The Dragons of Cymru are a truly remarkable species, apparently related to no other creature in Cymru. In fact, there is some doubt whether any similar animals exist anywhere in the world, although of course there is a great deal of the world unknown even to the most travelled Bard.
An adult dragon measures between 2’ and 4’ in length, about 2/3 of which is tail, and has a wingspan of up to 6’. It has a light bone structure and a slender body, and weighs only a few pounds. They have long heads, with wide, round eyes set low in brow at the front of the head, and a narrow snout. Their nostrils are large, but are covered by flaps, which can close completely, or flare to the width of the dragon’s brow. The upper body is covered by small, hard scales, with larger, softer plates on the underside.
Dragons have six limbs; four legs and two wings. Their legs are short, but they are capable of short bursts of rapid, bounding ground movement. They are also good climbers, and they have very dextrous forepaws. The forepaws have small, sharp claws; the hind claws are longer, but equally sharp. Both sets of claws are retractile, being largely sheathed within the tips of the dragon’s digits most of the time. They have long, narrow wings, and are powerful flyers.
A dragon’s wings develop faster than the rest of their body, and they fledge at age one. At this stage they are still less than a foot in length, and about half their length is taken up by their tail. The wings are structured like a bat’s, but shaped more like a falcon’s. They have an extraordinary musculature which allows them to alter the shape of the wing membrane, giving the dragon superb control in flight. The tail is held straight out behind the dragon in flight, and acts as a rudder.
Dragons fly fast, but their wings beat infrequently. They can also hover, given a strong wind to head into, in the manner of a kestrel, and hovering and diving is their primary hunting method. When performing such a stoop, the dragon closes its nostrils down completely, and reverses its body in the last moment to clutch at its prey with the long, killing claws of its hind legs.
Dragons groom themselves meticulously, using their small fore claws. Grooming also forms a large part of dragon courtship and social behaviour. So far as any human can tell, dragons pair for life, and share in the rearing of the young. The dragon is thus seen as a symbol of fidelity among the mountain folk of Cymru, and its use as such has spread to other parts of the kingdom. A mated pair will produce a clutch of 2-4 eggs. Dragons are slow developers, and kits reach maturity at around age twenty-one. This necessitates an unusually high degree of investment in a dragon’s young, and a pair will not mate again until their clutch have all matured.
At hatching, a dragon kit measures only 4”-8”, with only a stubby tail and vestigial wings. Their scales and claws are soft, and they are toothless, but have a hard ‘egg tooth’ on the tip of their snout, which they use to break free of their egg. Within an hour of hatching, the dragon’s scales and claws have hardened. Hatchlings are invariably a deep, ruddy brown. The surface of their scales is dull, but brightens with age; by three months the scales possess a bright sheen like an adult’s. The scales slowly change colour to their adult hue over the next two decades. Most dragons are red, but the colour varies from bright scarlet to deep maroon or burgundy. Less common are purple and black colorations, and a small number of dragons display a partial albinism which fades their colours to white with age.
Dragons are sociable creatures, although mostly they live alone or in pairs. When dragons are together they almost invariably groom each other, and communicate using what appears to be a quite sophisticated language.
Dragons can not be tamed; all attempts to do so have failed. Even if a human is the only creature present at the moment of hatching, a kit will almost always refuse to imprint on any creature but another dragon. Young adult dragons, almost always unpaired animals, may attach themselves to a human as a hunting and travelling partner. They will rarely stay with such a partner for more than a few years, but have often been observed returning to visit old friends.