Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein’s actions led to the death of Captain Avantika and their exile from the pirate haven of Darktow. Thus freed, they traveled to the Diver’s Grave, a place of supernatural power within the Lucidian Ocean… and the location of the wreck of Fjord’s first ship. Equipped with light spells and water-breathing magic, they sunk to the bottom of the sea and approached the skeleton of the long-lost vessel.
The Mighty Nein explored the Diver’s Grave in search of the orb of Uk’otoa. Vandren’s ship, the Tide’s Breath, had been picked clean by a pod of merrow, forcing the Might Nein to travel deeper into the ship graveyard. After some searching they found their way to the lair of the reef’s master: the sea hag Dashilla the Dreadful. They fought a desperate battle against her until she fled and hid, surrendering her lair and her treasure to the victors for a time. Fjord found the orb and consumed it, just like the others. Their mission completed, they returned to the surface, boarded the Squall Eater, and sailed towardsthe horizon.
The Mighty Nein approached the Tide’s Breath, Fjord and Vandren’s old ship. The party crept towards a massive gash in the ship’s hull left by the explosion which sunk the ship. Fjord, worried about creatures that could have made their home in the ship, asked Caleb to send forth Frumpkin to scout. The octopus familiar scanned the ship’s interior, but the darkness was so complete that Frumpkin couldn’t see a thing. Caleb tossed a globule of light into the ship like a bowling ball, and found that the ship was free of bodies, but filled with various wooden and metal flotsam and jetsam.
The Wreck of the Tide’s Breath
Thus assured, the Mighty Nein entered. Fjord was haunted by memories in this graveyard of his past life, for everything seemed familiar… yet utterly wrong. He made his way to Vandren’s quarters, and found that the entire room had been turned inside out. This was not the work of a sinking ship and turbulent waves; someone had been here, searching for something. Jester searched further, and found a vessel that could contain an item the size of a small apple—but found it empty. The orb, the artifact of Uk’otoa that they sought, was gone, and the vessel was covered in the claw marks of a sizeable humanoid. She cast locate object, and—to her surprise—sensed it nearby! She met up with her companions and rushed towards the location held in Jester’s mind.
Beau noted that the creature said in legend to haunt the Diver’s Grave had “claws that grasp,” and everyone agreed to be on their guard. Fjord plodded through ship, gazing at the wreckage, the gore stains, and the picked-clean skeleton of the ship. Memories continued to drift through his head, forbidding him even a moment’s peace.
Then, they saw them. Three large creatures, floating above them. A frilled head, a piscine lower half, arms wielding tridents: merrow. The Mighty Nein’s lights had attracted the subaquatic scavengers, and the monsters were hungry for blood. The Nein had fought merrow before, but now they were deep underwater. They were on the monsters’ home turf now, and without spells like freedom of movement, they faced a steep disadvantage. Water dragged at their weapons and dampened their fire spells, but the Mighty Nein nevertheless prevailed against their enemies.
Jester continued to focus on her spell of location, and they trudged across the ocean floor towards the orb. The skeleton of another vessel loomed in the near distance—they truly were in a ship graveyard. Somewhere in the distance, Jester spied a tiny flash of light. Then again. The light seemed to flit about in the general direction of their destination. Beau again muttered a snippet of the song. Dashilla, the being that haunted the Diver’s Grave, was said to lure mariners into her clutches with lights in the darkness. This revelation stopped the entire party in their tracks.
Art by Jem Leigh (@jemleighart)
Springing the Trap
“Yeah, this is a honeypot for sure,” Beau grumbled. The Mighty Nein began to formulate a hasty plan. They had to be able to spring the trap without getting caught in it. They saw a pile of golden coins glimmering at the entrance to the ship: bait for the trap. Jester used her Invoke Duplicity power to create an illusory clone of herself that mimed picking up coins, to no avail. Nott disguised herself as a dwarven pirate with buttons for a beard, and the party gingerly entered the ship.
The interior is cluttered with corpses. Humans, merrow, and others. Then, the seaweed drifting around the walls of the room grabbed Fjord’s leg! It was drawn to the warmth of living flesh! Fjord reacted with an eldritch blast, vaporizing the kelp and parts of the wall. Various members of the party felt chills in their minds and shadows at the edge of their vision. A disturbing phenomenon, but a mysterious and inexplicable one.
Then, Caleb cast dancing lights… and he saw a man. A ghostly, pale figure with a sheet-white face. Fjord didn’t recognize the man, but then he stepped backward into the wall. They explored further, and another ghost—an ancient man with a scraggly beard—entered her body. Clay quickly Turned the undead creature, which fled from Beau in terror. They traveled deeper, and found themselves in a temple with rune-covered walls. These runes were ancient magic, from the time before the Calamity. This great magic, from the mighty Age of Arcanum, when mages ruled the world, could conjure a powerful elemental force beyond anything that Caleb could bring to bear. Yet, the enchantment was dormant. It needed a new power source to be activated.
The group looked around; this chamber was a treasure hoard. Creatures have been collecting gold and silver trinkets from the many shipwrecks in this area. And a throne rested against the wall. Clay knew instantaneously: that was where the object he sought rested. Finally, in the upper corner of the room, a humanoid woman lurked in shadow. Her yellow eyes peered down at the matter, and she snarled and scuttled like a crab across the wall into shadow and vanished.
Art by Ari Orner (@ornerine)
The Lair of Dashilla the Dreadful
Spirits rose from the floor of the chamber with a haunting, wailing sound. Dashilla, the wretched sea fury bound to Diver’s Grave, commanded the spirits of all those who perished in her lair. With a single gaze, she struck deathly fear into Caleb’s heart—and instantly dropped him to 0 hit points. The battle was tense and panicked, and the Mighty Nein struggled to survive against Dashilla’s fearsome undead power. On the other hand, Jester’s whimsical aesthetic dominated the latter half of the fight. Her spirit guardians took the form of a school of technicolor seahorses, and using a 4th-level spell slot, Jester created her most powerful spiritual weapon yet: a giant lollipop covered in serrated, spinning blades.
Then, before Dashilla was destroyed—she vanished. She hid somewhere in her lair—or perhaps she had fled entirely. Fjord searched the throne in her lair and found the orb he had searched and bled for. He held it in his hand and gazed into its shimmering depths. He was pulled back into his waking dreams. He gazed into the great yellow eye, with two others on its side. He saw the gaping maw open—and then he was yanked back into reality. And the orb was gone. His friends watched the orb become ethereal and disappear into his chest. In that moment, another eye appeared in the pommel of Fjord’s falchion.
With Dashilla out of the picture, the Mighty Nein explored her lair in search of treasure and secrets. While walking down a hallway, Beau was startled by another specter floating in the air and gazing at them. She gasped and shouted, “Oh fuck! A ghost!” and punched it three times in quick succession. The entire party ganged up on the ghost, and it ultimately dissipated without a trace. Fjord approached Caleb and gazed upon an ominous pedestal hidden in Dashilla’s lair. Caleb cut his hand with purpose and placed his blood upon the pedestal. The runes around the pedestal began to glow faintly. It wasn’t enough blood… but they continued to bleed upon the pedestal in hopes of activating its magic.
Fjord grew uncomfortable, and asked if they should continue. Caleb looked at Fjord and said that he had other plans that laid elsewhere. He said that he needed loyal friends who would help him when his story came into play. Fjord nodded in understanding and said, “I think we’re good.” They clasped bleeding palms and agreed to depart.
The party left the shipwreck, treasure in tow. Caduceus cast water walk, causing the entire group to jet upward to the surface of the sea. And they began to sail out, they saw a massive storm brewing over the Diver’s Grave, and Fjord and Caleb came to the sudden realization that the ritual they had been empowering was the spell that created terrible storms of the Diver’s Grave.
And away they sailed, onward to a new adventure. 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.