The Empire was established, legend says, at the dawn of time by a great warrior raised by the elves. Honestly, written history can only trace the history of the Empire back a little over 1200 years. The calendar starts 1421 years ago, and dates are referenced from there. A rebellion in the Western Counties a little over 243 years ago led to the creation of the House of Commons and a weakening of the Noble Judges and the King's powers.
At about the same time the first steam engine was built. Soon, the power of steam was harnessed for rail traffic of goods from one end of the empire to the other. Contact was first established with the Supremacy of the Caliphate, lead by his Immortal Majesty and made up of predominantly bi-pedal raptors, almost immediately branded as snake men, despite being covered in iridescent feathers. Things went well, new found wealth flowed into the Empire, and rails were laid through the mountain passes into the southern jungles.
Almost unnoticed, during this golden age, magic began to fade. Many blamed the failure on the steam engine. That makes no sense, as researchers were able to point to magic events in the past that point to magic beginning to fade before then. Scientists and the mages alike are still unable to agree on what the root cause is. Mages blames science or the steam engine, while scientists claim that the mages have used up all of the magic available without giving any back. Neither has made a convincing argument. During this time, mankind looked around and noticed that the elves, and most magical creatures, had left.
Shock and betrayal ruled the day. Then the Supremacy attacked through the passes through the mountains. Caught unprepared and off-guard, the Empire was unable to stem the tide until the Supremacy had a foothold in the Empire. The Empire valiantly dug in an years of steady, draining trench ware fare, with the Empire in a slow retreat followed.
It looked like the Supremacy would finally break through, but airships, a chance discovery kept secret and perfected in the desperate days of the war, enabled the Empire to strike at the Supremacy's forces from the air and drove them back to their homeland. The airships pounded the forces until the Supremacy sued for peace and the war ended with the Empire in control of all of the passes into the south and the land around the exits into the southern jungles.
Now, everyone has airships and the skies are filled with motion. Rumors of magic race from ear to ear. Scientists tinker with the building blocks of life. Machines are being created to lift the burden of accounting from people and replacing them with gears. Relations with the Supremacy are strained. Spies for both sides scurry back and forth through the passes.