Trailer

[INTRO MUSIC]

Rion:
I have made a decision. It’s a big, scary decision, one I fantasized about making but could never bring myself to actually do.

I love the little village I grew up in, full of places and people I love to see every day. It’s wonderful here, beautiful and peaceful and comforting. But I’m getting restless. I’m getting tired of seeing the same places and people every day.

I can’t spend the rest of my life here.

So I’ve made the decision to leave.

After arriving at this decision, I sent messages to people in other towns, looking for jobs that a brand new adventurer could do. And it turns out, there’s a lot. I now have a number of places to visit and a bunch of different things to do at them. It’s all very exciting.

One of my friends wants some help driving down tourism in her village. There’s a king who wants someone to rescue his daughter. A few towns over, someone is missing a beloved pet. Another friend sent me word of a town with mysterious, terrifying apparitions. Someone else filled me in on rumours of a mad scientist that’s been trying to hire an apprentice. And a former neighbor of mine just wants me to come say hi. I guess they’re lonely.

No job is too small. And if I’m feeling brave, I might even take on some of the big ones. This started out as a pipe dream, but I think I can actually do it. It’s gonna happen. I’m finally going on my grand adventure.

Everyone else I know who has set off on a grand adventure has found one big quest to do. A life’s calling, a single goal. But that’s never been for me. I want to see the world. Meet people. Try new things. Do everything!

And it’s time. It’s really time.
Let’s go.

[OUTRO MUSIC]

Credits:
Sidequesting is a scripted fantasy podcast about avoiding the main plot and doing sidequests instead. It’s told from the point of view of Rion, who goes on a new sidequest each episode. Come join us on this adventure - we’ll be stopping by in your podcatcher soon.

Episode 1

Narration:
The town of Pigsmire is finally on the horizon. Mom would stick up her nose about where I am, but hey, an adventurer’s gotta start somewhere.

I heard that this town has a sword stuck in a stone. A classic, if somewhat rare phenomena. I think the last time someone found a sword in a stone was… a century ago? Nobody was really sure how it got there, and they definitely don’t know how this one got there now. But as soon as word spread, people started flocking to Pigsmire to try their hand at retrieving the sword. There are knights, some scholars, and lots of adventurers - like me.

I’m not here to try to get the sword, though. I’m here to scare them all away.

At first, the town was excited about all the fame and fortune coming their way. Their inns at max capacity, their taverns bursting with business. But now they’re sick of all the tourists leaving trash and starting brawls. They want everything to go back to the way it was.

And they’re willing to pay for it.

I have an old friend who lives here. She sent me a letter laying all this out. Since the town can’t exactly advertise this job on the local postings, she offered it to me. Insead of as a friend, I’m coming as a very serious, possibly nefarious... bandit? Pirate? Witch? I haven’t decided.

I still need to figure out how to scare all these folks off. I’m not a wizard. I can’t summon scary weather, or make fireworks or anything. I hardly have a weapon - my dagger is pretty small and not exactly frightening. I also don’t want to try sneaking up and stabbing everyone in line… it seems a little unsportsmanlike.

As I walk into town, I understand exactly why everyone wants these sword-crazed tourists to leave. It’s so crowded. You can’t walk through without bumping into at least seventeen people. At least three people have stepped on my feet, and I think someone tried to steal my trail mix. I cannot leave the crowds behind fast enough.

It takes forever to make it to the tavern (which is also overcrowded and dirty, but finally see Willow.

[SFX: Fade in tavern ambiance]

Willow: Rion! You made it, thank the gods.

Rion: I now fully understand why you want these tourists to leave.

Willow: Yeah. I just wish someone would succeed in getting that darn sword. Or that they would all decide it was impossible and give up and go home.

Rion: I dunno, they all seem pretty set on trying - again and again and again.

Willow: I swear, if one more person bring their “pet” ogre in here to help them, I’m gonna lose it.

Rion: [laughs] Well, I’m prepared to make their time here… a little more chaotic.

Willow: How are you gonna do that?

Rion: I passed by a few things on my way here that gave me an idea. Do you know who owns those pigs over there? Also... the tailor and the baker?

Willow: It’s a small town. Of course I know them.

Rion: Excellent.

[SFX: Fade out tavern sounds]

It takes some time, but Willow and I soon have our plan worked out and everything we need ready. Willow knows her cue, and I know when to start. We’ve also enlisted the baker and tailor to help spread panic.

I don the largest, darkest cloak I’ve ever seen in my life and strap on a pair of stilts. I have created a ridiculous persona for myself, fitting for this equally ridiculous plan.

I make my way towards the biggest gathering of people, right where the sword is. People are already staring - I knew these stilts were a good idea. I turn to them and shout in my deepest, scariest voice.

Rion: HEAR YE AND BE WARNED. This sword is for my master! BE GONE AT ONCE or there will be CONSEQUENCES.

Some tourists are wary, but others still look skeptical. But then Willow jumps on a chair, exactly as we planned.

Willow: Yeah? You and what army?

Rion: My army of... SWINE!!!

I point and her, and she falls back, throwing a cloud of flour up. She did such a great job hiding it in her skirts. When it settles, a pig stands by the chair. I know it looks confused because Willow has rolled around the corner and pushed it there, but the tourists don’t know that. They interpret the confused look as the face of someone who has been turned into a pig.

Rion: Thank you for volunteering to join it, girl. Who’s NEXT?

That’s the second cue. Willow causes what can only be described as a pig stampede. And that does it. Nobody wants to chance being turned into a pig.

Rion: ALL SHALL FEAR THE GREAT WARLOCK EVERETT EZEKIEL WHITEFALL

I guide the pigs around town, occasionally shouting various nonsense and threats. I burst into the inns, sending people packing. Word spreads through the taverns before I even get there. Even the locals have scurried to their houses and shops - not scared of the pigs, but not wanting to get trampled by them either. I catch the baker’s eye through the window of the shop and give them a wink.

It’s exhausting leading these pigs around - but it’s working. As I do a second, and then third lap around the town, there’s less and less and less people. Eventually I corral my swine cohorts back to their pen. The town feels so much larger without all the tourists.

Finally, everyone is gone. The courtyard is empty and silent. Everyone has either left town or is hiding in their homes. After all the commotion of the day, the sword looks especially still.

It’s silly to think about walking over and giving it a pull, but it would be silly to come all this way and not touch it, right? I’ll probably regret it if I don’t try.

Nobody’s here to see me and laugh about it. What the hell. Why not.

[SFX: The noise of the sword being pulled out]

Oh… oh! That was… really easy. And this sword… is really nice! Can I keep it? I guess I can keep it. That’s the deal, I think.

Little kid: Mommy! Look! They have the sword!

Rion: No kid! Shush!

Townsperson 3: What, child? Oh my! The sword has been pulled from the stone!

[SFX: Footsteps - the townsfolk arriving]

Townsperson 1: Did I hear correctly? Our hero has finally come? The great knight from the stories of old?

Rion: I’m not a knight… sorry to disappoint.

Townsperson 2: Welcome to our town! What is your name?

Townsperson 3: Didn’t they say they were... Everett Something Something… uhhhh… Whitefail?

Rion: [correcting] Whitefall. Uh no, that wasn’t me. I’m Orion.

Townsperson 3: Sir Orion! Our Hero Knight!

Rion: [feebally] I’m not a… oh whatever.

Townsperson 2: It’s as the prophecy says! We’re saved from the evil wizard Movar!

Townsperson 1: Orion, hero knight!

[SFX: Soft footsteps - Willow approaches]

Willow: You couldn’t have tried pulling the sword before setting the pigs loose?

Rion: [sheepish] That would’ve been way less fun.

Willow: [sigh] Here’s the money I promised you.

Rion: Hey, do Hero Knights get paid extra?

Willow: You’re not a knight.

Rion: Touche.

[SFX: Outro music]

Thank you for Sidequesting with us. This episode, Hero Knight, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Willow was Sena Bryer. The townspeople were voiced by Katherine Shepherd, Francesco Macagno, Roger Mohr, and Luca Pill. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

We’re on Twitter and Tumblr with the username @sidequestingpod, and Instagram as @sidequesting. Follow us for show updates, podcast recommendations, cat pictures, and a link to our Patreon.

Episode 2

Narration:
I’ve been traveling for a few days now. I’m making my way towards the town of Runswick, and I’m almost there. Of course, I said that yesterday. But I knew I was lying to myself then.

[SFX: Cue music]

The Mountainmoon road is a popular travel route to this town, especially for those with horses or wheels. By wheels, I mostly mean carriages and trailers, but I did once see a mage with the coolest wheeled chair just absolutely zooming down it. It’s wide and flat and usually the safest route for travel. I took a shortcut from Pigsmire that skipped most of the road,but the last leg of my journey takes me down it.

As I survey my path, I notice someone else on an outlook above the road. I wonder where they’re headed. If they’re going towards Runswick, maybe I’ll have a travel buddy!

We both look over as a carriage comes into view, making its way along the road. It’s a beautiful teal color, with a crest painted on the side in white. The carriage runs smoothly, pulled by two horses being directed by some sort of guard seated in the front. Looks like it’s a lord’s carriage. I know there’s a castle nearby… I wonder if it’s his.

Hang on, weren’t they on the outlook? How are they already down here? And why are they running at the carriage…? Oh. It’s a bandit! They’re gonna rob the carriage!

I watch as the bandit gets to the carriage. They hop up and in a swift move, and knock the guard on the ground. Before she can do anything, they’ve already tossed her weapons away. Wow, they’re sneaky. And fast!

I sprint down the hill.

By the time I get near, the bandit has already gotten the driver off the carriage and tied her up. Whoever’s inside the carriage seems to have taken the “Cower in fear” approach. The bandit is interrogating them when I walk up. I don’t think to draw my sword, but I’m holding my dagger out in what I hope is a threatening manner.

Rion: Hey. Hey! What’s going on?

Lord: I am under attack by this ruffian!

Rion: I can see that. I was talking to the, er, ruffian.

Scout: Ruffian? Excuse me? He was the one who sent thugs to steal from me! They raided my shop in the dead of night and stole almost all the weapons from it!

Rion: Did you really do that?

Lord: [scoffs] Of course not.

Scout: You liar! I know it was you. I wasn’t able to stop your thieves, but I followed them! And the thugs delivered their stolen wares to a carriage with your seal on it. This very carriage, I believe.

Lord: [flustered] That- that could have been my brother. His carriages share our family seal.

Scout: Your driver is armed with one of the weapons you stole. Rather, was armed. Look, see my stamp on the blade? This is my handiwork.

[A pause. The lord is silent. He’s probably pouting.]

Rion: Nothing to say to that, huh?

Scout: I make only the best swords and I work hard to do it! I can’t believe you would undermine months of work. You - who could easily afford the price of all the wares in my shop! The audacity! You’d rather pay low life thugs to steal goods than the blacksmith who made them?

The bandit takes the lord’s silence as an opportunity to continue berating him. I’m thinking about how compelling this Bandit’s argument is. They seem to be telling the truth. At any rate, the Lord is a terrible liar. Even if the bandit’s information is wrong, they’re not hurting the lord, just… yelling at him.

I’m still considering who I should help when the lord goes for a dagger hidden in his coat. The bandit is too caught up in their lecturing to notice, but before the Lord can do anything, I wrest it away. Well, I know who I’m helping now.

Scout: [impressed/relieved] Well caught, Adventurer.

Rion: Ya know what, I’m on your side. Call me Rion.

Scout: I’m Scout. I believe you’ve saved my life.

Guard: [to the lord] You tried to attack the, with a dagger? I can’t believe it. This was not part of our arrangement.

Lord: Neither was you getting tied up! What kind of shoddy hired sword are you?

Guard: I’d rather I get tied up instead of harming someone you stole from!

Rion: Huh. I like her. [to Scout] So what are you going to do with him?

Scout: I’m going to hold this no good lord hostage until I recover my weapons… and payment for my time here.

Rion: Aren’t you worried about more thugs being sent after you?

Scout: [very sure of themself] They won’t catch us by surprise a second time.

Rion: Fair enough. Are you heading back to your shop, then?

Scout: Yep. It’s up this road, at Ashwald village.

Rion: I’m actually heading that way too. Do you want help… babysitting?

Lord: [indignant, sputtering] I’m not a child!

Rion: Oh shut it.

Scout: [to guard] And what should I do with you?

Guard: With your permission, I could go back to the Lord’s keep and inform his family of the ransom. It will get you your payment much faster.

Scout: How do I know you won’t follow and attack me?

Guard: I’m done working for this… this jerk!

Lord: offended gasp Traitor!

Guard: Sure, whatever. I don’t work for thieves. I set out to do honest work and I’m certainly not stopping now.

Scout: [impressed] Okay. Yeah, I’ll untie you.

[SFX: Some footsteps and scuffling as Scout unties the guard]

Guard: Please, take this sword back. I’ve learned that my weapon belongs to you. I do not feel comfortable using stolen wares.

Rion: [concerned] Do you have anything to protect yourself?

Guard: Merely my fists. [said with a smile] But they can do some damage.

Scout: Why don’t you keep the sword. Consider it payment for delivering the ransom message. And consider it a bribe for not killing us, now that you’re free.

Guard: You have my word that I will deliver the message. [As an afterthought] And not kill you.

Rion: Thanks. I’m a big fan of not dying.

The guard accepts the sword from the bandit, and the two of them work out the details of the ransom terms, away from earshot of the Lord. I glare at him while he pouts. He does quite the pout.

Soon the guard is on her way down the path on one of the horses. The Lord is tied up in his carriage, and Scout and I are walking beside the horse pulling it. Despite the, uh, bad vibes we’re getting from our hostage, it’s easy traveling. I’m learning a lot about Scout.

They’ve been training as a blacksmith since they were a teen. With the exception of a few years traveling through towns to learn more of the art, they’ve lived in Ashwald their whole life. Scout also has a partner who I can tell they’re absolutely smitten with. Her name is Marissa, and she sounds stunning.

Scout is also learning some things about me. Or my sword, at least.

Scout: Hey, out of curiosity, why do you have a sword tied to your back?

Rion: I don’t have a scabbard.

Scout: Who buys a sword and not a scabbard?

Rion: I didn’t buy it.

Scout: Who steals a sword and not a scabbard?

Rion: Didn’t steal it, either.

Scout: Then… how did you get it?

Rion: I pulled it out of a rock. Long story.

Scout: [nerding out a bit] The craftsmanship of the blade is simply superb. That’s a good sword you have there. Be sure you take care of it.

Rion: Thanks. It’s growing on me.

Scout: I may have an extra scabbard I could give to you, as thanks for your assistance. It would be a shame to leave this blade exposed to the elements.

Rion: That would be great. Thank you.

[SFX: Cue music]

It turns out I got my travel buddy after all.

They ask to hear the story of the sword, so I tell it - with only a few embellishments. Just a little. It’s my only cool story, and I want to look good. We switch off telling stories along the way, and get to the town before we know it. I go with Scout to their shop, and also get to meet Marissa! She insists I stay for dinner. Scout also gives me a scabbard, as promised, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

I can’t stay long, since I’ve still got to get to Runswick, but you bet I stay through dessert. Marissa even makes some for the Lord, but he doesn’t get to sit around the table with the rest of us. [smugly] Ha. I’m a little sad that I’ve got to head out without knowing for sure if Scout gets paid, but something tells me they will. I don’t think that guard will take no for an answer.

[SFX: OUTRO MUSIC]

Thank you for Sidequesting with us. This episode, Travel Buddy, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Scout was Sterling Rae. The lord was voiced by Brandon Jenkins, and the guard was voiced by Jona. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

If you enjoyed this episode, consider leaving us a review. It’ll help other people find this podcast, and you’ll also make my day. If you didn’t enjoy this episode - no need to leave a review, don’t worry about it.

Episode 3

Narration:
One expects a missing cat to have a name like Whiskers or Mittens, maybe Fluffy. But this cat is named Brad. Brad is missing. I’m here for the glamorous job of finding a missing cat.

I’ve checked with Brad’s family, and they’ve confirmed that he isn’t someone who’s been turned into a cat. He’s just a cat. A normal cat, who hasn’t been seen for a few weeks and whose family misses him. He’s brown and black, extremely fluffy, and will apparently do anything for fish.

I love Brad already. I’m gonna find him, and not just because of the nice reward promised for his return.

The first place I go to look is the forest that borders the village. I bet there’s lots of mice to catch and places to hide in there. Maybe Brad got himself stuck up a tree. Nonetheless, the forest is a secluded place this time of year. If Brad was around town, I think someone would’ve spotted him by now.

[SFX: forest noises fade in]

I make my way around the forest, trying to listen for meows, hisses, or purring. But instead, I hear… sniffling? Is someone crying? I follow the noise, and see a small clearing in the forest with a small child curled up against a rock.

Rion: Hey kid, are you okay?

Rowan: [sniffs. Theyve been crying.] I’m fine.

Rion: Ya don’t look fine. [softly] Mind if I sit down here? Would you like some trail mix?

Rowan: Sure.

Rion: Here. [a pause. Trail mix being acquired] Do you want to talk about it? [a pause] I won’t tell anyone. I don’t even live here.

Rowan: [eyeing sword] Are you a knight?

Rion: No, [small laugh] but this is my sword. I’m actually more of an adventurer. What, do you wanna be a knight?

Rowan: [excited] Yeah! [then sad] But Mom says I can’t be a knight.

Rion: Why is that?

Rowan: Mom says girls can’t be knights.

Rion: Well that’s not true. I’ve seen lots of girl knights -

Rowan: [interrupting] I’m not even a girl!

Rion: [unfazed] Well boys can be knights too. I don’t know what your mom says about that -

Rowan: [interrupting] I’m not a boy either!

Rion: Oh. Okay. Uh, Me too.

Rowan: You’re not a boy or a girl?

Rion: Yep. I’m just… me.

Rowan: [grumpily] I want to be just me.

Rion: Hey kiddo. I have some good news. You are 100% you. Nonbinary and all.

Rowan: Mom says I’m a girl. I told her, I like girls! But I’m not a girl. She won’t listen.

Rion: So she says you have to be a girl and that you can’t be a knight.

Rowan: Yep.

Rion: Well, how about we prove her wrong. Would you like to help me out on this… uh... knightly quest I’m on?

Rowan: YEAH

Rion: Okay kid, what’s your name? What do you want me to call you?

Rowan: Oh! [shyly] Uh, Rowan.

Rion: [seriously] Rowan, please kneel.

[Rowan kneels]

Rion: I dub you Sir Rowan, Knight of the Crescent Forest. Do you promise to always be honorable, protect the land and its people, and serve the forces of good?

Rowan: [solemnly] Yes.

Rowan: Rise, Sir Rowan of the Crescent Forest. Are you ready for your first task?

Rowan: Yeah!

Rion: Our mission today is to find a cat. His name is Brad.

Rowan: I know Brad!

Rowan: Excellent. My best guess is that he’s here in this forest somewhere, since not a lot of people come this way.

Rowan: That’s why I’m here. I didn’t want anyone to find me.

Rion: Well if you were a cat, where in this forest would you go?

Rowan: uhhhhhhhh… that way!

They point down a trail to the left. It’s a narrow and uneven pathway with bushes and branches poking into it. I could picture a cat going down there. It seems like as good a place to start as any, and I tell them to lead the way.

[SFX: footsteps]

Rion: So Rowan, why do you want to be a knight?

Rowan: They’re so cool! And brave! And they have shiny armor. And swords!!!

Rion: I see…

Rowan: I want to be big and strong and fight evil!

Rion: Seen a lot of evil, have you?

Rowan: I’ve mostly just seen people being mean… but I’ve heard a lot about evil in the Far Lands. Do you know about that wizard guy Movar? I guess he’s realllly evil. And I want to fight him!

Rion: Woah there squirt, maybe work up to that.

Rowan: I know, I know.

Rion: You could start with the mean people in your town. I don’t know about fighting them - maybe just give them a piece of your mind.

Rowan: Even the adults?

Rion: Especially the adults. They won’t see it coming.

Rowan: And I’ll be really sneaky!

[SFX: sneaky footsteps]

Rion: Nice sneaking demonstration. I don’t suppose you see Brad over there?

Rowan: [sadly] Nope!

Rion: Me neither. Well, it looks like this place is a bust. Not a single whisker in sight.

Rowan: Aww

Rion: Well maybe Brad was here and just moved on. Where do you think we should go to next?

Rowan: What about along the river?

Rion: But don’t cats hate water?

Rowan: Welllll one time I saw this kitten that my friend Julie had who got stuck outside in the rain and decided that she really liked it. Now she goes swimming and everything!

Rion: Huh. I guess you never know.

Rowan: Hey look, there’s fishes!

Rion: Cats do like fish...

Rowan: Here, fishie fishie fishie…

[SFX: some splashing]

Rowan: Missed.

Rion: [laugh] You’ll get it next time.

The river is fairly shallow, deep enough for a few fish but not much more. It’s only a little wider than the trail we took to get here. I see fewer trees by the river, which I assume is because the ground is rockier. And perched on one of these rocks by the water, I see a cat.

Rion: [quietly] Hey Rowan, look over there.

Rowan: [whispered] The cat!

Rion: [whispered] here’s the plan. I need you to chase it towards me and I’ll try to grab it.

Rowan: [whispered] Okay!

Rowan sneaks around to the other side of the cat, and when we’re both in position, they shout his name. This startles Brad, of course, and he runs away from the scary noise, exactly towards me. Perfect. I reach down to grab him, but he slips through my grasp and runs under my legs. I turn around just in time to see him jump into an open crevice between two rocks.

Rion: Missed!

Rowan: You’ll get it next time.

Rion: Hey, can you fit in here? Brad ran into this hole here and I’m too big to reach him. I need smaller shoulders or longer arms, and it strikes me that you have one of those.

Rowan: Sure thing.

They hunker down and crawl about halfway in. I hear a disgruntled meow followed by a shout. “I got him!” It’s a little bit of a struggle for Rowan to back out of the hole with a cat in their hands, but they make it. Brad is handed to me. The good cat isn’t try to bite or scratch me, just wiggle out of my grip. What a sweetheart.

Rowan accompanies me back into town. They seem much happier than when I found them. I’m glad. Their smile only gets bigger when one of Brad’s family members sees us walking to their door, cat in hand.

Family: It’s Brad! You found him!

Rion: I couldn’t have done it without my partner Rowan here. They were invaluable.

Family: Rowan, my dear, thank you for your assistance.

Rowan: You’re welcome.

Family: I can’t wait to tell my son that he’s back. Milo will be so pleased. Where did you find him?

Rion: In the Crescent Forest. He was… uh… fishing?

Family: Fishing?! Did I hear that right?

Rowan: Yeah! He was by the river looking at the fish. I think he was trying to catch one.

Family: Brad, you scoundrel.

[Brad meows]

Family: [Brad is instantly forgiven] I’m so glad you’re home. [to Rion] Here’s your reward, as promised.

[SFX: some coins jingle]

Rion: Thank you.

Family: You’re welcome. Now I must go find Milo. Thank you again - Both of you.

Rowan: You’re welcome.

[SFX: Footsteps as Family member leaves]

Rion: Well, Sir Rowan, I think you deserve at least half of this reward.

Rowan: [solemly] A knight doesn’t take payment for doing their duty.

Rion: You sure?

Rowan: Yes.

Rion: What about… a tip? Can I give you a few silver pieces at least?

Rowan: ...sure. Thanks.

Rion: You’re a good kid, Rowan.

Rowan: [pause] I’m going to go home and tell mother that she’s wrong.

Rion: That’s very brave of you.

Rowan: I gotta be brave, I’m a knight now!

Rion: [smiling] Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

[SFX: Outro music]

Thank you for Sidequesting with us. This episode, Lost and Found, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Rowan was Falyn Minear. The family member was voiced by Fox Cooper. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

Do you have any friends you think might like this podcast? I’d be great it if you told them about us. Or just steal their phone and subscribe. I won’t tell.

Episode 4

Narration:
It’s harvest time in this village, which is famous for their apple orchards. Apple trees are everywhere throughout here, so much so that it looks like the village itself was an afterthought. The homes are built around the trees, and there’s no rhyme or reason for the layout of the town - except, of course, to prioritize the apple trees. The air smells of cider and pie and I am SO HUNGRY.

Some of the townsfolk said they’d pay me to climb the trees and get the apples down from the top branches - but honestly, I’d do it for free. I really miss tree climbing. When I was little, my mom quickly learned that if she couldn’t find me around she just needed to look up.

But when you’re all grown up, people judge you for being in a tree for no reason. Not that I usually let that stop me… but it’s nice to just climb around for an afternoon and have people thank you for it instead of asking you why you’re up there.

In this town, apple picking is an entire-village effort. Young kids are running around shaking trees and gathering the fallen fruit. Parents are holding ladders for their teenagers. I see a few grandparents sorting apples or, having already found the best ones, starting to cook.

In addition to the several community orchards, lots of people have their own special apple trees they’ve been tending to for generations. Unlike the town’s community apples, the bounty from these trees is closely guarded. Years of careful pruning, grafting, and fertilizing has gone into these apples, which are needed for very specific recipes. Every single apple, apparently. Of course, those with their own trees are plenty happy to share the food they make with these apples - they’re just very stingy with the raw product. I guess I understand that. If you can only make your favorite recipe once a year, you’re going to be protective of the ingredients.

Plus, there’s so many apples to pick in the community orchards, and I’m not letting a single one escape my grasp. I will figure out how to get up every tree. And onto every branch. Every apple is going to be on the ground when I’m done here.

I’m deep in thought about if I could feasibly jump from tree to tree when I hear a cry.

Oliver: My basket!!! It’s missing!!

The way he says this, you can tell it’s probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to this man. Sounds like it’s time for me to get out of this tree.

[SFX: Tree dismount noises (good luck sound editor Tal), then footsteps]

[Fade in Oliver complaining]

Oliver: Where did they go? The apples from my sweetest tree! I’ve spent all morning gathering them and now they’re gone and I think someone took them! The whole basket!

Rion: Hey there. So... you’re missing a basket of apples?

Oliver: Not just any basket of apples! A basket of my pristine, delectable, personal apples! I tend to these trees all year to ensure the perfect harvest for my perfect apple crumbles. But there will be no apple crumbles today! My apples have been stolen!

Rion: Do you want some help looking for them?

Oliver: I don’t need help looking! I need help taking them back from the no good rascal who I know took it!

Rion: What? Who would’ve taken it?

Oliver: No one other than my neighbor a few houses down, Alden. They’ve been trying to tend to their own trees, but those trees don’t have good fruit. I’ve seen them eyeing my orchard. Sometimes they’ll comment “Wow, Oliver, your trees are sure looking good. I can’t wait for the harvest!” ...They’re undoubtedly jealous of my apples. I’m sure they’ve been planning to take them all year.

Rion: Well, I don’t know if Alden for sure stole your basket, but I’ll go talk to them and see what they say. How about you look though the orchards and see if anyone accidentally moved it?

Oliver: [exasperated] Fine. I don’t think it will be there, but I’ll look.

Looks like it’s time for Inquisitor-Rion! I’m going to put on my detective hat and solve this mystery. [a pause] Okay, I don’t have a detective hat but I’m going to solve this mystery anyway! I’ll start by talking to our prime suspect Alden. It seems like Oliver really has a grudge against this person, and personally, I’m not convinced this case is as open and shut as it seems. But it’s the obvious place to start.

Rion: Hi Alden. I’m looking for Oliver’s apple basket which has apparently gone missing. He seems to think you’ve taken it…?

Alden: [dismissive] Of course I didn’t. I don’t care about his apples.

Rion: But your trees don’t have good apples…?

Alden: I grow these trees because I love tending to the. I’m always trying out new ways of grafting branches and making the fruit different… Anyone can have my apples, people are usually just wary of them.

Rion: Oh. That’s actually pretty cool.

Alden: I moved here only a few years and I’ve been trying to be neighborly… cheer on people’s hard work and compliment their gardens and stuff… but I guess I’ve only succeeded in getting Oliver to think I was after his fruit.

Rion: He did say you sometimes talked to him about them.

Alden: [sigh] So much for being nice, huh? Besides, when could I have taken them? I was over with Hazel ([muttered] one of my nicer neighbors) helping her sort apples all morning. Anyway, it was probably Quinn trying to frame me. They’ve been pretty unhappy with me lately. I guess my plants are growing into their lawn or something? [sadly] I’m trying so hard to be on people’s good side but all the things I do backfire.

Rion: I’ll figure this thing out. [hopeful] Maybe when I find his basket, Oliver won’t be mad at you anymore.Anyway, thanks for the info.

Our prime suspect has pointed us towards someone else. This isn’t surprising - I didn’t expect a confession this early in the game. But were they framed??? Let’s go talk to suspect number two.

Rion: Quinn? Hi. I’m Rion. Did you by any chance take a basket of apples to frame your neighbor Alden [quietly] who you’re mad at for unclear reasons?

Quinn: Yeah, I’m mad at Alden, but not enough to frame them! I’m not going to steal some poor sap’s food to enact some “dastardly plan of revenge” against someone else. Do I wish Alden would make sure their contaminated plants stop growing into mine? Yeah. But the farthest I’d go would be to trim those branches… And I’ve been alone in my kitchen baking all day. I wouldn’t have known that basket was there for the taking. Anyway, it was probably some kids trying to do a prank or something.

Rion: [unimpressed] I don’t suppose you have anyone to back you up about where you were?

Quinn: [grumpy] Nope. I said I was alone, didn’t I?

Rion: I guess. [pause] Thanks for your help.

The lack of credible alibi is definitely suspicious… but I do see a kid over there looking guilty. She keeps glancing up at me and then looking away. If that isn’t a cue to go and talk to her, I don’t know what is.

Rion: Did you by any chance steal a basket of apples from Oliver over there?

Kid: Okay okay, I’m sorry! I took some of the apples from the basket. I was really hungry! And they looked really good! I’m sorry! I promise I won’t do it again. And I would never take the whole basket. That’s too many apples! I can’t fit that many in my tummy. There’s only room for 2. Or 3. Definitely not 5. That’s too many. I saw Mister Jones take the basket away after I was there. I was scared he saw me and was gonna yell at me, but he didn’t say anything. I guess he was too busy. He probably moved it up where I can’t reach. Like on a table. A BIG table. I hate big tables. Please don’t put all the apples on big tables!

Rion: [softly] Hey, it’s okay. I promise I won’t tell. Who among us hasn’t snuck a few treats during apple picking? Thanks for your help. I need to go talk to Mister Jones now.

[SFX: footsteps]

This kid might have just solved this mystery for me. Why would Jones move the basket? He was up in the trees with me. He shouldn’t have been near it... Oh! There he is. Let’s see what he says.

Rion: Oliver is missing a basket of apples and I’ve just received word from a, uh, very credible source that you were seen taking it away. Do you have anything to say for yourself before I drag a very distraught Oliver here to accost you?

Jones: I just wanted to eat some of those apples!! Oliver keeps bragging about them, going on and on about how special they are and delicious and sweet and wonderful! Ugh! I couldn’t take it. I got so tired of hearing him talk endlessly about them without sharing any so I just… took the basket.

Rion: Wow. That’s a terrible reason. Please tell me you haven’t eaten them all.

Jones: I haven’t! They’re (mostly) all still in my kitchen.

Rion: Okay. How about you give them back, yeah? Or else you won’t hear the end of his complaining about his delicious apples missing. Next time you could try (gasp!) talking to him about it?

Jones: Okay… maybe.

Rion: [big sigh] Go say sorry.

And so off goes Jones to confess and apologize to Oliver. Funnily enough, Oliver had no idea Jones was mad at him. Jones would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for… uh… that meddling kid. And me! Meddling adventurer extraordinaire. Oliver also apologizes to Alden for thinking they did it. He promises them some freshly baked apple crumble, and assures them next time he won’t jump to conclusions. It’s actually really nice. I think I see Alden wipe away a tear. Aw, this is just want they wanted.

As if inspired by Oliver, Alden also goes to apologize to Quinn. Quinn stays grumpy, but I think they’re warming up to Alden. Nothing like a small crime to bring folks together. All my suspects are getting along. Well, former suspects, I guess.

And just like that our case comes to a close, with the apple basket safely returned. The sweet cider can be made, and the festivities can continue… as long as those dark clouds in the sky don’t rain us out.

At least nobody is to blame if it does.

Thanks for Sidequesting with us! This episode, Basket Case, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Oliver was Reggie Gacad. Alden was voiced by Bret M-W, and Quinn was voiced by Sarah Wheatley. The voice of the kid was Mira Leigh, and Jones was voiced by David Hanna. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

If you like what we’re doing, consider supporting us on Patreon. You can get cool perks, like behind the scenes content, early episode releases, stickers, and exclusive patron episodes. You’ll also get my eternal love and admiration. The smallest tier starts at just a dollar, and your support would mean so much to me. But also - you listening to my little podcast means the world to me, even if you can’t support the show monetarily.

Episode 5

Narration:
It took me a long time to decide if I wanted to do this. It was a pretty big request, but it was by a king, and I guess he’s allowed to make big requests. I can’t fault him, because he’s in a pretty desperate situation here. His daughter has been kidnapped by a dragon, and he wants me -or anyone really- to go rescue her. To go rescue Princess Clara.

Every single person the king has sent over to fight the dragon and rescue the princess was last seen running screaming from the dragon’s lair. They don’t even go back to tell the king that they failed - he’s had to set up a system of guards to keep watch and report back to him.

Recently, the king announced that he would give his daughter’s hand in marriage to whoever brings her home safely. This got quite a few more folks to try, but none of them have gotten past the dragon. Seeing how desperate the king was to save his daughter helped me make this decision. I figure the princess must also be equally desperate to get home. I want to rescue her, but I don’t want to marry her… hopefully she’s okay with that. I can’t imagine that she’d want to marry a stranger.

I also don’t really want to fight the dragon. Part of me is hoping there’s a secret entrance I can find and sneak the princess out of, but that’s probably too good to be true. I wish some of the other princes, knights, and would-be rescuers had spent more time to look around before rushing in headlong to fight the dragon. Then I might have a least a vague idea of what I’m doing.

As I approach the outside of the dragon’s lair, and it looks like a normal cave. It’s in a rocky, hilly area, and this cave blends in with the multiple other caves I can see from where I stand. But I’ve been assured that this is the right one. After all the people he’s directed here, I guess the king would be pretty sure at this point.

Instead of marching straight in, I walk around the cave. I don’t see much here besides rocks, so I start climbing up them. There seems to be a small opening to a tunnel halfway up the cave-side. I can just wiggle in, and after some crawling, it widens enough for me to stand up. It’s dark inside, but small pinpricks of light shine here and there though crevices in the rocks, and it’s just enough to navigate by. Even though I’m confident that a dragon couldn’t fit in this particular passageway, I’m still doing my best to be quiet. Eventually the tunnel meets a wider cavern, still too small for a dragon… but maybe it could fit a baby one.

The first thing I notice is that it’s better lit in here. There are lanterns on the ground around the perimeter, and I see some stacks of books and baskets of food. There is a makeshift bed on the far side of the cavern, with a woman sitting on it, reading.

Rion: Princess Clara?

Clara: [startled] Oh gods!

Rion: Princess?! Are you okay?

Clara: [grumpy] Do I look okay?

Rion: I mean, mostly, yeah. I didn’t mean to startle you. Sorry about that.

Clara: Who are you and what do you want?

Rion: I’m Rion. Your father sent me to rescue you. I’m not the first person, but I guess everyone else he sent ran away from the dragon.

Clara: So you’re here to fight the dragon and carry me off to safety, then?

Rion: I don’t want to fight the dragon. That’s why I’m here via this back-entrance-tunnel thing. Which… Hang on… did you know it was here?

Clara: [duh] I’d be pretty stupid to not have noticed it.

Rion: Then why haven’t you left?

Clara: [a pause. She has been found out.] Okay, you got me. I kind of want to be here.

Rion: You want to be kidnapped by a dragon?

Clara: Not quite. It would be more correct to sa y that I don’t want to be at the castle.

Rion: Why is that?

Clara: My dad wants to marry me off to another princess to “join our kingdoms” or some nonsense like that. He’s wanted this marriage for years. I thought when Dad found out his only son was an only daughter, he would give up on it. But it turns out this princess also likes women, so he didn’t change his mind! He still wanted me to marry her! Then the whispers of impending war started, and now he’s demanding it happen “at once, or else!”. I couldn’t convince him otherwise… so I ran.

Rion: Oh. Yeah, I get that. I’d run too if someone was making me get married.

Clara: I mean, I do want to get married. But not to a stranger. What would my girlfriend say if I married some random princess?

Rion: Nothing good, I’m sure. Speaking of marrying a stranger, do you know what the reward is for saving you?

Clara: Last time I checked, it was a bunch of gold.

Rion: You’ve been checking?

Clara: My girlfriend gives me updates.

[SFX: faint footsteps, growing louder]

Rion: How often does she visit?

Clara: Every week or so-WOAH! [Clara has just noticed Zoe]

Zoe: [happy, excited] CLAIRE! GUESS WHAT.

Clara: [happy] ZOE! You’re here early!

Zoe: I have news! It was announced a week ago but I just found out. The King is giving your hand in marriage as a reward for your rescue!

Clara: Finally! It only took him a few months! [pause] Wait… [to Rion] do you want to marry me?

Zoe: [had not noticed Rion] Oh! Who’s this?

Rion: I’m Orion, here to rescue but not marry the princess - though it looks like you’ve got both of those covered. Are you Princess Zoe from the Kingdom of Floria?

Zoe: Yes and yes.

Clara: That’s the plan, you see. Zoe’s going to “rescue” me and then we can officially be together, with Dad’s approval and everything.

Zoe: It just took him FOREVER to get desperate enough to give up on that stupid arranged marriage.

Clara: Hey, it happened sooner than I thought it would.

Zoe: There’s only one problem left.

Clara: [concerned] ...and what is that?

Zoe: The king’s new offer has brought you more rescuers.

Clara: [unconcerned] What, is Jeff here again? I can just scare him off, along with whoever else shows up.

Zoe: No, I mean, there’s like 10 of them. They’re working together, and they brought a LOT of water with them. Also a bunch of crossbows?

Clara: [concerned again] ...oh. That’s not good.

Rion: Wait, what do you mean? 10 men are no match for a dragon. You’ll be fine.

Clara: Yeah, about that… maybe you should just follow me.

Narration:
I follow Clara through a series of winding passageways. When we stop, we’re overlooking a large cavern. The floor is exceedingly rocky, with huge boulders that make the ground look like a maze. The overlook we’re on runs around the perimeter of the cavern. There are large rocks resting along the edge of it, waiting to join the others below. Clara picks up a large device that’s also resting on the overlook. After strapping it on she pulls a lever and presses some buttons. With a pop and a hiss, fire spreads from it, falling into the cavern. The light of the fire makes the whole cave flicker.

[SFX: Beneath the narration, we hear a lever crank and two buttons press. The noise of pressurised gas starts, followed by the sound of clicking, followed by the sound of a fire being lit. It sounds like a flamethrower. When Clara speaks, the noise stops.]

Clara: Long story short… I’m the dragon.

Zoe: Hey, I help sometimes too!

Clara: Fine. We’re the dragon. But mostly me.

[Zoe definitely sticks her tongue out at Clara for that]

Rion: [impressed] Wow, this is… amazing. It’s a do-it-yourself dragon. I love it.

Clara: Thanks! Unfortunately, I don’t think I can fool ten people at once. I built this thing to scare off one person at a time. Ten men are stupid enough to actually try to fight a dragon instead of just runing away, and I won’t be able to actually fight them. [beat] Well, I could barbeque them…

Rion: Probably best not to.

Clara: I guess you’re right. But we can’t stop them from coming in, and I’m not sure I can leave without them seeing me.

Rion: What if you both left while they tried to get in here.

Clara: But if we’re not there to run everything, we can’t stall them. They’ll just rush in and find us climbing out.

Rion: What if… I was the dragon? I could probably operate this stuff.

Clara: You would do that for us?

Rion: Princess, I would LOVE to do that.

Zoe: We’ve got to work fast. They’re planning to enter at sundown, and we don’t have much time.

Clara: Zoe, babe, can you pack our things while I show Rion how this works?

Zoe: Yeah, but I’ll need time. If we want to remove all traces that you’ve been bunking here…

Rion: Once Clara shows me how to be a dragon I’ll run out there and stall so she can help you finish.

Zoe: Stall?

Rion: I’ve got a little plan of my own. Don’t worry about it.

Clara: ...If you say so.

Narration:
Clara shows me how to operate the flame maker. I learn how to refill it, and where the emergency water buckets are. She also introduces me to the “dragon horn”. Instead of making normal horn noises, when you blow into it, it makes very loud and intimidating growling sounds. I definitely want one for myself. If we weren’t so low on time, I’d ask Clara how she made it.

[SFX: During this narration, the noise of animalistic beast-like roars echo.]

But instead, I practice until I’m feeling confident, and send Clara on her way to pack. I head outside through the secret side tunnel and find this pesky prince.

[SFX: Rion’s footsteps]

RION: [haughtily] Excuse me? Who are you and what are you doing here?

PRINCE: I am Prince Jefferson Merriweather, here to rescue the Princess! What about yourself?

RION: I am Prince Phillip Pennington, also here to rescue the Princess! I kindly request that you move out of my way.

PRINCE: What? Where are you going?

RION: In there, of course. Where the princess is.

PRINCE: Do you not know of the dragon?

RION: Ha! Of course I know of the dragon. Why would you ask such a silly question?

PRINCE: The dragon will stop you from going in.

RION: I’d like to see him try!

PRINCE: I assure you! He will! This is not my first time here.

RION: Oh? Do tell me more about your other visit.

PRINCE: Visits.

RION: Visits, then. Share away.

PRINCE: This dragon is most fearsome! At the slightest provocation he will breathe fire on you! He will throw large boulders towards you! I have tried many means of defense, but none have yet proven successful. A single man cannot defeat him!

RION: What if he doesn’t notice me?

PRINCE: Oh he will notice you!

RION: How?

PRINCE: [sputtering] Well, he noticed me! Very quickly!

RION: How loud do you walk? Can you demonstrate?

PRINCE: I will do no such thing!

RION: Are you scared? You must be scared of something if you’ve brought what amounts to a small army here.

PRINCE: It is a smart man who fears a dragon.

RION: What’s your plan, then Prince?

PRINCE: Well in short, we know that the dragon lies on the edge of the cave. It’s where the fire comes from, and the rocks too. We will gather in the center of the room, furthest from the dragon’s reach, and shoot him with our reinforced crossbows. If that draws him out, we will get a better angle of attack, and the ability to circle behind him. If he remains in the shadows, our arrows will find their marks. He will stand no chance.

RION: Absolutely fascinating. Well thought out. I see one tiny flaw in your flawless plan.

PRINCE: [agast] What is it?

RION: It does not account for ME.

PRINCE: Of course it doesn’t. I had not had the “joy” of meeting your acquaintance before I made this plan.

RION: I can recommend some changes.

PRINCE: I do know know how sound your advice would be.

RION: Fair enough. But do not be disappointed when you fail to rescue the princess.

PRINCE: I think I have a better chance than you!

RION: But do you even know my plan?

PRINCE: Walk right in there, it would appear.

RION: Ah, but you don’t know my plan for after I walk right in there.

PRINCE: Well then, what is it?

RION: I will not fight the dragon! I’m going to ask him nicely to take me to the princess.

PRINCE: That will not work!

RION: Well, have you tried?

PRINCE: No!

RION: Then how do you know?

PRINCE: I don’t know… precedence? A dragon who kidnaps a princess isn’t going to let the first person who asks to take her get away with it!

RION: I have a theory that nobody’s tried. I’m going to be the first! Unless, you would like the honor?

PRINCE: I’m quite good!

RION: If you insist. Now I, Prince Percival Pennypants will be off!

PRINCE: I thought your name was Phillip Pennington?

RION: [slightly flustered] I have many names!

[SFX: Footsteps]

RION: [in distance, their voice echoing in the cave] Dragon? Dragon! [pause] I request a parlay.

PRINCE: [stunned] I… I cannot believe that prince.
Narration:
Soon enough, the prince and his crew enter the cave and I give the go-ahead to Clara and Zoe to leave. It’s time for the fun to begin. I greet the would-be rescuers with a rain of fire in front of the entrance. They seem well prepared to deal with a direct spray, but I don’t want to hit them until they pull those wooden crossbows out.

[SFX: During this narration, we hear the noise of pressurized gas being lit, then crackling fire. It lasts for a few seconds]

I’m glad I got the prince to tell me his plan, because now I’m on high alert for the sounds of arrows being fired - and I’m ready to duck behind the nice big boulders on this overlook. I know they’ll be firing blindly from the center of the cave, so I feel pretty safe.

I give them an additional greeting with a roar from the dragon horn. It echoes perfectly across the walls of the cave. So perfectly that the men try to shoot the source of the noise, but aim entirely in the wrong direction. I really want to take those crossbows out, so I shoot flames toward them. A few men drop theirs in surprise, and I get to toast them on the ground. I hear the strings snap in the heat. Excellent.

[SFX: During this narration, we hear a few animalistic dragon roars, then the noise of four crossbows firing, their arrows hitting rock. After that, the noise of pressurized gas starts again. It is lit with a pop, and crackling fire starts. It again lasts for a few seconds. The noise of two crossbow’s strings stretching and then snapping is heard.]

I duck behind a rock since I’ve just shown the men the correct direction to aim. Sure enough, arrows fly towards the source of the fire. I wonder what the prince will do if he loses all the bows. Ever so confident in his plan, I’m not sure he considered the scenario. I’m itching to burn those crossbows and find out.

[SFX: During this narration, we hear the noise of three crossbows firing, their arrows hitting rock closer to Rion.]

And so this game of cat and mouse (rather, dragon and human?) continues. I scamper around the overlook, giving the occasional roar and burst of flames. Another crossbow breaks, and two of the men’s cloaks catch fire. They’re quickly extinguished with buckets of water.

[SFX: During this narration, we hear a few more roars and another burst of flame - the noise of gas, then fire, lasting a few seconds. The noise of one crossbow’s string stretching and snapping is heard afterwards.]

Those lacking bows have pulled their swords out, pointing them in my general direction. I hear some discussion - it seems like they’re changing the plan of attack... They’re going to rush the dragon? Ha! Searching for a dragon to rush will keep them occupied for some time. I knock a few rocks over the edge to give the men a direction to start searching. With a final roar, I head out through the secret tunnel.

[SFX: During this narration, we hear three swords being drawn with a sharp “shing!”. The noise of a boulder being pushed, and falling with a rumbling “crash!” comes next. Then we hear footsteps as Rion exits the cave]

There’s no sign of Clara or Zoe anywhere. The small cavern that served as a bedroom contains only rocks. Once I’ve crawled through the exit, I don’t even see tracks. The Princesses are long gone, and with that head starts, the Prince will never catch up in time.

[SFX: Outro Music]

Thank you for Sidequesting with us. This episode, The Princess and the Plan, was written and produced by Tal Minear. Princess Clara was voiced by Lucille Valentine, and Princess Zoe was voiced by Katherine Shepherd. Prince Jefferson Merriweather was voiced by Xen Virtue. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

Do you want show updates and peaks behind the scenes? Follow us on Twitter @sidequestingpod and Instagram @sidequesting! If that’s not enough, join the Patreon for longer posts about what goes into making this production.

Episode 6

Narration:
I was just delivered a letter by a raven, who swooped right in front of me and sat down, envelope in its beak. (Do ravens sit? Do they stand? Anyway, it landed on the path and stared at me). You don’t ignore a summons from a raven. Or at least, I don’t. It would be rude, for one thing!

This note smells like lavender and rosemary, and it’s written in the most beautiful purple ink. It’s from a Miss Iris who is asking for assistance in acquiring a specific ingredient for her work. Despite the fact that this ingredient is only a few fields away, it’s on a farm which she has been forbidden access to. I’m not sure exactly how Iris knows my name or why she sent for me specifically, but she’s given directions to her home and a promise to explain the details in person. That’s good enough for me.

There’s an enclosed map, which directs me off the path and towards the farmlands in the east. Past these farms is a hilly area, and there’s a tiny cottage on the top of the far hill. That’s Iris’s home!

[SFX: fade in bird chirps, fountain noises]

The path to the cottage is bordered by herbs, flowers, and other plants. There’s a tiny stream that runs from a bubbling fountain to the rest of the garden. An adorable chipmunk scampers across the stepping stone path. Birds are gathered around a birdfeeder, and others splash in a birdbath. There’s a sense of calm and safety in this garden. It’s absolutely magical.

When I get to the cottage, chimes next to the door ring softly, despite the lack of wind. I raise my hand to knock, but the door opens right away.

[SFX: windchimes, then door open noise]

Iris: Welcome, Orion. Or do you prefer Rion? [Orion pronounced like the constellation, Rion pronounced like Ryan]

Rion: Hi. Uh, Rion’s good.

Iris: I’m Iris, as I’m sure you’ve figured out.

Rion: Yep. I got your letter.

Iris: Thank you so much for coming. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll explain more about why I’ve brought you here. Would you like some tea? I’ve just put the kettle on.

[SFX: kettle boiling noise]

Narration:
I hear the whistle of a kettle from the kitchen as I sit in a nearby chair. This living room is so cozy. There are plants scattered around in mismatched pots, some which are placed precariously on top of stacks of books. Blankets hang over couches and chairs, and fluffy pillows are all around the living room. Curled up next to one is a sleeping cat.

[SFX: tea being stirred, cup being put down]

Iris: Here you are. And now for my story... I have spent years looking for Starshade. It’s a flower that grows only at certain times in incredibly specific circumstances. I could go on and on about them, but to keep it short, let's say these circumstances are impossible for me to recreate on my own. I’ve traveled to markets, but nobody is ever selling it. I’ve followed up on rumors of it growing in various lands, but they’ve always proven false. I thought I would have to give up, but I was on one of my evening walks last week… when I noticed some of it growing in a field.

Rion: [surprised] And you didn’t pick it?

Iris: No... The flowers were on my neighbor Margery’s farmland. They weren’t mine to take - they belong to her.

Rion: But this is your holy grail! Right by your home!!

Iris: I’m not going to steal them! Even if she might not notice their absence, taking the flower without Margery’s permission would mess up the energy of the flower. Intentions are important, and stealing the Starshade would make it useless.

Rion: Did you try talking to Margery?

Iris: I did try…

Rion: That doesn’t sound good.

Iris: When I saw the Starshade, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I must be seeing things, or that it was a trick. I had to get a closer look, so I ran over to examine the plant. [slightly regretfully] This may have involved going over Margery’s fence. She saw me on her farm and started yelling at me to leave. I tried talking to her and explaining what I was doing there, but she wouldn’t listen. I even tried coming back with cookies and apologizing, [sigh] but she slammed the door in my face. I fear I’ve ruined any chances of civil conversation. I have hope that if you show up at her door, she might listen. I would be forever in your debt if you could explain my situation, and acquire some of the Starshade for me.

RIon: I can do that. Seems easy enough. If you don’t mind me asking, why do you want this plant so badly?

Iris: It’s a crucial ingredient for a powerful protection spell.

Rion: Oh, cool! What does the spell do?

Iris: I’m sure you’ve heard about Movar and his following. Horrible people, every single one of them. And they’ve been growing in power over the years, slowly but surely. The rumors I’ve heard... they frighten me. I want to be safe. I want my home to be safe, my plants and animals, my friends... I know I can’t stop him, but with this spell, those evil doers will never find me. No matter how far they spread, they will overlook these hills and this cottage, and this land will remain untouched.

Rion: Wow.

Iris: I’ve wanted to find some Starshade ever since I made my first enemy, but my need has only grown greater. And now I finally have a chance.

Rion: Okay, so what does this plant look like? And how much of it do you need?

Iris: It’s similar to lavender, but with white coloring instead of purple. It’s softer than lavender is, and slightly fluffier. What really gives it away is it’s slight luminsicent qualities at night when the sky is clear. I need what amounts to a small bouquet, but the exact amount is unimportant.

Rion: Wow. I can’t wait to see it. [remembering suddenly] Oh, also, I know not to steal it, but is there anything else I could do that might… ruin the energy?

Iris: Hurting the caretaker of the plants would also do it.

Rion: Good to know. Wait, what if I hurt her feelings?

Iris: [amused] You’ll be fine.

Narration:
And with that... well, reassuring statement, I finish up my tea and head out. Iris gives me directions to the farm. Iris’s cat gives me a sleepy meow on my way out. It’s a short walk to Margery’s farm. I pass by wide fields growing different crops, and a bright red barn. Close to the barn is a small farmhouse. Thankfully, I can walk right up to the front door without hopping any fences. I knock, and a short woman in overalls opens the door. She looks at me suspiciously.

Rion: Hi. I was wondering if I could pick a few flowers from your farm.

Margery: [suspicious] ...Why?

Rion: [nervous] Uh… it’s for a friend. The flowers are rare - they don’t grow anywhere else, and she really needs them.

Margery: I see...

Rion: If it’s not a bother, I could just go out and pick a few of them.

Margery: I can’t let people on my farmlands. Who knows what you might step on?

Rion: Oh. Fair. Could you pick the flowers, then?

Margery: I could… but why is this so important?

Rion: They’re an ingredient for a spell.

Margery: Oh? What do you mean?

Rion: It’s a protection spell. A really big one, I guess. It’s supposed to protect the whole land here from dark forces. I’m not very good at explaining it, but it’s really important.

Margery: [somewhat abashed at being so suspicious] I see that there is a good reason to pick these flowers.

Rion: Yeah. [apologetic] I wouldn’t be here bothering you otherwise.

Margery: So are you a witch, then?

Rion: Oh, I’m not, but my friend is, though. Her name is Iris, and I’m collecting the flowers for her.

Margery: I’d like to meet her.

Rion: [slowly] You have, actually.

Margery: What?

Rion: You yelled at her for walking on your farm… [quickly] I mean, she shouldn’t have done that. She said so herself. And she tried to apologize, too.

Margery: ...and I refused to speak and slammed my door on her. [sigh] I might have overreacted. I didn’t mean to mess up her big spell.

Rion: Well it’s an easy thing to fix.

Margery: Do you think?

Rion: I do.

Margery: Okay. I’ll pick the flowers, and can I come with you to her cottage? I want to apologize.

Rion: Of course!

Narration:
Margery leads me back outside, along the side of her farm. We walk past the barn and one of the fields, until I see the fence that Iris crossed and point out the flowers to Margery.

She carefully crosses the fence, walking ever so slowly towards the Starshade. Her steps are irregular, and it looks like she’s going out of her way to avoid stepping on something. She picks the flowers one by one, and takes the same careful steps back.

When she reaches me, she explains that there’s a birds nest on the ground next to the Starshade, which blends right in to all the leaves and sticks. The baby bird’s coloring even matches the flower petals. Seeing Iris inside the fence made Margery really worried about the nest. She thought Iris was going to step on the eggs, or worse, that she was trying to steal them. Margery had to chase someone with a taste for rare omelettes off her farm once, and she’d lost her patience with trespassers. I hear all about her bird-protecting adventures as we walk together to Iris’s cottage.

Margery: [fade in] and then one time, I found a family of skunks curled up next to the barn. Now, skunks only eat eggs as a last resort, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was worried I would have to stock up on tomato juice and have at scaring them off, but thankfully I never got - [notices the cottage] Are we here?

Rion: This is it. You ready?

Margery: [not ready] Yeah, I guess.

[SFX: knocking noises, door opening]

Iris: Welcome back, Rion! [surprised, slightly wary] Oh, hello Margery. Will you come in?

Margery: Yes, thank you.

[SFX: footsteps walking in, door closing]

Margery: These are for you. I want to apologize for losing my temper with you the other day. I jumped to conclusions when I saw you in my backyard. I should have heard you out.

Iris: And I want to apologize for trespassing on your land.

Margery: It’s alright. You did no harm to the plants or animals, as I had feared.

Iris: [kindly] And you did no harm to me.

Margery: Now please, take these flowers and we’ll call it even?

Iris: [smiles] Okay.

Margery: [timidly] I heard these were for a spell.

Iris: You heard correctly.

Margery: Oh, I, uh, I think that’s really great.

Iris: I won’t be ready to do it until tomorrow, but would you like to come back then? I could use some help.

Margery: Yes, I would!

Iris: [smooth af] But as for tonight - will you stay for dinner?

Margery: Sure :)

Iris: And you, Rion?

Rion: Uh, I’ve actually got to go. I forgot about… something… that I need to take care of. Right now.

Iris: Well, be sure to take some food for the road. And know that you are welcome back at any time. Thank you so much for your assistance - I couldn’t have made amends to Margery without you.

Rion: Oh, it was nothing.

Margery: Hardly nothing, I’d say. Likewise, I thank you as well.

Rion: Awwww. You’re both welcome. Good luck with the spell, Iris. And good luck with your birds, Margery.

[SFX: footsteps walking out, door closing]

Iris: What is this about your birds? Are they your pets? I don’t have birds that are mine, per se, but I have lots of visitors to my garden. I’ve even given them names! There’s Persephone, and Elliot, Mary-Mae, and oh! There’s Oliver, the little tiny one… [fade out]

Narration:
Confession time - I didn’t need to go. But I could tell that Margery and Iris were starting to hit it off and I didn’t want to get in the way. It looks like a new friendship is blooming. Or possibly a new relationship. I’ll have to come back and see.

Credits:
Thank you for Sidequesting with us! This episode, Starshade, was written and produced by Tal Minear. Iris was voiced by Erin B. Lillis and Margery was voiced by Sheila Morris. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

For updates, announcements, and sneak peeks, you can follow us on Twitter @sidequestingpod and Instagram @sidequesting. We’ve also got a discord server! The server is open to all, but Patrons get access to special channels. Want to become a patron? Check out patreon.com/sidequesting

Episode 7

Narration:
Today I’m visiting my friend Sam! I haven’t seen him in years, and it’ll be so good to catch up. Though, it’s always somewhat awkward visiting a person after a long time… When you’ve both changed in different ways that the other person doesn’t know about, and you’re never sure if these differences are still compatible or not.

I’m not an entirely new person. But I’m a different person. And Sam is, too. That’s just how it works. We’ve kept in touch over the years, sending letters to each other when we can, but letters just can’t cover everything. I know I’ve definitely left stuff out - not on purpose or anything, there’s just only so much you can fit on a scroll.

The only way to know for sure if you still get along with an old friend is to meet up and talk in person, to ask a bunch of questions, share your new experiences, and bond over the new instead of just the old. Nostalgia is nice, but you can’t maintain friendships with just it.

I’ve never been one for nostalgia, though, so maybe that’s just a personal failing. I suppose I should say I can’t maintain friendships with just it. But I know from our letters that Sam has had a lot going on since we last met, and I’m excited to learn all about it.

I’ve never been to Oakendale, which is one of the bigger cities in this area. So far I’ve been traveling through small towns, so it’ll be a change! I’m excited to finally see this place I’ve heard so much about. Sam has been living here for a few years now, practicing music and playing various shows across the city. Ever since we were little kids, Sam has wanted to play music. It took him some time to find his stride, but it sounds like he’s found both his stride and his place here. I’m looking forward to seeing him in his element.

I walk in and see Sam sitting at the counter, and immediately, it’s just like old times.

RION: Sam! Hey!

SAM: Rion! It’s so good to see you. [Rion pronounced like Ryan.]

RION: Fancy us being all the way out here in the big city.

SAM: I would’ve never called it. Two kids from the small town of Westville meeting up years later in Oakendale! Look, I’m a proper bard now! Wait, let me try that again [SFX: shuffles, grabs ukulele, strums a chord] I’m a proper bard now

RION: [joking] I never would’ve called that. How much off key fluting did you subject our village to? My ears never fully recovered.

SAM: [unoffended] Hey, I just had to find the right instrument!

RION: [laughs] I’m glad you did! [sincerely] Really, I’m happy for you.

SAM: And I’m happy for you! A great adventurer! I’ll have to compose a song! The ballad of Rion!

RION: [good naturedly] Oh no, don’t you dare.

[SFX: Ukulele is strummed threateningly]

[SFX: Footsteps as Miller, the bartender, approaches]

RION: [muttered] saved by the bartender.

MILLER: Heya Sam.

SAM: Heya Miller.

MILLER: What can I get you fine folks?

RION: Uh, cider for me, please.

SAM: And I’ll have some of that fine house ale I always get.

MILLER: Coming right up.

[SFX: Footsteps as Bartender walks away]

SAM: This place is famous for their lavender mint ale.

RION: Lavender mint… interesting… Is it any good?

SAM: It’s excellent! You should try some of mine when it gets here! [thinking] Maybe I should compose a song about it… Ale… Bale… Fail… not that one… hail? Closer… [shrugs] Ah, needs work.

RION: How is your song-writing going?

SAM: Oh, most excellently. Now, playing those songs? Still excellently. Sometimes it can be hard to get people to listen, but I’m doing pretty alright for myself!

RION: Ah, the bard’s classic struggle.

SAM: At least I don’t have to fight anyone! What a sword you’ve got there!

RION: I haven’t gotten in any real fights! I’m not exactly out here in search of glory.

SAM: [friendly question] What are you out here for, then?

RION: New experiences, mostly. People are fascinating, did you know?

SAM: [laughs] As a matter of fact, I run into lots of characters at my shows.

RION: Tell me all about them!

[SFX: Footsteps as bartender approaches]

MILLER: Cider and Ale! Here you are.

RION: Thanks.

Bartender [to Sam]: Good luck!

RION: What?

SAM: [rushed] Nothing.

[SFX: footsteps as bartender leaves]

RION: Can I try it? [sips] Wow, this IS good!

SAM: Can I try some of yours? [sips] Hmmm not as good as mine, I’d say.

RION: That’s just because you don’t like apples!

SAM: Alright, you’ve got a point. [SFX: takes another sip of own drink] Okay, so, at my first show - the very first one - I was playing for about a dozen people. Half of them were people my dads dragged there with them, but there were a few strangers.

RION: Not too bad for a first show.

SAM: Right? I was ecstatic. So I played though some songs, some good some… eh, but overall it seemed to be going well. I was watching the strangers, mostly because I knew my dads and their friends would like it and I wanted to see how everyone else was feeling. And surprisingly, one of these strangers started dancing! Just up and out of their seat and moving all about the tavern!

RION: Wow! You’re quite the musician!

SAM: I was feeling really good about myself until they twirled so hard they fell over a table and hit their head on the ground… Apparently they had a few too many cups of ale. I had to stop playing so they could be carried out to the healer’s house. Afterwards, the tavern refused to let me play there! I’d argue it wasn’t my fault that happened! [sigh] At least they paid me. And it was quite the boost to my reputation!

RION: That’s good, at least! I can’t believe that happened on your first show!

SAM: Wait until you hear about what happened at my third one! This whole fiasco is nothing in comparison! Let me set the scene… I’m up on stage, and there’s a big group of rowdy pirates in the audience. One of them has a pet monkey, as you do, and another one of them had this big jar of sweets… [fade out]

Narration:
By the time Sam finishes the story of his third show, I’m convinced his shows must be the wildest things this city has ever seen. He’ll do great as a bard. He’s doing great as a bard. He might talk about it being hard to get people to his shows, but the sheer amount of rumors that must spread about him is the best marketing a musician could ask for. I’m pretty sure the man is just being humble.

He asks me if I have any good stories, and I’m happy to share the tales of my latest adventures. When I get to the part with the dragon, he makes me swear that I’m not lying. I’m pleased to have outdone his pirate story. The two of us were always getting into shenanigans when we were kids, and I’m glad that neither of us have grown out of that. It makes for excellent storytime. After I finish explaining flamethrower mechanics, we order another round of drinks and get back into it.

SAM: So, have you met anyone special on your travels?

RION: Lots of people! Hang on, what do you mean by special?

SAM: I mean, like, special special. Have you met anyone?

RION: Ohhhh… uh, no. I’m not really looking though? Maybe one day I’ll find someone and settle down, but that’s a long way off.

SAM: Ever gonna start a family?

RION: I think one day I might adopt. What about you?

SAM: I like kids, but I’m not sure the typical family life is for me.

RION: What do you mean?

SAM: It’s complicated. I want a relationship, but it’s never the same type of relationship others seem to want. I’m Aromantic. That, well, makes it hard.

RION: How so?

SAM: Everyone I’ve met who wants to settle down and have kids always wants… more than I do. A certain connection I can’t give. Even before the settling down part, just in that initial relationship part… they always decide something is missing, and it’s something I can’t ever give. Sometimes I wish I didn’t want a relationship at all.

RION: I really understand that.

SAM: [hopeful] You do?

RION: Yeah. I’m Asexual. It’s not the same thing, obviously, but people usually want different things in a relationship than I do.

SAM: [unhappy] Oh. You are?

RION: [worried] Is that a problem?

SAM: No… it’s just… I was gonna ask you… if- uh - I mean, you’ve always been really understanding of people, and well, I didn’t think you would find my aromanticism as big of an issue as others. And you’ve been a great friend, even from leagues away. I like you, Rion. I like you a lot.

RION: [gets it] Oh...

SAM: But we’re… exact opposites.

RION: I mean, for being in a relationship, sure. But in a lot of other ways, we’re really similar. For one, we both seem to have similar relationship troubles.

SAM: Yeah, that’s true. [perking up slightly] I have some tales of exes you would probably find amusing. [more serious] But I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me.

RION: It’s okay, you’re good. Regardless of anything, I’ve decided to explore on my own for the next while. But for what it’s worth, I do think you’re really handsome. And I’m so glad to have you as a friend.

SAM: [genuine] Thanks, that means a lot. [joking] Got any more compliments for me?

RION: You bet I do! You’re a really impressive musician! I think you’re going to be famous. I’m surprised you’re not already! If someone walked into this tavern and asked for your autograph, I legitimately wouldn’t be surprised.

SAM: Oh wow! That’s quite the ego boost.

RION: And what about my ego boost?

SAM: Rion, you are truly a joy to be around. You’re one of the kindest and most understanding people I know. And the coolest - look at that sword! I can’t believe what you’ve gotten up to!

RION: Okay, okay, that’s enough! Thank you. We should do this more often.

SAM: Learn about each other’s sexualities and then go on a complementing spree?

RION: [laughs] I meant more the second one.

SAM: [light heartedly] I can’t believe I didn’t already know the first, though. Where did I go wrong?

RION: We never wrote to each other about significant others! Easy to miss, I guess.

SAM: It’s a good thing we had this conversation. I’m a little embarrassed about it all, still, but I’m genuinely glad you told me.

RION: Nothing like some sudden radical honesty between friends.

SAM: [thoughtfully] radical honesty… Oh! OH! I, uh, gotta go. Now.

[SFX: Chair scrapes on ground as Sam gets up, then footsteps]

RION: [worried] Is everything okay?

SAM: I- just.. I’ll be back! Sorry!

RION: [calling out] Sam! You forgot your Uke!

RION: [muttered] Bards...

[SFX: Rion plucks the strings]

RION: Hmm, maybe I could be a bard.

[SFX: Off key note]

RION: Or maybe not…

Narration:
To spare everyone in here from the ambient noise of bad ukulele playing, I get up from our table and head to the bar. The bartender seems a little stressed, but they see me and gesture to an open seat.

MILLER: [don’t be suspicious, don’t be suspicious…] Soooo how’s it going?

RION: It’s certainly been an interesting day, that’s for sure.

MILLER: What brings you here?

RION: I’m meeting up with a friend. We were neighbors growing up, but then my family moved (and then his family moved), and we hardly got to see each other. Letters just aren’t the same as a face to face conversation, so it’s been really great catching up!

MILLER: That sounds nice. Where are you from?

RION: I’m from Westville initially - that’s where I met Sam- but my family moved to Shadecross and has lived there for sometime now.

MILLER: Hmm, I don’t think I’ve been there. It’s pretty far, right? Shadecross to Oakendale… That sure is a long way to travel.

RION: Well, traveling is sort of my thing as of late.

MILLER: Oh?

RION: I’ve always wanted to see the world, you know? So I decided to, well, go and see it. To have a great adventure! And it has been great! I’ve loved seeing all these cool new places and meeting really great and interesting people! It’s a dream come true. I’ve found myself in all sorts of new situations that I would never have been in back home, and it’s been so exciting!

MILLER: Aren’t adventures supposed to have a specific purpose? What are you doing on this quest? Just meeting strangers? [pause] I suppose that’s purpose enough… I do spend a lot of my time here meeting strangers.

RION: Yep, my purpose is to have no purpose! Though I sort of find purpose as I go. I like solving problems, and helping people makes me feel good. Can’t help them all, though. Some of the first people I met said I should go fight a wizard. But that’s not happening.

MILLER: Was it a specific wizard, or… just any poor chap with a wand?

RION: It’s the wizard Movar, but I don’t think I can fight him. Someone else is probably going to do it anyway. Someone stronger and more powerful than me, more equipped for the task. I’m just one person with a sword. I can’t take on an army. That’s not an adventure for me! Nope. [pause] You didn’t need to hear all that. Sorry...

MILLER: It’s alright… Don’t worry about it.

RION: But enough about me. What is that brings you here?

MILLER: Really, I just never left. Grew up in this town, started working at this place, and now I own it.

RION: Is that ever boring?

MILLER: Mostly, the familiarity is comforting.

RION: I never considered that. For me, what’s comforting is unfamiliarity. Is that odd?

MILLER: Perhaps it’s unusual.

RION: [shrugs] I’ll take it. [pause] So, do you know Sam well then, since you’ve both been living here for several years?

MILLER: Sam’s a regular here, so I know him fairly well. Sometimes he plays here, which always brings in a few more people. I think some of them come for more than just his music, if you know what I mean. He’s quite the charmer. Men, women, others, you name it. I’ve never seen that boy with a steady partner, though. I try to help him out, but… I’m not a match maker.

RION: How do you help him out?

MILLER: [awkwardly] Oh, uh… just… talking to the other patrons. . .

RION: Aw, that’s nice of you.

MILLER: [very awkward] Heh, well, just trying to help a friend out.

RION: I’m sure he- oh! He’s back. Excuse me.

MILLER: Ah, I must be going now anyway… [they slide away]

[SFX: Footsteps. Sam is back.]

SAM: Here, drink this.

RION: Hello to you, too.

SAM: [rushed] Hi, hello, how’s it going? Drink this.

RION: [unsure] ...okay? I’m trusting you on this.

[SFX: Sip]

RION: Bleaurg, that’s gross. Why did I have to do that?

SAM: It’s an antidote.

RION: to WHAT

SAM: I’m pretty sure Miller - the bartender, you met them when we ordered - slipped me some truth potion in my ale. And then you drank it too, and… well, we know where that went.

RION: Oh. That makes a lot of sense, actually…

SAM: Yup. [pause] Wanna help me fight Miller?

RION: Woah okay now...

SAM: But you’ve got that great sword!

RION: I’m mad, but I’m not that mad.

SAM: Fine. Wanna help me yell at them? … with your sword?? In a… threatening manner???

RION: ABSOLUTELY.

[SFX: Chair scraping across ground and Rion gets up, then sword drawing noise].

MILLER: [distant] Hello you two! That’s quite the, uh, sword you’ve got there Rion! Wait, Sam, I can explain! I was just trying to help! Sam! Put that chair down! I know you’re just trying to scare me… [fade out]

[Fade in Outro]

Thank you for Sidequesting with us! This episode, Cupid’s Aro, was written and produced by Tal Minear. Sam was voiced by Cass McPhee and Miller was voiced by Tara Santora. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

If you’ve been enjoying the show, consider leaving us a review on your favorite podcast app, iTunes, or Podchaser. Ratings and reviews help the show grow and find new listeners. Plus, if you message me on Twitter telling me you left a review, I’ll mail you a Sidequesting sticker!

Episode 8

Narration:
There’s something magical about laying on the grass and looking up at the stars. With no moon in the sky, they’re my only source of light. The crickets are my company, and the grass is my bed. Tonight, the world is peaceful.

It’s the longest night of the year, and I wanted to spend it... in the night. The days have been getting shorter and shorter, but now it’s time for them to lengthen. This time of year reminds me that things are always changing, even when they don’t seem to be. It reminds me to stop and take it all in while I can.

I breathe in the crisp, cool air as I connect the dots in the stars above. They form constellation after constellation, moving slowly across the clear, calm sky.

I feel so small, and I love it.

[Rion takes a deep breath]

SCARLET: Hi there.

[SFX: Rion makes a startled noise]

RION: WHAT THE- you’re- you’re glowing!

SCARLET: [calm] Yes, I am.

RION: [still off guard] Is that normal?

SCARLET: For me, I suppose it is.

RION: Okay. [deep breath] Sorry, I, uh, thought I was alone.

SCARLET: Are you stargazing?

RION: Yeah. [apologetic] I got a little wrapped up in it and didn’t hear you come over.

SCARLET: I don’t make a lot of noise.

RION: [said as they’re looking down at the ghosts feet] because… you’re floating……?

SCARLET: Yes. Does that scare you?

RION: You don’t seem very scary.

SCARLET: Opinions do vary. I am a ghost, after all.

RION: [impressed] I’ve never met a ghost. But where are my manners? Hi, I’m Orion.

SCARLET: Pleased to meet your acquaintance. I am Scarlet.

RION: Are you stargazing too? Nice night for it.

SCARLET: It is indeed. I like to stargaze on my free nights.

RION: Is that why you’re here tonight? Not that I want you to go, of course, I’d certainly enjoy some stargazing company, but-

SCARLET: -but you know all ghosts have unfinished business. [pause] You are correct. I didn’t stick around just to stargaze - I’m looking for my granddaughter.

RION: Do you know where she is? I’m new to this area, but I could ask around if you wanted me to.

SCARLET: I located her recently, in fact. She lives in the city over that hill. But there’s a problem - this city is warded, and I cannot pass into its boundaries. So while I know where she is, I do have a request. I know we have only just met, but if you were able to bring her here so I can speak to her… [pause] I would be most grateful.

RION: Of course I’ll help you, Scarlet.

SCARLET: Thank you, Rion. Her name is Thea, and she is just wonderful. A really bright woman. Though, I worry she might need some convincing to follow a stranger to a field at night... I think you should know a little about me and why I’m looking for her, so you can better explain the situation to her.

RION: That makes sense. I would love to hear your story.

SCARLET: I told you my name was Scarlet, but for most of my life, I went by Scar. I was, well… I was a pirate. A pretty good one, if I say so myself - and I mean it in both senses of the word. I was never into the killing and maiming aspects of piracy. Rather, I was in it for the thrill of the chase. Running a ship down and looting it, now that’s what I was good at. I had a knack for knowing which ships were owned by rich merchants and how to make them a little bit poorer.

RION: Wow! That’s a real talent!

SCARLET: Thank you. Now, with me having been a pirate and now being a ghost, you might think I died in some glorious battle at sea, but you’d be wrong. I lived a wonderful, full life. It did involve several glorious battles at sea, but none of them lethal. I was happiest at sea, and spent most of my life there - but I did settle down with my partners for a spell, and even had a child, who I named Violet. I raised and took care of them with my partners, Cori and Gwen.

RION: Would Violet be Thea’s parent then? And Cori and Gwen her other grandparents?

SCARLET: Yep, you’ve got it right. I loved having a family, but a big part of me missed my ship and the sea. I was in no rush to leave, but I knew I would when my child was no longer a child. I made use of my time while they grew up. I learned the ins and outs of new trade routes, investigated corrupt kingdoms, and selected new targets. I also followed up on rumors of a mystical artifact called the Dagger of Fortune.

RION: Ooooh, what does it do? I’ve never heard of this dagger.

SCARLET: It brings luck to its wielder - luck in the form they desire. If they want to fight, it will help them fight. If they want to run, or hide, or even disguise themselves, it will help them do that, too. I want Thea to be safe when dark forces rise to power. While his dagger is not a guarantee of safety, it will help tremendously, and Thea will use it well.

RION: That’s amazing! I can see why you wanted to find it.

SCARLET: A truly extraordinary item. And when the time came to set sail, I went at it with ferocity. This was the period when my infamy truly grew. Several rulers were, well, quite mad at me to say the least. They had ships out looking specifically for me and my crew.

RION: Very impressive. Did these ships cause you any problems?

SCARLET: They certainly made things more challenging, usually when I was docked at a port. I managed to visit Violet a few times, one of them being the birth of my granddaughter. But in general, it was difficult to visit my family. The hired mercenaries had an easier time tracking me down on land, and I didn’t want to lead them to the people Ic ared for most. It was a simple thing for me and my crew to run from them, but it would have been much harder for the Gwen and Cori to uproot themselves from the family home.

RION: That does sound difficult.

SCARLET: As time went on, I grew older and older. This wasn’t a sad thing for me, simply a fact of the passage of time. I had lived a full, wonderful life. I knew my Violet and their daughter Thea would be just fine. But I wanted to complete a few more things before I went onto the next plane. One of the last things I wanted to do was to find The Dagger of Fortune.

RION: [excited] Did you succeed?

SCARLET: You bet I did. I got it and I hid it somewhere even harder to find. [pause] Though I didn’t finish everything in time. For one, I never told my family about the dagger. Only I knew of its whereabouts, and I didn’t want that secret to die with me. However, I was so determined to finish what I started that death couldn’t stop me.

RION: Is this when you became a ghost?

SCARLET: Yes. I even led my crew as a ghost captain for a little bit. Oh, the rumors that spread about me then. It was the stuff of proper legends… But now, my only loose end to tie up is to visit Thea. It took me longer than I wanted to to track her down, but I’m so close. I need to tell her about the dagger.

RION: We’ll make this last thing happen. I’ll find Thea and bring her here tonight, and you’ll be able to tell her everything.

Narration:
I leave Scarlet in the field and walk to the city. It’s not far, but I keep a brisk pace so that we don’t have to worry about the sunrise. Scar won’t be able to talk to Thea during the day, and even though she is one patient ghost, I don’t want to make her wait for tomorrow. But it’s the perfect night to do this - we have more time than we would any other night. I’m confident I’ll be able to make this meeting happen.

It’s rotten luck that Thea ended up in this town. Few cities have wards in general, let alone those that keep out ghosts. That’s probably because it’s uncommon for ghosts to manifest, but in fairness, it’s not uncommon for ghosts that do manifest to be… well… unpleasant. Sometimes, they’re downright malevolent. Or so I hear. I’m starting to rethink all the rumours I’ve heard about them. Scarlet is a very nice ghost.

Once I’m in the city, I ask around for Thea. There’s only a few people out and about, but she seems to be well known here. The first person I ask points me in the right direction, and it takes almost no time at all for me to find myself on her doorstep. A woman holding a young toddler answers the door when I knock. This must be Thea. She looks a lot like her grandmother. The toddler in her arms watches me with interest, but Thea just looks confused. That’s fair. I am knocking on her door at midnight. This is a pretty confusing situation, after all.

THEA: Can I help you?

RION: Hi. You’re Thea, I take it?

THEA: [wary] Yes...

RION: I have a message for you from your grandmother Scarlet. Well, more than a message, actually. She sent me to come find you.

THEA: Wh- what? I don’t understand how that could be possible.

RION: She’s a ghost.

THEA: A ghost? What do you mean?

RION: It’s difficult to explain, and kind of a long story, so bear with me here. I was in the fields outside the city-

THEA: [interrupting] How about you come inside? It’ll be warmer for both of us.

RION: That would be nice, thank you.

Narration:

We sit by the fireplace and I explain the situation to her. Apparently Thea has had people come talk to her about Scarlet before, though usually not in the middle of the night. Some of them have tried to convince her to join or captain their ship, while others have tried to attempt some poorly-concocted revenge. It’s not common knowledge that Thea is Scarlet’s granddaughter, but a number of people have figured it out - some with good intentions, some with bad ones.

I notice Thea really starts listening when I bring up Gwen and Cori. The people who track her down have never looked past Scarlet’s descendants. They don’t care about her partners, or the part of her life that took place on land. Thea has never had anyone mention the names of her other grandparents. This is enough to convince her to come with me.

THEA: You don’t seem like the type to try anything, but just in case - [Serious Voice] you should know I learned a thing or two from Scarlet... and you’ll regret crossing me.

RION: I wouldn’t dream of it.

THEA: Good. [no more Serious Voice] Now that that’s out of the way, I hope you don’t mind if I bring my son along? [To kid] Come on, Tobin. I want you to meet Grandma.

Narration:
The three of us head to the field. Thea seems a little nervous. It’s been a long time since she’s talked to Scarlet. Tobin, however, is excited to be out this late. His head whips around as he takes in the late night sights, and soon he starts asking questions about bats and other animals that come out at night. Thea and I take turns answering his questions.

When we get to the field, I stop at the entrance and tell Thea where to go. She heads over, as fast as she can while carrying a toddler. I want to give the three of them some privacy. This feels like a family thing, and I don't want to intrude. I also don’t want to accidentally overhear the location of this buried treasure. Hmm, is it actually buried? I don’t think Scarlet specified. She’s a pirate, so probably? Maybe that’s something else I should rethink. I ought to meet some more pirates. They sound like a fun bunch of folks.

As I’m mulling over future plans and adventures, Thea turns and gestures for me to come over.

SCARLET: Thank you for bringing my family to me.

RION: Of course.

THEA: We’ve decided that I’m going to travel with Scarlet to collect the dagger. Tobin is coming, of course, can’t leave that little squirt behind.

RION: I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.

SCARLET: One last journey! I can’t wait to spend time with my great grandson! Show him the sights! Teach him the ways of the sea! We’re going to have so much fun!

THEA: What, you’re not going to teach me the ways of the sea?

SCARLET: You already know them, my dear. Unless you’ve forgotten the years of sailing practice I gave you when you were younger?

THEA: I would never. But you’d better show me how the cannons work this time!

SCARLET: [soft laugh] Alright. Should I instruct Tobin as well?

THEA: Grandmother!

SCARLET: I’m only joking. I promise to not arm the three year old.

THEA: [laughing in spite of herself] I should hope!

RION: You mean to say that I shouldn’t teach Tobin sword fighting when we’re done here?

THEA: Rion! Don’t give Scarlet any ideas.

SCARLET: Don’t worry, no sharp weapons until he’s five, at least.

THEA: Gods give me strength.


Narration:

Thea and Scarlet work out further details of their trip while I entertain Tobin, who’s tiring himself out chasing bats across the field. So much for a peaceful night of stargazing. But I can’t complain, this was way more interesting. I can watch the stars any clear night, but how often do I get the chance to meet a ghost? A pirate ghost?? I’ll take an interesting night over a peaceful one any day. Or, any night, I guess.

This was certainly not a peaceful night for Thea. I hope her voyage is a success. With Scarlet leading the way, I bet it will be. Plus, Thea seems like she can handle herself and her son. I’m sure they’ll do great. Maybe this excitable toddler will grow up to be a fearsome marauder. I’d like to see that. No sharp weapons for this one, though. Not yet, anyway.


Credits:

Thank you for Sidequesting with us. This episode, Ghost Story, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Scarlet was Ace Corsaira, and Thea was voiced by Amani. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

If you’re enjoying the show, consider following us on social media. We’re @sidequestingpod on Twitter, @sidequesting on Instagram, and can also be found at sidequestingpod.tumblr.com. There’s also merch available on TeePublic.com, under the username sidequesting.

Episode 9

[SFX: Intro music]

Narration:
This thing I’m about to try… it’s a big thing. I’m not sure I’ll actually be able to help this town, but I’m here to give it a go anyway. Rumors have been spreading far and wide about the fearsome creatures that show up at night and stalk the town. The people that live here are terrified. They’ve been terrified for months.

There’s talk of these monsters hurting the townsfolk they encounter, but none of it comes first -or even second- hand. But nonetheless, a strict curfew from sunset to sunrise has been implemented to prevent any injuries. These beasts show up almost every night - but never on any sort of schedule, never with any sort of sense. By the morning, they disappear, along with any sign they were ever there. It took the town weeks to believe the first people who saw them, but everyone became a witness sooner or later.

So that’s what I have. A terrified town, and creatures who disappear without a trace. I’m not sure if I’m here to solve a mystery or start fighting monsters. Am I going to be attacked? Will I even see anything? The townsfolk are no help, either. I can’t get a straight answer from any of them about what’s happening.

With permission from the town guards to ignore the curfew, I’ve picked a bench outside to sit and watch and wait. A few people seemed genuinely worried for my safety, so I have my sword with me in the hopes that anyone peaking at me through their blinds will feel a little bit better. This is the quietest and emptiest I think I’ve ever seen a town. Everyone is inside, with doors locked and windows shut. The sun set only a few minutes ago, but there are no stragglers.

Wait - I’ve got to revise that statement. There is one straggler. Someone is tiptoeing around, ducking from shrubs to carts, crouching behind fences, and looking around for what I can only assume is monsters or the town guard. They’re supposed to be indoors. I watch them until they notice me.

ELI: You’re not supposed to be here.

RION: I could say the same to you. But technically I’m allowed to be here - hence the lack of sneaking around. What are you up to?

ELI: I’m trying to get to the bottom of whatever happens here at night - because nobody else in this town is doing that. They’re all too busy cowering in fear and praying to the gods that things go back to normal. Hell, even the guards that patrol at night will hide if they see something. But they’ll chase ME down no problem. They’re useless AND get in my way.

RION: I’m out here trying to figure this thing out too. I’ve got permission to break curfew, and I bet I can sweet talk the guards into leaving you alone. Do you want some help tonight?

ELI: That’d be great, I’m sick of doing this on my own. I’m Eli, by the way.

RION: I’m Rion. Have you learned anything about the creatures? I haven’t been able to find out anything concrete from the townsfolk.

ELI: Yeah, they don’t know much besides the rumors. I’ve been trying to see where these things go when they disappear. And I still don’t quite know, but I’ve seen them head towards the old wizard’s school before.

RION: Old wizard’s school? That can’t be a coincidence. This whole thing smacks of magic.

ELI: Right? That’s exactly what I was thinking-

RION: [interrupts suddenly and seriously] Get behind me. Now.

[SFX: sword drawn, a creature growls]

RION: [to the creature approaching, as they point their sword at it] I don’t want to hurt you, but I need you to stop coming at me. Stop, stop! Don’t make me do this! [SFX: swings sword] Argh! [pause] Where- where did it go?

ELI: It just… faded. As soon as you touched it with your sword it disappeared. I- I think it was an illusion?

RION: What? But it looked so real. And sounded very real, too.

ELI: [to self] It makes so much sense! Of course, that’s why they disappear without leaving any tracks. That’s why they’re so hard to find! How did I never consider this before?

RION: But why did it vanish when I attacked it? Wait, why hasn’t anyone tried to attack any of the monsters?

ELI: They tried to shoot at them from the rooftops but all their arrows missed… Of course they did. I bet the arrows went right through the creatures. But why did your sword make this one disappear…? Does your sword dispel illusions?

RION: Honestly, I have no idea what this sword does.

ELI: Well, I suspect we’ll be able to find out before this night’s over. Shall we go to the wizard’s school? I think it’s less abandoned than I previously thought.

RION: Let’s go.

Narration:
Eli leads the way towards the not-so-abandoned wizard college. They explain the history of the place as we head there. A few decades ago, there was a wealthy benefactor living in the town who decided to sponsor a school. He built it, but assumed the town would pay for its upkeep.

Unfortunately, he didn’t actually ask the town if they wanted a wizard school. He just kind of… built it on his land and then gifted it to the town in his will. They never hired teachers or sought out students, and it’s just sat there all this time.

We arrive at a sprawling, run-down building and walk through the open wrought-iron gates. I don’t see any lights on inside, but there’s only a few windows. Someone could be inside running some intricate spells and we wouldn’t be the wiser.

Eli taps me on the shoulder and points to the left. There is a large ogre-like creature walking in a courtyard area. Just as I notice it, it sees us. Eli and I take that as a cue to run. Neither of us are entirely willing put our illusion theory to the test just yet. When the price of failure means being a meal for an ogre, better experimental conditions are required.

I’m really hoping that the front doors are unlocked so we don’t have to run around looking for back doors. And it is! Thank the gods. As we hurry through the threshold, the creature vanishes. At the same time, torches along the walls of the entryway light up.

ELI: I don’t think we’re alone here.

RION: I agree. And I’d guess that with these torches, whoever else is here knows we are too. [pause] At least we can see?

ELI: Sure… Well, should we go left, right, or up the stairs?

RION: I vote stairs. Nice and central.

ELI: Stairs it is.

Narration:
We walk carefully up the stairs. For a place that looks to be slowly crumbling from the outside, the inside is in pretty decent shape. These stairs don’t even creak. They narrow from big grand-staircase type stairs to normal, less-grand staircase size and keep going, around and around in a tight spiral. I didn’t see a tower from the outside, but it feels like we’re going up one. Eli and I pause as we pass the fourth landing, slightly out of breath.

ELI: Something’s off. This staircase should not be going this high.

RION: Looks like this wizard school is up to… some wizard tricks. Here, I’ll grab this torch and let’s go up one more flight?

[SFX: Staircase footsteps as Rion and Eli go up another flight]

ELI: Annnnd the torch on that wall is missing. This is definitely a loop. [pause] Hmmm… I have an idea.

RION: Up again?

ELI: Mhm.

Narration:
I hold the torch and watch Eli run their hand along the wall as they slowly go up the stairs. Halfway up, their hand goes through the wall. The wall remains in place, and there’s not a hole in it or anything, but their hand goes… into it. They pull their hand back, and it’s unharmed. The wall looks the same as before. Is it an illusion? Of course it’s an illusion.

I stick my arm into the wall, up to my shoulder. I don’t feel anything. It’s as if the wall isn’t even there. With a shrug, I walk through it and find a hallway on the other side. Not one to wait, Eli follows right behind me. The wall looks just like a normal wall from this side, too. I stretch my leg out, and my foot goes through it. Looks like we still have a way out if we need it. That’s good.

We walk down the hallway. I’m starting to wonder if one of the floorboards might be an illusion. Would the people here be that mean? I’d like to not find out by falling through some invisible part of the floor… As if the building is reading my mind, Eli and I stop right in front of a large pit. Looking down, it appears to be filled with spikes at the bottom.

ELI: So, this probably isn’t real, right?

RION: Given everything we’ve seen so far, I think it’s fake. [pause] Should I try to jump over it? I bet I could jump over it.

ELI: Let me check something first. [SFX: They pull out their knife and toss it. It clatters across the wooden floor and doesn’t fall into a pit.] Yep, go ahead.

RION: Here we go! [SFX: running and jump] MADE IT!

ELI: Okay, my turn! [SFX: running and a jump, again] YES!

RION: Woah, you got even further than me! Nice jump. [small laugh] I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if the spike pit was real.

ELI: [loudly, as if announcing to invisible wizards spectating] Hear that wizards? Invest in a real spike pit next time! [laugh] So Rion, should we start trying doors? Now that there are actually doors to try?

RION: They could be fake doors! [SFX: door handle turning, then door opens] Okay, this one is real at least.

[SFX: Footsteps going inside the room]

ELI: [sarcastic] Ah yes. Lots to be found here.

RION: An empty room in an abandoned wizard school… that’s the first thing in this place that makes any sense.

ELI: We should check if it’s actually empty.

RION: I hope I don’t hit my shin on an invisible table or something...

[SFX: Footsteps around the room]

RION: I haven’t run into anything yet. You?

ELI: Nothing.

RION: Guess that’s it then. [slowly, as if they can’t believe their eyes] Wait, where did the door go?

ELI: Are you kidding me? Ugh, I kind of hate this place.

Narration:
We search the room again, this time for a way out. I bump my hip on something round and invisible. A doorknob? A doorknob! It opens to the same hallway we were just in, with all of the same doors along it - doors that I am now very suspicious of.

Eli shares my distrust of rooms, so we decide to walk down the hallway and see where it leads. The farther down we go, the dimmer it gets. Up ahead, there doesn’t seem to be any torches on the wall, so I grab the last one we pass and carry it along.

It’s odd, though. Despite the light I’m holding, the hallway is gradually getting more and more dim. Soon, we’re enveloped in total darkness - but I can hear the torch still burning.

[SFX: fade in torch burning]

ELI: This is… [searching for an adequate word] unusual.

RION: Yep. Can you stay on my left side so I don’t light you on fire with this torch? [pause] This is kind of ridiculous.

ELI: This whole building is ridiculous! I’m just gonna… walk forward, I guess? And hope I don’t trip?

RION: Seems like our only option. Yell if you run into something?

ELI: Oh, you’ll hear me yell.

Narration:
The hallway seems to go on forever. Nothing blocks our path, but it only takes a few minutes for me to start hoping that something will. It’s not that I want to run headfirst into a wall I can’t see coming - it’s that I want this hallway of darkness to end, ideally without causing any bruises. And suddenly, end it does. We walk out of darkness and into a well lit library.

[SFX: footsteps into the library;

RION: Hello?

SAGE: [big booming voice] WHO ARE YOU AND WHY HAVE YOU COME HERE?

RION: Who are you and why have you come here?

SAGE: What- uh- THAT IS NO MATTER TO YOU.

ELI: I’d argue differently but whatever. I live in this town, and I’m looking for whoever is summoning or creating the monsters currently terrifying this town.

RION: I don’t live in this town but I’m here for the same reason. We’re pretty sure they’re illusions, and we’ve traced them here - to a building full of other illusions. We’re not trying to fight you or anything, we just want you to stop so the town can, well, stop being so scared.

SAGE: [no longer big booming voice, but still loud and echoey] Wait, what? Illusions of monsters? In the town?

ELI: Yeah. Most nights, these creatures show up. Monsters or animals or something in between... Sometimes they chase people, sometimes they just look around and growl… they don’t seem to be corporeal but people are too scared to get close. Is that you?

SAGE: Promise you won’t hurt me?

RION: Promise.

[SFX: footsteps as Sage steps into view]

SAGE: [normal voice] So… it’s maybe me?

RION: You’re not sure?

SAGE: Yeaaahhh. I’ve been practicing illusions, but here in the library, or sometimes the rest of the school, not in the town. I’ve been working on semi-autonomous illusions, ones that move and react to their surroundings without direct control. What you’re talking about… the, um, chasing and the growling at people… it sounds like me, but I haven’t been able to get those to work, honest. It’s what I was practicing tonight. Well, except for the illusions you ran into inside this building, those were me. I made them when you tripped the entrance alarm? Sorry about that, I thought you were coming to yell at me for trespassing or something, but all those were pretty standard.

ELI: Was one of the illusions you were trying to make a big ogre? Or a large cat?

SAGE: Oh... Uh-oh. UH-OH! How would they form so far away? Is that possible? Clearly it’s possible, Sage. Clearly. The question is how is it possible? Why didn’t I notice? I should’ve noticed! How was I so oblivious? Now that’s a question, come on Sage...

ELI: [overlapping] I’ll take that a yes, then.

RION: Sage - it’s alright. You didn’t know it was happening, and now you do, and we can fix it. It’ll be okay.

SAGE: I’ve been scaring an entire town for months and I haven’t realized it! How do you fix that?

ELI: I’m sure the simple act of not creating monster illusions will help the situation tremendously.

SAGE: But that doesn't change what’s been going on this whole time, and the fact that it’s all my fault. They’ll run me out of town! And I’ll deserve it, too.

RION: I have a question, Sage. If you were practicing creating illusions of big monsters and things, is that because you can already do small illusions? Small autonomous ones, I mean?

SAGE: Yeah, I’ve got those down. Here’s, um… a cat.

[SFX: Cat meows]

ELI: It’s so cute! Ooooh look, it’s following me around!

RION: With a different application of your talents, I think you could get the town on your side in no time

SAGE: What do you mean?

RION: This is really impressive. And it would entertain the little kids so much.

ELI: It’s also stunning magic. I don’t think they’ll run you out of town, I think they’ll try to bribe you into staying. If you can scare an entire town like this accidentally, think of what you could do on purpose.

SAGE: Really? I mean it’s not perfect or anything, but-

ELI: [interrupts Sage’s rambling] Really. I can even help you smooth things over with the town. I have a lot of experience in getting those people off my back. You’ll be alright, trust me.

SAGE: Okay. Thanks.

RION: You’re in good hands. Eli knows what they’re doing. Though - could you show us the way out? Not gonna lie, I’m a little scared of getting stuck in a trick staircase step or something.

SAGE: [chuckles] Sure thing.

RION: Wait... you’re not going to tell me not to worry because there’s no trick steps?

SAGE: Do you want me to lie?

RION: There are trick steps? Are there other traps, too? Like false floorboards? Why aren’t you answering? Are you telling me we just got really lucky on our way up here? Sage? Sage! I need to know. Why are you smiling? [this dialogue fade out]

[SFX: Outro Music]

Thank you for Sidequesting with us. This episode, You Didn’t See Anything, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Eli was Cole Burkhardt, and The Wizard Sage was voiced by Mads Upton. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Ilya for supporting this episode.

If you’ve been enjoying the show, do me a favor and tell a friend about it! Word of Mouth is incredibly helpful for getting this podcast to new ears, and I can only yell about my own show so much… thanks.

Episode 10

[SFX: Intro Music]

Narration:

This might be the farthest from home I’ve ever been. I’ve lived in a city of mostly humans surrounded by more cities of mostly humans - but today I’m traveling past a land of the fae. The fae folk tend to live in forests rather than in towns. Some groups welcome visitors, but others despise them. It’s important to check if you should avoid the forest or if you’re good to walk in.

For this particular area, you’re good to pass though it as long as you stay on the path. It would be extremely rude to wander off the trail - like if someone back home wandered off the sidewalk and into someone’s house.

People spread a lot of rumors about the fae trying to trick people into trespassing. I have a theory that people make stories like that up as excuses for going where they shouldn’t. I spent most of my day today walking on the path, and I didn’t see anyone trying to tempt me off of it.

In fact, what tempts me off the path happens after I’ve left the forest. I see a large group setting up camp on a flat patch of ground nearby. I’d guess they recently traveled through the forest as well. It would be nice to have some company tonight, so I wander over to say hello. Everyone seems engrossed in some task or another, and nobody seems to notice me, save one.

AVERY: Hello fine traveler! Will you help us?

RION: What do you need help with?

AVERY: Will you help us?

RION: What? Can you explain a little?

AVERY: Will you help us?

RION: Sure, yeah, I’ll help you. Can you tell me-

AVERY: Thank you kind stranger! We have disputes to solve and decisions to make before we can continue on our journey. Please, go talk to Liam, who needs help preparing for nightfall.

RION: ...okay? Do you know where Liam is?

AVERY: Please, go talk to Liam, who needs help preparing for nightfall.

RION: I’ll take that as a no.

Narration:
Something is wrong here. Something is very wrong here. I walk around looking for Liam, even going up to people to ask them, but they all ignore me, too invested in their tasks. Their eyes seem a little glazed over, and their motions are repetitive. I see someone sitting on the ground, holding a match and looking very confusedly at an unlit torch, an empty lantern, and a pile of wood. That must be Liam, getting ready to light the camp before the sun sets.

RION: Hey there… Liam?

LIAM: Tell me - what do I light first? The torch, the lantern, or the campfire? I only have one match.

RION: You can light any one of them from the other, you know.

LIAM: What do I light first? The torch, the lantern, or the campfire? I only have one match!

RION: What do you need the light for? Are you planning on doing some cooking, or do you just want more light for when the sun goes down?

LIAM: What do I light first? The torch, the lantern, or the campfire? I only have one match!

RION: I don’t know what to tell you. Why do you need me to decide?

LIAM: What do I light first? The torch? The lantern? Or the campfire? I only have one match!

RION: Okay, how about for a start you light the match?

LIAM: The match! Yes indeed! Thank you! Then I will light… the torch!

RION: [very confused still] Glad I could help… This doesn’t make any sense.

[SFX: footsteps in grass as someone approaches]

FINLEY: If it takes an hour and a half-

RION: [interrupting] Woah, where’d you come from?

FINLEY: [continuing without pause] -for two torches to burn down, how long will it take for five torches to burn down?

RION: What? Why?

FINLEY: If it takes an hour and a half for two torches to burn down... how long will it take for five torches to burn down?

RION: Oaky, ummm… [thinking] oh, an hour and a half! Is that what you needed?

FINLEY: Thank you for your assistance! But can you help Aly with her question too?

RION: Sure thing, I guess. [muttered] What have I gotten myself into?

[SFX: Footsteps]

RION: Are you Aly?

ALY: Help me find the answer to this poem! It goes like this: When I’m first said, I’m quite mysterious, But when I’m explained, I’m nothing serious. What am I?

RION: That’s a riddle, not a poem.

ALY: A riddle! That’s exactly it!

RION: Oh yeah, that was definitely my answer!

ALY: You are most clever, adventurer. I’m so glad Finley sent you to me. Perhaps you can also help Helyn decide the winner of the race?

RION: A race? Alright, sounds interesting… but not terribly relevant to setting up camp...

[SFX: Footsteps as Rion walks over to Helyn]

HELYN: Who won the footrace? Can you help me find out? Flynn finished before Luna, but after Saffron. Kay finished before Gilroy, but behind Luna. What’s the order? Who won?

RION: A footrace? What? When did this happen? Why is this important? Don’t answer that. I’ll help you. Flynn before Luna... Kay before Gilroy… hmm, can you give me that again?

HELYN: Who won the footrace? Can you help me find out? Flynn finished before Luna, but after Saffron. Kay finished before Gilroy, but behind Luna. What’s the order? Who won?

RION: Okay, I got this. Flynn before Luna. Flynn-Luna. Flynn after Saffron. Saffron-Flynn-Luna. Kay before Gilroy, but behind Luna. So still Saffron-Flynn-Luna, but then Kay-Gilroy. Saffron-Flynn-Luna-Kay-Gilroy

HELYN: Well done, traveler. Next, Amanda needs help running an errand. Will you help her?

RION: So this is a bunch of riddles, then? Let me try one! Uhhhhhhh what I have got in my pockets?

HELYN: Amanda needs help running an errand. Will you help her?

RION: Okay, it wasn’t really a riddle, I’ll give you that one. Criticism noted. [short sigh] I’ll go find this Amanda person.

Narration:
Even after I leave I notice that these people are still doing the same repetitive motions. Liam is still trying to light the one torch. Finley alternates between watching them and pacing in a circle. It looks like Aly is still pondering her poem, while Helyn is watching me search for Amanda. She seems very invested in this errand. As I look for Amanda, a person runs up to me.

SIF: [approaches Rion on their way to find Amanda] I need to know - what is at the end of everything?

RION: Excuse me?

SIF: I need to know - what is at the end of everything?

RION: What is at the end of everything??? [big sigh] I wish you would tell me why this is so important for you to know.

SIF: I need. To know. What is at the end of everything?

RION: [to self] The void? I don’t know. Okay Rion, think. This is just another riddle. End of everything… What is everything? A concept? Sure. A place? Not really. A person? Probably not. A word? Everything is a word. Everything… is a word! Would that make the end of everything… the letter G?

SIF: Yes! That’s it!

[SFX: Footsteps]

RION: ...annnnd she’s gone. Wonder if that’s Amanda over there.

[SFX: rushed footsteps]

RION: Are you Amanda? Do you need help with an errand?

AMANDA: Please give this bread to Jon’s father’s only sister’s sole brother in law!

RION: Uhhhhhhhh who?

AMANDA: Give this bread to Jon’s father’s only sister’s sole brother in law.

RION: Jon’s father’s only sister’s sole brother in law. Oh-kay. Jon’s father’s sister… so Jon’s aunt… only sister, so only aunt… Brother in law of the aunt would be… if it was the only brother in law... the husband of Jon’s father… so Jon’s father. His other one, that is. Of course. That was unnecessarily complicated.

AMANDA: Give this bread to Jon’s father’s only sister’s sole brother in law.

RION: You could have just said HIS DAD. Would’ve been much easier.

AMANDA: Give this bread to Jon’s father’s only sister’s sole brother in law.

RION: Yes! [dramatic] I will give this bag of fine bread to Jon’s most esteemed second father!

AMANDA: Thank you! Evan will be most grateful!

[SFX: Footsteps as Rion walks to Evan]

RION: Are you Jon’s dad, Evan? I was told to give this to you.

EVAN: Most wonderful! I also have a task for you. Would you be so kind as to assist me?

RION: What, no bread for me?

EVAN: I also have a task for you. Would you be so kind as to assist me?

RION: Yes, I will assist you.

EVAN: Can you determine who is missing this lyre and return it to them? Erin and Cole over there know more about it.

RION: Will do. [to self] Finally, actual directions to somebody.

[SFX: footsteps]

RION: Do you know who’s missing this lyre?

COLE: Oh yes, it must be Grace and her friends.

ERIN: The four of them are taking music lessons together.

COLE: Tess is either 16 or 18, I can’t remember.

RION: Why is her age important?

ERIN: [ignoring Rion] The four kids are between the ages 16 and 19… I remember that the 17 year old is learning to play the ukulele.

COLE: It’s not Grace, then, she’s learning the flute.

RION: These are vastly different instruments!

ERIN: [still ignoring Rion] Who’s learning the Xylophone?

RION: [exasperated] Xylophone???

COLE: Val’s younger sister. She’s two years younger than Val, I think.

ERIN: Yes, that’s right.

RION: So.. who’s learning the lyre? [pause] Who does this lyre belong to? Why do you care about their ages so much? [pause] Can you actually help me find out who’s missing this lyre?

COLE: Oh yes, it must be Grace and her friends.

ERIN: The four of them are taking music lessons together.

COLE: Tess is either 16 or 18, I can’t remember.

ERIN: The four kids are between the ages 16 and 19… I remember that the 17 year old is learning...

[SFX: footsteps as Rion walks away, conversation fades out]

RION: Gods give me strength. Okay, so what do I know? There’s four kids. Grace, Val, Tess, and... Val’s sister. This belongs to one of them. Not Grace , because she’s learning the flute. And not Val’s sister, because she’s learning the Xylophone of all things. So Val or Tess. 50/50 chance, not bad. Hang on, who is Val’s sister, though? Oh, it could be Tess. Dang it. Again from the top.

RION: So there’s four kids, Grace, Val, Tess, and someone else if Tess is indeed Val’s sister. Let’s assume she is for now. But if it is someone else, they didn’t give me their name… so this lyre probably isn’t theirs because I can’t return it if it is. So in this scenario, it’s not the unnamed kid’s, and it isn’t Tess’s because she’s Val’s sister and plays the Xylophone, and it still isn’t Grace’s because she’s on the flute. So it’s Val! Haha, I figured that out without any of the age nonsense. Take that! Now to find Val… Hmm, there’s a group of girls standing together over there. Maybe that’s the four of them.

[SFX: footsteps]

RION: Are any of you Val?

VAL: Greetings traveler! Is that my lyre you have?

RION: Yep, here you go.

Val: Thank you for returning my instrument! You have done well! The last of us who needs your assistance is the leader of our caravan, Lysander.

RION: Do you know where he is?

VAL: The last of us who needs your assistance is the leader of our caravan, Lysander.

RION: I don’t even know why I tried.

[SFX: Footsteps]

LYSANDER: You there! Face me in a duel!

RION: Oh COME ON! You’ve got to be kidding me.

LYSANDER: You there! Face me in a duel!

RION: What’s the clever solution here supposed to be? This isn’t a puzzle! There is NOTHING to solve.

LYSANDER: Coward! Come here and fight!

RION: Oh, multiple responses? Aren’t we fancy.

LYSANDER: Coward! Come here and fight!

Narration:
He paces back and forth with confidence, demonstrating various flourishes with his sword. He’s acting brave, but his eyes are wide with fear. He’s stuck like the others, but he has way more to lose than them. I still can’t figure out what sort of puzzle this is. Everything else was word games. But I think I have to fight him. If it’s the only way to stop all of… this… I’ll do it.

[SFX: Rion takes a few steps forward and draws their sword]

LYSANDER: Excellent! You will make a fine opponent! Let the duel begin!

[SFX: RAD BACKGROUND MUSIC! Also the noise of two swords binding, then winding.]

LYSANDER: Is that all you’ve got?

RION: [distressed] I don’t want to hurt you!

LYSANDER: Is that all you’ve got?

[SFX: More winding, then a sword falling to the ground]

Narration:
Finally, I twist and his sword falls to the ground. I look up at him to see what he does. Is he going to try to grab it? Run away? Pull a hidden dagger out and fight with that? But he slumps to the ground and takes a deep breath.

[SFX: Rad background music fades out]

LYSANDER: Oh, gods. Thank you. Thank you.

RION: Do you know what was going on? What- what caused this?

LYSANDER: I caused this. It’s all my fault. We were traveling through fae land. I knew we should stay on the path, but we were weary and exhausted. I made the decision to take a short cut. Despite the warnings I’d been given… I led us off the allowed path. Nobody stopped us, and when we arrived here and set up camp, I thought we were in the clear. Obviously, I was wrong. We’ve been setting up camp and tearing it down every day for a week.

RION: Wow, that’s… that’s really something.

LYSANDER: I owe you so much - we owe you so much. I need to go make sure everyone is alright, but please don’t leave just yet.

RION: Okay, I’ll stay nearby.

[SFX: footsteps as Lysander leaves]

CLOVER: So, you solved it.

RION: What? [remembers what “it” is] Oh. I guess??

CLOVER: Several people tried and failed to do what you did. Each of them got stuck at various points or another, and gave in to their frustration.

RION: [suspicious] How do you know that?

CLOVER: Oh, well, I might have been the one who got them stuck...

RION: [wary] You’re not gonna do anything to me, are you?

CLOVER: Certainly not. These travelers trespassed on my land, but you did no such thing. In fact, you took the time to solve my numerous puzzles without knowing why it was being asked of you. You had nothing to gain, but you still stayed to help these strangers, solving preposterous riddle after preposterous riddle. I hope they’ve learned a thing or two about kindness from you.

RION: But the last one - with Lysander - wasn’t a riddle. Why did I have to duel him?

CLOVER: He made the decision to lead the group off the path. The others needed a lesson about blindly following directions. Lysander needed… let’s just say, he needed a stronger lesson.

RION: Ah. I see.

CLOVER: The Fae are not to be trifled with. You know this. [softens] I would not have permitted Lysander to die, but I am impressed how you went out of your way to disarm him without injury. You’re truly someone special, Orion. You’re welcome in the land of the Fae should you ever desire to visit.

RION: Oh, thank you.

CLOVER: If anyone questions you, tell them Clover says you’re a Friend of the Fae. They’ll know what it means.

RION: I don’t know what to say.

CLOVER: Then don’t say anything.

RION: Oh.. kay…

CLOVER: [chuckles] See you around, Orion.

Narration:
Clover leaves as quietly as she came, without anyone else noticing her. That’s probably for the best… I don’t want any more fights happening today. Or tonight. The sun is starting to set, and I see Helyn helping Finley hang lanterns around the camp. They nearly walk into Val, who is stubbornly moving her tent across the grass. She must be determined to sleep somewhere else. After a week of repeating the same motions, I’d suspect all the travelers are doing something different.

Lysander leads me around, giving me a proper introduction to everyone. I receive lots of thanks and even a little money. We end the night sharing food and stories around the campfire. It took a little longer than expected, but I finally get to have company (and real conversations).

As the fire burns on, I wonder what else I’ll come across in the next few months. If anything, I bet it’ll be exciting, and I can’t wait to find out.

[SFX: Outro Music]

Credits:
Thank you for Sideqesting with us! This episode, NPC, was written and produced by Tal Minear. It’s also the season one finale! If you think you heard a familiar voice in this episode, you probably did!

Avery was voiced by Chad Ellis, creator of Station Blue, a stunning Antarctic isolation horror podcast.

Liam was voiced by DeeJay Sylvis, creator of Moonbase Theta, Out, a beautiful sci-fi show full of feelings, relationships, and also tardigrades.

Finley was voiced by Lisette Alvarez, creator of Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magik Services, a spectacular urban fantasy show.

Aly was voiced by Hannah Wright, creator of Inn Between, an adorable fantasy-adventure podcast set between adventures.

Helyn was voiced by Nerys Howell, creator of Seren, an excellent sci-fi podcast about a journey across the stars.

Sif was voiced by Karin Heimdahl, creator of Y2K, a great show about love, identity, and long-distance friendship.

Amanda was voiced by Leslie Gideon, creator of the The Path Down, an upcoming audio drama about grief, superpowers, and good intentions.

Evan was voiced by Davis Walden, creator of The Viridian Wild, a fascinating fantasy nature podcast about a Mythozoologist studying magical creatures.

Cole was voiced by Evan Tess Murray, one of the creators of This Planet Needs a Name, a beautiful sci-fi audio drama suitable for our times.

Erin was voiced by Claudia Elvidge, creator of The Beacon, an amazing fantasy show about magic powers, giant monsters, and the importance of making friends.

Val was voiced by Therin Stapp, one of the creators of Interference, a lovely queer audio drama about space-crossed lovers from different dimensions.

Clover was voiced by Hazel Stapp, the other creator of Interference. She also DMs Legends of Chel, an actual play podcast set in the same universe as Interference.

Lysander was voiced by A. R. Olivieri, creator of MAGIC KING DOM, L I M B O, GREAT & TERRIBLE, THE EASIEST OF ALL THE HARD THINGS, and several more immersive works of audio microfiction.

And as always, the voice of Rion was Tal Minear, creator of Sidequesting.

Episode 11

Cassandra: [voice over] Dear Orion. I hope this letter finds you well. I have heard word that you are in my fair city, and I ask you for aid, as I know you are a traveler who has helped many before. My castle is being besieged by a band of thieves looking to steal from the town coffers. I know not when they will strike again, and as my men have only barely stopped them before, I fear they will succeed on their next attempt. A person of your talents would be most useful to protecting my keep, and you will be rewarded most handsomely. Show this letter at the front gate of the castle and you will be escorted to me. I will explain the details in person. I do not want to say more in case this letter is stolen by those who wish to do me harm. I look forward to your response. Sincerely, Lord Cassandra.

Astrid: [voice over] Rion - my apologies for dropping this letter in your pocket instead of speaking face to face, but I didn’t want to be seen by the guards. They do not work for the good of the town - they enable a corrupt ruler to take advantage of her people, who she sees and sources of coin and not as individuals. I ask for your help in righting the wrongs that have been done to this city. If you are interested, go to the run-down house at the end of market street at your earliest convenience. I’ll be there waiting. You’ll need the password “Moonlight”.

Narration:
Well, these were a fun pair of letters to receive. One presented to me by a guard when I entered the city, and one slipped in my pocket by someone I didn’t even see. What a coincidence. I love it when adventure finds me. I’m not so sure how I feel about the fact that both parties have heard of me. Hopefully they don’t start calling me a Hero Knight or something. Not again.

I’ve got a choice ahead of me. It’s not a hard one, but still - It’s a choice. A castle lord or a mysterious put-pocket. While a handsome reward is tempting, righting some wrongs is even more so. Plus, I can’t not go find out who slipped this in my pocket.

And so I find myself wandering down market street. Despite the name, there is no market to be found. It’s fairly empty, except for a few people hurrying on their way. A guard accosts one of them, demanding payment for something or another. Payment that this person clearly doesn’t have. [sigh] I walk over and give the guard some coins, and satisfied, she leaves. I’m starting to get what the letter from not-Cassandra was saying. This lord is indeed out to take advantage of her people. Frankly, I’m pretty disappointed in her guards’ enabling of her behavior. Tsk-tsk.

I make it to the rundown house without further detour. It’s the easiest home on the street to spot. The front garden is overgrown with weeds, the windows are boarded up, and paint is peeling off the walls. A path of trampled weeds leads to the door, which I’m surprised to see is actually on its hinges. Before I can knock, I hear a voice through the door.

Fig: [as mysteriously as they can muster] Password?

Rion: ...Moonlight?

[SFX: Several locks are unlocked. Door swings open. A pause.]

Rory (from inside): Well, come in!

[SFX: Footsteps as Rion comes in. Door closes.]

Narration:
The house is well lit and cozy, in stark contrast to the outside. There’s several couches with blankets and pillows, a small kitchen where tea is brewing, and some tables with a variety of tools scattered across them. I see one person carefully re-locking the door, and another lounging on a couch with his feet up. A woman carefully examines me as I walk through the entryway.

Astrid: Welcome, Rion. I’m so happy you decided to come. I’m Astrid, and that’s Fig and Rory over there.

Rion: Hiya.

Astrid: I’ll admit, when I saw the guards delivering Cassandra’s letter to you I got a little worried.

Rion: You saw that? Huh. Well, you didn’t need to be worried. One look at how they treat people and my decision was clear.

Astrid: Mostly, I’m not sure how one additional person helps a lord with an entire retinue of guards.

Rion: Honestly, I wasn’t too sure either. I think she thinks I can do more than I can.

Astrid: That’s definitely in character.

Rion: [muttered] Probably wanted me to go harass people who didn’t pay their taxes.

Astrid: What was that?

Rion: Oh, I said Cassandra probably wanted me to go bother people who didn’t pay their taxes. On my way here, there was a guard outside doing just that.

Astrid: Yeah, they’re a real nuisance.

Rory: You can say that again!

Fig: When they’re not looking for us, they’re looking for more money.

Rory: [muttered] Which we don’t even have.

Rion: If you don’t mind me asking, why do you all sign when you talk?

Astrid: So I can understand what they’re saying. I’m deaf.

Rion: Oh, okay. I’m sorry that I don’t know how to sign. I never got the chance to learn it back home.

Fig: I’ve been signing for you. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky about it, but I have been standing behind you for the most part.

Rion: Well, thank you.

Fig: Anytime.

Rion: Going back on topic here, what do you need an extra person for?

Astrid: Our main reason for needing a fourth person is that Lord Cassandra and her guards are on high alert for a group of three people entering the castle.

Rory: We may have slightly botched our first attempt at this plan…

Fig: [in a why did you have to bring that up? sort of way] Rory!

Rion: What was your first attempt…?

Astrid: Well, this whole… fiasco started about a year ago when Cassandra became Lord. Her father retired, and as his only child she took up the title. When Edward was lord, he was good and kind. Unfortunately, Cassandra isn’t like her dad. She’s very… [searching for a word]

Fig: Meeeeeaaan?

Rory: A real jerk!

Astrid: Let’s go with greedy. She instituted taxes, then raised them, then raised them again. She claims it’s all in the name of “city protection,” but I think that’s her excuse to send her guards out into the town. As you saw, they don’t protect anyone - they shake them down for money.

Rion: That’s terrible.

Rory: Lords are supposed to protect their cities from outside threats, not from… their cities itself.

Fig: Historically we’ve been very good at solving our own disputes without the presence of guards. The only time Cassandra’s father sent his guards into the city was when a big storm destroyed part of it.

Rory: They helped rebuild it! Now, they threaten to destroy people’s homes if they don’t pay their taxes.

Astrid: It’s been a difficult year. And we are attempting… countermeasures.

Rion: Good. I’m in. I mean, I was in before. But now I’m extra in.

Astrid: Our first attempt involved sneaking into Cassandra’s castle at night. We were going to raid the vaults... but we didn’t get very far.

Fig: Let’s just say the guards are now on high alert for a group of three attempting to infiltrate the castle.

Astrid: It was an oversight on my part. Won’t be happening again.

Rion: What’s the plan this time, then?

Astrid: Sneak in during the day.

Rion: Oh?

Rory: It’ll be a daylight robbery.

Fig: We’re hoping to lean into the tactics of distraction and surprise.

Rion: [excited] Two of my favorite things.

Astrid: And we’ll need your help for both of them. Fig here is our master locksmith, and Rory over there has a talent for detecting magic.

Rory: [interrupting slightly] Speaking of which, did you know your sword is just radiating magic?

Rion: Nope. Really?

Rory: Really! Usually with magical objects, I can tell what they do, or at least what the magic is for. But your sword has so much magic ~around it~ that I can’t figure out any specifics. It’s just completely overloaded.

Rion: Huh. Imagine that.

Rory: That could come in handy. I wonder what would happen if you went near specific magic detecting spells. Would it set everything off? Would it just cause interference? I think it would cause interference… You could probably get into a lot of places with that.. Oh I hope we can find out.

Astrid: [interrupting] Rory, you’re getting off topic.

Rory: Yes. Right. Sorry.

Astrid: Fig is how we get behind locked doors, and Rory is how we don’t get caught doing that.

Fig: It turns out, most anti-theft spells prevent people from magically opening locks, but they don’t do much to prevent old fashioned sticks of metal.

Rory: It’s hard to get spellwork to tell which piece of metal in the lock is the key and which piece is Fig’s lockpicks.

Fig: Saves me from having to make my own key, at any rate. Their laziness… [realizes they don’t have a good way to finish this] is my laziness.

Astrid: But first, we need to make it into the castle and to those locked doors before we can open them.

Narration:
Astrid explains her plan. We’ll disguise ourselves as merchants to get through the front gates. According to Fig’s reconnaissance, tomorrow is market day at the castle. As a bonus, having large bags will be extraordinarily helpful when it comes time to clear the vaults. Fig is our key to get into them, and Rory is in charge of making sure they get there. Apparently this entails some form of magical distraction in a different section of the castle to draw the guards away. Rory is not very clear on the details of this. Once Fig gets the door open, we’ll all head in. And after we’ve collected the goods, we’ll just walk out. It sounds nice and smooth when Astrid explains it. I hope it actually goes that way.

That evening, I get a crash course in heisting. Astrid teaches me a few of the most important signals, including one that everyone calls “the trust me signal” - for when you don’t have time to explain what you’re doing. Thankfully, I also learn some signs for when I can explain what I’m doing. Fig shows me their collection of locks and demonstrates how to pick one. I give it go, and manage to get some of their easy locks open. It’s actually pretty fun. Rory mostly questions me about my sword, but he also tells me more about how magic and wards function. He set up the ones around this house, and he’s very proud of them. As someone who doesn’t really use magic, most of it goes over my head, but it’s interesting nonetheless. We also make our disguises, which is definitely my favorite part. Astrid has a talent for costuming. In no time at all, we’re looking like a right band of merchants. There’s even some time for us to sleep before we head out in the morning. I love a sleepover.

The next day, after waking up and gathering all of our things, we find ourselves in front of the castle gates. A guard stands there, questioning everyone who wants to enter.

Rory: [only a little awkwardly] Greetings!

Gate Guard: State your name and purpose for entering.

Rory: I am… uhhh… Jimothy, here to sell my wares at your market. These are my traveling companions and fellow merchants.

Gate Guard: Thank you. You four may enter.

[SFX: Gate opens, footsteps as they walk through it]

Fig: [quietly, somewhat relieved] That was easy. [pause] This way.

[SFX: Footsteps. 4 pairs.]

Fig: [quietly] annnd here we are

[SFX: Closet door opens]

Astrid: [quietly] You ready, Rory?

Rory: [Mostly quietly, but containing excitement] Oh yeah.

[SFX: Footsteps as three people go into the closet, then the closet door closes. We hear the sound of some magicy noises and then a muffled explosion. The closet door opens and closes again, quickly.]

Rory: [slightly out of breath] Perfect. Annd… here come the guards… and there they go. Fig, you’re up. Let’s roll.

[SFX: We hear muffled footsteps down the hallway that are the guards while Rory narrates.]

[SFX: Closet door opens, footsteps as four people get out, closet door closes.]

Narration: Fig leads us down a winding hallway that runs deep into the castle keep. A few turns later and we’re at the vault. But just then, we hear distant footsteps with the tell-tale cadence of a guard on patrol. Astrid looks at me, eyes wide. This was not part of the plan. This guard is supposed to be on the other side of the castle with the others, investigating whatever it is that Rory has left for them. But I have a plan. I pull off my merchant coat and hand it to Astrid. I signal “trust me,” then walk down the hall to reach the guard before she sees the others.

[SFX: Footsteps. Again.]

Rion: [approaching guard] Oh, thank goodness you’re here! I’m terribly, terribly lost!

Hallway Guard: [very confused] Excuse me? You’re… lost in the lower hallways?

Rion: I received this letter from Lord Cassandra, and I’m trying to answer her summons. I must have made a wrong turn. Can- can you direct me to her?

Hallway Guard: [still very confused] But- but how did you get down here? You should have been escorted in from the gates. This is quite the breach of protocol.

Rion: Oh, I’m sorry, I followed what looked like a merchant in.

Hallway Guard: [less confused] Ah, that explains it. Today is the great court market! You should visit after you meet with the lord.

Rion: I’ll have to do that.

Hallway Guard: But next time, do get an escort before you start wandering off. There’s no need to follow merchants in.

Rion: Of course!

Narration:
The guard leads me to Cassandra where I get to have the honor of turning her down personally. She is quite displeased with me. I am very pleased. I do my best to make my lecture long enough for Astrid and her team to get away. While I’m at it, I sneak some very dirty looks to her guards. They should know better. Thankfully, as mad as she is, Cassandra can’t kick me out of the city, because I haven’t done anything wrong… that she knows of, anyway.

And so I rendezvous with the others back at the rundown house, where most of the treasury's contents is now located. Astrid, Fig, and Rory are discussing the best ways to return the money to the town without Cassandra catching word of who took it. They made it out of the castle without a trace. And of course, they demand to know where I went and what I did. So I share the story of my lecture and Cassandra’s offended face and my unceremonious removal from the castle.

Rory: Wow, I can’t believe you got away with that!

Fig: I can’t believe she let you stand there long enough for us to get away with this!

Astrid: You certainly have a knack for this sort of work, Rion.

Rion: Thanks. You all taught me a lot, though.

Astrid: Well, you’re a fast learner.

Rion: Will you be good on your own from here on out? I should be on my way before Cassandra notices her treasury is… somewhat empty and puts two and together.

Rory: Yeah, you do not want to get dragged in for questioning. Trust me.

Astrid: We’ve got everything under control now.

Fig: And if we need help down the line… we’ll know where to find you.

Rion: That’s ominous.

Rory: They mean I’ll set up a messaging spell.

Rion: Oh. Less ominous.

Fig: [not mad, more exasperated] Darn it, Rory, let me be mysterious for once! I’m trying to cultivate an inexplicable aura!

Astrid: You’re mysterious enough as it is, Fig.

Fig: Not enough, Astrid! Not enough.

Rion: [laughs] Take care, everyone.

Credits:
Thank you for sidequesting with us. This episode, Honor Among Thieves, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Cassandra was Kirsty Woolven. The voice of Astrid was Caroline Mincks. Fig was voiced by Brad Colbroock, and Rory was voiced by Scottye Moore. The guard at the gate was voiced by Anne Baird, and the guard in the hallway was voiced by Alicia Atkins. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Anne, Ilya, Jesse, Kyle, and E.L. Thackwray for supporting this episode.

If you enjoy Sidequesting, you might enjoy Light Hearts, an upcoming sitcom podcast about queer people thriving in uncanny surroundings. I am actually co-creating this show with Caroline Mincks and Evan Tess Murray. It’s going to be cute, fun, and you guessed it - lighthearted. Here’s the trailer for it.

Light Hearts Trailer:

KALE: Whatcha doin?

JANINE: Recording this radio ad, shh… This weekend, come on down to Prism, the new LGBTQ+ space-

KALE: So that’s really what you’re saying?

JANINE: Yes, why? What should I say?

KALE: Talk about the old-world charm.

RYAN: And the menu to match…

JANINE: But they need to know it’s for -

KALE: Listen, you have a bar with a jukebox that plays itself. Just say that.

RYAN: It doesn’t always, though.

JANINE: Right, and it’s not just a bar, it’s an LGBT-

RYAN: Queer?

JANINE: You think?

KALE: Yes.

JANINE: Fine. Queer community space.

KALE: Prism. Come for the queers, say for the weird.

RYAN: The snacks aren’t bad either.

JANINE: Aww - really?

RYAN: Really.

Episode 12

Narration:
After a lovely night in Rosehaven, today I am escorting a merchant to Cliffside. This town is a full day’s travel away, and this merchant wanted someone to help protect her goods along the path and provide some company. I’m hoping I’ll mostly be doing that second one. The merchant, who goes by Cam, seems quite friendly. It’s a nice day today, bright and sunny, but not too hot - great for traveling. I’m meeting Cam at the Rosehaven front gates, and then we’re heading off.

CAM: Hey there Rion [pronounced like Ryan]. Ready to go?

RION: You betcha. I even brought some trail mix.

CAM: Perfect! My plan is to take this road out of Rosehaven, then follow a series of smaller paths towards Cliffside. We’ll have to cross the river, but we have our choice of bridges to take.

RION: Excellent. I’m glad we won’t have to pull your cart through the water.

CAM: Yeah, the last time I did that it did not end well… Do you know what fairy floss does when it gets wet?

RION: Does it… melt?
CAM: It dissolves into nothing! That was a whole trip, wasted. Though allegedly I hear that stream now has flying fish. What a coincidence, isn’t it?

RION: [does not think it’s a coincidence]... yes, indeed.

Narration:
Cam tells me more travel stories as we make our way down the main road from Rosehaven. She’s been all over this road, delivering goods from town to town. I learn that Rosehaven loves Jasmine tea from Swiftacre, and that Cliffside adores the sourdough bread from Runswick. Apparently Greenport has a bit of a sweet tooth, and the people there will buy out all of Cam’s treats every time she visits.

She’s finishing up the story of the time an entire school of kids chased her across Greenport to get some candy when we arrive at a fork in the road. Cam suggests taking the left path, which would get us there the fastest. I’m not arguing with that, and after one left turn and some walking later, we reach the bridge. Except, there’s someone blocking our way. I’ve never seen a bridge troll before, but from what I’ve heard about them, I think this is a bridge troll. He’s tall and large and looking at us menacingly.

ARGYLE: [Trying to be scary, but his heart isn’t in it] You shall not pass!

RION: Okay. I mean, we can turn around and go another way.

CAM: Yeah, it wouldn’t even add much distance.

RION: It’s not very far-

ARGYLE: No!!!

CAM: No?

ARGYLE: Noooo! You shall not pass UNLESS you answer my riddle!

RION: Oh, I can do that. I have some experience answering riddles, you know.

CAM: That’s good, because I’m reaaaaaaaly bad at them.

ARGYLE: You cannot possibly be prepared for this one!!!

CAM: I believe you.

RION: Alright. Give it to me. I’m ready.

ARGYLE: Okay. [clears throat] When does the phoenix nest?

CAM: Uhhhhhhh...

RION: I think the answer is spring, but you should know… that’s not really a riddle.

ARGYLE: What?

RION: It’s more of a trivia question? There’s nothing to be puzzled out, you either know it or you don’t. Not that that’s a bad model for letting people cross your bridge! It’s just… not a riddle.

ARGYLE: Aw. Well, thank you for not laughing. The last people who came by laughed at me. It… [quitely] it hurt my feelings.

RION: Oh, I’m sorry.

CAM: That’s no good.

ARGYLE: [sad] I’m the worst bridge troll in the land.

CAM: We’ve got to get you some better riddles.

RION: Or a better job.

ARGYLE: Really? You’d… help me?

RION: Of course. You seem nice enough.

ARGYLE: [does not take this as a compliment] I’m supposed to be big and scary.

CAM: Why is that so important?

ARGYLE: It’s what my parents want. They even picked out this bridge for me to live under. Every respectable bridge has a troll, and every respectable troll has a bridge, they said.

RION: [aside] It is a very respectable bridge.

CAM: [ignoring Rion] Psh! Who cares about them. What do you want to do?

ARGYLE: [hushed] Well, really, I’ve always wanted to be a chef.

CAM: That’s great! You should be a chef, then!

ARGYLE: But everyone in my family is a bridge troll! They would be so disappointed in me…

RION: That shouldn’t matter. Tell me more about being a chef!

ARGYLE: [slightly hushed] I spend a lot of my free time fishing, you know, when people aren’t trying to cross the bridge. I’ve been practicing… [as if this is a secret] making sushi.

CAM: Delicious! I love sushi.

RION: How’s that been going?

ARGYLE: It’s been going… really well, actually? It didn’t start that way, you should have seen the first couple of tries, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good! There’s different techniques for each fish, you see, and you have to be really careful with some of the smaller ones or else you’ll ruin the taste, and I’m starting to learn that how you catch them matters too! And, and- oh, I’m sorry, I’m rambling. I’ll stop now.

CAM: You don’t have to stop. I was learning a lot! Tell me more about how you have to catch them.

ARGYLE: [shyly] Well, I could… show you?

RION: Yes, please!

ARGYLE: Okay! Stay right there and I’ll get some things. Do you want to fish too? I have some extra gear.

RION: That sounds fun!

CAM: Oh that’d be brilliant.

Narration:
Argyle runs under the bridge and returns shortly with two fishing poles and a net. He hands Cam and I the fishing poles, and we sit with legs dangling off the bridge. Argyle lays on his stomach, waving his net in the water. It’s quite a large net, and it reaches into the river with ease.

ARGYLE: So, for sushi fishing, I figured out that it’s better to use a net. But it’s harder too. I’m still getting the hang of it. I don’t know if I should keep the net still or wave it, or keep it out of the water until I see a fish… right now I just do whatever I’m in the mood for.

RION: And right now, you’re in a… circling mood? Or is that an oval mood?

ARGYLE: I’m just nervous. What if I don’t catch anything, and you’re here for no reason? I’ve never had guests on my bridge before. People have crossed, and others have turned back the way they came, but nobody has ever stuck around. Heh, what my parents would think of me right now.

CAM: You said your parents were bridge trolls too?

ARGYLE: My parents, my grand-parents, my great-grandparents… I was raised on stories of great bridge riddles and fearsome fights with people who tried to cross anyway. I know everything there is to know about maintaining a bridge and guarding it, because my parents drilled it into me since I was young. I’m supposed to love this stuff.

RION: But you don’t.

ARGYLE: [accepting it] But... I don’t.

RION: You need to do what you actually love, Argyle.

CAM: That’s exactly it. My parents aren't merchants. They grow their own tea, and sell it at a little shop in Cliffside, called The Trusty Teapot. My full name is Chamomile, actually, after the tea. That’s how important it is to them.

ARGYLE: My middle name is AAAARRRRRRG, but I just go by Argyle. Yelling is important to my parents, I guess. [pause] Cam, were you parents mad at you when you went off to be a merchant?

CAM: When I decided that this was what I wanted to do, they weren’t exactly happy with me. It took them some time to come around. I think they just wanted someone to run The Trusty Teapot after they retired. It turns out that my little brother Earl is really into tea-making, and once my parents had a successor they were a lot happier to let me do my own thing. Plus, I started bringing them back tea leaves from the places I visited, and I think that also helped.

RION: Nothing like a little bribery to win someone over.

ARGYLE: I don’t think my parents would ever come around if I stopped doing this. Even if I brought them sushi.

CAM: I’m glad my parents got over it. We’re on great terms now, and it’s really nice. You never know Argyle, maybe your parents will too.

ARGYLE: What about you, Rion? How did your parents react when you decided to be an adventurer?

RION: All in all, they were pretty supportive. They didn’t understand why I wanted to go out adventuring, but they helped me anyway. Making lots of trail mix and mending my cloak... [laughs] I even got dagger lessons from my-

[SFX: Splashing noises]

ARGYLE: I CAUGHT IT! I caught the fish! It’s time!

Narration:
Argyle takes the fish to a flat stone near the bridge and runs under it to grab his knife. What he returns with is not what I’d call a knife - it’s more of a shortsword. It can’t possibly be meant for sushi, but Argyle uses it all the same. He does it very carefully, an expression of peak concentration on his face the whole time. When he finishes, he lights up in a smile. This is so clearly what he loves to do.

ARGYLE: Here you go! Fresh sushi.

[SFX: Sushi is handed over]

CAM: Oh Argyle, this is delicious!

ARGYLE: You think so?

RION: Yes, definitely! If you can’t convince your parents that this is what you should be doing… we’ll just have to find you some new parents. Or additional parents. They don’t have to be replacements.

ARGYLE: Additional parents… [small laugh] that sounds nice, actually.

CAM: Actually… I could arrange that.

ARGYLE: What do you mean?

CAM: Would you like to come to Cliffside with me and set up a sushi shop? There’s an empty shop right next to my parents’ one, and we can help you get set up and everything. They’ll look after you.

ARGYLE: But… I can’t just leave. What would my parents-

RION: Do you need your parents permission to leave this bridge and start a sushi shop?

ARGYLE: ...no.

RION: And what do you want to do?

ARGYLE: [as if admitting a secret] I want to leave this bridge. And setting up a shop in Cliffside… sounds wonderful.

RION: Well… let’s go!

CAM: Do you want today to be the day you stop being a bridge troll and start being… a chef troll?

ARGYLE: Yes. Yes I do!

CAM: Then let’s do it.

Narration:
And so Argyle packs up his things - he doesn’t have very many, and he’s ready to go in almost no time at all. I think he’s been ready to leave for a long time now, but wasn’t quite ready to admit that to himself. I’m glad Cam could give him the push that he needed.I think life’s about to get a lot better for him.

We continue on our journey with one more person than originally expected. Cam tells Argyle all about Cliffside, and he looks more and more excited with everything he hears. By the time we reach the main road to the city, even I’m enamoured with the idea of setting up a little shop there.

When we reach the Cliffside gates, Argyle jumps around in excitement. Cam and I look at each other and smile. This journey took quite the unexpected turn… but it was a good one. And now I get to have tea! What more could a person want?

Credits:
Thank you for sidequesting with us. This episode, Building Bridges, was written and produced by Tal Minear. Cam was voiced by Beth Crane, and Argyle was voiced by Eddy Yeung. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Anne, Ilya, Jesse, Kyle, and E.L. Thackwray for supporting this episode.

If you like Sidequesting, you might like This Planet Needs a Name, a heartfelt, earnest, and hopeful audio drama. It’s about a handful of scientists and engineers setting out to terraform a planet for the frozen people they have in tow, living out their lives building a world they’ll never see. Here’s the trailer.

Tomorrow I’ll do something out of stories. My feet will walk on earth that is not of earth.

Unforeseen circumstances are hard to prepare for. If you can prepare for them, they’re foreseen.

Unless our plans change catastrophically, it should be fine.

I’ve been asleep for decades, how much more patience do you want.

They’re growing us a village, next to the base of a space elevator, on a brand new planet.

For you to have this new and better world, I have to stay behind and make it.

Unimaginable animals. Mmhmmhmm.

You didn’t try the cheese.

What will it mean for all the stories you’ve told me to be alive on a new world?

It’s so beautiful.

Trust Me.

Here we go.

Check out This Planet Needs a Name, everywhere podcasts are found.

Episode 13

Narration:
I’m on my way to the town of Delrin. It’s a ways away, so I’m taking a shortcut through this forest. This is a fairly remote area - Delrin is the nearest town, but it’s still a day’s travel away even with this shortcut. It’s been a good while since I came across anyone. It’s been pretty peaceful, actually, just walking alone with my thoughts on this sunny day. There are birds chirping in the trees, and I even got to see a deer a little bit ago.

But I’m taken entirely by surprise when I hear the sound of a horse’s gallop. Turning around, I see a beautiful brown horse with someone in full armour riding it. A very impressive someone. Among the items on the horse is a shield with a crest I don’t recognize but assume is for some kingdom nearby. This must be a knight. What is a knight doing alone in this forest? Could he be traveling to Delrin too? As he approaches me, he brings his horse to a stop and pulls off his helmet.

[SFX: Fade in forest ambiance]

BLAISE: Hello traveler. I am Sir Blaise, Knight of Candren Castle. I’m tracking a beast summoned by the terrible Wizard Movar [pronounced Moe rhymes with foe, var rhymes with far]. It’s a blueish-black creature, like a lion but with 6 legs and 3 tails. It has these big sharp teeth, and a growl that you wouldn’t believe.

RION: That’s certainly… something. I haven't seen anything like it.

BLAISE: I suspected as much. It went this way long before you came, and I don’t think I’d be talking to you if you had come across it. Only the best can hope to fight this beast off. Though, I see that longsword on your back… Perhaps I would be talking to you if you had come across it.

RION: You want to find it? Why??

BLAISE: Find and kill it.

RION: Oh. I see.

BLAISE: The beast has recently passed through this forest… I’m not convinced it’s safe to be here until I have caught up with it, because it might come back. Where are you on your way to?

ROIN: I’m heading to Delrin.

BLAISE: I can give you a ride there. Louis here can fit two people with ease.

[SFX: Louis neighs]

RION: I really don’t want to bother you. It sounds like you’ve got an important job to do, finding this... thing.

BLAISE: I’ll be able to pick up it’s path again easily enough, but I cannot leave you here with this creature on the loose. Please, I insist.

RION: I guess you’re right. Sure, thank you.

Narration:
I hop on the horse and we start making our way through the forest. Blaise instructs me to keep an eye out for his nefarious beast, just in case we cross paths with it. He tells me that if we come across it I should take Louis and ride away as fast as I can while he dismounts to fight it. He also tells me that the creature should be a ways away, so I hope it won’t come to that.

While I don’t see any beast, I do catch a flash of bright white fur. I point it out to Blaise, and he slows Louis down to a slow trot as we retrace our steps. A sad whine rings out through the trees, and when we clear them, I see an white horse laying on the ground. Wait- this horse has a horn. This is an unicorn! She seems to have a few cuts on her legs and some scratches on her back. Her mane is matted and her fur is dirty.

Blaise jumps off Louis and walks over to her. The unicorn lets him approach, only watching him warily as he pulls out a small kit. From the kit, Baise grabs a roll of bandages, showing them to the unicorn before carefully wrapping them around the cuts on her legs.

BLAISE: [softly] Hey girl, it’s going to be okay. We’ll get you patched up in no time.

RION: Do you know what happened?

BLAISE: It was the beast. The one I’m looking for. I’d recognize its work, clear as day. I think she was attacked by surprise. Unicorns are fast when they want to be, and thankfully she managed to get away. But it looks like she sustained some damage in the process.

RION: Is there anything else we can do for her?

BLAISE: Well… I know that a maiden’s embrace would fully heal her.

RION: Really? That sounds, uh, made up.

BLAISE: Really. I thought it was nonsense until one of my fellow knights saw it happen. In fact, she was the one who hugged the unicorn.

RION: Alright. [pause] Where are we going to find a maiden?

BLAISE: We’re going to search the forest. It’s sparsely populated, but a few people do live here. And we’re going to find them.

RION: Do you find this as ridiculous as I do?

BLAISE: [laughs] Oh yes.

NARRATION:
Blaise does his best to make sure the unicorn is as comfortable as she can be. He makes her a pillow out of leaves and gives her a few berries to eat, and then we set off to search for a maiden. Somehow, this feels both very silly and very serious. Blaise directs his horse in a pattern he assures me will cover the most ground as fast as possible. We have time to spare, but neither of us wants to leave the unicorn injured on the forest floor for any longer than we have to.

[SFX: Horse galloping]

RION: What exactly is a maiden, anway? Is it just… a woman? We’re searching the forest for a girl?

BLAISE: As far as I know, yes.

RION: Huh. I don’t understand why it needs to be a maiden who heals the unicorn.

BLAISE: Nor do I, Rion. How the ancient magicks work or why they care about gender, we may never know. I just know that if we can’t find our maiden, I’ll have to tend to the unicorn with old school medicine. And I do NOT want to do that.

RION: I’ll file a complaint with the ancient magicks for you.

BLAISE: I’d appreciate it. My battle training may be superb, but my medical training… less so. [lightheartedly] My parents wanted me to be a healer, a fact I’m sure they’d remind me of if they were here.

RION: [laughs] What brought you to becoming a knight, if not the medical training?

BLAISE: I wish I had some noble answer for you, like “to fight for truth and justice,” but honestly, it just looked fun? King Crayton’s land is peaceful, and his knights don’t fight other kingdoms (expect at officially sanctioned tournaments, of course). We get to do all sorts of things though, from delivering the king’s correspondences to faraway places, to helping the farmers deal with pests, to searching out nearby threats to our people. That’s what I’m doing right now. Hey, is that a house over there?

RION: Looks like it!

Narration:
We approach a lonely homestead in the middle of the forest. It’s a small cozy cabin among the trees, with a little garden and woodshed. There are stables next to it, and a single horse inside. The plants around the cabin seem to be tended to, as opposed to the other flora that grows wild in the forest. I see someone nearby gathering firewood, and Blaise rides up to her.

RION: Hello there.

LEAH: [timidly] Hi. Uh, what do you want?

BLAISE: We’re looking for someone to help us heal a unicorn.

RION: It sounds odd, but we need a maiden to… uh… embrace the unicorn.

BLAISE: Are you a maiden?

LEAH: ...Yes?

BLAISE: Please, will you come with us? We need your help. I promise that no harm will come to you under my watch. I am Sir Blaise, Knight of Candren Castle, and I will protect you.

RION: I’m just Rion. But I’ll try to keep you safe too?

LEAH: Okay. Just give me a minute. I’m Leah, by the way. I don’t usually run off with strangers, but you two seem nice enough. And I want to meet a unicorn.

Narration:
Leah runs inside and comes back out wearing a cloak and carrying a bag. She goes to the stables and mounts her horse, then tells Blaise to lead the way. In almost no time at all, we arrive back where the unicorn is. Blaise has an excellent sense of direction. The unicorn is still lying on the ground, but seems to be doing a little better. Leah gasps when she sees the injured animal. She jumps off her horse and heads towards the unicorn, but then hesitates.

LEAH: What do I do.. Just… hug the unicorn?

BLAISE: Yes. I think.

[SFX: Leah walks up to unicorn]

LEAH: Okay… [to unicorn] Hi there. Is it okay if I come over to you? I’m sorry you’re hurt, but I’m going to try to help you.

[SFX: UNICORN HUG, followed by a vaguely magical sound and a horse whinny.]

UNICORN: Thank you, Leah.

[overlapping:]

RION: UNICORNS CAN TALK?

BLAISE: You speak?

LEAH: Wh- what is going on?

UNICORN: I do not know how to answer that. Yes. I speak your language. Is that not obvious?

RION: Sorry, you just… surprised me.

UNICORN: I suppose that is only fair. It is not often that we speak with humans.

BLAISE: It is truly an honor.

UNICORN: As a token of my thanks for your help, I will answer a question from each of you. I have a limited view of things that will come to pass, and an even greater view of why things are as they are. Blaise, what is your question?

BLAISE: Where will I find the beast I am tracking?

UNICORN: You will find it on the southern edge of the forest tomorrow. You will be able to eat and rest tonight before you fight it. [pause] Leah, what is your question?

LEAH: Will I be accepted when I go back home?

UNICORN: Yes, Leah. Your fears are unfounded - your friends and family love you for who you are. Orion, what is your question?

RION: Why did you need a woman to heal you?

UNICORN: It is because of the ancient magicks.

RION: That doesn’t really answer my question.

UNICORN: Magic is complicated, Orion, and old magic is even more so. There are many, many variables, and sometimes gender plays a part. Other times, it’s age, or location, or what you ate for your midday meal three days ago. It does not need to make sense, or be logical. Even new magic can be held to these same complications. The magic that pertains to me and my kind is incredibly intricate.

RION: I don’t understand magic.

UNICORN: And I don’t understand humans.

RION: [laughs] Fair enough.

UNICORN: I can tell you that you will understand magic more in the days to come.

RION: I guess that’s a good thing? Thanks?

UNICORN: I will be on my way now. Again, I thank you all for your aid. It has greatly hastened my recovery.

BLAISE: Of course.

[SFX: Unicorn trots off]

RION: Well that sure was something. Thank you for helping us, Leah.

LEAH: Anytime. Not that there will be another time.

RION: Yeah, I’d certainly hope so.

LEAH: But if there is, count me in. You have… about a week to come to me for any of your forest needs. Then I’ll be back in Middlerush.

BLAISE: [thoughtfully] Leah, if I may ask… what did you mean about people accepting you when you return home?

LEAH: Well, I, uh…

RION: You don’t have to tell us.

LEAH: No, it’s okay. My town isn’t exactly expecting… Leah… to return. I left almost a year ago as a different person, to spend some time alone in the forest and sort things out. I told my friends I would be back in a year from when I left. And I didn’t tell them anything else. I’m going back in a week.

BLAISE: I’ve been there, Leah.

LEAH: You have?

BLAISE: Not your exact situation - I didn’t go live in a forest for a year. But I left my town to become a knight, and when I came back to visit… I was Blaise. Sir Blaise, in both senses of the word. And everything was more than just okay. It was great.

LEAH: That makes me feel a lot better. I’m happy for you, too.

BLAISE: And look at what the unicorn said - you’ll be fine.

LEAH: Yeah. Yeah! I’ll be fine.

RION: Speaking of being fine - now that we know the beast will be on the south side of the forest, I think it’s safe for me to go on my way to Delrin alone.

BLAISE: I agree. But are you sure that you don’t want a ride to the edge of the forest?

RION: I’ll be good. Walking is nice.

BLAISE: In that case, Leah, will you allow me to escort you to your cabin?

LEAH: Only if you will allow me to make you dinner.

BLAISE: I suppose I’ll need my strength to fight the beast tomorrow. I accept your most gracious offer.

LEAH: Rion, are you sure you don’t want to join us?

RION: I’m sure. Thank you, though.

LEAH: Feel free to come and visit me in Middlerush anytime. Uh, after next week, that is. [slight laugh] I was lovely to meet you.

RION: You too.


Narration:
We say our goodbyes, and Blaise and Leah head off on their horses. I suspect they’ll have a lot to talk about over dinner, and I want to give them the space to do that. Something tells me they’re going to be fast friends. I hope Leah will be alright returning home next week, and that Blaise will be okay after fighting his great beast tomorrow. But it seems like they’re both prepared for their challenges. They’re gonna come out of them better than ever.

Credits:
Thank you for sidequesting with us. This episode, Shining Armor, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Sir Blaise was Sawyer Green, and the voice of Leah was Ali Cataltepe. The unicorn was voiced by Tina Daniels. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Anne, Ilya, Jesse, Kyle, and E.L. Thackwray for supporting this episode.

If you like Sidequesting, you might like Transmission Folklore, an audio drama about two trans folks driving up the Mississippi river to escape a siren, all the while trying to balance school, friends, and the terrifyingly new world of magic that awaits them. Here's the trailer.

[sound of a car passing]

CARTER
This is not a kidnapping. That’s what this looks like, right?

[“Pilot” by Lately Kind of Yeah starts to play]

SORREL
I walked over there and I saw that person-- I saw them swimmin’?

[car passing sound]

CARTER
But the person looked at you, and motioned to come closer. He waved a hand and swam a little further in, and I-- I saw it! I saw that he had this slick tail! [car passing sound] I watched you walk towards the water though, and then he took his small hand and he pushed you under the water! [car passing sound] I thought you were going to die!

[car passing sound]

SORREL
This whole adventure is a lot. Can we go back?

CARTER
No.

SORREL
Why not?

[car passing]

CARTER
I know stories, and no one else was around to help you. I didn’t want this to be the story that you die in.

[music fades out, more car passing sounds]

ANNOUNCER
Transmission Folklore-- Listen on your favorite podcasting app.

Episode 14

[SFX: Fade in rain]

Narration:
I’m so excited to have made it to Delrin. I’m staying here for a few days with my friend, Halley (pronounced like Hey-Lee). We’ve been friends since we were both teenagers. She’s always been an excellent artist, and she works in this town as a painter. Everyone loves her portraits, but my favorite pieces of hers are when she paints flowers. I don’t know how she does it, but she brings something magical to the canvas when she paints them. Halley sent me a small picture of a daffodil she painted on some scrap paper, and I keep it with me when I travel. Some areas don’t have any flowers, and it’s nice to have one with me - especially one that isn’t going to wilt.
I got to her home this morning, and we’ve had a lazy day of drinking hot chocolate and painting together. It started raining around lunch, and according to Halley, nothing goes better with a rainy day than a mug of hot chocolate. And you know? I think she’s right.

[SFX: Outside rain still going, fade in additional dripping noise]

RION: Do you hear that?

HALLEY: The rain? It’s started really coming down, hasn’t it?

RION: No, I think it’s something else. A sort of... dripping noise? I don’t think it’s the rain.

[SFX: Chair scrapes as Rion gets up, footsteps as they walk around]

RION: Huh. It looks like the roof is leaking over here.

[SFX: Chair scrapes as Halley gets up, footsteps as she walks over]

HALLEY: Oh no, not again. Ugh. Where’s that bucket? Ah, here we are. Nice and big.

[SFX: Footsteps as Halley finds the bucket. Noise of the bucket being set down. Dripping noise changes to dripping-into-bucket sounds.]

HALLEY: This will take care of it for a while, but I should patch that leak before it gets too big. My neighbor Richard has a ladder he’s always happy to lend me.

RION: Do you want me to run over and ask?

HALLEY: I’ll come with you. I need to stretch my legs after all this sitting down.

NARRATION
We pack up all the paints and carefully clean our paintbrushes. Halley makes sure all the paintings in the living room are well away from the leak while I finish up my hot chocolate, and then we head to Richard’s house. There are lots of puddles on the ground outside, and I’m sorely tempted to splash in them, but I’m not sure Halley would appreciate extra water on her skirts. We get to Richard’s house before I can ask her, and the stone walkway to his door keeps us above the puddles, anyway.

[SFX: Fade in Richard’s humming and singing to himself about making a stew (“La de dooooo make a steeeeew”). Fade in footsteps as Rion and Halley walk up. Door opens]

RICHARD: Oh, the door! Oh, Halley! Please, please- and this must be your friend Rion! No need to stand out there in the rain, please please come in, come in!

[SFX: Rion and Halley walk in. Door closes.]

HALLEY: Ah thanks, Richard. Yes, this is Rion. Rion, this is Richard. We’ve been neighbors for a few years now.

RION: Nice to meet you.

RICHARD: Good to meet you.

HALLEY: We were wondering if we could borrow your ladder. My ceiling has a bit of a hole in it.

RICHARD: Of course! Now that's something you want to get fixed before your whole house starts flooding, what with all this rain.

HALLEY: Oh we’ve got a bucket catching the rainwater, don’t worry.

RION: We’re not in a huge rush - it’s a really big bucket.

RICHARD: Oh that’s good! If you’re not in a big hurry or anything, do you think you might be able to help me out with just a small thing? I was going to make my favorite stew, but it turns out I’m all out of onions. Again! I know! Heh. Might you happen to have an extra onion laying around at the back of the cupboard…?

HALLEY: I’m afraid I’m all out, but we could stop by Ananda’s house and see if she has any.

RICHARD: Oh, you don’t need to do that for me. I was just asking to see if, you know, you had one rolled to the back of a cupboard, or underneath a dresser or… you know, not to send you running around doing errands for me.

HALLEY: You don’t need to be going out in the rain. And I know you will go out there if we don’t do it for you.

RICHARD: Oh, well, really it’s-

RION: Really, it’s no trouble at all.

HALLEY: Plus, I know you’re going to share that stew with us when you make it. That’s some incentive.

RICHARD: Oh, alright. You’re too kind, though, thank you Halley.

RION: How about we go there right now, and when we’ve got that onion we’ll come back and borrow your ladder.

HALLEY: Yeah, you need to simmer that stew for a while, right? We ought to get it started.

RICHARD: You do have a good point! Don’t wanna re-do that whole simmering-over incident like last week.

HALLEY: Alright, see you in a bit!

RICHARD: Toodle-os!
[SFX: Walking out of Richard’s house, door opens and closes, walking over to Ananda’s house, knocking on door, door opens. It’s still raining.]

ANANDA: Hi there Halley! And who’s this?

HALLEY: Hey Ananda! This is Rion, my friend.

ANANDA: Pleasure to meet you.

RION: Likewise.

HALLEY: We were wondering if we could borrow an onion. Or, have it, I suppose? We won’t be able to return it.

ANANDA: Sure! Why don’t you step inside while I grab it.

[SFX: Walking in, door closes, walking to the kitchen]

RION: Oh, it smells wonderful in here.

ANANDA: Thank you! I’ve been baking a lot of bread today - it’s my favorite thing to do when it’s raining.

HALLEY: My favorite rainy day treat is hot chocolate. Rion and I have had several mugs of it today already.

ANANDA: That sounds delicious.

RION: It was! How has your baking been going?

ANANDA: Wonderfully. I did a batch this morning that turned out great, and I’m working on another one. It’s currently nearing the end of the bulk ferment, so I have a couple proofing baskets ready in preparation for the shaping. I went with 3 folds this time, so the gas retention should be good, though with this weather the pre-ferment may not have been quite long enough, so the texture may be off. But I’m hopeful.

HALLEY: I’m sure it will be fine, Ananda. You’re a master when it comes to making bread.

ANANDA: I told Bert I’d come by and deliver a loaf from the first batch, but I’ve been putting it off. I wish I could have done it before the skies opened up.

RION: We have to run a few errands outside anyway, we could drop the loaf off for you.

ANANDA: Really? That would save me from having to deal with wet socks.

HALLEY: Of course! I’ll stick the bread in my coat so it doesn’t get rained on.

RION: Our socks are already wet, anyway.

ANANDA: When you’re done with your errands, come by again! I’ll have a new batch of bread ready with a loaf that has your name on it.

RION: Oooh fantastic!!

NARRATION:
Ananda wraps the loaf in some paper and gives it to Halley, who carefully places it in her coat. We say our goodbyes, and then Halley leads the way to Bert’s house. We’re visiting all her neighbors today, it would seem. Expecting a delivery of bread, Bert is quick to open the door, but they’re surprised to see Halley and I instead of Ananda. Nonetheless Bert invites us in and out of the rain. As soon as we’re inside, it becomes obvious that a tinkerer lives here. There’s various springs and gears scattered around, and almost every flat surface has been turned into a worktable of some kind. I’m immediately distracted by all the fun things around, but Halley introduces me and gives an explanation for our visit. Bert gets very excited when they find out Halley has their bread.

BERT: Yes! I’ve been looking forward to this all day! Oh, it’s still warm! Thank you!

HALLEY: It was really no problem.

RION: Wow, I love your workshop!

BERT: Thank you! I create small animatronics! Usually they’re just little toys that wander around, but lately I’ve been trying to make ones with a purpose. I can show you what I’m working on now, if you’d like?

RION: I’d love to! Uh, Halley, we’ve still got some time, right?

HALLEY: Right! I also want to see what you’re working on, Bert.

[SFX: Footsteps as Bert runs over to the workbench, grabs an object, and runs back]

BERT: Okay! It’s on my workbench over here… This little cart here is supposed to roll on it’s own and scoop up crumbs! This gear here turns a larger wheel that has little brooms on the ends of it! It sweeps up dust and stuff into the… cart part. You know, where it holds things. There’s probably a better name for it…

ROIN: That is amazing.

BERT: The last thing I need is the automation spell that will keep it running. I’m supposed to pick it up from Theodora sometime today or tomorrow.

HALLEY: We can go pick that up for you, if you’d like. We’re running errands today.

BERT: Really? That would be really convenient. There’s a couple of tweaks I want to make with this before I enchant it, and that would give me the time to do it.

RION: Sounds perfect, then!

Narration:
Halley leads the way to Theodora’s house. I see cut herbs drying in the windowsill and potted plants hanging on the edges of the roof. An awning above the front entrance protects us from the rain when we walk up, and there’s a bell by the door for visitors to ring. We ring it, and when Theodora opens the door we explain that we’re here to pick up an enchantment for Bert.

THEODORA: Bert is one of my favorite customers! They’re always asking me for these ingenious enchantments that are so fun to do. This time it’s for a sweeping cart. I got to modify a navigation spell and combine it with an animation spell… I don’t think anyone’s done that before!

RION: How do you make an enchantment? I always thought it was just something you did, enchant an object. I didn’t know you could have a physical enchantment.

THEODORA: On a basic level, I enchant an object that acts and a placeholder for the final one. It holds the spell in statis until whoever purchases it can apply it. What I have for Bert is a piece of cloth that gets draped over their automatan. I’ll often enchant things directly, of course, but Bert’s mechanics work best when they apply the enchantment themself. Their automotans are so intricate that only Bert can really understand them, and that understanding makes the spell stronger. We make quite the team - my knowledge of how to craft the enchantment and Bert’s knowledge of how to apply it.

RION: Wow, that’s really impressive!

THEODORA: Unfortunately I’m not quite finished. I’m missing the last ingredients I need for it though. I’ve got to collect some rainwater, and while I’ve put out all my cups and bowls it’s not collecting fast enough. I don’t suppose you have a bucket I could borrow?

HALLEY: [laughs] I can do you one better.

THEODORA: What do you mean?

RION: Would you like to borrow a bucket that’s already full of rainwater?

HALLEY: [jumping in to explain] My roof has a bit of a leak. I don’t know if it would affect your spell to have rainwater collected from a living room instead of a garden, but-

THEODORA: No, that would still work. Can I use your bucket? It’s exactly what I need.

HALLEY: Of course!

THEODORA: Is your home going to flood if I take it?

HALLEY: Don’t worry about that, I have other buckets, too. Sometimes I have a LOT of paint brushes to clean at once.

THEODORA: Well that certainly makes me feel better.

HALLEY: We’ll go grab it right now.

RION: And then do a reverse loop through the neighborhood!

THEODORA: What... do you mean?

RION: We visited Richard, then Ananda, then Bert, and now you. And once we get your bucket, we’ll be visiting Bert, then Anada, then Richard. We’ve been helping everyone out with errands today, but you’re the first person we can help ourselves!

THEODORA: Well, I’m happy to be of service.

HALLEY: I’m so excited that my giant bucket gets to be even more useful.

Narration:
It takes us a little longer to carry the very full bucket from Halley’s living room to Theodora’s home than it did to run any of the errands, but we get it there eventually. Theodora performs the finishing touches on their enchantment, which we deliver to Bert.

BERT: Thank you!

RION: I’m so excited to see this.

BERT: Okay!

[SFX: Bert animates the cart. The sound of the spell is similar to something whirring up and starting to tick. Then the cart putts around the floor, making the noise of running gears and a constant pattern of sweeping.]

RION: That’s AMAZING!!

HALLEY: You’ve outdone yourself with this one, Bert.

BERT: You think so? It’s… uh… for Ananda.

HALLEY: Oh Bert! She’s going to love it.

BERT: Do you wanna come with me to deliver it? I’m too nervous to do it on my own. I might turn around at the door if nobody’s there to stop me!

RION: Of course!

HALLEY: Plus... Ananda’s promised us fresh bread and you know I’m not missing out on that.

BERT: [laughs] I would never expect you to, Halley.

Narration:
The three of us head over to Ananda’s. She lights up when she sees Bert with us, and her smile gets even bigger when she finds out what they made for her. Bert had no reason to be nervous. Ananda gets an onion for us, and we leave the two of them to deliver it to Richard.

RICHARD: Oh, there you are!

RION: It took us a bit longer than expected, but we got the onion!

RICHARD: Oh thank you! You’re actually right on time, I’ve been prepping the other ingredients.

HALLEY: Ah yes, we clearly planned that all along. My sixth soup sense had the timing all sorted out.

RICHARD: You and that soup sense. Oh, quick! Go get my ladder now, your roof’s been leaking long enough. Time your return right, and there might be stew for you both!

RION: And if we time it wrong?

RICHARD: Oh well, there’ll just be the lingering scent of stew and a dirty napkin!

HALLEY: Richard!

RICHARD: Ha! I’m kidding. I’ll save you some stew. Now, run-run run along, fix your roof.

HALLEY: Have I ever been late for dinner?

RICHARD: No ma’am you never have.

NARRATION:
Ladder in hand, we finally fix the living room leak. It takes comparatively little time to patch the roof then it did to get a ladder to do it. Once we’re confident that Halley’s house will stay dry inside, we return the ladder and get some of Richard’s legendary soup! He insists on sharing it with Ananda since she provided the onion, so we all head over with one last delivery.
It’s not raining anymore, but Ananda insists we come inside and have some of her bread with the soup. Bert is still there, along with Theodora, invited by Ananda for fresh bread as soon as she learned who made the enchantment for the clockwork cart. Richard, of course, brough far too much soup for one person anyway, so there’s plenty to go around. We have a little potluck with the six of us there in Ananda’s house, dipping bread in the soup, and watching the cart roll around sweeping up crumbs, trying to decide a name for it. The sun has long set by the time we agree to name it Robert and move on to other topics, discussing arts and crafts, magic, community, and a whole host of other things together in the candlelight.

CREDITS:
Thank you for Sidequesting with us! This episode, What Goes Around Comes Around, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The voice of Halley was Emma Laslett. Richard was voiced by Sean Howard, Ananda was voiced by Amara Augustine, Bert was voiced by Ali Hylton, and Theodora was voiced by Shade Oyemakinwa. The voice of Rion was Tal Minear. A big thanks to Anne, Ilya, Jesse, Kyle, and E.L. Thackwray for supporting this episode.

If you like Sidequesting, you might like Signed, Venus - a new audio fiction podcast about one dynamic duo's journey to uncover the identity of an anonymous, travelling writer. This show is really lovely. It’s warm and heartfelt while also being cool and mysterious. It reminds me of all the good parts about living by the beach, and I think you’ll really like it. Here’s the trailer:

HAYDEN: Ten years is an awfully long time to stay a mystery. Why would they bother pointing that out now if they really didn’t want people to look for them?

[There is a pause, and music starts to play.]

HAYDEN: The person, the myth, the Coast Venus legend themselves- The Writer!

KAMERON: The Writer-

MIRAH: I still don’t see why I should tell you how to find The Writer.

NURI: What brought you two to Arabella?

HAYDEN: Arabella was The Writer’s first stop, and it sounds so beautiful, and the people seem so friendly!

KAMERON: That description’s not super detailed, though, right? How are we even supposed to-?

VALERIA: Didja get lost?

MIRAH: [Laughter]

KAMERON: Well it’s been ten years, right? People change, I guess.

SIGNED VENUS, PART I. COMING THIS SPRING.

Episode 15

NARRATION:
Today is another long day of traveling. It’s not too bad though - right now I’m walking through a really pretty meadow. There are all these different types of wildflowers growing everywhere, and not really any sort of path. I’m trying my best not to step on the flowers, which involves some very irregular steps and even a jump or two. It almost turns into a game, and I’m so focused on it that I don’t notice the person behind me until we collide .

[SFX: Fade in outside meadow ambiance during narration. Two people fall on the grass.]

REMMINGTON (as Remmington): [Rushed] Sorry about that. The name’s Remy Fullbright. You’ll want to remember that. Sorry about this, too.

[SFX: A wooshing magic noise.]

REMINGTON (as Rion): [Rushed, same cadence as before even though the voice is different] Guards are after me. Well, now you. Sorry. I just need to… borrow you. Well, now me. Sorry again. They’re tracking the body. My body, so I had to borrow yours. I promise I’ll give it back at some point. I’m tired of running. They’ll catch up with you eventually, but... you should go. I suggest you run.

RION (as Remmington): Oh yeah, I’ll run. After you! Get back here-

[SFX: Slight magical explosion, then ambience fades out, then ambience fades back in]

RION (as Remmington): [A little disoriented] Okay, that was something... Let’s summarize… different body, currently wanted by… guards…? need to find… someone? To undo this? How do I undo this?

[SFX: fade out outside meadow ambiance]

NARRATION:
It’s a bit disorienting walking through the same meadow, but as someone else. I’m still trying to avoid the flowers, but my jumps push me farther than I expect and I keep miscalculating my steps. I’m not really sure where I should be going, though. According to Remy, guards are looking for me, and I’m not sure seeking them out and explaining the situation would go over well. But continuing to run away won’t do much good either. All I know is that I don’t want to stay here in the middle of this field. At minimum, the woods on the other side of it will provide more cover while I figure out what to do.
I think I need a third party to help me sort this out. Remy used some sort of magical device to initiate our… exchange, so it’s got to be reversible. If I can reverse it before I run into these guards, that would be ideal. There’s just no way I can figure that out on my own.
As I cross from the field to the threshold of the woods, I notice someone deeper within it, with a dark green cloak, and a bow and quiver strung on their back. They’re kneeling on the ground, eye level with a deer. It almost looks like they’re having a conversation. As I walk toward them, the deer scampers away and the ranger stands up. They don’t draw their bow, but they do seem a little suspicious.

[SFX: Fade in forest ambience. Footsteps as Rion approaches.]

RION (as Remmington): Hi, um, I need some help. I’m in a weird situation here...

ASPEN: [confused] Aren’t you that wanted person I see posters for every time I’m in town? You look very similar. I expected more running and less… wandering around in a daze, though.

RION (as Remmington): Well, no. Well… yes? Well, it’s complicated. Are you going to turn me in?

ASPEN: It depends. What did you do?

RION (as Remmington): I honestly have no idea. What did the wanted posters say?

ASPEN: Misuse of magic, rampant arson, crimes against the kingdom… several other things I can’t recall… But you said you have no idea? Can you elaborate on that, uh, Remmington? I think that was your name.

RION (as Remmington): Yeah, uh… well… I’m not Remmington? I’m Rion. I just look like them because they ran into me and enacted some sort of… exchange of bodies? I don’t know how to undo it and I think I’m running out of time before I run into the guards who are after me. Or are after who they think is me.

ASPEN: [pause, taking in all in] Well, that would explain a lot.

RION (as Remmington): You believe me?

ASPEN: I believe you. Your aura is all messed up. I’m curious about something, though. Is it alright if I try a little experiment? Can you close your eyes and hold your hand out?

RION (as Remmington): Sure. And… okay?

ASPEN: Now picture fire. And open your eyes.

[SFX: Small fire noises]

RION (as Remmington): THERE IS A FIRE IN MY HAND?

ASPEN: [calm] Deep breath. Think of blowing a candle out. Annd there you go.

[SFX: Fire goes out]

RION (as Remmington): What. Was. that?

ASPEN: The wanted posters warn that you -or, well, Remmington Fullbright, I should say- is a dangerous magician. I was curious how that would with you as Remmington.

RION (as Remmington): So I have magic right now?

ASPEN: Yep, you sure do.

RION (as Remmington): Huh. That’s a first.

ASPEN: It’s also good news for fixing your situation.

RION (as Remmington): [hopeful] Oh?
ASPEN: I have some magic of my own, but it’s forest magic. I can’t undo this on my own; it’s not how my magic works. However, I can train you how to use your magic to do it. It’ll be harder than manifesting a small flame, though. Think you can handle that?

RION (as Remmington): I will take whatever I can get. I miss being me. Plus this Remmington fellow doesn’t have any trail mix on them, and that’s also kind of a bummer.

ASPEN: Why don’t you come with me back to my cabin. I suspect we don’t have a lot of time, what with the guards presumably on your tail, but it’s probably better for you to be out of sight.

RION (as Remmington): I agree.

ASPEN: I’ll try some things to throw them off your trail. I can’t stop them from following you, but I have a few ideas that will confuse them tremendously.

NARRATION (voiced by Leo):
Before we start moving, the ranger pauses, a look of concentration on their face. The ground ripples like water for a moment, and when it settles, the footprints in the dirt are different. They match our footprints, but they’re all going in opposite ways from where we are - except for one direction, which I assume is the way to the cabin. We start walking that way when a rabbit hops forward. The ranger whispers something into its ear, and it jumps away. I’m not sure if it was summoned by the spell or just knew to come, but I am impressed either way.

ASPEN: Sorry to be rude - I’ve got to whisper or it’ll startle her. She and some of my other friends are off to be a nuisance to anyone they come across in armour. Hopefully that’s only your guards… I’m Aspen, by the way. I don’t think I actually told you my name.

RION (as Remmington): I figured it would come up sooner or later. We are going to your home, after all.

ASPEN: That’s typical of me, to invite strangers to my cabin before I even tell them my name. [pause] Most of my friends are animals. They don’t tend to use my name.

RION: Well, I’m glad to know it. It’s a nice name.

ASPEN: Thanks, I chose it myself. [laughs]

NARRATION (voiced by Leo):
We continue walking along a small trail, until Aspen takes a sharp turn through the brush. While they are very talented at stepping around roots and not getting their cloak caught on branches, my own technique leaves much to be desired. I’m going to blame it on having a different pair of legs, but I’d probably be in the same position regardless. Thankfully, Aspen graciously waits for me to catch up every time they get ahead. This only happens two or three times before we reach their cabin, which is tucked away in a patch of woods as dense as the ones we just walked through. It’s almost as if it sprung directly from the trees, adorned with hanging vines and topped with so many branches that the roof is indiscernible.

[SFX: Footsteps, on pine needles or grass]

RION: This is such a lovely little cabin. I love how it looks like part of the woods.

ASPEN: Thank you. I didn’t want to disrupt the ecosystem here so I did my best to work with it. An added bonus is that guards could probably walk by this place two or three times before actually finding it.

RION: You are a really good person to know when you’re on run, aren’t you?

ASPEN: I may have been on the run once or twice in my time.

RION: Really?

ASPEN: Kings really hate it when you disrupt their hunting.

RION: Ah.

[SFX: Front door opens, footsteps change to wood/tile, front door closes. We hear Aspen rummaging through some drawers. Also wooden.]

ASPEN: Alright… I’ll need that… and that… and this… not this… yes that… okay! Wait, bucket of water… okay! For real this time!

RION: Bucket of water?

ASPEN: In case we get some unexpected pyrotechnics. Don’t want to burn the dining table down. Not again.

RION (as Remmington): Again?

ASPEN: Fireflies. Long story. No time to tell it, we’ve got magic lessons to do.

RION (as Remmington): Fair enough. Next time we meet, though, I wanna hear it.

ASPEN: Sure thing, Orion. First, we need to work on your magical focus. This is all about tapping into the magic and bringing it to the surface. It’s different than just focusing on a task. You can stare at your hands and think MAGIC! all you want, but that’s not how it works. You need to think about the effect of the magic.

RION (as Remmington): Is this what happened when I summoned the fire back there? I was thinking about flames, and then there they were.

ASPEN: Yes. Though, working with specific focus and intention, you’ll be able to do more than just summon a handful of flame. I asked you for fire back there because it seems to be one of Remmington’s strengths, and I thought it might come naturally. For practicing focus, however, I want you to summon light.

RION (as Remmington): Isn’t fire light?

ASPEN: I mean non-flammable light. It’s easy to shape and change when summoned, and I think it will be a good place to start.

RION (as Remmington): Okay. Do I just picture light?

ASPEN: Not quite. Start there, and then focus on what you’re feeling.

RION (as Remmington): [confused] Okay. Hand out, eyes closed [they do this as they say it].... Light.

[SFX: fire crackling]

RION (as Remmington): Oh no! That’s fire again!

ASPEN: That’s alright. Don’t panic, this is why I have the water.

RION (as Remmington): [trying to calm down] Not panicking. Thinking of fire going out.

[SFX: Fire stops]

RION (as Remmington): I think it was easier that time!

ASPEN: Good, that’s progress. Try again now.

RION (as Remmington): Light, light, light… oh!

ASPEN: You’ve got it. Now, do you feel the energy that’s powering that light?

RION (as Remmington): I think so!

ASPEN: Focus on that, and try to change it. Changing that energy changes the effect of the magic.

RION (as Remmington): Ummmm… okay… [pause] Well that’s more of it but it’s not different…

ASPEN: Think of it like turning a page of a book, not like pouring water out of a cup.

RION (as Remmington): Oh. Oh! [pause] Got it! But why that color? I was thinking of light blue, not… dark purple.

ASPEN: Magic is less about the specifics you imagine and more about what you want to happen.

RION (as Remmington): Hmm. I guess I wanted something really different than white.

ASPEN: And you got that! You’re a natural at this, Rion.

RION (as Remmington): Don’t call me a natural until I can get this light to be blue… Oh! There we go. That was remarkably easy.

ASPEN: We’ll have you back in your own body in no time. [pause] Which is good, because we don’t have a lot of time to begin with.

NARRATION:
After practicing summoning, I learn the ins and outs of exchanging two objects. Aspen gives me two jars and shows me how to switch the contents. I feel like going from jars to people will be a big step up, but they assure me it’s the same principle. It turns out to be pretty similar to summoning, and soon I’m swapping all sorts of things.
To prepare for switching people, my next task involves putting magic into an object. It’s a cross between enchantment and magical storage - imbuing an object with energy but not causing it to do anything specifically. Aspen says that the spell to reverse my current situation requires powering some sort of object and using it to make the swap. It’s what Remmington did the first time - they just didn’t really think through the possibility that I might do it right back. I guess they thought I would get caught before I could try anything. But instead, I found Aspen, who is showing me how to try lots of things, like filling an acorn with my magic. After a small pile of acorns later, I’ve got the hang of doing it consistently.

ASPEN: You’re doing great!

RION (as Remmington): How can you tell I’ve done it right? I guess the acorns feel different, but are they the right different?

ASPEN: I can tell because they’re acorns. It’s the -

RION (as Remmington): [overlapping with line below] -Nature Magic?

ASPEN: [overlapping with line above] -Nature Magic. [laughs] Yeah, exactly. If they were rocks, I’d be at more of a loss.

RION (as Remmington): Acorns are more fun, anyway! Are you going to do something with all these magical practice acorns?

ASPEN: I’ll feed them to the possums. They like their acorns with a bit of spice.

RION (as Remmington): Magic is spicy to possums?

ASPEN: Apparently! [laughs] It’s actually a safe way to release the magic in them. Except for the one you’ll be using. We need that release of magic for the spell. You ready to set that up?

RION: It’s now or never!

ASPEN: Alright. You’ve got to do the same thing you’ve been practicing to fill the acorn, but you need to fill it with the specific spell we practiced before instead of just magical energy. It’s doing two things at once, basically, channeling the spell and storing it. When it comes time to activate the exchange, you’ll do the spell again - just the spell - and it’s power will be doubled when you use the acorn. Follow all that?

RION: Yeah, I think so.

ASPEN: Great. Take your time. We’ve moved fast enough with our practice so you don’t need to rush this final step.

RION: Okay… [breathes in, then out, slowly]

[SFX: Spell happens. It sounds similar to the noise of the swapping spell, but longer, softer, and slightly muted.]

RION: ...is that it?

ASPEN: Yep! Before you activate it you should take a quick break. Who knows what kind of situation you’ll land in.

RION: That’s a good point. Magic sure takes a lot out of you.

ASPEN: That it does. Here, I’ll grab us both a drink.

[SFX: Aspen walks over, pours a drink out of pitcher, and walks back over and sit downs]

RION: Thanks.

[Pause as they both take a sip.]

RION (as Remmington): I’ve learned a lot about Remmington’s magic, but what is forest magic like?

ASPEN: I can’t summon things like you, but I can heal, and grow plants, and converse with an animal or two. I can tell when it’s going to rain and I always know the direction my home is in. I get a sort of read on people… that aura I mentioned earlier. It’s a softer type of magic, and it tunes into nature.

RION (as Remmington): And the magic I’m using… tunes into me?

ASPEN: You’ve got that right.

RION (as Remmington): What type of magic is it? Not forest, obviously, but…?

ASPEN: This is a sorcerer's magic. It’s always been unclear to me if it comes from body or spirit, but I think we can see the answer.

RION (as Remmington): [As if in agreement] Body.

ASPEN: A little of both, actually.

RION (as Remmington): Wait, what?

ASPEN: How you use this magic is going to be different than how Remmington used it. It tunes into you, and while you are Remmington right now, you also aren’t them. You’re still, largely, Rion.

RION (as Remmington): I guess I do still feel like me. Just… a bit more magical. And slightly taller.

ASPEN: And without your usual bag of trail mix.

RION (as Remmington): Do you think Remmington still has magic? While they're in my body, I mean.

ASPEN: I wouldn’t have been able to answer that yesterday, but watching you work with magic has helped me figure that out. If the magic is linked to spirit and body… well, they’ve still got one of those with them. So yes, I think so.

RION (as Remmington): If the magic is split… will I be able to pull this off?

ASPEN: Magic has not set quantity. Sure, Remington’s magic is split between you both right now, but that doesn’t mean you can do less with it. [pause, as Rion probably stares in confusion] It’s complicated, I know.

RION (as Remmington): I’m so glad I ran into you. I’ve learned so much and we only just met.

ASPEN: Likewise. You’re going to do great things, Rion.

RION (as Remmington): Like get my body back. I think I’m ready. You sure you’re okay with having a wanted person in your living room?

ASPEN: Oh, I’m not worried. They’ll be the one who is worried.

RION (as Remmington): Before I try this… shouldn’t you tie me to this chair or something?

ASPEN: That would take all the fun out of it.

RION (as Remmington): If you’re sure…

ASPEN: I’m sure.

RION (as Remmington): Okay. Here we go.

[SFX: The spell activates, sounding the same as the first time, and the ambient noise changes to a library.]

RION: W- what? Uh, sorry, I...

INTERVIEWER: It’s quite alright. Would you like some water? I could have Clark fetch some-

RION: No thank you, I’ve already had some... Uh, what was I saying just now?

INTERVIEWER: You were explaining why you were qualified for this position. “Passionate about maintaining literature,” and-

RION: What position, exactly?

INTERVIEWER: Here at the central library? We’re looking for people to help us stock, file, and maintain our countless tomes of knowledge! I believe I covered this earlier?

RION: Okay. Right. Uh- the central library in what city?

INTERVIEWER: Bradeford, of course. City of the flowers! Are you feeling alright? You seem somewhat disoriented; we could reschedule this interview if you’re feeling ill.

RION: Oh, Bradeford! I always wanted to visit here! Hey, I’m sorry but I’ve changed my mind about… this position. Could you show me to the door? I’m not sure which way is the exit.

[SFX: Rion and the interviewer stand up. Chairs scrape.]

INTERVIEWER: I- uh- yes. Right this way. [pause] Thank you for applying?

RION: Thank you for having me, I guess? Good luck finding someone!

INTERVIEWER: Good luck to you too, I suppose! [under breath] That was the oddest interview I’ve ever had.

[SFX: Footsteps as Rion exits the library. A large wooden door closes.]


NARRATION (voiced by Tal):
I leave the very confused interviewer behind in the library and go to explore the city of flowers. I’m glad he didn’t seem too offended at my sudden change of heart. Remmington might have wanted to work in a library, but I’ve got other things to do. I’ll send any good candidates I find here in Bradeford his way.
The inside of the library was beautiful, and I quickly find out that the outside is too, as well as the other buildings nearby. I’m not used to getting to a city so fast - especially getting dropped right in the middle of it. Wait, is the central library in the center of the city? I’m not actually sure. There’s only one way to find out - wandering around until I get my bearings! [pause] Or I could ask someone, but where’s the fun in that?

CREDITS:
Thank you for Sidequesting with us! This episode, Equivalent Exchange, was written and produced by Tal Minear. Aspen was voiced by Evan Tess Murray. The interviewer was voiced by Clint McElroy. The voices of Remmington and Rion were Leo Balestri and Tal Minear. A big thanks to Anne, Ilya, Jesse, Kyle, and E.L. Thackwray for supporting this episode.

If you want to know what happened to Remy, there is a patron-exclusive episode that tunes in to their shenanigans. Visit pateron.com/sidequesting to find out more about how to access that episode.

If you like Sidequesting, you might like The Beacon, a fantasy audio drama about magic powers, giant monsters, and the importance of friendship. This podcast is fun, sweet, and exciting. Not everyone with powers wants to be a hero in The Beacon, but they all step up in their own way and I love watching these characters grow. Here’s the trailer.

[Music plays over clips cut together from across multiple episodes]

BEE: Hi, and welcome to The Beacon.

THALASSAL: My name is Prince Thalassal, son of King Valanial and heir to the throne of the Onoles.

NEWT: Well, thank you for entertaining us, Prince...Falafel, but we have real life to deal with here.

HAWK: What’s the emergency? Is there a new monster on campus? Another magic user? A dragon?

WOLF: You all have these powers now, and...I’m just still trying to be of use.

CAPY: I don’t think we can ignore this one, Bee. I think we’ve got another monster on campus.
HAWK: It’s time for a training montaaaage!

MOTH: Inside voice.

THALASSAL: I am prepared to lead! I am prepared to handle any form of attack!

HART: Tell me how we fix this. Tell me how this gets any better!

BEE: The people here, and the monsters, we can all live in peace!

WOLF-MONSTER: [deep, rumbling growl]

VOICE-OVER: It’s The Beacon, an urban fantasy audio drama. To learn more, visit thebeaconpodcast.com, or follow us on Twitter at thebeaconpod.

Exchanged Equivalently

NARRATION (Voiced by Leo):
Well that was an interesting update in this chase. Apparently the people after me have managed to pull off some especially tricky magic! Good for them, I didn’t think they could do it. They’ve managed to find the right court wizard to create a tracking spell that tunes directly into me. No more glamors or disguises for ol’ Remmington - I’ve got a beacon pointed right at me regardless of who I look like. Jokes on them though, I’ve got one more thing up my sleeve… I just need to find someone to help me out with it.
And whaddya know, could I have found just the person... Alone in a field, nobody else nearby… they’re close to my size, I could probably take them on if things get a little physical… And I like their style. Yep, they’re the one. Fantastic.

[SFX: fade in outside ambiance, Remmington running]

REMY: [calling out] Hey! Hey there!

[SFX: More running, then collision]

REMMINGTON (as Remmington): [Rushed] Sorry about that. The name’s Remy Fullbright. You’ll want to remember that. Sorry about this, too.

[SFX: A wooshing magic noise.]

REMINGTON (as Rion): [Rushed, same cadence as before even though the voice is different] Guards are after me. Well, now you. Sorry. I just need to… borrow you. Well, now me. Sorry again. They’re tracking the body. My body, so I had to borrow yours. I promise I’ll give it back at some point. I’m tired of running. They’ll catch up with you eventually, but... you should go. I suggest you run.

RION (as Remmington): Oh yeah, I’ll run. After you! Get back here-

[SFX: Slight magical explosion]

REMY (as Rion): Knocked yourself out, huh. That’s quite a stroke of luck for me. Sign from the gods if there ever was. Welp. Time to go.

[SFX: Running in a field]

REMY (as Rion): Maybe it would be better if I wasn’t running… That would be less… suspicious.

[SFX: Walking in a field]

REMY (as Rion): [sigh] Okay. You’re fine, Remy. They’re chasing the wrong person now. No reason to suspect you. [deep breath] Alright. Let’s see what we have here.

[SFX: Sword unsheathed]

REMY (as Rion): Ooh! Nice sword.

[SFX: Sword sheathed, bag rummaging]

REMY (as Rion): Mmm, trail mix, good choice.

[SFX: a few stomps]

REMY (as Rion): Love these boots, too. And the cloak. All in all, I think I got rather lucky running into who I did. Should’ve asked them for their name… Speaking of which, I’ve got to think of a new name for myself. Hmm… Raven? Too close. Jamie? Nah. Antoine? Ehhh… Indigo… oh I do like that. Indigo Fullbright. Wait. Indigo Middark. That’s the one. Sounds... mysterious. I like it.

[SFX: Guard footsteps fade in, unnoticed by Remy]

REMY: Alright, time to make my way to- [awkwardly] Oh… hello good sir.

GUARD: Excuse me, have you seen this person? We’ve tracked them to near this location.

[SFX: flap of a cloth or paper drawing with Remmington’s face on it]

REMY: As a matter of fact… I saw someone who looked similar running past over there that way…

GUARD: Thank you, uh-

REMY: Indigo.

GUARD: Thank you, Indigo. [pause, said as they’re running back to their fellow guard] Hey, Bram! Try the tracking spell in this direction!

[SFX: Guard runs off]

REMY (as Rion): Good luck my friend. Thanks for taking one for the team. [sigh] Whew I am sure lucky I found you when I did. [pause] Could probably have fought my way outta that scrape, but glad I didn’t have to.

[SFX: Fade out ambience]


NARRATION: (read by Tal)
I settle into my new body as I head to the city of Bradeford. I’ve always wanted to go there, but it was never safe to visit with my… well-known status. It’s one of the larger cities in this area because it’s near both a lovely part of the Turquoise river and this beautiful large meadow. A decent woods is also nearby, I hear it’s pretty good for hunting. Regardless of its surroundings, this city itself is full of lots of interesting people doing lots of very interesting things. It seems like a nice place to settle down, even though I will have to keep to… standard exploits. But I’ll find a nice steady job and some sort of unrisky hobby and have a go at being an upstanding citizen.
I’m also pleasantly surprised to discover that I still have my magic. I wasn’t sure what would happen when it came to borrowing someone else’s body, and while it certainly feels different, it’s definitely still there. Looks like I won’t even need my spare store of magical reservoirs for the swap back.
I wonder where guards will bring them- or me- or, I should just say Remy at this point. Are they going back to the kingdom? There’s not much of the kingdom to go back too… ooops… Well, if they go to the nearest city, that’ll be Bradeford and I’ll be able to keep an eye on them. Poor chap is gonna get a hefty charge for dungeon time… But when that’s done I’ll get to go back to being myself and they’ll get their body back no worse for the wear. It’ll be fine.

[SFX: Fade in city hustle and bustle. Remmington walks around, making comments.]

REMY: Ah, Bradeford! Good to finally make it.

REMY: Oh, flower stalls! I’m not surprised.

REMY: Love this market. Love that knife. [pause] Want that knife. [pause] Remy you cannot steal that knife you just got here.

REMY: I wonder where the inn is. There’s probably several, now that I think about it. How much money do I have?

[SFX: Remmington rummaging through the bag. Slight coin jingle.]

REMY: Enough for about a week. I can find a job by then. [pause] And then I can buy that knife.

REMY: Ah, gotta watch out for the carts.

REMY: Oh! Job opening at the central library, I will have to check that out.

REMY: That looks like a very nice pub, making a note of that...

REMY: Ah, here’s an inn!

NARRATION:
I reserve a room in the inn for the night, and take a quick break for a drink. I haven’t had a break in ages! This is exactly what I needed, and I can’t wait to sleep in a real bed tonight, too. But first, I want to visit the central library to find out more about this job opening they’ve got posted in the window. A job in a library sounds like just the thing to keep myself occupied with. Safe and calm, but not too terribly boring.
I head over as soon as I finish with my little break. The library is huge, and looks to be well stocked from a first glance. This looks like the sort of place where lots of rare books on forbidden magical craft might be hiding… I could see a job here having several perks… There’s a front desk near the entrance, and I’m greeted when I approach it.

CLARK THE CLERK: Hello, how can I help you?

REMY: Hi. I’d like to interview for your open position. I saw the posting outside and I’m very interested.

CLERK: Excellent! I know Marle is anxious to fill the job quickly. You’re welcome to schedule an appointment for later this week, but he’s also in the back right now if you’d prefer to apply today.

REMY: Oh, I’d love to apply right now! That would be really convenient. I’m new here in town, and I’m looking for a job right away.

CLERK: Wonderful. Can I get your name?

REMY: Indigo.

CLERK: Thank you, Indigo. Marle will be doing the interview, but I have a few quick questions.

REMY: By all means, ask away.

CLERK: Do you have previous library experience?

REMY: Oh yes.

CLERK: Just not in Bradeford, I presume?

REMY: Correct.

CLERK: Are you okay with the possibility of travel?

REMY: Is this a traveling library?

CLERK: No, but we do occasionally send people out to collect books from other locations.

REMY: Late books?

CLERK: Donor collections. If someone holds onto a book past it’s due, we usually just let them have it. The rare collections don’t leave the library.

REMY: Ah, I see. I’m okay with travel. Certainly have done a lot of it.

CLERK: Excellent. And I presume your ideal start date would be immediately?

REMY: You’ve got that right.

CLERK: Marle will like that. Okay, that’s all I have for you. Wait just a moment and I’ll send him out.

INTERVIEWER: As you know from our posting, we are looking for qualified individuals to assist in library maintenance. If hired, your job will include sorting and filing, scroll repair, book acquisition, and other tasks of that nature. Would that be within your abilities?

REMY: Oh of course. I’m quite familiar with all of those tasks and how to do them, it should be no problem.

INTERVIEWER: Oh excellent. This library is an esteemed place, as you know, and we hire only the finest here. Could you expand on your experience and what makes you qualified for this position?

REMY: Well, I am quite experienced in magical studies, and have spent a lot of time in libraries across the land. I have a great respect for the work that takes place here. I’m passionate about maintaining literature, and-

[SFX: Noise of swap]

REMY (as Remmington): -I am certainly up to the task of maintaining… Wait. Where am I? Who are you? What’s- Oh. I see.

ASPEN: Yeah. I suggest you run.

CREDITS:
Thank you for Sidequesting with us! This supporter-exclusive episode, Exchanged Equivalently, was written and produced by Tal Minear. The guard was voiced by Nikko Goldstein. The clerk was voiced by Kayli Minear. The interviewer was voiced by Clint McElroy. Aspen was voiced by Evan Tess Murray. The voices of Remmington and Rion were Leo Balestri and Tal Minear.

I hope you enjoyed this flipside to episode 15! Thank you for supporting this little show of mine. It means so much to me, and I’m incredibly glad to be worthy of your support.

Into The Cavern

Rion:
It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the mountains. The crisp air wisping between the peaks and valleys gives everything a gentle stillness you just can’t find around people. Well, most people. I’m on my way to Copperhill to answer a call for some library volunteers. They’ve got this annual scroll census at the archives and the curators need all the help they can get. It’s still about a three day’s journey on foot, but I can cut a day off by going through the Cyaran mountains. There isn’t a hugerush, giving me plenty of time to admire the view. As the evening sun shines through the clouds, a majestic dance of reds and purples casts a pleasant glow over the landscape. Long shadows streak out from the occasional pine trees and darken the ground just enough that I can see the occasional glowing eyes of the mountain mice. They’re perfectly harmless and very cute, but also very scared of people, which is a shame.

Rion (Cont’d):
I keep my distance as I descend onto an outcropping. One of the creatures skitters away from me as I take a seat to admire the sky. The sun is fading now, and I should probably make camp soon. I can see a small cave entrance not too far away, but I can take one last look at the sky before heading into the mountain. The brilliant glow of the clouds feels like a call from the sky, saying the day is done and that’s okay.

Rion:
When the sun dips behind the clouds, I make my way towards the cave. I pick up some loose branches on my way for kindling, and prepare to set up camp for the night.

Rion:
Along the way I spot some Teceb flowers, whose roots make a delicious soup. My arms are already pretty full, but I manage to grab a few handfuls as I make my way inside the mountain. Most of them make it with me.

Rion:
The cave is bigger than I imagined. You could probably fit a good number of people in here if you had too. I set up my bedroll and pack a few feet away from where I plan on building my fire. I can’t see all that well into the cave yet. If only I still had Remmington’s light powers, I’m sure I could light this whole cavern up no problem! But I’ll just have to use my flint.

SFX: Rion strikes a flint and a fire promptly starts.

Rion:
Wow, there must not have been much rain here recently. I can’t remember the last time I lit a fire on my first try. Now I’m that much closer to making soup!

SFX: Cauldron is set up. We hear, very very quietly, some skittering and chirping from the dragon.

Rion:
Teceb soup doesn’t take very long to make, but it is slightly more than just adding water and heat. My sword might not be the best option for chopping these little roots, but it’s certainly getting the job done!

Rion:
This is a really good soup to share with someone. I’ll have to see if Nocek is still in Copperhill when I get there, I know they love a good batch. But for now, it’s just me and the mountain. It’s nice to just sit sometimes and be alone with the world around you.

SFX: The dragon chirps and we hear rocks moving.

Rion:
Hello? Is someone there?
Okay then, I guess I’ll just finish my dinner and

SFX: DRAGON GIVES A TINY LITTLE BATTLE CRY AS THEY RUN TOWARDS RION

Rion:
AHH!

SFX: Rion picks up a bowl to defend themself, but drops it with a clatter.

Cene:
AAAHH Scary Object!

SFX: The dragon goes running off in a scrambling fury. You know, like when cats can’t get a grip on hardwood floors.

Rion (Narr):
I’m not entirely sure what this creature is, but considering that I’m staying the night here, it’s probably best that I investigate.I know it isn’t a classical dragon, since those all died out. Maybe a ghost? It could always just be a couple of mountain mice. Maybe there’s an old mountain caretaker living here? Whatever it is, or whoever I suppose, I hope they’re friendly. I’d hate to spend the night in a damp cave with a grumpy neighbor. I carefully get up so I don’t startle my temporary companion.

SFX: Soft, non-threatening footsteps

Rion:
Hello?
I’m not going to hurt you.

SFX: Skittering in crevasses!

Rion:
Oookay then.
We can just sit together for a bit, if you prefer. That’s okay too.


SFX: Assorted skitterings as Rion talks.

Rion:
You don’t have to be afraid of me. I promise I’m just passing through. I’m on my way to Copperhill, just past the river Fleuve. Do you have a name?

My name’s Rion.
I’m an adventurer, I guess. But not like, you know, a legendary, conquering one. There’s not some big quest that I’m heading off to complete to become a Knight of the Realms or anything. I just sort of float between towns seeing who needs help.

Cene:
Not a knight??

Rion:
Nope, just a helpful wanderer.

Cene:
The adventurer speaks! Hmm. Hmmm. HMMMMMM. Curious. Very curious. Adventurer must not see Cene.

Rion:
See...Sen?

Cene:
No no! The adventurer must not lay eyes upon the great and powerful drake Cene! FEAR ME!

Rion (NARR):
It takes everything in me to keep from bursting into laughter. That voice is so cute! And besides, everyone knows that if regular dragons ever did exist, they were killed by vicious kings and unworthy knights centuries ago. I absolutely must make a new friend.

Rion:
Do you...want some gold?

SFX: Light skittering

Cene:
…no! Dragons do not desire gold!

Rion:
Oh. Not even this little coin?

SFX
Coin Flipped in the air. It lands on the ground.
Skittering away!

Cene:
No no no! Cene does not desire gold! Cene does not hoard the smelted gold like the dragons in the tales of old!

Rion:
Do you want some soup instead?

Cene:
SOUP?

SFX: Excited skitter

Cene:
No no dragons must not meet with humans!

SFX: Forceful skitter away. Resist the Soup.

Rion:
There’s plenty to share. Here, I’ll just put this over here for you, and you can come have some if you want


SFX: Rion pours a bowl of soup and scooches it towards the source of the skittering

Cene:
Human offers soup? Human does not fear the mighty Cene!?

Rion:
What would I have to be afraid of? I’m sure you’re a perfectly nice person.

Cene:
ALL SHALL FEAR THE MIGHTY AND TERRIBLE DRAGON CENE!

Rion (Narr):
And with this rather surprising introduction, the cutest little face emerges from a crevice above me. Two sets of horns extend from their head, which they wiggle like they’re trying to be threatening? I’m not the least bit threatened though, since this new friend can’t be more than three feet long.
As they make their way down the cave wall, I use my sword to push the bowl of soup I’ve laid out a little closer to them.

Cene (to self):
Human holds The Sword!!!

Rion:
You can call me Rion. You’re ...Sen, right?

Cene:
The Mighty Cene of the Old Drake Flock!

Rion:
I didn’t think dragons existed around here.

Cene:
I stand here before you and you say dragons don’t exist? Pah! Cene obviously exists as Cene is eating your soup!

Rion (Narr):
My new friend suddenly darts forward and immediately slorps the soup. Within seconds their eyes are glowing a fiery red and they seem much more confident in their approach. Cene marches right up to my fire and props themself up on their hind legs before looking me in the eye.

Cene:
Human Rion offers gifts to Cene. Human makes bed for Cene. Human is friend to Cene?

Rion:
Sure! Though, I didn’t make you a bed. Would you like one? I’m sure I could spare a cloak for the night.

Cene:
What? Cloak? Why would I want a cloak?

Rion:
Well...it’s not like I can go grab a bale of straw for you.

Cene:
You have a nice fire right here!

Rion:
You sleep in fire?

Cene:
Of course, what else would a dragon sleep in?

Rion:
I guess I’ve never really thought about that? The only classical dragon I’ve ever met was sort of..not that talkative.

Cene:
You’ve met another dragon!? Where!? You must tell me! TELL ME!

Rion:
Well, they weren’t...really a dragon.

Cene:
What is that supposed to mean?

Rion:
Well, there was this princess who was taken by a dragon, and there were a lot of people going to rescue her, but when I got there it turned out she had actually built a fake dragon to keep out all the people after the reward money. So...if you want to get technical, I was the dragon for a little while! At least while she escaped. But now I’m just me.

Cene:
Hmmmm….foolish humans believing a fake dragon. You must have been pretty convincing.

Rion:
Thanks!

Cene:
Hm. Humph!
This is a good fire.

Rion:
That doesn’t hurt?

Cene:
Ha, silly human. Dragon eggs need to sit in magma pools for 500 years before hatching. This mountain used to be a volcano before it went dormant. Oh, I do miss a good lava bath.

SFX: Cene walks to, then rolls over in the fire

Cene:
I suppose you think I have a gold hoard too.

Rion:
Well...do you?

Cene:
Erm….no.

Rion:
Really?

Cene:
Well, not like you probably think. There was a pack of knights here a few decades ago, and they told stories about dragons having great piles of gold coins and ingots. I don’t have any of that.

Rion:
But you have...something?

Cene:
Oh yes yes of course Cene has something! Follow me!

SFX: Cene skitters off

Cene, fading:
Come come!

Rion (Narr):
I quickly get up and follow Cene as they skitter off into another crevice. It’s going to be a tight fit, but I should be able to squeeze in there.
I scootch out onto a small ledge overlooking a massive cavern glittering full of gold veins. Cene lets out tiny little puffs of fire that are just enough to give me a mostly clear view of their majestic home. No smith could craft something this beautiful.

Rion:
WOW!

Cene:
Now this is the gold of dragons!

Rion:
It’s gorgeous!

Cene:
This is the gold that dragons guard, that we protect in its natural beauty! You must tell no one of this secret, adventurer!

Rion:
Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me!

Cene:
Come come, look down here! You should be able to see it from there, just lean over!

Rion:
What am I looking at?

Cene:
Now it’s been nearly a century since I did this and the knight turned out to be lying about being a knight so some stuff went south, but I think--

SFX: SCHWING as Rion’s sword falls down and into the cavern.

Cene:
--since you’re just a regular old adventurer AH!

Rion:
My sword!

Cene:
Scary object is falling! AHHH! Must catch it but scary object no MUST CATCH THE THING! YAAAAAH!

SFX: Clink as Cene grabs the sword and starts flapping furiously. They land, then start talking.

Cene:
Missing something, adventurer?

Rion:
Thanks. I try not to use this for, you know, fighting, but it’s nice to have around sometimes. Especially for cooking.

Cene:
You should not hold such things so carelessly. The magics that might have been unleashed had the gold of the Old Drake Flock been damaged would spell doom!

Rion:
Are you just pretending to be fierce and menacing again?

Cene:
You play a dangerous game, adventurer. Take hold of your weapon.

SFX: Rion takes hold of the sword and sheathes it.

Rion:
Again, it’s really more of a cooking utensil. Or a shield, sometimes. What was it you wanted to show me?

Cene:
Right, right! Behold the dragon fires of old!

SFX: Cene huffing and puffing to get enough fire out to fill the tunnels.

Rion (NARR):
As Cene puts out fireball after fireball into a small crevice, a gentle glow starts to emerge from the various holes around the cavern. After a few moments, the whole space is aglow in a fiery orange, making all the gold glitter. It puts the evening sky from earlier to shame, and I’m almost tempted not to leave. But I’ve got business in Copperhill, so I should probably get to sleep. Someone has other ideas though.

Cene:
I’d really like to show you the fire portraits I’ve done, but I don’t think you’ll be able to fit into that cavern. I’ve got the entire epic of Tanagra blown onto the one wall, including the ascension of the gatherer! Took me four years just to get that one scene done!

Rion:
Do you just sort of burn the rock?

Cene:
No no, this is dragon’s fire, adventurer! A dragon’s fire can melt the hardest of rocks after long enough! Which means it usually takes me about a week to finish up a face, but it used to take me a month!

Rion:
That’s actually really impressive!

Cene:
Thank you! I have to have something occupying my time. Sure, watching over the Old Drake Flock’s gold is a noble cause and everything, and sometimes I have to take care of a spare pool of water but it’s mostly just waiting around.

Rion:
What are you waiting for?

Cene:
Not what, who! All dragons have a purpose to inspire at least one individual to their true calling! I’ve still got a few centuri es before I get around to that though. You’ve got to be large and intimidating before you can start handing out wizened advice like that.

Rion:
Well, I hope whoever you’re waiting for is worthy of that cavern.

Cene:
Oh, they will be. It’s only a matter of time

Rion (NARR):
I finish up my soup which I actually got to share with a friend after all, as Cene tells me what they’ve been up to the last few centuries. It sounds like there’s generally a lot of funny posturing towards non-existent knights and talking to their portraits.

Rion (NARR):
I lay out my cloak as Cene snuggles into the embers of my fire. I can hear a gentle rumble as their fire dies out and is replaced by the whistling of the winds moving throughout the cavern. It’s the perfect lullaby to share with a new friend.

Rion (NARR):
When I awake, Cene is laying upside down in the ashes of last night’s fire. I can almost hear...purring? I pack up my stuff as quietly as I can and set off.

Rion (NARR):
I suppose a lot of people might have expected more from that. Are dragons supposed to grant wishes? I don’t think so. But I’m sure a band of knights would have wanted gold, or old magical secrets or something. There’s probably a person or two who would have expected me to get a quest from Cene. But nope! Just a friendly companion for a night, which was exactly what I wanted

Credits:
Thank you for Sidequesting with us! This episode, Into The Cavern, was written by Brad Colbroock and produced by Tal Minear. Cene was voiced by Alex Welch and Rion was voiced by Tal Minear. A big thanks to Anne, Ilya, Jesse, Kyle, and E.L. Thackwray for supporting this episode.
If you like Sidequesting, you might like Diary of a Space Archivist, a very cute show about friendship, chocolate, and space. Sam the space archivist thinks she has a boring job until she finds an alien hiding on her ship - one that really likes curly wurlies. Here’s the trailer.

[Wooshing Spaceship noise]

Everything’s fine.

[beep-boop]

Everything will be fine.

[beep-boop]

Everything is fine!

[beep-boop]

Everything’s fine!

[beep-boop]

Oh, Everything is fine.

[beep-boop]

Everything’s fine.

[beep-boop]

Everything's fine.

[beep-boop]

Everything is fine.

[beep-boop]

Everything is NOt fine!

[Music fades in]

Diary of A Space Archivist. The comedy sci-fi drama about family, chocolate, and space. Do not be alarmed. Everything will be fine.

[Music fades out]

Trial By Fire

AUDIO (0:00): SIDEQUESTING THEME MUSIC.
AUDIO (0:12): SOFT, SOOTHING MUSIC.
RION Today is a travelling day, though the path to Copperhill isn’t the most exciting of trails. It goes over a wide plain, full of tall grass, but not much else. The only markers of the path are trampled grass and wheel ruts from wagons. As far as I can tell I’m the only one on this path today. It winds along the dry creek bed, going generally northward. As I turn a corner on the path, I realize that I’m not actually alone. A dwarf wearing simple travel clothes with a satchel over-full of bugs is on the path ahead of me.
I jog over to catch up with him and introduce myself. His name is Castor, and, though he starts off slightly suspicious of me, he warms up as the conversation continues.
AUDIO (1:01) : MUSIC FADES AWAY AND STOPS ENTIRELY.
AUDIO (1:02): CRICKETS AND BIRDS IN THE DISTANCE.
SOUND (1:03): FOOTSTEPS IN GRASS.
RION (friendly)
So, where are you headed?
CASTOR I’m... on my way to the capitol.
RION That’s pretty far off! I’m going that direction, but I have to stop off in
Copperhill. What brings you all the way to the capitol?
CASTOR I received... uhm... this letter? The Captain of the Royal Guard and the Court Wizard for the Princess were looking for an expert scholar and... I just... happened to be what they were looking for.
RION (impressed)
Oh, you’re a scholar? What are you an expert in?
CASTOR I study demons and demonology.
RION Whoa, that’s really interesting! I don’t know much about demons.
CASTOR No one does, really. That’s why I chose them as my field.
RION Smart!
CASTOR (getting more comfortable and sure)
You know, it’s easy to be afraid of evil things, and, honestly, heh, we should worry about them, how they creep into everyday life, but we also have to understand evil. If we wanna understand how to avoid it or... combat it.
RION I try to avoid combating evil. Save that for the heroes! You know?
CASTOR (surprised)
Oh... are you not...? I guess you’re more of a... standard adventurer?
RION Yup, that’s me! Oh, I wonder if that person up there is one, too! I run into other adventurers sometimes, on... various travels. You are the first scholar though!
CASTOR We uh.... Prefer to stay in libraries.
(unsure)
Could... they be dangerous? Aren’t there bandits on this road?
RION Well, some of them are nice. The bandits. I guess, libraries too.
CASTOR Nice?
RION (calling out)
Hello there!
YEENOG (distant)
Hail and well met!
AUDIO (2:35): BACKGROUND SOUNDS FADE AWAY.
AUDIO (2:36): SOOTHING NARRATION MUSIC FADES IN.
RION The person up ahead doesn’t seem to have any supplies, though he is wearing a very fine cloak. He’s tending to a campfire directly in the middle of the path.
The path is fairly large, though the size of the fire is almost too big. Stary sparks fly up, dangerously close to the surrounding grass. He watches us with interest as we approach, but doesn’t rise from his seat on the ground, unperturbed by the size of the flames
CASTOR Why is he in the middle of the path?
RION (joking)
We’re in the middle of the path.
CASTOR (dry)
Okay, we’re not camping.
RION Fair.
CASTOR (mildly annoyed)
We’re not stopping for a chat, are we?
RION That would be the polite thing to do.
CASTOR Could we just... go around?
RION That would not be the polite thing to do.
CASTOR (sighs)
RION Maybe he needs some help! I don’t see a tent or anything.
CASTOR (pointedly)
He doesn’t have any gear either.
SOUND (3:37): FIRE CRACKLES.
RION He could be a traveling light! Or maybe he lost it all. It happens.
(pause)
Good morning.
SOUND (3:43): FOOTSTEPS STOP.
YEENOG Good morning! I’m Yeenog Herozu.
RION Oh, nice to meet you Yeenog! What brings you here?
YEENOG My feet! Is that not generally the way?
RION Usually, yeah.
(awkward pause)
Well... I’m Rion and this here is Castor.
CASTOR (dubious)
Hello...
SOUND (4:06): ANOTHER PAUSE.
YEENOG Good to meet you!
RION (awkward still)
Yeah.
YEENOG Where do you travel to?
RION Well, Castor and I are going in the same direction, but we’re going
to break off at Copperhill.
YEENOG Hm, that is to the north, is it not?
CASTOR That’s right.
YEENOG Beautiful country. Splendid views. Wonderful aromas.
CASTOR (growing more uneasy by the second)
Sure...
YEENOG In fact, I’d just as soon see them myself.
RION Oh are you--?
YEENOG Yes! That sounds ideal! I shall walk with you a ways.
SOUND (4:43): FINGER SNAP.
SOUND (4:43): THE FIRE STOPS AS IT IS PUT OUT.
RION Oh, you’re a mage? That’s cool.
YEENOG I know so much about magic.
(hums, lowly)
So very much.
RION I suppose you’re welcome to travel with us.
YEENOG Yes.
SOUND (4:57): MORE FOOTSTEPS AGAINST THE GRASS.
YEENOG How do you occupy your time, traveling companions?
RION Well, I’m an adventurer.
YEENOG Hm.
CASTOR Oh! Oh, yes! I’m a... I’m a scholar.
YEENOG Hm.
RION He’s very smart.
YEENOG Two more disparate comrades are rare to see. Your adventures,
Rion, where do they take you?
RION Pretty much everywhere! I travel all over!
YEENOG Hm, off on quests requiring great skill and power?
RION Off on quests requiring neither skills nor power, I guess.
YEENOG (surprised)
You? Surely not! You have the look of someone with multiplicitous talents and overflowing heart!
RION I... do make a mean trail mix. Wanna try some?
YEENOG (over-exaggerated, awkward, loud laughter)
Trail mix! A noble joke from a humble, remarkable adventurer!
RION (dismissive)
I’m not remarkable. Castor sure is though! He’s an expert in demonology!
CASTOR (laughs, surprised)
Well, I don’t wanna brag but...
YEENOG Then don’t.
CASTOR (did kind of want to brag)
Oh.
YEENOG Your intellect is your tool of choice to become extraordinary?
CASTOR I... I don’t know if I’m trying to become extraordinary.
YEENOG Then why pursue something as... inane and unimpactful as
demonology? Who do you help?
RION I’m sure Castor helps lots of people. What were you saying earlier
about evil?
CASTOR (unsure)
Uhm... How... we can’t really work against evil, unless we understand...
YEENOG (laughter, mocking this time)
Oh, oh, how great his intellect must be, if he can understand evil!
RION I think evil can be hard to understand, sometimes it’s really hard to
figure out why people do things. You’ve gotta have intellect to...
YEENOG Oh, no, no, no, no, no! You don’t need to reach for philosophy to justify your actions, great adventurer! I’m sure you take on any good deed that is asked of you. No matter how difficult or frightening.
RION (unsure)
Uh... well... I mean.... Most of them.
YEENOG Yes, it’s action! Pointed and potent action that makes a difference. Assuming of course your action is based on quality of character, rather than thoughtless intellect.
CASTOR (incredulous chuckle)
Sorry, you have to think before you act, though. You have to. You can’t just go barreling into situations without using your head.
RION I don’t know, it’s worked out for me before.
CASTOR Well, sure! It works if you’re strong and have a sword and you can
force what you want to happen.
RION Whoa, hang on, I wouldn’t say I force what I want to happen. Usually
I don’t even use my sword.
CASTOR Well, you don’t have to, do you? To someone like me, someone like
you doesn’t need to do more than talk.
RION I talk to everyone, what do you do?
CASTOR Why should I talk to everyone? It’s not like I can tell just by looking if
someone is... dangerous.
RION You’re the most paranoid person I think I’ve ever met.
YEENOG Yes, Castor. What makes you so paranoid?
CASTOR (uneasy)
I... I’m just... there’s not a particular reason...
YEENOG That sounds like something someone with a reason would say. That
seems suspicious.
RION (thoughtfully)
You know what seems suspicious?
SOUND (8:38): FOOTSTEPS STOP.
YEENOG Mm, yes?
RION Your line of questioning.
YEENOG (chuckles)
Now who sounds paranoid?
RION I wouldn’t call that being paranoid. You’re asking a lot of odd
questions here.
CASTOR Yeah... actually... why don’t you have any gear?
YEENOG I don’t need it.
RION No? How far are you going?
YEENOG Hm, not far.
RION Where are you traveling from, then?
YEENOG Not far.
CASTOR That doesn’t really answer the question.
YEENOG I don’t see any reason why I have to answer your questions.
RION Then, I don’t see any reason why we have to answer yours.
CASTOR Rion, something’s funny here.
RION Yeah, and not funny haha.
YEENOG Trying to outsmart me, oh, wise one?
CASTOR No. That’s not going to work this time. We weren’t walking for 10 minutes before you tried to turn us against each other, and ourselves.
RION Yeah, you’re right!
YEENOG I don’t know what you think you’re onto...
CASTOR And, you put out your fire instantly with a gesture, but you avoided
saying you were a mage.
RION Yeah! Wait... what does that mean?
CASTOR It means that he’s not just a traveler.
RION Oh?
YEENOG You’re full of guesses. You have no facts.
CASTOR No, I know this. You’re a demon.
YEENOG (maniacal, dark laughter)
RION (offhandedly)
I’ve never met a demon.
CASTOR That you know of.
RION Good point.
YEENOG (evil laughter intensifies)
Oh, that we are cleverer than we look, aren’t we?
CASTOR (nervous)
Uhm...
RION Well, I try...
YEENOG Unfortunately, I have lots more work to do today, and can’t have you
getting in my way.
SOUND (10:19): FIRE RISING.
SOUND (10:25): A SWORD BEING UNSHEATED.
RION Okay, I feel like this is kind of unnecessary.
CASTOR (intensely wishes they’d just walked around the path)
Oh, my gods...
YEENOG Unnecessary? Hardly! If I cannot destroy your souls, adventurers,
then I will settle for your bodies!
RION You won’t be destroying anything.
CASTOR Rion, please be careful--!
YEENOG They’re not the one that should be worried!
SOUND (10:44): A FLAME WHOOSHES, FOOTSTEPS NEARING. RION GRUNTS SOFTLY.
SOUND (10:47): YEENOG SCREAMS. HIS VOICE BECOMES LOWER. IT FADES.
SOUND (10:51): A WHOOSH AS IF BY A PORTAL, AIR BEING MISPLACED.
SOUND (10:54): RION’S FOOTSTEPS IN THE GRASS. A SWORD BEING SHEATHED.
RION What just happened?
CASTOR Oh, oh wow.
SOUND (10:59): MORE FOOTSTEPS AS CASTOR APPROACHES.
RION Did I even touch him?
CASTOR Just... just barely. Is that a magic sword?
RION Well, it’s a sword? I... guess it’s kind of magic? I’m not really sure.
CASTOR (amazed)
That’s incredible! What else can It do?
RION It... makes a really good skewer for roasting marshmallows. And... I
can mess up some magic stuff, I think? I’m... I’m not really sure.
CASTOR (incredulous)
You’re not sure? How can you just carry around a powerful magical item like that and just not know how it works? I mean...
(pause)
Sorry.
RION Yeah. SOUND (10:43): LONG, AWKWARD PAUSE.
RION You okay?
CASTOR (absolutely not)
Oh, you know, it’s fun to have your fears confirmed in real time.
RION You handled it well! Caught on to what he was doing and who he
was and everything.
CASTOR Well, just glad you were there to do something about it.
(pause)
Sorry, about what I said. You don’t just... force people to do what you want. I think you could, but you don’t and that’s important.
RION Thanks. That means a lot. I’m sorry I called you paranoid.
CASTOR Heh, it’s not like you were wrong.
RION Hey, you and your paranoia really pulled through. Yeenog was
sure... something. I would never have guessed a demon though.
CASTOR Evil is sneaky, you know?
RION Yup, gotta be prepared!
CASTOR (in good humor)
A sword helps with that!
RION It doesn’t hurt!
(thoughtful pause)
Well... it can hurt but I try not to.
CASTOR I... I was going to ask where you got it, but I think we’ve had enough
personal questions for today.
RION I agree. SOUND (12:54): FOOTSTEPS IN GRASS.
CASTOR So... you’ve met some nice bandits?
RION Oh, yeah! So... I was standing up on a hill when I saw a bandit sneaking up on a carriage. I ran down because, well, sometimes you gotta barrel into situations, but it turned out that the bandits were actually...
AUDIO (13:02): INN BETWEEN THEME STARS.
AUDIO (13:11): DIALOGUE FADES AWAY.
OUTRO (13:14):
TAL Thank you for Sidequesting Inn Between with us. This episode, "Trial by Fire" was written by Tal Minear and Hannah Wright. It was directed by Hannah and sound designed by Tal.
HANNAH The voice of Rion is Tal, the voice of Castor is Caleb del Rio and
the voice of Yeenog Herozu is James Oliva.
Inn Between theme is by Eli McIlveen. This episode is a crossover between Inn Between and Sidequesting.
TAL Inn Between is a wonderful fantasy adventure podcast, set between adventures. It follows a group of adventurers along their quests, but it checks in with them before and after they’ve gone on them. If you like found family stories full to the brim of heartfelt and wholesome moments, you’ll love Inn Between. I sure do!
HANNAH And Sidequesting is a wonderful fantasy adventure podcast about what you can get up to when you’re avoiding the main plot, featuring a hero who prefers creative solutions to the old hack and slash. It’s equal parts wholesome and epic, a story that really believes in people. Give it a listen!
AUDIO (14:15): MUSIC ENDS.