Among the fae-beast races, one race stands alone in terms of both magical and physical strength, wisdom, and mystique. That race, is the dragon race. Between the two dragon tribes—the Nodhog in the West and the Lung in the East—this race also guards the greatest hoards of both treasure and written knowledge in all the world. Some even theorize that the dragons even possess forbidden manuscripts from before The War of Destruction in their vast libraries. But, what is a dragon in the first place?
Dragons: They’re Not Drakes!!
The first thing that one must know about dragons is that they are not drakes. Drakes are actually a group of animals composed of several reptilian and mammaliaform species, both wild and domesticated. The species most likely to be mistaken for dragons—the fire drake—is a mere reptile with the intelligence of an average domestic dog and the disposition of a cornered badger. The only similarities shared between these disagreeable beasts and dragons is that they are four-footed, scaly, winged, horned, breath fire, and have similarly shaped heads and hollow, helium-filled bones.
However, adult fire drakes are only seven feet at the shoulder at most, while adult dragons are fifteen to twenty feet at the shoulder. Also, the heads of dragons are smoother and less angular compared to those of fire drakes, their ears are larger and more mammalian-looking, and their eyes are larger in relation to the head and almond-shaped instead of round. Dragons also never have perfectly straight horns, while the horns of fire drakes are always straight. Needless to say, most dragons will be highly offended if referred to as “drakes,” and some might even be so offended as to beat the living daylights out of (if not incinerate or lay a horrible curse on) anyone who calls them such.
Also, the two dragon tribes have a few differences between them as well. While the Nodhogs do look similar to fire drakes, the Lung are leaner, with shorter legs, long whiskers in the males, and horns which fork like a stag’s antlers as opposed to curling like ram’s horns like those of their Western cousins. And, of course, the Lung have no wings at all. No one knows for sure exactly why this last and biggest tribal difference exists…well, aside from the Goddess of Creation herself.
The Two Great Tribes
As mentioned above, there are two separate dragon tribes, each ruling over different territories. In the West lives the Nodhog tribe. These great winged dragons are known far and wide as skilled treasure hunters and fearsome warriors.
During The War of Destruction, dragons of the Nodhog tribe provided vital air support for The Free Beings’ Alliance in battle, and occasionally raided enemy bases at night for food and supplies. By using magic to take on perfect human forms, the Nodhog warriors also made great contributions on the ground as well, wielding enormous orc-forged weapons against The Alliance of Humanity’s hordes of golems and chimeras. According to legend, the great Nodhog general Arduron even kidnapped a princess and held her hostage until her father handed over his captured men.
But, there is more to the Nodhogs than their fearsome reputation. They are also dedicated treasure hunters, archeologists, geologists, and historical scholars, and their hidden cities are said to house among the most magnificent museums of art and artifacts in the entire world. Even in their private lives, Nodhogs love to keep collections of things. Some of these things are rare and valuable (such as precious stones and exceptional pieces of art), while others are rather mundane or eccentric (such as bobbleheads or potholders). In search of new items for their collections, Nodhogs in human guise will regularly stalk everyplace from high-end auction houses to small town rummage sales to junk yards…and they’re usually the happiest ones there.
Nodhogs also love to party, and have been known to drink just about any bar dry in a single night. Good music, good food, and good booze are pretty-much necessities of life for dragons of the Nodhog tribe, and they have big festivals for every single month of the year just to have the excuse to have a good time. When traveling in human guise, a Nodhog will often—but not always—be that one traveler who blows into town and more-or-less turns the local tavern into a miniature carnival for the evening…and is found splayed out in the alley with a hangover the next morning.
In comparison, dragons of the Lung tribe are quite a bit more civilized and subdued than the Nodhogs. The Lung tribe are the arch mages, healers, literary scholars, and philosophers of the dragon race. They are known more for their generosity than their ferocity…but, make no mistake, even the sweetest and most mild mannered Lung can be very dangerous when pushed over the edge.
Many myths have arisen over the reason why the Lung have no wings. One of the most popular is a tale from Chin. According to this fable, one day an evil sorcerer attacked the Lung in their home village, hoping to enslave them and use their power to take over the kingdom. However, the bats, upon hearing their neighbors’ cries of distress and sorrow, scampered to their rescue, soundly defeating the evil sorcerer and his minions with sheer numbers and tenacity. To thank the bats for their aid and their courage, the Lung gave them their most precious possessions—their wings.
The Lung tribe maintains several thriving magical research universities throughout their territories, which are open to any being of any race who seeks knowledge of the magical arts. They are the ones who invented the spell which allows dragons to take on a human guise, in fact, and are rumored to have invented alchemy as well. The Lung tribe are masters of magic, and many of their greatest wizards have mastered techniques which allow them to transform their standard fire breath into water, light, or any other pure element. They are even said to be capable of casting a special spell which allows them to fly without the need for wings.
Like the Nodhog tribe, the Lung enjoy collecting, and there is no shortage of treasure hunters and gem collectors among them. However, more than collecting physical objects, the Lung adore collecting knowledge. The libraries of the Lung tribe are vast, some said to contain millions of precious ancient tomes and scrolls on every subject from basic cooking to quantum physics. But their search for knowledge is not limited to simply collecting books that others have written. The Lung are a very deep and philosophical people and have a long and thriving tradition of spiritual inquiry. The Lung tribe’s priests, monks, and philosophers have written thousands of volumes on the mortal spirit, the psychology of the gods, and the meaning of life.
The Lung love sharing knowledge with others just as much as seeking and collecting it. Not only are their magical research universities open to all, but their libraries, temples, and monasteries as well. Some legends state that it was a generous Lung who shared with mankind the secrets of reading and writing, and the Lung were also the first to mass produce books and scrolls through printing. Through written and printed words, they share not only hard facts and mystic wisdom, but also stories and poems about a variety of different subjects.
They are generous with their hospitality and their resources as well. There are many travelers’ tales about wayfarers who had become lost, sick, or injured and were taken in by the Lung. The Lung have also been known to share food and firewood with their human neighbors during particularly hard winters and there is even a story of a man who was rewarded by one of these dragons with a cache of gold and jewels for saving the life of his daughter.
Another trait that the Lung share with their Nodhog brethren is a love of good food, good booze, and good music. Unlike the Nodhog, the Lung rarely get wild and overindulge. Instead, they are discerning connoisseurs, who prefer to savor a finely prepared meal or a goblet of excellent wine. The Lung have been known to nurse a single drink for over an hour, more concerned with enjoying the flavor and texture of the drink than with getting blitzed out of their minds. They also enjoy growing gardens, both indoor and outdoor, and are very fond of bonsai and plant breeding.
The Life of a Dragon
Dragons live for a very long time, a thousand years on average, and for every decade they age the same amount as a human would in a single year. A dragon’s life begins within a hard-shelled egg laid by his mother. Dragons have similar mating habits to humans, meaning that they usually marry before having children, but sometimes have children out of wedlock, either purposely or by accident. Either way, the mother dragon will begin building a comfy nest for her coming egg as soon as she senses that she is with child, and lays her egg three to three and a half months after becoming pregnant.
Dragon mothers are usually fiercely protective of their eggs and children, and have been known to lay entire armies low for the sake of their offspring. Because a dragon’s gender is determined at conception, just like a human infant, the only concern with incubation is keeping the egg at a near constant 88 degrees Fahrenheit in order to ensure the hatchling’s good health. A mother dragon carefully incubates her young for the next year until the little bundle of joy finally hatches into the world. Despite the relatively short span of time between conception and hatching, however, a female dragon is only fertile for a single month once every thirty years. Twins (either identical or fraternal) are not unheard of, but occur about as frequently as quintuplets occur naturally in humans.
Because dragons are born toothless, soft-scaled, and totally unable to fend for themselves, dragon parents must do everything for their children in the exact same way as human parents do. Dragons do not lactate, but baby dragons are fed liquefied food until they are old enough to move up to more solid foods. They learn to walk, talk, and develop object permanence at the same relative pace as human infants and are generally ready for school by the age of forty to fifty years of age…and all dragon children go to school until they are at least a hundred years old, with many dragons continuing their education into their early two hundreds.
Like many civilized races, dragons live together in cities, towns, and villages. Their cities, towns, and villages, however, tend to be built on high plateaus, carved into sheer cliffs, or dug out of enormous mountains. Dragon settlements are thriving centers of academics, culture, and commerce, but are occasionally bothered by uppity human “knights” who think that slaying dragons will make them look good. They always leave battered, bruised, embarrassed, and in search of a fire drake that they can slay and call a dragon instead.
Dragons love to travel, though, and almost every dragon over the age of a hundred knows the spell to take on a human guise. While most dragons who travel about are law-abiding citizens just out for a bit of shopping, sight-seeing, treasure hunting, or adventure…there are a few scoundrels about as well. There are just some dragons who love money and treasure so much that a life of banditry, thievery, or piracy is the only thing that will make and keep them happy for long. Many of these rogues run solo, but some are part of pirate crews and bandit gangs as well—generally playing the part of the leader or second in command, but some are content playing lesser roles as well. The practice of kidnapping princesses or other girls from rich families for ransom is actually pretty rarely engaged in by draconic rogues, though. Something about it being “too cliché”…
Dragons and the Rest of Us
Dragons have had a rocky history with the other civilized races since the end of The War of Destruction. While the Lung tribe have been able to regain the trust and respect of their neighbors, however, the Nodhogs still have tremendous trouble winning back their former respected position—partially because of their hard-partying habits and partially because people keep mistaking them for drakes! The great magical cities of Avalonia, Meduwa, and Lokroix are the only places where both dragon tribes are fully accepted without scorn or prejudice…and that’s only because even The War of Destruction was unable to change the welcoming and tolerant culture of these places.
Dragons have been known to intermarry with beings of different races from time to time. Usually, they tend to fall for humans, elves, or demons…though love affairs with vampires, werewolves, satyrs, orcs, and even gorgons are not unheard of. In terms of love, dragons favor lovers with spirit, heart, and a good sense of humor above all else, and they are strong believers in the concepts such as true love and soul mates. Even dragons who love to sleep around and shudder at words such as “marriage” and “committed relationship” fully admit that they would change their philandering ways in a heartbeat if they ever did find their one and only. A dragon doesn’t care if their true love turns out to not be a dragon as well, only that they are who they are. This has caused controversy in some cases, as dragons are prone to eloping if their lovers’ families won’t give the relationship their blessing…and a few family feuds as well.
The martial artists of the Lung tribe have a long-running rivalry with the weretigers. It is said that it all began when a Lung in human guise and a weretiger, both of whom were accomplished kung fu masters, decided to have a match-up to see who was truly stronger. This knock-down-drag-out brawl ultimately ended with the Lung master as the victor, but the weretiger still continued to challenge him to rematches year after year. In time, the students of the two masters also became involved in this rivalry and even ten thousand years after that first bout, every year the two schools have a massive martial arts tournament. The Lung still win every time, but the weretigers never give up hope of finally breaking that ten thousand year losing streak.
Generally, though, dragons of both tribes just want to get along with the other races of the world and be free to live their lives on their own terms. When they travel the Earth they almost always do so in human guise, and are more likely to be traveling monks or bards than bandits. Even the IWHA can not get any lie or rumor about dragons which does not induce confusion with fire drakes to stick…because dragons are just too good at getting others to see their true nature! This makes dragons truly the greatest of all the fae-beast races.
Well, that does it for this week. There won’t be an entry for Sunday, November 16, because I seriously need to take a week off in order to recharge the old idea batteries. In the meantime, be sure to head over to Amazon.com (or any international variant thereof) and order a physical or Kindle ebook copy of The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner. Or, if you’ve already read that one, go on ahead and pick up the newly released sequel, Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire instead (print and Kindle ebook editions available)! You can also check me out on Twitter at @DanielleVFreman for project updates and randomness. So, until Sunday, November 23, take care!