Queens of the Great Marsh

dragon and witch

     Wrapped in cloth rags the woman walked with a tall walking staff. Long black hair laced with
gray and unkempt hid much of her face. She walked barefooted across ground that went from dry dirt 
to moss covered, water-soaked soil and shallow water covered in green, black algae. She moved 
forward steadily among tall swamp pines, swamp maples, grabbing willows and cottonwoods. Sawgrass, briars, reeds, ferns, tree debris and rocks covered the ground, but none of this seemed to affect her movement nor did she show any concern or fear of hindrance from the dense foliage. In fact she seemed to move among the surroundings leaving it undisturbed and no footprints.
She was almost a two hour’s walk from what she called home. She came to the center of the Great 
Marsh. The highest and driest spot in the swamp and the area maintained as neutral ground and 
meeting place for the leaders and citizens of the marsh and wetlands. The Great Marsh was a vast 
area consisting of swamp, wet glades, brackish wetlands along the coast and floodplains along the 
Black River which snaked its way from the Green River around Highbridge to Drakes Bay and the Vadis 
Ocean.
     She arrived at a wide-open glade with moss covered standing stones carved with runes. In the center 
was a single massive stone that was flat and roughly round. It also had runes, symbols and 
pictographs carved into it. Some were so old that not even the witches or drakes new of their 
origin. She cleared the trees and made her way to the center. At the same time from the other side 
of the glade a massive reptilian with sleek scales, brown, black in color; thick forward curving 
horns on its head; a snaking tail that ended in a long and massive dual hook spike; and large wings 
folded along its back, moved to the center as well.
     The sky was fairly overcast with Starnos peeking through breaks in the clouds. The woman shed her 
rags and stood taller as she came forward. She shook her head and with her free hand grabbed her 
long hair, tossing it behind her back. This revealed a beautiful and sharp featured face. revealing 
tan skin and showing off her purple, sparkling eyes. Her face was painted as well as much of her 
body with mystical symbols often used by her people. The rags were not tossed to the ground but 
swirled around her forming a tight hugging outfit. Her feet remained bare and covered with mud 
stretching part way up her shins as she moved silently towards the center of the massive stone set 
into the ground. The gnarly walking stick transformed into an ornate staff with a glowing light at 
its top terminus. This pushed back the light mist that hung constantly about the swamp and some of 
the darker shadows brought upon by the overcast sky.
     The large drake moved to the center, nearly as silently as the woman. Both stopped several paces 
from each other
     The woman spoke first. “Hail Queen Drake Mirabella.”
     “Hail Mother Wicca Delilah.” The large drake replied. “I’m here as requested by your courier.
And thank you for that, the oil you spread across his body made him quite delicious.”
     “I’m glad. I felt the need of an offering as a show of good faith. It was oil from the fruit of the 
sweetberry bush.”
     “Yes, I recognized the aroma and taste, though I’ve never experienced it before in such a manner. I 
will have to try that again myself. Any special way to treat the berries?”
     “We can trade recipes later; I have some news to share and some issues to address.” “Fine. What is 
your news.” Mirabella asked.
     “First I’d like to address these issues.” Said Delilah. “Fine. What are these problems.” The large 
drake asked.
     Delilah sniffed with disapproval at the way the question was framed and waved her hands in 
frustration. “No need for sarcasm, oh queen.” Delilah expressed then continued. “Pressure from your 
kind is forcing the lizards into our territory. We’ve managed some balance with them, but they 
appear to like humanoid flesh and if they keep forcing their way into our lands there is going to 
be push back and a war and that will affect you as well.”
     “I see.”

     “Do you? They are more prone to listen to you since they think they are some kind of distant cousin 
to you. Please speak to their chief and see that they respect the borders. They are few and have 
the entire southwestern extension and the Ebon Isles as well. I don’t want them moving into our 
territory. After all we have nowhere to go except east into your lands.” Delilah stared for an 
extra moment and Mirabella blinked.
     “Very well. What you say makes sense, I will talk to Chief Hrzzd today. He will listen.”
     “Thank you, Mirabella. As for the news, you may already be aware. A man from the north is in the 
swamp asking questions about a box and one of your kin. I believe he is looking for Esshaks, but I 
don’t know if he knows he’s looking for Esshaks. There was an aura and odor of him from the Helles, 
so I would be wary.”
     “Thank you, but I am aware. Esshaks had this box for a short while but that Mistress Ertha, who had 
left it with him for a short time, already came back and took it well over a turn of Starnos. 
Esshaks told me about this, being a loyal subject, and told me he was going to go with this human 
to try to retrieve it.” The large drake explained.
     “You trust your drake?” Delilah asked.
     “Esshaks?! No doubt. He will not amount to much in size given he has reached his fifth stage and 
has not gotten any bigger, but he is smart and loyal to a fault. His magic and skills with traps 
and poisons is exceptional. He goes on this quest in honor of me. He has promised to bring back 
treasure and information that will benefit all Marsh Drakes. And he means it.”
     “Good. Hopefully they do not cross paths with Alira and Hadron.”
     “I share your thoughts. I’m all for individual freedom, but that crazy half elf takes it to a new 
level and Hadron is young, impetuous and an abomination.” Mirabella replied.
     “So I’ve heard. The last bit of news concerns the far east. Beware this emperor Jael from 
Gotodonia. Some of the pirates that have been landing on our shores and in Donner’s Bay are not the 
usual types. They are Jael’s men disguising themselves as sea rogues. I think they are trying to 
establish secret beach heads and maybe even building small ports and fortresses to secure the 
south. I would suggest we feign hands off cooperation, for now, but we cannot let them control our 
Marsh.”
     “Agreed. I have seen these new ships. Me and my two guards sank three of the ships near Drakes Bay. There were no other ships in the vicinity and no one escaped, so I imagine they will be seen as 
missing.”
     “Okay but be careful. This humanoid appears to have vast resources. I’d rather barter for our 
safety. But if we must fight, I would think the Wicccans, your kin and the lizard folk would be 
able to hold our own. Humanoids don’t do well in swamps unless they’ve had generations of 
upbringing in them.”

     “You have my word, Delilah. I will honor our compact and I will ensure the lizard folk do so as 
well should it come to a fight. All our kind united and defending the Marsh would be equal to a 
humanoid army ten times our numbers.”
     “I hope so, because that’s probably what it would be.”
     “I will report what my spies find as long as you do the same.” Said Mirabella.
     “Agreed.” Delilah replied. “One last thing. As for Alira and Hadron, it is rumored they are looking 
for one of the Pearls.”
     “Yes, but as always that will lead to self-destruction. Assuming they are real, those Pearls are 
cursed. Only one will be able to unite them it is said.”
     “Yes Mirabella. An abomination.” Delilah replied.
Mirabella was not dumb, but not especially quick either. It took a moment to sink in. Delilah saw 
the implication dawn on Mirabella. “You mean Hadron.”
     Delilah just shrugged.

     “Something to consider. I’m off to see Hrzzd now. A visit with him is overdue. Farewell Delilah, 
I’ll be in touch.” The drake spread her vast wings and with a leap and some heavy flapping was 
airborne in mere moments.
     Delilah shielded her face from the dust and debris kicked up. Her dress returned to looking like 
rags and she made her way back to the marsh that surrounded the glade. She did not retrace her path 
but made for a slightly different track.
Her people were a matriarchal society of Wiccan and nature magic. They were not truly evil, but 
their agenda often was at odds with most humanoid plans where nature was stomped upon and raped of its resources to bolster whatever humanoid race came to the swamp for their own needs. In fact the 
courier she sent to Mirabella was a human trespasser and thief of some of the mind-altering plants 
that the Wiccans cultivate for their spells and rituals. He was escorted by a loyal messenger who 
immediately left when the thief was ushered before Mirabella.
     The man was informed he was free after doing this job and the oil kept away the drakes. Half ws 
true. He was free after delivering the message, which included a final sentence that read “this 
courier is yours to what you will”. The lie was that the Swamp Drakes loved the fruit of the 
sweetberry tree.
     Robbers often came to the woodland borders for wood, game, fruits, nuts and vegetables and other 
resources. Deeper in the swamp there are some excellent veins of minerals, some caves of gems, as 
well as oil and flame rock. When Messinar and some other allied nations ceded the Great Marsh to 
them and the Swamp Drakes, they did not realize until too late what they had given up. This has 
forced the Wiccans and the Drakes to watch the borders closely and beware of large and armed 
foraging parties.

     As for the lizard people, they arrived in the southwest much later. The Swamp Drakes had come to 
occupy much of the eastern half of the Great Marsh and the Wiccans inhabiting the western half and 
the extension in the southwest. The Ebon Drake Isles were the first place the Swamp Drakes had 
inhabited when they first occupied the area escaping from the tyrannical Storm Drakes of Terra 
Monstrum. They did not want to be bullied and ruled by the strict laws of the Storm Drakes and made 
a mass exodus north over two thousand years ago.
     The lizard folk were also forced from their lands in the Jagged Jungle as a coastal swamp became 
flooded with rising sea levels. The swamp was drowned and the western border was made up of a 
highland rainforest and was not the right environment for the lizard folk. They made their way east 
and eventually settled in the mostly drake abandoned south-west extension of the Great Marsh. In a 
short time a compact was made between them, the Wiccans and Swamp Drakes dividing up territories 
for each tribe. It was not perfect, but trade among the three allowed for obtaining resources they 
each might not have in their territory and it offered all of them access to the coast and to the 
northlands.
     Though the lizard folk were the fewest in population, they tend to be more savage and feral and are 
not as cognizant of borders as the Wiccans and the Drakes. And being neighbors with the Wiccans 
skirmishes sometimes break out. In the past the queen of the drakes was often needed to settle 
disputes before they ended up in a bloody war. Most of the Wiccans were human with a few elves and 
gnomes to be counted among them. Even some Crocuta of the western savannas had come to join the 
Wiccans. The lizard folk showed more respect and deference to the drakes under the presumption 
there was some relationship there. The drakes did not dissuade this thought but did not exactly 
encourage it either. The lizardians managed to maintain this ideal all on their own. And though 
they had a taste for human flesh they instead steer clear out of respect to the drakes, 
self-preservation and now the compact that unites all of them in a loose confederacy.
     The drakes are mostly solitary only sharing their lands with a few other swamp monsters.
Though the Swamps Drakes share some of the ideals of the Wiccans they are much more territorial, 
adversarial and willing to harass the northern humans for no reason besides also defending their 
lands. 
Their queen says these harassments are pre-emptive maintenance to keep the humans and elves scared and give their territory a wide berth.
     Delilah could not argue against some validity to this, but she preferred to nurture the rumors of 
witches eating small children to keep people from her lands as long as it did not invoke an 
invasion of a human army to “burn the witches”. The truth was she and others of her tribe did keep 
some open trade with some traders in Highbridge. This kept her and her extended family a few steps 
ahead of Mirabella and the drakes in case the acid spitters turned on them. Delilah and past 
Mothers have been concerned that in a case where the drakes turn on them, the drakes might 
encourage the lizards to side with them and so attack from the south and west. So, keeping some 
allies in the human lands was in the Wiccans’ best interest. These allies in Highbridge have a 
stake in the trade and enough soldiers to offer to the Wiccans and in doing so protect their own 
interests. It was a truly three-legged peace treaty, but so far remained fairly strong.
     Delilah returned to her home village on stilts and retired to her twelve room and seven-story tower 
at the center of the village. Next to a broad wetland where half the village sat up on stilts, was 
a high dry area with more small homes and some large fields of crops and two corrals of livestock. 
Her personal home tower also served as a learning place for magic and the bottom main floor a 
meeting house for the leaders of all the villages in her realm. The dry upland also had a large 
grounds for the occasional fair and trade fair when other villages came to visit or pay homage. 
There was also a long hall where leaders as well as guildmembers could gather to discuss matters of 
the realm and issues with the world outside of the marsh.
     Not being tired she went to the top floor and sat before a clear ball shaped scrying stone and 
tried to peer to the far east. Nothing came. Her contact there must be out or likely asleep. 
Starnos was lowering here, so it was truly night that far to the east. At that moment she heard a 
young girl’s voice yell that “she was hungry!” Delilah smiled to herself and covered the crystal 
ball with a silken cloth then shouted back. “I’m coming my sweet girl. Get those grapes, cheese and 
bread ready!”.
     “Yay!” Came the reply, and Delilah headed down the steps from the tower top. After leaving the room 
a white glow came from under the cover over the scrying sphere. The glow quickly turned bright
red then suddenly went out.