Veraene is the name of the original central region, populated by nomadic tribes who came into the region from the north and settled into tent cities, around a thousand years before the time PASSION PLAY starts. Their language and ethnic tribes were called Erythrandran. They intermarried with the local Veraenen tribes, and their languages and cultures gradually merged, but they retained the old Erythrandran language for magic. Their leader was elected by the tribal assemblies. Gradually the tribes left off living in tents for stone and brick buildings.
Over the next two centuries, they consolidated their holdings in the central plains and built an infrastructure, with laws, a hierarchy of administrators and magistrates to administer those laws, roads, a rudimentary university in the capital of Duenne, and a (relatively) stable economy. The king ruled with the assistance of his mage councilor, who acted as a priest to the twin god and goddess, Lir and Toc. He was also answerable to the assembly of nobles, originally the tribal assembly (of warriors), who elected him to the throne.
After another century, the throne became hereditary. The mage councilor became less of a priest and more an advisor, whose degree of influence depended on the individual king. The assembly of tribes became a council of nobles, whose titles ranged from Lord (member of nobility, but not necessarily a landowner) to Baron or Count (slightly higher ranks, the title awarded by the emperor) to Duke and Prince. Those with the title of Duke or Prince were descended from the original nobility of Veraene, or from the rulers of those provinces and princedoms conquered by the empire. The emperor appointed a regional governor in each newly conquered province to enforce/oversee imperial concerns. The empire also established a standing military, with conscripts from all the regions.
By the time of THE EDGE OF THE EMPIRE, the Erythrandran Empire extended from the eastern coast to within a few hundred miles of the western coast, where a range of mountains divided Erythandra from the western coast. The Empire often claimed it extended without interruption to the western seas, but never did establish itself there completely, and western kingdoms, such as Ysterien, never considered themselves a true part of Erythandra. As well, the far north of the continent—a region that included Austerlant, Immatra, and Versterlant—remained free.
The Empire had also sent off exploratory expeditions over the seas, and discovered an island chain already settled by a (mainly) fishing population, who called themselves Morennioùn. At this point, the central region of the empire— the provinces around Duenne and, to a lesser extent, those in the next "ring"—were firmly a part of the Empire, with their original languages and religions and cultures subsumed by the conquerors. But those areas on the fringe remained more independent, especially the princedom of Károví and the less formally organized province of Morennioù. Both of these retained their own languages and culture. Other less-well-integrated regions of the empire included the Andelizien Islands and Hanídos in the southwest.
Several factors led to the breakup of the empire:
First, without the "distraction" of expansion and war, the nobility turned inward to political intrigue. One reason the Emperor Marius launched his series of expeditions over the seas was to discover new lands to conquer, but the imperial fleets were designed to patrol the coastal waters, not for deep water sailing, and it was not until near the end of Marius's life that his fleets discovered Morennioù. True, those in Morennioù spoke about lands to the east, but Marius and later rulers assumed these were more islands. By the time ship technology improved, the empire was embroiled in civil war, and had no time for exploration.
Second: In the decades leading up to Marius's reign, the mage councilor's position remained, now augmented by an auxiliary council of mages. These mages constituted yet another faction that influenced, or was influenced by, current political machinations.
Third: After the death of her father, Karin Emerita became Empress, but because her father kept her isolated from Council and Court, she had little influence herself. She married the eldest son of one of the more powerful noble houses, which helped to consolidate the various political factions, but the solution was temporary and incomplete. Historians speculate that the deaths of her three children might have been brought about by magical means. Others speculated that it was simply bad luck. Whatever the cause, the empress apparently believed that the position of heir was a dangerous one. She delayed naming her heir until just before her death, and though the young man came from an old family, he had not time to build influence among the council members. His reign was plagued by external uprisings and political difficulties.
Eighty years after THE EDGE OF THE EMPIRE, two brothers, Andrej and Leos Dzavek, princes of Károví, stole three powerful magic jewels, known as Lir's jewels, from the imperial treasury. They quarreled, and the younger brother fled with all three to Károví. The elder brother tried to make amends by leading the emperor's armies against his brother to recover the jewels. He died in the ensuing wars, which divided the empire in two. The younger brother, Leos Dzavek, founded an independent kingdom, and with his new magical prowess, learned how to extend his life for centuries.
For a century, there was an uneasy peace between the new kingdom of Károví and the remaining empire. Then, Imre Benacka, King Leos's most trusted retainer stole the jewels. Dzavek captured and interrogated Benacka, but Benacka committed suicide before Dzavek could discover where the man had hidden the jewels. Suspecting that Benacka had hidden the jewels across the border, Dzavek invaded. A generation of bloody wars followed. Morennioù raised a magic shield to protect itself, and several other outer provinces—mostly those in the far west, northwest, and southwest—fell away from the empire's control. These included Immatra and Auszterlant to the north, Andelizien and Hanídos in the southwest. Valentain broke away temporarily, only to rejoin the central kingdom a few generations later. Fortezzien, in the southeast, also attempted to rebel, but never succeeded. The remaining territories thought of themselves as belonging to the kingdom of Veraene, not the Erythrandran Empire.
The wars ended, interrupted only once more by an unauthorized invasion by one of Dzavek's generals. That was ended decisively by Baerne of Angersee, a very strong king who had restored much of Veraene's wealth and stability during his reign. But a strong king does not always leave a good legacy. Baerne's son committed suicide. Baerne's grandson, Armand of Angersee, fell under the influence of Markus Khandarr, a member of the mage council. When Armand succeeded to the throne, he wanted to overshadow his grandfather's reputation, retake Károví, and restore the empire.
And then starts PASSION PLAY.