Netherdragons are a unique breed of wyrms (true dragons) that originate from the planet of Gnisis (NIH-sis), a cold, shadowy world faintly lit by a distant sun. They have adapted perfectly to their murky home, developing visual and auditory senses far exceeding the astoundingly acute senses of other dragons. These adaptations allow netherdragons to dominate the hostile and unforgiving environment of Gnisis, putting them at the top of a very vicious food chain.
Physically speaking, netherdragons are similar to other wyrms, but their unique environment has influenced their anatomy in a number of ways. Their necks are unusually long and snake-like, making them incredibly flexible. A netherdragon is able to easily position his head to see in any direction while in flight allowing him to quickly scan an area for prey or rivals without having to maneuver excessively. They also have very large wings allowing them to glide in near silence for long distances (a valuable stealth technique in a world where most creatures have excellent hearing). Their long, agile tails are used to counter-balance their elongated neck and to assist in rapid maneuvering in flight.
Netherdragons have very fine scales which are tightly interleaved, giving their skin a glossy, smooth look that belies its resilience. Their color tends toward a mottled texture of dark greens and grays on their backs and wings fading to a lighter shade on their underside. Their hides are usually quite battered and scarred, the result of fighting for survival on an almost daily basis.
Senses and Abilities
A netherdragon’s senses are specifically adapted to their home environment. Their optical vision is slanted into the UV spectrum to enhance their low-light vision but is somewhat underdeveloped compared to their other senses. Like many denizens of Gnisis, their hearing is extraordinary, allowing them to target prey by sound alone if necessary.
Perhaps their strangest adaptation is their extreme vimsense. All dragons are vimsensitive, particularly wyrms, due to their natural channeling ability, but a netherdragon can literally hear the aura harmonics of living creatures, which they will often refer to as ‘songs’. Their term for vim is Chirii (kheer-EE) and they use their incredible sensitivity to it as a means of locating prey, to sense variations in the Etherum, and to detect potential magical threats such as rival dragons or spellshocks.
Evolving for millennia in the vim-saturated environment of Gnisis has given netherdragons an innate tie to magic that exceeds typical wyrms. Their biomagical physiology is so vim dependent that even a short time spent in an area of low ambient vim will make them ill. Being trapped in a dead zone would result in death within a few hours at most. Coalition tacticians have attempted to capitalize on this potential vulnerability by increasing the availability of anti-magic munitions such as HEV shells and null grenades on fronts with heavy netherdragon activity.
Even the netherdragon’s breath attack has been warped by the influence of this high-vim environment. It is an unworldly blast of super-chilled air laced with needle-like ice shards that can rip through light armor and flay exposed flesh in seconds. A soldier once described it as a freezing tornado full of razor blades–an accurate, if somewhat colorful description of what is one of the most feared attacks on the battlefield.
Their dependence on vim makes netherdragons highly sensitive to the ebb and flow of the Etherum. They are drawn to areas of high vim concentration like moths to a flame and their aggressive nature means that they feel no qualms about removing any current residents by force. Arrogant in the extreme, netherdragons see themselves at the top of any ecological chain and will not abide anyone or anything that thinks otherwise.
This arrogance extends even to their own brethren whom they see as rivals in the fight to survive. Netherdragon “society” is based on strength and cunning. Those who excel in one or both of these traits tend to dominate their brethren, allowing them to control larger and more lucrative territories. Power struggles and challenges are common, occasionally to the death. Those who are severely maimed in these battles are typically killed, as they are viewed as weak and useless by the others, and their territory annexed by the most powerful dragon in the region (although, if disputed, a whole new round of challenges could begin).
This system of dominance forms the core of the Imperium power hierarchy.