After the Second Crossing at Fort Hold, Tarvi Andiyar, Cobber Alhinwa and Ozzie Munson extolled the watch-wher's virtues to Paul Benden, Bay Harkenon, and Pol Nietro. The watch-whers were extremely useful in subterranean exploration, both with their night vision and their infallible instinct for finding hidden dangers, and were used heavily in the construction of Fort Weyr. They could also carry more than their body weight, and they ate anything, thereby keeping the pest population down. Cara Telgar adored the latest hatching, which would follow her around the hold and keep watch at night. (Dragonsdawn, p.349)
However, they were actually intended to fly Thread at night. Wind Blossom encouraged the belief that they were a mistake to maintain the illusion that Thread fell only during the day. Eventually, however, people noticed their watch-whers went missing at night and began keeping them chained. One of the first to do so was Lord Malon of Tillek Hold. Wind Blossom explained the watch-whers' purpose to him, and he agreed to release Tilsk, but it wasn't long until no one remembered the purpose of the watch-whers, and almost all of them were kept chained in their holds.
First Interval/Second Pass
Towards the end of the First Interval, the watch-whers used by the builders of the College refused to go any further into the mountain, letting their handlers know there were dangers further in. As a result, much of the College had to be built on the exterior of the mountain.
During the Second Interval, the watch-wher population was severely reduced. Most dragonriders, especially Weyrleader D'gan, believed them to be useless. At one point, they only had one queen: first Aleesk, then Nuellask. Several wherhandlers formed a wherhold to protect the last queen watch-wher. The inhabitants of the wherhold became somewhat paranoid, believing that the dragonriders intended to eradicate watch-whers, and would attack anyone who approached. After Aleesa died, and Aleesk with her, Nuella bonded with a newly-hatched queen. At the suggestion of Fiona and the Igen Traders, they formed a permanent wherhold near Plains Hold, where there was a river from which they could get gold.
By the Third Pass, Nuella had organized the watch-whers to fight Thread. For the first time, wherhandlers not only knew where the watch-whers were going at night, but actually rode them to fight Thread. Dragons were willing to cooperate with watch-whers during a night Fall, and acknowledged that they were related to them, as they were to fire lizards.
Sixth Pass to Ninth Pass
By the Sixth Pass, they are kept chained; dragons do not like to 'talk' to them for their simple minds. Also at the end of the Eighth Interval, watch-whers were usually kept chained again. \ Most dragons were extremely insulted at any comparison between them and watch-whers.
Watch-whers were modified from fire lizards, just as the dragons were, so they share many of the same basic characteristics. They have six limbs, four legs and two wings. They also have smooth skin, and the same colors as fire lizards. They are able to eat Thread, a fire lizard ability that dragons don't have, but are unable to chew firestone. They have tridactyl claws, like the original fire lizards, though their feet are reversed, with two articulated toes in front of one fixed claw.
Beyond that, there isn't much resemblance. Their head knobs are so short as to be barely noticeable. They are short and hunched, and weigh 6-800 lb. Their skin seems too tight against their bulging muscles. Their feet each have only a single pad, yet they can move somewhat fast.
Watch-whers are nocturnal, to the point that they can't even go outside during the day. Their wings are so small they can fly only in the colder, denser air at night. Their eyes are large and see mostly in the infrared range. Wind Blossom had attempted to give them simple eyes, and partially succeeded, but the lenses remained faceted. This caused all light to be focused on the fovea, which made it extremely painful for them to be out during the day. Nuella asked the Smithcrafthall to create sunglasses so watch-whers could fly Thread during the day, but the first ones made were only dark enough to work as the sun was setting. Their hearing and smell are also excellent.
They are also well-suited to their secondary job as guards. They can recognize everyone in their hold, and are territorial enough to attack anyone who isn't introduced to them by their handler. They are also commonly used in mines. They can smell explosive gas or stale air long before it can kill a human. They are also strong enough to carry loads twice their own weight, which makes them very good at digging out trapped miners after a cave-in.
Watch-whers are more empathic than telepathic, but they can still communicate telepathically with images. The only time they "speak" is when they communicate their names with their handlers, and even then it's somewhat less clear than when dragons speak telepathically, and some handlers may think the name is their own idea.
They are also able to go between, but it is not an instinctive reaction. While dragons and fire lizards will go between if restrained or to avoid a collision, watch-whers will not go between unless trained to do so by their handlers. Since they see in a different visual range than humans, it is difficult for humans to visualize their destination in the same way the watch-whers see it.
Watch-whers' bonds are more like fire lizards' Impression than dragons'. If they do not bond with a human after hatching, or their handler dies, they will not go between. In fact, they can bond with a second handler if their first dies, or even switch handlers without their first one dying. "Wild" watch-whers who have never bonded with a human are able to bond regardless of age. Aleesa theorized that queen watch-whers needed a human handler, and would go between if unable to bond immediately after hatching or the death of their current handler.
Watch-whers are not known to have ever used telekinesis, but according to AIVAS, any creature that is capable of telepathy and teleportation should be capable of telekinesis.
Watch-wher mating flights have a similar effect on humans to those of dragons.
Watch-wher eggs are smaller than dragon eggs. They are also wrinkled, rather than smooth. Occasionally, an egg will have a ringlike fold around one end. This is believed by wherhandlers to be a good sign, though Aleesa couldn't explain why this was when asked.
Unlike dragons, where the hatchlings choose the rider, it is the queen watch-wher that chooses who can take her eggs. Anyone who wants a watch-wher egg must attempt to approach the queen, and if she allows them, they can take an egg.
Like dragons, watch-whers communicate their names telepathically with their handlers. They get their names from their handlers' names, and always have -sk on the end. How much of the handler's name is used indicates the strength of the bond.
The exceptions to this are the watch-whers of major holds. Their name is always derived from the hold's, rather than their handler's, with -sk at the end. This doesn't mean that all watch-whers a hold ever has will have the same name. For example, Tillek Hold's watch-wher in the First Interval was named Tilsk, but the watch-wher in the Third Pass was named Tillesk.
List of Watch-whers
- Four (unknown sexes, unknown colors), Unknown Names
Second Interval/Third Pass
- (Gold) Aleesk, bound to Aleesa (Former WherMaster)
- (Gold) Nuellask, bound to WherMaster Nuella
- (Bronze) Jaysk, bound to Jaythen
- (Brown) Dask, bound to Danil
- (Green) Arelsk, bound to Arella
- (Green) Forsk, bound to Lord Holder Bemin of Fort Hold
- (Green) Kisk (later Nuelsk), bound to Kindan (later Nuella)
- (Unknown) Tillesk, bound to Lord Disaller of Tillek Hold
- (Male, unknown color), Unknown Name, no handler but would listen to Lessa of Ruatha Hold at Ruatha Hold
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