On the shores of Lake Kelestra sits a humble village... or so it appears to those sailing by. Behind layers of vines and thick undergrowth lies the hidden swamp town of Ashmire, haven for amphibious races and those who seek quieter lifestyles. Far from most other civilisation and cut off by the dense swamp they live in, Ashmire's citizens rarely see the outside world unless they take a ship across the enormous Lake Kelestra, clamber into the gnomish airships that make their homes in the treetops, or venture through kilometres of swamp, mire and mosquitoes - and most are perfectly content with this.
Being located in the middle of a swamp, the town is constructed to deal with its dangers. Houses are generally constructed in trees, with bridges connecting them. Those who live on the ground tend to be of amphibious races, such as gripplis and gillmen, but even they use wooden slats to make treading the muddy swampwaters easier. Virtually no homes go without heavy use of net to keep out swamp bugs, and the town's few guards are extremely familiar with chasing away the larger creatures that lurk nearby.
The town's mayor, a resilient half-elven woman, is close friends with Lake Kelestra's secretive guardian, a bronze dragon. Since their friendship began (in the woman's youth), Ashmire has fallen under the dragon's protection and, as a result, they have had significantly less problems with their local wildlife. Fey also live within the borders of the town in harmony with its usual residents, quite content to prank, entertain and enjoy the company of their mortal friends.
As usual farms don't function properly in a swampy environment, the town's druids and shamans are vital for replenishing the food supply during the cold months. Cuisine generally involves fruits grown on swamp trees and strange vegetables that grow in the swampy earth, fish from the lake, and other raw meat harvested from the environment (including snakemeat). Trade with the outside world is most welcomed as it allows the citizens to obtain herbs, spices and alchemical supplies that aren't native to the region.
The population is mostly human, grippli, gillmen, elf and undine, but a number of half-elves and half-orcs find the lack of prejudice here relaxing. Samsarans and more peaceful-minded orcs have settled here in the past, as well.
Tax in Ashmire can be avoided by paying it through service to the town, which often involves crossing Lake Kelestra, repairing communal pathways, guard duty, or working in the 'farms'. All use of Ashmiran tax money is documented in a book in the mayor's office, for any to see. This process, coined by a long-dead town mayor, helps maintain the relaxed, open and helpful nature of the town.
The town has no obvious walls, but guards (both mortal and fey) patrol regularly. A series of traps set on the outskirts of the town alert the citizens to any oncoming threats and delay (or destroy, if they're unlucky) their approach.
As mentioned before, outside trade helps the town find variety in cuisine and obtain other materials such as paper and metal. Traditional crafting methods passed down throughout generations of swampdwellers mean that the Ashmiran crafts, whether they be clothes, leather bracelets, bags or weapons, are desired as exotic luxury items, and their rare environment allows them to produce strange foods that many others in the Empire pay a fortune to obtain. Their shamans and druids also serve to provide magical and cursed items that sell for fortunes, and the few visitors the town receives often seek the aid of the voodoo they sometimes practice.
Communal food warehouses, bridges between homes, waterwheels and even a water purification centre (run by a kind undine druid) are some examples of Ashmire's infrastructure. Their unusual methods of farming also belong here: feyfolk and mortals work together to fly through trees to harvest fruit as odd arrangements of rope, wooden slats and fey-altered vegetables grow in the muddy waters below.
Ashmire was established as a small, long-forgotten village in the annals of history. It rose to prominence and grew as a settlement once an adventuring noble named Ashe crashed his boat and was rescued by those who lived within. The blessings he paid the village afforded it the chance to grow, and Ashe's frequent visits to the friends he'd made there brought it to the attention of other amphibious races (such as the undines). As time went on, shamans and practitioners of Juju and voodoo arts found the swampy environment to be perfect for their spells and potions due to the ingredients found within, and Ashe's mire became their haven. The mixing of peaceful grippli culture with the eager nature of immigrants and the natural magic of druids, shamans and the occasional witch helped the town grow into the community-focused wellspring of peace that it remains today.
As mentioned, Ashmire sits at the southern reaches of Lake Kelestra
, in the Ubukhu Swamp
. It's mostly concealed from view by the dense vines and trees, but travelling to the treetops - a feat made easier by the town's many bridges and rope-ladders - provides a brilliant view across the swamp's upper layer and into the fog-shrouded realm of Tenaerul