|“||Inadvertently Jayge stiffened, straining against his bonds. Thella! He had never believed his own words when he had reassured Aramina over and over that the woman must have perished, or been apprehended. Of late, when their formal acquisition of the Paradise River Hold had meant that their names would be circulated, he had had twinges of anxiety. If Thella lived, would she hear? Would she care? Would she act? Common sense made that seem unlikely. But common sense was not a likely virtue in someone as vindictive as Thella.||”|
It covers a time period that is parallel to the original Dragonriders trilogy from an alternate point of view. In addition to being an expansion to The Girl Who Heard Dragons, it also depicts some of the events of Dragondrums and The White Dragon.
As long as the people of Pern could remember, the Holds had protected them from Thread, the deadly silver strands that fell from the sky and ravaged the land. In exchange for sanctuary in the huge stone fortresses, the people tithed to their Lord Holders, who in turn supported the Weyrs, whose dragons were Pern's greatest weapon against Thread.
But not everyone on Pern was part of that system of mutual care and protection, particularly those who had been rendered holdless as punishment for wrongdoing. And there were some, like Jayge's trader clan, who simply preferred the freedom of the roads to the security of a hold. Others, like Aramina's family, had lost their holds through injustice and cruelty. For all the holdless, life was a constant struggle for survival.
Then, from the ranks of the criminals and the disaffected, rose a band of renegades, led by the Lady Thella. No one was safe from Thella's depredations, and now her quarry was Aramina, reputed to have a telepathic link with dragons. But when Thella mistakenly vented her rage on Jayge's family, she made a dangerous mistake. For Jayge was bent on revenge… and he would never let her have the girl who heard dragons!
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Renegades of Pern opens with several short stories introducing many of the characters who appear throughout the whole story, bracketed against significant events in Lord Fax's campaigns.
Most notable of these stories are:
- Following Fax's invasion of Ruatha, Dowell and his wife Barla — a second cousin of the murdered Lord Kale — are approached by men looking for surviving relatives of the former Lord Holder, prompting them to flee to Tillek.
- Seven Turns later, on High Palisades Island in Ista, Toric leaves his family's holding to seek his fortune on the Northern Continent, despite his father threatening to make him Holdless. In time, five of his siblings join him.
- Two Turns after Fax's death, at Telgar Hold, Thella — the eldest child of the deceased Lord Tarathel — escapes her upcoming arranged marriage to Derabal of Hilltop Hold by fleeing the hold with a number of stolen supplies.
First Turn of the Ninth Pass
After spending spring at Kimmage Hold, the Lilcamp trader train begins traveling to Plains Hold to sell the lumber they've harvested. When they stop to rest, the son of the Kimmage holder manages to reach them, where he announces that word has arrived at Kimmage Hold warning of the arrival of Thread — and announcing the arrival of a number of dragonriders at Telgar Weyr. Crenden, the head trader, believes this to be an attempt to get them to return to Kimmage Hold to aid in expansion, and he ignores the warning, although his son Jayge is not so sure about this.
As time goes on, they notice odd weather and bursts of fire, and realise that Thread is indeed falling. In a panic, the traders are forced to shelter — human, beast and wagon — in a deep part of the nearby river, suffering many casualties as they do so. As the Fall comes to an end, a dragonrider — an Oldtimer — lands and angrily berates them for being unprepared for Fall — the fact that they are out in Fall, and that Kimmage Hold hasn't prepared a ground crew.
The next day, what remains of the train returns to Kimmage Hold, where Holder Childon tells them they cannot be supported — Childon needs to supply his family, tithe to Igen Weyr and supply ground crews — but allows them to stay in the beasthold. Crenden accepts, but his brother, Readis is unwilling to accept such humiliation, and leaves in the night.
Second Turn of the Ninth Pass
While raiding seedlings from Far Cry Hold, Thella hears about a Gather at Igen Hold, and plans to attend so she can legitimately obtain supplies for her hold — after fleeing Telgar Hold, she attempted to re-establish an abandoned hold, only for her plans to be ruined when Thread fell — and thus attract people to work there.
Thella makes her way to the Gather and disguises herself as a desert holder, before ordering boots from a Mastertanner. Seeing a holdless man as she goes to eat, Thella notes she could recruit the holdless to work for her. Eventually, she rests in one of the lounge areas, only to wake as a man attempts to rob the sleeping herder near her. She attacks the man, and is thanked by the herder, who requests she accompany him to his holding when the Gather ends — Thella agrees, planning to kill him for his marks.
As they leave — having eaten and drank much wine — Thella realises they are being followed; the herder has hired a man to kill her. Faking a fall, she outwits them both; the herder is accidentally killed by the hired man, who she then overpowers. The man, Dushik — a former Tillek man-at-arms who was banished for killing three people in wrestling contests — reveals the herder was planning to murder several others at the Gather in similar ways, and that he was helping him in return for marks that would allow him to buy shelter during Thread. Thella recruits him — threatening to turn him in to Lord Laudey if he doesn't — and they return to the Gather to recruit the holdless.
At Southern Hold, following a complaint from Mardra that someone went through a sack containing tithes, a ship arrives — part of Toric's secret trades with the Northern Continent — carrying Hamian, a Mastersmith and Toric's brother, and a number of holdless men to aid in expanding the holding — Hamian reveals a dragonless man, Giron, was supposed to join them, but he disappeared en route, running after sweepriders.
Hamian delivers a message to Sharra from Brekke, stating that the Healer Hall is in need of numbweed. Normally Sharra is forbidden to leave Southern Hold, but Sharra uses this as an excuse to explore, and Ramala, Toric's wife, convinces him to let them both go to harvest numbweed from a plain to the west of the Hold. Taking three ships, they sail to the plain, and Sharra wanders off to gather herbs, running into Piemur — having been accidentally brought South by Oldtimers — who joins her, later meeting up with Sebell and Menolly when he travels to Southern Hold.
Twelfth and Thirteenth Turn of the Ninth Pass
Having abandoned her ideas of establishing a legitimate hold, Thella now commands a number of holdless people — including Dushik, Giron and Readis — and conducts raids across the eastern Holds, obtaining information from a number of sources. Despite her careful planning, repeated thefts in Lemos are noticed by Lord Asgenar, who organises a meeting with Masterharper Robinton and the other Lord Holders whose minor holds are being raided. Noting the possibility that the thefts are being conducted by an organized group of renegades, the Lord Holders decide to start taking action.
In the Southern Continent, Hamian and Piemur sail down the Island River — which is easier to navigate than the Lagoon River — and notice ruins that Hamian thinks could be established as a hold. Piemur notes he has become tired of setting up drum towers and wants to explore the Southern Continent.
Meanwhile, Thella is informed of a girl living in the Igen Caverns — used as a shelter by a vast number of holdless — named Aramina, who has the ability to hear dragons — and is the daughter of Dowell and Barla. Since she could use this ability to spy on the Weyrs, Thella approaches the girl's family, posing as a Keroonian holder who wants to hire Dowell to make furniture for her. Thella soon hears they are planning to return to their hold in Ruatha, and fails to talk them out of it before Lord Larad's men come to search the caves — partly to find information about the raids, and partly to recruit holdless men to work at mines and Smithcrafthalls.
Thella next plans to abduct Aramina, but her family leaves the Igen Caverns before she can do so. Assuming they'll have joined a trader train, Thella — and Giron — ride north, encountering the Lilcamp train — united with the Amhold train. Thella tells them Aramina's family are thieves and that they are looking for them, but Jayge truthfully tells Thella they haven't seen them — unknown to Thella, several of the traders recognise her and Giron.
Thella and Giron continue north, eventually finding Aramina's family in a cave in Lemos — as detailed in The Girl Who Heard Dragons — with dragonriders lingering nearby, and Lord Asgenar's men searching the forests. Believing they were alerted to Thella's presence by the Lilcamp traders, Thella plans to attack the train on the way back. As time goes on, Aramina moves away from the guards, allowing Thella and Giron to capture her, but she manages to alert the nearby dragon who chases Thella and Giron away.
At Southern Hold, Toric decides to deal with the vast numbers of people trying to get to the Southern Continent by sending Piemur to meet with Masterharper Robinton to negotiate changing the restrictions on Southern Hold — leading to the meeting with the Benden Weyrleaders in «The White Dragon», and a number of inexperienced Lord Holder's sons being sent to Southern Hold, much to Toric's displeasure — although Piemur notes they will whip them into shape.
Meanwhile, the Lilcamp-Amhold train continues north to Far Cry Hold, being ambushed halfway there by Thella's raiders, who unexpectedly flee when one of their number — Readis — sees dragonriders approaching. As Jayge rides to get help from Far Cry Hold, he runs into Readis, who reveals he was unaware they were raiding his family's train, and that he lied about seeing dragonriders to halt Thella's attack.
Jayge continues onward, and manages to get help from Far Cry Hold, before returning to the train to find dragonriders helping out. Jayge and several others then follow the trail left by the injured raiders, only to find that they have been killed. Amidst the dead, Jayge finds a roll of papers addressed to Lord Asgenar: pictures of Thella and her men. Jayge removes Readis's image from the roll before giving it to the Far Cry Holder.
After the injured traders make it to Far Cry Hold, Jayge joins one of Asgenar's troops in the hopes of tracking down Thella, who they note has begun raiding desperately. They begin searching for her main base, and sabotaging her various cave holds along the way.
Meanwhile, Lord Asgenar is conveyed by K'van to Telgar Hold, where he informs Lord Larad that his half-sister Thella is responsible for the raids, and requests his aid in tracking her down. Larad, who believed her dead, has a good idea where she will be hiding — an abandoned holding that Thella used to hide at in her youth — and they send fire lizards to the location to see if there are people there. There are, and they begin planning an assault, using old maps to ensure they can cover every exit.
At dawn, dragonriders from Benden Weyr led by Larad and Asgenar storm Thella's Hold, capturing many of the holdless living there. Thella is discovered to have escaped with several of her raiders through a tunnel not on Larad's map, and they cause a rockfall blocking the entrance to the hold, which is soon cleared by the dragons. Amongst the prisoners is Perschar, a wandering artist working for Robinton who has been leaving pictures of Thella's renegades at key sites.
The various stolen goods found at Thella's Hold are returned to their owners, and Larad considers re-establishing the holding — allowing the holdless to stay if they are willing to work. Afterwards, Jayge leaves Asgenar's troops, and heads east after Thella — in part to seek his own revenge, and partly because he fears she may attempt to wreak vengeance against Aramina, who was taken to Benden Weyr — also planning to get Readis to abandon Thella.
Jayge travels first to Igen Caverns for information, then to Keroon Hold, where he helps transport mares to the Beastmasterhold and then to Benden Hold — where he becomes attracted to a dark-haired girl, who he decides to attend the Benden Gather with after he returns from Benden Weyr — before traveling north to Benden Weyr, where he sees Thella with two men.
As he enters Benden Weyr, Jayge discovers from the guards that Readis was there recently to deliver mail to Aramina — Jayge recognises it a trick to find out where Aramina is — and ends up talking with Lessa, who reveals Aramina failed to Impress at the last hatching, and is being housed at Benden Hold, as her ability to hear dragons was driving her crazy at Benden Weyr.
Returning to Benden Hold, Jayge realises Aramina was the dark-haired girl he saw, and he is told she is out tending to an injured animal. This turns out to be a trap set by Thella, and Aramina is captured, prompting Benden Hold and Benden Weyr to send out search parties. Unable to find Aramina, they conclude that she is being hidden in a dark cave or pit to prevent her from telling the dragons where she is.
Joining the search teams, Jayge manages to find Readis, who requests his help in freeing Aramina from Thella, who he thinks has gone mad — he reveals she killed Giron as they fled from her hold. Readis leads Jayge to where Aramina is being kept, and the two rescue her, although Readis is attacked by Dushik, and the two fall into a deep pit — presumably dying. Jayge and Aramina manage to escape, and Aramina, unwilling to return to Hold or Weyr, tells Jayge of her plan to go to the Southern Continent. Jayge realises he could trade runners there, and decides to accompany her, as he has fallen in love with her.
Fifteenth Turn of the Ninth Pass
At Southern Hold, Toric notes the absence of a majority of the dragons at Southern Weyr, and Piemur reports they were practicing going Between. Three days later, Ramoth and Mnementh unexpectedly arrive and search Southern Weyr, before crying out and returning to Benden Weyr. N'ton arrives and informs Toric that Ramoth's queen egg has been stolen by the Oldtimers, and several dragonriders unsuccessfully search the area.
Toric is later informed that Ramoth's egg has been returned, and the missing Oldtimers return to Southern Weyr. To prevent something like this happening again, Toric plans to have a roster made of the Oldtimers, before he and Piemur discuss if the searching dragonriders discovered the real size of his holding. Following this, Piemur convinces Toric to live up to his promise — made three Turns prior — to let him explore the Southern Continent, and begins trekking east across the coast.
After two months of travel, Piemur discovers a settlement built out of ruins along a river, inhabited by Jayge, «Ara», and their young son Readis, which they call Paradise River, since those words are written on an ancient sign amidst the ruins. Piemur stays with them a while, hearing the story of how they came here — they were shipwrecked while attempted to ship runners to Southern Hold — and planning to discuss their future as holders with Masterharper Robinton. In time, he hears that Lord Jaxom of Ruatha Hold has fallen ill in a cove to the east and is being treated by Sharra, and he continues on to it.
Not long afterwards, chaos breaks out at Southern Hold — T'kul and B'zon have gone missing from Southern Weyr, the other dragons are making noise, and the fire-lizards have vanished. D'ram arrives, and informs Toric that T'kul has died at Ista Weyr, and he is to assume control of Southern Weyr, which is to be «restored». In time, the dragonriders reveal they are aware of the extent of Southern Hold, but have no wish to contest Toric's holding; they only wish to explore the various ruins in the Southern Continent in the hopes of finding out more about their ancestors..
Meanwhile, Piemur remains at the cove with Sharra and a recovering Jaxom, and notes the two have feelings for each other — Piemur once had feelings for Sharra, but Toric, who didn't approve, kept them apart. The three begin exploring the area around the cove — which is soon made into a holding, Cove Hold, for the retiring Robinton, who suffered a heart attack at Ista Weyr. Piemur decides to wait until things settle down before revealing the existence of Paradise River.
After his arrival at Cove Hold, Robinton organizes further explorations of the Southern Continent, leading to the discovery of an ancient plateau settlement of the «Two-Faced Mountain» — and later, three buried ships in a nearby meadow. Toric thinks little of the Plateau when he is taken there, and is more concerned with putting an end to Sharra and Jaxom's relationship. However, his family turns on him after he returns Sharra to Southern Hold, and Jaxom soon rescues her — also revealing he was responsible for the return of Ramoth's stolen queen egg — allowing them to continue their relationship without Toric's interference.
Following this, Piemur tells Robinton about Jayge and Ara's settlement at Paradise River, and they travel to the site with a dragonrider the next day, briefly alarming Ara — who Piemur and Robinton recognise as the missing Aramina — who discovers to her horror and delight that she has seemingly lost the ability to hear dragons. Robinton talks with them about establishing the ruins as a legitimate hold — Paradise River Hold — and Jayge begins sending word to his relatives, inviting them to settle down with him.
Robinton and Piemur recruit Perschar — who has been drawing pictures of the finds at the Plateau — to draw an accurate rendering of Paradise River Hold. As he leaves, Piemur looks at a drawing of his of a hill at the ancient settlement, and notices it may be a buried building. The two travel to the Plateau the following day, and excavate it in secret, discovering maps showing the location of all the ancient settlements.
While hiding in a cave in Nerat, Thella hears that Jayge and Aramina have become holders in the Southern Continent. Blaming them for her misfortunes, she travels to the Igen Caverns, planning to recruit a number of Holdless men to sail south with her and kill Jayge and Aramina.
Over the next two Turns, many new things occur, Eastern Weyr is established near Landing with T'gellan as Weyrleader, ruins along the nearby river are found and settled — despite the influx of travelers to the Southern Continent slowing as stories of danger spread — and K'van becomes Weyrleader of Southern Weyr.
Seventeenth Turn of the Ninth Pass
At Cove Hold, Robinton notes a section of caves at the Plateau — which they now know to be called «Landing» — haven't been excavated. Two days later, a recent «earthshake» is found to have unearthed an entrance to the caves, which they discover to be full of sealed crates, containing an immense number of ancient artifacts, which they begin cataloguing — during this time, Piemur meets Jancis, the granddaughter of Mastersmith Fandarel, who he gradually falls in love with. Meanwhile, at Southern Hold, Toric discovers that Denol, one of the holders at Great Bay Hold, has crossed the Great Bay to the island, which he is now attempting to claim as his own.
At Landing, Piemur and Jancis plan to compare the discoveries found at Landing with those at Paradise River Hold, and travel there, only for Piemur to be captured alongside a majority of the holders when Thella attacks the hold. Aramina escapes, prompting Thella to lead her raiders into the surrounding forests after her. However, Aramina has rediscovered her ability to hear dragons, and uses this to call for help from Southern Weyr — despite dragonriders not being allowed to interfere in what is technically a hold dispute, K'van rescues Aramina and frees the holders, before leaving them to solve matters themselves. Jayge leads the holders into the forests, eventually finding Thella and her raiders. Jayge bests Thella in a duel, but refrains from killing her when Aramina calls him away. However, Thella leaps at her in rage, prompting Jayge to kill her to protect Aramina.
Following this incident, Jancis reveals she discovered a record at Paradise River Hold detailing the «Admin Annex» at Landing, an unexcavated building that has been shielded with heat-resistant tiling to protect «Aivas». Unsure of what an «Aivas» is, the building is hastily excavated, and a small group enters to find the «Aivas» — which turns out to be an artificial intelligence system that was used by the original settlers of Pern. The «Aivas» — an acronym for «Artificial Intelligence Voice Address System» — does not recognize their authority at first, stating its use is restricted to (long-deceased) settlers, but they manage to reason with it, and it begins telling them the history of Pern — which is continued in All the Weyrs of Pern.