Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein took two weeks off in the great city of Zadash. They got up to wild hijinks and made preparations for the long journey south to the Menagerie Coast.
The Mighty Nein traveled south through the Dwendalian Empire, pausing in Alfield and Trostenwald, and into the Menagerie Coast. They did battle with a pair of ettins beyond the southern border of the empire, and escaped with barely a scratch. They also encountered an exotic animal merchant, and purchased not one, not two, but three new pets for the party: an owl, a crimson weasel, and a blink dog puppy.
Beyond the mountains of the empire’s border was a shining ocean bordered by a deep emerald jungle. Nestled in the picturesque landscape was a glimmering city: Nicodranus. Jester’s home.
Art by Max Beech (@mbeechcreative)
Caleb meditated on the visions he had while focusing on the dodecahedron as the Mighty Nein’s cart rumbled along the roadway. Caduceus asked him what he was thinking about, and Caleb directed him to ask Jester about the object they had picked up in Zadash. Jester passed it to him (after showing him plenty of other questionable things in her travel bag), and he gazed into the void within the artifact and drew a mote of potential from the object.
On the Road to the Menagerie Coast
After three days’ travel south from Zadash, they arrived once more in the town of Alfield. Previously ravaged by gnolls, the intervening weeks have seen the town recovery greatly. The townsfolk were hard at work rebuilding their village—and some of them recognized the Mighty Nein’s cart as they pulled back into town, and waved at the sight of them. They weren’t sure how to act in the traveling adventurers’ presence.
They asked about Watchmaster Bryce, and traveled to the town jail, where they learned Bryce was working. The party reunited with them (Bryce used a singular “they” pronoun), got caught up on the state of the town, and arranged temporary lodgings on their journey. The Mighty Nein settled in the local inn (Jester used thaumaturgy to slam open all the windows), and spoke with Bryce about news from the warfront out east. Alfield was fortunately far enough from the front lines that the villagers weren’t worried, but Bryce had friends in Bladegarden and other border regions.
After Alfield, the Mighty Nein journeyed down to Trostenwald, where they had begun their travels together. While on the road, they came across a suspicious group of standing stones. Caleb sent Frumpkin in to investigate, and found a bag hidden in the stones. The bag was filled with emeralds and rubies! This may have been a drop spot for a group of criminals. Caleb took the gems and passed them to Jester—about 500 gold worth of stones. They continued their journey.
Later, they spotted a single rider on a single horse riding towards them. This person wore a facemask, and had the look of a highwayman about him. The Mighty Nein only caught a glimpse of him as he passed. Later that day, just before dusk, they arrived in Trostenwald. Beau asked around for Gustav, the owner of Molly’s circus, and learned that he was still working off his debt to the town. They paid a visit to Lawmaster Norda, and she took the party to visit Gustav in the stockade. They offered to pay off his debt to the town, but he asked that they didn’t; Clay read the man’s face and judged that he was hiding here, in the jail.
Nevertheless, the Mighty Nein decided to buy him out of jail. After some bartering with Norda, they set down 1,500 gp and secured his freedom.
Encounters at the Southern Border
The Mighty Nein departed Trostenwald, heading for the Wuyun Gates. After a few days of travel, they approached the gates and found that everything going in and out of the gates was being inspected. Caduceus worried that the enchantment on the cart that disguised its contents would be detected; both he and Caleb tried to make Arcana checks determine if the enchantment could be temporarily dispelled or subdued, with no success. They emptied the cart, but the illusion of small boxes and sacks persisted and the guards asked about them. Caduceus quickly explained that the illusion was a precaution. The guards examined the cart, determined that all was well, and allowed them to pass. The captain leading the border force warned them that their inspection would be far more thorough on the way back into the empire.
Beyond the southern edge of the empire was a large ravine. The land was quiet save for the distant squawking of birds and whistling of wind through the canyon. Caduceus heard a guttural voice on the wind—the Giant tongue—and the party searched for the speakers. Huge giants, wearing leather loincloths. These two-headed giants, ettins, were squabbling furiously over how to deal with the travelers they had found. With two heads, even a single ettin has a hard time coodinating an attack. With two ettins? Mass chaos ensued, and Caduceus was quick to take advantage of their confusion.
Caduceus charmed one, and Caleb also cast fear upon the other, allowing them to get some distance from the two before combat broke out. Beau was once more turned into Swoleregarde by Caleb’s enlarge (enlarge/reduce) spell, and the party made short work of this brutish creatures.
Animal Allies and a Distant Glimpse of Home
The next night, the Mighty Nein made camp and slept in Caleb’s tiny hut, as they had made a habit of doing. That morning, they found hoof prints around their hut. They investigated and found a heavyset, tan-skinned man in a dark cloak. He had a cart filled with cages, and those cages were filled with animals. This man, Kestif Drudy, was an animal merchant that dealt exclusively in “majestic creatures.” Caleb was uninterested and merely petted his own cat, but Jester was excited to examine the animals. He produced a pair of tiger cubs, and began to show lots of exotic birds.
Jester and Beau bought a crimson weasel and an owl. They considered ponying up 100 gp for a pair of tiger cubs, but ultimately decided against it. They also acquired Nugget, a blink dog puppy. Kestif and the Nein made their transaction, and then went their separate ways. The Menagerie Coast was warm and muggy. The ocean was deep and blue, and shimmering with sunlight. The Ashkeeper Peaks loomed over them, and the roots of those mountains were overgrown with a massive jungle of emerald vines. There was a city in sight in the near distance, situated on the coast, with a harbor filled with boats. Jester saw the city and saw her home. The port city of Nicodranus.
What new adventures await the Mighty Nein on the Menagerie Coast? And if Nicodranus is so close, will Jester dare to sneak in to see her mother, the famed Ruby of the Sea? We'll have to wait 'til next week... is it Thursday yet?
Unless otherwise credited, all images in this article are courtesy of Chris Lockey and Critical Role.
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, 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 partner Hannah and his very own Frumpkins, Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.