Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Survey of Talaran History and Culture

 Due to recent events which began in Nalcira, this article is in need of an update. This edit will be forthcoming as soon as our agents to the region return and are extensively debriefed. --Jacob VanNuys, Imperial Corp, Rorstad, Bevin

The former Imperial province of Talar is a land set apart from the rest of the continent. Bordered by the dune wastes of Baegnolia to the north, the arid hills of Gora to the east, and rugged hills separating it from the breadbasket eastern lands of Emilia, it has developed a culture determined as much by its isolation as by its history as an abandoned colony of faraway Arad.


The southern coast of Talar is dominated by the Aral Plateau, a highland which keeps all but the strongest rains away from the province’s central regions. The plateau itself is semi-arid, and is dominated by pine and cypress forests. Below the plateau, on the coast itself, are a number of small fishing villages. Ocean trade does not extend this far east, for the most part, so there is only one dominant port, Sulafein, located southeast of Ankazir.

The central basin, the largest region of the province, is an arid, windy area. While agriculture has been successful here thanks to the rivers which flow from the Border Mountains and the Aral into the Dalma Sea, the main reason there are so many towns and cities in this inhospitable place is because the Gora-Emilia road passes through this region. Towns and fortresses sprang up here to take advantage of and help protect the route, and the road itself bends north to pass through the capital of Nalcira.

The north central and northeastern areas of Talar are its breadbasket, a lonely, semi-arid swath of land overseen by the priests of Baal in their quest to keep the land green. From the north and east, however, come the twin threats of desertification and goblinoid invasion, the latter evidenced by the line of broken fortresses not far from the Baegnolia border. One of these, Castle Kyr, is famous for it ghostly denizens, mostly the undead remnants of an Imperial regiment.

The northwest portion of the province is more a part of Baegnolia now than Talar; a rugged desert landscape, covered by shifting dunes in some places, now dominates the area. The Baegnolian desert began moving southward several hundred years ago, and monster activity in the region--as well as threats from Fiannan deserters and mercenaries during the Fiannan invasion--have regularly kept the priests of Baal and their gnomish allies from advancing agriculture in the region for many years.

History and Culture

In Imperial Year 307, the nation of Arad, after watching the Eracian Empire expand so rapidly, was keen on expanding itself. Its wars with its neighbors had fallen to a few skirmishes in the past years, and a trading partnership with the gnomes led them to land their ships in the deserted region west of Gora. Things went poorly from the start, as giants, goblinoids, and orcs swept out of the eastern mountains and steppes to prey on the poorly protected colonists. The military and civilian leadership soon agreed that to stay along the coast would be suicide, and abandoned their first colony, called Bakir. The colonists and their army pressed north, over the Aral Plateau, constantly trailed by monsters and bandits. They soon found a defensible but nondescript valley with an excellent sandstone quarry, and set to work constructing what is now the Inner City of Nalcira. Things began to take a turn for the better, and the new city was able to establish a trade route with the cities of Emilia as well as the gnomes to the east. Trade with Arad itself grew troublingly sparse as political troubles grew for the nation, and in 348 the colonists received a devastating message, not from their homeland, but from the Emilian navy, that Arad had entered into a devastating war with both Issha and Duvrain. Arad had abandoned their colony, and the settlers themselves were forced to continue on alone, until, in 377, an Emilian advisor suggested they contact the Empire asking for their protection and economic interest. After several years, a young new emperor travelled from Eracia to Nalcira, and made a pact with the governor there that brought Talar into the Empire--on the condition that they become very public allies of Emilia, thus helping to seal that city’s efforts to become the de facto capital of what would soon become the Emilia Province.

Most of Talar’s history since that time has followed a certain cycle--years of prosperity, followed by years of vicious monster attacks from the wastelands that surround it, followed by years of famine and rebuilding. The most famous period of war began in the year 776, when a black wave of goblinoid tribes spilled over the edges of Baegnolia, likely driven south by other monstrous tribes fleeing the expansions beginning in Nordest at the time. The Imperial army made haste in defending the border, but the only defenses available were a network of crumbling fortresses along the province’s northern border. The army was largely overrun, and one fortress in particular suffered a dark fate--Castle Kyr, where the dark divine spells of the goblins trapped most of the souls lost in battle in the fortress and the tunnels beneath it. Kyr is a haunted place to this day, and only the most foolish commander would force his men to venture there.

The arcane traditions of Arad have never truly died in Talar, and have often proven a thorn in the side for the province’s governing bodies. While elementalism is tolerated by most in its base form, and even encouraged by some researchers of the Academy, the summoning of Djinn and other spirits is explicitly illegal--and was, up until recently, highly difficult. Despite the difficulty, however, many mages throughout Talar’s history have chosen to consult the djinn and their darker cousins to gain power and knowledge.

The Talarans have always held a close kinship with the gnomes, not only because they are their closest neighbors, or because their civilization sits atop many an abandoned gnomish ruin, but also because in the difficult years between Araden and Eracian rule they took the Talarans under their wing, seemingly sympathetic to their plight. Ever since, the culture of Talar has differed greatly from other human cultures in its devotion to certain gnomish customs and foods--as well as a jealous possession of some of the more clever gnomish devices.

Current Events

As of 1109, Talar is facing a new set of challenges. The Empire’s deaf ear toward Gora cost them their farthest eastern province during the Caer deliberations, but this newfound independence has been equally problematic for the new nation. The Protectors had a strong presence in Talar, and were instrumental in rooting out illegal arcane practices within the province. With them gone, the leaders of the arcane community are in some cases less powerful than their predecessors and their rogue adversaries, and in some cases too sympathetic to the old traditions to punish them. As a result, djinn activity in Talar has tripled over the last half year, and many communities have begun to fear and reject the mages they rely on for protection. The departure of a large army--seven full regiments, even during the height of the Elven War--has left them ill-defended and relying on Fiannan mercenaries to defend their borders. The three Nalciran regiments have been released from Imperial service, but are not as well-equipped as they once were, and their Eracian colonels and generals have returned to the west. Meanwhile, the orcish tribes press harder on Gora, and the Talarans fear that it may not be long before they are forced to defend their eastern border, if not alone, then with a paltry collection of allies.

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