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Podcast / The Once and Future Nerd

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Once upon a time in the boonies of Pennsylvania there lived three young high schoolers, jock Billy, cheerleader Jen, and geek Nelson who through some crummy luck all found themselves in detention together. Things go from bad to bizarre when a mysterious storm knocks them all out cold, leaving them to wake up in the middle of the forest for some reason. Then things go from bizarre back to bad when they are set upon by a crazy, pointy-eared survivalist with a bow, left alone in a town straight out of the Middle Ages they've never heard of, and then captured and imprisoned by some hardcore Renaissance Fair reenactors. And nobody they talk to seem to know where Pennsylvania is.


What's that they say in the movie with the monkeys? Get your hands off me, you damn dirty ape? I don't think we're in Kansas anymore? That's the one.

It turns out the reason nobody has heard of Pennsylvania is because the teens have been whisked away to the magical world of Iorden. The pointy-eared survivalist is the elf Yllowyyn, Kalth’yr (elven advisor) of the king's court, the town is Guernatal City, capital of the human realms of Iorden, and they've been captured by order of King Gunther, whose realm is about to go to hell in a handbasket and is very much of mind to have them executed on suspicion of espionage. Luckily for the three young ones, they are saved by the intervention of the noblewoman Arlene Redmoor and General Brennan, the latter of whom has had prophetic dreams that seem to figure in the children.


War is on the horizon. Civil strife from within, and an orcish invasion from without. To top it off, the queen and her newborn just died, leaving the realm with no heir. With one of the children possibly being the Anointed One the prophecy declared would save everyone, King Gunther decides to kill two birds with one stone and have General Brennan keep the children safe and get to the bottom of this prophecy while taking them with him to find one last possible heir to the throne.

Produced by Zach Glass and Christian Madera, The Once and Future Nerd on its surface is a Narnia-esque fantasy filled with wonders, intrigue, comedy, and a healthy dose of bawdiness. Underneath the veneer of noble knights and dashing rogues however, is a tale of the pressures of toxic social expectations, abuses inherent in the system, racism, sexism, and social revolution. Listeners will delve into Iorden society and all its issues, which more often than not reflect our own.


The Once and Future Nerd provides examples of:

  • Accidental Truth: Billy's frequent taunts concerning his sexual escapades with just about everyone's mothers actually pull the party out of a precarious situation when the heckling strikes a nerve of an attacking mercenary leader whose mother apparently does have a history. He immediately assumes a rival mercenary in the know has been spreading slander and turns on him right then and there, causing all the mercenaries attacking the party to join their leaders in taking out each other with the heroes barely lifting a finger.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Frequently mentioned by Regan, mostly to rile up whoever she's talking to for kicks.
  • Adult Fear: Quite a few. From Ardel's monstrous treatment of Arlene since they were children, to how a lot of the country is run, to General Traft's Kill 'Em All method of social motivation, and the idea of being young teens being thrust into a world where people kill left, right, and center while having no training or immunization.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: We are told this about the Orcs. Traft's conversation with humans, the mass murder of helpless Orc women and children by the Knights of the Forest, and Nelson's queries revealing just little the common knowledge of Orcs is based on hard evidence throws this out the window though.
  • Anything That Moves: Regan is not picky about her sex partners, especially not about what gender they are.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Traft argues the Iorden nobility, and their supposed elven allies, are all opportunistic leeches ready to serve whoever or do whatever to keep themselves rich and in charge and everyone else down. He executes defiant and submissive nobles alike because, when asked who they serve, nobody ever thinks of saying, “the people.” And honestly, he’s not entirely wrong.
  • Arranged Marriage: Ardel arranges to have Arlene marry Antonine Mooncrest, in theory to secure the Mooncrest army for the king in the coming civil war against Felghir. Arlene is unsuitable for marriage on account of not being a virgin (and in love with her handmaiden, Gwen) however, which Ardel knows full well, leading his sister to suspect the who arrangement is a ruse for a much darker plot.
  • Asshole Victim: Despite all the trouble Jen's killing of Sergeant McShane caused, nobody who even remotely knew the child molester mourns his death. "He had it coming" is closer to the general reaction.
  • Automatic Crossbows: Regularly wielded by the Th'ar lo-Hyyl. Regan is given one by them for the Fetch Quest.
  • Berserk Button: The narrator really, really hates doors that squeak. He's willing to forgive or at least overlook them if the owner of the door in question can't afford or doesn't have the time to maintain the door properly, but he'll routinely go off on rants about rich, wealthy people who live in palaces and have servants and still have doors that squeak. It becomes a bit of a Running Gag that whenever a squeaking door is heard, the narrator will either get angry about it, or very blatantly point out how he's ignoring it.
  • Black and Nerdy: Nelson is the stories resident Fantasy geek whose Genre Savvy occasionally comes in handy. Being black also gives him a more nuanced view of race relations in Iodren. To a lesser extent, Nia, who is a genuine scholar. Because discrimination against black people was never a thing among humans of the realm, her race is downplayed.
  • Chainmail Bikini: What Jen is initially hooked up with at the insistence of her two horny school companions. According to the seller, it's for "moral support" rather than combat. It has no real use and Regan gets her some more practical leather armor that actually covers Jen's entire body later.
  • Child by Rape: According to the stories, General Traft's human mother was raped by orcs during a raid. According to Traft's mother, one of those orcs actually protected her from rape during that raid, who would eventually be Traft's father. Traft relates this history to Smith to warn him against stories like these. Stories that only benefit the ruling class.
  • Coitus Interruptus: While about to get busy in a barn, Billy and Jen don't get beyond removing Jen's armor before Regan shows up out of nowhere, comments on how easy and therefore useless Jen's armor was to remove, and drops off some actual armor for the now very embarrassed girl.After this, it becomes a Running Gag for the rest of the book that whenever Billy and Jen try to have sex, something happens that interrupts them.
  • Common Tongue: The humans of Iorden have a common tongue which everyone converses in, including the elves when they talk to humans. It's also implied that this language was imposed on them by the elves, while driving other languages extinct. The orcs have their own separate common tongue which they devised to better facilitate communication between the different tribes when they campaign together. It's a work in progress.
    Orc Chieftain: "What did he say about my mother?
    Chieftain #2: "Templars. He dislikes the Templars. Remember? "Rrretma-ah" means "cares-for-things." "Rrretmah-a" means "cares-for-people."
    Chieftain #3: "Respect, brother. But I don’t know why my mother is involved."
    Traft: "Oh, Garedian help us, we need to fix this language."
  • Cool Old Guy: General , or Sir, Brennen. A paragon of honor and virtue who does his damndest to protect the children and serve his king and thief queen. Despite being well into advanced age, he can still crush a man or two with his bare hands.
  • Creepy Cockroach: Among the more fantastical wildlife of Iorden are dog sized roaches which will beset an encampment if some idiot doesn't cover up the smell of their waste. Their threat turns out to be minimal, as their size makes it difficult for them to breath. Startle them enough and they drop dead from overexerting their respiratory systems.
  • Driven to Suicide: After learning Regan's true identity, General Bryce drinks poison before his visit to Ry'ylo-Th'yyt to keep her from forcing the new queen's whereabouts out of him.
  • Dumb Blonde: Jen seems to be this at first. Subverted as she gradually reveals she has been dumbing herself down and hiding her true intelligence in order to be accepted by her community.
  • Due to the Dead: When Yllowyyn has the boys raid the corpses of mercenaries who had wanted to kill them, Nia objects to this dishonorable act. Yllowyyn argues that they had already dishonored themselves by being murderous thieves and treating their bodies one way or another wouldn't restore their honor regardless.
  • Dumb Jock: Billy, a source of angst for him, as he's knows not smart enough make something of himself academically and also not a good enough jock to advance through sports. The fear of returning to this no-win situation has made him reluctant to look for a way home.
  • Easily Forgiven: Everyone takes Regan' taking Jen hostage and threatening to slit her throat to keep Brennan's party off her back in a stride. Everyone except Jen, who understandably takes it very poorly, refusing to warm up to the rogue for a long while even after the latter tries to make them even.
  • Foreshadowing: That Jen is much smarter than she lets on is hinted at early on when the teens are first dropped into Iorden and she tries to correct Billy's attempt to guide them home using moss, an inaccurate method at best, which she passes off as just something she happened to remember from school.
  • Fantastic Racism: Yllowyyn makes "human" jokes. Yllodyck tries to touch Nelson's hair. The Elves systematically oppress the Orcs.
  • Fantasy Character Classes: Nelson categorizes everyone based on standard World of Warcraft character classes, leaving several options for himself and admitting he doesn't know where Jen fits in. This was before her talents as a sorcerer were discovered.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Elves seem to have a lot in common with the antebellum Southern aristocracy, from their grand mansions down to the accents. And their treatment of "lesser" races.
  • Genre Savvy: Nelson has long hid himself in Fantasy stories and games, which definitely comes in handy when magically transported to a fantasy world. The Iodren adventures, lacking awareness of the tropes their world runs on, are frequently surprised when he seemingly pulls unknowable information out of thin air.
  • Groin Attack: Regan's preferred method of dispatching male attackers in single combat. A cheap and dishonorable method, as Brennan, Yllowyyn, and Nia are quick to condemn, but effective, and Regan's enemies and sparring partners are quick to find out.
  • Heroic Bastard: Regan is anything but heroic upon her initial introduction, but one can hardly blame her for living up to the negative stereotype of bastards in a world where orphaned bastard girls are on the lowest rung of society. Circumstances, the influence of the rest of the party, an encounter with Gwen who is willing to die at Regan's hands for the sake of love, and being made high queen of the human realms reignites her long buried better nature, and perhaps more importantly, offers her the power and opportunities to act on that better nature.
  • Hidden Backup Prince: Gunther had been aware of Regan’s existence but otherwise ignored his basted grandaughter until the rest of his immediate family died, suddenly needing to officially recognize her as heir to keep his family on the throne.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Discussed and Played For Laughs with the Cairn of Evil Untold. The children outright refuse to go there because the name screams Obviously Evil. They're completely right.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Jen fakes one while a male prostitute is in her room to keep a city guard out of her room while hiding a young girl from him. It works. In fact, it works well enough that a very freaked out Billy comes barging on not long after.
  • Inane Blabbering: Jen, being the only one with enough sense to be scared of their possibly impending death sentences, frantically tries to explain how the teens got to Iorden before Gunther has them all killed only to get caught up in pointless details.
    Jen: Listen, your Maj... your Grace. We honestly don’t know how we got here! We were in trouble at school, and then there was a storm, and then something with my ass, and then there were trees-
  • Inherently Funny Words: Vagina. Admit it, you just stifled a snicker. Nia and Regan, who use more flowery or crass descriptions respectively for female anatomy, find Jen's neutral term funny as hell, cracking up every time she says it.
  • Jerk Jock: Billy, thanks to his abusive relationship with his rather, can't express his own emotions well and instead lashes out from repressed anger and needs constant gratification. Confronting a conjuring of his father after the Templars attempt to get him has led him to try to be more expressive in a constructive manner
  • Kids Are Cruel: Ardel has been a horrible monster since he was a child, a fact not at all helped by his father's laissez-faire parenting and "Boys will be boys" attitude towards Ardel's nascent cruel streak. At best he was tormenting his twin sister to the point of tears on a regular basis, but this culminated in pressuring his cousin to rape a drunken Arlene on their thirteenth birthday.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Learning that the local cop is a pedophile who abuses the children of prostitutes outrages the teens, leading them to demand action be taken. Nia counsels caution, they're just a handful of nobodies already on the run against the law of the land. Nothing they do could possibly make a difference right then and would just make their own situation worse. As is later revealed, Nia has much bitter experience with situations where she can't do much to help the victims. Jen, having her own bitter experience being a victim, refuses to fold 'em and opts to murder the cop anyway.
  • Last-Name Basis: Regan is her last name, which nearly everyone uses despite everyone else being on a first name basis. Even Brenan, who one would think would have begun acknowledging her as a Guernatal following her ascension to the throne. Makes some sense though, as Aerona is a name from a looked down upon time of history, so she seems to have been encouraged to go by her middle name, Margaret. She refers to herself as Maggie when alone.
  • Lovable Jock: When he's not making an ass of himself Billy actually can be fun. Usually seen when he's free to be silly and express himself.
  • Magic Music: Arlene's enchanting singing voice is slowly revealed to not using that description metaphorically. It becomes obvious in "Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Pt. 4," in a scene that serves double duty as Serenade Your Lover. She doesn't seem to be aware of her own power though.
  • Mercy Kill: Nia, a cleric, can't abide suffering. So when an enemy assassin is fatally wounded, Nia uses an ice spell to painlessly finish him off. Later, Regan snaps the neck of a former associate at her own request after likewise suffering a fatal wound at the hands of Redmoore soldiers.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Brennen is sourly tested when Regan orders him to prepare for a fight against the elves, something which is against everything he has ever believed in. When Regan points out he swore to obey all her orders, he points out she swore to never give him an immoral order. What Brennen would do is ultimately solved for him by the confirmation with his own eyes of the elves duplicity.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Templars of Discord. Even their own allies, and it's very much an alliance of convenience, find them Obviously Evil as hell.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Jen is a lot smarter than she lets on, but at the beginning of the series she deliberately plays herself up as a Dumb Blonde for fear that she won't be accepted as her true self. She grows out of it over the course of the first season and begins letting her smarts show a lot more as she gains confidence.
  • Order Versus Chaos: An integral part of the magic/mythos, and political set up of Iodren. The god Galodin and the Elves bring Order while the aforementioned Templars serve Chaos.
  • Pædo Hunt: After witnessing a corrupt cop attempt to molest a young girl, Jen is told there is nothing they can do about it at the moment, despite her pleas. This, along with her own memories of being molested by a coach, sends Jen into Tranquil Fury. Next thing anyone knows, she's up and stabbed the scumbag dead.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Billy can be incredibly dismissive and possessive of Jen on account of her sex. He also dismisses Nelson's struggles, stating his black schoolmate will get to college easily thanks to affirmative action. Yllowyyn, and elves in general, are also racially insensitive, though interestingly enough, very much not sexist.
  • Raging Stiffie: Despite his best efforts to concentrate on anything else but the women sharing a horse with him, Nelson's libido can't help but react to the intimacy. Regan, of course, notices and comments.
  • Rags to Royalty: This had been the intended plan for Regan, but a murder here, a suspicious ally there, and a massacre throwing everything out of whack has led to very few people acknowledging her royal status, and Regan being not very keen on broadcasting it anyway.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • As often as Nelson's Genre Savvy comes in handy, almost as often his knowledge comes to nothing due to overlooking obvious facts concerning their surroundings that didn't make it into the video games. Among other things, his otherwise good plan to escape the Castle Guernatal hedge maze by watching the guards' set patrols, which would have worked in any The Legend of Zelda game, is undone because he didn't account for the guards in the watchtower seeing every single thing he did.
    • Later, while on the run from the city guard, Nelson tries to take a page from Assassin's Creed by suggesting they hide in a nearby haystack. Jen shoots this down, pointing out that real guards aren't going to lose interest and forget everything happened after a few minutes of laying low.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Elves, of course. Yllowyyn in his early 100's is considered to be at a brash young age.
  • Rebel Leader: The Rebel General Traft seems to think himself this. From what we've seen, he's not altogether wrong.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The teens mistakenly assume Yllowyyn is one upon their first encounter, and probably a white supremacist at that. A not unreasonable assumption, all things considered, given that they met what looked like a hostile, Southern white guy running around with a bow who gets very upset at the words "Civil War" in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. And because he’s from a group that routine commits mass executions of those they consider “lesser races”.
  • Robbing the Dead: Ylloween has Billy and Nelson pick the pockets of slain mercenaries for anything of value. Both are creeped out by this, and Nelson finds the Item-Drop Mechanic isn't as clean as video games make it out to be.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Having grown up in the slums and traveling incognito, Queen Regan is a very active monarch in their adventures.
  • Security Blanket: Jen's iPhone serves as a reminder of her world, comforting her whenever she needs a distraction. It's rather telling that it's only after the phone runs out of battery that she is put in a state of mind detached and angry enough to murder somebody.
  • Self-Abuse: In a surprisingly clever joke, Billy snickers that "sparring with Yllowyyn" will make you go blind.
  • She Who Fights Monsters: This is a thru-line of Brennen and Regan's conversations throughout Chapter 4.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Regan, who never uses euphemisms whenever the crudest swear words will do.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: Billy and Nelson call Yllowyyn racist after getting tired of his attitude and over-fondness of human jokes. Yllowyyn counters that he can't be racist; he had a human nanny!
  • Strangely Arousing: Nelson finds Regan's metaphor concerning blood, sex, and how men don’t miss either until she’s taken away both hot for some reason. Resident horn dog Billy finds that more off putting than the metaphor.
  • Title Drop: Traft refers to the nobility as the "Princes of Iorden" when talking with Smith, using the title very contemptuously as he views all aristocrats as evil leeches on society who oppress the masses.
  • Token Trio: Nelson (Black Male), Billy (White Male), and Jen (White Female). While Billy is the most assertive, no one kid is particularly in charge, mostly because they tend to follow the lead of whichever adult is watching over them at the time.
  • Translation Convention: When elves or orcs start talking to each other in their own language the Narrator relays it in English, occasionally forgetting and missing the first few words. He also admits to occasionally taking liberties with his translations, such as using "hospital waiting room" rather than the more direct translation of the elvish, "Place of boredom and death stench."
  • Your Mom: Billy's go-to retort to everyone when he can't think of something more insulting. It's amazingly juvenile and almost no one takes it seriously. What's more amazing is when some enemy mercenaries do take it seriously and turn on each other due to a presumed breach of trust concerning the affairs of one mercenary's mother.


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