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One of the plotlines, I'm currently working on, is about a dragon who is forced to serve a settlement to "pay" for some of his past "crimes".

For clarity's sake, we call the dragon Gyvaris.

Gyvaris is a roughly horse-sized, hexapodal creature with both reptilian and avian features. Intelligence is human level. His primary weapon are the spurs on his wings and his tail (half of the total body length) with an arrowhead-shaped spade at its end. He also has a flexible neck and a jaw that can crush a human skull like it's nothing.

Dragons are fast and nimble, but are actually physically weaker than most horses (except for the wings). They also have enhanced senses (eyesight of a golden eagle, the nose of a canine, etc...) along with echolocation and tetrachromacy.

That being said, on the local powerscale, Gyv is squarely in the middle. I mean, he starts out his story with a punctured lung, sevral broken bones and torn tendons. All of that damage was done by single human, by the way.


So, Gyvaris is now in the service of this town. In paper, he's supposed to be some kind of a protector, but I couldn't figure out what role would exactly suit him.

Since we're talking about a, more or less, standard fantasy setting, there are lots of monsters wandering around. Most pose little threat to a dragon, the upper echelon, however, are much tougher and most likely trigger Gyvaris' fight or flight response. It probably has something to do with their AA ( anti-aliasing anti-aircraft) capabilities. It doesn't help that they tend to show up randomly.

Gyvaris is kept on leash by a spell. Basically if he doesn't do as told, the spell will make him lose consciousness and does it instead of him. However, when in extreme fear (like wanting to run for his life), Gyvaris can overpower the spell and disable it for 12 hours. During that time, he's considered a loose cannon and a threat, regardless if he's just weeping in a corner.

What guard role would make the most of Gyvaris' natural abilities, while minimizing the threat of his leash breaking?

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  • $\begingroup$ How intelligent is he? Can he talk and/or understand complex situations from a human perspective? $\endgroup$ – TheDyingOfLight Nov 9 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ I' m reminded of the dragon Chrysophylax in Farmer Giles of Ham. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Nov 10 at 0:32
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Reconnaissance.

Gyvaris spends the days catching thermals like a big vulture, flying large lazy circles high in the clouds. This suits his temperament fine, and making it even more suitable is the fact that since he is a captive, he must be fed by his captors so he doesn't have to hunt.

If Gyvaris sees something interesting, he will (eventually) report to the town what he sees. Sometimes he will stay aloft and collect a few things to report before heading down. It is a lot of work to get up that high!


As regards natural abilities Gy has an ambitious coach in town who had this idea that the dragon might learn to use a lance, capitalizing on the great speed he accumulates on descent. Using his own claws, teeth or tail at that speed results in a lot of energy imparted to the dragon's own frame, which is less than ideal. A heavy lance, however, can be released on impact and the dragon retains enough speed to bank upwards and away from whatever the target does next. That is the idea, anyway. When times are slow Gy is obliged by his coach to practice using the lance and hay-stuffed dummies.

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    $\begingroup$ If your magic allows for some sort of communication spell, he can report immediately without coming down... or, if he's literate(?), he can just carry some message capsules and drop them as needed. He might even be able to use a heliograph (also a good way for the settlement to signal to him), although that's weather dependent. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Nov 11 at 17:26
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If he is weaker than a horse then combat should not be his thing.

Horses survive battle by smart usage and tactics from their commander. Even the best cataphracts in the world would turn into shredded paper against a line of phalanx/spear men if they insisted on a headlong attack.

With that being said I think the best usage is a special unit doing odd jobs for the town.

First thing is reconnaissance. OH what a commander do to be able to see from the eyes of a bird scanning the battlefield and seeing all in absolute clarity. Well. Maybe they won't be marching 2 legions and need a place to pitch camp. But he can at least circle the town and roads daily to spot large formations and dangers.

Is fire breathing an option? If so I direct his ability to the reserves of the enemy army, to the supply wagons, to the forages...etc. Basically any place not so well protected and guarded to the point that he is in great peril. You don't have to get a video games 100 destruction rate. In reality if an army of 10000 men is attacking you and you cut of their supply line, and what better way to do so than a dragon, then they are at your mercy.

Assassinations. If he can manage to get the drop on the enemy commander then he can do a lot of damage with one fell swoop. Stalk the army, wait for a low visibility conditions, then drop on the commander, kill the commander, fly off. Repeat.

Organize: maneuvers, marching, linking up... Ok. We tend to think of things with the birds eye view in 3d real time instant communication style of modern warfare. Well. here we have none of that. March Divided, Fight United. Easier said that done when you can't communicate with the other columns of the army. Introduce your dragon and you can see how that works. Same with complicated maneuvers. Keep a strong cavalry force a long distance from the battlefield guided by the dragon. At the right time it can guide them how best to simply materialize on the battlefield to deliver a decisive blow.

Obviously now I don't think of his combat prowess as anything special. His ability to fly and see and report that is much more valuable.

I'm certain that every single pre-radio general would prefer a smart talking hawk or eagle to an extra 2000 men or even more.

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