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Argonian Part 3: Black Marsh

  • July 1, 2014

    Disclaimer: I did not create this work. It is the work of one of our ex-members, Vix. I felt that his work should still remain here for all to see, so I will be reposting it here. 


     Black Marsh, more properly called Argonia, was a name bestowed by outsiders and are inherently derisive in nature. Black Marsh itself was named in the Cyrodiilic Empire and it acquired its known moniker through the event of a treaty incorporating it into the Empire. Most of the space is unrecorded and unsurveyed making it the least known province in Tamriel.

          The land was populated by many cultures and many groups, however, the Argonians rose to prominence based on programs of destruction and spreading diseases. There were once humans in the land, and other beast races, elven settlers later on, and a great many undiscovered cultures. The names and cultures of those that existed or even still exist are speculative and based almost solely on Imperial record and not Argonian records. There is a reason for this, Argonians don't generally keep records (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition). Black Marsh is an inhospitable land enormously isolated in its regions and from the outside world. There seems to be three predominant sections: the interior, the exterior, and the coast.


    The Interior:

          The inner most vaults of Black Marsh seem to be by far the most dangerous and the most isolated. There are no natural predators in Inner Black Marsh, merely degrees of vicious scavengers. This may seem quite strange but it will become apparent why quite soon. The area itself is almost un-navigatable. It was thick swamp with enormous trees. It stinks from the biological breakdown that occurs of the loam and leaves and it rife with many rivers that facilitate one of two possible means of travel. Argonians here travel by small individual coracles using their tails as methods of locomotion. Most of the natural super-predators are eaten by smaller more vicious scavengers. Even the enormous swamp-leviathens, enormous beasts with nine foot long claws, covered in spines with a cavernous maw, was eaten by such things as the common rat. The Argonians who live here are far closer to the Hist trees than many others and it seems that this area is also far more sedentary because of it. They may be more isolated and primitive but this still allows them to keep to themselves unless there are opportunities elsewhere (Argonian Account).

          This region is home to the Naga Argonians, surprisingly they are not serpentine like the Tsaesci but have arms, legs, and enormous maws. Standing seven to eight feet tall with many spines all over them which they puff up to increase their size they themselves can swell and grow taller. They are notorious cannibals and thieves that move from the interior to the exterior regions. This region is essentially theirs and whoever else they share it with. There is next to no cartography and a quick look at the map of Black Marsh will reveal there is only one city in the interior, Helstrom, what seems to be an Imperial city presented in unflattering terms with regards to crime (The Alik'r). This may very well be less because they are not present and more because they are entirely secluded. It's well established there are a myriad of ruins in the Interior and the southern coast belonging to other non-Argonian civilizations. It contains shifting masses and banks of fog and mist said to be impenetrable to organized expeditions(Provinces of Tamriel). But it also houses many natural wonders. The grand Hist forests and great open fields and glades contained in the interior are almost never explored by outsiders. It is cooler and more damp than the surrounding areas, and contains great abandoned cities, flowering grasses, blue moss canopies stretching across the ceiling of the forest, and extremely clear waters (Argonian Account). These clear waters are a surprise and likely are due to the wet-lands purification effects. It is more of a surprise given that Black Marsh is a drainage basin for Morrowind a well as parts of Cyrodiil.


    The Exterior:

          Most of the larger problems for Argonia come from the exterior areas. These areas seem to border Cyrodiil and Morrowind, creating natural boundaries to foreign expansion. It is hot, moist, humid, and has a great many ecological mechanisms which make it extremely dangerous. There are far more predators here than in Inner Black Marsh, hawkwings will attack from the air and plagues of insects called flesh-flies will bite at unexposed flesh and tear off chunks unless protected by the Argonians natural scales. This leaves the border garrisons of non-Argonians missing extremities such as ears, noses, and with scabrous flesh from the constant bites. Even their edible fish, the trodh, must be consumed raw or else they release a toxic poison when cooked.

          The area itself has much more polluted rivers, and thanks to constant mud-flows that are naturally adhesive communities might be destroyed with ease. This makes the Argonians of the exterior territories nomadic and far more open to slaver raids than their innermost counterparts. The towns retain their name but the locations move quite constantly and is often merely seasonal. As such 'towns' are more of communities than established settlements. The rain itself is constant and smells horrid, derisively called 'Hist piss' by foreigners. Foreigners do often take up residence in this area to escape the law which make it even more dangerous for travelers given a large presence of drug-smugglers, criminals, and slavers in the area. Cities like Gideon, Stormhold, and Thorn are all part of this territory. Gideon is a very Imperial city straddling Blackwood in the Empire and is built with the Imperials in mind. To this end it is populated and decorated as such and made quite habitable even if it's palaces were kept as a prison for diplomats. It is a gated city with stone construction and in a fair state as a trade city. The other two have been given descriptions only from files in Arena: Stormhold contains an Imperial prison and is said to be 'tense'. Thorn is called the Jewel of the East but once again is a criminal paradise. However, Gideon is starkly different from every other description, even contemporary ones in which is a 'Black city of Seth' which throws some doubt on each of the others as well. It might be tempting to say that this area is better mapped out, however, cartography hasn't even managed to name all the primary tributaries of Blackwood (traditionally the first things mapped out). This makes the area only slightly more understood than the entirely alien interior realms.

          The primary sustainable mode of transport does seem to be the Rootworms. They are large amorphous creatures with a gelatin like body. These creatures seem to congregate in swarms and are eyeless, armless, legless, and slip into and along the roots of trees. These are about eight feet long and will eat anything that sinks in the mud that they can find. As such these will consume people alive and entrap them in their thin membranous bodies that can be punctured with ease. People are in this way transported safely, able to push themselves from the creature's skin and emerge near air pockets leading to the surface. It is relatively safe with digestion taking months to occur . This is known as 'the Underground Express'. The reason why this is so important is that the natural wooden bridges rot, metal bridges will rust, and as such transport seems to be impossible for any length of time. Even the pathways can't be kept clear as reeds and thickets spring up on well maintained paths almost overnight. This makes the roadways twisting and often changing due to mudslides and natural deformation, and it may take two and a half months to ship goods by wagon from here to the Imperial city (Argonian Account). In the meantime they will have putrefied and rotted or been ruined by the humidity. By comparison, a roughly similar distance rout from the Imperial city to inland Morrowind cities may take two weeks (2920). This is further supported by saying traditional rootworm transport, while unable to hold large stores of supplies, may allow merchants to make the same distance in two weeks as well (Argonian Account).


    The Coast:

          The only major settle area in Argonia is the coastal areas mostly to the south. It is also the place of greatest interest for Imperials and most foreign powers. This area seems to contain the greatest amount of political power and is the center for all matters of trade despite some severe limitations. Most cities in the region seem to be linked by tributaries and are known for having large plantations of Saltrice and Sugarcane despite having poor soil (The Infernal City, Argonian Account). These are tended by slaves and unenthusiastic tenant workers of Argonian nobles who usually sidestep the issue of slavery. The area is far better served by individual subsistence farming though they lack any good yield on cash crops which make large scale agricultural economics impossible. Methods are ineffectual and the general quality of life is said to be poor while the workforce, primarily slaves, are not only un-motivated but self-serving and dangerous to foreigners.

          Most of the cities are still portrayed in poor shape, Lilmoth had many of its grand villas mold encrusted and generally in a state of disrepair (The Alik'r). Despite this it is the hub for the society and seems to be the center of politics. Blackrose itself was a Lilomothiit city along the coast, said to be built long ago and re-purposed into a prison, like many of the other cities, in the reign of the Potentate(Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition) Blackwood is the only other defined city courtesy of Arena. It is said to be 'near the mystical forest of Murkwood'.


          Hopefully this has at least illuminated some of the oddities of the very large province of Black Marsh. It is a diverse land though still predominantly inhospitable to outsiders that has nevertheless shaped the destiny and actions of those who reside in them.


    ←Part 2: The Hist      Part 4: History →