Written by The Mad Professor
Drakes are among the fiercest inhabitants of the Ribs, these huge, winged reptiles are not to be trifled with. Drakes are among the largest creatures in Adylheim capable of unassisted flight. They are fiercely intelligent, territorial and menacing.
Drakes are reptilian by nature, their cold blooded systems mean they spend the majority of winter in a semi-hibernated state, conserving the last of their heat on the off chance that they need to use it to repel any wintry intruders. Drakes have a total of three pairs of limbs, two forelimbs and two back limbs which can both have enough dexterity to serve as hands and are equipped with claws. The third pair of limbs serve as the drake's wings, with damaged wings drakes quickly become incapable of taking to the air. When airborne drakes usually use their tails as a rudder and spend a lot of time soaring rather than running. In the air they are surprisingly agile for their size and can be a fierce opponent to anyone in their airspace. All drakes are covered by a set of strong scales that cannot easily be pierced by any weapon. For this reason, lances and similar weapons designed to penetrate the scales are generally recommended for slaying drakes. These scales can be a variety of colours, most drakes are a mottled green, gray and brown, however some are entirely one colour or another. Sometimes rarer metallic colours, reds, blacks, and white drakes also appear. As they grow older drakes typically acquire horns along their spine, tail and also the ridge of their skull. This is especially true for the sires. There is relatively little difference between the two genders. Sires, the males, tend to be slightly smaller than Ranis, the females, but generally develop larger horns and more distinct features. Sires can also fold out a frill of skin around the back of their skull which gives them their characteristic appearance, this is seldom done outside of courtship rites, however. Drakes never sleep, much like dolphins they always remain partially awake, with one half of their brain always active. This includes the time they spend hibernating. Drakes refer to their hibernation as the "Dreaming" where they lie and think and wait while their body's metabolism slows to a crawl and preserves their heat and energy till the coming of spring. When spring does come, drakes can often be found basking to regenerate their heat stores. All drakes are capable of breathing fire and many drakes are born with Fire Talents allowing them to manipulate their fire expertly. The relative common nature of High Magic traits in drakes means almost all of them are capable users of High Magic.
Drakes are generally born in clutches of 3 or 5, with only one or two living past the first couple of decades. They have among the longest lifespans known on Adylheim, living up to four hundred years. They do not leave their mother's care till they reach the age of a 50 and are completely independent after that. They reach maturity at approximately 150 years of age and will start courting then. Sires grow up to approximately 14 metres in length, with a ribcage measuring up to 1,5 metres in width. Ranis exceed their male counterparts in size and can grow up to 20 metres in length, their ribcages measuring over 2 metres in width. When drakes reach the apex of their lives, around the end of their third century, most give up mating and withdraw entirely to their lairs.
While drakes are most definitely intelligent on a level comparable to humans or perhaps even more so there is no specific drake culture. Drakes are loners by nature. They do not congregate except when it's a matter of mating or fighting over territory or resources. Once the sire has mated with the rani, they rarely have further interactions, though the sire will occasionally fight other sires to protect his offspring. Drakes are fiercely territorial and will fight other drakes that muscle in on their territories. They generally live out of caves which serve as a central point in their territory and everything surrounding that belongs to them according to the thinking of the drake. Any drake moving into this territory will either be violently dispatched or current inhabitant will have to pick up sticks and move. Contrary to what people think of drakes they are capable of working together if they have to, though such occurrences are very rare. If there is anything drakes are known for it's their ability to think circles around anyone. They're known as master manipulators, often having plans within plans. They often use this intelligence to outthink most who try to match them with their brains. It should be noted that even though they are intelligent, they are not afraid of using brute strength towards intruders. However, they seldom bother to learn the tongues of humans. Partially because they have problems pronouncing it, but mainly because they consider it beneath them. Drakes living near human settlements are more likely to know human tongues, however. The other thing which drakes guard with their lives is their lair. Generally this is because they have amassed hoards over their long lives. Hoards generally consist of anything from magical artefacts, to knowledge in the form of books and spells, to gold, to battle trophies and other valuable items. Drakes are fiercely protective of their hoards and consider them important, especially sires are known to be protective of them as they will often give especially lucrative items from the hoard to the ranis they're courting. Ranis are known to be less protective of their hoards, but will fight to the death to protect their eggs and can be far more brutal than their male counterparts. Drakes often collect knowledge, though they have little interest in human civilisation they are not above preying on their wizards for powerful spellbooks or similar. Many drake hoards contain items from abandoned cities where the drakes have gone in to help themselves to the knowledge of those who lived there. Drakes tend to have little interest in knowledge in and of itself though, to them knowledge is a tool to gain more power. There is no organized religion or anything of the like in drake culture, they believe themselves to be the inheritors of the dragons. Though there is precious little evidence to support this apart from a fleeting resemblance. Along with this belief does come a certain amount of arrogance when dealing with other races, they also have a long history of enslaving or killing and eating any dragonkin that don't do their bidding.
Most drakes have some innate Talent for High Magic, mostly Fire, though other variants have been known to occur. In addition to their High Magic, however, most drakes bolster their knowledge extensively with Low Magic. Drakes rarely collaborate on Low Magic and never take on apprentices in a similar system to human wizards. However, young drakes will often inherit lairs from older ones enabling them to read the notes left behind, enabling them to continue and elaborate on the works of those who have gone before them. As such, drakes have developed spells and Prime Words that are significantly different from those present in human magic. It is very rare for drakes to take any interest in magical arts outside of Low and High Magic, alchemy and mantra are almost entirely unheard of.
Adding the title drakeslayer to one's name has long been considered the mark of a great warrior in human cultures and as such drakes have often found themselves hunted. To this day the human lands are largely devoid of drakes, though some still survive in the more remote regions. Hunting drakes, however, is rarely done in outright battle. Usually hunters will wait till winter, when drakes are at their weakest, and light wet fires outside their caves, letting the smoke seep into the drake's lair till it must either emerge or expire from the fumes. Due to their tough scales, the recommended weapons are generally high quality lances or spears. The revenues from hunting drakes are many, foremost among which is access to the drake's hoard. Much like wizards drakes are prone to leaving magical traps to keep people from touching their hoards, any decent drake hunting party should therefore include a wizard. If a large enough strip of their skin can be salvaged, it can be turned into high quality armour that combines the protection of high quality chainmail with the weight and flexibility of leather armour. Wizards and alchemists have also been known to crave various pieces of drake carcasses for potents spells or experiments and generally pay large sums for them. Drake teeth are also often put into necklaces, as it's believed that they make for decent protection against bad influences for whoever wears them.
Myths & Legends
While drakes have largely stayed out of human politics and rarely feature prominently in the history of Adylheim, they have inspired their fair share of legends. Some believe that drakes enjoy kidnapping the daughters of local nobles and many stories tell of brave knights who venture out by themselves to kill the drake and free the princess. Such myths are generally seen as fiction though as it usually takes a team of men to kill a drake even at its weakest. In legends drakes are most often portrayed as the villain, though a few exceptions do exist, where drakes offer sage advice to fledgling heroes. Though even in those stories the advice generally comes at a heavy price. There are few myths regarding drakes themselves, though there are some which speak of the very rare white drakes as being just as active in winter and impervious to the cold. Such drakes are so rare though that the veracity of the myth is hard to discern.
Sometimes drake clutches will include a runt drake known as a wyvern. These are generally picked on by their larger siblings and will rarely live past infancy. Wyverns lack the intelligence which drakes demonstrate, but are otherwise similar, although they lack the characteristic front limbs of drakes. There have, through the ages, been several attempts to domesticate wyverns as flying animals. These have all failed, however. It is possible to teach wyverns to accept riders and to use them for air transport, however, wyverns never become entirely tame and will sooner or later see their riders as merely snacks they're carrying around. All attempts to domesticate wyverns have ended with the wyvern eating its rider. Wyverns are much rarer than drakes, but can still occasionally be found in the Ribs and there are still those daredevils who try to domesticate them. Some barbarian tribes have even been known to have daredevils who jump onto wyverns and hang there while the wyverns get airborne. It should be noted that the fatality rate in this sport is generally fairly high.