Dragons of the Sky Riders

Most writers will have a pile of notebooks full of scribbles and ideas. Not everything from our notebooks makes it into our novels, sometimes because it’s nonsense (I found a shopping list in the margin of one of mine!) but also because especially with fantasy a lot of it is background world-building. But I think it’s a shame that as readers you don’t always get to see all the facts and backstories which feed into a world.

So I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the ideas from my notebooks that underpin Aimee’s world but that didn’t always make it into my books.

(Note: if you haven’t yet read The Sky Riders I’d suggest doing so before reading on because there may be spoilers below. Grab your copy here.)

Dragons of the Sky Riders
Let’s start with a few basics. When Aimee makes the climb there are 43 dragons and Riders living in Anteill. She and Nathine take the tally up to 45.

I was super keen to make my dragons vibrant so their scales vary in colour from inky black to pale rose-pink, and every shade in between. They have a ruff of feathers around their neck which is the same colour as their scales, but often a darker shade. Jess is the only dragon with emerald-green scales. I love the moment in The Sky Riders when Aimee sees the dragons for the first time:

“Evening sunlight filtered down from vents in the rock ceiling and the light from the shafts spread out, illuminating the whole cavern. Slowly she [Aimee] lowered her eyes, aware that she wanted to savour this moment. The cave walls were pocketed with niches and ledges, and on these, dragons rested. Their scales shone, making them look like precious jewels scattered from a treasure chest. There were dragons of fiery red and rich purple, brightest blue and shimmering emerald-green, palest gold like morning sunshine and deepest black like shadows in the rock.”

The male dragons are typically larger than the females with broader bodies and longer wingspans. This means that Malgerus (Nathine’s dragon) is larger than Jess even though they are clutchmates, ie. born at the same time and into the same nest. Black (Dyrenna’s dragon) is the largest of them all. He’s also the oldest, at 29 years old.

Dragons are considered juvenile until they are one year old. This is when they reach their adult size and strength. This is also when they’re able to give a full blast of dragon’s breath. Until that age all they can manage is smoke or perhaps a few flames if they’re frightened. Dragon’s breath burns hotter than ordinary fire and can easily incinerate anything it touches, however even a dragon as large as Black or Faradair (Jara’s dragon) can only shoot flames about 20ft. They can usually give 2-3 full blasts of flames and then they’ll need around 30mins to rekindle more fire.

As well as being a deadly weapon the Riders also use dragon’s breath for light and heat, trapping it inside dragon’s breath orbs. In an early draft of The Sky Riders I had a scene where Aimee watched this process, but had to cut it in the end for space. It takes two Riders and one dragon to make an orb. One Rider, wearing the thickest blacksmithing gloves she can find, holds the glass orb. There’s a circular hole left in the orb and the other Rider directs her dragon to breath flames into the orb through that hole. The first Rider then carefully places a glass disc over the hole and the dragon breathes heat this time, no flames. The heat melts the glass and fuses the disc, sealing the dragon’s breath inside the orb. As you can imagine, it’s a process which took the Riders a few goes to perfect!

The dragons will breed twice a year but not at home in the Heart, as Jara explains to Aimee:

“We can’t breed them. I don’t know why, but the dragons won’t mate here. Twice a year they return to their nesting site and that’s where they lay their eggs. Trust me, once you have your dragon, you’ll know all about this because twice a year he, or she, will be so restless and uncooperative you’ll need to just let him go have his fun with the other dragons. But, soon as that need’s out of their system, your bond will pull him back.”

One of the most important and unique features of the dragons in my Sparks books is the way in which they not only form a bond with their Rider but tune into their emotions. Anything a Rider feels—joy, happiness, anxiety, fear—her dragon will feel too, and will react accordingly. It’s one of the first things new Riders need to master—keeping their emotions in check and not blasting everything through their connection to their dragon. It’s a delicate balance between sharing your life with your dragon and controlling them.

Again Jara explains this so well:

“Dragons are very sensitive to emotions, but you can’t understand how delicate their emotional balance is until you’ve felt it in your own mind. I always think of Faradair balanced on a spire and any strong emotions I send will tip him off.

Before a dragon is bonded they are a wild creature but the connection with a Rider changes them. Once bonded with a Rider a dragon will see her, and the other Riders, as their clutch. Prior to bonding they’d have only thought of the hatchlings they were born with as their clutch. Dragons are pack creatures and they love being part of a clutch, the bigger the better. All dragons enjoy flying with their Riders but they love flying with other Riders and dragons more. It’s something they wouldn’t get to experience without the connection, because in the wild fully-grown dragons are lone hunters.”

I hope that gives you a few more details of the dragons’ lives. Does it make you want one more?

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