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"A Dance of Deception" (3x13) is the thirteenth episode of the third campaign of Critical Role. With a heist somewhat planned, the group attends the masquerade ball but have trouble keeping a low profile as various complications arise...

Synopsis

Announcements

Previously on Critical Role

Last we left off, our group of heroes had, after undergoing numerous investigations of their own, encountering some dangers and some curious, mysterious figures, they found themselves invited alongside their patron, Lord Eshteross to a masquerade ball transpiring at the Chandei Quorum chambers. This presented an opportunity to, one, seek out some possible bits of information that were important to Eshteross' disinterest in the the current ruling class of the city, and specifically, to plant a replica of Armand Treshi's ring onto his hand to replace the one he always wears on his thumb, that can be used then to track his whereabouts after the party. As to how you did that, well, you've proven to be somewhat creative and capable. That is being left to you.

So after purchasing some fancy outfits, crafting or receiving unique masks, you are divided into two troops that were set on their path via carriage to the top of the Core Spire. So after you've begun to crest around the sunset time of day, the oranges and purples and golds that begin to spread across the rock and stone dome structure, this massive event hall, you pull up in your separate carriages and watch as the rest of the invitees begin to, or have been emerging from their respective carriages, carts, or just walking from their neighborhoods to the space. They begin to step along the long carpet, through the large golden arches into the interior. However, you are still within your carriages with a few moments to figure out your final plotting and interest.

Part I

Fan art of Laudna in her ball costume, by @porzio art.[art 1]

Team Dorian consists of Dorian, Fearne, Orym, and Imogen; Team Eshteross is Lord Eshteross, Chetney, Laudna, FCG, and Ashton. As their carriages approach the gates, both groups try to quickly develop plans to replace Armand Treshi's ring, and hide what weapons they can on their persons. When they arrive at the ball, they enter and pass through security successfully. Dorian is announced as himself, Brontë Secondsun of the Silken Squall. Lord Eshteross's appearance is met with surprise by the assembled crowd of about 150 people.

Ginang Ela Lumas and Oshad Breshio are present, as is General Ratanish of the Paragon's Call. Lord Treshi arrives accompanied by a young half-elf woman, and they immediately split up as he begins to mingle. Gryz Alakritos, headmaster of the Allegiance of Allsight in Ank'Harel overseeing research into history and ruins, approaches Eshteross to commiserate about their mutual distaste for social events, revealing he came with Ajit Dayal.

Dorian is approached by a man in his 60s who introduces himself as Preston Drodelon, the Lord of the Quadroads in Vasselheim[1] who has now moved on to the city of Yios in Aeshanadoor. He points out Gavis Aranda, the Face of the Chandei Quorum. Orym notices that Cyrus Wyvernwind, Dorian's older brother, is also present and speaking to the half-elf woman that arrived with Lord Treshi.

Fan art of Dorian introducing his entourage, by Aviv Or.[art 2]

Gavis Aranda gives a brief welcoming speech, interrupted by anonymous voices from the crowd asking what the Quorum is doing about the recent attacks in the city. He assures them they are being handled. FCG overhears a conversation mentioning that the Stratos Throne turned down an invitation to attend. Ashton notices that the half-elf woman, Emoth Kade, has moved nearer the exit and is now sitting alone and appears to be waiting for something. Lord Eshteross identifies her as an apprentice in the Treshis' Gold Guild and Ashton approaches her but is unsuccessful in picking up a conversation.

Gavis Aranda approaches the group expressing fascination with automaton FCG and introducing himself as being from the Aranda Guild of Beautification as well as being the Face of the Quorum. He makes polite conversation and mentions the Dance of the Crossroads will begin soon, a good opportunity to meet a lot of people quickly.

Orym asks Chetney to go keep Cyrus busy and distracted, so he won't inadvertently interrupt Fearne and Dorian's play to get Armand Treshi's ring, just as the Dance of the Crossroads begins.

Break

Part II

Fan art of the ball, by Kiera James.[art 3]

Laudna asks General Ratanish, who is accompanied by multiple other members of Paragon's Call, to dance with her and he accepts. Meanwhile, Chetney locates Cyrus Wyvernwind in the crowd and confronts him for his stupidity in being present at the ball. Cyrus explains that he met with Emoth Kade to get information on some scores he could make at the ball while folks were distracted, trying to pay off his debt. At that moment, she approaches and dances off with him.

Orym, Imogen, and FCG all get closer to Dorian and Fearne on the dance floor to be ready for the attempt on the ring. There is much discussion about exactly what they're going to try and little agreement, but Dorian ends up with the tracking ring as he and Fearne join the dance and begin trying to get closer to Armand Treshi by working their way via other partners as the dance continues. As they do, Imogen tries Telekinesis on Armand's ring but it fails to loosen it.

Fearne succeeds in snagging Armand at the next change of partners. Reading his thoughts, Imogen learns he is suspicious of Fearne as another fey creature after his dealings with the Nightmare King. As he spins her in the dance, she manages to pull his ring from his thumb as if by accident, and at Imogen's urging drops it just as the dance crescendos. As Armand searches the floor, Dorian kicks the real ring away but Armand notices and goes toward the sound, ignoring Dorian's attempt to pull him into the dance. FCG manages to reach the ring first and snatches it, unseen by Armand. Dorian throws the tracking ring to Fearne, who ungracefully catches it.

Meanwhile, Laudna has been dancing with and flattering General Ratanish. He shows her a symbol of the Duskmaven, telling her he noticed she walks between the natural boundaries of life and death.

Imogen has been crawling on the floor, pretending to search for the ring. Both FCG and Fearne move towards her, Fearne using Primal Savagery to scare away potential dance partners on the way. Armand confronts Imogen, demanding to know if she's found the ring yet, and telling her to keep looking. Fearne reaches her and slips her the tracking ring which Imogen immediately gives to Armand, who accepts it churlishly and puts it on.

Chetney continues to watch Cyrus, and sees Emoth leave the room. He follows her but is confronted by two wardens at the door. He tells them he is going to the bathroom but they are suspicious and continue to watch him. Chetney sees Emoth to the right and hears a door close. He hides and turns invisible, but accidentally knocks over a vase bringing the alarmed armed guards toward him.

Laudna continues to dance with various partners, and notices Vali Dertrana watching Ashton in their costume as the Nightmare King. Ashton notices as well, walks toward him and bows. Disturbed, Vali looks toward Armand but moves toward Ratanish, holding a brief conversation and pointing toward Ashton. Ratanish nods and approaches Ashton.

The guards are searching for Chetney with their spears sweeping the air. Chetney is able to evade them and dart past when they are distracted by another ball guest claiming to need the bathroom. Chetney uses his sense of smell to catch Emoth's odd, moldy, earthy odor and determine which door she went through. Listening, he hears a grinding noise within. He slowly opens the door, but it squeaks a bit. The room inside is empty, but a figure from the connecting room pokes its head in and moves with unnatural speed to the doorway where the invisible Chetney is standing. It is a sweating Lady Emoth, who peers suspiciously into the hallway, then closes and locks the door. Chetney retreats back into the ballroom.

Fan art of Ratanish and Ashton, by Dylan Chinn.[art 4]

Meanwhile, Ratanish confronts Ashton, asking their name which Ashton declines to give. They tell Ratanish that the outfit was a gift and Ashton was paid to wear it at the ball, but Ratanish doesn't believe that at all and rips the mask away. Ashton slaps him, which Ratanish returns. The confrontation escalates, politely, and they agree to take the matter outside for a duel, followed by most of the fascinated crowd and the rest of the party including Lord Eshteross. FCG holds Ashton's cloak and uses Sympathetic Binding on him.

The still-invisible Chetney whispers to Orym what he saw while following Emoth, and suddenly realizes that the other ball guest in the hallway was Cyrus. Spitting curses at Cyrus under his breath, he goes back to the hall himself. No one is in the bathroom, and still muttering, he goes to the door of the room where he saw Lady Emoth and succeeds in picking the lock. He slips inside as it opens.

Inside, he sees a very small cloaked figure scooping things out of the opened desk drawers and stuffing them in a satchel. The musty smell is strong. Several more of the tiny figures are in the next room, also grabbing things. Lady Emoth is there as well, her eyes black and darkened veins in the side of her neck. Her arms are longer and sweat drips off her face in a thick, mucus-like pattern. She appears to command the creatures to drag their full satchels into the adjoining room, and Chetney hears the dragging sound of shifting furniture again. As he watches, her bones shift back into place and her skin tone regains a more normal appearance. She walks toward the still-open door and Chetney scuttles through it before she can close it.

Featured characters

Player Characters

Returning

New

Mentioned

Quotations

  • Laudna: (explaining her research) Primarily the study of celestial beings, the stars, and weird-ass dreams. Creepy dreams. Do you know anything about weird dreams?
    Gryz Alakritos: (a scholar of an unrelated subject) Yes, actually. There was one time where I was a mango, but like, it was me, but I wasn't inside of a mango, I just was a mango. [etc.]
    Ashton: So how does a mango perceive time at that point?
    Gryz: See, that's what's so odd about it!
  • Preston Drodelon: (to Fearne, on the dance floor) My dear, I apologize. I'm amazed that luck keeps bringing us together.
    Fearne: Well, I don't know if it's luck as much as you cutting in line, but that's okay.
  • Fearne: (explaining her implied relationship to Dorian) I mean, there's like a little bit of a wiggle room there. I just depends on... you know...
    Preston: I happen to like to find room to wiggle.
  • Ashton: (sadly) No one crimes well.
  • Laura Bailey: Imogen is, uh, gone.
    Robbie Daymond: Only Maud remains.
  • Ashton: (after exchanging slaps with Ratanish) Sir. I like you, too. It's a pleasure. You can keep [the mask] if you like, I suppose, if it really offended you.
    Ratanish: This is your response?
    Ashton: I mean, we can keep going if you like, but slap fighting's slap fighting. I'd want a drink for it if we're going to make this the game.
    Ratanish: I think the initiation is enough to begin. Slapping, well, it is children's games. But you drew blood originally.
    Ashton: Wow, I didn't think that would hit that hard. I figured you could take a little more.
    Ratanish: (softly) You see, when I taste blood, it's hard to get it out of my mind.

Inventory

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Transferred 1 Ornamental saber Fearne Ashton Fearne stole it from Vali Dertrana. While not fully sharpened, it could do damage if used.[2]
Dropped 1 Ornamental saber Ashton Ashton dropped it with his other outside clothing in preparation for the fight with Ratanish

Trivia

References

  1. See "One Year Later..." (1x95) from 0:13:08 through 0:21:37.  Matt remarked that the drunk who gained wishes from the Deck of Many Things was now one of many lords and ladies of the Quadroads.
  2. See "Ghosts, Dates, and Darker Fates" (3x10) at 0:26:26.

Art:

  1. Fan art of Laudna in her ball costume, by @porzio art (source). Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of Dorian introducing his entourage, by Aviv Or (source). Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of the ball, by Kiera James (source). Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of Ratanish and Ashton, by Dylan Chinn (source). Used with permission.
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