Balance – Episode 48: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Eight

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Let me do some quick calculations. According to my math, there’s a zero percent chance the boys don’t wang this one up. It’s the Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Eight," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 48th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

Synopsisedit | hide all | hide | edit source

Full transcript available here.

Could you resist the power to go back and change your very worst mistake? What if it meant unraveling some of the non-mistakes you've made since? Also: Imagine, for the sake of this hypothetical, that you're a complete goober. Merle runs out for smokes. Taako takes the show on the road. Magnus goes home.

The Tres Horny Boys have taken up the Temporal Chalice's offer to at least see what it has to offer them before taking it back to home base to be destroyed. Let's hope they don't fuck this one up.

Merleedit | hide | edit source

Merle finds himself standing alone in a white space. Standing in front of him is a slightly less older June, who is holding the Temporal Chalice and who is deep in concentration as she scans through Merle's memories, which Merle can also see everywhere around him as if was being projected in front of him. While this happens, Clint expands a bit on Merle's backstory:


Merle comes from a wooded enclave away from most of society. He was born into a Panite commune and comes from a religious family of beach dwarves. Merle's father, who was also a Panite, had forced him to many religious functions, every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, Summer Pan Camp etc. which Merle did not enjoy, but dealt with it so he wouldn't disappoint his father or get grounded. Because of this, his religion is something he's inherited and therefore has mixed feelings on Pan.

Later on in his life, Merle would end up in an arranged, loveless marriage with his now somewhat ex-wife, Hekuba Roughridge, in order to keep the dwarven bloodline pure. Hekuba had had a daughter named Mavis with another dwarf before marrying Merle. During their marriage, Merle and his wife would have a son named Mookie. After years of putting up with each other, Merle ended up abandoning his family, saying he was going to the Dwarf Store to get smokes and never looking back. Because they never properly divorced, Merle is still legally married to Hekuba and is now a "dwarf on the run".


As Clint is relaying all this, "June" is rewinding through these specific points of Merle's life, eventually running into a long, unbroken period of static before managing to rewind past it. "June" eventually stops at a certain point in Merle's memories, and Merle finds himself back in Lucas's lab with his past self in front of him about to grab one of the pink crystals, a move that led to the loss of his arm.[1]

THE CHALICE: You’ve lived a fairly charmed life, Merle Highchurch. And we currently stand at the exact moment of your worst, and most fixable mistake. You shouldn’t have grabbed that crystal, Merle.
MERLE: [laughing] No shit. [snorts]
THE CHALICE: If you claim me, Merle, and you use me, you can stop yourself from grabbing it. You can be whole again, Merle, that is my offer to you.

Taakoedit | hide | edit source

Taako and "June" are standing in the white space going through his memories and running into the same long period of static along the way. After getting past the static, the pictures return and Taako sees an adolescent version of himself standing in front of him.


Taako had been on the road since the age of 12. He made his living with troupes of performers and mercenaries, trying to find a place where he belonged. Taako served as a chef with these traveling crews in order to pay his way. During this time, he picked up enough magical techniques from wizards in the party to be dangerous.

Taako would later become a TV cook on the show 'Sizzle It Up with Taako'. As television does not exist in The Adventure Zone universe, this was a road show that traveled from town to town. When he noticed that audiences were flagging, he began learning magic in order to spice up his performances. He taught himself magic from books he picked up and from wizards he traveled around with. He toured with Sazed, who acted as his driver, roadie, stage manager, and right-hand man. Sazed thought Taako "hung the moon" and learned how to cook during their travels together. As the show grew in popularity, Sazed asked to do more and more with the show, even asking to co-host the show and change the name to Sizzle It Up with Taako and Sazed.

TAAKO: Well, that is so groovy, I love that. It trips off the tongue, you know, but, um. [fart noise]. I got all these t-shirts that already say “Sizzle It Up With Taako” and--
SAZED: I can get new t-shirts! I printed those t-shirts for you! So I can print out new t-shirts.
TAAKO: That’s bad business, Sazed! I would love to help you out, but it’s just bad business! “Sizzle It Up With Taako” is the brand! We’d have to throw all these in the junkpile! And you can’t write on them! There’s not enough puffy paint in the world for all these t-shirts to add “Sazed” on there. Sorry! It’s mainly a merch thing. A licence, a merch, then the brand--you know--got the logo painted on the side of the, uhhhh, wagon. Already. So, I don’t know. I’ve got my brand established. I just don’t think it jives!
SAZED: Okay. Alright. I get it. I get it. Okay.

Cut to the infamous Glamorsprings show, which put an end to Taako's career forever. The town had enjoyed the show before and forty people attended the show that day. He prepared his famous 30 Garlic Clove Chicken for his audience that day.


"June" pauses the memory just as people are gathering around the wagon and she takes Taako just behind the stagecoach into the storage area where she shows Taako a nervous looking Sazed holding a bottle of arsenic in his hand.

THE CHALICE: Well, I guess this must come as some small relief, right? Like all this time you thought your transmutation, your reckless magic, is what killed the town of Glamour Springs. In actuality, it was, you know, plain ol’ jealousy. But… still, all those people died.
GRIFFIN: And then she snaps her fingers and you’re back at the stage and you see yourself about to hand out these samples.
THE CHALICE: The people of this town died all the same and you fed them their death.


Taako and Sazed ran as the people of Glamoursprings began to die, with Taako assuming that the garnish of elderberries he had used on the chicken had been unwittingly transmuted into deadly nightshade. The two of them drove for two days together, but Sazed abandoned him as soon as he had the opportunity.


THE CHALICE: This is the worst thing that ever happened, Taako, in your life. And you can fix it. If you claim me, none of this ever happened. Glamour Springs lives and you can keep doing your cooking show and you won’t have this horrible black mark on, what is otherwise a heroic legacy. Take me, Taako, take the cup, and you can fix it all.

Magnusedit | hide | edit source

Magnus stands in the white space with "June", who encounters the same long period of static that both Merle and Taako had.

THE CHALICE: What happened to you guys? You’re all missing time. Like a lot of time. Like, a lot of it! I guess it’s not really- [sighs] important to what we’re doin’ here, it’s just like… It’s weird, man.


Magnus's introduction to being a 'protector' was defending a mongrel dog from three bullies and being beaten up to protect the dog, allowing it to escape. This solidified his need to defend those that are weaker than him.

Five years before his adventure with Merle and Taako began, Magnus led a revolt against Mad Governor Kalen. When the city of Raven's Roost had been founded, people stood behind Kalen, but Kalen saw his power as endless and become corrupt. In retaliation, Magnus gathered people together and defeated Kalen and his soldiers in battle. Unfortunately, Kalen managed to escape and was subsequently forgotten about in the months to pass.

After the rebellion, Magnus worked in Hammer and Tongs, the pride of the Craftsman Corridor in Raven's Roost. His mentor and blacksmith/general craftsman, Steven Waxmen, had taken Magnus in after a promising apprenticeship. Magnus worked on a black oak rocking chair with a lavender polish imbued into it, that he would submit to the Continental Craftsmen Showcase that took place in Neverwinter, a ten days drive from Raven's Roost. Julia, Steven's daughter and Magnus's new bride, entered the shop, talked as they usually did, and brought Magnus out to the cart that she had prepared for him. Magnus left with his rocking chair for the showcase, after shaking Steven's hand and kissing Julia and telling her the last words he ever spoke to her:

MAGNUS: I love you, Jules.

Two days into his travel to Neverwinter, Kalen returned to Raven's Roost, with an "If I can't have this city, no one can" mentality, and bombed the support column for the Craftsmen Corridor. 76 people were killed, including Julia and Steven. Hammer and Tong were destroyed and in the time it took Magnus to return to Raven's Roost, the town had been evacuated, due to fear of a repeat attack, and has now become a ghost town.


THE CHALICE: Magnus, you earned this happy ending. You worked so hard for it. It shoulda been yours! But it hasn’t happened yet. Not here! Not yet! Not now! If you claim me, you can still stop Kalen. You can save Julia. You can save Steven. You can save Raven’s Roost- You can save this life that you earned. Take me, and we can do it together.

[Money Zone]

The boys and "June", who now looks like a little girl again, appear back in the Davy Lamp version of the white space. Here she explains the three rules they will have to follow if they take the Chalice for themselves:

  1. They will not be able to walk the same path they walked in their current timeline, meaning they will have never joined the Bureau of Balance.
  2. They will forfeit their place in their current timeline completely, which means no backsies.
  3. They need to want every single thing - good or bad - that happens in the new timeline or else it won't hold.

And with that "June" picks up the Chalice and places it in the middle of the boys' table.

JUSTIN: What’s in it?
CLINT: Beer.

Magnus is the first to answer and he answers with a pass, as he believes that, while its something he would want, it's not what Julia would want. Merle passes also and states that he has no regrets about his past and figures that "you make your best choices with the information at hand, and you live with the consequences." Last but not least is Taako, who... also passes on "June's" offer due to his discovery that the biggest mistake of his life was not actually his fault lifting a heavy weight off his conscience. Because of this, he feels no obligation to go back and fix his past as, from his perspective, this is "the best possible timeline for Taako".

MAGNUS: So it kinda sounds like it’s a ‘no’ all around, cup lady.
THE CHALICE: I would be lying if I said I wasn’t… disappointed. I… I’m- I’m sorry. I have to make one more offer.

"June" stands up from the table and grabs the cup, and the group finds themselves suddenly transported back to a pivotal moment in their first adventure. Specifically, their choice to free Kurtze, the orc boy, from his imprisonment,[2] a choice that indirectly led to the destruction of the entirety of Phandalin.[3]

THE CHALICE: This is the last offer I have to make. It’s the last thing I can think of that the three of you could fix. You free Kurtze, and Kurtze, in an act of vengeance, sets off a series of events that destroys Phandalin. You can stop this from happening if you just don’t let him out of the cage. It’s my last offer, and, will any of you reconsider?

The boys start discussing whether or not they should save Phandalin, and when it seems they are trying to spin its destruction in a positive light, as it was a "very explosive beginning" to their journey, "June" teleports them to a tavern in Phandalin, which a very on fire Gundren Rockseeker is about to destroy while Barry Bluejeans attempts to calm him down, and then the tavern's storeroom, where a halfling woman hides in fear. In the hand of this halfling woman is a barrel of booze labeled Redcheeks Farms, revealing her to be a pre-robot Noelle.

MAGNUS: Yeah, but at the same time, can you show us Rockport if we didn’t stop the train? Can you show us the world if we didn’t stop the pink tourmaline from taking over? Can you show us all of that?
THE CHALICE: This is the only offer I can make to you.
MAGNUS: Yeah, but like-- you’re showing us one thing we can change, and not the stuff that we did change.

Each of the boys once again takes a pass on the Chalice's offer; Merle because he doesn't want to lose the good times they had, Magnus because, like Merle, he wants to look forward in his life instead of backwards, and Taako because "If I wasn’t gonna use this to clean up a mess that was half my fault, I’m certainly not going to use it to clean up a mess that’s one third my fault - at best!" A disappointed "June", realizing that - not only are the boys not going to take this offer - but they don't even seem to be taking any of the offers seriously, finally gives up.

MAGNUS: I have one question.
MAGNUS: If we pass on this, what happens to June?
THE CHALICE: I told you, I just wanted to give you my offer, and if you listened I’d let her go. And I’ll let her go because you’ve listened to my offer, and since you’re apparently so okay with living with the consequences of your actions then, I guess… Well, I guess I’ll leave you with this.

The following is a direct transcript:

"June and the cup disappear. And time starts to back up again, but it’s moving painfully slowly. And you watch as a wall of fire consumes the stockroom of this tavern, and everything and everyone inside of it. And then the scene changes, and you’re standing in the home of a young couple, and you see a man cooking a stew in the kitchen, and his partner - she’s reading a book in bed - and the wave of fire consumes this home as well.

And then you see a woman playing with her dog in the garden. And you see a kind-looking blacksmith cleaning his shop after closing. And you see a young hedge wizard practicing his spells. And you see all of these scenes of Phandalin’s citizens which, maybe out of spite, the Chalice is forcing you to witness all of their destruction.

And then you’re standing at the epicenter. Right in front of Gundren’s blackened bones. His arm - with the gauntlet on it - held up to the sky in the center of this roaring, expanding pillar of fire. And you are forced to watch Phandalin’s end as you didn’t see it before. And it is absolute and vicious, and quick as it reduces this city into a perfect circle of black glass. And you’re back, at the top of shaft B. And you see June in front of you and she’s young again. And she falls to her hands and knees. And the cup rolls away from her and falls off the platform, and bounces once with a heavy clunk, and lands perfectly at your feet."

[End of Episode]

The Money Zoneedit | hide | edit source

Featured NPCsedit | hide | edit source

Featured Musicedit | hide | edit source

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Quotesedit | hide | edit source

It Sure Doesedit | hide | edit source

JULIA: This chair smells like grandmas.

Barrybotedit | hide | edit source

TAAKO: I mean, we’ve certainly helped some people. There’s some people that’ve been - let’s call it “unhelped”, I think- certainly along the way. We’ve unhelped some folks. Uh…
MAGNUS: And you know what? Noelle ended up with a new shiny robot body, so like-
TAAKO: An unkillable robot; I think that’s an upgrade!
MAGNUS: That could be significantly worse, really.
TAAKO: Barry stings. That one…
MAGNUS: Yeah, the Barry one hurts. If we could get him into a robot, eventually down the line, that would be super cool.

References and Footnotesedit | hide | edit source

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