The Blimp Dragons, or Meat Blimps as they are colloquially called, are large, buoyant, jelly fish-like creatures, able to lift and carry large loads over great distances.
These gentle, stupid creatures have been harnessed by the people of Locastus to function as gigantic, living airships.
Ancient Acitan legends, speaking of ferocious, fire-breathing creatures of the sky, has given these (not very dragon-like dragons) their unlikely name.
The body of a Blimp Dragon usually takes the form of an irregular teardrop shape, looking nothing as much as a gigantic, slate-grey and warty potato, studded with numerous jagged spurs, fins and tumor-like growths.
An adult Blimp Dragon can grow up to 200 feet in length and approximatively 75 feet in diameter. The body is quite stiff and inflexible, rigid like an airship, while the various appendages can be articulated, although at a slow pace.
The tissue which makes up the majority of the Dragon's body is of a balsa wood-like consistency, tough but flexible, forming numerous cavities (ranging from the size of a human head to room-sized compartments).
Through some unknown mechanism, the Dragon scavenges helium from the atmosphere to fill these compartments, giving it a natural buoyancy in air. Through bizarre alchemical processes, it can reabsorb and chemically bind its buoyancy helium, giving it control over altitude and lift.
In a compact cylinder running down the centre of the body lays the Dragon's internal organs rudimentary nervous, digestion and cardiovascular systems.
Since some 75 percent of the Dragon's mass consists of hard, buoyant tissue, wrapped protectively around the vulnerable inner core of essential organs, a Dragon is extremely hard to injure. It's helium content also protects it against fire (lightning strikes are common at the Dragon's preferred altitudes), by depriving any fire from necessary oxygen.
Along the length of the Dragon, it sports three sets of three sail-like fins, spaced equidistantly around its circumference. The Dragon usually uses these fins to catch the wind, sailing along wherever the winds may take it. On rare occasions, the Dragon can flap its fins in a slow, peristaltic motion to steer against the wind.
Spaced over the Blimp Dragon's body are aerial-like chitinous spurs, baroquely jagged and flanged and each one tipped with a single, opalescent eyeball. Besides acting as the Dragon's sensory organs, these spurs are also part of the defense mechanism of these docile creatures, collecting electrothaumaturgic charge from low-hanging clouds and storing it in bioaccumulators at the root of the spur. To protect itself from airborne predators and parasites, the Dragon can release its stored charge in a series of violent, thaumaturgically boosted and aimed thunderbolts, hence the folk-tales of fire-breathing dragons.
At the front end, ringed by eye-spurs, is a large air-scoop structure through which the Dragon feeds, taking in pollen, insects and floating organic matter. It's potent stomach acids allow it to digest anything organic up to the size of a large bird. The dragon, due to its immensely slow metabolism, requires surprisingly little sustenance, but is dependent on certain compounds only present in tree-pollen from its natural habitat.
Due to its slow metabolism and near-impregnable defense, Blimp Dragons can live for a very long time. The most common cause of death is losing buoyancy due to injury, either from physical trauma (lightning strike, cannon fire etc) or infection by a certain type of yeast spore, which rapidly eats away at the buoyant tissues. A stranded Dragon has very low chances of survival, unless rapidly healed.
Blimp Dragons are naturally occurring in the Thunderhead Range, thriving in the ferocious, arcanely charged thunderstorms common to these towering, inhospitable mountains. In this region, due to the dense forests covering the slopes of the great peaks and foothills, the air is filled with pollen and insect swarms which constitute the Dragon's primary sustenance.
Blimp Dragons could be domesticated only after scientists had cracked the problem of synthesizing the essential compounds in the various types of pollen that the Dragons need.
Blimp Dragons are near-mindless, with an intelligence level somewhere in the range of a jellyfish. However, they have a high affinity and sensitivity to psionics, which enables human crews to steer the creature quite easily. If the controlling psionist should break off contact with the creature in-flight, it will fall back on its natural instincts and become a very dangerous creature indeed, lashing out with thunderbolts on its crew and surrounding structures.
The Blimp Dragons, a weird hybrid of plant and jellyfish, reproduce by sporulation. During mating time, drawn by pheromone release, great flocks congregate high in the atmosphere above the Thunderheads to release clouds of walnut-sized, buoyant spores.
These seed-spores, covered in a Velcro-like coating, then congregate into larger clumps, exchange and homogenize genetic material and drift gently to the ground where they will spend several years growing, scavenging helium and putting forth roots to draw nutrients from the ground.
When the young Dragon, after five to seven years, has grown large and buoyant enough, it will break its tethers and drift skywards to become a fully fledged Dragon.
The people of Locastus, City of Mirrors, have domesticated the slow, docile Dragons for use in aerial transport, serving as airships for transportation, warfare and leisure.
Commonly, the Dragon is tethered to some form of free-hanging gondola, attached by chains to large eyeloops embedded in its resilient flesh. Variations include human quarters bolted directly onto the Dragon's back and, even, warren-like caverns dug into its very flesh.
The standard cargo Dragon usually includes a large wood-and-metal gondola with room for crew, command and cargo (usually streamlined and not unlike the hull of a seagoing vessel), tethered to up to four different Dragons for sufficient lift capability.
This many Dragons require a skilled psionist to control them a slip will mean the Dragons revert to instinctual behavior and will fight each other with thunderbolts. To boost the maximum speed of the set-up, the gondola will usually have one to three large, steam-powered propellers, impelling the gondola forwards, while the Dragons only provide lift and steering.
Military versions, used for air-to-ground cannon fire and bombing, sport compact, heavily armored crew bunkers bolted directly onto the Dragon's body and bristling with machine gun nests, cannon turrets and bomb canisters.
The fact that the Dragon's buoyancy is not dependent on one large gas bag, but rather many, small and separate ones, means that small-calibre fire has almost no effect on the creature - to damage a War-Dragon, large-calibre cannon fire, incendiary shells or explosives are needed.
Even if badly damaged, a Dragon has remarkable regeneration capability, which means that even if it is incapacitated, it can become operational again in a matter of months, which gives it an advantage over purely mechanical weapon systems.
This was sparked by Scrasamax's Green Dragon Challenge, to create a plausible herbivore dragon. It's an idea I've been kicking around for a while and now (finally) got it out. It might not entirely be what Scras had in mind, but I'll add it to his codex anyway.
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? Responses (13)-13
Not quite a dragon, but an excellent piece nonetheless. You should run a Locastus RP here - I'd play :)
Does the Dragon not feel pain when things are bolted onto it?
...or rooms dug into its flesh? I bet there is some interesting way to bypass the creature's immune system and defensive reactions.
For some reason the bit to give this an HOH is missing.
I like it, it is certainly not what I had in mind, but it fits the basics of the challenge.
A good quality submission. It has good scientific explanations and fits well in your setting. It may be a bit on the dry end for me, but still a good piece that adds to your marvelous world. Always looking forward to more Locastus stuff.
Somehow I imagined this as some sort of floating, oversized man-o´war, with very little in the intelligence and perception department. I sort of envisaged the buoyant tisue to be something extruded from the central core, like a shell, hard and insensate.
The whole thing is, of course, completely without any base in real-world physics, chemistry and biology. I´m sure somewhere, a physicist is tearing his hair out over the inconsistencies in lift and buoyancy, a chemist is weeping softly over the line: "Chemically altering helium" and a biologist is clawing her face in despair over my flagrant nonchalance of animal size v/s nutrient mass intake rules. Oh, well, with magic everyting is possible (and its always fun to annoy people).
Thank you for your comments - Your criticism is what makes me a better writer.
Why is the HOH thingy missing from this? I want to give it an HOH but it won't let me do it.
It's missing for me too.
I don't care so much about the physics of it. This is just so out there and so awesome that now I want to see more worlds break away from the norm and have truly strange creatures.
Flying jellyfish. What a concept.
Awesome stuff. I'd like to hear if there are any related creatures. Stuff like this usually isn't made/evolved in isolation.
Thanks, Forganthus. A late thought on these critters is that they could be the larval stage of something a bit more... interesting. Perhaps they are the spawn of the Great Air Kraken, a ferocious beast that lives in the upper atmosphere and snacks on airships...
Hmm. I was thinking about smaller versions, actually. Little ones that float around forests, eating an apple, and then retreating to the atmosphere to slowly digest it. Or ones with long, nearly invisible tentacles that eat birds. Or maybe birds that nest only on adult blimp dragons, and clean it of parasites? Do blimp dragons get fleas?
I've seen a lot of flying jellyfish before, but armored is new. Do they land during heavy storms? Could you escape a band of orcs by riding a young one up, up, and away (after cutting its tethers)? Lastly, there must be some sort of food you can make out of these things. I just googled 'horse recipes' and got ~50m hits. I'm thinking: dragon jerky. Like tough tofu, it needs seasoning, but when one of these things dies, it'd be a shame to waste it.