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Moreta:  Dragonlady of Pern

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Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern

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Author: Anne McCaffrey
Publisher: Del Rey / Ballantine, 1983
Series: Pern: Book 1
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Heroic Fantasy
Mythic Fiction (Fantasy)
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(170 reads / 54 ratings)


An air of pleasant anticipation hung so thickly over the Halls, Holds, and Weyrs of Pern that it had affected even the businesslike ways of Moreta, the Weyrwoman of Fort Weyr. Her dragon, Queen Orlith, would soon clutch; spring had made a glorious debut; the Gather at Ruatha Hold was extremely merry; and Moreta was enjoying the attentions of Alessan, the new Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold.

With only eight Turns remaining before the deadly Thread would cease to Fall, all seemed well on Pern.

Then, without warning, a runnerbeast fell ill. Soon myriads of holders, craftsmen, and dragonriders were dying; and the mysterious ailment had spread to all but the most inaccessible holds. Pern was in mortal danger. For, if dragonriders did not rise to char Thread, the parasite would devour any and all organic life it encountered.

The future of the planet rested in the hands of Moreta and the other dedicated, selfless Pern leaders. But of all their problems, the most difficult to overcome was time...



Fort Weyr, Present Pass, 3.10.43-1541, and Ruatha Hold

"Sh'gall is out on other Weyr business," Moreta told Nesso for the third time, beginning to loosen her sweat- and oil-stained tunic as a hint.

"His Weyr business should be accompanying you to Ruatha Gather." Nesso's voice had a whining note to it in the best of her humors. Now the Fort Weyr Headwoman was filled with aggrieved indignation at the fancied slight to her Weyrwoman, and her voice grated like a bone saw in Moreta's ear.

"He saw Lord Alessan yesterday. A Gather is not a time to discuss serious matters."

Moreta rose, seeking to end an interview she hadn't wanted to give, one that could continue as long as Nesso could dredge up complaints, real or imaginary, against Sh'gall. Their antagonism was mutual, and Moreta often found herself in the position of placating or explaining the one to the other. She could not change Sh'gall and was loathe to displace Nesso for, despite her faults, the woman was an exceedingly efficient and hard-working Headwoman. "I must bathe, Nesso, or I'll be unpardonably late at Ruatha. I know you've arranged a good meal for those who remain. K'lon's comfortable now that the fever has broken. Berchar will look in on him. Just leave him alone."

Moreta fixed Nesso with an admonitory gaze, reinforcing her injunction. Nesso had an officious habit of "taking" Moreta's place whenever the Weyrwoman was absent unless specifically ordered not to. "Away with you now, Nesso. You've enough to do, and I'm longing to be clean." Moreta accompanied her words with a smile as she gave Nesso a gentle shove toward the exit from her sleeping room.

"Sh'gall should go with you. He should," the irrepressible woman muttered as Moreta held aside the vivid door-curtain. Only when Nesso neared the sleeping queen dragon did she cease her imprecations.

Heavy with egg, Orlith dozed on, oblivious to the woman's passing. The golden dragon had arranged herself on the stony couch so as not to mar the fine gleam of oil that Moreta had rubbed into her hide as part of the morning's preparation for the Gather at Ruatha. Moreta was heading for her own much-needed wash when she was asked to examine K'lon, so she'd been late for her chat with Leri to be sure the old Weyrwoman had what she required for the day. Leri would have no ministrations from Nesso's hands.

The interview with Nesso had proved unavoidable. The Headwoman had "heard" that Sh'gall and Moreta had "had words" that had caused the Weyrleader's abrupt departure, dressed in riding gear rather than in his Gather finery. Nesso had also to be reassured that K'lon was not wasting from a virulent fever that would spread rapidly through the Weyr, it being only three days to a Fall.

Moreta stripped off her clothes. She ought to have been at the Gather long since, getting through the obligatory courtesies before the racing started.

"Orlith?" Moreta called softly, concentrating the strength of her gentle summons in her head. As always, the sleepy response of her queen cheered her of Nesso's petulance. "Rouse yourself, my golden beauty. We'll be leaving soon for Ruatha's Gatherday."

It's still sunny at Ruatha? Orlith asked hopefully.

"It should be. T'ral did the morning sweep," Moreta said, opening her robe chest. The new gown lay in gold and soft, warm-brown folds, colors that would accent Moreta's eyes. "You know how accurate T'ral's weather sense is."

The dragon rumbled with satisfaction, and Moreta could hear her stretching and turning.

"Don't roll too much now," Moreta said politely.

I know. I mustn't lose my shine. Orlith spoke with patient acknowledgment. I will keep clean until we reach Ruatha. And then I'll sun. When I get hot enough, I'll swim in Ruatha Lake.

"Would that be wise so close to clutching, my dear? That lake's cold as between." Moreta shivered at her memory of those ice-fed waters.

Nothing is colder than between. Orlith spoke definitively.

Having laid out her Gather finery, Moreta strode into the bathing room. She grabbed a handful of sweet sand, then swung her legs over the lip of the raised pool, whose surface was faintly steaming. Standing waist deep, she sanded her body until her skin tingled. Submerging for a moment, she surfaced, tipping her head until her short hair fanned out in the water. Then she pushed back to the edge of the pool, reaching for more sand, which she scrubbed into her scalp and hair.

You take a long time to get clean though there's not much of you, Orlith remarked, somewhat impatient now that she was fully awake.

"There may not be much of me, but there was a great deal of you to be bathed and oiled."

You always say that.

"So do you."

The countercomplaints were lodged with total affection and understanding. Queen and rider had been partnered for nearly twenty Turns, though they had only recently become the leading pair at Fort Weyr when Leri's Holth had not risen to mate the previous winter.

Moreta gave her head a final scrubbing, then flicked her fingers through her hair to make the short crop settle into natural waves. Wearing a leather cap during Threadfall made her scalp sweat so much that the long blond braids in which she had taken so much pride as a holder girl had been shorn. Once this Pass was completed, she could grow her hair!

Once the Pass was completed ... In the act of pulling on a clean undertunic, Moreta paused in surprise. Why, this Pass would end in another eight Turns. No, seven if one counted this Turn a quarter gone. Moreta sternly corrected an optimistic attitude. The Turn was barely seventy days old. Eight Turns then. In eight Turns, she, Moreta, would no longer have to fly with Orlith against Thread. The Red Star would have passed too far to rain the devastating parasitic Thread over Pern's tired continent. Dragonriders would not have to fly because no Thread would blur the sky.

Did Thread just stop, Moreta wondered as she slipped on her soft brown shoes, like a sudden summer storm? Or did it dribble off like a winter rain?

They could use some rain. Snow would be even better. Or a good hard frost. Frost was always a Weyr ally.

She slipped into the dress now, smoothing it over her rather too broad shoulders, over breasts firm rather than large, a waist that was trim, and buttocks flat from long hours of riding astride. The gown hid muscled thighs that she sometimes resented, but they, too, were the legacy of twenty Turns riding a dragon and little enough inconvenience for being a queen's rider.

She did wish that Sh'gall had chosen to come with her. She wasn't acquainted with the new Ruathan Lord Holder, Alessan. She had a vague recollection that he was the leggy young man with light-green eyes that were an odd contrast to his dark complexion and shaggy black hair. He had always stood most correctly behind the old Lord Holder, his father. Lord Leef had been a stern if just holder from whom the Weyr could expect every traditional duty and the last tittle of tithe: just the sort of man the Weyr, and Pern, needed in command of such a prosperous Hold. But then, at Ruatha traditions had always been zealously maintained, and many of that bloodline had impressed queen as well as bronze.

None of the many sons that the old Lord Leef had bred had known which would be named his successor. Lord Leef had kept the whole tangle of them in hand, preventing discord. Despite Threadfall and the other dangers of a Pass, Lord Leef had contrived to build several new holds into the sides of Ruatha's steep valleys, to accommodate the worthiest of his sons and their families. Such expansion had been one of his many schemes to keep order in his Hold. Lord Leef had planned ahead for the end of the Pass as well as for an orderly succession. Moreta could not fault such provisions though Sh'gall, among other dragonriders, had become concerned over the creeping expansion of the hold populations. Six Weyrs, twenty-three hundred dragons, were hard-pressed to keep cultivated lands Threadfree in this Pass. There had been talk of founding another Weyr during the Interval. That would not be her problem, however.

Moreta set the gold and green jeweled band at her neck and slipped on her heavy bracelets. The light-eyed man must be Alessan. She had often seen him at the end of Fall with the flamethrower gangs. Always correct in his manner, nevertheless Alessan's presence was felt despite his reserve. For the life of her, Moreta couldn't remember as distinctly any of the other nine sons though they all seemed to have inherited the strong craggy features of their sire rather than those of their various mothers.

Today would be Alessan's first Gather since the Conclave of Lord Holders had confirmed his accession to Ruathan honors at the beginning of the Turn. Rest days, Threadfree days, and clear weather combined infrequently.

Copyright © 1983 by Anne McCaffrey


Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern

- couchtomoon


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