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E205: Off And Running

When Stan starts taking an interest in local politics, Gubbin is his usual cynical self, but Betula is intrigued.

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Starring Hugo Jones, Art Carlson and Marisa King, with special guest Thoreau Smiley
Written and directed by Eli McIlveen and Sean Howard
Sound design by Eli McIlveen
Produced by Sean Howard
Supporting producers: Kim Bellinger, Ryan Cushman and Kona

Content warning: politics.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

ELI

Hey all. It’s Eli here with the penultimate episode in this season of The Axe & Crown. There’s one more episode after this, but we’ve got a bunch more bonus stories on the way on our Patreon feed in the weeks ahead: we’re gonna go on a road trip, we’re gonna meet some of Gubbin’s family and we’re gonna find out what he likes to read. That’s all available to our Specialist level patrons at patreon.com/albasalix. Link in the show notes.

Thanks as always to our supporting producers this season, Kim Bellinger, Ryan Cushman and Kona.

And listen out for a special cameo from Thoreau Smiley, creator of fabulous podcasts like Attention HellMart Shoppers! and 1994. Hit it!

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER

The Axe & Crown, Round 2!

Episode 5: Off And Running.

INT. BAR—MORNING

Stan enters from the street.

STAN

Morning, guys!

GUBBIN

Hey Stan.

BETULA

Hey Stan. How was the market?

Stan starts going through his shopping bags.

STAN

So good. I got some amazing cheeses for brunch tomorrow, I got some new candles for the tables—especially for Table 3. Oh, and I met this amazing woman who’s running for town council.

GUBBIN

I’m confused.

STAN

About what?

GUBBIN

You used “amazing” and “running for council” in the same sentence.

Stan pulls out a pamphlet.

STAN

Ha ha ha. Look, I’m being serious. Her name’s Constance Moldvay and she’s all about making the city safer for everyone. Better roads and sewers, cracking down on polluting industries. I told her we’d vote for her!

GUBBIN

Now, see, there are three things wrong with that statement. First of all, you ain’t me, and you don’t get to say who I vote for.

STAN

Yeah, sorry, I just got overexcited.

GUBBIN

Especially because secondly, I don’t vote.

STAN

Wait, what? What? Gubbin, you have to vote.

GUBBIN

Councillors, they’re all the same. They say they’re gonna stop corruption and help the poor and bla de bla de bla. And then they get elected and whoops, it all just slipped outta their mind. And the rare time they do come up with a good idea, the King and/or Queen suddenly decides nope! Can’t possibly do that!

So what good are they?

STAN

Listen, Constance is different. She gets things done. Look, it says it right here on the pamphlet. See? She gets things done.

GUBBIN

I see that.

STAN

Do you remember when Pomfritz’s Potions were dumping their effluent into the river?

BETULA

Geez. That sounds bad.

GUBBIN

You kidding? It was great! That big outbreak of flying fish? You could walk out the front door here and catch ’em without a boat! We were serving those up all summer.

STAN

Yeah, but it wasn’t just the fish. Do you know how many kids were born with three eyes that year?

BETULA

Is that where they all came from? I was wondering.

GUBBIN

Hey, it was great for the hat business here in town. Hiding all those third eyes, they had to pull ’em down low… they looked really fashionable, those kids.

STAN

It’s worse that all that. It turns out old Mister Pomfritz was good buddies with the Lord Mayor. So no one was doing anything about the dumping—except Constance Moldvay! She led a big protest outside the town hall. “Keep our river clean! Nix the elixir mixers!” They had to clean up or move out of town!

BETULA

So they cleaned up?

STAN

No, they moved out of town. All their potions are brewed in Balgomar now.

BETULA

Yeah, that figures.

GUBBIN

Yeah. Too bad for all the folks that worked there.

STAN

The point is, it worked. No more third eyes, no more fires breaking out on the river.

GUBBIN

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hooray for Constance.

STAN

And that’s why I’m voting for her.

GUBBIN

No you’re not. Which brings me to my third point. This pamphlet says Ward Two. You’re living on the other side of the river now, kid.

STAN

Oh darn, you’re right. I didn’t even think about that! Wait. What ward are we in, anyway?

GUBBIN

Ward Seven, South Shore—Bogtown.

STAN

And who’s our current councillor?

GUBBIN

Mister Duffin Braithwick. Used to run a big shipping company down at the docks. He’s been on the council for about a thousand years. Barely shows up for meetings any more, just collects his pay and goes off to play golf his developer buddies.

STAN

Ugh.

GUBBIN

Drives me nuts!

STAN

We need someone like Constance to run in our ward.

BETULA

Huh. You ever think about running for council, Uncle?

GUBBIN

I had not considered it, no.

STAN

People would totally vote for you! You’re a fixture in this neighbourhood. This place is a beloved institution.

GUBBIN

Hah. If you say so.

STAN

I do say so.

GUBBIN

You think I got time to sit on my butt in the council chambers listening to speeches about sewage treatment options?

BETULA

You said the incumbent guy never shows up to council meetings.

GUBBIN

Let alone getting out there shaking hands and smiling big fake smiles for the voters.

STAN

Aw, c’mon, Gubbin.

BETULA

What about you, Stan?

STAN

Me?

BETULA

You’re a prominent local business owner now. You’re Head of Innovation, overseeing the transformation of the Axe and Crown.

STAN

Oh well, you know. I mean, sure, I try, but… thank you, thats—I don’t know anything about politics, so it’s…

GUBBIN

Stan doesn’t have the nerve for politics. I think of him as a soft little bunny man.

STAN

Okay…

GUBBIN

You put him in a debate against a throw pillow and I guarantee you, ten minutes in he’s gonna say, “Oh yeah, right, Mister Pillow! I didn’t see it that way before! I better take a nap.”

BETULA

Uncle.

GUBBIN

Am I wrong?

STAN

No no no, you’re not wrong. And I love pillows. They’re so nice.

GUBBIN

They are, aren’t they?

STAN

How about you, Betula? You’ve got more nerve than me, that’s for sure. And you follow goings-on in the neighbourhood, right?

BETULA

Well, I like to keep up to date, but politics isn’t really my wheelhouse either.

STAN

You’d be great, though! You’re down-to-earth, forthright, honest…

GUBBIN

(laughs)

STAN

I mean, how does this Braithwick guy keep getting elected? Is he just a real likeable guy?

GUBBIN

You kidding? Everyone hates his guts. His family employs a ton of people, but meanwhile he’s been trying to undermine the guilds for years.

BETULA

You’d think they’d be organizing against him.

GUBBIN

They are! But that’s where money talks. He’s got a million crowns from the shipping business and who knows how many other big companies lining his pockets. He can outspend his opponents a hundred to one.

BETULA

Really.

STAN

Yeah, running for office is expensive. There’s printing, signs, staffing…

GUBBIN

Paying off the right people at the Palace and Town Hall.

BETULA

And these companies are paying how much to finance him?

GUBBIN

Thousands. Tens of thousands. Not to mention all the wine and carriages and trips to Melluria…

BETULA

Nice work if you can get it. The question is, how to get it.

GUBBIN

Yeah. Wait, you’re not thinking of running, are you?

STAN

Why not? Betula could totally get in!

BETULA

I don’t know. I’d need a platform if I was gonna run.

STAN

Woo hoo!

BETULA

If.

GUBBIN

You’re actually considering it.

BETULA

Just hypothetically.

STAN

Hypothetical woo hoo!

GUBBIN

Hypothetically… start with cutting back property taxes, eh? Essie over on Anchor Street, she’s about to lose her deli ’cause she can’t keep up.

BETULA

These new places can afford to pay, though. Like the Badger and Bucket. Maybe anyone new who buys into the neighbourhood gets the new rate?

STAN

That is nice thinking! I like that.

Miss Betula, what about road safety? That’s a big thing in Constance’s plan. Do you have any proposals?

BETULA

Uh, like better street lighting?

STAN

Yeah. The number of times I’ve nearly broken my neck on those cobblestones…

GUBBIN

Or that one night you got both your boots stuck in the mud and came home barefoot?

STAN

Exactly. Not to mention all the muggings and the pickpocketing that goes on around here at night. We have got to do something about that.

BETULA

(guilty)

Yeah, definitely. Damn those thieves.

STAN

What else? What does Braithwick usually run on?

GUBBIN

Jobs.

BETULA

And?

GUBBIN

That’s it.

STAN

I guess that makes sense.

But how do we outdo him on that? “More jobs”? “Better jobs”? “Shinier jobs”?

GUBBIN

Well, when it comes to jobs, Betula’s got quite the track record. If you count the forgery, fencing and professional kleptomania.

STAN

Well…

BETULA

I think we’re talking about making jobs for other people, Uncle.

GUBBIN

Eh, you gotta help yourself before you can help anybody else, right? Heh heh. That’s my motto.

Music sting.

INT. BAR—A FEW DAYS LATER

Betula consults a piece of paper.

BETULA

So, it looks like we’ve got five candidates in the running. There’s me, Duffin Braithwick and three others. Vincenzo Funk wants tuition cuts and a freeze on swan boat fares.

GUBBIN

Aa, he’s just a kid. He’s not gonna be a threat this time.

BETULA

Grunelda Blank…

GUBBIN

(laughs)

Is she running again? Oh, good old Grunelda.

BETULA

Her platform seems to be pretty much down to “restrict the number of cats—”

BETULA AND GUBBIN

“—living in one house”.

GUBBIN

It’s basically a feud between her and her neighbour. She’s run for council about a dozen times.

BETULA

And finally, we got Jane Tolliveri. Schoolteacher, really focused on getting rid of corruption at Town Hall. So, potential danger there.

GUBBIN

Yeah. You’re taking this more seriously than I thought.

BETULA

Eh, it’s fun. It’s kind of like casing the joint before you break in and steal—

She stops herself as the door opens and Stan enters.

BETULA

Oh, hey Stan.

STAN

Hey guys! I got our posters printed up. Look at this.

He pulls out a big poster.

STAN

“Vote Betula!”

GUBBIN

(unimpressed)

Wow.

BETULA

Is that supposed to be me?

STAN

Yeah, well, we were in a hurry and you weren’t there to pose for the portrait, so I just described you.

GUBBIN

That explains why you’re wearing a suit.

STAN

I thought it would be good if you looked, y’know, kinda professional.

BETULA

I mean, it’s not a bad look.

GUBBIN

“Keep the South Side Affordable”. Hard to argue with that slogan.

BETULA

What am I holding?

STAN

A baby.

GUBBIN

(laughing)

That’s a baby? Why is it wearing a suit?

BETULA

Oh no. That’s supposed to be a troll baby, isn’t it?

STAN

Well, it didn’t seem right to put you on a poster holding someone else’s baby, so…

GUBBIN

(chuckling)

BETULA

And now everyone’s going to think I’m a mom.

STAN

I just thought holding a baby would make you seem more trustworthy and approachable.

BETULA

Stop laughing. Stop it.

Fine, if that’s what it takes.

GUBBIN

Yeah, it might “resonate” with the parents out there.

STAN

Yes. Exactly!

GUBBIN

Definitely the ones with really ugly kids.

BETULA

Yeah. Yeah. It looks a little like a tiny Gubbin.

GUBBIN

(still laughing)

Can’t be me, it’s wearing a suit.

STAN

Okay team! What do you say? Time to get out there and slap some posters on walls?

BETULA

There’ll be someone getting slapped, all right.

Music sting.

INT. BAR—LATER

The door opens and Gubbin, Betula and Stan enter from the street.

BETULA

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. This is all new to me. I didn’t realize the campaign was already on.

STAN

The campaign is always on, Betula!

BETULA

I mean, no one’s ever walked up to me and asked me point blank like that before.

GUBBIN

You sure surprised that guy, though. “How do we know you’re not a crook like all the rest?”

BETULA

Yeah. What was I supposed to do?

STAN

Well, tell him in glorious detail all about your exploits as a professional thief, apparently.

BETULA

You said the whole idea behind this campaign was honesty.

GUBBIN

An honest image. There’s a huge difference between that and actual honesty.

BETULA

So, lie and then lie about lying.

GUBBIN

As usual.

STAN

Oh man, I suddenly feel kinda sick to my stomach.

When did you steal an antique carriage full of jewels, anyway?

BETULA

Couple months ago. It was parked right outside the Palace, too.

STAN

Betula!

BETULA

Stan, I worked for a Meyurian gangster. I’ve done a lot more than steal a few things.

STAN

Oh geez, I don’t want to know this.

GUBBIN

Oh, it’s fine, Stan. You saw that guy. He was impressed.

STAN

Yeah, but if word gets out…

GUBBIN

We’ll be fine. We just gotta spin it the right way.

STAN

Spin it? Spin it how?

GUBBIN

Well, we’re in Ward Seven. It’s a rough neighbourhood. What percentage of the people out there haven’t been tempted to steal a little something now and then?

STAN

I think that you will find that most of our neighbours are honest, hard-working folks.

BETULA

Gubbin’s right. They’re also gonna understand the pressures someone faces living here, and that it may lead them to take on activities that are not on their face… legal.

GUBBIN

Well said. Well said, niece o’ mine.

STAN

(unconvinced)

I mean, I guess it shows initiative and… what could we say? It shows organization?

BETULA

Yes! Absolutely. It took six of us to pull off that carriage job, and it needed days of planning.

GUBBIN

Oh, that’s good, that’s good. A proven track record of management and leadership.

BETULA

A team player. But decisive.

STAN

I don’t like this any more.

BETULA

It’s okay, Stan. You don’t have to be out there doing the talking.

STAN

But talking is what I’m good at! Lying, not so much.

GUBBIN

Well then, just believe what we tell you, and repeat it to whoever you meet.

STAN

Oh boy.

GUBBIN

I’ll tell you, this is how we attract the big money to our campaign.

STAN

I’m gonna go see if the printer has our pamphlets ready yet.

He heads out.

GUBBIN

(sighs)

Ah, geez. What are we gonna do with that kid?

BETULA

He’ll be fine. Stan’s always fine. He just gets nervous when we try something new.

GUBBIN

Like tell the truth?

BETULA

(laughs)

Yeah. The look on that fella’s face.

GUBBIN

(laughing)

I actually thought his eyes might fall out.

BETULA

I am starting to like this running for office thing.

GUBBIN

It’s more fun than I thought.

Well, I believe I shall freshen up before the afternoon rush starts.

BETULA

All right. I’ll get these posters and things out of the way.

Gubbin heads upstairs and Betula sets to work.

The front door opens.

BETULA

Oh hey, we’re not open until 4:30.

STRANGER

Oh, I’m not looking for a drink. Are you Betula?

BETULA

Yeah. That’s me.

STRANGER

Forgive me. You don’t look exactly like your posters.

BETULA

Sure. Can I help you?

STRANGER

Yes, we’d like to talk about how we could assist you with your campaign.

BETULA

That’s awfully nice of you. When you say “we”—who exactly is that?

The stranger produces a business card.

STRANGER

Stuart Bathbridge. I represent Mysticorp Energy. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Betula.

CREDITS

Theme music plays.

ANNOUNCER

The Axe and Crown!

Starring Hugo Jones, Art Carlson and Marisa King.

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.

OUTTAKE: TEAM BETULA

STAN (ART CARLSON)

Team Betula! Team Betu—come on, everybody with me!

BETULA (MARISA KING)

I’m going to my room.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

Team Betula!

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Aw, don’t storm off! Come back here.

STAN (ART CARLSON)

(losing steam)

Team Betula.

GUBBIN (HUGO JONES)

Aah! Who’s a good little niece? Who’s a good little niece?

STAN (ART CARLSON)

(quietly)

I like ponies.

Laughter.

Music sting.

ANNOUNCER

A Fable and Folly Production.