Craig Chouraki-Lewin
Writing Portfolio

~ ~ ~

I wrote this for a mobile software company. Their game featured five factions engaged in an interplanetary war for resources; I was asked to design the history and mechanics of a sixth.

This eight-page document contains...
  • The history, culture, and ideology of the faction
  • The design goals employed in their creation and intended play style
  • Six ships intended to fill existing roles in the game's strategy
  • A seventh, unique ship and associated new weapon type--boarding torpedoes that produce flash-cloned soldiers!
  • Enemy spawn groups that both contain and are countered by the new ship types.
  • Vodka made from comet-water and the names of sea chanteys that might be sung in space by Slavic clones.

~ ~ ~

This ten-page document is a narrative and setting treatment for a cyberpunk racing/rhythm game. The final version was changed to be more grounded in reality, but I'm proud of the core ideas in this original, more abstract presentation.

"The Zeitgeist is a setting where purely digital entities act as psychopomps. Rather than ferrying dead souls to the afterlife, they ferry new ideas through a digital urban landscape to emerge as new concepts in the real world. "

"Sequence Storm’s narrative features four of these digital entities as they struggle with the nature of their work, interact with each other, and deal with both the consequences of their choices and the emergence of a powerful and malevolent force seeking to disrupt their world."

~ ~ ~

Pocket Gems Work

Game: Secret Passages: Hidden Objects

Available on iTunes and Google Play

Game Trailer:

Feature: “Epoch Grove”

Date Live: April 2015 to present

No claim of copyright is implied by the presentation of this material.

Secret Passages is a mobile hidden-object game with a (very general) target audience of middle-aged women.  The tones and themes of the game range from lighthearted antics and silly puns to adventurous chapters featuring fantastic villains.  Each of three “worlds” in the game displays discrete locations on an isometric map. When I joined the project, the dev team was looking for a way to introduce content without increasing the visual complexity and memory footprint of the game. The solution was introducing a fourth world that would surface content through UI, rather than placing additional assets on the isometric map.  

My role in the creation of this feature was to design the story for this new world while maintaining existing standards of tone and theme, as well as to write the plot and dialogue that would introduce new game mechanics and methods of surfacing live content.  An attendant challenge was to present a meaningful narrative arc within a very limited textual space.

I took this opportunity to innovate by changing our narrative structure; I moved from our old practice of writing self-contained stories limited to the individual iso-map locations and instead introduced an overarching plot structure similar to a TV series; the story of the Epoch Grove would progress in seasons, with each season made of up six chapters.  This change was very well-received by both the dev team and our users, and has since been adopted by other games within the company.  Each chapter presented what would have previously been the same amount of content surfaced through a new isometric map asset, but that content was now linked in a complete, season-long story with a discernible beginning, middle, and end.  Additionally, I worked closely with our artists to design the hidden object scenes and illustrate my story.  As you’ll see below, the art of the scenes is as much a vehicle for the plot of “Epoch Grove” as is the dialogue.

The dialogue of season 1 is presented below along with clean images of each scene (no tappable hidden objects).  While I collaborated with another designer on the premise of the Epoch Grove, all story content from Chapter 2 forward is my original work.

An example of the Secret Passages dialogue UI:

Season 1, Chapter 1

Keeper’s Call

This chapter is largely a mechanical tutorial.  The narrative of this chapter introduces the premise of the Epoch Grove: The protagonists, Maddie and Justin, are Seekers--clever adventurers with the ability to move through the Secret Passages, gates between distant points in time and space.  At this point in the game, they’re experienced heroes.  The duo exit a Secret Passage to find themselves in a vast, withered garden full of ruined buildings.  A figure introduces herself as the Keeper of the Epoch Grove, and helps the Seekers mystically restore the useful structures of the Grove.  She explains that the Grove exists outside of time and reflects the health of time itself; as the timeline is twisted by paradox, the grove withers.  Keepers of the Grove are empowered to fix twists in time, and can use their powers to visit any point in time or space without the restrictions of the Secret Passages.  The Keeper implores Maddie and Justin to take up the mantle of the Keepers, join her ranks, and discover the source of the chaos in the timestream.

Scene 1 - The Great Tree

Scene 2 - Mission Headquarters

Scene 3 - The Seeker’s Villa


fgYwjWs.jpg 3rR7IQE.jpg

Season 1, Chapter 2

Theft of Empires

JUSTIN: Now that we’re settled in, where should we start?

MADDIE: Time is still being twisted apart, but we’re not sure why, or by whom!

KEEPER: Keepers! It’s happening now! Someone is twisting time in…Saint Petersburg! The early 1900s!

MADDIE: Let’s go!


Scene 1 - The Amber Room:

KEEPER: The Eternity Passage to the Amber Room is now open! Go see what’s going on!

JUSTIN: The Amber Room was beautiful, but it looked like someone had stolen half of it!

MADDIE: That’s not right at all. The Prussian King gave it to Tsar Peter the Great in 1716, but it wasn’t stolen until World War 2.

MADDIE: Wait, how did I know all of that? I’d never heard of the Amber Room until today!

JUSTIN: That’s…really weird. We’ll have to ask the Keeper once we’ve found whoever is stirring up trouble.

qiQVZd3.jpgScene 2 - Atsuta Shrine:

MADDIE: Keeper, why do we both suddenly know so much about the Amber Room?

KEEPER: There’s no time to explain. Time is being twisted to the point of breaking again!

KEEPER: You need to go through the Eternity Passage to Atsuta Shrine in Japan, around the year 600!

MADDIE: Wait, Justin—I can feel it! Something is very wrong!

JUSTIN: The sacred atmosphere of Atsuta shrine was shattered by the time we arrived!

MADDIE: The whole place looked ransacked, but the most striking thing was an empty display for a sword.

JUSTIN: Who would leave everything else and just steal the Kusanagi-no-tsurugi, one of the three pieces of the Japanese imperial regalia?

MADDIE: …that’s a good question, Justin, but how did you know that?

JUSTIN: I have NO idea. We really need to talk to the Keeper about where all this information is coming from.

Scene 3 - National Archives:

JUSTIN: Keeper, this is freaking us out. How do we know so much about these things?

KEEPER: Keepers of the Grove are imbued with knowledge of the places they travel by the Archive of the Grove. Sometimes, however, the information is incomplete.

KEEPER: If you want to know more, the standing stones of the Archive will respond to questions you ask with the truth…but you must know enough to ask the right questions.

JUSTIN: Maddie, can you feel that? We’ve got to get to the National Archives of the United States! Someone is stealing the Constitution! That’s not how history is meant to go at all!

JUSTIN: We were too late! Along with the Amber Room and the Kusanagi, someone has stolen the Constitution of the United States!

MADDIE: Who could be stealing these important historical artifacts? The timeline can’t handle being disrupted this badly!

KEEPER: Whoever it is, they have access to portals that are at least as potent as the Eternity Passage. Keepers, I didn’t want to throw you into the mix this quickly, but we’re going to have to dig deeper.

KEEPER: It’s time for me to show you the deepest secrets of the Epoch Grove.

Season 1, Chapter 3

Heart of the Grove

KEEPER: I wish we had more time, but I’ve got to show you Keepers all the powers at your disposal before another artifact is stolen and time unravels!

rndIxlH.jpgScene 1 - Archive of the Grove:

KEEPER: These standing stones are the fabled Archive of the Grove.

MADDIE: How can a bunch of rocks teach us anything?

KEEPER: Ask questions and find your answers.

MADDIE: This is amazing! The Archive knows everything about history, past or future!

KEEPER: Yeah, but it only gives Keepers the answers to questions we ask, and it only knows about the future that's actually meant to happen.

JUSTIN: If it was perfect, there wouldn't be any need for Keepers, would there? We must remember to return when we have more questions.

PAJLpkI.jpgScene 2 - Keeper’s Glade:

KEEPER: This was once my personal study, and these instruments are used to measure the structure of time.

JUSTIN: This looks like a bit of wire strung across a big tuning fork. What is it?

KEEPER: You have a sharp eye, Justin--that tells us how close time is to collapsing!

KEEPER: Time is like the string of a musical instrument; a bundle of wrapped wires, each a part of how things happen. When all goes according to plan, the string vibrates in harmony.

JUSTIN: Like a guitar!

KEEPER: Like Segovia as played by the wind between the stars. You can almost hear it in the Grove if you're very quiet. Go examine the instruments and learn how to interpret time itself.

MADDIE: This is amazing! Who knew time could be studied like this?

KEEPER: Remember this, Keepers: When events are changed, the small wires that make up the string are plucked in different directions and vibrate without harmony. The worse the disruption, the more the string of time frays.

KEEPER: If the string frays too much, or is plucked too hard by a terrible event, the string--time itself--can snap.

JUSTIN: I think I'm going to call this stuff "guitar string theory."


ZdycBFH.jpgScene 3 - Reflecting Pool:

JUSTIN: Argh! Some jerk is stealing artifacts and running wild, and we barely know anything about who it is! This must be the worst thing that's ever happened to time!

KEEPER: I wish we were that lucky. Time is...complicated. There have been worse threats, and a Keeper has not always defeated them.

KEEPER: This is the Reflecting Pool. If you look into the water, you can see what is left of a world where the Keepers did not win.

MADDIE: This whole world is a ruined wasteland! How is this possible? Is this the future? Or the past?

KEEPER: Neither and both, Keeper. The images you see in the Reflecting Pool are...possibilities.

KEEPER: At the moment of decision in all events, time splits into infinite paths. Even as Keepers, we can only live through one at a time, and it's nearly impossible to travel to a different one and remain unchanged.

KEEPER: But we can use the Reflecting Pool to see what might happen and try to gently steer the course of time away from that outcome--or toward it.

MADDIE: I don't think we understood just how much power and responsibility a Keeper holds. We need to use all these tools to save time!

Season 1, Chapter 4

Curator’s Flight

MADDIE: Whoever is stealing artifacts from across history has to be wealthy and powerful.

MADDIE: Only someone who knows about history would want them in the first place. Does anyone come to mind?

JUSTIN: We’ve matched wits with lots of foes over the years. I bet at least a few of them would fit the bill.

JUSTIN: Let’s keep thinking about it—the tools of the Grove tell us that the world’s first airplane is being stolen from the Wright Brothers’ garage!

MADDIE: Let’s go stop that from happening!

oITy6h9.jpgScene 1 - Mechanic’s Garage:

JUSTIN: If the Wright Flyer is stolen, then who knows how long it will take for heavier-than-air flight to take off!

MADDIE: Justin, is this really the right time for puns?

JUSTIN: I’d say it’s definitely the Wright time! Hey, you thieves! Put down that plane!

MADDIE: We scared those thieves off, but did you see their uniforms?

JUSTIN: Yeah! They were all wearing the same thing! They must be part of some kind of organization.

MADDIE: Who has enough power to hire goons to do their thieving for them AND has an interest in historical artifacts?

MADDIE: We’ll have to think about it later—the Grove is telling me that those thieves are trying to steal the Flyer again from a modern museum!

PYQLAaO.jpgScene 2 - Aviation Museum:

MADDIE: Since they failed to steal it the first time around, the Wright Flyer has become an important piece of history and is safe at this Museum of Aviation.

JUSTIN: At least, it was until these time-traveling bandits started trying to make off with it!

JUSTIN: Hands off!

JUSTIN: They cut and run again! We really scared them! There’s nothing like Keepers in their element!

MADDIE: Yeah, but maybe they know something we don’t. Whoever they work for didn’t train them to fight back.

JUSTIN: They ARE persistent, though. The Grove tells me these knuckleheads are trying AGAIN. On the MOON! In the DISTANT FUTURE!

xwRrHfn.jpgScene 3 - Moonbase Exhibit:

JUSTIN: This is ridiculous! These clowns keep trying to steal the same famous plane across time and space!

JUSTIN: What, do they have a collection or something?

MADDIE: They do seem very, very intent on grabbing this particular artifact. Hmm…

MADDIE: Justin, wait. Wealthy, powerful, and a collector of artifacts from history—I know who’s stealing things and messing with time!


The Curator:

CURATOR: BRAVO, Seekers! Bravo! And well done! It took you long enough to discover that it was I, The Curator, who has been “acquiring” historical artifacts from across time and space.

CURATOR: With this wonderful portal technology given to me by the Cabal, I can take anything I want from any time or place. I am beyond all law!

MADDIE: You’re tearing time apart at the seams, Curator! And who is this “Cabal”? You’ve got to stop this!

CURATOR: You cannot command me, whimpering child. But enough pleasantries. Let me share my collection with you!

CURATOR: Consider this your formal invitation to view the Grand Showroom in my Mansion Beyond Time. It’s not like you can stop me! Ahahaha!

Season 1, Chapter 5

Timeless Gallery

MADDIE: This is it, Justin. We’ve got to go to the Mansion Beyond Time and stop The Curator once and for all, or all of time will unravel.

JUSTIN: Let’s show that joker what Keepers do best.

0XyUfWO.jpgScene 1 - Mansion Beyond Time:

MADDIE: The Grove got us here, but I don’t know how eager I am to go inside. This place his huge!

JUSTIN: Not to mention scary. How do you even build a place like this? Come to think of it, where ARE we?

MADDIE: I…I think we’re outside of time! Let’s try to find a way into the Mansion.

MADDIE: Okay, we’re definitely outside of time, just like we are in the Epoch Grove.

MADDIE: Whoever built this place has as much power to affect time as a Keeper!

JUSTIN: We’re really dealing with a whole new type of trouble, aren’t we?

MADDIE: The Curator said that he got his power from the Cabal. I don’t know who they are, but we should keep an eye open for clues about them once we’re inside.

sFftBLJ.jpgScene 2 - Grand Showroom:

JUSTIN: Maddie, there’s so much here! The Curator’s collection is huge!

MADDIE: This is way worse than we thought. The Curator must have been removing things from history for a very long time!

MADDIE: We’ve got even less time than we thought. If we don’t stop him—right here, today—then you, me, and everyone we’ve ever known will be doomed!

JUSTIN: There’s no way we can carry all of this with us and still stop The Curator from continuing to steal. We might be Keepers, but there are only two of us. What are we going to do?

MADDIE: We’ll have to make it up as we go. It’s more important to stop him from stealing anything else. Leave all that stuff here—if we survive, we can come back for it.

JUSTIN: |And if we’re not successful?

MADDIE: I get the feeling that we’ll have other things to worry about. Let’s go.

Scene 3 - Final Encounter:

CURATOR: Maddie! Justin! I’m so glad that you accepted my invitation!

JUSTIN: Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re not here to buy a season pass. We’re shutting you down!

CURATOR: Ha ha! Children, the Cabal has given me the technology to go anywhere I want in time or space. I can take anything!

CURATOR: As long as I’m in the Mansion Beyond Time, I’m safe from any paradox of time travel. What can YOU possibly do to stop ME?

JUSTIN: We’ll…figure something out!

CURATOR: I think not. You’ll find I’ve also had time to practice my fencing. En garde!

JUSTIN: Maddie, we don’t have any weapons! We’ve got to run, or he’ll cut us to ribbons!

MADDIE: I have a plan. All we’ve got to do is distract him! Go!

JUSTIN: Maddie…we…we lost. We lost! We couldn’t stop him. We barely got back to the Epoch Grove in one piece! He must have chased us with that stupid sword for an hour!

MADDIE: An hour and a half. I timed it to the minute.

JUSTIN: What’s the point of keeping track of minutes? All of time is doomed because we failed!

MADDIE: You’ve got to think a little harder, Justin. Remember what the Curator said about time paradoxes not affecting the Mansion Beyond Time?

JUSTIN: Yeah? So what? We’ve always had to avoid those when we used the Secret Passages—they’re super dangerous!

MADDIE: We’re not just Seekers any more, Justin; we’re Keepers of the Epoch Grove. And to a Keeper, a little time paradox is nothing. Catch your breath, my friend—we’re going back to the Mansion!

Season 1, Chapter 6

Our Enemy’s Tools

JUSTIN: I don’t understand, Maddie, how are we going to use the Curator’s own power against him?

MADDIE: The Curator’s Mansion is outside of time, just like the Epoch Grove! We can create a time paradox without damaging the timeline!

JUSTIN: The science is sound! The Curator said that the Cabal gave him time portal technology. I bet we can use that while we’re there.

MADDIE: Right! We’ll return to the mansion while our old selves are already there and do all the things we didn’t have time to do while our previous selves are distracting him!

yfdj8iH.jpgScene 1 - Paradox Battle:

JUSTIN: I can’t believe we thought we could grab all these stolen treasures and still defeat the Curator in time.

MADDIE: Good thing we’ve given ourselves a second chance. Quick, while our earlier selves are distracting him, grab all the stolen treasures!

JUSTIN: Wow, he really talked for a long time when he caught us.

MADDIE: Villains like that tend to monologue for a really long time if you let them.

JUSTIN: Wait, were you planning this the whole time?

MADDIE: I might have had a backup plan or two in mind.

aft2exa.jpgScene 2 - Portal Room:

JUSTIN: Wait, listen! I hear electricity crackling and I smell ozone--this must be the technology the Cabal gave the Curator to make his portals!

MADDIE: I’m no expert, but The Cabal must be REALLY advanced if they can give this sort of stuff away. We’ll need to keep an eye out for them.

JUSTIN: Meanwhile, let’s take a look around and see if we can figure out a way to shut this thing down for good!

JUSTIN: Okay, I’ve got it. This portal is actually really easy to use. All I need to do is point the portal’s exit right at the entrance, and then break the controls!

MADDIE: That’s really clever. If the Curator uses the portal, he’ll just get dumped out right where he started!

JUSTIN: He’ll be trapped in this mansion forever. We’ll need to find a way to stop him from fixing the broken portal, though.

MADDIE: I bet this portal has a power source, too. Let’s look for that!

cWbKC55.jpgScene 3 - Battery Chamber:

MADDIE: This is...this is amazing! Power sources from across all of time and space, all connected to the Cabal portal machine! This is the most complicated machine I’ve ever seen. Justin, we’ve got to find a way to disable this thing!

JUSTIN: You’re right, it does look really complicated. You know what would simplify this? A big ol’ wrench.

MADDIE: I don’t know if that will work…

JUSTIN: If smashing this thing to pieces is the wrong idea, wouldn’t our future selves show up to stop us?

MADDIE:’re not allowed to use that excuse after today. Let’s look for that big ‘ol wrench.

MADDIE: Hurry, Justin! We’ve got to get out of here before we’re trapped in the Mansion with the Curator forever!

JUSTIN: You don’t have to tell me twice! Let’s get back to the Grove!

JUSTIN: ...aaaand we’re back! We’re back! Maddie, we did it! I can’t believe it! The Curator is defeated!

MADDIE: We recovered all of the treasures stolen from time and banished that blowhard forever!

MADDIE: The Cabal is still a mystery, though. Just who ARE they? Where did they get their portal technology? Why were they helping the Curator?

JUSTIN: You’re right, Maddie. If the Cabal has as much power to affect time as the Keepers of the Epoch Grove, I think we’re about to get involved in something very, very big!

Season 2, Chapter 1

Tomorrow's History

MADDIE: Hey Justin, do you know what today is? JUSTIN: It must be something about us, because every day can be Christmas when you’re a time-traveling Keeper! MADDIE: It never gets old, does it? But you’re right--today’s three months to the day since we beat the Curator! JUSTIN: And it’s never been quieter. We should go on vacation! I’ve always wanted to see some Moorish architecture. MADDIE: You’re in luck--today’s also the 900th anniversary of the skyscraper! JUSTIN: Yeah...that’s...right? Huh. Let’s go!

Scene 1 - Moorish Modernism:
JUSTIN: This building is beautiful! Look at the way it catches the light! MADDIE: It’s stunning. The workmanship of the glass is exquisite. JUSTIN: This was a great idea, Maddie. Of all the times when skyscrapers were built, I think the Moors might have been the most artistic. MADDIE: ...huh. Yeah, I...think I agree…? I feel a little weird. It must be the heat.

MADDIE: Justin, what you said back there--about Moorish architecture.  I think it’s gorgeous, but I have to disagree.
JUSTIN: Oh? Who do you think better displayed the glass and steel of a skyscraper?
MADDIE: I’d have to say it was the Romans.
JUSTIN: They certainly did it earliest.  I don’t know...I don’t know? I feel a bit confused.
MADDIE: That’s a funny way to say “Maddie! You’re brilliant and always right!”
JUSTIN: I can’t let that one sit.  We’re off to the Colosseum! Let’s see what those Romans had to say about architecture!

Scene 2 - Glass Colosseum:
JUSTIN: There, see? Their use of steel is great, but this is the earliest days of the art form! MADDIE: You’re quite the expert on architecture all of a sudden. I’ve never known you to care about it so much. JUSTIN: I...guess I picked up more than I thought I did in school. Although I don’t remember studying this... MADDIE: Let’s get a closer look! Maybe we’ll learn a little more.

JUSTIN: Maddie, are you okay? You look ill.
MADDIE: Justin, this...this isn’t right. This isn’t how this should go. This is wrong. This is wrong!
JUSTIN: Something’s wrong with the Colosseum? This is one of the most famous structures of all time! It’s withstood earthquakes, volcanos, angry, wait, this isn’t right at all.
JUSTIN: Maddie, all these people are in danger! This isn’t how time is meant to go! 
MADDIE: The Colosseum wasn’t built from steel and glass! Someone’s seriously changed the course of time!
MADDIE: We need to see how far back this change goes, and why we didn’t see it until now!

Scene 3 - Steel Cathedral:
JUSTIN: I can feel my BRAIN changing, Maddie! I can remember two futures! Augh, I feel like my head’s gonna split! There weren’t ANY glass and steel cathedrals during the Spanish Renaissance! MADDIE: Just...just breathe, Justin! Augh! I can feel it too! Did this happen to everyone? Why doesn’t anyone else look like they’re in pain? JUSTIN: I think it’s--ARGH!--I think it’s because we’re Keepers. Someone changed time and the Epoch Grove is trying to protect us. Everyone else must have changed in a split-second. I don’t think they even know that time has changed! MADDIE: We’ve got to explore and see how much has changed. ANYTHING could be different! If Spain has all the technology they need to build skyscrapers, who knows what other things changed to allow that?!

MADDIE: Okay, I think we’ve seen everything we’re going to see.  Everyone still speaks the same language--gah, it still feels like pins and needles in my brain to remember two different futures...
JUSTIN: We’ll have to adapt--wow, yeah, that’s awful.  I want to scratch the inside of my skull.  The languages here haven’t changed, and it’s not like everyone is a robot dog.  It looks like the only thing that changed was someone taught the Spanish to build skyscrapers...but this is later than Rome.
JUSTIN: Whoever did this must have taught the Romans to build like this and known the knowledge would spread around the world!
MADDIE: We need to get back to the Grove.  The Archive should be able to help us understand what’s going on. Maybe the Keeper will have an idea of what happened.  We can figure this out, Justin.
JUSTIN: We’ve practically solved this one already. Come on, Maddie--let’s go!

Season 2, Chapter 2

Shifting States

JUSTIN: For a supposedly-omniscient hunk of rock, the Archive of the Grove didn't seem to have much to tell us. MADDIE: Maybe it's as confused as we are about all the changes to the timeline? I don't think it's like talking to a person, Justin. More like a really, really long book. JUSTIN: You'd think the Keeper could have told more than "go check it out yourself!" MADDIE: If I remember correctly, her words were closer to "You'll need to find the root of the problem to discover how to fix it." JUSTIN: Bah. Let's use our Keeper senses and chase down the next change in time. I think it's...Mongolia? I don't think we've ever been to Mongolia. Let's go!

Scene 1 - Steppes Showdown:
MADDIE: The steppes are beautiful this time of year.
JUSTIN: The view might be improved if there weren't columns of smoke and burning wreckage everywhere. I didn't realize the Golden Horde caused this much damage. Or made that much noise! MADDIE: Wait...those aren't hoofbeats. Not even a hundred horses are that loud. MADDIE: No way! Are those MOTORCYCLES?! Find somewhere to hide, quickly!

JUSTIN: Maddie, the Golden Horde most certainly did NOT ride around on motorcycles!
MADDIE: You're not kidding, Justin. But one thing bothers me--
JUSTIN: Maddie! We're surrounded by a LITERAL horde of marauding soldiers on WAR BIKES! We're up to our hips in arrows, and I don't think the mud we're standing in was made with water!
JUSTIN: What could possibly be bothering you aside from this?!
MADDIE: Where are they getting the fuel for their bikes? Also, did you forget that we can use the Grove's power to zip out of here whenever we want? Tranquilo, partner.
JUSTIN: ...BAH.  Let's get out of here--I feel like something's amiss in...yeah, North America, 1803? No, 1804. Let's go!

Scene 2 - Lewis and Clark Smartphones:
MADDIE: You were right on mark with the time period. Look over there--that's Lewis and Clark! This is their famous expedition across North America!
MADDIE: Wait, they're arguing about something...and they're taking something out of their pockets. JUSTIN: Is that a journal? They did take a lot of field notes. MADDIE: No, wait, those are...okay, this is ridiculous. MADDIE: Those are smartphones! MADDIE: Justin, if they have smartphones helping them navigate, the expedition is going to work on a totally different timetable! Who knows what could change! JUSTIN: I don't know, it looks like it's giving them more to disagree about, not less...

MADDIE: They're still at it, aren't they?
JUSTIN: They've been arguing for three hours. Maybe their trip doesn't go any faster--maybe it's much slower!
MADDIE: That's still going to totally subvert the timeline. But, um. I was thinking--
JUSTIN: I was looking at these neat bugs. What did you think of?
MADDIE: They have smartphones, right? And the smartphones work, which that means...there's an active, functional cell network.
JUSTIN: ...uh oh.
MADDIE: Justin, that means there are satellites in orbit! In the year 1804! We've still got to find the root of this!

Scene 3 - Viking Space Program:
MADDIE: As an adventurer and a preserver of knowledge, I feel like we've learned at least two important things. MADDIE: One, it turns out that as Keepers, we can breathe on the moon. JUSTIN: In hindsight, I feel like we should have checked up on that before we came here without spacesuits. MADDIE: Noted. Two--and I may be mistaken here--but I'm pretty sure that's a Viking longship crashed into the Mare Imbrium...with a Saturn V booster rocket bolted on the back of it. JUSTIN: Maddie, whoever is making these you think they even know what they're doing? MADDIE: Hmm...

MADDIE: I can feel time shifting more and more. If this keeps up, our whole reality as we know it won't resemble anything we've ever experienced!
MADDIE: We've got to figure out where changes are happening and track down whomever is causing them!
MADDIE: I can feel reality buckling beneath us even now.  This is just the start of the changes rippling out. We've got to see where this ends!

Season 2, Chapter 3

City by the Sea

JUSTIN: What is this place? This looks like Paris—yeah, there’s the Eiffel Tower—and it feels like…1950? JUSTIN: No, 1970—wait, 1972? I can’t tell! Something’s changed so much, I can’t even get a good feel for what year it is! MADDIE: We should start talking to the locals…or maybe we could start with the lady in the lab coat, surrounded by holograms. JUSTIN: We look almost as out-of-place. Maddie, do you think she’s going to attack us?! DR. DUFFIELD: Bonjour, fellow chrononauts! Welcome to the City of Light! JUSTIN: …perhaps not. She seems welcoming enough. Let’s play it cool—maybe she’ll tell us what’s going on!

Scene 1 - Paris Sous La Mer:
DR. DUFFIELD: …and it wasn’t easy learning the language, but the farmers were thrilled once I explained how the engine worked. They told me they could finish planting season in a week! DR. DUFFIELD: I left enough plans and parts for the village to build a dozen more engines. Another technology gifted to people who truly needed it, and all of humanity will reap the benefit. MADDIE: Do you know what happened after you left? DR. DUFFIELD: Hm? No, why would I? JUSTIN: Maddie, please. Dr. Duffield was just about to tell us about what’s she’s going to give to the citizens of Paris. DR. DUFFIELD: Going to give? No, Justin. My gift was offered back in Mongolia and Rome, Spain and Sweden. It only took humanity this long to unwrap it. Look up. JUSTIN: Oh my…Oh. Wow. Maddie? I think…I think we found what’s different about this version of Paris.

MADDIE: What. What? How? How?!
DR. DUFFIELD: Don’t gawk, Maddie! These Parisians may live in a glass dome under the sea, but they’re still French.  They might find it gauche.
MADDIE: Ahem. Yes. Dr. Duffield, the technology to build an underwater dome city this large is hundreds of years beyond what is available in the 1970s.
DR. DUFFIELD: Too true, my time-traveling friend, and too much a tragedy. I’ve seeded the past with everything humanity needed to discover the technology to build this wonderful structure—and many more like it.
JUSTIN: But that’s—
DR. DUFFIELD: —part of my plan, yes.  You didn’t think I was randomly scattering recipes for genetic engineering and high-carbon steel into the depths of history, did you?
DR. DUFFIELD: Please, walk with me. There’s a lot to explain.  I know time travel is fraught, but I promise you—this is how I’ll save our world.
Scene 2 - Catfish Commute:
DR. DUFFIELD: My past is the ruined world of your future. Decades of misconduct, neglect, and outright warfare left the planet…well, the specifics are complicated, but humanity had no way off of Earth and no way to continue to survive on it. It was going to be a long, slow death, and it was entirely our own fault. DR. DUFFIELD: I’m a doctor—a rheumatologist. We spend a lot of time working with diseases that can’t be cured, only managed, and I know a lost cause when I see one. Our planet was terminal, and all we could do was watch it die slowly. MADDIE: Wow. Dr. Duffield, was it really that bad? DR. DUFFIELD: Please, call me Dana. And yes. Outside of the cities, Earth was a wasteland. Have you ever seen a society just…give up? DR. DUFFIELD: And then I found this curious little device. It opens windows to other places and times and allows me to step through. I have absolutely no idea how it works—I don’t think it even has any moving parts. JUSTIN: How did you know how to use it? DR. DUFFIELD: A very large number of mistakes followed by careful note-taking. We’re close to my first success, though—I’ll show it to you. I couldn’t send everyone on Earth back through the portals this device opened, but at least I could send back my research on transgenic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. DR. DUFFIELD: As it turns out, my work proved applicable to many other fields. Hop aboard, and mind the membrane.

MADDIE: This whole city is connected by giant fish? This isn’t a machine? This is incredible!
JUSTIN: (Incredibly disruptive to the timeline, you mean. Don’t forget why we’re here, Maddie.)
DR. DUFFIELD: Technically, it’s a matrix of piscine muscular cell sheets layered on a carbon-fiber frame, driven by vat-grown neural tissue—
MADDIE: —hey, Dana? We have no idea what you’re talking about.  Technically, your fish train isn’t part of our history. It just appeared one day.  It was never invented.
DR. DUFFIELD: Oh. Well, then…yes. The entire Parisian Metro is full of giant fish. A living, breathing, submarine subway system.
JUSTIN: Interesting. What did you do next, Dr. Duffield? This clearly isn’t the only technology you sent back in time.
DR. DUFFIELD: You’re entirely correct, Justin. When I saw what seeding the past with future discoveries could do, I decided that my final effort would be to try to divert history—to save the planet from the corrupted, unsalvageable state it was in. With the gift of this device, how could I refuse the idea?
DR. DUFFIELD: The first oath I swore was “First Do No Harm,” and I was going to undo all the harm I saw before it ever happened.

Scene 3 - Cnidarian 500:
DR. DUFFIELD: Of course, a future without entertainment, salvaged or not, is no future at all. Here, I’ve saved us seats. Or rather, I will in the future—I just need to remember to hop back in time to do it later. JUSTIN: Are those jellyfish racing? I can only assume you still call something as big as a car—driver’s seat included—a “jellyfish”. DR. DUFFIELD: As fast as their transgenic siphons can push them along the track. I admit, it’s not as exciting as Formula One, but it’s a lot safer. They don’t ever crash, they just kind of bounce off each other. MADDIE: Dr. Duffield, er, Dana…this is all very, very lovely, but we need to talk about this. DR. DUFFIELD: Hm? What did you want to discuss? I’ve made so many more fixes, and I’m thrilled to finally have companions who can appreciate what I’ve done. MADDIE: (Justin, I think this is where this gets difficult.) MADDIE: Dana, do you know what a time paradox is…?

MADDIE: …so you see, causality must be maintained. You’ve gone back throughout history and placed the cause of events long after their outcomes. That’s very, very bad.
JUSTIN: Stupendously, catastrophically bad. Like, world-endingly bad. Things aren’t meant to start after they end.
DR. DUFFIELD: What you’re telling me can’t be possible. We’re here! Now! The world hasn’t ended, and if it keeps going at this rate of improvement, there’s no way that it can come apart like you’re describing!
MADDIE: Dana, you have to believe us. We’ve got access to knowledge beyond what your device can give you. We’re Keepers of time itself, and we’re telling you—you can’t just take notes on this and try again.
JUSTIN: When the timeline is frayed too much, it snaps. Every moment in history will happen simultaneously, forever.
DR. DUFFIELD: …I see. Maddie, Justin—I can tell you take your work very, very seriously. I know you mean well.
MADDIE: Dana, stop! You have to consider the long-term outcomes of your changes! You don’t have enough perspective!
DR. DUFFIELD: …but you haven’t lived through the slow death of your world. My work isn’t yet complete, and I can’t let you stop me from saving eight billion lives.
DR. DUFFIELD: Alright, you screwy little device. Take me somewhere these two can’t reach! Take me somewhere IMPOSSIBLE!
JUSTIN: Quick, Maddie! The Grove can’t send us to a doomed timeline! We’ve got to follow Dana through her own portals!

Season 2, Chapter 4


JUSTIN: Quick, Maddie! We’ve got to chase Dr. Duffield through her portals before they close! JUSTIN: If she gets away, we might NEVER find her again! MADDIE: If she keeps sending technology back in time, there’s no doubt that all of time will collapse. We may already be too late, Justin! JUSTIN: We can figure that out later. For now, let’s get the lead out! DR. DUFFIELD: Stay away from me! I don’t want to see you two get hurt, but I won’t let you stop me from saving my world!

Scene 1 - Queensbury Rules:
MADDIE: Ugh, I’m going to be sick. Moving through these portals doesn’t feel anything like using the Epoch Grove to travel through time and space. MADDIE: If it feels like that every time Dana uses a portal, she must have an iron will to keep doing it. Where are we, anyway? This looks like some kind of boxing ring…? JUSTIN: A boxing ring for giants, maybe. MADDIE: Justin, no! Not giants—giant ROBOTS! Duck! JUSTIN: Quick, Dana’s running through the fight! After her!
DR. DUFFIELD: No! No, stop chasing me, please! You don’t understand what you’re trying to stop! MADDIE: And YOU don’t understand what will happen if you’re successful! DR. DUFFIELD: I’ve got to keep going. Alright gadget, take me somewhere even more distant! As far as you can go! To the end of world if you have to—just get me out of here! JUSTIN: That might be the scariest thing I’ve heard in years, Maddie. MADDIE: We can pick out a therapist later, but not if we don’t get through that portal!

Scene 2 - Thralls to the Pigeon God:
MADDIE: Ugh, it reeks! It smells like burning tires and rotting grease! What happened here? Where did Dana take us?!
JUSTIN: Maddie, we…we need to get out of here, right now.
MADDIE: What? And what’s that…chanting…noise…? I feel so strange.
JUSTIN: Maddie, don’t listen to it! Plug your ears and run!
MADDIE: Is that a bird cooing? It’s so…soft. I’m so tired, Justin. Can’t we rest…?

JUSTIN: No, NO! Maddie, get up and run! Don’t look back, just go! Dana’s already opened another portal! GO!!
MADDIE: Justin…what is that thing…? I can barely keep my eyes open…
JUSTIN: Doesn’t matter. Don’t look at it, don’t think about it. Dana’s device sent us all to a doomed timeline, and I think that’s where she’s headed next.
JUSTIN: I don’t want to think about what happens to anyone who gets stuck here.
MADDIE: Jus…Justinnnn…the Pigeon God is calling to usss…
JUSTIN: You’re not skipping out on me now! You’re going through that portal even if I have to drag you, partner! Come on!

Scene 3 - Victory Over Earth:
MADDIE: AAAUUGH! AUGH. I feel like there’s GREASE on the INSIDE of my SKULL. JUSTIN: Glad you’re back with me, birdbrain. MADDIE: I never want to see another living pigeon for the rest of my life. JUSTIN: You’re a bit in luck—looks like this fancy cocktail party is serving squab. MADDIE: Bleurgh. I’ll pass. Why’d Dana’s portal lead us here, though? MADDIE: Wait, we’re…we’re in space. This is a space station in orbit! There’s Earth! JUSTIN: …Maddie? Why is the crowd counting down?
JUSTIN: Oh. Yes, um. That’s…yes, this is definitely a doomed timeline. MADDIE: Dr. Duffield, you’ve got to stop running. Please, Dana. DR. DUFFIELD: I…I…always preferred the library to track-and-field. I can see I’m not getting away from you on foot. I should have practiced with this device more. MADDIE: We’re not here to hurt you, Dana. We’re not even here to stop you—not really. DR. DUFFIELD: What? JUSTIN: What? MADDIE: Yeah, I know. It’s confusing. Just get us out of here, please. We’re going to show you what’s really going on.

Season 2, Chapter 5

Palliative Care

JUSTIN: We’re going to show you the results of your actions. We can’t use the power of the Epoch Grove to travel, so you’ll have to use your device--we’ll tell you where and when to go. DR. DUFFIELD: Wait, why can’t you use the Epoch Grove? MADDIE: You’ll see. Stay close--time is frayed, and you don’t want to be caught along the fringe.

Scene 1 - Aztec Industrial Revolution:
MADDIE: You dropped off industrial-age technology a few thousand years before it was supposed to show up. JUSTIN: That kickstarted the industrial revolution earlier than it could have happened on its own. MADDIE: Once knowledge is out, it can’t be recalled. Humans innovated, expanded--built on what they already had. JUSTIN: Observe: The Aztecs meeting with the conquistadors. In our world, the conquistadors completely wiped out the Aztecs. Now? Those are electric war-scooters they’re riding. Cortes doesn’t look very happy. DR. DUFFIELD: But that’s a fantastic outcome! JUSTIN: Absolutely--but it’s entirely different from how it actually happened. MADDIE: This moment--and others like it--ripple through time. Empires rise and fall. Events shift, and those changes cause their own ripples in turn.

MADDIE: So, with the industrial revolution started hundreds of years earlier and space-age tech for the Vikings, global warming started far earlier than in our world and quickly grew out of control. But the technology you gave couldn't fix climate change. 
JUSTIN: The cities of the world could barely understand what was happening as the coasts flooded and the waters rose--but they tried to adapt. To survive under the encroaching waves, they built the great dome cities--Paris, Londinium, New Amsterdam, Seattle. 
MADDIE: But they didn’t last.

Scene 2 - Flooded City:
MADDIE: As the rampant, uncoordinated advancement of technology continued to warp the global climate, titanic storms began to pound the nations of the world to pieces. MADDIE: Even the dome cities weren’t safe from the massive forces unleashed by the weather--storms that dwarfed anything ever seen before. MADDIE: We’re right around the year of your birth, now. DR. DUFFIELD: I...I remember the dome cities. I grew up in one, although I left when I was young. But this is your timeline, not mine. Why are they here? What are you telling me? Are we in your timeline or mine? MADDIE: There’s more to see, Dana. We have to keep going.

MADDIE: One by one, the dome cities failed. The technology acquired ages ahead of its time was lost, and with no scaffold of discovery to support it, humanity fragmented. 
MADDIE: First into city-states, then isolated towns, then villages--and eventually into a few roving bands of people huddled among the ruins of civilization.

Scene 3 - Waste Land:
MADDIE: And then--nothing. Hot wind over dry sand, forever. This is how the story ends: our planet dies. Humanity dies. DR. DUFFIELD: This is the result of all my work to save the world? This?! Oh...oh, god! JUSTIN: You want to know why we can’t use the Epoch Grove to travel through this timeline? Why we started in our timeline but everything looks familiar to you now? DR. DUFFIELD: ...because it’s mine. My changes will turn your world into mine. You two can’t travel through a doomed timeline. DR. DUFFIELD: It’’s me. I’m the one who ruined my world.
DR. DUFFIELD: I’m the cause of all this destruction! It was me! How could I have been so blind? stupid?!
MADDIE: Dr. Duffield--Dana… There’s no way you could have known. This device appeared out of nowhere, and just in time to save your world. 
MADDIE: Nobody can blame you for trying your best.
DR. DUFFIELD: I’m not blaming myself for trying--I’m blaming myself for failing to succeed! But--no, I won’t give up. This isn’t over yet.
DR. DUFFIELD: I’ll fix it all! I’ll shift every moment I’ve changed to some other doomed timeline! I’ll...I’ll dump it all there and start over!

Season 2, Chapter 6

Primum Non Nocere

DR. DUFFIELD: If I ruined my own timeline, then I can fix it, too! I’ll fix it all! DR. DUFFIELD: I’ll shift every moment I’ve changed to some other doomed timeline! I’ll dump it all there and start over! MADDIE: Dana, wait! Justin, what’s she doing? JUSTIN: The strain on time from shifting that many pivotal moments will tear everything apart!

Scene 1 - (Un)Familiar Scene:
DR. DUFFIELD: I can do it! I can do this!
MADDIE: Dana, you’ve got to stop! There’s nothing you can do to fix time! JUSTIN: Look around you, Dana! Look at what’s happening! This isn’t the solution!
DR. DUFFIELD: No… No, this can’t-- This can’t be happening. Anywhere I try to shift my actions tugs on every other moment. DR. DUFFIELD: My presence is connecting every one of the changes! I can’t remove any moment without ripping apart all of time! MADDIE: Dana, we’re so sorry. Whoever left the device to you must have known that this would be the outcome. JUSTIN: You can’t blame yourself. You were tricked. DR. DUFFIELD: ...No. MADDIE: Wha- DR. DUFFIELD: I REFUSE this reality. I will NOT PERMIT this. JUSTIN: Maddie! She’s using the device to travel to itself! MADDIE: ...Dana, NO! STOP! PLEASE! DR. DUFFIELD: If I can’t remove my actions from time, then I will remove MYSELF.

Scene 2 - First Do No Harm:
JUSTIN: Dr. Duffield, please! You can’t do this! There’s no coming back from what you’re about to do! If you use the device to prevent yourself from ever FINDING the device, you’ll lock yourself outside of time forever! MADDIE: Please, Dana! We can’t...we can’t save you from this choice! MADDIE: Please, stop! We don’t even know what will happen to you! DR. DUFFIELD: ...Oh, Maddie. Justin. My fellow chrononauts--my friends. There’s nothing to save me from. DR. DUFFIELD: I may erase myself from all of time, but our world--our worlds--will be safe. DR. DUFFIELD: All my changes will be closed in their own loop, never to interfere with the timeline of this world or any other. MADDIE: ...all of time will forget you, Dr. Duffield. You will be cut off from time from the moment you found the device. DR. DUFFIELD: ...all of time but for two Keepers of the Epoch Grove. Goodbye, my friends. DR. DUFFIELD: Remember me.

MADDIE: She’s gone. Oh, Justin, she’s gone. Locked into a paradox loop, forever.
JUSTIN: you feel that? Time is shifting back to normal. All of her changes vanished with her into the loop. 
JUSTIN: Dr. Duffield did it! She stopped all of time from unraveling!
MADDIE: You’re right! I can feel the timelines rejoining! No more ancient skyscrapers! No more motorcycle wars!
JUSTIN: But at what cost, Maddie? Dana might have made a better Keeper than both of us put together.
MADDIE: You’re right. You know, we’re the only two people to remember her now that she’s gone--but her loop only closed her off from time from the moment she found the device. 
MADDIE: And she’s from OUR future…
JUSTIN: I think I see what you’re getting at--I think we have someone we need to meet!

Scene 3 - (Re)Introductions:
DANA: Oh, I didn’t see you two there! I’m sorry, with all the graduation hubbub, I didn’t hear you behind me! JUSTIN: Don’t worry, miss, we just arrived. You would be… MADDIE: ...Dr. Duffield?

DR. DUFFIELD: I suppose I am! It’s going to feel strange for a while when people call me that--the title is brand new, after all!
DR. DUFFIELD: Please, call me Dana. What are your names?
MADDIE: I’m Maddie, and this is Justin. 
JUSTIN: If you’ve got a moment, we’d like to tell you about our work...

Season 4, Chapter 1

Boast of the Viking

Background: Maddie and Justin are seeking allies to join them against the Cabal.  They remember their old friend, Gunnlaugr the Skald, and travel to his time to recruit him to their cause.

Listen well, all good folk of these lands.
Along with your king, shake the dust from your mind!
Let us recall the tale of Gunnlaugr the Skald
And how his great boast was his blessing and doom...

Maddie, my friend and boon companion
Swim like a salmon through time unbound
Our hidden foes, the Cabal, unmake us
To forstall this end, what dare we do?

Justin, my friend and fellow traveler
Dart like a deer through eons unceasing
To us we must old friends now gather
That the stream of years may yet flow strong

Hearken, Maddie, to the mind-thought's musing:
As wheat laid in rows to sprout for the harvest 
Our deeds high and ripe, they call to be gathered
Gunnlaugr the Skald well remembers our aid!

Then lessen the length of the road now before us
Scatter the years between Keeper and kin!
We go now to gather Gunnlaugr, a singer
His wit like a sword held hard by the blade!

Scene 1 - The Skald's Boast:

Long month and mile our footprints have measured
Arrive we two at the high mead-hall
Let us listen with care to the words let loose;
To linger by the door might make us wise.

Keenly I see that the throne is laden--
Gunnlaugr's king holds court within.
An unknown skald slides back from the center
The rafters still ring with the strange guest's boast.

May fortune and favor be heaped high upon you
O visitor fair from far foreign lands.
A warm hearth and hot food are the least that are due you,
A factor of our newfound friends, the Cabal!

But sing now, Gunnlaugr, wall-leaner, half-smiler!
Our guest bore a boast and a tale yet-unheard.
Know ye well, though we cosset all good-faith newcomers,
We offer no quarter in song or in sport!

~ ~ ~

I boast now before ye, hall-clan and whole family
All who knew me before I knew myself.
Our guest sang of deeds done with cunning and daring
But I yet within me grow greater deeds still.

There lurks now above us a monster, marauding
The hair on his head frozen firm to his shoulders
The limbs of the beast stretch from stone to bright star
And nightly the sun hides in fear of his mass!

What foe do you speak of that our clan must fear?
Well-known to Asgard would be such a beast!
(A guest in our hall means I must prove my standing.)
(No bold king may balk when protecting his people.)

My king, keep astride your carven wood-station
Discard not in concern the gilded mead-cup!
The monster's a mountain, ice-locked above us,
And swear I now this: It I'll climb with bound hands!

Scene 2 - Ancestral Advice:

Hard-faced was the king, Gunnlaugr's leader
Unamused by his boasting in front of clan-guest
A clever tongue well-serves our poor friend, the brave poet
As often as severs him from his full night's rest.

Shall we go to Gunnlaugr, giving aid and affection?
A friend he has been since our work was still new.
Ever rare is it to see his face fallen
By this runestone he murmurs to family long gone.

Fool that I am and fool I have been.
Oh father, that ever I thought of a verse!
Oh mother, that ever I earned bread with a boast!
What I bragged in the hall my king's glare has made true!

Weep no more tears, Seeker Gunnlaugr,
Or your hands may be bound by the ice in your beard!

Your friends in good faith have arrived now to aid you--
The weight of your woe is made one-third as light.

~ ~ ~

Long have I yearned to look again on your faces--
The bright pair that help in days passed and to come!
My speech is a knife well-whetted by practice,
But a slipped blade will cut with no care to who owns it.

Long have we sought to return to your clan-hall
To break bread with heroes and hew close to friends
See we now that fate leaves you bereft and breathless--
We first thought to ask favor but seek now only to serve.

Aid do we, world-warders, offer you in your task,
That you, word-wender, might aid us in ours.
A gift given with cost is no true gift at all
But friends speaking forthrightly may yet excuse much.

Aid does this weary word-wender accept
And freely gives aid to world-warders in turn.
A hand stretched forth to lift up the fallen
Saves a life, but spares himself also the pain of the loss.

Scene 3 - Frosty Preparation:

Swore I plainly my grip would be wrapped and restrained!
Yet no words I spoke banned the bite of an axe.
Before us, the board bears the steel-hoard of clan-friends
A fish firmly hooked may yet wriggle free!

A fish hook and cord would be a great blessing
Your Cabal guest informs the king of your plan.
To climb up the ice is a task yet untried
And this war-gear best nibbles at armor, not ice!

We two have long put our stake in the strength
of rewriting our problems to best suit our might.
Fighters we aren't, nor schemers, nor racers.
And frost-scalers certainly less-so than that.

Deep truths abide! By my wit I am bound.
The key to my egress and end all in one.
The ice will not yield, its hardness unfailing.
Retract must I honor and boast both as one!

~ ~ ~

Late in the night do I murmur and muse
The mead-hall's hot hearth my blanket and balm.
Long since has the sun turned tail and hidden
The day-guide seeks solace from the mountain of ice.

Our honored guest has much to tell me.
A king's concern is the life of his folk.
Gunnlaugr's folly brings shame upon us--
Or so speaks the Cabal, their voice in attendance.

Forced am I by fate and foeman--
The shadow of either as fierce as the thing.
Gunnlaugr's boast bolsters the tale of our people
But the flood of his failure would wash us away.

Young I was once, and again might I be
When at last comes the day when in battle I die
Felt I, too, the fires of youth surge within me
An old man must think now how one speaks for many.

Season 4, Chapter 2

 A story known but untold is an arrow unfired
 Feathered and fitted with an iron-hard head.
 A half-story told is a bow nocked and drawn
 The creaking string strains the archer's hard arm!

 Return we to the tale, well-watered and rested
 Our bellies food-full but word-hunger unsated
 Gunnlaugr the Skald's bold boast overburdens;
 The king of the clan will soon hear his plea!

Scene 1 - Audience with the Jarl:

 King of my clan and head of my folk:
 Only a hero could conquer this mountain!
 Only a god could climb without hands!
 My boast was unmeet--I would cast it aside.

 Whence comes your idea that I might allow this?
 Whence the belief I would give you my leave?
 You bellowed your claim before all who were gathered.
 A hard lesson is needed both by you and our folk.

 The clan-blood flows fiercely within you, Gunnlaugr.
 Our people are seeking a path for their lives.
 Your fall would give rise to Cabal-thoughts among us,
 While breaching this peak best befits our self-rule.

 The way of our folk is stone-hard but fair
 And a king is the voice of his well-guarded kin.
 You offer no mercy, thus I gather in boldness.
 There's one further thing I would you now know...!

~ ~ ~

 Returns now our Skald, with beard-length all bristling!
 What words were spoken to stir up your fury?
 The line of your folk hangs in the balance
 None more than you know the power of words!

 The gold bands that bind my folk's noble king
 Lay upon him like bright limb-weighing shackles.
 He to his duties he must ever see,
 Just as I to my oaths must I always attend.

 Our Gunnlaugr's face shows no signs of regret
 His humility sown sprouts ripe bushels of pride.
 Our friends's darkened brow is a leaden wave crashing;
 Dearest Skald, did your king give you leave to recant?

 No tale worth the telling casts a hero forsworn!
 A bold boast once made is proofed against fear.
 My king honors all by discarding my mewling--
 Neither hands nor now FEET will see use in my climb!

Scene 2 - Gunnlaugr Rides the Goat:

 Gunnlaugr, there's no seeming sense in your plan.
 A method untried is a guess in the dark.
 As likely you are to lay hands on your doom
 As you are to grope your way blindly to glory.

 Gunnlaugr, this frost-cliff's a foe you can't best.
 The high ice will handily crack and unmake you.
 Such madness within one is quickly excused;
 What weird world allows you to live long in your ravings?

 Speak we plainly: The mountain's your doom!
 The weight of your shame is a far lighter load!
 Creep now away from the snow-shrouded crevice!
 Crawl now away from the ice-armored crag!

 You'll no sooner move me than the mountain before us.
 Stand aside now or be trodden and trampled!
 There's no greater glory than to perish while striving--
 Save to snatch it still steaming from the jaws of defeat!

~ ~ ~

 The coolth of this frozen fog entombs me--
 The animal heat of this beast beneath me--
 The curl of his defiant horn firmly grasps me--
 The huff and hard rasp of my bold, odd steed--

 My limbs all burn--
 The folk all yearn--
 My doom uncurls--
 The cloud unfurls--!

 The cramp unlocks!
 The agony lifts!
 The mist is breached!
 The summit is reached!

Scene 3 - The Skald Departs:

 There's a madness within our friend the Skald
 So bold and so bright it drives away doom
 Where others would fall with body all-broken
 He still stands defiant, grinning and whole.

 Whence a goat, knee-driven?!
 Whence a climb, stone-hidden?
 Whence a skill strangely learned?
 Whence this legend well-earned?

 Betimes an idea is known in the world
 A sly plan in the mind is enough to inspire.
 Only the victor tells what befell--
 And thus do I claim my right to the tale.

 Fled not from my heart is a firm promise made
 To return to your hearth and defend well your home.
 But a Skald who sings tales must leave one behind
 Gather ye close and consider this plan...

~ ~ ~

 Thus did Gunnlaugr pass from this world
 Bereft not of life by hand or by iron
 But brimming and frothing with life-joy and mirth
 Took up he the realm and the work of a hero.

 The folk rallied 'round the fresh tale of the Skald
 The strong back of our people remained yet unbent
 The Cabal's seething voice was cast out from our halls
 With a firmness supported by a common heart-fire.

 When the hot fire's flare dies down from the blaze
 The murmuring heat of the coals still serves us well
 The folk all remember the tale of our hero
 For Gunnlaugr's saga lies light on each tongue.

 We sing many songs from our birth to our death
 Sunset's a fine stage for a saga well-wrought.
 Ever a joy to tell a fine story, ever a joy to sing for fine folk
 This saga now ends, and this tale-teller rests.