The Grey Marshes

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The Grey Marshes

Post  Berserker on Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:19 am

The Grey Marshes

Primary type of land: Marsh, swamp
Current ruler: Althania Atharnsdaughter
Inhabited by: Knightblood humans, swamp ogres

HISTORY

At the southern edge of the Grimscathe Mountains lie the Grey Marshes, an inhospitable and unwelcoming realm, where most men fear to tread. Amidst these treacherous lands, a particularly hardy breed of knightblood humans make their living; hunting down the dire monsters dwelling in the shallows, and fishing in the deeper swamp lakes of the region.

Before the fell winter of the 1750s, the Grey Marshes were uninhabited by humans; a marsh full of dangerous beasts, venomous snakes and giant spiders hardly seemed attractive to humans of Adrila, compared to the Adrilan basin, where food was plentiful and the ground was firm beneath their feet. As the long winter passed, and the knightblood of Adrila took to warring and fighting among themselves once again, there were some who wanted no part in the fighting, choosing to face the dangers of the marsh over the constant warfare of Adrila. It could not be referred to as an exodus; only a very minor minority of Adrila's people wanted to escape a land full of glorious battle, and even fewer would go to the Grey Marshes rather than Tyrica. Nonetheless, some went, and within the Grey Marshes, they made their living, harsh as it might have been. Life went by, relatively peacefully, until the Black Years, when the plague hit; though the humans of the Grey Marshes had a greater resistance to poisons and diseases than those of Adrila, many still died to the plague, and only a few remained; the marshes risked being abandoned entirely.

It was in the days of early 1905 that Adric, former knight of Adrila and afflicted with a curse, left for the Grey Marshes in search of a cure rumoured to be found there. When he saw the state of the marshes, he immediately put his hunt for the cure on hold, and set to work rebuilding the marsh. His first move was to consolidate the people in villages there were still hope for; even if many did not want to move, he succeeded in convincing most to abandon their old villages to strengthen others. With the remaining citizens gathered, he established a fighting force; an easy feat given the marshers' knightblood heritage. Even with his condition worsening, the curse gradually sapping all his strength, he undertook a great purge; many Undead had emerged in the wake of the plague, and thinning their ranks was an absolute necessity. Finally, he guided his people to start building a city in the foothills of the Grimscathe mountains; once construction was started, Adric left to find the cure for his curse.

No one had presumed Adric would return; when he left he seemed as feeble and weak as an old man, barely able to support his own weight without a cane. They carried on his work, grateful for all he had done for them, and in only a few years' time, they finished building their city. Great was their surprise, however, when Adric returned, strong and vigorous once more, and ready to serve his new people. It had been a long and challenging adventure for Adric, venturing past the marshes and the mountains into the Hollow-lands beyond, but eventually, he had come upon a cure, and, growing stronger by the day, he returned to the marshes. Only shortly after his return, Adric was crowned king, a mighty champion who overcame all that stood before him, and among the people of the marshes, he found himself a queen.

Under Adric's wise rule the Grey Marshes prospered, if such a word can be used for a swamp. The hardy knightblood humans took to mining in the Grimscathe mountains; ore and metals were used to craft weapons, tools and armour, well suited to their kind. Stones were carved out in quarries, and dragged out into the marsh, to serve as foundations for villages, castles and the like. Nonetheless, building in a swamp was a learning experience, and many a castle, only half-finished, met an ignoble end as they sank into the dirt. Roads and paths were crafted, many of which used the canopies of the giant trees of the swamp - bridges were crafted from rope, spanning across great lengths of bog at a time, before they reached another tree, there to lead on to another bridge. Riverboats were used aplenty. Many chose to build their houses - even some entire villages! - in the canopies, elevated above the murky waters of the swamp.

When Adric's rule approached its end, in the year 1949, the Grey Marshes remained a realm shunned by most - but those dwelling there had seen dramatic improvements to their lives. It was possible to cross the marsh from north to south without risking getting trapped by giant spiders - unthinkable only 30 years earlier - and a trade route was opened, following the foothills of the Grimscathe mountains towards the Adrilan basin. Even if trade was risky, supplies of many kinds could be procured from the western lands.

Adric's life met a peaceful end. With his queen and his son by his side, he passed away quietly, leaving the throne in his son's hands. The young Atharn, confident in his father's work, took to following in his footsteps, and erected fortifications and settlements in the marsh' eastern reaches. The population was slowly growing, and with more people, he also needed more lands. None dared to venture into the Hollow-lands beyond the marsh, for that place was haunted, they claimed, and the people grew more and more used to the foggy twilight found under the canopies of the swamp's trees. It was thus no surprise that the Marshers grew pale of skin.

Atharn, second king of the Grey Marshes, was no fool, and no regular warrior king; by the time Arrendal Woodsworth took up arms and started his conquest across the Adrilan basin, king Atharn ruled over a landmass far greater than any single nation found in the basin at that time. Wizards and alchemists found the sort-of tranquil Grey Marshes an infinitely interesting place, full of plant life not found elsewhere on Kayre. Atharn welcomed them into his realm, and he helped fund research into the flora and fauna of the marsh. Antidotes to common poisons were discovered, common poisons were refined and developed into rare, highly potent poisons, sold to all interested assassins. Ingredients as rare as the moss found on the skin of swamp ogres had their properties examined in detail. Unusual beasts were first killed, then examined, to determine whether one should or should not kill other specimens in the future. In fact, during Atharn's rule, the Grey Marshes held so many scholars that only Elthern could match its collective knowledge.

During the later years of Atharn's rule, the mountain ogres and the dragons of Grimscathe became an increasing nuisance to the Marshes' northern border. Even with the Adrilan knights of the Square Tower establishing themselves in the mountains, Atharn had to spend more and more resources seeing to his kingdom's defences, and in 1985, he had enough. Taking his father's sword with him, and summoning all able knights of the land, he led an assault into the mountains himself. Countless ogres, and even dragons, were taken down through attrition and cunning; poisoned carcasses became a favoured way of taking out dragons, even if the knights of the Square Tower disapproved of anything that did not entail charging the beast and killing it in melee.

It was, perhaps, ironic that it was a giant spider, all-familiar foe of any man of the Marsh, that turned out to be Atharn's end. During a battle against an ogre tribe, the brave king and his men were caught off guard by spiders crawling upon them from behind. Even though the Marshers fought tooth, nail, and most importantly sword against the spiders and ogres, many - among them king Atharn - was dragged off by the spiders, sedated by poisons and brought back to their lairs. Only a few knights returned from the battle, and the Sword of Honour - first brought to the Grey Marshes in Adric's hands - returned with them, now without a wielder.

Princess Althania, heir to the throne, was quick to accept her father's sword, and take his place as monarch. Even though she grieved his loss, and could well have enjoyed more time as a princess, she knew her duty, and she would do it. Taking up court in her father's old fortress, and renaming it in his honour, she swore to lead her people, 'until death's cold claws tore her from her throne', as she said herself.
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