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Fire lizards were a native species of Pern, present before its colonization. They were, 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 shared many of the same abilities.

Characteristics

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 they replaced the unmodified dragonets through breeding.

Modern fire lizards were about the size of a large bird. They had the same five color variations as dragons: gold, bronze, brown, blue and green, and the temperament of said colors corresponded to their larger cousins. They had three sets of eyelids, the innermost being a transparent membrane that allowed the lizard to see where it was going while its eyes remained protected from harsh environments, such as space. Depending on how awake they were, all three could be open. Like dragons, female fire lizards experienced a periodic estrus, and participated in a mating flight. Unlike dragons, however, both green and gold fire lizards were fertile. Gold fire lizards had strong maternal instincts and were protective of their clutches. However, the clutches of green fire lizards often did not survive to hatch, as green fire lizards would often leave the clutch or lay clutches in unsafe areas. Fire lizards typically nested in tropical beaches, where the warm sands helped 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 were very sociable creatures, who traveled in fairs and loved to sing. There seemed to be a group consciousness, on a basic level, that allowed 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 was also speculation that fire lizards were immortal, or so long lived as to appear so, as they didn't appear to age and no one had ever seen one to die of old age or disease.

History

First Pass

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.

Once the colonists made the move north, fire lizard numbers began dropping, as not many were nesting in the north.

First Interval

By the end of the First Interval, 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.

Following the outbreak of the Dragon Plague near the start of the Third Pass, all fire lizards were sent to the Southern Continent.

Ninth Pass

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 to Southern Weyr. Three people, 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 held 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

Second Interval

Ninth Pass

The Fire Lizard Song

The little queen all golden
Flew hissing at the sea
Against each wave
Her clutch to save
She ventured bravely.

As she attacked the sea in rage
A holderman came nigh
Along the sand
Fishnet in hand
And saw the queen midsky.

He stared at her in wonder
For often he'd been told
That such as she
Could never be
Who hovered there, bright gold

He saw her plight and quickly
He looked up the cliff he faced
And saw a cave
Above the wave
In which her eggs he placed.

The little queen all golden
Upon his shoulder stood
Her eyes all blue
Glowed of her true
Undying gratitude.

The above verse is © by Anne McCaffrey, Dragonsong, 1976.

Notes

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.

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