Attending a performance of Shakespeare is always a treat. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group could abandon the macabre and devote themselves to perfecting Shakespeare. Though I hope they don’t as I love their macabre as well. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing two of Shakespeare’s works performed at ZJU now. They preserve the integrity and more importantly the dialogue and verse while compressing the Plays into under an hour. I do not envy Denise Devin (adaptation and director) in this task I don’t know how she pulls it off but she does so every time.
For those of you who don’t know Richard III is where we receive to iconic Shakespearean lines. “Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York”, and “My kingdom for a horse”. Both lines convey so much with so little. The first, things were horrible now things are getting better because the house of York is rising. It could also be taken that our refers to Richard (W. Lochridge O’Bryan) and his co-conspirators the audience. We (the audience) are after all discontented that Richard is not King, he thinks were on his side. “My kingdom for a horse” shows great desperation he’s losing the battle if you could get him a horse so he could escape he would give up his Kingdom. A Kingdom he spent years and the blood of others to acquire.
A little history about the Play itself. Richard is a plotter and schemer he’s not happy because he’s not King. So he plots and he schemes, moves pawns around has people jailed and un-jailed slowly moving his way to the top. Once he gets there Civil War breaks out and it all ends in blood, his. Richard is an interesting character he’s the villain but in some ways you sympathize with him. He’s disfigured, a hunchback and it’s clear he’s not very well loved by his family or other Nobles. So he plots and schemes trying to win hearts and minds through flattery or force whichever tool happens to work best for the job at hand.
W. Lochridge O’Bryan plays the part of a villain quite well. His asides to the audience let you in on his machinations. It takes a powerful character and actor to hold the stage alone and he does this nicely. Margaret (Tina Preston) makes a vindictive, angry, revenge seeking woman seem sympathetic. You understand she’s lashing out because she’s lost everything. Yes she’s cursing everyone to horrible fates, but her curses come from a place of pain. Tina is able to convey this with her voice, face, and mannerisms. It’s not easy to make someone seeking revenge sympathetic and it was a nice touch. Lady Anne (Anna Gillcrist) is the secondary object of desire for Richard. Besides the throne he wants to woo her, in part it does appear that he has genuine feelings for her. Though it seems at best she is another pawn, at worst a conquest for a man who can never have enough. I commend Anna for taking a character who is in a sense only an object to Richard and humanizing her.
The other actors all come and go playing multiple characters. It’s a bit frenzied but with a careful eye and ear you can tell the characters apart. If you pay attention to their dress and mannerisms, as well as the cadence of their voice you can tell everyone apart. You should be paying attention in the first place it Shakespeare. Watching Shakespeare is not a spectator sport you have to be engaged mentally and physically the entire time. Keeping up with the dialogue watching the subtle movements listening to the changes of tone. It’s the type of exertion that’s worth your effort though, it’s rewarding to go through the emotions the characters do. To reach the close when the lights go down.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, is a small black box theater but they can put on Shakespeare with the best of them.
Richard III runs Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm through June 16th.
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All photos credit: Zombie Joe
What follows is the first serialization of our adventure in Etz Chaim. I will also link to the relevant information.
A tropical storm is letting loose it’s furry upon Siréne as a tall hooded, cloaked figure makes his way from the water front and into the industrial district. Lightning fills the sky with a blue purple glow, the report of thunder arriving before the glow fades away. The hooded figure cuts across a back alley that opens up a circular intersection just off the waterfront. He approaches the nondescript tavern just as the wooden sign swinging above the door rips off its hinges flying away into the night. Sitting on a stool to the side of the door is a half-giant who looks completely unfazed by the weather. As the hooded figure approaches the door the giant steps up barring his path, before the giant can speak the figure looks up, glowing red eyes accompanied by a deep growl imitate from the abyss of the hood. The giant steps to the side allowing the figure to pass. As the mysterious figure steps towards the door the sky behind him is illuminated with an orange-red glow, the sound of an explosion shakes the windows of the tavern. The mysterious figure turns around and can only chuckle as across the waterfront a large paddle ship, docks, and warehouse are engulfed in flames.
Inside the tavern is rustic and roomy with a few touches of technology. The dim lighting and noise give it the appearance of a much smaller space. Weaving his way through the tables and around the support columns the figure passes by the stage where Bard is performing a spoken word rendition of the exploits of Black Whisker a Were-housecat turned pirate scourge of sea. A drunken patron yells down in front, giving up his complaint when nearby another patron yells “A curse upon all Bards!”. A fight ensues and the figure makes his way to the bar. Approaching the bar the figure orders a double bourbon with a water back. The barkeep places the drink down in front of him not letting go of the glassware until the figure slaps down some gold coins. Just before he can take a sip of his drink a uniformed officer spins the figure around by his shoulder pulling his head down. Before the hood is fully dropped the barrel of an onyx black revolver with Ruby sights and blood ivory grip appears under the chin of the officer faster than he could blink. The onyx and ruby studded chain dangling from the end of the revolver still swinging, it’s end disappearing into his coat. The mysterious figure with blood red hair cracks a smile as he pulls back the hammer on the revolver. “Damn it Jean! I said your bouncer was can make sure he wasn’t armed.” Jean looks over the shoulder of the officer staring the bouncer in the eyes, chastising him he says “If anything happens that will be a week’s worth of pay from you.” Staring back the bouncer replies “If I’d known who you wanted me to disarm I’d of asked for week’s worth a pay just to show up tonight and run away in fear.”. “Do you ladies really need to be here for this conversation?” Sauvage says. The officer speaks up “There is someone in the back would like to speak with you, the building is surrounded. You can come quietly or we can drag you away.” “Well if it’s a dinner party y’all are inviting me to why didn’t you say so?”. With a flourish the revolver disappears in a blur of black and red. He downs his bourbon in one gulp slamming the glass down with a smile and a glow in his eyes.
The officer and a very shaken bouncer escort Sauvage down the dimly lit hall stopping in front of a heavy metal door. The officer knocks heavily, a peep slide opens slam shut. A moment later the heavy door swings open without a sound. Stepping over the threshold Sauvage notices this entire room is an enclosed metal box with no windows.
Behind a large wooden desk sits a hooded figure. As he speaks his voice is distorted as if passing through a magical barrier. “Damn it Sauvage! You’re drawing too much attention to yourself.”. “Having me dragged in here by a uniformed officer isn’t very subtle”. “Desperate times call for desperate measures my boy.”. “What times would those be?”. The uniformed officer pushes Sauvage towards the chairs saying “Don’t talk back!”. As Sauvage falls forward he spins, and once again his revolver seems to leap to his hand, taking a bead on the officer. “Put that away Sauvage, you know damn well you’re out of ammo and have been for the last hour”. Sauvage manages a sideways glare at the hooded figure while keeping the officer in his sights. “You mean to say that whole thing out there, he was just bluffing?”. “No he would have clubbed you in the face with butt of the pistol. While you are recovering from the shock he would’ve shifted and had your throat in his jaws before your vision un-blurred.” “Thanks for giving away my secrets…” Sauvage growls.
“Enough of this! We have serious business to attend. You’re the only werewolf who’s uncle is a prominent Duke, and staunch abolitionist. We all support the cause but if you keep blowing up slavers equipment and property every night people will start to take notice.” “Tonight was the first thing I’ve blown up in what three, four days? That’s hardly every night.” Sauvage replied playing innocent. The officer stepped up saying, “That’s only because we issued the order to cut off your supplies, somehow” anger seeping into his voice “you managed to blow stuff up still.”. “Yes I blew stuff up that’s what I’m here for making it cost the slavers so much money they’ll stop dealing in the slave trade”. “We appreciate your efforts, if we are to ever have abolition passed in the Senate we need surgical strikes not all-out chaos.”. Growling Sauvage shakes his head “Fine cut back on my activities for a wh…” cutting in the hooded figure snaps “It’s too late for that! you are going to go on holiday spend time out of the country. We will hire werewolf mercenaries to keep up appearances in your name. Eventually with support from your uncle, to clear your good name, maybe you can return in a few years and be of some use to us again.”. “How exactly do you plan on getting me out of the country?” “We have all of your papers” The hooded figure nods to the officer who slams a portfolio into Sauvage’s chest. “You leave tonight, we have a go bag waiting for you at the airport with some essentials and a little cash.” “I have things to do, people to talk to I just took on a Wolf Cub that I’m training to help me fight.” “You leave tonight!” The figures voice seems to surround Sauvage, “We have already written a letter to your uncle asking him to take up the Wolf Cub as a pet dog for your cousins and sisters. We also took the liberty of signing the letter for you, we know you don’t care about your father he can hear about this through your uncle”. Sauvage growing frantic waving his arms in the air “This isn’t right just forcing me out of the city, out of my country! You need my help.” “Calm yourself man, show some semblance of your breeding your station in life. We need you out of the country, you will be of better service to us across the border trust us. Don’t contact us will contact you, we might even have some work for you on the other side of the border.”
Just then a halfling steps out of the shadows in the corner of the room throwing a glass vial at Sauvage’s feet. When it shattered a purple miasma flows out, and straight into Sauvage’s nose and mouth. “Wolfsbane sleeping potion you ass….”. Sauvage falls to the floor and the half-giant picks him up.
Waking up in a first class sleeping cabin on an airship looking out the porthole Sauvage sees nothing but clouds. Sauvage rings for the Porter, and begins checking his gear. Not knowing how long this flight was going to be but he might as well be ready when he landed.
Days later the airship begins descending through the clouds, and Sauvage makes out the ocean, a medium size town and on the horizon a forest. He can smell it is much cooler here than Siréne. The Porter knocks twice and lets himself in. “We will be landing soon and I was asked to give you this once we began our descent.” The Porter handed over a parchment with the wax seal bearing the letters UPS and leaves.
The letter reads:
By now you will be pulling into Keels Rest, Elvin Kingdoms. It’s as far away as we could send you on such short notice. We ask that you enjoy your holiday abroad; eat, drink, and be merry. Get a job, ingratiate yourself to any nobles you might meet with. Live the bohemian lifestyle if you wish. Just make sure people realize you are there. Be overt every now and then, get your name in the papers. Get arrested for a drunken fistfight. We do not care as long as the right people realize you are out of the UDE. We may contact you from time to time to help us or our allies out. Other than that you are free to do whatever you want as long as you stay out of UDE and UPS business.
Have a pleasant and relaxing holiday.
P.s. This letter and envelope are enchanted with a combustion spell. They will burn up as soon as you finish reading it.
Sauvage opens the port window throwing the letter and envelope out, moments later there is a small fireball and nothing but ash left to dance on the wind.
Departing the Airship Sauvage went passes the other first class passengers and approaches the loading crew. “Where is it y’all go when you want to get a drink and some information on local jobs.” One of the workers pauses long enough to give Sauvage directions to the Sunken Ship Tavern. Sauvage thanks him and was on his way.
Sauvage, and a robed man enter the Sunken Ship Tavern at the same time. The other man takes his time reading all the Flyers on the bulletin board. Beloved dog missing, will pay 10 gold to any kind soul who finds and returns him. Below the advert is a sketch of the dog with identifying information. Lost domesticated Coeurl. Wild, but tame enough to do tricks. Generous reward offered for return my Coeurl . Answers to the name of Jade. No description, only contact information listed. We want Ale! We want Ale! We want Ale! We want Ale! We want Ale! Eta Pi Mage fraternity loves to party. Will pay handsomely to anyone who returns the flow of Ale to this town.
Stepping through the entryway Sauvage sees a Tavern not unlike any other. Off to the side is a pile of Mead, Wine jugs and tankards of various alcohol. The pile pulsing as if a few people are passed out underneath. Sauvage starts to make his way to the bar when he notices a college-age kid giggle and reach into the pulsating pile. A loud smack cracks the air and the kid goes flying across the Tavern landing at the rear of the stage. A large muscular arm retracts into the pile as the debris shifts.
Sauvage shrugs and sits at the bar just as the robed man approaches and takes a stool. “I’ll have a double bourbon and an Ale back”. Sauvage says. “No Ale only Mead” the barkeep replies. “That’s fine”. The barkeep puts down a tankard of Mead, and pours the remaining contents of a bourbon bottle into a glass handing it to Sauvage. “That will be three gold”. Sauvage hands over five gold. “Keep the change”. Turning to the robed figure the barkeep asks “and for you?”. Looking up from his book the man says “Whatever morning special you serve and something to drink.” “We only have water now” the barkeep throws a thumb towards Sauvage and says “He got the last of our booze”. “That’s… that’s fine with me, it’s too early to be drinking”. The man replies.
As the barkeep brings the robed man his food and water the pile of debris shifts and a gargantuan woman easily seven feet tall in tattered finery stands. Cracking her back and shoulders she reaches for a sword longer than she is tall and apparently heavier than her. Dropping the sword onto her shoulder the floorboards underneath her creak with the added weight. Wearily shuffling towards the bar the woman slams what appears to be her last gold piece on the counter and demands “Ale”. Looking from her to the gold the barkeep again jerks a thumb towards Sauvage and says “He bought the last of our booze”. Sauvage flares his nostrils and downs his Bourbon in one gulp and shifts his Mead away from the large woman ever so slightly.
“Why don’t you have any more ale, or whiskey, or anything?”. The barkeep lets out a sigh, “The supply convoy from the Brewery stopped almost two months ago now. Any runners we send don’t return.”. Eta Pi, and you drank us out of our supplies last night. Looking down at her remaining gold coin the woman says “I remember them, I used my last gold to beat them at coin cup. Bunch of pansy mages couldn’t bounce a coin in a cup to save their lives.”. To this the robed man shifts and cocks his ear to the side as if paying closer attention.
“Do you have anything strong to drink?” The woman asks. Turning towards the kitchen the barkeep shouts “Hey Ratch, you still have any of that Pepper Juice?”. “Yeah I’ve got a bottle right here.” Clicking on a horizontal dumb waiter a clear bottle with glowing red liquid emerges from the back. “Does it have alcohol?” The large woman asks. “It’s made with peppers, great cure for hangover.” Taken aback, the woman shakes her head and says “Who says I was hung over, I want something to drink something with alcohol”. “Well we are clear out of alcohol.”.
Sauvage clears his throat. “So why have the convoys stopped?”. Turning to Sauvage the barkeep lets out a sigh “We have no idea. Shipments from the Crystal Maze Brewery just stopped coming ever one sent up there to find out why hasn’t returned.” As the barkeep rambles on about useless information pertaining to the history of the brewery. Sauvage notices a patron in the corner eating a large prime cut steak and lifting what appears to be an Ale mug so cold the condensation has frozen to the outside. Sauvage shakes his head thinking he imagined the ice crystals. Standing up he walks towards the stranger taking stock of them along the way. He has jet black hair a reddish tan, and is wearing the most immaculate jet black clothes with Ruby studs and Ruby lace fringe. He looks sophisticated enough that Sauvage straightens his own garments as he approaches. Less than halfway there Sauvage starts to rub it his throat as if it’s parched. Every step forward becomes more difficult until he shakes his head turns away and returns to his stool.
The robed gentlemen who entered with Sauvage takes notice of this and glances toward the patron in the corner. He stares at him and begins to concentrate, he can see that all of his garments are made entirely of magic. The patron looks the gentleman in the eye and shakes his head. The patron then looks towards the large woman as if taking stock of her. Sauvage noticing this looks to the woman and says “You have an admirer little lady”. Nodding towards the patron. The woman looks towards Sauvage, then the patron and shrugs as if unimpressed.
The barkeep ending his story says “I don’t know what we’ll do if we can’t get any more ale from the brewery. We’ll probably go out of business.” To this Sauvage looks at him and says “Well, I’m new in town don’t have much money on me or place to stay. I could investigate this for you, we could work out some arrangement for compensation.” The barkeep looks towards the robed gentlemen, Sauvage, and the lady and says “Considering we’ve sent many runners it would probably take more than the three of you put together, but you’re welcome to try. If you succeed you get free room and board for a month and all the booze you can drink.”
Just then the three of them each year a voice in their ear, “You should take the job”. The voice was impossibly close, causing Sauvage to look around and sniff wondering so how some of snuck up on him. No one was there
Looking back to the barkeep Sauvage asks “Why is it called the Crystal Maze Brewery anyway”. “Well some speak of an underground maze, but that’s all legend. There is one of those giant crystals out front and you can see the warrior inside clear as day. The founder was a gambler and made his money on some maze like game. So there you have the name.” “I see…” Sauvage replies. “Do you have a map that we could use?”. “You don’t need one, just take the only road out of town straight North. It’s about 40 miles.” The robed gentleman looks to the other two and says “Well I’m on a bit of a walk-about, and could use the adventure. Would you like to try this undertaking?”. The tall woman looks to the robed gentleman as if wondering where he came from. “What undertaking?”. Sauvage speaks up slowly, “Go north, find why the ale has stopped flowing and get all the ale we could drink in a month.”. She shrugs and walks towards the door. The robed figure smiles and says “I think that was a yes.”.
Stepping outside Sauvage and the robed figure see the woman make a right and keep walking until she reaches the water. They look at her confused. When she reaches the water she grunts and turns around. The robed figure shrugs and says “I guess we follow her, worst that happens is she’ll walk through a wall clearing a path for us.” Sauvage and the robed gentleman follow the tall woman through the town. Pausing only to stare towards the mage college as if something drew their attention.
The three make their way across the drawbridge, and into the market district. They make their way through the stalls only glancing sideways at the wares. When the tall woman stops abruptly and just stares into one of the stalls. Sauvage takes this time to look about him and sniff. Curious to see if there’s anything in the marketplace that might tell him what the local countryside is like. Much to his fear he catches the scent of the shop carrying a variety of herbs including wolfsbane. Fortunately he catches the floral aroma of an apothecary on the other end of the street. Having surveyed his surroundings he returns to the woman’s side and asks “Are you ready to go?”. She stares at him blankly. “By the by I never cut your name little lady.” “Who are you exactly?” “We met at the bar we’re going north to see why the ale stopped flowing.”. She stares at him blankly again. “Sauvage Lyoncourt at your service” Giving a slight bow. “And your name my lady?”. Looking him up and down and squinting she just stares at Sauvage for a while. This gives him time to notice she has stark red hair different from his, and peculiar green eyes. They’re humanoid but almost appear to be slitted like a cat’s. She is tall and muscular and her clothes while at one time were very opulent are now battle frayed and burnt in places.
After a minute or two she speaks up “My name’s Sara.” Bowing slightly Sauvage says “It’s a pleasure to meet you Sara.” “Nice to meet you Leo”. Growling Sauvage says “My name is Sauvage Lyoncourt”. “Okay Leo.”. Growling again he repeats “Sauvage Lyoncourt”. Suddenly he hears a whisper again “You won’t win”. Startled he looks up to sniff his surroundings and sees a boat flying on the clouds. The sun catches his eyes and he blinks, the ship is gone. Through gritted teeth he says. “Did.. did you need anything from this stall, I could get you steak for the road.” Sara turns and begins walking toward the town gate. The whole time the robed gentlemen was observing this peculiar conversation in silence while resting against the city gate.
The three begin traveling north with Sara taking up the vanguard. The robed gentlemen and Sauvage walk side-by-side a slight ways behind her. Breaking the silence Sauvage says “I never quite caught your name, your face was buried in a book most of the time.”. “Xanthos, wandering scholar-mage at your service. Your name is Leo correct”. Sauvage grows ” Sauvage Lyoncourt at your service”, giving a slight bow. Xanthos holds back a smile and a chuckle, “you really don’t like Leo do you.”. “I find it more than a little insulting.” “What may I call you then Sauvaggges Lioncorts… is a bit of a mouth full.”. “If you must call me by another name you may call me ‘Savage’, it’s a close translation of my name.”. “Savage it is”.
The three continue walking along the well-maintained road. Occasionally a cool breeze will blow in from the seaward side, passing over them and rustling the still green crops. As they travel they can see farmers tending to the irrigation ditches and the occasional herd of livestock. They pass no travelers along the road nor are they overtaken by faster travelers from the South. As the day wears on and the road stretches out before them the scenery begins to change. The crops seem to be growing haphazardly as if sown in haste. A few of the fences are ill mended, and an irrigation ditch or two filled with debris. What farm houses can be seen are now boarded up.
Xanthos calls for the party to stop while he consults his map. Sara and Sauvage drink from their water skins, and Xanthos follows suit absently his attention on his map. As Sauvage puts his water skin back he gets an uneasy feeling. He turns around in a circle sniffs the air and shutters. “Xanthos, is there shelter nearby.” he asks. Checking his map Xanthos replies “In ten miles, maybe less. We should reach the tree line easily done by nightfall.”. “I think we should double-time it if we can I’d like to get to cover before nightfall I can’t explain why, I just have an uneasy feeling.” Xanthos shrugs, “I can’t run but I can pick up the pace”, turning to Sara, Xanthos asks “What about you?”. Sara turns and begins walking much faster. “I think that’s another yes” Xanthos quips.
Moving a bit faster the party reaches the wood line about an hour before sunset. Xanthos uses an unintelligible incantation to spark a fire. Sauvage steps away patrolling the perimeter, and the nearby trees. He returns with a bag full of pine nuts and some herbs. “If y’all give me your rations I can add these herbs and nuts to it to spice it up add a bit more to the food.” Xanthos and Sara quietly hand over their rations. Sauvage begins cooking the meals.
Shortly after finishing cooking Sauvage takes out another bag of herbs he gathered and throws them on the fire. The fire begins to bellow smoke. Xanthos ever inquisitive questions Sauvage on this peculiar behavior. “These herbs when burned green will drive away most predators. Anything able to resist the smell is most likely sentient. So if we hear any sounds on watch tonight we know something intelligent is headed our way.” “How does that help us” Xanthos replies. “If it’s smart it either means us harm, or we can at least converse with it. Either way it will cut down on accidental run ins with predators.” “I’ll have to remember that trick” Xanthos says making a note in his journal.
As the day winds down Sauvage speaks up “We need to set some sort of watch order I prefer to go first or last I just don’t like being woken up in the middle of possible.” Sara stops her squats for a moment looks at the two of them. Pulls out her bed spread and lays down to sleep. “I guess she wants to go to sleep” Xanthos quips. “Not one much for words is she” Sauvage replies. “You can take the first watch, I’ll take the second” Xanthos offers.
Sauvage walks of perimeter just within the light of the fire. Looking at his new companions he decides they must actually be asleep. He stands tall cracks his back his shoulders stretches his arms cracking his elbows and wrists walks out of the light of the campfire cracks his neck one last time and then shifts into the form of a full Wolf. His clothes having been custom tailored to contort to his multiple forms shift with him. His onyx torc stretches slightly to accommodate his larger neck and the blood pearls begin to glow. Letting out a brief howl he cuts it short realizing he shouldn’t wake his companions. Before he can even lift his nose in the air he is hit with a wave of feted offal and death. He walks a circle around the camp and realizes the smell is coming from due north. He sits with his back to the fire staring North. The entire time he whimpers and slightly trembles fighting the urge to take some kind of action. Looking up he sees the Wagon Wheel moon fully in the sky. Using this to mark time he realizes his shift is almost up. Shifting back to human form he stays seated and stares north.
Xanthos wakes on his own and notices Sauvage staring north as if he is frozen in place. “Is everything okay?” Xanthos asks approaching. “There is something wrong to the north. It’s horrible, if we are attacked tonight it will come from the north and only the north.”. “Are you sure.” “Yes”. Sauvage stands and throws more herbs on the fire. He then goes behind the wood pile curls up and shifts into a full wolf to sleep.
Xanthos takes up his watch not noticing a wolf sleeping nearby. Tending the fire he creates a phantasmal doppelgänger and sends it north as far as his control can reach. When the doppelgänger returns he is satisfied there is no immediate danger. Setting two doppelgängers to the north he then creates two more to patrol the perimeter of the fire. Sitting on a log he waits, looking to the north tending the fire as needed.
Three hours later a bloodcurdling shriek pierces the night moving toward the camp from the north. Sauvage jumps up alert shifting into a half Wolf/half man form. He grabs his Warhammer and rushes to the fire. Another bloodcurdling shriek is heard and three Pirates try to rush by the doppelgängers to the north. As they pass by, the doppelgängers lunge out causing to Pirates to stumble momentarily. Ignoring the assault they continue to rush forward. Xanthos pulls back two of his doppelgängers to defend himself and sets another two to the task of waking up Sara. Two of the Pirates become entangled with the phantasmal doppelgängers. The other doppelgängers unable to wake Sara, prompts Xanthos to rush to her and try to shake her awake. Waking up groaning and hearing screams Sara grabs a flaming log from the fire swinging towards Xanthos’ head. The blow connects sending Xanthos flying 15 feet. The two doppelgängers wrestling with the pirates dissolve into puff of magical mist. Sara jumps up and seeing screaming pirates lunges at them knocking both to the ground. The third pirate further back seeing his friends fall veers to the side charging. As he approaches Sauvage screaming, Sauvage takes a step back swings his Warhammer connecting with his ribs releasing an audible crack sending him to his knees. The pirate gets up haphazardly swinging his Cutlass hitting nothing but air the momentum carries him back down to his knees where he begins to sob. Xanthos staggers to his feet waving his hands in front of them becoming almost completely obscured from vision. Sara getting up from her pile of pirates sees a snarling werewolf across the fire. She charges towards the fire making ready to jump. Sauvage seeing this drops his hammer and shifts back to a human form as fast as possible. Seeing Sauvage appear in front of her Sara pulls short her jump falling in the fire. She gets up looking at the fire as if it is nothing more than an annoyance. Not even her clothes are affected. Sauvage takes a step back and yells “It’s me Leo from the tavern, we’re going to the brewery”. Grunting Sara steps out of the fire claps Sauvage on the shoulders “Good doggy.”. Sauvage shakes his head.
Xanthos stumbles towards Sauvage clearly concussed but not in serious danger. Sauvage and Xanthos begin to question the pirate while Sara just walks circles around the camp. “Tell us why you attacked us” Sauvage asks. “Not attacked, running. They want to kill us eat our brains.” The pirate replies through tears and snot. Xanthos a little woozy asks “Who wants to kill you what you mean eat your brains?”. “The captain the inn people, she…the monster put this thing in their arms and they turned now they’re eating people” the pirate whimpers indicating an IV in his arm and a tube that is full of a black substance.
Sauvage takes Xanthos to the side. “It sounds like zombies to me, I’ve read about a few cases and had to kill some old zombies before.” Sauvage says. “It sounds the same to me.” Zanthos replies. “Is it possible to infect someone with an injection” Sauvage questions. Xanthos rubbing his head lets out a sigh. “In my studies I’ve read there are few ways to make a zombie. A necromancer can raise the dead and control them. Someone alive can be cursed through potion, putting on tainted jewelry, or a person bitten could turn.”. “Would an injection work, it looks like black blood?”. “I suppose it would be a quick and efficient way, to inject someone with infected blood it might be more efficient than a bite some people are resistant to the bites.” “So it’s definitely zombies, and they are infected.” The pirate hears this and cries. “Most likely” Xanthos replies.
Sauvage grabs his Battle Axe and steps forward. “Only one thing to do then”. The pirate cries, begging for mercy’s snot and spit flying out of his mouth. Sauvage raises his axe swinging down with both hands, cleaving off a side his skull and his ear. The pirate shakes and jerks and begins to grown. Sauvage swings the Axe down one more time cutting off his head.
“Sara! Kill them they are turning into zombies.” Sauvage shouts. Sara stares blankly. One of the pirates on the ground groans gets up runs towards the other ripping its throat out. The newly dead pirate shambles to its feet becoming a zombie. Xanthos groans in pain, waves his hands and makes a phantasmal gnome with the giant head appear near the zombies. The zombies take the bait and are momentarily distracted. Giving Sara enough time to swing her Great Sword slicing one and half at the waist swinging up and slicing downward cutting the remaining zombie in twain and down the middle. Stepping forward crushes the head of the remaining zombie under foot.
Sauvage asks Sara to search one of the bodies while he searches another. Using his doppelgängers as proxies Xanthos searches the zombie nearest him. He finds only a few pieces of gold. Sauvage reaches for a ring on the pirate’s hand, burning himself he yells “silver!”. Grabbing gloves he examines the ring. It’s has a misshapen skull design with black stones for eyes. He shrugs throwing it in a bag. Looking over to Sara he sees her kick the body and say there’s nothing there. Sauvage examines that zombie as well finding no more clues than he did before.
They heap the bodies on the fire, throwing their weapons in there with them in case there is contaminate on them. They pile on more herbs to help fight the smell of burning zombie. Xanthos mentions that he is very weary and thinks he needs sleep in tomorrow. Sauvage agrees and goes over to Sara asking her to start her watch. “Okay Sara, I’m going to sleep as a Wolf it so I can fight if we are attacked again. Don’t kill me, I’m on your side.” Sauvage shifts in front of her and she pats him on the head roughly, saying “Good Leo doggy”. Sauvage walks away in a huff to sleep by the fire and Xanthos in case the mage needs protecting.
Sara wakes Sauvage and Xanthos up shortly after dawn. Sauvage shifts into his half form, explaining to Sara that Xanthos will need to sleep until midday. Sara nods and wanders into the woods where she finds some boulders and tree stumps to practice her acrobatics and tumbling. Sauvage tells Xanthos to go back to sleep, he then shifts back to his full wolf form and makes wolf song. He hears no reply from any local wolves. After a midday meal the party sets out following the road north to the brewery.
Sara once again takes up the vanguard. As they approach the brewery they see a giant crystal easily 10 feet tall with a barbarian charting forward hand unsheathing his Great Sword. It’s the clearest crystal any of them have ever seen. As they draw near the crystal Xanthos attempts to take up the stern. Sauvage growls and shifts from a full wolf to his half form grabbing Xanthos by his robes. “Will you stay in the middle, you were injured and I want to keep an eye on you.”. “I’m afraid of her” Xanthos tilts his head toward Sara who has continued walking along the road. Snarling Sauvage snaps back “You should be more afraid of what I smell that wants to hurt you”. Shaking Xanthos one more time he starts to push him towards Sara.
Just as Sauvage lets go of Xanthos three zombies that had been concealed alongside the road descend upon Xanthos. Sara hearing the commotion turns around to see a siege of zombies attacking her companions. She charges forward beheading a zombies in one swing of her Great Sword. Xanthos turns himself invisible as the zombies fall upon him. Sauvage reaches out to the closest zombie pulling him in close with the giant clawed hand. As the zombie comes in close for a bite an onyx revolver leaps into the werewolf’s clawed hand. The hammer falls and the zombies had explodes like a rotten melon spraying blood and brain matter everywhere in a fine mist. The werewolf looks from his gun to the zombie as if disappointed it was so easy. As Sara slices two more zombies in half one of the zombies that attacked Xanthos runs off in a random direction looking more confused than a brainless monster should. Sauvage backs up readying his pistol for the next assault. Suddenly Xanthos briefly appears extending his hand in the shape of a gun screaming “Take this”, taking aim at the fleeing zombie. A burst of arcane energy swells and shoots forth only to stop a foot from his hand surging with energy. As the intensity of the blast reaches a climax it backfires towards the mage. A flash of blue/white light engulfs the mage leaving behind an ice statue, and a layer of frost on the ground. The concussion of the backfire sends Sauvage flying through the air colliding with the fleeing zombie. Sara swings her Great Sword flat side leading, exploding two zombies heads like overripe tomatoes. Another zombie charges Sara only to have the Great Sword shoved down its mouth. Sauvage recovers from his collision pulling out two Great Axes just as the zombie recovers its footing. Sauvage lets out a battle cry bringing down both Great Axes on the zombies head. As the zombie falls he lets out a powerful howl in triumph.
Sara is the first to reach Xanthos, she taps him on the forehead resonating like fine crystal struck with a blade. Sauvage finally reaches the two and seeing Xanthos frozen in ice, reflecting the sun in motes of blue like a chandelier. He carefully sets him down on the ground. The warm road and beating sun begin to thaw Xanthos. Sara looks around as if wondering what to do next, Sauvage shifts into a full Wolf form and sniffs the air. They appear to be surrounded by the smell of death, and something else Jasmine with a touch of life and fuel oil. Looking around they see a Gyro-copter just on the edge of their vision near a lighthouse and shed.
They are again sets upon by undead monsters previously invisible. Sara jump tackles two skeletons that instantly fall apart. Sauvage once again grabs a zombie emptying two rounds into his head. As the zombie falls three skeletons descend upon him. Falling to the ground momentarily he proceeds to heave them off his back. Flying across the ground two of the skeletons shatter scattering their bones. One regains its footing charging forward. Sara swinging her Great Sword like a blunt object causes four skeletons to explode. Sauvage stares at the remaining skeleton growling. Though unconscious Xanthos mubles something about the doggy not liking bones. Sauvage lunges forward biting at the skeletons clavicle while trying to rip its chest apart. Just as his teeth lock onto bone Sara’s sword swings down cutting the skeleton in half from top to bottom. Her sword barely missing Sauvage’s elongated snout.
With the skeletons and zombie defeated Sauvage shifts to a full Wolf surveys the area. He can smell more undead but the smell is faint it would take a human eight maybe ten minutes at a dead run. A distance far enough away that the undead cannot detect the adventurers. While shifting back Sara points her Great Sword towards the Gyro-copter. Its engine finally turning over it begins climbing straight up. Arching to the north as if taking stock of the surrounding land before turning south and leaving at speed. Sauvage suggests they head to the lighthouse next to the brewery so they could take stock of what is nearby. Sara picks up Xanthos and heads towards the lighthouse with Sauvage following.
Upon reaching the lighthouse Sauvage ascends the spiral stairs to the top, surveying the area as a Wolf. All he can detect is the undead still far enough away as to not be an immediate threat. He notices the tavern and inn next to the brewery look serviceable. Going downstairs he paws at Xanthos until he wakes up. “I’m in bad shape, my spell it…it backfired I need medical attention.” Xanthos says through a weary voice. “There might be a medical kit in the tavern or the brewery.” Sauvage replies. “You stay here with Sara while I…” pausing mid sentence Sauvage looks around and sniffs the air. “Sara will put you in the shed and come with me to look for med kit. Bar the door behind you and if you have to get out blast your way out the back.” Sara picks up the mage and places him in the wooden shed closing the doors. Moments later a bar is slammed shut inside. As they turn towards the tavern four phantasmal doppelgängers take up guard positions in front of the shed.
Halfway to the tavern the werewolf goes down on all fours. Reaching the door he paws at the door and whines, jumping back just as Sara kicks the door open. As the door swings open under the force of her terrible kick a zombie knocked back my the door flies through the tavern. Sara seeing a chance for more violence charged in leaping over table cutting a zombie in half. Not to be outdone Sauvage runs in jumping on a table, drawing his Great Axe lunging for the nearest zombie. As he pushes off, the table leg gives way sending him falling haphazardly into the zombie. His axe sinks into the zombies chest, while his claw rakes down the monsters face blinding it. The momentum of his unconventional attack carries them forward and the zombie grabs his claw ensnaring him as they fall to the ground.
The zombie claws at the werewolf snapping his jaw only to find purchase on the handle of the Great Axe. Seconds before the zombies teeth break the werewolf’s skin a phantasmal doppelgänger reaches from behind pulling the zombie out of the grapple. The werewolf rolls out of the way jump kicking to his feet, out of the corner of his eye he can see the mage in the doorway healthy as ever directing his doppelgängers like puppets. Sauvage takes the opportunity to reposition himself and take aim with his gun at the zombie that nearly ended his life. He rapidly pulls the trigger three times; chest, head, ceiling. The last shot causing some debris to fall on his head. The zombie rocked by the shots falls backwards through the doppelgänger knocking down another zombie.
Sara noticing the opportunity tumbles into a crowd of four zombies swinging her sword as she rises cutting three of them in half. The werewolf seeing his chance for more action drops his revolver leaving it to dangle from its chain while grabbing his second Great Axe. Charging forward sinking one blade into the spine of the fourth zombie, and throwing his other axe end over end across the room penning another zombie’s head to the wall.
The mage continuing to make his presence known directs three doppelgängers to harass the remaining zombies long enough for Sara and Sauvage to get into flanking positions. Sara thrusts her sword through the back of the head of a zombie while Sauvage switches to his Warhammer bringing the hammer down on a zombie’s head with such force the zombie breaks through the floorboards. Xanthos sends a half-dozen doppelgängers to descend upon the remaining zombie ripping apart piece by piece.
Sauvage recovers his weapons, loads his revolver and holsters it. Sara makes her way to the bar pouring herself a cold wheat ale from the tap. Xanthos joins her pouring one for himself, while Sauvage goes to the staircase sniffing to make sure the coast is clear. Satisfied they are safe for the moment he pours a glass stein of water and adds a dark green liquid that instantly turns the water milky green and glowing. “What you can hold your liquor” Xanthos says. “This is hallucinogenic, and burns like hell you’re welcome to try it straight up” offering the flask to Xanthos. He takes the flask and making sure Sauvage isn’t focusing on him fakes a sip. “Smooth…” he says. Sauvage glares at him “Weren’t you on deaths door earlier?” With a bit of a hiccup Xanthos says “Yup” and takes another swig of wheat ale.
Sauvage begins to hear a very faint knocking coming from the cellar. “Xanthos would you be so kind as to send one of your doppelgängers down there for me. “Sure thing”, with the wave of his hand a doppelgänger walks around the bar towards the back and down the stairs. There is no new noise but the knocking continues. “I’m taking a glow sphere out of your bag Xanthos” Sauvage says as he rifles through the bag. “Why? You have some”. “Yes but you’ve been unconscious most of the time it’s time you pitch in.” Xanthos shrugs hiccups and waves his hand. Sauvage takes the sphere activates it letting it float down the cellar stairs. As it reaches the bottom it illuminates a doppelgänger repeatedly running into a wall. Xanthos lets out a hiccup and the illusion collapses in a puff of magical mist.
“You guys hear that knocking right?” Sauvage asks. Sara speaks up, “No one at the door Leo doggie, Drink!”. Raising her stein. To the call for drinking Xanthos lifts his glass and shouts “Drink”. Sauvage returning to a full human form reluctantly returns to the bar pouring a wheat ale for himself and setting it down next to his glowing green beverage.
I am part of a gaming, currently adventuring in Etz Chaim. A world created by RM Widner and E Levy. The world is a completely new campaign, and we are currently Alpha testing a new D20 system. Throughout the campagin classes, and abilities (spells) will be reworked and names may change(which will be reflected in the fiction and will eventually be retconned).
In the mean time I will be chronicling our adventures in the form a Serial. That is multiple stories based on our campaign. As needed actions/dialogue will be added/removed or altered from their original campaign form to fit the flow of the story. E Levy will also be working on fiction for this world. The world belongs to RM Widner, the characters belong to the individual players who created them. The serialized stories are authored by me, or E Levy and all rights are retained to RM Widner, E Levy and myself (That is the serialized fiction is mine and the world is theirs).
I will be linking to this post with every Serialized post so as to remind everyone that all rights are retained at all times. You may see our adventures/campaign on obsidian portal. The current D20 system listed is only for a rubric as the new system is currently in development.
For more information on our campaign please visit:
If you enjoy the story, or world, or even have qualms please leave comments and let us know.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a performance of Kill Me as produced by The Visceral Company. This is the first show at their new home The Lex. The venue was perfect for this performance. While the stage is larger, Dan Spurgeon (Director) was able to generate a feeling of inclusiveness through his use of space. I look forward to seeing how The Visceral Company uses the dynamics of this new stage to explore their dark faire.
Onto Kill Me, a dark story about depression and how it affects those around us. The story opens with a retelling of events that occurred in the past. Namely a car crash that left Cam (Natasha Charles Parker) in a coma for an extended period of time. The mechanism of retelling is unsettling at first, but later plays into the theme of the story itself. The Three leads Cam, Wendy (Angela Stern), and Grace (Jonica Patella), speak in a sing-songy round with overlapping lines. As the lines of one ends they are picked up by another with a slight over lap. Later this has the effect of not knowing if one is finishing the thoughts of another, if they share the same thoughts, or if the first is echoing the thoughts of the second before the second even has them. It is very reminiscent of the Witches from Macbeth. Another element is the Maidan, Warrior, Mother with each leading lady filling a role. I don’t want to spoil which roles each fill however.
The story centers around Cam who is tormented by The Miseries, Paronia (Yanna Fabian), Dread (Karen Nicole), Angst (Lamont Webb), and Despair (Alexander Price). Cam picked up these not so friendly associates when she was in a coma. As the story progresses Grace and Wendy become tormented as well. The whole story deals with the existential nature of depression and suffering. Did Cam really bring back The Miseries from purgatory, or is she in need of professional treatment? If she is only suffering from some psychosis then why have her sister and lover begun to feel this disconnecting existential torment from The Miseries as well? Kill Me dives deep into the nature of the human mind, in a story that is worthy of a paper on psychology. Every metaphor can be seen from a myriad of ways, and can lead to even more questions. Questions that appear hard even to articulate. Kill Me is the type of Play where five people can witness it and come up with six different take aways. You could spend hours debating the meaning with your friends only to end up changing everyone’s mind and still everyone winds up with a new interpretation and still in disagreement.
Individually every performance was spot on. Wendy-the distant sister who doesn’t know how to show her feelings, Grace-lover whose heart is breaking to the point of resentment. Cam!? She starts out innocent, and spirals into depression very nicely. It is easy to portray depression, the pain and suffering in a mawkish tone. A little too over done. Natasha didn’t go this route though. She looked and sounded in pain. Even her smallest gestures shifted ever slowly through her performance. She oversold nothing, by the end you wanted to find help for this poor soul. My only misgiving about the entire performance was the chemistry. Individually each character read well, their interactions however were slightly off. All three leading ladies are very talented and I’m confident this to will fade away like Cam’s sanity.
I enjoy seeing a performance that makes me think. Even more so when days after I am still having trouble putting my finger on just every thought evoked. My cerebral enjoyment aside this play lives up to the name of the playhouse. It was Visceral!
Kill Me (written by Scott T. Barsotti, directed by Dan Spurgeon) runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through June 2nd, with Sunday performances at 3pm.
For more information please visit:
All photos credit: The Visceral Company
Too long have our sports been confined to the basic 2D plane. Where the players travel within the bounds of an XY-plane. Only the scoring object (ball) leaves this plane. Though I admit jumping is possible, it is still not much of a departure.
I propose a new sport. One that employees the indoor skydiving wind tunnels, and the large trampolines for trampoline basketball. Let’s move the players and the ball into the XYZ-Plane. A 3D sport, full of fast action, and some mid air tackles.
The floor and walls (at an angle other than 90*) will be covered in trampoline material (though able to allow large amounts of air to pass through). Under the floors, and in a few random wall locations (perhaps moving, maybe even a down draft) there will be powerful fans capable of supporting the players. Along the edge of the court will be a small path to serve as a place to bring the ball into play. Along the floor there will be trampoline sections without fans to serve as landing/pass zones.
Players will move from one end of the court to another in a style similar to basketball/soccer. The players will have to pass the ball when they reach a pass zone, or they will be considered traveling. Players can travel along the floor via jumping or running if they are not in possession of the ball. If a player has the ball or are trying to score they must be air born unless in a landing zone. The object of the game is to throw the ball past the goalie through one of the goals. The ball will be weighted so that it will not be blown around easily by the wind.
Players will wear skydiving gear with protective pads as this will be a contact sport. Main ball carriers will have a standard suit, while the defender position will have a skydiving wing so they can better control their travel through the wind. Only the two (maybe one) defenders on a team can tackle a ball carrier, all other players must intercept the ball, or steal it from their hands. All players can score, but the nature of a defenders suit would limit their throwing ability.
This can turn out to be a lot of fun, imagine seeing players fly through the air to score their goals!
(I retain all rights to this idea, but I would love to talk to anyone who can actually make this happen).