“Drakes walk, Wyverns fly, Dragons do whatever the fuck they want.”
“Always run from a Drake. Never run from a Wyvern.”
Also Known as: Greater Wyvern
Habitat: Mountains for nesting, Hills, Savannah, Forest, Coasts, and Ocean for hunting
Hazard Level: High
A rapidly growing shadow, a terrifying screech, and a blinding cloud of acidic mist; these are the most commonly described features of a Wyvern attack. This species of large winged reptiles nest in mountainous aeries throughout Aeldos, only descending into the lowlands to prey on herds of Daedon, Auroch, and the people and horses of those caravans unfortunate enough to pass through their territory. Loathed and feared by both farmers and travelers, the Wyvern is not the deadliest aerial predator in Aeldos, but it is perhaps the most recognizable, finding its way into folktales across the continent.
Growing up to 4 meters in height, with 10 meter wingspans and weighing up 250-300 kg, Wyverns have winged forelimbs and digitigrade legs with two pronounced rending claws on each foot. On land the species moves bipedally, using their wings for balance or as weapons to buffet prey. The species excels in the air where, despite their size, they are skilled fliers, able to manoeuvre in tight valleys and descend into canopied forests without injury. To this end, Wyverns have extended vertebrate and feathering on their upper body, spine, and head which fan out in order to create a hood and vanes to offer additional aerodynamic control (as well as aid in mating and dominance displays).
Wyverns have keen eyesight and hunt primarily via heat and movement. They are able to secrete an acidic venom from their mouth which they “spit” in a diffuse cloud to blind and disorient prey before savaging them with their clawed hind-legs. Wyverns are covered in a combination of hardy scales and scale-feathers that grow extremely harden with age, covering adult wyverns with a sturdy natural armour. Their long and powerful tail, covered in these protrusions, is supple enough to be snapped with considerable force, stunning prey, knocking them prone, or leaving deep lacerations.
Wyvern scale-feathers vary from white to dark grey on the belly, providing camouflage that makes it difficult to see them from below. Similarly they possess grey, green or black backs which allow them to hide when on land.
Male wyverns hunt and nest in groups of 4-6 known as Shadows. Each Shadow consists of a dominant male and his offspring and is extremely hierarchical, with any challenge to the elder males dominance met with bloody force. Female wyverns are more solitary animals and only join a shadow to breed. Out of breeding season females are extremely territorial and will kill any Wyvern that ventures into their marked territory, including their own offspring. Despite this aggression, females tend to be more cautious than males and are less apt to attack larger or unfamiliar prey.
Wyverns prey on everything from ungulates such as Elk, Daedon, and Auroch, to other predators such as Wolves, Bears, and the occasional Grommen. The most common method of hunting is to descend on a herd or group, spit their venom, then emit a screech or ululating call that deafens, disorients, and drives prey away from safety. They will repeat this until enough prey has been taken to feed, then, depending on the size of the meal and the sex of the hunter, either harvest or feed.
Solitary female wyverns carry whole and often still living prey to their nest or, if a kill is too big, they will dismember a carcass for easier transport. Conversely, shadows of male wyverns will often kill and gorge on prey at the site of a kill and then remain in the area to digest their meal. During this period less dominant wyverns act as guards for the engorged elders who are unable to fly and fall into temporary torpors. If disturbed during this period wyverns are able to eject their half-digested meals in order to retreat.
Wyverns demonstrate some intelligence and assorted records suggest an ability to problem solve and demonstrate cooperative hunting behaviour, including accounts of using makeshift weapons such as heavy rocks or carcasses dropped on prey. Conversely the species seems easily fooled by traps and decoys and males show only limited ability to assess threats. It is not unheard of for a shadow to attack more dangerous predators or armed battalions and be killed as a result.
While wyverns share some traits with Drakes, Tyrns, and Urvogel, their exact evolutionary origin and taxonomy is unclear and attempts to devise one by Lorekeepers have been confounded by the difficulty of preserving their remains for study. Deceased wyverns decompose rapidly as a result of a diffusion of their venom into their bloodstream on death; flesh and feather liquefy, their honeycombed skeleton softens, and blood samples putrefy. Most preserved specimens are of the smaller Littoral sub-species (see below). Granden lorekeepers have suggested they are related to the Lesser Dragons of antiquity, but there is little evidence to support such a grand claim.
For travelers, the threat of a Wyvern attack depends largely on the area traversed and type of wyvern encountered. Females rarely attack caravans directly, though they will make their displeasure at intrusions into their territory known by harassing interlopers with night time screeching, and objects and defecation dropped from on high. Shadows of males are considerably more dangerous and account for most reported attacks. If detected early enough attacks can be avoided by taking shelter under sufficiently robust cover or by sacrificing spare beasts of burden by driving them off the caravan, offering the shadow an alternate target. Once a attack has commenced however the species tends to fight with vicious cunning and a very limited sense of self-preservation.
Wyvern meat is highly toxic and only palatable to a few species but the species is not without valuable render:
- Scale-feathers are considered beautiful and valuable both as items in their own right and as crafting materials.
- If extracted promptly after death the rending claws on their feet can be preserved and are extremely light and durable and sometimes find use as ceremonial blades.
- Wyvern eggs are extremely valuable, both to those who wish to attempt taming of one and those who see them as a notable delicacy.
Related species of Wyvern are all smaller than the Greater Wyvern, typically growing no larger than 2 meters in height with 4-5 meter wingspans.
Also known as forest Wyvern this sub-species prefers to nest in forests and prey on smaller animals such as boars and deer. Unlike their larger cousins Arboreal Wyvern venom is injected rather than spit and is considerably more lethal. Arboreal Wyvern nests are distinct and grisly, typically built of, and surrounded by, the bones of their prey.
A coastal sub-species, these Wyverns are found almost exclusively on the north-western coast of Aeldos and have longer tails and streamlined scales and feathers which allow them to dive for various oceanic prey. Littoral Wyverns are not venomous and are far less territorial.
A rare species that survives in the Badlands, the Wasteland Wyvern is entirely black in coloration and seems to possess an unnatural resilience to the deadly environmental conditions of the area. They also demonstrate greater intelligence than other Wyverns and rumours of Badlands tribals able to tame them abound. Wasteland Wyvern are the smallest sub-species, rarely growing more than a meter in height but they are among the most deadly due to the potency of their venom and ability to spit it with pinpoint accuracy.
Rumours and Lore
- A recent rumour in the Granden nobility is that the eccentric Lord Craek has had limited success in training certain orphaned specimens and intends to create his own “Hunting Wyverns”.
- The Luxi Ngama Osowote claims the species can be hypnotized using patterns of light and smells and that he has succeeded in doing so in order to “milk” a portion of their venom which can be used as both a weapon and distilled into a potent alcohol.
- Several Granden Enganarome are known to utilize Wyverns in their illusions, despite the relative paucity of the species in their area.
- Stories of the dark age Shifter hero Argent the Blind often portray one of his forms as that of a White Wyvern. The particulars of how he was able to learn such a dangerous form are rarely spoken to.
- The term “Wyvern-rider” or its truncation “Wyrder” is analogous to “Liar” and is believed to have originated with tired wayhouse staff who grown weary of braggadocios adventurers claiming to have ridden one. There are no confirmed accounts of this actually happening.