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Greater drakes were a group of species of drakes that were known to be trained as steeds. Typically draconic in form, exact coloring, size, and such varied greatly between species. Overall, however, they were only about the size of a large horse at most, with a similar level of intelligence. As such, they lacked any inclination towards good or evil; if anything, their behaviors took after those of their riders. They also lacked the instinct to amass hoards like true dragons.
All greater drakes could fly and some could also swim. Most, though not all, possessed breath weapons. Greater drakes were strong enough to easily carry a rider while flying. Like other draconic creatures, they were immune to magically-induced paralysis and sleep.
Greater drakes uniformly lived in wilderness regions far from civilization, making them relatively obscure creatures, particularly because they were often mistaken for true dragons. Most were carnivorous, except for some that were omnivorous. The average lifespan of greater drakes was about 50 years.
Greater drakes could all be domesticated and trained as steeds; their relatively small size (compared to dragons) and animal intelligence made training and keeping them more feasible than other dracoforms. Elves, orcs, and lizardfolk were all known to ride greater drakes that shared their habitats.
All greater drakes laid eggs. They had scaly skin that they shed several times during their lives as they grew. In greater drakes, the breath weapon was not magical and originated from a bladder-like organ in the throat. This bladder could expand, similar to a bullfrog's throat or pelican's beak, and was present in all the greater drake species.
The arsalon, or hive drake, was a peculiar species native to temperate woodlands. The tail was shorter and thicker than in other drakes, and ended in a bony stinger not unlike that of a dark naga's. The scales were large and thick, could be dusty yellow to tan to light grey in coloring, though the wings ranged from coffee-brown to nearly black in color. Some arsalons had vertical stripes of a darker color along the edges of their scales. Arsalons also possessed a pair of slim, back-pointed horns.
Arsalons were known to use their teeth, claws, and stinger when fighting; the stinger in particular held a venom that made victims sluggish. However, hive drakes were best known for their "breathe weapon": they had a symbiotic relationship with wasps. The throat bladder in arsalons secreted a nectar-like substance that attracted wasps, causing the insects to make their nest in there. When in combat, the arsalon could simply contract their throat bladder, exciting the entire wasp nest into a swarm often compared to the insect plague spell. Additionally, the wasps fed on food caught in the drake's teeth, making the relationship overall a mutually beneficial one. However, it also made arsalons the least-often domesticated species.
Arsalons were a territorial species, only coming together in the spring to mate. Females laid 4-7 eggs at a time, which they hid at the base of a tree and covered in grass and twigs, then abandoned. They rarely made permanent lairs of any sort, preferring to make a series of temporary lairs.
Barauthas, or spitting drakes, were a solitary species that inhabited temperate and warm lands. They were predominantly black in color, with alternating rows of red and yellow stripes on their backs; the wings were black with reddish undersides. The neck and tail were both shorter and thicker than usual; in the case of the tail, it was because barauthas stored excess fat there against leaner times. Barauthas had a pair of distinctive tusks, from which they could spray a deadly venom as far as 40 ft (12 m).
Barauthas were obligate carnivores. They were also solitary, forming only temporary bonds with mates during the summer months, and then only until the female laid her eggs. Usually about 2-5 leathery eggs were laid at a time, and were buried in dirt and abandoned. Barauthas were not venomous until they reached their full size at five years of age. On average, spitting drakes only lived to be twenty years old.
The species was difficult to train; the only cases of a barautha being ridden were those where the drake in question had been raised from the egg. Lizardfolk and yuan-ti were known to raise barauthas as mounts.
The ermalkankari, or stone drake, was a mountain-dwelling species that excavated large lairs in the sides of cliffs, constantly expanding these lairs in order to wear down their continually-growing front claws. They had grey to dark brown scales, deep-set black eyes, and a bony mass on the end of their thick, powerful tail. Ermalkankaris ate small rocks and stored them in their throat bladders, and could spray them out again in a cone of stinging gravel.
Ermalkankaris were fiercely territorial, only coming together in the springtime and summer to mate. Pairs stayed in the male's lair until the female laid her eggs at the end of summer, whereupon the male flew off. The eggs hatched in the late fall, and the female stayed to raise the hatchlings until they reached adulthood. Stone drakes used their odd breathe weapon, teeth, claws, and tail club in combat; the tail club was also used while digging to break large rocks into smaller ones.
Ermalkankaris were most often tamed by mountain dwarves for use as beasts of burden rather than as aerial mounts.
The kavainus, or ghost drake, were a species native to mountains and hills. They had hard scales of snow or bone white to light, dusty grey coloring, teeth and claws of a bone-white color, and a distinctive ridge of horns on both sides of the skull. The dark, deep-set eyes were protected by bony crests. Their scales absorbed light during the day and glowed faintly at night, hence the nickname of ghost drake.
Kavaini had exceptional vision, and were also able to see into the Ethereal plane. Additionally, they could turn ethereal at will, as well as any smaller creature they carried. This meant that kavaini had to be captured and raised either from the egg or as hatchlings. While they lacked a breathe weapon, kavaini were favored as mounts for messengers, and grey elves used them as mounts for patrols.
Kavaini mated for life, lairing in mountain caves and aeries. They performed elaborate mating dances each year, after which the female laid a single egg, which she remained by until it hatched, relying on the male to bring her food. Both parents took care of the resulting hatchling.
Ghost drake parts could be used as components on several ways: shell fragments could be ground up and used in ink needed to inscribe the spell faerie fire, and drops of their blood could be used in the making of platemail of etherealness. For their usefulness, kavaini eggs could sell for as much as 1,500 gp, and a kavainus hatchling could sell for as much as 2,500 gp.
Mardallonds, or mead drakes, were a smaller species of greater drake, and were thus favored as mounts by halflings and gnomes. They had golden-yellow to light tan scales, and an odd, scythe-like bone extrusion on the end of the tail. They nested in tall grasses on warm and temperate plains. Typical for greater drakes, they were solitary except during the short spring mating season, but pairs did not stay together. Females laid and buried up to three eggs in grain-fields.
Unlike other greater drakes, mardallonds supplemented their carnivorous diet by eating grains all of kinds. While most of the grain they ate was digested normally, some was stored in the throat bladder, where it fermented into a mead-colored, strong-smelling and strongly alcoholic liquid that the drake could later spit in a stream at targets up to 30 ft (9.1 m) away. Since the liquid was also highly flammable, riders were known to carry torches or such to toss at soaked targets. While the throat bladder held enough liquid for four shots, it took a month for the grain to ferment enough.
In the wild, mardallonds used their fermented breathe weapon to repel larger predators, who were often deterred by the strong smell, or to mark mardallond territory. In captivity, some riders were known to collect the liquid for their own consumption. Mardallonds themselves were thoroughly immune to the normal effects of drinking alcohol.
Retchenbeasts, also called muck drakes, were less pleasant in appearance than other drakes, having a short, thick neck, stumpy wings, and bulging eyes. The claws were webbed, and the legs and tail of normal proportions, allowing retchenbeasts to swim more easily than they flew. They had irregular grey-green scales which were typically covered in mud, for retchenbeasts were native to swamps. They were carnivores that preferred to remain mostly submerged in order to ambush prey, which they tried to drag underwater to drown.
The breathe weapon of muck drakes was a sticky, sludge-like liquid that could both impede victims' movement and cause nausea. Retchenbeasts were also mildly resistant to acid. Solitary but not territorial, muck drakes mated in the spring and laid clutches of 2-7 small, leathery eggs that they abandoned amongst swamp weeds. Retchenbeasts did not make permanent lairs but, since they were capable of eating carrion, often lurked near patches of quicksand in search of easy prey.
Despite their unpleasant appearance and general unwillingness to live their swampy habitats, both lizardfolk and bullywugs were known to train and ride retchenbeasts.
The rivilithis, or river drake, was a freshater-dwelling species closely related to the silisthilis. However, they could not tolerate seawater and lacked their cousins' resistance to cold, and tended to be grey or green in color.
The silisthilis, or sea drake, was a greater drake that lived along ocean coasts. Their scales were tiny and close-set, and a bony frill was present off the sides of the drakes' head, protecting the gill slits. They had powerful wings, webbed claws, and tail-fins on both the ventral and dorsal sides. Their coloring ranged from blue, aquamarine, and green, with the wings being a shade lighter than the body. They swam with the legs pressed close to the body, and used the wings as fins.
Silisthili were mildly resistant to cold, and, while out of the water, possessed a breathe weapon in the form of a blast of water powerful enough to knock people over. They could use their breathe weapon only as often as they could refill their throat bladder. While underwater, the esophagal valve close and the contents of the bladder were instead shot through a pair of vents just behind the wings, granting them a burst of speed while swimming.
Silisthili laired in coastal caves and, like other greater drakes, mated in the spring. Mated pairs remained together in the male's cave until the eggs were laid, whereupon the male flew off; the female remained until the eggs hatched before she left. Young sea drakes shared their hatching cave for about two years before the largest of the clutch drove the rest off.
Young sea drakes were easy to tame, and several aquatic peoples were known to use them as mounts, including sea elves, locathah, and tritons. Surface-dwelling peoples along the coast also trained them as mounts, but just as much for use as firefighters as for flying guards. Air-breathing riders of sea drakes were advised to wear items that allowed them to breathe underwater.
The trilligarg, or chameleon drake, was another smaller species, but also one of the fastest. They had tiny, close-set scales of green or brown color, but which could change color to match their surroundings. Trilligargs lack any horns, dorsal spines, or other protrusions that would cause greater air resistance. In place of claws, the toes end in sticky, suction-cup-like disks, which allow trilligargs to climb on sheer surfaces. Native to warm and temperate forests, trilligargs were skilled at staying still for long periods time before moving in quick bursts.
Trilligargs mated in the spring and did not remain together, with females laying 1-4 eggs alone some time later. However, after laying her eggs, the female would immediately swallow and store them in her throat bladder, where she carried them until the hatchlings could survive on their own. Trilligargs did not make permanent lairs, spending their nights clinging to cliffsides or branches. They primarily ate small mammals, birds, and insects, and used hit-and-run tactics against larger enemies. The throats of trilligargs was covered in many sharp spines, and they could inflate their throat bladders to cause the spine to stand erect, providing them a defensive advantage.
Their small size made them favorable mounts to halflings, gnomes, and goblins. Riders strapped themselves into the saddle using elaborate harnesses that allowed them to remain seated even while the drakes clung to vertical surfaces.
Vallochars, or web drakes, were a species found in warm and temperate lands. They typically had black scales, although dark blue or deep grey coloring was not unknown, and white mottling on the flanks and wings was common. The scales were always sleek and shiny due to a slippery oil secreting by the drakes. Vallochars were unique in that their throat bladder was split, a trait that was vital to their ability to spray a sticky goo at foes and prey. They themselves were immune to the sticky spray because of the oil they secreted.
Vallochar females laid 1-6 eggs after mating in the spring, which they left individually stuck in hard-to-reach places such as treetops or cliffsides, then abandoned. Newly-hatched vallochars had to learn to fly and fend for themselves immediately after birth.
Because of their slippery scales, saddles made for vallochars were complicated affairs involving straps that tied around the legs as well as the belly. Webs, both magical and not, did not effect vallochars.
The vandalraug, or battle drake, was a relatively easy to train species, considered the heavy war horse of the greater drakes. Large and strong enough to carry even a heavily armored warrior, they were also desired by wizards because they could glide between wing-beats, allowing a wizard to cast a spell with lessened chance of being jostled (which could disrupt a spell). While wild battle drakes were only violent when provoked, trained battle drakes could be as eager for a fight as any war dog, and they were also incredibly loyal to their riders, with multiple known instances of a vandalraug fighting to protect a rider that had been thrown from the saddle. Vandalraug eggs sold for some 2,000 gp, and hatchlings were worth as much as 3,500 gp. Unfortunately, battle drakes were often trained by orcs, who failed to treat the creatures well.
Vandalraugs could adapt to live in most aboveground environments. Their coloring could be anywhere from olive to dark forest green, tan to dark coffee-brown, dark grey, black, and occasionally reddish-orange. All vandalraugs had orange eyes with black pupils, however, with wings of a slightly lighter shade than their scales. They also had a pair of backward-curving horns, and sharp, almost sword-like spines extending from the tips of each "finger" of their wings.
Ironically, vandalraugs were among the few greater drakes to not have a breathe weapon, instead using their throat bladder to make loud mating calls that could be heard for miles. Both males and females made these calls, with that of females being slightly higher in pitch. Battle drakes were, however, immune to all forms of magically-induced fear, though they were typically smart enough to know when it was best to flee from combat.
Like other greater drakes, they were a solitary species. Mated pairs stayed to together only until the eggs, laid in clutches of 2-5, hatched, whereupon the male flew off, leaving the hatchlings in the care of the female. The female raised her hatchlings for the first year of their life, after which the young drakes flew off on their own. Females only bred every three or four years.
Chromatic dragons: Red • Black • Blue • Green • White • Brown • Gray • Purple • Pink • Salt • Yellow
Gem dragons: Amethyst • Beljuril • Emerald • Sapphire • Topaz • Crystal • Obsidian • Ruby
Neutral dragons: Amber • Jacinth • Moonstone • Pearl
Lung dragons: Chiang lung • Li lung • Lung wang • Pan lung • Shen lung • T'ien lung • Tun mi lung • Yu lung
Planar dragons: Adamantine • Astral • Battle • Blight • Chaos • Ethereal • Hellfire wyrm • Howling • Mirage • Oceanus • Pyroclastic • Radiant • Rust • Shadow • Styx • Tarterian
Epic dragons: Force • Prismatic
Catastrophic dragons: Earthquake • Volcanic
Miscellaneous dragons: Cobra • Dzalmus • Mist • Radiant • Rattelyr • Song • Vishap
Linnorms: Corpse tearer • Dread • Stygian
Drakes: Ambush • Black firedrake • Dragonne • Elemental (Earth • Fire • Ice • Magma • Ooze • Smoke • Water) • Felldrake (Crested • Spitting) • Greater • Guard • Mind • Portal • Rage • Space • Vulture
Dragonbloods: Draconic creature • Dragonborn of Bahamut • Dragonspawn
Drow-dragon (shadow) • Drow-dragon (deep) • Half-dragon • Kobold (Dragonwrought • Urd) • Weredragon • Zar'ithra • Zekyl
Hybrid monsters: Dracimera • Mantidrake • Wyvern drake