Four Weyrleaders are gathered at Fort Weyr, the leaders of Fort, Benden, Telgar and Ista. Igen has been abandoned, and High Reaches has closed itself off from outside contact for the past three Turns. K'lior of Fort is concerned that his Weyr is still light. K'lior has argued that the Werys should, at least at the beginning of the Pass, pool their resources, which D'gan refused, though he offered to loan him some of his own Dragons if needed.
We are introduced to Lorana, a young woman with two fire-lizards sketching pictures of insects. She is friends with an older bluerider named J'trel. J'trel was to take Lorana to a ship, the Wind Rider. J'trel, however, overslept and missed the tide. Therefore, he timed it. After they land, Talith takes off to rest somewhere. As he does so, he coughs softly. J'trel tells her that dragons sometimes get a bit of a cough, but it doesn't last long.
In their conversation, it is revealed that there had been a plague a few Turns back. The Dragonriders had been careful to avoid the disease, and were blamed for allowing more people to die than otherwise would've.
J'trel tells Lorana about timing it. He explains that it's impossible to use the ability to change the past. He knew because he'd attempted it once.
J'trel remembers how he met Lorana, after delivering the news of K'nad's death to his family. Lorana had lost her father, Sannel, about a sevenday earlier in an accident with a herdbeast. The accident had nearly killed her, and had snapped Grenn, her fire-lizard's wing. Lorana had prevented her fire-lizard from going between after the injury, and had done all she could to splint his wing. His wing eventually recovered.
About two sevendays after they met, Lorana told him about what happened to her father. She had lost the rest of her family to the Plague twelve Turns back. J'trel told her that she could be Weyrwoman.
More background information is given on the Plague. J'trel suggeted that Lorana should draw all the creatures of Pern.
J'trel's reminiscing is interrrupted by Lorana, returning us to the present. J'trel brings Lorana to the Wind Rider. She meets Captain Tanner, a young man somewhere around her own age. Tanner is surprised that the healer J'trel had told him about was a woman. A seaman by the name of Minet tells her that the ship was built special by "Lord Holder Tillek - the Masterfisher himself". It is not clear if Tillek is the Lord Holder's name, or if it's a title for the Lord Holder of Tillek.
The ship begins its shakedown cruise.