Brant looked out at the smiling crowd. Like his comic fellows lined up beside him, Brant was letting the energy of the crowd wash over him. This was what he enjoyed most of being an Improv comic; putting oneself fully into a character or a scene, giving it your all, and having the audience reciprocate that energy with laughter and happiness. His teammates and him had just given an excellent performance at the Towle Theatre in Hammond, Indiana, and they knew it. Brant had been hosting this particular show that night and he was supremely pleased that everything had gone so well.
"Thank you, ladies and gentleman," Brant called out with the kind of smile that a Miss America contestant would be proud of. "One last time, this is Andrew "Peace" Blatt, Ryan "T-Rex" Garwood, Steven "Angel Hair" Saltsman, Eric "Beard" Talbert, Renee "Kamikaze" Leyburn, John "Cowboy" Clauson, Stu "Bottleopener" Ogle, and I am Brant "Rubble" Bell. We have been your Ship of Fools! Good Night!"
The Fools ran off the stage into the dressing rooms Towle Theatre had provided them. All of them were still juiced from the performance and continued to joke with each other and quote lines from the show all the way to the little diner they went to, and on through dinner.
After dinner the Fools went back to the hotel they had rented this year. Most years when they came to Hammond for a show they would stay in SOG's, a older Fool, Mom's house. Recent rains had left her basement damaged from water, so the Fools were staying at a local hotel this time around.
Even though they had gotten two rooms to hold the eight Fools, none of them were tired yet, and instead all gathered, clad in varying forms of pajamas, in one of the rooms; the one that Brant would be sleeping in as it turned out. Discussions ensued over the show, now thouroughly analyzing all that had transpired at the show that night. Was this joke necessary? Did one of us break a basic improv rule? Was there anything more that we could have done to better fit the audiences mood that would have improved the show that much more? The show, as they all knew, had been a very successful one, so little was said critically. On the flip side, more time was spent reliving the show's better bits and jokes. Imitations were done of each other with ever increasing flair. Brant sat quietly, basking in the glow of a show well hosted and performed, observing the Fools, his friends. Brant sat on the arm of a poufy armchair that Renee was occupying. Directly across from him was a full length mirror quizzically placed on the wall next to the doorways to both the bathroom and the bedroom. Brant eyed himself, seeing a guy in his early twenties with red hair(he had redyed it), glasses, Peanuts pajamas, and a deep stare looking right back at him. He smiled at himself then turned to look at the rest of the Fools.
Peace was talking animatedly and with his hands, as always. The Fools' captain was the same age as Brant with brown wavy hair that he kept under his Newsboy hat. Ryan, the most experienced Fool, was smiling and nodding along to Peace's story, his curly fro-ish hair was bouncing along with his bobbing head. Ryan was the shortest of the Fools, but he never let that get in his way too much. Leaning up against the wall, was Beard, with his eponymous facial hair, his Newsboy hat, and a small smirk as he watched Peace. Brant looked down at Renee as she broke into Peace's story with a well placed one liner. She had her long hair in a single braid over her shoulder. Cowboy followed her pun with one of his own from where he sat on the couch, next to Steven who threw a chiding comment into the exchange. Suddenly, Stu jumped from behind the couch and mimed slitting Steven's throat, which he immediately went along with and fell to the hotel carpet floor.
They were a motley crew this Ship of Fools, but they worked as a team and joked like a family. Brant was happy to have fallen in with this group. On the surface, it was a simple group of eight college students that liked to joke around, but there were many connections that bound the Fools together. Steven and Brant had been friends well before joining the Fools and had been roommates together since they had come to college. Peace and Beard were similarly aligned with each other, being high school buddies. Both of them lived with Cowboy, and the three of them were practically next door to Renee, where she lived with Jenny, Ryan's long time girlfriend. Ryan had been with the Fools for many school years and was as much Peace's second in command as Peace had been when Ryan had captained the Fools.
Brant reflected on this as he got into his side of the bed that he would be sharing with Ryan. "You know, we are a pretty diverse group, Ryan." Brant said off-handedly.
"Well.....yeah."Ryan replied after a slightly confused pause. "Why do you mention it?
"I was just thinking about us in a survival situation. Ya know, hypothetically speaking."
"What kind of situations?" Ryan asked.
"Well, things like: who would win in a battle royal amongst the Fools? Who could survive the best in a primitive setting? Which one of us could adapt the best to an apocolyptical cataclysm?"
"I would say..."
"Without Benji being an option." Brant quickly inserted.
Ryan gave a sheepish grin before he said, "It'd probably be Beard for the first two and who knows for the last. This is, of course, my opinion, but yeah."
Brant smiled in reply and turned out the lights as he contemplated things further. He drifted off to sleep as he wondered if he could take Beard if he had to......
...... Brant looked around himself to see a spartan room with only a door out and a pentacle on the floor. He pushed himself off the floor and looked for where the light in the room was coming from but could find no actual source. Brant rubbed his arms as felt the hairs on his arm standing straight up. Then he realized that the reason was because he felt a sort of charge in the air; not electricity but still something tangible around him. He walked over to the door and as soon as he crossed the circle of the pentacle he could feel the charge disperse around him. He opened the door and came into a hall with several similar doors to his left and a dead end on his right. Out of the second door on the right side of the hall, came none other than Peace; who immediatly walked over to Brant and said, "Welcome to my dream Brant. I wonder if the other Fools are here?"
"Peace, I don't feel like this is a dream exactly. It feels too.... heavy. I don't know, but I guess all we can do is go with the flow."
Out of the second door on the opposite side of the hall came Renee, quickly followed by Ryan, Steven, and Beard all in succession from their own doors in the hall. All were confused and all of them agreed that this was probably not a dream or that if it was, it was a pretty damn elaborate one. At the end of the hall the door opened and in walked a woman in a cream skirt and rust-colored blouse. She walked directly to the group of Fools and said, "The Master Summoner greets you and wishes you to follow me to the Conjuration room where he will explain everything."
"Well that sounds shiny," Brant muttered as the Fools silently followed the young girl through a myriad of halls that twisted and turned all throughout wherever the Fools were. The halls were fairly plain with only the occaisional piece of artwork or ceremic to detract from the sameness. The entire trip was made without seeing anyone else, which unnerved Brant. This seemed like too big a place to bear so few people.
They stopped at two large, red, wooden, double doors where the woman swung the large brass knocker twice, turned to the Fools and said, "May Pelor guide your steps." And walked away. Most of the Fools stared after her open-mouthed and confused, except for Renee who was the only one to hear a man beckon them in and opened the doors; shocking everyone out of their stupors.
The Fools all funneled in to the room only to have all of their jaws immediatly drop a second time. There sitting at a desk in the room, looking incredibly tired and considerably older was Stu in long burgundy robes. He was of course smiling, and said in a weary voice, "Come in my friends."
All of the Fools acted simultaneously and rushed Stu to hug him and ask him why he was wearing the robes. He looked incredibly surprised and raised his hands to ward off the onslaught of the touchy friends. "Now, now what is this? Who is this Stu person you mistake me for?"
"Leave off, Stu. Poor taste to mess with us like that." Beard said.
"But I am really not this Stu you speak of. I am the Master Summoner Zeddicyme Vebron, and I have summoned you six heroes here to aid this world and return it to balance."
"Stu cut the...."Peace began.
"No, Peace. I think he's serious." Renee said.
"What kind of aid are we talking here?" Ryan asked Zeddicyme.
"That is the problem. I have no idea what it is that is actually threatening the world, I just know that the best place to look for heroes that can fix it is out of this plane of existence. This is why I have brought you here. "
"So let me get this straight. You have whisked us away to some world to help return it to balance but you have no idea what it is that is misbalancing it in the first place?" Beard asked slightly incredulous.
Zeddicyme cringed but nodded sadly. "I, of course, wish that I knew more, but the best I can do is to set you up with a little guidance from some of this world's legends and epic heroes and give you some magical talismans to aid you in your quest."
"Look, I know that this sounds amazing, what with going on a quest and all, but I would prefer to just go home now if it's all the same to you." Steven said matter of factly.
"Would that I could friend, but doing such a summoning in the first place is very tiring, and the circumstances built into the summons require that you finish the task you have been summoned for before you can return.Aside from these things, I have summoned you for a very important cause and would be loathe to let my efforts go to waste in such dire times. But that is for later. For now I will need you all to walk through the Dweomer I have built specially for being summoned under these constraints.”
“So you have done this before?” Ryan asked.
"Well, yes, I have done this several times and so far none of the groups I have summoned have set the world back on a path away from cataclysm. I have searched with ever increasing constrictures to find the right team and I have every belief in you." Zeddicyme said as he walked over to the Dweomer. "Now then. Who is first to learn what heroes they should study with, because in the past, most of the groups are less than heroes when they arrive here?"