Part 9: DragonsNow, let's talk dragons. Dragons are said to be enemies of the gods from ancient times, and long before humanity ever existed, millenia before Orlanth was a god, there was the Age of Dragons. Dragonewts exist, and their ancient civilization's ruins are surrounded by draconic magic. The Empire of Wyrms' Friends used dragon energy to affect the entire world, such that they were the only true rivals of the God Learners in power. Even now, warriors whisper that the dragons are waking.
Dragons cannot truly be understood by humans. The Empire of Wyrms Friends tried, and they did quite well, but for no reason that any man truly knows, the dragons turned on them and devoured them all. Most humans avoid contact with dragons when possible, and many believe that the dragons are working towards some secret destiny that will infiltrate the entire world. (And, to be sure, the Wyrms Friends believed in one. I'll cover that in a bit.)
Draconic philosophy is all about achieving closeness to dragons. Each step is an order of magnitude far greater than man can comprehend. The dream dragons are greater than any human could be, but a True Dragon is to them as they are to humans. Ancestral Dragons are beyond the True Dragons, participating in the creation myths of the dragonkin. Above them is the Cosmic Dragon, and above that, Ouroboros. The Cosmic Dragon is 'everything' in Glorantha. It was born of the Cosmic Egg and was dismembered to create everything. Glorantha is the Cosmic Dragon. The God Learners called this 'God as Dragon'. Ouroboros? Ouroboros is the universe and everything else that exists anywhere..
The mythic, ancestral dragons existed, it is said, and their story is recorded among the stars. These creatures were great enough to fight gods, and for the most part they lived on the God Plane, but now are not worshipped in a way that gives them the power to rebel against the gods. They are so immense that one of them - just one - is enough to be the Ancient Waters Dragon, also called the constellation Stella Draconis. However, the Ancestral Dragons never manifest directly, though they may grant their mantles to True Dragons. For example, there is a Kraloreian Ocean Dragon called Thrunhin Da who is a True Dragon believed to have some of the powers of the Ancient Waters Dragon.
True Dragons live in Glorantha, but are so huge that mankind cannot really comprehend htem. They are geography, not creatures. Their lifespan is so great that they seem to be beyond history, save for the Dragonkill War, when they slaughtered...oh, give or take half of the civilized world. Their power is so great that they are immune to even the greatest magic, and they have souls different than any other being, which cannot be seen by spirits. The True Dragons are said tob e asleep, but the boundaries of them and the world are less than those of a human and the world. A dragon's dreaming can shape the waking world. Thus are born the dream dragons.
The True Dragons ruled in the Dragon Age, when they did things that cannot be done any more, creating the dinosaurs and other draconic offshoots. True Dragons are rare, though both Dragon Pass and Kralorela have several rather small ones. Dragon Pass knows three and suspects others, but there are only four in Dragon Pass. The First is the Black Dragon, slave to the Cragspider and friend of trolls. Second is Krisa Yor, the Red Dragon, who fought in the Dragonkill War, slaughtered thousands levelled the city of Harna Gamoon. The Green Dragon was seen 150 years ago, landing in the Skyreach Peaks of the Rockwood Mountains. The last is the Dragon of Jarn, whose existence is a mystery and a rumor.
The Kralorelan True Dragons are threefold. First is the August Dragon, in the city of Ting Shui. It has awakened four times and each time prophesied for any who came before him, no matter who they were. Everyone wants it to awaken again and give out its wisdom. Second is Godunya, the Emperor Dragon, whose awakening devastated the nation with earthquakes. It now rules Kralorela. Thrunhin Da, the Dragon of the Waters, lies beneath the Kahar Sea, and he once taught humans of the Colt of the Orca to fight the wicked mermen.
Dream Dragons are the best-known type of dragon, and they are what most people mean when they say the word 'dragon'. They are huge, terrifying beasts, able to destroy whole armies of men, sometimes immune to magic. They are illusions, however, beings of temporary reality formed from the dreams and unconscious thoughts of the True Dragons. For this reason, they manifest the traits often suppressed by these wise beings - they are cruel, selfish, destructive and greedy. However, some dream dragons defy these norms and are benevolent. Even those, however, have been known to turn on their allies, and the lesson of the Dragonkill War, when the dragons betrayed all, has not been forgotten.
Dream dragons are genderless and do not reproduce. They do not grow or age, and while they appear to be normal physical beings in every way, they do not decay normally. Their corpses do not dry out or rot, but instead fade away over time. The harder parts can take centuries to fade, while the skin may last fifty years, and the organs perhaps ten or twenty-five.
Dragonewts are dragon children, in a sense. They are neotenous, immature dragons which can still breed. They can be strange, but they follow their own logic. Dragonewts can die, but they are also immortal. Death is an inconvenience for them at best. To them, time does not exist - it matters only to mortals are former mortals. Dragonewts merely exist, and have little conception of time passing. Likewise, they do not understand success or failure. Things are either done or not done. A thing not done is not failure, a thing done is not success. They just are. The Dragonewts likewise do not distinguish between mythic and real. Myths are real, real life is mythic. They are one and the same - to distinguish between them is for mortals. Experience, however, is everything. One does not deny experience, no matter what, because it leaves one unfulfilled. Mortals can deny some experiences because they are bound by the lies of Time and the idea of success or failure. Dragonewts are free of these things. To experience a thing is to understand it, and to deny an experience is to deny nature and understanding. Experience all things.
Because of this, humans rarely understand the Dragonewts. The God Learners tried and failed to understand them, and they never managed it because mortality restrains the mind, forcing it to explain things in certain ways. Dragonewts have no such restraints. They can be logical, illogical, cruel, kind - anything they wish at any time, for they have no need to restrain themselves. Consequences do not matter, they are just another experience. Restraint denies experience, and there is no need to do that.
The Dragonewts follow a code of honor known as Right Action. Right Action varies from dragonewt to dragonewt because it is, very simply, whatever is right at the time for the dragonewt based on its understanding of the world. It is not, in any real sense, a code of behavior. Rather, it is just an expectation to experience certain mythical and mundane concepts before moving on to the next cycle of existence. Dragonewts know from birth that they must experience everything, and what precise things they must understand are personal to each dragonewt, hardwired from birth. The more a dragonewt experiences, the closer it comes to True Dragonhood. All dragonewts define themselves in terms of what they need to do, not what they have done.
Right Action is, therefore, the principle of attaining experience and developing responsibility for future actions. It is not a moral code and has no conception of morality at all. Rather, it focuses on whether or not it is the right time and emotional state to pursue an experience. However, Dragonewts are not infallible. They can fail in Right Action, and when they do, it is catastrophic. To learn at the wrong time or to fail to learn are Wrong Action, dishonorable and bad. The outcomes may be identical to what would happen with Right Action; this is irrelevant to the Dragonewts.
One Called Running Commits Wrong Action
To understand this, let us look at the story of One Called Running. The dragonewt named One Called Running met a young griffin who had fallen from its aerie. One Called Running had been hunting for the center of the sky, to find and know the Air Rune. He was tired, and knew that the griffin could carry him to the center of the sky, so he taught the griffin the Sky Center Myth chant, using his magic to heal the griffin and feeding it a human he'd caught the day before. As the griffin ate, One Called Running did the Stone Dance to meditate on Right Action. To find the center of the sky, he needed to be in the sky. He could see it, but it was too distant. He might find another way to reach the sky, but here was opportunity. So One Called Running taught the griffin the Sky CEnter Myth, and the griffin told him that it was a griffin song, and that it knew where the center of the sky was. It had been there.
One Called Running asked the griffin to describe it to him. The griffin did, for it had fed and been healed. One Called Running was grateful and allowed the griffin to fly back to its aerie. Then he returned to his nest. When he told the nature of the center of the sky to the ruler of the nest, Cold Fire Apparelled First Born, he realized his mistake. Cold Fire Apparelled First Born pointed out that neither the location nor description was important. What was important was that One Called Running visited it and could retrace his steps, leading others of the nest, who would describe it. One Called Running had done Wrong Action when he told a griffin the sacred Sky Center Myth chant, thus revealing Cold Fire Apparelled First Born's innermost desires. This was dishonor.
And so, One Called Running could not achieve warriorhood, his next stage, until he had found the griffin, killed it and then allowed himself to be eaten by its mother three times in a row. This was Right Action, and, chastised, One Called Running set off to find the griffin once more.
Thus is Right Action.
Other Draconic Races
As a note - in the tongue of dragons, dragonewts are called are called Eravssarr, and dragons are Avssamamu. True Dragons are Orroborr, and dinosaurs are Badu. Dinosaurs are a neotenous species descended from dragonewt warriors who have become diverted from the way of dragons and been trapped in material flesh. Some God Learners believed that dragonewts actually interbred with dinosaurs. Most dinosaurs are Normal; others are Original, dragonewt warriors who mutated into dinosaurs. These are malevolent, intelligent beasts with magical powers. They are always carnivorous even if their Normal descendants are not. (This is why some brontosaurs eat meat.) It is believed that Original Triceratops and other ceratopsians were distracted from the way by sexuality. Tyrannosaurs and other big carnivores suffered greed. Brontosaurs suffered impatience. Stegosaurs suffered ambition. This may or may not be true - it is a popular human belief, but no dragonewt has ever commented on it.
Magisaurs are not like Original Dinosuars - their form is not their fault. They are the result of damaged eggs hatching, and while they try to become dragons, they inevitably fail, for their development is twisted and tainted. Some are bitter and hostile to dragonewts as a result, while others are merely sad.
Wyverns are neotenic dragons, born from the lustful dreams of True Dragons. They can breed true, and often have some characteristic that marks them as descended from the dream of a particular True Dragon. For example, there are wyverns that keep hordes of gold as a result of their descent from Zaranforis the Greedy, a true dragon slain in the Storm Age by Vingkot.
Wyrms are distant relatives of dragons, and the wyrms claim their ancestors sought a different way than the normal path of dragons. The nature of this way was lost, but they are the result. Wyrms are the most magical of dragons, and often practice shamanism and sorcery. Many join cults, and some have even worshipped Orlanth in order to learn the control of wind and teleportation, for they have no hands (and so, instead, teleport and move objects by magic) and use the wind to aid in flight. Wyrms are the draconic race friendliest to humans, and many wyrms aided the Empire of Wyrms Friends. They also taught humans to speak the draconic tongue.
Last are the Stoorworms, chaotic creatures made from dragons warped and defeated by chaos. As humans became ogres and trolls became cave trolls, dragons mutated to become stoorworms. They are dangerous monsters, to be avoided.
Next time: Dragonewt stages of existence.