Guides to Pern
A Weyr is a collection of dragons and their riders. Weyr is pronounced to rhyme with sphere.
The function of a Weyr is to fight Thread, an organism that originates in the Oort cloud of the Rukbat solar system, carried by a red planet with a loose elliptical orbit. The time during which Thread falls is called a Pass. These Passes last about 50 years, usually with a break of 200 years between.
Weyrs are the physical space which dragons, their riders and support staff reside. Weyrs are usually built into the cliff faces of ancient volcanic calderas. Many of the living spaces are in natural cave systems within the cliff walls, but in early Passes when the colonists still had technology, plasma cutters were used to create extended systems and additional caves to meet the needs of the growing numbers of dragons. There are six ancient Weyrs as of beginning of the 9th Pass.
Two additional Weyrs were built during the 9th Pass in the Southern Continent, on ground level with sand wallows instead of caves for dragons and built-structures for the use of human residents of the Weyr. A third new Weyr is planned as of the last book.
Each Weyr has a Weyrbowl (the bottom of the caldera) which includes a holding area for fodder for the dragons, ie herdbeasts (cattle, sheep, goats, etc), a lake or cove (bathing area for the dragons), Starstones to predict a coming Pass as well as many large grassy areas and ledges for dragons to sun themselves.
An individual dragon's weyr consists of a ledge for landing and sunning, a cavern with a "couch", or raised stone bed (covered with straw or other bedding) for the dragon and sleeping and storage areas for the rider. Some weyrs include a separate alcove for sleeping, but smaller weyrs (usually only occupied when the Weyr is very full) have only enough space for a rider to hang a hammock near his dragon and store his gear on hooks. Most weyrs do not have access by foot, the only access being by dragonwing.
The Lower Caverns are an extensive series of caverns with easy entrance by foot, They contain common use areas such as lounging and recreation areas for riders, kitchens and dining areas, storage areas for supplies, living quarters for support staff, children (Weyrbrats), crafters and more. They also contain special quarters for riders who are involved in mating flights, as their private weyrs are often inaccessible from the ground.
A Weyr is headed by a Weyrwoman (rider of the senior gold dragon), who is chosen by chance as the previous Weyrwoman's dragon dies or ceases to rise to mate due to age or injury. The rider of the next gold to rise becomes the new Weyrwoman. The Weyrwoman is the domestic head of the Weyr, in charge of all matters that pertain to housing, food, the raising of children living in the Weyr, training, organization and discipline of the support staff of the Weyr, as well as the day to day living requirements of the dragons and their riders. The Weyrwoman is also a diplomatic ambassador, responsible for relations to other Weyrs, Holds and the Crafthalls. Most of her duties are administrative, delegating responsibilities to her Headwoman or junior goldriders.
The Headwoman is the Weyrwoman's "second" and is the primary assistant to the Weyrwoman. The Headwoman is responsible for implementing the Weyrwoman's orders regarding management of the Lower Caverns, where the bulk of the support staff live and work. She is in charge of the cook staff, the cleaning staff, maintenance staff and the Fostering staff. The Headwoman answers ONLY to the Weyrwoman.
Junior Goldriders are also assistants to the Weyrwoman. Junior goldriders are always in training to replace the Weyrwoman as being a dragonrider, even a goldrider, is a dangerous job and any one of the junior goldriders may be called on to replace her at any time. The junior goldriders are typically assigned to record keeping, lower level diplomatic duties and sometimes fostering promising Weyrbrats.
The Weyrleader (the rider of the senior queen's mate) is in charge of the Wings, or the military structure of the Weyr. He is responsible for the training, organization and discipline of the Wings, the military structure of the dragonriders. The Weyrleader is typically also a Wingleader, generally one of his Wingseconds becomes the Weyrleader's "second", or primary assistant in the running of the Wings, while the other continues the day to day organization of the Weyrleader's Wing.
Wingleaders are responsible for the training of the riders within their Wing and the selection of new Weyrlings to fill spots vacated by injury, death or (rarely) retirement.
Weyrlingmasters are in charge of the Weyrlings, or young riders and dragons in training for Threadfighting. Their responsibilities include teaching young new riders how to care for their dragons, basic threadfighting teachiques, threadfighting formations, the basics of flight and going Between, how to chew firestone and create a steady flame. Weyrlingmasters are usually bronze or brownriders, but occasionally highly regarded blueriders may act as Weyrlingmaster. Higher ranked dragons are preferred as young bronze and brown dragons and their riders may prove resistant to taking orders from a lower ranked color.
The dragonriders are organized into Wings and Flights.
A Wing consists of one Wingleader, two Wingseconds and thirty wingriders. Wingleaders are usually bronzeriders, Wingseconds are usually bronze or brownriders. Almost two thirds of a Wing is comprised of blue and green dragons, who usually do not have the stamina to complete an entire Threadfall, so they are organized into two or three groups which work in shifts, so even a fully healthy Wing does not often fly with all 33 dragons.
A Flight consists of three Wings, led by a selected Wingleader of the group.
A Weyrflight consists of three to five Flights, led by the Weyrleader.
If a Wing is reduced to less than 12 riders due to injury, death or transfer attrition, the Wing is disbanded and Wingmembers are reassigned to other Wings.
The capacity of a Weyr varies from 300-600 dragons. However, during a Pass the dragonriders' duties leave little time for any other activity, so each Weyr has a large support staff that can number into the thousands.
Residents of a Weyr include:
Dragonriders live in weyrs (lower case w, or the individual cavern where a single dragon and his/her rider lives), usually high in the cliff faces. High ranking dragonriders generally live in the lowest of the caverns where there is easy access for meetings. Some lower weyrs have stair cases leading to the weyr, and meeting rooms within the weyrs, especially in the weyrs of the Weyrwoman and Weyrleader.
Weyrlings are young, immature dragons and their riders. Young dragons generally fly for the first time at about one turn (year) and train with the Weyrling Wing until mature enough to join a Fighting Wing, usually between 1 1/2 to 2 turns. Weyrling dragonriders may not join a Wing until age 16, no matter how mature their dragon. Weyrling riders who have completed training but are not yet turned 16 are often assigned messenger or sentry duties until they come of age. They do not have adult level rank/status until they have been accepted into a Fighting Wing.
The lower caverns staff are often, but not always, the Candidates who failed to Impress a dragon, or those who have run away from home to live in the more liberal, accepting atmosphere of the Weyr. This includes cooks, servers, cleaning staff for common areas, those who care for the beasts that will feed the dragons and many others. Lower caverns workers often satisfy the sexual needs of riders who have lost a mating flight.
The children who are born in the Weyr are called (affectionately) Weyrbrats. Weyrbrats may be the children of Dragonriders, Lower Cavern staff or Crafters. It is the tradition in the Weyr that children are not raised by their natural parents as dragonrider parents do not have time to raise a child while caring for a dragon and to reduce parental favoritism. Children are Fostered as soon as they are weaned from their mother's milk, and initially sent to the Weyr's creche. Once the child has grown to show distinct personality and talents, they are matched with a Fosterer (foster parent) who suits the child's temperament. Every male Weyrbrat has the right to become a Candidate and stand for Impression at age 12.
Candidates are those young people who are given the opportunity to become a dragonrider. They are chosen through Search, where a sensitive dragon, usually a brown or blue, seeks psi sensitive boys and girls who are of the correct temperament and sexual orientation to match minds with a dragon hatchling. Usually those searched are young males, age 12 - 18, although older girls (age 16-22) are sometimes searched if there is a gold egg available. With the addition of any Weyrbrat age 12-18, the Searched are familiarized with the eggs and are present when the eggs hatch. The Hatchlings choose, or Impress a Candidate who suits his or her temperamental and/or other (still unknown) needs.
Craftsmen also live in the Weyr. They serve the dragonriders and support staff as they would serve any Hold. They are usually assigned to the Weyr by their Craft, though the position is usually a high prestige assignment. They are autonomous from Weyr structure.
Fort Weyr was the first Weyr built and occupied during the First Pass. It is located in the mountains of the Southwestern peninsula of the Northern Continent. It was built primarily using high tech sonic/plasma stone cutters to form perfectly smooth walls absent in later Weyrs. Fort Weyr has a capacity of 500 dragons.
Benden Weyr was the second Weyr built, also during the First Pass, using plasma/sonic cutters to enlarge naturally occurring caverns. It is located in the mountains of the northeast coast of the Northern Continent. It is also the largest Weyr, with a capacity of 600 dragons.
High Reaches Weyr was the third Weyr built, the last during the First Pass. It was also the last to use the sonic/plasma stonecutters. High Reaches is the highest in elevation, located in the northwestern mountains of the Northern Continent. It is unique, being in a younger ancient caldera, with seven tall stone spires called the "seven spindles." High Reaches has a capacity of about 500 dragons.
Telgar Weyr was the last of the Ancient Weyrs to be built, settled in the Interval after the First Pass. It is located in the central northern mountains of the Northern Continent. It has a capacity of about 400 dragons and was initially a mining Hold; its caverns are primarily cut by miners.
Ista Weyr is located on the Big Island (directly south of the central point of the Northern Continent) in a caldera that opens to a tropical bay. While physically the smallest of the Weyrs, Ista makes up for it by locating dragons in weyr caverns on the *outer face* of the caldera. Using this unusual technique the Weyr has a capacity of about 350 dragons.
Igen Weyr is the smallest Weyr with a capacity of only 300 dragons. It is a desert Weyr located in the south central region of the Northern Continent.
Southern Weyr was not founded until the end of the Second Long Interval, just before the 9th Pass. It is located on the far northern tip of the Southern Continent, on approximately the same longitude as Ista, Igen and Telgar Weyrs. It is partly built on cliffs facing the ocean, but most Weyrs are located inland, in non-traditional dwellings consisting of a sheltered sand wallow for the dragons and huts for the riders. It has no set capacity for dragons, as new huts and shelters could be built at any time. This Weyr was moved to an undisclosed location far inland in the 31st Turn of the 9th Pass.