SPOILERS for Critical Role Episode 65 (obviously). Go check out the full episode at GeekandSundry.com!
My recap of Episode 64 can be found here.
Vox Machina regroups in Whitestone after the grim revelations in Draconia. They decide to head to Marquet and the city of Ank’harel in search of their next vestige, a cloak said to be in the possession of a “warrior merchant with one eye.”
Previously on Critical Role
After a close call with the white dragon, Vorugal, over Whitestone, the party visited Draconia to investigate the ruins of the city. After a confrontation with the Ravinites, the subjugated race of Dragonborn, the party finds the lair of Vorugal. The examine the place. Afterwards, they find the frozen remains of Tiberius Stormwind. They bury him in the ruins of the library. They return to Whitestone to mourn and plan their next course of action.
Keyleth visits Vax’s room. They sit in silence for awhile. Vax eventually breaks it.
“We’ve really fucked things up, haven’t we?”
Keyleth is unsure what he means.
“I know with all that’s happened, with my new patron, and with my sister pretending to gag every time we attempt to share a word together, and mostly me just being fucked up in the head for weeks now, I have pushed you all away. You most of all.”
Vax continues: “Keyelth, I need you to know, through all of that, nothing has changed about how I feel. We have so many near misses… Now, finding Tiberius, death is unavoidable. And it’s all the more reason for life to be lived. It doesn’t matter to me what this is, or what we call it. If you are willing to spend some time, any time, with me then I will simply count myself lucky to have it. You are very dear to me.”
Keyleth smiles. “You are talking too much.”
She tells him its not all his fault and that she has been distant herself. “…I mean, it might be a little on you, but its kinda on both of us…” She confesses that she had been terrified of losing Vax, first to death, then the Raven Queen (“Which is still kinda like death”), then ultimately to himself.
She recalls her conversation with Pike previously and that it made her realize that she was afraid of losing Vax to a fate that has not been solidified. “You are ultimately right, we have nothing to lose. I love you, Vax. I have for a long time.”
Vax is stunned by this.
“I am sorry, being me, it took me this long to say it.”
Vax is elated. “I… I love you. That’s pretty fucking great!”
Keyleth: “Yeah! High five!”
Vax hugs her into the bed.
The next morning the party meets in the dining hall of Whitestone Castle for breakfast. The amount of bacon is unsatisfactory and more is ordered.
Zarha wanders down, attracted by the smell of bacon. She sits and catches up with the party. She tells them that while Allura, Drake, and Kima are out of the city, it is up to her to research the magic siphon beneath the castle.
Percy asks her if she has seen Kashaw. She confesses she has not in a few days, stating she has been underground studying the siphon most of the time.
The party debates their next move. They know they are planning to travel to Marquet to fetch the next Vestige but they are unsure of what their plan for confronting Vorugal in Draconia is. They know it is more primal, and craves hunting and slaying other creatures. They like the idea of finding a formidable beast to goad it into fighting then attacking it when it has worn itself out on the hunt.
They plan to contact the Slayer’s Take in Vasselheim, which is located on the same continent as Draconia, to find them a formidable beast suitable for the task. Percy suggests sending a letter with Kashaw.
The party heads out of the castle and down to the town. They find a bunch of newly recruited guards training. Kashaw is instructing a group of shield and spear soldiers, much to his own frustration.
Vex: “Maybe he isn’t the best messenger if he is training our armies.”
Percy: “This is not an army. This is something for the population to do to pass time. If the dragon shows up they’re all going to die, no matter how many times they learn how to put the spear forward.”
They get Kash’s attention and he turns to his troops “Take five…you know what, take thirty.”
Percy asks him “how would you like to be anywhere but here?” Kash is skeptical. (“That is exactly the sort of enthusiasm I was hoping for.”) They tell him about their plan to send him to contact the Slayer’s Take on their behalf.
Percy thanks him and tells him to make sure they are aware how important this task is.
Kash: “I will do my best do muster some semblance of emphasis.”
The party debates what they have to offer the Take in return for their services. They decide to offer a percentage of the bits harvested from the dragon and the creature. Percy begins drafting a letter explaining their situation and their offerings.
Grog is visibly very bored. Vax notices this and grabs a wooden training sword and wacks Grog on the back of the knee.
“C’mon, big guy! I know you’re bored!” He hits him again.
Grog is very confused. “Do you have a death wish or something?”
Scanlan jumps up on a chair and yells to the guards in training, pointing at Grog: “Instructor Kashaw has instructed us that this is a drill and you are to attack that man there as a test of your skills and training!”
The entire legion of forty-five guards turn and stare at Grog, unsure of what to do. A few begin cautiously inching closer.
Grog activates his titanstone knuckles to cast enlarge on himself, growing in size.
The guards tremble in fear. Many back away several paces. Kashaw turns to his troops “The gnome is just fucking with you, its fine!” He turns to Scanlan and adds, “That was pretty funny though. But don’t get my men killed, I’ve been working on them for four days!”
Scanlan: “Oh, Grog wasn’t going to kill them. Grog, you weren’t going to kill them, were you?”
Grog, sincerely: “Yes.”
Scanlan: “Oh, shit.”
Grog turns to Vax: “You were just playing around, right?”
Grog, in giant form, kicks him as hard as he can.
Vax is knocked clean off his feet, arcing in the air, landing thirty feet away and rolling to a stop on his back. Wind knocked out of him, “I feel so alive.”
At this many of the soldiers remove their armor and walk off in surrender.
Percy completes his letter to the Slayer’s Take and reviews it with the party. The party is happy with its contents, but Scanlan, who was clearly not paying attention, asks about what it is they are asking the Take to do. Percy reiterates for him.
Vex: “That’s part of that whole listening thing, Scanlan.”
Percy: “Is there a way to enchant me to have his voice and then he will listen more closely to everything I say?”
Kashaw takes the letter and the party plans to send him to Vasselheim via Keyleth’s transport via plants spell.
Keyleth and Kashaw head down to the Suntree for his departure. Kash eventually breaks the silence: “So, when this is all over, if we survive all this dragon business, do you want to get a drink?”
Keyleth: “I love drinks…so much. But uh, what kind of a drink?”
Kash: “I think you answered your own question.”
Keyleth is sufficiently embarrassed and avoids giving him a straight answer. She abruptly aborts the conversation by casting the spell on the Suntree and shoving Kash through the portal to his destination.
The party heads to Gilmore’s house to arrange their trip to Marquet via his teleportation circle. He is late answering the door and the party notices the barrier that protects Whitestone flicker and restore overhead. Gilmore eventually answers the door. He looks visibly drained. He invites them in and offers them tea.
Being originally from Marquet himself, the party asks Gilmore about the region and what they expect. He tells them it is hot, arid, and that they should take water. He tells them that his teleportation circle won’t take them to the city of Ank’harel, but to the small town of Shaundal, nearby. Shaundal is where Gilmore grew up. He warns them about water being regulated and sold. He gives them a silver locket and tells the group to give that to “them” and that they will know them when they see them. They party leaves Gilmore to gather supplies and they assure him they will return to depart.
Grog: “I have an idea!”
Scanlan: “Oh boy!”
Grog: “I know! It’s thrilling!” Grog proposes using his alchemy jug to produce its eight gallons of fresh water a day and stockpiling the extra in other containers.
They run into Jarret on the way back up to the castle. Seeing as he is from Ank’harel, they ask him some questions. He tells them to obey the laws and not steal anything, saying that is why he had to leave originally. He says its ruler is J’mon Sa Ord, a mysterious androgynous-looking figure. The party is surprised to learn that Ank’harel is as large as Emon, if not larger.
They ask him if he wants to join them and he adamantly refuses, saying his services are much more useful here in Whitestone than in the Scarlet Prison beneath Ank’harel. They ask him if he would like them to bring anything back and he tells them if they, can wouldn’t mind a spice harvested near the city called Fusaka.
They leave to gather supplies. Containers for water. Percy gives Vax a white silk tunic to keep him cool in his armor. Scanlan scrys on his daughter, Kaylee, and sees her gambling in a pub.
The party heads back to Gilmore’s. Gilmore draws a teleportation circle on the living room floor. The group departs and immediately finds themselves crammed like sardines in a closet of some sort. Vex shimmies the lock with her dagger and they all pile out into what appears to be bedroom.
The room looks long abandoned. Percy stands on the carpet in the middle of the room at wills it to fly. There is no effect. Vax peaks out the window and sees a sandy street lined with simple buildings, water troughs, a few trees, and several pedestrians in full body cloaks and wraps to protect from the sun.
The group leaves the room to find an elderly couple sitting at a kitchen table, mid-meal, watching them with shock and unease. The group hastily introduces themselves and assure them that they are friends and mean them no harm.
Scanlan: “We’re friends of Gilmore’s.”
“Shaun.” Vex corrects, using Gilmore’s first name.
The man gets up and greets them. He has thinning white hair that runs down his back and darker, sun-baked skin. He wears a long simple robes. “Friends of Shaun, you say! How is he?” The party assure him that Gilmore is doing very well. The man calls his wife over and he introduces themselves as Sorin and Obessa Geddemore, Shaun’s parents, explaining that Gilmore changed his name from Geddemore for better business in Tal’dore.
They ask for directions to Ank’harel. Sorin leads them to the front door and points them in a direction across the desert away from the oasis town. Vax asks if Sorin knows where they can find Fusaka. Sorin has not heard of the spice. The party momentarily wonders if Jarret asked them to obtain an elicit substance.
The party thanks Sorin and Obessa and as repayment Grog uses his alchemy jug to add eight gallons of fresh water to the the couple’s water reserve.
They determine they can’t reach Ank’harel before sun down. Keyleth suggests casting mist form. The party pauses to ensure they won’t all evaporate in the desert.
Matt: “Saddest TPK ever.”
Travis: “Another cloud in the fucking sky.”
Sam: “Some say you can see them still, overhead.”
Keyleth casts mist form. Several children watch in amazement as they party disolves in front of them. Vex spots them and feints distress: “I’m melting! I’m melting!” The children run off in terror.
The group takes off across the desert, they notice several caravans traveling in several directions from the oasis of Shaundal. They continue traveling for several hours and the sun eventually sets. They decide to press through to the city before stopping and camping.
In the early hours of the morning the eventually spot the massive city of Ank’harel, illuminated with hundreds of sparkling lights. Massive spires jutting up over the city immense walled city below.
They spot an caravan camped outside the gates. The party decides to camp outside with them and enter the city truthfully. They land nearby and Scanlan casts his Magnificent Mansion and the party begins to enter. This gains the attention of the guards from the city walls and a couple of them approach to investigate. Percy, Scanlan, and Vex remain outside to meet them. They assure the guards that the door is no more than a “very expensive tent”. The guard advises them to keep such “strange magic” outside of the city. The guards warn them that they will be watching the door with crossbows all night and that they won’t hesitate to fire should anything strange happen. Percy assure them the strangest thing they will see is the party.
They enter the mansion, finding it rest from prior destruction, and the group goes to sleep.
Morning arrives and Vax attempts to sneak out of Keyleth’s room but is spotted by his sister.
She pretends to gag, gives him a thumbs up and quickly turns to go back into her room. Vax follows her, wanting a word. He tells her to take a whole minute to get over herself, telling her she should have gone into acting. Vax admits its a stupid time to talk about it, but he asks about that moment back facing Saundor, when he mentioned the dagger. He tells her that Saudnor was an asshole and to “fuck that guy.” He tells her that she shouldn’t doubt herself. She thanks him and tells him she is sincerely happy to see him happy. He admits to have almost forgetting what it is like.
Vax asks again about the dagger. Vex admits that she killed some guys and saved Triket. Vax is confuses and asks when this was. She asks him if he remembers the day she first brought Trinket back from camp, years ago, when they were still practically children. Vax does “Yeah, I thought it was a terrible idea, I was dead wrong.” She tells him that she was captured by hunters. They had killed Trinket’s mother. Vex killed them and saved the bear cub.
Vax hugs her. And leaves.
The group has breakfast and sets out to enter the city. The guards stop them and ask their business. Scanlan tells them they are travelers from Tal’dore seeking aid in the wake of cataclysm, informing him they wish to have an audience with the emperor, J’mon Sa Ord. The guard lets them enter, warning them to keep their weapons sheathed and to not start any trouble.
The party enters to see hundreds of incredibly tall buildings lining the city streets, smooth pointed rooftops jutting up out of the cityscape, vibrant colors of draping silks and murals on every building front. The sounds of crowds of people going about the business and busy market places just out of sight. The city of Ank’harel.
They party debates their next move. The guard directs them to several nice inns. Scanlan stops a few teenage boys, passing by with some baskets of fruit. They are intrigued by this small pale gnome addressing them. “You are a very small man.”
“Its a glandular condition.”
Scanlan compliments them on their fruit and ask where he might find a market to sell it and other wares. The boys tell him its a rare fruit but he is welcome to buy it from them. Scanlan immediately calls them out on this scam. They give him directions to the Suncut Bazaar. Scanlan thanks them, then discretely adds, as if asking about drugs, “Spice? Spice? Do you spice?”
The boys are confused. Scanlan assures them, “I’m not an authority. Do you spice?”
They are still confused. “It’s cool. It’s cool.” He tosses them a coin and leaves and rejoins the group. “They seemed legit! They looked like street kids! I have an eye for these things!”
The party heads to the Suncut Bazaar. They pass many more sights and sounds. Smells of exotic cooking, sounds of music. They notice what appears to be a docked airship off in the distance. Spot a single tower in the center of city that stretches to impossibly high heights above the city.
They enter a large open-sky area filled tents, carts, and vendors that is the Suncut Bazaar. It has street performers and more sounds of music and smells of food. The crowd seems mostly human, though they spot some half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings that walk openly. The party, mostly Grog, seems to earn a few sideways glances by the locals. Vax sticks near Grog, not liking the looks he is getting.
The party begins perusing the market. They do not spot any spice markets. Keyleth is intrigued by the abundance of fruit merchants despite the arid environment. Percy begins looking for a fortune teller or soothsayer. Grog looks for a magic vendor, but is distracted by a tiny red pebble on the road. He gets down on his hands and knees and picks it up, tastes it and pets it.
Vax watches in amazement and amusement as Grog is mesmerized by this little pebble.
Percy has no luck finding his fortune teller. Vex asks him what he looking for. He tells her that he thinks a fortune teller might be able to help them find what they are looking for and also begin to get word around that they are in the city, maybe drawing what they seek to them. Vex helps him and Keyleth look.
They hear Grog excitedly shout “I found a rock!” from some distance away.
Scanlan begins covertly fishing the crowd with subtle calls and doublespeak for “spice.” People seem generally confused by this and continue pass him, paying him no mind.
He eventually is approached by a younger man, he quietly asks him “You are looking for spice, yes?” The man is wearing a headscarf but appears to be a half-elf. He tells Scanlan he knows some spice merchants. Scanlan tells him he is uneasy about talking about it in public and suggest they walk and talk. They leave the bazaar together.
Percy, Vex, and Keyleth find a man sitting on a carpet under a slung-canopy. He has a long silver beard. He sits, legs crossed, his eyes closed. A deck of cards sits on the carpet. They sit down in front of him.
“Be pleased.” They greet him in the local customary way they were taught.
“Be pleased.” He answers opening his eyes to reveal they are entirely white. He is blind.
Staring past them, he asks what they want to be read first. Percy pays him. He begins shuffling the cards with an exotic flare. He asks “What would you like to be read?”
Percy responds “We search for a garment.” Referring to the cloak that is the next vestige they seek. “We search for a man. And we search for answers towards the future that we eventually run into.”
He draws two cards, one is an image of a campfire and the other depicts a storm. The fortuneteller tells him the garment they seek is in motion. He tells them they must move quickly to catch it.
He draws two more cards, one is blank except for a small symbol they don’t recognize. The other depicts a hand of playing cards atop a pile of gold. “You seek this man, yet, it is not a man you seek. To where the luck brings you, the answers lie.”
“Your last question?” He draws two more cards.
Percy: “We move towards a conflict. What should we know? What should we be prepared for?”
He tosses the cards in front of them. One depicts a large chasm in the earth, the other a single sunken skull. “The path leads to change. Historic. But many will fall if the transition is to take. Make your time wisely, for the hourglass runs quickly.”
Percy thanks him. The man sets the cards back down in front of him and closes his eyes. Vex sets more gold down in front of him. He takes it and shuffles the cards. “You ask for one more question. What do you wish to know?”
Vex quietly asks “Did I make the right choice?” Referring to their conflict with Saundor in the Feywild.
The fortuneteller draws two more cards. One depicting hard clasped in a handshake, and the other a sunrise. “You have made many choices, but the one you speak of brings unity and a new dawn.”
The party regroups and decides to head to the Shade, one of the taverns they heard about. The realize Scanlan is missing. They contact him over their magical earnings. He covertly tells them he is fine and that he will catch up with them. They head towards the Shade.
The man with Scanlan is confused. Scanlan tells them he is looking for Fusaka. The man tells him that he knows a man but that man would have to bring it to him. They arrange a meeting place. That night in the casino. He tells Scanlan to wear a red shirt. The man asks how much he would like and Scanlan tells him enough for “a week of heavy use.”
The man is taken aback and warns him that he should be careful, being as small as he is.
“Don’t tell me what to do. I can take it. Let’s just say when I started using I was your height!”
The man heads off. Scanlan runs off to meet the rest of the party.
They group arrives at the Shade, which is a large tent. Many guests sit about on cushions and around tables smoking hookah. They spot a woman nearby and they ask her if she has seen a “warrior merchant” with one eye: the person said to possess the vestige they seek. She tells them “warrior merchant” may refer to the mercenary organization, the “Scar Bearers.” She directs them to the inn “The Debt’s Respite,” which is run by the group.
The group decides to stay at the Shade for awhile. Keyleth informs them that the Earth Ashari tribe of her people are “all about” hookah. They decide to order some.
Vax asks Grog about his pebble.
Grog: “Little teeny is my friend. Alright? He spoke to me in the desert of fate and he is mine and mine alone!”
Scanlan tells him about the spice deal he made.
Their hookah arrives. Keyleth tries to instruct Vax and Percy on how. They struggle through it.
Grog flags down a server and tell them that he is royalty and prides himself in sampling the strongest “spirit” everywhere he goes. The suggest “Sandkeg’s Hide”, warning him that it is quite expensive. Grog asks about a bottle and they tell him that it is 350GP a bottle. He orders two, much to the shock of the party, especially Vex.
The server comes back with two large green bottles with heavy leather stoppers bound shut with wax. Grog tips him 100 extra GP.
Vex: “Okay! We are saving a bottle!”
Percy opens the bottle and pours himself a glass. He tries it. It tastes horrible and a numbness comes over his tongue, throat, and whole face. He is instantly intoxicated with only a sip. Keyleth tries it as well to the same effect. Grog decides not to try it after all. Vax attests that he will try it another time when they are not in public.
They party decides to head to The Debt’s Respite. They decide to not let Percy lead the way. They eventually get there. It is another tavern, this one more akin to what they are used to in the Tal’dore. The inquire with a server about rooms and they are directed to Treev, a tail-less bronze dragonborn. Immediately identifying them as foreigners, he charges them a ridiculous price. The party asks him if he has heard about Draconia. He has not.
The tell him Draconia has fallen. He is elated by the news and asks for them to share with him all the details in exchange for fair prices on the room. They explain the Chroma Conclave attacks, the attack on Draconia, and now the current subjugation of the Ravinites by their new master, the dragon Vorugal. He excitement wanes as the story goes on but he honors their agreement.
They ask him about the “warrior merchant” with one eye. He tells them they are looking for Mistress Asharu, and that she works for the Scar Bearers, and that he himself is a member. He says that she is one of their best and tells them that if they wish to have her services they can write a proposal and that he can have it delivered to her. Percy, now sober, writes up a proposal explaining the dire situation they are in, asking to meet, and offering to purchase or rent the vestige off of her. He gives it to the dragonborn with 400gp, for a meeting fee, to be delivered to her.
Treev gestured to a cloaked figure. Hands them the scroll and gold and sends them off. Vax leaves and follows, stealthy trailing the figure all the way to a building that appears to be a furniture store. The figure drops the message and gold in a hole in the wall hidden by a barrel and runs off. Vax returns, unspotted.
They leave the Respite and after some shopping, to which Percy fails to haggle for potions, they head to the palace to attempt to meet with J’mon Sa Ord. The explain to the guards that they are ambassadors from Tal’dore and wish to meet the emperor regarding the fate of the world. A message is sent within, and they are soon met by a woman in ornate dress, she greets them very formally and leads them inside.
After waiting in a room, they are led into a lift of sorts and it begins taking them high up into the tower. They are treated to a magnificent view of the city through the thin crystal walls of the tower as they are lifted higher and higher.
They arrive in a throne room at the very top of the tower. The ceiling covered with silks and banners of many different colors. They see wispy clouds passing outside at this height. A figure sits upon a throne position high column. A humanoid, barefoot, dressed in plain clothing, no jewelry. Its features are sexless, almost alien like.
It stands from its throne, standing nearly as tall as Grog.
“Welcome to Ank’harel, heroes of Tal’dore. I am J’mon Sa Ord. It is my pleasure to meet you.”
To be continued…
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