"Solace Between the Secrets" (2x118) is the one hundred eighteenth episode of the second campaign of Critical Role. The Mighty Nein forge their own way across the tundra to another Aeorian excavation site, but things far more dangerous than frozen relics await them under the snow...

Synopsis

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Previously on Critical Role

So, last we left off: the Mighty Nein had made their way northward to Eiselcross, hired by Vess DeRogna, and then she died. They, however, continued with their guide Dagen to lead them through the path pre-set by Vess, towards the excavations of the ruins of Aeor, hitting a couple of the smaller excavations along the way.

Along this path, you met with dangers and some strange encounters with Lucien and the rest of the Tombtakers in the A5 excavation site. After fighting your way down, you caught up to them where they had seemed to procure a large threshold crest, and after a brief conversation, continued their trek northward with an invitation to follow suit, should you wish to learn more. You guys then headed back out into the frozen wastes, with a couple of choice encounters that involved turning dangerous things into turtles and really not having it be dangerous at all.

You continued your trek, and at the end of the second day, we left with you transforming three of your party into giant eagles, picking up the remainder of your troupe, and flying as best you could for as long as you could over the central mountain range that would normally bisect the paths northward to A2.

Part I

The party flies off, with Caleb, Jester, and Yasha in Polymorphed giant eagle form carrying the others and making good time. The spell fades as darkness falls, and Jester realizes she can only split the spell once per day to transform Yasha as well as herself to carry the whole party plus Dagen. They decide to camp and Caleb casts Widogast's Nascent Nein-Sided Tower where they spend the night.

Fan art of Veth sledding, by Gaelfox.[art 1]

The next morning they set off again through a fresh snowfall, becoming the same three giant eagles for an hour of flight before landing to continue on the ground. After about an hour, Veth borrows Caduceus's extra shield to use as a sled. Using Beau's Wind Fan, she speeds down the hill, sailing off a cliff edge at the bottom. She is quickly joined by a sledding Dagen and more slowly by Yasha riding Skingorger. Jester and Caduceus sled down halfway before wiping out, and they and the rest of the party then walk the remaining way down. The rest of the day they travel uneventfully.

That afternoon, Jester Sends to Yeza and confirms that he and Luc are fine. Shortly afterward, Jester receives a sending from an unfamiliar voice identifying himself as Uraya, an associate of Essek Thelyss, asking how far away they are, and she tells him about two or three days. Caduceus has her Send to his sister Calliope and Calliope reports they've planted the transformed refined residuum crystals[1] and they're taking root. At dinner, Caleb uses Major Image to create a spectral Hupperdook with fireworks, reminding Jester to Send to Kiri. Kiri is good, Hupperdook is "interesting", and she's built something.

Suddenly imagery fills your mind - familiar imagery of a living city, flexing and shifting. You see this odd architecture, both ancient but beautiful and alien in ways that you've never really seen except for glimpses of the first excavation you saw. You see imagery of this massive, flexing, in some ways still and stone, in some ways flesh and breathing, city-ship-entity, gliding through the astral expanse. And you sense the Tombtakers, trudging through the snow, satchels half-full with necessary gathered components, and a devious intent leading them. … You sensed this bottomless hunger that seemed to emanate from it. You saw a shifting piece of ethereal rock draw near before the island stretched like a pseudopod and consumed it and expanded ever so slightly. You remember seeing the streets empty, but you could hear voices - hundreds of voices, sourceless, whispering, screaming, non-stop, this nightmarish cacophany of torment and confusion and laughter and memory. And yet, there were still minds among them that were stronger than the others.
– 
Jester's vision[2].
[!h]

The next day they walk into an ice storm. They make normal distance but it costs all of them two points of exhaustion the following day, except Yasha who takes only one point. Their walking speed halved, they Polymorph again and make up some of the distance. Once back on the ground, they spot a group of seven statues encircling a low pedestal. Caleb detects an intense aura of divination magic from each faintly warm statue. The party investigates, and finally Jester goes into the center of the circle and stands on the platform.

She feels the statues' eyes look into hers and voices fill her mind, saying: "Do you give to receive? Ask, and we take." She is unable to move and realizes she must ask a question, which is: "What are the Tombtakers trying to bring back?" Their eyes glow, and she sees once again the living city in the Astral Plane the party first saw in their shared vision at Vokodo's death.[3] She also sees the Tombtakers trudging through the snow with satchels half-full of gathered components. As the vision ends, she feels a cold sensation in her chest of something being pulled from her, and the party notices she looks about five years older. The circle disappears when they turn away.

The next day is clear and passage is safe in eagle form. They stop for the night in Caleb's tower, and send Dagen up to bed. Jester then casts Sending to Yudala Fon at the Cobalt Soul: "From Expositor Lionett. Deep in Eiselcross. Pursuing Nine Eyes. Any information or etymology on words "Cognouza" or "Somnovem"? Work fast. Will check back in morning." In response, Yudala agrees to start the archivists working on it.

Caduceus then casts Speak with Dead on Vess DeRogna's body, asking:

  • What is Somnovem? - They are the minds of Cognouza, the ones who orchestrated its escape, and wish now to return.
  • Escape from what? - The destruction of Aeor. They betrayed their own city to ensure their survival.
  • Why did you want to bring back the Somnovem? - To become one of the minds is to receive the lost knowledge of the greatest magocracy in history.
  • We are collecting the keys to complete this. What do we need at A2? - It requires the means to come back. Enough crests to replace those lost when it found the storm.
  • Where must the ritual be completed? - The gate lies at the center of the city's ruin.

Caduceus suggests telling Essek everything, but Caleb doesn't trust him enough to tell him that there is the potential to plug into the greatest arcane minds in history. Jester Sends to him, saying they'll arrive at A2 tomorrow and there's a group of villains on the way that have to be stopped before they release something terrible. He responds that he'll help if they need him.

Fan art of Fjord and Jester's kiss, by Toby Sharp.[art 2]

The party goes to bed, but Fjord goes to Jester's room. He tells her he was really worried about her when she was inside the circle of statues, and he wants her to be careful. She agrees that she'll try to be safe and so should he. He pulls her in for a kiss, and she responds happily, noting kissing is more fun when you're not dying.

Break

Part II

In the morning, Jester Sends to Yudala Fon for a progress report. The Cobalt Soul has discovered that the Cognouza Ward was a section of the city of Aeor. "Somnovem" has to do with the leadership of that ward.

The party presses on toward A2, eventually arriving at the snow-covered site. Caleb's Detect Magic shows that it is a permanently installed illusion and finds the opening. Dagen goes off to hide while waiting for them and the party enters, lowering themselves into an almost entirely covered pit with chambers to the northeast, southeast, and west. Jester casts Locate Object looking for a threshold crest but finds nothing.

Fan art of Iver Climtaver, by oliviahintz.[art 3]

Suddenly, a voice rings out, commanding them to halt. They recognize its Dwendalian Empire accent and Caleb responds, telling him they've been sent by Vess DeRogna of the Cerberus Assembly. A tiny gnome steps out, introducing himself as Iver Climtaver, here working under Zana Deelio, who is an apprentice or annex to Ludinus Da'leth.

Iver is waiting for the five other members of his party to return - they've been gone into the chamber to the west for some time although he's not sure exactly how long. Caleb gives him some boba since his supplies are running low and he's had to get creative for food. He's heard weird noises from the other chambers like a baby crying, but lower-pitched. Caleb warns him other explorers may be arriving behind the party; they are dangerous, and he should stay hidden from them.

Fan art of the ruins of Aeor, by CT Chen.[art 4]

They decide to head southeast first. It opens into a ruined and partially crushed cobblestoned street. The architecture somewhat reminds Veth and Jester of the machine hidden behind the ice of Gelidon's lair.[4] Further in they find a very strongly magical glowing blue dome. The signature of the magic is unfamiliar but closest to abjuration, and within it are three human and elven figures apparently trapped in time while running in fear. Jester Communes with the Traveler who tells her they probably don't need what's in the dome, and the threshold crest they seek is probably to the west. Veth explores a chamber above them, finding a box holding a strange device, which Caleb Identifies (while being carried back out of the area on the shoulders of Beau and Yasha) as an "Intuit Charge".

They all enter the western chamber and find a long, wide corridor, filled with rubble and severed dangling tubes. Eventually, a heavy metallic door blocks further passage which Yasha and Jester succeed in getting back on track and it opens by sliding up. They find a large chamber with a raised platform, containing tables, tools, and large pieces of broken glass like shattered containers, and in a recess in the ceiling above them are numerous unshattered glass structures still held aloft. Tubes lead to the containers and out of sight. Caleb casts Comprehend Language to read some signs: "Development Laboratory Procedures", "Primordial Applications", "Biological Weapons Research", and above one of two buttons, "Emergency Flush".

Fan art of the creature in A2, by Foltzy.[art 5]

Jester recasts Locate Object looking for a threshold crest, and gets a faint draw from behind another metallic door marked "Biological Weapons Research". Their efforts to open it fail, and they decide to try pushing one of the buttons, but first Caleb casts the hut. Veth's Mage Hand then fails to depress the unmarked button and nothing happens. Fjord tries touching it with his hand. It glows and warms and begins to rise as the door they entered through slams closed. They step forward and begin hearing wailing, like a deeper-pitched baby. Jester invokes Duplicity and they back up hurriedly as heavy footsteps approach through the darkness. They prepare for battle and watch in horror as a warped creature enters, with clusters of human arms around a large, bulbous human head and cherub-like face, a split open jaw with hundreds of teeth and a massive body with thick hide.

Featured Characters

The Mighty Nein

New

Returning

Mentioned

Inventory

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Transferred 1 Goggles of Night Beau Veth Loaned for the descent into A2.
Transferred a few Beads of Nourishment Caleb Iver Climtaver
Acquired 1 Box containing an Intuit Charge Room in the ruins of A2 Caleb Veth found it and gave it to Caleb to identify. Has a rarity of "very rare".
Expended Unknown Jester's magic paint Jester Door to the lab in A2 Painted a little hole in the door, but it failed to work.

Quotations

  • Fjord: "I told your mother I would look after you."
    Jester: "I'll be fine, Fjord. We always are."
    Fjord: "I care very much for you."
    Jester: "Really? (long pause) Is it because I have chiseled cheekbones now?"
    Fjord: "It's the longer horns."
    Jester: "Yeah, it really does it, doesn't it?"
    Fjord: "Yeah, it gives you an intimidating look." And I pull her in. "Can I kiss you?" (She nods.) I kiss her. "I don't know how this will go, but I can't promise that I'm going to let you just throw yourself at this thing. I don't think I can do that."
    Jester: "I don't have an argument. Kissing is a lot more fun when you're not dying."
    Fjord: "And not when you're underwater drowning."
    Jester: "Yeah, yeah, that's what I mean. I don't know what to do with myself anymore."
    Fjord: "I've wanted to do it for a while. I'm kind of a big coward."[5]

Trivia

  • The word "Somnovem" is probably based on two Latin roots: "somn" meaning "sleeping" or "dreaming", and "novem" meaning "nine". Thus, the Sleeping Nine.[6]

References

  1. Refined residuum crystals were acquired by Caduceus in "Refjorged" (2x76) at 4:05:35, transformed by Kravaraad's lava in "Refjorged" (2x76) at 4:11:27, and further transformed at The Menagerie's pool in "Family Shatters" (2x96) at 3:04:21. Caduceus gave them to Calliope to return to the Blooming Grove in "Family Shatters" (2x96) at 3:08:21 per his vision from the Wildmother at the Arbor Exemplar in "Chases and Trees" (2x65) at 2:57:15.
  2. See "Solace Between the Secrets" (2x118) at 1:39:53.  Continued at 2:13:14
  3. See "Rumble at Rumblecusp" (2x105) at 4:37:01.
  4. See "Rime and Reason" (2x75) at 4:11:16.
  5. See "Solace Between the Secrets" (2x118) at 2:23:46.
  6. See "An Open Window" (2x114) at 3:10:10.

Art:

  1. Fan art of Veth sledding, by Gaelfox (source).  Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of Fjord and Jester's kiss, by Toby Sharp (source).  Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Iver Climtaver, by oliviahintz (source).  Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of the ruins of Aeor, by CT Chen (source).  Used with permission.
  5. Fan art of the creature in A2, by Foltzy (source).  Used with permission.


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