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The Atillans were originally tribal nomads, living in the harsh Siberian steppes. One of their own, Vandal Savage, had been exiled from the large tribal camp for his murderous barbarism. Actions beyond the tolerance of even a society accustomed to hard choices in a cruel winter land.

Dying of exposure, Savage sheltered in an abandoned Kree science vessel, the Omrut Beacon. He was able to learn some of their language and even operate the ship's controls. Discovering that the Kree had been experimenting on human subjects, Savage used the ship's automated defenses to kidnap many members of his former tribe and subject them to the same tortures. In particular he exposed many of them to the Terrigen Mists, believing it to be a torture device.

Instead, dozens of tribesmen developed godlike powers, diverse and unpredictable. They broke free of their restraints and overtook the ship. Savage was left for dead. Now the sole occupants of the colony vessel, the tribe learned to operate the ship and soon it relocated to warmer climes. This colony/science vessel was easily the size of a small modern city and would become their wandering home for many millennia. They became the first of the Inhumans.

The former nomads discovered they had vastly increased lifespans compared to other humans. And virtually every pairing of Inhuman produced a child with an active metagene. However, low birth rates and attrition required the Inhumans to periodically recruit humans into their ranks.

The colony kept themselves otherwise isolated from the rest of the world as much as possible. They had sporadic interactions with Atlantis while that nation was at the height of its power, and periodically encountered alien visitors such as Homo Immortalis making a trip to Earth. The Colony ship would be moved several times over the millennia, largely in response to shifting global climate conditions or proximity to warfare. The Omrut Beacon was made ready to depart the solar system during the destruction of Atlantis. Many residents defied the order of their king and volunteered to hold the line against the invasion of Celestials.

After Ragnarok, the Atillans and their home were laid under siege by the White Martians. The invasion force ousted the Atillans from the Omrut Beacon. With the Terrigen Mists in the hands of Earth's enemies, the last gasping remnants of human civilization almost perished as the modified Mists were unleased by the Martians. It would take several years for the Atillans to reclaim their wandering home, and their vengeance would take the form of a pyroclastic genocide that destroyed 100,000 acres of rain forest in now-Brazil, killing hundreds of thousands of Martian invaders.

In 1500 BCE, the rebel king of Wakanda launched the Wakanda Civil War. His armies attacked the colony ship, creating the first major military engagement the nomads had experienced in millennia. The war resulted in largescale loss of life for both sides, and the colony ship was destroyed mid-retreat as an uncontrolled engine malfunction ripped the hull in half. The vessel was scattered over thousands of miles, the bulk of the ship (including power core) crashing in the frigid Arctic north.

The survivors, searching for a new home, discovered a lost Atlantean city just off the coast of Ireland. They were able to use Kree technology to repower the mystical engines that once kept that floating city aloft. With a part of Atlantis resurrected, these nomads took on the name 'Atillan', after the Atlantean city-island they adopted. Once more they sought privacy and relocated their home again, this time settling into the warm climes of the Mediterranean coast.

The Atillans found it necessary to set agents in place to live amongst humans, as a means of recruiting the rare individual who had metahuman abilities. Tests were esoteric and steeped in mystic traditions. Various oracles, sages, and holy orders were created as fronts for this recruitment. Despite their scientific understanding of their abilities, many Atillans embraced the religious trappings that evolved around the use of their powers. Some saw themselves as literal gods, while others felt they were stewards of humanity's progress. Their most recent agent was the woman known as Jiaying, who was the 'priestess' of the Monastery of the Rocks in what is currently Nepal. Prospectives would be carefully scouted and suggestions made covertly to encourage candidates to overcome the 'trials of adversity' needed to ascend. The final trial exposed the applicant to Terrigen Mists, and those who survived were moved to the city of Atillan.

In 1913, rumblings of war prompted the Atillans to relocate once more. This time they moved Atillan to the Himalayas, far from the conflicts of humanity. Their distance bought them little peace; Nazi scientist Werner Reinhardt captured Jiaying and used her as the basis for the German Super-Soldier program.

Determining Earth to be largely a lost cause, the Atillans relocated the city-island to the dark side of the moon.