Wind Blossom engineered watch-whers from fire lizards after Kitti Ping died. They were considered by most to be a failed attempt at another batch of dragons. However, they were actually intended to fly Thread at night without needing riders. Wind Blossom encouraged the belief that they were a mistake to maintain the illusion that Thread fell only during the day, even going so far as to purposely cause some of the original eggs to abort. They were also meant to be a somewhat viable option should dragons be wiped by the inevitably of a disease that would affect both the native fire lizards and the dragons descended from them. As watch-whers were sufficiently genetically different from fire lizards, it was hoped that in that case they would be unaffected.
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.
Eventually, 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 were 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 had six limbs, four legs and two wings. They were able to eat Thread, a fire lizard ability that dragons didn't have, but were unable to chew firestone. They had tridactyl claws, like the original fire lizards, though their feet were reversed, with two articulated toes in front of one fixed claw. They also had smooth skin, and came in the same colors as fire lizards, though few noticed the distinctions. Queen watch-whers telepathically commanded wings of watch-whers when they fought Thread.
Beyond that, there was little resemblance to dragons or fire lizards, although Wind Blossom purposely retained enough of a similarity that watch-whers would always be considered ugly or common dragons. This was to ensure that non-dragonriders wouldn't develop an overwhelming fear of the dragons, who were by necessity isolated in their weyrs away from the general populace. Their head knobs were so short as to be barely noticeable. They were short and hunched, smaller than even green dragons, and weighed between 600 and 800 pounds. Their skin seemed too tight against their bulging muscles, a result of Wind Blossom's largely unsuccessful attempt to incorporate the boron common to native Pernese species into their epidermis and dermis as a natural are. Their feet each have only a single pad, but they could move with speed when they wished to. Their wings were smaller than those of dragons to help them avoid thread. Their flight is largely possible due to the cooler (and therefore more dense) night air combined with their natural telekinetic abilities.
Watch-whers were nocturnal, to the point that they couldn't go outside during the day. Their eyes were large and saw 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 were also excellent.
They were also well-suited to their secondary job as guards. They could recognize everyone in their hold, and were territorial enough to attack anyone who wasn't introduced to them by their handler. They were also commonly used in mines. They could smell explosive gas or stale air long before it could kill a human. They were also strong enough to carry loads twice their own weight, which made them very good at digging out trapped miners after a cave-in. Watch-whers ate almost anything and kept their homes and workplaces clean.
Some of the first generation of watch-whers had an instinctive violent reaction to being woken, which Wind Blossom had programmed as a means of defense should they be wakened by falling Thread. This resulted in the watch-whers becoming overly dangerous to the people near them, and at Wind Blossom's prompting the watch-whers that displayed this trait were destroyed.
Watch-whers were more empathic than telepathic, but they could still communicate telepathically with images. The only time they "spoke" was when they communicated their names with their handlers, and even then it was somewhat less clear than when dragons spoke telepathically, to the point that some handlers thought that they had come up with the names on their own rather than receiving them from the watch-whers.
They were 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 were more like fire lizards' Impression than dragons'. If they did not bond with a human after hatching, or their handler died, they would not go between. In fact, they could bond with a second handler if their first died, or even switch handlers without their first one dying. "Wild" watch-whers who never bonded with a human were 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 were not known to have ever used telekinesis beyond the unconscious that let them fly, but according to AIVAS, any creature that is capable of telepathy and teleportation should be capable of telekinesis.
Watch-wher mating flights had a similar effect on humans to those of dragons.
Watch-wher eggs were smaller than dragon eggs. They were 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 chose who could take her eggs. Anyone who wanted a watch-wher egg would attempt to approach the queen, and if she allowed them, they could take an egg.
Like dragons, watch-whers communicated their names telepathically with their handlers. They got their names from their handlers' names, and always had -sk on the end. How much of the handler's name was used indicated the strength of the bond.
The exceptions to this were the watch-whers of major holds. Their name was always derived from the hold's, rather than their handler's, with -sk at the end. This didn'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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