A Shining Paragon of Virtue and Law
Capital: Matharyn (105,000)
Notable Settlements: Ghastenhall
(82,000), Daveryn (59,000), Havelyn
(21,000), Farholde (9,500), Aldencross
(1,800), Varyston (1,200)
Ruler: King Markadian V called the
Brave, Protector of the Righteous
Government: Religious Monarchy
Languages: Common, Dwarven
Religion: Mitra, the Shining Lord
The Rise of House Darius
Talingarde may be a peaceful and prosperous kingdom
at the start of the campaign, but the nation has certainly
had a troubled past. Only eighty years ago, the
kingdom weathered a bitter war of succession fought
between the largely half-elven nobility of House Barca
and the human dynasty of House Darius. Both had claim
to the throne and their supporters amongst the fractured
nobility of the isle.
On the Plains of Tamberlyn just north of the capital
city, two great armies met and decided the future of this
dominion. One army was commanded by King Jaraad
of House Barca, a great half-elven hero mounted on a
griffon, the symbol of his house. The other was led by
Markadian of House Darius, a young upstart paladin
who would not bow before all the gods of the Talirean
pantheon (in particular Asmodeus).
The Battle of Tamberlyn remains the most famous
conflict in all of Talingarde’s history. House Darius was
gravely outnumbered but far more fiercely committed to
their holy cause. Much of House Barca’s army was paid
mercenaries fighting for nothing more than gold.
The Battle was fought between two large stone spires
(the so-called Lords of Tamberlyn) that rise from otherwise
level ground. A small brook splits the spires
crossed only in one place by an ancient stone bridge.
The brook is not deep but still would be difficult for men
in armor to cross.
Markadian took to the field first, seizing the bridge
with his knights and positioning infantry on both his
right and left flank. The famed archers of Barrington
and Embryl, with their mighty
longbows of yew, were positioned
behind the infantry.
Outnumbering his foe many
times, King Jaraad hoped for a
quick victory and sent his mercenary
to bombard the knights on the
bridge. The hope was that a few
volleys of crossbow shot would
kill many of the knights and paladins
of House Darius. Deprived
of their leadership, the rest of the
soldiery would likely flee from the
battlefield when the king moved the
bulk of Barca’s army forward.
However, the crossbowmen advanced too
close and the infantry on Darius’ right flank performed
a surprise charge. The charge caught the mercenaries
off guard and they fled with hardly a shot fired.
So disgusted was the knight commander of Barca
behind the mercenaries that he ordered his knights to
charge forward through the “cowardly retreating rabble”
to attack the relatively exposed Darian infantry. The result
was a chaotic muddle of panicked mercenary and
tangled knights. It was then that the Darian archers begin
to fire their volleys. The arrows rained down on the
knights and took a princely toll on the Barcan force.
King Jaraad saw the muddle that his left had become
and ordered the other pincer of his army forward. They
moved swiftly at first along the banks of the brook but
soon found themselves equally bogged down in mud.
They too began to receive a hail of arrows.
Where is Talingarde?
Purposefully, the “Way of the Wicked” campaign
is set entirely on a single island. The
mainland near the island is talked about but
never described. Further, the gods (besides the
plot crucial Mitra and Asmodeus) are also never
fleshed out. This is done to make Talingarde as
easy as possible to incorporate into your favorite
fantasy setting. Talingarde is an island about the
size of England. Where is it located? Wherever
you would like it to be.
Talingarde: A Gazetteer
Finally the Barcan left pushed through the mercenaries
and charged the bridge. It was here that the heaviest
fighting of the battle took place. On the bridge of Tamberlyn
the knights of Darius met the full might of the
Barcan army and held the line. The Barcan army was
packed in so tight trying to cross the bridge that there
rear ranks were at the mercy of the Embryllian archers.
King Jaraad could watch the slaughter no longer. He
flew his elite personal command – a dozen knights on
griffons to the other side of the bridge hoping to flank
the defenders and break their line. What he encountered
instead was the young Lord Markadian and his personal
The battle between Markadian’s knights and the griffon
riders has been immortalized in several songs and
plays. Suffice to say that after a great battle, a dozen
dead griffons littered the field and only Markadian of
Darius and King Jaraad of Barca remained combatant.
They fought fiercely and in the end, Markadian slew Jaraad
upon the banks of the Tamberlyn brook and claimed
the throne of Talingarde.
At the end of the day, the battle had proved to be a
slaughter. The military might of House Barca was broken
and House Darius came to power. It would have
been easy then for House Darius to seek revenge against
their former enemies but instead King Markadian I called
the Victorious showed mercy.
He allowed the nobles of House Barca to keep their
lands if they would only swear loyalty to the new king
and bow before the great god Mitra. The offer was accepted
and peace once more came to Talingarde. The
crisis of succession was over and the religion of the isle
was decided. Mitra the Shining Lord became head of
the Talirean pantheon.
The Victor upon the Throne
When Markadian I came to power there was great uncertainty
of how capable a king he would prove. While
he was a great warrior, he had never ruled and there was
reason to doubt this young paladin could control this divided
land. He soon put those doubts to rest.
Markadian I called the Victorious (usually simply The
Victor these days) was the sort of ruler that only comes
once every thousand years. At the battle of Farholde
he dealt the bugbears of the north a savage defeat and
scattered them for a generation. He confronted the pirates
who had made the western coast of Talingarde their
stronghold and burnt them out. It seemed that the Victor
was undefeatable upon the field of battle.
So fearsome was his reputation that by the later years
of his reign, he merely sent a letter to a rebellious warlord
in the west that read, “Must we meet on the fields on
war?” The warlord relented and became a loyal subject.
By the end of the Victor’s reign, almost all of the island
south of the Watch Wall was firmly a part of Talingarde.
Only a few parts of the great and trackless forest, the
Caer Bryr, remained wild and unmapped.
More than a soldier, he also proved a great builder
and statesman. He raised the capital Matharyn from a
small city into a great metropolis. He reinforced the
watch wall, commissioning three new fortresses. He
eased tariffs bringing merchants from the mainland to
the oft-isolated isle once more. He personally visited
the Lands of the Yutak tribesmen in the north and made
peace with their great chiefs. And though the paladin
spread the religion of Mitra and discouraged devotion to
Asmodeus he tolerated the Prince of Nessus’ temples as
long as they were discrete.
For forty six years the Victor sat upon the throne
bringing a golden age to Talingarde. Today, his statues
are to be found in almost every town and hamlet throughout
the kingdom. He did have his faults though. Like so
many great rulers – he was a great soldier and king but
a poor father.
The Scholar and the Monster
After the death of the Victor, his oldest son Martius
ascended to the throne as King Markadian II called the
Learned. More a scholar than a king, Martius proved
largely disinterested in affairs of state. He commissioned
the great library at Matharyn and began renovation of
an old family castle into the great palace known as the
Adarium. As the first wing of the Adarium was completed,
he retreated there and was rarely seen in public.
The other son, Prince Hallen, was not so reserved.
Though he had no official power, he often ruled in the
king’s absence and commanded great loyalty from the
knights of the realm. This might have been an acceptable
arrangement. After all, Prince Hallen was a soldier
and an heir of the Victor. He could have become the
de facto ruler while the official king sat in his distant
pleasure palace and library. Alas, that Prince Hallen was
Prince Hallen became convinced that his mother (who
had died in childbirth) was not the queen but an angel
of Mitra. He believed himself a demigod and incapable
of wrong. At first the Prince’s madness was subtle. He
often dressed all in white and even had a magic set of
wings made for himself that allowed him to soar over
80Book One: Knot of Thorns
But in time the visions began. He communed with
these so-called angels and they whispered that he should
replace his brother and become the true and immortal
master of Talingarde. The king received disturbing reports
of the prince’s madness and plots but refused to
believe them. “My brother but jests,” is famously what
Markadian II replied to the reports.
Finally the “angel” prince would wait no longer. He
flew to the Adarium and with a flaming sword slew his
own brother amidst his books and proclaimed himself
Markadian III called the Immortal. His brother’s six
year reign was at an end.
For a brief time, it was possible that Markadian III’s
claim of kingship might have been acknowledged. His
brother after all was little loved and tongues wagged that
getting rid of the absent king was a blessing. Maybe the
new king was a divine messenger of Mitra’s will. But
within days the mad decrees began from the Adarium.
The king decreed that Mitra’s high holy day would no
longer be the summer solstice but instead would become
his own birthday. He ordered the military to prepare
to invade Hell and commanded his wizards to research
opening a great gate. First, he explained to his flabbergasted
advisors, the army would go through the gate to
the shining realm of Mitra himself to call forth an army
of angels. Then he personally would lead the host to
invade the nine hells and overthrow Asmodeus himself.
Finally the people had enough of this madness. Officially,
the histories record that after only five months in
power Markadian III called the Mad tried to fly from the
highest spire of the Adarium without his magic wings.
More likely, he was thrown from the spire by paladins
who would tolerate no more of this madman’s blasphemies.
Whatever the truth, his reign was over.
Blame the Devil
Fortunately for Talingarde, Martius (Markadian II)
had a son -- Marcus. The grandson of the Victor was
neither mad nor a recluse. He had been clever enough to
avoid the Adarium and the capital during Prince Hallen’s
angelic rampage. Marcus was a handsome knight twenty
nine years of age and closely resembled his grandfather
the Victor. Thus was Talingarde spared another disastrous
war of succession.
Marcus returned to the capital and was crowned
Markadian IV called the Zealous. The new king quickly
realized that he needed to solidify his power and explain
away the difficulties of the last six and a half years. In
short, he needed an enemy to unify this fractured Talirean
nation. He found one – in the Temple of Asmodeus.
King Markadian IV blamed the cult of Asmodeus for
using their black magic to summon a devil to possess
the former king thus driving him mad. It was a brilliant
political solution (though an utter fiction). It removed
blame from the royal house of Darius and instead placed
guilt squarely upon a small, unpopular, marginalized
cult. This was the beginning of the Asmodean Purges.
The Knights of the Alerion took the lead in destroying
the temples. High priests were burned at the stake and
the sect was driven underground. For twelve years, the
Zealot sat upon the throne and during that time he did his
best to annihilate the cult of Asmodeus. He very nearly
Markadian IV died comparatively young, only 41
years old of a mysterious illness. There were rumors that
the Cult of Asmodeus had placed a curse upon the king.
These rumors only fuelled the purges further.
A Brave New King
Markadian IV was followed by Markadian V, his son.
Twenty-two when he took the throne (the same age as the
Victor), he has ruled for sixteen years as a capable, energetic
king who has done much to put bad memories in
the past. Beloved by his people, he has proven again and
again he is the true heir of the Victor. Early in his reign,
he personally led the army to relieve the Watch Wall after
another bugbear incursion. It was on the watchtower
walls that he earned himself the title The Brave
Markadian V has continued the prohibition against
the cult of Asmodeus but does not pursue the purges
with the same vigor as his father. After all, that battle is
largely won. No one has heard of an Asmodean cultist in
Talingarde for years. Instead, he turns his attention to the
west and the north hoping to be the king who brings the
entire island of Talingarde under his dynasty’s dominion.
He has failed in one duty however. He has failed
to yet produce a son. Instead, he has only one child
-- a beautiful, brilliant young princess named Bellinda.
Twenty years of age, she is already a prodigy of arcane
magic. If her father produces no heir it is an open question
whether the men of Talingarde will follow a queen
instead of a king. Her story is yet to be written.
The Six Regions
Talingarde is an archipelago consisting of more than
a hundred islands. This archipelago may be divided into
six regions each with their own unique character: The
Cambrian Ports, The Heartland, the Borderlands, the
Caer Bryr, the Savage North and the Land of the Yutak.
Talingarde: A Gazetteer
The Cambrian Ports
This is the center of the nation of Talingarde and the
apex of its culture and power. This region is defined
by three great metropolises – the capital Matharyn, the
northern city of Ghastenhall, and the western port of
Daveryn. Each of these three cities will receive more
detail in later volumes of this adventure path.
This is where most of the population of the nation of
Talingarde lives and works. Seemingly one quaint village
after another, this is a land of endless farmlands broken
up only by small stretches of well-managed forest.
Those who truly understand the nation understand that
the Heartland is Talingarde’s strength. The cities may
create its riches and culture, but without the stalwart
yeomanry, country knights and hearty folk of the field,
Talingarde would be only a dream.
Located between the Heartland and the Savage North,
this border region represents the limits of Talirean power.
Unable to fully conquer the north after centuries of incursion
and brutal conflict, it was King Accarius IV of
House Barca called the Architect who constructed the
first version of the Watch Wall. In more educated circles
it is still called the Accarian Line.
Accarius constructed nine castles guarding the border.
Later Markadian I called the Victorious would add
three more. Whoever controlled these castles could effectively
prohibit access to the Heartland from the North.
The Watch Wall was intended to contain the monsters
and savages so that eventually the rest of the isle could
be conquered and pacified. It was never meant to be the
permanent measure it has become.
The success of the Watch Wall has bred complacency.
Why invade the north when the south is so prosperous?
The Watch Wall does such a fine job of repulsing the illled
assaults of the barbarous humanoid invaders. Thus
today, the Watch Wall is little regarded as a pressing
military concern. The twelve castles are garrisoned and
maintained but little is done to capture the Savage North.
The Caer Bryr
The Western frontier of the island is dominated by
the massive forest that gives this region its name. Small
Talirean border towns flourish in the less wooded south,
but the north remains a land of mists and legends. The
Caer Bryr is reputed to be haunted and filled with monsters.
There are tales of dragons and ancient evils that
still haunt the woods. The only ones who are able to
travel here with impunity are the barbaric Iraen, a primitive
human tribe that reveres the spirits of the woods.
The Iraen neither revere Mitra nor pay homage to the
king, instead preferring their own crude animistic faith
and barbaric chieftains. Worse, in times of hardship the
Iraen can be quick to turn to banditry against Talirean
settlements. Thus their relationship with Talingarde is
strained at best. Still, beside the occasional raid or skirmish,
there has never been large-scale warfare between
the Iraen and theTalireans.
The Savage North
Beyond the Watch Wall lays the Savage North. Often
this land is said to be nothing but an empty waste of ice
and monsters. This is a complete fiction. The north is
dominated by forests and plains rich in life. Here dwell
three peoples long demonized or ignored by the more
civilized folk of the south – the brutal burabar (the name
the bugbears call themselves), the naatanuk (intelligent
polar bears) and the mysterious ice elves.
Though little is known about the North, this is certain
– it is largest unexplored region on the island. Many a
Talirean king has dreamt of conquering the North. So
far, those dreams remain unfulfilled.
The Lands of the Yutak
This chain of islands is inhabited by the Yutak, short
swarthy black-haired humans. These islands are cold,
inhospitable places unsuited to farming or grazing, so the
Talireans have left the Yutak to their own devices. Where
the southerners see wastelands, the Yutak see oceans
teaming with fish and seals. In their one-man kayaks
and larger umiaks, they ply the open oceans hunting for
fur and blubber. Occasionally, several small bands will
unite to hunt a whale.
Rarely, an umiak will appear out of the mist loaded
with ivory and furs. These Yutak umiaks will sail into
one of the western ports (a few have made it as far south
as Daveryn), conduct their business and then disappear
once more. The Yutak never trade for gold instead prizing
steel, leather and strong drink. Wise merchants keep
a stock of steel harpoon heads in case they encounter a
Yutak trader. The Yutak will trade much ivory for a
finely made harpoon.
Few Talireans speak the strange musical Yutak tongue
and few Yutak understand common. The Yutak, much
like the savage Iraens of the Caer Bryr, have their own
gods and their own way of life. Still, where the Iraen
are secretive and xenophobic, the Yutak are a gregarious
people. Travellers along the western coast tell tales
of Yutak who without invitation join Talireans around
a campfire. The Yutak share their seal meat and sing
strange but beautiful songs with strangers with whom
82Book One: Knot of Thorns
they share no tongue. It is said that if you are polite and
share your own food, the Yutak may leave a gift to mark
Nine Places of Legend in Talingarde
These nine locations will not be featured in the Way
of the Wicked adventure path and represent potential locales
where a Game Master could develop their own side
The Lost Island of Taane-thak
The Yutak tell a tale of a lost island surrounded by
dangerous rocks in the far north. The island, it is said, is
the home of a tribe of frost giants led by a powerful giant
sorceress known in stories as Taane-Thak or She without
Mercy. Thanks to a curse lain upon them by good Talirean
wizard centuries ago, the frost giants sleep in their
hidden halls of ice appearing now to be little more than
If someone could brave the breakwaters of the island
and solve the ancient wizard’s riddle it may be possible
to free Taane-Thak and coerce her into servitude. Can
you imagine servants more powerful than vengeful frost
giants and their merciless ice queen? Can you also imagine
servants more fickle and likely to betray you?
The Barrow of the First King
Somewhere in the south, long lost and forgotten is
the barrow of the first Talirean king. He reigned centuries
ago when the first settlers came to the island. Still,
he was said to be a great ruler and was buried with the
wealth of his ancient kingdom.
Surely this must be a legend. How could the barrow
have gone so long and still not be discovered? Still, if
it could be discovered it was said that the First King revered
all the gods and kept powerful relics to remind him
of their power. If that is true, then among his treasures
there must be a relic consecrated to Asmodeus. Imagine
what that relic could mean in our villains’ hands?
The Children of the White Spider
The barbaric Iraen tribesmen of the Caer Bryr whisper
tales of a lost valley in the heart of the trackless forest
inhabited by giant spiders wise enough to speak. These
spiders call themselves the Skis’raal and though they are
not evil per se, they are utterly alien and hostile to any
who invade their hidden domain.
These spiders are fanatically devoted to a female
priesthood of white spiders capable of using divine magic.
Supposedly these white sisters worship a mysterious
demigoddess known as the Queen in White.
The truth of this legend is only conjecture. Still, if
the Queen in White could be found, it is said cryptically
whispered whoever controls her blood controls her
brood. Imagine if the PCs could crack that riddle and
take control of an army of giant spiders!
The Mead Hall of the Ice Elven King
A powerful elven lord, tales relate, dwells somewhere
in the savage north and if you can find his hidden mead
hall you will find a true refuge amidst the endless snow.
The Lord it is said is a kindly soul who eagerly trades
space in his haven for a fine tale.
The truth is somewhat more sinister. While the mead
hall is real, it is now a ruin inhabited by a powerful banshee
who mourns her lost love. The elven lord is along
ago murdered and betrayed . Still, if the banshee could
be defeated, she guards the long dead king’s trappings
including his jeweled crown and enchanted sword.
The Lost Ansgarian Mine
Today the dwarves of Talingarde maintain few strongholds
in the great Ansgar mountain range that runs the
island’s length. They prefer to dwell in the cities of men
where food is plentiful and the weather more forgiving.
Still, once the Ansgar mountains were home to a thriving
dwarven culture now all but forgotten.
Dwarven tales speak of a secret dwarven mine of
mithral that the dwarven kings guarded so jealously that
none was allowed to enter there unless they submitted to
powerful magic that erased memory of the mine’s location.
Thus when the last dwarven king died heirless centuries
ago the secret of the mithral mine died with him.
Still, there are dwarves in Ghastenhall and Matharyn
who claim to have royal blood in their veins. If this is
true, they may be immune to the amnesiac curse and may
be able to rediscover this priceless mine. An Asmodean
army equipped with mithral weapons would be unstoppable!
The Ice Troll Forges
In the savage north is found an ancient tribe of ice
trolls, the degenerate remainder of a once much greater
troll civilization. These surprisingly intelligent smiths
work strange rare metals and craft magic treasures they
trade with the bugbears. These are led by a great ice troll
king named Sigarth Iekenhart. Sigarth is a genius among
the ice trolls and despises the Talireans. He could be
a valuable ally to any who call Talingarde their enemy.
Still, he would have to be persuaded. It is said the trolls
value mithral (or ice-steel as they call it) above any other
Talingarde: A Gazetteer
The Sunken City of Aath-Aryn
Several miles off the eastern coast of Talingarde is
a colony of tritons that dwell amidst the ruins of a submerged
city. Aath-Aryn, it is said, was once the sister
city to the ancient city of Maath-Aryn (now better known
these days as Matharyn, capital of Talingarde). However,
its last king in his arrogance mocked the god of
the sea. Thus the city was hit by a great tsunami and a
powerful earthquake that permanently flooded the city.
Now the lost city of Aath-Aryn (or just Aath) is merely
a children’s tale remembered only in a nursery rhyme:
King Hoopa Loopa said to the sea
Aath’s not afraid of you! Are you afraid of me?
King Hoopa Loopa silly silly he!
He got dragged down to the bottom of the sea!
King Hoopa Loopa said to the sky
Don’t let me drown! Can you teach me how to fly?
King Hoopa Loopa silly silly guy!
Seven miles out and never ever dry!
For the clever, the nursery rhyme does hold a few interesting
facts. The last king of Aath-Aryn was named
Appalorius (no doubt the origin of the sing-song Hoopa
Loopa). He did forsake the god of the sea for worship of
a sky god. And there is a rock outcropping seven miles
off the eastern coast called the Appalorian Spire very
near lost Aath-Aryn.
Now, if only an expedition could be mounted with
sufficient magical resources to explore the lost city, who
can doubt it still holds ancient treasures ripe for plunder?
Of course, there are the pesky tritons and sea elves who
consider this a holy site. They will have to be exterminated.
What a pity.
The Wreck of the Dawn Triumphant
When a Mitran religious artifact was discovered on
the mainland, the Church immediately arranged for its
transport to their cathedral in Matharyn. The church
fathers contracted the merchant vessel “The Dawn Triumphant”
owned by a very pious sea captain.
Alas, that just before the entrance to the Cambrian
Bay the ship struck a reef and sunk to the bottom of the
sea with all her crew and cargo. The Cardinals of the Mitran
Faith have offered exorbitant sums to anyone willing
to brave the treacherous waters and reclaim the relic
but so far have found no takers. What are they so worried
about? What is it about this relic that seems almost
to terrify them? And if it were recovered, how could it
be used against them?
The Holy Caverns of the Naatanuk
Of all the intelligent races that dwell on Talingarde,
the Naatanuk are probably the most misunderstood. Regarded
as monsters by the Talireans, these intelligent
polar bears are often assumed to be slaves or trained
beasts in service of the bugbears. This is untrue. While
a few Naatanuk do aid the bugbears, most regard the
shaggy goblinoids with disinterest or disdain. The truth
is that the Naatanuk are an independent, proud people
who made Talingarde their home long before bugbears,
humans or any other race came to this once wild island
The Naatanuk have an ancient druidic tradition and
it is in these hidden caverns that the rites and religions
of their people are carried out. It is also here that their
greatest treasures are stored. It would be only the boldest
of thieves who would dare violate these sacred caverns
and discover what the Naatanuk have labored so lonto
keep hidden from the two-legs.