Kindan is an apprentice harper at the Harper Hall but he is finding the lessons very difficult and although he has his friends, Nonala, Kelsa and Verilan, he also has enemies, such as the bully Vaxoram. Things begin to improve for Kindan when he beats Vaxoram in a duel and Vaxoram becomes first his servant and then gradually his trusted friend. Then Kindan impresses a fire-lizard and becomes the proud owner of the magnicent Valla. At the hatching he meets Koriana, daughter of Lord Holder Bemin of Fort Hold. She also impresses and she and Kindan fall in love, but her parents disapprove and she has to return to Fort Hold. Then a plague begins to spread across Pern, killing nearly everyone infected. Kindan and his friends search the harper records to see if they can find a cure, but all they can find is mention of a similar plague over a hundred Turns past. As the plague gets worse Kindan and Vaxoram are sent to Fort Hold to help tend the sick. Kindan will be reunited with Koriana, but will she be free of the plague, and will he be able to find a cure before more people die?