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Author Topic: Kendrall's Guide to the Pern Universe  (Read 654 times)

Kendrall

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Kendrall's Guide to the Pern Universe
« on: July 14, 2013, 02:06:47 PM »

This guide is adapted from Atarashii Weyr, one of our affiliate sites.

DISCLAIMER: I make no claim whatsoever to be an expert on the novels written by the late Anne McCaffrey, nor the newer works written by her son, Todd McCaffrey.  Nor do I claim to be a subject matter expert on writing fanfiction stories set in the Pern universe.  A good portion of this guide is based upon my own experiences when composing short stories for various Pern RP and fanfic sites, and I have to give credit to where credit is due.  Many thanks goes to the several ladies - Sorra being chief among them - whom first introduced me to the Pern universe, without whom I wouldn't have been taught the more subtle aspects of seeing the world of Pern through the eyes of a dragonrider.

I'd also like to thank the late Ms McCaffrey for creating the world of Pern, and for her graciousness in allowing people all over the world to live out their own adventures under the golden rays of Rukbat.

I also will stress that this article, like many others, will be a continual work-in-progress!

What is Pern?  What is its history?

It's a fictional world much like our own Earth, orbiting in the Rukbat system, or Alpha Sagittarii, some 180 light-years away.  In the novels, Rukbat is a yellow G-type star similar to our own Sun (in reality, it's a blue-white B-type star).  Pern has three continents: Northern, Southern, and Western.  In the far future, Earth and her colonies are fighting an intergalactic war against an alien species when a new planet possibly suitable for colonization was found.  An exploration team was sent to this new world to assess the situation, and one key mystery they could not resolve were the repeated random circles of bare dirt across the planet.  At the end of their studies the exploration team dubbed the world as "P.E.R.N.", or "Parallel Earth, Resources Negligible"; that is, an identical world to Earth, but not enough resources (metal ores, petroleum, etc) suitable for establishing an outpost for industrial or commercial purposes.

200 years later, the first colonists arrived on this new Earth, or "Pern" as it slowly became to be known.  These settlers were weary of war, and agreed that under *no* circumstances would an all-out war ever break out between themselves, and the technology would be as limited as possible.  The settlers established several colonies on the Southern Continent, and roughly eight years after the Landing ("A.L."), they encountered strange silver-like strands falling from the skies.  These strands, or "Thread", when coming in contact with organic material proved to be deadly, and the only defense was to hide in caves or in homes made out of stone.   Using what remaining technology they had, the settlers attempted to learn as much as possible about this Thread.  What they found out was it would fall every three days for about six hours, but it could be killed with fire, water, or freezing temperatures. 

That was when the dragonets (named for their resemblance to the dragons of myth and legend back on Earth) were discovered, and it was soon learned these tiny creatures were capable of producing flame after eating a phosphorus-type of rock, but they could also teleport themselves to other places fairly quickly.  These dragonets, or firelizards, were found to possess intelligence and could emphatically bond with their human owners upon hatching.  One of the scientists - Kitti Ping, a geneticist - decided to manipulate the genetics of these creatures in order to produce the dragons the Pernese would later ride, and defend themselves and others against Thread.

What is Thread?  Where does it come from?

Thread is the name given to the silver-like strands that fall from the skies about once every 200 years. Thread is a mindless organism that exists as inert ovoids in the Oort Cloud surrounding the outer reaches of the Rukbat system, and every 250 years a rogue planet known as the Red Star passes through the Oort Cloud, dragging many ovoids in its gravitational wake.  Due to the Red Star's highly elliptical orbit, as it approached Pern the ovoids would be close enough to be captured by Pern's gravity well.  As the ovoids fell through the upper atmosphere, the outer casing would burn away, leaving behind the deadly, voracious filaments that drift through the skies and down towards the ground.  This is called a "Pass", and lasts for about fifty years; as the Red Star moves away from Pern and Thread ceases to fall, this is called an "Interval" and lasts for about 200 years.

In some of the Pern novels, the Red Star did not come close enough to cause Threadfall.  This has happened on two occasions, leading to a "Long Interval" that lasted about four hundred fifty years.  Naturally, during these Long Intervals, the general populace began to believe that Thread no longer existed, and the dragonriders were no longer needed.

A single strand of Thread is comparable to a long strand of yarn.  However, once it comes in contact with any organic material, it begins to feed and grows significantly to roughly three meters in size, often pulsing with sickly gray and green colors as it consumes.  A small clump of Thread has the ability to devour a fully grown cow in a matter of seconds.  If it manages to reach the ground, it can burrow into the ground and multiply rapidly, causing many square miles of land to become blighted and unusable.   While Thread cannot pass through stone nor metal, any substance that is organic in nature can easily be consumed by the filaments.  There are three ways to kill Thread: fire, water, and extreme cold.

Coming in contact with Thread ("Threadscore") is akin to being afflicted by a chemical burn. 

What is Pernese society like?

Think of Pernese society as a re-visiting of Medieval times, circa late 11th c. through early 13th century, with a few quirks here and there.   Holds are the equivalent of castles, and there are three types: Major, Minor, and Cothold.  Major Holds are ruled by a Lord and Lady Holder and typically are the political capitals of each region or province.  Minor Holds are always beholden to Major Holds, also ruled by (Minor) Lord Holders.  Cotholds are the small, family-run holds similar to the small farms owned by vassals during the Middle Ages.

Next are the Weyrs ('weyr' rhymes with 'here'), or the homes where the Dragons, their Riders, and support staff ('weyrfolk') live.  In most cases, Weyrs are usually found in extinct volcanic calderas or along the side of a mountain, living in expansive cave structures.  Weyrs depend upon the tithing of goods from the Holds in order to thrive; in return, the Riders pledge to defend the Holds from Threadfall.  The head of each Weyr is the Weyrwoman, often the rider of the oldest or senior Gold dragon.  Her companion is known as the Weyrleader, who is in charge of the Weyr's defense.

Crafthalls are where the various Crafts are taught.  The Crafts of Pern: Harper, Smith, Healer, Miner, Weaver, Farmer, Fisher (Seacraft), Tanner, Baker, Vintner, and Herder (Beastcraft).  Harper Hall is where the various arts are taught, such as music and writing.  When a child is old enough, he or she is usually sent to be apprenticed at a Crafthall if they display a talent for a particular craft.  The head of each Crafthall is called a Mastercrafter.

Gathers are held at various times of the year, or "Turn", and often last a full day.  They are similar to a county or state fair, often held by Major Holds.

Traders can be found roaming to and fro, taking goods from Hold to Hold, trading and bartering to earn a living.  Sometimes, a Craft Journeyman or Master will travel with a Trading caravan to reach a distant destination so they don't have to go it alone.

Marks are the currency of Pern.  Usually in the form of wooden coins, they are often found in various denominations from 1/32 all the way to a 10-mark coin.

What are the Dragons?

The Dragons were the result of Kitti Ping's work.  In all of the books, they are described as having smooth hides instead of the scaly ones most commonly attributed to the mythical Terran dragons.  Dragons come in five colors: Gold, or the egg-bearing Queens; Bronze, the largest of the males; Brown, the second-largest of the males (considered as the "workhorses"); Blue, the smallest of the males; Green, the smallest females (yet usually the fastest).  Over time, the Dragons eventually grew into the larger sizes that we're a bit more familiar with.

It is important to note that Golds could never chew firestone; whether this was by design or out of fear it would render them infertile is still, to my knowledge, a topic of discussion.  Greens, on the other hand, could never produce a single Clutch; again, this was either by design or it was because of their need to chew firestone hasn't been fully established.  For the males; usually a Bronze or a Brown could catch a Gold Queen during a mating Flight while Blues lacked the stamina, yet they were far more maneuverable when compared to their larger counterparts.

How do Dragons communicate?

Telepathically.  The bond between a Rider and his or her dragon is a very strong one, and instead of audible speech, dragons rely on using telepathy to communicate with their bonded - or with other dragons.

What's a WatchWher?

A Wher (rhymes with "there"), or WatchWher is more or less a genetic failure, but this "failure" would be later proven to be done on purpose.  Unlike their dragon cousins, Whers are deformed and stunted, roughly the size of a horse, with thick hides, stubby wings, and two gnarled digits on each foot.  They seem to possess a child-like mentality but are unusually strong, and although nocturnal they have a keen sense of smell. Like their counterparts, Whers come in five colors, but instead of Impressing they form a blood-bond with their Handler.   They also have the ability to communicate via telepathy, but at a far more pronounced level similar to that of a young child.

Since Whers are nocturnal, they do have the ability to fly but only at night.  They also eat Thread instead of having to rely on chewing firestone to produce flames.

What is "Between"?

"Between" is a concept of pure nothingness, often characterized as an airless and extremely cold "place" where humans are nearly deprived of their senses.  Dragons, WatchWhers, and firelizards have the ability to travel Between when going from Point A to Point B.  Dragons will also be ordered to go Between by their Riders when they come in contact with Thread.
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Kendrall

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Re: Kendrall's Guide to the Pern Universe
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2013, 02:14:01 PM »

What's it like to be a Candidate?

The process of Candidacy begins when a Searchdragon, or a dragon with an unusually keen sense of insight, and his or her Rider goes out on Search.  In most cases, a Searchdragon is usually either a Blue or a Green dragon.  To "Search" means the dragon and Rider pair are tasked with finding new prospects to be present for an upcoming dragon clutch.  These Candidates are almost always under the age of eighteen, and seem to possess a certain "gift" or mentality suitable for being matched with a new dragon hatchling.

The sudden appearance of a dragon overhead can invoke a wide range of feelings, from fear to worry, even downright hostility.  In some cases, the sight of a dragon means a representative from the nearby Weyr has arrived on official business.  Upon landing, young boys and girls whom are eligible to become a Candidate are presented to the Searchdragon, who will carefully "inspect" each child.  Once the dragon thinks there's a possible match, it'll let its Rider know.  The Rider then will then approach the young person, and ask him or her if he or she wishes to become a Candidate.  In most cases, the Rider will also ask to speak with that child's parents.  This is done out of courtesy, as there are almost always a flurry of questions the parents will ask.  If the child accepts, he or she is given a small wooden token with the Weyr's emblem - a Search token - and is given time to gather up all of his or her belongings.  Should the child or parents object, the Rider will still hand the child a Search token and encourages him or her to re-think their decision.

Regardless if that potential Candidate agrees to leave right away, or arrives a few days later to the Weyr with token in hand, the Searchrider will present the young child to the Candidate Master.   It is up to the Candidate Master to answer any additional questions the child may have, and begin the training process, allowing the new Candidate time to adjust to life in the Weyr.

The life of a Candidate is a very strict one at best.  Depending upon the Weyr, Candidates are expected to be up either at dawn or shortly thereafter, and are given one hour ("candlemark") to get dressed and eat breakfast.  After chores, Candidates are required to attend the lessons with the Candidate Master, where they learn about the dragons themselves and daily life within the Weyr. The lessons last for two hours, then the Candidates are given an hour off for lunch, followed by two more hours of chores, then two more hours of lessons (either with the Candidate Master, with a Harper, or with a senior Craftsman in that Candidate's particular craft).  After the afternoon's lessons, Candidates have one hour for dinner, and after that they are free until curfew (about an hour past sunset).  It is expected that all Candidates be in their barracks at curfew, and lights out is one hour past curfew.  In all, a Candidate's day is about ten hours long.

It should be noted that fraternization between male and female Candidates is generally frowned upon, and this includes any intimate relationships.  Hence, there are separate barracks for boys and girls.  There is one exception to this rule, and is only brought up during the lesson that covers what happens during a dragon's mating flight.  Even then, female Candidates will be checked for any signs of pregnancy prior to being present for a dragon hatching.   Pregnant females will not be allowed to participate, as the emotional stress of childbirth is often too great for a bonded young dragon to bear.

What happens at a dragon hatching?

The morning of a Hatching is often an exciting one.  The Gold dragon whose eggs ("Clutch") is about to hatch will begin to hum, and is soon joined in by her mate, then all the other dragons will likewise begin to hum.  The Candidate Master will go into each barracks and inform the Candidates to get up, bathe, and dress only in the white robe given to them; no shoes, sandals, or boots.  They are also encouraged to get a small snack to eat.  The Candidate Master will then greet them at the entrance to the Hatching Sands, and give the Candidates their final instructions.  Generally, the instructions are thus:  No talking.  Walk onto the Sands, bow to the Gold dragon whom is guarding her Clutch, bow to the Weyrwoman; bow to the Weyrleader if he's likewise present, then form a half-circle near the eggs and wait.

Sometimes eggs may hatch rather violently, and other times they take a while to break open.  In either case, no one is allowed to interfere with a Hatching under any circumstances, as the Gold dragon is very protective of her babies, and will not hesitate to take a claw and swipe at the foolish person (or worse!)  The newly-hatched dragonlings will begin to wander around the Sands, looking for their respective lifemates.  In a lot of instances, injuries can occur to a Candidate if a dragonling is too aggressive or simply hates the hot sands, searching for higher ground (and will try to use a nearby Candidate as a means to do so.)

So Candidates to just stand there and risk incurring minor to severe burns on the soles of their feet?  If a dragonling does claw them, they can't do anything at all?

Yep.

Why?

Pernese tradition states that in order to have the best chance of Impression, it's best if Candidates are exposed to such extreme circumstances and are encouraged to focus only on the Hatching, and not on the heat.  As for the risk of being injured, it's not the dragonling's fault.  But in all cases, NO ONE is allowed to interfere.

Have Candidates died from their injuries?

It's happened, but that's why Healers are on-hand to tend to the wounded and prevent fatalities.

What if a dragonling can't find the right Candidate to Impress to?

A very pitiful wail is heard from that dragonling, and it will go Between, never to reappear.  A mournful keen is heard from all of the dragons, and the great sense of loss can be felt by all of the humans.

What if a dragonling does find the right person?

The irises of that dragonling will swirl with the many colors of the rainbow, and often that particular Candidate will "hear" the dragonling's voice in his or her head.  This is called "Impression", thus the beginning of a very strong and deep emotional bond.  Male Candidates will have an honorific name given to them, usually a shortening of their names with an apostrophe.   Female Candidates will typically retain their names.  In either case, the newly bonded pair (now called "Weyrlings") will be instructed to leave the Hatching Sands so the dragonling can get something to eat.

What happens if a Candidate fails to Impress?

It's rather disappointing if a Candidate doesn't Impress.  He or she will no doubt wonder why they weren't chosen, and it's up to the Candidate Master to counsel that young person.  That person has the option of repeating the entire Candidacy, or may choose to formally withdraw and resign their candidacy.  He or she is then given the option to stay on as part of the weyrfolk, or return home.  Sometimes, there may be a separate Wher hatching that is occurring at the same time, and anyone who failed to Impress is welcome to Stand at this other event.
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Kendrall

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Re: Kendrall's Guide to the Pern Universe
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2013, 02:17:32 PM »

Weyrlingship

Now it's time to feed your baby dragonet!  Your Weyrlingmaster will guide you and the other junior Weyrlings to the kitchens or other designated spot, where you'll feed your newly bonded lifemate chunks of raw meat.  Your belongings will be moved from the Candidate Barracks to the Weyrling Barracks, but again you'll be expected to share quarters with others of your gender.  Once the dragonets' bellies are full, they'll be sleepy, and then it's time to attend the Hatching Feast! Music, dancing, food, drinks...Weyrlings will usually be restricted on their alcohol consumption for various reasons; but otherwise it's a rather festive occasion.  The following morning, you'll be expected to resume with your daily chores, attend lessons with the Weyrlingmaster, learn how to properly take care of your dragonet as it grows and matures...

Weyrling training typically lasts for about fifteen to eighteen months; sometimes up to two Turns. It should be noted that any sexual activity between Weyrlings is prohibited for the first nine months, as is heavy drinking as this could have serious repercussions on your dragon (it could send them Between since they're not mature enough to deal with such behavior from their Riders).

The latter half of Weyrling training will usually involve limited Flight drills: formations, firestone training, Between training.  Queen Weyrlings will have their lessons with the Weyrwoman, but won't have any firestone training as Golds are prohibited from chewing flamestone.

When will I graduate?

Towards the end of training, the Weyrleader will review all of the reports on each Weyrling and with the input of the Weyrlingmaster will make the final decision on who will be eligible for promotion versus those who may need more time.  The Weyrleader will then call for a meeting with all of the Wingleaders, and will inform them of which eligible Weyrling will be assigned to which Wing.  Then, at the Graduation Feast, the Weyrlings will sit together at one (or more) tables, and a Wingleader will approach them, tap a Weyrling on the shoulder, and say, "The Weyrleader has given me leave to ride with you," (or something to that effect, it varies from Weyr to Weyr).  That Weyrling will then receive his full Riders' knots, and moves to go sit with the rest of his new Wing.

I'm a Rider! Now what?

You're still responsible for taking care of your dragon, doing your chores, participate in drills, etc.  If you're a Searchrider, you'll be expected to go out on Search for new Candidates. But if Thread ever starts to fall...you'll be going up with your Wing to face the deadly organisms.

What is a "Flight"? What happens during one?

A "Flight", or "Dragonflight" occurs when a female dragon goes into heat.  Her eyes will typically glow an orange-red, and intense feelings of lust and desire will begin to take a hold of her Rider.  Those feelings are hard to ignore, and depending on the Rider he or she will head to the nearest designated room, or "Flight Room"; in the case of the Weyrwoman or one of her junior Queen Riders, she'll head back to her weyr.  There, the Rider will wait for potential suitors to arrive. The Green or Gold dragon will issue her challenge to the male dragons of the Weyr, and will take off, daring the males to give chase and try and outsmart her.  Sometimes, a Green will "blood" or grab a helpless herdbeast and drink its blood to give her an added boost of energy; devouring the corpse will only slow her down.  Golds will always blood a herdbeast; usually more than one.  Those same intense feelings of lust and desire will resonate in the Riders of the male dragons; anyone who's been around long enough describe it as "Flightlust".

While the males give chase, their Riders will head to the Flight room or personal quarters and will try to woo the lucky Rider with words and actions.  It's mostly in an attempt to get their own dragons to pull off daring stunts to impress the Green or Gold, but the female is a bit smarter than that; she'll do whatever she can to wear out the would-be suitors or get them to drop out of the chase.   As each male dragon falters and gives up, his Rider will usually come to his senses (to a degree) but the general feeling of lust is still strong enough where they will try to find a companion for the night.  Once it comes down to two or three males in the chase, the Green or Gold by this time is undoubtedly starting to tire, and that's when she'll make her decision.  Her Rider will seek out the victor, and it's not long before the clothes start coming off...

So it's basically wild, uncontrolled <censored>?

The Pernese call it "flying each other", as they don't have the same terms as Terrans do.  But yes, it's often wild, usually very passionate and in some cases violent.  Just depends on who's flying who.

What if I don't want my Rider involved in the Flight?

You have the option to find a "stand-in", or someone to stand in your place in the Flight room or personal quarters.  Be advised that in most instances, it's very rare (and difficult) to find someone who's willing to be in your place, so it's best to use this option sparingly (unless, of course, your character personality or history hints at a series of mental blocks or otherwise that would normally prevent him or her from participating in a Flight.)

What if I don't want to participate in the mature stuff?

There won't be any mature content posted on the boards.  Period.

What's the difference between a Green Flight and a Gold Flight?

Green Flights usually happen on a frequent basis; Greens typically Rise about once every three to four months.  They're very short compared to a Gold Flight, and usually Blues will participate, with a few Browns and maybe a Bronze or two.  Gold Flights, on the other hand, generally happen once a Turn, and they affect everybody.  After all, the Golds are the egg-layers, they're the queens, and their emotions are much harder to resist.  Candidate Masters are advised to get the Candidates to safety to avoid them being pulled in by Flightlust, Weyrling Masters are likewise recommended to do the same for the junior Weyrlings.  Blues may try to participate, but since they don't have a whole lot of stamina their Riders typically opt to find companionship.  Browns and Bronzes will always chase.

If the Weyrwoman's Gold dragon is involved in a Flight, it's to determine who will be the next Weyrleader.

Will my Rider have any control over my dragon's choice?

From an IC standpoint, not really.  You could always decide ahead of time just who she'll pick, and play it out accordingly; keeping it interesting enough to add some element of suspense until the final moments.

What about Whers?  Do they have a Flight?

Since Whers are, for the most part, unable to fly; they have instead what's known as a Run.  But everything else is pretty much the same as a Dragonflight, with two notable exceptions: female Whers are far more likely to pick the same mate each time, and Green Whers can produce a clutch of eggs albeit much smaller in numbers when compared to a Gold Wher's clutch.
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Re: Kendrall's Guide to the Pern Universe
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2013, 02:20:26 PM »

Miscellaneous data

Hierarchy

Golds outrank Bronzes outrank Browns outrank Blues outrank Greens.  Or, Golds > Bronzes > Browns > Blues > Greens.  The only exception to this is if the Weyrleader's dragon is a Brown, at which he will outrank all male dragons.

All dragons will obey the orders of a Queen dragon, unless they contradict the commands of the Senior Queen.

The Weyrwoman is the highest authority figure in the entire Weyr, and is the Rider of the senior-most Gold dragon. The Weyrwoman typically handles the social and domestic functions of the Weyr, and is in charge of the training, organization, and discipline of the Weyr's support staff.  She is also the Weyr's diplomat, handling the relations with other Weyrs, Holds, and Crafthalls.

The Headwoman is the Weyrwoman's primary assistant, and is the one who will carry out the Weyrwoman's orders concerning the weyrfolk, and oversees the support staff.  She only answers to the Weyrwoman herself.

Junior Queenriders are the Weyrwoman's personal assistants, usually handling the record keeping, low-level diplomatic duties, etc.

The Weyrleader is determined by chance.  The Rider of the Bronze (or Brown) who catches the Senior Queen becomes the new Weyrleader, and he is in charge of the Weyr's defense, including the oversight of the training for each of the fighting wings. 

Sometimes, there is a Weyrsecond, and he is tasked with assisting the Weyrleader with the training and any other duties deemed necessary.

Wingleaders are directly responsible for their respective fighting wings, including training, drills, etc.  Wingseconds (and sometimes, Wingthirds) assist their Wingleaders with the training and will step in to temporarily fill the Wingleader slot if the original Rider is unable to perform his duties. Wingleaders always will ride Bronze or Brown dragons. 

The Weyrlingmaster, Candidate Master, WeyrHealer, and if there are Flight Leaders, comprise the rest of the Leadership.

~~~

What weapons/armor exist on Pern?

Since metal ores are rare, the most common weapons you'll see are belt knives, or knives about four to six inches in length; the quarterstaff is also a commonly seen weapon, as is the longbow.  Simple crossbows used for hunting also exist, according to a number of official resources and guides.  Swords are much harder to come by, and are typically found as mere ornamentation or for ceremonial uses by Lord Holders.  You may also find metal arrowheads, but again, those aren't commonly in use.  Halberds or poleaxes are reserved for a Lord Holder's personal guard; hand axes were used by woodsmen.

Leather armor, or "wherhide" was the most common material used to craft armor.  But since it's organic in nature, it doesn't offer much protection against Thread.  You wouldn't find chain or splint mail, and plate mail was practically unheard of on Pern!  Shields likewise were organic in nature (if they were available), often formed from wood.

As a general rule-of-thumb, to keep with the original statutes as set forth in the Charter, the technology to create weapons and armor is limited.

~~~

Measuring time on Pern

There are thirteen months in the Pernese Turn, each month has twenty-eight days.  A week is called a "sevenday".  Just as there are twenty-four hours on Earth for each day, there are twenty-four hours, or "candlemarks" per day.  Specially-crafted candles with notches, or marks, are lit and slowly melt to indicate the current time.  Minutes are indicated by "one-quarter of a candlemark", "one-half of a candlemark", or "three-quarters of a candlemark"; 15, 30, and 45 minutes past the hour respectively.
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Kendrall

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Re: Kendrall's Guide to the Pern Universe
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2013, 02:22:02 PM »

Common Pernese expressions and idioms

There's quite the list over on The Pern Encyclopedia, but there's more that I've come across (and used)...

"To Between with you!", "Go to Between!" - same thing as telling someone to go to Hades.
"You Bitran!" - same as calling someone a b*stard or b*tch.
"You son of a Bitran!" - same as calling someone an S.O.B.
"I don't give a shard" - same as "I don't give a d*mn"
"Go fly yourself" - same as "Go f*** yourself".
To "fly" someone means you're shagging someone.  (Should be self-obvious!)
"Wherry-brain" - same as "bird-brain"
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Re: Kendrall's Guide to the Pern Universe
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2013, 02:23:14 PM »

It's All About Relationships, Part 1 - Holds

(Much of this has been adapted from Kadanzer Weyr's handbook)

Marriage and divorce aren't foreign concepts to the Pernese.  In fact, it's very similar to our own modern society's views; but as Pern is reflective of a pre-industrial Europe, there are far more subtle nuances to be aware of.  Knowing the various views that the Pernese have towards marriage, divorce, and relationships in general will go a long way for new players to enhance their roleplaying experiences.  Especially since Pern has no religion to speak of, and the whole concept of marriage (and by the same token, divorce) is viewed rather differently by Holders, Crafters, and Weyrfolk.

~~~~

For the Holders, marriage is all about forming alliances, gaining land, and producing legitimate heirs (or heiresses).  As it was mentioned early on, Holds are basically the equivalent of castles or keeps in the Early Middle Ages; as rulers were so concerned with bloodlines and the desire to acquire more lands and/or dowries, by marrying an heiress of another country (or having an heiress marrying an heir) it was one of the best means to forge an alliance.  It's no different for Holders.  A Harper will be the one to conduct the ceremony in most cases, as he or she will serve as the Master of Ceremonies and as a witness.  The Harpers are known for keeping rather extensive records, and will not only record the marriage but update the Hold Bloodlines to officially decree which child is the rightful heir and next-in-line to the Lordship.

Commoners, or "holdfolk" often share the same beliefs in the need for marriage, but it's more along the lines of recognizing a mutual beneficial partnership, compared to a need for ensuring a continuation of a bloodline.

Men are often recognized as the traditional head-of-household, and his wife and any children are regarded as his property.  They also have the ability to initiate a divorce, rather than the other way around.  A woman could make the demand and begin the process of divorce, but she would have to have a very good reason that's accepted by the community in general - not to mention she'll need some really powerful allies to back her up.  For a married man to have an affair with another woman isn't anything new, nor is it taboo for a man to divorce his wife so he could take another, no matter what the reason; be it barrenness, incompetence, or mentally/emotionally instability.  If the wife is charged and found guilty of a crime, but the punishment doesn't include excommunication or in some instances, death, the husband would seek divorce as a means of preserving his own personal honor and that of his children's.  (Conviction of a crime is also a valid reason for a woman to divorce her husband.)  Only at the highest ranks would it be found that a Holder or a Lord Holder can legally have more than one wife, usually for political reasons or to guarantee that at least more than one heir (or heiress) will survive to adulthood.

Divorce isn't very common within the Holds themselves, however.  There's a stigma that goes with it, but only in the most extreme circumstances would it be considered; i.e. excessive abuse, adultery on the part of the wife, or found guilty of a crime.  Should a divorce occur, in almost every situation will the woman wind up with nothing as she's the one often to blame for the failure. 

A child growing up in the Hold can expect to have a very strict upbringing, especially a daughter.  She is closely watched whenever a boy or two is around, as her father (and to a degree, her mother) view her virginity as something highly prized - for her to marry to an heir of a neighboring Hold only to be found out that she isn't a virgin is nothing short of an insult.  Boys, on the other hand, while not encouraged to be actively promiscuous often are anyway, but always out of sight from their parents' watchful eye.  Only a very few boys would keep their virginity intact, but that isn't widely proclaimed as they would be subject to ridicule (and in some instances abuse) from their peers.

It should also be noted that because Holds tend to have very conservative views towards relationships; same-gender relationships, or a woman (or daughter) to be involved in a polyamorous relationship (more than one lover/partner), is in most cases strictly forbidden.

It's All About Relationships, Part 2 - Crafters

Crafters don't necessarily marry for financial gain, nor do they marry to produce heirs.  (Although it's nice to be able to pass on the family business to a son or daughter...)  After all, they are, for the most part, tradesmen, practicing and refining their skills; as such they rely heavily on either their Crafthall to provide them with their needs such as a place to live/sleep and eat, or at a Hold or Weyr when their living allowance is a part of their payment.  If they do marry, it's usually out of love and/or a mutual respect for the other's tradecraft, and the marriage is typically presided over by the Hall's Craftmaster; or, if a Crafter is assigned to a Hold and is marrying a holder, their vows would be witnessed by either the Hold's Harper or by the (Lord) Holder.   Divorces, on the other hand, are far more common when compared to Holders' as there isn't quite as much at stake, save for one's reputation within that community.  The same official would preside over the proceedings, and would serve as mediator to settle any disputes such as division of property, custody of children, and continued financial support for any children involved.

Since Crafters' assignments can be temporary, should a Crafter marry while assigned to a Hold, it should be expected that upon being transferred to another post that his wife and children would go with him, rather than stay behind.  If a Crafter marries while being assigned to a Weyr, however, then he (or she) shouldn't expect a marriage by definition of their own customs if a relationship with a Rider or nonrider develops.  This is explained further in the next part.

It's All About Relationships, Part 3 - DragonRiders and Weyrfolk

Weyrs are probably the most liberal when it comes to relationships.  Instead of the traditional concept of marriage, two people have what's known as a "weyrmating" which is more akin to an open relationship.  Since the bonds with dragons (and whers) have been known to affect the behavior of the humans within the confines of a Weyr, Riders have to understand that his or her "partner" or "weyrmate" may wind up in the arms of another during a mating flight or run, especially if that third person is of the same gender as one of the two.  Although there is nothing that says that two people have to remain together as a couple after the mating flight or run is over, if those same two people decide they want to pursue the relationship further then usually that commitment is respected by everyone else.  But a weyrmating has no legal bindings, so any sexual relations that occur during a mating flight or even the parentage of children cannot be brought into question when it comes to 'loyalty'.  After all, a Dragonflight or Wher Run is just that, and those involved lose all inhibitions and give in to raw, powerful, and often unchecked emotions and feelings of pure lust.  Additionally, two people of the same gender may choose to enter into a formal relationship and is recognized as the same as a hetero relationship; this is arguably one of the major reasons why Holds have always viewed Weyrs with suspicion and contempt.

Weyrfolk aren't quite as affected as Riders and Handlers, but even they understand that any type of permanent relationship is often subject to the whims and desires of those whom lost a mating flight or a run.  Overall, if such a relationship is to be formalized within a Weyr, it's often done by the simple exchange of vows that should one or both persons wind up in the arms of another as a result of a flight or run, they will do their best to remain faithful to their original partner and come back to them.  Sometimes, the exchange of tokens such as rings are used to symbolize the union.

Should a formalized relationship end, there is hardly any need to take any necessary action, save for perhaps declaring in public that the relationship is over.   Any children born as a result of the relationship are often fostered or cared for in a communal fashion (usually in what's known as a 'creche'), so there's no need to fight for custody.  Any disputes over shared property are typically handled by the Weyr's Harper, as any grievances are heard by someone within the Weyr's hierarchy.
Logged
"Always remember...watch your back, shoot straight, conserve ammo, and never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon."
 

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