"The Sun Tree" (1x28) is the fifth episode of the third chapter of Critical Role. Vox Machina sneaks into the town of Whitestone with the intent of inspiring revolution, but they could not be less prepared for the horrors that await them inside...
Previously on Critical Role Edit
"The party recently had an encounter with the Briarwoods, two individuals that were responsible for a lot of strife in the background of Percival's history, seemingly responsible for the destruction of his entire family, and have for the past five years been essentially ruling his home city and castle. They were out for a political banquet with Sovereign Uriel in Emon, and the party of Vox Machina were all invited to be part of this. [It] didn't quite go as planned, there was a scuffle and the Briarwoods absconded back to Whitestone. They sent a couple of assassins out to attempt to take out their driver who was spilling information and essentially was going to be Vox Machina's way of being free of any sort of political issues based on their actions that evening.
"After much discussion and preparation, and purchasing a lot of mirrors, the party took their transit over to east, northeast, towards Whitestone, where they began to traverse the Alabaster Sierras to the north, using the mountain range as opposed to going directly through the forest. There they managed to avoid encountering a bunch of harpies that were distracted by eating the horses they left behind. They camped for the evening and began to make their way through some sort of a mountainous valley that led in towards the forest surrounding Whitestone. While they were traveling down this pass, there was a rumbling and some sort of really fast, rapid-moving large blue creature that leaped down in front, catching them off guard."
Part I Edit
Vox Machina versus the Behir Edit
The huge, scaly blue creature comes skittering down the cliffs, blocking the passage and snarling at Vox Machina as flashes of energy spark from its mouth.
Percy shouts to the party "Get down!" and takes three shots with at the creature, the first a Sharpshooter shot and the last a Headshot. All three hit.
The creature moves up to the party. Its eyes flare, and it shoots a bolt of electrical energy at Grog, Vex'ahlia, and Trinket. Grog and Vex manage to dodge some of the damage, but Trinket takes the brunt of it and is immediately knocked unconscious.
Vex looks over at Trinket's prone form, furious, places her Hunter's Mark on the creature, and uses Hail of Thorns, hitting both the creature and Grog. She shoots a second arrow which wedges itself under the creature's scales. Vex moves into a crevice off to the side, but still near Trinket.
Grog, feeling the pain of the thorns and smelling Trinket's burnt hair, goes into a Frenzied Rage and attacks three times with his Firebrand Warhammer, all three hitting the creature in the face. He strafes around the creature, out of Vex's line of fire.
Keyleth runs up to Trinket and casts Cure Wounds, waking him up. He licks her in thanks. Keyleth pulls out the Spark Stone she received from Cerkonos and crushes it between her hands. Her hands burst into flames without harming her, then she changes to Minxie form, her claws still flaming. She starts moving up to flank the creature.
Tiberius casts Stoneskin on himself and backs up behind an outcropping of rock.
Vax'ildan clicks his Boots of Haste and darts around past Minxie and behind the creature. He sneak attacks it while it's distracted by Grog. His next attack also hits, but then the creature turns to look at him and the third attack fails to pierce the scales.
Scanlan summons Bigby's Hand in front of the creature and does a wind-up punch at its face; however, the creature is fast enough to duck out of the way. Scanlan steps to his left to get out of Percy's line of fire, then inspires Grog.
Percy moves closer and tries to shoot, but his pepperbox misfires, the barrel itself popping off and hitting the ground. He gathers the pieces and backs into a corner to try and repair it.
The creature bites at Vax, but the rogue manages to dodge some of the damage. Its tail wraps around Grog, crushing, grappling, and restraining him. It moves to the other side of the ravine, dragging Grog with it.
Vex backs up towards Percy, taking a bite from the creature as she does, and Trinket follows her. She shoots the creature, first with a normal arrow and then through the Blazing Bowstring, both hitting. She tries to hide behind Percy but is unable to.
Grog successfully breaks the grapple by biting into the tail, loosening the grip enough to slip out. He hits the creature with his hammer, causing flames to shoot off of it.
Keyleth, as Minxie, claws at the creature, fire streaking from the swipes, then bites the edge of its tail.
Tiberius casts Telekinesis and sends his glaive spinning like a buzzsaw, but it misses, so he hides behind the rock again.
Vax backs up, getting some distance between him and the creature, and throws three daggers at the wound he made previously. The first deals heavy damage as a sneak attack, the second just barely hits, wedging itself just above the first, but the third misses as the creature turns around and just swipes it out of the air.
Scanlan pesters the creature with Bigby's Hand, then jabs it in the eyes, causing it to thrash around in pain. Scanlan hides behind Trinket and inspires Percy.
Percy just barely manages to fix The List and fires twice. The first shot hits, with Sharpshooter and fire damage, but the second time he pulls the trigger the gun misfires again, the barrel bending and warping. He rolls across the ravine, away from the cluster of allies and behind Tiberius.
The creature, a behir, regains its Lightning Breath and moves around Grog, away from Minxie-Keyleth, who takes a swing at it but misses. It unleashes its electricity upon Grog and Keyleth. Grog manages to dodge most of the damage and reduce it further with Stone's Endurance, but Keyleth takes the hit head on and reverts back to her normal form, slightly singed.
Vex shoots twice at the behir, both arrows just shattering across its scales and doing no damage. She ducks as far into the side of the ravine as possible. Trinket stays in front of Scanlan to guard him.
Grog smashes his hammer into the behir's skull, slamming it to the ground. He keeps swinging, bludgeoning the creature's head into a squishy paste, killing it. Grog keeps smashing it until Scanlan uses Bigby's Hand to grab the hammer and stop him. Vex manages to coax him out of his rage, then walks up to the fallen creature and kicks it, saying "That's for Trinket, you dick."
The group takes a short rest. Percy works on fixing his gun while Keyleth harvests some hide and scales from the behir, as well as the gland it used to produce lightning. Percy has an idea to use the gland as part of his Diplomacy glove.
Vex barely manages to climb up to the ledge the behir leapt from and looks around for a cave, but can't see one. Vax, watching his sister struggle her way up the cliff, also attempts to climb up, but fails.
The party finishes their rest around noon and Tiberius, impatient from all the waiting, says that he feels he hasn't prepared enough. He says he has an idea, and he'll be back in a few days. He starts drawing his Teleportation Circle. The party tries to convince him to stay, but he just teleports away.
The Stone Giants' Fortress Edit
The remaining members of Vox Machina continue down the path, out of the ravine, with Vax scouting forty feet ahead. Scanlan requests that Vex sense for dragons, and she begrudgingly agrees, finding that there are several draconic entities in the area, but they're far enough away to not be an issue. Grog reminds everyone that they have a Dragon Slayer Longsword if they need it.
Along the way, the twins notice a portion of the mountain that looks too angular and smooth to be natural. As the rest of the party comes up to look, Grog instantly recognizes it as a Stone Giant fortress.
The party makes their way up the chasm on the other side of the fortress, Keyleth slipping at one point, but Grog manages to pull her back up. They make it up to a narrow ledge where they can look down on the fortress. They don't see any movement, but Vax notices that one of the doors is broken and left ajar.
Keyleth turns into a bat and flies up to one of the windows on the upper floor. She sees that most of the furniture inside has been broken and destroyed, and there are large splatters and puddles of dried blood, but there aren't any bodies, living or dead. She sees a ramp leading to the group floor and flies in to take a look. She sees the same situation, furniture broken and tossed aside, dried blood spattered everywhere, no bodies, weapons, or armor. Bat-Keyleth lands to see how much dust she stirs up; quite a bit goes flying into the air, but she can't determine how long the building has been empty. She flies out the front door, returns to her normal form and calls in the rest of Vox Machina.
When they all head inside the fortress, they realize the impact that destroyed the door came from inside the building. Vax and Scanlan investigate the room, and determine that the blood has been there for two to three months. They also notice that there are streaks where something was dragged out of the blood pools. Rummaging through a pile of furs, they find 120 gold pieces, multiple broken glass vials, one unshattered vial containing a potion of some sort, and a very well-crafted longbow, which they immediately give to Vex. Scanlan keeps the potion for himself.
Grog and Vax step outside to keep watch. Percy investigates to try and find out what happened to the bodies, but he can't figure it out.
Grog and Vax see several flocks of birds, one of which begins circling closer. Vax quickly ducks out of view, but Grog just stares up at the birds and shouts to the party that there are a lot of birds, pointing up at the flock. He shouts at the birds to go away, and they immediately begin circling the fortress very closely and are now visible as approximately a hundred crows.
Vex and Keyleth manage to convince Grog to come back inside, and eventually the crows begin to fly away. Before they can get too far, Keyleth conjures a Sleet Storm above them. Sleet and hails pounds against the top of the fortress, and several of the birds are knocked to the ground, the rest flying off. Grog grabs one of the fallen crows and rips its head off with his teeth, to Vex's protests.
The party leaves the fortress, Grog sprinkling Dust of Tracelessness behind them, and they make their way down the mountain, into the forest outside of Whitestone.
In the original airing on Twitch, a portion of the special episode "D&Diesel" (Sx03) was shown. This was removed from the final copy uploaded to YouTube.
Part II Edit
Scouting Whitestone Edit
Looking at the castle in the distance, Vex asks if Percy knows any secret passages they could enter through. He says there is one located at the western base of the mountain that the castle is built upon, the same one he and his sister Cassandra used to escape the castle several years ago. The party decides to scope out the town itself before heading for the castle.
After traveling through the forest for two hours, they hear the sound of distant howling. Keyleth recognizes the source as a pack of five or six wolves, and thinks it's strange that they're howling while the sun is still up. Percy suggests climbing up into the trees to hide, as they still have a few hours of travel before they reach Whitestone and the sun is close to setting.
Keyleth turns into an eagle, grabs Scanlan, and flies off towards Whitestone while the rest of the party climbs into the trees. Looking down from the treetops, Vex sees the pack of wolves or dogs, followed by a humanoid. Vox Machina stays still and silent as the pack gets closer, one of the canines sniffing at the air before returning to the rest. Vax manages to see that the humanoid is female, but can't determine her race or any other details. Percy takes a look as well, and doesn't recognize her, but he can tell the woman is in her late forties or early fifties, carrying a shortbow and quiver of arrows over one shoulder, and appears to be hunting for food. Eventually the hunting party leaves, apparently not noticing the group hidden in the treetops.
While Keyleth and Scanlan fly to Whitestone, they see the flock of crows circling the town, passing over the entire valley. When the pair reaches the outskirts of the walls, Scanlan casts Invisibility on them both. Now unable to see the eagle he's riding on, Scanlan holds her tightly around the neck. From their aerial viewpoint they can see farmland just outside the city, as well as an area used for cutting timber. They see some people in the town, but not a lot. Many of the buildings are closed, and most of the people they see are out working the fields. Circling to the center of the town, they see a large, old tree, with twisted and gnarled branches, and remember that Desmond mentioned something called the Sun Tree. Getting closer, they see that there are eight humanoid bodies of varying ages swinging from the branches. They also notice six apparently undead giants slowly patrolling through the city. The citizens of the town keep a very wide berth as the giants pass and do their best to avoid them.
Eagle-Keyleth and Scanlan finish their initial loop around the city, and Keyleth drops off Scanlan on a wall near the farmlands. Scanlan leaves a canteen on the wall where she is, because they're still invisible and he needs to be able to find her again. He spends twelve minutes climbing down the twenty-five foot wall and moves to the edge of the fields. The crops being harvested look withered, and the farmers look frustrated and gaunt. Scanlan overhears two of the people muttering to each other, saying they have to fill up the carts on time. When they can't quite fill them up, the older man becomes nervous, says "Sir Kerrion's gonna have my hide", and gives a quick prayer to Pelor for protection. The workers take the carts back into town.
Scanlan hurries back to the wall as the sun begins to set behind the mountains, turning the sky orange and purple. After fifteen minutes of trying to climb up, he lets his Invisibility spell dissipate and just uses Dimension Door to get back to the top of the wall. He picks his canteen back up, hops onto Eagle-Keyleth's back, and re-casts Invisibility on them both. Keyleth takes off, heading back to the rest of the party.
Back in the forest, Grog is snoring in his tree. Vex has spent some time examining her new bow and identifies it as the Longbow of the Sky Sentinel. She restrings it with the Blazing Bowstring. Vax tries on Clarota's Helmet. Vex and Grog tease him over its appearance.
Just as the party is getting nervous about how long it's been, Keyleth and Scanlan return, their Invisibility just wearing off as they swoop down. The druid returns to her normal form and uses Druidcraft to make some hammocks out of spiderwebs. Vex uses Hide in Plain Sight to disguise their campsite. Vax mentions the Robe of Infinite Twine and Vex pulls it out and uses it to reinforce the spiderwebs.
Scanlan reports on what he and Keyleth saw in Whitestone: miserable human citizens and zombie giants. He proposes disguising Vox Machina as a group of farmers delivering produce to the castle in order to sneak in. Keyleth tells Percy that the farmers mentioned Sir Kerrion, and also about the eight bodies hanging from the Sun Tree.
Vex wonders why they call it the Sun Tree, and the rest of the party echoes her. Percy tells them the story of the Sun Tree.
To the citizens of Whitestone, the tree was representative to them as a guardian of Pelor, the god of sun and protector of light and holiness.
Several members of Vox Machina decide that the reason behind the Sun Tree being defiled is due to its relationship to the sun god and a vampire's weakness to sunlight. Keyleth asks Scanlan if he can contact Pike in any way. Vax asks Keyleth if she could revive the tree. She says she could. Scanlan is very skeptical of this plan.
Percy proposes going into town the next morning to search for allies. Vax suggests that reviving the Sun Tree could help motivate the townsfolk. Keyleth mentions that the ritual to revive the tree would take some time, up to eight hours for the greatest effect. Scanlan protests that healing the tree doesn't matter because none of them know anything about Pelor anyway. Percy is not religious, but he knows that Pelor has a strong following in Whitestone, with approximately 75% of the population having a good opinion of the deity.
Keyleth asks Percy to repeat his plan of rallying the townsfolk. He wants to sneak in, revive the tree, and form a rebellion. Scanlan decides he likes this plan and says he needs a beret.
The Sun Tree Edit
The next morning, Scanlan scries to check on Greyskull Keep. He sees Laina in the kitchen, yawning and preparing breakfast for the guards, who are conversing in the next room. He then tries to scry on Pike but can't seem to make the connection. It seems that only the most recent scrying "mark" can be used.
The party makes their way through the forest and arrives at the outskirts of Whitestone. Vex casts Pass Without a Trace and Scanlan uses Seeming to make Vox Machina appear to be a group of dirty, ragged peasants, with Trinket as a donkey.
They stealth their way into the western side of town, heading towards the center. They get a few strange looks from the townsfolk, but no one does or says anything to them. One of the zombie giants comes close, but they avoid it.
Walking through the city, Percy notices that the population has significantly decreased since he last saw it. The citizens that he does see are in poor health, and there are several buildings that have been abandoned for a long time. The oil lanterns placed throughout the city have all been broken. Percy expresses interest in checking the cemetery on the eastern side of town.
The group makes it safely to the edge of the town square and sees the Sun Tree. Its branches are drooping and there are no leaves left on it. Keyleth notices that it is not an indigenous tree, guessing that it was either transplanted or that there is a magical source for its presence.
They see the silhouettes of the eight figures swinging from the branches. Percy leads the group closer to the Sun Tree. Looking at the hanging bodies, Percy and Vax notice that the body on the far right is smeared with red paint and wearing a dirtied green robe. To the left is a child dressed in a fine purple silk shirt and pantaloons. To the left of that is a female wearing greens and browns with red paint in her hair. Percy walks away at this point. To the left of that is another woman dressed in dark black and brown furs and leathers with dark hair. Next to her is a similarly dressed man with long dark hair. To the left of that is a large man with a mostly bare chest, head shaved bald and dark scars across his face. To the left of that is a recently hunted bear.
Vox Machina realizes that the bodies hanging from the Sun Tree are effigies of themselves. Each body has been dressed and colored purposefully to send a message. Keyleth is able to tell that the bodies have been there for at least a week.
The party finds an abandoned tavern with the doors chained shut at the edge of the town square and sneak in through the window. Everything inside is covered in dust and hasn't been used in a long time. The tavern has both a second floor and a cellar. Scanlan covers the first floor windows with some old rags. Keyleth uses Move Earth to begin digging a tunnel from the cellar to the roots of the Sun Tree and Vex goes with her. Vax and Grog stay up top to keep watch. Percy crafts a "Parchment Delivery Arrow?" using a piece of parchment soaked in black powder and wrapped around an arrow, in the hopes of being able to create a burn mark at a distance.
Keyleth's digging eventually brings her to some thick roots that continue to burrow down past her tunnel. She touches the roots and casts Speak with Plants, but gets no response. The Sun Tree is dead.
Keyleth prepares a Heroes' Feast for the party and begins casting Plant Growth over the next eight hours in an attempt to revive the tree.
Featured Characters Edit
Vox Machina Edit
- Percival de Rolo
- Scanlan Shorthalt
- Tiberius Stormwind (DM-controlled)
- Grog Strongjaw
- Laina Yor (seen through Scanlan's Poop of Scrying)
External Links Edit