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Multiple choice

“…every Weyr had more than sufficient candidates on the Ground during a Hatching. Early on, the records mentioned five occasions when a dragonet had not found a compatible personality.” (Red Star Rising/Dragonseye, p 82)

This is the only canon reference to dragonets dying unpartnered on the Sands, and refers to a point in Pern’s history when little was yet known about Kitti’s dragons. It does not, however, contradict the assertion that a dragonet will always choose Impression over death, where Impression is at all possible. It seems very likely that the early Hatchings during which these dragonets died were short of suitable candidates – that is, there were not enough candidates available with the baseline required telepathy to Impress every dragonet. The quote from Red Star Rising mentions one measure brought in to prevent this happening again – the provision of more candidates than eggs. But a second tradition introduced in the early Passes would have been just as useful in ensuring that the young people presented to the eggs were capable of Impressing a dragon – Search.

It can be presumed that any candidate who is the subject of a genuine Search – that is, somebody Searched on merit by a sensitive dragon, rather than a pretty girl brought back to the Weyr as a trophy – has the basic requisite aptitude for telepathy required to Impress a dragon. This doesn’t guarantee that the candidate will Impress, but it does ensure that he or she at least has the ability to do so.

Weyrbred youths, on the other hand, are not Searched – they are entitled to stand once they are of age. Generally speaking, it would seem probable that the offspring of dragonriders would inherit telepathic potential from their parents, thus making them capable of Impressing. But this would not hold true in all cases, and the influx of new blood from outside the Weyr – the aforementioned trophy candidates, for example – would certainly throw up some Weyrbred children without that vital requirement. The candidate Beterli in The Smallest Dragonboy is a perfect example of one such Weyrbred lad to have been rejected at a succession of Hatchings: probably incapable of Impressing a dragon at all, but entitled by Weyr tradition to stand until prohibited by his age – or in Beterli’s case, his behaviour.

Providing an excess of candidates is an equally good way to help ensure that every dragonet chooses a rider, and this is generally evidenced through canon, with 72 candidates presented to 40 eggs in The Smallest Dragonboy and 62 for Ramoth’s clutch of 35 in All the Weyrs of Pern. Two notable exceptions occur: in Dragonflight when, acting on information provided by F’nor, F’lar sends only 32 candidates for the 32 eggs of Pridith’s first clutch; and in Moreta, when only 32 candidates are available for 25 eggs due to Plague losses.

Egg:candidate ratios

Egg:candidate ratios

The example from Moreta lends strong credence to the premise that dragonets will choose Impression over death: with such limited choice, surely the chance of there being a 100% perfect match for every egg was slim, yet every dragonet was Impressed. F’lar had the advantage of knowing that the 32 candidates he sent back in time to Impress Pridith’s hatchlings would all do so successfully, but here too the hatchlings were most likely obliged to compromise. The last dragonet to Hatch would have been left with no choice at all, and he or she evidently made the best of the situation.

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