Mendev – Crusader Theocracy
Mendev at a glance:
- Alignment: LG
- Capital: Nerosyan (64,700)
- Notable Settlements: Egede (39,410), Kenabres (12,330)
- Ruler: The Crusader Queen Galfrey, Sword of Iomedae
- Government: Monarchy
- Languages: Common, Hallit
- Religion: Iomedae, Aroden
Churches shaken by Aroden’s death seized upon the folk tales featuring the rise of the Worldwound, using them to whip their followers into a frenzy of religious fervor. The clergy of Iomedae led the way, stepping from the shadows of their bewildered masters in the faltering church of Aroden. Nobles in Cheliax, Isger, and Andoran, fearing growing domestic discontent fueled by dispossessed nobles and idle mercenaries roaming their countrysides, joined with the Iomedaean church to sponsor the first Mendevian Crusade in 4622. Thousands of pilgrims soon made their way up the River Road from Cassomir to Chesed and across the Lake of Mists and Veils to Mendev, where they joined battle and the demonic hordes were checked and even pushed back. The crusaders fortified their gains and for almost a generation the frontier was quiet. The crusade was deemed a rousing success.
Talk of an easy victory was silenced, however, when the demons, having assembled a massive force, renewed their onslaught. The crusaders suffered horrifying defeats as the land itself seemed to shift and change beneath them, and the demons rode a wave of chaos into and through their lines. This disastrous invasion, including the total loss of the northern fortress-city of Drezen in 4638, triggered a Second Crusade. The crusaders once more threw back the demonic onslaught, and with the demons pushed back the crusaders devised a new stratagem. A string of rune-encrusted menhirs known as Wardstones was constructed to keep the worst of the demonic land’s inhabitants and influence from spreading. The stones must be maintained with careful prayer and ritual, and remain constant points of attack by demons and their servants. This effort was not without cost, however, as scholars believe this crusade drew so many righteous men and women from Cheliax to face the demoniac threat that the diabolical House of Thrune and its allies finally wrested control of the empire, ending 30 years of civil war.
Their armies temporarily contained, the clever demons changed tactics yet again, and through a campaign of careful infiltration, seduction, and betrayal they began to undermine the fragile alliances that held together the crusade. This more subtle campaign produced several crusader defeats, but more importantly it succeeded in inflaming suspicion and paranoia in Mendev. The uneasiness is worst in the border town of Kenabres, where the aging prophet Hulmun leads a zealous pogrom against demon worshipers, and his passion for inquisition remains undimmed by the passing years. In truth, much of the Third Crusade seemed nearly as concerned with purifying the citizenry and the hinterlands of Mendev as with matters on the front lines. As far back as the First Crusade, many immigrating crusaders suspected the native Iobarian culture and its druidic faith of being demon-tainted. Hundreds of indigenous Mendevians and pilgrims have burned at the stake in Kenabres alone since these trials began. Crusader leaders in the past turned a blind eye to this cruelty, preferring to focus on military matters, but the Order of Heralds instituted with the Fourth Crusade has made considerable strides in curbing the inquisition. Even in Kenabres, the ardor of the inquisition has dimmed somewhat, and many hope it is utterly extinguished with the death of the aged prelate — but quietly here and there throughout Mendev the screaming flames still echo the passion of her most fervent zealots.
Mendev is a land of duality, a shining bastion of law and goodness hard up against the Worldwound, a burgeoning sinkhole of evil that threatens all of creation. It is a land of pilgrims, crusaders, opportunistic rogues, and a simmering clash of cultures from south and north. Descended from Iobarian exiles and ne’er-do-wells, Mendev of old was home to more than a few Issian pirates. Friend and ally to lost Sarkoris, it was otherwise seen as a small and inconsequential kingdom. Everything changed with the death of Aroden, when tales of demonic monstrosities spewing from the distant north spread throughout Avistan in the beginning of the last century. The “Song of Sarkoris” related the fall of a wicked barbarian kingdom to cosmic horrors from the Great Beyond. “The Ballad of Prince Zhakar” told of the brave march into a chaos-warped land by a band of Mendevian heroes who died one by one fighting their way to the center of the blight, which they called a “wound in the world.”
A string of fortresses named for generals and heroes lost in the Worldwound house battalions of devoted warriors who both shield Mendev from rapacious abominations and launch raids into the heart of the chaos, seeking to stem it at its source. With the Fourth Crusade capping almost a century of war, however, the hope of victory seems increasingly remote and heroic crusaders become harder to find. The Mendevian Crusades have long been used as a pretext for southern kingdoms to rid themselves of undesirable elements, many of whom swear the Crusader’s Oath without a shred of sincerity, either running from trouble at home or looking to make trouble abroad. As the crusades progressed, the proportion of idealistic and devout crusaders has fallen compared to those who prefer to shirk active duty and spend their time in dissolute thuggery and pillage under the thinnest veneer of righteousness.
Foreigners engaged in the holy wars against the blight of the Worldwound now outnumber the native people of Mendev, who have been pushed aside and treated as an underclass by the nation’s new inhabitants. In theory, these crusaders follow the righteous Queen Galfrey, Sword of Iomedae, a Mendevborn Chelaxian duchess trained in Brevoy’s Aldorian battle arts. In practice, mercenaries and professional soldiers now outnumber the pilgrims, and even many crusaders remain focused on rooting out demonic influence in the Iobarian underclass or taking their liberties at the point of the sword.
Nevertheless, Queen Galfrey inspires hope that the Fourth Crusade will return attention to the true enemy and the ideals of the crusade — rid the north of the taint of otherworldly evil. Throughout Avistan and beyond, men and women of strong character and boundless ambition still look to the north with purpose and determination, and in their mouths the Acts of Iomedae are no mere words or stories, but a holy calling. Still, stability is fragile in Mendev, and a real brutality and lawlessness lurks just below the surface. All the while, slowly but surely, the reality-bending chaos of the Worldwound consumes more of the world, spreading its malign influence ever southward. Sooner or later, the Wardstones will fail. Unless something changes soon, the Worldwound will eventually encompass all of Avistan.
The noble Queen Galfrey wields considerable power and directs her Knights of the Chalice in Nerosyan, but further from the capital her influence dwindles. Individual crusader commanders vary in their loyalty and how many liberties they take on their own authority, and there is often tension between the religious and military leaders of the crusade over priorities. Looming over all are the overzealous inquisitors — Hulrun of Kenabres is the most influential but he has many sympathizers across Mendev. Meanwhile, the Crusade Heralds attempt to mediate and satisfy all groups in the best interests of the crusade.
The queen and her councilors know the quality of the crusaders flocking to Mendev has become highly questionable, and yet they are desperate for troops and loath to turn away anyone. Still, they hear the cries of persecuted native Mendevians at the hands of inquisitors and thuggish “low templars” alike. With resources stretched to the breaking point and division within the crusade even in the face of the dire threat of the Worldwound, there are few to spare to quell these internal problems.
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting