Balance – Episode 35: The Crystal Kingdom: Chapter Seven

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I hope Merle's proficient in unarmed combat! ...I'm sorry, I'm better than that, and you should expect more from me. It's the Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Crystal Kingdom: Chapter Seven," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 35th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

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Full transcript available here.

Our heroes recover after performing some impromptu emergency surgery on their holiest team member, and then, after kicking it for a while, learn the secrets of the universe. No big deal. Taako tries on a new voice. Magnus does some backseat Regulating. Merle learns about an exciting new plant.

The episode begins with some very important corrections and amendments:

  • Merle does have a handaxe, as he announced it in Episode 1.
  • They didn’t use the red barrels in the previous episode because they could defeat the tardigrades fairly easy without them, and also they just didn’t think of it at the time.
  • There is no such thing as negative Kelvin. (TRAVIS: But what if he’s really sad?)
  • Griffin has been saying “proboscis” wrong his entire life, and so have this brothers and father.
  • Justin has no excuse for not calling the tardigrades “fartigrades”, and apologizes.

Griffin then has Clint roll to determine which hand he lost, which results in him losing his right hand (which is also now determined to be his dominant hand).

TRAVIS: I actually think he said he was ambidextrous.
CLINT: I did at the very beginning of the show, but along with all these other facts I guess that was forgotten too...
JUSTIN: I should also mention that very early in the show I also said that whenever people are around Taako they get super horny and want to give him lots of money.

It’s about 20 minutes after getting Merle to the medbay, and after a series of medicines and salves, he is actually pretty lucid and pain-free. Lucas rewires some stuff in a terminal, explaining that he has shut off the power in most of the rest of the lab, giving them about an hour and half.

MAGNUS: This should give us about an hour and 29 minutes for you to tell us what the holy hell is going on, and one minute to get downstairs.

Before he offers an explanation, Lucas says he has an idea to help Merle. He asks to see the arm Magnus took from Hodge Podge.

MAGNUS: Uhhh gimme a minute to find it. *rustle rustle rustle* Not this one... not this one... not this one... not this one... this? No, not this one... is it this one? No not that one...

Lucas holds the arm up to Merle’s shoulder and it’s comically small, like a doll’s arm.

LUCAS: No I’m just kidding, that would be... that would be ridiculous, it’s like a little toy arm... like if I could somehow plug this into you how would you control it? That’s sci-fi bullshit.

Laughing at his own joke, Lucas unscrews a cap on the end of Hodge Podge’s arm, and attaches the cap to something. Carey returns with a strange potted plant, which the boys remember seeing in the bugbear room. Lucas deposits the plant and begins to shake the dirt from the roots. As he handles it, the plant seems to protest, the wooden shoots trying to slap his hand away. Lucas plants it in a petri dish that is filled with a viscous fluid, sprays it with something, and attaches it to a belt. He creates some kind of concoction and hands it to Merle.

LUCAS: Merle, I know you’ve been burned by people asking you to do stuff that maybe you don’t trust, in like the past 15 minutes, but trust me on this; this is gonna be tight as hell.
MERLE: Sure. I’ll do it.
GRIFFIN: Your other arm falls off.

The drink tastes like a carbonated wheatgrass shot, and as Merle drinks it, wooden shoots hanging from belt start to wrap around each other and tie together to form a crude, four-fingered arm. Lucas explains that it’s soul wood, a psychically-tuned plant that can resonate with certain people and change its biology based on the whims of other beings.

Lucas takes the belt and wraps it around Merle’s shoulder and fastens the belt to his chest.

MAGNUS: Merle, how do you feel about auto-erotic asphyxiation?

Basically, Merle now has a wooden arm. The new arm is slightly bigger than his other arm, but he feels a psychic connection to it, and can use it as his former arm. He and Magnus do their complicated handshake to test it out. It’s not too much of a big deal to move it around, although it’s not quite as dexterous. The arm curls back toward Merle and gives him a thumbs up, as if to say, “Hey, I’m your arm now!” Travis puts it in the canon that Magnus is a little bit jealous of Merle’s sweet new wooden arm.

CLINT: And I want it in canon that Magnus can kiss my Kenny Chesney tattoo.

In terms of mechanics, Clint now has a permanent disadvantage on sleight of hand rolls. However, he can now control the arm separately from himself.

Before they can leave, Lucas reminds them that they have to recharge their suits. They all climb into Lucas’ much smaller null suit chamber, like a Real World/Road Rules “How many coeds can we fit into a phone booth” challenge. Lucas, after being questioned by Magnus, promises that the lying stuff is over--but claims to have no idea who the mysterious British voice was.

He decides to show them what he refers to as “the Cosmoscope”. Meanwhile, Justin is seriously struggling to keep up with is Taako voice.

TAAKO: *pained* Uh-yeah.
JUSTIN: The role of Taako today will be played by a ghost.
GRIFFIN: The Cold and Flu version of Taako should be interesting.
JUSTIN: Taako silently nods in agreement.

The group head out of the medbay, through the contamination chamber and back into the central hub. They enter into another chamber, which is completely dark, save for a pillar of light which illuminates what looks like a circular disk, apparently free-floating in the middle of the room. Lucas heads into the back of the room, gets out a flashlight and starts messing with a lectern. He flips some switches, and an image pops up on the disk. It appears to be an aerial view of Lucas’s lab. Lucas warns the group that he’s about to blow their minds.

LUCAS: So if it ever gets to be too much or you have any questions, please feel free to stop me, okay?
MAGNUS: Okay wait stop: you’re blowing my mind.
LUCAS: Okay. Boy, this is gonna take forever I bet.

Lucas says that he's been obsessed with taxonomy and hierarchy his whole life; the idea that for everything that exists, there’s always a bigger thing containing it. Lucas does an iPhone pinch on the screen and the image pans out, showing the Stillwater Sea underneath his lab. He zooms out further to show the continent, then the whole world, then the solar system, the local interstellar cloud; on and on until the screen shows the entire observable universe.

LUCAS: Pretty cool, right?
MAGNUS: Yeah, is there like a guest book we need to sign or...?
COLD AND FLU TAAKO: Hey, listen, uh listen, what if I was to take one step past what you’ve shown me here?
LUCAS: Taako, can I say something?
LUCAS: You’ve just made me very, very happy.
COLD AND FLU TAAKO: And also, just to clarify, horny.
LUCAS: You’ve made me very horny.

Lucas flips a switch and the room lights up a dark blue, levitating disk in the middle of the room. The group realizes that the room is full of disks, all orbiting this central disk. There are ten other disks, all in different colors, and all displaying impossible things. They see a world made out of lava and fire, a world that is giant sea, a world with millions of lights floating in the air, oceans of magical energy...

TRAVIS: You see a world where everything's the same except everybody's got mustaches...

Lucas explains this is what's bigger than the universe: the planar system. The central disk is the prime material plane, in the middle of the planar universe. All of the planes share energies and inform the physical makeup of each other. There are six building block planes, which are the outermost ring of disks: fire, air, water, earth, and the planes of light and shadow. The plane underneath the prime material plane is the ethereal plane, which works as kind of a filter for the raw energies of the other planes. There is also the plane of magic where magical energy is born, as well as the plane of thought, which is the source of logic, reason and emotion. As they look into this one, a deep green disk, they see similar scenes as the ones in the compact. There is also the celestial plane, inhabited by deities, and the astral plane, which is where souls retire when people die. There is no disk in the room for the astral plane, and Lucas hastily adds that it broke.

Lucas goes on to explain that certain types of gemstones, when grown in a perfect circle, resonate with specific planes of existence. Lucas's great-grandfather found a perfect emerald disk, through which he was able to see into plane of thought, where he gained inspiration for some of his inventions. Lucas’s mother, Maureen, came up with the idea of creating more disks to see into other planes. Lucas had been using the Philosopher’s Stone to transmogrify pools of water into gems, to continue his mother’s experiment.

Lucas tells Merle that he’d asked a very important question that he would like to circle back to, and is disappointed to learn that Merle forgot what he asked. Before Lucas can finish his thought, time freezes: Lucas, NO-3113, Killian, and Carey have all frozen in place, and the rotating disks have stopped. Taako, Merle and Magnus hear a low, gravely voice from behind them, asking, “What’s bigger than this?”

Stating in character that they are turning around as they do so, the three see the mysterious red-robed figure from the previous story arc. Magnus tries to hit it, but it is still incorporeal. The figure motions to the disks, and says that "a billion billion" lives have been destroyed in pursuit of this power. They wave their hand and from a crate in the back of the room, some small gemstone disks crash out. A black cloud emerges from one of the gemstones and floats up to the disks floating in the room, and consumes the disks one by one. The three can hear screams coming from each disk as they are consumed. The figure snaps their fingers and the cloud disappears.

MAGNUS: Who are you?
RED ROBE: It's not time to tell you that yet.
MAGNUS: What time will you tell me?
RED ROBE: In like ten episodes.
MAGNUS: Okay, I'll put it in my calendar.

The figure stops mid-sentence and seems to notice Taako’s Umbra Staff. They ask where he found it, and the group begin to describe the red-robed skeleton they found back during Here There Be Gerblins. The figure starts to shudder, red electricity crackling around them. They yell "You found her?" before bursting into flames and disappearing. Time resumes, and Lucas finishes his thought.

LUCAS: –What’s bigger than this?
COLD AND FLU TAAKO: Listen we've been through a few things just now, time–it doesn't matter, go ahead with your little presentation. I think we're all getting a big kick out of it. Hey by the way, I meant to tell you this is a great PowerPoint.

NO-3113 has her satellite attachment out, and notes that it has picked up a lich, but assumes that it’s on the fritz. Lucas notices that the crate of gemstones is knocked over. Magnus approaches the gemstone that emitted the cloud. He can briefly see white eyes on the surface, which quickly blink out. Lucas explains it’s made out of black opal, which is inert and doesn't resonate with any planes. Magnus asks to keep it.

Lucas wraps up his keynote presentation. Magnus mentions the singing crystal golem, but Lucas has no idea what could be causing it. The gang returns to the central hub, with fifty minutes left on the clock. Lucas places his hand on a sensor and they can hear an elevator approach.

At once, Killian and Carey draw their weapons and point them at Lucas. Killian announces that they're taking him in. The trio, mostly Magnus, quibble with them over their timing. Lucas begs them not to bring him in, arguing that he could help them stop whatever is going on. Magnus suggests that they bring Lucas back to the medbay, and if he helps them take out the crystal golem, Magnus will plead his case to The Director. Killian interjects, pointing out that they don’t have a court, ruining his proposition.

As the argument intensifies, a pool of blue spreads out of the central elevator shaft. There is a sudden roaring noise, and the blue substance takes over the room, turning it sapphire. With another roar it turns emerald, then topaz; changing colors with every loud rushing noise. The crystal settles on amethyst.

MAGNUS: Killian I’m sorry, I don’t even know what we were arguing about. Friends?
KILLIAN: Yeah. So, you’re gonna let us take this guy back and you’re not gonna raise a big–
MAGNUS: Ah no, that’s what we were arguing about, thank you, I completely forgot.

Lucas says they don’t have time for this, and then everyone takes constitution saving throws. Everyone fails. They feel the panels in the null suits heat up, and then purple volts of electricity paralyze them. Taako is completely paralyzed and falls to the floor. Magnus can move his head and hands but not the rest of him, and only Merle’s legs are paralyzed. Killian and Carey are both knocked to the floor. The elevator doors open, Lucas rushes in, and as the doors close he apologizes.

KILLIAN: I am going to absolutely murder that man.
MAGNUS: Yeah...
KILLIAN: I am absolutely going to kill him–oh my god I’m gonna kill him so good.
MAGNUS: ...yeah.
TAAKO: *strained* Hey guys... hey guys. Check it out: oil can... right? Oil can... right? Oil can... like the Tin Man.

With that, they hear the crinkle tinkles again, and the next verse of the golem’s song begins.

Saved from the darkness by my child
Locked in a cage of glass and steel
But my true love remains in exile
Beckoning me to break the seal
Into this crystal kingdom

Money Zoneedit | hide | edit source

Sponsored by Squarespace.

Sponsored by Loot Pets.

Personal message for Michael Burkarski, from Clara, aka Her Excellency Ladypants: I just spent too much money to be the first one of us to make a McElroy say something on our behalf.  I think I win at friendship. And I guess friendship is now a sport about being the fastest to pay a podcaster to say things. Also going to super fancy Japanese restaurants; we should do that again. PS, I win.

Call to action to go give a read to a new book called The Cogs of Alusura by Sidney Lotto, which is available now on the Amazon Kindle for $3.99. What is this book, you ask? The Cogs of Alusura is a steampunk adventure following the exploits of Eleanor and Simon Braider.  As they hunt down their former teammates who murdered their king, they discover a dark secret that will shake their country to the core and push their very marriage to the brink. Along the way they must fend off hoards of ferocious elemental fungus monsters that prowl the night and feed on those who leave the safety of Alusura's walled cities. Just search Terra Finite for links to the Facebook page

Featured NPCsedit | hide | edit source

Featured Musicedit | hide | edit source

Featured Locationsedit | hide | edit source

  • Lucas's Lab

Quotesedit | hide | edit source

He's not wrongedit | hide | edit source

LUCAS: Merle from what I understand, plants are kinda your specialty–
MAGNUS: Romantically.

Kiss Kenny Chesneyedit | hide | edit source

JUSTIN: Can you imagine what kind of delectable torture that would be for Magnus, to have a tree on his arm that he cannot split.
TRAVIS: Can Magnus make a tree even he can’t split?

Breaking the Fourth Wall (as per usual)edit | hide | edit source

MAGNUS: But you realize that like this is an all-audio medium, so all I can do is ask questions, right?
LUCAS: No, I get it.

The Plane of Homophonesedit | hide | edit source

TRAVIS: The plain plane, that's not very exciting.
JUSTIN: The plane plane, that's just full of planes.
CLINT: And the plain plane plane with all these plain planes.

I guess that character got written outedit | hide | edit source

JUSTIN: You shouldn't let your kids listen to this show. Griffin literally named one of his characters King F*** D***.

In their defense it was last Novemberedit | hide | edit source

RED ROBE: I spoke to you about the hunger of all living things.
MERLE: Well when was that?
GRIFFIN: The last time he fucking saw you guys, remember a thing!

Referencesedit | hide | edit source

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