The Valley of Mistvale is a system-neutral adventure setting consisting of jovial halflings, silent elves and a cult of knights. Does your world feature terrain like this? This article is designed to help you flesh it out.
Carved out of the ground by eons of glacial meltwater, Mistvale is a fertile, humid river valley. Fog drifts lazily up and down it most days. Many people call this valley home, from the silent elves in their hidden village, to the halflings and their traditional meeting grounds, to the martial cult that calls themselves the Templars of the Eye.
Mistvale is a small halfling village, sitting beside Coldbrook. A small cluster of permanent buildings— a brewery, a storehouse, and a few proper houses— are surrounded by a grassy field, often used by travelling halflings as a campsite. It’s rare for the field to be completely empty, but it really fills up in summer, when most of the halflings in the region gather to celebrate the longest day of the year.
The traditional mounts of the Mistvale halflings are large, flightless birds known as axe beaks (thanks to their thick, terrifying beaks) which they smash into the heads of predators. The axe beaks are too small for most humanoids to ride, but just about perfect for halflings, especially after generations of breeding. Domesticated axe beaks tend to have brighter colors and softer features than their wild cousins, along with a more friendly personality. The beaks can still be lethal, though. Domesticated axe beaks are also commonly used as beasts of burden for wagons.
Young axe beaks are plentiful in the area around the village.
Baryus Berrybrew (she/her), halfling brewer. This alliteratively-named halfling lives in the village, though she often roams up and down the valley, picking berries. She lives in a two-storey wattle and daub house, which is about 100 meters from a similar-sized building that holds the brewing vats. Between the two is a foot-deep crater, from when she used to live on top of the brewery. It turns out alcohol fumes are highly explosive. Who knew?
Three caravans are currently here.
The Ravencrests are a pair of black-haired halflings who normally work as traders, hauling things between settlements for money. On this trip, they are carrying some truly unique cargo: A halfling priest and a birdfolk, chained in a box, who is possessed by a demon. Normally this kind of thing would not be entrusted to people outside the relevant religious orders, but since the route to the nearest temple with the capability to exorcise this demon requires navigating Mistvale Valley, an exception was made.
The wagon is predominantly black, with some lighter accents on the corners. A two-headed raven sculpture sits above the driver’s bench. The wagon has a set of double doors on the back, leading to both the cargo hold and the upper sleeping area. Since it’s designed for halflings, it’s not much taller than a common human wagon.
Anric (he/him), driver. Perpetually sleepy and yawning. The lantern he uses to light his way at night has a compartment on the back of it, which he fills with water for tea. He keeps a stick with a gem at the end of it under the driver’s bench, which he uses to threaten bandits, claiming it is a “Wand of Fireballs.” He believes it to be a piece of junk he picked up from an adventurer, but it actually is magical… it’s just a Wand of Fear, not of Fireballs. He’s been using it without realizing, this whole time.
Wenster (he/him), carpenter. Anric’s brother, Wenster, is a jovial halfling who loves to whistle while he works, much to his brother’s annoyance. Most of the wagon was built by him, and the inside of it bears many scars from previous modifications to accommodate certain cargo. In his down time, he likes to read adventure stories, especially the series “Torch, Gentleman Detective.”
Kasdon Templesweeper (he/him), priest. One of the rare halfling holymen, Kasdon is a somber man with short black hair and one missing eye. He speaks with a deep, booming voice and has an accent unlike any of the other halflings, stressing words in unusual places.
Kwa-rokk (she/her), possessed birdfolk. Kwa-rokk is a bright-feathered birdfolk currently chained in a box in the back of the Ravencrest wagon. Her body is currently playing host to a demon called Gul-Gometh, and she is being transported to a major city for an advanced exorcism.
The Silvermane family’s wagon is brightly painted on the outside and covered in academic notes on the inside. The Silvermanes’ hair is grayish white, even in youth. “Silver” is a somewhat generous description of the color.
Therkis (he/him), storyteller. Therkis loves to travel to learn stories from foreigners, true or otherwise. There’s a dozen or so volumes of tales he’s written down, sorted roughly by country of origin. He has fluffy, white hair. It looks like it hasn’t been combed in a long time.
Fenzana (she/her), professor. Fenzana spent many years learning and working in a large school in a far away land, and now, in her later years, she has returned to a more traditional halfling lifestyle: Roaming. On her travels, she met Therkis, and they’ve been together ever since. She has long brown hair that she keeps in an elaborate braid.
Trynhaly (she/her), undecided. This yellow-eyed, white-haired halfling is the youngest of the Silverhair family, and is still trying to find her place. The varied expertises of her family members often leave her feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. Trynhaly’s father is actually Gardal Leafeyes, but that’s not something anybody is concerned about.
Zeftrix (he/him), painter. Zeftrix is an odd duck for the Silvermane family, being drawn more to art than academia. He likes to paint landscapes, and he sells them in towns they pass through to make money. He is not very good at painting people, however. Regardless of species, he can only really paint one face, meaning that the subject is only identifiable by their outfit and hair.
The Leafeyes live in a sturdy two-storey wagon with a ladder on the back of it. The right wall of the wagon has a contraption allowing it to slide out when parked, making the interior quite spacious.
Gardal (he/him), cartographer. Gardal is a halfling posessed by wanderlust, who loves to explore and make maps. He returns to Mistvale every two years or so, and particularly likes talking with Zeftrix Silvermane about the beautiful landscapes they’ve seen. He has yellow eyes like leaves in fall, and brown hair.
Corrich (she/her), cook. Corrich, Gardal’s partner, is a halfling whose dream is to travel the world and cook dishes made of strange meats and vegetables. She always carries a bag of tools for cooking, just in case. Corrich has brown eyes and short red hair.
Corriver (he/him), tinkerer. Corriver is a halfling in his early twenties with a knack for building complicated things. He’s responsible for the unfolding contraption on the wagon. He’s quiet, for a halfling, and prefers to explain things with diagrams.
The Elves of Homegrove
These elves do not speak. They prize stealth above all else, and over the generations this has led to them forgetting their spoken language in favor of a unique sign language. For the most part, they wear clothing made of deer leather.
Their small settlement, known simply as Homegrove, is a secluded clearing in the middle of otherwise dense foliage. A large fire sits in the center, surrounded by tanning racks, cookery supplies and the like. Around the outside of the clearing, a few rough houses made of wood from fallen trees and sod sit.
Silvershoulder (he/him), leader. Silvershoulder is a pale elf with short, black hair. He wears an ornate pauldron, taken from a slain Templar of the Eye (see below) on his left shoulder.
Mossgrinder (he/him), alchemist. Mossgrinder is a tan-skinned elf with long, blonde hair tied in a rough braid. He prowls the woods, searching for mosses, lichens, mushrooms and so on to make alchemical concoctions. Roughly half of them actually work— wound-sealing poultices, sleeping draughts and breath-fresheners— while the rest simply taste foul and, perhaps, upset one’s stomach.
Forestgazer (she/her), scout. Forestgazer is a light-skinned elf with thinning brown hair. She travels ahead of the group whenever they move, making note of anything unusual. She can, she claims, tell you what the weather has been like for the past three months based solely on the local fungi.
Diamondeyes (she/her), archer. Diamondeyes is a dark-skinned elf with light green hair. Her clothing is reminiscent of the ancient elven empire, based on cultural memories and depictions. She is highly skilled with a bow, and provides much of the group’s food. This is a matter of great pride for her.
The Keep of the Eye
A smooth-walled structure carved out of a massive piece of sandstone juts out the side of the valley wall, overlooking Coldbrook. A moat used to encircle Keep, at least the part that didn’t butt up against the valley, but Coldbrook has since changed course, leaving it dry, and a lack of maintenance means it is now overgrown. The Keep was built by mages, using their arcane ways to shape the stone itself.
In the heart of the keep is a room covered in ancient elven glyphs and sigils, religious and arcane in equal measure. The centerpiece of this room is a gigantic green gem embedded in one wall. This gem was once used for communicating with distant elven generals and nobles, but no one remains who knows how to use it properly.
Instead, it now occasionally shows apparently-random objects, places and people. Their one link is that they are all in some way tied to the ancient empire, be it by distant blood-relation, previous ownership, or some other property. As a result of its former purpose as a communication device, if a person is being shown, that person can hear whatever is said in the room with the gem.
The Templars do not really understand any of this, and believe the gem to be the vessel of some kind of nascent deity, showing them its will in vague terms. As a result, they generally try to find whatever is shown and then bumble around the area for a while until they accomplish something vaguely good, then declare that they’ve fulfilled the Will of the Eye and return to the Keep.
Most recently, the Eye has shown them a birdfolk chained in a box, which is itself in a black wagon with a two-headed raven on the front. They do not yet know that this wagon is in the Mistvale village.
The Templars of the Eye
The Templars themselves are a group of about 20, composed of five knights and a group of retainers that gets smaller with every adventure. Each carries a unique sword, and a shield with an elaborate depiction of a green eye on it.
Parzifal the Trusted (he/him). Parzifal is a soft-spoken, tall man with broad shoulders and shoulder-length black hair. He’s not the strongest or quickest of the Templars, but he possesses a compassionate heart and a youthful charm, and that’s good enough.
Niall the Gorgeous (he/him). Niall is a red-haired knight with a large nose and sharp features, making him appear almost bird-like. People fawn over him in every town he enters, which he resents, because he believes a core tenet of knightly virtue is chastity. It’s not exactly clear why he thinks that. Nobody else does. He’s a competent swordsman, but only against other humanoids. He’s more or less useless against monsters and animals.
Marmaduc of the Lake (he/him). Long-haired blonde knight who was once a ferryman. Marmaduc is a broad-shouldered but short man with long, blond hair. He used to work as a ferryman, before being recruited into the Templars. He possesses a keen, instinctual understanding of currents and tides, which has proven useful in the group’s adventures. His helmet has a large, bronze moustache on the face plate.
Hewelin the Elf (he/him). Hewelin is a baby-faced half-elven man with pointed ears. He resents his moniker, and often takes unwise risks in an attempt to earn a better epithet. He bears a number of scars, thanks to this. He wears half plate with spikes on the helmet, to look more fearsome.
Reynold the Hawk-Eyed (he/him), armorer. Reynold is a short, black-haired man with a double-braided beard. His left hand is missing, and he has a small set of prosthetics that he built himself. This includes one that holds his hammer, with enough articulation to strike steel perfectly. He speaks quickly, with a thick, guttural accent. This combination makes him nearly impossible to understand for anybody outside of the Templars.
The Tree of Blades: A tree by a crossroads near the Keep of the Eye, impaled with a dozen or so swords, each from a fallen Templar. Most of the blades are firmly stuck in the tree, having been there for many years, but one, a silvered zweihander, has been impaled quite recently.
The zweihander belonged to Blaine the Strong (he/him), a Templar of the Eye slain by local elves. His body sits in the tomb beneath the keep, still wearing most of his armor. One pauldron is missing, looted by the elves. The armor is severely damaged where they removed it.
Goddess Lake: In one section of the valley, near the Keep, Coldbrook cut straight through one of its old meanders and over the long years eroded the whole turn, making it into a decent-sized lake. Unfortunately, an elven temple once sat on the inside of that curve, and fell into the lake. It fell in in stages, resulting in some parts being on their side, others level, and a couple at a 45 degree slant.
When the water level gets low enough, the head of a statue of an ancient elven goddess pokes up through the water. The local halfling refer to her as the “Lady of the Lake.”
The Bird’s Face: On the inside of one of the curves of Coldbrook, between Mistvale and Homegrove, is a large limestone boulder. Years of erosion from wind and the brook have left a thick stone spike sticking off the side of it, which looks like a beak from a distance. It’s often used as a reference point in directions given by the halflings.
That wraps up the Valley of Mistvale. I hope you can find a lovely place for it in your world. The ominous references to an Ancient Elven Empire come from my vague memories of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, where I spent most of my time reading in-game books, like a nerd. If you want more on the Ancient Elven Empire, let me know in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.
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