Тодд Маккефри: Dragonheart

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Тодд Маккефри Dragonheart
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    Эпическая фантастика / на английском языке
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    0-593-05867-4 / 978-0-593-05867-1
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Dragonheart: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Todd McCaffrey



Thousands of years after man first developed interstellar travel, colonists from Earth, Tau Ceti III, and many other worlds settled upon Pern, the third planet of the star Rukbat in the Sagittarius sector.

They found Pern idyllic for their purposes: a pastoral world far off the standard trade routes and perfect for those recovering from the horrors of the Nathi Wars.

Led by hero Admiral Paul Benden and Governor Emily Boll of war-torn Tau Ceti, the colonists quickly abandoned their advanced technology in favor of a simpler life. For eight years — “Turns” as they called them on Pern — the settlers spread and multiplied on Pern’s lush Southern Continent, unaware that a menace was fast approaching: the Red Star.

The Red Star was actually a wandering planetoid that had been captured by Rukbat millennia before. It had a highly elliptical, cometary orbit, passing through the fringes of the system’s Oort Cloud before hurtling back inward toward the warmth of the sun, a cycle that took two hundred and fifty Turns.

For fifty of those Turns, the Red Star was visible in the night sky of Pern. Visible and deadly, for when the Red Star was close enough, as it was for those fifty long Turns, a space-traveling spore could cross the void from it to Pern. Once the spore entered the thin, tenuous upper atmosphere, it would thin out into a long, thin, streamer shape and float down to the ground below, as seemingly harmless “Threads.”

Like all living things, however, Thread needed sustenance, and it ate anything organic: wood or flesh, it was all the same to Thread. The first deadly Fall of Thread caught the colonists completely unawares. They barely survived. In the aftermath they came up with a desperate plan: having abandoned their high technology, they turned to their knowledge of genetic engineering to modify fire-lizards — six-limbed, winged life-forms indigenous to Pern — into huge, rideable, fire-breathing dragons. These dragons, telepathically linked at birth to their riders, formed the mainstay of the protection of Pern. Other solutions were tried, as well, but none proved to be as effective as dragons.

The approach of the Red Star caused further difficulties in the form of violent tectonic activity throughout the Southern Continent. Overwhelmed by the sudden proliferation of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, the colonists abandoned their original settlements in favor of the smaller, stabler, northern continent. In their haste, much was lost and much was forgotten.

Huddled in one settlement, called Fort Hold , the colonists soon found themselves overcrowded, particularly with the growing dragon population. The dragons — with their riders — moved into their own high mountain space, called Fort Weyr. As time progressed and the population spread across Pern, more Holds were formed and more Weyrs were created by the dragonriders.

Given their great losses, particularly in able-bodied older folk, the people of Fort and the other Holds soon found themselves resorting to an authoritarian system where one Lord Holder became the ultimate authority of each Hold. The Weyrs developed differently. Unable to both provide for themselves and protect the planet, the dragonriders relied upon a tithe from the Holds for their maintenance. Instead of a Lord Holder, they had a Weyrleader — the rider of whichever dragon flew the Weyr’s senior queen dragon.

And so the two populations grew separate, distant, and too often intolerant of each other.

As the Red Star moved away again, Thread stopped falling. Then, after a two-hundred-Turn “Interval,” it returned to rain death and destruction from the skies for another fifty-Turn “Pass.” Again, Pern relied on the dragons and their riders to keep it Thread free. And, again, the Pass ended, and a second Interval began.

Twelve Turns before the start of the Third Pass , a strange plague spread across Pern, decimating the holder population.

Even now, as the Red Star heralds the return of Thread and the beginning of the Third Pass , some smaller holds still lie fallow and deserted. The farmers of Pern struggle to provide enough food for the holders and weyrfolk. Miners work long hours to make up for fewer bodies, and few young holders are sent to the Harper Hall or Healer Hall to learn the ancient crafts.


Heart, give voice to sing

Of life on dragonwings!

Fort Weyr, AL 507.11.17, Second Interval

“. . . and you wouldn’t believe how many holders they’ve saved over the last ten Turns,” Benden Weyrleader M’tal said, continuing to press his case for the watch-whers.

The three remaining Weyrleaders had adjourned to Fort Weyr ’s Council Room to await the Hatching and confer.

C’rion of Ista Weyr snorted and shook his head. “I’m sorry, M’tal, but the time’s all wrong,” he said. “Threads will be falling all too soon and here you are with this radical notion of training dragons and watch-whers to fly Threads together at night.”

M’tal took a slow, calming breath to stifle the hot retort he wanted to make. He looked expectantly to K’lior.

The youngest Weyrleader of Pern shifted uneasily under the gray-haired man’s gaze. Well aware that M’tal had been a Weyrleader since before K’lior was born, he found it hard to refute such a length of experience. Of course, C’rion was even older still and had made his  feelings well-known.

“Look,” M’tal began again, his hands outstretched in a placating gesture, “just think — ”

He broke off as his ears detected the unmistakable hum of dragons at Hatching. He smiled and gestured at K’lior. “Weyrleader?”

K’lior was already on his feet and heading for the doorway that led to the Hatching Grounds.

Kindan and Kentai, Fort Weyr’s harper, were waiting on the stairs to the viewing stands in the Hatching Grounds, ready to escort the more feeble or overly-excited holders up to a good perch. Kindan nodded to M’tal as the Weyrleader passed by, still engrossed in fervent conversation with the Istan and Fort Weyrleaders .

“I see D’gan has departed,” Kentai murmured to Kindan as the Weyrleaders climbed out of earshot.

Kindan shrugged. He knew that M’tal had not been counting on D’gan’s support anyway. He was less pleased at the looks he’d seen on C’rion’s and K’lior’s faces — neither looked very thrilled with what M’tal was saying to them. Kindan, who was familiar with M’tal’s plan, shook his head. Couldn’t the other Weyrleaders see that watch-whers, with their night-seeing eyes, were supposed  to fly the night Threadfalls?

“Lord Itaral, Lady Nelyssa,” Kentai called as he spotted the Lord and Lady Holders of Ruatha Hold. He smiled as he spotted the third person in their party. “I see that you’ve convinced Lady Ilyssa to join you this time.” He nodded to their young daughter and raised an elbow invitingly. “May I escort you to your seats?”

Ilyssa blushed, but, overcoming her embarrassed smile, curtsied most elegantly and took his arm.

“This is Kindan,” Kentai said with a nod toward the other harper. “He’s come with Lord M’tal from Benden Weyr.”

Lady Nelyssa started at his name and peered at him more closely. “Aren’t you the one — ” She caught herself and rapidly switched her comment. “ — I mean, aren’t you the young man who gave up his watch-wher to Nuella, the WherMaster?”

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