Sunlight On A Broken Column: The Imperial Restoration and Expansion
The Struggle For Life
With Creation shattered into hundreds of thousands of pieces, the world took stock. In many places, no one quite knew what happened, and entire lands were cut off completely from the rest of the world. Yu-Shan, once tied firmly to all of Creation, was shattered as well, with fragments and Sanctums on every world, rather than a single unified bureaucracy. Only the Celestial Incarnae were able to transcend this chaos, placing the Sun, Moon and the five bright stars in every sky to act as a reminder that Creation yet stood.
However, there were a host of other problems to deal with first. The greatest was that the Wyld, furious at having been denied, raged horribly against the Realms. Although they could not pin down the worlds and destroy them, nor could Shaped raksha pass through the barriers that guarded the worlds, they could - and did - act fiercely enough that no one could easily pass from one Manse to another. Any who tried were set upon by countless raksha and overwhelmed.
Things were complicated by a paucity of Celestial Exalted. When the Second Primordial War had raged, the Yozi had begun a campaign to overwhelm the Exalted by slaughtering them and then killing the newly Exalted weaklings. Lytek, overwhelmed, failed to respond in time, and thus there were hundreds of Essence Shards still not reborn when the worlds broke. Essence Shards scattered across a thousand worlds, and many landed in small worlds with no suitable candidates; lacking hosts, the Shards simply waited, hoping, for someone to come and be found worthy.
Without Celestial Exalts, no one had sufficient strength to brave the storms. On the slopes of Mount Meru, a world spanning a diameter of almost two hundred miles, the remnants of the Dynasty and their towns gathered to choose a successor to the Scarlet Throne. With no knowledge of how much of the Blessed Isle had survived, they chose Tepet Ejava, the Roseblack, as the next Empress. She accepted more out of a desire to quell the issue than out of any real belief that matters would change enough for the title to matter.
Over the next few years, the Wyld Storms gradually died down, but barely. Soon, the manses around the Blessed Isle were able to, with some effort, find one another. Over the next hundred and seventy-odd years, Ejava began to organize various expeditions, uniting the Manses of the Realm as she tried to find ways to connect to manses even further out. It was a time of slow recovery, as the Imperium desperately struggled to stay alive in the face of tremendous hardship.
Elsewhere, matters were equally complex. Other worlds gathered their own expeditions, trying to find one another. In what had once been the East, a Solar Exalt named Markian began organizing his own Realm, trying to build new wonders to rival the First Age as he tried to learn how many Exalted were left to join or oppose him. Those Lunars who had survived braved the Wyld, fighting monsters daily to keep the outlying manse networks intact. Matters crawled along, and didn't look to improve.
In Imperium Year 178, engineers approached the Empress with a new design, which some of their best savants had been working on (with, unbeknownst to them, both Sidereal and Lunar assistance) for almost a century. The finished design was a ship capable of navigating the endless streams of the Wyld, relatively easy to construct from steel and jade, and powered by one of the Imperium's remaining hearthstones. After some consideration, Ejava approved the design, and the first Wyldfarer began its destruction testing.
The test was an unrivalled success, and Ejava approved construction of as many Wyldfarers as the Imperium could handle. Over the course of the next fifty years, Wyldfarer ships began to chart the Wyld surrounding Meru, laying down newly-created beacons to stabilize the Wyld, at least a little bit, and creating trade routes and gradually imposing authority across what had been the Blessed Isle, and now became known as the Scarlet Reach.
Of course, many people in the Reach had spent the last two hundred years as independant nations, and while some welcomed the Wyldfarers wholeheartedly, others resisted with all of their might. Without Wyldfarers of their own, however, their efforts were useless, and Ejava was wise enough not to expand while she was engaged in battle with a rebellious world. By 228 I.Y., there were over a hundred and fifty worlds in the Imperium, ranging in size from only a few miles across to Mela and Arjuf, which contained over seventy linked Manses keeping it stable in an area of over a hundred miles squared.
However, early Wyldfarer designs were inaccurate and short-range; while they could handle the relatively short distances between the worlds of the Reach, they weren't able to cross the Deep Wyld. Worse was a phenomenon called Wyld Storms, when previously stable areas would abruptly becomes dangerous and chaotic for no discernable reason. Once or twice during this time, badly-mutated travellers would appear and claim to be from much farther away, Nexus or Chiaroscuro, but these were by far the exception, and beyond the hope that most of Creation had survived, the Imperium had little.
In I.Y. 229, feeling the onset of advanced age, Tepet Ejava handed the throne over to her son, Gregorious. Gregorious continued his mother's plans, but he was a more headstrong leader than even his mother, and unnecessarily angered some of the rulers that he met with. Although he was a military genius and a basically decent person, and managed to avert most of the wars that he nearly caused, his rule was marked with constant low-level unrest and dissent from the many worlds of the Reach. At the same time, he expanded Imperium rule across the entire Reach. Only a few particularly fanatical worlds resisted him, and these he let be only because the only alternative was their wholesale destruction. Wyldfarer technology slowly developed, and Essence engines were designed to allow mortals to make the short hops between worlds.
However, everything changed in I.Y. 321, when a strange vessel appeared in the world of Manevar, on the 'eastern' edge of the Reach. It was gold, silver, iron and white, a gleaming Wyldfarer the likes of which the people had never seen. Its pilot announced himself regally as a messanger of Markian the Blessed, Chosen of the Unconquered Sun and Lord of all the Wyldspan, and informed the world that they would be blessed with inclusion in the New Realm growing to the east. When informed that the world was already part of an inter-Span nation, and that said nation possessed scores of Wyldfarers to boot, the messanger was shocked and confused, and, gaining directions, set off for Meru to meet with the Emperor.
The two Great Nations had met, and the Span would never be the same.