Well the Dragon Turtle seemed somewhat dazed, confused by some sort of monk it referred to inside itself. Though Ander the rogue shot some arrows, it seemed to not notice them terribly much and after a seconds reflection, party members back up along the ravine or spider climbed up it and away, as it released a steam blast that cracked the very side of the ravine, revealing a chamber and a dwarf inside, a trapped victim of a cave in who free now, fled along with the party and joined them!
Deciding to approach the water cultists fort from land rather than water, the party helped each other climb the cliff or just did it on their lonesome as the new dwarf, Travok, did.
The approach to the keep involved the recently named bard, cursed with looking like a child, and the paladin Rikarian trying to infiltrate with the story he needed to drop off the ‘child’ as he was going to a dangerous place. There might have been some confusion as to whether the rest of the party was going on, because after knocking on the door Rikarian found himself walking in with the ‘child’ and looking over his shoulder, seeing no one else following. This ended up in a negotiation with the boss of the keep, to which Rikarian only had to pay 20 gold to get rid of the child – which he took from ‘the child’ to pay it. The child was then immediately put on dish washing duty, so Rikarian bid his farewells and started to walk out the door of of the bosses hall, only to see the rest of the party being escorted in. Considering averting his eyes and walking past, the party heartily greated him. Turns out they had gotten frisky and climbed the north wall of the keep – and had promptly been found by a patrol. Curiously with a few words they had avoided bloodshed and instead the patrol had escorted them in. And now Rikarian found he had to turn on his heel and follow them right back in before the boss of the keep!
The discussion went well as in there wasn’t a huge fight. But by the same token it went poorly enough that the party was assigned to dish washing duty along with the ‘child’ in the next room. Which they weren’t very good at…Rikarian broke several plates. The guards tried to beat him with the sides of their swords for it, but ironically he was wearing plate.
Pliskin slipped out and started investigating the base and after some time the party was done with their washing chores* (the ‘child’ pleading for a break) and were told to leave. Which they took to mean ‘snoop around our fort’.
Eventually they find a cave under the fort that takes a river, deep into the earth. They steal a boat from the fort, pick the lock on the gate on the cave front and start rowing…only to have their boat shaken by a force from under the water! The ghouls show their presence, reaching for everyone in the boat!
* Instead of having one player be the only one doing anything for some time before the supposedly long plates chore was done, I had the player do some investigation, then basically said time passed as the players PC looked around and now the rest of the party were out.
Note: I kinda messed up and didn’t filter out a player do a massively metagame thing that had significant character effect – ie, someone making their character basically suicide for no reason other than they wanted to play a new character (when they are free to simply bring a new character if they want to. Previous character doesn’t have to die to do that). So I’ve basically edited out of the story where the barbarian went to fight the dragon turtle as everyone else backed away and the barbarian was killed doing it because he wanted his barbarian killed. I fell into this error, not identifying how it was going against what I wanted/a high character effect based on a highly metagame effect – oh well, just keep it in mind to try and avoid next time – live and learn!