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 The Whers of White Lightning Weyr

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Join date : 2015-02-22
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PostSubject: The Whers of White Lightning Weyr   Sun Mar 13, 2016 8:29 pm

In the White Lightning Weyr timeline, whers are slightly different from the way that they’re portrayed in the most recent Pern books authored by Todd McCaffrey. Our whers cannot fly, regardless of the time of day or relative “thickness” or “thinness” of the air. (This is actually a property of air called “density altitude” and it has more to do with temperature than anything else. It does affect flight efficiencies and the ratio of lift to drag, but not to such an extent as to render an otherwise flightless animal volant at night… er. Sorry. Let me tuck my inner aviation geek away.) However, like in Todd’s books, whers in our timeline have an intelligence level similar to dragons or humans, they just tend to be too impatient to use complete sentences. Our whers are, by and large, much more aggressive than dragons, even hatchling dragons, and our whers will have a tendency to turn violent if they feel that someone is threatening them or their handler.

Handlers, or Wherhandlers, are those people bonded to a wher. Unlike the dragon bond, a wher bond can be transferred to another individual, but it is a very tricky business, and nine times out of ten, an attempted transfer will fail, which will result in the wher turning feral and attacking both his former handler and the individual hoping to become the new handler. The one exception to this seems to be circumstances where a handler is on his or her deathbed, and persuades the wher to accept a bond to a member of the handler’s family. These bond transfers are largely successful, especially if the new handler has been prepared by spending a lot of time with the wher before the original handler’s death. Many of the major Holds of Pern have formalized this process between their Lords Holder, the hold’s watchwhers, and the Lord Holder’s Heirs, In this way, a wher will come to serve as watchwhers for multiple generations of Lords Holder, until the wher himself or herself dies. At that time, it is customary for the Hold to seek out a new wher egg for the current Lord (or Heir, if that makes more sense).

If a handler dies unexpectedly, and no new handler is presented to the wher, one of three things will occur: either the wher will go feral and quickly vacate the premises, going to live in the wild, the wher will turn feral and violent, eventually having to be put down for the safety of those around, or on rare occasions, when the bond was particularly deep or long-lasting, the wher will give up trying to live, and essentially starve to death. These scenes are often particularly sad, and if the wher is part of a community of whers and handlers, it’s common to see the other handlers attempt to find someone to try and bond with the grieving wher before it’s too late.

In all cases, the wher bond is formed when the wher’s consciousness meets the human’s through an empathic link similar to the dragon/rider link. However, in order to cement the bond and prevent the wher’s natural instinct to do violence from taking over, the handler must “seal the deal” by forming a blood bond. This is done by offering the wher a taste of the handler’s blood, usually from a shallow cut on the hand or forearm. If the wher takes the taste and does not immediately attack the handler in an enraged frenzy, the bond is formed.

Immature whers and their handlers are half-jokingly called “wherlings”. Like dragons, they must complete fairly rigorous training before they’re ready to take up their adult duties. However, as whers and their handlers find themselves working in many diverse fields, this training is usually pretty specialized.

Since whers were never the object of genetic experiments during the last few Turns, they manifest only in the original five color phenotypes.

The current wher phenotypes are as follows:

Gold -

The largest of the whers, and undoubtedly the most vicious and most difficult to control. Gold whers are notoriously touchy and fiercely protective of their handlers and their clutches, in that order. Curiously enough, it’s common for gold whers to disregard their offspring once they’ve Hatched, and if a hatchling wher does not bond to a handler, a bonded clutchmother will often kill it, rather than risk the hatchling attacking her handler. Gold whers mate during supremely violent encounters known as “runs”. Before a run, gold whers will often “blood” by sucking the fluids out of a number of kills, in an echo of the dragons’ mating flight preparation (ovines and porcines are particularly useful for this application). During the run itself, the gold wher is released into a large, preferably confined area outside. Her male suitors will follow after her, converging on her and attempting to pin her to the ground. She, of course, does whatever it takes to fight them off. Due to the fact that she is almost always larger, faster and stronger than the males, these mating displays often resemble battles rather than courtship. That is, however, exactly what they are. Once the male has chased and fought hard enough to convince the gold wher of his worthiness, she will choose him by allowing him near enough to touch her, and the two of them will then go off and begin the process of conceiving a clutch of eggs. The disappointed hopefuls will then drag their (almost always) injured selves off the field of battle, where their handlers will wait with the dragonhealers to patch up their wounds.

Because of the violent nature of wher runs. Their bonded handlers have to be very careful about how they handle themselves during this time. The wher/handler bond can be every bit as overwhelming as the dragon/rider bond and no one wants a roomful of handlers who have to work together engaging in a battle royale and trying to kill one another with their bare hands. The solution at most Wherholds and Weyrs is this, during a run, the handlers are expected to have a designated “run” partner. This partner may or may not be the handler’s regular lover, but in all cases, the partner is expected to be someone who is physically able to prevent the handler from hurting either the partner, or the handler themselves. During a run, the handler and their partner will be sequestered somewhere, often with a third party looking on, just in case extreme intervention is needed. Sometimes, due to the intense mating emotions of the wher, the handler and partner will end up having sex, though not always. Fortunately for all concerned, whers do not feel the need to mate nearly as frequently as dragons do.

Unlike gold dragons, gold whers will bond to anyone, male or female. They will have their first run some time around the second anniversary of their Hatching, and they will usually run every other Turn or so during a Pass, every 5-7 Turns during an Interval.

Percentage of Population: 0.5%
Rise: every 2 Turns during a Pass. Every 5-7 Turns during an Interval
Mated to: Bronzes or Browns
Size Range: 5-6 feet high at the shoulder.
Color Range: Pale, lemony gold to deep, burnished brass. Always with a metallic sheen.
Clutch Size: depending on the color of the clutch sire, anywhere from 2-12 eggs

Bronze -

Bronze whers are the largest of the male whers. Whereas a gold wher will often be larger and stronger than most bronzes, bronzes do tend to have a more bulky musculature than the sleek gold females. Like all whers, bronzes are fiercely protective of their handlers, but they don’t seem to have the hair-trigger temper that characterizes the golds. They can be incredibly possessive and jealous of their handler’s time and attention, and it’s not uncommon for a bronze handler to be unable to maintain consistent relationships with other humans. For this reason, being a bronze handler is particularly difficult. That being said, bronzes are incredibly strong workers, with stamina for days. A well-bonded bronze wher pair can accomplish nearly twice the workload of some of the smaller colors of wher, and as such their services command premium price. Particularly well known bronzes are much sought after as wher studs for golds, though their handlers charge truly outrageous stud fees. Most of this is to compensate for the risks inherent in chasing a gold wher, however. Sadly, it’s not terribly uncommon for an unsuccessful bronze suitor to be seriously or even fatally injured in a run. Bronzes can mate with green whers, however, their large size and incredibly aggressive mating instinct usually result in serious injuries to the green. For this reason, green/bronze pairings are very rare, since no green handler worth their salt is willing to put their lady through such an ordeal.

Percentage of Population: 2%
Chases: varies, depending on the confidence level of the handler.
Mated to: Golds. Very, very rarely greens.
Size Range: 4.5-5.5 feet high at the shoulder.
Color Range: Deep, burnished copper to light greeny-gold. Always with a metallic sheen.
Clutch Size: Bronze/Gold pairings result in larger clutches, usually somewhere between 6-12 eggs. Bronze/Green pairings outside of the wild are so rare, no record of a successful clutch exists.

Brown -

Brown whers are extremely valuable for applications requiring a great deal of physical strength, as well as a certain steadiness of temperament. 90% of the hold watchwhers on Pern are brown. Unlike the bronzes, browns don’t tend to be as jealous of their handlers’ attention. They seem to be able to work fairly well with other people, so long as they’ve been properly introduced and the person does not pose a threat to the wher or handler (or often, by extension, the handler’s family… thus the popularity of brown watchwhers). Browns can, occasionally, mate with a gold wher, usually when there isn’t a bronze to be had, since most browns would be in a serious disadvantage against the larger, heavier bronzes in mating run combat. It is far more common to see a brown wher sire a green clutch, since such green clutches result in a larger percentage of viable eggs than those conceived with the aid of a blue wher.

Percentage of Population: 17.5%
Chases: varies, depending on the confidence level of the handler.
Mated to: Greens, sometimes Golds
Size Range: 4-5 feet high at the shoulder.
Color Range: Light, sandy tan to deep mahogany
Clutch Size: Brown/Gold pairings result in 2-8 eggs. Brown/Green pairings result in 1-4 eggs, with usually at least two viable.

Blue -

Blue whers are smaller and lighter than their brown counterparts, but they have an almost equal level of stamina. This makes them particularly valuable for work in the mines, as they are nearly tireless and can access all but the tightest of spaces. Like all whers, blues have an extremely keen sense of hearing and smell, and many a miner owes his life to the early warning of bad air or unstable rock provided by a blue and his handler. By and large, blues have a reputation for being a bit more easily distractible than the browns or bronzes. Though a well-trained blue wher can maintain focus until the job is done, it might take a few nudges from his handler to keep him there. Interestingly enough, blues often seem to be more aggressive than browns and bronzes, though not quite to the level of the golds. Blue whers often mate with green whers, though the clutches are small, and many of the resulting eggs are not viable.

Percentage of Population: 30%
Chases: varies, depending on the confidence level of the handler.
Mated to: Greens
Size Range: 3.5-4.5 feet high at the shoulder.
Color Range: Pale sky blue to deepest midnight blue and everything in between.
Clutch Size: Blue/Green pairings usually only result in a maximum of two eggs, with only one, if any, actually viable.

Green -

Green whers are the smallest and most populous of the whers. Like their much larger sisters, the golds, greens tend toward a sleek, slender type of strength, rather than the brute force muscle of the male whers. This makes them incredibly valuable in the mines, for the petite green can get into tiny pockets that even a blue wher cannot reach. Of all the whers, they tend to be the most sensitive to the emotions of those around them, and will sometimes make unexpected observations about people. Green whers tend to be quite affectionate toward their handlers, in a rough-and-tumble sort of way. Though they’re not as possessive or neurotic as the bronzes, a green will not stand for having her rider ignore her in favor of a lover, and those who would court a green wherhandler end up, by default, courting the wher as well.
Green wher mating runs are very similar to those of the golds, with the exception that the battle tends to be less aggressively combative and more speed- and cunning-oriented. Compared to green firelizards, green whers make excellent mothers, caring for their small clutch of eggs until they are Hatched, just like the larger golds do.

Percentage of Population: 50%
Rise: every Turn during a Pass; every 2-3 Turns during an Interval
Mated to: Browns or Blues
Size Range: 3-4 feet high at the shoulder.
Color Range: Pale, minty green to deep forest
Clutch Size: depending on the color of the clutch sire, anywhere from 1-4 eggs, with some, none or all being viable.
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