Part 11: Dragons 3The egg is the most sacred symbol of the Dragonewts. All life, they say, comes from the egg. The Cosmic Egg was created from the primal monster Orxili by the Cosmic Dragon, and from it came the Ancestral Dragon, who used the shell's halves to define the Inside and Outside realms. The first dragonewt eggs were laid by Wondrous Mother of Many, one of the True Dragons, who took many mates but married none. Thus was dragonewt precedent set. Dragonewts are born from eggs, and like the dragonewts, the eggs are immortal. Each is deeply magical and tied to the will of the Cosmic Dragon and the local Inhuman King.
Dragonewts are born over and over again from the same egg. After each hatching, the egg reassembles itself for the next. The shell is hard and leathery, getting harder with age, but it never rots. Eggs can be hurt, but so long as they are not destroyed, they will repair themselves. However, should the Inhuman King of the area withdraw his will and protection, he can sever the bond between dragonewt and egg, shattering the egg utterly and preventing rebirth. This destroys the egg and condemns the dragonewt involved to mortality - a terrible fate. Dragonewts are born adult - there are no baby dragonewts or infant dragonewts, just dragonewts. Mentally, a newborn is an innocent, but the egg gives the primal knowledge needed to survive and progress. The egg gives the template that the higher dragonewts shape.
All dragonewts are always aware of their eggs. They instinctively know if their egg is in danger, and will fight ceaselessly to protect it. All the eggs of a dragonewt settlement are stored together in one nest, guarded by warrior dragonewts and magical protections - extremely potent and merciless ones. Some say that dragonewt eggs can give eternal life or cure Chaos taint, but they die before they find the truth. One who harms a dragon egg is treated as the beast Orxili was: limbs are ripped off, the soul devoured. The carcass is given to the Ancestral Dragons to be a slave and toy, denying it death but ensuring eternal torment. That is the immortality given by the dragonewt's egg.
Stages of Life
The path to becoming a dragon is in fact a personal, microcosmic replay of the God Time and the ages within it. Each stage is one or more God Time Ages, and the learning and Right Action of that stage reflects the events of that age. They each are characterised by certain inherent personality traits that must be controlled and mastered before the dragonewt can advance. The ultimate aim is to act with conscious deliberation at all times, choosing how to act rather than allowing instinct to control it.
The Crested Dragonewt
The first stage is known as the Scout, Crested, First or Orxiliate Dragonewt. (That last is only among Dragonewts.) This stage represents the Creation and Green Ages, when all was new and the Prime Runes had been brought into the world by the Cosmic Dragon. Each crested Dragonewt is tasked innately with understanding the Six Actions and the Prime Runes. The Six Actions are as follows:
First, Silence. Maintain it when the compulsion is to be heard. Second, Secrets. Maintain them when the compulsion is to tell all you know. Third, Being. Understand what you are when it is clear you are incomplete. Fourth, Experience. Gain it, but honorably and with understanding. Fifth, Thought. Use the fledgling mind to form and use them. Last, Spirit. Replace the instinctive with the rational.
The Crested are immature and struggling with their own natures and the conflicts of creation - both their own creation and that of the world. It takes at least six reincarnations before the Crested stage is complete - usually many more, because this involves mastering the Six Actions and understanding the power and magic of the Prime Runes. As the Crested define these runes, they are: Air, Beast, Chaos, Darkness, Disorder, Earth, Fire, Harmony, Illusion, Infinity, Law, Magic, Mastery, Movement, Plant, Spirit, Stasis, Truth and Water. They most learn all of them.
Crested behavior is dictated by a combination of which of the Six Actions they are currently understanding, which Prime Runes they already understand and which Runes they are in the process of learning. They can only learn the magic of these Runes and must forget all of it to advance to the next stage. They are forbidden from learning Dragon Magic. The task of understanding the Six Actions is called Orxilius, after the enemy of the Cosmic Dragon, Orxili. Orxili had six limbs and no head, and it tried to disrupt the Cosmic Dragon's meditation. For this, it was dismembered limb by limb as the Cosmic Dragon itself became aware of (or created) the Six Actions. From the body came the Cosmic Egg, from which all True Dragons were hatched. Orxilius is the priumal process of understanding the nature of the self and reality. Once accomplished, the Crested Dragonewt has finished what is essentially a multiple-lifetime HeroQuest through the Creation and Green Ages. The five personality trait pairs of Orxilius are Aggression/Passivity, Bravery/Cowardice, Energy/Laziness, Stubbornness/Docility and Dependability/Unreliability.
The Beaked Dragonewt
Once a Crested Dragonewt passes on to the next stage, they bacome the Warrior, Bewaked, or Second Dragonewt, also called the Golden Shadow by the dragonewts. This stage represents the Golden Age and the Dark Age. In these ages, civilization and rationality took hold, only to be plunged into the Lesser and Greater Darknesses, the Age of Terror. In this stage, Beaked Dragonewts are built both mentally and physically to create and destroy. They are architects, soldiers, builders and fighters. They are allowed to learn dragon magic, having forgotten the rune magic of the Crested stage. Right Action is to begin mastering Dragon Magic, and to both build and fight.
The motivations of a Beaked Dragonewt are entirely concerned with those three things, which can only be accomplished with any effectiveness if the Six Actions have been understood and assimilated. New Beaked Dragonewts are Golden, and their skins are gold and amber. They are builders, and are taught to use the weapons of the Beaked stage: the klanth, the korff, the gami and the utuma. The klanth is a macuahuitl - a wooden club with flint or obsidian embedded in the edge. Orlanth used one. The korff is a sword made of dragonbone. The gami is a three-pronged sword-catcher made of dragonbone. The utuma is a stone shortsword, used for special ceremonies. As the Beaked Dragonewt gains mastery of these weapons, which they see as tools, not instruments of death, the gold is replaced by grey and black as they come into the Darkness Age. They become more warlike and violent, less concerned with building than defense.
These are the Shadowed Beaked, and they devote themselves to defeating Chaos and re-enacting the Utuma, the ritual dismemberment of enemies and self-sacrifice. This calls back to the sacrifices made by the Cosmic and Ancestral Dragons, as well as the gods who died in the Darkness. A Beaked Dragonewt who does not achieve Right Action is expected to commit Utuma to atone and cleanse themself. Utuma is ritual suicide by disembowelment, using the utuma. If the Wrong Action committed was not serious, the Beaked reincarnates as a Beaked. If it was great, they reincarnate as a Crested and have to start over.
As a result, Beaked Dragonewts are cautious despite their warlike nature. It is not shameful to be Crested again, but it is a delay in becoming a full dragon, and a significant one. Wrong Action is seen to be the victory of Chaos and darkness over reason. The Beaked who regress tend to be focused, as a result, on mastering the Chaos and Darkness runes, to better equip them for the Beaked stage again. A Beaked Dragonewt who builds cities, defends them and defeats foes is ready to leave the Golden and Darkness AGes behind, committing one final Utuma to attain the next stage. The five personality trait pairs of the Golden Shadow are Curiosity/Apathy, Leader/Follower, Impulsive/Cautious, Calm/Nervous and Trusting/Suspicious. These focus on leadership and lordliness, key traits of the next stage.
The Noble Dragonewt
The Nobles, also called the Tailed Priests, represent the time of the Great Compromise, when the gods had to finally communicate with each other and learn restraint. It was needed for the gods to understand the mortal world and how to interact with it. As a result, Noble Dragonewts are communicators and leaders, best equipped of all stages to deal with other races and to embody peace, negotiation and compromise. They are often found as emissaries to other races, wanderers learning about the world or advisers of dragonfriends.
Noble Dragonewts are obsessed with language and its use as a tool. They call this Tongue Talking, and their Right Action is determined by how their communication is perceived by others and understanding the consequences of this responsibility. Nobles are known to commit Utuma as a result of mortal failings, and many humans have trouble comprehending this. The reason a Noble commits Utuma is usually because their abiliuty communicate with others has resulted in consequences they failed to foresee. Reincarnation following this is always into the Noble stage, but all powers of language and communication must be relearned so that future communication will be clear, and consequences correctly anticipated.
There is a story about the Noble named I Can Say And You Can Understand, an advisor in the Empire of Wyrms Friends. He told the disciple he was advising that his wife must be very beautiful, for she was married to a such a successful and articulate man. Genderson was irrationally jealous of anyone who noticed his wife's amazing beauty, so he considered the comment a sign of physical attraction, and had an iron mask wrought, which he clamped over his wife's face that only he might see her beauty. He then tried to debate philosophy with I Can Say And You Can Understand, but he was shocked when the dragonewt disembowelled itself before him. It had intended to compliment Genderson and his wife, and had failed to understand the human capacity for jealousy and suspicion. It was necessary to commit Utuma, for not only had its comments resulted in the Wrong Action of the masking, but it also showed a lack of appreciation for how compliments can be taken as insults or slights.
Nobles master the four paired traits of Honor/Dishonor, Generosity/Greed, Patience/Impatience and Extrovert/Introvert to prepare themselves to become Rulers or Full Priests. Once they master these and the skills of communication, they feel the first signs of wing growth, as their skeleton and muscles reform. This is very painful but also a time of great joy, signalling the final act of Utuma for this stage.
The Ruler Dragonewt
Rulers, also called Full Priests, Winged Priests or (among dragonewts) the Sky Destined, represent the return of light to the world and the ascendancy of the sun. When they emerge from the egg, they perform the Sun Dance to symbolise their emergence from darkness and their glimpse at True Dragonhood. All other dragonewts of the nest dance with them, and the birth of a Ruler is a time of great rejoicing. The Sun Dance is both ritual and practical, drying out the new wings and strengthening the bones, allowing the wings to unfurl at the climax of the dance. Ruler Dragonewts are always hatched in the Fire Season when nothing obscures the sun, and the DAnce ends as the sun sets. Once the dance is done, the new Ruler immediately commits Utuma, the body is burned and at dawn of the next day the Ruler hatches again in an identical body but with the emotional and mental understanding of what it must now achieve.
Rulers must master four trait-pairs, which are essential to every Inhuman King and True Dragon. These are Clever/Dull, Innovation/Conservatism, Optimism/Pessimism and Construction/Destruction. Rulers ared tied to their nests and spend much time sleeping and dreaming. In their dreams, they interact with all stages of the nest, offering guidance and overseeing the progression of lesser dragonewets. When awake, they listen to reports of the lesser stages andm ake decisions based on how they view things from a draconic perspective. The Nobles reinterpret these decisions in ways the lessers can understand and ensure the Ruler's wishes are carried out. For a Ruler, Right ACtion is to interpret things from a draconic perspective rather than a dragonewt one. They must look down on the world, not around it or up at it. If their perception is right, the lesser stages will act correctly and Right Action is achieved. If direction iss given that does not take into account all angles and possibilities, it is Wrong Action. Naturally, Utuma follows and reincarnation is likely to be into the Noble Stage, indicating the Ruler had undraconic immaturity that must be overcome by exposure to the world. Wrong Action among Rulers is very rare, however, for from their high vantage, all things are visible and can be explained. Only when the consequences cannot be explained draconically, mythically or in mortal terms does Wrong Action occur.
When the Rulers are not dreaming to survey the community, they involve themselves in dream-based draconic HeroQuests to further their understanding. These quests do not just retread the deeds of the Cosmic and Ancestral dragons, but project forth the quests to come. This prepares them for the Inhuman King stage, and consolidates and supplements the dreams of True Dragons. FutureQuesting, as it is called, trains the mind to the complexities of existence outside Time, when all things can be perceives simultaneously. Many HeroQuests must be completed before the ruler can start a FutureQuest, and even then, they do it only tentatively, for the Ruler's mind is fragile when thinking of a reality unconstrained by linearity and the seperation of cause and effect. However, FutureQuesting lets them mold their minds to a form that can function fully in the God Plane.
As Rulers mature, they become more abstract in their thought and communication, eventually culminating in all thoughts becoming the Egg Dream, where the Ruler relives its post lives and absorbs and is absorbed by its egg. The Egg Dream grants the ruler ultimate power of creation and reincarnation, and at this point the dragonewt pauses all schemes, for it is on the brink of Inhuman King or Dragonet status. Since any dragonewt society can have only one Inhuman King, the dragonewt must wait and dream the Egg Dream until the position becomes open.
Called the Inhuman King, this is the final stage before True Dragon. Each dragonewt society can have but one Inhuman King (though there are several dragonewt societies, so several Inhuman Kings). Dragonets have almost total dragonhood, with complete mastery of Dragon Magic. They enable reincarnation, gaining the power, wisdom and insight to decide which lesser stages should reincarnate, when and into what form. The Egg Dream grants them this wisdom. They decide what is Right and Wrong Action, and manipulate the eggs of the nest to form the proper stages. Dragonets may lay new eggs, which always birth Crested dragonewts, and they watch and judge the souls of their nests. Dragonets are incapable of Wrong Action. Their minds are outside Time and their bodies inside it. They do not dream, for they do not need to. All things are known to them and all actions and consequences are simultaneous. They do not eat, because they have absorbed their own egg through the Egg Dream and are sustained forever. All that stands between them and True Dragon status is the iwll of the Cosmic Dragon itself - and each Inhuman King serves that will utterly.
This is called the Unknowable Secret. Draognets refer to it, but never explain or reveal it. It is what the Wyrms Friends tried to attain, but never could, for they were not dragonewts and had not progressed through the essential stages of existence in order to comprehend and obey the will of the Cosmic Dragon. Only one human ever came close, Obduran the Flyer, and in that he may have had help of an Inhuman King - help given only because the Cosmic Dragon willed it to be. No Dragonet in human memoery has ever become a True Dragon. In fact, no dragonewt or True Dragon would ever reveal that the change was made for fear of exposing the will of the Cosmic Dragon to outside influence. For that reason, no one can know if the Inhuman King of a colony has been there all along, or a new Inhuman King has incarnated from an Egg Dreaming Ruler. Dragonewts themselves don't care - the existence of the Inhuman King is symbolic, and to contemplate it is instinctively known as Wrong Action. Only humans, trapped by the curiosity inherent to living in Time, wonder and thus suffer impurity of thought and motive. That is why no human can ever become a dragon: to want to know the Unknowable Secret renders it meaningless.
Those dragonewt colonies that have, for various reaosns, placed themselves out of the draconic cycle do not have Inhuman Kings. Their Rulers either do not start the Egg Dream or are trapped within it. Breaking this cycle takes a HeroQuest by Rulers, which may even be a FutureQuest, enabling a new Inhuman King to be incarnated at a distant point in the future when it serves the Unknowable Secret. Without an Inhuman King, no dragonewt may reincarnate, and because the Rulers are likely bound in the Egg Dream, there is no guidance to stop Wrong ACtion and maintain Right ACtion. Thus, these colonies become less draconic and condemn themselves to mortality as the Sundered Colonies.
Draconic HeroQuests tend to be purely observational. A Dragonewt may enter the Hero Plane simply by dreaming - a feat that many others would love to do but cannot. FutureQuesting goes beyond that - it is impossible for those that exist inside the Great Compromise, bound by Time. You see, FutureQuesting involves moving back and forward in time, to observe but never modify the interaction of events. It is done by dreaming, and it allows a Ruler to travel centuries back or forward. However, the Dragonewt cannot choose what it views - it simply must accept whatever it finds. FutureQuesting lacks precision, and it takes many, many attmepts to find a specific place and time. It is hazy and indistinct, as well, when going to the future, though the past is always clear.
The fall of the Empire of Wyrms Friends followed quite a lot of FutureQuests by quite a lot of Rulers and even Inhuman Kings. Next time, we'll talk about the Wyrms Friends and why this might have been the case.