Terrall in Depth

Terrall in Depth: The Uthirans

Mordridakon: Fantasy dragon and private detective

Uthirans are what I call the K23 Universe’s magical and intelligent variety of dragons.  Named after the continent they come from, Uthirans are a departure from your standard fantasy dragons for two very big reasons: I attempt to explain how giant magical and intelligent flying lizards would live and I integrate these dragons fully into hominid society and not as fancy horses.

Uthirans are known as The Children of Harderith, the Dragon Mother (they aren’t the only Children, there are also the Komodo, or drakes, but that’s another post) .  Note this isn’t literal but figurative, as every Uthiran is naturally able to channel Harderith’s divine energy and it manifests itself through breed abilities.

First,  all Uthirans have the ability to transform into a hominid. However, Uthirans can only transform into one specific hominid. For example, when Mordridakon transforms, he’ll always transform into the same human form every time.   Uthirans can also learn other forms of magic if they choose to.

There are seven Uthiran breeds, each corresponding to a particular scale color and breed ability that governs how they hunt for food.

The breeds are:

  • Red Uthirans: Breathes fire and has scales as hard as diamonds that allow it withstand high temperatures.  Love living in geothermically active areas.
  • White Uthirans: Opposites of Reds, they breathe ice and can withstand freezing temperatures. They love high elevations and the northern finges of Uthira.
  • Green Uthirans: Breathes sulfuric acid and secretes a virulent poison via their scales. They prefer living in swamps and other wetlands.
  • Blue Uthirans: Breaths lightning and generates a heavy static charge. Prefers costal areas.
  • Black Uthirans: Can meld into shadows and disappear. Can also generate darkness in a limited radius. Blacks like forests, because they have the most shade.
  • Silver Uthirans: Can break the sound barrier. The sonic boom created by this stuns their prey. They love canyons and steep mountainous areas.
  • Gold Uthirans:  Golds can transform into any animal they want. They literally become that animal, their smell even changes to match. So if they transformed into a goat, they’d look, smell and act like a goat. The uses for this when hunting are obvious. Blend in with a herd of goats and when the time is right, transform back and chow down. The most powerful Golds can even transform body parts completely, so they can have a human body but a clawed hand, for example. While all breeds can do it – Mordridakon does it in Deltan Skies – they can only do it partially for very short periods of time. Finally, while Golds can tranform into other Uthiran breeds, they are unable to mimic their specific breed abilities. Golds will live just about anywhere.

A Brutal Life

Violence begins the moment Uthirans are hatched, where they fight with their few dozen siblings for dominance in the nest. Almost immediately, the weakest hatchlings and any that are deformed are eaten by their fathers, who do so on instinct. Fathers who eat more than they should generally wind up killed off by mates, as females are more powerful precisely so they can defend their brood from overly hungry and/or violent males.  Then the offspring are put through a series of tests to weed out the weak. The three tests are the sun test, the flight test and the breed power test. Hopefully, this will leave between two to five of the strongest offspring, at which point they are named. Those that pass all three tests will spend the next century growing. They’ll learn to speak Dragon, harness their powers and survive the clan system.

The clan system is how a continent full of giant carnivores doesn’t run out of prey. A clan controls who can live and hunt in a particular area. Clan size is determined by number of dwellings in an area (Burrows/caves/forest glades/desert oases etc) and the amount of prey in an area. Desert and glacier clans have the lowest number of members, sometimes as low as a dozen, and plains clans have the most, with hundreds or even thousands of members. Joining a clan is simply a matter of moving into a dwelling, usually by killing off the current resident or waiting for a catanonic resident to starve. Whiles in the plains dragons can dig themselves a dwelling, that prey number becomes really important. If dragons dig themselves a burrow in an already packed area, their burrows will collapse with the resident usually inside.

Once out of the parents’ dwelling, young Uthirans are on their own to find their own dwellings. They will almost never have any contact with their parents ever again, unless an offspring moves within the clan, which is rare. Siblings will stick together for a century or two until they too split up. Adult Uthirans generally live alone until it’s time to mate. Note that breed type is determined solely by the father. Dragons that have lived exclusively on Uthira with generally mate with their own breed. Those that have spent time on Hominia or Elemchi are less picky. Females will generally lay about 24-36 eggs in a circular nest made up of rocks or earth and lay on them for the next year. During this time, the females are completely dependent on males for food as they don’t leave the nest except to drink and to “go to the bathroom.”  Once the eggs have hatched, the pair will spend the next century with their offspring. Once their children are gone, pairs quickly split up.

Now, in order to explain the end of a Uthrian’s life, I need to introduce an important aspect of K23 dragons: the fact they all go insane.

 Insanity:

The biggest problem I have with the way most fantasy dragons are portrayed is the ridiculous lifespans they have. Dragons routinely live for ten thousand years without an attempt to explain how they manage to do it. The most recent example I can think of is in Skyrim, where you encounter  a dragon called Paarthunax who casually mentions that he’s waited around for nine thousand years for the big baddie dragon to return. I did a double-take. Really? And what did he do for all the time? The game doesn’t really explain it beyond “running the Greybeards” and leaves it at that.

How are you not bored out of your mind?

The easy answer to “what does a dragon do for ten thousand years?” is sleep, but sleep for what? The hero to come along and slay them for thier treasure. But why would a dragon hoard treasure in the first place? Its not like they have any use for it… unless they’re hoarders, the neurotic kind featured on Hoarders.  Besides, Uthirans can’t snooze for eons in order to protect their precious dwellings. A hibernating Uthiran is a dead Uthiran.

The Uthirans of K23 do not get weaker as they as age, their bodies continually grow stronger with time, sometimes becoming thirty feet tall and hundreds of feet in length . Their minds, however, do degrade.  After they reach maturity at one hundred,  Uthirans are completely sharp and mentally sound for the next two hundred years or so. Starting about three-hundred years of age, Uthirans begin to develop various neuroses. These disorders run the full range from various kinds of addictions and obsessions, like being a shopaholic (the addiction of  Mordridakon’s sister Selkath) or voyeurism, common among blacks, to serious illnesses like schizophrenia, most common among golds.

They are able to keep their neuroses in check for centuries and lead healthy and productive lives generally until between eight hundred and a thousand years-old, at which point most will start to mentally deteriorate, becoming crazier and crazier, generally becoming babbling lunatics. Assuming a Uthiran manages to live long enough, they’ll end up catatonic, their mind completely fried. Unless they’re lucky and have a offspring  to care for them because they live in the same clan and still talk to them, a Uthiran will be left to starve to death helpless and alone.  But even with care, a Uthiran will still eventually die, even if it takes a few more millennia.

Uthirans Elsewhere:

In most fantasy, when dragons aren’t trying to kill our heroes or snoozing, they’re either glorified horses or hidden within society.  The horses part I can take care of with riding-dragons, which were bred from an extinct Hominia-dwelling dragon genetically distinct from the Uthirans. I’ll go more into them when I eventually discuss the Teolian Rangers.

Unlike the dragons of Pern, no self respecting Uthiran will carry people around unless its convenient or profitable to do so. And if they do have riders, the Uthirans are still in charge.

The hidden part, on the other hand, took a few tries. In the Cybermagic novels, Uthirans lived apart from hominids, only becoming part of Hominian affairs in secret. The overarching arc was an Uthiran civil-war over how to integrate into Hominia, either living in harmony with them or eating them for dinner. Then in Hidden in Plain Sight, my failed attempt at rebooting Cybermagic, the plot revolved around a schizophrenic gold Uthiran serial killer. In that draft Uthirans lived secretly among hominids, always remaining transformed. But as i got farther along in that draft, I found the idea that dragons living among hominids perfectly content to remained transformed with only a select few hominids even knowing they were there completely absurd. I decided to trash that draft because I couldn’t make the Uthiran serial killer plot work with Uthirans as they were. For K23 Detectives, I just decided to make them fully integrated, which made things creatively much easier and more interesting.

Uthirans outside Uthira can  keep their dragon identities and are free to live and move about as long as they don’t do two things. First, they must abide by all local laws; this includes eating the local sentient hominids, purrs, kobolds, komodo etc. which is generally forbidden except in certain instances. Second, they can’t breed on Hominia or Elemchi, period. Since Uthirans generally stay on Hominia and Elemchi for a few centuries, they’ll find future mates, essentially boyfriends and girlfriends except that they don’t spend much time together before they mate in order not to kill each other.  Uthirans are kept in check by a multitude of organizations going under various monikers like the New Delta’s Department of Uthiran Affairs.

On Hominia, Uthirans are found in large concentrations in two places. The first is the City of Sands, where the J’Harderith religion feeds a revolving group of Uthirans convicts in their temple. Uthirans are allow to dwell in the temple for five days at a time, at which point they leave so new Uthirans can gleefully feed. Those that won’t leave are killed. Even if they aren’t allowed to dwell in the temple, plenty of Uthirans remain, feeding off the endless stream of riffraff that show up.

The second is, of course, New Delta, where there are a multitude of services that cater to Uthirans and their needs. The most famous of these is the fly-through eatery, large fields at the top of towers filled with livestock that Uthirans are allowed to pick off and eat for a fee. Uthirans love them as  only live prey provides the nutrition they need to be in their natural forms. While Uthirans can survive transformed eating a hominid diet, they don’t like to live that way.  Uthirans in New Delta live in specially modified warehouses so they can sleep in their natural form.  While the Medical Center does not have a Uthiran Wing, Cybrix does because they are largest employer of Uthirans in New Delta outside of the Department of Uthiran Affairs. Uthirans can become citizens and vote, though no Uthiran Senator has ever been elected because getting thousands of Uthirans to agree on anything is impossible.

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