|“||«The Weyrs can’t help the Holds fight this illness», Kindan answered. His face drained of all color as the full impact of his words registered. He didn’t know if the illness of today was the same or even similar to that described in the Records. But just as he didn’t know, he also didn’t know if the current illness might be even more virulent than that mentioned in the Records. In less than twelve Turns, Thread would fall again on Pern — and there had to be dragonriders ready to fight it. «We can’t let the weyrfolk catch it, or the Weyrs won’t be able to fight Thread when it comes.»||”|
Kindan is an apprentice harper at the Harper Hall but he is finding the lessons very difficult and although he has his friends, Nonala, Kelsa and Verilan, he also has enemies, such as the bully Vaxoram. Things begin to improve for Kindan when he beats Vaxoram in a duel and Vaxoram becomes first his servant and then gradually his trusted friend. Then Kindan impresses a Fire Lizard and becomes the proud owner of the magnicent Valla. At the hatching he meets Koriana, daughter of Lord Holder Bemin of Fort Hold. She also impresses and she and Kindan fall in love, but her parents disapprove and she has to return to Fort Hold. Then a plague begins to spread across Pern, killing nearly everyone infected. Kindan and his friends search the harper records to see if they can find a cure, but all they can find is mention of a similar plague over a hundred Turns past. As the plague gets worse Kindan and Vaxoram are sent to Fort Hold to help tend the sick. Kindan will be reunited with Koriana, but will she be free of the plague, and will he be able to find a cure before more people die?
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At Ista Weyr in the Second Interval — sixteen turns before the beginning of the Third Pass — wingleader J'lantir angrily berates his wing riders, who have been missing for a sevenday. His riders tell him that they were on an important mission, and that he told them not to say anything about it until the time was right. J'lantir doesn't believe them, and decides to make them do drills the following day as punishment — something he notes they are oddly enthusiastic to do.
Three Turns later — immediately after the events of Dragon's Fire — Kindan and Cristov are candidates at a Hatching at High Reaches Weyr — which ends with the death of the aging Weyrwoman Jessala and her dragon Garirth. Although he feels that Pellar should be a candidate in his place, Cristov Impresses bronze Sereth, and S'son's daughter Sonia ends up Impressing a queen that hatches from an oddly-marked egg. During the aftermath, M'tal — having come to the Hatching with candidates — tells Kindan there'll be other Hatchings that he can attend, and adds he will request Kindan as weyr harper for Benden Weyr once he becomes Journeyman.
D'vin escorts Kindan back to the Harper Hall, where he tells his friends, Kelsa, Nonala — the first female apprentices in many Turns, who the other apprentices tried to get to leave — and Verilan, about the Hatching, before reporting to Masterharper Murenny.
Two months later, M'tal arrives with fire lizard eggs for the Harper Hall and Fort Hold, one of which is for Kindan. After taking them to the kitchens, Kindan and Nonala go to bathe, prompting the bullying senior apprentice Vaxoram to make a lewd comment towards them. Kindan demands an apology, and promptly challenges Vaxoram to a duel, accusing him of being a person who would use his strength against a woman. Vaxoram eventually accepts, choosing «cold steel» as the weapon they will use. Eventually, they decide that if Kindan wins, Vaxoram will serve him, but if Vaxoram wins, Kindan will be banished from the Harper Hall.
Later, Kindan is summoned by Masterharper Murenny, who talks with him about Vaxoram, revealing he has been bitter ever since his voice broke and he failed to find another talent. He also notes Vaxoram will likely try to kill Kindan in their duel, but Kindan resolves to fight him to stand up for everyone who is bullied for their talents, and requests that he be allowed to train with Mikal.
Kindan ends up spending the next seven days with Mikal at Aleesa's Wherhold, where the ex-dragonrider trains him: first teaching him fencing, then how to attack a person's eyes — Kindan eventually decides to aim below the eye, to get Vaxoram to surrender out of fear — and how to use his willpower to weaken his opponents — pitting Kindan against Jaythen, Aleesa and himself, before getting him to come up with «ten things to live for» on the final day.
M'tal returns Kindan to the Harper Hall, where he briefly practises various attacks on green tomatoes, intending to scare Vaxoram by showing him what he can do. Afterwards, he calls Vaxoram out, and their duel begins. Kindan eventually nicks him below his eye, and convinces him to surrender by threatening to blind him. Vaxoram yields, and swears he will serve Kindan.
Afterwards, Kindan decides Vaxoram will sleep in the same area as him and his friends, and reports to Murenny, telling him he decided to spare Vaxoram lest the other apprentices decide to blame Kelsa and Nonala for being the cause of the duel. Noting that Vaxoram's behavior should improve over time, they decide Vaxoram will still attend classes, but serve Kindan in his free time, and Vaxoram ends up accompanying and helping Kindan and his friends — Kindan telling Vaxoram that they could help him become a harper.
During classes, Kindan is told that some of the fire lizard eggs — since shifted to Fort Hold — are hatching, and he and Vaxoram — along with Journeyman Issak, who is to receive one of the eggs — head to Fort Hold, where Kindan Impresses a bronze fire lizard, which he names Valla. At the same time, he helps Koriana — the daughter of Lord Holder Bemin — with her gold hatchling, Koriss. Kindan and Issak are invited to stay the night, and Koriana arranges for them to sleep in her rooms, eventually sharing her bed with Kindan — and requesting his help in the night when Koriss wakes hungry. The next day, the two remaining fire lizard eggs hatch, but Koriss scares them away before they can be Impressed by Koriana's brothers, Semin and Bannor. Kindan, Vaxoram and Issak head back to the Harper Hall, telling Kindan that he wouldn't be able to seek out a relationship with Koriana — although rumors of their love soon spread throughout the Harper Hall.
Ten months later, M'tal arrives with a new apprentice, Conar, the youngest son of Benden Lord Holder Ibraton. As they show him around, he reveals that he's been sent to the Hall by his father to ensure «that their bloodline survives». Not long afterwards, when they go to eat, Murenny and M'tal bring them over to the Master's table, and reveal that several minor holds have gone silent, and Benden's harper investigated one, managing to send a message consisting solely of the word «flu» before dying. As they discuss this, Murenny adds that that Pern has few apprentice harpers and healers, as most holders and crafters are more concerned with expanding their lands before the Third Pass begins. Ultimately, M'tal suggests that Kindan search the Records — since his previous searches led to the discovery of the «new firestone» — for references to a «super-flu», as Murenny calls it, so that they will know how to deal with it — Conar and Vaxoram join Kindan in searching.
A few days later, Lord Bemin and his family visit the Harper Hall; they want to know about fire lizards — such as when Koriss will rise to mate, and who in the area has a bronze fire lizard. It is also decided that Koriana will spend some time at the Harper Hall to learn how to improve her handwriting. After they leave, Murenny talks with Kindan about Koriana, explaining to him why he must not pursue a relationship with Koriana. As he leaves, Kindan asks about reading disorders — having guessed that Vaxoram has difficulty reading while seeing him work in the Archives — and is advised to teach someone with such a disorder to draw.
In time, Conar discovers several badly written records dating from the middle of the Second Interval that suggest a plague decimated holds in the east, although Master Archivist Resler dismisses these as they don't resemble proper Records. Shortly before drums report a sickness in Keroon, Kindan makes plans to travel to Benden Weyr to check their Records — to find out why the Weyr doesn't appear to have sent aid. As they continue their search — joined by Koriana — they eventually find more Records indicating the aforementioned plague spread quickly, and the attempted cures didn't work. As they plan to search older Records, Koriana inadvertantly embarrasses Vaxoram by revealing he can't read. After Kindan comforts him about this, Vaxoram goes to bed, along with Conar, leaving Kindan and Koriana alone in the Archives. They confess their love for one another and eventually go to sleep together in Kindan's bed.
Vaxoram wakes both of them early the next morning to prevent the others seeing them, and they decide to tell the others that Koriana and Kindan both fell asleep in the Archives. Going to get breakfast, Kindan and Koriana encounter Masterharper Murenny, who invites them to eat with him in his study — also bringing Vaxoram in. Murenny, having guessed where Koriana spent the night, angrily states they have betrayed many by attempting to conduct a secret relationship. He also notes Vaxoram could rechallenge Kindan, but Vaxoram refuses.
Not long afterwards, Lord Bemin arrives at the Harper Hall with hold guards. Drum messages report a Major Hold emergency, and shortly afterwards, M'tal arrives with J'trel, who has brought a family he wants to be housed at the Harper Hall until the danger has passed — Bemin is against this, fearing they may have the Plague, but Murenny notes they pose the same danger as the incoming ships at Fort Sea Hold. Although Bemin wants Koriana to return to Fort Hold, she tells her father she wants to search for a cure. She and Kindan reveal their love for one another, which Bemin says he will not permit. However, he lets them leave for Benden Weyr when additional drum messages report sicknesses in Telgar, Nabol and Crom, after ensuring that M'tal and Vaxoram will guard Koriana's honour.
At Benden Weyr — where M'tal tells Kindan he won't be able to be posted to the Weyr if his honour is in question — Kindan, Koriana and Vaxoram spend five days searching Records, eventually finding that the Weyrs did send aid, but that it decimated the weyrfolk — dragonriders being immune to most illnesses — and it took the Weyr nearly twenty Turns to recover. With Thread due to fall in less than twelve Turns, they realise the Weyrs can't afford to get involved, and they rush to the drumheights to send word to the other Weyrs, only to be informed by K'tan — the Weyr Healer — that no-one is alive to relay the messages, but he gets the dragons to send word to the other Weyrs.
Afterwards, M'tal comes to take them back to Fort Hold, which they find is waving a quarantine flag. At the Harper Hall, J'trel stops them from entering, and drops them a drum so that they can contact those inside. After Kindan makes contact with the ill Murenny — who notes Kindan and Koriana have probably escaped infection — M'tal sends Koriana — who secretly hugs Kindan — to Fort Hold before returning to Benden Weyr, since they can do nothing to help — J'trel suggests dropping food, but since it's winter, there won't be any, and they note that untended livestock will also starve.
Kindan and Vaxoram enter the Harper Hall, where Master Archivist Resler — the senior harper, since all those above him are either sick, absent or dead — sends them to aid Masterhealer Lenner, who sends them to the Archives to find more information. They do, Kindan sending Vaxoram to get glows to light the dark room — Vaxoram finds all the glows are being used, so he returns with a torch — before discovering a strange poem, which he looks over. Vaxoram thinks it's a nonsense poem, and pulls it away, only for Kindan to try and grab it from him, causing him to drop the torch and set fire to the Archives. They rush to get help, and the fires are soon put out; however, many Records are destroyed in the process — including the strange poem.
In anger, Resler banishes Kindan from the Harper Hall. Vaxoram accompanies him to the stricken Fort Hold — stating that the fire was his fault, although they agree that they were both responsible — where they offer their services to Master Kilti, Fort Hold's healer, who strikes Kindan when he discovers the reason he's come, although promptly apologises, noting he can make up for his mistake by helping: Kindan and Vaxoram end up tending the ill — and removing the bodies of the dead. Kindan eventually notes they could use moodstone — a flaky crystal that changes colour — to measure the temperature of the ill, and he sends word to Benden Weyr — via Valla — requesting supplies.
After Kindan answers a drum message from Kelsa — reporting Murenny is dead and all the Masters are sick — Koriana calls him to help her with Bemin; Lady Sannora has just died — Semin and Bannor are also dead, having died some time earlier. Kindan gets through to him when he finds the sickly Fiona — Bemin's youngest child — in a nearby cot, and Bemin gets him to promise he'll save her.
The next day, dragonriders arrive and use parachutes to drop bottles of «moodpaste» for the holders to use. As time goes on, Vaxoram contracts the sickness, and Kindan eventually finds him on the floor, under a corpse. Although Kindan and Koriana manage to shift him to a cot, Kindan falls ill not long after arrangements are made to dig a mass grave in Fort Hold's ancestor garden. Three days later when he recovers, he finds Kilti has died — making him healer by default — and Koriana has also fallen ill. Kindan returns to his duties, and eventually comes up with the idea of facial masks to prevent the spread of disease — inspired by a dream during his sickness where one of the parachutes wrapped itself around his face — and sends word to Benden Weyr requesting them.
After Valla fails to return the next morning, Kindan contacts J'trel at the Harper Hall, finding that Valla is at Benden Weyr, but also learning that the Harper Hall has run out of food — a similar problem is happening at Fort Hold, whose stores are too large to be shifted by any less than ten people — and all the Masters are dead. The next day, Kindan realises Vaxoram is dying. Vaxoram reveals he was in love with Nonala, and notes that if he'd been made Journeyman he might have had a chance with her. In response, Kindan gets a table pulled out, and gets Bemin to help him aid Vaxoram in «walking the tables» and thus becoming Journeyman, which he succeeds in doing before dying.
After Vaxoram is buried in the mass grave, dragonriders arrive and drop masks, which they begin placing on themselves and the sickly. Fiona appears to have recovered, and so Kindan takes her to the kitchens, where Neesa, one of the cooks, tells him about the worsening food problems; Kindan gets her to make a list of the supplies they need. Not long afterwards, Kindan finds Koriana near death, and she says her goodbyes to him and Bemin — who tells her not to worry for not doing what he asked of her — before passing away. When Neesa later comes to report low supplies, Bemin sinks into despair and fears they will all die. Kindan attempts to comfort him, only for Bemin to remark they «might as well wish for fruit from the sky», which prompts Kindan to send word to J'trel, telling him «fresh fruit, south of Ista».
J'trel relays this to J'lantir at Ista Weyr, who in turn talks with Weyrleader C'rion — both coming to the conclusion that J'lantir's lost wing were actually timing it to the Southern Continent to fetch ripe fruit. C'rion sends J'lantir to time it back five turns to recruit his wing and get them to deliver fruit from the Southern Continent to the Red Butte, where dragonriders from Fort, Benden, High Reaches and Ista Weyrs will then deliver it to the stricken holds — Benden and High Reaches Weyr secretly aiding Telgar Weyr's holds.
Dragonriders soon arrive at Fort Hold, first delivering fellis leaves, and then fruit, which gives Bemin hope again, and he begins distributing the fruit and sending out patrols. Kindan returns to his duties — aided by Merila, a midwife who was recently found to have survived in a back room — in time deciding he needs to visit the Harper Hall out of duty. Bemin — who later tells Kindan he would have been proud to have Kindan call him «father» — attempts to get him to rest, but eventually decides to accompany him — noting Kindan's actions have made him rethink the way he feels about harpers.
At the Harper Hall, they find Talith burying many bodies, and Kelsa, Nonala and Verilan recovering in an infirmiary — Conar died from starvation by cutting back on meals to feed the others. Aside from Selora — the Harper Hall's head cook — and the two children from the family J'trel brought with him, they are the only survivors. As they begin shifting them to Fort Hold, Kindan searches for notes kept by Masterhealer Lenner, eventually finding them in Verilan's keeping. At Fort Hold, he takes the notes to Koriana's rooms — the use of which was granted him by Bemin — and eventually falls asleep trying to decipher a pattern to the sickness, Bemin changing his clothes and placing him in bed. The next day, Bemin wakes Kindan, and tells him of a new problem: although some two thousand of Fort Hold's ten thousand inhabitants have died, another two thousand will probably die soon from starvation. Kindan continues going over Lenner's notes and discusses his findings with the others, before realising what to do.
Kindan gets J'trel to take him to the abandoned Igen Weyr for a meeting with M'tal, where he tells him that he thinks the Plague is over, he wants the dragonriders to station wings at each Major Hold to help those at each hold recover. Kindan returns to Fort Hold, three wings arriving not long afterwards to help. After a fortnight, Kindan concludes the Plague has ended. The Harper Hall is gradually made fit for rehabitation, and they move back in, Kindan requesting M'tal eventually retrieve Zist, who will become the next Masterharper.
The next day, while the apprentices — under Verilan's control — clean the Archive Room, Zist arrives, and requests a report, which Kindan goes to write — Zist looks over it, and later confirms that Vaxoram will be listed in the Records as having become Journeyman. Zist later summons the «Songmaster», the «Voicemaster» and the «Archivist», and is answered by Kelsa, Nonala and Verilan, who he tasks with writing an uplifting song that will be sung in the evening about the Plague that explains why the dragonriders couldn't help, and for copies to be made and sent to every hold.
At evening, in the Dining Hall — where many of Kindan's friends have gathered to watch — Kelsa, Nonala and Verilan are made Journeymen — Verilan is subsequently promoted to Master following the evening meal — before Nonala is called to sing the song written by Kelsa, entitled "Kindan's Song. At the conclusion of this, Kindan is made Journeyman, and M'tal later escorts him to Benden Weyr.
- The opening date of Dragon Harper is given as 495.4, but later chapters suggest it took place in 492.4; which is considered to be the accurate date for a number of reasons.