Spoilers for Critical Role Campaign 2 Episode 1 (obviously).
Go check out the full episode at GeekandSundry.com!
Destinies begin to merge when a newly-formed group of heroes attends a circus.
Twenty years after Vox Machina’s story ended, a new group of heroes traveled through Wildemount.
Wildemount, 835 P.D.
The continent is divided both by jagged terrain and political power. While port cities thrive on open trade, the center of the continent is overrun by beasts in the badlands. The northernmost part of the continent holds a curse, preventing it from being taken by human hands.
In Western Wynandir, the Dwendalian Empire has ruled all for 13 generations. Meanwhile, most of Eastern Wynandir is ruled by Xhorhas. Under King Bertrand Dwendal, the citizens of Western Wynandir live their lives relatively normally. If the denizens of the empire follow the empire’s laws and worship its gods, they are protected from the horrors of Wildemount.
However, the oppressive religious statutes have caused some stirring among the citizens. Every temple is government owned, and worship outside of the legally enforced gods is harshly punished. Moreover, there are rumors of military clashes along the empire’s borders.
But, that is not on the mind of Caleb Widogast as he sleeps. He is staying in The Nestle Nook Inn located in Trostinwald, a small rural town in the Marrow Valley known for its grain, wheat, and ale. On the second floor of the Inn, Caleb rests, his goblin companion at the foot of his bed.
Caleb wears filthy clothes and a long, dirty brown coat. He is unshaven and has a mess of reddish brown hair. After going through another rough adventure with his ally, he has slept almost the entire day.
In his arms rests Nott the Brave, a young goblin girl. Her clothes are just are dirty and disheveled as her companion’s. She wears bandages around her body to hide her green skin from the prejudiced people of Wildemount.
Caleb opens his eyes just as Nott begins to stir awake.
The goblin greets her human companion and comments that the rest was probably good for him. Caleb agrees. Nott then guiltily tells him that he was asleep for so long that she got bored and wandered off. She adds that she got the urge to steal along the way. Caleb immediately grows concerned, asking if anyone saw her or pursued her. She responds that some of the crownsguard saw her, but she made it back fine. She admits though, that she wasn’t wearing a mask to disguise her goblin visage.
He reminds her that wandering off in the outskirts of towns is one thing, but in the cities, it is far more dangerous. She agrees with him and apologizes. He adds that, if she needs to steal something, he’d rather she helped. Not wanting his goblin friend to feel too bad, he thanks her again for saving his life.
Caleb: “Yesterday was really… not great.”
Nott: “Yeah, well… We’ll do better today, right?”
Caleb: “Sure. Sure we will.”
In their room, they begin to smell cooked meats and other foods as the tavern begins to serve breakfast. Nott puts on a porcelain mask that covers the lower half of her face and pulls her hood over her head, obscuring her face further. They hope this will be enough to make her appear more like a halfling than a goblin.
They head down the stairs, ready to eat their breakfast and begin another day.
The downstairs of the tavern is bustling with adventurers and townsfolk ready to eat, nearly overwhelming the employees of the tavern. However, two tables are still available, and they sit down, thankful that no one will look too closely at Nott. The server stops by long enough for them to order their breakfast before running off again.
Over the noise of the tavern, they discuss their plans for the day. Caleb needs books, and Nott needs to refill her flask.
The server drops their breakfast off at their table, and Nott begins to greedily eat.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a man anxiously clutching a hat walk into the bar. The man begins to walk over, making Caleb nervous, but he passes Caleb and Nott. Instead, he stops at the table next to them. A blue tiefling, a half-orc, and a human sit at the table. The tiefling wears a blue dress, and the human next to her also wears blue, though her loose clothes also have hints of grey. The half-orc wears beat-up leathers.
The man thanks them for saving his daughter the previous day. They accept his thanks, and Beauregard apologizes for being so pessimistic about the fate of his daughter in their previous interactions.
He regrets he had nothing to give them for their services the previous day. But, he has gone to the other fisherman and started a collection for the heroes. He overturns his hat onto the table, and coins spill out. The clanging of metal on wood catches the attention of Caleb and Nott at the next table. The coins are mostly copper and silver with a few gold mixed in. He pushes the coins over to them, thanking them profusely.
The group quickly debates if they should accept or not, but Jester points out that he may not know who paid what. Beauregard adds that it’s rude to not accept a gift. She grabs the coins and counts them to divide among the others.
Fjord looks up from the coins and sees Caleb and Nott at the next table. He notices that Nott, still disguised as a halfling, is leaning closer and closer to their table and coins. He points this out to the others, adding how disgustingly dirty she seems.
Nott quickly tries to conspire with Caleb about how to get the group’s money. However, they are interrupted by Jester. She leans over and asks if they are staying at the tavern.
Nott: “Don’t move. Tieflings can only see movement.”
Jester agrees that tieflings can only see movement, but she points out that they can still hear it when others talk. She then advises that they bathe, as they both have strong body odor.
Jester: “I’m just letting you know. I would hate if I smelled that bad and someone didn’t tell me.”
Caleb: “I’ve only just met you.”
Jester: “Hi. I’m Jester.”
She reaches out to shake Caleb’s hand. He tells her his name but doesn’t shake her hand. She mimes shaking her hand in the air and tell him it was nice to meet him. Then, she goes back to her own table, asking how much of the divided coin she is receiving.
As Beau hands Jester her coins, she notices that Nott doesn’t appear to be a halfling at all, but something else. In halfling, she yells “good morning” to Nott. Nott, knowing halfling, responds back, wishing her the same.
Fjord whispers to Beau that he thinks Nott and Caleb are eyeing their coins. Beau argues that they could be looking at her instead.
The server comes around to Fjord, Jester, and Beau. She takes their orders. Jester gleefully orders pastries. Beau points out that Jester has eaten nothing but pastries in recent memory, but she doesn’t press the issue further.
In halfling, Nott asks Beau if they’re in town for business or pleasure. Beau, looking closer at Nott, responds, not answering the question, but instead asking if she’s cold, eyeing Nott’s bandages.
Caleb, nervous that they will bring more attention to Nott, quickly explains that Nott is a goblin, and goblins are not terribly welcome in most towns.
Suddenly, there’s a commotion at the front of the tavern. Two figures have walked in. One of them steps from table to table, surveying the crowd and passing out flyers. Mollymauk, a lavender tiefling with an impressive peacock tattoo and red eyes strolls through the tavern. Behind him walks a large aasimar woman with two different color eyes and dark, messy hair that fades to a white at the ends.
As Mollymauk and Yasha move through the crowd, they see the odd grouping of Fjord, Jester, Beau, Caleb, and Nott.
Molly: “Well, I don’t think I’ve seen a group of people more in need of a good time in my entire life.”
With a flourish, he walks over to their table and greets them, introducing himself in the process. He passes out flyers for the Traveling Carnival of Curiosities to the tables. Beau tells him they were planning on attending anyway.
Jester excitedly asks Mollymauk if he is a performer. He says he’s not so much a performer, but he can read fortunes. Jester, thrilled with this turn of events, asks him to read her fortune. Mollymauk sits down at the table with her and her companions. Yasha, seeing that they will be there a while, orders an ale. Jester tells her to stay clear of Baumbach Ale, telling her that the owners are dicks.
Molly asks who has coin to have their fortune read. Jester responds by asking him if he can psychically guess her name.
They laugh uproariously together.
Jester: “What is your name?”
Molly: “My name is Molly to my friends, and we’re friends now, aren’t we?”
She hands her new friend two copper to have her fortune read.
He pulls out a set of cards and shuffles them at the table. While Jester’s eyes are locked onto his face, he subtly slips the cards into the order he wants.
First, he pulls out the silver dragon card. He tells Jester that she has an adventurous spirit. Next, the anvil card: a destiny forged.
Molly: “There is something bright and adventurous in your future.”
Jester explains that they recently fought a giant snake. Molly slips the serpent card into his hand and lays it on the table. He continues to pull up cards, weaving fortunes about the information Jester gives to him. When she admits she’s looking for her father, Molly tells her that she has already found the clues she needs. During the reading, Caleb detects magic while Molly’s attention is on Jester.
Beau asks Yasha if she’s also a circus performer. Yasha says that she isn’t. She helps put up the tents and acts as security.
Looking at the flyer, Beau asks why the elderly aren’t admitted to the show. Yasha tells her that they’ve had patrons die of heart attacks from excitement.
Jester declares that they will go to the show that night. She asks Caleb and Nott if they will come as well.
Jester: “Do you stinky people want to come with us?”
Caleb and Nott agree to the invitation.
Yasha stoically tells them it was lovely for them to have met. Molly, much more flamboyant, gives them a warmer goodbye before leaving.
Beau: “She was awesome.”
Fjord: “She didn’t say much.”
Beau: “That’s why I liked her.”
Caleb tells Jester that the fortune telling was not magic. Instead, it was just charisma and reading people. Nott brags that Caleb knows everything about magic.
Nott: “He can make a cat appear and disappear whenever he wants to.”
Caleb snaps his fingers, and an orange, patchy tabby cat appears on the table.
Jester: “Can I call him ‘Lumpy?'”
Caleb: “You can call him ‘Frumpkin.'”
With the summoning of the magical cat, Nott continues to brag about his friend, telling the others how talented he is with magic. Jester tells Nott that she can do magic as well. She casts thaumaturgy, and four nearby windows violently fly open.
Fjord: “Jester, what did we tell you about keeping a low profile?”
Jester apologizes and uses thaumaturgy to close the windows. Beau stands up and begins to clap. Jester declares to everyone in the tavern that she will be at the carnival that night.
Caleb communicates to Frumpkin to jump into Beau’s lap. The cat immediately obeys, and Beau begins to happily pet him. She asks if Frumpkin is a real cat or a magic cat. Caleb replies that he is both.
Next to Beau, Fjord begins to choke and sneeze. He tells Beau to put the cat somewhere else and admits he is allergic. She walks away from Fjord.
Nott asks if all of them are magic users. Fjord says he only knows a little, but Jester assures Nott he is quite good at what he does know. Fjord tells Nott they are all going to the Soltrice Magical Academy. However, Jester and Beau are clearly not as fond of this idea.
Nott asks Caleb if they should look for more books. Jester asks to see some of his books. He opens his coat to show her two books hanging from holsters under his arms. He tells her that these books are family heirlooms that he doesn’t share.
Fjord asks Caleb if he knows anything more about the academy. His companions point out that they aren’t sure if they can even get in, as the academy is for the wealthy. Nott asks if they have money. Jester guiltily admits she gambled much of it away playing Quick Queen’s Call, which she offers to teach Nott.
Jester begins to deal cards. She tells Nott that she needs three cards in her hand. She tells the goblin to put in her ante, but Nott has no money. Caleb offers to lend her a silver.
Without knowing the rules, Nott immediately tries to cheat. As Jester explains to Nott how to win, she begins to manipulate her own cards as well. Jester says that if Nott antes again, she can trade in one of her cards for a better chance to win.
Nott looks at Caleb. He agrees to throw in another silver piece only because she saved his life the previous day.
Jester announces that it’s time to reveal their cards. Nott shows her two fours, and Jester happily reveals her three fives: a winning hand. Nott, unwilling to part with Caleb’s money, draws her short sword and declares that Jester was cheating.
Beauregard tries to wrestle Nott to the ground, but the goblin slips from her grasp. Caleb immediately tries to deescalate the situation by pointing out to Nott that it was his silver and it isn’t worth fighting over.
Fjord: “Maybe we can give some of this back.”
Jester: “Why though? I won it.”
Jester sadly offers one of the coins back, but Caleb says to keep it, which she readily accepts.
Jester: “See? Isn’t this so fun?”
Another round is brought to Caleb. He slides a drink to Jester, who, feeling guilty about keeping his money in a training game, slides his money back to him.
Nott checks to see if anything new has been posted on the job board. Seeing nothing of interest, Jester asks if they would like to accompany them on their errands leading up to the circus. Nott is reluctant, but Caleb points out that they nearly died trying to adventure on their own.
Caleb asks the group if they can travel with a goblin. To show her openness to the idea, Jester lays a hand on Nott’s shoulder and casts Blessing of the Trickster. Fjord asks if they will be any trouble, citing that Beau is already plenty of trouble. Nott awkwardly lies that no one is after her, but Fjord immediately realizes that she’s lying.
Still, they resolve to stay together at least for that day. They decide to drink at two of the breweries in the town. Caleb and Jester only have a few drinks, but Nott and Beau drink plenty to make up for it. At the end of the day, they stop at a bookstore at Caleb’s request. He searches through the books for about thirty minutes. Finding only books about farming, he asks the bookseller if there are more libraries or booksellers. The bookseller responds that there is a library up north, and takes his name in case something else comes in.
Jester, seeing that the bookseller is distracted by Caleb, mixes up all of the books and turns some of the spines inward. The bookseller does not notice while they are there.
The sun begins to set, and guards light lanterns lining the streets. They make their way to the circus. They follow the sounds of a parade through the streets.
When they reach the source of the noise, they see that it is the circus performers. Flamboyantly dressed men lead the crowd while women pass out flowers to the crowds that have stopped to watch the spectacle. A fire breather lets out a burst of flames and everyone cheers. Yasha follows behind, making sure nothing gets out of hand. The group of Fjord, Jester, Beau, Caleb, and Nott follow the parade to the circus’s dark blue tent.
When they arrive, Beau calls out to Molly and Yasha. Molly greets them warmly. Another circus worker stops by and asks Molly to help with the crowd tonight. The worker addresses the crowd, thanking them for coming, before slipping into the tent to help set up.
Yasha goes to collect weapons, but Jester immediately protests. Instead, she suggests that they act as extra security, but Yasha refuses, saying that she is the only security they need. A tall half-orc circus worker places a hand on Beau’s shoulder. He backs up Yasha’s claim.
Yasha offers to hold their weapons personally. They begin to warm up to the idea.
Beau asks the half-orc for his name. He responds that it’s Bo. She says that her name is short for Beauregard, explaining that her parents wanted a son, but he says his is just B.O. They reel back at first before realizing that he is teasing them and doesn’t actually smell.
As Yasha goes to collect their weapons, Beau at first refuses, stating that her staff helps her walk, as she normally has a limp. Molly asks to see the limp. She asks to keep the stick. Yasha offers to simply carry Beau to her seat.
Yasha picks up Beau and their weapons and begins to direct them to their seats in the center of the front row. To thank Jester for coming to the circus, Molly offers to do an abbreviated fortune reading for Jester for free. He pulls the moon and the shadow.
Molly: “Does this mean anything to you?”
Jester: “Oh, yes.”
Molly: “Well, think about it.”
He quickly shuffles the cards away.
As they enter the tent, they see where the seating is guided across the floor. Townsfolk have begun to gather in a semi-circle. A carved tree holds the tent aloft. Four lanterns hang from the ceiling. They light the tent with unnatural flames.
As Yasha carries Beau, Beau points out to her that Jester is single. Yasha responds that she isn’t looking for anyone currently. Still, Beau asks Yasha to hold her through the show.
Yasha tells her it will be an extra five gold pieces.
Yasha: “These arms are worth a lot.”
Beau offers Yasha 5 silver to sit on her cloak instead. Yasha counteroffers to simply go with the original plan for free.
The performer descends from the top of the tent, dressed in blue and wearing heavy stage makeup. He plays his violin and slips slowly down a long rope. Suddenly he drops faster, landing on the ground on his feet. An elf enters from the back flap of the tent. He extends his arms, removing his hat, and takes a deep bow. He introduces himself as Gustav, the Carnival Master
Gustav: “Allow me to welcome you to Fletching and Moondrop’s Carnival of Curiosities!”
The crowd cheers.
He continues to introduce the show, promising both danger and beauty. He introduces the first act, sisters of the fey with abilities granted to them by a magical serpent. Two halflings, introduced as the Nott Sisters, emerge, ready for their performance. The others silently look at Nott, who looks just as surprised by the similar names as everyone else.
Two guards from the empire emerge through the tent entrance and stand guard.
Contorting themselves, the halflings create elaborate human sculptures. They move as one in a constant flow. At the end of the performance, the halflings separate and begin to fight, nearly taking on the forms of the serpents they are imitating. The music comes to a full crescendo as they twirl around the central pole, dancing wildly. The performance ends, and the audience erupts in applause.
Gustav introduces the next act. The fire fairy emerges. She dances, the flickering flames in the lanterns casting shadows that make it appear she is a beacon of light fighting in the darkness. She ends in a powerful pose and the lights immediately brighten. The crowds cheer again.
Several of the carnival workers pull something out from the performer’s entrance. It’s a slimy, scaled toad-like beast. It struggles against its chains as it’s pulled into the center of the tent. It roars at the crowd. Gustav introduces a golden-haired dwarf girl singing and mystifying the crowd and beast. She wears a white dress.
Suddenly, a man in the audience stands up. His cloak falls from his shoulders and his legs shake with age. He reaches towards the dwarven girl, his cheeks wet with tears. He begins to shake and clutch his chest. He yells out as the skin on his arms begins to tear. His bones and muscles swell grotesquely. Gore splatters onto the crowd.
Chaos breaks out. Bo tries to usher the crowd out of the tent without anyone getting hurt.
Beau begins to clap. She compliments Molly on the realistic performance. The others hurriedly tell her that this isn’t a performance.
The man stops transforming. His skin has turned grey and his eyes blood red. He grimaces at them.
Jester casts guiding bolt on the monster that has appeared before them. She also creates a duplicate of herself. The monster is undeterred, and begins to tear into a nearby woman, looking for an additional host.
Yasha distributes everyone’s weapons.
Fjord, his falchion now in his hand, rushes the creature and attacks.
Caleb pushes into the crowd. He grabs a gem and casts chromatic orb.
Seeing that the reptilian monster was soothed by the dwarven girl’s singing, Nott attempts to sing to their new adversary. However, it does nothing to stop its rampage.
Beau attempts to grab the creature, but cannot get a grip on him. She then attacks the creature with a flurry of blows.
Caleb and Nott narrowly manage being trampled by the crowd, who are desperately trying to escape through the bottlenecked entrance.
The woman who was mauled by the entity now rises, also ready possessed and ready to attack.
Mollymauk pulls out his sword. He slices the blade across his own chest, drawing blood. Ice crystals form across the blade of the scimitar. He stabs at the creatures.
Jester casts toll of the dead. A bell tolls through the air, damaging the creatures. She sends her duplicate back towards the center of the tent.
The creatures split up. One attacks Molly and the other goes after Beau. Fjord swings at the creature as it passes.
Yasha goes into a rage. She takes out her new great sword. She swings it at one of the beasts, killing it in a single blow.
Yasha: “Get the fuck out of my tent!”
Fjord casts hex on the remaining creature. He swings his falchion at it, making contact.
Caleb casts another chromatic orb from within the throngs of the crowd. The acid flies off course as he is knocked by the panicked crowd.
Molly pulls out another sword and carves into the zombie-like creature.
Beau yells at Mollymauk.
Beau: “I thought you said you didn’t let in the sick!”
Molly: “Just kill it!”
Beau leaps forward to punch the creature. She unleashes another flurry of blows. He breaks off his jaw, some of its teeth lodging into her skin, and he reaches back to claw her.
Before he can attack, however, Beau lets loose another punch, hitting him just below the bridge of his nose and lodging the bone into his brain. Its skull caves in and the shards of its teeth lodge into its eyeballs. It lets out a shaky final breath before falling to the ground.
The crown’s guard finally makes their way through the crowd. They demand the group stay put. Gustav asks Molly what has happened. However, Molly is just as confused as everyone else.
Jester walks with her double to search the bodies. The guards tell her to stay put, but she distracts them by having her double pretend to find valuables on one of the corpses. While the guards are distracted, she quickly loots a different corpse.
They speculate that the girl’s singing had something to do with the sudden change, but she had traveled with the circus for two years without incident. They ask why the sick are not allowed into the carnival. They admit that it’s less exciting than they made it out to be. The ban on sick people was mostly for cleanliness and to promote happiness.
In an attempt to distract the guards, Jester cast thaumaturgy, but coughs part way through the spell. This brings the guards attention to her as she coughs into her hands, covered with the blood of the creatures they just killed. The guards immediately worry that the sickness is contagious, and Jester hams her coughing up. In a panic, one of the guards goes to kill her.
Yasha and Jester try to calm the guard, assuring them that she’s joking. The guard sees that she is kidding with them, but he is still nervous.
More and more guards filter in. One of the guards, clearly in command, walks in with his helmet under his arm. He goes over to Gustav, and tells him that he knew the carnival would be trouble. The guard watching Jester explains what happened.
The commanding officer asks the group to corroborate the story, clearly finding the carnival at fault so far.
Molly: “Gustav, it’s no use. We’ve been found out. Our terrible plot to make a zombie rampage through our tent has been discovered.”
Caleb interrupts, saying they’re essentially a group of strangers that had nothing to do with the events that occurred.
The commanding officer rounds up Gustav, Bo, and a few nearby performers. They ask Gustav who else works with the circus. Gustav glances at Molly and Yasha quickly, and makes up the excuse that Molly was merely joking about working for the circus. However, this is not believed by the guards.
The guards ask for everyone else’s names. Everyone except Caleb and Beau give a fake name. Fjord and Nott, who has already given a fake name, say that their name is also Beau.
Yasha says that she thinks she knows that has occurred. She suggests that they fetch the singing dwarven girl.
Though they are not under arrest, they are warned that they are under investigation. After admitting that they are staying at The Nestle Nook Inn, they are threatened with the full might of the empire if they should leave the city.
Molly and Yasha are escorted through the performers entrance. Seeing the guards, the remaining circus workers scatter into the shadows. Yasha tells them that the girl is in the back tent. She pulls back the tent flap and gestures into the tent. When the guard enters the empty tent, she lets the flap close behind him and runs off into the night.
While still being detained, Caleb summons Frumpkin just out of sight. The commanding guard, known as the Watchmaster, tells them that if they find no answers by the end of the investigation, they all will be presumed guilty. He forcefully recommends that they look into the matter themselves.
Jester: “Next time, we don’t help. That’s what it comes down to.”
With Yasha gone and Molly in custody, the rest are free to go.
Watchmaster: “Remember, if you flee, I will find you.”
To be continued…
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About the Artist: Nick Uroseva (@Nick_Uroseva)
Nick is a professional graphic artist from Youngstown, Ohio. He has a BA in Multimedia Technology. When he isn’t doodling for one thing or another, he spends is his time writing and Dungeon Mastering several D&D games, enjoying craft beer, shooting zombies with Nerf blasters, and tweeting about #CriticalRole.