Dragons are large, scaly, winged monsters that usually breathe fire, but the odd individual spits water. Dragons live in forests and caves, guarding vast hoards of stolen gold. They are almost always evil, although one individual is friendly to humans and many dragons can be reasoned with. Most, however, are cruel, wicked brutes that terrorize villagers near their lairs into handing over their gold for the dragon's hoard. At least one dragon saw plundering as his duty. They can live for thousands upon thousands of years (the oldest living dragon is Grizzlegore; his total age is unknown), and are no less dangerous with age. Dragons seem to be intelligent-at least a few can read and write, and all can speak fluent English. Dragons are extremely protective of their young (known as piplings), even though they can have hundreds of children during their lives, and the slaying of any of a mother dragon's many offspring can send her into a violent, fiery rage. Every dragon has a unique secret weakness which, if guessed correctly, can severely weaken or even kill the dragon. When a fire-breathing dragon is destroyed, it dissolves into dust, although if a water dragon's weakness is guessed it shrinks to a harmless size. Slaying a dragon is seen as a heroic act, putting even good dragons in danger.