Critical Role: Vox Machina - Kith & Kin is a novel written by Marieke Nijkamp about Vex'ahlia and Vax'ildan's adventures prior to Campaign One. It was published by Del Rey Books in hardcover and e-book format on November 30, 2021. An audiobook of the novel was released the same day.
Prologue to Chapter 7
Twelve years ago, in Byroden, nine-year-old half-elven twins Vax'ildan and Vex'ahlia and their friends spy on an elven stranger through the shutters of the inn. The twins are surprised to see their mother, Elaina, arrive to speak with him. After the innkeeper closes the shutters, the children begin speculating that the elven man is the twins' father. The twins reassure each other that they always have each other, and that they won't have to leave Byroden.
In the present, Vax'ildan, Vex'ahlia, and Trinket's journey to Westruun via the Bramblewood Forest is interrupted by giant spiders. The twins defeat them, but Vax is temporarily paralyzed by spider venom. They discuss their plans for Westruun: as usual for them, Vax wants to spend more time in the city, while Vex wants to avoid it as much as possible. They agree on three nights.
The next day, in Westruun's Market Ward, Vax'ildan is at ease, while Vex'ahlia is eager to finish their business. Vex spots a shop selling metal figurines of animals, and she's drawn to a copper bear, but the elven shopkeeper speaks coldly to her, and she walks away. The twins split up to complete their errands. At sunset, Vex stops at a bookstore, looking for books on dragons. A well-dressed man enters the store: Lord Berin Abenard. She realizes that she saw him a few times throughout the day. He's been following her. He offers to bring her to the the Cobalt Reserve, but Vex refuses and draws her knife. He tells her to watch her back, and leaves the shop. He leaves behind his purse, which Vex steals. At the inn, Vex tells her brother what happened. The the coins she stole from Abenard are more than they earned from the job that brought them to Westruun, and should help them survive until Winter's Crest.
Vex'ahlia continues shopping the next morning, while Vax'ildan goes to search for jobs. In the evening, Vex takes a walk near the Cobalt Reserve, thinking about Abenard. She feels like she's being followed, and indeed, someone shoots a needle at her from a rooftop. She fires back, and runs towards a busier part of town. Meanwhile, on the rooftops, Vax has been following her, and has caught up to the man following her. Vax lunges at him, and they go tumbling off the roof. On the ground, Vax has the advantage. The man reveals that there's a contract out to kidnap Vex, and finally agrees to bring Vax to Spireling Gideor, a leader in the Clasp. The man, who is named Lyre, leads Vax to tunnel, where there are other members of the Clasp. Ro agrees to take Vax to the Spireling, takes away his weapons, and knocks him out with magic.
He wakes in Spireling Gideor's office. Gideor is, on the surface, amicable, and answers Vax's questions. A nobleman is responsible for the contract, and Gideor can't cancel it, but he could amend it. He offers a deal: he will find an alternative solution to the contract if Vax completes a job for the Clasp in Jorenn Village. Vax asks for assurance that his sister will be protected, and Gideor takes Vax and Lyre to a back room. His solution is revealed as he pulls out a staff made of tongues and uses it to transform Lyre into a copy of Vex'ahlia. He rips out Lyre's tongue and adds it to the staff. Vax is horrified, but agrees to do the job.
In the morning, Vax'ildan tells Vex'ahlia the basic details, but avoids telling her about the kidnapping contract and Gideor's solution to it. Vex doesn't want to get involved with the Clasp, but Vax convinces her, and they leave Westruun. On the road, Vax explains that he's been hired to steal a ring named Fracture from Jorenn Village's Shadewatch. They collect Trinket from the Bramblewood, and agree that if the job turns out to be too dangerous, they won't complete it.
They spend a night in the forest, and in the morning meet a messenger, who warns them that the Umbra Hills are supposedly haunted. The twins make camp in the Black Valley. Vax gives Vex a gift: the copper bear she had been admiring, on a leather necklace.
Chapters 8 to 11
Eleven years ago, and six months after Syldor's visit to Byroden, ten-year-old Vax and Vex are on their way to Syngorn to live with their father, accompanied by three members of the Verdant Guard. Only the youngest of the guards, Tharyn, cares to speak to the half-elves. The twins have been permitted to live in Syngorn by the High Warden, but the city is far from welcoming to half-elves. In his study, Syldor lays out his expectations of the children: they can't leave without his permission, they must wear the clothes he provides, and they're not allowed to bother him during his work. A private tutor is set to arrive for them the next day. He says that they're welcome here, and dismisses them.
In the present, Jorenn Village is within sight, but the twins figure they won't make it before nightfall. They approach another group of travellers and ask to join their camp. The group is composed of a pair of human scholars, Simeon and Willan, and their hired guides: two dwarves, and a half-elf named Nera. Around the fire, the dwarves tell the twins that are ash walkers in the hills, but they should be safe this far from the village.
Vax'ildan takes watch with Nera. Suddenly, the camp is attacked by ash walkers. They're undead, humanoid in shape, and they come in endless waves. In the chaos, Vax notices a new figure with a blade attacking the creatures. Before he can get a better look, one of the creatures knocks him out. Vex'ahlia loses track of her brother. Just as things are beginning to look hopeless, riders reach the camp, and one of them pulls Vex onto the back of a horse. They were sent by the Shademaster to evacuate the travellers.
The group passes through the gates of Jorenn, and a magical barrier is raised as the gates close. Vex sees that all are accounted for—except for Vax. The Shadewatch refuse to let her leave to look for him, now that the gates are closed and the barrier is up, but agree to escort her to Shademaster Derowen, who is casting the barrier with a magical ring from the palisades. Vex is then stopped by Wick, Derowen's right-hand-man, and Aswin, Derowen's young daughter, who was sleeping in the guard post to stay near her mother. Aswin is immediately fascinated by Trinket, and Vex leaves him with Aswin while she joins the archers on the palisades. Derowen finishes casting the barrier and invites Vex to spend the night at Shade Hall.
Chapters 12 to 15
Nine years ago, a year and a half after arriving in Syngorn, the twins are training with their private combat tutors: Iova teaches Vex archery, and Tharendril teaches Vax to wield blades. Syldor arrives, accompanied by High Warden Tyrelda. She asks Vex to demonstrate her archery; Vex performs poorly, due to being tired from her practice. Tyrelda instructs Syldor to send the children to school, in the hopes that it might challenge them to be around the elven children. Later, in their room, Vax tries to comfort Vex about the prospect of going to school. He calls her "Stubby" for the first time while braiding her hair.
In the present, Vax wakes in an unfamiliar underground room to a half-elven man cleaning his face. He introduces himself as Thorn; he explains that his comrade Emryn rescued Vax from the ash walkers, and that Sencha healed him. Thorn guesses that Vex is now in Jorenn. Vax falls asleep, and wakes up to Sencha healing him again. She leads him to the dining hall of the mines. Thorn returns, frustrated: he went to look for a package in the campsite, and found neither it nor Vex. He tells Vax that Derowen is a dangerous woman, and responsible for his own sister's death.
Meanwhile, in Shade Hall, Vex is woken up by Aswin, who has come to visit Trinket. Vex leaves them together and finds Wick, who tells her a little about himself and Derowen: they've been friends for a long time and came to Jorenn together. They visit Derowen's office, where she has been speaking to her brother, Culwen. Derowen offers to help Vex find Vax. Vex stops to speak to Nera, then heads back to the campsite with Derowen and the Shadewatch. Derowen explains that the ash walkers were unleashed by a group of miners, now outlaws, who are led by Thorn, and have a hidden camp in the hills; the town now controls the active mines. Vex realizes that Vax must be with the outlaws. Derowen sends two riders to keep searching the hills with Vex. They're eventually forced to return to Jorenn as the sun sets.
Back in the mines, some Shadewatch members have stumbled too close to the entrance, and the miners and Vax are fleeing to a deeper part of the mines. Sencha tells Vax that they mine silver and alludes to the conflict with the Shadewatch. In the evening, Thorn tells Vax that he was searching for evidence of Derowen's control over the silver trade, and that he wants to kill her personally. Vax offers to go look for evidence, but Thorn doesn't trust him. He learns that Emryn has died from his wounds. The miners toast to Emryn, and Thorn adds a toast to vengeance.
Chapters 16 to 22
Seven years ago, Vax visits a weaver's shop in the Tarn Thoroughfare—or rather, the weaver's apprentice, Cyriel, who has been mentoring him in the art of pickpocketing. They head to the market, where Cyriel pretends to stumble into a man and steals his purse. Vax takes his turn: he walks just close enough to a woman to steal a pouch from her pocket, but she notices, and he runs, climbing a roof and ditching the stolen pouch. He rejoins Cyriel by the lake, where she's waiting with hot cocoa; she informs him that he just stole from the Verdant Lord's daughter. They share a kiss.
In the present, Vex has spent several days searching for Vax, with no luck. She returns to Jorenn after another unsuccessful day, and Wick takes her to a shop, Binds and Dolls, run by Beryl. Derowen mentioned to Beryl that Vex was looking for books on dragons, and she found one; she offers it to Vex as thanks for her her help protecting the town. As they leave, Wick tells Vex a little more about Derowen: she formed the Shadewatch and built the palisades before the arrival of the ash walkers. Then, about a year after the attacks began, Culwen gave her Fracture, which allowed her to create the barrier.
In the mines, Vax is restless and still recovering from his wounds. He plays cards with Felric and learns that the miners are, in fact, responsible for the ash walkers. He later tries to speak to Tinyn, Thorn's second-in-command, but she doesn't trust him at all. The next day, he speaks with Sencha, who confirms that the miners are responsible, but also that Derowen drove them out of their homes and seized control of the mines; her magic ring, Fracture, only helped her to do it. Their conversation is interrupted by a breathless miner, who says that the Shadewatch has stumbled into the mines. Vax follows the group, and they find Thorn and Davok battling four guards. They kill three, but one escapes. Thorn asks Vax to help him chase after her; they go through an illusory stone and emerge outside, but the guard is long gone. Thorn tells Vax that he should leave, since the miners are now doomed, but Vax stays. Later that evening, he follows Thorn to another part of the mine, where he's speaking out loud to his serpent belt, trying to figure out a plan. They've been trying to mine enough silver to pay their way into new communities, having been blacklisted by Derowen. Vax sits with him, and they end up sharing a kiss.
At Shade Hall, Vex and Derowen are startled by Aswin's scream: she's had a night terror about the ash walkers. While Derowen leaves to get her some water, Vex tells Aswin a sanitized version of the story of how she met Trinket, which puts her to sleep. As the two women speak in Derowen's study, Wick rushes in to tell them that a scout has found the entrance to the mines.
Vax and the miners prepare for the Shadewatch's inevitable arrival over the course of three days. On the fourth day, Thorn wakes Vax, and instructs him to make his way to Jorenn while the others fight. As they part ways, Thorn mentions that Derowen has dealings with the Clasp. Vax realizes that the simple heist job is much more complicated than Gideor let on. The miners confront the Shadewatch, and in the frenzy, Vax sees his sister standing with Derowen. Vex runs to him, and they finally meet up as Vax is preventing Thorn from going to kill Derowen. The twins are confused by their conflicting information, but Vex trusts her brother. Vax urges Thorn to run, rather than face Derowen, and Vex lets him go.
Chapters 23 to 25
Six years ago, Vax'ildan brings Vex'ahlia to the shore of Lake Ywnnlas. He introduces his sister to Cyriel, who has arranged a rowboat for the twins. Out on the lake, Vax tries to show his sister how beautiful Syngorn and elven culture can be, and gives her a gift: a beautiful hazelwood longbow he bought with his allowance and all the coins he's stolen.
In the present, the twins and the Shadewatch camp in the hills outside of Jorenn Village. The Shadewatch scouts are unable to find the miners who escaped. Some miners were captured in the fight, but many are dead, among them Tinyn and Felric. The Shadewatch also suffered losses, including the guards who had helped Vex: Olfa, Nari, and Beven.
The next morning, Derowen leads the group back into town, and invites the twins to speak with her in her office. The conversation between Vax and the Shademaster is tense: Vax defends the miners, while Derowen pushes for details she can use to find those who escaped. Derowen cautiously allows Vax to stay at Shade Hall. The twins head off to Vex's room, where Vex is furious with her brother for being so accusatory towards the Shademaster. They lash out at each other, and Vex storms off. Left alone, Vax makes his way to an empty room near Derowen's office, and waits for a chance to break in. While he's searching, Aswin comes to the door, looking for her mother. Vax finds a secret compartment in the desk, containing a notebook. He takes it and leaves through the window.
Chapters 26 to 29
Six years ago, Vax'ildan breaks into the master of history's office, as a dare from some of the elven boys. As he's trying to pick the lock on a drawer, he's caught. Later that day, Syldor has summoned Vax and Vex to his office, and is furious with them. He has turned a blind eye to Vax's adventures so far, but he has crossed the line. He's angry with Vex, too, for having covered up her brother's transgressions. Vax notices that Syldor has Vex's bow, and asks him to return it. Syldor says she doesn't deserve it, and snaps it. They twins are sent to their room, where Vax tries to reassure his sister by braiding blue feathers into her hair.
In the present, Vax goes for a walk in the morning, and Vex and Trinket follow him, out of Jorenn Village and into the hills. Vex loses his trail by a boulder, but deduces that it might be illusory. She's stopped and threatened by the miners. Vax and Thorn emerge from the tunnels and Thorn invites Vex to follow him. Inside, Vax explains what he did the previous day. The notebook is written in code, but he's cracked some of it: it details Derowen's silver smuggling activities, suggests that she has dealings with the Clasp, and contains a list of miners' names, some of which have been noted as "eliminated". Thorn tells the twins the full story, from his perspective.
Several years before, his sister, Anissa, discovered a profitable deposit of silver. Jorenn boomed, and things were peaceful, but Anissa pushed them to dig deeper, until they eventually found an even deeper deposit, along with gems—and a mass miners' grave. When they extracted the gems, the dead began to rise as ash walkers; they killed many miners and then made their way into Jorenn Village. Only Derowen's ring, which she acquired after a year of attacks, could help, but by that time, she had turned the Shadewatch and the town against the miners. They were forced to flee, and Derowen took control of the remaining mines.
Thorn then invites Vex to meet the miners. He gives the notebook to Faril, who can help decode it, and introduces Vex to various members of the community. She shares a meal with them and the twins discuss what they will do next. A young guard runs in, warning that the Shadewatch is coming. Thorn decides that he's going to surrender to give the others a chance, and urges the twins to flee with the notebook. He gives Vax a goodbye kiss, and Faril guides the twins to a side tunnel just as the Shadewatch bursts in, attacking Thorn despite his surrender. Faril stays behind as the twins and Trinket escape.
Chapters 30 to 32
Five years ago, on an autumn night, fifteen-year-olds Vax'ildan and Vex'ahlia pack their things and leave Syldor's house together. It took some time for them to decide to leave, after Syldor broke Vex's bow. They don't tell anyone about their plans. The guards at the city walls don't ask questions and let them pass. The twins agree to return to Byroden.
In the present, the twins walk through dark tunnels for over an hour, finally emerging at dusk. They decide to stay and find a solution, but set up camp for the night. As they discuss their options, Vax realizes that the notebook doesn't mention the Clasp, but rather Culwen—whose name he heard Gideor mention. They begin to suspect that Culwen has been stealing from the Clasp like Derowen is stealing from the town, and that that was Gideor's true motivation in sending Vax to Jorenn Village. They hide the notebook in the hills and reluctantly agree to split up: Vex will appeal to Derowen, and Vax will try to make contact with Culwen. As they're planning Vax's route in, ash walkers emerge from the mines, but don't attack. They seem intent on reaching Jorenn Village. Confused, the twins abandon their camp and follow.
Chapters 33 to Epilogue
Five years ago, the twins travel through the Gladepools and reminisce about their years in Byroden as they get closer to home. At first glance, the town seems just as they remembered, but then they realize that parts of it are completely gone, including their childhood home. They're approached by a guard, who turns out to be their childhood friend Duncan. He is surprised to learn that the message never reached the twins about what happened: a red dragon attacked Byroden. The twins' mother did not survive.
They spend the night in the smithy at Duncan's invitation. The next morning, Vax wakes up early and visits the new graveyard where his mother was buried. Vex joins him. They begin to process their grief, and decide to keep travelling instead of staying in Byroden.
In the present, the twins split up. Vex and Trinket reach a group of travellers being attacked by ash walkers, and join the Shadewatch and Culwen in defending them. When they reach Jorenn, Vex lies to Wick and tells him she and Vax fought, and she decided to come back to Jorenn. He is mistrustful but allows her to speak to Derowen. Meanwhile, Vax sneaks into Jorenn from the hills on the other side of town. He climbs into the Shade Hall through a window he purposefully left unlatched, and makes his way to Culwen's office, which is packed with clutter and knicknacks. He settles in to wait for Culwen.
In the morning, Vax manages to surprise Culwen. Culwen doesn't believe Vax is a Clasp member, due to not having a brand. He alludes to a rivalry between himself and Gideor, and Vax realizes that Culwen is a spireling. Vax reveals what he learned from the notebook and proposes an exchange: if Culwen arranges the prisoners' release and the cancellation of his contract, he won't reveal the contents of the notebook to Gideor or the people of Jorenn. He insists on meeting that evening; Culwen cautiously agrees.
Elsewhere in Shade Hall, Vex and Trinket are escorted from their room to meet with Derowen. Vex's weapons have been confiscated. She asks Derowen for her side of the story, and Derowen admits to stealing from the mines' profits to ensure her own and Aswin's safety. Vex offers her a deal: the miners' freedom for the notebook. Outside, they see the remaining miners being jailed and separated from their children. Derowen refuses Vex's offer and brings her to an antechamber, where Thorn is chained to the wall, beaten and barely conscious. Derowen will free the others, but not Thorn; he will be executed. When Vex reveals that Culwen has also been offered the deal, Derowen panics. She begins making a plan to avoid Culwen's anger, and stabs Thorn in the stomach. Suddenly, Aswin enters the room. Both women rush to protect her from seeing Thorn. Vex tells Trinket to bring Aswin back to Wick. As they leave, Vex picks up Derowen's sword, and Derowen draws poniards. The sword is heavier than Vex is used to and she struggles in the fight. They hear shouts outside that ash walkers are attacking, and they begin to claw their way into the room. Culwen arrives and tells Derowen to call them off. Vex realizes that Derowen's ring doesn't create a barrier, but rather summons and controls the ash walkers. Culwen tells Derowen that she's a failure, and stabs her with his rapier. Vax follows Culwen into the room, disguised as a guard, and tells Vex to run; she does. As Derowen struggles to speak, Culwen says that he will protect Aswin, now. Vax throws a dagger at Culwen, and they fight amidst the ash walkers. When guards enter, Culwen attempts to frame Vax for Derowen's murder. However, Thorn's serpent belt approaches Vax, and he uses it to distract Culwen, and succeeds in slashing the spireling's throat. He is then overwhelmed by ash walkers and guards.
Meanwhile, Vex'ahlia searches for Wick amidst the chaos of ash walkers. She finds him outside—but also finds Aswin, who has retrieved Vex's weapons and is trying to join the fight. Trinket protects her from the ash walkers. Vex asks Aswin to return her weapons and get to safety with Trinket. Vex convinces Wick to follow her back inside, but they arrive too late: Derowen is dead, and Vax has been bound by the guards. After some discussion, Wick orders Vax to be freed and calls for a healer for Thorn, who is still clinging to life. Vax gives his sister Fracture, which he took from Derowen's body. Wick asks Vex to try and use it, and Vax agrees that protecting Jorenn is more important than stealing the ring. Wick tells Vex that he didn't know all the details of Derowen's activities—he never asked questions. They climb up to the palisades. Vex manages to activate the ring. The ash walkers stop fighting and retreat. Vex gives the ring to Wick, and tells him that he is responsible for telling the people of Jorenn the truth. She then goes to find Aswin, who is already aware of her mother's death. Vex reassures her that she doesn't have to be brave all the time, and gives her the copper bear necklace that Vax gave her.
Several days later, Vax, Vex, Trinket, Thorn, and Wick walk out into the hills. The miners have been freed, and Thorn is now well enough to leave. They stop by a boulder, where all the miners of Jorenn Village carve their names before their first day in the mines. Wick tells Thorn that the miners are welcome to return, but Thorn doubts they will want to. Wick returns to Jorenn, while the others travel on to the place where the twins hid the notebook. Vax tries to return the serpent belt to Thorn, but he declines. They share a final kiss goodbye. Thorn returns to the mines, and the twins and Trinket set out for Westruun.
In Westruun, several days later, Vax brings the notebook to Spireling Gideor. Gideor points out that it's not the ring he asked for, but doesn't seem surprised. He is willing to overlook that the contract wasn't completed to the letter, and explains the conditions of membership to the Clasp. Gideor and Kal bring Vax to another room, where Gideor brands Vax between his shoulders. Vax then meets up with Vex in the Market Ward, where she is chatting with a bowyer. The twins debate where to go next, and finally settle on Stilben. They begin to walk towards the gates of Westruun.
Vox Machina - Kith & Kin was announced on March 25, 2021, on CritRole.com by Christina Farber, announcing that the novel would be published by Del Rey Books on October 26, 2021. The book was planned to be released in hardcover and e-book formats. In an update, the release date was moved to November 30, 2021. An audiobook of the novel was published by Random House Audio on the same day.
|9780593496626||November 30, 2021||Del Rey Books||Hardcover||$28.00|||
|9780593496633||November 30, 2021||Del Rey Books||E-book||$14.99|||
- This is the first novel adaptation of a Critical Role story.
- The idea for the book's storyline comes from the session Matt ran separately for Liam and Ashley during the pre-stream campaign.
- Marieke Nijkamp dedicated the book "[t]o siblings in all shapes and forms, whether by blood, by choice, or by shared stories," and to her own sisters.
- See the time line graphic accompanying the official post, What You Need to Know Before Watching Exandria Unlimited.
- Liam & Laura's interview on Kith & Kin for Rolling Stone.
- See Critical Role: Vox Machina - Kith & Kin.
- Cover art of Vox Machina - Kith & Kin, featuring Vax'ildan and Vex'ahlia, by Nikki Dawes (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Derowen, by Jess Radley (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Thorn and Vax, by Jess Radley (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Aswin and Trinket, by Jess Radley (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Thorn and the twins, by Elaine Tipping (source). Used with permission.