Agriculture spread to the Hrat valley by the 300s, either brought by Uyram settlers or adopted by the local hunter-gatherers. The city itself appeared in the 700s, though the Krwŋese claimed a legendary origin a thousand years before.
By the 800s Krwŋ was the leading town in the valley. The energetic ruler ʔounkrou formalized this into a kingdom, and greatly augmented his power by conquering the more established city of Twot, at the confluence of the Hrat and the Ħomtso. In 945 his son Sunrom captured Khurħan from Krwŋ’s rival Sɔitsɔi. This aroused the interest of Uykhrai, a much more populous state to the south. The noted general Nyekhen was called out of retirement to lead the defense; he marched quickly south of the invaders and attacked from behind, saving the kingdom but losing his life in the process.
This was only the opening salvo in a series of wars with Sɔitsɔi, which held the upper Ħomtso. Sɔitsɔi was larger, but Krwŋ was better organized for war, replacing the usual taxation in kind with a levee on men, allowing it to create unusually large armies. The emperor Nyekyɔu conquered Pursut in 1064 and his son Funuy conquered Khɔrči, Sɔitsɔi’s capital, in 1112. This gave Krwŋ mastery over the entire northern forest and highland zone; its realm was comparable in size to Uytai, which had recently united the south.
The highlands became an important source of Krwŋ’s power, as the herdsmen were natural fighters, adept with the bow and used to privation and long marches. The highlanders’ favorite drink, the stimulating tsai (tea) made from the phret plant, spread to the valley dwellers and ultimately became a major export. The Krwŋese ventured into the northern jungle as well; they were scornful of the half-naked, female-dominated natives, but both sides found it profitable to trade; the Krwŋ exchanged cotton and huar fabric, wool, notseh leather, potatoes, pell beer, bronze tools and weapons, pots, cosmetics, jewelry for lumber, hides, slaves, streff matting, stripcorn glue, medicinal plants, spices and dyes. The trade was a major impetus for the development of Bé civilization. (The Bé still call Uytai Kúŋsàɔ ‘Krwŋ-land’ due to this connection.)
Krwŋ and Uytai were ruled by absolute rulers claiming divine authority; inevitably the two empires clashed in a series of wars that occupied most of the 1200s. Finally in 1272 a long-term peace was signed; the ideological basis was the two emperors deeming each other fa (brothers). The rulers of Krwŋ took to calling themselves paukhel ‘rulers of the world’, after the near-legendary king Paukhel.
In the early 1300s Krwŋ fought a war with the múrtani, removing them as an obstacle to trade with the Bé, as well as to phret cultivation. In the 1380s they extended their rule to the highlands of Belesao, eliminating middlement and extending phret zone. Actual conquest of the savages in the jungle was put off after a few skirmishes suggested that it would be more difficult than it looked— the jungle was a punishing environment and the women archers refused to fight openly, but attacked suddenly and annoyingly in ambushes and night raids.
In the 1420s Krwŋ conquered Pirthunswiʔ, the Smë rift valley, then held by Uyram settlers.
In 1454 the emperor Susirn felt the time was right to challenge Uytai. He besieged the capital, Uykhrai, for three years; but his ultimate victory was due to internal betrayal: his cousin Nyanyar was the wife of the Uytainese emperor Tsaiyut, and at a key moment in 1457 opened the city’s gates to Susirn’s forces.
Tsaiyut fled, but it was unclear whether he had proceeded to Srethun in the delta, or Tsopwan along the Hurtso. Susirn sent forces to both. The expedition to Srethun failed miserably: the Uytainese, with greater command of the river, were able to surround and destroy the invading force. Tsopwan was besieged for three years, but the siege had to be relieved when the Uytainese mounted a desperate attack on Uykhrai. Susirn defended his conquest and declared that taking and holding his enemy’s capital was sufficient glory. He ceased offensive operations, though leaving it to his successors to actually make peace.
The forest zone was ecologically delicate: once a plot of land was cleared, it lost its fertility in only a few years. Settlement was sustainable only if the plot was allowed to return to forest for twenty years or so. As the population boomed in the imperial era, it was impossible to maintain these practices. There was no virgin forest left; fallow times dropped and there was frequent starvation.
Many expedients were tried: manuring to add nutrients; large-scale irrigation works; rotating crops; extending agriculture to the hills. These showed diminishing returns and in some cases were counter-productive— poorly planned works hardened or salinized fields, or washed away soil; too-numerous herds grazed the grasses to the point that they could not hold onto the soil. For some time the ko bean looked like it might save the situation: it grew faster than millet or pell and helped restore soil fertility; but it required even more water.
There was no social framework for discussing or even understanding the problem. It was not even easy to admit that there was a problem. It made no sense that the ancestors would so afflict the world-ruling empire— unless perhaps it was morally deficient? A fundamentalist movement arose to reinvigorate purity (han), virtue (kran), and vigor (twan)— known from these rhyming characters as the Swolan ‘three-an’ movement. (There were some who noted, correctly enough, that the population was simply too high. However, this was generally taken as a sign that the empire should conquer more territory.)
Struggles over water grew violent; then in the 1650s, a drought began that halved the water supply. In 1673 a plague decimated the millet crop. Krwŋ could not take this final blow; it fractured into a civil war. Millions died from starvation, plague, or war.
Sensing his chance, the Uytainese emperor Twanwey invaded in 1684, recapturing Uykhrai. He advanced to Twot, but seeing the misery of the Krwŋese people he decided not to proceed further— out of mercy, as he proclaimed, or because he had no interest in taking responsibility for this now devastated and impoverished land.
The city of Krwŋ itself fell into ruin, along with other Krwŋese cities: the most densely populated areas were also the most ecologically devastated and thus were largely abandoned for years. The philospher Syalenar, a noble whose inheritance, a highland estate, had proved entirely useless, meditated for years in the ruins of Pursut, developing the philosophy of Hyemsur. He emphasized inner peace (hyem) and social harmony (sur), both arising out of syalen ‘not-having’. His radical anti-authoritarian message spread widely in the Uyram lands and even the Bé. He was also the first to understand the ecological basis for the collapse of his country— though he misanalyzed the situation; never having seen the primeval forest, he assumed that the Krwŋese mistake was to attempt to make a natural grassland into intensively farmed fields.
The forest never regenerated, except in spotty patches; Krwŋ— or we may now say, northern Uytai— remained mostly grassland, and never again supported a dense population. However, it was able to support herdsmen in the highlands and a reasonable population of agriculturalists, and as tea grew ever more popular, it even returned to a sort of prosperity. The importation of meigrass from Neinuoi in the 2200s also proved fortuitous— the grain flourished in the highlands without irrigation, providing grain for both humans and animals.