Sparkclaws are the smaller ground-bound race of Dragons that make up the lower class portion of the Dragon Empire. They are iridescent shades of a multitude of colors, although this effect is much more muted in underground environments. Their mental capacity is on par with the other races of Dragons.
Sparkclaws tend to look very similar to each other, leading to confusion on who is who. The base color of every Sparkclaw is from one of the following colors, ordered from most common to least: red, orange, yellow, brown, green, blue, silver. White Sparkclaws are also possible as a form of albinism. Usually these Sparkclaws are born very weak and very few ever make it to hatchling out of their egg, nevermind living to adulthood.
The iridescent colors of Sparkclaws are based off of their base color. If the color is a neutral grass green, for example, the brightest point would be a slightly desaturated (in comparison) leaf green, and their darkest point would be a very saturated forest green. Usually the base color is at a midpoint in saturation and brightness. The underside of a Sparkclaw's wings follow this same rule, but their wing's base color is generally darker and less saturated than their main color. This base color is also the color of the chestplates of Sparkclaws. Their claws and horns are very desaturated versions of one of their body's colors, usually brighter than the other sections of the body.
Male and female Sparkclaws look very similar to each other. One difference is that males possess nose horns that females don't. These small spikes lay in a row on the center of the top of their snout. Most Sparkclaws have one or two, but some can have up to three. A male Sparkclaw also has more horns than females. Females can have a minimum of one pair of horns, although most have two, which is their maximum. Males can have up to ten pairs of horns, although this is extremely rare and usually on present on elders. Most adult males have around four to five pairs. The amount of horns is a good judgement to the Sparkclaw's age. Elders may also have a small 'beard' of spikes on their chin, though this is generally uncommon and is only a male trait. According to the old records, however, this beard of spikes was common back when the races of Dragons were still young and quarreling over their leaders. Males also tend to be larger than their female counterparts, although this isn't very noticeable. Usually a male Sparkclaw is, at max, six inches (15cm) to a foot (30cm) taller than an equally aged female.
Sparkclaws have a unique feature in their anatomy that Longwings do not; a fire "bladder" capable of producing a mix of fluids that reacts with oxygen in the air to produce a napalm-like flame. One fluid is very liquid and slippery to the touch, while the other is nearly a paste. The former fluid is flammable but doesn't react with the air. The latter produces very extreme heat for a few seconds when it touches oxygen, able to ignite the other fluid. Some Sparkclaws are able to spit out these fluids individually, but it takes a lot of practice and concentration. The flame can easily eat through the scales of Longwings, but due to necessity, the scales of Sparkclaws have developed to be very heat resistant, although prolonged exposure to flames can still eat through them. The Sparkclaw's flame fluid stores are limited and refilled over time. At full capacity, a Sparkclaw can breath a flame for around twenty seconds straight before the store empties. It will take around a day to refill, depending on the Sparkclaw's diet; some plants contain minerals and vitamins that help speed that process up. If a Sparkclaw is sick, it will have issues creating a full flame. It will lose its napalm quality and become much less dense, unable to stick to the ground, spreading out, and extinguishing swiftly. This is due to the fact that the thick fluid takes a lot of energy to create. The energy needed for it is redirected to other vital parts of the body during sickness to assist in healing - fire is less important.
Sparkclaws also have a very noticeable disadvantage over their flying brethren; their wings are far too small for flight. While it's thought to have always been like that, truthfully Sparkclaws developed these smaller, useless wings as a sort of "de-evolution" after living underground for many years. Larger wings just took the body's resources and were never used underground, often catching on the walls of small tunnels and sometimes getting trapped under cave-ins when the Dragons instinctively tried to fly away from the danger. So, much like whales and snakes, the race slowly devolved its wings, absorbing them back into the body. Currently, Sparkclaw wings are just large enough to allow gliding, but are far too small for powered flight.
The eyes of Sparkclaws are attuned to the darkness they live in, pupils able to dilate until it nearly takes up the entire font half of the eyeball. The eye white isn't able to be seen unless the eye itself is removed. The pupils cannot shrink back down to pinpricks, though, and are only able to stay in a round low-light state. Therefore, Sparkclaws are near blinded in normal daylight. The world is just a mash of saturated, glaring colors. Despite this, they are excellent at seeing in the darkness. They can sit in conditions lit only by a dying ember a multitude of yards away and still see well enough to make their way through the tunnels. They also have excellent distance vision, though it's not used very much in the dark underground caves they primarily live in.
Scales of Sparkclaws are round and small, sitting together tightly without many gaps between. They are thick and strong, able to resist most scratches and swipes, but even they have a breaking point. They are also very heat resistant, as mentioned earlier, and some very brave Sparkclaws even brave picking up hot metal with their bare claws for a few seconds.
Finally, Sparkclaws are warm-blooded but can survive at very low body temperatures. While a human's normal temperature is 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 F), a Sparkclaw's can get as low as 30 C (86 F). They can also resist much higher blood temperatures, but their 'comfort temperature' is around 35 C (95 F). This adaptation is meant to help survive the cool below ground caves, requiring less energy to sustain the body.
Sparkclaws, when first hatched, are cared for by their mother for a few years. They are allowed to leave their home on strict restrictions from about age four onwards, the restriction lessening as time goes on. Until age ten, Sparkclaws cannot use their flame to fend for themselves and their scales are still growing in, about the thickness of a fingernail per year. During this time, they look up to their parents for protection, often learning from their fathers how to protect themselves as well. Once they are considered juveniles, Sparkclaws tend to move away from their parents, who may try for another clutch at this point in time for wait for a bit longer. Usually young Sparkclaws move out of their parent's caves at around age thirteen and up, though some stick around until about age twenty before being driven out by annoyed parents.
A family will generally stick together as much as they can, though children tend to distance from their parents after a few decades. Siblings stick with each other until death, however. They often live together and work together. While some chose to live a separate life from their siblings, they still often visit them and keep up with the current news on them. Even separated siblings feel a terrible pain, though, when one dies, and it's far more common for Sparkclaws to die from depression due to sibling-related deaths than Longwings.
Female Sparkclaws, when single, tend to work at orphanages and nurseries rather than a normal job. Possibly due to instinct, they easily develop strong parental bonds with hatchlings not their own and raise them much like they were their own until they can fend for themselves, where the bond starts to dissipate. Most orphanages are run by unmated Sparkclaw females, raising hatchlings of all races without prejudice until they can find a home to be adopted into or re-entered into society as an adult. Once a female finds a mate, though, this illusion of parenthood fades quite fast in instinctive preparation for their own possible clutches.
Elder Sparkclaws demand respect from their younger counterparts, often seen as sources of unending wisdom and a life's worth of learned lessons. Elders are considered such at around age three hundred, adults at twenty-five, and juveniles at around ten. If an Elder passes away for whatever reason, those who knew them personally will mourn deeply, but others will acknowledge the death with sadness and move on.
When a Sparkclaw meets their partner and decide to bond, they will usually choose a day to bond on in the near or far future. Usually the father of the male Sparkclaw will conduct the ceremony, asking the two to vow loyalty and dedication to each other. If they agree to these vows, then the two will take turns pressing their snout tip against the soft, vulnerable section of throat of the other as the father asks for other vows of trust, protection, and care. After this, the pair will cross necks, usually to the happy cries of their families. The newly-intertwined families will then commence to a feast, the main course roasted by the fire breath of the newly bonded pair.
Sparkclaw mates will stick together for their entire life, barring obstacles offered by society-induced actions - adultery, falling out of love, etc. If one mate dies, it's very often the case that the other will fall into a depression that they cannot bring themselves out of. It's not uncommon to hear that a Sparkclaw's personality entirely turns around if they recently lost their mate, becoming vicious and cold-hearted. Usually this sort of turnaround can be prevented, especially if the Sparkclaw has a growing family.
In the Dragon Empire, Sparkclaws and Longwings cannot bond or mate. It's entirely forbidden by law. Sparkclaws who have an affinity for Longwings often are called insulting names like Wingchaser, leading them to avoid their Longwing counterparts. Even friends between the races are instantly considered to have a bond deeper than such and called names.
|In the Red Claw, this limitation is not even considered and interracial relationships are public and active, if not entirely common.|
In the Dragon Empire, Sparkclaws are sometimes hired for cosmetic duty basically as "servants" to their "superior" race, Longwings. They will fix up scale, rub oil into fins/wings, and paint on designs. This is generally a job for very desperate Sparkclaws who can't find a normal labor job as most others do, as it has extremely low pay and is bordering on illegal slave labor.