The first time I met a dragon was in Stonewall, on my first journey to the city. Her name was Kei-Tahn, and we met in a pub after I had succumbed to the temptation she had offered in the form of a round of drinks. She entertained me for ages with her tales of the adventures she had had in Paroka that would put my own work to shame. By the time she bid me farewell, I could scarcely believe it had been four hours.—Edward Coldstone, Cira: A Legacy (1675 AN)
Dragons are a genus of mostly reptilian species, often possessing wings, horns, and the ability to fly. Dragons tend to be large creatures, often ranging from the size of a draft horse to larger than an elephant, but sizes are largely determined by their species. Dragons have been sighted predominantly in the western hemisphere of Micras, and their numbers and appearances have declined over the years.
Dragons in Apollonia
According to several eye-witness accounts, dragons had been living in the wild for several millennia in what is nowadays the Xianbei Province within Jingdao. Scrolls and paintings from the Zuxiang Dynasty (351 bAN - 264 AN) portray them as both wise and fearful creatures whom were both admired as feared among the Jingdaoese population. The Emperors of Zuxiang adopted the creatures as symbol of the state, after the Shang Emperor (the eight emperor of the Zuxiang Dynasty) had successfully domesticated a small baby dragon. Their symbol was eventually used by its successor, the Wangzi Dynasty (265 - 987 AN), to present some form of continuity towards the public.
During the Youya Dynasty (987 - 1451 AN), the amount of dragons decreased quickly as of a result of increased dragon hunts. But even without the hunts, biologists think that the dragon population in Apollonia had been in decline long before those prestigious hunts began. Illnesses, lack of new baby dragons, the growth of human cities and towns would all have contributed to this decline. Sporadic appearances of dragons were still reported during the Late Jierdai Dynasty (1451 - 1623 AN), but were often more rumours or drunken talk than trustworthy testimonials.
Ciric dragons are a species of dragon that live in the western regions of the island known as Sypyr, in the domain of the Ciric Confederacy. Ciric dragons are categorised into two distinct groups: Those who possess the relatively common mutation that vastly increases the individual dragon's intelligence (called "civilised dragons"), and those who lack it (called "feral dragons"). These categories are broad, and Ciric dragons are a species that possess a high mutation rate, meaning an individual's appearance is often completely unique. Ciric dragons very highly in terms of ability and temperament, especially among ferals, though civilised dragons seem to possess fairly uniform physical attributes. Ciric dragons are thought to have a common ancestor in migrants from dragon populations in Benacia, but Ciric biologists have yet to conduct a study in Benacia to research this theory. It is not known if Ciric dragons have any relation to dragons found in Ralgon.
Despite their reptilian appearance, all Ciric dragons are warm-blooded creatures. This is thought by confederate biologists to be an adaptation to the cold region that Sypyr is situated in. Ciric dragons also always possess seven appendages; they have two wings, four legs, and a tail. All dragons possess the ability to fly, but the weight difference between ferals and civilised dragons results in most ferals being able to only fly short bursts. Dragons vary in colouration but tend towards darker shades on their backs, with lighter coloured scaled on the chest and neck. Some dragons have horns, and dragons are known to have odd and uneven spikes along their bodies. Occasionally, dragons will have a "mane" of fur on their head and neck.
Ferals are much larger than their civilised counterparts, ranging from seven to eleven feet high at the shoulder. Feral dragons are also longer than civilised dragons, reaching up to sixteen feet in length. Feral dragons almost always have the ability to exhale fire from their mouth, through the production of flammable propane in their chest cavity, and an ignition spark from a "flintstone" at the back of the throat. There have also been documented cases of feral dragons that possessed the ability to spit an acidic fluid, but the norm is exhalation of flame. Ferals have also been known to possess feathers or thick fur as opposed to the scales which are typical of their kind, displaying the genetically mutative property that accompanies the species as a whole. Ferals rarely possess a level of intelligence above that of any wild animal, there being no study or documentation of a feral dragon displaying problem-solving capabilities. Ferals are also extraordinarily aggressive and territorial creatures, especially mothers. A mother dragon with a nest on settled farmland is an immense danger to the nearby town and always requires a specialised intervention from the Ciric armed forces.
Civilised dragons are much smaller than ferals, owing to a physical limitation which is intertwined with the common mutation that results in their intelligence, and stand at roughly five feet at the shoulder and are nine feet long on average. Civilised dragons display a much lower physical mutation rate than their feral counterparts as well, being rather uniform in physical attributes. They always have scales and horns, and possess manes roughly fifty percent of the time. A civilised dragon has never been documented with the ability to exhale fire, though they do possess a far greater capability of flight than ferals, due to their small size. Their scales tend to be lighter in coour than ferals as well. Civilised dragons also possess a far higher amount of manual dexterity than ferals, resulting in their ability to stand on their hind legs when necessary and manipulate objects with their forepaws, which are of a similar bone structure to human hands.
Civilised dragons present a fascinating case study to Ciric psychologists because of their completely natural ability to assimilate into a culture. While their intelligence level is not markedly different from humans', they have an innate ability in their early stages of development to learn languages within two years. They also have a remarkable ability to completely absorb the culture and mannerisms of those around them when they are being educated. In a study performed in 1652, Ciric psychologists found that people who were asked to listen to a thirty-minute long conversation between a civilised dragon and a human could not identify which speaker was human with any precision. This speaks to the aforementioned ability to assimilate not only the culture, but also the mannerisms and method of speech of their educators.