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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
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".