It Started With a Kidnapped Pig...
Most folk in the North have never heard of this quiet logging on the northern edge of the Westwood, tucked into the foothills of the Sword Mountains. Its main link to the outside world is a trail called the Kheldell Path, winding down through the rolling hills to Red Larch. It’s main industry and income comes from timber out of Westwood, but it also acts as a hub for elven tribes in Westwood needing iron or steel or luxury items, as well for the dwarven clan members working an iron mine and smelter in the Sword Mountains, who needed food and particular items.
Several woodcutters’ camps are often taken over forcibly for a season or a few months at a time by bandits as well as a few overgrown ruins of the ancient elven kingdom of Rilithar. This usually happens over winter, as the forest protects against the worst of the cold weather. It has become almost a peaceful transition, with the loggers clearing out as soon as the bandits appear.
Several months ago a bunch of cultists appeared at Kheldell, intent on causing destruction of property and worse. They had with them several dozen mercenaries, many of which were bandits and criminals who had been recruited as muscle. This was unprecedented, and the cultists who worshipped some kind of fire deity, had free reign to destroy several buildings. They were resisted by a band of wood elves from Westwood led by the cleric Khadgar and the druid Esplen who had responded to the column of smoke from burning buildings, and then a dwarf named Hufflepuff had rallied the villagers and led them into an attack on the cultists and their mercenaries, in conjunction with the elves. The mercenaries were not up for a fair fight and fled, followed quickly by the cultists. The damage had not been extensive, but Esplen’s mother had been one of the casualties of the fires.
For many decades Kheldell was just a cluster of log homes around a horse-powered sawmill. Then when the dwarves started their iron mine they began arriving, asking if they could be supplied with food that they were unable to acquire in their mountain home, the village added a general store and a warehouse. About 75 folk live in the village, with another 20 or so loggers working the woods.
A hundred years ago the loggers were led by a wizard named Ghelkyn Stormwind, who levitated felled logs while the lumberjacks manoeuvre them down to waiting horse teams. The local tavern has a painting of Ghelkyn at work. Nowadays Ghelkyn’s great granddaughter Kayla Stormwind does the same job. The horses then drag the logs down to the mill by way of one of the winding forest trails. Finally, after the wood is milled, carts take the cut wood to market in Red Larch, where Waterdhavian merchants have storage sheds and buyers. Like her great grandfather, Kayla avoids the wrath of the treants and satyrs of Westwood by working with the druids who dwell in the woods, and cutting only where they direct. The folk of Kheldell plant and tend more trees than they cut, slowly extending the forest under the direction of the druids, who call themselves the Dusk Circle. These people dwell in the woods, and are rarely seen in the village.
The Dusk Circle do not interfere when the bandits take over the woodcutters camps, but enforce the same rules, and the bandits who stay there and survive know it.
Kheldell has no one ruler and all decisions are by consensus. However, the people with the most influence here are Kayla and an ancient woman called Tchandrae Euinwood, known as the Voice of the Circle.
Kheldell is too small to have an inn, though, so visitors typically sleep on the shuttered back porch of the tavern. However, visitors who bring a donation to Silvanus or Mielikki, and agree not to cut or burn wood during their stay, are allowed to camp in one of the soft, moss-floored glades maintained and kept safe by the druids. Wizards visiting from Waterdeep may sometimes be found here, resting by themselves or with a companion, asleep on the moss or levitating in the air.
Local legend says the ruins of an elven castle stand in a dell at the heart of the Westwood. Much magic exists in the ruins, and they’re supposedly haunted by owlbears and wild trees. The latter are treants turned to evil, who prey on intruders. The way thence is best sought at night, for the route from Kheldell is marked by ancient spells that cause floating moonglow symbols to shine in darkness.
The goddess Mielikki is venerated at a hidden shrine somewhere nearby in the Westwood. Only rangers and clerics of the goddess are guided to her temple.
One interesting, but little-known attraction of Kheldell is the venerable woman Tchandrae Euinwood, a quiet and deep thinker who has the ability to examine items and tell you something about their history. Once she used to do this for anyone for a small fee. She left when she was a teen and was gone for 20 years, and came back a mature and confident woman who did not talk about her time away. She charges a lot more money these days for her object reading, and wizards from Waterdeep come here quietly to use her skills.
Places of Interest in Kheldell
Tavern – The Stag at Rest
Kheldell’s sole tavern is a dark, low-ceilinged place with a flagstone floor, rough-hewn furniture, and a quiet atmosphere. It has two large paintings – one of a wizard levitating logs in the forest (Ghelkyn Stormwind), and the other a fat, grey haired woman holding a cleaver who looks like she would either slap you on the back and laugh or eviscerate you. The locals would tell you this was Delgara “the Slim” Dauntsword, famous pirate who became the tavern owner. It is rumoured that she had a fortune in loot from her pirating days buried somewhere around Kheldell, but no one has ever found it.
After a day of work, the townsfolk are usually too tired for more than a few tankards and a little chat, before they stumble home to bed. However, fresh gossip of the world outside will be welcomed eagerly. Particularly, the folk of Kheldell always like to hear about the lawlessness and debauchery of Waterdeep.
The only drinks served here are stout (3 cp per tankard), ale (2 cp per tankard), and sugared water (free). A meal is 2 sp, and consists of bread, gravy, and as much as you want from whatever is roasting in the hearth, usually bear, venison or boar. Once upon a time a serving of vegetables would have cost you extra in this forest town, but since the arrival of the dwarves the tavern keeper hires someone to tend a vegetable garden part time which grows all the vegetables needed for patrons’ dinner.
Sleeping at the Stag is free, but you have to sleep on the back porch and bring your own bedrolls. The place is run by William Dauntsword, who claims lineage from Delgara, and his family.