Adelaide Jade Regent
When adventurers of the Inner Sea region wish to experience a land wholly unlike their own, few choices are as foreign and extravagant as Tian Xia, the continent on the other side of the world. Over five times the area of the Inner Sea region, the Dragon Empires are a thriving collection of nations rife with political intrigue, social turmoil, rich cultures, deadly monsters, and wondrous mysteries.
Tian Xia’s history is both complicated and tragic, filled with the blood of countless peoples spilt in numerous despotic efforts to control the vast region. While Earthfall devastated Avistan and Garund on the other side of the world, it remains questionable whether humanity even existed on Tian Xia as of that point. Nonetheless, the resultant tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and incredibly long winter brought on by the destruction of Azlant transformed the lands of Tian Xia into the form that would eventually become the Dragon Empires.
Though numerous empires have controlled swaths of Tian Xia throughout the millennia, none were so successful and yet so short-lived as Imperial Lung Wa, whose dynasty lasted fewer than 500 years and yet whose dominance spanned nearly the entire continent. The collapse of Lung Wa ushered in the current Age of Succession and split many of Tian Xia’s nations apart; among these disparate nations are the 16 countries now known as the Successor States, as well as other regions including the untameable Valashmai Jungle, naga-ruled Nagajor, and independent Minkai. All the same, the entire continent has felt the impact of the last empire’s fall, and interaction with Imperial Lung Wa helped shape and establish almost every nation’s current identity.
Much of the nation of Hongal is composed of scrublands and icy tundra, and its people are a hardened group of nomadic horseback riders who travel these barren lands in groups of anywhere from dozens to thousands. Only two permanent settlements exist—the town of Muliwan to the south and the capital of Ordu-Aganhei near the northern border. Ordu-Aganhei marks the Tian end of the Path of Aganhei, a particularly important trade route between Tian Xia and Avistan.
While the region’s unforgiving weather tempts some to embrace the settled life, those who reside in the oases of civilization are looked down on by horse lords. Harsh winds constantly whip across the dry, rolling hills of the land, and a particularly powerful seasonal storm known as quqotengir (the “sky dragon’s angry breath”) is especially feared, for those caught in its midst are often found later as strangely mutilated corpses.
In Hongal, one’s horse is one’s life, and the nomadic peoples’ way of life is perhaps most aptly described by the local proverb, “A Hongali may cast her son, daughter, and husband from her tent in a storm, but she would follow them herself before casting out her horse.” Hongali horses are prized across Golarion as some of the best breeds money can buy. Each tribe of Hongali horseback riders is governed by a baga bohd, equivalent in power to a duke, and the most powerful tribe is overseen by the nation’s ruling khan. The current khan is Kiriltai Khan, a ravenous, short-tempered man who is nonetheless known for his silver tongue.
In the far north of Tian Xia, just below the arctic circle, a dim and eerie pine forest looms out of the cold and fog. Of the mortals that dwell here, animals are the most prevalent, with any humanoids usually being no more than temporary visitors—for while the Forest of Spirits is largely peaceful, it is overseen by the kami, protective spirits that watch over the forces of nature. Most regard the forest as the primeval birthplace of the kami, as they are more prominent here than anywhere else.
Kami are not cruel beings, but they do not take kindly to those seeking to spread civilization’s corrupting influence in their realm, and the Forest of Spirits has proven remarkably resilient to colonization of any sort. Legends tell of the lost empire of Zao, a kingdom led by a greedy samurai who exploited the mystical forest for its vast resources. It is said that the kami allied with fey and even a mighty forest dragon in order to decimate the people of Zao, leaving only the legend of its existence as a lesson to those who might think to repeat the empire’s mistakes.
While civilization’s touch is markedly less apparent in the Forest of Spirits, there remain some traces of its existence where the kami have allowed it. The Spirit Road winds up the coastline of the forest and serves as an important trade route connecting Minkai and Hongal. Small, tenuous settlements of conscientious fisherfolk, traders, miners, and respectful loggers dot the outskirts of the forest, the residents always wary of their impact on the kami’s wards.