Episode 30: The Journey Home
The Mighty Nein find themselves in the deserted Sour Nest, stronghold of the Iron Shepherds. Lorenzo’s charred ashes still lie in a smoking pile on the ground. Nott and Beau have found and unlocked the final two cages in the dungeon prison. Nott finds Jester and Fjord bound, gagged and apparently unconscious. Nott runs up to Jester and holds her close, whispering in her ear, when suddenly Jester’s form begins to struggle against the bonds and her eyes open. Nott quickly pulls the gag out of her mouth and Jester cries out in relief. She asks for Nott’s help to untie her and Fjord.
In the other chamber, Beau has found an unconscious Yasha and slowly begins to free her from her chains. Yasha is unresponsive to any healing spells and seems to be in some kind of coma state. Jester tells the group that the Iron Shepherds use manacles that have the ability to knock you unconscious for hours on end. Jester and Fjord also learn that Molly fell trying to save them. The two reveal that they did in fact hear their companions’ first fight with Lorenzo but had no way of calling out or knowing what had happened. They mourn their friend but also take a moment to thank their newest companions Keg and Caduceus for aiding in their rescue.
Seeing that most of their companions are injured or unable to safely travel, The Nein decide to make camp in the Sour Nest overnight. They settle in the upstairs living quarters and begin settling in for the night. Caleb asks Jester for a small glass bead and promises to show her something extraordinary. He holds up the bead in the center of the room and a glowing orange orb forms around him. Caleb’s head pops up from the top of the orb and he invites his companions to join him inside.
Once safely inside Caleb’s Tiny Hut, the Nein begin to rest and go through the items they have recovered from the stronghold. Beau offers Fjord Molly’s old blade Summer’s Dance and he solemnly takes it, saying he wants to keep Molly with them always. Nott also attempts to investigate a strange bag of holding they found in Lorenzo’s room. With some help, they discover many treasures inside, including 100 platinum and a mysterious letter that concerns the cloven gem that he absorbed into his chest. Once they’ve gone through all their spoils, The Nein slowly drift off to sleep.
In the morning, Nott awakes to find Keg and Beau have gone off on their own, but Keg has left a small letter for her before sneaking out before the sun rose. Beau also discovers a short but sweet note from Keg after their spur of the moment triste. Gathering their belongings, The Nein decide the best course of action will be to return to Shady Creek Run and visit Ophelia Mardun once again. Ophelia greets the Nein and asks if they have dealt with the Iron Shepherds. Caleb shows Ophelia Lorenzo’s wicked glaive they brought as proof and tells her that all the Iron Shepherds and their underlings have been taken care of. She thanks them for their service and asks them to travel to Zadash with her as her bodyguards to deliver the news to The Gentleman. They agree to this proposal and are ready to travel within a few hours.
The Nein set off on the road towards Zadash following behind Ophelia’s caravan. The trip passes mostly without incidence for the first few days. On the morning of the third day, Caleb asks Ophelia to stop the caravan and give them a few moments. She glances off the side of the road and sees a makeshift cross with a multicolored coat still fluttering in the chilly air. Caleb lets Fjord and Jester say their final goodbyes to Mollymauk Tealeaf. During their tearful last words, a silent cloaked form of Yasha steps down from one of the carts. She has finally regained consciousness after the brutalization from the Iron Shepherds. She immediately realizes what has happened. She quietly joins her companions, rage and pain rolling off her in waves. She releases a deep, echoing scream of anguish then her gaze fixes on the horizon, towards a growing lightning storm far in the distance. She coldly tells her companions she will find them again when she is ready, they watch helplessly as she leaves them once again.
The Nein return to the road and complete the long journey to Zadash. Not wasting any time, Ophelia leads them directly to the Gentleman’s club, The Leaky Tap. They find the Gentleman there and he eagerly greets Ophelia and the Nein. She tells the Gentleman that the business in Shady Creek Run is finished and the Nein should be paid in full for their troubles. The Gentleman agrees and hands the Nein 500 platinum for their efforts and sends them on their way to celebrate as they wish.
The Nein decide to introduce the sheltered Caduceus to the wide world of alcohol and do their best to get the 7 foot tall Firbolg drunk on cheap booze. Once they’ve had their fun and gotten sufficiently intoxicated, the Nein begin to make their way out of the tavern. Caleb is stopped by a familiar figure, a black tabaxi, one of Molly’s companions from his previous life. She apologizes for interrupting their festivities, but asks on Molly’s whereabouts. Caleb decides to lie and tells the tabaxi that Molly had business elsewhere and did not return with them. She thanks him for letting her know and asks him to pass along her greetings. Caleb promises to do so and rejoins his reveling companions at the door of the tavern. They all stumble off together into the night to enjoy their freedom and remember their fallen companion, awaiting their next adventure.
I was so excited to see Travis and Laura make their big return this episode! Their presence was missed on the show these past two months. I wasn’t sure where this episode would go after the downfall of the Iron Shepherds, but I was quite surprised at how quickly the story moved once they visited Ophelia. I didn’t expect them to get back to Zadash so quickly. I was a bit thrown off when Matt retconned the first half of the episode by placing the action back to the moment Nott discovered Jester and Fjord. But I did feel like it gave us more opportunity for the characters to role play real reactions. It was also a surprise that Matt had to jaeger Yasha/Ashley’s reaction to finding out about Molly’s death. I wasn’t sure how I felt going into that scene, but by the end I was totally on board. It was an important scene that I’m sure Ashley wished she could share with everyone, but Matt definitely did it justice. I hope Ashley returns soon!
I had some mixed feelings throughout this episode. It felt like an emotional and narrative rollercoaster. It was such a joy to have Laura back at the table up to her usual hijinks and adorable unpredictability, but then we had to relive Molly’s funeral and have everyone in pain and tears again. The beginning of the episode was a bit of a slow introduction back into the story, giving everyone time to settle in and decompress after such stressful events. Then on the other hand, the last half of the episode felt like it was on fast forward. A ten minute conversation with Ophelia, and within an hour, the group has completed a several day journey back to Zadash and has finished their business with the Gentleman. Overall though, I think the episode managed to find a good balance between pacing and story-telling. After all, the past five episodes have only covered three in game days, so it’s a breath of fresh air to have the group move so quickly through the narrative.
I’m sure next week will be the shopping adventure extravaganza now that The Nein have all that platinum burning a hole in their pocket. I’m guessing we’ll get to see a little more of Fjord and Jester’s mental state coming up in the next episode. Speaking of mental states, I have been seriously loving the way Liam has been playing Caleb lately. The strange ‘inner monologues’ about his companions and the slightly manic, but extremely endearing awkward excitement over new spells and wizard powers have been giving me a whole new layer of Caleb to love. I really enjoy seeing a slightly more chaotic character from a role playing stand and the emotional unpredictability that Caleb has is really doing it for me. I can’t wait to see more backstory and character development from everyone! We still have so much to learn about cool Caduceus, the guarded Beau ,crazy Caleb and the newly free Fjord and Jester. Is it Thursday yet?
Didn’t get enough Critical Role this week? Did you happen to catch the bonus Fireside Chat with Matthew Mercer or Marisha Ray’s Honey Heist 2: Electric Beargaloo? The bonus one shot, now available on YouTube, is one insane adventure! Join your fan favorites Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Taliesin Jaffe, and Matthew Mercer, plus the indomitable Brian W. Foster as they adventure through a Bear Heist even more epic than the original.