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I want to kill a huge Dragon. How to do this?

The only description currently available of this Dragon is very short:

"It looks like a lizard with two wings of bats and he swallowed our ship without even noticing" (The boat mentioned is the size of a small Viking ship.)

My technological levels is limited and the only existing weapons capable I think of piercing these scales are ballista. So even if I have all possible human resources I do not think I can kill it by brute force.

So forget about the knight. My main idea is to poison him. And with this we come to the question:

What would be the most effective poison against a huge beast? I know that I did not give a very precise size therefore how to calculate the necessary quantity of poison according to the size of the beast?

Even if wood must not be harmful to its health it does not seem to ask any question before swallowing an unknown object. To make him swallow the poison seems easy but is it the best solution?

Intuitively I suspect that the digestion of a very large beast will be long is this true? How long would the poison take effect?

I conclude by saying that the world's technology levels do not provide a chemical, biochemical or pharmaceutical laboratory.

Of course we can get around the problem it is to kill only one individuals not a whole species so any alchemist out of nowhere could provide the subsistence if it is complex put that would lack a little elegance.

Please avoid the use of advanced bacteriological weapons anyway, it must be simple.

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    $\begingroup$ So you're ruling out dioxygen difluoride? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 16 '17 at 9:24
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    $\begingroup$ "more than a dozen meters" and "swallowed a ship without noticing" are vastly different sizes. How big IS this dragon? To be able to swallow even a small ship at all, it would need to have a mouth multiple meters wide, high and deep. $\endgroup$ – Erik Aug 16 '17 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ @ksjohn The "ball" in "ballista" has nothing to do with spherical projectiles (at least according to Wikipedia), but rather the Greek word for "throw". They have pictures there of the bolt heads of ballistas. From my 2 minutes of research done just now, it seems like "ballista" is more or less a generic term for a lot of different siege engines. $\endgroup$ – Arthur Aug 16 '17 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ It would be easy with a dragon allergic to peanuts. $\endgroup$ – user9981 Aug 16 '17 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ Since the dragon likes to swallow boats, we have an easy way to administer it with boatloads of any available poison. $\endgroup$ – Pere Aug 16 '17 at 14:44

14 Answers 14

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Well the first thing you're going to want is a lot of what ever poison you are using.

If we are to assume your dragon is roughly reptile like then this site gives a list of plants toxic to reptiles. The one that immediately stands out is Belladonna, also known as Deadly Nightshade. Even if your dragon isn't reptilian this stuff should be fairly lethal.
The other advantage is that it should be fairly easy to find for your (presumably) Viking civilisation.

I'm having trouble finding an exact LD50 value for Belladonna, but this paper suggests the following values, with Atropine being one of the toxic components of Belladonna:

Concerning atropine the following LD50 values are available following oral administration: rat: 622 mg/kg bw; mouse, 400 mg/kg bw. In human adults the oral intake of 100 mg of atropine is considered the minimum lethal dose, in children a few milligrams

I can't see an exact value for atropine in Belladona, but Wiki suggests:

All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids.[18] Roots have up to 1.3%, leaves 1.2%, stalks 0.65%, flowers 0.6%, ripe berries 0.7%, and seeds 0.4% tropane alkaloids; leaves reach maximal alkaloid content when the plant is budding and flowering, roots are most poisonous in the end of the plant’s vegetation period.

So probably about 1% of the weight of the plant. Now if we assume your dragon might be of a similar size to a blue whale (probably larger if it's swallowing ships whole, but it's a good starting point) then it weighs around 140,000kg. If we assume an average value between the toxicity for rats and humans then we need 350mg per kg or a total of 49kg of atropine. As that is only 1% of the plant, you would need 4,900kg of raw Belladonna.

So I'd suggest you cultivate as much Belladonna as possible and load another ship with it, possibly throwing something tasty in there to ensure the dragon eats it.

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, 50 kg of poison. The numbers are just plain crazy. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Aug 16 '17 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ The other that stands out to me are the mushrooms, death cap is reasonably common and considerably more toxic than deadly nightshade. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Aug 16 '17 at 10:52
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    $\begingroup$ Would heavy metal poisoning work better? Then you could 'feed' it in batches, as it tends to stay latent in the body, IIRC? $\endgroup$ – Sobrique Aug 16 '17 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Sobrique Heavy Metal? Are you suggesting they ride it? $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Aug 16 '17 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ This also has the benefit of sounding really cool in a story. Poisoning a dragon with deadly nightshade... $\endgroup$ – DasBeasto Aug 16 '17 at 19:14
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If you are looking to poison, you can load a horse with poisonous plants and let the dragon feast with it. Assuming the dragon didn't study in a Ivy league college, it will swallow it in one go, assuming also the poisonous plants.

Some plants you can use are, for example

Conium maculatum is poisonous to animals. In a short time, the alkaloids produce a potentially fatal neuromuscular blockage when the respiratory muscles are affected. Acute toxicity, if not lethal, may resolve in the spontaneous recovery of the affected animals provided further exposure is avoided.

All parts of Datura plants contain dangerous levels of the tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine, which are classified as deliriants, or anticholinergics. The risk of fatal overdose is high among uninformed users

Amanita Muscaria contains several biologically active agents, at least one of which, muscimol, is known to be psychoactive.

If you want to be sure that the provided dose is lethal, you can also mix sharp blades together with the plants (razor blades, sharpened metal tips, etc.). The blades won't poison the dragon, but will cause severe bleeding while they move along the digestive system.

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  • $\begingroup$ you forgot water-hemlock, but solid answer en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicuta $\endgroup$ – Reed Aug 16 '17 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Reed, Conium Maculatum is also known as Hemlock. though I wonder why wiki has two pages on it. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 16 '17 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ Amanita virosa, related to Amanita Muscaria is also a good one. There's still no known antidote, so the dragon's digestive tract wouldn't likely be able to break down the toxic chemicals. Considering that Muscaria's toxicity can be lowered by boiling it (although you shouldn't rely on it in real life), it might be that a fire-breathing(?) serpent's insides would produce a boiling effect, reducing chances of success. $\endgroup$ – user31530 Aug 18 '17 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ Huh and here I thought Datura was a mild hallucinogen not a deadly poison. $\endgroup$ – Ash Aug 20 '17 at 7:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash, there have been people poisoned to death after confusing Datura leaves with normal salad and having had them for (last) lunch $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 20 '17 at 8:45
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  1. Get hold of some poison dart frogs. Careful when handling them: they're among the most poisonous creatures on the planet.
  2. Get hold of some dead sheep/cows/virgin females/whatever your dragon's preferred snack is.
  3. Hide the poison dart frogs inside the corpses.
  4. Offer the corpses to the dragon as a peace offering, or a token of friendship, or whatever excuse you think he'll buy.
  5. Stand back and watch as the dragon eats the corpses, dart frogs and all. If I recall correctly, dart frog poison kills within minutes, and is so potent that the poison from a single frog could kill hundreds of thousands of people.
  6. ???
  7. Profit.
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  • $\begingroup$ I started typing this before @LDutch's answer, which is basically the same thing but with plants instead of frogs. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Aug 16 '17 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ ...My inner child is trying hard to resist the urge to make a fan-fiction based around a evil frog-like Sith Lord called Darth Frog. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Aug 17 '17 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @T.Sar Throg, the Frog of Thunder? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 17 '17 at 23:55
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I have two suggestions.

The first is that we have yet to find a carbon based life form that isn't effected by Arsenic due to its interactions with certain proteins and protein synthesis pathways. So that could be a good place to start, but the dose is probably going to be high and delivery will be problematic and probably drawn out as water borne oxides are the best at accumulating in life systems.

My other suggestion is to go for Ricin. Ricin shuts down protein synthesis altogether and may be lethal as an ingested poison at doses as low as 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight (0.0001%, or 1 gram per metric tonne). Oil-cake from castor beans contains up to 5% Ricin by weight, so if you stuffed a few sheep with a few kilograms each of oil-cake and got your dragon to eat them whole (that's a total of about 250 grams of Ricin per sheep), assuming it has DNA/RNA pathways that are substantially similar to humans...

Castor Oil and Beans have been known and used since at least 4000BC and it's a reasonably widespread plant.

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The paper Aconite arrow poison in the Old and New World describes using aconite (and other poisons) to hunt whales.

If you can wound the poor creature, perhaps you wouldn't need the huge dose referenced in other answers: I suspect that even a little bit of gangrene, a relatively small wound that goes bad, might prove fatal in time.

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You don't. You can't poison a thing with unknowable resistant to poison with unknowable dose.

This idea is so wrong that it was ruled out since middle ages when we started to run the story of killing a dragon with food.

In both Polish and Czech version of story the solution was to put explosive inside the beast (now you know from where Spielberg had his Jaws idea).

The Polish version contained also plot twist that the explosives didn't killed the dragon as it was already breathing fire. But it made him very thirsty. So thirsty that he tried to quench it by drinking whole Vistula river. In the effect his intestines bursted.

So the solution is: Drown the scaled beast. You don't need to hit him, just aim in his general direction with chains and weights.

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    $\begingroup$ Are you referring to a specific folk tale? What is its name; can you link to it? $\endgroup$ – James K Aug 16 '17 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesK here's the story but without it's proper ending myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/… $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Aug 17 '17 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ Middle ages didn't have many powerful poisons known. Pretty much only the deathcap mushroom and certain mercury compounds are likely choices for this, and harvesting that many deathcaps is a long job. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Aug 17 '17 at 19:51
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Depends what type of poison you're using. For example, VX (LD50 7ug/kg) versus a T-Rex (~12m, ~10,000kg) - 0.1g should be enough to kill intravenously (and one has to assume that if your dragon flies, then it would have to be somewhat less dense).

Of course, VX is tricky to make without labs, but Ricin - from the humble castor bean - is about 30% as deadly - so you'd want about half a gram to be sure of taking it down.

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So this isn't quite an answer to this question, but it is an interesting idea to consider:

Don't poison the dragon, put a parasite in it. It could be possible to make him ingest a living creature that could survive in his body, eating him from the inside. However, there would be a few problems such as unknown immune system, and finding a parasite that survives inside the dragon/creature.

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Botulinum toxin is pretty heavy-going stuff. Injected, you need something like 2 ng/kg of body weight. So something like 20g suffice to poison everybody. EVERYBODY.

Bad food conserves contain it. Honey can be a good starter since it tends to contain the toxin producing bacteria, though they don't survive established bowel acidity (honey is associated with sudden infant death syndrome though).

Of course, yield is a bit of a problem as is testing. Ricin is less lethal but yields are better controllable: it's basically castor bean residues.

So don't underestimate both availability as well as lethality of some rather potent rather generic poisons (botulinum toxin catalytically blocks nerves, ricin catalytically blocks basic cell metabolism mechanism making it widely applicable).

Of course, dragons being magical creatures, the question is just how much of their metabolism is subject to similar attack mechanisms as with non-magical creatures.

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Even without laboratory, it's possible to get poison with quick action and sufficiently lethal to kill a dragon, especially if the fauna and flora provide things like chironex_fleckeri.

With such deathly poisons, it's possible to coat ballista' projectiles, allowing to kill dragon on sight.

Another possibility, if the available poison need heavier doses, is to poison a bait and let the dragon eat it. An ideal way to ensure consumption would be to use living animal, like sheep, attach to poison on the bait with a degradable recipient like leave or paper. Thereby, the bait appear as alive and in good condition to the dragon, but the poisonous payload will kill the dragon during digestion.

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Polonium. An alchemist discovers how to isolate Polonium-210. The lethal dose of polonium for a human is estimated to be 0.089 micrograms fora 50% chance of death (that's 89 nanograms). If the dragon is 10 thousand times more massive than a human, it will require 0.9 milligrams of polonium to kill the dragon. That's an amount the size of a grain of sand. If you put it in solution and smeared it over an arrow, you'd have a couple times the lethal dose for the dragon.

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How about the accumulation of heavy metals? It is a known issue in real life apex marine predictors. Have all of your Vikings wear mercury, lead and aluminium. Then if/when they are eaten then the beasty will accumulate more heavy metals. It would be a nice irony that the killing of your people brings the beat one step closer to its own death.

This wearing of toxic metals could be done by chance, or intentionally. You could also lace it's natural prey/carrion with metals so that you don't have kill of many of your people to accumulate enough heavy metal in its body.

Here is a list of some heavy metals with symptoms.

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  • $\begingroup$ How would you suggest they wear mercury, given that it's a liquid at standard temperature? $\endgroup$ – DaveMongoose Aug 17 '17 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ Amalgum fillings or similar. Vermillion as a dye and so on $\endgroup$ – josh Aug 17 '17 at 10:13
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How about biological weaponry? According to the technological level you've stated, it is about Middle Ages. It is easy to find a plague, typhus or smallpox diseased people in that time. Just feed the dragon with contagious corpses or even with living pandemic victims and observe the results. Maybe (just maybe) your enemy is not immune.

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Hypodermic Ballista Bolt (similar to a tranquilizer dart), filled with ergot fungus. It would be completely defenseless while having the worst LSD trip in history.

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