Rise of Green Crystal Keep
A tiny person with a large crossbow, gazing on with a mixture of curiousity and cheer
Home of the famous Greenbottle Stout, the Dew Drop Inn and the small wayrest Halfling community that surrounded it are now only a burned out memory. Almost a decade ago, goblins under then Chief Grub’na’shar raised the tiny community one late autumn evening, leaving only one survivor in their wake. Quite by accident, young Cade Greenbottle avoided the attack, having been pushed into the inn’s well by a pair of his fellows. By the time he escaped the well, the fires had begun to die down, and there was little to do but pick up the pieces. Family gone, he took what he could find and followed after the goblins, hoping to take some measure of vengeance.
That’s how the story goes, anyway. No one is really sure of what happened to the last Greenbottle scion after that fateful night. Tales tell of a pact with a strange power in the woods, of a glimmering fey known only as “The Lady”, that taught Cade how to make his way alone in the darkness of the forest. For years, heads of goblins would appear around the gallows tree at the edge of what had once been the Greenbottle wayrest. They’re still there, now but skulls, empty eyes peering out toward the remains of the burned out inn. How one lone Halfling might have collected so many is a mystery, and a subject of bardic fictions spread far and wide.
But just as suddenly as the carnage began, it stopped. For five years, no new heads have been placed around the skull encircled gallows tree. Travelers have on occasion spoken of a Halfling wandering out of the woods to join them at a late night camp fire, or of a smell of pipeweed wafting at a crossroads as if someone had enjoyed a smoke just before their arrival. It seems the measure of Cade’s vengeance has been met…or perhaps he merely waits, communing with the woodlands and with The Lady in some secret glen in the mean time. None who know have sought to say.
((Grub’na’shar had but recently overcome a rival to become chief of his warband, and sought an oracle to read the omens of his success. What the oracle read was the instrument of his downfall, a Greenbottle Halfling, the very last of his clan. Upon report of this mad prophecy, the goblin war chief sought out the Greenbottles with an eye to wiping them out…and accidentally began the story of his own doom.
Cade Greenbottle really did climb out of a well after the attack on the Dew Drop Inn. His initial attempt to track Grub’na’shar’s warband got him hopelessly lost in the woods. It was there, half starved and delirious from a cold brought on by wandering about in wet clothes, that the young Halfling first met The Lady: a Ghaele Eladrin set to guard over a small sacred grove in the deep woods, there since before the last door closed to Arborea beyond. She provided herbs to heal his illness, food to stop his hunger, and advice on how to best be revenged on the goblins. The Lady helped to sharpen Cade’s skills for that purpose, in part for her own reminiscent amusement, but partly out of an affection she seemed to have for the Halfling boy.
Cade left after a few weeks in The Lady’s care, but returned often to the grove, always able to find the place when none else even knew where to look. He killed solitary goblins at first, then began picking off the edge of travelling bands. Over the next four years, he became a reason for goblins to seek the safety of a cave and to shirk scouting duties. It was this last that lead Grub’na’shar’s warband into a head on conflict with a band of Dwarven mercenaries travelling through the area, the Ebonstone Reavers. Cade had been tracking the warband, and forewarned the Dwarves that their paths would cross. The Reaver’s quickly sent the goblins packing, decimating almost half the warband. Exchanging gifts with the mercenaries (and their leader, Beld Ebonstone), Cade followed after the remainder of the band…only to discover that destinies have an end.
Fed up with Grub’na’shar’s leadership, a Hobgoblin named Var’ghas sought to prove to the tribe he was a better chief. The hobgoblin and a band of picked goblin warriors ambushed Cade, and might have killed him had the Halfling not fallen over an embankment and into a stream swollen by a thaw. Taking their hated foe’s bloodied cloak as proof of his victory, Var’ghas returned to the band and deposed Grub’na’shar…the fall and banishment of the old chief fulfilling the prophecy of his downfall on account of the last Greenbottle.
Cade eventually washed up downstream, and wandered the woods, unable to find The Lady’s grove. A local druid found him and helped him heal, though his injuries were so severe that it would be more than a year before he could heft his crossbow again. The druid, a young human woman called Belle Briar by the locals, has helped him ever since in exchange for his protection and the occasional favor…a welcome companionship, as Cade has been unable to find his way back to The Lady since his defeat.
Time with the druid has brought him something like peace, and Cade has ceased any intentional pursuit of the goblins the last few years…and they have been less frequently encountered at random as their numbers grow. He passes his time gathering herbs for Belle, helping travelers on the road, and trying to find a way back to The Lady’s grove.
Cade has spent the last few years living out of the ruins of the old Dew Drop Inn (specifically in the old wine cellar). Few visit the place, save for an occasional bandit looking to hide out near the crossroads or the occasional bone gnawer or necromancer come to loot the unhallowed graves of halflings and goblins alike. Cade has been loathe to suffer either sort of disruption to the property.
Grub’na’shar is no longer chief, but managed to survive…and likely won’t be happy to learn that his old enemy lives as well.
Chief Var’ghas has a vested interest in either making sure the Halfling is dead…or covering up the fact that Cade is alive to keep his own claim to rulership solvent.
Having “de-leveled” due to injury, Cade no longer has the necessary class skills to find the Lady on purpose…and her actual location is subject to change, as the grove isn’t entirely in this world at all. For her part, the Lady is ageless and merely waits for the Halfling to return. To a Ghaele, it would seem as if he’d been gone only a short while instead of 5 years. If she’s ever found, she might readily provide instruction in skills common to any of the wilderness based professions.
Belle Briar is a healer by trade, and this often means she gets branded a witch, heretic or some other form of public nuisance by locals that she isn’t able to help. She’s also consistently looking for rare reagents to aid in doing whatever good she can, as well as needing the occasional forest beastie slain when it’s left something out of ecological balance (or when it is just bound and determined to eat all the locals). Belle’s not shy about asking for Cade’s help, as she’s got the idea he’s the same sort of altruistic do-gooder she is…no matter how much he denies it. She typically sends an animal messenger for these sorts of requests, and despite his protests Cade has yet to just say no. She can offer some healing and might be capable of providing druid training at the lower levels in exchange for some service.
The Ebonstone Reavers are solid mercenaries, about a dozen strong at any given time, with typically Dwarven sensibilities about a lot of things. They might be found anywhere, looking to make some coin over some spilt blood. While they wouldn’t likely help for free, they might be convinced to work cheap if goblins are involved, there’s a chance at plunder, or ideally: both.
It’s entirely possible that the oracle who told Grub’na’shar he had a Halfling nemesis in the first place might have done so as part of a larger plan. A powerful diviner that works for the bad guys and has a hidden agenda? Sounds like a pretty scary super villain. Maybe we’ll see that prick in season 3 sometime?))