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October 18, 2008, 12:28 am

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The Rotwood Marshes

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"It was like being lost in a nightmare… no sky, no solid ground, and it always felt like you were being watched!"

The Rotwood Marshes are to a swamp what a bayou is to rolling hills. The sky cannot be seen for the dense cover of rotting vegetation, and the swamps beyond the decrepit and crumbling paths wait menacingly to suck down any travelers careless enough to stumble sideways a mere step or two.

The marshes were not always like this. At one point, they were normal swamplands, brooding in their own way but not any more or less dangerous than any other. However, that changed when a necromancer of moderate skill, basing his decision on the seclusion of the swamp, decided to take residence in it’s depths. With the aid of undead workers toiling around the clock, using stone and wood pried from the swamp itself, the necromancer was able to piece together a small keep in a relatively short amount of time.
Skipping a few years forward, this same necromancer has greatly increased in both skill and ambition. Where once he was content with the mere ability to study his craft without fending off pitchfork brandishing mobs, he now considered it an insult that he needed to hide in the fens. He began to have his undying minions make excursions, slaying and kidnapping any small groups they might come across. No corpses were left behind. When a small band of would-be heroes set off to investigate these mysterious disappearances, they expected perhaps a pack of wolves, maybe a small band of goblins. What they certainly did not expect, however, was to encounter a sizable fortress deep in the heart of the swamp. The necromancer had never told his minions to stop building, and as he amassed more of them, the pace of construction also increased.
All but one of the adventurers was slaughtered, the single survivor running from the woods in a manner that befits one fleeing from the forces of death. When the adventurer returned to civilization, he passed on word of the keep before succumbing to his infected wounds. It was decided that something needed to be done. Small strike forces were assembled, and dispatched into the swamp. None returned, although their armor was later found neatly piled just outside the edge of the boundaries of the swamp, bearing the marks of battle and dried blood. Word was passed on to the King swiftly.
The King, assuming it to be another backwater mage causing trouble, simply looked for mercenaries. After sending in a number of independent groups, including the somewhat renowned four-man group The Scarlet Band, the lack of anyone returning from the swamp began to suggest that it might be a bigger problem.
The King decided that it was time to decisively end this issue, and to that end dispatched a platoon of 50 of his soldiers. When the men arrived at the swamp, they found that a cobblestone path had been laid down, almost mockingly inviting them into the swamp.
It is now believed that the sending that platoon was the turning point of the swamp, and that, had a larger force been sent at that time, things may have gone differently. As is, the platoon was defeated, and the necromancer’s forces almost doubled in size. At this point, the fortress had become a very large and very defensible structure. Combined with the fact that no siege weapon could hope to be transported into the swamp, it became an almost unbreakable fortress.
As more forces were sent in, the necromancer gained more and more resources. He began to experiment with new forms of undead constructs, encasing the bones of multiple men into enormous suits of armor before animating them for example, the end result being an armored juggernaut twice the size of a man. It eventually became clear that soldiers were not the answer to this problem.
To that end, the King, becoming increasingly distraught, sent out the word that any mage who could bring this nightmare to an end would



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