Capital: Caliphas (20,000+)
Carrion Hill (9,000+),
Castle Odranto (50+),
Chateau Douleurs (150+),
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 a place of birth and rebirth for tyrants.
In the Age of Enthronement, the blade of the legendary hero Soividia Ustav drove the brutal Kellid tribes and thei heritage of obscene magic from the lands surrounding the Hungry Mountains, and claimed the region as a new homeland for his wandering people. In victory, the warlord divided his nation between his lieutenants and allies, creating holdings befitting the deeds and merit of their ancient families.
For more than 500 years, the newly risen Kingdom of Ustalav followed the horned crown of the Ustav line, yet as generations passed, the clannish Varisians quarreled endlessly over territory, familial rights, and the honor of long-dead ancestors. In the face of civil war, King Kaldemov divided the nation 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 brief centuries of peace after its division—a never-reclaimed golden age in its tormented past. Unknown to the rulers of the nation, though, Ustalav was a poisoned land, tainted by the immortal remains of the wicked warlord Tar-Baphon, who, in 3203 AR, resurrected as the vile lich-king known as the Whispering Tyrant.
Raising orc hordes from the brutal lands of Belkzen and calling upon legions of the ancient dead, the lichking unleashed his vicious military and arcane genius upon the unprepared lands of Ustalav, besieging the nation from without and from within. While the people waged a desperate defense, every fallen soldier bolstered the strength of the undead ranks, and by 3206, Ustalav was a realm dominated by the dead. For more than 600 years, the Whispering Tyrant ruled an empire of abominations rooted in the country’s corpse. When the Shining Crusade at last 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 the few beleaguered survivors.
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 at best tenuous ties to the ancient hero—resulting in an era of slow recovery, infighting, and weak rulers. The land too had changed, as had the creatures afoot in those reaches. Although the Whispering Tyrant had been defeated, his minions proved subtle and unnaturally patient, hiding themselves amid the darkest shadows and haunting ruins left in the wake of an age of anguish. Forgotten enemies of Ustalav also prowled from the shadows once more—beasts thought to be mere legends and the unquiet spirits of slaughtered Kellid ritualists. And in the earth, waters, and skies, old things roused by the Tyrant’s might stirred and cast unfathomable attentions upon an unsuspecting people.
Although the past generations have seen the repopulation of Ustalav and its rise as a hub of civilization on the often savage northern shores of Lake Encarthan, the scars of death’s grip still linger. Deadly orc raiders, savage barbarians, and merciless zealots array themselves beyond the borders, while within deadly creatures, shadowy conspiracies, and unnatural beings stalk the nights and nightmares of the country’s populace. These circumstances
have bred a suspicious people ruled by ageless superstitions, strict cultural traditions, and grim faith. Even as fearful rumors and blind prejudice pass for fact throughout much
of the realm, many seek out reason in the darkness, leading to the rise of numerous centers of art, faith, and learning. Yet Ustalav endlessly proves itself a land covetous of its secrets and inhospitable to change, and many who gaze into its shadows are themselves consumed.
Within the past 40 years, Ustalav has suffered continued upheaval, from regime changes forcing capitals to shift to scandals of lineage to coups both bloodless and otherwise.
Although Prince Aduard Ordranti III rules as Ustalav’s sovereign, his will is far from the only one that directs the fate of his nation. In the west, the three Palatinates assemble local councils of the region’s wisest and most influential, even though their frequently-changing
representatives hold depressingly little sway in meetings of the royal court. The counts of the realm’s heartland hold the most immediate and forceful inf luence over the nation and its people. Able to act without oversight or reprisal, Ustalav’s ruling families have each transformed their corner of the nation as befits their ambitions or their petty vices. Although each count is sworn to serve the throne, generations of courtly manipulations, incomprehensible laws, concessions, and exceptions bind even the Prince’s hands against interference in all but the most outrageous county edicts.