Feral (dacnomaniac) wrote in howlingweyrooc,

Dragons are slightly less individual than humans, being vertebrate hive creatures with pre-programmed purposes, but they too have differing levels of talent and skill in various respects, including with regard to their innate abilities. Nevertheless, all dragons have at least a certain basic level of capacity within the following fields.

The most obvious and earliest manifestation of a dragon's psychic power is its tele-empathic bond to its rider, formed shortly after the dragon's birth, utterly irrevocable once made. It names itself, and for some reason this name invariably ends in "-th". Unlike in canon Pern, it may end with something other than "-(vowel)th" "-rth" "-lth" or "-nth", and most names are at least two or three syllables rather than one. So please, let's see more dragons with names like this: Ruhariadth, Juliozth, or Kudrukth, and fewer like this: Rath, Keth, Morth, Hanth.

That said, the dragon's name must also be easy to pronounce and to remember, at least by your own personal standards, and preferably by those of the group at large. Don't make up names you won't be able to spell, say, or recall! And if you can but everyone else can't, it's probably best to change it unless you're absolutely in love with the name as it is. (Providing a pronunciation key, as I will with the Impressions at the Hatching, may help.)

Two to five syllables is probably best. Do not let this caution scare you away from exotic letters, especially toward the end of names. I, personally, have discovered myself able to easily pronounce names as exotic-looking as Qlissth and Hererranoxth (try it yourself) so experiment. Try to come up with something that, in your mind, fits the dragon's personality and sense of self. Always remember that the dragon is naming itself, not being named by the rider!

From birth to death, a dragon is in constant tele-empathic communion with its rider. This connection is more intense at some times than others; typically, the two are all but totally unified mind and heart during mating flights, Threadfall and a rider's illness, and most separate when the dragon sleeps and the rider is still awake, or vise versa. This bond can never be severed or damaged, nor will the rider or dragon ever desire such a thing. If they were so badly matched, they would not have Impressed to each other in the first place. Keep this in mind when fleshing out your rider-dragon relationship.

A queen, bronze, or red dragon is capable of broadcasting a single thought and one accompanying set of sensory impressions (an image/scent impression of an individual, for example, or between coordinates) to every dragon that is a member of its Weyr. Browns and silvers can broadcast in the same way to the whole Wing they are members of. Lesser dragons can typically make such far-ranging tele-empathic broadcasts only in emergencies, and sometimes not even then, if the dragon isn't especially talented or skilled in this area.

Two dragons of different Weyrs meeting each other can hail each other, but it is very difficult to make multi-recipient broadcasts to dragons from other Weyrs. In an emergency, a queen can "scream" to summon all the other queens currently alive, as can a particularly talented bronze or red; even some silvers and browns have shown this level of ability when sorely pressed. A truly powerful queen, once or twice in Pernese history, has even managed to "scream" to all other living dragons, but this takes a legendary level of talent even by the standards of the queens.

In addition to this kind of conscious communication, there is a semi- to sub-conscious web of awareness linking every dragon in a Weyr to every other dragon in said Weyr. The hub of this web of awareness is the Weyr's Senior Queen, and it is the reason that no lesser caste can disobey their Senior Queen, even if they want to. The queens, Royal and Jewel alike, can use this mental-emotional "back channel" to exert their superior force of will directly upon a lesser dragon of her Weyr. Sometimes she can even "break into" dragons from other Weyrs, especially if they are in her territory.

Queens, pearls, and blacks all have the ability to "stabilize" another dragon, resetting its internal equilibrium and holding it there as much as possible. This prevents the other dragon from moving, but it also prevents it from feeling pain of any sort. The dragon must stare unblinking into the injured dragon's eyes; this is called "holding" it. Every Weyr has several dragons trained as medical assistants, to "hold down" the wounded dragons after Threadfall so that humans can treat the Threadscore. Queens are the best and most powerful at "holding," but blacks and pearls have a special genetic aptitude for it, as aiding the healing of their weyr-siblings is part of their biological purpose. If a trained queen, pearl, or black is already "holding" a dragon, the other colors of the Weyr can use the "back channel" to contribute their own force of will to the 'hold', even though they cannot originate a 'hold' themselves. In this way, even a seriously Threadscored gold can be locked still by the combined effort of her Weyrmates, allowing the human healers to do their work.

Dragons, like humans with tele-empathic ability, can also "lean" on other beings to influence their thinking, emotions, and behavior, but they tend not to do this unless specifically ordered or encouraged to do so by their rider or a higher-ranking dragon. They don't have moral objections to it so much as it just doesn't usually occur to them to do so.

Note that the term "tele-empathy" refers to a hybrid of telepathy and empathy. The two cannot be used separately by dragons; for them, they are one and the same ability.

Presumably, a dragon can teleport -- known as going between to the Pernese -- from birth, but they are not trained to do so until they are fully able to fly and have much practice doing so, starting at nine months to one Turn of age, depending on the individual pair's maturity and readiness. They are extremely careful about this, as going between is perhaps the most dangerous part of a dragonrider's duty, and they cannot afford to lose any dragonpairs, especially not weyrlings.

The fact that dragons can go between time as well as space is commonly known and taught, as poor visualization often results in a weyrling or a lazy or absent-minded adult rider going to the where s/he wanted, but to an unintended when, thus revealing draconic time-travel abilities. To prevent unregulated time-traveling, all weyrlings are taught about the ability. It is strictly forbidden to "time it," however, except in dire emergencies or when specifically ordered to do so. Of course, rules and reality are two different things, and it is well known to the Weyrleaders and Weyrwomen that some riders "make time" far more often than they should. Nevertheless, most riders prefer not to risk themselves or their beast just for a little added convenience. For those who do, the downsides of timing it (gradual cumulative physical and mental exhaustion of the rider no matter how small the time jumps are, getting worse the more often they make time) discourage frequent use of the ability soon enough.

Nevertheless, it is a potent and very useful ability no matter what. To go between spacetime, a dragon needs an accurate mental image of where/when it is going. More accurately, it needs a data-set representing a specific Wherewhen, a given unique placemoment in spacetime. Weyrlings are taught to be very precise, to visualize the appropriate time of day at their destination as well as the physical landmarks, in order to avoid accidental time travel. All dragons are good enough at going between places to accomplish basic Weyr duties, but some are much better than others. Only a few dragons can claim to always know where *and* when they are with perfect accuracy; this fact is why pairs sometimes disappear between, never to return.

Since between is outside the flow of time, all stays there are by definition timeless, but the dragon itself is still made of matter, and must hold itself and its passengers and/or cargo together by maintaining quantum data connections to the lattice of Spacetime. Essentially, the dragon transmutes itself, its passengers, and any cargo into quantum data, flows along the quark "data lines" until it finds data that matches its teleportation coordinates, then re-forms itself and the rest into matter. During this process, neither dragon nor rider(s) are aware of being discorporated. Of course, the dragon is not aware of the physical process of the feat, so the rider(s) are not, either. Due to not being aware of being taken apart or being taken outside physical reality, there is no sensation of coming apart or being reassembled. Rather, it feels as if they have passed into a place not of mere utter lightlessness, but of total sensory deprivation. One cannot even hear one's own heartbeat, or feel the dragon they think is still between their legs, or even their legs, or anything at all.

Dragons commit suicide by going between without coordinates. Normally, the passage from one Wherewhen to the next is technically instantaneous. However, if a dragon enters between without coordinates, it simply turns into data without turning back again at another placetime. Effectively this causes their physical form to dissolve back into the quantum foam, which is what between actually is -- the quantum level of reality, that from which matter and form, space and time, emanate. Because of this, living beings perceive between as being bitterly cold, colder than anywhere else in existence, colder than the concept of "cold". This is because it is not a true physical cold, but rather the awareness of the utter absence of *everything* -- not merely all sensation, but all *existence*. There is nothing between, only the *possibility* of something. It takes effort on the part of the dragon to keep itself and any passengers physically and personally cohesive during the trip -- essentially, it must keep the data from becoming randomized during transmission -- which is why timing it is so dangerous. A trip between places, anywhere on the planet, takes no longer than nine seconds in normal reality, because it requires little effort on the dragon's part.

Essentially, think of "space" as being one axis along which a dragon can move between and "time" as another axis. When moving only along the space axis, it's relatively simple. In theory it would be relatively simple to move only across the time axis, but in practice, this isn't true because the "time" axis covers much more "territory" than the "space" axis. That is, there is only the planet Pern to cover on the space axis, but on the Time axis there is the entire history of the planet, from beginning to end, to search through.

This takes a lot more effort, and hence it takes a lot more subjective time. The Pernese believe that the problem is that there is no air between because they do not truly understand what between is. The real problem is that, by definition, material constructs should not exist on the quantum level. Though the dragon has converted them all into quantum data, they are maintained in organized patterns rather than becoming randomized as normally happens when a material object disintegrates. The randomized data becomes something new through the mysterious process through which potential becomes material reality. If the dragon becomes exhausted before it locates the coordinates, it will not be able to hold the data together anymore, and they will become randomized, becoming quantum foam identical to the rest of subreality and losing their individual, separate reality.

When this happens, it is indistinguishable from normal physical death except that no body remains. The spirit -- the awareness of the data for itself as distinct from all other data, and that data which is part of the category 'Self' -- does whatever it does after death and becomes inaccessable to living beings, regardless of their degree of tele-empathic talent or skill. Of course, Pern is not without its ghost stories, but who knows if any are based on anything but imagination or misinterpretations of normal events?

A dragon will commit suicide only if its rider dies, or if it is mortally injured and knows it cannot survive. However, less intelligent dragons sometimes panic when seriously injured or if their rider goes into an extended coma or period of unconsciousness or illness, suiciding in a frenzy of terror. This is tragic, as the rider sometimes recovers physically, but can now never recover spiritually or emotionally from the loss of his or her dragon.

Dragons cannot survive without their rider, nor can they "re-bond" to a new rider if theirs dies. A dragon with no rider commits suicide immediately. The sole exception is a queen brooding over eggs. In that case, she will go into paroxysms of extreme madness and grief, but will wait to commit suicide until the day the eggs will Hatch. There is no stopping a dragon who wants to commit suicide. Any who try to physically restrain the dragon run the risk of being taken between with it. For safety's sake, a dragon usually only goes between while on the wing, but they are perfectly capable of doing it at any time, especially when not bothering with coordinates. Anyone in physical contact with a dragon when it goes between also goes between unless the dragon specifically wills otherwise, and a dragon about to suicide thinks of nothing but death.

(There have been tragedies in which an older rider, or one with some undiagnosed congenital condition, doing transport duty had a heart attack and died midair, causing his or her dragon to suicide right then and there, taking not just its rider's body but the luckless passengers with it. Howling Night Hold's third most recent Lord Holder died in exactly that fashion! This is an extremely rare event, but it looms in every rider's mind, such that old, weakened, or hypochondriacal riders no longer do transport duty.)

Thus, though some might dearly wish to, no one ever tries to physically stop a suiciding dragon from doing so, and the only time anyone would try to use verbal, emotional, or psychic methods to prevent a suicide is when the rider is still alive.

A human whose dragon dies almost always dies from the shock or commits suicide shortly thereafter, but not always. Sometimes they are prevented from killing themself, or have moral or superstitious objections to suicide. An ex-dragonrider is half a person from that time forward, however. He or she may find some other niche in life, may even prosper outwardly, but inside, the hole remains and can never be filled. Sometimes, ex-dragonriders acquire fire-lizards or become wherriers to try to fill the aching empty place in their soul which was once the connection-point to their dragon, but this only adds new connection-points. It cannot re-fill the old one. This is because each individual is unique, expressed physically in the uniqueness of DNA. The primal wound of dragon-loss literally rips part of a person's soul away which cannot be replaced as long as the human lives. To be an ex-dragonrider is to be half-shadow, never truly alive again. Some lucky or hardy souls manage to patch together something resembling a life, even external happiness, but it is still a cold, quiet, bloodless Hell.

Aside from tele-empathy and going between, dragons have very limited personal telekinesis. They can fly despite their great mass, and, generally, are able to lift as much as they believe they can thanks to this minor, unconscious telekinesis. They are not aware of using their psychic energy to enhance their physical abilities and therefore cannot perform external telekinetic feats like levitating objects.

Finally, all dragons have a certain amount of ability to sense active psychic power in other beings, particularly in humans. Those dragons which can sense potential or latent as well as active power are especially prized as Search dragons; the reason they are good at Search isn't specifically known to the Pernese, however, as the Pernese have no knowledge of the source of these abilities. They know such phenomena only as a personal sort of "power", using that term for it. It is simply observed that these dragons (blues and jades usually, but coppers, silvers, browns, and greens are also often good Search dragons and any color can manifest the sensing-talent on occasion) are better than the others at spotting Candidates who later go on to Impress a dragon.

The draconic ability to breathe fire is biological, not psychic, but is described here anyhow. The rider furnishes a specific type of rock, known as firestone. It contains several chemicals, including phosphene. The dragon chews the stone up, then swallows it to transfer the material to its "second stomach". This is actually not a stomach but a specialized gizzard, the sphincter to which being under the dragon's conscious control. When eating food, the dragon simply chews and swallows normally. When chewing firestone, it concentrates on its "other belly," and the sphincter relaxes, allowing the heavy lumps of stone to fall into the gizzard.

Here the thoroughly masticated firestone comes into contact with a stew of stomach acid and more specialized fluids. A chemical reaction results, and the gizzard begins to inflate, filling up with volatile gases. The gizzard can be inflated up to thrice its normal dimensions, giving the dragon a noticeable bulge at the base of its throat, where the neck connects to the chest. Once full of gas, the dragon opens its jaws as wide as possible, throws its head forward with lips pulled as far back from its teeth as it can, and, basically, belches. The volatile gases surge up the path of least resistance, flowing with great force from the dragon's throat out into the air. The instant the phosphene-rich gases come into contact with oxygen, they burst into flame. The result is a burst of fire launched from the dragon's mouth.
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