Wher Anatomy

Like dragons, whers are carnivorous, oviparous, warm-blooded animals engineered from Pern's native firelizards. They share the same basic body shape: four legs and two wings, although that is where the resemblance ends. Whers are much heavier-built than dragons, with a build more proportioned to running than flying, and their wings are stunted and incapable of true flight. Some whers can use their wings for short hopping glides, but they are primarily land animals. Wher feet lack opposable digits, with only two toes apiece; these toes have large pads of thick, sturdy hide to act as natural shock absorbers and allow them to run comfortably over any terrain.

Whers are nocturnal and photophobic, preferring to operate only at night. In addition to a keen sense of smell, whers can see partway into the infrared spectrum, allowing them to sense heat as well as light. However, they are mostly blind in bright sunlight unless they are equipped with eye protection. Unlike dragons and firelizards, wher eyes are smooth rather than faceted, but they still show varying colors depending on the mood of the wher. The faster the colors shift or swirl, the more excited or agitated the wher. Typical wher eye-colors and what they indicate are as follows:

  • Blue and Green: Contentment, happiness, excitement
  • Yellow: Fear, worry
  • Orange: Agitation, aggression, hunger
  • Red: Hunger, anger, aggression
  • Purple: Mating lust
  • Grey: Extreme fear or pain; grey eyes indicate a dire situation
  • Rainbow: Impression

Like firelizards, whers can breathe fire by chewing a phosphine-bearing rock called firestone, which reacts with an acid in a specialized second stomach to produce a volatile gas that can be exhaled at will and ignites upon contact with air. Whers cannot digest firestone, and chewed residue must be regurgitated.

Wher hide is thick and leathery, and less prone to drying out or cracking than dragon hide. Whers can still benefit from regular oiling, and many of them enjoy it, but it is not a requirement for their health. Some whers have wrinkled or ridged hides, while others are smoother, depending on breed and bloodline. Originally, whers came in five colors: gold, bronze, brown, blue, and green. With the rediscovery of AIVAS and the ensuing experimentation with genetic tinkering, wherhandlers added three new colors to the mix: iron, copper, and silver.

Wher Behavior


Whers are capable of limited teleportation by use of an extradimensional space known as between. This ability is one they share with firelizards and dragons; a wher can jump to any place it has seen or has been given a clear mental picture of. Whers are generally more leery of between than dragons, and will not use it unless absolutely necessary. They must be able to get off the ground to make the jump, which may necessitate a short run-up or a good tailwind for the less flight-capable.


Whers are innately telepathic, capable of sending images and emotions to the minds of humans and dragonkin around them. Unlike dragons, whers are not born understanding human language. Feral whers who do not Impress will communicate like firelizards, using images and feelings exclusively. Whers who bond to a human will pick up language over their first few months of life. Fluency varies by individual, with some whers eventually developing near-perfect grammar, and others never bothering to use more than a few simple words and phrases.


Whers of all colors reach sexual maturity roughly around eighteen months of age. Female whers upon reaching maturity often undergo a temporary behavior shift: the females, especially larger or more aggressive ones, may begin deliberately instigating fights among males to gauge their strength and prowess as potential mates. (This also makes it very obvious to the handler, who can then begin making arrangements.) This lasts for about a week or two, and may be accompanied by a deepening or intensifying in hide color, often described as "glowing."

As whers are flightless, they participate in Runs instead of Flights. The female will lead her suitors a merry chase over whatever course is available. (Ideally, this will be the wilderness outside the Weyr, but Runs have occurred through human-built caverns and corridors before - to the great upset of all.) Runs are primarily a contest of speed and tenacity, although there is also an element of tracking: the males must be able to pursue their quarry without losing her, even through unfamiliar or difficult terrain. Male whers will generally run until a winner is picked or they drop from exhaustion, although some may try to force their competition to drop out prematurely. Minor claw or bite wounds are extremely common, though serious injuries are rare.

Unlike dragons and firelizards, whers do not mate in the air. Instead, the female will draw her chosen mate off to a secluded location at the end of the Run. It is common for a mated pair not to return until the following evening, and the male will continue to guard the female until her clutch is hatched and Impressed. Several weeks after mating, a clutching female will lay eggs, which generally take another two months to mature. All told, from Run to Hatching, the wher reproductive cycle takes roughly a full season.


In terms of Impression, whers fall somewhere between dragons and firelizards, both in terms of selectiveness and urgency. A wher is not required to Impress at hatching, the way that a dragon is, but they also don't bond indiscriminately with whoever feeds them, as firelizards do. Most new-hatched whers are not looking for specific personality traits in a handler. They will accept the first mind that solicits a bond from them, provided that mind is not intrinsically hostile or already claimed by a bondmate. But there are cases where whers will reject the offered bond. Unfortunately, in most of these cases the infant wher is then killed to minimize the risk of them going feral.

Traditionally, the clutchmother and handler will confer over potential handlers, assessing both mental hospitability to the bond, and whether they are sufficiently mature to take on the responsibility of a young wher. Eggs will then be distributed to the selected individuals prior to hatching. This ensures that every baby wher will be presented with a suitable handler, and minimizes fighting and chaos during the hatching process itself. A wher will bond with only minimal prompting, but a true, lifelong bond must be sealed in blood: the handler makes a small cut, usually on the palm with a small knife, and allows their wher to taste the blood.

Since whers do not require a bond to live, they can survive the breaking of a bond. A wher will not necessarily go between upon their handler's death - although many do, as it is deeply traumatizing to lose a bondmate. A wher that survives can sometimes be convinced to take a new handler, usually a family member or someone they already know. Otherwise they will simply go feral. A wher with a weak bond who is continually mistreated may also choose to voluntarily break their bond and go wild, although given the amount of mental pain involved, this is usually a true act of last resort.

Whers are not born knowing their own names. Instead, a wher will take their name from their handler's name, with an -sk at the end. For instance, Ansgar's wher is named Ansk, although she could have opted for Ansgask or Ansgarsk, or even Ask. Wher folklore holds that a longer name means a stronger bond, but practical evidence indicates that whers prefer pronounceable names over unpronounceable ones.

Wher Breeds

During Pern's industrial revolution, whers expanded dramatically in the breadth and variety of roles available to them. They possessed many of the benefits of true dragons, but with more manageable space and feeding requirements, less picky about Impression, and less intensive care during their first months of life. After the development of smoked-glass goggles to allow them to work during the day, whers became the Hold companion of choice. Over the past few centuries, the most wher-friendly Holds began developing their own specialized breeds, using a combination of genetic engineering and selective breeding to produce bloodlines designed for specific purposes. Three of these breeds rose to particular prominence: Fort, Crom, and Keroon lines.

Wher selective breeding is a tricky process. For one, a single handler cannot keep a stable of unbonded whers, in the way that breeders of runnerbeasts can. Therefore, wher breeding is a highly cooperative business, requiring a group of handlers of both male and female whers to collaborate. For another, whers are intelligent, and female whers are extremely demanding about their mates. (Hence why there will never be toy whers.) Either the handler of the female must convince her in advance of the merits of the desired mate, or the circumstances of the run must be carefully arranged so that only suitable males are available for the choosing. Even then, there are accidents, and recalcitrant females find ways to make their displeasure known.

Fort - Combat Whers

Fort's combat whers are hands-down the largest - and most terrifying - whers on Pern. Even the smallest greens are large enough to carry a rider, and the largest combat golds can bite a man in half. They tend to be athletically built, rather than heavy draft animals: a combat wher can pull a supply wagon in an emergency, but they are far more effective serving as agile cavalry units. Combat whers are the closest to having functional wings, capable of leaping and gliding short distances to tear small dragons out of the air.

Temperament-wise, combat whers tend to be obedient and fearless, but also the most pack-oriented breed, and frequently the most difficult to train. They will bond readily with their human and their pack, but anything outside of that pack is a potential threat - or prey. Young combat wherlings require a firm hand and careful socialization to manage their aggression towards humans and other whers. A combat wher raised alone, without the company of other dragonkin, may be unmanageable as an adult. Despite this, however, combat whers remain one of the most popular breeds for the prestige; their sheer size and power means that even a Fort green may command her own pack of smaller or mixed-breed males.

Crom - Mining Whers

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Crom's mining whers are positively tiny, ranging from the size of a very large canine to the size of a sturdy pony. They make up for it by being built like living tanks. A Crom wher can pull a cart loaded up with thousands of pounds of stone without complaining. They have very keen senses: a mining wher's nose is capable of detecting pockets of bad air, and they can frequently hear or feel the vibrations of an oncoming tunnel collapse. However, their eyes are also over-sensitive, and many may dislike bright sunlight even with protective goggles on. Their wings are small and rarely flight-capable, and many mining whers have them clipped at hatching.

Crom's mining whers were meant first and foremost to be guardians in all things. A mining wher can (and will) accompany their bonded everywhere: small indoor spaces are of no concern to an animal bred to maneuver in pitch-dark mineshafts. They are among the most intelligent whers, capable of carrying out complex orders independently. During a cave-in, a mining wher might be expected to relay a message or dig out an injured miner, and they must perform these tasks without panicking even if their bonded is wounded or unconscious. They are calm and tend to be slow to anger, but as the Telgar occupying forces found out during the war, slow does not mean never. Mining whers are also frequently favored by healers, for their quiet temperament, and by trackers and hunters, for their sensitive noses.

Keroon - Racing Whers

Keroon went in a different direction entirely with their whers, inventing and refining the sport of wher racing. There are two schools of wher racing: saddled and unsaddled, with the smallest whers competing unsaddled and larger whers competing under saddle. Racing whers in general have less size difference between colors, with almost all being comparable in size to runnerbeasts. They are lightly built, smooth and agile in gait, and some might even be called graceful. Their wings are rarely clipped, being used for balance during tight turns.

Racing whers are the most tractable and least aggressive of all the breeds, and rarely bite unless severely provoked. A racer who bites other competitors during a race is disqualified, except in certain black-market circuits, and a racer who bites a trainer is lucky if they're not culled on the spot. The best racers love their work, and are generally friendly and eager to please. The downside is, they are on average the least intelligent breed. (The last thing anyone wants is a racer who asks why they're competing.) Keroon's lines are favored by couriers and scouts for their speed, and by anyone who seeks a wher as a companion rather than as a working animal.

Wher Colors

Wherhandlers have a distinctively different culture than dragonriders; wher eggs are distributed based on merit (or sometimes money) with no regard to gender, producing considerably less sexism overall. Color is still important in the hierarchy, but more due to size than anything: whers are aggressive pack-animals, and in most cases larger whers will be dominant over smaller ones, albeit with some exceptions. There are few color-specific stereotypes, and breed is considered a better predictor of temperament than hide color.



Gender: Female
Runs: Clutches every run, 8 to 18 eggs

  • Combat: 7'4" to 7'11" at shoulder
  • Mining: 4'8" to 5'1" at shoulder
  • Racing: 5'8" to 6ft at shoulder

The undisputed queens of wherkind. Whers are matriarchal, and even the large bronzes and irons will defer to a gold. It is she, after all, who chooses a worthy mate. Elder golds will generally only tolerate younger golds if they are daughters, and even then only to a point; bronzes ought to compete for a gold's favor, not the other way around. Like their dragon counterparts, gold whers possess Command, and can compel other colors to obey simple orders like 'come here' or 'stop that'.



Gender: Male
Runs: Chases any female of similar size; preference for gold

  • Combat: 6'9" to 7'4" at shoulder
  • Mining: 4'3" to 4'8" at shoulder
  • Racing: 5'6" to 5'10" at shoulder

The largest males, barring the rare irons, and also the most difficult to train. Much like bronze dragons, bronze whers can be territorial, especially in the presence of a queen: bronze whers often become extremely possessive of their mates, and some will need to be dissuaded from fighting other large males as a means of showing off for a proddy gold. (This is one of the reasons why Discovery doesn't have a gold yet.)



Gender: Male
Runs: Chases any female of similar size; preference for copper and silver

  • Combat: 6'2" to 6'9" at shoulder
  • Mining: 3'10" to 4'3" at shoulder
  • Racing: 5'4" to 5'8" at shoulder

Brown whers are the mid-sized males of wherkind, able to lead a pack in the absence of a suitable gold or bronze. Browns have a notable reputation for being stubborn, though they are less aggressive than bronzes and generally easier to handle. Among racing whers, browns and silvers are the two favored colors for under-saddle racing: large enough to bear a rider, light enough to win.



Gender: Male
Runs: Chases any female of similar size; preference for green

  • Combat: 5'7" to 6'2" at shoulder
  • Mining: 3'5" to 3'10" at shoulder
  • Racing: 5'2" to 5'6" at shoulder

In regards to pack hierarchy, blues tend to be the lowest-ranked: most blues simply don't have the size or the mental clout to command packs of their own, except in extremely rare cases. However, blues can still sire clutches with greens, and they bear other advantages. Blue whers tend to be the most tractable of the colors, excellent matches for an inexperienced or nervous handler. Blues are also the least territorial, far less likely than bronzes or irons to pick fights with unfamiliar whers.



Gender: Female
Runs: Clutches rarely; 4 to 9 eggs

  • Combat: 5ft to 5'7" at shoulder
  • Mining: 3ft to 3'5" at shoulder
  • Racing: 5ft to 5'4" at shoulder

Among whers, greens occupy a somewhat unusual status: they are the smallest of the colors (as greys have not yet been seen among wherkind) but they are also potentially fertile females. Unlike dragons, green whers can clutch - though they do not clutch every Run and they rarely produce metallic eggs. Still, thanks to the matriarchal nature of whers, larger and more assertive greens can comfortably lead packs of blue and brown.

Breed-Specific Colors

Engineered wher colors are a relatively recent development, having only cropped up in the past fifty turns or so. Each color is essentially meant to be the purest expression of the intent of the breed: silver whers are the fastest, iron whers the most fearsome, and copper whers the best defense against emergency. In order to produce one of these engineered colors, both parents must carry the necessary gene: for instance, a combat gold and a combat bronze both carrying the iron gene could clutch an iron, but a racing bronze carrying the silver gene and a mining gold carrying the copper gene would produce only the original five colors. For IC purposes, assume that the genes are not yet widespread, and that these new colors only crop up in purebred whers.



Gender: Male
Runs: Chases whatever the heck they want
Size: 7'5" to 8ft at shoulder
Only appears in combat lines. Irons were engineered quite recently into Fort lines at the beginning of the war. Their purpose was to inspire shock and awe, and irons certainly fit the bill. These enormous males rival golds for size, with the very largest irons slightly outclassing even the queens of wherkind. To prevent chaos during wher-on-wher skirmishes, irons are naturally resistant to compulsion from enemy golds. It is extremely inadvisable to have multiple irons in a single pack, unless that pack is comprised exclusively of bachelor males.



Gender: Female
Runs: Clutches infrequently; 4 to 9 eggs
Size: 3'2" to 3'7" at shoulder
Only appears in mining lines. Coppers were originally engineered into Crom lines as safeguards against emergency. As the Minecraft Hall got more desperate and dug deeper, mine hazards became more frequent. Coppers were designed to rally their fellow whers as needed, for instance calming spooked wherlings or forming teams to shift heavy debris. Their hides are brightly colored and highly reflective for easy visibility. Despite the lack of queen command, a copper's mental presence is that of a female double her size, and even larger males will instinctively respect a copper on a mission.



Gender: Female
Runs: Clutches infrequently; 5 to 12 eggs
Size: 5'2" to 5'8" at shoulder
Only appears in racing lines. Silver whers are a rare sight, prized for both beauty and speed by aficionados of Keroon whers. At face value, their metallic hides don't seem to confer any particular advantage - any bronze will tell you that a silver is not a queen. Some speculate that they secretly compel the males around them to let them win races, but that's all hogwash. Silver whers are actually subconsciously telekinetic, like their dragon cousins. They run faster because they have a subtle psychic "spring" in their step. Simple, really. (This is a trade secret among Keroon breeders - don't pass it around.)

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