Aeons ago, during a great age of exploration, a religious nomadic group known as the Saal formed a massive fleet and set out en mass to the edge of known space. They had found a nebula, in which their weak STL drives could traverse very quickly, and decided to follow it as far as possible in the hopes of finding a suitable home for their denigrated culture. Though a few barely habitable planets were found, they simply drained those worlds of resources over the course of about a generation and moved on, always looking for a better planet. The Saal continued on this path for centuries, leaving dozens of barren planets in their wake, but could never be satisfied with what they found. Finally, they reached the edge of the nebula, and looking beyond the great blue clouds of the astral body that had given them passage and home for lifetimes, beheld a great red rift, encircled by nearly endless, abysmal void.
The decision following the discovery of this rift would be the defining moment in the history of the Saal, and very likely, the beginning of its end. At the urging of the Saalii Warlord Iuorel, the entire fleet was to enter the Atuol Rift, as they would come to call it, as beyond it, must surely lie the destined home of the nomadic Saal. In his madness, he did not even care to send a scout through the scar in space/time, believing that such an act might cause the faith of his people to waver if they were allowed to stew on their impatience, or found out that the fleet had come this far for nothing. Thinking only of what might lie beyond the gate, he urged his fleet onwards It would be his last mistake.
Leading the fleet from the front, Iuorel entered the rift with his people, and suddenly it hit him. He had entered a very real nightmare. The rift itself was less of a gate, and more of a maelstrom in the a fabric of space time, a storm from which there was no escape. A potent gravity well halted their escape, and the fabric of space/time seemed to tear itself apart all around the Atuol expedition. In an instant, the entirety of the Saal expedition was either flayed apart by the swirling chaos of the Atuol Rift, or instantly warped across immense distances to places unknown.
Nearly 5/8 of the fleet was wiped out instantly, while a large group of the survivors, numbering around 4.3 million arrived in a place that would be later called the Iruotl system, a large star system with 13 planets and a single Main Phase White Dwarf.
The Saalii colonists came to the system's 4th planet, a slightly arid world dominated by salt flats and scorching desert terrain around the equator, with temperate sub polar and polar regions. Naming it Maekardan, or “World of Two Homes” after these highly hospitable regions, they declared this planet to be their new home, for better or for worse. Soon after arriving, the travel-weary Saal settled around in small enclaves in these regions, and began aggressively building their civilization. Using the old slash and burn methods that were habit to them, they deforested huge regions of the temperate zones and began setting up large scale mining operations in the mineral-rich arid badlands, which they named the Nuocr Expanse.
However, to their dismay, they found that the air in the Expanse was highly toxic to them, and the lands inhabited by a race of enigmatic sentient psionic phenomena that called themselves the Makuori, or “Sand Dreamers”. They vehemently denied the Saal access to the Expanse, on the grounds that they weren't ready for what lay beneath the sands, and that they had been nothing but destructive during the quarter of a century they had been on the planet. The infuriated Saalii people deployed the remnant of their warbands against the Makuori, only to be slaughtered en masse by massive bio-engineered war machines. While these machines were vulnerable to many weapons, their highly regenerative properties and frequent use of highly potent anti-infantry weapons rendered the infantry tactics used by the Saalii forces suicidal, at best.
After a conflict that lasted a few months, the Saal gave up and ceded victory to Makuori, and contented themselves to the regions they had already settled. All travel over the Expanse was done by launching into space and re-entering or using high speed air travel and avoiding areas known to be occupied by the Sand Dreamers. An uneasy peace lasted for nearly a century, by the end of which the Saalii population had jumped up to 67 million.
This was quickly broken when a grand fleet of ships of Saalii design, accompanied by other, stranger vessels of unknown design arrived in the skies over Maekardan. The ships belonged to the Datalri, or the “Rifters”, the people that should have been completely annihilated by the Saal's journey into the Atuol Rift. Though clearly human and quite sane, these new arrivals were unlike the Saalii that had been left behind in the maelstrom. These people had slightly grayed skin and odd, pointed ears. Simply glad to meet more of their long-lost kin again, the colonists had very little suspicion or fear of the Datalri.
The Datalri told them that after nearly being annihilated by their journey, they had received the kindness of a group of travelers, and granted great boons in exchange for servitude and companionship. Of these, were near-immortality and weapons of earth-shattering power, which had easily won over the foolish desires of the Warlord Iuorel. Despite the initial good sentiment of the affair, a less pleasing matter was presented.
The Rifters explained that they and their new masters would dessicate and glass the planet within 48 hours for purposes undisclosed to the Saal. No additional time would be given. Any Saal that didn't want to be swept up in the wave of destruction could leave with the Datalri, or on their own power.
Horrified by the possibility of losing what had been a home for generations of Saalii colonists and the home they had finally made for themselves, they refused outright and threatened to retaliate violently. In response, the Datalri began ruthlessly bombarding Saal settlements from space, and by the end of that day, nearly 33% of the Saalii population had been killed.
Desperate and afraid, the colonists requested aid from the Makuori, hoping they would evoke sympathy from the Sand Dreamers and appeal to them as fellow inhabitants of the planet.
The Makuori were quick to respond, and explained to the Saal how they would defeat the Rifters. The Rifters used a complex planet-killer weapon called the Desiccator, which would saturate the surface in an aggressive compound that would continuously strip hydrogen atoms attached to matter, turning the planet into a permanently dried shell. Once this was done, the fleet above Maekardan could simply coup-de-grace the gaseous husk by igniting the hydrogen rich atmosphere and allowing nature to take it's course.
The plan was to use the teleportation system that would have delivered the particles to the surface and send a dozen or so D particle atoms to each ship. It would only take a single atom and a few minutes for the D particles to wipe the entire fleet. A massive joint task force of Saalii fighters and Makuori bio-constructs proceeded to engage the fleet, while a boarding crew attempted to seize a single ship. After fighting heavy resistance and taking many losses, they managed to capture the containment ship.
Their celebrations would be would be short lived, as the victorious fleet would see Maekardan being ravaged by the Dessicator weapon. A single shuttle had attempted to flee despite being contaminated, and crashed violently to the surface, spreading the voracious compound to the world that had been fought so hard over to protect.
Hoping to save their homeworld, the Makuori used themselves as living weapons, believing that their time was up.
In the short time they had fought together, the Makuori had found that the Saal were no longer the wasteful and destructive colonials they had fought centuries earlier. They channeled raw psionic power from the using the high energy fuel source that had drawn the colonials to the Expanse in the first place, violently destroying the spreading tide of Dessicator particles. Knowing that they would be helpless for millennium after doing this, they persevered, content that the world they loved would be under the care of the Saal.
The Makuori made an offer to the Saalii people, promising enlightenment and a better future for themselves, in exchange for stewardship of Maekardan and the dormant Sand Dreamers. The Saal accepted, and were bonded to the Makuori, becoming their stewards and guardians for eternity. A wave of psionic energy burst across the landscape of Maekardan, inserting the genetic seed of the Makuori into the people that had sworn to protect them.
Just as their bodies were inexorably changed by the genetic rebirth seeded in them by the Makuori, so did their society as a whole. The caste system that guided the Iromakuanhe for centuries was dissolved and the Iromakuanhe spread out, eventually colonizing the other two planets of the Iruotl System. Culture diversified and grew, and philosophies centering around the new religion, known as the The Dreamer Vigil spread. Hlarai turned out to be even more hospitable than Maekardan, while sprawling arcologies on Mazerin dotted its permafrosted landscape. Under the guidance of a new government calling itself the Iromakuanhe Astral Commonwealth, cities flourished and technology advanced at a fantastic rate.
Interplanetary space travel became increasingly prevalent and a small number of space colonies appeared all around the system. It was during this second space age that technologies such as the MASC Drive and KORD became widely used and distributed.