An Incomplete History of River's Rest: Part IV
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The River's Rest Irregulars of the Third Elven
island of River's Rest virtually ignored the Second Elven War (4770-4772
M.E.). The war was largely fought in areas inaccessible by boat
from River's Rest and therefore of no interest to the island's smugglers.
A few radical elves and half-elves
expressed some fervor for the Ta'Nalfein cause, but even they limited
their involvement to placing stone crocks in the various River's
Rest taverns to collect money for the aid of the widows and orphans
of Nalfein warriors. It should be noted that there is no indication
that the silver actually found its way east to Ta'Nalfein. For the
most part the Second Elven War passed without much notice in River's
Rest. Not so the Third Elven War.
At the outset of the Third Elven War in 4841 M.E. Duke Nyrmont
of Kezmon Isle issued a call to arms. Because of the harmony that
existed between River's Rest and Kezmon Isle following the krolvin
invasion of 4790 the Duke invited the people of River's Rest to
join him. Many of River's Rest's ruling families accepted, as did
a surprising number of "river rats." When Nyrmont and
Sir Hughrond (who was known throughout the Empire as the Golden
Knight of Kezmon Isle) set forth to do battle against Ta'Faendryl
two hundred and twenty young men and women from River's Rest accompanied
them. Thirty were officers from the leading imperial families, the
rest were foot soldiers from the island's alleyways and marshlands.
Initially Nyrmont assigned the River's Rest contingent to serve
under Sir Hughrond. Hughrond, however, was distressed by the unwillingness
-- or inability -- of the officers of the River's Rest corps to
maintain what he considered suitable military discipline. For their
part, the "river rats" were reluctant to serve under anybody
arrogant enough to allow himself to be referred to as "the
Golden Knight." Nyrmont quickly realized his mistake and formed
the River's Rest unit into an irregular force of scouts and spies,
utilizing the "river rat" skills as smugglers and outlaws.
The River's Rest Irregulars set up ambushes, raided behind enemy
lines and gathered intelligence (and, whenever possible, lined their
own pockets with loot). Because their missions kept them away from
the main body of the army none of the Irregulars were present at
The Breaking, the ignominious defeat of the Imperial Army by the
demonic forces of Ta'Faendryl. Sir Hughrond and many other famous
lords were slain, the Imperial Army collapsed in the face of the
opposing demon forces, and the remnants of the army fled from the
battlefield in panic. The army reorganized at the stronghold at
Creyth. The River's Rest Irregulars were left to find their own
way to Creyth. Fewer than half made it. The fortress soon found
itself under siege by the armies of Ta'Faendryl.
Duke Nyrmont assumed command of the army and held a council meeting
to determine the army's course of action. Many argued for a determined
last stand even if it resulted in nothing more than a glorious death.
Others contended the wisest action was an organized retreat to a
fortress stronger than Creyth. The officers of the River's Rest
Irregulars were among those in favor of making at stand at Creyth.
When the "river rats" heard the course of action proposed
by their leaders they began to gather their meager belongings in
their packs in preparation for leaving. Their officers ordered the
men arrested for mutiny and cowardice.
Nyrmont, observing the disturbance, asked what they were doing.
"There's a time to play the fish and a time to cut bait,"
said the one the Irregulars. "And this fish is too big."
Nyrmont said he'd have no men at his side who didn't want to be
there. He ordered the men be allowed to leave Creyth. To the outrage
of his troops, Nyrmont thanked them for their service and saw to
it they had sufficient food for their journey. A few of the River's
Rest Irregulars, moved by Nyrmont's nobility, elected to stay in
Creyth. The majority of 'river rats,' however, were unmoved by accusations
of cowardice and faithlessness. They slipped out of the fortress
at Creyth and slowly made their way home. Not long thereafter the
Duke and his army also abandoned the fortress, escaping in the night
through tunnels that had been dug in preparation for such a retreat.
In later years Nyrmont made conflicting statements about the role
of the River's Rest Irregulars. On some occasions he would commend
them for the vital role they played behind the lines. At other times
he would castigate them for abandoning the fortress, suggesting
that had they stayed the Imperial Army might have fared better.
The once amiable relationship between River's Rest and Kezmon Isle
never recovered. In 4873 M.E., of course, Kezmon Isle itself disappeared
during a terrible storm. Nyrmont, a bitter old man by then, disappeared
with his home.
The Necromancer Syssanis
The end of the fifth millennium and the beginning of the sixth
was a prosperous time for River's Rest. The town had grown considerably,
attracting craftsmen and artisans of all races. The edicts discriminating
against non-humans were generally ignored so long as their enterprises
did not interfere with those of the favored imperial families. The
relative peace in that part of the empire increased commercial traffic...and
the silver flowed into River's Rest.
prosperity extended even to some of the "river rats".
Smuggling, brigandage and river piracy continued to be their primary
sources of income, but their criminality had become almost regulated.
The ruling merchant families had established covert agreements with
the "river rats" to insure their shipments were spared.
Many old "river rat" families built grand homes and began
to move in the social circles dominated by the loyal imperial households.
It was a golden time in River's Rest and the town seemed destined
to be restored to its former glory.
Then in 5006 M.E. a necromancer known only as Syssanis established
himself in an old keep in Oteska's Marsh, a few leagues upriver
from River's Rest. The marsh, named for the pirate who had used
the fens and bayous as a hideout eight centuries earlier, was still
commonly used by smugglers. They were understandably suspicious
of this newcomer. However, once they determined Syssanis was no
threat to their illicit activities they ignored him. A few of the
more desperate "river rats" were even employed by Syssanis
Smuggling can be a dangerous occupation. When an occasional smuggler
who worked out of Oteska's Marsh disappeared little notice was taken.
Eventually the number of missing smugglers became suspicious. The
"river rats" sent a deputation to Syssanis' Keep to inquire
if he knew anything about the disappearances. The deputation never
The pragmatic smugglers of River's Rest abandoned Oteska's Marsh
and found other places to conduct their activities. Soon undead
creatures and fell beasts were seen stalking the moonlit fens of
Oteska's Marsh. Wild rumors of bestial experiments conducted by
Syssanis were passed by his servants in the markets and taverns.
The mutilated bodies of roltons
were found on the mainland.
By late 5007 whatever was stalking Oteska's Marsh moved into River's
Rest. Several of the more disreputable "river rats" living
in the Khan'kel Bazaar went missing. The alleyway taverns began
barring their doors at night. "river rats" kept their
lanterns burning all night, resulting in several accidental fires.
The ruling families no longer allowed their children to play outside
unattended and called them inside before dark. Ferrymen refused
to operate their boats after sunset.
In the spring of 5008, despite all the precautions taken, a child
and a beloved servant of one of the loyalist families disappeared.
Most of the servant's bloodless body was later recovered. Frightened
and angry merchant families used their political influence to get
Count Glavedd, the Torren governor, to send a band of soldiers to
The County troops ventured into Oteska's Marsh to question Syssanis.
Like the deputation of smugglers some months earlier, the troops
were never seen again. Glavedd sent a second mission...larger and
better armed. Led by "river rat" volunteers they went
deep into the marsh looking for Syssanis' Keep. Unnaturally thick
fog appeared, confounding even the most experienced guides. As the
troops made their way through the marsh they were ambushed by a
host of undead creatures and warriors. The County soldiers were
quickly overwhelmed and panicked. Many became confused by the fog
and fled directly into bogs and quicksand. The "river rats"
managed to lead the survivors out of the marsh.
Glavedd sent reinforcements. On two more occasions squads of Torren
soldiers entered Oteska's Marsh only to fall victim to either the
minions of Syssanis or the marsh itself. The "river rats"
refused to lead another expedition into Oteska's Marsh. The troops,
aware they could never negotiate the mysterious marshes and fens
alone, withdrew to River's Rest to formulate a plan.
When the Torren soldiers withdrew the depredations stopped. Strange
creatures and fiendish beings continued to prowl Oteska's Marsh,
but no more people went missing and no more bodies were found. The
commander of the Torren troops was satisfied with that result. Count
Glavedd was relieved as well; he had other matters to concern him.
So long as Syssanis restricted himself to Oteska's Marsh, Glavedd
was content to let him conduct his experiments without interference.
The ruling families of River's Rest were outraged. They had been
loyal supporters of Glavedd and the Turamzzyrian Empire, and Glavedd
had let them down. They would not feel entirely safe until Syssanis
had been eliminated. No amount of argument or complaint, however,
could persuade Glavedd to order his troops back into the marsh.
The "river rats" simply chose to avoid Oteska's Marsh.
The events in Oteska's Marsh and Glavedd's decision had far-reaching
effects, however. Merchants who had been using River's Rest as a
convenient point to transfer goods between river boats and deep
sea craft became nervous and began to use Fairport as their transfer
point. Many of the island's ruling families, discouraged by Glavedd's
lack of support and the falling economy, shifted their homes and
businesses from River's Rest to Fairport. The gradual abandonment
of River's Rest was accelerated by an influx of orcs
and trolls, who saw Glavedd's inability to deal with Syssanis as
a sign of weakness.
In 5014 M.E. an intoxicated "river rat" made a tavern
wager that he could make his way to Syssanis' Keep and return. He
won the bet. The keep was empty. Syssanis had disappeared. Some
people believed he had simply moved away but most assumed he had
died, possibly set upon by beasts of his own creation. A local folk
legend suggests Syssanis made the fatal error of kidnaping two popular
young lovers and using them in his experiments, after which he was
murdered in his sleep by his servants. All that can be said with
certainty is that by the late summer of 5014 Syssanis no longer
inhabited Oteska's Marsh.
With the revelation of Syssanis' disappearance the restoration
of River's Rest as a consequential town might have revived. However,
in 5018 M.E. an event took place which forever altered the future
of the island. Small earth tremors were not uncommon in western
Elanthia; major quakes, though, were exceedingly rare. The quake
of 5018 was centered just east of the island of River's Rest. It
is reported that the quake was felt as far away as Fairport and
Waterford. The only significant damage, however, was in River's
Most of the town was leveled. The fine stone structures built by
the merchant families collapsed and many were killed by falling
debris. For the most part the "river rats" still lived
in wooden buildings. Fewer were killed by their collapsing house,
but many died in the resulting fires which raced through their neighborhoods
(the quake struck in the late afternoon when the evening cooking
fires were being lighted).
The most radical change, however, was in the Tempest River. The
earth to the east of the island shifted dramatically in the quake,
rising more than thirty feet high in some places. The Tempest Falls
The falls, of course, had an immediate and profound impact on the
economy of River's Rest. The island's primary commercial value was
as a transfer station at which goods could be shifted between river
boats and sea-going vessels. The newly-created Tempest Falls and
rockslides upstream made commercial river travel to River's Rest
With their homes destroyed and their businesses ruined, the merchant
families abandoned River's Rest, leaving it to the "river rats".
The Smuggling Wars
The Great Quake of 5018 M.E. and the birth of the Tempest Falls
ruined River's Rest as a center of river piracy. The more dedicated
river pirates simply relocated their activities farther upriver,
closer to Waterford. Many, however, abandoned their traditional
illicit occupation and took up another local favorite-smuggling.
River's Rest had been a haven for smugglers ever since the fall
of the Citadel and the Kingdom of Elanith in 4058 M.E. To many "river
rats" smuggling was considered an honorable craft and over
the centuries a sort of hierarchy of smugglers had arisen. It was
not as formalized as a guild, but certain informal rules existed
and for the most part the smugglers abided by them. There are, after
all, only a limited amount of goods to be smuggled. The informal
arrangement between smugglers insured there was work for all with
a minimum of antagonism.
The quake changed all that. The former river pirates, even if they
were aware of the smugglers' traditions, did not feel bound by them.
They felt free to engage in the smuggling of any product to any
place at any time for any reasonable profit. The veteran smugglers
attempted to stop them. So began what became known as the smuggling
It was not war as it is commonly considered. For the most part
it took place in the narrow alleyways and in the back rooms of taverns,
in the warehouses along the docks, and in the marshes and fens.
It consisted of furtive stabbings and assassinations, boats vandalized
or set ablaze, barrels and crates of smuggled goods destroyed or
stolen. The fighting was mean-spirited, savage, brutal and conducted
entirely without any consideration of honor or dignity. Only one
pitched battle took place, although it would be more accurately
described as a drunken brawl. Nonetheless, it resulted in more than
a dozen deaths.
In the end there were no clear winners, only survivors. Smuggling
ceased to be a grand tradition and became just another common crime.
The animosities sparked by the smuggling wars continue to this day.
River's Rest in the Modern Era
Following the devastation of the Great Quake and the debacle
of Syssanis and Oteska's Marsh, the Counts of Torre tended to turn
a blind eye toward River's Rest. They continued to collect the annual
tribute to the Emperor and to periodically send troops to inspect
the island and its environs, but for the most part they were content
to let it quietly deteriorate.
This laissez-faire attitude has shifted somewhat with the
discovery of a magical portal that links the south bank of the Tempest
River with a small boat grounded near the town of Wehnimer's
Landing far to the north. The origin of this portal is a topic
rife with speculation. One popular theory is that the boat belonged
to the necromancer Syssanis who wished to maintain a link with the
area when he left Oteska's Marsh. A related school of thought agrees
the boat belonged to Syssanis, but was used by his servants who
fled the area after murdering him.
The portal has done much to rebuild the population of River's Rest.
The town is gradually expanding. At present the town boasts a bank
made of stone and a few small shops. In recent years the town has
even established a rudimentary form of law enforcement.
The portal, however, is an important resource. It is unlikely it
will be long ignored by Claybourne, the current Count of Torre,
or by his masters in the Turamzzyrian Empire. The small island of
River's Rest may once again become the focus of the attention of
the great and the powerful.
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