|Ruler||The Umbral Court|
|Languages||Common, Shadowtongue, Varisian|
|Religions||Asmodeus, Desna, Zon-Kuthon|
|Images of Nidal|
Source: Campaign Setting, pg(s). 110
Nidal (pronounced NYE-dohl) is one of the oldest surviving nations of Avistan, having been founded during the early years of the Age of Darkness nearly 10,000 years ago. Due to an ancient pact made out of desperate necessity, it has been controlled throughout its entire recorded history by the followers of a single deity: Zon-Kuthon. It is a shadowy land of furtive whispers ruled by the immortal Black Triune whose populace is closely watched by the clergy of the Dark Prince, lest they stray from his heinous teachings.
Nidal is one of the oldest civilizations in Avistan and its citizens are able to trace their recorded history all the way back to the opening years of the Age of Darkness, something which no other human culture can claim. Little is known of the people who inhabited the lands between the Menador and Mindspin Mountains before Earthfall. Known simply as the horselords, they were Kellid humans with tanned skin and dark hair who lived a semi-nomadic life following their herds in the waning years of the Age of Legend. Shamans advised them on spiritual matters, while warlords ruled the tribes, and they buried their dead beneath great stone cairns. Many of their gods have long since been forgotten, although some gave homage to Gozreh as the master of the verdant plains that were their home, or Desna as the protector of travelers and dreamers.
The ancient Nidalese had few permanent settlements, preferring to travel between well-stocked outposts where they bred their horses. Their horse-breeding traditions were an envy to their neighbors, and they regarded their mounts more like family members than livestock.
Earthfall brought death, catastrophe, and calamity to everyone on Golarion, and in the chaos that followed, the chieftains of the horselords sought desperately to save what was left of their people. While others fled underground to live off roots and grubs, the chieftains knew that this would mean leaving their precious horses behind; this they would not tolerate. Left with no other options, they gathered on the Weeping Fields of what is now southeastern Nidal and prayed to their now forgotten gods. They begged to be saved from the terrible darkness that had spread across the planet, but received no answer. Instead, Zon-Kuthon, freshly released from his age-long imprisonment on the Plane of Shadow, offered them a simple deal: their survival in exchange for their people's eternal obedience. In desperation, the chiefs agreed and were transformed into the immortal Black Triune, while their followers, and their descendants ever since, have been yoked to the will of the dark god. As the only stable human realm, Nidal received refugees from Azlant and Thassilon in the years that followed, and all who pledged their loyalty to Zon-Kuthon were welcome.
A new government
Nidal's society changed radically during the early part of the Age of Darkness as Kuthite worship became its central focus. The Black Triune gave rise to a new elite known as the Umbral Court, who became the Triune's eyes and ears. Increasingly obsessed with their own byzantine pursuits and disinterested in the troubles of others, the government and people of Nidal became insular and cut themselves off from the outside world.
Failed invasion of Jol
In 4100 AR, worshipers of Zon-Kuthon arrived in Jol in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings in an attempt to put the locals under the Zon-Kuthon's control. This ultimately failed, leading to the torture and death of the Kuthites.
Nidal's 9,000 years of insularity came to an abrupt halt when it was invaded in 4305 AR by Imperial Cheliax during their campaign of colonial expansion known as the Everwar. Despite their perceived decadence, the Nidalese proved capable of defending their homeland, earning a fearsome reputation when they would send the surviving invaders home in pieces. The fighting dragged out for 30 years, but Cheliax under the leadership of Emperor Haliad III was able to bring the Black Triune to the negotiating table in 4338 AR, even though Zon-Kuthon seemed to be withholding his most terrifying forces from the battles.
Once firmly under Cheliax's boot, a great flowering of trade and culture occurred between the two nations, incrementally pulling Nidal's southern neighbor closer to the outlook and ideals of the Midnight Lord. This increase of Nidalese values in Cheliax was so great, that some wondered if the invasion itself was just a cunning trap laid by Zon-Kuthon to lead Cheliax to darkness and evil.
In Nidal, this period was known as the Shadowbreak, and was marked by a moderation of the Kuthite's cruelest excesses, the exchange of ideas between scholars in both countries, and the opening of the House of Lies.
Nidal nevertheless bristled under Chelish dominance for approximately the next 300 years. It was not until the death of Cheliax's patron god, Aroden, in 4606 AR and the subsequent Chelish Civil War, that Nidal regained its independence. Having never strayed from the worship of Zon-Kuthon, Nidal did not suffer the same social turmoil caused by the death of Aroden as its neighbors and soon the Umbral Court made a deal to support the Hell-backed House of Thrune. In exchange, the leaders of House Thrune promised to withdraw all Chelish agents from Nidal should they win the conflict. With Nidal's support (and that of countless bound devils and kytons), House Thrune finally put down all other comers and ascended to the throne of Cheliax in 4640 AR. Abrogail Thrune (now Queen Abrogail I) honored their agreement, and Nidal has been independent ever since.
The Shadowbreak came to an abrupt end at the same time, and more moderate Kuthites were purged from the clergy and the Umbral Court. The Black Triune once again took direct control of the government, and established the Adamant Guard to protect the nation from foreign threats.
Nidal is run by the sinister Umbral Court, the shadow-touched aristocracy who have ruled the nation since the Age of Darkness. Ever since the current Umbral Court's distant ancestors made their binding pact with the Midnight Lord, they have lived only to strictly enforce and promote the sadistic values of Zon-Kuthon. Any disagreement or questioning of these edicts is harshly punished by the Umbral Court or its agents, as is the worship of any other deity (particularly Zon-Kuthon's main rival, Desna). Few have the courage to stand against the whims of even the most minor member of the Umbral Court for to do so normally means death in the most horrific manner.
Umbral Court agents
Very few Kuthites have been gifted by their god to be members of the ruling Umbral Court, but many more operate as Umbral Court agents on behalf of their government, both at home and abroad. These agents live quite openly in the cities of Ridwan and Pangolais, but can be found working in secret throughout the country. Some work as consuls or diplomats, while others are agitators, spies, or agent provocateurs who root out heresies and seek to purify the nation. Those who work outside of Nidal generally insinuate themselves into positions of power where they can subtly steer policies that favor their home country and glorify their patron god.
Nidal still has close ties with the nation of Cheliax, and sends shadow magic-trained magic-users named shadowcasters to support the infernal regime. These loaned shadowcasters are known as the Midnight Guard.
- See also: Category:Nidal/Geography
Nidal sits on the western coast of Avistan, with Nisroch Bay and Conqueror's Bay forming its coastline, and beyond that by vast Arcadian Ocean. To the south lies Cheliax, Nidal's former infernal master, and to the north across the Mindspin Mountains lie the frontier lands of Varisia. Finally, to the east lie the warring kingdoms of Molthune and Nirmathas. Nidal is largely cut off from its neighbours by the Mindspin Mountains to the north and east and the Menador Mountains to the south. The northern plains are known as the Atteran Ranches, rolling hills inhabited by horse ranchers and farmers whose families have lived there since the Age of Darkness. Its main route to the outside world is via the sea, with most of Nidal's sea traffic coming through the heavily policed port of Nisroch. The main geographical feature dominating inland Nidal is the Uskwood: a vast, shady forest and the subject of many dark rumours. Beneath the Uskwood's shady boughs lies Nidal's capital city of Pangolais, where it is said the trees grow so dense that it is nearly impossible to tell day from night.
- See also: Category:Nidal/Inhabitants
The inhabitants of Nidal live beneath the shadow of a pact made in the dark days of ancient history. They are still fulfilling their part of that pact to this day, and live in fear of the dark powers Zon-Kuthon grants the Umbral Court. While the Umbral Court, the decadent nobles of Nidal, rule the land using divinely granted shadow powers, the peasants of Nidal live much like the peasants of any other land, except with a far greater fear of their noble lords.
Aasimars are quite rare in Nidal, as they are seen by the government as natural focal points for insurrection. Families who give birth to such children either quickly learn to hide their unusual features, or else sell the children into slavery at a high price. The very few aasimar who reach adulthood in Nidal either become corrupted and turn evil, or else become subversives, hoping to bring down the tyrannical government.
In addition to its human inhabitants, Nidal is home to many fearsome beasts from Zon-Kuthon's home on the Plane of Shadow, including nightshades who are occasionally summoned by the spellcasting faithful of Zon-Kuthon. The Menador Mountains are particularly infamous for being the home of many of these fell creatures, including several umbral dragons. A number of shadow giant families have also made their home in some of Nidal's wilder corners at the direct invitation of the Umbral Court itself. When not assigned tasks by the country's rulers, these giants generally keep to themselves and practice their unspeakable rites. Finally, Nidal is also home to several species of undead, including raveners and wights.
Nidal is a monotheistic theocracy ruled by a hereditary aristocracy who receive a direct divine mandate from a single god: Zon-Kuthon. It is therefore not hard to imagine that all other religions are banned there, although they are still practiced in secret. Of all of them, the worship of Desna is of particular note, and its followers even have their own name for themselves: the Whispered Song. The Whispered Song works in utter secrecy to give hope to Nidal's oppressed commoners, and are even believed to have infiltrated the Umbral Court itself.
The church's direct connections to Zon-Kuthon grants them some powerful allies, including several umbral dragons who serve as advisors, guardians, mounts, and assassins.
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