The world of tabletop actual play series Critical Role is forever expanding, from the shows themselves, to comics, animated series, and of course, novels. While our last looks at the world of Critical Role books took us into the past of two of Vox Machina’s heroes, our latest is a look at a villain from the world of the Mighty Nein.
io9 has an exclusive look inside Madeleine Roux’s new novel The Mighty Nein—The Nine Eyes of Lucien, a new novel out next month that explores the past of one of Critical Role’s most memorable foes, the mysterious Lucien. The Tiefling master of the Tombtakers, Lucien played a major role in the show’s second campaign, The Mighty Nein. Picking up before the events of that campaign, The Nine Eyes of Lucien follows the young Tiefling blood hunter as he crosses fateful paths with the Tombtakers on a new mission... and discovers a promise of power that he cannot resist.
Check out an excerpt from The Nine Eyes of Lucien below, as Lucien and his new allies find the tables turned in a job gone wrong.
The whole place was as fragrant and cheap as the ale it served. The first floor contained only two visible rooms—the combined kitchen and pantry in the back, and the large, open serving and eating area where they had been haggling. The main room had about a dozen or so tables scattered randomly, with equally random numbers of mismatched chairs. Three wrought-iron chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Deg and Sundry clearly had an affinity for hunting, or knew someone who did, as many different stuffed and preserved heads decorated the walls. Lucien had tried not to look at them throughout the evening, perturbed by their ghoulish, moldering appearance.
The kitchen was partially hidden behind the single bar counter. The cellar they needed would be back there, but it was pointless to approach when he could already hear blades being unsheathed.
“Is it walking into a trap if you know the bloodbath is coming?” Lucien mused, taking a quick head count.
“Ha! You’re just lucky I arrived when I did,” Brevyn replied. “No chance you could crack this many skulls without me.”
“My dear, why would I want to?”
She drew a sharp, gold hairpin from her mess of yellow-blond hair. The long waves tumbled free as she drew the pointed edge of the pin down her forearm. Blood seeped through the wound, then sprayed into a mist, drawn in two streams toward her fists. Hard, black stone rippling with molten fire formed around her hands—hands that immediately started swinging. A mercenary at the table behind them crumpled in a heap before he even knew the battle had begun.
Lucien took the high ground, stepping from his own chair onto the tavern table before leaping onto the counter. Mugs and pewter plates scattered. He flicked a dagger out of his belt, one formerly concealed by his long, oiled coat. He nicked the skin of his middle chest, elemental power rising from his veins, manipulated, and pulled to his blade, giving the weapon a crackling sheen of ice.
The floorboards and rafters shook as the mercenaries filling the inn flung back their cloaks and coats to reveal their own arsenals. Lucien watched the barmaid dive behind the counter, cowering under his feet. Brevyn didn’t waste an instant, grabbing the table they had just vacated, lifting it high over her head and grunting, throwing it across the room and pinning a flailing dwarf underneath. Eight of the remaining ten mercenaries turned their attention on Brevyn, rightly assessing her as the larger threat. But Lucien was not without fangs. A dwarf and a halfling in mottled, tawny cloaks and pale leather armor dove toward the counter.
The dwarf swung her heavy pike, trying to sweep Lucien’s legs. He nimbly danced down the length of the counter, tossing his dagger into the air, catching it by the pointed tip, and then hurling it with deadly speed at the dwarf’s dominant hand, shards of ice following. The blade and shards struck true, then were drawn back by a gust of Lucien’s magic and dispatched again to slice across the halfling’s throat.
The pike clattered to the floor, an arterial spray hitting the wounded dwarf as she flailed for her weapon, disarmed. Through the blood, Lucien saw a shape like a black shadow slide down the stairs.
Brevyn had taken up another table, using this one to shield herself from the onslaught of blows aimed her way. She used it like a battering ram, shoving hard against the bodies piled up on the other side—but the tide pushed back, trapping Brevyn against the far wall. Lucien hopped down from the bar counter, kicking the injured dwarf hard in the head and knocking her out. He then scooped up the now limp and increasingly lifeless halfling, heaving him up into the air over the crowd of advancing mercenaries.
Cree, flattened against the wall near the door, saw her opportunity at once. She raised her arms, catching the halfling, not with her hands but with a spell. The halfling stopped in midair, suspended above his comrades, the gash across his neck weeping freely. That blood supplied Cree what she needed, power surging through her hands, a dark miasma emanating from her palms, the spell gradually encircling the mercenaries, binding them, holding them.
Those closest to Cree noticed first, crying out and struggling against the magic. It was the perfect distraction for Brevyn. She dropped the shield table and swung mightily with her molten-rock-encrusted fists. The mercenaries were surrounded, and while one or two managed to land a blow on her, it was nothing a bit of Cree’s magic couldn’t cure later.
More chaos, more blood. More blood, more power.
Only a moment later the fray was violent enough to give Cree another massive surge, the floor slippery with blood, allowing her to plunge the whole mess of scrabbling, fighting, gnashing thugs into a deep, instant sleep.
Bodies thudded to the floor, a sudden, terrible silence descending on the inn.
A cup rolled away toward the door. The barmaid, shaking, poked her head up above the counter. She had taken a pewter plate, holding it with both trembling hands to protect her face.
“Is . . . Is it over?”
Nobody answered her. Brevyn kicked aside a few useless limbs blocking her way, tearing off the bottom bit of her tunic to wrap around a cut on her upper arm. Lucien, Cree, and Brevyn wordlessly marched toward the back room, Lucien producing the key for the cellar from his coat pocket. As they passed, he flicked the barmaid one last tip.
Reprinted from Critical Role: The Mighty Nein—The Nine Eyes of Lucien by Madeleine Roux and Critical Role. Copyright © 2022 by Gilmore’s Glorious Goods LLC. Published by Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Critical Role: The Mighty Nein—The Nine Eyes of Lucien is set to release from Penguin Random House on November 1—find out where you can pre-order here.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.