Nine years after the evacuation from the Southern Continent to Fort Hold, Red Hanrahan informs Paul Benden his intention to move out with a group of people - Fort Hold is overcrowded, and he has insufficient space to healthily house and breed horses - to a new cave system in the north. Paul Benden eventually approves this after confirming that the hold will be built in a safe location - such as the cave network which Pierre de Courci and a small group established at Boll Hold\ three years prior - the protection of which won't overtax the dragons. Paul Benden is keen to gradually establish more sites to prevent a repeat of the "Fever Year" - three years back, a fever spread through Fort Hold and killed four thousand inhabitants, including Emily Boll, before a cure was developed - and reveals to Red Hanrahan that Zi Ongola is also planning to establish a hold on the Northern Continent's western peninsula.
Red Hanrahan assembles his group - taking with them an airlock door from one of the shuttles to use as their Hold's entrance - and they head for their site, where a number are already working on making the cave system livable. After two days travel - during which time Red Hanrahan muses about breeding quality horses and re-establishing horse racing on Pern, as well as toying with the idea of naming his Hold after the deceased Ezra Keroon - they reach the river that marks the boundary with Fort Hold, which is high from rain the previous week. Red Hanrahan realizes it will soon rise higher and strand them on the far side of their Hold, and - after determining the river is still cross able - begins mustering the group to cross; he and King found the shale that makes the ford and find the few sinkhole that shows that snow melt is part of the water. Red gives Brian the glow lantern, sending him and Cloudy ahead to the Hold to get assistance, while he and several others create crude beacons which they place in the river to light the way.
The first few carts and animals are herded across the river with only a few minor troubles that are quickly dealt with. During this time, the fire-lizards traveling with the group - aiding with mustering the animals - abruptly keen and vanish. Not long afterwards, help arrives from the Hold - who bring with them large "power beams" to light the way. Red Hanrahan decides not to rest until all are across the river, and continues helping, becoming joined by Sean Connell, Weyrleader of Fort Weyr - who had gone to the Hold to ensure they arrived before Threadfall, and discovered they were attempting to cross the river - and bronze Carenath; who spooks the remaining animals into crossing the river.
As the final carts cross the river - almost floating away due to the rising river - Sean sadly reveals to Red Hanrahan the reason behind the fire-lizards' recent behavior: Alianne Zuilieta - a queenrider, and one of the first dragonriders - died in childbirth and her dragon, gold Chereth, went between. Sean leaves Red Hanrahan and his group to continue on to their Hold - noting their services as ground crew won't be required as they aren't up to it, plus they are outside of Fort Hold's territory. Red Hanrahan inadvertently falls asleep when resting on a cart, and is woken once they reach their Hold, where he ensures the livestock are safe from Thread before heading inside the Hold and into his and his wife's temporary bedrooms.
The next couple of days are spent finishing the construction of the Hold - during which time Red Hanrahan notes he still doesn't have a name for it; Mairi Hanrahan concludes that the name Keroon Hold isn't right, and that it should have something to do with them, and various people are invited from Fort Hold and Fort Weyr to join a celebratory feast where the Airlock door will be set in place. However, Paul Benden and the others are unable to find the route Red Hanrahan's group took, meaning Red Hanrahan and several others have to travel back to the river to guide them across.
At the Hold, Sean Connell and Sorka Hanrahan arrive with Sorka's baby son, Ezremil - a "Pernese name" made by mixing the names of Ezra Keroon and Emily Boll - and the airlock door is set in place. As Red Hanrahan and Mairi Hanrahan go to ceremonially close and re-open the doors, Red Hanrahan is struck with inspiration and formally welcomes the guests to "The Hold of Red's Ford" - "Rua Atha" in the old language - which hence becomes known as Ruatha Hold.