The Gholan (Ghovian) Marshes
In the summer of 391 AT, and about forty five days into the initial push of the Reconquest, the forces of the Sanguine Order had advanced far into the central Airle, somewhere near the present day city of Caleston. The assault had progressed quite rapidly across the Airle’s central plains, and any orcs they might have been chasing had no time to pause and create any sort of defense.
Village after Orc village had been found emptied of their entire citizenry. The few Orc bodies found were of the old or injured, buried in hastily dug graves covered in strange wooden talismans. The forces of the Reconquest assumed that they had been killed in a barbaric act by their brethren, in order to keep them from slowing down those who could flee. Decades later after the Armistice, the Orc concept of ‘rhal’ became known to colonial scholars, though it did little to change the average colonist’s perspective.
The plains had finally ended, and to the east lay a thick forest. The Order armies felt the need to keep up the pace, so they entered it with only a minimal of scouting, hoping their numerical superiority and momentum would be enough to win them any engagement. They knew at least one of their flanks were secure, as the lands of the Telis lay to the south. Any Orc that had retreated that in that direction was certain to have met their end.
Two days later, they reached the southwest bend of a river that became known as ‘the Gray’, its dark, murky waters filled with mud, branches, and detritus from the forests. The flow of the river suggested a larger body of water lay further to the east, and so the decision was to follow its course in hopes of finding its mouth.
Which bank the march would continue on was heavily debated, as each one had its own starkly different characteristics. The north bank appeared to consist of the thick but manageable forest they had already passed though. On the south bank, the ground was softer, and the vegetation more lush and jungle-like. Scouts that had travelled further inland had discovered the fringes of a marsh, which they could find no southern route around.
The decision was made to create rafts, cross the wide river and advance on the northern bank. Though some equipment and a few lives were lost in this effort, the majority of the army managed to cross successfully. When asked later about the marsh, Telis diplomats would identify it as the ‘Ghovian’, though their Felusian counterparts would record the word incorrectly in their journals as ‘Gholan’. With a more complete understanding of the size and dangers of the marsh, historians mostly agree that Sanguine casualties would have been much higher if they had decided to continue along the southern bank of the Gray.
Marking the south border of Easthold, adjacent to its most heavily travelled waterway, the Gholan Marshes are a constant reminder that there are still many places on the Airle that are still untamed and quite dangerous. Its dark fringes remain at bay, as if waiting for a moment of weakness to strike at Easthold. There are those who have attempted to create outposts in this unclaimed land, but all have ended in failure, some the subject of uncomfortable bardic tales.
The large rectangle of wetland which comprises the Gholan is almost the size of Easthold itself, a drainage basin saturated by waters from the Onio Mountains to the south. All manner of dangerous creature resides here, some kin to the smaller Free Town’s jungle to the west, while many others are unique in Felusian Airle. The most intelligent of them seem to be indigenous trolls, who from time to time stray to the north and into Easthold itself. Most study takes place at only its fringes, and much of what resides in the deep marsh is still quite unknown.
It is believed that the Hordes somehow have intimate knowledge of the Gholan, and know the safest passages through it. It is believed to be a major infiltration route for the Hordes, officially unsanctioned scouting parties transiting through it, then turning north through the demilitarized forest that forms the border of Easthold and Westhold. These parties have been known to reach Thistlecreek and beyond, and there have been sightings even to the southern fringes of Northhold itself.
Like the Onio Mountains, the Gholan is rumored to contain many undiscovered ruins and containing unclaimed treasures. Initial and organized attempts by exploration societies to pierce its veil had limited successes, the riches found not worth the cost in lives to earn them. In the modern day, unsanctioned adventurers leave from Port Endurance by boat, and set up camp somewhere on the south bank, outside of Easthold’s jurisdiction. Very little is known of how these groups fare, as their findings are seldom reported to scholarly institutions or Easthold authorities.
When strange artifacts from the area do appear, they are usually procured through a black market trader or the oddities shops of the Prusci Colony. The fragmented clues they provide still shed little insight into the Gholans’ actual history.