Phinneus, sage drake of Zobeck, was perusing a book that discussed flora of the Dragon Empire. Suddenly, the door to his library swung open. Phinneus’s annoyance changed to terror as a green draconic head attached to a spear flew by him, missing him by mere inches.
“Dragon! We will speak!” a recognizable voice shouted from the doorway.
Phinneus raised a claw, thought better of correcting his visitor, and replied, “Ms. Havers, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Stow it, dragon! What would you say that thing is?” Imogen Havers spat out, pointing at the severed and bleeding head soiling the library floor.
“I believe this is a forest dragon. This is without seeing the whole creature, mind you…” the drake began.
“Forest drake. Not forest dragon,” Imogen interrupted. “Its kobold rider was kind enough to identify the creature before it met an untimely demise. You didn’t tell me everything on my last visit.”
“Of course. The Empire would refer to them as drakes,” Phinneus mused. “Cambermere, please get our guest some tea, while I tell her all about the Empire’s ‘drakes.’”
A candle drake cowering behind a bookcase gratefully sped off to comply.
Degenerate offshoots of true dragons, flame, forest, and frost drakes survive at the whim of the Sultan of the Dragon Empire. They serve as pack animals for their masters, and rare, intelligent drakes act as a steed for an Empire assassin or soldier. Vain dragon overlords, embarrassed at the possibility of having any relation to these lowly creatures, refer to them as drakes rather than dragons. Unlike Midgard drakes, these dragons have more in common with wyverns (albeit they have a breath weapon). Those creatures not on the leash of a draconic master seek lairs far removed from civilization. Highly territorial, free drakes have an antagonistic relationship with humanoids who might share the same lands.
Another point of distinction comes from the drakes’ appearance. Instead of resembling the features of a geographic region, a physical object’s appearance, or a manifestation of an esoteric idea, these creatures seem to be no more than a stunted version of the true dragon from which they descend. One can imagine a stunted wyrmling emerging from an egg and its parent casually dispatching it or relocating the creature so it must fend for itself, only to later be enslaved by its mother or father.
Yet another dragon, the sea drake, appears to be a type of geographic drake, but it is a specific creation of the Dragon Empire. It patrols shallow coastal areas and exacts tolls from ships that have the misfortune of sailing in a sea drake’s zone. The drake might keep a small portion of the treasure, but the vast majority winds up in the Sultan’s hoard.
Imogen yanked her spear from the forest drake’s head. “So the swamp drake encountered was another of these Empire beasts?” she asked as she returned to her seat and reached for her teacup.
“By the Scale, no!” Phinneus exclaimed. “Allow me to explain while Cambermere fetches a cloth for your weapon.”
Swamp drakes thrive in the many swampy locations of the Margreve. Their alligatorlike appearance, as well as their alliances with lizardfolk and other intelligent swamp denizens, betrays them as true drakes. The creatures originally served black dragon masters, but they couldn’t endure the cruelty their masters inflicted upon them, so they fled to the Margreve. Swamp drakes now serve their own cruel desires and instill a great deal of fear in travelers who have heard stories of the creatures’ hapless drowning victims.
“I should touch on wyverns as well,” Phinneus said, “even though I suspect you’ve dealt with your fair share, Ms. Havers.”
The Dragon Empire regards wyverns as nothing more than pests, and any such creature entering those lands to the east meets with a swift death. Cunning wyverns find safe, faraway mountaintops on which to lair and plague lone travelers or secluded villages throughout Midgard. If a true dragon claims a wyvern’s territory, the creature slinks off to the next mountain peak without a fuss.
Imgoen tensed. She felt a whoosh of air moments before sensing the presence of yet another dragon. She quickly stood and hefted her spear, ready to dispatch a draconic foe, just like the dozens before.
Phinneus, seeing her enter her battle stance, squeaked, “No, Miss Havers! It’s only Zeph, my quick drake informant from the Empire.”
The dragon hunter relaxed, slightly, as the flitting creature alighted beside the sage drake.
A quick drake has a natural dislike of true dragons, and this holds especially true with the Dragon Empire. Acting as a spy or advance scout for any incursions into Empire lands, the creature readily lends its quickness to a cause that will defeat (or at least humiliate) a larger cousin. Unfortunately, the daredevil nature of the drake sometimes leads to a devastating counterstrike for its co-conspirators. Meanwhile, thanks to its size, the drake finds plenty of difficult-to-reach hiding places in various microfissures surrounding the Empire. It pays to understand the nature of the quick drake and the drawbacks to working with this erstwhile ally.
“I can guarantee its news is less important than mine,” Imogen smirked as she pointed to the gory mess on the library floor. “That creature and its rider had been sent to dispose of a certain chatty sage drake.”
Phinneus’s blue scales lost all color. “Wha—, wha—” he stuttered.
“Yep, and he’s probably not the last one to come after you. As much as it pains me to ask this—but I do find you too useful to lose—how would you like to go on a field expedition?” Imogen smiled wickedly and added, “You can bring your candle drake with you. In fact, if you value its safety, you might want to do that. You will, of course, understand if ‘Zeph’ isn’t invited on this trip.”
Learn more about drakes and add them into your game with The Book of Drakes, a gorgeous book filled with all kinds of draconic fun!
About the Authors
Mike Welham has been playing RPGs for thirty years but has only recently added to the wealth of roleplaying game material. He got his start with a small collection of drakes and other assorted monsters at the Kobold Quarterly website and has produced Pathfinder Roleplaying Game works for Clockwork Gnome Press, Open Design, Paizo, and Rite Publishing.
Adam Daigle, or simply Daigle as everyone calls him, is a freelancer living in gorgeous Austin, Texas. Daigle has written and edited for a number of publishers in the RPG industry, such as 0one Games, Goodman Games, Paizo Publishing, Open Design, and Green Ronin. When not working his day job or spending evenings writing, Daigle sleeps and dreams up more stuff to write about.