Imbued with powerful magic, superior technology, psychic prowess, and an impassive, almost mechanical attitude, the dragons provide Aedolis with safety. The catch? They keep the nation under their control by threatening to cut them off from the the Network if their wishes are not complied with. After all, it was humanoids who destroyed the planet; it is the dragons who can set it right again while keeping the destructive humanoids on a leash.
For the most part, the dragons wield a subtle sort of control over their humanoids. They are mostly content with allowing humanoids to deal with their own issues and leave them to their own devices, but they also never let them forget who is truly running the show. Sometimes a hard reminder is necessary. Ipollius is an example of that.
In ancient history, Aedolis had close ties with the dragons of the land and the military actually used them in warfare, riders (now called Pilots) forging a unique bond with their chosen animal. This hasn’t changed over the ages, though some details have. Aedolis began to conduct experiments and genetically engineer the dragons, and after countless successes and failures they produced the dragons of today: biomechanical, part organic materials, part inorganic.
For a while, the relationship between dragon and rider remained unchanged; there was respect and trust between both parties, and they worked together as a team. That fell apart when the dragons were genetically engineered.
Something changed inside the dragons' minds--they became cold, machine-like, and impassive. Their riders abused their trust and their bond by forcing those experiments upon them, altering the very nature of their being, and attempting to control what could never be controlled. Then, years later, the roles reversed completely.
It was the dragons that saved Aedolis from destruction. As the conditions on Earth degraded and whole nations were wiped out by the elements, it was the dragons that stepped in to preserve Aedolis. They erected electromagnetic domes, stabilized power supplies, and provided access to clean water and food. The people that once used the dragons soon became utterly dependent upon them--and the dragons kept it that way.
Features and Abilities
Dragons are a varied bunch. A full-grown dragon is about the size of an elephant and smaller dragons generally do not bond with Pilots. They come come in every color and shape under the sun and the only thing they truly have in common with each other, physically, is that they are all some percentage of inorganic and organic materials. Some are more machine than dragon while others are more flesh than metal. There are noAedolian dragons that are not some percentage of machine; natural dragons no longer exist.
Personality-wise, they are as unique as any human. Some are aggressive and cruel, others cold and distant, others mild--some even have obvious senses of humor. Most notable is the impassive, mechanical attitudes they all display at one point or another, especially when they act as a collective. How involved they are in their Pilots' lives depends solely upon their individual temperaments.
Unlike most animals, dragons are perfectly capable of speech. But they can also communicate telepathically, and for some that is their preferred method of communication. They are powerful psychics with unsurpassed psionic ability and are imbued with powerful, ancient magic the likes of which can be mimicked by no other species. These are the creatures in charge of running an entire planet and controlling its power supplies. Needless to say they are incredibly powerful, awe-inspiring creatures.
Their ranking system mimics that of the Pilots. From lowest rank to highest rank, they are: Cardinal, Echo, Noble, Royal, and Imperial. They grow in rank as their Pilot does, so if a Pilot is Cardinal, then so is their dragon. And just like the Pilots there is only one Dragon Imperial--and it is that dragon who is truly in charge of Aedolis.
Even the lowest ranked dragon is higher than the highest ranked Pilot.
One interesting fact about Aedolian Dragons is that they display a hive mentality that is directly connected to the Dragon Imperial. They need an Imperial to lead them, and they are essentially "programmed" to follow that Imperial, regardless of their individual personalities. Mentally linked together, all dragons are constantly aware of each other and while they are indeed individuals, they also function as a collective. If one of them dies, the others will know. If one of them knows something, so will the others. They can see through each others' eyes and feel what the others feel. They exist as a complicated balance of individual and unified.
Dragons are eternal. They are said to live forever and some of the oldest are well over 5000 years old. They have no natural enemies and are not easily killed. It can be done, but it's extremely difficult and finding vulnerabilities in a dragon's armor, both literal and metaphorical, is nigh impossible.
One of the few ways to kill a dragon is with an Electromagnetic Pulse device. For a creature that is half machine, a high-intensity energy blast like that is fatal. However, even killing them that way is difficult as both the dragons and Pilots have anticipated the weakness; there are safeguards in place, both magical and mundane, to protect then. Pilots are the only people who know how to get around these safeguards.
That being said, dragons are not yet capable of surviving outside the Earth's atmosphere. There is talk that scientists are trying to create a Dragon that can do so, but thus far it has not been done.
Though part machine, the dragons are still part of the evolutionary cycle and capable of reproducing.
However, the unfortunate consequence of all that genetic engineering, experimentation, and a dwindling genetic pool is that the majority of Aedolian dragons are sterile, barren, or produce eggs with shells too thin for the growing dragonling to survive to hatching. Any dragonlings that do survive and hatch are quickly assimilated by the others, though no human has yet witnessed the actual process, as the dragons seem to consider it private.
Unfortunately, a viable clutch hasn't been produced for at least a century now. This is a source of serious concern for scientists and Pilots alike.
The fact of the matter is that the dragons are dying out. In fact, there are no known 'natural' dragons left on Earth, as the Aedolian dragons were quick to assimilate any that they found. 'Flesh' dragons are in demand because they provide the fresh genetic materials that the Aedolian dragons sorely need, but none have been found for decades.
Pilots and Dragons
So why do dragons even keep humanoids around in the first place when it might just be easier to get rid of them? There are a number of possibilities, and the answer varies from dragon to dragon. For one, humanoids are good company. Dragons and humans have shared a powerful bond since Aedolis was Adela, and this bond, while changed, is still important to them deep down in their collective memory. Humanoids also amuse and fascinate dragons to some degree--their lifespans are but a flicker in time to a dragon, yet they are resourceful and capable of accomplishing amazing things in that span of time, perhaps because their lives are so short.
But most important is that dragons need humanoids, for humanoids can do things dragons cannot. They have small, nimble hands quite unlike a dragon's and can create and build things dragons just can't, and go places dragons can't go. Humanoids have science, too, and the dragons rely upon that--it is what created them, and it is what could very well save them from extinction and cure the planet itself.
Dragons also need Pilots because over the centuries, the extensive use of magic has altered the Earth's magnetic field and sent it into chaos. This has made it so that Aedolian dragons cannot properly navigate the Earth outside of Aedolis' protective hubs. Pilots actually serve as their eyes and navigate the terrain beyond Aedolis for them.
In the tradition of the dragon riders of the past, dragons continue to bond to humanoids, out of both need and perhaps even nostalgia. Today, these riders are called Pilots (not to be confused with lowercase 'pilots', as in the pilot of an aircraft), the term originally referring to the way their riders 'piloted' the dragons. The term is outdated since the dragons are the ones who are truly in control, but it has stuck.
Dragons choose their Pilots, and they choose them based off their own personal criteria. Motivations for picking a particular Pilot varies, but once a Pilot is selected, the two are linked together psychically. This link cannot be voluntarily terminated except by the dragon, or the death of either the Pilot or dragon. Pilots submit to their dragons rather than the other way around, and the dragons are careful to keep them under their control. Insubordination is swiftly punished by Network lockouts and sometimes more extreme methods.