|“||She [Lessa ] could see what had alarmed the watchdragon: long flaring ribbons in the sky, almost directly above Benden. One large burst startled everyone, as if some smaller piece had broken off the bigger ball.||”|
In the spring of 2001 (presumably April-May) a limited edition of the novel was released. This edition is strictly limited to a press run of 1,175 individually numbered copies. Leatherbound hardback book published by Easton Press. Bound in top grade green leather with 22kt gold lettering and cover artwork. Hubbed spine, acid neutral paper with page edges gilded, satin moire endpapers, and a satin ribbon book mark sewn in. Signed by the author on the limitation page. Inside illustration by Jerry Vanderstelt. Has also collector's note, certificate of authenticity, and unused publisher supplied bookplate laid in.
A new age is dawning on Pern, for since the dragons have changed the orbit of the Red Star, the horrors of Threadfall will soon be a thing of the past. But even as the dragon riders are trying to decide what their future role will be, further dangers are beginning to emerge, as those calling themselves the Abominators plot together to destroy all the learning that has been discovered from the records of the Old Ones.
Their first vicious assault is on the Healer Halls — irrevocable damage is done and it is obvious that this is a worldwide movement with a dangerous mind leading those who would destroy all of the new knowledge.
And now comes a fresh and terrible catastrophe — a large cometary fragment is hurtling towards Pern and cannot be deflected. Everyone — dragons, riders, holders and craftsmen — must stand by to perform a giant rescue operation.
As F'lessan, son of Lessa and F'lar, plays his heroic part in the events that follow, he is helped by Tai, his new weyrmate. But it is the dragons, bronze Golanth and the brilliant green Zaranth, who will provide the solution to the dangers of the skies.
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In the Thirtieth Turn of the Ninth Pass — a turn after the conclusion of The Dolphins of Pern — a meteorite strikes Crom Mine 23, allowing Shankolin, a son of exiled Master Norist and the leader of the initial attack against Aivas, to escape and begin to make plans to «return people to their senses». A few sevendays later, two men at a Gather discuss Aivas' changes, and find themselves joined by five others who are dissatisfied with the changes. The seven only identify themselves by number, and «Fifth» — Shankolin — recruits a number of people with similar feelings and they begin making plans to stop the spread of Aivas's changes, initially by damaging and stealing craft materials.
During Turnover festivities at the beginning of the Thirty-First Turn of the Ninth Pass, F'lessan searches through the archives at Landing in the hopes of finding out whether a set of mysterious initials at Honshu belonged to Stev Kimmer. While doing this, he meets Tai, a green rider from Monaco Bay Weyr who is researching the night skies. Tai helps F'lessan confirm the initials are Stev Kimmer's by comparing them to the signatures on the Pern Charter, and F'lessan accompanies her to the festivities. However, Tai eventually flees when seeing T'gellan and Mirrim approach — Mirrim having warned Tai about the bad reputation F'lessan gained in his early years — and ends up going to investigate sounds of breaking glass.
Meanwhile, at the new Healer Hall headquarters at Fort Hold, MasterHealers Oldive and Sharra hear the sound of intruders, and discover the Hall's materials are being destroyed. Sharra calls Ruth, who summons aid from Fort Weyr and Fort Hold. The intruders are quickly rounded up, but refuse to identify themselves, and claim they are removing «Abominations» from Pern. Lord Groghe has them imprisoned and shortly afterwards, it is discovered that similar attacks have happened across Pern: at Landing, Benden Hold, Southern Boll Hold and Southern Hold — an attack at the Smithcrafthall was thwarted.
Later, a meeting is held at Fort Hold, where N'ton reports none of those originally exiled have escaped their island, but that one of the people from the original attack against Aivas is unaccounted for. They come to the conclusion that the attacks were organized — and those captured will be exiled — and they decide to check various records for leads, and seek the help of runners, who are welcome everywhere and as such might be able to pick up information. The next day, Haligon, a son of Lord Groghe, travels to the Fort Hold Runner Station on his father's behalf, where he learns from Torlo, the Stationmaster, that runners have been given Abominatorss-made pamphlets — such as «Tortures of the Abomination», which was found among the possessions of those who attacked the Healer Hall — which they don't deliver. Torlo reveals his fear that his craft will soon become obsolete with the advent of new technologies, but Haligon reassures him otherwise — noting that the runners are the oldest craft on Pern.
A sevenday later, while resting at Monaco Bay Weyr, Tai — who F'lessan briefly checked on after he discovered she was injured by Abominators — notices a trundlebug heading towards Zaranth, and sees it abruptly move in a different direction; Zaranth tells her she «moved it». Not long after, they are called to aid in hunting felines attacking the herdbeasts at Cardiff Hold, and Tai and Zaranth go, catching and killing two felines which Tai skins. She tells the holder journeyman that half the wing was fed, and she thinks with two her dragon would be feed for a sevenday.
The following night, a strange light is seen in the skies over Pern. F'lessan joins the many travelling to Landing, where it is discovered — using the Yokohama's sensors — that the strange light is a large meteorite, which they witness falling into the Eastern Ring Sea and causing a tsunami. A plan is made for dragonriders to travel back in time before the meteorite struck and evacuate threatened coastlines. F'lessan aids in the evacuation of Monaco Bay Weyr, before being sent with two brown riders to inform the inhabitants of Sunrise Cliff Seahold. The seaholders take a while to be convinced, but eventually evacuate — although Golanth has to rescue Seaholder Binness when he fails to reach safe ground in time.
F'lessan and Golanth return to Landing to rest, and join the already sleeping Tai and Zaranth. When they wake, Tai discovers the two feline pelts she skinned have been rescued, Zaranth claiming to be responsible, although the others don't know how she could have saved them. As they go to deliver emergency supplies to the various holds, F'lessan invites Tai and several Monaco Bay riders to stay at Honshu until the Weyr is restored. The next day, as F'lessan prepares to travel to Benden Weyr to aid the affected coastal holdings, he finds Mirrim accusing Tai of deserting the weyr's children to save the two pelts, but F'lessan defends Tai's story.
In time, the waters recede, and supplies are sent to the stricken holds. High Reaches Weyrleaders M'rand and Pilgra decide to step down and go to the Southern Continent — following R'mart and Bedella's retirement as Weyrleaders of Telgar Weyr — and settle in Cathay — in an area that might have been an ancient settlement. At the Harper Hall, «Pinch», who has been spying on the Abominators, reports on his findings to MasterHarper Sebell. At Honshu, Tai and F'lessan watch the skies together.
Nearly a sevenday and a half later, Tai and F'lessan — who have been studying the skies together at Honshu — help holders by planting new trees at Benini Hold. During this time, F'lessan — who only signed up because he saw Tai was the only person helping out there — notices Zaranth is almost ready to rise to mate — in addition to this, he has noticed Zaranth and Golanth are quite close to each other — but doesn't tell Tai. As they head back to Honshu, Zaranth does rise to mate, to Tai's horror, and F'lessan discovers that Tai has never chosen her partners when Zaranth previously rose; they forced themselves on her. Before the two are overcome by lust, F'lessan confesses his feelings for Tai and urges her to choose him as her partner, instead of leaving it to their dragons. In the end, Tai chooses F'lessan, and in the aftermath, they decide to form a relationship with one another.
A few days later, F'lessan and Tai discuss Zaranth's ability to move objects — thinking this may be how she rescued the feline pelts — and successfully manage to get her to teach it to Golanth by getting him to practice moving trundlebugs. As time goes on, F'lessan shows Tai the secret telescope — hidden inside Honshu by Kenjo Fusaiyuki — and they search the skies togther.
At Fort Hold, Torlo manages to trace the Abominators to three holds in Keroon, one of which, Wide Bay Hold, is home to MasterPrinter Tagetarl and his Printer's Hall. Noting that Tagetarl might be at risk from the Abominators since his Hall printed a large number of leaflets with facts about the «Fireball Flood», and the Abominators use rumors to recruit followers, a group of people — including «Pinch», who has discovered clues towards «Fifth»'s identity — are sent to Wide Bay Hold to safeguard it — and paint the wooden surfaces with a flame retardant. Which Piemur found in the files, that would dry fast, clear and hard, and not smell as it dried, had to use with gloves, and all the fish smell near the harbor
The next day, an Abominator attempts to drug Tagetarl and his apprentices with fellis-laced wine by posing as a wineman, but Tagetarl recognizes him as a fake and refrains from drinking it — and also prevents the Abominator from delivering it inside, and thus learning the layout of his hold. In the night, a group of Abominators attack, but they are overwhelmed by Pinch's group, and aid soon arrives from Wide Bay Hold, along with N'ton and Jaxom — signaled by Beauty. Following the terms of the Pern Charter, a quick trial is held, and the Abominators are sentenced to exile — despite the crowd wishing to drown them in the harbor instead. However, it is noticed that the two leading Abominators — «Fourth» and «Fifth» — were not among those captured. Afterwards, Jaxom returns to Ruatha and discusses this with Sharra, revealing that his milk-brother Dorse was part of the group — which they note is strange since he was meant to be working for Toric.
Two days before a scheduled Council meeting at Telgar Hold, the Weyrleaders of Pern — along with Mirrim, Master Starman Erragon, F'lessan and Tai — hold a secret meeting at Cove Hold to discuss what dragonriders can do about objects falling from the sky, a question that is being asked by many — the recent meteor hasn't been the only such rock to strike Pern. A proposal is made to establish a sky-watch, establishing new sites on the Western Continent, at Ruatha Hold's Ice Lake, and near Telgar to aid the existing sites at Cove Hold and Honshu. Although G'dened — the eldest of the remaining Oldtimer Weyrleaders — doesn't like parts of the idea — and seems adverse to considering the concept of «After» — he concurs it's best to show a united front.
After the meeting — and showing Honshu's telescope to several Weyrleaders — Tai and F'lessan decide to wash themselves and their dragons in the river below Honshu, and rest nearby. While doing so, Felines abruptly attack and overwhelm Golanth, F'lessan and Tai rushing to his aid, and Zaranth attempting to «move» the attacking Felines away. Zaranth calls for aid from Ramoth, who summons a number of dragons who then witness and mimic Zaranth's actions to throw the Felines away. Tai and Zaranth escape major injury, but F'lessan's leg is crippled, and Golanth suffers severe damage to his eye, wing and tail.
While the injured are treated at Honshu, F'lar and Lessa discuss the ability Zaranth used, and realise it is the «telekinesis» Aivas was sure the dragons should have — in addition to the telepathy they share with their riders and their ability to teleport to places via between. They go to the Council meeting at Telgar Hold — where Lord Kashman of Keroon objects to the actions taken at Wide Bay Hold, and Lady Janissian is confirmed as Lady Holder of Southern Boll Hold — and announce the plans for the new observatories, which several holders initially object to due to already high tithes being sent to the Weyrs, until they are reassured that this will be funded using the existing tithes. In addition to this, they reveal the discovery of dragon telekinesis, and add that this will be used to prevent anything falling on Pern in future. After the meeting, Lord Toric secretly manages to meet with «Fifth» — something arranged by Dorse, whose absence Toric has noticed.
At Honshu, a nearly-recovered Tai is taken to see F'lessan, before going to Golanth and Zaranth to assure both rider and dragon that each other is alive. At the same time, the other dragons begin practicing their telekinetic abilities, eventually finding working in pairs against trundlebugs to be the most successful way to refine them. Eventually, Tai decides to get away from the crowded Honshu and go to the sea with Zaranth. After spending time with the dolphins there, they return to Honshu, where they witness F'lessan attempting to make his way to Golanth's side. Tai gets Zaranth to move F'lessan and herself to Golanth, where F'lessan removes the patch over Golanth's injured eye — both have been worrying about it — and finds that it is severly damaged, but Golanth can still see out of it. The next day, Tai requests that F'lessan be allowed to swim, which begins improving his health.
Meanwhile, Shankolin manages to reach Monaco Bay and Landing with Toric's aid. Shankolin seeks out Master Archivist Esselin, who owes Toric several favours, and requests to be shown Aivas. Esselin takes Shankolin into the Admin building, but as Shankolin goes to enter the Aivas chamber, two beams of light strike him in the heart and kill him. In the aftermath, he is recognised as «Fifth», one of the Abominator leaders. Not long afterwards, Pinch travels to Southern Hold, and witnesses a meeting between Toric and «Fourth», the remaining Abominator leader.
At Honshu, F'lessan and Golanth recover, although Golanth is unable to fully open his wing — something that F'lessan notes might improve over time. A ramp is constructed to give Golanth access between the terrace and the ground — and the nearby beasthold secretly enlarged to be used as a weyr for him. F'lessan realizes to his horror that Golanth's injury means he will no longer be able to fly Thread as a Wingleader, and that Golanth himself might not be able to fly Zaranth when she next rises to mate. However, Tai, F'lar and Lessa reject the latter thought, noting that they know how to get him in the air. Several days later, five dragons from Monaco Bay Weyr manage to use their telekinesis to lift Golanth into the air — although they note only one dragon is really needed — which allows him and F'lessan to travel Between to Cove Hold for a meeting with Master Starman Erragon.
At Cove Hold, it is revealed that Feline numbers are going to be controlled by leaving out bait poisoned with an infertility substance, and F'lessan requests he be allowed to study astronomy. They then discuss the discovery of dragon telekinesis — noting that Golanth might soon be able to lift himself up over time — and realize that Aivas originally intended for dragons to use this ability to move the Red Star; now they will use this ability in conjunction with the new observatories to ensure Pern's skies remain clear.
- It was the first Pern book using the same painting to illustrate the UK and US covers.
- To ensure accuracy, Anne consulted with a number of astronomers who planned and modelled the comet impact and subsequent consequences, this group included author Bill Napier, Harry Alm and YouTuber Scott Manley.