The Nameless Empire is the prehistoric organization that spawned the Rite of Return. Ruled by the god-priests of the Shan'iatu, it was among the earliest cultures of humanity. It is said to have roughly spanned from Libya in the northwest, to Ethiopia in the south, to Mesopotamia in the Northeast.
The fractured nature of memory makes it difficult for the Arisen to recollect the history of the Nameless Empire, but it seems certain that the Shan'iatu united the nomad tribes in prehistoric Egypt and fashioned them into a nation. Under the battle standard of the scorpion, the Shan'iatu divided the tribes of the land into castes and Guilds that were to serve them. They taught that spirits and ghosts have lords as well—the 42 Judges of the Underworld and their own divine patron, the god Azar. They produced for Irem, the capital of their realm, also known as the City of Pillars, a king and high priest of Azar, called Pharaoh. The Shan’iatu declared themselves a senate of sanctified necromancers, Priests of Duat, who serve that dark realm’s god and its assessors of the soul of man—that dread assembly that is the Judges of Duat. The Priests of Duat replaced tribal warrior societies with legions, appropriating the traditional initiations to reinforce military brotherhood. These troops learned their trade by suppressing internal revolts.
Irem soon became one of the foremost of early cities, and began to assault its neighbours. In Kanaan, they met resistance in the early empire of the Ki-En-Gir and their citadel Ubar. In a display of their command of ancient magic, the Shan'iatu generals managed to break them and enslaved their people. After the fall of Ubar, Irem bled the outer territories for resources with which to glorify itself in temples, statuary, and ever more grand and solemn pillars. During this time, the Shan'iatu began to develop the Rite of Return and created the first mummies in their service. It is also from then on that mummies fail to actually remember how the Nameless Empire exactly collapsed and what happened to their masters.
Irem worshipped the 42 Judges of Duat, as well as some of the Nameless Gods, including Sutek, but worship was never conducted by normal people. This was the task of the Shan'iatu. Worship of other creatures, like spirits or similar entities, was punishable by death. Suffering, called m’t (the root for the egyptian term Ma'at), was seen as paramount, the way the cosmos ran according to the Judges designs. The word for humans, "R’m’t, also translated itself as "sacrifice", which gives an accurate description of humanity's place in the cosmology of the Nameless Empire.
Irem had the first bureacracy and the first taxation system in history. To reach the outer provinces, specialized soldiers traveled to collect taxes, as well as to carry the edicts of the City of Pillars to the people. Irem's laws were designed after the Law of Suffering, keeping society stable through the constant threat of pain. Slavery was the backbone of Irem's economy, with multiple slaves coming from conquered tribes or later of the former inhabitants of Ubar.
The Shan'iatu discouraged humane impulses among their subjects. Slaves and free were separated by vicious laws, which instilled fear into the free that their cruelty would turn against them one time. Children were not named until they were five years old. Mourning was forbidden and believed to distract the soul that rested within Duat from reaching A'aru. Corpses were reanimated by the Guild of the Shell to continue to serve the Empire.
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