Drakes are a collection of different species of magical lizards that are widespread through the whole world of Ersetu. They are found on all major continents, and well as on many island chains scattered around the world’s seas.
Drakes are extremely diverse in appearance and abilities, to the extent that many scholars have questioned the usefulness of the category as a whole. Among the common folk, it is customary to name any large magical reptile a drake, and many of the species lumped together in the category probably have no real relationship with one another. However, there is indeed a number of species that share very similar morphological and magical traits, and probably belong to the same general family of life forms. This is the group that this article will concern itself with.
Although very reminiscent of lizards, this resemblance is in some ways superficial. All drakes are warm-blooded, which enables them to lead very active lifestyles. Their legs are more akin to that of a dog or a cat than that of a lizard or a crocodile, allowing them to run and walk with greater ease. They reproduce by laying eggs, and their eyes tend to have vertically slitted pupils – though this may not be immediately obvious, depending on lighting conditions.
All drakes are magical to some extent. Even the most mundane examples of their kind are at least a little bit tougher and stronger than their size would indicate. Many have some kind of magical weapon that is expelled from their mouth – usually fire breath or a jet of poison, but more exotic options are not unusual. Their senses (usually eyesight) are often magically enhanced in some fashion. They are all fairly large by lizard standards, with the smallest species being roughly 45 cm long. Most of them tend to be at least a little bit social, naturally congregating into small family gatherings unless food shortages compel them to split up.
Most drakes are predators, ambushing their prey and opening hostilities with their magical breath weapon. That said, a fair number of them are actually omnivores who will happily consume fruit and vegetables in-between hunts.
Drakes were once extremely common, even in human occupied lands, and were historically a common monster in stories, menacing villages and small kingdoms and requiring great heroes to slay. In modern times, they have been pushed out of civilized lands, even peripheral ones, but they are still very common out in the wilderness. The bigger varieties have no compunctions about attacking humans, and will often work together to tackle dangerous prey. Even after the advent of firearms, they remain a significant danger to the unprepared.
Drakes seem to have some kind of connection to dragons. In the past, it was taken for granted that drakes were simply lesser relatives of dragons, perhaps even juvenile forms of them – hence the name. However, it is now obvious that drakes have no close connection to dragonkind. They are not sapient (though some are very intelligent for a beast) and not nearly as solitary as dragons, and most of them only have four limbs. Winged varieties of drakes simply have their front limbs repurposed into wings, rather than having an extra pair of wings sticking out of their back like true dragons do. Dragons themselves do not consider drakes to be in any way related to them, seeing them as just animals – they mostly ignore them but will not hesitate to cull their populations if they become a nuisance.
Fire drakes are a species of ground drakes – one of the two major groupings of drakes. Like all ground drakes, they are quadrupedal, with a long whip-like tail and a row of triangular bony spikes running along their back. They are widespread all over Altazia, northern Miasina, and Shivan Archipelago.
They are very easy to distinguish from other drakes because of their bright red coloration (present in both males and females). They are equipped with a magical fire breath weapon – potent even by drake standards. They also sport impressive claws on their feet, and a very powerful bite, though they only fall back on these if their fire breath fails. They can get up to 2.5 meters in length as adults, though most top up at about 2 meters. They are social, with groups usually consisting of one male and several females, and quite intelligent. It takes a fairly long time for them to grow up fully – up to six years before the young fire drakes achieve sexual maturity, and two more before they’re ready to strike out on their own. They are loving and very protective parents, as well as generally territorial and suspicious of any large intruders.
Despite their fierce looks and behavior, fire drakes are omnivores and enjoy eating fruits and certain plants. They hunt in groups, using simple group tactics and their powerful fire breath to bring down larger prey. If prey is scarce, the group falls apart into infighting until some members die or get chased out of the territory.
Fire drakes are famous for being one of the few drake species successfully domesticated by humans. Well, in a sense, at least. Fire drakes have to be linked to a human with a familiar bond from a very young mage to remain controllable by the time they reach adulthood, and even then they tend to be a little volatile and unpredictable. Their territorial nature makes them ill-suited for cities and other places with lot of strangers walking about, so it’s best to keep them in the countryside and warn visitors to be careful when approaching. Like all magical animals, they require magical areas to survive in, though they can venture out of them for a fairly long time with no ill effects.
Obviously, this places domesticated fire drakes outside of domain of common people. Only a mage can turn a fire drake into a familiar, and even then they need to dedicate significant effort to do so effectively. Mages that bond with fire drakes are by nature specialists whose magic revolves around that specific niche, and are typically part of a family business that revolves around breeding and training fire drakes.
Fire drakes are mostly used in warfare, as war beasts, and have suffered quite a bit in the advent of the splinter wars. They are considered obsolete by some, and the future of families centered on bonding with them is a little uncertain.
Fortunately for the species itself, they are still quite numerous in the wild, and are unlikely to go extinct any time soon, even if the domesticated ones end up gradually disappearing.
Common Flying Drake:
The somewhat unimaginatively named common flying drake is the most common example of the second major grouping of drakes – the flying drakes. These drakes have their front legs repurposed into a pair of large, bat-like wings that allow them to fly and grant them significant agility in the air. They have a slighter, more fragile build than the ground drakes, but are more robust than birds. Their flight is magical in nature, as they would otherwise be too heavy to take off the ground, even with their large wings.
The common flying drake has a dark brown coloration, and very good eyesight that works both during the day and the night. They have a fire breath weapon, and are highly reliant on it – if it doesn’t work on their target, they won’t bother trying to attack it with anything else and will simply break off the attack and run. They do have a powerful bite that they will use to defend themselves with if cornered on the ground, but this is a weapon of last resort.
The common flying drake is the most widespread species of flying drake, and lives on all known continents. They are fairly solitary by drake standards, living in bonded male-female pairs that defend their territory from all rivals. They are pure meat-eaters, and are often at odds with humans due to their fondness for targeting livestock. Due to the magical nature of their flight, they can pick up loads that most birds would struggle with, which lets them carry off things like young cows and goats without having to dwell too long on the ground. Additionally, they’re smart enough to realize that lighting someone’s house on fire will probably distract them for a very long time. They also like to force animals to flee out of their shelters and into the open, where they can be picked off more easily.
Despite their pretty abysmal reputation among humans, flying drakes are not really endangered. Their keen eyesight and considerable intelligence allows them to spot dangers from great distances. They are only really vulnerable when they’re on the ground, and they usually nest in the mountains, where they’re hard to approach by human hunting parties. Additionally, they’re fairly prolific breeders by drake standards, meaning every one that dies is soon replaced by a young newcomer.
Flying drakes can be forced into servitude with magic, but have never been effectively domesticated. Like fire drakes, they are very territorial, but far less social. They don’t like to be around other members of their kind, and will fight constantly if multiple of them are placed in close together. Males and females will quickly pair up, but will become all the more hostile and territorial because of it.
Ulquaan Ibasa has been known to employ dominated flying drakes in their armies, though these drakes have not been raised in captivity. It is considered a waste of resources, so they are instead simply captured in the wild while they’re still young and somewhat impressionable, and then subdued into obedience through magic and beatings. They are used in a relatively suicidal fashion, as older drakes become progressively unmanageable and expensive to feed.
It can be hard to understand how people name things, sometimes. Many things are named a drake, even though they’re clearly not, but a thunder lizard is named a lizard even though it’s clearly a drake. Such is life.
Thunder lizards are a very large species of drake, with adults being as big as an elephant. Their builds are fairly stocky, and they are generally very heavy and slow animals. If allowed to gather some speed, however, they can run faster than a human, so be on your guard. They have the ability to emit a bolt of electricity from their mouths, which they use to stun their prey long enough for them to approach and kill them with their massive jaws.
Thunder lizards live in the far north of Altazia, and prefer cold climates. They are omnivores that feed on both plants and meat – often carrion. Due to their great size, they can often chase away predators from their kill and benefit from their hard work. Due to living so far in the north, they rarely have much contact with humans, though Ulquaan Ibasa has been known to capture them for use as war beasts.
Chameleon drakes are an example of an unusual drake species that makes scholars break out into heated arguments about the whole drake classification and whether they deserve to be in it or not.
Chameleon drakes are ground drakes, but they have some very unusual features. For one thing, they have four conical eyes, shaped like those of a chameleon. Much like the eyes of a chameleon, the drake’s eyes can all move independently of each other, allowing the drake to see nearly everything around them in all directions. This is a very unique trait that is not see in other drake species, who only have two slitted eyes set in their skulls. They have a very prehensile tail that can wrap around branches and other objects and an ability to change colors so fine they can become virtually invisible when not moving. They have no magical breath weapon, but they do have spear-like tongues that can extend very far and hit very hard with them.
Taken together, chameleon drakes almost look like a large, magical version of a normal chameleon rather than belonging to the same group as all the other drakes. Yet, the bone structure of the chameleon drake is actually very similar to the rest of the drakes, their extra pair of eyes notwithstanding, and their group dynamics are very drake-like (and very unlike those of chameleons, who are usually not social at all).
Chameleon drakes are simply one of the many species around which arguments are made – many drake species have strange traits that make them hard to place in the group with complete certainty.
Chameleon drakes are quite large and dangerous. They routinely reach 3.5 meters in length, with individuals as large as 4 meters having been recorded, though these are admittedly huge outliers. They are also very magical, and are tougher, faster, and more agile than they would be. On an animal as large as this, this is quite terrifying. Their ability to become invisible further enhances the usual tendency of drakes to ambush their opponents.
Chameleon drakes live deep into the jungles of Koth and Blantyrre, and thus rarely come into contact with humans, but when they do they have no compunctions about hunting them. Their large size and ability to camouflage themselves mean most people die without even realizing what they were dealing with.
Chameleon drakes are highly intelligent and social, and typically hunt in groups. However, it is not at all unusual to encounter solitary individuals, as they fight each other a lot and the losers tend to forced out of the group entirely. These lone drakes, often males, can get pretty desperate if they fail to find a new group after a while, and have been known to venture into human lands in search of easier prey.
Sea drakes are a species of ground drake living in the Shivan Archipelago. They once had a more extensive living range, nesting on the coasts of southern Altazia and northern Miasina, but human expansion has seen them driven out of those parts of the world.
Sea drakes have a dark green coloration, and flattered tails that aid in swimming. They primarily feed on fish and other sea creatures, but they have powerful bites and large claws that can easily kill a human, if need be. Though they don’t generally hunt terrestrial prey, they are just as territorial as most drakes, and have a fondness for eating birds and their eggs – and they don’t perceive chicken and other fowl as being off the menu. There have also been historical reports of them preying on young children, probably because they judged them to be easy prey.
Today, sea drakes are not in any large conflict with humans, but this is mostly because they have been driven out of human territories. They still live on many small and medium-sized islands in the Shivan archipelago, making their nests on rocky, sea-beaten coasts that are difficult to approach by ships and mages. They can get up to 2 meters in length, and they don’t have a ranged breath weapon but can channel a powerful blast of electricity into anything clamped in their mouth. They are tough and strong, but fairly slow and sluggish by drake standards. They are often characterized as lazy and gluttonous in fiction, and some of the fishermen have been agitating to have their remaining nesting sites wiped out because they have a habit of attacking fishing nets for easy food. They are quite fast and agile in the water, however, so it is highly inadvisable to provoke them while they’re in their natural element.
Sea drakes are very social, with their nesting sites sporting hundreds, possibly thousands of individuals. However, it’s hard to say how much these gatherings really represent a cohesive group, as it often appears the drakes are simply tolerating each other’s presence rather than working together. They hunt alone, though they will work together to defend a nesting site against attackers. Because of their lack of impressive magical abilities, however, their usual reaction to an attack is to simply flee into the water (where they are much more dangerous) and then wait until the attackers leave.
This particular species is very mysterious, and was until recently considered as just a myth by many scholars.
For centuries people have been reporting sightings of a particularly large flying drake. The reported size differed wildly, but all of them were elephantine in size, with massive wings and a very slender build. The drakes were a very striking shade of blue, and not aggressive in the slightest. The sightings usually involved a person being out in the total wilderness and hidden out of sight. The drakes were very skittish, seemingly deliberately avoiding human notice, and simply fled when confronted. They did not fight back even when fired upon, and no one has ever successfully killed one for study.
Only in modern times, with greater advancement of magic and easier access to higher altitudes of the atmosphere, was the existence of the azure skydrake confirmed beyond all doubt. They are a very distinctive breed of flying drake, with an azure blue hide and an impressive wingspan, and they seem to spend much of their life flying very high in the air, out of reach of most predators and observers.
It is not clear what they feed on. They are highly magical, and have some form of air control that allows them to fly extremely fast and attack things that bother them. They can also form a shield of force around themselves for a short time, and breathe a very powerful bolt of electricity from their mouth. They are not as peaceful as the stories imply, but it should be noted their attacks were made in response to considerable provocations. Little is known about the azure skydrake at this time. No one knows where they nest, what they eat, or what their lifecycle is. They have never been observed feeding, but they do land to drink every once in a while. All observed sightings have been of a lone skydrake, but that doesn’t not necessarily mean they don’t congregate into groups at some point.