Tartuk

The name of the Sootscale kobold tribe changes each time their chieftain changes—currently, they are ruled by Chief Sootscale, and so they are known as the Sootscale kobolds. They have lived in this old silver mine in the side of a hill just north of the Shrike River for several decades, periodically clashing with bandits or mites or trappers but always enduring even through the most disastrous of times. The Sootscales all have dark gray or black scales, and have a particular fondness for swimming in the Shrike River and catching fish with their tiny teeth.

In fact, Chief Sootscale is not the actual leader of these kobolds. Their true leader is a frighteningly intelligent and manipulative kobold sorcerer named Tartuk who came to the tribe a year ago from the east. Tartuk is a destructive force—a murderer and a maniac who finds a perverse glee in manipulating his kin into self-destructive spirals of fear and madness. He’s ruined two kobold tribes already, and hopes to add the Sootscales to his list soon. Tartuk’s appearance is as unusual as his loathing of kobold kind—his scales are a deep purple, unlike any other kobold. In fact, Tartuk was not born a kobold—he was born a gnome. He was killed in a fight against a group of ogres who were tormenting his village, but his accidentally heroic sacrifice was enough to give his village a chance to defeat the ogres. The village, sorrowed by Tartuk’s death, unanimously voted to restore him to life—so they decided to use a scroll of reincarnate that had sat in the village treasury for years. In an ironic twist of fate, poor Tartuk came back as a kobold.

Scandalized, the village didn’t know how to react. Tartuk did—he hadn’t meant to give his life to save the village (he’d actually been trying to surrender to the ogres and offer to help them destroy the village in return for sparing his life, but the ogres crushed him before he got his offer out), and now they’d turned him into one of the most hated of monsters—a kobold! The fact that his new scales were the same deep purple as his hair in his previous life served only to ensure Tartuk’s shame. Enraged, he fled into the woods, only to nurse a deep grudge. He found a tribe of kobolds, joined them, used his magic and manipulative lies to rally them, and led his new army in an attack against his old village. The resulting battle was furious, and only Tartuk survived. That was fine with him.

Since then, the mad kobold has drifted through several River Kingdoms, periodically haunting towns and murdering gnomes he finds and at others insinuating himself into kobold tribes, taking them over from within, and then driving them to extinction by forcing them into wars they can’t possibly win. The Sootscales are but Tartuk’s latest project. He uses a combination of lies, magic, and his favorite tool—a non-magical statue of a devil—to seize control of a tribe. He’s become quite skilled at convincing tribes that the statue is magic and that it will curse the entire tribe if the chieftain doesn’t follow its commands— commands, of course, that only Tartuk can hear.

Tartuk

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