At first glance, the Shadow Marches are little more than a great expanse of marshes and wetlands, free of trade roads and home to the unpleasant creatures who dwell in that sort of place and the barbarian hordes who roam it. But there is much more to the Marches, for those willing to look.
Since time unrecorded, orcs have lived in Shadow Marches, and their tribal lifestyle has not changed much over time. About 1,500 years ago, humans landed on the western shore of the Shadow Marches having left from Sarlona, and over the centuries have come to be as much a part of the Marches as the orcs. The two races have since adapted to living alongside one another, and many half-orcs in Khorvaire have their distant origins in the Shadow Marches.
Due to its remoteness and shielding by Droaam, the Shadow Marches have been left untouched by the majority of important events to its east. It remained isolated and all but unknown for this reason until House Sivis discovered it on a fact-finding expedition for dragonshards, and attempted excavation before being violently driven out by the clans of the Marches. The humans among the tribes soon after developed the Mark of Finding and united to form House Tharashk, established the now-capital of Zarash’ak, and began exporting and selling dragonshards themselves.
Culture & Society
The Shadow Marches are not recognized as a nation, either by the Treaty of Thronehold or by common opinion. What people live there are known to be unwelcoming to outsiders, though there are some exceptions. Most of the Marches’ population is made up of orcs, who are based around a tribal society which is highly territorial. The rest is a mixture of other races that are mostly established around the edges, and are typically slightly more welcoming to the outside world than the orc tribes, though this is mostly due to their association with House Tharashk.
Despite the presence of some areas of civilization (which are mostly built on stilts to keep them above the frequently-changing water levels of the swamp), the Shadow Marches are easily the wildest region of Khorvaire and are all but lawless. The exception is Zarash’ak, the City of Stilts, which is both the “capital” of the Marches and the official base of House Tharashk’s operations. The House keeps a tight watch on the city, needing to ensure it runs well for the sake of their business.
The Shadow Marches are largely “uncivilized,” but House Tharashk and cooperating clans export large amounts of dragonshards and herbs, including many narcotics (though these are not usually distributed by Tharashk).