© 2001-2002 Draconus / Stratadrake of NEWST
When I write about these dragons, keep in mind that they are neither historical nor mythical. The proper term is 'fictional'. Like many authors in the Sci-Fi / Fantasy category, my dragon's don't exist in our world. They never have, and they never will. That is because they exist in their own, unique world. As with any good SF / F novel, that world conforms to many of our laws and principles, and also in that world, flying, fire-breathing dragons do exist, and have existed for eons. Yet it is not our own world; and that is what makes it, and the dragons, so fantastic.
Aside from the generally-accepted "common knowledge" about dragons (flight, fire-breath, etc.) , all of the details here are (to the best of my knowledge) my own. For example, those of you who have read the Adv. D & D "Dragon Lore" may think that I took several details from the D & D universe; whereas the fact is that I did not, rather having thought up the details on my own.
I must credit Draco (movie: Dragonheart) and Spyro (video game character) for my liking of dragons.
Due to the comprehensive nature of this reference guide, I advise some reader discretion on your part.
In the meantime, I will begin. Think of a world like our own, read the details, and for the best results, simply believe
The answer to this question is obvious: it all depends on whom you ask. Although there is no good "dictionary definition" for a dragon, the following major characteristics will suffice:
Using these three dragon criteria, the entire animal kingdom is narrowed down to five species of pure dragon. Each species has its own unique variations which I will discuss later; but for now, I will discuss the traits which are common to all dragons.
Size - To put it succinctly, dragons are huge. Standing on all fours, a dragon measures approximately five to seven (averaging at six) feet high at the shoulder, with their head held about four four to six feet higher. They measure approximately 30 to 50 feet long, from nose to tail, and with wings folded alongside their torsoes, are about three to four feet wide. A dragon's wings alone, fully spread, span a distance of 30 to 40 feet, giving them an effective wingspan anywhere from 60 to 90 feet wide.
Shape - Dragons are reptilian creatures, and as such, they share a large number of reptilian traits. From the shoulders, a dragon's neck is about four to five feet long. Their backbone, from shoulders to hips, is about seven to ten feet long. Their tail is easily ten to twenty feet long, and serves to balance them while walking and moving (i.e. dragons do not drag their tails when travelling). Their wings are connected about one or two feet back from their shoulders, and the bones in their wings are almost as thick as a dragon's arms.
Weight - A dragon's effective weight varies greatly, depending on the species. Sea Dragons, who live in the oceans, are about as dense as seawater, weighing in somewhere between 2 to 3 tons. The non-aquatic species of dragons, however, are much lighter. Pound-for-pound, their skeletal structure is both lighter and stronger than the aquatic dragons. In addition, a dragon's natural supply of "dragon-breath" acts somewhat as an atmospheric ballast, reducing their measurable weight drastically, into the neighborhood of about an effective 800 to 1200 pounds. On the other hand, their absolute weight, or mass, is equivalent to a good 1,000 to 2,500 pounds. The difference between a dragon's measured and absolute weight allows them to fly and soar easily through the air, yet at the same time gives them the same inertial force as a heavy creature with a lot more strength and power.
Head - A dragon's head is long and slender, somewhat comparable to a snake or alligator's head. Their head is typically 3 feet long, almost one foot wide, and one foot tall. A dragon's eyes are positioned along the curve of their brow, giving them an effective 300 degree field of vision.
Eyes - A dragon's eyes are remarkably cat-like; the pupils tighten into a vertical slit for bright light, and the retina is reflective--dragon eyes would "shine" back at you if you shine a flashlight into them. Dragons do see in color. Their visual acuity is quite sharp, with the majority of this precision in the center of their field of vision. Their vision is also telescopic, in which they can focus on a single, small object from a great distance and identify it with astounding clarity. As with human vision, dragon vision becomes monochromatic at extremely low light levels. Dragons, however, can also detect infra-red in low light environments, which allows them to see and maneuver in almost total darkness.
Dragon eyes come in a complete spectrum of colors, including reds, greens, blues, yellows, and oranges. Their eye color has no real significance, but it is generally the opposite of their scale color (i.e., the orangeish-colored Fire Dragons usually have blue eyes). However, dragon eyes also have an translucent inner eyelid usable to protect their eyes during a fight. This inner eyelid produces a phosphorescent glow of the same color as the dragon's eyes, even in total darkness; dragons are the only known creatures to have eyes that literally glow in the dark. The muscle reflex dragons use to close just their inner eyelid is akin to squinting. Because dragons use their inner eyelid only for protection in a fight, a dragon with glowing eyes is a dragon to beware.
Ears - Dragons do not have visible ears. Rather, most of their hearing comes from the two large crest horns that jut out and backwards from their heads. Their crest horns serve as their "ears", yet the mechanisms of hearing are almost the reverse of a typical ear. A dragon's crest horns are partitioned, and like a human's inner ear, each section of a dragon's crest horns resonates with a different frequency of sound. These resonations are transmitted to the base of the crest horns, where the signals are 'muted' slightly before being sent to the dragon's brain. Due to the nature of their hearing, if a dragon had no crest horns, it would be virtually deaf.
Nose - Dragons have an acute sense of smell. The scent of another dragon is enough to identify their species, gender, and approximate age. Male dragons also have a visible, triceratops-like horn on their nose; this is the only visual distinction between male and female dragons.
Teeth - A dragon's mouth is filled with a steady upper and lower row of razor-sharp teeth, used for gripping and cutting. A dragon's teeth grow as they do, and like all teeth, are exceptionally strong and durable.
Skin - Like most reptiles, a dragon's skin is covered by several layers of thick and sturdy, yet lightweight, scales. Their scales are interleaved like shingles upon a roof, and allow for ventilation. Dragons can "flex" their scales in or out to change the flow of heat or, like a cat bristling its fur, to put psychological pressure upon an opponent. When injured, dragon scales heal in a remarkable method: the dragon's blood and other scar tissue fuses with their outer layers of scales, making that layer stronger than before while, in the end, still allows its normal flexibility.
Wings - As mentioned before, dragons have large wings. A dragon's wings is somewhat like a second set of arms; but unlike many portrayals, a dragon's wings are not located directly on their shoulder, but rather a little bit below it, along their backside. A dragon's wings are structured similarly to their arms. Like bat wings, dragon wings have "fingers" which are visible as partitions in the wing membrane. Aside from the wing's leading edge, dragon wings typically have three partitions each (although White Dragons typically have four-partitioned wings and Sky Dragons have one-partitioned wings) A dragon's wings also help to collect and ventilate heat. When not in flight, dragons usually fold their wings tightly against their torso. However, in hot weather, dragons often keep their wings in full spread to get rid of their excess heat. The position that dragons carry their wings in (folded or spread) is also considered to be an indicator of their mood--generally, folded wings are considered to be a passive sign whereas spread wings are considered to be a sign of dominance or pride.
Decor - Besides their uniform coat of scales, dragons also have natural decorations adorning their form. Starting from the base of a dragon's nose, and running along their brow are two ridges of scales, a sort of "eyebrow" if you will. At the back of their head, these two ridges combine into a single, larger spine and together, they run down along the dragon's backside, all the way down to the dragon's tail.
Tail - A dragon's tail is decorated with a tailspade. This spade is composed of exceptionally strong (almost bone-like) dragon scales that, although not providing protection against attack, does serve as a powerful defensive weapon. The orientation, size, and shape of a dragon's spade varies according to its species.
Claws - The dragon's primary weapons are its claws. Each of a dragon's forelegs ends with a powerful four-fingered paw, with each finger brandishing a large, sharp claw. A dragon's claws are easily six to nine inches in length, and are slightly curved. The first finger on each of a dragon's front paws is its thumb. A dragon's thumb has a unique, semi-opposable position. Dragons can grasp objects in their paws as would humans, and simultaneously leave forepaw-prints more reminiscent of large animals.
Each of a dragon's rear legs terminates in a three-toed foot, each toe brandishing a sharp and similarly-sized claw. There is a fourth claw on each of a dragon's hind feet, placed along the backside of their foot and curving backward and down. This "crow's foot" arrangement of talons allows dragons to grasp some objects with their hind legs as well as with their forelegs. This also allows dragons to leave a unique style of footprints in the ground as they walk.
Flight - Common knowledge dictates that dragons fly. This is partially true, because while they appear to fly, the technical term is soaring. As with eagles, gulls, and other large birds, dragons can not flap their wings fast enough to maintain a constant source of lift; therefore, they rely on airspeed and the surface area of their wingspan to glide from one place to another, flapping their wings only for momentary boosts of altitude.
Water - Observers estimate that the average dragon drinks three to five gallons of water per day. Not only is water a powerful coolant for a dragon, it is also a good environment. Dragon lungs have a remarkable and unique ability to breathe water almost as efficiently and easily as air. The reason behind dual-purpose lungs is unknown, but it allows dragons to swim underwater for unlimited periods of time. No dragon has ever drowned.
Presence (aura) - In addition to the dragon's standard eyesight, there is one other, well-documented ability of the dragon: their aura. Numerous theories abound, but the most popular is that the mere presence of a dragon -- their large size, formidable armaments -- creates a psychological effect of intimidation in any sensitive, nearby creatures; this is called dragon fear, and its effects vary widely, depending on the individual dragon and the nearby creature. The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the creature, the more vulnerable it is to dragon fear. For example, humans (especially those who fight or hunt for a living) are fairly resistant to dragon fear; prey animals like rabbits, birds, and deer are extremely vulnerable; and obviously, dragons themselves are completely immune to dragon fear.
Two effects of dragon fear have been recorded in humans. The first is paralysis; a psychological fear so deep and so strong that it literally paralyzes the individual, making them unable to move. The second, both rarer and stranger than the first, is hypnosis or mesmerization. This effect results from varying combinations of fear, respect, interest, amazement, and/or curiosity evoked in the individual by a nearby dragon. If the effect is large enough, the individual may unwittingly do something foolish; for example, approaching too close to a hostile dragon "just to get a closer look" is a sign of mesmerization.
While occurences of dragon fear in humans is notably low, the potential power of this fear has begotten a number of rumors about dragons. The most widespread is that a human must never look a dragon in the eye, especially if the dragon has their eyes covered and glowing back.
Food - Dragons are, naturally, carnivorous creatures. Because of their ability to traverse land, fly through air, and swim through water, a dragon's diet varies widely, depending on what is available in the area. But the hunts are not as easy as one would think, because dragons are built for strength and power, not stealth. Therefore, while a dragon can easily locate an animal to kill for food, actually catching it is another story, for chances are that the animal has also detected the dragon. Dragons, though, have adapted nicely to this routine; their favorite method of hunting on the ground is the ambush; and due to dragon fear, the ambush is a terrifyingly effective means of catching and killing their prey.
Hunting in the air is significantly easier for a dragon. In the air, dragons prey on the larger, slower aerial creatures like the eagle and gryphon; and many times, the dragons pluck their prey straight out of the sky. Or, a dragon may fly above an area hunting for prey on the ground, then suddenly dive-bomb to attack. A dragon hunting in the water has similar chances as one hunting in the air; although the hunt takes place at an understandably slower pace due to the viscosity of water.
Dragons neither need nor eat regular meals; they need hunt and eat only when they become hungry. Whatever a dragon catches is devoured--either by the dragon itself, its mate, and/or its family. A full-grown lion can provide enough energy for one or two days of rest, while a full-grown elephant could possibly last a week. An interesting trivia is that even in good hunting seasons, dragons have never driven any other species to or near extinction.
Dragon-breath - The unique and most-feared ability of dragons is their dragon-breath. While their typical exhalations are no more odiferous than any other carnivore, it is their dragon-breath that makes them truly feared. Depending on their species, dragons have a natural ability to breathe fire, frost, and/or even electricity! Dragons store the fuel for their dragonbreath in a special gland located near the back of their mouth. When a dragon uses this gland, they first inhale, mixing the gland's chemicals with air, and then exhale the mixture. Upon contact with the outer atmosphere, their breath ignites, freezes, or crackles with electricity. On average, their dragonbreath-gland stores enough fuel for about two dozen bursts of dragonbreath. The fuel for their dragonbreath is generated by digesting food and drinking water. Bird feathers in particular seem to provide the most fuel for dragon-breath.
Rest - Dragons usually sleep during the night, although some dragons are nocturnal. On average, a dragon gets 15-20 hours of sleep per two days. Dragons can go without sleep for as long as four days before being affected. Most dragons prefer to sleep in the same area each time, which helps to 'mark' the area with their scent and ward off other animals away while the dragon sleeps. But on the other hand, who or what in their right mind would want to bother a dragon, especially at night? Due to their wings, dragons sleep in a crouched, slightly curled position on all fours. Many a young dragon has fallen asleep on its side, and woken up in the morning realizing that they put one of their wings to sleep during the night.
Having no natural predators, dragons enjoy a fairly ambivalent life at the top of the food chain and animal kingdom.
Language - Dragons have a language of their own with which they comminucate to other dragons by. It is unknown exactly what method they use for the communication; but it seems to be a combination of expression, gestures, and mood. In addition, dragons can understand all forms of human speech. However, dragons cannot actually speak in any human language. Rumor has it that some telepathy is involved. Although the nature of this communication continuously prompts study by human academics, dragons do pick up a large amount of information from visual signals and sign language (such as gestures and mood), so if dragon communication is ever fully deciphered, telepathy may not be involved at all.
Lairs - Whether a protected cavern, clearing in a forest, or just a nice sunny spot in a tree, all dragons have lairs. Their lair is their home; and their home, their castle. Most young dragons live alone in a single lair. As they grow older, many dragons begin to share their lair with a mate. Dragons do not allow hostile creatures (i.e., humans) into their lairs, and will defend them as necessary.
Dragons have no need of gold or other treasure. 'Hoarding', as described in several legends, is not an inherent dragon behaviour. Even so, if a dragon is a "pack rat" who collects the occasional shiny trinket or gem and stores it in their lair (for reasons unknown), this could potentially (in about 200 dragon-generations, give or take a few) build up to a lair of treasure and other valuables.
Shires - A society of dragons is generally recognized as a large concentration of dragons regularly found in a specific area, and this is called a shire. Dragon shires typically have a bahamut (leading dragon) at the top. Interestingly, bahamuts are chosen by reputation rather than lineage or prowess. When a bahamut dies, a new one is appointed for the shire. Sometimes, there may be disputes over which dragon should become the next bahamut. If that happens, a free-for-all physical contest is alleged to be held, with the last candidate standing becoming the new bahamut.
Order - "Take me to your leader". The bahamut of each shire has the responsibility of diplomacy with other shires and groups, and in all negotiations with foreigners, is the voice of the entire shire. The bahamut's family serves as his/her personal guards. It is unclear where the bahamut's diplomatic responsibilities originated, but the presence and authority of a shire's bahamut is undeniable.
The predominant law of any dragon shire is honor. Part of this law is instinctive; and it produces a gold standard for right and wrong. In any disputes, there is your side, their side, and the truth (which may stand with either of the two sides, or independently). Conflict resolution in a dragon shire involves determining exactly what the underlying truth of the conflict is, and once the truth has been determined, the conflict resolves itself. However, when the truth is more difficult to determine, conflicts could prolong until such a point that the bahamut of the shire may have to intervene and separate the two sides. The law of honor produces a plethora of other social patterns, such as their rule about not slaying fellow dragons.
One form of dragon entertainment is tackle, the dragons' form of wrestling. The idea is to pin the other dragon(s) to the ground without becoming pinned to the ground oneself. The least armored part of a dragon is the underside of its wings, and thus the underlying concept is to pin the opponent to the ground and expose their underside. The symbolic gesture of defeat is a dragon lying flat on its back with wings in full spread, their least-protected areas exposed to the victor.
The average game of two-dragon tackle lasts about ten to twenty minutes before a winner is found. However, oftentimes, there are three, four, or even five or more dragons participating in a single contest of tackle, in which case the match can go on for hours before a winner is declared, or even predicted. And if the losing dragon(s) do not accept their defeat, they can challenge their opponent(s) to a rematch. Besides entertainment, the game of tackle teaches young dragons how to fight, and if they are injured during the match, they will heal, their armor becoming that much stronger. It is unknown exactly what other forms of entertainment dragons enjoy; contests such as racing, swimming, and flying have been pondered, but not verified.
Beliefs - Dragons have no form of organized religion. They do, however, have a set of beliefs. Because they can travel land, sea, and air, the only place they cannot go is to the stars. Dragons have developed a respect for and a belief in the stars. To them, the stars represent heaven; good and honorable dragons are admitted to the stars after life, but dishonorable dragons utterly 'disappear' after death, and are not remembered. Among the more devout dragons, it is also believed that the 'souls' of past, noble dragons may return to the earth to be born again in new individuals, and shooting stars are believed to be the manifestations of such travel.
Reader discretion advised.
The Beginning of Life - A dragon's life begins in a dragon-egg, conceived from its parents and then laid by its mother. The average dragon-egg is about one foot -- give or take a few inches -- in diameter (which is but a handful to a dragon). The duration between a mother dragon actually laying her eggs and the young dragon's birth varies widely, from as little as one day to as much as one month, but the total duration between coneption and birth is about six to seven months.
A baby dragon hatches by piercing through the eggshell with its nose horn and crest horns, using them to breach the shell so that they can get their first breath of air. Although all dragons are born with a nose horn, only males keep it for life; females lose this nose horn shortly after hatching because it is not part of the female's skeleton; it does not grow with them, and simply falls off.
Infancy - A newborn dragon measures almost two feet long from snout to tail, is about six inches high, and whitish-gray in color. Newborns are blind, deaf, naked, and helpless: no body fat for insulation, no scales for protection, their sensory perceptions not yet developed, and their wings are vastly smaller proportions than an adult's (about seven inches total wingspan). Immediately after hatching, a dragon eats its eggshell. This is a pre-programmed instinct to ensure that the hatchling survives its first few hours: The eggshell puts the newborn's digestive system through its first three or four meals (releasing heat by which to the infant will keep warm, until its scales develop); the shell also provides 100% of a newborn's nutritional requirements; and most especially, the minerals forged into the eggshell are digested and re-forged into the dragon's first layer of protective scales. In short, if a hatchling does not eat its own eggshell, it will die.
Being born without teeth, the baby dragon uses its jawbones to bite off pieces of the egg-shell, crunch them, and then swallow them. When swallowed, the shell pieces digest quickly, and after eating as much of the eggshell as its small stomach will allow, the baby sleeps for an entire day, waking up only to eat more pieces from the shell. During this time its size doubles and its wingspan triples. After its first two days, the eggshell is no more; the baby dragon's teeth have begun their development, and the infant can eat soft food such as feathers. During all this first week, time, the mother must constantly remain in the nest with the newborns to protect them from harm and to familiarize them with her scent. The father is responsible for the hunting during this period; and he will usually bring home feathered creatures like gryphons for food; feathers are of no real nutritional value to adults, but they are fulfilling and nutritious for hatchlings.
If the father can not catch enough food to feed both the mother and hatchlings, there is one drastic alternative available by which the mother can feed the hatchlings: she can cut off pieces of her own armored scales to use them as food. This is a most controversial, but rare, aspect of motherhood. Fortunately it is of no permanent consequence for the hatchlings, for they are too young to care (or even remember) exactly what they were fed, and the mother's armor will regenerate and recover from such shock in about a month of time.
By the end of its first week, the baby dragon measures about five feet long, with eyesight and hearing partially developed, and with its teeth beginning to grow. By now, the mother can safely leave her week-olds alone in the nest for short periods of time, although she will usually remain very close in case one of the hatchlings cries out for her. And by the end of the second week, all the baby's senses have adequately developed and its color begins to surface, replacing the whitish-gray that all dragons are born in. And by the end of one year, the young dragon is fully capable of moving about, measuring about 9 feet long, thirty inches high, and with a 7 foot wingspan.
Adolescence - From one to ten years, the dragon's size increases rapidly. At two years of age, the young dragon is able to communicate with others. At four years, the young's dragonbreath ability first surfaces. And during this developmental time, the young dragon is trained how to glide, hunt, and master its dragonbreath. The young dragons do receive punishment for misbehaviour; this not only helps refine their character, but strengthens their own armor as well. By ten years, the young dragon is almost half the dimensions of its parent dragons; its wings begin to undergo an unprecedented growth spurt, reaching their adult proportions at fifteen years of age. Dragonbreath and hunting abilities are continually practiced and refined. And, it is usually at this point when a dragon picks up a social interest in the local shire.
Maturity - Dragons hit physical and sexual maturity at approximately 25 to 30 years of age. At this point, the dragon has usually been acquainted with a large number of other dragons in or near the shire. Male dragons go through a a common form of puberty, while female dragons begin experiencing biological 'egg cycles', or periods. The female's first period is one of infertility, meaning that although she becomes sexually mature, she cannot actually conceive until her second period. After about one more year, the dragon has become a fully mature adult. By now, its proportions are roughly identical to that of its parents, and it is only about 10-20% smaller than its own parents. The dragon, of course, will continue to grow physically and mentally for the rest of its life, eventually matching or even surpassing the size and wit of its parents. The dragon leaves its parents' lair to seek out a home of its own, and this is usually when the courting season begins. After maturity, the dragon has usually gained a number of acquaintances with other dragons in the shire, and due to the hormones and instincts that surface during maturity, the dragon begins its search for a mate.
Mating Season - Mature females have their periods (or egg cycles) approximately once every three months; during this time, she is said to be in heat, and may mate with a male dragon to conceive offspring. When the female is in heat, she emits a certain dragon pheromone which alerts the males, and naturally, the males begin to court her. If the female mates while in heat, she will conceive and bear offspring; conversely, a female cannot conceive any offspring unless she is mated while in heat. Females, however, are instinctively programmed to be conservative in mating season; a female dragon will not mate with just any male dragon that courts her; she will mate a male only when she decides herself to be ready, which is when she has found a suitable male. On average, a female dragon will go through about three or four cycles of heat before she finally decides upon a worthy male with which to reproduce.
The dragons' "mating season" is roughly comparable to the human "dating game"; between their periods of heat, the females keep tabs on the prospective males to help decide whether the males are worthy or not. While it is the male's role to convince the females that they are worthy to be a mate, it is the female with the final authority on whether or not she will be a mate, for it is the females who actually conceive and give birth.
Proper Behvaiour - On rare occasions, even though the female may deem a particular male to be unworthy, that male may continue to court her. This is a mildly dishonorable act among dragons, for it constitutes failure to remain in control of one's instincts. It is also dangerous territory for the uncontrolled male; for the female will defend her sexual property ferociously if she approached or forced in an unworthy manner. To parody the human adage, "Hell hath no fury like a female who wishes not to mate". If an unworthy male continues these futile efforts, even trying to mate with the unwilling female, she can deal him a lesson in pain like no other; all it takes is for the female to spear her tail-spade into the male's genetalia, and the male will be too overcome in pain to even think about mating with her--and oftentimes, the male may be left castrated or sterilized after such a punishment. The occurence of such a fight is extremely rare, but suffice it to say that if a male is given such punishment, he did everything to deserve it, and the punishment gives the male a permanent lesson in respect and proper mating behaviour..
On other rare occasions, the above type of scenario is conversed, with the female unable to control her instincts and persisting on an unwilling male. Like the above scenario, this is mildly dishonorable, but unlike the above case, this situation is of little danger to the female herself; for a wild female will often find a willing male quickly and easily, and her courting period will quickly (even if prematurely) progress a mating-flight.
The Mating Flight - If the female deems a particular male to be worthy, she gives permission by inviting him on a mating flight that takes them above, and then away from, the presence of other dragons. The mating-flight is the dragon's version of a marriage ceremony; now that the female has deemed the male worthy, a specific ceremonial flight is in order. If the male accepts the offer, the two lovers fly about in the air above their shire, circling and frolicking about in a complex and beautiful aerial dance. The exact patterns of the dance are unknown yet instinctively programmed in the dragons. Other dragons know that such a dance is the sign of two dragons sure to become a mated pair. When the pair finishes their dance, the female lands in a safe area cleared of other dragons, exhausted. Lying on her side, she gives a signal that she is ready; and that is where every next generation of dragons is conceived.
The mating flight probably originated as a simple means of the couple escaping to a secluded area to mate; as with humans and many other monogamous species, the female generally will not mate with her chosen male if other individuals are nearby. Thus, the female flies off to a secluded location in order to mate with her chosen male with no others nearby. Procreation is the most sacred moment of a dragon's life, and it is considered quite dishonorable to intrude upon two dragons in mating.
The Mating Bond - The very moment that the male and female are mated, they instinctively form a powerful, emotional mating bond with each other. The mating bond is considered--even by humans--to be the dragon's official, if non-material, "certificate of marriage". For as long as they continue to live, the male and female will remain together; the male chasing after no other females, and the female accepting no other males. Dragons lead strictly monogamous lives; once this mating bond is formed, it cannot be broken except through death, for among dragons, there is no such thing as divorce.
After mating and conception, the female's three-month gestation period begins. Fertilized eggs develop into dragon embryos and then into hard-shelled dragon-eggs, all occuring internally, in the female's reproductive organs located near the base of her tail. A female may conceive as many as nine dragon eggs during a single period of heat, and on rare occasions the female may only conceive one or two eggs, but on average, a female dragon conceives about five dragon-eggs per mating.
Although the female's gestation period is only three months long, it will be nine months before her next period of heat. Sometime between four and six months, the female will lay a batch of dragon-eggs in their nest. The time required for the new dragons to be born varies but is generally six or seven months after conception. The reason for this variation is because after four months, the female is able to actually lay the eggs in her nest, or store them internally until they are ready to actually hatch. The general rule of thumb is that a larger set of eggs (more than five) increases the chances of the female laying the eggs at four months, and a smaller set of eggs (less than four) increases the chances of the female storing the eggs internally until hatching time.
Parenthood - Since most female dragons incubate their eggs internally, this gives many academics the false impression of live birth. When a female chooses to incubate her eggs internally, an adrenaline hormone is released into her system just moments before the eggs hatch, which physically forces the female to lay her eggs so that they can hatch safely. Whereas if the female laid her eggs earlier, she only needs to keep near them and incubate them until they hatch. The miracle of birth is, as with any other species, the single greatest joy in a dragon's life, and a sign of lifelong fulfillment.
Once the offspring are born, the next 20~30 or so years of the pair's life is spent raising the hatchlings. Given the vicious and carnivorous nature of other species in the animal kingdom, and the occasional interference of humans and the other conscious races, only four of the average five-hatchling generation will make it to adulthood, three of which will find a mate. The mother's egg cycles change to one heat period every six months; but due to the care given to the young hatchlings, the parents generally will not mate and reproduce again for at least ten more years. On average, the parent dragons will raise about two or three generations of hatchling dragons during their entire lives.
Old Age - Mother dragons become barren at approximately 150 years of age; it is at this approximate time when her egg cycles stop and she ceases to go into heat, becoming sterile. Virgin females, however, continue to have egg cycles and heat periods even past this 150-year menopause because they have not experienced any gestation or egg-laying.
When one of the parent dragons dies, the other dragon will generally remain a widow/widower for the rest of their life. However, if the surviving dragon is young enough (usually less than 100 years), it will seek out another mate with whom to reproduce, participating in breeding seasons and the mating game again, from step one.
The average dragon's lifespan ends at approximately 175 years of age. The youngest dragon to die of natural causes was approximately 160, and on occasions, there have been dragons whose lifespans last 200 years or longer. The oldest known dragon was one that had lived for 220 years, raising a total of five generations and nineteen hatchlings during her life.
A single dragon's territory is about one square mile, roughly centered upon their lair. A dragon's territory includes their lair, grounds for hunting and training, a source of water (usually a river). If the dragon has a mate, their shared territory is roughly twice the size. And as for shires, the size of a shire varies with its population, and can be anywhere from 20 to 300 square miles.
Inside of a dragon's territory, all creatures can wander through it -- at their own risk, that is. In general, dragons ignore whatever creatures wander through its territory, but stoutly defend their lair against any approaching hostile creature. Virtually anyone can walk through a dragon's territory in relative safety, anyone trying to approach the dragon's personal lair places themselves in grave danger. Dragons will kill any edible creature that wanders too close to their lair (which means almost any creature). Fellow dragons are welcome as guests, but other civilized creatures (i.e., humans) are not welcome anywhere near a dragon's personal lair. Dragons do not like to kill intruders (including humans), so if a human wanders too close to a dragon's lair, the dragon responds by scaring the intruder off.
Dragon shires are slightly different from single territories, in the sense that the shire is treated like a large, communal lair. Few creatures other than the resident (and/or visiting) dragons can venture into a shire, and the dragons protect the shire from all other intruders including humans.
Virtually all dragon encounters have fallen into this category; in that a human was wandering inside of a dragon's territory and drew too close to their lair. When a dragon defends their lair against an intruder, they first greet the intruder with a roar and an attack pose. Most intruders will flee at this first sight; however, if the intruder insists upon drawing closer, the dragon gives them a warning of one form or another (usually a burst of dragonbreath). Should the intruder persist further, the dragon will eventually attack with teeth and claws to drive the intruder away. In many encounters, the intruder flees at this point (often with injuries), but there have been occasions where a persistent intruder is killed by the resident dragon.
There is one exception to the dragon's method of defending its lair--mother dragons. Mother dragons are extremely militant about protecting their lair, due to the young contained therein, and have been known to skip all forms of warning and go straight for the kill if an intruder ventures too close to their nest. Because it can be difficult to tell the difference between one dragon and the next, it has been highly advised to avoid dragon territories altogether, lest one inadvertently go looking for trouble, and find it.
There are five different species of pure dragon in the world, and every one of these shares its own adaptation of the general dragon characteristics and life cycle:
Fire Dragons - The most universally recognizable species of dragon, Fire dragons have become the flagship species of dragon-kind. Their scales generally have an orange, brown, or red appearance to them, often with yellow highlights on their undersides. As is indicative of their warm habitats, their scales are fairly loose to allow for easily ventilation, and fire dragons are powerful, skilled fire-breathers. However, this species of dragon is somewhat vulnerable to cold. Although they can tighten or 'pack' their scales in cold weather, extreme cold can still seep through and cause symptoms of cold such as shivering. Fire dragons have round crest horns and gentle, flowing scales decorating their spine, and their tail terminates in a horizontal spade of strong armored scales; but despite their soft appearance, the sharpness of their claws and teeth should not be underestimated.
Snow Dragons - Snow dragons are specially adapted for life in the everlasting cold of winter and tundra. Their colors range from brown to blue. Their general shape is somewhat slimmer than a Fire Dragon, but their scales are much more resistant to the cold. Their crest horns are noticeably more angular than a Fire Dragon's, but are still partitioned and permit an equal level of hearing. The scales running down their spine are angular and cuttingly sharp, and their tail spade carries a cluster of sharp, pointed spines on top, bottom, and sides. Snow Dragons specialize in icy, frost breath, and their hardened appearance gives them a reputation as one of the meaner dragon species.
Thunder Dragons - Although this is their academic name, thunder dragons are almost always referred to as Sea Dragons; this is a species of dragon that spends virtually all of its time underwater. Due to this unique environment, they are exempt from many of the standard characteristics mentioned above. They cannot fly, glide, or even jump while out of water. Their wings are ribbed, rather than partitioned, and usable only as underwater fins for swimming. They are, in fact, fast and powerful swimmers. Running along the lower line of their jaw is a finned ridge that covers the gills that they use to breathe water more efficiently than their dual-purpose lungs can. Their scales are sealed in a solid, airtight layer. Due to this, Thunder Dragons can suffer conditions like heat stroke if they are out of water for prolonged periods of time. Their brow and backside is decorated with a finned ridge of spines and membrane, and their tail spade is more like a rudder, having two large vertical fins. Thunder Dragons specialize in high-frequency sound waves. Because oceanwater is typically murky, Thunder Dragons are skilled with echo-location. Outside of water, Thunder Dragons can breathe bursts of static electricity to stun or even kill out-of-water prey.
Sky Dragons - Sky Dragons are a little more akin to birds than your average dragon, and they can survive equally well in both cold and hot climates. Rather than scales, Sky Dragons are dressed entirely in feathers, usually of a golden and/or brown color reminiscent of golden and bald eagles. Their nostrils are positioned a far back on their muzzle, giving them a larger beak than other dragons. Sky Dragons have no crest horns, but rather, a beautiful beard of large feathers. Their ears are also structured similar to birds, hidden entirely by their feathers but still permitting a degree of hearing equal to other dragons. Running down their back is a spine of feathers, and their shorter-than-average tail terminates with a gigantic fan (or a swallow-tail) of tailfeathers. Their wings are also entirely feathered--with their largest feathers easily measuring a half a foot wide and five feet long--and have only one partition. Their legs are covered in feathers only down to the elbows and ankles; their lower legs and paws/feet are covered in thick yet unscaled skin, and their talons curve significantly more than your average dragon. Due to their sensitive ears, Sky Dragons can not tolerate loud or high-frequency sounds as well as other dragons.
Like all dragons, Sky Dragons can breathe underwater, but they do not like to get their feathers wet. When going for a swim, Sky Dragons prefer to remain on the surface of the water, never diving below. Their aerial abilities are unchallenged, however. They can out-soar any other bird in the world, and only the elite species of diving bird, the peregrine falcon, can travel faster than they can. Sky Dragons are masters of electrical breath, capable of breathing sparks much stronger and farther than the Sea Dragons.
White Dragons - The most honorable among the five dragon species, White Dragons are also one of the youngest dragon species, dating back only a few millenia. Their color is actually somewhat off-white, usually with a touch of blue, and their scales share similar thermal qualities to Snow Dragon scales. Underneath their crest horns lies a smaller, second set of crest horns which is usually of a constrasting color such as black. This improves their sense of hearing and also helps make their crest horns more visible. The scales running down their backside are a bit larger than the average dragon, and their tail spade has the largest plated scales of any dragon. White Dragons have slightly longer tails than most; their wings are also significantly larger, and typically have four partitions (rather than three). Rumor has it that no human can tell a lie in the presence of a White Dragon; studies have been unable to say whether this is a bizarre case of dragon fear or if it is simply false rumor. White Dragons can fly more easily than Fire or Snow Dragons, but their true amazement is in their versatile abilities. They can breathe fire, frost, and electricity with equal skill, making them truly formidable during a hunt or conflict.
Although not dragons in the purest sense of the word, there are a number of other species that share a number of dragon-like qualities and are thus worthy of mention:
Wyverns - Wyverns are two-legged, two-winged dragonlike creatures. Their size is approximately 6 feet tall, 15 feet from head to tail, and with a 20 to 30 foot wingspan. Unlike dragons, wyverns are not conscious individuals, but they are still intelligent, smart, and clever. They have a bird-like (but still reptilian) physiology: their forearms are entirely adapted for use as wings, so they always stand on their hind feet. Each wing has a thumb claw on it which gives the wyvern a marginal ability to grasp and hold onto objects. Wyverns are capable of breathing fire roughly as well as the average Fire Dragon.
The life cycle of a wyvern is best compared to that of eagles. Wyverns are generally solitary creatures (although not unfriendly towards each other), and like both dragons and eagles, they form breeding pairs characterized by instinctively lifelong, monogamous bonds. The breeding season on wyverns happens about twice a year (spring and fall), and the females are noted for laying more eggs per generation than dragons do (5-12 eggs, avg. of nine).
Drakes - Drakes can also be called "mini dragons", for they each come in a few strains (subspecies), each resembling a species of pure dragon. Yet they are not pure dragons. They are roughly the same size as a large lion or tiger. Although they do have four legs and two wings, they lack the tail spade and spinal decorations that pure dragons have. As with wyverns, drakes are not a conscious species.
Drakes do not have dragonbreath. However, they compensate well for this offensive lack by living and hunting in packs, à la wolves. Their breeding season occurs twice a year, in the spring and fall, and unlike dragons and wyverns who mate in solitude (away from other dragons), drakes mate and breed in groups. Even so, drakes are still monogamous, forming lifelong mated pairs. Drakes are the most proliferous of any dragon-like race (7-20 eggs, avg. of twelve) but simultaneously, their rates of survival are significantly lower then wyverns and dragons, and they also have to compete against other predators on the ground.
Dracans - Dracans are also called "dragon people"; they are a most unusual and interesting species. No one is entirely sure of their origins, and their appearance is formiddable enough to frighten children at a first glance. Dracans, like humans and dragons, are a conscious species; and their appearance is as much as mix of human and dragon qualities as are their personalities and societies. They stand roughly 5 to 6 feet tall, although they measure 7 to 8 feet from head to tail. They have a dragon-shaped head with the familiar dragon features of brow and crest horns, and as with dragons, they have a ridge of scales flowing down their back and terminating in a tail spade. Their physiology resembles the wyvern in the sense that their arms are partially adapted for use as wings. Yet a dracan's wings are not partitioned, and have a three-fingered hand at the wrist. Their legs are long and slender, but they do have wyven-like talons on their feet.
The most interesting characteristics of a dracan are their weapons and armor. They have no dragon-breath. In addition to their claws and talons, they also forge their own weapons (usually a type of sword or lance), and store them on a leather belt around their waists, or a sling on their back, near the shoulders (these are the only ways they can carry anything and still be able to fly). Their armor, however, is quite natural. As with all reptilians, dracans are entirely clothed by natural, armored scales. They also appear to wear a form of platemail armor; however, this armor is actually an extension of their scales, similar to a turtle shell; it grows as they do, it cannot be removed because it is a part of them, and yet it is as sturdy as any human-forged metal. Dracan armor covers only their chest and shoulders; it does not cover their backside. Instead, their back is protected by a line of spiked scales running alongside their main ridge of spinal scales.
Dracans can listen and speak in both human and dragon. However, unlike dragons, who can understand any type of human speech equally well, dracans are fluent in only one human language. The particular human language they become fluent in varies, according to the country in which they are born and/or live. But because of their ability to communicate in dragon, they have no communication barriers between fellow dracans or dragons, and they have a rough understanding of other human languages. It is unknown when or where the dracans first appeared in the world; similarly, the possibly reasons why are unknown as well. They are often considered to be a sort of beast master over the wyverns and drakes.
Dracan lives are somewhat shorter than dragon lives (maturity at age 20, menopause at approx. 120, and death sometime around 140 years) but they do share many similar traits with dragon societies, including their breeding patterns which are nearly identical to dragons. Dracan gestation periods are somewhat shorter than dragons' (three to five months) but they lay fewer eggs than dragons (1-5, avg. of two) and their rates of survival are ironically higher than dragons.
Dracan shires are noticeably more structured than a dragon shire, with separate classes such as elder, hunter, smithy, and warrior; their shires are also somewhat more open to visitors of other races such as humans. Dracans have little use for gold other than to barter with humans who value it. Also, some occasional dracans choose to live with humans in the human cities, rather than with their own dracan kind. In all cases, when a dracan has chosen to set up a permanent residence among humans, they have always adopted one article of exterior clothing (usually a cape, or mantle) -- and even this is not out of any physical need, but rather as a concession to the humans around them.
The below information has been known about dragons and similar creatures for quite some time. It does not really fit in with any of the above chapters, but it is indeed amusing:
Names - As with humans, every dragon has its own unique name. However, these are "dragon names" and they do not translate into human language. Instead, humans tend to give specific dragons human names for reference. Dracans can theoretically perform translation between dragon and human, but a dragon's name does not translate. Therefore, when humans ask dracans for a dragon's name, dracans supply the nearest humanly-pronouncable substitute for the dragon's own name. The dragons also understand that, in these scenarios, the dracans are merely giving the humans a name to refer to the dragons by, so those dragons will respond to that human name as well.
Albinos - There is a small, submissive element in all dragon genetics that occasionally produces and albino. Albino dragons, like other albinos, are missing some or all of their natural color; they are usually of a white, orange, or yellow color; their wings often are slightly pink, and albino eyes are a blood-red color. Albinos are not necessarily any more precious or valued than any other dragon, but are extremely rare, numbering only two or three per million. Interestingly, this rare gene does not occur in White dragons at all.
Hybrids - Fire and Snow dragons are so genetically similar to each other that, under some conditions, they have interbred. Hybrids born of two different species are generally sterile (as according to the law of two different species), but hybrids born from Fire and Snow dragons are exempt from this genetic law and allowed to produce their own offspring. Strangely, though, hybrid genetics cause their offspring to be a mix of pure fire-dragon, pure snow-dragon, or hybrid dragon.
Hybrid dragons are a relative mix of Fire and Snow dragon characteristics. Their colors mix in a rainbow of methods, producing unpredictable and sometimes unusual results such as purple (!?) scales. Their dragon-breath abilities mix well, resulting in a form of "blue fire"--a crystalline breath that inflicts a hot burn upon impact, but then freezes cold and remains frozen even at normal room temperatures. Melting the resultant "hot ice" requires additional heat such as true flame.
Fire and Snow dragons are the only two dragon species able to hybridize; interbreeding involving Sky dragons, Sea dragons, and Sky dragons is still subject to the hybridization dealing with Sky Dragons, Sea Dragons, or White Dragons is still genetically prohibited.
Alcohol - Alcohol may be a vice among humans, but among dragons, it is poison. Literally. Dragons must not drink alcohol, for it is poisonous to their physiology; it can damage their internal organs, dissolve their skeletal structure, disrupt their dragonbreath storage, and become lethal even in relatively small doses. Even a half-gallon of 100-proof whiskey can constitute a lethal dose to a dragon. Fortunately, dragons can detect the presence of alcohol like no other--and the mere smell of alcohol triggers an instinctive reaction to avoid the tainted substance. In the only such death in all of recorded history, one dragon somehow managed to quaff the larger portion of an ale keg; the dragon passed out within a few minutes and was dead in about an hour.
Wyverns are also vulnerable to alcohol poisoning. Scholars conclude that this alcohol-related fatality must be linked with their basic dragonbreath ability, for the small drakes are not vulnerable to alcohol and merely become intoxicated (drunk). Also fortunate is that "beer-battered" foods, where the alcohol has been evaporated through the cooking, are not poisonous to dragons or wyverns. For example, Fire Dragons and White Dragons can purify alcohol-tainted water by heating it up with their dragon-breath, causing the alcohol to evaporate from the water and making it safe for them to drink. Alcohol vapors are not harmful to dragons; it is only harmful if ingested.
Dracans do not have dragonbreath either, but they too consider alcohol as poison. Alcohol may not be poisonous to a dracan, but its well-documented ability of removing social inhibitions and 'loosening' one up carries a disastrous side effect for the dracans. If intoxicated, dracans lose all control of their lower instincts if they become intoxicated, and their minds become temporarily reduced to that of mere animals -- vicious, carnivorous mere animals, that is!
There is but one event in recorded history where a dracan had been intoxicated. The causes are unknown; but according to reports, just minutes after having a drink, a barfight broke out and the dracan completely lost control. The fight turned into a slaughter; by the time the town guard was called out to defend, many humans had already been slain. By the end of the conflict, virtually all of the village's small population had been slaughtered. The dracan fled elsewhere, only to die from the injuries he sustained during the conflict. Precious few survivors were left, and they spread the word very quickly.
After a thorough investigation headed by the dracan society, the incident was determined to be espionage plotted by some rogue human. This revelation saved the public image of the dracan society, for the humans realized that it was not the dracan ultimately responsible for the massacre, but rather, a dishonorable human. Even so, dracans spread the word among their shires that, should their members choose to live among human societies, they must constantly exercise their utmost in caution; not just for the sake of themselves, but for the sake of the humans around them, and perhaps, for the sake of the entire world.