Neverwinter: The Year of Deep Water Drifting
Mere of Dead Men
The Uthtower from Eye of Myrkul (Dungeon 73) is located here as is The Sunken Tower of the Marsh Mystic from Dungeon 186.
Twisted trees, vines, and thick vegetation cloak the mist-shrouded surface of the cold saltwater swamp. Its air is foul with rotting stenches, and its water is black and opaque. Visibility, given fogs and rolling topography, is rarely more than half a mile.
For flightless creatures, travel in the Mere is slow and dangerous. Its dark waters are deep enough to permit a flat-bottomed skiff to pass, but many small islands rise from the swamp islands tangled with strange vegetation. The overgrown bones of long-fallen creatures lie everywhere. Quicksand is rare but mud all too common. Given the thick growth and frequent need to wade (and flounder), skiff-borne travelers can cover about eight miles in 10 hours.
The Mere of Dead Men is known for its monstrous denizens. Travelers on the High Road skirting its eastern verges often travel for three days and nights without stopping, to avoid camping within reach of “dark, wet, clutching things raiding out of the swamp.” Bobbing will-o’-wisps are common night sights from the road. Sword Coast lore speaks vividly of floating islands moving in the Mere, lizardfolk commanded by liches, a penanggalan of monstrous size, drowned ships swarming with sea zombies, gigantic darktentacles, yuan-ti slavers, temples to inhuman gods, giant leeches with bullywug riders, a huge will-o’-wisp that pulses with dark energy, and many other horrors.
Monsters proven (by adventurers’ kills) to dwell in the Mere include aballins, behirs, bullywugs, flying fangs (see Races of Faerûn), giant frogs and toads, gibbering mouthers, giant leeches, hydras, lizardfolk, meazels, monitor lizards, nyths, scrags (aquatic trolls), shambling mounds, snakes, and will-o’-wisps.
The taint of the dead god Myrkul’s power in recent history animated many of the dead drowned beneath the western Mere, creating a profusion of strange undead and many sorts of ghouls, skeletons, and zombies now found in groups wandering the swamp and the lands around, attacking everyone they encounter.
In the Year of the Shattered Scepter (614 DR), orc hordes attacked the realm of Phalorm and defeated its armies. A year later, the orcs besieged a rallied remnant of Phalorm’s defenders at Iniarv’s Tower, one-time abode of the long-vanished Mage Royal of Uthtower. The battle disturbed and enraged Iniarv (who’d become a lich and retreated into the tower’s crypts).
Iniarv hurled mighty spells against his arousers, but the seemingly endless orcs soon invaded long-sheltered Uthtower. A desperate King Uth VII beseeched the lich to honor his ancient alliance with Uthtower and destroy the invading orcs. With cruel humour, Iniarv honored the request by unleashing titanic spells that caused the ocean to rise and inundate the land, drowning humans and orcs alike. When the waters receded, a sprawling saltwater mere lay in place of hitherto verdant realms. (Recent scholars believe the Curse of Iniarv was a powerful wish that magically bound the eastern border of the Mere to the High Road — ensuring its expansion whenever the road is rerouted.)
The few human (and human-ally) survivors fled. The orcs retreated to the Sword Mountains, where centuries later their descendants founded the realm of Uruth Ukrypt. Phalorm soon collapsed when the elves of Ardeep withdrew from it, to be replaced in the Year of the Ensorceled Kings (616 DR) by Delimbiyran, the Kingdom of Man.
Over the centuries, the Mere of Dead Men grew ever larger, inundating all land between the sea and the High Road no matter how far the road was moved inland. Attempts to resettle the former Uthtower uplands were thwarted by the greedy waters of the Mere time and again. Former routes of the High Road are marked by such flooded sites as Castle Naerytar, Holk House, Mornhaven Towers, and Wolfhill House.
From its creation, the Mere harboured all manner of monsters, both living and undead – captured beasts and monstrous experiments released by Iniarv among them – and so was largely avoided by civilized beings. The first dragon to settle in the Mere was Chardansearavitriol, “Ebondeath” to the Fair Folk, an old male black dragon who seized the crumbling ruins of the Uthtower and its catacombs as his lair in the Year of the Lone Lark (631 DR).
Over the centuries, Chardansearavitriol ruled the Mere, preying primarily on Sword Mountain orcs. In the Year of the Spouting Fish (922 DR), he vanished, giving rise to tales that he’d died, relocated, or withdrawn into seclusion in the heart of the swamp.
The dragon had actually heeded the entreaties of Strongor Bonebag, a charismatic Priest of Myrkul with ties to the Cult of the Dragon, and been transformed into a dracolich. The Cult cell headed by Strongor had its own interpretations of the teachings of Myrkul and Sammaster; Strongor blended the tenets of both into a dark creed that venerated the Sacred Ones as divine servants of the Lord of Bones, who would one day undergo apotheosis. There would come a time, Strongor preached, when Myrkul would absorb all Toril into his realm. On that day, the gods of the living would be swept away by the claws of the rightful gods: an ascending pantheon of dracolich powers.
To serve the faithful during the long years until Myrkul’s triumph, the Uthtower (Chardansearavitriol’s lair, almost sixty miles west of Iniarv’s Tower) was transformed into the Mausoleum of the Ebondeath, a great temple of stone and scoured bone wherein the Ebondeath Sect could dwell while venerating their god-to-be.
Strongor’s sudden death less than a decade later ended his efforts to extend the sect across the North, but his followers held to his teachings. Ebondeath, who cared more for gaining personal power than for Strongor’s vision, was slavishly served by the cultists (each of whom, upon death, was transformed into an undead servitor by his fellows). Chardansearavitriol’s isolation from wider Faerûn was deepened by the emergence of the orc realm of Uruth Ukrypt circa 930 DR and the subsequent collapse of trade along the High Road. (The end of the dragon’s raiding had allowed the orc population to soar and the followers of Uruth to establish their own kingdom.)
Over time, Ebondeath became mere legend. When Uruth Ukrypt fell in the Year of Crimson Magics (1026 DR), his name and deeds were largely forgotten. For nearly two centuries Chardansearavitriol slumbered in the heart of the Mere, venerated by his cult, rousing himself only to defend his domain against intruders. This drowsy existence ended abruptly in the Year of the Dragon Altar (1202 DR).
The power of Myrkul, the Lord of Bones, waxes when the Eye of Myrkul appears in the night sky. This rare celestial event involves the passage of a new moon through a certain ring of seven stars otherwise associated with an old symbol of Mystra. Under the Eye’s baleful glare, Chardansearavitriol’s body collapsed into a heap of bones and drifting dust atop the altar of Myrkul. (Ebondeath survived as a spirit tethered to his physical remains and might linger in that same state today.)
The remaining cultists hailed Ebondeath’s sudden transformation as the long-heralded second stage of divine ascension Strongor had foretold. Worshipers of Myrkul flocked to the temple at the heart of the Mere, and the Ebondeath Sect grew strong, awaiting the night when once again the Eye of Myrkul would grace the sky. Over the years, Sect members prepared for the next stage of Chardansearavitriol’s ascension, in accordance with a series of visions unveiled to their highest ranking priests by the Lord of Bones. In particular, the cultists worked to create rings of Myrkul, unholy items the Reaper said would be needed in years to come.
However, the Sect collapsed when Myrkul perished in the Time of Troubles, and the Mausoleum sank into the swamp. Fleeing Myrkulites yielded their lives – and magic rings – to the monsters of the Mere.
Upon Myrkul’s death, the deity’s avatar exploded high above the Sea of Swords. Much of his might rained down on the waters to slowly collect on the sea floor, and the his essence survives in the Crown of Horns, but a small fraction of the deity’s power coalesced atop the waves. This floating patch of bone dust drifted north, and – perhaps by chance, perhaps by dark design – recently entered the Mere, where Myrkul’s fading power animated a leaderless legion of undead from the countless fallen bodies that lie unburied beneath the dark waters. These “risen dead” displaced many swamp monsters, who’ve taken to raiding the lands around. Some of the “risen” are Myrkulites who fled the sinking Mausoleum, and many of the rings of Myrkul they bore have passed into the possession of others.