Swamphags, Moorcrocks or
Twilight Fouls - all those names tell of
one of the most ugly and possibly evil known creatures of
Sarvonia. Living in moors and
bottomless swamps, they are believed to be the personified disaster of any
sentient being which dares to get near their realm when the night approaches.
Appearance. "If ever somebody thought, a mullog had an ugly face, then this person hasn't seen a Swamphag yet. And he is indeed lucky, for otherwise he would have been haunted by the sight his entire life." This quote from Bumblebee Redapples, a hobbit merchant from the Silvermarshes, seems to represent very well what the Santharian population thinks about creatures, which few have come across. A similar, more detailed description is the report of Corash Shortsword, a travelling mercenary who passed the North Sarvonian Water Marches on his way to Inglis Haven.
Corash Shortsword's Encounter with Three Swamphags. It was still far from sunset, but the day had been dull and the sun didn't penetrate the mist lying over the landscape. My path led me along the edge of the Water Marches, foul air forced me to wrap a cloth around my nose. I was in thought, when my horse suddenly balked and I was torn out of my daydreams. What I saw, made my blood freeze. Three creatures were sitting on a cluster of grass and reed in the midst a pool of caliginous water. The faces were so ugly I wanted to look away, but on the other side I was fascinated as well. Wrinkles can look quite hoar, but these were totally out of proportion, the faces looked somehow distorted; eyes, dark and threatening looking, were of different size and not where they should be. Big, distant ears, sticking out what should probably be filthy hair, moved as if they had a life on their own. The mouths had no lips, but when they were opened, the most horrendous, sharp and pointed yellow teeth could be seen; the noses - there were no noses, just two slits which opened and closed between eyes and mouth; the bodies were haggard; the arms long and with strange extensions like fins. At their necks were giant gills. I can‘t say, if they had breasts. One of these creatures had some bigger skin flaps where the breast should have been, if it was female, the other looked a bit more angular, I don't know. The weirdest thing however were their tails. If you didn‘t look closely, you could think they were fishtails though any elegance was missing, but when one of the three slipped back into the murky water, I saw that the tail was slit and had somehow a bony structure. That was all I noticed, for the beast swam towards me and that brought me back to reality - and I forced my horse to pass and bring me away quickly.
Other reports confirm the appearance described here, though not all use such strong words to paint the ugliness. Most often they are resembling very worn-out people, exhausted to death, not necessarily old, with big eyes in bony heads. Their skin colour intensifies the effect - it is of a greyish green-brown colour, the tail just darker than the upper torso. The bodies are covered with the sediments of the pools and murky water, which adds to the impression that they are just detestable.
Image description. Swamphags, Moorcrocks, Twilight Fouls - whatever you call them, you don't want to meet them in swampy terrain... Picture by Bard Judith.
Moorcrocks do not live in open reed covered swampy areas, where the
wind caresses the long stalks and the
green of the plants is glistening in the
Injèrá's rays. Their territory are: the bottomless moors; the dark lakes,
which are the perfect mirrors if there is no
wind; the areas, where the ground spits out hot reddish
water; where nobody can breathe because
of the poisonous air emerging from the
There are not many of these areas in Southern Sarvonia or North of the Tandalas, at least no larger ones. The most extended region are the Water Marshes, the place, where the legendary Fá'áv'cál'âr was situated. The Southern part of the Silvermarshes in the province Nermeran are home to them as well, though those living there do not seem to be of as frightening an appearance as the ones in the Water Marches. However, whoever thinks he would be safe from these creatures if only he stays away from the Silvermarshes errs greatly. All over Santharia, apart from the southern desert, are swamp-like regions, mostly in forests, not very large, but large enough to host a few Twilight Fouls. Especially the Northern lorests - like the Hovel Frond and the Shaded Forest - are know to have a remarkable population, but so do many of the South Sarvonian woods.
Mode of Living/Habits. Not much is really known about the Swamphags'way of living. They have been observed hunting fish and birds, but should a normal beast of the forests come too near to the dark lakes to drink, a quick catch, a jump out of the water ends its life. Eggs, water snakes and any other animals which make their home in the swamps are taken as a meal as well. Plants are part of their diet, but what they actually like and what not - no one has looked into this yet.
Swamphags are creatures of the dark and the mist. So none will be encountered during Sunblaze when the Injèrá is shining. At this time they seem to hide deep in the black waters. But when twilight is approaching or the day is dull and rainy, tatters of fog are hanging between the trees, then it is the time for the Moorcrock to go hunting. Whether they have regular sleeping places or change their environment to make a place more agreeable to live in - nobody knows nor was interested so far.
Normally they do not wear any clothes, however, occasionally they are seen with an old rag of - as is assumed - a former human prey. The majority of researchers does not believe that they hunt people or lure them to deep water, however, common people just laugh about the naivety of those scholars and claim, that they know it better (see also Myth/Lore).
Many people will surely deny, that these creatures of the swamps are sentient. But several reports assert this: They use weapons like crude staffs to hunt their prey very efficiently. One report about them speaks of the use of a primitive sling. They have a language, though common people will deny that the whistles and noises they make can be regarded as constituting an intelligent communication. What nobody can disavow is, that they sing. Not that anyone would say, that these songs are in any way agreeable to listen to, but they do have a certain, strange melody which is irresistible. Though an occasional wanderer would start to shudder when he hears a Swamphag sing, he can‘t stop to listen (read more in Myth/Lore).
Nobody even knows, if there are two genders - Swamphag and Moorcrock, if there is something like a family, a pair of Twilight Fouls looking after their offspring. Occasionally smaller individuals are seen within a group, but every member of the group cares for them equally. This is a very remarkable feature, not fitting the general picture of them - their care for the younger or smaller ones: they feed them, carry them on their back, hold them in their arms and defend them, should the need arise.
A strong winter is the time, when the Silvermarshes are relatively safe to travel. The swamps and lakes are frozen, apart from the places with hot springs. In this time the Twilight Fouls are hibernate deep on the ground of their lakes (like the rivermaids, though nobody wants to compare these two creatures).
Relation to Other Races. Humans hate them, elves turn away, dwarves ignore them, hobbits avoid them, even orcs refuse to count them amoung huntable prey, but there is one "race" which has to live with them: the mullogs of the Silvermarshes. There are still stories told about bloody fights between the two races which brought both to the brink of extinction. Today however, both seem to have a mutual agreement not to fight each other. Each ignore the other as much as possible, the mullogs try to avoid the places where the Swamphags live, the Moorcrocks never go near the drier parts of the marshes.
No researcher was ever keen enough to find something out about the relations between the Twilight Fouls and the shadow elves of the Water Marshes. It is likely that this subject will not be elucidated for some time to come.
Myth/Lore. There is definitely more lore than fact known about the Swamphags and what is believed commonly is the lore, not the fact. And all of these stories are told to frighten children away from dangerous swampy areas in the forest or to give tavern visitors some chill before having to go home. All are about how evil and dangerous the Twilight Fouls are - though here the cankered creatures are mostly Swamphags, it is always the female gender which is evil...
Their strangely beautiful songs have already been mentioned. These eerie tunes are able to frighten every brave soul. All who have heard them say, that despite the shudders running down their spine, they could not stop listening, for the songs were beautiful in their own way. And after some time, the horror begins: the mind drifts away, the listening person is daydreaming and finally the weaker characters, or the more sensible ones, or the sad ones with problems - all they start to go towards the sound as if sleepwalking.
However, it is not only the songs that deceive the travellers. Some report of calls, or screams that sound like a child in need, or a young girl, some even said, that they heard words like "mother", "father" and "help me". And these calls are so irresistible, that one could not help but to go towards these cries for help.
There is more lore - but this time it is not told too openly, for mostly young men are addressed here and not only the ears are deceived, but the eyes as well. Young men, often only saved by an unimaginative friend who accompanied them, narrate a story full of emotion and longing. There is most often a young girl involved, who those men see. First they follow the call, but if that is not enough, there is suddenly a womanlike figure out there, not too distant not to be seen clearly. And this woman is in danger of being swallowed by the moor - and she is always naked, her clothes already devoured by the swamp and she calls for help. Some of these young men claim, that they saw out there their girlfriend, wife or a beloved person. In one story it is a father, trying to save his child, a child who had died the winter before.
Researchers. There are no known researchers who have worked exclusively on the Swamphags or want to be titled as an expert in this realm. Ansird of Necoma, the famous rivermaid expert, ruined his reputation as researcher when he showed interest in them. This is truely a subject everybody wants to avoid. However, further research is strongly recommended - these creatures must be freed from the shroud of lore suffocating them. Their songs need attention if for no reason other than their alleged ability to influence the human mind. Let us solve one of the last mysteries of our present world.
 To compile the essay on these creatures living in swamps turned out to be quite difficult. Reliable sources are rare, most of the description below is based on assumptions, on prejudice and tradition taken for granted. The Compendium archivists do not guarantee the accuracy of the following information. [Back]