The Empire of Skyrir
Five millennia, that's a long, long time. Lot of good and a whole lot of bad. And the libraries in Ghal Ankhar or Melanthris will have all it codified and organized for your convenience. But... if you really want to know your history, the real stuff, then you need to grab a shovel and head into the Scorch. Careful though. The things in the desert are eager to turn the past into a prologue for their return.
Long before the sun cast its light down upon the magnificent spires of Melanthris power rested in the hands of another people, the god-kings of Skyrir.
The desert region known as The Scorch was not always so hostile an environment. Some of the old records recovered by the Baradradi people point to a once-lush region full of fertile land and dozens of small inland lakes of fresh water. This tropical paradise was dominated by the Skyriran Empire which reigned from the capital city of Skyrir on the southern coast. Together, with the vassal-cities of Baradrad, Limdrak and Orabad they formed what many refer to as the Eternal Empire.
Origins of Entombments
The Empire's success was predicated on the promise of life eternal via the process of Entombment which preserved the bodies of Skyrir's most influential members for a later return to life via Perfect Resurrection. This spell or ritual had been long sought after by the people of the Skyriran Empire for anything less than eternity in a flawlessly restored body was unacceptable. Until such magic or divine gifts could be found Entombment offered a stasis of sorts to wait out the ages.
Entombment offered a strong allure to the many human tribes that populated the verdant region. The threat of death was an ever present one in Tairos' prehistory. Medicine was a barely understood science and limited to simple herbal remedies. The safety offered by castles, city walls and trained militias is a luxury of the modern age. Advancements made by the College of Magic has yet to be discovered; arcana was a thing of raw, unbridled power that could be channeled from the Leylines and through the body. Casters were not long for this world. Their spells often killed them long before they could achieve any level of mastery.
The human tribes squabbled and fought ceaselessly over territory, herds of buffalo and sites saturated with magic. They also fought viciously against the Gnolls, Orcs, Goblins, Centaurs and Sea Folk all of whom preyed upon these early humans. One tribe of humanity from deep within the jungles would offer to break the cycle that trapped the others in permanent violence and fear. They called themselves the Skyrani and they had gods willing to save the people of the south lands. These gods were the gods of the stars who spoke to the Skyrani through dreams, visions and whispered thoughts cast across the endless void of the night sky. The greatest of these ancient deities was known as Aszhaurus, the Golden One. It is from his wisdom that the secrets of Entombment were first given to humanity along with the founding principles of civilization, technology and law. In return he asked that the long abandoned Gates be buried or hidden so the old evils of the world could never return. He granted them new magic, wisdom and the promise of eternity. Within a few short centuries all the human tribes of the south lands had flocked together to build the grand city of Skyrir. It is here that the Eternal Empire was born.
Foundations of an Empire
At the center of Skyrir a vast temple was built to their Golden God. It is from here that he would invest a portion of divine power into a chosen mortal. This newly created demigod would serve as Aszhaurus' earthly representative and put into motion his grand plan. That plan involved seeking out every gate on Tairos and destroying or burying them. Skyriran scouts were dispatched all across the continent in search of them. Many scholars believe this is why evidence of Skyriran civilization turns up so far from the south lands. Gates by the dozens were sealed in caskets of molten bronze and buried deep. Any gate cult, tribe or simply village found near one of the gates was razed to the ground as well, ensuring the secret of that gate died with them. The gates that survive today are those the scouts missed or failed to conceal.
While the burying of the gates was a primary goal of their god another objective in his plan was soon revealed. The gods of old were banished or dead but Aszhaurus warned that their absence would create a void that other false idols would seek to fill. He taught that weakling gods wandered the void between worlds seeking new faithful to replace those they destroyed or abandoned. He taught that his people how these transient deities brought ruin to other worlds and discarded their followers like refuse. Where they went, disaster would follow. And so he decreed that these verminous new gods must be uprooted before their faith can take root and draw others to the fertile lands of Tairos.
The pogroms of the Eternal Empire were bloody affairs that saw the orcs, goblins and gnolls scattered. The Centaurs were driven to extinction and the Merfolk decimated and forced to flee into the open ocean. The gods of these people were believed to have died or fled back into the void. The followers that survived would eventually turn to simple nature or ancestor worship, forgetting completely about the old gods they prayed to long ago.
The Golden Age of Skyrir
With the known gates dealt with and followers of the heretic gods dwindling out of existence Aszhaurus was able to bring prosperity and enlightenment to his people. The quest for Perfect Resurrection was still a priority but now other pursuits were being followed as well. Explorers were venturing out into the Endless Blue Ocean on galleys built in Skyrir's harbors to explore and understand what lies beyond Tairos. They were using their magic to delve into the mysteries of the Astral plane and the Leylines themselves. They build grand cities such as Limdrak, Orabad and Baradrad. Through it all, they continued to stomp out any trace of worship for gods other than Aszhaurus.
With each passing century the grandeur of the Eternal Empire grew. They became the most learned people to ever walk Tairos up to that point. Some believe their understanding of science, history, architecture, arcane cosmology and magic could have rivaled that of modern Melanthris. Yet one thing continued to elude them, the secrets of Perfect Resurrection. Countless citizens lay in wait, having undergone Entombment, for the day they can rise as ever-living beings.
This would change one day by simple accident. An initiate in one of the Entomber Orders named Zharkhaddos had been experimenting with the soul preservation elixir used by his tradition. He was an ambitious young man always hoping to earn the attention of his Order's leadership with innovative new recipes for Entombment. He discovered a very different kind of energy that could be tapped into, one that preserved the soul and allowed the body to carry on indefinitely. It had only a single flaw compared to Perfect Resurrection. The body and soul would need continual fuel to carry on. That need for fuel manifested as an insatiable hunger and only life energy could abate it.
Skyrir's golden age came to an end when Zharkhaddos learned of Aszhaurus' deception. The god knew that Perfect Resurrection was unachievable and that Undeath, as it would soon be known, was the only alternative and one he would not allow the Skyrirans to entertain.
The Empire's End and the Birth of Necromancy
Zharkhaddos' discovery came as a shock to those in power whom he shared it with. The idea that Entombment was little more than permanent death sent shockwaves through the Skyriran culture. They felt betrayed by their god, enraged that they had spent generations enacting his grand plan while he knowingly let them rot in their tombs. Temples to Aszhaurus were toppled, his holy books burned and his name scoured from the monuments of their empire.
In their place the Skyrirans created massive arcane laboratories and focal conduits all designed to research and tap into the energy that Zharkhaddos discovered. This new element was one of pure entropic power that seemed to change the very nature of any organic substance it touched. In its most raw form, this energy manifested as a withering hunger that drained organic material of its essence. However, with careful applications and formulas, it could seemingly do the opposite. It could give animation to dead flesh, it could heal injuries and it could even bring the entombed back to life. This was not without consequence though. Subjects exposed to this energy needed a constant source of living fuel to sustain them and without it, they'd deteriorate back to their dead state, all the while their hunger driving them toward a frenzied madness.
Zharkhaddos became the herald of a new age and was welcomed by the people as the new god-king of the Eternal Empire. His rule saw the upper echelons of society embrace Necromancy fully, transforming themselves into undead creatures. Their physical appearance and form were kept youthful and beautiful thanks to a constant influx of slave-supplied blood. Others sought the mysteries of the astral and ethereal realms and found that they give up their physical bodies altogether and become entities of pure necromantic energy. Those incorporeal forms found the fuel they needed by ravaging the souls of the living. Some peasants sought out whatever means they could afford in order to have their little piece of eternity. Poorly wrought and cheaply made elixirs gave rise to packs of deformed, ravenous humanoids who feed on dead flesh to sustain their miserable existences.
Zharkhaddos himself used what he discovered to turn his body into a powerful fulcrum that bridged the living world with the font of necromancy. He became the first lich and perhaps the most powerful user of necromancy Tairos would ever know. It is with that power that he and his cult would carry out their own grand plan, one of revenge. They enacted a terrible ritual that opened a gateway to their old god's home and unleashed a withering black death so powerful that the very divine fabric of Aszhaurus' realm was undone. They watched as his place of light, his plane of radiance, fell into void and with it their treacherous former god as well.
Free from their deceiver patron and imbued with a power unlike any Tairos had ever known Zharkhaddos set about the second phase of his grand work... to open the Leylines of Tairos and feed upon them. The more life he consumed the stronger his connection to necromancy became and by draining the very life source of magic he knew he could become the god that Skyrir deserved.
The reign of Zharkhaddos was not to last long. Only a century or so after his rise to power and the murder of Aszhaurus the Empire of Skyrir was irrevocably changed into something else... something horrible. They became a kingdom ruled by the dead, a place where the living were kept as cattle and where an insidious decadence designed to last forever had taken root. All that remained was Zharkhaddos' ascension to godhood. Once done Tairos would belong to the dead alone. Once this world was picked clean of life the God-King planned on unearthing the gates they had buried so long ago and using them to spread his empire to distant stars. Aszhaurus had taught them that life was abundant in the vastness of the heavens. Zharkhaddos planned on consuming it all, world by world.
Zharkhaddos had transformed Aszhaurus' temple in the center of Skyrir into his own glorious tomb-throne. Made of black stone and gold, this palace of death is where he hoped to harness the power of the gods. From the peak of his tomb he used secrets Aszhaurus left behind to breach the walls of reality and open the leylines of Tairos.
Unlike the depleted leylines of modern Tairos, the leylines in those ancient days were a thing of raw, unchecked power. So filled with life and potential that tapping into them directly was like standing in a raging river and trying to slow it with your arms alone. Cave drawings made by the simple tribes of the modern races depict what happened next. They show a fiery cloud that rose up from the south, a crack of thunder that could be heard from thousands of miles away and a flash of light so bright that it blotted out the sun. Skyrir itself was shattered and the lands of the south lit aflame, scorched beyond recognition. Zharkhaddos' attempt to open the Leylines and feed upon them backfired apocalyptically. The mortal slaves and servants of the Empire were burnt to ash along with many of the weaker undead. Those that survived found their food sources gone, the land barren and the flow of magic in the region completely unstable.
Zharkhaddos was believed to have perished in the initial explosion. Without leadership and sustenance, the remaining Skyriran undead sought out an unlikely means of survival. Entombment. The retreated to their crypts and the shelter offered by the sleep of death. They left mindless servants to guard their tombs and watch the scorch lands for signs of life. When the time is right and the cattle have returned the servants will wake their masters and rebuild the Eternal Empire.
While the Empire still functioned it theocratic autocracy with all power flowing through the current God-King and his subordinate priesthood and nobility. In its current existence, there is no central leadership and each entombed lord and his entourage of servants and lesser nobility could be viewed as autocratic city-states.
The Empire's original agenda was the completion of Aszhaurus' Grand Plan. This included barring all other gods from Tairos and preserving it against the reckless ambition of other deities and the disasters they bring with them. After Zharkhaddos became God-King of Skyrir the agenda shifted to gathering mortal cattle, spreading the Empire to new worlds and helping Zharkhaddos become a true god.
The wealth amassed by the Eternal Empire during its reign dwarfs that of any modern kingdom known. Perhaps all modern kingdoms. This is why the tombs and deserted vaults of Skyrir, Orabad and Limdrak are so coveted by treasure seekers. They also possess vast necromantic secrets, arcane lore and legions of undead servants.
Demography and Population
The Empire of Skyrir was primarily human and shunned any race that refused to convert to their religion. Under Aszhaurus' reign the mortal Empire consisted of several million citizens. Under Zharkhaddos, tens of millions of slaves (of all races) were bred in captivity to feed undead lords.
Under Aszhaurus the Skyriran military consisted of well trained and equipped soldiers, battle magicians and clerics channeling the power of the Golden God's home realm. Under Zharkhaddos' reign the army became a silent legion of countless undead. The cattle slaves fed upon were put to work as house servants or soldiers. Necromancers, liches and other insidious casters replaced the battle magicians and clerics of old.
Religion in Skyrir has always been focused around the veneration of one central divine figure. For most of Skyrir's history that was Aszhaurus the Golden God and any god-king he had chosen to represent his interests at the time. Under Zharkhaddos all worship was directed toward him and him alone.
The Eternal Empire
Ghed - Gold, Silver and Copper currency that depicts the symbols of the God-Kings