A Guide to Dragons for the Casual Tourist
Written by Oblithion Darkflame
So You Want to Visit The Dragons
Most would like to relax on the beaches of Indolana or visit Elven museums. Or even if you’re adventurous… and sexually restless, the faerie realm of Nyth. But if you are reading this, you want to see dragons. I applaud you for your bravery. We probably could be friends. So, as a friend, I wish to give you some tips I have picked up from living among dragons for most of my life. They have a rich culture of traditions that can be odd to a mortal tourist who just wanted to see the oldest civilization in Loria. Here’s a brief guide of things to keep in mind.
Tip #1- Don’t look them in the eye, except when you should
Dragons, believe it or not, are predators and the top predators at that. As such, they demand respect. Don’t challenge them, which I didn’t need to tell you. It’s common sense and the only ones who do are idiots and me. But it is easy to accidentally provoke them. You know how people tell you not to look wolves in the eye. Same concept here.
However, there is a very important exception.
Eastern dragons consider keeping eye contact with a superior respectful and averting one’s eyes an act of defiance. An old saying among them is:
“If you cannot stand to look your lord in the eye, then you must not tolerate their rule.” (this cultural quirk possibly comes from the phoenixes for it’s shared by the avynar)
So for Semira’s sake, look them in the eye.
Fun History Fact: Since this is basically the opposite in the north and west, the Great King Sunflame assumed that the eastern prisoners during his war with Nightcinder he captured were averting their eyes out of meekness and not as a last ditch effort for defiance.
He learned the truth by the time or perhaps during the surrender of Nightcinder because he had him submit the eastern way.
Tip #2- Don’t tell them if you don’t know who they are
Dragons have pride; don’t bruise it. If you don’t know the illustrious reputation of some dragon, don’t panic and absolutely don’t lie that you do. Just… don’t say that they aren’t famous. As long as you look sufficiently cowed, they won’t suspect a thing.
Tip #3- Treat wyverns exactly the same as dragons
So, you may notice that most of the dragons you’ll encounter will be wyverns and not full blown dragons. So, the basic question is: should you treat them differently?
No. Absolutely not. Wyverns are beneath high dragons in their social order, but as far as they’re concerned, they are still far above you. Treat them with the same respect that you give the dragon lords and they will tolerate you. Don’t follow this advice at your own peril. There are way more wyverns than high dragons. Piss them off, and they will make your life a living Abyss, if they let you live at all.
Tip #4- Learn the basic history of your hosts
The most effective way to not give offense is to know their past and let that guide your actions. I don’t just mean national history or family history (though you should absolutely read up on that too), but personal history as well.
Take Yue’an Greydust as an example. You don’t have to dig deep into his history to learn that if you go and visit him, you have to not bring up two things: his southern heritage and his wayward wyvern son, Kygarax (yes, that Kygarax. The great Solasari wizard). Acknowledging either is an excellent way to learn what it feels like to get burned to death. Beyond those specific things, he is relatively civil.
So, do quick research. If you can’t find any reading material, just politely ask a firesworn or wyvern (that you think is trustworthy and doesn’t want to get you killed) if there is anything you should know about a particular dragon and what not to say.
Tip #5- Read up on current events and ancient events (dragons are immortal. Grudges that started a thousand years ago are still relevant)
Here’s a list of some good books that can do a great job of bringing you up to speed.
The Crimes of Seacinder by Verathyx Redclaw
A Civil War Without Equal by Arragoc Bloodpeak
Flood and Flame (A History of Draconic and Naiadic relations) by Lukira Seacinder
Night and Day (Or the tale of two kings during the invasion of the east) by Darra Nightsand and Althazor Silverhorn
The Sun Rises by Allyxi Darkflame
The Unlit Years (The Time before Dragon Unification) Neal Tuvoc, Head of Archeology at the Tower of Merrell
If you can’t locate any of them, here’s eight highlights you should remember:
1- The dragons at some point unified into four countries of varying degrees of centralization.
Sunflame unified the North and West kingdoms by virtue of being the son of both reigning monarchs.
2- Sunflame invaded and then obliterated the South. He attempted to do the same to the East, but due to the opposing king being a much better military strategist, despite being vastly outnumbered, he prolonged the war for centuries. The East eventually surrendered, but Sunflame was so impressed by his opponent that he let him continue ruling it with almost complete autonomy.
3- The Naiads caused the great flood that sank much of the Western Dragon homeland under the sea, including the capital which is why they relocated to the traditional Northern capital of Caeg.
4– After Sunflame’s death, there was a massive Civil War that initiated the Demon War. The only important thing to remember that came out of that is Volcanira is now queen.
5– The dragon queen’s been missing for a decade and the council controlling things in her stead are incompetent (don’t tell them that).
6– The family that has ruled the eastern dragons since before human civilization began, have been massacred and exiled from their own seat of power, all in an extreme display of disproportionate retribution.
7– The committee of western and northern dragons trying to rule Verthinon in their stead are highly unpopular to the eastern populace and if you encounter any riots or things of that sort, that’s probably what they’re protesting.
8– I self exiled myself from the kingdom. Why? Because I have standards.
Tip #6- Wear Fireproof clothing
This one is self explanatory. If you don’t have access to actual fireproof materials, check your local apothecary or alchemist. They often can brew a fireproofing solution to pour on your clothes and equipment for you.
Tip #7- Do not take souvenirs
Not all dragons are materialistic, but all of them have a very clear distinction between other people’s possessions and their own. If they explicitly give you something, like not just hand you it, but say, “I want you to take this home with you” Then yeah, of course, take it. Many would be very insulted if you didn’t, seeing it as a sign that you think their gift unworthy of you.
However, don’t just take a candlestick because you think it would be fun to tell your neighbors that you got it from a dragon’s lair. The dragon will notice it’s missing, will track you down, and will be very pissed. The candle is theirs, after all.
Tip #8- Don’t try to mediate a dragon argument or brawl.
If two dragons start a heated discussion (pun absolutely intended), your natural impulse may be to try to calm them both down. You may think “if they are fighting, they may accidentally hurt me!” And though that could technically happen, I absolutely think trying to get between them is way more dangerous than just sitting back and letting their fiery tempers run their course. If they actually come to blows, your go-to safety procedure should be to back up and give them some space. There isn’t really a “safe distance” or at least one you can feasibly get to (we have to remember these combatants can fly), but giving them a better chance of noticing you and avoiding you is ideal. Remember, they aren’t trying to hurt you; they are trying to hurt someone else. You don’t want to be in the middle of it.
Tip #9- If you get separated from you family, report it to a dragon.
Culturally, dragons value family, above nearly anything and everything else, and therefore tend to respect family oriented quests. If you tell them you are looking for them, they will take the issue very, very seriously and may help you locate them on principle.
Tip #10- Do not take children to the gladiatorial games
I feel like this is self explanatory, but I will say it anyway. People die in that pit, all the time, and unless you want your children to watch a wyvern get literally torn in two, I recommend leaving them at the Inn. If and when you are alone, I definitely recommend going if you enjoy that sort of thing, and maybe even if you are not. It is a unique experience that you will see nowhere else
Tip #11- Have fun.
With all these guidelines to remember and follow, it’s easy to forget that this is a vacation and it is important that at some point you need to just relax and not stress about screwing up. As dangerous as dragons are, humans have been off their diet for a long time and none of the ones you are going to meet want to hurt you. Remember, their nation is a political entity and so is yours. If they attacked indiscriminately, Tenadar or Indolana or wherever you’re from would get involved, and most of them are not really interested in that tedium. They know you don’t know everything about them and the vast majority will not even consider getting offended by every little misstep.
There’s no need to panic and there’s no need to stress. The Dragons respect self assured confidence and you are far more likely to have a good time with them if you know what you are there for, go out there, and get it.
Enjoy the sights, enjoy the novelty, and most importantly, enjoy yourself. That’s the point of tourism after all.
Frequently Asked Questions
What actually is the difference between wyverns and dragons?
Besides the whole “they’re smaller with only two legs instead of four” thing? Yeah, I get this question a lot, and considering it boils down to basic dragon physiology, I think it’s important to educate everyone on it, regardless of whether they are visiting or not.
The first thing I want to make clear is that they are the same species.
When a dragon and a wyvern mate, the majority of their brood will be wyverns. So, when you call to mind the popular image of an entire cavern full of eggs, what you are seeing are wyvern eggs. High dragon eggs are much, much rarer, and they take forever to hatch, which brings us to what I’d argue is the fundamental difference.
High Dragon Growth Cycles. You must understand something. Dragons do not grow linearly. High Dragons grow almost exclusively in growth spurts. This includes egg incubation. It could hatch in a month; it could hatch in a century, Semira knows when. And once they hatch their actual growth continues to be just as unpredictable. The whelp could stay the same size for two years and suddenly grow five feet in a very short time span and then go back to not growing. They don’t have a magical age where they consider you an adult. You have to mature and then prove yourself as mature. And once “mature”, High Dragons never actually stop being capable of having these growth spurt stages, so given time, they will get bigger and bigger and bigger. What triggers these growth spurts? Dragons have been trying to figure that out for millennia and that discussion is too involved for a tourism guide. The main point I want to get across is dragon growth is a mutable thing.
Wyvern Growth Cycles. Wyverns are also flexible, but in a different way. The first thing to understand is that their incubation and growth is much much more predictable. No wyvern is going to take a century or even a decade to hatch. They come out relatively quick and once born they, unlike High Dragons, grow at a more linear rate, like the rest of us. What is flexible about them is how fast that rate is, and that is very clearly stress related. The more repetitively stressed they or those around them are, the faster they seem to grow. The practicality of this quirk is obvious. In wartime or dangerous environments, they will be capable of defending themselves much faster. While in more relaxed peaceful lulls, they take their time. There actual baseline rate of growth is hard to pindown, but they often reach adulthood as fast as humans, sometimes even faster.
When they reach this “mature” phase they actually stop growing, like normal living things. This is the real reason they’re smaller than dragons. They reach a size that’s a little smaller than a young adult High Dragon and then they stay that size for the rest of their lives. Wyverns are also not immortal, though they live long enough that humans won’t see any difference. Their actual life span is also hard to clarify as most wyverns aim to die dramatically and gloriously in battle and refuse to actually live to old age. So who knows.
Societal Role. If High Dragons are the lords, Wyverns consider themselves the warriors. This basic structure has existed in one form or another since draconic records began. If you, as someone who is not a dragon, immediately see the inherent unfortunate power imbalance implications of this, yeah, I know. As Loria continues to change, is draconic society a high pressure volcano ready to explode into outright class struggle? Probably. But that is something the dragons will have to work through themselves. You, as a tourist, are not going to be dealing with it. At least I hope not, unless you came there to receive an abrupt unscheduled cremation.
Reproductive Role. Who knows how dragon inheritance actual works. What is understood is that wyverns don’t have children with each other. They mate with a dragon (and I am not getting into the politics involved with that) and that’s that. High Dragons usually have lots of wyvern mates who go on to have clutches. Yes, dragons are polygamous. If your Velaenean sensibilities are horrified by this, I’m sorry, but Dragons are not Velaenean and don’t see a problem with it.
Wait, if High Dragons can be either gender and wyverns can be either gender, doesn’t this all make reproduction way more complicated than it needs to be?
As far as I’m concerned it’s a ridiculous system, but we can assume the Goddess Semira came up with it and if you have any complaints, I suggest you take it up with her.
How do I tell female and male dragons apart while they’re out of human form?
At the most basic level, male tails have spikes and female tails have fins at the end of them that kind of look like the end of fishtails. Don’t touch them! They are as sharp as blades. There are other differences, but the tails are the most reliable and straightforward method.
Western, Northern, Eastern, and even Southern Dragons all have different customs I have to keep track of, but how can I even tell them apart?
This is a very good question because, with mortal eyes, there isn’t much of a difference, in dragon form anyway. When they take the guise of human, it’s easy.
Western Dragons look kind of Indolanan
Northern dragons look kind of Tenadari, but paler.
Eastern Dragons look kind of like avynar minus the wings.
Southern Dragons look kind of like giants, minus the size.
The generally accepted theory for the consistency in dragon human form ethnicity is that the forms were made to look like the prehistoric human groups that lived in their vicinity, so that they could, you know, suitably blend in. What this means is that Northern Dragons don’t really look Tenadari, they are actually emulating the ancestors of the Tenadari. With this in mind, of course Western Dragons look Indolanan, a people that live in the west, and of course, Eastern Dragons look like Avynar, a people who before they were blessed by Sairezain, were humans living in the east.
The differences between Dragons when they are in their true forms however, are much less clear cut. The Dragons will tell you that it’s obvious.
Western Dragons are bigger and stronger, emphasis on strong
Northern Dragons are big and strong, emphasis on sturdiness and stamina
Eastern Dragons are smaller and more agile
Southern Dragons are light, smaller with massive wings spans, and are the fastest sentient things in Loria.
In reality, these are very muddy for several reasons.
1# Age. Most high dragons don’t really stop growing. Obviously, this means typically the older they are, the bigger they are. So, a positively ancient eastern dragon can without difficulty dwarf a young Western Dragon.
2# Thousands of years of crossbreeding. The Great king Sunflame united the North and the West before human civilization began. They have taken each other as mates for millennia and besides a couple of minor cultural quirks like “the north value politeness slightly more”, the differences between the two are as good as nil at this point. They are so unified that calling them the Northwestern dragons doesn’t even anger them…usually (don’t try it just in case). Eastern dragons are a little more distinct as though they joined Sunflame’s empire only a few centuries later, they kept almost complete autonomy throughout his and Volcanira’s reign.
You may have been noticing that I have been neglecting Southern Dragons in my comparisons. Most are gone and the ones that are left frankly aren’t very relevant to the discussion. Southern Dragon culture doesn’t really exist anymore. The Southern Dragons in the east see themselves as Eastern Dragons out of respect for Nightcinder’s patronage and generally won’t be insulted for mistaking them for eastern, and the ones living elsewhere generally don’t want to be reminded of their heritage at all.
Which brings me to the truth. I’d argue that there isn’t much physical difference anymore and it all now comes down to cultural stuff, which isn’t helpful for someone who is trying to distinguish between them.
On top of all this confusion, is the fact that guessing wrong is straight up dangerous. Mistaking a Western dragon for an eastern one and vise versa can insult a dragon to wrath.
A good baseline is if you are in Verthinon, chances are you are talking to an eastern dragon. If you are in Caeg most will be Northern/Western. You can also memorize the family suffixes (“Claw” is a western name, “Peak” is a northern one, “Cinder” is eastern, “Sand” is southern, etc. etc.) This is actually doable as after their Civil War there isn’t actually that many families left. I mean, there’s still a lot to memorize, but it’s definitely an option.
When in doubt, just ask them where they hail from. They usually will be delighted to tell you.
So there is Frenzyflame and Darkflame and Darkcinder…how do I keep track all these family names? Why do children sometimes have different last names than their parents?
Well, two of those examples are a part of the same family. Okay, allow me to briefly clarify.
Dragons have first names, as you know, (think Volcanira, Gordorath etc.) and those are their personal names, as in they refer specifically to them. Their family name is always the suffix of their second name. Frenzy—Flame. So dragon families include the Flames, Cinders, Embers, Sands, Peaks etc. etc. The prefix like “Frenzy” and “Dark” are there to specify the brood. Everyone with the last name Frenzyflame is either Volcanira herself or her children. When a High Dragon reaches adulthood, part of their rite of passage is choosing a new prefix to designate themselves and their brood.
So you might be asking “But Lith, if a child just changes their prefix when they’re an adult, what’s the point of having them?
Well, the thing is these prefixes aren’t really for the High Dragon choosing them. This naming system is mostly there for wyverns. They don’t go through the naming ritual at the onset of adulthood like the High Dragons, so all the wyvern children (the vast majority of children) will keep their High Dragon’s last name till their dying day.
Example time. My soulsworn used to be named Frenzyflame because she came from Volcanira’s brood. But, because she’s a high dragon, when she reached adulthood, she chose the name Darkflame to designate herself and her own brood. So, all her wyverns carry the last name Darkflame, as do I.
What are firesworn?
Firesworn is just a fancy word for a mortal who is still serving a dragon. Most people rebelled from the dragons while their empire crumbled thousands of years ago, but there are still some who followed them and those people have descendants. There are also people who were not born into, but swore loyalty to a dragon later in life. Both fall under the firesworn category. And before you say it, no I’m not actually classified as firesworn. I was the soulsworn of a dragon, which as far as the dragons are concerned, makes me a dragon legally speaking. The fact that I am still a dwarf is unimportant.
Should I learn Draconic?
There are technically two separate draconic languages: High Draconic and Low Draconic. Dragons in their true forms don’t have the vocal components to speak mortal languages and humans and shapeshifted dragons likewise don’t have the necessary vocal components to speak like dragons. This is clearly an issue when you are trying to communicate to your human minions.
The solution they came up with thousands of years ago was to have two variants. High Draconic which is the actual dragon language and lower draconic which the dragons in human form and their human slaves spoke. The ideal situation is for a dragon to speak High Draconic to a human; the human understands it and responds in Low Draconic, and the dragon understands
So, take me for example. I am considered fully fluent in Draconic. What that means is that I speak, and understand Lower Draconic and only understand High Draconic, because I am physically incapable of making the necessary sounds. I’ve telepathically projected High Draconic before, which is very fun and it freaks dragons out, but that’s off topic.
They are technically the same language; they share the same grammar rules, and the same written language. They look the same written down and you are supposed to voice whichever way you are currently capable of pronouncing.
So, with that understood, we come back to the original question: should you learn Low Draconic, understand High Draconic, both, or ignore it?
Learning to understand some phrases in High Draconic is valuable, especially as while they are in their true form, Dragons are incapable of talking to you in Common.
Low Draconic, on the other hand, is a double edged sword. Most dragons you meet will understand Common. They’ve had plenty of time to learn, and the only ones who don’t are so stubborn and set in their ways it might not be a good idea to speak with them anyway. Learning a couple of phrases may impress some, but it’s not necessary. I’d argue that unless you intend to devote a great deal of energy into learning the vocabulary rules, don’t even try as there are dangerous mistakes that harmlessly ignorant people can fall into.
Let me explain. Because dragons are dragons, there are certain linguistic quirks that make it very easy to insult people unintentionally, by omission.
Take possessives for example. The Draconic language is very fixated on what anything belongs to. There isn’t really a “the” in their language. It’s always “her ball,” “your jewelry,” “the queen’s land.” Even if no actual owner can be found, they will just say “Loria’s tree” attributing the tree’s ownership to the world itself.
That’s all fine, cumbersome, but fine. That is until I tell you that there is no “my” or “mine” possessive. The assumption is, if you don’t clarify an owner, you are that owner. So if you literally say, “I like house.” what you are really saying is “I like my house.”
What this means practically is that through accidentally not clarifying you can very easily claim that some dragon’s priceless treasure is yours and not theirs, which pisses them off, a lot.
So…yeah, stick to Common.
Do they accept standard Lorans as currency?
But they do in many ways still follow the barter system and if you have something suitably pretty or interesting to trade, they’ll often accept that as well.
Do Dragons only eat meat?
They can eat vegetables and fruits, as in their stomachs will process it, but they don’t find it very filling. They can be useful in their diet when in human form though.
Does scale color mean anything?
All I’ll say about that is that wyverns almost always are the color of their high dragon parent. Beyond that, there are not really any rules.
I’ve been flirting with a dragon (in human form) and they like me back. Is that okay?
I could and should write a book on this subject, but I will first prefecit by saying that I am not recommending you get involved with a dragon. Yeah, yeah, I know. Do as I advise, not as I do and all that.
Dragons are not humans. Or elves or dwarves or avynar or whatever. All those people may have different cultures, but you can take my word for it as a telepath that they all think in the same vein. Dragons are similar, really similar, but do not be fooled. They have emotions that can’t quite be translated into human terms and that does affect how they see the world and show affection.
They often have lots of mates. Don’t get jealous, but let them get jealous over you. Is that imbalanced? Yeah, of course, but you are trying to date a dragon. You clearly aren’t looking for balance. Dragons are famously possessive because they are, you know, dragons, and they’re like that about pretty much everything.
Wyverns are slightly better about this, but not by much. They tend to be less possessive and more protective, which in the end can come out to the same thing.
My advice is to be very clear in the beginning that you reserve the right to leave their life and not come back. Tell them that they have to agree to that before you can proceed. This helps protect you in the long run a little bit, because it ties their acceptance of your rejection with their honor, and most dragons loathe being seen as dishonorable.
This is in no way guaranteed protection however, and the best defense is not starting a fiery dragon romance in the first place.
Well, there you go. Now you have a very basic overview of what to expect when meeting dragons. I might write another piece on each popular attraction found in Caeg and Verthinon, but for now, I’ll leave it at this. Remember, no matter what happens, so long as you don’t get burned or eaten during it, it was a successful vacation. Enjoy your trip!
(Written decades before Oblithion Darkflame’s “Accident”)