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"Race to the Ziggurat" (3x11) is the eleventh episode of the third chapter of Critical Role. Descending deeper beneath the city of Whitestone, the weary members of Vox Machina are on a collision course with the Briarwoods and their insidious plot. What secrets lie far below and what dangers still await our heroes?
Previously on Critical Role Edit
"The party, Vox Machina, after having a relatively violent encounter with a couple known as the Briarwoods, Lady Delilah Briarwood and Lord Sylas Briarwood, two individuals that were responsible for essentially torturing and murdering Percy's family and taking over his town of Whitestone, and for the past five years have ruled it, guiding it into some dark direction they've begun to recently unravel. The party traveled to Whitestone to clear their name, as they were essentially put in a bad political position with their hometown of Emon, and to possibly bring vengeance for what Percy's family had undergone five years before.
Upon arriving they found the town in a very dark emotional place: zombie giants roving the streets as controlled centurions, a number of the individuals in the town feeling unrest. So they decided to build a revolt. Percy helming the de Rolo crest, Vox Machina went around inciting the thoughts of rebellion within the city—not the first, but apparently the one with the most chance of succeeding they've had to this date. After some infiltrations and sizeable victories, cutting down some of the underlings of the Briarwoods within the city, the people began to arm themselves, rise up—fire, blade, and screaming took the city as the denizens began to fight back. In this chaos, Vox Machina made their way underneath the castle Whitestone, where the Lord and Lady Briarwood currently reside, seeking some sort of project called a Ziggurat.
While they were down there they found a woman, apparently imprisoned, under an illusion, who they revealed to be Dr. Anna Ripley, one of the torturers of Percy five years before and seemingly interested in the black powder-based gun tech [Percy] had been developing. However, they took her captive, went upstairs, and discovered that Percy's sister Cassandra is indeed still alive and being held captive within the castle. In the process of trying to save her, Anna Ripley got away, Cassandra got her throat cut but was thankfully saved by the quick actions of Vox Machina and the near-death's door stepping of Vax once again. Nevertheless, [they] prevented her disastrous fate. So having Cassandra saved, some intense conversations began, some discussions of some elements of the Briarwoods' real intentions. They found notes within Professor Anders' room—one of the other individuals responsible for rising up against Percy's family back in the day—found materials that could clear their name back in Emon.
Cassandra armed up, and they made their way down to the basement of the city, into the undercroft, and through the mausoleum that contained the [ancestors] of the de Rolo family. After which, a series of ghosts—seemingly haunting that vicinity since the darkness that took this kingdom took hold—began to possess the party into a rough battle in which they were forced to fight themselves. The ghosts were ousted, destroyed, and the party, regathering what powers they still have at their disposal, begin to delve into the seemingly recently-dug tunnel beneath the city of Whitestone towards wherever this Ziggurat project is."
Part I Edit
Vox Machina takes a short rest in the crypt, preparing to advance. Scanlan's Seeming spell is still in effect, making the male party members (including Trinket) look like Percy and the female members like Cassandra, in hopes of confusing any enemies they encounter. Grog takes a vial of holy oil out of his Bag of Holding and keeps it on his person. Healing potions are distributed among the party. They strategize, with Scanlan suggesting that Vex, under the guise of Cassandra, surprises the Briarwoods with one of her special arrows (exploding or doused in holy oil). Percy suggests that Vax'ildan scouts ahead, while chiding him about his willingness to rush into danger. Before their rest is over, Grog attunes the Boots of Levitation to himself.
Percy asks his Cassandra which of the Briarwoods she would consider more of a threat.
"They're both dangerous for different reasons. Separately, Sylas is dangerous because of his unnatural nature. I've seen him turn arguments and opposing sides into friendships in but an instant. He has some sort of power over the mind of those he looks to. That in itself sounds of danger, not to mention his... other capabilities. I've only seen him use it twice, but that blade he carries is... is as dark as he is. That being said, Lady Briarwood, Delilah, she carries magic far more powerful than I've seen. She on her own is able to create, run, and rule each of these sentries that run about the entire city. She had half of the entire castle staffed with long-dead individuals. None questioned her. I've never seen her in battle, but I sense that there's far more to her abilities than I've seen. And the two of them together are driven, more so than their affiliation to this 'whispered one' they talk of. They're driven by one thing, and that's their affection for each other. As long as they are together, who knows what they're capable of."The party begins plotting ways to separate the Briarwoods with Cassadra's information. Having regretted accepting an allyship before, Vax lets Cassandra know, on behalf of Vox Machina, that they are wary of her and her assistance. She understands their caution, and answers the question of what became of her after she was shot down helping Percy make his escape five years ago. She explains that she was taken to the temple of Pelor and recovered there slowly. She helped with Whitestone's first attempt at rebellion against the Briarwoods, which ultimately resulted in failure and her capture by the Briarwoods. While under their control, she made attempts to help the remaining rebels and feed them information. Vex'ahlia's insight into Cassandra reveals the conviction behind her words.
Upon entering the cavern, the crest of Sarenrae sewn into Vax's glove activates, flashing and glowing in the dark. Pike's avatar manifests before them once again, to the collective joy of the party. After their greetings and introducing Pike to Cassandra, they carry on down the tunnel.
The group comes to a fork in the tunnel, at which point Vex'ahlia finds footprints in the ground, most recently leading to the left-hand tunnel. She smells an sharp, chemical odor down that tunnel as well, and determines that the Briarwoods must have their acid pits down that side.
By now, the party has traveled so far from the castle they are nearer the outskirts of Whitestone. Continuing down that tunnel, Vax notices some carefully placed stone platforms on the ground and inspects them, finding magical blast traps set beneath. Instructing the party to go around the trap, the twins carry on to find another trap in the dirt. This one consists of some sort of gas, making it very difficult to disarm, so Vax opts to stand in front of it in order to guide the group around it. While attempting to escort Trinket down that narrow corridor, the bear slips and steps on the trap, exploding and activating a gas cloud, affecting both himself and Grog. Fortunately, the lingering effects of Keyleth's Hero's Feast have remained, imbuing the party, Trinket included, with immunity to poisons.
A bit further down, the tunnel increases in steepness for a while, causing some members of the party to have to steady themselves. Soon, the tunnel stops declining and flattens out. At the end of it, there is a bronze door that, after checking it for traps, Vax manages to open for the rest of the party. Beyond the door, a bronze room with a white stone ceiling is revealed, with evidence that building materials have been carried through this hallway. Vax then turns back to the group, calling first his sister then Keyleth and Pike to look into the room in an attempt to understand its purpose. Suspicious of the nature of this room, Keyleth attempts to figure out what sort of natural attributes this room may have, but only finds that the metal used here is a very good conductor, and is not native to Tal'Dorei, being normally important from distant lands.
Vax, upon further inspection, notices an unusual button-looking object embedded in the center of the room, and the group agrees to have Vex shoot it from outside the room to find out what it activates. She perfectly shoots the object, but there is no reaction. Percy then tries sliding his sword out onto the floor to attempt to cause a short if the surface is in fact conducting electricity. There is no reaction, but, as he had moved closer to skid his sword, he is now able to ascertain that the object in the floor is some kind of oval gem or stone.
Vax decides to skirt around the room, in an attempt to make it to the door on the other side of the room. While he does this, he notices that there are three more opals embedded in the wall at shoulder height. Crouching under the opals, he makes it to the other side, he checks the door for traps, but finds nothing of interest, but notes that there is no handle or obvious way for it to open. The other members of the group notice that there are another three opals on the other side of the room, in the exact same positions as the other ones.
Vax attempts to push open the door, but cannot get purchase and fails. He then calls for Grog to sneak along the wall, under the opals,and join him but Grog chooses to ignore this and walk straight through the center of the room to the other side, seemingly to no effect. With a laugh, he reaches Vax, and takes out a pickaxe, trying to use it as leverage under the door to pry it open. Instead, the handle of the pickaxe shatters, and Scanlan, fed up with doors besting the team, walks up to the opal on the floor and presses it. It does nothing immediately, but he notices that a small white light is emitted for a moment before going out.
Each member of the group then goes to a different opal, pressing their hands against them, but nothing happens. Scanlan originally believes that it might be because Pike is non-corporeal, but it is shown that her opal is lighting up as well. Vex then checks the rest of the room to see if they are missing an opal, but it is Cassandra who finds a secret button hidden at the foot of the door. When she presses it, there is the sound of stone shifting loudly, and two large walls of green glass slam down, trapping all seven members of Vox Machina within the center of the bronze room. Grog attempts to smash the glass, but leaves only a scratch on the glass. Keyleth uses Thunderwave, but again to no effect, with the essence of the spell being scattered against the glass. Vex pours some poison that he obtained earlier on his Dagger of Life Stealing. Behind Cassandra, the bronze door opens, and out step Lord and Lady Briarwood.
Lord Briarwood greets the group, and as he does, Vax notices a placard on the wall behind the door where the Briarwoods came from. Drawing his cloak around himself, he uses Dimension Door to jump to it, and press it. There is the sound of stone grating once again, but the glass walls do not move. Instead, two large bronze tubes push outwards into the room. Lord Briarwood then says "Well I was not expecting you to want to see your friends dissolved so quickly, but certainly". The rest of the group looks up to see a green liquid pour into the room. Instantly Percy draws out his gun, trying to clog the tubes with ice. He manages to block one of the pipes, but while he is reloading, Vax is charmed by Lord Briarwood, who says "It doesn't hurt to have friends". Percy's second shot fails to block the second pipe, causing the room to slowly fill with poison.
Vex drinks the potion of flying that she took from Dr. Ripley, and Grog hits one of the opals, cracking it from the impact. Cassandra steps up to the green glass, putting her hand up to it and calling out "Which one is my Percy". Percy steps forward, giving an okay sign and smiling, saying "It's alright... I'll see you soon". Cassandra then replies "Your sister left us the day those arrows found my chest. She did not die from those wounds, but to watch you leave me there in the snow. I have a new family. I am a Briarwood, and I have a destiny with the Whispered One".
Part II Edit
(2:07:00 to 2:48:00 to be completed)
Using her Boots of Sprinting, Pike races forth to cast Greater Restoration on Vax and free his mind from the effects of Sylas's vampiric charms. He looks on the events of the last few minutes with sudden clarity, and backs towards Lady Briarwood, resuming his defensive stance - in hopes of deceiving her into believing he's still charmed. Pike dodges back behind one of the pillars flanking the entrance.
Vex, still hovering above the battlefield, uses her Longbow of the Sky Sentinel to fire three lightning arrows at Lord Briarwood. The first misses but the others strike true. She follows them up with an arrow doused in holy oil, and then disappears back into the darkness of the cavern.
Percy taps his fighting skills to shrug off some of the damage from Sylas's last blow and attempts to shove him off using Diplomacy. The glove, still holding a charge from the lightning attack in the crypt, sends a shock racing through Sylas's dark armor and singes his body. Seizing this advantage, Percy slashes Sylas twice with his sword and then attempts to flee to gun range; however, Sylas's vampiric speed allows him to slash Percy in the back and then intercept him as he rushes to Grog.
Cassandra de Rolo lunges from behind the other pillar and backstabs Grog with her short sword, but his barbarian rage allows him to partially shrug off the damage.
Keyleth races around the corner and casts Sunbeam, aiming it at Sylas and Cassandra (and incidentally hitting Grog, who is caught between them). Cassandra manages an uncanny dodge but Sylas is caught by part of the beam, recoiling in horror as part of his face is burned to ash, exposing his vampiric fangs. Sunlight illuminates the battlefield as Keyleth maintains the spell, preparing for another round of attacks.
Lady Briarwood steps forward to ..., and Vax reacts just quickly enough to slash her with his Dagger of Life-Stealing, still poisoned. She takes a few more steps and then coughs in pain as the poison begins to take effect. Angered, she turns back towards Vax and admonishes him, "You, boy, stay still!" An instant later, she stuns him in place with the power word "urestakhaa" and moves behind Cassandra for protection.
Witnessing the aftermath, Scanlan steps out and yells, "Hey, you paralyzed my friend - let's see if YOU like it!" He attempts a Hold Person spell but Lady Briarwood's magical defenses deflect the spell effortlessly. Thwarted, Scanlan attempts to inspire Percy and runs towards Vax, who still stands slack-jawed and uncomprehending in front of the door. Sylas again moves with blinding speed, ducking to the other side of the pillar and away from the raging barbarian - who is now left facing Cassandra. He slams her into the pillar with his warhammer, leaving her gasping for breath.
>>> Yeah, I've been known to take a lady's breath away! [Grog 3:06:20]
Sylas boldly steps into the sunlight to attack Percy again, landing two more vicious strikes with his black sword. Seeing this, Pike races towards Percy to cast Healing Word, and then unleashes her Sacred Flame, singeing Lord Briarwood.
Trinket races to Vax's side as Vex unleashes two more arrows at Lady Briarwood. Both strike true, momentarily dispelling her cloak's Mirror Image effect. Vex searches for a place to return to hiding but, with lighting conditions less favorable, she is unable to do so; instead she casts Hunter's Mark on Lady Briarwood, who glares at her angrily.
Sylas takes another swipe at Percy, who is beginning to realize that he simply can't move fast enough to put distance between himself and the vampire. Percy strikes back and manages to land a blow on Sylas's collarbone with his rapier. Cassandra looks over at the two, and her eyes find Sylas's; after a moment she drops her sword, torn.
Keyleth, seeing Sylas distracted, runs up to him and bear hugs him in place long enough to strike with another Sunbeam spell. Parts of his flesh are obliterated as he roars and looks to Keyleth with an angry red gaze. He slices her with his sword in return.
Seeing her husband's increasingly injured state, Lady Briarwood calls out to him. "My love, we're not ready, but the timetable's been pushed - we have no choice." She runs to him and wraps her arms around him, attempting to Dimension Door elsewhere, but Scanlan prevents their escape with a quick Counterspell.
As Scanlan whips out his harmonica and plays a quick inspirational ditty, Grog sees Lord Briarwood withdrawing, attempting to get out of the range of Keyleth's sunlight. He briefly considers using his Boots of Levitation to chase after the vampire but chooses to continue his attacks against Lady Briarwood, who is still within range. Despite her cloak he eventually manages to land a blow on her chest.
Scanlan now steps forward again and invokes Bigby's Hand, conjuring the hand directly between Lord and Lady Briarwood. It attempts to punch Lady Briarwood but she dodges out of the way, leaving the fist to crack the stone pillar behind her.
Sylas finishes his escape from the ring of sunlight and looks back at the fray. Seeing Grog's flurry of blows towards his wife he gestures in his direction and intones, "You. Help us." Grog almost succumbs, but the vampire's powers cannot penetrate the heightened rage that already fills his mind.
Meanwhile, Pike also observes Lord Briarwood's withdrawal and charges him, divine energy radiating off of her blazing form. She lands a blow with the Mace of Disruption, aided by her Guided Strike, and its powers strike supernatural fear into Sylas's heart. Vex'ahlia follows this up with another holy arrow. Their attacks leave Sylas grievously wounded, with pieces of his flesh falling from his form and turning to ash.
Percy, sensing Sylas's weakness, pulls out the Pepperbox. With his first attack he shoots Sylas's onyx blade out of his hand; his second shot strikes Sylas's chest and disperses him into his mist form. Seeing this, he turns his gun on Lady Briarwood, shooting off her ear, injuring her face, damaging her cloak and striking her legs and torso. He notes, however, that his shots aren't as effective as he would expect given their force.
Cassandra, seeing all this, runs to Lady Briarwood and administers the Potion of Greater Healing that Scanlan had given her earlier. Lady Briarwood thanks her, and then calls out again to her husband. "Sylas! To the ritual!"
Keyleth, however, is prepared. She shouts "What's the matter, Sylas? Afraid of a little gnome and a druid?" and prepares her Sunbeam. Pike raises her shield and the Sunbeam reflects off of its radiance, spraying rays of holy sunlight through the vampire's mist form. Lady Briarwood turns, in time to see his final death but not in time to stop it, and watches helplessly as the love of her life is disintegrated before her. Tears stream down her face as she screams out, "You can't! I broke the world for us! ...no..."
(3:40:00 to 4:41:33 to be completed)
Featured Characters Edit
Vox Machina Edit
- Percival de Rolo
- Scanlan Shorthalt
- Grog Strongjaw
- Pike Trickfoot
|Transferred||1||Greater healing potion||Grog||Vax'ildan||Vax offered Grog the opportunity to "flick [him] hard in the nads" in exchange for the potion, Grog accepted.|
|Transferred||2||Common healing potion||Grog||Percy|
|Transferred||1||Greater healing potion||Scanlan||Cassandra|
|Transferred||1||Common healing potion||Percy||Cassandra|
- Cassandra: (to Percy) "Your sister left us the day those arrows found my chest. She did not die from those wounds, but to watch you leave me there in the snow. I have a new family. I am a Briarwood, and I have a destiny with the Whispered One".