Last chapter, the full plot of the book was revealed: Plague! The Black Death equivalent of Pern may have arrived on an unknown creature from the sea, and many are already infected, with several deaths recorded.
Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter V: Content Notes:
Chapter V opens with Moreta being roused from sleep by Orlith and Sh’gall. The Weyrleader believes one of the riders may have brought the infection to Fort Weyr, and he’s having a panic. Moreta tries to calm him down and get useful information out of him, since he’s already gone into hyperspace and bathed in a very cold lake, thinking it will kill the infection. Moreta does actually get useful information from him about symptoms, incubation periods, and methods of suggested treatment before he stumbles off, still fully in panic and with some wine in him. Moreta goes looking for Berchar, a blue rider, somewhat incensed that the Gather was allowed to continue with the knowledge that infectious things might have happened, although Sh’gall seems convinced that nobody knew while they were going on.
There’s a stop at the recordkeeper for the Weyr, the previous Weyrwoman, Leri. Leri is getting on in years and has less joint function in the body, but it appears that her mind works perfectly fine. She has no gossip or information from the Records about any previous epidemics, but between Moreta and Leri, they quickly come to the realization of how bad everything could be and how far things may have already spread. Leri asks Moreta to send up the oldest Records she can find to see if there’s anything in them about a disease like what the planet is suffering from.
Heading back toward task, Moreta finds the Weyrlingmaster and explains the situation to him, including the need for records, which he takes on and will task his weyrlings to do once they’ve finished loading the firestone sacks and washed their hands. Still trying to figure out how not to panic everyone, Moreta stops for breakfast and tells the Weyr herdsman what’s going on, and he’ll go check the herds for sickness.
Finally, Moreta realizes she should tell her headwoman, Nesso, about this, and to phrase it as a request for a diet change, since “One of her most important duties as Weyrwoman was altering that diet from season to season.” The more I hear what the duties of a Senior Weyrwoman are, the more I’m surprised they get out at all, with all the micromanagement that they are responsible for.
Nesso already knows, having stayed up the night before and heard Sh’gall banging about in the beginnings of his panic. Of course, even in the middle of epidemic possibilities, there’s still time for snark:
Moreta knew very well why Nesso imposed on herself the night-hearth duty on a Gather night. The prying woman loved to catch people sneaking in or out; that knowledge gave her a feeling of power.
“Who else in the Weyr knows?”
“Whoever you’ve been telling before you came to me.” And she cast a dark look over her shoulder at Peterpar, who was trudging out of the Cavern.
“What did you actually hear Sh’gall saying?” Moreta knew Nesso’s penchant for gossip and also her fallibility in repeating it correctly.
“That there’s an epidemic on Pern and everyone will die,” Nesso gave Moreta a look of pure indignation. “Which is downright foolish.”
Nesso is soon convinced of the seriousness of the epidemic, but believes that Weyr people are hardy and not likely to fall ill to the sickness. Nesso seems quite sensible in this exchange and not likely to contribute to the panic. I still don’t see what justification Moreta has for being so snarky about her.
Having informed everyone but Berchar, Moreta asks for a lift from his dragon to the right place. Where she finds out from S’gor that Berchar has the infection and has been trying to medicate himself back to health, using things that Moreta knows and one thing she doesn’t. Having convinced herself of the reality of Berchar’s sickness by peering in at him, Moreta leaves instructions to talk with him once his fever breaks.
She heads to the storehouses to check on her supplies of medicine, then back to her Cavern to sleep, with Orlith encouraging her to not fret and to get rest. And, as the last chapter ended, this one also ends with the viewpoint character getting sleep and without much action.