Our story takes place in Calvander, a large peninsula off the northeast corner of the main continent of Ibador.
About two hundred years ago, Calvander was a fairly boring place. Imagine pre-Roman Britain, with lots of tribal natives fighting small skirmishes but no major battles. For the most part, the native Calvans lived their simple lives without much contact from the rest of Ibador.
Then news of an expanding house of nobles out of the continent reached the ears of Calvander's various tribal chieftains. When the first of these Grey, as they called themselves, arrived on the shores of Calvander, their reception was mixed. Some saw the Grey as representatives from Elpheme, the ancient home of the Feyfolk: Elves returned to the world. Others simply saw a group of greedy, pointy-eared Men eying the vast resources of Calvander.
Whatever the truth, the Grey were indeed a mysterious bunch. Taller than most Men, they were lithe and dark-skinned and possessed a strange air about them.
What followed was a system of tribute, with the separate tribal regions of Calvander most typically serving as client states of the Grey. There were uprisings from time to time, during which the Grey displayed the first glimpses of their very powerful arcane abilities.
After a couple of generations, this system began to stifle the native Calvans, and one massive revolt led by Robbert Jenkan (known to most as "Red Robb") led to an outright invasion by the Grey, and subsequent military occupation. The Grey began to build their own forts and towns, often right on top of the steaming ashes of native settlements.
A period of conflict shook Calvander for the next forty-odd years. By the time the fog of war had lifted, the great Red Robb was dead by his own son's hands, the resistance was quashed, and the Grey had Calvander to rule as their own. They pushed as far northward as their resources could allow, but met with a strange and wily foe in the northern reaches of the peninsula. Long rumored by many natives (those who refused to accept the Grey as Feyfolk) as the last stronghold of Elpheme, the north was the one area for which the Grey gave up notions of conquest. A series of "Chets" were built along the northernmost border of the Grey empire, and that was that.
The Grey soon began to seek additional stability in the region through strategic marriage. Not much was known about the Greys' own rituals for marriage, and from outward appearances, they were either identical to or directly adopted from the customs of the continental Ibadorians. This fit in fairly well with Calvander's patrilineal tribal alliances. When the first marriage between Calvan and Grey established an heir with features from both cultures, many cried that it was a signal of the end of times. Most just went about business as usual.
Aside from the stability brought about through marriage was the establishment of a university in the Midlands for arcane study. This strange and dangerous art practiced by the Grey was not popular among the natives, as it "altered the fabric of the world without permission from the gods," as one source put it. The Men of Calvander were not strangers to magic, but they were steeped in a shamanistic, druidic tradition where one asked the gods to perform fantastic deeds, prayed for them, and thanked the gods when these deeds occurred. The Grey just did it themselves.
The year is now 212, according to the standard calendar based upon the Grey arrival at Calvander. In addition to new developments on the Grey empire (the same Grey who came to Calvander originally still rule, and have not appeared to age at all), there is a disturbing barbarian invasion occurring on the western shores of the peninsula as strange creatures out of nightmares invade the coastal villages north of the Chetwall.