Episode 42: A Hole in the Plan
Captain Avantika leads the Mighty Nein to her favorite bar on Darktow Island. The Bloated Cup is full of rakish pirate types of all kinds, getting drunk on cheap swill and riled up ready for action. The Nein take a seat and begin their talks with Avantika. While they begin their plans to find Fjord’s old wrecked ship, Jester and one of Avantika’s friends, a gnome named Sorris Cade decide to spar each other there in the center of the bar. Afterwards, once the bar patrons are sufficiently riled up, Avantika, Fjord, Orly and Sorris all help triangulate the temple’s location on the map. They recognize the area in the Shattered Teeth reef as one being haunted by a monster called Dashila. A woman named Alison coldly confronts Avantika during their plan making. Avantika brusquely brushes her off, but it appears Alison is one of Avantika’s jilted lovers. The Nein and Avantika finish their plan making. They agree to meet back in two days to set out aboard the Squall Eater. On her way out, Avantika whispers to Fjord to meet her in her room later that evening.
Once on their own, The Nein do some planning of their own. Nott and Beau try and contact Alison but she ignores them and they learn nothing of the mysterious woman. Jester and Caleb discuss the impact their new life will have on their returning to The Menagerie Coast and the Empire. Fjord, Caduceus, Nott and Beau come up with a plan to infiltrate Avantika’s ship looking for information on the next temple of Uk’atoa or some hints of what she could possibly be up to. Fjord will ‘distract’ Avantika for the night while the rest of his companions board the ship and sneak into her quarters.
Caleb and Beau will be the lookouts on the docks while Jester and Nott sneak aboard the ship and look for clues. Caduceus will stay in the Bloated Cup to watch for either Fjord or Avantika and warn the others if their plans are interrupted. The group split up as Fjord settles in for another raucous night with the captain. Jester and Nott begin their brilliant plan to sneak into Avantika’s quarters. Jester uses Dimension Door to teleport herself and Nott into the captain’s quarters and they begin to quietly search for anything of use. They…struggle to get some locked and trapped drawers open. Nott accidentally triggers a trap. She pockets Avantika’s journal and several jewelry boxes as the room begins to fill with smoke. Jester uses her magic paintbrush to paint a hole in the floor as a guard begins to investigate all the noise.
They hide in the hole in the floor, cover it with a rug, and quietly wait out the guard. Nott realizes they have accidentally hidden in an occupied bedroom. She and Jester hide under the bed while the guard begins to walk around the room. Just as they think they’ve escaped notice, the guard suddenly falls through the hole in the floor and lands on the sleeping crew mate. chaos ensues as the sleeping mate panics and begins to stab at the intruder. They both begin screaming at each other as they work through their confusion. The crew mate begins to take his injured companion above decks to get some help and Nott and Jester use the distraction to escape.
The two sneak back through the captain’s quarters. Nott accidentally inhales some of the poison gas and becomes confused. Her muscles lock up and Jester begins to panic as more crew mates awake to the commotion. Nott shakes off the effects of the poison gas and she and Jester begin to sneak their way off the ship. Nott notices a guard on look out in the crows nest and has to come up with a way to distract him. Nott casts phantasmal force and the guard begins to notice flames climbing up the crows nest, trapping him into a certain death. The two companions use his panicked screams as cover while they jump overboard and swim to shore. The make it safely to shore and soggily make their way back towards the Bloated Cup.
Meanwhile, Beau, Caleb and Caduceus are left to clean up the aftermath. Caduceus intercepts the stabbed crewmate and his friend. He heals the poor man as he tries to get any useful information out of them. He decides to head to the docks to investigate what trouble his companions have caused. He then comes across a great commotion on the docks. A man has jumped from a crows nest, shattering both his legs. He is babbling on about how he saw the crows nest on fire, but now he stares about in confusion realizing it may have been an illusion. Once the broken legs have been healed sufficiently he heads back to the Bloated Cup and the Nein reconvene.
Nott and Jester reveal the jewels and journal they managed to steal. The journal is written in some kind of shorthand code. Caleb offers to take a look at it and spends the entire evening in ‘beautiful mind’ mode decoding the journal. The next morning. he reveals that Avantika has possibly revealed the next location of the temple in this journal and that Vandrin betrayed her trust and stole away with the other eye gem. The group frantically decide what to do with the stolen journal and jewels. They come up with a couple thrown together ideas, including giving the journal to the Plank King and implicate her in wanting to overthrow his rule. Suddenly there is a knock on the door and one of Avantika’s crew members is calling an all hands on deck meeting on board the Squall eater.
The Nein make their way to the Squall Eater, desperately trying to get rid of any evidence of their thieving. They ultimately decide to give Caleb the journal and have Jester hold the jewels until she can dump them overboard. Finally on board, she informs the Nein that her quarters were robbed last night. She asks if the Nein know anything about the events of last night, but they feign ignorance. Avantika looks over the Nein very carefully and begins to question where they were last night. She asks if Caduceus can locate missing objects and he says that he cannot. Avantika interrupts him and says, “No worries, because I can.” At that moment, her first mate Vera begins to cast a spell to locate the journal, which is in Caleb’s pocket and the group begin to quietly panic. Just as Vera’s eyes meet his own, Caleb casts an enormous wall of fire between them and Avantika’s crew, sparking events that can’t be taken back now.
Artwork by: @GalacticJonah
Jesus. H. Christ….what an episode. From start to end this is one hell of a ride. Beginning with a bar fight with a grizzled gnome to ending that cliffhanger ending that will have me stressed out for TWO weeks, I was 100% along for the ride. I am still amazed that the Nein have so easily embraced their new pirate life with Avantika. This story arc, and the whole campaign honestly, have such a different feel from the Vox Machina story. And I love it! It’s so much more exciting to see the cast explore such a grey, chaotic style of play. As much as I love and epic heroes quest, having morally questionable anti-heroes are way more interesting.
The pacing of this episode is almost break neck speed. They packed in as much story and action as they could in this episode. Avantika and Fjord’s tete a tete has getting more and more tense with every episode. The Nein have been watching her every move for any hints of what she has planned for Fjord and the Uk’atoa seals. Interestingly enough, The Nein were the ones to take the offense and decided to employ this harebrained plan of stealing from Avantika. And now look where they are. Fighting a prominent pirate captain, in her home port city, with a veritable army of pirates at her back, while also breaking all the rules of Darktow Island. Good plan guys!
Caleb has been so essential to this party, especially in the last handful of episodes. I have only ever seen lower level wizards in action, so I have been seriously impressed with the way Caleb can change the course of a battle with one spell. His slow spell has won the fight for them on more than one occasion. Same with his enlarge/reduce combo to get everyone safely out of the collapsing temple. And now he comes in with that beautifully timed Wall of Fire to buy his companions a few seconds to act. As much as he likes to pretend he’s the least of the Nein, he is definitely one of the MVP’s in my opinion.
Beau has also been showing off those badass monk skills every chance she gets. You can’t argue that having a team mate that can deal upwards of 40 damage with just her fists, in a single turn and completely disable the opponent is not the best kind of team mate to have. As finicky as monk abilities can be sometimes, Beau has saves their asses almost as much as Caleb has in the recent fights. So, for as much trouble as Beau can cause with her mouth, she can definitely back her companions up.
Is everyone as in love with Caduceus as I am? I can’t help but fall for that gentle soul of a firbolg. He is trying to follow his heart towards answers, even though he is being dragged through death, danger, and unknown parts of the world. I don’t ever want to see what it would take to finally break Caduceus. He deserves better than the Nein.
The next episode of Critical Role is less than a week away! I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the Nein will get themselves out of this one. My guess is that this fight will end up with Avantika and Fjord racing to find the last token of Uk’atoa and make it to the second seal first. Fjord missed it by one roll last time, so he has much more to lose this time around. The stakes are high. The tension is too thick to cut. The Nein have everything to lose.
Reminder: There is no new episode of Critical Role this week in observance of Thanksgiving. There will be a third episode of Honey Heist featuring some Critical Role favorite guest stars streaming Friday at 7pm. All Work No Play had their season finale last Friday and it was absolutely hilarious and stuffed full of guest stars. Sam has his Pablove Fireside chat next Tuesday at 7pm in place of Talks Machina. Keep track the Critical Role streaming schedule here to never miss and episode!