The Du’un Empire was a nation that at its height dominated the entire continent of Norn. It is known best for its policy of relentless expansion and subjugation, its official declarations of human supremacy, and its deification of the sinister Chained God. For three and a half centuries between Y147 and Y497, the Du’un enslaved the people of Norn, committed unspeakable atrocities against nonhuman kinds and sacrificed tens of thousands of people to their unholy god. The Imperial Age is widely regarded as history’s darkest chapter.
The Cult of Kurtulmak was a small and relatively insignificant sect of dark sorcerers and shamans that first lived in the Kurtulmak Desert circa Y50. Their ancestors supposedly ravaged the land with their abominable magic, turning their once-verdant home into a barren wasteland. In the year 98, the ancient Kingdom of Rohn made contact with the Cult, and invited their religious and political leader, Cardinal Rephaim, to parlay. For decades, there was peace between the two cultures, and trade thrived. But as time went on, sinister rumors made their way to Rohn. Some said that the Kurtulmak had suddenly turned on the colonists in the east. Others said that the settlers in the eastern lands had suddenly and inexplicably committed mass suicide. Most concerning was the popular idea that the Cult had summoned a powerful and unnamed demon from the Abyss to conquer their neighbors. After weeks of silence from the east, the king feared the worst. Rohn prepared for war.
Little did the people of Rohn know that Cardinal Rephaim had done the unthinkable: he had made a blood pact with an eldritch entity known only as the Chained God. He discovered a lost ritual considered taboo even by his sorcerous ancestors, and invited the Chained God into his own body. It is said that Rephaim, empowered by his unholy god, possessed unparalleled magical powers. He could create objects where none existed before. He could crush mountains with a snap of his fingers. Most troubling of all, though, Rephaim could create new life with a mere thought. It was said he sculpted thousands of fully-grown men in a single day. The Kurtulmak conquered everything he set his eyes upon. The Cult of Kurtulmak, after conquering and assimilating hundreds of people in the east, natives and colonists alike, was reformed into the Du’un Empire.
The Imperial Age began with the subjugation of the Kingdom of Rohn and the construction of Thariz, the imperial palace, in what is now northern Santenne. Rephaim, now known as Emperor Sheol, began his rule by enslaving the local Dragonborn tribes, using them as laborers. Within the first decade of the Imperial Age, the Du’un had already subdued the elven armies, all but completely slaughtered the lightfoot halflings, and forced the mountain dwarves into an exile that lasted over three centuries. The wood elves of Ardennes were conquered under the rule of Sheol II, the first emperor’s only son.
It is written that the first men Sheol created using the Chained God’s power appeared nearly human, save for their chalky-white skin. It is speculated that they were made from the magical, snow-white sand of the northern Kurtulmak Desert. As Sheol continued using his power, though, his creations grew less and less human. Some of them lacked hands and fingers, their arms formed instead as long, white tentacles. Others were formed without a head, but were perfectly sculpted from the neck down. These malformed creations were known as Aberrations, and were as mighty as they were grotesque. When the first Du’un Emperor passed, all the soldiers he had created were freed from servitude and immediately flew into a rage, indiscriminately slaughtering thousands before they could be destroyed. His son, Sheol II, realized that the Aberrations his father had created were prohibitively dangerous, and swore off their creation. The Aberrations fell in and out of military use over the course of imperial history. They were deployed in uncountable numbers at the Battle of Thariz in Y498. Despite the destruction of the Du’un Empire, some Aberrations, notably the terrible mind flayers, still exist in Norn’s darkest corners.
The Blood Purge
See main article: The Blood Purge
Sheol III’s first act as emperor of Norn was to spread his armies to all corners of the continent and slaughter all non-humans. The dark emperor believed that humans like himself were his god’s chosen people, and that the Du’un people were even greater than the rest of humanity. This “great purification” was known universally as the Blood Purge, and began in the war-torn Kingdom of Ardennes, where thousands of elves were hunted like foxes for sport throughout the forest realm. A select few that submitted to the Du’un Emperor were spared from the terrible genocide. The goblin tribes of the northern mountains and the once-proud plains orcs submitted to Du’un rule and became renowned for the malice with which they slaughtered the other mortal kinds. Nearly one hundred thousand humanoids were massacred over the span of ten years.
The Blackscale Pact
After Sheol III conquered the islands of Tanais in Y222, imperial forces entered negotiations with the dragons native to the region. The Emperor knew that even with the Chained God’s power supporting him, entering open war with the immortal dragons would invite disaster. Sheol III died before he was able to see his alliance formed, but his son, Sheol IV, and Blackscale, the dragons’ chief, reached an agreement in Y245. This treaty, known as the Blackscale Pact, stipulated that the all dragons could live peacefully in Tanais if two of their number were always to serve at the emperor’s side. The pact also promised any dragon who aided in their conquest thirty percent of all plundered treasure the conquering army won.