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How could this be happening? Neru thought of nothing but dragons and fighting Thread. How could they overlook him and show such interest in her, when Nian had never once entertained the thought of dragons except for her brother's sake?

Ever The Twain is a short story of the Dragonriders of Pern series written by Anne McCaffrey and included in the anthology A Gift of Dragons. It was first published in November 2002.

Synopsis

«Ever the Twain» was the only story original to the collection. It tells of twins, Neru and Nian, who are inseparable. The brother Neru dreams of being a dragonrider; the sister Nian is more practical. The two live at a hold on Ista Island. One day, when dragons come to Search, they identify Nian as a good candidate for the queen, but she will not go without Neru. The dragons take them both on Search, along with Nian's friend Orla and another boy called Chaum. At the Weyr, Orla tells Nian that another girl, named Robina, has been promised the queen. The twins work in the infirmary for a day, but on Impression, the queen dragon hatches and Nian Impresses her and learns her name is Quinth.

The two of them manage to break the egg Neru is next to, revealing a bronze dragon named Larinth, who Neru impresses. Later, in the weyrlings' barracks, N'ru tells Nian that he was upset that she was chosen on Search and he was taken along as a mere afterthought. Nian tells him that she never wanted his dream, she wanted him to be happy. They contemplate the fact that Nian and Quinth would probably be transferred to another Weyr. Quinth assures them that they will always be held together by their dragons, and that they would never be alone.

Plot Summary

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Neru and Nian are twins living at Lado Hold on Ista Island. Neru dreams of one day being a dragonrider. Nian supports this, but she secretly fears the day that she and her brother will be separated.

When dragonriders from Ista Weyr come on Search for the upcoming Hatching, Nian is selected as a candidate along with two other children at the hold, but not Neru. Not wanting to steal her brother's dream, Nian attempts to convince the dragonriders to take him too, and she succeeds when the search dragon notes that he cannot see Neru's potential clearly — Nian's strong bond with Neru is shielding what the dragon can see of him — and the dragonriders decide to take him along.

Arriving at Ista Weyr, the candidates are shown around the Lower Caverns by Kilpie, the Headwoman, before they are taken to the Hatching Grounds by H'ran, the Weyrlingmaster, to see the eggs. While walking along the Hatching Grounds, Neru and Nian meet Robina, the daughter of the Masterfarmer, who claims to have been «promised» the queen egg.

H'ran sends the candidates off on chores, and Neru and Nian end up helping C'tic change the dressings on his Threadscored dragon Brith — Robina fainting before she can help. Brith remarks that Neru and Nian are both likely to Impress, and suggests that Nian train to become a proper dragon healer.

At dinner, the Weyrleader addresses the candidates in a speech, telling them the Hatching will likely occur soon, and that the other riders will help them if they have any questions. The weyr's Harper then plays several tunes, before everyone disperses. Nian heads off to wash — briefly arguing with Robina who claims she is taking too long.

The next day, Neru and Nian prepare to help C'tic and Brith again, only for the Hatching to begin. The candidates rush to prepare themselves, before they are all ushered onto the Hatching Grounds. As the eggs hatch, Nian worries that her brother doesn't seem to be attracting the attention of any dragons, and fails to notice the hatchling queen dragon — Quinth — who Impresses her, knocking her over in an attempt to get her attention.

H'ran and the Weyrwoman rush to Nian's aid, helping her up and giving her food for Quinth. Robina sees this and attempts to leave the Hatching Grounds, but a green hatchling follows her and Robina Impresses. Meanwhile, Nian is more concerned with her brother, who she notices standing by an egg that hasn't cracked. She goes to aid him, but is stopped by the Weyrwoman, who tells her that an uncracked egg usually means a malformed hatchling inside.

Despite this, Nian formulates a quick plan, walking past the egg and getting Quinth to trip her again, causing Nian to drop the heavy food bowl on the egg, which shatters. The hatchling, bronze Larinth, promptly Impresses Neru, and is inspected by H'ran and the Weyrwoman, who pronounce him well. Neru notes that Larinth had nearly shattered the shell when Nian tripped. although the Weyrwoman wonders if Nian's fall was accidental or not; H'ran guesses it wasn't, but says nothing.

Neru (now N'ru) and Nian head to the Weyrling Barracks, where they confess their recent thoughts to one another — N'ru was jealous that his sister was stealing his dream, and Nian feared that she was doing that, and worse, leaving him on the same day. N'ru points out that they will be separated from now on — as dragonrider and weyrwoman, their duties will be very different, and they may even be moved to another Weyr — but Quinth reassures them both that she and Larinth will make sure they are never «more than a thought apart».

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Notes

Setting?

Because the characters in the story are not from any established timeline and no specific date is identified, it is not clear what era in Pern's history «Ever The Twain» takes place in, save that it is a Pass. Despite this, it is generally thought that it takes place during the Second Pass, for a number of reasons:

  • Partway through the story, a group of bonded fire lizards appear at Ista Weyr. Fire lizards were known to have been kept on the Northern Continent during the First Pass until their numbers declined sometime during the First Interval, only to re-surge again at some point prior to the Third Pass; at this point they were all sent to the Southern Continent, becoming viewed as mythical creatures until their rediscovery in the Ninth Pass. As such, this suggests the story takes place during the First, Second or Ninth Passes.
  • A number of green dragons are shown to be Impressed to female riders. Female green riders were common in the First and Second Passes, but were non-existent by the late Second Interval. Female green riders existed once more during the Third Pass, but by the Sixth Pass at latest they were non-existent once more, until the Ninth Pass brought the concept back. This suggests the story takes place during the First, Second or Third Pass, and possibly the Ninth Pass, although all stories set there so far have suggested that female green riders are much rarer than they are in «Ever The Twain».

In addition to this, the lack of recognizable characters at Ista Weyr is thought to rule out the Ninth Pass, and the fact that the story is of a identifiably different tone to that of Dragonsdawn and the other chronologically early books is thought to rule out the First Pass. Provided that fire lizards and green female riders didn't resurface at a later point in time, this leaves the Second Pass as the only logical point in time for the story to take place in (provided that the Seventh Pass game Dragon Riders: Chronicles of Pern — which depicts fire lizards and female green riders — isn't considered canon).

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