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Gynack's Fen

By Sarelle

    Gynack’s fen is a small area of swampy woodland in the north of the Moonsea, southeast of the Dragonspire Mountains. At night it is shrouded in darkness, and illuminated by blue and green glowing mists; during the day it the sun shines brightly onto fresh leaves and the foliage sparkles with almost perpetual dew.

    Gynack was a cranky druid of ages past who killed five hill giants approaching a village on the perimeter of the wood he called home. The village held him up as a hero but Gynack remained sullen, even annoyed by the attention. He repeatedly denied having killed the giants to save the villagers, killing them instead because they stepped on his favourite tree and crushed it. Despite this, the villagers named the woodlands after him and protected his wishes as best they could.

    Foremost of the residents of Gynack’s Fen these days is a group of deserters from the armies of Phlan and Mulmaster, including some ex-Zhentarim. The Phlan arrived in Gynack’s Fen a bit less than a decade ago. Foreseeing a grim future for the then besieged town, one Rethlad Prosprie led a revolt that had thirty soldiers fleeing. One or two brought their wives and children too – but most left as fast as they could to escape retribution. Settling in the seclusion of Gynack’s Fen, lying low, they were joined soon after by a group of deserters from the armies of Mulmaster. At first the soldiers and the ex-Zhentarim – traditional enemies of Phlan’s citizens – were driven out, because they would attract too much attention from vengeful Zhent agents. However, Rethlad, whose morals were as strong as his blade, appealed to the others’ sense of comradeship with fellow deserters – and the Mulmaster group were soon after welcomed into the Fen (welcomed being the word, when the Phlan soldiers discovered that half the Mulmaster soldiers and ex-Zhentarim were female).

    The community now living in the wood are comprised of fifty-one ex-soldiers (sixteen female), five wives, nine children (two of which are now adolescents, and three that were born in the Fen), and six ex-Zhentarim agents.

    Since Rethlad’s death two years ago, fighting a will’o’wisp of the Fen, there have emerged two significant leaders.

    The first is the irrepressible ex-archer of Phlan, Tyrinnus Hawthymn (NG male human Fighter 1/Bard 6). Tyrinnus is a natural leader within the ranks of the ex-soldiers, having been a close friend of Rethlad’s before his death. Tyrinnus’ skill for the songhorn is quite apparent during his nightly performances, going from campfire to campfire within the settlement, cheering any grim faces, his music floating into the eerie night of Gynck’s Fen.

    The other leader is Llorta Nijeviska, an ex-Zhent (N female human Rogue 4/Ranger 5). Llorta, whose orange-hued skin and short black hair suggest Thayan heritage, led from the ranks of the ex-Zhentarim since their arrival, sometimes coming into conflict with Rethlad. A lot of the time Llorta’s behaviour arouses suspicion within the ranks of the soldiers, but she is a lot less cruel than is commonly believed – and she commands great respect from all the others from Mulmaster. Llorta has become greatly knowledgeable about Gynack’s Fen and is one of the top hunters of the community. There is not any real conflict between Llorta and Tyrinnus – both are happy for Tyrinnus to lead from the front whilst Llorta leads from the behind. It is even speculated within the community that the two have been conducting an on-off affair for almost eighteen months. If they are in a relationship, they are very secretive about it.

    On the other side of Gynack’s Fen, in a secluded area next to a pool of water is a small wooden hut that belongs to a group of swanmays. The secretive swanmays are sworn to protect the wilderness from the predations of evils and the encroachment of the civilisation of man. The small lodge lives in harmony with the Fen’s residents – including the community of deserters, who have seen the swanmays only rarely and tell fantastic tales about beautiful women watching them from the trees, before transforming themselves into swans and returning to their home inside the trees.

    Whilst it is certainly not true that the swanmays live inside trees, they do keep careful eyes on the soldiers, despite never allowing themselves to be drawn into conversation with any of them. They also use their ability to transform themselves into swans to keep their presence a mystery and to scan the forest.

    The leader of the lodge is the softly spoken and serene Yhelsta Sapphiremoon (NG female human Druid 5/Swanmay 10 of Fionnghuala; Feats - Dodge, Sacred Vow, Vow of Purity, Combat Expertise, Improved Disarm). Yhelsta is a devout worshiper of the swanmay protector goddess Fionnghuala, teaching her goddess’ creed to all the other members of the lodge. Yhelsta unearthly beauty and grace make her a natural leader, and the others always defer to her when making decisions. In this Yhelsta is happy to assist, but feels no wish to control the others’ actions. She prefers to sit and meditate beneath the trees near the lodge, surrounded by the animals of the area.

Aesorya Lessidela (CG female sun elf Ranger 6/Swanmay 6 of Mielikki) is the main opponent of Yhelsta’s passive approach. Aesorya is constantly on the move within, and even outside of, Gynack’s Fen. Aesorya is quite proud at times, being the daughter of the sun elf swanmay Flytaris Lessidela, who along with a human swanmay, founded the lodge four centuries ago. Aesorya defers to Yhelsta without complaint, but is quick to challenge any decisions that leave possible threats in peace. Aesorya’s main supporter is the forest gnome Orreea Bluestone (NG female forest gnome Ranger 5/Swanmay 3 of Mielikki). Orreea and Aesorya are inseparable when together in the lodge and though Orreea is quiet in the company of the elf, letting Aesorya do the talking, the young gnome is fierce when battling threats to nature.

    By far the oddest member of the lodge, and possibly the oddest swanmay in Faerûn, is the ormyrr Glm-Or, otherwise known as Bright Seed (NG ormyrr Druid 2/Swanmay 10 of Fionnghuala). Bright Seed was a member of a tribe of ormyrr living near the Dragonspear Mountains. When she was little more than a child her tribe was killed by a hungry, very powerful white dragon. Bright Seed brought herself up, surviving by living in harmony with the nature around her. She became acquainted with a small clan of wood elves in the area, who would teach her things about nature and life, and who half-adopted her, though she still lived alone. When they were forced to move on by the expansion of human civilisation Bright Seed swore on all that was good and true in the world that she would oppose the waste and the destruction of nature in the world.

    She was attacked soon after, by fearful humans in the area, and was nearly stoned to death. Her crumpled form, surviving only by the will to carry out her pledge, was rescued by Yhelsta and, still very young, Bright Seed was taken into the swanmay lodge to recover. Yhelsta allowed Bright Seed to stay on at the lodge, giving the ormyrr her name as she grew to her enormous size. Eventually Bright Seed was trained as a swanmay, much to the horror of Aesorya. Now Bright Seed has achieved great power as a swanmay, rivalling Yhelsta’s own. However the ormyrr loves her adoptive mother, and knows that Yhelsta makes a much better leader than her. Bright Seed wishes no power, nor does she wish to go out and hurt anyone to impose her wish to protect nature any more. She just does her duties as a swanmay – surveying and protecting Gynack’s Fen, and keeping in touch with other swanmay lodges. Aesorya remains at odds with Yhelsta about Bright Seed’s presence, and thus she can be quite cold with the ormyrr. Yet even Aesorya has come to accept Bright Seed to some extent, even at times showing the ormyrr kindness and friendship.

    The other members of the lodge are Rika Greenstyl (NG female half-elf Druid 7/Swanmay 3 of Eldath), Melody Palmer (LG female human Ranger 6/Swanmay 5 of Eldath), the Damaran Kethelita Doma (LG female human Ranger 5/Swanmay 4 of Mielikki).

    Despite the prominent faiths of the lodge being Mielikki and Eldath, as goddess of swanmays Fionnghuala is venerated by all. Flytaris – the founder of the lodge – created a substantial natural shrine to her in the lodge pool, now maintained carefully by Yhelsta.

    The other noteworthy residents of Gynack’s Fen are first the tribe of ormyrr living there. Not any close relation of Bright Seed’s tribe, Bright Seed nevertheless provides an invaluable negotiator between the ormyrr and the swanmays. Bright Seed has got the tribe to see the sense of not allowing anything hunted to go to waste, and to not go right out and attack the human ex-soldiers, whom the ormyrr regard with great suspicion. Led by a King Trok, the ormyrr tribe hoards magic items jealously – a weakness Bright Seed has been forced to exploit in times of need, using careful bribes.

    The second such body of dwellers of the woodlands are the vicious will’o’wisps. Only dwelling in the deepest and most swampy parts of the small copse, they come out to attack the humans from time to time, such as in the case of their slaying of Rethlad. The humans, in turn, regard the will’o’wisps as their greatest enemy – but they fear them enough to not go right out and attack them. The swanmays battle the will’o’wisps when it becomes necessary – when they threaten the humans, or especially when they threaten the creatures of Gynack’s Fen, or the Fen itself. The rest of the time Yhelsta has the swanmays leave the will’o’wisps alone, as long as the will’o’wisps to the same – a passive attitude that annoys Aesorya. The ormyrrs and the will’o’wisps tend not to come into conflict – but King Trok is very wary of the unpredictable lights that occasionally draw his tribesfolk to their dooms.

    The last significant agent within Gynack’s Fen is a secret; unknown to all the other forces therein – even the informed swanmays. Next to a fetid pool in the area of the woods that the will’o’wisp reside, a network of tunnels comes to the surface in an ivy-covered eleven-foot diameter hollow. When followed these tunnels extend deep below the earth – eventually open up to the highest levels of the Underdark itself.

    The most recent community to inhabit Gynack’s Fen is as hidden as it is insidious. It comprises a small, dark cult of drow elves worshipping the evil, primordial deity Ghaunadaur – or so it seems. The drow in fact are working towards an enigmatic goal, worshipping not so much Ghaunadaur – but rather a shadowy force that is somehow Ghaunadaur’s master, or the That Which Lurks’ true form. They never mention the deity’s name, but the god is such an inexplicably ancient and powerful force that it requires no name. When they do invoke the deity directly, they call it the Elder Elemental God.

    These twisted dark elves perform eccentrically atrocious acts in the deity’s service, sacrifices and unholy rituals, possibly to placate or empower the god. The cult receives no classic powers from the deity, who seems to have no immediate divine presence on Faerûn, suggesting that it is somehow kept away. In any case, Ghaunadaur answers their prayers, and it is the Elder Eye’s patronage that grants them their foul magic.

    Since their arrival in the woods the cultists have spent most of their time beneath the copse, in caverns connected to the tunnels. There they have vile shrines to Ghaunadaur and to the Elder Elemental God, and there they not only have layers of rock concealing them from the searching eyes of the swanmays, and from the forays of the ormyrrs and deserters into the cults’ part of the Fen, but also wards protecting them from magical scrying. The will’o’wisps, on the other hand, discovered the intrusion to their realm as soon as the elves came up from the Lowerdark.

    At first an uneasy truce was assumed, both sides cautious. However the dark elves eventually met with the will’o’wisps and now the will’o’wisps are very much playing to the cult’s fiddle. They scout for the elves, keep away the other residents, and carry out attacks at the drows’ whims. What made such powerful and independent entities as the will’o’wisps obey so readily the cult’s wishes is a mystery – one with a sinister answer, undoubtedly – though the relationship does benefit the will’o’wisps at least partially.

    So far the main act of aggression from the cult, since its recent arrival, came not directly from them, or the will’o’wisps, but instead through the attacks of two ulgurstasta upon the swanmay lodge. These great, hulking maggot-like undead monsters were lead from the Underdark by the drow, into Gynack’s Fen. There they were directed to the swanmays’ home – which they attacked with enormous ferocity. Ylhesta was harmed, and only Bright Seed, displaying her full strength and power, was able to destroy the horrors.

    Since then the cult has remained ominously quiet. Aesorya, much to her frustration, could not discover where the two enormous ulgurtstasta had come from. If the cult of the Elder Elemental God remains undiscovered, they will no doubt grow in power enough to combat the formidable presence of the swanmays within Gynack’s Fen. 

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