Dragons and Drakes
Dragons and their cousins the drakes are the apex predators in most places. However, dragon-kin also fill many other ecological niches.
Sea drakes are not sentient, being so superbly adapted to the environment that there is no pressure to evolve. They are the sharks of their world, related to the sentient land dragons as chimps and gorillas are related to humans. Sea and water drakes have modified wings which act as another set of fins and are used primarily for steering. Most sea drakes have three sets of fins. Most fresh-water drakes have webbed toes.
Deep sea drakes, and many smaller land-dwelling drakes, use crude illusions, glamour, and charms to lure or ambush prey. Many species also use camouflage. There are numerous small ambush predators that resemble twigs, leaves, bark, or rocks. Desert species are usually burrowers, with shovel-shaped heads. They cover themselves with sand, then wait patiently for days, weeks, or even months.
Species that are brightly colored are almost always highly toxic. Their colors serve as a warning. These species live primarily in the swamps and jungles. A few have chemical defenses, much like a bombardier beetle.
Some species have stunted or vestigial wings, especially those who live in tunnels, burrows, or caves. Other species have modified wings and talons to assist with the burrowing.
Dragons are highly adaptable, and have populated every biome on Devanand. One instinct few dragons overcome is the preference for a biome to which he or she is adapted. Seldom will a desert dragon settle in a forest, or a forest dragon settle on the plains.
Dragons tend to favor their mothers, but about one in every hundred hatchlings will take after its father or grandfather. Adult males average six feet long in the body, about the size of a large horse. Females are two to three times larger. Most dragons do not have scales, but have skin. They are less like fish and more like snakes. Juveniles will shed two or three times a year. Adults shed once every few years, or if there is damage to a significant portion of their bodies.
Males are quicker than females, and more agile. They are also more aggressive, and less defensive. Females are fiercely territorial, compelled by instinct to secure a place suitable for raising young.
The dragons of Devanand do not lay eggs, but give live birth. Dragonlings are carefully tended by their mothers but adolescents must make their own way in the world.
Adolescents are driven to reckless displays of physical ability. Many do not survive this stage of growth. Most of the survivors are those who have learned to master their instincts. These precious few mature into sentient, adult dragons. Adults do not interfere with this process, knowing that it weeds out dragons who would be a physical threat but who are not capable of reasoning or dialogue.
The dragons of Devanand also do not breathe fire, or anything else. They do have mastery of the magical arts and can cast fireballs, lightning bolts, and other spells. Some may even make it appear that they are breathing fire, or lightning. Their mastery of magic is their true strength, which is why most dragons forbid their vassals to use magic.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.