A large and decadently appointed manor deep in the heart of the Shudderwood, used by Ustalav’s elite as a hunting retreat. Once a private hunting lodge owned by Lozeri’s deposed count Beauturne, the Palatine Council of Lozeri appropriated the estate when Beauturne fled the county and opened it year round to paying guests.
Guests and Workers of the lodge
Lodge Warden Estovion Lozarov is Ascanor’s custodian and overseer. The only son of Ascanor’s previous caretakers, Estovion grew up in the lodge and it is the only home he has ever known.
Duristan Silvio Ariesir
A young thrill-seeking aristocrat hailing from one of Ardeal’s wealthiest families, Duristan has come to Lozeri to make a name for himself as a werewolf slayer. He’s already had a few successful hunts and to date has slain three of the beasts.
Duristan is somewhat contemptuous of most of the lodge’s other guests. While he considers himself a hunter, he views the others as pampered politicos who use Ascanor Lodge to escape from their nagging spouses. Duristan rarely denies himself the opportunity to pique the ire of his fellow guests, whether by wearing his bloody armor around the lodge or by flirting with the lodge’s “low-born” staff members and even inviting them to participate in “upper class” social events.
Duristan is not particularly handsome, with a long face and thinning brown hair. He wears a wolfskin which he claims is that of a werewolf.
An influential courtesan with ties to the Violet Widow, an infamous Courtaud brothel themed as a Pharasmin chapel, Madame Ivanja imports the most exquisite and luxurious companions for guests who request such services. The lodge itself has no formal affiliation with the brothel, but Estovion rents the watchtower to Ivanja and grants her the privacy and freedom to conduct her business as she sees fit.
Of Varisian descent, Madame Ivanja is also a skilled fortuneteller, and gives harrow readings upon request for a small fee. Ivanja doesn’t permanently reside on the premises, though she often stays for long periods as work dictates. She keeps a traveling wagon parked on the watchtower’s ground floor, which she uses to transport herself and her employees back and forth between Courtaud and the lodge. At all times, four professional and very well-paid Qadiran guards keep watch over Madame Ivanja and her courtesans.
Delgros Kroitzcer serves as Ascanor’s huntsmaster and leads (or at least accompanies) the majority of hunts for the lodge’s guests. A brilliant game hunter, he prides himself on capturing aggressive and exotic animals, which he keeps in a series of subterranean pens beneath the lodge grounds for the hunting pleasure of Ascanor’s guests. Delgros rarely appears in the lodge itself, except when it is time to tell stories of the hunt. Only then does he show up, delivering short but terrifying tales of fearsome forest creatures, particularly those he keeps in his beast pens, hoping to entice his wealthy patrons into paying extra for an “exotic” hunt. Delgros is in his early thirties, and he possesses a fine physique. Still, his appearance seems to complement his gruff demeanor, which he uses to his advantage, particularly with pampered city nobles who become titillated by what they consider his “feralness.”
Nearing 50 years old, Cilas Graydon, the Margrave of Sturnidae, is a retired military commander who served under Count Neska of Barstoi. Graydon is infamous for the ruthless brutality of his martial strategies, and is almost universally loathed by citizens of both Ardeal and Barstoi. Toward the end of the civil war between Barstoi and Ardeal, Graydon broke with Neska and openly denounced him as a tyrant, an act that many credit as one of the causes behind Neska’s retreat from Ardeal.
Forced to flee his home county, Graydon sought amnesty in Lozeri and soon became a strong voice in Palatine politics. Back in Barstoi, Neska convicted Graydon of treason, revoked his title, and placed a sizable bounty on his head. For his part, Graydon continues to identify himself by his ancestral title as an act of fearlessness and defiance.
Although retired, the Margrave remains a sharp and near-flawless strategist, and his advice on military matters holds great value to the Palatine Council. In addition to serving as a powerful statesman, Graydon is also a serious hunter who frequently stays at Ascanor. During the evenings when he is not hunting, the other guests frequently consult him on matters of defense, strategy, and military affairs. For the past few days, Graydon has been expecting the arrival of his close friend and political associate Echtmoor Dravin.
The party delivered the news of his friends death and, as a thank you for delivering the news, he promises to be an ally of the group.
The second son of Cervaus Tergsvor, one of Courtaud’s most influential nobles, Corvin Tergsvor is enjoying an extended stay at Ascanor. A dissolute young poet and something of a black sheep, Corvin was involved in a minor scandal when he engaged the young wife of a wealthy courtier in the upstairs bedchambers of his father’s manse during a dinner ball. Concerned for his family’s name and reputation, Corvin’s status-conscious father exiled him to the lodge for his indiscretion. Corvin finds Ascanor tedious and quaint, and when not overindulging in absinthe, spends his days scribbling dark verse and sarcastically heckling the other nobles. While he longs to return to Courtaud, he cannot set foot in the city for fear of losing his head to the jilted husband he cuckolded.
Bored with his prolonged stay, Corvin takes every opportunity to amuse himself by harassing Duristan. While he occasionally baits other lodge guests, most are powerful enough that he avoids pushing his luck with them, especially those like Graydon who are too old and too serious to appreciate his humor.
Recently, Corvin has started to grow bitter about his passing youth and lack of romantic opportunities out here in the desolate woods, and he is seriously considering assuming a false identity and running off to another county. Thus far, the only thing preventing him from departing sooner has been the poor health of his older brother. His concerns are hardly out of affection, however, for if his brother perishes, he stands to inherit the entirety of his family’s extensive holdings.
A frequent guest at the lodge, Markiza Welgory has come to Ascanor to hunt fox. Now in her early forties, the Markiza is married to an older, quite wealthy husband, though at this point their marriage is chiefly a business proposition. Between her family name (and somewhat overblown title) and his financial prowess, their business has been incredibly successful. She often discusses trade regulations and taxes that directly affect her family’s commodities business with other lodge guests, and her attentions are aggressively courted in exchange for trade options and access to her lucrative business connections.
The passing years have not been kind to the Markiza’s husband; the Markiz always had the personality of a lake trout, but he is now fat with a bad case of gout to boot. Under such unfortunate circumstances, the Markiza is here unchaperoned, though she hires numerous “companions” to attend to the needs of her company and to accompany her to society functions and other important affairs. That all of these “companions” happen to be young, handsome men is hardly a coincidence, and among Ustalav’s elite, the subject of the Markiza’s personal life has become rife with scandalous rumor.
When she is not involved in business or political discussions, or indulging in courtly or social activities, the Markiza engages in long fox hunts with her current “companion,” a broad-shouldered and handsome young huntsman named Ostovach, whom she has exclusively employed for the past two hunting seasons. A native of Lozeri, Ostovach guides his hunts with four fearsomely large Belkzen wolf hounds, and is often referred to as “the Markiza’s hound” by Ascanor’s other guests.
Belik of Courtaud
Tidy, well dressed, and officious, Belik works as Ascanor’s porter. Personally loyal to Estovion, Belik secretly serves as the lodge warden’s eyes and ears around the lodge.
A talented and fastidiously obsessive chef from Ardeal, Chef Ladimeur cooks for Ascanor’s guests, assisted by two scullions named Yvonna and Ostin.
Ascanor’s sloppy and dimwitted groundskeeper and handyman, Paucy has an eerie habit of appearing and disappearing throughout the day.
Ascanor’s stablemaster, Quiene is a short, fit woman in her early thirties with pale skin, dark eyes, and long auburn hair gone slightly gray at the temples. For the most part, she tends the lodge’s horses, but she is skilled at woodcraft and occasionally accompanies Delgros on hunts.
This plump, middle-aged spinster serves as the lodge’s housekeeper, washerwoman, and seamstress. Her teenaged niece and nephew, Bisthe and Vasoray, work respectively as a chambermaid and footman in the lodge.