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"Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) is the one hundred twenty-second episode of the second campaign of Critical Role. With secrets and mysteries ever growing, the Mighty Nein must navigate the rising tension between themselves and their ersatz allies as their travel to Aeor continues...

Synopsis[]

Announcements[]

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Previously on Critical Role[]

So, last we left off, the Mighty Nein have been making their way across Eiselcross, the Frozen North, trying to outdo the Tombtakers in the retrieval of the threshold crests they are carrying towards the ruins of Aeor for some sort of nefarious purpose that, you assume, deals with the Cognouza.

After convening with them against your will, you've been traveling with them in an odd, tense social environment. You traversed the lava river that cuts through Eiselcross magically, and before the second to last day of travel came to an end, you made some conversation, you made an offer to read and help Lucien with some of the book that he is apparently unable to completely unravel. You went and plotted a bit within your tower, discussing different possibilities of turning events into your favor. Lucien, however, did knock at the door, wondering what you were all doing in this strange extra-dimensional space. After a brief bit of miscommunication and the door slammed in his face, he cancelled the tower and left you all out in the frozen snow for another night of not-as-comfortable rest.

After the tarot reading - Ace Masters

Fan art of Lucien after the tarot reading, by Ace Masters.[art 1]

As you all took a moment to adjust to your unfortunate fortune, Jester decided to offer a tarot card reading. Lucien, intrigued, sat and accepted, and after an oddly poignant series of pulls, it had a series of unexpected effects on Lucien before he, mildly unnerved, stood up and walked away.

So, as you all now adjust to the coming freezing night here in the frozen tundras of the north, you watch as Lucien returns to the campfire naught but thirty-forty feet from where you stand.

Part I[]

While Caleb casts the dome for the night, the rest of the party (including Frumpkin) take up Lucien's invitation to join him and the other Tombtakers at their campfire. Lucien asks for each of their stories or goals. Fjord shares that he is being chased by Uk'otoa whenever he is near water, but he wants to close that book on his own terms. Caduceus doesn't believe the corrupted forest they saw within the A2 ruins is similar to that in the Savalirwood. He wants to change a heart and a mind, and save a soul — just one.

Veth would like to help maintain the peace in Wildemount. Jester wants to domesticate unicorns. Yasha doesn't know her goals yet, and isn't sure she wants to find out what happened to her tribe. Beau has already achieved a lot of her goals and is now just following open doors. Caleb (through Frumpkin and Message) wants to know why Lucien thinks he can bend the Somnovem to his wishes, and Lucien responds that he and Caleb may be more alike than he'd think.

Lucien tells them the Somnovem are mad, crazy, absolutely batty... but brilliant, with dreams and determination, and power over matter in the Astral Realm. Lucien thinks it takes a bit of madness to truly unlock the imagination. When Caduceus asks what the Somnovem want, Lucien replies that if he continues along with the Tombtakers, he can maybe ask the Somnovem himself.

The Nein go back to their dome and discuss Lucien a little more. Beau agrees that much more would be clear if they could read Lucien's book. Caleb thinks they have two choices: kill the Tombtakers now, or follow them to the end. Jester wants to keep following because she still believes Molly is in there somewhere, and the rest (except Fjord) agree with her. She uses Sending to check in with Yudala Fon at the Cobalt Soul and is told they know more about Aeor but someone will need to come in person to learn it. Caleb Identifies the studded leather armor they found in the ruins of A2[1] as being +2. Fjord takes it when Veth says she would have to give up her dagger if she did, and she won't do that.

Reading the book - magma sheep

Fan art of reading the book, by magma sheep.[art 2]

In the morning, Lucien approaches with the tome and offers to let them read it. Beau and Caleb volunteer. It is a journal or notebook written in Undercommon, beginning with historical musings about Aeor, its history, and current location. The writer traveled northward and discovered a massive anomaly and an entrance to a subterranean labyrinth of corridors and structures, and uncovered a text hurriedly scrawled before the death of its writer reading: "The philosophers abandoned us. The cursed, plotting dreamers took their whole ward with them. Curse them. May they rot in—" and it ended there.

The writer slowly explored more of the ruin, finding information about the Cognouza ward: a region organized by nine philosophers who were dedicated to the idea of using arcana to manifest dream and imagination, and increasingly obsessed with the Astral Plane and rumored to be planning the ward's escape there. The next entry tells that the writer intended to project himself into the Astral Plane to seek out possible Cognouza survivors. Then, the book becomes filled with nonsense scratches, shapes, symbols, and incredibly detailed patterns focused on nine elements.

Lucien suddenly closes and reclaims the book. As they prepare to set off, he demands to be shown the Nein's threshold crest. Fjord pulls out the amber and gives it to him to examine, and Lucien stresses that they have a deal to give it to him when they reach Aeor. They travel through another day of ice fog further delaying the journey.

That night, Caleb casts his tower and the Tombtakers are given the guest rooms. Jester confirms with Sending that Dagen Underthorn is still following them. The Nein go up to the laboratory on the seventh floor for tea, and Veth mentions they haven't yet seen the eighth or ninth floors. Caleb agrees to show the floors to them and opens the iris leading upward.

He tells them to choose three of the nine rooms. First is the already-seen fourth room, a reproduction of Astrid's room at the Soltryce Academy, with a very rumpled bed. The next room is the ninth, the tavern room of the Nestled Nook Inn where the Mighty Nein came together for the first time. The final room is the first chamber, Caleb's childhood home in Blumenthal. It is a very humble cottage, and being in it is very difficult for him. When Veth asks if he still wants to go back and undo it, he responds, "Of course." The ninth floor is a sea of stars, showing multiple versions of the viewer walking along multiple paths that appear to go forever.

Break[]

Part II[]

The Nein eat dinner with the Tombtakers, and Otis says grace in Deep Speech. Lucien and Cree do not want to talk about their pasts, but Otis and Zoran share their origins in Trostenwald and the Menagerie Coast, respectively. Fjord asks Lucien for more information about what they may face in Aeor, but Lucien says they like to improvise. The entrance they plan to use is on the northwestern edge of the ruins. Beau tells the Tombtakers about the gnolls and manticore they encountered near Alfield who worshipped Yeenoghu,[2] as an example of the party's cult-destroying experience. The Tombtakers retire to their rooms for the night while the Nein realize how many cults they've actually destroyed in their adventures.

Veth suggests all the cats meowing in unison to cover the party's conversation. When Fjord uses Dwueth'var to cast See Invisibility, he sees a Scrying orb above Yasha (later moving to Fjord) which stifles their discussion. When Caleb walks over to it and addresses it directly, it vanishes.

They discuss whether or not to ask Essek for help. Caleb and Beau don't trust him, but Jester uses Sending to contact him and ask him to meet them to help. He responds that he is at the outpost southeast of the ruin and they can meet him there. There is much discussion about the possibility of bailing, either by using Word of Recall or chancing a Teleport. Caduceus casts Commune, learning that Lucien does not need all of them alive. When Lucien's Scrying orb reappears, Jester contacts Yudala Fon again to say Beau can't return soon, and is told the Cobalt Soul has information about what the Cognouza is. They realize they already know that.

Jester and Lucien - Aurex Aldori

Fan art of Jester and Lucien, by Aurex Aldori.[art 3]

The party decides to sleep together in Yasha's room. When Jester leaves briefly she encounters Lucien, and offers him a fun tour. Taking his hand, she Polymorphs them both into cats and shows him the secret cat service passages. When she returns, Caleb orders the other cats to clog all the entrances to the floor of the tower they are on.

Fjord takes watch as the party goes to sleep. Caleb and Beauregard, in their dreams, find themselves in a cold, dark space, unaware of each other. A faint red glow appears and burns into a massive glowing red eye that peers into each of them, inspecting and piercing as it connects. A single thought fills their minds, saying without language but with emotion, "Welcome." They hear the faint sound of thousands of voices and screams, saying, "Welcome." The eye closes and they both wake up, shooting up at the exact same time.

Beau grabs her notebook and begins trying to write it all down, and Caleb notices a single red eye on the back of her hand. Caleb pulls off his shirt and there is an eye on his right shoulder. The rest of the party wakes as Beau looks down at the notes she has written. They are just scratches and lines.

Featured Characters[]

The Mighty Nein[]

The new eyes - Tori Bennett

Fan art of the new eyes, by Tori Bennett.[art 4]

New[]

Returning[]

Mentioned[]

Quotations[]

  • Lucien: (about the Somnovem) When the greatest imaginations become one, and only know suffering over a thousand years, that builds into an extraordinary being without focus, an unstoppable force driven by instinct.[3]
  • Yasha: (about unicorns) I don't think I knew that they were real.
    Jester: What do you guys think I talk about all the time — fake stuff?
    Veth, Yasha, Beau, Fjord: Uhhh... [ ... ]
    Jester: What, do you think fairies are fake, too, you guys?
    Veth: No, no, those are clearly real.
    Caduceus: Fairies are one thing, but a protruding growth on the head of a horse — that's just madness.[4]
  • Lucien: (admiring Caleb's tower) Not going to lie, this is a very welcome change of pace. My thanks.
    Caleb: If you are a good boy, we can do this every night.
    Lucien: I like it when you're condescending. It's attractive.
    Caduceus: He's always condescending.
    Veth: He's always attractive.
    Lucien: That's dangerous.[5]
  • Beau: (about the book in Astrid's room in the tower) So it's set dressing.
    Caleb: It's a memory.
    Beau: A good one?
    Caleb: ... Yeah.
    Beau: Are all of these doors memories?
    Caleb: What do you think, Beauregard?
    Beau: I think I'm pretty smart.[6]
  • Jester: Why did you put all this at the top of your tower?
    Caleb: For the same reason that the tavern is up here. Wherever I go, they are with me. [ ... ] I have thought about it so much. I have thought about it so much. I don't even know if it's a good idea to have this. It probably isn't. But it's just my way. I'm just not allowed to forget it. [ ... ]
    Jester: It feels less like a memory and more like a punishment for yourself, Caleb.
    Caleb: If it exists here, it exists. It exists somewhere. [ ... ]
    Veth: Do you still wish to go back and undo it?
    Caleb: Of course. I regret it. I regret-- of course. [ ... ] Well, I understand that you all care for me very much, and I am very grateful for it. There is a part of me that will not-- (long pause) So, the tour is almost over.[7]
  • Beau: It's fascinating, the conflicting principles between these two floors. One dedicated to preserving the past exactly how you want it to stay, and the other dedicated to--
    Caleb: Endless possibility. They don't have to be exclusive.[8]

Inventory[]

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Identified 1 Fine studded leather armor Zana Deelio's body in A2 Fjord Caleb identified it as +2.
Expended 2 Olisuba leaves Veth Caleb and Veth Reduces exhaustion.
Relinquished 1 A small bit of tea Caduceus Eighth tower floor Caduceus left it on the table of the reproduction of Caleb's childhood home.

Trivia[]

  • Although this was the second episode shown in 2021, it was the first one taped after the almost four-week holiday break.
  • Sam's flask shows three pictures: a vampire-clown picture of Matt, then a picture of Travis, then below them a fusion of the two to form another picture of Travis from the unreleased movie To Have and To Hold. The back shows an old message saying "Turn your stuff into a Turtle" in the TMNT font, with an additional "Larry, I'm in DuckTales" scrawled at the top.

References[]

  1. See "Malice and Mystery Below" (2x119) at 2:20:51.  The armor was on the crushed body of Zana Deelio.
  2. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) and "Hush" (2x07).
  3. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 0:22:32.
  4. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 0:33:20.
  5. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 1:31:52.
  6. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 1:49:13.
  7. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 1:52:51.
  8. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 2:01:15.

Art:

  1. Fan art of Lucien after the tarot reading, by Ace Masters (source). Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of reading the book, by magma sheep (source). Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Jester and Lucien, by Aurex Aldori (source). Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of the new eyes, by Tori Bennett (source). Used with permission.


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