The Old Crone’s Theater: Act Two
The air was buzzing with excitement within the warm glow of Womford’s quaint little tavern, Jodi’s Place. Laughter and applause rang out openly as Biggle the bard took a few bows and boldly strode to the bar. Lifting a mug of ale high, he bellowed out to the crowd before him.
Biggle: Let this be a warning, to all who hate fun—there is plenty of ale, and more music to come!
As he drained the tankard, cheers and laughter erupted from the crowd. A patron at the bar turned to the half-orc and shouted over the noise.
Patron: It’s going to be hard to top that mighty performance!
Suddenly, silence fell upon the tavern as a bellow of smoke began pouring through the floorboards and the lights began to dim. Onlookers struggled in their seats trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening, as a flock of children weaved through the table legs and chairs to grab a seat on the floor front-and-center.
Rising from the smoke like a zombie,Allegro slowly came into view. His hands outstretched toward his audience, thin wires dangled forth like marionette strings, disappearing into the smoke at his feet. Slowly, a large dark form began to rise from the smoke. As it by magic, a giant pointed rock slowly grew before Allegro until it completely obscured the halfling from view. As the paper-mache rock grinded to a halt, the onlookers began to mutter amongst themselves. From behind the small grey curtain set within the rock’s face, a black-clad puppet appeared.
Narrator: Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you’re all well, for this is the Old Crone’s Theater, and I’ve a story to tell! It was penned by a demon, and delivered from hell, so sit on your bottoms and rest for a spell! This is the story of The Lord of Lance Rock—A necromantic fiend, with a zombified flock! So fill up your flagons and pick up your forks, for this tale has no happy endings, and best of all, no singing orcs!
A small murmur of laughter rang across the crowd as the narrator retreated behind the curtain, and another appeared on stage. The new puppet wore a dark purple and frilly costume with a humorously drawn white mask. While the appearance was meant to be foreboding, some of the children couldn’t keep from laughing.
The Lord of Lance Rock: Silence! [to the children] I am the Lord of Lance Rock—the most powerful necromancer in all of Elrond and beyond! Those simpletons in Red Larch think they are so great, throwing wonderful parties and never inviting me! Well I’ll show them, I’ll show them all! I’m going to amass a great army of the undead and march right up to their little town! Then, I’m going to burn their homes down… And kick dirt in their faces… And throw my own parties while not inviting them! Yeah, we’ll see how they like it! The best thing is, there is nothing those weaklings can do about it! Do you know why? [to the crowd]
A small amount of muttering spread throughout the crowd, but it was one of the children up front who raised his voice.
The Lord of Lance Rock: Because I cannot be beaten by anyone! I am all powerful, and if my ears aren’t deceiving me, you’ll see what I mean right now! For I hear a group of would-be heroes come to stop me! Well the jokes on them, for my caves are littered with the bones of similar so-called ‘heroes’ who thought they could best me! Perhaps if this new group shows any promise, I’ll add their corpses to my army of the dead! Muah ha ha!
The laughter echoed throughout the tavern as the puppet retreated behind the curtain. After a few seconds, two more puppets emerged from the other side of the stage.
Severus: By Gorm’s holy light, this is lovely—a nice dark cave! Finally, we can get out of that blistering sunshine and rest for a while.
Dovak: Aye, ‘tis nice to be surrounded by stone again… Although, I could do without all the monsters tryin’a kill us.
Severus: Nonsense! With Gorm’s might at our side, none of these monsters stand a hope of a chance! Why, I know of the perfect prayer to boost our moral and ready us for the battle ahead! We shall call upon Gorm’s blessing to cleanse this foul cavern of the undead it holds!
A puppet Lester emerges from behind the curtain as a new voice rings out.
Lester: Yes, yes yes… Gorm this and Gorm that! Well can Gorm clean this place up a little, my robes are a mess! This place is filthy, and I’m pretty sure I have a spider web tangled up in the crack of my butt!
The play paused as laughter burst forth from the group of children. The puppet Lester turned and stared with his painted black eyes at the culprits until they grew silent. With an audible sneer, Lester turned back to the group.
Severus: Halt your complaining, oh dark-and-brooding! This place reminds me of home, and I wouldn’t ask Gorm to change a thing. [breathing deeply] Yes, it feels good to be back in my own element.
Lester: Your element is a dark cave full of monsters and littered with mold, bones, and dung piles?
Severus: Well, the bones may take some getting used to, I suppose…
Takashi: It’s the dark that’s bothering me…
The ranger came into view behind Lester, and an audible growl could be heard from behind the curtain.
Takashi: What was that sound?
The group turned right as three zombie puppets came in from the other side of the stage. Each puppet wore a painted costume of an animal, with a large jingling bell attached to their heads.
Dovak: It’s a lion!
Severus: No, a tiger!
Takashi: And a bear!
Lester: Oh my!
Some of the adults laughed as the sounds of scraped plates and clinking tankards subsided. It was clear that the entire tavern was beginning to get into the story unfolding before their eyes.
Severus: Whatever they may be, Gorm shall smite the wicked and cleanse this land of these foes! Attack!
Severus and Dovak’s puppets ran toward the zombies as two painted arrows, held up by strings, lowered from above the stage and traveled from Takashi’s bow into the fray. Sounds of sword clanking and bones breaking could be heard magically emanating from every corner of the tavern. Lester spun around, and a small spurt of flame shot from his wand onto the stage curtain, singing it slightly.
Takashi: You’re supposed to fire your spells into the fray, dear brother!
Lester: But then I might harm someone!
Takashi: [muttering] I don’t think we have to worry about that…
With a final thrust, Severus sent the last zombie crashing through the curtain, and the sounds of battle stopped.
Severus: I believe we got them all, but I must wonder where they came from. We have arrived at a dead end, with no door or passageway in sight. Surely this is not all that the caverns beneath Lance Rock has to offer us!
Dovak: There is likely some secret passage hidden behind the rock walls. Now… Where did that halfling get to?
As Dovak spoke, the ears and head of puppet Allegro slowly emerged from the top of the stage looking down. As the children spied the figure, they began to point in amazement.
Dovak: Where oh where did that little rogue get to? Allegro? Allegro? Here boy!
Dovak paced back and forth along the stage with Allegro mimicking him from above. As the Dwarf continued to call out to him, Allegro slowly snailed his way down the side of the stage and stood behind Dovak’s back.
Dovak: I can’t find him. Do you see him anywhere, kids? [to the crowd]
All of the children pointed and shouted. Dovak turned quickly, but Allegro side-stepped and remained hidden behind him. This continued for a few more seconds before Allegro tapped the Dwarf on the shoulder and Dovak turned in fright.
Dovak: Oh, there you are! Now look around and see if you can find a door or something.
The rogue walked to the end of the stage and stopped. A quiet and ethereal voice rang out across the tavern.
Allegro: I’ve found a lever.
Dovak: Let me see… That’s not a lever, you great baffoon!
Allegro: Yes it is…
Dovak: No it isn’t! I’m a Dwarf, and we know stone! I’m telling you, that’s no lever!
Allegro sat quietly as a small wooden lever raised from beneath the stage. Silently, the rogue’s puppet pressed up against the mechanism, flipping the switch. A slow rumbling could be heard from the stage as a small panel opened in the rock formation. It was silent for a few moments before Dovak spoke.
Dovak: See, it was a switch—not a lever…
The Lord of Lance Rock: Silence you fools!
The group stepped back as the Lord of Lance Rock jumped onto the stage.
The Lord of Lance Rock: I commend you for your efforts but I’m afraid they are futile! This is where you die, heroes! Don’t worry though, you’ll soon be reunited with those Red Larch villagers you love so much—in the afterlife!
Suddenly, four zombie puppets fell onto the stage. Without warning, they attacked the group of adventurers and once again the tavern was filled with the sounds of battle. Gasps and cries of shock rang throughout the audience as the zombie puppets were flung, one-by-one, onto the tavern floor. As each hit the wood with a thud, it evaporated into a small puff of smoke. Eventually, the noise died down and the Lord of Lance Rock was left alone with the group of heroes.
The Lord of Lance Rock: So you are more capable than I thought, you will all make decent soldiers in my army after all!
Dovak: Your army? Laddie, I think we’ve gone and destroyed what’s left of your army. All that’s left for us ta do is finish you off and return for our reward.
The Lord of Lance Rock: Finish me off? Ha ha ha—don’t make me laugh! I am more powerful than your tiny mind could ever comprehend! Prepare yourself, for I have the knowledge of the world’s most powerful spells of death and decay!
The Lord of Lance Rock began to mutter and the group collectively took a step back. With a blinding flash of light, three painted bolts of magic flew across the stage and slammed harmlessly into Dovak with a small plinking noise.
Dovak: … Is that it?
The Lord of Lance Rock: Hardly, you fool! There is no hope against my magic missiles! Prepare to taste another volley!
Three more missiles flew into Dovak with harmless plinks. Many of the audience members let out bursts of laughter as Dovak began to make his way across the stage. A continuous stream of missiles began to erupt from the Lord of Lance Rock as his voice grew panicked.
The Lord of Lance Rock: My… My missiles, why are they having no effect? How can you still be alive?
Dovak: [Raising his battle axe] Because… We’re the heroes of this story!
With a sickening thud, Dovak’s axe collided with the Lord of Lance Rock and the necromancer puppet split in two. Cries of pain echoed from behind the curtain as the puppet slowly began to wither and decay until it fell apart into dust. The audience cheered and clapped with glee as the dust blew across the floor.
Dovak: And so ends the dreaded Lord of Lance Rock! All that’s left is to remove the curse he’s placed on the town.
Takashi: I think that might have something to do with it.
A small glowing orb on a pedestal came into view, and Allegro approached it slowly. With the audience looking on in anticipation, the small orb slowly raised from the stand. It hovered in the air for a split second before crashing onto the stage accompanied by the sound of breaking glass.
Severus: And with that, the curse placed on the town of Red Larch should be broken! We shall leave this place victorious and deliver the good news to the towns folk.
Dovak: Aye, and get our reward as well!
With a cheer, the group exited the stage as the narrator returned.
Narrator: And with that, we close tonight’s play. The evil necromancer has been defeated, and the town of Red Larch freed from the plague befalling it. It seems not even an army of the dead could stop this group of adventures roaming the land seeking justice, peace, and the safety of all. Goodnight ladies and gentlemen, and I hope you enjoyed the show!
As the lights grew bright once more, cheers and applause echoed across the tavern. The children and adults alike clapped wildly as the entire rocky stage sank back into the thin fog spreading across the wooden floor. In its wake stood Allegro, the halfling bowing humbly as coins landed at his feet. Back at the bar, Biggle also offered applause as he stared at his companion in amazement.
Patron: Oh boy, I stand corrected— that show’s gunna be hard to top! He’s one hell’ova performer!
Biggle: Yes, he’s a great story teller with decent comedic timing, but his script needs some work—there was not enough rhyming!
Patron: You know, you’re one weird orc…
Biggle: Oh your words cut me deep, my inebriated friend, your slanderous jabs pain me to no end!
The patron slowly turned away from Biggles in awkward silence as he raised his flagon of ale to his lips. In the middle of the tavern, Allegro bent low to scoop up the small mound of coins lying at his feet when from the audience, a gruff male voice rang out in alarm.
Audience Member 1: Oy, me coin purse ‘as gone missing!
Audience Member 2: Mine too!
Female Audience Member: And my necklace… It’s gone!
Drunk: Oy… An’ someon’s done stoled all da beer from me cup…
The drunk weaved on his feet as he brandished his empty flagon in the air. A large belch transitioned into a fit of hiccups causing the man to blink in realization.
Drunk: Oh… Right! ‘evermind…
As the drunk collapsed into his seat, all eyes turned toward Allegro. The halfling stood bent over, coins falling from his palm as he looked up nervously with a bashful grin on his face. Raising his arms up, the rogue shrugged and feigned a small chuckle. Without warning, he threw something against the tavern floor, and large cloud of smoke enveloped his form. With the audience coughing and choking, the smog slowly began to fade as the Lord of Lance Rock’s voice boomed throughout the tavern once again.
The Lord of Lance Rock: Did you think I was vanquished, well that’s just not my style! I will return soon, just you all wait a while! So bar all your doors and secure all your locks, or you might be the next victim of the Lord of Lance Rock! Ha ha ha…
As the ghostly laughter faded into the distance, the smoke cleared revealing nothing but a small burnt piece of purple cloth fluttering down onto the floor.