Story 5: The Eleventh Hour

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The Eleventh Hour is the fifth story arc of The Balance Arc. It follows the Tres Horny Boys as they attempt to escape from and uncover the mysteries of Refuge, a small town stuck in a hour-long time loop.

Note: Largely courtesy of reddit user mrvertig0 and their discussion of timelines.

Summaryedit | hide all | hide | edit source

Special thanks to Reddit user agrapeana for their synopsis

The story picks up at Boyland's Rites of Remembrance, with the entire Bureau turning out to pay their respects. Boyland's memory is fed to The Voidfish, which glows spectacularly as it causes his comically large family to forget his existence. Magnus puts his hand on the Voidfish's tank. It responds by placing a tentacle on the glass and singing its song.

The Director announces that she is ready to send the boys on their next mission. She tells them that she has located the Temporal Chalice, a relic that gives the user dominion over time itself, encased in a large bubble in the Woven Gulch, the contents of which the Bureau is unsure of. The group realizes that it's going to be hot down there, and buys cool shorts.

After landing planetside, the boys are accosted by three large purple worms. However, when one of the worms declines to take an attack of opportunity, the boys realize they are not a threat and let them go. Avi uses a large cannon to shoot the boys through the opaque bubble, explaining that there are consistent dips in its strength that they can take advantage of to enter. After being shot through the bubble, they find themselves in a white void with an old woman holding the Temporal Chalice, who says to them "It's you. Find me."

Inside the bubble, the boys find a rustic town patrolled by a sentinel seemingly made of clay inside a suit of armor, which addresses them via a bird perched on their shoulder. The figure introduces themselves as Roswell. They bring the boys into town where they see a number of buildings and a statue depicting two humans being escorted into the town by a hooded figure in a red robe. Roswell explains that it depicts Jack and June, two travelers who brought safety to the town. Roswell escorts them to the sheriff's office and tells them to wait for Sheriff Isaak. While exploring the office, they set off an alarm, causing Roswell to imprison them in a cell. There, they meet Cassidy, a half orc imprisoned for allegedly blowing up a temple on the edge of town. However, an earthquake strikes and they leave the sheriff's office to find Roswell and attempt to help. Roswell begins to aggressively approach the party when they see the boys have escaped the prison, but is interrupted by an explosion at the town's bank. The party and Roswell attempt to stop the handkerchief-clad ruffians assaulting the bank, but are unable to save the building, which ultimately collapses on top of Roswell. In the street they see the fire spread to the clocktower just as it begins to strike noon. The ground is struck by another massive upheaval, and as the clock chimes the ground falls out from underneath them, killing everyone. The boys find themselves back in the white space, where the old woman advises them that they'll have to do better next time. They wake up in front of the town, and quickly find that no one seems to remember that they'd been there before.

Map of Refuge by Griffin.

The boys go through numerous loops to solve the mystery of what is destroying the town and where the Temporal Chalice is hidden. They go to the quarry where they learn that the town is being destroyed by a massive purple worm. An interrogation of Cassidy reveals that its nest has been cut in half by the bubble. The worm is frozen by another force field, which each day fails at noon, causing the destruction of the town.

Taako meets Ren Mol'diira, a fan of his cooking show, though her recollection of when he performed leads them to believe that the town is more than 5 years out of date compared to the current time. Taako is able to acquire diamonds from Ren and uses them to buy prophecies from Paloma, a witch who lives in the woods. In addition to the two prophecies that he buys, a third crystal drops from the ceiling, revealing two side by side visions. On the left is an ocean made out of tar, with a black sky above it. On the right is a gray world covered in ash, barren and lifeless. She says to Taako:

"In the future, you will be offered a terrible choice between two options that will determine the fate of reality itself. In this moment of crisis, remember: there is always a third option."

Paloma advises Taako to seek guidance at the temple of Istus. In the fallen temple they follow a sign to a nearby cave where they meet Luca, a living skeleton. He explains that he is one of the two brothers who founded the temple, and that the temple was destroyed when it began to age rapidly with him inside. He offers to try to raise the temple if the group can get his brother, Redmond, to help him.

The party travels to Redmond's farm and discovers that he leads the group of kerchiefed ruffians who rob the bank at 11:45 every day. The boys agree to help them rob the bank if he will raise the temple with his brother. They convince Redmond to allow them to enter the bank first to avoid the destruction that happens every day with no effect on the vault door.

Once inside the bank the plan quickly goes south. Magnus throws Taako through the teller's window and attempts to hold off Roswell to give Taako time to get into the vault with the Hole Thrower. Merle attempts to dispel the magic animating Roswell, but his spell fizzles. Taako enters the vault which is full of gems and a diary. He collects enough gems to cast Planar Binding, attempting to bind Roswell to his service, but his spell clashes with whatever is keeping Roswell alive, and they begin to expand and fill the bank with clay. As the clay rises, divine intervention opens the diary, and Taako reads the last entries. In its pages, Isaak admits to killing Jack as they looked for June in the mine with the intention of stealing the Chalice. However, Jack cast one final spell as he fell to his death, and when Isaak turned around, June was holding the Chalice, encased in a protective bubble of her own, and creating the dome surrounding the town. The final entry reveals that Jack's final spell created Roswell, and that they can be controlled by the command word: Junebug.

After seeing that the group has successfully opened the vault, Redmond accompanies the party to the cave, and with Luca's help they raise the Temple of Istus. Time slows as the party enters, and there they commune with Istus, who explains that in all the realities that she sees, this is the only one where the group is doing the things they're doing, and that they have been acting as her emissaries for as long as they can remember, and that for nearly their entire lives the group has been preventing things that go against the designs of fate from happening. Istus offers the party her blessing, and they are each given a pendant with the symbol of Istus and a gift. Magnus gets the Chance Lance, which can puncture the time bubbles throughout the town, Merle gets a glass sphere capable of returning his conscious 9 seconds into the past, and Taako gets a locked bag that Istus explains will contain exactly what he needs at the time that it unlocks itself. Before they leave Istus tells them that fate is driving them towards a horrible decision that they will one day have to make, and that while she cannot help them make the decision, that she can grant them time to make it. She disappears briefly before reappearing and telling them that they are going to be amazing.

The boys once again find themselves on the outskirts of town, but using the Chance Lance, Roswell's command word and a shortcut in the well they quickly make it down the mineshaft, where they discover June and Isaak. Isaak confronts them for the immoral deeds they've done in past loops, revealing that he too can remember the repeated events. After a short fight, Taako is able to use the Chance Lance to pop June's bubble, which causes white light to pour from the Chalice. The group finds themselves in the white space, where the cup agrees to release June and come quietly if they each hear its offer. Each member of the party is approached by the chalice.

The cup scrolls through Merle's life and finds a long period of static about 12 years prior to the start of the adventure that it cannot explain. Merle reveals that the began adventuring after leaving an unhappy arranged marriage, and that his faith comes from a place of habit rather than passion. She offers him the chance to go back to before he touched the crystal in Lucas's lab, which would allow him to be whole again.

The cup scrolls through Taako's life and finds the same static, but also notes the unclear nature of memories from before that time. Taako discusses his early childhood: alone from the time he was 12, he used cooking skills learned from an aunt to find work in caravans. He was able to parlay his talent into a cooking show, and used superfluous magic that he did not understand to draw crowds. That life ended abruptly after 40 people in the town of Glamor Springs died after eating the 30 Garlic Clove chicken he prepared. Taako believed that he had accidentally transmuted Elderberries used in the garnish into deadly nightshade berries. However, the Cup reveals to Taako that his driver, Sazed, was actually responsible for the poisoning in an act of retribution after Taako refused to let him be a part of the show. She offers him the chance to go back and save the town of Glamor Springs.

The cup scrolls through Magnus's life and also finds the same static, remarking that they are all missing a lot of time. Magnus's past is revealed, including his drive to become a fighter after saving a dog from bullies as a child. After he grew up, and past the static, Magnus was a carpenter who led a rebellion against Governor Kalen, the despot controlling his hometown of Ravensroost. Kalen escaped, and Magnus returned to a quiet life, working in his mentor Steven's shop, and marrying Julia, Steven's daughter. However, when Magnus was away, Kalen returned and bombed the craftsman's corridor of Ravensroost, killing 76 people, including Steven and Julia. The cup offers Magnus the chance to go back and save his family.

After some deliberation all three adventurers reject the cup's offers, knowing that they would not be able to stop the disasters that they have if any one of them goes back. The Cup makes a final offer, asking them to return to Phandalin and save the town. After they again reject the offer, the Chalice forces them to watch the destruction of the town. When the vision ends, they are back in the mine with the Temporal Chalice at their feet. They take the cup and lead the purple worm through the mine. In their effort to escape, Roswell's clay body is destroyed. They use the Chance Lance to create an exit from the town for themselves and the worm, which reunites with its young and burrows away. However, they also encounter the Red Robe, who asks if they trust him. When they say no, the Red Robe begins to lose his composure, and mutters "They don't trust me, Lup." It tells the boys that they will need to trust him the next time they see him, and that the Hunger is almost upon them.

After the Red Robe disappears, the party and Avi watch as the town of Refuge lives through 7 years in the course of 10 minutes as they catch up with the rest of the world. The bubble comes down and the town celebrates. Merle visits with Cassidy, who is now the elder of the town, Taako visits Paloma, who offers a final prophecy to trust "the man wreathed in flames", and Magnus visits June, who gives him a scroll. Magnus hears the Red Robe's voice, who tells him not to look at it. They also see Roswell, whose essence is now entirely contained within their bird body. The boys return to the moon base and give the chalice to The Director to be destroyed. That night, Merle sees a star wink out of existence as he stargazes. Taako returns to their dorm and is confronted by Kravitz, who has taken note of their many deaths in Refuge, and Magnus opens the scroll to find a first draft of the statue in Refuge, which reveals that he is the Red Robe who brought Jack and June to the town. Plot twist!

Objectivesedit | hide | edit source

  • Recover the Temporal Chalice and get it out of town.
  • Figure out what caused the bubble to pop up around town--discover the mystery of the bubble.
  • Figure out what is destroying the town and figure out how to stop it.

Out of the Timeline Notesedit | hide | edit source

  • Each loop resets the characters to how they were when they first entered the bubble. This includes items, spell slots, and HP.
  • Paloma knows the party and how they got there, but is not outside the loop (no clear explanation is given in the arc)
  • The hour of 11-12 is not actually the 11th hour of the day, it is the 12th.

Eleventh Hour Timelinesedit | hide | edit source

General Timeline

  • 11:00 - Wake up in bubble, meet Roswell
  • 11:05 - Arrive in town
  • 11:15 - Ruckus at the Davy Lamp
  • 11:30 - Earthquake o'clock
  • 11:45 - Bank explosion
  • 12:00 - Refuge is destroyed

Loop 1

  • 11:00 - Magnus, Taako, and Merle arrive in the bubble
  • 11:01 - Greeted by Roswell
  • 11:05 - Arrive in Refuge and escorted to the Sheriff’s office
  • 11:15 - Ruckus at the Davy Lamp. Roswell leaves the office
  • 11:16-29 - Meet Cassidy, break into Sheriff's desk.  Roswell returns and tosses them in jail
  • 11:30 - Earthquake o’clock
  • 11:31-40 - Magnus, Merle, and Taako debate escaping while Cassidy escapes
  • 11:45 - Bank explosion
  • 11:46-59 - Helping(?) at the Bank
  • 12:00 - Refuge is destroyed

"You'll have to do better than that."

Loop 2

  • 11:00 - Magnus, Taako, and Merle arrive in the bubble (and dub themselves Tres Horny Boys, or THB, which is much less to type)
  • 11:01 - Taako bluffs Roswell (Magnus and Merle help!)
  • 11:05 - Arrive in Refuge
  • 11:10-14 THB destroy Roswell's self-worth, unintentionally (perhaps)
  • 11:15 - Davy Lamp ruckus
  • 11:16-29 - Roswell chases after the Ruffians, THB gives a half-assed pursuit, then heads to the Davy Lamp for some gambling and info gathering (Magnus and Merle lose, Taako learns about Paloma from Ren, the barkeeper)
  • 11:30 - Earthquake o’clock
  • 11:31 - Magnus uses the distraction to run from his debts, Merle follows
  • 11:35-45 - THB reunite, then split. Magnus and Taako get a fortune from at Paloma (“We’ll pay you now… later."), Merle tails Cassidy
  • 11:45 - Bank explosion
  • 11:46-59 - Magnus and Taako are opportunistic boys and ride in on Garyl to steal some DIAMONDS!! Merle’s ass is kicked by Cassidy’s shovel.
  • 12:00 - Refuge is destroyed

"Somehow you did worse that time."

Loop 3

  • 11:00 - Magnus discovers his bag is empty of diamonds.
  • 11:01 - Magnus Persuades Roswell
  • 11:05 - THB visit the quarry
  • 11:10 - Locker puzzle!
  • 11:15 - Magnus opens a locker. It explodes. Everyone dies

Loop 4

[Same as previous loop till 11:10]

  • 11:15 - Magnus opens a different locker. It explodes. Everyone dies

Loop 5

[Same as previous loop till 11:10]

  • 11:15-20 - Locker puzzle solved!
  • 11:25 - Cute furry bugs!
  • 11:30 - Earthquake o’clock
  • 11:35 - Fixin' the carts
  • 11:40 - Death by cute furry bugs, Dragon’s Lair style

Loop 6

[Same as previous loop, but slightly faster]

  • 11:20 - Repairing carts
  • 11:25 - Handy glowing cart prevents Dragon’s Lair death
  • 11:30 - Earthquake o’clock
  • 11:35 - THB take 5 minutes to decide to stomp some cute furry bugs (“You’ve got us in the mindset of solving puzzles!”)
  • 11:50 - Bomb disarming puzzle (above, unnoticed, the Bank explodes)
  • 11:51 - Magnus cuts the green wire. Everyone dies.

Loop 7

[Same as previous loop till 11:50]

  • 11:51 - Magnus cuts the black wire. Everyone dies.

Loop 8

[Same as previous loop till 11:50]

  • 11:50 - Merle realizes they need the key cards from the locker room
  • 11:51 - Magnus cuts all the wires. Everyone dies.

Loop 9

[Same as previous loop, EXCEPT they grab all the key cards and Magnus protects them from having to kill any cute furry bugs]

  • 11:51 - Bomb puzzle solved!
  • 11:52 - THB enter Shaft A (or Shafta)
  • 11:59 - TBH hold hands and watch the Giant Purple Worm rise from the tunnels beneath the town
  • 12:00 - Refuge is destroyed

Loop 10

[Using same Magnus telling Roswell everything loop]

  • 11:00 - Old woman says "You're getting very close"
  • 11:05 - Taako goes to the Davy Lamp to get some diamonds, Magnus and Merle try to find Sheriff Isaak.
  • 11:10 - Taako gets there early enough to see Davy Lamp ruckus before it unfolds, he gets 11 diamonds for a magic seminar he plans to dawn the next day. Meanwhile, Magnus and Merle go to the Sheriff's Manor, but no one's there. They decide to go back to the Sheriff's Office and pass Taako on the way
  • 11:15 - Merle and Magnus grill Cassidy, Merle casts Zone of Truth, and Cassidy tells her quarry story which reveals that the purple worms nest was cut off by the bubble. They also learn that the temple is for a goddess named Istus. Meanwhile, Taako gets a small and big prophecy from Paloma with his 11 diamonds, plus another big one on the house. The first big one tells him about train tracks that split and he should go right, the second that there's always another option, and the small one says the temple of Istus is where he should go next.
  • 11:30 - THB regroup and go to the temple and learn a bit more about Istus
  • 11:45-59 - They find Luca the skeleton in a nearby cave. He tells them to find his brother Redmond
  • 12:00 - The cave collapses on them

Loop 11

[same loop to get past Roswell as before]

  • 11:00 - Old woman is lying on the floor, barely moving
  • 11:05 - Mysterious shadowy figure who they've never seen before is spotted for a second by the well. Magnus tosses a rock down the well and theorizes that it's a shortcut to the mines
  • 11:10 - Using Garyl and Roswell's horse to get there faster, the THB arrive at Stonefruit Farms, which is where Luca's brother is. They learn the guys there are the purple kerchief ruffians, who are a rebel group trying to break out of the bubble
  • 11:17-19 - Ruffians from Davy Lamp ruckus come back and fight THB, thinking they're spies. Redmond calms them down and invites them inside.
  • 11:20 - Redmond explains that he and the other purple kerchiefs, "the Liberation Brigade," want to pop the bubble and he thinks that something in the bank vault is going to help them do that (which is why they commit the bank robbery). THB, knowing how the robbery goes down, agree to go with them so they can see what's in the vault but not blow it up
  • 11:45-49 - THB rob the bank. Taako gets inside the vault with the Hole Thrower but Roswell attacks Merle and Magnus
  • 11:50 - Taako uses some treasure from inside the vault to cast Planar Binding on Roswell and it's like that scene from Akira as Roswell's clay floods the bank
  • 11:53 - Taako reads the journal and he learns Roswell's command word, "Junebug." Redmond shows up at the bank
  • 11:54-59 - THB rushes to the temple of Istus on Garyl and Horsey. The brothers pray to Istus and the temple magically rebuilds itself
  • 12:00 - THB, safe inside the temple (for now), meet Istus herself
  • 12:01-14 - Istus makes the THB her emissaries and grants them three gifts, "9 Seconds In Heaven," "My Sack," and "The Chance Lance." She also says they're close to reaching their objectives and that she'll give them the time they'll need to make the hard decision at the end of the campaign. Then she disappears
  • 12:15 - The temple finally buckles under the pressure and fire and collapses

Loop 12

  • 11:00 - Old woman is still lying on the floor and looks 140 years old. Magnus thinks he hears music.
  • 11:01 - The boys use Roswell's command word to have them follow the THB to the well so they can get down to the Chalice and use the Chance Lance to pop the bubble
  • 11:07 - THB and Roswell head down, get to the top of Shaft B, and before them is the old woman (who's holding the Temporal Chalice) and Sheriff Isaak (who offers THB a smoke, only to be shut down by Magnus because "only losers smoke") Their conversation heats up and Taako uses Bigby's Hand to grab the Chance Lance and jab it into the bubble. The Chalice itself, speaking through June, pitches the Chalice's power to fix mistakes by scrolling through everyone's backstories. They all refuse
  • 11:30 - They get the Chalice and June is free, but this is now the final loop and everyone remembers the events of the previous loops. THB enter Shaft B
  • 11:35 - Leg 1, the big spiral downward: they get the attention of the purple worm using a Shatter spell
  • 11:37 - Leg 2, a straight away: the purple worm is grinding through the tunnel and gaining on them. They slow her down using Evard's Black Tentacles
  • 11:40 - Leg 3, the up-and-down split: After Taako heeds the prophecy and goes right (thank god), the worm is between the two paths. They drive her back using a spectral fish hook, the Chance Lance, and some rope
  • 11:41 - Leg 4, a tunnel: the engine's out and losing speed. They again speed up by levitating Roswell.
  • 11:43 - Leg 5, a big cavern and a steep slope: the slope ends at the bubble and the purple worm is about to fireball them. Della Reese throws one of the carts at the worm, Roswell contains the fireball, and Magnus uses the Chance Lance to carve a hole in the bubble and they escape
  • 11:45 - The purple worm reunites with her babies and leaves. Avi mentions it had only been 45 minutes from his perspective.

World Timelineedit | hide | edit source

6 Years Ago - Taako's Show

5 Years Ago - Taako's poison incident

2 Years Ago - BoB was founded

~1 Year Ago - Party joins the BoB

Current - Tres Horny Boys enter the bubble

Bubble Timelineedit | hide | edit source

2 Years Before EH [6 Years World] - Taako's Show

2-1.5 Years Before EH [5-4.5 Years World] - Ren leaves the Underdark and takes up shop in Refuge, the visitor (a red robe) brings Jack/June to town

1.5 Years Before EH [4.5 Years World]- Jack/June sacrifice, bubble pops up

1 Year Before EH [4 Years World] - Roswell was created

Current [3 Years World] - EH

Charactersedit | hide | edit source

Locationsedit | hide | edit source

Deathsedit | hide | edit source

Lootedit | hide | edit source

Long-Term Significanceedit | hide | edit source

  • We learn more about Magnus, Merle, and Taako's past.
  • The boys meet Istus, the goddess of fate.
  • Istus preemptively grants them a few moments in the future to make a critical decision and joyfully, tearfully declares that they're "going to be amazing."
  • Paloma advises Taako that there is always a third option.
  • Magnus finds out that he is a Red Robe but his mind turns to static when he tries to understand what that means.
  • We learn the Grand Relics were originally one being before it was split into the seven relics.

Sessionsedit | hide | edit source

Title Air Date Link Runtime
Balance – Episode 41: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter One June 2, 2016 Listen 1:08:31
After a fairly morose start to the episode, our heroes are launched -- with great speed -- into a new adventure. What awaits them inside of the time-stuck anomaly? More important question: Who's ready for SUMMER FASHIONS? Merle exhibits classic Dwarven jealousy. Magnus loves a fish. Taako accidentally saves the day.
Balance – Episode 42: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Two June 16, 2016 Listen 1:10:12
What waits for our heroes on the other side of the time-stuck barrier? Seriously, what could be in there? A dragon made out of time? A parallel universe where people eat time like snack chips? A genuinely kind of innocuous, rustic town? Whatever it is, one thing's for sure: There's about to be some trouble in that bubble. Merle does some successful evangelizing. Taako gets caught red-handed. Magnus rushes in!
Balance – Episode 43: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Three June 30, 2016 Listen 1:11:28
Our heroes start to get a hang of the difficult business of repetition as they learn more about Refuge and the events that led the town to such a sorry state. How much catastrophe can they undo in 60 minutes? Certainly they can't make things worse -- can they? Taako burns some spell slots. Magnus goes Over the Top. Merle's evangelism is met with the usual reception.
Balance – Episode 44: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Four July 14, 2016 Listen 1:15:24
Our heroes explore an extremely deadly derelict mine in an attempt to find out what's happening to Refuge every time the clock strikes noon. They do so with the usual amount of caution and grace, which is to say things go very, very, very poorly, very, very, very often. Merle makes some furry friends. Magnus finds a trap the hard way. Taako flies to Heaven.
Balance – Episode 45: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Five July 28, 2016 Listen 1:08:59
Now that Refuge's destroyer has been revealed, our heroes work together to discover a way to stop it. But how many more attempts will they get at solving this, their most deadly mystery yet? Merle leads the group in prayer. Magnus plays hardball. Taako gets on his diamond grind.
Balance – Episode 46: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Six August 11, 2016 Listen 1:27:27
If our boys want to get out of this time-locked quagmire, they're going to need some divine intervention -- and the only way to get this particular god to play ball is to get up to no good. Let's hope that big wheel doesn't stop turning on this rotation, yeah?
Balance – Episode 47: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Seven August 25, 2016 Listen 1:12:43
With a fairly rowdy loop behind them, our heroes come face-to-face with divinity, and try their darndest not to make complete asses of themselves. With the Big Clock winding down and their prize in sight, can Tres Horny Boys save the day -- or, at least, one of the days? Merle goes deity shopping. Magnus takes a Chance. Taako lends a hand.
Balance – Episode 48: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Eight September 8, 2016 Listen 1:17:11
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.
Balance – Episode 49: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Nine September 22, 2016 Listen 1:23:08
Their prize secured, our heroes look to close out their final loop in Refuge by doing something unprecedented: They try to keep everyone in town from exploding, for once. Merle does some stargazing. Taako encounters an old friend. Magnus opens a tube.
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