F'lar has visited four of Fax's Holds and was now approaching Ruatha. He considers to himself the fortune that he was chosen for the High Reaches, as the other Wingleaders would've reacted poorly to Fax's tactics.
The Weyrs had degenerated slowly over the Turns, not solely from the "Holding Lords" (sic), but also from incompetent Weyrwomen and leaders such as R'gul, insistant on "not bothering" the Holders, and the over-emphasis on the Games. It had gotten to the point where the Weyr received very little of its traditional tithe, and an upstart like Fax could conquer seven holds, something that would never have happened if the Weyr had maintained its traditional position. One Hold, One Lord was the traditional form. Along the way, the Dragons scorch growths.
F'lar is stunned at the poor state of Ruatha when they cross into it. He was sure that in Ruatha, he'd find his Weyrwoman. Fax scornfully describes Ruatha's decline. F'lar and F'nor, along with their dragons, however, do sense a subtle power in Ruatha. F'lar tells F'nor that the entire valley should be searched.