The Oldtimers are a group of dragonriders who are brought forward in time from the beginning of the Eighth Interval.
In the Dragonriders series, Pern is subject to periodic incursions of Thread, a voracious and deadly space-borne organism that devours any organic matter it touches. Defending the population from Threadfall are Dragons who can breathe fire to singe the Thread from the sky.
In McCaffrey's first Pern novel, Dragonflight, the dragonriders of Pern are concerned that they are not sufficiently numerous to fight the imminently arriving Thread. In the novel's climax, Weyrwoman Lessa brings 1,800 dragons and their riders—plus support staff and equipment—forward in time 400 Turns (years), thereby ensuring a sufficiently large force to fight Thread.
In later books of the series, the appellation "Oldtimers" is given to those who came forward from the past.
The group of dragonriders that became known as the Oldtimers were from Fort, High Reaches, Ista, Igen, and Telgar Weyrs and lived during beginning of the Eighth Interval. Having just completed the Eighth Pass, they had a great deal of experience in fighting Thread. One day, Lessa, Weyrwoman from the Ninth Pass, arrived in their time to request aid. She would explain that in her time, only Benden Weyr remained, and they lacked sufficient numbers to fight Thread. Growing bored with the peaceful nature of an interval, the Five Weyrs chose to come forward, bringing the necessities and personnel they required.
After arriving in the Ninth Pass and introducing themselves to F'lar, they made plans to help combat Thread at Telgar. For the first few years of their arrival, relations were peaceful as the Benden riders learned from their more experienced counterparts. However, some, such as Robinton, would come to regret that F'lar had given up most of the planet-wide authority he held during this time. Those who came forward would come to be known as Oldtimers by the greater population.
Rebellion and Exile
When the Oldtimers were brought forward, they were used to matchless respect from Holders and Craftsmen. After their arrival in the present, this led to dissent among the common folk of Pern who respected the dragonmen, but no longer believed them entitled to every woman and craft that they desired. As time went on, relations between the five oldtime Weyrs and the people degenerated. Benden Weyr, however, remained in high regard, as Benden was perceived to be more respectful of the crafts and holds.
The Oldtime Weyrleaders considered themselves to be superior to the other Pernese, and would not listen to reason. Meanwhile, Thread began falling at random times, in contrast to the first years of the pass, which had been predictable. Eventually, T'kul of High Reaches chose not to muster for an unexpected Threadfall, forcing Kylara, Weyrwoman of Southern Weyr, to intervene. Knowing that F'lar would demand T'kul's resignation, T'ron dueled and attempted to kill F'lar at a wedding. When F'lar proved victorious, he chose to exile any Oldtimer who would not accept his leadership to the Southern Continent. The consequent use of the phrase Oldtimer referred only to those who had been exiled.
Attempts at Reassertion
In the Southern Continent, T'ron and T'kul took turns as Weyrleader. They often neglected to fly thread unless their dragons complained, and caused southern holders to have negative opinions of dragonriders. They often engaged in clandestine trade with Nabol Hold, demanding luxury goods in exchange for fire lizard eggs. As turns passed, the number of Oldtimers began to decline as they aged. Eventually, the Oldtimers and their dragons began to suffer as they lacked any queens or greens able to mate and provide sexual relief to the male dragons. In response, the would attempt the theft of one of Ramoth's queen eggs. The plot was foiled secretly by Jaxom and his dragon Ruth. Later, T'kul would attempt to have his dragon Salth, enter a mating flight at Ista Weyr. When the elderly dragon died in the attempt, T'kul would attack F'lar, but was killed. After this, D'ram would go to Southern Weyr and restore order. The Oldtimers become less important as their numbers diminished through attrition. Some remained alive up until the time of AIVAS's discovery, and one, G'lanar, would make several attempts on the life of Jaxom in revenge for Jaxom's retrieval of the stolen queen egg.
Coming from the Eighth Pass, there were several cultural differences between the Oldtimers and the Ninth Pass Pernese stemming from the changes in Pern's culture over time, as well as Benden Weyr's isolation. Weyrs in the Eighth Pass were much more isolated, due to beliefs regarding Weyr Sovereignty, though Weyrs would provide help in a time of need. The Weyrleaders rarely interacted outside of group meetings. Weyrs also had a tradition of declaring open mating flights of the senior queen to determine a new Weyrleader following the retirement of the previous. Upon coming to the Ninth Pass, many Oldtimers would disagree with the modernization that F'lar, Benden's Weyrleader had introduced, preferring their tradition of having only Weyrbred candidates.
The most important difference was that in the time of the Oldtimers, Crafts and Holds were considered subservient to the Weyrs. Riders often took whatever they desired. However, by the time of the Ninth Pass, Crafts and Holds had developed increased rights and no longer considered Weyrs entitled to whatever they wanted. This caused conflict between the Oldtimer Weyrs, and those they protected. However, Benden Weyr was looked on more favorably; having been the only weyr during the Eighth Interval, they were the only one who had changed with the times, and thus respected the Crafts and Holds.
Oldtimers who were exiled to Southern Weyr
High Reaches Weyr
- B'zon (Possibly of High Reaches Weyr)
- G'lanar (Possibly of Ista Weyr)
- Ten riders from Telgar Weyr
- Two queenriders from Fort Weyr or (more likely) High Reaches Weyr.
Oldtimers who were loyal to Benden Weyr
High Reaches Weyr
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