The town overlooks Ferrier's Fen, a vast, mist-shrouded wetland between the Great Wood, the Steplands, and the Manmarch. Maker-ruins can be seen poking out of the fens, as well as huge, ancient willow trees. The drums of ganagoeg (savage, scaly beast-men) beat through the night, and horrors ripple beneath the murky waters.
Many would call the Marshedgers insane to live so close to such a dangerous place, and maybe they are. But long ago, some of them learned the ways of the fen, and of bendis root, which (dried and aged and burned) keeps unclean things at bay.
|map by Jason Lutes|
Size +1 (Town, ~700-750 people), Population +1 (Growing), Prosperity +0 (Moderate), Defenses +1 (Guard)
Trade: Lygos (fine goods, spices, etc.); Gordin's Delve (metal, tools); Northern Manmarchers (timber, fur, amber); Stonetop (whisky, fur); Hillfolk (horses, fur, meat)
Resources: Farming (wheat, hemp, wild rice, herbs); foraging (herbs, peat, clay); trades (textiles, pottery, rope); marketplace, windmill
Parts of Town
|Not quite like this, but, y'know|
Marshedge is built on two hills overlooking Ferrier's Fen. A river (slow, shallow, wide) flows past the town's west edge. The Highway (one of the Maker's ancient roads) runs through the town. A second hill, to the east, boasts a windmill.
Older, more established buildings are half-timber constructions in-filled with wattle and daub, sometimes brick. Newer, poorer buildings are stacked timber or wooden planks, possibly on a brick foundation.
A wooden palisade runs around the Mire. Another runs around Low Town and Dropoff. A third runs around High Town.
The Bridge: Where the Highway crosses the river, one would expect there to be a bridge made by the Makers. One would be wrong. There's a bridge, but it was built early in the town's history, only a few hundred years ago. Before that, the tales say, the Highway just dropped away into the reeds. The current bridge is mostly wood, just wide enough for a single wagon, built up on feet of crudely-stacked pavestones and mud. It often requires repairs. A guard station sits on the town-side of the bridge and collects tolls from any who would cross.
High Town: Top of the main hill, "center" of town. Old Maker-ruins dot the hill; homes, the council hall, and garrison are all built on or into them. Surrounded by a well-made, fortified palisade. Where the oldest, wealthiest, most established families live. There's a nice (but small) inn up there.
The Mire: Lowest part of town, extending into the marshlands on the river's edge, and stretching around to the north of the hill. Wooden walkways (slick and wet) between shallow bogs of wild rice. A palisade against the marsh, dotted with constantly burning braziers of bendis root. Smell of mud and rot and human refuse. Constant buzz and bite of insects. Squalid homes on the slope down.
Marketplace: built on and around a wayside on the Highway (one of the big circular sections of paving stones that dot the Maker's roads). The center of the market is build on (and protected by) the road's magic, but aside from a statue to Old Shane Ferrier that's been erected in the middle, no one builds permanent structures on the pavestones. A couple inns and stables are built right around the edge, as well a handful of pubs and permanent stores. Market day is every 10 days, and always a big to-do.
Millers Hill: A way's east of the main hill, overlooking the fields. Boasts an old, low Maker "tower" that was long ago converted into a windmill. The whole thing makes people very uneasy, irrationally so. The miller's children meet farmers or merchants and base of the hill and haul grain and flour back and forth. Everyone thinks the miller's family is strange and unsettling.
The Fields: sprawling out to the west of town, fields of wheat dotted with homes nestled up against the Highway and the occasional wooden shed holding tools out amidst the crop. Mostly tenant farmers; the lands are owned by the old families.
PeopleBrennan: until just a few years ago, Brennan and his Claws were bandits preying on caravans coming up from the South without the protection of the roads. Eventually, the Marshedge council decided it'd be cheaper to pay the bandits to guard the town than to pay the blood and treasure to fight them off. Brennan's cagey enough to see the angles, and is now probably the single most powerful man in Marshedge. (Instinct: to maintain or improve his hold on the town)
The Guard: about 20 strong. A dozen used to be Brennan's old gang, the Claws. They're a mixed lot of Marshedge misfits, northern Manmarchers, and southern scum (instinct: to lord over others). The rest of the Guard is split between new recruits (instinct: to avoid trouble & danger) and loyalists (instinct: to protect the town from all threats). There are... tensions.
- One of the Claws, originally from the Manmarch. Quiet, tough, and dangerous. Not a bad guy by nature, but utterly loyal to Brennan and perfectly willing to do his dirty work
- Another one of the Claws. Grew up an orphaned waif in Marshedge. Weaselly and mean; clever, but lazy. Uses big words incorrectly.
- A young new recruit. Couldn't get an apprenticeship and lacks the patience for farming. Just wanted to earn some coin and start a family (which he did; a wife and two young daughters).
- A member of the old guard, quiet and unassuming. Fought against Brennan and the Claws back before they took charge. Has a two sons, two daughters, and two grand kids. (Lost his wife a few years back.) Bristles at the "scum" in the guard these days.
- Matriarch of the Ferrier family; genuinely concerned with the well-being of her children and grandchildren; genuinely callous and uncaring about what that means for anyone else.
- A minor scion of one of the old families, bored but brilliant. Has been dabbling in arcana. Pays a fen-walker handsomely to guide them out in the mists and explore old Maker ruins.
- The young heir-apparent of one of the Old Families. Ambitious yet kind. Dislikes Brennan greatly. Wants to greatly improve the lot of the farmers, despite the costs to her family.
- A house servant, much abused by their master, plotting murder.
The Council: Marshedge's governing body (instinct; to bicker, infight, and accomplish nothing). Formed of the heads of the Four Families, the miller (if they bother to show), and a representative from each guild (including the fenwalkers but excluding the farmers, obviously). Brennan doesn't have a vote but attends meetings and mostly bullies them around.
The Guilds: Each of the major trades (weavers, potters, glassblowers, and herbalists) has a guild that serves to arrange for apprenticeships, resolve disputes, protect each other, and represent the trade on the council. They also try to keep new competition out of town. Around 150 individuals work in the guild trades, including family, apprentices, and assistants. (Instinct: to continue business as usual.)
- An herbalist who grows and sells narcotics, secretly, against the guild's rules
- A young glassblower, talented and innovative, chaffing against tradition
- A weaver, deeply in debt and plagued with misfortune, blaming their woes on an unnamed sorcerer
- A spurned apprentice, dabbling in dark arts and sending spirits against their old master
The Fen-walkers: Around 20 individuals who ply the fen: gathering herbs, hunting game, cutting peat, harvesting clay. Most have developed strange behaviors, obsessions, or tics. Some bear strange mutations, which they try to hide. Fen-walkers rarely marry; they pick apprentices from unwanted or orphaned children. Attrition rate is high. (Instinct: to do what needs doing.)
The Fen-walkers have a guild, and thus a seat on the council, and technically they are a privileged class, following in the footsteps of Old Shane Ferrier. They can demand the assistance of any resident of the town, though they rarely do. Fen-walkers rarely come up from the Mire, and their Guild-head almost never attends council meetings.
There's a little-known clause in the town charter that gives fen-walkers the right and responsibility to execute anyone found to be "corrupted by vyle spirits, or congressing with such." In truth, they most often exercise this duty upon their own numbers, quietly and without fanfare. A corrupted fen-walker simply doesn't return from an outing.
- A veteran fen-walker, hiding the corruption of his flesh and soul
- A young orphan, family dead of flux, recently apprenticed to a fen-walker and utterly terrified.
- A young fen-walker who's stumbled on a Maker-ruin, filled with danger and treasure
- The rare spouse of a fen-walker, constantly fretting, and their young child
Lesser trades: Maybe 50 or so individuals (artisans, family, assistants, or apprentices) are involved in the "lesser" trades: milling, carpentry, smithing, cobbling, baking, midwifery, hostlery, tanning, etc. These are the trades that keep Marshedge running, but not the ones that generate its wealth. Almost all of these trades have some financial backing from the old families, and thus are somewhat in their pockets. Except for the miller, none of them have seats on the council. (Instinct: to look out for themselves.)
- The miller and his family, who everyone says must be mad, and who in fact keep a troubling secret locked beneath the mill
- A midwife, at least as herb-wise as any herbalist in the guild, but denied membership; knows secrets that they don't
- A smith, who apprenticed in Gordin's Delve and then came back scarred and bitter
- A publican and brewer, once a scholar from Lygos, on a peg leg, eager for news of the wider world
Merchants: Around 25 individuals (including their families and hired help) are involved in mercantile pursuits—buying, selling, storing, and transporting goods. Some of them are quite wealthy and have homes in High Town, but all of them are beholden to the old families who finance much of their trade. Most of these merchants are natives of Marshedge, but a significant minority (maybe 10 or so?) hail from the Manmarch or Lygos or even Stonetop to set up shop.
The merchants maintain shops, organize trips to and from other steadings, and buy, store, and sell trade goods throughout town. (Instinct: to seize opportunity.)
- A shopkeep and grocer, his store abutting the market, bitterly hateful of anyone from Stonetop.
- A big, scarred Manmarcher, settled in town some 20 years back. The only merchant other Manmarchers will trade with, but someone from their past is still looking for blood.
- A wealthy merchant, who has something the PCs desperately want, willing to trade it for exclusive rights to the buy Stonetop's whisky
Farmers & Laborers: The rest of the townsfolk (400 or so) are tenant farmers, laborers, and their families. They work the fields and the Mire, keep livestock, help with buildings, etc. Some are hired as muscle for merchants, the guilds, and the old families. (Instinct: to get by.)
A handful of tenant farmers recently formed a "Farmer's Guild" (instinct: to improve their lot) but no one takes them seriously, not even the other farmers. If there was any real risk of them unifying the farmers, the old families would first try to bribe the leaders, and then would have any holdouts violently eliminated.
- An idealistic organizer of the Farmer's Guild
- An old, respected farmer who isn't having any of that "organizing" nonsense
- One of the Hillfolk, accursed by an encounter at Three-Coven lake, trying to get by as a laborer
- A farmer's child, bright and wise beyond their years, who sees and can speak to spirits
- An older farmer, who's children all died fighting Brennan and his Claws back when they were bandits, now bitter and dreaming of bloody vengeance, no matter who gets hurt
Some problems that the town might need to deal with.
Fire, flood, and earthquake: Much of the town is prone to fire (wood, thatch), and the Low Town in particular has suffered serious fires as recently as 20 years ago. The Mire and the Bridge are vulnerable to flooding, which can happen in spring after a winter of heavy snowfalls or just an exceptionally wet summer. Earthquakes plague the entire region, and while they rarely cause major problems by themselves, they've been known to cause mudslides that ruin parts of the Mire and damage buildings in Dropoff. (The worst part of about earthquakes is the shifting that happens in Ferrier's Fen, making the fen-walkers relearn routes; and sometimes, new ruins emerge from the mud and draw the ganagoeg to them.)
Ganagoeg: the scaly beast-men of Ferrier's Fen are the bane of the fen-walkers and the terror that the town tries to forget. According to the fen-walkers, they congregate around certain Maker-ruins, and will try to take captives alive. What they do with the captives is unclear—some say they are eaten alive, others that they are fed to some monstrous thing deep in the fen, and others say that they are kept alive and drugged and constantly bled to feed their darksome gods. But everyone agrees that they have no interest in a dead human, only a living one they can drag off.
There have been times in the town's history when the ganagoeg grew so bold as to raid the Mire, despite the bendis root braziers. No one living remembers such a raid, but everyone knows that it's happened, and that it could happen again.
The Willow Witches: Ferrier's Fen is dotted with willow trees, some of which are truly ancient and massive. The fen-walkers know many uses for the bark, leaves, and seeds of these trees, but they always approach them cautiously because of the Willow Witches.
Willow Witches appear near these trees, especially the most ancient ones. They might appear as beautiful maidens, hideous crones, or anything in between. They can see through the eyes of any bird in the fen. They desire human infants, though it's unclear why (some say to eat, others say to plant as new willow trees.) They revel in crudity, crassness, and disgust, and love to inflict cruel, body-warping curses on mortals. But, as any fen-walker will insist, they cannot harm one who treats them with unfailing courtesy, manners, and respect.
One always encounters either one Willow Witch or three. Its not clear how many Willow Witches there actually are. Some say there are dozens, as many as one per willow tree in the fen. Others say there are only three, and they might appear at any willow tree they wish. Still others say that there is one such witch, and she sometimes appears as three, and don't think about it overmuch.
In truth, the Willow Witches (however many they are) are fae beings closely associated with the fen. They despise the ganagoeg but do little about them. They are amused by humanity, and enjoy their discomfort and even their suffering, but respect the rules of hospitality and etiquette and thus can be bargained with. They know much about what happens in and around the fen, and many of its sunken secrets, too.
Manmarchers: The people of the northern Manmarch are warlike and prone to blood feud among themselves, but if they wanted to, they could unite and overrun Marshedge with little difficulty. Fortunately, the Manmarchers have the healthy fear of water that all sane folk should, and have little interest in occupying a town so close to the water's edge. But if someone united them, they might think little of pillaging the town and razing it...
Curses: Ferrier's Fen is dotted with Maker-ruins, and a sprawling ruined city lies on the shore of the Dread River only 3 days to the east by the Highway. It s not uncommon for scholars and "adventurers" explore these ruins and come back to Marshedge with cursed artifacts (or just curses). These items might just get passed on some to some unwitting merchant, or they be carried away by whatever fool dug them up. But, often, they cause misery, terror, and horror until a fen-walker takes notice and quietly deals with the problem.