"What Lies Beneath the Surface" (1x81) is the eighty-first episode of the first campaign of Critical Role. After reuniting with an old friend, Vox Machina loots Thordak's treasure hoard before returning to Whitestone to decide what to do about Raishan.
- No sponsor tonight, so the sponsor is Critical Role. Sam does a bit about a telephone number to call and complain about the show
- Laura plugged the web store
- Matt plugged Talks Machina
Previously on Critical Role
"Vox Machina, our band of adventurers, have been traveling across Tal'Dorei, continents, and planes of existence beyond in search of the Vestiges of the Divergence, magical artifacts that can help outfit them for their coming struggle against the Chroma Conclave, a group of chromatic dragons that had terrorized and conquered the Tal'Dorei countryside for quite some time now.
At the end of this venture, you've all—acquiring your relative power, your levels of experience, and the allies you've amassed through this journey—converged upon the central capital city of Emon in hopes of finally defeating and destroying Thordak, the Cinder King. You made a tenuous relationship with a member of the Conclave, Raishan, the Diseased Deceiver, a green dragon. And after killing the other three members of the Conclave, you went in with armies at your back, Ashari in the sky who laid siege to the city as you snuck beneath the streets of Emon, emerging on the outskirts of the Cloudtop District.
Through the help of your two allies, Zahra and Kashaw, you managed to bypass two waiting fire giants, push straight into the center of the mostly ruined Cloudtop District where you confronted Thordak, the Cinder King, in his large, swollen, powerful, primordial red dragon form.
You came prepared with allies at your side. In full power, you tore into Thordak and while many blows were sustained on both sides of the fray, Thordak fell in the battlefield. In those moments, as Thordak attempted to retreat into his lair, you, Vax, gave chase and slew the dragon using Whisper in your grasp.
As a few of you came up behind, Raishan, as well, asked—as part of the accord you made—to be given some time with the corpse of Thordak. It was decided that this was not to be allowed, she was not to be trusted and the attack was made on Raishan—though Raishan also had made a few unique choices of her own leading up to it—[and this] has led to a confrontation—in Thordak's lair beneath the city—where you all nearly got your asses handed to you by a well-prepared Raishan.
However, in the midst of this battle you did summon your ally J'mon Sa Ord there—the leader of Ank'Harel, the distant city on the continent of Marquet, and a brass dragon—who upon arriving in this fray, [with] full health and ready to fight, was enough of a threat to drive Raishan off, in her damaged form, before she could finish you off in the state you were in.
However, you were then kept at bay by a Wall of Force as Raishan took two of Thordak's strangely existing eggs and flew into a tunnel towards the corpse of Thordak and then disappeared in a flash of purple energy before the wall dropped and you all just arrived, halfway through the tunnel where the corpse of Thordak once lay, to find it missing along with Raishan and the eggs that she had gathered."
Vex and Vax head up to the top of the crater to check on the state of the battle outside. The Ashari's storm is still raging, and the wyvern riders are all fleeing to the southeast. Beyond the Cloudtop gate, the battle continues in the streets. Warcries of humanoids and of giant-kin are heard all around, and flashes of flame can be seen over the wall. They make their way toward the gate but are stopped when Zahra and Kashaw run through it toward them, followed by another fire giant. As the four of them start to run, they see Jarett and Kerrek take the giant down. Kerrek and his allies have helped fight off the two fire giants that were guarding the gate, and three others besides.
Grog, Percy, and Keyleth climb from the crater and rush over to them. Keyleth uses Sky Write to make a basic version of the symbol of Emon in the sky and Percy tells some of the soldiers at the gate to spread the word that Thordak has fallen. Kerrek tells his allies to stay behind and they form a perimeter at the gate. Vox Machina and their friends retreat into the relative safety of the crater.
Meanwhile below, Thordak's lair appears to have quieted down and the danger subsided. Scanlan takes out some of his Suude and is at first interrupted by Pike, but after finding a moment to himself he tries to use it. Not knowing how, he first snorts some and it burns very badly, but then he packs some into the flute that J'mon Sa Ord gave him and smokes it. He feels strange for a moment and passes out. The group from above arrives and finds him there as he wakes up, and he convincingly lies about the drugs being medicinal. Scanlan then deflects by scolding Vax for charging after Raishan without the party to back him up. The two argue for a bit and Vax takes Scanlan aside and shoves a letter into Scanlan's hands, a letter intended to be found if Vax had died. It simply says "You were right."
Keyleth tells the group that she feels guilty for getting them into such a bad situation for selfish reasons. Kerrek reassures her, and Devo'ssa is amused by the "drama of such short lives." Devo'ssa gives the advice to not wait to fight Raishan on her terms and then takes their leave, their debt repaid. Exhausted, the party rests in the tunnel to heal their wounds. Grog begins checking around for loot and finds unimaginable wealth tucked into the cavern. While checking for interesting items, he comes across another Immovable Rod and a small wooden box. He tears the box open and finds a small deck of cards. He pulls a card and it disappears in his hand, replaced by a beautiful scimitar. He drops the deck while trying to hide it and Vex picks it up. Percy recognizes what it is and warns Vex that it is extremely dangerous, and she hides it away.
In her search, Vex also finds a rolled-up tapestry, a fine pair of leather boots, and a well-made war hammer. She spends some time with the tapestry during the rest and is delighted to discover that it is a flying carpet, larger than their old one. She and Percy fly up to the top of the cavern to look for anything else of interest. There don't seem to be any more magical items, but they see that they are surrounded by an unfathomable amount of money. They decide that they will take a small portion for themselves, including gems for spell components, and the rest must be returned to the people of Emon. Kerrek also fills a sack with money and gems to aid with the rebuilding of Westruun.
Remembering the deal they made with the Clasp for "half the loot," they decide that the Clasp has just as much interest in a functional, rebuilt Emon and that they should let them come in and have their share. Kima says that they should also let the remaining members of the council know what's going on and volunteers to help guard the crater against looters until the wealth can be redistributed. Keyleth moves to the surface and uses the Scrying Eye to Scry on Raishan, who she sees in the form of a woman in a stone laboratory on a remote jungle island. The two eggs are with her, and she is rifling through books.
A Critical Role fanart reel is played.
Word spreads that all of Thordak's forces have either fled or been slain. Members of the army are meeting with members of the Clasp, discussing how to begin moving survivors back above ground. Tofor Brotoras approaches the party, looking harried from battle. They inform her that Allura and Seeker Assum are safe in Whitestone, as well as Empress Salda Tal'Dorei and her children. They also tell her of the need to guard the city's wealth, and she calls Warmaster Mikael Daxio over to ask him for the assistance of his troops.
Keyleth describes the island that she saw in her Scry and Kerrek recognizes that volcanic islands tend to be south of Tal'Dorei, near the Hespet Archipelago. He also mentions that this laboratory seems like the lair of someone powerful that would "be in stories." Vex suggests that it's likely a necromancer, given that Raishan took Thordak's dead body. This jogs Percy's memory of the necromancers from the Age of Arcanum. He rules out Vecna since he was based in Wildemount, and the only other he can think of was named Opash, who was banished out to sea because of his terrible experiments. Gilmore, who has been listening intently, is seen to have a glowing rune on his forehead. They ask him about it, and he cautiously explains that there is "power in [his] bloodline" and that he is what's known as a Runechild. Grog has Gilmore Identify his new sword and he says it's a Dancing Sword that will fight on its own.
The party decides to head to Whitestone, and Kerrek decides to come with them. He gives his companions some of the money he's taken and gives them instructions on what to do with it in Westruun if he doesn't come back. The party discusses with Daxio that the Clasp has earned a portion of the money, given their aid with the survivors during Thordak's occupation. The party has an emotional journey through the city and to Greyskull Keep. Keyleth uses Teleportation Via Plants on the tree in the keep's temple of Sarenrae and they go through it and emerge from the Sun Tree in Whitestone.
They all make their way to the castle and are met by Cassandra, who is very glad to see them all alive, albeit a terrible mess. Scanlan takes Jarett aside, thanks him for his efforts, and casts Modify Memory on him to make him think that he feels sorry for Scanlan's emotional state and that he'd agreed to get Scanlan much more Suude. Vax finishes a bath quickly and then finds Percy in the middle of his own, and he sits down in the other side of the very large bathtub to talk with him. Vax tells Percy he's like a brother to him and he's glad to still have him around. Then he gets out and walks away. As soon as Vax is gone, Vex comes up from below the water gasping for breath.
After everyone gets cleaned up, they all meet back up for some relaxation and a drink and go through their "to-do list." As they are discussing Raishan, Allura enters to greet them. They catch her up to speed and ask her about Opash and his island. Allura asks about the island that Thordak was lording over before his banishment to the fire plane, and Vex remembers Raishan telling them about it: the Island of Viscan in the south Lucidian Ocean. Kerrek recalls his own terrible run-ins with necromancy. They discuss what Raishan's intentions may be. Keyleth has the idea to Scry on the island itself to confirm if it is the same one she saw. Before she can, Grog tells Kerrek he has to try some Sandkheg's Hide, to hilarious tongue-numbing result. Allura also takes a drink, seemingly without any repercussions.
Allura and Keyleth both participate in the Scry spell, and Keyleth recognizes the island as the same one she saw before. The party decides they should take immediate action before Raishan either succeeds with whatever she's up to or moves on where they can't find her. Allura says they have two options: they can rest and meet her at full strength after, or she can take them there now while Raishan has not yet recovered from their fight. As they discuss their options, Allura volunteers to help since she's no longer needed to keep up the barrier at Whitestone, and her tongue begins to go numb. After some deliberation, they all agree that resting up would be best.
As they all part ways to head for bed, and Vax heads to Keyleth's room. He uses Whisper to cut the burned ends from her hair. He says he can see her self-doubt and gives her some words of encouragement. In Scanlan's room, he rips up Vax's letter and burns it, then packs his pipe for the morning. Kerrek is "noisily sick." Vex confirms with Allura that she'll be joining them in the fight, and Allura says she's honored. Everyone lays down to rest.
- Percival de Rolo
- Scanlan Shorthalt
- Grog Strongjaw
- Pike Trickfoot (DM-controlled)
Trinket(unconscious within Raven's Slumber; not mentioned)
- Tofor Brotoras
- Mikael Daxio
- Cassandra de Rolo
- Lady Kima of Vord
- Shaun Gilmore
- Jarett Howarth
- Zahra Hydris
- J'mon Sa Ord / Devo'ssa
- Thordak (corpse)
- Kashaw Vesh
- Allura Vysoren
|Acquired||1||Immovable Rod||Thordak's hoard||Grog Strongjaw||Grog looted Thordak's treasure hoard.|
|Acquired||1||Deck of Many Things|
|Acquired||1||Carpet of Flying||Vex'ahlia||Vex'ahlia looted a tapestry from Thordak's treasure hoard, convinced that it was another Carpet of Flying. After spending some time examining it, her suspicions proved correct.|
|Acquired||1||Dancing Sword||Deck of Many Things||Grog Strongjaw||Grog drew a card from the Deck of Many Things. The card then transformed into a magical scimitar. Shaun Gilmore later identified it as a Dancing Sword.|
|Transferred||1||Deck of Many Things||Grog Strongjaw||Vex'ahlia||Vex took the Deck from Grog, not trusting him with such a dangerous item.|
|Acquired||1||pair of elvish-looking boots||Thordak's hoard||Vex'ahlia||Vex continued to loot Thordak's hoard.|
|Transferred||1||pair of elvish-looking boots||Vex'ahlia||Keyleth||Vex gave the boots to Keyleth.|
|Acquired||2||diamonds worth 1,000 gold each||Thordak's hoard||Vex'ahlia||Vox Machina took their share of Thordak's treasure.|
|Acquired||200||platinum pieces||Scanlan Shorthalt|
|Acquired||1000||platinum pieces||Vox Machina|
|Acquired||184||gold pieces||Grog Strongjaw|
|Acquired||500||gold pieces||Keyleth / Percival de Rolo|
|Acquired||some||samples of the destroyed dragon eggs||Thordak's lair||Percy||Percy gathered some samples of the destroyed dragon eggs and stored them in the Bag of Colding.|
- Vax: I walk in the buck, and I find Percival’s bath, and silently walk in while he’s bathing, and I sit in the bath on the other side, and just stare for a minute.
Percy: You know you’re getting weirder.
Vax: You and I are very different.
Percy: I would agree, although, again, I’m in a bath at the moment… Cut to it, I think, I was really working on something. [ ... ]
Vax: I’m glad I have you around still.
Percy: Me as well. I like this family. I’d like to keep it.
Vax: Don’t say another word. I show him my ass and I leave.
Vex: As soon as he leaves, I come up from the water and go, Ugh! I thought he’d never leave!
- Vax: (to Keyleth) You are doing the very best you can with what you've been given, and I've seen you rise again and again and not stop and not back down. And you fucking blow me away with the things you can do out there. You are beautiful, and you are talented, and you are strong as fuck. And I can't take the doubt away-- I can't do that. But mix in with that my faith in you... Percy's faith in you... Grog's faith in you... Ker's... Vex'ahlia's, Scanlan's, Allura's... all of ours. We are all behind you, and we all believe in you. And we all love you. And obviously, I love you. 
- This episode marks the first time the Deck of Many Things has been used. Matt said that Grog had pulled the Key card and he received a scimitar. Due to a mix-up, Travis actually had pulled the Euryale card.  This was corrected in the following episode.
- Fan art of Grog pulling a card from the Deck of Many Things, by Hugo Cardenas (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Awkward Bathtime, by Lap Pun Cheung (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Vax'ildan cutting Keyleth's hair in "What Lies Beneath the Surface" (1x81), by Agent Pluto (source). Used with permission.