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Also Known As
Feather Dragon, Plumed Dragon
Type of Group
Role in Story
Stormfeather (working title) by E.E. Buchanan
Draconis Plumeis, (drah-KOH-niss ploo-MAY-iss) or feathered/plumed dragons, are a species of draconid native primarily to Boreal highland climates, but can survive in temperate forests provided the altitude is not too low. They are mostly non-sentient creatures, and truly wild adults are untameable and rather dangerous, though the young, within a certain time frame, can be hand raised to be beasts of burden, provided they have not lived too long in the wild. Typical lifespan in captivity is between 80 and 90 years, but most wild individuals are killed either by humans or other dragons decades before then. At least one man was magically transformed into a feathered dragon and maintained his sentience, but so far he is the only exception to the rule of this being a non-sentient species.
Feathered dragons lack scales, quite literally being covered with large, soft feathers all over the body. The feathers on the head crest, chest, and belly are typically thicker than that of the body. Claws are primarily for digging, not fighting, and therefore are very large, rock hard, and comparatively blunt. The head is horselike and stocky, but the body shape is very thin and slender, extremely like that of a greyhound or deerhound. The tail is nearly twice the body length, and the swanlike wings are massive to support the weight of the body, being up to four times the area of the body when completely unfurled. Both sexes have a crest of feathers upon the head which hides their ears, and a large fan at the tip of the tail which can be opened and closed, as well as short, sharp tusks on the lower jaw that show when the mouth is closed. The male, however, has thick feathers in the breeding season which lay flat against his neck but can be fluffed out to make a cobra-like "hood", sometimes called a "mane", when courting. The eyes are large and crocodilian, and glow the same color as whatever the dragon's internal flame is.
Typically, female feathered dragons are slightly taller than males. Adult feathered dragons stand 11-15 feet (3.3m - 4.5m) at the shoulder, though some females have been known to be larger. Body length, from nose tip to tail tip, is 36-49 feet (11m -15m). There have been no attempts made to measure body weight of adults, as of yet - however, while heavy enough to crush most animals if they fall upon them, they are lighter than they appear, thanks to hollow bones. By contrast, new-hatched young usually measure 18 inches (45 cm) at the shoulder and 44-47 inches (112-119 cm) from nose to tail tip, weighing in at far less than 30 lb (13 kg)
The tongue and exterior feathers are the same colors, even in infancy. With an adult feathered dragon, the body is uniformly colored and unpatterned, with the feathers on the back eventually becoming paler with sun exposure and age. The female's feathers are usually darker than the males. The feathers are one of five possible colors - mahogany brown, pale green, steel blue, charcoal grey, or dirty silver-white (albino coloration).
The eyes glow on their own with whatever the color of the dragon's internal fire is, which can be blue, yellow, or orange. Genetically, brown plumage and orange eyes are the dominant colors, with the rest being recessive genes and less common.
Dragon hearing is no better than humans - in some cases, worse, thanks to feathers covering the ear flaps. However, they have eyesight that rivals that of hawks, able to see extreme distances and even some ultraviolet and infrared spectrum. Furthermore, their sense of smell, thanks to their huge and sensitive nostrils, is almost unparalleled in the animal world.
Like all dragons, draconis plumeis breathe fire. It is a chemical reaction that takes place between certain chemicals in the dragon's throat blending with certain chemicals in a sac near the heart. Dragons only release the chemical from the sac - a voluntary action except when the dragon is in a state of panic - if they are trying to cook meat, (they are meticulously clean and don't like having raw blood on them) or if they are displaying to warn off an opponent. They do not use fire to kill prey but will use it to kill enemies if all else has failed.
Feathered dragons are mostly solitary creatures who tend to only form lasting bonds with a few other dragons, if any at all. However, if they do form any sort of deep bond, that bond lasts for life. They are more susceptible to form loyal bonds when younger, however. In general, they tolerate one another's presence at a distance, and occasionally siblings or former mates will stay in the same general area and nest together at nights in the winter, but usually dragons do not interact without fighting or scuffling to establish dominance. However, once this has been accomplished, they can live in the same area peacefully so long as the 'subordinate' dragon does not attempt to rebel. Both males and females tend to stake out a territory during breeding season, often reusing the same breeding territory multiple years, but otherwise they wander wherever they know food may be. Thanks to their feather colors, they can camouflage among rocks, dead leaves, or forest when they need to hide. They prefer flight to fight, but will fight without mercy if they feel at all threatened, unless they have been trained from a young age to trust humans. They typically sleep in ditches, caves, or thickly forested areas, but are meticulously clean and can be seen grooming themselves of dirt and leaves frequently, sometimes by licking and sometimes by splashing lightly in water.
Feathered dragons are almost entirely carnivorous, born with a hunting and scavenging instinct. They eat mostly wild cattle or wild swine, but will eat carrion, deer, wolves, horses, badgers, lions, bears, large birds, large fish, and (only if absolutely starving) humans and elderly, weaker feathered dragons. They have a comparatively low metabolism and usually only need to feed once every two days or so; however, they are opportunistic , and in times when food is scarce they will kill and cache creatures to eat for later even if they are not hungry at that precise moment. Dragon caches are buried very deep and they locate them by sense of smell. They remember where their caches are, but sometimes do not dig them up again if fresher food becomes available. Often, they may find another dragon's cache, and dig it up and eat it, though if the other dragon is in the vicinity a fight may ensue on that account. Baby dragons also live off of carrion caches left by adults - instinctively, no adult dragon will ever harm or kill a hatchling, so the little ones are completely safe in digging up the cache.
Thanks to their size and strength, draconis plumeis do not often rely on stalking, simply flying high above their intended prey and then swooping in for a quick bite on the neck. However, if hunting something they deem dangerous, they will lie low and approach on foot, or crawling on their belly. The lower jaw's gape is almost 160 degrees, like that of a Smilodon, though the tusks are on the lower jaw and comparatively shorter than a Smilodon's. Biting is their primary method of both hunting and of fighting, using their powerful jaws to crush bones and the two tusks as extra piercing weapons. Swats with the front claws or crushing strikes by the skull or the thick, powerful long tail are secondary methods of disabling prey or foes. Prey that can be swallowed in one bite usually is not "cooked", but large prey is always blasted with hot breath or actual flame to dry out the blood and meat before the dragon eats it and minimize mess.
Feathered dragons, while mostly non-sentient, are rather intelligent and have a very complex communication system involving sounds and body language. The mannerisms mirror those of felines, canines, and some birds, in areas. Feline mannerisms include purring when relaxed or in the presence of a liked companion, as well as a loud bass roar like a lion to stake out territory and ward off intruders, and the rubbing of the face and neck against objects to indicate pleasure and to mark scent. Doglike mannerisms involve a system of tail wags to indicate either excitement, stress, or pleasure, growling and a short snarling "bark" for anger, and whining or moaning to indicate various unhappy emotions. Birdlike mannerisms involve an intricate courtship (see Courtship and Mating) and other various displays of feathers to indicate various emotions or to warn off intruders.
Dragons have excellent problem-solving skills and a memory to rival a human with a high IQ. They never forget any dragon that they have mated with, nor do they forget the scents of their parents or siblings even if they have not seen them for decades, and will not fight with them. They also can learn to vocally mock low sounds, such as humans murmuring in the distance, thunder, or avalanches. They will develop unique ways of communicating with family members or, in the case of tamed ones, with their owners - each dragon, besides the communication methods listed above, has a unique bank of sounds all its own that identify it, based on where it has lived and what it has done.
Courtship and Mating
Female feathered dragons, sometimes called "jennies" like female mules, enter heat the first time about five or six months of age. After that they enter heat once a year, usually around late spring, lasting until roughly the start of autumn. They search for a male dragon , or "drake", to mate with, fighting off any other jennies that cross their path during this time, sometimes to the death if the other jennie for some reason will not back down. At the same time, drakes will start staking out territories and fight any other drake crossing their path during that time. The farther into breeding season time goes, the more desperate the jennies become to mate, and if they do not mate by the time their heat ends they will mope in acute misery for several weeks, sometimes making themselves ill. Some young drakes also fret into illness.
When a jennie and a drake cross paths, the intricate courtship begins. The drake will sniff to see if she is in heat. Once he has confirmed this, he will look the jennie over to see if she visibly matches whatever standards of strength he is looking for, and she will do the same for him. As they circle one another, they also look around and sniff for any dangers nearby that would make mating in that area unsafe. They will part if any conditions at this stage are unsatisfactory. If he decides to proceed, the drake will display his mane, and spread his wings and tail fan, prancing for the jennie, who raises her crest and tail fan and wings but has no mane to spread out. She doesn't dance quite as much as he does. After about five minutes, they will begin sniffing each other all over, and rubbing their faces and necks and bodies against each other, purring and wagging and displaying other signs of affection. This will go on for ten to twelve minutes, or longer, as the two dragons try to get to know one another better by their body chemistry and other scents. Then they will take turns fluffing out every feather on their body, standing on their hind limbs, and roaring angrily at one another. This display of power is to see if they will trust one another, or if one partner will run away. If neither flee after three or four cycles, they will continue rubbing one another and sniffing one another, until the jennie signals the drake that she is ready for him to mate with her. They will mate multiple times, over the next two days, but the courtship ritual is only done once. The drake will then stay with the jennie until she either lays eggs or it becomes apparent she is not pregnant, at which time they will peacefully separate. If they cross paths again, they will either calmly greet or peacefully ignore one another, and they may mate again next season if they happen to find one another during the breeding time, though they are not monogamous.
Reproduction and Young
Gestation for a jennie is about 50-65 days, during which time she may carry anywhere from one to nine embryos. The embryos develop in a mammalian manner, within separate amniotic sacs in their mother's womb. About a week before birth, a hard chemical deposit starts to form around the amniotic sacs. This deposit forms in two semi-transparent red layers, with chemical flame inbetween to continue incubation. The atypically thick and bulky umbilical cords are severed, staying in the egg and slowly becoming a sort of yolk for the baby dragon to "feed" off of. When the chemical deposit has fully hardened to shells, the jennie will dig a nest once this occurs, usually in an inaccessible place to humans and most predators, on a hillside. Once the pit is dug and lined with her own feathers torn from her chest, she straddles the pit with her hind legs and squats over it. The contractions are visibly very quick and violent, often as fast as 40 contractions per minute, as the eggs are very large and almost perfectly round and require a lot of force to lay. The drake therefore guards her jealously, slaying any intruder on the spot. A jennie who has for some reason lost her drake is, during this time, very vulnerable, in a lot of pain and unable to defend herself or her nest. The eggs may be stolen by predators, and she may be killed by dragonslayers. Once the last egg is laid, the jennie will then bury the eggs, and she and her mate will leave the nest so predators cannot find it. However they will guard the territory the nest is in from a distance.
The baby dragons, called "hatchlings", are viable at time of being laid in the nest, and were they born live they could survive with a little help. However, they lie dormant in their eggs in the nest for about a fortnight, until they are strong enough to break the shells, which may explode as they do so and injure them if they are not fast enough. By the time they hatch, they are so fully developed they can start running, climbing, and hunting almost immediately, and their instincts to do so make them fully self-sufficient. They may seek out adult dragons for protection and any adult dragon finding them will guard them for at least the first few weeks. If they find their parents their nose will tell them and they'll stay with them until they reach puberty. Their eyes and tongue match whatever adult coloration they will have, but their bodies are covered with a brown and tan streaked down feathers, regardless what coloration they will be as adults (except albinos, who have solid creamy yellow down feathers). Until the flight feathers come in, the wings are useless crooks on the back. The heads are proportionally large compared to the body and the tail and limbs much stubbier than adults. The tail is also rat-like, since there is no fan at the end. The ear flaps, also greyhound-like but proportionally very tiny, are quite visible since the crest feathers aren't grown in yet, either. The flight feathers grow in at about five weeks, and they can properly fly by about eight weeks of age, though they will not reach adult height until about five months and adult weight at about nine months.
Hatchlings have a high mortality rate due to predators, human hunters trying to ruin nests before the babies grow up, or by their own youthful ignorance causing them to try to fly without any flight feathers, attack something too big for them to attack, and other similarly stupid things. Usually only about a third of the babies in an egg clutch live to adulthood - singles or twins usually do not make it, and any baby dragon born prematurely, without its shell so it can develop further, nearly invariably dies. To combat this trend of high mortality, hatchlings do have an instinctive desire to burrow and dig into things they can hide in, which they will grow out of when they are older but which serves to protect them during foul weather, and from predators, while they are still unable to fly. Small snakes, large insects, lizards, and ground-nesting birds are the primary foods of hatchlings, before they grow to a size to hunt larger prey.
Draconis Plumeis are found mostly in the hills and forests surrounding the sparsely populated principality of Reidham, but can also be found in the contiguous lands of Runewick, Anglor, Boewden, Saogryne, and Clagghorne, though not in anything like as great a concentration as in Riedham. There have been sporadic reported sightings in countries lying farther to the north, as well, but practically none any farther to the south, as they prefer boreal, colder habitats to warmer climate and lower altitudes.
Interactions with Humans
Feathered dragons typically fear and avoid humans, learning at an early age what weapons can do. However, in times of scarce food, desperate dragons will deliberately hunt and eat humans. Any human attempting to destroy a dragon nest before the young have hatched is running the risk of being killed by the mother, as well, and if a human does not back down when a dragon breathes fire into the air or does other displays of warning, a dragon may lash out and kill the human instead of risking turning its back on the human to flee and exposing itself to attack.
Feathered dragons can be used as beasts of burden, and even can be kept as pets by the extremely adventurous. However, no adult dragon that has lived a wild life can be tamed, and it is dicing with danger to attempt to tame an adolescent dragon that has lived a wild life - it only succeeds about half the time. However, if an infant dragon's trust is earned, the human or humans that earned it will have it for life, thanks to their great memory. Dragons are very strong-willed and while easily tamed at a young age do not train to specific tasks easily, and never respond positively to any punishment or discipline. It takes a very patient and loving human using a reward system to train a dragon to do anything and even then the dragon may decide one day not to work. Furthermore, if one owns a dragon, one will need to know where a dragon of the opposite sex lives nearby, so the dragon will have a mate in breeding time and not attempt to run off to find one. It is impossible to neuter a fully grown feathered dragon and difficult to drug a dragon of any age, though some will attempt to neuter very young dragons. A neutered dragon does not have the mating instinct and generally is better behaved.
In Riedham, feathered dragons are used primarily to dig salt from the resident halite mine, and transport it - the dragons cannot get sodium poisoning like humans, so in general it is quite safe for them to do this. They are also used to pull giant harvesting devices over the fields in the lowlands that are too large for a horse team to efficiently harvest. In Runewick and Saogryne, dragons are used to power giant millstones and also large drills in the quarries. In general, draconis plumeis can be used to operate any kind of heavy manually-run machinery, and also can be used to pull large carts that would take multiple oxen or horses to pull. In order to be a beast of burden, the dragon's wings must be clipped to prevent it flying . Provided the clipping is properly done, it does not hurt the dragon; the feathers grow back extremely rapidly, and the dragon will soon fly again. Clipping must be done only by a trained person, to prevent accidentally clipping those of the flight feathers that do not grow back. Working dragons develop stronger limbs and are better walkers and runners than their wild counterparts. Dragons kept as pets usually do not have clipped wings and make excellent watchdogs, being fiercely loyal - they must be trained not to harm visitors unless the owner tells it the visitor is an intruder, or it may try to defend its owner from an innocent.