The Mercury Dragon is a metallic dragon. Mercury dragons are a little bit crazy–but there's definitely a method to their madness. A mercury dragon craves variety above all else. If another creature offers a wide array of food to hunt and the opportunity to gather a hoard, a mercury dragon will serve that creature in an arrangement of convenience. Thus, mercury dragons can be found as champions, bodyguards, and assassins in the employ of greater powers.
Lairs and TerrainEdit
Mercury dragons hail from volcanic mountain ranges in tropical climates, and though many of them remain in such locales throughout their lives, the variety has spread far and wide. Many a mercury dragon spends its youth scheming for a way to reach the Elemental Chaos and establish a lair there. For a creature that craves variety, the ever-changing landscape of the Elemental Chaos is the perfect place to construct a lair.
But the most common lair for a mercury dragon is one provided and maintained by someone else. As long as they receive the variety they crave, mercury dragons serve as bodyguards, messengers, or assassins for powerful mages, priests, or rulers–and sometimes more sinister forces. When a mercury dragon works for another creature, the dragon takes part of a larger fortress and makes a section its own, filling it with traps to frighten off any curious lackeys and to keep its personal hoard safe.
Like any dragon, a mercury dragon hates when interlopers or thieves enter its lair. But that hatred is tempered with curiosity about why "lesser creatures" would dare to invade its domain. The traps and guardians on the periphery of a mercury dragon's lair are often nonlethal, intended to capture, wound, or frighten intruders rather than kill them outright. These protections enable the mercury dragon to toy with intruders and extract some sort of unusual experience from the event, instead of just cleaning more corpses out of the bottom of a pit trap.
It should surprise no one that mercury dragons aren't good at assembling matched sets or cohesive collections. A mercury dragon's hoard is a hodgepodge of coins, jewelry, and items from scores of lands and dozens of eras. Older mercury dragons might seek out some items they've heard about but never seen, and they're avid treasure traders. If adventurers can acquire some rare item from a far-off land, a mercury dragon is often willing to part with treasures from its hoard in exchange, especially if the dragon is trading away a duplicate.
A carnivore through and through, a mercury dragon always craves something different from whatever it just ate. This compulsion is more than just instinct; a mercury dragon forced to eat the same food meal after meal quickly becomes listless and difficult to awaken from sleep. Mercury dragons are enthusiastic hunters, cunning enough to plan elaborate traps for their prey. They toy with weaker prey before killing and eating it. From the viewpoint of the prey, this behavior amounts to cruelty. To the mercury dragon, it's another expression of its need to experience something different.
A mercury dragon has scales of whitish-silver and a sleek and serpentine body. Its frame lacks some of the muscular bulk that other dragons have, and its scales are smaller and more closely set. Mercury dragons are peerless shapechangers, capable of taking both a humanoid form (to blend in among civilized people) and an amorphous, liquid form (for defense and to slither where others cannot go).
Personality and MotivationsEdit
A mercury dragon acts differently from time to time, depending on how much variety it has experienced lately.
If the dragon feels as though it's in a rut, it might attack an adversary right away, then snarl, "Tell me why I shouldn't finish you off." Because the magic of its breath weapon renders a mercury dragon invisible to its prey, it can boast while hidden. What sounds like garden-variety draconic arrogance is, from the dragon's perspective, legitimate questioning. If its adversaries can engage the dragon's interest, it might regard them as more than just a meal and a momentary diversion.
If a mercury dragon thinks its life has been varied enough lately, it talks first and fights later, using its breath weapon, natural maneuverability, and quicksilver form to elude those who challenge it. Even if the challengers are trying to kill it, the dragon talks to them to understand the stakes. After all, it would be a shame to kill someone who's more interesting when alive. And a mercury dragon shows some cunning when placed in the position of prey. It happily engages in a cat-and-mouse game with hostile pursuers, confounding them and getting them to exhaust themselves before turning the tables and attacking with its full might.
An adult or older mercury dragon can magically alter its shape to appear as an ordinary humanoid, and these dragons tend to be more circumspect when not in their draconic forms. A mercury dragon might take humanoid form when hunting, serving its master on a specific mission, or when it craves to experience "life among the lesser races" for a time. But a mercury dragon lacks the steel dragon's affinity for civilized life, and the nuances of specific cultures are often beyond its understanding. Sometimes, even the basics of humanoid life are foreign to a mercury dragon. For instance, a shapechanged mercury dragon might walk into a butcher shop craving something new to eat, purchase a leg of lamb, and consume it raw on the spot while the butcher looks on in horror.
Relations with other CreaturesEdit
A mercury dragon will enter into a working arrangement with almost any creature stronger or smarter than itself. Such arrangements tend to be feudal in nature: The mercury agrees to serve as a guardian, messenger, or hired killer in exchange for some combination of lair space, treasure, food, and the promise of varied experience. Such relationships last as long as the master can maintain the mercury dragon's interest–and not one moment longer. Draconic folklore is replete with tales of mercury dragons that eventualIy turned on their masters "just to see what happens."
Mercury dragons have a natural affinity with other creatures that split their time between the natural world and the Elemental Chaos, such as efreets. Mercury dragons often bargain with efreets for passage to the Elemental Chaos (and eventually for a place to start a lair). But efreets don't offer favors lightly, they and tend to be more shrewd negotiators than mercury dragons. Many a mercury dragon seeks vengeance on a particular efreet for a bargain that didn't turn out the way the dragon thought it would.
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