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One day, the people of a small village, near [----] woke up to a deafening roar, soon followed by bright flashes of light, coming from the nearby forest. As the roars and thuds didn't let up, they eventually approached the forest.

There, in a clearing, they saw two dragons, a larger red one and a smaller white. The red belched fire at the white one, who jumped sideways. However, the fire of the red changed its course. The moment the white saw that she breathed her own bluish flames which let out an ear-piercing shriek when they made contact with the red's causing both to disappear in a puff of smoke.

Using the moment the smokescreen appeared, the white one then lunged at the red, biting down his neck and tackling him on the ground. The red fought with all his power, but she was ferocious as if possessed by a devil. Eventually, his attacks slowed down until he barely moved. When the white one saw that, she released his neck and looked up at the "audience" who fled the moment.

Ever since then, it has been interpreted as a prophecy that king A (represented by the white dragon) would defeat king B (represented by the red).


Anyway, I was saying this because of all the societies and civilizations, present in my Metaverse (elements of my story ideas that outlived their setting and stuck with me), dragons are in a muddy territory. I already have the story but I always fail to build the dragon society around it.

What's the truth? That scene was a mundane territorial struggle between two dragons, while it's unusual for a female white dragon to win against a male red dragon, that apparently happened. Despite the theatrics, neither of the two were fighting to the death.

Biting down the neck is the dragon equivalent of a chokehold. Dragons can also decide what their flames do to the opponent (within the limits of acid-powered nanotechnology), other dragons can sense the effect of the fire by looking at it. I won't go into detail about the power of the dragonflame, so ask Avdol instead.

This kind of fight looks scary for humans as they don't see things with the eye of a dragon, A creature standing two meters at the shoulders and 6-10 meters in length, whose scales are like tenfold shields, tail like a whip that makes thunderclaps when striking, and a jaw that can crush a watermelon in one bite.

As for the prophecy. After the fight, the two dragons kinda sorta fell in love because opposites attract. I'm not sure how that translates to kings...

Other Attributes

  • Dragons are six-limbed, warmblooded creatures. Their tissues are much tougher than the average (to withstand the stresses of flight).
  • Dragons are heavily-pneumatized, allowing them to live in higher elevations. They also have decent heat and cold tolerance. Due to the abundance of thermals, some prefer to live close to large lakes or even coasts.
  • Dragons are omnivorous. Their primary food source is a variety of fruits, occasionally algae, carrion, and fish. They consider humans no to be food, but plenty of trouble.
  • Dragonfire is very potent but also very taxing for dragons to use. So, **their magical abilities can't really be employed in day-to-day life.
  • Dragons have their own society and culture.
  • The smallest and only unit of organization, we see for dragons, are small families and circles of close friends.
  • Dragons barely interact with or encounter other sentient life. They're basically cryptids like Bigfoot or George Bush.
  • Dragons are spread thin but present all over the world, mostly because they can fly.
  • In terms of power level, dragons are formidable but not invulnerable combatants. Story-wise, they can be killed by a well-equipped and trained team of five or a member of the major arcana like Magician. They're also no match for Bondrewd's Best Dad's Death 13, Mephisto's Hanged Man, or The Icon of Simp.
  • Dragons have a gem embedded near their hearts. This gem, when used as a spell component, can make said spell incredibly powerful (I won't go into detail over why that is or how I stole the idea from Witch's Heart). So there is an incentive for less powerful people to hunt them. So, it'll be regular knights as the major arcana is already way too strong(and lazy).

To summarize: You have big, loud flying creatures that people do try to seek out. Now, how can dragons actually avoid that part of humanity for potentially thousands of years (dragons live for long)?

As always, the tech level is late medieval with a hint of magic that's actually ancient/forgotten technology, with which we don't concern ourselves.

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  • $\begingroup$ What kind of magic do dragons have? Can they change size or shapechange, turn gaseous or anything like that? What do they eat and hunt? Can they tolerate extremes of heat, cold, and thin air? Can they swim underwater, or have a means of generating air in a cave? Can they tolerate high levels of environmental toxins? I know this is nit-picking, but anything letting dragons exist where people can't get to will answer your question, as will understanding what motivates dragons to do things. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Apr 24 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus give me 10 minutes to add that, pretty please! $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 24 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus Anything else I should add? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 24 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ Humph. As a dragon myself I say we eat the little pink squelchy snack-bits to keep them under control. After all, they breed like rabbits! We have to do something or they'll positively over-run us in a few short centuries! Granted, given the rather poor dietary habits of some of these humans this might lead to health problems for some of us in the long term, but on the other hand I have heard that they are rather tasty. After all, everyone loves bacon - and these humans aren't called "long pig" for nothing. :-) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Apr 25 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ If they didn't have wings, breath fire, and were restricted to the Himalayas, they'd be Snow Leopards: elusive, solitary hunters, up to 10 per 100 km2 (assuming an adult weight of ~72 pounds), critically endangered, and when confronting humans (for which there are two known occurrences of an 'attack'), "may not even defend themselves when attacked". $\endgroup$ – Mazura Apr 25 at 16:49
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I think the best answer for this problem is for the dragons to make it as hard as possible for humans to reach them. If they can't rely on their impressive strength or their magical fire breath stuff to just kill anyone foolish enough to approach them, they can instead fall back on another one of their physical characteristics: wings. A dragon can fly away to some high up mountain peak, making it incredibly hard for anyone to reach them, and if a party big enough that it can't deal with them does get up? No problem, just fly back down or to another mountain. It's like playing tag, except you have wings and the person who is 'it' doesn't. The only way to reliably hunt a dragon would be through stealth while it's asleep, but the dragon could set something up, like a simple alarm trap, to warn them ahead of time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Until Planet Earth II 2016, there was no footage of snow lions, because they're in the place that's as hard as possible for humans to reach them that isn't either under the sea or outer space. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Apr 25 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, leopards. - "wildlife video of the snow leopard is difficult to obtain due to the animal's rarity and the human inaccessibility to much of its natural habitat." $\endgroup$ – Mazura Apr 25 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ That, and also there's the fact that the first time anybody actually climbed to the top of a mountain for recreational purposes was in the early Renaissance. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks May 1 at 15:01
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They use their keen senses and exceptional camouflage

By your description it'd seem like your dragons have keen eyesight to the point they can identify magic by sight alone (at least their own magic) and react to it appropriately. Moreover they want to avoid humans. That way, if their senses are sharp enough, they might be able to sense humans approaching and simply go to the other direction. They could also prefer to live and nest in places harder for humans to reach or actively avoided (caves, the center of dangerous forests, top of mountains, etc).

But good senses alone won't help your large creature avoid humans. They should have good camouflage to go around their environment, maybe changing color during mating season to more vibrant tones, explaining a red dragon in the middle of a forest (salmons turn red and grow a humpback, so not impossible). See this example of a camouflaged lizard:

enter image description here

You can see that even for us that camouflage is decently effective. So if your dragons can blend in with their environment, it'll be a lot easier to hide, even for a large creature (lions can blend really well with the grasslands they live in, so that's an example of a big animal using camouflage).enter image description here

Alternatively, your dragons could be able to use magic to bend light around them (tied or not to their fire, depends on you) and become essentially invisible (normally that'd mean visible light wouldn't reach their eyes but in this case, because magic, it maybe could). This second option would allow for a larger range of colors unbound by their habitat and present year round, without making them stand out like a beacon in a dark night when they want to hide. Either strategy would help them greatly to hunt, as prey would need means other than their vision (especially in the second case) to avoid being hunted (just like we see in African fauna).

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  • $\begingroup$ I mean, camouflage works fine for creatures that are relatively small, but it wouldn't work very well for a dragon sized creature, at least not in many environments. $\endgroup$ – The Humbug Apr 25 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ @The Humbug that's why is suggested light bending magic, no matter your size you'll still go unnoticed, safe for traces like paw prints and eventual environmental damage. it can still work if the dragons aren't that bigger than a tiger, since they can camouflage decently well in the forests they live in $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Apr 25 at 13:01
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Humbug's answer is pretty much what I was thinking with my comment although I was going to suggest a little more:

  • Islands would be ideal for dragons, and might explain why people are only just now threatening them If seaworthy ships are relatively new. I can almost picture them on a smoking volcano. Given an omnivorous diet, this also provides access to fish. If they can swim, caves accessible only from underwater would be perfect.
  • Dragons would probably control every isolated mountain valley, as these would also be sources of local food (the tops of mountains are rather sterile).
  • Animal husbandry and gardening would be useful (if they are able), so the dragons have to venture into dangerous areas less often and are more self-sufficient.
  • They could control oases in deserts, since they could find ones no one else would spot (from the air).
  • The arctic would be a decent place, as there would be large animals to hunt and they could tolerate the climate.
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Good bombardment techniques.

As you note, their dragon breath is expensive to use, and in a close fight they might die. As such, give them fairly keen senses and good aim. Then they can just drop rocks on anyone they don't like, or drop explosives. They can set forests on fire, leave traps, and generally annoy and deter enemies.

This means that any enemy who faces them gets killed by massive boulders dropped from the sky. Aerial advantages are enough to deter most predators.

Families bonding together against major threats.

Against serious threats, close friends will drag their families into the fight. You may see dozens of dragons coming to bombard an army or set traps, if the threat is large enough.

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  • $\begingroup$ I could see dragon society coming together as a good plot element in a story. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Apr 25 at 13:37
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Influencing the weather and wildlife

In addition to The Humbug's answer I propose that the dragons influence their surroundings to make their habitat less inviting for humans. That means they could cause a number of effects:

  • Dangerous animals flock around their dwellings. This could be done either by some kind of magic ("evil" or dangerous creatures such as wolves and bears are drawn to the dragon's presence), or by leaving the occasional carcass lying around near their roost. In aquatic environments the presence of krakens or aggressive orcas could do the job. If one is situated in Australia, the dragon could enlist the help of drop bears as well.

  • Strange weather phenomenons occur around their roost. Again, either by handwaving it with "magic" or, more realistically, by using their flame breath to evaporate bodies of water every once in a while. Possible hostile environments could be blizzards, avalanches, thunderstorms, treacherous swamps (caused by excessive rainfall). The dragons could cause dangerous currents around an island, and if a volcano is present, it could mess around in the magma chamber to cause eruptions or at least life-threathening earthquakes.

  • While we are at it, if the dragon lives close to tectonic plate boundaries (and provided it has magic abilities that allow extensive digging), it could even cause frequent earthquakes in otherwise seemingless harmless places.

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They live in deep caves far below the earth -- like many animals, including assorted lizards dragons are surprisingly adept are squeezing through spaces that look much too small for them.

Down undreground, they may have to traverse underwater sections of tunnel (they don't mind holding their breath for a few hours) or vast caverns with a floor hundreds of feet below (easy when you can fly) to get to their comfortable lairs, lined with gold or whatever other trinkets or fancies may appeal to your dragons.

Of course a few humans do go looking for them...it's just that nobody has ever come back alive to report of finding a dragon, so we don't know whether they succeeded.

The entrance to the so-called dragon-cave is over there. Many foolish folk have sought their fortune down there...many more wise folk have turned away.

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    $\begingroup$ Nazi dragons at the center of the earth. $\endgroup$ – Sir Adelaide May 1 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest the dragons lived on the moon, but this answer likely covers the same ground. $\endgroup$ – Sir Adelaide May 1 at 8:04
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Living in deep subterranean lava caves, largely considered inhospitable. Dragons are immune to fire damage, so they're right at home.

Surface access comes in the form of deep canyons and fissures. When a dragon wants to hunt on the surface, it crawls up a large dug underground tunnel to the bottom of a canyon, then flies or climbs up - only at night, to avoid detection.

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