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I was tempted to make this question about grounding the dragon in a different way, then the title would have been "How to make an acid-resistant home/prison for a dragon?".

Grounding the dragon is a key element of winning in a fight against them. Ballistas are too cumbersome and crossbows are too weak.

Ours is your typical western dragon and not too large, maybe 2.5 meters at the shoulders and 10 meters in length, half of the body length is the tail. This might seem contrary to what I stated, even if the claim is subjective, but the reason for such a high shoulder height is the placement of the flight muscles.

You see, it's possible to attach more muscle to the keel bone without changing the length of the muscle fibers, by simply connecting them to the bone with tendons (which can be thinner than the bundle of muscle, they're attached to); that's how nature does it.

Of course, the tendons, the bones and wing membranes have to be stronger as well. This is an interesting challenge, but if you're me, you just yell: "Short-fiber composites, using biogenic carbon nanotubes!"

While these muscles would give the dragon a different shape, the creature is highly pneumatized, meaning it's padded with air sacs. Some much so, that there's even a layer of air between the muscle and the scaly hide. And yes, I took inspiration from nature. The purpose of these air layers is to dampen impact and aid respiration at higher altitudes.

Aerial attacks

The dragon's aerial weapons are their breath weapon (though vomit would be a better term). Basically, it's a mixture of sulfuric acid and bleached water, and there's more acid than water. In paper, this substance will boil you alive, and if you survive, the chlorine gas will do you in.

While dragons are dangerous even on the ground, they don't have the advantage of being able to do hasty retreats. Plus, if they fall from high enough, even with the awkward parkour roll, they could still end up seriously injured.

How could a dragon be actually prevented from using their wings for flight? Assume medieval tech level.

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    $\begingroup$ If you are dragon's parent, you just say: "You are grounded!" $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 27 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander ._. I already made that joke. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Mar 27 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ ouch, how come I missed that? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 27 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander "How to make an acid-resistant home/prison for a dragon?" In case said dragon is naughty. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Mar 27 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ what about throwing glue or tar or molten metal especially on their wing or mouth to shut it up? $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Mar 28 at 4:18
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Ballistae and Crossbows

Ballistas are too cumbersome and crossbows are too weak.

This isn't actually true, though. Ballistae aren't cumbersome, or even difficult to build. A Roman ballista was made almost entirely from wood and could be put on wheels to aid mobility. Honestly, a dedicated team of three soldiers could break one down and put one up within minutes. You can build one yourself. Not to mention that they're pretty accurate even at range. If you get ambushed by a dragon, no dice, but if you're hunting a dragon, you can rig up a modified cart to house your ballista that can be set up it thirty seconds once you sport the dragon. Sure, you won't be able to transport the cart through a forest because of the roots, but ballistae are useless in forests anyways.

And crossbows aren't weak. A war crossbow had a minimum of a 700 lb. draw weight, and could get even higher, up to 1200. True, crossbow draw weights didn't scale as good as longbow draw weights did for energy transfer, but a 1200 lb crossbow draw is roughly equivalent to around a 200 lb longbow draw, if you scale. Which could punch through any armor short of plate. Not to mention that they shot quarrels from crossbows, which were significantly heavier and stronger than a bow's arrows.

In short, medieval artillery is very, very deadly, and is more than capable of blowing holes clean through a dragon's wings.

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Just send the giant war eagles in... I heard some of the beast tamers living in the screeching mountains have entire flocks of the giant birds they train from birth to assist in their battles with the southern tribes. Its true they only have about a 3 meter wingspan and can't really do much to an adult dragon when its on the ground, but in the air they are perfectly capable of shredding a dragons wings causing it to plummet to its death.

Giant eagles have an instinctual hatred of dragons. A dragon can and will kill and eat every egg and chick in a eagle colony if it can manage to land there, so the eagles never let that happen. The eagles have a special call that they only use when they see a dragon approaching a nest. This screech is orders of magnitude louder than every other call they use and it makes them go completely berserk. Every single eagle in a colony will stop what they are doing and attack the approaching dragon. Eagles have been known to drop fresh meat, veer off mid chase, and stop in the middle of mating to immediately charge an incoming dragon. Heck, even baby chicks have been known to throw themselves from their nests before they are ready to fly attempting to join the attack.

Now an adult dragon will have no issue taking out 1 or 2 giant eagles before they get so close they become dangerous, their acid breath is no joke, but any more than that and the pack tactics the eagles employ will force a dragon to ground one way or another.

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    $\begingroup$ ... Okay, so an aerial unit to counter the dragon... Also, I banished LoTR tropes from my setting, but one of the Eternals could take up the role of the wing-shredder. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Mar 28 at 0:10
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  • Chemical attack - send some barrels of caustic lye their way (use catapults), if their organism is tuned to resist acids, it will be vulnerable to basic stuff (even a weakish soda may do wonders).

  • Biological vectors - wasps/africanized bees. The latter can even cause nuke plants to explode - see the documentary (:grin:)

  • Poison - adequately sized darts/arrows, fire them and take cover - a crossbow bolt may be only able to prick the dragon, it may not even fell the sting, until it's too late that is. Let the poison do the work (even if only paralysis) and send a scout troupe to apply the coup de grâce. They may even collect the acid stuff to bring back, producing sulfuric acid is a nasty thing for the environment.

  • Traps - they do eat and drink, don't they? So they can be tempted by baits.

  • Stalking/harassment - involve guerilla tactics and goad it into overreacting frequently - drain/exhaust its energy. Play heavy metal at night around its/their nests - or just a Buddhist gong, they may be sensitive to certain sound frequencies. If you discover they indeed are, well, that's a cheap, albeit noisy, way to defend your city walls.

(Meh, if we got to stalking, why not... blackmail/extortion - if chainmail doesn't help, look... every even dimly intelligent creature can be made to understand offers they can't refuse. Steal one of their eggs or something, or have a deep-fake painting involving a virgin maid that miss Dragon would be outraged to see; threaten its gold hoard with a serious spill of mercury. Call Marlon Brando, he may have some ideas)

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Nets

Lure a dragon into an enclosed area (which shouldn't be too difficult given their love of torching settlements) and you can get above them and drop a net on them.

Snaring a ten metre dragon would require a big net but wouldn't be essential. Net a significant length of one or both wings and you can stop them from escaping while your forces close in with more conventional weapons.

Even better their breath weapon is unlikely to be effective in such close quarters. If they flame a net wrapped around their wing they are going to cause themselves significant damage.

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  • $\begingroup$ I stated that dragons either use acid or an exothermic reaction for their vomit weapon. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Mar 28 at 0:12

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