Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein infiltrated a city of yuan-ti and snuck into their ancient temple. They traveled with Captain Avantika and their “undead-adjacent” guide, Jamedi Cosko, who sought to uncover secrets and power related to Uk’otoa: the demigod spawn of Zehir the Cloaked Serpent, and also Fjord’s mysterious warlock patron. Just as they began to explore the temple, a trapdoor opened beneath them and they slid into a secret ritual chamber filled with yuan-ti warriors. Roll initiative!
The Mighty Nein delved deeper into the temple of the yuan-ti, and found many strange and wondrous things inside. They battled a group of Zehirian priests in the upper level, and discovered a secret stair that led to another chamber below. This room was a lush orchard of mysterious fruit trees, somehow grown in the darkness of the temple. When eaten, these fruit gave Nott and Caleb wild, psychedelic hallucinations—including floating sigils that Caleb deciphered into a riddle about the nature of the temple. Deeper still was a pool of placid water, but when the Mighty Nein attacked the yuan-ti guarding the pool, a vicious hydra burst from its depths! The disturbed hydra fought with terrible malice, but Yasha felled the beast, and the Mighty Nein continued unraveling the mystery of the temple.
The yuan-ti and the Mighty Nein came instantly to blows. The battle was quick and brutal, and Fjord disarmed and captured one of the yuan-ti priests by the fight’s end. The party asked about the temple’s origin; it was not originally a temple to Zehir. The yuan-ti priest hissed, “It was to a false idol,” and would say no more. When the Nein pressed further, the yuan-ti snarled, “I will not sully myself in the eyes of my god,” and slit his own throat.
Beau had been poisoned during the battle and elected to take a rest to let it heal. The rest of the party searched about the room for a way out, or for any treasure. Their investigation revealed that this room had holes in its ceiling—for blood to drain into from the ritual sacrifice chamber above. While resting, Avantika and Fjord spoke about their dreams and experiences with Uk’otoa—and seemed slightly jealous about Fjord’s deep and sudden connection to their shared patron.
“Beginner’s luck?” Fjord said, apologetically. Avantika scowled.
“It would seem so,” she replied. She asked him if she could trust him, and if he trusted his friends. Fjord replied affirmatively, and Avantika smiled at his response. She ran her fingers through Fjord’s hair, pulled his head close to hers, and tapped her forehead against his. Then she walked away. Fjord, perplexed, returned to the group. Jester glared at Avantika as she walked away.
After exploring the chamber, the group discovered several gemstones and hollows in the fountain that could be placed in them. Nott used her mage hand to insert the gems, and the fountain transformed into a spiraling staircase that descended deeper into the temple. Somehow, a small orchard was growing in the lightless depths of the temple. Nott nibbled the fruit and found it tasty, but it had a metallic edge, like iron… or blood.
A few minutes later, Nott felt “high as fuck.” Colors and lights exploded in her vision, and the rest of the party did their best to make sure she didn’t get lost or overwhelmed. Nott revealed that she could also see symbols floating in her vision! Jester reacted by shoving fruit into Caleb’s mouth, and the party waited for a few moments for the fruit to take effect. Caleb, now starting to trip out, looked around and used comprehend languages to make sense of some sigils that danced in his vision. He identified them as: “The sacrifice feeds the fountain,” “the fountain feeds the garden,” “the garden feeds the warden,” and “the warden guards the false serpent.”
Without warning, living vines burst from the ground and attacked the party, constricting Nott and threatening to crush her tiny body. Caduceus tried to reason with these plants, but they had no interest in listening to his soothing words. This battle, too, was little more than a quick scuffle, with the Mighty Nein emerging victorious—but a little battered. These battles were beginning to wear them down.
They searched for other exits to the room, and found small tunnels in the walls of the temple—large enough for a snake to slither through. However, there was another way out of the room; another staircase, spiraling downwards. Avantika pulled rank and, as captain, ordered the Mighty Nein to go ahead of her into the darkness. They hesitantly walked downstairs, and Jester granted Beau the Blessing of the Trickster as she snuck ahead. She looked down into the darkness and saw the Sealing Pool Chamber.
The Sealing Pool and the Warden
Three load-bearing pillars dominated the room, and a glassy pool of water filled the center of the room. A creature stood over the pool, a huge, 20-foot-long serpent meditated in front of the water. It kept a shield and a scimitar at its side. Beau snuck up, and Nott fired a blistering volley of crossbow bolts, getting the first strike… but the yuan-ti abomination was not defeated. Far from it. It attacked with fury and malice, striking with its blade and with its longbow… and its arrows dripped with virulent poison.
But the abomination was not the warden the texts above spoke of. In the midst of battle, the true warden burst from the surface of the pool. One serpentine head, then another, and another, until five writhing heads focused their eyes upon the Mighty Nein. A fearsome hydra—the warden of the temple—spit and gnashed their teeth. The hydra darted for Avantika, focusing its attacks on the closest being to its massive body.
Caleb did a lot in this battle, wielding slow spells and fire magic while his allies took devastating hits and lopped hydra heads off left and right. And true to form, whenever a head stump wasn’t properly cauterized, two more sprouted in its place. The fight was long, exhausting, and bloody, but when all was said and done, Yasha stood proud over the corpse of the hydra, her blade planted firmly in its gut.
What secrets will the Mighty Nein find deeper in the temple? Will the hydra be the worst of their troubles? Probably not… but most importantly, 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.