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Notes

The Vlashmar Campaign is based loosely on the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories, but takes place 500 years after them in time. The heroes are long dead and the stuff of legend. Dead also is Ningauble of the Seven Eyes, but Sheelba of the eyeless face lives on, growing increasingly bored in a world without heroes, and without her major rival. The race of Ghouls has been nearly extinguished by a hundred years of war, and its survivors have gone into hiding, attempting through disguise to blend in with the societies around them. A cataclysmic earthquake has flooded the Southeastern side of the Lankhmarian continent, and many of the cities (and gods) of Nehwon have changed or fallen. There has been some contact with “elves” from the Western Continent, and new empires are on the rise, looking to replace the old ones, most of which are now defunct remnants or fragments of what they once were, overrun by armies of Orcs and Goblins from the Eastern Lands.

Background

*Vlashmar: *Not only surrounded by, but innundated by water, Vlashmar’s buildings rise on tottering stilts above swamp that stretches as far as a week’s travel by pole-boat in all directions, filled with drowned tree and will-o-wisps. The city, twenty thousand souls suspended on rickety catwalks, full of religious superstition, is a sometime stopover for travelers resupplying or traders who come to sell spices and buy prized salted swamp pike and eel. In the floating bazaar, a cauldron of activity at the center of the town, a few artifacts drift in from the furthest corners of Nehwon: spice from the Easatern Deserts, furs from the North, and religious cults from Lankhmar: the legendary city of seven score thousand smokes, city of the black bones, impossibly far away. The sellers are only merchants from as far off as the drying forest to the North, and few of them have tales of their own to tell. The city’s small-minded residents: fishermen, innkeepers, blacksmiths and boat builders, most of them barely literate, care little for waht goes on in the wider, dryer world. The city exists in a fog, both literal and figurative: the swamp’s gases rise up and blot out the world, and at times all one can see are the bobbing lanterns moving across rickety bridges from pole-house to pole-house like fireflies in the mist. Pale parents frighten their pale children with tales of what lies “out there” beyond the safe waters—stories of a house on stilts that walks endlessly through the drowned forest, of trees that shift their roots and walk under the full moon, of swamp-rats that change into men and back again. and of a tower tat lures wayward travelers to its watery dungeons: of skeletons that walk and giants sewn together from the flesh of the dead. These are stories meant to keep children close to the orangey windows of home. For generations, few of the town’s residents have ventured beyond the safe waters. This is their world: the floating bazaars, the inns and workshops, the little intrigues of the wooden town. But even within the town, there are mysteries. Vlashmar has been sinking for generations, and in the mud below are the houses of towns long gone: drowned cities of the dead and the forgotten that, if the waters were ever to ebb away, would rise to join the living. Legend has it that Vlashmar was once a city of stone on dry land, at the edge of a great lake. Beneath the city, they say, if one could go down into the muddy waters and see, are houses, shops, temples and cobblestone streets: and during the Festival of Closed Doors one can enter this ancient Vlashmar with the help of a ritual incantation, or perhaps through some tissue-thin layer between worlds. It is said that in the week of the festival: when all families hoard their food and stay indoors for seven days feasting and singing with the blinds drawn to the outside: that lights can be seen beneath the water of the city – the lights of another town, a town of stone, long gone but still, somehow, going about its business, beneath the boats and the bridges of the surface world.

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