Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Strange Places: Low Marshes

Down along the Ertish river, on the Western side, before the great, dark woods swallow everything up beneath their dark, brooding branches, there are the Low Marshes. In the Spring, great clouds of passenger pigeons return from their migration. Every hand that can raise a net, throw a stick or use a bucket-gonne descends into the Low Marshes to reap the desperately needed bounty that flies in from all the different Souths each year.

In the Summer these wetlands are steamy, sultry and rife with clouds of swarming pests. Usually only leech-peddlers seeking to profit from the medical trades (who buy large quantities of nearly every kind of leech) and the worst of the fisherfolk can be found here in the hot times.

Fog-shrouded and treacherous through most of the Autumn, hunters prowl the Low Marshes seeking after waterfowl mostly. The flocks are plentiful for a few weeks. Before Winter falls like a headsman's axe and the waterways freeze-over. A few hunters attempt to go after larger game. Roebucks, Red Bears, moose or elk, even the tuskers , if they're stupid or have a deathwish or they're truly desperate. The worst seek to trap other hunters. Some folks never lose their taste for long-pig, even in the softer seasons.

Through-out the cold, dark Winter; there is little here for the living. Those abandoned to the Low Marshes in the Dark Part of the year are rarely ever seen again. Those that are, probably shouldn't be. The old Goules hold macabre meetings out in the worst parts of the Low Marshes during the Bleak Solstice. Some say they conduct weird, dark rites, but none care to speculate within their hearing. Hungry things prowl the margins of the Low Marshes in the cold months. Things that frighten away the wolves.

The Midwives often recite the adage that 'No one goes down to these places without bad intent or worse reasons.'

For Example...

Butcherboys pass through the Low Marshes on their way to one of the many unmarked Ectobogs where they dump remains they'd prefer were never identified or found again. Fantomists have begun to make use of the supposedly secret by-ways of the Butcherboys, sparking yet more enmity between the groups. A bloody reckoning is in the offing, so warn the Butchers from their abbatoirs, killing floors and slaughter shops. Like Winter Itself, their wrath is inevitable and they will not abide the trespasses of the foreign sorcerers no matter how powerful they might think they are. The Butchers are the Chosen of the Cold Times. They wield terrible power in the dark. They are not afraid of the Fantomists who have flouted the Old Ways, either through arrogance or ignorance. There will be blood, trouble and worse, come the next Winter...

Bandits and river-raiders gather in the Low Marshes at the early onset of Autumn. They come to the sheltered coves and secret lagoons to barter ill-gotten loot, swap prisoners, trade information, choose new leaders. They've been coming here for too many generations to count. They do not welcome eaves-droppers or interlopers. They also leave before the cold winds begin in earnest, before the killing rains, while there is still color in the leaves.

Refugees who don't know any better sometimes get stuck out in the mud. Some get pulled ashore, for an added fee, others sink and are lost. Not a few of the 'guides' who accept foreign coin to direct these sorts of folk through the Low Marshes have made good money luring them to their deaths. The paths through the Low Marshes, such as they are, tend to be misleading to those not raised down along the fetid banks. Those who live down here keep it that way. Signs get shifted about at random. Tracks get filled-in with brush or redirected into the nastiest spots. The locals are a dour, taciturn lot. Even for Wermspittle. Unfriendly, even surly to strangers until paid to be otherwise. Then they're simply unreliable and treacherous. 

The Low Marshes are best avoided. So, of course, they aren't. If you know where to look, where to avoid, who to talk to and who not to speak to under any circumstance, you might be able to locate some buried treasure or chain-weighted trunk of sunken loot. Or maybe you'll just wind up feeding the flukes, the bog-werms or leeches...or some of the other things that lurk just below the scummed-over surface of these foul wet lands...


  1. Mephitic. I'm feeling the mood. That's another great graphic and there's space and weird scope in the write-up too. Wermspittle just gets richer.

  2. Fantastic description of a location rich with interest, context, danger and opportunity. A really dramatic place for any game in any period. Thanks so much for this.


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