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The 9th Interval is Here...
Two-hundred years. Two-hundred years since the re-discovery of AIVAS, since the Red Star was pushed out of Pern's orbit. Two centuries since the knowledge of the AIVAS supercomputer jumpstarted a rennaisance of technology and progress for the common folk of Pern.
Or, in another manner of thinking... two-hundred years since the Dragonriders fell into decline.
Without Thread, the Holds' previous contempt returned swiftly. Dragons are costly, large creatures who are at once threats and leeching dependents upon the Holdfolk and Craftfolk of Pern. Without the need for so many Riders, tensions mounted. As the Turns flew by, the lack of high mortality rates among the Dragons lead to an inevitable population boom-- an unsustainable one for a population that did little to sustain itself.
The Holds, felt far too much pressure with little to show for it-- Betweening crops and perishables as packages dragonback was no good, the cold damaged it, and Dragons were fickle, proud creatures to most extent, not always willing to prostrate themselves to the regular folk. The populations rebelled. Tithes did not come, soldiers turned away the peaceful dragons at the borders, forcibly repelled the wherhandlers from collecting what they considered their dues. A few holds and cotholds, still loyal, still remembering the Turns upon Turns in which the Dragonfolk kept Pern free of the scourge of thread still attempted to sustain the Riders... but there was only so much they could do.
Many Weyrs simply collapsed. The lack of food and rising hostility lead to a sudden diaspora to more stable Weyrs-- and this exodus revealed a secondary problem... perhaps more sinister and fatal than civil unrest. AIVAS had noted with Great Ramoth, so many Turns ago, that she had grown far beyond her programmed genetics. The bottleneck of DNA lead to some strange changes in the genetic makeup of Pern's Dragons... and the motley assemblage that began to form in the strongholds of Telgar, Benden and Southern displayed that. Many eggs were too weak, or malformed to hatch. Dragonets came out nigh unrecognizable for their mutations. Some dragons were massive beyond scale, others dimunitive as their ancestors... or smaller. Kitti Ping's safeguards were failing alongside the foundations of Pernese society.
It took a scant handful of Turns before half of Pern declared independence from their Weyrs, setting up feudal societies as they saw fit.
Benden, ever law-bound as they were, managed to strike up a deal with their old Holds-- Benden patrolled the territory for more human threats, bandits, outlaws and the like. They also, by this time, had far more dragons who, now with empty bellies, were more apt to carry packages, no matter how demeaning past generations considered it, the desperation of the youth ensured that old tradition began to fade into obscurity. They did not thrive, and lost many to starvation, and even worse as the number of candidates decreased, so their mortality increased. Eventually though, Queens bore smaller and smaller clutches, even going so far as to destroy eggs that were even slightly damaged. Benden Dragons are lean, but pride themselves on keeping to the Old Ways, their honor still intact.
Southern- well, with such a lush surrounding, when the Holds demanded that the Riders pull their weight, it wasn't as difficult. They lured enough craftmasters with the promise of tropical paradise to begin teaching anyone who could learn how to farm, how to hunt, how to fish-- and basically began to generate enough food to keep themselves fed enough. They maintain a good relationship with all the Holds in the area, and rarely have a lack of candidates or spectators at their Hatchings. However... Southern has a bit of an oddity-- their last Queen died some many turns ago, with no Gold to replace her. Rather than fall into disorganization, a council was made of all the ranks, proportionate to their population, headed by whatever Dragonness was currently on the Sands, regardless of their rank. When the sands were empty, the position fell to the most experienced eggbearing dragon. And so Southern has flourished for many Turns, boasting one of the most robust and stable populations of dragons.... though they do turn their noses up at consorting with their remaining sister Weyrs, seeing them as barbaric for their rigid color hierarchies.
Proud Telgar, stronghold of the "oldtimers" of yore took a far different approach. So isolated, Telgar had depended on the friendliness of the surrounding Holds for most of their candidates and, in agreement with the other Weyrs, rarely took theirs by force. When the tides had turned against them, Telgar suffered from not just lack of food or basic necessities... but candidates. Holds fought off the Riders from taking their valuable young folk, and so it came to pass that one Turn... there were but five eligible young ones on the Sands... for a clutch of nearly Thirty-five. While some Dragonets went to the Stands, a few even crawling out of the Sands to cry for their bonded... nearly thirty of the young dragons would Between, or die, alone and ever-waiting on the heated Sands.
This would not stand. The Gold, lusting for blood and craven for revenge spread wide her wings and screamed for her dragons to do something, anything to wreak revenge on those who had caused the death of her children. Most shrank away from this Command, this Forbidden request to hurt mankind. Most... but not all. A handful of dragons answered their queen. While some would not directly maim or kill a human, they did not shy from razing the land, destroying building and crop alike. If the Dragons would starve, they said, so would the Holds. Telgar found this method of persuasion to work quite well, and the next Turn, when the Gold flew one of the Males who had heeded her call, there were plenty of young folk on the Sands. Whether they wanted to be there, or had anywhere else to go? Not the Weyrqueen's concern in the slightest.
Naturally, when the other Weyrs heard of this act of barbarism, they tried to talk Telgar out of that course of action. The Weyr had made its point, the Holds were unlikely to turn away Searchriders again. But Telgar was getting their owed tithe, and then some... and were unwilling to give that up. When Benden sent over a diplomatic patrol, Telgar lashed out, killing one of the blues, and making it known that they now saw Benden as a threat to their survival-- something that would not be tolerated. Benden was to stay away from Telgar's territory, and if that was honored, Telgar would do the same. Benden had little other choice against an enemy that was armed and clearly prepared to kill, and left the border cotholds to their fate at the hands of Telgar.
And so things remained. As the burden of dragons became too much for some of the Weyrs, young Queens both ranking and not sought their fortunes elsewhere... and aside from them, some mutations too extreme or odd to find their place in the Weyr dispersed into the Wilds... to varying degrees of success, many dying of exposure or starvation, or fleeing back to the weyr when their first clutches either didn't hatch or had no one to Impress upon survival. But... legends persisted of a rogue band of outcasts, Holdless and Weyrlessfolk who had come together under the banner of a Ranking Queen, expelled from Telgar for... something. Exactly what, there are many theories, but this elusive Bandit Queen has kept herself well-hidden, though the effects of her power have spread far and wide.
No longer are the Holdless abandoned to their fate-- most pay Homage to this Weyrless Queen, and so if they are harassed by Benden or other unfriendly groups, find themselves under the protection of Watch-wher... or even under the shadow of a barely-seen dragon. These groups are now able to plunder, steal and make a living far easier than before, organized and logical in their attacks and choosings, less prone to destructive infighting or from over-vandalizing the cotholds. They are a thorn in everyone's side, but have certainly captured the imagination of many Harper and Scribe.
Benden's own corruption ran differently than Telgar's though, for all they played that they had done no wrong. Traditional and hide-bound despite the impact of the giant Gold Ramoth and White Ruth, they cast out a Queen that Impressed to a male. The young Weyrman worked together with those who came into exile with him, and founded a Weyr-- High Reaches. A chance encounter, and then the tragedy of a collapsing hatching sands brought him into league with the Weyrless Queen.... but this young, upstanding Goldrider may find that his own designs to not fit in so neatly with the ambitions of these holdless Raiders.
And in the midst of all the drama and social upheaval...
...A familiar Red Star has begun to once more gleam over the horizon