A History of Post-Tyrant Ustalav
Possible apocrypha, unconfirmed events, and outright lies follow.
In 3828 the Shining Crusade came to an end with the defeat of the Whispering Tyrant, the lich archmage whose rule of terror had claimed countless lives and many of the lands surrounding Lake Encarthan and beyond. With the undead overlord imprisoned within his fortress tower of Gallowspire, the populace of the surrounding lands slowly reclaimed their ancestral homes or forged new countries. To the west, the Taldan protector state of Lastwall emerged from lands once held by the princes of Ustalav and the orc-ravaged frontier of Belkzen, the new country dedicating itself to scouring the world of the Tyrant’s remaining armies and later to guarding against his return. To the east, the fractious land of Ustalav, enslaved to the lich and his undead servants for an age, tasted freedom for the first time in 620 years. Their cities in ruins, haunted by centuries of tragedy, genocide, and the remaining undead servants of the defeated lich, the survivors of the Tyrant’s rule strove to resurrect a new country from the corpse of a once proud principality they knew of only in legends of the distant past. Drawing upon aged decrees, records of law, and the histories of long fallen families, the Immortal Principality of Ustalav emerged from the fallen Kingdom of Ustalav, a generation of traumatized slaves looking to the past to shape a future none had ever expected to come.
Ustalav’s reemergence proved more than difficult, and despite its new freedom scores more died in desperate skirmishes against the Whispering Tyrant’s lingering undead, leaderless bands of orcs, and ambitious Kellid raiders from Sarkoris to the north. Leaders proved few, desperate, and largely unreliable. The revelation that all the heirs of Soividia Ustav’s line—descendants of the country’s founder—had fallen during the Tyrant’s occupation dealt an additional blow few expected the disheartened people to be able to bear.
A measure of salvation finally emerged from the endless squabbling and corpse picking of the Ustalavic capital at Ardis. Historically characterized as either an opportunistic looter or ingenious scholar, Ilmhost Vheist announced a discovery among the sub-libraries hidden beneath the ruined Palace Tower, traditional seat of Ustalav’s rulers. Bringing forth a vast collection of titles, deeds, recorded ancestries, and other documents pertinent to ruling the nation’s counties before their fall, Vheist proposed a countrywide census and search for any true scions of the land’s ruling families, searching for a link between the legendary counts of the past and the faltering modern age. The census took more than two years to conduct and was rife with falsehood and accusations of deceit. Ultimately, though, Vheist and those supposed patriots who surrounded him cared little for finding true descendants of Ustalav’s rulers, rather seeking plausible figureheads behind which a new government might unite before outside threats overwhelmed the land.
To Vheist’s surprise—and later vexation—two, by all accounts legitimate, noble heirs stepped forth: the youthful Andredos Ordranti, heir to the county of Odranto’s rule, and the plain Sesasgia Caliphvaso, scion of Caliphas’s line of counts. Of the two, Ordranti’s youth, decent looks, and—most importantly—masculinity made him a more useful marionette than Caliphvaso. In short order, Ordranti ascended to a hastily made throne as Ustalav’s newly restored prince, while Caliphvaso was granted control in title of the fractured lands held by her forefathers.
Soon control over the rest of Ustalav’s counties were divided among those claiming doubtful distant relation to past counts, supporters of Vheist’s new government, and Vheist himself—who oversaw the rule of Ardeal for a time. To Vheist’s surprise, Ordranti proved more than a figurehead and grew from a field slave crippled by nightmares into an able, if not inspirational, ruler. Caliphvaso too proved a talented administrator in the south, turning her bitterness at the county’s new prince and court of lackeys to spiteful independence, founding the city of Caliphas as a stronghold against the roving dangers of the land and a port through which to court support and wealth from abroad. As the years passed, people began to hold Caliphas and the industry of the south as epitomes of what the new nation should be, while criticizing the issues endemic to Ardis and the central government.
With Countess Caliphvaso’s activity and public support on the rise,
Vheist acted to prevent a schism between the country’s rulers. Quietly at first, he manipulated Prince Ordranti into levying crippling demands upon the most prosperous counties, always including Caliphas. Campaigns of slander followed, breeding baseless rumors such as Caliphas’s planned secession to Taldor. Viciously decrying such claims, both personally and through the voices of her outraged people, Caliphvaso attempted to defend herself, but such served only to reinforce appearances of rebelliousness and soon suggestions of armed reprisal began snaking their way through the salons and galleries of Ardis. With unexpected boldness, evidencing either deft political insight or an able network of informants, Caliphvaso sent word to the prince that any act of the fledgling royal army in her county would be perceived as an unlawful attack on her ancestral holdings and met with violence in turn. Ordranti was incensed.
As the months of tensions mounted, Vheist saw Caliphvaso refuse to back down, as he had expected she ultimately would, and rather the prince and countess’s rising tempers spiraling toward a civil war that could only end in the country’s destruction. Changing his colors, he personally took on the role of peacemaker, traveling to parlay with Caliphvaso on behalf of the prince and seeking her capitulation to royal rule in return for the lifting of several of the more egregious demands upon her county. In person, Vheist found the life of a leader—even of a rugged but growing backwater—had agreed with Caliphvaso, transforming her from a pinch-faced spinster to a charismatic matron. Over the course of the council Vheist came to believe he had chosen the wrong line to take up the country’s crown. Upon returning to Ardis, the councilor announced a compromise between Caliphas and the throne, and in the shadows began scheming a way to assassinate the childless Ordranti, to replace him with the more capable Caliphaso.
Caliphvaso was no longer a pawn to be manipulated, and had weighed Vheist during his stay in Caliphas as well. Seeing in him the burrowing, bloodthirstiness of a true parasite, she sent word to her agents in Ardis. The countess’s supporters gradually drew out evidence of Vheist’s plot to kill the prince and elevate her to the throne. Though tempted to let the advisor’s plot run its course and harvest the bounty of his treachery, the countess ultimately balked at the prospect of being the schemer’s puppet. In a night of deadly shadows, her agents disappeared several of Vheist’s most trusted men and co-conspirators, and brought evidence of the advisor’s plot, along with the man himself, before the prince.
In the days following, Vheist was tried and hanged as a traitor and several counts who had been close to the councilor, fearing royal reprisal, relinquished their lands and fled the country. Ordranti offered a private thanks to Caliphvaso for her hand in revealing the conspiracy against him, but was sternly rebuked. Although Caliphvaso had no taste for attaining the throne through another’s treachery, she felt no love for the half-competent prince and retained her bitterness both at being snubbed for rulership due largely to a trick of her sex and for the ease with which the prince had shown his vulnerability to manipulation. Thus, she promised to improve her land and aid the country as fitting to her station, but made clear that for all time her families’ loyalty would lie with the crown, not the unfit family who bore it.
This early dissension has colored the relationship between the crown and counties of Ustalav ever since the earliest days of its rebirth, with the nobility remaining loyal to the country, wary—if not outright dismissive—of their regent, and belligerently independent. Ever concerned with titles and bloodlines, the nobility widely believes the Ordranti line to be weak and only passably capable of rule, but are compelled by law and, even more binding, tradition to serve—though they have long proven skilled at drowning the more distasteful aspects of obedience in mires of courtly protocol and circular debate. In no other relationship are these odds exposed more clearly in the modern houses of Ordranti and Caliphvaso, who harbor a centuries old grudge, exacerbated as recent events see the crown slipping ever nearer Caliphvaso hands.
-As taken from the book The Rule of Fear penned by F. Wesley Synder, Exiled Court Bard
The cloaked figure in the corner of the tavern slowly nursed his drink. He had been sitting there for hours, not saying another word since his curt order for wine. His hands remained gloved, and his hood pulled over his face, as he sipped and waited.
Just dotting in for now. This is Zakli from the previous campaign setting.
GM - What time of year are we in (season)?
Delixia threw open the door to the tavern a little too hard and it crashed into the wall loudly. She took one step into the tavern, her tall six foot frame filling a large portion of the doorway. Her overstuffed backpack strung on her back was accented by numerous weapons on various types that hung off her person.
Though quite muscular and in extremely good condition, her physical features are almost completely hidden beneath an old worn dark blue cassock. Clearly having seen better days, the signs of her leather armor underneath are evident in a half dozen places under the dirt-ridden garment. A recently polished silver spiraling comet hangs around her neck, contrasting against the old cloth that sits over her body. Mussed up dark brown hair lands all around her face, extending just below her shoulders.
Sweeping her gaze left to right, she looks about the tavern for any immediate signs of trouble. Ah, the usual assortment of misfits. Not finding anything particularly alarming she moves up to an empty table and all but collapses into the chair. Clearly weary from effort, her travel worn state reads like an open book. She searches about for signs of food and drink, or signs for help to get them ordered. Stretching her arms out, she groans softly as she kicks her boots up onto a nearby chair.
Nearly jumping out of her seat upon the woman throwing open the door, she lifts her head to peer at the newcomer. And returns to nursing her drink.
Trying to be unobtrusive, she takes in the surroundings and glances at the newcomer again.
This is Eamae from the previous campaign setting.
Date: Gozran 1, 4711
A small bird lands by each of you. Upon its left leg is a small bit of rolled up parchment. The parchment has the following written upon it if you choose to remove it from the bird.
As dawn begun to threaten the horizon, the single peel of a hammer wrung out in the dark, sending flashes of spark off of the red hot iron it worked. Each blow of the hammer shaped the metal towards its end, each blow sounding as a beating heart.
Or in stood stripped to his waist, thick chest covered by a leather apron, working the forges as his fore fathers had before him. He was forging a blade, not for killing, there had been enough of that now. This blade was a piece for crafting, whittling to be precise, a small thing to occupy his mind. As he worked he intoned small prayers to the father of the forges, focusing his mind and his body on creating, leaving that part of him which knew destruction locked deep down inside.
As he worked the forges the beating grew harder, more rhythmic, matching his own heart, beating fire, chasing the night towards its end. As sun broke the horizon he felt a presence and, upon glancing up, noticed a small bird.
The beating of his hammer stopped, and silence fell as he took the message from the little birds foot. As he read the words written within, he set down the tool and sighed heavily, turning from his forge. He was a Smith, had been since he was born, built to create, made to build, but he had a darker quality too. Without destruction there could be no creation. He was skilled in both, and with the passing of his friend, would get a chance to practice his darker side before things were done.
"Rest well old friend. I will do this for you!"
He set out to gather his things and head for Ravengro, there to attend one of his only friends funerals and get to the bottom of his passing.
"May our Lord in Iron guide me and may the Father of the Forges protect me!"
Kessa looks thoughtful. She obviously needs to see what this is about. She goes to the magic shop in town and pays for a magic message to be sent to the next town over to explain to the leader of her scouting party why she is leaving. Then she returns to the inn to prepare. As she prepares to leave, she thinks back over her interaction with Lorrimar.
Oh, Professor... my heart is heavy at your loss. Bless him, Shimye-Magalla, on his travels to the afterlife, and I mine to travel to this Ravengro.
The ashen skinned man pulls the hood of his cloak over his smooth, bald head. "I am afraid I must conclude my research today." Almost as an afterthought, he takes a wooden stake from his belt and slams it down hard into the skull of the undead monster tied to the table in front of him.
He grabs his pack, and exits the small hut, to begin his voyage.
As you each enter Ravengro you are able to obtain directions to the local temple of Pharasma however upon your arrival there you find that no one is present and only a simple wooden sign hanging on the door awaits your arrival. The sign directs mourners to the Southeast gate for the funeral procession.
As your arrive at the Southeast gate you see a female in her mid-twenties dressed in a dark red gown who is dabbing a kerchief to her eyes as tears intermittently slide down her cheeks. A finely crafted wooden coffin is resting on the ground nearby.
A small group of mourners, seven in total, is gathered nearby talking among themselves. One of the mourners is noted to be standing off by himself.
Orin slid the thick goggles he wore back up on top of his face, dropping his hood as he took a slow glance around at those gathered. He stood well back from the group, seemingly engrossed in his surround, hand casually stroking his beard in thought. He gritted his teeth and bowed his head, feeling his pulse begin to race as he moved towards the young woman. He stopped before her and sketched an awkward jerky bow.
"Orin Doomhammer of Highhold ma'am. I'm here to pay my respect to the Professor and offer my services any way I can." He glanced away from the crying woman as he spoke, clearly uncomfortable with the situation. He bowed to her jerkily again before taking a step back, moving to inspect the coffing to cover up the awkward interaction.
'By all the Gods big and small, bloody hate talking to people I do!' His eyebrow (the other merely half an eyebrow) drew down in a frown as he lay his right hand on the coffin, palm down, the brand of Torag he bore there, pressing against the wood. He bowed his head briefly and gave up a small prayer to the Father of the Forges.
Kendra quickly dabs her eyes to clear away the forming tears upon the approach of the dwarf. "Thank you for coming to pay your respects Orin. My father would be pleased to know that those he cherished in life as friends have come to pay him their final respects." She turns and gazes up the road looking for anyone else that may yet be coming.
I hope all those that father wished to be present are able to arrive in time.
Prior to arrival...
Delixia had just finished following up on a lead that had taken her to Ardis, the former capital of Immortal Principality of Ustalav. Endlessly chasing rumors and falsehoods, it came no surprise to her when her lead dried up and the trail disappeared before her. Resting the night in the city she had planned to pick up the trail once more in the morning, backtracking to the Sanatorium for something she may have overlooked.
When the small bird landed by her, she was initially suspicious of the contents. How could anyone know I was here? After thoroughly examining her surroundings for a trap, she retrieved the parchment and was overcome with sadness. Well, as far as Delixia could be considered to be 'overcome' by any emotion that is. Having had what she considered a professional working relationship with the Professor, she was a bit taken aback by the mentioning of being in his will.
Glancing towards the direction of the Sanatorium, she inhaled a long steady breath and shook her head. I'll be back, it's just a few days. She said a prayer for her friend, making sure to take the time to observe his passing appropriately. Eventually she finished and packed up and refreshed her gear for the trip, making the journey west towards Ravengro.
Del first makes her way to the Del arrives last apparently, a small crowd already gathered. Catching sight of the young female likely searching for her on the road, she picks up the pace and hurries to close the distance. As she nears she offers, "My apologies on my tardiness, I had expected to convene at the temple and hadn't prepared for travel to the gate."
Do we know the young lady or are assumed strangers?
"Welcome Kessa. I am sorry that our first meeting is under such somber circumstances. I spoke with my father about that very incident not long before he passed. He was most impressed in how you have continued to endure despite such a trying start in life."
"The other invitees should be here soon, I hope."
When her surname is given, her stone-faced expression softens from one of business to compassion. She extends her right hand, but not to shake hands. The tall woman places it gently upon the right shoulder of Kendra, leaning in a few inches and whispering, "I'm so sorry for your loss Kendra. The Lady of Graves has seen Petros through to his destination. All is as it should be."
Waiting a few seconds before continuing, she slowly lifts her hand and returns it to her side. After enough time has past she moves her hand to her chin and sweeps it down in front of her blue cassock, eventually opening her palm towards the woman when it reaches her waist. "I am Delixia Valane, Warden of Souls."
Arriving at Ravengro, Mihaela quickly follows the signs to the small, yet simple Upon hearing Kendra introduce herself, Mihaela gives Kendra a sad smile and greets her, "Greetings, I am Mihaela, a simple healer. I am distraught to hear of Professor Lorrimor's passing, I had wished to eventually catch up with him to learn more of what he has to teach. We only met briefly when the fates must of guided us together."
Noticing the lone mourner, Mihaela fixes her kerchief in her hair, she discretely looks in his direction.
Perception: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (9) + 3 = 12
Looking back at Kendra, Mihaela continues, "Do you know what lead to the professor's passing?"
"Greetings Mihaela. I am saddened that you did not get the chance to speak with my father again but I know he would be pleased that you came to see him to his eternal rest." Kendra dabs a few more tears from her eyes and once again looks up and down the road as if she still anticipates another mourners arrival.
The dark cloaked figure steps forward. "Kendra, my dear... we have never met, but I am Kisasi, and I feel like you are a long lost sister to me. The professor spoke of you often when he visited me. I only wish we could have met under better circumstances. Tell me, what happened to the old man?"
Delixia simply nods at Kendra's expression of emotion, as if expecting such results. The inquisitor takes note of the other guests as Kendra moves on to greet each. Casually listening in, she doesn't eavesdrop on others conversations but merely observes the formality from her position. The holy symbols present on those around her catch her eye and she pays them much closer attention.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
I'm making the assumption that both Orin and Kisasi are openly displaying their holy symbols? Del's silver holy symbol of Pharasma hangs prominently from her neck.
Orin stepped forward silently and reached down, gripping the handle on the coffin tightly, waiting for his moment to pick it up and carry it forth.
Kendra gestures to the pallbearers to lift her father's coffin and follow her into the Restlands. She leads you along a pathway known as the Dreamwake at a slow somber pace while intermittently dabbing tears from her eyes.
Approximately halfway down the path, as you turn onto a path called Eversleep, a group of a dozen surly looking locals blocks the path ahead.
“That’s far enough. We been talking, and we don’t want Lorrimor buried in the Restlands. You can take him upriver and bury him there if you want, but he ain’t goin’ in the ground here!”
Kisasi speaks in a calm, deep voice.
"Good people, it is clear you are passionate about your concerns. However, a good man has passed, and it is not the time for such dark thoughts. I knew the man, and he was kind and generous. He was no necromancer. He may have studied the dark forces as part of his many subjects, but not for nefarious purposes. And his remains will not have any ill effects on those of your passed family and friends. In fact, many of us here are members of the clergy, and we have taken steps to ensure a peaceful repose, with protections that can extend to all of the graves in the area. Please, let us proceed, and then we can discuss it further if you like."
Bluff: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (13) + 9 = 22
Speaking up in assistance of the strange dark bald man, "There is nothing to fear, I am a simple healer myself and my experience with the departed professor has been nothing but educational. He has shown no signs of being a necromancer to me." she shifts to get a better hold on the casket. Mumbling to herself, "He's alot heaver than I thought...."
Bluff Assistance: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (16) + 1 = 17
Gripping the Coffin with one hand, balancing it carefully, Orin brushed his cloak back from his right hip, clearing the cloak from his hip and uncovering his battleaxe wordlessly. He gripped the coffin tightly again, aiming to take some of the weight off of the woman opposite him.
Strength Aid Another1d20 + 3 ⇒ (13) + 3 = 16
"Well, that may be true but stranger, it just doesn't seem right to me. Now we darn sure don't want a fight especially with your silent friend." He gives Orin's axe a weary glance as he speaks. "We'll leave for now but know that if anything happens we will lay the blame at your feet."
The mob begins to move away grumbling among themselves. You do hear snippets of their murmurs such as "Did you see the size of that axe?" and "I think one of them might be an agent of the church. Maybe they are finally going to excommunicate Father Grimburrow."
Del let the others speak while she held onto the casket. While she could have joined into the discussion with the locals, it likely would not have had the calming effect that it did. Once they have departed she speaks up however, "That was well handled my friends. I thought for a moment we were going to need to sit down our friend to settle matters in a different fashion."
Looking over to Mihaela she adds, "And I think we best continue on our journey before The Professor grows to be too much a burden for some to carry."
Kendra leads the procession to a newly dug grave site in the Restlands. Before the site stands a grizzled old man, bald, with bushy white eyebrows. He is wearing black robes with a silver holy symbol of Pharasma hanging around his neck. Tiny vials of holy water hang from the belt of blue, gold, and white woven fabrics.
A pair of gravediggers stand nearby each holding a spade.
The wizened old priest speaks to the gathered mourners.
"Here and now, dear friends, we are Pharasma’s children.
What we shall be has not been revealed,
But we know when she appears we shall be judged by her, for she shall see us as we are.
Those who are not pure, know that all whom live and have lived must face her judgment."
Pharasma said, "I am the Resurrection and I am the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I am death, and behold I am alive forever more, and I hold the keys of birth and death. Because I live, you shall also live."
"Let us pray." The priest raises his arms towards the sky as he recites the prayer.
"O' Pharasma, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.
You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death be able to separate us from the destiny we all must face."
A long clear song of a whippoorwill is heard as the priest finishes speaking.
"Kendra, I now invite you to say a few words to those gathered."
"Friends and fellows of my father Professor Petros Lorrimor I thank you for coming."
"My father was a good and forethinking man. He taught me the ways of the world as a grew from a child into the young women you see before you today. A loving father, he showed me that life is what one makes of it. He spoke of his time teaching at Lepidstat University and of his many journeys throughout Ustalav and the surrounding nations. He told me of the many friends and acquaintances he made in life, many of you are here today. He lived life believing he was here to make a difference and he tried to impart that same sense into everyone he met in his life."
"So it is that I ask of you this day that you live your life to make a difference. Be the good that so many seek."
Kendra dabs tears from her eyes as she speaks and seems on the verge of openly crying as she finishes.
"If anyone else wishes to speak you are welcome to do so now." Kendra steps to the side and begins to sob as she thinks back on the life of her father.
Kisasi steps up, and removes his hood for the first time, revealing an ashen colored face with a smooth head.
"Professor Lorrimor was like a father to me... in fact, he was present at my birth, and with his help I was able to survive that first day. Sadly, my mother did not... and let us say, there was no living father in the picture. The Professor helped find me a home, and came often to check on me, my studies, and my other interests. He was a good man, and although I have not seen him in the last few years, he was the most important person in my life. I am sad to see him pass, but am glad to see he is being laid to rest. He will be missed."
Returning the hood to cover his head, he steps back and allows others to speak.
Kessa stands quietly, remembering. The sadness that lingered for years, the fear that made her refuse to talk about it. Then the professor discussing that dark day with her, and the weight she felt slip from her shoulders. Somehow, talking about it, and knowing someone had some idea how she felt, made it possible for Kessa to move past that day and focus on the future.
Mihaela steps up after the dark man.
"I a Mihaela, the professor and I crossed paths years ago by chance. I am a simple healer simply passing through the same village as he and by chance, I happened to be there to save his life. For his remainder of his stay in the village, I learned many subjects from him and for that I am forever grateful.
She steps back.
Orin steps forward and looks at Kendra, before looking at the coffin. He makes to speak, raising a hand, before frowning and beginning to look a little confused. He tries once more, his pulse racing in his throat, before he coughs, bows his head to Kendra and steps back, turning to stare off in to the graveyard to hide his shame.
'Good speech. How you have honoured your friend indeed Doomhammer!'