Section I: Sapient Races
Section II: Beastly Races
„Personally, I like polar dragons. These elegant creatures are sleek and white, cutting through the air like a sixty foot arrow, with wide wings that seem feathery to me. Seeing one soar high above the ice makes my heart beat faster. They are simply the most beautiful animals I have ever seen.
“Oh, certainly I know that they are dangerous. That is one more attractive feature, a thrill that I enjoy as a dragoneer. (Which I consider a different term from that used in the northern regions of Gushémal; I am not one to tame or hunt dragons, I am a scholarly observer and wish this distinction to be ever remembered.) Although their size of sixty feet will deceive the casual reader – as the dragon’s tail takes up half of that size -, the polar dragon easily lifts a clawvole. Compare this to the minuscule weight of a human, and you can imagine what havoc the animal can wreak.
“Still, returning to the dragon’s appearance, I find it interesting that the scales of the creature have two colors. While the outside is white, the perfect camouflage in its envirions, the inside is black, thus conserving energy better. Unfortunately this is best observed in the drinking cups that polar dwarves fashion from the scales; always are the scales arranged as they can be found on the dragon body, the white outside, the black inside.
“The blueish wings are very thin. Contrary to some other dragon species, their tips do not end in claws. There rather is a beautifully patterned tip which is very reminiscent of feathers. (A thought that has been pursuing me lately is the idea that birds might be related to dragons. Indeed their shape and some of their movements appear quite similar, yet I have not as yet found any more solid proof.) A narrowly spun web of veins runs through the wings, so that the dragon can pump massive amounts of blood into them and heat up the wings enormously, so much so that it can melt ice. (It can also instantly kill a victim this way, effectively boiling it.)
“A wizard of my acquaintance claims that magic is involved in this, that the dragon wings can absorb the energy of the sun. Certainly the polar dragon’s behavior can be counted as proof for the creature is oftentimes observed lying very still on the ice, its wings spread out as far as possible and basking in the sun. Another indication is that the animal hibernates during the six months of the polar night. Without the sun it seems unable to function sufficiently. (As a result, some of its more typical prey species have adjusted by hibernating during the polar day. Only in the dawn and dusk, these creatures are preyed on by the dragons.)
“After their hibernation, the polar dragons are starved and in dire need of nourishment. At the start of the polar day, they will often range very far out of their ordinary territory. According to some claims, they have even reached as far north as Albinavia; although I personally cannot substantiate these reports. To my belief, the polar dragon cannot live in warmer regions than its frigid home for more than a few days at best. Therefore the journey to Albinavia would seem a bit too far. The land of the furrag is a more likely hunting ground at that time of the year.”
“Ain’t much that I can tell ‘bout a polar dragon ‘cept that them is no good eatin’. Sure, worth a good mug that keeps yer drink warm, but the meat? Ye’d rather catch me eatin’ a sludgesifter, an’ them ain’t no meal fer the gods either. Ye can always tell when us polar dwarves have caught a polar dragon by the pillar of smoke risin’ when them’s burnin’ the meat.
“All right, this here’s supposed t’be of scientific quality, an’ so I reckon that I should mention the eggs. The dragon eggs are about as large as a dwarf, an’ their shell is pretty thick. Takes a good axe t’crack it open. Though I don’t care much for the taste, lots of my fellow dwarves adore it an’ go t’the trouble of slaying the mother dragon.
“Problem here’s that ye cannae rely on a female dragon layin’ eggs in the fall, afore it starts its big winter sleep. Them dragons don’t meet often enough, though meetin’ means matin’ with’em. So ye’ve gotta watch the female a while, when it’s diggin’ its cave with its wings. If ye guess it’s large enough for a couple of extra eggs, ye might wanna chance a raid. But ye’ve gotta be careful, for the mother dragons ain’t no deep sleepers.”
“The forest dragon is not actually a forest dweller, other than its name implies. In fact it usually prefers a cave in a mountain or hillock overlooking the forest where it hunts its food. Look for a cave near flowing water, most likely a waterfall, and you stand a decent chance of seeing the lair of a forest dragon.
“They prefer large prey, such as elks, bears or clawvoles. (As a matter of fact, clawvoles are their least favorite. Occasionally a forest dragon will rather opt for a deer than take the meatier vole. Although most of the dragons have learned to avoid humans – due to the long history of their kin impaled upon lances and later roasted -, even an armed human takes precedence over a clawvole, sometimes.) Their method of hunting reminds me of eagles; the dragon will soar above the forest, using its keen eyesight to spy its prey. Once it has ascertained its victim, it will swerve into its attack flight, gliding closer – and then fold its wings close to the body and drop arrowlike through branches and foliage, protected by its thick scaled armor. Contrary to eagles or other birds of prey, the dragon will not carry its kill to the nest but devour it right away, oftimes defending the quarry against other animals.
“As indicated before, forest dragons do not exclusively hunt large game. In fact, one of their favored delicacies are salmon for which they have developed a rather unique hunting method. During the spawning season, the dragon will step into the river and simply hold its open maw into the water. The salmon apparently have little idea what is ahead of them – or they cannot tell a dragon snout from a stone -, and so they swim – one might say – right into the stomach of the creature.
“Not favored but also included in their diet is carrion; whether a dragon will touch a cadaver usually depends on how full its stomach is. Should it be starving, it will eat just about anything; fortunately forest dragons rarely descend into such madness. […]
“Magnificently colored are the male forest dragons; their wings reminiscent of the rainbow in their usage of colors and the variety of patterns. I have studied some two hundred patterns (several drawn from the memory of longer lived species than human kin), and none have proven alike. Therefore I have concluded that it is possible to identify a forest dragon by the designs drawn on its wings. (Which should help in the program I have drawn up, the purpose of which is to study the changing behavior of forest dragons throughout their life cycle. As forest dragons tend to live to the ripe old age of three hundred years, this unfortunately is a project that my brother dragoneers of the future will have to take command of.) The remainder of the dragon’s body is uniformly colored, usually somewhere between bright green and leading into a bright brown.
“The females on the other hand are rather dull and uninspiring. Which is not to say that they lack in color, yet the patterns on their wings are barely discernible, and their body scales’ color is a pale shadow of the males’. All in all, there is a dearth of females in the forests of Gushémal – which certainly explains the true value of the female, as well as the amazing mating rituals one can witness during the fall.
“The male will perform a ritual dance of the most intriguing nature, all the while making sure that his wings most perfectly reflect the sunlight and are presented in their full richness to the female. Most interesting it is when several males compete for the same female – as oftimes happens -, and each attempts to outdo the others with more extravagant maneuvers. (It has been known that some of these maneuvers have proven fatal to the dragon in question, as its body could not endure the contortions it was put through. Cruel irony, the cadaver has usually served as a meal for its intended.) Actual fights between the dragons are rare; common are threatening gestures, yells and fake attacks, which serve to enhance the fighting prowess of each dragon.
“Speaking of this prowess, to properly impress the female, the male will always offer a recent kill – preferably the largest available – to the female. Only after that the ritual dance may be initiated. (My suspicion is that in a group of males, only one or two such presents are necessary to render the female sufficiently interested. Cursing my own inattention, I believe once to have witnessed such a competition in which a male won the female’s attention – although he never deposited any food in the first place!)”
“Some landlubbers think that the worst thing a sailor can see is the fins of sharks trailing in a ship’s wake. Go overboard – say in a storm -, and you’ll wind up in those big jaws. Ask a sailor who’s spent a few years working the sea, and he’ll tell you it’s the dragon he most fears.
“I’ve seen a few of the land dragons, mostly swamp and forest, which makes me wonder whether the sea dragons are truly related to them. Yes, of course, they have scales, the heads look quite similar – particularly the razorshapr teeth -, but still, the body of the sea dragon is plumper, shaped more like a dolphin. The tail’s a lot thicker, a powerful driver that propels the sea dragon at terrifying speeds. They can easily outrace the fastest sailboat, and woe to the ship that attracts a dragon’s attention. Its four broad fins can lift it out of the water a good ways, enough to smash into the side of a vessel, crash a deep gap into the planks. If then you go into the water – don’t worry about sharks, my friend, it’s the dragon that’ll get you.
“The truth is, sharks don’t much care for human taste. Poke its eyes, the shark’ll probably turn about and look for some seal. You won’t have any such luck with a sea dragon. They love the way sailors taste!
“Just be happy they can’t fly, or there wouldn’t be a single ship cruising the ocean.”
“Although some consider the swamp dragon a minor species, to the dragoneer it is most fascinating. After all, it is unique in that males and females are different enough to appear to be two different species!
“At an average length of thirty-five to forty feet, the females measure goodly four times larger than the males. Unable to fly with their vestigial wings, the females are good swimmers, though, reaching enormous speeds in their swampy surroundings. They do resemble crocodiles, yet their legs are considerably longer, as well as their more massive and pronounced heads which are attached to foot long, very flexible necks. Suitable to their environment, the coloring of the female’s scales ranges from brown to olive, occasionally veering into black. It should be noted that the belly is rather bright; but for the swamp dragon that is an area which needs not be camouflaged.
“While the females are relegated to the ground only – and quite content -, the smaller males are very slim, have pronounced wings and can fly very well. (Which often proves necessary when they approach a female, usually with the intent of mating. Females are rarely in the proper mood, and they have often been known to mistake a suitor for suitable prey.) As far as hunting is concerned, males pursue the same tactics; swim through the swamp and suddenly jump into action when a quarry gets too close.
“(It is my opinion that they would be far better served to adopt some of the tactics their brethren in other climates use. An attack from above in mid-flight would probably earn the male a better share of kills; yet they maintain the methods very appropriate for the females. Perhaps this is because they only learned this behavior from their mothers; it would be an interesting experiment to raise male swamp dragons as orphans or with forest dragons to see how they adapt to the environment. Since a swamp dragon’s life expectancy lies around thirty to forty years only, this might be an experiment I could yet undertake…)
“A male swamp dragon upon maturity will seek out a territory of its own, preferably overlapping at least one territory of a female. (Some are known to overlap as many as five female territories; dangerous enough that such males commonly have a very low life expectancy – yet a very high likelihood of successful progeny.) As mentioned before, the relationships between males and females are generally difficult, yet fortunately the female will not hunt any males in its territory.”
“Good Albaroy’s distaste for people (of all species) was well known in his time. He simply preferred dragons; and we must be grateful that he ever brought pen to paper to record his findings. There were a few things, though, that he never quite accepted. One such example – very obvious to anyone living in the vicinity of the Bitter Swamps – is the fact that there is a species of intelligent lizards which uses the swamp dragons as beasts of burden. The lizards are nasty creatures; their usage of the dragons is only too fitting in my mind. I was once sent to the Bitter Swamps on an errand from Ibrollene’s First Citizen (you may draw your own conclusions about the time of this occurrence); after barely escaping with my life, I have decided that both kinds of lizards are about the most abominable species this world has ever witnessed.
“As far as I know, the lizards use young female swamp dragons as riding steeds through the swamp; with their maturity, the females become rather uncontrollable. (Too fierce even for the lizards; or simply too bothersome, I wonder.) The males on the other hand remain steady and reliable throughout their lives which means that rider and beast get very used to each other and can learn more intrepid maneuvers. Intrepid, indeed. But I should not bother the kind reader with descriptions of this, since my memories are most definitely clouded from the terror I felt at the time.”
“Watch out for a shadow in the desert – but not to rejoice for the relief from the sun. No, beware a shadow, lest it be thrown clearly by a dune. Otherwise it is only too probable that the shade is cast by a desert dragon gliding through the air above. And once you see the shadow, you’d best gather your arms quickly and prepare for a desperate fight for your life.
“The desert dragons are fairly large, some eighty feet long, with a wingspan of more than forty. Praise the Gods that they are not as massive as their relatives in colder climates, for the desert dragons are very thin. Seen at a distance, they appear fragile – an appearance that rarely lasts long at close inspection. They spend the entire day in the air, gliding high above the ground on the lookout for prey.
“In a fight you should look out for the venom sting of the tail. Deadly enough to kill a crustmaw, a mere scratch is sufficient to kill a human. So, try to stay close to the head – or preferably use a lance at a distance.
“We who dwell in the desert have made our own pact with the dragons. They always use oases as their bases of operations, but to our luck, the dragons are deep sleepers at night and will rarely awaken no matter how much noise is around them. For that reason a caravan can safely approach a dragon’s oasis at night, rest and leave at early dawn without rousing the creature. If the caravan master then leaves a gift behind – say, a goat or a camel -, he can be fairly certain the dragon will be too sated to do much flying that day. Thus the caravan can proceed safely, lest it enter the territory of another dragon without any previous appeasement.
“As is clear to see, this pact is quite delicate and easily broken. Yet there are few enough dragons for that pact to succeed most of the time, or else my people would have to craft quite a number of new lances from daggerrays. Driving the dragons out of the Elfadil, now that is a prospect I would just as well never see.”
“If it’s a dragon, I can ride it.”
final words of a (drunk) Cayaborean Dragonrider before attempting to mount
an emperor dragon,
“It is said that dragons are the crown of the beastly kingdom in our world. Far be it from me to dispute such a claim made by honorable scholars, yet if I were to accept this statement, then it is quite apt to name this beast here an emperor, for it clearly is a king of kings, as far above the remaining races of dragonhood as the base dragon reigns supreme over the beasts.
“Equipped with a modicum of intelligence – enough to sustain a conversation of a few minutes, before either combat or a meal is joined -, the emperor dragon does not cease growing throughout its considerable lifespan. Sizes are reported of well over seventy feet. Reliably reported, I hasten to add, for there are rumors spawned by some travellers claiming to have seen – or even slain – a beast half a mile long. I find it hard to credit these reports, since such enormous creatures would certainly leave traces on the earth exceeding the paltry sum total of a drunken man’s rambling.
“Plenty of carcasses or skeletons are available to the honorable scholar which prove sufficiently the enormous size of real emperor dragons. Additionally, the Divvanport Chronicles of the Topay Coalition, collected by a succession of clerics consecrated to Darawk, tell of an emperor dragon that terrorized the area for more than two hundred years. The beast, named Valsíun by the locals, apparently died of old age, rather than being slain or perishing in an accident. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that Valsíun was as fully grown as an emperor dragon can aspire to. The Chronicles list a size of seventy-three feet from snout to tail’s end. (Though not personally having witnessed it, the skeleton is said to be kept in the council house of Divvanport.)
“Perusing the Divvanport Chronicles also offers a good account of why the emperor dragon is rightfully feared. Even at its youngest, Valsíun – measuring barely twenty feet – ravaged the local herds of sheep, killing on average one a week. While that may seem an acceptable loss, it needs be said that the dragon staves off feeding for months most of the time, then taking twenty or thirty from a single herd, driving a shephard into ruin. Let me stress that this was a young dragon, barely separated from its mother.
“The earliest Darawk priestess, a woman named Lavztha Truz, records that the dragon used to fly over the area very often – inviting not few arrows spent at the silhouette in the air, many shot from the bows of sailors coming to Divvanport. Now and then it would dive down, delighting in frightening sheep or people, crying abuse at them. (Lavztha lists several of the insults she has heard herself, which indicate that Valsíun’s vocabulary doesn’t exceed thirty words, although the dragon mixed them with abandon and nary a thought to their meaning.) Valsíun’s wings were at their strongest, still about the same width as its body was long. Apparently the wings do not keep up with the overall growth of the body – in the adult, they seem stinted, and according to the Chronicles, the older a dragon gets the less frequently it will leave its abode and take to the airs. (This has led several observers to believe that an old emperor dragon is unable to fly, yet the Chronicles disprove this notion. The old dragons don’t appreciate the strain, I deduce.)
“Valsíun occasionally attacked people, though not to kill, apparently. Lone travellers, or small groups, their bodies were found later on, killed by the tell-tale razor sharp claws, yet there was no sign of feeding. I must hasten to note that this does not necessarily encompass all emperor dragons; it may be that Valsíun did not care for the taste of human meat. (And, frankly, that fact was of little concern to the people slain by the dragon, only for their kin who had bodies to burn properly.) Still, Lavztha records only twenty-one cases throughout her tenure of thirty-eight years at Divvanport, the majority of which occurred towards the end of said tenure.
“This changed during the – considerably shorter – tenure of her successor, Hermialdas Kekoran, who reports that Valsíun, then measuring over thirty feet in length, took a liking to killing humans. In a single year, the dragon murdered fifty-two people. Known dragonslayers were called in by the city’s council, with a handsome reward for the one to present Valsíun’s head. Thirteen slayers are included in the sum Hermialdas lists.
“According to the priest, Valsíun must have delighted in the challenge by the slayers. It still did not feed on any humans, but it left them in such a way that they would be found quickly – now and then the dragon assailed the city itself, making sure that its dreadful presence was felt overmuch. Commonly, the latter happened whenever there had been a gap between dragonslayers going after Valsíun. The dragon also left riddles – stones, branches arranged in certain ways, now and then enhanced by jewels. The riddles were taken to lead to Valsíun’s abode, but it seems more likely that the dragon pointed to certain meeting places rather than revealing its own roost.
“Hermialdas did not think so, and he accompanied one group of dragonslayers, certain that his deductive powers would let him see through the riddle and the probable ambush of the dragon. Alas, he and the slayers would make the first entries in the list of dragonslain composed by his successor, Novietalda Cornmesh who refrained from any such rash decisions for her twenty-three years in office. (Despite her best attempts, Novietalda fell prey to Valsíun as well, slain in front of her own temple. Her death made the council raise the by then impressive reward by a third.)
“At the age of some one hundred years, Valsíun grew tired of this game. He stopped attacking people, except now and then – perhaps from memories of old joy -, and generally kept to animals. Measuring fifty feet in length, he is said to have once lifted an entire fishing boat to shore – allowing the sailors to flee, before Valsíun gobbled up the fish. (Again, I must stress that Valsíun’s dislike for human meat seems an oddity among his kind. Yet, despite that oddity, the Divvanport Chronicles are the best source we can find on emperor dragons.) Its voracity had grown so much that now the dragon’s raids – still spaced a month or more apart – now killed about a hundred sheep, cattle, or other animals. Before Valsíun had settled in the area, Divvanport had been a shepherd’s paradise; the bleating sound of the sheep could be heard for miles in circumference. After the first century, a very few shepherds remained, and the remains of the old herds had gone feral, so that the count of Valsíun’s kills had become unreliable. The various Darawk priests did their best to count the remains, adjusting the numbers to an average.
“Divvanport managed to survive, barely, although a great many of its citizens left during that first century. The hardened souls left behind clung to mercantile explorations, as well as fishing, taking their best measures to keep Valsíun away. Their ‘best measures’ were to concentrate on inedible goods, on which it made such a fortune that in the second century of the Chronicles and Valsíun’s life, Divvanport’s population grew again.
“In a way, both city and dragon had grown accustomed to each other. Although the reward for Valsíun’s death was still in place, the council did not advertise nor did it encourage any slayers to try their luck. As a matter of fact, Valsíun became a sort of symbol now that Divvanport had gained some fortune from its new exploits.
“The city’s opinion changed dramatically in the last decade of the dragon’s life when Valsíun started hunting and feeding on humans. The last priest writing down the Chronicles has speculated endlessly on the reason why. I prefer his idea that Valsíun felt its death was nigh, and that the beast wanted to die by a human hand rather than by old age. Nonetheless the dragon defended itself when attacked, and it was still formidable enough to escape the slayers that now returned.
“In fact, Valsíun returned to the habits of more than a century earlier, of gaming with the slayers, taunting them and leading them into ambush. (The fact that most of the slayers were killed but not eaten indicates to me that the Darawk priest was right. Valsíun did not care for human meat then anymore than it had before.)
“No actual conversation between a human and Valsíun ever took place of that we know today, so it is difficult to say which was the true inclination of the dragon. We do know that emperor dragons are intelligent when compared to their fully beastly brethren, yet their motivations remain quite alien to us.”
dem Taroep, self-described “Investigator in Draconic Matters”,
“Do emperor dragons in truth collect hoards? Or is this a mere myth, based on assumptions and mysterious thievery in areas where emperor dragons abound?
“What I can say on this matter is an illuminating account I have gathered from a man I met six months ago. He said that he was a dragonslayer, and, as he was garbed in leather cured from dragonhide, as well as armor from the dragon’s skull, I have found little reason to doubt his claims.
“I posed to him the question of whether he had discovered a hoard in the dragon’s abode, and my acquaintance laughed. ‘A hoard? Like they keep saying in the bard’s tales? Why, yes, there was. Not the immeasurable fortune I hoped for, but it made for a tidy sum, I’ll say. Bought me a mansion in my hometown, and there were enough jewels to keep my wife quiet for a while.’ (Grumbling under his breath, he added, ‘Three months, way I know her.’) He went on to show me some of the items he had taken from the hoard – precious rubies, emeralds, and the like, most of which he wore on a chain under his armor.
“’Well, then,’ I asked, ‘do you know why the dragon had a hoard? I don’t suppose it would spend it on food.’
“That, indeed, was the best wording I could have found, for the dragonslayer laughed anew and invited me to a drink in a tavern. After we had settled down, he told me about his hunt for the beast, how he fought and slew it. ‘The beast was dying,’ he said, quaffing an ale, ‘and he gave up fighting me. I was ready to stab his eyes again, but the dragon laughed. Like this.’ He mimicked a fearsome roar that could barely be compared to laughter, and his eyes twinkled when he saw my instinctive fright. Apparently, he’d done the same on a number of occasions.
“’So, I didn’t kill him. I stayed wary, of course. I don’t trust a dragon, much less one that nearly roasted my leg for dinner. But he didn’t try anything, just wanted to spend his last moments in quiet conversation.’ He chuckled. ‘Much conversation as there can be with a dragon. They aren’t exactly great talkers. Anyway, the creature thanked me for giving it a good death, asked me to tell as many people about it as I could so that everybody would remember his name.’ (When I asked about that name, the response was a wry look. My acquaintance hadn’t been able to memorize the name, one surely as odd to our ears as so many draconic names are.) ‘And the hoard, he spoke about it, too. Gave one more of his laughs, though it was pretty choked up. Dying, the dragon was, after all. Care to guess why he gathered the hoard?’
“He didn’t wait for me to come up with an answer. ‘To bait adventurers, he said. He’d grown bored of hunting dumb animals, and he wanted a challenge. A great game, one that has a little bit of risk attached to it. Yes,’ he shook his head, grinning, ‘he said a little bit of risk. That kinda got pretty big when I met him, but – oh, well, the dragon had a point, I’m sure. It’s all nice and well to call yourself a dragonslayer, having the clout of a formidable warrior, but there isn’t that much of a reward coming your way in this line of business. Not enough that you could retire after killing one of them monsters – and monsters they are, trust me on this! But if you can expect a good fortune that you can rake in… Now that’s good incentive, and even better for the dragon, that makes the good and smart warriors seek for you as well as the usual breed of dumb, muscle-packed brutes. That dragon, he commented on them. What was it again? Oh, yes, tough lunch in tinfoil. He said they were no fun at all.’
“He downed another stein of ale. ‘I’ll gladly say that the dragon found me more interesting. As I told you, I had to solve a couple of riddles on the way, find some hidden places and fight off some wild dwarves. (I wish the dragon’d lived long enough to tell me how he’d arranged for the dwarves!) That was a game he enjoyed, up to our final confrontation. Truth be told, I didn’t like it one bit at the time, but looking back… Abyssal flames, I bloody well respect that dragon. He wasn’t exactly the smartest cookie in the jar, but after spending ten years devising the riddles, he’d put together a pretty tough job.
“’So, that’s why the hoard. Bait. And fun. That’s what the emperor dragon’s about most of the time.’
“I am not sure whether my adventurer acquaintance is correct in his assumption. After all, not all emperor dragons play riddles, nor do they seek for dragonslayers, nor do they advertise their lair in any way or form. But quite a number of them do, and perhaps it is a tradition of their kind. Personally, of course, I feel no particular need to inquire of an emperor dragon what the true matter is.”
Defkaun, unknown profession,
„Rumors say that a further species of dragon exists beyond the great Laru’sedna mountain chain in the west. Few have journeyed there, and their tales usually differ wildly from each other. At best I can say that the dragons in the far west are more snakelike than their local cousins, their bodies more elongated without a clearly recognizable torso. They may be more colorful, but perhaps it is that there is more than one species yet to be discovered by our science.
“Claims that those dragons can speak I find the most unbelievable. After all, of the many species of dragons known to us, only the emperors are able to comprehend and utter language. Clearly the emperors are the highest form of dragon possible, the embodiment of their most noble (and, yes, also their most sinister) qualities.
“Perhaps, so I hope, among my readers there will be one or the other journeyman bold enough to undertake a journey through the mountains to uncover the truth.”
“Them veggie dragons are a plague, believe me! If ye’ve ever seen a swarm of ‘em swerve down on yer field, by the Gods, ye’ve seen yer ruin fly on dark blue wings. They eat everything what grows on the ground, good wheat as readily as they’d mow down a row of trees. Big they are, and they got a nasty long tail with thorns, and they know how to use them. Try to scare a dragon off your field, and all ye’re gonna get is a two foot thorn through yer chest. Unless ye’re wearin’ good armor, that is.
“Funny thought, this. When I grew up, them blue dragons were a scare me parents used to make me obey. Since leavin’ the farm of me parents, I’ve been makin’ good money off of them, though, what with my friends and me gettin’ paid by the farmers for drivin’ ‘em off the field.
“I’m still enough of a farmer, though, to almost be ready to kill ‘em beasts just for the fun of it. Ain’t nothin’ as good for the field as drenchin’ it in blue dragon blood.”
“I find the blue dragons a very peculiar subset of the fiery species. Not only do they not have any taste for meat, but they have a natural tendency to live in large groups, contrary to the mostly solitary nature of their brethren.
“The males are a bit larger than the females. The most common group one may encounter is a harem, made up of a single dominant male and a varying number of adult females and younger dragons. As with many other species, the younger males will rebel against the lead dragon’s dominance and challenge it to a fight. Should the young dragon win, it will kill its parent and claim the top position for itself; should the challenger lose, the lead dragon will allow it to leave.
“During the mating season, the pregnant females dig nests for their eggs which the swarm protects collectively. The not yet adult females also take their turns at guarding and sitting on the eggs, taking enough of a load of the elders to feed.
“It is only in the mating season that the swarm remains at the same spot which means that the resources will be quickly used up, unless the males of the group (lead dragon and the young ones) range far from the females in search of food.”
“Ever wondered what it’s like to ride a dragon? Well, better keep wondering. The horse dragons are a pretty good bunch, once you have got used to their smell, the uneven flight, and most of all their stupidity. People say that horses are stupid, but believe me, a horse dragon is twice as dumb. I suppose remembering how to stay in the air takes up so much of their brainpower, there isn’t anything left.
“If I’m right, that may be the best reason why it is even possible to tame these creatures. Even though it takes a lot of effort, at some point they probably understand that a human could take care of all the tough decisions – such as when to sleep, when to eat, when and where to fly. Once you’ve gotten that point into their hard skulls, you’ve got yourself a loyal friend for life. Your own dragon won’t try to bite you, no matter how hungry it gets. Trust me, should you ever be on campaign as a dragon rider, that is an important advantage! They’ll try to eat everything else in their reach, after all.
“You could think the Gods created the horse dragons to be ridden if you look at them. From tail to head, they measure some sixteen feet – most of that taken up by tail and neck. The scales on the torso are small and rough; the saddle sits very solidly on that surface, and that allows you to put the dragon through some wild maneuvers.”
“The Cayaboreans, it should be added, have a good-sized breeding program in place for the horse dragons. Other lands catch adult animals to tame them, a few apparently using magic to subdue the animals. Some, like my own Ibrollene, also attempt to breed the creatures, yet Cayaboré stands supreme with both its knowledge of how to raise the best horse dragons and equally the quality of its dragonrider corps.”