Again, more work in progress...
Lands of Haelyx
The lands of Haelyx were once part of a prosperous but unremarkable petty kingdom in the centuries before the Wizard War. It was a quiet land of pastoral fields, stands of old growth forest, and sun-dappled meadows. The local humans were descended from a mix of Westlanders and Southlanders, devoted to the Gods of Law through the Unified Church, and friends of elves, dwarves, gnomes, and hobbits. Even the local goblins, resident in the now-ruined Great Goblin Grotto, lived in peace with the Upside World, and could be found living in peace in the cities and towns of the countryside.
That of course all came to an end with the Wizard War a thousand years ago. Locally, the most dangerous and powerful of the Wizard Kings that arose were a pair of brothers, Shelmorian and Daraztheon Vorl, once beloved siblings, servants to the King, and representatives to the Conclave, later usurpers of the royal power and mortal enemies. For centuries they battled back and forth across the land, seeking dominion over each other and their realms. Shelmorian’s vanity was their undoing, as he thought to summon and control one of the Dragon Queens to slay his brother, that he might be sole ruler of the realm. Summon her he did, and his brother was slain (or so he thought), but in the summoning he lost all, for though he could summon the dread goddess Kishar, he could not control her.
Great was her wrath, and in her rage she destroyed the realm and most of the peoples in it. The ground shook, the earth quaked. The Great Goblin Grotto was shattered, and the goblins thereof all but extirpated. Lands fell and rose, cities and citadels crumbled, fields and forests burned, forming the Gray Wastes, the Flaming Highlands, the Great Rocky Plain, and the Wastes of Kishar. Sated with her great destruction, Kishar settled into her new home in the Wastes of Kishar, there over time to whelp her great brood of dragons. Shelmorian, surviving but by chance, hid in his shattered tower, there eventually to transform himself into the Dragon-Wizard. His brother, slain yet not dead, rose again as the Lich of the Blood Crown Hills. The peoples of the realm, scattered and scarred by centuries of war and infernal destruction, dug in to rebuild, now and again falling prey to latter-day Wizard Kings such as Xylarthen and his ilk.
The Great Goblin Grotto
Once upon a time, in the ages before the Wizard War, this wide, deep valley was a huge cavern, reputed to be home to a great goblin civilization. It was destroyed during one of the cataclysmic upheavals of the Wizard War, with virtually every inhabitant being buried under countless tons of rock and stone. During the rule of Xylarthen, the valley was inhabited by his goblin servants, who were said to revere the ghosts of their slain forefathers in hidden grottoes within the great piles of stone strewn throughout the valley. After the fall of Xylarthen, the peoples of Haelyx invaded the valley and slew or drove out the goblins, though they continued to call the valley the Great Goblin Grotto.
20 years ago, a force of goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, orcs, gnolls, and ogres invaded the valley, driving out or killing the (mostly) human occupants. The large gnomish delve at the western end, Nesbin Frool, was the last redoubt to fall, and the gnomes were said to have been slaughtered to a man. Fortunately, the humanoids immediately fell to infighting over the loot, and failed to continue their drive to Haelyx, else the small city may have fallen. Since then, there have been few attempts to retake the lands, as the cities of Arcanos and Royalton both took advantage of the situation to further their claims of rule closer to Haelyx. The survivors of the debacle, without friends in Haelyx, fell into poverty, many ending up as beggars and whores in the streets.
The sole major, unofficial effort to reclaim the valley was disastrous. 15 years ago, a beggar named Couree, who had been a young man when he fled the Western Settlements, began preaching the “Way of Zamiel;” he claimed Zamiel was an angel who taught him the secrets of magic and war, and that he and his followers would free the Great Goblin Grotto from its monstrous occupants.
10 years ago, Couree and his followers, which had grown to include most of the beggars, whores, and street urchins of the town, as well as many other members of the underclass, marched into the Great Goblin Grotto as a small, ramshackle army. They thought they would liberate the lost lands and create a new paradise… they were never heard from again.
Adventurers in the region claim that today, survivors of the Beggar’s Crusade can be found in the dungeons of the region. Driven mad by their experience, they remain in the dungeons seeking to slaughter any they encounter, for now all are the enemy. As it turns out, “Zamiel” was merely a front for the Dungeon God, and now they are another segment of his followers. Some say that Couree, who was in on the whole thing, now rules a large temple complex deep in the ruins of Nesbin Frool.
The Great Goblin Grotto is flanked on north and south by tall escarpments, ranging from 100 to 300 feet in height. They are impassible for most of their length, but there are a few ramps and chimneys that allow relatively easy transit from the lands above to the valley floor. There are scores of small cave openings in the walls, at all heights; most are but shallow remnants of old caverns, but some continue into the depths for some distance, and are home to small bands of orcs, goblins, and gnolls. A few of these cavern complexes connect, through long and tortuous tunnels, with the tunnel complexes of Blackpool, Nesbin Frool, the ruins of Xylarthen’s Tower, and points further removed.
During the human occupation, the valley was rich, with many prosperous farms, orchards, and pastures; since the humanoid invasion, however, these have gone back to wild lands, though the old property lines, demarked by walls of stone, still stand, and here and there stand the sunken ruin of a farmhouse, tavern, or smithy. The River Hael runs through the length of the valley, from the northeast to the southwest, and returns underground at Nesbin Frool. Here and there, near old ruins, stand small jetties, quays, and docks, as the river was a major avenue of commerce between the western settlements and Haelyx.
The West Road, which ran from Haelyx to Nesbin Frool along the north bank of the Hael, is now little more than a trail. At the heart of the valley along the trail stands the ruins of the central village, Weston, which until recently had been the hold of Hegrash the Ogre Bandit and his crew of goblins. Today it is held by a small band of adventurers, operating under charter from the Royal Council of Haelyx. They seek to remove the humanoids from the valley, by hook or by crook, and reclaim it for the people of Haelyx.