- Peter Fane
A note on Stone-Skinned Wyverns . . .
STONE-SKINNED WYVERN (“Rat Catcher,” "Catcher," “Town Culler,” “Mousebane,” or “Garden Drake”) Unlike the vast majority of Dávanor’s lesser wyrms, the stone-skinned wyvern lives almost exclusively in urban habitats. These useful little dragons love fortresses, castles, and cities. Some wild broods populate the caves and mines of lower Kellor, but debate remains as to whether these congregationsare native to these areas or if they were introduced by Dallanar engineers to clear the area of pests sometime after the Founding. Stone-skinned wyverns are one of the most common of Dávanor’s small breeds; they are known by many names, depending on locale. Catchers are almost never trained into messenger service, although some notable exceptions exist. When discovered, broods and individuals are typically left alone to keep their territory clean of vermin, a task at which they excel. Indeed, across Dávanor, the discovery of these little dragons in a villa or garden is considered good luck. Although not particularly clever, when trained or raised from birth, a Catcher can be quite effective eliminating rival messenger dragons, especially in urban environments. Catchers should never be lodged with any other smaller breeds; they are fiercely territorial and quite dangerous. Catchers nest in small-sized broods. These will consist of one to two males, three to five females, and associated young. Foaling always takes place in the middle spring, but only if surplus food is available; Catchers do not foal if food is scarce. A brood of consistently small size in a garden or courtyard virtually guarantees a vermin-free home. Nests are always tucked under eaves, built into hidden masonry crannies, or lodged beneath gutters and will almost always consist of mud bound with other detritus. Interestingly, Catchers will often “burrow” into human-made structures. A new nest will usually be just that; however, after several years this nest will slowly transform into a kind of “foyer” for the Catchers’ full quarters inside a structure. Nests should not be disturbed. When a nest contains more than two mature males for longer than a decade, the youngest will usually depart, taking with him one or two females to establish a new brood. Males and females share hunting, building, and foal-rearing responsibilities. When food is plentiful, females will give birth to a single foal in a season. As their common name suggests, Catchers are entirely carnivorous. Large insects, mice, rats – all small mammals – are fair game; they do not eat birds. (It is with good reason that Davanórians do not keep cats or small dogs.) The venom of a stone-skinned wyvern, delivered through its bite, is fast, painless, and lethal. While painful to adult or adolescent humans, a Catcher’s bite can be deadly to children; survivors often suffer developmental disorders. Catchers hunt at night and spend their morning hours dozing solitary at perch, weather permitting. Afternoons are spent at nest with the brood, napping. Typical colors: white, whitish-gray, gray, and dark gray; sometimes mottled. Catchers almost always take on the color of the masonry within which they dwell. Typical wingspan: (f) 5-6 palms [ca. 35-40 cm]; (m) 6-7 palms [ca. 40-50 cm] Typical length: (f) 6-7 palms [ca. 40-50 cm]; (m) 9-10 palms [ca. 65-70 cm] Typical lifespan: 200-300 years Horned? Yes. Crested? Yes. Toothed? Yes. Venomous? Yes. This text was adapted from my field notes with some reference made to Katherine II's "The Smaller Dragons of Davanor. A Preliminary Taxonomy" (F.Y. 190). Illustration is by High Lady Milica Celikovic. https://www.deviantart.com/milicaclk/art/Stone-skinned-wyvern-756865360