The problem was very simple: A female dragon remains fertile for a thousand years. Capable of producing thousands of offspring. Some of them – particularly among the less-clever varieties – are likely to do so. Dominant males may have many more offspring than that – and dragons are sexually driven enough that half-dragons are all too common. Young dragons are mildly difficult to kill. Adult dragons are very difficult to kill and become even harder to kill as they age. They are roughly evenly divided between males and females.
In a steady-state environment, each generation merely replaces the last.
Ergo, something in the area of 99.9% of all dragons either never get to breed – whether due to death or due to not being permitted to breed – breed a few times and die very young, or – possibly – great numbers of females are monopolized by a relatively few males and many chances for fertilization are missed.
What happens to the losers? The principal natural enemies of dragons are adventurers, major vehicle weapons, and each other.
In the Dragonworlds, where the dragons rule, death-by-adventurer or by vehicle-scale-weapons is relatively scarce.
It follows that, in the Dragonworlds, the vast majority of dragons are either slain or sterilized (and – we would assume – enslaved, since otherwise they would probably just get this undone) by other dragons. Given that adequate control systems are available, and that there will be quite enough dead dragons lying around anyway, we’ll throw in the assumption that sterilized dragon-slaves, attendants, nurses, tutors, guards, and so on, are all popular with the more powerful dragons. That way 10% or so of them get to live.
Even with a red dragon’s tendency to fume and the somewhat-faster timerate the dragonrealms were currently running at (he’d never quite sorted out whether that was cyclical or plot-driven; sometimes the place was a little slow, sometimes a little fast), Kevin had calmed down by the time the new slaves were out of processing.
They’d need an orientation lecture too. They might have been magically-manipulating other hatchlings into fights – at least in his five worst cases – as well as making general nuisances of themselves, but part of that might just be because they’d known the odds to begin with. When you knew that you had a 90% chance of dying in childhood or adolescence, it sort of took most of the premium off of “delayed gratification” or “self-control”.
Hopefully the remaining kids would recognize that he was trying to improve things.
Hm. It looked like the troublemakers had been pretty unpopular: the other kids had picked out a full set of the most painful, blatant, and demeaning options each and every time. Hopefully that would change a bit in the future.
The new slaves all showed up and waited quietly and obediently when summoned of course – but the aura of despair was pretty painful. They believed that not only had they lost any chance of there ever being anything fun in their lives again, but that they were only waiting to find out which nine-out-of-ten of them were going to die horribly and which one-in-ten would get to live and suffer.
Feeling guilty under the weight of those despairing gazes, Kevin took refuge in being brusque – and in the fact that he had good news for them.
“At Attention! You are all slaves now, and probably will be for the rest of your lives. That being so, there are some things you’ll need to know. Most importantly, you are still my children, and I have made some provisions for you:
First, none of you will be sold away from my holdings, or will be used for anything which will either kill you or cause you unjustified pain – please note that punishment for messing up is NOT unjustified pain – UNLESS even slave-binding and slave-conditioning does not suffice to bring your behavior under control. Failing that, however, you will NOT be used for sacrifices, butchered for food or magical components, used for hunting-practice, or anything similar. If I need to do anything like that, there are plenty of other young dragons available on the market.”
Well, that brightened them up somewhat; at least they weren’t going to die for awhile – or until something happened to Kevin. There was no way around the sour bits – but at least they wouldn’t be a surprise.
“You may be put to a variety of demeaning and servile tasks. “Modesty”, “Pride”, and “Dignity” are no longer a part of your world. That comes with being a slave of course, but I’ve made some special provisions there as well. To demonstrate, all of you display yourselves and show off your modifications. Remain posed for display while the veterinarians check you over.”
Kevin kept a careful eye out for signs of resistance. While minor slipups among the slaves would call for minor punishments, actual resistance wasn’t at all likely barring someone having some really unusual attribute or special power – or another kid or group thereof trying to get a slave-child into trouble or punished. That would be awfully easy to do with illusion or domination magic. On the other hand, it would be direct interference with his lecture, defiance of his rules about slave-treatment, an attack on his personal family/property – and grossly unfair; the slaves were totally helpless. Hopefully the remaining free kids all had enough sense to know what THAT would lead to.
Everything seemed to be going as it should however.
“Well… From the reports, outside of the basic modifications, and the resulting temporary stiffness and soreness, you are all in excellent health. Thank the veterinarians for their inspection.”
The kids – obediently, if somewhat resignedly – thanked the veterinarians for that dose of humiliation. That, of course, triggered the positive-reinforcement conditioning circuits. The sudden jolt of ecstasy sent them momentarily rigid and wide-eyed – and was quite a shock for them. Pleasure-conditioning wasn’t normally part of the process.
“THAT is the special provision I’ve made for you there. Pleasing, obeying, and providing good service for your master will bring you pleasure in return. If you please your master enough, you may find life as a slave quite gratifying. This will also serve to make you more docile, eager to please your masters, and grateful for receiving orders from your masters – thus making you far more valuable, and consequently safer, slaves.”
Suddenly there was a certain amount of enthusiasm and anticipation in the attention his slave-children were giving Kevin. They’d never heard of such a thing – but it was beginning to look like enslavement within the family might be quite bearable, rather than being a fate that would probably make you long for death. Given the odds against success, perhaps this was going to turn out to be a second place prize? Father had always been pretty generous – but even the metallics weren’t normally anywhere near this kind to enslaved offspring!
Kevin was pleased; when you were likely to father tens of thousands of children, most of them would inevitably wind up losing the competition to become parents in the next generation – but while mass enslavement might be both inevitable and necessary, he hadn’t really wanted to take anything – much less everything – away from them, even if they were only phantasms. He wanted them to see this as trading in “freedom with a 90% chance of an early death, a 9% chance of unpleasant enslavement and likely early death, and a 1% chance of becoming a parent (and likely an early death or an unpleasant enslavement soon afterwards)” for “being a subordinate with a nearly 100% chance of having a long and reasonably happy life to look forward to”.
“Now, most of you will never know the pleasures of raising a child of your own – although you all knew that the odds of that were poor to begin with. On the other hand, you will never need to make a speech like this one. You will not, however, be missing out on nearly as many things as most slaves. I will be granting you all an innate dream-experience spell. As long as you please your master, it will allow you to experience a memorable and vivid full-sensory dream life of hunting, feasting, exploring, adventuring, flying free, and even – provided that someone gives you an illusion-experience first to provide the basics to work with – sex. Dream-lives aren’t quite as good as the real thing, if only due to the lack of real people in them to interact with, but they’re a fair substitute. Of course, this will – once again – help keep you resigned to your situation, attentive to your master, and give you a stake in remaining enslaved, making you better and more valuable slaves.”
That was something of a wonder. They’d never even imagined that something like that was POSSIBLE, much less that Kevin would casually grant it to them. A few even realized that – while a dream-life might not have other real people to interact with – it wouldn’t consist of anything except high points and fun either.
Kevin didn’t mention that a minor mental-communication charm with each other would give them real people to interact with in their dreams. Let them figure that out for themselves. He didn’t want to make enslavement seem TOO attractive anyway.
Now for some other basics.
“You will be getting ample amounts of food, water, and rest, and proper medical care, as well as occasional periods of relaxation and – if you do well – even occasional gifts or a small allowance. There is no reason to starve or abuse you; I have plenty of resources – and underfed, tired, injured, or over-stressed slaves perform poorly.
You will be continuing your educations, although you will be learning skills of use to your owner rather than preparing for an independent career. A skilled slave, well-versed in many fields, is far more valuable than a dolt. Of course, if you do poorly or show little effort, you will be punished.
You will occasionally be allowed to choose between assignments: You will provide the best service – and maximize your own pleasure – by serving in the positions for which you are best suited.
If you are being abused beyond the casual kicking-around that comes with being a slave, you are to report it to the harem managers. Similarly, you are free to ask them questions and to make minor requests. However, if they feel you are abusing the privilege, you will be punished. If you are being seriously abused by someone under my authority, the person abusing you will be punished.
You may now sit.
Finally, you have all been accustomed to receiving some small favor or gift – a minor outing, an illusion-experience of your choice, a special meal or treat – each year at the anniversary of your hatching day. This will continue. I’m sure that it will make you better slaves somehow.
Any questions? That is not rhetorical, if you have any, go ahead and ask politely.”
There weren’t any. Most of them were still digesting the fact that their situation was a great deal better than they’d thought – perhaps better than the vast majority of dragons ever got. They were distracted enough that they didn’t even realize that “making you more valuable slaves” wasn’t really a reason when Kevin had already stated that he had no shortage of resources and had no intention of ever selling any of them.
Kevin was pleased as well. It looked like they’d be quite content.