Caleb and Beau wake up the rest of the Nein to help deal with these new markings that have appeared. In a bit of a panic, Jester, Caduceus and Veth try some different methods to try and dispel the new creepy peepers. Unfortunately, Greater Restoration, a vial of acid, the Wildmother, Traveler and Dispel Evil all have no effect. Caduceus momentarily suggests that they could try cutting Beau’s hand off and trying a regeneration spell but the idea is quickly shot down. She needs both fists to punch things and can’t take the risk.
Accepting their new third eyes, Caleb and Beau decide to come back around to dealing with this problem at a later time. They have another full day of travel ahead of them and it seems like it should be clear skies and smooth sailing. The dice have other ideas though. In a series of unfortunate rolls, the Nein find themselves facing a familiar, formidable foe. Large leathery wing beats cut through the still air and a bone chilling roar send the Nein and the Tomb Takers running for cover. Just as the adventurers dive into a snow drift, a huge, ancient white dragon crashes into the ground beside them. “I can smell you.” The dragon calls out. The Nein immediately know that this is Gelidon, the Nightmare in Ivory. The dragon that they visited with Reani and tricked into making mithril into Iceflex. You know…they all screamed inside Caleb’s bubble while Gelidon tried to eat them and Caleb frantically cast teleport? Yeah, that dragon.
Gelidon has locked onto their scent and is not going to give up. Fjord realizes that if they stay put and wait for Gelidon to sniff them out, one big blast from her breath weapon and they would be in serious trouble. He goes on the offensive, casts fly, and rockets off as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Caleb gets the hint and also takes off flying to try and draw Gelidon away. The ploy works and gives the rest of the hidden adventurers time to spread out to safety and launch a volley of attacks.
In a quick series of events, Jester has teleported Beau onto Gelidon’s head, Yasha is ready to go at Gelidon’s feet and the Tomb Takers have bloodies their weapons and activated their unique bloodhunter abilities. Gelidon does manage to land a serious icy breath on the gang but everyone comes out relatively fine, even Fjord who still refuses to regret his ring of fire protection and all its glorious helpfulness in the tundra. Beau is dealing with the brunt of the attacks, enduring tail attacks, ice damage, and bite attacks while trying to punch a dragon to death. Yasha and Zoran do their best to nag at Gelidon’s toes while Lucien, Cree, Caduceus, Fjord, Veth, Tyffial and Caleb launching volley after volley of range attacks. It’s enough to send Gelidon into survival mode by round 4.
800+ damage later, Gelidon is feeling the burn. Caduceus and Tyffial both managed to land some impressive Harm spell damage (a rare peek into Caddy’s darker side here). Veth and Fjord are a long range boon, both dealing at least 100 points of damage each. She begins to take flight with a battered, nearly dead Beau frozen to the side of her face. Even Jester begins to feel the seriousness of this fight and casts a high level Heal spell on Fjord (and only ever for Fjord) to keep him solidly in the fight. Yasha does her best long range fighter impression by throwing her sword at the now out of reach dragon…it doesn’t go well at all and she nearly skewers beloved Beau. Thankfully she remembers she has a lance and a well aimed throw sends Gelidon over the edge. She begins to full on flee the battlefield.
The Tomb Takers are ready to let the fight go and let Gelidon take Beau with her as a conciliatory snack. Thankfully though, Caleb swoops in and cat claws Beau off Gelidon’s face just in time. Everyone lands safely back to earth, patches up their scrapes and decides this day couldn’t get any worse. Onward to Aeor!
The rest of the day is spent traveling. The Nein quietly plot behind the Tomb Taker’s backs. They decide to reach out to Dagen and see how he’s holding up. Also maybe he can peel off and deliver an important message to resident Hot Boi Essek to ask for help. Dagen agrees but only if he is paid in full because he definitely isn’t making enough to be facing dragons. The Nein agree, gather his pay, write a special plea to Essek and slyly bury the package in the snow for Dagen to dig out later.
Lucien lets the Nein know that their destination is only a few hours away, but the sun is quickly setting. Maybe they can spend one more night in the tower before facing another dungeon dive. The Nein heartily agree, still feeling the effects of battling with a dragon and travelling in the unforgiving tundra. Everyone gets cozy for the night and the Nein go back to planning again. Suddenly Fjord realizes that their bag of holding is missing. He flashes back to the fight with Gelidon and recalls a sneaky Otis hiding behind him during the fight. Otis must have slipped the bag then! A frantic search of the tower confirms the Nein’s fear. The Tomb Takers have cut and run. Oh, it’s on. The chase begins!
Exhausted and enraged, the Nein set out on their polymorph owl friends. Caduceus, using Beau’s handy night vision goggles is on the lookout. There they are! Even with a stealthy, silent approach Lucien is able to sense the Nein coming. He sends his crew scattering and activates on of his red eyes. An invisible beam streaks across the Nein causing Caleb’s owl form to drop, and Caddy’s goggles to stop working. They’ve fallen prey to some kind of anti magic ray. The others circle around, looking for the bag, Otis, or a lodestone to steal. Lucien casually fends of Beau, wraps his hands around her throat, casts a spell and blood begins to pour from her eyes, mouth, nose and ears. She’s still alive but barely.
The Nein quickly acknowledge that they are outmanned and in deep trouble. Lucien’s anti magic ray makes him nearly untouchable. Another owl form goes down when Yasha gets too close and Otis pulls her into the ray. Jester is able to snag Otis, but no dice, he doesn’t have their bag. He slips from her grasp and she sets her sights on the big shiny lodestone strapped to Zoran’s back. A quick pluck and the stone breaks free from the goliath’s grip and Jester gets out of dodge. Caleb, Yasha, and Caduceus frantically try to pull each other out of the ray to safety. Veth has her sights set on that horrible weasel Otis. She always knew he was the worst.
The Tomb Takers match the Nein blow for blow and the outcome is not in the Nein’s favor. For the second time today, it may be time to run from the battle. Fjord leads the escape as the Nein try to outrun the Tomb Takers and all their tricks. Caleb and Fjord even double team a triple level counterspell, thwarting a spell that could have spelled the end of the fight. Things are looking pretty dire. Like “help, it’s again… it’s bad we’re running” dire. Fjord and Veth pull out one last ditch hail mary and conjure a major image and a phantasmal force. Veth tricks Lucien into thinking that Caleb is behind him, ready to cast a massive fire spell, drawing his attention away for a round. Fjord recreates Gelidon in a most convincing spell, causing the rest of the Tomb Takers to give up the chase.
Lucien glares at the backs of the Nein as they run. He calls out one final barb, but ultimately let’s them escape into the night. Will the Nein be able to recoup, circle back and thwart the Tomb Taker’s efforts before it’s too late? Will Lucien get to the final lode stone first and unleash the full power of the Somnovum on the world? Will Essek be able to give the Nein the help they need to stop Lucien? All this and more, next time on Critical Role!
This episode is done for the record books! It is not only the longest session of campaign 2 so far, but nearly takes the cake from campaign 1 as well. And you know and extra long session means mega action and a massive story progression as well. We’ve got a lot of episode to get through, so let’s dive right into the breakdown.
For those Critters like me who were chomping at the bit for some high stakes action, this episode went above and beyond. Based on the whispers around twitter before broadcast on Thursday, I knew it would be an extra long session, which only heightened my anxiety around every round of combat. I though for sure at least one on the Nein would be going down.
In a shockingly unfortunate roll, Ashley Johnson led the session into its first boss level encounter. From the second the Nein stepped foot into Eiselcross the fans have been screaming that Gelidon could appear at any moment. It seems they had the right idea, though the odds of rolling this specific encounter were one in a million. It seems like even Mercer was a little surprised when the roll was revealed which made the entire encounter that much more exciting.
Even though the cast has fought a few dragons in their previous life as Vox Machina, this is the first time the Nein have faced off blow for blow with an ancient dragon. Their first run in with Gelidon was more of a grab and go heist. It featured one of the Nein’s classic convoluted plans to trick the Nightmare in Ivory into turning some mithril blocks into Iceflex with her frost breath. The Nein managed to escape by the skin of their teeth from this first run in, but were not so lucky the second time around. Gelidon came in fast and furious leaving no time for hours of planning and preparation. The Nein weren’t even sure if their buddies the Tomb Takers would help out with this fight or cut and run.
Thankfully Lucien was feeling charitable and the Tomb Takers stepped up to the plate and landed some solid whacks on Gelidon The cast relied on some of their past dragon fighting experience to flavor this showdown. You know, the classics… spread out as wide as possible, along with melee and close range attackers front and center or as close to inside the dragon as you can get. Fjord and Caleb did a fantastic job of spreading out across the battlefield to lob their long range attacks from the safety of their respective corners. Beau and Jester tried their best to recreate the classic Scanlan/Vax/ Umbrasyl moment from Belly of the Beast last campaign. Thankfully though, they decided that maybe punching the dragon from the outside, not the inside would be better and Beau held her own from on top of Gelidon. Yasha took over Grog’s role in the fight, doing her best to throw swords in the general vicinity of the dragon and reach Gelidon when she took flight. Classic barbarian powerhouses; devastatingly deadly…when they can reach you.
The Tomb Takers added some flair and flavor to the fight as well. They did enough damage to Gelidon for her to quickly become overwhelmed and flee the battlefield. The Nein were also able to use this battle to suss out the Tomb Takers abilities and strengths. They learned that Lucien has legendary actions and resistances along with some of the TT’s specific bloodhunter abilities. We’ve got Otis as a warlock, Cree as a cleric, Zoran as the barbarian, and Tyffial as a rogue/ranger. Even though the Nein got the close up view of the Tomb Takers in action, the rival gang still had quite a few tricks up their sleeves. We’ll get to those in just a minute.
When Gelidon first appeared there was no doubt in my mind that this fight would be brutal and there was no clear frontrunner. Things were scary enough that Jester used a high level Heal spell, even if it was only for her beloved Fjord. That’s when you know it’s getting serious. Yet even with Beau taking the brunt of the damage and getting frozen to Gelidon’s face with her own blood, the clerics had her back and she was able to hang on the whole fight. In fact, no one lost consciousness during the entire battle which is an extremely impressive feat. Four rounds in and both parties have dealt upwards of 800 HP damage to Gelidon sending her running for the hills. A well played fight with enough suspense and close calls to fill my fight loving heart to bursting.
It was my lucky day though, not even an hour after the Gelidon fight ended the Nein found themselves in another tense situation. Lucien and crew managed to steal the Nein’s bag of holding from under their noses, and sneak away into the frozen night. Luckily, the Nein didn’t pull another Vess DeRogna misstep and noticed their bag of holding was missing almost immediately and were able to take off after the TT’s before they reached A1 and unleashed Cognouza on the world. Unfortunately for the Nein this meant another tense encounter without a long rest and in the pitch black of night. They did their best to quickly come up with a plan but they were too evenly matched in this fight.
Lucien was able to sense them coming and quickly showed off his fun beholder-like abilities with his anti magic cone. This immediately takes Caleb and Caduceus out of the fight until they figure out how to get out of the cone’s range. Then we get to see a more nuanced and professional group of assassins. The ever hated Otis shows off the swanky Eldritch invocation Grasp of Hadar. Basically working as an eldritch blast grappling hook, pulling enemies 10 feet back into the battlefield. This is a seriously frustrating trait when you’re trying to run for your life.
It seems like Lucien’s anti magic cone worked in the Nein’s favor a couple of times. Lucien inadvertently caught a couple of his own party members in the crosshairs, sparing the Nein from taking extra hits. These lucky shots still weren’t enough to turn the tides of the battle in the Nein’s favor. Despite their best efforts to locate their bag, without Caduceus’ helpful insight they could only snag one large threshold crest off Zoran’s back. It’s not nothing, but definitely not the position of strength the Nein needed to be in.
The Nein came breathtakingly close to losing some beloved members. Beau and Caduceus took some nasty psychic damage from Lucien’s favorite magic trick. Thankfully they both made the saves or had enought HP to weather the 75 HP insta-kill spell. We were counting our lucky stars after these close calls. Yasha came in clutch, dragging Caleb and Caddy out of the Anti magic cone while barely avoiding getting caught in it herself. Fjord, Caleb and Veth had their shining moments with perfectly timed Major Image, Counterspell and Phantasmal force spells that kept the Nein in the clear.
Honestly, some amazing spell management, quick thinking and improv, and those all important high level heals really saved the Nein’s skins this session. Not a single resurrection spell was cast this day. This was some high quality DnD! I love those silly sessions as much as the next person but these battles are my bread and butter. I love the strategy, panic planning, and frantic praying to the dice gods. It’s so exciting to feel this story arc coming to a head.
There were a couple of wiggly mistakes, rule bending, and meta gaming that happened in both fights, but honestly it all evened out in the end. Forgotten disadvantages were covered by a misstep on calculating a spell concentration save. Lucky dice rolls counteracted some simple math mistakes. All in good fun! This is just a game after all.
With two insane fights under their belt, the battered Nein have quite the challenge ahead of them next session. Which path will they choose? Lick their wounds at Essek’s and try to think of a way to reverse an alien invasion? Or turn right back around and face the Tomb Takers one final time? We’ll find out soon enough! It’s almost Thursday.
Don’t Miss It!
Talks Machina will be back this Tuesday at 7pm. Guests Sam Riegel and Liam O’Brian join Brian W. Foster on the virtual couch for a deep dive into episodes up to 123.
Critical Role will have its 124th episode in its normal time slot Thursday at 7 pm.