A transcription, beyng the seminal introduction by Mr S J Ponsuler to the theory and praxis of Dracapodemy, the studie of Dragons’ migration patterns. This tome ys to be founde in the librarie of Anserne University, alonge with many years of copies of the Dracapodemyst’s Almanac not to mention verious othere tomes on the subjecte.
“This is truly not the age of men, for we are to the Dragons as the ants are to us, short-lived, small-scale and utterly insignificant.” Deryk the Wise, in his preface to the first Dracapodemyst’s Almanac, 629 SC.
It is true. The World belongs to them, though no-one living has ever seen one (with the possible exception of Aldhugab, the oldest dwarf alive, but as he lost the faculty of speech two hundred years ago, no-one has been able to find out). It is known that in the last thirty thousand years there have been at least twelve in existence, and these are probably all still around today given their extraordinarily long lifespans.
A Dragon cannot stay in one place for any longer than a millenium. After this the land would be so ruined, the foodstocks so depleted that the Dragon would have to move on, leaving baked forests, bare hillsides and black, acidic soils. It would take another few thousand years for the land to recover fully from the Visitation and the memory of the Beast to dissolve into myth.
Therefore Dragons migrate across the world and a large area of study is devoted to determining the resulting migration patterns.
Dracapodemy, the study of Dragon migration patterns, provides us with a lot of information about the future, the past and the nature of the World. Most obviously, the ability to predict when you might next be struck by a Visiting Dragon is useful information in the long-term. Also, the individual Dragons’ paths (called Dracapodesics) provide us with clues about the shape and global topology of the World. Wizards have inferred the existence of other continents from them, and virtually no-one believes any longer that the World is flat (though there’s some uncertainty about what it is instead).
Some Elementary Facts
* Dracapodesics are often periodic, a Dragon returning to its old haunts in ten thousand year cycles on average, though the precise length of the cycle varies widely between individuals.
* The shortest known cycle is that of Cunsatak the Lesser who Visits the plains of Northern Mortigua every five thousand years.
* The longest known cycle is that of Aldaburansor the Mighty, whose twenty thousand year journey is also the most devastating. It is not known whether He is still alive, but Wizards are hopeful that we will find out within the next two thousand years when he is due to land in distant Garbascon. The Wizards living in Garbascon are less hopeful.
* The last time Lientha was Visited was by Chyrehd the Furious three thousand years ago, and it was this apocalyptic encounter that brought down the Dwarfish Empire of Glabhrazad, in a war lasting a thousand years.
* In the same way, the ancient civilisation of Hes was brought to its knees by Rehaskal some five hundred years later. In fact Rehaskal was driven away after two centuries but that is not to be spoken of.
Methods of Dracapodemy
A thousand years of ash, burnt organic matter and Dragon excrement (see thread) leave a trace in the geological records. In an exposed cliff-face, a Visitation will show itself up as a dark band with some interesting human-like “fossils” and the occasional crystals where intense heat has turned some sandy deposits to glass. Different Dragons leave different signatures and Dracapodemists believe they can now distinguish between Beasts by analysing preserved stools. Draconic strata vary in depth, giving an indication of the length of the Visitation and the intermediate layers give clues about the period-lengths between Visitations. Estimates about the precise timescale have been made by comparison with ancient records and then interpolating linearly backward (allowing for compression of the strata with time). The geological history can be traced back some hundred thousand years. Landslips like the towering Cliffs of Salasee help push it back a few more millenia, and deep mines like those at Duarbhundhal go back even further, but it’s unlikely we’ll be able to piece together a global picture this far back.
These are scarce. Obviously most civilisations which are Visited don’t have many records left afterwards. However, the Visitations in Glabhrazad and Hes are well-documented and a few older accounts exist: the Dragomemnon of Kasikia (a poem which tells of an oriental Visitation six thousand years ago), the Wyrmsaga (from the long-dead men of the Frozen Ocean in the south, believed to be five thousand years old) and the fragmentary Kado-Gaan “The Great Fear” (of unknown provenance but scholars believe it may correspond to a Visitation in Ponoviska, contemporary with the Wyrmsaga). Ancient records also provide us with suggestions of how to cope with such a Visitation. The Dwarfs held out for a thousand years against Chyrehd with their amazing inventions and cavern strongholds, and though they were defeated as an Empire, there were many survivors. Aside from these records we have only myths and legends about Dragon-killers, which are usually spurious and refer to minor local incidents with lesser wyrms such as Wyverns. It is inconceivable that a human could defeat a Dragon or drive it away.
A lot of (largely unsuccessful) research has gone into potions of longevity, to allow humans to journey to distant places and track Dragons’ flights over long timescales. This is an extremely dangerous proposal, and not many people would take it up: having to leave family and friends for thousands of years for the chance to be singed and eaten on a regular basis is not an inviting prospect. But researchers are confident that World-weary adventurers suffering from late-life existential crises will be all too happy to take them up. Rumour has it that there’s a long-forgotten race of immortals who already do this job, but this rumour is probably false.
Note on Dragons’ Names
The most famous of these have been handed down from ancient records: Chyrehd, Rehaskal, Felothovar and Anuzorimeze. It is not known whether the Dragons themselves used these names, or even if the Dragons could speak (though some poems say they did it’s likely this was just poetic license). Then in the 620’s and 30’s, when the first Dracapodist’s Almanacs were published, Deryk the Wise compiled the names which were in popular use at the time, standardised the spelling and appended each one with an adjective. When there was no common adjective, he used the name of a colour. This is still common practice, and was used for the two most recently discovered Dragons (Muhulur the Brown and Nahalan the Violet).
Felothovar the Wyrm (from the Wyrmsaga)
Anuzorimeze the Terrible (from the Dragomemnon)
Rehaskal the Unspeakable (from Heric records)
Chyrehd the Destroyer (from Glabhrazadian records)
Aldaburansor the Mighty
Cunsatak the Lesser
Hector the Bold
Tykalat the Red
Sarehd the Blue
Avacarn the Green
Stariszor the Black
Rehrigor the White
Sutucarn the Grey
Manassanentes the Orange
Ladivar the Azure
Muhulur the Brown
Nahalan the Violet (or the Newcomer)
It has been officially decided that the next three Dragons to be discovered will be appended “the Scarlet”, “the Amber” and “the Indigo”. Standard mapping conventions have the Dracapodesics for each Dragon drawn in the associated colour. There are also standard symbols to denote the colourless Dragons.
Applications of Dracapodemy
Dragons’ journeys take them over huge distances, maybe even as far as the ends of the World (if indeed the World does end), so observations of the Dracapodesics should contain information about the shape of the World. The six most regular Dracapodesics (Aldaburansor, Tykalat, Anuzorimeze, Hector, Saredh and Stariszor) run in a band east-west across the map. The fact that they reappear in the east after a delay of between ten and seventeen thousand years leads most scholars to believe the World is spherical (or at least cylindrical) and between and seven and thirteen thousand miles in diameter. However, Cunsatak’s north-south trajectory has a much shorter period and has led some to believe that the World is in fact shaped like a torus. Many refute this suggestion, claiming that it does not tally with observed measurements of Coriolis winds. They say it is more likely Cunsatak follows a small circular trajectory on the surface of the globe of which we only see one small part. For surely if the World were a torus, there would be parts which never experienced day and night? Most Dracapodesics agree with the globe interpretation, but some minor anomalies have led to absurd suggestions that the World is in fact non-orientable (“homeomorphic to the projective plane”) or that the universe is spherical and the Sun travels on a toroidal path inverse to the torus of the World and can therefore bring day and night to all places equally. These suggestions are not to be taken seriously, but they unfortunately seem to have a grip on the minds of some excitable younger scholars.
This is a wide and fascinating field, and I cannot even begin to scratch the surface. I recommend you to a more advanced text, such as M T Eyting’s treatise “On the Cataclysme and Whatte to do Aboute Yt”. He goes into considerable depth about the amazing ingenuity of the Dwarfs of Glabhrazad and their devices, plans and means of survival, with an excellent chapter on the theory of Dragon Dormancy.
The lifespan of a Dragon is unknown, but a lower bound has been set at a hundred thousand years. The mating habits of Dragons are unknown, but on at least three occasions in the last hundred thousand years a new Dragon has appeared in the geological record. These could simply be distant Dragons who have changed their migration pattern, or it could be evidence of new-born creatures.
In truth, no-one knows if Dragons actually die. There are five Dragons who have not reappeared in the last thirty thousand years, but some of these were only present sporadically before that. It’s possible that they have simply shifted their migration patterns off the edge of the map. No remains of a Dragon have ever been found, it is currently believed that if Dragons do indeed die, their bodies must lie at the bed of the deepest oceans.
One final puzzling anomaly in the geological record is worth note. Across the Desert of Karkast, there is a stratum from a Dragon thirty thousand years ago who has been named Muhulur the Brown. But the upper century of this stratum shows evidence of a second Dragon, named Nahalan the Newcomer. Deposits from both Beasts can be found in this upper layer, and it appears that both were living there simultaneously. This has never been seen before and no trace of either Dragon has been found anywhere else in the geological record. Theorists are unsure how to interpret this and there are two conflicting theories each with their very vocal supporters and opponents. One contends the Dragons clashed over territory and killed one another. A lot of effort has gone into a search for the remains of either Beast, but without success. The other theory says that the Dragons mated before flying far off. Yet more attempts have been made to search the desert for a large egg, but these too have been unsuccessful.