Tyger (stormteller) wrote in worldbuilding,

On Dragons

This is a bit of background I did for one fantasy world. I was trying, as so many have, to create a unique spin on dragons, as well as to create something that was, if not plausible, at least consistent. To this end, I made them metallic lifeforms which literally breath (i.e. inhale) fire in order to power themselves. Other specific details about their life cycles and behaviours are contained below. I started out with a creation myth, just since I'm so fond of writing them.

As told by Shiess, High and Most Perfect:

From the first, there was only magma. Stone and metal in liquid forms, so hot they melded together, so fierce they were intertwined and bound and one part of matter could not be told from another. There was no respite, no escape, no exception, no place to be found away from that ferocity, save for the cold and indifferent sky, which was black and empty. The essence of the Flame pervaded all. Such was the beginning of our world.

And then the water came.

From the heavens, in a great torrent that obscured the sky, it came, quenching the burning stone, emitting a cloud of steam vast beyond imagining; this became the sky we know, of blue and white and red. The earth hardened, and some of the water rested upon the lowest part of it to make the seas; and the Flame retreated deep into the earth, to the center. It waits there still, churning, forever at odds with the coldness that invades from the sky.

But in wide and fiery caves below the ground, a curious thing occurred. Fine dust from the brittle stone gathered, and there amidst heat it mixed with the air and mist that came from the sky. Earth and air, Flame and water combined, and a new thing, life, was made.

Spirits, like tufts of smoke, were born, and became ever more numerous. And each spirit walked the earth, or swam the oceans, or floated within the sky, and in each place the spirits took the matter that was around them– the dust, the water, the clouds– and made a body. So were the forms of life made: from earth and dirt came burdensome beasts, dense and heavy things. From fine clouds of dust and vapor came birds and insects, light and quick. And from the water came the many fish and things that swim the seas.

But one spirit sank, instead, into the earth, following the caves from which life was born, down, toward the hot center of the world were the magma still churned. And finding such powerful, molten substance, the spirit pulled pure metals from the froth, forging for itself a body. While the many forms of life propagated upon the surface, making little use of their primitive forms, the spirit toiled for ages, extracting the metals and combining them, purifying and compounding them, until finally its body was complete, and awoke with living eyes for the first time.

So was the first dragon, the first of the Drei Conn, born. Khierr was its name. While all other creatures in the world composed themselves of flesh and bone, or leaf and wood, only Khierr was made of metal: the strongest of creatures, the longest-lived, a perfect life-form, fed by the Flame at the center of the world. Except that it needed the Flame. Where all other creatures breathed the air, Khierr breathed the Flame, and could not be without it1. And while others fed on light and earth and one another, Khierr fed on the magma, a nutritious soup that sustained its life. So Khierr could not leave those deep caves, and was forced to walk within them, studying what it could of the subterranean world, yet it learned much. All the secrets of the earth were bared to it, and it became wise, and powerful as it came to control the ways of the earth. In time, it tired of being alone, and so it changed the flows of metal in its body and laid the first egg, of pure gold2. Khierr cared for the egg, staying always near it, keeping it at the edge of a pond of magma and bathing it once a day in the burning liquid, and the egg in time hatched to make the second Drei Conn, Urhu.

For some few years they were as a normal parent-child pair, the one educating the other, directing the other, protecting the other. Khierr shared all of its knowledge with Urhu, and the other became powerful and wise even as was Khierr. In time, however, as is always the case of adult and offspring, there came a parting between them, and they grew separate in their philosophy and ways, and so at some time Urhu decided, with some hesitation, to move apart from its creator, Khierr. After a solemn yet proud ritual, the two were put apart forever, no longer bonded.

Urhu traveled into the depths of the earth for many years, wandering and studying, even as had Khierr. A deep yearning came over its soul, and it sought something– what, it could not guess. In time, it found a stream of magma flowing in a way unusual to Urhu’s knowledge, moving upward as to some high destination. Curious, Urhu followed it up, passing through many winding caves and sometimes even diving through the magma itself, until finally it emerged into a cave beset by fumes of impossibly cold, clear air. Urhu turned toward the source of these fumes, seeking still something that stirred its soul. It passed through a final opening, and beheld a humongous cavern, larger than it had ever seen, and stranger than it could have imagined. The roof was so high it could not guess the distance, and blue and clear as a sapphire of perfect clarity. High near the peak of this blue dome, a single flame shone with such heat and light that Urhu could not bear look directly at it. The light was akin to the Flame, yet not born of the Flame as all flames are, and Urhu could not guess at the meaning of this.

Looking further, Urhu saw that the wall upon which it perched was the crest of a high peak, its sides sloping slowly to a deep and far-reaching plane, which was, Urhu blinked in astonishment to behold, bright green and rough in appearance. It immediately descended, eager to learn more of this strange substance– was it some form of emerald? Yet it found at once that this new realm was cold, colder than anything had ever encountered before, far too cold to explore deeply, and was forced to return to the pit from which it had crawled.

You know, listener, what Urhu found. It had discovered the surface of the earth, a thing previously unknown to it except in theory, and its soul burgeoned at the idea of knowing all that could be known of that place.

So Urhu made use of a trick it had learned from Khierr. It dipped its body, briefly, into the magma, the searing heat of the molten rock infusing its body with energy. In this way it could survive for some time beyond the Flame.

As Urhu emerged from the river of magma, the liquid stone clung to its body in a brilliant red coating, further providing its body with power. Thus clad, Urhu commenced to explore the world until the dripping magma had cooled and become a skin of stone. Urhu had inadvertently created the first Ouc Drei, the dragon armor3.

Urhu spent centuries studying the upper world, learning nearly as much as Khierr had gleaned of the realms beneath. In that time, it discovered many plants, animals and creatures, but never anything that came close to matching its perfection. However, it learned much of the ways of life and living, even as Khierr had learned of the ways of the earth. In time, Urhu decided to return to the place of its birth, to share its knowledge with Khierr.

After much traveling, Urhu, found its parent in a very deep place, in deep meditation. It sat at the edge of a vast ocean of magma, the Drei Seivi, which reached even to the very core of the earth, for in these times the earth had not yet been cleaved, and its center was whole. Urhu approached Khierr with care and respect, but the other did not pay any attention to it. It seemed to be asleep–though Drei Conn do not sleep– merely breathing slowly and deeply the heat of the earth, of the Flame.

Urhu was concerned, but before long Khierr awoke and said that it was in commune, speaking to the spirit of the Flame. In so doing it had fulfilled all desires and achieved perfection beyond all other things in the universe. Shortly Khierr taught Urhu to do this as well.

This part of the story is very long and speaks of the many dangers and secrets to communing with the Flame. These secrets are not to be known by those who are not Drei Conn, no matter the reasoning, so I must skip this part.

In time, Urhu mastered the secrets and came to speak to the spirit of the Flame, and, as promised, was perfected. Its weaknesses were stripped away and its strengths replenished and improved. Khierr had invented magic, and now Urhu had mastered it as well, and with it the power to bring the essence of the Flame wherever they went. Now Urhu could summon the Flame at any time, in any place.

Urhu now told Khierr of the cold place above the ground that it had spent so long studying. The two knew, from the teachings of the Flame, that the Flame at the center of the world was at odds with the cold water from beyond the sky. Knowing this, Urhu wished to return to the surface, and using its own power, to spread the Flame across the surface until the whole of the world was one with the Flame as it once had been. But Khierr saw faults in this design.
“No matter how pure your wishes and your communion with the Flame, you can never summon enough power to heat the whole surface before the essence of the coldness undoes what you have managed.”

“Then we will lay many eggs, and they will hatch into more of our kind, and they will lay more eggs which will become even more Drei Conn, and when we have an army we will teach them all how to become one with the Flame, and together we will burn all that is and return it to the Flame.”

But Khierr shook his head. “Doing so will anger the coldness and the many creatures that rely on it. Those creatures will fight against you, and while we are superior, they are many, for as you have discovered, they have spread across this world for countless millennia, reproducing without reason or restraint. We could never increase our kind fast enough to outweigh what they already have.”

“Then we will lay our eggs in secret, beneath the earth in places where the creatures of the coldness cannot go. Only when there are enough of us will we emerge.”

Khierr disapproved. “You wish to make war with the greater part of life. Such a thing is dangerous and will bring little good even in victory. The Flame is. It does not need to increase, only to be. You serve It well by helping It to consume, as you would serve our nature by producing more of our own kind, yet I sense that if you are careless and seek to make war with all life, it may bring ruin to us and to the Flame as well.”

But Urhu laughed at his words, asking why Khierr was so afraid of the cold creatures that it would not even try to make war against them. Khierr said nothing, but still refused to help Urhu, and so the younger Drei Conn left the shores of the magma sea and went up, away from the Drei Seivi to the caves below the surface of the world.

There Urhu began to lay eggs, waiting the shortest amount of time– three months– between each laying. When it had made eight eggs it rested and cared for them, even as Khierr had cared for Urhu. It imparted the spirit of the Flame into each egg, purifying the spirits of its young, so that when they hatched, they would be one with the Flame, and able to work magic at will. Each of the eggs hatched after the normal two year period, and the birthlings were named Kier, Rhuss, Vass, Siék, Khorr, Rierhas, Ogurr, and Khrus.

Urhu beheld its young, and was most pleased. When, after a few months, they had grown enough to control their bodies fully, to stand and see well, and to work the Flame that burned within them, Urhu brought them carefully to the surface, by the same volcano from which it had first emerged. The dragonlings, having known only the dark and pitiful caves near the surface, never having seen the Drei Seivi or the wonders of the deep earth, were astounded by the beauty of the cold place. They knew not the secrets of the deep world, nor the secrets of the surface, and so they were infused with curiosity. Wielding the power of the Flame, they delved into the forests and grasslands and, even so, the deep oceans, heated from within by their magic. Urhu stayed within the volcano as they scattered across the lands, feeling their presence through their parental bond. Unlike Khierr who had stayed with its young, teaching of many things firsthand, Urhu allowed its young to wander, to explore, to learn on their own.

Each dragonling was enraptured by some part of nature; the plants, the animals, the bodies of water. But Kier, the oldest, became obsessed with the great light that shined from the sky, and which periodically set into the earth, burning the sky as it sank, only to later rise again. For many years Kier sought the place where the sun rested at night, but soon realized the world was far too vast for it to search thoroughly. So it developed another plan.

Kier stretched its guiding fins out as far as they would go. It continued to develop them, over many months, until they had become larger than its own body, and the tendons holding them quite strong4. It modeled their shape after the wings of birds, and when they were large enough, Kier created a great heat beneath them, hotter even than magma but without substance, and covered by a cushion of cooler air that Kier also created. The heat lifted the cushion, and Kier rode atop it, stretching its wings. Kier had discovered flight.

For many years Kier developed its flying skill, teaching the technique to its siblings as well. They in turn brought news of this ability to Urhu, but Urhu, seeing no need for such a thing, chose to keep its fins as fins and remain rooted to the world.

Kier continued to study the great flame in the sky even as it flew ever higher. Eventually, it flew so high that it saw the curve of the earth, and realized that it inhabited a spherical world. This fact, which Khierr had first learned by study, and taught to Urhu, Kier now learned through observation. Kier further studied the sun and realized, in time, that it must be very far, and quite vast, and well beyond the range of a dragon. The air thinned near the top of the sky, and the trick of flying would not work. And so Kier, sadly, admitted that this great flame was beyond reach.

So, instead, Kier communed with the sun as it knew to do with the Flame. After many months of effort, it succeeded, and found that the sun was the Flame; it was the originator of all Flames! And this seemed well and right to Kier, who knew only the surface world and had never seen the Drei Seivi where the Flame of earth resided.

When this news reached the other dragons, it caused a great argument that continues to this day. They were divided over which Flame to serve; the child-Flame at the center of the earth, or the parent-Flame that watches over the world and brings warmth to all. Kier, Rhuss, Siék, and Rierhas all chose to serve the sun, but the rest, including Urhu, preferred to remain loyal to the earth-Flame, which had made them and which could be communed with directly, from the Drei Seivi, rather than across a great distance. Khierr, when eventually the news reached it, chose to serve both equally, to serve the pure essence of Flame in all its forms, although it remained at the magma sea. Even today, dragons are divided over this matter, and it is considered proper not to ask which Flame one serves.

In time, the dragons divided. Urhu’s plan to destroy all cold life was not favored by them, as they had spent many years wandering the world and taking in its wonders, and so they separated, having long outgrown the bond of parent and child, to find nests of their own in volcanoes and caves throughout the land, and in time produce new young.

And so it was for centuries, and the ranks of dragon-kind grew greatly.

Urhu raised three more young, keeping closely with them in childhood and teaching them to share its feelings of the world, so that they, too, were eager to destroy the coldness and expand the Flame. All served the earth-Flame. They lived in the same mountain from which Urhu had first emerged, and spent as much time below the surface as above it.

Rhuss, who was sentimental to Urhu’s plans, lived nearby and raised two young of its own, preparing them also to bring the Flame upon the surface, but they served the sky-Flame instead, their hope to honor its creation of this world by returning the earth to its former state.

Kier, Siék, and Rierhas, felt differently. They saw how the sun warmed the world, if only slightly, and how even this small amount light and warmth encouraged the growth of all life. They saw that all life, even that which dwelt in the cold world, was the offspring of the sky-Flame, and knew that destroying such life would be an insult to the Flame’s efforts. So they lived in peace with the nature around them, in high mountains and exposed caves, and each raised many young. They lived near to one another, and met with one another on occasion.

Khorr and Khruss, though they went their separate ways, each came to follow the same path, serving the earth-Flame but not seeking to spread It onto the cold parts of the world. They respected the life around them, and sought peace with it, while serving the earth-Flame and cultivating its effigy in their volcano homes.

The path of Vass is not well known. It returned to the depths of the earth, though it may have emerged on occasion since. Some believe they have met it in deep caverns, but this cannot be proved. We do not know if it still lives.

But Ogurr took perhaps the strangest path of all. It delved into the deeps of the world, the great cold oceans, coming to live in a great underwater volcano, among steaming vents. The other dragons saw this lifestyle as quite odd, a creature of the Flame inhabiting one of the coldest parts of the world, but there may have been wisdom in this, for Ogurr has never been troubled by the wars of the surface, and lives in that same volcano still, its many offspring swimming the currents of the ocean. Rarely is there trouble between them and men or other dragons.

This is the end of the first part of the story, the tale of how things came to be. The second part tells of the emergence of Wizards and how their presence brought discord both against the Drei Conn and between them.

1Compiler’s Note for the uneducated: Dragons are a metallic race, composed of many metallic elements combined into cells which, though similar to carbon-based cells in function, are quite different in form. There are other metallic creatures, generally believed to be the primitive ancestors of Dragons. Unlike our cells, which are powered by chemical energy from various nutrients, Draconic cells utilize pure thermal energy and cannot break down complex chemicals. For this reason, Dragons must breath fire lest they die.
2Among the many foolish superstitions surrounding Dragons is the idea that they collect hoards of treasure and sit upon it as guardian. This is pure idiocy, and easily debunked. The golden mounds sometimes seen beneath Dragon hides are in fact their eggs, young Dragons waiting to hatch.
3This armor of stone is the reason Dragons are not well known to be metallic. As a matter of culture, Dragons wear it whenever they go to war, be it with humans, wizards, or other Dragons, and war is nearly the only time Dragons are witnessed by humans. It also accounts for the commonly attributed Dragon colors: most of the time it is some shade of brown, grey or black, but will be red-hot if recently made. Some most sedentary Dragons keep the same armor until it sometimes develops lichen, causing them to appear green. Stories of green dragons may have been exaggerated by writers who, having never seen a Dragon, imagined them to be huge lizards.
4Yes, Dragons can change their shapes at will, though it takes time.
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