Dragon Rider Clothing
The Southern Lands have, over time, become a melting pot of cultures, so no two dragon riders look alike in their clothing choices. However, certain rules must be followed to keep a rider safe during flight and at least stand a chance of keeping them alive if they had to fight on the ground in an emergency.
It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, not even fire dragons can save you from frostbite. I've seen too many upstarts think we're no better than mother hens, reminding them to make sure they put on a sweater before they go outside. The ones that learn fast at least get to keep training. The ones that don't? They're lucky if they can still hold a bow with a couple of fingers missing.
While dragon riders in training are used to the higher altitudes of the floating islands, they still need warmth more than most anything else when flying with a dragon. Between the warmth of their clothing and the body heat of the dragon, they are able to survive up to the maximum altitude a dragon can safely fly themselves, but most dragon rider pairs never test this limit for fear of what might happen.
Don't ever get in that saddle without making sure you've got all your gear on. It may not feel like anything when you're riding, but your dragon's scales can cut deep before you realize. The gods help you if you get stranded somewhere like that. If you can even walk, you certainly won't be setting foot in my training ring. I don't teach people who can't take care of themselves.
There are several types of protection that a rider needs, the primary one being for their legs. A dragon's scales are sharp and can cut through normal cloth easily. Often this leg protection involves extra layers and can be buckled on so the rider doesn't have to carry it around all the time.
Secondary types of protection are from the weather and wind, and from weapons. Most riders will try not to go flying in bad weather, but their gear is built to keep out the elements for at least a couple of hours in case it becomes necessary. Goggles protect their eyes from the wind so they can see during a flight.
As metal is not used on rider clothing except very rarely, their armor mainly consists of tougher leathers and fabrics. They provide little protection in a prolonged fight, but their intention is to create a basic level of protection against a sword or arrow in the event that the dragon must land and the rider finds themselves in a battle on the ground.
Riders wear a cap to protect their heads from the cold air, often made with wool or quilted and stuffed with wool or down. Even fur is used when available. Wool is the most popular choice as it also serves to protect from rain and still keep the rider warm.
In order to see regardless of the wind and weather, riders also wear goggles made of clear scales from an air dragon. These have been cut and polished, then set in leather straps and buckled securely around the back of the cap.
The number of layers a rider wears will often correspond to how warm they usually are and how well they can handle the cold. This can range anywhere from two layers up to four or five and differ greatly based on materials used as well. All of them start with a linen shirt, followed by a gambeson made of leather or quilted with wool and down. If necessary, a wool coat is added over this to protect the rider from bad weather.
Generally, a rider will wear linen pants underneath a layer of either wool or more of the same quilted material as their gambeson. Strapped on to each leg is a long piece of leather or layers of thick slash resistant canvas, made of a similar material as their dragon's light saddle. These pieces are designed to run the full length of a rider's leg along the inside, where their legs would be pressing against their dragon's scales during a flight.
Wool socks and thick leather boots are usually enough to protect a rider's feet from the cold and rain. Occasionally there are some who will add in fur in favor of lighter socks, but the easiest to obtain is always plain leather boots.
A note about saddles:
Regular saddles are often made of leather and designed so that leg protection worn by the rider isn't as necessary. However, scouting missions or short flights can necessitate the use of the light saddle, which is made of canvas or other slash resistant materials and can be wrapped around the dragon quickly to create a saddle safe enough for flight. Because this saddle is much lighter and meant to be carried folded up in a pack for emergencies, it doesn't create the same leg protection as a regular saddle and will cause serious harm to the rider if they fly without anything else on their legs.
The materials used in a rider's clothing varies, but generally they use some combination of the following:
Wool is primarily used for its water resistance once felted and also as padding for both leg protection and armor around the body. Its warmth also makes it an all around good material for most riders.
For those that prefer heavier body armor, leather is a good choice. It is also commonly used as part of the leg protection riders wear because it is thick enough to withstand the sharpness of scales.
Down is by far the most popular choice for warmth among riders. It is light, so it can be combined with other materials easily, and creates a good barrier against the cold.
While not common, as most fur is used for the rest of the inhabitants of the floating islands, some riders will use fur to supplement wool and down for warmth.
Linen is the primary choice for clothing worn under the armor and other padding. It breathes easily, is generally comfortable to wear, and a slightly heavier linen can add a layer of protection for the body.
Canvas is almost exclusively used for a dragon's light saddle because it is resistant to normal wear caused by sharp scales, however it can also be used for the rider's leg protection. In both cases, it does need to be replaced somewhat frequently as the scales do eventually wear through, but it lasts longer than other types of cloth would and can be carried folded up in a pack much more easily than leather.
Riders are still studying all the potential uses of scales. However, an air dragon's scales have proven to be the best choice of eye protection for riders during flight. When they are shed, the scales turn translucent and can be cut and polished. Once set in leather, they can be strapped on to keep the wind out of a rider's eyes, while also allowing them to see where they're going.
Riders use metal very sparingly when creating clothing to be worn during a flight. The cold of high altitudes can cause the metal to burn a rider if touched. They are still used for buckles on the saddle and anything where another type of material wouldn't be strong enough to hold the strap in place.
Differences in the way clothing is made or how it looks when it is complete mainly depends on where a rider's family came from before settling in the Southern Lands. It should be noted as well that because families have intermingled over time, and who actually crosses the border varies a great deal, certain fashions have greater representation, and there is a large spectrum of what each rider may choose to wear.
Much of Alexi is farmland, with a standing army that patrols the borders. As such, clothing tends to be sturdy and practical, but with small embellishments to brighten up otherwise drab clothing. Nobles wear much the same, but will choose richer fabrics. The majority of riders are descended from Alexi families, which has led to the quilted gambeson as the most common choice of warmth and protection. Often any embellishments added are used to distinguish the type of dragon the rider is bonded to or how far they are into training.
Peregrine culture revolves around honing battle skills and making sure their people are ready for anything. They compete every few years to determine which clan will lead the kindgom and the remainder of the clans often fight over borders. They often wear leathers and furs as armor. This is not a common pure heritage in the Southern Lands, as there is only a small portion of the border that meets Peregrine. Often, those who find themselves there have traveled through one or more other kingdoms and picked up some of their customs before arriving in the south. However, Peregrine heritage can mainly be distinguished among riders by their choice of a leather gambeson and occasionally fur when they can get it.
Ismena is the center of most magical learning in Casimira and as such, their culture primarily revolves around working with nature. There is significant effort put into only using fibers that don't do harm to plants or animals. As Ismena shares a very small portion of its border with the Southern Lands, it is not incredibly common to find decendants of this kingdom among the riders. Those that do can be distinguished by their choice to use primarily wool and canvas, refraining as much as possible from the use of leather and fur.
Novami is heavily influenced by the culture of the Northern Lands, but the people who live there are primarily from the lower classes that weren't able to hide their aptitude for magic. In many cases, this resulted in a split of cultures: those who feel they have lost their one true home and try to be faithful to its way of life, and those who saw an opportunity to start fresh and have filled their lives with new ideas and ways of living.The rare few riders who have descended from families that traveled far south from Novami either wear drab wool colors, or prefer bright (within reason) colors and intricate designs.
As far as anyone knows, no one has ever made it all the way south from the Northern Lands except by way of Novami. If they did, any relations in the riders would likely wear the more drab Novami fashions, with as simple and practical of a style as possible.
Rider EmblemsOne of the few decorative pieces that every rider has in common is their emblem. Typically embroidered on the breast of their gambeson or possibly a cloak, this symbol is colored based on the element of the dragon the rider is bonded to. This is both to prove that they are a dragon rider and to provide some mark of seniority, as the longer one has been a rider, the more elaborate the emblem.
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