Dragons make their home in The Desert, which is Rohan's princedom. For generations dragons have been hunted for sport and for population control, but Rohan abhorred the prestigious tradition that had won his father respect, acclaim, and eventually his death. After avenging his father, Zehava, Rohan's first decree as Prince was to outlaw dragonslaying. This act was viewed with amusement by the other Princes, whom thought the decree eccentric and Rohan a young buffoon. Rohan did not let fancy alone guide his decree; however, he felt certain that dragons were vitally important to the survival of the Continent. Rohan knew he had been right, when he and Sioned discovered the dragon gold.
- sire: male dragon
- she-dragon: female dragon
- clutch: a group of dragons
- hatchling: baby dragon, recently hatched from an egg
- grandsire: large, old, male dragons
Dragons are large, carnivorous creatures. When dragons stand on all four legs, they can be about as tall as two grown men from head to toe. In addition to the four grasping limbs, dragons have large, taloned wings, a long, powerful neck, and a spiked tail. At the base of the spiked tail are glands that leak oils, when the sire is ready to mate; these oils have a pungent odor. Dragons' wingspan can grow to about twenty or thirty feet in length, and the wings themselves can be used to soak in the sun's heat. Their teeth can be nearly a foot long, and they have claws that can be as thick as a man's wrist, which are used to scale cliff walls, such as Rivenrock Canyon.
Dragons can be found in many different colors. For example, they can be dark gold with a gold and black patterned tail, greenish bronze with black underwings, reddish black, etc.. As they primarily live in the Desert, dragons' thick hide can withstand very high temperatures. Dragon hide must also be tough in order to survive battles of dominance and mating.
Hatchling dragons are about the size of a four-year-old child and look like miniature versions of their adult counterparts. Their wings are wet from being inside the egg, so hatchlings have the ability to breathe fire. This fire is used to dry and toughen the young wings, which is necessary for flight. The hatchlings only have this ability for half a year.
The blood of dragons is poisonous to most other creatures, including humans. The poison consumes the victim with chills, blurs vision, makes him or her dizzy, and induces vomiting. This poison is very fast acting, but there is a cure in the form of a wafer and certain herbs, which needs to be consumed.
Dragons are cunning creatures, but single-minded. While in mating season, dragons, especially the sires, are very violent. An example of a dragon's cunning is seen in the way the beast hunts: he/she waits, calculating which way a herd will turn before attacking. This way a dragon very rarely misses it's prey as they dive toward their target, grasp it in their hind claws, then snap the prey's neck with front talons before landing gracefully to feast.
Communication is a trait humans and dragons share. Communication with other dragons is demonstrated through shared remembrances of the Plague, challenges, and a form of laughter. Later it was discovered that humans and dragons could communicate through their colors and patterns on the light.
Dragons are color sensitive. This was discovered by Feylin through experimentation with dyed sheep. Using an unscented dye, she colored sheep in bright blues, crimsons, purples, etc., and left a few their natural white; all the dragons converged on the white sheep, scrupulously avoiding the colored ones. Feylin then conducted another experiment with duller dyes of tans and browns. The dragons did not avoid these dyed sheep, though the natural white ones still seemed preferred.
In 719 Feylin had the opportunity to dissect a dragonsire. Sioned and Maarken aided her study using their Sunrunner memory and Maarken also drew careful renderings of bone, organs, and muscles. The dissection revealed that a dragon's brain is about double the size of a human one, but without as many wrinkles. The back portion of the brain is significantly larger than the front portion and the whole thing is a grayish color. Eyes, tongue, teeth, nasal cavity, stomach, lungs, heart, chest cavity, wings, and legs were also all cataloged, measured, and drawn.
Dragons are communal animals. They live in clutches of varying sizes led by a mating sire and consisting mainly of she-dragons. Dragon hierarchy is such that the sire leads, senior she-dragons follow, then young she-dragons, and finally three year olds, who are not yet ready to mate. The hatchlings are raised by the entire clutch; after a she-dragon lays her eggs and seals the cave her hatchlings are treated like all hatchlings. Only when a she-dragon is carrying her eggs is she fiercely protective of her brood.
When not hunting, mating, or on the move, dragons often sunbathe and even play in lakes. Dragon clutches roam the Continent, flying from the Catha Hills up to the Verseche Mountains. In late spring of every third year, called a dragon year, the dragons return to the land of their birth, the Desert, to lay their eggs.
If a dragon dies, then the clutch avoids the area not wanting to reside in a place filled with painful memories. This action signifies a deep intelligence and sensitivity between dragons, especially as dragons not living at the painful times could 'see' and 'remember' those events. Such behavior was witnessed after so many dragons died of Plague near Rivenrock; the next mating season the dragons found new caves between Skybowl and Feruche.
Dragons mate every three years. They return to the Desert to mate and lay their eggs because the eggs need the Desert heat for the incubation period. Sires mate with a clutch of at least a dozen or so she-dragons, but they first have to win the females' attention through the sand-dance and the cliff-dance. Aside from the dances, they also battle each other, resulting in the death of the loser. To ready themselves for the vigorous matings, sires eat a plant called bittersweet. During mating season, a sire is liable to kill anything that distracts it from the mating process.
The sand-dance is an exhibition of grace, prowess, and endurance. The sires perform this dance in front of the egg-laden she-dragons. The young she-dragons pay rapt attention to the mating sires, while the matured females act indifferent to their antics. To perform the dance a group of five sires land within a circle of watching females. The sires stand up on their hind legs, stretch their long necks skyward, spread their wings, and then start to sing, which to the human ear sounds like discordant wailing. One of the sires begins the dance, dropping his head, sweeping the sand into torrents with his wings, and clawing at the air. The dragon then sways from side to side and start a set pattern of leg and wing movements. After he has completed the dance and marked out his territory, he rises to his full height and begins the dance again. Each of the five sires start their dance at different times. The watching females sway in time with the male who has caught their attention. When one of the sires missteps or somehow messes up the dance, he must take to the sky and allow his place in the sand to be taken by another sire. As the dance continues the males slowly separate, leading their females away from the others. If a male tries to rush his females he could still lose them. Once the sire and his she-dragons take flight, the mates have been chosen.
Mated she-dragons lay approximately twenty eggs each; out of those twenty only about five or six hatchlings typically survive the first flight. These females lay their eggs in caves, which have been hollowed by dragons as well as time, then seal off the entrance to their hatchery using the debris from the hollowed cave. During the incubation period female sentinels keep watch over the sealed caves. Late in the summer the sentries will leave, which signifies that the dragon eggs are hatching.
Once the hatchling dragons break free from the eggs they try to break through the sealed cave entrance. The first to hatch usually tire by the time their brethren are emerging, making them easy prey. As hatchlings can breathe fire, their first meal is roast dragon. After the strong feast upon the weak, they must finish breaking out of the entombed cave, then fly.
Unmated she-dragons die, usually because they try to fly. As unmated females do not lay their eggs, this added weight renders the females flightless in the mating caves. If she attempts to fly, she will crash; if she stays in the caves, she will likely starve.
Before Rohan's reign most people seemed to either be afraid of dragons or hate them because the beasts killed their herds. In both cases the general consensus was to have the monsters killed. Dragon relations did not improve when the plague arrived with the dragonflight in 701, though as the dragons themselves began to die the beasts were no longer held responsible. The superstition "Dragon's cry before dawn, death before dawn,"  is an example of dragons' widespread reception.
Dragon hunting had been a prestigious sport and tradition before Rohan outlawed it. It had been a test of manhood and of battle prowess. Zehava, Rohan's father, had held the record for the number of successful dragon hunts at nine slain - the tenth dragon fatally wounded Zehava. The dragon hunts had a more practical purpose too: population control. Every three years hundreds of hatchlings were born in the Desert. These young dragons would fly over the Continent destroying crops and killing herds. The easiest way to control the dragon population was to kill the mating sires as this also killed his unmated females and left all of their eggs unfertilized. Only the Prince got to slay the mating sires.
Like most sports, dragon hunting had specific rules of conduct:
- Signs - When going on a hunt, one must first find the prey. Claw and wing marks are good signs that a dragon is nearby, as are shorn bittersweet plants.
- We advance? - Once signs of a dragon have been found, the dragon hunter is asked if the hunting party should advance. In order for the hunt to continue the hunter must reply, "We advance."
- Formation - When the beast is found, the party members spread out in a semicircle while the hunter rides forward, alone, to meet the dragon. The semicircle does not engage the dragon unless given the signal by the hunter's second. The second will not give the signal unless the hunter is in mortal peril.
In addition to the sire hunts, there was the Hatching Hunt, an event held in the Desert during the hatching season: triennial in mid-summer. An ensemble of Lords sets out from Stronghold to slay the still young and fairly weak dragons. These hunts were necessary to keep the dragon population down, but the hunters also profited by collecting the coveted dragon hides. During the Hatching Hunt, the hunters waited outside the sealed dragon caves, then slew the hatchlings as they emerged into sunlight for the first time.
While incubating the baby dragons breathe flame on the inner surface of their eggs, which in turn melts the shell and releases the gold. This gold is collected from caves - abandoned dragon hatcheries - in Threadsilver Canyon, which is near Skybowl. The gold is smelted into gold bars and/or coins in lower caves of the canyon. This gold is used for the benefit of the princedom and the Continent as a whole. It is kept a secret from all but a select few - namely the royal family, the Lords of Skybowl, and some of the miners - so that the other Princes don't try to invade the Desert or capture their own dragons.
The dragon gold was used to buy dranath from Roelstra during the plague of 701. The gold coins were sent to Feruche, which was then held by Ianthe, Roelstra's daughter. Ianthe took her eldest son, Ruval, to see the gold and he kept a coin. Years later after he'd become a sorcerer, he was able to 'read' the coin's memory; he discovered the Desert's secret. Ruval used this knowledge, amongst other threats, to force Pol to duel him for the right of Princemarch and the future title of High Prince.
To disguise the gold Rohan sent some to the crafters of Tiglath and a large quantity to a real goldmine on Kierst. The gold was hidden by Rohan's men, and then 'mined' on Kierst for Prince Volog without his knowledge of its true origin. Volog used the gold for the betterment of his princedom, which was why Rohan supplied it to his mine. One of Volog's betterments, at Rohan's subtle suggestion, was a scriptorium.
- 698: 309 in flight from Desert caves, including 6 mating sires, 80 mature females, and 220 immature dragons and first-flight hatchlings; numbers taken after Hatching Hunt
- 701: 234 in flight over the Veresch (count made before the plague struck)
- 704: 37 reported, including 5 mating sires and 32 mature females
- 719: 160 estimated, including 13 sires and 55 mating females; 142 counted over Stronghold, including 8 brown youngsters, 5 gray females, 16 bronze and black females, 36 immature, 1 brown sire, 1 black sire, 2 gray sires, 3 gold sires, 42 red dragons, and 28 gray, greenish, and bronze immature
- 728: 165 counted before the hatching, including 17 sires, 85 females, 63 immature; 350 (+) estimated after the hatching, including 189 hatchlings
Dragons can communicate on the light much like a Sunrunner or sorcerer. The main difference is that dragons primarily use images and feelings rather than words. Sioned was the first person to discover that humans and dragons could speak on the light. She and a female dragon named Elisel formed a deep bond, each able to feel the other's emotions and eventually to speak. Over the years many dragons and Sunrunners bonded. The bond between human and dragon are very strong, in some cases so much so that if one dies the other will feel it.
- Abisel: Bonded to Hollis
- Azhdeen: Pol's reddish-gold dragonsire, bonded in 728 during the duel with Ruval.
- Elisel: Sioned's reddish she-dragon, bonded on the way home from the Rialla of 719 near the future site of Dragon's Rest.
- Lainian: Bonded to Jeni
- Pavisel: Bonded to Maarken
- Sadalian: Bonded to Riyan
- Tirita: Bonded to Tobren
- Unnamed: Bonded to Andry during the last battle against the Vellant'im. This dragon gave its self over to Andry, so he could use its strength to kill using the ros'salath. The dragons wanted revenge on the Vellant'im for killing other dragons, so many followed this dragon's lead. By bonding with Andry this dragon also took away the pain caused by iron piercing some Sunrunners.
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