The World of Rendil
The largest and most influential political and military entity on the continent of Vordil in the past thousand years was the Great Empire of Kordil. Named for its founder and First Emperor Kordil the Seer, the Empire rose to become a near continent spanning nation before collapsing 187 years ago.
In what is now referred to as 1 YK (Year of Kordil) Kordil the Seer, royal advisor to Chaedi Moonsong the Elven Queen of Belanthier (a nation located in what is present day Selanth), staged a coup. He rapidly invaded and conquered the five neighboring countries and allied with the largest nation on Vordil at the time, Golianth. Golianth, a large nation with a majority Human population ruled by a Dwarven oligarchy, did not consider Kordil a threat as their military outnumbered his six to one. But they did not expect a revolution, funded, supported, and all but run by Kordil. Humans accounted for the vast majority of the Golianth Army, with only the officer corps and the Hearth Guard being completely Dwarven. The Humans rose up in 43 YK and overthrew the oligarchs, taking control of the government and promptly declaring Kordil as their leader. On that day, Kordil declared himself Emperor.
Emperor Kordil continued to expand and swallow smaller nations, and with his newfound military might, many nations chose to surrender without a fight. Those rulers that did so frequently found themselves as Regional Governors, sometimes over territory larger than they previously ruled. Those that did not surrender were killed and their lands split amongst Emperor Kordil’s faithful Governors. Shortly after adopting this policy, few rulers chose to resist.
Kordil lived until 66 YK, when at the age of 93 he sealed his soul in a phylactery and became a lich. He ruled for another 217 years but was destroyed by Varis Sunstrike, Half-Elf priest of Pelor, during a tour of the Empire. Ironically, unknown even to Varis himself, he was a direct descendant of Queen Chaedi Moonsong. Kordil’s Vizier Ferth Holun siezed the throne with the support of the Imperial Army and became the second Emperor of Kordil. Emperor Ferth’s first act was to pardon Varis and declare a national holiday.
The Wasted Years
For the next 450 years there was a succession of Emperors and Empresses who did little more than build monuments to Kordil and themselves. Little unrest occurred as the bureaucracy Kordil himself had established left very little actual decision making in the hands of the Emperors and while there was little freedom or opportunity for revolt, there was also very little incentive. The bureaucracy in charge was not particularly oppressive, and the countryside was safer than it had been in the past. What few nations still existed independent of the Empire were too geographically remote, too poor, or simply too far away for the Empire to bother conquering.
The Second Expansion
All that changed in 741 YK when Emperor Brandis II died without an heir. His senior-most general, Keira Vantir, took the throne with the support of the Imperial House Guard. She rapidly gutted the bureaucracy which she felt had hamstrung the military her whole career. She had enthusiastic support from the Army, but in doing so, she sowed the seeds of the Empire’s collapse.
Once she consolidated power in her own hands, Empress Keira began a program of conquest, investing heavily in road construction, expansion of the Imperial Army, the building of siege engines and advance supply depots at the Empire’s borders. Using these, she was able to extend the reach of the Imperial Army to conquer lands that Kordil hadn’t bothered with. At the outset, her goal was to increase the power and prestige of the Army, and it certainly did so. However, the Empress was not a gifted administrator and did not offer the incentives to surrender that Emperor Kordil had. She wasted many lives and a vast amount of treasure conquering lands worth far less than she spent. Within a decade, she had nearly broke the Imperial Treasury.
The Beginning of the End
Short on funds, and without the vast bureaucracy to gather taxes evenly and efficiently, the Empress was left with a vast Army to support, little lands left on Vordil to plunder, and no idea what to do about it. She tried using the Army to squeeze taxes from the Imperial Governors, but there was little to squeeze. She had already drained what resources they had in building the Army and infrastructure to support her expansion. Her only remaining option seemed to be disbanding the Army, but she was neither willing, nor politically able to do so. Had she tried, it likely would have led to a revolt of her officers, leading to her downfall.
Instead, she decided that if there were no more lands to conquer on Vordil, she would just have to cross the ocean and conquer lands elsewhere. She cut down the entire forest which covered what is today the nation of Drakhath in order to build her fleet. She sent them out with five full Imperial Legions to invade the continent of Inthar to the East. Communications with the fleet ceased shortly after they reported making landfall. The expedition was never heard from again.
With a third of the Army gone, and with no new sources of income, the Empress was forced to continue raising taxes to keep the Empire running. The expansion of the Empire had covered up the weakness of the Imperial economy her destruction of the bureaucracy had wrought, and now the disastrous news of the loss of the Legions brought it crashing down. With no money to pay the soldiers, the Army rebelled in some regions, turned bandit in others, and deserted en mass in the rest. The Imperial Governors that were not overthrown by the Army either fled or declared independence from the Empire. Not a single Governor stayed loyal to the Empress who was left sitting on a throne that ruled nothing. As a side note of historical trivia, of all of the Governors who declared themselves kings or heads of state, none lasted more than three years from their declaration before being deposed. In 765 YK the Empire of Kordil was no more.
Empress Keira actually lived out the rest of her days peacefully. No coup was necessary, she simply moved back to her country estate and left the trappings of her former power behind in the palace. For years after, travelers would come to her estate just to look at the woman who single-handedly destroyed the Empire. She offered food and water to all who stopped by, and never took offense to the gawking. She died peacefully in her sleep in 783 YK at the age of 82.
In the years following the Collapse, several nations have risen from the ashes of the Empire. Some lasting as little as two months, some lasting to this day. In the crucible of the chaos following the Collapse, every conceivable form of government has been tried. But none have attempted to recreate or repeat the conquests of Kordil. The challenge of ruling over so many, over distances so vast, has daunted all nations that have risen since the Collapse.
Without the bureaucracy to maintain the infrastructure, many of the roads and bridges have fallen into disrepair. And with no service to the roads and bridges, vast sections of former Imperial territory have become isolated and have returned to wilderness. It is no longer safe to travel throughout the former Empire, save for the civilized lands.
No one knows what happened to the Five Legions that went East. Travelers to Inthar have never found the landing site of the fleet, or sign of the ships. Travelers from Inthar say they never saw or heard of any Legions from the West. The mystery of what happened lingers to this day.