Benden Weyr is the second Weyr on the Northern Continent. Situated on the Eastern coast, Telgar Weyr borders on the West and Igen and Ista Weyrs are to the South/Southwest. Benden, Bitra and Lemos Holds are beholden to Benden Weyr.
- A detailed description of the Weyr, established, the surrounding countryside, the economy and the other (on the basis of the The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern)
Benden Weyr was founded during the First Interval by Michael Connell, also called Mihall, eldest son of Sean and Sorka Connell, and his wife, Torene. Pern needed more dragons, and Fort was at last up to full strength. Though he was only in his twenties when he led his force of dragons and humans eastward, he was the one allowed to establish the new Weyr because the administrators in Fort realized he was a canny leader who inspired trust in those who followed him and would lead them responsibly. Mihall Connell was the first to bear the title of Benden Weyrleader.
The Weyr was named to honor Admiral Paul Benden, over his objections. It was established in the eighteenth year of the colony.
Mihall grew up in the Lower Caverns of Fort Weyr under the care of a foster mother. Sorka loved her children, but she had little time to look after them, as most of her time went to taking care of Faranth. Wouldbe dragonriders had to make the same decision to give up the care of their children into someone else's hands. A young dragon required too much attention to allow a man or woman to spend adequate time and love raising well-adjusted children. Extending the family to include fosterers and the half brothers and half sisters who sometimes resulted from mating flights between riders married to other people was the first wedge to break into monogamous relationships in the Weyr.
Mihall Connell grew up wanting to ride dragons. He spent as much time in the Weyr as he could, learning about the care of dragons and helping out in the Lower Caverns. The records are unclear, but it is believed that his bronze came from the fourth Hatching of Faranth's eggs.
Torene, brought up in Ruatha, showed an aptitude for anticipating the needs of sick creatures. As a child, she began to spend more and more time at the Weyr, encouraged, like other empathic children and adults, to start getting to know dragons as early as possible. Young Torene exhibited extraordinary empathy, which made her a natural candidate for a queen egg. Once she Impressed, it was discovered that her ability to hear other dragons telepathic voices did not fade as the bonds between weyrmates grew stronger. Torene's strength of purpose was one of the key elements in forming a second group of dragonriders that was independent from the first.
Mihall, called M'hall, chose Benden Weyr's location because he saw the potential of the natural cavern which would become the Hatching Ground. The upper deck was terraformed, but the rest he left unaltered. At his urging, the miners who helped construct Benden Weyr opened up and smoothed out caverns and corridors that already existed in the volcanic matrix, rather than chopping whole rooms out with the steadily depleting resource of the stonecutters. Thus Benden Weyr has a more natural feel to it than Fort.
- Partly the above is a mistake, because it contradicts The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.
Benden's architecture may not be as elaborate as that of Fort Weyr, but the style is the same. These two Weyrs and Holds, and Ruatha, their contemporary, feel old. The rooms are of irregular shapes but have smooth walls. Closet niches are cut at intervals in the walls of corridors and large storage chambers. Colored cement is used for accent and for filling in broken places in the stone.
The Bowl is full of light sand. The lake, which covers a good quarter of the bottom of the Bowl, is of sweet water kept clear by water plants, snails, algae, and grasses. Indigenous water lilies float on the surface. Like the Earth flower of the same name, these flowers' petals are white, but the leaves are triangular in shape, much like those of the herb woad. Their edible roots, which also have a triangular cross-section, taste like water chestnuts. The herdbeasts live near the lake and are kept away from the place where the dragons bathe.
Bendens Lower Caverns are not as high-vaulted as Fort's, and they are more spread out. The separate levels are tiered, making use of the myriad bubbles in the strata. The passages between the deepest side caverns are very narrow, but they are ventilated to the upper air. Massive passageways lie between the largest caverns at ground and first level. The firepits scored at the top of this and every other domicile on Pern are intended to be set ablaze during Threadfall to prevent Thread from falling down the ventilation shafts and infiltrating the Living Caverns.
The ventilation system uses fans run by water from the upper reservoirs dripping slowly into a bucket weighting the chain that moves the props. Geothermal energy runs the service shafts by use of thermal sinks. Twin tubes run down through the rock to red-hot stone—water is pumped down one, and the steam comes up the other. Steam is used to heat the higher weyrs, as well as to provide hydraulic assist for the heavy trays in the service chutes.
By the end of the First Pass, there were over twenty thousand people in the Northern Continent. Benden Weyr was swelling as Fort had. Most of the Ancient Timers' rooms were sealed as the holders moved out to stakeholds across the continent. The only folk left in Benden Weyr beside the dragon-folk were those who worked in the Lower Caverns as support staff for the Weyr. Vegetables were originally raised in the hydroponics tanks, and grain grew in carefully protected fields near the Weyr. When the Pass ended, Benden Hold was constructed.
Benden Weyr, though less fancy on the inside than Fort and built on a smaller scale, has a warmer ambiance. Benden's original portion was built when there Was still fuel to run the stonecutters. The hallways were cut high and square, and walls were slagged to perfect smoothness. But when supplies began to run out, the inhabitants of Benden Weyr merely knocked the rough corners off natural caverns and cavelets, smoothing only the floor of corridors. All six Weyrs were treated with stonecutters to provide ventilation and thermal heat. The sites for the last four were chosen during the first Interval and carved out somewhat while the stonecutters lasted.
The stonecutters were put to use in other places, too. Ventilation grilles cover air shafts drilled through the heart of the mountain, bringing fresh air through the fire pits into the deepest caves in the Weyr. The Star Stones and Eye Rock are smaller than those at Fort, but they are of a higher quality. The Stones in the other Weyrs were made with hammer and chisel and have a more rustic look; the Eye Rocks are more like the eyes of needles than of beasts or men.
Benden Weyr is bigger now than it was even at the height of its human population. Rooms that were once occupied by the Ancient Timers are used for storage or just sealed off. Very large weyrs that originally were shaped by two dragons now have only one, but there are more weyrs.
The labs and hydroponics tanks in the rear corridors of Benden Weyr are only now being rediscovered. The knowledge to use the devices sealed in these rooms has long disappeared. A design printed on the wall is a reproduction of Kitti Ping's genetic code of the dragons, which the current Weyrfolk cannot translate.
- The Queen's Weyr
Once the Present Pass began, Manora, the headwoman, was delighted to be rid of the Turns of penury into which the Weyr had fallen. Mustering her work force, she turned to refurbishing the Weyr from the inside out. Lessa's apartments were the first project tackled by the women of the Lower Caverns. As soon as Lessa Impressed Ramoth, Manora went to work and had the Weyrwoman's rooms in fine shape by the time of the first Threadfall.
The room off the side of the queen's weyr is decorated in tapestries of warm colors dyed and spun in Manora's spare moments: green, clear yellow, orange, lavender, and red. Only the best furs are on the bed in the Weyrwoman's chamber. Benden Hold is famous for patchwork quilts. Lessa was given a few that are sewn in intricate geometric patterns and creative variations on traditional designs.
Even Ramoth's couch has a fancy coverlet. To keep the cold out, the great couch is covered with straw and rushes, then covered over with a padded quilt. Lessa's is the most elaborate weyr. She has both a bathing room and a service shaft, and the ventilation ducts carry warm air up into the room. All is kept spotlessly clean, and the tapestries are beaten or refurbished often to keep the dust down.
- The kitchen and food
The kitchen in Benden Weyr has a lower roof than the one in Fort, and the chamber opens right out into the Weyr Bowl. The night hearth is in a sheltered alcove rather than a separate room. The night hearth cook is usually a baker, with the task of making rolls and cereal for the morning, but he also needs to have an expert hand with stews and casseroles.
Food is served at regular hours, but the night hearth always has a pot of stew or soup simmering, a kettle of fresh klah, bowls of dried fruit, and a basket of bread rolls. After the Present Pass began, there was always fresh fruit, the gift of grateful holders.
A steward, male or female, supervises the preparation of the meals, and another sees to its serving by a host of helpers of all ages. Meals are served in the big refectory, which is a broad, low chamber with uneven ceilings like a rathskeller, with a couple of drudges or assistants in charge of serving each long table. The Lord Holders' table, where guests of honor are seated when dining with the Weyr, is farther away from the hearthfire, to avoid unpleasant odors and smoke from the cooking. The other tables are closer to the fires. They're warmer, but not necessarily more comfortable.
The watch-rider generally alerts those in the Weyr that a tithe train is on its way. Children without pressing duties gather around the caravan as the train enters the Weyr. The beastdrivers and wagoneers are often kindly to children, bringing candy and fruits especially for them.
As the sacks and baskets are unloaded, stewards working under Manora sort the shipments into the various food groups, depending on the peculiarities of storage for each item. Bulk items that need dry storerooms —milled flour, grains, lentils, legumes, dried meat and fish, and sweetening — are carried to caverns that lie just down the corridor from the drying hearths.
Cattle are driven down to the beastfolds near the lake in the Weyr Bowl, where the Weyr's herder notes their number and type. The beasts are kept separate from the Weyr's flocks and herds until it is' clear that they are without disease. This precaution is automatic since the plague in Moreta's day.
The beastherds at Benden Weyr are just big enough at any time to give every dragon in the Weyr a meal. The Lord Holders send the scrag ends of their own herds for the dragons' herds. The Weyrfolk hunt for most of their meat, supplementing with the odd herdbeast, the younger stock sent by the Lord Holders, domestic wherry herds, and meat animals.
Root vegetables go into a cavern with an immense heap of sand for drainage to keep the roots from rotting. The northern farms raise many kinds: sweet potatoes, swedes, parsnips, turnips, fingerroots, redroots, and several strains of tubers.
Leafy vegetables, cheeses, and fruits go into cold storerooms with running water that are stocked with ice brought in every two or three days from the snowy wastes to keep them fresh. These items and all fresh meat are used up first.
Meat is fresh-killed when it is needed. A hunting dragon can bring back many carcasses slung across its body behind the rider or dangling over its neck behind the forepaws.
Before the Pass began, fresh food was in sparse supply. Dragonriders had to go out hunting for meat and gather vegetables and herbs themselves. Only the loyal three, Benden, Bitra, and Lemos Holds, sent tithe trains to the Weyr, but their goods were far from being the best produced in those Holds. Fresh vegetables and tender meat were rare treats. Dragonriders would bring the women of the Lower Caverns out to the forests and shorelines to gather what they could themselves. They had to go all the way into Nerat for numbweed and wild fruit. The Holds were not generous to the gleaners.
Once Thread began to fall, the Weyr was inundated with donations, not only of food but of other commodities. Nerat sent numbweed and delicacies of fresh fruit, such as berry preserves, apples, and pears, as well as Pernese fruits and fruit ale, a popular drink in that Hold. The Tannercraft in Igen included first-class hides of all grades, from that used for riding straps to glove leather.
When first built, Benden Weyr had a capacity of three hundred and fifty dragons, but by the Ninth Pass, this had changed to house five hundred dragons. It should be noted that a Weyr's capacity changes over the years, as riders make expansions and carve out new Weyrs for themselves. For example, the capacity of all Pern's Weyrs went from 2300 Dragons in the Sixth Pass to 3000 Dragons in the Eighth and Ninth Passes.
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Benden was one of the three new Weyrs eventually formed by Weyrleader Sean Connell of Fort Weyr in the First Pass. Its first Weyrleaders were Torene, rider of Gold Alaranth and Michael Connell (later known as M'hall), rider of Bronze Brianth. It was originally referred to as the East Coast Weyr, however gold rider Jean proposed that it be called Benden Weyr, after the late Admiral Paul Benden. The mission, along with the founding of another 2 Weyrs (a number that by the end of the pass grew to 4 making a total of 6 Weyrs), was to accommodate the growing number of dragons and their riders.
At the Weyr's establishment, the riders sent to it were apparently chosen by random chance, although this was actually planned by the Fort Weyr leaders. The First Weyrleaders were chosen as the riders of first queen to rise (Alaranth, rider Torene) and the bronze that caught her (Brianth, Rider Mihall). Who they would be was also planned by the Weyrleaders at Fort Weyr.
- Dragonrider with status: junior Weyrwoman Jean, Julie, Uloa; Wingleaders Dave Catarel, Jess Kaiden, N'klas, Boris Pahlevi.
- Dragonrider with status: junior Weyrwoman — ; Wingleaders — .
During Dragonsblood, a set of secret rooms (later rediscovered by Jaxom and Felessan, and not to be confused with the peeping hole) are built at Benden and used as a «lab» to prevent a plague amongst the dragons.
- Dragonrider with status: junior Weyrwoman Lorana; Wingleaders —.
- Weyrhealer K'tan.
- Weyrharper Kindan.
- Dragonrider with status: junior Weyrwoman — ; Wingleaders W'ter, L'vin, M'gent, H'grave.
During the Second Long Interval, and into the start of the Ninth Pass, Benden Weyr was the only weyr left on Pern, the others having disappeared mysteriously with no trace or word except a cryptic «Question Song». This was answered by Weyrwoman Lessa, who went back in time to bring forward the other five weyrs.
There is a small hole that overlooks the Benden Hatching Grounds used by children at the Weyr to look at the eggs. This is later sealed up at the request of Lessa and Ramoth when it is brought to the pair's attention by the discovery of the secret rooms by Jaxom and Felessan during the events of the book Dragonquest.
- G'ranad and bronze
- C'rob and bronze Spakinth; Weyrwoman Carola and gold Feyrith.
- S'loner and bronze Chendith; Weyrwoman Carola and gold Feyrith, later Jora and gold Nemorth.
- Interim Weyrleadership — Weyrleader title shared between four riders; C'vrel and bronze Falarth, C'rob and bronze Spakinth, M'ridin and bronze Cortath, M'odon and brown Nigarth.
- F'lon and bronze Simanith; Weyrwoman Jora and gold Nemorth.
- R'gul and bronze Hath; Weyrwoman Jora and gold Nemorth, later Lessa and gold Ramoth.
- F'lar and bronze Mnementh; Weyrwoman Lessa and gold Ramoth.
- Dragonrider with status:
|Northern||Benden • Fort • High Reaches • Igen • Ista • Telgar|
|Southern||Southern • Monaco Bay • Xanadu • WeyrHolds: Honshu • Malay River|
|Western||Eastern • Midriver • Northern • Sky • Southern • Southriver • Western|
|Holds • Stakes • Crafts and Halls|