: Jacadon are large, reptilian animals with the head and body-type of dragons, the scaled skin and powerful musculature of snakes, flat tails perfectly evolved for flight or underwater paddling, and membranous wings tipped with razor-sharp thumb-claws (primarily used for fighting and gripping, called hooks). These animals are approximately 24 feet long from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, and their shoulder-height stands at about the head-height of a typical human. Jacadon stand on two, powerful hind legs and do not have any front arms save for the hook on either wing. Their wings, which are covered in soft, high-density, water-tight feathers (along with their neck and underbelly), stretch nearly 40 feet when completely unfurled (each wing being approximately 20 feet in length). They have a moderate wingspan to body ratio, which allows for greater endurance and flight maneuverability.
Tame Jacadon may fly up to five hours straight while supporting a rider and armor, though wild Jacadon may stay up in the air even longer when flying to the mainland to hunt for large game. Flight time depends dramatically on the weather and wind strength; a Jacadon may soar at ease using little energy for extended periods of time and is particularly skilled at fast dives, but these aerial reptiles aren’t suited to prolonged flapping in tough weather.
When fresh-laid, a Jacadon egg is surprisingly large and heavy, with a width and length of 17 and 20 inches respectively, and a weight of nearly eighteen pounds. Each egg carries twin fetuses that are still developing, one male and one female; incubation (during which both parents take turns rolling their egg and keeping it warm and moist with steam), lasts approximately 90 days. Eggs are laid singularly by the mothers; never will a female lay more than one egg at once, nor more than one egg in a year. Breeding season is the middle of Ashan and eggs are laid late in that season; hatching occurs near the end of Ymiden, as newborn Jacadon prefer the scorching heat of Saun to learn and grow.
A Jacadon, thanks to its size, weighs anywhere from 1200 to over a 1600 pounds, though these giant creatures would have weighed much more if not for having the hollow bones necessary for flight. Suited for both aerial and aquatic environments, the Jacadon usually sports a muted bluish scale and feather tone, though some may appear browner or greener than others. The vulnerable areas of their bodies (like their wing membranes) excrete a somewhat iridescent water and heat-resistant oil made to protect them from blasts of steam and to aid in swimming. Jacadon typically have blue or emerald eyes.
: Though no one knows where the original Jacadon, Rynmere, came from, his descendents nowadays travel throughout the island and into the greater world of Idalos, though all return to the Sunset Isle to roost. Jacadon prefer the hottest climates and waters, and so will often migrate daily in mated pairs or small groups called clutches in order to reach the areas of the island best suited to their liking. The Burning Mountains are one of their favorite haunts, and many people believe they are drawn spiritually to the exposed backbone of their great stone father.
Though Jacadon love high heat and humidity, they are known as extremely active animals who also love the water, and so tend to spend a lot of time near the coasts flying, diving, swimming, and hunting. It’s not uncommon to see a Jacadon, three, or seven on a flight path overhead during the day, winging it across the island from one shoreside to the other. Jacadon can hold their breath underwater for up to twenty minutes, making them idea coastline hunters.
Being so migratory, Jacadon only tend to set up temporary ‘nests’ rather than permanent homes. They prefer lodging themselves amongst rocks, moving rocks if necessary, or digging into sand to sleep, and often sleep in tight groups to conserve body heat.
Lifespan and Development
: Jacadon are exceptionally long-lived and may well outlast the life of their riders, living even past 150 years in age (the oldest recorded Jacadon, other than Rynmere, was nearly 180 years old). As Jacadon continuously grow throughout their lives (gaining up to 15 pounds and one inch in height per year after their first year, if resources allow), the larger one is, the older it typically tends to be. Older Jacadon will lay larger eggs, giving their young a slight advantage. Eggs are extremely hard, black in color, almost rock-like, and roughly textured.
Jacadon hatch at the start of Saun in the height of summer and begin their lives weighing in at about 10 pounds. Newborn, they are around the size of a domestic cat, with a wingspan about twice as long as their body (tail excluded) and large gripping hooks half as big as a full-grown adult’s. As soon as they are born they experience the first test of survival, as newborn Jacadon fight their shell-twin to the death in order to inherit all of their parents’ time and attention. This kulling ensures that only the strongest Jacadon will live on; from here on, nearly 80% of Jacadon will live past their fifth year.
In their first forty days --known as their Saun days-- they grow incredibly fast, quadrupling or even quintupling their birth weight and size. During this period of rapid growth their parents are constantly feeding them chewed and regurgitated fish from the nearby sea, and some believe that young Jacadon are able to grow so quickly due to their unusually high temperature and fast metabolism.
By the end of Vhalar, a Jacadon youth is typically over a hundred pounds. Most will be able to hunt for their own food (finding it easy to catch sea animals like crabs, clams, and slow fish), and they will have learned how to swim. Swimming is an important developmental milestone, as Jacadon use the water resistance to strengthen their still-maturing wings, readying them for flight.
During Zi’da the Jacadon youth and their parents remain at Sunset Isle, as they do during the unbearable cold of Cylus. During this time in isolation, they typically begin to learn and develop more complex social skills. Youths will remain on Sunset Isle permanently for nearly five full years, or until they learn to fly. Flying practice involves gliding and flapping down from the high jagged rocks of their home into the surrounding sea; due to their large, well-developed hooks, even young Jacadon are able to successfully scale the slippery rocks back up to dry land.
Most Jacadon will fly by their fifth year of age, and it is then, traditionally during Saun, that they will take their first full migration from their well-protected nursery. At the time they leave their roosts, most Jacadon are nearly full-sized, weighing in at around 500 pounds. Young Jacadon may travel with their parents for up to their tenth year, though early bloomers may become sexually mature as soon as age seven. After reaching maturity, many Jacadon roam the skies, lands, and seas, searching for juveniles of their own age. Typically females will band with females and males with males; a clutch of Jacadon may hold up to 20 members.
When a juvenile wishes to mate, he or she will leave their clutch and search for a compatible partner. Often they will attempt to court many others of the opposite sex, sometimes staying with one for longer than a year, before finding their life-time mate. Jacadon are monogamous and many refuse to chose a new mate should their old mate perish. Mating may occur between Jacadon of varying ages; a 10 year old juvenile male may find his life-mate in a 50- or 70- year old unmated female, or vice versa. As Jacadon remain fertile throughout their entire lives, there are little social limits concerning who may mate with who. Not much is known about why mates choose each other, but many believe that appearance has little to do with it. Personality by far seems to be the determining factor. The Mer people are privy to the only display of courtship affection, historically stating that Jacadon sing to one another underwater, a song very few can hear and even less understand.
: Jacadon are opportunistic carnivores and will usually take to water to feed. They will catch any and all types of fish, turtle, and sea creature, including Mer, and will sometimes hunt water birds like seagulls, ducks, or albatross. However, they have been known to feast on a swarm of bats if they come across one. During their youthful years when they band together in clutches, Jacadon may wing mainland to hunt for land creatures, able to take down anything from deer to moose or even bison. They prefer a lighter diet of white meat, however, rarely supplementing with vegetable matter, but have been known to eat seaweed when they feel unwell. They are able to digest seawater for hydration, and seem to like to be rewarded for hard work or training with saltlicks or salty foods.
: Jacadon have an interesting dual temperament. Towards one another they are incredibly social, rarely fighting or becoming aggressive, even in matters concerning food or mates. They seem to adore challenging one another, and love the simple camaraderie of competition.
Towards other creatures, however, they become secretive and sometimes combative, touch-shy and unwilling to cooperate. It is incredibly rare for a Jacadon to accept a rider, though many seek the privilege. When they do accept someone, they seem to accept that person in lieu of a mate, usually going unmated for life, though their relationship with their rider is not sexual in nature but rather like a strong brother- or sisterhood. When a Jacadon accepts a rider, they tend to treat them with the same sociality as they would another of their own kind, and at this point may be trained to accept other humans.
: The most notable ability a Jacadon has to be its ability to jet out streams of superheated steam from a special organ located behind its stomach. Jacadon appear to have the conscious ability to chose to drink to their stomach or to this other organ, called a waterskin. The waterskin organ is three times the size of the stomach and is formed of a particularly dense layer of cells, which are triggered to replicate quickly when in contact with extreme heat, saving the waterskin from burns or other internal injury. The organ is heated by specialized bones in the Jacadon’s back which are able to absorb and convert the heat of the suns into stored energy, and then, when needed, convert the energy back into heat to turn the swallowed water into steam.
The waterskin is completely banded by a covering of tough voluntary muscle that contracts quickly, forcing the pressurized steam of the ‘skin back up the esophagus and out of the Jacadon’s mouth at high speed. When not in use for creating steam, the waterskin is able to slowly absorb water so the Jacadon is not forced to regurgitate it. Jacadon appear able to heat water to boiling temperature in a very short amount of time, depending on how much heat energy they have stored; however, the faster the water is heated the faster energy is used up to heat it, depleting their stored energy faster.
The other notable ability a Jacadon has is the passive ability to turn to stone after death. When a Jacadon nears the end of its natural life, it wings to an area of secluded space in the Burning Mountains called Raptor’s Rest, where it settles among the generations of stone Jacadon already waiting there. The petrifying process may take several days if the Jacadon is allowed to die peacefully; under stress or great injury, the stone-phase is almost instantaneous. No one is certain how a Jacadon turns to stone --some believe through the power of the suns-- or if petrification is even true death or simply a state of resting. Many believe that Jacadon become tired of living and choose to become stone, but in dire circumstances --like if the land needed them-- they would reanimate and come to Rynmere’s defense.
Though the petrification process has little been studied, many who have seen these statues have noted that they have the same appearance and toughness of a Jacadon egg, are warm to the touch, and at certain times are slick with the Jacadon’s flame-resistant skin oil. Jacadon stone statues appear to be unbreakable by all typical tools and only the Rynmere Monks of the highest order are privy to the item used to break the stony flesh, as they are in charge of harvesting the lightweight, durable metal heart, used for the King's sword, and the Lord Commander's armor.
: Very few lucky people will find themselves blessed to have the affection of a Jacadon. While distrustful of others, a Skyrider’s Jacadon will always protect him and willingly follow his commands when properly trained. Even without training, a Jacadon has a strong protective instinct towards its rider, and will be as social and devoted to him as to a member of its own species. Oftentimes the bond between rider and Jacadon is as tight as that between Jacadon mates, though there is no sexual component to it (the human-to-raptor bond replacing that of a mate’s bond). As such, when a rider dies, even a human-socialized and trained Jacadon will not usually choose another to replace his lost partner. Oftentimes, these Jacadon simply return to the wild, though in severe cases of separation anxiety a Jacadon may choose to prematurely petrify in its despair.
Jacadon may be trained to be courteous of non riders or strangers, though usually they will remain aloof to anyone but their chosen. Because of this and their natural sociability towards one another, Jacadon may be trained to work in coordination with one another (as to attack during a battle), but will only cooperate with other people at the commands of their riders. Some are well-trained enough to carry others on their backs, though the rider must always be present.
Jacadon have been known to accept and wear light armor or padding during battle, specially-designed for each animal. As such armor is incredibly expensive and Jacadon continuously grow, not every rider will be able to afford armor for his beloved mount.
Not much is known about how Jacadon choose their riders. Many people brave the treacherous climb up Sunset Isle, and many are slaughtered there by the parent Jacadon protecting their young. Those skilled enough not to be initially killed will have to then approach an infant Jacadon, who will likely attempt to attack with claws and teeth. The heat of a young Jacadon’s body is said to be unbearable, and even later in life these reptiles run so hot as to force their riders to wear protective gear.
Somehow, someway, a person accepted by a Jacadon --perhaps through subduing it or giving it a suitable challenge-- will be allowed to be near it, earning that Jacadon’s respect and eventually its trust. Parent Jacadon seem to recognize a bonded pair and will not kill a rider, though that doesn’t mean that they will allow the rider anywhere near them or their nest for long. Some wild Jacadon dislike people enough that they will abandon their young completely, leaving the rider to the gigantic task of raising such a demanding creature by himself.
: Ash & Kingdom