General Info: The mixed-bag results of an attempt to improve upon the original genetic design for dragons, Whers were long regarded as unfortunate mistakes and the misfits of the three draconic species. Though they share the same soft, leathery hide in the same colors as their larger kin, there is little else to connect the two species. Large, low-slung and bulky, the average Wher will weigh between six and eight hundred pounds, reaching about six feet at the withers. Bulges of muscle testify to their brute strength but hide the fact that they can be surprisingly quick on their two-toed feet – meant for bearing weight, which is lucky considering their heavy, malformed bodies. Their wings are small and stumpy, incapable of carrying anything but their own bodies on the thinnest, coolest night breezes. Even their eyes are mutated. The obvious faceting seen in dragons’ eyes was smoothed out in Whers to thousands of much smaller facets, intensifying any light, whether the merest spark from a fire or the glare of the sun, to painful brightness. This is in part due to the fact that Watch-whers see in infrared: that is, their vision functions by sensing heat. Because of this they are invaluable during rescue missions where conventional search methods may fail, such as cave-ins (back on Pern, Whers were most often put to work in dark underground mines for this very purpose) or during blizzards.
Temperamental and territorial are just two words that will probably describe any given Wher. They are fiercely possessive of both land and their bonded, but are capable of coexisting with other beings if properly trained and gradually exposed. They are nocturnal by nature, functioning best at dusk.
Watch-whers are intelligent but not clever, able to learn commands and even how to 'speak' to some extent. This speech is made of sounds in attempt to mimic spoken words, but they can only remember a few at a time – and the end results, unique to each Wher (one may say "errrrwl" and another may say "brrrrd" to signify the same word) will sound nothing like true speech. Learning to communicate 'bad air', 'avalanche', and so on would have been most appropriate for Pernese Whers, given their manner of work. They are capable of using mindspeech only with Dragons, who will typically act as translators. Their eyes change color according to mood (see Dragons entry).
Whers are capable of going between like a handful of other species, but they do so rarely. It is very difficult and generally not attempted to teach this behavior, used more of their own instincts than any formal education. While higher ranks tend to be more trainable and intelligent on the whole, all colors of Whers are capable of recognizing and deferring to their handlers as well as other humanoids or Shinies they have frequent contact with. It is not advised for any stranger to assume familiarity with an unknown Watch-wher without the initial presence of its bonded, no matter how much expertise they may have.
Mating Info: Whers mate at night in a traditional chase, running along the ground. A female will lead males across any sort of terrain, never taking to the skies. Fights often break out amongst the males during this time, but it will have to be the fastest and strongest that catches the female in order to ensure strong, healthy offspring.
Bonding Info: After a female lays her clutch in the coolest, darkest place available, she will hardly leave their side. Wher eggs do not require heat for incubation, but the protective instincts of a mother stretch easily to include her brood. Sometimes the father will help guard the clutch, but this often hinges on the personality of the brooding female. Not all eggs are viable; part any clutch will be composed of dud eggs that either fail to thrive or hatch into malformed Whers that die too quickly to bond. If the eggs are laid by a bonded mother, however, the success rate may rise considerably.
When the eggs have hardened sufficiently to protect themselves against minor bumps and scrapes, the mother's handler will allow other humanoids who wish to try their hand at bonding to enter the area where the eggs are concealed. This event may happen up to a week in advance of the hatching date or on the very occasion, but traditionally each humanoid will seek to be approved by the mother in order to select one egg from the clutch and take it aside, responsible for its well-being until it hatches. This practice has become less common as the demand for Whers decreased during the transition from Pern to Planet, and many Wher handlers allow the clutch to be approached as a whole in the style of a traditional bonding. Again, it depends upon the personality of the mother Wher and the wishes of her bonded.
Newly shelled, Whers are much smaller than they will grow to be, small enough to make an armful for any average humanoid. They are quick-tempered from hunger and equally aggressive as they are ravenous. The traditional strategy is to distract them from mischief with a mixture of chicken blood and porridge, which they will eat until they cut their first teeth. In order to form a true bond a hatchling will have to 'blood' to their humanoid, which entails drinking fresh blood from the person in question in order to memorize their scent and effectively bond them together. When this happens the Wher will offer up the only mental statement it will ever give, its name: ending in ‘sk’. The first Watch-Wher that a person bonds is considered to be their closest, and takes a part of their handler's name. The more it accepts, the tighter the bond.The longer the name, the stronger the mental link between the two (i.e. Sparkie could Impress a Watch-wher named Spask or Sparsk; Sparsk would be the stronger bond).