Once graduated from the weyrling wing to an adult wing, dragonriders don't just have endless amounts of free time on their hands. Six days a week, every rider awakens at dawn, eats, inspects his or her riding gear, oils his or her dragon, and feeds the dragon if necessary. Wingleaders and wingseconds report to the Council Room near the Senior Weyrwoman's quarters to receive their assignments from the Weyrleader. Then the dragonpair reports to its Wing's meeting place. Once the whole wing is assembled, the day's assignments are given by the Wingleader. The exact assignment varies.
For example, G'jira might assign Red Wing to do sweepriding and Search, Yellow Wing to do courier/transport work and Search, Blue Wing to check firestone mines for accessability and output, the Weyrling Wing to bag and store firestone from said mines, et cetera. The Wingleader will then return to his Wing and give specific pairs their individual assignments -- a brown will be sent to sweep this area, a silver that area; a blue will be sent to Search this Hold, a jade to Search that Crafthall. Depending on the assignment it may take an hour or two, or the rest of the working day. At noontime the rider is allowed a meal break, and if their assignment is completed, the rest of the afternoon may be used at the pair's discretion.
However, even then, there's always more work to do. The Headwoman of the Lower Caverns may need an errand run, or your riding straps may need repair or replacement. Riders have to make and repair their own riding gear from wherhide; those who find this work tedious or aren't good at it may barter for this service from more skilled riders. (This could be a source of fun RP scenes.) Dragons may need to be fed if they didn't eat that morning, or oiled for a second time if the air is dry or they're still growing, or they may need to be sanded and bathed. Any scales on their bodies might need filing down. Individual riders also keep their own caches of herbs, incense, and certain foods, all of which will need to be restocked now and then. Not to mention that the Weyr itself has a general pharmacy and food store which itself will need restocking and preparing. Herbs and food always need to be collected, prepared, and stored. Dragonriders of all colors will spend a lot of their time doing things like these. The queen riders, in particular, are considered to be in special charge of the pharmacy. They do not hesitate to delegate certain tasks, although they will always oversee the projects, particularly the making of numbweed salve, fellis, and poppy juice.
Jades, greens, and female pearls and blacks will rise to mate every three to four months. Violets and golds (when there are some) are currently rising once a year. The rider of a mating dragon is automatically exempted from duty that day, as are the riders of any males who decide to chase her, due to the overwhelming nature of the experience. Riders of infertile female dragons should keep track of their dragons' cycles and administrate their mating flights themselves, unless they don't want to, in which case the moderators should be notified so they can include your jade/green/pearl/black in their mating calendar.
Flights which will result in eggs will always be roleplayed out, with the player of the female choosing the winner based on what happens in the thread. Flights of infertile females may sometimes be adjucated with dice rather than through RP, depending on the player's preference. In that case, the female and all males will be assigned a certain number of ten-sided dice depending on their size, color, and drive to win, and each set of dice will be rolled once against a difficulty of 9. If the female gets ten successes before any of the males, she may choose which male gets to fly her. Otherwise, whichever male gets ten successes first wins. A moderator will roll the dice and post the results in the main community.
One day per sevenday is Rest Day. This is equivalent to the Terran Sunday -- it's a universal rest day, not just for the Weyrs, though not a religious holiday, merely a practical one. Most of the time, Rest Day is simply that. About once every two months, a major Hold somewhere will hold a Gather on a Rest Day. Dragonriders are famous for their love of Gather activities; therefore, when there is a Gather that Howling Weyr riders would attend, a moderator will start a Gather Thread. (Once we get going, the player of the Lord Holder hosting the Gather will start the Thread and describe it, but for now, this will be handled by the mods.) Anyone who doesn't have mending or other "time off" duties to do may attend the Gather. In fact, the Gather is often a time for doing errands -- getting new clothing, leather for riding straps, belt knives, and the like. One can also learn a lot at a Gather, or even find pets -- fire lizard eggs, kittens, puppies.
Pets are far more common for holders and crafters than for riders, with the exception of fire lizards. Not a few riders have a cat in their weyr, however, as the animals adjust relatively well to cave living so long as they're well fed and cared for. Dogs are only kept by riders living on the very lowest levels, and only very rarely, as they require more care and attention than the average rider has to spare. That said, non-rider weyrfolk keep many dogs and cats, for hunting vermin, turning the meat spits, and so forth. Almost nobody keeps pets purely for amusement -- the animal must have some functionality. There are no spare resources for frivolous things.
A dragonrider may have up to three fire lizards, one to three cats depending on the size of his/her weyr (small dragons have room for one, a bronze or queen's weyr has room for three) or one dog regardless of weyr size. Non-rider weyrfolk may also have a pet wher -- see On Whers.
Cats are the most common pet in the Weyrs outside lizards, and are fairly common outside the Weyrs as well. Small cats are kept mainly for their vermin-hunting prowess, but there is a breed of large, tawny, spotted wild cat which lives in the rainforest areas of the North. This animal is hunted for bedfurs, and a few BeastCrafters have managed to breed them in captivity, albeit they aren't exactly "domesticated".
Pernese pet cats come in all the colors and patterns that Terran cats do, plus more, being that they're essentially the same species after four or five thousand more years of evolution. Feel free to invent special Pernese breeds of cat (or dog, for that matter.) The Pernese have as many different ideas and uses for cats and dogs as the Terrans do.
There are no "frivolous" dog breeds on Pern, but there are many working breeds of all types -- herding dogs, hunting dogs, vermin dogs, spit dogs, even some feral dogs running loose on the plains of Dexara and in the forests of Rhizaom. These animals are wolf-like in the forest and coyote-like on the plains, and are hunted for their skins to make bedfurs.
Domestic dogs may be generally shepherd-like, terrier-like, or feral-ish. They tend to come in more varied coat colors and patterns than Terran dogs, as they have been bred for functionality rather than looks and so no colors or patterns have been selected against.
Very, very few dragonriders keep dogs, but the weyrfolk of the Lower Caverns make use of spit terriers and vermin dogs. There is also a pack of hunting dogs, and a couple of herding dogs used by the Beastcrafter who cares for the Weyr herd.
On Fire Lizards
Our fire lizards are identical to canon modern fire-lizards, except color -- they did not waste time making new fire lizards in Moreta's time. But Kit Ping did beta-test the new colors and a few minor adaptations such as five-fingered hands and higher intelligence/empathy before making full-sized dragons, in order to screen for genetic glitches. These new lizards were more accessible to humans than the wild kind and so became a common pet, especially after humans moved North.
Wild fire lizards in the Southern Continent were better adapted to survival without humans and are therefore still abundant in the wild down South. In the North, the domestic variety has gone feral and mostly replaced the other type. A few people have Impressed wild fire lizards, mostly people from Kehruul Hold or Firestone Hold/Weyr, but the vast majority are the domestic type with twelve colors. Modern Pernese simply call them lizards, as there are no other animals called "lizard" on Pern, making the word 'fire' redundant.
Domestic fire lizards come in the same colors as dragons, but they lack antlers, chin fringe, ear plates, and armor. They do not need to consume metal like dragons do. For this reason they are widely thought to resemble baby dragons and are highly prized. Their reproductive patterns are identical to those of dragons, except in number of eggs laid and fertility. All lizard colors are fertile, as the females are not rendered sterile by firestone. (Kit Ping changed this in dragons to avoid exposing the most important females to the danger of Threadfall; not knowing this, the Pernese rapidly developed flame- and agenothree-throwers to allow the creation of Queen's Wings.)
Gold lizards lay twenty to thirty eggs of any color, violet lizards twenty to thirty eggs of common colors unless mated to a bronze, jade lizards produce 15-20 eggs containing any lesser color (brown, silver, copper, blue, jade, green, pearl, black,) and green lizards produce 10-15 eggs containing any lesser common color (brown, blue, green, black.) Sport lizards are sometimes born, and survive more often than sport dragons because humans are usually more willing/able to help.
A gold or violet lizard will mate twice per year, while the lesser females mate every three or four months. As with infertile female dragons, owners of female lizards may run their own flights unless they don't want to, but they do not get to decide how many eggs are laid or to know what's in them, with the obvious exception of any queen eggs which might be laid. Educated guesses may be made about the contents of a given egg, but just as with dragon eggs, there can be no surety about non-queen eggs until they Hatch. Lizard owners are free to gift their eggs where they choose, or else sell them at a Gather if one is conveniently timed. I might change this policy if it's abused, though, so be thoughtful and reasonable about how you go about re-homing your lizard eggs. If you don't want to bother with all this, tell the mods and they'll run your lizard's flights and distribute the eggs for you. (ICly, your character is still the one who sold or gave away the eggs, however -- it's just the OOC work I'm talking about. So you get the money or credit either way.)
Lizards are more common in our game than in canon Pern, but they're still not so common that everyone has one. By rough estimate, about 1/4 of Howling Weyr, riders and non-riders all, has one or more lizards. Most people have one, maybe two lizards. A few people have three, and a very few have four or even five or six. Because pets must be played as secondary characters and aren't just window dressing, I'm limiting PCs to three lizards for now, and even then, you have to give me a good explanation for their luck.
The owner of a lizard may feed it firestone and teach it to help during Threadfall. This training must be done at a Weyr; dragonriders are often assigned "class duty," either ferrying commoners to and from the Weyr to be trained or else doing the actual training. (Once there are holder and crafter characters with lizards, this could be a fun scene.) Lizards can also be trained to fetch items, carry messages, search for and pick out landmarks or other useful things, and other simple tasks. They do not communicate in words, but with emotions, images, and other sensory data. The largest full-grown golden lizard is three feet long, while the smallest full-grown black lizard is one foot long. All others fall between those extremes.
Just as in canon Pern, whers were created by Wind Blossom trying to imitate her grandmother's success with less expertise. They are demi-dragons, deformed and grossly undersized. They come in only five colors, like the original fire lizards, but have heavy armor plating and twisted antlers vaguely like a dragon's. Their hide is thick and smooth, studded with bony lumps and scutes here and there. Their bodies are shaped something like a hyena's but in reverse -- the forelegs are too short, or else the hind legs are overlong -- and they run with a weird rocking-rolling lope. The wings are far too small for flight, though some are able to glide for fair distances, as their powerful hind legs can launch them quite high into the air. They eliminate through the tail, as dragons do, but the tail is much shorter and thicker than a dragon's, with a heavier aggregation of bone and armor at the end. This is used for display during mating season and in combat.
Their eyes are huge in their bestial, alien faces, seeming smoothly glittering rather than multifaceted like a dragon's eyes. The facets are there, but tiny, focusing light far more effectively than the larger facets of a dragon's or wherry's eyes. They are therefore photophobic, unable to function in daylight, but have unparalleled night and darkvision. The tiny amount of light produced by bio-luminescent cave life is sufficient for them to see as well as humans do by full moonlight, and full moonlight is high noon to them. They also have an instinctual sense of slope and air space, as dragons do, but they are much smaller -- the largest golden wher is about the size of a pony, the smallest green German shepherd-sized.
A wher has strange feet. The body weight is supported by two toes. The third toe is held back and off the ground like a large dewclaw. This toe bears a hooked, serrated talon twice the size of the wher's other claws. All four paws have this feature, like a cock's spur. A wher hunts by lurking in ambush, then running and leaping at prey. When it connects, it locks its jaws into the prey and flexes all four of these talons, kicking spasmodically. The first rushing attack usually misses (the prey almost always escapes before a second rush can be made) but when it hits, a kill almost always follows.
There are wild whers in the rainforests of Kerhuul and Firestone Island, as well as the Southern Continent. They are nocturnal, predatory, and cannibalistic. They occasionally attack lone mounted travelers, having a taste for runnerbeast flesh, but only starving or somehow ill whers attack humans.
Domestic whers are trained for three major tasks. They are best known as guard-beasts -- "watch-whers" -- but are also popular with miners and enforcers. The latter train them to work with humans and a special breed of dog, the Pernese equivalent of a bloodhound, to hunt down and take out dangerous outlaws. Every Lord/Lady Holder, all the Weyrs, and most of the important minor holds keep a Marshall, in order to keep the peace and hunt down serial killers, repeat rapists, and the like. (Yes, those kind of people are *everywhere*.)
In our time, wher breeding and training is seen as a special Weyr Craft, as the resemblance of whers to dragons is acknowledged, though the exact relationship has long since been forgotten. Dragonriders do not have time to keep whers, but each Weyr has a separate subculture of "wher-riders", so to speak, though a wher isn't big enough to ride. There is no central Crafthall; instead, there is a MasterWherrier based in FarCry Weyr and a graduated master Wherrier in each other Weyr. People who wish to become wher owners need only buy an egg at a Gather, but those who wish to be professional breeders and/or trainers must become whercrafters. Twice per year, the MasterWherrier has a booth at a major Gather somewhere in the Northern Continent, where people can apply to become apprentice wherriers. A wherrier must be patient but firm, able to work constructively with the animals without abusing them, not to mention emotionally mature enough to handle a tele-empathic bond with such a predatory, feral animal!
Most people do not pass the MasterWherrier's examination. Those who do are taken back to FarCry Weyr for their apprentice training. Those which graduate to journey(wo)man are sent to each other Weyr in turn to be trained by each of the other Masters in their particular specialty -- specifically, mine-wher training, watch-wher training, blood-wher training, breeding, and wher healing. Very few complete the whole circuit. A journey(wo)man wherrier trained in the specific skill desired (say, mine-wher training) can get a position using that specific skill with relative ease, and most stop once they learn all they can about their personal topic of interest.
Nevertheless, a few want to learn *everything*, and persevere until they do. Once those few have been certified by each Master Wherrier in turn, they return to FarCry Weyr for a final examination by the MasterWherrier. If they pass this final test, they become Master Wherriers. If there are currently no positions open at any Weyr, a Master Wherrier finds a position in the same way a journey(wo)man would. When a Master Wherrier dies or retires from the job, all the Masters not assigned to a Weyr compete for the new opening.
This is a very esoteric, specialized Craft; typically there are only ten or so Master Wherriers on Pern at any given time. When the MasterWherrier retires or dies, all living Master Wherriers vote to select his/her replacement, just as in the other Crafts.
The MasterWherrier is considered equal in rank to any other MasterCrafter and has a seat on the Council.