You'll never find a more wretched hive of rabble and depravity
So little was really known about it, there were rumors aplenty of course but that's all they really were and anyone I talked too couldn't give me any evidence to substantiate their claims. "Oh it's full of murderers I heard..." and "Why'd you want to go there? You're just gonna get mugged in the street ya know..." were but some of the meager examples. Well in my quest for knowledge I've been to more than a few decrepit places, what was one more to add to that ever expanding list. I wouldn't be deterred, not by a few naysayers and certainly not by a dark and dank swamp.
Now when I arrived at the outskirts of swamp, the marshlands, I discovered a most interesting mode of transportation. It seems that some of those that reside within this region have taken to taming and hence using as mounts, these strange long legged creatures. They call them Marsh Amblers, most seem to just shorten that to Amblers. I was told that they were the best way of making your way deeper into the swamplands, of course you could always take one of the boats in but they were restricted to the waterways that were deep enough to carry them. This made their routes much more predictable and thus they were easier prey for anything that might be lurking beyond the hazy mist. Well I was much more captivated by these alien like creatures anyway and wasn't about to pass up the chance to study them up close. I paid my somewhat expensive due and we set off towards the heart of the swamp, Murkley itself. I was accompanied by a rather talkative older fellow who was our guide and two others wearing dark hoods. They seemed to be travelling together although they mostly kept quite and rarely spoke except to one another. Well it bothered me not if they weren't going to say anything, the crotchety gentlemen leading the Ambler through the thick trees did enough talking for the four of us. It was hard to keep him on topic for more than a minute at a time but since the journey would take the better part of an entire day, I managed to get plenty of interesting information out of him. He explained that the Marsh Amblers were native creatures to the swamp lands, they had lived here longer than anyone could remember and no one was really sure who managed to domesticate the first of them for mounts. They weren't quick creatures by any means but in comparison to trying to make your way through the various waterways, deep undergrowth and mud on foot; they were luxury. I was so captivated by these strange docile creatures that I didn't even notice how dark it had gotten under the thick canopy of trees above. Daylight never really penetrates into the swamp below but it's still easy enough to tell when the sun has set, and indeed it had. We were close to our destination at this point and the older gentleman had been rambling about it's history for quite some time. And as he was going on at length about the old, now sunkern tavern, he used to own in the lower district; the township itself came into view.
When I first came to Murkley, I didn't expect much. You get an idea in your head that is built upon rumors and telltales. While many of those come about because of truths, there are also some that you discover we're nothing but fiction all along. While it may be true that the township is rather lawless in its nature, that doesn't mean that the people who have decided to settle in such a place must be. I would discover that many of its residents in fact were quite content with both where they lived but also how the township was run; that is to say that no one ran the town. It would appear that in fact while there were powers at play here, most of them didn't really care for how the people lived, nor bothered to tax or inconvenience them in anyway.
There are most certainly some darker powers at play, working behind the scenes to ensure their own continued survival and prosperity. But they seem to mostly leave anyone who chooses to settle or reside here alone, perhaps to give the outside appearance of normality to the township; but I do not know for sure.
The swamps themselves provide a great deal of protection to the township, as well as being the source of most of its danger. The marshlands are wide, stretching almost a days travel by Marsh Ambler in all directions. So for anyone who wishes to make their way to the town they must either make the choice to take a boat or Ambler, the third option is not often taken. It is possible to make your way through the swamp lands on foot but it is a journey most treacherous. There are many creatures and other dangerous that reside within this region and for those who have not traveled it before nor bothered to study its perilous nature, it can be deadly indeed.
Along with the natural protection from the outside world, the boats and Marsh Amblers that take travellers into and out of the swamp lands seem to be controlled or at least overseen by an underworld faction that resides within the township; giving them direct knowledge on anyone who might not have the townships best interests at heart. This level of intelligence combined with the townships reclusive nature gives the settlement a defence that would be almost akin to having a keep surrounded by vast stone walls.
While the township itself doesn't have a thriving industry, that's not to say it doesn't have one at all. Some traders go out of their way to make the arduous journey into the swap in order to collect stockpiles of a rarer type of wood that can only be found growing in the heart of the swamplands. This specific large species of Clad Sypress tree (Caxodium Sistichum) is native only to this region, it has grown here for the past few thousand years. Over this time period old and fully mature forms of this tree have fallen into the swamp waters and died off, where they are preserved. The timber once it has been pulled up has some valuable factors including being hearty, durable and insect resistant but the most important factor driving its value is it’s unique beauty. These monster trees have been growing for hundreds of years producing a multi-ringed interior and a wide array of color. These traits lend themselves to endless possibilities of creations and they are highly prized materials for anyone who might work in such an industry.
As well as this small but prosperous lumber industry, the township is known to house those who might be looking to do a bit of trading on the shady side of the law. This was once just a rumor I believe but rumors can sometimes spread into truths and this would be once such case. The settlement now attracts all manor of people who may wish to hide away from the prying eyes of the world for a while.
Other than the unique method of transportation into and out of the swamp lands via Marsh Amblers, Murkley has terrible infrastructure. The environment it finds itself in is not suited to the continued existence of anything mortal made and indeed there have been more than a few cases in its history of entire parts of the township sinking below the surface of the swamp waters. That being said the settlement has managed to find one of the few places in the region where there is a small respite from the water and mud. There is a small patch of dry and sturdy land that the township has risen around, a main street you might call it has been established here and the hard packed road it sits atop is almost a luxury for anyone wealthy enough to live here. Where the land meets the water once again, wooden platforms and walkways have been constructed to allow easy enough passage between the three districts, as well as winding their way up to the higher levels situated on the large fallen swamp tree.
The highest district in town is not in fact that which can be found on the small patch of dry land, but a small scattering of homes and buildings that have been precariously constructed upon the large trunk of a nearby Clad Sypress tree. They offer the best escape from the marshy swamp lands below and only those with the wealth to afford such a place have made their way up there.
The only real things that I would call assets in Murkley are those wonderful Marsh Ambler creatures. I suppose they also have a small fleet of boats to use as ferries and transports, but they are both not very well built and uninteresting. These creatures continue to captivate me, they don't seem to be aggressive in any way and even those found in the wild are quite non-temperamental and rather agreeable. They might slowly wander away from a stranger but they are also likely to be inquisitive and approach, indeed it seems this is why they were so easy to domesticate. They now happily carry goods and people throughout the swamplands and I have even found them being used to pull the valuable reclaimed woods from the deep thick swamp mud. I shal endeavor to create a full entry in my tomes for these creatures but I hope that for now my basic description will suffice.
This is unfortunately the section of this particular entry that I lack the most knowledge on. I attempted to discover more about Murkleys apparent underbelly but the more I dag the more I was pushed back, so much so in fact that I think on one occasion I was inadvertently threatened with death! Well even I know when to take a hint, I suppose I should be thankful that they let me be and indeed I was most surprised that they did. Even with all my note taking and questions the townspeople were more than accommodating and chipper. Of course there were many who disliked the place but to my surprise they were the minority. It would seem that most who live here have made that choice to do so, to escape the rest of the world and live in veritable peace without anyone making decisions for them. This would seem to explain most of the residents strange upbeat attitude to the whole situation but perhaps there is more to it than that.
Along with the small but profitable wood dredging industry, there is also a small conglomerate of hunters and fishers that often work together to bring in larger and more valuable goods. They have found that banding together allows them to take down some of the larger and more valuable prey in the area, such as the large ancient reptilian beasties that have been known to take down unweary travellers.
When you come to a town like Murkley, you're not going to expect grand homes nor aesthetically pleasing structures. You expect hovels covered in moss and vines, and while this is steeped in truth as I discovered; Murkley might just surprise you. The township is built in the heart of the swamplands, here there is some respite from the wetlands that surround it and you can even walk on some solid land without getting your feet wet. Most of the town is situated just above the waterline, however there is a small district that is built atop a large semi-fallen tree. This provides the district with a view over the rest of the settlement as well as providing much needed and desired escape from the murk below. About a third of the township resides atop a patch of uncommon dry land, while another third sits just above the waterline trying to make the most of what natural roots and trees they can for support. The portion of the township that sits atop the large fallen tree houses those which can afford to live above the rest of the ravel.
Most of the homes and abodes here are built from reclaimed wood. Apparently the township used to be much bigger but in the last decade a vast portion of it sank into the murky water; well the residents weren't just going to let all that good material go to waste. This gives the township a very ad-hoc feel to it, many homes have been bolstered or expanded by simply tieing and nailing wooden boards where desired. The walkways themselves slowly sink into the mud over the months and years, therefore the townsfolk have constantly built atop the old structures to ensure the settlements continued existence.
There is a very unique aesthetic to this township that I am yet to find anywhere else. If you were to inspect any of the homes, buildings, walkways or really any single part of the town on its own; you would find a very messy and hastily constructed thing. But if you are to view the settlement as a whole, you start to see its true beauty. It is a concofiny of culture and design, parts of the old town can still be seen jutting out of the mud while those that still live here continue to build atop the fallen mess. The various lights from burning oil lanterns and small fires within these abodes are always trying to cut through the heavy mist, and from a distance the flickering lights reflecting off the still waters below provide a view almost as pretty as staring up at a clear nights sky.
Murkley is situated in the heart of the e̲̜̜̟͇̰̬ͦ͑ͣ̃n̠̹̘̠͂ͧ͌́ͅt̨̪̀r̂҉̝y͎̭͍͈̼̞ͦ̒̃͑̔ ̙̽ͭͧ͛͜m̨͉̟͈̾ͪ̚iͩͅs̠̹̦̳͎̦̗͆͛ͦ͑͜ș̡͕̙̰̠̜̒ͮ̿ͣͅi҉͔͓̠͍̮̜n̟̖̲͚͓̩̪̓ͮǵ̶͍̺͊̿̽ swamplands. It's unique location provides a much needed safehaven for those not wishing to be found. The weather here is almost perpetual all year round, the vast canopy of trees providing shelter from the outside world.