Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Heartsblood Marsh

The imprisonment of the Tarrasque has been a catastrophe for the native ecology around the city of Salt in Wounds. This would have been an even more severe and far reaching problem if not for Heartsblood Marsh, created to act as ‘waste management’ for the outflowing essence of the Tarrasque. However, the seeds (or more exactly spores) of a tremendous threat even now bud amidst the fungal blooms and towering mushroom stalks of Heartsblood Marsh.

History of the Heartsblood Marsh

When the binders of Salzinwuun used
efficient techniques to endlessly re-slaughter the Tarrasque, the effects of its spilled blood were minimal. However, as the justification for their activities shifted from maintaining the beast’s imprisonment to economic utility (and -more covertly- enhancing its suffering); more and more magically charged blood and tissue was spilled, flowing downriver and transforming everything it touched. And as the taint crept ever closer to the sea (with unknowable consequences) the druid Afrindi Gunterhix decided that extreme measures would be required to prevent the monster's essence from further perverting the natural order.
In order to best preserve nature, Afrindi would have to create a wholly artificial and alien ecosystem designed to absorb and digest as much of the outflow of Salt in Wounds as possible. He would have to create Heartsblood Marsh.
To this end, Afrindi called and collected animals & organisms from across the world; any he thought might best process the Tarrasque’s essence into a state of magical inertia. His two most successful imports were insects and fungus, who thrived with the nutrient rich, fetid waters and humid, almost tropical air. As he tested what could best survive and thrive along the banks of the Red River, he used his magics to tweak and combine these creatures, guide the mutations enabled by the Tarrasque taint. Afrindi also changed the land, erecting a huge earthen dam to stop the river and creating thousands of arterial like channels to redirect the flow into an ever growing swamp. The creatures of Heartsblood Marsh grew large and strange amidst the blood of the Tarrasque and the manipulations of the druid, and Afridni’s own power seemed to increase even as his madness grew.
But even as he labored for decades, Afrindi never fully trusted his creation to maintain itself after his death. He well knew the impossible web-like complexity of natural systems and was unsure if he had engineering a stable configuration. As he grew on in years, he transported a small tribe of primitive grippli to Heartsblood Marsh; intending to teach them (and their descendants) to be its stewards. But the grippli made poor students, the tribe more interested savagery & superstition and eager to raid as their martial capabilities were increased thanks to the emergence of ever stronger warriors, mutated sorcerers, and blood druids.
Afrindi despaired; he knew of no other with the necessary power or skill who could be convinced to continue his work. Every druid circle on the continent saw his creation as an abomination and the gnome as a great heretic of the Green Faith.
Nearing the end of his natural life and running out of options, Afrindi twisted his druidic magic and poured himself into a new species of fungus he’d spliced together from multiple strains. He would live on, his body and spirit spread throughout fungus. The core of his essence would perch at dam he’d first constructed, the place where the flow of Tarrasque viscera was at its strongest and where he would digest & grow even as the outflow of Salt in Wounds increased. This castle sized core of fungus at the center of the Heartsblood Marsh, where Afrindi’s face can still be seen and spoken with, is the ‘Fungal Sieve’ of Heartsblood Marsh. From here, Afrindi is able to shepherd the swamp via pheromone communication. He uses spores to the capture and enslave any who would threaten his creation, and in his new form he guides the warring tribes of grippli who worship Afrindi/the Fungal Sieve as a God.

Hazards and Creatures

Huge insects roam, forever feasting on the blood rich fungus, one another, or the unwary. Savage grippli ‘rule’ the swamp, many empowered by weird magic. And at the core of it all, Afrindi sits; his body spun into endless knots of fungus. What remains of his druidic impulse to stop the Tarrasque taint wars with his baser fungal nature; he suppresses the urge to spore and spread and claim ever more for his insatiable need to grow. Most grippli of Heartsblood Marsh worship Afrindi, while their high priests (in addition to half a dozen adventurers and investigators) are infested with his spores and transformed into servitors through which he can most directly pursue his goals.
Heartsblood Marsh is a bizarre place. Mushroom shoots climb hundreds of feet into the sky, and the air is alternately thick with clouds of spores of buzzing insects. Disease is rampant, and for that reason alone most travelers avoid it.

Want more monster inspiration? Check out some of the monsters around Salt in Wounds!

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