With eight years to work with, the Pernese were able to work on dragonkind longer before the First Pass begun, and, while they were taken aback by the true perniciousness of their foe (its ability to devour *anything* organic, in particular, including plastic) the damage and shock were nowhere near as severe as for their unfortunate doppelgangers in the canon timestream. They already had a few adult dragonpairs by that time, and while they were no bigger than canon Ruth and greener than than F'lar's two hundred at Nerat, they still managed to make a positive contribution. Knowing *something* was coming, they were able to prepare themselves.
The volcanic eruptions, however, were another matter.
The final version of dragonkind, developed in response to their new data on actual Thread, was never born. The embryos waited, in cold-storage administered by AIVAS.
AIVAS became buried in mud and ash, but, as in canon Pern, merely shut down from lack of sunlight, otherwise remaining mostly functional. The cold-storage room, deep underground to safeguard it from light and dust, was relatively safe. A few things were lost, but the precious dragon embryos, ready for insertion into eggs, were unharmed, their sinecure secure.
After that, Pernese history continues essentially identical to canon Pern, with one major difference. The version of dragonkind alive when the volcanos erupted was intended to be a "demo," very closely drawn from the dragonet stock except larger and with certain adjustments. They were to be 'testing' these adjustments, to be included or edited from the "final version". At the time, they thought they had the luxury. However, now, with the 'final version' embryos buried, there was nothing to be done except continue on as they were. There were five dragon colors, and only the golden queens could perpetuate the species. Eventually, it was forgotten that it had ever been intended to be any other way.
However, there was never an exact prohibition about returning to the Southern Continent passed down to future generations as there was in canon Pern. Hence, in Moreta's time, our history splits drastically from AMC's.
In canon Pern, a storm-lost ship lands in the Southern Continent and brings back a wild animal to the North, unwittingly contracting a novel disease, influenza, in the process. The resulting epidemic devastated the Pernese population.
In our Pern, it happened a few months after the end of the Pass. The Weyrs, Holds, and Crafts were making a joint exploration of the Southern Continent, in part to prove once and for all the question of whether there had been one Crossing or two, but mostly just for the sake of having something important and useful to do, particularly from the Weyrs' perspective. They took the loss of Thread to fight with very mixed feelings, as dragonfolk always do at the end of a Pass. Unfortunately, our Pernese had no more resistence to influenza than AMC's. On the plus side, however, Landing was discovered early into the expedition, and by luck, AIVAS was one of the first things uncovered. With the help of AIVAS, a vaccine was produced for the plague, but it took a long time in the process (educating, gathering materials, producing) and the Pernese population still suffered serious losses. The dragonriders, in particular, were hard hit, as most of the membership of each Weyr had participated in the Southern venture and were thus directly infected. The populations of Hold and Craft were also badly damaged, with wisdom lost forever, but not as badly as canon Pern.
At the same time, since many more people remained in the South, fire-lizards were rediscovered and given their modern name. Several were transferred to the North by the few survivors of the epidemic and they eventually became relatively common by our Ninth Pass.
AIVAS had one more thing to offer the survivors. It revealed that their "version" of dragonkind was in fact a 'prototype', and that the 'final version' remained safe in cold storage. The embryos needed only to be transferred to eggs and incubated, and they would hatch. In theory.
Fortunately, there were fully fifty embryos waiting in cold storage. The Pernese of the day, with AIVAS's help, had just enough biomedical knowledge and skill remaining to accomplish the task, though only fifteen of the eggs hatched. It was enough, for each one of those fifteen was golden, bronze... and violet or red. And these dragons, while clearly from the same genetic base as the current dragons, were also very different in many ways. For Kit Ping, so long ago, had been able to make some final improvements upon the eusocial template of the dragonets before dying, before the eruption buried her work. The new dragons were as small as the First Dragons had been, but the top-sides of their bodies were protected by hollow metallic plates like large scales, their head-knobs were fully developed into true "antlers" of a sort, and their bodies were better conformed, fully capable of graceful ground motion as well as quick, agile flight. The spiraling 'antlers' improved the new dragons' psychic abilities, and by extension those of their riders. And, of course, there were new colors, including a new breeding female. In this way, dragonkind could never be brought so close to extinction so easily as in canon Pern, and they would be more effective at their task of fighting Thread.
Unfortunately, the good luck couldn't last. Only a few sevendays after the new dragons hatched out and Impressed, the volcanos erupted again. The Pernese were forced to flee, and this time, AIVAS was buried under molten rock. It could not have survived, even if the heavy black rock could have been dug out. Worse, many of the people still left in the South died, as AIVAS had lost its seismologic equipment in the first eruption so long ago and was unable to predict the current one. Due to the New Dragon project, many of the Master Healers and other MasterCrafters of the day were present. Very few escaped alive, and even two of the dragonpairs were lost before adult dragons from the Weyrs could arrive to save the rest.
However, they *did* save the rest, and the names of those thirteen dragons -- two golden, four violet, four bronze, and three red -- are remembered all the way to the Ninth Pass as oaths and curses, variably, based on their individual legends, much as Faranth is remembered in canon Pern.
The New Dragons grew and thrived. Despite their small adult size compared to the 'prototype' dragons, they were clearly better-designed for the job. And when the females matured, it was observed that when 'old' dragons mated with 'new' dragons, the clutch invariably followed the 'new' template without exception. The 'old' dragons continued to reproduce amongst themselves as well, and for most of the rest of that Interval, the 'old' dragons predominated. However, about seventy-five years before the next Pass was to begin, a now-common influenza virus in a runnerbeast somewhere in the Northern Continent mutated into a new, more virulent form.
By the time this epidemic was finally controlled with vaccine again (for the memory of the last one and its solution was not so old yet as to have been lost) it was made brutally clear once more that dragonriders are not immune to disease. And, as it turned out, the more intelligent, more empathic new dragons were better able to help their riders survive the illness. While far from all the old dragons and their riders died, enough were lost that, by the time the first Threads of the next Pass began to fall, most of the dragons that rose to meet it were of the new breed. And only new breed dragons rose to meet the last Fall of that Pass.
From then on, Pernese history again continues much like canon Pern. Over time, more knowledge is lost, especially when a third epidemic, this time a different, unnamed disease, strikes toward the end of the next Interval, until Pern slips into a semi-Mideval/Rennaisance tech level in the soon-to-be Ninth Pass. The Weyrs are still recovering their numbers from the last epidemic, as their dragons don't breed as quickly as canon dragons. (They take two and a half years to be old enough to mate and aren't fully physically mature until three.)
Worse, the golden Royal Queens were largely lost in the last epidemic, just fifty years ago, so they've had to rely more and more on the violet Jewel Queens, who cannot lay metallic eggs unless flown by a bronze, and who laid gold eggs so rarely it has never happened in living memory and was generally considered impossible. Slowly, the golden queens became rarer and rarer, until only a handful were left alive, so old they could not produce queen eggs themselves anymore. One by one, their riders died and their dragons with them. By now, barely three years before the Ninth Pass is set to begin, there hasn't been a Royal Queen hatched on Pern in two full human generations. They are beginning to become beasts of legend rather than reality.
That is, until G'jira, rider of bronze Hallenonth and Weyrleader of Howling Weyr, announced to the other Weyrleaders that their junior violet Queen, Sirianasth, had laid 36 eggs in her latest clutch -- including one with an unmistakable metallic gleam.
The news is now spreading across Pern like wildfire. A Royal Queen egg has been laid by a Jewel Queen. The first Royal Queen to be laid in fifty years now lies hardening on the Hatching Ground in Howling Weyr along with her siblings. The Searchriders are going out, scouring Hold and Craft for likely lads and lasses. This is a special clutch, and they are looking for special people to match all the eggs, not just the new Royal Queen. There is also a sense of urgency, for the dragons that hatch from this clutch will mature only just in time for the Ninth Pass, and the Weyrs are still understrength -- the queens have been laying badly for the past ten years, as if something is holding them back, though they cannot say what or why. Sirianasth's clutch is the largest in quite a while, and bodes well for the future. Perhaps the strange malady of the queens is finally lifting. But what was it? Will it return? Will they be able to enlarge their numbers enough to meet Thread when it comes in three short years?
Come find out. Maybe you'll be the one to answer those questions...
Other than their names, the six Weyrs and all the Holds of the North are essentially the same as those in canon Pern. However, as I know AMC is very protective of her world, I have decided to make this one as different as possible without changing the fundamental nature of the world and the stories in order to avoid treading on her intellectual territory. Therefore, I have changed all the names, several things about the dragons, and large parts of the history. Please try to remember that when applying.
However, the geography of the world is the same, and other than filling in a few blanks (such as what animal exactly they get bedfurs from, what medicines they use other than native Pernese things, and what exactly the 'spit canines' and vaguely mentioned 'pet felines' are like) the details of life are mostly the same as in canon Ninth Pass Pern, except, of course, that Thread isn't falling yet. The one major difference is that our Pern has much more resemblance to the Pern of Dragonflight than the Pern of later books -- it has a martial history, with Holds as city-states complete with armies to defend themselves from other city-states. There has never been a "world war" equivalent, but occasional border disputes, skirmishings, and conquerors certainly have occurred. Yes, this means that our equivalent of Fax, a man called Ferrukh, is still in power as the game opens for play. However, while his conquering of seven Holds is still unprecedented, he didn't have as easy a time of it in our world because there was a history of martial conflict amongst the Holds. This makes his accomplishment all the more formidable.
Perhaps Ferrukh will meet his end at the knife of a Searching dragonrider, as Fax did. Or perhaps not. We'll have to see, won't we?