The Carrion Crown
The History of the Order of the Palatine Eye
In paneled salons and dark catacombs, the secret elite of Ustalav assemble in exclusive social clubs known collectively as the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. What began centuries ago as a cabal of mystics exploring forbidden knowledge has given rise to an organized network of gentleman philosophers who almost universally rise to the most inf luential stations of Ustalav society as judges, deans, landed aristocracy, and even high-ranking clergy of Pharasma’s church. The Order promotes divine enlightenment through participation in secret meetings involving mysterious philosophies and strange rituals.
Western Ustalav’s bloodless shirking of aristocratic rule is of course attributed to the benevolent machinations of the Order, and Palatine Eye arcanists are widely credited for their part in the legendary defeat of the dragon Kazavon in Scarwall. But power has its detractors, and such malevolent occurrences as the inexplicable disappearances in Canterwall and the attacks of Lozeri’s Devil in Gray have been attributed to the Order by conspiracy theory broadsides. The elusive Order’s refusal to dignify the stories with responses only exacerbates the rumormongering among Ustalav’s superstitious citizens.
History of the Order
Squandering fortunes on safaris and archaeological expeditions into the dark heart of Garund, Aldus Canter was among the most famous gentleman adventurers of his age. Rumored to be cursed after the disastrous looting of Thutmoset IV’s tomb in 3985 ar, the future count was given up for lost when a pyramid-plundering expedition in Osirion’s Parched Dunes disappeared later that year. Aldus reappeared in Vieland 3 years later a changed man, claiming knowledge of lost esoteric rites and ancient mysticisms learned from an angelic mentor. According to his accounts, Aldus discovered a stone sepulcher uncovered by a raging sandstorm, and within found immortal sages who venerated a desiccated angel named Tabris, the possessor of torn scrolls Aldus claimed held the mysterious annals of creation. For 3 years, Aldus learned the cabal’s secret language and communed with the angel, absorbing the knowledge and philosophies of the mystics.
Aldus claimed the sages sent him forth, newly enlightened, to act as their mortal messenger on Golarion. Some conspiracy theorists contest that his story of these “secret masters” is an imaginative fallacy concocted by the count to bring fortune to his ailing estate. Others believe the “angel” was instead a clever devil sent to corrupt mortals with diabolical inf luence, or that Aldus poisoned a divine warden to claim guarded secrets for himself. Regardless of the truth of such criticism, Aldus attracted a devout following of young nobles hungry for his esoteric ramblings, and finally published his coded theories in a folio known as the Lost Gospels of Tabris, a curious amalgamation of Osirian mysticisms, Pharasmin catechisms, and Varisian occult traditions. The text outlined the first of nine stations, or paths, to nurture one’s inner divine spark in preparation for a holy communion upon death. Further revelations were carefully disseminated based on a member’s financial contributions to the cabal, and membership was restricted to landed gentry under Aldus’s sway. Many noble sons f led as public sentiment turned against the Order in 3999, when a mob of angry citizens interrupted an orgiastic new year rite at the mysterious ruins known as the Spiral Cromlech, thwarting what some said appeared to be Aldus’s impending sacrifice of a celestial being.
Membership in the Order soon withered, as did the mental stability of Aldus, who grew increasingly erratic and consumed with repeated retranslations of his original manuscripts, and was forced to abdicate his title as count of Vieland in favor of a distant cousin. But the Order’s philosophy was now cemented, as devotees tied allegorical lessons into every moment of the manuscript’s discovery and assimilated the tenets of Pharasma’s church into the celestial hierarchies outlined in newly penned “lost gospels,” forming the basis for the Order’s teachings of ascension from the motes of base human desire toward a perfect angelic state. The shrunken and exclusive Order persisted until 4028, when Aldus disappeared under mysterious circumstances. His nine most devout apostles then gained control of both their founder’s manuscripts and the dwindling organization. This event, known as the Elect of Nine, marked a new era, and under this new leadership the Order opened its doors to invitees willing to follow the organization’s philosophies, and wealthy enough to afford the society’s annual dues. The Order began quietly funding the construction of temples, libraries, colleges, and asylums for war-scarred veterans. With this new benevolent facade, worthy nobles once more f locked to the philosophical teachings of the semi-secret society, and its wealth and inf luence spread across Ustalav.