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Dragons

Noble creatures of far greater intellect and power than almost all humanoid creatures could possibly aspire to. To see a Dragon in full flight at a distance, or face to face is both thrilling and terrifying, but great gains can be made from directly engaging with them, rather than hunting them for pure, barbaric sport.
Extract from Ingrid Aevardottir's Corpus Animalium.   All humanoids in Ulskandar know of Dragons, though few have ever seen these elusive creatures, who are incredibly secretive despite their large size, intellects and appetites. Dragons are immensely intelligent beings that are capable of wielding immense physical and magical powers. Their charity is not to be exploited and they are not to be trifled with, unless one has a death wish.

Basic Information

Anatomy

The silhouette of a Dragon is almost universally recognised by all creatures, whether sapient or not across Ulskandar and beyond its Material Plane. In basic form, a Dragon is shaped like an enormous, winged lizard, that is quadrupedal, but with the ability to use its front legs as a humanoid would use its hands, thanks to an opposable thumb on its front limbs that allows it to grip. Dragons are covered in thick scales, that act as a natural armour, which is known to grow stronger over time, rendering the scales of elder Dragons almost impenetrable to non-magical attacks. A Dragon’s head will normally have at least two horns, which serve more of an aesthetic, rather than defensive function, though a Dragon is well equipped for mundane forms of defence thanks to the long, sharp claws on each of the digits on its front and back legs, its array of razor-sharp teeth and its long flexible tail that is often covered in sharp spikes. A Dragon’s physiology also means that it has adapted a specific set or organs, linked to its respiratory system, that allows it to propel a breath weapon from out of its mouth, often to devastating effect.   Dragons are split roughly into two sub species, Chromatic Dragons and Metallic Dragons. Though very much the same in terms of their overall anatomy, the subspecies and breed within that will dictate a Dragon’s colour, the variety of breath weapon they are able to use, the habitats that they prefer to live in and often their temperament.   Chromatics:

  • Dragons that are classed as Chromatic Dragons will tend to be more susceptible to the environment that they live in, and will often have a very specific preference for the climate and physical geography of where they set up their homes. White Dragons for instance, will tend to prefer cooler climates, often where there is regular snowfall, whilst Blue Dragons will prefer aquatic, or semi-aquatic environments.
  • Chromatics will tend to be more energetic and impulsive than Metallic Dragons, and are often the ones most regularly encountered by humanoid species.
  • On the whole, Chromatic Dragons have a much higher functioning metabolism that Metallic Dragons, which means that they have to feed much more regularly, and need to live in proximity to a larger food source.
  • Breeds of Chromatic Dragon include: Black, Blue, Green, Red and White.
  Metallics:
  • Metallic Dragons are generally more docile than their Chromatic counterparts, and will prefer to live in underground environments, especially cave networks and under mountains.
  • Metallics are characterised as being very calm and calculating, and will often be very interested in collecting information about nearby peoples before deciding to act, unless their own home is directly threatened.
  • Unlike Chromatic Dragons, Metallic Dragons have a much slower metabolism, and can go many weeks between a feed. Metallics are also very susceptible to what is known as ‘Dragon Sleep’ where a Dragon will go into hibernation, often for decades at a time. Very often Metallics will go into this state so that they can mull over a particular question or item of concern to them.
  • Breeds of Metallic Dragon include: Brass, Bronze, Copper, Gold, Silver
  There is also a variety of Dragon known as Shadow Dragons. These creatures very rarely appear on the Material Plane, and are thought to be the vestiges of Dragons who were killed, but sustained by an overwhelming desire for revenge, or are the remnants of Dragons that have been corrupted by entities from the other Planes of existence.

Genetics and Reproduction

Dragons breed very slowly, and a female Dragon may lay as few as two eggs in the entire span of their enormous lifetimes. When Dragons come together to breed the courtship process is in itself a long and arduous process that may take years in itself. Male Dragons are required to bring offerings of food, gold and other appealing items to the home of the female Dragon, and only when the gifts have proved satisfactory will the male Dragon be invited in to the female Dragon’s home proper. If successful, the result of a union will be a single egg, that will be incubated by the mother for a period of around a year, during which time the male Dragon will remain in the vicinity, to provide food for the mother, though he will not be allowed back into the female’s home where the egg is. Once the egg is hatched, the female Dragon will drive the male away from the area, to protect her hatchling.   As well as this, female Dragons can make the decision to magically alter their eggs, once they have been laid so that instead of producing a single Dragon hatchling, a clutch of Dragonborn are created. This process involves the use of some extremely powerful, time-consuming and physically draining magic, but does result in the creation of a community of intelligent creatures that will faithfully serve their Dragon Mother for as long as the Dragon, or the community exists.

Growth Rate & Stages

Dragons can take many hundreds of years to grow from hatchlings to fully fledged adults, and then hundreds of years more to grow into elder Dragons. A hatchling will remain within the home of their mothers for a period of around 30 years during which time they will be fed and taught by their mother about the wider world outside their home. Over these 30 years the hatchling will grow from the size of a medium sized dog (the size it hatches at) to that of a horse and cart. After this 30 year period, the hatchling will be expected and actively encouraged to set out on their own and find their own territorial grounds as a juvenile Dragon. Dragons are classed as being juveniles from the age of 30-150, during which time they will grow to their adult size, which is at least 12m/39ft in length. After this time they are classed as adults until they reach their first millennia after which they are classed as elders. Throughout all of this time, Dragons that have access to a good enough source of food keep growing, with some of the oldest said to be measuring in at c.25m/82ft, and their intellect and magical abilities will continue to grow as well. All of this means that older adult and elder Dragons are incredibly powerful and formidable creatures indeed that should not be trifled with.   As Dragons get older they require more and more sleep, as moving their large bodies and wielding the substantial body of magical power that they have becomes more and more draining on their physical and mental form. Ancient Dragons will often sleep for hundreds of years at a time, and it can be very hard, nigh on impossible to rouse them from their slumber, unless they begin to believe that they are being physically threatened.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Although they are generally solitary creatures, Dragons do maintain a rigid, Matriarchal Social structure, and will often keep in contact with one another, either through the use of physical messengers that are servants of the Dragon, or through the use of telepathic links. All Dragons are thought to be able to communicate with their blood relatives telepathically, if they wish to do so, but it is hard to assess how often they actually use this ability, given few humanoids have been able to have a long, protracted conversation with a Dragon about their personal, private lives. In any case, it is rare for Dragons to physically meet one another, except to breed, though there have been instances when twin siblings (a rare occurrence as Dragons normally lay only a single egg at a time) will stay with one another when they leave their mother’s nest. When Dragons communicate with one another, directly, through a 3rd party or telepathically they will always show deference to their elders, with elder female Dragons always taking precedence in the hierarchy over the males.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Dragons can be found all across Ulskandar, and have adapted to exist in almost every single environment that occurs on the Material Plane. Almost all of them will tend to exist away from areas that have been heavily settled by other sapient species, especially those areas that have been settled by humanoids. This does not mean that Dragons shun contact with other sapient species, or that they try to hide their presence in an area. Quite the contrary, an area that has a Dragon living in it, especially an adult Dragon, will be well aware of the fact, given that the creature will be actively hunting in order to survive. No, it is rather that Dragons tend to be suspicious of members of their own species, let alone those of a different species who start poking around in their business. Of course, this also depends on the individual Dragon in question, as some will be very open to contact from other species, and will actively seek it out, whilst others will kill on sight, it all comes down to the experiences of other species, especially humanoids that the Dragon, or its kin have had over the centuries.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

As apex predators, Dragons have a range of highly tuned sensory capabilities to aid them in their hunting. This includes a great sense of smell, along with incredibly good eyesight, which comes in handy to help spot prey when they are on the wing. Their hearing is the weakest of their base senses, and many elder Dragons have lost most of their ability to hear, though given the strength of their other sense this does not tend to put them at a particular disadvantage. In addition, Dragons are highly sensitive to magic, which not only enables them to sense the presence of magical items and beings with ease, but also allows them to be potent magic wielders in their own right. This magical ability, when combined with their enormous intellects makes them incredibly formidable opponents to engage with, whether that be in combat or scholarly debate.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

A Dragon will always have three names, the first of which denotes which female Dragon they are a son or daughter of, known as their Matron Name, the second is their Given Name, and their third name is a Descriptive Name, used to denote a specific characteristic of the individual.   Matron Names are created by taking the Given Name of the Dragon’s mother, and then adding the Draconic word for son- Abza or daughter- Abzi to the end of the name, for example, a Dragon whose mother’s Given Name was Kali would have the Matron Name of Kali-Abza if they were male, or Kali-Abzi if they were female.   Given Names are bestowed upon a Dragon by their mother, and are drawn from a stock of traditional Draconic names, that tend to not intrinsically mean anything in their own right, other than being names by which Dragons and other Draconids are known. Common Male names include: Akia, Alluwamna, Hattusilis, Huzziya, Istanu, Lupakki, Mammali, Shaushga, Tarkasnawa, Zita. Common Female names include: Annella, Danuhepa, Estan, Gilukhipa, Harapsili, Istustaya, Kali, Muwatti, Pudukhepa, Tawashshi.   Descriptive Names will often be adopted by the Dragon themselves, though they can also be bestowed by other Dragons, especially Mothers, and they will cover a range of characteristics both physical or mental, that the Dragon is particularly proud of, or wants to highlight as being characteristics that make them stand out from other Dragons. With younger Dragons especially, their Descriptive Name will often be written and uttered in Common Speech, as it gives non-Draconic speakers an easier way to refer directly to the Dragon, without stumbling over the often complex Draconic pronunciations. Common Descriptive Names include: Bright Scale, Long Claw, Proud Wing, Strong Voice, Wise Wing etc.

Average Technological Level

All Dragons are immensely intelligent beings, but their intellect, combined with their outstanding natural and magical abilities means that they are not particularly interested in adopting the technological advances of other sapient species. For instance, they have no need for weapons, technology to keep them warm or dry, or anything else for that matter that humanoid races have developed to help them survive. In addition, Dragons could theoretically utilise their magical abilities and physical strength to build immense structures in which to house themselves, but they much prefer to live in naturally created structures that they can make their homes in, such as caves, forests and mountains.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

There are few collective cultural customs associated with Dragons, as they almost always act as individuals rather than as a community. However, there are several traditions and customs that have been passed down from mother to child amongst Dragons, that have been shown to ease, relationships with the humanoid races that crawl all over Ulskandar:   Not Preying on Humanoids: As a general rule, Dragons will not overtly prey on humanoid races. This is partly because most humanoids do not provide a satisfying meal for Dragons, and the devouring of a humanoid will often be followed by a protracted period of attempting to remove their bones from teeth. In addition, not preying on humanoids is an attempt by Dragon kind to at least try to show that they are not just ravenous monsters hell-bent on destruction, though this often doesn’t work to set the local humanoid community at ease anyway. On the whole, this custom is always ignored when humanoids enter a Dragon’s layer uninvited, or at times of food shortages, where Dragons will universally take the view that ‘life is tough and humanoids are fair game’.   Hoarding of Treasure: Dragons have a particular fondness for precious metals and gems, and are particularly keen on items that have been crafted by other peoples out of precious materials. Not only do Dragons admire delicate craftsmanship of items made by non-magical, labour intensive means, but they also find gold and precious metals and gems to be extremely comfortable to sleep on. Gold especially has quite a soporific effect on Dragons and a hoard will often be found at the heart of a Dragon’s home, where they sleep.   Philanthropically Minded: As universally, highly intelligent beings, Dragons know that the balance of life beyond their thresholds can be incredibly delicate, that other races may not recognise the impact that they are having on the natural world, and that a sudden change to the natural or even political make-up of the world in the Dragon’s range might have dire consequences for the Dragon itself. As a result, communities that live in the vicinity of a Dragon might find that during hard financial times gifts of gold might appear in town and village squares, as payment for cattle that the Dragon has taken to feed on, to ensure that the villagers are able to feed themselves, and are not forced to move away, taking the Dragon’s stable food supply with them. Equally, a Dragon might take it upon itself to scare away humanoids who are threatening its natural food source, through overhunting etc.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

Dragons have a lukewarm relationship with most humanoids, who despite Dragon kind’s general disinterest in them as prey, are afflicted by a deep innate fear of such large and powerful carnivorous creatures. This means that humanoids view Dragons as cruel, violent, capricious creatures, whose only goal is to eat them, and there are often state-sponsored hunts of Dragons declared when one moves into an area, or is discovered living near to a large population centre. There are some across Ulskandar who know better, with many scholars attempting to change the view people have of Dragons, so that they engage with them on a peaceful level, with the aim being to trade with the Dragon, providing it food and gold in exchange for its knowledge and wisdom on world matters and potentially protection for the nearby community. Some areas have managed to do this, but open, whole-community collaboration with a Dragon is still very rare. Out of all, non-Draconic humanoids, Elvess have the best comprehension of what noble beasts Dragons are, partly because their long lifespans have enabled their people to get to know Dragons on a more personal level. Nevertheless, for every gain made to positively affect humanoid-Dragon relationships, all it takes is for one more violently inclined Dragon to go on the rampage somewhere in the world, for humanoids to immediately become suspicious of all their kind again.   Dragonborn are well known to have a particularly good relationship with Dragons, not the least because they are directly related to, and created by Dragons themselves. As communities of Dragonborn can be created by female Dragons, who make the conscious choice to do so rather than rearing a true Dragon hatchling, Dragonborn are fiercely loyal to the Dragon that created them, who they regard as their Mother. If a Dragon dies, or decides to leave the Dragonborn she created, a Dragonborn community is perfectly capable of functioning and thriving by itself, in its own right, however, other Dragons can, and often do move in, to establish themselves as the new leader of the community. This is especially true of male Dragons, who cannot create their own communities of Dragonborn.   In addition, Lizardmen and other smaller, Draconic/reptilian species will often have close relationships with nearby Dragons, and many of them will choose to serve a Dragon Master or Mistress to gain the benefit of their protection. The nation of Zhisbon in Turoza, is a great example of the potential such collaborations between Draconic humanoids and Dragons can have.

Conservation Status
As they are viewed as being ‘monstrous’, though highly intelligent creatures by the humanoid sapient species of Ulskandar, Dragons are often the target of trophy hunters who wish to slay them and claim their heads and hides as trophies that can be mounted and displayed, or use their body parts for use in crafts and the production of specialist medicines and items. Over the years this activity has worn down the number of Dragons that exist in the Material Plane, especially as they breed very slowly and as large apex predators their numbers were never as numerous as those of the various humanoid species that walk the Material Plane. Dragon numbers in Ulskandar are not known, but they are assumed to have dipped over the last couple of hundred years or so as a rise of hunting activity has grown in Turoza especially.

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Cover image: by Chris Pyrah

Comments

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5 Dec, 2018 03:45

Nice! I really like them! <3 Though, I'm biased, I like all dragons. XD;; Very detailed and great article. :)

5 Dec, 2018 22:06

Glad you like it! Let me know if there is anything else you'd be interested in reading about in Ulskandar and I'll put it on the to-do list.

6 Dec, 2018 04:11

<3 Hmmm, maybe some languages?