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