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Critical Role Recap: Episode 81 – “What Lies Beneath the Surface”

SPOILERS for Critical Role Episode 81 (obviously).  Go check out the full episode at GeekandSundry.com!
My recap of Episode 80 can be found here.

Vox Machina loots Thordak’s lair and returns to Whitestone.

Previously on Critical Role

Vox Machina and friends, after defeating Thordak, followed Raishan further into Thordak’s lair. There, they engaged in battle with The Diseased Deceiver. During the chaos, both Vex and Scanlan died, but Pike brought them back to life using revivify. Scanlan also summoned J’mon, the brass dragon, to help in the fight. However, Raishan managed to escape, taking Thordak’s body and two of his eggs with her.


Everyone stares at the crater where Thordak’s body crashed into the walls of the tunnel.

Grog tries to use magic to track Raishan. It doesn’t work.

Vex suggests gathering some of Thordak’s blood, theorizing that it will help them track Raishan and the corpse down more easily. Keyleth then adds that they should go back into the other room to collect any pieces of Raishan that may have been left behind.

Vax casts lay on hands to heal Keyleth.

Everyone heads over to the doorway of the cave where the battle with Raishan took place. Peeking their heads in, they check to make sure the lair won’t once again attack them. With Thordak’s quickly extending absence, the environment is clearly beginning to settle.

The twins go up to the surface to see if the fighting has died down. They see that the magically summoned storm cloud is still shooting off lightning, though smaller and less powerful than before. They also notice that the wyvern riders are retreating to the south west. One of the doors through which they originally entered is pushed off of its hinges. Beyond the gate, they can hear sounds of the continuing battle. They are unable to see whether or not Kashaw and Zahra survived the fight with the fire giants.

Vex pulls out the note that she found on her second dragon slaying arrow. The note is from Zahra. It reads “My gift to you, darling. Use it well.”

The twins quickly and quietly move forward to see the results of Kashaw and Zahra’s battle. Vax moves forward with a great deal of stealth, but Vex in her haste stumbles clumsily after him. Two figures suddenly rush towards them from the gate.

The twins see Zahra and Kashaw, clearly injured but still alive rushing towards them.

Kashaw: “Vox Machina! You’re still alive, right?”

Vex: “Keep it down, you fuck! Come on! Come on into this hole!”

Vex and Vax try to hurriedly move them into the tunnel to Thordak’s lair, but a fire giant emerges from the gate and starts running towards them. Vex quickly warns the others over her earring that there are giants in pursuit, but as she does, two crossbow bolts stick into the back of the giants head. The giant turns around, startled by the sudden attack. There is a flash of light as meteors begin to strike the giant. He falls to one knee before a final attack kills him.

Standing at the door are Jarrett, crossbow in hand, and Kerrek, a human paladin and ally of Vox Machina.

Kerrek: “Is it done?”

Vex: “I mean… Eh.”

Vex tells their friends that Thordak has been killed, but that his corpse was also stolen by Raishan.

The rest of the party (except Scanlan) comes up from the tunnel. Kerrek, seeing Keyleth, begins to approach, but then stops himself. Keyleth, however, upon seeing her dear friend, runs up and immediately pulls him into a hug. Keyleth thanks him for the gift and note he sent her while he was away. Percy pulls her away from catching up to remind her that there is still a battle going on.

Keyleth skywrites a simplified sigil of Emon to signal to the Ashari and the troops that Thordak has been defeated.

Percy shoots into the air several times and begins to shout to nearby soldiers.

Percy: “Spread the word! Thordak has fallen!”

Vox Machina and their allies retreat underground once more.

Meanwhile, Scanlan pulls out his suude, drugs he had Jarrett retrieve for him. He carefully divides the pile into thirds, and prepares to snort it. J’mon interrupts him.

J’mon: “What have you there?”

Scanlan: “I’ve had… not a great day. Thank you for coming and answering our call. I just need a second to myself if you don’t mind. Maybe just turn a wing?”

Gilmore pulls J’mon away, asking questions you can’t ask anyone but a dragon.

Scanlan again prepares to snort the drugs, but Pike touches his shoulder and asks if he’s okay. He tells her that he’s fine and that they’re healing herbs. Pike then says that she’s skilled in medicinal applications. Scanlan, defeated by Pike’s kindness, puts the drugs away.

Kima then begins to shout orders to everyone in an attempt to set up a perimeter on Thordak’s lair. Scanlan is left alone in the tunnel. He pulls out the drugs again. He snorts it. It burns.

Scanlan decides that snorting it is probably incorrect, as he is feeling no effect other than burning in his sinuses. He lights a torch with some lava and inhales deeply. It does not burn. Rather, it tastes pleasantly herbal. He feels everything become more vivid, and his fingers ache with the need to do magic or otherwise get to work before everything fades to black.

At this point, everyone comes back down the tunnel from the surface to see Scanlan face-down and unconscious. Vex rushes over to try to wake him to no avail. Kerrek joins her. Neither of them know what’s wrong. Keyleth notices the smell surrounding Scanlan is herbal, but oddly synthetic as well.  She notices the still-smoking pipe packed with suude.

Grog: “What did J’mon do to him?”

Vex slaps Scanlan as hard as she can and gives him a healing potion. Kerrek assess the situation. He doesn’t think that Scanlan is unconscious from his wounds. He casts detect poison and feels something, but knows Scanlan has not been poisoned. Keyleth deduces that Scanlan was smoking some sort of drug from the flute.

Keyleth: “Uh, guys. I feel like this was a classic Scanlan in terms of choices. I don’t think anyone did this.”

The party doesn’t understand her vague allusions to Scanlan’s drug use. She searches around Scanlan to find whatever he smoked. She calls Vex over to assist her. They find his porn, but not the drugs. Scanlan stirs into consciousness to see his friends searching his person.

Scanlan: “Get your hands out of my pockets. But first, are you real? Is this a hallucination?”

Grog and Percy tell him that it is a hallucination.

Keyleth: “Why would you be asking if this is a hallucination? Just curious.”

Scanlan says again that he’s had a rough day. His head pounds as he thinks back to his brief, fleeting high. He realizes that, for some reason, his body rejected the drug.

Vex asks what’s in the flute. Scanlan tells her it’s simply herbs and grabs for it, but Keyleth holds it out of his reach. However, Keyleth begins to believe his lie. Grog begins to ask him what’s wrong. Scanlan begins to answer, but then quickly deflects by pointing out that Vax charged into battle with Raishan with no plan.

Vax and Scanlan begin to argue about the merits of pursuing Raishan right away. The party disagrees on what would have been the best course of action. Vax reveals that his only regret is letting Raishan get away.

Vax pulls Scanlan away from everyone else. He begins to unbuckle his armor as Scanlan watches. Kima comes by to say something, but, seeing the odd scene before her, decides to tell them later and just watch the events unfold. After a few minutes, Vax pulls out a piece of paper from under his armor and gives it to Scanlan.

Vax: “That was for if I died. If you die, don’t do it with a fucking flute up your ass, all right?”

The note simply says “you were right.” Vax walks away. Scanlan sits to think for a while.

Keyleth stops Vax. She says that she blames herself for the decision to recklessly pursue Raishan. Vax assures her that they did what needed to be done. She then tells Kerrek that she tried to be the hammer he told her to be in his letter. He goes back on what he said, saying she doesn’t need to be anything. He then adds that her feelings are totally normal and that, in this case, it’s good that she isn’t special. Despite not killing Raishan, he points out, what they did was still amazing.

J’mon reveals that they must take their leave. J’mon says that, the longer they’re away, the more danger their home is in. They leave Vox Machina with a final piece of advice saying that the party shouldn’t meet their enemies on their enemy’s terms.

Scanlan: “As terrible as this day has been, it seems there’s some gold at the end of this tunnel.”

The party heads to the cavern to loot Thordak’s lair. Along the way, they begin to discuss the merits of healing before entering the lair once again. Kerrek begins to heal Keyleth. Vex teases Vax about this.

Grog walks into the lair and sees a vast amount of treasures. It’s more wealth than he’s ever seen. He guesses that it makes most of the economy of Emon. He finds a rod and pockets it. He finds a box and forces it open. A leather pouch falls out. He examines it and finds a deck of cards. He’s about to toss it away when Vex, who is finished healing, stops him. She tries to take the deck, but he won’t give it to her.

Grog begins to play with the deck. He pulls a card.

The card depicts a key floating in a sea of constellations. As he looks at it however, the card bursts into flames. He feels a tingling sensation in the hand that just held the card. Suddenly, his hand closes around an ornate and beautifully crafted scimitar.

Grog: “I am apparently the most powerful sorcerer that has ever lived.”

Grog begins to look around for something to smash with his new weapon. He finds a marble bust and tosses it in the air. As he does this, Vex tells him to not destroy the treasures. He lets the bust drop, smashing it into pieces. He takes another. This time he successfully hits it. It shatters against his weapon. He attempts to stealthily pocket the rest of the deck. Instead he ends up throwing the deck towards the party.

Vex picks up the cards.

Vex: “Grog just made a sword out of one of these cards. Do we know what this is?”

Grog: “They only activate under my magical touch.”

Vex begins to examine the cards, but Percy stops her, recognizing it as a deck of many things. She tucks it into her shirt.

Grog tries to get the deck back from her, but she refuses. Eventually, she promises that if he finds another deck of many things, he can have it. He begins to loot the room looking only for this specific magical item.

Vex spends most of her short rest examining a tapestry. It reminds her of her old magic carpet. She uses a variety of words meaning “fly” to activate it. Finally, the word “lift” comes to her mind. She tries it, and the tapestry suddenly levitates off the ground. She realizes that not only is this a magic carpet, but it’s a better magic carpet than the one she had before.

While flying around, Vex also notices that the treasurers and currency in the lair clearly make up the currency of Emon. Reluctantly, she admits that they shouldn’t actually try to take all of it. Percy agrees and says they’ll take a small amount for themselves and leave the rest (particularly the artifacts relating to the culture of Emon) for the city to rebuild itself.

Scanlan takes 200 platinum for himself. Vex and Percy gather 1000 platinum for the party as well as 10 of each gem they can find. Kerrek takes some gems for himself. The other party members take a small amount of gold, platinum, and gems for themselves.

As they talk, they realize that looters will soon come down to take treasures for themselves. Scanlan also points out that they owe The Clasp half of the loot, though it is uncertain if it means half of their loot, or half of the loot total. Vex insists it’s half of the party’s loot, and that the less they take, the less The Clasp gets.

Keyleth, however, makes the point that it isn’t in The Clasp’s best interest to totally bankrupt the city. Percy is proud of her and what she has learned from him. He also agrees, saying that they’ll likely just take what they can carry and it will at least begin to repair their relationship with Vox Machina.

Vax then asks Kima to stay behind for a few days with a small group of soldiers to ensure that the majority of the loot is returned to the city. She agrees but says they need to inform the Council of Whitestone.

Keyleth attempts to scry on Raishan. She sees a small island, surrounded by water. Her vision jumps to a cave on this island. She sees a series of connected caverns that leads to a stone laboratory. There is clear geothermic activity in this cave. A crimson mask sits in the corner. Two red ovular objects sit somewhere else. In front of the bookshelves in the room, she sees a woman frantically searching through books. The spell fades.

The troops begin to report to the party. The wyvern riders have fled to the mountains, the lizardfolk have been slain or fled, and there is a search for survivors, many of whom have been sheltered by The Clasp. It strikes everyone that the people of Emon are quickly coming together and beginning to salvage what they can.

A dragonborn, Tofor Brotoras, approaches them. She confirms that they are the ones who killed The Cinder King, and that the Council has not fallen. Mikhail Vaxio dispatches some of the troops to guard the treasure with Kima.

Keyleth meditates on where the island that Raishan is on could possibly be. She does not know and asks Pike, who also does not know. Kerrek, however, recognizes the island when she mentions the geothermal activity. He tells them that he does not know specifically which island it is, but he may have idea where it is. They also notice that the laboratory where they saw Raishan seems to be the den of a necromancer. Percy adds to this with his knowledge of necromancy in Tal’dore to further narrow down the search. He names a few necromancers to whom the laboratory could belong. This includes Vecna, who was worshipped by the Briarwoods, and Opash, a necromancer banished out to sea. Keyleth suggests that Vax contact The Raven Queen to ask about Vecna and Opash.

The party notices Gilmore, who is also trying to think if he knows anything about this island. They notice a faintly glowing glyph on his forehead. Scanlan asks what it is.

Gilmore: “This? It’s uh… just a thing.”

He waves his hand and it disappears.

Scanlan: “Oh. That seems fine.”

After being pushed for answers, he reveals that he is a rune child, but Vox Machina doesn’t know what that is. Before they can ask, Grog asks him to identify and appraise his new cimetar. He tells Grog that it is a dancing sword. Scanlan immediately starts to play music and Grog throws the weapon on the ground, expecting it to dance. Nothing happens.

He goes over and begins to dance with the sword. He alternates between leading and letting the cimetar lead. Gilmore suggests getting to know the weapon before expecting it to perform. He tells Grog that once the cimetar trusts him, it will give him a magic word. Once that magic word is spoken, the sword will fight for him.

Keyleth mentions Gilmore’s recent confession. He says it’s something that he’s born with. He says that there aren’t many rune children, and the ones who are known are pursued by those who want to gain more power. He says that he would like to keep the information private.

They head back to Whitestone. Kima comes along as well after Daxio assures them that the treasures are protected.

They immediately go to the castle to look for Allura and Cassandra and to give Kerrek a tour. They see Cassandra in the castle.

Cassandra: “Back so soon?”

They fill her in on the details. She says she is thankful that they all survived. They introduce her to Kerrek.

After a while, they realize that they can drop the forcefield around the city, and that the airship is still wandering. Cassandra gently mentions that they all need a bath. Percy instead goes up to her and hugs her, transferring some of his filth to her.

As they depart, Scanlan goes to meet with Jarrett. He casts modify memory on Jarrett. He changes the memory where Jarrett got the suda for Scanlan to include a very sad story about how Scanlan’s mother was killed by goblins. He also adds that Jarrett was going to purchase more with 50 platinum. Jarrett, with his memories modified, tells Scanlan that he will try his best with his limited resources to get more drugs.

They all leave to take their baths. Percy gets into a bath and begins to relax. Vax silently comes in after him and gets into the bath as well.

Percy: “You know, you’re getting weirder.”

Vax tells Percy that he still plans on honoring his request. He also adds that Percy is like a brother to him. Vax says that he knows from his sister that they’re supposed to fight constantly now. Percy agrees that they’re like a family, and he hopes to keep it that way. Vax gets up, making sure to show Percy all of his butt as he leaves.

After Vax leaves, Vex comes up out of breathe from under the water.

Kerrek, touched by the jovial atmosphere in the face of such adversity, begins to drink heavily. Everyone else follows suit.

They discuss what they still need to do. They need to return the hand, bury ashes, find Opash, and do a number of other things related to their mission. They debate what to do with the angel children as well as the demon and what to do with all of their other allies and enemies.

Allura comes to join them. She confirms that they can drop the barrier surrounding Whitestone. Scanlan offers to replace her magic carpet with the new one Vex took. Vex gives him a dirty look. Allura says the party can keep it until she finishes furnishing her new tower. Vox Machina updates her on Raishan’s alleged whereabouts. Allura suggests that perhaps Raishan fled to the island of Viscon, where Thordak hid while the world thought he had died. They agree that it’s a good place to start searching for Raishan. They speculate on Raishan’s motives.

While wondering about what Raishan could be doing with Thordak’s body, Kerrek points out that even their own deaths have been temporary thus far. Perhaps, he suggests, they didn’t kill Thordak enough.

They discuss scrying more on Raishan and how to get to the island.

Vax pretends to take a huge swig of wine. He tells Kerrek that the drink is very smooth. Kerrek immediately copys him and gets very, very drunk. Allura stares incredulously at them.

Grog offers her some drink. She gladly accepts despite everyone telling her to stop and do the spell instead. Where Kerrek was wrecked by the drink, she stays completely sober. They all tentatively ask her how she feels. She says that she is fine, though the taste could be better. Grog is very impressed.

As their celebrations continue, Allura prepares for the joint scrying spell. Keyleth and Allura both close their eyes. When they open them again, their eyes are completely white, missing both a pupil and iris. They share a vision of vast amount of water. Suddenly, the island is there again. They confirm to the others that it is the Island of Viscon.

They immediately debate if they should wait and rest and therefore let Raishan wait and rest, or go immediately and possibly be as unprepared as Raishan. Allura thinks that she can get them there, but they have very few spells and healing at their disposal. They decide to rest.

They discuss the merits of at least traveling there to prevent Raishan from leaving, but Scanlan used his last spell to change Jarrett’s memory and cannot summon the mansion. The party, however, does not know this.

Ultimately, they decide to stay and rest. Allura agrees to go with them after they have rested.

Vax goes to Keyleth’s room. He takes Whisper and starts to cut away the burnt ends of her hair. She asks if he likes it shorter, and he responds that he just likes her. He reassures her that he has no doubts in her and that she has a strength in her that is forever growing.

He asks if she will go with him to the theater. She agrees, if he will go with her back to her home. He agrees.

Scanlan burns Vax’s letter. He packs his pipe for the morning.

Kerrek throws up.

To be continued…

Episode 82 – “Deadly Echoes”

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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.

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a writer, editor, and podcaster. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet, was also a writer for Trinity Continuum: Aberrant 2e, and has been published in books and magazines. She is an editor for the pop culture and media website GeekGals.co. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile, produces and performs on Fables Around the Table, and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

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