Down in the Low Marshes, out where the geese and other birds won't go, terrible things fester just beneath the sick-smelling, scummy water. Decaying, water-logged bodies. Cadaverous debris cast-off by the Butchers or rejected by the Medical College. Those corpses considered unsuitable or unfit to the needs of those who otherwise are sometimes wont to buy such things. Too far gone. Spoiled by foreign infections or contaminated by dire pollution. Tainted, wretched things. They are left here to rot. Cast aside into the muck and mire. Some to be fed upon. Others to feed.
Encounters with zombies, wights, and other forms of undead can certainly be expected within the Low Marshes, but a cadaver doesn't necessarily need to rise from the muck and attempt to gnaw off your arm to be horrifying, dangerous or deadly...
- Tender pink leeches trail ribbon-like from the soft, mushy contours of...was that a hand...could that have been a face? (3d6) finger-length pink-leeches have felt the subtle impression of your perceptions. They prefer fresh blood to the sludgy, filthy stuff they've been forced to make-do with until now.
- The cold, corrupt brain of this corpse seethes with curdled oneiric effluvium. Disturbing it causes the fragile skull to split. Rancid mauve dream-stuff spills forth in a sort of cloud that lingers sullenly within a space just under the usual 10 ft. radius. Anyone coming into contact with this sticky, vile stuff must Save or be afflicted with persistent nightmares, suffering a loss of either 1 point of CON or WIS every week this condition persists. The nightmares are so disturbing, so intense that all healing is at 1/4 normal rate and spells become increasingly difficult to recover or memorize. The nightmares can be dealt with by a simple Remove Nightmare* spell, but the victim retains a permanent -1 penalty on all Saves versus oneirical influences furthermore.
- Swollen and grotesque, the cadaver stares up at you with boiled-egg eyes, empty of all detail, devoid of all sign of any soul. A bubble of fetid gas. A shrug-like movement. A sort-of smile, only the lower jaw sloughs away as a buzzing swarm of wet, black insects erupts forth from just below the water's surface.
- No face. No eyes. No...not much of anything immediately recognizable remains of this terribly decomposed body. Just the cheap rag doll it still clutches. It stares at you.
- Rusty chains can be seen through the almost milky water. An arm extends towards the surface. The fingers are all gone. The water here is very still. Hundreds upon hundreds of dirty-white flukes are what is making the water around this submerged cadaver so milky. These flukes are tiny things. They wait for someone, anyone to come into contact with the opaque water. Touching the water, coming into contact with something that was in the water (like an oar or pole), let alone drinking or dipping a hand into the stuff will be all that is needed for the parasites to attempt to infiltrate a new host's body. Those so exposed need to either Save or make a CON check. Those that fail suffer a loss of 1d4 hit points, experience a slight bit of discomfort then it all seems to just go away. Except that the flukes are now infesting the victim's internal organs and reproducing themselves. In 1d4 days the host begins to experience excruciating pain (half movement, -4 penalty to DEX) and bloating. 1d4 hours after the onset of these symptoms their abdomen will rupture, spilling forth a wriggling mass of flukes (suffering an additional 4d6 damage). There are a wide array of folk-remedies available, some worse than the flukes. Certain spells might help alleviate the problem, but the flukes are resistant to Cure Disease (it simply doesn't work). Should a host survive their initial infestation, the real ordeal begins--they will go through this all again in 1d4 days. And again. And again every 1d4 days. Unless they have the parasites removed properly by a skilled Midwife, experienced Surgeon (using either the Removal or Dissolve spells), or an Apothecary knowledgeable in the more subtle poisons suited to such things.
- Deeply enmired within the gelatinous muck you can just make-out the slope of what might be an immodestly exposed thigh. Tatters of dingy fabric flutter like weeds. Make a check against any mental attribute you care to test. Fail and you spend the next (1d4) minutes staring into the murksome mire trying to pick out the details while the not so innocent muck slowly, softly, delicately extends itself upwards, outwards to surround you with a glistening, shuddering mass of filthiness with bad intentions.
- Bump. Thump. That isn't a log. Thankfully it's floating face-down. At least it would be. If what was left of its face wasn't now attached to your boots, boat or whatever else first came into contact with the body.
- A head bobs freely in the muddy water. Maggots riddle the unwholesome flesh that remains loosely attached. The rest of the body is pinned beneath an overturned flat-bottomed boat. The kind the leech-cullers and marsh-folk use. Disturbing the boat will upset a delicate balance; all the pent-up gasses will burst the thing's massively distended guts, spattering a 12 ft. radius with rotten flesh. If anyone looks closely at the soggy, nasty gobs, they will notice the unmistakable sign of the Gray Pox.
- Bones are jumbled against a weedy tussock like so much brittle driftwood. A glint of something shiny. Some random, inconsequential trinket or trash pokes out from under the bones. How bad do you want to see what it is?
- Those aren't slugs. Not worms, either. They're tumors. The kind supposedly caused by a Midwife's dying curse. But if the tumors are here...where is the body they came from?
*To be included in the upcoming Blue Grimoire.