Over the next few months, I’m going to share some character sketches from each book in the series. I’m hoping to enrich the stories for readers and to encourage those who haven’t read them to pick them up and give them a try!
I was going to start with the human characters from Dragon’s Fire, but I decided to begin with the dragons instead. They play a small role in Book One, but I developed them extensively for my upcoming new release (Book Six.) I feel that they deserve their place as characters, and they’re going to open this blog series.
Aderyntan is a Caledonian word meaning “firebird.” Aderyntans live on the rocky coasts of Caledon, spending their days diving for fish and performing aerial acrobatics in the updrafts off the sea.
Aderyntans have brownish-silver scales, leathery wings, and four legs with four vicious talons on each foot. Aderyntans have a pointed snout, often called a “beak,” with sharp teeth along its length. They have two horns on the top of their head, similar to those of a goat. They can walk on four legs or two: on four legs, they move like a dog; on two, they hop in an awkward, lopsided fashion. When standing on all fours, their heads reach a height of about three feet, but when they stand on their hind legs, they can be as tall as a man. If they spread their wings when they do this, they are a terrifying sight, since their wingspan is 20 to 24 feet. Their muscular tails are four to six feet in length, and they use them to balance themselves in flight and to aid them in propelling through the water when swimming.
Aderyntans can hold their breath underwater for up to 30 seconds. In flight, they can ascend and descend at 90-degree angles, and are capable of sharp cornering and maneuvering in tight spaces. Their flight speeds can reach 40 miles per hour, and they can sustain those speeds for 15 minutes at a time. When they fly, they tuck their feet close to their bodies to minimize wind resistance, giving themselves the appearance of winged serpents in the sky.
Aderyntans breathe an intensely hot flame from their nostrils, which can incinerate a piece of wood within a few seconds and can set fabric ablaze instantly.
Aderyntans, who are highly intelligent, diurnal creatures, live in groups called “cayills,” which may consist of up to 50 individuals, including several males. There is a hierarchy within the cayill, with the smarter, faster dragons taking leadership roles.
Aderyntans eat only fish, and they use their beaks or talons to grasp and pull prey from the water. They are not a threat to humans unless they feel that their nests or their fishing grounds are in danger. For this reason, boats do not sail in Aderyntans’ waters, and fearsome rumors of the creatures’ ferocity have traveled far from Caledon’s shores.
Breeding pairs will make a nest of sticks and leaves for their young. A female Aderyntan will lay between two and four eggs in a clutch, which will hatch after an incubation period of ten weeks. She will feed and guard her young for three months, after which, she prods them out of the nest, and they learn to fly on their way down to the sea. Those who pass the flying test will learn to fish by imitating others in the cayill and proceed to care for themselves. Those who don’t become food for sea creatures.
Young Aderyntans have a voracious appetite and grow rapidly for the first six to eight months of their lives.
Aderyntans live primarily on the west coast of Caledon, where the weather and the ocean currents are favorable to producing the abundance of fish they need to survive. Their numbers are prolific until about 1000AD when diminishing food supplies begin to decrease their population. By 1218, the time of Dragon’s Fire, fewer than 50 of the dragons remain, concentrated on the northwest shore of Caledon.
Cythraul is a Caledonian word meaning “demon.”
Cythraul is a bipedal dragon with shiny silver scales and large golden eyes that notoriously catch and reflect light, like those of a cat. Full-grown, the dragon stands between five and eight feet tall, with males being taller and heavier than females. Cythraul has three claws on each hind foot; the inside one is larger than the others and curved like a sickle. It uses this claw to impale its prey. Its two forelegs are much smaller than its hind legs, and it uses these like hands for grasping. Cythraul’s five-inch-long fangs are serrated. Its five-foot-long tail is used to balance while walking and running, and the dragon tends to smack it against things when annoyed. Cythrauls can reach speeds of 20 miles per hour in short bursts and can sustain speeds of six to eight miles per hour for 30 minutes or more. They cannot climb trees nor swim but are very agile at negotiating the steep cliffs and caves in northwest Caledon.
Cythraul is a highly intelligent, nocturnal pack hunter with no sense of humor, and will eat anything that moves. The dragons have a sophisticated communication system which allows them to share locations, targets, and attack plans. Just before an attack, all communication silences. The dragon impales its victims and guts them alive. Eventually, the pack tears their prey to pieces and shares the spoils. Hunting packs can range in number from two to ten individuals.
Female Cythrauls lay one egg per year, and are fiercely protective of their young. Eggs hatch after 16 weeks. The mother Cythraul tends her infant for two months without leaving the lair, while other pack members supply food which she shreds and feeds to her baby. After two months, she takes her infant out in the daytime to practice hunting rodents and other small animals.
When the young Cythraul is six months old, it goes out at night to hunt but is not included in a pack until it is an adult. As a juvenile, it learns by trial and error the skills required to feed itself. It usually stays near a pack and can call for help if it needs it.
Cythrauls are fascinated and enraged by fire. Young Cythrauls can even be distracted from prey by the flames. Adults know that humans are usually the source of fire and will scatter the blaze and attack the instigator.
Cythrauls inhabit northwestern Caledon, where food is plentiful and Aderyntan, with his enchanting fire, is a difficult-to-catch delicacy. As people spread out from Ampleforth, occupying the dragons’ hunting grounds and competing for food, the Cythrauls’ numbers and range dwindle. By 1218, very few Cythrauls remain—the population is so low that few people have ever actually seen a Cythraul. The remaining individuals exist and hunt on the Sacred Cliffs.
Religion and the Dragons
The Mystics believe that the dragons are representatives of the Caledonian gods, and possibly, at times, the embodiment of them. As such, they protect the dragons and refuse to allow anyone to kill them. They offer regular sacrifices to Cythraul and give Aderyntan homage and space.
Punishment for deliberately killing a dragon can include hard labor, imprisonment, torture, or death, depending on the whim of the Archmystic. However, the people fear the dragons as much or more than they fear the Mystics, and will slay a dragon if necessary and possible. This also contributes to the decline of the dragon populations, as people in areas further from Ampleforth are less likely to be found out or punished for killing one. Thus, by 1218, the dragon population is centered at the Sacred Cliffs.
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