The Sinking Tower of Ssissk’ss’s Sump

Map of a crumbling tower sinking into a swamp, with a sinkhole in its center leading to the depths below.

The low moor near the center of the Cerulean Wood never seemed to be a danger to the nearby villages. Called merely “the Sump” by locals, it was home to a small tribe of bullywugs that were mostly harmless. They kept to themselves and sometimes traded a rare fungi (a delicacy in the nearby city of Galabar’s Hill, just two days to the west) for manufactured goods, but otherwise avoided the centers of civilization.

The last couple of years, however, have seen the rise of a lizardfolk chieftain going by Ssissk’ss. Nobody has yet figured out how he arrived in the Sump; there is no recoreded mention of lizardfolk in the area going back centuries. Nevertheless, with the aid of a small cadre of his kin Ssissk’ss has managed to establish an outpost and achieved a level of organization such that surrounding residents now refer to the swamp as Ssissk’ss’ Sump. There has been progressively more sophisticated and profitable trade between villagers and Ssissk’ss people, not only taking up the fungus trade previously dominated by the bullywugs (nobody knows what happened to them) but also branching out to trapped furs, rare plants and wildlife, and other…curiosities.

These curiosities are what worry both the Cerulean Rangers and the druids of the Mossy Circle. Unknown to most, somewhere in the swamp lie the ruins of an old frontier watchtower, constructed in the early days of a lost empire and subsequently left to rot after its fall. The rangers and druids don’t even recall its name, but their respective oral histories both warn of danger if the tower is ever controlled by the forces of evil. The objects being doled out by Ssissk’ss and his merchants are showing signs of strange magical effects, and while the entire region is littered with lost artifacts from a forgotten age, the concern is that these are directly a result of whatever they’ve been warned about concerning the lost tower. They’ve remained hands-off for now, but their scouts and animal companions are keeping a close eye on the lizardfolk and what they’re trading with the villagers.

The truth of the tower is worse than they fear. The tower was built on top of an ancient seal that imprisoned an ancient demon of decay and corruption. Its prison prevented it from directly communicating with the world above, but it managed to influence its environment nonetheless. With eternity to plot and scheme, the unnamed demon extended its power and slowly corrupted the surrounding territory. The entire swamp is now infused with its malevolent touch, and its power grows daily. The fungus is altering the minds of those that eat it, making them more susceptible to the demon’s influence. Powerful artifacts are tempting and corrupting those that use them to carry out the demon’s wishes, whether they know it or not.

Soon, the demon’s power will be such that it will start drawing powerful people to its doorstep, in order to completely open the seal which imprisons it. What horrors already await in the depths beneath the sinking tower? Is it already too late, or will some intrepid band of adventurers manage to stop the worst from happening?

Trying something new this time. Keeping the hand-drawn look, but with some flat colors and shadows to give more dimension to the map. What do you think? Drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter to give me your thoughts. Follow me on Instagram for more like this, and occasional previews of upcoming work. A high-res (3600px x 2700px) version of this map is available to my patrons.

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