Bishel Dragon Culture
Bishel dragons are an intelligent and creative species, driven to find beauty and novelty. The dragons have developed a rich culture that often differs between clans. Each clan has its own lifestyle and accepted forms of art and entertainment.
The Machesri were nomadic for many years, but they have settled at Bishen Realm and renewed their agricultural roots. They farm what vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices they can in gardens and raise small amounts of livestock and fish. Occasionally, the dragons send out hunting parties or forge for certain magical supplies. Grains and fabrics tend to be imported, as the Machesri do not maintain large fields of crops. The limited mining in the mountains of the Refuge means that most precious metals and gems must be imported as well.
The main export of Bishen Realm could be said to be magic. The dragons trade in magical items and spells directly, and they also use their magical skills to craft high quality items. Jewelry, pottery, musical instruments, and metalworks are just some of the products produced by the dragons for sale at outside markets. Dragon-crafted merchandise has a well-deserved reputation for fineness and durability, which means it always brings a high price.
While most artisan work is geared toward creating items of value and beauty, artwork done for the clan itself usually features images from legends or homages to local heroes. Nature and the elements also feature strongly. Tapestries, sculptures, and paintings are common artistic mediums, but jewelry and other accessories are also in demand. There are songs, stories, and plays performed for entertainment. Usually, these creations tell history and legends or contain lessons for young dragons. The dragons also produce large numbers of toys and other items for wyrms.
While Bishel dragons have an understanding of wealth and fashion, anything excessive is frowned upon. There is a distinct dislike for physical waste and indulgence, as the elder dragons still remember the hardships of the clan's nomadic wanderings. Common sense tells them that where one finds excessive wealth, one will also find desperate poverty. It is in the nature of the Machesri to encourage sharing and charity. They are generous hosts and always willing to help others in trouble if they are able.
Within the clan, elders and youngsters are both treasured. Each individual is expected to contribute something to the support of the clan and encouraged to find their own place in life. Meetings are often held in the Realm Centre to discuss day to day activities and ask for volunteers to help with certain tasks that need to be completed. Those who frequently volunteer for work are admired and respected for their efforts, as are those who regularly perform tasks that may be especially difficult or odious.
Bishel dragon households are usually formed from a mated pair of dragons and their offspring. A small family may share a single burrow, tree, cave, or constructed house. As a family line grows, it will expand to more homes. Young dragons who have recently become Bishen may continue to live with their parents, move to their own homes, or move to their mate's homes. Some adventurous young dragons form groups and go traveling outside Bishen Realm to see the world. Most of these dragons eventually return to the Refuge to settle down when they are more mature.
When members of the community die, there is often a funeral gathering where the dead are burned on a funeral pyre. It is believe that the last remnants of the dead dragon are released upon burning, and nothing special is done with the funeral ashes. Small portraits of the dead are often kept in an alcove in the family home or stored in memory chests so they will not be forgotten.
The role of language in Machesri culture is very different from humans. The native language of the Machesri consists mainly of projected telepathic images and impressions, not a defined vocabulary of words. While many other dragons and magical creatures understand this way of communicating, humans and other species with well-developed verbal languages often find it difficult to process. For this reason, all Machesri learn the common language of the land and can project the words to others via telepathy. Some individual dragons know many more languages and act as translators. The Machesri do not have their own defined form of written script, although many can write and read the common script used at market and on the Refuge. Bishel dragon writing consists of pictographs infused with magical images and telepathic impressions that relay information to other dragons. Dragon writing is often difficult for other species to understand and not useful for outside correspondence. There are not huge libraries full of historic books and letters. Most knowledge is passed from generation to generation via stories and direct teaching. There are some individuals in the clan who have roles as the keepers of history for various topics. These individuals always take on an apprentice and begin teaching that dragon all their knowledge so that nothing will be lost in the next generation. Writing is generally used for labeling or posting warnings and not for keeping records.
The Hirgyae clan has long been focused on power and fighting, and their culture reflects this. They have little agriculture, relying on hunting and gathering to provide most of the food and raw materials. They also scrounge for discarded items or go on raids to obtain new supplies.
Superior hunters and those able to craft armor or weaponry are well respected in the clan, as are those who are skilled fighters. All members are expected to contribute to the clan, and those who are not seen to pull their weight are tormented, shunned, or exiled. Hirgyae learn from an early age how to defend themselves and make themselves useful.
Stories and songs mainly center around battles and heroes, although some old legends of the past glory of Bishel dragons and deities are also told. Monuments are created for some individuals or battles. When a Hirgyae dies, it is usually cremated by its peers on a funeral pyre. The ashes of the dead are spread in a communal graveyard, which is also the location of most monuments and memorials. Clan gatherings are held next to the burial grounds so that the ancestors can watch over the proceedings. There is great respect given to the dead, and clan members often pray to their ancestors for protection and courage.
Within the clan lands, factions inhabit smaller territories. A group will share a large cavern or canyon and do their best to fortify and shelter the area. Movement of individuals from one faction to another is somewhat restricted, although individuals expelled from one group may gain entry into another. Factions interact for the purposes of trading materials and information, and all groups participate in clan gatherings led by the Kailan and her elite advisers. In general, each faction is expected to take care of its own needs. When danger threatens the entire clan, all groups are expected to follow the orders of the Kailan and defend the clan territory.
The Hirgyae have their own language, which is descended from the original language of the Bishel dragons but far more expansive. The Old Language, as it is called, was originally very limited in scope and used only for naming specific beings, places, events, and situations. Over the years, the Hirgyae incorporated many new elements and have switched almost entirely to using words rather than images and emotions. This change is almost certainly linked to the Hirgyae closed-mind culture, in which a dragon does not wish to share openly its own thoughts or feelings. Open communication, as is still used among members of the Machesri, does not allow for undetected concealment of the truth. Language is expressed via projected thought and accented with various vocalizations that often match the words being telepathically spoken. Occasionally, emotions or images are transmitted to increase understanding where the words are not adequate. A certain number of written symbols are also shared among the members of the Hirgyae clan and used to relay orders and vital information. Communication via messenger or direct meetings is still preferred when possible. As with the Machesri, most information is passed down by direct teaching from one member to another, and almost no written records exist.