"A Tangled Web" (2x77) is the seventy-seventh episode of the second campaign of Critical Role. The Mighty Nein must determine their next step as they learn more about the powerful figures from Caleb's past...
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Previously on Critical Role
"So, last we left off: the Mighty Nein had made their way northward to the Greying Wildlands, had made contact with the keepers of the Cinderrest Sanctum, the Burning Lodge, where the Dust family, with a connection to the Clay family, was brought with an interesting challenge of the Clay family trying to bring some of these visions to bear in some way to protect their home grove. You managed to acquire some of this refined residuum and processed it as per this vision in the Underforge, and in doing so, completed one aspect of this vision. You also made friends with Reani, an amazing aasimar druid who was living in Uthodurn, and aided you towards the cavern lair of an ancient white dragon, where you enchanted mythril to iceflex, and returned to have two halves of a long-shattered magical sword reforged. And now, at the hands of Fjord, who had tossed his previous blade and his pact with Uk'otoa into the flames and spent a period of time powerless and in search for direction, accepted a charge from the Wildmother herself, and begins his first day on the path of a paladin.
"So as we pick up here, you guys have said your goodbyes to Reani, who has returned to Uthodurn to hopefully take on some of that contract that she had agreed to, to aid you guys in figuring your circle of teleportation to Uthodurn, and it seemed like she was interested in going into some adventure and some bad insanity anyway, says her goodbyes. It’s now mid-day or so. You guys are at the Cinderrest Sanctum. It’s warm and it’s sweaty on the inside. It is cold after a fresh snow on the outside. What would you like to do?"
The group tries to figure out their next steps. Caleb suggests that he needs to return to Rosohna to question the Scourger further before she is executed. They list other possible loose threads: the Jagentoths, Traveler Con (which as of this episode is exactly 13 weeks away), and possibly checking in with the Bright Queen. While Caleb inscribes a Teleportation Circle, Fjord bonds to his new sword and is able to summon and dismiss it just as he did the falchion. They teleport to Rosohna.
Going directly to the Xhorhaus, they're alarmed to find the house empty and Dairon missing. Jester uses Sending to contact Dairon and gets the response, "Wait," and Dairon enters via the balcony a few minutes later. Dairon says they were in the middle of some reconnaissance. The group tells Dairon about their recent adventures. While they've been gone, Dairon's been skulking and listening, and has heard rumors of a Dynasty military push near Urzin.
Alone again, the Nein discuss again what to do next, listing more loose threads: the Abyssal rifts in both the Empire and the Dynasty; and the fate of the Laughing Hand, Obann, and Yasha. They decide the first step is to talk to Essek, and Jester uses Sending to contact him. He arrives quickly and tells them there's been no word of the Laughing Hand yet. Caleb offers to help with the search for the missing beacon and Essek takes up the offer immediately, asking them to discover where in the Empire the beacon is being held. The Dynasty believes the Cerberus Assembly is responsible for it, that the beacon is being moved frequently, and that its last known location was Felderwin, but has no other information.
Essek escorts the party to the Dungeon of Penance to interrogate the captive Scourger, and Caleb, Jester, and Caduceus enter her heavily guarded cell. She is still chained in a chair, in bad condition. Caleb sits on the ground in front of her and tells her he is indeed Bren Aldric Ermendrud. She is still defiant, refusing to give her name, and responding that there are things bigger than innocence when he asks her if it would make a difference to learn that some of her victims were blameless. She is sure Trent Ikithon will find Caleb, and she confirms Astrid and Eadwulf are still alive.
Suddenly, one of the chains goes slack and she stabs Caleb deeply with a pointed piece of metal. The guards rush in and fill her chest with crossbow bolts. Essek uses magic to lift her still-living body off the ground as the bleeding Caleb stares into her eyes from six inches away, then indicates to Essek to finish her. He magically crushes her central torso inward, killing her instantly and mangling the body.
Jester and Caduceus heal Caleb. Caduceus suggests using Speak With Dead, but doesn't have it prepared and Essek is unwilling to let them take her head. Caduceus notices that her scars (identical to Caleb's) are puncture wounds in faint patterns. They return with Essek to the Xhorhaus to brainstorm. Beau suggests returning to Yussa Errenis, Jester suggests talking to The Gentleman, and Caduceus wants to try Legend Lore on the beacon. Caleb persuades Essek to teach him two more dunamancy spells to help in the search while Jester watches.
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The two dunamancy spells which Essek teaches Caleb are Immovable Object and Resonant Echo. When Essek leaves, Jester tells Caleb she knows that what he went through in the cell earlier was very hard and she's here for him if he wants to talk. They go shopping for paper/ink and spell components, with Jester paying the 300 gp for paper to transcribe the two new spells since Caleb doesn't have enough money. She also buys enough extra gold dust for him to be able to cast Immovable Object twice for special pranks just for her.
Meanwhile, Nott crafts a bola and Caduceus buys components for Legend Lore. That evening, they gather and list potential Scrying targets: "Greg/Blondie", Trent Ikithon, The Gentleman, Yasha, Astrid, The Laughing Hand, Vess DeRogna, Ludinus Da'leth and other Cerberus Assembly members. Caduceus casts Legend Lore and asks about the beacon, learning that it was found 700 years ago in Blightshore on the eastern side of the Penumbra Range. Jester uses Sending to ask Yeza about the hollow platinum tripod from his workshop, but he knows nothing about it.
Caleb uses Seeming to make himself look like Trent Ikithon, Beau look like Astrid, Fjord like Eadwulf, Nott like Vess DeRogna, and Caduceus like Jenna Iresor (another Assembly member). Jester tries to scry on Vess DeRogna, but is blocked and her subsequent attempt on "Greg/Blondie" fails the roll. She Sends to the Gentleman, "Hi, Dad! So looks like we may be coming back to the... area you’re in. Do you know anything about this beacon thing? Also, would love to see you." His response: “I assume this is Jester. I’m not your father. I don’t know what a beacon is. And I’m busy. But come say Hi if you’re in town. There might be work.” She reports to the group that he told her he wanted to talk to her and see her and to come visit, but knew nothing about the beacon. Caduceus casts Commune but learns only that somewhere southwest of Rosohna is something of interest.
Beau calls Dairon into the meeting and they tell her they've been tasked to find the Empire-held beacon. After Beau defends this as having the potential to defuse the tensions between the Empire and Dynasty, Dairon promotes her to Expositor. She tells them the Assembly members mostly live in The Candles in Rexxentrum. Her personal mission is to discover the Assembly members she suspects are working against both sides, and suggests that the Scourger must have been given the weapon she used against Caleb. When Jester disguises herself as "Blondie/Greg", Dairon recognizes him as Vence Nuthaleus, the annex to Ludinus Da'Leth. Dairon warns the group to make sure they have all the information before making big choices.
Caleb shares that he knows the location of Trent's country home where Scourgers are trained, and suggests Blumenthal, his home village, as a safe place near Rexxentrum. Jester uses Sending to contact Essek, who declines to teleport them to the Empire. They decide to go to Nicodranas in the morning. As Jester is falling asleep, she is visited by the Traveler, and they decide on Rumblecusp as the location for Traveler Con.
In the morning, Jester tries again to scry on Vence but again fails. Beau gives Dairon her medallion of the Bright Queen, warning her to use it only in emergencies. They teleport to Yussa's tower in Nicodranas where they are greeted by Wensforth. They head to the Lavish Chateau and are given a room, where Jester scrys on Yasha.
Jester sees a triangular city and a hall of books and pillars, with multiple bloody bodies dressed in grey and blue sprawled across the floor. Yasha strides through cutting down more. She sees Obann looking through books, reading that Jourrael's remains were bisected, with the heart buried in the Lotusden Greenwood and the skull given to the elves within the Veluthil. Yasha, Obann, and the Laughing Hand then hold hands and vanish. Yasha is crying. Jester shares the vision with the group and they recognize the city as Zadash and the building as the Cobalt Soul.
- Caduceus Clay
- Jester Lavorre
- Yasha Nydoorin (through Jester's Scry) [DM]
- Caleb Widogast
- Essek Thelyss
- The Gentleman (through Jester's Sending spell)
- Yussa Errenis (through Jester's Sending spell)
- The Traveler
- Obann (through Jester's Scry)
- The Laughing Hand (through Jester's Scry)
- Demid Sunlash
- Leylas Krynn
- Trent Ikithon
- Ludinus Da'leth
- Headmaster Oremid Hass
- Lady Vess DeRogna
- Vence Nuthaleus ("Blondie/Greg")
- Marion Lavorre
- Orly Skiffback
- The Jagentoths
- Caleb: (speaking of the captured Scourger) I assume she has not had much empathy offered to her. And thus she offers no empathy, nor will she, anymore. But things maybe would be better for me if there had been a little more empathy, and there was not.
Jester: But there is now.
Beau: This isn’t some sort of a weird masochistic self-projection type of thing, is it?
Caleb: Oh, why not both?
- Jester: (speaking of the Traveler) No, it’s not a cult! It’s an organized religion. We’re very powerful, and there’s a lot of us followers, and ... Oh, shit, are we a cult?
- Matt: (as the Scourger) Good men don’t conquer. They die and are forgotten. I’ll die and be forgotten, but at least I know some of my deeds will have changed the course of history.
- Matt: (as the Scourger) “What do you want? Why did you come here? None of this is surprising. What do you want from me?”
Caleb: Maybe if I could talk plainly with you and see one inch of change, I wouldn’t believe we’re all damned.
Matt: “I hope this lesson has been very useful.”
Caleb: It has. You’ve made what I have to do very plain.
- Jester: (to Caleb) I walk up and I grab his hands. "I just want to say– I just want to say that I know what you went through today in the cell was very, very hard, and probably didn’t go the way you were hoping it would. So if you need anyone to talk to about it or anything, I’m here for you, okay?"
- Beau: (to Dairon) You told me to seek out the corruption. You told me to trust no one. You told me to find the information. I could be fucking wrong, but I’m doing exactly what you told me to do. What YOU told me to do. Fuck the Cobalt Soul. You’re the first person who ever fucking believed that I could make something of myself. I don’t know who vouched for me over there, but I’m assuming it was you. I’ve always assumed it was you.
Dairon: “I am proud of you. You are a fine Expositor. Which you now are, because I say so."
- Dairon: (giving advice to Beau) "Pry. Ask. Demand. Extract.”