Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein betrayed Captain Avantika’s trust. As night fell over the pirate haven of Darktow, several of the Mighty Nein snuck on board the Squall Eater to steal her map to the next artifact of Uk’otoa. The next morning, Avantika mustered all of her crew onto the ship’s deck to root out the traitors. The Nein could feel the metaphorical noose tightened around their necks as one of Avantika’s crew used divination magic to ferret about in the belongings of every being on the deck. As the divinr approached him, Caleb raised one hand, placed it against his outstretched palm—and cast wall of fire
The Mighty Nein brawled with Avantika and the crew of the Squall Eater, until they were interrupted and apprehended by the Darktow authorities. The Plank King interrogated both parties, trying to get to the bottom of the story: that Avantika was planning a coup. Fjord convinced him to allow Beau to use truth-telling magic on her—and when the Plank King repeated his questions, she said nothing. That was enough for him, and he executed Avantika on the spot.
The Mighty Nein and their crew fled Darktow under penalty of death, and began their journey towards the Diver’s Grave. They cast spells of water breathing and dove beneath the waves.
Art by fed-red.
Caleb’s wall of fire blazed across the deck of the Squall Eater, taking Avantika, her crew, and the rest of the Mighty Nein by surprise. “Roll initiative!” Matt declared. Avantika raised her arms high and cast control water, commanding the ocean itself to rise onto the deck of the Squall Eater and extinguish Caleb’s flames. But fate was not with the fanatical captain, for Caleb cast a hasty counterspell (using only the sound of Avantika’s incantation as a point of reference through his wall of opaque flame) and unraveled her spell.
Jester grabbed Beau and cast dimension door, and vanished in a puff of pink and purple smoke. The two warriors appeared off the deck of the ship and just a few blocks from the Bloated Cup tavern. Likewise, Fjord grabbed Caleb and cast thunder step and blasted off the deck of the Squall Eater as Caduceus, Nott, and Yasha ran down the gangplank. Caleb, running from the ship, took a heavy crossbow bolt to the back and crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Avantika leapt down from the ship to the docks and snarled, “You should not have crossed me.”
She swung her enchanted rapier and dagger at Nott and caught the goblin with her short blade. Fjord spun around and engaged Avantika in combat, dueling the seductive, fanatical captain on her own turf. Fjord spoke a phrase in a sinister dark tongue and pointed towards the Squall Eater’s deck, and a massive, gorilla-like demon burst from the ether and attacked Vira. The barlgura roared, and Vira stepped backward in fear. Fjord hissed at a nearby guard “Avantika is not to be trusted,” and cast misty step and leapt toward Caleb.
The guard didn’t seem to trust him, as he—in Matt’s words—“Just summoned a fucking demon.”\
The Mighty Nein ran pell-mell from the Squall Eater and towards the Plank King’s throne room. Darktow guards saw the fracas and—unsure of what exactly was going on—formed a phalanx to stop the fleeing combatants and figure out what was happening. As the guards appeared, Avantika gestured broadly with her hand and shouted “Take them to the Plank King!” and cast mass suggestion upon the guards. They all fell under her sway, and fixed their gaze upon the Mighty Nein.
“Get them!” the guards shouted. “They’re thieves!”
Beau blazed ahead and, upon meeting the gatekeeper of the Plank King’s demesne, she demanded an audience with him. She forcefully requested an audience, claiming that Avantika was attempting a coup with the aid of a demon god, and that she was killing all pirates who didn’t side with her. The guard was not swayed by her words, but said they would look into the matter. Beau’s blood was surging with adrenaline, but in the heat of the moment she chose to—wait. Against all odds, she decided to wait. Meanwhile, the rest of the party grappled with the horde of Darktow guards charmed by Avantika’s sorcery. Fjord skidded to the ground in the midst of the melee and shouted, “Help me help this man!” and poured a potion of healing down his throat.
Caleb weakly stood, trudged forward, and hurled a fireball at the Squall Eater. Disoriented as he was, he fired blindly, hoping to find Avantika. The guards watched in awe and horror as the fireball exploded. Fire streaked across the horizon, and Caleb’s eyes glazed over. Trauma took his mind as he was pulled back to the moment in which he set his own home ablaze, and he collapsed.
Despite their best efforts, the Mighty Nein were overwhelmed by the guards. The guards got the situation under control and managed to pacify both Avantika’s crew and the Nein. The guards that Beau got in touch with were summoning the Plank King, and Beau managed to stay away from the mess. She managed not to be arrested along with her fellows. Darktow citizens were already gathering and spinning rumors. This was an exciting moment; attacks like this rarely happened within the city.
Art by Monica M. Magaña (@MonicaM_art)
The Law of Darktow
Then they were brought before the Plank King. He gazed down at them with a square jaw and a steely expression. “That was quite a display,” he growled. “Step forward,” he said to Beau. “What’s all this?”
Beau tossed him Avantika’s journal. She explained Avantika’s entire plan to stage a coup d’etat and her worship of the demigod Uk’otoa. The Plank King said he “admired her balls,” and brought her down from his roost to meet with Avantika and the Mighty Nein. The latter group waited for nearly an hour in manacles before they met with Beau and the Plank King. The monarch of Darktow lambasted his prisoners and demanded that they explain why they were here. Why they were on the sea at all, given that naught but one of them had any nautical experience at all. The Mighty Nein hadn’t even spent a single day in Darktow, and they were already causing trouble and making brawls. “Speak up!” he bellowed.
Beau explained that they were mercenaries from the Dwendalian Empire—and she lied that she was one of the Expositors of the Cobalt Soul, and that it was her duty to investigate Captain Avantika’s dark dealings. Moreover, she had no ties to any of the Mighty Nein, and that her sole responsibility was to the Cobalt Soul. The Plank King seemed perturbed by her mention of the Cobalt Soul, and he explained that he had some dealings with the Cobalt Soul in the past. He then turned to Avantika and demanded her side of the story.
The red-haired captain smiled murderously at the Nein and said to the Plank King. “I kept no journal. The Mighty Nein came to me at sea and joined my crew in seek of gold. They began to talk of this strange entity—this ‘Uk’otoa.’” She went on to lie that the Mighty Nein were the ones who had set her up. “They even dared to use the memory of Vandren to get at me.” She accused Fjord of killing Vandren.
Fjord looked to her in shock, then addressed the Plank King and rebuked her lies. He asked that the he be allowed to ensure that no lies were spoken in his presence, and Beau offered her aid: as a monk of the Cobalt Soul, she could use her ki and her fists to charm the truth out of Avantika. The Plank King gave him a narrow-eyed and severe look, but then grinned and said “Be my guest.”
Beau rushed at Avantika and delivered two quick blows to Avantika’s temples, and Avantika succumbed to Beau’s Cobalt Soul magic. The Plank King leaned in and asked, “Tell me. Is what they’re sayin’ true? Does that book contain passages in which you’re lookin’ to take this island for yourself?” Avantika said nothing, and looked away. “Look me in the eye, woman.”
She refused to meet his gaze. The Plank King frowned.
“By the power of the Revelry that surrounds me,” the Plank King said, “Let this be a lesson. To those who would work against the words we swore to each other on this land. And may your memory be besmirched for the few days it’s recalled.”
He grabbed Avantika by the throat and snapped her neck in his hand. Her body went limp in his hands and collapsed to the docks. He turned to the crew of the Squall Eater and sentenced them to leave their waters forever under penalty of death. He commanded the Mighty Nein to depart with them. The party boarded their ship and sailed from Darktow. They weighed anchor and sailed through Dragshallow Reef, to the Swavain Islands, and back into the Lucidian Ocean.
Art by @sami_jen.
Journey to the Diver's Grave
Once on the open ocean, Fjord asked Beau to “turn Avantika’s quarters upside down,” to find any last scrap of information they might have missed. Their ship was in rough condition; practically derelict. Yasha sniffed the air and smiled. “It’s nearly storm weather,” she said distantly.
Caduceus cast divination and asked the Wildmother for guidance. He sought safe harbor, and the Wildmother responded. “Besaft Isle brings you safest harbor,” said a quiet voice on the wind. A calmness surrounded Caduceus, and he felt his anxieties melt away for the first time in weeks. They sailed on, and with judicious use of Jester’s control water spell, they soon arrived at the point marked by Avantika’s map: Vandren’s shipwreck—the Diver’s Grave. For several days they sailed around these waters, using Caduceus’s divining magic to dowse for the sunken wreck.
Caleb transformed Frumpkin into an octopus and sent him down into the waves—and when he returned, Caleb believed that he found something. They slept again to regain their expended spell slots, and awoke the next morning to a rainy day. Yasha was energized—she felt a storm on the horizon. Fjord cast a spell of water breathing upon the entire group, and Nott got incredibly drunk before she slipped into the water. Everyone grabbed a cannonball or some other form of ballast and leapt into the water, and sunk deep, deep, deeper into the waves.
The light grew darker and darker as they sunk. Shades of green and blue turned to murky hues of brown and black, until all light was snuffed out. Only after many long, claustrophic minutes, did they touch the bottom of the sea. It was an alien landscape, covered with waving arms of kelp and—waves? This deep down? The Mighty Nein turned to look, and a massive, dark silhouette passed through the gloom in the near distance. The song of a whale rumbled through the depths, adding beautiful, otherworldly tone to the stark, disturbing landscape of the deep sea.
The Mighty Nein trudged across the seafloor for hours, until they saw it. Fjord gazed upon the outline of a familiar ship. His old vessel. Vandren’s ship.
Critical Role has gone from sailing across the waves to delving beneath them. What beautiful horrors lurk in the wreck of Fjord’s old ship? Is it Thursday yet?
Unless otherwise credited, all images in this article are courtesy of 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.