BRONZE-HORNED ROOT-CRAWLER (“Gold Digger;” also “Soil Hunter,” or “Mole Wyrm”)
The bronze-horned root-crawler (or “Gold Digger”) is a subterranean dragon that inhabits caves, culverts, and other underground environments. They are ubiquitous in all tropical and sub-tropical regions of Dávanor but nearly impossible to find in cooler climates; notable exceptions can be found in deep cave networks, like the caves of Guyayon, or near thermal venting, like hot springs or volcanos. The famous springs of northern Weller, for example, support several very large broods of root-crawlers, including one of the largest ever recorded.
While not particularly intelligent, strong, or dexterous, Diggers do make excellent messenger dragons, when trained from birth. They are best employed for short, night missions as their excellent eyesight and echolocation abilities make them superior nocturnal navigators; endurance flights are impossible because of their small wings. A Digger’s echolocation ability is advanced and is housed within its overly large skull. The head will always be marked by two large protuberances on either side; the top part of a Digger’s skull is hollow and serves as a kind of amplifier for sonic information gathered by these organs. Diggers are very social and have complex hunting, mating, fighting, and warning calls; most of these sounds cannot be heard by the unassisted human ear. Indeed, of all Dávanor’s small breeds, the diverse vocalizations of the bronze-horned root-crawler comes closest to resembling something like language. Diggers should not be lodged with other messenger breeds, not because of any interspecies antagonism, but because they prefer to sleep in the earth; special underground lodging arrangements should be made for all Diggers kept for messenger service.
In their native environments, Diggers nest in enormous broods. These broods will consist of nine to ten males, twenty to thirty females, and their associated young. Foaling always takes place in the middle spring and can produce as many as five progeny per female. Diggers’ nests will always consist of an elaborate network of underground tunnels and chambers. This system is called a warren. Warrens can be quite large; if there is earth and food, a family of Diggers will expand. The largest documented warren, located near the hot springs of Weller, was comprised of over one hundred males, three hundred females, and associated young. Diggers have overly large, hooked thumbs that they use in combination with their developed nasal horns for excavation. A favorite community habit is to link natural cave systems to warrens to take advantage of space, water, and food.
Diggers are ravenous omnivores and subsist on a combination of earth insects, worms, fungus, roots, grubs, gophers, moles, and – especially -- bats. Fierce battles for cave ecosystems have been known to take place between Digger broods and bat colonies, especially the giant Davanórian grey bat which is known to be extremely intelligent and can sometime outweigh the largest Digger males by over fifty percent.
Typical colors: light to dark bronze, light to dark gold, light to dark copper, deep yellow; undercarriage is often a different color than the spine and flanks, especially in males.
Typical wingspan: (f) 5-6 palms [ca. 35-45 cm]; (m) 6-7 palms [ca. 45-55 cm]
Typical length: (f) 8-9 palms [ca. 60-70 cm]; (m) 9-11 palms [ca. 65-85 cm]
Typical lifespan: 100-120 years
This text was adapted from my field notes with some references made to Katherine II's "The Smaller Dragons of Davanor. A Preliminary Taxonomy" (F.Y. 190). Illustration is by High Lady Milica Celikovic.