A Weyr is the home for a collection of dragons, their riders and support staff in Anne McCaffrey's fictional world of Pern. «Weyr» rhymes with "here, " and should not be confused with the pronunciation of «wher», which rhymes with «there.»
- Said we're not where,
- rhymes with here not there
The function of a Weyr is to house those who fight Thread, a spore that originates in the Oort Cloud of the Rukbat solar system, carried by a planetoid referred to as the Red Star with a loose elliptical orbit. The time during which Thread falls is called a Pass. These Passes last about 50 years, usually with a break of 200 years between, although extended periods have been known to occur due to orbital mechanics.
The Weyrs of Pern
- Main article: List of Weyrs
Weyrs are usually established in craters of extinct volcanoes. They are the living places of dragons, dragonriders and all the support staff needed to get a dragon and rider in the air. Weyr complexes are a collection of smaller weyrs, or caves, for habitation and everyday activities. These caves were carved out of the crater rock, some with large stone cutting machines and later, when all of the machines had broken, by hand. A careful observer may discern the older parts of a Weyr by the way it was carved, and may assume that smoother walls were carved sometime before the second pass, that is, when all modern and space-faring technology was lost.
Each rider and dragon pair have their own individual living quarters. Riders move here from the Weyrling Barracks after their dragons mature. Northern Riders have their weyrs built into the sides of the craters, with ledges for dragons to sun themselves and to enter and exit. Due to a lack of caves on the Southern Continent, riders located there have more traditional open-air cots, with large sand wallows located nearby for their dragons.
Each Weyr has its own hatching grounds, where Queens lay their clutches. Hatching grounds are located in large caverns filled with heated sands which help the eggs to harden. The area is typically large enough for dragons and people to view the hatching.
Weyrwomen have their own quarters which are larger and more elaborate than typical weyrs. Each Weyr typically has about three to four such areas, to house multiple queens.
Council Room & Records Room
During D'gan's time as Weyrleader of Telgar Weyr, the Council Room and Records Room, along with the Senior Weyrwoman's quarters, were moved to the other side of the Hatching Grounds, placing them closer to the Lower Caverns. It is not clear whether this was done to make Telgar Weyr's layout resemble that of Igen Weyr, or whether it was going to move D'gan and Lina away from their junior queens or nearer to the Lower Caverns, but during Fiona's time as Weyrwoman, the original layout was restored.
Weyrling Barracks serve as the quarters for Weyrlings, who live communally during the two year dragon maturation period. In crowded Weyrs, some older dragons may be forced to remain in the Weyrling Barracks due to a lack of available weyrs.
Feeding Pens & Lake
The Feeding Pens serve as the holding place for the herdbeasts that Weyrs maintain to feed their dragons. Weyrs typically rely on lakes as a source of fresh water.
Each Weyr has a configuration of stones known as Star Stones. The stones are aligned in such a way to allow for the prediction of the start of a Pass. A pass is usually confirmed when the Red Star is seen to bracketed in the Eye Rock.
Structure of the Weyr
The plural Weyrleaders typically refers to the Weyrwoman as well as the Weyrleader, though in some contexts it may refer to a council of Weyrleaders, a conference among the military leaders of the Weyrs. Until the 9th Pass the Weyrwomen were usually not invited or welcome at such meetings or conferences.
The domestic head of the Weyr is the Weyrwoman, the rider of the ranking gold («queen») in the Weyr. If the Weyrwoman dies, or if her dragon ceases to mate due to old age or serious injury, the rider of the next gold to rise to mate will take the position. Though she and her gold are called «senior pair» they are senior in rank, not necessarily in age or in experience.
The Weyrwoman is in charge of all matters that pertain to housing, food, the raising of children living in the Weyr, training, organization and discipline of the support staff of the Weyr, as well as the day-to-day living requirements of the dragons and their riders. The Weyrwoman is also a diplomatic ambassador, responsible for relations to other Weyrs, Holds and the Crafthalls. Most of her duties are administrative, delegating responsibilities to her Headwoman or junior goldriders.
The Headwoman is the Weyrwoman's primary assistant. The Headwoman is responsible for implementing the Weyrwoman's orders regarding management of the Lower Caverns, where the bulk of the support staff live and work. She is in charge of the cook staff, the cleaning staff, maintenance staff and the Fostering staff. She wields a great deal of power inside of the Weyr.
Retired goldriders often remain in the Weyr as an assistant or advisor to the Weyrwoman. They are sometimes designated to represent the Weyrwoman in the Weyrwoman's absence.
Junior goldriders are also assistants to the Weyrwoman. All dragons will obey the orders of a queen, unless they contradict the orders of the senior gold. Because of this, all goldriders must act as leaders. The junior goldriders are typically assigned to record keeping, lower level diplomatic duties, training gold weyrling pairs and fostering teenage girls who are likely to rise to a leadership position within the Weyr. This provides them with important experience for future leadership positions, as each junior pair has the chance to become Weyrwoman on very short notice.
The military side of the Weyr is headed by the Weyrleader. Weyrleadership is determined by the mating flights of the senior queen. The rider of whichever bronze catches (mates with) her becomes the Weyrleader. The Weyrleader is in charge of making sure that the fighting wings are up to strength, and well trained, he also determines the strategy for threadfighting. The turnover of Weyrleadership varies greatly.
Wingleaders each lead a wing of 12-33 dragons. Each Wingleader has two Wingseconds who may be brownriders or young bronzeriders in training to be a Wingleader. The Wingleaders are technically equal in rank, but as seen in Dragonflight some Wingleaders have more power within a Weyr than others, based on their relationship with the Weyrleader.
One of the most important ranks in the Weyr, below the Weyrleaders and Wingleaders, is that of the Weyrlingmaster. He is in charge of the training and discipline of the young dragonpairs known as weyrlings. While under his care, weyrlings learn everything from basic dragon husbandry to advanced threadfighting techniques. The Weyrlingmaster must be appointed by the Weyrleaders. The Weyrlingmaster must have a good deal of experience, and thick skin, because as many as 25 % of all Weyrlings can die before the end of their training. Weyrlingmasters are usually bronzeriders, though highly respected and very senior brown or blueriders are sometimes assigned to the position.
Determination of leadership
Leadership is determined through chance. The first gold dragon to rise to mate after the previous Weyrwoman's gold dragon has died or ceased to mate becomes Weyrwoman; the rider of the bronze dragon that catches that dragon becomes Weyrleader. This system was established by the first Weyrleader, Sean Connell, in the short story The Second Weyr. This system can (and in the books has) produce inept or otherwise unsatisfactory leadership. There is no way to remove a bad Weyrwoman and the only way to replace a Weyrleader is for a different bronze to fly the Weyrwoman's gold dragon. During an Interval, it may be as long as a decade between mating flights.
When a new Weyr is opened the first among the newly assigned gold dragons to rise to mate becomes the first Senior gold at that Weyr and the rider of the bronze that catches her is the new Weyrleader. Often when the golds are assigned to the Weyr they assign only a single gold at first, to insure the chosen leadership, or they wait until the chosen goldrider's dragon is about to rise to mate to assign golds to the new Weyr.
A retiring Weyrwoman may choose her successor by timing her retirement to occur just before her chosen successor's dragon is about to rise to mate. However, this may not be possible if her choice of successor is not going to rise to mate in a reasonable amount of time. A Weyrwoman who fails to retire in a reasonable amount of time after her gold has failed to rise to mate may be forced to step down by force of the junior goldriders, the bronzeriders and/or the weyrfolk. This method of choosing a successor is also no guarantee of a quality replacement, as the Weyrwoman herself may choose her successor based on cronyism, personal bias against an otherwise capable goldrider or on poorly thought-out criteria.
If a Weyrleader dies «in office» the Wingleaders rule by committee until the Weyrwoman's gold rises to mate. However, in the book Dragonquest when a Weyrleader is incapacitated the Weyrwoman Mardra takes his place in the Wings, an action met with shock and outrage by other Weyrs.
Wingleaders and Wingseconds are chosen though merit, though in canon stories only bronzeriders are considered for Wingleader and only bronze and brownriders for Wingsecond.
- New Wingleaders are selected by The Weyrleader, advised by existing Wingleaders.
- Wingseconds are chosen by the Wingleader from among his wingriders, though with permission he might be able to recruit a promising rider from another Wing.
A Wing is led by a Wingleader, who is always a bronzerider. The Wingleader is responsible for ensuring that his Wing is capable of safely fighting thread. He also appoints Wingseconds and recruits newly graduated weyrlings. Ideally a Wing has two Wingseconds, which are also typically bronze or brown dragons. They fill the Wingleader’s position in the case of an emergency, and help to convey the Wingleader’s orders to the rest of the Wingriders. A healthy Wing contains thirty Wingriders and their dragons, of which more than 3/4 are blue or green. The smaller blue and green dragons do not have the stamina to safely fly an entire threadfall and must be rotated out in two or three shifts. If a Wing falls to fewer than 12 healthy dragon/rider pairs, the Wing is disbanded and absorbed by other Wings.
Thread Fighting Tactics
The standard formation used in thread fighting is a V-formation of dragons, called a wing. There are 33 dragons to a wing — 1 wingleader, two wingseconds and 15 wingriders on either side. A group of 3 wings is called a flight. A Weyr will usually have at least 3 flights, but can successfully fight thread with 1 flight, although this is the bare minimum and considered highly dangerous.
The capacity of a Weyr varies from 300—600 dragons. However, during a Pass the dragonriders' duties leave little time for any other activity, so each Weyr has a large support staff that can number into the thousands. The residents of weyrs are known as weyrfolk.
Residents of a Weyr include:
Dragonriders — living in weyrs (lower case w, or the individual cavern where a single dragon and his/her rider lives), usually in the cliff faces in Northern Weyrs.
Weyrlings — young, immature dragons and their riders. Young dragons generally fly for the first time at about one Turn (year) and train with the Weyrling Wing until mature enough to join a Fighting Wing, usually between 1 1/2 to 2 Turns. Weyrling dragonriders may not join a Wing until age 16, no matter how mature their dragon. Weyrling riders who have completed training but are not yet Turned 16 are often assigned messenger or sentry duties until they come of age. They do not have adult level rank/status until they have been accepted into a Fighting Wing.
Lower Caverns staff — Often, but not always, the Candidates who failed to Impress a dragon, or those who have run away from home to live in the more liberal, accepting atmosphere of the Weyr. Lower Cavern staff are often the grown children of dragonriders. This includes cooks, servers, cleaning staff for common areas, those who care for the beasts that will feed the dragons, and many others. Lower Caverns workers often satisfy the sexual needs of riders who have lost a mating flight. They are led and organized by a headwoman, who is usually ranked just under the weyrleaders in authority.
Weyrbrats — The children who are born in the Weyr are called (affectionately) Weyrbrats. Weyrbrats may be the children of Dragonriders, Lower Cavern staff or Crafters. It is the tradition in the Weyr that children are not raised by their natural parents, as dragonrider parents do not have time to raise a child while caring for a dragon. This community model also serves to reduce parental favoritism. Children are Fostered as soon as they are weaned from their mother's milk, and initially sent to the Weyr's creche. Once the child has grown to show distinct personality and talents, they are matched with a fosterer (foster parent) who suits the child's temperament. Every male Weyrbrat has the right to become a Candidate and stand for Impression at age 12. Female Weyrbrats may become Candidates if there is a gold egg in the Hatching Grounds. By the end of the Ninth Pass, female Greenriders have become more common, so female Weyrbrats may be allowed to join the ranks of Candidates even if there is no gold egg in more progressive Weyrs.
Candidates — Young people who are given the opportunity to become a dragonrider. They are chosen through Search, where a sensitive dragon, usually a blue or green, seeks mentally sensitive boys and girls who are of the correct temperament to match minds with a dragon hatchling. Usually those searched are young males, aged 12 — 18, although older girls (aged 16-22) are sometimes searched if there is a gold egg available. With the addition of any Weyrbrat aged 12-18, the Searched are familiarized with the eggs and are present when the eggs hatch. The Hatchlings choose, or Impress a Candidate who suits his or her temperamental and/or other (still unknown) needs. The minimum age of the Candidates is decided by the Weyrleaders and may be changed according to the Weyr's needs. If there is a greater need for older more responsible riders, the age may be pushed back, if there is a lack of Candidates, the age may be lowered. The minimum age may also be changed depending on whether Pern is experiencing Fall or Pass. The youngest anyone has Impressed a dragon is aged 10 (F'nor), the oldest seems to be in their early twenties. There have been periods of time in Pern's history where females have been able to Impress and ride Green dragons. Whether or not female Candidates are allowed on the Hatching Grounds if there is no gold egg is unknown, but it can be speculated this may be allowed in more progressive, or liberal, Weyrs.
Craftsmen — assigned to the Weyr by their Craft, Craftsmen serve the dragonriders and support staff as they would serve any Hold. The position is usually a high prestige assignment, and they are autonomous from Weyr structure. However some craftmen gain their position at a Weyr by being Searched and proficient in their craft discipline, at which point they are appointed by their Mastercrafter as the official representative.
There is no marriage in the Weyr, as dragonriders are so involved in their dragons' needs that it would be unfair to a romantic partner to commit to a permanent relationship. Instead, Weyrs have «weyrmates.» In rare cases, weyrmating is as deep and permanent as a marriage. However, a weyrmate would usually be the equivalent to a long-term «boyfriend» or «girlfriend»: a form of serial monogamy. A weyrmate might be another rider, a crafter or a lower caverns worker. The term indicates that the pair usually share living quarters, for the time being. Such relationships can be severed at any time by either partner for any reason.
Parental ties are loose, and children are considered to be the property of the Weyr, not of the parent. Usually a child knows who his or her parents are, but many have no more contact with them than any other Weyr resident. There is often some fondness between parent and child; a parent might give a «birthing day» or «Turn's End» gift to their child and keep tabs on the child's development. Other parents completely ignore their child's existence. Severing a child's emotional ties with their natural parents is also considered to be a balancing factor, as expectations for Weyrbrats are not tied to the rank or qualities of their parents. Children are seen as individuals who must succeed or fail on their own, not on parental merit. During a Pass, when a dragonrider parent risks life and limb fighting Thread, this also limits the child's trauma should a parent die.
Sexual relations in a Weyr are typically very liberal. Sex is a form of tension release, and can be triggered through telepathic cues that are produced by the dragons in mating flights. A goldrider can be expected to be open to sexual relations with multiple males (especially bronzeriders) and greenriders are expected to not mind having many sexual partners as well. Sexual contact during mating flights is not considered to be any indication of a dragonrider's preference in either individual or gender preference. In addition, sex with a person other than a weyrmate during a mating flight is not considered to be «cheating.» This behavior is considered anathema to the Holders (who are very conservative in their morals) and, to a lesser degree, the Crafters.
Homosexuality is accepted in the Weyr as a necessity for the dragons' well-being. Green dragons prefer to impress a female or gay male rider while blue and some brown dragons may choose gay or bisexual male riders. However, homosexuality is not well accepted outside of the Weyr, so the Weyr often becomes a sanctuary for homosexual men and women.
Suicide is considered to be a «normal» response to the loss of a dragon. A dragonrider whose dragon has died is usually given the option of accompanying another pair Between and releasing from the pair before emerging, effectively killing him or herself. Few riders would ever deny a dragonless rider due to the strength of the bond between dragon and rider, losing one's dragon almost always results in insanity in all but the strongest of character such as Lytol, though these people remain emotional vulnerable to any mention of dragons.
Abortion is also accepted in the Weyr, while Holders and Crafters believe abortion to be «evil.» Going into the absolute cold of Between during the first trimester of pregnancy usually causes a miscarriage; therefore any female dragonrider risks aborting before she even knows she is with child. As such, there can be no stigma against abortion within a Weyr. Any woman in the Weyr who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy has the option of asking assistance from a dragonrider. "A short ride Between" is a common euphemism for ending an unwanted pregnancy.
For dragonriders, social and Wing status are completely dependent on the colour of their dragon. This is due to the natural/instinctual social structure of the dragons themselves, a legacy of their fire lizard ancestors. Gold and bronze dragons and their riders are at the top of the social/military structure. Brown dragons and their riders have the most flexibility and can achieve rank nearly equal to bronze dragons or fall to lower ranks, according to ability and personal preferences of the Riders. Blue and green dragons and their riders are at the bottom of the social and military hierarchy, the dragons because they will obey gold and bronze (and sometimes brown) dragons generally without question, their riders tend to have matching «follower» personalities and are usually content to do so.
While the Weyrwoman and the Weyrleader hold the same rank as a Lord or Lady Holder or Mastercraftsmen, even the lowest ranked adult dragonrider is equivalent to a senior journeyman in a craft, and are given the respect due any dragonrider as the protectors of Pern.