MY FIRST TRIP to Dávanor took place during my second year with the Legion. (I was serving as attaché to Lord Dorómy's third purser's secretary; in other words, I was a well-armed butler for a minor accountant's servant.) We saw no action -- the mission was almost wholly diplomatic -- but I did have the opportunity to meet several dragon riders and their mounts. From these proud and courageous people, I learned a great deal.
By far one of the most interesting aspects of Dávanor's breeding tradition is the speed with which their war beasts enter active service. To outsiders, the dragons of Dávanor begin training at what appears a very young age. After hearing a number of different explanations for this phenomenon from my fellows (most of which consisted of superstitious tripe), I sought and received permission to consult with several dragon masters and to visit the library in the High Keep of House Dradón. (Incidentally, it was at this time that I first saw -- but did not then have the honor of speaking to -- the greatest Davanórian dragon master of our age, Master Roger Khondus.) In the library, I found a number of books and treatises on the subject; I spent my every spare moment devouring them.
As with any complex tradition -- especially a tradition that spans millennia -- there are countless differing opinions, theories, and legends that surround this topic. What follows is a (very) brief synopsis of what I gathered from my research. I make no claims for its accuracy; but it does seems to reflect the most well-respected opinions and consensuses. I shall, of course, update from time to time -- a scholar's prerogative.
To start, it seems quite clear that early combat viability was bred into Dávanor's dragons by the oldest Davanórian warlords. That is to say: the tradition is ancient. While much of Dávanor's pre-Founding history is lost to us, we do know that the early Davanórians (much like their contemporary counterparts) were obsessed with martial prowess, military theory, and combat efficiencies. These old war masters knew that a dragon which took a year (or more) to become combat viable represented a tactical weakness. Over thousands of years, the Davanórian dragon masters addressed this concern as breeding programs have always done: The earliest viable foals were selected, pushed hard, and trained early. Those that were considered weak or otherwise deficient were trained for other purposes -- or simply discarded. Even so, top efficiencies for combat readiness still hovered around five to six months, and that was only for the best Davanórian bloodlines -- royal bloodlines belonging to the elite families.
[You must understand, of course, that the entire venture is dependent upon the extraordinarily long gestation period of a Davanórian dragon foal. Unlike your typical horse (11-12 standard months), or cow (around 9 standard months), or dog (around 2 standard months), a dragon brood mare will gestate for anywhere between 27-30 standard months. That is to say: when it is born, a dragon foal is the developmental equivalent of an 18 month-old horse, at least. Of course, there is an entire sub-field of research that deals with this particular phenomenon; if I have time, I will come back to it.]
In any case, the tradition was further refined -- and perfected -- by the Dallanar after the Founding. Immediately following the selection of Dávanor by the Great Sister Aaryn as one of her royal seats, the full resources of the Realm's lore masters and scholars were brought to bear on this critical challenge. (Again, I have much to say regarding the annexation of Dávanor and the use of its elite forces during the early history of the Realm, but I have treated that subject in detail elsewhere and have no wish to revisit it now.) Upon arriving on Dávanor, the Dallanar immediately recognized the tactical value of the world's dragons and focused a wide range of scholarship and science on the problem. Several decades later, Katherine II (FY 173-191; the Scholar Queen) made major advances via diet and chemical stimulation. Her work resulted in the formula for an elixir that fundamentally revolutionized the issue and pushed viable combat age below one month; the elixir also seems to have been used to lower gestation time. (The formula for this elixir is a closely guarded secret; indeed my innocent queries to both dragon masters and librarians yielded nothing but the sincere requests to avoid the topic all together. I later learned that each High House of Dávanor cultivates their own -- carefully guarded -- recipe and that to divulge even a single ingredient of the same is considered high treason and punishable by death.) In any case, during the time of Katherine II, there are records of dragon foals hunting, flying, and taking riders as early as thirty days. In some cases, after a particularly long gestation, mounted flight was recorded in instances of under two weeks.
During the Restoration, under the Avenging Monarchs (especially Michael I, The Peacemaker), the modern standards for combat viability were established: After an average 28-29 month gestation, dragon foals can fly and take a squire within ten days.
[Of course, none of this pertains to combat training -- here I speak only about the physical ability to enter combat; training, of course, still takes time -- and a great deal of it. I will touch on this later. I am summoned to supper and dare not be late.]
Art: "Baby Dragon" -- a newly hatched messenger -- by the incredible Dan LuVisi. © 2014 Dan LuVu.