The Dragon Imperium, or Dragon Empire, is a semi-feudal nation-state stretching across the north-central band of land from the Sunspear downriver. It also includes considerable chunks of the Western Lowlands and Nimeria, having once ruled over a somewhat larger stretch of land.
The Imperium is made up of constituent entities with varying levels of integration into the Imperial ecosystem. The Dragonforge cluster, the Lowlands and Nimeria are considered the Imperium's "core" territories, holding the majority of its herding populace. The lands between the Snowhelm to the south and the Rocky Swamp to the north are formally vassalised to the Imperium, yet maintain internal autonomy within it. The Imperium also maintains a few 'fringe' holdings, as it occupies foreign territory in Rotwood and on Benderbog, and some semi-vassal entities, colonial lands and one exarchate in the Southern Badlands and the Eastern Approach in the south.
The Imperium has a dualistic system of government: it is, on one hand, led by the Throne Holder — Dragon Emperor or Empress currently incumbent — who has full legislative, judicial, arbitratorial and executive autority in the Empire, but is counterbalanced on the other hand by the Council of Drakes and Council of Lords, the two assemblies that grant equivalent powers to a parliament of nobles, merchants, exarchs and scholars of the Empire.
The Dragon Imperium is considered to be an unbroken sequence of Throne Holders. Based on dynastic ethnicity, the history of the Empire is divided into six Imperia:
- The First Alnari Imperium, as granted by the Gods and the Earth — 800? years
- The Second Denthari Imperium — 600? years
- The Third Sarhan Imperium — 109 years
- The Fourth Ulari Imperium — 572 years
- The Fifth Mendian Imperium — 406 years
- The Sixth and Incumbent Mestian Imperium — 329 years
The durations of the first two Imperia are fairly uncertain: the invention of literacy postdates their founding: Sarhan is the oldest abundantly recorded and attested herder language, and through Sarhan attestation only the last 162 years of the Second Imperium have been recorded with some contemporary accuracy; many sources that deal with greater time depth and earlier phases of the Second, as well as the entire First Imperium, are later attestations and in general fail to match up in a satisfactory manner. Older literate sources are scant and poorly preserved: a few records of the periods before 1578 BP (the first year attested in the Sarhan Primordial Chronicle) are extant and deal with the time period roughly corresponding to years 272 — 208 before the Third Imperium (that is, 1688 — 1624 BP), though the records, compiled in the form of a later annal document, are fairly porous and tend not to match up neatly with Sarhan records of the period, or even themselves.
The Imperium as a definite entity is known to have existed for at least 1688 years, though it is roughly estimated to be from 2700 to 3000 years old. As the herder concepts of a single legitimate Imperium, granted by divine authority, and of one polytheistic, interpretable religion are universal to all herding peoples, it is presumed that the current extent of dragon herders (from western Nimeria to the Dragonforge) has roughly been set in stone during the First Imperium which most likely originated along the western shores of the Dragonforge.