Episode 32: Beyond the Boundaries
The Mighty Nein are back on the road again. The adventurers set off towards the Menagerie Coast to delve deeper into the mysterious history of the Cloven Crystal lodged in Fjord’s falchion. The journey to Allfield is quiet and uneventful and they enter the quaint farming town to see the townsfolks still making repairs. The town has mostly recovered from the deadly Gnoll attack, but there are still signs of fire and disruption. The group come across some familiar faces and meet back up with Bryce, the King’s Guard soldier that aided them in the Gnoll attack. Bryce updates the Nein on all the news and recovery and wishes them a safe journey to the coast.
The next morning the Nein set off towards Trostenwald. Caduceus, with a keen perception, notices something off the side of the road that doesn’t quite look right. A set of stones stacked rather unusually sends the group into a curious side show. Caleb investigates more closely and discovers a coin purse full of gemstones. The group quickly debate on whether to take this pay load and ultimately decide that they deserve the gems and whoever they were left for will be out of luck.
After their little tryst, the group make their way into the city proper and reminisce about their meeting, Molly, and all the adventures they’ve had since then. They stop into the jail and visit Gustav, Molly’s carnival companion. He is thankful that the Nein have brought him news of Molly and shares a moment of remembrance with the group. Nott and Beau offer to pay off Gustav’s remaining debt and set him free. He is taken aback but extremely grateful to the group though he could not possibly accept their offer. Caduceus peers closely at the elfin man and seems to see a hidden agenda behind Gustav’s eyes. He believes that Gustav would rather stay in jail than be set free and encourages the man to face his fears and be free. Gustav feigns ignorance, but once his debt has been paid and he is set free he takes a deep breath and sets off towards an unknown horizon.
Feeling great about their good deeds, The Nein make their preparations to leave the Empire and hit the road once more. The journey to the border is uneventful, though the group see signs of war all around them, travelling groups of soldiers and long lines of refugees at the gates remind them of the times they live in. Caduceus manages to easily sweet talk the group’s way through the border gate and the guards wish them safe travels in the land beyond the Empire’s control.
The Nein push on, travelling through green rolling hills and mountain passes. A deep sound alerts Caduceus to the presence of other creatures. He listens intently and recognizes the guttural speak as a giant’s dialect. A huge creature with two heads crests over the boulders. Caduceus deftly casts calm emotions on the creature and manages to convince the beast that they mean no harm and will quietly pass through. The cart begins to move quickly through the pass when Caduceus hears the sounds of another beastly Ettin cresting the opposite hillside.
The second Ettin, not enthralled by a spell begins to yell at his companion to attack the cart. Frustrated by his companions ineptitude it begins to circle around to gain a better vantage. Caduceus urges the cart forward faster, but it is not enough. His spell wears off and both Ettins turn to attack his companions. Caleb casts enlarge on Beau and she wails on one of the beasts, keeping it away from the cart. Fjord, Nott and Jester hide under the cart’s invisibility spell, but the Ettin manages to see past the illusion and raises its weapons to attack. The three unleash a series of attacks, hexes, and lollipops that leaves the Ettin’s heads spinning. Caduceus calls forth his beetle swarm and the frazzled Ettin swats the bugs away leaving an opening for Beau to deal one final strike.
The group quickly make it back towards the cart and try and make their escape. The other Ettin rushes towards the escaping adventurers. Caleb reaches one hand out and releases a devastating fireball onto the creature. The creature writhes in pain and watches as the group prepares another round of attacks. Self-preservation kicks in and the Ettin begins to run for its life. Caleb once again unleashes a fireball at the beasts back and watches enthralled as the creature burns to death.
After making sure the coast is clear, the group continues on. Another day’s journey passes uninterrupted. The group comes upon a small travelling zoo with small, exotic creatures in cages. Jester finds out that the caravan is bringing the young animals to town to sell as pets. Delighted, she begs to see the creatures. The caravan leader obliges and shows the group his wares: tiny tiger cubs, a surly baboon, beautifully colored birds, a peacock, an incredibly sleepy owl, a crimson colored weasel and a tiny, tiny disappearing puppy. Jester and Beau are immediately in love and try to come up with enough money to buy all of the animals. Ultimately, and much to Caleb and Fjord’s dismay, Jester and Beau decide to buy the grumpy owl, the crimson weasel, and the adorable blink puppy.
Continuing on their journey, the Nein begin to see signs of the Menagerie Coast and the city of Nicodranus. Colorful houses built along a beautiful vista, the warm breeze, and the smell of salt water. Fjord relishes in the familiar sights, sounds and smells…and Jester is thrilled to be back home.
Welp, the Nein have some interesting new companions! These slower, interlude episodes definitely have their own odd feel and rhythm. If you’re into this show for the epic monster battles, or edge of your seat action, this may not be your favorite episode. While it has more ‘action’ than a shopping episode, the battle scenes and engagements are much tamer than our group is used to. The battle with the Ettins felt more like a warm up than a traditional battle. The comical beasts were so easily out maneuvered by the well prepared group. The Menagerie Coast promises a lot more action and story with both Fjord and Jester sharing a vivid history there.
I have been loving how much Taliesin enjoys playing Caduceus. It seems like he’s really found his groove as the quirky, loveable firbolg cleric. The Deuce seems to be a great fit for the party and has been a valuable player multiple times in the few encounters they’ve had. I love the light-hearted, easy going, pink haired firbolg persona. It will be interesting to see more backstory and character development from him. It’s been so great to have Travis and Laura back as well… you never realize how much you miss cowboy puns, dad jokes, and more dick references than you can handle. I am still shaking my head at the crazy adventure Jester and Nott got themselves into last week. Diving deeper into those two characters will really be a treat.
While the episode in general had its more engaging moments, the entire last scene of the episode quickly devolved into an adorable episode of animal hoarders as Marisha and Laura simply can’t live without imaginary baby animal pets. Much to the chagrin of all the guys at the table, the two simply can’t resist Matt’s adorable trap. It will be…interesting to see how their new additions to the party will fit in future episodes, or deadly battles. In the wise words of Laura, “what the fuck did we just do?” Seriously though, who could have resisted the adorable blink puppy Nugget?
This episode feels like a five part montage of bouncing from city to city while reminiscing about all the crazy adventures and misdeeds the group has gotten into. They leaned pretty heavily into the nostalgia of their past, and honestly I didn’t mind it so much. It was interesting to see how far they’ve come and how much they’ve changed…or not in Jester’s case. It reminded me a lot of the first time the Vox Machina returned to their Greyskull Keep in Emon. The group seemed to relax a lot more and have more fun. I guess when you don’t have a murderous Oni to hunt down, you can really let go.
I never realized how much I’d miss Keyleth’s Tree Stride spells until noticing that we could spend entire episodes just travelling from city to city. Like Matt said though, the slower travel allows for much more depth to his world building and interesting side stories that could be missed if they could easily teleport from destination to destination. It will be curious to explore the cities outside of the Empire and possibly see what lies beyond the Coast in the upcoming story arc. I am honestly surprised that Sam has held out this long in visiting Deastock, his former character Taryon Darrington’s hometown, to see if they can find any hints of what’s become of the enigmatic author of The Daring Trials and Tribulations of Taryon Darrington. Maybe one day soon we’ll get a glimpse into life after Vox Machina.
Don’t forget there will be a two week wait to get back to the main story with Liam’s Werewolf One-Shot coming next week. I’m excited just to watch Travis live out his ultimate dream of becoming a werewolf… things could get weird. The group also hyped their two guest stars quite a bit. I can’t wait to get to know the mythical TJ Storm, apparent master of D&D, and the beautiful Erica Luttrell as they join Travis, Laura and Sam for one wild episode.