Session Notes: 23 September 2021
Location: Beneath Old Vasselheim
Date: 1 Sydenstar 845 PD (calendar of Exandria: https://criticalrole.fandom.com/wiki/Calendar_of_Exandria)
Rinn – half-elf sorcerer/rogue
Stubby – half-elf artificer
Tāmerai – gnome bard
Absent Party Members:
Bob the Therapist – changeling warlock with a couch for a familiar
Tunk – bugbear/hugbear monk
Last time on Yeeted & Yoinked…
Our intrepid heroes discover the underside of the former Slayer’s Take, where Osysa the sphinx still lives, alive and well, albeit as tricksy as ever. Also very helpful, when a party is good at riddles, willing to take risks (fight illusory orcs and things) to learn more, and are learning something that Osysa herself is interested in having them learn. She informs the group that Lydia Briarwood is actually Stubby’s great-grand-niece, Vex III. Time is fixed for most most part, and they are all in their own correct timelines — but “Lydia” is not in her own correct timeline. The group desire to fix the timeline, and if possible, to somehow fix Lydia as well, but the latter is unlikely to work.
The four are shown to an alcove off the main cave, already set up for about a dozen visitors. Tāmerai takes a short nap, and Fisch a much longer one, while Stubby freaks out and Rinn calms her down. Those two share a little wine and have a nice conversation until Stubby falls asleep leaning on Rinn’s shoulder. Tam wakes up and does dance practice, after which she and Rinn talk while Rinn takes his notes for the Take. Stubby wakes; she and Rinn continue their conversation while Tam goes exploring the under-Take and finds “Leera’s” (Lyra’s) diary. Rinn realizes that this is probably the same Lyra whose grave they found outside the city, and thinks he knows Aldor as well. He’s off on a repopulation mission and is now living at Fort Viktor. The three decide to bring her diary back to be sent to him, since it’s clear they were very close.
At the sound of a microburst of rain, Fisch snorks himself awake. The flashes of lightning illuminate the dark tunnel leading to the main cave. When the lightning ends, neither Osysa nor the rats are to be found. It feels like something magical just happened, that slight arcane tingle to the air. The four of them go outside, and the tunnel leading outside is pissing with rain.
Stubby sets up her folding astrolabe and casts Detect Magic. There’s strong arcane energy from the Illusion school all throughout the tunnel, and the ziggurat reeks of divine magic, much like the one under Whitestone (and there’s a lot of Illusion magic coming from that, too, as well as Conjuration magic coming from Osysa’s big, empty couch).
Rinn asks Fisch about the Primordial that he spoke over the ashes at the Birth Heart. Fisch explains, in Primordial. The rest of them hear growls. Rinn, on the other hand, hears the language of animals and trees. It’s Old Language. Not this hoity-toity language that you learn in ivory towers. It’s ancient and comforting, like a breeze on a hot day, the warmth of being indoors on a cold day. It is the language, Fisch says, that Melora taught all animals when they were new, before she taught them Common. Rinn had no idea that he himself spoke Primordial, and doesn’t know why he understands it. Fisch decides that Rinn, like himself, has been blessed by Melora, and they are brothers.
Fisch then wonders if they will stay inside the under-Take while it rains, but before any decision can be made, he lifts his nose and sniffs the air. He keeps sniffing, following his large nose all the way over to Osysa’s couch, and then the wall behind it. He keeps sniffing and following until he actually vanishes into the wall. There are stairs back there! And it’s not even an illusion — at least, not a magical one. It’s just an Indiana Jones Leap of Faith, painted to look like a flat surface (or maybe it was simply created that way).
Before the others step inside to follow him, Tāmarai finds a note addressed to herself. “TĀMARAI: Your future is your own. Your past is your own. The path you follow next is your own. I will see you again at the End.” They leave a response: “We are following the stairs behind your bed, hoping to find you.” Then they all go in: Stubby, Tam, Rinn, Fisch. (It would make more sense to either have the Sneaky Rogue or the Sniffs Cleverly leading the way, but instead the short people go first, under the theory that this way everyone will at least be able to see fairly equally well.
Stubby navigates up the steps, pointing out which ones aren’t the most stable. It’s carved stone, but there are some hunks taken out of some of the steps. But she helps the others get up them without falling down. The light changes enough to let them know they’re approaching the outside before they actually see it. Some rain splashes a little inside as they find the opening. Around the last twist of the tunnel, they all feel that “This has got to be the ground floor, right?” It’s a half-shorn building, and the group post up right on the shorn edge. Stairs stop before reaching the floor ahead of them, but Fisch lifts the others up to bridge the 8’ gap, which is wet and a little treacherous right now, but they can get up there without killing themselves. Probably.
It’s muddy and wet up there. The place looks ransacked, with nothing of value left. Broken furniture, scattered stuff. No bodies, which is nice. He hoists up Stubby the same way, then Tam. Then he climbs up, himself, and he’s good at it.
Rinn thinks for a second that he sees a person, roughly himself-sized, but then doesn’t see them anymore. Freaky.
Fisch knows a lot about the temples. Scary black one that smells of blood (Raven Queen); Excavation (Sarenrae); Statue in a pit (Trial Forge / Kord); the All The Colors (Platinum Dragon).
The foursome decide to go visit the Raven Queen. They see rats. They wave, the rats acknowledge them, and everybody moves on. The word has apparently been passed that these four are allowed in the city now. They go through the wrecked Quad Roads, past the smoking hole that used to be the Crown of Erathis, which is completely destroyed. There’s a hole, though unlike the hole leading to the underTake, they can see to the bottom of it. Some of the ground isn’t that icky red-brown color, and seems to be either healing or wasn’t quite as affected, in this “middle class” neighborhood. The place is rotting and molding very, very quickly. Nature’s really got her skates on.
They pass through Duskmeadow, where the roads are a little bit red-brown and a little bit dead-grey, and some jagged obsidian rocks are scattered about. Maybe a window carved out of the rock? Fisch seems to know where he’s going. He stops before a collected pile that looks like it was organized by someone (or something?). “Well. This is where the blood smell is.” It’s a crater. What’s left of the Raven’s Crest is in this hole.
Where the RQ’s temple once stood is now a gaping hole, like a titan scooped it up (mostly) and left behind this hole. The hole’s not too deep: they can see the bottom, it’s about 30’ down. Stubby lights up one of her stones and hands it to Sentri, and Sentri takes it down and does a perimeter sweep. There are stairs carved into the side — recently, mind you, no age-worn edges. The group go down.
They reach the bottom of the hole, but not the bottom of the temple. This is more like a middling level, and it’s tilted almost horizontally on one side. There’s a worn trail that goes over where the midsection of the temple landed; it’s not quite round enough for the floor that it landed on, so there’s a gap. In the gap, there are more steps leading down to the (intact!) catacombs.
Stubby and Tam both see flickering at the catacombs’ entrance, like the splitting of images when the Raven Queen’s priest was talking to them as two of himself, in two different timelines. Rinn and Fisch see only the tunnel to the catacombs. Nothing’s weird here, to them. Their map of the Raven’s Crest matches one of the flickers, but not the other; Rinn and Fisch see only that it matches the map.
The blood pool is right there. Stubby skins down and goes in. All in.
For a brief moment, she pinches her nose and goes under. Her mind fills with a memory of the story from Percy, who said Uncle Vax had a very different experience here than Percy did. She remembers the reasons that Percy appreciated the Raven Queen and the reasons there’s a temple to her in Whitestone now. Stubby’s always viewed her family as heroes, and wondered if she could do those things that they did. She’s known how to swim all her life. Her brain flips into that familiar panic for air.
The instant she thinks “Oh gods, I might die,” the pressure in her lungs goes away. It’s a relief. She doesn’t feel dead, she feels like she’s breathing. It’s still bloody. All Stubby sees is a sea of red all around, and a literal raven, very like the old one she saw in New Vasselheim. He looks at her, tilts head to and fro, and speaks.
<< So, you have come this far for our Mistress. The journey your uncle took is not yours. This is the beginning. My queen will take no promise from you as she did from your uncle. If you choose to follow her, to follow his footsteps, this must be a choice not forced upon you by external circumstances. What happened to make your uncle swear himself to our queen will not repeat. A vow of that sort will not be accepted from you, for the harm it would do to your mother. Your life is your own, and we will not stop you. We will aid you in any way that we can. >>
He flickers; he’s from another timeline, and looks beleaguered. His feathers are not as pristine, and he looks angry and ancient, like a miser. << The path is treacherous. The sword is here, but it is not here. Only the one who can see me can see the sword. >> Flickers back to ‘this’ timeline’s raven. << And you can see me >> flicker << and me. If you go below, there will be peril. But if you find the sword from my timeline >> (the wonky one) << and destroy it, you will do my queen a boon and you will begin to heal this land. >>
He spreads his wings and separates into 2 ravens. They turn to each other, step together, and in their place is a masked woman: the Raven Queen herself. << You are brave, I will give you that. You are good of heart. You are pure of soul. When eventually it is your time, I hope you will choose to spend time with me. You will be welcomed. Your uncle would love to see you. The last he saw, the last he saw of you, has been through veiled eyes. If you can do this, I will aid you in your quest. But when you go below, I will not be able to help you. The tomb, you four must face alone. Use your allies well. Lead them well. Their lives will be in your hands and no one else’s. You do not have to do this. But there is no other than you who could succeed. >> She pauses, glancing to one side. << Well, perhaps another. But today, you are here and this quest is yours. Do you accept? >>
S: Who is the other?
RQ: You have siblings, young one. Think not that you are the only of your siblings who has been inspired by the stories of my champion.
S: But I have to beat them to it!
RQ: I would expect nothing less. Do you remember how your family defeated Vecna?
S: Y-es? Is it different, in one of these times?
RQ: It is, but that is not why I ask. It was not through the aim of one god alone that Vecna was defeated. Each of you belongs, as it were, to a different god. One of you belongs to two. Aid them as they will aid you, and there you will learn that it is not Vecna you must fear, but one who follows in Vecna’s footsteps, who wishes to succeed where Vecna failed.
S: The empress?
RQ: No, young one. She is a simple creature, blinded by pain and desire and revenge.
S: Another that wishes to ascend?
RQ: Correct. And he who wishes to ascend is he who should be feared.
RQ: A name I have not heard in many years. He is a double-edged sword. But no. He does not wish the end of the world. He wishes to control the world. As Vecna was my mortal enemy, standing for all I stand against, so is Flynn for another god. He wishes ascension to rule, knowledge to hoard, power to keep. For as long as Flynn is captured in his stone, he is relatively harmless. Do not become attached to that stone, however. Should he find his way out, as he did with your poor friend Emror, he would consume your mind and soul. You would be only a puppet for his machinations.
S: We’ve been warned about that.
RQ: Then you need not hear it again from me.
S: I’d ask another question, though it might seem mundane to you. I have another item that maybe not in the same scope, but something dangerous.
RQ: Ah, your focus that you found.
S: Is there a way to fix it? Use it safely? Does it have any souls trapped inside of it?
RQ: Not currently.
S: Whew. I’ve been worried.
RQ: That is a stone you should show to your father when you see him next. The beginning of journeys cannot always be easily identified as such. That was the step that brought you here. Had you not found the focus, had you not desired to use it, had you not listened to the stories and taken them to heart, that day you would not have attempted to stand against a dragon and her wyrmlings, and would not have traveled to a time that is not, and returned to the time that is, and you would not be prepared to do the things that will save me and Vasselheim. So I will say that you should have taken it, and it is good that you have. Can it be used? Yes. Can it be used without harming you? Yes, but not easily. One day you will learn how, and when you do, you will begin to be all that you have been destined to be. I see a great future for you. It is perilous.
S: Most things worth achieving are perilous. Also… thank you. For helping my parents, giving them the trammel. I admire that.
RQ: I am often misunderstood, especially by your mother. But the pain she shares, the loss of her brother, he who stood beside her every day for their lives, since their conception — Of course she hates me for that. But I gave of myself to prevent the rise of Vecna because I saw within her, within your father, within all of them, the purity of soul that would put others before themselves for balance. Death is natural. I have never once regretted accepting the deal with your uncle. Had I not, you would not be standing here. Of course, had I not, who knows how terrible this explosion might have been? This… [The blood drops away, and Stubby sees Vasselheim as it was, as she and RQ float above city. Sun is in different location; weather seems different; it’s the day of the party in Whitestone. The Bastion of the Platinum Dragon erupts in blue, never-ending flame, shooting out, and people are screaming, and the ground is shaking, and another eruption, and another… She’s seeing the destruction of Vasselheim as it was that day. The blood flows back down and re-fills the pool again, and Stubby’s in this mysterious, blank redness.] Regardless of who went where, who was born and who died, that moment was inevitable. The folly of man. It will happen again.
S: Say we want the sword destroyed. Can we do that? Where do we…?
RQ: Do you remember how your father destroyed his gun?
RQ: That is one option. But you may find also your solution in the tomb itself, if you know where to look. Keep your wits about you. Remember the stories you’ve been told of how one destroys magical items permanently. Your aunt did not destroy the sword, she simply removed it from the equation. This sword, there are only two on all of Othanzia who would be able to do this, and of those two, I have chosen you. But if you succeed or fail, it is by your own merits. Should you succeed, you shall be rewarded. I will owe you a boon.
S: We’re not doing it for that! We want to help!
RQ: That is why I will give you a boon. If you wanted glory or a favor, I would not have chosen you. You saw a wrong and wished to right it. What god could ask for more? Your friends are now worrying that you are dying. When you return, only seconds will have passed for them, to ease their minds.
S: Thank you.
RQ: I will not remove the blood from your skin. You will carry that as a badge for as long as you wish.
S: Thank you again.
RQ: Now I must go.
S: Say hi to my uncle for me!
RQ: Perhaps you will say so yourself.
She fades into the blood. A raven feather floats down. Stubby’s lungs feel like bursting again, and she rises from the blood gasping, one hand holding a raven’s feather. The feather melts into blood and sinks back into the pool.
The rest of the group only experienced a few seconds of Stubby being under the surface.
Stubby shares what the Raven Queen has told her, and the four realize that their path is now clear. They must go down into the catacombs, find, and destroy the Sword of Kas.
They also realize that all four adventurers now see the ghostly double-image to the catacombs below. Fisch expresses it most succinctly: “Ow, my head.”
Take your meds.
Don’t forget to love each other.
Is it Game Day yet?