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?
The Empire of Taldor once stretched from the Windswept Wastes on the edge of Casmaron in the east all the way across Avistan to the shores of the Arcadian Ocean in the west. By today’s standards, the Empire of Taldor was enormous, incorporating land that today falls within the nations of Galt, Andoran, Isger, Molthune, Cheliax, Nirmathas, and Lastwall. Since that heyday in the first half of the Age of Enthronement, it has suffered numerous defeats and setbacks, yet still controls the oldest and largest territories in the Inner Sea region.34
Taldor was founded -1281 AR by descendants of Azlant who built a small settlement where the capital of Oppara now stands. They intermarried with the local human tribes (whose descendants would become known as Taldans) and began trading with the Keleshite tribes further east.5 These tribes were eventually conquered by soldiers from the Empire of Kelesh in -43 AR who founded the satrapy of Qadira, and fortified the border between the two nations, sparking a conflict that continues to this day.
Taldor’s golden age
Taldor continued to grow and expand, but did not truly become an empire until the beginning of the Age of Enthronement and the founding of the first Army of Exploration, a now-legendary collection of soldiers, scholars, diplomats, surveyors, spies, and adventurers. It headed north along the Sellen River from Oppara in 37 AR, conquering as far as what today is the town of Sevenarches in the River Kingdoms.
Their efforts were enlarged by the Second Army of Exploration in 499 AR, who travelled farther than the first, all the way to the edges of the Hold of Belkzen, and explored the lands around Lake Encarthan. The army greatly expanded both the military and economic reach of the empire by building numerous supply depots, many of which eventually grew into larger settlements.
The Third Army of Exploration was perhaps the most successful. Once again beginning in Oppara, it clung to the northern coast of the Inner Sea, conquering westward all the way to the Arcadian Ocean. It founded the city of Corentyn in 1520 AR under General Coren, thereby securing control of the western access to the Inner Sea for the empire.
The exploits of the Fourth Army of Exploration were minor compared to the Third, but they still managed to bring the area known today as Andoran under their control by 1683 AR, along with a brief (and unsuccessful) foray into the dwarven-controlled Five Kings Mountains.8 After defeating the native tribes of the Arthfell Forest, Andoran became the newest province of Taldor in 1707 AR.
The Fifth Army of Exploration pushed north through what today are the River Kingdoms, reaching the edge of Iobaria in 2009 AR. After this they turned back and mapped the many branches of the Sellen River by 2014 AR.
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.
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 by the forces of that era’s Gorilla King in 2089 AR. It was a failure from which Taldor never fully recovered.
Last great Army of Exploration
Although the losses of the Sixth Army marked the end of any Taldan expansion into Garund, Taldor continued to strengthen its position in Avistan. The Seventh Army of Exploration officially claimed Isger in 2133 AR. Taldor’s final large territorial expansion came in 3007 AR, when it claimed the territory of Cheliax.
By the beginning of the fourth millennium AR, the Empire of Taldor dominated the Inner Sea region, controlling all of the northern shores of the Inner Sea. Its government soon bloated to the point where its byzantine bureaucracy numbered in the tens of thousands, and its territory was too large to control. Corruption spread throughout the government, and its ruling class became more interested in pursuing their decadent pleasures than good governance. Responding to this growing indifference, those furthest from the capital city of Oppara began to revolt. Taldor’s military responded with brute force to quell these uprisings, leading to further discontent and unrest.
Even though Taldor had fallen from the zenith of its power, it nevertheless was still the dominant nation in the Inner Sea region, and challenged any foe that might usurp it. One such instance led to the Shining Crusade, a decades-long war fought with the cooperation of the dwarves of the Kingdom of Kraggodan, and the Knights of Ozem against the forces of the Whispering Tyrant of Ustalav. It began in 3754 AR and ended with the Tyrant’s defeat and imprisonment in 3827 AR and the founding of the country of Lastwall the following year.
War and secession
As Taldor’s military focused on crushing internal revolts, the long-time rival nation of Qadiratook advantage of the situation and invaded from the southeast in 4079 AR. Taldor, the Qadira army at the footsteps of its capital, recalled its armies from the outlying provinces in order to protect the heartland. The resulting war, dubbed the Grand Campaign, lasted 524 years. With the bulk of the military back east, rebellious Cheliax seized its opportunity. King Aspex the Even-Tongued declared independence in 4081 AR in what became known as the Even-Tongued Conquest. Still tied up with its war with Qadira, Taldor was unable to respond, and Aspex proceeded to annex Andoran, Galt, and Isger, and finally signed a peace treaty with Taldor that recognized its independence. At the same time, the former province of Lastwall declared its independence from both Taldor and Cheliax, stating that it wished to only focus on the containment of the Whispering Tyrant, and not become involved in political concerns.
The loss of Cheliax and the war with Qadira led to a sharp decline in power, 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 invasion of Taldor had been assisted by members of the Cult of the Dawnflower, Stavian I outlawed the worship of Sarenrae in 4528 AR.
Final Army of Exploration
The last Army of Exploration was chartered during the dying days of the Age of Enthronement. Desperate to revitalize the nation, General Orphyrea Amandar set sail in the hopes of finding a new land to rule far to the east. Despite being battered by tremendous storms mere months after leaving port, Amanandar weathered the death of Aroden and arrived in northern Shenmen in Tian Xia. After she and her army disembarked at the city of Kamikobu in 4608 AR, they defeated a dozen bandit warlords and took control of the region, renaming the city New Oppara, and founding the nation of Amanandar.
Taldor was once a land filled with lush forests but all that remains of the original woodlands is the druid-protected Verduran Forest in the northwest. Elsewhere, the trees have been replaced by grasslands and low scrub growth, that in the southern part of the country can generate tumblefires. 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 neighbour, Andoran. To the east, the World’s Edge Mountains and the Whistling Plains provide a buffer between Taldor 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.
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, short-sighted and lethargic. Taldor’s bureaucracy is headed by the senatorial class. Much of the government management is left in the hands of the senatorial class, who constantly argue over jurisdiction, while fighting for position in the nation’s vast and complex bureaucracy. Greed and lack of trust are the hallmarks of Taldan politics, with assassination and betrayal the preferred methods of advancement.
Unwilling to trust his life to Taldans with dubious political ties and mixed loyalties, the Grand Prince is zealously served by the Ulfen Guard. This hand-picked retinue from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings are handsomely paid and care only for their oath and duty to the crown.