Excerpt If your travels ever bring you to the Low Country, there's a chance you'll travel the King's Road. If you walk the King's Road long enough, you might choose to take the turn to the Village of the River People.
Once you reach the village, though, where the River People ply their trade, fishing from long, flat-bottomed boats upon the broad, dark water, the chances disappear, and you find yourself facing a certainty.
The certainty is this: if, by chance or strange design, you ask about the swamp that grows up at the edge of the village, that thick, menacing tangle of trees, reeds, and vines that marks the point where the river branches out into a delta, you'll be greeted with a stony silence and sullen glares.
"Not worth talking about," a shopkeeper might allow, after you buy some insect repellant at three times the regular price.
"Bad news, that place," another will venture.
"You don't want to go into that foul place. The Swamp King will get hold of you, and then who knows what will happen to you?" This last from a curvaceous barmaid, eager to supplement paltry wages and lackluster tips. "Why risk it, when you can stay here in the village, where it's safe? Warm. Companionable."
The dour words and comely alternatives were deterrent enough for most. Some few would persist, holding onto the idea for a while. They'd wander down the crooked street, through a tangle of tumbledown fishing shanties, past the dark row of moored boats, bobbing gently at the end of their lines. Then they'd reach the boggy shore, where their feet would sink just half an inch into the yielding ground. That's where they'd stand, staring at the reed-choked water.
Odd-shaped trees thrust upward here and there, twisting toward the sky like insane corkscrews. Obscene, lacy snarls of moss spilled over nearly every branch, sprawling inexorably downward toward the slimy surface. A faint fog hung over the scene entire, blurring the details more distant from the eye into moist obscurity. Here and there, small whorls of swamp gas would ignite, sputtering flames burning until the overwhelming dampness killed the light.
There they would stand, pondering the way through the swamp. Impossible to traverse with a boat, wet enough to make walking a slow and difficult slog.
Then they would think about the village, with its serviceable, if none-too-clean, inn, with the accommodating barmaid. And then they would recall that the road that brought them into the village would also bring them out. The King's Road lay beyond that, with all the glories of the Low Country, previously beneath notice, now beckoning most seductively.
That would be it. The travelers would leave. The swamp remained inviolate. The River People kept to their work, content to sail the open river, pulling up nets of fat, fine fish.
Then Brin came.