Fat Mar's WIS saving throw: 20 vs. Graxx's intimidation check: 6.
"Whatever you say, tough guy!" He then nods to Utar to let the half-orc know his order of soup is accounted for. Noticing the tension at the table starting to mount up, Fat Mar then completely changes the subject away from the drow: "Now friends, let us not talk about such nightmarish folk. How about the weather, hmm? It's been quite awful for the past few days. And it doesn't help that the lighthouse is out, hmm? Folk there haven't got that working properly for two days now. Me? I think the Black Fist just don't know what they are doing but other guests here think it is on purpose." He points to a few other patrons scattered across the tavern floor: a male half-orc who is nursing his drink in a dark corner pensively; two halfling merchants who are enjoying their lunch a few tables over; three humans with ink-stained hands and shirts who are sharing a drink over dinner; two female human who are sitting in a booth.
Neya looks to Fat Mar with bemusement on her face, "The lighthouse has been out of commission for two days? I hardly want to believe that such a level of incompetence exists, but it also seems too overt for what we heard about the Black Fist."
Graxx turns to Neya, "The more I learn about you the more I like you, Neya!"
Graxx then turns to Praxx, "If Neya trusts you enough to tell her name then I trust you, Praxx. These deformities..."
Graxx flexes slightly, "Are a gift to me from Tempus which allow me to bring him glory in battle. What of your music? Do you also do battle?"
Graxx listens to Fat Mar's words but does not address him directly. He instead addresses the group of companions. "I'm following yalls lead this time. Last time I tried talking to folks for information in a bar we ended up with... Well you know what happened."
Praxx answers Graxx “I am actually a bard! I studied at the college of Lore. I’m not too shabby in the mystic arts. Buuut I do love playing in my band which also reminds me I need to lay down some more uplifting tunes.”
Praxx hops off the chair and bows to Graxx. “Thank you for the drink kind sir! I’ll be here all night.”
Praxx runs up on the stage and picks back up his lute as the other two band members jump to their feet. He then begins playing a few light songs to set the mood for the tavern.
Fat Mar does not seem to mind the fact that Graxx's and Praxx's interaction has come to an end, and continues his own parallel conversation with Neya: "Aye, I'm with you. There aren't many people that still live or work in Thorn Island, especially after House Sokol left, but that handful of Black Fist guards are a bunch of incapable sons of a manticore. Sokol Keep is quite old, even older than Phlan itself I gather, but that is no excuse to let the only flare of hope die on those poor sailors out there, specially in weather like this!"
You can all hear an increasingly worried tone in Fat Mar's voice. At this point, he has completely neglected any other potential orders you might have and is about to sit down on the chair that Praxx vacated to join you in detailed conversation, as a guest would. Noticing this, Imizael lets out a loud sigh and disappears behind the kitchen door, yelling out loud at Utar "I'll get you your soup." As she does so, the band settles in for another tune.
All this while, Rag has been sitting on his chair counting and examining the many gems he has collected over the past few weeks. It does not look like the halfling has paid any heed to the conversations happening around him.
After being in Phlan for some time, the group would know that Thorn Island is a sandy, wind-buffeted islet that rests offshore in the Bay of Phlan. Thorn Island serves as a natural breakwater against the ravages of the Moonsea. The isle’s most prominent feature is Sokol Keep, more fortress than lighthouse. A beacon atop the highest tower of the Keep serves as the aforementioned lighthouse for ships entering the Bay of Phlan. (The map in the spoiler below should help visualize this.)
(@All: A history check on House Sokol is available for those interested, but please feel free to call these sort of skill checks on your own. You do not have to wait for me to call them out.)
At the mention of House Sokol, Neya recalls what she learned about the noble house in preparation for her scouting assignment in Phlan:
House Sokol was once a famous merchant family and members of the noble court. About a century ago, the noble house sold its land in the outskirts of Phlan back to the crown, and with the wealth amounted, took control of the infamous old keep in Thorn Island. Running their newly established mercantile vocation from the island, House Sokol quickly multiplied its riches by controlling the main entry port in Phlan, enriching the crown with its levy in the process. The plainly re-named Sokol Keep (its previous name lost to history) served as the city's lighthouse for many years, and it still does.
Three years ago Lord Protector Anivar Daoran died unexpectedly in what, for all intents and purposes seemed nothing more than a construction accident during renovations on Castle Valjevo. The Commander of the Knights of the Black Fist, Sir Ector Brahms, was declared the Lord Regent of the Cinnabar Throne. Shortly thereafter, House Sokol left Phlan in what most believe to be a flight for survival from the then establish marshal law state. Still, Sokol Keep’s lighthouse remains a reliable source of income for the noble house and an important beacon for the city’s maritime trade and defense. Hence, the family left a token few retainers to maintain the fortress and ensure that the beacon was operational. The city itself provided a token regiment of Black Fist guards to protect the keep in House Sokol's absence. House Sokol also maintains an administrative office near the docks, with a representative to look over their lingering interests in the city.
(I'll assume Neya is sharing this info with the others when given the chance.)
While he waits on his soup, Utar looks over the patrons Fat Mar pointed out, trying to discern anything he can about them, their occupation, their frame of mind. He also would swear blind he had heard of Sokol Keep previously, if he can only remember when...
Utar looks over to the patrons scattered across the tavern. With half a mind on Sokol Keep, there is not a lot he can discern. He does notice a couple of details however, before turning his attention full to the fortress'/lighthouse's history. Judging by their attire and gear, he gathers that the two human women in the both are most likely mercenaries of some sort. He also overhears the halfling merchants say a few choice words: "keep,""ropes,""delay," and "dried food." Then, fully focusing on his memories, the Tormite recalls talking to some acolytes in the temple in town who were fond of town gossip:
Despite being quite old, Sokol Keep has persisted over time. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, and the Labor Guilds surely had a hand in the few most recent reconstruction projects.
Just a bit over a century old, House Sokol is considered one of the new houses in Phlan, and despite being quite wealthy, have earned a reputation for not being one of the most sophisticated noble houses in the city.
Children around town believe in legends about ghosts and lost treasure in the now mostly abandoned keep.
Drazzim tries to jump into the conversation, but can't think of much to add, at least initially, except that another patron in the restroom was also complaining about the lighthouse being out of commission for two days and that nobody apparently knows why.
While Rag catches up on the conversation so far, Graxx takes a look at the three human men with ink-stained hands and shirts. The men are eating, drinking, and speaking not so quietly to themselves. They glare at other patrons and don't seem too inviting, but sound harmless. Grixx can hear them discuss their love escapades one moment and wonder how old the laughing goblin totem in the corner of the tavern is at another. A few choice insults are heard here and there too.
All this while, Praxx and his band mates have been playing a slow jazzy tune. The Gnomish lyrics seem to have enticed the half-orc patron who was nursing his drink earlier. He approaches the stage as the current song comes to an end with a tear coming down his left cheek and, in Gnomish, says: "That ditty... it reminds me of my travels of yesteryear. What quick fingers you have little one. Here, a well deserved tip." He digs into his pouch and brings out a handful of golden coins. He carefully places 10gp on the elevated stage floor and piles on the generosity: "Let me buy you a bowl of this famous cabbage soup my talented gnome! I'll send a bowl each to your band mates too!"
Speaking of which, Imizael arrives with Utar's soup. It smells quite appetizing for being cabbage. She lingers for a bit, as if expecting a tip, a compliment, or both.
Praxx thanks the half orc patron and bows. “You sir are a true gentleman and we are pleased that you enjoy our melodies” says Praxx as he turns toward the band “looks like we have a delicious meal tonight gang!”
Praxx then takes the coin from the stage and drops it into his coin purse. “We will split this at the end of the night don’t worry” says Praxx to the other members of Scarecrow Boat.
Praxx looks back at the half orc and says “if you need anything sir you let me know. We know many tunes of the realm”
*I do apologies that my conversations aren’t in blue. iPhone X seems to have some trouble with the website.*
Graxx looks to Drazzim after his words, "Ah, so you have dealt with these gnomes before. Good stuff. I remember having bards on drums behind us years ago. They did something to inspire me to keep lifting my axe even though my arms begged for mercy."
Graxx says to the rest of the table, "It sounds like trouble may once more be headed our way. Do you think we may able to convince this Praxx to leave the stage for a day or two for a little adventure?"
Utar, watching Praxx chat with the half-orc across the bar, nods his agreement with Graxx. "With what we know about the keep and House Sokol, it would be worthwhile getting a little more background information while we make our way there. That little bard certainly has a way with people, I think he could make himself useful."
The half-orc leaves the side of the stage: "Alright good folk, you keep entertaining while I place the order. I'll wave at you once they bring the food out. The name is Ortal Gruk, by the way, but we can wait until dinner is ready for formal introductions." Ortal then goes looking for Fat Mar to order bowls of soup.
Over at the party's table, Imizael joins the conversation: "You are going on about that lighthouse again aren't you, Markoth? If you were to spend as much as half time focusing on your job as you do gossiping around, we'd sell a lot more drink to good folk like these" She slaps Drazzim's shoulder in a friendly manner. "You should keep your nose out of other people's business and go tend to our customers. Look over there. Ortal is coming this way, surely looking for you. Go back to work, lazy husband of mine." Her tone is light while talking to Fat Mar, and you all get the impression that this friendly hazing is probably part of their daily routine. In spite of what Imizael said, Fat Mar turns to wait for Ortal to come to him. Imizael begins walking back to the bar, but stops on her tracks...
"BANG!" The main door is violently thrown open as a half-dozen burly drunk dockworkers barge in. They seem quite angry. Without sparing anybody a glance, they march towards the two human female mercenaries moping over their drinks. “Your friends in the Keep are costing us work! Where are they hiding?” bellows one to the woman at the table. “Sod off, Thirus,” one of the mercenaries growls; obviously in no mood for a chat, “Crawl back into the hole you came from before you and your friends get hurt.” At this point, the music has stopped and all eyes in the tavern are directed towards this loud conflict. These dockworkers are clearly looking for a fight and the mercenaries look perfectly happy giving it to them. Markoth and Imizael, however, try to intervene from afar, clearly preferring to avoid a brawl in their premises. "Take it outside," Fat Mar clamors. "Not in here," adds Imizael.
The two mercenaries stand up from their seats menacingly. The dockworkers do not flinch, and soon they use their superior numbers to begin a pushing and shoving contest. It looks like an imminent fight is about to break out despite the owners' pleas.
Utar stands and grips his amulet in his left hand and brings his right down in a fist on the table top with a bang. The amulet glows as he implores Torm's aid in quelling the unrest in the bar. He did not see the danger back in the Tea Kettle, but is loathe to see something innocuous develop into a full on bar-brawl here. Besides, if the group wanted to get more information on the goings on at Sokol Keep, speaking to the group of dock workers might be a great option to have, rather than seeing them arrested by the Black Fist or sent off to an infirmary to have their wounds healed.
Casting guidance he draws himself up to his full height and bellows out a warning.
"Listen to them you drunken sots! You want to bring the whole might of the Black Fist down on you?"