of the colony, all the main hospital functions were moved up to Fort Hold. (Benden Hold, too,
had hospital facilities when it started out, but those shrank down to a few healers who sent their difficult cases, and their apprentices, back to Fort.) A doctor and at least a couple of nurses were
assigned to each of the southern stakeholds, but each of these had other jobs, as well. Anyone who suffered from a condition that his local doctor could not handle was sledded in to Landing. All the
training facilities were maintained in the centers.
The Healer Hall is administered by the Masterhealer, at present Master Oldive. Under him are Masters of the different disciplines of healing, whose specialties and ranks can be read by the rank
cords on their shoulders. Oldive also oversees stewards who take care of stocking supplies, keeping the Hall clean, and preparing food. Another of his assistants is the Nursing Master, a nurse with
teaching skill and administrative ability. There are doctors and nurses and apprentices of diagnostics, pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics, urology, pharmacy, dentistry, surgery, and respiratory
ailments. Gifted Master-healers become specialists in one of these facets of the craft. Some remain at the Hall to teach; others find posts where such a specialty is needed. Each Weyr has at least one
urologist and a surgeon.
Not all trained healers have specialties. Some, especially those who are sent to remote holds, are general practitioners. Because of the difficulty of moving seriously ill patients, <>a specialist is generally brought in by the Masterhealer of a hold instead of risking losing the patient on the journey. On occasion, a healer may call in a dragon to do an emergency ambulance run if there is sufficient cause. It is a very serious matter to summon a dragon, and no healer will do it lightly twice, since the dragons have duties elsewhere. Most emergencies can be handled on a local level.
A healer will pass news of anything new or unusual back to the Hall through the journeyman harpers who pass through, or by informing the Lord Holder, who will see that word is sent back.
When a medical emergency arises, the Healer Hall studies the problem and publishes or distributes the means for curing or controlling it. In the case of the Great Plague that wiped out half the population of Pern, Masterhealer Capiam, who was a Master diagnostician, was forced to treat the symptoms empirically at first instead of suggesting a cure. Many medical techniques have been lost or have fallen out of favor over the centuries.
Healers learn new techniques by returning to the Healer Hall for refresher courses. As in any Craft, a healer “walks the tables” to advance in grade. One may train all the way up to journeyman rank in one of the other Healer Halls on Pern, such as that in Southern Hold or in South Telgar, but must still return to the main Healer Hall to attain mastery. It is common for apprentices to learn their basic skills in the Hall and be sent out to other Holds as journeymen under masters who are specialists in certain fields. Unlike all other Crafts but the Beastcraft, Healercraft must rely on on-the-job training for its students.
Midwifery is a specialty that many apprentices take up, since the skill is needed in every hold on Pern. Most healers get at least basic instruction in delivering babies.
Nursing is the journeyman stage of a healer's education. Some remain nurses, and some who attain mastery of their Craft go on to become doctors known throughout Pern for their expertise. There is no guarantee of a healer's competency just because he had his training in the Healer Hall of Pern, but the noncompetitive atmosphere means that a candidate stands or falls on his own skills.
The head nurse has responsibility for a stated number of beds or wards in the great Healer Hall complexes. He or she is in charge of journeymen and journeywomen nurses and dressers. There are
Master Nurses in the craft, but every healer needs to be exposed to all facets of his occupation to have a thorough grasp of it.
Healers control most chronic ailments with the help of maintenance dosages of cordials and home remedies. A wine cup of distilled hyssop every day keeps off respiratory problems such as croup. Willow tea keeps arthritis under control. A glass of wine is thought to keep the blood thin. Alfalfa tea is good for the stomach and acts as a diuretic. A preparation of yarrow is good against acne. The archives are full of herbal and homeopathic cures that can be made with the plants that grow throughout Pern.
The Pernese do not attach any social stigma to suicide. In the case of a terminally ill patient, the decision whether to employ euthanasia is in the hands of the healer, his Master, and the patient, if he is conscious and in his right mind. A Lord Holder does not get involved when a man makes the decision to take a “mercy draught.” A persons death is considered to be a private matter. If a patient is suffering from a terminal ailment, he or she can choose to die—there is no question of whether or not a man is responsible for his own continued existence. Suicide is expected (though not encouraged) behavior in the Weyrs when a fighter loses his dragon to injuries or illness. When riders die, their dragons suicide by going between.
Anyone who is unhappy is encouraged to seek out someone with whom he can discuss his problems. Healers who help soothe troubled minds follow in the footsteps of the Ancient psychologists and
psychiatrists who came to Pern in the colony ships. If a holder disagrees with everybody and everything, he can leave his Hold of birth and start afresh somewhere else. He is not trapped in one place
until the end of his life. Even during the Present Pass, there is still a lot of untenanted land and unused space to pioneer.
The bodies of the dead are rarely buried in the ground without some sort of protection from the sky. There is a dislike of leaving the body of a loved one where it might get Threadseared. Instead, the dead are interred in stone cairns or under stone tablets. Cremations are not uncommon, but in poor or woodless holds, cave burials are more accepted. Fisherfolk have elaborate and solemn ceremonies for burial at sea.
The medium-sized caldera that Fort Weyr occupies was found during flyovers to Fort Hold. Within five years at Fort Hold, the dragons and riders had begun to outgrow their quarters; they moved over to Fort Weyr in the fourteenth year of the colony, under Weyrleader Sean Connell and bronze Caren-ath, with his wife Sorka, senior queen rider for Faranth.
The Weyr was built to hold a maximum of five hundred dragons. The architectural style is a fairly simple one. Because the Weyr was occupied in a hurry, the rough edges were knocked off the walls and floors to make it livable. But many modifications were made over the next fifty Turns.
Stonecutters were employed to join individual underground caverns into a single complex. There was enough fuel to cut any configuration the architects wished. The corridors twist on for quite a way into the mountain, though not all of the passages are still in use. The Weyr Bowl was left untouched, but the Living Caverns were thoroughly redone.
The Hatching Ground at Fort Weyr is very showy. The upper deck, where spectators sit, is supported by natural columns. The caverns in Fort Weyr are all very high and rounded, left behind by bubbles in the volcanic flow. The Star Stones and Eye Rock high on Fort Weyr's rim are the largest on Pern.
Behind natural small cliffs dotting the walls of the volcanic crater, the individual weyrs were made large, taking into consideration the size into which dragons were intended to evolve eventually.
At first the original dragons, who numbered only ninety-two, rattled around in the large chambers like clappers in a bell, a situation very unlike the cramped arrangement they had left behind in Fort
Hold. Very quickly, Kitti Ping's formula for increased size began to manifest itself in successive generations of dragons until, by the Second Pass, dragons had reached the size they would remain
until late in the Second Long interval.
The other four northern Weyrs are not as carefully made as Fort or Benden. Dragon-riders with a talent for stonemasonry in Igen, Ista, High Reaches, and Telgar spend their spare time chipping out new corridors and smoothing the walls in frequently used chambers. Because it is such hard work, and accomplishing anything major takes such a long time, there is little perceptible style to these Weyrs. Fort was able to assume a grandeur suitable to the first Weyr on Pern.
The Fort Weyr kitchen is up an imposing flight of steps and lies under an elaborate vaulted ceiling. The hearths run along the outside kitchen wall, with room to feed not only the 450 dragonriders but the 1,200 support staffers who live in the Weyr. The night hearth, which always has a pot of soup or stew and a kettle of klah heating, is in a separate room just off the kitchen, where runners coming into the Weyr from between or by the Fort Hold road are fed.
Copper utensils ranging from immense soup cauldrons to tiny saucepans hang from the ceiling in rows, shined by drudges until the head cook can see his face in every one of them. Some of these
copper pots were made here, but many predate the Second Crossing. They are the Head Cook's pride and joy, and reputed to be a finer collection than that in the Fort Hold kitchens, where his
grandfather is the Head Cook.
Hectar is a tall, thin, sad-looking man who came from Fort Hold when his great-grandmother Agatha reported that the Weyr needed a new Head Cook. His assistants are all much shorter than he is, so he does not understand their need to get the steps to take down pots from the hooks, which he can reach without effort. Hectar is never satisfied with anything he cooks and is forever moaning that his stew does not taste right, or that he has burned the bread. He complains that the flour did not arrive premilled, and that it was badly ground by the kitchen drudges. The dogs did not move evenly around the spits, and the meat is undercooked. All of his complaints bemoan his imaginary inadequacies. The head woman of the Lower Caverns is accustomed to soothing him, assuring him that the food tastes magnificent, which it does, and that he did not leave out a single ingredient.
Hectar lives on tastings from his recipes. He does not eat much otherwise and never touches sweets. The stews and soups never taste the same way twice because he is always experimenting, varying the amounts of spices and the proportions of vegetables. His anxiety is doubled by his great-grandmother Agatha's insistence that his grandfather is a better cook than poor Hectar ever will be. Hectar is the exception to the rule that you can never trust a thin cook.
Agatha retired from the headwoman's job a few Turns ago, but she still keeps a finger in every pie. Like all the aunties, she is honored for her age but teased for her arrogant and overbearing airs. Her strength of purpose was needed to hold her own with the Oldtimer women, who felt she was taking a job that rightfully belonged to one of them when they came forward. Her approval is and was respected. She held the job of head-woman for a long time and was still keeping the Weyr caverns in perfect order when she was persuaded to retire for her health's sake. Agatha's “Hmph! Not bad” is high praise.
Now that she is retired, she gets too little exercise to keep the joint ailment from which she suffers at bay. She takes fish oil for the vitamin E to ease her stiffness. She has more time on her hands than she needs and spends much of it bickering with a crony of hers, a gifted tanner who can make wherry hide as smooth as fabric. He has high blood pressure, which he treats with garlic. Anyone in the caverns can find either one of them just by following the stench of fish or garlic.
Garlic is popular as a cold remedy. The sandy soil in the Weyr Bowl is good for raising all the bulb and root families of vegetables. Moreta used it as a palliative when the plague was starting its ravages. It serves as a medicinal herb, as well as a condiment.
The new headwoman, Margetta, is so young and full of energy that she runs at full speed until she collapses. She came from the Old Time, but she hardly seems to be like the others who came forward with her. Everyone knows when she is awake, because then she seems to be everywhere at once, overseeing the drudges, measuring out spices from the locked stores, or counting heads in the dining cavern. Everyone knows when Margetta falls asleep, too, because her snores are as loud as a roaring dragon.
Margetta is the one to whom the duty falls to inform the Senior Weyrwoman of shortages in the stores. She and her stewards oversee the repair of furniture, rugs, and tapestries. They also see to the replacement of riders' clothing, sleeping furs, and boots, and provide hide for repair of riding gear. Margetta is also the liaison with the Craftmasters who work inside Fort Weyr.
The extensive Lower Caverns and Hatching Grounds are much the same size as the ones at Benden Weyr. Some corridors in the back of the caverns end in blind walls. The blocked-off area in back of the Weyr dates from the end of the First Pass, when those living in the caverns cleared out to other Holds and Benden Weyr. In these back rooms are remnants of the move from South to North. With the decline in Weyr population, most of these rooms have been turned over to storage. Empty plastic packing cases are used for contemporary supplies. Bits and pieces make their way to the workshops of the Weyr's smith: screws, fasteners, engine parts, coils of electrical cord, wires of rainbow colors, and connectors. No one has uses for some of the parts. Sixteen-pin chips are turned over to the children as toys.
Behind a fall of earth, there are further corridors, closed during an avalanche, that no one has been in for millennia. Records on plas-film are stacked everywhere. Some are indistinguishable from the dirt in which they are buried. The inhabitants of Fort Weyr always meant to rescue the contents of these rooms, but they never got around to it. Now there is not even a memory of the existence of the rooms themselves.
Margetta also has the task of clearing out a weyr when a dragonrider dies. If he has designated no one to have his belongings, they either go into the common storerooms or are thrown away. Anyone who wants them can have the discarded possessions, and the headwoman is happy to get a little space emptied out. The storerooms are chock-full of twenty-five hundred years worth of dra-gonriders' impedimenta.
A weyr has little furniture. Beyond the dragon's stone couch and its weyrmate's bed, there may be a garment chest. There are closets in a few of the principal chambers, such as those of the Weyrleaders and Weyrwomen, but as the power tools began to wear out, closets ceased to be priority construction items. A rider will have rugs and tapestries to keep out the cold of the stone, and perhaps a small table and chair, especially if he practices a handicraft, but generally dragonriders do not keep many personal possessions.
Dragonriders have spare-time occupations, which they fit in between taking care of their dragons and their duties within the Weyr. Most riders make their own riding straps, because they need to be able to trust the leathers to the last tug. Some riders have a talent for tannery and make more goods than they need, to barter with or gift to other Weyrfolk. Those with a bent toward tailoring or barbering are sought after in the evenings. Fur-lined clothing is a must in the stone weyrs, especially in Fort Hold's cold winters.
All the Weyrwomen keep their hair cropped close, with the exception of Lessa, who takes pride in her thick, dark tresses and keeps them plaited closely under her flying helmet, and Mirrim, who admires Lessa enough to copy her. Moreta was looking forward to the day when she would be able to let her blond hair grow out. As mirrors are rare, no one tries to cut his or her own hair. Anybody in the Weyr with a deft touch at cutting hair is much in demand during restdays or in the evening. The men tend to be cleanshaven: Due to genetic drift, Pernese males have very little body or facial hair. Some Lord Holders allow their hair to grow longer than dragon-riders do as a mark that they are of the leisure class, but they, too, tend not to cultivate facial hair. Drudges, who need to keep their hair out of the way, have it clipped under a bowl by a headwoman.
Most riders prefer short hair for safety. There is a risk in keeping one's hair long during Threadfighting. The first time a longer-haired rider gets threaded across the back of the neck, or has a
fragment of Thread tangled in his hair, he is usually first in line for the barber.
Dragonriders enjoy gambling. Fort dragonriders like a good dice game and have reinvented craps and other games of chance. Like all the Weyrs, they play dragon poker. Since this is an Old Time Weyr, there are some decks still in use whose face cards bear the likenesses of riders so long dead that no one remembers who they were. Fort Hold plays board games, some of which have made their way into the Weyr. Chess is often played in the evenings. Before the fire lizards came, a game could be left set up on a table for days until the players got back to it. Now players are well advised to finish before they leave, lest when they return they find the pieces rearranged or missing.
When the Weyrs are all in harmony, the Weyrleaders meet at Fort. There is a beautifully appointed chamber known as the Council Room. It is dominated by a table in the shape of a half oval with seats for each of the six original Weyrleaders at the top, and seats for visitors and others of less consequence arranged at the curve opposite. The Weyrwo-men sit at the sides near the Weyrleaders.
The wall decorations, brought forward from the Old Time, are tapestries pertaining to each Weyr. They are very lavish and beautifully made, showing Masterwork of need-lecraft. The ones depicting Benden Weyr were left behind when Fort Weyr was abandoned, and have four hundred Turns more wear on them.
The tabletop is a magnificent mosaic done in chips of semiprecious and precious stones, the work of a lifetime from the Mine-craft lapidaries. Each of the chairs is ornately decorated, with fancy chair arms and seat-back. The padded seat pads are sumptuously embroidered.
Because of the frequent change of Weyrleaders, the seat pads are newly made for each man. The Senior Weyrwoman of each Weyr is usually the only one to attend these conferences, and her chair decoration is of a more permanent character.
The Weyr trains its own dragon healers, mostly from riders who show an aptitude and an interest in healing, though anyone with training and knowledge can help heal injured and burned dragons. Dragonriding takes up most, but not all, of a rider's time. The Healer Hall instructs all healers in basic techniques of first aid, but apprentice dragon healers learn from others in their Weyr. Moreta, for example, was a dragon surgeon. A dragon healer needs dispassion, skill, and dexterity to be effective. It does the dragon no good if a healer is afraid to perform a painful operation to save a wing or a leg. In case of emergency, a beastcrafter may be called in to assist a dragon surgeon.
All Weyrlings physic their own dragons. If a young dragons tail is too thick, denoting constipation, his weyrmate must administer the purge. If he has bitten his tongue learning to chew firestone, the rider applies numbweed salve until the bleeding stops and the ichor has clotted. Fortunately dragons are a healthy breed, but dragonriders are always encouraged to learn more about caring for them.