Deep within the malodorous marshes of Erendorn’s swamps, a dwindling race hangs onto survival by a thread. While they have unparalleled archery skills and eyes that cut through the dark, misty wasteland, these attributes are not enough to compete with the forces of the swamps: disease is spreading, the creatures are getting bigger and hungrier and for the Fen Elves of Erendorn, survival keeps on getting harder.
The Fen Elves of Erendorn
Fen Elves are the third Elven race of Erendorn. Led by Marshaness Elya, they live in the swamps in rudimentary mudhuts, the only form of infrastructure that the waterlogged ground can support. But it was not their choosing that led them to live in such a place as this. In the Old Times, with a small population and nonexistent army, the Fen Elves could not sufficiently defend themselves against other races, nor fight to secure a settlement; and so they were pushed, over time, to live in the one part of Erendorn that had not yet been claimed - and for good reason.
South of Erendorn’s High Forest, where grand trees shelter the earth below with glinting, sunlit canopies, the remarkable landscape begins to change. A heavy, foul smell infiltrates the air and stark naked, residual trees become rooted in a rancid wetland. These are Erendorn’s swamps.
The air here is suffocating and swollen with moisture. While much vegetation grows in these parts, hardly any light reaches the swamps, leaving it in a constant state of semi-darkness. Living in a perpetually sunless environment has drained the Fen Elves’ skin of any colour; but it has also sharpened their vision, allowing them to see up to 25m further than the vast majority of other races.
Emaciated trees grow closely together in the swamps, their starved bodies reaching high into the sky for some dregs of sunlight whilst their slippery black roots poke out from the murky waters like knees. Moss drips from branches, drifting logs are festooned with lichen and dark, slimy weeds cover the water’s surface.
But these swamps are not just eyesores - they are rife with disease, filled with deadly creatures and offer very little in the way of fresh water or food. In order to survive in these conditions, the Fen Elves have developed many coping mechanisms, from unparalleled eyesight and the ability to go for weeks without food, to the skilful handling of a bow and arrow. But the first survival weapon they evolved was their appearance.
Physical Appearance of Fen Elves
Living in the swamps has been no easy feat for the Fen Elves. They truly are a product of their environment in terms of skillsets and appearance. Their complexion is a pallid grey, partly because of the lightless conditions they find themselves in and partly because their bodies have evolved to allow them to easily disappear within the desaturated woodland of the swamps.
For the same reason, they have fashioned their clothing out of dried leaves to match the colour and texture of their surroundings. This is particularly important for when they’re jumping between the narrow trees in an attempt to avoid the feculent wetland below and the ravenous creatures within it. However, while the Fen Elves have learnt to adapt to this terrain, there are many horrors in the swamps that threaten their existence every single day.
From Venomspitter Frogs and Swamp Rats to King Cobras and Toxic Scorpions, all kinds of creatures live in Erendorn’s swamps. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in these wetlands - and while the Fen Elves are among some of the bigger species residing here, they are not at the top of the food chain. There is already a creature that reigns over that coveted position and although it is a rare species, it is a formidable one.
The Two-Headed Crocodile is native to this terrain. These creatures like to lurk in the heart of the swamps where trees encircle a wide, yawning mouth of water. These are among the largest living lizards in Erendorn, known for their massive size, muscular tails and armoured plates of impenetrable scales. Despite their size, Two-Headed Crocodiles easily disguise themselves in the still black water, given away only by their soulless round eyes that glint sharply in these murky swamplands. But when you live in these parts, Two-Headed Crocodiles aren’t the only source of danger.
Many small creatures in the swamps carry deadly venom or poison. Even the seemingly docile Swamp Rats are incredibly aggressive and have the ability to spread a debilitating disease. Regular crocodiles also occupy the swampy water, favouring the narrow aisles between trees so as not to be devoured by their two-headed relative.
When bows and arrows can’t be used, Fen Elf Skirmishers are skilled at fighting against some of the larger beasts, wrestling with them in the swamp water before slitting their throats with a makeshift blade.
For the Fen Elves, all these creatures were difficult to kill at the best of times. But over the last hundred years, something has been changing in the swamps, transforming the creatures into bigger, more vicious and more ravenous monsters - and this new development has greatly endangered the Fen Elf population.
Below the Surface
While other races tend to avoid the swamps at all costs, there is an exception to this. In times of war and uprising, especially when there is an excessive number of casualties, many races often do not have the time nor the space to dispose of all the dead bodies properly. Their solution is to empty all of the corpses into the swamps and over time, this has transformed them into a mass burial ground.
The Humans of Erendorn are particularly bad for doing this. With the largest population in the land, they are constantly emptying their mass of corpses into the swamps where they are left to putrefy. This happens so often that flakes of pale skin tissue now permanently float between the weeds. Ever so often, a Fen Elf will even see a bloated, rotting carcass slowly drifting through the black water, clumps of algae clinging to their malformed and gormless face.
Seeing a dead body is a rare sighting, but not because there are too little corpses in the swamps; the waterbed is lined with so many piles of century-old skeletons that it has actually made the swamps shallower, and if you were to walk through the water, your toes would not feel the slimy dregs of silt but the smooth bone of long-forgotten creatures. The reason it is unusual to see a dead body floating in the swamps is because they are usually claimed and devoured by the voracious creatures - and this new source of food is what’s really making life difficult for the Fen Elves.
For the Fen Elves, the mass burial ground beneath the swamp water is a disease-ridden dystopia. But for the creatures native to this region, it’s a never-ending buffet. Even Zombies have been known to wander over to the swamps from their home in the Dead Forest, lured by the scent of rotten carrion.
As a result of this perpetual feeding frenzy, the creatures of the swamps are now bigger than ever. Compared to their relatives in different regions of Erendorn, these creatures have become deformed reflections of what they once were. Crocodiles are now much bigger with fat, swollen bellies, Two-Headed Crocodiles are like underwater Goliaths and even the Swamp Rats have mutated from their centuries of consuming putrid flesh.
Not only has this new diet made the swamp creatures much more difficult and dangerous to kill for the Fen Elves, but gorging on corpses has also made them crave the taste of flesh. They take this insatiable hunger and newly revived viciousness and they direct it at anything that resembles the carcasses below. Unfortunately for the Fen Elves, this makes them a mouth-watering meal. But voracious monsters are not the only dangers brought on by the ever-amassing piles of corpses.
Over time, the constant dumping of dead bodies has eventually transformed the swamps into a fetid melting pot of decaying flesh and festering disease. For those travelling past this region, the putrid stench radiating from the trees is almost unbearable. For the Fen Elves who call this place home, the smell is a sign of the swamp's deadly diseases.
As the years dragged on and the bodies continued to pile up, dangerous gases and airborne diseases began exuding into the stagnant air, spreading like wildfire. Many Fen Elves have died because of the infectious diseases that continue to plague the swamps and infect the air. This is why the Fen Elves tie cloth around their mouth and nose, attempting to stave off the disease for as long as possible.
Desperate for Survival
The living conditions that the Fen Elves are faced with has put their existence in a very precarious position. Of recent times, with disease literally clinging to the air, malformed monsters lurking at every turn and the only form of shelter being unstable mudhuts, the Fen Elf population is beginning to enter a rapid state of decline.
This race is constantly in a desperate mode of survival and while this has hugely impacted their quality of life, it has also sharpened many of their skills. The proficiency Fen Elves have with a bow and arrow makes it seem as though they were born with the bowstring held between their fingers; and their ability to hit a target from an incredible distance and with very little lighting is also helped by the impeccable eyesight this race has developed over many centuries.
The Fen Elves have also evolved to require less food and water than the average race. After experiencing constant droughts and food shortages, a result of widespread contamination, the Fen Elves’ bodies have naturally learnt to conserve huge amounts of energy so that their hosts can survive through the hunger. But despite all these evolutionary skills, the Fen Elves are still fighting against extinction.
The Last Hope
The last hope for the Fen Elves is to leave the swamps and relocate to a more favourable environment. The Fen Elf Scouts, who often leave on expeditions to gather food and resources, have also been tasked by Marshaness Elya to scour Erendorn in the search for new territory that the Fen Elves can claim.
But as time continues to unravel, the swamps are getting more and more unbearable and the lands of Erendorn are filling up. Desperation clutches at the Marshaness’ throat as she realises there is only one way left to save her race: entering the notorious dungeons in search for the magical troves that are famed to lie in their depths.
Marshaness Elya believes that these items could be the answer to securing the Fen Elves’ future in Erendorn. But the Scouts have already seen too many horrors in their native swamps - will they be able to face the greater horrors of the dungeon depths, too?