The Head of Lecit Ghazts
Historians will never know the sum of the atrocities committed during the War without Rivals, the conflict that resulted in the wastes known as the Furrows. But Lecit Ghazts knows. An officer among the Barstoi’s knights, the greedy Ghazts took it upon himself to raid local noble estates. Eventually Ghazts came to the House of Ensland, where he found something unexpected: a devil with a deck of cards. While accounts of their game vary, in the end Ghazts lost, having wagered his very body. Now the undying head of Lecit Ghazts rolls across the Furrows, eternally seeking someone bold enough to win back his body—- or to con others out of theirs.
Eye of Judgment
Tales of werewolves, lycanthropes, and stranger shapeshifters are numerous and well known among the people of Ustalav, as is folklore for warding off and slaying such creatures. Among such tales is the story that the full moon is in fact the unblinking eye of the goddess Pharasma, observing all who she will inevitably judge in death. It’s said that, under her scrutiny, all is revealed for what it truly is, and while the righteous retain their forms, the evil are revealed for the beasts they truly are. Thus, there is little sympathy among Ustalav’s people for werecreatures of any sort, for to them, these beings’ bestial forms are merely glimpses of the savagery inherent in their hearts.
Just as city dwellers sculpt gargoyles to represent and deter evil spirits, so do country dwellers carve pumpkins and similar produce with fearful visages to ward off evil around holy days and festival celebrations. Yet among Ustalav’s strangest tales is that of the vampire pumpkin. These deadly gourds are said to arise from jack-o’-lanterns that have trapped and become possessed by evil essences. Through the dark these uncanny menaces cackle and roll, hungering for living blood as they spread flames and chaos among all who mistake them for simple decoration.
The Prince of Wolves
Legends among the wanderers of Ustalav tell of a mysterious 55th harrow card of a man standing atop a moonlit hill with a crown at his feet and dozens of peering eyes staring from the shadows. It is known as “The Prince of Wolves.” Tied fundamentally to the tale of a cursed Ustalavic prince and his beastial followers, the card’s appearance is said to presage the return of the true rulers of Ustalav, said by some to have all been slain by the Whispering Tyrant, to have turned traitors in ages past, or merely to have forgotten their noble lineage.
When the Bleak Breath came to the city of Kavapesta in 4249 AR, Pharasin healers were overwhelmed. Burdrumar Roltz, a butcher turned doctor, joined the city’s few physicians, demanding high prices for outlandish treatments. For a time, Roltz’s practices proved popular, and numerous healers adopted his dubious precaution of wearing a mask stuffed with herbs and Pharasmin holy symbols. Although Roltz was later dismissed as an empiric who infected more people than he aided, today his masks are still used throughout Ustalav and beyond by both doctors of dubious skill and cultists of Urgathoa.
The All-Seeing Eye
Behind doors hidden amid Ustalav’s halls of power, a mysterious society of influential families and political manipulators furthers the agendas and fortunes of its members, building support for princes, reshaping nations, and thwarting all who oppose them. Supposedly called the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye, this secret society may be nothing more than a manifestations of paranoia, yet some scholars point to ages of strange circumstances as the machinations of a centuries old conspiracy, inspired by the oldest magical traditions of dark Garund to pursue fortunes none but those indoctrinated into the Order’s secrets can comprehend.
Hunters under the Moon
Widely avoided and feared as dark creatures and emissaries of disease, bats hold a notorious place in Varisian folklore. While similar to the birds and butterflies holy to the goddesses Pharasma and Desna, these winged rodents are commonly associated with Urgathoa and are blamed for the spread of maladies from rabies to vampirism. Superstitions hold that the sick may be cured if they eat the hair of the bats that spread ailments to them, making various parts of these night hunters common ingredients in folk medicine.
Cabinet of Calamities
Throughout Ustalav, many wealthy families subscribe to the tradition of assembling cabinets of curiosities, repositories of exotic treasures, unusual specimens, and natural oddities. While most hold little more than fakeries and folk art, the most exceptional might contain objects of hidden value, relics possessing mysterious properties, or clues hinting toward greater mysteries. Some inheritors have gained fortunes by selling off parts of such collections, while others rightly fear what’s been locked away in the family cellar.
According to some Ustalavic tales, Pharasma’s servants make their way through the world on the wings of whippoorwills. From their depthless onyx eyes to their unsettling calls, these small birds are the source of innumerable ominous superstitions. The most common legends say whippoorwills linger near dying, can snap up spirits like small bugs, and can cause death of any who look into their lightless eyes. But the most unsettling tales pertain to those who slay such a bird, as they are said to inherit it morbid charge, spreading pestilence and sorrow wherever they go and ever being followed by the song of whippoorwills.
A Mortal Price
Across Golarion, numerous cultures bury their dead with treasures and offerings, providing for the deceased’s needs in the afterlife or paying death’s guardians to convey loved ones to their proper rewards. In Ustalav, most remains are burned, but those interred traditionally have coins laid within their eye sockets, skulls, or wounds. Yet in this nation, sch wealth isn’t buried as a sacrifice to the powers of death, but rather as a jailor’s bribe to guarantee that death’s bonds are never loosened, ensuring that souls are not released to trouble those they’ve left behind.
The Starving Spectre
Jains Cobermain feared nothing more than being buried alive. The startlingly corpulent grave tender even designed his own coffin, complete with devices to warn those above should he be mistakenly interred. Yet when he passed on, his miserly brother buried him on the cheap in a plain pine box. None can say whether Cobermain was truly dead when he was buried, but his hungry spirit now roams Ardagh’s Lanternwatch Cemetery, a horrifying spectre clad in the fleshy tatters of one who slowly starved within the grave.
The Saffron House
Few know the tale of this abandoned manor, but all who rediscover the residence soon recognize its lingering wrongness. Some blame their uneasiness on the claustrophobic layout, the moldy furniture covers, or the skittering in the walls. But others claim something sinister haunts the hidden wreck, a foulness embodied by the nauseating shade of yellow staining every surface, inspiring both repulsion and obsession. Does some evil evidence linger in that malarial hue, or could it be a glimpse of something greater—something that hungers?