The Cormyrean Marshes - Part Three: Rumors and Legends

Not surprisingly, myriad legends surround the marshes of Cormyr: tales of lost kingdoms, secret treasure, and ancient curses. To my surprise, I found that many of these legends had some basis in fact.

The Tun and Farsea

In Cormyr, many tales are told about these marshes and their origins. Most claim that the regions now occupied by the Tun and the Farsea were once the lands of two prosperous kingdoms. Legend claims that the prince of one kingdom fell in love with the princess of the other, and stole her away in the night. This triggered a steadily-escalating war between the kingdoms, culminating in the magical destruction of both. In some tales, the kings were urged on in their mutual destruction by a mysterious female advisor, who is in the end revealed to be the goddess Talona.

The names of these kingdoms, the names of the principals, and other details change, depending upon who is telling the story. The Marsh Drovers claim that a kingdom once occupied the marshes many thousands of years ago. It was destroyed to punish its rulers' wickedness, and so that the Drovers themselves could then occupy the land. The bandits of Tun have no legends about the swamps, but do believe that riches are to be found beneath them.

There is surely reason to believe that an ancient civilization once flourished in these lands. The periodic appearance of ruins, treasures, and artifacts, dredged up by the natural upwelling of the marshes, is convincing proof, and a compelling reason for further investigation.

The ruins that rise from the swamp are odd structures of seamless stone, with fragments of metal, glass, or crystal. What little I could glean from their architecture indicated that the buildings were tall, graceful, and quite slender. Pigments still adhering to the buildings showed that they were once white.

As to the purposes of these ruins, I cannot say. Those that rise are usually little more than single walls or partial enclosures. One Marsh Drover told me of a full building that had once risen up, and described what could only be a temple, with a long, bench-lined hallway, tall windows, and graceful buttresses. The Drover also said that the building contained a number of foul-tempered zombies. Sadly, he reported that the whole of it vanished beneath the marsh only hours after it appeared.

The malevolent undead that sometimes appear in the Tun and Farsea are further evidence of what lies below. If an entire population was suddenly entombed in this manner, especially through evil magic, it is not surprising that individuals live on past death and sometimes make their way to the surface with ill intent.

The appearance of the lich Nyrax was a fascinating incident, leading me to suspect that the inhabitants of the vanished kingdom did indeed practice wicked magics. The obscure reference to the "Eight Thrones" is also intriguing, suggesting that there were more than just two kingdoms in the region, and that others may still lie beneath the marshy ground, awaiting rediscovery.

Those few items dredged from the swamp are also remarkable - fine sculptures and jewelry of gold and silver, cunningly crafted weapons, and an occasional enchanted item such as the sword used by my acolyte to slay the lich Nyrax. Other unusual enchanted items are said to have been found in the swamp, including an item that, by its description, could only have been a rod of lordly might. Regrettably, it was lost several decades ago.

Actual treasure in the form of silver and gold pieces has also been found. I saw several of these items - gold coins bearing the image of a sun on one side, and crossed staves or wands on the other. A string of strange characters was etched along the outside of the coins - characters that resembled no known alphabet in the Realms. The Drovers are superstitious about these items, and will not trade them. In addition, they refused to allow me to copy down the lettering, a request I respected.

The Vast Swamp

This dark and dangerous place is shunned by the people of Cormyr, who tell many fearsome stories about it. Several tales claim that a cabal of liches inhabits a ruined necropolis deep within the swamp, and from them flows an incessant evil, which seems to infect everything that lingers in the region. Others claim that the region's inhabitants once harbored an evil demigod and were cursed for it. It has been suggested that this so-called "demigod" is actually a vastly powerful beholder or grell Imperator. Still other legends tell of how the god Cyric once sought refuge here, and his evil presence remains.

Many famous adventurers and their companies have ventured into the Vast, but few have returned. Sylara of the Moon's Twelve, a Cormyrean adventuring band, was the sole survivor of a disastrous expedition into the swamp ten years ago. She told me of encountering an unexpectedly large number of illithids, who were apparently allied with one or more powerful eye-tyrants. Ambushed, the Twelve fled from the swamp after finding a complex of ruins easily as extensive and ancient as Myth Drannor. She claimed to have seen several murals and carvings depicting elven kings and sorcerers, suggesting that the Vast was once home to a previously-unknown elven kingdom.

As previously noted, evil humanoids of all kinds - orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, trolls, and more - are found in this swamp in abundance. Several tribes have legends that speak of a coming unification and holy war against the humans of Cormyr and surrounding regions, and it may only be a matter of time before an ambitious warlord, sorcerer, or other powerful individual decides to twist these legends to his own ends and form the Vast tribes into an army.

Several Cormyrean researchers actually claim that the Vast Swamp is expanding, and that its foul influence affects those around it. To be sure, the rate of violent acts - murder, arson, brawls, and feuds - seems to be increasing in the region. Whether this is due to the turbulent nature of modern times or to the swamp's increasingly close proximity cannot be ascertained for certain.

Those treasures that have found their way out of the Vast seem intriguing enough. Several items are clearly of elven manufacture, featuring ancient espruar runes and images familiar to scholars. These things lend credence to Sylara's story about the ruins of an ancient elven kingdom. Surely, a closer look into these things and the places they come from would produce a fresh understanding of the past, hidden from knowledge for so many years. Given what I have seen of the marshes myself, and what my friends and informants have contributed likewise, I find it hard not to lie awake nights and wonder what these now-forbidding lands have seen.

Other items have been discovered over the years - ornate crowns, scintillant armor, weapons of strange shape and manufacture, and spectacularly memorable gems. These seem to have been drawn from many different times and cultures. They may simply be booty carried into the swamp by humanoid raiders, or additional evidence of forgotten kingdoms lying below the boggy surface of the marsh.

At present, the extreme levels and variety of dangers in the Vast Swamp inhibit those who would engage in extensive exploration. Too many expeditions launched in years past have failed to return. The few researchers who bring word out of the swamp bring little good news, however alluring are the occasional treasures discovered. Yet I can foresee there may come a day when King Azoun and his advisers can afford to ignore the Vast no longer.

Elminster's Ecologies