Balance – Episode 38: The Crystal Kingdom: Chapter Ten

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Aw, damn. Ghosts? I didn't sign up for ghosts! Guess that's the cost of doing business in The Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Crystal Kingdom: Chapter Ten," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 38th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

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Full transcript available here.

It's time for the final confrontation. Who's been hunting our heroes all throughout this campaign? What's Lucas really after? Why is Merle getting just completely boned in every fight? Answers to these questions and more linger just behind the play button. Taako has a plan. Magnus has a snack. Merle says his prayers.

The Tres Horny Boys, along with NO-3113 and Carey Fangbattle, have just finished kicking the robot asses of their past enemies, and are now ready to move onto the next room. NO-3113 kicks open the hatch to the main experiment chamber, and Griffin describes what seems to be a room fit for a climactic standoff.

CLINT: That's convenient.
TRAVIS: Just your standard final fight room?
GRIFFIN: Yeah! If Dracula was a thing here...
TRAVIS: Uh huh?
GRIFFIN: He'd be... this would be his place.

Griffin notes that, unlike the other rooms so far, this room is only partially crystallized. In fact, it almost looks like it's been perfectly shaped to encompass the ceiling, where it has sort of crept in some vents in the ceiling and through some very narrow exterior windows, some exterior vents, leading outside. On the floor is a bunch of deactivated robots, and, on the opposite side of the boys, is a gigantic locked door.

Hanging from the crystalline ceiling is a stalactite containing a robot. She has the shape of human woman, and, like most of the other robots in Lucas's lab, has a lit-up fuse in its torso. She is also holding an object in each hand. In her right hand, which she has extended out in front of her,  she's holding a large, silver disk, that's comprised of a series of interlocking rings, etched with a really intricate pattern that kind of resembles circuitry, all leading to a bright, small, pulsing light in the center of the disk. And in her left hand, which is to her side, is the Philosophers Stone. About ten feet away from where her disc is pointed is a large, circular pedestal with a mirror made of sapphire floating right above it, much like the ones floating around in the Cosmoscope chamber.

TRAVIS: And it retails for nine ninety nine!
GRIFFIN : And it can be yours for ten easy payments of ninety-nine cents!
TRAVIS: What a deal!

Inside the mirror is another world, also like the Cosmoscope mirrors, and, in that world, are tens of thousands of floating white lights sailing over a giant lake comprised of swirling rainbow-hued waters. These lights float, occasionally interacting with each other, and dive under the water, causing a ripple of light to move across the surface of the lake. On this strange lake is an island containing a large, intimidating fortress made of stone and steel. Outside the mirror, a head-bandaged Lucas, who is holding an improvised hammer in his hands, stands under the stalactite containing the robot. Lucas futilely attempts to break open the stalactite, before giving up and collapsing onto his hammer. Lucas notices the boys as NO-3113 kicks open the hatch, and, exhausted, says:

LUCAS: Oh shit.

After a quick look around the room, Magnus, along with Carey and NO-3113, jumps down to where Lucas is located, and, without breaking stride, picks him up by the neck for a Batman-style interrogation. Lucas, who doesn't have strongest of wills, starts telling the boys his story. Lucas explains that he had lied when he told the Director that he found the Philosophers Stone a couple weeks ago, when, in reality, he actually had it for four months. He tells them that he found it for his mother, who had spent her whole life studying the planes and the realities that lie beyond our own. He explains that the Cosmoscope was her life's work, and that, when the mirrors are arranged in a certain way, you can see into alternate realities with it. However, she wasn't able to complete it until Lucas used the Stone to create more mirrors.

MAGNUS: Lucas?
LUCAS: Yeah?
MAGNUS: Is your mother the robot?
LUCAS: ...Something went wrong.
MAGNUS: Yeah, okay.

Lucas explains that his mother insisted on testing the Cosmoscope, and once she used it the way it was intended, her mind was instantly destroyed. After that, Lucas became obsessed with saving her, so he created the conduit, a device capable of storing a living spirit and giving it agency over a robotic body, so she would have a new body to live in. He also created the siphon, which he could use to find her in the astral plane and fish her out. He explains to NO-3113 that she was the first person he used these two inventions on, and apologizes to her for dragging her into this. He tells them that it wasn't until this morning that he finally found his mother in the astral plane mirror, and that, once he extracted her, he put her soul into a custom conduit specially made for her. However, Lucas explains, her mind was too far gone, and she started to attack him, forcing him to hide out in the medbay. Eventually, his mother would use the Stone to crystallize herself, the siphon, and the rest of the lab, leading to the situation they're currently in. Magnus isn't moved by Lucas's story, however, and he chastises him for keeping all this information away from them, instead of just telling them truth. Lucas starts sobbing, and Magnus drops him back onto the ground.

LUCAS: I'm sorry I just, I thought I could still save her, I thought I could still defuse the situation myself, I thought— I’m worried that you guys would hurt her, you'd make me— you'd put her back in the astral plane and that I'd lose her again!
MAGNUS: She's gone, Lucas. Would your mother have struck you?
LUCAS: No...
MAGNUS: Your mother is gone. Help us fix this.
LUCAS: ...Okay.
MERLE: And you peed a little. You peed your pants a little.
MAGNUS: You did pee a little, he's right.
LUCAS: I did. I don't know how you could tell that.
TRAVIS: He rolled a really high perception check.

Suddenly, Kravitz's voice comes out from the mirror.

KRAVITZ: You guys really aren't that sharp, are you? Still having some trouble figuring this— still cracking this nut, huh?
MAGNUS: Well, hold on, don't— like— there’s three of us, we work individually, we're not a hive mind. Maybe one of us, but like, I would say at least one of us has a solid grasp, one of us is halfway there, and probably one of us just started paying attention.
MERLE: And I’ve gotta ask a question, mirror. Who's the fairest of them all?
TRAVIS: Oh, God.
KRAVITZ: It's certainly not you, my man.

From inside the mirror, the boys see Kravitz in his true form, which looks like a strikingly handsome dark-haired wearing a fancy suit that is covered by a long black flowing cowled robe. He explains that Lucas is guilty of Necromancy, a crime which the people he works for aren't fond of. Magnus, recognizing the similarities, realizes that Kravitz might be Death.

KRAVITZ : I, some people call me Death, sure.
MAGNUS: Some people call you a space cowboy.
KRAVITZ: Boy, you're not intimidated by me at all, are you.
MAGNUS: [guilty tone] Noooo.
KRAVITZ: Okay. Some people call me Death, sure, some people call me— oh, in some societies I’m called the Grim Reaper. I like that one.
MAGNUS: Oh, I saw you in a movie with Bill and Ted!

Kravitz tells them that he is a bounty hunter working for The Raven Queen, and whose job is to hunt down wayward souls who have escaped from the astral plane or the Eternal Stockade, the fortress on the lake, and also where souls who have conspired to escape the astral plane are locked up. Kravitz conjures up the book that he consulted with earlier, and decrees Lucas to be guilty of aiding his deceased mother, Maureen, in breaking her out of the Eternal Stockade and bringing her back into the mortal realm.

KRAVITZ: Your mother was in prison, Lucas, and you can't break people out of prison.
MAGNUS: [pious] It's bad.
KRAVITZ: I was assigned your family's bounty, Lucas, but when I got here and I met you three, that's when I found an even bigger trophy.
MAGNUS: Hey, hold on, wait a minute! What did I— what did Magnus do?
CLINT: Good teamwork, Trav.
TRAVIS: Hey, I mean, I want to make it clear here!

Kravitz flips through the book in front of him, and tells Taako that he has died 8 times and not once has he checked into the astral plane. The boys are instantly confused as they don't remember Taako ever dying eight times, and Griffin assures them that they've been knocked unconscious but nobody has died. Kravitz flips through the book again, and tells Magnus that he has died 19 times and has made zero trips to the astral plane. Last, but not least, is Merle Highchurch.

KRAVITZ: [drawing it out] Merrrrrllllllle fuckin' Highchurch. You, my dear friend, care to take a guess? Care to wager a guess?
MERLE: I'm just surprised my middle name is "fuckin’"! I had no idea.
KRAVITZ: Somewhere in between there. Merle Highchurch, the richest bounty I've ever hunted. You, my dear man, have died 57 times. 57 times! Fifty se-veh-eh-en times!
TAAKO: That’s despicable.
KRAVITZ: And you've never come to visit! You've never come to visit me, Merle!
MERLE: I never call!
KRAVITZ: After 57 deaths! That's just rude!

Kravitz's robe starts to grow longer, and his face becomes a red-eyed skull as he angrily tallies up the boys' death count. A scythe suddenly materializes in Kravitz's hand, and the start to see something happening in the Eternal Stockade behind Kravitz. While Kravitz continues his spiel, they see a swarm of those shimmering grey lights start to pour out of its few narrow barred windows and doors. The lights start to gell and morph together to form a massive spectral hand which begins to slowly sneak up on Kravitz. Kravitz tries to convince the boys and Lucas to come along quietly, when, suddenly, the spectral hand grabs Kravitz, slams him onto the ground multiple times, and drags him into the Eternal Stockade. After Kravitz is dispatched, the group starts to hear the crinkle-tinkles again, and the fourth verse of the Crystal Kingdom song plays out. However, this time it seems to be coming from the robot in the stalactite, but, unlike the last few times, it's a chorus of voices instead of just one:

Kept from our children, lovers, friends

Subject to laws we did not make

This is where separation ends

And souls of the lost will come awake

Enter this crystal kingdom

A brilliant white beam of light shoots out of the disc that Maureen's robot form inside the stalactite is holding and pierces the mirror. A swarm of escaped souls bashes out of the mirror at a fast speed, and they begin to, again, organically meld together into a silvery goo that encases the floating mirror entirely. And, from that goo, a humongous skeletal form appears. It has two massive bony arms, a rib cage, torso, that's sort of sticking out of the mirror, and a large shrouded skull. Inside of the silvery substance making up its form are these faint faces, most of which seem to be locked in a grimace. From this gigantic skeletal being speaks a cacophony of voices that all speak simultaneously, and it says:

LEGION: Thank you Maureen, your job is done.

Legion turns to the group, and pleads for them to help them in their cause of destroying the barriers between life and death. Merle calls for a group huddle first, which Legion obliges to.

MERLE: Listen. You know, we've probably put a whole bunch of those people in there.
MAGNUS: Phandalin at least, yeah, yeah. Tom Bodett...
MERLE: We're not gonna get good treatment at the hands of a bunch of dead people that we offed.

Taako does an investigation check to make sure that nobody that they know is part of Legion. He sees Magic Brian, Jenkins, and Maarvey, who apparently weren't obliterated by Merle after all, in the mass of faces. Legion once again asks the group if they will help them in their cause, and all three boys answer with a collective "no". Merle tells Legion that he appreciates that they bothered to ask them first, as it's just good etiquette, but it's still gonna have to be a no. Meanwhile, as Merle distracts Legion, Magnus starts to stealthily creep towards the mirror that Legion is in, in order to smash it. Legion rolls a 19 on its perception check, however, and it smashes two of its fists near the ground where Magnus is standing. Suddenly, sixteen gray balls of light come out from the mirror, and possess the deactivated robots.

LEGION: You will join us one way or another!

[Money Zone]

First up in the order is Carey, who, along with NO-3113, decides to take on the robots while the boys handle Legion. She does a badass roll over NO-3113's shoulders, stabs two of the robots in their core, deactivating them, and throws her dagger into a third robot, taking it out of commission. NO-3113 cocks her gun arm and blasts away three more robots.

MAGNUS: Hey, guys, here in a second, we’re totally gonna fight the big skeleton thing, but let’s just, like, comment on the fact that they are way more capable than we are!
TAAKO: Yeah, that’s not new information.
MERLE: And that it looks really kinda cool.
MAGNUS: Oh it’s so cool! I’m so glad we’re all here to see this!
GRIFFIN: Yeah, they’re flipping the fuck around the room, and like, doing all kinds of-
MAGNUS: I don’t pity anyone who’s not actually here seeing this! Wait, or I do pity? W-whatever.

Legion rears back its massive skeletal right arm, and grabs Magnus. It brings him up to its face, and roars at him. Magnus roars back, but Legion isn't fazed. Legion then pitches Magnus at a wall, doing eleven damage to him, but, luckily, Magnus is able to land on his feet and continue fighting. For its second move, Legion points a finger at Taako, and a small silver flame appears above his head. Merle decides to cast Guardian of Faith, summoning Della Reese six feet above the group. Up next are the ten robots, who all turn towards Taako and, like a firing line, shoot fiery beams at him with their blasters, doing nineteen damage. After they finish roasting Taako, the silver flame above his head disappears. Magnus prepares to charge back up to Legion, but asks Lucas if destroying the mirror will get rid of it first.

LUCAS: It— it should— I mean, the mirror has to be perfect for it to maintain a connection with our—
MAGNUS: Got it!
LUCAS: O-okay.

Having made up his mind, Magnus charges at the mirror while double handling his axe, and attacks it, with the damage done going towards Legion instead of the mirror. Magnus does a goading attack on Legion, which succeeds, and uses his second attack to swing again, doing eight damage. Not quite finished, Magnus uses his Action Surge, and does another thirteen damage to Legion.

TRAVIS: And then I pull out my squeeze bottle, maybe towel off some sweat, sit down on a stool nearby, and think about how good I did, hitting three times in a row.

Taako scopes out where the robots are situated, and delays his turn. Carey and NO-3113 do a joint attack where NO-3113 throws Carey, who spins with her knives, and takes out seven of the remaining robots. Legion conjures some spirits from the Stockade, and they meld with it, healing it for nineteen damage. It then summons fourteen spirits, who possess more of the robots, bringing the robot count up to seventeen. Merle starts to Channel Divinity, and, holding his Extreme Teen Bible in the air, casts Turn Undead on Legion and the robots. The robots manage to save, but Legion does not. Despite this, instead of being destroyed, Legion kind of "splats", and its body begins to scatter around the room. As Legion's body is splattered, it is sent flying into the Danger Zone, where Della Reese resides.

GRIFFIN: As this thing kinda pops off towards it, you see your angelic Della Reese form, just kinda fuckin’ Fruit Ninja this guy as he goes flying all around the room, cutting him up with a golden radiant sword. How much damage does it do?
CLINT: It does twenty radiant damage.
GRIFFIN: It actually does forty to Legion, who you hear scream out in pain, as pieces of it go flying all around the room.
MERLE: I’m sorry! (calling out) I’m sorry! (quietly) Oh, I hate that...

The pieces of Legion immediately creep towards the middle of the room, where they begin to form back together. Griffin rolls a dice to see who the robots target next, and they all point their guns at Lucas, blasting him to shit. As Lucas lies on the ground smoldering, Taako casts Shatter on the stalactite holding the robot body, and manages to break it open and free it. The stalactite falls onto the ground, crystallizing the room, and the robot stands up, still holding both the disc and the Philosopher's Stone. As it moves, it starts to walk in one direction but then jerks itself backwards towards another direction. One of its arms begins pointing towards the mirror and the other starts grabbing that arm and pulling it down, almost like it's fighting with itself. The robot bends over into the fetal position, and, from its conduit in the middle of its body, a dozen spirits fly out of it, "as if they've been thrown out of it, DJ Jazzy Jeff style." The robot stands back up, points its finger at Legion, and says:

MAUREEN: Get the hell away from my son!
CLINT: Niiiice!
TAAKO: Yeah, that's about what I thought would happen.

After shouting that kick-ass line, Maureen holds the Philosopher's Stone to her chest, and the growing crystallization happening in the room gets sucked into the fallen stalactite, stopping the spreading. Magnus demands Maureen to give him the Stone, but she is hesitant, seeing as he attacked her son earlier. Fortunately, he is able to convince her, and she tosses him the Stone. As soon as he grabs, Magnus hears the voice of the Philosophers Stone try to persuade him into using it. Ignoring this, Magnus rips the glove of the Null Suit, and folds it around the Stone. Magnus then takes out the Glutton's Fork, taps it on the Philosophers Stone, and swallows it.

GRIFFIN: What the fuck.
CLINT: You have been holding on to that one!
TRAVIS: Yes I have.

An exasperated Griffin reminds Travis that the Glutton's Fork only works on non-magical objects, and the Philosophers Stone is pretty magical, meaning it will still remain a stone.

GRIFFIN: Okay. Make a fucking constitution saving throw to see if you can swallow this fucking rock that you're trying to eat with your mouth and put in your body...
TRAVIS: That’s a fifteen plus three— eighteen!
GRIFFIN: I guess you turned your glove into a delicious pastry crust that you have wrapped around the Philosopher's Stone, and then through some doing—
JUSTIN: He turned it into the Falafeler's Stone!

Magnus regains two hit points from eating the pastry, but also loses two hit points for "swallowing a motherfucking rock", balancing things out. Having sort of handled the problem of the Philosophers Stone, Magnus attacks the mirror with his axe, doing eleven damage, and puts a small crack in it. The picture of the Eternal Stockade vanishes from the mirror, and it falls to the ground, pinning Magnus under it. As the mirror deactivates, Legion lets out a scream of rage. Meanwhile, NO-3113 and Carey do some "dope shit", and take out five robots. Travis takes this moment to express regret at eating the Philosophers Stone.

TRAVIS: It seemed like a great idea when I thought I could eat the stone itself, and then you were like, “But it’s magical!” And I was like, “I'm still gonna do it!” And I was like, “Aww….”.
GRIFFIN: You hear the Falafeler's Stone inside you go,
PHILOSOPHERS STONE: [muffled] Hey, Magnus, is it weird that I’m kinda into this?
MAGNUS: Oh no, it's a vore thing! Oh God!
PHILOSOPHERS STONE: I'm learning all kinds of stuff about myself right now. I think we can still turn the world into gold or candy, sweets...
TRAVIS: I punch myself in the stomach.
PHILOSOPHERS STONE: Gah! Okay, okay, okay!

Legion, who has managed to fully reform, attacks a prone Magnus, doing thirty-one points of damage. Maureen runs up to Lucas, and repeatedly smashes her hands into the ground until the wires are fully exposed. Using these exposed wires, she is able to successfully defibrillate him back to life. As all of this is happening, Merle is having a crisis of faith due to being nearly killed, being lied to by "Pan", and having his arm chopped off, all in the span of one arc. Seeking Guidance, Merle does a quick prayer to Pan. Golden leaves very slowly start to bud and sprout from his soulwood arm, and the branches that form the arm start to mold his fingers into a finger-gun that points at Legion.

MERLE: Thank you!

Merle looks at Legion and, with the help of Pan, casts Banishment.

MERLE: You! Shall not— oh, no, I’m sending him to somebody— You had better— You shall pass! Get out of here!

The golden leaves that sprouted from Merle's hand force his thumb down as if the finger-gun has just fired, and the leaves blow with a breeze that is coming in through the windows, encircling Legion, who lets out a Big "NO", before imploding into a small, silvery hole that swallows up the remaining spirits.

TRAVIS: Della Reese looks on.
GRIFFIN: Della Reese smiles.
TRAVIS: "You've done it.”

[Theme Tune Plays]

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Sponsored by Audible.

Personal message for Sarah Bay from Cody Singletary: Happy birthday to my wonderful wife.  I hope hearing our favorite DM read this message is almost as good a present as finishing up your PhD. Thanks for getting me obsessed with podcasts by introducing me to TAZ. It got a little out of control after that, and still is.  I love you and can't wait to finally live in the same place this summer. 

Personal message for CJ, from Patrick: Wishing the best boyfriend ever good luck matching a residency program. Wherever you end up, you'll do great.  I still love how when I played you Episode 1.5 to suck you into The Adventure Zone, you played dumb and pretended you weren't already secretly caught up.  Thanks for being the Sloane to my Hurley. I love you so much, and I'm so lucky that I met you. 

Personal message for Coleslaw, from Bjore's Bounty Incorporated: Happy birthday to the best DM we know. It's been just about a year since you had this crazy D&D idea, and every week since has been a magical adventure full of smashed doors, spider buddies, and arrows through the coccyx.  We hope your constitution saving throw against birthday hangovers was a success.  Love, Dinwin,  Melo, Venoran, and Nyla.

Featured NPCsedit | hide | edit source

Featured Musicedit | hide | edit source

Featured Locationsedit | hide | edit source

  • Lucas's Lab
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