Defend Kesten's Camp
You'll arrive on the western edge of this area, from which head east to find a small camp. You won't have long to take the sights in, as some Prisoners will come running up to you, asking you to save the camp from a goblin onslaught. Looks like Kesten's expedition isn't going so well and yes, he's set up a camp here regardless of what you told him back in Tuskdale. Work your way east, slaughtering goblins as you go: you'll face off against Goblins, Goblin Sneaks, Goblin Horseslayers and Goblin Lynx Eyes. Fortunately, they're all distracted by Kesten and his men, so it should be a simple matter to cut them all down.
Slaughter the goblins, then talk to Kesten who will tell you of the goblin fort in the distance, the speed in which it was created, the prisoners kept within and the foul rites they are subjected to, and most importantly that the goblin attacks have kept them too off-balance to mount a counter-offensive of their own. Looks like it's up to you to shift the balance of power and end this stalemate. Also, given the goblin shaman's shenanigans, it seems that he, too, knows about the source of The Bloom, and at the very least he's spreading the pestilence out of blind loyalty to Lamashtu.
If you want to take extra precautions against this blight, respond to Kesten by saying "We discovered the magic seeds are transported by water. If the shaman is infecting prisoners on purpose, then anyone who has consumed the water can give birth to a monster. There's no time - I have to kill them all.", which will naturally distress Kesten. If you insist ([Lawful Evil]) this will turn the prisoners at camp hostile, allowing you to exterminate them. You can also end the conversation with one of two moral choices, if you wish: [Lawful Good] or [Neutral Evil], flavoring the nature of your assault on the goblin fort.
Assault the Goblin Fort
Speaking of which, there's little opportunity for finesse when it comes to this upcoming assault. Just follow a path east from Kesten's camp and you'll find the shoddy palisade standing between you and the goblins who are party to your barony's misery. Up next is a good bit of combat, so apply some long-lasting buffs like Shield of Faith, Bless and Stoneskin (Resist Energy (Fire) may also be handy to counter the damage dealt by Goblin Alchemists), then lure the two goblins by the gate outside and slay them. Once they're dead, head inside with just a single tank, as a Goblin Alchemist lurks south of the palisade, and will likely get a bomb off on whomever enters the fort first. Join the assault with the rest of your party and put down the Goblin Alchemist, then congregate inside the fort.
Be wary of a trap [Perception 28] in front of a hut just beyond the gate, and when you're gathered up, cast Haste before going deeper into the fort. A large group of goblins can be found further east, and Haste will help give you an edge over them. In fact, it's two groups of goblins divided by a trap [Perception 28], but you should endeavor to kill most of the goblins west of the trap before retreating to lure more goblins further east across the trap so you can dispatch them without worrying about the trap. This group of goblins includes two Goblin Alchemists, which is another reason to make use of Haste to cut through the mob of accompanying goblins more quickly.
Once the horde of goblins are routed, disarm [Trickery 28] the trap near the hut by the fort's entrance, then loot two crates alongside the hut to score a Token of the Dryad in one and 141 GP some gems, potions and food in the other. Next disarm the trap along the path to the west and be sure to loot the Goblin Alchemists for Rings of Protection +1, which have to be worth selling, at the very least. When all that's done, press on past where the trap was to find two prisoners in cages, one to the north and one to the south. Free them both, then loot a crate between a hut and the northern prisoner cage to find a 154 GP, a Masterwork Bowgun, some potions and a Melted Shard of a Ring.
Drinkers at the Gudrin River
Press on deeper into the goblin fort by heading west, where you'll be treated to a scene of the goblins serving Lamashtu in their peculiar, depraved way. Seems the goblin shaman isn't too concerned about ceremony, and is just as happy to force peasants to ingest water from the Gudrin river at spear-point, if need be. When prompted, pick the [Neutral Good] dialogue option to interfere with the forced drinking, or [Chaotic Evil] to watch and see what they do. If you choose to watch twice, the goblins will retreat back into the fort with their prisoners, while if you interrupt them you'll be able to save the prisoners and kill this batch of goblins, which includes two Goblin Sneaks and two Goblin Eagle Eyes.
Slaying Goblins to the South
From where the goblins forced their prisoners to drink, follow the river southwest until you find another goblin hut, near which is a crate containing some masterwork weapons, a potion and a Token of the Dryad. From here, continue south along a trail until you find more goblins willing to oppose you. The goblins here are numerous, but well spaced out, and more will appear as you fight, making it somewhat easy to get over-extended. This is exacerbated somewhat by the presence of the odd Goblin Alchemist, who should take priority over the other goblins. This fight may be sloppy by necessity, but Stoneskin, Communal should provide enough protection to ward off incidental damage your casters and archers may incur from a momentary lapse of protection.
Smite this group of goblins, then loot a crate near the palisade to the east to find a variety of useful scrolls and a Shard of Knight's Bracers. Claim this treasure for your own, then continue following the trail to the southwest, eventually looping around to the northwest near a collection of prisoner cages and goblin hovels. As you go, be wary of another trap [Perception 28] [Trickery 28], and a surprisingly light goblin presence near the prisoner cages.
Don't bother freeing the prisoners when the area is secure, instead continue following the path northeast to find another, larger group of goblins and their tamed (or at least, more hostile to you than the goblins) Dire Wolves, which stand their ground beyond yet another trap [Perception 28] [Trickery 28]. They're content to stand their ground unless provoked, so lure them south by approaching the trap, or just blast them with an area-of-effect spell to teach them their position isn't as safe as they think it is. When they're all dead, disarm the trap and turn your attention to the prisoner cages to the south.
Tigni Behind Bars
Most of the prisoners are random peasants you've never met before, but there's one of particular interest - your old friend, Tigni Jusmert! That's right, the price-gouging scoundrel of a merchant you encountered on your visit to the Bridge Over the Gudrin River. If you didn't deal with him earlier, the other prisoners will be all too happy to let you know he's a cheat, but this merely leads to a [Perception 15] check that exposes him when he tries to lie.
For the matter at hand, you'll get a [Neutral Good] option to let him out of the cage, a [Neutral Evil] option with a [Diplomacy 20] check that'll get him to tell you about some treasure he buried back at the Bridge Over the Gudrin River area or a less imaginative [Neutral Evil] option to simply leave him in his cage. The cache you can extort from him happens to be a bundle of sticks concealing 500 GP. You'll find it south of the road, just before the northern end of the bridge in the Bridge Over the Gudrin River area. If you pick the [Neutral Evil] option that doesn't involve extortion, you can talk to Tigni again and properly extort him, which now counts as a [Chaotic Neutral] act, presumably for changing your mind arbitrarily? If you extort him via either possible option, you can always then just renege on your offer and leave him in his cage - a [Chaotic Evil] act.
|Reward: For freeing Tigni without extorting him|
With the prisoners dealt with, make your way south of the cages to find two hidden treasures. A crate [Perception 22] behind a goblin hut contains 242 GP, some gems and jewelry, while a rock [Perception 7] to the southeast of this crate holds a Taldan Warrior's Dog Tag. For some less well-hidden treasure, head north to where the goblins and their Dire Wolves waited behind a trap, then search behind (east of) a hut to the east to find a crate with two potions inside. Finally, search another rock near the cliffs to the west to find another Taldan Warrior's Dog Tag.
The goblins thus far have put up pretty stiff resistance, failing more due to their inherent puniness than to their lack of tenacity or discipline, well, save for the goofs near the river. Continue north and when the path splits in multiple directions, stick to the easternmost path and head uphill to find some drunken goblins. These more common examples of goblin prowess are too far gone to put up any resistance, so you can safely ignore them and get right to looting.
Near the first goblin hut to the east you'll find a crate containing two potions. To the north of this hut is a rock [Perception 7] hiding a Taldan Warrior's Dog Tag. Things seem to be under every rock in this area... A sack to the west holds some food, while a crate [Perception 22] in front of this alcohol-reeking building can be unlocked [Trickery 20] and looted for some potions and a scroll.
From the house reeking of alcohol, venture southwest until you find another group of drunk goblins near a crate, inside of which are some Bracers of Armor +4. These are as good as a Chainshirt with none of the downsides (weight, Armor Check Penalty, Arcane Spell Failure, etc.), making it very attractive for arcane spell casters and Rogues. Next head south to find another rock hiding yet another Token of the Dryad.
Return back north to the alcohol shack and from there follow the path to the west. North of the trail you'll find two escaped prisoners standing near a slope, and if you talk to them they'll express bewilderment at how, exactly, they got free. Tell them the truth, then you'll get two options for how to deal with them. The [Lawful Evil] choice will put them out of their misery, while the [Neutral Good] option will refer them to Kesten's camp, promising a cure.
Battle: Goblin Shaman
Time to get back to the business of killing goblins - and business is about to pick up! There are two paths to the west leading up to the top of the hill, where the most important goblins presumably dwell. Both slopes are protected by a trap [Perception 28] [Trickery 28], and if you take the northernmost path you'll have to fight through a small band of goblins (including a Goblin Alchemist) and their Dire Wolves. Of note is a Goblin Commando who possesses a Melted Shard of a Ring. Other than that, it doesn't really matter which path you take, although the southern pass is less busy and puts you at a better location from where to start another, larger encounter.
If you went up the northern path, head south, while if you went up the southern path venture west to find some goblins - led by the Goblin Shaman - performing their foul ritual at their Lamashtu totem. As with the prisoners at the river, you'll get a chance to watch as they're force-fed possibly infested water [Chaotic Evil] or you can interfere and stop the ritual [Lawful Good].
The Shaman will run off to the south when interrupted (or when he spots you, in the case where you just stand by and watch), and if you approached from the east instead of the north, you'll be in a good position to intercept him. There's no harm in eliminating him early, but if you attacked from the north, he'll likely retreat far enough to the south to join the king. If you do start a fight with him, give the Shaman your undivided attention, as he'll repeatedly summon monsters until he has a veritable horde at his disposal. In addition to that, he'll be joined by a Winter Wolf coming from the south and the goblins that prowl around Lamashtu's totem. Of the foes arrayed before you, the Shaman is the most dangerous and also fairly easy to kill - there's no good reason to let him cast in peace, even if it means presenting the goblins with some Attacks of Opportunity.
The Winter Wolf is more troublesome, as it has the Armor Class and HP to be a more enduring threat. On top of that, it'll perform Trip attacks like most wolves/worgs, and can probably hit your tanks fairly regularly. Worst of all is its breath weapon attack, which can deal hefty damage to all enemies in a rather short cone in front of it. Sufficient, at least, to hinder your warriors. You can bait it into using this, then withdraw, or you can engage with only one warrior and let them weather the attack. Resist Energy (Cold) will help somewhat.
Kill the Shaman, then the Winter Wolf and finally mop up the rest of the goblins. Haste will prove useful in this fight, as will Stoneskin. Don't be afraid to expend whatever resources you need to win, as the rest of this area shouldn't present too much trouble, and you'll have a good excuse to rest shortly.
Rout the Goblin Shaman and his minions, then get to looting. You can't loot the Shaman yet - you'll need to pay the Goblin King a visit, first - but there are plenty of crates and whatnot lying about. Make your way to the northern edge of this hilltop and kill the goblins and their wolves if you haven't already. When they're dead, disarm a trap [Perception 28] [Trickery 28] in front of the northernmost goblin hovel, then loot the two crates beside it. One holds a Shortsword +1 while the other [Trickery 20] contains a variety of gems.
Southwest of here you'll find another goblin building - a meat storage shed, or garbage disposal shack, given the description. Hard to tell the difference with goblins. A sack out front contains some food, while a crate along the southern side of the building will yield some scrolls and... cheese.
Next make your way south to Lamashtu's totem and disarm the trap around it, more for the experience and safety of having it removed than out of any other real need. Once that's done, loot a crate [Trickery 26] near the hut to the west to find a Wand of Stinking Cloud. Ignore the prisoners for now - they're not going anywhere, after all - and head to the entrance to the camp, from which head northeast to find a hut. Search a crate near this hut to score a Taldan Warrior's Dog Tag.
With all the looting done, turn your attention to the previously-neglected prisoners and free them, or kill them [Chaotic Evil]. Only one more thing to do: deal with the Goblin King.
Battle: Goblin King
The time has come. Baron(ess) versus Goblin King. Make your way southeast from the Lamashtu totem and pass through the palisade's gate, then head southwest to find the tent of the Goblin King. You'll find this mighty political force on his own and... well, this is actually rather anticlimactic. He'll be alone if you intercepted and defeated the Shaman earlier, and he's actually not all that strong, dealing at best moderate damage and possessing an Attack bonus low enough to struggle against your tanks.
If you brought Nok-Nok, however, he'll chomp at the bit to challenge the Goblin King in single combat, which takes the form of an Illustrated Book Episode! There are quite a number of ways to ensure victory in this event, especially since most of the checks are DC 10, which are practically impossible to fail at this point in time.
If you pick the [Diplomacy 10] or [Bluff 10] responses to start (both of which use your protagonist's Persuasion skill score - a restriction that won't be kept for later checks) and pass, you'll then get to choose between two different [Stealth 10] checks. If you pick [Stealth 10] ...Nok-Nok climbed on the roof of the nearest hut. you'll then get three more options. Be sure to pick ...a wasp nest! here and pass the hidden [Dexterity 10] check to win the encounter.
On the other hand, if you pick the other stealth option, [Stealth 10] ...Nok-Nok hid right behind the king's back! you'll get to choose between a [Trickery 10] and an [Intimidate 10] check, both of which will end the encounter successfully and unlike the first two Persuasion checks, this one uses the party's highest skill.
If you started this Illustrated Book Episode out by picking The baron(ess) did not deign to speak to the assembled goblins, demonstrating his/her contempt of the undersized vermin, or if you failed any checks or picked the wrong dialogue option (assume any options not mentioned above are "wrong") you'll be presented with a [Mobility 10] and a [Dexterity 0] check. Failing another check at this point or picking something silly like ...fall to his knees and beg for mercy. the encounter will end and you'll have to fight the Goblin King - and perhaps the Winter Wolf and Goblin Shaman, if they weren't dealt with earlier.
Should you pass either of the two aforementioned checks you'll get three more, an [Intimidate 10] check and two [Bluff 10] checks. Pass any one of these checks to end the encounter successfully.
However you manage it, there's no reward for success. In fact, the only positive outcome from succeeding is removing the Goblin King from the ensuing encounter; well, and perhaps future bragging rights for Nok-Nok, for what that's worth.
In any event, when you've defeated the Goblin King and what subordinates he had around him, it'll be time to loot the area. There are five goblin hovels in the area, two to the west (including the king's hut) and three to the east. Near the northern of the two western huts you'll find a crate containing 96 GP and some gems. Along the southern side of the king's hut you'll find a crate, which is trapped [Perception 22]. Disarm [Trickery 22] the crate and unlock [Trickery 25] it to find a variety of masterwork weapons. Near the center of the three eastern huts you can find a chest containing a Torag's Pendant, while near a southern hut you'll find a locked [Trickery 22] crate, in which is Mother's Care. This is a Kukri +2 with the "Keen" and "Frost" properties on it, making it well, just a great light weapon.
Once the Goblin King and Goblin Shaman are defeated and all the prisoners are freed, talk to the Goblin Shaman and he'll gloat about his actions in the service of his monstrous deity. Or at least, what he thinks is the will of Lamashtu, anyway. It doesn't matter what you say, the Goblin Shaman will die, but not before giving away invaluable information.
Even better, you can loot the Goblin Shaman now, and he'll leave behind Longshank Bane, a Breastplate +2, a Belt of Physical Form +4, the Paragon of Virtue ring and a Taldan Spur. Longshank Bane is a a Spear +1 with the "Bane" property, acting as a +3 weapon and dealing an additional +2d6 damage against "longshanks", a category which apparently includes Giants, Humans, Elves and Orcs. The Paragon of Winter Ring will give the wearer cold resistance 30, but will make the wearer vulnerable to fire, taking more damage from that source of damage. A sensible bit of jewelry for a goblin who associates with a Winter Wolf to have.
The Bloom Begins
Gather your battle-won spoils, then return to Kesten's camp. Or rather, to the Goblin palisade just east of it (you can use the slope near the escaped prisoners to get there faster). There's a lot of fighting and traveling coming up, and time will be of the essence. Do yourself a favor and stock your spellbooks in a way that favors amplifying brute force; prepare as many instances of Haste and Stoneskin as possible, to the exclusion of just about anything else. Party-wide divine buffs like Bless, Prayer and Burst of Glory will also help (provided they can be converted into healing spells, anyway), but generally speaking, now's not the time for finesse or diversity, just raw melee power.
Once you're rested up, make your way to the camp, where the prisoners you saved from the goblins will start to... bloom. The seeds in them will summon a variety of randomly generated monsters, possibly including Primal Manticores, Ferocious Owlbears and/or Ferocious Wyverns. All beasts you've fought before, and ones that can do a bit of damage if you're sloppy or unlucky. Fortunately for this fight you have plenty of guards and prisoners to distract them, which should limit the amount of punishment you endure, especially if you are patient and ensure the monsters engage NPCs before you attack them yourself.
Win the fight and try to take as little damage as possible, then talk to Kesten who will give you more bad news. Normally the disease - the Bloom - progresses in a predictable manner, but this time the infected triggered simultaneously. If the Season of Bloom began, as the Goblin Shaman claimed, then the scene at this camp possibly may repeat at every concentrated pocket of civilization in your barony, including your capital. Tuskdale is in danger, and specifically Jhod, who directly deals with the infected at his clinic, but you can't just ignore the source of this infection - the Womb of Lamashtu, which can be found upriver.
Kesten will insist on searching for this "Lamashtu's Womb" once he hears about it, suggesting you return to the capital and save the people - including Jhod - who may be dealing with a nightmare scenario. He will not be dissuaded from this task, and left alone, Jhod and Kesten are both in mortal peril. If you care about saving them, you'll need to prioritize and it is possible to save both if you're quick. This means you'll need to refrain from resting if at all possible, and since there's a great number of monsters to slay, that might make this something of an endurance trial.
Both areas will be listed below in detail, as if you were intending to explore them in one go, but ideally you'll do what you need to do to save one character, then leave the area and go rescue the other. In practice, Jhod has more time than Kesten, so you should go to Lamashtu's Womb first, help out Kesten, then abandon the area and return to Tuskdale to help out Jhod. You'll be reminded as you explore these areas when to abandon it. Despite this advice, Tuskdale will be listed first and Lamashtu's Womb second, as it does make more sense - Jhod and Kesten aside - to finish them in that order. For optimal results, skip around as needed.