These reptilian warriors are among the most fearsome in Guildspace, and they increase their already-substantial combat abilities with cybernetic enhancements. Although they are not officially part of the Guild, the Draca of the Holding were sufficiently impressed by Guild military might to sign treaties of peace and friendship. While Guild members are not allowed in the Holding, many Draca choose to serve and adventure in Guildspace. Despite their lack of membership in the Guild, the Draca are one of the Guardian races of the House of Dha.
The Draca resemble massive, bipedal lizards with thick, scaled skin, small, daggerlike teeth and powerful claws on both hands and feet. A Draca's head is heavy and thickly muscled, often supplemented with savage-looking cybernetic armor and devices. Draca have tails and, while this provides them with another formidable weapon, tradition usually demands its removal. Those Draca who retain their tails are often thought of as provincial and primitive. Dracas‘ fearsome appearance is further enhanced by the use of cybernetic implants. Virtually every major body system may be replaced by machinery, and externally-visible items are often highly decorated and modified to appear more savage and formidable. Dracan dedication to cybernetics is more than mere technological enhancement. The Draca see the fusion of flesh and machine as a route to ultimate perfection, and pursue the science with single-minded (and, in the eyes of some, near-religious) fervor.
Most Draca wear only a loincloth and chest sash. This sash is decorated with tribal markings, and is also used to carry a Draca‘s personal awards, honors, rank emblems, and so on. Armor must be personalized in the same fashion as cybernetic implants. External armor is generally disliked in any event, as endoskeletons, armored implants, energy shields, and the Draca‘s naturally tough hide help a warrior resist damage without it. Many Draca use armored suits in spite of this, but they are often difficult to fit.
Dracan Fortitude and ability to withstand damage are legendary. When enhanced by cybernetic implants, Draca are nothing short of amazing. Draca willpower is also remarkable, and when combined with their durability, creates a being of incredible stubbornness, toughness and courage. Many tales tell of Draca warriors withstanding horrific damage and still managing to defeat their enemies. The cyber-lord Ki-ta, for example, is said to have had one arm blown off and the other cut off by an attacking pirate lord. Ignoring the damage, he sang a tribal battle song, charged his enemy, chewed through his armor, and finished him with a swift bite to the neck. He then stood up and issued a challenge to any other opponents. Faced with such suicidal courage, the pirates immediately surrendered. Ki-ta then had cybernetic arms fashioned from the hull of the pirate ship he had captured. The arms are still proudly worn by his descendants.
Dracan natural senses are equivalent to, or less than most other races. Vision is in the normal visible spectrum, but is monochromatic, like a black-and-white video monitor. Hearing is somewhat dull, as Dracan tympanic membranes are small and heavily protected with bone. The tongue is used for both taste and smell, neither of which are exceptional. None of these factors is a handicap to the Draca, however, for limited senses are easily modified through the use of Cybernetics, making their sensory apparatus equal or superior to most other Guildspace races.
An Anthropos can only speak Dracan for about a half-hour before going completely hoarse. Dracan is a harsh, guttural language with few soft sounds. Dracas‘ rigid lips and narrow tongue require that most sounds be made in the throat; most syllables consist of a single explosive consonant followed by a deep or grinding vowel sound. Examples are Da, De, Gu, Ge, Mak, Ta and Tak. Dracan is always spoken loudly and with arrogant authority. Virtually every statement in the Dracan language can be interpreted as a challenge. Lesser beings have been known to flee in terror after a Draca simply introduces himself in his native language. As an example of this practice, a Draca who wishes to know another‘s identity will customarily say something like, "Who are you, who stands before me as an equal, why do you deserve such status, and why should I not kill you for your presumption?" In the past, Draca expected outworlders to respond in a like manner ("I am Shar, warrior of the Guild. I have slain many enemies and have led warriors in battle. Attempt to slay me, and you yourself shall die!"), and they ignored or attacked those who did not reply properly. Since contact with the Guild, however, many Draca have come to tolerate outworld practices, and are satisfied with more traditional introductions. Draca may also communicate simple emotions and commands through hissing. These hissing sounds are apparently holdovers from the reptile-men‘s primitive ancestors, and still hold considerable significance. Hisses are used extensively in religious and ceremonial observances.
Activity Cycle Edit
Draca activity varies according to the length of the day. As reptilian descendants, they generally grow sluggish in cold conditions, and so sleep during hours of darkness. Cybernetic enhancements can adjust the Draca‘s primitive thermodynamic system (they only need six hours of sleep if fitted with a thermoplas implant). Normally, Draca must regulate their temperature by shuttling back and forth between warmer and cooler areas, but modern innovations in Cybernetics enable Draca to maintain a constant temperature without external stimuli. Draca are strict carnivores. Not only would the average Draca die rather than eat vegetable matter, their systems are not equipped to process such nutrients, and such a Draca would quickly starve in any event. Cybernetics could theoretically enable the Draca to process any protein-based matter, but tradition and the repugnance of eating plants has prevented Draca scientists from creating such devices to date. Draca prefer fresh meat and need to drink only twice per day. While they have attained a high degree of civilization, their eating habits have remained somewhat primitive. Draca cooking, delicacies and table manners are generally considered crude and repulsive by other races, particularly the fastidious Zin-Shee.
The Draca have no powers — in fact, they shun such things, feeling that true advancement is possible only through the cybernetic enhancement of the body, rather than through the manipulation of mental or supernatural forces.
The Dracas‘ main ability is their advanced use of Cybernetics, which is the science of implanting mechanical devices into the body for the purpose of enhancement. An eye may be replaced with a device capable of seeing infrared, or in low-light conditions. The skeletal structure may be infused with metal filaments for added durability. An entire arm may be replaced with a stronger mechanical arm. Thermoregulators may be implanted to eliminate the need for constant heating and cooling. The list is virtually endless. Many cybernetic devices are extremely old, and are handed down from generation to generation as clan heirlooms. These devices are highly valued, and their loss or destruction is a major blow to an individual‘s prestige.
Combat EditDraca are formidable fighters, and their fearsome reputation is further enhanced by the savage, baroque appearance of their weapons. Artistic embellishment is often used to enhance the apparent deadliness of a weapon, and the Draca favor weapons which do the maximum amount of physical damage. Still looking backward to their "heroic" pre-technological history, the Draca favor medieval-style weapons such as swords, axes, polearms, crossbows and so on. Recently, the Draca have begun importing and copying Calemoran weapons, which they consider highly sophisticated. All this has not prevented the Draca from adopting modern weapons, however. Lacking the Calemoran distaste for unequal battles and ranged weapons, the Dracan military has grown into a heavily armed, offensive-oriented force with little taste for strategic withdrawals or subtle tactics. In general, Draca prefer weapons which inflict the most physical damage. Ranged weapons utilizing plasma bolts, heavy-element projectiles, or explosive munitions are also favored. Draca have a propensity for loud, unpleasant sounding weapons as well, as this does not disturb their minimal sense of hearing, while at the same time terrifying opponents. The traditional scythe-cannon, for example, may function as both a melee and ranged weapon, and inflicts considerable damage in both roles. Of course, the Draca believe the finest weapons are those which are integral to a cybernetically-enhanced body. Many types of body weaponry have been developed. Draca are savage warriors. They have few qualms about killing or torturing prisoners, even when there is no valuable information to be gained. Some Draca, after contact with the more civilized Guild, have rejected this practice, but it remains widespread within the Holding.
Personality and Culture Edit
Draca are probably the most militaristic race in Known Space. They see war and conflict as the natural state of the universe, and are incapable of imagining peace among the various empires and states. They are ferocious, merciless and, in the eyes of many, only barely civilized. In spite of this, the Draca are not an inherently evil race; to the contrary, they see themselves as the defenders of stability and civilization in the galaxy (of course, this is the position of every "evil" state in history, but the Draca have their good points nonetheless). Even the Draca feel that the most successful battle is one which does not take place. Their ultimate goal is to instill such fear in enemies that they surrender without a fight. Unfortunately, most Draca consider this "ideal" behavior to be a sign of weakness, and have in the past ruthlessly exterminated passive races. Every Draca is trained as a warrior. To fight is considered the ultimate cause for existence, and battle a crucible in which the weak are eliminated and the strong survive. Friendship is rare among the Draca, for the emotion of friendship is thought to be contrary to good military discipline. A commander might be reluctant to order a "friend" into battle, and therefore must maintain a rigidly unemotional attitude toward his warriors. Rather than friendship, Draca form blood-bonds between fighters. The blood-bond is a rare and valued gift, indicating that either blood-sibling would lay down his or her life for the other. Blood-bond oaths often involve the exchange of valuable cybernetic devices. Draca are hatched from eggs laid by the female once per year. The young mature quickly, and parental love is geared toward preparing youngsters for the rigors of battle and the demands of adult life. Children are taught to obey their elders without question and, while tenderness and affection may be shown in private, young Draca must act like adults while in public. Not surprisingly, Draca have no concept of romantic love. Mates are chosen based on military achievement — the best pairing is considered that between two accomplished warriors. A Dracan "marriage" (more accurately described as an "alliance") may last for only a single mating season, or in rare cases, may be a lifelong bond. There is absolute equality of the sexes. Egg-laying is an extremely brief process, and a female suffers no ill effects either before or after the act. Advancement in Dracan society is accomplished solely through combat. All promotions are as the result of duels, either to first blood or to unconsciousness. Many Draca die in these duels, but such deaths are not considered dishonorable. Plots, counter-plots and alliances between factions are common in Dracan society, and it is always difficult to determine who to trust. The standard Dracan family unit is the clan — a family group which traces descent through the female egg-layer. Dracan clans tend to bond together in alliances, or fight long, protracted blood feuds. Family members are honor-bound to avenge the deaths of relatives, and several Dracan clans have been completely wiped out by such feuds. Failure to respond to an assassination or murder will leave the impression that a clan is weak and vulnerable. The Dracan state — called "The Holding" — is ruled by an individual known as the Egg-mistress, so-called due to her ancient role as defender of her clan‘s egg clutches. This individual is served by a band of fanatically loyal fighters from her clan, who act as surrogates in personal combat, should the Egg-mistress be challenged for rulership. In this way, the Holding can have consistent, long-term rulers, rather than enduring duel after duel and ruler after ruler. Draca examine other races for their strengths and weaknesses. They are then studied, and tested in combat. This even extends to inter-personal relationships, for a Draca will not respect his comrades until they have proved themselves in combat. If they are judged weak or ineffective, they will be disdained, if equal or more skilled, they will be respected. Many of the above traits refer to traditional Dracan society, as it exists within the borders of the Holding. Many Draca who have had contact with the Guild, however, have modified their traditional attitudes somewhat. While still primitive, dangerous and violent, the Draca who adventure and serve within the Guild are significantly more civilized and better adjusted than their fellows in the Holding. Some have even gone so far as to totally shun their traditional society, and fully embrace Guild concepts of peace, understanding and coexistence. Once Guild attitudes begin to spread through the Draca race as a whole, the Holding itself may grow and mature in such a way as to join the truly civilized races of the galaxy. At present, however, this is only a hope. The Draca worship an all-powerful goddess whose true name they keep secret. Her public name is "The Great Egg-Mother," and she is believed to have produced the eggs which hatched the first two Draca. She is sometimes spoken of as having a male consort, but he seems of little importance. Draca believe in reincarnation, that a warrior who fights well will return as a stronger, more powerful, and more heroic warrior, until at last he or she has lived enough lifetimes to join with the Great Egg-Mother in the afterlife, where warriors battle and revel forever.
Draca seek to increase their prowess and reputation as fighters, as well as increase the number and quality of their cybernetic enhancements. Victory in combat is a major goal, bringing glory to both the individual and his or her clan. Clan reputation is also important, and acts which will reduce it, or show weakness, are to be scrupulously avoided. As a race, the Draca‘s goals are still to crush weak races, and prepare the strong ones for intergalactic war.