|“||Shunned from hold, Shunned from craft,
Steal the grain, steal the haft.
Take without returning too
And it will be Shunned for you.
At Natalon’s mining camp, Pellar embarks on a secret mission to discover whether the condemned criminals known as the Shunned are stealing coal. But the gifted tracker discovers that a far more treacherous plot is unfolding. A heartless thief named Tenim has realized there is profit to be made from firestone, the volatile mineral that enables the dragons of Pern to burn the lethal Thread out of the sky. When the last remaining firestone mine explodes, a desperate race begins to find a new deposit of the deadly but essential mineral. Sure enough, Tenim has a murderous plan to turn tragedy to his own advantage. Now Pellar and his new friends—the kind and gentle Halla, a child of the Shunned, and Cristov, the son of a corrupt miner—must stop Tenim. If they fail, it will mean the end for Pern and its dragonriders.
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Book One: Pellar
The story begins in the Second Interval, with Master Harper Zist and his wife Cayla taking their adopted son Pellar to the Healer — and ex-dragonrider — Mikal. Pellar is mute, but aside from this appears to be healthy and intelligent — enough so that Mikal requests to be allowed to teach him the skills he knows.
Seven turns later, Pellar — now ten turns old, and communicating via a slate or sign language — is forced to remain at the Harper Hall while Zist and Cayla — along with their infant daughter, Carissa — head south in disguise as part of an attempt to make contact with the Shunned — people banished from Holds for various crimes, often with their families — in order to solve problems with them before Thread begins falling.
Zist and Cayla eventually meet up with a group of Shunned when they set up camp and join them, only to discover the group is suffering from sickness. Cayla is unable to cure it, and they later leave when one of the Shunned warns them the others blame them. However, all three contract the sickness as they return to the Harper Hall, and Cayla and Carissa both perish as a result.
Over the next two turns, Pellar is made apprentice, and is gifted a fire lizard egg — meant for Zist, who refused it — and he names the fire lizard Chitter when it hatches. Zist and Masterharper Murenny continue making plans to contact the Shunned, and they finally decide to send Zist and Pellar to Camp Natalon, where a series of thefts have recently occurred — thus setting in motion events that are detailed in Dragon's Kin.
Meanwhile, at the All-Weyr Games in Crom, Harper Moran — one of Zist's spies, believed dead, but in reality caring for a number of Shunned orphans — tricks a number of holders into making bad bets, which he wins. Tenim, an adolescent in his care, attempts to steal the marks of a holder, but is caught and has to feign innocence. Also at the All-Weyr Games are Tarik and his son Cristov, who ends befriending Jamal, one of the Shunned orphans. Tarik and Moran end up coming to an arrangement regarding mining.
At a later date, Zist and Pellar travel to Camp Natalon, although Pellar hides and leaves the night before they arrive so Zist will appear to have come alone. As he wanders through the forest, he finds a child's grave covered with flowers — unknown to him, it is Jamal's, who died from a leg infection — which he adds flowers to, before continuing on.
Pellar later arrives at Camp Natalon in the night, and tells Zist that he has found a group of Shunned, mostly children, who are stealing coal from the mine. Zist in return tells Pellar about the situation in the camp, including the tensions between Natalon and Tarik — Pellar suggests Zist mentor Kindan, a young boy, to try and fix the problems between him and his brother Kaylek. As Pellar goes to return to his camp, Chitter reports his campsite has been discovered; he investigates, and finds only that someone searched his goods — taking his leather and leaving bad twine — and left some flowers. Pellar decides to shift his camp. As the sevendays go by, Pellar keeps watch on the Shunned from his camp in the eastern mountains, meeting with Zist every so often. After an accident occurs at the mine, Zist takes care of Kindan. When Pellar next meets with Zist to report — narrowly missing being caught by Nuella — Zist tells him that he will be made Journeyman, and Kindan will become his new apprentice.
After three months, Pellar checks his traps and finds Halla caught in one. Before he can free her, Tenim arrives with the Shunned, forcing him to hide. Tenim briefly considers leaving Halla where she is, although he later sends his pet falcon, Grief, to free her. Pellar overhears them discussing Moran, and he reports this to Zist — also wondering as the Shunned leave why Halla didn't tell Tenim he was hiding nearby. Following talks with Zist, Pellar goes to spy directly on the Shunned campsite, and witnesses Tenim making deals with Tarik about the coal robberies — Tenim has a plan to sell the stolen coal for a high price to holders, and Tarik is helping him to provide for his family's future. Pellar reports this to Zist, and is later tasked by Zist to identify Cristov's virtues — also giving the same task to Kindan.
Around the time the trader trains are expected to arrive, Pellar overhears Tarik and Tenim discussing their plans at Tarik's cot, before Tenim leaves and attempts to block the chimney at Natalon's hold — by suffocating Natalon and his family, Tarik will become head miner. Pellar follows him, and attempts to stop him, but Tenim instead throttles him and leaves him for dead. However, Chitter manages to alert Zist, who finds him and takes him to safety — at the same time, Kindan discovers Tenim's sabotage and raises the alarm. Pellar remains in Zist's care until he is fully recovered. Zist informs him that a apprentice watch-wher handler is accompanying the traders, which will allow the miners to work at night and thus make it harder for Tenim to attempt anything. However, the apprentice fails to arrive — the traders claim he was «scared off».
When well, Pellar returns to Natalon's hold to find a good vantage point, and inadvertantly encounters Cristov. Pellar ends up revealing his job to Cristov, who promises to keep it a secret. Pellar reports this meeting to Zist, who comes to the conclusion — from Cristov's words regarding his father — that the Shunned are trading coal for fire lizard eggs. Zist and Pellar come to the conclusion that they should get a watch-wher egg, and Pellar leaves Camp Natalon in an attempt to find Aleesa, the Whermaster. After some two months of travel through Crom, Telgar and Nabol, Pellar finds Aleesa's Wherhold in northern Nabol.
As he reaches the campsite, Pellar is attacked by Jaythen, Aleesa's spouse, as they fear he may be attempting to report on them — D'gan, the Weyrleader of Telgar Weyr, feels that watch-whers were partly responsible for the low tithes that resulted in the abandoning of Igen Weyr, and chased them away from their last camp — but he soon proves his innocence to the group. Pellar stays with the wherhandlers at their camp for a while — although Aleesa's daughter Arella soon warms to him, it is not until he successfully aids Jaythen in hunting much later that the older man comes to trust him — and when Aleesa's wher Aleesk clutches, he reveals his true goal: to barter with them for the eggs. They eventually come to an arrangement, where the egg will be sold to Camp Natalon, the wherhandlers will begin trading eggs with herdsmen and miners who need a wher's ability to see in the dark, and Pellar will remain at the camp as Harper until a replacement can arrive — in addition to this, he will teach the illiterate Aleesa how to read and write.
In time, Pellar leaves to arrange the trade — saddening Arella, who had fallen in love with him — and begins travelling to holds across the Central Northern Continent, before he is found by D'vin and his bronze dragon Hurth of High Reaches Weyr, who were sent by Zist to find Pellar. D'vin informs him that his rank has been formally moved up at the Harper Hall, before taking him to Camp Natalon — arriving near the grave of Jamal, which Pellar finds is untended — where he tells Zist of his plans. D'vin then takes Pellar back to Aleesa's camp, where he is attacked by Arella — who believes he has betrayed them to D'gan — although he is defended by Aleesk and Hurth. D'vin negotiates the proposed trade with Aleesa, and Arella tends to Pellar's wounds.
Over the next few days, Pellar finds candidates for Aleesa's egg, and the eggs are eventually traded at the camp — one of which goes to Kindan — which is visited by dragonriders from every weyr except Telgar Weyr; Pellar hopes that this will fool people into thinking they're hiding in the land covered by the Weyr — indeed, Tenim and the Shunned are unable to find the camp. One egg is left behind at the end, preventing the wherhandlers from shifting their campsite. Pellar is sent to Camp Natalon to ensure Kindan's egg hatches — if it doesn't, he will get the final egg, but if it does, Aleesa expects Pellar to care for it. At Camp Natalon, Pellar again encounters Cristov, who was planning to watch over the egg himself. Pellar recruits his help, and they keep watch for four days, at which point the egg hatches. Before he leaves, Pellar suggests Cristov get lessons from Zist, and gifts him one of his pipes, before returning to Aleesa's camp, where he finds Arella impressed the final egg.
Meanwhile, Moran's group of Shunned orphans — constantly shrinking as more die — team up with a Shunned mother and daughter, Conni and Milera, who use their looks to obtain them fare on a riverboat going along the Crom River. Halla dislikes both Conni and Milera — the latter of whom makes unkind remarks about her intelligence and looks — who cause trouble by attempting to rob the riverboat owner when they disembark at Three Rivers Hold. Their group becomes scattered; and Halla is caught by the holders, although she is rescued by Tenim. Moran and Conni escape with half the group, and flee towards Keogh Hold, while Halla retrieves the remainder.
Halla's group eventually joins a trader train — the same train Pellar travelled with — going through Crom, and she befriends Tarri. Eventually, Tenim and Milera rob the traders and flee — although Tenim later kills Milera when she attempts to murder him and take his marks — and Halla reveals her identity as an orphaned child of the Shunned. Upon hearing proof of her innocence, the traders offer to take care of the Shunned orphans in her care, while Halla goes on to track Tenim — Veran assuring her she'll be welcome amongst any traders.
At Keogh Hold, Moran abandons a drunken Conni with the children, and flees into the wilderness, in time, stumbling across Aleesa's camp. Pellar finds his tracks and encounters Halla, who warns him about Tenim. They create a false trail, and head back to Aleesa's camp, where Pellar comes up with a plan to lure Tenim: he will pose as Moran with a fake watch-wher egg, and lead Tenim away from the camp — to the safety of Camp Natalon. Although the plan is successful at first, Tenim realises he's been tricked when he reaches Crom Hold. Tenim plans an ambush, during which Chitter is killed by Grief, and he attacks Pellar, inadvertantly knocking him into a river. Chitter's body is soon discovered by Tarri, who reports Pellar's loss to Zist.
At Camp Natalon, Tenim finds that Tarik's coal thefts have been discovered, and that he has been sacked. Upon discovering that Natalon is inspecting the mines, Tenim causes the mine to collapse in a last-ditch effort to get the mine under Tarik's control. In the resulting chaos, Cristov rushes to Zist's cot in an attempt to get him to restore order, and discovers Chitter's corpse. In anger, he goes to fetch his axe — leading to the final events of Dragon's Kin.
Book Two: Dragon's Fire
After the rescue of the miners at Camp Natalon, Tarik is taken away by Masterminer Britell's men. After three days, Tarik is determined to be responsible for the collapse of the mine as a result of his thefts — Tarik didn't mention Tenim, in return for the Shunned adolescent abandoning their stockpile of stolen goods — and as such is Shunned, made Nameless, and sentenced to work for Lord Fenner of Crom indefinitely. The shock of this causes his wife Dara to faint — and later die as a result.
Over a turn later, Cristov and Toldur — who cares for him — are summoned to the All-Weyr Games by Masterminer Britell, and end up watching the Games from Lord Fenner's stand — along with Kindan, also in attendance. Also at the Games are Moran and Halla, having left Aleesa's camp to retrieve the remainder of their group, and Tenim, who has rejoined them. Moran is planning to make arrangements with Cristov and Toldur for coal, and sends Halla to listen after him. Cristov sees her, and gifts her a half-mark to buy food with.
The Games begin — Lord Fenner repeatedly placing bets with Masterminer Britell — and three select wings arrive from each weyr, each giving an aerial performance as they do. There are three rounds; the first involves two dragons from each weyr taking turns to sear as much «Thread» — rope dropped by the weyr queens — Ista Weyr emerges triumphant. Afterwards, D'vin of High Reaches Weyr lands and requests help finding a bubbly pie stall; Cristov singles out Halla, who leads them to the stall. As they do, he recognises her as Jamal's sibling, although she informs him that he has since died before she disappears into the crowd.
Meanwhile, Tarik, now working at Firestone Mine #9 — the only firestone mine on Pern — is placed in the stocks for potentially planning to attack the head miner. Thirsty — and fearing abuse from Maril, a fellow Shunned miner — Tarik attempts to pull a bucket of water nearer with his foot, only to knock it towards the mine, where Maril, exiting the mine with a load of firestone, inadvertently ignites it, destroying the mine.
The second round begins, in which whole wings fight rounds of «Thread» without error until only one wing remains — Telgar Weyr is the victor, and Lord Fenner notes they will probably win the Games. Following this is the third and final round, a relay where all three wings fly against «Thread» in rapid succession. During the round, a firestone accident causes the death of a High Reaches weyrling. In the resulting chaos, Tenim steals a dirk meant to be presented to D'gan, and hides it in Cristov's clothes as revenge for the role Cristov played in foiling his plan to make Tarik head miner.
Ultimately, Telgar Weyr wins the round, and D'gan approaches Lord Fenner with the intent of receiving his dirk. Its absence is quickly noted, and Cristov finds it falling from his clothes when he stands. A furious D'gan — and the crowd — calls for him to be Shunned, although Halla attempts to defend Cristov, along with D'vin. However, the news of the destroyed mine prompts D'gan to ignore Cristov in favour of travelling to Firestone Mine #9, where he finds Tarik is the only survivor, and he tasks him with mining a hundredweight of firestone before he returns.
At Crom Hold, D'gan lies and says all were killed at the mine — prior to the destruction of the mine, he was secretly taking firestone from it in addition to what his weyr normally received — and proposes they establish two firestone mines, with Cristov working as one of the miners. Cristov offers his services, and is joined by Toldur — Britell reveals he summoned them both to promote them to Journeyman and Master respectively. They decide to go to begin searching for a site — Kindan recalls seeing a map detailing a firestone site in High Reaches — and Lord Fenner calls on Kindan to announce the winners and call the Games to an end.
Afterwards, D'gan returns to Firestone Mine #9 to find two hundredweight mined — Tarik found it in the storage shed — and Tarik informs him he knows of a possible firestone location near Keogh Hold, which he found years ago while searching for coal. In return for showing D'gan this location, he demands the return of his name, so that he can lead others and be a miner again. D'gan agrees — although only offers to send small provisions, and four men to mine.
At Crom Hold, Tenim decides he has stolen enough marks that he doesn't need Moran anymore. As he goes to leave, he sees dragons flying to the north of Keogh Hold, and reasons they might be searching for a firestone mine. He follows them, intending to use this knowledge to his advantage. Halla notices his absence and informs Moran, who goes after him, leaving Halla to care for the Shunned children. In the night, Halla goes to Crom Hold with the children, claiming they have lost their family. Lord Fenner at first angrily asks them to tell them who their parents are, before giving them rooms when they are unable to do so.
The next day, after Halla and the other children are properly rested and washed, Halla is brought before Lord Fenner to answer for the charges laid against her, and he formally absolves her, and informs her the children will be taken into his care as fosterlings. He takes Halla to lunch, before asking her to help him seek out more Shunned — like Zist and Murenny, he is attempting to make contact — which she agrees to do.
In High Reaches, Cristov and Toldur eventually succeed in finding firestone, and a mine is established with the help of the weyr. Meanwhile, at Firestone Mine #10 — established by Tarik — Tenim approaches Tarik and forces him to work with him once more; Tenim will supply miners — Shunned youths — to work for Tarik, and in return he will take a cut of the firestone mined. Tarik struggles for the next sevenday, attempting to handle the extra mining and keep it secret from D'gan, who eventually brings fresh miners — one of whom is Pellar, rescued by a rider, and who has lost his memory. Instead of sending him to work in the mines — and likely to his death — Tarik decides to get him to handle the supply lists.
Halla soon finds Tenim's trail, and learns from Veran that he stole a cart from Veran. Tenim himself is unable to get a clear answer from Sidar — a crooked trader at Keogh Hold — about how much he could make if he was the only firestone supplier, but he returns to Firestone Mine #10 — after Tarik flatters D'gan in a failed attempt to get more supplies — and takes his last cut from Tarik, before leaving, planning to sabotage the mine and make himself the sole supplier of firestone. Pellar — who Tenim never saw, but suspected may have survived — is suspicious, and follows him to a dam built by Tarik. Tenim sends Grief to the mine with a bucket of water, while he throws firestone at the dam itself — intending to destroy Tarik's stores. Pellar tackles him, but Tenim succeeds in destroying the dam and the mine — killing Tarik — and overpowers Pellar, leaving him behind to take the blame. Halla is near enough to see the explosion, and heads to find survivors.
The next day, Pellar recovers, and finds his memory restored — after Tenim ambushed him and he fell into the river, he lost his memory, but used Mikal's healing skills to survive, until he was found by Telgar Weyr dragonriders. He calls for Hurth, and D'vin arrives at the site with aid. D'gan also arrives, accusing D'vin of stealing his firestone when he finds Tenim's tracks heading towards High Reaches. D'vin soon proves his innocence, and goes to investigate — after D'gan assumes responsibility for the site and sends the High Reaches riders away. Pellar and Halla both decide to follow Tenim's trail.
D'vin travels to Cristov's Mine to warn him about Tenim. D'gan plans to re-establish both of the recently-destroyed mines, but is told there are no Shunned left to operate them. Tenim heads to Sidar to sell him his firestone, but Sidar refuses to deal with him, as Tenim is now being targeted by the weyrs, and they are retrieving firestone from Cristov's site. Tenim poisons Sidar with firestone gas, and hides his firestone stockpile nearby, before stealing a runner and heading for Cristov's Mine. Sidar's death doesn't go un-noticed; D'gan discovers and claims the firestone at the site, and Halla follows Tenim's trail there, before travelling west with a trader train. Pellar makes his own way towards High Reaches Weyr, but is forced to give up when the mountains prove too inhospitable. D'vin later makes contact, and Pellar reveals his intentions to secretly stand guard at Cristov's Mine, hoping to avenge Chitter by stopping Tenim.
Tenim soon arrives at Cristov's Mine and finds it well guarded, and eventually gets Grief to attack the guards — and dragon — on duty, while he destroys the mine. Pellar calls for Hurth as Tenim begins his attack, and goes to rescue the miners when the mine explodes. Grief goes to attack Pellar, but he impales the bird on his knife. Tenim goes to kill Pellar, but Pellar kills him first using a knife thrown his way, before fainting from the stress.
Following the mine's destruction, Cristov — who Toldur died shielding — is rescued and taken to High Reaches Weyr to heal — the left side of his head has become horribly scarred. Halla — having arrived at Cristov's Mine around the time it was attacked — rescues Pellar and nurses him to health at a camp of her own, her feelings for him growing. She eventually learns he was the one who tended Jamal's grave many turns back when she finds him tending the graves of Toldur and Tenim. At the Harper Hall, Kindan is tasked with finding any potential leads about firestone. After a month — during which time Cristov recovers and is told about the upcoming Hatching at High Reaches Weyr, which D'vin is Searching for candidates for — Kindan and Kelsa, a fellow apprentice, discover a record mentioning fire lizards finding and eating firestone on beaches — which they find odd, since fire lizards are known to not eat firestone.
Meanwhile, at Aleesa's camp, Aleesa has fallen ill, and Moran — having returned at some point in time — leaves to get healing herbs — although Jaythen warns him he will hunt him down if he betrays them. After two days, Moran is found by a Telgar dragonrider, and he claims to have been pursued by Shunned, in an attempt to protect the wherhandlers. The dragonrider doesn't believe Moran's claim to be a Harper, and takes him to Lord Fenner to be judged. Fenner identifies Moran as Zist's lost apprentice, and sends the dragonrider away, before sending an urgent message to the Harper Hall to get a Healer for Aleesa.
At the Harper Hall, Kindan is summoned to travel to Aleesa's camp along with Mikal — Mikal will attempt to heal Aleesa, and if he cannot, Kindan will attempt to Impress Aleesk. However, Mikal manages to cure Aleesa, and announces his intentions to stay with their group, since there is «good rock» there — some of Mikal's healing methods involve the use of stones. Prompted by this, Kindan asks him if he knows of another firestone, revealing his discoveries — and also discovering that Mikal's dragon died as the result of a firestone explosion. The two come to the conclusion that a different firestone was mined several hundred turns back, until a disaster where the present firestone was discovered and simultaneously destroyed, along with the head miners of the time, resulting in the knowledge of the former firestone being lost.
Kindan and Mikal travel to High Reaches Weyr — and are joined by Cristov and D'vin — and they plan an expedition to the Southern Continent — entry to which is normally barred — to try and find some of the «old» firestone. In addition to this, they plan to get the Shunned to mine this safer firestone for a turn in return for amnesty. The Weyrleader approves of this, and they travel to Ista Weyr in the hopes of finding a rider familiar with the coast — J'trel, who they find has a habit of sneaking down there. Travelling to the Southern Continent, their initial searches find nothing, but they later find a small quantity of firestone near a group of fire lizards which is impervious to water: the «old» firestone. Simultaneously, Zist travels to Crom Hold and forgives Moran for failing in his mission, before recruiting him to find Halla.
Meanwhile, Pellar heads north in an attempt to find a new firestone mine, and is briefly abandoned by Halla — who feels safe at their camp, and was against initially calling for help from dragonriders lest they abduct the Shunned raiding the ruins of Cristov's Mine and put them to work — but he leaves a trail of flowers for her, and she later chooses to join him. At the same time, Cristov returns north and attempts to find an «old» firestone mine in High Reaches — initially with the aid of Toldur's wife Alarra, but alone after she breaks her leg — and inadvertently causes a landslide that covers him. Pellar and Halla witness this and rescue him, and also discover that he unearthed a large firestone seam as a result.
Pellar calls for Hurth, and Cristov is taken back to High Reaches Weyr to heal, but is pronounced well after four days, and requests he be taken back to the mine. Upon arrival, he discovers that Pellar and Halla — with much help from various people — have managed to transform the site into a holding which will be run by the Shunned — with Moran as Harper. D'vin approaches Pellar, offering him a place at the Hatching, but Pellar refuses, and he and Halla offer Cristov in his place. Cristov at first is unwilling to accept, but decides to after learning they are one candidate short, and this could result in the death of a dragon.
Three turns later, Cristov — now C'tov, and Impressed to bronze Sereth — returns to the thriving Fire Hold to ask Pellar why he gave up his chance at Impression; Pellar tells him — through Sereth — that it's because he needs to tend the graves and care for the Shunned.