*wind lashing against a window*
It’s dark. I wake up, roll over… turn the other way… *sigh* I can’t get back to sleep.
Even in my sleep, I can’t get rid of the image of my mother. Her scared face, wide eyes, the blood that dyed her golden hair crimson… Even worse, I think I know who did it. The man in our house, who came to visit, not long before she….
Now that I think about it, I think he’s after me too. The more I think, the more I know… I can feel him coming for me. But I’m too tired, too cold to run right now…
I hear howling, and wonder if it’s mountain wolves or just wind. I pull my blankets closer around my body, but they have no warmth to give. I hear rustlings; creatures below me, but I can’t tell if they are small or large. Or maybe they’re only in my mind…
I roll over, bleary-eyed. The storm blew itself out overnight, and the sun is just beginning to rise over the mountains. The sky gradually lightens in the space between the snow-covered peaks. I pull my cape around my shoulders, pick up my waterskin, and head outside the inn.
The nearby river is the only thing moving. It seems as though I am the only one alive. And then– the clouds above me turn the color of fire,
setting the entire world alight. It is so lovely, it takes my breath away.
C: ALT. You are… my fire. My one …. Desire. Believe… when I say… I want it… that…… damn, what comes after that?
I turned around and saw a purple-skinned tiefling with a lute case leaning up against the wall behind her. She was scratching something on a piece of parchment balanced on her knee. I walked toward her.
E: How about… I want it that … way?
C: Huh… I could make that work.
C: Hey since you’re here, I got this other song due, that I haven’t finished yet, been up all night working on it. What do you think?
Thank you for being my bard
playing music when life is hard,
Songs of rest, healing words
inspiration and …. hmmm
C: That’s it, thank you! I’ve been working on this poem all night … I was supposed to have it done for tomorrow when I get back to work, but I put it off til the last minute [rambling]
E: Don’t worry, I’m a writer too, I get it.
C: Oh, a writer? What do you write?
E: Well, right now I’m coming back from a journey
E: And heading back to Tarquin, where–
C: I’m going that way too!
E: No way! What do you do in Tarquin?
The tiefling straightened up proudly.
C: I’m a narrative bard for the Jordan Circus. We were moving from Hylia to Tarquin, which is the closest I’ve been to my family in years. I thought I would take advantage and come say hi to my parents … granted I do some work while I’m away but then I didnt (rambling)
E: No way, the Jordan Circus? My friend Quest just became a performer there! We’re heading back too. Do you want to go together?
C: Sure! I wouldn’t be opposed to some company on the road
E: Cool! I’m travelling with my friend Onin; he’s probably still asleep (chuckling). My name’s Eve, by the way. I’ll go get him, and we can leave whenever you’re ready…?
C: My name’s Cheers, pleasure to meet you. I can be ready in a bit, let me grab my stuff.
Cheers snapped her lute case shut.
C: Ready when you are.
- Rising Action
I quickly packed my things, brought Onin down, and we set off together.
E: “Onin, this is my new friend, Cheers. She’s heading to Tarquin too!”
O: My lovely lady, how do you do, Onin said with a bow
C: What an interesting accent! Where are you from?
O: The Sword Mountains, just north of ____. I lived at the temple of Sharindlar, until the Merciful Maidens decided I should go… elsewhere.
O: So, Cheers, how is your love life? As part of my duties as cleric, I like to play matchmaker and find people who go well together–are there any lovely ladies or gentlemen in your life?h
C: *smirks* My lovers are like Starbucks, ‘cause I got one in every city.
O: Aha, yes! Star Bucks! The male deer that descended from the night sky, who is worshipped by so many human communities.
C: Yes, Onin, obviously. That being said, what’s the deal with your friend Quest?
E: She’s kind, smart, funny. I think you’d really like her!
C: You had me at she.
As we walked through the mountains, the minutes stretched into hours.
O: Are we there yet?
We stopped for water, snacks, and eventually lunch, eating the apples and bread from the innkeeper. I did my best to regain my strength, but could only pick at half the loaf.
O: [groans] My feet are tired
C: Forget about your feet, look at the sky!
We sat and watched the clouds move across the open blue, between the peaks of the mountains.
As the sun mimicked our journey west across the sky, we got to know each other a bit better.
C: If you were to die tomorrow, what’s the last thing you would eat?
O: A nice hearty dwarven stew
C: I wish I could say it was my mom’s home cooking, but the spidercrab legs in ____ were just so good
O: Also wild boar, and pastries with custard.
Cheers strummed a few songs, and we played a few trail games
C: Worship, Marry, Kill: Dwarven pantheon
O: Worship Sharindlar, duh
E: Everyone has something they’re searching for – what do you guys think your purpose is?
O: To atone for the sins of my past.
Cheers and I stopped and looked at Onin.
[together]: What sins?
O: You see, the merciful maidens of Sharindlar bring light to the darkest of places, as healers and as matchmakers. For a time, I thought that living without the light of our Shining Dancer was no life at all, so… there were some for whom I decided Death was a kinder fate. And you, Cheers?
C: Yo, that’s a pretty edgy backstory dude. I guess for me, I’m from a big city where my parents were big entertainers too, and I’ve always liked how they were able to make people happy. Since then, I’ve made it my duty to spread joy and cheer to people, cracking wise, telling stories, making songs. What about you, Eve?
E: I used to travel the world searching for a place to call home, but when I thought my mother was still alive, I came back here… I guess I thought I could get my old life back, have a home already made for me. Now that I know that dream is gone, I just don’t know what I’m searching for. [pause]
C: Well, if you want to meet some new people, there’s the BBBB tonight
O: The what?
C: The Big Bard Bonding Bonfire – it’s a thing we do twice a year. Everyone in the Big Bard guild comes and bonds together around a big bonfire! I know you’re a scribe, but if you ever wanted to learn to do some more creative stuff, this is a great place to meet people and learn more about it.
E: Yeah, sounds kinda fun. I don’t have any other plans
C: I’ll take you! Maybe we can bring your friend *suggestively*, Quest?
E: *laughs* sure, she’d love to come.
We made it back to the circus just after sundown.
C: Smells like home! Rerecord
O: I would kill for some tower cake… I’ll come back and find you later.
The trapeze artists were practicing behind the tent. Cheers and I walked through together. When we emerged on the other side, the artists at the top of the human pyramid spotted Cheers, and yelled greetings. The artists at the bottom decided to slowly disassemble so they could welcome back their friend. Quest was close to the top.
*general babble of “hey! We’re glad you’re home!”
When she made it down, Quest walked over to me, and gave me a big hug.
Q: Were you able to recover the memory?
I gave her half a smile.
E: I got it back, all right.
The trapeze artists decided to call it a day, excited for the night ahead.
C: Hey nerds! Let’s pre before this bonfire. To Cafe Kraken!
- Drinking Scene
We entered a dimly lit, crowded room. I had never been in a tavern like this before – it seemed to be made more for dancing than talking.
C: Is this the friend you were telling me about?
E: Yeah, this is Quest!
Q: Looks like we’re going to be in the circus together!
C: So nice to see another tiefling in my neck of the woods! So… what brought you here?
Q: I’ve always wanted to join, I specialize in acrobatics
C: Well I specialize in the language of love
Q: Well maybe you can tell me about it over some drinks….
C: On you?
Q: You’ve been at the circus longer than I have! How about you pay?
C: You buy us the first round, and I’ll get us a little something special 😉
Quest & Cheers walk over to the bar,
E: I didn’t really know what to do, now that my two friends had gone over to the bar together. I looked around anxiously. After a few moments, Quest came back over with two drinks in her hand, offering one to me.
Q: For your first time, this is a good drink to start with.
C: Ah, I remember my first drink… my uncles thought it was funny to trick me into drinking the devil’s brew
E: *drinks* *spits* This is gross!
C: If that’s not to your taste, I got a little something something right here.
She pulled a vial out of her cloak.
E: What’s that?
C: Around here, people call it HEA – Happily Ever After. It’s happiness in a bottle. It makes all your worries go away!
Q: If you want to try it, go for it, but no pressure. I’ll be here no matter what!
E: I would definitely love to take a break for the night. *swigs*
An immediate feeling of warmth spread through my body, as the gnawing feeling I’d had in my stomach all day faded out of existence. I felt more energetic and excited than I had ever been. Every person in this bar seemed like my best friend. I went to hug Cheers
C: Alright, alright, you should know, though – the potion is just temporary. It usually lasts for one night. Tomorrow it’ll all come back
E: Not a problem at all.
In fact, it felt like nothing would ever be a problem again.
E: Thanks Cheers.
Cheers winked. She and Quest took a small swig each.
Onin had set up shop in the back corner, giving love advice to the artists.
O: Maeve, Marcy, Darcy, if he’s playing you like that, you need to get someone better–
When Cheers dra nk her vial, he sauntered over.
O: Is that… oh, what do they call her these days? Back in my day, we used to call her Sara – short for Serotonin. Kids these days with all their abbreviations, the “YOLO’s” and “ROFL’S” and what-have-you-now
C: ROFL hasn’t been cool for like, 10 years
O: What? What do you mean! Are the youths no longer talking about Revenge on Faerün’s Lies? Honestly, you’d think that growing up in a world where glowing sky deer try to court your unending servitude would make you adolescents a little more politically angry.
O: Well, I will certainly take a little bit, if you’re offering.
Cheers offered him the vial, which only had a quarter of the liquid left.
“Lady, please” Onin patted his chest, “That’s not going to be enough to overcome this dwarven constitution”
She gave him a full bottle, which he drank all of. He seemed unchanged.
All of a sudden, the room seemed hot, like the fire in the hearth had flared up significantly. I needed some fresh air. I remembered the bar had a second floor, and maybe a roof we could sneak on to. When I mentioned it, everyone seemed interested
O: Let’s do it!
We shimmied up the stairs protruding from a trapdoor on the ceiling, sneaking our way onto the roof. Cheers was dancing to the muted music from downstairs, as Quest swayed gently to the breeze. Onin was lying down on the roof, as it seemed the potion had just hit him.
O: “Do you ever think about how wonderful life is. how pretty, kind, people are… everyone, every one of them so full of love…. lust. lust.”
I felt blissful. All my cares had disappeared, just like Cheers said! The world seemed so beautiful again. I had such nice people around me. Everything was okay.
E: I want to touch the stars!
O: Aren’t we always trying to reach the stars? Just lowly insects, crawling towards the light, always hoping for more?
I started to walk toward the edge of the roof. I could see the lights of the town below me, twinkling merrily. It seemed as though the whole world was smiling. My toes were just hanging over the edge, as my hand reached out toward the huge sky in front of me. If I could just get a little closer, maybe Star Bucks would let me ride him– Quest quickly rushed over to me
Q: “Hey Eve, let’s go say hi to Cheers” she turned my shoulder, and my head started spinning. We walked back up the roof, Quest holding up most of my weight
Q: *whispering* Cheers, we need to get her down – do you have anything that can lessen the effects?
C: *vials clinking* Huh? What? mmm… oh! Yes! I have some FEA here. It’s strong though – it can bring up some tough stuff sometimes
Quest glanced at me.
Q: It’s ok; here you go, Eve
I drank from the FEA potion, and the dizziness stopped, replaced by a gnawing anxiety. All of my worries were back, amplified. My breathing shortened and I started to shake, trying not to cry
Q: Oh no, what did we do?
Cheers bent down over me.
C: Hey man, what’s happening?
E: It’s all back, and it’s so much worse than before. All my nightmares are real again… I feel so lost, and alone; I’m scared, I don’t know what to do.
C: That’s rough, buddy
Quest scowled at Cheers.
Q: You know you’re not alone, right? We’re here for you. We’ll do whatever we can – I promise you’re going to be okay.
Quest started stroking my back.
C: uhh Eve, it’s okay to feel these emotions – emotions are like signs on a road, it’s our bodies telling us about the world around us. [whispers] that metaphor doesn’t really work… Feeling scared and lonely – that’s your body telling you it’s time to stop, or run away and find people to be around. It’s good to listen to your emotions and these signs, because they’re here to protect you, even though sometimes it feels like they make you vulnerable. But you’re here now, you’re with us, you’re safe;
you did all you could. And… uhh… Quest, anything to add?
I tried to blink away my tears, and nodded. I knew everything Cheers was saying was right, I just didn’t feel okay yet.
Q: These things take time, Eve. It’s going to be okay.
E: *small sob*
C: You are the dancing elf, so sure of yourself self, only — how old are you?
E: I’m sixteen
C: Only !
*laugh & play music for a little while*
Suddenly, a large orange flame appeared on the southern edge of the town.
C: That’s the bonfire! Do you still want to go:
I smiled. “Sure!”
C: Hey Onin–
C: So much for that dwarven constitution
We walked back down the stairs. Onin went home to sleep, while the rest of us moved toward the plume of light. Music played and people danced in front of the shifting flames. I was entranced by the movement, as if the people and the flames were somehow connected in a shifting, swirling pattern. Quest and Cheers twirled each other around, laughing. After what could have been a few minutes or an hour, the music quieted and the flames began to lower, as the bards sat in a semicircle around the fire..
From the edge of the surrounding forest, I saw the square-jawed face of the man who had been haunting my dreams. He was standing outside the circle, looking forlorn, as if he hadn’t been invited to the party. I shook my head, thinking he must be an illusion; why on Earth would he be here? As his image persisted, my muscles tensed. My reflexes were heightened from the potion; I jumped up and started to run, until Quest pulled me back down next to her.
Q: “Stick by me, I’m not going to lose you again!”
C: Yo, what’s wrong?
E: That’s, that’s, that’s….
The man straightened up, hardening his features, and stepped into the firelight.
// outro music
Magic of the Mind is a podcast set in the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons and Dragons that communicates topics in cognitive science. If you want to learn more about the theories of emotion written into this episode, keep listening for the science behind the story interview with Dr. Anna Weinberg, a researcher at mcgill university.
This podcast was made with support from Building 21, a McGill space for innovative and collaborative creation. Thanks to Emily Sheeran for reprising her role as Quest, Liam Halloran as Onin Frostbeard, and Haidee [ask how to say] as Cheers. As always, huge thanks to Florestan Bruck for composing Eve’s themes and Dorothea Stefanou for creating our beautiful logo. Additional thanks to Thomas Barrett for scripting edits.
This show was made possible by people like Bernadette Barrett, Giulia Amicucci, Thomas Barrett, Keegan Sweeney, and Prue Clendenning. You too, could have your name read out on the podcast if you buy a cool sticker to support our show!! Link on our website, magicofthemind.ca.
If you don’t have the money for a sticker or just don’t feel like opening a new webpage, there’s something you can do without even closing your podcast app! If you could leave a review, wherever you get your podcasts, this helps tell the algorithm “this is a show people like”, which makes it more visible and easier to find. Spreading the word with any friends or family members who you think would enjoy listening also goes a long way, and I would really appreciate it.
If you want to be ~virtual~ friends, tweet me @magicofthemind1 or join the facebook group at bit.ly/mindmemes. Check back in two weeks for the next step in Eve’s journey, where she has the ultimate facedown, and discovers the truth about relationships. I’m Morgan; thanks for listening.
Hello hello hello! Morgan here, recording from my home *studio*, which is basically just me hiding under my winter comforter with a microphone! Such fun.
Okay, so for episodes, 4 5 and 6, we’re going to be exploring some really cool topics that I’ve always found fascinating, but am not quite as knowledgeable about. As a result, some of these interviews were recorded before I actually wrote the episodes (pre-COVID lockdown), when I had a vague outline of what I wanted to do but no clear path in front of me. This conversation is one of those, and it does meander a bit and include some broader topics, but I know you’ll still learn some fun things!
So, what I wanted to show in episode 4 is the role emotions play in our everyday life. I wrote in “emotion enhancing substances” as a way to amplify the characters’ emotions and make them more obvious. The two main emotions I explored, through their respective potions, are happiness (as HEA) and fear as (FEA).
Even though Eve takes the HEA potion first, it’s actually the FEAr response that has been the most studied in psychology, and that’s the one we’ll explore first in this interview. The areas in the brain that process fear have been pretty well pinpointed through animal studies and people who have unusual fear processing systems, usually due to a head injury.
The immediate fear response is what Eve feels right after she takes the potion: increased heart rate, faster breathing, muscles tensing. In an evolutionary sense, this is really helpful, because it prepares your body to run away faster or fight the thing that put you in a scary situation. However, in today’s world, a lot of the things we’re afraid of aren’t ones that can be easily escaped or fought, and the immediate fear response doesn’t go away. Experiencing this fear response for a longer period of time leads to the feeling of anxiety, which can be really counterproductive in some circumstances. After all, if the thing that scares you is writing a big paper, running away or fighting isn’t going to help.
The second emotion I wanted to explore is happiness, through the HEA potion. As you’ll hear Dr. Weinberg say, in psychology, it’s tough to measure subjective emotions such as happiness or fear, so people typically measure an associated process. In the case of happiness, a well-studied process is reward processing, the feeling when we do something good.
Onin makes a comment that “back in his day, they used to call her Sara for Serotonin. Even though dopamine is the neurotransmitter most associated with reward, serotonin is another neurotransmitter that affects our feelings of happiness and well-being. Quite a few medications people with depression take are called “SSRIs”, which means selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, basically drugs that increase the amount of serotonin in someone’s brain.
As Dr. Weinberg will explain, there are some studies that show increased levels of happiness make people more likely to take risks. Just like Eve who decides to fall into the sky on the HEA potion
Overall, emotions are a really important feedback mechanism that help you to learn about your current state. Emotions signal really important information about the environment that allows us to adapt and change moving forward.
People are so much more resilient to stressors when they don’t feel alone. A theme we’ll come back to next episode is the importance of relationships and the effect they have on our well-being. Humans are social creatures; we’re meant to be with one another. Especially when we’re sad, scared or suffering; that’s when we need each other the most. It can be hard to reach out when you’re hurting, because anyone you talk to will see that vulnerability, and for many of us the idea of being seen as weak is terrifying. But the strength it takes to show vulnerability, it makes us stronger when someone is able to share in what we’re going through; after Eve takes the FEA potion, when she’s sad, scared, and alone, she’s freaking out. After talking about it with Cheers and Quest, she’s still sad and scared, but she no longer feels alone. This helps her breathe and laugh and come back to the real world.
So, if you’re struggling with emotions, feeling isolated or alone, now or anytime, reach out. There are people who love you and care about you. Whether they live across the world or across the hall, it’s always worth giving them a call.
Seeing groups of people come together during this time, to celebrate our workers on the front lines and deliver food to our most vulnerable has been so incredible.
Takeaway: emotions are important signals from your body! Like Cheers says at the end of the episode, emotions are a sign that something in your environment needs to change. It’s really important to listen to these emotions and grow from them, as painful or annoying as it may be.
If you’re feeling happy, it’s a sign that you’re doing something good, and should do more of it!
If you’re feeling fearful, it’s a sign that something in your environment isn’t good for you, and that you should maybe try to change something in your life.