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 are about the size of a large bird. They come in all the same colors as dragons, 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. Unlike dragons, however, both green and gold fire lizards are fertile. Like dragons, female fire lizards experience a periodic estrus, and participate in a mating flight. 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.
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. Also, a person can Impress multiple fire lizards. 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. However, fire lizards are trainable, and can be taught to take messages or perform simple tasks.
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.
Fire lizards were present on Pern long before humans colonized the planet, though wild fire lizards differed from those later favored by the people of Pern. Originally, these creatures were called "dragonets" and 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. Many colonists kept them as pets.
In an effort to improve them as such pets and protectors , they were exposed to Mentasynth, an Eridani compound intended to strengthen their latent telepathic talents. As these altered dragonets became more prevalent, they eventually became known as fire dragonets, and then fire lizards. 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. It is unknown how or why they developed such unique characteristics, such as breathing fire, telekinesis, or telepathy.
In the intervening centuries, the Pernese lost the knowledge of the existence of fire-lizards, who had bred with wild dragonets, and their modified genetics came to replace the original genes of their ancestors species-wide. By the Ninth Pass, fire lizards were little more than a myth or legend, and they were not rediscovered until exploration of the Southern Continent began during the Ninth Pass.
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.
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. 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. Later on, fire lizards played a role in recovering Masterharper Robinton following his abduction by 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 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.