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List of Transcripts

Pre-Show[]

MATT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to tonight's episode of Critical Role, where a bunch of us nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons.

ALL: (hollering) We play Dungeons & Dragons!

MATT: Indeed. Before we jump into tonight's episode, we do have some announcements to get through, including the first of our two sponsors: God help me. NordVPN! Travis?

TALIESIN: Number Two, our set has been infected by the sickest virus in the Nordverse. The cyber war has begun. We need BlackWillow69!

TRAVIS: But Morpheus, he was sliced! His hacker spirit turned into a gleaming cube of cake, which I ate!

TALIESIN: Which is why you must meditate on how to restore him. Focus your gigabytes on hacking the answer. I will give you my power glove to aid you.

TRAVIS: (gasps) Master, I am not ready to wield such a weapon.

TALIESIN: You've always been ready. Now go. Make me 0011010001110101110.

TRAVIS: That's binary... for "proud."

LAURA: Oh god.

TRAVIS: BlackWillow69, I don't know if you can hear me, but we need you. Okay, fine. I need you. This whole thing is fragged. I just feel so helpless, so alone, but I guess, in a way, we're all alone on the internet, clicking away the hours hoping we'll get enough likes to be happy, scrolling for something honest, searching for meaning. But you made me believe that despite its fault, the worldwide web can make our lives better. You're my hero. Maybe that's why I ate you, because you were real. You gave me hope. (laughter) BlackWillow, you were the best of the web, and now I know it was all a lie. Trolls like Setty will always make the internet a garbage place. They insult you, flame you, they meme you, all for the lulz, and now, just like pets.com, you're just gone! Maybe I should just unplug, deboot, and log off!

SAM: No, Number Two. There is always hope on the internet.

TRAVIS: BlackWillow69? Are you a ghost?

SAM: A digital copy of myself, a disk image written on your brain mainframe, projected from the power glove's revolutionary haptics.

TRAVIS: Then we can use your knowledge to defeat Setty.

SAM: Affirmatron. I contain a powerful root kit of the original software code for NordVPN, providers of the highest quality encryption for your internet traffic and hides your IP and physical location.

TRAVIS and SAM: With more than 5,400 servers in 59 countries, it's easy to get better speed and protection with one simple click, and it's available on every major platform, including Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux. Go to nordvpn.com/criticalrole or use code criticalrole to get a two-year plan, plus a bonus gift with a huge discount.

SAM: However, to use it, you must jack me in.

LAURA: Oh no.

TRAVIS: Great! I'll get Morpheus, a motherboard, a 10-pin adapter. Ah, screw it, an 11-pin adapter.

SAM: No, only you can bring me back.

TRAVIS: Me? But how?

SAM: A leet haxor once said, "A name is earned." The same is true for you.

TRAVIS: My name? Travis?

SAM: Your hacker handle.

TRAVIS: Number Two?

SAM: Think about it.

TRAVIS: Bring you back. I have to earn the name Number Two?

SAM: It's a little gross.

TRAVIS: Wait, you mean, the only way to hack the set, to save the planet is by pooping you out of my body?!

SAM: I guess we'll find out the next time NordVPN sponsors the show. Matt, hack to you.

MATT: I hate this place. (laughter)

LIAM: Wow! Travis and Sam, can I use that monologue at my next audition? (laughter)

TRAVIS: Just pay some royalties, it'll be fine.

MATT: Oh my goodness. Well, thank you, NordVPN, for feeding this man's unstoppable appetite for insanity.

TALIESIN: I don't know what to do anymore.

MATT: I don't know what to do anymore either.

MARISHA: Yeah, we'll go back.

MATT: Come back in. Get back. Come on, come on.

MARISHA: We have normalcy.

MATT: All right. All right. Our second sponsor tonight is Ghostfire Gaming! (cheering) And their new campaign in partnership with Eldermancy, Sunken Isles. Now, Sunken Isles is a unique adventure that allows the party to choose between two or more adventures every week, and each choice will leave players with either a reward or a consequence. The adventure begins with the introduction of a volcanic spirit, an undead dwarven king, a bloated pirate captain, and an ancient being, and the roaming creator of the Isles. Each of these forces immediately sets out with their own plans, and it's up to you and your party to forge new alliances, to fight back against their armies. Check out everything now at sunkenisles.com. Thank you so much for supporting the show.

SAM: Nicely done, Matt. Good job.

MATT: It's hard to follow such fine, visceral black box theater like that, but--

ASHLEY: I mean, that was really well done. I especially like how you linked up with the 5,400. Five thousand, four--

TRAVIS: 5,400.

MATT: Putting that BA to good use. (laughs) Liam, you got some announcements to talk about.

LIAM: Oh boy, it's time for comic book news!

ASHLEY: Yes!

LIAM: Our library is growing. Our recently announced collections are available now-- Not now. For pre-order soon. The Tales of Exandria, to start, The Bright Queen. The Tales of Exandria: The Bright Queen.

TRAVIS: Yeah!

TALIESIN: Oh yeah.

LIAM: Releases June 14th, which collects the entire four-issue mini-series into one beautiful book. Then the assholes in Vox Machina: Origins Volume 3 releases July 18th, which collects Vox Machina: Origins Series 3, Volumes one through six. I am chopping invisible onions. Recently announced The Mighty Nein: Origins graphic novels.

LAURA: Yeah! (cheering)

LIAM: Mighty Nein: Origins Fjord Stone.

LAURA and ASHLEY: Ooh!

LIAM: The hot green man himself on July 13th, and then Nott the Brave on August 24th. (cheering)

LIAM: So we have books coming in hot and heavy. To get the most up-to-date information, check out our article at critrole.com/darkhorseguide.

SAM: Nice.

MATT: Thank you, Liam. Well done.

SAM: Nice.

LIAM: No. No, but--

LAURA: That was a really good monologue, too.

LIAM: But it fits with the table.

TALIESIN: It was drama.

MATT: Awesome. Laura, you got that thing to talk about.

LAURA: You guys, we got a shirt.

SAM: "We got a shirt."

LAURA: But this shirt is inspired by Critter Hug.

MATT: Yay!

LAURA: Yeah, and we wanted to make a Critter love shirt.

SAM: Oh, that's really nice!

LAURA: So it's a shirt for Critters! ('aww'ing)

TRAVIS: Trinket!

ASHLEY: It's a big bear hug.

LAURA: He's giving a hug to y'all.

MATT: That's so cute.

LAURA: So yeah, I think it's really great. It's available now. Check it out.

TRAVIS: It's really cool.

LAURA: Isn't he cute?

TRAVIS: Sweet little bear.

MARISHA: It's so cute!

TRAVIS: Is he sleeping?

LIAM: Yeah.

LAURA: No, he's so happy--

MATT: He's cuddling.

ASHLEY: Twinket.

LIAM: He had a big meal.

MATT: Yeah.

MARISHA: No, he's just like, "Mm, food baby." (laughter)

MATT: Been there. Thank you, Laura.

LAURA: Thank you.

MATT: Travis.

TRAVIS: Oh, yes! Guys, episodes one through six of The Legend of Vox Machina are out now!

MARISHA: Whoa!

TRAVIS: On Prime Video! You've seen them!

TRAVIS: One through six, you're halfway done! Episodes seven, eight, and nine release at 12:00am Pacific on February 11th. That's midnight tonight! (cheering)

MATT: You're not going to want to miss this batch.

TRAVIS: I know you guys are as stoked as we are.

MARISHA: It gets real.

TRAVIS: It only builds. The next watch party is Tuesday, February 15th at 7:00pm Pacific on our CR Twitch channel! Join us!

LAURA: Yay!

MATT: Perfect. Thank you, Travis.

TRAVIS: Welcome.

MATT: And with that, I think we are done with our announcements for the evening. So let us go ahead and jump into tonight's episode of--

ASHLEY: We didn't catch up on the plan!

SAM: I know.

MATT: Critical Role.

♪ Critical ♪
♪ Critical ♪
♪ It's Thursday ♪
♪ It's Thursday night! ♪

ASHLEY: ♪ One-by-one, we climb until we reach the top. ♪
♪ Two-by-two, we fall. ♪

LAURA: ♪ Will we meet our end or meet our destiny? ♪
♪ Hold your breath and roll! ♪

MATT: How do you want to do this?

ALL: ♪ It's Thursday night ♪
♪ All ye Critters, come join us ♪
♪ It's time to continue our plight ♪
♪ There is magic and mystery ♪
♪ Who knows what will happen? ♪
♪ He might! ♪
♪ But one thing's for sure, ♪
♪ We never give up on the fight! ♪

TRAVIS: ♪ From the healer ♪

LIAM: ♪ To the renegade ♪

MATT: ♪ We all share the same goal ♪

MATT and TALIESIN: ♪ Adding more allies ♪
♪ Taking more chances ♪

SAM: ♪ Hold your breath and roll ♪

MARISHA: You can certainly try.

ALL: ♪ It's Thursday night ♪
♪ All ye Critters, come join us ♪
♪ It's time to continue our plight ♪
♪ It's Thursday night. ♪
♪ There is magic and mystery ♪
♪ From darkness, our friendship will rise ♪
♪ But one thing's for sure: ♪
♪ We never give up on the fight ♪
♪ Oh, get ready, ♪
♪ Get ready, ♪
♪ It's Thursday night! ♪
(flames whooshing)

Part I[]

MATT: And welcome back. So 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 Quorum chambers, 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 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. So--

LAURA and SAM: (nervous noises)

MARISHA: Okay.

TRAVIS: Everyone dies. No, that wasn't the plan.

LIAM: Us or them?

LAURA: So we've got to figure out-- Oh, we're in separate carriages. Are we in separate carriages? So we can't talk to the people.

MATT: You are in separate carriages.

LIAM: The groups were Dorian, Fearne, Orym, and who was our fourth?

LAURA: Me.

LIAM: You.

MARISHA: Okay, yeah. Then Ashton, FCG, Laudna, Chetney.

LAURA: Okay.

MARISHA: Group Eshteross.

LAURA: So our goal, first we need to read Armand, get an idea of what his desires are, right?

ASHLEY: Yes. Yes.

LAURA: And try to distract him in that way. Maybe FCG will be able to be a good distraction in the room. I'm not sure. Are we going to try to slip the ring off of his hand through--

ROBBIE: Oh boy.

ASHLEY: That sounds so hard.

LAURA: Don't you steal things all the time?

ASHLEY: I do, but it feels so different when it's on somebody and then you have to also put it back on.

LAURA: Right.

ASHLEY: The other one.

LAURA: I mean--

ROBBIE: The hands, they've got the most nerves, they're sensitive.

LAURA: I do have-- I mean, I have this. I'm going to just pick up, I don't know what the fuck. Are you wearing a mask or some shit? Is it next to you? I'm going to pick up the mask next to you and lift it up and drift it over to you.

ROBBIE: Oh!

LAURA: I could try to use telekinesis and pull it off of his hand. Now, if I can do that, maybe somebody else could say it fell and you could pick it up for him and hand him the decoy.

ROBBIE: That I can do. Swap one for the other without him noticing. I think I can do that.

TRAVIS: Can you do it without gesturing at him, or is it obvious?

LAURA: Yeah, it's completely-- You're not here, but I assume you can hear me through the window talking.

TRAVIS: Goddamn it. (laughter)

LAURA: Yes.

LIAM: He wears it all the time.

LAURA: He wears it all the time.

LIAM: What if it's snug, though?

LAURA: I mean, that's a possibility. I assume, at least, Master Faramore had dressers at-- So all of his jewelry was removed every single night the same way that, you know--

LIAM: I mean, that's a maybe. Eshteross says he has it on all the time.

LAURA: I mean. But Master Faramore would put on the same rings. He had crests and everything that he would put back on every day to show who he was. I don't know.

ROBBIE: It's the most dicey part of the mission. So I think that no matter where we do it, we should try to get him somewhere away from the main party, if possible.

LAURA: Potentially, yeah. The more distracted he is, the easier it'll be to pull something off of him, for sure.

LIAM: Whatever we do, can we figure out what he likes and show him a good time for a while?

LAURA: Definitely.

LIAM: Give him a couple of glasses.

ROBBIE: Trust, yes.

LIAM: Yeah, and cups.

LAURA: See what can distract. Any kind of big distraction, we may be able to pull it off of his hand.

ASHLEY: We could always try What the Fuck is That About?

LAURA: Is anybody wearing rings right now? Oh, that would work.

ASHLEY: Yeah.

LAURA: Is anybody wearing jewelry? Are you wearing rings?

ROBBIE: I borrowed these from Eshteross.

LAURA: Here, I'm going to try to use my Mage Hand.

ROBBIE: Let me get one that's tighter. All right. I'm going to really put it on my thumb.

LAURA: Oh gosh. Okay. I'm going to try to use telekinesis to pull it off of his thumb. Let's see if it works.

MATT: Okay.

ROBBIE: Was that obscene? It's all right.

MATT: If you don't mind, go ahead and make a charisma check for me.

SAM: Charisma?

LAURA: Charisma check.

TRAVIS: Let's go, first roll of the night. Come on, set it up.

MATT: As it is the basis of your arcane power and your innate capability, just roll a d20 and add your charisma modifier.

SAM: Jesus! Jesus!

LAURA: 17.

MATT: 17.

TRAVIS: Nacho cheese.

MATT: It's pretty snug on there for a piece of jewelry that's been placed, you know, freshly. So it doesn't have necessarily the tightness of a piece of ring or a bracelet that has been held for an extended period of time, where the body begins to shape its way around it. But as snug as you have placed it upon yourself, you feel it begin to pull gently on the finger before it does eventually come loose and come off, not in a way that you wouldn't be aware of.

MARISHA: Didn't notice? Yeah.

MATT: It works.

ROBBIE: I definitely felt that, but maybe it was because I was anticipating it.

LAURA: Oh gosh. Worst case scenario, I could pull it off the thumb and drop it to the ground. If you could pick it up really fast, you'd be able to switch it.

LIAM: Yeah, I mean, I don't have any experience with this, but I believe that this kind of thing works when you're getting smacked from the side when there's a-- You're being distracted. So, maybe if you want to go with this, I'm a little iffy on it, but if you want to go with it, maybe if somebody can check him pretty hard at the same moment, he'd be less likely to notice. Then you can pick it up and hand it back to him.

ASHLEY: I mean, I could check him for sure. I could just trip on my hooves and I don't know--

LAURA: Fall into him. (laughs) Yes, let's use it!

ROBBIE: But just, in all honesty.

LAURA: (maniacal laugh)

ASHLEY: Halfway through I was like, oh.

MARISHA: That's the plan, is just falling into him.

ROBBIE: Have you ever, in your entire life, been bumped so hard your ring fell off? (laughter)

ASHLEY: I mean.

ROBBIE: An honest question.

MARISHA: "In your entire life." (laughs)

LAURA: No.

ROBBIE: I'm not trying to throw a monkey wrench in the bumping plan, I promise.

LAURA: I have thrown my hands wildly enough that one came off.

ASHLEY: Yeah. Yeah.

MARISHA: (laughs)

ROBBIE: We'll work on it. We'll workshop. We'll workshop.

ASHLEY: It's starting to come loose.

LAURA: I mean, it was a big ring, if I'm being honest.

ASHLEY: It was big on you?

LAURA: It was a little loose anyway.

ASHLEY: Yeah, thumbs are weird because it's a big knuckle.

LAURA: I mean, and if he does wear it 24/7, that doesn't happen here in Exandria, does it?

SAM: 22/6.

MATT: There are 24 hours a day. There are seven days a week. It's the months in the calendar that it gets a little weird. It's just much easier to keep track of it that way. I didn't want to make you--

SAM: How many months are there?

MATT: -- hate me that much. There are 11.

SAM: Oh, see, I knew there was something.

MARISHA: 325 days. (laughter)

MATT: Regardless. Continue.

LIAM: It's an option. I don't know. I mean, these two are really charming, really charming. So--

LAURA: Oh, you pointing at me? Thank you so much.

LIAM: I mean, you're great, but--

LAURA: No, I get it.

LIAM: Ah, I stepped in it now.

ROBBIE: If the goal is to distract and to charm, I think that could be our job.

ASHLEY: Certainly.

LAURA: I thought you were saying I wasn't (laughs) charming.

LIAM: You, yeah.

ASHLEY: I mean.

LAURA: I can lie really good, though! I swear!

ASHLEY: I feel like-- I know. I'm wondering if Imogen should be your date.

LAURA: No, no, no! No, no. You should definitely be his date.

ASHLEY: Because I feel weirdly--

ROBBIE: If you don't want to be my date, that's fine.

ASHLEY: No, I would love to. I absolutely would love to.

ROBBIE: Sure.

LAURA: I'm better at background.

ASHLEY: I realize I'm not as good at lying as I thought. (laughter)

ASHLEY: Which is weird because I do it all the time. Because, remember, yours was--

LAURA: Oh!

ASHLEY: No, I don't know.

LAURA: Maybe you can just persuade him. What's your persuasion?

ASHLEY: I can persuade anybody.

LAURA: Just persuade him, you don't have to lie. Just be really charming.

LIAM: Can you flirt him into taking that ring off, so you can give him a hand massage, a palm reading?

ASHLEY: I can certainly try. Yes.

ROBBIE: Well, then I should be the solo noble then. It's not because my feelings are hurt because you don't want to go on a date with me.

ASHLEY: No, I do. I absolutely do.

ROBBIE: It's fine. It's okay. If you're going to flirt with him, it would be strange if you were my partner for the ball.

LIAM: Unless you guys went that way.

LAURA: That's true. Maybe that's why I'm there.

ROBBIE: Why you're there?

LAURA: I'm standing right next to you. Isn't that weird? If you're on a date?

ASHLEY: We're all dating together.

LAURA: Maybe I'm security. I don't know.

ROBBIE: It sounds good to me, but it's more up to you.

LIAM: You guys got-- (laughter)

LIAM: Because with Imogen's input-- (laughter)

ROBBIE: What is this plan about? I like it! (laughter)

MATT: That's one way to work your way to level six, I guess. (laughter)

TALIESIN: Freedom fucked y'all up.

ASHLEY: I understand what you're saying.

LIAM: At least the two of you sidle up to this guy and-- Right?

ASHLEY: Because it could be a thing.

LIAM: Then Imogen just takes it left or right.

LAURA: And I'll be able to tell you.

ASHLEY: But maybe I could be, your... You know how... I guess, the men at the court, you know they have a maid?

ROBBIE: Hmm?

ASHLEY: To carry things and to help you with your clothing and to bring you drinks or take care of you and fan you.

ROBBIE: Ooh!

ASHLEY: Does that make you feel weird?

ROBBIE: That feels a bit dated, a little passé, maybe. But this is getting very complicated. I think we've lost sight of the goal.

ASHLEY: Okay, okay. We're on a date.

ROBBIE: Yes. Not a date, you are my plus one, and you are my entourage.

ASHLEY: Okay.

ROBBIE: Staff.

LAURA: Okay.

ROBBIE: Are you okay with that?

LAURA: No, it's fine.

ROBBIE: Is this hurting your feelings now?

LAURA: No, it's fine.

ROBBIE: Are you sure?

LAURA: I'm sure.

ROBBIE: You don't seem okay. (laughter)

TRAVIS: That's the best thing as that southern, bless your heart. (laughter)

LAURA: That's so sweet. No, I'm fine. I'm staff.

ROBBIE: All right. All right.

ASHLEY: This is going to go well.

ROBBIE: It's going to go great.

ASHLEY: Yeah, I feel good about it.

MATT: Meanwhile, in the other carriage, Eshteross is looking over like, "You seem like you've come together as a solid team of sorts." (laughter)

SAM: Yeah.

MATT: "A strong sense of planning and teamwork."

SAM: The other carriage definitely has this in hand.

MARISHA: They know exactly what they're doing.

MATT: "They are confident in their capabilities."

MARISHA: Yes. I just hope that they very much realize that they probably have to get Armand to take the ring off willingly himself, because that was a thing that we talked about last night. So I'm sure--

TRAVIS: Fucking... Flying rats! (laughter)

TALIESIN: I'm sure they've already got a dozen different ways to get him to do that, including maybe trying to show off the phenomenal telekinetic power of how an object that he knows couldn't have been tampered with, can float in the air and maybe--

SAM: Like a magic trick.

TALIESIN: -- fly out to where it's

SAM: Yeah. That would be good and simple.

MARISHA: Fearne could give him a nice palm reading or something, or Dorian could just compare jewelry with, you know, with Armand, or something.

SAM: These are extremely simple plans.

MARISHA: Right.

TALIESIN: Yeah. They've thought about it. They've figured that out.

MARISHA: Absolutely.

LIAM: That's the same plan!

LAURA: It's the same plan.

TALIESIN: But better.

LAURA: The same-ish.

SAM: For our team--

MARISHA: Yes.

SAM: We're going to be-- Our mission is to work the perimeter and try to hear whispers, and try to figure out who might be in the Chandei Quorum, who might be... What was the fellow who is the ninth member of the Quorum?

TRAVIS: The Face. Speaks for them.

MATT: "That would be Gavis Armand. Aranda."

SAM: So we're trying to get face time with that fella?

MATT: "Them, and perhaps anybody else that seems to have strong connections there and about. Now, these events are rife with agreements, promises, rumors, all sorts of petty encounters. So keeping your ears and eyes open when an opportunity presents itself to push, push."

MARISHA: Wait, like, gossip, push a little drama?

MATT: "If it seems like it is befitting of our goals, yes, but also not to be too much of a spectacle either as you are all here as my guests and are unknown figures within these circles."

TALIESIN: That's a very good question. Who are we to you?

MATT: "The papers that I have brought upon and the preparation I've done assigns you as personal guards of mine."

TALIESIN: I can work with that.

TRAVIS: Hell yeah.

SAM: And Lord Eshteross?

MATT: "Yes?"

SAM: Some of us have the ability to communicate either telepathically or at a distance with creepy whispers. I don't really know your skillset other than you're a badass and kind of rich. Do you have any way of signaling us silently or anything, or any magic at your disposal?

MATT: "I am not a practitioner of the arcane arts, but I'm a, while somewhat aged, capable master of the martial." He grabs this heavy cane off to the side, and you remember, a number of you, taking some heavy wallops from it in the past, and smacks it on the ground a bit. It gives this reverbing ring as it impacts, just (stick reverbing).

TALIESIN: Mysterious, badass, rich, it's like Owlbear Man. (laughter) I mean, if you think about it, it's basically Owlbear Man.

SAM: I've heard those stories.

TALIESIN: Yeah, they're my favorites growing up.

MATT: "Owlbear Man does not exist. He's a folktale. A way to scare children in the outskirts of rural villages."

SAM: And criminals.

TALIESIN: And criminals.

MATT: "Such a thing does not exist."

MARISHA: But I thought he was a criminal himself, right? Which makes him cool. He's like a vigilante.

TALIESIN: It's on both sides, I mean, like, you know, growing up, clearly.

TRAVIS: Just to be clear, if we come across Gavis Aranda, do you want some face time with The Face, or are we just supposed to-- This is for FCG's sake.

SAM: Oh.

MATT: "If I'm going to be perfectly honest, I am not as practiced or nuanced when it comes to social engagements. A number of these individuals, I am... keeping all of my emotions in check to not deck them in the jaw. So, I'm certain I will likely be approached. There will be propositions or engagements in the intent of making alliances, and that immediately to me sets my nerves on end."

TRAVIS: Understood, and we're supposed to detect the unspoken members of the Chandei Quorum, but with this Gavis Aranda, if we do somehow come across him and strike up conversation, is there anything you want us to push other than my detailing chisel into his neck?

MATT: "I would not raise any weapons in case--"

TRAVIS: Oh, don't worry, I won't have it in my hand. I'm going to tuck it back.

TALIESIN: I think what he's trying to say is if you want anybody to just suddenly become punched, we all excel at that quite a bit.

MATT: "Let's see how the evening progresses."

TALIESIN: Putting the option out there.

MATT: "I have a list I'm keeping in my head."

TALIESIN: Very exciting.

MATT: "And let us be honest, as the evening continues and drinks are had, there may be a few opportunities to subtly take a few individuals down a peg or three.

TALIESIN: That would be nice.

MARISHA: You just skipped past the second peg, that's amazing.

MATT: "If you hit hard enough, you might skip the fourth."

TRAVIS: Do you allow us to negotiate on your behalf?

MATT: "Depends on what you're negotiating. What do you have in mind?"

TRAVIS: I'll take that as a yes. Don't worry, your business can only thrive.

MATT: "No business negotiations."

TRAVIS: Fair enough, understood.

TALIESIN: No one would believe him anyway. I wouldn't worry about it.

MATT: "Very well."

MARISHA: Chet.

TRAVIS: Yeah?

MARISHA: Give me that spare chisel. I'll put it in my hair for you.

TRAVIS: You want the long one, like, the one with the file on it, or the teeny tiny?

MARISHA: Do the one with the file. I think it'll go good in my hair.

TRAVIS: (whooshes) You got it. (laughter)

MATT: "Now, while you will be my personal guard, you are capable of wearing any subtle armor that you may have, leathers and such. Simple metals or breast plates. None of you seem to be those who partake in such elements, and you are a piece of metal in your own right."

SAM: Natural armor, yeah.

MATT: "Yes, so we should be all right. Weaponry will be another endeavor entirely."

SAM: Do you think they'll make me leave my backpack?

MATT: "Your backpack should likely stay within the carriage. So whatever you wish to take with you, take it now."

SAM: Attachments.

MARISHA: Can you put them inside?

TALIESIN: Have you ever tried putting them in your mouth?

TRAVIS: Oh yeah, what's inside of you?

SAM: I've never looked.

TRAVIS: Do you have a, I don't mean to be indelicate, like a hatch?

SAM: My mouth and gullet are my hatch, and we've established that I can hold at least a bottle of wine worth of liquid, so I feel like there's a cylinder.

TRAVIS: Can I get up and take a look?

SAM: Sure.

TRAVIS: I just like jump up on his shoulder. Open it, open your mouth!

SAM: Ah! Ah! Ah!

MATT: Make a perception check. (laughter)

TRAVIS: Yeah, a natural 18 for 19.

MATT: 19. Glancing down within the gullet of Fresh Cut Grass, you see, beyond the pinch of the throat, there does appear to be an empty chamber within, lightless as it is. It has what looks like shelf portions that you immediately surmise is where the exterior of the torso pushes inward. Yeah, it just looks to be essentially a containment unit. It's like a small cubby.

TRAVIS: That's like available space, or packed and cramped with machinery and stuff?

MATT: No, it's open.

TRAVIS: It's amazing.

SAM: It's a thermos.

LAURA: Glove box!

MATT: Yeah, it's a built-in glove box.

TRAVIS: There's a face in there screaming: Release me! (laughter) We can totally store some stuff inside you. You just have to (gulps) it down and we'll be set.

SAM: Sure, is there anything that you want me to sneak in?

TRAVIS: (weapon unsheathing)

SAM: What is that?

TRAVIS: This is a mid-size wood chisel. Good for detailing and edging. Open wide. Slow or fast? (laughter)

SAM: I think slow. (laughter)

TRAVIS: (weapon pushing)

LAURA: Oh god.

MATT: You don't... have to act it out. (laughter)

SAM: Sure, I do.

MATT: You're right, you're right.

SAM: What do I roll?

TRAVIS: Relax!

TALIESIN: Remember who you're asking, man.

MATT: You're fine.

TRAVIS: Relax.

SAM: Relax the throat, relax the throat. (laughter)

LIAM: Wow, wow.

MATT: Oh boy.

TALIESIN: Hey, look, it's there. We went there. We haven't been there in a while.

TRAVIS: You hear it (clinking) on the inside.

TRAVIS: Oh shit. Now, if I shake you a little, does it rattle unnecessarily?

MATT: A little bit.

TRAVIS: Oh okay. We'll have to get that fixed later.

SAM: Oh nice.

TALIESIN: You know, with any luck, it won't dissolve and get just turned into more spare parts.

SAM: That's true, that's true.

TRAVIS: I got that chisel, is that a possibility?

SAM: Oh, that's true.

TRAVIS: Son of a bitch.

SAM: My body may reclaim it if it's a precious enough metal.

TRAVIS: It would be a welcome donation to your person. Besides, I desire to negotiate with Tula once again.

SAM: All right, okay. So our side's ready to go. We're ready, we know exactly what we're doing, right?

MATT: "What will you do with your weapon? It is a bit challenging to hide."

TALIESIN: There's a check, right?

MATT: There is, yes.

TALIESIN: I've also like--

MARISHA: I'm always armed.

TALIESIN: I've painted it. I put some bullshit on it to make it look old and drab and like a piece of shit, so it does not look-- It looks like filth at the moment. I'll check it. Think I can get in with a dagger?

MATT: "If you hide it well enough. You will be searched upon entry.

TRAVIS: Butt cheeks. You have to waddle a little bit, but with a little practice, it looks pretty normal. Just keep your heels together.

TALIESIN: These pants are really tight. You know, I'm sure I can scrounge up something if it comes to it.

MATT: "Very well. It's a style I am familiar with. We're approaching soon. Two carriages until we exit. Get your masks at the ready. Ugh. I hate these things."

TALIESIN: Just in case, also, just don't use my name while we're in there.

MARISHA: Oh shit.

SAM: Okay, what should we call you? Oh, was it Aaron?

TALIESIN: That one I messed up. I think I can hold up with Bennett. I was trying a few things out. Bennett might be a better--

SAM: Bennett.

TALIESIN: Bennett. Unless Aaron's easier for you. I don't know.

SAM: Well, we should really just pick one.

MARISHA: Aaron is close to Ashton.

TALIESIN: Yeah, I was just worried you might-- Maybe that's bad, that's why I was like--

MARISHA: We'll see what comes out.

TALIESIN: "Hey, you," will work, too, just because--

SAM: Aaron or Bennett?

TALIESIN: Just because, yeah, I don't-- Getting recognized. You never know who's in here.

TRAVIS: The name should strike fear upon hearing it. Should call him Growler or something.

MATT: Eshteross affixes a face mask on as he ties it behind.

SAM: Oh, it's time to mask up.

MATT: It's pressed like a dark leather. It looks like a heavy, almost Oni brow with these horns that curve up. Oh my god.

ASHLEY: Oh wow.

SAM: Got my mask ready.

TRAVIS: What? What?

ASHLEY: That is amazing.

SAM: It's my human skin mask. (laughter)

ASHLEY: This detail at the top is amazing. The whole thing is amazing.

MARISHA: Even the mustache on a fake head is already coming off.

ASHLEY: Well done, guys.

MARISHA: My god.

LAURA: Wow.

SAM: It's horrifying!

LAURA: Yeah.

ASHLEY: I think it's beautiful.

TALIESIN: It's a statement.

MARISHA: Eshteross.

MATT: It's fine, he wasn't going to say anything important.

LAURA: No, no, no.

MATT: (laughs)

MARISHA: He was distracted by the masks. What were you going to say?

MATT: "No, it's not important."

SAM: No, no, please, please.

MATT: "Oh, we're here."

LAURA: I want to hear what his mask looks like.

MATT: I'm just describing the mask.

LAURA: I know, I want to know.

MATT: I did, I described it. It looks like a heavy-browed leather Oni mask with horns curled in the side. Just covers the bulk of the top of the face. He puts it on and he wipes his fingers, goes like, "I hate they've introduced this. Masked events like this were introduced by foreign dignitaries and have become favored for the anonymity it presides in certain spaces. Makes people feel more bold in their interests."

TRAVIS: Just out of curiosity, last question, no one would ever make, like, a play on your life or anything. You don't need one of us to hang by your hip just to watch your six, do you?

MATT: "There's a reason you are my personal guard. I can probably handle myself, but as long as I have one of you by my side."

TRAVIS: I'll do it.

MARISHA: All right.

TRAVIS: Yeah.

MARISHA: I guess if you need anything or you're in an awkward conversation, maybe tap twice or something with your cane, and then we'll know that you need us.

MATT: "You'll know."

MARISHA: Or you could just shout, yeah, that's fine, too.

TRAVIS: Yeah, that's awesome. I like the way he said that.

ASHLEY: Are we all your personal guards?

MATT: You are not in his carriage.

ASHLEY: Are we above board? We're not.

MATT: So no, you are his.

TRAVIS: You're just with Dorian.

ASHLEY: We're on our own.

LAURA: We have no connection to him. We don't know him.

MATT: But once you're in the party, you could likely mingle.

TRAVIS: You're a whole separate--

ASHLEY: We're a whole separate thing. Okay, that's right, that's right.

LIAM: Last second pitch before we go in.

LAURA: Oh no.

LIAM: No, just-- Oh wow, thanks for the confidence. (laughter) I'll be your serving man. Let me hold the ring. I mean, I am a halfling. You two lay it on thick and just keep his eyes off me. You hand me the ring and keep him busy, and then I can just-- I'm short. I'm out of the way. I'll switch it and hand it back.

ASHLEY: Then if you can't carry it, he can carry you. (laughter)

ROBBIE: It's great.

TALIESIN: It was like an oncoming train.

LAURA: That's putting it all on you, Orym. That's putting it all on you.

LIAM: It's putting none of it on me. It's all on them. They just have to keep his face occupied.

LAURA: But I thought Dorian was handling the sleight of hand of the switch-a-roo. But now you're handling--

LIAM: Not if he's rubbing his hand.

ROBBIE: There is no one more capable or qualified to hold onto this than Orym. Then I'll give him the tracking. Is it tracking ring? Track?

ASHLEY: Yes.

LAURA: Yeah, the decoy ring.

LIAM: I'm just holding the thing. It's on them. If he's not looking at me, I don't have to be slick.

MATT: Carriage has come to a stop and the door (creaking) opens up and you can see the steps below, and there is an attendant there at the ready, dressed in a fine billowing blouse-like presentation. They do not make eye contact, just enter and give a nod, and their hand addresses the interior members of the event to exit and become part of it.

ROBBIE: March right in.

MATT: Similar experience on your end, as you are the next to pursue. Comes to a stop as the sillgoats get restless at the front. The door opens and Eshteross gives you all a look before nodding, and exits for you to follow suit.

TRAVIS: Eagle's moving. (laughter)

MATT: Stepping out, you can see a long, beautiful, like, deep navy blue rich carpet that extends from the very edge of the stone road out here, that just stretches onward towards the large golden arches that rise up and then billow out into a large circle. Within, you can see the warm light that just gives this inviting atmosphere within. You can see the beautiful chandeliers of glass and crystal, multiple of them just barely visible already across the large dome ceiling within. You can see the hundreds and hundreds of feet of colored glass. You're not quite sure if it's just shapes or if there's a presentation of actual art or were seen involved from this perspective, but already it looks beautiful. Ostentatious almost. You can see other well-dressed individuals that are making their way within, holding arm and arm, not paying much attention to you yet, but as you get closer and closer, you do see that there is, to the right, a clerical desk, a storage chamber, and a number of really well-adorned, more than any Wardens you've ever experienced, they wear the same, you know, elements of their armor that gives you the connotation that they are Wardens, but their station is well-decorated. There are extremely well-worn cloaks on their back with beautiful trim. You can see there are decorative designs to their mantles and shoulder armor. Definitely giving a show of station or at least proximity to the chambers. You watch as people enter and they give a look around, they inspect within any sort of containment, pouches, or any pockets, coats, as they're making a entrance. As people are flagged through properly, they head inside and are announced shortly thereafter by somebody who begins shouting the various names of entrants. The first troop would be yours heading to the check-in. As you get close, there's a clerk right there. This elven fellow looks to be probably what would be the human equivalent of in his late 30s. Receding hairline with a very tight ponytail that drifts down to at his mid back. He's wearing a nice vest in big billowy sleeves, and he has a large, large leather book in front and is in the process of accepting papers and invitations and is sending them into a placement and marking everything. He looks up towards your troop and goes, "Right, what is your name?"

ROBBIE: Oh, well, this is my entourage. This is Fearne Calloway.

ASHLEY: Yes, hello, very nice to meet you.

MATT: "Fearne Calloway."

ROBBIE: I believe it should be under my name.

MATT: "Oh, oh, and what is your name?"

ROBBIE: Brontë Secondsun Wyvernwind.

MATT: "Brontë Secondsun Wyvernwind. Oh, that was a last minute addition. Very well. Well, notify the doormen of your name and preferred means of introduction, and do you have anything to check in? Any--"

LAURA: No, thank you.

MATT: Looks over to the guards and the guards begin to do a walk around. Now, what is on you, and essentially, what are you leaving behind and what do you have on you?

LIAM: Orym has got his shield ceremoniously attached to his back, and he has a sheathed dagger wrapped to the inside of his inner thigh in the pants.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: In the pants.

ROBBIE: Dorian cannot carry a giant lute with a scimitar on the back or a handaxe.

TRAVIS: Not with that attitude.

ROBBIE: But if you were to look-- (laughter)

ROBBIE: If you were to look in his belt, he has a very long, slim rapier that has been very recently decorated with some jewelry to make it look bombastic and like a ceremonial piece. But if you were to look very close, you would recognize it as the Gambler's Blade.

LIAM: (gasps)

MATT: Hmm.

LIAM: Sick.

MATT: One of the guards looks around. "Is this part of an ensemble? Weaponry is not allowed aside from approved guards."

ROBBIE: I'm so sorry. This is not weaponry. I'd like to introduce you to Typhonus. It's been in my family for 17 generations, merely an ornamental blade.

MATT: Make a deception check.

MARISHA: Come on.

TALIESIN: Big money, big money.

ROBBIE: Ooh, 16.

LAURA: That's not bad, that's not bad.

MATT: 16, 16.

ROBBIE: Wanted better.

MATT: "Very well. Keep it sheathed at all times. If it is ever seen removed from the scabbard, it will be confiscated and you will be interrogated."

ROBBIE: Honestly, I don't even know if it comes out of this thing. Thank you.

MATT: "Only approved duels and approved provided weaponry within the grounds."

ROBBIE: Of course.

MATT: Looks at you, doesn't seem to take much notice. Takes the edge of a long, a prodding stick, essentially, that they're using to go ahead and move bits of clothing to the side, and lifts the shield up underneath from the back, just glancing to see what's on your back. But you said it's hidden within the shield?

LIAM: No, it's on the inside of my thigh in my underwears.

MATT: Oh, got it, you did not put it in-- You mentioned that last time.

LAURA: Next to his little beans.

MATT: Yeah, checks underneath there.

TRAVIS: Sub taint.

LIAM: Franks and beans.

MATT: Glances around. "Very well."

LAURA: I have my hands tucked inside of my big bell sleeves that you described, so you can't see any of my electrical markings, I've got no weapons on me.

ASHLEY: I left my moon sickle in the carriage.

MATT: All righty.

ASHLEY: That's my whip. That's what I have on me that's visible.

MATT: Gives a nod to the other guard, gives a nod to the clerk. They step aside and you begin to step in towards the entryway. Behind you, the other troop, Eshteross goes ahead and gives a nod, presents his name and hands over a piece of paper to the clerk. "Yes, of course, Mr. Eshteross. Marked here, very well. And these are your--?" (as Eshteross) "These are my personal guards for the event. You know I despise these events." (as clerk) "Of course, sir. Very well. And an automaton?"

SAM: (robotically) I will get the master drinks.

MATT: "It was a gift from a friend. I'm still getting used to his presence." (as clerk) "Very well. An uncommon sight at these events, but--"

SAM: Red or white, master?

MATT: "Not now. We're not at the event, automaton. My apologies. He's a strange one."

SAM: Or rosé? (laughter)

MATT: Looks over at Ashton. "Right, very well, enjoy the evening. Next!" Calls over. Eshteross folds his cloak and heads over to the two guards who begins to do an inspection around. So what is on each of you?

TRAVIS: The bull is on parade. (laughter)

TRAVIS: He's got horns, right?

MATT: Yeah.

ASHLEY: Yes.

MATT: So you have on yourself, aside from your silver dress.

TRAVIS: My silver dress, no sleeves. I've got my breast plate, my little harness on it underneath, and nothing but me, baby.

MATT: All right.

TRAVIS: I emptied the butt cheeks. Might need to move.

MATT: Okay, you do a jig for the guards.

TRAVIS: No, no, be thorough. Be thorough. (laughter)

MATT: Glances over at you, Laudna.

MARISHA: I've just got my big, billowy, chocolate silky gown with my fox fur.

SAM: I did not, I just have-- I got hands and no backpack. I left it behind, so.

MATT: All righty.

TALIESIN: I left everything behind and I am just going to fucking scowl at anyone who comes anywhere near touching any of my shit.

MATT: They give a nod after glancing over at Eshteross, who holds his walking stick and leans on it like he needs it.

SAM: Nice, nice, nice.

MARISHA: He's good.

MATT: "Thank you kindly for keeping us safe," he says to the guards, as he Willy Wonka fake limps his way past them. Now, the first troop, as you approach, there is the voice of the party, essentially, the announcer, who sits there at the ready. As you begin to head across the blue carpet, the soft music in the interior chamber begins to swell a bit. The sun now has come to a set. The night begins to carry you into the event. You see a halfling with a very barrel chest in a similar outfit as the clerk that took your weapons or checked you in at the beginning and took any unnecessary elements. Turns to you. You can see a pointed bit of chin facial hair, very, very slickly pomaded short, a bouffant in the front, that is pushed into a wave and then slicked back at that point. Spins around. "How would you like to be announced?"

ROBBIE: I'm going to look over to Imogen, and can I make a psychic connection?

LAURA: Yep, I've got it.

ROBBIE: Did we ever decide on a name?

LAURA: Tell me your exact title and I'll give it to him.

ROBBIE: My exact title?

LAURA: Yes, you're going as yourself.

ROBBIE: It is my literal middle name. I'm the second son. I don't have an official title!

LAURA: Brontë.

ROBBIE: Yes?

LAURA: Of?

ROBBIE: The Silken Squall. Are we not going to use the cool name?

LAURA: Brontë Secondsun of the Silken Squall. (laughter)

MATT: "Entering, Brontë Secondsun of the Silken Squall." You can see, as you begin to walk in, about a dozen or so other individuals that are in the closer end of this massive chamber turn around and give a look and--

ROBBIE: I'm going to take Fearne and present her to the room and spin her around for all to see.

ASHLEY: I'll do beautiful curtsy. It's been a while since I've been in court.

ROBBIE: You never would notice.

LAURA: I'm going to stand very sternly behind him like this.

LIAM: Orym will always be three or four feet ahead as a three-foot-three security detail.

MATT: Okay. The next team follows in from behind.

LAURA: I'm a servant, I guess. You hear in your fucking head. (laughter)

ROBBIE: I knew you were mad! I knew it!

LAURA: It's fine.

MATT: "How would you like to be introduced?" (as Eshteross) "Lord Ariks Eshteross, and we'll leave it at that."

MATT: (as herald) "Lord Ariks Eshteross!" Gives a bow. A number of faces turn. In fact, a lot of figures shift over with a look of, "What?" on their face. There's some clapping, but mostly a confusion, surprise across some of the crowd.

ASHLEY: Who is that?

TRAVIS: Do we clock anything that looks nervous or afraid?

MATT: Make an insight check.

SAM: Can I do a scan as well?

MATT: You may.

TRAVIS: 16.

MATT: 16, okay.

SAM: 22.

MATT: 22. Nothing that immediately catches you as nervous. If anything, everyone, and you both clock this, just seem genuinely surprised to see him here and that immediately makes you think of one, your first meetings with him, how he lives, and previous times that he's mentioned he generally keeps to himself and booby traps his abode. You get the sense that his appearance here was not expected, and is a very, very rare sight in a public celebration.

TRAVIS: As an add-on, it wasn't the entire room that turned and looked, but a good portion of the people that were closest to the barker.

MATT: Yeah, I'd say probably the nearest 40 or so people that were even close enough to be not engrossed in other conversations to the party yet all turn and look and all about their business, a few whispers and a few people tugging sleeves and leading attention over that direction. You can already see, within that short time, the whisper network in this room at work.

TALIESIN: Holy shit, who the fuck are you?

MATT: "Apparently an unexpected guest."

TALIESIN: Ah, fuck.

MATT: "(throat clear)"

TRAVIS: Sweet.

TALIESIN: Sorry.

MATT: So you guys, stepping in, immediately clock them arriving afterward. While you keep a distance, you can make eye contact, and gauge that you're still generally close enough to each other to where you are a unit at the moment. Looking throughout the room, it is beautiful. Indeed, you count eight different chandeliers that are hung at different heights and themselves are different sizes that are lit with some network of arcane, glowing lights and baubles, like flames that flicker ever so gently and shift up and down, giving a gentle underwater sensation when you look up into the star-lit sky, beyond the bits of colored glass that loom overhead. You can see there are little walkways that head across and stretch across different portions of the dome that lead to secondary floors at the far edges of each point. Every now and then you can see one individual walking by and keeping an eye, looking down. Various wardens and guards just keeping things safe, keeping an eye on things. There are all manner of tables and chairs. There's an open dance or social space in the very center of the dome. You can see there are two massive bars set off to each side of the arrangement. There's a stage with a band, some sort of a group of musicians that are setting up. There is music present, but it is sourceless. You gather as you turn around and move it's actually slightly shifting with the light of the central chandelier. It seems to be magically emanating the music presently there.

LAURA: That's cool.

MARISHA: That's rad.

SAM: Got a Sonos.

MARISHA: Got a sync box. (laughter)

ASHLEY: That's awesome.

MATT: But there is a group of musicians that are setting up on a far end stage. There's sound of laughter--

LAURA: Alexa? (laughter)

MATT: A woman goes, "Yes?" (laughter)

SAM: What's the weather like? (laughter)

MATT: Glancing around, you see two familiar faces immediately, a bit into the chamber. You see, currently engaged in a conversation on the opposite end, Ginang Ela Lumas is present, with Oshad. Oshad is present and while dressed nice is also wearing a breast plate and is also holding a heavy cane in a very similar reflection of Eshteross. They haven't noticed your presence yet, but they are present for the event.

LIAM: Okay, he's packing.

MATT: Scanning the horizon a bit, you catch at the event--

TALIESIN: Yeah.

MATT: Jiana Hexum is present. A little further into the room, and as soon as your eyes glance over, she's in the middle of a conversation, meets your gaze, gives a nod of, "Really?" and continues the conversation that she's currently in. Those are the immediate individuals that catch your eye amongst the room.

LIAM: In addition to all these things we're tracking, I think Orym is scanning the room, too, for anyone who might be eyeballing Dorian, just because of the way Artana Voe sized him up for looking similar. So he's on the lookout for anyone who might be thinking of bagging a score tonight.

MATT: Certainly, all right. Make a perception check for me.

LIAM: This is why I brought the shield. That's real good, that's a 24.

MATT: 24, okay. Okay, so we'll say that that is your scanning perception as you continue to walk through the event and we'll keep that in mind as you go.

LAURA: Can I be on the lookout for a tall dwarf?

MATT: You can, make a perception check yourself.

LAURA: Nine. This mask is kind of covering my eyes.

MATT: It does, yeah, it's a little small for your face, so you're only catching the edges.

LAURA: It's because I rolled so low on my dex when I was making it.

MATT: It's already giving you a headache a little bit. You're like, "This is a bad idea."

LAURA: I should have taken one of Eshteross', I knew it.

MATT: It's a little overwhelming. You've never, ever been present to an event like this before.

LAURA: How many people, generally, is this?

MATT: Between the servants that are present, the guests that are present, there are already people that are still arriving past since you did. The room already sits at about 150 people.

TRAVIS: Pretty big.

MARISHA: Big party

SAM: They invited 200 knowing that 50 wouldn't come. (laughter)

MARISHA: Extra goodie bags.

MATT: In the interim, what would you like to do?

SAM: Well, Lord Eshteross, should we mingle? Do you think it's time to mingle or is cocktail hour more a low-key affair?

MATT: "I wish I could tell you with certainty. Myself, I'm a bit out of my depth, but a drink sounds lovely. Perhaps a cocktail hour is necessary."

SAM: (robotically) I will go fetch you one, master.

MATT: "Thank you kindly, automaton."

SAM: All right, I'm just--

TRAVIS: Does it look like it's a standing event or are there tables and chairs to the fringe of the room?

MATT: There are tables and chairs, but they're on the fringe. The social space, everyone is standing.

TRAVIS: In the middle?

MATT: Yes.

TRAVIS: Got it.

MATT: That seems to be the central focus of the congregation.

TRAVIS: One bar, two bars, several?

MATT: There are two large bars on opposite ends of the room.

TALIESIN: Food.

SAM: Jesus, this guy. (laughter)

ASHLEY: Food is important.

TALIESIN: I'm trying to build a map, I'm building a map.

MATT: Fair enough. At the tables that line the exterior, you can see there are a number of hors d'oeuvres arrangements there that are ready for the grabbing and there are servants walking around with trays that are essentially serving and presenting them to various individuals that have come to the event, should they require it.

ASHLEY: What kind of food? (laughter)

MATT: There are all manner.

SAM: How many different passed hors d'oeuvres are there?

MATT: There are imported smoked cheeses--

ASHLEY: Are there vegan options?

MATT: There are vegan options if that's what you're looking for. There are all manner of-- What are you looking for? Because they probably have some of it there.

TALIESIN: I was mostly curious if there was anywhere that had tableware, just in case. Because I'm trying to map if I want to grab anything that's stabby.

SAM: Oh, like a knife or something?

TALIESIN: Yeah, if they were carving meat or something, I'd just like to--

MATT: Yes, there is, actually.

TALIESIN: Okay, so there's a sharp thing over there, good to know.

MATT: There is. Currently being held by somebody who--

TALIESIN: They're holding it for me.

MATT: Yeah, it's an upscale portion of what you'd find on a cruise buffet. The person is just standing there the whole party with a knife and a big fork just waiting for someone to come by. (laughter)

MARISHA: What do you have? A knife!

SAM: I'm going to scoot my way--

MARISHA: ♪ Scootin' my way ♪

SAM: -- across to one of the bars, the far bar to order some cocktails. As I scoot, I'm going to cast Detect Magic and just do a scan as I go.

MATT: You cast Detect Magic and you are nearly blinded.

SAM: Oh jesus, okay.

MATT: An unexpected arrangement of glowing sources across so many of the guests here. There are all manner of protective jewelry and bracelets and rings and amulets and earrings. It is just-- Not only are people here showing off what they've acquired over the years for the purposes of looking visibly powerful and interesting, but a lot of it seems to have some sort of function as well.

SAM: Okay.

MATT: So you get that sense.

SAM: But nothing stands out as being-- I can just see glows, right? I can't see outlines or anything. It's just magical glows everywhere.

MATT: Magical glows everywhere. If you're looking for something in particular, I can specify, but I'm not going to sit here and describe the individual pieces of jewelry.

SAM: If I see anyone particularly interesting, maybe I'll zoom in on them, but for now, I'll just generally keep an eye out.

MATT: All right.

LAURA: I'm going to lean over to Orym really fast. Actually, I'm not going to lean, I don't need to lean. I'm going to tilt my head towards Orym and you're going to hear: It's been a while.

ALL: ♪ It's been a while ♪

LIAM: -- I think. (laughter)

LAURA: -- since I've been around-- It's been never since I've been around a crowd quite this large, so.

LIAM: What do you need?

LAURA: Nothing, just if things go south with me, just help me get out.

LIAM: I've done that a lot.

LAURA: All right.

LIAM: Done deal.

ASHLEY: Can I look around for a tall dwarf as well?

MATT: You may, you may.

ASHLEY: Okay.

TRAVIS: Dwarf?

LAURA: Armand is a dwarf.

SAM: What the hell?

ASHLEY: Cocked.

SAM: How does it do that?

LAURA: What is that? That's a 10.

SAM: I think it's an eight. No, it's a, what? What is that?

ASHLEY: I don't know what that is.

LAURA: It's a 10, no, that's a 10. No? Or is it an eight? Or is it a three? Or is it a six?

LIAM: That's a lowercase A.

LAURA: That's a ten, look it's a 10.

ASHLEY: It's a 10, okay. So that would be--

LIAM: Another Ashley Johnson dice special is what that is.

ASHLEY: I'm sorry!

LAURA: Ashley, these two shapes are exactly the same.

ASHLEY: Okay, should I just do a reroll?

LAURA: Yeah, that's a 10 right there. So that wasn't a 10 that you rolled.

MARISHA: All those numbers you named don't look the same.

TALIESIN: This feels like a Sesame Street ad. Is it a three, is it an eight?

SAM: I think it's an eight.

MATT: Roll another dice, Ashley. (laughs)

LIAM: Roll one of the ones that has numbers on it. (laughter)

ASHLEY: Natural one. (groaning)

MATT: There we go.

LAURA: Dang, that's a bummer.

MATT: Currently, nobody who has been looking deeply between the two of you, especially the two different groups has found anyone that resembles Armand.

LAURA: We got masks on, things are hard.

ASHLEY: Yeah, it's hard, it's very hard.

MATT: You do hear another introduction that catches your attention, as well as a few other people in the room. You hear the same voice billow out from the entranceway, "General Ratanish of the Paragon's Call!"

ALL: Ooh.

MATT: You glance over and--

LAURA: (laughs) We all (gasps)

MATT: You watch as five individuals walk in.

LAURA: Oh gosh.

MATT: You thought you could have looked pretty rough and tumble, but there is a distinctly-- Like somebody tried to dress up a group of Mad Max extras. (laughter)

MATT: You see a very tough looking group of ruffians that come walking in and they are wearing very, very used leather braces and dirty pants, but each of them has a shirt that's gone over it, and that's about all the effort that was put into it.

LAURA: Picturing Vox Machina versus Mighty Nein walking in here.

MATT: Yeah, more or less.

TALIESIN: It's the Thunderdome winter formal.

MATT: Yeah, it looks like there is some effort to dress up to a certain degree, but all of it across the board looks to be an afterthought. The bare minimum done to say that they dressed up. But they waltz in wearing all manner of patchwork hide armor, leathers, definitely do not belong. You thought some whispers went through the room when Eshteross came in. The chamber becomes abuzz with conversation and attention.

MARISHA: Is there anyone in the audience that looks pleased that they're there? Like, "Yeah, them's my boys."

MATT: Make a perception check.

TRAVIS: General Atanish?

MATT: Ratanish.

MARISHA: Oi, yucky. This ball sucks. It's an eight.

MATT: Eight. It's hard to tell, the whispers are hushed and it seems to be from what you can gather just an interest of this display in such a formal, upper-crust event.

MARISHA: Those ruffians, ooh. I say to add to the chatter. (laughter)

LAURA: A-walla walla walla.

MATT: Peas and carrots.

TRAVIS: Jaw falls off.

MATT: But General Ratanish who is being introduced, you see is a very tall male half-giant, a goliath in his forties. Broad shoulders, but definitely bows with an exaggerated flourish at their introduction.

LAURA: General Ratanish?

MATT: Yes. Most of the hair is gone except for this deep red and gray long hair in the back that's braided into this long braid that finishes with a metallic iron ring, right around where the waist is and swings as he walks forward.

TRAVIS: He's a half-giant?

MATT: Yeah.

LIAM: He's going to beat us with that.

MARISHA: I know, what the hell? So they're definitely armed, it feels like.

MATT: You don't see any weapons on them, at first glance. They're just definitely showing their attire, which does look to be possibly serviceable and has served many a physical encounter based on the gashes, scars, and chips across the metal and leathers. But they're not making any interest in talking yet and go straight for the bar.

MARISHA: Aaron.

TALIESIN: Yeah?

MARISHA: Should we shuffle into the crowd? Just listen to the whispers, see if we pick anything up?

TALIESIN: Sure, this is a lot. Yeah, yeah, okay.

MARISHA: It is.

TALIESIN: Yep, all right.

MARISHA: All right. I want to get in a group, so that as people come in, I can maybe hear some of the whispers.

MATT: Okay. You catch a couple of elements, keeping the same perception check since it's been pretty quickly after that scenario, but you pick up some elements, some whispers seem to be about. "They'll let anyone in these kind of events these days." Someone else being like, "Oh, interesting. Hellcatch Valley has representatives now. Wonderful." Some individual's like, "Do you think they're up to something? You think they're here to kill someone? Someone going to die tonight?!" Someone's just like, "I certainly hope so, I'm bored out of my mind." But it sits in that similar space. It's more about just questioning their appearance, questioning their background, and I don't know, an air of excitement that it's changed things a bit as well. Around this time you said you've retrieved some drinks?

SAM: I went and ordered a couple of cocktails. I was not told what kind of cocktails to get, so I'll just ask the bartender: Is there a standard drink or is there a house special or just-- what do you--? I don't really care.

MATT: "Wine."

SAM: I was told to get a cocktail. Two, actually, is there anything harder than that?

MATT: Begins mixing a drink, doesn't even say anything.

SAM: Great, two please. Just looking for magic. (laughter)

ASHLEY: Brontë, should we go get a drink?

ROBBIE: Yes, that's a good idea. Let's work our way through the crowds.

ASHLEY: Let's work our way through the crowd.

ROBBIE: As we're walking through the crowd, since we don't really know anybody, I want to look for, instead of a specific face, I want to look for a circle of people that might be surrounding the most popular person in the room. You ever go to a party and you scan and you're like, "Over there, something's going on over there."

SAM: Like a break dancer in the middle?

ROBBIE: Yeah, maybe! Some kind of dance circle. No, but someone who potentially might be surrounded with sycophants and onlookers, that sort of thing.

LIAM: Don't make me sing, oh, don't make me sing.

ASHLEY: Don't make me sing. (laughter)

MATT: Make a perception check for me, Dorian.

ROBBIE: Perception?

MATT: Yes, please.

TALIESIN: I love a good--

ROBBIE: Yeah, this is going to be a long night. That's a five. (laughter)

MARISHA: Why are we sucking?

ROBBIE: The only skill that we need! It's the only thing we need.

MARISHA: Kyle, do we have any sage? (laughter)

ROBBIE: Wow, it's a different one, I did a different one.

MATT: You're usually good at reading a crowd, it's something that you've spent a lot of your recent years especially, being amongst and utilizing your skill towards, but that's usually based in performing arts and music. Conversationally, that's still an odd space for you to traverse and you're having a hard time locating any sort of shift in the grouping of these attendees that marks you to a specific location, at least this point in the evening. You do all feel like you're set adrift for a bit. The first half an hour of the party goes by and a lot of it is just trying to find your sea legs, if you will. It's a lot to the senses. It's a lot of odd stares. It's a lot of conversations happening around you that you really have no comfortable place of entry and you can't help but feel this little sinking in the back of your mind that says this is a mistake. Then you hear an announcement in the front. "Lord Armand Treshi of Mahaan House Treshi." You can see a number of faces turn, some more claps and cheers from around. In the front you see walking in, two figures. You see a male dwarf, burly in the shoulders, though kind of thin in mid section, taller than most dwarves, he's probably just pushing a few inches past five feet. Uncertain if that may be the shoes he's wearing or not. At a glance, those are some are some pretty high shoes. Definitely trying to present for his station.

TALIESIN: New Rocks.

MATT: Yeah. You do see his dark hair is slicked directly back. On the face, the facial hair is immaculately manicured. There is a big toothy smile upon the entry and in his arm is a woman who looks to be a half-elf in her mid twenties. Young, like a waifish looking woman, pale, dark hair that curls intensely to the point where she probably has very long hair, but it all bunches up at the sides to give this almost buoyant bush of hair around her head frame.

LIAM: It's Minnie Driver.

MATT: Minnie Driver, there you go. She's wearing a long gray dress that her bony shoulders protrude from, and it hangs around her sides and drags behind her. It's a Tim Burton-esque look to it, if anything. But he bows, she just holds her position and looks around and they both enter arm-in-arm and almost immediately break off into two different parts of the party and begin to mingle.

TRAVIS: Can you tell me again what the color of her garment or gown?

LAURA: Gray.

MATT: Like a medium gray with almost like a silvery sheen to it as you watch her move through the lighting.

MARISHA: Like what you're wearing, but better.

TRAVIS: We match!

MARISHA: Yes, you match!

LIAM and SAM: Who wore it better? (laughter)

MATT: Heroes, they're just like us. (laughter)

TRAVIS: Time to remove the competition.

LAURA: So no other bodyguards at all? He's by himself with her and they broke off?

MATT: No bodyguards on him, it looks like.

TALIESIN: I should've worn red.

MARISHA: What's his dress, what's he wearing?

MATT: He's wearing a really, really nice black sherwani coat with gold filigree trim all throughout. It is detailed immaculately. Very well-tailored to his form with matching pants. You can see clustered platinum and gold and silver bracelets around each wrist that just barely protrude from the edge of his sleeves. You can see rings across every finger and each thumb. You can see necklaces that adorn the exterior of his collar. Definitely presenting his wealth and station within the event.

SAM: Okay, that's good, that's good.

LAURA: Is anybody else at the party wearing that much jewelry or is he the top of the?

MATT: No, it doesn't feel comparatively out of place. Some people more than others. But this is an event where people go all out and there definitely = seems to be, at least in this chamber, in these social circles, a bit of a contest, a subtle, quiet peacocking, if you will, of wealth amongst some of the nobles.

LIAM: Not shirtcocking.

LAURA: (laughs) Not shirtcocking.

MATT: Not shirtcocking.

LAURA: That's exactly where my brain went.

MATT: A few more drinks and midnight and it's a whole different party.

TRAVIS: Just as FCG is at the bar and the other twos are wandering, I'm going to give Lord Eshteross a little bit of space, like 10, 15 feet, and act like I'm checking out other people, but just give him a radius so I can see who might be checking him out.

MATT: All right, no worries. Make a perception check.

TRAVIS: 14.

MATT: 14. You watch, as most folks are just keeping almost a curious distance from Eshteross, though folks are clocking him, but no-one seems to be interested in approaching or at least has a reason to at the moment. You do see one male goblin in what would be probably his fifties or so wearing long white and bronze colored trim robes with some sort of a mantle that ties over in the front and goes into these long tassels that drag to the ground. Light olive skin with spectacles over his eyes, the ears that point out to the sides and a soft smile on his face, and adjust the glasses and looks up at Lord Eshteross from about 30 feet away and begins stepping across the floor in his direction. A few people step out of the way. Approaches Eshteross. "I am sorry to impose. It is good to see someone else who is uncomfortable in this space as I am. What is your name, if I might ask?" Lord Eshteross uncrosses his arms a bit. "Ariks, Ariks Eshteross, and you are?" "Oh, I am headmaster Gryz Alakritos. I work along with the Allegiance of Allsight in Ank'Harel. I was invited to this event and I just hate it. I hate this whole thing, I regret coming, and it does good to see that I'm not the only one." He looks over the rest of the troop surrounding him.

MARISHA: I love him.

TRAVIS: Agryz, last name?

LAURA: Ryz?

MATT: Gryz, G-R-Y-Z. Alakritos.

ALL: Alakritos.

LAURA: What did he say he was?

TRAVIS: The Headmaster Gryz Alakritos.

MATT: The Allegiance of All-Sight.

MARISHA: Allegion...

LAURA and LIAM: Allegiance.

TALIESIN and MATT: Of Allsight.

MARISHA: Allegiance.

ASHLEY: Of Allsight?

TALIESIN: Interesting.

LIAM: Yes.

MATT: Lord Eshteross gives a chuckle, "You're quite astute in your observation. This is pomp and circumstance that I avoid like the plague." (as Gryz) "But you find yourself here, anyway. We will endure, I guess, at least with some semblance of commiseration." Takes his glasses off and cleans them a bit off one of the insides of the robe. "I'm sorry if I'm interrupting anything."

TRAVIS: I make my way over. Sorry, is it your first time at one of these events?

MATT: "Yes, yes, this is more of my friend's deal, but I was invited and here I am and this will be the last time I do this."

TRAVIS: A strange collection of individuals and who did you come with?

MATT: "A friend of mine is a member of the Mahaan houses here, Ajit Dayal of House Dayal here in the city. Very good man, very good man, much better at these than I am, and I think you'll understand if I leave early. (laughs)"

TRAVIS: Oh no, I have the same feeling, I think we're just making an appearance, keeping up appearances.

SAM: That's for you. He's part of the Gorgynei.

TRAVIS: Oh! (laughter)

SAM: (pigeon cooing)

ROBBIE: Yeah, yeah--

TRAVIS: Ajit Dayal, Ajit Dayal. Oh shit, fuck, anus! Okay.

MATT: Ajit, technically. He said 'Ajeet,' but Ajit Dayal.

LIAM: Ajit Dayal.

TRAVIS: I hear you, it's quite boring. Well, my lord here is not one for conversation, but perhaps some interesting convo will go a long way if you don't mind keeping him company, perhaps I could entertain your friend for a bit, and then with those conversations stale, we could call it an evening.

MATT: "Certainly, certainly. I know he's often about shaking hands and the like, but when he returns, I will happily introduce Lord Eshterossi and your-- what's your name?"

TRAVIS: My name is C. C. Pop.

MATT: "C. C. Pop."

TRAVIS: C. Pop Woodworking, yes.

MATT: "Where are you from?"

TRAVIS: Oh, Uthodurn by way of Jrusar, I have franchises.

MATT: "Interesting."

TRAVIS: Yes.

MATT: "All right, well--"

TRAVIS: Boutique things. You're not in the market for any excellent wood-feature pieces in your-- headmaster, you said?

MATT: "Yes, I myself might not be, but I have compatriots in Ank'Harel. Perhaps there's some interest there."

TRAVIS: Ank'Harel, yes. My pieces are very highly sought after. I'll give you a business card later. Just remember C. Pop!

MATT: "I will, thank you, C. C. Pop. The pleasure is mine." (laughter)

MATT: Meanwhile... (laughter)

MARISHA: (scene transition music)

TRAVIS: Chetney Pock O'Pea.

LIAM: Orym is keeping one eye on Armand's lady companion. Does she seem to be legitimately mingling, or is she acting casual?

MATT: Keeping with your perception check earlier, she is avoiding the room. You watch as Armand begins to introduce himself and begins to say hello to individuals that he recognizes, shaking hands, hugs, laughter and boisterous catching up. This is definitely an individual that thrives in this space. She becomes-- makes herself smaller. Once they broke off, shuffles off out of the main social space, goes and gets a glass of wine and stands off to the side, and sips it a bit.

LIAM: Is she legitimately wall-flowering it or does she look like she's watching the room?

MATT: Looks like she's watching the room.

LIAM: Okay.

MATT: And wall-flowering it. You know, she's at a distance, but it could be either or both.

LIAM: All righty.

TALIESIN: She would have definitely been the one I clocked, too. I need a drink. Where did Grass go?

SAM: I come back with the cocktails. Here you go. Hey, everybody's magic here. There's all kinds of magic things everywhere.

MARISHA: All right.

TALIESIN: Oh, okay. That took a second, all right.

SAM: It's not very helpful, but just so you know, even if someone is not armed, they might have, you know, magic.

TALIESIN: Actually--

MATT: (as Gryz) "An autonomously-talking automaton."

TRAVIS: (laughs)

SAM: Well, smiley day to you.

MATT: "Fascinating."

SAM: How are you, sir?

MATT: "I am quite intrigued actually (laughs). Sorry, I've-I've--"

SAM: I get this a lot, it's all right. You can give me a once-over and look me over--

MATT: "If you don't mind."

SAM: I'll do a little 360.

MATT: "Who is your creator?"

SAM: Oh, she's dead.

MATT: "I'm sorry."

SAM: Her name was Dancer. Do you want to know the backstory?

MATT: "I would very much be interested--"

SAM: Well, I have to get my friends here another drink, I think, so I might--

MARISHA: What's your name? Hello.

TRAVIS: This is Headmaster-- no, I got it-- Gryz Alaktorus.

MATT: "Pleasure to make both of your acquaintance."

MARISHA: Charmed.

MATT: "(laughs)"

SAM: Hello, yes.

MARISHA: Yes.

SAM: What do you teach?

MATT: "Oh, I don't teach, necessarily, I oversee research."

SAM: Of what kind?

MATT: "Of ancient histories and ruins."

SAM: Oh.

LAURA: (gasps)

MARISHA: That's pretty cool, it could be useful.

SAM: Are you local, do you live here?

MATT: "I am not, I am based out of Ank'Harel within the Rumedam Desert to the east of here."

SAM: Ruins. That where he throws--

LAURA: Yep.

MARISHA: Well, you know, it's interesting, we were actually just contemplating taking a little trip to the Heartmoor.

MATT: "I'm not terribly familiar with the Heartmoor. I know of it, but I've not visited there. In fact, this is one of the first times I've been to the Oderan Wilds."

MARISHA: Really?

MATT: "Yes."

SAM: What do you know about the Heartmoor, if anything?

MATT: "I know that it supposedly has some unique properties to its local growth. It's a very swampy land, and I know that a number of compatriots of mine in the past have paid top dollar for some of the imported goods that had been farmed there. A number of the tubers and strange undergrowth seem to have interest in alchemical circles. None that I've encountered in my experience, but that's what I can recall off the top of my head.

SAM: Okay.

MATT: "Not one of my specialties, I apologize." The ear twitches a bit and he gets a little like nervously apologetic.

SAM: What else can he help us with, anything?

MARISHA: Yeah, you know, me and another compatriot, we were new studies at the Starlight Academy, I've heard that you have connections there in Ank'Harel.

MATT: "Oh, in the Conservatory?"

MARISHA: Yes.

MATT: "Well, we have mutual exchanges between different studies there, yes."

MARISHA: Perhaps we can collaborate.

MATT: "Perhaps, certainly. What is your speciality there, what is your--?"

MARISHA: Oh, primarily the study of celestial beings, the stars, and weird-ass dreams. Creepy dreams.

MATT: "Hm."

MARISHA: Do you know anything about weird dreams?

MATT: "Yes, actually."

MARISHA: Really?

MATT: He leans in close.

SAM: Oh no.

MATT: "There was one time where I--"

MARISHA: Oh fuck, he's going to tell me about a dream.

TALIESIN: You did this to yourself.

MATT: "I was a mango, but like, it was me, I wasn't inside of a mango, I just... was a mango."

MARISHA: Was a mango. Wow!

MATT: "I began to understand what the perspective of life was from the point of being the mango. While it seems so simple, the philosophy of it all told me that all living beings, all living creatures in Exandria are connected in a unique way."

MARISHA: I look at Ashton.

TALIESIN: I'm popping in here. So how does a mango perceive time at that point? I mean, are you just moving--? (yelling)

MATT: "See, that's what's so hard about it! While I was a mango, I still retained the life experiences that I had as a goblin, and as such, I could perceive time passing and I couldn't necessarily move until someone plucked me from my space. Then began to dine upon me and it didn't hurt! If anything, I was a bit sad to lose my form, but I understood it was part of the cycle, for when they devoured me, I also became part of them."

TRAVIS: You die in your dream, you die in real life.

SAM: Nightmare on Elm Street.

MARISHA: No, it's The Matrix.

TALIESIN: This is so similar to something that I, yeah--

SAM: I'm going to get another round. Can I get you anything, Headmaster?

MATT: "Oh, I don't drink, thank you, though."

SAM: All right.

TALIESIN: Actually, if you could, there's a woman standing in the corner over there, just see if you can get close enough to clock if she's shiny, glowing, anything on her that might be--

SAM: I don't know if my thing is still up, my Detect Magic? You said we were here for like an hour or so?

TALIESIN: How long was that dream?

MATT: You were here about half an hour, Detect Magic lasts for 10 minutes?

SAM: 10 minutes.

MATT: I'd say it's probably faded by now.

TALIESIN: All right, never mind, then.

SAM: I'm going to do another scan just for other stuff.

TALIESIN: Okay, there's a couple of people worth paying attention to, and she's making me a little nervous.

SAM: Okay.

TALIESIN: All right.

SAM: I will leave the group, this time making a wide arc around the room, going back--

TRAVIS: ♪ Makin' a wide arc! ♪

SAM: -- to get another drink, this time casting Detect Evil and Good.

TRAVIS: Ooh!

MATT: Okay.

MARISHA: Detect Evil and Good.

TALIESIN: Using all the fun ones.

LIAM: The room glows dark purple.

MARISHA: Yeah. (scared noise)

SAM: Celestial, elemental, fey, fiend, or undead.

TRAVIS: (gravelly) I want to wear your face.

MATT: Good to know, good to know. Okay, all right. That'll last for 10 minutes as you concentrate.

LAURA: You see Fearne.

ASHLEY: Shall we? Yeah.

SAM: Ah!

ASHLEY: Ooh!

MATT: As you're doing that, and the other conversations are happening, a tall man in his 60s begins to approach you, Dorian. You can see him, he's heavy-set with a bullfrog neck, I would say. Most of his hair is thinned away, and wears clothing that is not of Marquet necessarily, but definitely wears jewelry that is of Marquesian design. Approaches and presents his hand. "I'm sorry, I just--"

ROBBIE: Oh, hello.

MATT: "You-- I've not seen you around before. I'm wanting to make your acquaintance."

ROBBIE: Hello, hello, how are you? Brontë, very nice to meet you.

MATT: "Brontë, Brontë, I'm Lord Preston Drodelon."

ROBBIE: Wow, Preston Drodelon.

MATT: "Yes, yes."

ROBBIE: Your name precedes you.

MATT: "It is quite a name, isn't it?"

ROBBIE: Yes. This is Fearne Calloway.

ASHLEY: Hello.

ROBBIE: My accompaniment for the night, and these are my servants, Copernicus and Maude. (laughter) (laughter)

MARISHA: Copernicus and Maude. (laughter)

MATT: "Which one of you--"

TALIESIN: I'd stand up right now. I'd clap and stand up if it wouldn't fuck up the camera.

MATT: "Which one of you is Maude? I missed the part of that introduction."

LAURA: That would be me, my lord.

MATT: "A pleasure to meet you, Maude. And you, fine, small Copernicus."

LIAM: Sir. This is antithetical to all that is Vex. (laughter)

MATT: "And Fearne Calloway, well, the pleasure is mine." Takes your hand and does a little kiss and eye-contact.

ASHLEY: Oh! Very nice to meet you.

ROBBIE: So how might we know you? I'm new to the area and tell us a little bit about yourself.

MATT: "You're new to the area?"

ROBBIE: Yes.

MATT: "So not from Marquet, then?"

ROBBIE: Broader than that, surrounding areas, nearby, though.

MATT: "Hmm. Well, I-- as I'm said, I'm Lord Drodelon, I'm a lord. I've been for some time."

ASHLEY: How long have you been a lord?

MATT: "Well, a lord--"

ASHLEY: Does that happen when you're born?

MATT: "No, no, this was acquired through blood, sweat, and hard work and making the right alliances. I'm a self-made man, is what I'm saying."

ASHLEY: Oh, I imagine you had to kill a lot of people to get there. (laughs)

MATT: "Anyway..." (laughter) (laughter)

MATT: "So I originally made my fortune in a far away city in Issylra. And I was, for a time, the Lord of the Quadroads there. After deciding that I needed a change of pace, I moved on to the city of Yios in Aeshanadoor where I currently reside. And yes, I like it here."

ASHLEY: Yes, it is quite lovely. We haven't been here for very long. We're just passing through and exploring, you know, part of the world.

MATT: "Well, that is amazing. I'm blown away by that. You are spell-binding."

ASHLEY: Oh, thank you so much.

ROBBIE: This city is just so full of interesting types-- (laughter)

ROBBIE: You know who-- that's a long laugh. You know who I just saw walk in, was Armand Treshi.

ASHLEY: Oh yes!

ROBBIE: Do you know anything about him? We've heard his name bandied about and just curious.

MATT: Make a persuasion check.

ROBBIE: Okay. Yes! Finally. 24.

MATT: 24! Okay. (laughter)

TALIESIN: Concentrate for a second. (laughter)

MARISHA: Oh my god--

SAM: I love it, I love it, Matt.

MATT: "I've had a few conversations with Lord Treshi and-- you're not from around here, you said, right?"

ROBBIE: Not really, no. The inner-city workings I'm not familiar with, no.

MATT: "He's kind of a putz, to be honest."

ROBBIE: A putz! You think he's a putz?

MATT: "He's not very approachable. He seems to be very important, self-important, at least, and I hate people like that."

ROBBIE: I understand.

MATT: "It's hard to place it, really. But he--"

ROBBIE: I just flick a little bit of spit out of my eye. (laughter)

LAURA: As he's talking, I'm looking around and seeing if other people's impressions of this lord and whether or not it's good or bad in social standing to be talking to him this long.

MATT: Very well. As you're taking that, he goes, "He was initially known as the black sheep of the Treshi family. So those types have to work extra hard for their station and I think you can see it, obviously."

ROBBIE: (scoffs) What a try-hard, am I right? (laughter)

MATT: "But I'm sure he has his uses. Jrusar politics are so boring."

ROBBIE: Especially for someone who's a master at it like you.

MATT: "Oh, I am far from a master. I'm more of a-- just a friendly hand-shaker. I'm a mover, if you will."

ROBBIE: A mover and a shaker?

MATT: "Indeed." (laughter)

ASHLEY: Where did you say you were originally from?

MATT: "Well, originally, I was to the continent of Issylra. You may have heard of it. It's a fantastical, historical city where many great people have come from, called Vasselheim."

ASHLEY: Oh, I don't know if I'm familiar.

MATT: "It's the oldest city in Exandria. It's where the gods once resided. It's where heroes are still born."

ASHLEY: Whoa! That sounds incredible.

MATT: "But I grew bored of it so I moved on."

ASHLEY: Oh wow. Do you ever wish for anything more?

TALIESIN: (choking laughter)

MATT: "I do. Often."

ASHLEY: Do they ever come true?

MATT: "Occasionally." Gives you a wink. Like he's completely cut off in any acknowledgment of Dorian.

ASHLEY: Well, I think we should get a-- Should we get a beverage?

ROBBIE: I'm almost dry. You know this area and the bar. What's the signature drink?

ASHLEY: Yes.

MATT: "I just told them to pour me something strong."

ASHLEY: I'll do the same.

ROBBIE: Strong drinks for a strong fellow. I punch him in the arm.

MATT: "Ow."

ROBBIE: Well, Preston, may I call you Preston?

MATT: "You may call me Preston."

ROBBIE: Ah, lovely. We'll see you soon. We'll circle back around.

MATT: "All right, Brontë?"

ROBBIE: Correct.

LAURA: As we're leaving--

MATT: "Meshugganah." (laughter) "And Fearne Calloway."

ASHLEY: Lord Pressy, we will see you around.

MATT: "All right."

LAURA: Before we leave, can I just lean into Lord Preston and say: For my master's sake, is there anyone here that we should be paying more attention to?

MATT: "As far as?"

LAURA: Importance? Standing? Things you would know a lot about.

MATT: Points over and there is a halfling rocking this Bowie-esque androgyny who is in a lively conversation, ought to be probably in their early 40s, but aging gracefully. They're wearing this gold, wide-shouldered ensemble with a wide breast that folds over and no socks and just these simple flat shoes beneath that to match the same golden sparkle. Fantastic eye makeup. "That is Gavis Aranda. They are the Voice of the Quorum, and if you're looking to get anything done, they're the one to connect to."

LAURA: Thank you so much.

MATT: "Of course."

ROBBIE: I look over at Imogen and make contact. Can you send a message to the other squad?

LAURA: I can when I see them.

ROBBIE: All right. Preston said that Armand is difficult to approach, so I think this is going to be more difficult than just walking up and introducing ourselves and making small talk. We're going to have to go big if we're going to get his attention.

ASHLEY: I have an idea.

ROBBIE: Okay?

ASHLEY: Yeah, I have an idea.

LAURA: Are you in this, okay--

ASHLEY: No, I'm not in your heads, but I'm just--

LAURA: That'd be great if it was a trio with--

ASHLEY: I'm going to stop talking to you all because I--

ROBBIE: Oh, no, you can-- inside voice. We're talking.

ASHLEY: Am I in there, too?

LAURA: Yeah.

ASHLEY: Okay.

SAM: What is happening?

MARISHA: Whispers.

TALIESIN: That's what you get when you roll a perception check off the fucking scale.

ASHLEY: He's doing whispers. Don't you need to do a thing?

SAM: Oh, oh, yes. What was the sponsor? NordVPN! (laughter)

SAM: You know, we did that enough. Watch The Legend of Vox Machina! (cheering) Episodes one through six on Amazon Prime right now! It's real good--

TRAVIS: It's real good!

SAM: And it gets better!

TRAVIS: There's some shit happening.

SAM: Oh man, I think episode seven--

TRAVIS: No, Sam!

SAM: No spoilers?

TRAVIS: Don't say it--

LAURA: Are you kidding me?

TALIESIN: Don't, don't--

SAM: It's real good.

TRAVIS: That cliffhanger at the end of six, though.

LAURA: What did you have in mind?

ROBBIE: I don't have anything in mind, but I just know it's not going to be as simple as simply introducing ourselves. He's cut off. He's going to be tough to--

LAURA: Maybe if we can find somebody of importance that can introduce us.

ASHLEY: Okay.

ROBBIE: Any ideas?

LAURA: Well, the Voice--

ROBBIE: Can we see him from where we're at?

MATT: Which one in particular?

ROBBIE: Gavis.

MATT: Gavis, yeah. It's hard not to. While you didn't notice earlier, but the more people have arrived, the social cliques are beginning to emerge. You can see the evening starting to comfortably step into business talk and connections and more and more overt handshakes. But at all times, there is definitely a small audience surrounding this Gavis individual that you've been pointed towards.

ROBBIE: He seems friendly enough.

LAURA: I don't know. I mean, he might be difficult, too.

ROBBIE: That's a good idea.

LIAM: I turn towards these three who I think are just thinking at each other?

LAURA: It was a small conversation because I can't talk to two people.

LIAM: My lord, if I may... (whispers) Your brother is here.

TRAVIS: Oh shit. (gasping)

LIAM: Check your three o'clock.

MARISHA: Why would he do that? That is the stupidest fucking thing--

SAM: He's a real dumb guy.

MARISHA: He's so dumb.

TRAVIS: Real dumb.

MATT: You glance over and as you see, the pale woman that entered with Armand, that splintered off and became this wallflower off to the side has now been joined by another man that is wearing an ivory suit, really well tailored, looks like it may be a bit small for his frame, mask up, and hair pulled back, but definitely both in form, physique and presence, reminds you of your brother.

ROBBIE: But masked?

MATT: Yes.

ROBBIE: Thank you. Should I go talk to him? No?

ASHLEY: I don't think you should. Okay--

ROBBIE: I have to later.

ASHLEY: Yes.

LAURA: Sure. Let's complete the mission before you do that.

ASHLEY: Maybe, maybe, just go with me on this for like two seconds. Armand seems to be somebody who likes a presentation. Do you happen to know the Parley Twist Dance from a court dance?

ROBBIE: God, from when I was a teenager, maybe. No one's done that in 10 years. How old are you again?

ASHLEY: 112. Well, we used to do it at our court all the time, but listen, if we just do it, it's a beautiful dance between two people and really turn it up--

ROBBIE: Okay.

ASHLEY: Bring the attention to us.

ROBBIE: Yeah.

ASHLEY: Dance by Armand.

ROBBIE: Sure. By Armand?

ASHLEY: Maybe he'll be like, "Wow, they're amazing. They're beautiful, look at this..."

LAURA: You both are very attractive, that could work.

ROBBIE: Should we do it by Armand or by Gavis? Who'd be more likely to appreciate it?

LAURA: I feel like Gavis would appreciate it based on their appearance.

ASHLEY: Well, if we do a good job--

ROBBIE: Okay, dance of seduction?

ASHLEY: Maybe, yeah, it's kind of like that--

ROBBIE: Remember you have to walk--

ASHLEY: I don't know if you've ever heard of tango.

ROBBIE: You have to walk me through the steps again, it's been a while.

MATT: About this time--

LIAM: ♪ Been a while ♪

MATT: The musicians are set on the stage, but still holding. People in the crowd begin to shift a bit and you can hear the movement of chairs or heavy objects of some kind and you can see there are a number of the servants in the event are now pushing a small set of stairs towards the center. You hear the hitting of glass-- Ting, ting, ting, ting-- ringing throughout the chamber. Everyone begins to glance over and gather a bit, these stairs are placed in the center and Gavis goes and takes their cloak and throws it over their shoulder, steps up to the top, and is now tall enough to look over the entire crowd and then some. Holding a glass of some sort of a wine or light champagne in one hand, and they looks amongst the crowd and go, "Friends, all of you, thank you for attending tonight. It is really a wonderful sight to see all of your faces here this eve." Puts the drink out, and spins around, everyone raises their glasses in acknowledgment. "Now, we are here to celebrate a union of friendship, of guild, Mahaan house, and a unified future for Jrusar!" I see many faces here that have proven that we have the strength to continue to show the rest of Marquet that we mean business and business well." There's some clapping. I'm proud of you all for keeping us strong, for keeping us working well with our allies abroad and nearby, and maintaining the prosperity of open shipping and sky trade roads across all of Exandria. Along with our allies in Ank'Harel..." Looks out to some of the crowd, towards some folk, a couple of clapping there. "I want to ask you to join me in your good will throughout the evening for our friends across the mountains and seas and beyond, whether it'd be with a nod, or a "Be Pleased," I want you to drink in the health and honor for the night and by keeping peoples of this region safe, secure, and profitable." You hear a voice off in the side go, "Safe, what of the attacks? What is Quorum's plan to bolster the Wardens?"

TRAVIS: (mumbles)

MATT: (Gavis) "Ha. Right."

ALL: (concerned mumbling)

MATT: Immediately going around is like, (Gavis) "(forced laugh) Of course! Well... Society always has its curious challenges, but everything is being handled and handled rightly." Another voice goes, "That's not what I'm hearing in the streets. There's concern, there's rumors, worry. What are you doing about it? What's the Quorum doing about it?"

TRAVIS: Yeah, what are you doing about it?

MATT: Whispers go a bit. (Gavis) "(nervous laugh) It is being considered, much is being considered, and if you are concerned indeed, you're welcome to speak with me and as such, the Quorum, in private. But for now," and you can see the crowd shifts a bit, and General Ratanish steps a little bit closer in the crowd, and crosses his arms, and looms large with his crew in the center of this group, looking up right towards Gavis, who-- (Gavis) "A toast to the glory of our city, to the Five Spires, and to all of you who keep it alive."

MATT: Everyone cheers, drinks, and then the music begins from the band. There's a beautiful arrangement of strings and percussion. At the center of this, you see a young female katari, a thin, lioness look with a heavy fur collar of a much darker color that doesn't look like it's part of her actual fur, but a coat she's wearing. She's holding a lute-like instrument called a rubab, that is this beautiful long neck with metallic instrument and hanging decor on it. It just has a very wonderful, unique sound as she plucks and strums at it that mingles to the music. While the music had been atmospheric at this point, it is now a beautiful arrangement, that amongst the chaos of that, it serves as an immediate distraction. The tension that began to build there, it seems to set away as folks begin to pay attention to the music and continue the conversations they had going previously. So what would you like to do?

MARISHA: Where is Ratanish heading?

TRAVIS: He's at the front, right?

MARISHA: He's at the front?

MATT: Up at the front. Yeah, the stairs are being pulled back now, and you can see Gavis, they've stepped down a bit.

MARISHA: I'm going to keep eyes on Ratanish.

MATT: Okay.

LAURA: Can I see FCG in the crowd?

SAM: (whirring)

MATT: Mm-hmm.

LAURA: I'm going to send him, I'm going to talk to him. I think Dorian and Fearne are about to do something flashy, so you might want to give them a bump, if you can.

SAM: I can think this, right? Yeah, I'll be right over. I'm just picking up some drinks and I'll head over there. Can I get you anything?

LAURA: Oh no. I'm abstaining tonight. Thank you so much.

SAM: Oh, because you're the service, yeah. (laughter)

MATT: As you are passing through the crowd, with your passive perception, which is pretty solid, Fresh Cut Grass, you're the one who's doing the most groundwork throughout the crowd here, you hear a couple of odd conversations that pass your ears. Somebody mentions, "Apparently the Stratos Throne turned down the invitation. Strange high and mighty bumpkins."

SAM: Bumpkins?

MATT: You hear somebody else say, (Voice 1) "No, it was a burglary." (Voice 2) "What? A burglary?" (Voice 1) "It was a burglary! The tower was fallen to cover their tracks." (Voice 2) "Is that certain?" (Voice 1) "Apparently. That's what I heard, at least." But you eventually come back around to where the rest of your group is.

SAM: Did I detect any evil or good?

MATT: You detected nothing in the realm of aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, or fiends. So no. Or undead.

SAM: Or undead.

MATT: Or undead, sorry.

SAM: Ah, I thought you were notoriously leaving it out.

LAURA: Except for our own party.

MATT: Yeah, I mean, you definitely pick up Laudna in that. Legitimately, Laudna's a beacon in that, and that worries you if anybody else can do the same.

SAM: Ooh.

MARISHA: That's true. Have you done that and seen that yet?

SAM: That's the first time I cast that spell, but it's horrifying.

MATT: Laudna definitely is giving off this dark, necromantic aura, and reads to you as undead.

TRAVIS: You didn't need a spell for that.

MARISHA: As I'm off on my own, you just see me peek under my dress to Pâté, and I pet him a little bit, not thinking anybody's watching me.

SAM: Lord Ariks Eshteross did not give off any of those?

MATT: Mm-mm.

SAM: Okay, good. Good to know. But yeah, I'll head towards the Dorian group.

MATT: All right.

TALIESIN: Is Armand's date still hanging in the corner?

MATT: Armand's date is no longer there.

TALIESIN: Shit.

MATT: If you want to make a perception check to see if you can find her amongst the crowd.

TALIESIN: That'll be funny.

LAURA: There's so much!

SAM: We need, like, a diagram.

LAURA: Over here, one here, one here, one here.

TALIESIN: 20.

MATT: 20!

LIAM and LAURA: Nice.

TALIESIN: Apparently anxiety pays off. All right.

MATT: There you go. (laughs) So as the crowd begins to, not disperse, but settle into a social ring around this center of the chamber, you can glance over and see where she was, no longer there, moved on towards the back where two of the double major exit doors are into the rest of the Chandei Quorum chambers at the event are. She's sitting down in a chair and is still holding the singular glass.

TALIESIN: Alone or with company?

MATT: Alone.

TALIESIN: What's the energy? Bored, scanning the crowd? I'm trying to figure out--

MATT: Make an insight check.

TALIESIN: Yeah. She's giving off the security vibe. Oh, that's even funnier, all right. Love these.

ASHLEY: No.

TALIESIN: 21.

LAURA: Oh, why'd you act--

TALIESIN: Because I rolled a natural 20 on a thing that I should not be able to do, but apparently I don't know what's happening. These are where all my good rolls are going.

MATT: Now, you pick up on this because it's an energy you're very familiar with.

TALIESIN: Oh yeah.

MATT: This is someone who is waiting for a cue.

MARISHA: Waiting for a cue.

TALIESIN: That's what I fucking thought.

MARISHA: Are we still together?

TRAVIS: She's posted up by the doors that lead to the rest of the Quorum quarters away from the rest of the group, right? By herself?

TALIESIN: By herself.

TRAVIS: (sighs) Yeah.

TALIESIN: Lord, we might have a problem.

MATT: "In what way?"

TALIESIN: Armand's friend is giving me a feeling like--

MATT: "Armand has friends?"

TALIESIN: He came in with someone and she's over in the back right now, giving off the waiting for--

MATT: He glances over and goes, "Oh, that is Lady Emoth Kade."

TALIESIN: Emoth Kade.

MATT: "She's an apprentice in the Gold Guild of the Treshis. She's assigned by her house, I think, as an extended alliance of this lower family house, not of strong station."

TALIESIN: Well, why is she nervous and why is she waiting for something to clearly go the fuck down?

MARISHA: Do you think that they might try to stage an attack? Keep in theme?

TALIESIN: I don't know. She's making me really fucking nervous.

TRAVIS: Let's go and settle it. Start up a convo.

LAURA: [inaudible]

SAM: Oh wait, what?

MATT: "I'm following your lead. I'm not the conversationalist in this."

MARISHA: I'm interested in going and talking to this General Ratanish. Maybe you go talk to the creepy girl and I could talk to him?

TALIESIN: All right.

TRAVIS: I'll keep an eye on--

MARISHA: All right, I'm going to check in with you in your heads.

TRAVIS: Cool.

MATT: All right. Who all's heading towards Lady Emoth? All right, so you go ahead and you can just strike a brisk walk through the crowd, across the chambers to essentially the back from where the entrance is.

TALIESIN: Is there a bar on the way there?

MATT: No, it's separate on the other side. She's scooted away. She's started off near the bar, and then now has scooted towards the far end of the chamber to where the back is, that leads into the-- You wouldn't know this because you haven't been there, but it leads into more of the hallways that seem to comprise the rest of the chambers. So are you carefully or overtly?

TALIESIN: I think it's slightly somewhere in the middle.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: I lose him as soon as he leaves because I'm at people's knees, right? Sea of bodies.

MATT: Yeah. If you're just standing still, yes. If you wanted to track somebody through the crowd, you could do it pretty well.

TRAVIS: No, I'm staying here.

MATT: Okay. So you begin to push through, glancing over, locking eyes in that direction and you watch her. She's sitting, hand across the lap, holding the glass, not sipping from it, but looking through the crowd. Makes eye contact with you.

TALIESIN: I know that look.

MATT: "Who are you?"

TALIESIN: Aaron.

MATT: Make a deception check.

LAURA: Isn't he terrible at deception?

ROBBIE: He's really bad.

TALIESIN: Yeah, this is what I'm good at. Two.

MATT: "Very well, Aaron. What do you want?"

TALIESIN: Going to lean back. I hate this. I'm fucking bored. All of these people make me nervous, and I get the feeling you feel that way, too. I just want to know how you are so relaxed about it? I want to leave. I don't like these people.

MATT: She shows you the glass that she's holding. "There is alcohol for a reason."

TALIESIN: I have a lot of tolerance.

MATT: "You would be happy to know that it is an open bar."

TALIESIN: I'm also working.

MATT: "Well then, you should get to work."

TALIESIN: Oh man. I'm doing it right now.

MATT: "Who are you with?"

TALIESIN: Couple of people actually, I double booked. Technically true.

MATT: She looks past you, towards the crowd and seems to just begin to essentially phase you out of her periphery.

TRAVIS: (laughs)

TALIESIN: I'm not even looking at her anymore and I'm just hanging next to her just also scanning the crowd.

MATT: She gets up and begins to walk--

MARISHA: Stage three clinger.

MATT: -- around into the crowd a bit, but still keeping an exterior path.

TALIESIN: All right. I just keep an eye out.

MATT: Okay. (laughter)

TRAVIS: It's good to be by that door.

MATT: While that's happening--

TALIESIN: Yeah.

MATT: The other half of the group, which was--

ROBBIE: Where are we now?

SAM: Still these four, but I'm heading their way. They're alone, right? You're not locked in conversation with anyone fancy?

LAURA: Nope, just us right now. But as soon as I spot you: (gasps) Would you look at that?

SAM: Oh hello, stranger. Would you like a drink?

ASHLEY: Wow. You are a sight.

SAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBBIE: Uh, stunned.

SAM: All right, what's going on? (laughter)

LAURA: I think they need a boost or something. They're going to try to do a dance.

SAM: They're doing a dance. So you need--

ASHLEY: We don't have to do the dance, but do you think it's a good idea?

ROBBIE: I don't know, but I would love to do it the dance.

ASHLEY: Yeah, yeah. Let's do the dance.

SAM: Sure, sure.

ROBBIE: We're trying to get Gavis' attention. That's the plan.

SAM: Gavis does not have the ring?

ROBBIE: No.

LAURA: Or Armand's attention.

ROBBIE: He can introduce us.

SAM: But how are you getting the ring off? Oh my god. I wish I could drink. (laughter) How you getting the ring off of the guy?

ROBBIE: Step one, step two, we have to meet him first.

ASHLEY: Yeah.

LAURA: He's hard to get introductions.

ROBBIE: Yes. He's very, he's like, "Ooh don't talk to me."

SAM: I want to make sure that this... Here, hold these. I want to make sure that these, that this spell helps. I mean, I can--

ASHLEY: Listen. (laughter)

ROBBIE: They're empty. We drank them. They're empty.

LAURA: You're just holding empty glasses.

ASHLEY: I'll just put them up on a table.

SAM: All right. All right. You need help with the dance first? Yes? Then possibly with a little pickity-pocketty later?

LAURA: Potentially?

ROBBIE: Yes. How many times can you give us?

SAM: I could do it twice. First I... Dancing is definitely a charisma thing?

LAURA: It is. It's a performance thing.

MATT: The crowd begins to part a little bit just beyond where you are and as they do, Gavis Aranda approaches, looking directly at you.

SAM: I'm going to quickly, as he's walking over, I just touch them both and give them charisma.

MATT: Well, it's a concentration spell.

SAM: Yeah.

MATT: On one target?

SAM: On two, if I cast it at level three.

MATT: Oh, that's true. Okay. So you cast level three. You got it.

ASHLEY: Oh boy.

MATT: Okay.

SAM: It's just advantage on all charisma checks.

ASHLEY: Oh boy. Okay. Okay.

MATT: "I'm terribly sorry. I saw you from across the room when I was speaking and I have not quite seen a construct like this before. This is amazing workmanship. Who is responsible for the creation of such--"

ASHLEY: We were just wondering the same thing.

MATT: "My goodness."

ASHLEY: Isn't he incredible? Oh, Fearne, by the way.

MATT: "Fearne, Gavis. A pleasure to meet you."

ASHLEY: I love your whole look.

MATT: "Oh, you as well. This presentation is very--"

ASHLEY: Can I see the back?

MATT: "Oh, of course." There's a flourish turn and a flourish turn.

ASHLEY: Oh, I just. I mean... Yes, we were talking about how just incredible this is.

MATT: "Indeed."

SAM: I was supposed to deliver drinks to my master, but in speaking to these two individuals, I found myself wrapped up in their conversation.

MATT: "I'm sorry. And what's your name?"

ROBBIE: B-B-Brontë. You can call me--

MATT: "Bob Brah Brah Brontë?"

ROBBIE: Sorry. Sometimes I--

MATT: "It's all right. I have that effect on many people the first time they meet me, dear boy."

LAURA: He very rarely has to make introductions himself.

MATT: "Mm."

ROBBIE: Oh, and this is my--

LAURA: Presenting.

ROBBIE: I'm sorry. That is Maude's specialty. This is my servant, Maude, and my bodyguard, Copernicus.

MATT: "Copernicus?"

ROBBIE: Yes.

MATT: "Very well."

ROBBIE: A-a-and what was your name one more time? I know you made a grand--

MATT: "Oh, you are definitely not from around here--"

ROBBIE: I'm not.

MATT: "-- if you need to know who I am, but that's fine. Gavis Aranda of the Aranda Guild of Beautification responsible for keeping this fine city looking as fine as it does."

ASHLEY: You sure do a good job.

MATT: "I also speak on the behalf of the Quorum."

ASHLEY: Oh.

MATT: "So let's be friends because you want to be friends."

ASHLEY: I love friends.

ROBBIE: Yes. We do love friends.

MATT: "Wonderful. Could you get me a drink, if you don't mind?"

LAURA: Of course.

MARISHA: Oh my god!

MATT: I do-- (laughter)

LAURA: What would you like?

MATT: "Something pink and flowery, please. I do accept all pronouns, so. Just to get that out of the way."

ASHLEY: Oh great, okay.

LIAM and LAURA: Flames on the side of my face.

LAURA: I walk off.

MATT: "Wonderful, wonderful. Ah, so Brontë."

ROBBIE: Yes. Well, as Fearne mentioned and you so astutely pointed out, we are new to the area from the wilds and the surrounding area. We don't know anyone. We're on that--

MATT: "Sore thumbs, I mean it's right on all of you."

ASHLEY: We've just been exploring and it's fascinating.

MATT: "It's refreshing."

ASHLEY: Oh.

MATT: "These events become so stale so easily, so I'm very appreciative that you would come and bring your energy to the space."

ASHLEY: Oh, thank you. It really is a lovely party.

MATT: "Mm."

ASHLEY: Since we're new, is there anyone we should meet? You know, or just you?

MATT: Glances around and-- "Well. Hmm."

SAM: Before you arrived, they were speaking about how beneficial the Paragon's Call sounded.

MATT: "Right, I... What... Are you? You are just an endless interesting pit of curiosities. I have not met an automaton that could speak so well, let alone exhibit personal interest in localized politics."

SAM: I have been--

MATT: "Who's is this? What joke has been played on me? Whose automaton is this?" (laughter)

MATT: "I would pay good money. I will pay 50 gold right now if you tell me this is yours. I just want this mystery solved."

TRAVIS: That's right.

MATT: "I hate mysteries. I'm lying. I love them, but I will still pay."

ASHLEY: Is anyone speaking up?

ROBBIE: He could just be parroting things that he hears. We don't know.

SAM: I am instructed to keep conversations going.

ROBBIE: We have been hearing--

MATT: "Those are your feet? That is-- Well, disappointing, given the rest of your creation, but you know, 8.5 out of 10."

ASHLEY: Wait, so what is the Paragon's Call?

MATT: "They're um..."

ASHLEY: Is that anything we should know or no?

MATT: "They are a very accomplished group of soldiers."

ASHLEY: Oh, okay.

MATT: "Warriors that hail from the Hellcatch Valley, been working there for quite some time. While they maybe had a less than savory track record, they have been rebranding in recent years and have proven to be quite effective to those who can afford them. Their presence has grown quite a bit. There has been discussions about concerns of security in the city, and well... We want to keep our civilians safe. But the Quorum is discussing many things at the time. It is uncertain if this is a pressing matter. But, as part of a respectful extension of these conversations, they were invited to the event, partially for their own enjoyment and partially for us to keep an eye."

ROBBIE: Oh, I'm so sorry. It seems as if we've brought down the mood, I can see the shift in your demeanor.

MATT: "I appreciate you picking up on that and please change the subject."

ROBBIE: I apologize. I apologize. You know, just want to talk about current events since we're so new here.

ASHLEY: We would just sound smart if we talked about, you know, politics or something.

MATT: "Yeah. Don't do that."

ASHLEY: Okay.

ROBBIE: What's your favorite part of the evening? Is there anything you're looking forward to? Is anything we should be looking forward to?

MATT: "I think you should. The Dance of the Crossroads comes soon."

ASHLEY: Ah! That's my favorite.

MATT: "You have been part of the Dance of the Crossroads?"

ASHLEY: I have.

MATT: But you said you weren't from around here?

ASHLEY: Well, I'm not, but I know about it, the dance, because where I'm from, we've done a lot of those.

MATT: "What's your favorite part about it?"

ASHLEY: Probably the spinning and then the jumping part that happens in the second half.

ROBBIE: Hold on, hold on.

MATT: "Regional differences, I suppose, yes? Okay."

ROBBIE: I don't know anything about this. What kind of dance is it? Is it a promenade, or is it a...

MATT: "It was developed as a way to force socialization. It is intended to be a dance in which partners are given short times to pair off and then trade partners with others and is essentially a round table, forced socializing event."

ASHLEY: It's kind of like, have you ever gone to something where it's like speed dating?

ROBBIE: No.

ASHLEY: You sit down for two minutes with somebody and then you go to the next area and you talk to other people. It's great for just getting everybody loosened up and hanging out.

ROBBIE: Do all the lords and ladies participate?

MATT: "It is not required, but those who wish to be here for professional reasons or want to make new friends, it is a nice icebreaker."

ROBBIE: Well, we love to dance.

ASHLEY: We do love to dance.

MATT: "Wonderful, so do I. Maybe I'll see you there. I'm bored now." (laughter)

TALIESIN: Respect.

MATT: Just wanders off into the crowd. "Ha, ha, ha. Oh my goodness, Gerald!" Just dives into another conversation.

ASHLEY: Whoa, he was a lot.

ROBBIE: Guess we didn't do too much to get his attention.

ASHLEY: No. A-a-and Imogen. He never got the drink, so...

LAURA: Imogen is gone.

ROBBIE: Only Maude remains. (laughter)

MATT: This is her arc.

LAURA: Yeah. Get ready. No, I walked off and went to the side of the room and am staying as far outside of the crowd as I can for a while.

MATT: Okay.

LAURA: Just separating myself.

MATT: Very well. Very well.

LIAM: Armand's still in sight?

MATT: Armand is still in sight.

LIAM: Lady friend's still in her corner?

TALIESIN: Mm-mm.

MATT: No, she's moved.

LIAM: She's gone. And is Cyrus--

MATT: She's in the crowd somewhere.

LIAM: Yeah.

TALIESIN: Trying to keep an eye, but I don't--

MATT: Make another perception check. You're keeping an eye on a couple individuals that are--

LIAM: I'm trying to track everything.

MATT: Yeah. They're trying to maybe not be followed.

LIAM: That's not as good. That's 14.

MATT: 14? Okay.

SAM: So there's a dance?

MATT: Okay. So.

MARISHA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MATT: I want you to make a perception check as well, if you don't mind--

TALIESIN: Mm-hmm.

MATT: Since you were following her in the crowd.

TALIESIN: Why did I roll a die I can't read? Nine.

MATT: Okay. Both of you lose Lady Emoth in the crowd. She is small enough and quick enough when she means to that she begins to weave between conversational groups, and before long, all of a sudden you're like, "Wait, what, I can't get a bead on that dress anymore." She's lost in the crowd.

TALIESIN: Just Assassin's Creed.

MATT: The individual who looks like Cyrus, not doing as well, not with that natural one. Who currently is-- (laughs) Who is currently not too far from Armand and is listening in intensely on a couple of other conversations and nodding along and shaking a hand. Seems to be looking through the crowd themself for something.

MARISHA: Oh my god.

LIAM: He's close to Armand?

MATT: Yeah, about 25 feet away, 30 feet away.

ASHLEY: It's really interesting that your brother decided to come and be in a public space.

ROBBIE: Yeah, great choice. Super smart.

ASHLEY: Yeah.

LIAM: We're going to need to do something soon, but we need Maude.

ASHLEY: Who's Maude?

LIAM: Sorry.

ASHLEY: Oh.

LIAM: Are you ready to make a move?

LAURA: Removed my mask and I'm standing over on the side, hand against the wall, just breathing. (laughter)

ROBBIE: How far into the party does it feel like we are? People aren't starting to leave yet or anything?

MATT: No, no. The dance hasn't happened yet. You get the sense based on the energy in the conversations around that it's really hitting its stride now. You probably have another couple of hours or so before the event really begins to peter off.

TRAVIS: Headmaster Gryz Alaktris has not met up with 'Ajeet' Dayal, right?

MATT: Ajit, no.

TRAVIS: Ajit.

LIAM: Your brother's a wild card, though. If he sees you in the middle our operation, he could throw a wrench in things.

ROBBIE: He might not seem the most smart. (laughter)

ROBBIE: But I don't think that he would just come out of-- Oh god, he might.

LIAM: Where's Chetney? Is he in sight?

MATT: Are you in sight?

TRAVIS: I'm about 10, 15 feet from Eshteross.

MATT: So yeah. You can see where Eshteross is and Eshteross is like a beacon in the crowd. Stands, you know, head and almost shoulders over a lot of the people nearby and being able to clock him in the crowd, you can quickly clock in the vicinity, Chetney.

LIAM: All right. We're going to move soon. I'll be right back. I scuttle off through the crowd and make my way over to Eshteross and Chetney.

MATT: (as Eshteross) "How goes it on your end?"

LIAM: Not getting along as much as I would like. I think we've got to go fast. Come here.

TRAVIS: Good evening.

LIAM: Good evening. Come here.

TRAVIS: Oh, okay. I'll be back. Don't--

LIAM: You see that big, thick guy there with the mask all in white?

TRAVIS: Yeah.

LIAM: Yeah. We need him out of the picture. Can you go take them off to the side and talk his ear off?

TRAVIS: Yeah, sure. Are you talking about Treshi or Gavis?

LIAM: Cyrus.

TRAVIS: Which one?

LIAM: I point to a blue-skinned man in a mask.

TRAVIS: Got it. Got it, got it, got it.

LIAM: Walking around like a goober.

TRAVIS: I'll take care of it. Do you want him out of the picture, or do you want him out?

MARISHA: Oh my god.

LIAM: No, man, just talk to him about woodwork. Okay?

TRAVIS: Okay. Distraction?

LIAM: Yes.

TRAVIS: Okay.

LIAM: Somewhere on the outskirts.

TRAVIS: Got it. Go now?

LIAM: Yes, please.

TRAVIS: I'm on it. (quick footsteps)

MATT: Okay.

LIAM: Sir. Then I jog off, looking for Imogen.

MATT: Okay. Just as you begin to jog off and just as you separate from Eshteross, the music, ♪ Bom bom tuh, bom bom ♪ The percussion begins to hit and the band begins to pick up with an intent. You see the look of recognition in everyone's eyes as this is a song that apparently most individuals who've been to events like this recognize. Immediately, the crowds begin to-- like watching ice particles align in a pattern, people begin to instinctually look for a partner. You can see individuals clasping hands, taking hands. As you assume, at this point, The Dance at the Crossroads is about to begin. And that's where we're going to take a break. (yelling)

MARISHA: Oh man, oh man.

ROBBIE: I wanted it! I wanted it!

ASHLEY: Let's go!

SAM: We can use the break to rehearse.

MARISHA: Okay, yes.

ROBBIE: No, this is bad. This is bad.

LAURA: No, it's good, it's good, it's good!

ROBBIE: No, Orym's got the--

LAURA: No, but it's good. What if--

TRAVIS: We're going to do great.

LAURA: Okay, we'll talk about it.

MATT: You guys plot this when we come back because we're going to take a break. We'll see you back here in a few minutes.

Break[]

(upbeat tropical music) ♪ We sail through hell ♪
♪ The king at our prow ♪
♪ Seeking the peace our king he did row ♪
♪ Land we beheld, the isles we found ♪
♪ And so on for the future we ran aground ♪
♪ The isles were kinder than we could've thought ♪
♪ We traded what little of goods that we brought ♪
♪ But kindness is not what the old Ekoth sought ♪
♪ We took to the land, sea, and stone that we wrought ♪
♪ The prideful King Skadi we thought was our guide ♪
♪ But like any leader, the monster he lied ♪
♪ Were it not for the locals, their magical heart ♪
♪ The island, the people they all did their parts ♪
♪ He took the promise away from us ♪
♪ Then turned our homes to crumbling dust ♪
♪ That's why we came first and why we returned ♪
♪ The isles don't want us, they've sent us to burn ♪
♪ So we cursed the children who learned how to stay ♪
♪ They celebrate peace and winning today ♪
♪ Little do they see the game that they play ♪
♪ The future of Makolf is turning to gray ♪

(creature growling) (dramatic music) (creature screeching) (guard groaning) (both gasping) Scanlan! They want the book! (dramatic music) Keyleth, heads up! (creatures screeching) (dramatic music) (Scanlan groaning) Scanlan! (Vax grunting) Dammit! I got him! (dramatic music) Fall back! (creature screeching) (dramatic music) (door slamming) (groaning) Oh, that sucked.

LAURA: Hey critters, Laura Bailey here to guide you through what's new in the Critical Roles Shop. (upbeat music) Look at this, isn't it fashion? So much fashion happening here. (monster growling) Ooh, so comfy cozy. Style should never be a dump stat, darling. The cuteness, it's overpowering! And hey, if you want, you could head over to the Critical Role Shop right now.

MATT: From Darrington Press, experience the dawning of a new age with Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, the definitive 5e source book that brings the land of Tal'Dorei to your game. Rediscover the land of Critical Role's Vox Machina 20 years after their campaign, with new maps, detailed guides for each region, and a fold-out map of the continent. Delve into Tal'Dorei's hidden histories with this nearly 300-page tome containing nine dazzling subclasses, five rich backgrounds, and dozens of new creatures, feats, and magic items, including the Vestiges of Divergence. Explore uncharted waters with the Oath of the Open Sea paladin, unlock the arcane secrets of hemocraft as a blood magic wizard, defend the land from elemental chaos with the Ashari background, or even come face to face with the legendary heroes of Vox Machina themselves, complete with official stat blocks, portraits, and biographies, detailing their lives 20 years later. The future of Tal'Dorei is in your hands now. How do you want to do this? Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, available now at Critical Role's shops.

(sneaking music) (typewriter clicking) (sneaking music) (moving piano music)

SAM: Hi critters, Sam Riegel here. There are many relaxing properties to a Twitch subscription to Critical Role, so today I'm going to tell you all about them in soothing ASMR, which stands for autonomous subscription meditative reaction or something. With a Twitch subscription you can watch our VODs immediately after the live broadcast before they're uploaded to YouTube, so you can unwind with us at your own pace. Listen, that's the sound of your blood pressure decreasing. You also get access to all of our custom emotes. And you can post links in chat. Doesn't that sound nice? (squeaks) And speaking of chat, Twitch is the only place to join our live and professionally moderated chat while watching Critical Role. So snuggle up with some cocoa and let the calm flow through those fingers, critters. I'm whispering from really far away. And if you're an Amazon Prime member you get one free Twitch subscription to a channel of your choice through Prime Gaming, so why not use that tranquil little freebie on a Critical Role subscription? Just remember to resubscribe every month. Am I doing this right? Or, oh, sorry. Am I doing this right? You can also gift subscriptions to fellow critters. So what are you waiting for, start spreading that sweet serenity with a Twitch subscription to Critical Role. It's like a warm blanket. Oh, oh hold on, hold on. It's my proctologist, just give me a second, okay. Hello, hello. Oh hey doc, yeah, what's up? What do you mean more teeth? I thought you got rid of them all. Well no, don't tell me to relax. I'm the one with teeth up my-- (calm music) Subscribe. (calm music)

Part II[]

MATT: And welcome back. So, as we return, the Dance of the Crossroads seems about to initiate. Individuals of which you've been keeping your eye on and have met or have lost in the crowd have now begun to coalesce and scatter towards the center of the domed chamber. What do you do?

TRAVIS: I'm going after Cyrus Wyvernwind, right?

MARISHA: I'm heading towards Ratanish. Maybe I can ask his hand to dance.

MATT: All right. So we'll start with those bits then. You go seeking through the crowd keeping an eye out. It's not too easy to-- It's not too hard to spot Ratanish and his entourage. He's traveling with four other figures. There is an intense looking human. When you saw them walk in, you couldn't tell from the helmet there. It looked like an amazing horned mask. But you get closer and you realize, this is a small minotaur that is accompanying him. And it's not a mask. That's actually the head with a small mask over it. (oohing)

MATT: There is a tough looking half-orc and a scrappy gnome, like a young gnome, that is sitting in the process of-- they're almost peeling their fingernails off their fingers out of nerves.

MARISHA: Ew, don't do that.

SAM: Wait, that's what you do.

MARISHA: You'll hurt yourself. Oh, that is what I do. (laughter)

MATT: But you see Ratanish, and nobody's approaching them. They're almost stepping off to the side with disinterest.

MARISHA: I would ask for your hand to dance, but you don't seem like the dancing type.

MATT: Ratanish turns, big smile, "I apologize, are you asking to dance with you?"

MARISHA: I don't know. Am I? Guess it depends if you're the dancing type.

MATT: The other men that he's with all like take a step back. It's like Wednesday Addams smiling in the Addams Family Values, they're all just (gasps). (laughter)

MARISHA: Big tough guys that are like, (nervous noise). (laughter)

TRAVIS: I know what that's like.

MATT: "Well, it would be inappropriate not to accept. Come, let us dance." Yeah, takes your arm. It's firm, but not aggressive, and begins to pull you over into the crowd. Getting close, the eyes are a little yellowed in the whites. Probably from one of them actually has probably taken a little bit of damage in the past. The coloration's a little off. At a closer look, you can see deep scars, but a very intense smile on this individual. This half-giant, who is just locked in with you, and begins to walk into the dancing crowd.

MARISHA: How does that make me so nervous?

MATT: I don't know. Your really intense smile for everybody in the entire campaign makes them nervous.

MARISHA: That's true.

MATT: While you continue to shuffle off into the rest of the dance, you are looking for--

TRAVIS: Cyrus Wyvernwind.

MATT: Correct. You see him. He rolled a one on his stealth check.

ROBBIE: (heavy sigh)

MATT: I'm not even going to make you roll. But, yeah, he's not going into the dance yet. He's looking around.

TRAVIS: Ah, my lord.

MATT: (chuckles) "Can I help you?"

TRAVIS: Yes, my master would speak with you, please. It's of urgent Wyvernwind business.

MATT: "I-- I'm-- I have no idea what that is. I'm--"

TRAVIS: No, no, I know. This is important. Move your stupid ass over here to the side of the room, Cyrus.

MATT: He like leans in a bit and looks at you.

TRAVIS: You heard me. My lord, if you would do me the honor of accompanying me to the side.

MARISHA: Did you get it?

MATT: "Of course. I'm curious to have this conversation."

TRAVIS: Most gracious of you. This way.

MATT: He begins walking over with you off to the side.

TRAVIS: What the fuck are you doing here?

MATT: "What are you doing here?"

TRAVIS: I said we're on work, but--

MATT: "Who else is with you?"

TRAVIS: Everyone! We're scattered around. I mean, you can't see them because we're wearing masks. But listen, you're supposed to be keeping a low profile.

MATT: "I am."

TRAVIS: What are you doing with her?

MATT: "I'm Lord Durtanya."

TRAVIS: Lord Durtanya? Okay, cool.

MATT: "I'm taking care of my things."

TRAVIS: You're taking of care of your things? What things? You mean, your thing?

MATT: "My thing."

TRAVIS: What? Like is she taking care of your thing?

MATT: "Who's she?"

TRAVIS: You're here with-- He's with Lady Emoth, right?

ROBBIE: He was earlier.

SAM: You're on your own, buddy.

TRAVIS: Okay. (laughter)

TRAVIS: You're not supposed to be here! Listen, your-- Is anybody looking at us, clocking at us at all? Have we managed to kind of--?

MATT: I'll say no. Most people's focus right now is on the dances as it begins to swell and people are still reaching out and gathering their partners. It's like the very early stages as the music begins to pick up.

TRAVIS: Okay. Your brother is here and he's on a very important mission.

MATT: "Can you please not tell him I'm here?"

TRAVIS: Hmm. What's it worth to you?

TALIESIN: (chuckles)

SAM: Is he shaking down your brother? (laughter)

ASHLEY: Yes.

MATT: "60 gold?"

LIAM: Oh jeez.

TRAVIS: What'd you say? 70 gold? (laughter)

MATT: "70 gold?"

TRAVIS: Just keep your damn money. Come with me.

MATT: "I'm meeting someone."

TRAVIS: No. You're not. Come with me. It'll only take a moment, but I need you to hurry. I lead him away from wherever he was. Just in a clockwise motion around the room.

MATT: Okay, so as that begins to happen.

LIAM: I'm running to find Imogen at the side of the room.

LAURA: Right as the music started to shift, I shook out of my shit, and Orym hears my voice in his head. Sorry, I needed a moment.

LIAM: Okay, are you good now? I think we're going.

LAURA: Yeah, I'm on my way back. Should we get close to the circle, yeah? Close to the dance floor?

LIAM: Yeah, yeah, I have the ring. I think they're going to do what we talked about in the carriage. I'm not sure, but let's just get over there.

LAURA: All right. I start heading towards that area and meet up with Orym on the way.

MATT: Okay, as you all begin to--

SAM: I'm standing on the periphery of the dance floor so I can get to Dorian as soon as possible.

MATT: Okay.

TALIESIN: I'm trying to clock Jiana Hexum just before this all begins as well.

MATT: Okay.

ROBBIE: I look at Fearne. This could be our chance. Do you think we should try?

ASHLEY: This is our chance. I'm going to rip off my cape and--

MATT: Okay.

LIAM: Oh shit.

MATT: Make a perception check.

LIAM: I failed my save.

LAURA: (laughs)

TALIESIN: Eight?

LAURA: (gasps)

LIAM: (gasps)

MATT: You do not see Jiana in the crowd right now, unfortunately.

TRAVIS: So I have my notes right.

ASHLEY: It's just me!

TRAVIS: Armand Treshi came with Lady Emoth Kade, right? And Cyrus, your brother, came in with--?

ROBBIE: No one. He was just in the corner chatting her up.

MATT: Yeah, you didn't see him enter. He may have already been here. But then did go over and was seemingly talking with her for a bit.

TRAVIS: Lady Emoth?

MATT: Yes.

TRAVIS: Got it, okay.

MARISHA: Get him.

LIAM: He's there, he's there.

MARISHA: He's right there.

LAURA: (claps)

MARISHA: Ooh!

LIAM: Did you get him?

LAURA: No.

MARISHA: Nope, he's right there! Right in front of your face.

LAURA: Oh, shit balls!

MARISHA: He's above your head.

LIAM: Slap Ashley right now! Slap Ashley. (laughter)

ROBBIE: Dex is low.

MATT: Mm-hmm.

TALIESIN: I'm going to try and circle around, get the best view, and if I can get close to the catering, that'd be great.

MATT: Okay, okay, so as you're doing that, and you're leading him away. You're about to dance. You both are trying to head over and discover where who is?

LIAM: We're trying to get close to them. I'm trying to watch as much as I can while ducking between people and staying within like eight to 10 feet of Fearne and Dorian.

MATT: Okay, it takes you a moment to try and find them because of just your shorter stature. You can get a bead pretty quickly with your mind.

LIAM: With my mind.

MATT: Laura.

LAURA: I'm sorry. (laughter)

MATT: Ah, I had the wonderful teacher calling on you--

LAURA: Yeah!

MATT: -- in the classroom, when you're not paying attention moment.

TRAVIS: Oh yeah!

ASHLEY: I hate that.

TRAVIS: Uh, uh!

ASHLEY: Then it's just, like, what, huh? Yes.

LAURA: Literally my armpits started sweating immediately. (laughter)

LIAM: There was a bug! I swear.

MATT: In trying to mentally reach out to Dorian or Fearne in that moment as you're pushing through the crowd, there's a moment where all of a sudden a lot of voices begin to push in, and you have to steady yourself. Realizing that the proximity of very active minds in conversations and intent interests around here is a very oppressive sense to your ability. You just have to take a little care in this density. But you do eventually find it because there a whoosh! A whoosh of cloth and a faint snapping sound as Fearne is preparing a glorious entry into the Dance of the Crossroads. [phone vibration]

LAURA: That was my phone on the table. (laughter)

TRAVIS: It's just toots. (laughter)

LIAM: It's not your night, Bailey.

LAURA: It's just toots. (laughter)

TRAVIS: Do you know how many people just heard you rip ass?

LAURA: It was my phone on the table! I swear.

LIAM: You know what, I'm nervous, guys. (laughter)

LAURA: There's a lot of voices in my head. I can only concentrate on one thing.

MATT: You probably want to keep moving through the crowd. There's a lot of people around you. (laughter)

TRAVIS: Yeah, spread it out.

TRAVIS and MATT: Crop dust the Crossroad dance.

LIAM: I would like to think--

LAURA: I dropped an oops-stone. (laughter)

LAURA: Also, I want to keep an eye out to see if Armand is joining the dance.

MATT: Make a perception check.

LAURA: (chuckles)

SAM: Yes!

MARISHA: Come on.

ROBBIE: We got a good one.

LIAM: Lord of the dance.

LAURA: Natural one!

ALL: No!

MATT: You begin to look out into the crowd, and once again, the voices and whispers of so many thoughts begin to push in. Even just keeping them at bay from taking over, your visions blurs a bit. You have to rub your eyes and your temples for a second. You're having a hard time concentrating. All right, while that's happening, and you're both gliding through the crowd to try and find them. You see Fearne and you see Dorian both preparing to engage with this dance in the center of the dome. What are you doing, Fresh Cut Grass?

SAM: My eyes are on, specifically, Dorian. I'm going to move in. If I see Dorian start to dance with or near Armand.

MATT: Okay.

SAM: Oh wait! It would probably be paired female-male, right?

LAURA: Probably, but who knows.

MATT: Actually, at a glace at the room, it--

SAM: It doesn't matter?

MATT: No, genders--

SAM: Thank god for progressiveness!

MATT: -- constantly shift around. It's less about any sort of odd, unnecessarily placed gender roles, and more about a means of socialization. It is a networking dance.

TRAVIS: Of course, yeah.

SAM: Great, great, great.

SAM: Oh great, then I've got eyes on Dorian.

ASHLEY: Networking dance, but make it sexy. (laughter)

MATT: All right, so what are you two doing?

ROBBIE: All right, what's the plan?

TALIESIN: If only this were LinkedIn.

ASHLEY: Okay, do you want to start with each other so I can show you a little bit of the dance?

ROBBIE: No, no, no! What's our plan?

ASHLEY: Oh, oh, sorry, I was distracted by our performance. Okay, if you dance with him first--

ROBBIE: Okay.

ASHLEY: Maybe try to loosen it a little bit.

ROBBIE: Okay.

ASHLEY: Then, put it back on him? I don't know. Wait, am I just dancing with him just to dance with him? Should I do anything?

ROBBIE: How good do you think you are-- Would you be able to?

ASHLEY: Yeah.

ROBBIE: All right. (chuckling)

LAURA: Who has the ring?

ROBBIE: I trust you.

ASHLEY: Okay, great.

ROBBIE: All right.

ASHLEY: Wait, wait, Imogen is going to do something. She can help us maybe with the wiggling it around.

ROBBIE: That's a good idea. But we don't have the second ring! I'm going to scan the room for Orym.

LIAM: I'm not too far.

LAURA: He's standing right next to me.

LIAM: I'm like eight feet away. (laughter)

LIAM: Tracking you, yeah.

ROBBIE: Okay, Orym, Orym.

LAURA: He's right near you. (laughter)

ROBBIE: Is that in my mind?

LIAM: I walk onto the dance floor.

LAURA: (laughs) Yes.

ROBBIE: Getting pretty sassy. (laughter)

LIAM: Okay, I'm still circle mode. Is this like a big-- Everyone's dancing in the center, right?

MATT: They are, but you are on the outskirts. There are still people outside that don't want to engage. Some people, they're just talking.

LIAM: Okay.

MATT: Just shooting barbs at people in the dance to each other. There are conversations outside of it. But there's probably at least 60 to 70 people that are actively dancing.

LAURA: It's happening already.

LIAM: Yes.

MATT: It's beginning. People are pulling and finding partners and dragging them in. You can see now the first round is starting to shift. And partners-- You see the actual dance itself. It's like an arm-in-arm, a turn, a turn. It's very simple. There are conversation bits. There are introductions being done. There's a turn and a spin, and then it reverses around. They come back together, and then they talk some more. The dance is intentionally slow. It's not a fast-paced tango or anything. It is meant to give room and space for introductions and for a very succinct opportunity to peddle whatever it is you're peddling, or introduce whatever you want to introduce. Then at the moment where things seem to get the most exciting or interesting, maybe about 30 or 40 seconds into those turns and spins, you hear the beat culminate with a cymbal crash and then suddenly everyone shifts to whoever's nearest to them and picks somebody. Then, all of a sudden, hands are clasped and partners are re-situated. For some people, they're lost on their own, and they scramble to try and find somebody who's available and then just wander out of the crowd a bit dejected. Like it's...

TALIESIN: It's some high school shit.

LAURA: Yeah.

MATT: Yeah, kind of.

LAURA: Yeah, definitely.

MATT: But--

LAURA: One of you loose-- In your head. One of you loosen it, one of you put it back on, right?

ROBBIE: Yeah, well, you loosen it, one of us takes it, and then the other one puts it back. Orym, we've got a plan. We're going to go for the ring right now. It's our chance.

LIAM: I'm hearing this in my head, or--?

ROBBIE: I'm talking to you.

LIAM: We're in the dance floor? The dance floor, okay.

ROBBIE: Are we not on the outskirts?

MATT: You're on the outskirts of it right now.

ROBBIE: Yeah, yeah.

LIAM: One more time, one more time.

ROBBIE: Okay, so whoever gets to Armand first is going to try to take the ring after Imogen loosens it with her mind, and then you're going to toss the fake ring--

LAURA: No! That's way too complicated.

ROBBIE: No, it's not! It's a three-part plan.

LAURA: Have him just give you the fucking ring.

ROBBIE: But we don't know who's going to dance with him first.

LAURA: So just figure it out! One of you gets there first!

ROBBIE: It's a coin toss!

ASHLEY: We'll dance with each other if-- Oh wait.

ROBBIE: Right!

ASHLEY: I know.

ROBBIE: It's a problem!

SAM: You're better at picking pockets.

ROBBIE: Give the ring to Fearne!

SAM: (exclaims) No! You're better with your fingers!

ROBBIE: Give the ring to me! (laughter)

ROBBIE: Gah!

TRAVIS: Yep.

ROBBIE: I'm going to stick it in my pocket.

LAURA: If you do it first, just try to replace it right away. If you get to him first, take the ring, and you put it back on.

SAM: Oh shit. Do I need to do anything?

ROBBIE: I'm the-- I'm the one that-- This is going to go to shit. Fuck it, this song. How long is this song?

ASHLEY: Let's go!

SAM: Wait, am I tapping you guys?

ASHLEY: Yes, tap him.

ROBBIE: Just do her.

LAURA: Tap him.

SAM: Just him?

LAURA: Tap him for a dance.

SAM: All right, fine, go.

ROBBIE: Shit. I've got the ring?

LAURA: Yeah.

ROBBIE: Aw, fuck.

SAM: I'm dropping their charisma boost and wasting my 3rd-level spell and giving him a dex boost instead.

MATT: You've got it, okay.

TRAVIS: Our lives are in your hands, and you've got butterfingers? (laughter)

LIAM: Orym's thinking about all the things they talked about and how none of them are happening, and he just watches Dorian go waltzing away.

ASHLEY: Okay, okay.

ROBBIE: With a flourish. I'm in the dance with Fearne on my hands as my first partner.

MATT: All right.

LAURA: Can we see Armand in the dance? Can we see Armand in the dance?

MATT: You can, indeed. Armand, you can see, is currently paired off with an older gentlemen with like a higher turned over collar, and they're both turning and talking. Turning and you can see the conversation is probably not going as well as the other individual wishes. Armand is still smiling, and they're talking. Until eventually, the transition point begins to crest into the cymbal crash hits again. You can see Armand spins around, and Jiana Hexum is right there and catches his hand. Now they begin to engage and dance. What do you guys do?

ASHLEY: I get a little closer to him.

ROBBIE: I'm going to swing you his way.

ASHLEY: Great.

ROBBIE: Ready?

ASHLEY: I'm in.

MATT: So at the crash, you both remain partners?

ROBBIE: No, I'm going to like pass her off into the mix closer to Armand.

ASHLEY: Great.

MATT: Okay.

ASHLEY: So I'll go to whoever is close to that area. So I'll be next in line.

ROBBIE: I'll turn away from them and look for a new partner.

MATT: Okay, you turn to the left and immediately are greeted with a male human in his early 40s.

ROBBIE: Great.

MATT: Looks to be like acrobatic in build. Very warm smile. The hair is pulled up to the side with like a flower-like bun. The outfit is a fine shimmering like dark bronze coloration to it with like a pale blue shirt beneath. Looks to you with a smile. "I do not believe we have met before."

ROBBIE: I am so pleased to meet you now. Brontë Secondsun of the Silken Squall.

MATT: "Master Duasad Keef of Port Damali, Menagerie Coast."

ROBBIE: Pardon for my ignorance. I'm not familiar with the name. What's your family's business?

MATT: "Oh, the family's business is not quite my business. My business deals more with emotions and helping individuals work through challenges in life."

ROBBIE: Well, I can tell from your touch, you're very empathetic. I'm going to glace over at Fearne and try to--

MATT: Now, Fearne, as you turn, you can see there is a young noblewoman in like a nice floofy dress who spins, makes eye contact with you, and reaches out, as an arm pushes and grabs your hand. You see Lord Preston Drodelon grasps your hand. (laughter)

ASHLEY: Preston.

MATT: "My dear, I apologize. I'm amazed that luck keeps bringing us together."

ASHLEY: Well, I don't know if it's luck as much as you cutting in line, but that's okay. (laughter)

MATT: "Fascinating. If you ever find your way in Yios, please, you're a guest of honor at my palace."

ASHLEY: Well, I absolutely will look you up.

MATT: "Please do."

ASHLEY: Once we go there, which will probably be pretty soon.

MATT: "Wonderful."

ASHLEY: Yes.

MATT: "Please do let me know."

LAURA: How--

MATT: Yeah?

LAURA: How close are they getting to Armand?

MATT: They're about 15 or so feet away. As the dance is shifting, and you can see now, while the dance is localized, some people are engaged in close conversation. Some people are making conversation while trying to--

ASHLEY: Oh my god, you got it.

MATT: Congratulations. Some people are making sparse conversation while trying to adjust the dance towards someone they're hoping to talk to. It's a very unique chess game of people utilizing the space to try and get to individuals and hopefully catch them at the right time. So there is an aggressive, waiting for the right moment, at the right place at the right time arrangement to it. But, yeah, Armand is about 10 or so feet away.

LAURA: Okay.

MATT: "Is that blue boy your partner?"

ASHLEY: Well, boy, it is complicated.

MATT: "I like complicated."

ASHLEY: Well (chuckles). It's so complicated. Yes, yes, we are, we are a thing. (laughter)

MATT: "Exclusively?"

ASHLEY: What do you mean by that? (laughter)

MARISHA: I agree.

MATT: "The fact that you have to ask means that--"

ASHLEY: I mean, there's like a little bit of a wiggle room there. But it just depends on, you know.

TALIESIN: I am dying.

MATT: "I happen to like to find room to wiggle." (groaning)

ALL: No, no.

MATT: This guy's a little meh. (laughter)

TRAVIS: Yeah, Sam, baby!

TALIESIN: He's a man.

MATT: He's definitely an older gentleman. He hasn't taken care of himself. Now that you're close up and look at it, you can see that like his clothing definitely holds the air of regality. But now that you're looking him over, it's a little tattered at the seams a bit. There's an element of, I don't know, passing prestige to his energy that almost makes you feel guilty. Almost.

LIAM: Nothing good comes from 9th-level magic.

ASHLEY: I think-- I'm going to pick a flower and I'm going to give it to him. Just put it near his lapel. I'm going to be honest with you. I think I'm a bit old for you.

MATT: "(chuckles)"

ASHLEY: But you're delightful.

MATT: "Well."

ASHLEY: And I hope you find what you're looking for.

MATT: "Well, I hope you come find me if you find yourself in Aeshanadoor."

ASHLEY: Aeshanadoor, okay.

MARISHA: I think Aeshanadoor's in Yios.

MATT: The region is Aeshanadoor, and the city is Yios.

MARISHA: Oh, sorry.

MATT: Other way around.

TALIESIN: Scratch that and reverse it.

LIAM: That's actually 90210.

MARISHA: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, but it's in Beverly Hills, which is in LA.

MATT: While you are--

TALIESIN: It was 310, and now it's 818.

MATT: -- continuing to dance.

MARISHA: Yeah, 818.

ROBBIE: Mm-hmm.

MATT: You can hear the music beginning to change. While this is happening, actually, Chetney.

TRAVIS: (surprised noise)

MATT: Where are you bringing Cyrus?

TRAVIS: I working him clockwise, ward? Fuck, around the room. But it's moving, it's fluid. I'm a little combobulated. I turn to Cyrus and say: Ah, hold on, we'll just have to find him ourselves. I won't keep you long. Who are you supposed to be meeting?

MATT: "She's around. Lady Emoth Kade."

TRAVIS: Oh, why are you meeting her?

MATT: "I got f-f-friends."

TRAVIS: Friends? I mean, what kind of friends? Look, we're on an honesty basis here. We don't have time for bullshit.

MATT: "She's helping me out, okay?"

TRAVIS: Is she paying off your--

MATT: "She did some work in the past with the Corsairs. I was looking for a possible way to, you know, pay off some of these debts."

TRAVIS: Okay, are you working, like, protection detail?

MATT: "No, she's giving me some information about a few scores I can make while the folks here are distracted later on."

TRAVIS: Oh, a little side hustle.

MATT: "Which I was about to dive into, until you distracted me, and I--" At this point, a hand touches his shoulder. He's like, "Oh." You can see a woman grabbing his hand. Kind of a pale woman. Shoulders and arms exposed, in a gray dress. Lady Emoth taking his hand. (Emoth) "This dance."

TRAVIS: Oh, but he was with--

MATT: (Cyrus) "I'm sorry, the lady speaks."

TRAVIS: Your dress is elegant.

MATT: (Cyrus) "(forced laugh)"

TRAVIS: Bitch. (laughter)

MATT: The last thing you hear him say is, "Thank you." They both merge into the dancing apparatus.

LIAM: Oh, the prodigal son.

TRAVIS: Do I go invisible?

SAM: He's like... Eric... Eric Stoltz?

TRAVIS: No.

SAM: No. Tom Holtz in Parenthood? You know, like the-- (laughs)

LIAM: Yes. Yes. Yeah.

TRAVIS: Emoth Kade was the one that was against the wall that you went and talked to.

TALIESIN: Yep.

ROBBIE: That came in with Armand.

TRAVIS: Okay, when she takes him off into the dance, I'm going to back up all the way to the wall.

MATT: Okay.

TALIESIN: Which wall are you next to?

TRAVIS: I don't know. Whichever one's just behind--

MATT: At this moment, with the clockwise that you're doing-- You're probably near one of the food tables, not too far from one of the bars on the other side of the room, as you were trying to pull him around the other way.

TRAVIS: I'll save it. I'm just going to keep an eye on Cyrus and Lady Emoth Kade.

MATT: Okay. Make a perception check.

TRAVIS: I know what it is, because of-- Natural 20. (oohing)

MATT: Okay. Good to know. We'll come back to that.

LAURA: In your head, Fearne, you hear: Are you going to be able to make it to him on this next turn?

ASHLEY: I think so. I think so. Let me get over there.

LAURA: Okay.

ASHLEY: Okay.

MATT: Okay.

LAURA: Get over there.

MATT: So you're tugging towards Armand's direction. He's starting to move a little bit away and you can already gauge that there are a couple of other partners that are trying to maneuver into position.

ASHLEY: I'm just going to get right in. I'm just going to maneuver myself in front of them.

MATT: Lord Preston Drodelon is still engaging with you.

ASHLEY: The cymbal hasn't happened yet? Next I'm going to make--

LAURA: Not this time?

SAM: Next cymbal crash?

ASHLEY: Next cymbal crash.

MATT: You begin to hear the music pick up right as you say that, and the next cymbal crash is but seconds away now that you're picking up the cadence of the song.

LAURA: To the side, I'm going to try to use Telekinesis on Armand, and as the music starts to swell, I'm going to try to time it with the cymbal crash and loosen up the thumb ring.

MATT: You're still outside of the dance ring?

LAURA: Yes.

MATT: What's the range on your--

LAURA: It's 30 feet, but if I have to, I'll double that distance.

MATT: You could probably get you think within range or not.

LAURA: I'm just going to be safe and I'm going to spend a sorcery point.

MATT: Okay. All righty.

ROBBIE: Big play.

SAM: I'm just going to grab any glass off of a table and just have it with me filled with booze and I'm going to start making my way onto the dance floor.

MATT and ROBBIE: ♪ Makin' my way! ♪

SAM: Just in case.

MATT: All right. If you can go ahead and roll a charisma check for me.

LIAM: That's very cocked.

LAURA: That's nothing.

MATT: (laughs)

LIAM: Rolling a lot of nines tonight.

LAURA: Yeah. 17.

MARISHA: Nein!

MATT: 17. All right, so you watch as he's dancing and dancing and there's a spin with his current partner and his hand comes back a bit and shakes a little bit and continues into the dance. Looks like it wasn't enough.

MARISHA: Fuck.

LAURA: That's all right.

MATT: It's just around that slow pull. The strength of the slow pull you tried earlier on Dorian, they were just a little bit under what was needed to try and pull that.

LAURA: All right.

MATT: So at that moment, the cymbal crash.

ASHLEY: Look, Preston, you better give me the biggest spin of your life.

MATT: "You better believe it." He takes your arm, and right as the cymbal crash hits, he twirls you. You, in the spin, have to try and guide yourself in the right direction. I want you to roll either a dexterity check. It would be dexterity saving throw. I'll say for this one.

MARISHA: Okay.

ASHLEY: Okay.

TRAVIS: Let's go, hooves.

MATT: Or a perception check with disadvantage. Because you're either hoping to guide yourself there based in memory of where you were or trying to look through your spin to still get to your destination.

ASHLEY: So either one roll of--

MATT: One dexterity saving throw, or perception with disadvantage. Your choice.

TALIESIN: That's mean.

MATT: You're going with eyes or you're going with instinct.

ASHLEY: Okay. I'm going to go with perception.

SAM: Wow. Bold.

ASHLEY: Because it's high.

SAM: Bold. Bold. Bold. Bold.

ASHLEY: Okay. 12.

MATT: Okay, that's not great, but that's not bad. I'm going to roll for the other person who's trying to get his position.

ASHLEY: Sorry. 11.

MATT: Okay, that's fine. They rolled a natural one. (cheering) Let me take a picture of that. Travis can see right there in the middle and right there.

TRAVIS: I love it.

MATT: I'll take a picture anyway because it's fun. Focus. There we go.

TRAVIS: Lot of dice. Lot of dice on that tray.

MATT: I got a lot of dice on my tray! Never know when I'll need it.

TRAVIS: It's a good set for the middle, it's like a dance.

MATT: So as the other individual tries to push in to grasp for his hand as Lord Armand disengages from his previous partner, seems to turn towards their way, they stumble and fall down to the ground and catch themself. Armand withdraws his hand. Right as he does, he looks up towards you right as your spin into place, and he catches you.

ASHLEY: Thank you! Hello.

MATT: "The pleasure is mine, my dear."

ASHLEY: And your name is?

MATT: "I am Lord Armand Treshi of the Mahaan House Treshi, and who do I have the pleasure of dancing with?"

ASHLEY: My name is Fearne Calloway of the Feywild.

MATT: "Interesting. A fey creature. Huh. Well, you seemed intent coming to me, so let us drop any sort of charade or pretense. What do you want of House Treshi?"

ASHLEY: What do I want?

MATT: "Yes." Spins you around for a second. Comes back and clasps your eyes.

ASHLEY: I want lots of things.

MATT: "Well, pick one or two. We haven't much time." You spin him around. Comes back and catches your arms, and you're both now locked against once more. He's listening.

ASHLEY: Oh god.

LAURA: Can I Detect Thoughts?

MATT: You can, yeah. If you'd like to. Wisdom saving throw?

LAURA: Mm-hmm.

MATT: He didn't roll great, but still puts him at a 14.

LAURA: 15.

MATT: 15! Okay, then yeah! So the first thoughts you get are-- It's a jumble of, "Intriguing. Beautiful but odd. Unexpected. What does she want? What does she want? Who is she with?" Then as you delve deeper into it, it is a deep read of like, "A lot of feys of late. I don't trust it. I don't trust it at all. Is she connected with him? Did he send someone else? Leaving that mess behind-- I really fucked up recently. I don't know if I have the wherewithal to work with the fey again." You just this whole inner monologue dealing with and touching on the Nightmare King and connecting the two of them as Fey beings so quickly back to back after what happened at the Moon Tower.

LAURA: Fuck. I'm going to send that to Fearne. He's untrusting towards you.

ASHLEY: Shit. I thought that would be a good in. Okay. I don't want anything from you. I'm just dancing.

MATT: "Nobody is here just to dance. Everybody here wants something. Now, be honest with me for once. You're too pretty to be dishonest." He spins you.

ASHLEY: Well. (sighs) Oh god, is that so tough to do?

MATT: You transition, by the way, to another dancing partner not too far off, and you're deeply invested. The partner's talking to you and is like, "Well, you know, my dad, he was involved in the spice trade up north. It was wonderful. Uh, you look like--"

ROBBIE: Oh, thank you! I'm going to send a message to Imogen. Is she doing it? Is she taking it?

LAURA: I am fully connected with Fearne right now.

ROBBIE: So I get static? Fuck!

MATT: But you can see out of the corner of your eye that she is actively dancing with Armand.

LIAM: The person you're calling right now is not available.

MARISHA and TRAVIS: Please hang up and try again.

LAURA: He seems intimidated by the Nightmare King. It shook him.

ASHLEY: Do you happen to be friends with Gavis?

MATT: "We have been acquaintances for quite some time, yes. Why, do you wish to meet them?"

ASHLEY: Well, I've already met them, but I just, I so badly would love to work with him and learn from him, but I can't seem to-- I don't know if this is the place to talk with him or if I should meet him at another time, but--

MATT: "You know--" He begins to turn you around. "You may have found the exact perfect time." He turns you into him and your head's next to his and he guides you over and you can see Gavis turning not too far away. Looking over in your direction, Armand gives a nod and Gavis perks up and you can see he's now maneuvering to pass you off towards Gavis in the next transition.

ASHLEY: As we're looking over, I'm going to try to just twist the ring and try to take it off.

ROBBIE: (groans)

MATT: Okay! Make a sleight of hand check.

SAM: No!

ROBBIE: He's on guard!

LIAM: My soul just left my body.

LAURA and ROBBIE: Yep.

ROBBIE: This is it.

TRAVIS: This is what I'm here for.

ROBBIE: This is it.

LIAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah!

TALIESIN: Bring it!

ROBBIE: Let the fates decide.

TRAVIS: Up to the dice.

LIAM: Let chaos reign across all campaigns.

TALIESIN: It's punching time.

ROBBIE: Fuck.

LAURA: Is it, is it--?

MARISHA: It's good. It's good. It's good.

LAURA: Oh, it's good. It's good. It's good.

ASHLEY: 21.

MATT: As you spin, the music picks up, there's a crescendo and a crash of the cymbal and he spins you. As he does, you grab just a little bit tighter than it was expected on his thumb, and you feel a pop like you had popped the thumb out of socket a little bit and the ring slips off in your grasp. So while it doesn't go unnoticed, it didn't seem overt. He (grunts) reaches down for a second and takes the hand and looks up at you with like a--

MARISHA: Who's got the ring? You've got the ring?

ROBBIE: I have the ring!

MATT: At which point Gavis is now coming towards you to take your hand while you feel the ring in your left. What do you do?

LAURA: Drop it, Fearne.

ASHLEY: (pinging)

SAM: Oh jesus.

ROBBIE: Don't drop it!

LAURA: Dorian! Dorian! Dorian, pick up the ring!

MATT: This is the moment of transition--

LAURA: Dorian, pick up the ring!

MATT: -- as the cymbal crashes hit, and you're transitioning out of it, and you see--

LAURA: Pick up the ring!

MATT: -- Fearne being tossed away from Armand and a little point of silver just on the ground.

ASHLEY: I'm going to pretend I don't notice and start dancing with Gavis.

SAM: Among feet?

LAURA: Notice it! Notice it! Save the day!

ROBBIE: Why do I need to pick up the ring? I have the right one!

LAURA: Dorian, notice he dropped it and save the day! Switch the ring!

ROBBIE: Fine! I will-- Is it the transition?

MATT: This is just happening right at the middle of the transition.

MARISHA: Sleight of hand, bitch, you got some sleight of hand, come on!

ROBBIE: I will push past everyone-- (laughs) God!

LAURA: Yes!

ROBBIE: And walk straight up to him in a tango-esque fashion.

LAURA: No, no, no! Pick up the ring from the fucking ground!

ROBBIE: I have the correct ring, trust me!

LAURA: No, but he has to see that you picked--

ROBBIE: Trust me, Imogen! Can I shut her out of my brain?

MATT: You can.

SAM: Yeah!

ROBBIE: I shut Imogen out of my brain, and as I approach--

MATT: Armand has spun around and holding his thumb and is looking on the ground at this point over in the loose vicinity before glancing over at you as you approach.

ROBBIE: I have, in the transition, pulled the tracking ring out of my pocket, and I have it in my dancing hand and I approach Armand, and as I do, I clock the ring and I try to kick it off the dance floor. His ring. Just get it out of view.

MATT: Make a sleight of hand check because this is going to be--

SAM: With advantage!

MATT: With advantage because of the spell.

ROBBIE: All right. Terrible. I know.

MARISHA: It's got to be better. It's got to be better than that. (laughter)

ASHLEY: Is it a one?

MARISHA: No, but it's not good.

ROBBIE: That was an 11.

MATT: An 11, okay.

SAM: It's double digits.

MATT: So as Armand turns towards you, glancing over, you see a look of recognition on the ground. He hasn't quite acknowledged your presence quite yet, knows you're coming, but is more interested in where the ring went. Just as you kick the ring and it-- He goes, "Shit," and is now beginning to ignore you to go after the ring that is now begun to be tossed around in the crowd.

ROBBIE: My lord, my lord, my lord! The dance, the dance! Please, please! One round, one round. I've been waiting all night to see you, please! Brontë. Brontë Secondsun.

MATT: Make a persuasion check. In the middle of this conversation, you're seeing he's in the process of clocking right now if you're even worth bothering. Bothering with right now while he's lost his ring.

SAM: He's changing. He's changing dice. He's changing dice.

ROBBIE: What was it? Persuasion?

MATT: Persuasion.

ROBBIE: Persuasion.

LIAM: Seeing them lock eyes like that--

ROBBIE: Fuck me! Nine.

MATT: Nine. "Just a moment, I have something to deal with. Here." He looks over and take somebody else's hand who's coming towards him and connects both of you aggressively and says, "There." You can see other people are now-- Other people are now looking confused as he started pushing the crowd, still holding his thumb. As you can see, it hurt from the process, but he's still looking around.

LAURA: I'm looking for it. I'm telling FCG to look for it.

ROBBIE: Is it going to anybody in my party that I see?

SAM: She just told me to look for the ring, so I'm going to do a perception check and try to find it.

MATT: Make a perception check.

SAM: Can I Guide myself?

ROBBIE: We don't need it!

MATT: You can.

SAM: I will Guide myself. You no longer have advantage on dex.

LAURA: We do need it because he noticed it fucking moved.

ROBBIE: We have the one that we need to give him.

LAURA: I know, but you have to show that you picked up the one that fell first.

ROBBIE: The other one's identical!

SAM: 18.

LAURA: He saw it fell on the ground!

MATT: 18. You do see. When it got kicked by Dorian, it got kicked into the crowd, which in the middle of the dance got kicked by numerous others. It's now been lost in the shuffle. They haven't noticed, nobody else has noticed, so the people that were nearby are just wondering why Armand's acting strange. Nobody saw the ring or noticed any oddness about this. Armand's just now starting to push the crowd. You just barely catch out a glimmer of something rolling through the dancing, just towards the exterior of the central cluster of people.

SAM: I'm just going to make a beeline for it.

MATT: All right. You speed over towards it.

SAM: Weaving through the dancers.

MATT: Yep, as you head off to the side, you can see one of the servants is also now clocking it and is now starting to reach over to pick it up.

SAM: I'm going to try to beat him to it.

MATT: Okay. Go ahead and roll-- Just roll a dexterity check.

LIAM: Can I cross through and shoulder check that person?

MATT: You may. I would like-- I would like-- No, you just give this person a disadvantage. You do manage to shoulder check them, but they get disadvantage on their--

LIAM: I suddenly bump into them.

MATT: You got it.

SAM: Dexterity check?

MATT: Yeah, just roll and add your dexterity modifier.

SAM: It's just a straight 11. Can I Guide myself again or no? It doesn't work. Can I do that every time?

MATT: You can Guide yourself in any check.

SAM: I'll Guide myself again.

MATT: Usually you Guide in advance of the roll, but it doesn't matter.

SAM: Sure, sure, sure. Sorry.

MATT: The disadvantage you gave made a difference. They rolled an eight total. So they go for it. "Watch where you're--" They glance over and you snatch up the ring.

MARISHA: Oh, okay!

SAM: I'm going to keep going.

MATT: Okay.

SAM: I'm bringing your drink!

MATT: Okay. So you're now heading where?

SAM: I guess--

TRAVIS: Did he see it?

SAM: They're both on the dance floor, right?

MATT: Both on the dance floor, and Armand is still on the dance floor, but is pushing his way in the direction of the exterior of the dance floor and is still looking for his ring.

SAM: So do I have eyes on Orym or Imogen?

MATT: You do. Orym, you just saw bumping into the guy you were racing against.

SAM: He just checked past me.

MATT: Imogen's a little ways beyond him and is focused inward towards the dance area.

LIAM: I look over my shoulder and find Dorian and go-- And keep going.

SAM: I'm heading to Imogen.

MATT: Mmkay. So you head over towards Imogen. What are you doing in the middle of all this?

ROBBIE: Am I locked in with whoever I got passed off to?

MATT: That's up to you. As you got passed over, somebody reached out to take your hand and it's still in the middle of the Armand elements.

ROBBIE: This is all going super quickly?

MATT: Yeah.

ROBBIE: Fuck me.

LIAM: I referenced to the floor as I kept going, locking eyes with you and then turned and went.

ROBBIE: Who's the closest on my team to Armand?

MATT: Closest your team would be probably her.

ROBBIE: Who?

MATT: It would be Fearne. So he's getting farther and farther away from both of you because he's pushing outside of the dance floor.

SAM: When I get there.

ROBBIE: This is so stupid. I'm going to try to throw the tracking ring to Fearne. I try to toss it to her.

TRAVIS: I love it. It love it!

ROBBIE: I'm going to try to toss it to her.

MATT: All right.

ASHLEY: Okay.

TALIESIN: No one crimes well.

MATT: All right-- (laughter)

MATT: So in the middle of this chaos, you lock eyes with Fearne and you, as the person's about to reach towards you--

ROBBIE: I reach for them and try to sky hook it over to her.

MATT: Okay. I would like-- (laughter)

TRAVIS: In a giant dress.

MATT: I would like you, Dorian, to just roll a d20 and add your strength modifier.

ROBBIE: Okay.

TRAVIS: Come on, bud.

MARISHA: Oh, that's the best roll you've done tonight!

ROBBIE: It's fine. Not great. 13.

MATT: 13's okay. With a quick little flick of the wrist and having experience throwing axes and lobbing things at around this distance towards a specific target, you feel pretty confident with the going. Now it's your responsibility to catch it. As there is somebody now reaching to try and engage with you in a dance.

ASHLEY: Okay.

MATT: What do you do as you glance up and see this? You glance over and see him do this. He throws the ring right as you feel this hand pulled and somebody has already taken you up as their dance partner.

MARISHA: I'm so uncomfortable.

MATT: So you need to roll a dexterity check to try and grab it from the air. So just roll a d20 and add your dexterity modifier.

ASHLEY: Okay.

ROBBIE: Catch it.

LIAM: ♪ Let the bodies hit the floor ♪ (laughter)

ROBBIE: Fucking catch it.

ASHLEY: 12.

MATT: 12. (laughs)

SAM: These are all borderline rolls.

TALIESIN: Doing okay.

MATT: You're doing okay. So you get grabbed and pulled, and as you do, your hand catches it, but also loosens it and it flies a little bit further in the air. You try and catch it again, it gets knocked up again, and a third time you do manage to catch it. As you hold it, the person who's holding your hand and is pulling you to dance goes, "Fascinating."

ASHLEY: He just proposed. (laughter)

MATT: "Oh, congratulations!" (laughter)

ASHLEY: I'm so sorry!

MATT: "That's incredible!"

ASHLEY: I have to go tell my girlfriends! (laughter)

MATT: "Oh, okay."

ASHLEY: I'm going to leave.

MATT: As you disengage, you can see people nearby being like, "Did she just get married?" Like, "And left him there?" The guy on the dance floor's like-- He looks around and everybody else is already with partners, so he just like-- Just waits.

ASHLEY: In my head: Imogen, Imogen, where are you?

LAURA: Yeah? I'm over here, I'm over here!

ASHLEY: (repeated) I have the ring.

LAURA: (repeated) Bring it here! I'm going to get down on the ground and start crawling around like I'm looking for it.

MATT: Okay, what are you doing, Chet?

LAURA: Make your way to me!

ASHLEY: Okay!

MATT: What are you doing?

TRAVIS: I'm still tracking Lady Emoth Kade with Cyrus and just making sure they're not doing shady shit.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: Just moving-- Get the fuck out of the way. Moving people as I can track them and make sure that I'm 25 feet wherever they are in the dance of it all.

MATT: Okay, cool. So you watched them move through the dance floor and people shift, and you see something shine in the air for a moment, and then shine again and shine again.

TRAVIS: They're staying together-ish?

MATT: They're staying together and you can see other people are shifting partners and they disengage and then re-engage. Then they move through towards the back. As you're pushing, you are a small person moving through a large crowd of dancing folk. You did roll really high perception check, which means you do clock them for most of it. You do clock them leaving the group. They leave the dance. We'll come back in a second. Laudna, you do anything specific?

MARISHA: I was dancing with Ratanish, but none of that feels important to what is happening. So...

LIAM: Just chatting.

MARISHA: I'm just talking with him.

MATT: All right, so we'll say for the dance of Ratanish, is there anything in particular that you ask or mention as he's turning you and--

MARISHA: You're going to pause in the middle of all this for my dumb-ass conversation? All right, all right. Back to role playing. What was I doing? (laughter)

MATT: We can return to this if you're not ready.

MARISHA: Yeah. Sorry. So distracted. (laughs) Quite the rabble rousers in the audience tonight.

MATT: "You're not kidding, but the rabble rousing is what our specialties are, so works out quite well."

MARISHA: The audacity of them to question the Paragon's Call and your motivations.

MATT: "So you seem to have heard of our work before. Have you hired us before?"

MARISHA: No, but I'm quite the fan. I wish I would've had fellows like you back in the day. Back from where I'm from, people don't understand how important it is to have--

MATT: Turns you and brings you close in. As you spin back around is inches from you, and not in a romantic connection way, in a reading you as quickly and as intensely as possible.

MARISHA: -- the importance of having people like you around. I imagine it can be quite difficult to persuade the masses.

MATT: "You have a curious air about you." As he's dancing with you, he pulls up from underneath the armor a leather band, and at the edge of it, you see a symbol. It's a golden mask that comes into a curved beak at the edge. Roll a religion check for me.

MARISHA: Golden mask with a curved beak, what the f-- A religion check? Oh, shit.

TRAVIS: You got this.

SAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MARISHA: My religion's not good. I don't have-- I don't want that one. That one's dumb. Ooh, 20 total! Dirty 20!

MATT: Dirty 20. With that, you pick up on it. Maybe it's because of your nature that both you understand this and maybe because of your nature, or something he saw in you, but that is a symbol of the Duskmaven.

MARISHA: Oh!

LAURA: Oh!

MARISHA: Raven Queen shit!

MATT: As he tucks it back away and looks at you again and is like--

MARISHA: I see you respect the natural boundaries of life and death.

MATT: "I see you walk between them, it appears."

LAURA: Oh, shit.

MARISHA: You're quite perceptive.

MATT: "As are you." Cymbal crash and you get spun back off into the crowd.

SAM: That was a good conversation.

LAURA: Yeah.

ROBBIE: Mm.

MATT: Now!

MARISHA: As I get spun around, I'm suddenly like: I had a group, I had a job. I look around. Where are my people?

MATT: You see this mousy, thin older noble gentleman, his spine is almost as twisted as yours, but in a forward way. As you turn around he looks up at you and goes-- and just walks back and stops dancing.

MARISHA: Great. Where are my people? And clock them.

MATT: All right. So you get caught up in this situation, watching it all unfold. What are you doing now as you now have the ring in your hand.

LAURA: I'm crawling around on the floor, looking for the ring.

SAM: Both me and Fearne were going towards Imogen. Who's going to get there first?

MATT: All right, so you're on the ground.

LAURA: I'm crawling on the ground. I've called Fearne over to me.

MATT: Right. It's a little easier for you because nobody's actively trying to dance with you. You, however--

SAM: Is someone following me still or no? Did they leave me?

MATT: They left you.

SAM: Okay, great.

MATT: The servant got knocked out the way and they have no investment in it. They were just wondering what the hell that was. If you're trying to push the crowd, how do you want to try and avoid people getting in your way? Are you just muscling through or are you trying to scare them off? Are you trying to convince them that you have to pee? What are you doing?

ASHLEY: I am going to cast Primal Savagery on myself, and my fangs come out and my eyes turn crazy. (growled) I don't want to dance with you! (laughter)

MATT: Three people who were swooping in to try, after they watched you dancing with Armand, and even that moment with Armand, really caught the attention of the crowd around.

ASHLEY: I'm fucking done!

MATT: (laughs) Suddenly, you became a point of interest in the middle of the circle, this strange faun, a fey being in the middle of this dance that was engaged with Armand. So as soon as you, the whole ring thing scenario, this shine in the air and you end up dancing with folk and you begin pushing through, people rush in. As you do that, "My god! They let anyone into this dance these days!"

ASHLEY: I'm done, and I just got engaged! I'm going to take off.

MATT: "I was going to tell her congratulations!" (laughter)

ASHLEY: I am going to walk towards where Imogen is.

MATT: Now Imogen, as you are on the ground at this point looking around, two hands hit the ground, and you look up to see Armand there and goes, "Did you find it?"

LAURA: I'm looking everywhere, sir.

MATT: "Look harder." You see him. He's telling people, "Move! Out of the way!" and people are shifting back and starting to give him space. Armand carries enough weight in these spaces where, when he uses that tone of voice, people listen, whether or not they're considered equals in the front of social exchange. He is now looking around.

LAURA: I'm going to crawl towards Fearne as she's walking towards me.

MATT: Okay.

LIAM: Orym walks up. He's face-to-face even though he's not crouching down. Are you looking for-- I just saw a ring, and I point in the opposite direction that I kicked it in. I just saw it go flinging down the floor that way.

MATT: Make a deception check.

LIAM: Yep.

LAURA: Am I at Fearne yet?

MATT: You will be in just the moment.

LIAM: 16.

MATT: 16.

SAM: Oh boy.

MATT: He looks at you intently. Glances over at one of the specifically the minotaur figure of the Paragon's Call, and goes, "Keep an eye on this one," and does not follow your-- He rolled really high on his insight.

LIAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MATT: And not only doesn't believe you, but now--

LIAM: Yeah he's probably just made it worse.

MATT: -- is interested. While that's happening, you and Fearne begin to head towards each other.

LAURA: Keep it in your hand, Fearne.

ASHLEY: Okay.

LAURA: As I stand up, I'm going to say, I found it! And grab it out of Fearne's hand.

ASHLEY: Yes, I'm going to walk by and we'll just do a quick.

LAURA: Sir!

MATT: Stands up like.

LAURA: I don't know why I got so excited.

MATT: Roll a deception check.

MARISHA: Come on, bitch.

ASHLEY: Come on, baby, come on.

MARISHA: Come on!

TRAVIS: Come on.

MATT: He's looking real anxious.

TRAVIS: Do it.

TALIESIN: I'm not looking.

LIAM: It's okay.

TALIESIN: I don't want to look.

LAURA: 18.

MATT: 18, gives you a look.

LAURA: Sorry, I don't...

MATT: (snatching noise) "It's hard to get good help these days."

LAURA: If you're looking--

MATT: He just completely closes off to you and turns over to see you and goes, "You are an extremely clumsy dancer."

ASHLEY: Well. Rude!

TRAVIS: (laughs) Good one.

ROBBIE: Nice.

ASHLEY: Sure fucking told him. (laughter)

SAM: Your face is clumsy.

MATT: Somebody else in the crowd--

ASHLEY: I was just trying not to bring more attention.

MATT: As Armand is-- He's trying to calm down a little bit. The intensity built up. There was some sort of, whether it be sentimental value or importance to this ring, he seemed really flustered to lose it and now has it back on and is calming down. As he is, somebody in the crowd goes, "Sir, she just got engaged, calm." (laughter)

MATT: Begins to maneuver back into the crowd.

TALIESIN: Where's Eshteross in all of this?

MATT: Eshteross is not dancing. Eshteross is just sitting--

TALIESIN: No.

MATT: -- outside of the crowd. Currently, you are all engaged elsewhere in this event, so Eshteross is looking at what you are doing from a distance, but also keeping a very close eye and holding his cane very tightly.

MARISHA: We didn't cut his hand off.

MATT: He's keeping an eye on every exit. He's looking at every person that comes nearby. He has the look of somebody who's expecting to be stabbed in the back at any minute.

TALIESIN: I'm going to edge that way.

MATT: Okay.

TALIESIN: Now that this--

ASHLEY: ♪ Edgin' my way! ♪

TALIESIN: -- seems to be chilling out a bit.

TRAVIS: Can I try and reach out to see if anyone's at the switchboard for Imogen? I go, Imogen?

LAURA: I have to make the connection.

TRAVIS: Oh yeah. Imogen, please.

MARISHA: He's praying. (laughter)

TRAVIS: Balls! Nothing.

LIAM: Hear my prayer.

ROBBIE: I'm going to break away from the dance floor and go to the restroom.

MATT: Okay, go for it. (laughter)

MATT: While you're having this conversation, Emoth and Cyrus have left the dance floor. Cyrus currently has walked over to one of the chairs right by where some of the food on what would be the left hand side of the entire chamber was from where you entered, takes a snack and is just looking out over it all, keeping his mask on. Emoth heads through the double doors into the halls beyond the dance chamber and closes the door behind her.

TRAVIS: I walk over quickly to Cyrus. What was that about?

MATT: "What?"

TRAVIS: That's her, right? What were you talking about?

MATT: "I'm working. Please don't ruin it."

TRAVIS: Don't trust her. I head off after Lady Emoth.

MATT: You head off after, all right.

TRAVIS: Wait, she went to the double doors that go into the chambers that we don't know where they go?

MATT: Correct, yeah, beyond the chamber.

TRAVIS: Are there wardens on either side of that door?

MATT: There are. They're just keeping tabs more on the group inside when she walks by. They didn't-- just barely acknowledged and just, they're more interested at all the debutantes and political figures that are dancing.

TRAVIS: Doors open, or closed and she has to push them to get through?

MATT: They push inward.

TRAVIS: They push inward.

MATT: And she just pushes one. She's small enough that she barely slips through and it closes with no noise or fuss.

TRAVIS: Great, I'll just walk over casually. (hums)

MATT: Okay. You push in. Just make a deception check. This is more of your physicality and how you present yourself because they seem to recognize Lady Emoth, she--

TRAVIS: 14.

MATT: One of the guards lowers his shield and a spear crosses in front of you and goes--

TRAVIS: Yeah?

MATT: "What is your business? I don't recognize you."

TRAVIS: I have to take a piss!

MATT: "Amenities are on the left. Hurry back or we'll send somebody."

TRAVIS: Thank you. Almost got a shave, nice weapon.

MATT: Okay, and as you move past, there's a brief conversation. You've caught their interest. But you head into the hallway and as you move past, this is a long circular hallway that goes both sides, and on the opposite side you can see glass that opens out into the city of Jrusar below. There are gardens beyond it, and you can see there's bushes and trees. There's a whole courtyard garden that surrounds this entire expanse, and there are some doors that lead out to into it, it looks like. And then the cliff just ends. Then beyond that, you can see the spires, and you can see the Prakash Pyre that is burning, this massive a hundred plus foot flame that is visible off in the distance and glowing like a beacon in the night sky. Beyond that, you can see the darkened jungles, the faint glow of Ruidus in the sky that way. Catha has just returned on the opposite side of this time of night and there's a bit of a white glow that's hitting the mist, so you can just begin to make out the shape of the jungles below. It's a view you weren't expecting, but nevertheless, the hallway goes both to the right and left and there are doors inward and beyond. Which way are you going?

TRAVIS: A night for lovers.

MATT: Make a perception check, actually, to see if you can pursue where Lady Emoth went.

TRAVIS: Perception?

MATT: Yeah. There are faint bits of magical torchlight set up on different parts, so it's still darkly lit, but enough to lead your way through if you need to.

TRAVIS: 17 plus one, 18.

MATT: 18. Okay. Though you were a bit delayed by the conversation and she seemed to be moving with a hustle, and you scoot into the hallway. You see her to the right. You hear a door close.

TRAVIS: Is there anybody else that I see in the hallway?

MATT: You see, a set of two guards that are a little ways, maybe like 30 or 40 feet down from where you heard the door close, that are walking in your direction.

TRAVIS: Oh shit, and he said the bathroom is in to the left, right?

MATT: Yeah.

TRAVIS: And we're in a hallway. Are there any--

MATT: It's like a T-hall. You just come into it and it goes right and left.

TRAVIS: Are there any plants or pots or anything that a gnome could just step behind and break visual sight for a second?

MATT: There are tables, little side tables in the hallway about every 30, 40 feet or so. Some of them have decor on them, little planters. Some of them are just empty or with a plate.

TRAVIS: I walk over. I stand behind one of the tables, and I go invisible.

MATT: Okay. You are invisible.

TRAVIS: I will use my boots to move silently down the right side of the hallway after Lady Emoth.

MATT: Okay, go ahead and roll a stealth check with advantage because it is sound-based.

TRAVIS: Yes.

MATT: And because you're invisible, so.

TRAVIS: Are you fucking shitting me? A one and a two.

LIAM: Wow.

MATT: For a total of?

TRAVIS: Seven.

MATT: Seven.

TRAVIS: Eight, sorry.

MATT: Okay, so--

TRAVIS: Wow.

MATT: As you turn invisible, the guards pass the door that you heard close and are heading your direction. You confidently, deftly, begin to maneuver past them, and as you get maybe about 10 feet beyond them, you don't realize that your hip hits the edge of one of the tables and bumps it hard, and the table goes (crashing). One of the planters set up on it falls on the ground.

SAM: Jesus.

MATT: Both guards just go. They both immediately shields up, spears down, and they're both now looking very intensely in the region. We'll come back to that in a second.

ASHLEY: Is Ashton around somewhere?

MATT: Ashton is over with Lord Eshteross.

TALIESIN: Yeah, I just made my way.

ASHLEY: Okay.

MATT: So as you approach Lord Eshteross--

MARISHA: ♪ Just makin' my way ♪

MATT: -- you both are glancing over it all.

TALIESIN: Is this is your normal anxiety, or are you getting the vibe here? Because I don't like it.

MATT: "It's a combination of it all. Trust me."

TALIESIN: Where are the rest of them?

MATT: "I've clocked a few, but you've scattered quite a bit. I just hope it's worth it and I hope it succeeded, otherwise there's going to be a lot of conversations I don't want to have in the morning."

TALIESIN: There's some people acting real weird here. Do I see any of them? I'm scanning for all of them and Hexum anybody--

MATT: Yeah, you can see Dorian, Fearne have both now, I assume, exiting the dance floor?

ASHLEY: Yes, yes.

ROBBIE: Mission accomplished.

LIAM: Orym's just trying to tie up loose ends and is looking for the old ring.

MATT: Okay. Go ahead and make a perception or investigation check, your choice.

LAURA: I love it.

LIAM: Did I just roll two 16s? I did, plus five, so 21.

MATT: 21, you're small enough and quick enough, and now just in your servants' garb as well that nobody questions it in the middle of this dance as you quickly and nimbly, deftly leap through the shifting crowd without bumping or bothering anybody, glancing around as quick as you can until right there you see the silver ring.

SAM: Nope.

TALIESIN: No, you don't.

LAURA: FCG has it.

SAM: I have it.

MATT: Oh, you have the ring?

LIAM: You found the old one?

SAM: I have it in my hand.

MATT: That's right.

LIAM: I found it in his hand.

ROBBIE: We look inside FCG's butthole and there it is.

MATT: No, you do see it. You see it in the hand of Fresh Cut Grass.

SAM: I'm motoring over to Ashton, sorry,

MATT: Yeah, no worries.

SAM: Aaron, and Eshteross.

LIAM: I'll follow along then.

ASHLEY: Yeah, I'm going to go over. I'm going to go over to Ashton.

MATT: Okay, so you all begin to reconvene over to that space.

MARISHA: What's Ratanish doing?

MATT: Ratanish is now in the process of dancing with other dance partners, and has been bouncing between them.

MARISHA: Am I caught in the dance? Am I (laughs).

MATT: You were for a moment, but then the minute that you were--

ASHLEY: You're just still dancing.

MATT: The person that asked you disengaged. You were given an opening to leave or you can continue in there and dance with more people if you wanted to.

MARISHA: I'll keep dancing.

MATT: Okay, anyone particular you're looking for?

TRAVIS: Unspoken members, remember.

MATT: In fact--

MARISHA: That. That, I'm looking for members.

MATT: Well, the first person you see that catches your eye because they're familiar, on this opposite side of the dance floor, is Vali Dertrana.

MARISHA: Oh.

LAURA: Oh.

MARISHA: Oh...

LAURA: Uh-oh.

TRAVIS: Oh, Vali.

LAURA: Uh-oh!

TRAVIS: The fucking guy! the business merchant.

LAURA: The one you scared as a ghost, we scared him.

LIAM: Yes, yes.

LAURA: Uh-oh.

LIAM: Working with Ira.

MATT: Now you see them. They're looking past you off to the side, and they've stopped dancing and they're just glancing beyond. You gauge their eye line and they're looking at the mask.

TALIESIN: I am very well covered by the way. Other than the purple, there's nothing else showing.

TRAVIS: But you're rocking that Nightmare King.

MARISHA: But you're rocking the Nightmare King mask.

TALIESIN: Yeah, oh, that's right.

MATT: Yeah. (laughter)

TALIESIN: All right. I'm in. Bring it. (laughter)

TALIESIN: All right.

SAM: Totally incognito.

TALIESIN: Yep.

ASHLEY: You can't fucking see me!

TRAVIS: Oh shit! Oh no!

ROBBIE: Oh no!

TALIESIN: I'm so excited.

MATT: He's just looking over.

TALIESIN: Do I notice?

MATT: Yeah, because you're keeping an eye on everybody, you look over and get the look. It's one of those things where you glance over, you see Laudna, see her eye over, see Vali, and Vali's looking right at you with this like...

TALIESIN: Excuse me for one second. I just take a couple steps forward.

LIAM: Creepy.

TRAVIS: Yeah, that's some jester shit.

MATT: Vali begins to maneuver through the crowd, away from you, and--

TRAVIS: Harlequin.

LAURA: Nice.

MATT: -- is now heading deeper into the--

TALIESIN: Let's see who he finds. I'm going to start quietly trying to track.

TRAVIS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MARISHA: Keep your eyes on that motherfucker.

TRAVIS: That was the whole point. Wasn't it?

TALIESIN: Yeah.

ASHLEY: Ashton!

TALIESIN: See who they talk to.

ASHLEY: I get really close to Ashton. Open your jacket, please. I think you've been wanting this. I'm going to put the ornamental saber inside of his jacket.

MATT: Okay.

TALIESIN: Just on the back.

MATT: Okay.

TALIESIN: Yeah, I'm just going to, definitely, I'm going to, as many of us who can keep an eye on who he seems to talk to, that would be fine. Clearly, he's going to be paying attention to me. I'm just going to keep my distance and keep an eye on him, and see if he's brave enough.

MATT: As the dances come, and it's now, it's been going on for about five or so minutes, six or so minutes now, and you're like, how long is this dance going to go? But--

MARISHA: All that happened in five minutes, jesus fuck.

ROBBIE: It was a lot going on.

MATT: It all happens quickly. The conversations are rapid. The musician in you can hear the construction of the song and it's gone through ascending measures, and it feels like it's coming to a near crescendo. Like the way the instruments are building, you get the sense it's hitting that upbeat anticipation for a final crash. As this is happening, you're glancing over and seeing Vali push through the crowd, glances over in the direction of Armand who is currently caught up with the dance, looks over and beelines it to Ratanish.

MARISHA: Who does, Armand?

MATT: No, Vali does.

MARISHA: Vali does.

ROBBIE: To Ratanish?

SAM: Okay.

MATT: Vali goes to Ratanish.

TRAVIS: 100% he does.

MATT: They begin to talk for a minute. Ratanish is already in the middle of a dance and like--

MARISHA: Vali connected to Ratanish.

MATT: Gives a nod and prematurely breaks the dance that he's in, turns and looks to Vali. Vali, this conversation, and points over to you, and Ratanish goes--

LIAM: Shit.

SAM: Oh no.

MATT: They both separate.

MARISHA: Shit.

TALIESIN: I'll follow Ratanish.

MARISHA: I'll follow Vali.

SAM: You'll follow Ratanish?

TALIESIN: Just clocking.

MATT: Okay, it's easy for you to follow Ratanish, because Ratanish is coming to you.

MARISHA: Oh no.

ROBBIE: No, no, no.

MATT: While this is happening, the guards are in the hallway.

LAURA: Oh god.

MATT: (laughs)

LAURA: Oh my god.

LIAM: Jeez.

LAURA: There's so much happening.

ASHLEY: There is so much going on.

MATT: "I mean, it's--"

TRAVIS: (soft squeaking) My boots of elvenkind.

MATT: "Who goes there?!"

TRAVIS: They don't make any sound when I move, though I rolled an eight, it was balls.

MATT: The door opens back on the edge of the hall. A figure walks in. (Guard) "Who is it?" (Voice 2) "Oh, sorry. I'm just using the bathroom. Down the hall." They both start quietly splitting up and both, one continues past and is now circling where the table is. They're both now looking around underneath it, looking over it, and they're getting the sense that something's off about this.

TRAVIS: Mm-hmm, yeah. I will do my best to try and split the distance with them. I usually don't make a sound when I move. I'm clumsy and I bumped into shit.

MATT: You didn't make a sound. The other things did.

TRAVIS: Yeah. I will try and thread the needle between the two of them with three feet and just try and stay out of spear point or whatever weapon it is they have, and just try and silently waltz with them.

LAURA: I picture the whole Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment.

ASHLEY: Yes!

LAURA: The butt up in the air.

MARISHA: Oh my god.

TRAVIS: Arching my back.

ASHLEY: The best moment.

MATT: I'm going to need you to make two rolls for me, because the spears--

TRAVIS: They're doing this, right?

MATT: Yeah. They're coming around and it looks like they're doing it quickly because now that they've zeroed in to this heavy movement-- It wasn't like they heard a sound. They watched a table mysteriously bump and things fall over when there's nothing around it. So you get the sense that they're like, "Something's up." They both triangulate around it and they're now wiping their spears through at the same time. I need you to roll an acrobatics check.

TRAVIS: Okay.

MATT: And a stealth check with disadvantage. However, you do have advantage because you're invisible, so it's just a straight roll. So a straight acrobatics and a straight stealth. The DC is relatively high on both of these, so.

LAURA: Okay, okay, okay, okay.

TRAVIS: 21 on acrobatics.

MATT: As both of the spears sweep past the area where you were hiding--

TRAVIS: (whooshing)

MATT: Yeah, you full-on leap to the side, just coast between them. One of them brushes past the hair on the out, your little fluff of hair, and you catch yourself without a sound on the ground, depending. Roll your stealth check for me, please.

TRAVIS: 17.

MATT: 17.

LAURA: Okay.

LIAM: It's a'ight.

MATT: They bring the spears back around. One of them comes over and lifts the table to look underneath, and that's your moment where you see an opportunity and you dart past and curve around.

TRAVIS: Oh my god. I let out a little tiny fart that's silent.

ASHLEY: But deadly.

MATT: But deadly.

TRAVIS: But it's potent.

MATT: Perfect.

TRAVIS: Just to let them argue about who did it.

MATT: Okay, so now they're both frustrated, and after looking at the table and seeing nothing there, one of them is now poking the upper corners of the hallway with the spear, and the other one is picking up the pieces, putting them on the table, and is now starting to head back down the hall, getting the sense that you're going where you're going, or at least in that direction. What are you doing?

TRAVIS: Down the right side of the hallway towards where?

MATT: Yeah, where they came from.

TRAVIS: Did I see the door close that Lady Emoth was going into? Or did I just hear it?

MATT: I'd say--

TRAVIS: I guess, are there a shit load of doors down there?

MATT: There's a lot of doors. You heard the sound.

TRAVIS: How about this.

MATT: You rolled pretty decent on perception.

TRAVIS: Because she came up and talked to Cyrus when I was right there, can I try and smell her scent around one of the doors?

MATT: Your wolven senses are quite strong with smell. Go ahead and roll perception with advantage to see if you can pick up her scent.

TRAVIS: Okay.

LIAM: Wolfy.

TALIESIN: Damn.

TRAVIS: 16.

MATT: 16, so first things first, you hadn't really thought about it before, because you were overblown with senses while you were in the chamber, but now you focus in on the smell that was distinctly hers, that you pick up again in this hallway and it's like perfume, but there's an underlying mustiness to it, like an odd-- it smells almost like a mold or like an odd earthy smell. But it is something that you connect both with her in the room and this hallway, and it's not the first door on your left. You do see now, the glass windows stop and along the hall there is now doors, and just beyond the way, you can see there are now chambers, suites, that align and you remember Eshteross mentioning that chambers were going to be provided for the evening for guests so they wouldn't wander drunkenly through the street. So you get the sense that these are likely rooms of different attendees for the event.

TRAVIS: Okay.

MATT: But it's not the first one on the left, it's the second one on the left.

TRAVIS: Can I go up to the second one? Do I see a key hole outside of the door? I'm not going to mess with it yet. I just want to see it and maybe, if there's a key hole, and listen from outside the door.

MATT: There is a keyhole, yes.

TRAVIS: Do I hear anything from outside the door if I press up against it?

MATT: Make a perception check.

TRAVIS: With my hearing or smell?

MATT: Your wolven ears perk up.

TRAVIS: Yes, 15.

MATT: 15, you listen carefully and you hear--

SAM: (sneezes)

MARISHA: Bless you.

MATT: (creaking) (creaking) Something grinding. There's some sort of-- It sounds like something heavy against something heavy.

TRAVIS: What the fuck?

MATT: Like grinding in a squeak. It's hard to place.

TRAVIS: I'll just lightly try the handle to see if there's resistance or if it just goes all the way.

MATT: Okay, the handle goes, but there is definitely, actually, no, it just opens up.

TRAVIS: Okay. Yeah, fuck it. I'll let the door slowly move open, and I'll see what I can see, but I won't enter. I'll base my next move off of whatever happens from what I see.

MATT: Okay. The door opens. Are you doing it carefully?

TRAVIS: Yeah, just slowly so that it could be like a drafty door blew open. If she tries to rush the door to close it, I might try and sneak in before she closes it.

MATT: Okay. The door opens up ever so carefully. I'll say roll a dexterity check for me to see how deftly you can prevent it from making any sort of noise.

TRAVIS: Okay, just straight up dexterity?

MATT: Yep.

TRAVIS: That's cocked. Ugh, 11.

MATT: 11.

LIAM: Great rolls. Great rolls tonight.

MATT: (creaking) Just the faintest squeak as it does. Inside it's low lit. This is a suite chamber. You can see there are carpets adorning it.

LAURA: This is a sweet chamber.

MATT: It's pretty sweet. You can see chests and large baggage, like luggage chests, that are set on the far back wall. There's a desk. There's an opening with a balcony that leads outward, and a door that heads off to another part of the chamber. You hear... nothing. Then you see a shape. Look through, there's an open door. Just as you walk in, you look across the way, and there is an opening and a balcony that leads outside, and you can see Jrusar beyond. In this chamber to the right, this entry way, and there's some candelabra glowing, there is a door that leads into another room, a smaller connected room. The door is open, and you see a figure glance through.

TRAVIS: Almost instinctively, I know I'm invisible, but I pull my head back.

MATT: (whooshes) With unnatural speed, the figure darts over to the door, and where are you standing?

TRAVIS: If I open the door like this, and that head pops out, I call go like (whooshes) and just try and just pull myself out of the doorway visually, but I'm right by the door jamb.

MATT: Right, so you're like--

TRAVIS: If they come up to the doorway, I'm like.

MATT: Yeah, so you're in the hallway, right by it? As you do that, you hold that (whooshes). The figure looks out and you see for a split second here in the low light, Lady Emoth. You can see sweat on her face. She glances off down the hall towards where the other guards are, and carefully, she closes the door, (clicks) and locks it.

TRAVIS: Sweat.

MATT: Is there anything you do in this moment?

TRAVIS: No, no.

MATT: Okay.

SAM: Why is he always in rooms alone?

TRAVIS: I fucked around enough. I will-- I'll-- I'll slowly make my way back towards the entrance, out to the area, remembering the door.

ALL: (slowly) ♪ Makin' my way ♪ (laughter)

TRAVIS: Can I take one really big sniff of the door? As soon as it closes, I just want to get like one big breath of whatever that smell is and just lock it in.

MATT: Yeah, you're taking it. Now that you're this close and you're paying attention, it's off. It's that horrible combination of a sweet saccharin perfume that's used to mask something and the smell that it's masking as it fades off is--

TRAVIS: Earthy or more decaying flesh?

MATT: More earthy and moldy. It doesn't smell like decaying flesh or rot as much as it smells like mold and must. That's the only way I can describe it.

TRAVIS: Okay, yeah, I'll start heading back towards that entrance.

MATT: Okay. Just begin to head that way. The two guards now have separated, and they're now going down the hall and investigating and you just wait.

TRAVIS: That's the one, yeah.

MATT: Go by and you're now back at the doorways that lead back into the dance.

TRAVIS: I will, still invisible, just open the door and walk right through it, just let it swing open.

MATT: As it swings open one of the guards is like (whooshes) "Shit."

TRAVIS: (fart sound)

MATT: Closes it. (laughter) "Was that you?" The other one's like, "Like no, no way. Oh god," and they both just start fanning the air as you dart back on in towards the group. While that's transpiring, Ratanish.

LAURA: Oh god.

MATT: Begins to step over you, not quickly, but definitely with an air of taking up more space than they were in the chamber. Their head turns to one side as they approach. "Friend, I have not found the chance to ask your name. Who are you?"

TALIESIN: I don't usually really give it. I'm just working, man. What do you need?

LIAM: Orym is making his way over to the crowd.

TRAVIS: ♪ Makin' my way! ♪

MATT: "I am. (chuckles) Well. I'm a fan of that unique ensemble you are wearing. Where did you procure this ghastly mask you wear?"

TALIESIN: It was a gift. I don't know, it's not my stuff. I don't know, someone said a mask could be funny or something. I don't know.

MATT: Make a deception check.

MARISHA: Come on.

LIAM: One of us has got to roll well tonight.

TALIESIN: Ooh, that's real good. Seven. (laughter) I'm not really trying.

ROBBIE: What is it? We're cursed.

MATT: This has been a rough night of rolls, y'all. (coughs) Pardon. "I'd like to inquire as to which friend you borrowed this from?"

TALIESIN: You know.

MATT: Hear the knuckles. (cracking)

TALIESIN: I wouldn't get hired for my services, if you know, I just went around willy-nilly giving people's names. But you know, I am available for hire.

MATT: "What services do you offer?"

TALIESIN: Usually whatever services someone needs, especially if it's apparently standing around in a costume.

MATT: They lean close to you. and rip the mask from your face.

TALIESIN: It's tied. It'll be tough to pull.

MATT: I know.

ROBBIE: Wow.

MARISHA: He's a big ol' goliath. I think a little string isn't going to matter.

LAURA: It's made of like--

MARISHA: It's paper mâché.

LAURA: Scraps.

LIAM: It's leather thongs. It's the leather thongs, leather.

MATT: It is tied, but this is a strong individual.

TALIESIN: It snaps.

MATT: It snaps.

TRAVIS: He's a half-giant, right?

LIAM: Yeah.

MATT: Holding the mask, like the fingers, but they're not even looking at the mask, and they're just looking at you.

TALIESIN: I--

MARISHA: Wait, what do you see? What was it?

TALIESIN: Pulled the mask.

ASHLEY: He's wearing another mask underneath.

TALIESIN: Masks all the way down.

MATT: "This is incredible!"

SAM: I'm going to start rolling over there.

TALIESIN: I'm going for a weird response. I'm going to slap him.

MARISHA: Oh no.

LIAM: Oh shit.

MARISHA: What are you doing?

ASHLEY: Yes, yes, yes!

MATT: Roll an attack roll.

LAURA: Oh god.

TRAVIS: Guys, when you have a barbarian in your class, you can count on a certain number of things to happen.

TALIESIN: Where am I? Okay, I got to see my-- What are my attacks?

MATT: Just roll and add your strength modifier.

TALIESIN: Oh, no, yeah, I see it. 24.

MATT: (slap)

LAURA: (echoing slap)

MATT: (laughs)

TALIESIN: Sir.

LAURA and MARISHA: (gasp)

TALIESIN: Sir. Please.

MATT: "I like you." Goes to slap you back.

SAM: It's a slap fight.

MARISHA: We're playing slapsies.

MATT: 16.

LIAM: Yeah.

TALIESIN: That's my AC.

LIAM: Only one thing you do.

MARISHA: Slap fight.

MATT: You do take a point of damage.

TALIESIN: Did he take a point of damage too, or no?

MATT: I don't think, you didn't say you slapped with the intent to hurt?

TALIESIN: No, I didn't. I hit, I don't want to insult the guy, so you know?

MATT: Yeah, he slapped to do just a little bit of damage, just to escalate.

TALIESIN: Sir. I like you, too. It's a pleasure. You can keep that, if you like, I suppose, if it really offended you.

MATT: "This is your response?"

TALIESIN: I mean, we can keep going, if you like, but you know, slap fighting's slap fighting. I'd want to drink for it if we're going to make this the game.

MATT: "I think the initiation is enough to begin. Slapping, well, it is children's games."

TALIESIN: Well.

MATT: "But you drew blood originally." You see now, the teeth are now red from where you hit right in the lip. You broke some blood vessels.

TALIESIN: Wow, I didn't think that would hit that hard. I figured you could take a little more. (anticipatory oohing)

MATT: "You see, when I taste blood, it's hard to get it out of my mind. How about we take this outside?"

TALIESIN: I don't know what the rules around here are.

MATT: "We take this outside. If you do not have a lip, then it will be provided."

TALIESIN: Are we doing weapons or do we just do this with, you know, the good old way?

MATT: Make a persuasion check.

MARISHA: Kind of don't want to stop this.

LAURA: I know, do you want to stop it?

MARISHA: I don't know.

TALIESIN: I want to fist fight, man.

MARISHA: I want to see where it goes. I feel like if we stop it, it'll add to the suspicion.

TRAVIS: Tiny minotaur, a half-orc, and a young gnome.

TALIESIN: 12.

TRAVIS: Three with him?

MATT: And a human. Four.

TRAVIS: What was the human descriptor?

MATT: You saw this scrappy-looking, pale human, a lot of the hair is, it would be braided back, but there are heavy scars across the head that break up the pattern. So the hair is braided in a zig-zag to match it.

TRAVIS: Okay, five in total. Four lackeys.

MATT: Yes.

TRAVIS: Got it.

MATT: You can see now they're starting to take note and look over. They're not interfering, but they're definitely clocking this exchange. What'd you roll?

TALIESIN: 12.

MATT: 12.

MATT: "You prefer fists?"

TALIESIN: I mean, again, this is fancy. It seems a way to go. I feel like you want something. So like, let's put a wager on it.

MATT: "(laughs) What do you ante for this wager?"

TALIESIN: I don't know, what do you want from me? You came up, yeah? Talk to me; what do you want?

MATT: "If I win, I'll take what I want." Then slaps the hand on your shoulder and begins to push you in the direction of the entrance.

TALIESIN: I shove that hand off and start walking towards the entrance.

MATT: Okay.

TALIESIN: Taking my jacket.

MATT: Make a strength check.

LAURA: (whistles)

TRAVIS: Oh yeah, they did say something about approved dueling.

ROBBIE: Approved dueling, yeah.

MARISHA: I bet it has to be outside.

MATT: Certain people work out their disagreements in public environments.

TALIESIN: Natural 20.

MATT: You slap the hand off and continue on with your grace and pride.

LAURA: What is the reaction of the room to this?

MATT: Oh, the dancing has begun to die down. About 15 to 20 people are all now watching this happen and already whispers are starting to shoot through the crowd. This is taking the attention of the room very quickly.

MARISHA: Oh, I don't like that.

LAURA: Do we need to steal any more rings? This is a good time.

ROBBIE: Mission accomplished.

MATT: You come back into this and you can watch. The music's still playing, but the crowds all start look in a direction, and you can see off in the distance, Ashton's currently exiting the room, and flanked by a member, the central member of the Paragon's Call that's present.

TRAVIS: Huh. (nervous thinking noises) Do I see anyone else from either A Team or B Team before I decide to go after Ashton? Do I see anyone?

LIAM: Orym is trailing, in case things go south.

MATT: I mean, they've reconvened with Eshteross and they're all watching this and beginning to step in the direction, following.

TRAVIS: So Eshteross and the entire group are starting to trail Ashton, or just Orym and FCG?

SAM: So far, I think it's just me and Orym that are actively moving.

MATT: They're actually moving in that direction. Eshteross is watching this happen, the moment they begin to walk out is like, "I cannot leave him behind."

TRAVIS: Yeah, I'll just hurry up to Orym and invisibly tug on his elbow skin.

LIAM: My welbow. My elbow well.

TRAVIS: Yeah.

LIAM: (startled noise)

TRAVIS: It's me, it's me. What the fuck? Where's he going?

LIAM: Outside to fucking duel, I guess. All right, you stay with him. I'm going to go get the others. By the way, Lady Emoth Kade was, like, sweating. She went to the bathroom. It must've been terrible, but she smelled moldy. We'll dissect it later. I'll be back.

LIAM: Too much for right now. Get the guys.

TRAVIS: I'll go over to where Eshteross and the others are.

LAURA: Can I look at Eshteross from across the room?

MATT: Mm-hmm.

LAURA: Should we try to put a stop to this, or let it play out?

MATT: "I think it's too late for that. I think this is something that needs to work its way. To try and get involved at this point would be more suspicious. We just have to be ready to pick up the pieces. After all..."

MARISHA: The Ashton pieces.

MATT: "He's under my name."

TRAVIS: Oh shit.

TALIESIN: Oh shit.

TRAVIS: That's right.

MARISHA: Wait, what'd he say?

TRAVIS: Yeah, he's with this Eshteross' group.

ASHLEY: Do we--

ROBBIE: You better win.

ASHLEY: Are we allowed to go watch?

MATT: Are you approaching Eshteross at this point?

ASHLEY: I think I was in that vicinity.

MATT: Okay, Eshteross goes.

ASHLEY: Because I was near Ashton.

MATT: "I'm going to." He begins to walk to follow because the crowd is now starting to shift in that direction. People are about to watch a fucking fight. Are you kidding me?

TALIESIN: I am hiding everything. I'm bunching up all of my stuff and taking it out, like taking off my jacket and just-- Which of you is around right now?

TRAVIS: We should keep the crews separate.

MARISHA: Yeah, agreed.

LIAM: Orym and FCG are like 10, 15 feet.

SAM: I've been trailing you. So if you need me to hold something for you, I can.

TALIESIN: Yeah, I'm going to hand you the pile of fabric and the thing that's wrapped in there.

SAM: I'll be your second.

MARISHA: I'm going to just keep taking a wide orbit through all this, as well, and listening.

LAURA: I'm going to try to see what Gavis is doing.

TALIESIN: What are the fucking rules for this? Are there rules for this? I don't know how the fuck this goes.

MARISHA: We'll find out.

MATT: Gavis, like most of the attendees, is now enraptured the idea of some bloodshed in the middle of an evening that probably to a certain point wasn't expected to get very interesting. There is an air of excitement in the crowd. As one, many people are interested to see what this brutish Ratanish is capable of doing in person. And, I mean, let's be honest. Nobody knows who you are. They just want to see Ratanish to beat the shit out of you.

TALIESIN: All right.

SAM: As I take his/their stuff, I'm going to just do a little Sympathetic Binding so that I'm connected to Aaron Bennett.

MATT: You got it.

SAM: Ashton.

MATT: That'll last for the next?

SAM: I think it lasts only for the next minute.

MATT: It was a minute?

SAM: I don't know.

MATT: Double check. Just look at the... Regardless, who all is going to watch this? Who all is doing anything else or are you all moving in to watch this?

MARISHA: What's Vali doing now?

MATT: Make a perception check.

MARISHA: Okay. Wow, we are just sucking it up. 10 total.

MARISHA: 10 total. You don't see Vali in the crowd.

MARISHA: Dick. All right. All right, I still want to fucking find out who the Quorum members are.

LAURA: I know, I'm trying. That's why I was keeping an eye on Gavis because I thought maybe he was talking to somebody.

TRAVIS: Maybe they'll talk during the fight.

MARISHA: That's the thing. I want to see. So all right, all right. I want to try and just stay with the crowd, but I want to, like, listen for the whispers, the rumors, the chatters of like, you know, "Ooh, what's going on?" Or "Ooh, maybe he's a good candidate for the Paragon's Call. Ooh, maybe I'm a Quorum person." I don't know.

MATT: Okay, so you're on team listen to whispers and seek any information that might be incriminating.

MARISHA: Mm-hmm.

MATT: Okay. Anybody else?

LAURA: How many people are still inside?

MATT: I mean, there's still, like, probably a hundred or so people inside, but a lot of them are shifting out, and it looks like, other than maybe 30 or so stragglers that are just staying behind because they're disinterested in this or are in the process of engaging in business they find more important, everyone else is moving outside following the two of them because people are excited for a show.

LIAM: Orym is going to stay at the front of the gawkers. And a fight is a fight, that's fine, but if this guy tries to murder Aaron, than Orym's going to get involved, but maybe it's just a fight, staying close.

MATT: Okay.

ROBBIE: I assume this commotion broke up the dances that dwindled out and I'm going to--

MATT: The dances come to completion, and shortly after that, this shifted the focus. Everyone went from like, "Okay, what's next?"

LIAM: We're doing this.

MATT: "That's next."

ROBBIE: I stayed, unfortunately, engaged in the dance 'til the very end. And broke my way off the dance floor over to Fearne.

MARISHA: ♪ Breakin' my way ♪

ROBBIE: ♪ Breakin' my way ♪

LIAM: Oh, they're turning the lights on.

ROBBIE: Latch arms with her, and I go: What's going on?

ASHLEY: Well, the Ratanish guy, he got really upset with Ashton. He pulled off his mask, obviously recognized him, and they're fighting outside.

ROBBIE: Fighting outside?!

ASHLEY: Yeah, should we go?

ROBBIE: All right.

ASHLEY: Yeah, let's go.

ROBBIE: Just walk with her, following the flow of the everything.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: After I pulled on Orym's elbow skin and was going to make over to Eshteross, they all started to move. So I stopped, remembered where I was, and looked back towards the table where I last saw Cyrus sitting at that table. Is he still there?

MATT: No.

TRAVIS: Do I see him anywhere?

MATT: Make perception check.

MARISHA: Come on.

TRAVIS: Nope, this is just a single roll, right?

MATT: Yeah, that's just your vision.

TRAVIS: Natural 19 for a dirty 20.

MATT: Dirty 20. You glance through the crowd and keenly come to the conclusion that he is not among them. You recall that person that entered the hallway and asked about the bathroom that helped you escape, that sounded like him.

TRAVIS: Fuck! Stupid brother of Brontë! Fuck! (growls) (groans) I don't care, I don't care, I don't care! But she smelled like mold! (growls) I'm going to go back to the door.

MATT: Okay, you head back to the door and the guards are there. They're like, they can't leave their posts, but they're definitely trying to get whatever they can from the distance. They're like, "What's going on? Are they going to fight outside?" "Shit, I can't believe I posted this far away. This is bullshit." They're both frustrated that they can't leave their post. Do you push through the door?

TRAVIS: Fucking fuck! Yeah, I'll just give it a shove and see what they do.

MATT: (slamming) The doors open. They both look back and they see no one there. "Hello?"

TRAVIS: If they're just turning, yeah. I'll make it with advantage.

MATT: They're definitely looking in that direction, so.

TRAVIS: Yeah, 22.

MATT: Much better this time. You scoot by. They don't seem to notice.

TRAVIS: 23.

MATT: "Was that--" The last thing you hear before the doors close is, "I didn't feel any wind, did you?" (whooshes) The doors closed again.

TRAVIS: Goddamn it, turn to the left. (grumbles)

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: Bathroom.

MATT: Okay. You go down that direction. There are more doors down the way. One of them you do see is marked as a water closet, a WC. You go ahead and enter, and this would be on the left-hand side, actually. You just move in and there's nobody in here.

TRAVIS: Cyrus! Cyrus! Nothing?

MATT: Nothing.

TRAVIS: (sighs dramatically)

MARISHA: Oh, man.

TRAVIS: Goddamn it. I didn't see him walk out of the room. He might not be (groans).

MATT: No. It's pretty still and quiet. Most everyone's been drawn out there. You're just looking. You're now just at the entry to this bathroom.

TRAVIS: Yeah.

MATT: There's a hallway with doors.

TRAVIS: Are there the two guards in the hallway still?

MATT: It looks like they've moved further down the hall, and now they're still actively glancing around, but they're not opening any doors.

TRAVIS: Fucking Dorian, god! Down the hallway, back to the door where moldy lady was.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: Are they past that door? So I might have an opportunity to work some lock pick?

MATT: You can certainly try.

TRAVIS: I will. If I have a moment to try and lock pick the--

MATT: You have a moment.

TRAVIS: I'll try. I will try. That is just a sleight of hand check, right?

MATT: Correct.

TRAVIS: Okay.

LAURA: Because he didn't tell anyone where he was going.

TRAVIS: Nope, it's just me.

SAM: He always does that.

TRAVIS: 15.

MATT: 15's okay. It looks like the lock on this was already previously busted a little bit.

TALIESIN: You're not the first.

MATT: Like recently.

TRAVIS and TALIESIN: Oh.

MATT: So while it was locked, it's partially damaged. So you actually have an easier time getting through than you expected you would and (clicks) unlocks.

TRAVIS: I'll try and softly open this fucking creaky-ass door that needs some WD-40.

MATT: (laughs) That's a cantrip, actually.

TRAVIS: In fact, because I know it's so creaky, as I open it, I'll also just let it fall open, but I'll slip inside.

MATT: Okay. You (whooshes).

TRAVIS: Commit to it.

MATT: Head into it as it (creaks). Gives one little creak, and the first thing you notice is there's a very faint commotion in the room. It sounds like things moving and shifting. You glance across the way as you move inside and look over and you can see the desk in the far corner, the drawers are pulled out, and you see a figure is currently scooping things out of the drawers.

TRAVIS: Is it Lady Emoth?

MATT: It's smaller. It's a cloaked figure. It looks kind of your size. It's a little bit smaller than your size, actually, maybe like a foot or so smaller. You can see it's currently filling a rough satchel.

ASHLEY and LAURA: A foot smaller?

TRAVIS: Do I (sniffs) smell anything familiar smell?

MATT: That musty smell, very strong.

MARISHA: Wasn't there a halfling that came in with them?

MATT: (snarling)

TRAVIS: Any sign of Cyrus?

MATT: Not in this room, no. You hear something else in the way, and across the way in the other room, you see two more little humanoid creatures cloaked, rushing through, and they're just like grabbing things.

TRAVIS: What the fuck?

MARISHA: Wow.

ROBBIE: Chetney was--

MATT: Yeah, the one finishes and turns around and you see now, in the light coming through from the Catha-lit evening on the distant balcony, this figure's hood back, gray, pale skin, black eyes, sharp teeth and a mouth and clawed arms underneath. You've not seen a creature like this before. (growls) It's clustering and drags it. You see two more coming through, (growls) they growl at each other. You can see there's now four of them in this room.

TRAVIS: Four?!

MATT: Around the way, you see Lady Emoth, like (whooshes), her eyes black. You can see darkened veins in the side of her neck. She goes, (growls) towards them. You can see her arms are a little bit longer, and that sweat is dripping off in a thicker, mucusy pattern. They all look to her and she goes, (growls) and they all grab their satchels and drag them off into the room around the corner where she was.

TRAVIS: Okay, does she follow with them? They all go in the other room?

MATT: They all go in the another room. You hear the dragging sound. You hear the shifting of furniture. She like, (cracking) (sighs). You watch as bones snap into place. Her skin tone reaffirms itself. She (sighs) and then begins to walk around the corner to see the door open and goes--

TRAVIS: (huffs and puffs) I'm out before she can close it.

MATT: As you rush back towards the event with what you've just witnessed and you head out to the opposite side of the domed event to show down with the local leader with the Paragon's Call representing here for some sort of a bloody throwdown, and the rest of you gather in hopes of preventing your friend from being smashed to death.

TALIESIN: Yeah.

MATT: We're going to call it there. (clamoring)

MARISHA: Knew it!

ASHLEY: No!

ROBBIE: Savage!

LIAM: Of course.

MARISHA: (groans)

ROBBIE: Oh, come on.

TALIESIN: I just this was some dick throwing. Now I'm worried. (laughs)

ROBBIE: Wow!

MATT: Maybe, but I mean, no one else knows.

TRAVIS: -- is your brother?! What'd he do?

ROBBIE: I thought he was going to fuck in the bathroom.

ASHLEY: Lady Emoth turned into--

ROBBIE: That was my guess.

SAM: A shade creeper.

MARISHA: Shade creeper-esque?

MATT: He had never encountered a shade creeper.

LAURA: Shade creeper queen.

ROBBIE: No.

MATT: But the way it was described, it was more or less similar to some of the elements you saw in Dugger.

SAM: Yeah.

MARISHA: Also--

TRAVIS: You guys got Dugger, right?

TALIESIN: It all comes back furniture.

LAURA: Mm-hmm. It all goes back to furniture.

TRAVIS: I don't want to get killed by the same character more than once.

LAURA: Maybe we should be like The Moving Crew. (laughter)

TALIESIN: Let's do that if we have to leave town next episode.

ASHLEY: The moving crew?

TALIESIN: The moving crew. We got to get out, we're in the moving crew.

MATT: That's pretty good.

TALIESIN: Do the job, we leave. We leave real fast.

ROBBIE: We're not causing any problems, it's fine.

MATT: Man, this went all sorts of fun directions, and I'm excited to pick this up next time!

ASHLEY: Oh my god, Matt, that was so much to keep track of.

MATT: That was fun.

LAURA: There was--

TRAVIS: Yeah, well done.

LAURA: -- so much happening.

MARISHA: My head's vibrating.

TRAVIS: You handled a ball. People dancing.

MATT: It's not done yet.

TRAVIS: Shit's happening.

ROBBIE: Sweating, I'm sweating.

MATT: It's not done yet. And we'll pick it up there. Thank you so much for joining us. We love you very much, and is it Thursday yet? Good night.

(clamoring)

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