Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #3

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #3
The cover, featuring Iselda looking upon an orb with the face of Grog Strongjaw. Art by Aleksis Agustin.
Issue number3[1]
Creative team
ArtistOlivia Samson[1]
LettererChris Northrop[1]
Cover artistAleksis Agustin[1]
Publication information
PublisherDark Horse Comics[1]
Publication dateNovember 29, 2017[1]
Page count27[1]
Preceded byCritical Role: Vox Machina Origins #2
Followed byCritical Role: Vox Machina Origins #4
Vax'ildan:  "I'm pretty confused right now."
Scanlan:  "Yeah, I think there's a lot of plot threads sort of converging in this scene."

— Vax'ildan and Scanlan[2]

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #3 is the third issue of Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins and the third issue of Vox Machina Origins Series I. It was written by Matthew Mercer and Matthew Colville and the art was done by Olivia Samson. The cover art was produced by Aleksis Agustin. The issue was published by Dark Horse Comics on October 18, 2017.[1]

The issue follows the pairs of Grog and Scanlan, Keyleth and Tiberius, and Vex and Vax, as they all get involved in a conspiracy by the Myriad to poison the swamp town of Stilben.

Publisher's summary[edit | edit source]

Keyleth and Tiberius find themselves in unsavory company, but that's the only kind of company to be found in Stilben. Paid by the Clasp to stop the attack on the peasants, our heroes follow their noses and uncover an alchemical laboratory hidden in the city's sewer.

They arrive to find a pair of half-elves fighting a gnome and a half-giant. With all the people tracking her in one place, the architect of the swamp curse springs her trap...[1]

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Meeting with the Clasp[edit | edit source]

The half-orc Spireling Harrok is interrogating a young human man, who is shackled by the wrists and denies any involvement or knowledge of what is going on in Stilben. Harrok raises an eyebrow in doubt, calmly noting that she has to be sure. As the Four From Foramere watch, Harrok instructs a Clasp member to retrieve the iron filings for her. When the rogue returns, she picks up a handful of filings as the man weakly attempts to plead with her. Harrok tosses the filings like projectiles, them finding purchase in the man's chest and stomach, doing enough damage to make him revert into his true form: a cambion. Harrok smiles in satisfaction, reminding the cambion that "once the Clasp fastens onto you, you're through". She asks him again about his involvement in the goings-on in Stilben, and the cambion reveals that there is a rival guild in Wildemount has a plan to kill everyone in the swamps of Stilben and destroy the Clasp's business, and that he was asked to assist. Harrok turns around and comments that that is a more plausible answer.

Helicax mentions that he was told that torture was not effective, so no one did it. Harrok corrects him, explaining that torture works "wonders" when done correctly and that it is mostly psychological (as well as theater, as Stitch mentioned), mentioning that, for example, she showed the cambion the iron filings before using them, noting that it is the anticipation of pain that makes the process so unbearable and that they ought to remember this. Changing the conversation, Harrok asks her "plausibly deniable agents" what they have found after looking into the problem in Stilben for three days. Tiberius starts to explain, but Stitch cuts him off, explaining that they "ain't found shit", and their lack of progress is due to the cost of getting people to talk, more than the 100 gold they were paid. Harrok concedes and hands him a bag of another 300 gold, but as a smiling Stitch is looking over the bag, Harrok throws a dagger into his back.

As Stitch falls to the ground, Harrok mentions that she appreciates the party's spirit, but warns that they should not try to "shake down" someone who is both their employer and the head of the local thieves' guild. Brul starts to pull out his greatsword in anger, but Helicax reminds him that they are surrounded by assassins and that they would never make it out alive. Harrok recognizes Helicax as the brains of the party and tells him that they can keep the gold, but Helicax demands to know why they should work for her anymore after killing Stitch. Harrok corrects him, explaining that Stitch is merely unconscious, but he will be dead in twelve hours as the dagger's poison courses through his body if he is not given the antidote. She continues, sarcastically asking if the party thought the Clasp's reputation was indeed "theater" and that, while she prefers trust and loyalty, intimidation works fine for her; she also explains that the peasants of Stilben are half their narcotics customers and one hundred percent of their prostitution supply, and at the rate people are leaving town, the Clasp will be out of business in a month. She instructs the party to leave and reminds them that they have twelve hours.

Scouting the sewers[edit | edit source]

Elsewhere in town, Vax'ildan and Vex'ahlia are in the sewers. Vax is looking out through a storm drain while Vex stands to the side, remarking how she should have let the shark from earlier eat her brother, since he blames her for it. Vex asks why they cannot simply watch for the alchemist from rooftops or the streets, and Vax reminds her that they were ambushed from both the rooftops and streets, so it is either the sewers or they give up. Vex says that they should give up, to which an unimpressed Vax asks if she means that. Vex pauses for a second before asking Vax to simply find the alchemist. As if on cue, Vax spots the alchemist, Zeth, leaving a nearby building. He notes that the alchemist is likely being monitored. Since it is a city, where she admits is Vax's "thing, or whatever", Vex asks where they should go. After some brief sibling banter, Vax reveals that Zeth was headed east, and the siblings take off.

As they make their way through the sewer tunnels, the twins spot two rogues walking through an adjacent tunnel, frustrating Vex enough to quietly sarcastically compliment Vax's genius to go into the sewers, where he said there were no guards. They agree on an ambush and one of them tosses something into the water behind the rogues, distracting them and allowing the twins to fire a dagger and arrow at them. The rogues start to chant an incantation as they prepare a spell of a blue-white color, but Vax kills one of them before the casting can be completed. The remaining rogue pulls out his daggers and tries to threateningly utter the Myriad's motto, but Vex shoots him in the neck.

The twins note that the rogues were sorcerer-assassins, which hindered their effectiveness in combat. Vax is excited to disguise himself and Vex in the red cloaks of the sorcerer-rogues, but Vex reminds him that their current cloaks work fine, and the two head back out to find Zeth.

Investigation[edit | edit source]

Back at the tavern, the Four From Foramere are sitting at a table and discussing what to do next. A shocked Keyleth says that she only wanted to help people, and Helicax reminds her that they are helping Stitch. Tiberius says that they should have told Harrok what they knew, to which Helicax says that they "don't know shit". Keyleth remembers that the water is poisoned, not cursed, which Brul claims makes no sense since there is not enough poison in Stilben to poison the entire population. Tiberius remarks that, normally, that would be the case, the poison is no ordinary poison. He explains that it is Aqua caedes, or the "water of death". Tiberius continues, explaining that the only way aqua caedes, a poison so rare and expensive that it is thought to be fiction, can be made is to distill it from the excretions of the hermit slug, found only in tidepools near Wildemount, meaning that the poison in Stilben is imported. Helicax is surprised that one vial of aqua caedes is enough to poison a swamp miles across. Indeed; skilled alchemist, as the dragonborn continues, could dilute the poison and pair it with a binding reagent, effectively turning one bottle into a dozen, and poison the swamp one bottle at a time.

Tiberius concludes by noting that their enemy from Wildemount would likely have their stock of the poison closely guarded. Keyleth stands up and asks for the vial, and Tiberius complies and warns her to be careful. Keyleth opens the vial, gives it a sniff, and hands it back to Tiberius. She reveals that, if Tiberius is correct in assuming that the poison is being brewed in one place, she can find it, and wildshapes into a dog. Helicax says that he and Brul will go head down into the swamp to see if anyone is cursing or poisoning the water and instructs Keyleth and Tiberius to "follow your nose".

As Tiberius and Keyleth, the latter in dog form, head out to track down the source of the poison, Tiberius admits that he finds the rest of the party (sans Keyleth) "utterly repellent". Keyleth gives a woof, and Tiberius thanks her, but also admits that he is not really sure what can be done. Keyleth growls, and Tiberius finds her "suggestion" extreme, but he agrees with her sentiment. He asks if the scent is getting fresher, to which Keyleth gives a confirming woof. Tiberius comments that their conversation would be somewhat less absurd if he could actually understand what Keyleth is saying. Keyleth woofs again, to which Tiberius replies "Oh, really? I hadn't considered that."

Brawl in the sewers[edit | edit source]

Elsewhere, in the sewers, a Myriad alchemist is at his station, reading over a book and muttering to himself that a shipment, presumably of Aqua caedes, will be arriving the next morning on the Mockingbird. Just then, Scanlan and Grog enter, causing the alchemist to grab and shield the book from view, causing Scanlan to guess that the book is important. The alchemist demands to know who they are and yells that they will have to kill him to get the book. Scanlan smiles in concession and casts Sleep on the alchemist, knocking him out. As Scanlan looks over the book, Grog notices something in the darkness of a nearby corner (to the surprise of the twins, who have managed to track down the same location and are hiding). Scanlan uses magic to reveal their presence, and a fight ensues.

Vex shoots an arrow at Grog as Vax chases after Scanlan, who tries to run away with the book. Vax lands a hit on the gnome, prompting Grog to take a swing at him with his greataxe, cutting the half-elf rogue in the arm. Vex prepares to fire another arrow in retaliation, but before she can, Scanlan casts a cone-shaped lightning spell. The twins are knocked back, but get back on their feet, and Vax manages to land a hit on Grog. Before they can continue, however, a group of six rogues appears, wielding arrows and crossbows, much to the surprise of the others. Scanlan assures Vex that the rogues are merely pushovers, but is shot by an arrow. Vax taunts him, asking Scanlan why he does not simply sing a song. As the others run to fight the rogues, Scanlan is left standing, weakly returning with a comeback to Vax by insulting how he smells.

As Grog, Vax, and Vex engage the rogues in combat, one blond-haired human tries to fight Scanlan, but is caught off guard when the gnome starts to ask if his compatriots actually allowed him to go dressed the way he is; Scanlan explains that all of the other rogues are wearing cool black outfits, using the examples of a halfling with a tailored outfit and an elf with an expensive silk outfit, who the human rogue admits is a senior member and could thus afford it. Scanlan concedes that the young human is trying his best, but accuses him of not taking his job seriously. The human, who admits that he was told to provide his own outfit, claims that he is doing his best and tells Scanlan that he does not have to "be a shit" about it like the others. As he continues, explaining that he is new and does not have much money, an arrow is shot straight through his head, killing him instantly. Scanlan stands over his body, mocking Vax to himself by calling him an "emo ballbag". He looks up to try to find the half-elf rogue, but when he does, he notices that, as Vax is crossing blades with a rogue, an arrow-peppered Grog takes on three on his own, and Vex is out of arrows, they are losing the fight. He picks up the quiver of arrows of the fallen rogue and tosses it to Vex, yelling at her to remember the favor next time she is trying to kill him.

As Vex continues to shot arrows, Scanlan rushes to Vax, who tells the bard that he will deal with him after the fight, to which Scanlan asserts that he is not one of the bad guys and magically heals the rogue. Vax admits that he is rather confused, and Scanlan mentions that he believes a "lot of plot threads are sort of converging on this scene", and when that happens, not everyone survives. As he says this, one of the doors creaks open, causing everyone in the room to stop their fighting and watch as Keyleth and Tiberius enter the room, having tracked the source of the smell of the poison there. The twins immediately recognize Keyleth as "the druid" and Grog and Scanlan remember Tiberius as "the sorcerer". Keyleth gives the twins a wave and tells them how happy she is that they are still alive.

The plot threads converge[edit | edit source]

One of the enemy rogues throws a dagger in Tiberius's direction, surprising the sorcerer, whose nostrils flare a bit of flame before he unleashes a cone of fire breath, burning a few of the rogues and setting them on fire. Scanlan and Vax both inform the other that the druid and sorcerer are on their side, but Scanlan elbows Vax a few times as he initiates a jinx, and tells Vax that he owes him a drink. An annoyed Vax prepares to stab Scanlan, who has turned his back to rejoin the fight but falters in confusion.

With the addition of two new faces, the fight turns to the favor of the individuals who would later form Vox Machina. Vex shoots a rogue dead in the eye, Grog slices one in half with his axe, Vax is about to stab the unsuspecting halfling rogue, Keyleth wildshapes into Minxie and pounces on the same halfling, Tiberius casts Burning Hands on a couple of rogues in front of him, and Scanlan provides inspiration by singing a variation of "We Will Rock You". One rogue attempts to splash a vial of green liquid (presumably acid) on Scanlan, who uses his Cutting Words ability to make the rogue hesitate, allowing Grog to behead him.

As the party finishes off the rest of the rogues, Scanlan mentions that the six assassins entered despite the fact that none of the doors were opened. Grog points to a nearby mirror leaning against a wall. Scanlan casts either Identify or Detect Magic, but finds that the mirror is not magical. He turns around to ask Grog if he is sure, but at that point, Iselda steps through the mirror and stabs the bard, remarking that if she wants things done right, she ought to do it herself. Iselda engages the party, and she proceeds to take down Vax before getting grazed by an arrow. She turns her attention to Vex and stabs her in one go. As Tiberius realizes that they are taking on members of the Myriad, and that they are thus in trouble, Grog flies into a rage and joins the fray, and after trading a few blows and parries, he manages to cut a gash into Iselda's chest. Iselda only smiles and remarks that the goliath ought to go, and tosses a glowing green bead at Grog, which expands into a bubble that holds Grog. The rest watch in surprise and Scanlan can only react with, "We're fucked."

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