Death to Tartuk? But…was not Tartuk the one who Mikmek had said tasked him with his mission? The party quickly set to questioning Mikmek as to what exactly was going on. It was soon revealed to them that none of the Kobold tribe particularly liked Tartuk; in fact most of them actively feared the shaman, for when he joined the tribe he brought with him Old Sharptooth, the deity which the Kobolds of the Sootscale Tribe now worshiped. It was Old Sharptooth, using shaman Tartuk as his messenger, that had told the Kobolds to start their fight with the Kameland Mites. And then, when Old Sharptooth’s statue was stolen by the Mites, it was Tartuk who urged the Sootscales to retrieve it at all costs, lest Old Sharptooth’s curse of displeasure turned them all yellow and then killed them!
Mikmek then mentioned that he thinks the statue should be delivered to Chief Sootscale instead of Tartuk– the Kobold chieftan might know how to break the curse! It was decided then that the party, after recovering from the worst of their wounds (including the Bard who had contracted a disease that quickly drained his strength), would make haste for the Sootscale Caverns in order to deliver the statue to the Kobolds in the hopes of earning their goodwill to convince them to work the gold mine the party found a few weeks back! Upon wrapping up their business, they wished to return to Old Bokken’s Hut to give him the fresh fangberries which they had picked a few days previous, and which would go bad if they waited much longer. With that in mind, two days after they cleaned up the Mite nest, the group left heading south, led by Mikmek.
Only a few hours later, the party arrived at the entrance to a cavern in a rocky hillside, housing a single blue Mite in a cage outside, and a Kobold on guard in the shadows. Mikmek again took point, greeting his friend and moving to quietly discuss something with him. Apparently reaching a favorable conclusion, Mikmek ushered the party forward and into the caves.
Rushing through, Mikmek advised the party remain quiet lest they alert shaman Tartuk to their presence, then led them through a blood-stained chamber that Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier identified as a ritualistic sacrifice chamber, likely where Old Sharptooth was worshiped. Moving through, the group arrived in the common area, where they beheld a black-scaled Kobold sitting atop a large mound of furs and adorned with a bird skull covering most of his head. At first tensions were high, with Chief Sootscale almost ordering his minions to attack, before Mikmek and Eneko spoke up in defense of the party, and the situation was explained. Once the chief realized that the party had helped Mikmek return the statue to them, he was presented with the idol…and promptly smashed it to the floor! “The curse is broken! We are free!” He proclaimed to the gathered Kobolds, who at first were filled with shock and horror! It didn’t take long however for Sootscale to gather his Kobolds into a group (freshly armed by Noruas the Human Gunslinger, who had given them a number of spears she found in the Mite lair) to remove Tartuk forcibly from their home.
After an invitation, the party debated for a bit before deciding to follow the chief to confront the shaman. As it turns out it was a good idea, as the party heard the confrontation between Tartuk and chief Sootscale from around a corner, which did not end well for the chieftain: moments after his denunciation of the shaman and his sorcerer’s ways, Sootscale and many of his warriors fell into a deep slumber upon the floor, while the remaining Kobolds ran past the party squealing in fear!
When the party entered the room, Tartuk pieced together what happened– outsiders had interfered with his tribe! He shouted threats at them, and then everyone sprung into action! Eneko began singing an inspiring song, spurring his allies to greater feats of courage, while Gavriil the Human Arcanist let loose with a spray of magical colors straight to Tartuk’s face. Next, Elysia the Human Ranger moved into position to attack the shaman with her axes, while Noruas came to a flanking position. When Tartuk finally shook off his momentary affliction, he stepped back and shouted at the Gunslinger, attempting to cow her into fearfully fleeing, but Eneko’s words gave her hope and she came through the ordeal only minorly shaken. Retaliating, Noruas shot into the shaman twice, before Elysia’s axes took off an arm, ending the Kobold’s threat forever.
Once awakened, Chief Sootscale thanked the party for their help, and Elysia in particular, for it was she who ended the life of Tartuk. Indeed, all of the Kobolds began treating her as something of a savior, calling her the Shaman-Slayer, and hosting a feast in her honor! During the feast, Gavriil pitched his idea of having the Sootscales mine the gold ore vein that the party found, giving the profits to the party and a new cavern for the Kobolds to keep watch over. After Elysia offered her own council, backed up by Eneko, chief Sootscale finally accepted the idea!
The next day, the group set off due north-east, heading straight for Old Bokken’s Hut. The timing was tight, and they had to urge their horses faster than usual in order to make it before their berries spoiled– Gavriil ended up riding along in the wagon with Noruas in order to give his horse a break, lest he risk harming it by urging it along. Arriving on the night of the eighth of Gozran, they did some business with the mad hermit Bokken, who, in thanks for bringing him the precious berries, offered them a discount for the next two months on his crafted potions. Staying the night, they departed the next morning for Oleg’s Trading Post, where they would sell some of the things they had found during their adventures, as well as purchase new supplies. Or at least, that was the plan…
They were mere minutes from Oleg’s Trading Post the next morning, when in the distance they spotted a small group of tents, a wooden platform with figures cavorting about it, and some benches with a small number of commoners sitting among them. A curious sight for sure, the group angled towards them. When they got close enough, they began to make out details– the wooden platform was a stage, and upon it were three fools, plying their trade for the amusement of the commoners before them. On the stage as well was a stage master, shouting towards the group to come and view the wonders of the Traveling Fools, finest entertainment this side of Golarion!
Eneko, being suspicious, utilized his tactical training to allow his party to communicate with each other silently at a distance, just in case, while Noruas began scanning the area– spotting movement in the four tents scattered near the stage. While Gavriil made his way over to the benches to talk with a commoner, Elysia began to attempt to sneak her way closer to the tents to peek inside, wondering what was present. Eneko approached the stagemaster, questioning him about his troop while Gavriil investigated exactly what a commoner was doing on the road in this particular place. The questions were beginning to get in-depth, when Elysia reached her destination tent, peeking around the corner…only to be grabbed and muffled by the hidden figure inside and drug into the tent! Noruas, in a position to see all this go down, alerted her allies, who began to rush to help Elysia. The stage master, realizing what was going on, heaved a sigh before announcing “It looks like the jig’s up…get them, boys!”
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ!
Only minor combat present in this session– the fight with Tartuk. Again I decided to use the six-player conversion rules, but only because I was hoping that it would give Tartuk a fighting chance of getting away. Having already figured that the party would side with chief Sootscale and give him the idol, it was clear prepping for this part to me that they’d be facing Tartuk all by himself, and with some Kobold allies to boot. Now at level three, this would pose no challenge at all to them (action economy and all that– four plus attacks for every one of Tartuk’s), and so I grabbed the higher-level stats of Tartuk and went to town. First up was to level the playing field a bit by using Deeper Sleep and a fear spell to remove their would-be Kobold allies. Now it was just Tartuk and four PC’s. Tartuk lost initiative to both Gavriil and Eneko, and due to failing the saving throw Tartuk then became stunned for a round, dropping his melee weapon and becoming unable to take any actions.
When he was finally able to act again, he backed up a step before casting his Fear spell on Noruas, the fiercest-looking of the entire party. She passed the save with some Bardic help however, and before Tartuk got his next round to cast Invisibility and escape, he was brought down by the attacks from the Gunslinger and the Ranger. Alas, a quick end, but not really unexpected. His treasure was highly valued however– the party got their first real magic items with some bracers of armor, boots of elvenkind, and a dose of dust of illusion to name a few. Added to the big quest rewards which they will receive once they get to Oleg’s (Kobolds are dealt with, Svetlana’s ring was found, a few others), and they will have a decent amount of gold and XP to launch them a good ways into their level.
So, that little traveling circus-turned-trap…anyone familiar with the adventure path may be wondering what in the world this is! As it turns out, the group that the Stag Lord dispatched to deal with the party, led by Dovan of Nisroch, has been camped a small distance away from Oleg’s for quite a number of days now! Taking the approach that it’s better to let their prey come to them, they remained in the area waiting, and thus I figured Dovan would improve upon his plan in order to surprise the PC’s when they were least expecting it. Thus…the idea of the traveling circus disguise was born. Bandits disguised as fools, bandits disguised as commoners, and bandits hidden in tents were all part of the plan. PC’s rolling natural twenties on perception checks to examine the tent and campsite area was not planned– and so the party got the first confirmation of their suspicions. Elysia’s poor stealth roll ensured that she was spotted approaching and another natural twenty on a grapple check brought her immediately out of sight…but Noruas had been keeping keen eyes out, and so the illusion of innocence was broken!
In fairness, I’ve little idea how exactly I would have sprung the trap otherwise…I was hoping for the majority of the party to come sit down and watch the show I suppose, until Dovan (the stage master!) was ready to call someone up to the stage for audience participation, whereupon someone would get inconvenienced by a blade or two. Though somehow I don’t think the party would have gone for that somehow– so it’s just as well that they got wise and investigated! I fully expect the PC’s to take out the bandits, and I just as fully am not prepared to lose Dovan, who will likely drink a potion of invisibility in another round or two in order to scurry off safely.