Shadows over Ustalav
A single vast moor surrounds Lake Lias, stretching to the boggy Eshirwood to the east. Here, wariness and ruggedness breed a sturdy lot, a county of quietly determined folk all too aware that fortunes in blood and backbreaking toil often buy rewards no greater than continued hardship and a swift death. The land of Canterwall—once known as Tamrivena— has no love for its people, even though generations of stalwart Ustalavs have poured their lives into the land, only to fall under the wicked blades of Belkzen orcs or be mysterious consumed, seemingly by the misty moors themselves. In the fears of Ustalav, invasion has always come from the west. While humans and beasts certainly threaten the nation’s other borders, these threats unite in the orcs of Belkzen, whose realm of cruelty and slaughter sprawls just beyond Canterwall’s threshold. Since the nation’s founding, the counts of the region have attempted a diverse array of tactics to guard the western lands against the savage hordes. The ruins of dozens of fortresses and watchtowers—some built mere yards apart—mark the Belkzen border and testify to the efficacy of past defenders. The history of Ustalav’s defense is a tale of tragedy and madness, with moments of calamity punctuated by epics of disaster—none greater than the deceit and dark promises that unleashed the dragon-general Kazavon upon the world. Yet today, Canterwall no longer stands alone against the brutality of the west. The people of Lastwall now share in shouldering the burden of Belkzen’s slaughter, a grim blessing that has greatly reduced threats to Ustalavic lands. Only the foolhardy rest unwarily in Canterwall, though, for the madness of orc-kind knows no respect for borders or reason, and more than beastmen raiders hunt the fields of the ancient land. Canterwall is a fertile region, watered by the Vistear River and checkered by fields and farms. While wolves and foxes endlessly torment farmers, the land’s greatest annoyances come on black wings—vast flocks of obstinate ravens, seasonally swarming locusts, cicadas, and earwigs wreaking arbitrary destruction. A balance between lightly wooded plains and bleak moors covers the region, all cloaked by dense fog that rolls into the lowlands from the southern mountains. Locals spread a host of warnings and superstitions about these mists, some old folks refusing to venture outdoors in fog without a symbol of Pharasma to keep at bay the spirits lost within, while others swear whole towns sometimes go missing in the mists, losing their connection to the world and vanishing forever in the haze. Under the rule of the region’s Palatine Council, the people of Canterwall largely fend for themselves. With few members of the country’s nobility remaining in the rustic region, fiefdoms have given way to agricultural hamlets and townships To the east lie quiet islands in the fog, where simple, Pharasma-fearing folk live modestly off of bland food and hard work. To the west, the same can be said, but here the peals of yard bells signal danger, not meals, and the fire-scarred remnants of homesteads confirm the deadly presence of monsters lurking in the night.