Thieves & Kings
The Sootscale Caverns are a deep series of tunnels carved by the Sootscale Kobolds under the depths of the western Echo Wood, an area known as the MapN’dor, or “Stolen Lands” by the fey. Located about three miles west of the northern arm of Silvershadow Lake, it has little impact on the surrounding area, beyond its food gatherers and occasional hunting party. As a result, the tribe has rarely involved itself in the affairs of the surface societies, and is not well-known.
The upper caves are a “Snarl” of worm-like rammed-earth tunnels, 3’-round and filled with numerous traps and dead-ends. The few chambers located in this region are also rammed-earth, and filled with wood and stone used by the workers of the tribe, or debris excavated from the lower chambers and left here before being hauled and deposited far from the caves by hunting groups.
The lower two-thirds of the caverns are carved former mining tunnels that have since been converted to the dwelling areas for the tribe. The upper areas are larger 5′×5′ round mining tunnels mixed with naturally created caves filled with streams and larger open chambers. The tunnels here have small cave chambers carved off their sides carved as homes for small hands of warriors or teams of crafters and farmers, who usually work together in their daily operations. Many are clutch-mates from since they were hatched, and tightly knit. Scattered among them are larger mushroom farms.
The deepest caves are occupied by the large central cave of the tribe’s fishery, its food storage chambers, and its temple. The eggs of the next generation are kept in communal heaps to hatch together, on either sides of the fishery, as this chamber is considered the most important and best-protected of all the caves. It is inhabited by the oldest and wisest of the tribe, who look after the eggs and train the young.
A small escape tunnel has been bored reaching from the egg chambers, through a series of traps to rise suddenly and precipitously in a thin chimney of rock about a mile north of the entrance; all members of the tribe know about this exit. The exit is a cleverly hidden stone hatch, DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) to find.
The tribe numbers perhaps only thirty or forty individuals, though it once numbered more than a hundred. The tribe have dwelt in their present caves for several generations, but traditions regarding their exact origins are lost. The scales of the tribe are universally dark grey or soot-black, and its members are noted to be fond of swimming though they avoid Silvershadow Lake for obvious reasons. The tribe also makes a passable, if crude, pottery to store their crops and goods in, but the gathering of wild Wolf Berries and Nightscale Roots has improved their diets appreciably. They also mine a small amount of gold, usually as a byproduct of their constant excavations of their deep tunnel complex.
The Sootscales are organized as a communal society, with everyone both working to contribute and sharing practically all resources, workspaces, and living quarters. Sootscales might each have a small number of personal possessions, but rarely claims ownership of anything they can’t carry with them everywhere and at all times.
Though cooperative and industrious, Sootscale society is also draconian. The tribe is only as strong as its weakest members, and those “softscales” are constantly culled for the benefit of the tribe. Weak, incompetent, or dull-witted kobolds are regularly employed to test traps, mine in dangerous areas, and (especially) join patrols, where they are often charged with “taking point” or “holding off an attacker” while others retreat. This explains the common idea that kobolds are foolish or cowardly creatures; these are the kobolds most adventurers encounter.
All tribe members contribute equally, but some contribute more equally than others. That is, certain roles are afforded more respect, power, and privilege usually because the role is more critical to the security of the tribe. This loose hierarchy, in order of descending importance, would be sorcerers, trap-makers, warriors, miners, crafters, animal-handlers and farmers. The elimination of all the tribe’s trap-makers during the months before meeting with the adventurers has led to the crafters efforts to try and learn basic trap-building skills beyond the pits and deadfall traps that are scattered throughout their upper tunnels, and is likely to result in a sudden rise in their status in the tribe.
Two of their younger number, Nakpik and Kerzak, received some advanced training from Master “Scales”, and have been returned to their tribe to spread their knowledge among their kin. The pair also brought with them a pair of rust monsters, named Frisky and Skuttle, to use in their upper defenses. Rumors persist they are trying to breed them for more of the beasts to use in their defenses.
The Sootscale Tribe symbol is a simple shield, covered in black scales, and traditionally made from scraps of hard-boiled leather. The tribe claims its descent from the ancient black dragon Otar, first of the black dragons of myth. The leader of the clan is Chief Sootscale, and his envoy to the outside world is little Mikmek.
Actual warriors of the tribe are few, with perhaps three or four hands of warriors who do double-duty as hunters. Usually two hands are out “on assignment” at any given time, with the rest checking traps and ensuring predators, such as giant spiders or giant centipedes haven’t moved into the tunnels. The remainder are miners, crafters and farmers, with two hands of workers each.