The Dragon Kings were the first intelligent life in Creation.
Before the Primordial War, the ferocious and proud Dragon Kings were the masters of Creation. The gods created them to serve and worship them, just as the Primordials had made the gods to be their servitors. The Dragon Kings were made to be especially tough and durable, as Creation was newly formed and unstable, so that earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanoes were all regular occurrences, and huge deadly predators roamed the land and swam in the seas.
At this point in time, Creation was barren of intelligent life. The gods lived on the Blessed Isle, while the Primordials lived in Yu-Shan. The gods created four breeds of Dragon Kings, one for each of the 4 directions of the Threshold. The Mosok for the islands and oceans of the West, the Pterok for the icy North, the Raptok populated the jungles and forests of the east, while the fierce and sturdy Anklok ruled the fiery South.
Being one of the first experiments at creating thinking beings with purely physical bodies, the Dragon Kings were spiritually halfway between gods and mortals. Their souls, though immortal and retained some memories of their past lives, their bodies were made of mortal flesh and lived between 300 and 350 years. When a Dragon King died, his spirit was reborn in an egg of another of his kind. The personality remained intact, but the process of rejoining a physical body stripped away most of the memories and power from his spirit, and thus Dragon Kings were reborn as savage beasts who required special training to regain their reason and memories. And even when both were regained, they were left with only fragmentary memories from their past lives.
The Dragon Kings were never numerous, due to their large size and carnivorous diets, and because the Primordials feared what would happen if they overran Creation. Humans were first created to serve the Dragon Kings and to provide Primordials with a more abundant (and less dangerous) source of worship. The Dragon Kings ruled humanity for centuries, and while they were not especially cruel or exploitative, they also suffered no challenges to their authority. Upstart humans were likely to end up as sacrifices to the Unconquered Sun.
Yet during the Primordial War, the Dragon Kings sided with the Exalted and the gods against their creators. Partly this was a sign of their devotion to the Unconquered Sun, which extended to the Solar Exalted, but partly it was self-defense. While the Primordials drastically underestimated the threat posed by Exalted humans, they were well aware what the rebellious Dragon Kings might do, and pre-emptively slaughtered them by the millions. These casualties were destroyed utterly, never to reincarnate.
At the war's end, the Pterok were nearly extinct, and the Mosok and Anklok had been reduced to a fraction of their former numbers. The Raptok of the East had survived with the fewest losses, and so the East — and specifically the city of Rathess — became the center of the Dragon Kings' civilization.
There was no love lost by humans for their former rulers, but the gods brokered treaties that ensured peaceful coexistence. Rathess was the first home of the Solar Deliberative, and the Dragon Kings and the Solar Exalted worked side by side to secure Creation.
However, once the Solars moved the seat of government to Meru, the Dragon Kings entered a period of long, slow decline. They were not a species suited to idleness, and the awareness that they were no longer the masters of all Creation ate at them. Unable to compete with the great works of the Exalted and without external enemies to fight, the Dragon Kings became consumed with internal rivalries and individual glory. Some turned to dark sorcery or strange cults, others to heedless self-indulgence. As they paid less attention to the spiritual tutelage of their offspring, each generation of Dragon Kings became more beastial than the one before it. This alarmed the increasingly paranoid Solar Deliberative, and eventually their territory was transformed from an autonomous client state to a protectorate ruled by a ruthless junta of Stewards and Lawgivers in Rathess— all for the good of the Realm, of course.
The Dragon Kings rebelled against this betrayal by their old allies, but when the Usurpation struck, some still sided with the Solars against the treacherous Terrestrials. Two Solars who escaped the initial purge fled to Rathess, hoping to find succor among the Dragon Kings, but only succeeded in drawing the Wyld Hunt to the city. The battles, riots, and destruction killed huge numbers of Dragon Kings, and left their cities shattered husks. The Shogunate took no further action against the Dragon Kings; they had no real need to.
The Great Contagion and the Fair Folk invasion finished what the Usurpation started. Too many newborn Dragon Kings hatched with no adults around to train and educate them, and thus never rose above the intelligence of animals. Isolated pockets of semi-civilized Dragon Kings occasionally pop up on the fringes of Creation, but they rarely sustain themselves for long, and have little hope of regaining the glory of their past.
But little hope is not no hope. A small handful of Dragon Kings sealed themselves in magical stasis below Rathess and several other ancient cities of their kind, as a bulwark against exactly this sort of tragedy. If they can be safely awakened, they not only may tutor their savage breathren, but reveal secrets of the First Age lost or suppressed for centuries.
Powers and Abilities
Dragon Kings are able to manipulate Essence, though their ability to use it is linked to their overall intelligence and the memories of their past lives. Rather than learning Charms, they studied ten elemental Paths, which are powerful but overall less flexible. Many ancient Dragon Kings knew techniques from multiple Paths.
In addition to the Paths, some Dragon Kings became olchiliké, their word for chosen. Unlike the Exalted who came later, however, an olchilik is possessed directly by a god or spirit. This is not a crude, temporary possession, but a true pairing of flesh and spirit that can only be achieved by mutual consent. Olchiliké gain rapid healing abilities similar to an Exalt, and also gain access to a number of Charms.
In the modern age, there are few Dragon Kings left who are both willing and able to become olchiliké, and few gods and spirits interested in such a partnership. In addition, the charm necessary for this type of possession is not widely known, and many beings who know it avoid using it for fear of persecution from the Immaculate Order.