Pathfinder - Of Men and Kings
Knights, fair maidens, heroic adventures, and righteous quests—these are the legends of old Taldor (pronounced TAL-door). But the once-powerful empire has fallen from its former glory. Now rival nobles battle each other with bitter knights and proxy armies for personal power rather than honor. A smoldering truce with Qadira again threatens to ignite into war, and Taldor’s daughter states look down upon her with contempt. Yet there is still greatness in Taldor; a stone foundation under the flaking gold adornments. Sons and daughters of forgotten royal bloodlines hear change on the wind—but is it the whisper of greatness to come, or the death rattle of an empire long past its prime?
Founded in -1281 AR, Taldor once claimed numerous nations that have now grown to become powerful forces of their own within the Inner Sea region; Taldan explorers absorbed Galt into the empire and founded both Molthune and Lastwall. Other explorers founded Andoran after defeating the native tribes of the Arthfell Forest in 1707 AR. Many successes are attributed to expansionist military campaigns led by the Armies of Exploration.
Despite tremendous successes, Taldor suffered a number of serious blows during this period. Raiders from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings wreaked havoc on settlers in what is now western Cheliax, forcing a naval engagement in 2000 AR, which Taldor barely won. The Ulfen raiders counterattacked in 2003 AR, savaging Taldan colonies near the Arch of Aroden and demanding 100,000 gold pieces in exchange for hostages. Taldor capitulated, resulting in a peace treaty between the Ulfen king and the Taldan Grand Prince.3 Less than a century later, a disastrous campaign into the Mwangi Expanse by the sixth Army of Exploration led to the massacre known as the Battle of Nagisa. It was a failure that Taldor never fully recovered from.
Although these losses marked the end of any Taldan expansion into Garund, Taldor continued to strengthen its position in Avistan. The nation officially claimed Isger in 2133 AR, and Cheliax in 3007 AR, pacifying the Kellid tribes there.
This empire dominated the Inner Sea and southern Avistan, but its government soon bloated to the point where its rulers numbered in the tens of thousands. Over time the nation grew to a size that Taldor was unable to control; corruption spread throughout the government and those furthest from the capital city of Oppara began to revolt. Taldor’s military responded with brute force to quell the uprisings.
War and secession
Taldor’s history is marked by many wars.
As Taldor’s military focused on crushing internal revolts, the long-time rival nation of Qadira took advantage of the situation and invaded in 4079 AR. Taldor, with Qadira’s army at the footsteps of its capital, recalled its armies from the outlying provinces in order to protect the nation. The resulting war, dubbed the Grand Campaign, lasted 524 years. It was during this conflict that the province of Cheliax, under King Aspex the Even-Tongued, declared its independence in 4081 AR. In what became known as the Even-Tongued Conquest, Aspex proceeded in annexing Andoran, Galt, and Isger. Unable to halt these secessions, Taldor signed a treaty recognizing Cheliax as an independent empire.
The loss of Cheliax and the war with Qadira severely affected the empire, and Taldor remains in decline even several generations after these events took place; corruption runs rampant through its bureaucracy, and its lower class has been stricken by poverty. Its prefectures fight border skirmishes, its noble houses fight one another, and its sparsely populated frontiers have become lawless. Taldor’s vast wealth is the only thing keeping the empire alive.
The church of Aroden, in response to corruption present in the Taldan ruling class during the years of the Grand Campaign, moved its center of worship from Taldor to Cheliax. Later during the same conflict, Grand Prince Stavian I began what is known as the Great Purge; believing Qadira’s invasion of Taldor had been assisted by members of the Cult of the Dawnflower, Stavian I outlawed the worship of Sarenrae in 4528 AR.
Taldor was once a land filled with lush forests. However, all that remains of the original landscape is the druid-protected Verduran Forest, located in the nation’s northern region. Elsewhere the natural trees have been replaced by grasslands and low scrub growth. During the height of the empire much of this expanse was populated by small settlements, each interconnected by a series of roads and canals. With Taldor’s decline, however, many of these small communities have been abandoned. Roads have been reclaimed by nature, and the canal system has fallen into disrepair.
Major geographical features act as natural boundaries between the empire and its neighbors; to the north the Fog Peaks serve to divide Taldor from the nation of Galt. The Sellen River flows through the Verduran Forest, along the boundary of the empire and its western neighbor, Andoran. To the east, the World’s Edge Mountains and the Whistling Plains provide a buffer between the failing Taldan empire and the empire of Kelesh. Finally, Taldor is separated from its long-time enemy to the south, the nation of Qadira, by the Jalrune River and the Zimar Scrublands.
The lifeblood of the nation is the River Porthmos, which has its sources in the World’s Edge Mountains and winds its way through the vast grasslands of the Tandak Plains before pouring into the Inner Sea. The capital, Oppara, is located at the mouth of the river.
Taldor’s natural resources include the towering blackwood trees of the Verduran Forest, the countless iron mines of the World’s Edge Mountains, the olives and grapes of the southern coast between the Porthmos and the Jalrune, and the wineries and vineyards of the Zimar Scrublands.
- Merciful Bay
- Monastery of the Seven Forms
- Old Sehir
- Sardis Township
- Stavian’s Hold
- Fog Peaks
- World’s Edge Mountains
Rivers and waterways
- Jalrune River
- River Porthmos
- Sellen River
- Star Bay
- Verduran Forest
- Border Wood
- Jagged Saw
- Tandak Plains
- Whistling Plain
- Blackwood Swamp
Taldor is ruled by the grand prince, a hereditary title. The current Grand Prince Stavian III has only one heir, his daughter, Princess Eutropia. Taldor has a decadent noble class, bloated with titles and obsessed with the arcane arts. Taldor’s bureaucracy is headed by the senatorial class.10 Much of the government management is left in the hands of the senatorial class, who constantly argue over jurisdiction.
The crown seeks its personal protection from beyond Taldor’s political ties and mixed loyalties. The Grand Prince is zealously served by the Ulfen Guard, who care only for their oath and duty to the crown, without any concern for the empire’s political climate.
Senator Karthis is the leader of the opposition party in Oppara, supporting the declaration of war against Qadira.
Qadira and its parent state, the Padishah Empire of Kelesh, are hated in Taldor. Taldans watched as Qadira occupied southern Taldor for almost 500 years, enslaved the city of Zimar, put nearly every settlement in the Zimar Scrublands to the torch, and distracted the empire at a crucial moment with an invasion, allowing Cheliax to secede in the Even-Tongued Conquest. Taldor uses the Zimar Corsairs to plague all Qadiran shipping from Katheer to Sedeq. Both nations still raid across their borders. Qadira is eager to invade Taldor again and Taldor is ready to defend its border. Taldor doesn’t dare to invade Qadira, keeping a wary eye on its northern neighbors.
Taldor would like to see Cheliax wiped from Golarion, as it was the center of Even-Tongued Conquest that shattered the Taldan Empire. After the recent takeover by House Thrune, Taldans see Cheliax as a hated abomination. Taldor plans to burn Cheliax clean, conquer Absalom, and rule the entire southern coast of Avistan.
Taldor fears a revolution under the influence of Galt and keeps encampments along its northern border. Taldan border guards have captured handbills calling the people of Taldor to rise up and shake off their oppressive rulers.
Taldor sees Absalom as the key to reinvigorate its empire. Given that Absalom has never fallen by siege, the emperor directs Taldan agents to infiltrate Absalom and one day merge it quietly with the empire.
Andoran and Taldor share a peace right now, backed by their enormous navies, but the emperor still considers Andoran a part of the empire. He sees the nation of freedom lovers as a child who lost its way.
Taldor’s royal class is comprised of dynasty-inheriting houses, most of which trace their lineages back to one emperor or another. Its members hold byzantine titles, such as patrician, magister, proconsoul, mandator, exarch, viceroy, duke, and others. A large number of scholars in the Primogen Library keep and update the genealogical records, as each title has a subtle place in the hierarchy of the empire. In the history of Taldor, the royalty have contributed to the greatness of its emperors, but also to their downfalls. The Grand Prince can raise a citizen or senator of the empire up to royalty by bestowing a title and wealth, but does so only once a year in a huge celebration at the Imperial Palace.
Taldor’s senatorial class consists of the hereditary members of the senate, the governors of Taldor’s prefectures, and various heads of the bureaucracy. With exceptionally good work and long loyalty to the empire, a citizen can achieve a title in the senatorial class.
Status for both royalty and senate is distinguished by their lavish beards, which by law only they can legally grow (leading to them being called the “bearded”). Greater, more extravagant beards are a sign of a higher status.
The massive underclass of “the unbearded” make up 99% of Taldor’s population. They are merchants, craftsmen, day laborers, dock workers, vagabonds, soldiers, sailors, and so on. Taldor’s crushing taxes and the policies of the ruling class regarding the rights of citizens keep the unbearded in poverty. Careful advances of key citizens from the ranks of unbearded keep their compatriots ever hopeful that after hard work and long loyalty, they might join the ranks of the bearded. Taldor’s military usually offers such a way of advancement, and because of that the Taldan Horse, Phalanx, and Imperial Navy are loyal and strong.
In the countryside, most of Taldor’s poor live as serfs, farmers, or craftsmen, slaves to their lords or prefecture governors. Even worse, when their lords or governors send their soldiers against one another, the poor unbearded are usually caught in between and suffer greatly.
The Taldan people are a mixture of Keleshite and Azlanti blood. Taldans, by and large, have light brown hair and bronzed skin. Men of noble birth favor beards, while women commonly wear elaborate wigs; both beards and wigs are often extravagantly decorated. The language of the Taldan people is Taldane; the language has spread to become the Common speech of the entire Inner Sea region, a testament to Taldor’s vast influence.
Taldans are decadent bon vivants, favoring rich foods, ornate attire, and jeweled accoutrements for even the most minor of casual affairs. To a Taldan, appearance is an expression of power, and a keen sense of fashion represents a keen mind. Their appreciation for the arts extends beyond fashion and painting, many Taldans dabbling in wizardry, dueling, and the murky strategies of politics and war. A Taldan mind, when raised to ire, is a dangerous thing, and Taldans believe that the rest of the Inner Sea is soon to receive a painful reminder of this timeless fact.
The falcata is the traditional weapon of Taldor.