Episode 3: The Trail and the Toll
The party is split, chaos has erupted amongst the remaining friends, and no one can figure out what to do about it. Imogen and Bertrand continue their hot pursuit of the shifty Danas, our gnome warehouse manager. Danas is small, and quick though, and realizing that she’s being tailed she quickly loses Imogen in a crowded tavern.
Meanwhile, Orym is still locked in a pitch black warehouse, uncertain of what he should be waiting or watching for when his friends on the outside begin messaging him. Laudna is wondering if they should break in the back door and help Orym poke around the now abandoned warehouse. Ashton is worried about making too much noise. Dorian is wondering why they don’t use the obviously working front door instead of the rusted shut backdoor. Actually….that’s not a bad idea Dorian. A few minutes later, another message reaches a very confused Orym. His friends are now going to break into the front door and then they will either look for clues in the warehouse… or try and follow Bertrand and Imogen. There are no plans anymore, we’re just winging it.
Back at the tavern, Imogen sends Bertrand inside to try and scope out Danas, while she cases the backdoor. As she’s keeping an eye out, Bertrand messages that he’s spotted Danas and she’s waiting for someone at one of the tables at the back of the tavern. Imogen tries to stealthily take a look for herself, but Danas notices her immediately and begins to run. Once again, she vanishes into the crowds and after several minutes of searching, Bertrand and Imogen both admit they’ve lost her for good. Time to head back to the warehouse to see if their companions have found any answers.
With the sun quickly setting, the gang at the warehouse decide to make quick work of the front door. When Laudna’s lock picks fail to get the job done, they resort to the classic break it down method. Once safely, though not very quietly, inside the warehouse the crew begin to poke around for any evidence of a set up. Unfortunately, the warehouse seems cleaned of any evidence of set up, foul play, or double timing. The crew decide it may be time to try and track down Bertrand and Imogen in the hopes they were able to turn up a more solid lead.
Just as the warehouse crew finish their investigation, Imogen and Bertrand finally make their way back to their friends. They sheepishly admit that their chase ended with Danas escaping, but it may be worth a shot to go back to the tavern and look for any clues as to where she might have gone. All together now, the group head back to the Weary Way tavern.
While Bertrand stays on the lower level to act as lookout, the rest of the gang file upstairs to see if Danas snuck away for a secret meeting. Fresh Cut Grass is able to scan the rooms and locates a room full of red flags. FCG can sense ten lifeforms packed into the rather small suit, and his best guess is that this is the super secret sketchy meeting Danas was waiting for. After “carefully” weighing their options, the gang once again decides that breaking down the door is the best plan A.
As Ashton and Orym break into the room, they hear a bit of a scuffle, someone crying out in pain, and then silence. Orym takes a quick look around and sees a shadowy cloaked figure huddled in the dark corner of the room. The figure moves with surprising speed and panache into a defensive position as more of Orym’s companions begin to fill the room. Orym draws his blade, but the figure is faster, slashing at Orym with a nasty rapier. The gang leap into action and a hellish fight begins. The cloaked figure is revealed to be a dark dwarf duergar who also controls 7 or 8 undead shade creeper imps.
Between the wicked fast and deadly duergar fighter, and the surprisingly painful shade creepers, the crew have their hands full with a brutal fight. Orym takes several intense hits and drops unconscious in the middle of the fight. Luckily Fresh Cut Grass and Dorian are able to help get him back on his feet to catch his second wind. Laudna gets ganged up on by a shade creeper and it tries to tear some chunks out of her shoulder. Dorian, FCG, and Ashton make quick work out of a few shade creepers while Imogen and Orym whittle away at the duergar. Sensing a shift in the battle, the duergar sends an inky, unnatural darkness into the room and the battle falls into chaos. Dorian and FCG can no longer see their heavily injured friends, Imogen is firing spells blindly into the darkness, while Fearne wildshapes into a snake to try using blindsense to gain an advantage in the darkness. Bertrand tries his best to be helpful in the battle, but ends up taking a heavy swipe at Dorian instead of a shade creeper. Using his better judgement, Bertrand backs out of the room and takes on a slightly more visible shade creeper instead. Fearne is able to corner the final shade creeper and opens her giant snake maw to swallow the creeper whole. Imogen realizes that there was a hidden back door that the duergar must have escaped through and calls out to her friends.
As the battlefield quiets, the crew split into search parties and begin to tear the two sections of the room apart looking for Danas or the Duergar. Orym keeps an eye on the outside alleyway for any signs of movement but the duergar is long gone. Imogen is searching under the nearby bed for a hidden trap door and her hand grasps a small boot. Her heart sinks as she begins to pull a small gnome’s body out from under the bed. Sure enough, she recognizes Danas who unfortunately perished from a rather garish sliced throat. Waves of guilt and anger pass through the party as they realize that their hasty actions may have inadvertently gotten Danas killed.
The gang realize their only option is to take Danas’ body back to Lord Eshteross and explain the evidence they found. The walk back to the lord’s manor is a rather quiet one and Lord Eshteross takes the evidence and explanation rather well. He is surprised to know that Danas was going behind their backs and arranging the break-ins. He is not familiar with and duergar affiliated with any of the usual thieves’ guilds but he’ll keep eyes and ears out for any new information. Lord Eshteross praises the companions for their quick work and invites them to stay for dinner and some homemade cake in celebration.
Not ones to turn down free food or drink, the gang settle around Lord Eshteross’ table for a quick bite to eat and a discussion of their future as his newest band of mercenaries. The crew should come up with a name for themselves, you know for paperwork reasons, then they may return tomorrow to officially sign some contracts. The gang thank Lord Eshteross for his hospitality and agree that a couple rounds at the the Spire by Fire tavern are in order. Bertrand is feeling on top of the world as part of a new crew working for Eshteross. He orders his friends several rounds of drink and even offers to pay for their rooms for the evening. Imogen and Laudna part ways before it gets too late, promising to meet the gang at their abode in the morning. Ashton and Fresh Cut Grass also head back to their hostel for the night to drop off their newly heavy coinpurse. Orym and Fearne thank Bertrand for the rooms at the tavern and retire for the night, leaving Dorian to watch over the increasingly drunk Bertrand.
Dorian pulls out all the tricks trying to get Bertrand into his room upstairs, but no amount of calming music, or sober reasoning can stop Bertrand when he’s on a mission. He’s feeling alive for the first time in years and he wants nothing more than to go for an evening stroll to find a good place to watch the sun rise. Dorian is hesitant to leave Bertrand behind, but ends up reluctantly saying goodnight when he realizes nothing will change Bertrand’s mind. He catches a final glimpse of Bertrand exiting the tavern and humming to himself as he strolls down the street.
Meanwhile, back in their room share, Imogen has a strange and fitful dream. For a moment, she’s back home in her grassy fields with her favorite horse, Flora, at her side. Then the wind changes cold and harsh. The horizon becomes consumed by red, roiling clouds and lightning billow overhead. A voice, nearly drowned in the wind, calls out to Imogen. “Run, Imogen, run!.” She begins to run, aimlessly, and as she looks back in terror, she sees a familiar figure, an older man in fine clothing walking calmly, bravely into the tempest only to be swallowed up into the darkness. She awakes in a cold sweat wondering what it could mean.
Bertrand enjoys his midnight stroll through the Corespire’s winding streets. Feeling the call of the wild, he stops in a dark alleyway to relieve himself when an eerily familiar voice calls out to him. Bertrand looks over his shoulder and sees a cloaked figure with a rapier glinting in the moonlight. He slowly draws his sword and matches the duergar’s fighting stance. The duergar calls out, ” why don’t we have a little talk, further in.” Bertrand tries to parry, and step back out of the alley, when the figure dashes forward in a flash. Before Bertrand can react, the shadowy figure has plunged his rapier deep into Bertrand’s chest and slashes across his stomach. Bertrand feels his legs give and his consciousness begin to fade. He dies with a calm smile on his face and a familiar name on his lips as he goes to meet his maker.
And that’s where we’ll pick up next time.
Critters! What an emotional gut punch! And we’re only on episode 3. Now… I don’t think any one was particularly shocked that Bertrand met a gruesome end in this campaign, though I do believe that many of us hoped the dear old man would stick around for a few more episodes. I’d say, as far as returning PC’s go, Bertrand Bell had quite an engaging story from start to finish. Bertrand’s history with Vox Machina instantly endeared him to any who watches the Search for Grog episodes, and seeing him return as his overconfident and bumbling self was a real treat. Travis did a great job playing into Bertrand’s weaknesses for some good laughs and tension relieving role play. While Bertrand did feel like a temporary character from the beginning, Travis really gave it his all in portraying this character. It’ll be interesting to see where Travis goes from here! Also, as a little easter egg to those who watched Search for Grog, the name that Bertrand called out as he died was Lieve’tel. Liam’s PC from the Search for Grog episodes and an emissary of the Raven Queen. It’s only fitting that she would appear to call Bertrand home. AND, in case you missed it, Mercer gave a few behind the scenes tweets about episode 3 talking about Bertrand’s arc. Travis had wanted his long term PC to be introduced a bit after the first episode (which is an awesome idea in my opinion) and Mercer didn’t want Travis to miss out on the crucial first few episodes. I mean, that’s a very fair point, we all heard about how nuts chat went when Robbie was introduced before Travis was confirmed to be in episode one. Imagine the riots if Travis hadn’t shown up at all until episode 4. I’m mostly on board with how Bertrand’s arc was handled. As I mentioned before, I was a bit hopeful that Bertrand would stick around for this initial arc then rotate out at a natural point in time. The gruesome end for Bertrand is much, much more memorable though, and I am enticed to see how Mercer will work Travis’ new PC into the story. It’s episodes like this that make me really miss the Talks aftershow. I know we only have to wait until early 2022 for the new aftershow and I hope this moment doesn’t get lost in the shuffle when they dive into the story so far. We’ll get to see all the player’s in character reactions to Bertrand’s death as our opening act in episode 4. Will his death bring the crew closer together or drive the wedge further apart?
I guess we’re one step closer to getting that new intro we’ve been salivating for! Seems like some Critters had it right when they guessed that the cast were waiting to reveal the new intro until Travis’ actual PC came to play.
Some things that I’ve been really enjoying in this new campaign are the homebrewed classes Taliesin and Sam are playing, along with some never before seen combat mechanics. Bertrand seemed to either have a class ability or a magical blade that allowed him to wager points to boost his attack rolls. We never did get to see one of those wagers “go bad” but maybe we can get an explanation at a later time. FCG has also pulled out his “transfer suffering” ability several times. It seems to operate with Freshie taking half the damage away from one of his companions, storing the damage as temporary HP until he can damage an enemy and dump the extra damage points into that attack. It seems very possible that should FCG still carry the temporary damage points by the end of the battle, he would end up taking the damage himself which could lead to some tricky post combat troubles. Ashton is also tossing around new abilities and actions left and right and he’s remained absolutely tight lipped on divulging any secrets. The most popular abilities he’s tossed out have been chaos burst, adding extra damage to a roll, and his shifty phasing ability that sends a blue and red tinged echo of himself flickering around the battlefield. I can’t wait to learn more about these unique characters and peel back their secret layers one by one.
One of my favorite story telling mechanics made a dramatic return in this episode. Laura got her very own nightmare dream sequence that “foreshadowed” Bertrand’s death. Though we were left with many more questions than answers. She seemed to instantly know what darkness plagued her dreams, and recognized the voice that called out to her. We got no clues or background on what sparked the dream or how she was able to see Bertrand’s death as it happened. So many mysteries in this little group!
While this episode was book ended by some intense battle scenes and story plot, the humor was not missing from this session. Laudna continues to be a source of great amusement to both the cast and critters alike. Marisha continues to dial up Laudna’s fun scary vibe to a 10 in every scene she plays. Dorian’s nervous energy is also a great tension reliever as the rest of the crew devolves into absolute chaos around him. I am desperately going to miss the Fearne and Bertrand interactions as they have been absolute humor gold so far. Fearne’s no shits given and Bertrand’s no shits taken were a match made in heaven.
How will Bertrand’s death influence the decisions of some of the more impermanent members of this new crew? Orym, Fearne and Dorian were already a bit flighty about their new line of work, seeing as they already have a mission of their own to complete. I have a feeling that this mission may end up connecting to their story before too long. We have a brand new PC heading our way, hopefully in episode 4, but we may have to be a bit patient if the gang take a bit to unravel Bertrand’s demise. These next few episodes will definitely set the tone for the rest of this first arc of campaign 3. Don’t worry Critters! It’s almost Thursday.