I have finally come up with a totally original concept for the Dragon’s physiology (about time, too—only 4/5 of the story done)! I now know how it works!
I always wanted to do something original with it, to be able to compete with some existing concepts I really like. For instance, Robin Hobb’s dragons spit acid instead of fire, “Reign of Fire” dragons simultaneously spray two different chemicals, which self-ignite when they mix in the air.
The traditional dragon inhales air and for some magical reason exhales fire. Or squirts self-igniting napalm at will. Both concepts conflict with my understanding of the mechanics of natural pulmonary ventilation and digestion and both do not fit into my somewhat Darwinist kind of secondary world. It is just plainly unnatural. Why would an animal spit fire? Especially the predatory type—to scare off the prey? Or to cook it (that would be George R. R. Martin’s model)…? Why would an animal cook their food? Tigers, lions and Komodo Dragons do not…
My baby is not going to spit fire. Instead, it exhales near pure oxygen (reversed respiratory chemistry—it inhales air and converts CO2 into O2), which in combination with any available open fire produces rather impressive results—even steel burns in oxygen!
Now that is perfectly natural. Most living creatures breathe, this one just happens to do it slightly differently.
There are so many ways to play off this model: it is totally understandable why in myths and legends a dragon is believed to breathe fire (they just got it slightly off, like all myths and legends); the creature does not fit in well on the Earth-like ecosystem of my world, and, being an aggressive carnivore, it has to be destroyed for All Lord’s sake.
Another application of this specific aspect of a dragon’s physiology is the effect of “dragon’s breath” on regular mammals (people, first and foremost): oxygen intoxication. There is a whole slew of options to explore; I am excited.
I also know now what it is doing, by flying around its nest in a giant circle (in addition to mere exploration of the realm): it is looking for open fires to ignite the forest. The trees produce a too oxygen-rich environment for the Dragon to breathe comfortably, so it needs to get rid of some trees, or it starts suffocating…
Really proud of myself for this one. Go, me.