Description of Between
Between is universally described as a place of nothingness. Between is characterized by extreme cold - far below zero, and possibly colder than outer space - and induces near-total sensory deprivation in humans who travel through it on dragonback. There appears to be no breathable air between, and riders who make exceptionally long journeys - usually the result of dragons and riders traveling between times - suffer the effects of oxygen deprivation. Because of the extreme cold of between, dragons and fire-lizards deliberately travel between and back if they come into contact with Thread; freezing and destroying the organism almost instantly.
The cold of between can also cause health problems for dragonriders, such as kidney chills, but riding gear is designed to avoid this. Female riders also have the risk of developing cystitis from frequent journeys between. The low temperature can also abort pregnancies, although the exact length of time a rider needs to be between for this to happen is debatable; while Mirrim in the Ninth Pass repeatedly failed to become pregnant by mistakenly travelling between - a duration generally described as lasting "as long as it takes to cough three times" - before realising it was unsafe to do so, in the Third Pass estimations as to the exact length varied from "five coughs" to "seven coughs" to "eleven coughs".
Going Between Places
The length of time it takes for a dragon to travel from one location to another via between is generally eight to ten seconds - or, as various dragonriders have described it, "Between only lasts as long as it takes to cough three times" - but this can vary depending on how far away the other destination is, and whether or not it involves going between times as well or not - see "Durations of Journeys Between" below for more information.
Failing to envision a destination properly can result in a dragon and rider failing to emerge from between and perishing as a result - as happened to Marco Galliani and Duluth during the First Pass. It can also lead to a dragon and rider emerging from between, but arriving in the same place as an existing object instead of near it - as happened to D'lin and Aseth during the Third Pass, when wound up entombed in the rock of Benden Weyr, which killed them both instantly. Conversely, envisioning a destination too well - with details that correspond to a that location at a specific point in time - can result in a dragon and rider travelling "Between Times". On a final note, a dragon will go between permanently - by not envisioning a destination - if they sustain fatal injuries, or believe that their rider is deceased.
Although the mechanics surrounding it are not yet fully known, it appears that dragons - and some riders - may have the ability to converse with other dragons while they are between, without going between themselves.
In the Third Pass, Lorana was able to reach out to dragons with her mind as they went between, and was occasionally able to bring them back from between. This would eventually led to her making contact with Wind Blossom in the First Interval while attempting to bring back a number of dragons who had gone between; presumably, the dragons ended up acting as a sort of amplifier that helped carry Lorana's voice across time and space. At a later point in time, Lorana and Fiona; the Weyrwoman of Telgar Weyr, were able to talk with Xhinna when she briefly became trapped between.
By the Third Interval, Tullea; the Weyrwoman of Benden Weyr, had been taught how to "stretch" her mind into between, and after tricking Lorana into thinking Benden Weyr was empty, used this ability to call the dragons of Benden Weyr back from an unknown hiding place.
Going Between Times
A dragon is also able to use its ability to teleport to travel through time, by envisioning its destination so vividly that they end up arriving at the point in time the location looked that way. This is often done by using the positions of stars in the night sky or the location of the Red Star, but it can also be done by using a memory of a place to create an image - for instance, when learning how to go between on Ramoth, Lessa attempted to travel to Ruatha Hold, only to mistakenly end up travelling back in time to Ruatha Hold on the day it was invaded by Lord Fax of High Reaches Hold; as a result of envisioning the Hold as she remembered it prior to the invasion. This ability is often referred to as going "between times" or "timing it".
Time travel in the Pern books operates under the "Stable Time Loop" principle, where a person cannot change the course of history when travelling backwards or forwards in time, but their actions may create a chain of events that create the reason for them travelling through time in the first place. For instance, in Dragonflight, Benden Weyrwoman Lessa travels back in time to the beginning of the Eighth Interval, and brings the inhabitants of five Weyrs back to the Ninth Pass with her. In doing so, Lessa caused Benden Weyr to become the only inhabited Weyr on Pern during the Eighth Interval/Second Long Interval, thus leading to their steady decline which neccessitated Lessa's Ride in the first place. Another example is mentioned in Dragonsblood, where blue rider J'trel of Ista Weyr tried to go back in time to show his mother that he had become a dragonrider, but found himself unable to do form an image for Talith to use to take them back - as his dragon Talith described it, he had not done it, so he could not; adding that trying to do so was "like trying to fly through rock".
Attempts to go between times to try and alter some historical event were known to be futile; dragonriders would explain to those who attempted to try this that they couldn't "break time". However, in some cases it was possible to "cheat" it; for example, during the Third Pass, Telgar Weyrleader T'mar was saved during a Fall by a dragonrider who he identified as the Benden Weyrleader due to his jacket, only for him to perish. However, the Benden Weyrleader; B'nik was found to be alive and well, leading them to conclude that he would eventually time it back to aid T'mar and die. However, it soon turned out that it wasn't B'nik who had died; instead another dragonrider had disguised themselves as him and gone in his place. Another example of cheating time; also from the Third Pass, involved the bronze rider F'jian, who was witnessed repeatedly leaving his weyr at night with a mysterious woman, before dying while fighting Thread. Despite his death, F'jian made several visits to his mate Terin at later dates. This was eventually revealed to have been the work of Lorana, who, after learning of F'jian's eventual death, travelled back in time to before that point and brought him ahead in time so that he would be able to be present for Terin at certain points in time.
Due to the obvious dangers of travelling through time - and the inherent risk that the rider might not envision a detail of their destination properly; thus inadvertantly sending them between forever - the ability is generally kept a secret amongst the queen and bronze riders of a Weyr. Despite this, riders have been known to accidentally discover the ability for themselves - which can be assumed to be how the ability was discovered in the first place - and during the Sixth Pass, many of these riders were recruited to use this ability to help spread a vaccine across Pern in a single day. Travelling between times is fairly exhausting to both rider and dragon; both often requiring rest after returning to their own time - and food, in the dragon's case.
In addition to this, travelling between times often takes far longer than a normal trip between, which can occasionally lead to a rider suffering from oxygen deprivation if the trip is an especially long one - as happened to Lorana in the Third Pass, and Lessa in the Ninth Pass. Dragons, able to hold their breaths for far longer, are not affected by this. A solution to this problem was found by Aivas, who got the riders traveling to the Red Star to wear spacesuits.
The ability to travel between times was discovered at some point during the First Pass - as Benden Weyrleader M'hall briefly used it in a botched attempt to prevent his past self from taking his mother's body to be used as a cadaver. Two Records are known to have existed at the Harper Hall at various points in time providing information about the ability;
- A song penned by Master Harper Zist in the Second Interval entitled "When I Met Myself Healing"; detaling how a younger Zist had once encountered his elder self during a Hatching at Benden Weyr, and witnessed him tending the injured - and newly Impressed - dragon Gaminth, whose rider M'tal was a friend of his, and would soon become Benden Weyrleader. However, upon learning of the existence of the song, M'tal requested that Zist "quietly retire" it.
- A Record in the Healer Hall that existed as late as the Sixth Pass, which Journeywoman Desdra discovered and used to formulate her plan to spread a vaccine across Pern in a single day. However, following requests, Masterhealer Capiam agreed to "lose" the Records.
During the early First Interval, two ill fire-lizards and a queen dragon - who died upon arrival - ended up traveling between times to Fort Hold from around the time the Third Pass was beginning, which was able to alert the inhabitants of the First Interval to the future existence of a Dragon Plague, which warned them to leave materials that their descendants could one day use to construct a cure. It is not known how the two fire-lizards and the queen dragon managed to travel between, but although their trip between times could have been an accident, it seems more likely that it was the result of them managing to somehow forge a link with relatives of the woman they were Impressed to - Lorana of Benden Weyr - who lived during the Second Interval
Towards the end of the Second Interval, dragonriders used the ability to aid the hungry during the Plague; by retrieving fresh fruit from the Southern Continent in the past, and delivering it to the stricken holds.
During the early Third Pass, an incredible amount of traveling between times took place, as the various dragonriders were forced to use the ability to compensate for their lack of dragons able to fight Thread; mostly by using it to let a future version of a wing help fight a Fall alongside their past selves, or using it to send weyrlings and injured dragons back to uninhabited areas during the Second Interval - such as the empty Igen Weyr or the Far Western Continent - until they were able to mature and heal. In addition to this, a mysterious phenomenon known as the "time knot" was created accidentally during this time, which affected travels forwards in time from the Far Western Continent for several Turns - see below for more information.
By the late Eighth Interval, the ability had been forgotten; it is not clear whether the Oldtimers of the Eighth Pass knew of it, or whether it was lost some time after the Sixth Pass - the loss perhaps even being linked to the measures that were taken after Moreta's death to prevent a repeat of the accident. It would be rediscovered by Benden Weyrwoman Lessa of Benden Weyr, when, as mentioned above, she inadvertently traveled back in time to Ruatha Hold. The ability would soon be used to send a group of weyrlings back in time to a newly established Weyr on the Southern Continent, where they could mature, and later by Lessa; in a feat known as Lessa's Ride, to travel back in time to the beginning of the Eighth Interval to bring the dragonriders of the other five Weyrs forwards in time to aid them.
Later on in the Ninth Pass, several journeys between time were made possible with the aid of the white dragon Ruth, who had an uncanny ability to always know where he was in time; occasionally being aided by fire-lizards who would come to him and give him detailed images of notable events they remembered. Ruth - and his rider, Lord Jaxom of Ruatha Hold - managed to use this ability to retrieve a stolen queen egg which had been taken between times by Oldtimers at Southern Weyr, and also to find missing former Ista Weyrleader D'ram after his disappearance following the death of his weyrmate Fanna.
Several Turns later, the supercomputer Aivas would request Ruth and Jaxom's aid in completing the final part of his mission to destroy Thread once and for all by detonating the three engines of the Charter Ships orbiting Pern on the surface of the Red Star; thus changing its orbit. After examining various Records and the orbit of the Red Star, Aivas had concluded that both Long Intervals had been caused by dragons going back in time and detonating the engines then, and thus recruited Ruth and Jaxom to guide the various teams of dragonriders back to those points in time in secret. The only known problem caused by this secrecy was when bronze rider M'rand attempted to return home to High Reaches Weyr, and mistakenly ended up at a past version of it due to being unaware they had travelled through time. However, he quickly guessed what had happened and was able to return to the Ninth Pass shortly afterwards.
The Time Knot
During the early Third Pass, Telgar Weyrleader D'gan attempted to fight Thread over Crom with the entire dragon population of Telgar Weyr - save for his son D'lin and his dragon Aseth. However, D'gan's dragon Kaloth had fallen ill with the Dragon Plague, this led to every one of their dragons becoming lost between.
Unknown to the other Weyrs, they hadn't gone between forever, instead they had become trapped in a "time knot"; a loop in time somehow created by the fear of the dragons and their riders, which trapped them in an endless cycle of nothingness. This "time knot" would eventually be discovered some time later; when the new Telgar Weyrwoman Fiona became trapped against them while travelling between from the Far Western Continent - it would be later speculated by K'dan that this encounter had actually formed the "time knot". Fiona remained there to allow her dragon Talenth to escape, which alerted the other Weyrs and allowed a group of queen dragons to travel between and break the "time knot"; guiding the lost dragons and their riders home.
However, the danger remained. Despite the freeing of the Telgar Weyr dragonriders, a group of dragonriders who had timed it back to the Second Interval on the Far Western Continent found themselves encountering the "time knot" when attempting to travel forwards to their proper time. After some thought on the matter, it was concluded by K'dan that the "time knot" suggested between was shaped in a specific way that was causing their attempts to travel through time to cross paths with D'gan's dragonriders prior to their rescue. To avoid this, those on the Far Western Continent were forced remain there until the point in time when the dragonriders were rescued from the "time knot".
Side-Effects of Time Travel
Dragonriders who end up remaining in a period of time with another version of themselves are known to experience incredible exhaustion, or "muzzy-headedness". Some become irritable, and cross. This is thought to be caused by the telepathic link between a rider and their dragon inadvertently becoming duplicated and overwhelming the minds of both incarnations of rider and dragon.
A scenario where a rider or dragon travels to a different time without their partner has different effects for both. As seen with Tullea in the Third Pass and Moreta in the Sixth Pass, riders are able to be separated from their dragons in this way without suffering the grief of the dragonless - although still subconsciously becoming aware of the absence; Moreta noted "a curious sense of disorientation within her - a sensation of weightlessness and a growing euphoria, neither of which she had ever experienced before", prior to realizing that her separation from Orlith; who, unknown to her, was dead at this point in time, was the cause of this.
A dragon, on the other hand, if not in constant contact with their rider - like the queen Minith, whose general calmness throughout her various trips between is thought to have been the result of Tullea still being alive at the various points in time they visited - will panic. After Moreta secretly traveled forwards in time to Ista Island; leaving Orlith behind with her clutch, Orlith became distressed after realizing that she could not sense Moreta at Ista Island at the present point in time. Orlith would have gone after Moreta - or at least attempted to find her at Ista Island - if not for the actions of Leri and Holth, who managed to keep her at Fort Weyr until Moreta returned.
It should be thus assumed - for a rider - that the difference between a temporary separation like this and a more permanent separation is that in the former case, the rider knows that their separation is only a temporary thing, and as such, does not fall into despair. On the other hand, the permanently separated rider does not have this comfort, and is instead left with the constant reminder of their loss.
Going Between Forever
Going "between forever" or forever between is something that can happen by accident or intentionally; in both cases resulting in the death of the dragon.
- A dragon and their rider might end up going between forever by accident if they fail to envision their destination properly. Marco Galliani and Duluth became the first dragon/rider pair to make this mistake, when Duluth instinctively leapt between when a sled threatened to hit them. Marco had been leaning against Duluth at the time.
- A dragon will end up going between forever by choice if they either sustain injuries from which they will not recover - such as from a fatal Threadscoring or, as occurred in the Third Pass, severe infection with the Dragon Plague - or if their rider perishes, or is believed dead by the dragon. The latter of these scenarios can prove dangerous; if a rider sustains an injury that renders them unconscious to the point where the dragon cannot feel their presence - as happened with T'mar and Zirenth in the Third Pass, and Giron and his dragon in the Ninth Pass - they may believe them dead and go between, leaving the rider broken upon recovery.
In addition to this, dragons that fail to Impress on the Hatching Grounds - an incredibly rare occurrence that is thought to have only happened in the First Pass or First Interval, and which is mitigated by having a large number of Candidates present at each Hatching - will go between forever.
Several things have been known to prevent a dragon from going between after the death of their rider. As seen in several books taking place during the Third Pass, the combined willpower of other riders and their dragons can prove strong enough to halt a dragon from suiciding. Queen dragons, despite their despair, have been noted to hold enough maternal loyalty to see their hatchlings hatched and Impressed before following their riders unto death in the cold between;
- Morath (Seventh Pass) - Fort Weyr queen in the Seventh Pass; became bound to her eggs after her rider; Nalaya, died of what appeared to be a sudden illness, but which was later revealed to have been poisoning. Morath remained on the Hatching Grounds as the queen egg hatched, but it is not known for certain whether she stayed to witness the rest of her clutch hatch, or whether she went between afterwards.
- Nemorth - Benden Weyr queen in the Eighth Interval; became bound to her eggs after her rider; Jora, died from overeating. Nemorth remained on the Hatching Grounds for the duration of the hatching, but this may have been unintentional as Nemorth is thought to have possibly died by this point in time.
- Orlith - Fort Weyr queen in the Sixth Pass; became bound to her eggs after her rider; Moreta, mistakenly went between forever on Leri's queen Holth. On the day Orlith decided her eggs would hatch, she left her clutch, and travelled with Leri to the place Moreta and Holth had died, where they reunited with their spirits and went between with them.
A similar situation happened towards the end of the Second Interval at High Reaches Weyr, where the aging Weyrwoman Jessala willed herself to stay alive long enough for the eggs of her queen Garirth to hatch, before perishing at the conclusion; sending Garirth between.
As revealed in the short story "Beyond Between", after going between forever, a dragon - and their rider, if they accompanied them - will perish, and encounter "a greyness...blending with the black of between". From this point, a dragon is able to go "Beyond" between, on to what is presumably some form of afterlife. Since not all dragons go between with their riders, but are prevented - by choice - from traveling Beyond without them, it can be assumed that the spirit of a deceased rider will travel Beyond from wherever it is located, and reunite with its dragon once Beyond.
If a dragon - and occasionally their rider - does not travel Beyond for some reason; either by choice or due to confusion, it will be guided to out of between to Paradise River by the spirits of Marco Galliani and Duluth; the first rider and dragon to go between, who have not been able to go Beyond themselves for some unknown reason - Marco himself had come to the odd conclusion that this was linked to the possibility that if not bound to a rider, a dragon would be immortal; possibly suggesting that he hadn't fully accepted his own death.
After perishing, a dragon will partially retain the ability to go between; becoming only able to travel between to the location they went between forever from and back - since Marco Galliani and Duluth went between from Paradise River Stake, they are able to guide other dragons back there - although they are able to reach other locations if a dead dragon who went between from that location can guide them there.
If they choose to return - as Moreta urged Holth to do - they will end up on Pern as little more than a ghost. The exact limitations of this form are not fully known; when Moreta and Holth returned as ghosts to Waterhole Hold, a runnerbeast was continuously aware of their presence, but the holder, Thaniel, was unable to see them until Leri and Orlith arrived at Waterhole Hold to join them; prior to this, he was only aware of a chill when Moreta's ghost touched him, and briefly saw her and Holth's forms when they were illuminated by the light of a full moon - either Timor or Belior. Although it is not clear exactly how, these ghosts are believed to be able to interact with the living to some degree; not only was it implied that deceased dragons at Paradise River occasionally hunted - an instinctive reaction, as they don't eat the dead herdbeast afterwards - but Marco Galliani and Moreta were seen to be able to tend a fire, and even scratch a message in the dirt at Waterhole Hold so that Thaniel would be able to alert Fort Weyr. In addition to this, Leri somehow managed to ride the deceased Holth between after reuniting with her.
Duration of Journeys Between
As mentioned above, the length of time it takes for a dragon to travel from one location to another via between is generally eight to ten seconds - or, as various dragonriders have described it, "Between only lasts as long as it takes to cough three times".
In All the Weyrs of Pern, Aivas concluded that five or so of these seconds were used by the dragons to assimilate their co-ordinates; the remainder was used for the transfer itself, and thus calculated the following;
- Travelling up to 1,600 kilometres takes 1 second of travel.
- Travelling up to 10,000 kilometres takes 2 seconds of travel.
- Travelling up to 100,000 kilometres takes 3.6 seconds of travel.
- Travelling up to 1,000,000 kilometres takes 4.8 seconds of travel.
- Travelling up to 10,000,000 kilometres takes 7-10 seconds of travel.