“Farting Notdragons” (aka just “Notdragons”) are a species of large hexapod carnivorous reptilian sapients. As their name suggests, they are not dragons**.
Notdragons have six legs; the pair closest to the head form dexterous arms, while the remaining pairs are for walking / climbing etc. The first pairs of arms are closer together than the rear – the animal does not have much in the way of “torso”. The back is slightly sloping, with the front legs slightly longer than the rear. They routinely carry their children on their backs, until they are old enough to start growing their keratinised head-crests, but little else; typically, panniers are used for long distances, or they carry things short distances in their arms. They have long tails, although these narrow quickly to form a very long, whiplike appendage used for signalling. (Like semaphore, as they cannot shout and their voices travel poorly over long distances.) The tailtip is always more brightly coloured than the rest of the body, even in the older individuals who have lost the vibrant colours of youth.
The respiratory and digestive systems are separate; notdragons do not have nostrils or any other respiratory opening in their heads. They have long, slender jaws lined with slicing teeth – they cannot easily chew. Although their ancestors were rumoured to swallow prey whole, the throat of a notdragon is too slender for this, and they have to swallow in small bites like a typical mammal. The digestive system is otherwise fairly typical – it runs from head to rear, with the excretory pore located on the midline, just behind the hind legs, on the tail.
Two of the salivary glands have evolved to produce a venom, modified from a digestive enzyme and used to kill prey (or enemies). Haemolytic and neurotoxic, it is produced continually, and delivered via a bite, being channelled down specially grooved teeth at the front of the jaw; it is also a protein and readily destroyed in the gut, so notdragons can safely eat their kills.
Descended from large carnivores, notdragon diets are primarily meat (95% or more). Although it is uncommon for modern individuals to kill their own food, a retained cultural memory means that eating vegetables is seen as a bad thing, a sign of an individual too weak, unhealthy or just plain lazy to go out and hunt its own food.
Obviously, some planets have inhabitants where the line between animal and vegetable is blurred, with sessile animals in place of plants. Notdragons consider “animals” – or “meat”, in their vernacular – to be any creature with a protein-based muscular system… but they’re not particularly discriminatory. They will try to eat anything that moves at least once.
The notdragon sense of smell is poor, and relies on the four prehensile antennae/whiskers on the face – two at the tip of the snout, and two at the bridge of the nose. These are made of damp, scale-free skin, covered in chemoreceptors. They have mobile fins on the head which act as rudimentary pinnae. Vision is by far the most powerful notdragon sense,
The lungs, of which a notdragon has four, are located in the area of the body between the legs. They inflate and deflate with an opposing action – two lungs inflate while the other two deflate, then the second two inflate and help deflate the first two, and so on. The airflow is unidirectional – air goes in at the stoma, of which there are four (one for each lung) close to the midline just in front of the forelegs, and out at downward-pointing vents towards the rear.
Because of this respiratory setup, notdragons do not have vocal cords (or lips, for that matter). Their language is somewhat rudimentary, made up of clicks and pops generated by the tongue against the soft palate, and polytonal squeaks, hisses and “farts” made by tightening the openings on their respiratory tract. They do have a small degree of basic telepathy, sending not words but impressions or feelings.
Because it uses several respiratory pores and some tongue-clicks, the notdragon word for their kind is unpronounceable by any non-notdragons. They are a very new species to Coalition territory (they are more of an ambiguous threat on the borders, recently arrived and not electing to mingle with the “meat”), so a colloquial name has yet to be given. (Ed- I am sorely tempted to officially call them “farting notdragons”, especially if my laima characters have anything to do with it.)
The cloacal genital opening is central, located between and just behind the forearms where it can be protected. In a system similar to that found on Telluvia, notdragons are “gendered hermaphrodites” – XX and XY (for want of a better description) at a genetic level, and one of each gender is needed to produce offspring, but at a physical level they are identical. The cloaca is everted and pressed against the partner’s, and spermatophores are passed between individuals. Sex does not play a large part in notdragon lives.
Most pregnancies involve a single offspring, but I haven’t considered this bit in a huge amount of depth yet. I do know they’re viviparous.
Notdragons are quite a colourful species; although the skin itself is generally an uninteresting brown or grey, they are 90% covered in glossy, iridescent chitinous scales in various sizes. Scales may be any colour from a deep sapphire or emerald to intense reds and golds – although only 1 in every 200 or so has more than one colour, and a tiny fraction are either leucistic or melanistic.
The chitin formed a natural armour in the hostile jungles in which they evolved. (Although not armour against predators, but plants – a large proportion of plants were covered in venomous spines, injuries from which would quickly lead to infections in their hot, humid jungle homeworld.)
Most individual scales are small and oval, just over an inch long in the long axis and two-thirds as wide; a small percentage are larger (e.g. around the feet or other areas which may take more damage) or smaller. A smooth keratinised crest grows from the back of the head and neck; taking the same colour as the scales, it has a little more flexibility, but is not shed, and if damaged does not heal.
Scales are deciduous, shed on a regular basis - about every other year, with the new scale growing up underneath and pushing the old off. Colouring is vibrant and jewel-like, and hormone-linked. Children tend to take the colour of their sire, although mutants are very common; they start quite pale, with “grungy” desaturated colours that intensify as they age, reaching their brightest and most iridescent at sexual maturity. Older notdragons lose first their iridescence and then their colour as they age, most turning a uniform brownish-black when they are no longer fertile. Shed scales are collected, and the most undamaged used in jewellery or home décor.
Notdragons are of fairly average intelligence. They had a limited space program, and had colonised other suitable planets in their solar system, but only after managing to trap a “wisp” have they begun to travel further afield. They have used their captive’s incredible power to fuel their march across the galaxy into regions bordering on Coalition and Kiravai Imperial territory.
(This obviously isn’t complete yet. Just posting what I have!)
* Ordinarily? I wouldn’t be particularly worried, since I don’t really subscribe to the notion that dragons are “a pure and holy force for good that were totes slandered by those evil dragon-slaying knights of merrie oulde Englande” hence how COULD they possibly be the villains? Good dragons, evil dragons, whatever.
...except, I don’t want dragons in the story.
** OK, I admit it. This is more than a little tongue-in-cheek at the moment. I don’t have a name for their species yet (see: vocalisations) and I really don’t want this large, reptilian, six-limbed creature to turn into yet another GOK since I already have THE Gok (which literally means “God only knows”). I suppose they could be the Gokate? (“God only knows about this, either”.)
I HAD set my Dreamwidth up to automatically crosspost to LJ, but it didn't seem to want to this time. I'm not sure if it's a change that's been made since the latest LJ release, or DW just couldn't connect? Will have to investigate.
Kind of want my scrolling "subject entry" box back on LJ, too. *sad* This tiny floating menu that I never use is really annoying, and everything takes sooo loong to load.