"By the Road" (Ex04) is the fourth episode of Exandria Unlimited. The adventurers continue their travels south through Tal'Dorei, but the past comes calling for them all in very different ways...
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- Past-Aabria points out Future-Matt's daringly asymmetrical facial hair.
Previously on Exandria Unlimited
The five of you, at Firetamer Lorkathar's behest, managed to-- nope, you didn't sneak. I will not call that a sneak back into Emon. But you arrived nonetheless, and for the most part managed to safely make your way to Gilmore's Glorious Goods, where you spoke with Gilmore, got a little more direction on what to do next. He asked for you all-- partially as a way to get out of Emon because you've got a bit of heat on you-- to head down south to look for the ruins of the Qoniira empire, to find a Rosetta Stone to help him translate the runes that you found at the ash-blown mesa.
He provided you transport to the edge of town, where you had one last face-off with Poska, and due to an exceptionally well-timed and well-executed Charm Person by Fearne, managed to avoid what would have been a lethal encounter in Emon. So your path is set, and you're outside of the city walls, and you're in a glitter-shitting purple vardo, heading south.
Driving south, the party has issues with their horses, almost losing Fearne when she gets out of the carriage to try to get them moving again. They discover the glitter being shed by the cart only persists a few minutes, but add a glitter diaper to the cart to catch it as it's being shed.
After about two weeks on the road, Fearne realizes this is the road she took to travel to Emon. While in the main thick of the Verdant Expanse, she leads them off the Wildwood Byway and deeper into the woods. She begins feeling a strong sense that she needs to check something, and Orym and Dariax also feel the pull. As they chat along the way, Dorian shares that he had a good upbringing and he has a brother, but is reluctant to reveal more.
Fearne's eyes begin looking more goat-like about the same time they have to abandon their vardo and head further into the woods on foot. They reach an open glade with a strange gate in its center, which Fearne reconizes as the gate she came through from the Feywild. The surroundings are oddly bright and intense and time seems to be moving oddly.
The arch glows, and Fearne finds herself wanting to go through it. She tentatively puts her hand in and a forlarren steps out, dressed like Fearne but with sooty black skin, long, lank hair, a hard-edged face with fangs, and slightly wrong movement. Fearne reconizes her as herself, wearing an obsidian thorny crown, the Circlet of Barbed Vision. The forlarren invites Fearne to come home, saying, "I found my power."
Suddenly, a black-clad fire genasi, Fy'ra Rai, steps out and warns the forlarren Fearne, "She will make that decision in her own time, not yours." As combat begins, the forlarren Fearne summons six burning driftwood scorpions and the party attacks them, waiting until Fearne makes the first move against her duplicate before they attack her as well.
As the battle continues, the forlarren is very badly wounded and staggers back partially into the gate, where the party glimpses a massive feline creature waiting to come through. Before it can, Fy'ra Rai finishes her off and her body disappears into ash.
The party kills three of the scorpions, leaving three more, when purple smoke begins to rise from them. At the edge of the glade stands an elven woman, reaching out with purple smoke extending from her hand. As the last three scorpions sizzle and fall apart she looks at the party and says, "What have you done?"
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- Crew & A Episode 5: Talkin' Bout Titmouse | The Legend of Vox Machina.
- Commissioned art montage.
Opal has been left unconscious at the end of the fight, and finds herself in a dark place face to face with her twin, Ted, who accuses her of being selfish and arrogant. They argue bitterly. Saying, "You don't even know what I gave up" to give Opal's powers to her, Ted offers to return them to her if she will take care of herself.
Fearne casts Cure Wounds on Opal, restoring her to consciousness. The elven woman gives her name: Myr'atta Niselor of Syngorn. She and her fellow Verdant Guards came at the behest of the High Warden to deal with the excess of "leaky energy" coming from the fey gate, which they do by sinking six three-foot long metal spikes with veins of iridescent crystal running through them into the ground at intervals. After using Detect Thoughts to read Opal's intentions, she grants the party safe passage through the forest.
Now joined by Fy'ra Rai, they return to the wagon and set off southward for another week and a half, eventually reaching the walled town of Byroden. Opal is recognized at the guarded gate and the party is admitted, finding Byroden in the middle of the Byroden Forever festival. They are greeted warmly by the wife of the War Ringer, Ruby Lee Beckfort, who explains they will be holding the Gem of Byroden pageant at sundown, and invites them to compete. While the rest of the party choose pageant outfits, Ruby sweeps Orym off and feeds him pies.
At sunset, the pageant begins. The contestants are Opal, Fearne, Dariax, Dorian, Cinna Brightbow, and Lisle Vester. There is an interview portion, which Lisle wins, followed by a talent contest. Cinna's talent is axe-throwing, using Orym as her unwilling assistant. Surprisingly, he lives. The rest of the party backs up Opal as she plays and sings, rather than competing individually, and she wins this portion. The final competition is evening wear, and with the support of her friends, Opal manages to tie for first with Fearne. In the final scores, Cinna comes in third, Lisle second, and Opal wins the title of Gem of Byroden.
As the evening winds down, Opal goes to her old home and the room she shared with Ted. She thinks about her sister, takes off her crown, and leaves it on Ted's bed.
Ted looks down, down into the darkness around her, within her. She feels so close to home, though she can't touch it. She feels so alone, despite her existence beside and within Opal. And now she feels the seed, the spark of recognition, of purpose, of potential. And the seed begins to grow.
- Cinna Brightbow
- Jessup Richter
- Lisle Vester
- Myr'atta Niselor
- Olivancer Fields
- Ruby Lee Beckfort
- War Ringer of Byroden (Mr. Beckfort)
- Morri Calloway
- Mr. Johansson
- Rosie Beckfort
- Shaun Gilmore
- Sweet Pea
- Tharla Starr
- Vex'ahlia de Rolo
- Dariax: You know, when you come from stagnant farm towns and such, a lot of people tend to just sit and grow moss over time, but everyone's got a little fire in their belly. When it burns bright, you got to see where it takes you.
- Dorian: I'm just here to see the world. [...] I'll tell you this. I had a good upbringing and a pleasant one.
- Evil Fearne: It's time to come home. [...] Time is different here. And I am what you should be. Will be, if you come back now.
Fearne: What happened to you?
Evil Fearne: I found my power. [...] The Warqueen wants you back. You cannot-- we cannot be the outcasts our parents are. Come home.
- Aabria: (introducing Fy'ra Rai) You watch this from your place, well-hidden in the woods. You're struck suddenly with a strange sense of deja vu, a sickly sweet churning of your stomach that is so distinctly fey, and voices somehow familiar speaking to you in the dark. The flames rise up, and in the space of a blink, you are back in that darkness again. How long were you there and why? The darkness is a blank spot, a lesion on your memories, a burned spot. And that smell, that burning, that sweetness, that wrongness fills your nose as you watch. Your instincts, or this Gift, whatever you want to call it, has sent you across countless miles and across many planes, but always for a purpose: to help others, to help yourself, but never has it brought you back to the same people twice. And you don't recognize these five, but you know that you know them, and whether or not they realize it, they are in danger, and you are here.
- Ted: (to Opal) "Sorry" is a free action, bitch.
- Opal: What do you want? Why'd you do this?
Ted: I don't know. It's the only thing I've ever known. I'm not like you, and I don't shine, but that's okay. I have always been fine being in your shadow. But if you're gone, there's no shadow. I love you.
- At the end of this episode, the party leveled up to level 3. Since Fy'ra Rai was level 4 when she joined the party, she became level 5.
- The chiffon outfit Dorian wears during the pageant is inspired by a design included in the first round of concept art by Hannah Friederichs, the official artist for Exandria Unlimited. Though the design moved away from it, the initial images stuck with Robbie.
- See "By the Road" (Ex04) at 2:16:07.
- See "By the Road" (Ex04) at 3:15:40.
- See "By the Road" (Ex04) at 50:26. A friend of Fearne's from the Feywild. Described as "a tiny and lithe rabbit".
- See "By the Road" (Ex04) at 50:26. A friend of Fearne's from the Feywild. Described as having "a huge, long, crocodile-like form".
- See "By the Road" (Ex04) at 50:26. A friend of Fearne's from the Feywild. Described as "a massive bear".
- Robbie Daymond (@robbiedaymon) on Twitter: "Dorian’s chiffon pageant outfit idea was inspired by the very 1st round of concept art by @agarthanguide. We revised the final design, but these initial images of Dorian really stuck w/me. I’m glad I was able to give this amazing artist a nod, in-game.💙 #ExandriaUnlimitedSpoilers" (2021-07-16).