Quagmires and Quicksands…
Perhaps it’s inevitable that as a city expands, it swallows up everything around it, and sometimes those places are difficult to keep down.
There are some who say Castorhage is doomed to die, to be swallowed by Sister Lyme and her children; Canker and Myre. For a place of dazzling structures, there is a lot of mud and mire in and around the Blight, particularly at this time of year, and the mires of the Blight are just as hungry as everywhere else in this crooked city.
So when the rains pour, watch your step in the Gyre and the Bilges, tread carefully along the sweaty, clinging, suffocating banks of Sister Lyme, and stay out of dreadful Pigbrine and the Wash.
Whether it be the Sinks (more on that decaying place of exiled aristocrats soon)—with its veneer of permanence above a swampland destined to swallow it, the sucking estuaries of the Great Lyme River, or the desperate, filthy wastes of the Lych Fens that surround the city, bogs, mires and quicksand seem far too common for comfort; particularly around the impermanent decaying edges of Castorhage.
Here’s one such place you might want to try to avoid when the winter rains pour and swallow…
TT2 The Bilges
A trio of revolting mounds churn in the river, gulls festering about each as they rise to stinking hilltops above the water. The stench is infernal, as is the noise, yet you see that these midden mounds are home to many; there are boardwalks, piers and even buildings scattered and plaguing the surface of each hill.
A sprawling mass of boardwalks, barges and the screeching of black gulls, the Bilges is about the lowest place a person can find himself in the city. The bilges are where the city’s rubbish goes, a collected morass of filth and waste, bones and litter. Affectionately known as StinkTown, and the City of Perfume, it is the place where all the unwanted rubbish of the city comes to die; flesh and flotsam.
Three huge islands have risen like black boils from the Lyme as a result. Each has a name—the Midden, the Maw and Mount Misery—and each is a colourful shanty of rising timber boardwalks, rope bridges and insect-feasted timber gathered from the river and sea to provide warmth and shelter.
The Bilges are linked in a clannish way to the Rag and Bone men of Booktown; indeed the present leader of the isles, the crabby Pleasant Sedgefly, Lady of Bilge (N female gnome illusionist 7) is the cousin by marriage to the King of Rag and Bone Isaac Crumb (Area#B29). The two don’t like to refer to the cause of their relationship, but exchange regular letters. Sedgefly is in truth a bit of an anarchist at heart, and sponsors many of the city rebels locally. She is also one of the master thieves of the Guild, who use the isle as one of their uncountable bases for smuggling—this one given the added advantage of being vile.
Rather like the nearby Sinks, the Bilges is constantly on the move, and whole chunks of the isles occasionally fall away, taking many unfortunate victims with them. Quicksand Mires (known locally as Bilge-Bogs) open up for no apparent reason.
A very strict caste system operates on the isle for rubbish collection, with the lowest—the untouchables—gathering filth at the water’s edge and bringing it to the hills. Their trade—amongst the bogs and mires of the edges—is the most risky. Each group of untouchables has a de-facto master called the Gatherer, whose job it is to seek valuables. In turn these report to three Masters (or in one case Mistress) of the isles, who are Lady Henna Rose, Mistress of Midden (N female swashbuckler rogue 7), the C’thwaa’ Fester of the Maw (N female festering brethren druid 5 (see sidebar)), and Prince Cobb, Lord Protector of Mount Misery (NG male human savage warrior 5) who all in turn report to Sedgefly.
By winter, the isles are terrible—ice-covered pits of waste or slurry-filled mouths of rot, which give way in summer to the black flies—the Midden-Angels—that rise in the spring and stay until late autumn. The flies are a torment on hot summer days, and workers wear full-face scarves (known as a Keff) to keep them at bay. Some people claim the flies eat children and babies occasionally. The Midden-Angels sometimes swarm and then conform to swarms of wasps (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 275), and often group into maelstroms in very hot, sweaty weather. A local root known as Ulrin’s Piss, which when burnt smells like scorched urine, keeps them at bay and is commonly found on the Midden.
That businesses trade—fishermen, innkeepers and gambling houses—amazes some, particularly those who live above the filth in fancy flotsam houses, but these places draw those with plenty to hide or trade or offer...