"Passed Through Fire" (1x69) is the thirteenth episode of the fifth chapter of Critical Role. Vox Machina is left shaken in the aftermath of their battle with Anna Ripley. They hurry back to Whitestone to save one of their own and end up being offered an alliance from the most unlikely source...
"In searching for these artifacts, they found one in the city of Ank'Harel, that had been taken from out from under their nose by a long-forgotten NPC named Ripley. They gave chase down to the Glintshore Island of the Hespet Archipelago, and upon storming the beaches and destroying her ship, they walked into the jungle where an ambush turned into folly. They charged into what appeared to be a couple of illusions as the floor detonated beneath them, sending them across the ground and starting an encounter with snipers in position, at half health and below for most of the party.
"They gave a very, very good fight and still managed to push through, unfortunately Dr. Ripley—with the reveal that she has now bound herself to Orthax, the shadow demon that once plagued Percy's inspiration and nightmares—bent on vengeance, managed to take Percy, slay him, and leave him cold on the ground. As a group, Vox Machina did manage to...dissect Dr. Ripley, very aggressively, and get vengeance back for their friend."
Part 1 of the episode focuses on the attempts to revive Percy. The group searches the area, finds a gate scroll, and debates about options for reviving Percy. After bidding farewell to the airship, the group teleports to Whitestone and rushes to Pike at the temple of Sarenrae for a resurrection. The first attempt fails because something is holding Percy back. It is revealed to be an enchantment on Ripley's gun. The second attempt involves impassioned pleas from several party members and, at last, a tearful and fearful Vox Machina manages to resurrect their fallen friend.
I write to let you and your companions know that the repair of Westruun is proceeding well. I will not bore you with the details. Suffice to say that our children are well-fed and safe, our elderly and infirm are cared-for and comfortable. Without the help of you and yours, this would not be the case.
The folk in charge argue constantly, but that is to be expected. And it is no bad thing; they all want the same good things in different ways. I listen, mostly, and do what I can to make sure they listen to each other. Without listening, nothing good can happen.
The town… when I say the repair is going well… it is a hard thing for me to talk about. I am not a particularly clever man, and much of this is new to me. When you make a mistake with metal, you can melt things down and start fresh. It is irritating, and it costs in time and soot and sweat, but it can be done. There is a comfort in iron, knowing that a fresh start is always possible. But a city is not a sword. It is a living thing, and living things defy simple fixing. Roots cannot be reforged. They scar, and broken branches must be cut and sealed with tar. And this makes me angry, as it always has, and my anger has no place to go.
It was easier when I was young. I could use my anger like a hammer against the world. I was so sure of myself, and my friends, and my rightness. I would hammer at the world, and breaking felt like making to me, and I was good at it. And while I was not wrong, neither was I entirely right. Nothing is simple.
I do not work in wood. I am not brave enough for that. There is a comfort in iron. A promise of safety. A second chance if mistakes are made. But a city is more a forest than a sword. No… it needs more tending than that. Perhaps a city is like a garden, then.
So these days, it seems I have become a gardener. I dig foundations in the earth. I sow rows of houses. I plan and plant. I watch the skies for rain and ruin. I cannot help but think that you would be better at this. But circumstance has put both of us in our own odd place. You are forced to be a hammer in the world, and my ungentle hands are learning how to tend a plot of land. We must do what we can do.
Did you know that there are some seeds that cannot sprout unless they are first burned? A friend once told me that. She was… she was a bookish sort. I think of gardening constantly these days. I wear your gift, and I think of you. And I think it is interesting that there are some living things that need to pass through fire before they flourish.
I ramble. You have the heart of a gardener, and because of this, you think of consequence, and your current path pains you. I am not wise, and I do not give advice, but I have come to know a few things. Sometimes breaking is making. Even iron can start again, and there are many things that move through fire and find themselves much better for it afterward.
I have enclosed a gift. Once it was a sword, but it has changed. It is a small thing and silly. Please forgive an old man for his foolishness. Still, I hope it brings you some small comfort.
I have just taken an audience with the Raven Queen, who has snuffed any hope of my redemption, for which I am truly grateful. With new clarity, I can finally see my life as a series of compounding poor choices. There was nothing I could have done to save my family, yet I still sold my soul in search of vengeance. Later, I allowed Ripley to leave, knowing full well she was a greater threat to the world than the Briarwoods would ever be. I traded the world’s safety for the belief that I could murder my way to peace, that if I could be a greater horror, it would bring my family back. Once this lie was shattered, I scrambled to find a solution, to make a deal, to undo my mistakes and balance the scales. I now understand that there are no scales. There is no redemption, and no ledger that judges me good or evil. I am free to simply be myself and live with the terrible mistakes I’ve made.
Tomorrow, I start upon a new path beyond the gods and demons who have tormented me, and it’s your friendship that makes this possible. Though a shadow lingers, the need for vengeance is gone. I will try and do my best for you all. I will strive to buy the future more time free of my legacy. I will stand against the children of my madness in hope, rather than in anger. And if you are reading this, then my travels on this path have come to an end.
Scanlan, thank you for destroying my gun. Do not let the weight of life’s consequences crush your bravado. It is your greatest weapon.
Grog, remember that your compassion has brought you this far, not just strength. For the record, I would have wiped the floor with you that time.
Vax, you often remind me of myself, and yes, I know that that is a bit of an insult. Stop indulging your desire to sacrifice and try being the man that these two women seem to think you are. They may actually need you one day.
Vex, you often remind me of myself, and that is the highest of compliments. I hope you free yourself of whatever voices haunt you. Also, since I’m gone, you’re the clever one now.
Keyleth, don’t let the world break you. Learn to forgive it for not living up to your standards. We promise to try harder.
Pike, it is wonderful to have you home. You bring everyone closer to their best selves, and I can only imagine what a burden that must be. Allow yourself some vice and failure. They’ll still love you just the same.
As to what must be done, I’d be content to be left in a ditch, my weapons and notes burnt and broken. But I imagine that would upset Cass. If you can, take me home. If you can’t, I understand. She knows where to find the rest of my instructions. Times being what they are, burn my work or bring it home in the hopes of aiding in the defense of Whitestone. I leave this judgment in your capable hands. Please find Ripley before she does too many terrible things and erase my legacy wherever you find it. That silence would be the greatest eulogy I could ever hope for.