Holds of Pern
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Throughout most of Pern, Holds are made up of either stone buildings or networks of caverns both natural and man-made. By shuttering any windows and barring the door, this makes the Holds ideal shelter in times of Threadfall. Holds are under tight strictures to keep Thread-susceptible greenery away from the entrances.
There are three types of Hold. Major Holds are the largest and most politically powerful. These Major Holds are analogous to Greek city-states, with a large (for Pern) quasi-urban center of perhaps one thousand residents (the Hold itself) surrounded by a vast, mostly rural territory under the Hold's jurisdiction of 10,000 or more additional residents. When referring to a Major Hold, a speaker might mean either this entire region or only the urban center.
The Major Holds are ruled by a Lord Holder, whose power is largely unchecked in his domain so long as he fulfills his responsibility to the Hold's residents; namely, he provides residents protection from Thread, an appropriate education, and food and shelter in return for labor. The Lord provides protection from Thread by tithing a percentage of the Hold's agriculture and other materiel to the Weyr to which his Hold looks.
As the series opens in the novel Dragonflight, there are fifteen such Major Holds, occupying the entire Northern Continent (other than the uninhabitable Arctic). These holds are listed below.
Under the jurisdiction of the Major Holds are Minor Holds. These can range widely in size, but operate not unlike a Major Hold on a smaller scale. Despite the name, some of the larger Minor Holds may approach the population of a Major Hold's urban center. Nonetheless, they are subject to the Major Hold of which they are a part and to which they tithe. Minor Holds are managed by a Holder, not a Lord. In many cases, however, a Lord Holder will install his son as Holder at a Minor Hold; the son retains the hereditary title of Lord.
The more rural members of the population live in cotholds. These are much smaller vassal holds, often consisting of a single extended family located near the fields, pasture, or other site of the holders' agricultural pursuits.
As noted above, Major Holds are managed by a Lord Holder. Day-to-day operations are delegated to a Steward, who is responsible for the Hold's economic health, trade with the outside, tithes to the Weyr, and dealings with its vassal Holds. In the Hold itself, food, clothing, healing, and other maintenance of the dwellings and residents are the responsibility of a Headwoman under the supervision of the Lady Holder (the Lord's wife). The Lord's female children and relatives frequently assist in these tasks.
The Lord's sons, along with fosterlings, nephews, and other male relatives, are given experience in Hold management. This can consist of acting as Steward (or assisting the Steward), taking charge of a particular portfolio of the Hold's activities (such as husbandry) or becoming Holder of a Minor Hold. These young lords are often referred to derisively as lordlings.
Hold children are educated by the Hold's Harper, typically trained in the Harpercrafthall at Fort Hold.
Each hold is responsible for the discipline of its wrongdoers. Most times the Lord Holder will make the wrongdoer pay restitution and service to the wronged party. The next severest punishment is incarceration. Death penalty can also be used in response to heinous crimes. But the greatest punishment is to be named holdless. This is where a person is stripped of all rank and status and thrown out of the hold. The reason this is the most severe punishment is because the holdless have nowhere to go during Threadfall.
The Major Holds of Pern
As Dragonflight opens, there are fifteen Major Holds, all located on Pern's Northern Continent.
Fort Hold, located to the West of the Northern Continent, is Pern's oldest Hold. As described in Dragonsdawn, it is the location to which the Pern colonists evacuated upon abandoning the Southern Continent ten Turns (years) after arriving on Pern because of geological instability. Colonists Sallah Telgar and Tarvi Andiyar discovered the cave network. In Pern's early history, the colonists established a College at Fort Hold which evolved into the Harper Hall during the Second Pass. The Masterhealer is located at Fort Hold as well. During Threadfall, Fort Hold is protected by dragons from Fort Weyr.
Ruatha Hold is known to the protagonists of Dragonflight as Pern's second-oldest Hold and the origin of many famous Weyrwomen. The story opens there with the Search for a new Weyrwoman, complicated by the earlier conquest of Ruatha by Fax. Fax' son Jaxom becomes the new Lord Holder of Ruatha and his story is continued in The White Dragon. In The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, Peter "Red" Hanranhan and his wife Mairi establish the Hold nineteen Turns after the Landing on Pern. Hanrahan's group need to cross a difficult ford to reach their site from Fort Hold, leading to the new settlement's name: Ath Rua means "Red's Ford" in Irish. In Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern and Nerilka's Story, a Gather at Ruatha is the starting point of a deadly pandemic. Ruatha is protected by Fort Weyr during Threadfall.
Southern Boll Hold was the second Northern Hold founded, although this fact is not known to modern Pernese. It occupies the southern end of the Boll peninsula in the West of Pern, south of Fort Hold, with the Hold itself located near the peninsula's tip. Colonist Pierre de Courci established Boll Hold in the seventeenth Turn after Landing. He named it after his wife, the recently deceased Governor Emily Boll. Boll, a hero of the Nathi War as a planetary governor, led the initial Pern colony with Admiral Paul Benden. It is not clear whether the current Hold is in the same location as de Coucis' original settlement. Southern Boll is also under the protection of Fort Weyr.
Benden Hold is located in the East Coast of Pern's Northern Continent, with its southern reaches extending to the edge of the Nerat peninsula. The last settlers to leave the Pern's Southern Continent established Benden Turns after the rest of Pern had moved North. They named their Hold after Admiral Paul Benden, a hero of the Nathi War, co-leader of the early colonists with Emily Boll, and original captain of the expedition that brought the colonists from Earth. Benden is best known for its wines. It is protected from Thread by Benden Weyr.
Bitra Hold is located to Benden's northwest. The hold was founded after the end of the First Pass by dissidents from Benden Hold that held a different view of Avril Bitra's actions and place in the history of Pern. Bitra Hold is under the jurisdiction of Benden Weyr.
Lemos Hold occupies the mountainous territory to Bitra Hold's west, approaching the center of the Northern Continent. The circumstances of its founding have not been revealed. Benden Weyr protects Lemos Hold from Thread.Lemos Hold is most likely named after Bart Lemos, a charterer in the original Pern expedition.
High Reaches Hold lies on Pern's Northwest Coast, in the wintry High Reaches Mountains. The circumstances of its founding have not been revealed. It is under the protection of High Reaches Weyr.
Nabol Hold is located in the center of Pern's Northern Continent. The circumstances of its founding have not been revealed. Nabol Hold's primary industry is mining, and it is often regarded as an unpleasant place by other of Pern's inhabitants. Fax, self-styled Lord of Seven Holds, was Nabolese. Nabol is also under the protection of High Reaches Weyr.Nabol hold was named after Nabhi Nabol, a charterer in the Pern expedition
Tillek Hold occupies the Tillek peninsula on the Northern Continent's West Coast, south of High Reaches Hold and west of Fort. Colonist Zi Ongola founded Tillek Hold in the twenty-second Turn after Landing, but the Hold went nameless for at least three Turns until the death of Jim Tillek. Tillek was one of the colony leaders and captain of one of the ships that brought the colonists to Pern. Tillek also established Pern's first fishing fleet and maintained contact with the genetically enhanced dolphins the colonists brought with them. Modern Tillek produces wines, but they are not as well regarded as Benden Hold's; they have been described as acidic, foxy and very unpleasant. High Reaches Weyr fights Threadfall over Tillek Hold.
Keroon Hold sits in the prairie east of the center of Pern's Northern Continent, south of Bitra and Lemos Holds, west of the Nerat Perninsula.The circumstances of its founding have not been revealed, but presumably the Hold was named in honor of Ezra Keroon. Keroon captained one of the colony ships from Earth and served the colony as a scientific advisor. Keroon Hold is known for its livestock, particularly its runnerbeasts, though they are said to be not as good as Ruatha's. Keroon is under the protection of Igen Weyr.
Ista Hold occupies the whole of Ista Island, a large, partly desert island to the Southwest of the Igen Hold coast. The name Ista comes from the initials of the four families that settled there. Due to its temperate climate and low humidity, Ista, like the American Southwest, has served as retirement destination for those suffering from the symptoms of old age. Ista Weyr, on the island, has traditionally been a place for the recuperation of injured dragons and riders. Ista Hold is protected from Threadfall by Ista Weyr.
Igen Hold is a largely desert region in the South of Pern's Northern Continent. Although on the eastern half of the continent, Igen Hold has a long western coastline. During the Ninth Pass, sandworms infesting Igen's plains were discovered to offer some protection from Thread. Most of Igen Hold is protected from Threadfall by Ista Weyr, with parts of the Hold's rural north flown by the nearby Igen Weyr.
Nerat Hold occupies the Nerat Peninsula on Pern's East Coast, south of Benden Hold. It is separated from Keroon Hold to the west by Nerat Bay. With its extensive coastlines on both the ocean and the bay, fish are Nerat Hold's main product. It is under the protection of Ista Weyr.
Telgar Hold is situated at the northern end of the longitudinal center of Pern's Northern Continent. Telgar Hold evolved from the mining facilities founded by Pern contractor Telgar (née Tarvi Andiyar) and named in honor of his wife Sallah Telgar. Most of Telgar Hold is protected by Telgar Weyr, although Igen Weyr flies Thread over the southern portion of the Hold.
Crom Hold is located in the low mountains west of Telgar Hold, north of Nabol and Ruatha Holds. The primary industry of Crom Hold is mining, and in the Ninth Pass the Masterminer is located there. A group of miners established Crom Hold near the end of the First Interval; similar to Ista, the hold's name is derived from the first initials of these four. It is protected by the dragons of Telgar Weyr.
In addition to the various products mentioned above, every Major Hold save Lemos, Crom, Telgar, and Nabol have substantial seacoasts, so fishing and other maritime industries are important throughout Pern.
The Southern Continent
Beginning in the novel Dragonflight, the Pernese slowly begin migrating back to the Southern Continent. Important Holds in the South include Southern Hold (eventually attains Major Hold status), Paradise River Hold, and Cove Hold.
- Nye & McCaffrey 1992, p. 130.