Critical Role Recap: Episode 13
Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein infiltrated the manor of Lord Dietrich Sutan and High Richter Diana Pusine, on the behalf of a group of anti-imperial rebels known as the Knights of Requital, in an attempt to frame these corrupt officials and have them stripped of their power. However, while their infiltration was partially successful, they were discovered by the High Richter within her own home. One of the Knights of Requital, a dwarf named Ulag, sacrificed himself to kill the High Richter.
Then, an explosion. A group of mysterious, magical insurgents had attacked the Zauberspire, one of the city’s tallest towers. The Mighty Nein fled the High Richter’s manor and into the sewers—where they were confronted by one of the insurgents: a mysterious warrior in demonic armor, carrying a strange, glowing object.
The Mighty Nein defeated the insurgent and took him prisoner. The captured warrior was a dark elf of Xhorhas that attacked the Zauberspire to reclaim a magical artifact called a beacon. This beacon, which the Dwendalian Empire had stolen from Xhorhas, somehow allowed the people of Xhorhas to be reborn again and again, granting them the ability to achieve spiritual perfection through constant reincarnation. The characters chose to let this dark elf go, but he was quickly found and killed by the Crownsguard—at which point the characters tricked the Crownguard into giving the beacon to them.
With the city of Zadash on lockdown after the attack, the Mighty Nein needed to tie up loose ends, then find a way to get themselves and their friend Horace Thrym (of the Knights of Requital) out of the city. They acquired a lead-lined box and other magic items from Pumat Sol to keep the beacon safe from divination magic, and then searched out one major loose end: “The Gentleman,” one of the reasons they had come to Zadash in the first place. They descended into a secret passage beneath the city, where they went in search of the mysterious Gentleman…
“To begin, I’d like you all to roll initiative,” Matt said. The entire table erupted into shouts and jeers.
Battle with an Unknown Foe
The game began with the Mighty Nein standing face-to-face with a mysterious and magical warrior, dressed head-to-toe in gleaming armor. The warrior’s face was obscured by a helmet with demonic horns. Almost as soon as the combat began, this mysterious warrior surrounded itself with magical darkness. Nott attempted to negotiate with the assailant, saying that they were no fans of the empire, but rolled an impressively abysmal negative-1 on her Charisma (Persuasion) check.
During the fight, the heroes discovered that when the mysterious warrior struck a creature with its blade, the weapon left a magical rune—a sort of arcane “brand”—on its target’s body . It could also create misty phantasms, a sort of arcane “echo” of its own form that could act in combat.
Molly defeated the assailant and chose to knock him out, ready to disarm and interrogate him. First, they looted a whopping 116 platinum pieces from his unconscious body. Then, removing his battle-damaged helmet, the party grimly realized that their attacker was a dark elf of Xhorhas.
Caleb cast an identify ritual on the mysterious glowing object the dark elf was carrying, but the spell was unable to identify the magic. As he continued to focus, his mind opened into an infinite oblivion… magic beyond his comprehension. Caleb tried to go deeper into the magic, but had to back out.
The Mighty Nein awakened the drow in order to get some answers out of him, but the dark elf was uncooperative. Molly charmed him—which still only opened him up a little bit—and learned that the elf was concerned with “the beacon,” an important magical item, apparently. After some coaxing, the drow revealed that he and his compatriots attacked the Zauberspire in order to “retrieve the beacon from those imperial bastards.”
The dark elf stated his name: Thuron. In Undercommon, the name means “blessed second-born.” He stated that the “fucking wizards” of the Dwendalian Empire stole the beacon from Xhorhas. He was sent by his empress, Empress Leylas Kreen of Xhorhas. The mysterious, glowing beacon was a vital part of Xhorhasian culture. He claimed that the beacon allowed the rebirth of his people.
“We learn, we die, we are reborn until we are perfect,” the drow claimed. “We find more beacons.”
Apparently there are more beacons than just the one the drow “liberated” from the Zauberspire. It seems to allow them to resurrect over and over again into new bodies, approaching a supreme state. The party murmured nervously about the beacons and what it meant for them—but Beau broke the tension by bluntly asking the drow if he wanted to be released. She offered to release him if he told her who he was working with, but the captive drow refused.
Fjord and Beau simply started listing names—and Fjord apparently learned something secret with a successful Wisdom (Insight) check. Nevertheless, the dark elf was resolute; he refused to part with the beacon, and said that he would rather lay down his own life than give up the beacon. Realizing there was no reasoning with this fanatic, the party decided to let him go with the beacon. Molly frayed his captive’s bonds, gave him back his armor, and they went their separate ways.
Recovering the Beacon
Upon leaving the sewers, however, the party heard the clash of weapons and voices shouting “we got him!” They were quickly accosted by a group of Crownsguard, and while they managed to bluff their way past the guard and escape the sewers, they emerged into a city bristling with soldiers. There, they learned that the dark elf had been quickly captured and, because of his battle with the Mighty Nein, quickly slaughtered by the panicked Crownsguard. One of the guards held the beacon.
In what could only be called a massive change of heart, the Nein quickly decided that they needed to get the beacon, and stalked the Crownguard taking it away. Beau disappeared, Batman-style, onto the rooftops, and Jester tripped the guard carrying the beacon. Using subterfuge, deception, and a silent image illusion, the Nein managed to separate the beacon from the guards, leaving it in Caleb’s hands.
As the Nein walked back through the streets and heard wild rumors flying from the populace. They did, however, learn that the city of Zadash had been put on lockdown. Caleb worried about putting the beacon into the party’s Heward’s handy haversack. Caleb wanted to find a lead box to put the beacon in to not just conceal it, but also prevent its magic from being sensed.
Beau suggested they place it in the second cellar of the Leaky Tap tavern. Fjord related that had gleaned a bit of information from the dark elf’s reactions earlier, and suspected that Ulag, the dwarf from the Knights of Requital who sacrificed himself just an hour prior, may have been his spy within the city. Beau and Fjord decided to act on this information and went in search of the remaining Knights of Requital, while the rest of the party went back to find safe haven at the Leaky Tap.
They hunted for Dolan and Horace Thrym, a pair of leading members of the Knights, and upon spotting motion inside Dolan’s house, knocked on the door to find Dolan and Horace inside, panicked and grateful to see Beau and Fjord alive. It seemed that they were trying to pack their things and getting out of town as fast as possible before anything is traced back to them. Fjord managed to calm down the terrified Dolan and Horace, convincing them that if they fled in fear now, everything that they had fought for would be for nothing. No change would occur within the empire. No justice would be meted out.
Their resolve was steeled, but Dolan still convinced his husband to get out of town. Dolan had some political clout, and saw no use in them both getting killed if he got implicated in the High Richter’s death. Beau suggested that Horace make his way to Alfield; they might be in need of his skills, and it’s a good place to lie low. Before they leave, Beau asked if there was any more information they knew… especially about Ulag. Both were shocked to hear that the dwarf might have been in league with Xhorhas, and Beau dropped the matter. Fjord took Horace with them back to the Leaky Tap.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party had already arrived at the Leaky Tap. Most of the party went into the secret basement. There, Caleb cast an alarm spell on the area and placed an arcane lock on the door. They stashed the beacon in the cellar nearby the musty old skeleton that was moldering down there.
Jester, however, had gone upstairs into the taproom. There she observed the patrons gossiping about the events of the night, hearing tall tales grow and shift by the minute. She made her way upstairs to the office of Claudia, the gorgeous owner of the Leaky Tap, and tapped on her door. Claudia greeted her, but did not open the door. Jester worried that she was acting strangely and tried to peek into her room. She failed, but managed to convince Claudia to let her in nonetheless. “Quickly,” Claudia said, ushering Jester into the room.
Somehow Claudia had learned that the Nein did a heist job for the Knights of Requital. Worried about being implicated in the job, she was planning to sell the Leaky Tap in order to draw suspicion away from the tavern and its patrons. She could survive suspicion, but the tavern’s patrons were just common folk.
Late that night, the party (plus Horace Thrym) reunited in the Leaky Tap, save for Caleb, who remained in the basement. There, they discussed their next move and divided their loot from the day’s adventures. Meanwhile, Caleb, still in the basement, began speaking to the skull of the musty skeleton, and very nearly revealed more backstory to a skull than he had to any actual party member. He still managed to stop himself short.
As loot was being divided, Nott and the rest of the party (mostly Molly and Beau) got into an argument about trust and teamwork. Beau revealed that she didn’t care about Nott and Caleb’s selfishness… not when it’s on their own time, at least. But when the Nein are acting as a team, she expected everyone to have each other’s backs.
“Caleb and I have a very special relationship,” Nott said. “It is that of a parent and a child. But I’m the parent, you do understand that, correct? I protect him. He’s my boy. And I keep him safe. I want him to thrive and get better and better, and more powerful, and stronger, because he can achieve great things.
“When I found him, he was nothing. He was a scared little boy in the corner of a jail cell. And as we have gotten…” she sighed sharply. “More comfortable… he has […] come out of his shell. It is my job to protect him. Because I love him, and I am his protector.”
Fjord looked at Nott in amazement for a moment. Slowly and deliberately, he spoke. “That changes things. I admit that I had the wrong idea about you.”
Later, Nott went downstairs to Caleb and gave him a healing potion—saying that he used one on her earlier. Nott also handed off a few more things to identify and check for magic.
Caleb tested a scroll case for traps by having his unseen servant “Schmidt” tamper with it outside. He heard a muffled arcane explosion, more like a faint pop. He then retrieved two scrolls from the case. Liam started getting teary! He went over to Nott and hugged her. Caleb never revealed what spells the scrolls contained, leaving some mystery for later.
The longsword was a “good blade” (good enough to have a spell card, though we never learned its actual powers), but the daggers were nonmagical.
After the identifications had been completed, Caleb revealed to Nott that he tried to get into the Soltryce Academy and his small town gathered money to try and send him, but he somehow messed it up.
“Did you do something wrong? Or bad?” Nott asked. “You don’t have to tell me what it was or what you did. But is it something you can be forgiven for?”
“It is not for me to say,” Caleb said. “But I have no interest in going. I will do it on my own. Correction—I will learn with your help.”
Sleep claimed the Mighty Nein. Yet as they slept, Matt asked everyone but Liam to leave the table. (Notably, all players on the top half of the screen have now had solo roleplaying moments, but none of the players on the bottom half.)
As Caleb drifted into dreams, he felt a soft humming surround him, a “welcoming softness, a light… A grayish, familiar light.” It pulled him through the aether, a great void in which he was surrounded by beacons of light. Before him he saw a dark sphere, and all around him he saw endless reflections of himself. An endless row of Calebs, all slightly different. Then, suddenly, all began walking in different directions at once, as if he could see his fate diverging in many paths.
Surely this strange dream must have been the result of him attempting to comprehend the magic of the Xhorhasian beacon.
As he tried to comprehend this strange image, the many Calebs vanished from his vision, and he felt all of those different potential paths within his singular person. Still, though, he felt them pulling in all directions; the potential power of destiny visualized in a single instant threatened to tear him apart. And then, the stars were still. For a moment, he felt at peace. He felt calmness in the chaos.
And then he awoke.
The next day, the group woke up and began leading Horace out of town, only to find that the city of Zadash was still in a state of lockdown and they needed to find a way to smuggle him out of the city’s walls. They paused for a moment to plan their next move, and quickly realized they had so much to do before leaving town. Caleb revealed that the sending stones he stole from Lord Sutan’s house was just a single stone, and its linked stone is held by another, unknown person.
Ultimately, they decided that their first course of action would be to acquire a lead-lined box that they could store the beacon inside to protect it from divination magic. They visited Pumat Sol in search of a box, catching him right after breakfast. Fortunately, the affable firbolg possessed several such boxes and handed one over for a nominal fee.
Nott, however, decided to spend 250 gold and wait a whole week to commission a flask that would never run out of alcohol.
As they browsed, Fjord posed a question to Pumat Sol Prime: “Did you ever … use your magic for combat? What led you to a store like this?”
Pumat Sol answered with his usual humility and cheer. His store, the Invulnerable Vagrant, had been running the store for 12 years. He came to his profession because he made friends within the Cerberus Assembly and served them for some time, even becoming acquainted with Headmaster Ormid Hast of the Hall of Erudition, though it was clear that he still feared the Headmaster to a degree. Fear flashed within Pumat’s voice when he accidentally revealed that the normally austere Headmaster was fond of cute, fuzzy animals.
(Also, Pumat was reading the book published by Taryon Darrington in the last campaign!)
After leaving the shop Jester grabbed the lead-lined box (containing the beacon) and slammed it into the handy haversack. Though Caleb feared an extradimensional rift would destroy them as a result of putting such a powerful magical item into an extraplanar container, nothing happened. They all breathed a sigh of relief.
After goofing around and passing out some of the magic items Caleb identified earlier, they resolved to head to the Evening Nip to find Kara, one of the remaining members of the Knights of Requital, and perhaps pop in on “The Gentleman,” the person they heard of on the Amber Road from Alfield to Zadash. When they arrived at the Evening Nip, they noted that the bar was weirdly exactly the same as the first time they went there. Same two bouncers, same bartender, same two dismal patrons sitting in the same two booths. This place was obviously a front for a more clandestine operation.
Beau went up to the bartender and gave him the passphrase that Thed the halfling gave her in the sewers. He opened up a door to the back room of the bar. He opened a trapdoor within that room, and waved them in. They slowly descended down the stairs and the trapdoor closed… and something was placed on top of it.
As they descended down the stairs, they began to hear the gentle sounds of music drifting up from below. People are having a good time down there! Clinking glasses, having a good time. The stairs emerged into a subterranean tavern filled with patrons and decorated with fine stone, unlike the grim boards of the Evening Nip above.
Before they could enter, however, a black tabaxi (a cat-like humanoid) in a grayish robe stopped them at the entrance to the bar. He stopped them, saying that he didn’t recognize them… but then stopped in his tracks. His face lit up when he looked at Molly, and he gasped, “You’re alive. Lucien!”
Molly looked aghast, and confused. Taliesin was red in the face. And that’s where Matt ended tonight’s session.
Critical Role will return on April 12th, 2018. What is the mysterious power of the beacon? Who the hell is Lucien? And most importantly… Is it Thursday yet?
Photos in this article are courtesy of Geek & Sundry
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He loves watching Critical Role and wants everyone he knows to get into it, too. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his very own Frumpkins, Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.