I saw my first land dragon today, a large female. She was beautiful, sunning herself on a large stone outcropping. I cannot describe the way the sun drenched her blue scales, and the varigated pale blue banding and stripes that ran down her body. My guide told me that the pale markings indicated that she was an older female, one well established. He said he came close to knowing her, and it seemed that she would allow him to come through her territory. I inquired what he meant, and he mumbled something about feeding her to keep he placated. I looked up and she was gone from her stone, i didnt even hear her move, and she was so large. Even my guide, with his security, seemed to be left uneased.
Anjet of Cennwaith
The Tevesage Land Dragon is a fearsome beast. From the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, it is close to 20 to 30 feet long. The females of the species tend to be on the larger side and are generally stronger. While smaller the males are not to be taken lightly as they are often considerably faster. Not generally considered a true dragon species, the Tevesagian wyrm lacks wings even in the vestigial state. Rather it his well developed hind and forelimbs, is capable of walking on two legs or four, and are fearsomely fast runners. Even the fastest horse of the plains cannot keep up with a run of the mill land dragon.
The torso is on the long side, and lean. The skeletal structure is more towards the elegant and light side, the head demonstrates very few of the cranial ridges, frills, horns, spikes, and other decorations often seen on other draconic species. There are a pair of bulbs that protrude from the anterior of the skull and look rather like a pair of bread loaves attached to the side of the head. it is not common knowledge, but these bulbs are actually sensory organs and are one of the dragon’s few weak points. They sense for lack of a better term, life signs. A suitably hard strike against one of these bony protrusions can temporarily blind, confuse, or completely enrage a land dragon.
The tail is short as dragons go, but it is stiff and rigid, enough that the end can be used as a stabbing weapon if the creature is so inclined. The claws are also noticably developed, each having a thick base and pearly exterior. Despite it’s appearance, these claws are more than capable of splitting rock and peeling steel without suffering more than a few scratches themselves.
We found the ruins I was looking for, Yuzh-Gesh, a breeding center. As expected most of the place was in crumbling disrepair. The stalls and stables were not even piles of rubble anymore. It was okay, I didn’t expect them to be. My guide is fidgety, impatient. Every few minutes he asks if I have found what I came after, and as I sift through the wreckage and debris that was the breeding center’s administrative office I am forced to stall him and bribe him with offers of more and more gold. His fear is getting terribly expensive. I had better find the breeder’s lineage notes and breed book.
Generations ago the once mightly lords of Tevesage were highly proficient breeders and masters of husbandry. Their skill and their arrogance lead them to breed the land dragons. Small enough to be deemed controllable, and divested of their wings, the draconids were originally intended to be very fast mounts for Tevesagian knights and couriers. Given the aggressive nature of the land dragon, it was a natural extension to breed them for combat. The first were bred as highly successful but dangerous warmounts. Soon, it was a vogue thing to breed them for pit and cage blood sports.
While the fortunes of Tevesage fell, it became a boon to the land dragons. Some breeders, unable to care for their pets started turning them loose in the wild to fend for themselves. Many of the overspecialized breeds died off from inherent genetic flaws, weaknesses, and a variety of other things. Those that survived in the wild almost intantly became apex predators, feeding on even other predators. This quickly led to the land dragon being the only predator on the Tevesage plains, and a major hazard for the crumbling Tevesage kingdom. Knights were vanishing, livestock herds were dwindling, something out in the night was eating the people out of the kingdom.
Tevesage ended as a power and was reduced to an unoccupied territory. A mass exodus of people saw the regions around Tevesage flooded with refugees as the government fell to civil war, then anarchy, then crumbling into islands trying to survive. This was all occuring during a massive boom in the land dragon population. Eventually the dragon numbers thinned as the easily available food supply fell away, no more herds of oxen, horses, pigs, and other animals for the eating. The region hasnt been resettled, mostly out of fear of the dragons, but also a fear of the ghosts of old Tevesage, and the other monsters that were bred in their breeding pits and stations.
Fighting Land dragons is a highly hazardous thing for even prepared experts. The best method is to use baits to lead them elsewhere and then escape by aerial methods. Very few can actually manage this, so a break down of the creatures preferred attacks could be valuable.
Perhaps the correctly most feared of the land dragon’s methods of attack is the so called dragon rush. This attack occurs when the land dragon accelerates to a full charge and leaps onto a foe with claws extended and fangs bared to bite. The impact is great enough to break even the sturdy bones of oxen, in fact this attack is most often seen when land dragons fight one another, and it is usually a decisive move, crippling or outright killing the rival land dragon.
A uniquely vicious attack, the fang rend is a rotational bite. Rather than a bone crushing bite or feeding bite, the rotational bite is a highly painful and crippling mouth attack. Generally delivered to a vital area such as the abdomen or throat area, the victim is literally torn open by the bite. This brutal attack is most often seen when a land dragon is hunting larger prey. Smaller prey is simply chomped upon a few times and swallowed.
While certainly large, some land dragons have demonstrated an affinity for burrowing into the ground and like a trap door spider, waiting for prey to come close. These ambush hunters spring from their concealed dens with volcanic force, a storm of claws and snapping jaws.
Few land dragons demonstrate the ancestral ability to breath flame as traditional dragons once did. These are easily noticed for their sleeker build, soot stained jaws, and the scent of burning brimstone near their lairs. The fire-breathers are rare, as they tend to be less violent and aggressive than the run of the mill land dragon. This unfortunately wont keep one from roasting a team of oxen, a herd of livestock, or a carriage of explorers to a crisp and eating them one by one.
I have found the books I came for, and a boon as well. A single egg, as large as a Couerlimanti tureen and speckled with blue spots. My guide calls it a land dragon egg, and it is warm. I will keep it, and with the old breeders notes, I will raise it as my own. This expedition has been expensive. Three men fell, two to accidents of misfortune, the third to the claws of a stalking land dragon. Six horses, two wagons, thirteen oxen were also lost, half to the unforgiving Tevesage terrain, the other half to the dragons. It is no wonder to me now why the plains, wide and spacious as they are, are empty of villages of cities.
Land dragons are egg-layers, usually two or three eggs per clutch. The female will care for the offspring until they are old enough to fend for themselves, usually three to four years. After hatching they are proficient hunters, but remain small in size and are easy prey for larger land dragons who are not above eating their own kind. A dragon of this species will live around 250 years before becoming old and weak. Most of these will bury themselves in the ground instinctively knowing when their time is come.
A land dragon, hatched from an egg, can be a boon companion. They are intelligent, are capable of learning tricks and some basic skills, and respond favorably to humans. This affinity to domestication is short lived, no more than three days after hatching, the willingness to accept a master evaporates and the land dragon becomes feral. They make for excellent mounts, combative allies, trackers, and companions. On the downside, hunting in deeply ingrained into them, so feeding them is more a matter of letting them loose somewhere rather than feeding them prepared food.
Percieved as often cruel, land dragons are intelligent and playful. This translates to cruelty as if their food doesn’t scream and run, it isn’t any fun for them.