"Malice and Mystery Below" (2x119) is the one hundred nineteenth episode of the second campaign of Critical Role. Deep within the mysterious Aeorian ruin, the Mighty Nein must first face a terrifying abomination before they can venture further into the strange and unknown...

Synopsis

Announcements

  • In the spirit of the holidays, Sam sings a Christmas carol in praise of D&D Beyond:
Violent night, holy shit.
Matt's gonna kill us. We should quit.
Our fate is tied to the role of the dices
And all our stats on our tablet devices.
Convenient all night lo-ong
Praise D&D Beyond.

Violent night, we're going to die.
Matt makes baby sounds, Willingham cries.
Round the table a group of best friends
It's such a shame that tonight's how it ends.
Most of us aren't gonna live.
Ro-oll for i-ni-tia-tive!
– 
Sam's carol (to the tune of 'Silent Night').[1]
[!h]
  • Also sponsoring tonight is Skillshare, an online learning community with thousands of classes available. Click the above link for a two month free trial of premium membership.
  • Narrative Telephone returns for a story told by Laura Bailey with special guest Mica Burton on Twitch Tuesday, 15 December 2020 at 4 pm Pacific, YouTube on Thursday.
  • Merch Alert! Maybe? Laura isn't sure what's in and what's not, but check our their stores!

Previously on Critical Role

So, last we left off, the Mighty Nein, following and now slightly ahead of the tracks of Lucien and the Tombtakers, making their way from place to place across Foren in Eiselcross, seeking elements they are gathering before eventually heading towards the central Aeorian ruins on this portion of the region.

You delve into your second Aeorian ruin, located as A2 on the map that you were given by the late Lady Vess DeRogna. You made a small friend, one outlier who had already gone into this ruin, but the rest of his group had not returned in days. Leaving him to fend for himself in the shadow, you began to explore aspects of this particular excavation. You found a terribly ruined street and what looked like an arcane dome. Sealed within, Aeorian citizens, still frozen in those moments of cataclysm. Then, following your spell, locating a directional blip towards a possible threshold crest within these ruins, you went and eventually discovered the entrance to some sort of Aeorian laboratory, which was covered in shattered glass and fallen implements and with some spell help through Caleb, able to ascertain some of these ancient language bits that were previously not understood by any of you.

Fan art of the abomination, by @thetaterart.[art 1]

You managed to fix one of the doors and hit one of the arcane-based button prompts on a nearby pedestal, causing the door behind you to slam shut and a door ahead, where you were planning to go, to open up, where a horrible, baneful cry began to echo through the chamber. Snuffing the light and hiding amongst the room, you all watched as a terrifying beast began to lumber in, its strange, somewhat muscular but sagging elephant-like body helming the front, a smooth, almost slick cherub-like bulbous human baby face on the front, clouded-over pupil-less eyes, a mouth that split open in the center filled with teeth, as numerous human arms, small, reached out for whatever was nearby the front of its toothy maw. At the front of its forehead, you saw dangling a tendril of some kind, at the end a bulb of glowing light that swung as it entered. And as it began to step into the chamber...

Part I

Fan art of Jester casting Inflict Wounds, by Dian Huynh.[art 2]

The battle begins as Jester tries to crush the baby-like creature by dropping the door on it, but the door has jammed in its track. Yasha and Beau are immediately lured by its dangling light into moving towards it, stunned. Caleb uses the driftglobe to cast Daylight and Jester crits with Inflict Wounds for massive damage plus wild magic butterflies. The creature then vomits highly damaging acid spray hitting both Beau and Yasha and uses a legendary action to grasp the stunned Beau and pull her in close to its mouth.

Yasha is no longer stunned but in averting her gaze to avoid the lure, she is blinded and misses with her attacks. The baby swallows Beauregard into its acidic stomach where she is no longer stunned but dangerously close to unconsciousness, and she empties out her pouch of ten doses of suude,[2] drugging and knocking the creature unconscious for three rounds. Keeping out of sight of the lure, Fjord attacks twice from behind using Divine Smites for massive damage, but jolting the creature back to consciousness. Veth runs up and into the baby's mouth, trying and failing to pull Beau out, but Yasha is able to pull them both out and Caduceus immediately hits the almost-unconscious Beau with Heal.

Fan art of Caduceus casting Blight, by BlackSalander.[art 3]

Caleb then releases Disintegrate, but the baby uses a Legendary Resistance to succeed on its save. It grapples Veth. As the rest of the party attacks, the creature succeeds in grappling Beau again as well. Fjord manages to cut off its glowing lure, but the creature swallows Veth. From the creature's interior, Veth tries and fails to stab with the Corecut Dagger, and then takes a healing potion. The others continue to whack away until Caduceus decides to finish it off with a Blight, getting the How do you want to do this? Fjord pulls Veth out of the dead creature and Jester heals her.

Break

  • D&D Beyond. Play with advantage.
  • Narrative Telephone episode 3 coming up on Twitch Tuesday, December 15 at 4:00 pm Pacific. Storyteller will be Laura Bailey, with guest star Mica Burton.
  • Merch Alert! Vox Machina dice sets for Pike, Percy, Keyleth, Matt, Vax, Grog, and Vex, Vox Machina and Mighty Nein chibi pins, and Critical Role pewter logo ornaments available in all three Critical Role shops; Cobalt Soul varsity jacket and holiday wrapping paper with matching washi tape available in the U.S. and Australia only.
  • Taliesin channels the ghost of Rod Serling to ask us to enter the Twitch Subscription Zone.
  • Critters' art montage.

Part II

The party takes a short rest. Caleb takes the lure from the dead creature and Yasha harvests some bones. Beau cuts into the creature's stomach and finds the fairly recent bones of two people, who they assume to be some of Iver Climtaver's five missing party members.

They proceed down the hallway, seeing occasional blood smears, into a large heavily damaged room with multiple open doorways to the right and left leading to small chambers like containment cells. They notice signs of a recent deadly encounter. Jester's "Locate Object" confirms that the threshold crest they seek is below and slightly to the right. Caleb notices a long shiny platinum rod amid the debris, and a bit of sky blue cloth twenty feet ahead. There are also some large, mostly broken, frosted green containers very similar to those the party saw in the Experiment Chamber within the Folding Halls of Halas.[3] Two remain solid.

Fan art of the aeorian hunters, by Rachel HB.[art 4]

Beau investigates the blue cloth, which is torn and bloodstained and attached to the fairly recently crushed body of a half-elven woman. The body bears the mark of the Cerberus Assembly, wears fine leather armor, and carries a sheath the same size as the rod found by Caleb. The party concludes this is the body of Zana Deelio, the annex of Ludinus Da'leth. Using Detect Magic, Caleb finds the rod and armor are both magical, as are the two unbroken containers. They are filled with liquid and hold horrifying and faintly twitching creatures, including a vaguely humanoid Aeorian nullifier and a quadrupedal absorber. Caleb finds some writing on a damaged panel translating to "Hunter Development List." Beneath it, entries read: "Absorber 0-072" "Nullifier 0-038" "Subject 0-002".

Caduceus finds a hidden hole and a tunnel leading downward just large enough to go through one at a time. They discuss how to keep the Tombtakers from sneaking up behind them and reveal that the Intuit Charge found earlier[4] is like a time bomb, stunning everything within a 300 foot circle and releasing massive amounts of psychic damage against anyone in its path. It seems like overkill in this situation.

Caleb identifies the rod as a Rod of Fear, identical in effect to a Wand of Fear. Veth volunteers to explore ahead, and they lower her down the hole on a rope. She reaches the end of a hundred feet of rope in an immense room, about ten feet above a canopy of tree tops. She Messages this to Yasha, who relays it and the party tells Veth to wait while Caleb sets up the "Alarm" spell in the room above.

Jester, however, starts down the rope thinking Veth is on the ground, followed by Beau. Veth drops the ten feet to the top of the nearest tree, taking a little bludgeoning damage. She notices that the branches are pale and stiff, and the leaves are dry and frail. Beau drops her celebone to the ground although its light is blocked by the trees' canopy, and Veth climbs down the eighty feet to the unnaturally flat ground followed by Beau. At the top, Yasha holds the rope while Caleb climbs down followed by Caduceus, who first casts Guardian of Faith to guard the area above. Caleb Polymorphs into a giant owl and ferries down Fjord, Caduceus, Jester, and Yasha once she retrieves the rope and disguises the tunnel entrance.

Fan art of Caduceus among the corrupted trees, by HeartofPack.[art 5]

The arboretum chamber is over a hundred feet tall and almost three hundred from end to end. Caduceus notices that the coloration of the trees is very similar to the corrupted Savalirwood, which greatly disturbs him. He tells the corrupted trees that he is sorry, and he'll help if he can, and Jester uses her Speak with Plants to reiterate. To her surprise, the response is malevolent hunger and desperation.

Jester's Locate Object finds the threshold crest to the right of their path and they stealth forward into a passage marked "Threshold Vault" with Caleb and Fjord in the lead. Caleb sends Frumpkin forward to a four-way intersection with a blue glow beyond a descending stairway straight ahead. There is a magical evocation barrier blocking the way, which Caleb dispels. Yasha casts Light and they descend the stairs to a chamber nearly identical to that in A5, with a large glowing blue threshold crest in the ceiling.

Featured Characters

The Mighty Nein

Mentioned

Inventory

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Acquired 1 The baby-creature's lure The baby-creature abomination Caleb Caleb hung the severed lure on his belt.
Acquired 1 Baby-creature's bones The baby-creature abomination Yasha Yasha wanted the spine, but settled for random bones.
Acquired 1 Leather armor Zana Deelio's body Veth Unidentified as yet, but magical.
Acquired 1 Rod of Fear The experiment chamber in A2 Jester Identical to a Wand of Fear.

Quotations

  • Veth: (after Beau is swallowed) No Mo'-Regard.[5]
  • Matt: (determining the effect of suude on the baby-faced abomination) It fails, with a natural one, hilariously.
    Marisha: Babies have a low tolerance to drugs.
    Sam: I learned that the hard way.
    Matt: ♪ The more you know... ♪[6]
  • Jester: Caduceus, have you ever tried talking to the corrupted plants in the Savalir?
    Caduceus: No. I think I'll try once we're all in the tunnel. I'm worried.
    Jester: Do you want me to try, too?
    Caduceus: If you could be there as well, that might be a good idea.
    Beau: Why did you never try talking to them?
    Caduceus: I don't know. Things are different now. [...] (to the trees) If you can hear me, I am so sorry, and if we can help, we will.[7]

Trivia

  • The mini for the baby-headed abomination was a creature called a gorm from the game Kingdom Death: Monster. However, the actual creature stats used by Matt in-game were totally homebrewed.[8] The creature could possibly have been "Subject 0-002" on a list of Aeorian hunters found in the room.

References

  1. See "Malice and Mystery Below" (2x119) at 0:00:33.
  2. See "Domestic Respite" (2x62) at 3:16:51.  Beau found the suude in the back room of the Overcrow Apothecary. She identified it at 3:23:02.
  3. See "From Door to Door" (2x81) at 4:06:45.
  4. See "Solace Between the Secrets" (2x118) at 3:45:22.  Veth found the box, which Caleb identified at 3:54:18.
  5. See "Malice and Mystery Below" (2x119) at 0:34:25.
  6. See "Malice and Mystery Below" (2x119) at 0:40:19.
  7. See "Malice and Mystery Below" (2x119) from 3:14:16 through 3:15:07.
  8. See Matt's tweet.

Art:

  1. Fan art of the abomination, by @thetaterart (source).  Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of Jester casting Inflict Wounds, by Dian Huynh (source).  Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Caduceus casting Blight, by BlackSalander (source).  Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of the aeorian hunters, by Rachel HB (source).  Used with permission.
  5. Fan art of Caduceus among the corrupted trees, by HeartofPack (source).  Used with permission.


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