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E203: Worth Celebrating

Stan picks the wrong holiday to celebrate at the Axe & Crown.

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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: bereavement, family struggles and undead creatures.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SEAN

Hey everyone. Sean here with a couple quick announcements. First of all, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you for being with us and getting excited about the return of The Axe & Crown, and sharing it with friends and leaving reviews. We also have a sponsor this week that I’m so excited about: it’s Shaker & Spoon, we talked about them last week, but our next box is on the way and we’re so excited. And I’m going to be back to talk to you about our plans—what we’re going to do with that next cocktail box, at the end before the blooper. But in the meantime, remember that you can get $20 off your first box at shakerandspoon.com/albasalix. Let me tell you, subscription cocktails are the bomb.

And last but not least, we’ve hit the next tier on the special offer we’re running at patreon.com/albasalix. For every five people who sponsor us at the $5 level or higher a month, we add another item into the giveaway tier. Please help me send you cool stuff! Help us get to that next tier. We’re in Tier 2, and I think we can hit Tier 3 if not Tier 4 or higher. I’m not even prepared for Tier 5! Make me scramble. Anyways, that’s it—you can find out more about that by going to patreon.com/albasalix.

And now let’s get you to the show.

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER

The Axe & Crown, Round 2!

Episode 4: As Good As Gone.

INT. BAR—SATURDAY MORNING

The soft tapping of a hammer. Stan hums to himself as he puts up decorations.

Betula comes down the stairs.

BETULA

(yawns)

Stan, what are you doing?

STAN

Aw, geez! Sorry, Betula. All this was supposed to be a surprise.

BETULA

The decorations?

STAN

Yeah. It’s for Trølsundag!

BETULA

Yeah, I guessed by the flags everywhere.

STAN

Yeah! It took me ages to find those. Gubbin is gonna go nuts.

BETULA

Yeah, he is. Stan, I don’t think this is a good idea.

STAN

What? Why not?

Gubbin trudges in.

GUBBIN

(half-asleep)

What the hell are you guys doing up so early?

STAN

It’s Saturday! Also known as Brunch Day!

GUBBIN

It’s too early for brunch. Or day. This is getting ridiculous.

STAN

Sorry, Gub. I wanted to get the decorations done before you were up, so it’d be a surprise.

GUBBIN

Wanted what to be a surprise?

He looks around.

GUBBIN

Oh no.

No, no, no, no no. You didn’t.

STAN

Surprise!

GUBBIN

What the hell were you thinking?! No, never mind. I don’t care. Get all this crap off my walls!

STAN

But… it’s Trølsundag! It’s your national holiday!

GUBBIN

Not my national holiday.

BETULA

Sorry, Stan.

STAN

But I made special menus and everything! I thought maybe you could make kling klangs, and we’ve still got some of that weird coal cheese stuff. I figure any human who can eat some and keep it down, we give them their meal for free!

GUBBIN

Don’t you waste our food on your stupid brunch crowd.

STAN

I figured out how to colour the beer blue, too. And look! Look at these placemats. See? They’ve got sayings in Trølsig, so people can learn the language.

Gubbin takes a paper placemat.

GUBBIN

“Whan iss in der boat, geschtarten paddlen.”

BETULA

That’s not grammatical.

STAN

Aw man. Sorry, I should have run it past you guys. But, you know… surprise!

GUBBIN

Why the hell’s it written like that, anyway?

BETULA

I guess it’s supposed to look like runes?

STAN

Isn’t that cool? I’m just gonna put up these last two flags.

GUBBIN

No. Stop.

STAN

What’s the matter, Gubbin?

GUBBIN

Take it all down. Now.

STAN

Why?

GUBBIN

Brunch is cancelled on account of the bartender has a headache!

He stomps away behind the bar, and pours himself a drink.

STAN

But I made centerpieces and everything.

BETULA

Take it down, Stan.

STAN

I don’t understand. I thought Trølsundag was a pretty big party for you guys.

BETULA

Look. It is a big national holiday.

STAN

When Torun the Assertive pulled the big sword from the furnace and led the trolls to independence from Snögard, right?

BETULA

Yeah.

STAN

See? I’ve read stuff. Down with the ice giant overlords and Trølsig for the trolls!

BETULA

Right. But that’s the trouble. A lot of people thought that’s all Trølsund should be—troll country. Never mind that giants and goblins and treefolk have been living there for a thousand years.

STAN

Oh.

BETULA

Next thing you know, they’re trying to send everyone else “back to the mountains”. Where they never lived in the first place.

STAN

But you guys didn’t think that.

BETULA

No. But Gubbin’s Ma, my Aunt Tegrun, she was all in.

STAN

Oh. Oh. Ouch.

Gubbin wanders back.

GUBBIN

Yeah. Why do you think I left home?

STAN

I’m so sorry, Gubbin. Is that how you ended up here?

GUBBIN

Yeah. Left home, worked on ships, ended up in Farloria and joined the army.

Place isn’t always the greatest, but at least it’s better sometimes, you know?

And Ma, she can’t call me a coward any more.

STAN

No. Holy crow.

GUBBIN

Yeah. So all these flags and banners and things, they kind of leave a bad taste, you know?

STAN

I get it. I totally get it. I’m sorry, Gubbin. And Betula. I did a bad thing.

GUBBIN

Just get them out of here.

STAN

Sure thing.

He goes about his task.

STAN

Is it okay if we still do brunch?

GUBBIN

Eh, sure.

STAN

So… is there a better holiday? One without the connotations?

BETULA

Solstice is coming up.

STAN

Yeah, but we already have Solstice! Humans do that. Winter festival! Singing songs, dressing up like talking trees…

BETULA

Also somewhat problematic, but never mind.

STAN

Do you guys have different traditions for Solstice? Like, what did you do last year?

GUBBIN

Eh, last year wasn’t a good year.

STAN

Oh. Right. That must have been around the time of the Johann incident.

GUBBIN

Yeah. You could say the mood was a little heavy.

STAN

Okay, so what did you do when you were kids?

BETULA

Uh… Bobbing for flaming plums? That was always fun.

STAN

Sorry—plums that are on fire?

BETULA

Making snow boulders. Setting fire to things behind the fire department. Heh. You used to do that, didn’t you, Uncle?

GUBBIN

Yeah. That was a good time.

Or First Night. The goblin families down the road used to go house to house, visiting everyone with presents. One year they gave me this cutest little toy trebuchet.

STAN

Aww! I can totally see that. Little baby Gubbin, flinging things around, settin’ traps. Hey, is that how you got into engineering?

GUBBIN

Come to think of it—yeah, probably.

STAN

That is adorable.

BETULA

What about you, Stan? What did your family do at Solstice?

STAN

Oh, it was very traditional. Nothing fancy—that would have meant just spending money. So we just did the usual Solstice cake, and after dinner we’d all light candles and do New Year’s wishes.

BETULA

That’s where you write your wish for the year on a paper and burn it?

STAN

Yeah. Wait, do you not do that?

BETULA

It sounds a little bit like gluck-vin-oth.

GUBBIN

Yeah, kinda.

BETULA

Gluck-vin is… how would you say it?

GUBBIN

Like good fortune.

BETULA

Yeah. Yeah. Everybody says one special thing that happened to them this year. Something you feel thankful for. And then one thing you pledge to do in the coming year, that’s the oth.

STAN

Oh! You know, I like that. So it’s not just a wish, it’s actually gettin’ things done.

GUBBIN AND BETULA

Ehh…

STAN

What else? What else? Tell me more. Tell me more. I want to know everything. More troll traditions! Or “troll-ditions”. Eh? See what I did there?

GUBBIN

Well, there’s Efgnar.

BETULA

(groans)

STAN

Ef-gnar? What is that? Is that a food? Is that a parade? What’s Efgnar?

GUBBIN

It’s a giant beast like a bear, who comes and visits all the children.

STAN

Oh! And then gives them candy, like Old Mother Blizzard?

GUBBIN

Nah. She roars in their faces, raaaargh!

STAN

Oog.

GUBBIN

And if they run away, she chases them down and eats them slowly.

STAN

Okay, that’s traumatizing.

GUBBIN

And if they stand their ground, they get a pie made from the other children.

STAN

I… like pie…

GUBBIN

Hey, Betula! You should play the Efgnar this year.

BETULA

Uncle. I’m not doing that again.

STAN

Wait a minute, hang on. You played the Efgnar?

BETULA

Yeah. So on Midwinter’s Night, someone dresses up as the Efgnar and roars at all the kids. Usually it was me, since I was the biggest.

STAN

Oh wow! Do you think that maybe you could get dressed up again as the Efgnar?

BETULA

No.

STAN

C’mon! That would be so cool.

BETULA

Why don’t you dress up as the Efgnar? You could show those little brats who’s boss.

STAN

Really? Oh, sweet!

It sounds kinda mean, though.

BETULA

Well, there’s always Üpsi-dag.

GUBBIN

Heh heh, yeah.

STAN

What’s that?

BETULA

Upside Down Day. It’s a couple days before the solstice. They pick a foolish person from the village and make them supreme ruler.

STAN

Okay, now that sounds like a role I was born to play.

GUBBIN

Yeah! You’d be a prime candidate. You’d be waited on hand and foot. Your word would literally be law for the whole week leading up to the solstice!

STAN

Aw, that is so cool! It’s about time old Stanway Gerard got what’s been coming to him.

GUBBIN

Yes, yes, yes, we gotta do that. We gotta do that!

BETULA

Well… Uncle’s leaving out the bit at the end where the supreme ruler is thrown off a cliff as a ritual sacrifice to Bu-Schkrinda, the god of tactful silence.

STAN

I’m sorry, what?

GUBBIN

Nobody does that any more.

BETULA

Yes, they do!

GUBBIN

Well, okay, but they put a net at the bottom now.

STAN

Are all your customs completely terrifying?

GUBBIN

Don’t worry, kid, there’s no good cliffs around here anyway.

Stan rolls up the last flag.

STAN

All right. That’s all the flags and things down.

BETULA

Thanks Stan.

GUBBIN

Yeah. Good job.

STAN

I’m declaring a brand new tradition here. Solstice is coming up, right? So we’re gonna have a party. Everyone’s gonna be invited. The whole neighbourhood. Trolls, humans, goblins, raccoons, whoever else. Doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re welcome here. Food and drink are all on me!

GUBBIN

You sure I couldn’t interest you in Üpsi-dag?

Music sting.

INT. BAR—SOLSTICE NIGHT

A raucous party: singing and laughter in the background.

BETULA

Here you go, two more pints!

Stan staggers downstairs.

STAN

(exhausted)

Hey Betula. How are we doing?

BETULA

Stan! You okay there?

STAN

Oh, yeah, yeah, I’ll live. Probably.

BETULA

You took off the costume.

STAN

Well, yeah. Not much point after the kids tore my head off. It was already a mess. You know, they really kick hard, those kids.

BETULA

Stan, you’re supposed to roar.

STAN

I did roar! But the one little guy screamed, and I felt so bad about scaring him.

BETULA

That’s the whole point! You showed weakness, and they all ganged up on you.

STAN

I know, I know. Next year, someone else is definitely playing the Efgnar.

BETULA

No, no, you can do it. You just have to stay strong. And roar!

(to a customer)

Another round? Coming up.

She goes about pouring a few more pints.

STAN

So? What’s your good fortune? Something that came true for you this year?

BETULA

Oh, are we doing gluck-vin-oth?

STAN

Sure!

BETULA

I dunno. I guess I found something I’m good at. Bartending and, you know, being a broker. Knowing the right people and connecting them.

STAN

That’s cool. You’ve really been making a name for yourself since you got here.

BETULA

And if I have a New Year pledge… maybe it’s to stick around. Most of my life I’d spend a few months in one place and then get bored or get in trouble, and just run away somewhere else. It feels nice to finally stay put for a little while.

STAN

I’m glad.

BETULA

Yeah.

What about you?

STAN

Oh, my good fortune? It’s the Axe and Crown. Everything about it.

BETULA

I guess that’s sort of a gimme.

STAN

Well, yeah. You know, when my dad died, I thought I was gonna follow in his footsteps. I was gonna sweep in and reinvent the whole hospitality industry. Have a whole chain of hotels. But… you know me. That’s not me. I really found a home here.

BETULA

And what’s your big pledge for the new year? Make it big in magic?

STAN

(laughs)

Naw. All this company-founding stuff, it’s fun, it’s great. Maybe it’ll make us money. Probably not. But well, look around.

See this? This is what I really want. I want to make a place for people. Everybody. I just want to take care of everyone, and help them have a good time.

BETULA

Even if you get beat up a little?

STAN

Heh. Maybe.

Please promise you’ll be the Efgnar next year.

BETULA

I’ll think about it.

CUSTOMER

Excuse me. Excuse me! I ordered a pigeon pie some minutes ago.

BETULA

Hang on, I’ll ask.

She pushes open the kitchen door.

BETULA

(shouts)

Uncle? How’s that pie coming along?

GUBBIN

(shouts)

Just gimme a minute.

BETULA

Hey, we got orders piling up here, just so you know! Two plates of stonebread and a whole bunch of orders for stew.

GUBBIN

Yeah, yeah, I’m working on it, all right?

BETULA

Oh, you’re working on it! If you say so.

She returns to the bar.

BETULA

Yeah, just a couple more minutes.

STAN

Well, Gubbin’s not allowed to make fun of your cooking any more.

BETULA

Right?

STAN

Why isn’t he out here, by the way?

BETULA

He wanted to swap. Said he’d had enough of people for the night.

STAN

I kinda get that.

Maybe I should check on him. See if he needs any help.

BETULA

Yeah, would you?

INT. KITCHEN—CONTINUOUS

Fire crackles and food bubbles as Stan enters.

STAN

Whoa, whoa, things on fire! Things on fire!

He rushes around putting lids on pots.

GUBBIN

Stan, get out. Let a troll work!

STAN

Gubbin, are you okay? We’ve got customers waiting for their…

Oh.

JOHANN

Hey there.

STAN

Johann.

GUBBIN

Kid, we’re having a moment, all right?

JOHANN

(purrs)

Mmm, aren’t we?

STAN

I can see that. Probably a little risky having your shirt off in a kitchen full of bubbling pots and pans, don’t you think?

JOHANN

It adds a little excitement to everything.

STAN

Look, do you want me to take over? Why don’t you two just, uh, get a room and I’ll make the food?

GUBBIN

Dammit, Stan…

STAN

Our patrons need dinner and you guys are busy. Go.

GUBBIN

All right, all right, all right.

JOHANN

It’s probably safer for everyone, Gubs.

GUBBIN

Okay. C’mon, Yo-yo. Let’s go.

Just lemme grab this spatula…

He heads out the door.

JOHANN

Okay! Bye, um… Stan, is it?

STAN

That’s right. Stan, yeah.

Stan steps in front of the door.

JOHANN

Um, can I go upstairs now? I thought you were gonna take over.

STAN

Yeah, I just… I wanted to say.

Whatever you and Gubbin get up to, that’s your business.

JOHANN

Yeah. It is.

STAN

But you know, you just… better tread carefully.

JOHANN

Excuse me?

STAN

Do you know how broken up he was over you?

JOHANN

Yeah, yeah, apparently he was kind of a mess for a while.

STAN

Yeah, that’s one way to put it, a mess.

He didn’t use the kitchen for months, did you know that? No one was even allowed in here. This room just sat gathering dust.

JOHANN

Come on. Did he tell you that?

STAN

Of course he didn’t tell me that. He’s Gubbin. He’s a big tough old troll. We had to break into this kitchen ourselves before he told us the whole story.

JOHANN

Oh.

STAN

So I just wanted you to know that… if you do anything to hurt him again, I will do terrible things to you.

JOHANN

Says the guy who just got beaten up by a bunch of little kids.

STAN

Yeah. Says that guy.

(low and dangerous)

So have fun. But you better be good to my friend, or I will kick your extremely handsome ass.

JOHANN

That’s kinda hot.

STAN

Sorry?

JOHANN

Kidding! I’m kidding.

STAN

I’m not.

JOHANN

Kay.

STAN

(cheery again)

Happy Solstice, Johann!

He turns away takes down a big frying pan.

JOHANN

Happy Solstice.

Johann slips out the door.

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.

OUTRO

SEAN

Hey. Sean here, and Eli wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you, but also wish you a happy holiday. This has been such an amazing journey, and we couldn’t do it without all of you. So please accept our sincerest wishes for a joyous holiday for each and every one of you. And a super giant thank you to our supporting producers, Kim Bellinger, Ryan Cushman and Kona.

Our sponsor this week is Shaker & Spoon. I talked about it off the top—Eli and I ordered the first box, and had it shipped to some friends in Buffalo, and we went and had a crazy fun rum party cocktail evening. Shaker & Spoon is a subscription cocktail service where they send you a box every month. It’s so much fun because these are amazing drinks, and it’s crazy what’s packed into this box. All you have to add is the bottle of alcohol for that box. So we picked a rum box, but we picked a special Italian box for our next one, because we want to surprise some of our friends here in Hamilton with an Italian themed holiday party—I don’t know why it’s Italian. It’s just because I like prosecco. But hey, it’s gonna be super fun. And you can find out more and get $20 off your first box at shakerandspoon.com/albasalix.

And again, we wish you, with cocktails or without, a truly, truly, joyous holiday.

OUTTAKE: ÜPSIDAG

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Your word would literally be law for the whole week leading up to the solstice! Oo, we gotta do it! We gotta do it! We gotta do it! Yeah yeah yeah!

BETULA (MARISA KING)

Down, boy. Down.

Laughter.

OUTTAKE: ÜPSIDAG 2

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

You sure I couldn’t interest you in Üpsi-dag?

STAN (ART CARLSON)

No!

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Just a little cliff we could throw—

STAN (ART CARLSON)

I can’t even pronounce it. Why would I want to do it?

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Well, because it’s fun! Oo, it’s so much fun! Look, Stan! We get to throw you off a cliff. You could be like a bird. You could pretend you’re a bird.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

We spent too much time upside down in Season 1.

Laughter.

SEAN

Scene!

MARISA KING

(laughing)

That’s right.

Music sting.

ANNOUNCER

A Fable and Folly Production.