Friday Lore Post: Dragon History and Culture

Dragons have inhabited the world since the dawn of time, long before humans were here. They’ve never been particularly numerous, but their existence on the planet predates living memory of even the old gods, whose earliest stories suggest that when they fought back the evil creatures who roamed the world upon leaving the Gated Land, the dragons and elves were their allies in that fight. Dragons themselves tell a similar story, one of emerging from the Gated Land alongside others with whom they allied to destroy the evil gods who’d created them.

For all of this, however, dragons have historically kept to themselves for the most part, emerging from their preferred mountainous homes only for brief periods and often only when prompted. Because they were never able to communicate with humans until the Catechism Wars, little was known about them before that time aside from that they existed and were dangerous to human and god alike.

During the Catechism Wars, when the Spider Company attempted to weaponize the dragons in their fight against the gods, the dragons cooperated inasmuch as they also wanted the gods, who had long been one of only two major rivals of theirs, gone. So they cooperated with the Spider Company until such a time as the alliance became inconvenient for them, and then stopped. The termination of this alliance was also related to the experimentation that the spiders were doing on the dragons to instill shapeshifting ability in them, which was aimed at allowing them access to magic, allowing them to communicate with other sentient-life forms, all of which but dragons use recognizable language, and opening the possibility of their own vast power and strength being understood and added to human collective power. It was this last issue that drove the wedge between humans and dragons, especially when the dragons realized that their newer offspring were tending to be smaller and weaker than they, which they blamed the spiders for though it was actually a result of the Web’s shattering. In any case, dragons retreated from the alliance and once again isolated themselves for thousands of years.

As a result of all of this, basically no records or knowledge of what dragons were like historically exist among any non-dragon cultures in the present day. Much like today’s dragons, however, they were matriarchal, isolationist, not community driven, living only in very loose kin groups, territorial and competitive, passing on stories to their offspring of their supremacy over the world and all creatures in it. Very little of this, were humans to have access to this information, has changed.

Dragons live in mountainous or rocky regions in individual domiciles, raising their children only for the first few years of life before kicking them out of the nest to survive on their own. Dragons are overwhelmingly male, with females being much larger, more aggressive, stronger and more dominant. Multiple male dragons can live within reasonably close proximity to each other so long as they have their individual caves, but it is more difficult for multiple female dragons to coexist in even a very large area. The matriarchal female in a given area is unequivocally in charge and all the males defer to her in all regards. The males’ competitiveness stems from the fact that generally there is only one female to mate with in the spring, and she chooses mates based on criteria that she sees fit, but which generally relate to the size of one’s hoard and one’s ability to defend oneself. During mating season, the matriarch will choose males she wishes to mate with and allow them to mate with her, laying eggs after a week and leaving them for the male to care for. Female dragons usually birth between six and ten clutches of eggs during the mating season.

The female dragon is not involved in raising the newborn dragons at all, that responsibility lies with the male entirely. For this reason, though it is normal for all dragons in a region to share the same dam, kinship is only counted through the sire; dragons consider one another kin if they share a sire, and closer kin still if they come from the same clutch—which is rare, as it’s uncommon for more than one dragon from a clutch to survive into adolescence. About half the time, an entire clutch won’t survive to live on their own. A dragon colony with one female mating with an average eight males over the course of the season produces an average of three dragons who will survive into adulthood per year, usually entirely male—female dragons are almost always killed by the matriarch before reaching adulthood. Dragons measure adulthood at the age of thirty, and adolescence from the ages of seven to thirty. Seven is the typical age at which dragons are ejected from their sire’s caves.

Dragons have observed that larger clutches are more likely to have at least one member survive to adolescence—the first seven years is when most dragons die. Smaller clutches of eggs, meanwhile, are more likely to produce a shapeshifter, a talent extant in about one in fifty male dragons and one in four female dragons (the sex ratio of dragons is about 1:14 female-to-male). Most shapeshifters survive to adulthood, which is attributed to higher cleverness and strength, and shapeshifters tend to be bigger than other dragons. Shapeshifting is a recessive gene to the entire species, however, and has never reliably proven hereditary.

As children, dragons are taught about dragon customs and culture by their sires, as well as fighting and hunting. Hoarding instinct is intrinsic to dragons, but they do need to be taught how to put it to good use. Sires also pass along the stories of their species, myths and legends and history, cautions of dangers and so forth. It is customary for a sire to give his offspring a small piece of treasure to start their hoards with when ejecting them from the cave to live on their own. Sires will rarely directly fight with their offspring even after ejecting them, though by the time they reach adulthood, they are considered rivals just like anyone else. It is not uncommon for sires and offspring, or for siremates and especially clutchmates to maintain bonds of mutual respect for territory with one another and avoid conflict if possible. Most conflicts between dragons that end in death or serious injury happen during mating season.

Dragons can and do occasionally mate out of season, and all members of the species have libidos high enough to determine a majority of their actions. Most if not all male dragons will engage in sex acts with each other from the time their first rut sets on in their adolescence, because statistically most males won’t be permitted to mate with the female and even if they are, that is a one-time event that doesn’t much sate the desire that their rut gives them for several weeks at a time. It is therefore normal for male dragons to work out sexual energy with one another throughout their lives, even with siremates or clutchmates. Dragons have no incest taboo, though sires and offspring will rarely engage in sex with each other if other options are available. If there are multiple female dragons living in the same broad area, similarly they are likely to go to each other for sexual stimulation because procuring sex with a male, while easy for them, is often fraught with fighting and politics that they’d rather avoid.

Occasionally in highly populated areas, more mature male dragons will allow younger, typically adolescent, dragons to live with them and offer them protection. This is very much a vertical relationship because acknowledging the need for protection is something only a weak dragon can do, and it is a relationship of subservience where the younger dragon will not be permitted to hoard his own wealth or stake his own territory; all his victories will go to his protector and he is, of course, expected to be sexually submissive as well. This relationship usually ends shortly before the adolescent dragon reaches adulthood or if the adult dragon sires a clutch of eggs, though there have been cases of lifelong partnerships between male dragons in this fashion.

Dragons do, of course, steal their treasures from humans, but this is less common than humans often believe. Though it happens, dragons steal the majority of their treasures from one another in the present day, with an estimated half of the world’s total wealth being secreted away in dragon caves. That said, ostentatious displays of wealth by humans are always in danger of attracting dragons looking to expand their hoard. Many dragons also like to kidnap humans for their hoards, as they make a nice housepet or accent piece for an otherwise impressive hoard. Having a human in one’s nest, and successfully taking care of it, is one way that male dragons sometimes like to display to a female that they would make a good sire for a clutch of eggs.

Menechit is home to three major colonies of dragons, one in the Amaran Mountains in central Dolovai, one in the Cliffs of Angels in southwestern Kyaine, and one in the mountains surrounding Ech’kent in the southeastern portion of the continent. Of these, the Amaran Mountains colony is the smallest, boasting about seventy adult male dragons and one matriarch, who recently died and was replaced, unusually, with an adolescent male, who outfought all the other dragons in the region mostly by virtue of possessing high ground and a good cave that he’d inherited from his deceased siremate. There are currently two young females in the colony, neither yet out of the nest, and it is expected that one of them will take over as matriarch upon reaching adulthood. This colony is the most susceptible to attacks from humans due to its proximity to many human cities.

The largest dragon colony on Menechit (and the second largest in the world) is in the Cliffs of Angels, home to over six hundred adult males and seven females, six of whom acknowledge of the superiority of the seventh, who is the undisputed matriarch of the whole region. This colony is rarely bothered by humans, removed as it is from settlements and renowned as it is for being dangerous.

The Ech’kent colony has four females, one ruling over the other three as matriarch, and just shy of three hundred adult males, and also exists in isolation from, despite close proximity to, the human population. Once revered as gods by the people of Ech’kent, in recent centuries the dragon population was driven out and have adopted a strict no-tolerance policy for their kind interacting with humans, especially shapeshifters, who held special status in Ech’kent’s native religion. There has always been a great deal of discontent among the population of this colony regarding this policy, but the matriarch’s will is inviolable. In theory.

Counting adolescents and children, the total dragon population on Menechit is just short of seven thousand at a rough estimate. Aergyre has six known dragon colonies on its main continent and three more in territories its colonized, with a total population of about nineteen thousand. Enjon has only two colonies, but the one in the far northern Yakkin Mountains is the largest in the world with over a thousand adult males and a dozen females, itself a total population of nearly six thousand dragons, bringing the continental total up to ten thousand. There are four dragon colonies in the eastern nations (with one actually being fairly far outside any of the nations), with a total population of about eleven thousand. There is also one colony of dragons inhabiting a series of volcanic islands in a distant ocean with a population of about two thousand, and two colonies on the recently (except for the people who live there) discovered continent of Djyekkan, with a population of about five thousand. The total dragon population on the planet is roughly fifty-four thousand dragons across twenty-one colonies.

Though interactions with different modes of human and other non-human cultures have resulted in some minor changes in dragon culture globally, by and large the different colonies operate on very similar cultural principles. Broadly, they prefer to leave humans alone so long as humans leave them alone, because though dragons are big, humans are numerous and open conflict with them hasn’t often gone well in the long run. From the dragons’ perspective, destroying or enslaving the humans really isn’t worth their time. Besides, they’re a useful source of treasure, food, and for shapeshifters, sex and companionship as well. It’s something of a truism among shapeshifting dragons that humans make good mates, even if they don’t reach dragons’ lifespans, which can potentially stretch well over a thousand years. Even non-shapeshifting dragons sometime believe this to be true.

After all, unless it’s to keep them as pets, decorations or proof that they can take care of a living thing, why else would dragons keep kidnapping humans for their collections?

“Dragons in History:” An essay submitted by Soren of Branch Hill to Yancy Heartstone in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Dragons and the World, at the Academy for Magecraft in Three Hills, DN 1993.

2 thoughts on “Friday Lore Post: Dragon History and Culture

  1. That bit about the baby dragons being given to the sires to raise is interesting, and makes me think about Joey. I wonder if he knows who his mother is? Given that she was probably his shifter parent, part of me can’t help but think that Mathilda might be his mother. (Although I’m pretty sure the distances involved make that unlikely.)


    1. Joey had never met his mother, but the Amaran colony only had one matriarch, which was the one Owen killed in chapter 37 of Dragon.

      Mathilda as Joey’s mom would be awesome, but you’re right, she lives too far away for that to be realistic, sadly. 😀


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