The Mistmarsh

Occupying a huge bowl formed by the encircling Cairn Hills, the Mistmarsh is the source of two significant rivers – the Ery and the Neen – which flow together and then join the Selintan some distance below Greyhawk City. This area is a huntsman’s paradise of fowl and other game. The borders of the Mistmarsh are not precise, since there is a broad fringe of scrub grassland about it. The waters of the rivers in the Mistmarsh are too shallow for almost any vessel save very light canoes and punts, and the major hazards of the area are crocodiles and lizard men.

The central reaches of the marsh, however, rarely encounter a human footstep. Of course, rumors abound-of the mad druid that lies there, the haunted cemetery of an ancient peoples lying at the heart of the marsh, the savage and reptilian predators slithering from the muck to claim helpless victims on moonless nights.

Little changed in the Mistmarsh over the course of the wars, with one notable exception. Lizard men have been significantly more active in leaving the marshlands and attacking humans in the outlying lands, and there are also reports of internecine warfare among different lizard man tribes. One unreliable report suggests that there is a power struggle between lizard men of a “traditional” culture supported by priests of Semuanya, while a new aggressive strain of lizard men, led by one or more lizard kings, seeks to overthrow the older order. This new, aggressive mentality is also said to be reflected in cannibalism and slavery, although this may just be a traveler’s tale.

From its fringes the Mistmarsh is virtually invisible, for it gradually gives way around its entire perimeter to a wide belt of grassland, dry and smoothly devoid of any great trees. As a traveler pushes through this grassy stretch. he gradually finds the ground squishing wetly underfoot and the grass around him growing thicker and higher. In summer, clouds of insects fill the air around him, creating at the very least an annoying nuisance. During a hot, wet summer the mosquitoes and biting flies are savage enough to discourage all but the most hardy from moving any farther into the Mistmarsh. The ground grows swampier still, and soon each foot sinks calf-deep in sticky muck. Open patches of water begin to appear, never very large or deep but more and more common.

Then there is a clump of trees, and the weary traveler might think, “Dry land!” But instead these are the entangled groves of the mangaroo tree. This hardy growth takes root in soft marsh or even shallow open water, extending its tendrils ever outward and downward until it becomes a forest on stilts, as it were. The mangaroo groves dot much of the Mistmarsh. The tangled trunks and soft ground underfoot create an effective barrier to most human passage. The only effective means of moving through the twisted mass of limbs is to climb up and down, over and through, snaking one’s way through whatever passages present themselves. Needless to say, it is an exhaustive and discouraging mode of travel.

The rest of the Mistmarsh is a vast sea of grass, broken by the channels and ponds of open water. These waterways gradually widen, with imperceptible flow into two major branches, one in the north and one m the south. These flows become the Ery and Neen Rivers. respectively. These rivers might seem an attractive alternative for travelers into the swamp. However, their waters are too shallow in many places for all craft except the lightest of canoes. But the deeper stretches are inhabited by, among other things, ravenous giant crocodiles that can make short work of any craft smaller than a barge. Consequently, those who seek to penetrate the depths of the Mistmarsh generally do so on foot.

The characteristic mist that gives the marsh its name is nearly always present from two hours before dawn until mid-morning, and again for one to six hours following sunset. When it is humid or raining, the mist hangs over the marsh all day and all night. It limits visibility to double that in darkness, and in addition seems to muffle sound.

Travelers are generally safe from dangerous encounters in the outer belt of grassland around the Mistmarsh. Here they are unlikely to discover anything more threatening than a small wild boar or blink dog. Deer and waterfowl – ducks, geese, and swans in vast numbers – are all relatively easy to stir up. A hunter might have a chances to shoot game during a typical day of stalking.

Aside from the eternal life of the marsh, only a few things of note stand out. One is really several places, for scattered about the swamp are dozens of stone statues of animals, hunters, and even an occasional lizard man. These are the victims of the cockatrice that roams the marsh. The other item is the only permanent dwelling in the marsh. It also might prove an appropriate setting for adventure, should a character discover its existence and find the way to the entrance.

History: Long ago, before the time of the twin cataclysms, the western mountains of the Flanaess were the site of great hostilities among the various states of the dwarven nation. Uprooting themselves from their ancient homes, many clans migrated east. Eventually one of these clans, Mumantadin, settled in the region known today as the Cairn Hills and the Mistmarsh, building a great, walled keep to help protect their lands.

At the time, the marshlands were fertile plains and provided good hunting. The nearby waterways allowed native Flan and demihuman tribes access for trade, and the Oerth yielded great veins of preciousmetals. The dwarven people thrived and prospered.

In -105 CY, Rolanta T’shur, a Suel mage, arrived at the gates of the dwarven clan. Badly mauled, bleeding heavily and feverish, the wizard was taken in and placed in the care of the dwarven healers. Rolanta bore a strange pendant crafted of a black metal and set with a stone blacker than the blackest pitch. The dwarves named it Retna Noth Tura – a Suel term meaning Fate’s Black Assassin – for the one phrase that Rolanta kept repeating in his fevered state.

What the pendant was the dwarves never discovered, for shortly after Rolanta’s arrival, a dark beast descended upon the keep. Legends tell of a horrific battle, but most are false tales spun by those seeking to gain fortune from the plight of others. What actually transpired is not truly known, for none of the clan ever emerged.

Travelers shunned the keep and the surrounding lands. As time passed the rivers began to take their toll, eroding earth, allowing the water to seep up. Eventually, the soft ground became marsh. The local tribes named the land Mistmarsh for the heavy mist that hangs over the area during early mornings and evenings.

The marshland quickly absorbed the keep and surrounding terrain. Fell beasts occupied its halls, and the elements beat down the walls and roof. Its exact location was eventually forgotten, and ballads arose reciting the tale of the Lost Clan. Many would-be heroes have sought the legendary halls; none has ever returned.

Cairn Hills

The Mistmarsh

Greyhawk Samaryllis Samaryllis