Many brave halflings fell defending Rivervale and the Misty Thicket from the Runnyeye goblins’ assaults during the Age of War. This is but one of their stories.
The old folks often spoke of the days when they could take a picnic to remote spots in the Misty Thicket, enjoying the fragrance of flowers filling the air, the hum of bixies and bees searching for nectar and dappled sunshine filtering through the trees. These good old days had long since disappeared into a rosy past, for ever since Gemma could remember no one went out on picnics. The Runnyeye goblins and other more nasty things hunted in their woods.
The Runnyeye goblins had always been a problem for the halflings of the Misty Thicket. There had always been dangers scattered through the Thicket (which made Gemma suspect some of the old folks’ tales of picnics there were falsehoods), but a long wall kept the goblins at bay. Lately however, the goblins had gotten bolder and assaulted the wall repeatedly, causing parts of it to almost crumble faster than the halflings could repair it.
Some of Rivervale’s residents talked of fleeing to one of the bigger cities. They were at nearly the halfway point between Freeport and Qeynos, so folks gathered in the taverns to debate the merits of moving to one or the other. Halflings loved a good debate, but they preferred their topics to be more esoteric such as whether it was colder today than it had been the prior day. They did not enjoy the thought of leaving their beloved homeland.
“We can still get in and out through Kithicor,” more than one person would say stubbornly. Still, unsettling news was trickling in from that quarter as well. A large army of ogres had risen in Oggok far to the south. To the northwest, orcs and goblins under the banner of the Hordes of Inferno were attacking barbarian villages and towns. It was harder and harder to be upbeat and cheerful when the news from outside was so dismal.
Gemma Pathfinder belonged to the Leatherfoot Brigade as her family had for generations. The unit to which she belonged was a part-time unit whose most distinguished moment in history occurred when a load of hogs bound for the market escaped their owner and Gemma’s unit was dispatched to round them up. Since that incident, they were nicknamed the Hog Dodgers, which while not very flattering had been good for a round of drinks before times got so dark.
The Hog Dodgers were now called up to full-time patrolling of the Misty Thicket’s southern border. When not actively patrolling, they helped rebuild and reinforce the ancient walls that separated them from the Runnyeye goblins. As the days passed it seemed that more and more of their time was spent repairing the wall. Gemma wondered how much longer they would need to keep up the pretense that a wall of stones, lathe and plaster could keep out invaders bent on their destruction.
Rivervale’s leaders were in a quandary. If they advocated leaving, they were accused of not having faith in their own army. If they said everyone should stay, they were considered to be unaware of what was going on in the world. When election time came, several halflings from different factions got into a fist fight that erupted into bloodshed and violence. In their own town, in Rivervale! The world was definitely not the same place the old folks remembered.
Gemma pondered these unhappy events. She’d never been particularly political but that halfling would turn on halfling in the city streets just went to show….what? That they were all violent beings after all? That they were scared? That they were angry? All of these things? She wheeled a load of rocks to the wall and felt discouraged by the futility. How could a wall keep out the world anyway?
“They’re coming through!” hollered one of the guards at the gate in the wall: “They’re co–!” Gemma dropped the handles of the wheelbarrow and unsheathed her short swords. She paused for a minute in confusion, looking first to the left then swinging quickly to her right. The shouts came from all around her now and she did not know which way to run. As with the elders facing election, her mind went both ways: run away and stay to fight.
“For Rivervale!” she cried, the side of her wanting to cleave the briskets of the goblins winning over the part that wanted to hide until it was over. She ran toward the direction from which the battle sounded the loudest and ground to a halt, staring in horror at the sight before her. Entire sections of the wall had been pushed over to either side of the gate and pouring through the wider opening were legions of goblins and orcs.