I don't think I ever typed some much in one day before. I had some of this done beforehand, but considering how long it has been since someone posted in this thread I decided my next post was going to be worth the wait. I woke up early this morning and got to work finishing up a new addition to each of my series and with some new ones to boot.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready to reeeeead!

Starting with the new!

Spoiler: Character Bio: Ashley
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Character Bio:

Ashley

Species: Anthropomorphic Squirrel

Note: "Why anthropomorphic squirrel?" you may ask. 1: Why not? 2: Somewhat heavy handed symbolism. I based a lot of her character personality on characteristics of squirrels. Also, her animalistic appearance further separates herself from humanity. 3: Mystery. Why is she an anthropomorphic squirrel? Especially, when the ruins around her suggests that the world before was nothing that much different from our own. 4: I like squirrels.

Age: Unknown

Note: She is an adult, but doesn't know her birthday or how many years has passed. The world she lives in doesn't seem to have any noticeable change in seasons.

Gender: Female

Appearance: Grey fur coat and a long and very fluffy tail. It is so fluffy that it looks like it's wider than her body and she could easily conceal herself behind it without even ducking. She doesn't know how tall she is, or how much she weighs. She once found a scale, much like the ones you would see in a doctors office, and it said she is six and a half feet tall. But it was bent in several places and it wouldn't tell her weight at all. Her appearance is mostly human like except her fingers and toes end with retractable claws instead of fingernails, and her face has a slight muzzle to it instead of a human like nose and mouth. Her hair looks like a mix of a lions mane with a mo-hawk. It is long a lose, hanging over the top of her head and down the back of her neck. Her large squirrel-like ears keeps her hair from flowing down the side of her face. The only clothes she wears are a par of overalls and belt with several sacks tied to it. The overalls were the only clothes that fit her and she finds the various pockets on them useful. No shoes of any sort feel comfortable to her over her paws, and she thinks shirts look weird on her, because after a while of moving around with them on her fur tends to start pushing through the fabric.

Note: It is from her fur color that she gets her name. Her fur is "ash gray" so she calls herself "Ashley".

Background: She lives in a post-apocalyptic future, where she may very well be the only living sentient being in the world. She has no memory of life before the wastelands she calls home, or why there is no one else in the world. She doesn't know how she knows how to read and speak English, or any of the educated things that she knows how to do. She finds herself thinking about these thing sometimes, when she is not keeping busy with surviving, yet she knows that in all likelihood she will never find any answers.

Traits: She is clever, inventive, resourceful, and restless. She is always keeping busy with something to help her survive, or some new project to make the loneliness more tolerable.

Flaws: Her restlessness at times makes her loss focus on whats important. She tries to compensate for that by making a duty chart, so she doesn't forget anything important. The loneliness can sometimes get to her and she fears losing her sanity or falling into depression. The only thing that keeps her going, is that hope that one day she will discover she is not alone in this world.

Skills: She is skilled with working metal and applies that skill to create useful tools to reinforce the rundown building that she calls home. She is also a quick learner. Having a library nearby with a D.I.Y. section that is not completely destroyed she has access to various crafts that she may find useful.

Languages: English.

Hobbies: New projects to incorporate into her home to make life more tolerable. She hopes to one day have running water, maybe even electricity.

Powers: She is stronger than she looks. Her frame is slight, but athletic, yet she can lift cars over head with little difficulty. Having no one to compare her strength to, she doesn't find this unusual in the slightest. She is able to climb sheer vertical surfaces with ease thanks to her claws. She is very acrobatic and has a keen sense of balance aided by her tail. She is able to jump great distances as well, with remarkable confidence and accuracy.

Special: She has a friend: a can of spinach she emptied out a long time, ago. The only thing left of the label is a strip of paper that says "Popeye". She put a hole in the top of the can and ran a pendulum she crafted into him. She uses him as an early warning system by attaching him to some string connected to tripwires. She talks to Popeye on occasions, mostly bouncing ideas off of him or making plans for the day, but she knows he is just a can.

Note: Yes, I got this idea from the Tom Hanks movie. It's not like it has never been done before, though.

Story Ideas: Just the one idea really. She is by herself in a post-apocalyptic world dealing with the physical and psychological issues that come from such an environment. Where I got the idea is interesting, though.

It came from watching a video about "The Bechdel Test". If you don't know what it is, it is a test which asks if a work of fiction has two females characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. This video (which I won't name) was actually the first time I ever heard of this. It did get me thinking about it and how odd it is that so many works of fiction don't pass it, but near the end of the video the narrator said something that just irked me. She said that the Bechdel Test actually tests whether there is a female perspective in the work of fiction (I later learned that this is just her own claim and most other people believe that the test only serves the purpose of making you think of how odd it is how so many works of fiction can't pass such a simple test).

The second she said that, I said, "That is simply not true." It didn't take that much thought or effort to come up with simple examples of how a work of fiction could fail every part of that test and we can still see a female's perspective from the work. I worked backwards on it start with:

The two woman must talk about something other than a man: They can talk about a man and we can learn about their perspectives on a whole range of matters. If we are even to exclude their perspective about the man they are talking about in general, we can still get tangential information about them in the conversation. Let's say if in the Batman comic universe if two women are talking about Batman. We will learn about their perspective on vigilante justice, the issue of crime in Gotham City, maybe even their opinion on the economic impact having a well known vigilante in their city could have.

The two woman must talk to each other: Same thing as before. We can have a good look on a woman's perspective on any issue, even if she holds a conversation with a man. The same topics of discussion can give us the same insights. In fact, as I though about this, I kept going to the Batman universe. There are a lot of well developed female characters in the series, and we know their perspectives on everything, because of how well developed they are. Yet, they are frequently the only female character in any given story. There are times when the girls team up together, but most of the time it is Batman versus Poison Ivy, Batman versus Joker and Harley, or Batman and Batgirl versus some other villain. In that series the villain team ups don't happen until well after the characters are developed. You don't have Harley and Poison Ivy team up until they had their introductory story lines as well as development in side stories.

The last one is where the story idea hit me:

There must be more than one woman: My first thought is, "Well, what if the story had one character, and that character is a woman. How could we possibly see any other perspective if we only have one perspective to see from."

That is where the story idea hit me. I always enjoyed the post-apocalyptic setting, but I've been toying with ideas of a group of survivors fighting off the zombie hordes. I never put that much thought in the lone survivor story, dealing with the isolation and dealing with the exhaustive labors that she would have to go through just to stay alive. I instantly feel in love with the idea.

So, that's where the idea came from. Her opinion on the purpose of the Bechdel Test is actually just her own opinion and most everyone else I heard talk about it doesn't share that same opinion.

The name of the story series is "The Isolation of Ashley" and it fails the Bechdel Test. She only talks to one other character in it and Popeye is either a male character or a gender-less metal can.


Spoiler: The Isolation of Ashley
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The Isolation of Ashley

Chapter 1

Day by Day

"Yawn!" I stretch out as far as I can before I sit up in bed. Well, it is the closest thing to a bed I could make. Just four metal beams that I welded together into something remotely square shaped. I then filled it with every pillow I could scavenge from the abandoned city and covered it with a sheet. It was fine for the first couple of nights, but then the pillows would settle in the corners and leave me sinking in the center. Now I have to take the time to readjust all the pillows before going to bed. Hopefully, some day soon, I will find an actual mattress in the city.

"Good morning, Popeye." The empty can of spinach doesn't answer. I decorated him with scrap metal to give it a face and call him Popeye because that was all I could read from the can's label. I crafted a pendulum with a hook on the end and placed it inside of him. That way I can put him on a string that I got hanging in my room. The string is connected to a series of tripwires that surrounds my house. Typically, the only thing sets off the trip wires is some small desert animal. Lizards, snakes, and even a cat once set it off. Maybe one day, a person will snag the tripwire, and Popeye will wake me up so that I don't miss it.

"I had a weird dream last night..." I let my mind drift off, remembering the dream. I was on top of the roof looking out over the desert to the East. On the horizon, I saw a twinkling light that seemed unnatural. Without hesitation I ran off towards it. I thought that it must be a person signaling to me. When I got to the light I saw a giant wall with painted scenery. It was so massive that it must encompass the whole city. What created the twinkling light was a doorknob attached to the wall. Looking at it made me panic. I wanted to turn the knob, but I knew that opening the door would shatter the world that I knew and I would become lost.

I take several deep breathes and close my eyes. Then I jump out of bed and shout, "Remind me to get a journal the next time I'm in the city. It might be a good idea to start a journal of all my dreams." I start stretching out, remaining quiet while I pretend that Popeye says something in response. "Of course I will read them, again. What else do I have to do these days." I pause again. "Those are good things, too, but I got to keep my mind occupied with some fun activities, too. Otherwise I will go crazy and start talking to tin cans." I let out a terribly fake laugh. I make a joke about that every morning, and it just keeps getting sadder.

After I finish stretching I head over towards the corner of my room where I installed a somewhat functional shower. I put a open topped basin on the roof that collects rain water and connect it to a series of pipes that leads to a filtration unit. I built that after I discovered what the birds do in my water basin. It took a little bit of studying and experimentation to get it right. After that, it connects to a main storage tank and then to several other parts of my house. My shower has a working head, but I need to use a ball valve connected just above the head to turn the water on or off. I cut out the floor and made a recessed chamber with a central grate to collect the water. After my shower I take the collected water back to the roof and dump it back into the basin.

"Oh, dammit!" I'm out of conditioner. With my fur coat it is difficult to comb out tangles and knots. It is one of the many things that is difficult about not being... human. I'm some sort of combination of human and squirrel. I got a squirrel's tail and claws on the end of my fingers and toes. My face has human eyes and a squirrels nose, mouth, and ears. My body is covered in gray fur and the hair on my head is more like a mane. It's a dark gray, thick and looks like a mo-hawk from the way it sticks out.

I call myself Ashley, because of my gray fur. Not very creative, but I like it.

"Remind me to get some more conditioner when I go into the city today." I pause for a moment, both to pretend that Popeye is talking to me, and also from anxiety from the pain I will experience combing my hair soon. "I know it not really a necessity, but this is one luxury that I will not give up." I pause, again. "I will not discuss this further. Add it to my list, and let's get on with the day."

----------

After I returned the used water to the basin and put on my blue jean overalls... and combed out a dozen knots from my hair, I gather everything I need for a scavenging trip to the city. My belt and pouches, rope, a pickaxe and shovel, a hammer, string, pitons, Popeye, a long pole, a wind-up flashlight, and my over-sized backpack that I carry on my tail. I store a few amenities in my pouches such as some homemade trail mix, some blank paper, a few pencils, some chalk, and I tie a canteen of filtered water. I also have an old city map that I have marked to let me know where I have been, what I found, and what still has useful things that I couldn't take with me on the previous trip.

The last thing I do before heading out is fold up a towel and put it in my backpack. I read a guidebook that suggested I should always take one with me. It has been helpful on plenty of occasions, but I sometimes question why they gave such emphasis to it in the book. Perhaps it is because everyone knows the basic necessities, but no one thinks about a towel.

"So, let's check the list." I look at Popeye, how is currently attached to a strap on my backpack. "Hey, you forgot to add the conditioner. I can't trust you with anything, can I?" I add the conditioner to the list. The list has never been this long before. I'm running short on food, water, scrap metal, coal, and medicine. The hair conditioner just fell on my list of priorities like an anvil.

I take a look at my map to see where the closest place I can find food might be. The longer I live here the further I have to go to scavenge useful materials. I thought about relocating to somewhere further in the city, but I dismissed the idea when I realized everything I would have to go through to move everything into another building. The forge alone is impossible to move. I would have to build a new one from scratch.

"There's a grocery store a few miles from here that I haven't hit, yet. If we can keep a good pace we can get there and back before dusk." I might even find everything I need in one store. "Hey, stow that attitude Popeye. I will not tolerate your pessimism today after you forgot to put conditioner on the list."

----------

The trip is uneventful. The sky is clear, the air is calm, and the temperature is mild. This is pretty much the normal. It might rain once every two or three days, but the temperature is always mild. Strange for a desert. Even stranger for it being like this year round. I don't know where I got the idea that deserts are supposed to be hot, or the concept of changing seasons. I never read about it, since I normally just read D.I.Y. books to learn new ways to improve my home. I owe the library next door to the easy access to all those D.I.Y. books. I figure that I learned about deserts and seasons from the same place that I learned how to work metal and speak English. Either that I always knew how to do it or I was taught about it by someone in my distant past that I don't remember. All I ever remembered is being alone in this city by the desert, or in the desert. I haven't reached the other side, yet.

"Hey, look at that." I point at the pet store and move my tail to show Popeye. It is obviously a pet store since it has a giant sign with the letters P, E, and T still visible. The rest of the sign has fallen off. "They might something useful in there. Some pet medicine might work the same way as human medicine." And if I ever get desperate, I guess I could eat kibble. Hopefully, it will never get to that point. I shutter just thinking about it.

The grocery store is in the same parking lot as the pet store. "Well, this is lucky. If we don't have much trouble in the grocery store we can hit the pet store on the way back." The trip here doesn't take too long, but I have learned from experience that scavenging in a dark store is rarely easy. Turned over shelves and scattered debris mixed with little to no light makes it difficult to find your way around or even figure out what you are holding in your hand. I don't know what put the stores in such a state, but I assume it is from other people scavenging through the building before me. Maybe I just missed them.

Right behind the grocery store is a very tall building, maybe ten or twelve floors tall, with some severe structural damage in the side facing the grocery store. It looks like a tree with a wedge cut out of the side, and it is threatening to fall on the store. "Great, this my be my only opportunity to look through this store."

Of course, it might collapse on me while I'm inside. I pull out my map and start to weigh my options. "Okay, Popeye, feel free to voice your opinion if you got any better ideas." Looking at the map, I can see that the next place I might find food is another mile into the city, and nothing with any promise for coal or medicine.

"So, do we keep on going or risk the possible death trap?" This time when I wait I actually expect an answer. Forgetting for just a moment that Popeye is not real and that I'm actually alone. I catch myself quickly and slap myself across the face. "Get a hold of yourself Ashley."

"This could be my only opportunity to get anything from this building." I start covering my options out loud to keep me focused on the problem at hand. "If I wait until after the building falls down on the store I could dig through the debris and find some useful items. But that would end up taking more energy that just navigating a dark building, and I might find nothing useful in the rubble of a collapsed building. Also, there is no guarantee that the building will collapse soon."

It's decided, I got to search this place now or miss out on getting anything good from it.

----------

I pull out my string, pitons, and hammer at the front door and set up a tripwire to alert me if anyone comes inside. I put Popeye on the cord and tell him to be a good guard. I pull out my flashlight and give it a dozen turns to charge it up. I'm fortunate that the building has some skylights that allow a little light in. They are either dirty or designed to limit light through them, so I still need the flashlight, but I can still see the layout of the whole store without it.

I start collecting every can that isn't busted open. So long as the can is still sealed there is a good chance that the food inside is still edible. I used to use my flashlight to read the label before collecting any canned foods, but experience taught me that is a waste of time. You need to collect fast, especially with a guillotine hanging over your head.

I then move to the corner of the store where I find bottled water. Some of the water bottles have gone stagnant and are no longer good to drink, but I can still poor them in my basin and let my filtration system make it drinkable. I typically boil it first to make sure it is okay, I'm not sure if it is necessary, but better safe than sorry.

From there, I move to the coal. Unfortunately a leaky pipe, or possibly minor flooding from the rain, has soaked the coal. The bags have soaked into mush and all the coal is spread out on the floor. I might be able to dry it out and still use the coal, but collecting it is going to be a problem. Fortunately, I have a towel. I tie it into a carrying sack and gather as much coal as I can within it. I attach it to the end of my pole and shoulder it on my way to the shampoo and conditioner.

Scrap metal will be easy to collect in the parking lot. All I need to do is rip off a car door or hood and I'm set for a little while. So, I take my time looking through the conditioners. I open up the lid and take a quick smell. Most of them smell rancid from age, but I can sometimes find some that either smell okay, or just scentless. Maybe one day I will read up on how to make conditioner.

I suddenly hear Popeye ring in his dulcet tones. Something set him off, and I run towards the front door hoping that it is a person.

----------

At the front door I can see it is opened slightly, but nothing around that would suggest who did it. "Well, speak up clatter box! Who opened the door?"

As if to answer, I feel the earth start to shake. My heart stops as I realize the building behind us is collapsing.


And now the additions to the old.

Spoiler: Character Bio: Isabelle
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Character Bio:

Sabrina Isabelle Watson

Species: Human

Age: 18

Gender: Female

Appearance: She has medium length black hair that she dyes the tips of in various colors depending on her whim at the time. She has a curvy feminine physique, but she wears lose fitting clothing to hide it. She likes to put on exaggerated make-up in the colors of black, red, green, and purple. Instead of just wearing eye-shadow, she will typically paint out a shape like a diamond, star, or heart around one eye and leave the other normal. Her clothes are normally black with accents of other colors to match her make-up. She normally wears a shirt with the current name of her band on it.

Note: She wears the exaggerated costumes and make-up to promote her band. She wears lose clothing not because she is embarrassed, or because she thinks people would stare (because her outfit typically draws attention anyhow) but because she is more comfortable in lose clothes. She also designs her own clothes, taking whatever is on sale in Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Goodwill and making it more Rock 'n Roll.

Background: Her father left her and her mom when she was still a baby. Because her mom is a cop she had to raise herself after she was too old for a babysitter. She holds some resentment towards her mother for not being there for her, but knows it is unfair to blame her for things beyond her control. She instead works out her emotional issues in writing songs and aspires to being a Rock 'n Roll star. She built her style around some of her favorite classic rock bands like Kiss, Guns and Roses, AC/DC, and Metallica when she feels a little Metal. She is a member of the drama club, where she believes she will learn how to perform to an audience and build a great stage show to go along with the music. She is self taught with the electric guitar.

She is although a self-described "Health-Nut". She hates junk food, goes to the gym every other day, and would never be caught dead in a fast food restaurant.

Traits: She is very forward, preferring to tell it how it is instead of sugar coating it. She is very impulsive and will not hesitate to do what she believes is right. She is loyal to her friends and will stick by them no matter what they are going through, and will stick to them even closer when they are going through hard times. She wears her emotions on her sleeves, believing it is not a good idea to leave anything bottled up. She loves her music loud. The louder, the better. She is not necessarily an optimist, but she keeps a cheerful attitude.

Her favorite classes in school is any class that lets her express herself, which is pretty much any of the artistic classes. She makes average grades in all the other classes, mostly B's and some C's.

Note: Oddly enough, she prefers to have the radio off when she's driving.

Flaws: She sometimes lacks tact and it could lead to misunderstandings, but she is quick to apologize. She sometimes sacrifices her own needs to be by her friends when they are in trouble. Even when her friends tell her to think of herself sometimes, she refuses to be even a little bit selfish and will continue stand by them. When she is a dark place and could use a friend she will typically lock herself away in her room and try to work it out on her own rather than ask for even a little help.

Skills: She is self taught in sewing, cooking, and the electric guitar. She learned how to act in drama club.

Note: The teacher/director of the drama club says she emotes well, but sometimes has trouble expressing the right emotion for the scene.

Languages: English.

Hobbies: She is a member of the drama club. She is also a regular at the local gym. She is the lead singer and guitarist in a band she formed together with two of her friends.
Note: The name of the band changes on a regular basis, because none of them can agree on one name.

Powers: No super powers in particular, but she can turn into the Hulk if you call her "Bella". She hates that nickname and the movies that made it popular.

Special: Her first name "Sabrina" is actually taken from one of my favorite TV series from when I was kid, "Sabrina The Teenage Witch". The inspiration of the look for her character comes from turning the "goth" stereotype on its' head. If you just looked at her from a distance you would think she was a goth, but if you talked to her you would come face to face with the opposite of everything you thought a goth was. I gave her a more feminine figure to signify a little more clearly how she is older than Jessica.

I decided to give them what I thought was just enough contrasting and complementing traits that it would be easy to see how they are best friends. Even in the life they lived up to this point is both contrasting and complementary. They both have just one parent, but Isabelle has a mother and Jessica has a father. Isabelle almost never saw her mother growing up and Jessica is always under the watchful eye of her father.


Spoiler: The Big Play: A Jessica and Isabelle Miniseries
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The Big Play

A Jessica and Isabelle Mini-Series

Part 1

"I'm sorry about springing this on you. Are you sure you're okay with it?" Isabelle apologized for the fifth time. The time for the drama club meeting was changed to just after school ended. Isabelle would have to head straight for the theater to make it in time. If she took the time to drive Jessica home she would be an hour late for the meeting, assuming she made every light and traffic was light, which is something you never see in L.A.

"It's okay. Really. Don't worry about it," Jessica says as she fiddles with the over-stuffed backpack. "I got a book to keep me occupied. I'm going to do a report on it."

"What's the name of the book?"

"The Man Who Loved Clowns."

"I never heard of that one. Was it assigned reading?"

"No. I talked the teacher into giving the class a list of books we can do for extra credit." Jessica decides to start looking through her backpack to find the book. She keeps several with her and sometimes forgets which books she stored in which compartment. "She made a list of twenty books that she is familiar enough with to grade reports on without having to reread them ahead of time. Each report we do will give is extra points on an upcoming test or quiz depending on the grade we get on it."

"I wish I had such a generous teacher," Isabelle says passively as she signals for a left turn. "How many have you done so far?"

"Nineteen."

"Already?! We are barely a month into the quarter. You should have paced yourself better."

"I know, but I was excited to read some new books I never seen before and get extra credit for it, too." Jessica abandons her search for the book and starts to fiddle with her hair, twirling it around her fingers. "Do you think I'm weird?"

"No, of course not! Why would you ask such a thing!"

"Well... Today in class," Jessica tells her story slowly, hesitating after every few words, "one of the guys in class... said to the teacher, 'I bet you wish you had more students like her'... And the teacher said, 'I don't know if I could handle another student like her'... Everyone laughed and it made me feel like I was different. Like I was weird." Jessica wrapped her arms around her chest and stares down at her feet.

Suddenly, Isabelle changes lanes and swings the car way to fast into the first parking spot she can find. Jessica swings left and right in her seat and grabs the handle above her door out of panic. Before Jessica can ask what is going on, Isabelle has left the car. Jessica unbuckles her seat belt to get out of the car, too, but before she grabs the door handle, Isabelle has already opened the door.

Isabelle leans into the car and wraps both arms around Jessica, embracing her tightly. She says in firm tones, "You are not weird, and don't let thoughts like that ever creep into your head, again. Alright, you promise me that." Isabelle tightens her embrace on Jessica.

"Alright. I promise," Jessica answers filled with mixed emotions, one of them being panic. If she holds her any tighter she will not be able to breath.

Isabelle holds her hug just a little longer. When she releases her hug on Jessica she moves her hands to each of shoulder and looks her in the eyes. Jessica can see the worry in face and that she might be holding back tears. This makes Jessica start to well up, too.

"It's okay," Jessica says trying not to worry her friend. She wasn't that upset before, but seeing Isabelle so concerned about is starting to make her cry. "I'm fine now." Jessica then moves forward to hug her back and says, "Thank you." She releases her embrace as soon as she says the words.

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Isabelle was only a minute late for the meeting, but that was enough to get "The Lecture" on tardiness from the director. Unlike the other members of the drama club, though, whenever Isabelle gets "The Lecture" it turns into a dramatic scene where Isabelle lectures back to the director. This lasts until one of them has given up on the other and decides it is best to get back to the club.

Jessica is sitting in the audience space away from the stage, already nose deep in her new book. If she looked up she might have laughed seeing Isabelle in a shouting contest with a middle-aged man with thinning hair tied into a ponytail.

"Well, since everyone is here now..." the director starts.

"Tommy isn't here," a girl in the group interrupts.

The director exclaims in panic and anger "What?! You're kidding me. How can we rehearse without Macbeth?" The drama club is fairly small. There isn't even enough students to have understudies.

"The curse! You invoked the curse!" Sally points at the director and covers her mouth. She is the only student that believes in the curse of The Scottish Play. Even the director doesn't believe in it, but out of respect for Sally, they try not to do anything that would invoke the curse, such as saying the name Macbeth during rehearsals.

"Sorry, Sally. I will do the cleansing ritual while I step outside and call Tommy's parents. Is that okay?"

Sally keeps her mouth covered with both hands and nods her head. If her eyes were more bugged out they would pop out of her head. She is about fifteen years old with vibrant red hair and freckles and extremely superstitious. She keeps a rabbit foot key chain on her at all times, but no keys.

"Okay," the director says while feigning a smile. "Everyone start reading lines until I come back. I got some important news to share with you upon my return."

"Great, how do we read lines without Mac..." the young boy catches himself "... kers? He is the title role of the play."

"We could just cover the scenes without him." Sally suggests.

"I got an idea." Isabelle walks over to the edge of the stage. "HEY! JESSIE!" Jessica looks up from her book to see Isabelle staring right at her with her hands cupped around her mouth. "DO YOU WANT TO HELP US READ LINES?"

"Oh, I don't know." Jessica doesn't speak up and starts to slump in her seat.

"I CAN'T HEAR YOU! CAN YOU COME COME UP TO THE STAGE?"

Jessica walks up to the stage holding her book to her chest. Once she is in front of the stage she speaks softly to Isabelle, "I'm not sure. I don't feel comfortable performing in front of an audience."

"You won't be performing in the play. You'll just help us read lines. We're missing one performer and need your help."

"But what about..." Jessica subtly points at the rest of the club.

Isabelle grabs Jessica's pointing finger and helps her up to the stage. "You are surrounded by friends here. No one's judging you. In fact, everyone here will love you for your help."

Jessica takes deep breath to calm herself and says, "I'll do it." The club gives an enthusiastic applause which makes Jessica excited to perform. "What's the name of the play?"

"The Scottish Play," one boy in the club answers.

"I've never heard of that," Jessica answers.

"You might know it as 'The Bard's Play' instead," a girl in the club answers.

"I've not heard of that either."

"It's 'The Tragedy of Macbeth'!" The boy who answers immediately walks towards the door as he answers. "I'll do the cleansing ritual."

"What's wrong with him?" Jessica stares at the boy as he walks out the door.

"The play's cursed," Sally answers, "You can't say the play's name, the name of titled actor, or read lines in the theater at any time other than when doing rehearsals. If you do, you will invoke the curse and bad things will happen."

"I will try to not invoke the curse. Thank you for warning me." Jessica gives a slight bow towards Sally as she thanks her.

Isabelle walks up close to Jessica and whispers to her, "There is no such thing as curses right?" She used to be very skeptical of supernatural claims, but when she meet Jessica and her father, she has become more open to the idea of anything supernatural.

"Of course there is."

"Oh, okay." Isabelle moves away from Jessica and towards Sally, "Hey, Sally. How does that cleansing ritual go, again?"


Spoiler: The Modern Bard
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The Modern Bard

Government Intervention

I wake up with a start. A psychic warning from a proximity spell tells me that I have company of the military variety. Without hesitation I send Lucky to the balcony to explore the outside of the house. Looking through her eyes I can see I'm surrounded. I only have one chance of getting out of this. I send a psychic message to Lucky through our mental connection. She understands it and takes action.

She starts telling every cat in the neighborhood to go to my hotel room while I start scattering kitty litter throughout the room. I will my enchanted clothes to change shape to look like something a beggar would wear, complete with illusionary fleas. I make sure it covers my face with a lose hood.

After all the kitty litter is spread out and I have half a dozen cats in my room, I take out a piece of dehydrated garlic and hum a few notes, then I blow on the garlic. It evaporates in my hand and suddenly the room smells like cat urine. Just in time, too, because I can hear them talking right outside my door. I send a new command to Lucky. This part of the plan hasn't received much practice, but I'm confident she will do well.

One of them knocks on the door and says, "FBI, open the door." What a horrible cover. They are clearly not FBI.

I imitate an elderly woman's voice and answer, "Dammi un secondo. Io sarò lì." I studied many languages in my journey's. I will even say with pride that I can talk to any person in the world in their native tongue and they wouldn't know I wasn't a native.

They open the door without breaking it down. Obviously management gave them a key to get in. They walk in with their guns lowered, but still at the ready. Even with my head lowered I can see them checking corners and covering the whole room. One man keeps me in sight, two others clear the room, and the last man keeps the exit path secure. Based on their gear and tactics, I'm guessing they are Marines.

I should be complimented that I would draw the attention of the U.S. Marine Corps, or that some government official feels like they need the Marines to take me into custody. Instead, I'm nervous, because they will not likely fall for my hurried disguise. I will have to sell it well.

"Non prendere i miei gatti. Conosco i miei diritti." I repeat this over and over again as I turn away from the one covering me. He tries to tell me remain calm and stay put, I can hear him gagging from the smell of cat urine in the air. I'm not bothered by it because I'm aware of the illusion. The air already smells normal to me again.

"Excuse me, ma'am." He coughs a couple of times as if he might vomit. "I need to ask you some questions."

"Io non ti capisco. Si prega di lasciare la mia casa." I gesture with my hands as if to shoe them away.

"I can talk to her, sir." A woman's voice comes from the hallway. The one guarding the exit trades positions with the guy guarding me. "Ho bisogno di farle alcune domande." Her accent is decent. She probably has a relative that is Italian.

I need to bide time. Lucky should be getting close by now. She left the range of our psychic connection just a few seconds, ago. "Non si può avere i miei gatti. Essi sono miei e non sto dando via."

"Non siamo qui per il gatto, signora." She answers me calmly, her training to de-escalate the situation is kicking in. I have clearly sold the idea that I'm an elderly Italian woman that is hording cats in her apartment. However, because she can speak Italian, I doubt I can stale very long. I can only say, "Don't take my cats" in Italian so many times before they get suspicious.

"So this is The Bard." An authoritative voice chimes in from the hallway. I peek up just enough to see a tall man in a business suit walk in the room. I don't look up enough to see his face, but his voice is deep. I can tell he has taken speech lessons to project that deep voice over a large audience. "You are not an easy man to find." He is clearly talking about me. My cover didn't work for him.

"Voglio che meno persone in casa mia, non di più. Vattene, per favore." I desperately try to put the pieces of my failing cover back in place, or at least bide some more time.

"Sir, we didn't find The Bard," The one in the doorway, still standing at attention, is the one to deliver the bad news. He is the one in command of the squad it seems. "The only person here is this elderly lady. I don't believe she understands English."

"Yes. An elderly woman who keeps a swarm of cats in her apartment, with plenty of cat litter, but no cat food." That is one detail I hoped they wouldn't notice. The authoritative man continues, "I'm certain this is The Bard." Why do they call me that? I never put a name to my work. Is this something my clients gave me or are they looking for someone else?

"We got a job for you Mr. The Bard." The man walks further into the room and stands across from the television. "Turn on the news."

This will buy the time I need.


Spoiler: The Adventurers Odd: Hindsight is Always 20 Something
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The Adventurers Odd

Hindsight is Always 20/something

The three adventurers stand around the body of their fallen friend.

"I'm not quite dead, yet," the ghost of Jorun interjects. "I'm only at negative nine. I get one stabilization roll before I'm officially dead."

"How is he a ghost, if he's not dead?" Jorge the Monk asks.

"Oh, hey Jorge! Where have you been?" Bob the Rogue asks the suddenly present monk.

"Are you asking in game or out of game?" Jorge asks the inquisitive rogue.

"What alignment are you?" the soon to be dead paladin asks.

"I guess both, but it doesn't really matter either way." The Rogue retroactively makes his question rhetorical with panache.

"What does panache mean?" Jorge asks the voice in the ceiling.

"I don't think the narrator even knows," Varonis mocks with a laugh.

Hey! I totally know what panache means.

"What alignment are you, Jorge?" The still dying paladin asks.

"Prove it," Varonis challenges the not very confident voice in the sky.

It means... Um.... the sound keystrokes fills the halls...

"Ha! See, I knew he was bluffing." Oh, shut up Varonis!

"HEY!" The not ghost of Jorun shouts, "What alignment are you, Jorge?"

"Lawful Good," Jorge finally answers.

"What the hell!? How did he get through the door without bursting into flames?" Jorun protests indignantly.

"Oh, stop using words you don't know." Varonis tries to silence the voice in the sky.

I have you know I do know the meaning of that word, and Jorun is right. With a blink of the eye Jorge is suddenly on the other side of the doorway.

Bob the Rogue sighs and says, "Hey, Jorge! Do you have any healing potions on you?"

"Yes, I do. Why do you ask?" Jorge's answer somehow makes the unconscious body of Jorun wince.

"Oh, no reason." Bob's answer seems to contain some hidden laughter. "Oh, my laughter wasn't hiding." Okay, Bob laughs loudly with pride, then.

Jorge walks through the doorway and though the flames burst magically in the air around him, he makes it through unscathed.

"So that is what evasion does." Jorge says, having somehow used evasion without being previously familiar with it.

"Let's just say that I taught him that." Bob interjects.

"Let's not forget our friend here." Varonis brings the group's attention to the dying Paladin.

The sound of rolling dice echoes through the hallway.

"WHAT!" the now ghost of Jorun shouts at the top of his not lungs, "He didn't even have an opportunity to use the potion."

Sorry, Jorun, it takes a full-round action to use a potion on someone who is unconscious. Because he had to use a move action to go through the door and reach you he couldn't do that on the same round. So, you had to take one stabilization roll.

"Ouch, man." Bob the Rogue holds back his snarky attitude. "No, I'm not holding back any snark. That just plain sucks."

"Well, we knew this run was going to be in a hard dungeon," Varonis says, trying to ease the pain of his friend's passing, "We were prepared to lose characters here. I was just hoping it wouldn't be so soon."

"Rest in peace, Jorun" Jorge the Monk takes an knee and clasps his hands over a friend he hardly got the chance to know.

After a brief moment of silence Bob speaks up and says, "Well, let's divide his equipment before we move on."

"You're kidding" the fading ghost of Jorun says is disbelief.

"Dude, dungeon, danger..." realizing the series of D words he listed he felt like adding one more, "Dagger. Your gear isn't doing you any good, but could save our life."

"How pragmatic of you," Varonis says, using a made-up word, "Don't start on that, again." Hey, you started it.

"Fine, fine. Well, I need to build a new character for this campaign. I'm thinking going full healing with a cleric." The not Jorun voice says from nowhere.

"So long as you don't role-play religious zealot, I'm okay," Bob responds passively to the not voice while digging through the corpse's pockets.

Jorge looks around at the group and then the door and says, "How much XP do I get for surviving the door?"