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Their intelligence is off the charts. Combined with a tendency to live about four thousand years, an insatiable desire for wealth and power, and the ability to eat almost anything (which is why dragons tend to symbolize things like drought in the Vedas), and you have a fairly dangerous combination.
There is some confusion over this. While like people of the Darkness, they can devour anything (see eating), they enjoy neither dark nor cold. However, they also have a tendency to collect, which is generally a Fey trait.
They also have pouches — yes, pouches — though they’d be the first to tell you that “marsupial” does not apply.
Most Mythos authorities consider the fact that they can exhale “fire” as proof enough to classify them as The Sun — though there are those few (and some might say foolish) folk who hint they could actually be an ancient breed of Kin. It would explain a lot. Not that anyone has the courage to say it to a dragon’s face.
Dragons themselves break down into several different groups:
- Hydra (believed extinct)
- Oris (oceanic – rare)
- Terran (wingless)
- Yellow (rare)
Dragons and humans in particular have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning. Dragons prefer not to retreat to Umbra because humans are really good at creating nifty things, and dragons, regardless of sub-species, are collectors. Leaving the Ever-Dying behind would mean leaving behind all the treasure. As a result, draconian history and human history have crossed paths so many times that their cultural legends are intricately entwined.
For the most part, these three dragon clans live in Asia, as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Nepal. They can interbreed, though not always successfully, and generally have long, thin bodies with small but functional wings. Their cultures are heavily influenced by the ravages of war in both their own history and humanity’s; they focus on maintaining peace among themselves at all costs – to the extent of withdrawing underground. They have enormous cities, but only three Green dragon edifices remain above ground: Wisdom Tower, East Tower, and West tower.
They practice complicated and arcane magic, which they refuse to share with anyone outside their respective clans. Leadership is determined purely by age because part of the culture includes certain wisdom tasks and proofs by a certain age; those who fail are banished.
I will delineate more about these three when that information becomes relevant to the series (and it will).
These dragons live in most of Africa, some parts of south America, and Indonesia, occasionally creeping into the Middle East. As the name suggests, they have a somewhat leonine appearance, including manes and massive claws. Their culture is based on strength as proven by travel, usually following the trade winds. As soon as their hatchlings are old enough to fly, they’re off, spending no more than two weeks in any one place.
Not much else is known about them. They have a written language, but no archives or documents, no sculptures, no permanent artwork, and no inclination to answer questions. The closest anyone has ever come to knowing about their internal workings is messages scratched in the dirt to pods coming behind them, but these are, to say the least, inconclusive.
(Note: unlike the photo to the right, the Leonine have wings.)
Hydra and Terran
Both of these species, for some reason, were hunted nearly to extinction millennia ago. According to the belief of most others among the Mythos, it was due to particular weaknesses: Terran dragons cannot fly, which makes them unable to escape, while the Hydra suffered from exactly the opposite problem legends say: if you cut off one head, the dragon tended to bleed to death within the hour.
Terran dragons still exist in mountainous regions, where their mottled dark coloring allows them to hide. They were known as the singing dragons because of a penchant for music, but no one’s heard them sing in a very long time.
The Hydra are thought to be extinct, but who can say? Umbra is a vast, dark place, and many beings thought gone forever hide there still.
Think sea-serpents, but far from dumb animals; their corpses have never and will never wash on shore. Capable of breathing both air and water, they choose to spend almost all their lives in the bottom of the sea, hidden with magic and collecting treasure from sunken ships.
Of note is the fact that Atlantis was theirs, built by them and for their human servants (who were, thanks to draconian education and influence, far more advanced than any of their peers). A concentrated and well-bred huddle of humans, free from disease and other ailments, is always considered a valuable thing, and so the Oris fell under attack from others among the Mythos who wanted to loot this particular trove for their own.
The Oris had a simple solution: sink Atlantis, and down to the bottom they went.
It’s presumed their magic keeps their Ever-Dying treasure trove alive, living and dying underwater and never seeing the sunshine. No Oris has ever given a straight answer when asked about this, but the probability that they gave up or murdered their human herd is zero to none.
Red and Black
By far, the most numerous of the dragons are the red and black clans. These two are actually of the same family, descending from the dragon-queen Sharada (the one who gave Merlin his “very good guessing”).
There is no way to predict ahead of time whether a newly-hatched dragon will be red or black, which is a cause for enormous conflict between the clans. For a while, they both engaged in egg-crushing in a mad attempt to keep the other color from multiplying; this is one of the main reasons why the rest of the dragons are fewer in number. Neither red nor black were terribly discriminate about whose eggs they crushed.
There is currently a tense peace between them due to a shared nursery; in the Middle Ages, when dragon-hunting came into vogue (among the Mythos, not just the Ever-Dying), they finally came to the grumbling conclusion that they’d both die out if they continued their ways, so instead of egg-smashing, they’ve resorted to a joint nest, hidden deep beneath Hawai’i’s Mauna Loa volcano. When the eggs hatch, their respective coloring determines where they go.
While traditional family structure is destroyed through this, it cannot be said that the clans are anything but loyal to their hatchlings. For the last thousand years, both red and black have focused on building their numbers, all toward the unspoken but understood goal of one day resuming the war and defeating their differently-colored brethren.
Believe it or not, there are some people with dragon in their blood. (See Reproduction.)
It doesn’t happen often; the mixed-blood offspring rarely survives the dragon’s egg, and females from other species rarely survive carrying a baby dragon to term – the heat of the egg is too much.. Of interesting note is the Vietnamese people used to believe they descended from a dragon and a fairy. This may be true; the percentage of Vietnamese Kin magic-users is far higher than most ethnic groups, but it took place too far back in time to say for sure.
The Starling Child
Sharada was a legendary queen and the mother of both black and red dragon clans. Widely regarded as one of the most amazing and powerful creatures ever to have lived, her specific talent stretched to “farsight,” which Merlin calls “very good guessing.”
One of her vision included an impossibility: a pure white dragon, born from her line – and not some kind of albino, either, but born with diamond-white scales – and this baby, according to her view, would not only stop the war between the reds and the blacks, but also bring peace between all the dragon-clans as had not existed since before the First War.
It’s yet to be seen whether Suvi can pull that off. Merlin has high hopes, and we’ll have to be content with that.
- Fire: most dragons can breath fire (even the Oris), which begs the point that there is no breathing involved. Some, however, breathe other things – including ice, plague, and poisonous gasses.
- Shape changing: their spell-casting abilities are significant, and they’re able to take on the form of other species with ease. However, it should be noted that between their power (which those among the Mythos can feel) and their tendency to forget to control their temperature and thus give off far more heat than they should means almost nobody is fooled (except the Ever-Dying, but we can be fooled by almost anything). Thus, their shape-changing abilities are generally used just to make their presence more convenient in smaller places.
- Devouring: they can break down things they’re going to “eat.” It looks like eating. It’s not, but no one is likely to forget the sight of dragons taking bites out of stone, metal, etc.
- Fey are at particular risk regarding this.
- Compel: they can force others to do as they wish. It isn’t hypnosis; those with a compelling spell simply find themselves obeying, unable to resist. Dragons aren’t popular for this very reason; it’s hard to make friends with somebody who might just trick you into hand over all your best stuff.
- Languages: if dragons hear a language, they remember it. It takes a dragon, on average, two weeks to learn a language well enough to fool native speakers. This makes them very handy for diplomatic work among the Mythos, assuming a translation spell is not handy (and they usually aren’t).
Invented by fabulous Twitter-follower Sixelona, a dargon can best be described like this:
A type of creature that resembles a Dragon. However, this beast is easily distracted by shiny objects such as candy wrappers, tin foil, wrapping paper, etc. They are also known to be clumsy, unlike the majestic Dragon. They can be tamed with treats or other things they enjoy, and can be befriended by humans if treated well. However, they are still beasts, and if not watched, will eat livestock as a midnight snack.
Twitter user @Kinkajou1015 adds:
“Dargon, noun: Legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, generally so cute you melt from their adorableness.”
Seems about right to me.
As a matter of note, dragons in India are or are less than friendly. They believe that Indra, a member of The People of the Sun, viciously murdered Vritra the dragon emperor, who’d been benevolently reigning over the land. The country is considered cursed for dragon-kind. Of course, others have a different perspective.
Dragons come in male and female. “Pregnancy” for a dragon actually means carrying an egg – which has to be laid in dragon-form, shape-shifting aside. The egg itself, however, is surprisingly small, given the size dragons grow to. Think the heft of an ostrich egg, but more oval, and covered in a hard, nearly impenetrable substance that looks like jeweled scales.
Dragon eggshell is just about priceless. When hatched, baby dragons usually eat the shell at once, leaving nothing.
As an aside, dragons tend not to stay in their own species when it comes to picking lovers. Between the possessiveness/need to control and their shape-shifting abilities, they’re often found haunting other Peoples’ beds. It’s a very unfortunate side-effect that most of their half-breed babies simply don’t survive – and, if the egg-bearer is female, neither does the mother.
When it comes to eating, this particular skill falls under the same rubric as both The Sun and The Darkness: it’s not exactly eating to digest, but they can absorb and do away with magic, fire, intense cold, radiation, pollen, and a variety of other things. With the exception of the Oris, water can drown a dragon and put out its flame.
In terms of nutrition, dragons are omnivorous with a heavy emphasis on protein. They can, of course, eat anything, but require water, protein, and some grasses and herbs to be fully healthy.
Dragons and the Fey have a fairly antagonistic relationship. The Fey do with most members of The Sun or The Darkness, and for the same reason. Fey have unique power; it relates entirely to the physics of the world around them (hence why Grey uses music-magic), and it can be collected and digested. It doesn’t lend power to those who eat it, per se, but it is delicious (so I’m told). Both the ones who feast on the Fey and the Fey themselves can grow addicted to the process, which is evidently quite pleasurable. Sadly, if it continues, it always results in the death of the Fey. Once all the power they have in their systems is siphoned off, their bodies turn to stone.