According to tradition, the world began ten thousand years ago. Some religions claim that their god created the world, or sprang up shortly after. Other tales speak of the Ancients, a people otherwise unknown, who faded away just as mysteriously. They left only so-called Ancient Artifacts, which exceed mortal craft and the wonders of magic alike.
In a later era the infamous Serpent Men enslaved mankind. For centuries or millenia they practiced foul sorceries, and called unnameable things from other worlds. Scrolls from the Tianxi Empire in the Far East tell how the First Emperor of Tianxi overthrew the serpent-men, slaying them and their foul servants.
Explorers have found serpent-folk ruins in the West as well. Various myths claim one hero or another slew a plague of serpents, and modern scholars agree the serpent-men are no more.
A demi-human people known as the Vanir spread across what is now Dorland, as far as Arysia to the west, the Black Mountains to the south, and the Tethys Sea to the east. Scholars have found traces of their settlements, ranging from pottery and ruins to wondrous artifacts.
Stories of the Vanir circulate among Dorland tribes. Song cycles tell of kings and queens, heroes and villains, wise priestesses and fell sorcerers. Often stories mingle legends about the Vanir with myths of Northland gods and fragments of ancient history.
The Vanir Dominion exterminated what remained of the Serpent Men, fought off invading Aesir Warlords until their doom, and drove back the Un Men who followed. According to myth Vanir taught humanity the arts of civilization. More cynical scholars believe the Vanir enslaved humanity, or at least slotted them into the lower levels of a multi-species caste system. Under this view Dwarves formed part of a stone-working caste and Elves served as petty nobles and guardians of the forested frontier. Humans filled a variety of roles: serfs, traders, common soldiers, craftsmen, indeed any role not connected to forests, mines, or lordship.
Over a thousand years ago, something blasted a crater in the Vanir heartlands, turning fertile plains and farmlands into a blasted heath. The crater became Lake Hali, the blasted heath the Gray Wastes. The Vanir passed into legend, and the remnants of the Vanir Dominion split into small tribes, notably Dwarves in their freeholds, and Elves in their wild refuges. Tales place an elusive Vanir refuge called Paristan in the Black Mountains, and the Vadaya nomads of the Endless Desert bear a striking resemblance to Elves in desert garb.
Sometime after the Time Of Fire, humans from the Northlands conquered Dorland. Whether these settlers found empty lands, surviving Wild Fae, or former human subjects of the Vanir, all other languages and folkways disappeared. Save in the furthest west and south, Dorland’s humans spoke northern dialects, worshipped northern gods, and pledged fealty with northern oaths. Of the Vanir only ruins and half-remembered legends remained, even among Elves and Dwarves.
Over a century after the Time Of Fire, the future Shah of Kulhan received a vision from the god Mitra. Upon his ascension later in the year, reckoned Year 1 of the Kulhan Calendar, he established the Cult Of Mitra as Kulhan’s official religion. He conquered nearly all major settlements in Japral, founding the Kulhan Empire.
The Empire consolidated its position in Japral. Attempts to annex the cities west of the Black Mountains failed due to inhospitable weather and even more inhospitable dwarves. Spreading northeast, the Empire encountered the Tianxi Empire and established cordial if not warm relations. In the year 316, the Yellow Death reached Tangyuen, capital of Tianxi’s westernmost province, heralding the collapse of the Tianxi Empire. Kulhan’s armies moved into Tangyuen shortly after, encountering little resistance. Some even welcomed their conquerors, after the horror of the plague.
In 899 by the Kulhan calendar, the Crimson Horde led by the Kha-Khan Gulchujin invaded the Empire. The Horde cut swaths of destruction on both sides of the Tethys Sea, and sacked Kulhan that same year. Their rampage ended in Dorland, at the Battle of the Hills in 906, with Gulchujin’s death.
Over the next twenty years, the shattered Empire rebuilt itself into four separate entities:
The remnants of the Horde kept control of Kulhan and surrounding areas, under Gulchujin’s son Tenchulin. This new power became the Kulhan Autarchy, ruled by a succession of corrupt Autarchs.
Remaining emirs of Japral rebelled against the Autarch in 910, forming the Sultanate Of Darathan in 910. The first Sultan died in the revolt. Since then, emirs elect a new Sultan from their number.
From 909 to 916, Duke Dragnir Oragnov I reconquered most of the Empire’s territories in Dorland, and became king of what he called the “Western Kulhan Empire”, and others call the Kingdom Of Dorland. Moving the seat of power from Oragna to the City Of Mitrapolis, three generations of kings have kept the fealty of squabbling dukes, earls, and barons.
Tar-Khan Boroldai, one of Gulchulin’s lieutenants, established an orderly government east of the Tethys Sea. As his capital he chose Tangyuen, built originally by the Tianxi Empire. After the Autarch’s orders threatened to undo all his work, he declared independence from Kulhan in 918. Thus began the Khanate Of Tangyuen.