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Alba Salix 201: By The Book

Alba, Magnus and Holly meet their strict new boss, Antalia Pearcey, while Queen Parabel fears for her kingdom.

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Starring:
Barbara Clifford as Alba Salix
Julian Sark as Magnus
Olivia Jon as Holly
Elaine O’Neal as Antalia Pearcey and Princess Minsey

with George Bertwell as King Gunther
Marisa King as Queen Parabel
Abbas Hussein as Emperor Rockhart
Robert Frances as Prince Bulwark

and special guests:
David Rheinstrom as Sir Galitus Lightwind the Pure
and Jeff van Dreason as T’Horxa the Invincible

Script, music and sound design by Eli McIlveen
Directed by Sean Howard and Eli McIlveen
Associate Producers: Jack Pevyhouse, Paul Tedesco, Keiko Kanda, Heather Collins, Julian Sark and Michael Hudson
Supporting Producer: Kim Bellinger
Executive Producer: Dave Addison

Content warning: Nightmares, mildly gross ailments and malpractice.

This episode is brought to you by Join The Party, a wonderful and inclusive Dungeons & Dragons real play podcast. Visit jointhepartypod.com.

INTRODUCTION

ELI

Welcome back to the land of Farloria! It’s time at last for Alba Salix, Volume Two. I’m Eli, co‐writer and co‐producer of this here show. This is the first of six episodes, coming at you weekly from now through the beginning of December.

This episode is sponsored by Join the Party, a Dungeons & Dragons real play podcast that’s exciting, inclusive, character‐driven and completely hilarious.

Johnny’s a warlock on a mission to bring the Light to everyone in the land, and make sure they party responsibly. Inara is a super cool queer skater teen out to become an assassin and impress the ladies, not necessarily in that order. And Tracy—that’s Designation TR8C—is an adorable, excitable robot with a few rage issues. Together, they’re saving princes, running errands for gods, and surviving madcap reality show tournaments.

It’s the podcast that got me hooked on real play podcasts. And don’t worry: you don’t need to know the rules to enjoy it.

That’s Join the Party. You can find out all about it at jointhepartypod.com.

And now, it’s time for Alba Salix, Volume Two, Episode One.

MUSIC STING

EXT. PALACE COURTYARD—DAY

Ominous music.

ROCKHART

People of Farloria! This day, your tiny kingdom joins the mighty Empire of Balgomar. Our Empire—your Empire—shall be immeasurably enriched by your people, your culture, and your precious, precious minerals. The magical energy that runs through your land shall fuel Balgomar for years to come!

A crowd cheers.

ROCKHART (CONT’D)

And to rule your small, quaint little province, I, Emperor Rockhart, give you your King and Queen‐to‐be: Prince Bulwark and Princess Minsey!

MINSEY

(giggles)

That’s us, darling!

BULWARK

Yes! A kingdom of our very own!

MINSEY

You know, I’ve always liked this palace far more than that icky little pile of old rocks in Fair‐Upon‐Middling.

BULWARK

Yes, truly this is a place fit for your beauteous self.

MINSEY

Oh, darling. My sweet little Bully Wully is going to be king!

BULWARK

That’s me! Kingy Wingy!

They giggle.

MINSEY

You silly, silly boy.

ROCKHART

(clears his throat)

Your Majesties.

BULWARK

Yes, Father? Oh, I suppose we should say something to our new subjects, shouldn’t we? Uh, hello!

MINSEY

Hello!

The crowd gives a shout.

ROCKHART

A bright new future lies ahead for Farloria. But first, we must sweep aside the past. Bring forth the prisoners!

Heavy chains rattle.

PARABEL

Let go of me! Murderers! Usurpers!

GUNTHER

I say, there’s no need for all this unpleasantness.

PARABEL

You may take our lives, but the spirit of Farloria shall never be defeated.

MINSEY

Oh, be quiet, Auntie Parabel.

GUNTHER

Minsey! How could you do this to us?

MINSEY

I’m so sorry, Uncle Gunther. But Daddy‐in‐law is right.

ROCKHART

Well said, my girl.

PARABEL

I knew it would come to this!

GUNTHER

Minsey, please.

MINSEY

No, no, the line of succession is clear: so as long as you and your son are alive, our flimsy, foreign‐sponsored claim to the throne is invalid, and therefore the only proper thing to do now is… off with their heads!

A roar from the crowd. Minsey and Bulwark’s giggling turns evil, then begins to echo and distort as the crowd chants, “Off with their heads!”

SMASH CUT TO:

INT. PALACE BEDCHAMBER—NIGHT

PARABEL

Nooo!

She sits up violently in bed, startling Gunther awake.

GUNTHER

Darling! Parabel! What on earth is the matter?

PARABEL

Those little fiends! They won’t take my son!

GUNTHER

Who won’t? What son?

PARABEL

Oh. Goodness, you’re right. I just dreamt I had a son…

GUNTHER

Perhaps it’s a good omen, then.

PARABEL

No! No, Gunther, it was a nightmare!

GUNTHER

Deep breaths, my treasure. Let’s get you some quell‐flower tea.

He rings the servants’ bell.

PARABEL

(breathes deeply)

Yes. Yes, thank you, dear.

GUNTHER

That’s the third night this week. Perhaps you ought to see your sister about this? She’s coming to the Palace in the morning.

PARABEL

Hmm. Perhaps I should.

GUNTHER

She and that fairy of hers can probably come up with something stronger than tea.

PARABEL

Yes. We’ll need something much, much stronger.

OPENING THEME

HERALD

By Appointment to the King and Queen: Alba Salix, Royal Physician—Volume Two! Episode the First: By The Book.

INT. EXAM ROOM—MORNING

ALBA

So what seems to be the problem, Mister, uh…?

Sir Galitus’s voice is slightly muffled. He still has his helmet on, and his armour jingles as he speaks.

GALITUS

Galitus. Sir Galitus Lightwind the Pure, slayer of foul monsters, bringer of peace and justice.

ALBA

And have you had any—

GALITUS

’Twas I who forded the Great Raging River and pulled the Mighty Mace of Maxilarth from the Heaving Swamp.

ALBA

Congratulations. What brings you to the House of Healing?

GALITUS

Madam Salix, the matter is slightly embarrassing.

ALBA

Believe me, we’ve seen everything here.

GALITUS

Um… I appear to have a rash upon my face.

ALBA

That’s all?

GALITUS

To be the noblest of knights, one needs the noblest face, to stir the hearts of the good folk of the kingdom. But now I must keep my helmet on so that none will see my great disfigurement.

ALBA

I’m sure it’s fine. Come on, helmet off.

GALITUS

Do I have to?

ALBA

I pulled a spoon out of a toddler’s nose this morning. I’m not worried about your little rash.

GALITUS

Yes. Very well.

Galitus takes off his helmet with a clank.

ALBA

Oh dear, that is a bad one.

GALITUS

Indeed. Methinks it came about when I slew the fearsome Manticore of the Northern Wastes.

ALBA

How do you figure?

GALITUS

It didst smite me with its venom, such that my legs grew weak. But I held my ground and laid low the beast that had terrorized—

ALBA

Did it smite you in the face?

GALITUS

No, no, it was my shin.

ALBA

I don’t think the manticore caused your rash.

GALITUS

I think you’ll find it did.

ALBA

Let me see that helmet. You’ve been wearing this a lot, haven’t you?

GALITUS

Well, yes. This helm was crafted by the dwarven smiths of Logath‐Blaggit.

ALBA

I think your skin is having a reaction to the metal.

GALITUS

’Twas forged and shaped precisely to fit me! Surely it is hypoallergenic.

ALBA

We’re going to have to run some tests.

(calls)

Magnus!

Magnus enters. Galitus hurriedly puts the helmet back on.

MAGNUS

Yo, what’s up, boss?

GALITUS

Don’t bring in more people!

ALBA

This is my apprentice, Magnus. Magnus, I think Sir Galitus here is having an issue with his helmet. Sir Galitus, if you would?

GALITUS

Well… fine.

He takes the helmet off.

MAGNUS

Oh, that’s brutal. Sweet helmet, though. Dwarves make this?

GALITUS

Aye.

MAGNUS

Badass. What’s this writing around the inside?

GALITUS

Those be the magic runes of the dwarves of the East‐Northeast. I bested their champion in a duel for their vast mountain kingdom, but great‐hearted as I am, I asked only for a fine helm from their legendary forge.

MAGNUS

So what does it say?

GALITUS

It reads, “To he who cheats death.”

ALBA

Of course! That’s what it is.

GALITUS

What what is?

ALBA

The mark on your forehead. Three crossed lines. It’s a rune too. In olden days, the dwarves used to brand their criminals with that very symbol.

GALITUS

Criminals?!

ALBA

And this doesn’t say “To he who cheats death.”

GALITUS

It does so!

Alba taps the inside of the helmet.

ALBA

It starts here. “Death to he who cheats.”

GALITUS

I would never cheat!

ALBA

Tell me, this duel that you won…

GALITUS

I did not switch our swords! It’s a filthy lie!

ALBA

Uh huh.

MAGNUS

What do you think, Alba? Orb of Hydrogenes?

ALBA

If you would.

Magnus fetches the Orb and waves it. It makes a magical shimmer which suddenly perks up as he gets close to the helmet.

MAGNUS

Oh yeah. This is one cursed‐ass helmet.

Alba taps on the metal.

ALBA

And you see, right across the forehead, there’s where they inscribed your magic rune. Precisely the same shape and location as your rash.

GALITUS

They marked me! Those little mongrels! With their filthy magic and their… their wordplay.

ALBA

Well, not to worry. We can fix this. Holly!

Holly enters. Galitus puts his helmet back on.

GALITUS

What…? No, not more people!

HOLLY

Hi Alba! Hi Mister Knight!

GALITUS

(petulant)

I’m not a “mister”.

ALBA

Sir Galitus, this is our resident herbalist, Holly. And the sooner you take the helmet back off, the sooner we can fix your rash.

Galitus sighs and complies.

HOLLY

Oh gosh. Mister… Sir, your forehead!

GALITUS

This is humiliating.

HOLLY

Did you cheat a clan of dwarves?

MAGNUS

He so did.

GALITUS

I resent these accusations.

ALBA

It looks like a simple spectral concentrator. Holly, do you have anything that will reverse it?

HOLLY

A solution of Penroth’s Blue Chickweed and some Revolting Violet should clear it up in a day or two.

ALBA

See to it, please.

HOLLY

You got it.

She heads for the pantry.

GALITUS

(quietly)

Will this prevent the… death part?

ALBA

Death part?

GALITUS

If the runes say “death to he who cheats…” Does that mean I am to die?

ALBA

I don’t think so. But you might want to go back and ask them. Very nicely.

GALITUS

Yes, Madam Salix.

ALBA

Now, if you’d like to have a seat outside, Holly will be right out to bring you your prescription.

Galitus dons his helmet once again.

GALITUS

Yes, Madam Salix.

He leaves the room.

ALBA

Good work.

MAGNUS

You know it. So? What do you say to teaching me some more magic?

ALBA

Have all those bile samples been tested?

MAGNUS

Oh. Yeah. I’m almost done. Partly done. Somewhat.

I’ll start on it today.

ALBA

Yes, please. I’m off to the Palace in a minute. We’ll talk when I get back.

MAGNUS

Yeah we will!

Alba leaves.

MUSIC STING

INT. THRONE ROOM—LATER THAT MORNING

Alba rummages in her bag.

ALBA

Here. A tonic of reverium sap and truncheon berry. One mouthful just before bedtime should bring on a good night’s sleep, and pleasant dreams.

PARABEL

(sniffs)

Ugh! It’s revolting.

ALBA

Well, it’s tonic or nightmares. Take your pick.

PARABEL

I can’t drink this.

GUNTHER

Really? It smells delightful to me.

PARABEL

Some of us have more delicate senses.

ALBA

Well, I’ll leave it here, in case you change your mind.

GUNTHER

If that’s all settled, Alba, we’d like you to join us for lunch.

ALBA

Oh. Yes. Lovely. Hopefully not a long lunch.

GUNTHER

Come along. It should be waiting for us.

They walk out together into the corridor.

ALBA

What’s the occasion?

GUNTHER

I’m sure you’ve been wondering what’s going to become of the Office of the Sorceror General, now that our Sorceror General has, um…

ALBA

Been arrested for plotting to murder your niece, and fled the kingdom?

PARABEL

He acted alone, I understand!

GUNTHER

Yes. Rather. Well, considering that little incident, we’ve consulted with the Mages’ Guild and decided to reorganize the OSG under non‐wizardly oversight.

ALBA

Oh? It’s about time. Who’s leading it?

Gunther opens a door and ushers Alba and Parabel into a reception room. As they enter, a calm, measured woman in her 30s stands up from the table: Antalia Pearcey.

GUNTHER

I’m glad you asked. Here she is. Good morning!

PEARCEY

Your Majesties.

PARABEL

Hello, Minister.

GUNTHER

Alba, may I present Antalia Pearcey, late of the Ministry of Transportation. Ms Pearcey, this is Alba Salix, our Royal Physician.

ALBA

Nice to meet you.

PEARCEY

And you. I’ve heard so many good things.

GUNTHER

Ms Pearcey will bring her administrative talents to bear, overseeing an all‐new department known as the Ministry of Magical Affairs and Health.

ALBA

Well, I think that will be a great step—wait, health?

GUNTHER

Yes! Since so much of your practice is mucking about with magical… things, we thought it would fit like a proverbial glove.

ALBA

Well sure, I use magic, but… Ms Pearcey, I thought you were going to be taking over the Office of Planning?

PEARCEY

That was the original idea. But His Majesty has taken such a keen interest in the kingdom’s architecture…

ALBA

Gunther? You’re going to head the Planning Office?

GUNTHER

Yes, it turns out I have a talent for it! It came as quite a surprise.

PEARCEY

Yes, quite a surprise.

GUNTHER

I’ve been overseeing a new project there this week. They’re designing a public square in front of the new Mysticorp headquarters. Look at this!

He pulls out a sheet of paper.

ALBA

Is that supposed to be a pair of dragons?

GUNTHER

Yes, that was my idea. It’s a fountain!

ALBA

Oh, I see. So that’s water that they’re… vomiting.

GUNTHER

Spouting.

ALBA

Spouting. Sorry.

GUNTHER

There’ll be lights too. All magically powered. It’s most exciting.

ALBA

As long as His Majesty refrains from having my garden torn out.

PARABEL

Oh, your garden again. One little decree and I never hear the end of it.

A servant enters with a tray.

GUNTHER

Oh look. Here comes our lunch!

PARABEL

What is this? I specifically said, no cucumber!

SERVANT

But Your Majesty—

PARABEL

Loathsome. Take it away!

GUNTHER

I’ll gladly have yours. What would you rather, my dear?

PARABEL

(fumes, then:)

Are there any anchovies in the kitchen? And pickled plums?

SERVANT

I will fetch some right away, Majesty.

The servant hurries off.

GUNTHER

Good heavens.

PARABEL

I just felt like having something salty.

ALBA

Curse those delicate senses of yours.

PARABEL

(huffs)

I’ll be in the kitchen.

She exits as well.

GUNTHER

Parabel!

(back to Alba and Pearcey)

Ah, well. Where was I?

ALBA

So Your Majesty will be in charge of planning.

Uh, Ms Pearcey…

PEARCEY

Yes?

ALBA

Do you have any experience overseeing magic? Or health?

PEARCEY

Our roads and ports are used by many magical vehicles.

ALBA

So… no.

GUNTHER

But Farlorian roads and ports are now among the finest on the continent!

ALBA

Aside from that little incident where we tried to run dragon boats and swan boats along the same stretch of canal.

PEARCEY

(haunted)

That was not my idea.

ALBA

So what is your plan for this new Ministry?

PEARCEY

In a word: standardization.

ALBA

And in more words?

PEARCEY

We want to replicate your success with the House of Healing. Expand it.

GUNTHER

Alba, you’ve been arguing for months that we should better serve our more remote regions.

ALBA

Well, yes. Think of the Pointy Lands. We’ve got a whole province going to see one overworked witch in a candy cottage that’s been chewed to pieces by the local kids.

PEARCEY

Exactly. So we need to develop a blueprint for service delivery.

GUNTHER

(eager)

A blueprint. Yes, yes.

PEARCEY

We are going to systematize the way you run the House of Healing. Examine what you do to create a manual of best practices. Everything down to the last pill, potion and procedure.

ALBA

(scoffs)

Everything? In one manual?

PEARCEY

I believe that’s what I said.

ALBA

I mean, we’re good at what we do, but every case is different. Every patient, every complaint…

PEARCEY

But it’s the delivery that stays the same.

(heading off Alba)

Which is why we’re going to proceed with implementing the EIIRP‐9 standard across all our facilities.

ALBA

Are you.

PEARCEY

Yes. We are. And that “we” includes you. And everyone at the House of Healing.

ALBA

Lucky “us”.

GUNTHER

Very sensible indeed. Er… what is an E double‐I…?

PEARCEY

…RP. Everything In Its Right Place, Level 9. The same standard I implemented at the Ministry of Transportation. Outlining our desired outcomes, processes and decision‐making approach.

GUNTHER

Well, that sounds terribly worthwhile. I should be getting along now—got to be at the mint to approve my portrait for next year’s coins.

PEARCEY

Ms Salix, I’d love to dive right in and pay a visit to your clinic. How does this afternoon sound?

ALBA

Why, that should be no problem at all.

GUNTHER

I do love it when my staff gets along.

MUSIC STING

INT. HOUSE OF HEALING—RECEPTION

Alba has just arrived back at the HH in a flurry.

HOLLY

What are you worried about, Alba? I love organizing!

ALBA

The new Minister is revamping everything. New procedures, new rules…

MAGNUS

I always said what we need here is more rules.

ALBA

Well, you’ve got ’em.

She dumps an armload of books on the counter.

MAGNUS

Whoa. That’s… some books.

HOLLY

Yay for books!

ALBA

Those are just the index. The Minister’s on her way here now, and I saw one of her assistants loading a wheelbarrow.

HOLLY

Gosh. These are all books on how to do our jobs?

ALBA

Nope. They’re books on how to decide how to do our jobs.

MAGNUS

We get to decide?

ALBA

Minister Pearcey gets to decide.

(sighs)

We’re probably going to have to change everything. Just when we were starting to find our rhythm.

MAGNUS

So pull rank, then! You could be all like, “My sister is the Queen, so there! Off with your head, sucker!”

ALBA

I would appreciate it if you didn’t say things like that in front of the Minister. And can we please clean up here? What are these vials doing all over the reception desk?

MAGNUS

They’re the bile samples you asked me to analyze. Look. Results right here.

He waves a thick folder.

HOLLY

Wow, that’s a whole pile of bile vial trial files!

MAGNUS

Right?

HOLLY

See, that rhymed!

ALBA

Yes, thank you. Magnus, if you have laboratory work to do, you do it in the laboratory.

MAGNUS

Well, today the lab smells like dead, burnt fish.

HOLLY

It’s not fish, it’s seaweed.

MAGNUS

Oh sure, sorry, that’s perfectly fine, then.

HOLLY

It’s a remedy for milkmaid’s knee. Or it will be. I’m this close to nailing the formula. This close!

MAGNUS

Have you tried not setting fire to it?

ALBA

Both of you, get all these vials put away in the lab.

MAGNUS

Boy, somebody’s stressed out.

ALBA

Now.

HOLLY

Okay!

Magnus and Holly gather up the vials and open the door to the lab. Alba gasps at the smell.

ALBA

Holly, I think we should discuss letting you work from home.

HOLLY

But I like it here! Isn’t it nice to have company while you work?

ALBA

Company, yes. Toxic fumes, no.

MAGNUS

See? Could you work under these conditions?

ALBA

That’s enough, Magnus.

The door opens and Pearcey enters.

PEARCEY

Good afternoon, everyone—

(suddenly gagging)

What is that smell?

Magnus returns and shuts the door.

MAGNUS

Oh, nothing, just violating our own health and safety rules.

ALBA

Holly, Magnus, this is Antalia Pearcey, the new Minister of Magical Affairs… and Health.

PEARCEY

Hello, team.

ALBA

Ms Pearcey, this is Holly, our herbalist and potions specialist.

HOLLY

Hi there!

ALBA

And my apprentice Magnus.

MAGNUS

Apprentice surgeon.

HOLLY

Would you like a cup of tea?

MAGNUS

(whispers)

Say no.

PEARCEY

It’s good to meet you all. You might be wondering why I’m here today.

MAGNUS

Are you taking over the kingdom?

ALBA

Magnus.

PEARCEY

Am I what?

MAGNUS

I mean, you’re the new Sorceror General, right?

PEARCEY

In a sense. But there is no longer a Sorceror General.

MAGNUS

The old guy was all bent on taking over. I thought it was like a wizard thing.

PEARCEY

I’m not a wizard. That’s the whole point. We’re getting off topic here.

(clears her throat)

As Farloria grows, the demands on the House of Healing will become greater. There’ll be more patients to treat. You’ll need to expand. Bring on more staff. And I know that you can all rise to meet these new challenges with talent and enthusiasm.

HOLLY

Yay!

MAGNUS

Yay.

HOLLY

I don’t know what you were complaining about, Alba. This is going to be great!

PEARCEY

Is there an issue, Ms Salix?

ALBA

I thought my staff might have some concerns.

HOLLY

Nope!

PEARCEY

Change is always hard. And there are definitely changes ahead. Normalizing procedures. Staff training. Labour standards.

MAGNUS

(mock incredulity)

Standards? For labour?

PEARCEY

That’s right.

MAGNUS

Would that mean, for instance, that I’d get to sleep indoors?

ALBA

The toolshed is indoors.

MAGNUS

Well, maybe according to the letter of the law…

PEARCEY

That’s definitely something we’d address when we do our assessment of working conditions in Stage Two.

MAGNUS

I got an assessment for you.

ALBA

Stage Two, Magnus. We have to do these things in the proper order.

HOLLY

What’s Stage One?

PEARCEY

Stage One is what we call a “user needs assessment”. We discover who is visiting the House of Healing…

ALBA

That would be “everyone in the city”.

PEARCEY

…what services they require, and what you require to deliver those services. Stage Two is about your experience here to date. The working conditions, but also your opinions. Your feelings.

HOLLY

Our feelings? Aww! You’re the best, Ms Pearcey.

PEARCEY

That’s… uh, thank you?

HOLLY

The way Alba was talking, I thought this was going to be nothing but paperwork.

PEARCEY

No, no. Most of it is about listening. Just as an example… I’d like to get from each of you a couple of words that you think describe the House of Healing.

HOLLY

Ooh! Ooh! Today I’m feeling pride. Because we helped eight patients today, including a knight with a really rare curse, and a sweet old couple with toad pox! That’s such a tricky one to diagnose, but we did it! Because we’re the team that heals! Together!

PEARCEY

So. Pride—that’s a good one. Any others? Magnus?

MAGNUS

Let’s see…

HOLLY

Satisfaction! Last week, I just finished relabeling every last bottle, box, pouch and canister in the pantry. Here’s one! See? They all have their name and catalogue number here. I love decorating the labels.

PEARCEY

Yes, very thorough. Er, does this say “Sockweed”? No… “Storkwort”?

ALBA

It’s “Goblin grass”.

PEARCEY

That’s a “G”?

ALBA

You get the hang of Holly’s handwriting after a few months.

MAGNUS

Speak for yourself.

HOLLY

Organized!

PEARCEY

I beg your pardon?

HOLLY

When I first started here, I owed Alba many, many good deeds, and it always felt like I could never catch up. Now I finally feel like I’m on top of everything and I know where everything is!

PEARCEY

Well. That will certainly come in very useful soon as we implement the new cataloguing system.

HOLLY

New… cataloguing system?

PEARCEY

Oh yes. When we’re finished, we’ll have a searchable inventory of all the assets at the House of Healing. Have a look through the manual if you want to read ahead.

Pearcey sets another massive tome on the counter.

HOLLY

“Everything In Its Right Place.” That sounds… sensible.

MAGNUS

Ha ha! Now you’re going to have to redo everything.

ALBA

Magnus.

HOLLY

It’s okay. If it’s that important to you, Ms Pearcey, we can do it!

PEARCEY

I appreciate it. So. Magnus? What words would you use to describe your workplace experience?

MAGNUS

Gruelling. Boring. Uh… endless.

PEARCEY

Really! Perhaps you could expand on those.

MAGNUS

Intensely gruelling. Mind‐numbingly boring. Endlessly… bad.

ALBA

Magnus. Ms Pearcey, I should apologize for my apprentice.

PEARCEY

No, it’s quite all right. I want our employees to feel free to speak their minds.

MAGNUS

Alba’s just mad because she won’t be able to hit me any more.

PEARCEY

She hits you?

ALBA

I…! I’ve never hit him that hard. And never when he didn’t deserve it.

PEARCEY

Physical correction is explicitly forbidden under the Ministry Code of Conduct.

MAGNUS

This one time, I broke a jar, and she hauled me out to the garden and made me eat brimstone peppers!

ALBA

No one made you eat them.

MAGNUS

She totally tricked me into it! She’s like, “Here, you have to learn to identify plants by taste. Eat this.”

ALBA

Well, can you pick out a brimstone pepper by taste now?

PEARCEY

Clearly, we also need to establish a standard course of study for House of Healing employees.

ALBA

Well. Strictly speaking, Magnus isn’t an employee.

PEARCEY

Oh? Are you a volunteer?

ALBA

Magnus is doing community service here on the orders of His Majesty. Serving three consecutive sentences for various crimes.

MAGNUS

“Crimes”. I knocked over a tent.

ALBA

Very nearly killing dozens.

PEARCEY

This is clearly a big topic! Let’s talk about this when we get to the Stage Two evaluation.

MAGNUS

Bring it on.

Holly is still reading the index. She turns a page.

HOLLY

Wait. There’s a filing system for baked goods?

PEARCEY

And Ms Salix? How would you describe the House of Healing?

ALBA

It’s a house where we heal people.

PEARCEY

I like that. Straight to the point. It’s a good reminder to stick to our core mission.

ALBA

Yes. So what’s your mission here today?

PEARCEY

This is just a get‐to‐know‐you session. Tomorrow’s when we really start in earnest. I’d like to shadow you throughout a regular day to see how things work around here.

ALBA

Great.

HOLLY

(weakly)

Yay!

INT. EXAM ROOM—NEXT MORNING

Alba is seeing T’Horxa, a weedy would‐be adventurer wearing a helmet. In the background, a pen can be heard scratching away at high speed.

ALBA

And what seems to be the problem, Mister… T’Horxa?

T’HORXA

T’Horxa the Invincible! Defeater of evil, bringer of harmony and niceness.

ALBA

Yes. I’m sure your exploits are many and legendary.

T’HORXA

So legendary. Just, um… quick question. Who’s this?

ALBA

This is Ms Pearcey—

The writing stops. It’s Pearcey.

PEARCEY

Please, just pretend I’m not here. I’m monitoring the treatment to help the House of Healing team improve the patient experience.

T’HORXA

So… you’re not a doctor?

PEARCEY

Don’t worry. All of this is completely confidential. Nothing in these notes will personally identify you.

ALBA

As I was saying, what can we help you with today?

T’HORXA

I’m… uh… T’Horxa is embarrassed to say.

ALBA

Something to do with your helmet, perhaps?

T’HORXA

My helmet? No. I mean… nay. I am here because of a blight upon my face.

ALBA

Caused by your helmet.

PEARCEY

That seems like a rather hasty conclusion at this stage, don’t you think?

ALBA

I thought you weren’t here.

T’HORXA

What’s wrong with my helmet?

ALBA

Let’s see. Did you happen to buy it for an unbelievable price some time yesterday?

T’HORXA

(he so did)

Uh… this helm was forged by the dwarves of… Laggity‐Blaggity.

ALBA

And you acquired it from a bold knight with a name like… Galitus?

T’HORXA

Nay…

PEARCEY

Ms Salix, we’re really diverging from our client intake protocol.

ALBA

Yes we are, because I’ve seen this exact helmet before. Mister T’Horxa, can you take it off, please?

T’HORXA

Does she really have to be here? Writing down everything?

ALBA

Apparently.

PEARCEY

These are simply notes on how our staff perform.

T’HORXA

(reluctant)

T’Horxa consents.

He takes off the helmet.

ALBA

As I thought. You’ve been cursed, I’m afraid.

PEARCEY

Cursed?

T’HORXA

Cursed?

ALBA

A spectral concentrator, to be precise.

PEARCEY

You’re not going to run any tests?

ALBA

We saw a patient yesterday who got himself into trouble with a clan of dwarves, and they gave him this very helmet. It seems to have made its way to Mister T’Horxa here, and affected him in exactly the same way.

PEARCEY

I would have thought you’d test for sensitivity to metal, for changes in diet…

ALBA

Look, I’ll show you. Magnus!

(to T’Horxa)

No, leave the bloody helmet off.

Magnus enters.

MAGNUS

Sup, witches? Oh, look, it’s a knight with a helmet. And a rash.

ALBA

Orb of Hydrogenes?

MAGNUS

Why, I just so happen to have it right here.

PEARCEY

That’s convenient.

MAGNUS

You don’t forget a helmet like that.

T’HORXA

Uh… thanks?

Magnus waves the Orb. It shimmers in much the same way as before.

MAGNUS

Yup, still cursed.

ALBA

Who’d have thunk. Holly!

PEARCEY

Ms Salix, I don’t believe Magnus is certified to operate magical equipment.

MAGNUS

What? I do it all the time.

T’HORXA

Not certified?

PEARCEY

All Ministry personnel who use magical items or spells must undergo a one‐day safety training, unless they’ve graduated from an approved school of magic.

MAGNUS

Really? If I take the training, does that mean I can use any magical equipment here?

ALBA

No.

PEARCEY

No. Basic gear only.

MAGNUS

Dangit.

ALBA

Would you go and find Holly, please?

MAGNUS

Fine.

He leaves.

T’HORXA

So… he’s not supposed to use that glowy thing?

ALBA

The Orb is just a diagnostic tool. Hell, it’s safer than most of the surgical gear we use.

PEARCEY

Yes. Thank you for reminding me—that will be a separate training course.

She makes a note. Holly bustles in.

HOLLY

Hi everybody! What’s up, Alba?

ALBA

The cursed helmet has struck again.

HOLLY

I heard! Lucky I made too much of that salve yesterday.

PEARCEY

What salve would this be?

HOLLY

Penroth’s Chickweed and Revolting Violet. I came up with it myself!

PEARCEY

So this wasn’t a previously documented remedy.

HOLLY

Nope. The violet cancels out residual energy from the curse, see, and—

PEARCEY

Has it been through clinical trials?

HOLLY

Of course! I always taste as I go. Plus we gave it to Sir Galitus yesterday.

PEARCEY

And you’ve booked a follow‐up appointment with him to evaluate the results?

ALBA

I don’t expect he’ll be back this way any time soon.

PEARCEY

(sighs)

So you have an effective sample size of one. Ms Salix, this isn’t good.

HOLLY

I’m telling you, it’s perfectly safe.

T’HORXA

Uh, perhaps T’Horxa should go.

ALBA

Sit. Down.

T’HORXA

Okay.

PEARCEY

How was this solution stored?

HOLLY

In a bowl. Don’t worry! It’s still good! Here, do you want me to test it now? Let’s test it!

She dabs some salve on herself.

ALBA AND PEARCEY

Holly!

HOLLY

It’s all good. See? Ooh, tingly. That’s how you know it’s working. Now, Mister T’Horxa, just hold still and close your eyes.

T’HORXA

T’Horxa is not on board with this!

All hell breaks loose. Everyone is speaking at once:

HOLLY

No, no, it’s safe! Watch, Ms Pearcey! You’ll see! Stop moving, I don’t want to get it in your eyes!

ALBA

Holly, stop it. Put the salve down! I’m sorry about this, Mister T’Horxa. Holly!

PEARCEY

Holly, that solution is not approved. Everyone, calm down. Ms Salix, get her to stop.

T’HORXA

No! No! I don’t want tingly stuff on my face! Help! Aaa! It burns! Aaaa!

SMASH CUT TO:

INT. HOUSE OF HEALING OFFICE

Tense silence.

PEARCEY

(sighs)

Well. I must say—

HOLLY

I’m so sorry, Ms Pearcey. It’s all my fault.

ALBA

It’s fine, Holly.

PEARCEY

No, it is not. It is not “fine”. Ms Salix, in the space of a single morning, you and your team have operated magical items without proper training; leapt to fanciful conclusions without any sort of standard diagnostic questionnaire; used an untested, improperly stored remedy against the stated wishes of the patient which caused a significant skin reaction…

MAGNUS

(snickers)

PEARCEY

…due to a hazardous ingredient mixed in by a staff member as a prank.

MAGNUS

Hey, I didn’t think Holly was going to use that stuff on any more patients. But sometimes she drinks the leftovers—see? I was trying to teach her a lesson about safe disposal of medicines. I am helping to improve our team’s compliance. Boom.

PEARCEY

Stop digging, young man. You’re already in over your head.

ALBA

All right. Thank you, Minister. Are we done here?

PEARCEY

I am recommending to His Majesty that you, Ms Salix, attend a six‐week course in standard Ministry protocol and procedure…

ALBA

For heaven’s sake.

PEARCEY

…and that your two assistants be let go, effective immediately.

HOLLY

What?!

MAGNUS

Ohhh, you’re kidding. Sweet freedom!

ALBA

You’ll be going back to jail.

MAGNUS

After working here I should get off with time served.

ALBA

Take it up with the King.

HOLLY

We can do better, Ms Pearcey! I promise we can! Upon my honour—

PEARCEY

Enough! All of you.

ALBA

No.

PEARCEY

Excuse me?

ALBA

No. This is my team. They may not live up to your vision of a perfect, efficient department—

PEARCEY

They don’t live up to my vision of a stampede in a barnyard.

ALBA

Too bad. When they don’t have a… well‐meaning bureaucrat second‐guessing their every move, they do just fine. I will take full responsibility for what happened to Mister T’Horxa.

You’re right—we rushed the diagnosis because I wanted to get this exercise over with. And maybe look a little bit impressive.

Yes. We’re here to heal people, not because we want to show off or look good.

MAGNUS

Well—

ALBA

Shut it, Magnus. We will begin implementing the new Ministry guidelines. But let’s get one thing straight. This is still my House of Healing. Barnyard or not, I will run it as I see fit.

PEARCEY

Very well. Let me be clear. You’re part of my ministry now. And I expect your House of Healing and all your staff to meet or exceed our standard. You have a week to produce an action plan. We’ll reassess then.

ALBA

Yes. Thank you, Minister.

PEARCEY

(under her breath)

The wizards were bad enough.

Pearcey strides out. The door slams behind her.

HOLLY

Wow, Alba!

MAGNUS

That was so good. You totally should have said “Off with her head!”

HOLLY

You did it! We’re still a team!

ALBA

A team with twenty‐one volumes of guidelines to read.

HOLLY

We can do this. Let’s show Ms Pearcey how good we really are.

ALBA

Please don’t say that.

CLOSING THEME

CREDITS

ELI

In “By the Book”, Alba Salix, Volume Two, Episode One, you heard Barbara Clifford as Alba Salix, Julian Sark as Magnus, Olivia Jon as Holly, and Elaine O’Neal as Antalia Pearcey and Princess Minsey,

with George Bertwell as King Gunther, Marisa King as Queen Parabel, Abbas Hussein as Emperor Rockhart, Robert Frances as Prince Bulwark,

and special guests David Rheinstrom as Sir Galitus Lightwind the Pure, and Jeff van Dreason as T’Horxa the Invincible.

Script, music and sound design by Eli McIlveen. Directed by Sean Howard and Eli McIlveen.

Associate Producers: Jack Pevyhouse, Paul Tedesco, Keiko Kanda, Heather Collins, Julian Sark and Michael Hudson.

Supporting Producer: Kim Bellinger.

Executive Producer: Dave Addison.

If you enjoy the show, check out our Patreon. Donors get weekly bonus content, early access to episodes, and an invite to our wonderful fan community on Discord. Look for the Patreon link at albasalix.com.

TAG: INT. THE AXE & CROWN—NIGHT

It’s a busy night in the pub at the Axe & Crown.

T’HORXA

(in a low voice)

Hey there, friend. Wanna buy a helmet?

The helmet clunks on a table.

GUBBIN

Hey, sword boy! I told you, go and sell your goddamn trinkets somewhere else, and let my patrons get drunk in peace!

OUTRO: OUR SPONSOR

ELI

This episode has been brought to you by Join The Party, a wonderful and inclusive Dungeons & Dragons real play podcast. You can find out all about it at jointhepartypod.com.