The Hydragon (pronounced HIGH-drah-gon) is a rare but dangerous water monster, which frequents fresh-water lakes and rivers in Northern Sarvonia and Nybelmar though the occasional specimen has been located as well in the Rayne and the Teiphra rivers just south of the Tandala Mountains. It is also known as “Ergvaz’mur” (Kugliz'seitre, lit. “Three Heads”) and to the elves as the "Coór'raház" (Styrásh, "Snake of Coór"). There is believed to be also a variety in Nybelmar known as the Bala'Ur, which is reportedly monstrous in size, but no proofs of the latter are available. Many people think the Hydragon to be completely mythical, but the Northerners know better and most peoples, from the Celeste Lowlands to Barsalon, can show the curious a shed skin, or the “beak fang”, or a preserved specimen of some sort.
|Image description. A pair of three-headed Hydragon worms attacking its prey. Picture from the game Mystical Empire™, used with friendly permission. Illustration drawn by Quellion.|
Although the name suggests a draconic-sized beast, the
Hydragon is not very large. The biggest
Sarvonian specimen recorded was just under 3
peds long, though the
is said to be much larger. The average adult length is about 2 to 2 ½
peds. The Hydragon is truly
a bizarre creature, which basically looks like a snake with three heads. Like
most snakes, the heads are small, maybe 1 ½
palmspans long, on slim
necks about two fores long,
which join together at their bases into the animal's body and tail. Where the
necks meet, the body is about the thickness of a man’s waist, usually 2–2 ½
fores around. The body then
tapers quickly into the tail.
Unlike snakes, however, the Hydragon has a sharp spiky crest running the length of each of its three necks. These jagged crests, which disappear at the end of the necks, are usually lying flat along the animal’s necks unless it is aroused by danger or the approach of food. The Hydragon is capable of dislocating its lower jaws, like most snakes, to swallow extremely large pieces of food. It also has a snakelike forked tongue. The long sharp fangs are hollow through the center and a mild narcotic poison can be injected into the Hydragon’s prey via these teeth. Thus a bite, though not lethal in and of itself, will result in the prey’s becoming groggy and disoriented, unable to escape, and the monster can finish it off at leisure.
One interesting feature is the “beak fang”. The front of the muzzle tapers to a sharp hard point. Though not an actual tooth, this sharp projection can be used by the creature as effectively as its teeth. Another trick of the Hydragon is to lash out at prey (or an enemy) with one of its heads, presumably to knock it over or into the water. Often this beak fang can inflict deep gashes with such blows. Hydragon hunters sometimes collect beak fangs as proof of their prowess.
Just behind each of its heads, the Hydragon has a set of gills, allowing it to breathe underwater. It can, however, survive for some time on land, so even if its prey gets loose, it can be pursued a short distance. However, this is unusual, as the Hydragon does not like to leave the water and will typically only do so if extremely hungry.
Scales cover the upper part of the animal’s heads, necks, and body. A softer, leathery skin covers the belly and throats. This is the most vulnerable part of the Hydragon’s body, as the scales are almost draconically hard. Most Hydragons are green in colour, though the shades vary widely, ranging from vontromarine to sognastheen to a green so dark it is nearly black. It is thought in Sarvonia that the darker the animal, the older it is, since without exception the larger animals are darker, the smallest lighter in colour. There is no obvious external difference between the genders.
We have been told by the main researcher, Reve'lor (see Researchers, below) that the Hydragon, though possessing three heads, has only one brain, located at the neck junction. The heads themselves each contain only a bundle of nerves, connected to the main central brain. This, we are told, is why you can cut off a head and the animal still survives. The heads are more like limbs with eyes than actual heads containing a normal brain. All the internal structures (esophagus, neck bones, breathing apparatus, etc) connect internally to the appropriate organs or skeletal points.
The Hydragon’s poison is one of its more interesting abilities. Researchers have
studied its usages in medicine, but the animal’s rarity makes it unusable for
any but special circumstances. It is a very tough beast, and can survive the
loss of one head and possibly even two, as its thick black blood clots so
quickly that it may not bleed to death. Two Hydragons have been killed that had
each lost a head in a previous battle but survived to fight again.
Territory. As mentioned before, the Hydragon makes its home in the fresh-water lakes and rivers of Northern Sarvonia. It has been found in the Crystal Lake, the Luquador, Quest and Liben Rivers, the Water Marshes, and the Uiaenoth River. Rarely, it is found in one of the southern rivers such as the Rayne and the Teiphra. However, it is not found in the Kanapan Lands. The Bala’Ur is rumoured to be in the swampy area known as the Tears of Askanis, or the Venlaken Marshes, of Nybelmar. Nobody has yet attempted to prove this and survived to tell about it.
Habitat/Behaviour. These animals are usually found in pairs. Where one is, its mate is likely to be nearby. However, they are not particularly vicious, usually killing only to eat, or if frightened or provoked. Their reputation for savagery has arisen from the fact that once they attack, they fight ferociously and to the death. A Hydragon, no matter how sorely wounded, will not stop fighting until it or its enemy is dead. The only exception to this rule is if the enemy has managed to retreat too far inland for them to survive. In general, however, they are more likely to be found playing in the water, diving and twining around each other. Reve'lor told our researchers that they are “Juk’lan’myk’pyrl’kah”, ("like juk’lan and waterberry"), meaning very close and loving in their relationship. If attacked, they will fight together, twisting their bodies so closely that they can appear to be just one animal, giving rise to legends of “Ergvaz’vurg” or six-headed beasts, but these are just tales. They hibernate during the winter, and are most dangerous in early spring, when they wake up ravenous and will eat anything they can get.
Diet. Like dragons, the Hydragon is carnivorous, eating only meat. They like fish of all kinds: the mithralfish, the northern lysh pike, the sunset fish, northern hollup frogs - all are perfectly acceptable. But the Hydragon hunts land animals too. It will go after anything that comes down to the water, from animals as small as a rat to the huge Kev’lor horses of the Kuglimz people. People are no safer, when the Hydragon is hungry.
Mating. Hydragons usually mate for life. They pair up together in the summer and mate, after which the female digs a hole in the bottom of the river and lays a cluster of about ten eggs or so. The parents do not stay with the eggs or pay any further attention to them, but go on their way. The eggs hatch in late summer and the baby hydragons, or hydragles, are able to swim and hunt almost immediately thereafter. They are quite small, only about three handspans long, but grow remarkably fast. Within two years they are full adult size and ready to find a mate.
Myth/Lore. One of the claims made about the Hydragon is that if you cut off one of its heads, two more will eventually grow from the stump. This is very widely believed to be true and adds to the horror most people have for these beasts, although according to the researcher Revelor, it has no factual basis. However, the animal is capable of survival with only one of the three heads remaining, though it would be severely handicapped.
The elves believe the Hydragon to be an evil and abnormal thing. They call it the Coór'raház, or "Snake of Coór", and not an actual normal animal. This view, though deplored by the Kuglim researcher Reve'lor, is popular with many humans as well.
Researchers. Most of this information was provided to the Compendium by the eccentric Fal’cone Kuglim Reve’lor, a reclusive man living near Naurooth, who owns a large menagerie and actually captured and tamed two hydragles. He kept them for about 6 years, after which they managed to escape the enclosed pond he kept them in, and killed five young goats. The owner of the goats created such a furor over this that Reve’lor was forced to release the hydragons into the wild, which he did with extreme reluctance. He claims that they were not especially savage and would let him pet and stroke them, and only bit him three or four times,”…in the early spring when the poor beasts were hungry”. He used the young they produced for doing various experiments and made many detailed notes on the internal structures and physical uniqueness of the Hydragon, which he graciously allowed the researchers to examine. We are indebted to him for his kindness and hospitality and also for providing an antidote to the poisoned bite one of our writers received from an escaped pet snake.
Information provided by Alysse the Likely