The Winterdrake is a flying, bird-like creature, possibly related to drakes, living in the upper reaches of the mountains in southern Sarvonia. It is noted for its strange, striking appearance. Indeed, the creature possesses scales, feathers horns and hands, leading some to wonder if the classification of “dracoid” is little more than for lack of a better name to put to it. Their name derives from the peculiar shape of the head, resembling that of a drake or dragon and the fact that the young Winterdrakes are most often sighted during the early winter months. This is sometimes taken as an indicator of the coming of the first snows. Its bright red and white feathers are prized by amanters, perhaps because the creatures themselves are quite difficult to catch.
|Image description. Illustration of two winterdrakes, a strange bird-like creature, possibly related to drakes. Picture drawn by Sheil.|
Appearance. The Winterdrake stands perhaps half a ped high, with a total wingspan of a ped and two palmspans from tip to tip. It has a long neck, akin to that of a heron and long, red and white feathered wings. Most striking about its appearance are the strange hands it possesses, with black talons perhaps two nailsbredths long, which it uses for climbing. Its head is crowned by a pair of black, spiraling horns and a crest of light grey feathers. The Winterdrake’s long muzzle is decidedly reptilian, with pointed teeth jutting out over both the upper and lower lip. The tail of the Winterdrake is also feathered and instead of being fanned-shape is more like that of a lizard, covered in feathers instead of scales. The legs of the Winterdrake end in feet similar to that of many birds of prey, though lacking the rear “toe” which is replaced by a single larger, thicker talon.
The Winterdrake has an unnatural tolerance for cold, owing to its thick feathers
and a protective layer of fat common in other northern creatures. Winterdrakes
are very adept with their hands, capable of using simple tools, such as rocks
and sticks to break open bones to get at the marrow within.
Territory. The Winterdrake can be found in the mountains of the United Kingdom of Santharia, in the highest reaches of the Dragon’s Maw to the south of the Ashmarians, Rimmerin’s Ring and the Mithral Mountains in Manthria.
Habitat/Behaviour. Winterdrakes are known for their bizarre method of hunting creatures, putting their hands to good use by using them to grab pieces of ice and rock and bombard the prey with them, or grabbing the prey and dropping them from often dizzying heights. This usually proves fatal to the prey, who cannot discern from where the assault comes, though the creatures' aim leaves something to be desired. Smaller prey is often carried away by the Winterdrake after it is killed, and the animals have been observed using their hands to help in breaking the bones to get at the marrow inside. Winterdrakes nest in hollows in the snow or caves in the rock, protected from the winds. Winterdrakes are familial creatures, so it is not uncommon for a small group of them to share a single nest. Winterdrakes use their hands to carry bits of plants and branches up to cover the entrance to their nest, and eventually to add to the walls. The resulting nest is very warm, and may remain intact for several seasons after the Winterdrakes that made it have left.
Diet. Though they nest in the higher reaches of the mountains, the Winterdrakes must fly down to find any sizable prey, their particular favourite being things such as hares, though two or three Winterdrakes might assault a wild goat or sheep, and share the spoils. Rodents on the order of the minch and stone weasels are often the subject of an assault by a Winterdrake. When food becomes leaner, Winterdrakes are often observed cracking the bones of animals using the edges of convenient rocks or similar items, since they lack the strength to break them with their teeth or hands, to get at the marrow inside.
Mating. Like most birds and lizards, Winterdrakes lay eggs. Unlike most lizards and birds, these eggs are protected by the male, who possesses a flap of skin which the egg is kept warm in. Females lay a single egg during the summer months, when more food can be found. During a period of roughly six months, the male remains within the hollow, brought food by the female, keeping the egg warm and protecting it and the nest. By the end of this period, the male is very often exhausted and must spend another few weeks recuperating before it can hunt on its own. Despite their rather large range, the populations of such creatures remain small because of the natural lack of food, and because they lay only one egg. These eggs are speckled grey and look like stones a rough two palmspans lengthwise and half a palmspan across. The chicks look like their parents when they hatch, perhaps a quarter of their size. The chicks are born with a short downy fuzz of white feathers and without the long red feathers, crests and black horns that characterize the adult animals. These chicks will learn to fly within four months of their hatching and they grow at an astounding rate during that period, with the bright red feathers for flight appearing during the last month. After this it is another three months before the chicks finish growing their horns, which indicates their maturity.
Myth/Lore. Legend holds that the Winterdrakes are the descendants of those dragons that were diminished by the Year of Darkness following the Dragonstorm, or even those that made a pact with the dragons that both might survive the Year of Darkness.
Usages. The bright red or white feathers of the WWinterdrake and the grey feathers of its crest are greatly prized by amanters for use in jewellery or other forms of decoration. The horns of the Winterdrake are prized by bowyers for the use in composite bows because of their durability, or for use as nocks for strings. Winterdrakes are not considered suitable for eating, owing to the difficulty in cleaning them and the fact that there is very little usable meat within the animal. What meat there is, is tough and stringy, and it has an unpleasant taste.