This is a draft that I am working on and will update from time to time. Feel free to add feedback, but this is a rough first draft.
In the beginning of the world, men crawled up from the murk and muddy filth of the Aether Wars to bloom like water lilies upon the land. A long succession of good kings and bad kings followed, each rising as glorious as a god and falling as broken as a dog. Some brought wars of great conquest and expanded their land to the farthest reaches. Others pressed back the conquerors to claim their own keeps. The land churned like the ocean - always moving, always changing. In those days, history was forgotten almost as soon as it was made, so that no one truly knows when the Ansae were first bestowed upon the world.
Their name was born of some long-forgotten tongue. But when whisperers whisper, as whisperers do, they say that the name is forged from the god-language of the Aether itself, and that the name means nothing more and nothing less than "Master." For each Ansae is bestowed the gift of control and becomes master of only one domain - for some it is the tides, for others the clouds, others still the shifting sands. In ages past, each would hone their gift and ply it as their trade. Many Ansae became warriors, but many too became artists and merchants. Then the Shattering came.
Though to hear the people speak of the Shattering one might think it was a natural calamity, it was no such thing. The land was reaved at the hands of the Ansae themselves, the Unspoken Ones who left the world in a wreckage before enduring their merciful deaths.
The truth of it is that the Unspoken - the Nameless - never meant to bring about destruction. They were young Ansae, not even two decades old, and they served beneath a terrible king. He starved his people half to death and worked them the rest of the way there. He permitted his soldiers to rape and pillage as they pleased. The king conducted unspeakable horrors upon the weakest in the land, and he used the Ansae as his instruments.
Three of these young Ansae grew tired of their corrupt king. They sought to overthrow his rule, but a small group of people, even a group of Ansae, could not hope to bring down a king. To carry out their mission, they knew they would have to seek the help of the gods themselves.
In those ages, the Aether Compact was rare but far from unheard of. Many spiritual people sought to make this connection, and many perished in the process. The three Ansae were already blessed by the Aether, but the Compact, if successful, would make them more powerful than ever before.
It is known that their journey was long and grueling, though few books detailing their trials remain. In the end they succeeded, and they knew the power of twenty kings. With their animal companions at their sides, they stormed the castle and killed their leader before taking the mantle themselves.
If one leader could become corrupt, they thought that three would safeguard against it. They Shattered the world into three rows: the mountainous north, which the new king named Syree; the lush farmlands of the middle region, which the new queen named Kalan; and the warm beaches of the south, which their king named Merth. Each one ruled their kingdom kindly, but it made little difference in the end.
The land and the people were already weak from the years before the Shattering, but still the gods punished the people for the sins of their new leaders. First a drove of locusts swept through the lands and wiped out the majority of their crops. A plague descended upon them next, decimating an already starved people. The world was filled with death and strife like it had never seen before. People died in droves, and those who did not die would pay any price to flee across the waters.
Eventually the rulers themselves, the Unspoken Ones, died. The first to fall was the King of Merth. He bore no child to take his place, and so the land was in turmoil until a Merchant King rose to take his place. Merth had few resources and survived only by trade, and so it was believed that only the greatest of the merchants could drag Merth up from the ashes.
Next to die was the King of Syree. His land had already been fragmented by the harsh terrain. Those left lived in families and ruled as tribes. The strongest leader of the strongest tribe became the Head Tribesman. And though the leader of Syree changed often and still does to this day, one tradition survived the years: each family unit must send their second child to live out their days in the mines.
The last to die was the Queen of Kalan. She left a son, who became the new king. He was a brave and gracious king, and over time the people forgave him for the pain that his Nameless mother had caused. His eldest child ruled when he died, and her eldest when she died, and so the succession continues today.
The world has lasted this way for hundreds of years. The Merthese survive by trading with the foreign lands and trading those goods with Kalan. The Syrens provide precious gems and metals from the mines in exchange for the Kalanian food. The Kalanian themselves feast upon their own farmlands and trade some of their crops for luxuries. Each kingdom relies upon Kalan, but Kalan relies upon no one.
Unrest stirred quietly at first, existing as little more than whispers in the dark. But as time passed, the unrest grew to outright disobedience, and for the first time in hundreds of years Syree has shut down its mines.