Whers, or Watch-whers, are dragon-like creatures in the fantasy series Dragonriders of Pern. In comparison to the majestic dragons that were the end result of Kitti Ping Yung's genetic experimentation, whers are deformed and stunted. They were designed by Wind Blossom in an attempt to further her grandmother's work.
Nocturnal because of their lamp-like reflective eyes, these creatures have a terrific sense of smell and are sometimes used in mines to find "bad air." Thick hides protect them from the harmful elements. Each of their feet has two gnarled digits on it. Like their fire-lizard and dragon cousins, whers have jewel-like eyes. Their smoothed out eyes swirl with colors that reflect their emotions. As with Pernese dragons, whers come in five colors - gold, bronze, brown, blue, and green. The golds and greens are females, and clutch eggs. Bronzes, browns, and blues are male. Whers originally were described as having clipped wings Dragonflight but in Dragonsblood retcons facts from the previous books, such that they can fly, but only at night when the air is thicker to allow their weaker wings that extra lift. Whers can in fact speak, albeit at the level of a very young child for even the most intelligent cases, and communicate mainly by way of feelings or mental images. Dragons are generally offended when compared to their simpleminded cousins, and do not often initiate conversation with them unless it is required.
At birth, whers can Impress on a single trainer and can recognize when that person is in danger. However, their choice of whom to Impress is usually closer to fire-lizards, in that they look for whoever has food available. It is important for the would-be handler to bond with their Whers using a 'blood-bond'. Generally this means the Handlers cuts their own hand or finger to allow the Wher to 'taste' them. The blood acts as a conduit to allow the Whers to form a stronger bond with their Handler. Bondings without the blood bond are not as successful or close as those with.
Once bonded, the whers will do everything in their power to protect that person, as in Dragon's Kin. In that novel, the wher, Dask, gave his life for his handler. Whers bond on the deep telepathic level to their handlers as dragons do to their lifemates. A wher handler will only have one wher at a time. Bonded whers tend to be more intelligent than their non-bonded cousins, being able to learn and comprehend everything more easily when they are connected to the human mind.
However, unlike dragons, whers do not 'have' to Impress. They can live their life without the bond that is so essential to their cousins. These wild whers tend to be untrustworthy, unreliable, vicious animals,. Without a human there, the wher hatchlings will leave their mother and go wild. Generally if a Wher hatched from a domestic Wher does not bond with a Handler, they are killed. Otherwise, they will become vicious and unpredictable, quite often turning even on those who feed them.
In Dragonsblood the origin of watch-whers is retconned to suggest that they are the third portion of the plan to protect against Thread, with the first two portions being full dragons and the Thread-eating grubs. According to Dragonsblood, watch-whers, formerly described as flightless, are designed to fly at night and eat any Thread that falls; Dragonriders inexplicably believe that Thread does not fall at night, so they do not fly against it. They are said to be intentionally genetically and physically dissimilar from dragons and fire-lizards as a precaution against a single disease destroying all three species. Conversely, they are similar enough to dragons that it would have possible to genetically convert them into a last-hope replacement for dragons, at least until knowledge of genetic engineering was lost. Once rediscovered in the 9th Pass it would become possible again, but unnecessary due to the future absence of thread.
- The Dragonlover's guide to Pern, Second edition, by Jody Lynn Nye with Anne McCaffrey.
- Dragon's Kin
- Dragon's Fire