Dragon Physiology

Foreword

Dragons are magical creatures. However, to keep play fair for all of the character types, it is necessary to define how they do what they do. Where science fails, magic rules.

Evolution

Before the rise of the first civilizations, creatures called draconidae ruled the world. Like Earth’s dinosaurs, there were hundreds of species of draconidae. They ranged in size from that of tiny rodents to massive animals that rattled the land when they walked. There were also species of draconidae inhabiting the oceans, large freshwater lakes, and rivers.

Basic Information

Size

Minimum Length: 3 feet (at hatching), wingspan: 5 ft.

Maximum Length: 35-40 feet

Note: We are not going to sweat the who has the biggest dragon deal. Most Empresses are the largest in a Siege. However, they may be smaller than the Empress from another siege. Once a female (queen) approaches the size of an Empress, she will usually challenge her. This challenge is a battle until one is so injured, they yield and Cross. We will not be having deposed Empresses challenging other siege rulers.

Dragons start life at approximately 3 feet long with a 5.25-foot wingspan. This is also the smallest shapeshifted form they can take. Hatchlings usually stand about 1.2 feet tall measured from the withers (top of shoulders) to the ground. By the age of twenty years, they will have reached their full length. Females will continue to add a bit of girth and mass as they approach breeding age.

Mature females are called queens. Queens are slightly larger than drakes (unbonded males) but comparable to bonded males (Rexes).

A dragon’s final size is determined by numerous factors that include, but are not limited to, rookery location, nutrition, genetics, and incubation temperatures.

Lifespan

Unknown

It is known that no dragons have ever died of old age.

Since dragons are not the best timekeepers when it comes to their ages, the true length of their lifespan is unknown. At some point, the Song of Airsith becomes too much to resist. The dragon severs his or her earthly bonds and steps through the Veil, where they continue their journey along the Sword of Light.

A Dragon is not truly immortal. They can be killed, die from injuries received, or, more rarely, die of disease. Xorayss, the drakhmar Queen of Siege Azdiel, is possibly the oldest of all. She was the queen during the ravaging and fall of Uthuria, which began approximately sixteen thousand years ago.

Note: A Dragon is able to hear its own special Song of Airsith from before they hatch. It quietens after hatching until they are approaching their time to Cross.

Game Admin: Although Dragons can live for an incredibly long time, do not ask to play one that is more than a few thousand years old. We are not going to approve a Dragon from a million years ago. You can have Dragons characters that were alive during the Shadow Wars on Uthuria (i.e. no more than 16,000 years old, preferably far less).

Taxonomy*

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Draconidae

Genus: Draconis Sapiens

Species: Dragon, Ddraig, Uktena, Unktehila

*Not intended to be 100% scientifically accurate.

Dragon Species

Draconis sapiens (modern): This was the largest and most intelligent of the species of draconidae to survive the various extinction events. Draconis s. was already developing a much larger brain than its relatives and, consequently, was far more intelligent. It is very possible that the aftermath of the asteroid impact forced them into a social structure that led to their ultimate survival. Note: The ancient name for this species is Draconis pridd (p. preeth). Pridd is Welsh Gaelic for earth, land, soil.

Draconis weilgi (p. whale-gee): Also known as sea dragons, this branch of the draconidae family tree were already very intelligent with complex social structures before the asteroid impact. Note: weilgi means sea or deep in Welsh Gaelic.

Draconis loch (p. lock): Draconis l. is usually called the lake, river, or water dragon. They are smaller than the sea and land dragons and inhabit deep water lakes and rivers. Note: loch means lake in Scots and Irish Gaelic.

Wyvernis fí: Wyverns are the only reptilian branch of draconidae. After the mass extinction event, their population and diversity exploded. There are wyverns adapted to almost every terrestrial ecological niche. They become one of the most populous reptile species on Aereth. Wyverns can be easily distinguished from the Dragon. They only have four limbs (2 wings, 2 legs). Note: fí means vicious in Irish Gaelic.

Short Description

Dragons are sentient and intelligent creatures that have evolved a highly complex social structure. If they ranked such things or even cared about them, they would rank as superior and above on an IQ chart. They are the oldest intelligent species on Aereth.

The other species of dragons will be covered in their own section (tab)

Communications

Vocalizations

Dragons have a vocal apparatus similar to that of mammals. They also have a syrinx, the organ that birds use for singing, and some use to mimic human speech. This allows the dragon to emit a very wide range of sounds.

A dragon’s verbal speech is a complex system of sounds, some below the range of human hearing. There are whistles, trills, growls, guttural sounds from deep in their chest, infrasound, and echolocation. They can also emit sounds in the sonic and ultrasonic range, which are used to stun, and sometimes kill prey.

Human Speech

Dragons can communicate using human speech. However, they really dislike it. In fact, they will only speak if the matter is urgent and there are no other options. Since this involves mimicry, they usually sound similar to the person they are speaking to.

Songs

Dragons, water dragons, and sea dragons emit a series of melodic sounds at certain times. These songs fall into specific categories that are distinctive from one another including simple communications. The songs are also unique to each individual and each species.

Purring

Much like a feline, dragons emit a noise similar to purring. This is normally right at the lowest range of human hearing. It is considered a sound of contentment or comfort.

Color Flashing

A dragon can communicate emotion by rapidly changing the color shading on their bodies and pinning (rapidly expanding and contracting) the pupils of their eyes. For example, an excited blue Dragon would likely flash in a series of lighter shades of blue. Anger would show as a darkening of the colors, including a reddish flash along the undersides of their throats and belly.

Mindspeech/Dragonspeech (Telepathy): Dragons can form human speech, but they dislike it and will rarely use it. However, they can communicate using a form of telepathy. This is direct mind-to-mind speech, not the ability to read minds. It also does not allow any form of mind-control. Dragonspeech is a complex litany of words, images, and emotions that some bipeds can understand without being taught. This is a form of dragon magic that some people are born with. The ability to hear and understand Dragonspeech and the Dragonsongs are the abilities that are sought when canvassing for Morrighan candidates.

Note: Not all people with this ability elect to become Morrighan.

Morrighan can sometimes have their emotions influenced by their bonded Dragon. This is most pronounced in battle situations. It is a result of the psychic bond between the dragon and the Morrighan, not a form of mental or emotional control by the dragon.

Note: It is a combination of being able to hear the dragon’s mindspeech and being able to understand a specific dragon’s Song of Airsith that makes a person a candidate for becoming a Morrighan.

Physical Characteristics

Aereth’s dragons are endothermic homeotherms (warm-blooded), scaled, have primitive feathers, and lay eggs. Yet, they are not mammals, birds, or reptiles. Dragons are in a unique class of animals called draconidae.

Their body temperature is usually warmer than their surroundings and controlled internally. This characteristic allows them to adapt to different climates and to maintain their activities both day and night throughout the year. A dragon lives for a very long time. There are records of dragons who have existed for many thousands of years, but there are no known cases of dragons who have died from old age. However, dragons are not immortal. They can die from accidents, some diseases, and can be killed.

Dragons are egg layers, although the eggs are incubated for some time within the mother’s body cavity (egg-sac or womb). Once the shells are fully formed, though not yet completely hardened, the female lays them in a nest dug into volcanic soil. The hot soil completes the incubation period. Sea dragons also finish the incubation of their eggs in volcanic areas, close to black and white smokers in the deep oceans. No one is sure about water dragons. These creatures are extremely rare and have never been seen on land. It is surmised that they evolved from another branch of the draconidae tree and are cold-blooded and probably lay their eggs deep in underground river caves.

Dragons are as individual in their appearance as any other people on the world of Aereth. There is a tremendous variety from color and ornamentation to body type. The consistent characteristics are documented here and should be considered guidelines for creating a character.

Shapeshifted Forms

Dragons can shift to different sizes, the smallest being their original hatchling size of 2.5-3 feet with a wingspan of nearly 5 feet. This makes them around the size of some of the larger birds of prey on Aereth. Their strength and amount of fire they can generate is proportional to their size since their 3rd Lung is also compressed. Their ability to fly is less affected since the smaller they are, the easier it is to fly.

Human-Appearance

Dragons can shapeshift to a human-appearing form but only if they are currently wingbonded with a Morrighan or have been imprinted in the past. Their human appearance mimics their Morrighan’s or that of a past Morrighan. They cannot create an original human face or form. This ability takes quite a bit of energy. On top of the energy outlay, most dragons simply do not like the limitations of a biped’s form, such as not being able to fly. Dragons that have only bloodbonded or marked a biped cannot shift to a human-appearing form unless they were fully imprinted at some point in the past.

This ability is a combination of magic and the dragon’s ability to camouflage themselves by mimicking their surroundings.

Limitations

Can only take the shape of a current or former imprinted Morrighan.

Human-form is technically asexual as dragons can only mate with other dragon.

Their eyes mark them as being a dragon due to their color(s) and slit pupils.

The skin of their human form retains the slight shine/glow of their scales and, to touch, feels like extremely smooth, tiny scales.

Their dragon-form’s head ornamentation is reduced, but can still be felt under their hair.

Their strength is reduced to that of the Morrighan they are mimicking.

They cannot generate fire or fly. Their wings become part of their back although if unclothed, the wing pattern can still be seen.

Dragons do not acquire any of the magical powers of the person they are mimicking.

All of their enhanced dragon senses are reduced when in human form.

All Dragon have…

A head, neck, thoracic region, and body.

The standard array of sensory organs plus the melon, fat-filled cavities for echolocation.

Lots of teeth!

6 limbs (four legs, 2 arm-wings); this distinguishes them from wyverns who only have four limbs (2 wings and 2 legs).

Tail: unless they lost it or part of it in battle or by other means. If missing the tail or part of the tail, they cannot fly!

Head and Neck

Dragons have a large, well-proportioned head that is divided into an upper skull section, lower section, upper jaw, and lower jaw. The eyes are set in the upper portion of the skull, forward of the ears, and just to either side of the center. The eyes are usually protected by brow ridges composed of strong cartilage. The ears are located slightly higher and behind the eyes, and the nostrils are set to either side of the upper jaw in the muzzle area. Despite being cobwebbed to allow for the echolocation organs, the dragon’s skull is very strong. Additionally, it is protected by their ornamentation – horns, scutes, other bony protrusions.

Both the upper and lower jaw are lined with several rows of extremely sharp teeth. A dragon has upper and lower fangs that are longer than the rest of their teeth and slightly curved. In between and immediately to the left and right of the fangs are conical-shaped, serrated incisors. Tucked away at the upper and lower sides of the mouth are flatter teeth that aid in chewing and with masticating flamestone.

All dragons have extremely strong jaw muscles and a bite force to rival that of a T-Rex (7,800 psi). When they snap their jaws shut on prey, they have to want to open them. Prying them apart would be beyond the strength of most living creatures on Aereth. It is also likely that their prey’s bones would explode under the full force of a dragon’s bite.

The skull attaches to the neck, similar to that of an owl. This type of attachment allows a dragon to swivel its head nearly 360º. The neck itself is approximately one-quarter of the Dragon’s overall length and very flexible. Despite this flexibility, a Dragon does not have good peripheral or rear vision when in flight. This is due to not being able to see over and around the wings and the fact that they have to lower the inner eyelids for protection.

Thorax

The thorax on a dragon is the area between the neck and the body, the short section behind the withers (shoulders) and before the wings. This area is also called the saddle because this is where the rider’s saddle is placed.

Body

A dragon’s body is supple and strongly muscled. It is approximately one-quarter of their total length. Like cats, the spine is very supple and flexible. This allows them a great deal of range of motion and makes their movements very graceful. Females are usually a bit larger in girth to accommodate the egg-sac. As with most creatures, the body cavity is where the majority of the main organs are located.

Tail

The tail is approximately half of the total length of the body. Although not readily apparent, the tail is segmented and incredibly flexible. It acts as a rudder and helps balance the dragon on land and in flight. The tail may have ornamentation such as scutes, spikes, spines, etc., or be mostly smooth and slender. No matter which type of tail a dragon sports, it can be a fearsome weapon!

Limbs

Dragons have six limbs – four legs and two arms which is where the wings are attached. The rear legs are slightly longer and more powerful than the front. They walk on all fours but can perch and balance on their rear legs, using their dexterous front feet like hands. They have five fingers and five toes that end in long, retractable razor-sharp talons and claws. They can also grip things with their front feet and, to some extent, with their rear ones although not as securely.

Wings

The wings of a dragon are based on the structure of an arm and resemble a bat’s wing. They consist of a thumb and four fingers. The thumb and fingers are extremely elongated. The fingers are connected by a leathery-looking membrane that also covers the bones of the arm. The thumb usually extends out and has a hooked claw on the end. The two wing-arms should not be confused with the Dragon’s front legs.

The wings are attached to the dragon’s back, usually close to the base of the tail, by super-strong and flexible cartilage and muscles. This allows the dragon to fly in a horizontal position and for the tail to act as a rudder. This configuration also allows an incredible degree of maneuverability and a greater surface for the wings.

The wings of a Dragon appear to be leathery or membranous. They are actually covered in extremely fine, tough scales. A dragon can rustle its wings, causing a sound similar to a rattlesnake shaking its rattler. Note: A wyvern only has four limbs. Its front two are modified arms where the wings are attached.

Scales

A dragon’s body is almost completely covered with shiny, iridescent scales that are almost as tough as Kevlar. The scales are pentagonal, and shaped like a teardrop, with two long sides and two shorter ones, and a very short fifth side attached to the dragon’s thick, leathery skin. The dragon can make them stand on end (ruffle them) whenever they want to preen them. Some dragons have smoother scales that look more like a serpent’s scales. However, other than fitting together differently, they are the same tough scales as the overlapping ones.Dragons are very clean creatures and take great care to keep their skin and scales clean and immaculate. They also often roll in sand to help shine the scales and bathe in fresh, clean water. Dragons particularly enjoying showering under waterfalls.

In their normal position, the scales overlap very neatly and tightly. A tiny cavity on the surface of each scale allows them to fit into each other. This affords the dragon total freedom of movement. By studying a scale closely, it can be seen that the innermost part is composed of tiny primitive feathers that are firmly rooted in the dragon’s epidermis. On the feather’s follicle, there are tiny glands that secrete a substance which adheres firmly to the skin. This secretion is rich in minerals, which determine the hardness and color of the dragon’s scales.

The external surface of the scale has a horny, translucent texture, which gives the scales their luster and iridescence. The smaller scales on their backs, heads, back of the neck, the topside of the tail, and the wings form intricate and beautiful patterns that are unique to each dragon. The iridescent sheen of the scales distinguishes them from the dead-alive dragon known as drakhmar.

The dragon’s scales also have chromatophores, which are pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells. Dragons can rapidly change colors, usually ruffling their scales at the same time, so it seems like the colors are flashing. This ability to color-flash serves as a warning, a greeting, or sometimes camouflage.

Larger, harder overlapping scales, sometimes in a contrasting lighter color, adorn the underside of their throats, belly, and tail. These scales tend to be duller and lighter in color. They also do not fit together as tightly as the smaller scales making a dragon’s underside vulnerable to wounding.

Colors and Patterns

A dragon’s colors and patterns run the gamut of the natural spectrum (avian and reptile). Males tend to have more vibrant colors and patterns than females, but not to the same extent as dimorphic species of birds. A male’s head and body ornamentation (scutes, horns, etc.) are also more pronounced than a female’s.

White and gray Dragons are rare. Most off-color hatchlings are killed by their clutch mates or even their parents as they are considered weak and something of an aberration. They also tend to be smaller and more delicate than other dragons. However, this is not always the case. If a female lays a clutch of one or two eggs, they could easily grow to full size and strength.

Morphs

Morph refers to the type of scales a dragon presents from leathery to serpent-like. For example, a dragon might be identified as a blue leatherback. If someone says that a dragon is a “blue”, it is implied that they are blue in color with the standard overlapping scales.

  • Standard: This is the most ancient type of scales, the standard heavily armored overlapping appearance.
  • Leatherback: It has a smooth back and no spikes on their body except for sides and head. As a result, its color appears more vivid.
  • Silkback (Silkies): The silkback or ‘silkie’ dragons are soft as silk with a body that appears almost scaleless. Their color is even more brilliant than leatherbacks. They are considered one of the most beautiful of all dragon morphs.

Eyes

Dragons have stunningly beautiful eyes that are set forward and slightly to the side of their head. They are large and almond or oval-shaped. The pupils may be round or vertical slits. The base color is usually the same as the dominant color of their scales (blue, black, brown, green, gold, etc.). Like the opal gemstones that they resemble, the irises contain tiny sparks of other colors. A dragon’s eyes flash or change color with their moods. Swirls, bands, and flecks of other colors add to their beauty. A Dragon can also express its mood by rapidly changing the size of the pupils. This is called pinning or flashing.

More details can be found in the section on Vision.

Ornamentation

Dragons sport a whole range of ornamentation over and above their colors, scales, and patterns. Many have horns, scutes, frills, spikes, and spines. These features can be very pronounced or more subtle. These features can be on their heads, necks, down their backs, or on their tails. Very few dragons are totally devoid of ornamentation.

Most ornamentation serves a purpose. It is either defensive or comes into play when the dragon is ready to mate. It can be plain in appearance or very elaborate and colorful. It also serves as an individual’s identification, part of the self-image of their personal name for themselves.

Definition of Scute: A scute or scutum (Latin scutum, plural: scuta “shield”) is a bony external plate or scale overlaid with horn, as on the shell of a turtle, the skin of crocodilians, and the feet of birds.

The Senses

Since a dragon is, first and foremost, a hunter and a predator, they have highly developed senses. Hearing, vision, taste, touch, and smell are all geared for dealing with large and dangerous prey. They also aid the dragon when doing battle with one another or defending against the Dark Horde.

Hearing

The dragon’s ear openings are slightly above and behind their eyes. They exhibit specialized hearing functions and ear shapes that also aid in hunting. They are noted for asymmetrical ear placements on the skull. Dragons can have either internal or external ears, both of which are asymmetrical. Asymmetrical ear placement on the skull allows the dragon to pinpoint the location of its prey. With ears set at different places on its skull, a dragon can determine the direction from which the sound is coming by the minute difference in time that it takes for the sound waves to penetrate the left and right ears. The dragon turns its head until the sound reaches both ears at the same time, at which point it is directly facing the source of the sound.

Vision

A dragon’s eyesight is comparable to that of hawks, eagles, and owls. Their eyes are set forward and slightly to the side of their head. They can see equally well in the dark and light.

Dragons have eyelids that close during sleep. For blinking, they also have an inner eyelid called a nictitating membrane. Every three or four seconds, the nictitating membrane slides across the eye from front to back, wiping dirt and dust from the cornea. Because the membrane is translucent, the dragon can see even while it is over the eye. The third eyelid closes when they are exhaling fire. It is literally a flame shield.

All dragons are renowned for their excellent eyesight. They have two centers of focus that allow them to see forward and to the side at the same time. A dragon is capable of seeing fish or their favorite prey, juvenile kraken and giant squid, in the water from several hundred feet above, while soaring, gliding or in flapping flight.

Dragons, like birds, have color vision. A Dragon’s eye is somewhat larger than a human’s, and its sharpness is at least four times that of a person with perfect vision. The Dragon can probably identify a rabbit moving almost a mile away. That means that a dragon flying at an altitude of 1000 feet over open country could spot prey over an area of almost 3 square miles from a fixed position.

The colored part of the eye is called the iris. It has tiny muscles that control the size of the pupil, which, in turn, controls the intensity of the light that enters the eye. The ability to reduce the pupils to slits rather than circles gives the Dragon a greater level and more accurate control over the amount of light that enters their eyes. This ability is particularly important in bright sunlight. When the dragon’s eyelids close at right angles to the vertical pupil, the amount of light can be reduced even further. This combination allows the dragon to make incredibly delicate adjustments to the light that reaches its eyes compared to most other animals.

A dragon’s eyes also possess an additional structure called a tapetum. This is the reflective layer that lies underneath the retina. It acts as a mirror and bounces light back toward the retina a second time. Like many other animals, this makes the Dragon able to see up to five times better than humans in the dark.

Smell

It is believed that dragons have the most robust sense of smell of all creatures on Aereth. The area that controls their sense of smell is five times the size of humans. A dragon’s sense of smell is 2,100 times better than that of a human. Dragons use this keen sense of smell to find food and mates and avoid danger. A dragon can detect an animal’s carcass that is about 20 miles away, and males can follow a sexually receptive female’s scent over 100 miles.

Taste

Dragons have approximately 200,000 taste buds. In comparison, a human has around 10,000. This might seem like a tremendously large number, but a dragon has a substantially larger tongue as well. They also have smell receptors that allow them to taste the air, similar to how a snake does.

Touch

Dragons have a keen sense of touch which is on par with that of a human. A dragon’s scales have extremely fine hair-like feathery organs that focus their sense of touch. Unless they are molting, pulling a scale off is extremely painful!

Echolocation

A dragon uses echolocation for communicating with one another and for locating objects in their surrounding environments, especially while in flight. Regardless of whether dragons use echolocation for social purposes, such as communication, or for finding and avoiding obstacles, the mechanism of echolocation uses the same techniques. A dragon can generate beams or waves of clicking sounds, then pause to wait for a response, either from another dragon or from an object.

Dragons emit noises for echolocation by creating tiny vibrations with their phonic lips. This movement is similar to the humming sounds that humans produce, but it produces a much more complex range of sounds. After emitting sounds, dragons pause for a few seconds to receive important feedback about their surroundings. Depending on the length of time it takes for a wave to produce an echo and the duration of the echo produced, they can identify the size, shape, and distance of objects, including stationery items such as buildings, trees, and mountains.

When in flight, dragons use echolocation to check the speed at which they are traveling (relative to nearby objects) and also to track the path of creatures moving toward them. They can even identify the internal structure or composition of objects (lighter weight objects produce more echoes and vibrations) to get an understanding of their surroundings.

Bloodsense

Dragons have the ability to smell or sense similar genetic components in each other’s blood. This does not lead to joyful family reunions. It exists to keep siblings and close blood relations from mating.

Biology

Average body temperature: 103º to 105º

While there are differences, a dragon’s internal layout does not significantly differ from that of most chordates. The brain resides in the head and is protected by the bones of the skull. Also, within the upper part of the skull are fat-filled cavities that work like the organ known as the melon in dolphins. Dragons use this for echolocation.

Dragons also have small brain nodules that help manage and control their massive tails. They have a large four-chambered heart that is designed to pump blood at maximum efficiency.

Skeleton and Musculature

The musculature of a dragon resembles that of reptiles, mammals, and birds. It is made up of striated and smooth muscles.

A dragon’s bones have more in common with birds. They are exceedingly strong although their internal structure is honeycombed rather than solid which makes them lighter.

Nervous System

Like mammals, dragons have a well-developed neurological system defined by a brain, spinal cord and nervous system. The primary brain is located in the skull. Dragons also have small brain nodules that help manage and control their massive tails. 

Respiration

Dragons have a unique and amazingly efficient respiratory system. Upon inhalation, 75% of the fresh air bypasses the lungs and flows directly into a posterior air sac, which extends from the lungs and connects with air spaces in the bones and fills them with air. The other 25% of the air goes directly into the lungs. When a dragon exhales, the used air flows out of the lungs, and the stored fresh air from the posterior air sac is simultaneously forced into the lungs. Thus, a dragon’s lungs receive a constant supply of fresh air during both inhalation and exhalation.

Circulatory System

Dragons use both hemoglobin and hemocyanin, a copper-containing protein, rather than just hemoglobin, to transport oxygen. As a result, their blood is colorless when deoxygenated and turns blue when exposed to air. Hemocyanin also makes the Dragon resistant to most cancers.

They have a large four-chambered heart that is designed to pump blood at maximum efficiency. There is another organ near the tail region that serves to give the blood an additional push.

Digestion

Dragons are omnivores, meaning they have two different types of teeth: sharp teeth for tearing meat and flat teeth for grinding plants. The flat grinding teeth, molars, are also used to grind rocks and bones. Even terrestrial dragons will dive deep to find and graze on various forms of kelp and seaweed. If they reside too far inland to easily access these items, they will consume freshwater plants.

Like birds, dragons have a two-chambered stomach. The first chamber, the proventriculus, acts the same way human stomachs do, secreting acid for breaking down food. The second chamber is called the gizzard and is where the magic begins.

Dragons are known to feed on livestock, and large megafauna such as the giant bison, elk, terror birds, etc. Sometimes they swallow such prey without bothering to completely tear the meat from the bones. The hard bones could prove to be an issue for digestion, giving dragons a need to grind up and swallow rocks to aid in the digestion process. However, unlike in birds, this process is actually also responsible for providing dragons with another component of their fire-breathing powers.

Assuming that dragons follow the same digestive process as birds, then dragons will have leftover food and acid remaining in its two stomachs after the digestive processes have been completed. Bacteria in the intestines feed on these undigested food particles and release intestinal gases composed of hydrogen and methane through the process of fermentation.

In humans, these intestinal gases would be excreted through burping, bloating, and flatulence. In dragons, the hydrogen and methane are stored in its body in numerous small gastric sacs called gastric bladders. When needed for flight or the exhalation of fire, dragons can inflate an organ called the third lung from these gas reserves.

Reproduction

The Sexes

Dragons exhibit limited dimorphism between the sexes. There are distinct differences between the genders. Male dragon colors, patterns, and ornamentation are more pronounced than a queen’s, except when she is rising. During the period that she is most fertile, a female’s colors rival that of males.

Females tend to be larger through the girth and body than males who are somewhat more supple and slender looking. This is because the female has to have internal room for their egg-sac where eggs are incubated for several months after fertilization.

Queens

Dragon queens are somewhat larger than male dragons. The largest ones are the dragons that usually challenge a reigning Empress.

Mating

Dragons are monogamous and mate for life. However, if one of a pair Crosses or becomes a drakhmar, the other will likely mate again at some point.

Juvenile and fledgling dragons are sexually active, but they do not form mating bonds, and the females are not yet fertile. Both genders will engage in mock mating flights, competitions, and battles. This prepares them for when it is time for them to take a lifemate.

By the time a dragon reaches sexual maturity, their colors will have deepened and become more vibrant. The iridescence of their scales is more pronounced, denoting that they are ready to mate and bond.

Unbonded drakes only compete for mates when a female rises for the first time or when a female enters estrus after losing her lifemate. When the biological imperative can no longer be ignored – approximately every 7 years – a female will go into a mating flight. Her scales will be at their most brilliant – as will the always flamboyantly colored males. Several males compete to win the female with mating songs, demonstrations of their flying ability, and mock battles that usually end at first blood. It is rare for a drake to challenge a rex, but it does happen on occasion.

Once the female has chosen, there follows an elaborate mating flight that involves much screaming, aerial acrobatics, and even gripping one another’s talons and free falling. Mating flights (also called mating dances) are joyous and spectacular. After the mating flight, the male still has to impress the female with how well he has furnished the bower chamber of his aerie. This is the final stage of acceptance and where actual mating occurs.

Gestation

Internal Incubation: 10 months

External Incubation: 2 months

Total Time: 12 months (fertilization of eggs to hatching).

All queens (female dragons) are fertile and will produce several clutches of eggs throughout their adult lifetime. Females have an internal womb for the incubation of eggs which will be laid in a nest two months before hatching. A female’s reproductive cycles are not carved in stone. She can usually bear another clutch within a few years of the hatching of a previous one. Mating flights happen as the female feels healthy enough and ready to gestate and brood a new clutch.

Some females have been known to lay anywhere from eight to ten eggs. Quality is preferred over quantity. Ideal clutches consist of two to four eggs, which are the optimum number for producing strong, healthy hatchlings. Larger clutches tend to produce weak hatchlings, and the clutch mates will vie for nourishment, often killing the weaker ones.

Female dragons gestate their eggs inside their womb or egg-sac for ten months. As the female becomes more gravid, she will fly less, preferring to remain inside of the aerie except for when she is hunting for food to satisfy her ravenous appetite. In the tenth month, the female will give the location of the rookery (if it isn’t located within the siege area) to her lifemate. The drake will leave to prepare the nest site. The female joins the male in time to lay her eggs in the hot volcanic soil. The heat of the soil will complete the incubation. The intense heat also helps disguise the scent and hide the eggs from predators. Male and female take turns to guard the nest and hunting.

When the eggs hatch, the parents will hunt to feed themselves and their offspring for another two to three months. At the end of this period, the surviving hatchlings will be ferried by their parents to their siege’s hatchling creche where their care is taken over by juvenile and fledgling Dragon, Gwerin, and Morrighan cadets. With their parental duties done, the pair returns to active duty with the siege.

Empress Eggs

Empress eggs and hatchlings do not significantly differ from their clutch mates until they reach sexual maturity (approximately 1200 – 1500 years). This is the only protection nature provides.

On a humorous note…

Females will continue to experience strong maternal urges even after surrendering her hatchlings to the creche. This can last for several days or several weeks. During this time, she will often try feeding her Morrighan (if imprinted) or caring for other biped members of the siege. 

Health

The Dragon are incredibly resistant to common diseases and, in general, are a very healthy species overall. This, in large part, is because weak hatchlings are rarely allowed to survive.

Health Challenges

Egg Binding: Females that come into estrus too young and try to mate might suffer from egg binding. If the eggs are not expelled from the body, egg binding occurs and can be fatal.

Slipworm: Internal parasites that closely resemble the lamprey. Dragon can become infected with slipworms if they consume meat that contain the eggs. Slipworm larvae will migrate through the host’s body to the brain, eventually causing madness and death.

Merasha: This is a narcotic that can render a Dragon unconscious or even kill them if administered in large enough doses. Merasha also interrupts all of their magical abilities including teleportation and shapeshifting. Dragonslayers often use merasha to disable a dragon so they can extract the eyes.

Life Cycle

Unlike creatures of any size in the wild, dragons have the luxury of growing slowly. This allows them to achieve their maximum length and mass without undue stress. Few, if any, dragons have developmental issues.

Age

Stage

Development

0 – 6 months Hatchling Fed by parents in the rookery nest while scales harden.
6 months – 5 years Nestling Live in siege’s nursery creche attended by Morrighan candidates, cadets, and juvenile dragons.
5 – 100 yrs. Crechling Still unfledged, wings are still growing; learn to hunt on foot.
100 – 500 yrs. Fledgling Wings fully grown, but the dragon has not reached its full growth. Starts exercising its wings and doing test flights. Cannot launch from the ground so has to take off from cliffs, bluffs, low hillocks.
500 – 2000 Juvenile Juveniles still have a great deal to learn and are still growing. They need to become adept fliers and hunters. Their emotions are still in flux and they are learning to control all of their abilities.
2000 yrs. onward Adult Dragons have reached their full length and weight. They have become adept fliers and hunters. Now that they are sexually mature, they will be ready to find a lifemate. This is also when they are ready to imprint. Adult dragons have likely been blooded in battle. There is no such thing as old age amongst dragons. However, they respect their elders since they have had the wisdom to survive!

End of Life

Dragons become aware of the Song of Airsith when they are still in the egg. The *Song* is specific to each dragon. This is a form of genetic memory or knowledge. While in the egg, the song soothes them. Once they hatch, it will quieten for many years. However, at some point, usually when the dragon is many thousands of years old, the song will resume. It will grow stronger and stronger until the dragon cannot hear anything else and spends long days simply lying still and listening to it.

At this point, the dragon will usually petition the Anemoi (the Four Winds) to come for them. They will sever any remaining bonds (lifemate, Morrighan) and then Cross through the Veil. Their body shimmers out of existence and is reformed as their Anam (spirit or soul).

As they pass through the veil, their physical eyes harden into stunningly beautiful gemstones (similar to fire opals though far harder). These gemstones have the magical property of having a very strong connection to the Ley. The Anemoi scatter the Dragoneyes around the world.

Dragoneye Gemstones

Dragons do not experience physical death like other people and creatures on Aereth. If they are mortally injured or approaching death due to disease, they will call the Anemoi (Four Winds) to escort them through the Veil so they may continue their journey along the Sword of Light. As they pass through the portal, their physical body becomes one of pure energy. All that remain behind are two stunning gemstones with the appearance of Earth opals that have the base color of the dragon’s irises with brilliant flecks of fire deep within them.

The dragon’s eyes are believed to be their physical connection to Aereth, the Ley, and the vessels that connects their Anam (soul) to their physical body. Therefore, as the dragon’s connection to the physical world is severed, the eyes are left behind in the form of the Dragoneye gems.

The shape of the gemstones varies. They cannot be polished or cut and shaped although they naturally vary in size. No pair are exactly alike another pair. There will be slight variations in base color and in the number and color of the fiery sparks in them. Dragoneyes do not have any actual powers themselves nor do they convey any sort of power on those that possess them. What they do is enhance the connection to the Ley, both Light, and Dark. This, in turn, will make a user’s spells, hexes, and other arcane workings far more powerful. To find even one Dragoneye is a boon, to have an actual pair is rare and quite phenomenal. When the Four Winds scatter them, they do not usually land together.

Sadly, there are beings – Murians, Travelers, and others – that hunt dragons for their eyes. If extracted from the living dragon, they will still harden into fantastic gems. They are immensely valuable to those that use the arcane. The downside is that the murdered Dragon cannot make the Crossing and is resurrected as a drakhmar, the personification of evil in dragon form.