Dragons, or Saar in their own language, are the eldest intelligent species on Tygan. Dubbed the Elder Race by the rest of Tygan’s people, dragons have a history as rich as any other, sporting many historical figures and great narratives. But they also have a nasty reputation with Tygan’s other peoples due to their mostly apathetic and sometimes downright monstrous treatment of other creatures.
Not much is known of dragon evolution, with many questions that even the dragons to lack answers to. Dragons began modestly, as small, six-legged ground-dwelling reptiles with problem-solving intelligence. Examples of cave drawings and territory markings exist from the early days, showing the beginnings of society. Even these primitive dragons collected metals and gems, though debate exists as to exactly why. Their minds already ripe with potential, their bodies followed suit. Through gradual mutation over thousands of years, their mid limbs developed sails which these primitive reptiles used to glide short distances. Many generations of constant use and these sails eventually developed into proper wings, allowing them to fly. This ability gave them a distinct advantage over their predatory competition, and allowed them to inhabit all of Tygan.
At some point during their evolutionary line, dragons developed natural arcane abilities, namely the power to breath fire. This birthright of dragons is the first known Arcana on Tygan, and its origin is as mysterious to the dragons as anyone else. Many theories exist, from natural genetic mutation to some form of divine blessing. Their magical abilities come from their blood, and it was through their blood that dragon evolution was truly jumpstarted. Some theorize that this magic blood caused the increase in size of early dragons. Their blood also slows down the degradation of cells, allowing dragons their incredibly long lifespans, sometimes reaching beyond a thousand years. They grew from the small wolf sized predators of the fossil record to become sailing beasts that conquered Tygan’s primitive skies.
Then came Saar’Jya, considered the first modern dragon. Though her form still bore aspects of the dragons’ primitive ancestors, Saar’Jya’s mind was as sharp as any modern wyrm. A chance mutation granted Saar’Jya superior intelligence to her counterparts, and it is through her that dragon civilization was truly born. In order to more effectively communicate with budding wyrmlings, she crafted Dragon Tongue as Tygan’s first written and verbal language. She became known as the All Mother, the matriarch of all dragons on Tygan. To this day, the dragons revere her greatly. Saar’jya became a true pioneer for her people. The dragons achieved a full mastery of Arcana under her rule. Saar’Jya also took several males, passing on her abilities to subsequent generations. Many dragon lineages can be traced back to Saar’Jya’s time.
Saar’Jya has the interesting distinction of having never truly died. Through her mastery of Arcana, she grew to learn much about the nature of the universe, even managing to make contact with the super intelligence that maintains its laws and properties, an entity that the dragons dubbed The Great Teacher. Saar’Jya developed what she has fondly referred to as a very close relationship with this entity, and when the time came for her to pass, she instead ascended to divine status, being the first of Tygan’s citizens to become a deity. She left only her skeleton behind, rendered almost indestructible by eons of exposure to magic.
Upon her ascension, dragons constructed a temple around her skeleton. She left behind a message, saying that if anyone could bring her a flame as hot at those of her children, her avatar would appear and speak to them. Thus, many dragons, and even primates, have made the journey to the temple seeking to speak with the All Mother. For ages, this temple was the only building to be found on Tygan.
Though dragons never formed schools or communities, many of them took up writing as a hobby, earning several of these wyrms the title of historians. Many of these wyrms are still studies by scholars. It was through these writings that the details of a very significant event in the history of the Saar was documented, the appearance of intelligent primates. Many early writings of dragons still exist, dealing the gradual growth of humans, elves, orcs and dwarves from their ape ancestors, during which time they coined the term ‘ape castes.’ These writings from dragons helped many historians piece together the early history of intelligent primates, events later confirmed by the fossil record. Dragons remained uninvolved with the workings of developing society.
When the ape castes started beyond their hunter gatherer roots, their settlements became favorite targets for some dragons seeking a quick meal, livestock or otherwise. Though they have a reputation for eating young females, this is not supported by actual statistics. They tend rather to target larger members of the community, muscle- bound workers and so forth, due to their greater abundance of meat. When these early civilizations developed currency out of gems and precious metals, the attacks only increased when dragons sought to pillage their treasure. While there’s debate as to whether the first weapons were specifically created to fight dragons, there’s plenty of evidence that wyrms affected the design of all weaponry.
The first successful slaying of an elder wyrm occurred in the country of Haiden when a young elven peasant concocted the poison known as Dragon’s Bane, and saved his village from a wyrm’s attack. Dragon’s Bane resulted in many attacking wyrms killed when they laid siege on cities, since the poison made even a fairly minor cut fatal within hours. As a result, dragons became more cunning in their assaults. More brazen wyrms were killed immediately during their sieges. More cunning and scheming wyrms survived for centuries, growing stronger and more durable during their lifespan, sometimes passing on from old age before slayers could even deal with them.
In spite of these attacks, some dragons took an interest in the apes and were more benevolent in their dealings. Rich kingdoms would often give much of their treasure to wyrms in exchange for assistance in building. This was the case with much of Reuel. Though it was polished off by slave labor, most of the city’s buildings were constructed by two wyrms who were given a full quarter of the elven economy at the time. The investment was returned in a mere two centuries after the city became one of the world’s economic superpowers.
Dragons are seldom involved in conflicts between different culture and creeds of ape, but there are a few notable exceptions involving dragons in warfare. One such was of a wyrm bribed by the elves to help them during the First Great War, tasking the dragon with scattering enemy formations and raiding supply trains before this dragon was killed by Foster, the future leader of the revolt. The death of this wyrm was a major turning point for the rebellion, and the key event that solidified Foster as the leader of the movement.
Dragons are raised by their parents for all their childhoods, which lasts around eighty years. During this time, they master their arcana and flying abilities, and spy on ape castes to learn their culture as well as their weaknesses. At eighty years, they either willingly leave home or are forced to leave to make room for new clutches. This is the most dangerous time for a dragon as they still have three centuries before they reach full size and toughness, and a century after that for their powers to peak. During this time they are in danger from other large predators, as well as intelligent primates. If they survive this phase, dragons remain solitary until they reach maturity, take a mate and tend to their young.
Dragons neither have a matriarchal or patriarchal system, mates challenging each other for the dominant position upon their pairing. The dominant partner can be either male or female. It is shortly after the challenge concludes that they mate, and then pair for life. They will mate every season, which occurs about once every two centuries, with fifty years granted to caring for and tending the eggs, and another eighty devoted to caring for the wyrmlings. The remaining twenty cold seasons are used to recuperate and rest, and sometimes to aid their young living on their own should the parents see fit. Though they do live on their own afterwards, families have been known to keep in contact, often forming their lairs relatively close to each other. Certain dragon lineages have longstanding claims on specific territories.
Typically, a dragon will make their home in a mountainous region surrounded by many peaks and canyons, rendering the terrain impassable to all but the most skilled of explorers and adventurers. Dragons are burrowers, using their strong claws to dig deep into rock and earth, creating vast underground labyrinths that they navigate from memory. Many slayers get hopelessly turned around during this stage, and often find themselves right back at the tunnel entrances, if they are lucky enough not to get lost and starve to death.
These tunnel mazes lead to several central chambers where a dragon makes their home. Two chambers that are always found in a layer are one to pool underground water for drinking, and one that doubles as a store room for treasure and a sleeping chamber. Different dragons many have different chambers, such as ones for nests, large kitchens, and sometimes even libraries. These vast underground cavities are known to be quite large. Displayed below is an elder wyrm to scale with an orc, an elf and two humans, with a scaled picture of a chamber.
Dragons have a natural ability to produce fire, the first spell on Tygan and the only one that occurs naturally. Their bodies are conduits for magic and the elements, drawing their strength from the energies around them, though never to the point where they deteriorate their environment or other living things. The phenomenon is visible only on the atomic level. It was through studies of the dragons’ mysterious organ, dubbed the Arcanus by scientists, that primates learned the art of Arcana. Dragons are also responsible for the first enchantment, known as the Dragon’s Blessing.
Though there are tales of dragons granting intelligence and skill to primates (as per the elder wyrm narrative amongst elves), no direct observations of this skill have been seen. The Dragon Blessing is the natural ability to enchant something with their fire, which they use to make traps for their prey. The enchantment lasts as long as the dragon does, and being of their fire, it does not harm them.
Dragons are incredibly intelligent; the average dragon could graduate from the top universities with ease, as proven by the elven professor who tracked down a cooperative wyrm and tested her intelligence in exchange for treasure. The dragon passed all courses with flawless marks. The dragon then demanded double the treasure promised her as a reward for her “intellectual prowess,” which of course the professor accepted. Similar tests with younger wyrms produced average scores of ninety percent. The lowest scoring wyrm still passed with a seventy five percent grade.
Dragons have excellent memory retention and attention to detail, and can usually tell if someone is lying based on various tells of demeanor and facial expression. They also have acute senses of vision, hearing and sense of smell, able to see just as well in the dark as in the daylight, pick up on whispered conversations from hundreds of yards away, and trace smells carried on the wind for hundreds of miles.
Dragons were the only ones on Tygan unworried during Assylyl’s initial arrival. Assylyl was an extra dimensional entity from a plane known as the Further Beyond. Dubbed the Far One by Tygan’s people, he wrought destruction and despair that nearly consumed the planet. The weapons of the ape castes were useless against Assylyl, as his wounds immediately healed after behind opened, but after a run in with a wyrm, Assylyl was slightly burned, the only truly effective attack against him. Assylyl must have deduced that a dragon’s fire was hot enough to cauterize his wounds and obliterate the cells beyond repair.
Seeing the threat, Assylyl exploited the past deeds of dragons to rally some of Tygan’s citizens to his aid, thus creating the Followers. The Followers butchered thousands of Saar on Assylyl’s bidding. Favorite targets included nests and wyrmlings, though elder wyrms did fall victim as well. In the darkest hour of the species, a lone female dragon joined the fight against Assylyl, enlisting her aid to a dwarf known as Davies the Kind. The two formed a partnership that has since become the stuff of legends. This partnership resulted in the only recorded time that a dragon instilled the Dragon Blessing on a weapon held by another.
Davies the Kind had his sword blessed by the Great Wyrmess, enchanting it to become the Inferno Blade. It was the only weapon that could harm Assylyl directly. It is believed that had Davies and the Wyrmess partnered up longer, the weapon may have achieved an even greater power. The two fought side by side until the final battle against Assylyl at the Spire, where the Great Wyrmess sacrificed her life and the two defeated the Far One.
Since Assylyl’s reign, dragons have been reduced greatly in number, their population plummeting to the point they are considered endangered. The likelihood of their extinction has made dragons much more cautious in their dealings with ape castes, often not dealing directly with them until they reach sufficient size and strength. Current population estimates hold at least thirty elder wyrms, between nine hundred and three thousand adolescents to mature adults, and between ten thousand and fifty thousand wyrmlings currently live on Tygan. The population appears to be slowly recovering, in spite of the fact that dragon slaying is still a trade.
Unfortunately for dragons, their own dealings with Tygan’s other peoples painted the Saar as monstrous figures, and indeed the Elder Race has produced many monsters. Most dragons view ape castes with a general apathy, and in spite of the obvious exception of the Great Wyrmess, most do not deal with other creatures without some form of personal gain to be had.Some have posited that due to the size discrepancy, many dragons cannot humble themselves to view Tygan’s other peoples as anything more than scurrying animals. In spite of the heroic efforts of the Great Wyrmess, no more dragons have followed her example as of yet, and many now feel her efforts are but folklore.
Still, some scholars point out that as disquieting as it is, only a dragon was strong enough to defeat Assylyl, and that it took so long for a dragon to join the fight has resulted in many people on Tygan being rightfully bitter. Even Saar’Jya herself criticized her children, saying “Did Assylyl do this to you, or did you do this to yourselves?”