The Staff and Flag Pathfinder
Nearly 6,000 years ago,survivors from Lost Azlant mingled with the primitive Keleshite tribesmen of the Inner Sea’s eastern coast and founded the kingdom of Taldor. Ancient Taldorian legends claim that Aroden himself walked among the kingdom’s earliest settlers in those days, and Aroden’s worship was centered in Taldor for millennia.
The first half of the Age of Enthronement was the Golden Age of Imperial Taldor. Taldorian explorers charted the Sellen River in what is now the River Kingdoms, settled in Rostland and Issia (in modern day Brevoy), and incorporated Galt as a tributary buffer state. Expanding westward over the years, Taldor’s Armies of Exploration founded the provinces of Andoran, Isger,Molthune, Cheliax, and Lastwall. In its heyday, Taldor stretched from the World’s Edge Mountains to the Arch of Aroden on the shores of the Arcadian Ocean.
As time passed, Taldor’s colonial endeavors in Avistan brought unparalleled wealth and influence to her people. It also brought Taldor into conflict with the Keleshite kingdom of Qadira to the south. If exploration was one side of the coin of Imperial Taldor, rivalrywith Qadira was the other, as both nations engaged in a series of escalating raids and counterattacks across their shared and heavily fortified border over the course of centuries.
Taldor’s affluence also led to self-indulgence, and the Taldorans became increasingly obsessed with ceremony,elaborate costuming, and jaded pleasures. Taldor’s culture grew more decadent and detached from the outside world. Old rivals sought to take advantage of Taldor’s profligacy,culminating in a massive invasion of Taldor by Qadira in 4079,which in turn triggered the so-called Even-Tongued Conquest. Corrupt,weakened, and unable to fight a war on two fronts, Taldor focused its waning might on its ancient enemy in the east. It successfully repelled the Qadiri invasion, but over the next decade, it lost most of its colonial holdings—including Andoran, Galt,and Isger—to the nascent Empire of Cheliax. Even the church of Aroden abandoned Taldor to its mercurial obsessions and debauched appetites at this time, moving the center of the religion to Cheliax. Taldor’s imperial ambitions were shattered,never to recover.
Today, beneath a pretense of high society and avant-garde culture,Taldorian society is shortsighted,degenerate, and moribund. Thousands of noble houses claiming heritage dating back to the earliest days of empire constantly jockey for position and control of the various departments of the nation’s Byzantine bureaucracy. Greed and distrust characterize Taldorian politics, and betrayal and assassination are the preferred methods for the aristocracy to increase their stations.
Even Taldor’s monarch is not immune to such machinations. Unable to trust any of the feuding factions of Oppara, the emperor protects himself from the treachery of his subjects by employing fierce mercenaries from the Land of the Linnorm Kings as his personal bodyguards, although it is the office of the grand prince they protect, not the grand prince himself. The huscarls of the Ulfen Guard have served in this capacity since ancient times, and are paid with whatever treasure they can carry from Taldor’s gleaming treasure vaults at the culmination of their terms of service.
After centuries of habitation, Taldor’s heartland is mostly free of dangerous beasts. The Verduran Forest, though, is still home to druids, gnomes, ettercaps, and assorted fey. In the north, the frost giants and thunderbirds of the Fog Peaks are an occasional threat, while orcs and grimlocks inhabit the World’s Edge Mountains with homa, a strain of griffon-like creatures native to Casmaron. In addition, nomadic Keleshite horsemen frequently raid for livestock across Taldor’s eastern and southern borders.
Taldor and Qadira have shared an uneasy peace for just over a century, but loyal Taldorian cataphracts still patrol the line of crumbling frontier forts along the border. Taldor still resents Cheliax for the Even-Tongued Conquest, but there is little it can do about it now. Cheliax, for its part, pays little attention to Taldor anymore. Closer to home, Absalom humors Taldor as something like a doddering and decrepit grandfather. While the city-state still follows all the niceties of politics and diplomacy, it basically ignores its northern elder. Meanwhile, the f ledgling democracy of Andoran keeps alert minutemen watching its border with Taldor, afraid of a resurgence in imperial ambition.
Taldor’s inf uence continues to wane, as it has for some time. And yet, many of the nations that now rule Avistan were once a part of its great empire. Without Taldor, they themselves would not exist, and so one of the oldest and most powerful human empires in Avistan continues its gradual slide into oblivion—most likely for centuries to come.
Government: Grand Prince Stavian III is Emperor of Taldor, but the awkward and immature sovereign is as dissolute as his empire. Surrounding himself with grandiose titles and sycophantic courtiers, he dallies in whatever takes his fancy. Meanwhile, the bloated ranks of the aristocracy send representatives to the ineffectual Senate to argue endlessly and pointlessly over trivial matters. In the end, the actual daily management of Taldor is left in the hands of its overtaxed bureaucracy—a sprawling, labyrinthine mess, with different bureaus and ministries constantly squabbling over jurisdiction. Even so, the civil service remains the clearest means of advancement to aristocratic status for the hordes of citizens without the benefit of titles to their names.
Taldor has always followed the rules of primogeniture, but Grand Prince Stavian has no male heir. His only child, Princess Eutropia, is disgusted with the stagnation of Taldorian society and decided in her recent youth to force Taldor to join the modern world. She intends to inherit the throne upon her father’s death, by force if necessary, and has grand plans to restore Taldor to its former glory. Although Taldor’s great Armies of Exploration are no more, its underfunded military is still impressive, consisting as it does of mighty war elephants, scale-armored cavalry, elite foot archers, and disciplined phalanxes, all under the command of High Strategos Maxillar Pythareus.
Oppara: The towers and villas of Taldor’s capital, Oppara, were once plated with gold, granting the Gilded City a title that remains today. The precious metal was long ago stripped by vandals and salvagers. The Imperial Palace and Senate are located here, as are two renowned bardic schools—Kitharodian Academy and Rhapsodic College. Oppara is also home to the Brotherhood of Silence, one of the largest and most inf luential thieves guilds in the Inner Sea region. The oldest known temple to Aroden, the Basilica of the Last Man, is located in Oppara, its clergy and inf luence but a shadow of their former selves.
Cassomir: This large trade city on the Sellen River handles the river trade from the River Kingdoms and the Verduran Wood, as well as much of Taldor’s Inner Sea trade. While the Taldorian navy is stationed in Oppara, its best shipyards are found in Cassomir.
Maheto: The city of Maheto, in the foothills of the World’s Edge Mountains, is home to a sizeable population of dwarves, and is well known for its metalwork and bladesmithing.
Wispil: In the Verduran Wood, the gnomish town of Wispil provides most of the kingdom’s woodcraft and timber. Cassomir’s bustling yards would not exist without the steady supply of lumber and gnomish shipwrights from Wispil.
Yanmass: Straddling the trade routes to and from central Casmaron and the Padishah Empire of Kelesh, the city of Yanmass hosts caravans from across the world.
Zimar: Zimar is a heavily fortified garrison town near the Qadiri border. Long the home of the phalanxes and other battalions of Taldor’s armies, even after a century of peace with Taldor’s ancient enemy Zimar remains a disciplined, militaristic city.