Episode 128: Cat and Mouse
Caleb, Jester and Veth stare down Trent as he dispels their Teleportation escape route. Before Trent can get another word out, Caleb attempts to unleash a wall of fire between his old master and his companions. Just as the spell releases, Trent waves a hand and Caleb’s wall of fire fizzles out completely ineffective. Trent once again calls out to Caleb, asking him to stay a minute and just talk over what is going on but the Nein don’t fall for the bait and Jester tries to sneakily cast Word of Recall to emergency ripcord everyone out. Trent catches her spell being cast and begins to cast Counterspell again. Caleb locks eyes with Trent and attempts to block his perfectly timed Counterspell. Its a one in a million shot but a lok of surprise passes over Trent’s face as Jester’s spell completes and three companions vanish from view.
Veth, Jester, and Caleb appear in Veth’s home in Nicodranus breathing a huge sigh of relief after that insanely dangerous encounter. It’s dark inside and it seems like and no one is home. Jester frantically messages Fjord to get everyone else back to Nicodranus ASAP.
Back in Vergessen, Fjord relays Jester’s message to Yasha and Caduceus. He drops the fog layer they used to hide in the forest and looks around for Beau. They spot the monk making a beeline run towards them and once again the team is reunited. Caduceus casts Word of Recall and in a blink they are in the Wildemother’s lighthouse in Nicodranus. Beau vaguely remembers that Jester’s spell should take them to Veth’s house so the four of them head off in that general direction hoping to meet up soon.
Veth worries that they will be followed by Trent and the Volstrucker. Caleb passes out three of the amulets to his companions. They take an hour to attune but the sooner they can get them on the better. Caleb breaks down, still hyperventilating and strung out. He pulls his friends in close and keeps apologizing over an dover. Suddenly Trent’s voice presses into his mind. Trent asks again for Caleb to explain his actions and feigns being concerned for his well being. Caleb retorts with a terse reply that he’s not ready to talk to him yet.
Jester, Caleb and Veth all lament over the many mistakes they feel were made during this heist. Jester feels extremely guilty about the lives that werre taken by them. Caleb apologizes again for bringing Trent down on their heads and maybe getting too carried away with the wanton destruction. Veth shows remorse over taking six seconds too long to loot the room, but shows off the creepy crystals she managed to pocket.
Caleb’s body gives a visceral reaction to the crystals. They are definitely the same power enhancing Residuum based crystals Trent used to inject into the Volstruckers’ arms. They’ll put a pin in this conversation for now… IT’s time to get everyone else to safety. Jester messages Veth’s husband Yezza to tell him not to come home and instead head to the Lavish Chateau. Worried, he tells Jester that they are shopping in the market but will head right away to the Chateau. A knock on the door startle the Nein back into action.
A familiar voice calls out from the behind the door. It’s Beau and the rest of the Nein! They quickly check in with each other, comiserate over the insanity, pass out the rest of the amulets and then head right away to the Chateau Trent continues to plague Caleb with pyschic messages, taunting and enticing..
Once at the Chateau, Jester rushes upstairs to see her mother. Marion is thrilled to see Jester, though the visit is a surprise. Jester quickly breaks down in tears and begins to tell her mother that they are no longer safe here and she needs to run to safety with the Nein. Marion tries to calm Jester, reassuring her that she will be most safe here surrounded by people she trusts. Jester pushes harder…these people she’s mixed up with are more dangerous than her mother can imagine. There is no choice but to run. Finally, Marion understands the danger and agrees to run with Jester and the Nein. She’s not upset, just very worried about her daughter and what she’s gotten into.
Meanwhile, Veth catches up with Yezza and Luc in their room at the Chateau. She apologizes profusely for bringing danger to their doorstep and hopes to make it up one day when they are safe. She tells Yezza that this next mission will probably be her last. She just needs to save the world one more time then she can come home and be with him and their child. They will look forward to a bright and hopeful future for their family.
Caleb, who has been awkwardly waiting outside of Veth’s room finally steps in to talk with Luc. He pulls out two books that he recently bought. One, of course is a book of Zemnian fairy tales. Not all of them are scary horror stories, some of them are actually quite lovely. The other book is a beginners guide to magic! Luc agrees that when Veth and Yezza deem him ready he will be able to practice some of the spells! Maybe Caleb can even teach him a few tricks.
Downstairs in the pub area, Caduceus and Fjord have honed in on two particularly nosy patrons. The patrons are in unfamiliar dress and appear to be speaking in a Marquesian accent. Fjord impersonates a busboy to try and get closer but quickly gets caught by the owner and gets thrown out. Caduceus takes a more subtle approach and sends the resident bouncer Bluud in to try and talk to the two. Bluud engages in a quick conversation with the patrons when one of the strangers makes an obvious hand motion, and suddenly Bluud appears charmed by them and agrees to leave them alone to mind their business.
This tips Caduceus off that these strangers are more dangerous than they appear. It may be that someone has caught their scent and they are being hunted. Caduceus returns upstairs to let his companions know that they may have trouble downstairs. Caleb and Jester are already so exhausted and don’t have many spell options left to help in a fight. Things are not looking good. Veth turns invisible and goes back downstairs to spy. Caduceus decides that he and FJord should just ask the two strangers what their business is here. He collects Fjord from outside and they both approach the patrons.
As soon as the patrons see FJord and Caduceus, they stand up as if to leave. Caduceus shuts the door and Beau locks it. The first figure then speaks in a hauntingly familiar Zemnian accent. It’s Astrid and she’s warinng them that Trent has sent herself and Eodwulf to track down the Nein and any friends or family that are helping them escape. She is giving them this one warning only, they must leave immediately.
Astrid also mentions that she didn’t set them up at Vergessen and Trent’s appearance must have been triggered by some other means. They were able to track the Nein here to the Chateau because Jester talked about her mother, the ruby of the Sea living at the Chateau to the Guard she charmed. The Volstruckers agree to say that they were never here and saw no trace of the Nein. They are not doing this to help anyone but Caleb.
Veth trails Astrid and Eodwulf back to their meeting place where she also sees a rather impatient looking Trent. They have an intense conversation, but Veth doesn’t stick around to see how it plays out. She goes back to tell her companions it’s time to leave ASAP.
The Nein frantically gather their family members and tell the Chateau’s owner to close the place as quick as possible then run and lay low for several days, they will let him know when it’s safe to reopen. The Nein begin a harrowing dash through the streets of Nicodranus to Yussa’s wizard tower. They can sense they are being hunted and expect Trent at any turn. Thankfully they make it to the tower without incident.
Yussa’s goblin butler Wenceworth quietly lets the Nein inside but looks rather nervous when they ask to see Yussa immediately. It appears that Yussa has decided to go on a fact finding mission into the Astral Sea. The Nein’s stories of Cognouza, the Somnovum and imminent danger were too tempting to go unresearched. Wenceworth is unable to rouse Yussa from his Astral Projection and it seems the Nein will have to fend for themselves. Caleba nd Jester are both tapped on all their spells so a quick telepoortation is out of the question. Wenceworth mentions that Yussa has a bit of an emergency escape route and he shows Caleb a scroll with a strangely familiar metal rod.
Caleb takes a few minutes to read the scroll and realizes it’s a plane shift spell. The rod has depictions of fire on it so he infers that this spell will most likely take them to the Fireplane…or maybe one of the Nine Hells…hard to say. But there’s no other choice, so here goes nothing. The spell can only transport eight party members and they currently have ten. After a lengthy debate over possible solutions the Nein land on a rather bold idea. Caduceus suggests that maybe they send a few party members into the Happy Fun Ball and then carry the Ball with them. Hopefully the Happy Fun Ball won’t spit out anything too dangerous and the team can quickly make it to an exit and rejoin the party in the new plane. Problem solved! It’s risky but better than facing Trent and the Volstruckers alone and exhausted.
A loud knock sounds at Yussa’s door. They can hear Wenceworth stalling for time but it seems Caleb’s old friends are forcing their way inside. Yasha, Fjord and Beau choose to enter the Happy Fun Ball. As they disappear into the Ball, Caleb begins casting the Plane Shift spell, Veth messages Wenceworth to thank him for saving them and sorry for all the trouble. Astrid bursts into the room, hand outreached ready to cast counterspell. She and Caleb lock eyes, he doesn’t stop casting the spell, but she can’t seem to bring herself to cast her spell. Her hand goes limp, a pained look crossing her face Caleb’s spell completes and…that’s where we’ll pick up next time!
Well…that went completely differently than I expected. The dice gods truly showed their influence in this session. There have been very few Nat 20 vs. Nat 20 moments this high stakes in both campaigns. I can’t complain though, a fight with Trent was not what the Nein needed right now.
The Nein are definitely feeling the heat now, being hunted on all sides by multiple very bad cabals. Not only do they have the shadow of Aeor and the Somnovum hanging over them but now the entire Cerberus assembly, and possibly the Empire government view the Nein as dangerous traitors. Not a cozy place to be for our adventurers.
While Caleb and the Nein managed to get off “easy” during this first encounter, I don’t think they got away that well off. Trent and Caleb’s Volstrucker pals Astrid and Eodwulf were breathing down their necks the entire session. That anxiety paired with Caleb’s soul crushing guilt at endangering the lives of his friends and their families made for a very angst ridden frantic episode.
Trent messaging Caleb throughout their flight really gave an unsettling edge to the Nein’s hiding. Nowhere felt safe. The two encounters with Astrid and Eodwulf were both fantastic. I initially brushed Beau and Fjord off as being overly paranoid about trying to shoo away the two nosy patrons at the Lavish Chateau. Their paranoia paid off big time and saved them from another tense encounter. Even though Astrid has only ever tried to help, it is impossibly difficult to trust her still. It’s all a bit heartbreaking. Why are they still with Trent?! Caleb owes his old friends a big debt for all the risk they are taking by repeatedly shielding him from Trent. I wonder if they will face any consequences for their deceptions.
Liam really laid on the moral crisis panic nice and thick for Caleb in this session. I usually find a bit of O’Brien’s tortured soul role play flavorful and dramatic and this episode was no different. The past couple dozen or so episodes we’ve seen a much more confident and cocky wizard from Liam. Caleb had come such a long way from his mentally frazzled, depressed guilt trip state. It was almost reassuring to see he still carries a lot of emotional baggage locked away in that conscience. Liam also didn’t take the angst too over the top, though his companions didn’t react too much beyond acknowledging the way he was acting but quickly moving on to more pressing matters without checking in with him too extensively. It’ll be interesting to see if he keeps up the mental anguish during the next session or if his survival instincts will take back over.
One thing I was mildly disappointed by was Jester’s reunion with her mom! Ever since Jester’s Eiselcross encounter that aged her five years in an instant the Critters had been speculating what Marion’s reaction might be. But she didn’t seem to notice the age gap or at least she didn’t comment on it. I know there were much more important things to deal with in the moment, and maybe it just slipped Mercer’s mind while he was juggling a hundred other things. It would have been nice to see that little moment mixed in with all the other messy moments the Nein had to deal with in this session.
Veth had a sweet little reunion with Yezza and Luc. Though their joy was a bit short lived as Veth had to get her family rushed off to safety before they could properly reconnect. Veth also dropped the bombshell that she’s considering retiring from adventuring! It feels like the story of the Nein has really just begun, but if the campaign is going to end with them reaching level 20…we honestly don’t have too much longer to travel with them. Level 14 is well past the halfway mark and they are fast approaching a massive story arc closing soon. While I would love to see another “Taryon Darrington” type second character from Riegel, part of me feels like the final threads of the campaign may be beginning to appear. We’ll have to be patient and see where the end of this story arc leads!
Yussa was down and out for this session! That was quite a blow for the Nein who were baking on Yussa to be able to teleport them the heck out of Nicodranus before Trent could catch on. Instead, Yussa decided to go on a bit of a fact-finding mission…alone…in the Astral Sea… to spy on a dangerous city of insane mages. Yussa has a death wish, I swear. Chat also has an interesting theory that Yussa is a metallic dragon in hiding. I think the parallels between Yussa and J’Mon Sa Ord from Campaign 1 are too strong for the Critters to ignore. I’m not 100% convinced yet. I think it would be to convenient if another ancient powerful recluse mage just happens to be a hidden ancient metallic dragon.
Caleb’s nat 20 counter-counter spell was definitely an MVP moment in this session, but another honorable mention was Caduceus’ idea to use the Happy Fun Ball as a way to get around the 8 person Plane Shift limit. Taliesin fully owned that the idea was a bit hairbrained and probably more dangerous than any other alternatives…but this solution is probably miles safer than splitting the party again and hoping everyone could safely escape Nicodranus on their own. I doubt anything too crazy will happen to Team Fun Ball next session, but I’ve been wrong before! Next week can’t get here soon enough!