The Cauldron

Wasteland home of the Fire Spear Goblins

Description:

A rocky dale with steep sides ranging from 100’ to 180’ high in places, “The Cauldron” is infamous for housing numerous tribes of humanoids. In a handful of places, it is possible to clamber down an escarpment, but remains hazardous. Scrub trees and bushes grow on the cliffs and in small woodlands scattered across the valley. Orcs, goblins, hobgoblins and others have all been reported in the area by adventurers from time to time. There are many caves throughout the dale, and nearly a third of the dale is covered in shallow pools and streams, though their depth is determined by the seasons. To the east, the entrance to the dale is choked with a large fen, that stretches south and east beyond anyone’s local reckoning.

The local humanoids cover a wide variety of species, and tend to fight and squabble among themselves, with the hobgoblins and the orcs being deadly enemies. A central controlling force tends to gather the various tribes together and raid outside the vale from time to time, and their power and influence is sufficient to bind even those two groups together for the length of the raid. Seven years ago, the combined tribes raided south across the Fenridge, the southern escarpment, and wiped-out numerous small farms and the small thorp of Nindal. In the raid, about two dozen humans died, but they managed to slay six or seven dozen humanoids; they have not shown any inclination to raid or return since.

Cairn, a ranger who lives near The Cauldron, is an experienced and seasoned explorer, who is said to travel widely across the dale. Most humanoids avoid him, for his eyesight and archery skills have been known to slay any humanoid that dares cross his path. It was his vigilant watch over the dale that led to the end of the raid seven years ago, when he led the counter-attack that slew the majority of the humanoid raiders. He is feared by even hunting parties of orcs.

The Pools : Numerous small lakes are scattered across The Cauldron, generally murky and filled with many fish (catfish, gar, bass, sunfish, and perch), but also mussels, turtles, crawdads, waterbugs, and frogs. The reeds of the lake’s banks are full of birds (ducks, herons, swallows and blackbirds) and numerous insects (mainly mosquitoes and dragonflies). A few large snapping turtles are known to dwell in the lakes of The Cauldron, and the occasional Green Fangs comes west into the ponds to forage. Chief bodies of water include Blackthorn Lake, a deep black lake that is known for its superior catfish, and the northern Dimwood Lake, nearly surrounded by the relatively thick, if desolate, Dank Woods, and best-known for its murky depths.

The Fenlands : The lizard folk of The Fenlands are strong in their fortress of the marsh, since it remains impassable to anyone trying to cross it by land. A series of flooded meadows and streams, standing pools of black water, and hummocks of reeds and oddly beautiful flowers, the depths of the marsh are the realm of a large band of lizard folk, who remain aloof above local politics, hunting and living in relative peace. The place is home to many snakes, birds, frogs, bugs, leeches and water mammals (such as muskrats), but a small species of dwarf crocodile (the Green Fangs ) are the area’s chief predators. The water is brackish and unwholesome, and prone to unnatural stretches of fog and general dampness.

The Woodlands : About a third of the land in The Cauldron is woodlands – not dark, primeval forests, but thickets and copses. The woods are large enough to be filled with wildlife; deer, squirrels, birds and wild pigs being the largest numbers of game. The forests are also home to the dangerous Purr, who is their chief predator. Among the chief woodlands, are the Dank Woods surrounding Dimwood Lake, the central Goblin Woods that form a protective barrier for many goblin hunting parties from the Storm Raiders, and The Pocket Woods possibly the thickest woodland in the region, and often the haunt of Purr.

The Meadows : Filled invariably with weeds and grasses, the meadows are home to rabbits, mice, moles and small birds, the largest of which is the crow. Most animals remaining tend to graze by day, and hide away at night, when the humanoids are out hunting. While this might normally be prime wolf country, at present The Pack has chased all wolves from the dale. The open regions are best identified by their unimaginative names of The Northern Meadows and The Southern Meadows. The Pack tends to hunt in the Northern Meadows, while few creatures dare rove near the haunt of Purr to the south.

The Rosestone : Hidden in the jumble of rock and scrub growth along the eastern edge of the deepest woodland is a 6’-tall obelisk of rosy-striped limestone. Not visible from more than 100’ away, it remains obviously not like anything else in the dale, being smooth and unusually colored.

The Rosestone is known to be unsettling to local creatures, but healing can be found by touching the stone and invoking even the evil patrons of the local humanoid tribes. Harming the Rosestone in any way is known to slay the offender, or at the least, leave a nasty scar. The origins of this artifact are unknown. It is believed to be a lost relic from elven times (The Interregnum), but this is just rumor, since even legends of the region omit the stone’s existence.

The Gleaming Glade : During the early rise of humans in the region, a band of priests and paladins were on a crusade in The Cauldron, and met a force of powerful priests at this spot. Many of the followers of good died, but they managed to slay all the evil priests and their followers. As the last evil priest died, he cursed the site of the battle, that blighted the area around it.

A pocket of ice magic, the curse remains to this day, making the entire glade riven with frost and icy particles of frozen air. The countless bones and rusted weapons and armor found in the glade are said to hide not only great treasures and relics of both sides, but are guarded by a horde of frozen skeletons and their master, an ice wraith.

The Shrine of Evil Chaos : Far to the west at the edge of the dale, lies The Shrine, a 20’-wide cave mouth from which a faint, foul draft issues. From its depths, the sounds of groaning and shrill pipes can be heard all the day long. The worn path leading to the entrance is shaded by twisted and bloated trees among tumbled masonry and rough black and crimson plinths, that make everyone uneasy. The sense of dread and evil affects even the local humanoids, who are well aware that the local denizens are powerful priests of chaos and evil, to whom even the strongest local tribes pay tribute.

The Ruins : At the highest peak overlooking Blackthorn Lake, lie the desolate ruins of an ancient human construction, known simply as The Ruins. Among its many thorns and scrub growth, are many tumbled stones, and the remnants of a great fortress. The site has become the center of a new power in the dale, whose exact source remains unknown. Not known for its hunting, The Ruins are generally shunned, especially since anyone who tries to visit the site tends to disappear. With its height and general lack of heavy growth, the site completely dominates the surrounding region.

Bio:

From its earliest reckoning, The Cauldron has always been a region of steep slopes, loose dry soil, slick clay, and deep sand. The floor of The Cauldron impedes easy movement and other uses, including agriculture. The intense rain storms from the southwest, the sparse vegetation and soft soil has led to the inevitable erosion that is stripping the valley bare of topsoil and exposing the escarpments. In addition, the number of creatures slain in the dale has led to the constant sparkle of white bones everywhere; some of which have proven truly monstrous. In some places, particularly along the southern edges of the valley, the bone beds are thick enough to highlight the entire area with a dull yellowish dust.

The entire region practically swarms with humanoid tribes, and they wage continual war against each other; the two primary forces are either the hobgoblins or the orcs, and any of the tribes of the dale follow one side or the other. Among the goblins, kobold and other minion tribes, a band of gnolls act as mercenaries, as do an ogre and a minotaur. The mysterious denizens of the Shrine of Evil Chaos are said to rule the leading tribes, but some say even they answer to something darker…

The Cauldron

The Goblin Chronicles Robling