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Dragon

Dragons are amongst the largest and most powerful creatures on Valdys, and exist in the gray area between sentient races and beasts. They are capable of living immense lifespans, and display huge variety in their personalities, likes and dislikes, colouring, preferred habitat and size. Highly intelligent and undoubtedly self-aware, dragons nonetheless lack some of the fundamental traits which characterise full personhood, particularly:
  • Any semblance of group culture, society or societal structure beyond that required for mating.
  • The full spectrum of what would be considered 'normal' emotions - dragons exhibit a vast range of emotions as a collective, but individual dragons appear to exhibit only those few innate to their sub-species.
  • Any desire for love, romance, family or close relationships involving any kind of emotional bond.
  • A sex drive detached from the desire to create offspring.
  • Affection for their offspring after they are able to survive alone. Male dragons have no attachment to their offspring at any point whatsoever.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Dragons are large, lizard-like creatures with six limbs. The rear limbs are powerful, terminating in large clawed feet, and dragons are capable of standing only on these limbs if necessary. The middle pair form wings, with a span usually larger than the body of the dragon when fully extended. The wings are boned, with leathery skin stretched between the bones to catch the air beneath them. The front limbs are shorter than those at the back, with smaller though equally sharp claws, more like those of an eagle. Dragons, when not flying, move low to the ground on all four limbs, only rearing up on the powerful hind legs to intimidate, grasp something our of reach, or take flight.   Dragons possess, in addition to their claws, several other means of attack or defence. Firstly, the tail, which is often almost as long as the body, and ends in a large spike which varies in shape from sub-species to sub-species. This tail can easily bludgeon, impale or sweep from their feet all but the sturdiest foes. Secondly, and most famously, dragons each posses one or sometimes even two breath weapons; that is, a projected stream of elemental energy expelled from the jaw and capable of covering an area tens of feet or more in length. The element used will, again, depend on the sub-species of dragon, and the dragon will in addition be immune to pain or injury caused by that element. Finally, and perhaps most simply, the teeth of a dragon grow year on year without ceasing, growing in length as the dragon grows, to the extent that those woefully misguided enough to be within bite range of an ancient dragon whom they have displeased may find themselves bitten by teeth larger than the limb they inevitably lose.

Genetics and Reproduction

Dragons are usually rigidly divided into sub-species distinguishable by the colouration of the scales. Very occasionally, most commonly due to an unavailability of more 'suitable' mates, a female will choose a male of a different sub-species resulting in mixed offspring. The resulting individuals are usually infertile and so the mix is rarely passed on beyond the first generation. The sub-species known by Nerevarnese scholarship to exist within Valdys are:
  • Blue:
    • Scales - Royal blue, intermixed with icier shades.
    • Element - Ice.
    • Personality - Defensive, paranoid, reclusive.
    • Preferred lair - Ocean caves with air pockets, coastal islands, icebergs.
    • Preferred hoard - Gems, especially those that resemble ice.  Usually kept in one place, piled up.
  • Copper:
    • Scales - Metallic copper with rich gold highlights, often deliberately polished.
    • Element - Acid, with an additional non-lethal breath weapon that merely slows those caught by it. The dragon can switch at will between the two.
    • Personality - Flamboyant, capricious, vain.
    • Preferred Lair - Oft-frequented mountain passes, forest crossroads, caves near large cities; anywhere, in short, where they can hide their posessions sufficiently well while still having easy access to frequent passers-by.
    • Preferred hoard - Cultural wealth, eg. art, literature, music (or sometimes the creators of such).  Kept organised according to the dragon's whim.
  • Red:
    • Scales - Deep, almost glowing red, like that of red-hot metal.
    • Element - Fire.
    • Personality - Aggressive, sadistic, with a hatred of others, dragon or otherwise.
    • Preferred lair - High mountain peaks, volcanoes, isolated clifftops.
    • Preferred hoard - Gold, gems and other raw forms of wealth.  Usually amassed in vast piles spread over several chambers, amongst which the dragon chooses to sleep.
  • Gold:
    • Scales - Bright reflective gold, often said to resemble sunlight.
    • Element - Fire, with an additional non-lethal breath weapon that temporarily saps the physical strength of those caught by it. The dragon can switch at will between the two.
    • Personality - Wise, imposing, righteous.
    • Preferred lair - Claimed or specially constructed palaces in places of great natural beauty.
    • Preferred hoard - Knowledge, eg. history, science, arcana etc.  Kept highly organised and categorised, usually in library form.
  • Green:
    • Scales - Varying shades of greens and browns, often with moss or bark growing upon them as the dragon ages.
    • Element - Poison.
    • Personality - Manipulative, secretive, love intrigue and knowing things others don't.
    • Preferred lair - The depths of wild forests, mountain groves and unexplored, wild places.
    • Preferred hoard - Living things, especially those manipulated and corrupted to the dragon's will.
  • Silver:
    • Scales - a translucent, pearlescent shade that shifts between shades from that which would blend with a cloudy sky to one more closely resembling snow.
    • Element - Ice, with an additional non-lethal breath weapon that can temporarily paralyse those caught by it. The dragon can switch at will between the two.
    • Personality - Cunning, good-humoured, social.
    • Preferred lair - Near major cities or towns, or sometimes within them, with an entry acessible only by flight to keep the citizens out of their hoard.
    • Preferred hoard - The inhabitants, if they can.  If not, as many of them as possible.
Dragons reproduce through the laying of eggs by a female. The female will decide for herself when she wishes to reproduce, and begin seeking a suitable mate to father a clutch of eggs.  Once she has chosen, they will mate frequently in his lair for a period of roughly three weeks.   Once the female leaves the male's lair she has a short period of time in which she will hunt non-stop, to form a stockpile which will keep her fed once she cannot leave the nest. After this, the eggs are laid and she will protect them agressively from any and all beings, even those with whom she might normally be friendly. There are normally between five and eight eggs, of which around half, statistically, will hatch sucessfully.

Growth Rate & Stages

Once hatched, young dragons are known as 'hatchlings' for around two months, until they fledge and become 'wyrmlings' capable of flight but with no elemental breath weapon. At this point the mother will eject them from her lair and leave them to fend for themselves. It is also around this age that the young dragons begin to take an interest in their mother's hoard, which is an additional reason mother dragons are so keen to dismiss their offspring from their lair as soon as they are capable of flight.   Hatchlings are functionally almost helpless, relying on their mother to feed and defend them. A trespasser who made the mistake of trying to touch one may find themselves with a nasty bite, but that would be the least of their problems given that the mother dragon will be close by at all times. Once fledged into wyrmlings, the young dragons will leave the nest and live independently of their mother, often as a group at first. Capable of limited speech in Draconic, wyrmlings are more beast-like than older dragons, gaining intelligence over time as they age. In-fighting often results in the death of some or most of the wyrmlings as they grow, competing for prey and the beginnings of their hoard. Those that survive for a few decades will eventually reach 'juvenile' status, defined as the moment the elemental breath weapon develops.   Juvenile dragons are functionally adult, but lack the size, power or experience to compete with fully grown dragons. It is at this stage that dragons begin hoarding in earnest, choosing a lair for themselves and beginning to impact the local area significantly for the first time. Behaviour varys between sub-species, but most juvenile dragons keep to themselves to avoid drawing the ire or greed of larger, older members of their own kind who might take a fancy to their hoard and easily outmatch them in a fight over it.   After a century or so of further growth, a dragon will be considered 'adult'. Apart from size and experience, the only definitive trait an adult dragon posseses that a juvenile does not is the ability to shapeshift, which is generally aquired through a combination of age and practice. At this point, most dragons have learned the common language, as well as often several others they have encountered, and amassed a respectable amount of posessions. They also wait until this age to mate. After a thousand years or so, though without any definite 'moment' of change, a dragon will be considered 'Ancient' instead of 'adult'. Generally a dragon is Ancient if other dragons consider him or her to be so. Dragons continue growing in size until the moment of their death, though the growth rate slows over time, with the result that ancient dragons can, theoretically at least, reach any size.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Dragons do not exhibit 'society' or 'culture' as a species, being either fundamentally solitary creatures or, in the case of more social sub-species such as copper dragons, filling their desire for company with the mortal races such as humans, elves and so forth rather than with other dragons.  Many use their ability to shapeshift to assume a less-threatening appearance, often that of a mortal themselves, to make these encounters less terrifying for the non-dragon participants, or to facilitate meeting them in the first place.  However, even these sub-species do not truly become part of a social group: their interactions are almost always accompained by an extreme power imbalance, with the mortal participants being treated more akin to amusing pets for which the dragon has some degree of affection, rather than equal beings in a societal arrangement.  It is rare that even the most social dragon will have anyting more than a passing fondness for any particular individual; rather they would miss only whatever entertainment that individual provided and seek to replace it with another of similar talents or personality.  The exception to this rule would be those dragons who consider a particular group of living individuals to be part of - or entirely comprise - their hoard.  In this situation, common in particular to the green and silver sub-species, the dragon will have a minute and in-depth knowledge of every individual they 'posses' and act in vicious defence against anyone attempting to harm or remove these individuals.  How the individuals in question feel about the situation varies greatly.   To the extent that dragons may interract with one another - outside of mating, mate selection, or interactions between mothers and their hatchlings prior to fledging - it is almost always in one of two situations: fighting over resources, or meeting incidentally, for example one passing through the territory of another without causing trouble.  In an incidental meeting, the smaller, younger dragon will show deference to the larger for the extent that they must interact, but both will wish to end the occurance as swiftly as possible, as they will almost certainly be of different sub-species, have little in common, and even less to fight over except in rare conflicts over food or lair preferences which overlap between them.  With members of the same sub-species however, meetings are almost exclusively the other kind: fighting.  Whether it be over ideal lair locations or, most commonly, hoard items, dragons of the same sub-species rarely meet in anything other than antangonistic situations.  Theft from one hoard to another is common, fratricide between wyrmlings even more so.  The most likely way for a dragon to die, even counting adventurers eager for loot, is still by the claws and teeth of one of its own kind.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Dragons have excellent hearing, though not to the extent of supernatural ability. Within their own lair however, the dragon will be so attuned to the 'normal' sounds, vibrations, precise acoustics and so forth of their surroundings that they will perceive even seemingly insignificant changes or disturbances. In addition to the normal senses, dragons are often extremely powerful magic users - though there does appear to be a significant spectrum of ability varying from dragon to dragon - and many can use this to enhance or add to their ordinary perceptive abilities.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Dragons are named by their mother soon after hatching, based on her first impressions of their appearance and behaviour. Named in the draconic language, each has four syllables by convention, though the translation into the common tongue may be longer.

Beauty Ideals

Dragons do not experience sexual or romantic attraction in the conventional sense that less bestial, more sentient races do, however they do demonstrate a general tendency to respect unusually great size in other dragons, or in themselves.  Dragon seniority - such that it exists - is almost exclusively ordered by age and size.  Dragons not being known to grow weaker with age at any point, these go hand in hand.

Gender Ideals

Female dragons do select strong, large males to father their clutches of eggs.  However, it is not uncommon for a male with a particularly impressive hoard to be chosen above a male larger than himself, within reason, on the grounds that it requires superior cunning, intelligence, prowess and skill for a smaller dragon to hoard things without having them taken by a physically larger male.  For this reason, male dragons tend to value the sheer size and value of their hoard, whereas females are more selective, hoarding for 'quality over quantity'.

Courtship Ideals

Males regard being chosen by a female to father a clutch of eggs as a great honour, which stands as a demonstration of his superior prowess, strength, size, power and wealth (measured by the size and impressiveness of his hoard and lair) to all other local males of the same sub-species over whom he was selected. As such, males will often compete in some form with one another when it becomes known that a female is in the process of selecting, whether that be through physical fighting, covert bidding for the female's attention through demonstrations of wealth and power, or any other means they believe may impress her. When the female has made her decision the losers are expected to, and almost always do, back down, since questioning the female's judgement would most definitely ruin their chances of ever being chosen in future.  All the same, they often hold long grudges against the male chosen over them.   Once she has chosen her mate, the female takes up residence in his lair for up to three weeks.  During this time the female will rarely if ever leave the lair, and it is up to the male to provide her with anything she demands - food, entertainment, sex, or anything else within his power to find for her. This three week period is the only time in which dragons of the same sub-species do not habitually steal from one another's hoard if given the chance, although it is not unheard of for the female to snatch at something on the way out once the mating period is over - at which point 'all bets are off' - and the male usually regards this parting shot as an unfortunate occupational hazard of being selected for the honour of fathering her eggs.

Common Etiquette Rules

Dragons do not display etiquette as a species, since behaviour differs so much between sub-species.  However, it is generally unwise to use terms like 'small', 'unimpressive' or 'not that big' for a dragon one wishes to appease, and generally beneficial to use them for other dragons he or she is known to personally dislike - unless the other dragon can hear you.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

The more socially-inclined dragon sub-species sometimes develop favourite mortal individuals who particularly please them in some way.  It would not be accurate to call these 'friendships' or 'romances': again, the 'beloved pet' comparison is probably the most accurate descriptor.  However, in circumstances where the non-dragon develops romantic or sexual feelings towards the dragon - not at all uncommon, especially with those dragons who spend a lot of their time polymorphed into human, elven or other moral shape - the dragon may choose to indulge these feelings, as an honour to their favoured mortal, in the much the same way that they might present a physical item or magical boon.  Regarding the encounter as a gift rather than a mutual expression of desire, it is not uncommon for dragons to gain reputations as extremely generous lovers, who prioritise their non-dragon partner in the experience over themselves.   Offspring from such encounters never occur naturally, since even while polymorphed in appearance a dragon is still a dragon, and not compatible with non-dragons for reproductive purposes under normal conditions.  Extremely rarely, a dragon may choose to bestow an additional gift upon a willing mortal female, in which case she may become pregnant as a result of the encounter, and the child will be born a half-dragon.  The mechanism by which these half-dragons are concieved is still a mystery, since it is clearly the dragon's choice whether this occurs, the gender of the dragon is irrelevant, and some mothers of half-dragons have reported that their encounter, while intimate, did not involve any sexual acts which could normally result in pregnancy.  The whole event seems to be entirely within the control of the dragon, who only gifts with their offspring those few women which understand, desire and (in the dragon's view) deserve the honour of it.
Lifespan
Indefinite.

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