Kit Ping's final design was done after having viewed the actual properties of Thread, albeit only briefly and without protracted study. Nevertheless, they have several advantages over their canon cousins. First of all, their forelimbs are only slightly shorter than their hind limbs and more powerful, with a keeled chestplate like a bird's. This anchors the wing and shoulder muscles alike, allowing more strength and agility when on the ground as well as in the air. The thick, leathery hide is smooth and hairless; most colors have a burnished, semi-gloss finish, but some have the almost greasy texture of highly polished jade or amber.
The otherwise featureless hide is armored along the spine, however, starting from the top of the muzzle and skull. This is armored with flattened metallic scutes, similar to those of some Terran dinosaurs. These defensive structures are light but strong; they are extremely similar to to the scales atop a Terran snake's head. (An example for reference.) w
These scutes become short, overlapped, plate-like structures with fluted tapering edges, starting just over the point where the skull meets the spine. These run down the spine to form an equivalent of the canon dragon's neck-ridge, save that the ridge, formed as it is by upward ornamentation of the armor plating, continues all the way to the tailtip. The two ridges closest to the shoulders are structured such that a human form slips easily between them, able to grip the ridge in front for support, and those over the back and shoulders are shaped similarly, allowing for passengers.
These light but sturdy Thread-proof plates protect the whole top of the skull and the entire length of the spine in an adult dragon. Along the neck the plates curve down at the edges, hugging the sides of the vulnerable neck -- these can be so long as to cover half the neck from spine down in some beasts. Between the shoulders and the hips, they are wide enough to shield the whole area of exposed back, ending just short of the wing-membrane connection lines so as not to interfere with wing mobility. Past the hips they flare out to each side rather than curving down as on the neck, in order to form a sort of segmented "roof" over the tail off which Thread can bounce without contacting vulnerable flesh.
The plates get shorter and thinner as the tail narrows, forming a spade-shaped pair of sharp-edged protrusions at the very tip of the tail. These can be used defensively (in the rare case anything should attack a dragon, although it does happen) but usually serve to reinforce and protect the tail sphincter (our dragons eliminate through a tail-tip orifice, as AMC's do.) Only the tail spade has sharp edges; the rest are contoured -- not exactly blunt, but nowhere near sharp enough to cut on casual contact, like a very old knife that can't hold an edge.
These scutes are biological accretions of various metals, bone, and a substance similar to keratin. The metal reinforces the keratin and bone, preventing Thread from eating the armor away, at least very quickly. This gives the dragon time to duck Between before taking serious injury. The entire spinal column is fully protected, and the wings (the membranes of which contain a thin, light, intricate lattice of the same material for support and protection) give shelter to the soft, vulnerable sides. A fringe of this same material hangs from the dragon's chin.
Just behind the antlers, on either side of the head, three flattened plates (a total of six) shaped roughly like knife blades rise from the dragon's head, each larger than the next, with the smallest lying closest to the head. These plates, made of the same material externally, act as ears for the dragon, picking up even the smallest vibrations in the air. Like the antlers (see below,) these plates are hollow and filles with nerves, as well as sensitive ear-organs.
The scutes and plates are hollow, supported inside by strutted and chambered bone similar to a bird's bones, making them far lighter than they appear. They add very little weight, overall, and the increased strength of the limbs, wings included, more than makes up for it. Due to this, even 'common' colors have a faint pearlescent appearance in health, and the 'royal' colors can appear to be sculpted from raw metal when mating time approaches. However, they must consume metal in order to create these structures. The exact metal needed depends on the dragon's color and rank; this information is included in the individual entries on dragon colors. Only a small amount of metal is needed for adult male and non-breeding dragons, but growing babies need a bit more, and pregnant females can consume surprising amounts. Their teeth are specially designed for this purpose -- they have three pairs of molars specifically intended for pulverizing stone, due to the need to chew firestone, and these same teeth have adapted well to occasional metal consumption as well.
Newly-hatched dragons have not yet grown in their armor. They are smooth-bodied all over, with only a few bumps and ridges to hint at what will be growing in as they age. The antlers are mere horn-buds basically identical to canon head-knobs, the chin fringe is a poorly defined ridge, and the ear-plates are glued to the sides of the skull by amniotic fluid (rendering the newborn deaf!) As the dragon ages, these features mature in a specific order. First the ear-plates dry out and expand, allowing the beast to hear physically. Next, the head scutes begin to expand, quickly covering the whole top of the skull. At the same time, the original horn-bud develops first into a tightly coiled spiral with small bumps along the outer edge; then the spiral begins to uncoil, the bumps growing into true branches, sort of like a stag's, but usually without secondary branches. (Antler size and intricacy is color-linked rather than sex-linked, so do not give female dragons smaller or simpler antlers just because they're female, or vise versa!)
Once the head scutes are about half-developed, the neck scutes begin to grow in, followed by those over the shoulders, then down the back, gradually all the way down to the tailtip. The basic growth is done by the time the weyrling is one Turn old, and the plates will be fully developed -- fluting, contours, shelves, and everything -- by the time the dragon hits puberty at two to two and a half Turns of age. The antlers, however, often do not finish uncurling until the dragon is two or three decades old; the size, number and complexity of branching, and degree of curling in a dragon's antlers is the best way to estimate its age at a glance, though this is not as precise or reliable as counting tree-trunk rings. Colors and invididuals grow at different rates. One can estimate a dragon's age within a set of relatively specific groups: 'newborn', 'hatchling', 'fledgling', 'half-grown', 'well-grown', 'young adult', 'mature adult', 'middle-aged', 'older', 'ancient'.
Due to their metal content, these structures are almost always at least partially a different color than the dragon's hide. In adult dragons who have been consuming metal for many Turns, their armor is fully metallic, as if it were war-beast's barding rather than natural. A ten-Turn-old violet queen may have horns and scutes of pure gold, and the golden lattice in her wings will protrude slightly and be visible against the lighter purple background of the membrane, especially when the sun shines across it at the right angle; a silver, meanwhile, glitters in the light at that age, its mirror-bright armor setting off the glossy pearlescence of its hide.
The eyes remain large, multi-faceted, bioluminescent, and opal-like, changing color in iridescent ripples in accordance with the dragon's emotions. They are protected by short, triangular scutes which project outward from the eyeridge, similar to a therapod dinosaur's eye "horns", and have three eyelids, one of which is a transparent membrane to protect the eye in environments where vision is required but the eye must be protected.
There are two sets of nostrils. One pair, teardrop-shaped, are set in the end of the muzzle to either side. The other pair is hidden behind the wing-shoulders, underneath the overhanging edge of a back-plate on either side of the spine. Riders must remember to check both pairs of nostrils when inspecting their dragons for signs of illness, as one respiratory tract may become infected separately from the other. This double arrangement prevents the dragon's long neck from being an easy target -- they cannot be strangled or choked in a typical manner, including by the jaws of another dragon. This very feature has saved the life of more than one female dragon whose rider was so irresponsible as to allow her to rise to mate in close proximity to another mating female. The muzzle nostrils, like the eyes, are protected by a small scute overhang. This scute is also where the 'egg tooth' is attached, and sometimes it never falls off, forming a small 'horn' on the dragon's nose. This is most common with sports (see below) but it can happen with normal dragons as well, especially the smaller colors.
When a dragon is born, it has small head-knobs similar to those of the old dragons. As it grows, however, these knobs develop, and by the age of three months, they have become a pair of small, tightly curled horns. By the age of six months, the horns have begun to unfurl; by the age of one Turn, a pair of spiraling antlers with shark-fin-shaped protrusions rises from the fledgeling's head. As the dragon grows, its antlers slowly uncurl and the protrustions lengthen into true spikey sub-horns, almost like a stag's antlers but much less branched. By the time a dragon reaches ten or twenty Turns of age, the horns have generally fully uncurled into straight antlers with several small unforked "branches," though some retain the curved shape their whole lives. These horns, though externally protected by the same organic alloy that forms the armor (and therefore are usually the same color as the armor, though they can be lighter or darker sometimes, depending) and very sharp-looking, are actually hollow tubes containing thick bundles of nerves and specialized brain tissue. They vastly improve a dragon's psychic ability (not known or referred to as such by Pernese, but that's what it is.) If a dragon's antlers are chopped off entirely, it loses the ability to stay plugged into its own Weyr's "hive mind" and can only contact one other dragon at a time. It also loses the ability to hail dragons from other Weyrs; they have to open contact if it wants to speak with them. Moreover, it can never again leave a Weyr and join another, as there is now no way to access its "internal radio" and change the "dial" to the new Weyr's "station". Only the connection to the rider is undamaged and undamageable. Therefore, dragons are exceedingly protective of their antlers. The males will sometimes show them off during mating flights, but they are *never* used aggressively, and even two queens battling in mating fervor will not attack each other's antlers. Some dragons will not allow anyone but their rider to even touch their antlers.
There are a total of twelve standard dragon types, with a thirteenth 'sport' variety that hatches now and again from undersized or defective eggs. As the dragons in these eggs are usually stunted in size but otherwise whole and healthy, the current practice is to help them hatch and perform Impression rather than leaving the matter to Nature as has been done in times past. Right now, the Weyrs need every single dragon they can hatch, even the sports. A sport egg is laid perhaps one in every fifty clutches, so sport dragons are consequently rather rare, and opinions about them vary, but those who Impress a sport dragon are kept in the Weyr and treated like normal dragonriders. (Yes, this means that there cannot be and will never be an equivalent of Ruth and Jaxom in our game. This is very deliberate. There are no white dragons, even here. Sorry. There are some colors which can sometimes be so pale as to make them essentially white-looking even if not truly a "white dragon", though, so if you're dead set on a "white dragon," apply for a rider of a silver, gray, opal, or pearl dragon. See below for details.)
The twelve standard colors are divided into Royal castes and Jewel castes. (No Pernese likes to call any dragon 'common', albeit the name 'Jewel' is a little incongruous with the names given to the various colors.) I will list each color in order of its overall rank within Weyr society and describe the traits and purpose of each.
Please remember that Pernese dragons, especially ours, are a eusocial species. This means that, while very intelligent and possessing individual personality, they do not entirely think of themselves as fully independent individuals. They are part of The Weyr, which could be written just as accurately as The Hive. Unlike bees and ants, indiviudal dragons do have individual existences, to a certain extent, but they are still fundamentally extensions of their Weyr and serve specific purposes therein to promote the survival of the Weyr as a whole. This attitude seeps into their riders as well. A sole dragonpair could not survive separated from other dragons; they might think otherwise when disaffected enough to want to quit society, but in actually making the attempt, they would slowly die of despair and lack of purpose. In a few very rare cases, a dragonrider has gone mad and taken their dragon with them, or a dragonet Hatched with genetic flaws which lead to mental illness in the adult beast, which in turn deranged the rider -- or else the invisibly damaged dragonet deliberately chose a similarly damaged rider. It's impossible for others to know for sure, though argument is fierce. These dragons and their riders went rogue, and are infamous names, spoken only as expletives and invective or when their stories are told. They will be listed under "On Slang and Famous Names."
Keep this in mind. That doesn't mean that dragons or their riders are mindless robot slaves to an all-powerful Queen, but it does mean that they have certain traits that are "fixed" the way they wouldn't typically be in humans. Sort of like how different breeds of dog have characteristic temperaments as well as appearances.
These aren't straitjackets, just particular features. For example, there is no such thing as a golden queen with no leadership ability, or a violet queen with no nurturing inclination whatsoever. There are no anxiety-ridden bronzes (though some may not be quite as brave as others ... ) or arrogant, domineering pearls. This would contradict their biological purpose. These traits are noted in the descriptions; beyond them, your dragon can have any personality you like, although it would be best to retain the flavor, if not the specific details, of the archetype of the color.
All measurements are given in feet. Note that dragons are not strictly, and in fact usually not, uniformly one color with no variation. Not only are there different possible hues within the given color, but patterned color and markings are very common. Most dragons have either one or the other, and often both. Metallic markings are quite common -- modern dragons are metal-eaters and sometimes their bodies form harmless scute patches on other parts of the body, or the cells of one area absorb more metal than they should during development in the egg and change color as a result; this is the equivalent of a birthmark for dragons and is quite common. Because the pregnant female eats many kinds of metal to nourish her growing young, a metallic birthmark can be of any type of metal the mother consumed, not just the type that particular color typically metabolizes, as the birthmark is formed before the shell of the egg is, within the mother's body. Other times, dragons are both with splashes, speckles, or streaks of bleached-out color or pure white, or else a near-black shade of the body color. This is caused by a genetic defect in which color cells fail to activate, fully or partially, and fail to color that area of hide, or else are overstimulated and over-color that area of hide. This is also relatively common. Finally, the hide can simply be mottled, brindled, streaked, striped, splotched, patched, or otherwise patterned with different shades/tints/hues of its body color. In point of fact, not many dragons are just plain self-colored; keep that in mind!
Also keep in mind that, unlike AMC's dragons, our dragons can and do have strong personalities. They are not mild-mannered secondary characters, for whom taking initiative or speaking up is unusual and noteworthy. They are equals to the humans, if not in fact the superior partner in the relationship, and full characters in their own right. I expect you to develop your dragon just as fully as you do its rider, and I expect you to RP both of them equally, as the single being in two bodies with two personalities that they basically are. If I notice anyone neglecting the dragon for the rider I will be in contact, and you will be expected to improve, or else lose your dragonrider. Think of a dragonrider as being a character set, not a human character with a pet dragon.
On the other hand, with some colors, and some individual dragons and individual humans, it may well be fully appropriate to play it like a ruling dragon with a human bond-servant. Queens would be particularly likely to behave this way, but jades and greens can be very haughty and superior as well, as can bronzes and reds. In this case, they will still love and value their human highly, but they will consider their rider a treasured subordinate, a second-in-command, the only one worthy to attend them, not a true equal. Even less arrogant beasts may well see their humans as being secondary -- after all, humans may help dragons organize themselves, make, and execute plans, but dragons are the ones who fight Thread, really, with the partial exception of the flamethrower-bearing queen riders. Even then, the riders are dependent on the dragon to get the Thread midair, before it gets dangerously close or scores anything on the ground, and to dodge physically or dodge between when necessary. Even when Thread is not falling, Weyrlife revolves around dragon needs and dragon life cycles. All major Weyr holidays and most superstitions concern dragonkind. And while a rider is familiar with their own and other dragons, nonriders, even the weyrbred, tend to treat them with high honor at minimum, often outright awe and/or fear. It's no wonder that all this might go to some dragons' heads! Play it as seems appropriate for your characters. But always remember to consider what kind of relationship the dragon and the rider have when creating a dragonpair.
You may always transfer in a dragonrider of any color except queens, bronze, red, or sport. These castes/colors require pre-approval. Any one player may have up to three Royal pairs amongst their characters, including not more than one queen, bronze, or red rider. You may have one red and one bronze at the same time, but not two reds or two bronzes. It has not been decided whether one may have a queen rider and a red/bronze rider; this decision will be made in the future, depending on how people behave. If people abuse the situation by having their bronzes/reds fly their own queens, or seem to be obviously "hoarding" metallics for no reason except prestige, it will be forbidden to have a queenrider and a red/bronze rider at the same time.
Beyond this, one person may not have more than two silvers or coppers, and all other colors are restricted to 3 apiece, with no more than 5 characters total unless you have received permission to create more.
Colors are restricted in part because some are rarer, and the mod(s) want to give everyone a chance to have one. Once the game is bigger and the plotline allows for more metallic dragons to be laid, the restrictions will be edited or even lifted, depending on what happens and whether people can be trusted not to abuse the privilege. The other reason is that the person creating this game does not believe most people are capable of maintaining more than three to five characters at a time, total.
He used to play in Pern games where people would create character after character based on passing whims and impulses, often making one, two or even three Candidates for each Hatching even if they already had plenty of other dragonrider characters, even plenty of other Weyrlings. Inevitably, these people ended up roleplaying their favorite characters and neglecting all the others except as a notation in their signature. To add insult to injury, some people would neglect metallics in favor of lesser colors, which made people who weren't lucky enough to have a metallic dragon yet and who wanted one extremely jealous and unhappy.
Therefore, to prevent this happening in his own game, he has imposed limits. He does not like doing this, however, because it's more crap he has to remember and he prefers to trust people to be cool than assume they won't be. Because he knows better than this he is using the limits first. If his players prove to be trustworthy, even if he isn't persuaded far enough to remove the limits altogether, he will likely stop enforcing them except when forced to by abuse. ;)
Size: 100' - 150'
Sex: Female; fertile
Metal: Gold normally, all when pregnant
Mates With: Bronze and silver compete fiercely for gold favor, sometimes joined by reds or even large browns, though they rarely win.
Rider: Female, hetero or bi; usually strong, either with leadership potential and/or notable power
The golden dragon is the highest-ranked of all, the Royal Queen, the only caste which all other castes must and will obey without question. She is the only one who can lay any color egg at any time, though the color she mates with will determine the exact contents of the clutch. They are also the largest dragons in general, though Jewel Queens (see violet, below) are only slightly smaller on average. The largest violet, however, will always be smaller than the largest gold. They are the main breeding females under normal circumstances, though currently there are none alive on Pern except for a single egg baking on the Howling Hatching Ground. During an Interval they lay 10-15 eggs; up to and during a Pass, 20-50. Even they do not always lay golden eggs themselves, but if mated to a bronze there's a fifty-fifty chance for one during or just before a Pass. Mated to an extremely virile red or a silver, the chance of a golden egg is one in three; to a normal red, one in ten. Browns cannot sire golds. There are usually even numbers of royal and jewel castes when mated to a metallic, but a preponderance of jewels when mated to a red or brown.
Golden dragons are large, powerfully built creatures, but despite their thick bones and well-developed musculature they have an overall sleekness and gracility, a sinuosity of form which belies their true power. They are never allowed to chew firestone, even when they are plentiful, for their reproductive capacity is their main purpose to the Weyr collective. When there are enough of them, however, they are permitted to fly in the Queens' Wing.
White/dark markings are relatively rare on gold queens, but they do happen. Metallic markings are more common, especially of gold and silver. A Royal Queen's hide in normal times can range from a deep, burnished yellow-brown approaching bronze to a pale champagne hue, with a noticable pearlescent finish. When in mating heat, they seem to "glow" as their hide turns fully metallic, though its hue doesn't actually change. Their chin fringe and ear-plates are especially long and finely shaped as a rule, and their faces are sleek and elegant even compared to other dragons. There is an aura of rulership that hangs around them, even those with less imperious, dominant personalities; no dragon will disobey a golden queen, and they are arguably the most fearsome and awe-inspiring of all the dragons.
They are the most important of dragons, and they know it, but they aren't typically prone to excessive arrogance or conceit (note the word "excessive", though.) They are very kind and friendly with the dragons of their own Weyr, especially those which they personally hatched, but tend to be reserved and slightly suspicious of dragons from other Weyrs, especially other queens. They will not tolerate the presence of another queen when brooding over a clutch or when rising to mate; they have been known to kill each other fighting for the favors of the males and so should be kept well separate when one is coming into heat.
Size: 100' - 130'
Sex: Female; fertile
Metal: Gold normally, all when pregnant
Mates With: Red or silver, not uncommonly bronze, very occasionally brown
Rider: Female, hetero or bi; usually strong but motherly/nurturing and/or with notable power
The violet queen is the highest-ranking of the Jewel castes. They are currently the primary breeding females of the Weyrs due to the tragic but hopefully temporary loss of the golden queens. When mated to a bronze, they have a one-in-one hundred chance of laying a golden queen egg, but otherwise cannot produce them. Mated to a bronze the clutch is evenly mixed between the royal and jewel castes; mated to a silver there are one-third metallics; mated to a virile red there might be a few metallics, but usually when mated to a red or brown the clutch is entirely Jewel castes.
Currently, violets are not permitted firestone and fly in the Queens' wing, but in the past, when there have been golden as well as violet queens and there were enough breeders of both colors, junior violet queens were allowed to chew firestone and join the regular wings as Wingleaders after appropriate training. This sterilized them, and the practice has been discontinued as long as breeding females remain in short supply, but if the situation improves or becomes very desperate, it might be allowed again.
Violet dragons are generally heavier and rounder than golden queens; 'robust' is an excellent term for the standard violet physique. Their necks and tails tend to be shorter, their skulls heavier, their wings broadened for long soaring rather than long for quick agility in the air. They have the same aura of nobility that cloaks the golden queens, however, and their brilliant gilded armor leaves no question in anyone's mind that these elegant creatures are Queens in their own right.
White/dark markings are common in violet queens, metallic markings less so but far from unheard of, and some beasts show both. Their bodies are often shaded darker or lighter in different areas -- a dark streak down the back and a paler lavender belly for instance, or a darkened muzzle and lightened paws. The main hue of the hide ranges from a deep, midnight hue that can seem *almost* black except in direct sunlight to an almost pastel-pale lavender.
Violet queens are nurturing, mothering personalities. While the golden queens are rulers first and mothers second, violet queens are mothers first and foremost. Even those which have been given firestone take a parental attitude toward those they are protecting with their sacrifice of fertility.
Size: 80' - 110'
Sex: Male; fertile
Metal: Bronze ingots are best, but copper and tin can be fed separately
Mates With: Gold and violet, but also with jades and greens when queens are unavailable
Rider: Male, hetero or bi; almost always strong with leadership tendencies/ability, often but not always with power
The bronze is the highest-ranking male caste. They are not as rare as the queens, with as many as six sometimes being born in one large clutch, but are vastly outnumbered by the lower castes nevertheless. They are the generals of the Weyr, and one of their number is almost invariably, but not always, the King, ridden by the Weyrleader. Bronzes serve to inspire, guide, and coordinate the other fighting castes, giving them instructions and someone to rally around during Threadfall. They are the ordained mate of the golden queen and usually take the violets, though a large, agile, and/or intelligent silver or red can outfly a group of smaller/slower/less clever bronzes to get a queen; that happens more often with violets, but it wasn't unknown back when there were golden queens in the Weyrs. Bronzes also form a backup force for disasters, particularly rock slides and avalanches. Some things are too heavy even for the worker-castes, and so the bronzes will step in. This is a very rare occurance, but it does happen. An incident during the Seventh Pass, when part of the western wall of Howling Weyr fell in and buried the entrance to the Lower Caverns, is particularly well remembered by pre-Ninth Pass Weyrfolk.
Bronze dragons chew firestone, but have special organs capping their gonads which filter the phosphene from their blood before it reaches the critical spermatic tissue, and therefore are able to remain fertile at the same time. Adult bronzes act as Wingleaders and Wingseconds during Threadfall, only flying within the wing itself when there are more trained adult bronzes than there are leadership positions.
Bronzes are robust, heavy-boned, muscular beasts, with especially well-developed chests and wings for long hours of powered flight during Fall. Their armor scutes are larger and thicker than most dragons' and they grow metallic far quicker than the queens or working castes do. They tend to have thicker, shorter antlers and ear-plates as well, though this is a tendency, not a rule. A tangible aura of authority surrounds them, similar to that of the queens but less intense and without the elements of awe and divinity. Strong-willed males of other castes, especially silvers and reds, sometimes challenge a bronze, but usually a bronze can expect obedience from any other caste save the queens. A bronze will never disobey a queen's direct order, whether gold or violet, under any circumstances, and will absolutely refuse if his rider tries to force him, becoming distressed if the rider persists.
Markings in general are less common on bronzes; they're more prone to patterning of the hide, especially brindle. However, most bronzes have a white blotch on the chest or the forehead at birth; in most, this shrinks away to nothing as the beast grows, but in some, it never fully disappears. Bronze hides range from a dark-gold color to an almost coppery hue to a sort of light burnt champagne; this basic color can be pure, or it may have a very slight tinge of green, or it may be very distinctly brownish-greenish-yellow.
Bronzes are martial, dominant, and aggressive as a general rule, but under normal circumstances not particularly violent or destructive outside Threadfall. (Dragon fighting dragon is as big a taboo in our Pern as in canon Pern.) Once or twice, however, one has Impressed to the wrong human, one with just enough power to disguise his brokenness or to seem like a good choice despite his flaws, with horrific consequences for the mental health and personality of both. A vicious, savage pair that delights in killing is the result of this unfortunate combination. Fortunately, humans with tele-empathic talent *and* a taste for killing are quite rare, especially on Pern, so this doesn't happen often. Nevertheless it's a combination to watch for.
Size: 65' - 100'
Sex: Male; fertile
Metal: Gold is best, but silver or bronze ingots work
Mates With: Violet; gold when they can catch them, and jades or greens when queens are unavailable
Rider: Male, hetero or bi; usually strong with leadership tendencies/ability but not always, but invariably with at least some power, whether known or not
The red dragons are the highest-ranking male Jewel caste, second only to bronzes and the queens in caste dominance. They are more common than bronzes and tend to be outnumbered by the usually-smaller silvers, but not always. They serve as Wingseconds and Thirds, sometimes even Wingleaders, supplementing the bronzes and occaionally taking over for them when they are too few for some reason. They aren't quite as large or strong as bronzes, but they are quicker and more agile, better at ducking and rolling to tackle Thread from odd angles. They also help with natural disasters in the same way bronzes do. Reds, especially larger ones, will compete fiercely though usually without success for both queens during mating flights.
Red dragons chew firestone, but have the same filtering organs the bronzes do, and therefore remain fertile. When not acting in leadership positions in the main wings, they fly with the Queens' Wing for added protection and security. Each Queen in the Wing will have at least one red as her Seconds to command. Red dragons have a stronger sense of their own individuality than most and will challenge the bronzes when they disagree, but they aren't insubordinate, merely fulfilling their biological role as "betas" to the bronze's "alpha."
Red dragons are usually large, robust beasts, but not as much so as bronze or violet queen. Length defines them. They have sinewy runner's limbs, whippy tails, and almost albatross-like wings that allow them to soar effortlessly for hours, yet dive and dart when they need to. Their claws are larger than normal, their armor is thick and large like the bronze's, and their tail-spades and antlers tend to be wickedly sharp (though reds don't use them as weapons any more than the others for the same reasons.) All in all, a red dragon has a proud, fierce aura, though not one of absolute dominance like the higher castes.
Red dragons are the least prone to patterned hides, though white/dark and metallic markings are common. They tend to be rose-red, fresh-blood-red, rust-red, or poppy-red, but some are almost rose-pink while others approach brownness. A rich crimson is the most common; a few range as far as firey orange-red or a dull cerise.
Reds are martial, dominant, and aggressive in general, but under normal circumstances not particularly violent or destructive outside Threadfall. (Dragon fighting dragon is as big a taboo in our Pern as in canon Pern.) Once or twice, however, one has Impressed to the wrong human, one with just enough power to disguise his brokenness or to seem like a good choice despite his flaws, with horrific consequences for the mental health and personality of both. A vicious, savage pair that delights in killing is the result of this unfortunate combination. Fortunately, humans with tele-empathic talent *and* a taste for killing are quite rare, especially on Pern, so this doesn't happen often. Nevertheless it's a combination to watch for.
Size: 65' - 85'
Sex: Male; fertile
Metal: Silver is best, but copper or gold works, in that order of preference
Mates With: Violet, sometimes gold; when queens are unavailable, they fly jades and greens.
Rider: Female, bi or hetero; usually intense, high-sensation-seeking people, usually with at least medium power
Silvers are the Royal equivalent of browns. They are more common than reds, though slightly less common than browns. They act as special forces within the wings to be directed as needed. They have just enough staying power to last out a Fall in a fixed position within a wing, or else they can be sent this way and that, darting to sudden thick patches or to fill in holes left by wounded or retreating dragons. They are small and quick enough to get there without getting in the way, but large enough for a lone silver pair to make a real difference to a struggling Wing or endangered queen.
Silver dragons chew firestone and have the same organs as reds and bronzes, allowing them to remain fertile. A few silvers are always assigned to the Queen's Wing to follow above and to the sides, sweeping for Thread, to reduce the queens' workload. Sometimes a large silver pair with a lot of experience and more than usual leadership ability for their color are promoted to Wingsecond, and occasionally special, small Wings are formed with a silver pair as Wingleader in order to accomplish some special task during training/the Games or some particular tactic during Fall.
Silvers are sleek, lean beasts, more lightly-boned than the larger reds and bronzes but not nearly as delicate as a jade or pearl. They are known for having very long, fine, almost beard-like chin fringes and especially narrow, intricate antlers -- unlike other colors, the branches fork noticably starting in young adulthood (six Turns and older.) They have kestrel-like wings which provide a balance between short-term agility and long-term gliding/soaring ability.
A silver's hide, like other Royal colors, has a rich pearlescent finish rather than truly metallic except just before and during the mating flight; however, they are the most spectacularly metallic-seeming Royal during mating, sometimes giving the impression of being living statues of silver rather than real animals. Otherwise, their hides range from a blue-tinged off-white to dull pewter to deep gunmetal; the term "silver" is an approximation as a rule. They never get dark enough to be confused with blue or black dragons, but the rich, as opposed to subtle, pearly finish of the hide would be a giveaway anyhow. They can have any kind of marking but are especially prone to horizontal metallic streaking on the legs, and to white/darkened muzzles, paws, wings, and tails.
Silvers take in and process information quickly; they strongly tend to be active and athletic.
Size: 65' - 85'
Sex: Male; fertile
Metal: Gold or copper is best, but silver or bronze can work, in that order of preference
Mates With: Sometimes violet, very rarely gold; most often jades and greens, sometimes a large pearl or black.
Rider: Male, bi or hetero; usually intense, quiet, highly alert/aware people with low to medium power
Browns are the "common"/Jewel equivalent of silvers and are sometimes referred to as topaz dragons, especially those with more yellow-hued hides. They are slightly more common than silvers but are thoroughly outnumbered by their smaller brethren. They are a major "support caste" for the wings, often acting as Wingseconds or Thirds, just as often bolstering the main wings with their great strength and stamina. They step in when smaller dragons begin to tire, holding the line until the replacement arrives, and also assist the bronzes by keeping the smaller dragons in formation, passing on orders, and the like.
Browns chew firestone and have the same adaptation as the larger males, allowing them to remain fertile. At least two browns are assigned to each wing to act as its "spine", in addition to any which may happen to be serving as Wingseconds or Thirds. Any left over are often assigned to the Queen's Wing to bolster the Queen's Escort if the big-dragon spots in the higher-level wings are full.
Browns are stocky, sturdy beasts, not often overlarge nor undersized. They are especially prone to developing tiny extra scutes or "scales" in random places on their bodies. Being benign tumors, these "scales" grow over time and can sometimes be troublesome if they appear in an inconvenient place. Fortunately there are no nerve endings in these "scales," so they can be filed back if necessary, though care must be taken not to abrade the sensitive hide all around it. Their antlers tend to be simpler and less intricate than others, often remaining spiral-shaped their whole lives.
In color, the brown's hide varies more than the other large castes. They can be pretty much any shade of brown imaginable. Dark/white markings are somewhat less common than metallic ones. As mentioned, extra metallic "scales" are a common marking for browns; they will be the same color as the metal the dragon is fed. These happen to other colors as well but are much less common. The reason for this is unknown but probably genetic. They have a more subtle finish to their hides.
Browns are somewhat slower and more indolent than their silver counterparts; even an active, athletic brown enjoys his rest as much as his play. They are slower thinkers, as well, taking their time to think things through thoroughly.
Size: 50' - 60'
Sex: Male; infertile
Metal: Copper is best, but bronze ingots or gold work, in that order of preference
Mates With: Jades and greens usually, sometimes pearls or blacks
Rider: Male or female, gay or bi; usually perceptive, intelligent, quick-thinking people
Coppers are, along with their blue Jewel counterparts, the workhorses of the fighting castes. Each is equally common (under normal circumstances -- there is a general underpopulation of Royal castes right now) and much moreso than their larger cousins. Though they sometimes get as large as sixty feet, the vast majority are closer to fifty. Coppers and blues form the bulk of the fighting wings, with only their jade and green sisters being as numerous as they. They don't have quite enough stamina to last out a full six-hour Fall, and so switch out with each other. Each copper pair has a blue pair as "partners"; when one begins to tire dangerously, they return to the Weyr, and their "partner pair" leaves the Weyr to fly in their place. This typically begins to happen about four to five hours into the Fall for the blues and coppers, with the process sheltered and guided by browns, sometimes silvers.
Coppers chew firestone. Because they are not large enough to reproduce with the queens, they have no protective organs for their gonads. Hence, chewing firestone renders them infertile. They are never put in leadership positions, as only the very largest are able to last out the full Fall, but they are very highly valued for their agility in the air. Coppers dart about, swooping and dodging, often looping up above their Wing while the blues stay in place and the greens and jades curve below and to the sides. Coppers are sometimes assigned to the Queen's Wing to catch anything the silvers or queens might miss.
Coppers are lightly-built beasts for their size, made for agility and speed. Their size and musculature provide a certain amount of stamina, but they have slightly less staying power than blues, albeit this is due to being swifter. They have smallish, close-lying scutes and quite large ear-plates. Their wings are falconlike, short and narrow. In color, they are generally a bright, burnished new-penny hue, but can range as far as golden orange, red-champagne, or burnt mahogany with a yellowish hint. They usually have dark markings on a self-colored hide, but not always.
Coppers are much like silvers in personality, but with more emphasis on cerebral than physical activity, though both are important. They especially appreciate intellectual games; emotional games are good too but must be consensual and harmless, as no mentally healthy dragon is cruel.
Size: 50' - 60'
Sex: Male; infertile
Metal: Gold is best, but silver, copper, or bronze works, in that order
Mates With: Jades, greens, and larger pearls and blacks
Rider: Male or female, gay or bi; usually sturdy, dedicated, and/or alert
Blues, like coppers, are the workhorses of the wings. While the coppers dart and dodge, the blues hold the line, moving from position only to flame at Thread. They have slightly more stamina than the coppers but are still not able to fly an entire six-hour Fall as a rule. As described above, all adult blue pairs have a copper pair as a "partner" with whom they switch out in Fall. Each Wing starts with equal blues and coppers, so that the overall proportion remains right throughout Fall. In addition, blues are renowned as the most sensitive Search dragons.
Blues chew firestone. Because they are not large enough to breed with queens, they lack the protective organs of larger males. Therefore, this renders them infertile. They are never put in leadership positions because they cannot last out the Fall, but they are very highly valued for their stability and tenacity. Even in the most chaotic, blizzard-like Fall, the blues can be relied upon to flame Thread from the skies and still maintain the shape of the Wing and provide a template for the others to return to form.
Blues are sturdily built beasts, though not nearly as big and heavy as browns or reds. They have broader wings than coppers for better staying power. Their hide can be any shade of blue imaginable, and they frequently show markings of any kind.
Blues tend to be sturdy and forthright, reluctant to 'break the rules' or disobey their superiors, even moreso than other dragons. They are known for being incapable of lying, even by dragon standards.
Size: 45' - 50'
Sex: Female; infertile
Metal: Silver is best, but bronze or copper works, in that order
Mates With: Blues, coppers, blacks, pearls, sometimes browns or reds, even the occasional bronze
Rider: Male or female, gay or bi
Jades are the Royal version of greens; they are the two smallest fighting castes. Outside their uses during Fall, jades and greens are female but infertile, and rise frequently; they thus provide sexual companionship and release to the many, many male dragons of the Weyr which are not able to catch the queens. As a result, there are more jade and green dragons than any other colors. Even the black and pearl worker dragons, which can be male or female, are less numerous.
Jades chew firestone, and are hence infertile. During Fall, they make up the bulk of the Wings alongside greens, blues, and coppers, doing the simple but essential task of flaming Thread from the sky. They go where needed and do what they're told. They are the foot soldiers of the Weyr during Fall. In addition, Jades are nearly as good at blues at Searching.
Jades are light, delicately built dragons, even moreso than greens, and are known for their intricate antlers. They cannot last out the full Fall; like blues and coppers, jades and greens are often "paired" to switch each other out when one pair tires during Fall. For jades and greens, the trade-offs begin happening three to four hours into the Fall. They are distinguished from greens not only by their metallic dietary needs, but by the almost oily, seemingly polished luster of their hide, and their gray-tinged hues. A jade dragon's hide ranges from a very pale spring green to a richer, darker pine green, always with that rich gray tinge and the odd glossiness which is very distinct from the matte pearlescence of a green. Marbled and cloudy patterns are common; almost none are without some sort of patterning in their hide. Metallic flecks, speckles, and thin bands are also quite common.
Jade dragons have personalities in accordance with their looks: dainty and unusual. They tend to take up strange hobbies and intricate interests more typical of humans than other dragons.
Sex: Female; infertile
Metal: Gold is best, but silver or bronze work
Mates With: Same as Jade
Rider: Male or female, gay or bi
Greens are very similar to Jades in terms of function within the Weyr. Like Jades they provide companionship and sexual release to the male dragons of the Weyr which cannot hope or routinely fail to catch the queens. They are not as good at Search as jades, but they have very keen senses, particularly vision, plus more patience and stamina; they thus make capital watchriders.
Greens chew firestone, and hence are infertile. During Fall, they, like the jades, form the bulk of the fighting wings, charged with nothing except to flame Thread from the sky and to stay in formation as much as possible except when ordered otherwise.
Greens are sturdier than jades but are no bigger, and in fact average on the smaller end of their size range. They come in a wide variety of builds, moreso than the larger colors, as their intra-species purpose is less specific. Markings, too, are quite common and come in all types. Metallic flecks or speckling along the hips, shoulders, flanks, neck, and/or face is particularly common. They can come in any hue of green, including those described under Jade dragons, but they lack the glossy grayish luster of the Jade's hide, instead having a brilliant, sun-catching brightness, and they are more prone to brindled or rosette-shaped spotting, and the localized flecks or speckles mentioned above, not the more generalized markings common to Jades. They are sometimes called Emeralds to distinguish them from their Royal sisters.
Greens are quite versatile in personality, from arrogant to sweet, bold to shy, motherly to regal. All are famed for their honesty, sometimes to the point of total tactlessness.
Size: 30' - 40'
Sex: *Usually* female; infertile
Metal: Bronze is best, but gold or silver work, in that order
Mates With: Blacks, sometimes small blues or coppers
Rider: Male or female, any sexuality
Pearls are almost always female, but occasionally a male is born for reasons unknown. This trait exists only amongst the "worker" castes; the "warrior" castes' sexes are fixed. Being as small as they are, they can barely make half of Threadfall and usually do not fight Thread unless the Weyr is sorely understrength. Instead, they act as sentinels, messengers, couriers, and provide transportation within the Weyr as well as throughout Pern. This way, fighting dragons can focus entirely on fighting, training to fight, or resting from fighting, rather than having many extra demands on their time and energy.
Since they are sometimes called upon to fight fall, pearls are given firestone training. This renders them infertile permanently, even if they cease chewing firestone after Weyrling training and are never called upon to fight Thread.
Pearls are stocky and sturdy, so as to be able to carry their riders and passengers as well despite their small size. They tend to have larger, longer, more ornate antlers than the warrior caste, as they can get away with the extra weight on their heads most of the time where a fighting dragon cannot. The color of a Pearl's hide varies a lot -- they can be any number of off-white tints, a rich dark lunar gray, rose-pink, or golden-yellow. The most important distinguishing trait, other than size, is the intense pearlescence of their hides, far more lustrous than any other dragon's, even the silvers and golds. More importantly, their hide is never, ever metallic, always pearlescent. When rising to mate, they gleam like perfectly polished moonstone or mother-of-pearl in the sun, lushly opalescent, rather than like highly polished, luminescent metal.
Pearls have versatile personalities like greens, as like greens their biological duties are less firmly set.
Size: 30' - 40'
Sex: *Usually* male; infertile
Metal: Bronze is best, but gold or silver work, in that order
Mates With: Pearls, sometimes jades or greens
Rider: Male or female, any sexuality
Blacks are almost always male, but occasionally a female is born for reasons unknown. This trait exists only amongst the "worker" castes; the "warrior" castes' sexes are fixed. Being as small as they are, they can barely make half of Threadfall and usually do not fight Thread unless the Weyr is sorely understrength. Instead, they act as sentinels, messengers, couriers, and provide transportation within the Weyr as well as throughout Pern. This way, fighting dragons can focus entirely on fighting, training to fight, or resting from fighting, rather than having many extra demands on their time and energy.
Since they are sometimes called upon to fight fall, blacks are given firestone training. This renders them infertile permanently, even if they cease chewing firestone after Weyrling training and are never called upon to fight Thread.
Blacks are stocky and sturdy, so as to be able to carry their riders and passengers as well despite their small size. They tend to have larger, longer, more ornate antlers than the warrior caste, as they can get away with the extra weight on their heads most of the time where a fighting dragon cannot. The color of a black's hide varies less than any other caste -- they can be "charcoal" greyish-black, "sunburnt"/brownish or orangish-black, "rusty"/reddish black, "midnight"/bluish or purplish black, "swamp" or greenish-black, or simply pure "obsidian" black. Not uncommonly, a black whose hide has hints of many colors in different areas turns up; these are called "oil-slick" or "rainbow" blacks. A black's hide is nowhere near as lustrous as a pearl's, instead gleaming with an oily gloss like a Jade's.
Blacks have versatile personalities like greens, as like greens their biological duties are less firmly set.
Size: 20' - 30'
Sex: Either; infertile
Metal: See below
Mates With: N/A; see below
Rider: Male or female, any sexuality
Sport dragons hatch from undersized, damaged, or, in very rare cases, prematurely broken eggs. They are mutant or undeveloped embryos of some other color. Being essentially defective embryos, they have no pre-arranged place in Weyr society, but those which survive and make Impression are almost always allowed to stay in their Weyr; a place is found, or made, for them, generally among the working dragons rather than the Thread-fighters, but not always.
Some Weyrs train their sports with firestone and others don't, but all are infertile by nature. Due to their origins, they do not rise to mate at all, either to lead or to chase. This can be a source of frustration and sadness to their riders, but sex is simply not something they're equipped for, literally. They usually have a sense of themselves as "male" or "female," and are anatomically normal on the outside, but their gonads have never matured and may even be undifferentiated.
Sport dragons have the metallic dietary needs and relative size/physical build of whatever color they would have been if they hadn't become a sport. (Therefore, people applying for sport-dragon riders need to decide what that was.) A sport Jade is going to be much smaller and more delicately built than a sport Queen (yes, that can and has happened -- though thankfully very rarely!) They sometimes manifest further mutations and/or defects, though such seriously damaged embryos almost never survive to Impression.
The hide of some sports tends to be intensely pearly and off-white like a Pearl's, but mottled, clouded, or speckled with all the possible colors of dragonkind, whereas other sports are a simple, unequivocal gray, perhaps with a slight greeny, blue, brownish, red, or violet hue but just as often not; these are notably less lustrous. The former are called "Opals" and are assumed to be sport Royals; the latter are called "Grays" and assumed to be sport Jewels. Neither is more common than the other and they are of equal rank to each other.
Sports have whatever basic personality traits they would have had if they had matured normally. Most are surprisingly equitable about their differences, not seeing themselves as different from other dragons even when the differences are pointed out by their own riders. Invariably they simply shrug, or the draconic equivalent of the gesture, and/or say something noncommittal.