The _Markovian _arrives at the Harbor of Esh. The city is obviously at over-capacity. There are a line of ships waiting to dock. A harbor ship sails out to greet them, collects taxes, and informs the party that they will have to wait here two days (estimated) if they want to dock their ship. After learning they could just leave the ship anchored in the bay and take a water taxi into town the party decides to do this and bribes the administrator to return the taxes and tear up the paperwork.
The taxi takes the party and the “cargo” to the piers. Sir Montague and his companions take off on their own. The party finds Hope Inn, a large touristy inn near the docks that has good food, nice rooms, and a full bar. Their waitress, Tanda, is extremely helpful. She is a true local, a Dorian, who is quite willing to keep talking as long as the tips keep coming. From her they learn that bandits have likely overrun the Tongued Fortress but that she has a cousin, Bart, who’d they could contract through The Joint to take them there; that she has an uncle named Angus who owns a boat docked at the Bardic College, and from him she learns that they could dock there if they like; that Captain Mitar won the Royal Cumberland Rally and he’ll be hosting a private party here this evening, and, yes, she can get them invites; recommendations for a good bath house where Ada could take in a nice bath and the dwarves could get their skin scraped; messengers to the temple of Isis; and an introduction for Kwell to Murdock, the Cellar Master.
From Murdock, Kwell was able to find a great bargain, a keg of an obscure nog from a family that never sells it outside their clan
- probably stolen or taken as tribute. But Murdock didn’t know what he had and was happy to unload it.
The PC’s enjoyed Captain Mitar’s celebratory party for having won the rally. Rumors abound that he wins by cheating, but apparently no one could prove it. We didn’t roleplay extensively but I described the event as a who’s who of pirates, privateers, independents, wealthy hobbiests, and a few merchants, and good roleplaying fodder for referring to in future –Wise or Circles tests.
Rather than charge on up to the temple and knock on the door someone (Boozer?) was smart enough to request an etiquette test to know the best way to approach Sakhmet. With help from Ada and Pavel, Vecna sent notice to Sakhmet along with the letter of introduction from Taras announcing their presence and location in town and requesting an audience. The letter was answered within the afternoon with an appointment for three days hence.
The meeting with Sakhmet was a bit formal as Kwell presented the nature of his visit. Sakhmet promised she would consult the goddess on this matter and suggested that he return in three weeks. After the formal meeting she invited Vecna to return for dinner. Curious about her motive and always looking to build powerful connections, Vecna agreed. They discussed court gossip, got to know each other a bit, Sakhmet prodded for more information about the dwarves, and Vecna presented the ring Mavra received from Pepper, taken from Tomi once she was assassinated. Sakhmet said she would take some time to consider an offer of purchase.
Realizing that they were going to have to wait three weeks the party figured it had time to go check out the Tongued Fortress. To recap, Kalibar had been informed by Farth Dunn that perhaps a clue to finding Lum would be to talk to Saul. Saul used to run with Lum’s crew but is currently being held captive in the Tongued Fortress, north of Esh. The party asked Tanda to set up a meeting with her cousin Bart. Bart arrived with Collier, an agent of The Joint, who arranged the business terms of the contract for hiring Bart as a guide, supply manager, and investigator in the nearby town of Lyle.
Early the next morning the party set off. It took about an hour to get out of town due to how crowded Esh is, with the morning rush of the city coming to life. Most of the morning was riding through the country side and rolling green hills where farmers farmed and grazers grazed. After lunch the trail went in to rougher terrain and the party met hardly any traffic until reaching, suddenly, the town of Lyle. Lyle is set on the south edge of Lyle Lake, which is about the size of Lake Washington, with the Tongued Fortress on the north end. That evening, asking about, Bart learned that the fortress was taken over some time ago by a fierce barbarian warrior who ran out some bandits who had been held up there for some time. This warrior has claimed the place and has driven off anyone crazy enough to try and claim it.
The party was curious how a fortress could simply be taken by anyone for the asking and the townsfolk explained that apparently it has no real strategic value as it’s nearly inaccessible, in poor repair, and uncomfortable.
The next morning, Bart chartered a fisherman to take the party on the Tongued Fortress. As the party crossed the lake Ada sent Moxie to scout. Moxie found the fortress, which was carved into a cliff by the lake, shaped like the face of a demon with a long tongue serving as the ramp from the lake dock to the main entrance perhaps 50’ above the beach. Moxie also found a warrior who shot at Moxie with a bow from the “eye” of this demonic face.
The fisherman refused to go right up to the dock of the fortress but agreed to dock nearby at the base of a trail leading to the fortress. From here the party approached the fortress and saw the warrior firsthand. A tall barbarian with long red hair and a full red beard, bow in one hand, stein of beer in the other. He fired at Kwell, who looked down to see an arrow sticking out of his armor just to the right of his heart. Thank goodness for armor!
The party could see two obvious ways to enter the fortress. The stairs in the shape of a tongue, leading up from the dock, but also a trail carved into the rock face leading up to the “ear”. The party split up with some of the adventurers heading up the trail to the ear and some heading up the stairs. The stairs were “trapped” with heavy carts that rolled down the stairs (by using the ramps on either side) and the trail to the ear was “guarded” by a mechanical claw that extended out to attack people coming up it.
Highlights included Ada being grabbed by the claw and flung into the lake. Kwell being grabbed by the claw and flung toward the lake, but instead hitting the sand. And Ada jumping over the cart on the ramp, gracefully landing on the other side. When Ada eventually secured the landing at the top of the ramp the barbarian grabbed her, kissed her brutally, and flung her back down the ramp, laughing. But then he had to tend to the persistent Kalibar and Vecna party coming through the ear
- the claw on auto-pilot mode had not deterred them.
Eventually the party got inside and Kalibar fought the barbarian sword on sword, but was disarmed quickly, with the barbarian tossing the sword behind him to collect as booty. The battle turned when Vecna blasted the barbarian with white fire. With 14 (or 16?) points of damage, more than enough to kill most any mortal, the barbarian cursed and swore, limping back to an inner chamber where he barred himself in, yelling curses at the mage, calling him a cheater.
After being assured that the party wouldn’t attack him the barbarian let them in to parley. The inside of the fortress looked like a dorm room at a frat house. Old beer steins laying around, dirty underwear strewn about, old pizza crusts (hey, why not?), and so on. But also, a nice sword rack, helmets, pieces of armor, and other sundries a warrior might value.
They party parleys with the barbarian only to discover that Saul isn’t a prisoner of the barbarian, Saul is the barbarian. They have a somewhat-fruitful discussion with Saul and learn that Lum is with Dalia, a tiefling, who has a fortress in the Mountains of Chaos. The party asks him to come with them and show them the way.
“No, I can’t leave here,” Saul tells them.
“I have to stay here and guard the fortress.”
“Because I’m the fortress defender.”