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NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Explore the past of Critical Role’s daring half-elf twins, Vex’ahlia and Vax’ildan, in this original prequel novel to their adventures with Vox Machina.
Vex and Vax have always been outsiders. A harsh childhood in the elite elven city of Syngorn quickly taught them not to rely on others. Now, freed from the expectations of their exacting father and the scornful eyes of Syngorn’s elves, the cunning hunter and the conning thief have made their own way in the world of Exandria.
The twins have traveled far and experienced great hardship. But with the help of Vex’s quick wit and Vax’s quicker dagger, they’ve always kept ahead of trouble. Now, unknown perils await them in the bustling city of Westruun, where the twins become entangled in a web spun by the thieves’ guild known to many as the Clasp. Trapped by a hasty deal, Vex and Vax (along with Vex’s faithful bear companion, Trinket) set out into the wilds to fulfill their debt to the infamous crime syndicate.
As the situation grows more complicated than they ever could have imagined, for the first time Vex and Vax find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict that threatens the home they have carried with each other for years.
Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp, Critical Role: Vox Machina—Kith & Kin follows a brand-new adventure that delves into the twins’ unexplored history, and returns to some of the iconic moments that forged Vox Machina’s most unbreakable bond.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Critical Role: Vox Machina--Kith & Kin
The spider crashed into the undergrowth with a dagger buried into one of its eyes, its claws still twitching and its jaw clicking. A large brown bear immediately leaped on top of it, his paws crushing the spider’s legs, like branches that snapped underneath his weight.
Vex’ahlia Vessar shuddered at the crunching sound. “Ugh, gross. How about a cleaner kill next time, brother?”
“At least I brought one of them down,” her brother Vax’ildan shot back, his eyes on the two other spiders that were still circling them. “Besides, who led us straight into their nest in the first place?”
“Trinket brought one of them down.” Her bow fully drawn, Vex tracked one of the spiders with her arrow. Half-elf twins, they’d stumbled upon a nest, hidden away in the thicket, as they’d crossed into Bramblewood Forest on their way to Westruun. The trail they’d followed from the river to the city got swallowed up by the trees. Three spiders, concealed by the greens and browns around them, had scurried out of their burrow—and attacked before they’d been able to back away and change course. “And you wanted to take a shortcut.”
“I’m f***ing tired of trees,” Vax said, like that was a better reason to walk into a spider’s nest. He took a new dagger from his belt. “And Trinket only helped.”
“That spider was still moving.”
“Twitching. It would have died eventually.”
“Because Trinket killed it.”
Still on top of the spider, Trinket growled and looked around the narrow clearing in the woods for the other arachnids, ready to jump on another one if the need arose.
Vex breathed out and focused on her target. One of the spiders scuttled up a large tree—dashing around the thorns that covered the bark, lending the forest its name—and circled the trunk. Like the first, it was the size of a large dog or a wolf, its hairy legs at sharp angles and its eyes focused on the twins. The four smallest eyes tracked their every movement, while the larger eyes on top reflected the speckled sunlight, giving them an eerie glow. It rounded the tree and when it reappeared, it darted across an overhanging branch and made to leap at Vex.
As soon as the spider jumped, Vex let her arrow fly. The bowstring reverberated next to her ear, and the wooden shaft of the arrow curved through the air. For the briefest of moments, no more than a heartbeat, both the spider and the arrow sped toward each other—then the arrow hit, with a satisfying thud, directly underneath the creature’s jaw. Its leap interrupted, the spider crashed to the ground like the first one had.
Unlike the first one, this one fell and remained motionless, its legs broken and askew.
Vex raised an eyebrow at her brother. “That’s how you kill a spider.”
“Luck,” he smirked. She elbowed him.
“Skill, thank you very much.” She grabbed a new arrow from her quiver and placed it against the string, keeping an eye on the trees around them for the last spider and the largest of the three.
To anyone who might observe the half-elves and give them no more than a cursory glance, the two looked exactly the same. Dark-brown hair—messy from their time in the woods—slender physique, practical clothes, and deadly weapons. All angles and raw edges. To full-blooded elves, they might appear too young to be this weathered and wary, but to any perceptive observer, it was clear they came by their caution honestly, and they moved with a grace brought on by years of traveling around together.
Vax held blades in both his hands, and kept his back toward his sister as the remaining spider circled them. Back-to-back, they scanned the forest, ready to attack if the spider jumped at them.
To Vex’s left, something crackled in the undergrowth. A twig snapped, and she reacted immediately, swinging her bow in the direction of the sound and letting an arrow loose. It hurtled through the air without a target and struck a tree.
A large shadow clambered into the trees and disappeared between the leaves. They could hear the spider rustle overhead. It was stealthy and cautious. The scarring along its thick legs indicated it had seen and survived its fair share of fights.
Vex twisted toward the movement, grabbed an arrow, and sent it toward the large arachnid. She heard it impact, but the spider kept prowling the trees overhead, seemingly unbothered by a meager arrow. She narrowed her eyes as the spider skittered up higher, until it disappeared from view. “Careful.”
Vax held his daggers at the ready and squinted up at the trees too. He winced at the size of the creature. “Looks like we woke Mama Spider,” he said.
Trinket ambled closer, snout pointed up and hesitation in his gait.
When the spider shifted and dashed to one of the lower branches, Vax weighed his dagger and threw it with precision. The weapon cut through the creature’s outer shell and stuck there, right next to Vex’s arrow. It hissed sharply and reared back, front legs stretched out toward Vax, and in that instant it was easy to see how much larger it was than the other two spiders had been; when it stretched out, it was nearly the size of the brown bear down below.
Vex let another arrow fly. “Get out!” she whispered at her brother and her bear. She reached for her quiver once more, backing away to the edge of the clearing, keeping the trees behind her and her eyes on the spider.
Vax held on to his dagger and held his ground, clearly trying to uncover the spider’s weakest points. “I’ve got this.”
“She’s Trinket’s size. She’ll—”
Before she could finish the sentence, the spider overhead screeched loudly, the sound echoing against the trees. It pushed off the branch, and fell. There was no grace to the attack. The spider let itself fall toward Vax, using the same tactic Trinket had, trying to crush its prey underneath its legs—and presumably to sink its fangs into a convenient midday meal. One of Vex’s arrows sped past it. Vax brought his dagger up in an attempt to strike before he’d dive out of the way at the very last moment—
And the spider crashed into him. Its legs caved. Its head snapped forward, large fangs biting into Vax—and then it collapsed on top of him.
“Vax!” Vex dashed forward, while Trinket leaped toward the spider too.
“Got it,” Vax grunted. “M’okay, I think.”
Vex breathed a sigh of relief as her brother tried to roll out from under the spider, but the weight of the creature kept him down. One of its fangs tore along his collarbone.
And before Vex’s eyes, Vax began to lock up. His shoulders and arms tensed, and he couldn’t push the spider’s jaws away anymore. As the venom from the bite spread through him, his hands clawed into fists. The spider’s body rolled back on top of his chest, and he cursed. “Ow. F***.”
But he leaned his head back on the mossy ground, stared at his sister, and grinned. “Definitely brought that one down.”
It took the better part of an hour for Vax to regain use of his arms, and it took until they set up camp in a quieter clearing, several hours later and far away from any spiders’ nests, for the dark lines around the wound to fade. He rolled his shoulders and inspected the wound through the puncture hole in his shirt. “Did you use the antivenin we got in Kymal?”
Vex leaned against Trinket, who napped comfortably near the campfire she’d built as dusk crawled through the trees and the first owls took to the sky. “Well, your shoulder was turning blue.”
With more than a little help from her bear, Vex had pulled her brother out from under the spider, and she’d used what was left of a small, near-empty vial of a viscous green liquid on the puncture wound. They’d dealt with spiders like these before, most recently at the behest of a wine merchant who’d had an infestation in his cellars, and she was glad she’d held on to the last remaining bit. Vax’s wound hadn’t been a bad one—a clean cut, not too deep—but by the time she’d gotten him free, the wound’s edges had been darkening and vicious lines were crawling across his shoulder. Not much longer, and he would’ve been completely unable to move.
“I’m glad it worked,” he said. “Blue looks far better on you than it does on me.”
Vex removed her bracers to clean them, and she picked at the thread that she’d used to mend the fraying buckles. “What exactly possessed you to stand underneath that spider anyway?”
“I needed to get through its armor,” he said reasonably.
“Oh, well, that explains that then.” Vex tied the thread in place again and turned the bracers around. Though they bore the wear and tear of previous fights, they’d made it through this confrontation mostly unscathed. The leather was cracked and torn, and a large gash ran down the middle of her right bracer, the result of fending off a rabid wolf. But they had a little while left in them if she was careful.