BestiaryDragons are few in these times, but they live still in those wild places which must be sought.
Of all the serpentine race, the Dragon is among the most wondrous strange.
Edward Topsell correctly says in his The Historie of Serpents: or the Second Book of Living Creatures; Wherein is contained their Divine, Natural and Morale Descriptions, with their lively Figures, Names, Conditions, Kindes and Natures of all Venomous Beasts: with their several Poisons and Antidotes; their deep hatred to Mankinde and the wonderful work of God in their Creation, and Destruction that dragons "Among all kindes of Serpentes, there is none comparable to the Dragon, or that affordeth and yeeldeth so much plentiful matter in Historie for the ample discovery of the nature thereof."
Part of their magic is their ability to fly, when they are yet so large. The secret lies in their consumption of bones, which they digest with Hydrochloric acid to produce Hydrogen. They embody chemical reaction and change. They make themselves what they are not, lighter than the air. The by product of their flight, is fire. In order to descend to earth, dragons release Hydrogen, some dragons have special teeth to create sparks, which they use to light the Hydrogen and the minds of all who see them.
The Dragon should not be confused into a mere one or two species. I have discovered a full seven varieties of Dragons, each distinct from the other. In this way, Dragons embody the pure nature of the celestial spheres, which also number seven. So too do each race of dragon possess mixed qualities of two of the four elements. They are therefore a fitting symbol for the process which yields the Philosophers stone.
The largest form of dragon is the sea dragon, which embodies the qualities of air and water. They live in the equatorial regions, particularly in the sea of Bengal.
They are blue green in color, all shades. Some I have seen are almost translucent, where others black in color.
Their bodies are long and slender and their relationship to the serpent is quite evident. Their heads are covered with a light fur and they have small beards, which make them look wise as they are. They have no limbs but for two wings, which are nearly half their size.
It is these wings which make them adept flyers. Their greatest joy is to fly in the midst of the wildest storm and navigate in the wind. When the longing to fly is upon them, they begin to sing with deep voices, which summons the rains to come. In the land of Chin, drought stricken regions often bring rain by honoring the sea dragons. Their power is not strange, for they live a full 3000 years, a celestial number, which is both divisible in its sum and indivisible in its parts. They know much which they do not share, for their speech cannot be learned by creatures of land.
They are strange in their habits, being not only omnivorous, but possessing three genders. The female is the largest gender. An adult female's diameter is 4ft, and she is 60ft long. Her two wings are 30ft by 15ft in area, and collapse to her body as fins. An adult male's diameter is 3ft and he is 60ft long, with wings of 30ft by 15ft in diameter. The adult neuter is 4ft in diameter, and 45ft long. It is much more ungainly in comparison to the other two genders, with wings of 20ft by 10ft in area. There are nine pinions in their wings, which are covered by a thick membrane.
Sea dragons live in groups made up of males, females, neuters, and offspring. They reproduce every thirty years, and become fertile at the age of 150 years old. The females lay about a 100 eggs in tide pools, which the males fertilize. The offspring, emerge into a tadpole stage, in which many die because of predators. Those which survive swim into the womb of the neuter. The Neuter, which cannot fly while gravid, is fed by the males and females in the group. It is pregnant for 13 months, and extremely vulnerable during that period. Many unscrupulous hunters kill neuters during this period for their skins and blood, which bring fertility. Infants when borne are 4in in diameter, 2 1/2ft long, with wings 1ft by 1/2ft in area. They can swim immediately, though they are still vulnerable to predators, and can fly within eight weeks.
It is these young dragons which are often confused with the Jungle dragons, which are an entirely different species. These dragons are the flighty cousins of the dragon world. They embody the earth in its vegetal aspect and the air.
They are light to dark red, which should distinguish them from the sea dragons, though they dwell in jungle equatorial regions, often near the sea, which leads to the confusion.
Apart from color, Jungle dragons have two legs and two wings. The adult female has a tail 2ft long, her body is 3/4ft with a 1ft long neck, and her head is 1/2ft long. Her wings are 1 1/2ft by 1/2ft in area. The adult male has a tail 2ft long, body 1ft, a neck 1ft long, and a head 1/2ft in size. His wings are 2ft by 3/4ft in area.
They use color and songs to attract members of the opposite sex, in rather incessant mating rituals. I do not believe I ever saw a Jungle dragon, which was not in heat, though the number of offspring would imply a selective fertile period. Females lay 40-50 eggs, which they abandon at birth. About 2 to 4 of those eggs survive to adulthood. Their eyes are open almost from hatching. They finish adolescence by age 10 and are the shortest lived dragon, only living to be 200.
They are herbivores and quite gentle, though rather flighty. As herbivores, they do not eat bones to produce Hydrogen. They are, however, very light, and have tremendous lift. They fly very deftly in large groups. It is difficult to tell them apart.
The dragon most commonly envisaged when referring to a flying dragon is the Plains/Mountainous dragon. This dragon embodies the elements of fire and air.
They are shades of gold, orange, and yellow. The larger species live in the temperate plains, while a subspecies lives in temperate dry mountainous regions. They have 2 wings, 2 legs, and a tail which is manipulable and quite dexterous. While Edward Topsell was incorrect insofar as they have large mouths, he was correct in identifying their tails as important weapons. The tail of the plains dragon, is long and possesses ridges of hard hair deposits, like that of the rhino horn. They strike their prey with this tail in order to stun it before disemboweling it. They are carnivorous.
The act of making fire defines their sense of the world. They burn their dead, burn fire during their mating flights, shoot fire in greeting, everything about them is defined by fire.
Yet of all dragons, other than the sea dragon, they possess the peculiar ability to breath underwater, much like frogs, as long as they remain quite still. They absorb the oxygen through the soft tissue under their wings. Some plains dragons have been known to hibernate through solitary winters in a dream state underwater.
The adult female has a tail 44ft long, and a body of 15ft, a neck 9ft long, and a head 2ft in size. She has wings 27ft by 15ft in area. The adult male has a tail 34ft, a body 10ft, a neck 9ft, and a head 1 1/2ft long. He has wings 25ft by 15ft in area.
They live in groups of 10-20 adults, who care for the group's children on a communal basis. They welcome strangers openly. Many of my warmest experiences have been at feasts given by various Plains and Mountain dragons in my honor.
Males and females go on mating flights, in which having impressed the female with his aerial acrobatics a male is chosen by the female. The female gestate in a sandy flat area for 3 months then lays 20-30 eggs, 15-20 of which will hatch. The group then raise the hatchlings until adolescence at 30-40 yrs. Of these hatchlings, 5-6 live to adulthood. After which certain hatchlings fly off to form their own groups. Females are fertile every 20 yr, beginning in their 40th year. They live to be 1000 yrs old.
In De Natura Animalum, Pliny describes the magnetism with which the Forest dragon lulls its prey into its mouth, though the animosity he attributes to the shy Forest Dragon for the Elephant is misplaced, being more characteristic of the behavior of Swamp dragons.
They are quite shy, and it was only after some searching that I was able to find a family group of this species. Females live separately in territorial areas, which they mark with marking carved in trees. Their territories are overlapped by the larger territory of a single dominant male. The female is fertile every 15 yrs. Her gestation lasts 10 months, when she gives birth to 3-4 eggs. The mother cares for her young until they are 14 yrs old and the first growth spurt is over. The young are then urged to find their own territories. Young females may join the territory of an older female, while young males must fight the dominant male for his territory, or establish their own. They live to be 600 years old.
The Ice Dragons are not often discussed at all, living as they do in the remote icy regions of the South, yet strangely their physical characteristics are frequently depicted in the art of Northern Europe, which is nowhere near their natural habitat. Only they have 2 wings, and 4 legs, yet this arrangement is depicted as the norm of the dragon. For most dragons wings are what use they have made of their forelegs. These dragons have somehow managed to shift their shape and nature so as not to lose their forelegs, yet gain wings.
They embody the elements of water in its frozen aspect and the air. In the winter, which my blood found to be most of the time, they are white, while in the summer they are a light gray.
The adult, male or female, has a tail 5ft long, a body 8ft long, a neck 3ft long, and a head 1ft long. It has a wing span of 10ft. They are carnivorous, as might be expected, and have a thick layer of fat to warm their bodies.
They mate for life and raise their young together, who remain with their parents until adolescence. The female gestate for 11 months, and bears 4-5 live young. These offspring are fed on regurgitated meat for the first year. They reach adolescence by age 30 and live to be 320 to 380 yrs old.
They do not engage in fire rituals, though they do use fire to heat the stones of their caves. In midwinter, they seal their caves up and hibernate for a period of 2 to 3 months. They maintain strict territorial boundaries, which cover vast regions. Infringement on these territories will be answered with violence, if the encroacher does not leave. During my stay with the Aute family group, I witnessed Kake, the male, kill a homeless female, who would not leave his territory. That winter had been particularly hard, and they ate the unknown females flesh. Under these circumstances how Ice Dragons meet in order to cross breed is uncertain, though I believe a young male finds an unoccupied territory and then yells until a female hears him. If more than one female arrives, they fight for him. Kina, Kake's mate, proudly showed me several mating battle scars.
They are not very social and have been known to attack travelers, competition for food is fierce on the edge of the world. I was able to gain the trust of my family group by the use of dried meat, which I brought with me for that purpose. By the end of my time with them, they were drying their own meat, for harsher weather. They live to be 320-380
The most violent species of dragon is the Swamp Dragon. They embody elements of the earth, water, and air. They are quite vicious and I was unable to make close contact with any of them. They are brown to green. They have 2 wings, and 2 legs. They live in swamps and marshes in warm climes.
The adult female and male have tails of 3ft, bodies of 1 1/2ft, necks of 1/2ft, and heads of 3/4ft. They have a wing span of 2 ft. They extremely carnivorous. They are amphibious.
One male has a harem of two to four females and their offspring. They travel in groups and hunt as a pack. The females bear 2-3 eggs, after 3 months gestation. These young travel with the group until the age of 16, when they go to form their own groups. The oldest Swamp dragon I was able to date, by viewing its teeth, was 130 years old. I believe they live much longer than this, but their funeral practice, seems to be to eat their dead and bury the bones at the bottom of the swamp. I was unwilling to follow them into the water. It is surely this dragon who inspired legends of dragon in search of flesh. Yet, they are kind to their own, and we cannot know how they view the world, for they do not even allow other dragons into their habitats.
The shyest and final dragon species is the Desert dragon. They embody elements of earth and air. They are brown or black in color. They have 2 wings, and 2 legs. Their bodies are long and slender and they have no meat on them. They resemble hairless bats. They live in mountainous desert regions around the world. They are omnivorous and extremely nocturnal.
The adult male and female have a 3ft long tail, a 1ft long body, a 1/2ft long neck, and a 1/2ft long head. They have wings with an 8ft.
They live solitary lives on what food the desert offers. They are shy, but quite friendly once their trust has been gained. If it were possible to live communally, they would, but the desert does not offer enough food to support groups. They make up for it every ten years, when the female goes into heat. She sings the mating song and those males who hear her, enter her territory and they all mate with her. She lays 1 to 2 eggs and she keeps the children with her until they are ten, they then seek out territories and are ready to reproduce by age twenty. They live to be 250 to 300 years old.
There are of course many traits of Draconic behavior which I cannot discuss at length here, though for those who are interested in my notes on Dragons seek out Draconni, which was my first work on the subject.