The Nein kick off their second week in Eiselcross with a bang. After a hard days travel by eagle, the gang find themselves stranded at the peak of a mountain with a long, cold, difficult hike down. Veth notices there might be a quicker way down that would involve something much more fun than hiking. She borrows Caduceus’ shield and Beau’s glider fan and takes a daring leap down the slope of the mountain. Both clerics watch her go with revivification spells at the ready for the inevitable accident but Veth shows absolute mastery while inventing a new winter sport and somehow safely slaloms, skids, and soars to the bottom of the mountain. Impressed and maybe slightly jealous, Yasha, Jester, and Caduceus also attempt to snowboard down the mountain to…varying degrees of success. Thankfully, everyone arrives to the base of the mountain unscathed and Caleb sets up camp for the night.
The next two days are cold, stormy, and difficult to travel, leaving the Nein a whopping two levels of exhausted, seriously hampering their speed and ability checks for a couple of days. While carefully, and slowly travelling the landscape, Jester helps her companions keep in touch with their loved ones. Yezza lets Veth know that everyone is good, and Luc may have a little romantic crush! Calliope lets Caduceus things are better at home, the crystals are planted they are awaiting results on the healing of the grove. Jester also decides do to an impromptu check up on our favorite Kenku friend Kiri! Kiri sounds like she’s doing amazing, missing her friends, but has many exciting things to show them when they come visit again. Essek also decides to check in with the Nein, his associate, Uraiah, asks when the group plan on stopping in for a visit and to keep a careful eye out. Jester hopes they are only a couple days away.
On the 10th day of travel, The Nein come across a strange sight in the middle of the icy landscape. a circle of seven stone statues surround a stone platform, seemingly posed in the middle of some kind of ritual, palms joining in an ominous circle. Knowing full well that the Nein could never leave well enough alone, they investigate this certain death trap. The statues are strangely warm, but definitely aren’t petrified people. Standing in a circle and mimicking the hand pattern does…absolutely nothing. Disappointing. The mystery must be solved!
A quick game of Boulder, Parchment, Shears sends Jester to stand in the center of the circle and after several still seconds Jester realizes that the statues all seem to be staring very intensely at her. She can’t willingly leave the center, held entranced by the statues eyes. A source less voices or thoughts calls out to her “Do you give to receive? Ask and we take.” Jester answers with a question, wondering exactly what the Tomb Takers are trying to bring back. She is captured by intense visions of Vokodo’s living, floating city. Then an image of the Tomb Takers carrying many new artifacts towards their next destination, they are getting close to finishing their task. Not. Good.
Jester falls to her knees, overcome by a strange chill that seemed to suck the air out of her lungs. She feels fine, but Caduceus and Beau immediately notice that Jester has changed. She’s….older! The statues took years of her life from her. By the looks of it, that one question cost her 5 years of her life. Slightly mortified, the Nein try to calm and reassure Jester that she wears her age with absolute grace and beauty and the information she received was worth the risk.
The next morning, Caduceus decides it’s time to ask their severed head some questions. They are able to glean that the floating city, named Cognoza, in their visions was in fact part of Aeor. It’s council, the Somnovum, took a dangerous initiative and jettisoned themselves into the Astral plane before the destruction of Aeor in an attempt to save themselves. More conspiracies! Beau uses the Cobalt Reserve’s research powers to cross check their information and confirm that her theories about how the Eyes of Nine, Tomb Takers, and Vess DeRogna all fit together.
The next day, the Nein finally make it to the entrance of A2. They carefully creep into the entrance of this new ruin of Aeor but they are immediately stopped in their tracks by a voice calling out. The disembodied voice says the Nein are surrounded and asks whose side they’re on. Taking a chance, the Nein reply that they have been sent by the Empire and the Cerberus Assembly. A small, dirty, weathered looking gnome steps out from his hiding place, relieved to finally have some friendly aid. He claims the rest of his party disappeared into the tunnels of A2 several days, maybe a week ago. He held tight, waited for backup and avoided the extraordinarily creepy baby-ish crying noises coming from the tunnels. The Nein have…questions… about what kind of strange adult/baby/monster could possibly be responsible for such a confusing cacophony. Never one’s to be turned away by a mystery, the gang agree to investigate the disappearance of the gnome’s party members and hopefully deal with Babyface while they’re at it.
Setting off into the dark tunnels, the group quickly find signs of bizarre research projects, genetically crafted monstrosities, and technologically advanced lab equipment. None of the words, magics, or materials really make sense to our explorers but the atmosphere is enough to raise the hairs on their necks. The Nein make their way down through another chamber, only mildly held up by strange door contraptions. A loud shuffling sound catches Beau and Caduceus’ ears. Then suddenly a rumbling, piercing wail rents the air around them. They’ve attracted the attention of some haunted nightmare that prowls these depths. Quickly dousing the lights and hiding, the Nein wait for the creature to round the corner and come into sight. One pair of pale, reaching arms. Then another, and then two more, followed by a bulbous, light floating in the air above…what can only be described as a bloated, grey, baby-like moaning head attached to a wooly mammoth body. Absolutely horrifying. The creature takes a few lumbering steps forward, searching for the intruders as the Nein try and shrink back into the shadows. And that’s where we’ll pick up next week!
Welcome to another rollercoaster of an episode! We waited an extra week to watch The Nein snowboard down a black diamond mountain to certain death, voicemail all their old friends, accidentally age 4 or 5 years, get a smooch on, and then find the depths of our nightmares and pull out the baby faced demon that lives there. There’s a lot to unpack this week so let’s dive right in!
The Nein started their seventh day in Eiselcross on a bit of a light note. The doldrums of travel were broken up by shaving hours of difficult travel off coasting through the air as eagles. Once the eagle polymorph wears off…the true fun begins. Veth couldn’t resist taking a plunge and risking her life to turn an 8 hour mountain hike into a 5 minute death defying stunt. Shockingly, Veth, Yasha, Caduceus and Jester all make it down the mountain without breaking their necks! I thought Mercer was more than generous in padding the damage that any of the Nein took from this escapade. Let’s be real, a few feet of fresh powder after a 30 foot drop is not as soft and cushy as you’d think.
I loved all the little check ins we got from our favorite NPC’s this week. Veth got an intriguing update from home about Luc possibly having a cute little love interest. This led to a hilarious conversation about just how old Luc is supposed to be… it’s still unclear. Maybe 3, maybe 13 it’s so hard to tell with halflings. Caduceus got the all clear from home, which is a refreshing change for him, since his origins in the Nein had such dark beginnings. I’m excited to see his story arc come full circle. Even Kiri made a brief, heartwarming appearance! Hopefully after stopping an undead, unstoppable mage city invasion, the Nein can take a little vacation to Hupperdook!
So, that creepy circle of life-sucking statues was super cool. I guess I’m glad it only cost Jester four or five short years of her life and not something something much more serious like…her hands? The information she got helped solidify the floated conspiracy theories that have been circulating Beau’s mind and the Critter chat. I’m not sure if I’m ready to see what hundreds of years, trapped in a hive mind haunted mage city will do to those poor souls of Cognoza. No amount of advanced technology information is worth the price of bringing that nightmare back to this plane. I know I said seeing an alien invasion might be a cool ‘chromaconclave’ -ish arc but this is getting a little too real.
A ship has sailed! We finally have the first damn adorable kiss between Fjord and Jester. So many of us were rooting of Beau and Yasha to seal the deal. Or even Caleb and… well take your pick… Astrid, Essek, Jester. But in a shocking turn of events, resident die hard, anti love story Travis Willingham took a leap of faith and finally reciprocated Jester’s affections. I think the Critters were more moved by Travis’ endearing reaction after the fated kiss than we were by the actual scene. Who knew pretending to kiss your wife’s DnD character could make a grown man blush. I love these guys more than I care to admit. They’re all absolute treasures and we are blessed to have thousands of hours of this amazing show.
Ok! Enough mush and romance. Back to doom, gloom, and nightmares. I am desperate to see more backstory from the ruins of Aeor. I love me a good ‘advanced civilization wiped itself out only to be rediscovered by a clueless group of adventurers’ story line. I’m so curious to find out just how advanced this Aeor civilization got, but at the same time…we all know what happened to Pandora’s box and there’s no coming back from dangerous unbounded knowledge and power. Hopefully the Nein can keep this untapped knowledge bomb out of sinister hands and, best case scenario, let it be sealed away and lost to time and history. Maybe just a little peek though. All powerful mage-lord Caleb Widogast has a nice ring to it.
Our cliffhanger encounter this session was a bit spookier than normal. The fan art and mini closeup are enough to send shivers down my spine just thinking about what this infantile monstrosity is going to do to the Nein. That gnome’s adventuring party didn’t just vanish without a trace…something awful had to happen. Why does the monster have to have weird hands on its toothy maw…AND an anglerfish dangle light? Like, pick one nightmare and stick to it. Too many nightmare levels and you risk getting trapped in a loop! We only have two more episodes before Critical Role takes a holiday break, so there’s a good chance we end on quite a nail-biting cliffhanger. Will we be left waiting to see if the Nein can stop those pesky Tomb Takers? Will Dagen have to be mind wiped again? Will Essek be left waiting around a cold dinner table?? We’ll just have to wait to find out. Don’t worry Critters, it’s almost Thursday!