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The mule-dragons are a rare but extremely powerful type of dragon. They have a supernatural ability to seek out and hoard expensive shiny stuff like gold, silver, and precious stones, which they do near-instinctively. They will collect their riches through any available method, such as digging through rocks, or stealing from weaker beings. They also have human-level intelligence, can use language relatively well, and even have a small level of creativity and inventiveness

However, despite their human level abilities, they are still very non-human and cannot speak human languages. This, obviously, would be a significant obstacle towards doing anything with their riches. There are also a small number of humans who are able to understand dragon languages

The world they live in is, in terms of its societies and economies, the same as the real world today. These dragons, due to their low numbers and sparse spread, rarely encounter each-other and so cannot do much intraspecific trade

Could these dragons realistically buy, sell, and generally participate in human economies?

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  • $\begingroup$ This seems like a question where, Yes, No, and Perhaps, are all equally valid answers. It's your world, seems like the answer of this is at the discretion of the worldbuilder. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 10 '21 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings How can something be realistic and not realistic at the same time? $\endgroup$ Nov 10 '21 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing "How can something be realistic and not realistic at the same time?" Like asking about the realism of societal relationships in a not realistic context of an imaginary world? ;) $\endgroup$ Nov 10 '21 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing I'm not saying it's an improper question (not saying it's proper either), I'm just answering to your "how can something be realistic and not realistic in the same time". Seriously speaking, this is the crux of the difficulty in answering your question, it so much depends on the relation in your world that you are asking us to infer how your world works to be able to answer (which is dangerously bordering - yet not quite definitely in that territory - to "write my story for me") $\endgroup$ Nov 10 '21 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ To be honest, if there's a widely dispersed species that routinely steals people's stuff and we can't communicate with them, we'll probably wipe them out, or at least push their range away from human habitats. Heck, even if we can communicate with them. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Nov 10 '21 at 23:47
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They will collect their riches through any available method, such as digging through rocks, or stealing from weaker beings.

The mule-dragons will become rare and, if they were to participate to an economy, this would be done through the black market.

People will not like to be considered "weaker being", give enough occasions of a stolen item surfaces, one which links to a mule-dragon thievery, and the fame of "mule dragons as thieves" (or even murderers) will start to emerge.

Even more, some greedy (and rich) humans will invent such occasions, for the opportunity to plunder a mule-dragon cache. These humans have the means to influence the public opinion enough to organize hunting parties, especially if they promise a share of the hoard to the participants.

The only way for the goods of a mule-dragon to seep into the economy would be through outlaws individuals - thus the black market. Keeping into account the low morals governing the relations with outlaws, the mule-dragons will need to very carefully manage the relation, good chances are they'll end dead anyway.

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Given the power and accumulated wealth of the mule dragons, humans with the innate ability to understand them have an extraordinary employment opportunity as their interpreters.

Given the power and appetites of the mule dragons, their interpreters have a strong motivation to not screw up in their duties. They therefore adopt the deference, manners and acumen of butlers or personal servants to their reptilian lords.

Being even rarer than mule dragons, the good interpreters are highly valued by those dragons who are lucky enough to hire them. Therefore these humans developed some small measure of influence over their lords. At least enough influence to keep them from eating or roasting their business colleagues when deals fall through. The best interpreters bring style, clarity and a reputation for honorable dealings to their master household, enriching the profit potential for all involved.

Other humans would be very foolish to try to deal with dragons who lack interpreters, especially if those humans possess or wish to acquire shiny things. But the presence of an interpreter assures propriety and safety on both sides, allowing these dragons to participate in the human economy with ease.

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  • $\begingroup$ How do they acquire power and wealth in a modern world? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Nov 11 '21 at 16:26
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Obviously

These dragonfolk have these qualities in common with humanfolk:

  1. sophont intelligence & awareness
  2. ability to communicate
  3. ability to assign value to discrete sorts of materials
  4. ability to reason
  5. ability to act upon a desire with free will

The only substantial difference you assign the dragonfolk is:

  1. inability to speak human type languages

You don't specify, but it is apparent that this is a physiological roadblock and not a cognitive one. Dragonfolk do have the language ability and speak a language; and there are humanfolk who can also speak it, so it can not be entirely alien (like a language spoken & received via radio waves). There are ways to work around physiological obstacles to understanding different kinds of people.

Essentially, they will buy, sell and participate in the broader economy the same way any other minority group of people will participate, and that is much the same ways any two groups of people who don't speak the same language do.

Since both humanfolk and dragonfolk are cognitively on the same level as regards economic activity, dragonfolk with sacks of gold and gems will naturally find the nearest pawn shop to unload their loot. Even without a common language, the two parties can make use of signs, pointing and shifting things in and out of the pile that's being considered for trade. As dragonfolk and humanfolk come into greater contact with each other, a trade jargon will eventually arise and this may evolve into a pidgin and perhaps eventually into an actual creole language.

Such systems of communications could involve speech, body posture and signed symbols. It is also possible that written communications could be used between the two communities.

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they [...] cannot speak human languages. Could these dragons realistically buy, sell, and generally participate in human economies?

The ability to understand each other's language is not necessary for commerce. You show me something I want. I show you something you want. If we can communicate "yes" and "no", we can trade. Humans have been figuring out how to engage in commerce without a shared language for (at least) centuries.

Historically, you'll probably develop a pidgin. By modern times, machine translation (or just communicating via computers) will greatly simplify things. See for example all the Americans that have bought something from China.

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