The arid climate picks at my skin. The Simic know of no such land as this, the plane of Tarkir. We have always thrived in damp climates, staying near to the crucible of all life. But the winds of this plane tell a different story. The morning zephyrs carry the bodies of giants on their wings; this plane is ruled by mighty dragons. I smirk imagining the magnitude Niv-Mizzet’s ego would shrink if he could see this world.
In my time on Tarkir I have catalogued five distinct broods of dragon. Each is ruled by a mighty Dragonlord, reigning over harsh biomes as dangerous as they are diverse. I originally thought that these survival pressures were what drove this speciation, and then I witnessed a dragon tempest. My expertise is in the flesh, so beasts sprung from the sky itself leaves me short on words. Perhaps I will return to this world in time and delve into the origins of these tempests further. For now, my quest is cataloging the five dragon broods.
Dromoka Brood: Lords of the Sands
I had planeswalked to Tarkir’s vast desert, the Shifting Sands, and thus the first brood I encountered were the stalwart Dromoka dragons. While oases pepper the desert, this landscape is as arguably the harshest on Tarkir. Raging sandstorms can strip a carcass in minutes, but even the fallen dragonkind withstand the weather.
The most characteristic feature of these dragons is their armored scales. They are large, thick, and tougher than any exoskeleton I have encountered. It is no wonder that the humanoids that serve this clan construct armor from these scales. None of my experiments in replicating their toughness have succeeded; the makeup of these dragon scales is layered in so many complexities that they must be millennia old.
I am told that Dromoka herself has always existed just as she looks now. Reading accounts of battles from one thousand years ago almost convinces me. These dragons do not molt often, and Dromoka’s hide is void of scarring. What wondrously enduring creatures! Cracking the molecular structure of their armor would provide a boon for Simic industry; natural riot armor, biological construction materials, and even organic alchemy appliances. The possibilities may be endless.
It would be foolish of me to extoll only the defensive nature of these desert behemoths. The Dromoka brood bear thick and powerful body frames. Their shallow jaws crush granite like breadroll. They may not be Tarkir’s largest dragons, but pound-for-pound they may be the plane’s strongest.
Seemingly contrary to the drab coloration of these dragons is their radiant breath weapon. They emit a beam of blinding light, a column of brilliance that reduces their prey to ash. It’s as if they channel the fury of the desert sun. I was able to procure a vial of this weapon; it illuminates the night like the eye of Rakdos himself. Bemusement washes over me as I struggle to detect the morphological origins of this beam. But I fear my welcome is short lived; I am but an outsider to the people of the sand.
Ojutai Brood: Lords of the Mind
From the sunstoked deserts I ascended into the mountains. The air was much cooler but no more humid. I had to cast a hair-growth spell on myself just to keep my skin from cracking from the frost. The dragons of the Ojutai brood are also equipped for this weather, boasting plumes of marvelous feathers. The functions of these adornments seems endless. While they are useful for keeping these animals warms, I have also noticed that they help coat the dragons in frost-resistant oils.
Ojutai dragons are by far the most outspoken of Tarkir’s tyrants. This plane’s dialect of draconic is laden with gestural emphases, and no brood makes better use of them than the Ojutai. Not only are their wings covered in these plumes, but their arms, legs, and tail are all participants in the brood’s body language. I watched some humans try to speak draconic to each other for practice. It reminded me of watching a homunculus try to make its way down Tin Street.
Additionally, these are the dragons with the most sophisticated combat techniques. I was privileged enough to witness a martial training session lead by one of the skywise, as they call themselves. The bright patterns on their feathers flash and distract foes in order to enable cunning strikes. These dragons are small, but their minds shine with the brilliance of the morning frost. I fear the ramifications of getting caught trying to lobotomize their dead.
Cryomancy is no stranger to me. A rare practice on Ravnica, but I have found it most useful in my experiments. The Ojutai too harness the elegance of water in its solid form. I can only imagine that they have a preference for a colder climate; all my research indicates that the glaciers the Ojutai roost upon did not exist as recent as one thousand years ago. This is the second time this period of Tarkir’s history has appeared in my study of the plane. I ponder why as I regrettably descend the frozen peaks of the Ojutai. They serve a great and wise Dragonlord, as ignorant of the planar ecosystem as he be.
Silumgar Brood: Lords of the Swamp
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Were it not for my Simic upbringing, the dreadful lands of the Dragonlord Silumgar may have been the end of me. Every hollow houses a venomous fiend. Every shadow hides the noxious fumes of detritus. This is a foul land ruled by a foul king.
My first encounter with a Silumgar dragon made manifest the origins of the jungle’s filth. Its twisted teeth parted and a vile ichor oozed onto a palm. The tree wept with death, collapsing from the acid erosion. I decided then and there that my stay in this land would be as brief as possible.
Silumgar dragons are also capable of exhaling a noxious cloud from their throats. A jet cloud of death that wafts over the land like a summer fog. Once again my Simic biomancy spared my life. I configured my lungs to filter the potent toxins from the air and was able to collect a considerable sample. I’ve seen a Golgari assassin use a similar substance once before. I had been brought in on an investigation as a consultant, a favor I would be happy never to owe again. The gorgon suspect was never apprehended, but this new evidence makes me wonder if other planeswalkers call Ravnica their home.
In direct contrast to their Ojutai kin, this dragon brood thrives in the humid lowland delta. Their enormous wings are composed of a thin, but sturdy, membrane that catches the warm updrafts. A quite fortunate adaptation, as Silumgar dragons are marked by their lust for gold. They adorn themselves with chains, brooches, and totems, a practice I have never seen in draconic culture before. The vanity of Silumgar, Dragonlord Silumgar, knows no bounds. When inquiring about some of these trinkets, a most untrustworthy naga woman offered me an audience with the Dragonlord. I thought it better if he was one dragon I did not seek to analyze.
Reptilian life abounds in the swamps. From the deathrolls of crocodiles to the constricting naga to the ruthless dragons, this is a land of scales and teeth. I question if the Silumgar brood would be damp to the touch even without the natural humidity. I have worked with organisms of the most sickening variety and yet these dragons are still the most vile beings I have had the displeasure of encountering. I cannot leave this marshland soon enough.
Kolaghan Brood: Lords of the Lightning
My mired time with the Silumgar brood made the desolation of Tarkir’s plateaus that much more relaxing. This is an empty land, bereft of plants, animals, and settlements. I walked for three days without spotting a dragon, but when I finally encountered one it was upon me like a flash. If anything permanent ever adorned this landscape, the Kolaghan surely took it down.
I had heard enough in my travels thusfar about the speed of this brood. I had imagined what morphology would lend to such tales, though the simple addition of a pair of wings had never crossed my mind. Like the Ojutai, these dragons bear feathered wings. As I watched the marauding dragon descend upon me it was clear why. Microadjustments in the dragon’s feathers allowed it to stabilize at such velocities and bank at incredible speeds. The webbing that lines the dragons’ faces and necks is as much for stabilization as it is braking. More than once I have witnessed these reckless beasts collide with each other in mid-air, erupting the sky in a frenzy of sparks.
Finally a breath weapon that speaks my language! Bioelectromagnetics is certainly one of the most wondrous adaptations in the Multiverse. The Izzet tinker and toy to create pulses that pale in comparison to the mechanisms nature evolved thousands and thousands of years ago. The Kolaghan brood can not only discharge their own bioelectric potential as a breath weapon, but they are capable of drawing power from the very tempests that spawn them. The humanoids that ride with the dragons even channel this electricity into their assaults. The symbiosis between environment, predator, and scavenger is stunning.
I am also stunned, however, by the lack of information these beings are willing to share. Few of the humanoids I have encountered are willing to talk (Those that drew their blades have found new lives as beetles that crawl in the dust.) Even their mighty dragon overlords are barely capable of speech. My draconic may be rudimentary, but I wonder if the Kolaghan brood displays anything greater than the most basal intellect at all.
Atarka Brood: Lords of the Hunt
The final stretch of my Tarkir investigation brought me to the Qal Sisma Mountains. This region was described to me as a barren wasteland, but it seems to be filled with more life than any other. Great conifers grasp the stars. Herds of elk thunder down into the valley. The calls of hunting parties echo through all hours of the night. An environment defined by struggle, yes, but that makes it ripe with vitality.
The dragons here are nothing short of savage, and they can afford to be. The Dromoka brood may be stout and well-built, but nothing compares to an Atarka dragon in terms of pure biomass. They are easily capable of hunting their draconic kin, and frequently do. Their appetites are insatiable, which I learned is the source of the hunting parties. These dragons eat and eat and eat, and none like their Dragonlord. Atarka feasts on tributes, growing fat on top of the food chain. Those that do not bring ample sustenance become part of the meal.
Competition is fierce between dragons. If they weren’t born from the tempests I would say that they are in a constant state of rutting. Fierce jousting contests erupt, dragons smashing their mighty antlers together. Like the elk below, the larger antlers adorn the more formidable dragons. This headgear glows with a pulsing heat; Atarka dragons are the only ones on Tarkir to breathe fire.
I watched a Dromoka trade caravan become engulfed by dragonfire. It’s no wonder this brood eats so much. The caloric stress of producing such explosively volatile flames must be tremendous. It amazes me that they are even able to maintain such body temperatures at all times. Shamans tell me this land was mostly frozen a thousand years ago. The dragons have clearly had other plans.
The shamans also speak of another dragon. It’s unclear to me if they mean a second Dragonlord of the Atarka, but they mention a place deep in the mountains where the greatest of Tarkir’s dragons dwells. I ventured out to find this chasm, but no dragon dwelled there. They call him the Spirit Dragon, and he must be quite ethereal indeed if he actually exists. The canyon is littered with stone debris, so maybe this figure is merely an old legend that still lives in the shamans’ minds.
A Farewell to Tarkir
Not a day goes by where I am not grateful for my spark. The Multiverse is home to myriad evolutionary lines, and few worlds display such diversity within races as Tarkir. A whole plane dominated by dragons, yet each brood is uniquely distinct. I seem to have gathered more questions than answers. How do the tempests spawn these beasts? What accounts for such specialized morphology (Mana? Environment? An intelligent creator?) So long as these questions plague my mind I will travel beholden to return to this plane.
Where might my travels take me next? I do not know. Perhaps a stay at home is in order. Far fewer lords of the sky trying to eat me, I think.