The Immortal Principality of Ustalav – Fog-shrouded Land of Gothic Horror
Ustalav at a glance:
- Alignment: NE
- Capital: Caliphas (15,640)
- Notable Settlements: Ardis (12,080), Carrion Hill (9,200), Karcau (10,240)
- Ruler: Prince Aduard Ordranti III
- Government: Loose confederacy of counties
- Languages: Common, Skald, Varisian
- Religion: Desna, Pharasma, Urgathoa
Cursed with a history of tragedy and faded glory, the Immortal Principality of Ustalav clings to its legendary past even as it struggles to forget centuries of horrors. From the fog-shrouded cliffs of Lake Encarthan to the tangled maze of the Shudderwood, the fractious nation bears an infamous reputation as the birth- and rebirthplace of tyrants.
United by the blade of the legendary hero Soividia Ustav during the Age of Enthronement, Ustalav began as numerous disparate communities — largely split along ancient Varisian family lines. For more than 500 years, the Principality of Ustalav followed the Ustav line, yet the clannish Varisians quarreled endlessly over territory and familial rights. In the face of civil war, the country was divided into 16 counties, formally establishing the domains of the land’s most influential families and granting them broad administrative powers, so long as they remained loyal to and met the demands of the crown.
The country enjoyed several centuries of peace after its division — a never-reclaimed Golden Age in its dark past. Unknown to the princes of the nation, though, Ustalav was a poisoned land, tainted by the immortal remains of the wicked warlord Tar-Baphon, who, 1,500 years ago, resurrected as the vile lich-king known as the Whispering Tyrant.
The deathless legions of the legendary lich quickly conquered Ustalav and, for more than 600 years, the Whispering Tyrant ruled an empire of abominations rooted in the country’s corpse. When finally the Shining Crusade succeeded in imprisoning the dreaded immortal within his fortress of Gallowspire, the victorious knights freed the lich’s living slaves and returned the principality’s shattered counties to its beleaguered people.
Reestablished and rechristened as the Immortal Principality of Ustalav, the country readopted the majority of the laws and systems of its near-legendary past. But, with the line of Soividia Ustav long broken, the crown came to rest with families claiming tenuous ties to the ancient hero — evidenced by the resulting era of slow recovery, infighting, and weak rulers.
Within the past 40 years, Ustalav has suffered continued upheaval. In 4674, as his last in a decade worth of unpopular behests, the ailing “Eunuch Prince” Valislav Ordranti moved the country’s capitol — historically based in Soividia Ustav’s home city of Ardis — to the cosmopolitan port of Caliphas, only to die shortly thereafter. In the wake of the prince’s death and his brother, Aduard III’s reluctant accession, Valislav’s longtime companion, Millaera Caliphvaso, gave birth to a child she claimed to be the fallen prince’s son. Her spurious claim made, Millaera disappeared soon after under mysterious circumstances. In the years since, Reneis Ordranti, would-be son of the Eunuch Prince, has lived under the guidance and protection of his conniving aunt, Countess Carmilla Caliphvaso, his eyes ever on his aging uncle’s throne.
The past decades have also brought political strife to Ustalav’s fractured lands. In 4670, three of the country’s western counties shrugged off the rule of their ancestral counts in a bloodless revolution, devising egalitarian ruling bodies and renaming themselves the Palatinates. A less civil conflict erupted 19 years later, when the county of Barstoi engaged its neighbors in a long and violent border dispute. The result was the devastation of Ardeal’s eastern reaches, leaving it a forsaken land now known only as the Furrows.
Today, Ustalav stagnates under the rule of an aging, impolitic leader, and the threat of princely infighting looms on the horizon. Fearing rebellion, the counts of Ustalav draw inward to their decrepit provinces, coveting their remaining power and further fractionalizing the decaying nation. And in the west, the voice of an ancient evil whispers once more. Thus, Ustalav teeters as it has again and again throughout the centuries: on the precipice of ruin.
The Nobles of Ustalav
Beneath the rule of Prince Aduard Ordranti, nine nobles retain their ancestral titles as counts and countesses of Ustalav. Prince Aduard Ordranti III: Aduard Ordranti never expected to rule. Having spent much of his life hunting and holding an honorary post as a general in the Ustalavic army, even after more than thirty years a prince, Aduard III still disdains the subtleties of political life. Relying on the lessons of this youth, the 63 year-old prince holds court with the bluntness of a soldier, relying heavily on the advice of his brother’s ancient counselor Diauden in matters of courtly nuance. At his adviser’s suggestion, Prince Aduard seeks a wife to produce an heir.
Countess Carmilla Caliphvaso: Widely known as the Ruby of Caliphas, Countess Caliphvaso is a decadent schemer. At more than 70 years old, she appears as a beauty half her age. Although Caliphas hosts the palace of Prince Aduard Ordranti III, the countess vehemently criticizes her monarch at every opportunity and actively seeks to turn his people against him. Her words have grown even more brazen as her nephew, Reneis—the supposed heir of Prince Valislav Ordranti—has grown to manhood. While no one doubts the cunning noblewoman’s agenda to implant her nephew upon the throne, incestuous rumors whisper that a princess’s crown might be her true goal.
Count Lucinean Galdana: Count Galdana presides over the few citizens of mountainous Amaans with a firm hand and even temper. A lifelong sportsman, hunter, bachelor, and friend to Prince Aduard, the count frequently forays into the wild vales of upper Amaans hunting boar, wolves, and brigands when the need arises. In recent years, though, the count has taken to going on such excursions alone, sparking fanciful rumors of ongoing dalliances with the maids of secluded mountain villages or the faeries of some hidden vale.
Countess Sasandra Livgrace: Beloved Countess of Sinaria and occasional belle of the renowned Karcau Opera, Sasandra Livegrace holds court from Swansong House, overlooking Lake Prophyria. Although a scandalous “kidnapping” in her youth remains a source of slanderous gossip, Countess Livegrace is widely held as one of the most beautiful women, most eligible bachelorettes, and finest virtuosos in all Ustalav.
Count Conwrest Muralt: The current Count of Ordranto claims right to rule by name, not birth, being the adopted son of the deceased Count Manfray Muralt. Having only recently taken up lordship of Castle Ordranto and married his sister by adoption, Lyrabella, Count Muralt’s rule has been tumultuous, typified by contradicting mandates and violent mood swings.
Count Aericnein Neska: Cold and merciless, Aericnein Neska is a charming tyrant. Exceptionally intelligent and cultured, the aging Count of Barstoi demands much of his people, rewarding dutiful service and ingenuity while culling laziness and stupidity. By his hand, the unease of 4689 escalated into the civil warfare that reduced portions of his country and neighboring Ardeal to the wasteland of the Furrows. Yet despite his atrocities, many would see ambitious and farsighted Neska usurp the throne of Prince Aduard and lead Ustalav into a new age of glory.
Count Haserton Lowls IV: Moody and unlikable, the middleaged Count of Versex cares little for his county or citizens, resenting his title and insatiable subjects. For his 14 years as count, Lowls has left rule in the hands of local mayors and magistrates, haunting the stacks of his estate’s ever-expanding library and feverishly working on his unsettling amateur attempts at painting and poetry.
Bishop Yarsmardin Senir: High in the Hungry Mountains stands the Monastery of the Veil, the secluded cloister of an order of silent Pharasmin monks. Although he’s forsaken one title for another, Bishop Senir rules the sparsely populated county of Ulcazar, discouraging all visitors and immigrants to his mountainous land. Behind his disguise as the only member of his brotherhood not sworn to silence, Senir hides the blades of the Anaphexia, an order of religious assassins sworn to Norgorber and the eternal keeping of secrets.
Conte Ristomaur Tiriac: Often traveling from his county seat and family estate at Corvischoir, Ristomaur Tiriac currently holds the title Count of Varno. Although viewed by his people as the latest in a long line of shiftless absentee rulers—having even altered his title to distance himself from his provincial roots—Tiriac has actually administered Varno for nearly two centuries, his travels serving as both a disguise and necessity in his unlife-long search for a cure for vampirism.
Countess Solismina Venacdahlia: The aging Countess of Ardeal, Solismina Venacdahlia arrogantly holds her family as embodiments of Ustlavic tradition and the stewards of the true capital at Ardis. Nearly 90 winters old, the bitter Countess tenaciously clings to her life and title, attended by her ambitious young daughters Lasara, Radania, Opaline, and Floriama.
Sources: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting