Early Autumn – Among the goblins
By the miracle of fate, my first days in the Marshes brought me along the blessed path laid out for me by Ieya. A curated, but narrow corridor of beauty that convinced me that such beauty must have extended far beyond the limited horizon of my vision. In reality, the vast majority of this land is a sunken, stagnant cesspool of decay, with life clinging on by its filthy fingernails, thwarted always by the poisonous water, the noxious fungal spores, and the savage, half-starved reptilian creatures that dominate the food chain.
I have had to develop many new skills to stay alive here; the goblins are helpful, but unpredictable, and I had to learn the hard way that neither their intentions, nor actions, are guided by the Brightsong. Stained by the Gloom, they rely upon their bestial natures for survival, their instincts honed by a life of danger. Ieya has a certain power over them, and without her protection I could never have survived more than a few days. Yet this little community she leads is far from simple savagery: I have seen them build houses for one another, sing songs for the phases of the moon, craft cloth from the bark of trees, and even train the great reptiles to guard their homes. The goblins fear Ieya, but they also love her. She treats them as her equal, she does not shun them for their Stained skin, she does not exile them as punishment, but trains their minds to greater tasks, uniting them to the common purpose of their mutual survival.
Yet, however much the goblins fear Ieya, they fear the whispering fog more. I recall my brief encounter with a Gloomtree in the Vareyan Wood, and the chilling nightmares that haunted me for weeks afterwards. Here in the Grey Marshes, such nightmares trudge through the mud every night, unhindered by the Brightsong. Worse than the walking trees, is the fog itself: a creeping evil, capable of poisoning the lungs, of burning the skin and eyes, or crippling the mind.
My first impression, that the Marshes contained no stone ruins, proved incorrect. The traces of prior civilisations are here, but often submerged in the ponds and rivers, or covered so completely by creeping vines and fallen trees that they are nearly invisible.
The ashkasi scholar Nevik Seyah, wrote about his tentative exploration of the Marshes, and of their prior inhabitants, the naspani.
“The naspani lived in the Marshes, using their natural agility to navigate the trees. When the Gloom came they fled the Grey Marshes, giving it up to the Gloom forever. They joined the Freefolk then and have lived in civilised lands ever since, though they retain their boating ways. They've never forgotten their homeland, though. Many expeditions have been attempted in the past, but few have penetrated far within. Some who returned bore Stain, and others were found with their minds scattered like petals on a breeze.”