The Best Laid Plans of Fire Beetles and Men

Our newest members went out on their first mission alone. Norben, Koil, and Osanna chose a request from Salt & Peter Armaments which manufactures firearms and blasting powder. They’d recently had a break-in where ten kegs of black powder had been stolen. The mission was to find the thieves, capture or kill as many of them as possible, and recover the powder. I was a bit nervous about sending the three of them out without guidance, but if they’re going to work for me then I need to trust them.

The first problem actually happened before they even left. Lily realized that they didn’t have a healer in their group, and she suggested they take Healbot with them (that’s pronounced “Helbit.” He’s a dwarven cleric). Osanna went over to talk to Healbot. Upon learning that he expected an equal share of the reward, she promised that she’d talk to the others and be right back. Then they all left without another word, leaving the poor dwarf waiting for nothing. A simple “no, thank you” would have sufficed.

The mission took them to Rosalia, the second-largest city in Azalea. They met with Durken Salt, one of the owners of Salt & Peter Armaments, who gave them the details of the situation. Quite apart from the monetary loss, Master Salt was concerned that if their powder was used for some nefarious purpose that it would reflect badly on the company. He showed them where he believed the bandits to be hiding out. Koil asked more than once whether he could just summon a fire beetle to blow up the powder and take the thieves out that way, but Master Salt insisted that they bring it back.

I assumed that the three of them would go straight to the camp to recover the powder, but they proved to be smarter than that. Well, sort of.

Their plan was actually pretty clever. They intended to pose as representatives of Salt & Peter’s main competitor, Sulfurocity, and use that to get in with the bandits. Norben apparently knew a local fence (a person who deals in stolen goods, not a barrier around someone’s property). They were in luck, as it turned out, for the thieves’ would-be buyer was nowhere to be found and the they were looking to get rid of the blasting powder. Norben arranged a meeting, though it would take a couple of days for the fence (Handsome Dave, as he called himself) to get to the thieves and bring back a representative.

They decided that Osanna would stay behind to embroider the Sulfurocity emblem onto their clothes, but Koil and Norben wanted to go scout out the thieves’ camp, about a day’s ride from Rosalia. That’s when everything went wrong.

As you might have guessed, the two of them were spotted. Though they quickly dispatched the one who found them, the scuffle attracted the attention of the other thieves. They were forced to quickly retreat back to town and scrap their plan of pretending to be Sulfurocity employees. Instead, they retrieved Osanna (who was none too pleased to have done all that embroidery for nothing) and returned to get the powder back the hard way.

The thieves, as you would expect, were now ready and had laid an ambush for them. They had strung a tripwire across the road - fortunately, our heroes noticed the trap and managed to stop their horses before they were injured. However, that left them just as exposed to the thieves’ attack.

Three of the thieves had concealed themselves in the trees beside the road. They fired a volley of arrows and wounded Osanna, but she returned fire with her musket, dropping one outright. The others withdrew deeper into the woods, and our heroes gave chase. Koil finally summoned the fire beetle he’d been talking about for the entire mission which, to everyone’s embarrassment, turned out not to breathe fire but simply to light up like a firefly.

I’d have sworn that they could actually breathe fire. I must have been thinking of some other variety of fire beetle.

Regardless, it wasn’t a total loss. The woods were dark, and Koil’s fire beetle managed to follow the thieves so they could not vanish into the trees. Unfortunately, it did not light up the leader of the bandits, who got the drop on Norben and took him out with a shot from his buckler gun (which, I mean really, who even uses those?). Thankfully, Norben was not dead, merely unconscious. While the bandits were distracted trying to deal with Osanna and the fire beetle, Koil crept over and fed Norben a healing potion.

Norben had bought those potions from a discount potion seller. They were unlabeled and could have been anything. Luckily for him, he apparently has a very good eye for appraising goods, and managed to pick out three healing potions from what was undoubtedly a basket full of colored water and gods know what else.

In any case, the genuine healing potion got Norben back on his feet none too soon. Immediately after administering it, Koil was attacked by the bandit leader (it turns out his name was Ash) and got knocked unconscious himself. Things were starting to look bad, until an excellent shot by Osanna took Ash cleanly through the head and killed him instantly.

The other bandits soon realized that they’d lost half their number, including their leader. They quickly made the smart choice and decided to surrender, but not before warning the party that there was one more of them back at camp, ready to blow up the stash of gunpowder rather than let it be taken back. Norben returned Koil's favor and got him up with another potion. The three of them tied up the surviving bandits and marched them into camp to call out their last friend who, upon seeing the situation, immediately dropped his torch and turned himself in as well.

All in all, though I would have liked to see them stick to their original plan, I think things went pretty well. I just hope there’s no fallout from Norben trying to trick a black market fence into baiting a trap for him.

- Maximilian D’Ambrosio

Guild Master, Dragon Wing

This article is part of our ongoing Pathfinder in-character articles! For part one, please see here!