Stormcloud Firedrakes (Drakine Miir-drák en Atiri, "Fire Dragon of Lightning"; scientific name Vulcus Vulcus Fulminifer) are a descendant of the True Firedrake created by natural mutation. This species of dragon is native to Euthora, though they are relatively rare due to their behavior.
They are Light Saurians of the Vulcus genus, descended from Skyking Ausurath. They are also Fire-Aligned, and presumably extinct at Standard Canon Time. A group of Stormcloud Firedrakes is called a flight.
Stormcloud Firedrakes are sleek, lean, and sinuously built, with vast but narrow wings and generally sharp angles dominating their stature. They have distinct, nine-pointed crowns made up of a three-pointed, swept-back central crest and two eye ridges with three points each. Their eyes are sharp, narrow and slit-pupilled, with bright (usually yellow) irises. The jaw of a Stormcloud Firedrake is generally the same as those of other Firedrake subspecies, but usually narrower. The jawlines, chin, and nose ridges are spiked, and it is common for one of these dragons to grow a small horn between the nose ridges.
Almost always dark in color, the most common scale colors for this species are grays, blues, and black, to blend in with stormy skies. It is rare, but not unheard of, for scales to take a green or golden hue, and these individuals seem more at home in cyclones than the thunderstorms for which the species is known. Wing membranes and ventral scutes are usually lighter in color than the rest of the dragon, and any markings are distinctly visible from a dorsal view only.
The frame of this species is lean and serpentine, built for speed and agility, and the ability to cut through turbulent winds found in the chaos of a storm. Their spaded, whip-like tails are often more than two thirds their total body length, and wingspan can be twice as long, tails included. Claws are semi-retractable and wickedly sharp, resembling a bird of prey's, and paws are three-toed, in addition to a dewclaw. On the hind legs, these dewclaws are intended for grip and traction on uneven, rocky surfaces, but are fully opposable on the forelegs. The structure of their limbs, as well as the balance provided by their massive wings and tails, allows Stormcloud Firedrakes to briefly rise into a bipedal stance in order to use their forepaws for tasks such as writing.
Stormcloud hatchlings are gangly, often tripping over their wings and tails before finding their footing. Proportionally, their wings are undersized and their tails oversized, and it doesn't take long for the proportions to even out. After a year or so, a hatchling is almost indistinguishable from an adult, though their wing muscles are not quite strong enough for flight until they are a few years older.
Like all Firedrake subspecies, the Stormcloud is highly resistant to heat due to the makeup of their scales, more specifically the presence of certain metals such as mythril and orichalcum. Due to their high-altitude habitats, the metal in their scales often attracts lightning strikes, and in turn the species has evolved the ability to withstand, and even harness, electricity.
Like all Euthoran dragons in general, Stormcloud Firedrakes are warm-blooded reptiles, and can regulate their own body temperature even in the high mountain peaks where they make their nests.
When not in the midst of a storm, these dragons have incredible vision and good hearing, able to see the smallest details for miles when atop their mountain perches. When in the proximity of a storm, however, their pupils automatically constrict and their hearing dulls, so as not to render themselves blind from lightning or deaf from thunder.
Stormcloud Firedrakes are known and named for the electroimpery which is common in the species. These dragons nearly always have some form of affinity with thunderstorms, whether it be through controlling the lightning that results from one, or altering the weather to create one. It is common for untrained adolescents to instinctively act as a lightning rod of sorts when lightning strikes nearby, sticking the spades on their tails into the ground and stretching their heads and wings skyward to attract the electricity. Many actively seek out storms to do this, due to the rush of energy that results.
When struck by lightning, Stormcloud Firedrakes undergo a biological reaction to the electricity and become charged. This sends their nervous systems into overdrive, increasing their reaction and processing speeds as well as their inherent aggression. Charged Stormcloud Firedrakes constantly emit a discharge of electric sparks and will viciously attack even much larger and stronger enemies. Over the course of several minutes, the dragon will discharge the excess electrical power and this state will wear off, which can be hastened by overuse of the dragon's ability to manipulate lightning. However, an adolescent's first few charges may last the better part of the day as the individual is inexperienced and unable to control the discharge.
Stormclouds are among the most aggressive of dragons, even among Firedrakes. Proud, feral, and wrathful, these dragons are known to actively hunt even other dragons in neighboring territories for food and domination. The species is generally solitary, and it is rare to see a Stormcloud in the company of a dracoimperist- not because they have any natural resistance to dracoimpery like the Voidwalker, but rather because they are considered hard to handle and generally too much trouble to keep under control. Despite their inherent aggression, however, Stormcloud Firedrakes are highly intelligent and may hold a conversation with another sapient being before eating them.
Adolescent Stormcloud Firedrakes under the control of dracoimpery become more wild and volatile as they near adulthood. They often develop an urge to wander and seek out a suitable territory, and may become frustrated and aggressive if the dracoimperist they are linked to does not allow this. If the dracoimperist has other dragons, the Stormcloud Firedrake may become particularly aggressive against these other dragons, often openly challenging them to "spar". They quickly and easily become irritated and rebellious, and if measures are not taken to rein them in, they may become impossible to handle without force as adults.
Typically, Stormclouds nest in the fall and hatch in summer. Mated pairs do not remain together for long, with the female often chasing away the male once eggs are laid. Thereon, she will keep watch over the nest until they begin to hatch; by the time they emerge from their eggs, she is gone and they are left to fend for themselves. Males will almost invariably fight over dominance of the nest, usually causing the females to hide or scatter, and the surviving male will then gorge on the remains of his dead brothers in order to gain strength before venturing out into the wild. Though this instinct seems counter-intuitive to the species as a whole, it ensures that only the strongest male survives, and that male has the chance to eat and grow before a predator can get to it. Rarely, wild hatchlings may be found as a brother and sister pair, but in general the hatchlings go their own ways immediately after hatching.
Stormcloud Firedrakes are one of very few species of Euthoran dragon that are actively cannibalistic. Though they will hunt any large game, they have a preference for the meat and scales of other dragons- a decently-sized dragon can serve as a meal for several days when food is scarce in the Stormcloud's natural habitat, and dragon scales provide a good amount of metal for their small size. Because of this, these dragons have evolved particularly tough throats, to counter the natural sharpness of dragon scales.
Stormclouds typically live in high mountains, close to the peaks where they are closest to the storm. They prefer cold climates, though may be found in desert mountains where the temperature grows chilling at night. Before going extinct, they were otherwise found planetwide, preferring the continents Ethanol and northern Forvolrasuls for their harsh, unforgiving natures.
Unlike most Firedrake subspecies, the Stormcloud did not evolve from interspecies breeding. Rather, its evolution is the result of a natural mutation in True Firedrakes over generations. It is thought that some amount of True Firedrakes migrated to high mountain peaks, rather than volcanoes, in order to escape competition from other members of their species and nest out of reach of other predators. Because of this, those Firedrakes became wary, hostile, and aggressive to most other living creatures in defense of territory, for any creature that could access their high-altitude homes presented a potential threat.
Due to the high altitude of their new habitats, these dragons were forced to evolve the ability to adapt to high winds, frequent storms, and lightning strikes, especially as electricity would be naturally drawn to the dragons due to the high metal content in their scales. As Firedrakes spend most of their time in flight, they lacked any method of grounding incoming lightning which would naturally strike them, the highest object. In order to survive these thunderstorms, the dragons evolved the capacity to not only withstand, but harness and utilize, the raw electrical power of a thunderstorm. Over time this became a tool for hunting and fighting, and speciation occurred.