Around 150 years ago, under the weight of an invasion by gnolls from the jungles to the south, the great empire of Nerath fell. Its king and his heirs were slain, though eventually the invading force was driven out. With the loss of central authority (as well as the loss of life) the empire disintegrated into petty holdings vulnerable to infighting due to misunderstandings and squabbles. Long suppressed bands of goblins (and worse) took advantage of the badly weakened state of the settlements and made their presence felt. Many of the smallest villages were abandoned as their citizens fled towards more secured towns and cities.
Around 30 years ago, a new figure began a rise to power that placed him on the throne of Nerath. Named Rhumorril, he claimed descent from the old line of kings (though he never was forthcoming with evidence of such) and began a long and bloody process of reconstituting the old empire. The "ideal" of recreating Nerath brought many to fight under his banner. Early on, much of the "restoration" of Nerath took the form of conquest, but as his forces grew the threat of attack was enough to bring many back "into the fold" of the restored empire.
While the empire had been restored in name, it was merely a shell of its former stature. It could claim the bounds of the old empire, but within those bounds there was much that had not been restored. So, it was a surprise to many when Rhumorril chose to continue his conquest into areas that had not been a part of the empire previously.
He first pushed into the tribal lands beyond the northern borders, claiming it to be punitive action for their raids on lands within the empire. He then pushed westward before turning to the north from there. All in all, over his 25 years of conquest, he had tripled the land area of the empire... at least, what lay within what the empire claimed as its borders. He died at the age of 60; his old war wounds had caught up with him.
Rhumorril was succeeded by the younger of his two sons, Risach. (His older son, Thyrakir, was of illegitimate birth as well as having expressed no interest in the position.) Risach took offense at some action of a neighboring dwarven kingdom and declared war on them. His war bled away much of the empire's fighting forces as well as resources. After a time, he ordered his older half-brother - who had by that time become one of the empire's sharpest generals - to take over the conquest of the dwarves. Thyrakir, recognizing the futility of the attacks, staged a half-hearted "siege" (knowing full-well that he was unable to cut off the dwarf supply lines), waiting for his brother to become bored of his war in order to restore peace.
Risach did not become bored with his war; he died of his excessive lifestyle. (Some whisper that he was "helped along" by certain factions.)
Thyrakir was next in line, and to the surprise of many ascended to the throne of the empire of Nerath. His first act was to establish peace with the dwarves, and so send the empire's army home. His second act was to parcel off a piece of the northwestern territory as his own kingdom (Kinavor), declaring it separate from the empire. His third act was to abdicate the throne of the empire, becoming merely the king of an independent Kinavor, leaving the throne of Nerath empty.
The nobility of Nerath consumed themselves with matters of the succession. In old Nerath, there had been a council of the high nobility who could elect new kings and mediate in succession matters, but there had not been an effort to update it to reflect the "new" Nerath. Many resources were expended attempting to trace genealogical lineages to establish who was next in line.
In the end, a man named Athero was crowned; records indicated he was related to the old king slightly more closely than most other claimants (though all were many times removed) though he was not the candidate endorsed by many of the noble families. He seems to have taken that lack of endorsement to heart; he is often at odds with many of the great noble families.