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List of Transcripts

Pre-Show[]

TALIESIN: Pissblossom.

MATT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to tonight's episode of Critical Role, where Taliesin jumps the gun and says his phrase too late.

TRAVIS: Way too late, man! Way too late!

MATT: Welcome. Happy to be back. Very emotional episode last week. We're going to kick it into the next step of Vox Machina's adventure this week, and then, me, Marisha, and Taliesin will be gone next week, so there will not be progression in this current storyline. However, Liam O'Brien over there has been cracking up an awesome one-shot adventure for our remaining players and a few guests. Liam, if you want to talk a little about it?

LIAM: Yeah, I'll tell you who's coming on by. Sure, I'll say who's coming on by. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Ashly Burch. And I don't want to spoil it, but Matt knows. It's different.

MATT: Yeah, it's going to be fun. This is Liam's brainchild, and I'm excited to see them play through it.

LIAM: It could blow up in my face.

MATT: I think you'll be fine. If the last game was any indication, I think you'll be fine. All right, other announcements: once again, we have our wonderful sponsor with a new theme kicking in. Sam, you want to take this away?

SAM: Yes, I do, Matt Mercer. Guys: Loot Crate. Loot Crate has been such a great sponsor all year long, and we got another great week to share with you. Speed is this month's theme of the Loot Crate. I'm going to read this script first. Lace up your sneakers or rev your engines. September's all about speed. Feel the adrenaline with some of pop culture's quickest vehicles and characters. High-octane assortment of goodies from Batman, the Flash, the Arrow, the Battlestar Galactica, the Iron Man, the Gone in the Sixty the Seconds.

(laughter)

SAM: It includes two collectibles, a figure, and as always, a monthly t-shirt. I'm wearing a t-shirt. Not from this month, but from last month.

LAURA: It's got Futurama stuff on it.

SAM: Guys, I'm an actor. Why would you listen to me about this stuff? I'm a liar and a deceiver. But what you can listen to, and what you know in your heart, is hardcore facts. I'm talking statistics. I'm talking math. I've broken this down for you guys. If you use the promo-code CriticalRole, you'll get $3 off your first month. Doesn't sound like a lot, you think? Oh, that's 1.2 gallons of gas at the Quik Mart down the street. Regular, unleaded. Or let's say you're generous. You give Loot Crates to everyone in your family. That's four Loot Crates; that's $12. That is 25 and half Forever stamps that you've just gotten for free. For free! Let's say you're more generous than that. You give Loot Crates to everyone in your whole company. All 266 employees. You've just saved enough money to buy a 2002 Kia Sedona with 181,000 miles on it. The transmission is going out, and it doesn't shift in the higher gears, but it is for $800 on Craigslist. Go look for it right now, and it will be yours for free, essentially, if you buy 266 subscriptions to Loot Crate. 266.67. Okay, that is hardcore facts. You can't argue with that. Go out. Subscribe now. Save money. Get stamps and gas.

LIAM: If you don't slow your roll, Loot Crate is going to poach you.

MATT: All right, thank you, Sam.

SAM: Don't forget to use the promo code CriticalRole.

MATT: Perfect. (laughs) All right, other announcements that we have. Let's see. Projects that have come up. They recently announced and put up the English cast video for Final Fantasy XV. I have the pleasure of playing Cor Leonis. It's a lot of fun. As a longtime Final Fantasy fan, being a part of this means a great deal, and I'm excited for the game that comes out in November. So if you haven't checked out the video, do so and you can watch me wax poetic briefly about my love of the series. Look forward to that.

MARISHA: Soundbiting it up in that.

MATT: Yeah, man! They chose my soundbite for the end of it. I was like (explosion). Felt cool about that.

MARISHA: It's like you're an actor.

MATT: It's like I played a bunch of them. Also, Deus Ex came out. Mankind Divided. I am scattered throughout the game with a very harsh Russian, Eastern European dialect, as many characters, probably yelling at you or being shot in the face. So enjoy that, as well.

TRAVIS: I love shooting you in the face.

MATT: Hey, you know? Everyone's got a skillset. Anybody else have anything they want to announce?

SAM: We're nominated for an award, Matt.

MATT: That's right! We just got nominated for a Streamy. A Streamy award under gaming. Games. It's awesome!

SAM: It's our first nomination.

TALIESIN: It's like the Kids' Choice Awards for adults.

LAURA: But it's not. Fans don't get to vote.

MATT: It is now decided by whatever the Illuminati Streamy committee is.

SAM: Wait, fans don't get to vote? I'm sure they can influence things.

MARISHA: Well, they nominated us, so we got this far because of them, and now we lose to Markiplier.

MATT: Love you, Mark. We're just excited to be in that ring. Thank you guys for being so awesome and supporting us, and hopefully some of us will get to dress up fancy and show up and go home proud that we went.

TALIESIN: We'll plug our other friends who are also nominated.

MATT: And Muzzled the Musical, which I co-created, which Ashly Burch stars in, who you'll see next week, that got nominated for best indie.

MARISHA: And Sean Becker. Who's my director for Signal Boost. All in the fam.

MATT: It's good. Awesome. Anything else you guys want to talk about?

TRAVIS: Yes! In the world of sportsball, the 2016 future Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys are playing the Seattle Seahawks right now! So if you see me looking down, it's not because I'm not paying attention. I'm watching football.

TALIESIN: I have never cared so much about football in my entire life as I do right now. Which is saying, I don't necessarily care a lot. But definitely–

LAURA: More than it was.

TRAVIS: Everybody send Sam a tweet. He's going to be crying at the outset of his team. Sam, a moment of silence.

TALIESIN: I think he's lighting the set on fire.

LAURA: Sam walked away so he wouldn't be on the same set as you were saying that.

MATT: Anyone else have anything they want to talk about before we jump into the game?

TALIESIN: No announcements until I get back, I think.

MATT: All righty. That being the case, then let's go ahead and hop into tonight's episode of

Critical Role.

[dramatic music]

Part I[]

MATT: Hello, and welcome back. So to get you guys caught up: our band of adventurers, Vox Machina, in raising an army, hopefully, of allies and powerful artifacts to face the Chroma Conclave, a gathering of powerful, dangerous chromatic dragons that have been tearing through the countryside of Tal'Dorei and distant Wildemount. They have recently found some information, had a close call with the Frigid Doom known as Vorugal. The white dragon flyover did not pierce through the illusionary barrier that was placed with the help of Allura, Gilmore, and Pike, there in Whitestone. You then decided to go ahead and using that cue, before the dragon returned to its current roost that it has created over the ruins of the city of Draconia, you traveled across to the continent of Wildemount. You had a meeting with the Ravenites, a rather subverted, long-enslaved offshoot species of dragonborn kin, tailless and now surviving amongst a recent winter that seems to have come with the ruin the dragon brought. You also discovered that most of Draconia and its royal elite have been slaughtered as a means of the dragon establishing its dominance and the worship of the Ravenites that survived the fall of Draconia. You made a deal with Tooma, the current clan leader of the remaining Ravenites, that you would aid in destroying this dragon, basically the master that they replaced the Draconians with when it came. However, to ensure your help there was a two-week time limit, and if you do not return before then they would see you as not keeping your end of the deal, and they would then, instead, direct the dragon towards what was going to be Whitestone until you altered her memory, which she recalls now as Emon. Anyway, before you could be finding your way home, one of the corpses upon one of the ice spire spikes outside of the dragon's new nest, Percy saw to be the remains of your long-traveled friend, Tiberius Stormwind. The party had a fateful farewell; set him to rest within the ruins of the nearby library, fallen from the islands of Draconia; said your goodbyes; and then, upon prepping a bit, plotting, and planning, found your way back to Whitestone to continue the next leg of your adventure. And that is where we begin. You have now taken some time in your own respective rooms. It's still late afternoon, going into dusk. You all took some time to yourselves within Castle Whitestone to take a short rest and ruminate over these recent events and reveals. The evening sun draws close to dusk. It is your choice which you wish to do. If you wish to spend the evening resting here and then leaving first thing in the morning, that is up to you.

LIAM: Taking the initiative. This one came to my room, then inside. I think we've probably been quiet for a while, staring at the ceiling, and after a while finally say: We've really fucked things up, haven't we?

MARISHA: In which particular way do you mean, aside from all of them?

LIAM: I need to tell you. I know with all that's happened, between my new patron and my sister pretending to gag literally every time we attempt to share a word together, and mostly my own being fucked up in the head for weeks now, that I've pushed all of you away. You most of all. Because I've been afraid you would– I'm sorry. And you didn't deserve any of that. Keyleth, I need you to know, through all of that, everything, nothing has changed about how I– We've had so many near-misses. And now, finding Tiberius. Death is unavoidable. And it's all the more reason for life to be lived. And it doesn't matter to me what this is. What we call it. If you are willing to spend some time, any time, with me, then I will simply count myself lucky to have it. You're very dear to me.

MARISHA: You're talking too much. It's not like I've made myself very accessible either. It's not on you. It might be a little on you, but it's on both of us. Anyway, my point is: for the longest time, I was terrified that I was going to lose you. First to death and then to the Raven Queen, which is still kind of like death, and then ultimately to yourself. And then I had an interesting talk with Pike recently, and she said something that really stood out to me, and that was that some people just have more of themselves to give. And I realized this whole time that I was afraid of losing you to a future that ultimately has not yet been written, which is stupid.

LIAM: Maybe so.

MARISHA: But you're ultimately right. We have nothing to lose. I love you, Vax. I have for a long time. And I'm sorry for being me, that it took me this long to say it.

LIAM: (sniffles) I'm sorry.

MARISHA: Yeah. Me, too.

LIAM: I love you. That's pretty fucking great.

MARISHA: That is pretty great, yeah. High five. Yeah!

LIAM: I tackle her into a bit of a hug into the bed.

LAURA: Oh!

LIAM: We're already on the bed.

MARISHA: And that's it for now.

SAM: Pan to the fireplace.

TRAVIS: (laughing) Pan to the fireplace!

MATT: All right, so. Vox Machina. Taking your time to mourn in your own interesting ways. What is your path of action? What is your course, going forward?

LIAM: Sleeping in.

MARISHA: Bacon.

LAURA: Yeah, I think we need to spend at least the night in Whitestone and get up in the morning.

MATT: Okay. So you've all spent the majority of it in your respective rooms– most of you in your respective rooms– figuring out where you are as a person and where this story leads you. After an evening's rest, the next morning comes around, breakfast is already prepared by the servants in the castle, though maybe not the amount of bacon you were hoping, and easily rectified upon request. It's at your disposal. There is a tension in the city; the barrier remains up. As you're having breakfast, you can see Zahra wander in at the smell of bacon, glances over the rest of you, still holding a book at her side that she slams closed. “Oh. I'm glad to see you're all right, and you're safe. Please tell me there's more bacon.”

TRAVIS: Not for long.

LAURA: There's more coming, dear.

TRAVIS: What she said.

MATT: She comes and sits down and spends breakfast with you guys, catching up on what has transpired and what your current plan of action is.

TALIESIN: Zahra, it occurs to me, you come from a family with power, connections.

MATT: “Kind of. Let's just say we're estranged at the moment.”

TALIESIN: Well, we're looking for any ally we could, and we were curious if–

MATT: “You will find no allies where you're asking. Believe me, I'd be happy to offer if we could, but no.”

TALIESIN: I had a feeling. It just felt worth asking.

MATT: “It's all right. I'm going to continue with my research, since the rest of the ziggurat clan are now scattered about or maintaining that barrier. Guess who has to do the research in the meantime?” And she rolls her sleeves up; you can see the slightly smudged dirt across her reddish skin. She's been hard at work digging around trying to figure out what the basis of this enchantment beneath the city still is.

LAURA: Sorry you can't be out having your fun, dear.

MATT: “I'm certain time will allow me at some point. It better. I'm going a little stir-crazy.” She grabs the bacon from the table and walks out of the room.

TALIESIN: Is Kashaw around by any chance, as well?

MATT: “I'm sorry, what?”

TALIESIN: Kashaw. Is Kashaw around?

MATT: “I haven't seen him for a couple days. I've been underground most of the time.”

TALIESIN: Yes, of course. We have to send a letter to the Slayer's Take at some point. That should happen sooner rather than later.

MARISHA: Trying to wrangle a beast?

TALIESIN: Trying to wrangle a beast or seeing if they know of anything that's in the vicinity that we can at least feed to it in the meantime.

LAURA: Maybe we can stop through on our way back. We are going to Marquet, aren't we?

TALIESIN: I would hope so.

MARISHA: And what's our intent in Marquet? To get the next Vestige?

TALIESIN: To get to the next Vestige and to perhaps make some friends. The more the merrier.

LIAM: And the means of travel is?

TALIESIN: We have a sigil. We can teleport.

LAURA: Gilmore. Gilmore's from Marquet.

TALIESIN: This is a teleport sigil. This is not going to require his attention.

MARISHA: Yeah, it's located in Whitestone Castle, correct? The teleport sigil?

MATT: It's actually a sigil by memory that he has, and it's a spell that he casts. It's not a permanent fixture in the city.

TALIESIN: So we need him, but he can do it.

SAM: Yeah, but he's concentrating on the defensive wall right now.

LAURA: It's up. As long as the dragon's not here and attacking.

MATT: It's a renewal feature. He has to spend some time each day maintaining it. He's not stuck there the whole time.

SAM: That would be awesome.

TALIESIN: The worst job in Whitestone.

SAM: Before we go to Marquet. Let's say Marquet takes 13 days.

TALIESIN: That's an awful long time.

SAM: I agree, but let's say it does. Do we know what we're doing with regards to Draconia when we come back? Do we have some sort of a plan? We're getting a beast. That's all we know.

TRAVIS: Yep, we've got it covered. It's planned out to a T.

LAURA: How are we even going to get a beast?

TALIESIN: Talk to the Slayer's Take and see what is already on the continent.

SAM: What constitutes a beast? Because me and Keyleth can make some beasts.

LAURA: I think a large enough beast to attract Vorugal.

SAM: Like a triceratops?

TALIESIN: No.

MARISHA: They said it hunted something really intense recently.

LAURA: He said they hunted remorhaz?

MARISHA: Yeah, they went to the ocean.

SAM: What is that?

MATT: Roll an intelligence check.

MARISHA: But I wrote it down.

SAM: For me. Ooh, a 19! Plus two.

MATT: That's what they look like.

LAURA: Oh. Those are big and scary.

SAM: Is it a gargantuan monster?

MATT: They're huge. Most definitely. They're nasty; they burrow. The actual blood within their body is heated to such a degree that even to be in a scuffle with it is to scar yourself with flame and heat.

SAM: And it was bored with that?

TALIESIN: We want to find a creature that would threaten a medium-sized city.

MARISHA: So it wants competition.

TALIESIN: We want to wear it down a bit before we go in for the attack. We want it to be breathing heavily.

SAM: And how are we going to get this creature there?

TALIESIN: We're going to find something that's already on the continent.

LAURA: And Vorugal will go to the creature.

TALIESIN: He will be happy to attack it.

TRAVIS: Can you put it in your necklace?

SAM: On the continent. What continent? The Draconian continent?

TALIESIN: Yes.

SAM: So we have to go back there to search!

MARISHA: The Slayer's Take should know. They've got contracts everywhere.

SAM: All right. This is slightly a better plan than I thought.

MARISHA: We thought about it a little.

TALIESIN: Six people cannot wage a war.

SAM: Then we should go talk to the Slayer's Take now so they can get started on this hunt.

TALIESIN: We're going to send them a letter.

SAM: A letter?!

TALIESIN: Yes.

SAM: Who's the letter carrier and how's he going to get out of this city that's protected by an invisible wall?

TALIESIN: We're going to make Kashaw take the letter.

LIAM: When we were last there, hadn't they talked about a brass or bronze dragon? But there are brass dragons, as you well know.

LAURA: I know, because I'm an expert.

LIAM: Is that overkill? We'd have to convince a dragon, not capture a dragon.

TALIESIN: It would probably kill the dragon.

MARISHA: Wait, are we talking about capturing another dragon to fight another dragon?

SAM: No, we're talking about convincing a dragon to go fight this dragon that would clearly kill it.

TALIESIN: I was going to find Kashaw and see if he would run the letter to the Slayer's Take and be our emissary and convince them to do this so that we're not doing everything ourselves.

SAM: Wait, is there anyone else who can make this message delivery faster or safer?

TALIESIN: Literally everyone. If we could find a child in a pub who could take it.

SAM: No, but faster and safer.

TALIESIN: Kashaw is possibly slower than a child.

MARISHA: No more small boys, Percy. No more.

LAURA: We could ask Zahra, but she's busy with research.

TRAVIS: I think Kashaw is a great people-person.

TALIESIN: Just to get rid of him, they would say yes.

SAM: All right.

LIAM: He wants to help. He does.

LAURA: Yeah. Let's go find Kashaw.

MATT: You guys head outside of Castle Whitestone. Not far from the base of the pathway into the actual city, you can see there is a series of newer-outfitted guards. They are people being trained in the force of combat. You can see that there's definitely a ramping-up of the defense force for Whitestone as a precaution.

MARISHA: Do they look like townspeople?

MATT: Many of them look able-bodied and people that are strong and fit, but they do appear to be civilians that have had to take up the cause just in case.

MARISHA: Any kids?

MATT: No kids, no. They all look to be at least of strapping age, to be carrying a weapon.

SAM: Strapping boys?

TALIESIN: Strapping. The strapping age.

LAURA: Did we ever talk to Cassandra or anyone else about starting an alarm system here?

SAM: Yeah, and they were working on it already, weren't they?

TALIESIN: No, they started. They are working on it now.

SAM: I think it's done.

TALIESIN: I'd buy that. Yes, it was proposed.

MARISHA: I do want to maybe talk to Gilmore, though.

TALIESIN: Well, we're going to have to if we leave the city, anyway.

MATT: As you are watching the group go through their different weapon practice moments, they're breaking off into small sparring groups and they're going up against ramshackle built training dummies. There are a few that are doing forms in succession. (grunts) You know the deal. You do see on the opposite end that the person who is currently helming one section of the training is Kashaw. You can see a bunch of shield and spear fighters right now, and he's basically giving them instruction on how to use a shield defensively and the spear offensively simultaneously.

LAURA: Maybe he's not the best messenger if he's training our armies.

TALIESIN: This is not an army. This is something for the population to do while they pass time. The dragon shows up, they're all going to die, no matter how many times they learn how to put the spear forward.

MARISHA: As cynical as Percy is being right now, he's right.

LAURA: All right.

MARISHA: But it doesn't mean that Kashaw is going to think that it's any less important, and I'm sure he might not take it as a compliment if we ask him to be the messenger boy.

SAM: It's an incredibly important mission!

LAURA: It's not just a messenger, it's defeating a dragon.

TALIESIN: And it's convincing the Slayer's Take to join.

SAM: The Slayer's Take, if I recall, doesn't do things for free. We're going to have to pay for this, even though we're members.

TALIESIN: We're going to have to bring them some dragon parts.

LAURA: No, we take a contract on a really large creature, and then we let the dragon do the work for us. We get the best of both worlds.

TALIESIN: Ooh, that's very clever.

SAM: We take a contract on an existing creature that we have to somehow find in Draconia.

TRAVIS: No, we bring the dragon to the creature.

SAM: How?

LAURA: He hunts them. That's what he does.

SAM: Not transcontinentally.

TRAVIS: You can't broker a fight between a huge beast and a white dragon?

TALIESIN: We could sell tickets.

TRAVIS: I think you've done better.

LIAM: We don't necessarily have to sacrifice a dragon. We're fighting a war here. They're fuckers.

SAM: No, we're not talking about sacrificing a dragon. We're talking about finding a beast.

LIAM: Well, I'm talking about a dragon. Couldn't we try to talk a dragon into helping us do what we're doing? They're not all evil, are they? They're not!

MARISHA: Yeah, but do we know of any other dragons here?

LAURA: Well, then we're going to have to fucking go to the Slayer's Take.

TRAVIS: Can we go somewhere in the next 60 seconds?

LAURA: This'll be great.

MARISHA: Let's talk to Kashaw. We go up and we talk to Kashaw.

MATT: As you approach, you see him leaning in with younger, early twenties-looking men. A bit scrawny; they're still armored; the helmet looks a little lopsided. Kashaw's like, “You're not supposed to put the shield away. (sighs) Oh, wonderful. Take five. Take 30. So. You're alive. That's great. I'm excited. What can I do for you?”

TALIESIN: Kashaw, how would you like to be anywhere else other than here right now?

MATT: “Depends on where and what you'd have me doing.”

TALIESIN: That's exactly the sort of enthusiasm I was hoping for. We have need of an emissary to the Slayer's Take. We need to convince them to help us kill the next dragon.

LAURA: And Vanessa really likes you.

TALIESIN: She does.

MARISHA: We need a big beast on Draconia.

MATT: “So you're saying that I go back to frozen-ass Vasselheim to deliver a paper message to the headmistress, whom already I am so happy to be away from.”

MARISHA: Yeah. See?

MATT: He glances over at the rest of the soldiers. “Yeah, I'll take it.”

(laughter)

LAURA: Thank you.

TALIESIN: We are in your debt. I'll have the paper drawn up, and anything you can do to put the weight of the situation behind us and make sure they know how clear it is and how necessary this is and how desperate we are.

MATT: “I'll do my best to muster some semblance of emphasis.”

TALIESIN: And we'll figure out ways to make sure there's money in it for them, or at least dragon parts.

MATT: “All right. Give me a list of what you've got to offer. I'll bring it to them.”

TALIESIN: Excellent.

SAM: What do we got to offer?

LIAM: We don't have the troll dick anymore. That's gone.

LAURA: We have 40 pounds of dragonhide. Black dragonhide.

TALIESIN: And white dragonhide.

LAURA: We don't have white dragonhide.

TALIESIN: We have white scales.

TRAVIS: We have 64 pounds of scales from me. We have four claws left.

SAM: I have a Tome of Leadership worth 30,000 gold.

LAURA: No, that's Keyleth's, remember? In the next century, when she's still living.

SAM: We'll get it back before 100 years are up.

MARISHA: I'll lend it to them for 100 years.

SAM: A 99-year lease.

TRAVIS: And we got umber hulk pieces, too.

TALIESIN: Mostly, I was thinking of also offering them whatever we can take from the dragon itself once it's destroyed.

LIAM: I was about to say, yeah, we put into the contract that it has the remains of the beast we take down, which we will take down.

TALIESIN: We keep some scales, we keep some teeth; we split it.

LIAM: Sure, as a souvenir, right. Yes.

MARISHA: We're basically doing a contract for free.

LIAM: It's a very large creature.

SAM: That's provided we kill it. If we lose, they get nothing. I'm just saying, from their perspective, we're offering them literally nothing.

MARISHA: If they lose, they don't lose anything either, right?

LAURA: No, they do. They lose a contract.

MARISHA: But wouldn't the contract just go right back into cycle?

LAURA: No, if the dragon kills the creature and then we all die and we can't harvest it, the Slayer's Take doesn't have anything from its previous contract.

LIAM: But that could happen with any contract. Any band of idiots could go die on the battlefield.

MARISHA: They're used to having people die.

LAURA: Well, fuck it.

MARISHA: I think Grog's getting antsy.

TALIESIN: I like this. I'm going to have it drawn up.

LIAM: I look at Grog and see he's really bored. I pick up a wooden sword and I hit him as hard as I can on the small of his back.

TRAVIS: Yes!

MATT: Make a check.

LIAM: It's not going to be that hard.

LAURA: While all this is going on, Grog, you could be training these soldiers.

LIAM: 17.

TRAVIS: What, train them?

MATT: As you're having this conversation, (whack) right in the knee cap, a surprisingly painful and forceful blow. It's less the strength behind it and more the precision in which it strikes you right between the kneecap and the rest of the lower half of your knee.

TRAVIS: Like when a doctor hits you and your knee jumps?

MATT: Yeah, and you're like (grunts) and you glance over and you see Vax hide a wooden sword quickly behind him as he backs away.

LIAM: Come on, big guy! I know you're bored! Come on! I hit him again.

MATT: Roll a strength check. Actually, this time it's an attack roll, as well.

MARISHA: Hit him in the nuts.

LIAM: Okay, cool. That's a 20. Oh! But it's with a stick! Just strength modifier?

MATT: You're not proficient with a sword.

LIAM: Oh dear. I'm going to use Luck. 14.

MATT: (laughs) You whack him. This time, it hits the meat of his thigh and has no effect.

LIAM: I missed the nut? Ugh. Come on!

TRAVIS: Do you have a death wish?

LIAM: Come on, take a swing! I'm trying to do you a favor! Come on, get it out!

TRAVIS: What am I missing here?

TALIESIN: I'm seeing this going down. I've walked away.

LIAM: I see a gauntlet on a table, and I throw it at his face.

MATT: Okay, roll an attack roll.

LIAM: It's a one!

(laughter)

SAM: I see this going on, and I stand up on something, and I yell to the students–

MATT: Before this happens, as you're getting up, you watch as Vax rears back, and as he throws it, (yelps) he pulls a muscle in his shoulder and it drops to the ground, and you're like (pained noises).

LAURA: Seriously?

SAM: I jump up on a chair and I yell to the students: Instructor Kashaw has instructed us that this is a drill! You are to attack that man right there, that large man, as a test of your strength and training. Now!

LAURA: Don't kill them, Grog!

MATT: Make a persuasion check.

TALIESIN: Oh, this is going to be awful. Wow. That is cruel.

SAM: 34.

(laughter)

MATT: You watch as roughly 45 armored soldiers all turn towards you with their shields and spears… and freeze. They all slowly look towards Scanlan and whisper among themselves, then look back at Grog and stay frozen and two creep forward for a minute. Get a little closer.

TRAVIS: I take the Gauntlets and I smash them together, and I grow in size.

(laughter)

MATT: As your form swells into your now enlarged goliath battle-ready form, you notice a few of them start giving off this rattling metal sound as their armored knees (clanging) together. Many of them step back about ten feet, and Kashaw, who hasn't left entirely, spins around and goes: “The gnome's fucking with you. It's fine!” He walks up to you, Scanlan, pats your arm and goes, “That was pretty funny.”

SAM: I try.

MATT: “Don't get the people killed. I've been working on them for four days.”

SAM: He wasn't going to kill– Were you going to kill them, Grog?

TRAVIS: Yes.

SAM: Oh shit.

TRAVIS: I look at Vax and I go, you were just playing around, right?

LIAM: Yes.

TRAVIS: And in my giant state, I'm going to kick him like a soccer ball.

LIAM: I'm going to dodge. Uncanny Dodge, man.

MATT: Well, we'll see. Go ahead and roll an attack roll.

TRAVIS: That's good. 32.

LIAM: Ooh. No, I didn't miss that.

MATT: Roll a strength check.

LIAM: Wait, I'm going to use another Luck and make him roll again and pick the lower of the two.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: 15 on the strength check. 25.

LIAM: Got to roll again for the hit.

MATT: Roll again because he used a Luck point to force you to reroll your attack roll.

TRAVIS: 24.

LIAM: That hits.

MATT: What was the strength roll again?

TRAVIS: The strength was 24.

MATT: Strength check was 24. So as you peek out of the corner of your eye you hear this (heavy steps) and as you try and spin and dodge out of the way instinctually–

LIAM: Uncanny Dodge!

MATT: I know and we'll get to that. Instinctually, you turn to dodge out of something Grog-sized, not giant-sized. And in that brief minute that you remember that he grew, you pause just long enough to (whack) feel the force of what feels like a giant battering ram slam into your side, sending you off your feet and arcing a good 30 feet before you (impact) tumble and skid to the ground. What's your strength modifier?

TRAVIS: Seven.

MATT: Seven. You take 14 points of bludgeoning damage, reduced to half because you're taking Uncanny Dodge. So only seven points bludgeoning damage. You stay there for a second, stunned. You feel a bit of bile and iron taste in the back of your throat.

LIAM: And in the distance you hear: (strained) I feel so alive.

(laughter)

TALIESIN: First rule of Fight Club.

TRAVIS: Can I check the Titanstone Knuckles? Have they changed now that I've kicked a friend in the face?

MATT: (laughing) Make an investigation check.

TRAVIS: Damn it! Eight.

MATT: They appear to have maintained their composure as gauntlets.

LIAM: There's some blood and five long, dark hairs on them.

MATT: You watch as a lot of the soldiers who had been watching this endeavor step even further away from Grog, and some of them begin walking off, taking their helmets off. “All right, we're done.”

LAURA: Hey bonus, he's on our side. Eh? That's encouraging.

MATT: They all nod their heads. “Yeah, I know that. Thank god!” But they're all doing this while still locking eyes with him. “That's great.” And slowly walk off.

TRAVIS: (chuckles)

LIAM: Vex.

LAURA: Yeah?

LIAM: Help me up.

LAURA: Don't you have wings?

LIAM: Not going to use them right now. Just a hand. (groans) That's going to bruise. Worth it.

TRAVIS: Thank you. I was getting so bored.

LIAM: (sighs) I know.

TRAVIS: Thanks, bubby.

TALIESIN: What are the chances I would have at least a basic portable writing desk? They're not that complicated.

MATT: A portable writing desk?

TALIESIN: 16th century-style. Just something to write on.

MARISHA: What do you need a writing desk for?

TALIESIN: Just something with paper, pen, and something to write on.

MATT: You have access to a quill and ink, you have access to parchment.

LIAM: How about a fucking clipboard?

TALIESIN: It's basically a fucking clipboard.

MATT: You have access to that, yes.

LIAM: Percival de Rolo, Inventor of Clipboard.

TALIESIN: No, it was called a writing desk back then. It was called a writing desk. There's a thing. It was that big and you put it on your lap. It was a writing desk.

MATT: All right. Yes, you have access to that.

SAM: So wait, what is in this letter? What are we offering them?

MARISHA: Yeah, how's the letter going?

TALIESIN: I'm writing the letter up. I've basically gotten it together. I've explained the situation briefly. I assume they're aware of the war and the current reality.

SAM: And to clarify for me. We're asking them–

TALIESIN: I'm getting there. In this, I'm asking for their assistance in killing a dragon. For this assistance, they will get all bounty of biological remnants of the dragon, with a small percentage of scales and teeth kept for us. Asking for 20 percent, but negotiable. We want them to supply either a local or give some intel into where we can find a beast large enough for this dragon to attack. Information that we have on this dragon so that they actually help us strategize any ways of defeating it, and any other help that they could give in defeating this creature. And as a token of our goodwill, we are sending them a small package of black and white dragon scales and a dragon tooth.

LAURA: Yes. And make sure to include that this must all be completed within 14 days.

SAM: But wait.

TRAVIS and TALIESIN: There's more.

SAM: Asking them to help us kill a dragon?

TALIESIN: For stuff.

SAM: No, but that's not what we're asking them. We're asking them to find a beast.

LAURA: Yes, that's what he said.

TALIESIN: It's in the letter.

LAURA: That's part of that listening thing, Scanlan.

SAM: I'm sorry.

LIAM: He did talk for quite a while.

TALIESIN: Is there a way to enchant me so that I have his voice? And then he'll listen more closely?

MARISHA: Yeah, actually.

MATT: He has a spell for that.

(laughter)

TALIESIN: Don't answer that.

MATT: As you finish penning the letter, you read over it once, twice, make sure all the information is contained. You go ahead and grab the little bit of your offering of dragon scales and teeth. Present them to Kashaw. He takes the letter and reads it over. “Sure.”

SAM: Should we add an NDA?

TALIESIN: There's a rider at the end of everything I send.

LAURA: Kashaw. No mention of Whitestone at all. Anywhere you go. Very important.

TRAVIS: Good addendum. Whatever that word is.

LIAM: Again, please?

LAURA and TALIESIN: No mention of Whitestone.

LAURA: Do we have a way to get him there very quickly?

MARISHA: What? Kashaw?

MATT: “Are you going to do your tree thing for me? Otherwise, I can walk, but it'll be a month and a half before I get to shore.”

MARISHA: Yeah. We're going to be here the rest of the day, right?

SAM: How will he get back?

MARISHA: Druids. People. Wizards. Sorcerers.

SAM: Wait! We got those rocks.

LAURA: He's a really smart man.

TALIESIN: Oh, the rock. That's a really good idea.

LAURA: Yeah, but then he'll pop where we are.

TALIESIN: No, we'll leave the rock here.

SAM: We're going to stay here at least a day.

LIAM: Well, you've got friends, don't you?

MATT: “I'm can figure something out.”

LAURA: Don't worry about it.

SAM: Steal an airship on your way back.

MATT: (chuckles) “No.”

MARISHA: All right. Let's go to the Sun Tree.

MATT: “All right.” Gets his shield and his spear and walks down with Keyleth towards the Sun Tree. As he's walking down, at your side.

LAURA: Don't you want to walk with them?

LIAM: No. Where is that coming from?

SAM: No, he definitely has a thing for you, Vax. I have a keen eye for these things.

LIAM: But you can't address it. You just have to let it be. I'm not going to encourage it. I'm not interested in him.

TALIESIN: I see it every time. He does. He smolders.

MATT: As he walks with you down the pathway, having this conversation. It's that awkward, quiet about three, four minutes of walking before he goes. (sniffs) “Ugh. So when all this is over–”

MARISHA: Oh, come on, man. Why are you doing this to me?

(laughter)

TRAVIS: Hold on, it's going to happen. Let it happen.

MATT: “If we survive all this dragon business–”

MARISHA: Fuck you, I hate you so much right now. (laughs) Uh-huh?

MATT: “Do you want to get a drink?”

MARISHA: I love drinks.

MATT: “Good.”

MARISHA: So much.

MATT: “Great.”

MARISHA: What kind of a drink?

MATT: You guys begin to approach the edge of the tree. He goes: “I think you answered your own question.”

MARISHA: Yeah.

MATT: “Is that a yes?”

MARISHA: Well…

MATT: “Open the damn tree.”

MARISHA: Look. You know. It's really complicated right now, and I'm trying this whole "allowing myself to feel things” thing.

MATT: “Yeah. It doesn't work out for anybody. Trust me.”

MARISHA: Oh man. I don't know how to respond to that. I'll see you on the other side. We'll put a pin on this one. Bye, Kash. And I cast it through the tree and I push him in.

MATT: “All right, then. We'll just– hey!” And you push him through the tree. Shuts behind him. You're left there alone, standing in the cold Whitestone air outside of the Sun Tree. Around mid-morning.

SAM: Did Kash leave already?

MARISHA: Yeah, he's gone.

SAM: Aw, Vax, you didn't get a chance to say anything to him. I've talked to him about this. He has his eyes out on you.

LIAM: I've got enough complications around me as it is.

SAM: I'm a really good reader of people.

LIAM: It's true.

SAM: The dark eyeliner–

LAURA: So now that that's handled, are we leaving today?

TALIESIN: Oh, we're leaving today.

SAM: Well, one of us doesn't have any luck left, so maybe we should spend the night.

LIAM: I've got a little bit of luck. I'm a lucky guy.

TALIESIN: We'll get our luck back tomorrow.

LAURA: We've got a limited amount of time on this.

MATT: All right. You guys make your way towards the building that has recently been essentially given to and is acting as the abode for Shaun Gilmore while he's here in Whitestone. As you come to the front door, the door's closed. You knock. (knocking) No response.

LIAM: Shaun? Shaun! It's us. Are you home?

MATT: You hear a muffled voice in the distance within the building go, “Yeah, hold on.”

LAURA: Did it sound like anyone we knew?

MATT: It sounded like Gilmore. He's under some sort of duress.

MARISHA: Sounded like he was under duress?

MATT: Slightly.

LAURA: Is everything okay?

MATT: “Yes. Hold on, please.” And you watch as the barrier flickers for a second and restores itself, almost like a wave of energy brought what was a slowly dwindling bit of the blue energy, now restored to its full strength.

TRAVIS: He's got to use the privy at some point.

SAM: Yeah, he's probably squeezing one out. It's okay.

MATT: A moment passes before the door opens again and you see Gilmore there, beads of sweat down the front of his face. He's got his fuzzy purple-blue robe wrapped around him. “My sincerest apologies, I had to take care of the now morning ritual.”

LAURA: How are you holding up, Gilmore?

MATT: “I'm fine. This is child's play compared to what you're having to deal with on a daily basis, I'm sure.”

MARISHA: Can I do an insight check?

MATT: Go for it.

MARISHA: 15.

MATT: 15.

LAURA: Oh! You got a whisper on a 15.

SAM: This is an early whisper. A first-hour whisper is rare.

TALIESIN: It came at such a high speed. I wish it came so quickly.

LIAM: I wish I knew more about Loot Crate right now.

SAM: Well, it's not just Loot Crate, Liam. It's Loot Wear. Those come in a separate bag.

LIAM: Different than Loot Crate?

SAM: Yeah, it's different. You can find out all about it at lootcrate.com/criticalrole.

LAURA: Actually, the shirt you're wearing, Sam, is from Loot Wear.

SAM: What? It is? Oh my god! And I'm so handsome.

TALIESIN: Anyway, back to the game.

MATT: “What can I do for you?”

LAURA: Well, we plan to go to Marquet. Things have progressed much quicker than we expected it to, and unfortunately we are on a two-week time crunch before all hell breaks loose.

MATT: “Well, at the very least, that gives us a series of days to make the best of the time we have. So Marquet it is. All right. Come in.” He closes his robe a little bit and walks in, and you enter. You can see there's a half-drunken tea set, and he begins to walk past. “Tea, anyone?”

SAM: I'd like a loose-leaf oolong, please.

MATT: “I'll do what I can.”

TALIESIN: How many cups are currently sitting with the teapot?

MATT: Currently, there is one cup, but as he walks by, he does this with his fingers and you watch as multiple cups drift off the shelf and find their way (cups landing) on the table.

LAURA: How does his house look? Does it look together like it would normally be, or does it look disheveled at all?

MATT: It looks a little disheveled, but also it hasn't been too long since the assassination attempt on him and he threw his attacker into the far wall, but it looks like the furniture has been placed up. There are still some bits and pieces of broken things here and there, but for the most part it doesn't look like he's had lot of time to clean up other than just making it functional. It seems livable; it's not too bad. He goes into the kitchen. He comes back out a moment later with a fresh pot of hot tea and sets it down. “All right. So this isn't going to send you to where you're going–”

SAM: We literally know nothing about Marquet.

MATT: “It's hot. It's dry. Bring some water if you can.”

LIAM: You're not able to leave, are you?

MATT: “I should not. Got to keep this going until Allura comes back.”

SAM: Is there anyone that we can say maybe vouches for us or someone who we are against so that we can win favor with the locals? Something like a no-tail, long-tail binary.

LIAM: We walked into a sort of political snafu because we didn't know the lay of the land, so is there anything we should know in advance?

MATT: “Best I can tell you, because I haven't been there since I was very young, one: this going to send you not to Ank'Harel itself, it's going to send you to Shandal, which is a small oasis village a little ways south of Ank'Harel. It's where I grew up.”

LIAM: What was that name again?

MATT: “Shandal.”

LIAM: Shandal.

MATT: “I will say that it has been about 15 years, so I don't quite know what to expect there. I apologize in advance for any ensuing chaos, but it's a nice town. It's small, it's sleepy. It's not my speed. Hence why I came here. However, in Marquet, it's mostly music, culture, fun people, good food. Don't break the laws. Don't drink the water freely from the various channels you may stumble across. Water there is a commodity. It is controlled and sold throughout the city.”

LIAM: We got a jug.

TRAVIS: We got loads.

MATT: “Those are the main things I can think of. I don't know what else you're really looking for there.”

SAM: Well, I can tell you.

TALIESIN: Cabal's Ruin.

SAM: Thank you.

TALIESIN and MARISHA: The Den of Druja.

MARISHA: Druyah. Drujah?

TALIESIN: Druhah.

MARISHA: Jaja.

TALIESIN: Thanks.

MATT: “I don't know anything about that, unfortunately, but most folks that have information are eager to give what they know with a little coin to grease the palm.”

TALIESIN: Or a little water.

MATT: “Depends on who you're talking to. Anything else?”

LIAM: No, go ahead.

MATT: He pours tea for everyone else who asked for it. And for each person that asked for a different flavor of tea, he begins to snap his fingers and the tea color changes.

LAURA: We are looking for a merchant warrior. Outside of you, do you know of any very powerful merchants?

MATT: “There are many.”

LAURA: One with a missing eye?

MATT: “That would definitely probably narrow it down, but none that I can remember off the top of my head.”

SAM: Why don't we bring Jarett with us? Is that a thing?

LAURA: We should talk to him.

SAM: Okay. Shaun, you do so much for us. We do nothing for you. Is there anything we can bring back for you or messages to give to someone there?

LIAM: Is there anyone you haven't seen in all these years?

MATT: “When you meet them, and you'll know who they are, tell them I say hello. And actually–” He thinks to himself for a second. Rushes off. Comes back with a small backpack made of leather and thick, light tan wool. He opens it up and reaches inside. Pulls out a small silver locket and takes it and puts it in your hand, Vex. He goes, “Just give that to them.”

LAURA: To them?

MATT: He closes the bag and places it back in the other room.

MARISHA: Shaun, are you doing okay? You look a little worn out.

MATT: (sighs) “We do what we must.”

MARISHA: I could only imagine a barrier of this size of a construct can be quite taxing on one's physical energy.

MATT: “Yes. I guess if I had one request of all of you, this goes universally, can we end this dragon business soon? Please? I really just want to set up shop again.”

LIAM: We would like nothing more. I think we're on the same page.

MATT: “Great.”

LAURA: We're very interested to start paying you for your service again, Gilmore, and stop expecting it for free.

MATT: “Good. Because I've been keeping a tally. I don't know about you guys, but the tab is running very deep.”

LAURA: Oh, believe me. I have, as well. This locket will take a nice little chunk off of that tally.

MATT: “Fantastic. I love it.”

LIAM: Birds of a feather, you two.

SAM: Should we go talk to Jarett and then come back?

TALIESIN: Let's go talk to Jarett. We'll have appropriate clothing set up and prepare ourselves for the trip.

SAM: Robes and things?

MATT: “I'll be here if you need me.”

LAURA: Thank you.

SAM: We'll be back in an hour.

MATT: “All right. You don't want the rest of your tea?”

SAM: Oh. I'll drink it.

LAURA: Do you have any to-go cups? (laughs) Just kidding.

MATT: “These didn't belong to me, so please, take them if you want.”

(laughter)

MATT: He transitions the tea over into a couple of cups and hands them off to you guys who haven't finished. You head out. As you're leaving, you see Sherri coming up. Her hair's a bit tattered. She's usually more put together when she runs the shop. Now she's in casual Sherri mode. Her hair is frazzled and pulled back. Her glasses are pushed to the end of her nose, and she's carrying a bundle of groceries, various bits of produce and such. “Oh, hello, everyone. I'm bringing Gilmore his breakfast.”

LIAM: Sherri. We asked him, but he's modest. How's he doing?

MATT: “Not that he'd tell me anything, but he doesn't have a very lengthy period of keeping this up without him probably collapsing like he did back in the city. Just please, try to do your best to get this over with. I'm worried. At the very least, until Allura comes back. At least they can share the load. All right.” She knocks on the door and opens it. “Gilmore? Gilmore, breakfast.” The door closes behind her.

TRAVIS: Hey, I have an idea.

SAM: Oh boy.

TRAVIS: I know, it's thrilling. We need eight gallon wine skins or bottles or jugs. Because the Alchemy Jug can make out eight gallons of fresh water. We pour it all out and then at the end of the day it starts over, so we have eight gallons sitting in the bag.

TALIESIN: In theory, we all have water skins, don't we?

MARISHA: We should have a spread of our survival kits.

LIAM: But all the same, that is a very good idea, Grog.

LAURA: I'm surprised you even know how many eight gallons is, Grog.

TRAVIS: Yeah, eight gallons.

SAM: But if we had an extra skin or something, we could trade it. We could give it away, so we should go get one, yeah?

TRAVIS: Yeah, we could give it away, give it away, give it away now.

LAURA: Wow. I walk off and look for Jarett.

LIAM: A rift just opened in the universe.

MATT: It doesn't take you long. He is still stationed as one of the central figures guarding the actual castle of Whitestone itself. Similar to the place you saw him last time you guys had a conversation walking up to the castle. He stands there with his crossbow at the ready, giving a long view over the surrounding valley before he watches you approach. “Friends, you have returned. I hope all is well on your end. Can I be of service?”

LAURA: You can tell us all about where you're from, actually. Did you leave Marquet a long time ago?

MATT: “It was maybe ten, nine years ago, and it was not under the best terms. Probably would be in jail had I not got away.”

LAURA: Oh, really?

MATT: “They are not very forgiving of broken laws there, and based on certain judgments… let's just say a slap on the wrist usually takes the wrist with it.”

LAURA: What did you do?

MATT: (sighs) “Whatever was needed for survival.”

LIAM: Well, we're going there, so I'm hoping either you can give us a lot of tips so we don't run into problems, or I don't know if anyone can take your place right now. Do you want to go on a field trip?

MATT: “To Ank'Harel?”

LIAM: Yeah.

MATT: “No!”

(laughter)

MATT: “I'm sorry, I respect this. I think my strength and skill set is much better used here than in the Scarlet Prison beneath the Cerulean Palace. I do not want to even conjecture spending the rest of my life there, or in pieces. Also possible.”

LIAM: Forget it. We need all the knowledge in your head, in ours.

MARISHA: Yeah, what was that Scarlet Prison you just mentioned, under the what now?

MATT: “The Cerulean Palace. The Cerulean Palace is where the Hand of Ord generally keeps most justice, where most of the courts are kept. It is also where the Tower of J'mon Sa Ord is maintained for watching over the entire city, and most of that eastern side of Marquet. The Scarlet Prison is where people go to disappear. It is also referred to as the Scarlet Oubliette. People are placed there to go away; people are placed there to be tortured; people are placed there, rumors say, to be part of various experiments. Regardless, I would highly recommend–” He looks to you. “Don't steal anything unless you are damn sure nobody knows of it.”

LIAM: I haven't stolen anything in years.

TRAVIS: (coughing) Bullshit.

LAURA: Me neither. (laughs nervously)

MARISHA: I've never stolen anything!

LAURA: Have you heard about the Den of Drujah. Drujah.

MATT: He closes his eyes a second. “That was… a very, very–”

LAURA: It's unscrupulous.

TALIESIN: It would have been in a tale of a one-eyed merchant.

MATT: “Not any merchant I know, but this Den you speak of, they were a rather serious gang running rather violent activities in the city maybe 70, 80 years ago.”

TALIESIN: Would they have been in the walls? Is it possible to be in the walls of Ank'Harel?

MATT: “In the outer walls? The outer walls are solid. They are thick; they are meant for defense only. I did not run with them. I do not know anything. It was before my time, but they have not been around for at the very least 50 years.”

LAURA: All right.

SAM: Do you know who rules Ank'Harel now?

MATT: “It is J'mon Sa Ord.”

LIAM: What can you tell us about him? Or her, or it?

MATT: “J'mon? I have not seen J'mon, though I have heard the stories. J'mon brought the city together 400 years before. When it began to grow, expand, when it became this great oasis, long ago, it went into chaos, and there were many who wished to utilize those who lived within the center desert to be abused, to be swindled, to be enslaved. J'mon started the Hand of Ord, which was the peacekeepers, and really brought the town of Ank'Harel into the grand city it is today. Not known to appear in public very often; there are many rumors that circulate. Some say that perhaps J'mon is some godling, an entity that has existed long before Ank'Harel and will exist long after. There is also– and this is my personal belief– I think J'mon Sa Ord is many people. I think J'mon is more of an office, a station, a title that's passed on from person to person, because I've heard referenced as a girl, I've heard referenced as a boy.”

LAURA: It's like the Man in Black.

LIAM: What story is that?

LAURA: It's this famous tale of the Princess Bride. Don't worry about it.

SAM: Does the Hand of Ord carry any symbol? Do you know of any way of identifying them?

MATT: “They carry ornate armor of a deep blue sapphire color, and brass.”

LIAM: Brass.

LAURA: Like the dragon.

SAM: And this other city, Shumble. Humbal.

LAURA and MARISHA: Shandal.

MATT: “Shandal! Yes. (laughs) It's more of a podunk.”

LAURA: A very small town.

MATT: “Comparatively, yes. Ank'Harel is immense. Shandal is usually a small stop in case camels or other horses have died in transit, as well as a small water stop on the way to the city.”

LAURA: Is it a long trek from there to the city?

MATT: “I'd say maybe a day's travel.”

SAM: In which direction?

MATT: “It is to the south-southwest of Ank'Harel.”

LIAM: On par with Emon, the city? Bigger? Smaller?

MATT: “Oh, Emon? Comparable. A bit bigger.”

LAURA: Wow. Shit.

TALIESIN: We'll make waves.

MARISHA: Yeah. Maybe we shouldn't.

TALIESIN: Well. We're going to have to get someone's attention.

MARISHA: It's a city that has no water. We shouldn't make waves.

LAURA: Do you remember, in all your time there, did you ever deal with– this is completely ridiculous– a merchant who only had one eye?

MATT: “I don't recall. I've met people missing many limbs and parts of their body. Kind of happens; it' a dangerous place, the deserts in Marquet. But there are also many people that live there.”

LIAM: And you're sure we can't talk you into going? Percy's giving out titles.

TALIESIN: I am absolutely not!

MATT: “I have no interest in titles. I just wish to stay alive. I'm sorry. I am much more of use to you here, I assure you. I would be a perpetually nervous paranoid wreck if I were to come with you.”

LAURA: I can't even imagine you like that.

MATT: “Good. We'll keep it that way.”

MARISHA: Jarett, was there still a control of water going on while you were there?

MATT: “Yes, for many long years, yes. The oasis is built around.”

MARISHA: Is there anything we should know about that?

MATT: “Well, most of it's controlled in the River District. A number of canals begin in the River District. This is where there is the spring, the perpetual oasis that fuels the city, and many of the caravans that travel to and from.”

TRAVIS: Perpetual oasis.

MATT: “Yes.”

TRAVIS: Source of power.

(laughter)

SAM: Good note-taking, Grog. How do people greet each other there in Ank'Harel? Is there a “Kord's strength be with you” thing?

MATT: “There is 'be pleased,' with a small bow, preferably with the hand down towards the stomach, with the hand out. Be pleased.”

LAURA: Be pleased.

TRAVIS: Beep-bleep.

LIAM: Bleep-bleep, yes. No stealing. Got it.

SAM: Water is valuable.

LAURA: Don't drink the water.

LIAM: Is there anything that's offensive? We don't want to offend anyone by accident.

MATT: “To be honest, anything you do will offend somebody in the right place, right time, but people are pretty laid back in Ank'Harel, as long as you follow the rules. It's a beautiful city. I'm actually excited for you to see it. I'm very proud of it, had I not made some mistakes.”

LIAM: Can we bring you anything back?

MATT: “You know what? If you can, there is a special spice that is harvested not far from the city. If you could find me some fusaka spice? Bring me a small– not a lot, just a bit.”

TRAVIS: Is it for food?

MATT: “It's for food, yes.”

LIAM: I would love to do that. We'll keep an eye out.

MATT: “It's a bit pricey. I can give you some–”

ALL: No!

LIAM: No, you've done way too much for us.

TALIESIN and LIAM: Fair trade.

MATT: “All right. Well, I appreciate it.”

LAURA: Be pleased.

MATT: (laughs)

LAURA: We'll work on it.

MATT: “Work on it for a bit, maybe watch some folks. You'll pick it up right quick, just pay attention.”

SAM: All right, well, shall we–

TALIESIN: Let's go change, and then let's be off.

MATT: “All right, be safe, friends. Look forward to your return.”

LAURA: Keep everyone safe?

MATT: “That is my purpose.”

MARISHA: And Jarett, will you keep an eye on Gilmore for us?

MATT: “Is he all right?”

MARISHA: I think he's just working himself a bit much.

LIAM: Stretched a little thin.

MATT: “I may have noticed it myself. I will do this for you. Promise.”

MARISHA: Thank you.

MATT: “My pleasure.”

SAM: To Marquet?

TRAVIS: To market!

SAM: To buy a fine pig.

MARISHA: To market!

SAM: Home again, home again.

LAURA: I didn't realize Marquet was like Emon. This might be a bit difficult, to find a one-eyed merchant in a city bigger than Emon.

TALIESIN: I think that once we arrive, he'll find us. Or she.

LAURA: This is true.

SAM: We get there, we start poking people in the eye until someone doesn't flinch, then we'll know we found them.

TALIESIN: Can I point out that now we have to learn an entirely new lore? We've worked so hard, and now spices? Rivers, canals, fusaka! Oh god, I'd gotten everything together, and now.

LAURA: We've only got two weeks. Fuck.

TALIESIN: It takes a day to do Disneyland.

SAM: Does anyone speak Marquetian, or do they speak Common there?

TALIESIN: We'll run into a lot of Common. Common is common for a reason.

SAM: All right, let's go.

MATT: All right, you guys head back to Gilmore's place?

LAURA: Oh, but are we going to get some water jugs and shit like that before we leave?

SAM: Sure, we get some water jugs.

MARISHA: Yeah, more water's good.

MATT: You can pick up a few. We'll say for about five gold pieces here, you can acquire some jugs that are compact enough that they'll actually fit within the Bag of Holding, should you place them.

LIAM: Five gold. Mark it off.

(laughter)

TALIESIN: Wow!

SAM: How we doing on potions? We got potions?

LAURA: We need to get some potions.

TRAVIS: There's no stores.

MATT: The healing potions that were available in the city you guys have already taken.

MARISHA: Yeah, we've tapped them out there.

TALIESIN: Yeah, Whitestone is not functioning.

SAM: All right, we'll get some in Marquet.

TALIESIN: Trade them for water.

TRAVIS: One for each?

TALIESIN: You stabbed her bear while maintaining eye contact.

LAURA: How many jugs did we get? Five jugs?

MATT: Five jugs.

MARISHA: Slowly. Very slowly. Oh yeah.

LAURA: And we fill up our wineskins with water.

TALIESIN: We're changing out of the winters into the lighter clothing.

MARISHA: I bust out some of my clothes from the Fire Ashari. Go lighter.

TALIESIN: It's a shame Kit's very busy, or else we could get summer clothes.

MATT: She's so busy getting married or something.

TALIESIN: Getting married or something.

LIAM: I break into a cold sweat, thinking about the desert and this armor. Oh shit.

LAURA: You're going to be a gross, sweaty, greasy mess.

TALIESIN: Okay, actually there is a solution for this.

LIAM: Yes, Percival. I have never needed your intellect more than right now. What is the solution?

TALIESIN: I'm going to find him a white silk and cotton, linen cloak, very simple, to throw over his armor the way the Templars used to do, so you won't cook in your bloody armor.

MARISHA: Does his little sachet–

TALIESIN: Yes, it'll attach to the sachet.

MARISHA: Well, I was going to say, does his sachet need a re-up of herbs? I thought you stuffed it with something.

MATT: Percival presents you with a nice, flowing, light whitish-gray cloak. Ceremonial, within older Whitestone gatherings. It seems nice; it seems light.

LIAM: And I can put it over everything else?

LAURA: Over your other cloaks.

LIAM: Cloaks, plural. Fucking 90 episodes later: cloaks, cloaks, cloaks.

MATT: You can totally place it over your Displacer Cloak.

TALIESIN: Yeah. It's just a heat sink.

LIAM: Yeah, it's to bounce the heat off.

LAURA: Perfect.

LIAM: Liam knows science. Vax doesn't know shit.

MATT: All right. What's the plan?

SAM: Before we go, quickly, guys. I'm sorry. I haven't done this yet, so can I try to see where Kaylie is and do a little scry?

MATT: You close your eyes and concentrate, and you see, peeking out from the metallic rim of the sword which you gave her, the Aberration's Bane longsword, you look up and you can see the edge of a wooden table. You hear faint music in the distance; it sounds like some sort of a piano being played. No accompaniment, just a straight piano. You hear distant whispers of conversation, the occasional burst of laughter, and you can see the edge of Kaylie's elbow, leaning against the edge of the table. There's a long pause, no movement. Then all of a sudden, she shifts back from the table and goes, “That's right, all the money on the table's mine. Nice try.” Scoops down, throwing her hand of cards on the table. You hear a couple voices go (groaning). You see her scoop the coins over and go place them into a coin bag. “All right, so perhaps another round, then?”

SAM: Yeah! She's doing good!

MATT: “Where are you going? Are you a coward or something?” Shouting this in the distance, as apparently the previous people she card sharked walk off, frustrated and growling. You see one of them comes up to the edge of the table and goes, “Best be giving that money back, little girl or you're–” Before that happens, you see a large, meaty hand grab the back of his neck and pick up him by the scruff. You see appear into view the very edge of Dr. Dranzel's chin and hat and he goes, “I'm sorry, were you talking to my lady friend that way? That's poor manners.” And drops him there at the table. The guy adjusts himself. “Better not see you guys in the street.” He walks off. She reaches her hand up, watching the guy leave, and fist-bumps Dranzel. Your vision fades back and your consciousness comes back to you.

SAM: She's okay! Okay, good! All right! I feel good. Let's go!

LIAM: What were you doing?

SAM: I had some bad tikka masala earlier.

LIAM: We haven't even gone to Marquet!

SAM: They don't have Middle Eastern food there, I hope!

TALIESIN: Well…

LIAM: Not going to touch that one.

TRAVIS: Are we going?

LIAM and TALIESIN: Let's go.

MATT: All right. You guys make your way back towards Gilmore's home. At this point in time, you come in and find there are a couple of plates, crumbs to the side. Gilmore's sitting in the chair with his tea, eyes closed in a meditative stance. As soon as you enter the room, he jolts back to momentary awareness. “All right! Gathered your things? Are you ready to go?”

LIAM: Pretty much.

MATT: “If you don't mind.” He grabs the edge of the central table in the center of the room with the tea on it. He looks towards you.

TRAVIS: Oh yeah, no problem.

MATT: You guys shift it, move it to the side, leaving an open space on the ground. He kneels down and places one hand in the center of the floor. The other hand he reaches back into a small pouch on his side and pulls out a small amount of shimmering, glassy sand material you recognize as a hint of residuum processed into its dust crystallized form. He scatters it around while he's muttering under his breath. As he does, with his hand in the center, you see the dust pull together into these small symbols on their own, almost like magnets to iron filings. They're forming into these rigid structures. As they do, they begin to flare up and glow, and he takes a step back, his eyes still closed, brings his fist together into a grip. As he does, they light up, and you recognize this as a teleportation circle. He goes, “All right, it won't last long. In you go!”

TRAVIS: Running through!

LAURA: Thank you, Gilmore!

MATT: “My pleasure!” is the last thing you hear before you dive in as it begins to fade. Each of you guys step into and transition past, immediately piling up into each other as you come out the other side, as you're in a dark and enclosed cupboard or closet-type circumstance.

TALIESIN: I'm reaching for a door handle.

LAURA: Anywhere.

MATT: It looks like there is a set of doors to it. It's a giant armoire. You guys are pushed into it, but it is latched over.

LIAM: Ugh, Grog's pec is right in my eye.

LAURA: Can I get a little dagger through and flip the latch?

MATT: Flick it up. It bursts open, and you all come stumbling out.

LIAM: I think he stabbed my eye out! Jeez!

MATT: As you all stop, Vex, you look back around. This is a very large dresser-like armoire. It's empty. It looks like there are a number of hangers inside, like it was a place for various outfits to be kept and stored. On the floor of the wood, you can see carved into it a small symbol or a sigil, if you will.

SAM and LAURA: Drink!

MATT: Marked as the symbol he put.

LAURA: Good thing no one destroyed this thing while he was gone.

MATT: Glancing around, you can see a small dark wood room atop a wine-red circular carpet in the center. Empty shelves and cobwebs fill the corners. There's a bit of dust and sand coating over where the bed rests against the wall. A closed window hides behind a drawn curtain, with a little bit of peeking sunlight making its way through. There is one single door that sees you out, though it is currently closed.

TALIESIN: I'm going to stand on the carpet and will it to fly. Seems worth a shot.

LAURA: Every carpet here.

MATT: Step onto the carpet, close your eyes. How do you will it?

TALIESIN: I do believe in fairies. I do believe in fairies. I know it; I've killed several of them. They're definitely real.

MATT: Moments pass, no effect.

LIAM: I'm going to do my due diligence and make sure the door's okay. Probably is, but just in case.

TALIESIN: I'm going to look out the window, as well.

LAURA: I look under the bed.

LIAM: 22. Just to make sure that it's not trapped or locked.

MATT: The door is locked. It is not trapped. You're peeking out the window, you said?

TALIESIN: Yeah, I am.

MATT: You glance through the cloth, and it looks like it is a glass window, but it is partially opened and looks like there's a little cluster of sand that's gathered over time underneath the sill, from what little bit the wind's pushed through. Glancing out as soon as you push out, the light is very bright, and you have to take a moment for your eyes to adjust. Looking out, you see a simple street. There are some small buildings built of fine wood; nothing too extravagant. You can see a number of trees that protrude from the sand: long, tall, thin, palm frond-type tops to them, bearing some sort of large nut-like fruit. You can see what look to be small troughs of gathered water, whether it be from rain or them placed there intentionally, but they're currently locked with some semi-translucent top and chained shut, on the outside of two of the buildings. You do see a few people walking back up and down the street. General civilians, all dressed in longer, full-body robes, some of them with scarves around their neck. I wouldn't say peasants, per se, but definitely not well-off in their appearance. Casual civilians. Darker skin, looks like they've definitely been living in the desert for a long time. That is what you can see from the window's point of view.

TALIESIN: Are we on the first floor or second floor?

MATT: Currently, you're on the first floor.

SAM: Is there a second floor?

MATT: You don't know.

SAM: Are there stairs? Oh, we're in a room. Let's go out the room. What could happen?

MATT: Looking under the bed, you see what appears to be a small wooden box that is closed and hidden toward the very back, and what appears to be a small series of shirts that have been folded up and have gathered a lot of dust over the top of them.

LAURA: Can I reach them?

MATT: Yeah. Pull them out. Really nice, high-quality silk and cotton based, embroidered shirts. Look more ceremonial, special event type, long, maybe knee-length.

MARISHA: What's the decoration like in the room?

MATT: Currently, it's pretty bland. You can see a couple of colored tapestries similar to the center of the floor rug that are hanging, but there are a lot of blank areas. It looks like decorations have been removed, or at least haven't been there for a long time. The room, for the most part, seems to be abandoned.

LAURA: Is the box trapped?

MATT: Make an investigation check.

LAURA: Almost good, and then not. 14.

MATT: 14? It does not appear to be trapped.

LAURA: Can I open it?

MATT: You do. Open it up, glance inside. It looks to be a series of folded papers.

LAURA: Is it Gilmore's stuff?

LIAM: Yeah, you're going through Shaun's shit. What are you doing?

LAURA: I'm just seeing if this is his room!

MARISHA: Ooh, whispers.

TRAVIS: Oh shitballs. I have to move.

MARISHA: How are those Cowboys doing, Travis?

TRAVIS: Ten-ten, halftime.

MARISHA: Oh snap.

TALIESIN: Is that a good thing, ten-ten at halftime?

TRAVIS: No, not good.

TALIESIN: That's not good? Okay.

TRAVIS: Their starting quarterback got hurt.

TALIESIN: I understood all those words individually.

TRAVIS: Because he's an old woman.

TALIESIN: I know those words, as well.

LIAM: Speaking in Half-Orc. Don't speak that.

TALIESIN: I would pay good money to have you explain how football works to me.

TRAVIS: That's what I was going with that!

LAURA: Okay. I fold them back up and I put them under the bed.

LIAM: Can I read your diary, then? Is that all right?

LAURA: I was seeing if we were in Gilmore's room, that's all.

LIAM: Yeah?

LAURA: Yeah.

LIAM: All right.

LAURA: Don't act like I'm a dick. I'm not stealing the letters. I'm putting the shirts back, all right?

LIAM: I didn't say it! Just maybe he wants a little privacy. I don't know! Think about it.

MARISHA: She's learned from you well.

LAURA: Is the door open? Can we go out of here?

SAM: Did you find anything good?

LIAM: If 25 opens the door, then it's opened.

MATT: It's easy enough, like butter. (creaking door) The door opens.

MARISHA: He did say we would meet his family.

MATT: As the door opens up, immediately, your nose catches the smell of sage and cooked meats. As the door opens, you look into a large room to your left with some furniture, not too extravagant, but nice, and a humble living space. As the door opens the other way, you look to the right, and you see two figures sitting at a table, seemingly eating. An older couple, with dark sun-weathered skin, graying hair, and bright eyes. They look confused and slightly scared at their table, staring back at people wandering into the middle of the room.

TRAVIS: It's okay.

MARISHA: Hi!

TALIESIN: This is a bit awkward.

SAM: We're friends of Gilmore.

LAURA: Shaun.

MATT: They both look at each other.

SAM: Oh, be pleased.

TRAVIS: Bees knees.

MATT: They both look to each other and then immediately begin, mouths filled with food, laughing. (laughs) “This is unexpected. Friends of Shaun's, you say?”

ALL: Yes.

MATT: The man himself stands up and begins to walk over, wiping the edge of his mouth with a small piece of cloth, finishing chewing and swallowing the food he has currently. As he walks up, the man has thinning white hair that grows long, straight down towards his back, simple long robe-like dress with simple cloth pants that go round these slipper-like shoes on his feet. He approaches. Which one said Shaun?

SAM: You said Gilmore.

MATT: Gilmore and Shaun. Approaches you, as you, stepping forward as one of the more, you know, assertive members of the party, and goes, “How is he? If you could please tell me?”

LAURA: He's quite well. He's very powerful, actually, and has wonderful businesses, all through–

MARISHA: Tal'Dorei?

LAURA: No, I know. It's just not there anymore.

MATT: “Opesa. Opesa, come.” And the woman gets up from the table. “Yes, I'm sorry. It has been a while since we've had guests from so strange and sudden arrivals!” She walks up and pulls these small glasses out from her pocket and puts them on. You can see her eyes open up wide behind them, and she comes, leans to the side and puts her arm around him. They both hold each other. He goes, “I am sorry. Let me introduce. I am Soren Geddmore. This is Opesa Geddmore. You know our son?”

LIAM: Yes, for quite some time.

MATT: “And you say he does well with his business?”

LAURA: He does. So well, yes.

TALIESIN: Continental.

MATT: “This is good.”

LAURA: Very respected.

LIAM: Yes, and brave.

MATT: “He has always been a brave one.”

SAM: Single-handedly protecting a whole city right now.

MATT: “You don't have to embellish. That's okay. Would you like to eat with us? We can make more food, yes?”

LAURA: Actually, we need to head out pretty quickly.

TALIESIN: We're sadly on a mission.

LAURA: Can you tell us the direction to Ank'Harel?

MATT: “You are going to Ank'Harel?”

LAURA: Yes.

MATT: “Yes. Follow me.” He takes her by the arm, and they both walk arm-in-arm, leading you guys to what looks to be a front door of this abode. As he pushes it open, revealing more of the street of this small oasis town, he goes, “Let's see, if you follow– that is the sun.” He looks up, and you see his eyes adjust to the brighter sky. “The sun is there. It will be setting… that direction. Continue… what is the word you speak?”

SAM: North, northwest. No, northeast.

MATT: “That is west. You want to north, so go that way. Yes. That is where you want to go.”

LAURA: Thank you.

SAM: Is there a road to follow, or is it just a direction?

MATT: “I haven't been in many years. As far as I know, there are signs. There are not roads. There are guides you could hire to bring you there.”

MARISHA: Can I do like a nature check or take note of what he said so I remember? Because that was vague.

LAURA: I'm assuming these are the people that Gilmore said I would know.

MATT: You get the sense these are probably who he was referring to.

LAURA: Yes, so as she's doing that, I want to pull out the locket and say, actually, Shaun asked me to deliver this to you.

MATT: “What–” And he looks to his wife. The woman steps forward adjusting her glasses. "Thank you so much!” She holds it and opens it up. Looks over to him and shows him. You get a bit of a glance, at that point. You can see it's a picture of Gilmore. He's happy. Jewel-encrusted rings. It's almost a promotional still, if there was one, for Gilmore's Glorious Goods. She takes it. She closes it and goes, “Gilmore is originally Geddmore. He changed his name when he went for better business to the Tal'Dorei place. Glad he's doing well.”

TALIESIN: He's respected across the continent.

LIAM: Is there anything we can let him know?

MATT: “Give him our love and tell him he is more than welcome to visit. It has been many years.”

LIAM: We will.

LAURA: Thank you.

MATT: “Not a worry. Safe travels. You're sure you don't wish to have food?”

LIAM: No, but if you could point us towards fusaka? Is there any around here? There's not, is there?

MATT: They both look at each other. “I'm not familiar with this spice you speak of. My apologies.” She's like, “I'm sorry. I do not know this fusaka you speak of.”

LIAM: He's pulling our chain.

SAM: Or maybe it's something illicit.

LAURA and TALIESIN: It's possible.

SAM: Or something that you snort.

LIAM: He's pretty cool.

LAURA: I understand.

TALIESIN: Can we leave them a bit of water?

SAM: Yeah, we should leave them some water.

LAURA: Oh yes.

SAM: Grog! Water boy?

TRAVIS: Yes?

LAURA: Can you give them some water from our jug?

TALIESIN: Where do you keep your personal water?

LAURA: Would you like some water?

TRAVIS: I got it. Here, take this jug of water with our compliments. You said give them a jug!

TALIESIN: Where do you store your water in the house?

MATT: “We have, around this way–” He leads you towards the back of this small kitchen. It's very condensed. You can see there is a high metal fence, and there appears to be a rainwater receptacle there, like a well that is built into the homestead. It has chains over the top. He begins to pull keys out and lock to it, and as he pulls off the chains one by one, he pulls back the lid, this hard, dry wooden lid, and within it is a very deep well, though it looks like the water level's maybe ten feet down from the top of the well right now.

TRAVIS: You want me to pour the Alchemy Jug in here? Or just one of the little ones?

TALIESIN: Pour the Alchemy. The little one's for us today. The Alchemy Jug, this is where it's going.

TRAVIS: All right, I take the Alchemy Jug and I go: You want to see a trick? Look inside. Do you see anything?

MATT: “Hey, Opesa, do you see anything?” And she blinks a bit. “No, it's empty.”

TRAVIS: And I say: Now, give it a listen. And I shake it. What do you hear?

MATT: “Nothing. You are a strange man.”

(laughter)

TRAVIS: Forgot they're old. Right, well, it sounds– fuck it. Water. And I start pouring.

(laughter)

MATT: How much water does it create?

TRAVIS: It creates eight gallons of fresh water.

MATT: Oh wow. “You are still a very strange man, but I'm very happy and appreciative.”

TRAVIS: I am a great sorcerer.

MATT: “All right. I can see, now. Gilmore has his work cut out for him.”

TRAVIS: Gedd-e-mo-ray.

MATT: He pats your shoulder. “Geddmore, indeed.” As you finish pouring the water out, they lead you guys back to the front.

LAURA: What time is it here?

MATT: He pulls out a small sundial from his pocket, holds it up. “It would be closer to late afternoon.”

LAURA: No, we aren't going to make it to Ank'Harel by dark. Yes, of course. That's all. Thank you!

MATT: “Well, thank you so much for coming.”

TALIESIN: Good day.

TRAVIS: Beep-beep!

SAM, TALIESIN, and LIAM: Be pleased.

MATT: “Be pleased.” And they both, in a very rusty joints way, give you both a bow as you leave.

LIAM: They were a couple of sweethearts.

SAM: They are adorable! They're both over 70, so who's going to kill them? Should Grog, or should I?

TALIESIN: I think it's our turn.

LAURA: You broke him!

SAM: You kill one, I'll kill the other.

LIAM: Throwback Thursday.

TALIESIN: This is what a d10 is for. Hold on, one second.

MARISHA: Do we have any more reason to be here? Or should we start heading off to Ank'Harel?

TALIESIN: I think we head off to Ank'Harel.

LAURA: Yeah, unless we see any kind of potion shops here.

MARISHA: I can mist us. I brought it today.

TALIESIN: Oh. We can mist.

LIAM: Is there enough moisture in the air? I have no idea how it works.

TRAVIS: Shit, if we evaporate, I'll be so pissed.

MARISHA: Wait. Can that happen?

TRAVIS: You don't know!

TALIESIN: I think it'll be fine.

MARISHA: Because we're mist.

TALIESIN: We're mostly water. I think it's our water. I think we end up very dehydrated at the end of it.

MARISHA: Sorry, I just spit all over you. I'm sorry.

TALIESIN: It's okay. Now I'm moister.

MARISHA: That's how mist form works.

TRAVIS: Now I'm moisture.

MARISHA: I don't think we'd evaporate. I think he's fucking with us. I don't think we'd evaporate.

LAURA: Let's mist it.

MATT: That would be the saddest TPK ever. “Let's go, guys!” And so ends the journey of Vox Machina.

(laughter)

MARISHA: They fade into existence!

LAURA: That would be the worst thing ever.

TALIESIN: Was that a global warming metaphor?

TRAVIS: No songs to be sung. Just fucking another cloud in the fucking sky.

SAM: Some say you can see them still, overhead.

(laughter)

MARISHA: I don't think we'll evaporate.

LAURA: Let's do it.

SAM: We're going to mist it?

MARISHA: Do we need anything else while we're here, before I do this?

TALIESIN: It's a one-camel town.

MARISHA: I mist us.

MATT: All right. As you guys take a moment to concentrate, each one of you transforms into mist. As you begin to go one by the other, you do hear a couple of (gasps). You glance over your shoulder to see three kids, all looking up at you all with these big, scared smiles.

MARISHA: Before I go, I say: stay in school, kids. And then I mist.

TALIESIN: I'm going to Slimer the kid.

LAURA: As I turn into mist, I go: I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world!

MATT: Make a deception check.

MARISHA: I was trying to inspire them!

TALIESIN: You're a terrible person!

LAURA: 20.

LIAM: Do they speak Common?

MATT: After you give your presentation, they, “Whoa!” As you begin transforming, you do that and they go, (terrified screaming) and go running indoors.

TALIESIN: I'm still going to slime them on their way out.

MARISHA: Sliming them!

SAM: We're tormenting children.

LIAM: Hey, that's a step up for us!

MATT: That's what Vox Machina is all about.

TALIESIN: Scarring children for life.

TRAVIS: If you can't kill the old, terrify the young.

TALIESIN: We're leaving them with a promise that we'll be back to finish the job.

MATT: You are terrible people. You guys rise into the air as the sun begins to bring itself to set in the west. You shift up over the city. You look down. Probably maybe 150, 200 buildings make up the entirety of Shandal. It's not a very large town, but you can see little dots of moving caravans both to and from the city. It is a fairly lively stop for people traveling to and from Ank'Harel.

TALIESIN: We can follow traffic.

MARISHA: Follow traffic.

TALIESIN: There's a traffic line, then.

MATT: Every now and then. As you follow the direction they're going, you're traveling much faster than they are. The hot air does feel a little uncomfortable against your cloud-based misty forms, but you do not feel like it's responsible for evaporating any of your form.

MARISHA: Yeah, we're just sweating a little bit more.

MATT: You're like, “oh this is uncomfortable.” You continue to press forward as the sun slowly begins to set. The temperature begins to get colder and colder, and the sky grows darker.

MARISHA: Do we condense a little bit? Turn into a low-lying fog? Never mind.

MATT: If you'd like to. It's up to you entirely. The form is your choice.

TRAVIS: Could we turn into a marine layer?

MATT: You continue to travel throughout the night?

SAM: How long does this thing last?

LAURA: Eight hours, right? It lasts eight hours?

SAM: We'll travel eight hours.

TALIESIN: We'll take a late night. Once it wears off, then we'll camp.

LAURA: Can we get the whole way there?

MARISHA: Wind Walk, you said it was a day's journey, and we can travel faster by Wind Walking.

SAM: At night, will we know where northeast is?

LAURA: Yeah, I've got an excellent sense of direction.

TALIESIN: If it's only a day's travel, at some point we're going to see the city.

MARISHA: I think we should be able to get there, right?

LAURA: And we can camp just outside the city, maybe?

SAM: Okay. Let's do it.

MARISHA: Because we have a flying speed of 300 feet.

MATT: Yes, you guys cruise. You guys push forward for another four to five hours post-dusk. You're now hitting the early hours of the morning before you begin to see in the distance hundreds of sparking lights begin to appear up above a distant sand dune. You can see the lit lights, lanterns, and general glowing night life of a massive city over the high walls that surround its exterior. This is a pretty amazing sight for those of you who have not been to such a large desert atmosphere, and it is pitch black below you, and at the height you're traveling– How high are you traveling versus the ground? I guess I should ask.

TALIESIN: 300 feet?

MARISHA: An appropriate cloud height.

SAM: That's thousands.

MARISHA: Hundreds. A couple hundred feet.

MATT: Okay. From this view, you can see a large queue about eight heavy caravan carts long of caravans that have camped for the night outside of the front main gates. You do see, along the line of the outer wall, there appear to be a number of small spires that open up like guard tower parapets that come to a pointed, what looks like a hand, cradling the outside of each section of the wall on the outside, but on the inside, you see a hundred or more of these long, multi-level spires that progress all throughout the city, and it goes on and on in its large oval-like shape. It's hard to make out much color other than the thousand small lights you see throughout the entire city. Orange, yellows, greens, blues. It is a beautiful view. What is your plan?

TALIESIN: I say we camp outside.

LIAM: Are we still clouds, though?

TALIESIN: We're still clouds.

LIAM: Can't talk at all.

LAURA: Should we mist down?

SAM: Are we getting to the end of our eight hours anyway?

MARISHA: It's been five or six.

LAURA: It's still night?

MATT: Still night, yes.

LAURA: It's good to camp.

MATT: It's two in the morning, at this point.

MARISHA: Does there look like any patch of shrubs or a low point in the terrain? Cover.

MATT: You can't tell from this height, unfortunately.

LAURA: We mist down a little bit.

MATT: You scoot down around the outside of the city walls. The landscape here near the town appears to be more packed and hardened badland dust and sand. You can see where lots of it, from a recent rain, have caked and hardened and then broken in places. It leaves this soft, shale-type texture to it that breaks into sand upon crumbling underfoot. From what you can see, there are a number of various heights of dunes in the distance. This city is thrown right in the center of what appears to be hundreds of miles of desert from the view that you had as the sun was setting.

LAURA: And the gates to the city are closed at night?

MATT: The gates to the city are closed from this perspective, yes.

LIAM: We did it, you guys. We made it to Burning Man.

MATT: You guys timed this, I didn't.

LAURA: Can we see guards around? Do they look aggressive?

MATT: The giant iron gates stand about 65 feet tall and about as wide from end to end. They have a very tight weave of iron bars between them, to where it's almost a very thick fencing that you can almost see through. You can just see the outline of things that walk back and forth behind it. However, on the front side, you can see a number of guards.

LAURA: We can see your piece of paper on the screen. Still see it.

MATT: Stop looking at my piece of paper on the screen!

LIAM: There's a Vestige!

MATT: Not actually. Not anymore, it's not! It's gone! All right. Amongst the carved-out circle of caravan carts and people that are camping overnight before entering the city, you do see what appear to be a dozen guards, all dressed in dark blue and dark reddish metallic armor, many carrying heavy scimitars to their side or long pikes and shields. They're all wearing intricate helmets that crest down past the nose to the point where it looks like they just have eyes and a lower jaw. It flares out at the bottom and then curves to a point right across where the clavicle would be. The armor itself is designed in a very beautiful ornate fashion, but also looks very functional. You're at a distance; they don't seem to have noticed you as you've all crested down still in your cloud forms. LAURA: We should probably land far away.

TALIESIN: I'm going to de-mist. There seems to be a section where people are camping. Let's just, for once, take this by the book. We want to make sure they know we're here. No sneaking into the city.

MARISHA: I don't think they'd take kindly to surprises.

TALIESIN: At worst, we've got the pretense of being emissaries from Emon looking for help.

MARISHA: Yeah.

LIAM: They punish people for nicking things. I don't think we want to try to break in.

TALIESIN: No. we're going to try and be truthful as much as possible, although nobody say the W word.

TRAVIS: Wine?

LAURA: Wine, definitely wine.

MARISHA: I'm assuming that that's the Hand of Ord that we're looking at.

SAM: The Hand of Ord is supposed to be super secret.

TALIESIN: It might just be guards.

MATT: The Hand of Ord isn't secret.

MARISHA: No, he said the Hand of Ord is the name of the peacekeeping guards.

TALIESIN: Yes, that's right.

LAURA: All right!

TALIESIN: Let's camp for the evening.

LAURA: Shall we camp in the mansion, then?

TALIESIN: Yes.

LAURA: So comfortable.

SAM: Sure.

LIAM: We're still a distance though? Where we are, from the guards?

LAURA: Yeah. We're off a little bit.

MATT: How far are you guys? How far did you decide to stop and transform? That's up to you.

LIAM: I don't know.

TALIESIN: Where were the other people camping for the night?

MATT: They're maybe 40 feet from the gates.

TALIESIN: Well, let's camp 40 feet. Let's camp with them.

TRAVIS: You want to put a magical door 40 feet?

TALIESIN: I'm perfectly okay. It's not like they can come in. No one can enter who can't be invited.

LIAM: You want to make a mystical door floating in the middle of their tents?

LAURA: Do the people seem friendly? Do they seem tired?

TALIESIN: We're going to camp next to their campsite.

MATT: Make a perception check

LIAM: In this world, on the ground? I love it. We haven't done it that much lately.

TALIESIN: We've been too used to being careful.

MARISHA: In the mansion.

LAURA: 22.

MARISHA: So not really camping. We're glamping.

MATT: At a safe distance, you can make out some detail, and there is some lantern light on top of some of these carts. It appears that a number of the folks have set up small tents, and most appear to be sleeping. There are a few guards that are set on top of the carts with crossbows resting over their lap, keeping an eye in case anyone decides to get too close to their wares throughout the evening.

LAURA: How about we keep a distance?

MARISHA: Yeah, let's not mist down in the middle of a group.

LAURA: No, let's keep a distance from them and be another group of people coming into the city.

TRAVIS: I'd say 200 yards out.

LIAM: Percival said he already un-misted.

MARISHA: We're deciding how far. So 200 yards.

TALIESIN: I can re-mist.

LIAM: We can all do that?

TALIESIN: As long as the eight hours hasn't passed, we can go in and out as you please, isn't that correct?

MATT: Yeah. It takes you a minute to transform.

SAM: Should we use our misting while we have it and mist into the city?

TRAVIS: That's what I said, but they punish crime so harshly.

SAM: We haven't committed any crime.

LAURA: No, but they have to document who goes in and out.

SAM: They won't even know–

LIAM: Scan-man, let's start by playing nice, please.

MARISHA: And if we get caught, they're going to know we didn't sign in correctly.

TALIESIN: They have giant spires, yeah, and they're going to say “who are you?” and we're not going to be on the list.

LIAM: We know nothing about these people or the customs here.

TRAVIS: Yeah, we've got to learn a little bit before we kill all of them.

MARISHA: I don't see any trees, and those guards look heavily funded. That looks like expensive armor they're all wearing.

TALIESIN: You've got a good eye, yes.

LAURA: Can we have the mansion, Scanlan?

SAM: Sure, yes, we can do the mansion.

TALIESIN: Get close enough to the other group that they are aware that we exist, but they couldn't quite make us out, so just another group of travelers camping for the night.

LIAM: With a door floating in the air.

TALIESIN: It's magic. It's not like they've never seen it before.

MATT: The light radius beyond the wall itself is not very strong. It only low-lights maybe a 30- to 40-foot area around the gate itself, and there are a series of small torches that appear to be ever-burning on the outside of the wall. There are a few campfires that have been set up by the caravans that are waiting amongst the sand and broken ground there. They give a little more light. As you guys get to the outskirts of this, your shapes becoming visible to those that are keeping watch, you see a few individuals stand up on their carts with their crossbows at the ready. Just have a seat and keep an eye bead on those of you that are visible. Doesn't appear to be any aggressive action, just an acknowledgement of your presence and a show of readiness should any aggressive action be taken.

LIAM: I'm going to not say anything but do the “be pleased” motion.

LAURA: He already did that.

LIAM: Well, I'm doing it, as well.

LAURA: I'm going to watch you do it.

SAM: So we've un-misted. Are we going to mansion and go to sleep?

TALIESIN: We're going to mansion. It's 2:00am. It's time to mansion and go to sleep.

SAM: All right. We'll do that.

MARISHA: Okay, the people who are camping, what do they look like? Pretty common folk, I'm assuming?

MATT: Best you tell at this distance, the few that you can see– because a lot of them appear to be in small tents encamped– the few that you do make out appear to be dressed in a little more wealthy attire than the people you encountered in Shandal. You can see the gentlemen and ladies that are guarding the encampment are dressed in functional leathers with hints of hide and metal plates incorporated in the defense, but nothing that shows overt wealth or overt destitution. General mercenary guardians for a traveling caravan.

MARISHA: Okay. Are we going to talk to any of them?

TALIESIN: Unless there's a brazenly loud group around one of the campfires.

MATT: At this hour? No. You get the sense, looking at the surroundings of the campfires, it looks like some sort of party or gathering may have transpired earlier in the evening, but most everyone have passed out at this time.

LAURA: The guards are guarding. Anybody that approaches is a threat.

SAM: Yeah, we'll just go to sleep.

TALIESIN: Goodnight, all. I am ready for bed.

MATT: Scanlan?

SAM: I will make the mansion.

MATT: The doorway glows with a faint purple hue. In the distance, you see some of the guards step forward and keep an eye out there. Attention has been gained by the doorway, but none of them are approaching immediately. You guys begin to step into the doorway one by one as three of the guards begin to slowly walk towards the doorway.

TALIESIN: I'll go last. It'll be fine.

MARISHA: I go in.

LIAM: Scanlan, why don't you hang with Percival? I go in.

TRAVIS: Yeah, in.

LAURA: I stand in the doorway.

SAM: We going to talk to these people?

TALIESIN: We're going to let them know who we are and what we're doing. This is just that we have a very expensive tent.

SAM: Great.

MATT: So with that, Percival, Scanlan, and Vex wait outside the shimmering doorway to Scanlan's magnificent mansion. You see the guards begin to approach. The one at the front, a square-jawed, intense-looking man who looks to be not enjoying his current time schedule as a guard on the outside of the southern gates of Ank'Harel approaches, hand at the side clutching some sort of weapon that he has currently sheathed. “May I ask the business of this strange conjuration you've brought at this hour of the night?”

TALIESIN: It is our very expensive tent.

SAM, TALIESIN, and LAURA: Be pleased.

MATT: Make a persuasion check, Percy.

TALIESIN: That'll do. 23. Yeah, 24 actually. 24!

MATT: “I do not know of the nature of this magic that you bring, but I recommend that you keep it outside of the city.”

TALIESIN: Oh, yes, of course.

LAURA: Wait, is magic not allowed within the city?

MATT: “Oh, magic is allowed, but this is unknown to us, and unknown magic is a dangerous magic.”

TALIESIN: I thank you for your advice. We will heed it well. What is your name, sir?

MATT: “It does not matter. We have 12 crossbows trained on this doorway, and will for the remainder of the evening. Should anything strange happen, we will not hesitate but to fire.”

TALIESIN: The strangest thing you will see this evening will be us.

MATT: “Good.”

LAURA: Thank you for the warning.

MATT: Turns around and walks back to the gate.

TALIESIN: That could not have gone better.

TRAVIS: (singing) We've got to kill everybody.

(laughter)

LAURA: Magic is allowed, but this is strange magic. How will we know what isn't strange magic?

TALIESIN: Everything we can do is strange magic. Be prepared that not being from around here is going to be trouble.

MARISHA: Yeah, I think we're just strange.

LAURA: I hold the door open.

LIAM: We've had old magic, new magic, strange magic.

MATT: This is all the new schools of magic.

SAM: We go in.

MATT: You guys go in. Mansion's prepared, servants are at your ready, beds are freshly fluffed. Damaged kitchens are rearranged to have been not touched at all.

TRAVIS: What?!

LAURA: Wonderful.

SAM: I love it.

MATT: You are able to rest for the evening as you prepare for your next day entering the city of Ank'Harel itself.

TALIESIN: I make my way, quietly in the night, to Grog's room. I was just kidding, sorry!

TRAVIS: (laughing) I was like, “come get some, bitch!”

LAURA: No, I want to go to sleep, and I'm holding on to Fenthras and thinking about everything.

MATT: Mulling over the events that recently transpired and digesting all the questions you still have.

TALIESIN: I gave you a lot to think about, didn't I? Sorry. (laughs)

SAM: I play a card game by myself.

MATT: Okay. As you guys have a restful night, we're going to take a break. We'll be back here in a few minutes, and we'll pick this up in the following morning as they enter the city itself. See you in a minute!

Break[]

[break]

Part II[]

MATT: Welcome back, everyone! Returning from the break, Vox Machina has an evening of rest in Scanlan's magnificent mansion. You come to consciousness the following morning, stationed within the beautiful confines of this magical mansion, unaware directly of what awaits you on the other side of the doorway. However, the morning is yours. What do you wish to do?

LIAM: I'm going to stealth back to my room.

MATT: Okay. (laughs)

LAURA: Oh.

MARISHA: No one sees anything.

MATT: Make a stealth check.

LIAM: No worries. I got a one, but I'll use luck.

MARISHA: You're using a luck?

LIAM: Two ones!

TALIESIN: Two ones!

ALL: (yelling) Yes!

TALIESIN: There is a god, and he hates you!

MARISHA: You are so walk of shaming right now.

(laughter)

MATT: So as the morning comes about, Vex, you go stretch out of your room, scratching the side of your head, messed up from sleeping wrong on the pillow, and as you walk out you hear (clicking) and look to your right and see your brother slowly slinking away from Keyleth's room.

LAURA: (retching) I go back in my room.

LIAM: Oh hey, hold on a second, though.

TRAVIS: Oh man. (laughs) Talk it out.

MARISHA: Talk it out right now.

LAURA: I'm about to throw up.

LIAM: No, you make jokes, but I want to go into your room for a second and talk to you.

TRAVIS: Ew! Make him bathe.

LAURA: Fine. And I go in my room and I sit down on the opposite side of the room.

LIAM: Take a full minute to get over it, you fucker.

LAURA: Hold on, it's not been a minute. All right.

LIAM: You really should have gone into acting. It really was your calling. Yeah.

LAURA: No, I'm happy for you. As foul as it is. What are you doing? What?

LIAM: (sighs) Sorry, I'm a little discombobulated. I've never rolled two ones in a row.

MATT: Yeah, that happened.

LAURA: Oh, that was so amazing.

MATT: Take that, Luck feat!

(laughter)

LIAM: I know this is a really stupid time to talk about it, but we never get to talk to each other, and I have a serious question. (nervous laugh) Relax. In that tree, that guy said a lot of fucked-up shit to you, and it just sounded like a lot of fucked-up shit and him trying to make you feel bad, so fuck him, right? Fuck that guy. But he said something about a dagger? And I saw your face fall.

LAURA: (soft laugh) Jesus Christ.

LIAM: And I asked you if you were all right the other day, and I think you might have not told me the entire truth. Are you all right?

LAURA: Really?

LIAM: Yeah.

LAURA: Right now?

LIAM: I could be dead tomorrow, Vex. Right now.

LAURA: He knew a lot of things, yes. I don't think he was completely wrong, and that's what makes me feel terrible.

LIAM: About what, about you being shitty? Fuck that guy!

LAURA: Well, he was right about the dagger.

LIAM: I want you to tell me about the dagger. I want to know about the dagger, but I'm serious, fuck that guy on the rotten branches he was growing out of. He's not right. Your strength of character runs deep. Fuck that guy! It breaks my heart to see you doubt yourself. You have always been a wonderful woman! I'm not saying you have to be a fucking beefcake; you don't have to be a soldier, but–

LAURA: That's good, because I am really weak. (laughs)

LIAM: Whatever the case, you are a good person. All of them know that. They all know that. None of them doubt it. I don't doubt it. I don't have the words, I just want you to believe me.

LAURA: Thank you.

LIAM: I'm not eloquent like Percival, but I've known you a long time. You are a good person.

LAURA: Thank you. It makes me happy to see you happy.

LIAM: Forgot what it feels like.

LAURA: Yeah, right?

LIAM: What's the dagger?

LAURA: Oh, that. Yeah, I killed a couple people and I saved Trinket, that's all.

LIAM: When?

MATT: Trinket comes waking up from what was his sleeping stance.

LIAM: You'll have to be more specific than that.

LAURA: Do you remember when I brought Trinket back to camp?

LIAM: Originally?

LAURA: Yeah! All those years ago?

LIAM: Yes! I thought it was a terrible idea. I was dead wrong.

LAURA: (laughs) Well… turns out, I found him in a camp where I'd been taken.

LIAM: What?

LAURA: Yes, and there was some really dark people there, and they had harvested–

SAM: (sneezes)

LAURA: Trinket's mother. Bless you. Is Scanlan in the room?

LIAM: The paintings do all have holes cut in the eyes, so you can never be sure.

LAURA: I did what I had to do, and I killed them.

LIAM: The people that took you.

LAURA: Yes. I did.

LIAM: The people that took you from me?

LAURA: Yes. And I saved Trinket that night, and that's what Saundor saw. More than anything I just… I don't know how he saw it.

LIAM: Are you just creeped out because he knew or because of what happened? Why are you upset?

LAURA: I'm not.

LIAM: Well, listen. I wasn't there. I don't know what happened, but… you came back to me, so whatever happened can't be wrong.

LAURA: Right? (sniffles)

LIAM: Oh, come here! Come here! If somebody took you from me… I don't know how to see it any other way than I do. You would have to do something really terrible, Vex'ahlia, for me to ever feel disappointment in you, and you have not ringed that bell. Rung it?

LAURA: Rung it.

LIAM: You studied harder than I did.

LAURA: (laughs)

LIAM: Goodness, please. One more time: You are a good person, and I've always seen that. Please see it, please. Oh god, my heart is breaking.

LAURA: No! It's good. We all need to self-reflect every once in a while. I needed it. My heart is in the right place. I know it is. I'm just afraid sometimes actions speak louder than intentions. If things I was doing could be read the wrong way, then… maybe I need to change what I do.

LIAM: (sighs) You've always been bold. That's not a crime. That's all right.

LAURA: It's fine, dear.

LIAM: I feel like a boy again.

LAURA: (laughs) No, please. I'm so happy to see you happy. Don't worry about me. I'm fine!

LIAM: Well, no, but–

LAURA: And I can talk to Trinket now. We talk all the time.

LIAM: Vex'ahlia.

LAURA: We've talked through a lot.

LIAM: Vex.

LAURA: Right?

LIAM: Vex.

LAURA: Yes? (laughs)

LIAM: Fuck, I'm just going around– I love you.

LAURA: I love you.

LIAM: You don't have to talk to me about everything, but if you want to… if you want to. Should you need me.

LAURA: “Should you need me.”

LIAM: All right. Sorry to babble.

LAURA: Oh, yeah, no. Maybe go take a shower.

LIAM: I'm not going to answer that. I'll see you at breakfast. And I walk away.

MATT: Yeah, you do. All right, as you all find breakfast, a fair prepared chicken feast, as they've been given no other instruction.

(laughter)

TRAVIS: Can't we change it up?

LIAM: I'm afraid not.

SAM: Change up the food?

LAURA: Yeah, maybe something other than chicken.

SAM: Why? It's nutritious. It's delicious.

TRAVIS: Ravioli!

SAM: Ravioli for breakfast? All right.

LAURA: Something with veggies?

SAM: Let's do ravioli. Staff?

MATT: “Yes, Scanlan?”

LAURA: Oh, they speak?

TRAVIS: Shit, they do talk!

SAM: Could you make us some chicken ravioli?

LIAM: You unlocked “Ravioli in Marquet!”

LAURA: They're learning.

TRAVIS: They're smart. We have to kill them all!

TALIESIN: They're going to learn.

MATT: The servants vanish for about ten minutes and return with a robust meal of bowls and bowls of chicken ravioli.

TRAVIS: Chicken ravioli. (laughs)

LAURA: Delicious.

SAM: Yummy.

TRAVIS: Good call.

TALIESIN: Adequate.

MATT: Slightly. You finish your meal, feel yourself satiated as much as you can be with chicken ravioli for breakfast. You guys exit, find yourself on the exterior walls of Ank'Harel, the sun blazing down in the early morning, a hotter temperature than you've been used to in quite some time. Would be the equivalent of probably the low 100s Fahrenheit by our standards. All of you with layers of armor, which is all of you except for Grog, immediately feel this is going to be uncomfortable fairly quickly. Grog, you are used to higher colder climates, even without being heavily armored, still fairly uncomfortable.

TRAVIS: Sucks.

LIAM: You're really pale, too.

MATT: It's not great. You can see the caravans that you guys were camping loosely next to are no longer there. It looks like there have been a couple of dark spots in the dust and the sand that have been kicked over where the campsites were, where the fires were put out, and tracks of where the carts and wheels have been dragged to and through the gate. You can now see about ten guards that are all stationed at the front of that iron gate on this side of the Ank'Harel wall.

SAM: Well? Should we go in and be traveling people and kill everyone that we see?

TRAVIS: How about you let me take the lead on this?

LAURA: How about no?

SAM: What's our angle? We are weary travelers from Tal'Dorei, seeking–

MARISHA: I thought we were going into this one with honesty. Thought we agreed to that.

SAM: Seeking help?

MARISHA: We're ambassadors from Emon.

TRAVIS: Keyleth, do you really want to be honest or is it a ploy? Do we want to be honest?

TALIESIN: The ploy is to be honest.

MARISHA: Our normality is dishonesty, so technically we're switching it up.

LAURA: This is the ploy.

TALIESIN: This is a radical shift.

MARISHA: We're not honest, so let's try it for once.

SAM: All right, let's do it. We're from Emon, we need help fighting dragons.

MARISHA: I feel like that's pretty compelling.

MATT: Grog, make an intelligence check.

TRAVIS: (laughs) Yeah, thank you. Travis needs to make an intelligence check. Oh Jesus, it's a 12. Minus two.

MATT: You have no idea what they're talking about. You find yourself instinctually nodding.

SAM: We'll just go in, big guy. We'll be fine.

LIAM: First chance for violence is all yours. You're the first one in.

TRAVIS: I'm all in. Violence. That's what I came away with.

MARISHA: (sighs) We have to be careful with our word choices with him.

TALIESIN: We head towards the gate.

TRAVIS: (garbled) This ravioli is delicious, by the way. My compliments to the little purple men.

SAM: They're not men, but yes.

MATT: As you guys approach the outside of the gate, you can see seven of the guards stay behind while three, seemingly the same three that had been keeping a close eye upon your initial approach in the evening, walk up. The same man walks up, now looking a little tired; his day is probably finishing out the rest of his station here at the gate. Approaches, hand still on the side of his sheathed weapon. “So you awaken. You have rested. What is your business here in Ank'Harel?”

SAM: We are weary travelers from Emon, and we have come to seek assistance with the security of our home.

MATT: “What is your contact within the city? Who do you wish to speak to?”

LIAM: Go for the top?

MARISHA: Oh, that's a really far stretch. The king.

SAM: We are seeking a man called…

LIAM: J'mon Sa Ord.

SAM: No, I don't think we want to talk to the king. Do we?

MARISHA: Merchant warrior? No, not that one? Who the fuck are we trying to see?

SAM: We would like to talk to J'mon Sa Ord or his or her advisors to seek advice.

MATT: “You come for an audience with the emperor?”

TALIESIN: We come for an audience with many people, to be honest. We are looking at many avenues of possible help. Contacts, trade, anything that can help us in our time of dire need.

MATT: Make a persuasion check.

SAM: Me or him?

MATT: You.

SAM: Oh. Okay. It was a million.

TALIESIN: I didn't know that that die went that high.

SAM: 34.

LAURA: It's a million.

MATT: His arm relaxes at the side of his weapon, and he looks down upon your diminutive gnomish structure, though glances over at the much larger goliath and back at you. “If you indeed have business with J'mon Sa Ord, then the emperor will let you in. If you do not, you will be sent out. We have no business between either of those answers. If you wish to enter, do so, but keep your weapons sheathed, and keep an eye on that one.”

SAM: The big one?

MATT: “Yes.”

LIAM: He's well-behaved.

MATT: “I don't trust his face.”

TALIESIN: His face is usually not the trouble.

LIAM: Is it the beard?

MATT: “Very well. Welcome to Ank'Harel. Be pleased.”

ALL: Be pleased.

MATT: He turns around and walks away. His bow is much smaller than you were originally taught by Jarett. You get the sense that that's more of a formality and is on a smaller scale for more informal conversations. As he walks back, he lifts one hand and does a loop with it. As he does, (door thudding). The gates open ever so slightly, enough to bring through as broad-shouldered an individual as Grog, as well as the rest of you easily. You guys walk up and approach.

LAURA: Is anybody looking at Trinket weird, or is it okay? He's with us.

MATT: Actually, no one seems to bat an eye at the large bear that's wandering inside.

TRAVIS: But they give a shit about the goliath? That's fucked up.

TALIESIN: One last question for our good friend at the gate.

MATT: Okay, as you walk past him.

TALIESIN: One more thing, good sir. If you were going to find a place to sleep comfortably, quietly, and without incident for the evening in the city, is there a place that you would recommend to a friend?

MATT: “Well, best I can think, there are many fine establishments of rest where rooms can be rented throughout the entirety of the city. Depending on how much coin you have to give, I would say you could…” He thinks for a second as I look at my notes.

TALIESIN: Where you would put a brother-in-law that you liked?

LIAM: Medium to high.

MATT: “I would recommend within the Suncut Bazaar, you would find the Debt's Respite, the Shade, or the Corner Cove. All very fine establishments, and very well watched by the Hand.”

TRAVIS: The Hand?

SAM: Are you a member of the Hand?

MATT: “I am. Is this your first time in the city, then?”

TALIESIN: It is absolutely, yes.

MATT: (laughs)

MARISHA: What was the name of the district?

LAURA: The Suncut Bazaar.

MARISHA: Suncut Bazaar.

MATT: As he watches you guys enter, the gates closing behind you, you now see the incredible reveal of the interior of the mystical city itself. Streets of smooth cobblestone-like red pebbles lead your eyes to hundreds of visible, vertically-inclined buildings of reaching peaks and smooth, pointed rooftops as far as your eye can see across the cityscape. It's a city of vibrant color; you see nearly every home, storefront, and outhouse has some form of draping silks or painted mural to give it individual character, standing out against the rest of its neighboring abodes, creating a calming, beautiful symphony of really nothing, in the presentation of it all. The people are walking with purpose, and the sounds of foreign barking and shouts occasionally break the air. Welcome to Ank'Harel.

TALIESIN: Let's get arrested right now!

MARISHA: Fight!

MATT: What do you guys wish to do?

SAM: We need spice. We need to find out about this merchant guy.

TRAVIS: Got to get laid.

SAM: We got to get laid. Every continent, right? That's our pact.

(laughter)

TRAVIS: There's nothing that doesn't mean it's a pact.

TALIESIN: We're going to need to talk to some gentry. We're going to need to talk to a library.

MARISHA: Well, we should probably start with a tavern.

TALIESIN: And I should also mention, not just a tavern is available, but we do in fact have three titled people within our crowd, so we can actually talk to people of standing and note with very little difficulty.

LIAM: Are we certain that that will hold any water on this continent?

TALIESIN: It holds water on every continent. Only people who are not titled think it doesn't.

SAM: Should we split up into a couple parties? No? All right.

TALIESIN: Let's find a tavern, find some rooms. Let's go to this bazaar.

MARISHA: People tend to know things in taverns.

TALIESIN: Get the word out of what we're looking for.

SAM: To the Suncut Bazaar!

TRAVIS: Wait, what if there's a market, like an open farmer's market we could get some spice?

LAURA: Yeah. As we look around, do we see any markets? Actually, the shopping district would be a wonderful place to look for–

MARISHA: Is that in the Suncut Bazaar, or could we head that direction while we look?

SAM: Oi! Oi, you there, boy!

(laughter)

MATT: As you glance over, you see walking down the street what appears to be two teenage boys, huddled together, wearing drab, ankle-length cloth robes. One of them has a purple shawl over their shoulders. The other has a hood up, and they're both carrying small satchels of fruit in their arms. They both stop and turn. They look curiously at the small gnome, the small, pale gnome in foreign clothes and adorned, beautiful armor that walks up to them in the street.

SAM: That looks like fine fruit. Where would you go to go shopping for things here, market-y things?

MATT: (muttered conversation) “You are a very small man.”

SAM: I've heard that. It's a glandular condition.

(laughter)

MATT: “I'm sorry to hear that.”

SAM: Yes. My cross to bear. I've seen many medicine men about it, but they can't cure it, but many have recommended that I get a diet of vegetables and fruit. Where could I buy some, just like the kind that you have?

MATT: “This fruit is actually very difficult to find and come across. If you wish, you could purchase this batch.”

SAM: Okay. I've seen this before. I'm not interested in buying from you. I just want a market or a bazaar or anything.

MATT: “Bazaar. You are looking for the Suncut Bazaar?”

SAM: Yeah, that!

MATT: “It is farther down that way. Look to the blue tower in the center of the city? Walk in its direction to the eastern skyline–”

LAURA: I'm not looking in the direction. I'm keeping my eyes on them the entire time he's talking.

MATT: Okay, make a perception check.

MARISHA: I'm desperately trying to commit every direction to memory.

TALIESIN: I am so fearful that he's about to try and buy meth from children.

LAURA: 20.

MATT: “Look for the strings of crimson flags that hang across the very street corners. That will signify the entrance to the Suncut Bazaar.”

SAM: You're so helpful.

MATT: 20. They both seem confused, but also strangely enamored with this tiny man who's talking to them. No shifty behavior beyond that.

TRAVIS: Their hands aren't moving into someone's pockets?

LAURA: No.

SAM: Thank you so much, young men, for your help. Also, spice?

(laughter)

TRAVIS: Yes! Oh my god!

TALIESIN: No!

SAM: Do you spice?

MARISHA: Do you spice?!

TRAVIS: Yo, you cool? You cool, dog?

MATT: (muttered conversation) “I don't know what you're talking about.”

SAM: I'm not an authority. Do you spice? Spice it?

MATT: “I am sorry. I'm confused?”

SAM: It's cool. Ignore that part. Thank you so much. What do you think, a little spice?

MATT: He puts his hand out.

SAM: I flip him a coin.

MATT: He takes it. “Good luck finding your fruit.”

SAM: Okay. Thank you.

MATT: And they both walk away, but at a slow pace, looking over their shoulder at you the whole way.

SAM: They seemed legit! They seemed like they were street kids.

TALIESIN: What about that was legit?!

SAM: They're riffraff. They could know what spice is.

TALIESIN: They were carrying fruit!

SAM: They look normal, but I've got a keen eye for these things. I was a kid on the street for a long time.

LIAM: Sam? No joke, thanks for the ab workout.

(laughter)

TALIESIN: Oh god.

TRAVIS: Fuck. That was great.

TALIESIN: I can't.

LIAM: (deep sigh)

TRAVIS: Do we go in the direction?

LAURA: We walk towards the Suncut Bazaar, keeping an eye out.

MATT: All right. As you guys continue deeper into the city, the sheer size of this town reminds you of a mirror universe form of Emon, in the way that the streets narrow and then open, and the liveliness of culture around you in its heyday, and it saddens you, because it reminds you of back when the city was at its prime, when you first arrived and made it a home for yourself. But at the same time, the energy is infectious, and you can't help but feel like there's a lot of interesting people, culture, and momentum all about you no matter where you seem to walk across these streets. Though the culture here appears to be far older than that of Emon that you've encountered; even the buildings and constructs range in ways that– maybe not as old as Vasselheim, per se, but at least you can see that there's some variation to some of the abodes here that have been worn through time more so than any you have encountered in Tal'Dorei, for the most part. These decorated and intricate buildings fill the streets. You can see pride in their construction, and the smells of horses and hot desert air combine with various burning spice and sage that occasionally wafts through the air to your nostrils. The ever-changing exotic skyline occasionally grabs your attention. You see the distant shadow of what looks like a skyship docked at a sky port. You get looks of many citizens, expressions ranging from amusement to mistrust as you pass by, until you come upon a massive building that shines with the sunlight. Above you, you see a number of red flags that hang and drift, about five feet in length, these thin, draping pieces of silk that shift with the breeze, and you can see numbers of these strands across different roads, and it's at this point that you look up and realize that this is the entrance to the Suncut Bazaar. Looking off towards the left, and what you've been watching as you approach, there are this cluster of dark blue and purple towers of various widths marking a central place in the center of the city. In the center of them, there is one very large, cylindrical tower that rises up past them all into what looks like a chalice or a cup-like platform at the very top that is impossibly high amongst the rest of the structures here in the city. It seems to be a beacon or watchtower over the entirety of Ank'Harel. But your attention now, here in the Suncut Bazaar, as you step around the corner, you can see tents and storefronts and buildings and voices raised as different barkers are shouting out for their wares. You can see carts being drawn through the streets by horse and camel. You can see what appear to be dozens upon dozens of people coming through with small satchels and coming by and purchasing their necessities for the day. You can smell cooking meats and food in the distance. You can see street performers juggling, and distant music of buskers in the side of the street, playing various flutes and instruments: some you recognize, some you do not. You actually see a shawm. It catches your attention on the side of the street.

SAM: I need a new reed for that.

MATT: And here you are, amongst the Suncut Bazaar.

TRAVIS: Can I whip around and see if anyone's following us?

SAM: Ooh, Dust of Tracelessness.

MATT: Make a perception check.

TRAVIS: Hammer down! 14.

MATT: 14. No matter where you walk, eyes are on you.

TRAVIS: I am a gorgeous man.

MATT: Most people you come around here, it seems a largely human population. Beyond that, you've not seen a single dwarf as you've walked through the city, but you have seen a number of dark-skinned halflings, a few half-elves. Not an elf has caught your eye since you've wandered through. You've seen a couple of tieflings that walk openly in this city, which is a rare thing from Emon. Even there, most tieflings generally are met with mistrust and prejudice in the street. Here, no one seems to pay mind or bother. You do see a few half-orcs, this team of half-orcs that are shouting out in a language that none of you understand. Some sort of sales pitch they're giving, and there's a few people gathered around them. This is a very wide variety of people that live in this city, and everyone seems to mesh together without issue or prejudice, but not one goliath has caught your eye, and you've caught the eyes of many. And wherever you walk, you can see the townspeople stop, and they don't gawk. They don't stare intently. They're more curious, but no one appears to be following you.

LAURA: Are the shops here indoors, or are they outdoor tent markets?

MATT: There are a few that appear to go into buildings, but the majority of this, as you look at now the Suncut Bazaar itself, while it is a section of the city, it is mostly open sky and is probably hundreds of various tents, carts, pop-up stand-ups, and even the center of the street, blankets set out, with the various merchants there with their wares strewn across the ground, waiting for anybody to come and approach.

LAURA: Do we see any spice merchants?

MATT: Go ahead and make an investigation check.

LIAM: Also, while she's rolling, do we all see people eyeballing him?

MATT: Yeah. It's pretty easy to see, and most everyone's–

TRAVIS: In love? Enamored? Jealous?

LAURA: 11.

MATT: 11. You look around and ask a few people, and most everyone shrugs their shoulders or points you in an odd direction, and no immediate spice merchants catch your attention. You're still on the outskirts of the Suncut.

MARISHA: Do there appear to be any fruit merchants?

MATT: There are a few, actually. Yeah. And it's interesting. In this very hot desert environment, and you understanding how most plant life exists, fruit should be pretty damn rare, and what fruit would make it here seems to be pretty dry and withered. But everything you come across here is very plump, beautiful, and fresh.

TALIESIN: Life.

MARISHA and TALIESIN: Needs things to live.

MARISHA: There's not many things, no. Can I go up to one of the fruit merchants?

MATT: You go up to what appears to be a woman, probably in her late thirties. Her hair is long past her shoulders, and these dark black, brunette waves that spray out like mermaid hair across her shoulders. As you approach, she eagerly reaches out. “You look like you are traveling here to Ank'Harel in search of beautiful, delicious fruits of which to whet your palate. Yes? Would you like for these fine apples, of which are the finest you could find?”

MARISHA: Apples? Oh wow. I was looking for something a little bit more exotic. Something native to this land.

MATT: “Ah, well–” She takes the apples back. “What you'd prefer, then, would be the kurrak fruit.” And she pulls out what looks like a mango, but the exterior of it is very rough, with these little spines all around it. “While it is difficult to hold, crack open for a delightful flavor. It is gentle. It is like a sweet water experience.”

MARISHA: That was very descriptive. Thank you.

MATT: “Of course.”

MARISHA: How much do I owe you for this?

MATT: “For this, that would be two silver pieces.”

MARISHA: Two silver. And how much, just for future reference, are the apples?

MATT: “The apples would go for one silver piece apiece.”

MARISHA: One silver apiece. That's pretty steep. Don't worry about it. Here you go. I give her a little extra.

MATT: “Thank you so much for your patronage. Anything else you would like?”

MARISHA: I think I'm good, thank you.

LAURA: I peek around her shoulder. Where would the Shade be?

MATT: “The Shade? The Shade would be– it's hard to explain. Do you see that building over there with the dark green steeple?” And you glance off in the distance. You can see, layers back, there appears to be one spire, this very harsh point that has a dark green tint. “That is the roof of the Shade. That'd be what you're looking for.”

LAURA: Thank you so much.

MATT: “Not a problem.”

LIAM: I would like to walk by, and as I'm passing Vex, I'm going to do that thing where you walk past a friend and you do that sideways kick in the butt, and I'm going to go stand by Grog, and anybody I see giving him the evil eye, I'm going to match it back.

MATT: Okay. You watch as she walks away, she had her hands out to Vex, and as soon as Vex keeps walking away, she goes–

MARISHA: I toss her a gold. She's with me.

MATT: “You are free to shop here any day you like.”

MARISHA: And what was your name?

MATT: She pulls the coin out and pops it away and says, “I am Shubad.”

MARISHA: Shubad?

MATT: “Shubad.”

MARISHA: Keyleth.

MATT: “A pleasure to meet you.”

MARISHA: A pleasure. Thank you so much.

TRAVIS: Are any of the barkers talking about magic stuff?

TALIESIN: I'm also looking for a soothsayer.

LIAM: What do you want to see, a show?

TRAVIS: Well, I don't know. It just seems so exotic.

TALIESIN: Anything out of the ordinary and/or a soothsayer, card-reader, bones-reader, whatever they have that's like that.

MATT: Okay. Both of you make investigation checks as you look around and ask around.

LIAM: And I don't like the way these folks are looking at big man, so I'm going to stay by him.

MATT: You stay close to Grog.

LAURA: No going up from that. That's what it is.

TRAVIS: Negative two.

(laughter)

SAM: Is that true?

TRAVIS: Yep.

TALIESIN: I am city-blind, apparently.

LAURA: What are you looking for?

TALIESIN: I'm looking for anything out of the ordinary, but specifically, a soothsayer, a card-reader, a bones-thrower.

MATT: Grog. Glancing about, you look to see something shine across the ground. As you rush up and find it, you find what looks to be a magically enchanted stone about that big. Rough around the edges, but the reddish color is brighter red than the rest of the stones on the ground, and you're sure that this may be exactly what you were looking for.

LIAM: I'm watching him.

TRAVIS: I quickly get on my hands and knees, and I start moving the sand around, looking for one just like it, just to make sure it's unique.

MATT: There are many red stones around it, as you press the bit of dust and sand gathered around the other cobblestones, but this one appears to be unique.

TRAVIS: Oh! What does it taste like?

MATT: There's a hit of saltiness to the dust that has gathered in this vicinity.

TRAVIS: I gave away my salt-lick rock!

MATT: You did.

(laughter)

LIAM: I take a moment to marvel at how a being of such ferocity and power can be such a doofus at the same time. It's amazing.

SAM: I'm going to plant myself at the end of two rows of the intersection and wait for people to walk by. And as they do, I say: Spice? Spice, spice, spice? You spice it? Spice, spice, spice?

LAURA: Can I have seen Percy looking around?

MATT: Yeah.

LAURA: Can I help him look?

MATT: Percival, what did you roll?

TALIESIN: Where did it go? Investigation? I rolled a nine.

MATT: Yeah. It's funny. For all the preparation of being a noble and public speaking, you are utterly lost.

TALIESIN: Oh, I'm terrible in urban areas. I've learned this. I get flustered.

MATT: The culture is so vastly different from what you're used to, and the people don't seem to really pay much mind to your relatively important outfit and presence, and you're lost at sea.

TALIESIN: I've never rolled a decent investigation check. It has never happened.

MATT: Vex walks up to you.

LAURA: What are you looking for, dear?

TALIESIN: Beyond anything interesting. Everything is too interesting.

LAURA: It's very colorful.

TALIESIN: A soothsayer of some kind, perhaps. It might be a good way to start getting the word out of the sorts of things we're looking for.

LAURA: What sorts of things?

TALIESIN: We're looking for a cloak. We're looking for a merchant with one eye.

TRAVIS: I found a rock!

TALIESIN: And we're looking for rocks– not anymore, I suppose. And those are usually the most trustworthy of the untrustworthy people you find in a city.

LAURA: Investigation? 19.

MATT: 19. The two of you begin to meander around, look around. You see, after some wandering, what looks to be a single blanket set out with a small half-dome shade structure of various cotton cloths that have been layered and pinned to create this loose escape from the sunlight. And you see what appears to be an older man with a very long braided beard that goes past his belly-button. He sits there, sleeveless open shirt, baggy pants, no shoes, and before him a deck of cards that is laying in a stack, and he has his eyes closed with his hands resting at the ends of his knees.

LIAM: It sounds like fun.

LAURA: Want to walk up? Yeah?

TALIESIN: You mind blowing a little bit of money on this?

LAURA: No, actually.

MARISHA: Are we all there?

MATT: Depends on if you guys want to follow.

MARISHA: I'd like to follow.

MATT: Okay. as you guys are approaching, you over in the corner.

SAM: Spice it? Spice it? Fusaka!

MATT: Make a deception check.

SAM: A billion. Deception?

MATT: Deception, yeah.

SAM: 32.

MATT: This marks your ability to double-talk or subtly put out the vibes for an individual.

LIAM: Why aren't you a crime kingpin?

MATT: Who knows what Scanlan's ultimate destiny is?

TALIESIN: I have a song for your next playlist. I'm so excited.

MATT: After a few moments of you doing this and a few people walking away, looking frustrated and taken aback, partially by your visual form and the unexpected contents of your words, one man in his early twenties walking up, what looks to be a damp cloth wrapped loosely around the head to keep the head cooled under the sun's heat, walks up and leans in and goes, “You're asking about spice, yes?”

SAM: Yes, hard-to-find spice. I don't know if they have it in this particular bazaar. It takes a seller with a keen eye to identify it.

MATT: “Well, I know folks who are purveyors of many spices here. Please, what do you seek?”

SAM: It's not really something that I want to discuss out in the open, but we could take a walk and talk about it.

MATT: “Good, good. Lead on. We'll have a conversation as we go.” As he stands back up after leaning down for you, you get a little glance at what appears to be a slightly pointed ear and what looks like a hint of a mustache that's grown through. Very similar in visual presentation as to your comrades: not full elf, not full human, though definitely a much darker shade due to the out-in-the-open lifestyle of Ank'Harel. You begin to walk with this figure through the street. We'll get to you in just a moment. So as you guys make your way to the older gentleman sitting on the ground, eyes closed.

LAURA: We sit down in front of him.

MATT: His eyes are still closed.

LAURA, TALIESIN, and MARISHA: Be pleased.

MATT: “Be pleased.” His eyes open, and you can see his eyes are snow-blind. They are clouded over with what would probably be terrible cataracts or something else that has caused him full blindness, but he stares past you as he opens his eyes. “So you wish to be read, then?”

LAURA, MARISHA, and TALIESIN: Yes.

MATT: “Five gold for my services.”

SAM: (whispers) He won't know what you put in his hand!

TALIESIN: You're not there.

MARISHA: He will know. He's a fortune teller, for Christ's sake.

LIAM: Five plumbing washers.

LAURA: Should I put five or 15, for each of us?

TALIESIN: Five, for the moment. He knows there's three of us.

MATT: He places it into a small side pouch. “What do you wish to be read for?” He takes the cards and begins shuffling.

TALIESIN: We search for a garment. We search for a man.

MATT: His way of shuffling cards is interesting. As opposed to the usual like double shuffle, he picks up the deck in one hand and splits it and then shuffles it together. Turns it around, splits it, and then shuffles it together on each side. It's this weird boy with a crystal in Labyrinth, but with a card deck. It's wild. As he stays still, looking past all of you.

TALIESIN: And we search for answers towards the future that we inevitably run to.

MATT: The shuffling stops, and he grabs the deck. “You search for a garment.” And he takes two cards out and throws them across the center of the blanket for you guys. You guys step back and take a look. One of them appears to have a fire or a camp flame with smoke pouring up out of it, and the other one appears to have a storm, a torrent of water, and he goes, “This garment you seek. It looks to be in motion, moving. If you seek this garment here, may haste take you. Your second question.” What were you saying in the second one?

TALIESIN: We search for a man.

LAURA: With one eye.

TALIESIN: Well, I didn't say that far.

MARISHA: A merchant warrior. Missing.

TALIESIN: He doesn't need that. He's fine.

MATT: What did you say?

TALIESIN: Oh, we search for a man.

MATT: Pulls up two more cards and throws them, and they land almost exactly in the same place as the other two cards that he tossed before. They scoot to a stop. One card appears to be mostly blank, except it carries some sort of a stylized symbol or letter that you don't recognize. And the other one appears to be a hand of cards stuffed within a pile of coin. “You seek this man, yet it is not a man you seek. To where the luck brings you, the answers lie.” And he puts out his hand.

TALIESIN: Five more. Five more.

MATT: “And the third question?”

LAURA: Can I insight check him as he's reading the cards? See if his face twitches at all, if it looks like he's making shit up.

MATT: Go for it.

LAURA: 21?

SAM: Oh, the whispers! So many whispers. How are the Cowboys doing, Travis?

TRAVIS: I stopped looking.

SAM: I can tell you how they're doing.

LIAM: Sounds like a sad man right there.

TALIESIN: Wait, let's consult the cards. That's the third question.

TRAVIS: It's pre-season. Nobody playing right now.

SAM: Oh yeah, sure.

TALIESIN: The cards say the Cowboys are not–

SAM: Hey, maybe you and me should go to a game sometime.

TRAVIS: I would love to.

LAURA: Okay. And the third question?

TALIESIN: We move towards a conflict. What should we know? What should we be prepared for?

MATT: Pulls the two cards forward, throws them down, landing once again almost precisely on the same space as the last two tosses. They slide to a stop. One of them shows a chasm cracking in the earth, and the other appears to show a singular, sunken skull. “The path is to change historic, but many will fall as the transition is to take. Take your time wisely, for the hourglass runs quickly.”

LAURA: Goddamn it. Five more gold.

MATT: “Is this all of your questions?”

TALIESIN: That will do, yes.

MATT: He bows his head ever so slowly towards you. Then be pleased.” And he takes the cards and shuffles them back into the deck, rights them into a perfect square with one quick move of his hand, and places them back in front, puts his hands back on his knees, and closes his eyes and puts his head down. There's a pause, and he reaches over and grabs a small, partially eaten apple and (chomp).

LAURA: I as quietly as possible put another five gold in front of him.

MATT: His chewing stops, and he swallows. Reaches out, patting around it, and finds the gold coins. Puts it into a pocket. “You ask for one more question. What do you inquire?” (card shuffling)

LAURA: Did I make the right choice?

MATT: Two cards land across the carpet before you. One of them shows upon it two hands joining, and the other one shows a symbol of a sun rising over a mountain range. He says, “You've made many choices, but the one you speak of brings unity and a new dawn.”

LAURA: Be pleased.

MATT: He nods. “Be pleased.” Takes the cards up, shuffles them back into the deck, and sets it down. He goes back into his meditative trance.

TALIESIN: I feel that was money well spent.

MARISHA: I guess.

LAURA: That was so cool!

TALIESIN: Well, we know we do not necessarily look for a man, which is important. We know that time is even more of the essence than we first implied, and considering that almost every soothsayer I've ever met is as crooked as the day is long, the word is now out that we're looking for them.

LAURA: Well, that's the Shade. Should we head that direction?

TALIESIN: We should.

LAURA: Grog?

TRAVIS: Yeah?

LAURA: Do you want to bring your rock?

TRAVIS: My what?

TALIESIN: We should grab Scanlan.

LIAM: Where is he?

MATT: Scanlan is gone.

LIAM: Well, shit.

MARISHA: We need one of those leashes for him.

LIAM: Shorthalt?

TALIESIN: Let's maintain a certain level of plausible deniability.

LAURA: Fuck.

MARISHA: I come over the earrings. Scanlan? Just making sure you're okay, wondering where you are. No biggie. Just checking in.

MATT: As you're walking with your half-elvish friend down one of the nearby alleyways, you hear Keyleth speaking over the earring.

SAM: I say: I'm cool.

TALIESIN: We're going to die. Let's get a room.

TRAVIS: All right.

MATT: So you guys make your way towards the Shade?

LAURA: Yes. Scanlan, we're heading towards the Shade. It's the big green tent. Follow?

SAM: (clicks tongue) Yeah.

MATT: Your half-elven compadre goes, “Are you all right?”

SAM: I'm cool. I'm cool on these desert nights, and I need something to warm me up at night, so that's why I was inquiring about this spice.

MATT: “Please, which spice are you seeking?”

SAM: It might not be entirely legal, but fusaka?

MATT: He nods. “It may take a bit of time. I know someone who could bring this, but I could not bring you to them. They'd have to bring it to you.”

SAM: Where can we meet?

MATT: “Well, where are you staying?”

SAM: I'm staying outside of the walls in a small encampment, but I can meet him sometime tonight inside the walls.

MATT: “Where would you need to meet?”

SAM: How about where we first met, at that same intersection, or is that too busy?

MATT: “That is far too busy. It needs to be private, away.”

SAM: I'm sort of a visitor here.

MATT: “If you want a place to stay, there is Luck's Run, the casino. There are back rooms there.”

SAM: There's a casino?

MATT: “Yes.”

SAM: Hells yes.

MATT: “There is the Debt's Respite Inn, which has its own grasp of lowlifes. Those are probably the best bets.”

SAM: Let's meet in a room at the casino.

MATT: “The casino it is. Which room?”

SAM: The red room? I'm not familiar with this casino. I'll need some guidance.

MATT: “Wear a red shirt. He will find you in the casino.”

SAM: Okay. That sounds good.

MATT: “All right. Hour past sundown, we'll find you there.”

SAM: Tonight? What time?

MATT: “An hour past sundown.”

SAM: Oh, sorry. I was thinking about the casino. Sorry.

MATT: “How much do you want?”

SAM: Oh my god. I'm not prepared for this!

MATT: He starts looking a little untrusting.

TRAVIS: Be cool, man. Be cool.

SAM: Enough to get me through a week of heavy use. I want to go on a bender.

MATT: Make a deception check.

SAM: A billion. More than before. 35.

TALIESIN: How are you rolling that?

MATT: He gives you a look and bends down.

SAM: I've had a rough few weeks, and I need to get away from it all and go to that place–

MATT: He gets close to your face, interrupts you, and goes, “I mean this with all due respect: Being as small a man as you are, you have to be careful.”

SAM: Don't tell me what to do. I can take it, all right?

(laughter)

SAM: Let's just say that when I started using, I was your height.

(laughter)

MATT: He backs off, hands up. He goes, “Very well. The amount you ask, I have no specific amount. I'd have to inquire, but I would say, to be safe, bring about 200 gold pieces with you. Just in case.”

SAM: It'll be pure, not cut with anything else? I want the good stuff.

MATT: He looks at you, confused.

SAM: Am I buying cinnamon here?

MARISHA: Might be.

TALIESIN: It's going to be a living baby.

SAM: It's going to be a pound of turmeric!

LIAM: Cardamom.

SAM: Yes. We have a deal. Let's shake on it.

MATT: He reaches out and takes your hand, and you shake. “Very well. Hour after sundown. Casino.” He brings his cloth up and brings it up over his face for a second and darts into one of the nearby corners and vanishes.

SAM: Where did you guys go? Hello?

LAURA: We're at the Shade!

SAM: Okay! I'm coming! Where is that? Shit, where am I? I ask around for the Shade.

MATT: You eventually find it.

MARISHA: Scanlan, stop panicking. I can hear you hyperventilating.

SAM: I'm sorry, I've just never done anything that cool before!

TALIESIN: And you still haven't.

LIAM: The hell you haven't!

SAM: I just did a drug deal, guys!

MARISHA: Scanlan, not over the speakers! Not over the phone line!

LAURA: You have drugs with you?

SAM: No! I'll tell you later!

TALIESIN: These earrings are tapped. You know that.

SAM: They could be listening! I'm coming to you!

LIAM: Pike hears everything.

(laughter)

MATT: You guys find your way to the Shade, and it's a large, circular sandstone wall that has a pointed tent roof above it held by a singular pole in the center. It is segmented into various rooms that have no ceiling, so everyone shares the same roof. This is what appears to be a lounge tavern, meaning there are drinks and wine served, but each room seems to have a carpeted and pillowed floor. Looks like there are beaded curtains and various draperies that separate each of the different rooms, and there's large, hookah-type tobacco pipes. It's very much just a relaxing lounge area.

TALIESIN: There's hookah.

MARISHA: There's hookah!

TALIESIN: I've never tried hookah before.

MARISHA: You've never tried hookah?

TALIESIN: No.

MARISHA: The Earth Ashari are super into the hookah. It's really nice, yeah.

TALIESIN: This is the only thing I actually know about this continent, is that there's tobacco.

MARISHA: We should try it!

LAURA: Did Scanlan get here yet?

MATT: Scanlan takes about five minutes or so, but eventually catches up to you guys.

LAURA: Are we staying here? It's not very private.

TALIESIN: It's not very private, and privacy is definitely higher on the list.

LAURA: Can I find a patron that seems chill?

MATT: Yeah. You look around. You can see what looks to be a matronly older woman wearing some nicer dark purple and black clothing, who is sitting there with one big hookah next to her side, by herself, with a glass of wine to one of the sides, and is staring into space.

TALIESIN: I can literally only see my mother when you describe this image, by the way.

(laughter)

TALIESIN: And only you and you know how funny that is, because it's sealed in there.

LAURA: I walk up. Be pleased.

MATT: “Be pleased. Can I help you?”

LAURA: Actually, just a small trifle. Are you staying here?

MATT: “Over the next few hours, yes.”

LAURA: Lovely. We're from out of town–

MATT: “You don't say.”

LAURA: Yes, and I've noticed the Shade is rather open. Do you know if the Corner Cove or Debt's Respite are quite as private as this, or do they have actual rooms?

MATT: “Both of those have rooms, yes.”

LAURA: Oh. Lovely.

MATT: “Do you have any other specifics or requirements?”

LAURA: Are they far from here?

MATT: “Corner Cove is maybe two miles that way, but the Debt's Respite is about a mile that way.”

LAURA: Thank you. Sorry to bother you.

TALIESIN: Should we put some cards on the table?

LAURA: Some cards?

MARISHA: I thought that's what we just did with that other guy.

TALIESIN: We've been searching for a friend of ours, and it's been very complicated. She's got one eye. She's been around for quite a while.

LAURA: She's a merchant in town. We've been looking for her.

MATT: “There are many merchants that live here.”

TALIESIN: Are there many merchants with one eye?

LAURA: She's quite strong, actually.

MARISHA: Some call her a warrior merchant.

MATT: “Warrior? If you're looking for warrior merchants, you're probably looking for the Scarbearers.”

TALIESIN: Yes, that sounds about right.

LAURA: Yeah, she is a Scarbearer. Are they around here?

MATT: “Well, this definitely narrows down your search. The Debt's Respite is where you'll want to go. It's actually run by one of the heads of their ilk.”

MARISHA: Ilk?

TALIESIN: Not an animal.

MATT: “Scarbearers. They're a bit of a rough-and-tumble lot.”

LAURA: Oh, are they?

MATT: “They hunt for coin, sell what else they find. Odd jobs. Some of them maybe not the most up and legal, but they work with a guarantee, and the head of their troop I think runs, or at least partially owns, the Debt's Respite.”

TALIESIN: Thank you. What are you smoking at the moment, by the way?

MARISHA: I was just about to ask her the same thing!

MATT: “This? I don't know.” Raises her hand, and one of the various workers there approaches with another bottle of wine. “Yes, may I help?” “What is this you put in here?” Blows it in her face. “That would be a Dusk Blossom Sage.” Walks away. “Dusk Blossom Sage.”

TALIESIN: It's very fragrant.

MATT: “Pungent would be the world you're looking for.”

LIAM: I walk over to Keyleth and say: I've done this, but I don't think I knew what I was doing. Your people do this?

MARISHA: Well, the Earth Ashari do, and the Fire Ashari sometimes.

LIAM: You've done this.

MARISHA: Yeah. I stayed with the Earth Ashari for a few months. You want to try? It's fun. It's very nice. It relaxes you. Oh, come on guys! We've got time!

LAURA: Do we?

MARISHA: We never take time for ourselves. Come on!

LAURA: We've got a ticking time bomb!

MARISHA: Just 15 minutes!

TALIESIN: The cards said our luck. Perhaps this is a good way to ignite it.

MARISHA: 15 minutes. Please, Vex, pretty please!

TALIESIN: We are still waiting for Scanlan to get here, and then we'll take him to the next stop.

MATT: Scanlan, by the way, is right behind you.

SAM: Hi!

MARISHA: Scanlan!

SAM: Sorry. Didn't mean to sneak up on you.

LIAM: Now we really need to do it.

LAURA: We do need to talk to him, actually. Do you mind if we join you? I motion to the waitress. Could we have some more Dusk Sage?

TRAVIS: Something stronger.

MATT: You see her eyes roll. “I mean no offense, but this is my 'me' time.”

LAURA: Oh, of course!

MARISHA: Let's get our own! We'll get our own little booth.

TALIESIN: I'm going to put a gold coin on her tray. So you can keep smoking, and thank you for the time spent in our company.

MATT: She takes the coin, flicks it back to you and goes, “I appreciate, but do not require your patronage.”

TALIESIN: I'm grateful for your time.

SAM: Yeah. I like her.

TALIESIN: Thanks, mom. It is burned into my head.

TRAVIS: Getting our own?

LAURA: Yeah, we go get our own.

MATT: You guys are brought into one of the small sections of the Shade. You are given your choice of various tobaccos. While it's not a large room, per se, you can all comfortably lounge in there. It's a nice place to get away. You can hear the distant sounds of the city, but for the most part, there's a soft violin music that plays towards the center of the area, so at least it has a nice atmosphere to it.

TRAVIS: As we're in there, do we notice anyone with any large scars walking around?

MATT: Make a perception check.

TRAVIS: This'll go great. 12.

MATT: You see people with small, large scars. People with scars all over. Life out here can be a little tough at times, but no more scarred than most of the people you've encountered in your lifetime. And definitely nowhere near as scarred as the people you've run with for half of your lifetime.

TRAVIS: There are no really large, scarred people in here.

LAURA: Good to know. Thank you, Grog.

TALIESIN and LAURA: Good to know.

LIAM: Hey, can I see that ruby you found before?

TRAVIS: I have no ruby.

LIAM: You'd hold out on me?

TRAVIS: Nope. There was no ruby.

LIAM: Why are you lying to me, Grog?

TRAVIS: Look, Little Teeny is my friend. All right? He spoke to me out of the deserts of fate, and he is mine and mine alone.

LIAM: All right.

LAURA: Scanlan.

SAM: Oi.

LAURA: Spice dealer?

MARISHA: Yes, I want to hear this story.

SAM: I made contact. I'm supposed to meet up tonight in the casino one hour after sunset. I'm supposed to wear red. I will not lie, I am shitting myself, I'm so nervous.

LAURA: Are you going to wear red?

SAM: Well, how else will they discern who I am? I don't want to go alone.

LAURA: Well, I'll go with you.

SAM: Are you cool?

LAURA: Of course I'm cool. I'm so cool, darling.

SAM: Okay.

TALIESIN: I'm cool!

MARISHA: Me, too!

SAM: Well…

TALIESIN: No, what do you mean? We're cool.

SAM: I don't want to draw too much attention, but I want to be safe.

TRAVIS: (loudly) Are you buying drugs?

(laughter)

TALIESIN: Could not be happier.

LIAM: What an episode! What an episode.

TALIESIN: There's so many valuable lessons that can be learned at any moment.

LAURA: Do you think maybe the reason Jarett was almost arrested was because of this fucking spice?

TALIESIN: I think that's precisely what happened.

LAURA: What the hell was he thinking?

SAM: But we're going to do it smarter. We're going to do it better.

TALIESIN: No, we're not! (laughs) He's legitimately smarter than us.

SAM: I can do this. I am the one who cocks.

(laughter)

SAM: I can do this. But I need some backup. Maybe Vax could come and he could wear red. And he could be the guy who–

LAURA: Aren't they going to be looking for a very little man?

SAM: Okay, I'll wear the red, but maybe you could be there.

LIAM: I will go with you, and I will hang back, and I will be there to stab out the eyes of anyone who wants to hurt you, but you are the talker, man. You've always been the talker.

SAM: Okay.

LAURA: Why does Scanlan never think I'm very cool? Why does he think that?

SAM: No, I think you're great.

LAURA: You never want me to go with you, I could've helped you find Kaylie, and you didn't ask me to.

LIAM: Well, let's be real. She's the coolest one in the group, really.

SAM: The big pointy hat, it's really dorky.

LAURA: You're the one who fucking makes me wear this thing!

SAM: I know!

LIAM: Can she take it off at the casino, though?

LAURA: I'm not flying. I can take it off whenever I fucking want!

TRAVIS: Can we all come? It sounds super dangerous. I just want to watch. I'll be so sly.

TALIESIN: We are, by the way, walking to our next destination.

MARISHA: No, I am enjoying my hookah.

TALIESIN: Oh, I forgot we got hookah. Oh my god.

LAURA: We're sitting and hookah-ing through this whole fucking thing.

LIAM: I did it before, but I don't think I really did it.

MARISHA: Is this a split hose? We have a split hose.

SAM: No, thanks. I'm straight-edge tonight. I've got to think clearly.

MARISHA: It's just tobacco, Scanlan.

TALIESIN: Is it just tobacco? We really don't actually know.

MARISHA: Actually, that's a good point. I do a few test puffs. Is it just tobacco? Is there something special about this hookah?

MATT: It seems to be just delightfully flavored tobacco.

MARISHA: It's nice! So okay, you don't want to inhale all at once. It's more like flavor thing. Like a cigar.

LIAM: Yeah. I copy Keyleth. (coughs)

MARISHA: Vax. Come on.

LAURA: Good job, brother. Good job.

TRAVIS: What happened to you?

LIAM: I just, (coughs, sniffs) I can't stop (coughs) coughing. (coughs) I'm fine.

MARISHA: Wow. This is cute, actually. This is adorable. I hand him some water from my pouch. Just a little dry.

LIAM: (coughs) It's really good.

LAURA: Wow, you've never looked cooler in your entire life.

LIAM: I agree with you.

TRAVIS: Is there a bar in this place? A proper bar?

MATT: Not really a bar. It seems the servants take orders and bring you your various liquid imbibements.

TRAVIS: Right. Can I flag down a–

MATT: Yeah. You see a man walks up to you, long dark curly hair, bit of a goatee growing. “How can I help you?”

TRAVIS: Yeah, I'm royalty from a far-off land. I pride myself on trying the fiercest spirit in the area that I'm visiting. What do you guys pride yourself on?

MATT: “You want the Sandkheg's Hide.”

TRAVIS: The sandcake side?

MATT: “The Sandkheg's Hide.”

TRAVIS: Oh, hide. Oh, is it a food or a drink?

MATT: “It's a drink.”

TRAVIS: Yeah, then one of those'd be great.

MATT: “It's expensive.”

TRAVIS: Yeah, well, don't tell anybody but I'm super fucking rich. Only because I have to check with my national treasury, how much is it?

MATT: “Ah, do you wish to have a glass or a bottle?”

TRAVIS: A bottle.

MATT: “A bottle will run you 350 gold pieces.”

SAM: Oh!

TRAVIS: I'll take two.

MATT: Walks off.

TALIESIN: How have we not stopped this?!

MATT: Comes back with two very full– (laughs)

LAURA: That's from your personal fucking funds!

TRAVIS: We be clubbing, motherfuckers.

LAURA: That ain't no party funds.

TALIESIN: Those are gold coins. You're not making it rain, you're making it hail, for god's sakes.

MARISHA: Does that get to come with us, or is it bottle service? Because if this is bottle service, we're here for the night.

TRAVIS: Okay, maybe there's champagne though, yes?

MATT: He comes back a little later with these two dark green glass wine bottles that have this heavy leather wrapped around them and bolted together at certain places. It looks like leather at times, but as you get closer, you feel it's actually hard. It's almost like a chitinous armor on the outside of the glass.

TRAVIS: This was meant for me.

MATT: Both of these vials are given to you with heavy corks that are wax-coated over the top. “Here you are.”

TRAVIS: Oh! May I start a tab? No? Fine. Then I give, shit. (mutters) How much do I owe?

LAURA: 700.

TRAVIS: 700. Here's 800 gold.

SAM: Oh my god.

MATT: “Thank you very much, and please, do let me know if you require anything else.”

TRAVIS: No problems.

MATT: And he exits the room.

TALIESIN: I have never hated you so much before, in my entire life.

TRAVIS: Prepare to drink like kings.

LIAM: I feel the opposite way. I'm very proud.

MARISHA: Yeah, yeah. Grog, I think this bottle's more well-armored than we are.

TRAVIS: Yeah, it's like amazing animal-skin Maker's Mark. So how do we crack this bitch open?

SAM: Guys, I need you to be clear-headed tonight!

TALIESIN: I'm having a glass of this. We've just paid a fortune for it.

LAURA: We're saving a bottle.

TALIESIN: We are saving a bottle.

TRAVIS: Right. Are there any opening utensils around, because I don't want to unsheathe–

TALIESIN: May I sword it?

MATT: You may.

TALIESIN: I'm going to sword it.

LAURA: But don't take your sword out, because we're not allowed to bring our weapons out.

TALIESIN: Oh, there's no weapon in here?

MATT: You're currently private in the room.

TALIESIN: Oh, we're private in the room.

MARISHA: I thought this was an open tent-commune thing.

MATT: It's an open ceiling, but there are rooms segmented by cloth and what looks like sandstone walls, so there are little pockets and alcoves, and you guys currently have one that you're in right now.

TALIESIN: It's not no weapons, it's just no usage of them.

LIAM: Let's keep them sheathed, he said at the gate. But we are pretty hidden.

TALIESIN: I'll just pop it.

MATT: Comes off, and the cork flies and bounces off one of the nearby walls. The smell that comes to you is extremely strong. It resembles a very vinegar turned wine mixed with this, for lack of a better term, a very earthy scent. It's almost herbal, medicinal. It's not at all what you would have expected for something so expensive.

TRAVIS: Who wants to be first? Keyleth?

MARISHA: Fill me up. Oh wait, you want me to go first?

LAURA: I want a shot.

TRAVIS: You want a shot?

SAM: Percival just took some.

MATT: As it touches your tongue, that smell transitions into a very acidic taste. It actually burns your tongue, and it goes numb within a matter of seconds. It is not a delightful flavor, and as the tongue goes numb, the back of the throat goes numb as you swallow. As the numbness continues down the rest of the body, the flavor has not improved at all, but it brings this universal numbness. And as the slight pain of the burn subsides, you, with just but a few sips, become extremely intoxicated, but also just numb.

LIAM and MARISHA: How is it?

TALIESIN: (slurring) Not very good.

LAURA: Oh shit.

TALIESIN: (slurring) But if–

LAURA: Oh, he's fucking wasted.

MARISHA: I slap him.

TALIESIN: (slurring) You should do that again. That felt really good. I'll do it.

LAURA: Oh shit.

SAM: Liquid MDMA.

MARISHA: I take a sip.

LAURA: I'm not drinking mine. Here, Grog.

MARISHA: I want to know! I take a sip.

MATT: You take a sip, and the same sensation takes, and the numbness sets in, this slight vibration at the back of the skull. Elements of this remind you of being very drunk, with but a few sips.

LIAM: Hey, can you hear me? Yeah? You all right?

MARISHA: (slurring) Oh holy shit.

MARISHA and TALIESIN: (slurring) This is so weird.

MARISHA: (laughs)

TALIESIN: (slurring) We're good.

LIAM: I take them by the cheeks. Can you feel this?

TALIESIN and MARISHA: Yeah!

LIAM: You can?

MARISHA: (affirmative grunt)

LIAM: Can you feel this?

TALIESIN and MARISHA: (affirmative grunt)

TRAVIS: Does it taste good?

TALIESIN and MARISHA: (dissenting grunt)

LIAM: Do you recommend it?

TALIESIN and MARISHA: (non-committal grunt)

(laughter)

TRAVIS: (high-pitched) It hurts man, oh my god!

LAURA: Are you going to try it, Grog?

(laughter)

LIAM: I am not going to have a sip of that right now. Definitely sometime, but–

LAURA: Back in the mansion, maybe.

LIAM: Yeah.

LAURA: But not when we have to do something tonight.

TALIESIN: (slurring) What do we have to do?

LAURA: As charming as you two are right now.

TRAVIS: I'm going to stopper it and then I'm going to put the extra bottle in the Bag of Holding.

SAM: You didn't have any?

TRAVIS: Nope.

LIAM: Just these two?

TRAVIS: (laughing) Money well spent!

LAURA: Can I step out and find that waiter that we paid for?

LIAM: Yeah, you're both really cute right now, but you're useless.

MARISHA: I lean on Vax a little bit.

LAURA: Wonderful beverages you just served us. How long does that last?

MATT: “Depends on how much you're drinking.”

LAURA: Just a tiny bit.

MATT: “Hour, maybe.”

LAURA: Fabulous. They came with quite a price tag, didn't they?

MATT: “'It's very dangerous to harvest and create, yes.”

LAURA: I could assume. What exactly is in?

LIAM: Yes, what are they harvested from?

MATT: He thinks a minute, then goes, “I don't know which part of the sandkheg it is, but it is taken from the usually venomous bile or spittle of the creature.”

TALIESIN: (slurring) That's really good bile!

TRAVIS: It's a living thing.

LAURA: I'm assuming, I mean, back in the city that we're from–

MATT: “Mind you, it is refined and pickled by the finest of various– It is a delicacy across Ank'Harel and northern areas of Marquet. I was merely fulfilling the request of your companion.

TALIESIN: (slurring) No, it's very good.

LAURA: Thank you so much. Where we're from, usually when purchasing such a great and expensive item, room service is included. I'm assuming we have somewhere to stay for the night?

TALIESIN: (slurring) I don't think that it's that kind of place.

MATT: "I mean, you are welcome to stay, should you pay an evening price, yes, but that is not part of the price of the drink of which you have purchased, no.”

LAURA: Oh. Cultural differences! Good to know.

TALIESIN: (slurring) We have to move.

LIAM: Hey. Can you say your full name right now?

TALIESIN: (slurred) Percival Fredrickstein von Musel Klossowski de Rolo the third of Whitestone.

SAM: Don't say the W word!

TALIESIN: (slurring) Whitestone?

SAM: Okay, it's fine now.

TALIESIN: (slurring) What? (shushing)

TRAVIS: How long until you have to meet this guy at the casino?

TALIESIN: (slurring) Why're you talking? Just (shushes).

SAM: What time is it? Has the sun gone down?

MATT: No, you guys woke up maybe two and a half hours ago.

TALIESIN: Day drinking! Yes!

MATT: You're maybe getting close to noon. The sun, last you saw before you got here, was close to the center of the sky.

TRAVIS: Well, we've got time to kill, right?

LAURA: We need to go find the Debt's Respite and maybe get a room.

SAM: Is that where we're going to sleep tonight?

LAURA: That's where the Scarbearers are. We can get a room here.

LIAM: And your deal is this evening, yes?

SAM: Yeah, we've got some time for that.

TRAVIS: So we take off for the Debt's Respite.

MATT: Okay. Who's leading the charge for that?

TRAVIS: No, you're not. I will.

MATT: Okay. Go ahead and make an investigation check, if you don't mind.

SAM: Investigation. You're terrible at those.

MARISHA: (laughing) This is everything I wanted.

TALIESIN: I'm so happy right now.

LAURA: 26.

MATT: 26 investigation check. Within ten minutes you've asked the right questions between a number of various street urchins and street salespersons, to be directed straight towards the Debt's Respite.

SAM: I wrote it down correctly, Matt.

MATT: In following the direction, you end up walking up to what looks like a rather rundown-looking establishment. The broken glass windows and missing front door lead you to think that perhaps it's been abandoned for months. Looks a little rough and ramshackle.

LAURA: But they said this was being guarded by the Hand of Ord. Interesting.

SAM: My contact in the underworld said that this was a place that is a known hangout for seedy types. Right? Am I remembering that correctly?

LAURA: No, the guard at the front of the city told us this was one of the places that you could stay, and it was guarded.

MATT: He said it was a place you could stay, because you were asking for taverns and inns.

LIAM: We have accounts from two different people, and they're two different opinions.

TALIESIN: It's like Yelp. But better. I'm going to knock. (knocking)

MATT: As you approach the front door, it's partially ajar and as you push it open, you can see the inside is a whole different story. As your eyes adjust to the interior you find actually a bustling business of barhands slinging tankards across seven stained wood tables, some of the folk look rather day-drunk, similar to these individuals, though it has worn a bit off since the original sip. And most look to be various miscreants or post-work farmers taking a break. The interior is familiar and probably closer to the taverns you're used to in more of the poorer districts of Emon and surrounding cities than some of the more luxurious areas you've recently found yourselves in. Vax, Vex, and Keyleth– actually, Keyleth, make a perception check with disadvantage.

MARISHA: Aw. I see why you're doing that. With disadvantage?

MATT: Yes.

MARISHA: 17.

MATT: Okay. Vex and Vax, as you guys walk into the room, you do catch off in the distance behind a series of barrels that are stacked and the edge of a shelf that contains rows and rows of glasses, tankards, plates, and various things. You just barely make out what looks to be an androgynous figure, face masked with dark blue and black cloth, with a hint of leather armor, hiding in the corner. Like barely visible to you and you can make out the details due to your very keen ability to gather your surroundings quickly.

LIAM: Is the armor similar to that suit of armor we saw on the other guy?

MATT: Nope. This is very muddled, low leather armor.

LAURA: Are they wearing a cloak?

MATT: Can't tell; their back's hidden, and they're quiet.

LAURA: So they don't have something up? Do they have a hood over their head?

MATT: They have a hood and a mask. Looks to be like a cloth mask wrapped around him.

LIAM: I'm going to hang by the two sobering-up twins over here and keep an eye on that person.

MATT: You guys also watch throughout all the various patrons and people that are wandering about this establishment, one figure stands out amongst the others. You see a bronze-scaled dragonborn: bulky and thick, muscular armored in light hides and bracers. He clutches an untouched mug that is brimming with an amber-colored ale and is lost in thought, staring off towards one of the broken windows that leads outside. Very heavy, muscular arms. Maybe not quite the height of Grog, but definitely a similar build.

LAURA: Tail or no tail?

MATT: Sitting down, you can't tell.

LIAM: You don't know.

MATT: What do you guys do?

TALIESIN: (slurring) We're fine.

LAURA: Wow. I guess I walk up to the tavernkeep.

MATT: There is no tavernkeep. There are barmaids walking around and passing drinks, but there is no barkeep right now.

LAURA: I grab one of the barmaids. Who do we speak to about a room?

MATT: “You would speak to Treev,” and points to the dragonborn, who is currently staring out of the window.

LAURA: Oh. Well, there we go. I walk over.

TRAVIS: I go with her.

MATT: He's spacing out. As soon as you approach he goes, (groans) “What do you want, bothering a fellow in mid-fantasy?”

LAURA: Sorry, sir.

MATT: “What can I do for you?”

LAURA: We're interested in a room for the night, actually.

MATT: “All right, well, what's your name?”

LAURA: Vex'ahlia.

MATT: “Vex'ahlia. Treev. Treev Bonebreaker.” And grabs your arm. As opposed to a handshake, like a full-on forearm, meaty grasp. Treev. T-R-E-E-V. "Treev Bonebreaker. Current caretaker of this fine establishment. Looking for rooms? I've got three available.”

LAURA: Wonderful. Mind if I sit down?

MATT: “At this rate, sure. I doubt I'm going to find myself back to that dream. Anyway, what do you and your rather scrawny-looking friend there have to say?”

TRAVIS: I look around.

LAURA: We're actually here on a rather important mission from Emon.

MATT: “Never been there.”

LAURA: It was quite a beautiful city. Not as much anymore.

MATT: “Well, that's unfortunate. Sometimes cities fall to the lowest despots. It happens.”

LAURA: Yes, it does.

MATT: “Rooms?”

LAURA: Yes. Three, you said?

MATT: “Three rooms available.”

LAURA: And how much would those rooms be?

MATT: “How many are staying?”

SAM: Six.

LAURA: Six of us?

MATT: “And your bear?”

LAURA: Well, yes, but he doesn't take up much space.

MATT: “Well we have to put a bear tax on this, you realize.”

LAURA: “A bear tax?”

MATT: “Yes. I haven't had a bear here before. Who knows what damage it can do? Consider it protection.”

LAURA: You know what? He can sleep outside, don't worry. Don't worry about the bear.

MATT: “All right. I take no responsibility what happens to your bear outside.”

LAURA: Thank you.

MATT: “That'll run you ten gold per room. 30 gold for the night.”

LAURA: (whispers) Ten gold? (louder) Are these really fancy rooms, then?

MATT: “No. God no. I don't know where you're from in Emon or what the prices are there, but here, it's expensive.”

LAURA: Every fucking thing is expensive here.

TALIESIN: Can I attempt to start looking around the room to try and find anything interesting and try and be useful?

MATT: Make an investigation check with disadvantage.

LAURA: Can I insight and see if he's just taking fucking advantage of us because we're tourists? I don't want to roll that one. I want to roll this one.

TALIESIN: Investigation? 12.

LAURA: Natural 20!

MARISHA: Oh shit.

MATT: Yeah, he straight-up jacked the price up. He can see the foreigner on your face.

LAURA: You know what? We probably don't need the three rooms. They offered us some over at The Shade. It's fine.

MATT: “Certainly. Whatever your business may be. Is that all you need?”

LAURA: Are you from Tal'Dorei?

MATT: “Me? No. Not originally.”

LAURA: No.

MATT: “Why?”

LAURA: So you haven't heard of Draconia? Can I see from here if he has a tail or not?

MATT: There is no tail behind him.

LAURA: Have you heard?

MATT: “Of Draconia? Unfortunately.”

LAURA: Have you heard what happened?

MATT: “No.”

LAURA: Draconia has fallen.

MATT: Grabs his drink that he's holding up, slams it on the table. It spills over. “You fucking with me?”

LAURA: No.

MATT: “Well, there's a reason for celebration.” And just chugs the entire drink in one go, you can see his dragonborn gullet just accepting the entire drink in one gulp. (sighs)

LAURA: Well, I'd be happy to tell you more detail for a reasonable price on the rooms.

MATT: (laughs) “Sit down. All of you. 15 gold for the lot. All the meaty details. Sure.”

LAURA: So we tell him.

MATT: You tell him about everything, and he listens in. He starts enjoying it, and eventually falls a bit, sinking in the stake of things, and eventually that celebration falls to acceptance.

TALIESIN: Does anyone mind if I fill him in on the future of Draconia?

SAM: If you do it in a slurry speech, sure.

TALIESIN: It's going to be slightly slurry, but at this point at least I'm English again. We have the next several weeks we were going to attempt to free the populace from their new lord and master. But in order to do that we are here on a mission. We're searching for something. We're searching for a one-eyed merchant warrior, and a cloak.

MATT: “Well look, if you're looking to hire, you've got to explain the task then. We do have a code. Fuck what the rumors say.”

TALIESIN: I've never found anyone who doesn't have a code who lived very long to tell about it.

MATT: “Aye. Long enough. What's the point in living without one? That's how you end up shivved in the stomach and left to bleed in the street. What you looking to hire for?”

TALIESIN: We are looking for the one-eyed merchant warrior who wears the coat of Cabal's Ruin.

MATT: “I know who you're seeking, aye. Mistress Asharru.”

TALIESIN: Mistress Asharru?

MARISHA: We have a name! Goddamn it.

MATT: “She's one of our finest, and expensive because of it. But friend, she's been off for a week since her last job, so mayhaps her schedule is open. Would have to inquire. Write me a summary of your job you have for her. I'll have it delivered. Her answer may take a week or so.”

TALIESIN: We do not have, sadly, a week or so. The dragon falls in two weeks.

MATT: “Well, write her a letter, she'll receive it, and she'll return to you when she sees it fit. Our business is our business. If you don't like it, shove off, find someone else.”

TALIESIN: Sadly no one else will do. Not that I want to inquire of the sort of business she's in, because that's inappropriate, but is she in the town at least? If we were to write her, could we get word to her quickly?

MATT: “Why, I can get word to her immediately, but it's up to her when she wants to respond.”

TALIESIN: Is there anything else you can tell me about her?

MATT: He starts giving you a curious look and goes, “You come in here asking to hire one of my finest and don't know what work she does?”

TALIESIN: I know what work she does.

MATT: “What work do you need her for?”

TALIESIN: We need to save the world.

MATT: “And you need her help to save the world.”

TALIESIN: Sadly, but true. We at the very least need her blessing.

LAURA: While he's talking, can I keep an eye on the figure in the corner?

MATT: Yeah. Make a perception check.

TALIESIN: There are things that have been released upon this earth that will burn everything. And they will make their way here. Draconia is gone. Tal'Dorei is gone. All swaths of civilization have been wiped off the earth.

MATT: “We've weathered beasts. We've weathered dragons here in Emon.”

TALIESIN: Not like we've seen.

MATT: “So be it. But nevertheless, you want to hire her, you've got to write her a proposal.” And he slides across a piece of parchment with a small quill about it. “I'll deliver it, and she'll get back to you when she sees fit.”

SAM: Does she have a normal price?

MATT: “Depends on the job you're asking. She'll set her price.”

SAM: Okay.

LAURA: 30 perception.

MATT: 30 perception? The figure is watching all of you intensely but has not moved an inch. All you've seen are the eyes move, but they've been trained on your entire group since you arrived.

LIAM: I've been watching.

SAM: Okay.

TRAVIS: Could I ask, (coughs) other than gambling, what sort of entertainment can you find in this city?

MATT: “All sorts of entertainment. There's various singers, musicians, dancers, performers. If you're looking for company there's all sorts of entertainment in that regard, of all the spectrums. If you're looking for games, probably a few months out before we get to any sort of the gladiatorial events.”

TRAVIS: I'm sorry, could you just, a bit more on–

MATT: “That's months away.”

LIAM: There's no place for our friend to get into a scrap?

MATT: “Well, you could certainly find a scrap, but none that are sanctioned by the Hand, and they'll put you away.”

LIAM: Sorry, big man.

MATT: “Lest you have someone to duel you. That's a whole different business.”

TRAVIS: What? Duel?

MATT: “That's sanctioned by the law.”

TRAVIS: A duel? A one-on-one duel?

MATT: “If you challenge one to a duel and they accept, aye.”

TRAVIS: In this city, it's legal? Anytime? High noon, midnight, when?

MATT: “You just have to sanction it by the Hand. You have to make sure that you both agree to fight to the death, and the fight has to happen in the Bowl of Judgment.”

TRAVIS and SAM: The Bowl of Judgment?

MATT: “Sits about the Sandherald district outside of the Cerulean Palace.”

TRAVIS: Wait, is that that super fucking tall thing we saw?

MATT: “That's the Cerulean Palace. It's quite close to it, aye.”

LAURA: Are any items allowed in the bowl, or do you have to go in bare-handed?

MATT: “It depends on the sanctions of the Ord and the agreement you come to, but fisticuffs are great for the gladiatorial events, but if you're fighting to the death, sometimes it's nice to bring a blade in.”

MARISHA: So what type of people like to participate in these duels?

MATT: “The kind that got nothing to lose. The kind that got a point worth proving with their life. Those kind. Doesn't happen often. When it does happen, it's a spectacle.”

TALIESIN: Is there like a lighter fight that can be found?

SAM: Arm wrestling match.

TALIESIN: Arm wrestling or– I don't know, what would be worse less than–

LAURA: UFC.

MARISHA: Less than a Bowl of Judgment?

SAM: Cup of Truth?

(laughter)

TALIESIN: A Wok of Truth, maybe.

MARISHA: Bowl of Wheaties.

LIAM: Tablespoon of Wrath.

(laughter)

TALIESIN: This is really uncomfortable.

MATT: “A few months until the games begin, but until then, that's about the only way you'll find bloodshed here. At least that won't lend you up in prison.”

TRAVIS: All right.

SAM and LAURA: Good to know.

TALIESIN: I'm sitting and I'm starting to compose a letter.

LAURA: How's his handwriting?

TALIESIN: Flouncy.

MATT: You're starting to gain it back. What do you write?

TALIESIN: I'm going to show everybody before I hand it in. I'm going to write the truth, top to bottom, of the world is peril, we are facing a battle, and she holds or knows of an item that would turn the tide, and I wish to know its price or know its rental.

MARISHA: Wow.

SAM: What are you asking her?

MARISHA: I feel like that's not going to work.

TALIESIN: I'm holding it. Before I hand it in I'm going to show. I don't feel that there is any deceit– there is nothing I can think to say beyond the truth. We are either dealing with honest people, or we are not.

MARISHA: I have a feeling that… yeah.

LAURA: What if we just–

TALIESIN: I'm also putting my rank and title and letting them know that I'm willing to–

SAM: Give away Vex's title?

TALIESIN: I'm willing to give away Vex. Vex is entirely up for sale. No.

TRAVIS: You're planning to recruit this person?

TALIESIN: I'm not looking to recruit this person. I'm looking to rent or buy an object that she owns, or perhaps even trade, and we'll put 400 gold.

MARISHA: Just to meet with her?

LAURA: Just to meet with her.

TALIESIN: As an offer of a meeting.

LIAM and MARISHA: That's not bad.

MATT: He takes it. He packages it in a small container, a leather container.

MARISHA: Did you put in there that it had to be prompt? That it had to be prompt?

TALIESIN: And that time is of the essence.

MATT: “Oh, don't worry.” (whistles) Whistles through his fingers and the figure in the wall that you'd been watching steps forward and slowly walks towards the table. Holds up the scroll, and the figure leans in. Covers his mouth and he whispers into the ear of the figure. The figure takes the scroll, gives a nod to all of you, and walks out of the tavern. “He'll deliver that to her promptly, now be on your way. 15 gold.”

LAURA: Oh yes, of course! Thank you for the rooms.

MATT: Takes a keyring out and starts fudging through the keys, pulls a few off and tosses them to you across the table. “All right, you've got it for a night.”

LIAM: I heard Grog. I'm going to follow out the door, go stealth.

MATT: Okay. You vanish out the door. Make a perception check.

LIAM: 22.

MATT: 22. Okay. As you glance out the door and pull outside– you're going stealth as well, you said? Roll stealth.

LIAM: That is 25.

MATT: 25. Okay. You turn around the corner just as you see a flash of dark cloth around the edge of the Debt's Respite. You rush off to the edge and look around the corner way and down the alley. You can see the figure, full on, arms out to the side rushed behind, going into a very fast run, down the shaded hallway.

LIAM: Shaded hallway?

MATT: The alleyway.

LIAM: I'll follow.

MATT: Okay, so you continue to follow.

LIAM: At a distance.

MATT: All right. Following the masked figure, you continue to give chance. It darts erratically, zig-zagging between areas. You can see this is a very trained pattern to lose anybody following them, but you're also trained in following those that wish not to be followed. Make another perception check.

LIAM: 24.

MATT: You come around one corner, and you can see there's a wall that ends there, and you see just a little slip of material pass. And as you glance over, you can see the figure has jumped down onto a lower walkway onto what appears to be a recessed sector of this part of Ank'Harel, and has already darted beneath a nearby bridge and overpass that walks across to another series of buildings. You leap over, keeping in the shadow, and give chase down that way. You turn around underneath the bridge and you can see underneath the bridge, there is an archway that leads into a dark path down an actual hallway beneath the series of buildings you just saw ahead of you. Make another perception check.

LIAM: 22.

MATT: 22. You look down the hallway, and you see the shadow of the figure framed against what looks to be another opening on the opposite side but the sunlight is coming through. You can just see the dark outline as it darts forward and then leaps off again, down the right past that exit. You follow, and you look off the side just as you see the figure slink behind one large crate next to a storage section outside of a warehouse. It ducks behind another one. Darts up to a building that looks to be shuttered and closed. It looks like a furniture store with a little sign at the top that says, “A Kingly Home.” It moves an empty rain barrel to the side and slips the leather case through a hole that was previously hidden by the barrel, dropping it inside the building, slides the barrel over it again. Looks back and forth. Make another stealth check.

LIAM: 25.

MATT: 25. Doesn't seem to make notice, and then darts off, leaping, leaping up onto a rooftop and vanishing off.

LIAM: You said, “A Kingly Home”?

MATT: A Kingly Home.

LIAM: I'm going to stealth back to the Debt's Respite.

MATT: Keeping a very close watch on the path you took and marking it mentally back to the Debt's Respite. It's probably a good mile off from where you guys were, if not a little further. You guys continue your conversation, go about your own business. Eventually, Vax returns with the information, the path of wherever this letter was dropped off to.

TRAVIS: Just curious, have you ever had the Sandkheg Hide?

MATT: “Are you serious?”

TRAVIS: Yeah. I'm just asking.

MATT: “No, I ain't drinking that bullshit.”

TRAVIS: Really?

MATT: “Yeah.”

TRAVIS: Too stiff for you?

MATT: “Too stiff for anyone! It's– what?”

TRAVIS: I mean, I hear only real bosses can drink that jazz.

MATT: “That's not a drink. That's probably squeezed from the arsehole of some sort of beast out in the desert. I prefer my stuff taken from berries and the sweet stuff.”

TRAVIS: What do you mean, some beast? Who'd make a drink out of some animal's whatever?

MATT: “Have you have some, have you tasted it?”

TRAVIS: Yeah!

MATT: “Then I guess you know what an animal's bum tastes like, eh?”

TRAVIS: (sputters) Hold on. You mean they squeeze the asshole of something out there?

MATT: “Oh, completely!”

TRAVIS: No!

MATT: “They hold it down and just squeeze its abdomen and the whole sandkheg spews out into this little glass barrel and then you pay for it. Top dollar.”

TRAVIS: Yeah, it's 300 something gold!

MATT: “Oh, did you buy some?”

TRAVIS: No.

MATT: Make an insight check.

TRAVIS: Three.

MATT: You brain is filled with image of whatever creature your imagination has come up with being held down.

TRAVIS: It's a giant, hairy water yak.

MATT: And it is squeezing some sort of yellowish liquid from its abdomen into a glass wine bottle, and you're now looking over at Percy and Keyleth who had just had sips of this earlier. It's not sitting well with your stomach.

TRAVIS: We were gifted a bottle, and a couple of my friends had partook.

MATT: (cackles)

TRAVIS: They say the stuff we had is A-plus.

TALIESIN: Yes.

MATT: Vax now appears at the edge of the table.

LAURA: Oh, hi!

LIAM: Hey. Took a little walk.

LAURA: Let's go to the rooms. Let's check it out. How about that?

LIAM: Sure.

LAURA: Thank you for the rooms. Breakfast? Is there breakfast here?

MATT: (scoffs) “No, you find your own food.”

LAURA: Awesome.

MARISHA: Does he still have some drink in front of him?

MATT: It hasn't been filled since, no.

MARISHA: Oh, never mind.

MATT: Do you guys head to your rooms? Okay. You make your way up to the rooms. They're all clean, serviceable, nothing too fancy, but functional rooms. Each with two beds.

TALIESIN: I want to check for anything unusual, if there's anything iffy about the rooms.

MATT: Investigation check.

LAURA: Oh, I would follow suit.

MATT: Investigation check.

TALIESIN: Oh, for the love of fucking–

MATT: Natural one?

TALIESIN: No. Nine.

MATT: Nine. Nothing seems to be out of place or out of the ordinary.

TALIESIN: Obviously.

LAURA: 13.

MATT: 13? Seems to be a room.

SAM: I'm just going to check under the beds, that's it.

MATT: Okay. Make an investigation check.

SAM: 29!

MATT: 29. You find dust, dead insects, a dried-out rodent husk, and that's it.

LIAM: Grog, you want to bunk up?

TRAVIS: Yeah, sure. Are we going two to a room?

LIAM: Yeah, there's six of us.

MATT: It's also about 3:00 in the afternoon.

LIAM: I know that. I'm not going to go lie down on the floor. I just thought I'd call dibs.

TRAVIS: Yeah. Cool.

LAURA: Scanlan, then. Me and you?

SAM: Sure!

LAURA: No. I'm kidding. I don't want to be in the same room with you at all.

SAM: Oh, I need a bucket and a mop.

LAURA: No. You're with him.

MARISHA: I'm with Vex.

TALIESIN: Yes. What?

LAURA: Yes.

MARISHA: Have fun!

TALIESIN: With– not– no!

LIAM: That's later.

LAURA: What did you see?

LIAM: Yeah, so we've got a backup plan because I followed whoever that person was back to where they dropped off. We should probably honor the offer first. If that goes sideways, then we have a backup plan.

TALIESIN: It's so rare that we're actually given an opportunity to be honest about everything. We might as well try it once, see if we like it.

SAM: But do you know where this person receives her messages?

LIAM: Absolutely.

TALIESIN: Good.

TRAVIS: Where is it?

LIAM: Well, I don't know the names of the streets. I remember what it looked like. If you want to follow me, it's about a mile off. It looked like a furniture store. A Kingly Rest.

LAURA: And you didn't even have to say jenga!

LIAM: Wonders never cease.

TRAVIS: A Kingly Rest. All right.

MATT: What are you guys doing?

LIAM: Well, the casino's tonight. The deal's off. We can't get Grog in a fight.

LAURA: Do you have a red shirt, Scanlan? Do we need to get you one?

SAM: Do we own anything red? Grog?

TRAVIS: What?

SAM: Do we have anything red?

TRAVIS: We have three fancy robes left.

MATT: You do not own a red shirt, but you could probably find one. Not too difficult.

SAM: All right. I'll find one. Take 20 minutes.

MATT: It doesn't take you too long. Costs you two silver pieces. You find a nice red shirt, billowing sleeves. It's totally up your alley.

SAM: Okay, great!

TRAVIS: Can we go back out to the bazaar? Are far from there, or are we still close?

MATT: He's gone through the bazaar. You're not too far from it. Maybe a ten-minute walk.

TRAVIS: They sell any weapons?

LAURA: And potions. We need potions.

TALIESIN: Trinkets.

TRAVIS: Can I look and see if people are selling weapons?

MATT: You walk around. and there are weapons being sold.

TRAVIS: Are there any exotic weapons?

MATT: No. Most weapons you find here are ornamental; they're for decoration. They're for putting above mantelpieces. There are various blades that have bolting mechanisms in the back where you can easily mount them to a wall. None of them, that you can see, at least, that are open in this bazaar for sale, are presented as an actual item for warfare.

TRAVIS: Okay.

TALIESIN: Is there a magic shop?

MATT: Make an investigation check.

TALIESIN: Oh god.

MARISHA: Come on, Percy. Roll something good. That's better!

TALIESIN: 19.

MATT: 19. Asking about, you do come to, within the bazaar, a small wooden building that's like a hut, but it's constructed of dark wood panels. It resembles those strange marionette performance boxes.

TALIESIN: Punch and Judy box, yeah.

MATT: Except it just has this one frazzled-looking young woman standing there with long strands of curly dark brown hair. Red lips, dark eyeshadow. She's eagerly looking out with a sign in the front that reads, “Oddities and Eccentricities.”

TALIESIN: Good day.

MARISHA: Be pleased.

MATT: “Good day.”

TALIESIN: Be pleased.

MATT: “Be pleased to you as well.”

TALIESIN: I'm stocked up on eccentricities, but if you have any oddities for sale, I'd be very interested.

MATT: “There are many oddities at my disposal. I'm Nisaba.”

TALIESIN: Percival. Hello.

MATT: “What kind of oddities are you looking for?”

TALIESIN: Honestly, this is my first time in the city, and I'm trying to get a sense of what's available for sale and what sorts of things one would find in the city, so really, I'm interested in touring your stock, especially if you have anything exotic.

MATT: “Well, let me show you.” Over the next five minutes, she brings out all sorts of strange knickknacks. It's essentially a display from the most awkward of vintage Salvation Armies you've ever come across.

TALIESIN: God, we've found a hipster.

MATT: However, you do catch a quick flash of what appears to be some small crystalline vials that appear to be strapped to some sort of leather bandolier.

TALIESIN: Well, that's interesting. What do you call that?

MATT: “This is for, well, a gentleman who passed through many years ago, who claimed to be a great alchemist, sold this off when he had come into a lot of debt within the city, so I made a good price. No one has really showed much interest in it.”

TALIESIN: Interesting. May I? May I take a look at it?

MATT: “You may.”

TALIESIN: Thank you.

MATT: The leather's finely made, if a little worn. The chemicals inside– one of them does have a familiar color, a deep herbal red. This looks to be some sort of a low to medium level healing potion, most likely, from your experience in the use of that. The two others are grayish and murky and don't really draw your attention or anything you're familiar with.

TALIESIN: Interesting.

MARISHA: Percy, what's that?

TALIESIN: I don't know. It's quite nice, though, isn't it?

MARISHA: Well. Can I do a check on the other two potions to see with my potion knowledge? My potion sense?

MATT: Make an intelligence check.

MARISHA: Not bad. Just straight intelligence? 15.

MATT: 15. They do appear to have been prepared in the way that you prepare magically enchanted vials for potions themselves, but you're not really able to make out just at a glance. You'd have to spend quite a time to make out what their nature is.

MARISHA: I'd have to look at it. Not familiar, sorry. That looks like a health potion, though.

TALIESIN: Yeah. It does look a bit–

MARISHA: Healthy.

SAM: It's like Storage Wars. Just buy it. Who knows what's in there?

TALIESIN: What were you hoping to unload for it?

MATT: “Well, knowing that is now a magic potion of healing and two other magical potions, that is a very valuable belt with its contents. I would sell you just the belt for five silver pieces. To include the vials, and they do come as a set, unfortunately, that would run you 275 gold pieces.”

TALIESIN: Now, see, we don't know what kind of healing potion that is, and those other two vials could have– there is an expiration date on those things. And how long have you had it?

MATT: “We've had it for a number of years.”

TALIESIN: A number of years? Well, in that case, they've probably gone stale by now. I would say 75 gold at the very best.

MATT: (chuckles) “That is not going to work.” She reaches out and takes the belt away from you and sets it back down on the inside.

TALIESIN: 75 gold will not do you for that, then?

MATT: “For the belt, maybe.”

TALIESIN: For the belt, obviously. We've already established that that's in the silver range and certainly not touching the gold.

MATT: “Right, but you're willing to have and to offer that 75 gold for it, please.”

TALIESIN: 75 gold for the entire set.

MATT: “No, it's not going to work. I'm sorry.”

TALIESIN: No, and of course that makes sense that a hundred gold for that entire set would be very fair.

LIAM: I'm starting to take a nap against a column standing up.

SAM: Just buy it.

TALIESIN: 100 gold. You've had it for so long.

MATT: Make a persuasion check.

TALIESIN: This is going to go terribly. Where's my persuasion? Ooh, that's almost a number. Oh, good. 16?

MATT: She goes, “225 gold for the set.”

TALIESIN: 200. And an acknowledgement and compliment to your stunning hair. I'm attempting to flirt very poorly.

TRAVIS: (laughing) That eyebrow.

MATT: Make a charisma check.

TALIESIN: Yes!

MATT: Just a straight charisma modifier to your roll.

LIAM: Come on, snitch.

TALIESIN: Come on. 12.

LAURA: You flirted with grass better!

MATT: She goes, “I appreciate your patronage, but I am a patient woman, and that is how I hold business.”

(laughter)

TRAVIS: Stonewalled!

TALIESIN: Keyleth?

MARISHA: Yes?

TALIESIN: I feel like I should have learned some sort of lesson here. I'm just not entirely sure what it was.

MARISHA: Oh, you know–

TALIESIN: Hardly matters, I suppose.

MARISHA: Maybe you'll come to it at the end of being in Ank'Harel.

TRAVIS: Hey, guys. I had a thought. You know we were all supposed to have a meeting with the king? And I haven't been paying attention if anyone's watching, and we got time to kill. Should we go have a talk with the big man?

LAURA: Or at least put in for an audience.

TRAVIS: Yeah. Who knows if they'll even get to us today?

TALIESIN: I'm sobering up a bit. Which we should probably do that.

LAURA: Does it seem like a long walk towards the Cerulean Palace?

MATT: Maybe a 45-minute to an hour walk.

LIAM: We've got hours and hours before we have to do anything.

TALIESIN: We do. It's 4:00 in the afternoon.

LAURA: What time's the sun set here? Can I ask somebody?

MATT: You ask around. It looks to probably be about four hours from sunset.

TALIESIN: Perfect.

SAM: All right. Fine. Let's go.

MARISHA: Plus, the best way to see a new city is to walk, you guys!

TALIESIN: Wait, hold on. I have to open my Pokémon.

MATT: So you guys are making your way towards the Cerulean Palace. As you approach the large, extremely imposing palace, you come upon what looks to be an endless series of stairs that brings you to the upper platform that is the central portion of the city where the palace seems to reside, eventually peaking in the sandherald district that you were referred to earlier as the location of the palace and where the Bowl of Judgment exists. You step up to the very top of the stairs to find yourself already breathless at the sight of the immense purple-blue-colored palace. A dozen towers reach for the clouds, the daylight peeking through their slightly translucent material, like glassy waters ever-frozen in a fall. The central tower, the one that caught your eye, that ends in a large cup-like position, rises above all of them with a slight spiral-type texture to the outside of the palace that is incredibly tall amongst the rest of the cityscape. As you get closer, you can see the main palace structure presents hundreds of arches pointed at their apex in its structure, smaller and smaller as it recesses further into the palace. Its very architectural build is a marvel, and seems to both have consistency and a chaotic feel to the placement of some of these arches too, in size. It's a very strange but fascinating structure. You can also see turquoise detailing and trim against many of the pillars and carvings and statues that adorn the exterior of the grounds of this palace. As you approach what appear to be the front gates that ascend, with a very bright blue turquoise exterior, close to 50 Hands of Ord patrol various elements of the grounds around it. It looks like there are actual pockets of grass and gardens that exist around the Cerulean Palace in here. The topography changes almost to feel like it belongs entirely anywhere but the middle of the desert. The guards do eye you suspiciously as you approach, and you watch as one armored woman, her dark hair hidden mostly beneath an ornate helmet of brass and blue, approaches you guys. “Welcome to the Cerulean Palace. I must ask your business here.”

LAURA: Forgive us for our intrusion. We come seeking an audience of J'mon Sa Ord.

MATT: “Our emperor does not take meetings. My apologies, but I must ask you to leave.”

TALIESIN: We are, in fact, a group of ambassadors from the continent of Emon, from the cities of–

MARISHA: Continent of Tal'Dorei, city of Emon. It concerns the fate of the world.

MATT: Make a persuasion check.

MARISHA: Which one?

TALIESIN: Not that one. That one. See? Listen to me. I'm not taking credit for that.

MARISHA: 23. No, 24.

MATT: 24. “Let me inquire with the Grand Maven.” She turns around, her armor clinking, and walks back to the palace, leaving you guys there amongst these courtyard grounds. A few moments pass before she returns, the doors opening. As she descends, next to her you see an older woman with these long, ceremonial robes that drag behind her, spilling across the stairs as she descends, seemingly dozens of gemmed bracelets that jingle as she walks with each step. She wears a tall headdress with what looks like brass quills that press behind her head and down her back. As she approaches you all, the woman earlier that you spoke to, the Hand that approached you, stays behind quietly and watches, weapon at the ready. The woman steps forward with a smile, and unlike the abrasive appearance that most of the Hand have given, she seems to be more welcoming, and gives, for the first time since you've been here, a very formal welcoming bow with her hand before her, the other hand out. Says, “Be pleased, everyone.”

ALL: Be pleased.

MATT: “I must apologize. We were not aware of your arrival here. I am the Grand Maven Gameshega. Please, enter and follow me.”

TRAVIS: She's the what?

MARISHA: Gameshega?

MATT, LAURA, and LIAM: Gameshega.

MARISHA: Gameshega?

MATT and LIAM: Gameshega.

TALIESIN: This is good. This is very good.

MATT: As she walks past you and the female Hand that saw you earlier steps aside and watches you as you pass, then ends up stepping behind you and flanking, keeping a watch from the back as you guys are led up the final staircase, through the front turquoise gates of the Cerulean Palace, and they close behind you with a resounding (impact), the impact echoing through these long halls. From the interior, massive pointed archways that lead down ornately decorated halls that echo with each footfall that hits across what looks like endless white and black bespeckled marble. She leads you through a series of hallways, more Hands walking past, as well as a number of other robed individuals. What appears to be a central chamber that has a number of steps and seats, where it looks like various philosophers are in mid-heated discussion in once again, this same language that you have not heard on your ears before. You are eventually brought to a very intricate and decorated waiting room, with some finely upholstered silk chairs, couches. The Grand Maven stops. “If you would not mind, please have a seat.”

TALIESIN: Of course.

SAM: Sure, yeah.

MATT: She walks into a nearby doorway. It looks like a single door that leads into a small-looking room, from the brief moment you have to see it. The door closes and you hear a (magic sound). Two minutes pass. Five minutes pass. Ten eerie, quiet minutes pass.

TRAVIS: Windows in this room?

MATT: No windows in this particular room, but you notice as you take a close look, the roofs, while they are built of this deep blue, almost glass-like thick crystal, they're ever so slightly translucent, and it gives this general blue glow about the entire room. You can't make out any details from the outside, but there is this strange translucence to the entire structure.

TRAVIS: Was that the only door to the room?

MATT: There is the hallway that you left behind, but there standing in the doorway is the same Hand that approached you guys and has been keeping an eye the entire time.

LAURA: He's in the room with us?

MATT: Is away from you, standing in the large archway hall that led you into this waiting room.

LAURA: I'm up and pacing the room, trying to pace near the door that she went through so I can keep an ear on the door.

TRAVIS: I walk up to the guard, and I say, sorry. I really should have peed before I came in. Is there a privy I could use?

MATT: She glances at you. “You look like a strapping young man. Perhaps you can hold onto that for a time.”

TRAVIS: It looks that way, but I also have a strapping-sized bladder, and I've been known to leave strapping-sized messes in corners. You see, I don't really come from all this finery, so the side of the wall is just as good with me. It's just I'm trying to be polite.

MATT: She leans behind the hallway. (foreign language) “Just a moment.” Another guard walks up behind and kicks a bucket into the room.

TRAVIS: That'll do.

LIAM: Put up or shut up.

LAURA: Can I hear anything from the other side of the door?

MATT: Make a perception check.

TALIESIN: I'm laughing out loud.

SAM: One?

MATT: You have your ear up against the wall.

LAURA: I didn't want to have my ear against the wall. I wanted to be subtly doing it.

MATT: Well, you're subtly doing it, and there's nothing. You get closer and closer, and there's nothing. The rest of you hear (magic sounds), but you're still– Eventually, the door opens again, and there the Grand Maven stands again. She looks up to the rest of you. “Come with me. You have been granted an audience.” She steps back into the chamber.

LAURA: That happened much easier than I expected.

TRAVIS: Thank you for the bucket. I'll hold it.

LAURA: Are you sure, Grog?

LIAM: We were convincing.

SAM: They must know who we are.

TALIESIN: Trust our luck. Our luck is going. I'm walking into this.

SAM: Anyone says jenga, kill everyone we meet.

LIAM: It's the only plan we have.

TALIESIN: I'm walking into it.

MARISHA: Yeah.

MATT: You walk into what is a cylindrical chamber of smooth blue-purple quartz-like material with four strands of heavy chains taut between the ceiling and floor, about 15 feet above you. No other exit. You all enter and the door closes behind you, the Maven still relaxing, her arms to her side, her headdress still giving her this ominous presence. Looks up, and there's a (impact) shuddering sound. Suddenly, the bland, uncharacteristic walls, compared to the rest of the palace, begin to slide past the chains, now making this rattling sound as the floor itself seems to be lurching. You feel a bit of pressure in the room that wasn't there before. You're all being lifted, and the walls, now no longer walled in by the rest of the palace, you can now see this occasional traveling-down line as the spiral on the outside of the tower you once saw now surrounds you. The walls are much thinner than the rest of the palace, as you can see through this somewhat-translucent glass exterior the entirety of Emon surrounding you from upon high as it goes lower and lower as you're lifted higher and higher into this tower.

LAURA: This is miraculous!

MATT: It's very off-putting, but beautiful at the same time. Everything's seen through this shimmering, somewhat-refracted blue passage. As you go higher and higher, you can see the countless homes, walls, and towers getting smaller and smaller, other towers eventually ending as you go higher in the tower. The Maven says, “I request you do not touch the walls, please.”

SAM: Okay.

TRAVIS: I really want to touch the walls.

MATT: The view reveals the entirety of the city around you, and beyond that, the distant dunes and the desert that seems to have no end. You view a far-off mountainscape a little bit in the northern direction that just begins to peek past your view, then (boom) the floor ceases again. You all seem to lurch for a moment, yourself, an inch before you catch yourself on your feet. The Maven catches herself, very used to this transition. You now see behind her, where it has stopped, there is another set of doors, similar to the ones you entered from in the bottom portion of this tower. The door opens, (creak) and you can see the next room is a set of staircases of the same color that slowly curl off and disappear upward above you. “Please, follow me.” She walks in, her robe dragging behind her. You guys give enough berth for it to follow. As you're led up the stairway, choosing right or left, they both lead to the upper platform in what is the top of the central tower of the Cerulean Palace. As you enter this room, you see close to a hundred dangling silk tapestries from 50 or 60 feet up of multitudes of different colors; rainbowscapes of beautiful translucent cloths and silks, gently flowing with breezes and mingling and mixing into each other around the outside of the wall. High arched windows on each side, and behind, what looks to be a large opening reveals passing clouds surrounding this height and obfuscating certain portions as they meet with the height of this tower's apex. You see a large balcony from the opposite side of the room that is opened from its own similar-sized arch that extends outward. It has a railing about four feet up that is an opening that overlooks in open air all above the city to see. In the center of the chamber, you see a series of step-like platforms, circular, that rise up upon each other, and in the center, you see what seems to be a tall throne of bronze and sapphire that probably sits ten feet up from the base. Thin, but extremely long and widens towards the top. You can see hundreds of sapphires put into and set into this shiny, ruddy metallic material that frames the entirety of the throne. And there sitting atop this throne, you see a slender, human-like entity wearing no jewelry, no ceremonial adornments, no crown, just a simple brown cotton shirt over simple, elegant pants. Bare feet, no shoes. Androgynous and beautiful; you're unable to make out the sex of this creature. It's not a man, nor elf. Not fey, but something somewhat alien, almost. The skin a deep-set reddish brown, smooth and impeccable. The features are extremely fine and delicate. The eyes are what catch you: black like night, but the pupils, burning points of molten metal. The entity smiles and stands off the throne. Now, at this height, seeing it standing almost as tall as Grog, by comparison. The limbs are elongated. Extends a hand towards you as you step into the chamber. “Welcome to Ank'Harel, heroes of Tal'Dorei. I am J'mon Sa Ord, and it is my pleasure to greet you.” And that is where we'll pick up our session in two weeks.

LAURA: Oh shit, two weeks.

MATT: Two weeks.

MARISHA: Two weeks.

SAM: Wow, guys. We did a lot of strange things.

MARISHA: Yes, that was a weird day.

TRAVIS: It's the pharaoh king from Stargate.

MATT: Yeah. We have two weeks until we pick up from that point in the story. Next week, look forward once again to Liam running his awesome one-shot.

LIAM: I've got a party planned for you!

MATT: It's going to be awesome. It's been fun. But anyway, guys, thank you so much. Hope you had a fun time. Much love to all of you in the community. You're awesome; thank you so much for your support. Thank you for supporting our wonderful charities. 826 has been awesome, and they keep showing up. We saw recently in Target ads, actually, which is fantastic, so thank you guys so much for keeping up with them. You can still give them money. You can still support 826LA, as well as any of the other charities we have listed in our Guide to Critmas on the website. Those are great ways to give and great ways to support all of these wonderful people out there doing wonderful things.

TRAVIS: And thank you, Loot Crate.

MATT: And thank you, Loot Crate, for your support of this show and support of our community, giving them an awesome discount. However, most of us will now adjourn to finish signing the posters forever.

LAURA: Some of us are done.

TALIESIN: Some of us will be doing it until the end of time.

MATT: Finishing for a lot of us.

TALIESIN: Are we finishing tonight?

MATT: Finishing this weekend, so they should be going out soon to you guys. Thank you for your patience. The first batch of posters are now out. This batch will go out soon.

LIAM: The desert awaits, Matt.

MATT: The desert waits for us, and it is much needed. Much love to you all. Have a wonderful night, and is it Thursday yet?

[music]

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