Fort Hold is the first Major Holds on the Northern Continent established after the Second Crossing with the intent of defending against Thread. It bordered on the north Ruatha Hold and on the south Southern Boll Hold. Fort Weyr fights Threadfall over Fort Hold.
- A detailed description of the Hold, established, the surrounding countryside, the economy and the other (on the basis of the The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern)
The immediate need to provide safe housing set on basement rock made the «Fort» discovered in the Northern Continent an attractive solution, if it could be made ready before the ash-spewing volcanoes and attendant earthquakes did too much damage to the stakeholds in Southern.
In a valley formed by a fault, the right-angled face of a palisade three kilometers long was gashed nearly at its foot by a narrow horizontal slit four meters high, permitting entry to the caverns inside. Crawling up over the lip, explorers found a maze of small caverns linked together with a gigantic, vaulted bubble of rock too high for any torch beam to illuminate. A natural stair inside allowed them easy access to another cave on the inner side of the thin face.
The gigantic cavern was fifty-seven meters deep, tapering to forty-five meters and forty-two meters at either end. At the back of the «Great Hall», eighteen different openings led deep into further tunnel complexes. Springs of fresh water circulated in one of the tunnels.
Construction began after a secondary survey. Nothing of the natural face of the mountain, a rugged cliff with a hanging curtain of rock two meters thick, was changed. But the inside was transformed into a beautiful, opulent, and ornate, almost Byzantine, living space.
The lip of the cave was filled in with native rock, so that the addition would look natural, leaving a wide opening that would serve as a main entrance. The doors were made of a solid bronze-colored alloy obtained by melting down plates of the colony ships. A ramp was formed out of blocks and crushed rock and slagged solidly into place before the natural courtyard. Steps were cut into the sides of the ramp.
The space just inside the thin rock wall was chosen for offices and living quarters for the administrators. An inner wall was built up paralleling the natural curtain, and levels began to be floored in, their windows cut evenly into the rock face. Each Hold window was supplied with tight-fitting metal shutters of the same alloy as the doors so that none of the inhabitants would be threatened by the sight of falling Thread. Hallways were melted smooth, as were the walls in living quarters, but the rooms intended for storage just had the rough corners knocked off. The outer Hold was built almost right away from the rock quarried out during the construction of the inner Hold.
Natural chimneys leading from the interior caves to the clifftop provided ventilation ducts. Deep artesian wells and the surface water source in the tunnel allowed for water to be pumped right into the baths and sinks throughout the complex. The thermal layer under the ridge provided heat in the winter that could be diverted directly out of the complex during the summer with the flip of a lever.
Above the first five levels, the lines of windows became irregular, since the rooms onto which they opened were constructed not behind the curtain wall but from smaller, single caves.
Some tunnels found by the miners extended several hundred feet underground into large bubble caverns. The work to make them habitable was assisted by the watch-whers, who, though photophobic and by no means as intelligent as dragons, were able to find faults underground, saving many lives by pointing out pitfalls and loose rock before the miners could detect them.
The ground-level caves that eventually became the beasthold were originally intended as the veterinary surgery. Fort supported herds of ovines, porcines, bovines, varieties of Earth fowl and Pernese avians, and the two surviving types of canines. The breed that resembled a Jack Russell terrier proved to be first-class at pursuing and killing tunnel snakes. The other, a large German shepherd/ boxer breed, was used for herding and hunting. Canines were also of use for pulling mill wheels and turning hearth spits. But not all of the dogs nor all the domestic cats, used for catching tunnel snakes and other pests, made the Second Crossing to the Northern Continent with their owners. Many of them bred in the wild on the now-deserted Southern Continent.
The communications «eyrie», built high on the outer cliff with a long, winding stair leading from inside ground level, in later years became the Harper Hall Drum Heights. The stairs were cut with stonecutters, puzzling later generations, who could not understand how those perfectly square steps were made.
Fort Hold was intended to house only the population of Landing, which because of Threadfall had grown back to between a thousand and twelve hundred. As Southern Continent grew more dangerous, Fort became crowded with refugees. Because Fort was unprepared to house such numbers, over five thousand had to sleep in three shifts wherever they could fit. Any area that was not positively uninhabitable by human beings was used as a dormitory at least one third of the day. People slept in corridors, in corners of rooms used for quiet occupations, and in storerooms that were not entirely full of containers and crates. Children slept in community creches with child-care volunteers who mustered them to help out with the construction with light activities during the day.
It was such an immense complex that the builders could easily make more levels to house more people. It would have taken more than a single lifetime to learn all the ins and outs of the complex cave system. Several of the natural passageways were found to be dangerous, the stone of the floor and walls too crumbly and fragile to last under heavy traffic over the projected lifetime of the Hold. The builders blocked several of these corridors by slagging the entryways closed with the stonecutters, and opened new corridors between important chambers.
Ramps were made out of the native stone, but the metal spiral staircases throughout the warren came from the three colony ships. The smaller ships, the Buenos Aires and the Bahrain, donated twelve between them, and the larger Yokohama eight.
Most people stayed in their stakeholds in Southern throughout most of the First Pass, then began to migrate north. The population of Fort expanded until it was necessary for the growing young dragons and their riders to move into Fort Weyr, though the Weyr was not yet ready for habitation. The sheer press of humanity gave the Fort Holders impetus to found their own Holds as soon as it was safe to do so. Once the Pass was over, the crowded dormitories became large apartments for only a fraction of the people who had slept there during the crisis.
Ruatha was the first of the other Holds to be founded. People and dragons from Ruatha and Fort Weyr later flew east to found Benden. Gradually, the swollen populations of Fort and Benden spread out to other stakeholds and farmholds around the stable Northern Continent. The tradition of expansion continued through the years. The Lord Holders of Fort have always allowed their holders to build and seek new dwellings during Intervals.
Those who were working on Fort Hold needed somewhere to live safe and secure from Thread while the construction was going on. Out of the rubble being quarried from inside the caverns they built cotholds. The earliest ones lay in the shadow of the high cliff, but as Turns passed, more were built out near the grain fields where alfalfa was planted to feed the animals, and in the orchards that were started from carefully hoarded seeds of apples, plums, and pears in vita-packs. The present Hold contains 750 to 900 people, but more than 10,000 others in the countryside rely upon Fort for protection and the administration of resources.
Cotholds are made of local stone with slate roofs held in place with lead, an easily worked metal found in quantity in the area. The cotholds were all very much alike: little boxlike buildings of one to three stories with bronze window shutters, except for the decorative bands of color just under the eaves, out of danger from Threadfall. The colors were intended to show Craft affiliation, possibly with a picture or two, but not every cot-holder changed the decoration when he moved in. A tanner might live in a cot that is called «Bakers Cot», for a noteworthy tenant who had lived there two or three generations before.
Dunca's cot, beholden for generations to the Harper Hall, has an unadorned strip of blue lining the eaves, as the plump cotholder is proud of her status but has neither the talent nor the imagination to personalize the decoration.
The roads leading through and out of Fort Hold are as good as any Roman road on Earth. The stonecutters melted rock down several feet in squared U-shaped trenches with drainage holes set at intervals. The trenches were filled in with layers of big broken stones, smaller stones, and then gravel. The roads nearest the Hold are cobbled to withstand more traffic than is seen on the ones leading to Fort Weyr or Ruatha.
The graveled span to the Weyr is so well maintained that it takes only one day on a fast runnerbeast to reach it. On foot, the trip takes two to three days, but the going is easy and well sheltered. Except for tithe trains, the road is rarely used in F'lar's day. If someone has an important message for the Weyr, he can bespeak a dragon, and helios or drums can transmit messages that are not strictly confidential.
Foodstuffs for those who live in and by Fort Hold are handled by a central storage facility. Fort's cavern system includes a vast storehouse to which all the farmholders bring crops and withdraw enough to feed their families for a day, or a few days, depending on their own facilities. Fort Hold supports about ten thousand people who do not live in the Hold proper, but in the farmlands and beastfolds around it. Fort's food center is divided into caverns for each type of storage, and one large, high-ceilinged room for food preparation.
When Fort Hold was first occupied, the mass catering system used by Landing was already in place. The dieticians issued requirements for proper nutrition, and the cooks were highly skilled in making monotonous ingredients interesting. During the First Pass, a small amount of meat was served in a typical meal, and most likely, lentils or beans would supplement the settlers' need for protein. Bread, milk products, vegetables, and homemade liquor, wine, or beer rounded out the meal.
The hydroponics tanks that used to provide the Fort Holders with their vegetables were gradually turned to other uses, and some of the species died out between the First Pass and the Eighth. Mushrooms were propagated in the cool, dark chambers near the cold storage caves. Klahbark was popular not only infused as a drink but sprinkled into dishes as a spice. Competitions were held between Brewmasters, and Fort grew its own grapes on the warm slopes to the north beyond the beastholds.
The cooking facilities and the cooks in Fort Hold and Weyr are the best on Pern. Chefs and cooks have their own Craft, though it has no major Crafthall. Cooking is considered one of the Hold Crafts.
The cooks barter among themselves for recipes and special spices. An aspiring chef might foster at Fort to learn the best cooking. When he or she has learned the skill, the new cook returns home again. Holders and folk in the Lower Caverns of a Weyr learn to prepare food at an early age. Good cooking is considered an instinct, and good cooks are encouraged to fulfill their potential. Both men and women can hold the position of Head Cook in a Hold or Weyr.
Present-day Fort Holders eat a lot of stews and filling, hearty soups to make use of every edible part of a herdbeast. Roasts are served only infrequently, for special occasions. Salted fish is a frequent main dish, supplied to the storehouses by Fort Sea Hold in exchange for red meat and fruit for those who like a change from seafood. Fort makes salty cheddar, Stilton, and a few soft cheeses for spreading on bread. Mushrooms are popular, as are dishes made with peanuts, river grains (rice), and soybeans. Legumes are added to savory dishes to thicken them up.
The constraint as always is to grow the most food on the most land that can be protected during a Pass. Those who farm during Intervals can spread out and experiment.
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 Hold, 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.
Gather and Celebrations
In the fortieth year of the colony, when everyone on Pern but those on Ierne 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.
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.
Minor Holds and Crafthalls
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Fort Hold was first survey by Tarvi Andiyar and Sallah Telgar, during the first year after Landing, eight years later it resurvey and they start to turn it into Fort Hold just before the Second Crossing.
Fort was established by Admiral Paul Benden, the leader of the colonists, and Governor Emily Boll, the joint leader of the expedition. Over time Fort became severely over-crowded, which necessitated the creation of the other holds.
In the early First Pass several of the more prominent colonists left to found their own Holds, including Pierre de Courci (Southern Boll Hold), Red Hanrahan (Ruatha Hold), Zi Ongola (Tillek Hold) and Tarvi Andiyar (Telgar Hold). Throughout the First Pass Fort remained the largest Hold on Pern.
- Dynast: Lord Bemin and Lady Sannora, later Kelsa.
- Other holders: Semin, Bannor, Koriana, Fiona, Kemin, Kilti.
- Dynast: Lord Tolocamp and Lady Pendra, later Anella.
- Other holders: Campen, Pendora, Mostar, Doral, Theskin, Silma, Nerilka, Gallen, Jess, Peth, Amila, Mercia & Merin (twins), Kista, Gabin, Mara, Nia and Lilla, Felim, Sim.
- Dynast: Lord Grogellan and Lady Winalla, Lord Groghe and Lady Benoria.
- Other holders: Haligon, Horon, Benelek, Benis, Nataly, Dunca.
|Northern||Benden • Bitra • Crom • Fort • High Reaches • Igen • Ista • Keroon • Lemos • Nabol • Nerat • Ruatha • Southern Boll • Telgar • Tillek|
|Southern||Southern • Cove • Landing • Paradise River • Rubicon River|
|Minor Holds • Stakes • Weyrs • Crafts and Halls|