Fire lizards are a native species of Pern, present before its colonization. They are, in a sense, primitive dragons, because they were the genetic base for Kitti Ping Yung's original eighteen dragons. Being very much like dragons, they share many of the same abilities.
Fire Lizards were originally known as "dragonets". During the First Pass, their genetic code was speculated to be divergent evolution from a type of sea creature, with tunnel snakes as the other branch. These dragonets were better adapted to hunt in water than on land. Changes to their genetic code made them more effective land hunters, along with being larger, leaner, and with flatter noses. They were later exposed to Mentasynth to improve their latent telepathic abilities. These altered dragonets were eventually came to be known as Fire Lizards, and would replace the unmodified dragonets through breeding.
Modern Fire lizards are about the size of a large bird. They have the same five color variations as dragons: gold, bronze, brown, blue and green, and the temperament of said colors correspond to their larger cousins. They have three sets of eyelids, the innermost being a transparent membrane that allows the lizard to see where it is going while its eyes remain protected from harsh environments, such as space. Depending on how awake they are, all three can be open. Like dragons, female fire lizards experience a periodic estrus, and participate in a mating flight. Unlike dragons, however, both green and gold fire lizards are fertile. Gold fire lizards have strong maternal instincts and are protective of their clutches. However, The clutches of green fire lizards often do not survive to hatch, as green fire lizards will often leave the clutch or lay clutches in unsafe areas. Fire Lizards typically nest in tropical beaches, where the warm sands help incubate and harden the eggs.
Fire lizards lack the ability to communicate in words, but can have limited success telepathically communicating pictures and thoughts. They are, however, strongly affected by emotions and events around them, to the point of hysteria. Unlike dragons, men and women can Impress any color of fire lizard, and they do not need to be a certain age to do so. Fire Lizards do not have a specific drive to Impress to a person as a dragon does, but are most likely to bond to someone who is present with food at their hatching. Fire Lizards who do not Impress become wild. It is possible for a person to impress multiple Fire Lizards. Tamed fire lizards are trainable, and can be taught to take messages or perform simple tasks. Fire Lizards can also breathe fire, but have not been observed using telekinesis as dragons can.
Fire lizards are very sociable creatures, who travel in fairs and love to sing. There seems to be a group consciousness, on a basic level, that allows all fire lizards to experience large events. For example, the new fire lizards of the Ninth Pass knew about the volcano eruption at Landing, even though they were not alive for it. There has also been speculation that fire lizards are immortal, or so long lived as to appear so, as they don't appear to age and no one has ever seen one to die of old age or disease.
The original dragonets became popular pets among the settlers, and became the subject of genetic modification to make them better pets and protectors. As modification progressed they were known as Fire dragonets and then fire lizards. Eventually, fire lizards were used as the genetic base for the dragons that were meant to protect people from Thread.
First Fall states that fire lizard numbers were dropping at this point, as not many were nesting in the north.
According to Dragonseye, fire lizards had fallen prey to a plague. As a result, they were thought extinct.
Second Interval/Third Pass
At some point, presumably during the Second Interval, fire lizards became common on the Northern Continent again.
By the time of the Ninth Pass, fire lizards were considered to be little more than a legend. Despite this, young boys and girls were known to try to catch fire lizards. Fire lizards were rediscovered by the brown dragon Canth, who spotted a gold hatchling as his rider F'nor slept on a beach near Southern Weyr. F'nor impressed the hatchling and named it Grall, and sent word back. Three people from Southern Weyr, Brekke, G'sel, and Mirrim responded. Brekke and G'sel were each able to impress a bronze, while Mirrim impressed three.
The discovery that fire lizards could be impressed by non-riders led to a plan to help the Holds and Crafts become more connected to the Weyrs by giving them a "small taste of dragon". In addition, the fire lizards could be trained as messengers. Hunting for fire lizard clutches became a common occupation of dragon riders. Early clutches of eggs were given to Lord Holders and other important people. While a trip to the Red Star was being discussed, it was noted that all fire lizards appeared to have a fear of the object.
Over time, fire lizards became a common sight. However, their reputation took a beating when fire lizards played a role in the theft of a Queen egg from Benden Weyr. The subsequent need to identify tamed fire lizards led to a marking system, where the colors of the Hold, Craft, or Weyr were painted on a fire lizard's neck. However, Lessa and her dragon Ramoth would hold grudges against Fire Lizards for some time.
Fire lizards later played an important role in the exploration of the Southern Continent. The fire lizards group consciousness allowed the exploration teams to discover the ruins of Landing, as they remembered the original settlers arriving there. It was discovered that the white dragon Ruth had the unusual ability to command wild fire lizards, and Ruth was used to help focus the thoughts of the otherwise chaotic images the fire lizards visualized.
Later on, fire lizards played a role in recovering Masterharper Robinton following his abduction, participating in the search and discovering the cart he was hidden in. Fire lizards also assisted in the defense of the Printercrafthall when it was attacked by Abominators.
Fire Lizards and their Owners
First Pass/First Interval
- Bay Harkenon - queen Mariah
- Chio Fusaiyuki - brown
- Pol Nietro - bronze
- Sean Connell - two browns, gold Blazer
- Sorka Hanrahan - bronze Duke (First fire-lizard to be Impressed)
- Zi Ongola and Sabra Stein-Ongola - gold Fancy
- Bemin- brown Jokester
- Fiona- gold Fire
- Issak - brown
- J'marin- gold Siaymon
- Kindan - bronze Valla
- Koriana - gold Koriss
- Lorana- gold Garth, brown Grenn
- Pellar - brown Chitter
- Alemi - Sailor
- Aramina & Jayge - two queens, three bronzes (including Tork - Impressed to Jayge - and Bitty), three browns
- Asgenar - brown Rial
- Brand - blue
- Brekke - bronze Berd
- Brestolli - blue
- Dannen - gold Somi, blue Kern (only appearing in Dragonfire (Crossroads))
- Deelan - green
- Dulsay - bronze
- Famira - green
- Fidello - brown
- G'sel - bronze Rill
- Groghe - queen Merga
- Kylara - queen
- Larad - green (queen in The Renegades of Pern)
- Mardra - queen (possibly a bronze or brown in Dragondrums)
- Menolly - queen Beauty; bronze Rocky, Diver, Poll; brown Brownie, Mimic, Lazybones; blue Uncle; green Auntie One, Auntie Two
- Meron - bronze
- Mirrim - brown Tolly; green Reppa, Lok
- N'ton - bronze Tris
- Nurevin - queen
- Piemur - queen Farli.
- Pinch - queen Bista.
- Robinton - bronze Zair
- Rosheen - gold Ola
- Sebell - queen Kimi
- Sharra - bronze Meer, brown Talla
- Tordril - blue
- Toric - queen, two bronzes
The Fire Lizard Song
Anne McCaffrey stated in an interview that fire lizards would not commit suicide after the death of their human. This was seemingly retconned in books published after the interview, such as in the case of All the Weyrs of Pern, where bronze Zair passed away immediately after Masterharper Robinton died. The difference here is that Zair didn't "go between forever", but simply died.
It could be that a fire lizard will commit suicide if the bond with its human is particularly strong, or that Zair was simply "hanging on" for Robinton's sake.