Welcome to the world of Pern. It is a world strikingly similar to medieval 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” for its crimson color. 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 weather 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 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 significantly less common than on Earth and harder to reach. Gem-quality minerals are more common. Useful stone, such as limestone, schist, and granite, are also common.
A Pernese year or “Turn” is 362 days long, with a “leap Turn” every six years adding 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.
There are also strange and useful plants. 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”.
A hearty plant with pungent-smelling bark is harvested to make a coffee-like drink, called “klah”. Klah is sweeter with a spicy aftertaste and a mild amount of caffeine.
The most common Earth-like animals include cattle, goats, pigs, dogs, chickens, geese, and quail. Horses are uncommon as they are difficult to maintain in good health. Birds are extremely rare due to several species of flying avians and reptiles who like to eat them.
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.
The name “Thread” came from its appearance – strands ¼” thick, 100’ long, and silvery in color. It tended to fall in massive, wriggling, tangled clumps. It was extremely alkaline and burned on contact. A Thread burn was called a “scoring”.
Threadfall occurred in patterns of attack that were predicted by Starsmiths. A Fall would last for six hours, during which time every person and beast would take shelter underground. Thread that landed on the ground burrowed deep and consumed all organic material for a considerable distance.
Thread drowned in water, froze in the cold, and starved if it couldn’t find something to eat within a short span of time. Thread couldn’t penetrate rock or metal, but it could corrode metal. The most effective method of destroying Thread was by burning it.
Dragons flamed Thread in the sky during a Fall. Any Thread that reached the ground was dealt with by local holders, usually at great cost. If not for dragonriders, life on Pern wouldn’t be possible.