Anne McCaffrey died one week ago today. Her death passed most major media outlets because she was a science fiction novelist whose works hadn't even been turned into movies yet.
|And because she wasn't a teenybopper.|
McCaffrey is best known for her twenty-two Dragonriders of Pern novels, which I started reading back in 2004. My father had been a fan of the books, and I had heard a few of them on tape, so I had been curious. I went to the library and found the first book: Dragonflight.
I got hooked on the prologue, which described how the native fauna of one world found a way to attack the people on the other, and how dragons had been developed. Having recently completed a screenwriting class, I immediately saw how the book could be made into a movie.
Of course, I had to make some changes. Many of the characters needed to be fleshed out. Some of the plot threads had to be dropped and others elaborated. Anne had changed how a few things worked over the course of the books, and I had to pick which versions I liked best. When I didn't have all the information I needed to finish the screenplay, I read the other books and scoured the web.
|Someone even made MAPS!|
Crushed, I stuck the screenplay in a corner of my hard drive and tried to forget about it. Every time I heard rumors they were working on a television show or a movie, I sighed and hoped I'd find an excuse to bring out my screenplay to show the world.
Heck with it all. Anne is dead. Here it is.
EXT. SPACE A bright blue star hangs in space. As it moves away, words appear below it: RUKBAT (ALPHA SAGITTARIUS): CLASS B STAR SAGITTARIUS CONSTELLATION A planet moves into view. It is a beautiful blue-green world with four large continents and swirling clouds. The words change to: PARALLEL EARTH, RESOURCES NEGLIGIBLE Which shortens to: PERN Two small moons pass by as the planet grows larger and larger. A derelict spacecraft labelled Yokohama flies by. The clouds grow misty and transparent as the northern continent grows. The mountains reach towards the sky and, finally, a castle in the mountains is visible. The castle is a rough stone fortress, built for defense instead of beauty, and half buried in the rock of the cliff. Giant, stone walls snake in all directions, punctuated at five corners by large firepits. More words: RUATH HOLD, RUATHA, THE HIGH REACHES 13 YEARS UNTIL THREADFALL This final line stays visible as the other words fade. INT. BEDROOM - MORNING This is one of the bedchambers suited for the noble family. While it is not garish in its decoration like one would expect of Earth's modern royalty, it is still unusually intricate in its trappings. A giant tapestry of scintillating thread hangs on one wall, depicting a sky with a glinting, yellow dragon flying over Ruath Hold, which is shown under construction. There are two, cushy beds filling most of the room, each containing a snoring child. LESSA, a beautiful 10-year-old girl, sits up suddenly from one of the beds, clasping her hands to her head and moaning in pain. She gets to her feet but is nearly unable to stand, and staggers to the door. She opens it, still clutching her head with one hand and finds herself... EXT. BALCONY - MORNING LESSA'S balcony is a small stone affair that looks out over the walls and fields of her home. She coughs and gags but controls herself by inhaling deeply of the morning air. Her fingers clutch at the stone railing and, as she looks out at the sunrise, her eyes widen in surprise. A giant GOLD DRAGON IS FLYING ABOVE HER, HEADING INTO THE SUNRISE. From this angle, it looks just like a dragon out of a fantasy novel, except that it has smooth skin instead of scales. Lessa blinks, rubs her eyes, and looks back to find the dragon has vanished. She turns and hurries back inside. A beat later, a grappling hook appears on the stone wall below. INT. BEDROOM - MORNING LESSA sits down on her brother SILON'S bed. He is still sleeping, or trying to sleep as she shakes him. He moans and turns away from her. LESSA I saw a dragon, Silon. Silon takes his pillow and puts it over his head, trying to block Lessa out. She grabs the pillow and yells into his ear. LESSA I SAW A DRAGON! Silon sighs and turns to look at her. He is pale and slender but a healthy young man a few years older than Lessa. SILON You had a dream. LESSA No I didn't. I mean, I did, but I saw the dragon after I woke up. It was flying right above us. Silon sits up, putting on a pair of primitive, wire-framed glasses from a small wooden table by the side of his bed. SILON What color? A beat as Lessa thinks. LESSA Gold. Silon lays back down on the bed again, pretending to go back to sleep. LESSA What? SILON You were dreaming. LESSA I was not! SILON Were too. He pulls the pillow back over his head. She snatches it away. LESSA Was not! Silon turns to look at her, his glasses now slightly askew on his face. SILON Lessa, gold dragons are the queens. All they do is sit on the ground and lay eggs. They can't even fly! Now how could you have seen a flightless queen dragon above us right now? You were sleeping. He turns away from her again. Lessa stares at him, trying to think of a retort, then slams the pillow on his head. LESSA I hate you! She storms out, slamming the door behind her. SILON (muffled by the pillow) Ow. EXT. CASTLE WALL - DAY On the same wall underneath the balcony, a DOZEN SOLDIERS have appeared. More continue to climb up on several grappling hooks. They creep towards a nearby staircase, heading for the main courtyard. INT. GREAT HALL - DAY LESSA walks through the main meeting room of the castle. It is a lushly decorated room with stained glass windows and beautiful banners showing the Ruathan colors of red and gold. Numerous tables are arranged in careful rows. A small fire is tended by a GROUP OF SERVANTS who take no notice as Lessa passes them. She goes to a small door next to the main entrance and follows the stairs down. INT. KITCHEN - DAY A DOZEN COOKS slave over fires and pots. MENIA, a heavy-set woman, her arms covered in flour up to the elbows, is laying small tart-like pastries on a cooling rack. LESSA weaves nimbly through the active cooks without bumping into any of them until she reaches Menia. Lessa stares up at the pastries with greedy eyes. She's not tall enough to reach them, so she tugs on Menia's skirts. Menia smiles down at her. MENIA Hello, princess. Right on time for a fresh bubbly tart as usual. (hands Lessa a pastry) Just one this time, dear. I barely made enough for everyone. Now run along! Lessa swallows the pastry in a gulp and then stares up at Menia. There is a curious intensity to the look in LESSA'S EYES. After a beat, Menia picks up another pastry and hands it to Lessa. MENIA (exactly the same as before) Just one this time, dear. I barely made enough for everyone. Now run along! Lessa takes the pastry and eats it quickly. She stares up at Menia with the same intensity. Menia hands her a third pastry. MENIA (again, the same) Just one this time, dear. I barely made enough for everyone. Now run along! This time Lessa smiles and leaves, carrying the last tart in her mouth. Menia smiles as she goes and turns back to her work. She does a double take as she sees the cooking rack and then begins counting the remaining pastries. EXT. CASTLE COURTYARD - DAY The BAND OF SOLDIERS have killed a number of sentries, and their BLOODIED CORPSES Would be clearly visible if anyone was up yet. However, the courtyard is empty of people and the remaining SENTRIES are facing outward, oblivious to the danger. The soldiers creep to the large portcullis and work to remove the giant bolts that secure them. LESSA appears from a nearby doorway, still eating her bubbly tart. She walks past a stack of barrels and then stops suddenly, sensing danger. Seeing the soldiers working at the gate, she gasps and instinctively hides behind the barrels, shaking with fear. The soldiers continue to work at the gate, finally getting it unlocked. Lessa looks up at the NEARBY SENTRY Who is staring in the wrong direction. She gives him the same look that she used on Menia only moments before. After a beat the sentry turns around and sees the castle doors opening. SENTRY Enemy in the courtyard! Enemy in the courtyard! He frantically turns a rusty crank next to him and a warning klaxon, which sounds like an old WWII air-raid siren, goes off. It is too late. HUNDREDS OF ARMED MEN swarm into the courtyard and cut down the few GUARDS who have the misfortune to arrive first. More GUARDS arrive, but the battle is already lost. Lessa continues to crouch behind the barrels, safe but unable to turn away from the bloody murders going on around her. EXT. COURTYARD - NIGHT The battle has ended and the invaders have won. They stand cheering as their leader FAX, a hard man in ornamental armor, strides in through the main doors. Servants carry the bodies of the slain away past the blood-spattered walls. Fax stands up on a box and the SOLDIERS turn to listen to him. One soldier leans against a barrel near where LESSA is hiding. He has a knife in his belt. FAX Men, you have done excellent work! Tonight our revels will shake the ground of Pern herself! The men cheer. Lessa takes this moment of distraction to sneak out of her hiding place and gingerly take the knife from the soldier's belt. She then backs into her hiding place again, clutching the knife, her eyes illuminated by a slit of torchlight. FAX Bring forth the prisoners! Let us see the great might of Ruatha! Several soldiers drag out the LORD AND LADY OF RUATH HOLD, regal and proud but bruised and wearing clothing torn from their ill treatment. The soldiers, including the one near Lessa, gather around to spit on them as they are brought out. After a beat, they drag SILON out, throwing him to the ground next to his parents. His glasses fall off, and he replaces them. Looking around at his captors he notices LESSA HIDING And looks away quickly, pretending not to see her. FAX (to the kneeling Lord) Your outer defenses are a bit weak, Lord Kale. The soldiers laugh. LORD OF RUATH What honor is there in taking a hold through deceit? I thought better of you, Fax. FAX Oh, you wound me, Lord. Is it deceit that Ruath Hold is the most profitable in the High Reaches? Is it deceit that you don't pay your sentries enough so they can't be bribed? I'm not deceitful Kale, I am merely an opportunist. At a gesture from Fax, the three hostages are pulled to their feet. Fax eyes them each carefully in turn, ending with Silon. FAX Is this your only heir? (a beat) I seem to recall you had a daughter. LADY OF RUATH Dead! She died of a fever three years ago. FAX Ah, how sad. I had so looked forward to... Meeting her. Lewd jeers from the crowd of soldiers. FAX And also so sad that your bloodline must end here. He gestures at a soldier and the Lord of Ruath is thrown to his knees again. A TALL SOLDIER removes from his scabbard a BROADSWORD. Lessa steps out from behind the barrels, still unseen. She fixes the tall soldier with her intense stare. Her breathing is labored and sweat beads on her forehead. After a beat THE BROADSWORD FALLS WITH A SICKENING THUMP. The soldiers cheer. Lessa gasps, tears welling from her eyes. Fax gestures again and the Lady of Ruath is pushed to her knees. The same tall soldier HOLDS HIS BROADSWORD POISED ABOVE. Lessa is grunting with effort now, her fists clenched as she strains with all her might to stop the soldier. THE BROADSWORD FALLS. The soldiers cheer again. Lessa shoves her hand in her mouth to stop from screaming and finds she still has the knife she stole. She looks back to the crowd and sees her brother Silon being thrown to his knees. He looks up and sees LESSA STRIDING FORWARD, KNIFE POISED TO STRIKE SILON No! Don't! Don't! The soldiers burst into laughter at this but Lessa, still unseen, stops in her tracks. FAX Die like a man. He spits on Silon and the tall soldier beheads him. Lessa collapses against a bloodstained wall, numb. The blood from the wall covers her hands and smears her face. Fax turns to the assembled servants. FAX Let all who witness this know: Fax is now the lord of Ruatha! Work hard and faithfully and you will be rewarded. Fail me and follow them. He gestures at the bodies. FAX Now, who among you is keeper of the stores? After a beat the STORE MASTER, a haggard, portly old man steps forward trembling with fear. STORE MASTER M'lord. FAX I want to see your ledgers. Come to my chambers at first light; I want to know everything that Ruath Hold has. STORE MASTER Yes, m'lord. FAX And I saw that you are preparing a train to send your tithe to the dragonmen. Unload them. STORE MASTER Unload them? FAX Yes. Ruatha will no longer provide those leeches with the goods we need here. If they want food, they can damned well grow it themselves. He claps the store master on the shoulder and the man flinches in spite of himself. FAX I am going to make Ruatha the wealthiest hold on Pern! You hear me? The crowd disperses, the soldiers and servants going about their duties, as if nothing has happened. Lessa watches Fax as he speaks to his men. LESSA You will get nothing but pain and death from Ruatha. She returns to her hiding place behind the barrels. After a beat, a man leading a two-legged, lizard by a chain approaches the barrels. The monster, called a WATCH-WHER snarls as the man hammers a ring into the wall and hooks the chain onto it. MAN That's my girl. You eat anyone here you want! It tries to bite him and he leaves quickly. The watch-wher strains against the chain for a moment then gives up, sniffing the air. It senses Lessa and turns to see the BARRELS Where she is hiding. It approaches slowly, snarling. EXT. COURTYARD - DAWN Time has passed and the courtyard is little changed. There is more grass growing and the firepits along the walls are now cold and dark. A dim, red star glows faintly in the morning sky. Words appear: 3 TURNS UNTIL THREADFALL INT. LESSA'S HOLE - DAWN LESSA is still living behind the barrels. However, she has layered the floor with old blankets and created a roof with a patchwork of torn clothes. It's small, but livable. Lessa is sleeping. She is no longer the same girl. Filthy, her hair a tangled mop, she wears ragged, dirty clothing. She resembles the Afghan refugee girl from the famous cover of National Geographic. There is a sound of wings flapping and she wakes up as she did once before: with her hands clamped to her head in agony. As the pain clears, she opens her eyes and her piercing gaze takes in the world. She crawls out of her hidden home. EXT. COURTYARD - DAWN LESSA stretches, massaging out the cramps she receives nightly from living in so small a place. Suddenly there is a snarling noise and she turns, horrified, to see the WATCH WHER charging at her, its chain rattling on the ground behind it. She cringes in fear as the WATCH-WHER STOPS AT HER FEET. The creature jumps up and down excitedly as she bends to scratch it behind the ears. LESSA Oh, yes, you were quite terrifying. No, no, I was completely afraid of you. She feeds it a piece of a bubbly tart she had in her pockets. She wolfs the rest of it down herself. Lessa turns and stares up at the sky, scratching the watch wher's head absentmindedly. It looks up at her and makes a concerned noise. LESSA I don't know. I just feel... something. Danger. It feels like danger is coming from the east. I felt this once before. She stares up as the RED STAR FADES IN THE DAWN LIGHT. Lessa smiles. LESSA Time to go to work. Her face shimmers and melts, changing to that of a much older and uglier woman. The watch-wher nuzzles up to her. LESSA (with the voice of an old woman) Now, now. You hate me, remember? I'm just a kitchen drudge. The watch-wher lowers its head obediently, snarling and hissing at her. Lessa smiles and hurries across the courtyard. She passes a horse and cart filled with casks of wine. The DRIVER climbs off the cart. Lessa SHOOTS THE HORSES A LOOK. The horses bolt, whinnying in fear. They tear across the courtyard, turning towards the main portcullis. The wine casks FALL TO THE GROUND, BREAKING OPEN. Wine spills everywhere, the horses race outside the hold (still dropping casks), and Lessa smiles as she goes inside. EXT. SENTRY TOWER - DAY Above this scene a SENTRY watches the commotion. He shakes his head and chuckles, then goes back to scanning the horizon. After a beat, he seems to sense that something is amiss. He peers upward at the EMPTY SKY Trying to fathom what is wrong. Suddenly, A SWARM OF DRAGONS APPEARS OUT OF THIN AIR. The dragons are huge, muscled and with bat wings. Their eyes are like an insect's: multifaceted and shimmering with blue green light. They fly towards the castle in formation, twelve in all, led by a giant bronze dragon. The others are (in order of size) brown, blue, and green. They dive directly towards Ruath Hold. The sentry begins cranking the handle and the warning klaxon peals. SENTRY Dragons! Dragons on approach! Dragons! Dragons on approach! As he shouts, the people below look upwards and run for the cover of the hold's buildings. Within seconds, the courtyard is deserted. EXT. COURTYARD - DAY The TWELVE DRAGONS land in formation, sweeping up dust clouds with their wings before they fold them at their sides. RIDERS are now visible (sitting on harnesses on the back of each dragon) and they dismount, each standing at attention as he reaches the ground. F'LAR, a muscular, handsome man, dismounts the lead dragon MNEMENTH and removes a pair of primitive wind goggles. He turns back to his younger brother F'NOR who is patting his brown dragon comfortingly. Each dragonman wears leather riding gear with trim that matches the color of his dragon. F'lar wears a complicated knot of rope on one shoulder that signifies him as Wingleader. F'LAR Cheery welcome. He notices a patch of grass growing near his feet and crushes it purposely with his boot. F'LAR Did you notice the greenery growing up to the Hold walls? F'NOR (nodding) And the firepits are out. Isn't there a single place on Pern that follows the traditions? F'LAR They will regret their lack of diligence soon enough. The door to the main hold swings open and FAX, older and fatter, enters the courtyard. He is followed by a small GROUP OF RETAINERS. They stop short of the dragonmen, obviously cowed by the dragons that stretch from 35 to 75 feet long. Fax inclines his head. FAX (speaking a ritual greeting) Welcome, bronze rider, to the Hold of Fax, lord of the High Reaches. He is at your service. F'LAR We ride in Search and request the hospitality of your Hold, Lord Fax. FAX (leaning forward conspiratorially) Ah, I heard that Jora had died. So, her dragon Nemorth has laid a queen egg, hmm? Mnementh extends his enormous head towards Fax and the man jumps back. F'lar takes the bronze's head in his hands. F'LAR Easy Mnementh. He means no harm. F'lar turns his back to the crowd of people as he scratches the dragon's head. Mnementh speaks back through telepathy, which only F'lar can hear. It sounds like F'lar's own voice but with musical notes woven in. Note: all dragons talk through this kind of telepathy and speak in their rider's voice. MNEMENTH (telepathy) He's afraid of me. They're all afraid of me. F'LAR Humans are always afraid of anything bigger than them. It works to our advantage. MNEMENTH (telepathy) Oh. In that case- Mnementh pulls his head away and roars like a trumpet towards the sky. The other dragons follow his example. The crowd reacts with barely controlled panic, backing away from the monsters. Fax holds his ground. FAX Why do they roar like that? F'LAR They often roar at flocks of passing wherries or at mealtimes. Fax regains his courage. FAX You are welcome to our feasting tables. F'NOR We will also need accommodations. We are, in number, twelve men. Stating the obvious (the number of men) in this way is a slight insult. FAX And the dragons? At this, the dragons launch themselves into the air and land on various walls and rocky outcroppings. A blue dragon lands near the SENTRY at his post and he squeals and backs away, tripping over his own feet. F'NOR They can care for themselves. Fax looks up uncomfortably at the monsters surrounding him. F'LAR I must pay my respects to your lady. FAX (evasive) Would you like to see your quarters? F'LAR (shrugs) Duty first. Fax, resigned, leads the way towards the center of the hold. F'lar and F'nor follow him. The other dragon men follow some of the retainers to another building. INT. GREAT HALL - DAY The great hall has changed in the intervening years. What was once tasteful and rich has become a garish impersonation of its former glory. Many of the hangings and artwork are tattered and the tables are in a state of disarray. F'LAR and F'NOR look about in mild distaste as FAX leads them through the room. Fax is immediately aware of their stares. FAX Behold, great Ruatha, of which you had such hopes. F'NOR Ruath Hold was one of the richest in the High Reaches! F'lar glances sharply at his brother and F'nor clamps his mouth shut. FAX No good comes from Ruatha any more. There has been some... resistance to my rule. F'LAR How foolish of the Ruathans. They pass a GROUP OF SERVANTS who are preparing the room for the feast. LESSA, who works among them, stares openly at the dragonmen as they pass. F'lar notices her and she looks away, quickly resuming her guise as the KITCHEN DRUDGE. A smile plays over F'lar's lips. They exit and Lessa rushes out. INT. KITCHEN - DAY Even the kitchen has become more worn in the intervening years. It is dirty, disorganized, and the staff seems harried and out of control. LESSA, IN DISGUISE, enters, sizing the room up as if planning her attack. In one corner a great cooking pit is smoldering. A LEAD COOK picks up a white ceramic bowl from a nearby table and POURS IT ON THE EMBERS, MAKING THE FIRE IGNITE. LEAD COOK Bring it here. Now! Twelve dragonmen to feed and we have little time to prepare. Two young men, KITCHEN DRUDGES, carry a giant rack of beef on a spit. They place the spit on a rack over the fire and one begins turning the spit while the other ladles sauce over it from a black pot. The lead cook walks away as Lessa approaches. She gives a quick, intense look at the drudge who is basting the meat and he pauses. Then he goes back to ladling, however this time he PUTS THE LADLE IN THE WHITE BOWL. Lessa walks off as the meat erupts into flames. INT. THE WOMEN'S QUARTERS - DAY The women live in a small, stone room with narrow windows and more attractive furnishings and art that depict women in traditional tasks (weaving, caring for children, etc.) There are currently SIX WOMEN in the room, all young and pretty but with sullen and subdued expressions. Some are knitting or doing needlework. LADY GEMMA, the oldest by far, is reclining in an ornate chair; she is pregnant and almost at the end of her term. The door opens suddenly, startling several of the women. FAX enters without ceremony, followed by F'LAR and F'NOR. Lady Gemma stands with difficulty. Two of the other women help her rise, while the others recede into the background, hoping to be ignored. FAX (indicating Gemma) The Lady of Crom, mother of my heirs. F'lar drops to one knee and kisses her hand. F'LAR Lady... He pauses, looking at Fax. FAX Gemma. F'LAR (with the air of a formal greeting) Lady Gemma, I am bronze rider F'lar and this is my wingsecond, F'nor. We are on Search and request the hospitality of your hold. LADY GEMMA You are most welcome, wingleader. May your Search be fruitful. I have seen the Red Star rising in the morning; a strong queen is needed. F'lar stands up. He stares at her with frank admiration. F'LAR Indeed. May I have the liberty of your Hold and Craftholds? Gemma pauses and looks at her husband. After a beat: FAX Yes, you may. F'LAR Then I shall take my leave of you. Until the feasting tonight, my lady. (nods to Fax) My lord. They leave. Fax stares angrily at Gemma for a moment. She returns his gaze as calmly as she can. After a beat, he turns and storms out. Gemma collapses back into her chair. The other women swarm around, soothing her and attending to her needs. INT. KITCHEN - DAY The kitchen now looks like a war zone. COOKS try to extinguish several small fires on the counters. Broken dishes scatter the floor and SEVERAL COOKS AND DRUDGES are chasing a pack of dogs who are running wild, carrying stolen joints of meat in their jaws. LESSA, IN DISGUISE, is still wandering through the kitchen, causing mischief. She passes by the LEAD COOK who is screaming at a YOUNG DRUDGE who has a plate of raw biscuits floating in sauce in front of him. LEAD COOK I told you ten minutes! TEN MINUTES! These are raw. How could you look at these and think they were done? She takes a raw biscuit, dripping with gravy, and smashes it against his face. LEAD COOK Start over. And hurry! Lessa sees another drudge carrying a precariously balanced pile of plates and turns towards him smiling like a cat about to pounce on a mouse. Before she can act, the Lead Cook grabs her by the collar. LEAD COOK You there, drudge! I have work for you. She drags Lessa over to a pile of silver serving platters. After a long sigh, Lessa begins to diligently polish them. INT. CORRIDOR - DUSK F'LAR and F'NOR are walking though a bare hallway, talking quietly. F'LAR Did you see the serving woman? F'NOR Which one? F'LAR She was in the great hall. When she saw me looking at her, she blurred her features. F'NOR A kitchen drudge with the gift? Are you sure? F'LAR Yes. She has power. Perhaps she is the one we are Searching for. F'nor grimaces and shakes his head. F'LAR What is it, brother? They stop before an ornate door. F'NOR Can't she at least be pretty? F'LAR Our last Weyrwoman, Jora, was pretty and look what became of us. I think we are better off with a spirited queen, no matter how plain. They open the door and enter the Great Hall. INT. GREAT HALL - DUSK F'LAR and F'NOR enter the Great Hall. FAX sits in a large, throne-like chair at the center of a GROUP OF SEATED NOBLES. A lone harper plays in a corner. No one stands as they enter. Fax gestures for them to sit at a small table on one side of the hall where the other TEN DRAGONMEN sit. As they walk towards their places, the door they had entered through opens again and LADY GEMMA appears, her face pale as she suffers quite obviously from her pregnancy. F'lar, noticing this, turns back and offers his arm to the woman, who takes it gratefully. As he leads her to her place beside Fax, she leans in to him. LADY GEMMA Beware, bronze rider. My husband is of a dangerous temperament. He loves to kill. She gives his arm a significant squeeze as he leaves her. FAX Food! At his yell, the doors to the kitchens open and several SERVING DRUDGES enter, carrying food on silver serving trays. The last tray is carried by LESSA, IN DISGUISE. The food is pathetic, burned and in small portions; the effect is heightened by the brightly polished serving platters. The LEAD COOK stands before Fax as the drudges take the food to the tables. LEAD COOK Our best bread, fruits and roots. Fax looks down at the small portions with disdain. FAX What is this? Where is the rest of it? LEAD COOK This is all that is left, lordship. FAX Left? What do you mean, left? LEAD COOK We didn't know there would be so many guests. Had we but known they were coming we could have sent to a neighboring hold- FAX This is Ruath Hold! We do not send to other holds for their help. The day this hold can not support a few guests, I shall renounce it! Silence falls over the hall. Lessa, standing in a dark corner, smiles with triumph. The doors open and LYTOL, a small man hunched with a sorrow that he will never be able to shake, enters. He wears richly embroidered clothes in brown tones. F'nor notices him immediately, going stiff. F'LAR What is it? F'NOR It's L'tol! He was a dragonman... F'LAR Was? F'NOR There was an accident, years ago, his brown was killed in the games. They stare at the man with deep sympathy for a moment. F'LAR To be dragonless. Suddenly, F'lar stands at attention. F'nor and the rest of the dragonmen follow suit. People stare, as does Lytol. F'LAR L'tol, we would be honored if you sat with us. One of the dragonmen grabs an empty chair and places it between F'lar and F'nor. Lytol smiles and approaches. LYTOL It's Lytol now. I'm just a weaver. F'LAR Among us you will always be a brown rider and honored companion. Lytol's eyes mist briefly and he sits. Across the Hall, Fax throws a plate of food at the Lead Cook. FAX You call this food? LEAD COOK My Lord, it's all we had. FAX Enough excuses! Bring out the meat. The Lead Cook gestures and the kitchen drudges bring out a horrifically burned carcass and place it before Fax. Lessa moves secretively behind F'lar. Fax throws the plate to the floor. FAX Slop! This is slop! Lessa, unseen, STARES INTENTLY AT F'LAR. F'LAR (mechanically) Obviously, Ruath Hold can not support a few guests! You must renounce it. The room falls into a hushed silence, all eyes on F'lar. Fax stands, his hand on the hilt of the knife at his side. F'lar turns to stare at Lessa in her hiding place. Fax laughs. FAX Aye, I'll renounce Ruatha! (he gestures at Lady Gemma) If it is male and born alive, he can have it! He laughs again. Gemma turns her face away in shame. F'lar jumps to his feet. F'LAR Heard and witnessed! F'NOR (also standing) Heard and witnessed! As one, the remaining dragonmen rise and follow suit. Fax ignores them, going back to his meal. Lessa turns and STARES INTENTLY AT LADY GEMMA. Gemma goes pale and stiffens. FAX (not looking up from his food) More false pangs? LADY GEMMA Yes, my lord. It isn't unusual... at my age. May I have leave to retire? Fax gestures dismissively, still not looking up. Lady Gemma stands and exits, gingerly. F'lar jumps out of his chair and grabs Lessa, shaking her roughly. F'LAR What have you done? LESSA'S DISGUISE EVAPORATES. LESSA I- F'LAR Get a birthing woman! Quick! Lessa pulls away and runs out. The diners watch her go in silence and then, following Fax's lead, go back to their food as if nothing had happened. INT. THE WOMEN'S QUARTERS - NIGHT LADY GEMMA lies in a bed in the middle of the women's quarters in hard labor. She is pale and covered with a sheen of sweat, breathing in ragged gasps and biting her lips against the urge to scream. The SIX WOMEN from before are now clustered at one side of the bed, blotting her forehead with cloths and talking in shrill tones. The BIRTHING WOMAN, tall and confident, and LESSA, IN DISGUISE burst into the room. The Birthing Woman places a hand on Lady Gemma's stomach and another under the bedsheets that wrap her. BIRTHING WOMAN (under her breath) Oh dear. She turns to the knot of women wailing beside the bed. BIRTHING WOMAN You there, stop your sniveling. Bring me hot water. Hand me those cloths. Find something warm for the babe to wear when it is born. (mutters to herself) If it is born. The women, reassured by the Birthing Woman's tyranny, rush off to do her bidding. She feels under the sheets again and Lady Gemma screams and inadvertently grabs Lessa's hand. BIRTHING WOMAN She bleeds too much. More cloths! Lessa looks down at the glazed eyes of her tormentor's wife and SQUEEZES GEMMA HAND IN HATRED, HER KNUCKLES WHITENING. Lady Gemma gasps and looks up at the unexpected pain and locks eyes with Lessa. LADY GEMMA What have I done to you? LESSA (bending low so no one but Gemma will hear) Your husband killed my whole family. LADY GEMMA Mine too. Lessa's hands relax their painful grip. They're sisters now. LESSA It will be over soon. The dragonman will kill him. LADY GEMMA You mustn't! Fax has killed dragonmen before! There are so few left. And Pern needs them all. The Star... The Red- A powerful contraction rips through Lady Gemma, causing her to scream. She sits up suddenly, a faint smile on her lips, and then she collapses back onto the bed, dead. The Birthing Woman closes Gemma's eyes. INT. GREAT HALL - NIGHT The feast continues in ignorance of Lady Gemma's death. It is, however, a subdued affair. LYTOL, seated between F'LAR and F'NOR talks in hushed tones to them. F'NOR But where have all the women gone? LYTOL Many fled. Fax has had the rest beaten into submission or killed. F'lar and F'nor react with surprise. LYTOL (s.v. to F'lar) And I believe he means to kill you! Be careful. He's killed a dozen men in duels. LESSA, IN DISGUISE, bursts into the room, panting. All eyes turn to her. LESSA The child lives! It is male! FAX rises suddenly, kicking aside his chair. Lessa seems unaware of how close and how angry Fax is. FAX What are you saying, woman? LESSA Ruatha has a new lord. Fax knocks her off her feet with a furious backhand. Lessa collapses to the floor, unconscious. FAX Liar! I am lord here. He moves to kick at her prone form but a hand clasps his shoulder, stopping him. F'LAR Hold, Fax! Fax turns on him, his hand on his knife again. F'LAR Stand by your oath, Fax. It was heard and witnessed by dragonmen. FAX Dragonmen? Dragon women, you mean! F'LAR What did you say? F'lar puts his hand to his knife. They stare at each other for a beat, each waiting to see if the other will back down. FAX Women! Parasites on Pern. Your day is over. Over for good! Fax draws his knife and leaps into a defensive crouch. F'lar draws his as well. The CROWD OF FEASTERS stands and some pull the tables and chairs back to give the duelers room to fight. Fax and F'lar circle each other. F'lar GLANCES AT LESSA'S UNCONSCIOUS FORM FOR A SECOND. She is just waking up. Fax sees his opponent is distracted and charges, but F'lar evades the blow just in time. They circle each other, feinting with knives. Fax, with a deft move, kicks a chair into F'lar's face, driving him back into the door of the kitchen. Lessa wakes up, and runs out. INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT F'LAR flies backward into the room, barely keeping his balance and pursued by FAX. SEVERAL COOKS and KITCHEN DRUDGES scream and get out of the way as the two men fight. Fax lunges and slashes F'lar across the shoulder, cutting him deeply. F'lar leaps back in pain, but manages to upend a giant pot of boiling water onto Fax's legs. EXT. COURTYARD - NIGHT LESSA passes the whining WATCH-WHER to run into her hidden home behind the barrels. INT. LESSA'S HOLE - NIGHT LESSA searches through her blankets until she FINDS A KNIFE. It is the same knife she took from the guard ten years earlier. She smiles grimly and crawls out. EXT. COURTYARD - NIGHT As LESSA exits her hiding place, FAX and F'LAR crash into the courtyard from the kitchen, followed by the GUESTS from the feast and F'NOR. Lessa watches from the side of the WATCH WHER, lit only by the flickering glow of the torches. The two men circle, F'lar's arm obviously numb from the cut and Fax walking gingerly from the burns to his legs. They circle again and F'lar stabs at Fax. Fax dodges and kicks F'lar, knocking him to the floor and making his knife skitter away over the ground. Lessa screams and charges at Fax, her knife raised over her head like a deranged killer from a bad horror movie. Fax, backhands her in the face without even looking. Lessa falls to the ground, out cold again. The watch-wher roars, straining against the IRON PIN HOLDING HIS CHAIN TO THE WALL. Fax stands over the prone dragonman, preparing to deliver the death blow. FAX Your kind has no more hold on this world. You are useless. Finished. As he raises his weapon, the watch-wher strains again and THE IRON PIN BREAKS FREE. The jaws of the animal bite deep into Fax's leg. He screams with rage and plants his knife into the neck of the watch wher. F'lar, seeing his chance, grabs Lessa's knife from the ground and stabs Fax in the chest with it. Fax looks down at the hilt of the blade protruding from his chest. He reaches down, pulls it out, and collapses, dead. Lessa stirs. F'lar kicks the knife away from Fax's hand and looks at Lessa, who is gently stroking the head of the dead watch-wher. LESSA It was the only one I could trust. My only friend. A dragon keens, eerily, in the distance. F'LAR In truth, a loyal friend. Lessa is ignoring him, and staring down at the corpse of Fax. LESSA Ruatha is mine. F'LAR Yours? LESSA I am Lessa. I am the rightful heir! F'LAR Of what? This crumbling heap? Why take only that when you could be Weyrwoman? LESSA Weyrwoman? F'LAR Yes. The Search is over. The door to the hold opens and the BIRTHING WOMAN comes out, holding JAXOM, a baby boy in her arms. LYTOL is accompanying her as is an older man in blue named ROBINTON. LYTOL A birth! A birth in the hold. People crowd around, torn from the spectacle in front of them to a new spectacle. People mutter unheard questions. BIRTHING WOMAN I didn't think he would survive his mother's death, but he's a strong one. A new lord of Ruatha. LYTOL His name is Jaxom. F'lar and Lessa watch this from afar. LESSA But... But I was lying! Gemma died before the child was born. F'LAR He is now the rightful lord of Ruath Hold. LESSA The son of Fax! Never. F'LAR The son of Gemma. Lessa, you have your revenge. Let it end here. Let Jaxom have Ruatha. All of Pern needs you now. Lessa nods her head and F'lar smiles, looking up at MNEMENTH, who lands beside them with a crashing thump. Around them, F'NOR and the OTHER DRAGONMEN are mounting their dragons. Lessa backs up in fear. F'LAR You have nothing to fear from Mnementh, girl. He... F'lar's voice trails off as Mnementh lowers his neck and Lessa fearlessly climbs on. F'lar shakes his head and mounts. In one practiced motion, all the dragons launch into the sky, the crowd below staring up in stunned silence. EXT. THE EVENING SKY - NIGHT High above Ruath Hold, the walls and lights seem like tiny red pinpricks on a dark curtain. The stars shine spectacularly above as do the two moons. F'LAR and LESSA sit astride Mnementh, whose wings beat powerfully on either side. Behind them, in a wedge formation only barely visible in the starlight, are the rest of the DRAGONS and DRAGONRIDERS. F'LAR We're about to go between, Lessa. Do not be afraid. LESSA Between? Between what? F'LAR Everything. They vanish. EXT. BETWEEN LESSA is in all-encompassing darkness and silence lit only by the blue light of MNEMENTH'S eyes. She stares around her. Her heartbeat is thunderously loud: LUB-DUB. Lessa feels below her and the rest of Mnementh is suddenly visible, his wings beating against nothingness as he strains towards infinity. Her heart beats again: LUB-DUB. The moisture on her skin begins to freeze in the extreme cold; tendrils of ice creeping over her hands and face. She reaches out and touches F'LAR, who becomes visible right in front of her. Her heart beats again. LUB-DUB. EXT. ABOVE BENDEN WEYR - MORNING The rising sun is just visible above Finger Rock, a long, straight piece of hewn stone. On another ridge is the Eye Stone, hewn of similar rock but in the shape of a hollow circle. Off to the right, the dim form of the Red Star is visible. The wing of TWELVE DRAGONS fade into existence behind the stones, Mnementh in front, F'LAR and LESSA are clutching his neck. The ice thaws and falls off their faces. F'LAR Welcome to Benden Weyr! F'lar gestures to the double mouths of two adjoining extinct volcanoes, a thousand feet below them. Lessa gasps in awe and is about to speak but suddenly the wing of dragons DIVES IN FORMATION INTO THE VOLCANO. INT. BENDEN WEYR - MORNING The inside of the volcano has been built into a city, the walls lined with ledges, cave mouths, and adobe structures. Dozens of DRAGONS of various colors flit from ledge to ledge, carrying people and supplies in and out of the weyr. As the dragon wing enters the volcano, they trumpet in unison. Their cry is echoed back at them by the other dragons who stop for a moment in their work to call back. The wing breaks formation, the other dragons peeling off in graceful spirals as they head in different directions. Mnementh lands on a ledge near a large cave mouth and lowers LESSA and F'LAR gently to the ground. MNEMENTH (telepathy) She wasn't afraid. I approve. F'lar nods and smiles. He takes Lessa by the hand and guides her into the cave mouth. F'LAR This leads to my quarters. INT. F'LAR'S QUARTERS - DAY F'lar's room is a large natural cavern with a high ceiling. Light comes from a small hole in the wall that is open to the outside. It is obviously the home of a bachelor, dirty and shabby, but comfortably so. There are a few, sparse furnishings: some chairs, a table, a chest, a standing mirror, and a bed. Curtains cover the shelves. A small opening leads to a room where a gentle waterfall feeds a tiny pool. F'LAR leads LESSA inside. MNEMENTH'S giant head peeks in through the doorway. Lessa stares at the big room in awe as F'lar rummages through the chest, finally pulling out a bag of pink sand and a white wool robe with ceremonial markings on the sleeves. F'lar turns to her, holding out the bag. Lessa stares at him nervously, noticing his proximity to the bed. He steps away from it. F'LAR Sweetsand for your bath. I must go and feed Mnemneth now. He turns and leaves. Lessa watches him go, nervously moving the bag from one hand to another. She watches as he enters the main cavern and KYLARA, a beautiful young blonde woman, appears and embraces him, kissing him warmly. F'lar disentangles himself gently. Lessa turns away from this scene. INT. BATHING ROOM - DAY LESSA enters the small room adjacent to F'lar's quarters. The floor of the room has a deep pool in the center filled by a gentle, natural waterfall. Lessa sheds her filthy rags with distaste and kneels at the edge of the water. BEGIN BATHING MONTAGE. Lessa wets a handful of the pink sweetsand and scours her face with it. Lessa bursts out from under the surface of the water. Lessa scours her arms with more sweetsand. Lessa rubs her hair with the sand and ducks under the water again. Lessa scours her legs, slower this time, and finally relaxes in the pink, foamy water. END BATHING MONTAGE INT. F'LAR'S QUARTERS - DAY LESSA re-enters F'lar's room. She goes to the window and looks out. EXT. VALLEY - DAY A herd of cattle stampede, terrified, across the plain in the shadow of Benden Weyr. Several dragons circle above them. A brown dragon dives and rises again, carrying a bellowing cow. The dragon lands on a ledge and begins eviscerating the animal. INT. F'LAR'S QUARTERS - DAY As LESSA turns from the window, she realizes someone is watching her and jumps in fright. It's her reflection in the mirror. She looks at the face she hasn't seen in ten years. Lessa, when clean, is strikingly beautiful and has waves of waist length hair. She smiles and then fussily tries to pull spare strands of hair away from her face. Then she turns in profile pulls at the shapeless robes, tightening them against her slender waist. F'LAR enters unseen and watches her admiring herself for a beat. F'LAR You wash up... pretty. And with such hair! Yes, almost pretty. Certainly pretty enough for F'nor. LESSA (indignant) And I am here for F'nor? F'lar gives her an irritatingly smug grin and walks over to a tapestry hanging over a wall. He lifts it, revealing a crack. F'LAR (yelling into the crack) Food for two! He drops the tapestry and goes to a cupboard, also covered by a curtain, and takes out a few small items. F'LAR The hatching will begin soon. In the meantime, I am in need of your services. F'lar hands the items to Lessa, who stares at him in numb apprehension. He takes off his bloodstained shirt and Lessa stares at his well-muscled back. Fresh blood seeps from the wound on F'lar's shoulder. F'LAR What? Frightened? Lessa looks down and her hands contain BANDAGES AND A BOTTLE. She relaxes visibly and begins to apply a pale yellow salve to his wound. As she is wrapping the bandage around his arm, a metal tray appears from below on a metal arm and rumbles loudly to a stop. F'LAR (to Lessa) Thank you. F'lar picks up the tray of food and puts it down on the table. Lessa sits before what is to her a banquet as F'lar puts on a clean shirt. He sits down opposite to her. F'LAR In the Weyr, the lady breaks bread first. Hesitantly, Lessa reaches out and takes the loaf. She breaks it, offering half to F'lar. When he accepts it, she shoves her half into her mouth with an abandon that startles him. She wolfs down most of the food in front of her, gorging on cheese and fruit, guzzling the wine in giant gulps. F'lar, impotently holding the piece of bread in his hand, tries hard to stifle a laugh, but Lessa is instantly aware and flushes, dropping a half-eaten piece of cheese. LESSA This is more food then I am used to having in a day. F'lar picks the cheese up and places it tenderly back in her hand. Lessa eats again, more daintily this time. F'LAR Now listen to me. You must not show a moment's fear at whatever happens on the Hatching Ground. And you must not let her overeat. One of our main functions is to keep a dragon from excessive eating. LESSA Our main function? What do you mean? F'LAR I am not allowed to say more. As I was told, so I tell you. So it has been done for 400 years. There is a loud keening sound from outside the room. The dragons are all making an unearthly hum. Lessa turns, afraid, to F'lar who is listening to the sound with a trained ear. F'LAR It's time! Come quickly. Now! He grabs her by the wrist and hurries her out of the room. INT. BENDEN WEYR - DAY F'LAR practically drags LESSA down the core of the volcano, over staircases without railings that look over vertiginous drops. F'LAR Remember what I told you! LESSA Don't show fear. Don't let her eat. F'LAR Don't let her over eat. They reach the bottom and squeeze through a giant crack in the wall. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DAY The hatching ground is directly below the maw of the volcano; it is heated by the geothermal forces that seep from the sandy ground itself, making everyone sweat. Against the far wall lies the barely visible grey hulk of a dead queen dragon, giant and unmoving. In front of her body lies a pile of ten large eggs and another golden one off to the side on a raised area of the ground. Standing in a semicircle around the mottled eggs is a group of TWENTY YOUNG BOYS and another TWELVE GIRLS are standing near the golden egg. All of them are wearing the ceremonial robes that LESSA wears. KYLARA is among the group of girls. Watching the scene from stone bleachers is a large crowd of ALL SIXTY DRAGON MEN and dozens of other MEN AND WOMEN who live in the Weyr. Above them all, scores of dragons perch on ledges, transfixed by the event. They continue to keen, softly; their eyes glow blue and green with the occasional flash of yellow. F'LAR leads Lessa through the crowd to the group of young women. Lessa balks as they near the eggs and backs away, her eyes wide. LESSA F'lar, I can't! I- F'lar gives her a rough shake, startling her out of her fear. F'LAR Lessa, listen to me. You can do this. Lessa nods and steps up to where the group of girls are. She notices how close she is to Kylara and moves away so that she stands apart from the group. The golden egg moves and one of the girls screams. F'lar finds a place to watch the event near R'GUL and S'LEL. R'gul is a powerfully built bronze rider in his mid forties who winces with distaste as he notices F'lar next to him. S'lel, also a bronze rider, is in his fifties and watches the hatching with detached interest. F'LAR (nodding to the men) Weyrleader. S'lel. They nod back at him. F'LAR A profitable Search. I've never seen so many youth at a hatching. One of the mottled eggs cracks open and a hatchling crawls out, wailing. It is the size of a large dog, wrinkled and covered in wet eggskin; its eyes glow yellow. It stretches its tiny wings and then begins crawling inexorably towards the group of boys, still screaming at them. It reaches the boys as another egg hatches. They back away slightly, but the dragon hatchling is too fast. It grabs the nearest boy and, examining him for a second, throws him to the ground. It crawls over the boy, scratching him with its sharp claws. The dragonmen continue to watch impassively. S'LEL You only brought back one? F'LAR Yes, a girl. Lessa of Ruatha. R'GUL Skinny little thing. F'LAR She'll surprise you. The hatchling moves on through the crowd of boys, snapping at them and knocking them aside as if they were weightless. Finally, it finds what it is looking for. It fixes its multifaceted eyes on a boy's and they stare at each other, frozen. YOUNG BOY Hello. He reaches out and strokes the hatchling's head, caressing it lovingly. The second hatchling reaches the injured boy and nuzzles him, crooning anxiously. INJURED BOY It's alright. I'm okay. They're just scratches. The golden egg hatches suddenly and several of the girls scream. Lessa steps further away from the group, a look of contempt on her face. The hum of the watching dragons grows louder and more urgent. A golden hatchling, much larger than the others, crawls out of the eggshell and stretches its wings. Suddenly, it dashes for the knot of girls, scattering them like tenpins. It moves quickly between them, grabbing them one by one in its beak and knocking each to the ground. Some of the fallen girls don't get up. Lessa charges into the chaos, dodging fleeing and injured girls. She reaches the dragon baby and grabs its head, forcing it to look up into her eyes. The dragon's eyes turn from yellow-red to a deep blue. They stare at each other, transfixed with joy for a beat. LESSA Ramoth. RAMOTH (telepathy) Lessa. Lessa strokes the dragon's head, scratching behind the eye ridge. The assembled crowd cheers. From high above, the dragons grow silent, watching the paired dragons and humans bonded together for life. EXT. ABOVE BENDEN WEYR - MORNING The Red Star glows in the early morning light. PAN BACK slowly throughout voice over. F'LAR (V.O. - reciting) Seas boil and mountains move, Sands heat, dragons prove Red Star passes. Stones pile and fires burn, Green withers, arm Pern. Guard all passes. Star Stone watch, scan sky. Ready the Weyrs, all riders fly; Red Star passes. The star is framed (just off center) by a circle-shaped stone. The stone is next to a long-pointed rock shaped a little like a finger. The sun is visible just at the top of the stone. F'LAR, F'NOR, and R'GUL stand at the top of the Weyr in the growing light as F'lar finishes reciting. They're all looking through the eye stone. Words appear: TWO TURNS UNTIL THREADFALL R'gul turns away. R'GUL It proves nothing. There hasn't been Threadfall anywhere on Pern for 400 years. Let the Red Star come. For all we know, the Thread are extinct. F'NOR How can you be so blind? F'LAR F'nor, you will accord the Weyrleader the appropriate respect. F'nor stands at attention. R'GUL Facts are facts. The Thread are gone. Now I'm late to my duties instructing our new Weyrwoman. Unlike this meeting, it is a useful task. He mounts his DRAGON and they dive into the Weyr. F'lar and F'nor watch him go. F'NOR He's a fool. F'LAR He's our Weyrleader. F'NOR He believes we are nothing but parasites! He does nothing but take the easy path. F'LAR He's teaching Lessa. I doubt his path is easy. INT. RECORDS ROOM - DAY While the walls are covered with shelves, many of them are empty and the scrolls that remain are old and dusty. R'GUL DUCKS Just as a wax tablet flies at him and shatters against the shelves behind him. LESSA, standing by a table covered with scrolls, styli, cups, and other wax tablets, grabs a cup in anger. LESSA I memorize the names, locations and functions of the six weyrs. She throws the cup at R'gul who dodges again as it shatters. She grabs a scroll. LESSA And then you tell me they're all empty! I train to ride Ramoth. She throws the scroll at R'gul. LESSA And then you tell me she can't fly! R'GUL Queens only fly to mate and to feed! Lessa grabs a stylus. LESSA Then why does she have wings? R'gul jumps forward and grabs her wrist to stop her before she can throw it at him. R'GUL That is how things have been for 400 years. I didn't make the rules, but it is my duty as Weyrleader to enforce them. As Weyrwoman, it is your duty to learn them. She sits as he places another wax tablet in front of her. R'GUL The Ballad of Moretta's Ride. LESSA I've done it nine times. R'GUL Ten is a nice, round number. Lessa doesn't move. R'GUL Every Weyrwoman has copied the teaching ballads ten times each for hundreds of years. Are you planning on ignoring all traditions that aren't to your liking? Lessa sighs and begins to write on the tablet with the stylus. R'gul hovers over her. R'GUL Thank you, Weyrwoman. LESSA (not looking up from her work) I'm Weyrwoman because I'm bonded to the queen. What makes you Weyrleader? R'GUL I'm Weyrleader because my bronze dragon Hath flew the last queen. LESSA "Flew" her? He leans in closer. R'GUL The queen chose him as her mate. And when dragons mate, so do their riders. Lessa tries to hide her disgust. LESSA You mean that we have to- KYLARA enters and sees R'gul crouching over Lessa. KYLARA Excuse me, R'gul. There are pressing matters of the Weyr that must be attended to. R'GUL They can wait, Kylara! KYLARA And the queen is waking. Lessa will need to feed her. R'gul stands and gestures impatiently. Lessa hurries out, followed by Kylara. INT. BENDEN WEYR - DAY LESSA and KYLARA climb down the winding steps toward the bottom of the Weyr. LESSA Why did you lie to R'Gul? KYLARA Lie? LESSA Ramoth is still sleeping. We're bonded. I'd know if she'd woken. KYLARA Well, there were important duties of the Weyr to attend to. LESSA And? KYLARA You looked like you needed help. They enter the giant chamber at the bottom of the Weyr. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DAY RAMOTH, now huge and golden, lies sleeping at the bottom of the volcano. More cracks are spewing steam then during the hatching. LESSA and KYLARA enter and they pick their way gingerly over the ground, the rocks searing them through their sandals. KYLARA The ground is so hot these days. LESSA It's the passing of the Red Star. The ancient ballads say it brings earthquakes and liquid fire that bleeds from the rocks. They reach Ramoth, who continues to sleep. Lessa gently strokes her head. KYLARA There are pressing matters of the Weyr to attend to. As Weyrwoman it is your duty to- LESSA I know my duty. Lessa slumps, annoyed, against the side of Ramoth. Kylara removes a scroll from her robes and hands it to Lessa, who unrolls it. It is a tally sheet. KYLARA The salted fish from Tillek is almost gone. There is almost no grain remaining in the dry caves. Lessa looks up from the scroll in shock. KYLARA We won't have enough food to survive the winter. LESSA We've survived before. KYLARA Half the holds have withheld their tithes of food. LESSA Can't we pressure them to- KYLARA R'gul forbids it. LESSA Could we have the dragons hunt for- Kylara shakes her head. LESSA (imitating R'gul) "So it has been done for 400 years." Kylara nods sadly as Lessa throws the scroll down in frustration, waking Ramoth. RAMOTH (telepathy) You'll think of something. You always do. Lessa is instantly soothed and begins scratching Ramoth, whose eyes glow dark blue. LESSA Ramoth is hungry. Bring food. Kylara nods and turns to leave, then stops. KYLARA (her back still turned) F'nor is attracted to you. Lessa stiffens and Ramoth turns her multifaceted eyes towards Kylara. Kylara faces Lessa again. KYLARA It isn't just because you are Weyrwoman. His feelings are deeper than that. And he is popular, brave, cunning- LESSA And that would leave F'lar free to be with you. Kylara lowers her eyes. An awkward silence fills the air for a beat. LESSA We need meat most of all? KYLARA (nodding) Grains, too, and some root vegetables would be welcome. Kylara turns to leave. LESSA If you see F'nor, can you tell him I would like to see him? Kylara smiles slightly and leaves. F'nor, who was obviously waiting outside, enters and Lessa stands, a seductive smile on her face. He stands at attention as befits her station. F'NOR Kylara said you wished to see me. LESSA Yes. The holds are not sending supplies we need and our stores are dwindling. I need a brave and cunning dragonman. F'NOR Why? Lessa steps closer. LESSA Someone has to raid the holds. F'nor's smile broadens with excitement. EXT. TELGAR MARKETPLACE - EARLY MORNING A large muddy field surrounded by small homes and businesses is slowly filling up with carts filled with food for the day's trading. A large Hold sits on the rocky hill above, sentries watching from the towers with unusual alertness. Two COWHERDS urge a small group of cattle forward into pens. Others move their covered carts into spaces marked with colored sticks. Words appear below this image: TELGAR HOLD: ONE TURN UNTIL THREADFALL Two men begin haggling over a covered cart filled with casks of wine. Suddenly, F'NOR AND HIS BROWN DRAGON (CANTH) APPEAR HIGH ABOVE They dive out of the sky, the frost melting off F'nor's face in a trail of white fragments. The alarm klaxon, similar to the one at Ruath Hold, sounds. SEVERAL Dragon! Look out, it's a raid! (etc.) The people scream and run for cover. The cows turn and bellow but they are penned in and can't escape. COWHERD Not again. The dragon pulls out of the dive scant feet above the ground and snatches two cows in its front claws. Wheeling, it flies just over the screaming crowd, the cows still bellowing as they dangle inches over the people's heads. F'NOR (to Canth) Over there! Grain and fresh fruit. The brown dragon turns in the direction he indicates and grabs two carts, one in each rear foot, lifting them into the air like giant picnic baskets. Slowly, they begin to rise, but F'nor notices the cart filled with wine the two men had been haggling over. F'NOR Oooh! Wine would be nice. The dragon lowers its head as they fly by and catches the cart, the cover dangling over his neck like a pendulous necklace. They rise laboriously into the air, and fade into Between. A band of soldiers from the castle charges into the square led by LARAD, the Lord of Telgar, a confident man in his early fifties riding a horse. They stop suddenly, realizing they've just missed the raid. The people turn and stare at their would-be saviors with contempt. COWHERD (muttering just audibly) Too late, again. Larad hears him and, furious, throws his riding gloves at the man, hitting him on the shoulder. He turns to one of his soldiers. LARAD Captain, ready your men. We're off to Benden Weyr. And send word to the other Holds! It's time we repaid these insults. INT. RECORDS ROOM - DAY R'GUL sits at a table, reading an old scroll. F'LAR enters and stands at attention before the older man. R'GUL Ah, F'lar. Good. Sit. I've just been studying the traditions. F'lar sits down across from R'gul. R'gul turns the scroll around so F'lar can read it. F'LAR (reading) Dragonman avoid excess. Greed will cause the Weyr Distress. R'GUL The old ways have wisdom. F'LAR Sometimes there is wisdom in new ways, too. R'gul hides his distaste at that remark. R'GUL I wonder if you have noticed the levels of our stores as of late. F'LAR No, that is Lessa's duty. R'gul nods, grimly. R'GUL Yes, indeed. Well, I have noticed them. I had to check to see what was needed if we had to barter for- F'LAR Barter?! R'GUL As you said, there is wisdom in new ways. F'LAR We protect all of Pern from the thread! It is the duty of the Holds to supply us. Pern prospered this year. Let some of it spill over into the Weyr as it ought. R'gul ignores the outburst. R'GUL The stores haven't dwindled. In fact, they have grown. F'LAR Someone is raiding the Holds. R'GUL Tell me, Wingleader, have you noticed F'nor's strange absences these last few months? Do you know where he is at this moment? F'lar shakes his head. R'GUL Do you have any idea what the Lord Holders will do if they catch a dragonman stealing from them? F'lar jumps to his feet. F'LAR I will find F'nor and bring him back immediately. S'LEL appears at the doorway. R'GUL I have no doubt you will. F'lar nods and hurries from the room. He barely notices S'lel as he exits. R'GUL S'lel, go and tell the other wingleaders to feed their dragons but only to blood their kills. S'LEL The queen is rising to mate? R'GUL I would think that you, of all people, would recognize the signs. S'LEL But you just sent F'lar- R'GUL Both F'lar and F'nor are away from the Weyr. S'LEL You wouldn't dare! R'GUL I will not sit by and let F'lar or his brother become Weyrleader! They have no respect for the traditions we have followed for 400 years. And do I have to remind you of the time he fainted? S'LEL R'gul, his father died. R'GUL There are many hard moments in the life of a Weyleader. (a beat) Would you wish to follow him? S'lel sighs and shakes his head. S'LEL He would lead the Weyr to its destruction. R'GUL Alert the wingleaders. The queen will rise soon. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DAY LESSA is with RAMOTH, who has grown so large that her outspread wings scrape the sides of the cavern. Lessa is trying, ineffectually, to calm the dragon who is screaming a deafening, terrifying roar. Her eyes glow purple. Above, the other dragons of the Weyr gather on ledges, trumpeting with excitement. LESSA (to Ramoth) What's wrong? I don't understand! Ramoth jumps to a wall and claws at it, creating a small rockslide. R'GUL enters, followed by S'LEL and FIVE OLDER DRAGONMEN. LESSA R'gul! Something's wrong with Ramoth. I can't calm her. Where is F'lar? I need him. R'GUL The queen rises to mate. When she leaves the cavern, you must control her. LESSA She's rising to mate? I don't understand! I want F'lar. Where is he? R'GUL F'lar is gone from the Weyr. F'nor is gone, too. The queen rises to mate with whatever dragon can catch her. Lessa stares in shock at R'gul. R'GUL Now listen! You must control her. The longer the flight, the better the clutch of eggs she will lay. Do you understand me? LESSA Yes, R'gul, I understand. For once I understand you, all too well. Now understand me: I will send Ramoth between before I let you have her. This wipes the smug look off R'gul's face. Ramoth's skin suddenly begins to glow and she leaps into the air and flies straight up out of the top of the volcano. The other dragons, their eyes also glowing purple, take to the air in a swirl of color that follows her out. Only the EIGHTEEN GREEN DRAGONS (infertile females) stay behind, watching with an amused air. R'gul grabs Lessa by the upper arm. R'GUL Come. He drags her out. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY The viewing room is a large cavern with one wall that is open directly to the outside. ALL THE WEYR'S DRAGONMEN have gathered here, except for S'LEL, R'GUL, and the other FOUR WINGLEADERS who enter. R'gul is still dragging LESSA along. She looks around at the faces of the men, but can't find F'lar. Lessa pulls away from R'gul, balls her fists, and stares out at the open sky, hopelessly. LESSA (S.V.) Where are you, F'lar? EXT. OUTSIDE THE WEYR - DAY RAMOTH flies a wide circle around the volcano, FIFTY-THREE MALE DRAGONS of various colors in pursuit. As she makes a particularly tight turn at high speed, several blue dragons tire and brake off. Ramoth screams her defiance. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY R'GUL, S'LEL, and the OTHER DRAGON MEN stand at the ledge, watching the chase. The riders of the blue dragons who have given up, turn and exit. LESSA is in front, but staring at the sky instead of the dragons. Her fists are balled up and she has a familiar, intense look on her face. LESSA F'lar. I need you. F'LAR (O.S., S.V.) I am here, Lessa. EXT. OUTSIDE THE WEYR - DAY RAMOTH circles the Weyr again, the OTHER FORTY DRAGONS still in pursuit. Above, F'NOR and F'LAR APPEAR OUT OF BETWEEN ON THEIR DRAGONS. They dive towards the viewing ledge. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY F'LAR and F'NOR leap off their DRAGONS, who barely stop. The two men nearly crash into R'GUL, S'LEL and the OTHER DRAGONMEN. F'LAR Good afternoon, Weyrleader! I understand the queen has risen to mate. How kind of you to call us back for the spectacle. R'gul stares around at the assembled dragonmen, trying to figure out who betrayed him by calling them back. LESSA is beside herself with joy and stands next to F'lar. EXT. OUTSIDE THE WEYR - DAY MNEMENTH and CANTH join the MASS OF PURSUING DRAGONS. RAMOTH, seeing the two dragons join the chase, turns away from the volcano and flies out over the fields. The dragons follow, but the remaining blues and some of the smaller browns break off, exhausted. The remaining pack consists entirely of bronzes and a few browns. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY Several OTHER DRAGONMEN turn to leave. These men are more disgruntled then the last, but still leave quietly. R'GUL, S'LEL, F'NOR, F'LAR, and a FEW DRAGONMEN still stand at the window. F'LAR (to LESSA) You must control her. The longer she flies, the stronger her clutch of eggs will be. LESSA I already know that. R'gul told me. As if to mitigate the harshness of her words, she takes his hand. F'lar smiles to himself. EXT. OVER A FOREST - DAY The DRAGONS are flying over a large deciduous forest. RAMOTH is slowing now, but so is the rest of the pack. F'NOR'S BROWN, TUENTH, and the remaining brown dragons break off, leaving only MNEMENTH, HATH, and ANOTHER BRONZE in pursuit. Ramoth looks back at the three pursuing males with interest. They pursue her doggedly, screaming their mating calls. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY The room is nearly empty now. SEVERAL DRAGONMEN, including S'LEL, walk out. F'NOR touches F'LAR's shoulder and the wingleader nods respectfully as his brother leaves. Now there is only LESSA, F'lar, R'GUL, and D'NOL, a young bronze rider, in the room. The three men are sweating with concentration as they spur their dragons on. F'LAR (quietly, to Lessa) Stay with her! She must not escape your control now. LESSA Why? F'LAR Because you must choose for her. Lessa turns back to the spectacle. EXT. OVER A FOREST - DAY RAMOTH dives and rises suddenly and the THREE BRONZE DRAGONS lose her as she disappears above them and into the clouds. They circle for a moment, confused. Suddenly, Ramoth dives out of nowhere on to MNEMENTH like a bird of prey catching a pigeon. They tangle together, entwining like serpents as they spiral out of control towards the ground. At the last moment, Ramoth and Mnementh open their wings and check their fall. They crash into the forest, splintering giant trees as if they were so many toothpicks. The two unlucky bronze dragons circle the spectacle for a moment, calling forlornly before they turn away as their eyes turn grey. Unearthly moans of pleasure filter up from the ground. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY LESSA stands at the ledge as a cloud of dust in the distance marks the site where Ramoth and Mnementh are mating. Her breathing is labored. R'GUL stalks out and D'NOL nods politely to F'LAR before exiting. Lessa gasps with unexpected passion. She is suffused with powerful carnal desires she has never felt before. Her voice shakes as she resists the overpowering urges. LESSA I feel... I feel them! I can feel... EVERYTHING. She turns back to see F'lar also breathing hard with the same feelings. Lessa charges at him and kisses him deeply. She rips at his clothes, trying to get at his bare skin. F'lar responds in kind and she jumps into his arms. He is unprepared for this and they fall to the ground with a loud THUMP. The moans from the ground bear more than a passing similarity to the sounds the dragons made. In the shadows at the back of the room, KYLARA stands TEARS DRIPPING SILENTLY FROM HER FACE. She turns, broken by the sight, and walks slowly from the room. EXT. VALLEY - MORNING A huge army is marching on the volcano that is Benden Weyr. It is still quite a distance away and the soldiers look weary from travel. However, they are well-armed with metal armor and long fighting pikes. In the middle, LARAD rides with MERON, another lord. They smile at the sight of their goal. High above them, a solitary blue dragon turns and flies towards the Weyr. INT. F'LAR'S QUARTERS - MORNING F'LAR wakes from his bed and throws aside the covers. His body is marked by fingernail scratches in several places. He looks over to the bathing room where he sees LESSA'S BACK AS SHE BATHES. There are a few scratches on her, too. MNEMENTH's giant head appears in the doorway. F'lar smiles up at him. F'LAR You're feeling smug this morning. MNEMENTH (telepathy) You too. He casts another glance at Lessa, who is drying off. F'LAR Well, she does clean up pretty. MNEMENTH (telepathy) R'gul is coming. He's angry. F'lar lifts the tapestry to yell into the crack in the wall. F'LAR Food for- With a loud grinding noise, a tray laden with food for two arrives. F'lar drops the tapestry and brings the tray to the table as Lessa enters, dressed and pulling her long hair back in a knot. F'LAR R'gul is coming. LESSA Trying to impress his authority upon us? F'LAR He has none. R'GUL enters. R'GUL The watch informs me of a large body of armed men approaching the Weyr. F'LAR The holds F'nor raided? R'GUL Yes. Telgar, Nabol, Fort, and Keroon. F'LAR It's taken them long enough to come. F'nor's been raiding for months. R'GUL We must act while there's still a Weyr to protect. F'lar smiles, infuriating R'gul. R'GUL There's nothing to grin about. We have to think of how to placate them. F'LAR No, R'gul. The days of placating the Lords are over. R'GUL What? There's a thousand men out there! Are you out of your mind? F'LAR R'gul, that is no way to speak to your Weyrleader. R'gul sputters at this but manages to get himself under control. Lessa smiles, barely able to contain her enjoyment of his loss in status. F'LAR (to Mnementh) Call all the wingleaders and wingseconds to the Council Room. We must discuss how we will greet our... guests. (to Lessa) Weyrwoman. He gestures gentlemanly and she walks cheerfully out, followed by F'lar. R'gul, shaking with anticipated doom, follows. EXT. VALLEY - DAY The army has reached the bottom of the Weyr which stretches into the sky above them. It is a dazzling sight, the striated stone cliffs looking like frozen waterfalls. In the middle of the Weyr, directly ahead, is a giant tunnel. LARAD sits astride his horse next to MERON, a sharp-faced, younger man who is Lord of Nabol. Meron stares up at the awesome sight of the Weyr. LARAD This is blasphemy. MERON They steal our food. They take the prettiest girls. They murder any lord holder who opposes them- LARAD Fax was always trouble. MERON Did they have the right to kill him? LARAD Enough! Enough, Meron, you are right. Is this tunnel the only way inside? They will be expecting us to enter there. MERON (nods) The locals say so. LARAD (to a group behind him) Scouting party! A GROUP OF SOLDIERS with mountaineering equipment hurries forward and stands attentively before their Lord. LARAD We need another way in. The leader of the men nods and they hurry off. MERON I doubt they'll find anything. LARAD The dragonmen have seen us. When they come, we can deliver our ultimatum and then... MERON They've proved themselves cowards over and over. They will surrender by nightfall. LARAD If not... (shrugs) I am glad we brought the siege engines. Behind them, in the center of the mass of soldiers, stand several giant BATTERING RAMS AND CATAPULTS. Each more terrifying than the last. INT. COUNCIL ROOM - DAY The council room is set with tall stained glass windows and is empty except for a large stone, oval table and six stone chairs. The chairs are already filled with WINGLEADERS and their WINGSECONDS who stand behind them. S'LEL paces uncomfortably. D'NOL stands and waits with his even younger wingsecond, B'FOL. Two chairs stand empty. LESSA enters, followed by F'LAR, R'GUL, and F'NOR. R'GUL (S.V. to F'lar) Weyrwomen do not attend council meetings. F'LAR This one does. They take their places, with F'lar standing next to the largest chair. There is no place for Lessa to sit. F'LAR Weyrwoman, would you do me the honor of standing by me? LESSA Yes, Weyrleader. She stands to his right as F'lar sits. F'nor stands to his left. F'LAR By now you are aware of our guests at the lake plateau below us. R'GUL More than a thousand men, and well armed! F'lar scowls at him. S'LEL They are moving against the Weyr? D'NOL Are we dragonmen or cowards? This is the final insult! F'LAR Indeed it is. D'NOL It has to be put down. The Lord Holders have pushed us and defied us for generations. I say enough. I say we load firestone and burn them down where they stand. There are gasps of horror from around the table. D'nol stops and looks around, slowly realizing what he has just said. F'LAR D'nol, you are dismissed from these proceedings. D'nol, chastened, stands and leaves. His wingsecond turns to follow him. F'LAR B'fol, stay. You must sit to represent your wing. Uncomfortably, B'fol sits in his wingleader's chair. F'LAR Let me be plain, we are sworn to protect Pern. Is that clear? There is a moderate rumbling of assent. F'LAR Besides, these Lords have already given us the keys to their defeat. S'LEL They have? F'LAR Their men are hot and tired, having marched weeks to reach here. As we saw on the Search, they are afraid of dragons- R'GUL Oh, comforting. Do you really think that's enough to defeat a thousand men? The assembled dragonmen grumble in annoyance. It is clear that nobody likes R'gul. F'LAR There is one more factor, R'gul. You have just named it. R'GUL What? F'LAR With an army of that size, who is guarding the Holds? Lessa giggles but everyone else looks perplexed. F'LAR You approve of my plan, Weyrwoman? LESSA Oh, yes. S'LEL Plan? What plan? F'LAR Will you explain it, Lessa? LESSA (clearly enjoying this) It's quite simple... The dragonmen lean forward as she speaks. EXT. OUTSIDE TELGAR HOLD - DUSK A VETERAN GUARD, the quintessential grizzled soldier, stands outside the locked front gates of Telgar. He leans against his pike, clearly too old for this kind of work. As he looks up into the sunset a WING OF DRAGONS APPEARS FROM BETWEEN. They fly in formation over his head and the walls of the Hold. The guard turns to follow them and, finding his way inside locked, begins banging on the gate with his fist. VETERAN GUARD Open the gates! Dragonmen! We're under attack! He continues to pound on the gate, but nobody comes. VETERAN GUARD (swearing) Shards! Finally the gates slowly swing open, revealing a YOUNG GUARD who barely fits into his armor. He bumps into the side of the gate and drops his pike. YOUNG GUARD What is it? VETERAN GUARD We're under attack! There are dragons in the courtyard. Didn't you see them? YOUNG GUARD No, I came through the smithy. You know, over the left side of- VETERAN GUARD Never mind. There are enemies inside the Hold! Alert the rest of the guards. YOUNG GUARD I am the rest of the guards. The Veteran Guard stares at him for a beat. VETERAN GUARD Never mind, we must defend our Hold. Come with me, we'll- With a woosh of wings the dragons fly over them. As they fly overhead the guards can see, being held on the back of the lead dragon, THEIR QUEEN BEING CARRIED AWAY. The dragons vanish. YOUNG GUARD That's not good. The Veteran Guard sighs and shakes his head. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY LESSA stands with F'LAR, who is half dressed in leather armor. He stands at the ledge, looking down at the GIANT ARMY BELOW. As he looks out on this scene, men and women work to finish fastening his armor. LESSA But I want to come! I can help. F'LAR I'm sorry Lessa, you have to stay here. Ramoth doesn't fly. LESSA She just flew yesterday! F'LAR That was for mating. Lessa, there is only one queen left in the whole world. Without her, and you, all of dragonkind will become extinct and Pern will die. LESSA But I- Lessa stops as she sees KYLARA enter. Kylara puts the final touch on F'lar's armor, a flowing cape, and he mutters a few (inaudible) kind words to her. She smiles and leaves. Lessa, grinds her teeth in fury. F'LAR Watch over the hostages and try to calm them down. And, if this should go badly, protect them from the soldiers. Men at war do foolish things. Lessa turns on her heel and stomps out as F'NOR enters, already wearing armor similar to F'lar's but not as bright. F'NOR The wing is assembled. F'LAR Excellent. Have them load with firestone. F'NOR Firestone? But you said- F'LAR I know what I said. It was important for the rest of the Council to hear it. Our wing is different; I trust their discipline. They will follow my orders exactly, and so will you. F'NOR Yes, Weyrleader. He turns and leaves. F'lar goes back to the ledge and looks at the overwhelming army marching at them. EXT. VALLEY - DAY LARAD and MERON sit astride horses in the front of their army. LARAD The scouts should be back by now. There is a woosh of wings as MNEMENTH lands directly in front of them, with F'LAR on his back. Behind him, F'NOR and the rest of F'lar's WING OF DRAGONS land. Each dragonrider carries a sack of what looks like greyish rock lumps. The horses rear and scream at the sight of the giant beasts. The soldiers are panicked as well, but hold their ground. The two Lords step down from their shaking mounts and approach. F'lar climbs down to meet them and the dragons settle into sitting positions. LARAD Dragonman, I have been appointed spokesman for the Holder Lords. We unanimously agree that the Thread are gone and, therefore the Weyr has outlived its function. There will be no more tithes, no more Searches, and most of all, no more raiding. F'lar stares at them for a beat. F'LAR Lords, your complaint is heard. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DAY LESSA sits impatiently by while RAMOTH messily devours a cow. It tears giant hunks of meat off the carcass with obvious delight. In one corner of the room, a GROUP OF SEVEN LADIES, cowers, whimpering, obviously in terror that they will be next. Lessa stares at the ladies with obvious contempt. RAMOTH (telepathy) Why are they so afraid of me? LESSA Well, your table manners are atrocious. S'lel enters and bows to Lessa. S'LEL Greetings Weyrwoman. Mnementh informs us that it is time to take the hostages down. LESSA Very well. I'll come with you. S'LEL No, I'm sorry. My orders were quite clear. You are to stay here. Lessa slumps back against Ramoth, arms crossed. Ramoth holds out the grisly head of the animal to Lessa. RAMOTH (telepathy) Would you like some meat? EXT. VALLEY - DAY F'LAR, LARAD and MERON are still standing between the WING OF DRAGONS and the ARMY. F'LAR I have heard your complaints, now here are my orders. MERON Your orders? (he laughs) F'lar gestures and the remaining FIFTY-NINE DRAGONS appear above them, swooping in complex formations. The effect on the army is immediate, they cower and the few horses they have left bolt in fear. F'LAR My orders. You will turn and return to your holds. Within three days, send your fair tithe of food to the Weyr. Until your tithes are received, the ladies of your Holds will remain with us as... guests. MERON You can not bluff us. F'lar gestures again and one of the wings dives to circle within view of the men on the ground. On the backs of the dragons SIT THE LADY HOSTAGES FROM BEFORE. While some are afraid, others are clearly enjoying the flight. Larad is immediately cowed. LARAD Enough. We will accede to your demands. Expect our tithe- Meron, cuts him off, drawing his sword. Meron advances on the dragonmen, but Larad grabs him by the arm. LARAD Stop! They've won. F'LAR (over his shoulder to his men) This goes badly. Load firestone. The dragonmen reach into the sacks and feed the gray lumps into the mouths of the dragons. The dragons chew the firestone and swallow. Meron breaks free. He strides toward F'lar, his sword raised. F'lar gestures and all the dragons BELCH RED FLAMES. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DAY The sounds of men and animals screaming in terror filters through to LESSA and RAMOTH, who has finished eating. RAMOTH (telepathy) Sounds like they're having fun. Lessa stares up at the sounds angrily and then begins climbing Ramoth's back. LESSA Come on. RAMOTH (telepathy) F'lar said- LESSA To hell with him. EXT. VALLEY - DAY The DRAGONS have burned a semicircle of ash in front of them, which is still smouldering. F'LAR advances to the edge of the burnt area and faces a shocked LARAD and MERON through the shimmering waves of heat. Meron drops his sword and backs away. F'LAR We could burn you and your holds to ash and live forever in peace, but we don't. We could steal every bit of wealth you have and feast as kings, but we don't. Why? Because we serve Pern and Pern has an ancient enemy. Look to the sky! The two men look up and see THE RED STAR SHINING BRIGHTLY IN THE DAYLIGHT. F'LAR Have you all forgotten the Sagas and Ballads? The Red Star always appears before the coming of Thread! Clear your holds of all greenery, rebuild your firepits, re open the mines and stockpile firestone. LARAD That will protect us? F'LAR No, we will protect you. We are dragonmen. Our numbers have dwindled, but we grow stronger every day. LESSA, riding RAMOTH, appears in the distance, a golden speck growing steadily larger. MNEMENTH (telepathy) Lessa is coming. F'LAR We have a new queen, and a Weyrwoman of Ruathan blood to ride her. She has been flown and soon new dragons will hatch to fly against the Thread. Behold the queen! Ramoth, enormous and glinting gold in the sunlight, flies overhead with a trumpet of glee, Lessa a tiny, white-robed speck on her back. The Lords and soldiers are dazzled by the sight. F'LAR Now return home. Your women, those who wish to go, will be returned. But send your tithes and put your Holds in order. Your cooperation is required if we are to save Pern. F'lar mounts Mnementh. F'LAR Oh, one more thing. We found these men trying to scale the Weyr walls and... Rescued them. I assume you want them back. F'lar and Mnementh rise into the air, revealing the SCOUTS behind him. The rest of the dragons launch into the air as the Lords stand impotently on the ground watching. EXT. BENDEN WEYR - DAY LESSA, exuberant, flies RAMOTH through the heart of Benden Weyr. F'LAR and MNEMENTH appear and follow her. After a beat, they land together and dismount on a ledge, Lessa's face a mask of defiance. LESSA Queens can too fly! F'lar bursts into laughter. F'LAR Of course they can fly! That's why they have wings! He grabs her by the shoulders and kisses her. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DAY It is raining above the Weyr and the few droplets of rain that made it all the way to the hatching area at the bottom have become a light mist from the heat. LESSA leans happily against RAMOTH, who is curled in a protective semicircle around a clutch of eggs. Forty mottled eggs lie in one pile while a single golden egg lies alone near Ramoth's head. KYLARA enters. While she holds herself defensively proud, she can not meet Lessa's gaze. KYLARA You summoned me, Weyrwoman. Are the stores not to your satisfaction? LESSA They're fine, Kylara. Please, sit down. I feel we should talk. Lessa indicates a place near her. As Kylara approaches, Ramoth raises her head and hisses. LESSA Hush, Ramoth! Kylara sits gingerly and stares out at the eggs, trying to think of something to say. KYLARA Forty-one, and a queen egg as well! It's an impressive clutch. Ramoth snorts and lowers her head, caressing the golden egg on the way down. LESSA I feel it is time we spoke of F'lar. Kylara stiffens. KYLARA What is there to say? LESSA Then you and F'lar have not- Kylara shakes her head but Lessa gives her a dubious look. KYLARA Not since you came here. He says that I should not be sad, that it is the way of those who are bonded to dragons. Lessa runs a loving hand along Ramoth's flank. LESSA It is. You can't understand what it's like. As long as Ramoth lives, I will never be alone. You could know that feeling too, if you bonded with a queen. KYLARA I tried, if you recall. Ramoth chose you. Lessa indicates the golden egg. LESSA Now is your chance to try again. KYLARA The rules forbid- LESSA The rules are changing. F'lar wants fewer casualties during Impression. He feels that potential dragonriders should have a chance get used to the eggs. (a beat) You can touch it if you like. Lessa gestures at the queen egg. Kylara's face lights up with anticipation. As she stands, Ramoth is immediately alert. Kylara freezes. KYLARA Ramoth won't hurt me, will she? She looks at Lessa who has a very tense look on her face. LESSA No, she won't hurt you. Not as long as I am here to calm her. Kylara steps forward to the egg and kneels by it. She reaches a hand out, tentatively and touches the shell. KYLARA It's soft. The shadow of Ramoth falls across Kylara's back. LESSA (O.S.) The heat will harden it. Ramoth arches her neck like a cobra preparing to strike, her eyes glowing orange with anger. KYLARA I think... I think I can almost see- The egg becomes translucent and a tiny, foetal dragon is visible. Ramoth makes a hideous growl and Kylara turns back in terror just in time to see LESSA SLAPPING RAMOTH ON THE FLANK. The effect on Ramoth is immediate: she lowers her head, cowed, her eyes turning back to blue. LESSA (to Ramoth) Hush. She's not going to hurt your precious eggs. Kylara stands. KYLARA The queen seems excitable. Perhaps I should leave now. LESSA We can try again tomorrow, if you'd like. She looks up and her eyes meet Lessa's. KYLARA I would. INT. RECORDS ROOM - DAWN F'LAR is reading through an unusually well-preserved scroll, making notes and drinking Klah, a dark brown liquid similar to tea. LESSA enters and sits across from him. She watches him work for a few moments and, when it is clear that he isn't paying attention to her: LESSA You spend too much time reading. F'LAR I've been trying to find out more about the Thread. S'lel and F'nor have been searching the abandoned Weyrs for anything that could help. LESSA Like what? F'lar sets down his scroll with a sigh. F'LAR Anything from the old days. When our ancestors settled Pern over two thousand years ago, they had knowledge we can only dream of. Look at this scroll; it's hundreds of years old and looks newer than ones we made only a few seasons ago. LESSA Did you learn anything important? F'LAR That the Thread are something called (leans forward to read a line) "Arrhenius Eureka Mycorrhiza." LESSA What does that mean? F'LAR I have no idea. He bends over his scroll again. Lessa leans forward and reads it as well. After a beat, this annoys F'lar so much that he gives up. F'LAR Don't you have any duties to attend to, Weyrwoman? LESSA None. And, for some reason, all the wings are out on patrol. F'lar smiles. LESSA What? F'LAR Its about time. I've been trying to get them all away at once for a few days. LESSA But why? F'LAR Because R'gul isn't the only one who believes that gold dragons shouldn't go between. LESSA Between? You mean- F'LAR It is time for your first lesson. He takes her by the hands and they hurry out of the room. EXT. CLIFFSIDE - DAWN It is now winter on Pern and snow falls gently to the ground. F'LAR and LESSA make their way along the outside of the Weyr. There are no steps, so they climb along using natural handholds. The wind whips past them, making the going difficult. LESSA (screaming to be heard over the wind) Couldn't we just fly there? F'LAR (also yelling) Yes! But it's important to make the journey on foot. Every dragonman has to do this before they go between. They round a corner and find a small inlet in the rock and work their way inside. INT. SMALL CAVE - DAWN The light from the entrance to the inlet is enough to illuminate this small cave. There is barely room for LESSA and F'LAR to fit so they move sideways. Their voices echo in the small space. F'LAR When you take a dragon between, you have to know exactly where you are going. You have to visualize your reference points clearly. You must visualize a location high above where you wish to go. If not... They reach the end of the cave and come upon a white shape jutting out of the rock. Lessa leans forward and sees THE SKULL OF A DRAGON AND A SKELETAL HUMAN HAND. She gasps and steps back, banging roughly against the rock behind her. LESSA Who are they? F'LAR A young and impetuous man and his poor dragon. Burn this into your mind and remember it every time you go between. If you aren't careful, you and Ramoth could end up like them. Lessa looks at the skeletons again and shudders. F'LAR And now we are ready to begin. EXT. ABOVE BENDEN WEYR - DAY LESSA rides RAMOTH above the Star Stones. F'LAR circles on MNEMENTH, yelling instructions to her. F'LAR Set the image of the Star Stones clearly in your head. Lessa stares down intensely at the rocks. F'LAR Don't just look at the positions of the stones, look at the way the shadows fall. Look around you and see where they are in relation to their surroundings. Ready? Now follow me. Mnementh turns and dives. Lessa and Ramoth follow. They fly over the lake and forest where they hover. F'LAR Now visualize the Star Stones and send that image to Ramoth. Lessa visualizes THE STAR STONES AS THEY WERE. F'LAR Do you have the image? Good. Most jumps between take about eight seconds but- RAMOTH (telepathy over F'lar speaking) It is extremely simple. Shall we go? Lessa nods. Ramoth beats powerful wings and leaps forward before F'lar can stop them. A patch of air in front of them grows into the penetrating dark of between and envelops them. EXT. BETWEEN LESSA and RAMOTH float in the icy blackness of between. Lessa's heart beats: LUB-DUB. The frost begins to form on her face, but she smiles anyway. LUB-DUB. A patch of brightness opens in front of them, the image of the star stones as she had imagined. LUB-DUB. EXT. ABOVE BENDEN WEYR - MORNING LESSA and RAMOTH appear above the Star Stones, exactly where they were before. Lessa lets out a whoop of joy as the frost on her face falls away, leaving only reddened skin behind. MNEMENTH and F'LAR appear above them. F'lar is fuming with rage and the bronze dragon's eyes glow red flecked with orange. F'LAR Never jump Between without my orders! Didn't you learn anything from the cave? Now follow me. We're going to start over. Mnementh wheels and dives as before, Lessa and Ramoth follow them down over the lake. LESSA Dragonmen and their repetition. Lets go somewhere else. How about... Lessa envisions RUATHA AS IT WAS BEFORE FAX INVADED. The firepits are still lit and the Hold is in pristine condition. Lessa and Ramoth disappear. EXT. BETWEEN LESSA and RAMOTH once again float in the total blackness. LUB-DUB. Lessa leans forward and touches her dragon's neck. LUB-DUB. Ramoth concentrates, staring forward at an invisible point in the infinite distance. LUB-DUB. EXT. ABOVE RUATH HOLD - MORNING LESSA and RAMOTH appear high above Ruath Hold. It is springtime. The surrounding area is clean of greenery and the firepits are lit. Lessa smiles down and then grimaces with pain, her hands going to her head. RAMOTH (telepathy) Lessa, is something wrong? LESSA It's nothing. However it gets steadily worse. Below them, AN ARMY masses quietly outside the walls of the hold. Several men THROW GRAPPLING HOOKS OVER THE WALL. Lessa, starting to become dizzy from the pain, lurches and finds herself looking down at the sight. LESSA What? Below them, FAX GIVES ORDERS TO SOME OF HIS MEN. LESSA This isn't Ruatha! This is Ruatha that was. This was the day I woke with a headache. Something was wrong. I saw a gold dragon... Below them, a door opens and YOUNG LESSA steps out on to a balcony. LESSA (gasping with pain) Fax is coming! Warn the- She clutches Ramoth's neck, trying not to scream. RAMOTH (telepathy) Lets go back. Show me the Ruatha of today. Lessa sits up and visualizes RECENT RUATHA WITH THE WATCHFIRES OUT AND BROKEN WALLS. Ramoth and Lessa vanish into between. Below, Young Lessa stares into the sky and goes back into her bedroom. EXT. BETWEEN LESSA and Ramoth fly in the darkness. Lessa is slumped forward. LUB-DUB. Lessa straightens up, the pain easing. LUB-DUB. She runs a hand reassuringly over Ramoth's neck and the dragon arches in response. LUB-DUB. EXT. ABOVE RUATH HOLD - MORNING LESSA and RAMOTH appear above a broken Ruath Hold choked with greenery and with broken walls and cold firepits. RAMOTH (telepathy) Are you all right? LESSA Yes, I'm- Lessa gasps as the pain starts again. LESSA I don't understand! What- Below her, Lessa spots the WATCH-WHER chained to the wall beside a stack of barrels. From the sky, Lessa can see into her hiding place and YOUNGER LESSA'S legs as she stirs into wakefulness. LESSA We're still in the past. I- She grunts and balls her fists into her eyes as the pain increases. RAMOTH (telepathy) Lessa? LESSA Back. Back to the Star Stones! Lessa visualizes THE STAR STONES OVER BENDEN WEYR AND THE SURROUNDING AREA. And the two vanish. Below, Younger Lessa pets the Watch Wher. LESSA I don't know. I just feel... something. Danger. She looks up in the direction Ramoth was a moment before. EXT. ABOVE BENDEN WEYR - MORNING LESSA and RAMOTH appear in the sky, trailing frost. Lessa is slumped forward. Ramoth lands and Lessa falls off of her back onto the rocky ground. She coughs and gags, trying not to vomit, but she's recovering. RAMOTH (telepathy) Are you okay? LESSA I'm fine. We're back. The pain is gone. (throws her arms around the dragon's neck) I'm going to be- MNEMENTH appears overhead, diving towards them. LESSA I'm going to be in big trouble. Mnementh lands and F'LAR, fuming with rage (literally as the frost from between steams off) grabs Lessa by the arms and shakes her. F'LAR How dare you risk yourself and Ramoth again! Do you realize what would have happened if we had lost you? Where did you go? LESSA (weakly) Ruatha. F'lar shakes her again. F'LAR We went to Ruatha looking for you. You weren't there. Where did you go? LESSA (plaintive) We went to Ruatha. Twice. F'lar looks into her eyes and sees the pain there for the first time. He helps her to a rock and sits next to her, still holding her arms. F'LAR What happened? LESSA We went to Ruatha but we went back to Ruatha. We went between times. F'LAR You what? MNEMENTH (telepathy) It's true, F'lar, I can see it in Ramoth's mind. F'lar stands and stares out toward the sky. F'LAR How? LESSA I told Ramoth to go between to Ruatha but I was thinking of Ruath Hold as it was when I was a girl. We saw Fax invade. We saw... (a beat) Then I tried to take us to Ruatha of today, but I haven't seen the Hold in three years so we went- F'LAR You went to three years ago. LESSA Yes. Suddenly, F'lar jumps on to Mnementh's back. LESSA Where are you going? F'LAR Telgar Hold. Mnementh opens his massive wings. LESSA But why? F'LAR To save my father's life. They launch into the air. LESSA Wait! The pain-! But they have vanished only a few feet from the ground. Lessa stares impotently into the sky. EXT. TELGAR HOLD'S COURTYARD - NIGHT A party is being held inside the courtyard of Telgar Hold. Groups from various holds have gathered for merrymaking. SERVING WOMEN bring trays of drink and food to the crowd as a small BAND OF MINSTRELS plays a tune. It is a chaotic assembly with guests weaving between tables to talk to other guests. On the walls, several dragons watch the party with amused attention. In one corner LORD FAX, younger but with a familiar cruel look in his eyes, whispers to his captain, GIFFLEN. Gifflen is huge and muscular with the scars of a man who has led a vicious life. Fax gestures towards a dragonman in the center of the party. F'LON, a bronze rider who looks much like F'lar but taller and more cheerful, converses with ROBINTON, who is younger but still in blue. Both men wear the complicated status knots on their shoulders that mark them as Weyrleader and Masterharper. Both men are drinking quickly from large mugs. Gifflen nods to Fax and begins to work his way towards F'lon through the crowd. F'lon and Robinton are trying to outdrink each other. Both slam their empty mugs down, simultaneously. F'LON (to a server) Some of the Benden red for the Masterharper! ROBINTON Oh, not the red! I'll never be able to wake up in the morning and I have to play for the council. F'LON Aha! I knew you had a weakness, Robinton. I will drink you under the table one of these days. Where do they keep the red? F'lon turns away and begins to walk across the courtyard when HE BUMPS INTO GIFFLEN HARD. It is obviously not an accident. GIFFLEN You knocked into me, dragonrider! Apologize. F'LON Apologize? I am a dragonman. I rank you. You should be the one making redress to me. GIFFLEN Ha! Who would apologize to a dragonwoman. All eyes turn towards the scene and a hush falls over the crowd. F'lon draws his knife. F'LON I'll show you dragonwomen. EXT. CLIFFTOP - NIGHT High above the hold a YOUNG F'LAR and YOUNG F'NOR sit with their DRAGONS, who are much smaller then we have seen them. They crouch against their animals for warmth and comfort and stare down at the Hold, which is visible in the distance below. Sounds from the party filter up to them. F'LAR They seem to be having a good time. Why must we keep watch while they drink themselves silly? F'NOR Because we're young. Our dragons are barely a year old so we must endure the drudge work. Personally, I'd rather be with Canth then all the beer and barmaids on Pern. F'nor strokes the head of his brown dragon. F'lar looks back at Mnementh and nods his agreement, putting an arm around his dragon's neck. Suddenly, F'lar gasps and GRIPS HIS HEAD IN PAIN. F'nor jumps to his side. F'NOR F'lar! What is it? F'LAR I don't know. It hurts it- He looks up suddenly, staring at Telgar Hold in the distance. F'LAR Something's wrong down there. He climbs onto the back of Mnementh. F'NOR What? What's wrong? F'LAR I don't know! They launch off the rock in the direction of the Hold. F'nor climbs on to Canth and they follow him. EXT. TELGAR HOLD'S COURTYARD - NIGHT F'LON and GIFFLEN are facing off, knives drawn. ROBINTON steps between them. ROBINTON I observed the whole thing. An accident. Accidents can occur when folk have been drinking. GIFFLEN Out of the way harper! Gifflen backhands Robinton hard across the side of the head, knocking him against a table. F'LON You dare! F'lon charges forward in an attack made clumsy by drink. Gifflen, who is completely sober, easily parries it and cuts deep into F'lon's midriff. EXT. ABOVE TELGAR HOLD - NIGHT OLDER F'LAR rides MNEMENTH towards the Hold below them. He is doubled over in pain. Mnementh's eyes glow white in the darkness. F'LAR Do you feel it? The pain? MNEMENTH (telepathy) Yes. We are too many in this time. F'LAR We have to hurry, it's about to happen. Mnementh falters as if buffeted by the wind. MNEMENTH (telepathy) I'm trying. EXT. TELGAR HOLD'S COURTYARD - NIGHT F'LON and GIFFLEN are still fighting. F'lon is covered in small cuts but Gifflen is relatively unhurt. F'lon lets out a roar of anger and CHARGES GIFFLEN. Gifflen kicks him in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. SEVERAL Foul play! Dishonor! (etc.) EXT. OUTSIDE TELGAR HOLD - NIGHT YOUNG F'LAR and YOUNG F'NOR have landed just outside the walls. The gates are open and the fight can just be seen between the heads of the onlookers. F'lar falls off of YOUNG MNEMENTH, and F'nor jumps off YOUNG CANTH to help his brother to his feet. With his brother holding him up, he makes his way into the courtyard, grunting with ever-increasing pain. Behind them, Young Mnementh lies on the ground, eyes yellow, Canth looking over him with a worried air. EXT. ABOVE TELGAR HOLD - NIGHT MNEMENTH and F'LAR are diving towards the hold where the fight is ending. GIFFLEN is barely visible, standing above F'LON with his knife raised. Mnementh falters again, nearly dislodging F'lar, who is so weak he can barely hang on. F'LAR (s.v.) You can do it Mnementh. You must. MNEMENTH (telepathy) I... I can't! Mnementh falls to the ground, crashing into it with incredible force. Though weak, the dragon manages to extend a wing to protect his rider, keeping him from serious injury. EXT. TELGAR HOLD'S COURTYARD - NIGHT F'LON lies stunned and winded on the ground. GIFFLEN switches the grip on his knife for a final blow. R'GUL and S'LEL (their younger versions) appear in the courtyard. Gifflen stabs F'lon in the heart. F'lon jerks once and dies. The crowd gasps in horror. On the walls above a BRONZE DRAGON screams with despair and launches into the air, disappearing immediately into the darkness. S'LEL What's this? By the shards! ROBINTON approaches, heavy with grief. ROBINTON It was no accident. No accident. S'lel grabs Gifflen, twisting his arm behind his back. S'LEL The penalty for murdering a dragonman is exile to the islands. FAX appears, his smugness covered by false outrage. FAX What is this? Release my captain! S'LEL He killed a dragonman. FAX He probably deserved it. YOUNG F'LAR and YOUNG F'NOR have made it through the crowd to the murder scene. F'nor is still holding his brother up. R'gul and S'lel turn to him. R'GUL F'lar, F'nor. I- Your father was in a duel. He- F'lar takes one look at his DEAD FATHER'S BODY And faints to the ground. R'gul and S'lel exchange horrified glances. EXT. OUTSIDE TELGAR HOLD - NIGHT MNEMENTH and F'LAR pull themselves up from the ground. Both are badly scratched and bruised but mostly unharmed. The dragon bleeds green. F'lar is in less pain now that his other self is unconscious, but he is still weak. Mnementh's eyes illuminate the scene in a dim grey. F'lar turns towards the hold and sees DRAGONMEN CARRYING HIS FATHER'S BODY AWAY. He climbs on to the dragon's back and they launch into the darkness. EXT. ABOVE BENDEN WEYR - MORNING LESSA and RAMOTH sit staring at the sky. F'LAR and MENEMENTH appear from between and land, shakily next to them. F'lar tries to dismount gracefully but he stumbles and Lessa helps him down to sit on a rock. They sit in silence for a beat. LESSA F'lar? What- F'LAR (s.v., reciting from memory) When you have to go to a place you have never visited before, you must get your reference point from your wingleader. LESSA F'lar- F'LAR (still reciting) He will send the image to his dragon who will, in turn, send it to yours- Lessa puts her hand on the back of his neck. He refuses to look at her or be comforted by her touches. LESSA Hush. It's okay. F'LAR (no longer trying to teach) When a Weyrleader dies unexpectedly, the leadership traditionally goes to his eldest son. But I was young and... I didn't handle the news of my father's death well. The other wingleaders would not accept me as Weyrleader so R'gul- Lessa takes his head in her hands and kisses him gently, running her fingers through his hair. F'lar relaxes and lets her comfort him. Behind them, the sun rises to the top of Finger Rock and, to one side THE RED STAR IS PERFECTLY FRAMED IN THE CENTER OF EYE ROCK. EXT. THE SKY - MORNING The Red Star looms large over the clouds. EXT. SPACE The Red Star is huge now. The planet is streaked with greyish mountains that stick up over the red sands, which cover most of the visible surface. It is barren with no water, icecaps, or clouds. EXT. RED PLANET - DAWN On the surface, the planet is a monotonous red broken only on the horizon by the mountains. There is no atmosphere, so the sky is black and filled with stars. The ground is covered with plant-like creatures that resemble underwater tube-worms. They have white stalks with red blossom-like openings at the top. These "thread-flowers" are dormant and motionless. Slowly, on the horizon, PERN RISES. It gradually climbs into the sky, bright and beautiful. From this vantage, the green areas of the ground and the blue of the water are clearly visible. The effect on the plants is immediate. As Pern appears, they stretch erect and their red blossoms expand. They bend towards Pern as if they could reach out and touch it. Suddenly, one of the plants explodes into red dust. Something small, round, and white shoots away from its twisted corpse. Another explodes, and another and another. The thread-flowers explode en masse all over the plain. One large plant, straining towards Pern, EXPLODES. A smooth, white ORB launches into the sky, on its way into space. EXT. SPACE The ORB travels the huge expanse between the planets, silently spinning in nothingness. Pern looms ahead, clouds and landmasses clearly defined. EXT. HIGH ABOVE PERN - MORNING The ORB reaches the upper atmosphere and begins to heat up. It glows as the friction warms it. Flames ignite around the orb as the air grows thicker and it shakes under the tremendous forces. The flames and shaking reach a fever pitch when it SHATTERS LIKE AN EGG. The contents unwind like a ball of string, forming white filaments that float in a wispy line. There is a mass at the front that could be considered a head, but beyond that it has no distinguishable parts. It glows silver as the air continues to heat it. Below, Pern is growing dangerously close. Below, the snowy peaks are visible and the green plants of an orchard. Ruath Hold is off to the side. The Thread spins like a streamer, trying with what little instinct and ability it has to guide its fall so it will land in the orchard. EXT. SNOWY MOUNTAIN - MORNING A rocky cliff juts high into the skies, covered in a thick layer of white powder. The wind blows, causing the snow to form a gentle spray. The THREAD falls out of the sky and slams into the snow with a hiss. A puff of black dust is ejected into the air, the only sign of the Thread's demise. It darkens the snow and blows away. For a beat or two, the mountain is silent, but then ANOTHER THREAD HITS THE GROUND. It, too, ejects black dust. A beat later, another thread hits, then another and another, until they are falling like rain. The snow grows charcoal grey. INT. F'LAR'S QUARTERS - DAY F'LAR sits over a map of Pern on the table, using a straightedge and a piece of charcoal to draw overlapping, horizontal lines over it, from northwest to southeast. LESSA enters and walks over to see what he's doing. LESSA What's this? F'LAR Waves of attack. I'm trying to map out when and where the Thread will fall. LESSA You can do that? F'LAR According to the records, the Thread fall when the Red Star is at perhelion. Since the Red Star turns very fast and in the opposite direction from Pern; it also wobbles erratic- He looks up to see Lessa staring at him with a look of false comprehension. F'LAR Thread falls in predictable patterns for six hours with a fourteen hour break between them. Luckily, Thread dies unless it hits warm soil so... F'LAR DRAWS A LINE ON THE MAP AND STOPS AT THE OCEAN. F'LAR We don't have to patrol the sea to the south. Or the mountains to the north. F'LAR DRAWS ANOTHER LINE ENDING AT THE MOUNTAINS. He looks up. F'LAR Or the desert. With proper planning, we can hold the Thread off until Ramoth can produce more hatchlings. LESSA You've a lot of faith in one queen's capacity. She turns and goes off to the bathing room. F'LAR Where are you going? LESSA Just to wash up before we eat. F'lar chuckles. F'LAR Again? You've already had three baths today! LESSA If you hadn't bathed for ten full years you'd wash at every opportunity too. She stomps off. F'lar turns back to his work. After a beat, R'GUL enters. He's covered in black dust, except for a patch around his eyes that were covered by the goggles. R'gul coughs as he brushes off his clothes. F'lar gestures for him to come in. R'GUL My wing patrolled the High Reaches, no Thread to be seen. F'LAR Any warm air masses? R'GUL Not this season. F'LAR Good. Thank you. He turns to leave but stops when Lessa re-enters. She is stiffly pleasant. LESSA Greetings bronze rider. How was your patrol? R'GUL Dusty. Damned dusty. (at her look) What? Lessa has frozen; her face goes white. F'lar turns, noticing this too. F'LAR What's the matter with dust? LESSA (reciting) Crack dust, black dust. R'GUL The Ballad of Moreta's Ride? Lessa and F'lar stare at each other a beat, horrified. F'LAR Thread is falling! They're freezing in the snow and cold air masses. F'lar checks his chart. F'LAR But they won't be freezing for long. They could be dropping right over Ruatha any second. F'lar rushes out, grabbing his leather riding gear as he goes. R'gul watches after him, stunned. R'GUL But the thread is a myth. There hasn't been a threadfall for four hundred- Lessa grabs him and gives him an almost F'lar-like shake. LESSA You were wrong. The Thread is here. Now be a dragonman. (shoves him at the door) Go on you old fool! Lessa hurries off. INT. BENDEN WEYR - DAY The center of the Weyr is bustling with normal activity. PEOPLE and DRAGONS bustle along the stairways and ledges going about their business. F'LAR appears from his chambers, trying to strap his riding gear on as he goes to his ledge. F'LAR Dragonmen! His booming shout echoes through the Weyr and everyone stops what they are doing. A hush falls. F'lar raises both his fists straight up in the air in an obvious hand signal. PEOPLE (murmuring with increasing intensity) Threadfall! The thread are falling! (etc.) F'LAR Threadfall! He lowers his arms and goes back to strapping his riding gear on. LESSA appears and hurries to help him. LESSA F'lar I- A BRONZE DRAGON lands on the ledge next to them. B'IRTO, an attractive bronze rider, sits at attention on dragonback. He wears a sack of firestone. B'IRTO My wing stands ready, Weyrleader. Is it true? Have the thread returned? F'LAR They have. Go to Ruatha and protect the hold. B'irto salutes and F'lar makes a pumping gesture with his arm. B'irto and his dragon dive off the ledge. A beat later they reappear shooting straight upward out of the Weyr, the eleven dragons of his wing following him out. LESSA I want to come with you! F'LAR You can't. S'LEL and another bronze rider, D'NOL land on the ledge. F'lar makes the arm-pump signal and they dive off, shooting out of the top of the Weyr just as B'irto did. Lessa finishes suiting F'lar up. LESSA I can help. F'lar straps on a sack of firestone. F'LAR You can't. Queens can't chew firestone, it makes them sterile. F'NOR, R'GUL, and their dragons are on the ledge. F'NOR The wing stands ready. F'LAR Circle. I'll meet you outside. F'lar pumps his arm again and they dive off and disappear above. MNEMENTH lands and F'lar moves to mount him. Lessa grabs his arm. LESSA I won't stay here while you're out there risking your life. F'LAR Lessa, the Thread will be falling for fifty years and we have only one Weyr to protect the whole planet. If something goes wrong, Ramoth will have to survive to breed more dragons. Lessa begins to tear up. LESSA Nobody will fly Ramoth but Mnementh! (whispering) Nobody will fly me but you. They embrace, kissing wildly, then F'lar is gone, diving with Mnementh out of the Weyr. Lessa stands impotently behind, watching them go. EXT. OUTSIDE THE WEYR - DAY SEVENTY DRAGONS fly in formations of twelve around the outside of the Weyr. MNEMENTH appears at the head of the formation and they all disappear. EXT. BETWEEN F'LAR rides MNEMENTH through the blackness. LUB-DUB. Other DRAGONS are barely visible flying in formation because of the yellow glow from their multifaceted eyes. LUB-DUB. Many of the dragons disappear. LUB-DUB. EXT. ABOVE RUATH HOLD - DAY The DRAGONMEN appear in tight formation above Ruatha. The mountains loom white in the distance and the Hold is far below them. High above, Thread are spiraling down like a giant white blizzard. They fall in large patches but, over the distance, it looks like a nearly continuous, silver-glowing rain shower. B'IRTO and HIS WING rise to meet them. MNEMENTH (telepathy) B'irto says we're just in time, the Thread are just beginning to fall over green soil. The dragons form in angled lines around MENEMENTH, like spokes of a wheel with the BRONZE WINGLEADERS clustered around F'LAR. F'LAR (yelling to the nearby wingleaders) Sweeping line formation northeast towards the mountains! F'lar makes a hand gesture. The wings spread out into a line and fly towards the mountain. As they reach the thread, the dragons turn their heads back and the dragonriders feed them lumps of coal. The dragon heads whip back and they BELCH FLAME AT THE FALLING THREAD. The Thread blackens to dust as the phosphene emissions hit them. The dragons continue to fly towards the mountains, belching flame at the Thread as they pass. F'LAR (making hand gestures as he speaks) S'lel, take your wing and do a low sweep back! B'irto, circle the hold, they'll need extra protection! All remaining wings, break! F'lar gestures again and the dragons break formation and turn back in a flurry of colored wings. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAY LESSA stands at the ledge, looking tensely out at the horizon. KYLARA enters and approaches. KYLARA Weyrwoman. (a beat) Lessa? LESSA I can sense them. (a beat) Out there, fighting the Thread. KYLARA I wish I could feel that. LESSA No you don't. KYLARA The drummers have sent messages to all the Holds. I've also had Manora prepare the infirmary. Lessa turns grimly back to the window. KYLARA Our supply of blisterweed salve is low. We could try to gather more but- Lessa holds up a hand and Kylara stops. LESSA All we can do is wait. They both stare impotently out at the horizon. EXT. ORCHARD - DAY A large fruit tree sits among others in carefully arranged rows. Suddenly, a Thread falls on the upper branches. The moment it touches the tree, it explodes, hissing, into white tendrils, shooting in all directions. Each tendril that touches a branch digs into it and explodes into more. The tree is soon covered in a sheet of white yarn-like thread that slowly fattens. The top of the tree BURSTS INTO FLAME, KILLING THE THREAD. A green dragon flies overhead, gaining altitude then veering sharply towards more targets. EXT. ABOVE RUATH HOLD - DAY The DRAGONMEN have cleared most of the local Thread from the sky and are going after stragglers. B'IRTO'S WING flies in concentric circles above Ruath Hold, burning Thread as it falls. One piece SLIPS THROUGH AND FALLS TO THE HOLD. A BROWN RIDER dives in pursuit. EXT. CASTLE COURTYARD - DAY The Thread hits the stones of the courtyard and bounces off them, hissing as it dies. Suddenly it SHOOTS A TENDRIL TOWARDS A BLADE OF GRASS. Alive again, the Thread eats through the grass, burrowing between the stones. On the walls a SENTRY, hiding under a stone awning sees what's happening and points. SENTRY Thread! Thread in the courtyard! A TEAM OF MEN, located near a lit firepit on the wall, shovel a load of flaming coals into a metal container. They rush the coals down towards where the Thread is. Before they can get there THE THREAD EXPLODES INTO FLAMES. The BROWN DRAGON lands near the charred Thread. BROWN RIDER (to the team with the coals) Tell your Lord Holder to purge his courtyard more carefully! A RUNNER, carrying a sack of firestone approaches and hands it to the Dragonrider who gratefully exchanges it for his own, nearly empty sack. RUNNER Will it be over soon? BROWN RIDER Soon. You may tell the others that the Thread are now falling southwest of here. Still, stay in shelter for another two hours. The dragon launches into the air. EXT. ABOVE RUATH HOLD - DAY The DRAGONMEN are forming up around F'LAR. Some of them are marked with dark red burns from where they have been touched by Thread. The skies are peaceful and clear. F'LAR They're falling too far away. We're going to have to go between to catch up with them. Dragonmen, with me! F'lar and his dragon vanish between. A moment later, the other dragons follow. EXT. ABOVE A RAINFOREST - DAY Thread is falling heavily; the skies are nearly white. However, none of it has yet to reach the verdant forest below. The DRAGONS APPEAR IN FORMATION. F'LAR (still gesturing) All wings, break and attack! The dragons spiral off in different directions, each chasing clumps of falling Thread. F'LAR and MNEMENTH rise up above the fray to get a better view. F'LAR (to Mnementh) Tell F'nor to move the wing westward ahead of the leading edge. Telepathy music plays as Mnementh relays the messages. F'LAR C'gan is taking on too much by himself. Tell T'sum to join him. F'lar looks down to see R'GUL'S WING, flying in close formation as they chase down low-falling Thread. F'LAR Tell R'gul his wing is too tight. I told them to break! EXT. LOW ABOVE THE RAINFOREST - DAY R'GUL pauses sweeping over the treetops to listen to the telepathy music coming from HATH. R'GUL Tell F'lar that I have been Wingleader since before he even Impressed his dragon. I know perfectly well how- He turns to look up at F'lar and sees A MASS OF THREAD FALLING RIGHT OVER F'LAR. R'GUL F'lar! Above you! He gestures wildly at the Weyrleader. EXT. ABOVE A RAINFOREST - DAY F'LAR turns and LOOKS UP AT THE FALLING THREAD. F'LAR (to Mnementh) Dive! MNEMENTH folds his wings and they dive towards the ground. They fall with great speed, but the Thread is already upon them. Suddenly R'GUL AND HATH APPEAR FROM BETWEEN. Fire blazes from HATH, turning the Thread to ash, but they miss one. The last Thread hits F'lar in the arm and EXPLODES INTO TENDRILS. The tendrils reach down to Mnementh's wing and both man and dragon scream in pain as the Thread quickly spreads over their bodies. Below them, the ground rushes up at terrifying speed. A dark patch appears before them and expands into the total blackness of between. INT. ABOVE BENDEN WEYR - DUSK Above the Star stones, the sunlight is fading. A DRAGON appears from between. Both dragon and rider are heavily crossed with Threadscore. The rider slumps over the neck of his dragon, who falters on torn wings, trying to fly inside. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DUSK LESSA is calming RAMOTH who is making loud, defensive noises over her clutch of eggs. She is upset by KYLARA and other HEALERS who are helping the WOUNDED MEN and DRAGONS that are strewn around the hatching ground. LESSA Hush! We didn't have any choice. This is the only place big enough to- With a screech, the DRAGON and RIDER wheel into view. Lessa looks up to see THE RIDER HANGING BY ONE ARM OFF OF HIS BRONZE DRAGON. KYLARA F'lar! LESSA (ordering) Ramoth! Ramoth leaps into the air and catches the struggling dragon with her enormous back. Together they stabilize their descent and slowly land with a thump at the far end of the room. In the torchlight, the dragon is now revealed to be S'LEL covered with blood. Kylara and Lessa help him to the ground as a healer rushes up. The healer gasps as she sees his wounds, and begins applying a white cream. S'LEL Too damned much Thread! It's falling everywhere. Have to...get back to help. He tries to sit up, but coughs blood. Lessa presses him back down gently. LESSA Rest now. You've earned it. S'lel shakes his head. S'LEL "Dragonmen must fly when Thread are in the sky." He tries to sit up but grunts in pain and then sighs. His eyes glaze over and he dies. His dragon, who looms nearby, instantly stiffens and lets out a wail of anguish, its eyes turning grey. The dragon LEAPS UP AND INSTANTLY VANISHES BETWEEN. LESSA Where... Where did he go? KYLARA Between. LESSA But to where? RAMOTH (telepathy) To nowhere. It is our way. Lessa turns to look at Ramoth. LESSA You wouldn't- RAMOTH (telepathy) Not while you are alive. Lessa hugs her dragon as the healers cover S'lel's body. EXT. ABOVE A RAINFOREST - DAY F'LAR and MNEMENTH appear from between, the Thread that attacked them, dead and withered. F'lar brushes the brittle material away, revealing raw Threadscore marks on his face and arm. R'GUL hovers nearby, his dragon HATH flaming at a patch of Thread. R'GUL Are you all right? F'LAR It's a good thing that between is so cold. R'GUL You should head back to the Weyr for healing. F'LAR I'm fine, R'gul. Thank you. He looks down at the DRAGONS flying in intricate patterns below, chasing Thread. A Thread hits a brown dragon and it flickers into between before reappearing to chase more. Thread hits another dragon, and another. F'LAR (to Mnementh) Tell the wings to fall back. There's too much. They turn to fly away from the Threadfall. R'GUL We can't run now! F'LAR We're not going to. Form up behind me. Wedge formation! The dragons pull back from the heavy onslaught and form into a giant V behind F'lar. They turn, diving towards the falling Thread at full speed. Suddenly, they STOP SHORT, THEIR GIANT WINGS BACKWINGING HEAVILY. The dragons beat up a huge wind, which pushes the falling Thread south over the ocean. The Thread fall into the water where they hiss and die. The fish school around the dying Thread, eating them. The dragonmen cheer, and a few flame at stragglers. INT. BENDEN WEYR - NIGHT The Weyr is calm after hours of labor trying to heal the injured. Fatigued HEALERS and WORKERS slowly trudge up and down the vertiginous stairs. This quiet is broken by the triumphant trumpeting of the DRAGONS as the victorious DRAGONMEN fly into the Weyr. The men cheer as they peel off towards their homes, but it is an enthusiasm not shared by those around them. F'NOR'S brown dragon CANTH lands on a ledge and he gratefully drops to the ground. LESSA runs up to him, her face grave. F'NOR Victory, Weyrwoman! We have forced the Thread into the seas. Rejoice! We have nearly a whole day to rest and recuperate before the next fall. Why so sad? LESSA Your victory comes at a high cost. F'NOR How many? LESSA Six dead. Eleven too wounded to fly. The blood drains from F'nor's face. F'NOR That's... That's not enough! The Threadfall will get worse with each day. We'll never... (trails off) LESSA Where's F'lar? Is he hurt? F'NOR He has a few Threadscore but he's alright. He stayed behind to help supervise the ground crews at Ruatha. RAMOTH lands on the ledge next to them and Lessa begins to climb on her back. F'NOR Where are you going? LESSA To Ruatha, where else? Ramoth leaps into the air. F'NOR Wait! LESSA I'm tired of waiting! They fly away. CANTH (telepathy) We could try to stop her. F'NOR Do you want to go after Lessa when she's in a mood? Man and dragon eye each other for a beat. CANTH (telepathy) Good night F'nor. F'NOR Good night, Canth. EXT. ORCHARD - DAY F'LAR and MNEMENTH walk through the rows of fruit trees with LYTOL, a MASTER SMITH, and two young CRAFTSMEN who carry a large contraption covered by a black cloth. F'lar walks awkwardly in his riding leathers and firestone sack. LYTOL The farmer said the Thread burrow was up there. F'LAR Only one? LYTOL That we've found. Mnementh sniffs a fruit on a nearby tree and shakes his giant head in disgust. MNEMENTH (telepathy) You eat this? F'LAR You eat firestone. They come to a drooping tree. Its leaves are dry and it bends at an unnatural angle. The group stops and surveys the dying plant. At a gesture from the master smith, the two craftsmen lower their load gently to the ground and start unpacking the device. Lytol walks towards the tree, curious. F'LAR Is this is it? A white tendril shoots out of the ground and strikes the trunk of the wilting tree. LYTOL I think so. More tendrils explode from the affected spot; one shoots out at Lytol's leg and grabs his boot. He falls to the ground and it begins to pull him toward the center of the mass. F'LAR Mnementh! F'lar grabs a lump of firestone out of his sack and THROWS IT STRAIGHT UP. Mnemneth's head snakes forward and he BITES IT OUT OF THE AIR. He chews and swallows quickly then BELCHES FLAME AT THE THREAD. The mass of Thread and the tree catch fire, freeing Lytol. The master weaver hurries back to safety as a golden dragon appears in the sky. Mnementh nudges F'lar and they both watch as LESSA and RAMOTH land. MNEMENTH (telepathy) Didn't you tell her to stay in the Weyr? F'lar grits his teeth and marches to Lessa. LESSA F'lar I- F'lar grabs her by the arms and gives her a rough shake. F'LAR Don't you know how dangerous it is to be here? What if something happened to you or Ramoth? What are you doing out of the Weyr? Lessa pulls free, fighting back tears. LESSA F'nor said you were hurt. She reaches into a pocket and pulls out a jar of salve and throws it at him. LESSA Here. By the tree, Mnementh is digging at the ground where the Thread had emerged. Lytol squats down and looks into the hole. Inside, Thread is growing, hissing as it expands. Lessa looks down with Lytol. LESSA Can we use firestone? LYTOL No, phosphene emissions won't get down far enough into the burrow. LESSA We have to do something! It could devastate this whole orchard in a day. MASTER SMITH Excuse me. They turn to see the master smith approaching with his two assistants. One craftsman has large tanks strapped to his back and the other is working a bellows-like pump system. The smith carries a nozzle, which he points at the hole. He FLIPS A SWITCH AND BROWN LIQUID SPRAYS OUT. As the liquid hits the Thread it shrivels and steam gushes out of the burrow. Lytol looks in again and nods. LYTOL Agenothree. F'LAR Fertilizer? LYTOL I saw an image of a similar device a tapestry. Lessa turns to Lytol in shock. LESSA Tapestry? MASTER SMITH Yes, in one of the bedchambers of Ruath Hold. I extrapolated plans from there. The metal cuff rings were the most difficult... The smith drones on, but Lessa isn't listening, she is remembering THE TAPESTRY FROM HER BEDROOM AS A CHILD. She turns to F'lar with sad determination. LESSA Goodbye F'lar. I'm... I'm going back to the Weyr now. She kisses him tenderly and mounts Ramoth. F'lar watches her go, perplexed. INT. BENDEN WEYR - LATER F'LAR and MNEMENTH fly into the Weyr. F'lar dismounts at his ledge. INT. F'LAR'S QUARTERS - NIGHT F'LAR enters the room. F'LAR Lessa? The room is empty. He glances in the bathing chamber and then exits. INT. BEDROOM - DAY LESSA sits in her old bed from when she was a child. The tapestry still hangs on the wall. Lessa stares at it. BEGIN TAPESTRY MONTAGE. Lessa looks at the walls of Ruath Hold, there are no guard towers. She looks at the giant gates, which are being built. She looks at the golden dragon flying overhead, which bears a strong resemblance to Ramoth. END TAPESTRY MONTAGE. Lessa stands. INT. HATCHING GROUND - NIGHT The room is empty except for Ramoth's eggs. F'LAR enters and, seeing the unguarded eggs, stops short. F'LAR Lessa? F'NOR appears behind him. F'NOR She's still not back? F'LAR Where did she go? F'NOR To find you. She was going to tell you- F'LAR Tell me what? F'NOR Nearly a third of our number are dead or injured. We won't be able to stop the next Threadfall. (a beat) She didn't tell you? He stares at F'lar, who stares back blankly at him, a look of horrified comprehension on his face. F'LAR The tapestry. Come on, man, we must get to Ruatha! He runs out, F'nor chasing him. EXT. COURTYARD - DUSK LESSA enters the courtyard of Ruath Hold where RAMOTH sits waiting for her. RAMOTH (telepathy) Did you find it? LESSA Yes. They launch into the air and hover above the hold. EXT. ABOVE RUATH HOLD - DUSK Lessa visualizes THE TAPESTRY WHICH TURNS INTO AN ACCURATE IMAGE OF THE HOLD FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO. LESSA Do you see it? RAMOTH (telepathy) Yes. LESSA Can you do it? RAMOTH (telepathy) I don't know. They FADE INTO BETWEEN. EXT. COURTYARD - NIGHT F'LAR and F'NOR land in the torchlit courtyard. LYTOL and TWO RETAINERS come out to meet them. LYTOL Weyrleader, to what do we owe- F'LAR Lessa! Where's Lessa? LYTOL Gone. F'lar goes numb with shock. F'NOR Gone? Gone where? LYTOL I don't know. She went into one of the bedrooms and sat staring at the wall for an hour. Then she just... left. F'lar turns to his brother. F'LAR Return to the Weyr and have one of the injured greens watch over Ramoth's eggs. Maybe B'fol's dragon can do it. F'NOR B'fol's green? But if Ramoth catches a green near her eggs- F'LAR She won't. F'NOR F'lar- F'LAR She's not coming back! They've gone between times looking for dragonmen. LYTOL But... That's crazy! F'LAR Those eggs are the last hope of Pern. And hurry, Thread will be falling over Telgar in less than an hour. EXT. BETWEEN LESSA and RAMOTH fly through the black of between. LUB-DUB. The frost forms. LUB-DUB. Lessa leans forward and closes her eyes. The frost covers her face, sealing her eyes and nostrils. LUB-DUB. They continue to fly on, growing smaller and smaller. Ramoth's eyes are faint, yellow pinpricks. LESSA (s.v.) Ramoth, I'm scared. RAMOTH (telepathy) I am here with you. The heartbeats get quieter as they continue. LUB-DUB. LUB-DUB. LUB-DUB. The heartbeats stop. EXT. ABOVE TELGAR HOLD - MORNING F'LAR, F'NOR, and FIFTY-FIVE DRAGONMEN hover above the Hold. They are a ragged bunch, most are fatigued and some are injured. Still, they face the dawn with grim determination. F'NOR (to F'lar) It's possible she made it. All the other Weyrs were abandoned. If she convinced them to come between times to help... F'LAR Yes, but we don't know if they will make it back. To make one such a journey is nearly impossible, but twice? She would be lost in the void. And without Lessa to guide them, the other dragons would be lost as well. Ahead of them, some clouds begin to glow silver white. Glowing thread appear from inside the clouds, twirling down from the skies like fireworks. More appear and more and more, falling slowly, a giant swath of death. F'LAR (yelling) Dragonmen, hear me! This is the life we lead. We are sworn to protect Pern, no matter the cost. But we are more than protectors, we are symbols. Whether we live or die is unimportant; only the attempt matters. We are prepared to sacrifice all for the betterment of the world. If nothing else comes of this day, we will be remembered for as long as life exists on the world below us. The dragonmen, stirred by the speech, sit up straighter. Some feed firestone to their dragons. They hover, fanned out to a giant wedge as the Thread falls. F'LAR Dragonmen! Break and attack! With deafening roars from both dragons and men, the wedge explodes forward, splitting up as they fly. Each dragon and rider spirals off in a different direction. BEGIN FIGHTING MONTAGE R'GUL and a blue rider burn a path through the Thread. F'NOR'S DRAGON rises on a thermal, flaming and spinning upwards. B'IRTO and TWO OTHER DRAGONS chase a patch towards the ground. A BROWN RIDER pauses to feed firestone to his DRAGON and is hit by Thread. They disappear into between. END FIGHTING MONTAGE F'LAR watches as a dozen dragons are hit by Thread and wink out into between. As soon as they reappear they are hit again and again. The dragons are soon surrounded by the silver hail. F'LAR It's too much! Regroup! F'lar feeds firestone to Mnementh as they drive towards an unusually thick patch of Thread. When they are in striking distance a JET OF BLUE FLAME ENGULFS THE THREAD. Mnementh backwings as a golden dragon zooms past. F'lar stares in shock at the young woman riding the dragon, a primitive flamethrower in her hands. GOLD RIDER Sorry! Was that yours? F'lar turns to see that she is leading A GROUP OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DRAGONRIDERS. The new dragons weave through the sky, devastating the Thread. Fifteen other gold dragons fly among the group, all their riders using flamethrowers. A BRONZE DRAGON spirals up to hover in front of F'lar. Its rider, T'TON is a mature man wearing riding leathers of an angular design. T'TON Are you F'lar? F'LAR Yes. T'TON I am Weyrleader T'ton of Fort Weyr. We bring eighteen hundred dragonmen and sixteen queens. I am told our old Weyrs are still available. F'LAR You came forward four hundred years to help? T'TON In my time, the Red Star had moved away. With no more Thread to fight, we were...bored. A dragonman lives to fight Thread! F'lar, still stunned, watches as a group of three queens skillfully burns a patch of falling Thread with flamethrowers. F'LAR You allow your queens to fight Thread? T'TON Allow? Just try and stop them! F'lar chuckles. T'TON If I may be so bold, Weyrleader, you look tired. Take your men and return to your Weyr. We can handle the rest. F'lar nods in departing and his dragons turn away from the battle. INT. HATCHING GROUND - DAY A GREEN DRAGON with a bandaged wing screams in dismay and backs up, her wings extended as far as the bandage will allow. RAMOTH, also screaming and also with wings open, chases her around the room, eyes glowing orange. The green's rider F'RAD, a lean man with a bandaged arm, stands near LESSA, deeply distressed. Lessa's face and hands are badly burned from frostbite. F'RAD But, Weyrwoman, we were told to watch them! LESSA (ignoring him) That's right, Ramoth. You show her whose eggs they are. Ramoth snaps, her teeth clashing together only inches from the green's neck. F'RAD Please! She's injured. She can't even fly. Ramoth swipes at the other dragon with a paw and the green jumps into the air, unfurling her wings far enough to tear the bandages open. She claws at the walls and manages to get enough momentum to fly, wobbily, out of the Weyr. LESSA Looks like she flies well enough to me. F'rad snorts indignantly and leaves as Ramoth settles down to protect her eggs. Lessa calms her. LESSA Hush. They're all there. Your- She sees F'LAR standing rigidly still at the entrance. Her face goes white. LESSA F'lar, I- F'lar marches towards her, his jaw clenched with emotion. Lessa backpedals into Ramoth, tears springing to her eyes. LESSA Ramoth, help! He's going to shake me. Ramoth gently pushes Lessa forward with the top of her head. F'lar suddenly grabs Lessa and pulls her into a crushing hug. F'LAR (s.v.) I thought I had lost you. As they embrace one of the SPECKLED EGGS BEGINS TO ROCK. INT. HATCHING GROUND - LATER The same egg CRACKS OPEN. A BRONZE HATCHLING crawls out and heads for a LINE OF YOUNG MEN in white who are carefully spaced out. As the hatchling moves through them, searching, the men gently step away. The hatchling finds the boy he is looking for and stops at his feet, keening. NATON bends forward and strokes the eye ridges of the hatchling. NATON His name is Lioth! Behind him a GIANT CROWD, full of DRAGONMEN and LORD HOLDERS, cheers. In the middle of the crowd, LARAD turns to MERON LARAD Isn't that your son, Naton? Meron nods, swelling with pride. MERON I guess it's N'ton now. Below them the golden egg hatches and the young QUEEN struggles forth towards a calm group of white-robed women. As LESSA watches from the crowd, the hatchling makes its way directly towards KYLARA who stands in the middle of the group. KYLARA Her name is Prideth! The crowd cheers, but Kylara takes no notice of them. She has turned to look directly at Lessa, her eyes streaming with grateful tears. Lessa smiles back then turns to see F'LAR slowly working himself through the crowd toward the exit. She follows. INT. VIEWING ROOM - DAWN It is still dark outside and the Red Star glows brightly just above the horizon. F'LAR stands at the edge, looking out at his mortal enemy in the sky. LESSA enters quietly and stands next to F'lar. F'LAR We can go anywhere. You showed us that. We can go to any time or any place. LESSA You're going to the Red Star? F'LAR Soon. When we're ready we're going to take the fight to the Thread's home. LESSA We are pledged to protect Pern. He kisses her and they stare out at the Red Star together, holding hands. Everything darkens until nothing but the Red Star can be seen. FADE OUT