"The Echo Tree" (1x63) is the seventh episode of the fifth chapter of Critical Role.  The members of Vox Machina prepare for their final approach to the cancerous tree, including a discussion between Keyleth and, seemingly, the bog itself.  The tree opens to them, and Vex'ahlia is offered a disturbing choice...

Synopsis

Pre-Show

The following pre-show content was removed from the final Geek & Sundry YouTube video:

  • The updated Critical Role fan art appreciation video aired.

Announcements

The following announcement content was removed from the final Geek & Sundry YouTube video:

  • The previous week's episode, "Uninviting Waters" (1x62), was performed live at Gen Con, and the cast enjoyed meeting all the Critters there.  The studio now seems quiet to Travis after the crowd at the theatre!
  • LootCrate is once again sponsoring Critical Role.  Use lootcrate.com/criticalrole for a $3 discount off the subscription cost.
    • LootCrate now also offers LootWear bags with apparel.
  • The Critical Role campaign setting book series was announced at Gen Con.  Matthew Mercer is writing it with the aid of James and Ryan at Geek & Sundry.  The first book on Tal'Dorei will be out in Spring 2017 (northern hemisphere).
  • Marisha Ray's new run of Signal Boost! with Matt Key started this week in episode 17, "Doctor Strange Love".
  • Episode 1 of the new Batman: The Telltale Series was released, with Travis Willingham playing Harvey Dent and Laura Bailey playing Catwoman.
  • World of WarCraft: Legion is in early release, with Liam O'Brien voicing Illidan Stormrage and Taliesin Jaffe voicing the male night elf demon hunter playable character.  Matthew Mercer voices several characters, including Aluneth, Greatstaff of the Magna (the arcane mage's artifact staff).
  • The 50th anniversary live-action opening credits aired after the announcements.

Previously on Critical Role

Vox Machina, having to find and collect the artifacts known as the Vestiges of Divergence to prepare themselves for battle against the Chroma Conclave, a group of extremely dangerous, ancient, chromatic dragons, who are wreaking havoc through the Tal'Dorei countryside, and get vengeance for the loss of Vex and Vax's [mother] in the past.  [...]

However, you guys have been making your way into the Feywild in search of a specific item, known as Fenthras, a bow of which Vex has been sort of keeping an eye on this whole time.  [...]  They've made their way through a number of strange, dangerous, and awkward encounters in the Feywild, including an encounter with their father [...] in Syngorn, which is currently hiding out in the Feywild until they have prepared for battle against Thordak, the Cinder King.

You went through the Moonbrush and parlayed between pixies and werewolves, you pushed past the Gilded Run, a series of enchanted, dangerous rivers that keep the Shademurk Bog in check from spreading across the land with its corruption, and you stepped into the Shademurk Bog, its strange, sludgy, black, corrupt interior, stumbling upon what appears to be a small hovel, built out of a tree trunk.  The gnomes, making their way towards [it] via Vex's broom, caught a partial glimpse of the creature that lived within.  A door was suddenly opened, and upon floating back, the broom was robbed of its magical enchantment temporarily.  The party regathered and are now deciding what to do here in the depths of the Shademurk Bog.  So, as the gnomes have returned, your broom has seemingly been proven to still function.[1]

Part I

After a brief discussion about what to do about the nearby hag abode, Vox Machina collectively agrees to bypass it. They stealth their way along the outskirts of the vicinity and follow the flow of the bog's black sludge. Along the way, Vex sees the door to the bog house close, and Pike's projected form disappears, once again leaving the party without their cleric. The group presses on, the bog's black goo growing thicker and tougher to move in the closer they get to the cursed tree.

Vex spies figures in the distance and Percy looks through Bad News's scope to see two trolls eating something. The group discusses going around when the trolls look around briefly and dive into the muck. Fearing an attack from below, Vex ascends through the canopy on her broom, spying the central mountain in the bog as well as the extremely tall cursed tree protruding from the swamp. Vex takes Vax on the broom, Keyleth Polymorphs Grog into a gorilla, she herself Beast Shapes into a giant eagle carrying Scanlan, and Percy drinks his Potion of Climbing. They all move through the bog canopy and enter a shaded nightfall in proximity to the giant tree. They observe the tree seems to move in a lifelike manner, almost like a giant organism. After scanning the tree and surrounding area, they try to rest in the canopy, but the branches seem to sag down throwing Percy and Keyleth to the ground.

They decide to reconvene in the Magnificent Mansion to brainstorm a plan of attack. Once inside, Percy and Keyleth craft swamp shoes for the group. Keyleth turns into an earth elemental and plunges into the bog in order to Earth Glide through the soil layer beneath the muck. She tests the roots of the cursed tree for any illusory magic, but it is solid and real. Grog attempts to level up the Titanstone Knuckles by destroying the kitchen, much to Scanlan's consternation. He herds Grog into the Mansion's training area and transforms into a triceratops that Grog beats on for a half hour, but the knuckles remain the same. Scanlan asks if he can try to level up Mythcarver by attacking Grog, to which Grog agrees. When the first try doesn't work, Grog urges him to try again. Mythcarver, however, remains unchanged.

Vex'ahlia stays in the doorway of the mansion, just looking out at the surrounding forest. Eventually, she sees a giant hole or clearing develop as if multiple trees suddenly shifted or disappeared. Keyleth goes outside and semi-submerges in the muck to cast Commune with Nature. She learns that a being named Saundor is at the heart of the bog corruption, that the tree is more than just a tree, and that it is harming the life around it. Vax remembers that an archfey here was the holder of Fenthras. He was betrayed and his heart became corrupted, and thus became the center of this corruption.

That night, Vax talks privately to Vex, saying she seemed more than usually on edge while they were in Syngorn. He noticed how much it affected her when Percy gave her the title of Baroness. He tells her she's already perfect, at least in her brother's eyes, and he hopes she believes in herself as much as he does.

The party then takes a long rest.

Break

Part II

In the morning, Vex goes to Percy and thanks him for the title. It's the only time anyone has stuck up for her that much other than her brother. But she's realized that means she now owes her allegiance and fealty to him. He corrects her - to Cassandra. The only property that comes with the title is about fifteen square feet that's currently a shrine to the Raven Queen, and there's the Hunt which she'll have to complete, but they can talk about all that later.

After breakfast, they don their new swamp shoes and approach the cursed tree at ground level. Vex notices that the hole in the trees she saw the previous night has filled in, but there is a new one further off. Once at the tree, Scanlan calls out to Saundor that they have come to pay homage, but there is no response. Casting Speak with Plants, Keyleth tries a similar appeal and much to their surprise, a voice responds, "I am here." She tells him that they would like to see his heart, and the vines around the tree open up to reveal a passage inside. While they are making their way through the narrow passage, Keyleth senses that Saundor is watching them. The entrance slams behind them and they are left in darkness in a large central chamber.

A thin, reedy, sourceless voice says, "I know you. The moment you touched my sickness, I knew you." Small patches of fungal clusters begin to illuminate the room with very low light. The vines are very slowly shifting in a constant churning mass of living tree, and the branches mat together into a conical ceiling, where hundreds of vines hang, slowly coalescing in the center. The voice comes again, asking why they have come, and Vex responds, "We've come to help you." A mass in the ceiling separates and a thin creature comprised of hundreds of plants and leaves, held aloft by connected tendrils of black plant matter, slowly descends from the ceiling. When its feet hit the ground, the tendrils detach and withdraw back into the ceiling.

Fan art of Vex'ahlia preparing to shoot Saundor, by David Rodrigues.[art 1]

Saundor addresses Vex'ahlia directly, by name, saying, "Sweet, broken Vex'ahlia. Unwanted daughter, unproven ally. Selfish and cruel. You drive those whom you would call family into danger and death for your own gain. I understand you." His face is soft and sad as he steps toward her, telling her she is lost and does not know who she is, shattered by expectation and presenting an illusion of confidence. But behind it, she is still the killer with a dagger in her hand who left a bloodied girl behind. They are not so different, and he just seeks someone to understand him, a companion once more. If she would embrace him, he could give her the means to protect her home, asking in return only her heart. Vex'ahlia replies, "My heart is someone else's." She pulls her bow. The tendrils reattach to Saundor's back, pulling him aloft and he asks, "All I ask is one who knows my pain. What is your answer?". Vex releases the arrow, wounding him. Bleeding black ichor, he reaches out and the vines give him a large curved bow. His body begins to grow as the vines curling around become part of him, and his face disappears behind an exterior of dark and gnarled wood.

Fan art of Keyleth in her fire elemental form, by Thomas Brin.[art 2]

The party attacks, significantly wounding Saundor, but he has lair attacks and legendary actions and resistances, including a poison cloud, spellcasting, extra attacks, and grappling vines from the walls. He sinks into the ground and vanishes, reappearing at the top of the tree and firing at them with Fenthras, sending many of his attacks toward Vex. He summons two treants, tree creatures that also attack the party causing large amounts of bludgeoning damage. Keyleth casts Tree Stride on herself, then goes into Fire Elemental form and enters one of the treants, causing it to burst out in flames, crack up the center, and burn at the top. Saundor casts Reverse Gravity, causing everyone save Vax to slam first into the ceiling and then the ground.

Grog's problem is trying to get up to reach Saundor to attack, and he climbs up the vines. He lets out a howl to summon Ukurat the werewolf, and gets in one attack of opportunity as Saundor disappears into the tree again emerging even higher. One of the treants succumbs to Keyleth's flames, and though she loses Tree Stride to a concentration check, she maintains fire elemental form. The party manages to kill the second treant, leaving only Saundor. Just then, Ukurat bursts in, breaking down the door, and climbs up the sides of the tree to Saundor, who vine-walks into the wall, reappearing to shoot twice more at Vex, knocking her unconscious. She is immediately brought back by Scanlan's Healing Word, and seeing this, Saundor fires again at her but misses. Scanlan then summons Bigby's Hand, which throws Keyleth in Fire Elemental form toward Saundor, also missing. Grog, who has been virtually out of the entire flight, flings his Javelin of Lightning at Saundor and gets the How do you want to do this?

Fan art of Vex'ahlia fighting Saundor, by Thomas Brin.[art 3]

Ukarat takes his leave, saying he's sorry he missed most of the action and that they're now even. Vex, near death's door, heals a bit. She is second-guessing her decision to attack, saying that perhaps she should have accepted his offer, but Percy assures her that Saundor was terrible. Keyleth also tells her that she shouldn't let any man tell her she needs him to be great, and she and Percy mock Saundor to cheer up Vex. Grog quietly asks Vex what Saundor meant when he talked to her about a bloody dagger, but she avoids answering. Keyleth does a Commune with Nature and learns that the tree is now a normal tree and life is returning. Scanlan hands Fenthras to Vex.

As they exit the tree, they see a very tall and thin regal figure with exaggerated feylike features, long ears that curl past his head, and wild, curly orange hair like a lion's mane that goes down to the lower back.

Fan art of Percy and Keyleth mocking Saundor, by Wendy Sullivan Green.[art 4]

He walks up clapping, and congratulates them. They've been fun to watch, and he gets so bored. He wished to say goodbye and good luck. When they ask his name, he says he is a simple wanderer who sees the landscape for artistic benefit. Garmelie is one of his names, but he prefers Artagan. He is unworried by Scanlan's casting of Otiluke's Resilient Sphere, but willingly returns the raven feather quill he took from them, in return for being released, and then vanishes. Keyleth casts Plane Shift and they return to Whitestone.

Featured Characters

Vox Machina

New

Returning

Inventory

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Expended 1 Potion of Climbing Percy Percy
Crafted 6 pairs Swamp shoes Percy The party
Acquired 1 Fenthras Saundor Vex'ahlia One of the Vestiges of Divergence
Transferred 1 Raven feather quill Artagan Vax'ildan

Quotations

  • Percival de Rolo: Life needs things to live.[3]
  • Percival de Rolo: The lovely thing about a title is that when used appropriately and properly, it’s mostly there to remind you you don’t really need it.[4]
  • Saundor: Sweet, broken Vex'ahlia. Unwanted daughter, unproven ally. Selfish and cruel. You drive those whom you would call family into danger and death for your own gain. I understand you.[5]
  • Saundor: I wish a bond. A companion once more. Would you embrace me? Embrace your rebirth? I could give you so much. I could give you the means to protect them. Your home.
    Vex'ahlia: What would you ask in return?
    Saundor: Your heart.
    Vex'ahlia: My heart is someone else’s. And I pull my bow.[6]
  • Scanlan: (When Keyleth turns into a fire elemental, enters a treant, attacks it from within while burning it, and prepares to stride into the other treant) We brought a gun to a tree fight.[7]
  • Scanlan: Come on, come on, get your Scanlan on. It's Thursday night, and it won't be long. Gonna play my flute, gonna play my shawm. It's Thursday night, and it won't be long 'Til I get your health up, Get your health up! I got all you need. No, I don't shoot bows, I don't swing swords, But damn, I can sing! (Scanlan's Healing Word for Percy,[8] based on "Cheap Thrills" by Sia)
  • Scanlan: 'Life needs things to live.' That's it. That's the whole quote. From earlier tonight. Percival von Fredericksteen von Rolo de Frankenstein de Rolo. Credit where credit is due. (Scanlan's Healing Word for Vex'ahlia)[9]
  • Scanlan: Oi! You fobbing, elf-skinned flap-dragon! You paunchy, ill-breeding lewdster! You unmuzzled, reeling, ripe mumble-news! (Scanlan's Cutting Words against Saundor),[10] based on a Shakespearean insult generator)
  • Scanlan: I'm giving you everything, All the health I bring, this is true. And, all I want from you, Is the promise you'll Kiss me forever. I'm (I'm) giving you everything, All the health I bring... (Scanlan's Healing Word for Vex'ahlia[11] based on "Say You'll Be There" by Spice Girls)


External Links

References

  1. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) from 0:00:06 through 0:01:52.
  2. Matthew Mercer spelled Saundor's name.
  3. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 1:15:53.
  4. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 1:39:55.
  5. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 2:01:24.
  6. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 2:05:38.
  7. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 2:40:47.
  8. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 2:37:11.
  9. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 3:08:27.
  10. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 3:16:53.
  11. See "The Echo Tree" (1x63) at 3:31:03.

Art:

  1. Fan art of Vex'ahlia preparing to shoot Saundor, by David Rodrigues (source).  Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of Keyleth in her fire elemental form, by Thomas Brin (source).  Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Vex'ahlia fighting Saundor, by Thomas Brin (source).  Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of Percy and Keyleth mocking Saundor, by Wendy Sullivan Green (source).  Used with permission.


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