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"Dark Bargains" (2x83) is the eighty-third episode of the second campaign of Critical Role. Now trapped within the astral dreadnought, the Mighty Nein must decide whether or not to trust the entity that they discover waiting inside...

Synopsis Edit

Pre-Show Edit

Announcements Edit

Previously on Critical Role Edit

Last we left off, the Mighty Nein have been in search of Yussa, the archmage ally of theirs that they had gone to after it seemed that all was nearly lost when it came to their struggle against Obann, as he races toward some sort of endeavor in the name of the Angel of Irons. After discovering that Yussa had vanished into the Heirloom Sphere that you had given him months before, you made contact with an ally of his named Allura Vysoren, and then proceeded to go into this sphere, known as the Folding Halls of Halas, where a series of inter-dimensional rooms are connected by a singular twisting tower, only some of which have been explored. Following the footsteps of Yussa, you made your way through multiple chambers, fought golems, made golems, managed to hunt down the Permaheart, which was a specific artifact that maintained the undying nature of the Laughing Hand.

After destroying that, in discovering through some notes that Halas had been experimenting with cloned bodies and seemed to have some sort of ritual chamber somewhere in the Dreadnought, which you had found on the map, you went to investigate this Dreadnought, and discovered it was an astral dreadnought that had been chained down, its eye covered, and held adrift in the center of the Astral Sea, as via the door you had followed. You pulled one of these levers, which then opened the jaws of the astral dreadnought, and then you all proceeded to step inside of its mouth. So after stepping into this astral dreadnought, you found yourselves standing in this cold, almost natural-seeming cavern, larger in diameter to where you cannot see the walls around you or the ceiling above you, but a few burning bits of light in the distance, some that look to be a small arrangement of furniture. And that’s where we left off. So, Mighty Nein, as you now walk into wherever the interior of the dreadnought sent you, what would you like to do?

Part I Edit

The party find themselves in silence and pitch blackness in a chamber with no visible walls, ceiling, or exit, a stone floor, and torchlight in the distance. They move toward the light and discover four pillars in a square around three tables set up as some form of laboratory. One table holds a collection of old tomes. Nott investigates as the others creep up around the area. In the center of the tables lies a male body, appearing to be mid-fifties with ruddy skin, long black hair, a trimmed beard, and piercing yellow eyes, dressed in long red robes with gold trim, looking very much like the portraits of Halas. He is in the center of a large series of glyphs drawn on the floor in black dust and reddish-purple chalk. He is breathing and appears unharmed, but unresponsive. Directly above, Beau notices a faint red glow on the ceiling, which she later determines to be a ten-foot diameter circle of symbols bearing conjuration-based magic.

Pocket Lich - BlackSalander

Fan art of the Ruby, by BlackSalander.[art 1]

Caleb determines the glyphs on the floor are necromantic. Nott searches the body and finds the chalk and black soot that were used to draw the glyphs, and a pouch with 500 gp worth of gold dust. Under one of the tables, she sees a palm-sized ruby, and uses Mage Hand to pick it up. As she takes it from the Hand to put in her pouch, she hears a voice in her mind saying, "You!" The voice, with a Zemnian accent, tells her they can help each other and that he can possibly tell them how to get out of the room they are in, identifying himself as Halas, a mage of Zeidel. He would like to speak to their leader.

Caleb asks Nott who she is speaking to and when told, immediately urges everyone back from the tables, but Nott brings the ruby. Jester asks to see it, and when she looks into it sees two golden amber eyes in a swirling mist. It begins talking to her, but Nott snatches it back and puts it on the ground at Caleb's request. Caleb immediately casts Identify on it, learning that the ruby is a reliquary. He throws a rag over it and tells the others he believes it contains Halas's soul.

Nott searches the tables and finds four books which she gives to Caleb. One contains the spells Magic Jar, Trap the Soul, and Clone. One contains notes on partially developed spells, including a spell seeking to alter Halas's own body permanently, reforming it to become a different type of similar body indefinitely. Nott is extremely interested in this information. Caleb also learns that the Magic Jar spell would allow Halas to possess a person or body within 100 feet and urges everyone back even further, using Cat's Ire to move the body and the gem out about a hundred feet at right angles to each other. He searches the laboratory and finds 100 gp of powdered silver, 1200 gp of rare incense, and 4 pearls worth 100 gp each.

Nott gives Caleb Spider Climb and he climbs up to the circle on the ceiling, then summons Frumpkin and asks him to touch it. The circle glows, and Frumpkin begins to float and then appears to be scattered to atoms. After some discussion, they decide they need to talk further to Halas and that Beau should be the one to do it since she is the only non-magic user. They inspect the body again and notice it has no scars and the heart is beating, and chain it with the manacles they took from Lorenzo. Caleb casts Leomund's Tiny Hut where all except Beau take shelter as she picks up the ruby.

Halas promises aid and rewards in return for them dispelling the Gem of Imprisonment he finds himself in. He says that the design of the ruby was sabotaged by one of his enemies, trapping him within it. The passage of time within the Halls can be adjusted in the Tower Machine. Beau tells Halas it's now 836 PD, and since he doesn't recognize "PD" he deduces it's been at least 800 years he's been trapped, which takes him aback. Nott keeps urging Beau to ask Halas about changing bodies permanently. Halas offers to tell them how to escape the Donjon they find themselves in, if they'll take the gem and his body with them.

Unable to decide what to do, the party contacts Allura. She can't help them directly, but tells them to take everything Halas says with a grain of salt and not to give him what he wants until they can discuss it in person. Beau then agrees with Halas to aid him, and he tells them the symbols on the ceiling are a Plane Shift circle which will transport them to his study. Using Jester's Polymorphed giant eagle and taking the body, the ruby, and Willi, one by one they touch the ceiling glyphs and poof into nothingness.

Break Edit

Part II Edit

The Mighty Nein find themselves in the Study, emptied of books and obviously searched, with broken pieces of a mage hunter golem scattered about. Beau asks Halas about the Prison of Soot, where the golems take intruders once they've been captured. He advises them that casting spells of a certain level draws the golems and that the floating soot in the Prison is attracted to any use of the vocal cords, paralyzing them. The most direct route is through the Circlebound Chamber accessed through a black wooden door behind a bookcase. In the Chamber they will find a horned devil that has been a source of information in his previous research, but it is bound and cannot hurt them. He warns them not to believe anything it says. He also tells them that a trapdoor in the Study leads to the Fleshmend Facility, and that the name of the young blue dragon (that they killed in "The Stowaway" (2x45)) is Thelashas. Nott asks for the ruby so she can speak to Halas directly and Beau gives it to her. Nott asks about traps in the Prison of Soot, but Halas misunderstands and answers that the Circlebound Chamber has no traps. The Prison has 27 floors with two cells on each floor and at least eight golems scattered throughout. Nott can't resist also asking how Halas could change a body permanently and he suggests high level Polymorph. He could offer other suggestions if she releases him from the ruby back into his physical body.

Horned Devil - Callum Lyall

Fan art of the Horned Devil, by Callum Lyall.[art 2]

They move to the Circlebound Chamber, a large room filled with tapestries depicting the Blood War between devils and demons. A blood-soaked table bearing cutting and carving tools sits next to an equally blood-soaked basket. In the center of the room, a 15-foot circle of glowing purple light holds a twelve-foot-tall winged horned devil, clearly insane and held captive by the dome of force created by the circle. He says he has forgotten his name and repeatedly asks them to read him a poem contained in a green book on the other side of the room. The mention of Halas angers him-- he refers to Halas as a "tricksy bastard" with his tricksy circle and questions, who has made many deals with many devils but weaseled out of each one. The exit door is magically trapped and locked, but Caleb casts Knock to open it. They distribute paper to each of them so they can use writing to communicate within the Prison of Soot.

Beyond the door is a long stone staircase without walls descending through blackness filled with distant stars. At the bottom, they enter a cold, dark, circular room about 60-feet across, with steel walls, granite floor, and a granite ceiling bearing a dormant mage hunter golem. Across the room another staircase descends, and they start down, finding an identical room with heavy adamantine boxes to either side. Jester speculates the boxes hold the prisoners' belongings, and Nott starts to lockpick one, despite Caleb's frantic gestures to check for traps first. A Power Word Kill trap causes Nott to die instantly. Caleb scoops her up and runs back the way they came to the Circlebound Chamber, where Jester successfully casts Revivify on her, bringing her back to life.
Nott's death (color)- Hierothraxs

Fan art of Revivifying Nott, by @hierothraxs.[art 3]

Moving back to the Study, they rest for an hour to allow Nott to recover somewhat, and Jester heals her the rest of the way. They then head back to where they were and move down another floor, finding a room with two cells each containing a skeletal, collared body. Going down one more flight of stairs, they find another room with two cells, one with a body, and one containing the resting and surprised Yussa. Nott checks and finds a mysterious trap on the cell door, but Jester uses her magic paint to create holes in the bars beside it and removes a section of the barred cell wall, freeing Yussa.

The party, with Yussa, moves back up through the Prison, past the Circlebound Chamber where the captive devil again beseeches them in anguish to stay, and into the Study, where Nott removes the collar on Yussa. They tell Yussa that they found Halas trapped in a gem, and Yussa urges them not to release him. They also tell him they destroyed the Permaheart and that they contacted Allura. Caleb commands Willi to take Halas's body back to the stairway leading to the Prison and dump it there, recovering the anti-magic manacles first. The party then touches the red object on the stained glass window to get to the Dragon Guard exit, where they find the body of the young blue dragon. Yussa returns to his tower while the party takes an hour to recover teeth and claws from the body. Nott pulls Caleb aside, asking him that if Halas can help her regain her halfling body, isn't that worth pursuing? Caleb tells her that he has Halas's books and that Halas is a bad man, and asks her to give him time to read and talk to others.

Allura's Ritual - AJ Putz

Fan art of Allura's ritual, by AJ Putz.[art 4]

Leaving the Heirloom Sphere to return to Yussa's study, Yussa thanks them and summons Allura, who immediately starts preparing a ritual in an attempt to discover the true identity of the Angel of Irons through the connection with Yasha. Dark smoke swirls into chains pulling and binding the group, then gathering in the center of their circle, binding a form which is revealed to be Yasha. Allura commands the magic to reveal the form of her captor and Yasha vanishes, leaving behind a dark void. The chains fall into place, forming a seven-pointed star around the pit of darkness. Within, they feel something immense, something old, something mad. The ritual shatters and Yussa tells them that there is no Angel of Irons; it is a guise for the Chained Oblivion. Allura, shaken, says, "This is a terrible portent. I must inform the Council."

Featured Characters Edit

The Mighty Nein Edit

New Edit

Returning Edit

Mentioned Edit

Inventory Edit

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Acquired 1 gold dust worth 500 gp Halas Nott
Acquired 1 collection of chalks and inks Halas Nott
Acquired 1 pouch of blackened soot Halas Nott
Acquired 1 a large smooth ruby in gold filigree Donjon in the Dreadnought Nott When held, the bearer can hear and speak to the soul of Halas.
Acquired 4 books containing magical diagrams Donjon in the Dreadnought Nott to Caleb One book contains Magic Jar, Trap the Soul, and Clone. There are also Halas's notes on partially completed spells, including one to alter his body permanently.
Acquired 1 powdered silver worth 100 gp Donjon in the Dreadnought Caleb
Acquired 1 rare incense worth 1200 gp Donjon in the Dreadnought Caleb
Acquired 4 pearls worth 100 gp each Donjon in the Dreadnought Caleb

Quotations Edit

  • Jester: (about Halas) He kept asking for somebody willful.
    Fjord: Well, Jester, you’re also very willful.
    Jester: No, I’m not. I’m very docile.
  • Halas: Morality is relative, and I do not know by your standards what is considered nice or useful. So I will say, given the lack of information we have about each other, I myself can also prove useful.
  • Caduceus: It’s better to have somebody’s word broken than to have no word at all.
  • Halas: Death is an inconvenience one of my experience and power is not willing to kowtow to. So I would seek other means of prolonging one’s life without having to give in to such base, easy transitions such as lichdom or means of undeath. The whole deal is messy and difficult to control–
    Beau: Dying?
    Halas: Undying.
  • Halas: You seem unlike any goblin I've encountered in my times here.
    Nott: You seem unlike any ruby I've encountered.
  • Yussa: I can say as an individual that has lived as long as I have and been amongst mages of his ilk and stronger, at a certain point, morality becomes unnecessary.
  • Matt: (describing the ritual to see the true nature of the Angel of Irons) The writhing cluster of chains begins to separate, and in that space where Yasha was, her form vanishes, and left behind it is a black, lightless void. The chains that were tangled once begin to fall into place. Seven points, seven segments around the pit of darkness, endless yet living. It's strange to look in the blackness of night and feel the emptiness, but this-- you look into this emptiness and you feel something immense. Something old. Something mad.
  • Allura: This thing you chase is a ruse.
    Yussa: There is no Angel of Irons. It is a guise for the Chained Oblivion. For Tharizdun, the terrible mad god of endless hunger and destruction. It masquerades its efforts for freedom by this Angel's name.
    Allura: This is a terrible portent. I must inform the Council.

Trivia Edit

  • This episode marks the first time that Nott has died on-stream. This is the third on-stream death of a player character in Campaign 2, Molly and Caduceus being the first and second.
  • This is Episode 83 of Campaign 2; Sam's character Scanlan also died in Episode 83 of Campaign 1.
  • The party left the Happy Fun Ball on 11 Thunsheer 836.[1]

References Edit

  1. See CritRoleStats' running game calendar.

Art:

  1. Fan art of the Ruby, by BlackSalander (source).  Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of the Horned Devil, by Callum Lyall (source).  Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Revivifying Nott, by @hierothraxs (source).  Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of Allura's ritual, by AJ Putz (source).  Used with permission.


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