SPOILERS for Critical Role Episode 57 (obviously).  Go check out the full episode at GeekandSundry.com!
My recap of Episode 56 can be found here.

Vax leads the party back to Vasselheim so that he can answer the Raven Queen’s summons.

Previously on Critical Role

While retrieving the Deathwalker’s Ward, the armor of the champion of the Raven Queen and one of the several Vestiges of Divergence, a magical trap took the life of Vex’ahlia. The cleric Kashaw swept in to revivify her, and as part of the ritual, Vax’ildan, her twin brother, pleaded for the Raven Queen to take his life in exchange for hers. Vex was brought back to life, and Vax later found out that his offer had been accepted and that he was to be the new champion of the Raven Queen. She beckoned him to come to her temple in Vasselheim.

After defeating the ancient black dragon Umbrasyl and helping set the city of Westruun on a path of rebuilding, Vox Machina heads to Vasselheim so that Vax may finally answer her call.

Now

Keyleth casts Transport via Plants to bring the party through a tree into the cold walled city of Vasselheim. Vax offers to go see the Raven Queen alone as he knows the others had other errands to run. Percy clarifies that he was the only one with errands. Grog offers to help him and Percy says that would be welcome. Remembering last time Grog was left to his own devices in Vasselheim, Vex implores Percy to make sure that Grog doesn’t throw any of the party’s money away “haggling.”

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Before the group actually splits up to their own tasks, they decide to visit the Slayer’s Take, the monster hunter guild of which they are now members, to take advantage of their free accommodations there and attempt to sell some of Umbrasyl’s bits to Vanessa, the tiefling leader of the Take.

Vanessa welcomes them coolly as usual. They boastfully inform her of the large number of various ancient black dragon bits they now possess. Only slightly impressed, she checks he ledgers and informs them there is no standing contract for anything from a black dragon. There is, however, a demand for white dragon hide. The party realizes they still have 64 lbs of white dragon scales from a battle years ago and offer those, simultaneously realizing how many dragons they have slain over their career. Vanessa is unimpressed by the boastful banter.

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Vanessa makes them an offer for the scales but Vex, true to form, doesn’t like it and tries to get a better price. Vanessa doesn’t budge and Vex turns down the offer, choosing to keep the scales.

Percy heads off to the Braving Grounds district of the city to visit Victor, the black powder merchant. Grog and Scanlan accompany him. They find his home currently under repair. Craftsmen are patching the roof that had previously been blasted open. There is no answer at the door and the workers claim they haven’t seen Victor come out in a few hours.

“I’m going to peek in, okay?”

“Your funeral.”

Percy enters to find the abode covered in soot and empty. He is about to leave when he hears a muffled thud. He finds a trap door, a heavy sack of some sort toppled over on top of it. Percy heaves the sack off and opens the door to find a disgruntled Victor beneath.

“YOU TRYIN’ TO KILL ME!?”

“No! Victor, its me, Percy, I wanted to give you money!”

“DON’T PUT STUFF ON THE DOOR! MAKES IT HARD TO GET OUT!”

Percy calls in Grog and Scanlan. Victor asks for help out of the hole, revealing his left hand, which once proudly sported two remaining fingers, now freshly bandaged with zero fingers. Grog grabs Victor by the wrist and violently yanks him out of the hole.

“Don’t shake me too hard! Trust me.”

“Gas?”

“… sure.”

Victor explains that the trap door leads to the mine he is building.

Percy says that he would like to buy more black powder and that he has questions regarding a previous customer of his, a one handed lady. This referring to Dr. Ripley, a traitor of Percy’s hometown of Whitestone that escaped its liberation and has been attempting to replicate Percy’s firearm technology.

Victor, clearly misunderstanding, waves his stub wildly “I’M NOT A LADY I AM AN HONORABLE MAN!”

This eventually leads to Victor convincing himself that Percy is flirting with him. He says sideways to Grog, “Your friend is hitting on me, but I’m taken.”

“He says he’s taken.”

Percy: “Oh, uh, are you dating?”

“NO, I’M JUST TAKEN!”

Percy cuts to the chase, offering to build Victor a claw hand in exchange for the black powder he needs and information about Ripley. Scanlan proposes a time saving alternative:

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Percy decides to go forward with the creation of the prosthetic. Victor agrees that he will give Percy his black powder upon its delivery.

Meanwhile, Vax, Vex, Keyleth, and Pike make their way to the Duskmeadow district of Vasselheim, which contains the city catacombs, the prison, and Raven’s Crest, the cathedral to the Raven Queen.

Vex lets Trinket out of his magic “pokeball” locket and Vax nervously talks to the bear for most of the walk.

They reach Raven’s Crest. Vex stays behind with Trinket, honoring her brother’s wishes for her to not enter the temple.

Vax and Vex exchange reassurances.  Vex jokes that the Raven Queen will love Vax, and who knows, he might have a new girlfriend when he comes out, citing Kashaw’s relationship with his goddess/wife, Vesh, as an example. Keyleth reassures Vex that they will be okay and nobody will die. If they don’t come out in like an hour they should go after them. But they’ll definitely be okay.

Vax’s warm smile fades as he turns from his sister to approach Raven’s Crest with Pike and Keyleth.

A shrouded figure emerges as they approach and beckons the trio inside. They discover that the building, made of a dark obsidian-like material, is translucent from the interior, like one-way glass. Vax takes a moment to look back at his sister waiting outside before following the acolyte deeper.

The acolytes seem to be expecting Vax. An older elven woman greets them. Speaking directly to Vax, she says, “you walk with her sight upon you. You are ever welcome here.”

“I’ve come to understand my place in her sight.”

“I think, perhaps, you are here for communion. Come to our most sacred chamber. The communion pool awaits. Only you may have entry, unfortunately.”

Vax kisses them both on the cheek.

Keyleth asks, “do you need anything? Enchantment?”

“Just cross your fingers for me, okay?”

“We are right out here. If anything terrible happens, you have the ear piece. Nothing will stop me and Pike from getting in there… Rules be damned.”

Vax follows the elven woman up a spiral staircase to a large door. Beyond a massive chamber, there is a 100ft high ceiling of nothing but stained glass projecting various colors that cascade about the room. A pool of dark red liquid sits at the center.

“You came to speak to the lady. The way is before you.” The woman gestures to the pool and Vax wades into it, immediately confirming suspicions that it was blood. He submerges himself, going deeper. He eventually lets the liquid into his lungs. He begins to drown. Then suddenly the fluid warms, and lightens, his breathing returns, and he finds himself in the same endless space he has visited in his dreams. The porcelain-faced Raven Queen before him.

“My champion, Vax’ildan, you’ve come to me at last.”

“This was always supposed to happen, wasn’t it.”

“It is destiny, but you still guide your path were it must go. Especially you, fate-touched, you are one of the few that bends threads near and around you. That is why you are so interesting to me.”

Vax pledges his service to her as per the bargain that he made, but he questions if the bargain is the true cause, if he was destined to be here regardless.

“I know that you hate me. I know that you fear me. Most do. But it is only because they are without understanding. Without death, life has no meaning. Finality drives change. Innovation. Greatness. It is the end that I bring that drives all of your gracious creations of this land to make the world better than we did, than those before me did.”

“I will learn your ways, I will learn your purpose, and I will serve.”

She explains that it is her charge, and now his charge, to safeguard the moment of transition of life until death. That those that strive to pervert that transition, to prolong life unnaturally, through necromancy and undeath, are abominations. “These things are atrocities that must be stopped and stamped out.”

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She reveals her mortal form to him, the form of the woman she was before she ascended. She kisses him on the forehead and the blood rushes back into and around him. Vax resurfaces and is helped out of the pool by acolytes. They lead him back out.

He says to them, “I got answers in there but they lead to more questions. What am I to do with those questions?”

The elven woman smiles and answers, “that is the nature of death. We can’t have all the answers. It is the pursuit of those answers that drives us. Do you trust her?”

“I do.”

Vax is reunited with Pike and Keyleth. Keyleth immediately questions him. “You look well.”

“Its going to be good.”

“Did she speak to you at all?”

Vax doesn’t answer her, instead he turns to Pike and asks the cleric “Do you speak to her?,” referring to Sarenrae. “Do you understand?”

“I don’t think any of us can fully understand. If we did then we would be gods.”

Vax explains that he thinks this was all destined to happen.”You and I wouldn’t be standing here if my sister hadn’t stolen a broom. What sense is that? I teleported inside a dragon with a gnome and I am still standing here. What is that if not fate.”

Keyleth is unconvinced. “You are amazing and talented and special way before she found you. The Vax I see before me now is no different than the Vax I saw ten minutes ago.”

“This is real. This was meant to be.”

“Is it meant to be? Or is it just what you really wanted, and it found you?”

Vax is visibly irritated, he laughs, then responds, rage audibly growing in his voice, “this is NOT what I wanted.” He swallows the rage, thanks them again and heads out to see his sister.

They exit Raven’s Crest and find a clearly very worried Vex. She rushes forward. “Oh my god, is that blood? Is that blood all over you.”

“I’m okay. It’s going to be okay.”

“Well, you are alive! Are you stronger now? You are probably so strong!”

“I think I might be weaker, actually,” he says with a wry smile, “I have the jelly legs.”

Vex lets Vax rides Trinket back to the Slayer’s take.

Meanwhile, Percy has sent Scanlan and Grog out with a shopping list and a 100 GP allowance for the materials he needs to build Victor’s claw. With Scanlan’s unyeilding charisma, they are able to find everything fairly quickly and fetch it all for excellent prices, leaving them with 60 gold left over.

Scanlan decides to look for a hat shop, eventually finding one. They enter and are greeted by a large boisterous woman. Scanlan describes a large brimmed, pointed hat (a witches hat, presumably for Vex to go with her stolen Broom of Flying). She says she has nothing like that but could custom make it in a few hours.

Scanlan is adamant that Grog get a hat. After rejecting the leather skullcap with decorative floral stitching that was enthusiastically thrust onto his head by the woman, he settles for a half-helm with a very large metal spike on it.

They head back to the take to find the others returned. The deliver Percy his supplies and the group is thoroughly entertained by Grog’s horny helmet. Pike, whose face is mostly obscured by the thing, ends up running headlong out of the mess hall and embedding it in the ground. Vax laughs hysterically at the shenanigans before leaving to wash the dried blood off of himself.

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Percy, with bardic inspiration from Scanlan, sits in the corner of the hall with his tea and tinkerer’s kit, tuning out the nonsense. He works late into the night and eventually completes the prosthetic, complete with a removable claw and replaceable spike pick attachment.

He leaves alone to deliver the creation right then and there. He wakes Victor, who answers the door in pajamas and a long nightcap. He is disgruntled, but immediately is excited and happy to see Percy when he sees the hand. Victor enthusiastically invites him in and offers him tea.

He struggles with the tea until Percy grabs his arm and begins strapping on the prosthetic and showing him how it works. Victor enthusiastically uses it to serve tea.

Percy then shows him the spike attachment, intended for use in Victor’s mine. Victor promptly breaks his wooden table with it.

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Percy chokes down the pungent (and likely black powder marinated) tea and asks about Ripley. Victor says she only visited once and bought twelve hogs-heads-worth of black powder. Percy is perturbed by this absurdly large quantity.

He thanks Victor for the tea, Victor thanks him again for the hand, and Percy quickly leaves before he might get accidentally stabbed by his creation.

Percy decides to take a detour to the Duskmeadow on the way back to the Take. He finds the Raven’s Crest and enters. He finds it empty.

“Hello? What do I have to pay to fix this?”

He hears movement and follows it. Following footfalls up spiral stairs. He finds himself at the same large chamber Vax visited earlier.

“Hello? Please. Something terrible has happened. I don’t understand how these things work. I need help to fix something. Something terrible has happened.”

Silence.

He turns to leave. “You obviously care little for this world.”

A whisper creeps to his ear. “Is it yourself you wish to fix or something more?”

“I don’t think I can be fixed, but there is something broken in the world.”

“Come. Let us talk. Step in. Join me.”

Percy approaches the pool. He strips. And then he enters.

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He submerges himself. Holding his breath he reaches the bottom. He pushes off to resurface but it never comes. Percy panics. He goes back for the bottom. It comes faster than anticipated and he strikes his head. He loses his breath and blood floods his lungs. Pain. He begins drowning.

Then, like Vax, the pain fades. The fluid thins, and Percy finds himself standing face to face with the Raven Queen.

“Do you know what I have done?”

“I’ve watched.”

“I have questions.”

“Ask them.”

Percy asks about Orthax the Shadow Demon that bound to his soul to feed off of his thirst for vengeance against the Briarwoods. The demon was previously untethered from Percy and cast off after a battle with Vox Machina in the tunnels beneath Whitestone. “Can we stop it? Can we stop what has been released.”

“Many things have been released in this world. Ask the right questions.”

“Did it choose me because I was broken or did it break me?”

“You were always broke, Percival. You were preyed upon just as it preys upon others, as it will continue to do until it is destroyed. You deeds will pave your way to damnation or salvation.”

“Mortals can achieve great things. I did” Percy is suddenly enveloped again and forced to the surface.

Percy emerges, carefully cleans the blood off of himself, dresses, and takes a small vial of blood from the pool. He leaves Raven’s Crest, casts Hex on himself for the walk home, and disspells it upon entering the Slayers Take. Vex notices a tiny bit of blood that he missed behind his ear when he enters.

The next morning the party debates their next move. The Feywild is still on the to-do list as one of the Vestiges is said to reside there. Percy suggests they return to Whitestone first to check in on the refugees and their allies and empty the, now nearly full, bag of holding. Keyleth reveals that she now has the ability to plane shift them all to the Fey Wild from anywhere so they could go right from Whitestone if they wanted. The party agrees to this plan and Keyleth transports them to the town square of Whitestone (via the Sun Tree).

The party goes down to find Gilmore, who they learn has been studying the mysterious “death orb” that was left as a result of Lady Briarwood’s ritual upon the ziggurat in the caverns beneath Whitestone.

They meet Gilmore and he shares warm greetings with each of them in turn. He then insists that they all head back up to the castle for dinner and they will discuss their findings with the ziggurat once all those knowledgeable of it are present, including Arcanist Allura.

Keyleth suggests to Vex and Pike that this is a great opportunity to break out their formal wear. The ladies agree and they head off to get ready.

While dressing, they ask Pike about Scanlan’s proposal to her. She confesses she is conflicted, that she thinks he is very charming but that she has feelings for another but doubts anything will ever come of that, so who knows. The three puzzle over Scanlan’s charismatic prowess and how it seems to have steadily increased since they first met him.

The party reconvenes in the hall of the castle. They catch up with Cassandra, Percy’s sister, who has been running Whitestone. Arcanist Allura and Lady Kima of Vord, the halfling paladin of Bahamut, arrive, both dressed in nice dresses. They both greet the party warmly. Kima expresses discomfort with her attire.e57-8

Vox Machina presents the bottles of very fine wine taken from Umbrasyl’s treasure hoard and they are opened and passed around.

They all discuss the ziggurat with Allura, Gilmore, and others. They explain that any object to come into contact with it is violently pulled within and vanishes. But it is not, however, a Sphere of Annihilation, as Allura had originally feared. It appears to her, she explains, to be a siphon. Drawing and transmitting energy to some unknown location for some unknown purpose.

Allura also provides information on the dragons of the Chroma Conclave she has uncovered through her research, but most of it is already known by the party.

They learn that Allura and her companions originally trapped Thordak on the Elemental Plane of Fire by tricking him into going there in search of a heartstone and imbuing its power. The nature of this stone locked him on the plane, but it appears he found a way to leave anyway.

Allura points out that he was not nearly this large when they first put him there.

Gilmore reveals that when he was saving Sovereign Uriel’s family, he got an up close look at Thordak, and it appears the heartstone is still embedded in his chest.

Dinner is concluded and everyone filters off to their quarters. Grog rushes to Vax’s door and uses his Alchemy Jug to pour oil across the floor in front of the door. He sneaks off to his room cackling.

Vex confronts Percy about the blood. She suspects that he visited the Raven Queen. He dodges the question and instead asks her to talk a walk with him. They stroll wordlessly about the city, observing its still standing temples. They visit the graveyard, its corpses recently replaced since being raised by Lady Briarwood not long ago.

They return and find Zahra. Percy tells her that he is having the Anderson family crypt placed in her name and that he would like her to empty it and convert it to a small discreet temple to the Raven Queen, giving her the vial of blood from the communion pool.

“Are you doing this to help my brother?”

“I am doing this for your brother, so that he can help us.”

She kisses him on the cheek.

She returns to find Vax waiting for her in the hall.

“He is a charming fellow, but both eyes open, okay?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“The fuck you don’t.” Vax heads upstairs.

He spots the oil and uses it to write insults on Grog’s door. Vex walks by as he is at it. “You know he can’t read, right?”

That night Vax is awoken by a knock on his door. He opens it to find Gilmore. Gilmore tosses him a silk tunic and asks him to put it on and go for a walk with him. Vax obliges, taking Gilmore’s arm.

Gilmore leads him to a balcony, illuminated by the moon. Gilmore tells Vax that he hurt him.

Vax nods understandingly. He and Gilmore had previously grown close and danced around each other for some time before Vax confessed his feeling about Keyleth to him and put a stop to it. He was disappointed but seemed take it well enough in the moment. Perhaps not.

Gilmore continues that he had been in pain. Agony. For months. That he could think of nothing else.

Vax is confused, no longer sure he knows what Gilmore is getting on about. But before he can inquire a blade is thrust into his gut. Shocked, Vax looks up to see Gilmore’s face twisted in rage. His form shifts, fur, whiskers, backwards hands. The rakshasa Vax had killed for the Slayer’s Take contract is in Vasselheim months ago, back from the nine hells with vengeance.

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To be continued…


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Episode 58 – “Cycle of Vengeance” Recap