There are many names for these dracoids among the people living around or in the Goltherlon Forest. The common folk that live in the foothills of the High Fores and against the Ancythrian Sea see these dracoids more than other humans do and refer to them as "Skyters". This comes from the original name "Sky Terrors", though it has been combined by the slurring sailor's tongue. The name came from the fact that they are creatures of the skies and they look somewhat like the serpents of the sea that terrorize the sailors, yet their size of course doesn't live up to that. Among researchers, they are referred to as "Brownie Drakes" in some cases as some have been lucky enough to spot a dracoid with a rider while studying these animals. Among the Brownies they are known as "rrLL" (lit: "dragon"), a name coming from the Llaoihrr founder who heard of great winged creatures while traveling and believed the dracoids fit that description. The original name that the Aohu'o gave these beasts seems to be lost in time as they have given their mounts another name and refer to all of these dracoids by that name.
Picture description. A brown Skyter Dracoid in the second stage of life. Image drawn by Sheil.
The Skyters' fur covered bodies grow to be about forty-five
nailsbreadths from the nape
of their necks to the base of their tails, which extend another thirty-five
nailsbreadths behind them.
The long tail that flows out behind these animals serve as one of the few
weapons it has. This slender addition can
act like a whip when the drake is flying through the
air, helping to throw off would be attackers
and giving the creature a chance to get away or turn and fight.
When situated on their sturdy legs, these beasts average at twenty-three nailsbreadths at the shoulders, but when they lay down and press their chest down, the distance between the ground and the base of their neck is only eight nailsbreadths. Strong legs keep it steady when it is on the ground, but on four legs they are rather clumsy creatures and their home is clearly the air. Each foot has four toes and four small, but sharp, curved claws. Because of these, the only dracoids that have ever been seen taking off from the ground were the mounts of the Aohu'o Brownies. Sharp claws and long legs are used by those that find themselves on the ground, to climb up the trunk of a tree so that it can gain height before taking off.
The point between the front of the shoulders and long neck is where a rider might be found, but one is more likely to see a wild dracoid before one with a little rider. Their necks are about fifteen nailsbreadths long, connecting their bodies and slender, snake-like heads. On either side of their long heads, small, round eyes peer out. The colour of their eyes can be any of the same colours as their fur, but doesn't always match. One dracoid might have pale green eyes and brown fur or pale gold eyes and grey fur. Their eyes will slowly darken with age. A hatchling with pale grey eyes might have smoky orbs, filled with all the darkness and danger of a stormy sky in adulthood.
These dracoids' flat, triangular heads are probably the most dangerous part of the animal. At five nailsbreadths long, it wouldn't seem all that dangerous, but on either side of the drake's head, three quills of varying length can be found, the longest being two nailsbreadths longer than the head. Until a dracoid reaches three years of age, these quills are curled at the ends and pretty much harmless, but as they develop, so do their defenses. When fully developed these quills are not something to be taken lightly, they have barbed tips that stick into the skin of the creature that the tips might become embedded in. When a quill is lost, another will grow back in its place and within a month it will be as dangerous as before. The quill has little hairs or roots that break when the dracoid pulls away from a creature that a quill is stuck in and another quill will begin to grow from the roots. The growth of these quills is akin to the teething of a toddler and they will rub their heads up against a tree or rock until the quill breaks through the skin again. Though the Brownies have learned that the quills can be cut, without causing the dracoid pain, and they won't grow out again. Once a quill is full grown it will not grow again unless it is pulled completely from it roots, so cutting it near the skin keeps it from growing back.
Rows of sharp teeth made for tearing and holding flesh line both upper and lower jaws of these dracoids. While these dracoids are not the largest predators in their environment, they still prove to be a foe worthy of respect to those larger than them and deadly to those smaller. While they don't attempt to take down the larger predators of their home, many of the smaller animals have fallen to them and are carried away by strong jaws.
Perhaps the most important feature of these beasts is its wings. The one thing that changes them from the clumsy ground animals they obviously are, to the majestic flyers of the sky. The average wingspan of these creatures is about eighty nailsbreadths. Like all other measurements given for this creature, that might be a bit bigger or smaller (give or take a couple of nailsbreadths). Unlike most of its larger 'cousins' this dracoid has feathered wings, like that of the hawks and falcons that it hunts and is hunted by. Unusually strong muscles allow these creatures to soar through the sky almost effortlessly, much to the pleasure of some who might be able to see the colourful dracoid's aerial stunts from a distance.
These creatures come in five known variations of colourings. Each dracoid has its own random colouring though the majority of its fur is light with seemingly haphazardly strewn patches of darker fur. All of the different colourings have their own mark that is consistent among the shades. While all of the colours are quite lusterless, they are still able to capture the attention of anyone that has had the privilege to see these creatures. The following colours are listed in order of rarity, the first being the most common.
The light and dark brown mixture has been seen the most throughout the years in both tame and wild dracoids. Most of the body is covered in a steady shade of tan before darkening dramatically as it hits one of the random patches along the length of the dracoid's body. The special mark of the brown dracoid can be found in the wings. Along the bones of the wings, the feathers keep the tan colour of the main body before becoming considerable lighter toward the middle, only to mimic the dark spots of the pelt at the very end. On each of these brown dracoids, the colouring of the wings stays the same, while the position, number, and shapes change in each creature.
It is somewhat surprising to researchers that the green dracoids are not the most commonly seen. The light and dark shades of forest green allow the creatures to blend in with their surroundings and helps when attempting to escape the grasp of predators. Every now and then a green dracoid will appear with a shade of green so light that it actually hinders the cloaking properties of its colour. These are rarer than the other greens and while they make them easier to find among the foliage, they are also one of the most beautiful shades. The constant markings on these creatures can be found on its underside. The belly of this drake is a speckled with an array of light and dark greens that look like the dense forest canopy.
Many think that the steel blue colouring is the oddest as it servers no purpose in the survival of these creatures that anyone can think of, though none doubt the beauty of these animals. In these creatures there are examples of many different shades of steel blue than anyone thought possible. While it keeps the constant, lighter colouring over most of its body, it differs a bit when it comes to the darker shapes. Researchers who have been able to get a good look at these blue dracoids claim that no two spots are the exact same colour. The trademark of this type is a solid head. The serpent-like head of the dracoid is a solid steel blue of the darker variety, slowly fading into the light blue of the rest of the body as it snakes down the neck.
While grey is not often a colour that can claim to be interesting or exciting, the grey dracoid seems to reinvent the colour. In this type, the pale grey fur that covers most of the body looks a lot like storm clouds on the horizon, lightening or darkening slightly with each different dracoid. The darker shapes on this beast are somewhat larger than those of the other types and sometimes it appears that the dark grey overrides the paler colours. In the air or up in the trees the lighter colours seem to disappear completely and many believe that the greys were the one type that didn't follow the shadings of the others. Each of these grey dracoids has the same solid tail that has become the mark of this type. This is another reason that they believe that these had a solid colouring because the tail hangs lower than the rest of the body and it is missing the switching colours of the other types.
The gold dracoids are the rarest and believed to be the most beautiful of these animals. The hair of these creatures looks like old gold; aged, unpolished, and slightly dusty from years of sitting. The pale gold almost melts together with the slightly darker shades of the odd spots along its body. Following the spine, from the nape of the neck to the tip of the tail, the darker regions of the dracoid's body steadily darken as they move toward the tip of the tail. Along the neck, the differences between the two shades of gold are extremely difficult to tell apart, where as, along the tail, the difference is like night and day. Among the gold dracoids, the wings are their trademark. The top of their wings are coloured in a shade of gold, so bright that it almost causes the lusterless statement to be false. The undersides of the wings are a rather dark colour of gold that almost looks black at times. This helps as the gold dracoids, as during its sunset hunts it can hide from its prey when a brilliant gold lights up the sky for a short time on some nights.
The Skyters have a few abilities that help them survive in a forest with
dominant predators in the trees and on the ground and these make them ideal
mounts for the Aohu'o
Brownies that live in the southern part of the
Goltherlon. Their agility seems to
be the most important when attempting to stay alive as they are able to outsmart
the herín and evade the snapping jaws of the
horned wolf when flying near the ground. Their
aerial acrobatics also mingle with their
intelligence, allowing them to use the foliage around them to hide themselves
from view when there is a threat of attack. This is the reason that they haven't
all died out since they seem to think toying with the herín
is fun and a way to show their superiority.
They also use their strength and endurance to help them survive. This enables them to fly a good distance while carrying a certain amount of weight. Obviously the amount of weight would determine the distance it is able to fly during the day, but there is also a cap on the weight. No one knows for certain what this cap is, but some have seen a dracoid eating their catch on the forest floor instead of carrying it back to their nest when they take down a larger creature.
These abilities are the main ones that their Brownie riders are concerned with, but these abilities do more for these dracoids. Strength and endurance also help the young and foolish as they can stay between the reach of the herín and the exposure of the area above the trees for long periods of time, staying in the air so that they cannot be caught unaware. Another reason this is considered a special ability is because a set of parent dracoids could lift their nest from its position in the treetops and carry it off to a new location if their young are in danger.
Territory. Wild Skyters make their homes at the tops of the trees in the Goltherlon Forest. The weight and size of these nests with the parent dracoids (and in the spring time, eggs) prevent them from being at the very tops of the trees like the dracoids prefer, but they are built as high up as possible. These creatures can also be found on the eastern slopes and foothills of the High Fores, living in caves, niches, and sheltered shelves. Skyters won't really venture far into the mountains or away from the trees often as they are susceptible to attack and the trees are their main protection.
Habitat/Behaviour. Skyters make their nests up in the treetops of the Goltherlon Forest and the eastern slopes of the High Fores. The nests are made of branches, vines, twigs, grass, leaves, and moss. Branches, vines, and twigs are woven together by the creatures to produce sturdy nests that are then lined with grass, leaves, and moss. They might build their nest off the ground so that they can work with their materials easier. Once it is finished they move it to a safe perch in the treetops or a cave, niche, or sheltered shelves on the mountain side. Those that build or put their nests in trees use vines to keep them from moving or slipping when the winds shake the tops of the trees. They strap the nest tightly to the surrounding branches and limbs so that it won't move.
These dracoids are not really the ferocious type. The only thing that really provokes this beast's anger would be going near its nest. They are very protective of their young and that is what get most potential"'rraooheerrLL" (or "dragonrider" in Tharian) killed. During the time that the eggs are in the nest they will be most protective and leave their young only if they must. This makes it difficult for a Brownie to get a hold of an egg, but eventually they will leave for a short time to hunt for food or fly over to a stream to drink. The rest of the time the Skyter is usually a mischievous creature.
Apparently, appearance is everything for these dracoids, and I don't mean their looks. They spend most of their young adult life showing off for the others, placing themselves in harms way just to prove that they will make a better mate than another dracoid or prove their superiority. When they are not tormenting heríns and proving their bravery, they tend to be a bit of trouble for the Brownies. Their idea of a good time is to dive into a random group of Brownies just to watch them scatter or drop harmless things from above. Some have compared it to a town's top bully, proving their worth to their peers by tormenting those smaller than them. One of the main differences is that these dracoids rarely cause harm. They usually have little like for the crunchy little people that the other predators enjoy, but should they catch one alone, they won't hesitate to gobble it up. Other than that they really mind their own business.
From their first flight until they hit the adult phase of their lives, these dracoids are always getting into something. Most of the time their agility serves them well as they push their luck to the limit when teasing the cats, wolves, Brownies, and other creatures of the area but flying just outside their reach or dropping harmless things on them. More often than not, the reason of death before reaching adulthood is the fact that they mercilessly taunt these creatures, putting themselves in harms way for a reputation. Some of the people that have observed these creatures believe that the shows of bravery and foolishness are necessary as those that do not mate during their years as a young adult, do not find a mate for the rest of their lives, and females choose the bravest for their mates.
One thing that really befuddles researchers is the natural death of these dracoids. From what they have been able to learn on their own, and notes that have been pried from the clutches of the secretive Brownies, these animals just give up on life. One record shows that a dracoid of about eleven years of age went up into the air with its unit one day, and was a half a blink behind the others in its maneuvers, slowly lagging further and further behind and the others continued to leave him behind. When the dracoid returned to the ground that night it fell asleep and in the morning it didn't wake. The riders noted that the dracoid was lagging that day and that was the only clue they had as to why this happened.
Other riders have reported similar things according to notes on the subject and some think they have the answer to this mystery. They believe that the dracoid's lifespan is actually longer than the twelve years that it has been recorded at, but when they start to slow down, they just end their lives. In the wild, showing signs of old age is showing signs of weakness and weakness gets others killed. So it is believed that these dracoids give up their hold on life when their age begins to catch up with them so that they wouldn't burden others. Whether this is true or not may never be determined, but that is the only answer that is available on this subject at the time.
Diet. Skyters are meat eaters plain and simple, though they tend to be fairly picky about what meats they eat. While the other predators of the forest are confident enough to take on a group of Brownies if they find them, these dracoids are rather uninterested. A wild one might fly directly above a group, and the first rider recorded sightings of these creatures diving on a group, only to pull up at the last minute to watch them scatter. A group of Brownies might be little more than toys to these creatures, but they won't think twice about picking off one of these diminutive and crunchy people if they are on their own.
Mostly Skyters snack on the rodents of the forest floor and trees, such as: rabbits, mice, rats, and kuatus. Young pigs, boars, lizards, and sometimes ferrets also make a good meal for the Skyter. While hunting for these creatures they must be watchful of their surroundings as the trees and the forest floor are populated by beasts that could easily dispatch a dracoid and have a nice little snack.
Their other source of food comes from the sky. They surprise creatures of the skies in two ways: breaking through the canopy of the forest suddenly to attack their underside or swooping down on them like hawks, falcons, or eagles, using their claws to try and catch them in their grasp or damage a wing so they might be easier to capture. Skyters seem to be braver in the sky as they have been known to take on falcons and hawks, and one attack on an eagle has been seen. While they do not always win these quarrels, they still put up a good fight. This is also another show of bravery and the young adults of this animal are prone to these shows that are often the cause of death for many dracoids before they reach adulthood.
Mating. During the young adult phase of his lives these dracoids select their life-long mates in the early spring. While these dracoids are solitary hunters, they gather together in the early years to show off and attract a mate. Young males will taunt some of the larger predators of the forest, showing off for the females that stand back while the others make fools of themselves. When one of the young males proves themselves the more dominant females make their claims, this often results in a small feud between them. The females that fight for the male will take to the air and though a combination of aerial tactics one attempts to get above the other. When one female gains height over the other and strikes down, simulating a kill, the fight is over and the winning female will go after the male while the other returns to the others to wait for another male to prove himself.
The female will fly up under the male and tap the bottom of his long head with the top of hers. Skyter males understand that sign and follow the female as they move away through the forest. Together they will build a nest, working as one to weave the vines and branches together into a safe home for their young. Once the nest is built and secure in the tree, the pair will take to the air, where they join together, hidden by the thick canopy. Afterward they return to the nest, where the male surrenders the pit of the nest to the female and he will curl up on the edges. During the next few days the female will lay between three and five eggs, while the male circles above.
During the twenty-five to thirty days that it takes for the little dracoids to develop, the males will circle the nest, staying beneath the canopy but above the nest. The mother will keep the temperature of the eggs steady during the day. At night the mother will drape some moss over the eggs to keep a steady temp and hide them while the parent dracoids go to hunt and drink from a stream. When they are finished, they return and the male will join the mother in the nest for the night, resting before taking his place in the air again the next morning. Once the dracoids are born, there mother and father will feed them up until they are old enough to fly. At the yearling stage they start learning to fly and then learn to hunt for themselves. When they reach the young adult stage of life they set out on their own and begin seeking a mate.
Aging, These creatures go through various changes throughout the beginning of their lives. Most of these dracoids die between the time they hatch and five years of age as they are vulnerable when they are young, and as they grow they obviously believe that they are invincible and are more likely to take risks. Those that make it to five years old usually continue to live until they die a natural death around twelve years old.
The Skyters' eggs are between five and six nailsbreadths tall and two or three nailsbreadths at its widest. Like the dracoids themselves, the eggs can be a range of different colours, although the prominence of the shading is reversed. The shell is usually controlled by the darker shade of the dracoids colouring with veins of the lighter colouring found throughout, where as the dracoid is mostly covered in the lighter shade. The eggs can be shades of brown, green, blue, grey, or gold and tell what colouring the dracoid inside will be when it emerges. It takes between twenty-five and thirty days for the dracoids to develop and break out of their shells. Up until five or six days before the creature is ready to emerge, the shell of the egg is as hard as a rock. While the egg is hard, the dracoid within isn't and can still be killed by falling even if the shell doesn't crack.
Skyters are considered hatchlings from the time they emerge from the egg until they are about four months old. The hatchling stage of life is a time of little growth for these creatures. For the most part they do little more than gain a few grains and grow soft baby fur and feathers to keep them warm. They begin to resemble the larger dracoids during the first four months though they grow very little.
At four months old, they leave behind their days as hatchlings and become yearlings. This lasts until they are three years old and in two years and eight months they reach their full height. The first growth spurt usually hits around two months into this portion of their lives. Those that start growing earlier than that are usually a couple nailsbreadths or so bigger than the sizes mentioned in the appearance section, and those that start later are usually smaller. During this time, they don't only get bigger, but they also shed the soft, baby fur of the hatchling and grow a thick, short coat of fur that keeps the warmth in their bodies when they get into the air. Their muscles, teeth, and claws are also developing and growing stronger and/or sharper at this point. Brownies that have been able to capture and tame some of these dracoids over the years believe that at about a year and a half of age is the best time to begin training a dracoid.
Skyters are considered young adults from three to five years of age. Their last growth spurt before they hit three years of age is usually the last of their life, as their bodies are fully developed at this time. Over the last few months of their time as a yearling, their last bit of defense comes into place as the slender quills around their heads harden and straighten out, protecting their heads from attack. At this point in their lives, wild dracoids set out on their own to build their nests and continue their lives. Most dracoids are killed between these years as they are rather brash and more prone to attacking larger creatures as a show of strength. However dangerous, the show of strength, agility, and fearlessness is needed when a young, untested dracoid is seeking a mate. If a dracoid does not mate for the first time during these two years, they never find a mate during their lives.
Once they reach five years of age, the growing is done. Those that lived through the time of weakness, growing, and "invincibility" commonly live out the rest of their lives and die a natural death at around twelve years of age. Of course, there are those that are killed during this time in their life, though it is less likely as they have survived everything else and are quicker, smarter, and more cautious than the younger dracoids. At this stage of their life, the dracoids are more docile and less likely to provoke a fight with another dracoid or a larger predator. These creatures are smart and agile until the very last days of their lives. Around twelve years of age, they begin to slow down and that marks their decline. One day, they might be flying in swift circles or pulling up dangerously close to the ground after a dive, and the next they will greet death openly, laying down without a reason and never waking again. Most riders of the Aohu'o are relieved when these creatures finally reach this point of their life as they are easier to handle and the bond between rider and animal has grown through the trials of the "teenage" years.
Before the idea of riding these dracoids spread among the
of the Goltherlon Forest, a few
Skyter eggs had been found on the forest floor and mistaken for gems by
humans. All except the brown eggs have amazing
colours and stay as hard as stone if it doesn't have the heat that is required
for them to hatch. A group of treasure seekers had stumbled upon a group of eggs
that had been hidden in the brush for some reason (those researchers that
believe they know these animals' best think that the parent dracoids hid them on
the ground for safety reasons) and the humans
mistook them for gems. The seekers ended up selling the eggs to some rich noble
in who then put them in a vault, still believing they were gems. When he
returned to the vault the egg had hatched, though the usual process took longer
than usual, and three dead dracoids and some empty and broken shells were all
that he found.
The first rider, Cawrr Dragonrider (his original last name was lost since he had taken the title "Dragonrider" in its place, though in Browniin the last name would be "rraooheerrLL"), brought the art of rrLL riding to the Aohu'o of the Goltherlon and they have honed this ability for years. The strength and endurance of the Skyter helps when carrying a Brownie on its back, though the weight of the little being is a fairly light load for the dracoids. Skyters, or rrLL (as the Brownies call them), have become the favourite mount among these people, but the dangers of retrieving an egg have kept the numbers of these tame flyers low. In order to raise a tame dracoid, it has to be taken as an egg and see its rider when it first comes out of the shell. While a new group of two to four riders come about each year, about the same number of dracoids and sometimes riders die as well. Some years only one new rider might survive the trials of capturing an egg, and sometimes none, but the number of dead dracoids and/or riders stays the same.
The capturing of the herín is probably the best way these tame dracoids are used. This villainous tree cat have been known to torment the Brownies that live in the same area as them, and these dracoids and riders have found a way to keep so many of the Aohu'o from falling to the cats. Cawrr developed a net, in the early days of raising his dracoid, which could be used by the Brownies and riders to capture these cats. He believed that if the net was successful, the Aohu'o might see the use of the Skyter instead of the missing young Brownies that usually came to mind when they saw the creatures flying overhead.
The net is built with either three or four sides, with rocks attached to each side. A dracoid would take hold of one rock while others would do the same, following the directions of a 'scouting party' toward a herín. They would come up behind the tree cat and drop the rocks, a couple on each side, while a final rider or two would fly beneath the branch that the cat was trapped on, and swiftly tie off the ends. This subdued the cat long enough so that the Brownies could kill it. After this first run worked, most of the Aohu'o in that area no longer viewed the dracoids as enemies, but as companions.
The cut quills of the dracoids are also used by the Brownies. The end opposite the point is wrapped lightly in leather so that the rider can get a good grip on the weapon. They are very useful as they will stick in their enemy and if they are not removed, can end up causing infection where it is lodged. A few of the larger predators of the Goltherlon have been found dead from infection with one of these make shift weapons lodged into their muzzle. The only thing is that these daggers are that they can only be used once. A rider will only have six of these special weapons to use though the years unless the remove the stubs and risk injuring themselves as they let the quills grow back. The various sizes of quill are often used on different sizes of animals as the longer ones are better suited for digging deeper into the skin of a larger animal.
Myth/Lore. Among the children of the Aohu'o there is a common tale about a young rider who was apparently unworthy of the gold dracoid he had been blessed with. The rider's name has been forgotten as he was deemed unworthy by his mount. He was one of the youngest riders and had retrieved his egg at fifteen years old. When a gold dracoid came from a dark gold egg he attempted to raise it as others had raised their dracoid, but in the end he wasn't strong enough to control it. When the Skyter had reached young adulthood it became more rebellious, not responding to the reins and shying away from its rider. One day, the younger rider was attempting to saddle the Skyter, but unlike other dracoids, he wouldn't stay still without any restraints. The gold took his chance to get away, trampling his rider to death as he fumbled to take off from the ground.
Parents tell their children this story, calling the rider simply "The Unworthy", as he wasn't strong enough to control the rarest of the dracoids. This story shows that a rider must be in control of their dracoid and those who are not strong enough are abandoned by their mount. It also shows the power and intelligence of the gold dracoid. They are highly revered among the Aohu'o of the Goltherlon due to their rarity and the fact that they require a strong hand. Throughout the history of the riders, those that have been able to conquer and bond with a gold dracoid were the bravest and the brightest the Aohu'o had to offer.
Researchers. The main source of information on these creatures comes from the first rider, Cawrr Dragonrider, and his descendants. Aside from being the first Dragonrider, he was also the first known rider of a gold dracoid and he is highly respected for that. Many believe that the gold dracoid is the hardest to control and it has only been seen a couple of times in the history of "dragon riding". After being exiled from his home in the Vale, he had traveled and stumbled upon the Aohu'o, first learning their ways and then taking steps to improve their way of life. When his job was done he had returned to the Vale to share his findings and raise a family. After Cawrr had died, his son took off to live the same life as his father.
During his time among the dracoids Cawrr kept records of every aspect of the creatures. Notes were taken in detail, describing how he hatched the egg, raised the dracoid, trained it, saddled it, and finally rode it, and through trial and error he perfected these practices. He has information on the inner workings of the Skyters that no others have and where there were gaps in his work, his son and grandsons returned to complete it. Some believe that there is still a descendant of his working toward completely understanding the Skyter.