Imperial historians date from the foundation of the Empire. Events that happened after the Empire is created are recorded as YE for "Year of the Empire" and BE for "Before the Empire." Most nations had their own calendars before the foundation of the Empire so historical documents that predate the Empire use different systems. A very few Highguard historians stubbornly cling to the numbering SL for "Since Landfall" dating from the point at which they first set foot on these shores, but this is a largely discredited system.
Between the creation of the world, and the first records of human civilization, an unknown period passes. Some historians speak in terms of eons, others in terms of millennia. Most agree that there was a time before the existence of humans and orcs, when the world may have been dominated by other species - perhaps the dragons whose bones are such a valuable material. This period, and the period that follows it, are sometimes called the Dark Ages - before the illumination of history.
This period begins with the earliest recorded human habitation of the Bay of Catazar. it starts perhaps as long as two thousand years before the founding of the Empire. The ruins of the first orc and human settlements date from this period. There is some argument among Imperial scholars as to who was here "first" - the orcs or the humans. Very little is known for sure about the Ancient period, meaning that along with the time Before History it is sometimes called the Dark Ages.
According to historians among the Navarr, Urizen and Winterfolk, the orcs occupied land that had once belonged to early human kingdoms. What is known is that there were some powerful human kingdoms at this time, but that they were ultimately defeated and overthrown by the orcs.
At some point during this period, the forbears of the Suaq, Kallavesi, Ushka, Urizen, Terunael, and Feni settled around the Bay and began to build their cultures. There are ruins in many other places around the world that date from this period; the Asaveans claim that the city of Nemoria was founded during this period, making it the oldest city in the world.
At its height, the Terunael empire may have lasted for between a hundred and three hundred years. During this period, the orcs were slowly driven out of the heartlands of what is today the Empire. The Terunael traded and warred with other human cultures - Imperial scholars believe that the the Suaq, the Kallavesi, the Ushka, the Feni, and the Urizen, or their forebears, were all present in some form or another during this time along with several cultures that no longer exist about whom we have only fragmentary records - such as the Gwerin Morfae.
Terunael culture was centred around their cities. The heart of their Empire, the city of Terunael, stood in Brocéliande while other cities existed in Miaren, Hercynia, Liathaven, and Therunin. Some historians believe there were between two and five other cities, located outside the area that the Empire now controls. Exact information about this period is fragmentary, but it is generally believed that the rulers of Terunael were its magicians.
This period ends with the catastrophic Fall, and the creation of the vallorn.
After the fall of Terunael, the lands of the Bay of Catazar descended into chaos. Following the calamity, the barbarian orcs, who had largely been pushed out of the central lands, swept back in. A great many humans were enslaved, or killed, and their continued invasions sped the collapse of whatever infrastructure had survived the Bane of Terunael. Those human cultures who survived were isolated or lived in places the orcs were not interested in - the Suaq and Kallavesa in the north-west, the Ushka in the north-east, and the Urizen in the south-east.
Some historians believe that it was during the latter part of this period that the Vard and the Steinr fell from the heavens, and encountered (respectively) the people who would later form Wintermark and Varushka. Regardless, the Chaos is generally considered to end with the arrival of the Highborn.
Three waves of colonization brought people that founded new human nations. The Highborn are generally held to be the first, landing in the south, the forebears of Dawn and The Marches settled in the east. Some scholars suggest that the Steinr and Vard appeared in the north during this period, after the foundation of Highguard, but there is no true consensus one way or another.
When the first waves of human colonization began, most of the initial inhabitants were in retreat - the Navarr to their forests, the Urizen to their mountains, the Suaq and the Kallavesi to the inhospitable north, the Ushka huddled around their camp fires, and the Feni lurking in their wilderness. There were also humans living among the orcs, largely as chattel, slaves or subjects. Where these humans were freed from orc oppression, they were usually assimilated by the conquerors leaving no records of their own culture.
These nations grew in size and power through constant warfare with their neighbours, particularly the barbarian orcs who claimed the land as their own. While the nations were successful, life was hard and brutal for the initial settlers and historians believe that it was only a matter of time before these new human nations would have been overrun and subjugated, like their predecessors.
With an eye to the conflict between the human nations and the risks posed by the orcs, the First Empress began her crusade in Highguard. She gathered around a small group of like-minded individuals from various nations and with their assistance, and with the aid of the Navarr, she brought together the leaders of humanity to discuss the barbarian threat. Her vision and charisma - and the hard work of her allies - convinced many of them to recognise the value of an Empire. The people of Urizen declined to join, but sufficient folk from The Brass Coast, Dawn, Highguard, The League, The Marches, Navarr, Varushka and Wintermark accepted the proposal to allow them to form the Empire.
(1 YE - 5 YE) Internal conflict
In the early years the Empire concentrated on consolidating its position. The creation of the Empire led to a brief but bloody civil war in the Marches and the first of many battles with the orcs. During this time the first egregores were created through a ritual created by the hakima of The Brass Coast to ensure that the various nations are able to maintain their distinct cultural identity.
The most significant conflict was in Varushka where the Imperial forces engaged those of the corrupt boyar Alderei the Fair who threatened to conquer Varushka and create his own corrupt Empire. With the magical aid of the Volodny magicians, his armies proved to be a match for the Imperial forces. The efforts of powerful magicians ultimately neutralised the Volodny and the tyrant boyar was defeated by the Marcher general Tom Drake, although his body was never recovered.
(6 YE) The Senate, The Synod and the Military Council
The Empress and her advisors laid the groundwork for Imperial structures to support and empower the Empire. Building on traditions of government in Wintermark, the Senate was created to advise the Empress and give the nations a voice in the rule of the Empire. Following a plan developed in the Marches, the Military Council of generals was set up to coordinate the military forces of the various nations. The Synod was formed by the priests of Highguard, allowing the Imperial Faith to serve as a unifying force with a remit to ensure that the leaders of the Empire did not become corrupt.
(22 YE) Death of the First Empress
The First Empress led her troops from the front, rallying and inspiring them in their campaigns against their enemies. She died on campaign in battle against an orc barbarian tribe on the Brass Coast who were subsequently wiped out. She was interred in the Necropolis at Highguard, creating the tradition for many dead Emperors and Empresses that followed.
The last known horse, the mount of the First Empress, died at this time. Highguard tales described the pair's final battle, but Urizen records of army logistics from this period suggest that the horse died before the Empress. Although the first Empress is always shown on a horse, there were no more horses after this time.
(22 YE - 34 YE) Reign of Emperor Giovanni, "the Peacemaker"
After the death of the First Empress, Emperor Giovanni of Tassato was chosen by the Senate to replace her. An advisor to the late Empress, Giovanni was a statesman and politician rather than a military leader like his predecessor. He set about ensuring the Empire had the infrastructure required to help it prosper. His first act was to initiate a tradition of meeting once every three months at the site of the first meeting where the Empire was formed. A Senate building was built on the site, and it was declared Imperial Territory.
Giovanni approached the people of Urizen with an invitation to join the Empire, and this time they accepted. In return they offered their expertise as scholars and mages. Urizen scholarship slowly helped to raise levels of education and literacy across the Empire. Harnessing the power of Urizen divination with the expertise of the civil service helped Giovanni to transform the Imperial Civil Service into its current form.
The Urizen worked with the Empire to create the Imperial Conclave, inspired by experiences during the war with Alderei the Fair in Varushka. The divided magicians of the Empire, each jealously guarding their own secrets, were barely able to neutralise the much smaller force of the Volodya, and the Senate was keen to ensure that this does not happen again.
Giovanni also laid the foundations of the Imperial Bourse, and worked with the Senate and Synod to codify the body of Imperial Law. During his reign he established a single currency based on steel coins issued by the Imperial Mint, based in Tassato under the ultimate control of the Civil Service. Giovanni died in 34 YE but his legacy was at least as durable as that of his predecessor. His relentless commitment to civilisation earned Giovanni the epithet "Peacemaker".
(27 YE) Reclamation of Miaren
After fifteen years or so of active preparation, the Navarr destroyed the vallorn of Miaren with a combination of military might and potent rituals. The city of Seren was recovered and became a center for investigation of both vallorn and the history of Terunael for the next hundred years.
(36 YE - 69 YE) Reign of Empress Richilde, "the Sun Queen"
Following the reign of Emperor Giovanni, there was a brief period during which the Throne was unoccupied. The next Empress was Empress Richilde of Dawn. Senator for Astolat, this accomplished Dawnish noble parleyed her cleverness and charisma into political influence. She instituted the Imperial bards, served as a patroness of the arts, accompanied the Imperial armies on campaign as an inspirational symbol of the Throne, and worked extensively to encourage both national and Imperial pride. After her death, she was recognised as an exemplar and later a paragon of Pride.
(46 YE) Karsk captured
Imperial armies from Wintermark and Dawn supported the Varushkan force's conquest of Karsk. The war was long and did not produce tales of heroism or glory.
(52 YE) Semmerholm defeated
An unusual alliance between Marcher and Dawnish forces caused the destruction of a major orc tribe in the territory now known as Semmerholm.
(54 YE) Scouring of Redoubt
A combined Imperial force assisted the seers of Urizen in systematically removing the majority of orc occupants from the territory of Redoubt. Urizen control of the territory expanded allowing it to be represented in the Senate.
(56 YE) Reikos gained
Highborn forces finally succeeded in conquering Reikos on the borders of the Great Forest of Peytaht. The territory was accepted as part of the Empire although it took over a year to return the first senator for the territory.
71 YE - 91 YE Reign of Empress Teleri, "the Pious"
This Navarr Empress was deeply involved in the business of the Synod, and it was during her reign that they first began to exert the political powers they possessed. During her reign, the Synod gained increasing influence over all other parts of Imperial life, especially the Imperial Senate.
(74 YE) Westward expansion
A campaign to secure the western flank of the Empire took the Mourn from orcs and secured Mitwold to the sea, giving the Empire a western coastline.
(88 YE) Invasion of Kahraman
Freeborn and Marcher armies concluded a successful pincer invasion of the mountainous territory of Kahraman. The occupants were split in two by the invasion and forced out of the territory in the following years.
92 YE - 102 YE The First Interregnum
Following the reign of Empress Teleri there was a period known as the First Interregnum during which there was nobody seated on the Throne. This period was marked by close co-operation between the Conclave, Bourse, Senate and Military Council with the Imperial Synod serving a vital role as supporters and intermediaries. As the interregnum progressed, however, there was increasing dissatisfaction with the dominance of the Synod.
103 YE - 120 YE Reign of Empress Aenea, "the Builder"
The Highborn Empress Aenea spent most of her reign improving the infrastructure of the Empire. Several border wars occurred during Aenea's time on the throne, and at various points the Empire was at war with Faraden, the Iron Confederacy, Axos, Skoura and even (technically) the Sumaah Republic.
125 YE to 167 YE Reign of Empress Varkula, called "the Undying"
Taking advantage of a weakened and divided Senate the ruthless Varushkan Empress Varkula manipulated (and in some cases, allegedly extorted) her way to the throne. She then set about dramatically increasing the military strength of the Empire. Her reign saw the Empire's borders expand, and also saw a reduction in the powers of the Synod that had expanded in the reigns of more pious Emperors and Empresses.
(125 YE) Assimilation of Zenith
The seers of Urizen completed the assimilation of Zenith after a lengthy campaign involving Highborn and League forces and a long sequence of powerful rituals.
(136 YE) Fall of Holberg
Imperial armies from Dawn conquered the territory of Holberg. The city of Holberg was convinced to join the Empire by League diplomats, leading to a political coup in the Senate that resulted in the territory being assigned to the League.
(154 YE) Skarsind pacified
Although it proved impossible to drive the barbarian orcs from Skarsind, enough of the territory was conquered and fortified for it to be declared an Imperial territory.
(167 YE) Domination of Miekarova
Steady expansion by the Varushkan boyars over the preceding century led to the inclusion of Miekarova within the Empire.
168 YE to 179 YE Reign of Emperor Frederick, called "the Philosopher"
Frederick Ritter van Holberg reigned for eleven years, over a time of relative peace during which the Empire consolidated the gains secured in the reign of Empress Varkula. He was a philosopher and political scholar who fiercely protected the rights of the individual over those of the state, and encouraged citizens of all nations to view the prosperity and security of the Empire as both their responsibility and something in which to take great pride.
(180 to 198 YE) Reign of Emperor Barabbas
The Highborn Emperor Barabbas was driven by the desire to expand the Empire to control the entire Bay of Catazar. He was only marginally successful, managing primarily to alienate the people of Surann and Skoura and ultimately seeing his Barabbine fleet sink in a terrible storm that would have left the Imperial Navy crippled if not for the foresight of his Freeborn allies.
(183) Expansion into Segura
A united front by the Hakima of the Guerra and Riqueza led to the Brass Coast expansion into Segura.
This period saw the reign of Emperor Nicovar, and his catastrophic effect on the history of the Empire. It was characterized by a sequence of military defeats as earlier conquests were lost to resurgent barbarian forces beginning with Segura in the Brass Coast in 204 and ending with the war in Karsk in 259. Most of the defeats were eventually reversed, with the borders moving back and forth. By the end of the years of turmoil, the Empire actually controlled slightly more land than at the beginning, but the period is still regarded as a low point in Imperial history.
(200 YE - 209 YE) Reign of Emperor Nicovar "the Mad"
The first reversals in the Empire's fortune occurred during the reign of Emperor Nicovar. Initially a brilliant administrator, Nicovar expanded the role of the civil service in support of the Empire. However, a decade of attempting to micromanage every element of the Empire, as well as a reliance on the magic of Day to gather and interpret ever greater amounts of information, eventually caused him to descend into madness.
The draughir Emperor became increasingly unstable, perceiving patterns in events that appeared paranoid to others. His unpopular policies divided the Senate and the Synod, and there were rumbles of civil war. He began to demand extreme amounts of record keeping and it became clear that he was not in his right mind.
Things came to a head in 209 when Emperor Nicovar sent his troops to burn down the Empire's libraries. There was a revolt, which culminated in the destruction of the central repository of records in Highguard and several key spires in Urizen. The mad emperor was executed by the captain of his own guard, the Navarr Thorn Isaella. Despite appeals for clemency from the Synod, Isaella took full responsibility. She was convicted as a traitor, but at the same time was both lauded as an exemplar of courage and duty, and a hero of the Empire.
The destruction of the libraries left a big hole in the history of the Empire - thousands of books and scrolls were lost. While records still existed, there were many gaps and those that remained were fragmentary. Since then scholars have attempted to recreate the books and records they had lost, but with mixed success.
(212 YE - 234 YE) Reign of Empress Mariika
After three years without an Emperor or Empress, the Suaq Empress Mariika ascended the Throne. The Empire was on the verge of financial collapse, and Mariika's reign is remembered for her ruthless and efficient reorganisation of the Imperial Economy. She disbanded two entire armies, slashed funding to the Military Council, gave the Bourse control of a number of raw material surpluses, recognised several informal positions as Imperial offices, and generally took steps to ensure the Empire avoided economic disaster.
(239 YE - 248 YE) Reign of Emperor Guntherm
The Steinr Emperor Guntherm ascended the Throne after a series of successful campaigns against the Jotun barbarians. He was committed to expanding the reach of the Empire, and chafed under the economic restrictions placed by his predecessor. The early part of his reign is committed to strengthening the borders of the Empire, and a number of castles and fortresses were built during his reign. The latter part of his reign is known for some of the bloodiest battles in Imperial history.
(249 YE - 257 YE) Reign of Empress Brannan
The Navarri Empress Brannan followed Guntherm to the throne, and was another military-minded ruler dedicated to smashing the orcs and expanding the borders of the Empire. Ultimately, her abusive attitude to the powers of the Throne, and allegations of improper relations with certain eternals resulted in her being the only Throne to be revoked by the Imperial Synod. Despite her failings, she showed what the Empire was capable of when sufficient resources were given to its armies. Some of the most glorious battles in Imperial history took place during her reign, and with her support the Navarr in particular made great advances in their fight to destroy the vallorn and reclaim their lost cities.
(257 YE - 281 YE) Reign of Emperor James
(265 YE) Fixing the borders
The Senate decreed that the Empire was now large enough and argued that further expansion was counterproductive, despite vociferous argument from the Synod and the Military Council. Trade routes with various foreigners were established, and peace treaties were signed with various barbarians,ushering in an era of economic growth and prosperity.
Some barbarians continued to threaten the borders, but the armies shifted to a more defensive role.
The renewal period started with the fixing of the borders in 265YE and lasted until the end of the reign of Emperor Ahraz. It marked a period of introspection, but also of strengthening and renewing an Empire ravaged by the violence and confusion of the years of Turmoil. With the acceptance of the Imperial Orcs as a tenth nation, the Empire's strength appeared assured.
(281 YE - 300 YE) The Second Interregnum
After James' reign, a period of relative peace settled on the Empire. The borders were reinforced. Relationships between the Senate, Synod and Military Council achieved a degree of status quo. The Conclave and the Bourse focused on their own interests and were free to explore new avenues. Modern scholars suggest that this was a period of increasing complacency and introspection for the Empire, but others point to the high quality of life for most citizens, the various advances in magic, the arts and technology, and consider it a golden age built on the solid foundations laid by Emperor James' reign.
(300 YE - 318 YE) Reign of Empress Deanne
Empress Deanne ended the Second Interregnum by taking the throne in 300 YE, primarily in response to increased orc aggression. Her early reign was taken up with organising a fractious and complacent Senate, and helping a largely inexperienced Military Council deal with the dual threat of Grendel invasions along the southern coast, and a major effort by the Druj in the Barrens to claim Dawnguard.
(322 YE - 324 YE) The Orc Rebellion
Prior to 322 YE, many orcs that were defeated in battle were enslaved. Orcs had no rights in the Empire before this time, as they were not considered people in the eyes of the Constitution. There were slave populations in Dawn, Wintermark and Highguard and especially in Varushka and The League.
During this period an orc hero arose among his people, leading them in armed revolt that saw them occupy parts of Varushka, the League, Dawn and the Marches. The Freeborn Emperor Ahraz arranged a deal with the orcs, and a motion to recognise them as people was brought before the Senate. The motion passed by a tiny margin, making the Imperial Orcs citizens of the Empire.
(324 YE - 329 YE) Reign of Emperor Ahraz "the Liberator"
The only Freeborn Emperor to date, Ahraz came to the throne with promises to end the Orc Rebellion. He did so by bringing the slaves into the Empire, and by recognising the right of orcs to be citizens. His reign was marked with turmoil, and he abdicated in 329 YE a broken man.
(324 YE - 328 YE) The Freedom Heresy
A briar priest preaching the heretical Virtue of Freedom ultimately inspired an attempt to secede from the Empire. When the rebellion was defeated by Imperial forces, the priest led her followers into the Barrens where they attempted to found a rogue state, the kingdom of Mountane. In 328 YE the heretics were destroyed by barbarian orcs, and in 329 YE the ringleaders of the heresy were tried and executed for heresy and blasphemy.
(331 YE) The Decline begins
In 331YE the territory of Spiral was lost to Urizen. This marked the start of the current period called the Decline. A greedy and corrupt Senate, more concerned with internal political manoeuvring than the strength of the Empire, supported two weak occupants of the Throne (Empress Giselle de Sarvos and Emperor Hugh the Fat of House Rousillon) and a third catastrophically incompetent Emperor (the weak and self-indulgent naga-lineaged Emperor Walter Upwold who did not enter the Senate once during his two year reign).
The Synod was mostly concerned with dogmatic disputes and began to lose sight of its mission.
In 346 YE the territory of Holberg was lost to the barbarians. This triggered a defensive mindset and a period of recriminations. More territories were lost, leading to further defensiveness and less inter-nation cooperation. The generals of the Military Council found it impossible to collaborate effectively during this period. The addition of the first Imperial Orc generals in 351 YE simply made the matter worse.
Several more territories on the edges of the Empire were lost during this time.
(331 - 346 YE) Reign of Empress Giselle "the Unwise"
Empress Giselle de Sarvos of the League took the throne following the loss of Spiral in 331 YE and despite some early efforts entirely failed to re-take that territory. Her reign was marked with a period of political upheaval largely caused by the Empress herself whose blatant favouritism towards the League split the Senate and the Synod, and caused problems among the generals and the archmagi. Her reign ended with her death during the battle for Holberg which saw that territory lost to the Empire.
(348 - 368 YE) Reign of Emperor Hugh, called "the Fat"
After the death of Empress Giselle de Sarvos, Hugh de Rousillon of Dawn took the crown. Nephew of the Dawnish general Leon de Rousillon, and a noble of a politically and militarily powerful Dawnish noble house, Hugh was a personable, enthusiastic and idealistic knight with extensive battlefield experience. Unfortunately, he was an absolutely abysmal administrator, incapable of delegation, torn between the realities of political life and his personal idealism. His reign was marked by a dizzying number of feasts, banquets, and tourneys during which he desperately tried to woo an increasingly jaded Imperial Senate, as well as a sequence of crushing military defeats as Generals began to compete with each other over dwindling resources.
By the end of his reign, the Emperor was almost unrecognisable as the energetic young man he had been when the took the throne. Decades of feasting had left him corpulent and unhealthy, barely able to fit into his harness. Trying to stay ahead of the manipulations and machinations of the Senate had left him exhausted and despondent. According to those who saw him in the fateful battle for Karsk that spelled the end of his reign and ultimately his life, he was a broken man who embraced the peace offered by death.
(371 - 373 YE) Reign of Emperor Walter, "the Ham-fisted"
Emperor Walter Upwold was a Marcher naga who took the throne under dubious circumstances and was widely considered to be a disaster for the Empire. Under his 'reign' the Senate fell even further into open bickering and factionalism. He choked to death on an olive pit in 373YE during a state dinner with a group of Sarcophan and Jarmite diplomats.
(374 YE) Coronation of Empress Britta, "the Young Empress"
A Steinr woman named Britta became the nineteenth Empress. In the wake of the disastrous Emperor Walter (who was already being termed "the Ham-fisted") she took up the sword and shield and challenged the corruption of the Senate and Synod. She surrounded herself with competent generals, and began to formulate and prosecute a campaign to recover lost territories and drive the barbarians back.
A popular and charismatic figure, she united the people of the Empire behind her and dealt ruthlessly with her enemies. She had the wisdom to select competent advisors. People began to call her the Young Empress, and hailed her as the reincarnation of the First Empress, come to protect the Empire in its time of need.
(376 YE) Death of the Young Empress
The Empress Britta was killed during a disastrous attempt to retake Skarsind. Perhaps galvanised by this, the fastest campaign of conquest in Imperial history saw five territories previously lost returned to the Imperial fold. In the three years after her death, Skarsind, Karsk, Segura, Holberg, and Reikos were recaptured.
(380 YE) Coronation of Empress Lisabetta
Appointed by the Senate at the Spring Equinox, Lisabetta Giacomi von Holberg of the House of Seven Mirrors claimed she was inspired by her countryman, the intellectual Emperor Frederick, and by the example of the glorious Empress Richilde, paragon of Pride.