A Change of Capitals
The Suielman Empire recovered from the blow dealt by the Human-Elf War, eventually expanding its territories into Metamor Valley and beyond. As the centuries passed, though, cracks began to form. Whales broke off and declared independence, embarrassing the Imperial Navy on the high seas with their superior sailing ability. Sometime thereafter the Emperor established a summer capital in Elvquelin and married the Chieftain of one of the powerful ruling clans of Sathmore. The Sathmorans were surprised and greatly pleased by this move, as it showed a level of respect for them and their culture that went far beyond what the Emperors had previously shown. Thereafter they embraced the Emperor as one of their own, throwing their complete support behind his family. That ruler's grandson, upon assuming the throne, moved the capital permanently to Elvquelin, placing himself solidly in the midst of his firmest supporters and hoping to stabilize control of the northern half of the Empire.
This worked for a time, but the Emperor's separation from the wealthy southern provinces didn't win him any friends there, and his support continued to erode. Corruption crept in among the governors and military commanders of the southern provinces, and after a few generations the Emperor was effectively ruler there in name only — he could no longer exert force against rebellious rulers in the south, because his own soldiers were more loyal to those local rulers than to their far-removed Emperor.
The Empire Crumbles
It was the invasions from the north that eventually put the nails in the coffin of the Suielman Empire. The first horde of humanoids swept through the Giantdowns in 75 CR, destroying the Suielman outposts in that region and even taking Metamor Valley itself. The Imperials rallied against the onslaught and drove the armies of lutins and giants back into the Giantdowns, but this came at great cost to the Empire both in funds and personnel. More invasions followed, some more destructive than others, and the Empire's ability to contain the hordes eroded. Finally, in 150 CR, the humanoids broke through the Valley and flooded into the Midlands, as a good portion of the Imperial army scattered and fled before them. Those who maintained their discipline in retreat fell back to the Sathmoran provinces, helping to evacuate as many humans as possible along the way.
With the Midlands an admitted lost cause and much of the army in shambles, the Emperor's detractors in the southern provinces made their move. A younger brother of the Emperor led a rebellion against the throne, declaring himself the High Lord of Pyralis and calling upon the people of the southern provinces to rally around him to defend themselves against the horde that the Emperor's legions could not stop. The Emperor had more important things to worry about, such as stopping the humanoids before they reached Elvquelin, and reluctantly let the rebellious provinces go, planning to take them back at a later date.
Both Sathmore and Pyralis had geography on their side in resisting the invading hordes, although for different reasons. Sathmore was sheltered by the mountains to the east, which left only a narrow strip of hilly land to defend from the oncoming hordes. Although it was not as defensible a site as Metamor Valley, the Sathmorans fought with the ferocity of a mother bear in her den, while the horde's ambitions were depleted by their already-substantial winnings. Furthermore, the giants were hampered by their inability to survive at temperatures much higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit; as summer came into its strength, they were forced to abandon their conquests in search of cooler latitudes. The lutins were limited in what they could accomplish without the giants backing them up, and the assault was stopped at Sathmore's edge. Meanwhile, the Pyralians had the advantage of being even further south, and on the far side of the vast Flatlands; seeing a broad steppe before them with few settlements and little water, the lutins decided it wasn't worth the effort.
Even after the pressure of the invading horde eased off, the Emperor decided not to try to retake the Midlands — it was too much risk for too little gain. He consolidated his power within the Sathmoran provinces, resettled the refugees from the Midlands, and began wrestling with the problem of what to do with the rebellious southerners.
A Confederation is Born
The High Lord of Pyralis had problems of his own. When the invasion from the horde failed to materialize, his command over the southern provinces faltered. He who seizes power through rebellion often finds that he is the victim of rebellion himself, and the southern provinces fractured into a loose collection of nation-states. Some were still run by the former Imperial governors, who now named themselves kings or archdukes or similarly grandiose titles; others were taken over by charismatic members of the existing noble families. A series of wars, treaties and alliances followed, and feudalism developed into a relatively stable system that spanned the entire region. Sathmoran Emperors would launch attempts from time to time to retake the rebellious provinces, but they never succeeded in expanding their holdings for long; the local nobles had developed a taste for independent rule, and they would not submit themselves to an Emperor again.
It was during one of these wars, in 305 CR, that the High Lord of Pyralis finally reunited all of the southern nation-states under his banner. The Imperials had come as far as the Breckarin River, and those nobles who had not already sworn fealty to him did so in exchange for the protection of his armies and those of his allies, and together the unified Confederation pushed the Imperials back across the line into Sathmore. By that time feudalism was fully established, and fealty to the Pyralian High Lord did not interfere much with the day-to-day control the nobles had over their nation-states, so the Confederation did not collapse after the war ended. Unless war with Sathmore threatens, the High Lord concerns himself mainly with the affairs of Pyralis itself, letting the other nation-states in the Confederation plot, scheme and war against each other to their hearts' content. Only when an outside force comes against them do the kingdoms of the Confederation put aside their differences and fight side by side.
The Ecclesia Finds A Home
The Ecclesia, which had spread rapidly through the southern provinces during the first century CR, went from a barely-tolerated minority to the dominant religion in the wake of those provinces' secession from the Empire. Many of the newly-established rulers actively promoted the Way within their lands — some openly, most in secret — in hopes of distancing their people from the culture of the Empire. Missionaries went forth, churches were planted, the Word was spread, and before too long the Ecclesia was the greatest unifying force among the disparate nation-states of the Confederation.
In fact, the Ecclesia's Patriarch had a lot to do with the reunification of the Confederation. With the Imperials pressing into Brekkland, knowing that he desperately needed to bolster his forces, the High Lord of Pyralis issued an Edict of Tolerance for the Ecclesia in June of 305 CR. Before this time, Followers had been considered unsuitable for the military, since it was believed that the gods would not reward any army whose members failed to give them honor. Now the High Lord turned this on its head, proclaiming that the Ecclesiasts would be given the rights to serve in any and all public offices, without prejudice. Henceforth the monotheists would be full citizens of Pyralis if they swore fealty to the High Lord — or to any noble who owed fealty to the High Lord.
The Patriarch of the Ecclesia was no fool, and saw this for the opportunity it was. He declared that the High Lord of Pyralis had been ordained by Eli to defend the Ecclesia from the assault of the pagans, and all good Followers should unite under his banner. They turned out in droves to defend their homelands. Those lords who had not yet declared fealty to Pyralis quickly did so and issued their own edicts of tolerance, for fear that they would lose a substantial proportion of their workforce if they refused. The entire chain of events worked out so smoothly — with a united Confederation, a replenished and enthusiastic army, and the Ecclesia now taking a prominent role in southern politics — that many historians believe that the High Lord and the Patriarch planned the whole thing from the beginning.
The Ecclesia gradually grew to ever-greater heights of political power, eventually becoming not only a tolerated religion but the established religion. The need to differentiate themselves from the Sathmorans was strong among the people of the Confederation — and since Sathmore still followed the Old Ways, many people converted to the Ecclesia in order to eliminate any suspicion that they might be pro-Sathmoran sympathizers. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Ecclesia worked hard to promote peaceful conflict resolution between the kingdoms of the Confederation, keeping intra-faith warfare to a minimum. There can be little doubt that many peasants' lives have been saved because of its efforts.