Dragons are creatures found almost everywhere on Alksheist. They are giant, warm-blooded reptiles that are characterized according to their skull structure and intelligence. All dragons with mouths can vocalize and learn language like humanoids and all dragons have the ability to use magic. Each dragon has an affinity for at least one element and their magic is generally centered on that single element.
Dragons come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some can fit in the palm of your hand and others can grow to be the size of a mountain in their lifetime. These beasts can live for many hundreds or thousands of years and are capable of forming a bond with any humanoid species. This bond is breakable only by death on either party, but when one half of the bond dies, it usually takes the other half with it. If dragon or rider survive the death of their comrade, it is possible to bond with another dragon or rider and it is possible that, if dragon or rider has a strong affinity for the spirit world, the separated pair aren't so separated by death.
Dragons lay between one and ten eggs depending on species. Generally, the female has to wait around a year for the eggs to develop enough for laying. Dragon eggs that hatch naturally can hatch anywhere from a day to months after laying, but those that are surrendered to Evercrest will have spells cast on them to only hatch when the right humanoid comes along. Dragon embryos in eggs are capable of learning language and being spoken to through telepathic links, so when they hatch they generally have the ability to speak fluent Alluumnian (if they're an egg at Evercrest) or whatever language their parents speak.
Dragons have the ability to also be called by a mage. If the mage is their andzkin, the one they are able to bond with, they are forced to come to where ever the mage call is and make themselves known. Even though it is a great honor to become a rider's dragon, many wild dragons are called mid-way through their life and are unwilling to leave their former life behind to go into the service of a rider. Because of this, binding runes have become a staple in controlling called dragons.
Upon the humanoid's touch, the dragon and humanoid's memories will be shared with each other and the bond will be sealed. This applies to both hatchlings and called dragons. Once this contact has been made, the mage's call will end and the dragon is able to fly away should it so wish. Since hatchlings have little to no memories, they often fall asleep from exhaustion at the sheer force of memories entering their skull.
When first contact is made, the dragon's rune will appear. It is possible for the bond to be so strong that the rider may also have a rune inscribed on their skin. Hatchlings' riders will always end up receiving a rune. More about runes can be found here.
Just because a dragon is bound to a rider does not mean that they will get along or necessarily enjoy each other's company. Having a dragon is like having a friend or an enemy that knows all of your memories. It is beneficial for the rider and dragon to eventually develop mutual respect since they will be working together until the day one dies.
Dragons with mages are capable of more magical feats than those without mage riders. Each dragon has at least elemental magic. Most dragons can use the ancient dragon language of Mivphves to cast spoken magic. Some dragons have other types of magic.
All dragons, regardless of how strange-looking or different from stereotypical dragons they are, lay eggs. It depends on the species for how many eggs a mother will lay in a clutch. When an Evercrest dragon lays eggs, half of the clutch will be given to the school. If the dragon only has one egg, she will decide what to do with the egg. Wild dragons occasionally surrender eggs to Evercrest as well, but it is an unlikely occurrence.
Eggs given to Evercrest are sent to the warden mages to have a special spell cast over them. Wild dragon eggs hatch when the hatchling feels like it is ready to hatch and the environment is right. Evercrest dragonlings will remain in their eggs until the right person comes around to touch the egg. Some eggs have been there for centuries and others are more recent. The dragonlings will never die under the spell, but they do have a tendency to get grumpy when centuries go by without finding their andzkin. The dragonlings are all awake one week every twelve years -- the week of the entrance exams. They generally sleep for the rest of the time or talk with their warden caretakers.
Wardens talk with the embryo dragons daily. Non-magic wardens cannot have a telepathic conversation with the dragonlings, but they can talk out loud and the awake dragonlings will hear them. Mages are known to have conversations with the dragonlings when they are awake. During the week of the entrance exams, several warden mages are selected by the warden head to sit with the eggs and speak with the dragonlings. Both the wardens and dragonlings have to stay awake for the whole week, which is taxing on both parties.
The dragonlings who report that they believe their andzkin is in the crowd will be lined up first in the nursery. Other eggs will also be set up just in case. All non-magic students go through the nursery and run their hands along all the eggs. Mages who cannot call a dragon get a second chance and also run their hands along all the eggs.
When a dragonling feels the hand of its rider pass over its shell, the dragon will just know they're the right person. Some hatchlings say that there is a light that makes the inside of their shell shine, but others state that they "just knew." Regardless, the dragon will hatch right then. When a dragon in the Evercrest nursery hatches, the egg lights up as a side-effect of the spell. A dragon takes a few minutes to hatch and sometimes it needs help getting out of the shell. A warden is always on stand-by to help any hatchlings that need it and to clean up the hatchlings after they hatch.
After the rider and dragon make physical contact, a mark is made on the hatchling and the rider. This is almost always in the form of a rune since hatchlings do release strange dragon magic upon hatching. The rune that appears is almost always the hatchling's "main rune," which means it's located on the dragon's forehead. The rider will have the rune on their hand although it appearing elsewhere is also common. This rune will have affects on both rider and dragon even if it's a "dragon-only" rune. How it affects them both is different for every case.
Hatchlings in neutral classes (erasers, wardens, couriers) will be put on growth magic to make them grow to adult size in around three days. The dragon's growth is closely measured by a warden to ensure the hatchling isn't reacting negatively to the growth. Hatchlings that are grown this way generally will be awkward for months afterward as they attempt to gain control over their bodies. Occasionally, the dragons will need a microchip and a small computer put into their brain to help them control themselves. This is very unlikely, though, and is a procedure only done in extreme circumstances.
Hatchlings in melee classes (vanguards, intermediaries, crusaders) will grow naturally. Their dragons can take up to four months to grow to a size safe to ride. Riding a dragon before it is big enough can result with dire consequences and will be reported to the wardens, who will decide the rider's fate. When hatchlings reach a reasonable age to be ridden, they must first be cleared by the wardens as the correct size and fit to fly before the rider is allowed to fly with their own dragon. Hatchlings who are allowed to grow naturally with their rider have more control over their movements and are more in-sync with their rider and their bodies. Most of the time, these dragons are the superior fliers of Evercrest when paired with a rider.
Called dragons are definitely more fickle than hatchlings. Usually, called dragons have been wild all their lives. There are cases of some now-wild hatchling dragons from a neutral class being called back into service, but most of these called dragons have never been in contact with humanoids before.
Every twelve years, all the wild dragons representing the nine Evercrest classes are called by all the magic class heads on the day of the entrance exams. One class head will have to sit out the exams to keep the spell going. In place of the class head, his or her dragon will sit in on the proceedings and share the "video feedback" of the applicants' performances. Keeping all of the dragons around Evercrest promises no dragons having to fly all the way across Alluum to their rider's call.
Called dragons can be of any age, so long as they can fly. Most dragons that are called to a rider are adults and have no hatchlings or eggs to care for. Dragons who have hatchlings to care for and are drawn to a mage's call will be able to care for their young at Evercrest.
The dragon calling spell is the same for all classes. The mage's call will last until either 1) no dragon is drawn to the call (within five minutes of the spell being cast) or 2) their dragon is called to them.
After the mage's dragon appears, they are to touch the dragon. When a mage and their dragon make contact, it is much like a hatchling scenario where a rune can appear on both mage and dragon from the contact. There is about a fifty-fifty chance of a dragon dispelling magic upon contact with its rider. When that happens, it is always the dragon's main rune. The rider will get the same rune somewhere on their body.
When dragon and rider have secured the bond, the dragon is welcome to fly off. Most dragons stay with their riders, but it depends on the dragon's past and personality on whether or not they fly away. Some may have family to go speak to and others may go into denial.
Some called dragons will need binding runes to keep them from flying away and never returning. There are spells to call the dragon back if it gets away. Called dragons are allotted a week after entrance exams to say goodbye to their family and friends. The dragon's mate is allowed to stay at Evercrest if they have one. If the dragon doesn't return within a week, it will be called and bound to Evercrest until their rider decides that the rune is no longer necessary. If the dragon keeps trying to get away, the binding rune will be increased in harshness until the dragon is forced to be at its rider's side at all times. Generally, it is not this serious.
Called dragons' mates are allowed to stay at Evercrest despite their not being rider dragons. Also, if the dragon has hatchlings or young dragonlings not yet ready to leave their side, that family may come along as well.