The Dour Fens
Sandwiched between the barbarian-held woods of Liathaven, the southern Jotun kingdoms, and the sea, lies Bregasland. The territory is primarily made up of freshwater fenland. Home to “Bregas” (fenlanders), this is a place of small islands of abundantly fertile soil, surrounded by seemingly endless marshes where eels are caught. There are several households here made up entirely of merrow, and several settlements populated by people who have been shunned but cannot bring themselves to leave the Marches.
Bregasland is home to partially sunken ruins, including several stone circles that pre-date Marcher possession of the land. For some reason the marshwalkers that are comparatively common in the marshes tend to leave these ruined structures alone. It is also home to dangerous man-eating lizards, giant insects, flesh-eating plants, bottomless bogs and strange lights that seek to lure the incautious into deadly situations. Those who explore the depths of the marshes here sometimes disappear without trace ...
Since the Jotun took Liathaven there has been an increase in raiding along the southern borders of Bregasland. Many residents are concerned that the barbarians will launch a major assault through the Rushes and Gravenmarch. Bregasland has a few forts, but they are generally small, isolated, and mostly located along the western borders. Building a major fortification is hampered by the boggy ground. In recent years, the area has seen regular emplacement of magical fortifications, raised against potential Jotun invasion by Imperial magicians.
Shortly before the Spring Equinox 381YE, and following on from the disasters that plagued the marches during late 379YE and early 380YE, work was completed on a network of granaries and storehouses across Bregasland as part of the Imperial Breadbasket great work.
Points of Interest
This enormous smooth flat grey-stone plateau approximately 4 miles in each direction, extends from the ground with a gently sloping face of only fifty metres or so. From a great height it has the appearance of a large flat pebble buried in the ground with only its upper-level surface exposed. This unusual stone deposit sits in some of the largest expanses of dry, fertile territory in Bregasland, in the region of Gravenmarch. The outer surface of the rock is covered in various entrances and doorways, which are the evidence of many hundreds of years of mining and excavation of the rock’s rich mineral core. The ore deposits are largely played out today, but there are still mine workings beneath Graven Rock that are in use. It stands near the town of Graven, one of the largest settlements in Bregasland, and contributed directly to the wealth of the citizens there. Shortly before the Spring Equinox 381YE, work was completed in one of the deeper caves to create a sinecure that provides mana to the Keeper of the Dour Fens.
Another eerie stone protruding from the marshes, Fisher's Rock is black stone mound that emerges from the North Fens near Greywater. Atop it is a ruined tower ascribed to the Sentinel. It is said to be haunted, and there are many local stories of strange lantern lights around the rock that lead people astray. The immediate area sometimes yields peculiar treasures - old cups, coins, and sometimes more significant artefacts. As a result, some of the local clannish merrow spend their time as prospectors; although they are as likely to return bloated with giant marshspider poison as they are to return with something of interest.
A partially submerged stone circle, the notorious site of a number of ritual killings in 365YE. It stands at the centre of one of the so-called dead meres of the Grey Fens, and both local Marchers and Feni alike give it a wide berth. Local legend claims that there are thirteen stones in the Rushring, but accounts differ wildly, in some cases claiming there are as many as thirty-nine. There are likewise many stories about what the circle represents. Some claim it is a band of Jotun orcs turned to stone by a canny landskeeper, while others claim the stones mark the site of some terrible crime or ancient magical accident, perhaps that associated with the formation of the dead meres themselves.
The Marches are not Varushka, but that is not to say that it is a nation devoid of magical threats. Many Marcher sailors and fisherfolk are familiar with the dangerous shapeshifters that can be found in the Gullet, for example. Ghosts and hauntings are uncommon, but known across the Marches. Strange creatures of the realms may be found anywhere there are regio.
Nowhere else in the Marches, however, are there quite so many stories of odd beasts and dangerous spirits as Bregasland. How real these creatures are is hard to say for certain. Western Bregas swear that the fens are home to eerie nocturnal ebon hounds that spell disaster for anyone who looks at them too closely. Wherever there is deep water, hungry bogs, or shifting paths there are stories of floating lights that lead travelers astray which are said to be the hateful spectres of men and women who drowned alone in the swamps.There are said to be certain trees that hate humans, and kill lone travellers with magical lures and strangling roots. Some of the people allegedly falling prey to these threats are likely the victims of Feni, or bandits, or their own poor luck traversing trackless marsh. Yet there are dangerous mundane creatures as well - the most common natural threat to Bregas are the giant marshspiders whose natural ability to camouflage themselves against the mud and the rushes and lethal venom makes them an uncommon, but potentially fatal, threat to the unwise.Marcher characters from the fen are encouraged to come up with local folk tales of dangerous monsters from the deep fens, with an eye toward eerie, misunderstood threats appropriate to folklore rather than more traditional tabletop roleplaying monsters.
Gravenmarch borders Mitwold, Mournwold, and Liathaven, and is sometimes called "the only dry spot in Bregasland" (OOC Note: Unlike the rest of Bregasland, Gravenmarch does not have the marsh quality). The soil here is fertile, and the gentle eastern hills and well-irrigated western fields are dotted with farms, villages, and hamlets. The largest settlement in Bregasland, the town of Graven is found here, in the shadow of Graven Rock. The town grew rich from a combination of high fields and the mineral wealth extracted from the Rock. In happier times Navarr merchants and stridings regularly passed through on their way north from Liathaven, with news and trade-goods from far afield. As with many parts of Bregasland, the people of Graven have a reputation for being odd - but in this case it is due to the number of them who started their lives far away and were brought here by a Navarr guide. Today, Graven is known for the good quality stone it supplies to construction efforts across the Marches, and for the garrison that keeps a wary eye on the orcs of the forest and the Mourn.
The Grey Fens are the deepest, darkest parts of Bregasland. The exact location of the western border is a matter for some debate - it is impossible to say where Bregasland ends and the Blutgahn marshes of Hordalant begin. The area is one of the least populated parts of the Marches, with a scattering of isolated hamlets that very much keep themselves to themselves. There is believed to be at least one large clan of Feni in Grey Fens, although the nature of their relations with the Imperial citizens in the area is largely unknown.
The Grey Fens have a number of so-called dead meres - open areas of standing water where no fish are found. The water is clear and appears fresh, but drinking it leads to crippling stomach cramps and, if the imbiber is already weak, may result in death. Landskeepers have studied the dead meres in the past, but about all they have discovered is that they are the result of some ancient curse. Locals know to stay away from the dead meres; on nights of the new moon the water is said to glow with an eerie, pale effulgence that is said to cause madness in anyone exposed to it. One of the best known of the dead meres is the one that surrounds the Rushring stone circle.
Qualities: Marsh, Coastal
To the west of North Fens lie the southern Jotun kingdoms, while its northern border runs along the southern coast of the Gullet. The shore is scattered with small fishing villages. As one travels west, each village is said to be a little more insular until the westernmost villages and farms of North Fens are said to border on the xenophobic. North Fens is the site of Fisher's Rock.
The largest settlement in North Fens is Greywater, which is said to mark the furthest west that any wise Marcher will go. The locals make their living primarily from eel-fishing, but since this isn’t a trade that leads to many exports, some of the more daring among them will scour the surrounding marsh for unusual plants and flowers. These are dried, and sold through the markets at Meade for study across the Empire. The small town takes its name from slip clay stirred up by frequent storms: it’s not the best water to drink. A thriving market in pure water exists here, with fresh water from the estuary left to settle in vast oak tanks and then carefully decanted. "Too poor to drink water" is a local phrase applied to the truly destitute, who are forced to drink dirty water.
Along the shores of the Westmere stretched Ottermire. The yeomanry here are roughly split between fishing the deep waters of the Westmere, and tending to herb gardens and mana sites deeper in the marshes. The most populous settlement in Ottermire is Ottery which stands at the western end of Odd's Way, and at the northern end of the Sallow Walk. Both roads are notable because they are built atop thick packed-earth causways, crossing the marshes to Odd's End in Oddmure and Sallow in the south respectively. Locals, of course, refer to both causways as the Otterway, differentiating between the two by stressing the first or second syllable, this causes endless confusion among outsiders. The town itself is a small fishing port that trades the produce of the marshes to Meade and, has a history of sending boats across the Westmere to trade with the Winterfolk.
There are many local stories of boats travelling across the Westmere to Kallavesa, and a number of the Marcher families here show signs of having Wintermark blood in their ancestry. Indeed, the area is notable even among the notoriously eerie Bregas for adoption of certain mystic practices - albeit seen through the lens of stubborn Marcher tradition and allegedly distorted enough that they are barely recognisable to their northern practitioners.
The Rushes are marshy, like most of the rest of Bregasland, but the further south one goes the more solid the ground becomes. In southern Rushes there are a few more traditional farms, raising crops not unfamiliar to Marchers from Mitwold and Upwold. The most common industry in the Rushes, perhaps unsurprisingly, is cutting and drying rushes for use in roofing and flooring across the Marches.
The only settlement of note here is Sallow, which lies at the southern end of the Sallow Walk that connects the region with Ottermire in the north. Sallowfolk keep themselves to themselves to a degree found off-putting even by other Bregaslanders. Behaving in a manner the folk of Sallow find too familiar, or prying too closely into local affairs, can sometimes result in long knives being drawn - the same long knives they use to cut the rushes that are the main export of the area. Someone bearing a Sallow-cut is recognised across Bregasland as someone who takes liberties, or has a little too much interest in the doings of their neighbours.
A common slur directed at the people of the Rushes, and at Sallowfolk in particular, is that they have closer relations with the Feni than is either wholesome or legal. People of the Rushes take such accusations extremely personally although many of them do not even bother to refute them before reaching for their rushing knives.
- As of the Autumn Equinox 383YE, the Jotun hold the Grey Fens and the North Fens. The Marchers (and by extension the Empire) hold Gravenmarch, The Rushes, and Ottermire. The territory remains Imperial, but if another region is lost to the barbarians the territory will fall.
- Attempting to build a permanent fortification in Bregasland anywhere other than Gravenmarch is likely to encounter some difficulties.
- While it is possible for armies to travel from West Marsh in Kallavesa to North Fens, it is not possible to cross the Westmere into Ottermire; armies will need to go through Mitwold if they wish to reach Ottermire (or Kallavesa Marsh).
- The Imperial Breadbasket great work gives every Marcher character who owns a farm a share of 1080 rings.
- Some of the prominent households of Bregasland are detailed here.
As with all Marchers, residents of Bregasland are likely to control farms, or businesses if they are residents of a market town. Unlike the other Marcher territories, however, the yeomen of Bregasland (outside of Gravenmarch) are much less likely to farm traditional crops. In Bregasland, a farm might represent an eel-farm, or an area where rushes or peat are gathered. A character who lives along the Gullet or the Westmere might even use a farm to represent a small number of fishing boats - vessels that stay close to the shore rather than the kind of vessel a trader may use to visit foreign ports,
More common in Bregasland than perhaps anywhere else are herb gardens and mana sites. Bregasland is an eerie place, and the people who live there have a well deserved reputation for mysterious lore and uncommon wisdom.The least common resource in Bregasland is likely to be a mine - outside of Gravenmarch, the marshes are simply too wet and too lacking in mineral wealth to easily justify a mine. Of course, any character can choose any sort of personal resource - its simply easier to explain some choices in Bregasland than others.