Saldaea is the largest of the Borderlands, the four great nations which stretch across the northern edge of the Westlands. The Borderlands have charged themselves with the defence of the Blightborder, to hold back the Shadow in the north until the Last Battle comes.
After the Breaking of the World, the northern-most kingdoms to come into existence were Jaramide in the west, and Aramaelle in the east. The two nations were enormous, populous and well-prepared for war. The two kingdoms fortified the Mountains of Dhoom and defeated numerous small Shadowspawn incursions for a thousand years. Then, circa 1000 AB, the Trolloc Wars erupted. A vast horde of Shadowspawn struck south through the western Mountains of Dhoom and destroyed the great Jaramidian city of Barsine. Another horde struck south, destroying Mafal Dadaranelle, the capital of Aramaelle. For three and a half centuries Shadowspawn overran the Westlands, until they were finally defeated for good at the epic Battle of Maighande.
In the aftermath of the Trolloc Wars, three new kingdoms arose along the northern border: Basharande in the west, Elsalam in the centre and Rhamdashar in the north-east. These three nations pledged themselves to stopping another Trolloc Wars from erupting ever again and maintained vigilant defences along the Blightborder. However, the Blight had grown more virulent since the days of the Trolloc Wars and the border had been pushed back from the Mountains of Dhoom in several locations.
During the Consolidation, the three kingdoms sent troops to fight Artur Hawkwing, but not so much as to endanger the defence of the border. Hawkwing defeated all three kingdoms and made them part of his empire. He reorganised the three kingdoms into five distinct provinces, with shorter lines of communication and supply, as well as commissioning fortresses and watchtowers along the border. The five provinces were named, from west to east, Saldaea, Kandor, Arafel, Shienar and, in the north, Malkier.
Hawkwing’s planning proved invaluable: in FY 987 a vast Trolloc horder invaded the Westlands and bled itself considerably on the defences. Its vast size meant that it did finally manage to break through the Borderland lines and invade the Westlands properly, but the delay had given Hawkwing time to assemble a colossal army to meet them with. The Battle of Talidar, fought south of the Shienaran provincial border, saw the Trolloc horde shattered and destroyed. The ruin visited upon the Shadowspawn was so great that all activity along the Blightborder was reduced for half a century.
When Hawkwing died in FY 994 and the War of the Hundred Years erupted, the five Borderland provinces declared themselves sovereign kingdoms. They also signed a compact, a treaty of mutual aid and defence. They would help one another hold back the Shadow and they would not make war against the other nations except in self defence. The rulers who signed this compact were King Rylen t’Boriden of Saldaea, King Jarel Soukovni of Kandor, Queen Mahira Svetanya of Arafel, Queen Merean Tihomar of Shienar and King Shevar Jamelle of Malkier. Accordingly, during the War of the Hundred Years the five Borderland kingdoms did not become embroiled in the fighting, aside from defending their southern borders from occasional incursions by neighbouring kingdoms.
The history of the Borderlands is one of unwavering vigilance against the Shadow, maintaining the defences along the Blightborder and mounting scouting expeditions into the Blight (to destroy Shadowspawn before they might gather into a threatening horde). As such, the five nations have had relatively little in the way of the interesting histories of other nations, filled with war, political intrigue and civil strife, as such distractions would invariably prove fatal.
Saldaea is the largest of the four extant Borderlands, larger than Shienar and Arafel combined. It is also one of the largest kingdoms on the continent, comparable to Cairhein in size and only outsized by Andor. It stretches for just over 1,000 miles from the west coast to the Plain of Lances and for 650 miles from north to south at its widest point. The Aryth Ocean marks the western border, with the Blightborder extending along the entire northern border. The Plain of Lances and the north-western tip of the Black Hills make up the eastern border. The southern border is defined by rivers, tributaries of the mighty Arinelle.
Southern Saldaea is made up of dense forests and fertile fields, well-watered by the huge River Arinelle and its very numerous tributaries. A well-maintained highway connects Maradon to Bandar Eban, the capital of Arad Doman, some 1,600 miles to the south-west, and villages and waystops can be found along this road. In the north-west the terrain becomes hilly and then mountainous, until the great Banikhan range is reached. The Banikhan Mountains shield inner Saldaea from the worst of the weather off the Aryth Ocean, hence its nickname as the “Sea Wall of Saldaea”. West of the Banikhan range there is a sloping coastal plain which abruptly drops into the ocean in a craggy morass of cliffs, rocks and reefs, which stretch in an unbroken arc for hundreds of miles from near Saldaea’s south-westernmost border to where the Mountains of Dhoom tumble into the ocean in a mess of islands in the north. It is impossible to find a good port on this coast even for the most skilled Sea Folk navigator, resulting in its name of World’s End.
In the north, the terrain becomes less varied and gives way to plains stretching to the forbidding Mountains of Dhoom, which may be glimpsed distantly on the northern horizon. However, the sickly infestation known as the Blight has moved south of the Mountains of Dhoom since Artur Hawkwing’s day, resulting in a broad stretch of hostile territory between the mountains and the northern border of Saldaea: the Blightborder. Saldaea has built an enormous number of fortresses, watchtowers and outposts along the border, linked by signal fires and beacons to garrisons to allow them to mutually support one another.
In the east, south of the Blightborder, the terrain gives way to large, rolling plains, perfect for large-scale cavalry activities. This is the Plain of Lances, where the armies of Saldaea and Kandor have drilled for large-scale military operations for generations.
The lifeblood and spine of Saldaea is the River Arinelle. This river rises north of Saldaea, in the Blight, before flowing south past the capital at Maradon. It turns south-west at Saldaea’s southern border, joined by numerous lesser rivers and streams along the way. The Arinelle is navigable by medium-sized ships all the way from Maradon to Illian, some 2,500 miles to the south, flowing through the nations of Andor and Altara along the way.
Saldaea’s capital and largest city is Maradon. This square-shaped city is built on the ruins of Deranbar, the Ogier-built capital of Jaramide ere its fall in the Trolloc Wars. Maradon is built close to a bend in the Arinelle, allowing the river to present a formidable obstacle to attacking enemies. There are also, quite deliberately, no bridges over the Arinelle between Maradon and the Blight, forcing an attacking Shadowspawn army to either cross the river under sustained attack or go hundreds of miles out of their way to the east before looping back to attack the city. Maradon’s walls are tall and extremely thick, with numerous defensive redoubts for archers, catapults and trebuchets. There are additional walls inside the city and strong defences around the Cordamora Palace as well. Combined these make Maradon arguably the most strongly-defended city on the subcontinent, certainly for its huge size. Only Tar Valon and Far Madding, on their islands with massive walls as an additional layer of defence, are arguably more difficult to attack.
Other towns and villages in Saldaea include Bashere, Tyr and Sidona, all holdings of House Bashere; Irinjavar, Mehar and Kayacun, a village close to the Sea Wall.
Saldaea is a hereditary monarchy, with the monarch ruling with the approval of the noble houses of the realm. The current ruler of Saldaea is Queen Tenobia si Bashere Kazadi. Despite her youth, Tenobia has proven herself to be an able ruler of her kingdom.
Saldaea maintains close ties with Tar Valon and of course is strongly allied to the other Borderland nations, particularly Kandor, its neighbour to the east.
Military and Population
Saldaea is a nation in an almost permanent war footing, due to the ever-pressing threat of the Blight. This makes assessing its population and military strength difficult. However, it is known that the four Borderland nations combined can muster about 400,000 troops, suggesting that their combined population is around 40 million. Saldaea, as the largest of the four kingdoms, would likely be the most populous of the four but this is uncertain.
Saldaea specialises in the art of light cavalry, of using massed cavalry formations to harass enemy ranks and pick off stragglers, and also to cover great distances at speed.
Saldaea’s enormous size and more varied terrain compared to the other Borderlands means that it is able to exploit more natural resources and thus increase its income relative to them. Saldaea exports lumber, ice peppers fur along the Arinelle to markets in Andor, Altara, Murandy and Illian, and along the great south-western road to Arad Doman, as well as south-east to Tar Valon and the Erinin trade routes. As a result Saldaea is comfortably rich nation, which is useful given the not-inconsiderable cost of its military readiness to face the Shadow.
Saldaeans, like most Borderlanders, are a no-nonsense people who prefer plain-speaking and honesty. They despise the political game-playing and deal-making of the southern kingdoms. Most Saldaeans are trained in the art of personal combat. This is true of Saldaean women, who are trained with the knife and close-quarter fighting to defend themselves. Saldaean women accompany the men on campaign (unless into the Blight), and have been known to command armies in battle and formulate military strategy.
Saldaeans are quite proper and correct in public but are known to be a surprisingly passionate people in private; the infamous sa’sara dance of seduction, practised by Saldaean women, is credited with starting at least three wars.