|“||In the morning the eggs were gone. Their shattered remains had been dumped in the sea, empty. Only twenty-three of the two hundred and fifty-three eggs had hatched; the rest had been ruptured, their contents devoured by tunnel snakes burrowing up from the ground.||”|
After a vicious plague swept through the world of Pern, there are no longer enough dragons to fight off the current onslaught of Thread, the deadly spore that falls like rain from the skies and devours everything organic in its path.
Pern's last best chance to rebuild the decimated dragon population lies with a group of young dragonriders and their dragons left stranded on an unexplored island. Leadership of these dragons and riders falls to Xhinna, female rider of a blue dragon, who, as the most experienced dragonrider in the new Weyr, must earn the respect of all who follow her, as not everyone is ready to accept a female wingleader. She must solve the problem of how to get sufficient numbers of dragon eggs, although her newfangled ideas, like letting green dragons mate and lay eggs to hatch new dragons, cause uproar. All the while she must protect her people and baby dragons from the predators and, worse, traitors or all hope for Pern will be lost!
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Continuing on from the end of Dragon's Time, the story opens not long after the disastrous attack on the combined clutches of several queen and green dragons, where tunnel snakes devoured many of the young dragons before hatching, before being attacked themselves by a group of Mrreows who stormed the would-be Hatching Grounds.
Following the departure of the older riders to Telgar Weyr and after rounding up the scattered herdbeasts so that they had something to eat, Xhinna — the designated leader of those remaining on the Eastern Isle — proposes those still at Eastern Weyr move to a safer location as the tunnel snakes and Mrreows will likely return. Noting they will be soon be joined by a wing of T'mar's choosing from Telgar Weyr, they decide to return to the Rocky Promontory, the location they arrived at when they first traveled to the Great Isle.
They begin transporting the weyrlings and their dragons, but Bekka notes that Qinth — severely injured by tunnel snakes during the Hatching — is too fragile to move. As a result, Bekka, K'dan — since made Weyrlingmaster — and Colfet decide to remain with her and J'riz until the morning, at which point they will try to rig a wagon to shift her on. The next day, Xhinna returns to Eastern Weyr and finds that Qinth and the others have vanished. Returning to the promontory, Xhinna lies to Kimar and Tiona when they ask where K'dan is; she tells them he's gone on ahead to another location.
Not long afterwards, their camp is attacked by Mrreows, but they manage to fend them off. Xhinna thus decides they should leave here too, and goes on Tazith — taking Kimar and Tiona with her — to scout the island for another location, ultimately finding no good site. As she muses about the warning they received not to go to the Western Isle, Xhinna returns to their camp, only to see Thread falling in the distance. Xhinna alerts Taria and R'ney, and they begin arranging slings on Tazith and Coranth that they can use to carry the young dragons between.
Envisioning as their destination the channel between the Western and Eastern Isles as it would appear three Turns ago, Xhinna and Taria make several trips there and back, ferrying the young dragons and their riders. On the final trip, Coranth is attacked by a stray Mrreow, which injures her hind leg, and Xhinna helps Taria construct a bandage from a blanket — having left their first aid equipment behind — when they arrive at the channel.
The next day, Xhinna goes to scout, initially finding nutfruit to eat and later taking Kimar and Tiona to search for a high rocky place to camp on. After an hour of unsuccessful searching, Tiona alerts Xhinna to the oddly shaped broom trees on the Western Isle, and they wonder if they could live in the trees. Planning next to search for wherries, Xhinna returns to the channel to retrieve the others, although it takes them a day to move to what R'ney — a Smithcrafter who Impressed a brown, Rowerth — calls «Sky Weyr».
Following this, Xhinna gets R'ney and Jepara — the daughter of Pellar and Halla at Fire Hold, who recently Impressed the queen Sarurth — to aid her with hunting. While doing so, Xhinna ends up briefly arguing with Jepara, when she is rude to R'ney and attempts to ignore Xhinna's authority.
Over the next three days, despite the general lack of supplies, a proper hunting group is formed, and a salve is made for the still-wounded Coranth. Having come to the conclusion that the missing members of their group had been taken between times to avoid the Threadfall, Xhinna travels forwards in time to the Eastern Isle and brings Bekka, K'dan, Colfet, J'riz and their dragons to their camp at Sky Weyr. Xhinna rests as the others settle in and Jepara goes to hunt, only to wake as Coranth rises to mate, despite her injuries. Xhinna states they will make the mating flight quick, before Tazith catches Coranth.
Afterwards, the others note that Coranth hasn't chewed firestone, and as a result, will clutch, giving them about three months to find a place for her to safely lay them. In addition to this, they realise that the three Turns — Xhinna choosing that length in time simply so the weyrlings would mature during that time — they have until Thread begins to fall could be used for greens — such as the ones that left for Telgar Weyr without chewing firestone — to mate, clutch, and help repopulate Pern.
More than a month later, Bekka notes that they need more food; at present, they are relying on the spoils of hunting and fishing alone. After discussing whether they should travel to a Weyr for aid — and wondering why T'mar hasn't yet sent a wing after them — Xhinna instead suggests that they use firestone to burn an area of the forest down to clear a space for a herd. Taria remembers a fire that they saw during a recent storm, and they conclude that this was them, back in time.
Two days later — after gathering enough food to feed Tazith for the trip — Xhinna travels to Eastern Weyr to steal firestone. After teaching Tazith how to use it, she takes him to a high plateau where they burn the forests, clearing space for a herd — in addition to that, the rain and the ash from the trees will make the soil fertile.
Later, after setting up a corral on the cleared plateau, Xhinna attempts to travel to Telgar Weyr, only to become impeded by D'gan and Fiona's voices, echoes from their time trapped between. Lorana and Fiona's voices soon break through to her from outside between, and help her return to the Western Isle, telling her to leave them a message to find at the Red Butte. Xhinna and Tazith fall unconscious shortly after leaving between, but are caught by an arriving wing of twelve dragons, sent by T'mar — without the knowledge of former Telgar Weyrleader D'gan.
Upon waking, Xhinna is told by X'lerin — the wingleader — that the danger of the «time knot» still exists between for those attempting to go ahead in time, thus meaning they will be unable to return to their own time for three Turns. After some discussion about the matter — and a vague conversation about the message at the Red Butte that Xhinna has yet to send — X'lerin reluctantly accepts becoming Weyrleader of Sky Weyr, and requests that Xhinna aid him. The new arrivals begin helping out at Sky Weyr, although one rider, J'keran, is unusually nasty towards the others, having been affected greatly by recent events and losses.
Over time, Colfet and Javissa — their headwoman — come up with the idea of capturing a Mrreow to study it. Going after a pair of Mrreows reported by X'lerin's Kivith, the dragonriders succeed inadvertently end up killing one and injuring the other, only to realise they are a mated pair; the injured Mrreow is pregnant. With Tazith restraining it, the others manage to help deliver the babies before the Mrreow dies. After some discussion, they decide to keep the baby Mrreow — dubbed Meeyus by Jirana, who ends up caring for them along with Taria — for the time being, housing them in the cage that was constructed to house the adult Mrreows. One evening, Xhinna finds Taria missing, and is told that she's with J'keran — who had been sociable towards her since arriving, and who K'dan wonders might be responsible for a number of missing supplies — and the Meeyus.
The next day, Xhinna finds to her annoyance that Coranth has clutched along one of the beaches of the Western Isle, despite Xhinna's attempts to find them a safer location. Xhinna confronts Taria, who she finds with R'ney. Xhinna realises tht Taria — overwhelmed by Coranth and a number of other feelings — and R'ney have made love, and returns to the Weyr in sorrow, where Bekka tells her that Xhinna drove Taria to R'ney, and reveals that she's doing it so that she and Xhinna will be able to have a child. After some thought about this, Xhinna goes after R'ney and the two reconcile.
Some time later — after a discussion about how to deal with future mating flights — R'ney and Xhinna discuss Jepara's behavior towards others. R'ney is reminded how one of his sisters cut the hair of her vain and bullying elder sister, and the two come up with a plan to humble Jepara — later revealed as irritating the skin of her backside, preventing her from sitting down comfortably for a sevenday. Later — two days after a discussion about how to help depressed riders such as W'vin and J'keran, who has begun brewing alcohol — X'lerin makes Xhinna the wingleader of the queen riders, and she decides to take R'ney as her wingsecond. Xhinna seeks him out, and finds him and Rowerth attempting to dig to the bottom of the rocky plateau, in an attempt to discover if they could establish their Weyr there. While there, Xhinna goes over to the Meeyu cage, and prevents Jirana from reaching into it while Taria isn't watching.
Afterwards, Xhinna decides to go on Search for Candidates, and goes to talk with K'dan, who is by the sea watching the weyrlings and their young dragons — including his own Lurenth — swim. K'dan reveals he's been musing about the nature of between, and has concluded that between must have a shape of some sort, and that the time knot is caused by D'gan's path crossing their own when they attempted to travel forwards in time. Xhinna notes they'll need firestone to ensure they can safely remain on the Western Isle until the danger has passed, and K'dan notes they'll need to time it back and get it from the mine near Igen Weyr. While musing about this, K'dan notes that Xhinna's Candidates could potentially end up being the people who went «missing» after the Plague.
Xhinna plans to go alone — despite Jepara's attempts to join her — but ends up taking Jirana with her when she sleepily comes to her and tells her that she has to come to show her the way and help Laspanth, her future «green queen». In addition to this, she says that only five dragons will survive from Coranth's clutch. The others realise that Jirana has at last inherited «the Sight», and the next day Jirana leads Xhinna back in time to Crom Hold, which they find is flying the Plague flag.
Xhinna takes them away, going ahead to the Red Butte to ensure that they would be able to safely return, and leaves a message for Fiona while Jirana visits her father's grave. Before returning, they muse about what they know about Crom Hold; in their time, Nerra is Lady Holder, having taken it from her brother Fenril who barricaded the Hold Proper after the Plague out of fear.
Afterwards, Xhinna and Jirana return to Crom Hold, landing by a group of tents. Avoiding a crowd that forms around her — Xhinna's dirk identifies her as a Telgar Weyr dragonrider — Xhinna enters a tent belonging to Nerra, and talks with her, eventually planning to help Nerra reclaim Crom Hold by having Tazith carry her in with several others. Nerra soon guesses from Jirana's words that the two are from the future, and they reveal their need to Search, and add that they may end up needing thousands of Candidates.
That night, Tazith carries Nerra into the Hold courtyard, where she convinces the guards on duty to open the gates. Entering the Great Hall, Nerra has Fenril — «entertaining» in the drudges quarters — imprisoned for treason and begins making orders to restore Crom Hold, getting Xhinna to help ferry the undernourished into Crom Hold proper. The next day, Nerra gets Xhinna — with the aid Storemaster Pinnor and Tormic, a man-at-arms — to approach the minor holds and cotholds and determine what their needs are. They do this, finding the first four holds barren, but Keogh Hold alive, and fearing tithes from Telgar Weyr. After reassuring them, they continue on to Campbell's Field Hold, which they find is much the same.
After a sevenday's work, during which time Xhinna traveled to the Red Butte to leave a message, Jirana — who aided with healing the injured — tells Xhinna she's found four of their five Candidates — all female: Alimma, Danirry, Cliova and Mirressa. After talking with them and Nerra, Jirana leads Xhinna and the others to Igen Weyr, where she greets her relatives, before singling out a girl, Aliyal, as their final Candidate. As they prepare to leave, Aliyal's brother Jasser convinces them to take him too, despite Jirana's insistence that she didn't «see» him coming.
Taria complains about the Candidates when Xhinna and the others arrive at Sky Weyr, and storms off not long after hearing that J'keran and two others have been sent to retrieve supplies from Eastern Weyr. Xhinna later goes hunting with the others, and K'dan and X'lerin discuss J'keran's recent behaviour — and the fact that he been working on a stronger alcoholic beverage — as he appears to have been hoping that Xhinna and the others would be lost between.
Later in the evening, Xhinna takes the Candidates to Coranth's clutch, before returning to the rocky plateau — now dubbed the «Meeyu Plateau». While there, Jirana tells Xhinna she doesn't think the eggs are safe, so Xhinna takes her to them to prove her otherwise. Jirana remains unhappy, and Xhinna decides to double the guards. As time goes on, Xhinna and Taria both become concerned about the low number of Candidates and the prospect of only five eggs hatching, and end up fighting with one another one day — also about the topic of using the now-grown Mrreows to guard the eggs, which Xhinna doesn't think is a wise idea.
That evening, as Xhinna plans to get more Candidates, Jirana tells her it's too late, and that the eggs are rocking. Xhinna takes Jirana to the beach to calm her, only to find that the eggs are indeed rocking — tunnel snakes are attacking them — and that Taria and J'keran are too busy with one another — and drunk on J'keran's brew — to notice. Getting Tazith to send aid, Xhinna begins attacking the eggs, only to be tackled by Taria and J'keran, who don't realise the tunnel snakes are attacking and assume Xhinna is going after the eggs out of jealousy. J'keran attacks Xhinna with his knife, slashing her back, and she knocks herself out by falling onto an egg.
When Xhinna wakes, she is told by the others that she has been unconscious for nine days, five eggs Hatched as predicted by Jirana — who still seems to fear something else drawing nearer — and Taria and J'keran have fled. Xhinna escapes major organ damage, but remains in bed for a fortnight, at which point a ceremony is conducted to formally welcome riders into her wing and gift them their rank knots, made from the ruins of Xhinna's tunic due to a shortage of cloth.
The next day, Xhinna wakes and realizes that T'rennor's Kisorth is rising. Although Xhinna loathes the thought of being with T'rennor, she sends Tazith after Kisorth. During the course of the flight, J'keran's Perinth intervenes and pulls Tazith away from Kisorth, who ends up being caught by Ginoth. In the aftermath, Javissa reports that their stores have been raided; Xhinna guesses that J'keran and Taria briefly returned to get food for their dragons and supplies for the pregnant Taria.
Following a discussion with Javissa about dealing with the new dragonriders, Xhinna ends up being accompanied by Mirressa and Danirry — who has begun to follow her around like a lovesick child — who keep an eye on her. During a conversation with R'ney who is trying to figure out a way to protect Kisorth's upcoming clutch, and plans to build channels to wash away the soil on the Meeyu Plateau, Danirry — educated in mining matters by her former Harper at Crom — notes that they could find gold dust by doing this, leading R'ney to claim her as his assistant, which slowly helps her recover from the hardships she went through after the Plague. Following this, Xhinna assigns Jepara to help Mirressa do the same.
One night, some time later, Xhinna wakes and feels a body against hers in her bed. Initially assuming it's Danirry, she addresses the figure as such, only to realise her mistake; it is Taria, who flees in anger.
Xhinna completely recovers after a month, during which time Sky Weyr has supply losses and attacks on their herdbeasts, both of which they chalk up to J'keran. After a discussion with R'ney about her eroded authority — R'ney reveals that a number of riders think that she's tricked them into coming to the Western Isle, and several male blue riders fear that she'll take all the greens from them and shame them across Pern — and how they can use the gold dust found so far to entice other people to join them, Xhinna decides to seek out V'lex, a former companion of J'keran, and talks with him about J'keran's recent actions. V'lex reveals that J'keran has stopped drinking, but that he claimed that the egg Xhinna attacked hadn't been destroyed by a tunnel snake. During this discussion, V'lex reveals his love for T'rennor, which goes against tradition — both are green riders — and Xhinna decides to get the pair to tutor the blue and green weyrlings.
The next day, Xhinna concludes in a discussion with X'lerin that they will know when Coranth's next clutch hatches, as J'keran will need Candidates. One night, after talking with R'ney about various things, including the fact that some of Coranth's eggs were dead without being harmed by tunnel snakes, Xhinna wakes cold and comes to the conclusion that the eggs froze to death when the sands became cold in the night.
The next day, Xhinna talks with R'ney about ways to keep the eggs warm. R'ney also reveals that a number of blue and green riders have started calling themselves «Skies», and have begun searching for proper Weyr sites and Hatching Grounds. Xhinna ultimately decides to return to Crom Hold to get more Candidates, and travels there with V'lex and J'per, returning with more female Candidates than males; too many died in the Plague, and most of those remaining are working in the fields.
Five days later, Kisorth lays a clutch of sixteen eggs, and plans are made to assign a dragon and a rider to each egg. While investigating the eggs, Jirana singles out a brownish egg as housing Laspanth — Xhinna is even sure she can feel a tendril of love coming from the egg and Jirana as she goes to rest. A sevenday later, Xhinna and X'lerin discuss the possibility of a green dragon clutching a queen egg, and note Verilan's theory that fire-lizards were only green and blue at first, the other colours evolving later. Xhinna soon begins to unravel from a lack of rest, and one of the other riders convinces her to rest in the newly-built Stone Hold on the Meeyu Plateau.
A day and a half later, R'ney wakes Xhinna and tells her that there was an attack by Mrreows, but they were driven off. However, Jirana is insisting that there is a litter they must rescue, and has convinced Jepara to aid her, so Xhinna goes to join them. After some discussion, it is decided that they will retrieve the litter and assign a rider to each Meeyu, but put them down if they prove to be dangerous. The Meeyus are soon retrieved and handed out, but their popularity among the riders requires a schedule to be set up to ensure they aren't overwhelmed.
One night, Jepara wakes Xhinna, stating something is bothering Sarurth, and as they go to investigate, they are joined by Aliyal, woken by her Meeyu, Amber, who promptly rushes off with Scruff — Xhinna's Meeyu — towards an egg, which they soon find emptied with a tunnel snake inside, which the two Meeyus kill. The next day, R'ney suggests they bring the eggs and sands into the Stone Hold. In the evening, Xhinna encounters Jirana and senses something is wrong, but Jirana won't talk with her.
In the night, Xhinna wakes, and hears a voice telling her to follow. Xhinna is soon joined by Javissa, Bekka and J'riz, and once they realise Jirana is missing, Xhinna gets Tazith to get an image from Jirana of her location, which they all travel to. Arriving at a large cave with a river, Xhinna and the others hear roars and screams, and realize that inside is Coranth's clutch, which Candidates are fleeing from due to oversized tunnel snakes attacking. They join the fight, and in the chaos Xhinna kills Razz — one of the original Meeyus, cared for by Taria — realizing as she does that Razz was saving her from a tunnel snake. Despite her attempts to heal Razz, the Mrreow dies.
In the aftermath, Xhinna learns from Bekka that Jirana was badly injured in the attack, and it is too dark in the cave for her to sew up her wounds. When they go to her, Jirana reveals she knew this would happen; this is what she couldn't tell Xhinna. After Jirana cryptically tells them to «ask the queens», Xhinna begins giving orders for Coranth's eggs to be taken to their sands, and for Jirana to be carefully taken there too. Upon arrival, Xhinna gets the queen riders to stand around Laspanth, and wills the dragon within the egg to take Jirana's pain and give it to them instead so that she will live. This works — despite the intense pain this causes — and Jirana is soon treated successfully by Bekka.
After having Laspanth's egg moved to be with the sleeping Jirana, Xhinna properly reconciles with Taria — who helped save Jirana. Xhinna then goes to Laspanth's egg, and notes that this must mean the first gold fire-lizard was hatched from a green mother. While wondering how the first gold survived long enough to hatch, Xhinna touches the egg and asks Laspanth if she can show her where the tunnel snakes are. Without warning, Xhinna hears digging noises, and «sees» tunnels below her illuminated. Xhinna rushes to get help, and the combined dragons and Mrreows dispatch the tunnel snakes.
The next day, J'keran is dealt with; although he expects to be killed for his actions, Xhinna instead spares him, telling him that he will now live for the Weyr, be forbidden from drink unless permitted by the Weyrleader, and be responsible for guarding Jirana. Some time later, the Hatching begins, and Jirana is helped to Laspanth's egg, where she assists the queen in breaking her shell.
The Sky Dragons
Three Turns have passed. On the Western Isle, five new Weyrs have been established alongside Sky Weyr to house all the dragons — of which there are now more than two thousand — and their riders: Midriver Weyr, Southriver Weyr, Southern Weyr, Western Weyr and Northern Weyr. The eggs are now hatched along beaches tended by dragons and their riders, who get the eggs to alert them to the location of tunnel snakes, which they dispatch with Mrreow aid — although the older Mrreows become less controllable with age, and have to be retired to different islands.
Prior to this, at Telgar Weyr, former Weyrleader D'gan refused to recognize the authority of Fiona and the other queen riders, but was overpowered after attempting to fly a Fall with only the riders who had gone between with him. Following this — and after finding a second message from Xhinna at the Red Butte telling them to come — the assembled queen and bronze riders of Telgar Weyr elected to travel to the Western Isle — something D'gan attempted to halt, only to be stopped by the arriving Weyrwomen of the other Weyrs of Pern — leaving the various weyrlings from Eastern Weyr to fight Thread in their place. Upon arrival at the Western Isle, the riders recounted this story to Xhinna and the others, before joining them and aiding in the establishment of the other Weyrs.
Along one of the beaches, Xhinna — who has since had a son, Xelinan, alongside Taria's children Tarena and Taralin — fights Fiona with a practice blade, Jirana insisting she learns how to disarm lest a vision she's had of her comes true. Afterwards, Xhinna travels to the Meeyu Plateau to deliver a number of diapers to be washed, only to be requested to join a meeting with the assembled Weyrleaders of the Western Isle.
In the meeting, K'dan reveals that they want to start a watch for Thread — due to fall — so they can figure out which areas of the Western Isle will need protecting and when — in addition to this, he states that they will begin training the older dragons with firestone, partly since they doubt they could care for any more dragons. Since this will require traveling up to the Dawn Sisters to gain a good view of Pern, Fiona volunteers Xhinna to lead the three wings that will conduct the watches, aware that she would jump at the chance. Although they plan to restrict these watches to only green and blue riders, Jepara protests this, and is allowed to join their numbers.
Plans are soon made for watch riders to be sent up to the Dawn Sisters in pairs, so that each can ensure the other doesn't suffer from oxygen deprivation. After the watch schedule is sorted out, Xhinna is approached by the wingleaders of the other two wings with her — Jerilli and Avarra — who want to complain to T'mar, as they feel the task is beneath them, but Xhinna and the others — aided by Seban, who has become a well-respected figure for his work on the Western Isle — manage to explain to them the importance of their task.
The next day, Xhinna — assisted by Lorana — and the wings begin conducting tests to find out how high their dragons can go before it becomes too hard to breathe — going between to higher points when they are unable to fly any higher — and how long they can remain in the air without fresh oxygen; to test this, they get their dragons to chew firestone and breathe flame as they ascend.
After reaching a height of seven thousand metres — four thousand metres higher than a dragon can normally go — the wings return to the Great Isle, only for one pair, Mirressa and Valcanth, to faint from oxygen deprivation and fall from the sky. They are both caught by a group of bronzes, and they eventually regain consciousness on the ground with the assistance of the other riders and their dragons. In the aftermath, Xhinna realizes that Jirana knew this would happen, but didn't say anything. Following this incident, the others decide to practice holding their own breaths in order to figure out how long they can remain up at the Dawn Sisters before returning to the Great Isle to get fresh oxygen.
The next day, Xhinna and the others begin their watch, following the Dawn Sisters as they orbit around Pern, eventually circumnavigating the entire planet. In time, a rider reports Thread falling over Bitra to the amazement of all, as Thread wasn't supposed to begin falling for another three sevendays at least. Xhinna's wings quickly dispatch the Thread from their vantage point, incinerating it as the frozen ovoids heat up and begin changing shape — «Threading».
In the aftermath, Danirry reveals that she had theorised that Thread would be easier to destroy from their vantage point — correctly guessing that it remained inert until encountering oxygen by reasoning that as a living creature of some sort it needed to breathe — and suggests that the dust Falls noted by the other Weyrs at this point in time might actually be caused by them secretly fighting Thread in this way from their point in time. As a result, they decide to continue the watch and get the greens and blues to fight Thread, letting the larger dragons wait below to catch any riders and dragons who might run out of oxygen.
The next day, while the queens and the other dragons practice catching one another, Xhinna — dubbed Flightleader, having just avoided Fiona's attempts to dub her «Skyleader» — meets with the wingleaders of the new wings that have been assigned to her by the other Weyrleaders, and they begin figuring out how to train the various dragons of their wings. Jepara and Jirana manage to work themselves into the group, and Xhinna soon becomes annoyed with Jirana constantly shadowing her. Eventually confronting her after dinner, Xhinna realizes that Jirana has forseen her death. Xhinna decides not to mention this to anyone — although one of her wingleaders soon guesses something is wrong.
Some time later, K'dan requests that she double the watch in case Thread begins falling — although there wasn't a Record of it happening, he wants to be prepared. During one such watch, Xhinna witnesses Thread falling over Benden Weyr. As she calls two wings to aid her, Danirry reports Thread falling over the Eastern Isle. Xhinna instead travels to the Great Isle to rouse the Weyr, and joins them as they fight Thread — realizing as she does that the dragons fighting Thread is the source of the mystery lights she witnessed as she traveled back in time from Eastern Weyr.
Losing track of time, Xhinna and Tazith both begin to suffer from oxygen deprivation, and return to Sky Weyr, where others are waiting for them. Xhinna asks about the others, and is told that Danirry and Kiarith are dead; they fainted after warning the others, and the others failed to catch them as they fell. Once again, Xhinna realizes that Jirana knew, and concludes from her expression that she will die next.
The next morning, the Weyrleaders meet to discuss the recent Threadfall; a quarter of the Eastern Isle was lost to Thread burrowing into the rich soil before they could destroy it. They also discuss disbanding the Sky wings, noting the dragonriders in them have been shaken by their failure to catch Danirry and Kiarith — in addition to this, despite having much lower casualty numbers than that of a normal Fall, K'dan notes that freezing or choking to death isn't an honorable way for dragonriders to die.
Meanwhile, Xhinna wakes, and ignores Fiona's instructions to sleep; instead she seeks out R'ney, who she finds caring for Davinna, Danirry's infant daughter. Xhinna eventually requests that R'ney come and sleep with her and Taria in future as a favour to her, but R'ney guesses that she's not telling him something, eventually guessing when they meet again at the Meeyu Plateau that Jirana has predicted she will die.
Later on, Jepara — after taking control of the affair from Xhinna — organizes a remembrance ceremony for Danirry — in recognition of her helping the Weyrs prosper by suggesting they sluice gold from the Meeyu Plateau, and also because others will soon die and Jepara doesn't want to have it begin this way — where the oldest dragons of the Western Isle breathe fire as the assembled Weyrleaders drop a flaming torch into the sea where Danirry and Kiarith fell.
Afterwards, Xhinna travels to Sky Weyr, where J'keran greets her with a special brew of his makin, approved by K'dan, which many get drunk on during the evening festivities. The next morning, Xhinna wakes in one of the rooms of the Stone Hall, and Jirana, Lorana and Jepara help up to another room, where Jepara toys with the concept of repeating this for every fallen rider.
After the others recover, Xhinna and her riders meet to discuss their next move, as it's not yet time for them to return to the Northern Continent; the Dragon Plague is still raging. In the end, they decide to secretly investigate the skies over Nerat and Upper Crom; Thread should fall there, but there isn't a Record of dust falling. They plan to do this while the others practise flaming, noting that the others won't notice a few dragons supposedly dropping false Thread missing. Xhinna notes that they're a wingsecond short, only for J'keran to approach and offer his services. After considering his actions and reputation over the last few Turns, Xhinna allows it, and tells him he has regained his honour and life.
Not long afterwards, they get to work, and begin searching the skies. After ten minutes, Xhinna has found nothing and is preparing to leave, but Mirressa reports Thread over Nerat, before fainting like Danirry. Xhinna tells Tazith to report the Fall and goes to fight it, but neither of them realise they are low on oxygen, and they both fall unconscious. However, both Xhinna and Mirressa, along with their dragons, are rescued by the others, and Jepara and Taria give Xhinna artificial respiration. When Xhinna wakes, Jirana reveals that she had «seen» Xhinna dead; Jepara confirms this, and adds that now she's seen her «breathing the life back into her». The assembled women will Jirana to share her secrets with them in the future, so she doesn't have to saddle the burden alone.
Eight months later, all the dragons and riders of the Western Isle assemble, preparing to return to their Weyrs. Before leaving, Xhinna muses about the twenty Falls that she and the Sky dragons flew, in which only one other dragon and rider perished in the end, Cliova and Bemorth, whose final clutch hatched after her death, with the resulting weyrlings from her and the last few clutches being sent to the still-abandoned Igen Weyr until they can be sent to their «proper Weyrs». After receiving the appropriate image from Lorana, Xhinna returns home to Telgar Weyr.
- Unlike any other book in the entire Pern series, Sky Dragons has titles for all its chapters.
- In a number of chapters, Kisorth's name is mistakenly confused with Sarinth.
- It's the last published work of the beloved author, Anne McCaffrey.
- According to Todd McCaffrey, Dragon's Time and Sky Dragons were originally planned as being part of the same book which was to be called «Dragonrider».
Retraction of the «Tent Peg Theory»
Somewhat notably, the publication of Sky Dragons marks the official retraction of the infamous «Tent Peg Theory»; a pseudoscientific statement purportedly by Anne McCaffrey — stating that regardless of original sexual orientation, a male rider of a green dragon would end up homosexual as the result of intercourse during the mating flight causing the release of pheromones that would change their sexual orientation — which had been largely, if not completely rejected by fans ever since its announcing.
Sky Dragons instead confirmed the long-standing fan theory that «the dragon chooses, the rider complies» — regardless of a rider's sexual orientation, a rider may end up mating with someone not of their preference, but this would mean nothing outside of the mating flight — with the following text:
- «Green and blue riders, she was discovering, were hard to keep in one category. With browns it was even more so. Only the bronzes and queens were steadfast in their preferences. The rider of a female green could be the dominant partner in a relationship, although that role was more prevalent among blue riders. And while the male riders of greens were more likely to prefer male partners, it wasn't always the case. Based on her experience of the last four Turns, the only thing that seemed certain to Xhinna was that when dragons rose to mate, passions flowed freely, with the controlling passion being that of the dragon's over the rider. At other times, riders were free to follow their own hearts».