Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #4

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #4
The cover (art by Tess Fowler), featuring Keyleth (in Minxie form) facing Iselda, over the unconscious bodies of Scanlan Shorthalt and Vex'ahlia.
Series
Issue number4[1]
Creative team
Writers
ArtistOlivia Samson[1]
PencillerChris Northrop[2]
LettererChris Northrop[1]
Colorists
Cover artists
EditorF. Avedon Arcadio Barrera II[2]
Publication information
PublisherDark Horse Comics[1]
Publication dateJanuary 24, 2018[1]
Page count25[1]
Chronology
TimelinePre-Stream
Preceded byCritical Role: Vox Machina Origins #3
Followed byCritical Role: Vox Machina Origins #5
Keyleth:  "Hey! Where are we going?"
Vex'ahlia:  "I have to retrieve something my brother convinced me to leave outside of town. A Trinket."

— Keyleth and Vex'ahlia[3]

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #4 is the fourth issue of Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins and the fourth 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 Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain. The issue was published by Dark Horse Comics on October 18, 2017.[1]

The issue follows the adventurers that would eventually form the original cast of Vox Machina as they face Iselda in the alchemical laboratory beneath Stilben, and the adventurers go their separate ways after she retreats. After Vax'ildan is suddenly kidnapped, however, Vex'ahlia is forced to seek the aid of the others if she is going to find and rescue him.

Publisher's summary[edit | edit source]

The sinister Iselda has kidnapped Vax, and Vex must swallow her pride to ask for aid from the other heroes. But when they refuse, Vex decides to retrieve a friend outside of town . . . but not before Keyleth catches up to her and pledges to help.[1]

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Prologue[edit | edit source]

When we last left our heroes...
Three different groups, each acting independently, all orbiting around the same problem; the children of the peasants of the port town of Stilben are stillborn. Lifeless. Someone's poisoning the swamp the peasants use for their industry.
Vex'ahlia and Vax'ildan stalk the alchemist responsible, and find themselves enmeshed in a conspiracy of assassins.
Scanlan and Grog, temporarily misplaced inside a group led by a paladin, recover a vial of the potent poison, and attract the attention of a watchman who wants the poison. A watchman who is also, occasionally, a beautiful sorceress.
Keyleth and Tiberius, unhappily in the company of a bunch of thieves and murderers, are hired by the local thieves' guild, the Clasp, to find out who's poisoning the peasants they rely on for their prostitution supply and narcotics sales.
Each team having a different piece of the puzzle, the three pairs of misfits converge at the alchemical laboratory where the poison is refined. There they fight each other, then some thieves, and now the woman who seems to be behind the whole thing... and who is also occasionally the watchman?
Certainly now they will join forces, stop the curse, and defeat the evil presence in Stilben!
Certainly! Probably!
Well, maybe.
No promises.
Stillborn in Stilben, Part IV: Myriad Ways To Die

— Prologue

Facing Iselda[edit | edit source]

After trapping Grog in a floating green bubble, Keyleth, still in Minxie form, has lunged at Iselda and has her pinned against a wall, forcing her to use her swords to parry the druid's claws. Scanlan watches in awe, suggesting that they don't need Grog in the battle. Just then, however, Iselda's form transforms into smoke and rematerializes behind Keyleth and stabs her in the back, dealing enough damage to force the druid to revert to her half-elf form. As Keyleth slumps to the ground, unconscious, Scanlan runs back to Grog, aware that they need him. As Iselda stands over Keyleth's unconscious body, Tiberius asks for her attention, and threateningly asks her not to eviscerate one of the few friends he has found in Stilben, and casts a spell that propels a glowing purple rope that wraps itself around Iselda, allowing Vax to land a dagger in her back and Vex to fire two arrows that find purchase. Iselda manages to force her way close enough to Tiberius to grasp his hand and casts a melee damaging spell, breaking his concentration and knocking him out.

Meanwhile, Scanlan is inspecting the bubble entrapping Grog, who yells at Scanlan to let him out, who frantically tells Grog that there are limits to the magical power of music. Scanlan hears laughter behind him, but he only has enough time to turn around before getting struck zapped by a bolt of lightning, almost knocking him out. Vax and Vex, still standing, go to flank Iselda while she taunts them by calling them brave, little othlir. Vex releases an arrow after arrow while Vax engages her in melee combat, and they land a few hits on the boss, forcing her to take a healing potion. She breaks the vial on the ground, causing a burnt Scanlan to moan over how he hates it when enemies use their treasure before he has a chance to steal it. Iselda continues to mock the adventurers, comparing them to children on a playground and takes out an acorn that she drops onto the ground before smashing it with her foot, sending out a cloak of magical darkness.

As the others struggle to continue the fight in the dark, Scanlan thinks to himself that he is going to die with Grog and a group of "assholes", and finds himself wishing that they had a healer and missing his partymates Arnicor and Thurista. He thinks of Thurista's Wand of Daylight, and suddenly remembers that he has it with him, prompting the bard to say the wand's command word (Light!) and shower the room with magical sunlight, revealing a surprised Iselda standing over the unconscious body of Vax, raising her bloody swords above him. As Vex calls out for her brother, Scanlan proudly declares his magic item. Iselda only glares at him before Lustran Zeth makes a surprise appearance by creaking a nearby door open to ask Iselda if the fight is over yet. At the sight of Zeth, Vex points at him and yells "You!". Iselda can only react with a simple "Shit." before grabbing the alchemist by the collar and dragging him and herself to the mirror. Vex tries to run after them, but charges headlong into the now-mundane mirror, smashing it into pieces.

As Vex'ahlia sits, groaning in pain, Scanlan yells at her to get her attention back to the party and he walks over to an unconscious Vax and heals him. Vax sits up, rubbing his head, and spots the broken mirror, and realizes that Iselda was allowed to escape. Scanlan, taken aback, vows to Vax that he will make the rogue look like a "cockbag" in the story before storming off to heal Keyleth. Keyleth thanks Scanlan, who tries to hit on her, but Keyleth does not register, as she notices the unconscious body of Tiberius and goes over to revive him, to the bard's disappointment. Scanlan walks over to Grog, who is still afloat in the green bubble, and asks Grog to "unfuck" himself. As if on cue, the bubble suddenly pops and Grog falls to the ground and happily thanks Scanlan, who starts to tell Grog that the bubble's duration likely ran up, but gives up and accepts his friend's thanks.

The party gathers in the center of the room, and Keyleth asks what happened to the alchemist. Vax figures that the alchemist was bait to lure them all down into the laboratory. Scanlan, frustrated, asks who the rest of them are. Keyleth tries to introduce the twins, butchering their names while they watch without amusement, and Tiberius introduces himself and Keyleth, and Scanlan introduces him and Grog as folks interested in "enlightened self-interest". Tiberius cheerfully extends a hand to the twins, announcing that he is Draconia; Scanlan, who is looking on the ground for something, tells the twins that they can safely shake his hand. The bard finds what he was searching for; the acorn Iselda took out earlier, and discovers that she had unscrewed the acorn, cast Darkness on the seed inside, and screwed the top back on. Vax interrupts in, asking for the book, but Scanlan refuses and challenges him to stab him. The rogue complies, to Scanlan's pained irritation and Grog's amusement. Keyleth steps between them, healing Scanlan and suggests that they can hunt Iselda down together. Scanlan rejects the idea, noting that they only survived because they had gotten lucky; Vax agrees, and the twins start to leave. Keyleth tries to reason with them, saying that their assistance would be good. As they slip into the shadows, Vax concedes that their assistance would be helpful, but Vex disagrees that it would be something good. Grog shines a lantern to where the twins disappeared, only to reveal an empty corner, leaving Scanlan in awe at their dialogue.

Tiberius suggests that the remaining four of them join forces, but Scanlan declines and he and Grog leave. Tiberius comments that Scanlan is a strange one, but Keyleth comments that she kind of likes him. Tiberius notes that she likes everyone, which the druid denies is true.

Captured[edit | edit source]

Iselda returns to Zeth's manor, where the Mirror of Translation taunts her by reminding her that a group of insects beat her. Iselda drinks a healing potion and reminds the Mirror that everything is going according to plan, but the Mirror calls her out on her lie. Iselda reminds the Mirror that she promised them, the Myriad, a foothold in Tal'Dorei and that she intends to follow their timetable to transfer hold of Stilben from the Clasp to the Myriad. The Mirror offers to help, but Iselda, knowing the price of accepting such a deal with the magical item, refuses, noting that either way, Stilben will be under their grasp, she will advance in rank, and they will be equals. The Mirror disagrees that they would ever be equals, reminding her of her failure to kill the adventurers in the alchemy laboratory, but Iselda claims to have "mastered them easily," but she needed to get Zeth to safety to "protect the network". The Mirror envisions the next fight being more fun, but Iselda, holding her bloodsoaked sword in view, remarks that there will not be "a next time" before licking the blood on her sword and, as if she now knows who the blood belongs to, appears to summon a live image of Vax'ildan on the Mirror.

Meanwhile, Vax and Vex are walking through the streets of Stilben while arguing over their mission. Vax suggests that they need help. Vex sarcastically suggests the "idiots" they encountered earlier, who, along with anyone else who would be foolish enough to help them, she doubts would be of any help. As the twins enter a building, Vax asks her why she is fighting him on the matter, to which Vex explains that she is she afraid the only reason Vax is determined to complete their mission is that he believes he can always count on her, and that he will push the matter anywhere because he believes that, no matter what, they are "in this" together. Vax confirms his belief in both, to which a saddened Vex decides that it is up to her to leave. Vax calls out to her and admits that he just does not want to fail, but an unmoved Vex only tells him to get used to failure. Just then, Iselda jumps out of a nearby mirror, grabs Vax, and pulls him through as a shocked and distressed Vex calls out to him. The mirror turns solid right as Vex runs up to it, slamming her fist against it and cracking the surface. The image of a smug, cackling Iselda appears in an adjacent mirror, prompting Vex to call her a "bitch" and a "fucking hag" as she grabs the mirror and smashes it against the floor, screaming her brother's name.

Vax is tossed into a cell with iron bars, filled with nothing but hay and dressed as a prisoner. An operative of Iselda asks if she wishes for torture, which she declines, instead wishing to leave Vax there to see and lure whoever will try to rescue him. Vax, wiping the blood from his nose, asks Iselda who she is, but Iselda only tells him that she is his enemy and that there is hardly a chance he will survive. Vax retorts that he was thinking the same about her, which causes Iselda to chuckle and inform him that the Clasp has failed to do anything to stop her except send "[them] idiots", but she admits that alone makes the lot of them stand out among the rest of the city and there may be a place for them in her new organization, an offer Vax calmly refuses. Iselda advises he mulls it over with his teammates when they arrive. Vax sarcastically wishes her good luck in that, since her sudden appearance is the only reason they did not all kill each other. Iselda tells him that, regardless, Vex will do fine, but Vax tells her that she has to be long gone by now. Iselda laughs and mocks Vax for trying to believe that Vex's threat was genuine and that, even if the others do not come for him, his sister will. Vax asks how she knows and if the mirrors are how, and Iselda tells him that, while the mirrors are useful, she knows that Vex will come because of their bond. Vax whispers his sister's name in worry as Iselda orders her associate to prepare a ritual and check in on Vax every quarter-hour, and if he escapes, kill him.

Going for help[edit | edit source]

Back at the tavern, the Four from Foramere are debating their next move. Helicax and Brul want to go back to the Clasp to try and save Stitch, but Tiberius warns them that they will simply be thrown out until progress is made. At that moment, they are approached by a despondent Vex, who tells Keyleth and Tiberius that Iselda captured Vax. Helicax simply asks Vex who "the fuck" the is while a concerned Keyleth asks her to clarify. Before she can reply, Helicax crosses his arms and mockingly notes that she has gotten herself into quite the trouble. Brul joins in, asking just how much her brother is worth to her, sensing that the problem could be costly to fix, but Helicax slimily offers her an opportunity to pay in "another way" should she lack the coin. Vex only turns around and walks off while Helicax cackles and Keyleth and Tiberius look on.

Vex then approaches The Wing with the same despondent face. Before she says anything. Grog and Scanlan immediately recognize her. Arnicor sees that she is desperate, and Vex says that her brother was taken and that they have the book, which could tell her where he is. Scanlan tries to make it known to Vex how much he dislikes her, but Thurista tells him to quiet down and asks Vex to explain, but she does not say anything. As Scanlan explains to Thurista and Arnicor, Vex does not trust anyone, let alone them, and that she is realizing that anyone who would volunteer to help her would want something in return; in contrast, Vex was hoping to live without ever owing anyone anything, with the exception of her brother. However, her brother has been kidnapped, and her desperation has now overridden her cynicism. Arnicor warns Vex not to go alone, and Thurista offers to bring her to the local church and talk to the prior. Vex stares at them for a moment, as if contemplating Thurista's offer, but turns around and walks away without a word.

Arnicor expresses fear that Vex will go on a suicide mission by herself in an attempt to rescue her brother, but Scanlan disagrees, noting that the ranger does not even know where her brother is (but he does), which Thurista considers luck for Vex, in a sense. Arnicor changes the subject, ordering the rest of the party to come with him as they return to the temple; Grog and Scanlan will receive their rewards while Stilben is left to its fate. As Grog takes a gulp of his ale and loudly burps, Scanlan agrees with the course of actions, but turns to the camera and notes that that would not make for a good story.

As Vex steps outside the tavern, she spots a dog with green eyes and orange fur, recognizing it to be Keyleth, remembering her to be a squirrel of a similar appearance earlier. Keyleth transforms back to her half-elf form, explaining that nothing beats a dog's sense of smell. Vex turns away and tells Keyleth that she does not need her, but Keyleth asks why she came to the tavern for help. Vex simply says that was a mistake and bids her goodbye, but Keyleth stops her, telling her that she wants to help and that the people she is adventuring with are bad. Vex says that she is bad as well, which Keyleth doubts. Vex admits that she is not used to relying on anyone, but Keyleth cheerfully admits that she is not used to anyone relying on her, making them even. Vex crosses her arms and reveals that she went to a school for assassins, performing well in sabotage, infiltration, and weapons such as knives, swords, garrotes, poison, and most of all archery. Keyleth nervously admits that she is bad with and dislikes weapons, but explains that she is good with shapechanging and magically commanding the elements. Vex admits that that is a useful ability and instructs the druid to follow. As the two girls run across a small bridge, Keyleth asks where they are going, and Vex informs her that she has to retrieve a certain Trinket her brother told her to leave outside of town.

Featured characters[edit | edit source]

Returning[edit | edit source]

New[edit | edit source]

Mentioned[edit | edit source]

Collections[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #4 on Dark Horse Digital
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #4, page 1
  3. Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins 4, page 27

External links[edit | edit source]