SPOILERS for Critical Role Episode 63 (obviously). Go check out the full episode at GeekandSundry.com!
My recap of Episode 62 can be found here.
Vox Machina delves into the depths of the Shademurk Bog in the Feywild in search of the cancerous tree that houses a legendary artifact, the bow Fenthras.
Previously on Critical Role
The party first glimpses the Shademurk but a twisting tangle of rapids stands between them and their destination. The party struggled against the raging waters but after surving several close calls with the currents and a particularly angry Feymire Crocodile, the group finally makes it to the sludge-covered banks of the Shademurk. They investigate and stumble upon a small hut. Scanlan and Pike investigate but flee after they see a figure within. The door creaks open, beckoning from afar to the party to venture closer if they dare.
The party regards the open door for a few moments and promptly gives a collective “NOPE” and walks the other way, realizing it is likely the hut Garmelie warned them about.
Pike is unable to hold on to her divine projection form and it dissipates.
They reroute around the hut and continue toward the center of the Shademurk. They travel for some time before they spot movement in the distance through the trees. They spot two trolls that seem to be eating something. The party stops to contemplate how to proceed.
They watch as the trolls are alerted to something and they pause and look around. One turns to the other and says something and both dive into the muck and out of sight.
Not fancying the idea of being ambushed from the ground the party devises ways for them to continue forward off the ground. Vex and her brother ride the broom. Percy imbibes his potion of climbing to allow him to parkour through the trees with ease. Keyleth polymorphs Grog into a gorilla, much to his enjoyment, then beast shapes into a giant eagle, Scanlan clambering onto her back.
It is noted that Grog’s intelligence is unchanged as a Gorilla.
They begin weaving their way through the treetops. Percy, empowered with his potion, and Grog deftly swing and jump branch to branch through the trees. The others pull up above the canopy and are able to see the entire bog below them. It is those in the air that eventually make out a gigantic looming tree at the center of the bog.
They approach it, growing closer and closer until they arrive in its massive shadow. Those in the air circle around it to get a closer look.
Vex notices the tree occasionally moving and writhing. “I think the tree is alive, and not in a normal plant sort of way. I don’t want to get close to that thing.”
Vax rests his chin on his sister’s shoulder. “You know that bow is going to be really cool.”
“God, I hope so.”
While the others are scouting from the air, Percy approaches the gigantic tree from the canopy below for a better look. Grog stays behind and passes the time looking for parasites in his fur. He finds a few. They are delicious. After seeing no determinable opening among the trunk and tangles of vines and branches, Percy begins scouting for a location for Scanlan to place the door to his mansion.
Percy asks for a log about 2ft in diameter. The group takes some time to find him one that meets his description. He tells the group he intends to use it to fashion swamp shoes to allow them walk across the surface of the bog without sinking into the muck.
Keyleth lands and transforms back to her normal half-elven form and changes Grog back to normal as well. She contemplates tranforming into an earth elemental and exploring the bog around the tree underground, but she would have to rest for a bit first.
They decide to sit and take a short rest in the trees, but shortly after they settle, they find the branches they are perched on begin to slowly sag, and they find themselves beginning to slide off of the slick, slime covered bark. Vex and Keyleth, unsure if they said something to offend the trees, begin giving the branches compliments and words of encouragement, but it has no effect. The twins kick off on the broom into the air once more. Grog and Scanlan successfully leap to another branch, but Percy and Keyleth plummet about fifteen feet to the ground below, landing about knee-deep in the muck.
Vex lowers rope from her broom in an attempt to help them pull themselves out of the sludge.
The group decides to have Scanlan cast Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion and they all enter, tracking in muck across the foyer of the pocket-dimension. He has his spectral servants begin to clean their feet and the mess.
The group examines the muck for ill effects. Keyelth attempts to burn it to no avail. Grog tastes it. It is disgusting but causes no decernable ill-effects.
Vax dismounts Vex’s broom and hobbles off to find ice for his loins.
Percy heads down to his workshop with Keyleth and the log they found to begin to fashion his swamp shoes. Scanlan inspires him with cringe-worthy inspirational quotes. He manages to fashion a set of crude shoes made out of thin slices of the log.
Keyleth rests for a short time and heads to the front door to explore the earth around the tree.
Grog heads off to the kitchen. The party hears bangs and crashes coming shortly after.
Vex: “Should you go check on that?”
Scanlan shrugs, “I’m sure it’s fine.”
They exit the mansion, Vex on her broom, Scanlan on Vex’s lap. Vax, bag of ice on his crotch, takes a seat in the doorway to watch. Keyleth transforms into an Earth Elemental and dives into the muck. Disappearing into its depths, a few bubbles appear in her wake.
Vex realizes too late they probably should have tethered her with the infinite rope.
Keyelth burrows through the ground. She finds the tar-like muck is only about three feet deep. She begins burrowing towards the massive tree, weaving through tree roots and occasionally finding pockets of the sludge. She eventually gets to beneath the tree. She reaches out and touches one of its roots. Nothing happens.
She makes her way back to the others, emerging covered in muck. She transforms back to normal.
The re-enter the mansion to the continued sound of crashing and destruction coming from the kitchen. They go to investigate.
They find Grog completely destroying the place with his fists. Spectral servants are nervously trying to pick up the pieces only to have them knocked to the ground again by the goliath.
Scanlan: “What are you doing? This is the kitchen, we need to eat here!?”
Grog holds up his Titanstone Knuckles, “I am trying to activate these! And they require pain!” He continues smashing, denting a cauldron, then examining the gauntlets closely to no discernible effect.
“Maybe I need to hit people.”
Vax begins backing out of the room slowly.
Percy walks in on the destruction followed by Keyleth.
Keyleth: “Scanlan, I didn’t know you were remodeling!”
“I didn’t intend to, but Grog seems to have forgotten we have a training room downstairs…”
Scanlan suggests to Grog he try attacking one of the spectral servants, ordering one to stand in front of the goilath. Grog reaches out to crush the servants head and his gauntleted hand passes right through it. “Make yourself grabbable!” He tries again to the same result.
He turns to Scanlan, deadpan, “Fix this.”
“I thought that would work, honestly.”
Vax: “Scanlan actually told me you have to do that thirty-three times before it takes hold, so just keep going.”
Grog unquestioning begins repeated reaching through the servants head.
Scanlan eventually has an idea and leads Grog down to the training room.
“Okay Grog, you are going to punch me and keep punching me as long as you can.” He punctuates the sentence by polymorphing into a triceratops.
Grog is amazed. “IS THIS MY DAY-BIRTH!?”
The two spar, and eventually Grog whittles Scanlan down. The triceratops form breaks and Scanlan pops back into his normal gnome form.
Grog still notices no change in the gauntlets.
Scanlan asks to test out his own vestige, drawing Mythcarver. Grog allows Scanlan to attack him with the artifact. Scanlan sings a note and the blade vibrates, he plunges the longsword forward, piercing Grog. There is no additional effect.
Scanlan: “These things don’t work. I wish there was a manual.”
Vex heals Grog’s wounds.
The group decides to prepare to rest for the night. Vex decides to watch from the door of the mansion for a few hours. As she stares out into the forest, she notices a section of branches fall away, creating a hole in the canopy some distance away.
She shuts the door and finds Keyleth and describes what she saw. Keyelth is not sure what could have caused that to happen.
They party discusses the science of the forest. Percy has theories. Vax points out that things may not work the same in the Feywild as their homeplane. Keyelth decides to commune with nature to learn more about the massive corrupted tree.
She goes outside and lays down in the muck on her back and she casts the spell. She asks what is feeding the tree. She gets a one word answer: “Saundor.” She asks what the tree’s weakness is. She gets no response. She asks if the tree is hurting the surrounding land. “Yes.” She asks if the tree is more than just a tree. “Yes.”
Keyleth comes out of her trance and re-joins the party in the mansion. The group determines that “Saundor” appears to be a name. They speculate that Saundor is the name of the Archfey that corrupted this land, creating the Shademurk, and that he likely still resides inside the tree. They begin planning their course of action for the morning.
Vex expresses doubt that it’s even worth it to go through all this trouble to acquire the bow for her. “Maybe its shit.”
Percy announces that he is going to bed, “I am going to sleep. There is nothing being solved right now that can’t be solved over coffee and bacon in the morning!”
They all head off to bed. Vax goes to his sister’s room before heading to his own. “We don’t get a lot of time to talk because everything is so fucked up. You seem really on edge, more than normal. Are you alright?”
Vex hesitates. “Yes. Its the weirdest thing. I never realized how much it effected me. It was good, standing in front of him with everyone else, wasn’t it?” speaking of her and Vax’s father.
“He’s not a concern for me anymore. I don’t think fondly back on it, we have bigger things on our plates. But I do care how he effects you. There is no question how much it effected you when Percival made that offer to you. I was a little surprised. Because…” Vax searches for the words, “Look, if that makes you happy then that is to be embraced and I am certainly in support of anything that gives our father heart-burn. But, I’m sorry, his offer, in your brother’s eyes, is a bit like gilding a lily, or framing a sunset. You have always been the coolest person I have ever known, and you still are. You are already perfect, at least in your brother’s eyes. I guess I just hope you believe in you as much as I do…because it’s quite a bit.”
“Well, I can’t give back the title. That would be…”
Vax interrupts, “You’re a countess now, I understand.”
“Baroness” Vex corrects him, with a smile. Vax smiles back, “Alright.”
Vex continues after a moment, “You have to admit I am just a little bit cooler now. Just a little?”
“Whatever floats your boat, stubby. Just don’t wuss out on me now.”
“You’ve always been stronger than me and I need you to keep doing that.”
“It’s all an act, dear.”
“I love you. Thank you. Now go get some sleep. Your feathers are all ruffled.”
The next morning arrives and Vex goes to Percy’s bedroom. Percy answers the door groggily.
“Oh, sorry, I forgot you are grumpy when you wake up.”
“Its alright. Good Morning.”
“Vax came to talk to me last night and it reminded me of something I wanted to say to you. Thank you, seriously. We haven’t really had a moment to say anything.”
“What you did back there in Syngorn was more than I ever expected and honestly, I don’t know of any other time someone has stuck up for me quite as much, outside of Vax. So thank you.”
“You’re welcome. It’s a lovely thing to have a title. When used primly and properly, its mostly there to remind you that you don’t really need it.”
“Right. Question, though…”
“I sort of realized, being a baroness of Whitestone, that I literally owe my fealty and allegiance to you?”
Percy smiles, amused. “Yes.”
Vex throws out her arms and dips into an exaggerated curtsey, “Thank you, grand sire De Rolo!” She straitens back up, “But seriously, if there is anything you ever need in return…”
“Never do that again. That was very weird.” Percy interrupts. “Honestly, it was worth it just to see the look on your father’s face.”
“It was quite wonderful.”
“And it doesn’t change anything…though, I imagine you will eventually become very insufferable.” he adds with a smile.
“Only sometimes, dear.”
The two head down for breakfast together. They find breakfast being served directly on the table, as no plates survived Grog’s rampage from the day prior.
They finish breakfast and begin to head out. Percy explains his swamp shoes and distributes them out. They are large circular slices of log tied to the bottom of their boots. Grog’s immediately breaks under his weight.
The party nervously approaches the tree, deciding to go with the plan of pretending to be followers of the Archfey who have pilgrimaged to commune with it.
Percy: “Remember, a tree is a door that hasn’t been made yet…”
Keyleth: “That’s true! That’s an old druidic proverb!”
As they approach the tree Scanlan draws a tree-like symbol on his forehead with mud then does the same for Keyleth.
Keyleth: “What are you drawing?”
Scanlan: “Just a little mud-tree.”
Keyleth enthusiastically turns to Vex: “How does my mud tree look?”
Vex: “Looks kinda like a dick.”
Scanlan: “Don’t worry! Its for a good cause.”
The reach the tree. Scanlan steps forward and calls out: “Saundor! Saundor, hear us! We are your devotees! We have come to pay homage and respect to you! We follow your ways and your teachings! We wear your mark on our heads to show respect! Please show us your power and grant us your blessings!”
There is no response.
Keyleth casts speak with plants. “Saundor? Can you hear me?”
There is no response.
“I am Keyleth, from the Air Ashari. Druids of the prime realm. Are you still present?”
“I am here.”
“We would like to see your heart.”
There is the sound of cracking bark. Vines and branches begin untangling and pull away to reveal a tunnel into the tree itself.
Keyleth leads the party through the tight tunnel. Grog needs to crawl to fit.
Keyleth gets a flash of a vision. “We are not alone. He is watching us.”
After a short distance they enter a large, high, circular chamber that makes up the entirety of the interior of the tree. The room is dark. They enter.
Scanlan: “Saundor! We are Saundorites! Here to pay you homage!”
Keyleth gives Scanlan a look and wipes the tree-dick off of her forehead.
The light from the tunnel behind them begins to narrow as the tunnel closes behind.
A soft voice comes from somewhere above: “I know you. The moment you touched my sickness I knew you.”
Small patches of fungus begin to glow, illuminating the chamber. The walls of the chamber are covered with the writhing vines and branches. The branches come together in a sort of domed ceiling, hundreds of vines hanging down.
“Why do you come here, children of the lost? What brings you to Saundor’s madness and pain?”
The branches in the ceiling separate slightly and a humanoid creature is lowered through it by a tangle of vines sprouting from its back and shoulders. It’s an elf-like figure comprised almost entirely of vines and branches. It descends all the way to the ground of the chamber in front of them.
It looks up at them. Its eyes shine a vibrant yellow light that illuminates all of them.
Vex bows. Everyone except Grog and Keyleth follow her lead.
“You all come here, but one of you is the reason.” He looks directly at Vex. “Sweet, broken, Vex’ahlia; unwanted daughter, unproven ally. Selfish and cruel. You drive those you would call family into danger and death for your own gain.”
Vex responds, tears in her eyes, “I don’t want anything you offer!”
Saundor continues, “My intent is not to hurt but to understand. I see much of my youth in you. We are not as different as you may think. But you have things I do not. Companionship. I have been without for so very long, and the ones I have let in have hurt me so very deeply.” He looks away, recoiling slightly.
Vex: “You’ve been betrayed?”
Saundor looks back, “We all have to some degree, yes.”
Vex: “Is that why you are what you are now?”
“I don’t even remember… I just know that I am alone and she left me there.”
“She? Who is she?”
“The memories have faded. I just want someone to understand me. That is all. Can you understand me?”
“Is there trust in you?” He steps closer to her, observing her curiously.
“You want to be loved?”
“I wish for a bond. A companion once more. Would you embrace me? Embrace your rebirth? I can give you so much!”
Vax, quietly: “Vex’ahlia…”
She glances at her brother, then back at Saundor.
The archfey continues, “I can give you the means to protect them, your home.”
“What would you ask in return?”
“My heart is someone else’s” She draws her bow and nocks an arrow.
The vines lift him off the ground again and back away from her.
“All I ask is one that knows my pain. What is your answer?”
She looses the arrow, piercing the archfey in the chest. He gasps, his eyes wide. He opens his mouth and the same black tar-like sludge that covers the Shademurk pours out of his mouth.
He recomposes himself, the arrow still sticking out of his chest. “Then I am to be alone.” He reaches out with a hand and a twisting vine delivers to him a large longbow. Fenthras. More vines writhe to meet him, wrapping around him and adding to his mass. He is pulled back into the wall of the tree. He then bursts forth as a solid hulking figure of vines, bark, and tree.
Two large sections of either side of the chamber begin to stir and also break free from the walls.
Vax steps up, clicking his boots of haste, and flings all three of his daggers at the archfey. All strike true.
Percy un-shoulder’s “Bad News” and fires to disarm Saundor. He hits critically but it hangs on to the bow. Percy casts hex and takes another shot. This time he succeeds, knocking Fenthras from the archfey’s gnarled wooden hand. “Bow’s on the ground!”
A cloud of gas erupts from the ground, but all are able to avoid its effects.
Grog flings his axe, embedding it in the archfey’s chest, pulling it back with his chain of returning.
Saundor attempts to cast a spell in retaliation but Scanlan counterspells it. Saundor sinks into the ground, grabbing the bow as he passes and reemerges from the wall near the ceiling. He raises the legendary bow and nocks an arrow grown from his own arm and unleashes it at Grog. It explodes into a tangle of brambles that attempt to grapple him, but he resists. Saundor turns his focus to Vex and fires two arrows at her, both arrows finding their mark, piercing her armor.
Two treants burst from either side of the chamber. One lumbers up to Percy, slamming him. The other attacks the twins, missing Vex but finding Vax.
Scanlan unleashes a massive fireball from his wand at Saundor.
Keyleth casts tree stride, transforms into a Fire Elemental, and steps into one of the treants, beginning to burn it from the inside.
Vex returns arrows at Saundor, critting on one and grazing his face on another.
Saundor attempts another spell and Scanlan is unable to counterspell it. Gravity reverses and everyone, including the treants, fall upward into the high ceiling. Vax manages to grab onto a root in the ground to stop his fall. Gravity then rights itself and they plummet back, all landing prone on the ground. Keyleth loses concentration on her tree stride spell.
Vax attacks one of the treants before it can find its feet (roots?), chipping off large chunks of its bark, nearly finishing it. Saundor takes a shot at the rogue, but misses thanks to his cloak of displacement.
Percy leaps to his feet, heals himself, then turns to open fire on Saundor with his pistol, attempting to disarm the archfey again. He misses.
Vines from the wall grasp outward and attempt to grab Percy, Vax, Scanlan, and Keyleth. Keyleth’s fiery form burns them away, Percy and Vax manage to break free, but Scanlan is grabbed.
Grog climbs up vines and attacks Saundor with his ax. He punctuates the action by letting out a loud howl.
Saundor places his bow into the vines above him, reaches into the walls, and forms his fist into massive bark-covered bludgeons. He bashes Grog repeatedly. Grog manages to hang onto the vine.
He reaches up and grabs the bow again and shifts back into the wall. Grog hits him as he departs. He reemerges out of the ceiling on the other side of the chamber, bow at the ready.
The treants clamber to their feet just in time for the one to topple back over in a pile of cinder as Keyleth’s fire takes it.
Scanlan, unphased by being held to the wall, casts another fireball at the archfey.
Keyleth swoops up to the last treant, and attacks it with her fiery appendages. It catches fire as well.
Saundor sees Vex, still on the ground from her fall, and points at her. “YOU HAD YOUR CHOICE!” Vines wrap around her and begin to sap the life out of her due to his blight spell. She manages to resist part of the damage.
Vex stands, swallows a potion of healing, and casts hail of thorns and fires it at Sauldor. It strikes him in the chest then explodes in a shower of nettles. He fires an arrow back at her in retaliation.
Vax leaps up and moves to the treant, chipping away at its wooden form.
Percy holsters his pistol and leaps in drawing his sword, felling the treant, Keyleth’s fire consuming its motionless form.
There is a cracking sound of breaking bark and Ukurat the werewolf breaks his way into the chamber, answering Grog’s howl. He looks around. “WHERE IS MY QUARRY!?” They point up at the archfey. “VERY WELL!” And leaps up to the ceiling to engage it.
Saundor, now with a very angry lycan in his face, retreats into the wall, the werewolf getting a swipe on him as he leaves. He appears on the other side, and quickly unleashes two arrows into Vex, knocking her unconscious. He turns and fires his final arrow at Percy, critting, but Percy deflects some of the damage with his gloves of missile snaring.
Fire-Keyelth goes to burn Scanlan free but he waves her off. She waits for his lead. Scanlan heals Vex, waking her up, then casts Bigby’s Hand. It cups Keyleth’s fire elemental form and flings her at Saundor. She falls short, hitting the ground hard.
Saundor fires an arrow at Vex upon seeing her come to. “STAY DOWN!” His shot misses.
Vex takes another potion and fires back at Saundor. The archfey answers by casting blight again. Vex resists again but still loses most of the health she just regained.
Vax leaps over the burning treant, extending his giant black raven wings, flying up to Saundor daggers first. He lands, driving the dagers into his wooden form. Vax leans forward into the archfey’s face. “If you’re going to get to my sister, you are going to get through me!”
Percy takes several shots attempting disarm Sauldor again, failing to knock the bow free. He surges and fires three more times, shouting to the party to not let up.
Grog steps up between Vex and Saundor and shouts up to the archfey:
He hurls the javelin of lightning at him. The javelin explodes into a streak of electricity flying right over Vax’s shoulder into Saundor’s mouth, exploding the archfey into hundreds of wooden splinters. Vax is hurtled backwards across the chamber but manages to find air beneath his wings before he falls. Saundor’s remains rain down onto the whole chamber.
Vex jumps up on Grog’s back, “What the fuck!?”
Grog is shocked, “I….I honestly didn’t expect that to happen.”
Percy runs up and grabs the bow.
Ukurat lands on the ground and approaches them. He indignantly tells them he would have wished to have seen more of the battle. He tells them that their debt is square and now he will go off and help find a new home for his fellow lycans. He leaps out of the opening he created in the tunnel and exits.
Keyleth approaches Vex “Don’t let any man, or anyone for that matter, make you feel like you need them to be great. Because you don’t… I’m not good with words…”
“That was wonderful, Keyleth. Thank you.”
“He was an asshole.”
Percy walks up, mocking Saundor “WE ARE ALIKE, YOU AND I! BLARGH!!!”
Keyleth joins in: “YOU DRAG YOUR FRIENDS TO THEIR DOOOOM!!!”
They realize Scanlan is still trapped in vines in the wall. They go and free him.
They notice the writhing of the vines has stopped. Keyleth casts commune with nature. She feels the swamp still very much full of life, but a tension has been lifted. It appears that the corruption that plagues the bog is gone.
Vax tells Vex to try out her bow. The bowstring pulls back effortlessly and releases the arrow with a powerful force, electricity arcing from the arrows.
The party emerges from the tree, beginning to debate their next course of action. They consider whether or not to visit the hut they skipped over. This is regarded as a bad idea. “What about the theatre?!” They slowly realize there is a figure standing nearby, applauding them. A tall, slender, elfish, fey-like man, regally dressed, a mane of long curly red hair extending down his back.
He congratulates them and tells them it has been a pleasure over the last few days. He tells them he is a wanderer, traveling the world for artistic inspiration to fill his sketchbook.
Keyleth casts hold person simultaneously with Scanlan’s Resilient Sphere. They question him.
He seems unphased by his confinement. He asks what they will do next. He bids them good luck and gives them several pointers on their upcoming conflict with the dragons.
Keyleth piques up “For someone who hates the theatre, you are sure making a show of this.”
They release him and thank him. He thanks them for the memories and bids them farewell. He vanishes.
Vex: “He was fucking cool.”
The party grabs hands and Keyleth casts plane shift and they all vanish, appearing in the courtyard of Whitestone.
To be continued…
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