Welcome to the world of Pern. It is a world strikingly similar to Earth in many ways. It is also home to strangely beautiful avians, deadly alien predators, and of course… dragons.
Pern is the third planet of its solar system. It has three continents. The southern continent counts for over half the landmass, the slightly smaller northern continent is similar in size to Eurasia, and a small, isolated landmass is located the other side of the world.
Two moons light up the Pernese night sky. The distant moon, Timor, is about the size of Earth’s moon. The closer moon, Belior, is smaller. For 50 years out of every 200, a glowing star can be seen in the sky, called the “Red Star”. There are also three unusual stars that are brightest at false dawn, called the Dawn Sisters or Day Sisters – Joko, Burain, and Baynos. Unlike other stars, they are always in the same place in the sky.
Pern is a windy world. There is a constant wind of about 30mph over the oceans driven by the tides and thermals from volcanoes. It is also a highly volcanic world, with new cones rising up out of the sea regularly. The southern continent is the largest and also the most prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity. When the Red Star draws close to Pern, volcanic activity increases.
While Pern is rich in many minerals, metal is less common than on Earth and harder to reach. Deposits of iron, copper, vanadium, platinum, gold, tin, bauxite, and nickel have been located. Gem-quality minerals are common, such as diamonds, rubies, beryls, and quartz stones. Limestone, schist, and granite are also common.
A Pernese year or “Turn” is 362 days long, with a “leap Turn” every six years with an extra day. There are 12 months of 30 days, with two days of “Turnover” at the end filled with celebrations. The months have numbers instead of names and are simply called First, Second, and so forth. Winter solstice takes place on 1.1, Spring Equinox on 4.1; Summer Solstice on 7.1; and Autumn Equinox on 10.1.
Flora and Fauna
Many Earth plants are found on Pern, along with numerous similar species that serve the same purpose. The most common include flax, sisal, gingko, cottonwood, ash, rowan, pine, oak, willow, cherry, orange, apple, pear, corn, onion, hops, wheat, mushrooms, grapes, a wide variety of berries, and many medicinal herbs.
The most common Earth-like animals include cattle, goats, pigs, dogs, chickens, geese, and quail.
A luminous, aquatic fungus is harvested which glows when exposed to oxygen. The spores are the size of large marbles. If covered when not in use, they glow for a surprisingly long period of time. They are simply called “glows” and are kept in sand-filled “glowbaskets” with a tight lid.
A hearty plant with pungent-smelling bark is harvested to make a drink like coffee, sweeter with a spicy aftertaste. The bark is ground up and brewed to make a drink called “klah”.
Parasites are more common on Pern. Stinging pests come in all shapes and sizes. Some crawl, fly, leap, or even fall on unsuspecting victims from trees.
In previous centuries, the presence of the Red Star in the sky heralded the beginning of a Pass, a 50-year span in which deadly Thread fell from the sky. These Passes were followed by 200-year Intervals in which no Thread would fall. Threadfall occurred in patterns of attack that were predicted by Starsmiths.
The name Thread comes from its appearance – strands ¼” thick, 100’ long, and silvery in color. It tends to fall in wriggling, tangled clumps. It is extremely alkaline and burns on contact. A Thread burn is called a “scoring”. Scoring is initially treated with diluted vinegar.
Thread comes down from the sky during a six-hour Fall. It free-falls in tangled clumps of various sizes. The Fall occurs in a pattern, along a band that runs east-northeast to west-southwest. The farthest forward location of Threadfall is called the “leading edge”. It advances swiftly along the band, with the trailing edge approximately 30 km (16.75 mi) behind.
High winds can cause Thread clumps to break up and spread over a wider area. Weather conditions can also affect the speed at which a clump falls. Falling Thread can be extremely difficult to see on an overcast night.
Thread that lands on the ground burrows deep and consumes all organic material for a considerable radius. A fully-engorged thread becomes greenish yellow and can grow to 3’ thick and 500’ long. Some well-fed Thread leave a shell behind and reproduce several thousand times. The shells have a potent stench.
Thread drowns in water, freezes in the cold, and starves if it cannot find something to eat within a short span of time. The most effective method of destroying Thread is by burning it. Thread cannot penetrate rock or metal, but its alkaline skin can corrode metal.
Dragons flame Thread in the sky during a Fall. Any Thread that reaches the ground is dealt with by local holders using tanks that spray Agenothree, similar to flamethrowers. In remote areas, dragonriders are forced to deal with Thread on the ground. Rocky and mountainous terrain can make this especially challenging.