North of Waterdeep is a swampland called the Mere of Dead Men. Caravans headed north push past the mere without sleep, not wanting to deal with its ghost-infested waters or the angry lizard-folk who now call it home. Yeah, we adventured there a bit. In hopes of giving the joint a kind of Middle-Earth, well lived in vibe, I talked about some half-sunken statues of olden kings near the ruined castles in the mere (of course it is a rip-off of the Dead Marshes). On the far side of the swamps I had the players stop at a tavern called the Drowned Kings.
Daydreaming about gaming is one way I pass the time on long car rides, sometimes talking out loud as an NPC, saying something that might or might not ever come to pass in game. During this past weekend’s car ride, I found myself thinking about the Drowned Kings again. I like the idea of a once fertile land struck down by the gods, now a ruined swamp with a black dragon sleeping in its guts, ghosts becking over its skin and lizard-folk living in its blood.
The Drowned Kings were known as the Sword Kings back then, named as such for the magic blades they carried, given to them by an earlier incarnation of the Seven Sisters. The dwarves gave them bridges as gifts, making it easier for caravans to reach them from the dalelands and the far north and giving the kings easy access to not only the north but to Netherese portals that could allow their merchants to ride to the far reaches of Faerun and beyond. These bridges were self serving gifts, allowing the dwarven princes to deliver their metals, gems and crafts to the sword coast.
The kings knew that not only were these kingly gifts, that control of these bridges would come to mean the control of their kingdom. Their seven mightiest knights, tested by the Sisters themselves were assigned to guard these bridges. The gifts were made of stout stone with a shrine to Moradin on one side and a shrine to some unidentified lost-to-time human sword saint on the other.
The Sword Kings drowned, the last of their statues descending under the Mere of Dead Men’s brackish waters, but their bridge knights remain to this day. The route that was once pivotal to a kingdom has been rendered useless by Waterdeep’s amazing port and the well traveled roads up the Sword Coast. The portals that once fed the routes with foreign travelers from all manner of cultures beyond the Sea of Stars or even outside our plane’s borders are now damaged, used only by reckless adventurers.
The remaining knights are humble men and women who swear fealty to the ghosts of long dead kings and worship an ecclectic gathering of sword saints and Mystra, lady of magic, whom they believe chose them for their appointed tasks. Some have traveled abroad in search of the Drowned Kings’ blades, many die trying to exorcise the Mere of Dead Men and others have stayed home and taken up masonry. They all wage a centuries long feud with trolls who covet their bridges. Three of the bridges go over rivers that have long since dried up. One of the knights even built her manor incorporating the bridge itself into the design.
When a bridge knight reaches a venerable age, considered to be as such when they cannot ride over each bridge in less than a week on a solid horse, they retire to Candlekeep, spending their elder years doing research on the kings of old, sending any scrolls or vague mention of the Sword Kings’ glory days that they find back to their children.
They know that their knightly responsibilities have long since stopped being important to the world at large but still they remain. They are artifacts of a lost age, romantic wardens of a dead empire, living and breathing avatars of a part of the Forgotten Realms that steadfastly refuses to be entirely forgotten.
Oooh, know which pic this makes me remember? This one: