A Great and Terrible Whisper
The guardianship of northern Ustalav has traditionally fallen to the counts of Odranto, however numerous forsaken fortresses serve as warnings of cursed ancestries and foul deeds.
Varisian-born wanderers were not the first people to claim the lands of Ustalav as their own. For untold generations, tribes of brutal Kellids ruled the region, making forgotten pacts with the spirits of the land and sowing their bones in the earth. Only by blade and bloodshed were the barbarians driven out, and for centuries their vengeful ancestors raged against the northern gates of the nation that stole their ancestral home. Long have the counts of Odranto watched those gates, raising fearsome castles to protect against the bewildering savagery of the northern hordes—castles built of stone foresworn to barbarian lords and bricks made from clay sown with the dust of Kellid kings.
As fortresses, thrones, chapels, and crypts, hundreds of castles have risen within the borders of Odranto. Since the days of its unification, Ustalav has sought to defend its borders against barbarian invaders seeking to reclaim their lands. The true border between Ustalav and what was once Sarkoris has shifted dramatically over the ages, leaving border forts scattered across the county in its wake. During the rule of the Whispering Tyrant, a deathless nobility haunted many of the region’s citadels, and the lich reinforced the nation’s border with his own necromanticly infused fortifications, some of which refuse to crumble even centuries after their master’s defeat.
Even after Ustalav’s rebirth, Odranto continued to face incursions. With the coming of the Worldwound to Sarkoris, Kellid refugees flooded toward Ustalav. Refusing to see her family’s homeland overrun by her nation’s historic enemies, Princess Maraet Ordranti commanded that all Sarkorians crossing the Moutray River face steel as invaders, lest their demonic taint infect Ustalav as well. Thus, countless Sarkorins, fleeing the nightmares of their tainted nation, rushed full into the pikes and quarrels of Odranto’s defenders. So went the series of massacres deceptively called the Demonskin War, a conflict that ended only after no Sarkorins remained to flee their hellish homeland. For the first time in history, the borders of Odranto rest quiet, though victory proves bleaker than any of the realm’s defenders could have imagined.
Today, the people of Odranto live somberly, none quite convinced that, even after nearly a century, the threat of invasion is truly gone. What began ages ago as an exploitation of barbaric fears lingers upon nearly every home in the county, gargoyles of stone, wood, clay, and ceramic haunting every gable, lintel, post, and eave, supposedly warding off invaders and evil spirits alike. The people of Odranto take to stonework, soldiering, and piping with skill, the latter echoing with haunting beauty among rocky cairns across the county. Tales say that, on certain nights, the dead rise to the notes of spectral musicians, crawling from ancient graves to exercise their bones upon the land once more.