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E202: The Cutting Edge

Stan and his friend have a brilliant new business idea, but it’s going to need some work.

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Starring Hugo Jones, Art Carlson and Marisa King
Written by Eli McIlveen
Directed by Sean Howard and Eli McIlveen
Sound design by Eli McIlveen
Produced by Sean Howard
Supporting producers: Kim Bellinger, Ryan Cushman and Kona

Content warning: fire, panic and marketing.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SEAN

Hey everyone, Sean here, one of the producers of The Axe & Crown. And we want to thank you for joining us on Season 2, what we call Round Two. I have a couple announcements.

First of all, we’re launching a special offer on Patreon for our patrons and supporters. For the next 30 days (and we’re launching this on December 2) you can get a special Axe & Crown sticker if you become a $5 and up supporter—and that’s in addition to all the other stuff you get, there are so many bonus episodes. And you can get that plus more, because this is going to be a tiered special offer. The first five people are going to get an Axe & Crown sticker at the $5 level. And then after that, we’re going to start giving everyone an Alba sticker a special sticker we’ve got printed, and then after the 10 people, if we get to that 11th person, everyone is going to get an Axe & Crown coaster.

We’re super excited about that. Your support allows us to keep creating the show, and there’s all kinds of other perks you get. And we recorded five bonus episodes for the Axe & Crown this season, plus all of our other bonus episodes you would get access to. You can find out about that by going to albasalix.com and clicking on the Patreon button—or by going to patreon.com/albasalix.

And the second announcement: Today’s episode is brought to you by the awesome Shaker & Spoon. It is a super fun cocktail service—Eli and I did it recently and we had so much fun with some old friends and we had a great night. You can find out more and get $20 off your first box by going to shakerandspoon.com/albasalix. And I’ll be back to tell you more about that at the end of the episode, before our special outtake.

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER

The Axe & Crown, Round 2!

Episode 2: The Cutting Edge.

INT. BAR—MONDAY MORNING

Stan enters from the street, struggling to carry something big and wooden.

GUBBIN

What the hell are you doing?

STAN

Morning, guys!

BETULA

Hey, Stan.

GUBBIN

Why do you have a giant board?

STAN

It’s a blackboard. See?

BETULA

Stan!

GUBBIN

No!

Too late. Stan turns the board around and knocks over a table. A tankard goes flying.

STAN

Whoops!

GUBBIN

Kid—

STAN

Sorry about that, guys! I’m just gonna install it in the back room.

GUBBIN

Why? What, are we teaching school now? No! Where the hell are you gonna put it?

STAN

Just on the far wall beside the windows.

GUBBIN

And cover the dartboard?

STAN

No, no, no! It’s for our new meeting space-slash-studio, see?

GUBBIN

Oh boy, this sounds like a winner.

BETULA

Wait, the back room already is a meeting space.

STAN

Yeah, but now it’ll have better tables to work at, nice chairs, natural lighting…

BETULA

Natural—

She runs to the back room.

BETULA (CONT’D)

Dammit, Stan!

STAN

What? Isn’t it nicer with those boards down off the windows?

GUBBIN

You took the boards down?!

STAN

Yup!

GUBBIN

Kid…

STAN

What? You said you want me to run the tavern as best as I can.

GUBBIN

Sure. But not by doing stuff. Just clear it with us before you open the windows, or clean up a stain, or throw away a body part, or fix the floorboards—anything! Just clear it with us.

Betula returns.

BETULA

Stan, the whole point of having a back room is that no one can see in.

STAN

Yeah, but there’s no fresh air, and it’s so dreary during the day. Who wants to do work in a stuffy, pitch-black room?

BETULA

Me and my associates do. It’s kind of vital to certain, you know, discussions.

STAN

(conspiratorial)

Oh, hey, right, yeah, discussions. Uh huh. Gotcha.

BETULA

Can we just put the boards back up?

STAN

Hey, how about some big heavy curtains instead?

BETULA

Fine. Why do you need light back there, anyway? Who’s gonna be working there during the day?

STAN

Me and my associates!

GUBBIN

Your what?

STAN

Well, okay, just one associate so far. But we’re growing fast! See, me and my buddy Kalzak are starting a company.

GUBBIN

Kalzak? Kalzak the Disheveled?

STAN

That’s him! Doesn’t like that name, but yes.

BETULA

Who’s Kalzak?

GUBBIN

Remember that guy in the blue robe a couple nights ago? Kinda beat-up looking.

BETULA

Oh yeah, him. Always hides in the corner? Talks to himself a lot?

GUBBIN

That’s Kalzak.

STAN

Oh, he’s not talking to himself. He’s actually talking to his guardian spirit Ephos.

GUBBIN

Oh, so that kind of wizard. A demon-summoner.

BETULA

Well, that’s a relief.

STAN

Well, technically, Ephos isn’t a demon.

GUBBIN

Technically, I haven’t showered in three years.

STAN

That’s true. Anyway, Kal’s an old buddy of mine! He’s coming by this afternoon and we’re gonna talk business.

GUBBIN

Huh. What kind of business?

STAN

Magic services!

GUBBIN

(groans)

STAN

No, it’s the new big thing. You don’t have to know anything about magic, or spells, or summoning—

GUBBIN

Good, ’cause you don’t!

STAN

No, I don’t, but that’s the point! We do all the work, see? The trick is finding a niche. One little specialized service you can do easily, but that people will pay for!

BETULA

Huh. So what’s your “niche”?

STAN

Well, first off we were thinking of remote visiting.

BETULA

Like one of those mirrors that let you talk to somebody else?

STAN

Yeah! Yeah! Like that. But it turns out there’s a group at the University already working on a pocket version of that.

BETULA

So you could talk to other people pretty much any time, anywhere?

STAN

Exactly!

GUBBIN

Ugh. Makes me want to eat my own intestines.

BETULA

No, no, wait. That could be handy, actually.

STAN

Right? But then Kalzak and I came up with the killer idea. It’s gonna make us a million crowns.

GUBBIN

All right, let’s hear this.

STAN

All right. Ready?

GUBBIN

Yeah?

STAN

Food delivery.

Silence.

GUBBIN

That’s it?

STAN

Magical food delivery.

GUBBIN

(scoffs)

We’re not some five-star Mellurian restaurant. Anyway, if they want our food, they can come here their damn selves.

STAN

No, no, this is the genius part. We don’t just deliver our food. We deliver for every restaurant in the city, even your five-star Mellurian place—right to your home! By magic.

BETULA

Wait. Why do you need magic? What’s wrong with hiring some kid to deliver it for a few pennies?

STAN

Eh… I’m not really good at managing kids. They tend to be—

GUBBIN

Smarter than you?

STAN

Yeah. And I keep losing my wallet. But compare that to magic delivery! Arrives immediately, no fuss, no muss, no “oops, I dropped it in a puddle”. Just great food, straight from the kitchen! I’ll be right back.

Stan hurries into the back room.

GUBBIN

I think I smell the apocalypse.

BETULA

Oh come on, Uncle. Just for once, be supportive.

Stan brings out two boxes and sets them on the bar.

STAN

Check this out.

BETULA

What are these?

STAN

These two things are called Jessemer boxes. They’re linked with a displacement charm.

BETULA

They seem kinda small.

GUBBIN

Yeah, who’s our target market here? Rats?

STAN

Gubbin. It’s called a “proof of concept”. The real ones are gonna be bigger than this. But the concept is, we have a box, and the customer has a box. So if I put, let’s say this tankard in one, and… oh, that’s not gonna fit. Okay, let’s use peanuts. Here, these peanuts.

He cracks the shell on a peanut.

STAN

I put one in each box, close the door, push the button and—

A whoosh from inside the box. Stan opens the doors again.

STAN

See? The one with the shell off is over here now.

BETULA

So they swap whatever’s inside them?

STAN

Exactly! They switch contents. So the idea is, our customers just pick from a menu and we get notified of their order!

GUBBIN

Notified how?

STAN

Still working that part out. But when the meal’s ready, we put it in the box, the customer puts money in the box, we hit the button and boom! They get their food, we get paid!

GUBBIN

And what if they don’t put any money in? What if we get an empty box?

STAN

Ah, but see, there has to be something in each box. It’s the law of magical something something!

GUBBIN

They could put rocks in it.

STAN

Yeah, they totally could.

GUBBIN

That could satisfy the law of something something.

STAN

But then they would get reported, and we’d just cancel their subscription.

GUBBIN

And meanwhile we’re out the price of a meal.

STAN

No, no, no, see, we’ll charge a deposit on the box. If you cheat, you don’t get that money back. A ha ha ha!

GUBBIN

Eh, maybe.

STAN

You just don’t trust people, do you, Gub?

GUBBIN

Who got his wallet stolen by a five-year-old?

BETULA

Interesting… So this can transport anything?

STAN

Well… we still have to do a bit of testing.

Music sting.

THE NEXT DAY

Betula shouts from the kitchen.

BETULA

Food’s up!

STAN

Thanks Betula! C’mon, Gubbin. Check this out.

GUBBIN

Yeah, yeah. Let’s see.

STAN

Behold! The prototype delivery system for Meals By Magic!

GUBBIN

Okay.

STAN

Aren’t these boxes nice? I got in touch with this cabinet maker who used to do work for my dad—

GUBBIN

Yeah, yeah, let’s see it go.

STAN

Okay, okay, sit down. Imagine I am a hungry customer. “Ooh, I am so hungry! I want food! But I need convenience too.” I look through the Meals By Magic menu, and oh boy! What do I find there? Peppered mock pigeon pie and mashed turnip, that sounds great! I want to put that in my belly. So I put the order in—somehow, we’re still working on that part—and… that’s gonna be three crowns, please, sir!

GUBBIN

What? You want me to put in three crowns?

STAN

It’s for the test. Yes. C’mon, Gub. You’ll get them back. The other box is in the kitchen with Betula.

Gubbin mutters as he fishes three coins out of the till.

GUBBIN

Who’s gonna pay three crowns for a pie?

STAN

Remember, it’s not just the pie. You are paying for the convenience. So just put your coins in.

GUBBIN

(grumbles)

All right.

He puts in the coins.

STAN

Close up the box there, yup, just like that. And while you’re doing that, your meal is already being prepared by the Axe and Crown’s expert chefs.

GUBBIN

Yeah? Guess we’ll need some of those.

STAN

(shouts)

Betula, are you all ready in there?

BETULA

(from the kitchen)

One mock pigeon pie, ready to go.

STAN

(to Betula)

Okay! You may press the button when ready!

BETULA

Here we go!

A whoosh of magical energy and a ding! Stan opens his cabinet.

STAN

Bingo! The first ever delivery from Meals By Magic!

GUBBIN

(impressed)

All right! Maybe you’re on to something here, Stanny.

Betula emerges from the kitchen.

BETULA

Did it work?

STAN

You bet it did! Look at that. Piping hot, straight from the oven.

BETULA

Not bad!

STAN

Eh? Eh?

Gubbin is poking at the pie.

GUBBIN

Piping hot, huh?

STAN

Yeah! It’s—wait. How come it’s cold?

BETULA

It’s cold?

GUBBIN

Cold? It’s frozen.

He bonks the pie against the plate.

BETULA

What? I just took that out of the oven.

STAN

Weird. Well, I’m sure we can sort that out. I’ll ask Kal about it. The important thing is, the customer has their meal, and we get paid!

They all head to the kitchen, where Stan opens the other cabinet. Flames crackle.

STAN

Ta-da!

BETULA

Whoa! Fire!

STAN

Hey! No!

GUBBIN

(coughing)

Close that up! Get some water!

STAN

Why are the coins red-hot?

GUBBIN

You melted my money! Stan, I’m gonna kill—

BETULA

Hey! Not now! Give me the bucket! Move that bucket over here.

GUBBIN

Quick, quick, quick!

Stan shoves a wooden bucket over to Betula, who douses the burning cabinet. Steam hisses.

GUBBIN

Man, it smells like feet!

STAN

Is everybody okay?

GUBBIN

Ah, god, that reeks.

STAN

(coughing)

Darn it. That was a really nice cabinet.

GUBBIN

Look, Stan, this is exciting progress and all, but maybe you can work on your new prototype somewhere else than my tavern! Doesn’t your buddy Kalzak have his own damn workshop?

STAN

He did, yeah. Um, it burned down.

BETULA

Shoulda seen that one coming.

STAN

But look, isn’t this amazing? If he hadn’t accidentally burned down his workshop, he wouldn’t have had to rent a room here, and we never would have met and started this cutting-edge new business!

GUBBIN

Yeah, we’re all blessed.

STAN

It’s gonna work, Gubbin.

GUBBIN

Nah, I get it. Engineering something is complicated, it’s gonna be messy. Just don’t burn down my building, okay?

STAN

Okay.

GUBBIN

And you owe me three crowns.

Music sting.

THE NEXT DAY

Stan enters from the kitchen.

STAN

Okay, Kal’s figured it out!

GUBBIN

Oh yeah? Did he get your magic boxes working?

STAN

Well, see, here’s the thing. A pie on a plate is a lot bigger and heavier than a couple of coins.

GUBBIN

You’re right, the man’s a genius.

STAN

I know, right? So when you displace that excess matter, it all gets turned into heat. Or cold. Or something. It’s the law of magical conversation… conversion… it’s a law. It’s a magical law. So… something like that.

GUBBIN

So we make really tiny pies.

STAN

No, c’mon, I’m being serious here.

Wait, now I want tiny pies.

Music sting.

THE NEXT DAY

Betula walks into the back room.

BETULA

Hey Stan, can you please make sure you and Kal clean up in here? I got some people coming by tonight.

STAN

Oh, sure, sure. Hey Betula! That counterweight idea worked. It’s reduced the fire risk by 45 percent!

BETULA

That’s good news.

STAN

I know. Although for some reason you can’t send grapes? It’s super weird.

BETULA

Is that what happened here?

STAN

Huh? Oh no, no, this was us testing out long-distance delivery. Um, it seems the further apart the boxes are, the more the cargo gets… scrambled.

BETULA

Eh. Still edible, though.

STAN

Not really. The stew’s all mixed together with little chunks of bowl—

She’s already eating some.

BETULA

(crunching)

That’s pretty good, actually.

STAN

Oh. Well. You do you.

BETULA

Mmm.

Music sting.

DAYS LATER

Stan is pacing the room.

STAN

All right! Who’s gonna be famous? Who’s gonna turn the restaurant business upside down? Us, that’s who!

BETULA

The brochures do look pretty good.

STAN

Yeah, aren’t they great? Oh man, I can’t believe this is happening.

GUBBIN

(reads)

“Meals by Magic. Grab some of Grandville’s greatest grub, without leaving your home.” Too bad we’re bringing them here for a demo.

BETULA

Hey, I worked hard on these pies.

GUBBIN

Yeah, well, let’s see if they impress all those fancy restaurant and hotel people.

STAN

People are gonna love ’em. Man, I wish Kal could be here.

BETULA

Well…

STAN

I mean, yeah, apart from his shyness.

GUBBIN

Also his tendency to yak away non-stop to his demon friend.

STAN

His guardian spirit.

GUBBIN

His invisible demonic guardian spirit.

STAN

Yes. It’s… sort of like what it is.

GUBBIN

It’s exactly like what it is.

STAN

Anyway, it was a good idea to have him stay in his room and let me do the pitching.

BETULA

Yeah. So… where is everybody?

GUBBIN

Did you get the time wrong on the brochure again?

STAN

(he double-checks)

No, it’s right, eleven AM. Maybe they’re just late, I dunno.

BETULA

All of them?

STAN

Oh geez.

Wait. What the heck?

He paces to the front door and opens it. There’s a noisy but mostly polite crowd outside.

STAN

Hey everybody! The demo’s happening over here! Hello? Hello?

No one answers.

BETULA

What’s going on across the street?

STAN

(completely crestfallen)

Oh no…

GUBBIN

Something going on at the Badger and Bucket?

BETULA

There’s banners up everywhere. “Announcing a new breakthrough in food delivery: Mudlark Meals To Go.”

STAN

They stole our idea! The Badger and Bucket are starting their own delivery business.

GUBBIN

They’re doing what?!

(he hurries to look out the door too)

Those bastards!

BETULA

“Featuring fare from Farloria’s finest food-makers.” Wow, those are some big names. Chateau Lumiera, The Royal Stork… all the Bucket Pubs, of course.

Stan closes the door.

STAN

They stole our idea and beat us to market.

GUBBIN

Do they have our little cabinets and everything?

STAN

They must have been spying on us all this time.

BETULA

This is why we don’t have windows in the back room.

GUBBIN

Or maybe they gave your friend the “wizard” a better offer.

BETULA

No, no, you guys. Look—there’s their big secret.

STAN

Where? What?

GUBBIN

Ahhh. So they just hired a whole bunch of street urchins to deliver food for them.

STAN

They stole your idea, Betula.

BETULA

Well, not really my idea. I mean, it’s basically like, I dunno, you lean out a window, you yell for some kid to bring you the biggest turkey from the shop around the corner. Except without the leaning out your window part.

GUBBIN

Yeah. They must have some kind of dispatch system.

STAN

Aw, man, what are we going to do now?

GUBBIN

I tell you what we’re gonna do now. We are gonna keep working on the Meals by Magic thing.

STAN

You think we still have a shot?

GUBBIN

Sure! Where’s your competitive spirit? You gotta want to win this.

BETULA

It’s true! Think of all the reasons you went with magical delivery.

STAN

Yeah! Our cabinets can get you the food in seconds.

GUBBIN

And no one’s stealing the middle out of your sandwich along the way.

BETULA

Not to mention, there’s plenty of other uses for your magic boxes.

STAN

Really? Are there?

GUBBIN

Well, gee, yeah. Getting cargo instantly from point A to point B, let me think.

STAN

So maybe the post office! Or stores.

BETULA

Yes. Those places. Or I know some folks in the, uh, “shipping” business who’d love to get their hands on some of these boxes.

STAN

Really?

GUBBIN

Yeah, like maybe you’re in harbour and they want to get something past customs inspection a little quicker?

BETULA

That kind of thing.

STAN

Smuggling! That’s brilliant! Woo hoo!

BETULA

Okay, not so loud.

GUBBIN

I bet Betula’s friends would pay good money, even for a prototype.

STAN

Yes, yes! They can be our initial investors. Let me talk to Kal.

BETULA

Maybe don’t use the word “smuggling”.

STAN

Oh, oh! Brain exploding. What if you disguised one of these as a hotel safe?

GUBBIN

Ohh. Interesting!

BETULA

Guys.

GUBBIN

But you’re only gonna get to pull that trick once. Someone’s gonna notice their stuff missing.

BETULA

Okay, settle down. Fellas.

STAN

Sorry, sorry, legitimate tavern owner here. I know nothing of any criminal activities in this neighbourhood.

BETULA

Thanks.

STAN

Do you know any good counterfeiters?

CREDITS

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER

The Axe and Crown!

Starring Hugo Jones, Art Carlson and Marisa King.

Written by Eli McIlveen. Directed by Eli McIlveen and Sean Howard.

Written and directed by Eli McIlveen and Sean Howard.

Sound design by Eli McIlveen. Produced by Sean Howard.

If you enjoy the show, check out our Patreon. You can get early access to episodes, plus all-new bonus stories and an invite to our wonderful fan community on Discord. Look for the Patreon link at AlbaSalix.com.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SEAN

Hey everyone. Sean here, and before we get to the super fun outtake, I just want to tell you a little bit more about Shaker & Spoon.

Shaker & Spoon sends boxes to you. So it’s a subscription cocktail service, and it helps you basically make handcrafted drinks made by some of the best mixologists. It has everything in the box except the bottle of alcohol that you need to buy for that month’s box. And you can also pick which box you’re going to get. It’s just super fun, and I can’t tell you how much laughter we had, trying drinks—and they were good drinks. And the boxes are about $40 to $50 a month depending what you pick. But you can get $20 off your first box by going to shakerandspoon.com/albasalix.

And again, quick reminder, we’re running that special offer for the next 30 days. If you go to patreon.com/albasalix or go to albasalix.com and click on the Patreon button, you can learn more, but for a limited time, you’re going to get access to these special stickers. And if we get enough people, we’re going to get two stickers and a coaster out to everyone.

And as always, we want to thank all of you for listening and staying with us. And a super giant thank you to our supporting producers: Kim Bellinger, Ryan Cushman and Kona.

OUTTAKE: TARGET MARKET

BETULA (MARISA KING)

They seem kind of small.

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Yeah, who’s our target marget here?

(stops and breaks character)

Our target Margaret.

ART CARLSON

(laughs)

HUGO JONES

I remember Margaret.

MARISA KING

It is Margaret! She’s our target.

ART CARLSON

Margaret Smith.

HUGO JONES

Margaret. I loved her.

OUTTAKE: WOO HOO

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

(dryly, without feeling)

Woo hoo.

Laughter.

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Woo hoo. Ooo, I did it.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

Woo hoo!

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Let me try that again.

Woo hoo.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

Woo hoo!

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Stan, is that how you do it?

STAN (ART CARLSON)

Woo hoo!

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Woo hoo.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

You’re so close.

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Okay, maybe I just have to twist my thigh or something.

(a little higher-pitched)

Woo hoo.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

You’re really—you’re nailing the “woo”. I’ve never heard anybody get the “woo” so accurately before. It’s the “hoo” where we run into trouble.

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

It’s making my nipples erect.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

Woo hoo!

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Oh yeah, now I get it! Woo hoo!

Music sting.

ANNOUNCER

A Fable and Folly Production.