The Empire of the Sesh commonly refers to two ancient powers of the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. The first, immediately following the fall of the Grand Satrapy of the Satarai, was founded by one who was perhaps the greatest general in history, Te'esh. Seshweay or Arkage by birth (or more likely still, a mix of the two), Te'esh was a commoner in the Grand Satrapy who joined the army as an infantryman, but rose through the ranks to gain control of a Satarai army himself. He used this to rebel and defeat all the seven Satarai princes in turn, threw them out of the valley of the Sesh River, and reestablished native rule. This became one of the greatest empires of the Bronze Age before it collapsed due to internecine strife. The Second Empire was created after the fall of the first, and was, in contrast to its syncretic predecessor, dominated nearly exclusively by the Arkage. Though its armies were highly professional, its diplomacy was juvenile, and it quickly fell after it managed to antagonize nearly every single one of its neighbors into attacking it.
At its greatest extent, the First Empire of the Sesh extended through the Parda Hills in the east and to the Kotthorns in the south. It contained nearly all of the basin of the River Sesh. Despite bordering the powerful nations of the Trilui and the Hu'ut Empire, it maintained relatively peaceful relations with both. Its capital was at Aysh.
The Second Empire contained much of the Sesh Basin, but most of this territory had been devastated by the collapse of the First Empire, and despite having its capital at Tisesh (later Tisatar, on the River Sesh), its power base was almost exclusively in the Parda Hills.
Founded by the brilliant commander Te'esh, the First Empire of the Sesh arose out of complete chaos.
The River Sesh had long been home to the Seshweay and Arkage civilizations. These were divided by ethnicity, government, religion, and evidently could not stop doing battle. Fighting incessantly, they had turned the river into a torrent of blood, their numerous wars totally absorbing their attention. Thus, both nations were completely surprised and horrified to find that the Satarai had arrived: the steppe warriors utterly destroyed both nations' armies and conquered the entire land, founding the Grand Satrapy of the Sesh.
The Satarai rule was brutal, and quite unstable. Though the Satarai method of succession, where rule passed from one clan to another over the decades, worked well enough on the steppe, it failed in a sedentary environment: eventually each of the seven Satarai satraps tried to take the empire for themselves. Te'esh, having risen from a commoner to an imperial general, managed to rebel against them all and defeat them in succession.
Te'esh secured the entire country and its borders, proving an able diplomat in addition to warrior. Though of course his words were backed by all the spears of his formidable army, the fact that he bloodlessly resolved conflicts with every neighbor proved his worth. His skills as an administrator were unmatched, too: he and he alone was nearly able to unite Seshweay and Arkage. Elements of the religion began to blend. He kept the Seshweay senate but also ruled as a king in the Arkage custom. The military structures were merged into the most efficient army of the era.
But most remarkable of all was the simple fact that Te'esh had given the Sesh peace without oppression – a feat that has not been matched in all of history.
Though those who followed Te'esh were generally weak and unsuccessful, a few stand out. Emperor Olyran started a streak of expansionism with his conquest of Bahra. Ke'se fought the Trilui to a standstill, defeated the nation of Serat when they attempted to take advantage of the stalemate (and gave it in kindness to the Hu'ut), and finally returned to conclude a simple peace with the Trilui.
Fall and Dark Ages
The First Empire of the Sesh may have been the only polity in history to fall through apathy. Certainly, one can attribute its decline to the weakening power of kings, the increasing federalization of Seshweay and Arkage sections, and the subsequent divide between the two camps that trickled into the cultural sphere. But if either side had made an effort to hold the empire together, there might have been some sort of unity. Neither one did – the Seshweay nobility did their best to remove themselves from the Empire, and the Arkage did as well.
When it became clear that neither side desired the union, it quickly fell into internecine strife. Coupled with a harsh drought that lasted for decades and flooding, the greatest empire the world had ever seen fell prey to famine. With citizens killing each other over a loaf of bread, it was only too easy for the factions to blame one another – soon the war between them utterly ruined all the peace that Te'esh had brought. The Sesh turned red once more.
Simultaneously, the flight of the Satarai had destroyed the obscure nation of Berdz, which happened to be the one operating, accessible source of tin in the known world at the time. This possibly led to the Bronze Age Collapse (though historians are divided on this matter), including the fall of the Empire of the Sesh, which was invaded by hordes of barbarians that historians termed Hafnid. Bahra broke free, as did Jania. The closest thing to a successor state was a rump state around Tisesh, but that was a mere fraction of the size of the old empire. For decades, the old traditions died; even the delta of the River Sesh was abandoned: what had once been the most populated land in the world!
The breakaway state of Jania was one of the first to use iron ubiquitously. The gold in the Parda Hills around its capital Banh gave it the capital to re-arm its forces with imported techniques and hire foreigners to forge new steel. Inheriting the military tradition of the old Sesh empire and under the command of Hanid the Great, it recaptured the delta with ease from Hafnid barbarians, though in truth so few lived there that this was scarcely a feat at all.
Instead, it was with the conquest of Tisesh that the new nation began to come into its own. The first recorded instance of the "merchant trick", the fall of Tisesh was achieved nearly bloodlessly, and cemented its status as the inheritor of the Sesh tradition. Yet this was an illusory empire. Its military might be the best man for man, but they had scarcely any men at all. The depleted Sesh delta would require decades to return to fertility, and thus the only source of income was the gold in the Pardas, which introduced rapid inflation.
The empire had barely begun to rise when its decline started as well. King Mukalla II of Bahra invaded the nation, and though initially his armies were nearly routed at Tisesh, a timely sandstorm fell upon the armies and the native desert peoples were able to annihilate their foes. At the same time, badly executed diplomacy had driven them into conflict with the exiled states of the Seshweay. Though they hoped to burn the enemy capital to the ground with their previously successful "merchant trick", they had the misfortune to hire a Trilui trading ship – the same Trilui who had just been antagonized by arrogant Sesh diplomacy. The plan, needless to say, failed.
The Seshweay were able to conquer several cities in succession by advanced technologies, and the Empire of the Sesh fell back into its native hills, only to be surprised here by the advancing armies of the newly risen city state of Neruss. The allied nations were able to quickly reach an agreement on how to divide things up, and the Second Empire was no more.
The cultures of the two Empires of the Sesh were quite different. The former saw a blend of Arkage and Seshweay customs; the latter ended up completely dominated by the Arkage.