'Don't you go foolin around in the fens buy. Moeder Moeras don't care none if you mean no offence or just want to fill your wicker creel with fish. She'll have your guts for fishnets and your bones for soup.'
Paulis the Riverguide
Hush now, something wicked comes, slouching through the reeds and boggy pools. Moeder Moeras, Mother Swamp, she's been here for longer than we have counted years, and she'll be here long after we are gone. Wander to close or cross one of hers and your time might come up a might sooner than expected. No one knows what she really is, or how old she is. A few things stay the same, telling to telling, she is old as mud, stooped like a crickback yew tree. Moss grows either on her hair, or as it. She carries a walking stick, leaning on it while she cackles and whistles to the swamp birds. She has a whole clan of swamp folk he beckon to her call, all as loathsome and fetid as she is. They eat humans as quick as river dragons or frogs. Best to stay out of Moeder Moeras' domain, better safe than sorry that is
Mother Winn, Applebottom Matron
Moeder Moeras is indeed a stooped figure with long weedy hair that is thick with moss and lichen. She was once one of the Loru Valsharris, the most beautiful of the plantkin, but she has long since been changed and for the worse. Her appearance is almost human, as her hatred for humanity has caused her to become most like that which she hates. Her fingers are thin and gnarled, with splintery fingertips, her face seems a half rotten leering mask. She has three expressions, each a facet of her long seated insanity. The most common is the catatonic stare, where she will simply stand for days and even weeks, simply looking across a glade or at a stand of black swamp trees, or even into a heap of rotting vegetation. What occurs within the bitter Loru during these long periods is unknown. The second face is wracked with sorrow, and Moeder Moeras wanders the swamp, reaching for trees long rotted away, weeping and mumbling their green and woody names. The last face is surely the most dangerous, as it is a face of rage, the bark splitting and peeling to show an almost skull-like countenance. It is during these brief episodes that she rouses the swampfolk out of the dens and murders and maims those who wander too close to her territory.
Che' trees, day usse to be some plenny of tem. We no bout den, we no chere yet. Che' folk roun chere no happy wit usse, mad usse scull doun to che' moera. We fien Moeder Moeras, an she be happy to usse pike git her flars and makke her pretty while she dream. Sommat she tell bout dem gon trees, and she hatem dem otta humes. She hatem right mean.
Dommat, Swampfolk trapper
Moeder Moeras was once one of the Loru Valsharris, a close kin to the treefolk but made of flowering plants and vines and scrub rather than mighty trees. During her youth the swamp did not exist, rather it was an arm of a greater forest, a massive place of ancient trees and forest glens that had never seen the tread of man or elf. but given enough time, there is no bulwark of nature that man cannot penetrate or overcome, for even a short amount of time. Men came, riding on giant creatures much like the river beavers, but the size and girth of horses, and they felled many trees. They worked tirelessly making the arm of the forest into a ruin of splintered stumps and back flooded mudholes.
Most of the lumber was sent away downriver, while that which was considered unsuitable was used to build dams across the river, as it was long prone to flooding. A few treefolk resisted, attacking the men and their axes, but the men countered with fire, and their long axes, and with rare and strange magics that turned hale woodkin into shivvered hulks or in one instance turned Stonebark the Hornbeam quite literally into stone. It was then that Moeder Moeras began to change into what she is now.
The old swamp hag shuffled through several stagnant pools, her dress of tattered reeds and snakegrass swirled in the water as the ancient Loru heaving her bulk up and out of the water. Her claw-like rooty feet were thick with dank mud as she found her goal, a heap of broken rocks and weathered branches. She closed her eyes, and could see the glade as it had been, the stands of Ash trees, and the thick carpets of goldenrod and honeysuckle, she had once worn those warm summer clothes in her body, her hair had once been gold in the wind. Now, greasy blobs of oil and water dripped from limp hemlock roots. No, her new body suited her just find. Milky tears welled in her eyes as she ran a thorny hand down the side of Stonebark's face, his visage still pulled into a brutal roar of anger. The stone was still as smooth as she remembered his bark being. Such a proud tree, and so many he slew before the sorcerer ended it with his alien magics. Only a few branches were left, the storms had broken a few more. Her trips to visit her old lover had turned the carpet of stone leaves into dull grey powder, and there were branches piled about, each the same cold gray stone. All that was left was his mighty axe-scarred trunk and a few of the thickest branches
Eventually the strange men were driven back by Moeder Moeras and the survivors of the forest, a few treefolk who by virtue of thick water soaked bark were immune to flame and steel, and the wild things that heeded their call. The men retreated, but their work and damage was already done. Moeder Moeras discarded the flowers and bright things from her body as the land around her changed despite her efforts to preserve it. Hemlock and poison ivy replaced daisies and goldenrod, nightshade and thorned vines took the place of the healer's vervain and blackberries.
The swampfolk ain't no good, every last one of them is rotten to the core, worse than tinkers and traveling folk because those types will pull up and leave when they ain't wanted. No, swampfolk stay on, the only way to get rid of them is to put them to the axe and the sword and the hanging rope. That'll put the fear into them and send them running back to the swamp that spewed them out.
Elder Framlin, Applebottom Citizen
Until the swampfolk came, Moeder Moeras was rather impotent outside her immediate location. Lucky for the folk, she was lost, deep in reverie, when they found her. Recognizing that the swamp was a place they could survive, and that the poison festooned hag was it's guardian they covered her with garlands of flowers and held a festival in her honor. Since then, she has looked upon them with a kind, yet suspicious eye. These folk are not like the folk who ruined the forest, and they live with it, rather than at it's expense. They eat the flesh of fish, and frogs, and the river dragons, they use the dead wood that could make the swamp deeper, and they keep the other humans at bay.
The swampfolk are excellent hunters and trappers in the swamp, and carry on a small amount of commerce with the local communities, mainly trading fresh fish, meat, and cured animal hides for the few tools and food goods they need. They are armed with bows and wooden weapons, and knives made of bone and antler. As a primitive sort of people, most settled folk look down on the swampfolk. This isn't helped by the fact that most swampfolk have no aversion to theft, drunkenness, or public assault. This lack of what is considered proper decorum, and the general mystery that surrounds what the swampfolk do in the swamps that they can't do in the townships has started all sorts of rumors. It is common for people to accuse them of rape, incest, murder, black sorcery, demon summoning, cannibalism, and heresy. For the most part, these are false. While there is a certain amount of incest, due to a small breeding pool, and in rare circumstances there is ritual cannibalism in the case of the death of important figures in the community. The case of theft is however quite accurate.
Stonebark Amulet - Possessing a necklace with one of Stonebark's petrified stone leaves is a safe passage through the swamp. This is because only Moeder Moeras has any of the unbroken leaves, and only gives them as tokens to her swampfolk to give as gifts to outer folk who are respectful and worthy of them. They have no magical or special abilities.
The Cloak of Poisons - Moeder Moeras' mantle is made of a carpet of toxic and poisonous plants. As such she has easy access to any plant based poison, and her very touch is poisonous. Only metal or magical armors can protect against this poisonous shell, and then it is only temporary.
Moeder Moeras is in essence a tragic figure, turned to the dark side by the actions of man. While this gives her a sympathetic angle, it doesn't change the fact that she is a very unstable and homicidal plantkin who would like nothing better to see all of mankind, the swampfolk excepted, buried in the ground as fertilizer for a new generation of trees. The old woman of the swamp doesn't enter combat with any frequency, instead she prefers ambushes, brushing foes with poison touch, and fading away to wait for the toxins to do their work. She is quite stealthy, and has a special hatred for spellcasters.
Riverside Rescue - Several young boys have vanished into Moeder Moeras' domain, last seen on a thin raft. The boys are the sons of some important folk (maybe even the PCs to up the ante) and the PCs are enlisted to help find the boys in the swamp before they run afoul of a river dragon (crocodile, or a non-intelligent medium sized reptile predator) the swamp folk, or Gods forbid, Moeder Moeras herself.
Going on a Monster Hunt - The loggers have returned, ready to reap a bounty of yew and cypress trees, the main reason they flooded the forest several generations ago. The PCs are enlisted to assist in protecting loggers while they work, or as loggers themselves. There is a bounty being offered by the Axeman's Guild to bring back the head of Moeder Moeras, a very handsome bounty.
Wizard Shopping List - Wizards, always needing hard to find and dangerous spell components, have enlisted the PCs to enter the swamp and return with several plant samples, which would be of little difficulty and bark, branches, and leaves, intact if possible, from the petrified corpse of Stonebark the Hornbeam. Not only must the PCs deal with the hazards of the swamp, but must find Moeder Moeras' most private spot that she will defend with all of her considerable capability.
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? Responses (8)-8
Another good submission-When Dryads Go Bad.
Sort of, the Loru and the Dryads are not quite the same thing. Dryads, by most definitions, are the spirits of trees. The Loru are the collective spirit of the many smaller plants, most notably vines and flowering types.
Excellent Scras! Love those forest encounters!
A good one, Scras.
As others have said before me; good work, Scras!
Stonebark. A touch of lost romance adds miles to the tragedy. Great submission.
Started with the typical wood creature protecting her domain but this one has a lot more to it pushing it into a solid danger. The Swampfold befriending them are a good touch as are the ability for the Swampfolk to mark others that can be trusted. Good one!
I also like the additional depth given to the Guardian theme. I also enjoyed the examples of local dialect.