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Ustalav

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Ustalav
Ustalav
(Nation)
Titles The Immortal Principality of Ustalav
The Nation That Was
Alignment Neutral evil
Capital Caliphas
Ruler Prince Aduard Ordranti III
Government Loose confederacy of counties
Demonym Ustalavs
Adjective Ustalavic
Languages Common, Skald, Varisian
Religions Desna, Pharasma, Urgathoa

The Immortal Principality of Ustalav[1] (pronounced OO-stah-lahv)[2] is a fog-shrouded realm of countless horrors, and a once-proud realm that was shattered by the clawed hands of the Whispering Tyrant.[3][4]

Contents

History

The Kingdom of Ustalav

The modern history of Ustalav began around 2361 AR, in the Age of Enthronement, when numerous Varisian families settled the unclaimed land north of Lake Encarthan in the shadows of the Hungry Mountains.[5][6] Ustalav did not become a true nation, however, until its ancient hero, Soividia Ustav, united the disparate Varisian settlements and drove out the native orcish, and barbaric Kellid Numerian, and Sarkorian inhabitants. Thus he created the land that would bear his name: the Kingdom of Ustalav. For five centuries after Ustav's conquest, the Kingdom of Ustalav existed ruled by kings of the Ustav line. However, near-constant feuding among the clannish Varisian families began to dominate the kingdom. To prevent a civil war, King Kaldemov decided to split the nation into sixteen counties in 2862 AR. He divided up the land, and assigned it in perpetuity to the various noble families. Each county's ruler possessed significant autonomy, but they in turn owed their allegiances to the monarch (descended from Ustav). This change eased tensions and led to a rare Ustalavic golden age of growth and prosperity for some centuries thereafter.[3][4][7]

The Whispering Tyrant

This golden age of the Kingdom of Ustalav was tragically cut short in 3203 AR when the wicked and immortal warlord, Tar-Baphon, rose from the dead as the Whispering Tyrant: a lich-king of incredible power. A dark secret had been festering under Ustalav's soil since before the first Varisian settlers had arrived: unknown to the rulers of the land, the remains of Tar-Baphon had been buried beneath poisoning the land.[3]

The Whispering Tyrant quickly set about creating vast armies of undead, and through careful diplomacy united the orcs of the neighbouring Hold of Belkzen under his command. With these two great forces and his own military and arcane genius, the Whispering Tyrant attacked an unprepared Ustalav. Despite a spirited defence of their kingdom, Tar-Baphon conquered Ustalav in 3206 AR creating a land of the dead. The defenders were mortally disadvantaged that every fallen Ustalavic soldier was recruited into Tar-Baphon's undead army. The rest of the people were turned into his slaves. For over 600 years the rotting remains of proud Ustalav languished under the despotic rule of the Whispering Tyrant.[3][4][8][6]

The Shining Crusade

For a complete recounting of the war, please see the article on the Shining Crusade.

It was not until 3754 AR that the first glimmer of hope appeared. Finally deciding that the necromantic nation presented a significant threat to its continued expansion, distant Taldor launched the Shining Crusade. They secured a beachhead on the northern shores of Avalon Bay in 3801 AR.[9] Warriors from all over the Taldan empire rallied, converging on the Ustalavic town of Vellumis as a forward staging area. There they were joined by dwarves from the Kingdom of Kraggodan and the famous Knights of Ozem.[10] It was not until 3828 AR, however, three-quarters of a century after the Crusade began, that the Whispering Tyrant was defeated and the shadow over Ustalav was lifted.[6] The Tyrant was imprisoned in his haunted capital of Gallowspire.[11][12] Ustalav lost four of its counties: two were declared uninhabitable, and became the haunted wasteland surrounding Gallowspire known as Virlych,[13] the others were given to the crusader army to create the nation of Lastwall as a permanent guard against any resurgent horrors.[10]

The Immortal Principality of Ustalav

Ustalav re-established itself after the Whispering Tyrant's defeat and was renamed the Immortal Principality of Ustalav preserving much of the rules and culture of the old Kingdom of Ustalav. However, the Immortal Kingdom could not recapture its former glory. The royal line of Soividia Ustav had died out during the country's long dark age, and the few surviving nobles who now clamoured for the throne only had tenuous ties to the former ruling family. After a census of the remaining nobility, the crown was eventually given to Prince Andredos Ordranti in 3834 AR.[14] This contributed to greater infighting among the nobility, a series of weak rulers, and a slowing of the country's already stuttering recovery.[12][4]

Orcish Invasion & Kazavon

Even though the orcs from the Hold of Belkzen were no longer united by the power of the Whispering Tyrant, they remained a serious threat, especially in the north-western counties near the Belkzen-Ustalav border. Emboldened by Ustalav's weaknesses, they launched countless raids against what was then known as the county of Tamrivena (now Canterwall). For generations, the nobles of Tamrivena held their ground against these sporadic, but incessant attacks, bolstered by a standing army of rangers and commanded by a long succession of brilliant tactical minds among their nobility.

In the mid-41st century AR, a new Count Andachi came to power in Tamrivena, but it quickly became apparent that he did not possess his forefather's genius in military matters. Despite the Count's best efforts, the orc hordes began to make inroads into his lands. In a final act of desperation, he called out to one of his family's oldest patrons: the dark god Zon-Kuthon. His pleas were seemingly quickly answered in the appearance of a brilliant mercenary captain named Kazavon.

Kazavon took control of the forces of Tamrivena, training them in the most brutal fashion, but also imparting his formidable tactical knowledge, until they were a highly-disciplined and ruthless fighting force. When they took the field against the chaotic orc hordes, the Ustalavic forces once again began achieving stunning victories, driving the orcish armies back across the border into the Hold of Belkzen; by the spring of 4043 AR, no orcish armies remained on Ustalavic soil, having retreated into the foothills of the Kodar Mountains.[9] It was then that Kazavon revealed his true intentions: instead of returning to Ustalav, he built a stronghold at Castle Scarwall and began to gather forces of his own. When Count Andachi realized Kazavon's cruelty and lust for power, he turned against the general, raising an army and marching against his former general's redoubt. The Count was easily defeated and publicly executed. Kazavon expanded his realm and ruled with terror and war for over a decade, until he was destroyed by an army led by the Lastwall hero Mandraivus.[15]

Ustalav Today

Ustalav now finds itself a strongly divided country, struggling to reclaim a semblance of its former greatness and burdened with a history of darkness few nations can equal.[4] In recent history, the country has had to deal with some massively disruptive events:[16]

Under the political upheaval and machinations of its rulers, lie deeper threats to modern Ustalav too. The legacy of the Whispering Tyrant is a poisoned, cursed and haunted land; many of his followers remain at large, patiently hiding awaiting his return. Older threats also stir, including spirits of the Kellids that the Ustalavs destroyed over generations; and legendary beasts long forgotten. The threats from beyond its borders have not gone away either. All this leads to the modern Ustalav being of a fearful and suspicious character. Some seek meaning in the dark spirit of the nation and manage to turn to the arts or to faith and learning; while others turn to the shadows to be consumed by what they find there.[12]

Government

Night time is particularly dangerous in Ustalav.

The Monarchy

Since the ancient days when it was first unified, Ustalav has been ruled by a single king. Unfortunately, the line of kings was broken during the Whispering Tyrant's reign, and the current rulers are but a shadow of their predecessors. Leadership of the land has become particularly contentious since the death of the so called 'Eunuch Prince' Valislav Ordranti, who left behind no official heir when he died in 4674 AR. His brother, Prince Aduard Ordranti III, stepped into the mantle of monarch, a role for which he was ill-suited. The whole affair was complicated even further when the Eunuch Prince's long-time companion, Millaera Caliphvaso, gave birth to a bastard child she claimed was the son of the Eunuch Prince. The claim caused a huge scandal and Millaera disappeared under mysterious circumstances shortly after making these claims. Her child, Reneis Ordranti, was adopted and raised by the child's devious and conniving aunt, the Countess Carmilla Caliphvaso.[4] Rumour has it that the Countess has her eyes firmly set upon the throne as soon as Reneis reaches manhood. Other darker rumours whisper that she may have her incestuous eyes set on becoming queen, willing to marry her own nephew to get it.[17]

The Counties

Modern Ustalav is split into thirteen distinct regions called counties. While each county is still subservient to the monarch of Ustalav, Prince Aduard Ordranti III, the rulers of the individual counties are allowed a lot of independence. The counties can be split into three types:[18][4]

  • the Soivoda encompassing the entire expanse of eastern Ustalav: they are still run by the noble families appointed millennia ago when Ustalav was first divided. Their power within their counties is immense and unable to be questioned by even the Prince and they hold great influence over matters at the royal court too.[12]
  • the Palatinates in the north-west third of the country: In 4670 AR, the northern province of Lozeri overthrew their hereditary duke, placing a council of prominent citizens in charge. This approach caught on, and soon two of the neighbouring counties had also thrown off the rule of their hereditary noble lords in bloodless coups. These three states, Lozeri, Canterwall, and Vieland are together known as the Palatinates. Their leaders hold little sway at the royal court.[19][13]
  • the south-western wasteland of Virlych.[19]

Geography

Political Survey

Ustalav's position is precarious, as it is located next to two hostile nations: the orc-inhabited Hold of Belkzen to the west and the demon-infested Worldwound to the north. It neighbours to the east are not much better. They may be human nations, but include the tyrannical land of the living god: Razmiran; the constant chaos of the River Kingdoms; and barbaric monarchy of Numeria. Considering the nature of its neighbours, it is no wonder that many of Ustalav's inhabitants are insular and distrusting of foreigners. Only along the south-western border does Ustalav find a friendly (if highly suspicious) neighbour: the country of Lastwall.[20][21]

Physical Survey

The geography of Ustalav is hugely varied with each of the thirteen counties having their own unique geography. Ustalav lies on the very northern tip of Lake Encarthan, surrounding much of Avalon Bay. However, if there is one geographic feature that dominates the entire country, it is the Hungry Mountains that encapsulate an entire county in their stony reaches.[4][21]

Religion

After centuries of abuse and exploitation, the people of Ustalav are a highly suspicious and superstitious lot. Descendants of Varisian wanderers who immigrated there millennia ago, many still hold to their traditional beliefs. Among these are the worship of the goddess of travelers, Desna. Their long occupation and enslavement at the hands of the lich, however, also left its marks. The worship of Pharasma, who abhors the undead, and the Pallid Princess Urgathoa, who reveres the undead, are common in the nation as well.[4]

References

A major Pathfinder Campaign Setting book has been published that details Ustalav: Rule of Fear.

  1. An eight panel poster map of Ustalav is included in this product: Rob Lazzaretti. (2011). Carrion Crown Poster Map Folio, Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-306-4
  2. Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 247. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 190. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 140. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  5. James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 35. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 202. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  7. Erik Mona & Jason Bulmahn. (2008). Gazetteer, p. 55f. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-077-3
  8. Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 177. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  9. 9.0 9.1 James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 36. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
  10. 10.0 10.1 Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 90. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  11. James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 98. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 191. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
  13. 13.0 13.1 Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 142. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  14. F. Wesley Schneider. (2011). Rule of Fear, p. 5. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-301-9
  15. Greg A. Vaughan. (2008). Skeletons of Scarwall. Skeletons of Scarwall, p. 7f. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-099-5
  16. F. Wesley Schneider. (2011). Rule of Fear, p. 6f. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-301-9
  17. Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 143. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  18. James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 191ff. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
  19. 19.0 19.1 James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 193. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
  20. Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. Poster Map. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  21. 21.0 21.1 Rob Lazzaretti. (2011). Inner Sea Poster Map Folio, Paizo Publishing, LLC.



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