as a Result of
Forced Interaction with Humans.
One of the hazards of writing a research paper about a fictional topic is crossing the line between factual and fictional resources. In my paper I have endeavoured to reach a midpoint between the various fictional accounts of dragons with which I am familiar. At times it seemed appropriate to invent a new source which served as a bridge between differing reports. Thus this history is intended more as an integration of numerous sources than a complete summary of all. As such, the points it addresses were arbitrarily chosen by myself, and are not meant as an objective survey of all literature written on dragons. Most of my facts are drawn from either "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" or Dragonlance texts, as they are the most technically cohesive texts dedicated to Dragonkind and affiliated ilk.
Dragonkind has undergone a significant decline in recent ages as a direct result of forced interaction with humans. For millennia, Dragons were the lords of the universe; they ruled over the lesser races such as Elves and Gnomes with a casual arrogance born of might. Approximately six thousand years ago (the date is not sure), the gods in their wisdom formed a new race upon the Earth: and they called him Man. It was many centuries before the Dragons even took note of these new fur-bearing creatures; for they had not yet progressed enough to even make good slaves. But as the Dragons slept deep in their mountain fortresses and cloud kingdoms, a new power evolved under the trees. Too late, the Dragons awakened and brought their legions to bear. For they were no longer unchallenged in their dominion of the heavens and Earth.
As for Man's part, he was currently unaware of the trouble he had caused by existing. Unlike the other races, when Man was created the gods left him unfinished, uneducated about the world. To Man they left the task of discovering what he could, and finding his own answers to puzzles he would create. This left Man at a considerable disadvantage to the F‘rie and Ogre races, whom the gods had gifted with complete civilizations and kingdoms. But Man learned to fight back, and to the surprise of all, he began to flourish. Fields that had always belonged to the Plains Gnomes, he conquered and seeded; the hills, traditional homes of the Dwarves, he took and mined for their treasures. Even the high eyers of the Eagle lords were not safe from his questing paths. So when the somnolent Dragons were awakened by the alarmed cries of their subjects, they were caught totally by surprise. In their confusion, they failed to make the decisive first strike that might have slain the upstart humans in their unguarded field tents; instead, they sent their squadrons to the air in scout formations, to gather as much information about the aliens as possible. Swooping low over the various human outposts, the Dragons took no notice of the terrified manner in which the men and women ran to and fro, dashing headlong in their mad need for cover. The Dragons were accustomed to this reaction, and counted it of no importance. Returning to their distant wyres, they spoke on what they had seen and wondered at its meaning. While they could not understand how such a puny race had taken such a strong hold on their empire, they agreed that subjugating them as they had the other races would pose no particular problem.
But as they met and counseled in their caverns, they were unaware of the delayed reaction their appearance in the skies had caused with their presumptuous rivals. Moving rapidly from terror to anger, the humans now marshalled their forces and summoned their generals to councils of war. Defenses they built, and great stores of food and grain were formed. It did not take long for the aggressive humans to adopt the trappings of a fully militant and hostile nation. When the Dragons had made their low sweeps over the fearful villagers, they had seen the affects of their Dragonfear aura that instills terror in the hearts of all mortals. They had been unsurprised by the total panic in the pitiful nomadic barbarians. But the humans, having never before felt the chill of Dragonfear, had been caught totally off their guard. Human sages, recognizing the fear as a magical influence on the otherwise fearless warrior clans, taught men ways of countering the evil spell, that they might not again by forced to their knees in the presence of their enemies. For they now recognized the Dragons as their first obstacle to their eventual jurisdiction over all the Earth. As far as the humans were concerned, a state of total war now existed between Man and Dragon.
The Dragons, neither knowing nor supposing any of this, sent out their first forces to drive the humans back into a far corner of the Earth where they could be dealt with presently. This first flight was composed mainly of Blue Dragons, who are fond of the wide plains and deserts the barbarians currently inhabited. Like all Dragons, the Blue Dragons have a unique breath weapon which they alone can employ. They can exhale an intense bolt of lightning up to three times per day, after which they must recharge their internal store of charge by making high-speed dives through massive cloud banks. The flight of Dragons fell on the humans, but did little damage to the voracious fighters. After the first bolts tore into shielded phalanxes, the barbarians learned to scatter, presenting difficult targets for the sky-bound monsters. Meanwhile, human archers sent their own bolts into the sky, making it dangerous for the Dragons to properly position themselves. After a harsh battle with few losses on either side, the Dragons retreated to relate what they had learned.
The next attack came during the night, when the humans were sleeping in their tents and trying to forget their wounds. But sentries had been posted, and were able to shout out a warning moments before the onslaught fell. This time, all of the classical Dragons were represented in the attack, each distinguished by their colors and weapons. The Red Dragons headed the vanguard, being the fiercest of all the Dragons; their characteristic flaming breath was legendary among all the races of the land. They were backed by the Gold Dragons, normally the staunch adversaries of the Reds but temporarily united against this common enemy. Following behind the Golds came the combined flights of the metallic Good Dragons and the hordes of colored Evil Dragons. Brass, Bronze, Copper, and Silver Dragons tipped and spun through the clouds as their Black, Blue, Green, and White counterparts stroked strongly below. Together, the Evil and Good regiments dove against the upstart humans.
Against the united Dragon lords, the human warriors did not stand a chance. Clouds of arrows were fired into the brewing skies, only to be shriveled by the flaming breath of the Red commanders. Long lances were staked into the ground to defend against the raking claws, but the acid saliva of the Black Dragons poured down on the screaming warriors. The Good Dragons participated in the battle at first, selectively diving at munitions posts and casting their powerful spells to disintegrate the toughest of the human bands. As the battle wore on, though, they tired of the piecemeal pursuit and slaughter that the Evil Dragons delighted in, and resorted to hovering at the edges of the combat to assure that no humans escaped the carnage. Within hours, the main part of the human encampment was either dead or held captive in stockades.
The Good Dragons appealed to the Dragon Council to take charge of the captive humans, for they were familiar with the cruelty of their Evil cousins. They set up the refugees in hidden valleys, where they allowed them to rebuild small parts of their former civilization and culture. For the Good Dragons took the responsibility of world leadership seriously, and while they could not abide by a revolution led by mortal barbarians, nor could they in conscience watch intelligent beings undergo torture of the sort the Evil Dragons were sure to inflict. So they made themselves the guardians of the fledgling humans, who slowly regained what they had lost in prosperity if not in land. More than that, the humans learned wisdom, for their terrible defeat at the claws of the Dragon lords had tempered their burning desire for conquest. While they could not forget their humiliation and destruction by their Dragon overlords, they also learned to appreciate the wisdom and kindness of the Golds and Silvers who frequently came to visit and teach. Much lore and skill was gained from these teaching visits, and the humans grew to respect their reptilian masters. But always they remembered that part of the Dragons' visits' purpose was to keep a watchful eye on their fledgling pupils. So the humans learned all that they could, keeping in mind the day when they should be able to throw off the yoke of their beneficent governors. Thus, the time was not long before human clerics and even magic-users appeared and began to practice their arts freely.
So the first age of Men and Dragons passed, with a feeling of watchful complacency on the part of the Dragons and a wary subservience on that of the humans. Men were now seen building their cities across the continent, always spreading outward to avoid the almost-total disaster that resulted from their previous encampment. The Evil Dragons protested, repeating the reasons that had convinced the Good Dragons to join in their first attack. They feared the returning power of the humans, and demanded that they again be brought down, hinting that this time total racial destruction would be a profitable course. The Golds and Silvers would not hear of it though, having through their close contact with the humans witnessed their great potential and seen the good of which they were capable. And so the Dragons returned to their equilibrium state of inner strife, with the more numerous Evil Dragons held back from conquest more by their selfish independence than by the efforts of the peace-loving Good Dragons. The humans took note of this conflict within their masters' ranks, and smiled.
As Man spread across the world, he brought his customs and religions with him. The Older Races laughed at their presumption, but the humans continued to invent and worship deities of their own devise. Worship of Paladine and Takhisis, the ancient gods of Dragonkind, began to ebb for the first time in history. Man's new gods were uniformly created in his own image, which tended to endear them to the other races with whom they had contact. The Gnomes, Hobbits, even Elves all bore a distinctly closer resemblance to humans than to Dragons, and so Man's gods were seen to be considerably more pleasing to the eye. As Man's gods grew in acceptance, so did human clerics rise in power. Man's drive for knowledge, his gift from the Good Dragons, led him beyond his older quest for dominance to bring new thoughts and technologies to the world. These, too, brought the Eldest closer to Man. Where Man appeared, life grew easier. Life alongside Man became superior to life under Dragons, in the eyes of many peoples.
This the Evil Dragons saw and hated, but they were held back by the forbearance of the Good Dragons who saw what was happening and were pleased. They watched the humans and thought that they had been successful in driving the evil from them with the burning light of wisdom. Their own clerics of Paladine had long taught that they would one day be allowed to pass from the Earth to live the days of Eternity with their Lord in the Elysian Fields. They now thought that Man, youngest of the children of the gods, would succeed them as the protectors of the world and guardians of knowledge. Thus they sat back and withheld the Evil Dragon's ferocity, allowing humans to spread their modernizing influence across the Earth.
The men brought much more than a new culture to the land. They also began to change their physical environs. They returned to the hills which they had previously tried to force from the Dwarves, this time to mine in peace with the Earth-wise people. The plains they cultivated with grain, to the merriment and delight of the Gnomes. Even the Halflings and Kender of the foothills were gratified by the guidance and instruction of the humans. So the human nation continued to expand, with the occasional surge in expansion as a new race pledged allegiance to their cause. Races such as the orcs and lycanthropes which did not join were simply overrun by man in his explosive growth. Many ancient nations were forced from their homes by the unstoppable humans; the fringes of the empire began to enclose certain Dragon wyres, and only a lingering caution prevented Man from absorbing those. The new human empire seemed now ready to conquer the world.
And to the mild surprise of many, it did. The demi-human races, as the Elders eventually came to be called, had so changed through their intermingling with humans that they lost all but the most mundane of their distinguishing qualities. The Dwarves and Gnomes each grew a bit taller with each succeeding generation, and the Elves' sharp features grew a bit more blunt. The transformation was not so much in the gene pool as in the general attitude they adopted. The change from magic to science was an easy one, as to the layman they operated similarly. What took somewhat longer was the change in thinking from that of a subservient race to that of an independent race of self-masters. But the Good Dragons' censorship of the Evil Dragons' wrath gave mankind all the time he needed to effect the conversion of the nations. By the end of the Second Age of Man and Dragon, the position of men and Dragons seemed reversed from what it had been only generations before.
The Dragons were slowly being phased from the world. Even the Evil Dragons could recognize the pattern, and although occasional individuals released their rage in brief attacks on villagers, most came to accept their lot. They could not place all the blame on the humans; the Earth itself was no longer their home. The races of the world seemed ready to accept responsibility for themselves, and indeed the Dragons had never felt any special need for the mortals other than companionship and amusement. So the Dragons allowed themselves to be shunted from their previous throne of preeminence to becoming another fading memory of past ages. The Good Dragons collected on their promise of basking in the sun of the Elysian Fields, while the Evil Dragons hastened to join their mistress in the Abyss. The Age of Man was now underway. But that is another story.