Dragons

Dragons are a class of creatures native to the planet of Aravu. They exist roughly somewhere between the bounds of Reptilia and Aves, but they are traditionally subdivided into two main types, Yokapikan (scaled) and Uyoyan (feathered), though most species have both scales and feathers at various points in their lifespan.   There are thousands of dragon species on the continent of Kotuye alone. Though their habitats and appearances may vary widely, they share several traits. All dragon species are ectothermic, flighted, and oviparous. They are also distinguished by their high intelligence, love of fire, and a penchant for creating ornate nests.   Out of the many dragon species on Aravu, only two are considered domesticated, which are named Uyo and Yoka after their scaly or feathery appearance. They are the beloved companions of the Yashelin, with whom they loyally live and work beside.  
"No house is truly a home without a dragon curled up on the hearth."
Hanalun, dragon owner and breeder of Yoka dragons

Anatomy

Dragons come in a variety of shapes and sizes but they share several important traits with one another. At their very basic, dragons are:  
  1. Ectothermic. Uyoyan dragons use their feathers and sunlight to help them maintain their body temperature while Yokapikan dragons depend almost entirely upon environmental heat sources.
  2.  
  3. Oviparous. Most dragon species lay hard eggs. Others lay eggs which are more akin to sacks in consistency. The largest dragon eggs can take months of careful tending before they hatch.
  4.  
  5. Flighted. No known species of dragons are incapable of flight, though those with feathers and lighter skeletal builds tend to fly faster and longer than their heavier, scaly counterparts.
  6.  
  7. Omnivorous. All healthy dragon diets include a mixture of meat, fruit, and vegetables. Most hunt and gather, though a few specialize in carrion.
  8.  
  9. Fire-Seeking. Dragons are known for their attraction to the light and warmth emitted by fire. A small number of flocks have mastered harnessing fire.
     
From Miniscule to Mega Fauna
The proliferate Tree-Leaf Uyoyan Dragon measures only 7 cm in length and weighs so little it is known to nap on leaves.   The extinct Kivrian Yoka Dragon, meanwhile, weighed as much as 24,000 lbs/11000 kg and its nesting grounds encompassed entire mountains.

Life Stages

Hatchling

Yoka Dragon Hatchling by Midjourney
Dragons who have recently hatched are referred to as hatchlings. As hatchlings, most dragon species are born blind and covered in a soft down. Yokapikan, or scaled, dragons lose this down over the course of just a few weeks as their scales grow in. Uyoyan hatchlings do not lose the down until later on in their life cycle.

Nestling

Uyoyan Dragon Baby by Midjourney
Nestlings usually have an entire flock's worth of dragons taking care of it and its siblings collectively. They are unable to fly and incapable of finding food, shelter, and sources of warmth for themselves. Their only job is to learn through play and wrestling with their siblings and, if domesticated, their owners.
 

Fledgling

The Fledgling stage is marked by their developing ability to fly independently and catch food for themselves. Fledglings are rarely seen without an adult dragon nearby, since fledglings learn best by mimicking their elders.   This is a critical stage for training domesticated dragons, especially those from working breeds that are expected to perform complex tasks, such as search and rescue dragons.

Juvenile

Most juvenile dragons strike out to found their own territories or join other ones. Dragons who leave the nest alone have a lower rate of survival than those who leave with nestmates.   Since it can take years for a dragon to reach true adulthood, breeders of domestic dragons keep a sharp eye out for savant juveniles with desirable demeanors, breed conformation, and skillsets for adoption and/or breeding purposes.
 

Adult

Adult dragons are defined primarily by two factors: their skilled independence and their reproductive capabilities.    Juvenile and adult dragons are distinguished by the colors of their scales or feathers. Adult dragons are fully colored, while juveniles are grey or brown. Color and pattern changes coincide with a dragon reproductive maturity and a sharpening nesting instinct.   Domesticated dragons exhibit the same behaviors as their wild counterparts. There are cases, however, where they refuse dragon mates and instead prefer to court their owners. Thankfully, dragon courtship rituals are rather harmless and even humorous at times. As the mating season in question passes, most dragons get the hint and move on to likelier partners.

Elder

Elder dragons are defined by their inability to reproduce. In the first half of an elder's life, they continue to live in the shared nesting grounds and communally raise hatchlings. After a certain number of years without fertile eggs, however, most elder dragons leave the nesting grounds and the safety of their flock for the last time.    Most elder dragons seek out recesses in trees or caves where they build their own personal shelter. They live out the rest of their lives in these shelters and, the closer to the end of their life they become, the more aggressively they are known defend it.   Domesticated dragons do not exhibit the same want for isolation with the urgency of their wild counterparts. The instinct is still present, however, and owners are cautioned to provide them for safe places to hide from unfamiliar people or other dragons.

Behavior

 

Average Intelligence

Dragons are highly intelligent creatures on average, though exact abilities vary across species and by individual dragon. They are social animals by nature and appear to enjoy playing and solving puzzles with one another. Some show notable skill at traversing unfamiliar territory, adapting quickly to conditions they were not evolved to expect so long as they have companions.   The domesticated Uyo and Yoka dragons are viewed as the most intelligent of all dragons on Aravu. They are capable of comprehending an astounding number of words and phrases and, in some cases, mimicking them accurately. In addition, working breeds display an astounding level of independent critical thinking skills, which they are known to use for work and for play in equal measure.  

Communication

Dragons communicate verbally through whistles, chirps, barks, and growls. These sounds are combined to communicate complex thoughts amongst each other, though not regularly enough to count as language. Domesticated and their owners, however, often develop a shared language between each other based on these same sounds, the dragons' limited ability to replicate words, and the owner's commands.    Dragons also communicate non-verbally. For example, many dragons use their wings and tails to project their thoughts to others. When a dragon trots ahead of a group with their tail held sharply straight behind them, they are projecting a sense of confidence and alertness to any would-be predators. Wings tend to flutter when they feel nervous and flap when excited. In flight, wings and tails are reserved solely to aid in flight. The only exception is when they use tails to swat at unwanted company mid-flight.
Hanalun whistles for Yuyu, eyes darting around their home, searching.   Yuyu whistles back, quietly, from under the couch.   Hanalun whistles sharply, slapping their bed frame to further emphasize their command.   Yuyu declines with a barked, "No."   "Domini's gone, Yuyu," Hanalun sighs. "Please come out."   "Fly out?" Yuyu squawks. "Sand time?"   "It's the middle of the night!"   "No."
 

Social Structure

Dragons congregate into groups known as flocks. There are multiple leaders per flock. The exact number of leaders is dependent upon species and flock size. A flock at minimum has two leaders, one to defend the nest and the other to lead outings, though the most successful flocks have between three and five leaders. The rest of the flockmates are divided up amongst these leaders based on their specialized skillset within the flock which allows their communities to run smoothly and safely.   Most of the time, dragons appear to determine the social structure through via non-violent means. Infirm and elderly dragons are respected and cared for long after they have outlived their utility. Leaders are not given the same grace as their common counterparts. Changes in leadership are rarely met without a fight, sometimes resulting in one or multiple deaths over the course of the power struggle.  

Courtship

Male and female dragons participate in a short mating season each year. Male dragons determine their mate by inspecting a female's nest. If the male dragon finds the nest acceptable, it will begin to perform for the female. The type of performance varies by species. Some present gifts, such as shiny or warm items to spruce up their nests, perform intricate dances, and/or sing for her attention. These performances may last several days and a female dragon may witness dozens of these shows before finding a suitable mate.   If a female dragon finds a male dragon's performance agreeable, she will allow the male to live within her nest for the remainder of the year. The male stays with the female throughout the season, taking on the lion's share of the work in defending the nesting grounds and, when it is time to start laying on the nest, feeding the broody female dragon.   The male and female dragon will live together until the mating season starts again. Female and male dragons rarely pair up for more than one season in a row.  

Nesting

Female dragons are notorious nesters, whether or not they are expecting hatchlings, and male dragons aren't that far off either. Dragons of all species, wild or domestic, are renowned for their ability to craft wondrous (and oftentimes garish) nests and shelters in order to protect themselves and their flockmates.   Despite raising all of their nestlings communally as a flock, dragons actually create nests independently from one another on a shared nesting ground. Individual nests reflect individualized taste in decor, such as one dragon's preference for red leaves versus another's love of shiny coins. Fights ocassionally break out between dragons if two dragons with similar tastes nest too close together because the temptation to steal a pretty piece of crumpled paper from their neighbor is just too strong to resist.   Flockwide aesthetics have also been observed in both the wild and domestic species. Flocks will decorate their collective nesting grounds with similar motifs unique to the flock in question. For example, Hanalun's small flock of dragons prefers to collect black rocks in interesting shapes. One flock that has claimed the top of the Kotuye Library's tower for thousands of years prefers reflective pieces of metal.  

Dragons on Kivria

"You brought and lost... who... on Kivria?"   "It wasn't on purpose, she hid in my bag!"
— Chamu is very lucky that Areta couldn't kill them.
  There are no native dragons on the planet of Kivria. All, or most, dragons ever found on the planet can be traced back to one dragon of the scaly variety. Although the members of the Kivrian Project did their best to locate Chamu's dragon, she wouldn't be retrieved and reunited with her owner a little over a year later.   They wouldn't find her progeny until a few hundred years later. By then, it was too late.   Dragons are recorded in the myths and legends of the earliest known peoples of Kivria. Their long lifespans and possessive tendencies captured the imaginations of entire cultures, becoming larger and more intelligent than even the best adapted Kivrian dragon.   While Kivrian dragons did grow large and terrorize various regions, their long-term ecological impact was rather small in the long run.
 

Extinction

The Kivrian legends of dragon tamers and dragon slayers are much more entertaining than the sad reality of the Kivrian dragon's steady decline.   The official story is that they slowly died out on their own, one by one. These invasive dragons could not sustain a viable population out of those few that had wiggled their way across planets. Certainly not once they had to compete for already insufficient resources.  

The Last Kivrian Dragon

In recent history, however, intrepid explorers in the Flood Wastes have reported a mysterious, serpentine creature flying high in the mountains.   Witnesses have described the sighted dragon consistently over the years, lending credence to their story. The dragon in question, if it exists at all, is likely Vaspa, Areta Maikir's companion. Defying the odds, the poor creature has survived the harsh environment of the Flood Wastes alone, waiting loyally for its master's return.
"Would she even recognize me, do you think?"   "Your face has changed, but she'll know. Go find her!"
— Conversation between Areta and Oz upon finding evidence of Vaspa
 
"[It was] jaw-droppingly beautiful, a streak of sentient flame flying over the hills. I hope I'll see it again, one day."
Pio, the Flood Wastes' earliest known explorer
   
Vaspa by Midjourney


Cover image: by Gabriel Douglas

Comments

Author's Notes

I want to create art for this article and replace the old Midjourney images, but alas, I've run out of spoons and they function for decorative purposes. I'll get there eventually...  

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May 30, 2024 15:10

I love these dragons, especially the kind with feathers. I especially like that they build nests and have developed a small nest-building culture here.

Stay imaginative and discover Blue´s Worlds, Elaqitan and Naharin.

I would be very happy if you would celebrate my SC contributions with me.
May 30, 2024 20:56

Thanks!

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