There are thirteen Starholds, one for each Sign. Many are housed in the old Weyrs, but a few are housed in newer locations.
Bear Starhold- High in the freezing mountains in the former High Reaches Weyr lies Bear Starhold. The climate is harsh, and the dragons here spend little time outside. Only the subterranean hot spring-fueled lake makes conditions livable, but it’s still not a favored posting.
Chisel Starhold- In the forbidding dry mountains of the Benden range lies the sheer cliffs of Chisel Starhold, once the premier Weyr of Pern, home of the great Queen Ramoth. Here the dragons have quite a bit of freedom with the Weyrbowl as no Holders are allowed within. But extended flying must be done at night or in seclusion.
Rabbit Starhold- Ierne Weyrhold was one of the most westerly places where dragons still live, an island between two rivers on the Western continent, now the home of Rabbit Starhold. As its not a traditional Weyr, the dragons had to dig out their own abodes in the sandy soil and cover their wallows with structures made from canes and palm fronds. Understandably, the security is much tighter than some of the other Starholds, with no habitations permitted within several miles.
Arrow Starhold- This Starhold is one of the smallest and the most highly sought after posting. Isolated as it is on the Far Western Continent, the dragons here have near complete freedom to fly and swim as they please, though food takes a bit more work as it must be grown or hunted on site or flown in on dragonback.
Crane Starhold- Though the Eastern Ring islands are a lovey place to vacation, nothing can be grown there, and there is little fresh water except what falls as rain. Those posted here get pretty tired of the taste of fish, and with no more than five dragons posted here at a time, it can be fairly lonely.
Dolphin Starhold- As the former site of Ista Weyr, Dolphin Starhold has the advantages of a pleasant climate as well as a comfortable and semi-private living situation. But the close proximity to Ista Hold means that the dragons are confined inside the Weyrbowl except for high altitude night flying.
Dragon Starhold- Dragon Starhold, housed in the ancient Honshu Weyrhold, is the chief Starhold, and the center of the new Star Sign based culture. This is where the Queen dragons live and where all Hatchings are held. It is a large complex, as large as any of the Old Weyrs, with a hatching ground and pasture for herdbeasts, and it is isolated on a plateau that is only reached easily by dragonback. Miles of jungle surround it, so as important of a building as it is to Pernese culture, nearly no one outside the Starcraft has seen it.
Furnace Starhold- The area around the former Igen Weyr has got hotter and drier, if possible, over the Turns. No one but the Starcrafters lives there, and so they have plenty of freedom. Unfortunately the weather is so unpleasant, the dragons are disinclined to use said liberty and mostly fly at night and sleep or lay in the lake all day. Their representatives, usually support staff posted on a rotating schedule, maintain an office in the town surrounding Igen Hold, which is not nearly as unpleasant as the Starhold.
Foal Starhold- The temperate plains and forests of Telgar surround the eroded volcano that once was a Weyr of renown. Because the surrounding area is so heavily populated, the security is tight. So, though the dragons here at least have the freedom of the Bowl, all flying is done far out to sea or in the polar regions.
Fox Starhold- It is somewhat surprising that no one thought to build a Weyrhold here before, as the island in the middle of the Sea of Azov is a large extinct volcano perfect for dragonkind, and the forests all around the sea are filled with game. But only recently has habitation gone this far south, so the woods are still fairly empty and the dragons are occasionally permitted aloft at night.
Crow Starhold- At the north end of the Sea of Azov lies the remains of Xanadu Weyrhold, ravaged by the years of war, and renamed Crow Starhold. The ruin would be avoided by people even if it weren’t a Starhold, creepy as it is, but security is tight anyway, to protect the dozen or so dragons and accompanying riders and staff who live there.
Chameleon Starhold- The former Southern Weyr lies in a box canyon surrounded by an enclosed plateau reachable only by dragon. It’s a veritable fortress and quite a good hiding spot as well. Thus, it is set up as a last refuge for dragonkind, housing not only the secondary Hatching Ground, but a miles long tunnel system that allows escape from Dragon Starhold as well as providing storage. Also, all initiate dragonriders are trained here to ensure their safety.
Harp Starhold- The hallowed halls of Pern’s very first Weyr is now only a minor outpost in the Starhold’s net of power. It’s close proximity to both Fort Hold and the Hall of Science and Art make it quite risky to house more than a few dragons at a time. But plenty of support staff dwell here, both to spy on one of Pern’s biggest population centers, and to provide the star charts and advice that the citizens require.
Life in the Starholds
Entering the Starhold
As discussed elsewhere,, unwanted children can be given to the Starholds any time from birth to age seven. Only under extreme extenuating circumstances might one be taken older. (such as as trespassing teenager who is caught and then Searched while a clutch is on the sands.) In any case, the process is usually a bit more involved than leaving a bundle on the doorstep. The child and both parents must come to the local Starsmith Office (every major and minor hold has one) and present proof that they are indeed the guardians of said child. Usually this is accomplished via a sealed note from the Medical Hall or Lord Holder. Then they sign away their rights to the child, and if the child is old enough to have an opinion, the child may also affirms that this is their wish.
After the goodbyes are said, the child is taken to a dormitory and given food, a bath, a haircut, and new clothes marking them as a Starhold acolyte. They are kept confined in the dormitory until the end of that month, to give their parents time to change their minds, but are treated well, given toys, games, and books, and often assessed by the Starhold representatives for their physical and mental skills. At the end of the month, all of the children are transported to the nearest major Hold for the Claiming ceremony. Usually there’s no more than 5-7 per month from each Hold. During the ceremony, each child’s name is read, they and their parents are presented with a Starhold medallion, and they are told which Starhold they are being sent to. This will likely be the last time they ever see their parents.
That night, the children are loaded into carts and driven to a desolate area. There, under cover of darkness they meet their first dragon and are taken by dragonback to their new home, the Starhold.
Once there, they join all the other children under the age of twelve as an official Starhold Acolytes, considered the same as a child born in the Starhold. Those under four Turns of age are kept in a communal crèche and given a fairly nurturing and supportive environment, if a little heavy-handed in the pro-Starhold rhetoric. At the age of four Turns, formal education begins. Most lessons are the same ones any Pernese child would learn, but the history and political subjects are told more truthfully, though with obvious pro-Starhold and pro-dragon bias. Star chart memorization also begins at an early age. Children of this age are given a few candlemarks of simple chores per day, such as laundry folding, message carrying, dragon washing, and animal feeding. Their care and discipline is managed by a foster parent, usually a member of the Support Staff or an aged dragonrider. As the child grows, both their chores and classes become more involved and they are encourage to try their hand at the many Crafts that the Starhold offers. The Starhold has its own Medical Hall, including dragonhealers, its own Education Hall, its own veterinarians and animal husbanders, its own printers, its own smiths, tanners, almost everything. And of course, there is always the Starcraft, available only to those who Impress a dragon.
Novices and Initiates.
At the age of twelve, there is a graduation ceremony and the acolytes now become novice Starcrafters. They leave the care of their foster parents and move to the novice barracks under the care of the Novice Master. Most of their regular education ceases and they have classes more specific to Starcrafting and dragon care. Chores continue, but are often more physical, and usually involve some aspect of dragon care or Starcrafting. They are also strongly encouraged to take a craft, and often one of the masters will have already spoken for them. If not, an aptitude test is available to help with craft placement. Those who have no craft will be in a bad position if they don’t Impress, as they will be relegated to the most menial and unpleasant tasks.
And Impression is by no means guaranteed. The single Queen, golden Golauth, is not the most healthy creature and though she lays clutches once every couple of years, they hold no more than fifteen eggs at best. When over a hundred Novices typically stand for each clutch, the chances can seem pretty slim. And if, after standing for 6 to 7 clutches, a Novice turns 25 without Impressing, they are forever relegated to the ranks of Support Staff. Support Staff are the crafters, outside representatives, and even the servants of those who do Impress. For though one might rise to high rank within the Support Staff, even the youngest dragonriders will always have higher status.
When a clutch is laid, every Novice is flown to Dragon Starhold to get a chance to touch the eggs. To avoid notice, they are transported in stages. The oldest novices go first, while the twelve year olds may not arrive until a few days before the Hatching. Only the Novices, Novice Masters, and residents of Dragon Starhold attend, and it is a solemn affair, unlike the joyous occasions of old. Those who do Impress become Initiate Starcrafters, and their lives are drastically altered. The next morning, they take their first journey with their new lifemates, a fifty mile, ten hour cart journey via underground tunnel to Chameleon Starhold, the secluded fortress of dragonkind, where all Initiates spend their two Turns of training.
Unlike the Weyrlings of old, the Initiates have it fairly easy. Their chores are all taken over by Support Staff. During the first few months, they do nothing but attend classes and bond with their growing lifemates. Gradually, the dragons and their lifemates begin physical drills together, learning to work as a team, flaming, flying, hunting, fishing and going between. They also learn combat, both between humans and between dragons, just in case the bad days return. They also learn the details of the Starcraft, both using and maintaining the great telescopes in every Starhold, as well as making star charts for use by the citizenry. By the time they graduate to full dragonriders, they will be the equivalent of a journeyman in the Starcraft.
After two Turns as Initiates, the dragons are fully grown and they and their riders are ready for their first posting. The graduation to the rank of Curate Starcrafter is an event filled with pomp and circumstance to say the least. And they next day, the Curates take the trip between to their new home. Postings are mostly based on the skill of the rider and the availability of a suitable mentor, but their have always been accusations of favoritism. The Curate spends three Turns being mentored by older riders, going to a new Starhold every Turn and at the end of this period, barring any mishaps, they graduate to Prelate Starcrafters and receive a more permanent posting. They can apply for transfer ever five Turns, and these are nearly always granted.
Prelate is the highest rank most dragonriders will ever achieve. Unlike traditional Weyrs, advancement isn’t dependent on the color of the dragon, but on the riders’ skill as a Starcrafter. Considering the amount of mathematics required, it’s not every person that can excel. Occasionally, a rider can get promoted based on skills in combat, flying, or even friendship with a more skilled rider. And the Queenrider and the rider of her mate co-rule Dragon Starhold as a matter of tradition. Every other Starhold is rule by an Archon. each Archon has one to three Discipless as their lieutenants, and these Disciples each have one to three Cantors to assist them. Archons serve for life, and they are chosen by a council of the other Archons from among the ranks of Disciples.
The one thing that isn’t tolerated is endangering the secrecy of dragonkind. If any dragonrider is found to have broken any of the rules regarding secrecy, they are likely to be sent to a permanent posting in High Reaches or Igen. There are even rumors that some riders or the unfortunate citizens that discover them are never seen again.