The Darkwater River is not just a river, but an entire river system based around the great lake, Diamond Lake. All rivers, and their tributaries, going into and out of the lake are called Darkwater. None of them have formal names though people identify each of them as a branch.
What Is The Darkwater River?
Took a load o' cypress logs up into the Nar. My, what a row!
Nar means the northern-most western branch of Darkwater. In fact, most folks simply refer to the entire system as the Darkwaters. Miribex maps only mark the Darkwater branches. Smaller yet still navigable rivers feeding into these branches are marked on river charts for each of the branches. Towns and cities on the Kingdom map can look to be well away from the Darkwaters, yet still will often have a small harbor where merchant keelboats can come and go along these smaller rivers. A good and proper skipper or captain will have a barrel full of river charts kept as up to date as they can afford. The many branches of the Darkwater serves the human Kingdom of Miribex as a grand highway for travel and trade. From jolly boats for fishers to keelboats for merchants and riverfolk to river ships for the major trading companies and noble ventures, there is always something floating, sailing, or rowing along the Darkwaters.
Darkwater River Hazards
"Can't see much with this mist, cap'n," the helmsman complained to Captain Sharpes. "It'll burn off now that the sun's out, Spooks," Captain Sharpes told his nervous helmsman. He pointed to the bright spot in the thin veil of mist surrounding them. "Don't like not seeing clear." Spooks persisted. "This part of the river's tricky on clear days." He scowled at the mist. "There's tales of wickedly things happening in the mist." Captain Sharpes rolled his eyes. If Spooks wasn't such a master Darkwater helmsman, he'd have gotten rid of his whining ages ago. Probably chained to an anchor. "We're not going back to the main channel." Captain Sharpes told him. "The Miri Marines're watching for us." "I don't know, cap'n." The helmsman whined. Captain Sharpes took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slow. He said nothing more though his hand twitched towards the cutlass sheathed at his belt.Rapids, where the waters flow fast and shallow over great jumbles of rocks, can smash a boat or hang up a ship. Over the centuries, deep channels have been dug through these rapids to allow for boats and ships to pass unscathed. Even so, it takes a knowing hand at the helms and rudders to keep to these channels while fighting the currents. Shifting silt bars where branches merge or enter Diamond Lake are also a constant hazard. The locals work hard dredging these places every spring right after the winter runoff has settled down. These are generally a seasonal danger. The most dangerous hazards are not made by the riverway itself. There are riverfolk who have taken to piracy (under the watchful approval of The Hand). There are hungry river lions who, if their pride is numerous enough, will hunt people on watercraft. Perhaps the most terrifying of all are the mysterious Bander-laggin, who will slip into some misty bend of a river and ambush the unwary.
The protection of trade upon the Darkwaters is so important to the Kingdom, that the King commands an impressive river navy called the Miribex River Mariners. These Mariners, most often called Miri Marines, patrol all the branches of the Darkwater as well as Diamond Lake in well-armed river ships. The Miri Marines are the bane of any would-be pirates should they ever get caught. Still, the Darkwaters cover hundreds of river miles and, even though the Marines command many ships, they just cannot be everywhere at once.
Other folk live along the Darkwaters, though their numbers are fewer than the humans whose realm this is. Coming from their colder lands to the northeast are the Brahmaur, a large bovine folk who seek to work on boats or serve as sellswords. Gheni caravaners, with their massive woollyrusses, have taken to using those beasts to pull along barges. On these barges are their wagons, strapped down but still ready to roll off should they wish to journey beyond the reaches of the Darkwaters. Finally, there are the troublesome Nisslings, known mostly as deadly pests to those who live near any lands a tribe might call theirs. When they prove too much of a threat for trade to travel by, the Marines will go in and cull their numbers.
The Non-Human Peoples On The Darkwaters
Humans have lived along the Darkwater River and its tributaries for thousands of years. Most were of the Skiven, a hunter-gatherer culture. Others were of the Mundliers, an agricultural culture that prefered permanent settlements. The arrival of the Gheni some 3400 years ago changed the native humans way of life. Inspired by the gheni, humans first became explorers, then settlers. They expanded out along all the lesser rivers to the Shear Mountains of the west, to the Tugi Mountains of the east and as far south as the Wildlands, the southern limits of the Darkwaters. As the humans expanded, they developed better and bigger boats until, 300 years after the arrival of the Gheni, the first river ships were made and humans began to explore the Great Ocean beyond the coastal waters. Human took to living on oceanic islands, forming new kingdoms to match the kingdoms of the Darkwaters in wealth and prestige. Then, about 1500 years ago, the Druidican elves marched into the Darkwaters region, looking to purge the Gheni as well as the humans who could remember that the Gheni existed. Not one kingdom along the Darkwaters was strong enough to repel the invaders. For the first time, every human kingdom came together and formed one great alliance. With the speed of their boats, it was possible to rally their forces and carry out counterstrikes against the Druidican Elves. It took fifty years. but the humans, with their Gheni friends, finally drove out the Druidicans. After such a great victory, people returned to the comfort of their own kingdoms, longing to return to life before the invasion. This, however, did not last more than a handful of years as the Grinannti, a rugged folk standing ten feet tall with four arms marched from the west, out of the Shear Mountains. Savage, brutal, and with a taste for any flesh smaller than themselves, they ravaged humans and Gheni alike. Once again, the Human kingdoms formed their great alliance. They also hired Brahmaur mercenaries to aid in the fighting. This time, it only took five years to not only repel the Grinannti threat but to drive them to the western slopes of the Shear Mountains. By the end of the Grinannti Invasion, the Darkwater Kingdoms decided that their Great Alliance would become one great kingdom. Each of the original kingdoms turned into a dukedom that would continue to be ruled by their own ways and traditions. All of the seven kings gave a letter from their names to be used in the making of a new name for this great kingdom. And so, the Miribex Kingdom came to be. One further declaration was that the Darkwater River and all its branches would also forever more be known by one name, so it, too, would be as unified as the original kingdoms were.
"And that is how the Darkwaters came to share one name," the old woman said to the children sitting on the woven oval rug at the foot of her rocker. "As the waters share one name, so do we. We are the Miribexi upon the Darkwaters."
The Darkwaters run deep, providing a varied environment for a grand assortment of water creatures to thrive. Some are very dangerous. Be careful where you swim. Others are quite delicious. A few are both.
Hendling ShrimpIn the northern branch these shrimp can grow to a foot long.
PikeThere are many types of fish, including the pike which can reach six feet in length in the southern branches.
River LionThey are so adorable ... until you find several of them trying to hunt you.
SnapperA big slow moving turtle until it tries to bite. Its jaws move fast as lightning and can bite off an arm.
The Seasons on the Darkwaters
Rivers freeze over in winter with the exception of the Darkwaters. This does not mean there is no ice. Chunks of ice grow and flow along. The slower deeper parts of the Darkwater will grow bigger and more dangerous chunks of ice. Boats and ships in harbors spend every morning and evening clearing ice from around their hulls. Only the southern branches in the Wildlands are free of winter ice.
When winter melts away, the Darkwaters swell and run with savage power as they carry the runoff and debris like fallen trees and branches that often lurk below the surface waiting to plunge into a hull. Spring is also the rainy season in the Wildlands so the southern branches are also swollen and savage.
Summer and Fall
These two seasons are when the Darkwaters are at their best. Boats and ships travel about the most in these seasons and trade thrives at its fullest.
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