Episode 6 - "The Fire in the Sky" - Credits
Written by Gabriel Urbina and Directed by Sarah Shachat.
Script Editing by David K. Barnes.
Performance by Emma Sherr-Ziarko as Sarkana.
Original Music by Alan Rodi.
Sound Design by Zach Valenti.
Produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina,
along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay.
Episode 6 - "The Fire in the Sky" - Transcript
Announcer: The following episode contains discussions of death and a depiction of fantasy violence. Listener discretion is advised.
[Unseen opening credits music plays.]
Announcer: Long Story Short Productions presents... Unseen.
[Unseen Theme continues playing.]
Announcer: Episode Six. The Fire in the Sky by Gabriel Urbina.
[We hear the wet splats of pieces of meat landing on a bowl.]
[The chirping of insects and the sounds of thriving plant-life fades in. We hear the occasional splash of something moving through water. These continue throughout the following:]
NARRATOR: I appreciate your coming out all this way, and agreeing to meet in the vivarium. I know it’s hardly ideal to discuss these matters over feeding time, but... well, I could hardly call myself a good host if I didn’t even take care of my own pets, now could I?
[Sinew snaps as a piece of meat is torn in two.]
NARRATOR: Do you have any? Crocodiles, I mean. No? Hmm. I highly recommend them. Wonderful companions. Those three down there are my pride and joy.
[A piece of meat lands in the water with a splash. There is sudden activity below the surface - snapping jaws, bellows, tossing and turning. It slowly settles.]
NARRATOR: Beautiful, vicious little things. You have to respect any creature that has endured for as many Millenia as they have. Thirty kilometers an hour swim speed. A stomach that can eat through bone. A bite that can dent steel. There’s a reason they outlived the dinosaurs. Evolution doesn’t fix what isn’t broken, does it?
[Another piece of meat is thrown into the water, followed by a low, growling hiss.]
NARRATOR: It’s very kind of you to dress for the occasion as well, I want you to know. It does make feeding these poor dears quite a bit easier.
[A third piece falls to the water. More splashing, snapping, and hissing.]
NARRATOR: But... onto business. This... project of yours.
[More wet splats as she prepares another round of meat.]
NARRATOR: I know why you’d come to me about it. You’re looking for a... a show of support, I suppose. An endorsement of sorts. You’ve run into some resistance from some narrow minds and you think my support might smooth those furrowed brows. [A pause.] Do you like riddles? I love a good riddle.
[She tosses another piece of meat into the water. There is splashing, snapping, and hissing from the water.]
NARRATOR: I’m going to ask you a riddle now. And if you get it right... I’ll tell you a story. One of the good ones. One of the old ones. And in that story... you’ll get your answer. So... are you ready? Listen carefully: What does man love more than his own life? What does he fear more than mortal strife? What do the poor have, and the rich require? And what does the contented man desire? What does the miser spend and the spendthrift save? And what does every man take with him to the grave?
[A moment of silence.]
NARRATOR: It’s an old rhyme, from a long, long time ago. Some version of it is found in practically every corner of the Earth. Of course... when our people tell it, there’s a bit more to it. Two additional lines, right at the bottom: What makes mountains low? What makes oceans dry? What holds sway over the fire in the sky?
[Another silent moment.]
NARRATOR: Well? Any thoughts?
NARRATOR: Ahhh... good.
[Music starts to fade in.]
NARRATOR: Very good. Encouraging to see that you’re still capable of making some connections without having them pointed out by the Internet. It’s the bare mi - no, no. Don’t try to defend yourself. I can understand the instinct, but you should never engage in debate when you don’t have the facts on your side. You may close your mouth.
NARRATOR: Good boy. You are correct, of course. Very clever of you. Clever of the riddle, too. It shares something with the best of the old stories. Truth. Plenty of new stories try to sell you on a vision of what the world could be, of what it should be.
NARRATOR: There’s a word for that: fantasy. And while lesser minds will take comfort in it, that’s not the reason we tell stories. We spend enough time dreaming while we're asleep. No, the reason we tell stories is to understand how things are. The way of the world. The old stories... they don’t care a jot for how things should be. They get down to business. They remind you that everything has a place... That there is an order to things.
[She laughs a little.]
NARRATOR: That’s a good lesson for you to remember, you know. You know what people say about us. That we’re brutish. Slow-witted. Greedy. Covetous. [A whisper:] Monstrous. [A small pause.] They say we are monsters.
[She laughs again.]
NARRATOR: That’s what the new stories say about us, anyway. But not the old ones. Those are there to remind the world of what we really are. To remind them that... whatever they want us to be... we are that we are.
NARRATOR: I promised you a story, didn’t I? A story and an answer. Well... let no one say that I’m not true to my word. But you’re going to have to pay very close attention. I am not in the habit of repeating myself. So... are you watching closely? Good. In that case... let’s begin.
[The sounds of the vivarium fade away with a magical swoosh.]
[There is the sound of whistling wind all around us.]
NARRATOR: A long, long time ago... long before the Caul veiled the eyes of man... the world was filled with magical kingdoms and sorcerous principalities.
[We start to hear the sounds of a city. Various bits of bustling activity come and go. We hear snatches of unintelligible dialogue in various languages.]
[Music starts to fade in.]
NARRATOR: They were places of wonder, and fortune, and grandeur, ruled by powerful individuals who could warp the very fabric of reality itself.
[There is a sound of strange magical distortion.]
NARRATOR: It was an age of power. An age of significance. There were places then, the likes of which the world will never see again. There were the Lands of Mist, which could never be found by those who didn’t already know the way.
[There is a soft, hissing sound, like a burst of smoke or mist.]
NARRATOR: There was the Sapphire Island, which traveled throughout the oceans on the back of a giant beast, and was a home to all peoples.
[There is a low rumble.]
NARRATOR: There were the kingdoms of the Great Old Things, who plotted and schemed far beneath the surface of the Earth.
[Pickaxes impact upon rock and stone somewhere dark and cavernous.]
NARRATOR: But no place - no kingdom, no nation, no land, nothing - was as magnificent as the City of Silence.
[Suddenly, we are surrounded by the sounds of a busy market square. Various activities and snatches of dialogue, all unintelligible, swirl around us.]
NARRATOR: The City of Silence was the crown jewel of a fabulous kingdom by the sea. It was a place of great magic, and amazing technology - some of the things you would have found in their marketplaces have yet to be equaled anywhere else in the world.
[A clockwork mechanism turns and clicks.]
NARRATOR: Machines to map and trace the workings of the human mind.
[Various bits of machinery make humming and whirring noises.]
NARRATOR: Clockwork animals that moved and thought and lived.
[Low, whispering sounds.]
NARRATOR: Strange poetry that described and changed the world around it in equal measures.
[Various bursts of magic occur under the following:]
NARRATOR: Its streets were filled with magicians, of course - but so much more. Scholars and academics, alchemists, inventors and creators -
NARRATOR: - artists, writers, and sculptors.
[Tools click and bang together as they are used to make something.]
NARRATOR: Men of fortune and intellect.
[Metal coins clink as a sac of money lands on a surface.]
NARRATOR: And not just one kind of being walked the streets of Silence - it was a land for all people, and man and fae and harpy and goblin alike all found a home there.
[Gradually, the sounds of the city fade away, leaving just music under the narrator's voice.]
NARRATOR: And it was all the work of one man, though he was the sort of man who went by many names. First, he was known as John Auberon. Then he was the Jack of Knives. And, finally, he became “His Exalted Majesty, Ruler of the City of Silence.” He was a wise man, and a strong man, and an unusually powerful sorcerer. It’s said he could part the ocean waves. It is said that his city was called Silence because, when he wished it, he could make every sound in the city simply vanish, just like that.
[She snaps her fingers. Instantly, all sounds, including the music cut off.]
[A moment of silence.]
NARRATOR: When he was a boy of eighteen, he had set off into the world and found a small island of mud.
[The music gradually fades back in.]
NARRATOR: Now, he was a man of fifty-five, and his island stood taller than any other kingdom in the world. You could say that he was the most powerful man in the world. You could say that he was the wisest man in the world. Perhaps even that he was the most beloved. And yet... a shadow was growing in the mind of the king. For you see... this king, the so- called Jack of Blades - he really was as wise as they claimed he was. A king in possession of a brain... I did say this was a time of wonders, did I not? He understood the limits of his power. He had built and made and discovered and created so, so much. He had made himself stand so very tall.
[Ocean waves crash.]
NARRATOR: And still he knew that there were those who could destroy everything he’d made in the blink of an eye. He knew that somewhere, out there, there were our people.
NARRATOR: And so, one day, the king called up his best agents: his most accomplished wizards, his most daring huntsmen, and the most devious of his spies. And he gave them all a mission. He scattered them to the far corners of the Earth, and told them not to return to the City of Silence until they had won him an audience with one of our kind. And for years -
[Footsteps echo on stone.]
NARRATOR: - at the start of his day, the king would climb the tallest tower in his keep. His heart would skip a beat as he caught sight of the horizon. And it would die, just a little, when he scanned the sky. For every day he would see the same thing. Nothing.
NARRATOR: Until... the day she came to the City of Silence. The Lady Sarkana.
[An enormous gate is unlocked and swings open with a loud thunk.]
[A pair of footsteps walks on stone streets.]
NARRATOR: The Lady Sarkana was a being of exceptional power - and not just because she was one of us. Even by our lofty standards, she was strong and cunning and had a will of iron. She came to the city without a single servant, guard, or defender - she did not need them.
[Music begins to fade in.]
NARRATOR: She simply dressed for the occasion, and waltzed in through the front gates.
[Another gate creaks and clangs as it is opened. The footsteps continue.]
NARRATOR: And as the Lady walked through the streets of Silence - streets that were filled with magic, and wonder, and miracles - every inhabitants had eyes only for her. Everyone grew still. They watched her pass. Hushed. Reverent. The idle chatter of the marketplace did not resume until she was more than a league away. So, the people realized that not only the king could make silence fall over the city.
[The steps continue, now over a different kind of stone.]
NARRATOR: After making the slow, deliberate climb up the steps of the palace, the great Lady found herself face to face with the King of Silence.
[The footsteps stop.]
NARRATOR: The Lady Sarkana was the first to speak. She asked the king why he had called her to his city. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he answer, she gave him a word of warning. He had succeeded where precious few had: he had captured her attention. Now that he had it, he needed to choose his words very carefully. She was, after all, not one of his subjects. “I answer only to myself,” she told him.
[Wind blows around them.]
NARRATOR: And the king smiled at that, and told her no one could ever mistake her for being anyone’s subject. She was that she was - an entity unto herself. He was, as I said, a wise man, and he knew what to say to be... charming.
[A few more steps.]
NARRATOR: But as she drew closer, the Lady Sarkana returned his smile. And what the King saw in her smile put fear back in his heart.
[The wind increases.]
NARRATOR: Still, even when he was afraid, the king was brave, so he made himself speak. He told the Lady Sarkana that he wished her to join his kingdom - not as a servant, of course, but as an equal. He wanted her to stand side by side with them, and let the world hear of their combined strength. Let them hear and tremble.
NARRATOR: Her smile curled into a sneer. "I will pay you this much courtesy, little King,” she said, “and repeat myself this once: The Lady Sarkana answers only to the Lady Sarkana.”
[A distant boom of thunder.]
NARRATOR: At that, the king stammered. That was as it should be. It should ever be so. He had no wish to rule her. But they could both gain, if they united their powers. "Allow me to make you three offers," he said. He told her to judge if he could not help her be an even greater presence in the world, even more... significant. If he could, then let her join him. Let her come and live in the City of Silence.
[The wind around them blows stronger.]
NARRATOR: “And if you cannot?” The Lady Sarkana asked, and her gaze seemed to follow his every movement like a shadow. If he could not, the king replied, then he would respect her wishes. Ever courteous, ever poised, John Auberon vowed to the Lady Sarkana that if his offers did not please her, he would never trouble her again.
[A pause. The wind blows.]
[Music begins playing.]
NARRATOR: The Lady Sarkana regarded the king, and then held up three fingers. "Let us have these offers, then." The king felt a trill of victory in his chest, even as fear clawed at his stomach. “I have her,” he thought to himself, “I will be able to sway her to my cause.” The first thing the king offered was what he had offered to so many others before: riches and treasure - the wealth of nations. His magical craftsmen were renowned the world over, after all, and his artisans and entertainers were envied in the courts of every king and emperor. If the Lady Sarkana were to become his ally, she would not lack for wealth, nor comfort, nor delight, for all the remainder of her life. The Lady Sarkana listened carefully... and put one of her fingers down.
[Another boom of thunder. Louder than the last one.]
NARRATOR: The Lady explained that she lacked neither wealth nor comfort. She required no one to provide her with sustenance, and she made her own delight. And, more importantly, she understood what so many did not: that when you trade yourself for coin, you only make yourself into another kind of coin, to be bought and sold by those around you. She would have none of it.
[A small pause. The wind blows around them still.]
NARRATOR: The king cursed himself, but forced himself to push onwards. He had lost one chance, but not all. If that wasn’t the thing to tempt her, he would have to employ a different tactic. For his second attempt, the king offered the Lady Sarkana magical ability, the likes of which the world had never seen. His magicians had accomplished things thought to be impossible, and his inventors were constructing mechanical marvels that would change the world. If she joined him, he could give her access to power beyond imagining. He could lay the world of magic at her feet.
NARRATOR: Again, the Lady Sarkana listened carefully... and again, she put down a finger. No, she explained, she would not settle for that either. She had no doubt these fabulous inventors were loyal to the king. But magical ability must be gained, never given. If she began to solve her problems through the ingenuity of others, would she not now be beholden to those whose skills she was employing? That was not the way of her people. That is not the way of our people.
[Another distant boom of thunder, louder still.]
NARRATOR: It was then the king felt the first true pangs of panic. And yet, he clenched his jaw until his heart slowed and his feet grew firm beneath him. He appeared to be the very soul of calm and politesse as he made his third offer. He told the Lady Sarkana that she must - she must - ally herself with him. For, if she did, he could give her the greatest treasure he had at his disposal: knowledge. He himself had uncovered the answers to many of life’s great mysteries and the secrets to the inner workings of the world. He knew why the Doors of Iron had to remain shut at all times, and why the waterfalls of crystal fell upwards. He knew the story behind the man who could make sculptures that would one day come to pass, and the plans the Leviathan kings had for the world above.
NARRATOR: All of this and more, so much more, every scrap of knowledge in his head, and in the head of every great being in his wondrous city, would be hers... to accomplish whatever she liked... if only she would join forces with them.
[The wind grows even stronger...]
[The narrator takes a deep breath.]
NARRATOR: The Lady Sarkana considered this offer long and hard. Unlike the other two, this one held weight in her mind. Knowledge of the ways of the world is always valuable, and always in short supply. You can never have too much of it. But finally, she shook her head. No. No: she had the knowledge that she needed already - the knowledge of herself. For learning, magic, and wealth are all the same, in the end. They are aspects of power. But they are not power itself.
NARRATOR: So, she told the king that no, there was no secret he could uncover, no amount of wealth he could amass, no victory he could win that would ever tempt her to treat him as her equal. And she would not ally herself with a lesser creature. She put down her last finger, and turned to leave.
[There, once again, steps on the stone path.]
NARRATOR: And as the king watched her depart, fear and anger crashed over him like a tidal wave. And something in that brilliant mind came apart... and shattered.
[Another blast of thunder, now much, much closer.]
[Magical energy arcs around the king.]
NARRATOR: As the Lady Sarkana reached the door to the palace, he shouted after her: “You are a fool, Sarkana! You and all your arrogant kind! I have no power over you? I have the power of fear! The power of death! I only have to say the word, and the world's greatest army will answer.”
[Yet another blast of thunder, much louder.]
NARRATOR: “Swear allegiance to me and my city,” he said, “and you will be allowed to leave its gates. Otherwise... I will have you torn apart. That is my final offer.” And as he said those final words, such was his anger that his power got away from him. He didn’t mean for it to happen, but just like that...
[The narrator snaps her fingers.]
[All sound and music abruptly cut off.]
NARRATOR: ... silence fell over the city. Not a single sound could be heard within its walls.
[The silence continues. All we hear is the narrator's voice.]
NARRATOR: The Lady Sarkana paused. She realized that if she could not be heard, she would have to make herself understood. She turned around and slowly walked back up the steps until her gaze met with the
King’s. She let the humble look she had worn to the city fall away, until she was standing at her full height.
NARRATOR: And then... she ate him. She at him whole. Slowly. Savoring him. For it is not every day one gets to eat the world’s smartest, richest, and most powerful man, and a good meal should never be rushed. And for every inch of it, the king screamed, and screamed, and screamed. But it was no use. Silence had fallen.
[Slowly, the ambiance of the city fades back in.]
NARRATOR: And when she was done, the Lady Sarkana descended the palace steps, walked through the streets, and left the city.
[Massive, enormous steps, the kinds made by a gigantic being, boom through the city.]
NARRATOR: And not a single person dared raise a weapon against her, or cast a spell at her, or even say a single unkind word. That was her power.
[The gates creak and then slam shut.]
[There's another wet splat of meat, and the ambiance of the vivarium fades back in.]
NARRATOR: As I said, an old story. You’ve been polite and humored me, even though you’ve no doubt heard it before. But what is the point of all that? What is the lesson, hmm?
[The narrator works pieces of meat as she talks, tearing them into smaller pieces.]
NARRATOR: The lesson, I suppose, is to never let yourself forget the difference between appearance and reality. The shadow of power can look and sound like the real thing. A man can wear a mask so well that everyone around him forgets what his real face looks like.
[Music begins to fade in.]
NARRATOR: The world itself may trade in appearances... but not us. We must be above that. We have to remind them that... well, that at the end of the day, it’s not about what you look like. It’s about what you are.
[She tears a piece of meat in two.]
NARRATOR: To remind them that just as the world’s smartest, most powerful worm is not a threat to a man, the world’s smartest, most powerful man is not a threat to one of our kind. There is an order to the world. Ours.
[She tosses a piece of meat to the water. There is splashing, snapping, and hissing from the crocodiles.]
NARRATOR: It’s a true story, you know. The Lady Sarkana who brought down the City of Silence all those years ago, she was such a significant figure that when she left us, her name was passed down to another, and to another, all the way down... to me. And after I leave this world, there will be another Sarkana after me. I know you are aware of our history, dear boy. But it is not enough to simply know our past. We must keep the old ways alive. After all... few things are more important than tradition to us dragons.
[Around them, there is the faint splashing of the crocodiles.]
NARRATOR: I promised you an answer, didn’t I? Along with the story? Well, here it is: Remember what you are. It’s well and good to be able to change our shape, but that human face is just a mask. Remember what’s underneath it. You want help? Strength in numbers? Please. You’re a goddamn dragon. If there’s something standing in your path, solve it our way: Eat someone.
[A final boom of distant thunder.]
NARRATOR: You can show yourself out now. I trust you can find the way.
NARRATOR: [lower:] What makes mountains low, what makes oceans dry? What holds sway over the fire in the sky? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
[Slowly, the sounds of the vivarium fade out.]
[Musical score ends and transitions to the Unseen Credits music.]
Announcer: This has been UNSEEN, by Long Story Short Productions, based on an original idea by Gabriel Urbina, with additional conceptual design work by Sarah Shachat. Today’s episode was written by Gabriel Urbina and directed by Sarah Shachat, with script editing by David K. Barnes. It starred Emma Sherr-Ziarko in the role of Sarkana. Original Music by Alan Rodi, and sound design by Zach Valenti. UNSEEN is produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina, along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay. For more information on the Unseen World, please visit Unseen.Show. Thank you for listening.
[Music fades out.]
End of Episode.