Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
The God of Wealth and the Patron of Merchants
Talras began life in one of the nomad bands that roamed Cis-Arbina in the years shortly before Kagan Agastin’s conversion, and the beginning of the long road to the founding of the Sacred Empire. The bookish, ingenious man was no natural warrior, and knew there was little hope for him in the nomads’ warbands; and thus he ran away as a young man, to the port-town of Kantharas, where he gained an apprenticeship as a shipbuilder, and acquired a taste for gold; so his holy texts say.
They go on to tell the story of how it took him twenty years to amass a fortune and build new ships with new innovations in keels and rudders and stabilisers, that allowed them to traverse larger expanses of ocean than ever before; how he launched his own expeditions and claimed islands for himself, and used each island as a stepping stone onwards and eastwards to the lands on the other side of the world. They tell of how by the time he was 80, he was still a fit and wiry and expert tradesman whose personal fortune could buy whole cities, and who was personally founding and taxing colonies on his newly claimed lands, when he travelled at last to Pelargossia.
He surveyed the islands surrounding it, and found them rich with silver veins, gold, metal ores and gems, with exotic fruits and spices and timbers, and he claimed it all in his name.
Then he stepped foot onto the shores of Pelargossia itself, but before he could announce his claim to the continent as well, he was struck by a vision from Urakan; the overdeity was so impressed at his skill in acquiring wealth that he offered Talras godhood in his own right, if Talras would claim Pelargossia in the name of Urakan instead – and devote his expertise and fortune to “The Great Founder who already walks amongst you”.
Talras, a wily trader, agreed, and instead announced that these lands were sacred to Urakan and to the concept of Trade, and he dedicated it to the overdeity instead.
The texts tell of how he spend three years in isolation there as a hermit, collecting trade goods and categorising them in perfection so as to maximise profits for the return journey; and how in his isolation he crafted a creature from the clays of the earth and the eggs of a large reptilian predator native to Pelargossia; he made them small to be efficient in food; able to eat a wide variety of foodstuffs that Uruk cannot eat, including grass, leaves, and bones; meek and obedient so they could not threaten their new masters – he made them to be the perfect slaves, and he named them Kobolds, or Lizardlings.
He arrived back in Abrina triumphant, and nearly 90 years old but energetic and appearing to be in early middle age; he began breeding up the Dragonborn population as slaves, keeping the females for breeding stock and selling only the males to ensure his monopoly went unchallenged. The strategy worked; and his wealth became immeasurable.
He preached of his vision from Urakan – though made no claim to godhood himself – and sought out the “Great Founder”. This, of course, led him to Bartus; and accepting Urakan’s terms, he swore the loyalty of himself and his vast trade holdings as an Imperial fief, their resources standing ready to serve the cause of the Sacred Empire. The Church of Talras operated for centuries as a dominant merchant consortium.
It is argued amongst some theologians that Talras was the ‘true’ founder of the Empire; Bartus had political power and military ties, but it was Talras’ economic skill that built infrastructure, hired mercenaries, hired scholars and ministers, and bribed opponents. Worse, the contribution of money to the Empire’s successes is undeniable; without the grand road-building projects that build excellent transport links throughout Bartus’ early desmense, it is hard even for die-hard supporters of Bartus’ supremacy to see how a nomadic army of raiders and a collection of fractious city-states filled with internecine rivalries, could have formed so effective a political union.
This very divide once provided a catalyst for the Empire’s only civil war; shortly after Kitantha’s departure from the Pantheon, and less than a century before first contact with the Elves, traders and merchants owing religious fealty to Talras (directly or indirectly) had become responsible for a majority of the Imperial economy, with the goods and services (and slaves) that at the time only Talras could provide, underpinned much of the remainder. Bartus had made public suggestions that the state should buy (or legislate) open access to some of Talras’ monopolies; Talras refused utterly and argued, not without reason, that it was not the purview of Bartus to interfere in matters of Wealth. The Talras-centric view of Imperial founding became controversial and deeply divisive, with the departure of Kitantha from the Imperial pantheon prompting many Talrasi to fear that Talras was under threat of expulsion, and many Bartusians to fear a coup with Talras claiming supreme rulership.
The spark that ignited civil conflict came from the Empire’s major rivals of the era, the republic of Encyronia, suddenly beginning to breed their own slave populations independently of Talras; at the time, it was widely believed that the only female Dragonborn in the world were held in a handful of highly defended breeding pens , and the conclusion that Talras was in league with the Empire’s enemies seemed obvious. The exact source of these renegade breeder-females is unclear, but slaving was increasingly accessible to Uruk powers as shipbuilding technology spread, and it is suspected that the Encyronian quietly sent expeditions to explore and attempt to acquire breeding stock in case war with the Empire ended the flow of slaves.
The civil war lasted two decades, during which the Encyronians conquered several Imperial provinces from the weakened locals, before Bartus and Talras reached an accord; a large number of female Dragonborn were released to Imperial bureaucrats, and slave-breeding monopolies were broken. Talras officially donated large swathes of Pelargossian land to the Empire, rather than operating them almost as independent allied states; and Talras publicly forswore political ambition. Finally, laws ending the participation of religious organisations in the trade economy were passed; Talrasi priests and acolytes could preach of wealth and advice parishioners, but could not themselves trade. In exchange, Talras achieved immunity from further accusation, was allowed to keep his vast fortunes, and was officially recognised as a co-founder of the Empire.