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The Draig or Dragons

"You can never have enough dragons"

A Draig yr AnialrThe Dragons of Dirt, or Draig as they are more properly known, may be less numerous than humans but they play an important part in society that can be easily overlooked. The number of different types of dragons, inaccurately described as species, is a thing of speculation since some, especially the smaller and flightless dragons, have become isolated, much diminished in number and have been forgotten or consigned to myth.

The dragons are broadly separated into two groups, the greater dragons such as the Draig Morglas, the Draig yr Anialr (pictured) and the Draig Mynyth Coh, and the lesser dragons which include the Draig Bach-Iachawr and the flightless Draig Gwas Certhen.

Greater dragons range in size from the Draig Gwas Meyn, the yellow plains dragon, which is about the size of two or three oxen, to the large Draig Mynyth Coh, the Red Mountain Dragon, the largest of which are huge, the size of "a good sized tavern and can drink the stock in one sitting,"  as some have commented.  Bren-Hemon is regarded as the largest Red to have lived and he was more than twice the size of the largest dragons.

Lesser Dragons are much smaller.  Some of the flightless dragons are human sized though all of the flighted dragons are at least the size of a horse.

Dragons are known for their literacy and love of words.  Unlike with human populations where illiteracy is the norm, it is rare to find a dragon that cannot read and write by the time they are thirty years of age.  Despite this, most of their history is passed through oral tradition, not written.

The link between Humans and Dragons is, to the say the least, contentious with many agreeing that both groups need each other to survive.  In the past this has been controversial as the human population has increased while the dragon population, always the least numerous, has decreased.  However, it has been noted by some that as humans and dragons have drifted further apart, both populations have suffered.

Longevity

Dragons, all dragons, live considerably longer than humans.  Some of the dragon peoples, especially the red dragons, can live up to a thousand years, though the lesser dragons normally do not live more than six hundred or so.  There have been exceptions. 

This long life has caused problems between humans and dragons; dragons are quick to point out that if a local human population makes huge changes, that they will not live to see the long term consequences whereas the dragons will, dramatically so.  As such dragons tend to look at the world in a very different way to humans.  Dragons are far more patient, are far more inclined to a "live and let live" attitude which humans can find frustrating.  

It affects other aspects of dragon life too.  Dragons are far less attached to the idea of family than humans.  They do not use a family name, though there was a tradition for a while that male dragons of a line all shared the same name, and do not feel an automatic need for connection through blood.  A generation for dragons is normally regarded as around three hundred years which is a long time to stay loyal to one family.  Additionally, many female dragons will choose not to have young; they are not so automatically attracted to the idea as humans and will not assume that their children will stay subservient to the parent for hundreds of years.  This, unfortunately, has led to a general decline in populations.

Despite a naturally long life, dragons are as vulnerable as other creatures.  Strangely, they do not cope with illness and disease as well as humans and they are not always good at fighting off infections. This is particularly true of the great dragons.  Mab-Tok, the great healer, often complained that he had never managed to find a truly effective pain killer for large dragons; the size appears to be a major obstacle.

It is mistakenly thought that such a large animal must have impenetrable hide, but this is not so.  Despite the shiny look of some dragons' skins, especially the Sea Dragons and the wondrous Sky Dragons, they are not scaled and their skin is smooth and warm.  It is thicker than human skin, obviously, but it can be cut and pierced and the fighting Desert Dragons wear thick, cured, Oothen hides for protection.  

Origins

Like many species, the origins of the dragons is a mystery.  Certainly they have been little changed in the last thirty or forty millennia.

They are of the grouping Hexapods, as are the Callistons, Oothen (Rathen) and various small species of deer like animals and some rodents.  This has caused confusion amongst natural historians as they question how both quadrupeds, like humans and horses, and hexapods  managed to develop; surely there is no relationship between the two.

There is an additional confusion because some of the flightless dragons show no sign of joints for wings, effectively making them quadrupeds.  This writer suspects that this along with the arguments about shared heritage with Callistons will outlast the sun.

Dragon House made of Hide and Trees

Peoples - Species

Although dragons vary hugely by both size and colouring, let alone some being flightless, it is possible for them to mate between peoples and produce a child.  However, success is incredibly rare and where it does occur, the child always takes on the characteristics of the mother.  Consequently, you never get a dragon who is "half sea dragon and half red dragon."  If the mother is a sea dragon, then so too will be the offspring.  Affairs between different dragons is not uncommon however! 

In reality this probably means that describing the various dragons as "species" is probably inaccurate and the dragons themselves tend to use the word Peoples (lythenau, in their own language which also means tribe), though the word species is used sometimes.

The names of the various peoples is confusing and the origins of the names are long since lost to distant history.  Often the names refer to colouring or other attributes rather than any particular association with an area. Of particular confusion is the Red Mountain Dragons.  Although they have lived in the Red Mountains, they are not exclusive to the region and it is purely a coincidence in names. 

Below is an incomplete list of Dragon Peoples starting with the people to which the famous Fren-Eirol belongs, the Sea Dragons.  Please note that dragons are as likely to use the Adelan word, such as Sea Dragon, as their own language.

Draig Morglas - Sea Dragons

(Pron: Draig MOR-glass)

One of the greater dragons there are two varieties of Sea Dragon, the blue and grey dragons and the green and grey dragons of the Missing Sea.  By far the most numerous are the blue and grey Draig Morglas.

Their name refers to the shimmering grey and light blue of their skin and patternation and to the white and blue of their wings which some describe as looking like cresting waves when they fly.  Like many dragons, their wings are a little diaphanous and the light from a bright sun will seem to make the wings glow.

They are the second largest of the Dragon Peoples, though they are dwarfed by some of the largest Reds, but they have slim front forelimbs with delicate hands.

In keeping with their name, they are fond of coastal locations as they eat a lot of fish and are famously bad at farming, though they do cultivate various vegetables and herbs for use with fish and they like roasting large fish wrapped in the native palm leaves found in in southern regions.

They are famous for their printed cottons and silks which they use for the light, flowing robes and long trailing scarves they wear.  Clothing amongst the dragon peoples is a purely decorative affair or used for protection; it is never used for modesty and dragons are invariably naked.

Sea dragons also make woven rugs and quilts which are used in their large, single room dwellings.  All these items are also valuable in trade and their silks are much sought after.

They do not have the stamina of the slightly smaller Draig yr Anialr nor do they have the speed, but they are powerful fliers none the less and are one of the highest of fliers, being able to take good advantage of the very high winds that circulate around Dirt.

Draig Mynyth Coh - Red Mountain Dragons

(Pron: Draig muu-nuuth-coh)

More often known as Red Dragons or simply Reds, the huge beasts are the largest of the greater dragons (note that the famous Black Dragons though bigger are not regarded as part of the Greater Dragon family.)

Often twice the size of the average Draig Morglas,  they are longer and more thickly set in the body and their forearms are much heavier and stronger.  Their heads tend to have a wider shape with a shorter snout relative to the head shape and males have four long horns that sweep back from their heads for five or six feet.

They are popularly portrayed as having fierce, jovial personalities though this is a stereotype based on some famous members of their people such as Bren-Hemon and Bren-Aneirin and they are often a thoughtful people.  However, they boast some of the best singers of the dragon peoples and are the source of many tales and songs.

Like all the dragon peoples, Draig Mynyth Coh live in small community villages and live a cooperative lifestyle.  They are great farmers growing cereals and breeding livestock and are famous for their beer.  "Reds make the best beer," is a claim you will hear from both dragons and humans and it has been an important source of trade. 

Despite their much larger forearms and hands, they are surprisingly good at delicate metalwork and smaller females especially make jewellery using chain linking and wirework which they sell to human populations.   This has lead to some Red Dragon communities taking part in open-cast mining which is the nearest dragons come to owning land in a way recognisable by human society and law.  This is unusual, however.

Red Dragons are gregarious by nature and of all the dragon peoples are the quickest to make firm friends and trade with the human communities.  It is sometimes surprising to note, in consequence, that as relations between humans and dragons became ever more distant, the Red Dragons were one of the first groups to isolate themselves and have little or nothing to do with human neighbours, especially in Dwy-Earde (in ancient Adelan), later known as the Prelates. It has been postulated that this may well have been because the Red Dragons, so quick to friendship by nature, simply did not understand the slowly growing separation with their human neighbours.

Draig Mynyth Coh are the slowest of the great dragons in the air, especially at lower altitudes, but there have been a few notable exceptions with young females.  Be-Alene, an unusually small, young red dragon living in the Bain Hills was notable for being even faster than some of the desert dragons, especially at low altitudes.  She was also famed for having a beautiful soprano voice.

Draig Bach-Iachawr

(Pron: Draig bak AHY -ar-cow)

One of the lesser dragons, they are fond of woodland locations and like hunting smaller animals, sometimes with long bows and spears.  The largest of their number are bigger than a large Bekon Brown draught horse and the smallest the size of a small horse.

They are most famous for their healing abilities which is unknown among any other dragon aside from the Draig Wen and have developed a very rich herbal lore. They tend to be very intelligent and distrustful of others and though some of their number live with other dragon peoples, many isolate themselves from both dragon and human communities. 

Iachawr are noted for their sharp night vision and being able to carry surprising weight for their small stature.  However, they have trouble reaching the highest winds and cannot breathe at the same altitude as can the greater dragons.

The most famous of their number was probably Mab-Tok who not only mixed with all dragons freely and lived for some years at Taken, but also lived to a greater age than was usual.  He was probably the greatest healer of his time and his knowledge of herbs and other natural concoctions was extraordinary. 

Draig yr Anialr -  Desert Dragons

(Pron: Draig eer-AN-yah)

The Desert Dragons are unique amongst the greater dragons as being the people who continued in a close relationship with human communities long after relations had faltered with the other peoples.  Unknown in the Prelates, they lived in communities along the border hills of the Eastern Plains in Bind and, most famously, in the hill town of Ponack in the Sand Hills of the north.

As with other dragons, their name more reflects their colouring than where they live.  They are sandy brown in colouring with large areas of cream though some have very pale brown marking making them seem almost white in bright sunlight.

Slimmer and a little smaller than Sea Dragons they have narrower and slightly longer wings.  They are the fastest of the greater dragons and can fly at height far longer than others.

Although all dragon peoples are peaceful by nature, the Desert Dragons have set themselves apart by deciding to protect human communities close to their home in the Eastern Plains.  Over time, they developed very close relationships with some of these people and developed the pairings of dragons and riders that is so famous.

They are a quick-witted people not known for subtlety or reserve and will make their opinions known honestly and forthrightly.  This has not always won them friends but their fierce loyalty and intolerance of what they see as injustice has brought them huge respect.

Outside of the town of Ponack, the Draig yr Anialr live in small farming communities and fishing communities.  They are famous for their leather work with the tough Oothen hides.  Other communities not associated with Ponack tend to be private and reserved. 

Like many dragons, they are fond of water and will play for hours in the surf.  All dragons can swim, but the desert dragons are probably more accomplished swimmers than others, possibly because of their slim shape.

Draig Awyr - Sky Dragons

(pron: Draig Ow-eer)

The Sky dragons are regarded as the most beautiful of all the dragons. Of similar size to the Draig yr Anialr, but even slimmer in body, they can look so delicate as to seem breakable. However, they are a greater dragon and very strong.  They have a light blue colouring  with tinges of white and pale green with a very glossy, reflective texture to their skin.  Their wings are the most diaphanous of all the dragons.

The Sky dragons have the largest eyes of the great dragons and are very sensitive to changes in light and hue.  They are the most accomplished of artists and their knowledge of colours and the production of dyes and inks is second to none.

They do not have a strong preference as to where they live with some choosing coastal locations and other choosing mountainous locations, but light is very important to them and the most artistic will seek out high valley locations where they believe the thinner air leads to a better place to paint.

The Draig Awyr are empathetic with many other creatures, including humans to some extent, and can pick up emotions very easily. 

Draig yr Tirin - Ice Dragons

(Pron: Draig eer-TEER-rin)

Ice Dragons are some of the few dragons who are possibly named for the regions within which they prefer to live.  All dragons have a huge tolerance for cold temperatures, but Ice Dragons struggle with warmer latitudes and will avoid those regions.

In the Prelates, they famously lived in the North Hoar Ridge and even into Hoar North a little and their diet is strictly fish or hunted bear.  They have worked closely with many of the peoples of the far north, most notably the hunters and fishermen of the Ice Lands and some of the ancient warring nations of the Northern wastes.  However, as with other dragon peoples, they have isolated themselves more and more over the millennia.

They are slightly smaller than Sea Dragons in stature and are thinner build, but longer in body than desert dragons.  They are a deep grey-blue in colour, tinged with dark green, but often have strong white bands running down from their crown to their nose; males especially.

The most famous of their number was Bren-Diath who became caretaker of the Neauth on Taken.

Draig Gwas Meyn

(Pron: Draig gwass mayn)

The Yellow Plains dragon are one of the smallest of the great dragons.  They are of slim build and have a slightly arched back with long, soft spines down their length to their tale.   They are a pale fawn in colour and are hunters who favour the bow.  Although good in flight, they fly far less often than other dragon peoples and are very much wedded to their farms.

Draig Yns Mynyth

(pron: Draig eerns-muu-nuuth)

The Mountain Island dragons are similar to the desert dragons; indeed, the two can easily be confused.  However, they are slimmer and more delicate like the sky dragons.

They are noted singers and herders but are not great hunters.  Like the Draig yr Anialr they work with leather and also metal.

Draig Gwas Certhen

(Pron: Draig gwass-KEER-then

The small Walking Plains Dragon is a flightless dragon, slimmer and taller than the Draig Bach-Iachawr.  

They live in larger communities than many of their greater cousins and stick to moorland and heathland.  They are herders, though they are also accomplished hunters and are known for their gentle voices which has earned them the name Draig Sibrun, the whispering dragon.

Goman

(pron: GOH-man)

Although goman are dragons they are not of either the greater or lesser dragons but rather are a domesticated dragon bred in the West.

Their origins are unknown but appear to be a cross-breed from a now extinct, more primitive non-speaking small flighted dragon and possibly another creature of the same family.

They were used as flying horses, effectively, by archers of the Heinela Cwendrin and were of a similar size to a horse.  They had very limited intelligence like a horse and a herd mentality.  They were browsers and vegetarians.

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Territory

Dragons are simply not territorial at all and do not really understand the concept of borders.  It is felt that this is the result of being able to fly; it is difficult to be protective of your territory if your neighbour can simply fly overhead. They also do not completely understand the idea of owning land, though they will fit in with human customs in this regard.

However, dragons are protective about their homes and villages; the are not fiercely protective as humans might be, but they do like to have a home to call their own and the sense of belonging it brings.  Dragons are never nomadic.

Lies

There is a misunderstood idea that dragons are incapable of lying.  This is not strictly true, but more that they are very unlikely to tell one something that was completely untrue; it would make them feel uncomfortable and awkward and they would not understand the need.  They can be evasive, however, some more than others.  

Weasel joked that he used to try and get Bren-Aneirin to lie to Fren-Eirol about what they had been up to, but the big Red insisted on saying "I have a story," which rather undermined the whole plan.  It is unknown whether this is true.

Pairing

When a male and female dragon decide to commit to each other it is called a Pairing, though it is not dissimilar to a human marriage.  The male will take the prefix Bren to replace the Mab and the female Fren to replace the Be. Loosely translated this means king and queen, though it is of themselves, not others.   

There is no legal tradition of pairing as there is with marriage in some human populations, and many dragons will live in a partnership without ever adopting the titles.  It gives no legal status nor has it any officially prescribed ceremony, but is, rather, a personal matter.  Originally, an oath was taken by a male and female if they produced a child, but that fixed idea has lost its importance as in modern dragon society the children of dragons tend to be brought up by the entire community.  However, perhaps because of this origin, the titles are never used in same-sex relationships which are common in dragons. 

Where dragons have been paired as such and one dies, it is very rare that the remaining partner will pair again, though they will have relationships.  Traditionally it is seen as something that is only done once in a lifetime, and often after many, many years in a relationship.  Most dragons never commit to a pairing in this way and so the titles Mab and Be are far more common.

Confusingly, in the desert dragon community in Ponack, the relationship between a dragon and their rider is also called a pairing.   This recognises the extremely close bond that builds up between a dragon and their rider. Since humans live so much shorter lives than Desert Dragons, some Draig yr Anialr hesitate before taking a rider.  The inevitable death of their rider is often terribly traumatic for the dragon and it might be many years before they will consent to take another.  Many never do.

Flying

A common annoyance with dragons is having to point out to humans that they are not birds and for them flight has some differences.  Greater Dragons, in particular, have to put a huge effort into flying which needs incredible strength.  In consequence, they cannot fly until they are physically mature.  This is not normally until they are between twenty and thirty-five though for most it is in the late twenties; Draig Mynyth Coh are often late flyers.

Up until that time, they are effectively grounded.  Dragons mature emotionally much faster than they do physically, normally by early teens,  so they have a period of ten years or so when they will tend to take on jobs like farming or working around their village.

Dragons take off by  ducking slightly, leaning forward and pushing themselves forward with their powerful back legs in a similar way as does an eagle.  They can also run to aid take off and if in water will sometimes use cresting on a wave to help.  They use the winds and updraughts to help them gain height and will always fly as high as possible where there is less effort.  This causes problems when carrying a human since dragons can breathe at an incredible altitude that would be impossible for a human.  In consequence, when carrying a rider, a dragon is limited in both speed and height. 

Not all dragons can hover.  Of the greater dragons, the Desert Dragons are the best though they find it more difficult with a rider.  The Sea Dragons find hovering very difficult.

Most dragons can fly at speeds of up to 20 leagues in an hour, though desert dragons can fly considerable faster.  Cruising speed for most dragons is round eight leagues an hour.  Without a load and in the highest winds dragons fly for many hours, but when carrying riders or any weight they are reluctant to fly more than four hours continuously before they need to rest for a few hours.  The stronger birds, especially the mighty Scimrafugol can outpace a dragon over a long distance with ease.

Dragon Houses

Dragons have never been attracted to architecture in the same way as humans and any building is designed to fulfil a practical need such as shelter from the weather or to store harvested goods.

Dragons live in single-roomed houses that, for the most part, are constructed with bent tree trunks and covered with layers of cured and hardened hides and canvas.

Their size and shape and the need to accommodate wings and tail make multi-roomed housing impractical.  Permanent housing normally has a large circular fire towards one end of the house that is naturally vented through the roof and the floors are decorated with rugs and cloths.

Humans, although daunted by the size of some of the houses, especially those of the larger Reds, are often surprised how warm and comfortable dragon houses are.

Sky Dragons are the one exception as they will build stone houses in the high valleys and top them with wood and hide roofs.

In more established Dragon Villages, they will sometimes build a large meeting room which is a large tunnel-shaped affair.  These are never seen in Red Dragon villages as they would need to be huge and possibly impractical to build.

Singing and Storytelling

Although very literate, with their own pictorial script, dragons are not great keepers of records and written histories.   They have no central governments or regional administration and villages are run on a loose cooperative basis.

However, they love singing and storytelling and keep many histories alive that way, though with debatable accuracy.  The great singers are often seen as the Reds, though all dragon peoples have their songs and noted singers.   One of the greatest singers was Bren-Hevvin, a powerful Red who was the elder of the community in the Bain Hills of Bind.   His rich baritone voice was strong and clear and he sang with great emotion that would bring many to tears.  He would often teach other dragons to sing, composing vibrant and complex harmonies. He was also noted for his jovial half sung rhymes that were often far from polite.

Dragons are, by nature, emotional and can be quick to both anger and good humour, and their songs and stories reflect this.

Religion

In very ancient times Dragons shared with Humans and Callistons the religion that was known as Oelcraeft.   Although it died out millennia ago and generally the dragon people do not subscribe to any fixed religion, they do have their spiritual side and they will wish the dead a good journey as their spirits ascend Meindir Gydaynis, the mountain on Taken, to fly east to the next life. 

Politics

Without a sense of territory and preferring to live in small communities, Dragons do not have any political structure or wish for any.  There are two notable exceptions.  

The first was the council held in continuous session at the Neuath on Taken.  This was very much used as a place to air common grievances and was never used for the creation of policy for any group.  Not all dragons subscribed to this gathering, many seeing it as a place of gossip. The desert dragons of Ponack had no part in it and neither did most of the lesser dragons and it was primarily issues associated with Red Dragons, Sea Dragons and Ice Dragons.

The other was Ponack.  This was unusual not just for the close association with humans, which had once been common with all dragons millennia past, but because so many desert dragons lived in one place.  In the town itself, it was thought there were more than five hundred and at least that again in the surrounding villages.  The town administration was split into two.  The fighting dragons, who sold their services to help protect many of the smaller groups of plains people from the Keffre See,  were controlled by a Dragon Leader who would either be human or dragon.  The rest of the administration for the town itself and surrounding villages was by a council of both dragons and humans.

Wars

There is no record, either in written or oral histories, of wars between groups of dragons.  The dragon population is far smaller than human and most groups are many leagues from each other.

Although dragons can, and will if necessary, fight, and some are formidable foes, such as the desert dragons of Ponack, dragons are by nature peaceable.   Both Red dragons and Sea Dragons have to really feel extreme need before they will act with force and it is something they find terrible to live with.  Ice Dragons simply will not fight at all and will abandon home and all they love to avoid confrontation.  Personal fights between dragons, though not common, are known, but greater dragons, in particular, are so immensely strong, and yet are vulnerable to injury like any other warm-blooded, skinned creature, that fighting is dangerous and so avoided.

Without a sense of territory, the major cause of all wars simply does not exist for dragons.  However, they will fight where they see extreme injustice, for instance the protection force offered by the Desert Dragons in the Eastern Plains and the part played by the dragons in the Wars in the Prelates.  However, where the issues are obscured and there would be a risk that there might be dragons on either side of the battle, they simply refuse to take part and, as far as anyone knows, such an occurrence has never happened.