Lanterns in the Mist
Ustalav, Immortal Principality of
The Immortal Principality of Ustalav lies on the Nocturnal Sea, a grim bastion of civilization amid the misty sea, where a harsh landscape and a history rich in tragedies inspire a wary population with skepticism, religious devotion, and superstition. A conglomeration of loosely affiliated counties, each run by feuding nobles vying for power and influence, Ustalav is a pitiful shell of its former glory, before it was subjugated to centuries of slavery at the hands of the Whispering Tyrant’s undead armies. While the nation’s upper classes struggle to compete with the very kingdoms that abandoned them to fend for themselves after the Whispering Tyrant’s defeat, the average Ustalavic citizen has it much worse.
Cont. after picture-
Hundreds of years of subjugation and the residual horrors that plague the countryside have left the people of Ustalav suspicious of magic, religion, foreigners, and their fellow citizens. Beyond their eccentric and insular qualities, Ustalavs often have a dour worldview. They resign themselves to lives of suffering, seeing nothing in their people’s history to suggest there is any hope for a better life. Despite the physical and psychological strains upon its populace, Ustalav nevertheless fosters extremely hardy and tenacious stock: men and women who firmly believe that no matter how bad it gets, history shows it could always be worse.
Although Ustalav has little to offer its rural peasants, inhabitants of its many metropolitan cities fare somewhat better, and the centers of learning and culture they provide draw trade and travelers from throughout the Eastern domains. The capital, Caliphas, stands on the banks of the Nocturnal Sea, and its fog-shrouded streets host some of the nation’s most esteemed centers of trade and academia. In the north, the city of Karcau boasts a thriving culture of music, theater, and other fine arts, and its opulent architecture rivals the excess of even the most exotic Cordinian palace. Meanwhile, Ustalav’s northwestern counties have broken from aristocratic rule and formed their own local, democratic government without nobles, calling themselves the Palatinates and providing a glimmer of hope for the downtrodden people of provincial Ustalav.
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 721. 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. Rumour has it that the Countess has her eyes firmly set upon the throne as soon as Reneis reaches manhood. Other darker rumors whisper that she may have her incestuous eyes set on becoming queen, willing to marry her own nephew to get it.
Ustalav’s position is precarious, as it is located next to two hostile lands: the caliban-inhabited Hold of Belzen to the west and the misty barbarian to the north. All other countries must be reached by traveling through the dangerous and fog shrouded Nocturnal Sea. However trade ships commonly travel between Liffe and Nova Vaasa. Considering the nature of its neighbors, it is no wonder that many of Ustalav’s inhabitants are insular and distrusting of foreigners.
The geography of Ustalav is hugely varied with each of the thirteen counties having their own unique geography. Ustalav lies in the Nocturnal Sea. There is an established mistway from Lamordia to Northern Vieland called the Conduit of Enlightenment. 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.
Ustalav now finds itself a strongly divided country, struggling to reclaim a semblance of its former greatness and burdened with a history of darkness. In recent history, the country has had to deal with some massively disruptive events:
- 715: The country was fractured as three north-western counties overthrew their hereditary governments becoming the Palatinates
- 721: Prince Valislav Ordranti moved the Ustalavic capital from Ardis to Caliphas and shortly died thereafter
- 721: The current Prince of Ustalav, Prince Aduard Ordranti III, ascended to the throne under the shadow of a rival claim from Reneis Ordranti who was born the same year
- 734 – 740: a civil war, known as the War Without Rivals, rages in the east leading to the formation of the wasteland called the Furrows
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.