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For a project I'm working on, I have a world that is comparable to medieval Europe, except, dragons exist. Humans don't live anywhere close to dragons, since they are pretty destructive and the humans don't have any meaningful ways of fighting them.

However, for the storyline, I want the humans to interact with the dragons, preferably by occasionally sending groups to where the dragons live. These would probably be 'expendable' humans, like criminals, sent there by a person in power to give them an opportunity to redeem themselves. The one problem is, I can't think of a good motive.

Question: What would be a reason for humans to go near dragons (nests)?

Some constraints: I don't want the dragons "to live on a gold mine", aka no purely geological reason; it has to be related to the dragons. Also, the dragons don't 'hoard gold' like the Smaug-types; they are just animals.

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closed as off-topic by sphennings, Vylix, Frostfyre, Aify, L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 18 '17 at 16:22

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – sphennings, Frostfyre, L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Questions about character motivation aren't on topic for this site. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Sep 18 '17 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings It isn't exactly character motivation per se, more like determining what usage a medieval group of people could have for dragons. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Sep 18 '17 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ So, basically you're asking two questions: the reason, and where the dragon should live. You should define the last first, then you ask the first last. $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 18 '17 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Piomicron not what their use for dragons, but why the king (for example) send them there. Without more information about the dragon or where it lives, there are a lot of ideas that is right. The most obvious one is the dragon has something precious: dragon egg? dragon blood? dragon scale? $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 18 '17 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ To learn true fire bending... Oops , that's supposed to be Sci-fi & fantasy. $\endgroup$ – atayenel Sep 18 '17 at 17:54
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Scales

It is often said that dragons shed scales. These scales are thought to have magical properties. (Whether they actually do or not isn't as important as the perception that they do.) This grants them an economic value. Where there is an economic value, there will be someone foolish brave enough to try to go after them. But of course, they're smart enough to not go after them personally. Nope. they instead hire people more foolish more brave than themselves, to get the scales for them.

Eggs

Chicken eggs are so common. Tasty, sure. But have you ever eaten the extremely rare Omelette du Draco Ovum? No? Tsk. So sad. Well, obviously, only the most wealthy people can afford to dine on dragon egg omelettes. Some day, perhaps, you can afford the real thing. And no, ostrich eggs are no substitute. Sigh.

Bones

The bones of dead dragons are valuable, too. Ground up, they're said to be potent magic. Whole, they ward off evil spells. Ivory may be cheaper, but dragon bones are the real deal. Ivory just can't compare.

Teeth and claws

The sharp teeth or claws of a dragon make excellent daggers to impress your friends. Sure, they aren't quite as strong as good steel, but they're better than bad steel. And they don't rust. And dragons shed them. So it's not like you have to kill a dragon to get one. You just have to find one in the dragon's nest, before the dragon finds you.

Dragon meat

Dragon meat never rots. No one knows why; magic, obviously. And unlike common pig or cow meat, it is quite spicy. A rare delicacy, then, to eat dragon meat. And a favored food to take on the road, since it isn't salty and never spoils. If you can get some, it makes the best stews, the best travel rations. Expensive, though. And don't be fooled by venison cured with pepper or other spices. That crap will rot once you're a week into your journey -- and away from the merchant.

Pets

A few rare fools think that they are dragon-marked. These idiots strike out to find baby dragons. They think they can tame the dragons. For every thousand or so who go out attempting this, maybe one succeeds. The tamed dragons aren't really worth the risks, to be honest. They don't grow as large. They usually don't learn to fly. And even if they do, they're never tame enough to safely bear a rider. They don't mate in captivity. But they are impressive.

Feces

Dragon dung burns like nothing you've ever encountered. Where do you think the Chinese got the recipe for black powder? They copied dragon dung. Poorly, I might add. Dragon dung is more powerful than TNT, pound for pound. Quite valuable in wartime.

Rite of passage

Maybe stealing a scale or lost tooth from a dragon nest is a rite of passage for warriors. To prove your a man and ready to begin your journey as a soldier. Or maybe it is a spiritual quest taken by certain monks of a select order.

Trial by dragon

Instead of a trial by combat, prove your innocence of [whatever crime you allegedly committed] by raiding a dragon nest. Come back with one dragon tooth or claw and one dragon scale, and you'll be innocent. If the dragon eats you, well, then we'll know you were guilty, you dirty criminal.

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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted. Yours is very similar, even raising the same points. However, I love the humour you used. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Sep 18 '17 at 15:19
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Animal products

It depends on the mechanics of the world you're writing. If there is magic, say that dragon corpses, or dragon eggs, have magical properties. If you want to avoid magic, say instead that dragons' physiology is such that they need large amounts of precious minerals to function, or that their hide/scales/teeth/claws/heartstrings are more light and durable than any material the medieval world is able to economically produce, like spider silk, or are just nice for making luxuries out of, like ivory.

Capturing specimens

It could also be that there are thousands of different kinds of dragons, and the scientists/farmers/labourers want them for specialised tasks, or that the scientists/nobility wish to observe/study/document the different breeds in some way.

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    $\begingroup$ As a continuous animal product, feces could be useful as a medicine, either for healing purposes (antibiotic ), or it tightens and rejuvenates the skin, making womans young and beautiful again. $\endgroup$ – mviereck Sep 18 '17 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, CaM thought of that, but I didn't. Faeces, especially potentially magical faeces, could potentially be... brown gold. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Sep 18 '17 at 15:26
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DRAGONS RULE, HUMANS DROOL.

The dragons on this world are respected and even worshipped. Humans send pilgramages to the dragons so that they may ask favors, garner wisdom, or simply show respect. Dragons will require small sacrifices in exchange.

You could have the dragons actually be indifferent to the humans, but accepting their "god" status as a way of not having to bother with them. While humans might not be able to harm a fully grown dragon, one must still watch her eggs, sleep, et cetera.

Some dragons may occasionally ask for gold. (The baby dragons are teething and they need a metal soft enough to chew on as they are teething.

The dragons may also see humans as kind of "pets" and may occasionally head out of their homes to protect their pets from threats and even other dragons. (Don't kick my pet human "fluffy")

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It's a test for young men and women entering adulthood

There comes a day in a boys life where he has to face his fears and show his village that he is worthy of being called a Man. In the middle of the year all boys who reached this point will together be sent to the dragon nest and tasked with retrieving something that would prove they were close to the nest. For example an egg for the ones who are really brave or just a few scales that lie around near the nest for the ones not that brave.

The same may apply to young women who want to show that they should be treated with a special respect and want to be allowed to enter certain political posts.

By bringing back evidence of their bravery they are allowed to continue as normal members of society. The better their evidence the higher the chance that they will be important figures, maybe even acknowledged in other parts of the country when they manage to capture a young dragon.

A few die every year. But that's what it means to live in a medieval world populated by dragons. Only the strong may survive - everyone else will automatically be viewed as some kind of outcast or criminal not worthy to continue his bloodline.

Criminals from the surrounding villages are always used as an escort - by making sure the young men and women survive they can redeem themselves. Every criminal gets up to 5 young men and women who he is supposed to protect. If all of them survive the criminal is freed of his sentence. If some die his sentence will be lowered depending on how many survive. If all die the criminal will be seen as an outlaw and should be killed on sight.

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  • $\begingroup$ But what about criminals being offered freedom for doing this? I think there has to be some inherent benefit to this activity... $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Sep 18 '17 at 15:27
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Communication

In many fantasy worlds, dragons are creatures with a level of intelligence similar to humans. Sometimes they can even speak human languages. So you can communicate and reason with them. Unfortunately dragons are also very dangerous and aggressive. Anyone trying to talk to a dragon when it has a bad day risks being roasted. So you usually send messengers who are expendable.

Unfortunately that means that you can only send people who are not just expendable but also reliable. You have to trust the messenger to do their best to deliver the message even if it could costs their life. But you can not expect the dragon to sign a receipt. A convicted criminal would just throw the message away and claim they delivered it.

Possible reasons to communicate with a dragon:

  • Ask them nicely to stop attacking villages and attack the villages of your enemies instead.
  • Trade with them. Maybe there is something dragons need or want from humans. Maybe there is something dragons can provide to humans (besides protection).
  • Ask them if it is OK to settle in some area or if the dragon considers it its territory and will burn down everything you build there.
  • Inform them about some existential threat which might also be relevant for dragonkind.
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Entertainment

Traitors and murderers are given to the beast for feeding, while the noble court looks from afar making bets of who is going to be devour first.

Protection

As a natural protection for the kingdom, just like setting a castle near a river or a mountain. The objective is to use the dragon hunting grounds as barrier agains an advancing army or any other dangers comming in that direction.

Costume

People gets used to the posible disasters that would occur for settle in a specific location, for example earthquakes, volcanos, twisters, dragon attacks, etc. Most people would stay even in the presence of this danger for the money or better life that they can find here over other towns.

Religion

Dragons are magical creatures that people worship and wish to create temples, take care of them and feed them. You could find a few examples in our civilization for this kind of behaviour.

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