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Posted: Mar 18 2018, 02:29 PM
Joined: 5-January 18
Pronouns: it/they/them or he/him/his if you are uncomfortable with
The dragon descriptions in Game Information focus on how the dragons in Storm Nexus Pern differ from those of canon Pern. These differences are important, but, on the whole, they're fairly minor. Overall SN dragons are very much like their canon counterparts. If you aren't familiar with canon, therefore, the Game Info dragon description may not mean very much to you. Here then is the original upon which it was based.
A eusocial species, Pern dragons come in five castes distinguished by color, sex, fertility, and social role, plus a sixth type which has only occurred once in canon Pern and will never happen again, as it was a unique genetic mutation. (In SN Pern the sixth caste is still a genetic mutation and defect, but it happens rarely now and then rather than Just Once Ever.) First, however, I will describe those traits which are common to all dragons.
Pernese dragons are quadrupedal hexapods, using the fore and hind pairs of limbs as legs and the middle pair as wings. Herein I will go over their anatomy starting at the head and continuing down to the tail.
The part of a dragon most people notice first -- other than its great size and its predatory teeth -- are its luminous eyes. Their eyes dominate their faces, being large, round, and intricately faceted in a jewel-like manner (as opposed to an insectile manner, though artists often interpret 'faceted' as meaning buglike eyes and draw accordingly) with three sets of 'eyelids'. The first two are transparent and are used to protect the eye when 1.) swimming and 2.) during Threadfall. The third lid is opaque and works just like a human eyelid, closing when the animal is asleep (and of course at other times as well.)
Remarkably, the eyes change color with the dragon's moods, with incredible detail and precision. The colors whirl within the eyes, giving an impression that the eyes themselves are rotating or turning, though this is an illusion. Regardless, dragon eyes are often described as 'spinning' or 'turning'. The speed of this motion reflects the intensity of the dragon's emotions. A calm dragon's eyes move slowly, while an excited dragon's eyes whirl very quickly.
Here is a rough color guide for emotions, though this can vary somewhat between both individuals and populations for genetic reasons. The basics are always constant, though.
Blue - There is a shade of blue which is sort of a 'default color', often mingled with a shade of green that serves a similar purpose. Other shades of blue can indicate desire, longing, interest, and/or curiosity. Basically it reflects a calm awareness of something.
Green - Along with 'default calm green' mentioned above, green reflects positive emotions generally, with specific shades associated with specific positive states: one green for being happy for no reason, another for being pleasantly surprised, another for silly light-heartedness, etc. A happy color, basically.
Red - Mating, hunger, and anger. When involved in a mating flight, dragon eyes churn with cool reds, violets, or a mix of both. During Threadfall, meanwhile, their eyes show a distinctive blend of red-orange with flecks of yellow and white. A hungry dragon shows truer reds without a hint of violet or orange (unless of course they're blooding their kill before mating or pissed off while they're eating for some reason.)
Orange - Anger, hatred, and anxiety; impersonal/natural dangers (such as Thread, or avalanches, or a sick rider.)
Yellow - Fear, tension, mistrust. Personal dangers/feeling attacked by someone.
White - Alarm, terror/extreme fear. Yellow and orange are often seen together and/or with white.
Violet - Mating. This refers to bluish-leaning colors. Reddish-leaning colors fall under Purple and mean something entirely different.
Purple - Depression, sadness, regret, other negative emotions not related to anger, mourning/grief or illness.
Gray - Mourning, grief, poor health. When in mourning or ill, dragon eyes and hides take on a gray tinge; the worse it is, the grayer they get. (This IS true of SN dragons, by the way -- those with gray hides become dull-looking with no luster or shine. There are no gray dragons in canon Pern though so this isn't an issue here. XD)
When dragons feel mixed emotions, their eye colors will reflect this, and certain situations elicit distinctive eye-color patterns (most notably mating flights and Threadfall.) Dragon eyes are highly bioluminescent; the glow is not very apparent by day, but at night their eyes look like colored lanterns, even from a distance. An ill or sick dragon's eyes are dimmer than normal, and a dead dragon's eyes do not glow at all (although dead dragons are almost never seen as they typically go between to die.)
Overall the head is bluntly wedge-shaped, with a very subtle horselike aspect, particularly at the back of the jaw, the shape of the nostrils, and in the way the head narrows to a more delicate, nearly pointed muzzle. A dragon's dental complement is fairly complex. The front of the jaw is filled with long, sharp, conical teeth, having serrated edges to help them slide through meat. The sides of the jaw have a few shearing teeth, suitable for slicing through tougher tissues like sinew and gristle, and the back is filled with a surprisingly complex dental battery, powerful interlocking 'molars'. Though they are certainly good at crunching through bone, these heavy grinding teeth are expressly designed for the purpose of chewing firestone (explained later.)
Dragon tongues are forked and fairly strong. Oddly, to human eyes, a dragon's tongue and mouth-parts are green, and dragon hide often has a faint greenish tinge beneath its actual color, particularly the transparent wing membrane. This is because, like all Pernese life forms, dragons have a different biological system than Terran life. The specifics of this unique biochemistry are beyond the scope of this essay; what is important for our purposes is that, unlike humans and other Pernese denizens descended from Earth life forms, dragons (and all other native Pernese life forms) have green, rather than red, inner parts. The blood is dark pine green in the veins, bright emerald green when oxygenated. The muscles have a dull olive-green tint under the silvery shine of the muscle fibers. The tongue and mouth parts are pale to medium green. depending on the dragon's age, health, and color (darker-hided dragons tend to have darker mouthparts).
Starting between the nostrils and continuing along the top of the muzzle and between the eyes is a series of tiny bumps which gradually develop into a low, wavy crest of flesh. Crossing over the top of the skull, the crest grows taller, until the has developed into a series of tall, triangular or shark-fin-shaped neck ridges. There is a small amount of space between each ridge; when riding a dragon, one sits on its neck, between the ridges, rather than on its back. They are expressly designed (by the genetic engineers who created dragons) for humans to sit between and grip for safety, but specialized saddles have been developed for dragonriders as well to fit dragon necks. The ridges usually stop between the shoulder blades, but may in some individuals continue all the way to the tailfork.
A dragon has no visible external ears. However, they hear quite well, detecting vibrations in the air through structures the Pernese term 'headknobs'. Though the author of the Pern books never actually described precisely what headknobs look like, most artists portray them as either being identical to a giraffe's ossicones, or else rather like ossicones except backswept in an almost ear-like shape and position. Other artists render them as short, blunt, horn-like projections at the back of the skull or just behind the heavy, shelf-like eye ridges. Almost all dragons, and fire-lizards, and whers, love to have their headknobs and eye ridges rubbed, scratched, and petted. Other than these features, canon Pern dragons lack horns, whiskers, frills, fins, and so on. They are clean of jaw and limb.
The wings are membranous, but with all five fingers utilized rather than having a tiny useless thumb-claw as a bat does. The membrane is thin but tough. Dragons rely on unconscious self-levitation to fly, using their wings mainly to provide propulsion, direction, and control, but the wings are large and powerful nonetheless, though their flight would still appear impossible to a Terran observer.
Though quadrupedal, dragons aren't really built for ground motion. Their forelegs are designed to snatch prey, not for walking on, and their hind legs are superb for launching their bodies into the air to begin flight, but they are noticeably longer than the forelegs. As a result dragons have an odd, awkward gait when on the ground, though most of them don't find walking uncomfortable or onerous. They are extremely graceful in the air however and have an uncanny instinct for sensing each others' positions; adult dragons never collide in the air by accident. In some circumstances they may attack each other but they will not crash into each other by mistake.
Dragons have five toes on each foot. The forepaws are remarkably similar to a human hand in shape, though the fingers end in sharp, hooked, non-retractile talons. The hind feet, on the other hand, are more dinosaur-like in design, with the three middle toes dominant and the other two rather small. (Some artists draw them as having human-like-shaped feet as well but this conflicts with their portrayal in the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, at least as I remember it. In the same way, some artists draw Pern dragons with a spade or single-pointed tail, even though this is technically incorrect.) Their talons are very sharp and strong, though they will get soft if the dragon spends too much time in the water, and the rider will need to spend time clipping and otherwise maintaining his or her dragon's claws.
The chest and barrel are densely layered with flight muscles, even though dragons rely a lot on unconscious self-levitation for actual lift. They tend to have lean, trim waists, although indolent, overweight dragons do exist. The reproductive organs are not entirely identical to that of Terran life, but two sexes do exist which can be roughly equivalent to male and female. Dragons do not have visible external genitalia; there is a slit between their hind legs within which their sexual organs are stored under normal circumstances. Only immediately before and during mating flights are dragon genitals visible.
They do NOT eliminate from orifices between the hind legs, as do most Earth life forms; rather, dragon tails are forked, with a sphincter orifice located in the 'crotch' of the tailfork. Dragons pass both urine and feces through the tailfork orifice. (They typically eliminate while in the process of teleportation, starting as soon as they are old enough to do so, but young dragons' living quarters must be mucked out by their unfortunate riders!) This is true of most native Pernese life forms, including whers, fire-lizards, wherries, and tunnel snakes. By consequence, tail health is a much more important subject for Pernese life forms. Also by consequence, dragon tails, while long and sinuous, are not as long as one might expect they would be. This is because a longer tail is more likely to be scored during Threadfall, and tail damage is a much more dangerous thing for a Pern dragon than it would be for another type of dragon whose intestines don't run through their tail.
Dragons are covered overall in a thick, smooth hide whose texture, when properly cared for, is most reminiscent of fine suede. The neck ridges and headknobs are also covered in this hide and have a fleshy, slightly yielding texture when touched. Dragon hide is said to have a warm, spicy, pleasant odor. It has a tendency to dry out and crack, however, which is dangerous for the dragon, so dragonriders spend a lot of time at least three times a week (for baby dragons, multiple times a day!) carefully rubbing oil into every inch of their beasts's hides. (They usually get help for this so they have time and energy to do other things!)
Canon Pernese dragons are obligate carnivores. They seem to prefer bovine herdbeasts (Pernese cows) and wherries (a native Pernese species very vaguely resembling a bipedal gryphon, distantly related to dragons) as food, but they also eat runnerbeasts (Pernese horses), fish, and any other animal large enough to provide them with a decent meal. They do not consume plant matter at any time.
Canon Pernese dragons cannot breathe fire at will. In order to breathe fire, they must carefully chew and swallow a specific type of rock which is high in phosphine content, known to the Pernese as firestone. When a dragon chews firestone, it is not swallowed into the dragon's stomach, but into another, sacklike organ at the base of the throat. This organ is not a stomach, although it serves a somewhat similar purpose, but Pernese are apt to refer to it as the dragon's 'second stomach' anyway. This saclike organ digests the firestone, producing a foul-smelling gas that, when belched out by the dragon, ignites upon contact with oxygen. In this way, the dragon quite literally belches flame upon its enemy, Thread.
Canon Pernese dragons tend to have rather mild, passive personalities. They also tend not to speak to humans other than their riders, at least not very often. They are intelligent but have no real consideration for the past or the future, relying entirely on their riders to deal with such things. Though they do have individual personalities, there seems to be less variation between them than between individual humans, and they sometimes behave as a single collective entity with many bodies, especially during tragedies and emergencies.
Dragons have a prohibition against violence programmed into them. They will not harm humans under any circumstances except one: A newborn hatchling is ignorant and innocent, and may hurt or even kill Candidates by accident, not realizing that it is causing harm, in the process of searching for its rider. After Impression, however, this instinct is activated, and thereafter a dragon will not harm a human under ANY circumstance -- not even if that human is attacking the dragon's rider with intent to kill. (Although the dragon might try to intervene, at times they are shockingly passive in the books, roaring protest but otherwise doing absolutely nothing to stop their riders from being killed, then committing suicide instantly out of grief.)
The same applies to each other, but to a somewhat lesser degree. Although the concept of dragon fighting dragon is considered the highest taboo in Pernese culture, the worst thing that could possibly happen, it does occur from time to time. Almost invariably, it happens when two queens rise to mate at the same time in the same place (see below); the two dominant females will duel for supremacy, often resulting in the death of one or both queens. Very, very rarely, Weyrs which had severe political disagreements have threatened to turn on each other -- but, at least in canon, no such incidents actually occurred. They were merely threatened and feared.
The different colors/castes of dragons will be explicated below, after the traits universal to all dragons have been covered.
Dragons are completely dependent on humans. Specifically, they have one human partner, chosen by the dragon immediately after its own birth (described below under Abilities -- Impression), with whom that dragon will spend the rest of its life. When the human partner, known as the dragon's rider, dies, the dragon will instantly, without hesitation, regardless of any other circumstances (such as having other humans riding it at the moment) commit suicide by going between and not coming back. (Essentially it tears itself apart at the subatomic level and throws its own atoms to the wind instead of reforming. Anyone riding the dragon when it does this... well... there won't be a body to bury, I'll just put it that way.) The ONLY exception to this self-destruction is if a queen dragon's rider dies while the queen is tending a clutch of eggs. In that case, and ONLY that case, the dragon will remain to guard her eggs. She will suicide between the instant she senses they are ready to hatch. (If the queen is merely pregnant she may well suicide anyway, taking the unlaid clutch with her.)
Though the psionic connection between dragons is largely unconscious, and they must make a minor but real conscious effort to telepathically speak to each other, all dragons always know instantly when one of their species dies. Immediately, everywhere on Pern, all living dragons throw back their heads and emit a haunting cry known to the Pernese as 'keening'. Dragons use this cry to announce the death of one of their kind, and do not make this sound at any other time. It is described as a high, horrible howling scream or wail with a bellowing undertone, similar to a foghorn, that goes on and on as if the dragons didn't need to pause for breath. Depending on precisely which dragon died and the circumstances (and how many other deaths have happened recently) the keening may stop within thirty seconds to a minute, or the dragons may continue to keen for several hours, even all night. This is especially true when a queen dies, or when many dragons die under horrific circumstances. Dragons can tell the difference between a dragon who is dead and one who has merely gone between to a place or time so far away that they can no longer be telepathically 'reached', however.
All dragons have certain psionic powers and abilities above and beyond their ability to digest firestone and then breathe fire.
TELEKINESIS: The most famous of these universal abilities, of course, is dragonflight. Dragons are huge animals, thirty to sixty feet long or even larger, and yet they fly with the ease and grace of Earth birds. Though their wings are large and strong, they are in proportion to their bodies. Animals so large should technically be too heavy to fly regardless of the size and strength of their bodies. Dragons, though, are capable of levitation, though they aren't consciously aware of it. Essentially, a dragon can lift anything it believes it can. This includes its own body.
Later in the Pern books, one dragon figured out how to use telekinesis on other objects, but the vast majority of dragons would not understand this concept if it were presented to them. However, they unconsciously self-levitate, which is how they can fly. They use their wings the way any flying animal does, which gives them the illusion of normal self-powered flight, but in truth almost all of the actual lift is coming from telekinesis.
In addition to simply being able to fly, dragons can also carry surprisingly heavy burdens in flight. As previously mentioned, if the dragon believes it is strong enough to carry a given load, then it will be able to, even if it realistically should not have been capable of the feat. When its muscles are not enough it unconsciously levitates the rest of the weight.
TELEPORTATION: Known as 'going between' to the Pernese, this is when the dragon basically 'steps outside' of normal reality for a moment, then 'steps back in' at the place it wants to be. Going between is very dangerous, however, and requires careful training and precise technique. If the rider, or dragon, does not have a sufficiently clear and accurate mental image of their destination, they are likely to get lost between and fail to re-emerge. The ultimate result of being lost between is death for both rider and dragon. As such young dragonpairs are trained VERY carefully in this subject.
Once a dragon and rider master this, however, there is nowhere and nowhen they cannot go, with some limitations. Using time-sensitive coordinates (such as the specific placement of certain stars in the sky and the phases of the planet's two moons) dragons can travel through time as well as space. This has a lot of applications, but it is even more dangerous than normal betweening so it is forbidden for dragonriders to do under most circumstances and at many parts of Pernese history it is either kept secret from most people or totally forgotten to everyone.
In canon Pern, the castes of dragonkind are distinguishable by the color of their hides. Although they didn't all have precisely the same shade, all dragons of a given type were some shade of a specific base color, absolutely without exception. Here then is that which our caste system was based upon...
AKA: Queens (this is a canon alternate term for golds)
Sex: Fertile Female
Rank: Highest metallic
Impression Bias: Heterosexual women only.
Range of Hide Hues: From a very pale antique gold to classic yellow gold down through a shade "dark enough to vie with the bronzes"; sometimes with a greenish tint, though this is considered very unattractive.
Golden dragons are the largest, and the only fertile females. They are also the rarest; not every clutch contains a queen egg, and there is never more than one queen egg in a given clutch, no matter what. No lesser dragon is able to disobey the will of a queen. They are capable of 'leaning' telepathically on other dragons in order to control them, and they can even numb the pain of smaller dragons who have been Threadscored or otherwise injured in this way. Queens are the highest ranking dragons in a Weyr. The Senior Queen is the first one to rise to mate following either the death, or the onset of age-related sterility, of the previous Senior Queen. Any others in the Weyr, adult or Weyrling, are known as Junior Queens. There will never be more than six queens in a given Weyr; three is typical. During a Pass, they rise to mate once or twice per Turn, laying 20 - 50 eggs, while during Intervals they rise to mate far less often, as rarely as once a decade, and lay as few as ten eggs in a clutch.
Gold dragons are incapable of digesting firestone; even if it is fed to them, they merely vomit the chunks back up immediately. Their riders use flamethrowers or agenothree sprayers in Threadfall; in some periods of Pernese history they did not fight Thread at all, remaining behind at the Weyr. When a gold is guarding a clutch, she also stays behind and does not fight Thread. The rider of the Senior Queen is the Senior Weyrwoman; she is, technically, the single ultimate leader of the Weyr, although in practice in canon she often either defers to the current Weyrleader or shares power with him more or less equally. In those situations the Weyrwoman's power is mainly domestic; she appoints the Headwoman and other non-dragonrider Weyr staff, oversees the preparation of medicines and special foods, takes care of the Weyr's Records library, makes sure the Weyr receives proper tithes and that said tithes get stored properly... et cetera ad nauseam.
Sex: Fertile Male
Rank: Second highest metallic
Impression Bias: Heterosexual men only.
Range of Hide Hues: Canon Pern bronzes are not usually the color of the actual metal bronze; AMC described the classic dragon-bronze shade as being a 'tannish-greeny-golden'. However, the color ranges from a champagne-pale version of that down to darker, truer bronzen shades.
Bronze dragons are the leaders of dragonkind in canon. The rider of the bronze who most recently mated with the Weyr's Senior Queen is known as the Weyrleader. He and his dragon lead the Weyr's massed wings into combat, appoint Wingleaders and Weyrlingmasters, and generally run the directly martial side of the Weyr. Despite the Weyrwoman and the golds technically outranking them, in practice the bronzes tended to get a lot of the limelight in the books. Inexplicably, despite the books' constantly emphasizing that a Weyr really needed the smaller colors in larger numbers, they also always made a point of having there be lots of bronze eggs in clutches and for a bronze to be the first to Hatch and things like that.
Bronzes are, under normal circumstances, the only dragons capable of mating with ("flying") a golden queen. They also occasionally chase greens, but they are so much larger than greens that mating with one requires great delicacy on the bronze's part, and in some cases the size difference is just too great for mating to be possible. They are the only color capable of siring bronze and queen eggs, for certain. Almost all of the highest ranking positions in a canon Weyr are held by bronzes and their riders -- all Wingleaders, many Wingseconds, almost all Weyrlingmasters, et cetera. Although technically supposed to be almost as rare as queens by canon descriptions, in practice, if you actually count them up, as many bronzes as browns were born or shown as characters, if not even more.
Sex: Fertile Male
Rank: Highest chromatic
Impression Bias: Heterosexual or "dominant" bisexual/homosexual men. (Don't look at me, I'm just quoting the canon restrictions. I didn't come up with this!)
Range of Hide Hues: From a light sandy shade through dark, coffee-like hues.
Browns are the largest and strongest of the non-metallic colors. In canon they are almost, but not quite, as prestigious as bronzes. They are also smaller than bronzes as a rule, although the very largest browns do equal the size and strength of an average bronze. They are almost never Wingleaders, but they are frequently Wingseconds and sometimes Weyrlingmasters. Brown dragons have more stamina than the smaller chromatic colors, but they are slower and less agile, while still being somewhat faster and more agile than bronzes. They are supposed to be more common than bronzes, but it didn't always work out that way in practice in the books if one reads closely.
The vast majority of the time, browns chase and mate with greens only. Once in the Pern books, a brown rider wanted to allow his dragon to chase a queen whose rider he had fallen in love with, but the queen in question ended up being killed before she could mate with anyone, so it was never actually demonstrated that a brown in canon is capable of catching a queen. Still, fandom generally accepts that, if the queen had survived, Anne McCafferey would almost certainly have had the brown dragon win her mating flight (if only because that would have been the most 'romantic' possible outcome and the Pern books are often unfortunately romance-oriented.) If a brown did fly a queen, the resulting clutch would be much smaller than if a bronze had sired it and there would be no queen eggs. There might be a bronze egg or two, but no more than that, and probably none at all. The eggs, and resulting babies, would also be smaller than normal. Browns, like bronzes, flame in broad explosive bursts.
Sex: Male, fertility unknown
Rank: Second-lowest overall
Impression Bias: Bisexual or "dominant" homosexual men; lesbian women.
Range of Hide Hues: The entire possible range of the color, from pastel blues so pale as to be almost white to midnights so dark as to be nearly black and everything in between.
Blue dragons are the second-most common and second-lowest-ranked of the canon colors. They are often described as the workhorses of a Weyr, having significantly more stamina than the smaller, more numerous greens, but not as much as the larger, heavier browns and bronzes. They are much quicker and more agile than larger colors, but not nearly as much so as greens. In short, blues are average in a lot of ways. They are the second-smallest color; in canon, all browns are larger than all blues, unlike the situation with browns and bronzes. Blues chase and mate with greens only; they are far too small to have a hope of catching a gold. The golds are simply much too fast and tenacious. Some blues do not have enough stamina to last a full six-hour Threadfall, but most do. Blues flame in quicker, longer lances, covering less of the sky at once but more able to snipe down specific clumps of Thread. Overall, most of the actual work of Threadfighting is done by greens, blues, and browns, in that order.
Sex: Infertile Female
Rank: Lowest overall
Impression Bias: "Submissive" homosexual or bisexual men; later in the book series, any women.
Range of Hide Hues: The entire possible range of the color, from minty greens so pale as to be almost white to pines so dark as to be nearly black and everything in between.
Greens are the smallest and most common of all canon dragon colors. Fully 50% of all dragons alive at any one time are greens. Infertile (supposedly due to chewing firestone but more likely because they were genetically engineered to be so by their creators) but very sexually active nonetheless, greens provide a sexual outlet for the vast majority of male dragons who will never have a chance at mating with a gold. They rise to mate as often as three or four times per Turn. Greens are sensual, emotional creatures; the stereotypical green is either ditzy and flighty, earthy and sensual, or violently aggressive. There weren't a lot of green dragons actually onscreen in the Pern books, though, so it's hard to say for sure what they are actually like overall; this is derived more from what is said -about- them in the books. The "lesser" colors, as previously noted, tended to get short shrift in the books.
Qir and Elder Queen Seystrenth with Knight fire lizard Stormy and King fire lizard Kaynin
Thr'xin and King [F] Jorrhemaulth with fire lizard King Ore
R'nalt and King Tragmiath with Knight fire lizard Wisp
Ch'mosis of King Ourothraxth/Th'rax of King Chenmosith with Queen fire lizard Eve
M'taine of Officer/King Agalloth with Knight fire lizard Eyetooth and sport wyvern Ia'tai
Weyrspy Kl'zor and Scout Eutaixyth
Journeyman Leathercrafter Tasban of Hunter worg Shadow-in-the-Trees with blink cat mog Bastan-Mu and their Mini-Menagerie
Adept Bristal of Knight Eungeselth, associates of the Hale Trader Family, with black Fyx Lethaxo, Knight fire-lizard Poke, sub-queen wyvern Ia'talbris, Soldier wyvern Ia'talbir, and Scout wyvern Ia'bri
Admin NPCs I primarily play when I'm available to:
Lord Oprierd of Hilltop Hold
Aydren the Storm-Cursed with blink cat Tom Rayend-Ta, common Mohark Teaflower, and ammolite basilisk Ishka