When is a legend a legend, when is a myth a myth, how old and disused must a fact be before it is relegated to the realm of fiction. In a universe where technology caused destruction, war and death, a few settlers decided to leave this harsh universe and settle on a place were they could return to their more humble simple origins.
When mankind first discovered P.e.r.n. the third planet of the sun Rukbat, in the Sagittarian Sector, they paid little attention to the eccentric orbit of another satellite in the system. And Pern itself was regarded as of little interest as it had little metals or useful fuels or materials.
Settling the new planet, adjusting to its differences, the colonists spread out across the southern, most hospitable continent. Then disaster struck in the form of a rain of mycorrhizoid organisms, found frozen in the Oort cloud of the Rukbat system, and carried by the rogue planet named the Red star to Pern where it melts and voraciously devours all but stone, metal and water. The initial losses were staggering. But fortunately for the young colony, 'Thread', as the settlers called the devastating showers, was not entirely invincible: both water and fire would destroy the menace on contact.
Using their old-world ingenuity and genetic engineering, the settlers altered an indigenous life form than resembled the dragons of legend; making it bigger and more intelligent forming the first phase of their defence. Bonded with a human at birth, these enormous creatures became Pern's most effective weapons against Thread. Able to chew and digest a phosphine-bearing rock, the dragons could literally breathe fire and sear the air borne Thread before it could reach the ground. Able not only to fly but to teleport through a place known as /between/, the dragons could manoeuvre quickly to avoid injury during their battles with Thread. And their telepathic communication enabled them to work with their riders and with each other to form extremely efficient fighting units known as wings.
The second phase of their defence would take a lot longer and was forgotten when the people of Pern moved to the safer mountains and extinct volcanoes of the north. Thread devoured with mindless voracity all organic matter and once grounded, burrowed and proliferated with terrifying speed. So a symbiote of the same strain was developed to counter this parasite, and the resulting 'grub' was introduced into the soil of the southern continent. It was planned that the dragons would be a visible protection, charring Thread while it was still skyborne and protecting the dwellings and the livestock of the colonists. The grub-symbiote would protect vegetation by devouring what Thread managed to evade the dragons' fire.
Being a dragonrider required special talents and complete dedication. Thus the dragonriders became a separate groups – set apart from those who held land against the depredations of Thread, or those whose craft skills produced other necessities of life in their crafthalls.
Over the centuries, the settlers forgot their origins in their struggle to survive against Thread, which fell across the land whenever the Red star's eccentric orbit coincided with Pern's. This event known as a Pass happened every 200 years or turns, and lasted for 50 turns.
The original colonists soon outgrew their first settlement in the North, Fort, and spread first to Ruatha and then to other holds. But the winged, tailed, fire-breathing dragons had by then been bred to a size that required more spacious accommodations than the cliffside holds could provide. But ancient cave-pocked cones of extinct volcanoes, one high above the first Fort, the other in the Benden mountains, proved to be adequate and required only a few improvements to be made habitable. However, such projects took the last of the fuel for the great stone-cutters, which had been used for wholesale cliff excavations. Subsequent holds and Weyrs had to be hand-hewn.
The dragons and their riders in their high places and the people in their cave holds went about their separate tasks, and each developed habits that became custom, which solidified into tradition as incontrovertible as law. Recollections of Earth receded further from Pernese memories with each generation until knowledge of their origins degenerated into a myth muddied by the memory of the movement from the southern Continent. The significance of the Southern Hemisphere and the instructions formulated by the colonial defenders of dragons and grub became garbled and lost in the more immediate struggle to survive.
By the seventh Pass of the Red star a complicated socio-political-economic structure had been developed to deal with the recurrent evil. The Weyrs, as the old volcanic habitations of the dragonfolk were called, pledged themselves to protect Pern, each Weyr having a geographical section literally under its wing. The rest of the population agreed to tithe support to the Weyrs since the dragonmen did not have arable land in their volcanic homes, and could not afford to take time away from nurturing their dragons to learn other trades during peacetime. And could not take time away from protecting the planet during Passes.
Settlements; called Holds, developed wherever natural caves were found some of course more extensive or strategically placed than others. It took a strong man to exercise control over terrified people during Thread attacks; it took wise administration to conserve victuals when nothing could be safely grown, and it took extra-ordinary measures to control a population and keep it productive and healthy until such time as the menace passed.
Certain rights and privileges accrued to different leaders of Holds and Masters of Craft and, naturally, to the dragonriders whom all Pern looked to for protection during the Threadfalls.
Candidates Must be in good health and working order. They can also not be pregnant as they would not be able to take care of their dragon. There should be enough woman from search not to need any pregnant candidates. The job of weyrwoman is difficult, she must manage and entire weyr and deal with may excutive problems, gold riders would therefor not be stupid or incabable of doing such things.
'Drudge' is simply a name for someone who doesn't have the will, desire or ability to do anything else, they would simply be people that are either happy with the simple life of a drudge or are unwilling or incapable of doing anything else. They would do the jobs most others don't want to do simply for a somewhere to sleep, a roof over their heads and some food. They would usually be in this position because it was their choice, there are plenty of crafts as there are jobs on earth and they simply choose not to do one, there would not actually be that many of them. But as we all know there are some jobs that someone has to do.
The information below is taken from 'The dragonlovers guide to Pern' and my memory (which may be slightly wrong) feel free to correct on any errors in the information.
Bovines (cattle) Origional settlers brought long-haired scotch cattle with short, curled horns, a small but tough breed. They then carried the ova of every type of cattle suitable to milk, meat, or hide.
Canines (dogs) The breed chosen was a ferret-dog, jack russel terrier type that would kill the snakes that were attacking the nomad folk who slept in the open. Later dogs were employed to chase and kill tunnel snakes. When the people moved to the north some dogs were left to go wild, some survive still in wild packs.
Chikens Turkey fertilised ova failed to mature. Only exist in warmer climes and batteries where they are protected from wherries.
Crawlies Stinging pest, 'tiny creatures like six-legged geckos with suction cup feet' (DLG)
Dolphins Metasynth enhanced intelligence of origional dolphins, they are sentient and able to communicate with humans. (more information can be found on the dolphin craft information pages)
Dragons When the dragonets mustered to protect the settlements from Thread some people saw their potential. Afterwards the little flits stank of sulphuric fumes, they also regurgitated sand after flaming the Thread. It was discovered that their second stomach had evolved to contain and mix phosphine-bearing rock with internal acids to produce flame. The rock is found easily on the surface of volcanic terrain and their back teeth are strong enough to masticate it. Dragonets look like the origional dragon myths of earth with for limbs and wings, and are with the use of these rocks capable of breathing fire. (for more information see dragon info)
Ducks Very few ducks survived to present pass. Doves and pigeons didn't survive to mate.
Earthworms Burrowers filling the same niche as on earth
Felines (cats) Felines were also used against the vermin, Tabby cats were thawed out and imediatly began to produce litters.
The engineer of the 'grubs' also experimented with metasynth on cheetah genes, despite knowing that cats took badly to metasynth. His creation however killed him and escaped, they bred unseen until the sixth pass, they are very dangerous and live in wild packs, they can easily kill a man and appear in frequent books where people caught alone are almost as good as dead.
Fingertails Edible small carp-like fish with a whippy tail.
Firelizards/Flits/dragonets 'Graceful flying creatures'. It was discovered that the hatchlings would Impress on the first being that fed them, human or dragonet. They are self-sufficient and fly almost from the moment of hatching, they hunt for themselves after accepting the first meal offered by the impressor.
A fair will begin humming when a hatching was imminent (can also predict human and animal births and occasionally hum for those aswell) They surround the eggs with a ring of seaweed and fill it with small fish and crawling creatures to give the hatchlings their first meal. The hatchlings have a fearce birth hunger. Although both greens and golds lay eggs, the greens tend to take less care over them, they choose perhaps less suitable sites and may even forget about the clutch, this means many greens clutches do not survive anyway (survival of the fittest) golds however care for the clutch and take care over the choice of nesting ground. Gold clutches are also larger with larger eggs and dragonets, greens lay small clutches with smaller eggs. Greens NEVER lay gold eggs and very few if any bronzes, the dragonets themselves are also smaller. (more info under Dragon information)
Once they survive their first moments flits can live for centuries barring trauma. They have a pentadactyl claw for catching land prey, with 4 fingers and a thumb (this was genetically engineered by kitty ping from the tridactyl claw of the origional dragonets.)
Fish Many earth varieties were introduced unchanged and pronounced edible, surviving on protien rich plankton.
Grubs Render a piece of protected ground inimical to Thread, engineered by a renegade biologist/botanist. He left no records of his research however, but he calculated that it would take four hundred years or until the middle of the Second Interval for the grubs to multiply enough to protect all of the Southern Continent. 2500 years after landing the southern continent unchecked had become a dense jungle due to the grubs (remarked on by Piemur in his exploration of the south in Dragondrums)
Llamas Served as beasts of burden and provided hair for spinning.
Millipedes Scavenge among seaweed or fallen leaves
Mycelium (glows) Luminous fungus, tiny spores but they retain their glow for an unusually long time, and are found in enormous quantities in caves.
Ovine (Sheep) Various kinds, long and short-fleeced. With exception of Kashmir all the goats bred survived. Some goats were left behind and formed wild herds that still survive.
Packtails Tasty but dangerous barbed fish, (looks like monkfish).
Porcines (pigs) Useful as disposal systems. Not as many were bred and so pork became a special treat.
Rollers A type of wood louse
Runnerbeasts (horses) Strong but fairly small horses were bred, blending Connemara and welsh strains for riding. Shire horses were bred as draft animals and for gypsy wagons (trader caravans!). During the plague all true horses died out and only runnerbeasts remained.
Sandworms Burrowers filling the same niche as on earth
Segmented worms Flat segmented worms scavenging on seaweed and fallen leaves.
Snakes Turtle-like faces living in jungles. Most poisonous and leaving track marks from the toe teeth along their length, on their prey. Similar but much larger snakes lived in rivers and seas.
Spiders (gossamer spinners) Surived to present pass but became known as gossamer spinners.
Spiderclaws Resembled crabs with many pairs of jointed legs.
Springs Insects hanging in spiral loops until they found something or someone to cling to. Have an irritating, prickly bite that has to be treated with and intihistamine cream.
Thread Though not technically a fauna of Pern, it clearly deserves mention.
Trundlebug Most active Pern pollinator, eats parasites, carry pollen, turns soil. It does the job of a bee, earthworm, and ladybug in one. Biologists encouraged it to frequent the earth crops presumably to keep off parasites. They had elaborate camouflage, there were black, brown, sand, blue-green and crystal-clear varieties.
Tunnel snakes Have six legs! most numerous pests, appearing in caves and stony outcroppings. Numerous varieties, most 2-4 feet long. Some had scaled others skin. One type had very long legs, although most were short and stubby for crawling along the ground. Many had sharp, powerful front claws for gripping and rending. The rear legs pushed the tunnel snakes' skinny bodies through the smallest openings. The middle pair stablilized them. Most had hearing organs on their chests, but some nearly blind deep tunnel varieties had six ear-spots. Water-dwellling tunnel snakes are poinsonous and it is dangerous if not treated promptly. The flesh swells painfully. All have and ungulate jaw to swollow prey whole. They can go for long periods without feeding.
V'TOLS (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) Double pair of wings, small flying insect.
Wherries Predatory avians, the main hunter/scavengers of Pern. Killed large numbers of imported animals during the first months of settlement. Had no feathers, they were covered with thick proto-feathers, multiple tufts like marabou. They have cartilaginous/membranous wings under the thick down. They have six limbs (two pairs of legs and wings) larger powerfull back legs for take-off. The front feet have a mobile claw and two locked claws which act like pincers. They turn canibal when one is killed or injured. Nest in caves or rock outcroppings. Eat almost anything. Come in various sizes.
Thread begins as a frozen spore in the Oort cloud through which the Red Star passes. The frozen lumbs are caught in the tail of tthe red star. They become heated and elongated by Perns atmosphere and gravity, and fall to the surface of pern as the familiar thread-like strands. It only lives about 20 minutes unless it is fed Carbon compounds. Not all types of Thread are dangerous some fall to the ground and die on the surface. Threadfall is planet-wide and the incursions would continue for 50 years and return every 200 years, and unending menace.
It was noticed origionally by dolphins that fish and sea animals swarmed to eat Thread falling in water. Hot thermals from forest fires also appeared to ignite Thread. Wet or very cold weather destroyed it in the air and rain or snow caused decayed Thread to fall from the sky. Cold also freezes it into harmless black 'crack-dust'
Metal, water and stone are unaffected. Therefore caves, stone buildings, tin roofed huts, lakes and rivers were the only potentially safe locations.
Flamethrowers were designed with could fire Nitric acid (HNO3) later known as agenothree.
But a potential rescue was only thougth of when people observed flits producing internal gas from chewing phosphine bearing rock, that ignited into flame upon contact with oxygen.
Watch-whers were first described as ugly dragons, and were considered a mistake.
They have stumpy pinions for wings that look functional but are not very. They are approximatly the size of low-slung horses. They have only two claws. They can fly - but only late at night and not very high, only because the air is heavy. Also they can go /between/, the person who is bonded to them just has to picture a persons heat signature and the Watch Wher can take the image and go to them.
Despite being nearly blind in light, they can see well in the dark even total darkness. This is because Watch Wher's "See" heat, when they look at a human they see a rainbow of colors. red being the hottest point and blue being the coolest. They can transmit these images to their human counter parts.. Their sense of smell and hearing are far keener than their sight and although they are not as intelligent as dragons they serve a purpose. They do however have the same devotion and empathy as dragons.
Watch-Whers are very territorial and will attack people if they feel they are threatening them. In their clutchs only a few eggs mature and hatch, a potential partner to a watch-wher must been accepted by the gold that laid the clutch if they wish to take away an egg.
Due to their excellent sight, smell and hearing, they are used in mines to save and protect the miners, they are also used in holds and halls to protect and gaurd at night, they are usually bonded with a member of the lord holder's family, but this is not always the case.
Watch Whers pick a name that matches their humans, and thier names always end in "sk". Or if the Watch Wher is used to protect a major hold then thier name will be based upon that and will always be bonded with someone from the Hold's Blood Line. Sometimes a Watch Wher can outlive their human partnersand could rebond with another human - and their name would change. They can also communicate with Dragons - how is unknown. Watch Wher's will commincate with their bonded humans almost like firelizards - but the bonded human just sort of knows what the Watch Wher is trying to tell them.