I met John Doby right as I was beginning to put together the first season of “The Rise of King Asilas.” He had answered an ad I placed looking for voice actors. I asked him a lot of questions. Not because I was oblivious to the acting world, but because I wanted to find the perfect role for him to play on the show. As we talked, it became clear his natural personality could fit “Quintin Capone,” the king’s best friend and confidant. Later on, John and I became friends in real life. We often talked on the phone because he lived in New Jersey and I live in Baltimore. In time, we came up with the idea that he could put his filmmaking skills to good use by filming a short movie based on the audio drama. It was John who actually gave me the idea that I could make a short movie, and this basically changed my life.
My wife and I made a trip to New Jersey a couple of years ago. John and I had collaborated on a short script titled “The Ordo” and we would spend a few days filming it in Keyport. It’s a neat little town and my wife and I took a few extra days to go just up the road to NYC. It was great to spend some time with John (and Lynn Spencer). I felt we bonded a little more and we became better friends as a result. But the film “The Ordo” never actually made it to the final edit stage. John was working on, as he put it, “his life’s work.” He had been putting together a feature film titled “Again.” It’s a sci-fi thriller about a man who brings his dead daughter back to life. The project was years in the making and remains unfinished.
I believe John rather enjoyed playing the role of Quintin Capone because it allowed him to indulge in his crazy fantasies of power and excess. In that regard, John and I found many commonalities. We both had fun portraying the characters we played on the show, and were both amused by people who took the story way too seriously. Sometimes people went after us on Twitter and Reddit, criticizing us–as if we really were like the characters we played. We were two peas in a pod when it came to those who took the storyline of the show a little too far. In the end, I can honestly say there are many things we agreed on and things we didn’t agree on. But where we thought differently, we found reason to pause.
When I heard the news of John Doby’s passing, I was in total shock. My first reaction was to call Steve Fisher (Lord Jeremy Oreb). We both sat on the phone, struggling to process the news. It was a sobering moment for us both: realizing our own mortality, reliving the fun moments in the show, thinking about the years ahead. We both agreed we should never take a day for granted and promised we would speak more often. You never know when someone is snatched from your life. I never got a chance to say good bye to my friend, John. I just took it for granted that I would call him when I finished writing the scripts. But I didn’t get to.
My last communications with John was a text message. I was trying to get him to sign on to our Patreon so he could see my first short movie. I knew he had been busy filming his own movie. I knew this because I saw his postings on Facebook. He texted me back. His final words to me were “Awesome. Congrats! I’ll check it out.” But he wouldn’t get that chance. He was dead two days later.
If I could say one final thing to John, I would say, “I love you, brother.” But something inside me says he knew this. He knew this because whenever he needed a favor, whenever he was feelings down, whenever he was lost in his chaotic life, he would call me. I would be there for him. He knew he could count on me. He knew I was a true friend who never judged him, who never criticized him for his faults or flaws. I accepted him as he was. And I pray God will accept him in Heaven. “Goodbye, my brother. Until we meet again on the other side.”
Like his king, the military was the only life Jeremy Oreb ever wanted. Long before he became a Lord on the High Council and one of King Asilas’s closest confidants, he was an officer in the United States Army. Oreb would eventually become a General and even strategized with General Asilas during the Civil War. However, much of his personal life remained enigmatic until the king inquired about his past. To his surprise, it was revealed Oreb’s personal life was devoid of passionate love. Little information surfaced in terms of personal relationships. So, the king met with Oreb at the Grand Terrace late one evening to press him on details of his personal life. Finally, some juice trickled from the hardened Oreb.
“Sir, the truth is I did love a young woman once—when I was a captain stationed in Iraq during the recon missions throughout the Middle East, years before the Civil War. I met someone during that time. She was much younger than me.” Oreb spoke hesitantly, as if reliving the lost love. He sighed deeply saying, “Her name was Yasmine.”
“That’s a pretty name,” Asilas replied. “What became of Yasmine?”
Oreb paced a few steps and reached for the bottle of whiskey on the outdoor bar on the Grand Terrace. Sunset was approaching and he could feel Asilas’s mind tugging for specifics of his relationship with Yasmine. The king leaned back, relaxed, and puffed on his cigar. His eyes were like slits as he focused on every word Oreb spoke.
“It was a forbidden love affair, sir,” Oreb said nervously, taking a long swig of his whiskey. “Yasmine was arranged to be married to a second cousin. But I couldn’t help myself, and apparently she couldn’t either, so we fell in love. I wanted to be with her every chance I got. But I knew the more I was with her, the more dangerous the situation became. For her. For me.”
The king sat up straight, put his cigar down on his ash tray and folded his arms. “I take it Yasmine eventually married her second cousin?”
“Well, yes. Eventually she did.” Oreb said as he looked down at his feet.
“But that’s not half the story, is it Jeremy?” The king replied with a giant grin, tightening his folded arms.
“Well, no. At the same time I was seeing Yasmine, I was also seeing another woman named Hamida. She was a widow and lived on the other side of the city. I thought them being so far apart, there was literally no chance they would ever know each other.”
“And yet, they did.” The king said with a slight chuckle.
Oreb finished his drink and walked back over to the bar and poured himself some more. He stood at the bar with his back to the king for a few moments, looked up into the sky and sighed loudly. “My king, I was a fool. A fool in love. And fools do stupid things.”
“How did they find out about each other?” The king pressed, standing up to walk over to his friend, who appeared on the edge of lamenting.
“That will always be a mystery to me, sir. All I know is I really thought having Hamida would help me with the pain of letting Yasmine go. It wasn’t like I wanted to play two women. But I couldn’t have Yasmine. Her parents, the culture—they would never allow it. So, I had Hamida, who was a widow with two children, to crutch my eventual heartbreak. But it didn’t play out like I hoped.”
The king stepped closer to Oreb, who still had his back to him at the bar. Finally, standing next to Oreb, he took a glass and poured himself some whiskey. “A love triangle never ends well, Jeremy. Especially when the parties involved get caught off guard.”
“Hamida went to Yasmine’s house. It turned out she was the sister of the woman in charge of organizing Yasmine’s wedding. They were friends of the family somehow.”
“Now, that is a stroke of some serious bad luck.” The king acknowledged and poured more for himself and Oreb.
Oreb gulped a big shot and slammed the glass on the bar. He turned around and gazed into the murky gardens below. A deep, dark, red hue hung over the shadows covering the grounds of the garden. “Hamida went to the house and managed to get Yasmine alone. They told each other what they knew about me and Hamida confronted me about everything the next day when I went to see her.”
The king chuckled loudly, which made Oreb uncomfortable. “What exactly did she say to you?”
“She called me a pig. A lying, filthy American with no morals.” Oreb paused and sighed loudly again, placing his hands over his face. “I never felt so small in my life. She was right. I was a pig. A selfish pig—only concerned with my own feelings.”
The king stopped chuckling. “And a woman in an arranged marriage in that culture, risking her life to be with you, her sneaking around isn’t worth criticizing? Or a woman whose husband’s body was barely cold and buried running around with an American captain—none of that is selfish, right?”
“Sir, I know you want to spin this so I feel less dirty about what I did, but believe me I learned my lesson. That’s why I stayed single all this time since then. I don’t deserve love. I am a selfish pig!”
“You punish yourself for an indiscretion and those other women moved on with their lives? How is that remotely fair? You should have moved on with your life, Jeremy. You should have married someone and had a family. Instead, you carry around this giant stone tied around your neck. You are a human being. You made mistakes, but you move on. You grow from them and you learn to love again.” The king said as he put his hand on Oreb’s shoulder in an affectionate manner.
“I learned later that Yasmine’s virginity came into question. Her husband wanted to annul the marriage, but she got pregnant right away. I think the husband always suspected something wasn’t right and I heard he mistreated her long after. Then, her husband was murdered. I am not sure why he was killed.”
“So, that’s why you carry so much guilt around. You feel responsible for Yasmine’s misfortune.”
“Hamida, too. She was mostly an outcast and no man would marry her. She became bitter and mistreated her two sons until they were old enough to run away from her and join a terrorist group. Both were killed in subsequent battles with American and Iraqi troops.”
The king finally let go of Oreb’s shoulder. “You sure kept detailed tabs on these women.”
“There is so much pain I caused and so much guilt I carry inside me, sir. I could never let myself poison another person again. I feel I am cursed. That’s why I am such a devout Christian now. That’s why I will follow you to the end of the earth, sir. I believe in our cause with all my might. This is how I can repay my debt and undo the ills of my past.” Oreb lamented with tears in his eyes, which glistened in the brightening moon at the fall of night.
The king replied in a very solemn tone, “Jeremy, everyone has a destiny. Those women met their fate as it was written for them. You are not responsible for their fate. It would have happened even if you never met them.”
Oreb, barely able to speak, replied shakily, “But it was me, sir. I was the one in their lives. Their fate was triggered by my actions. And I accept that. I also accept what you say about destiny. Perhaps at the end of the day, their misfortunes were what triggered my fate as well.”
“It seems like it all is connected somehow, Jeremy. Everything happens for a reason. And the reason is likely not something we are meant to understand.” The king answered, walking back to his chair and sitting back down. He picked his cigar back up and lit it anew.
Oreb paused and walked to the edge of the terrace, placing his hands on its thick rails. “Well, sir, of this I think we are in total agreement—because there is so much I think we are incapable of remotely understanding. Except for one thing.”
“What’s that?” The king said as he puffed the cigar until a plume of smoke covered his face in the dark, which engulfed them both by that point.
Oreb watched Asilas puff his cigar. The orange cinder smoldered in front of the shadowy figure of his king. “These events in our lives compel us to do things we otherwise would never naturally do. We have been nudged by the universe to go the path we are on—whether we like it or not.”
Perhaps two of the most compelling aspects of King Asilas’s power structure were his two Houses of Lords. Traditionally, Lords have always been men. However, in Asilas’s circle, the greatness and influence a person possessed was never based on their gender. The king’s two most influential and powerful people in the New Kingdom of America were Lords Jeremy Oreb and Ana Patricia Shelley. Asilas never made the distinction between a person’s gender in determining their overall abilities, and thus gave both men and women the title of “Lord.” The king was also not persuaded to overlook any person based on religion or lack thereof. He merely looked at a person’s character, their trustworthiness and, above all, their loyalty to his cause.
In old styled monarchies, Lords were essentially owners and overseers of land and territory. The Lords of Asilas’s High Council, however, had very specific functions in addition to territories they were responsible for. Generally, Lords allocated the duties of keeping checks and balances to their subordinates, who in turn allocated responsibilities to their appointees. Asilas did not want to meddle in the affairs and decisions his Lords made, as they pertained to overseeing the mechanisms of the kingdom and its governing apparatus. The king only intervened if reports revealed irregularities that undermined his goals and standards –of which his most trusted friend, Lord Quintin Capone was very hawkish about. This freed the king to focus on larger objectives while simultaneously granting enormous power to the Lords of his High Council.
The Lords of the High Council consisted of two Houses: The House of Morale and the House of Terra. The number of Lords (originally 8) of the two houses had to be increased (which happens in season 2), as some dramatic changes occurred in the Great War Asilas referred to as the “Revolution.” Lord Hannah Samuel was traveling from Bermuda to an American base in Northern Africa when the military plane she was traveling on was shot down by unknown forces. Her death enraged the king, who then sought to learn the country of origin of those responsible for her death. Lord Capone reminded the king that vengeance was God’s and that avenging Lord Samuel was not part of his ultimate plan. But soon, in another turn of events, Lord Jackson was kidnapped in Moscow, where he was meeting with his team designated to oversee the restructuring of Russia. Jackson was being held by members of the Monster Group in an undisclosed location and the king was regularly sent videos of Jackson being tortured in an attempt to exploit any sentiments he may have had –and to weaken his state of mind. Ultimately, the king reacted to these two tragedies (and the exponential expansion of the kingdom) by expanding his High Council. He replaced Lords Samuel and Jackson and added four more to the council, making it 12 Lords. They were:
House of Morale
Quintin Capone (the king’s most trusted friend, but a womanizer and alcoholic)
Jeremy Oreb (the king’s most trusted military mind and commander in the king’s absence, but had sadistic tendencies)
Mary Ruth (a widowed attorney, who was obedient, strong, and totally devoted to the king)
Mark Desta (an Evangelical Leader whose knowledge in spiritual matters made him a favored Lord and the king often visited him and his family at their home -until Asilas learned he had a secret love child)
Peter Hemingway (a fisherman for most of his life, Hemingway later earned a degree in philosophy and wrote many books -some of which were the king’s favorites)
Simon Kananaios (Asilas admired Simon’s zealous nature against the Monster Group, and helped the king taper his blood-thirst)
House of Terra
Ana Patricia Shelley (3rd in line for command in the king’s absence and Asilas’s trusted confidant -her bisexual lifestyle was never a factor for the king –in fact, the king lusted for her)
Traci Roberts (Oversaw advancement in science and technology from a medical perspective –and was overly fanatical in her work)
Vanessa Banks (Oversaw the financial state of the kingdom and was the mother of Asilas’s future daughter-in-law, Monica Banks)
Alberto Vargas (Oversaw Mexico and the entire Latin American region and was deeply trusted by Asilas -even though Vargas was a staunch atheist)
Andrew Richards (A very ambitious African-American lawyer who was once believed to be linked to the Chicago Underground Network terrorist group, but had since disavowed any relations with people having an anti-government agenda. He was also the half-brother of Peter Hemingway of the House of Morale)
Isabella Jones (Oversaw social media and communication affairs related to the king and the entire Kingdom -she was also the youngest member of the High Council at only 35 years old, and fiercely devoted to the king)
With the death of Lord Hannah Samuel, the gender balance was tipped in favor of men with a 7-5 tally. However, King Asilas was not one to look at such things and purposefully even the gap simply for the sake of doing so. It had to matter and it had to be for the betterment of the kingdom. As it was, the 5 women on the High Council were undoubtedly the most powerful women in the entire world during King Asilas’s reign –especially during the “Revolution.” It was believed by many that the war was being won largely because of Lord Ana Patricia Shelley and her brilliant, but ruthless strategies. The king loved her and often struggled with his desire to possess her romantically. She was his equal in more ways than anyone else on earth. Shelley was a true warrior, a military strategist, a deeply rational and philosophical thinker –which made Asilas long for private moments when they could explore each other’s minds. They were so much alike, Dr. Ezekiel warned Asilas of the explosiveness of their chemistry, but Asilas could hardly stand the notion.
All of the Lords of the High Council could express their own views on any matters pertaining to the upkeep of the kingdom and the success of the king’s mission. The High Council was never an echo chamber and often the Lords would disagree with each other and the king –and were often overruled. The point of the High Council was never to hold the king accountable or to override his decisions, but rather to give the greatest people (in the king’s opinion) in the kingdom a place to voice their ideas, concerns and objections to the king’s plans in order to make any adjustments when needed. They also were crucial in keeping the business of the kingdom in running order so the king could concentrate on other things –mainly destroying the Monster Group and preparing the world for the inevitable war with the reptilian race known as the “Drax.” The ultimate showdown with the true enemy of mankind would undoubtedly take all the best minds working together to achieve victory. And the best minds were never determined by gender or anything else. In fact, the more King Asilas contemplated the rules of traditional monarchies, the more he wanted to do things completely opposite of how they functioned. Asilas hated the royals of the world and probably enjoyed having women “Lords” to further jab at their traditions, protocols and history. For all of the king’s faults in his demeanor and tyrannical methods, the people of the kingdom loved him –and the Lords of his High Council were loyal to him to the death.
King Asilas was admired and adored by more Americans than any leader before him. Some attributed this to the legend of being one of the strongest men that ever lived. He was also very handsome, well dressed, dark and tall with a touch of gray. His eyes would set people’s souls ablaze with a stare that engulfed even the most formidable of his enemies. This was not hyperbole. Asilas’s tenacity coalescing with his somatic fortitude was intoxicating. His grip was said to have been so strong, he broke the hands of a dozen men, most of them hardened soldiers. Others credited his military and political genius on the world stage for his widespread popularity. He had an uncanny ability to read his allies and foes with such precision, he gained the reputation of being a mind reader. Thus, many world leaders were reluctant to meet with him in person. Rumors abound that Asilas was able to control other monarchs just shortly after meeting with them. For this and many other reasons, Asilas was never invited to global summits, even though America was the most powerful nation on the face of the planet. It was no secret, and most people agreed, Asilas was immensely feared by the world at large.
So then, how could it be that a small-framed, young Puerto Rican girl named Abigail Sierra would have so much influence over the most powerful man alive? The initial and primitive speculations irresistibly point to lustful obsession. But Asilas and Abigail’s relationship had strictly been platonic. In examining how this very young girl could possibly hold so much relevance to a powerful king, one needs to listen attentively to the show for clues. Scattered throughout several episodes, we are given some traces as to the origins of this most unusual pair and explore the fragments to piece together a picture of what they were and what they weren’t. Our first indication that there was a history comes in episode 2, where Quintin Capone and Asilas discuss Abigail outside the Grand Terrace of the Grand Castle in New Eden. Capone tried to convince Asilas to be honest with the queen about Abigail, stating there would be nothing to worry about because “it isn’t anything dirty.” Asilas dropped another clue later in that same conversation insisting, other than himself and Capone, the only other person that “knows the truth” was Abigail’s mother, who had already passed away. Asilas insinuated the “others” that know the truth might not even be human. Which begs the question: If the others that “know the truth about Abigail” aren’t human, then what are they? And why would non-humans have any interest in Abigail and her connection to Asilas? These details are not revealed until episode 10 in season 1.
Up until episode 8, Abigail is portrayed as an innocent, naïve young woman, oblivious to anything the king is doing. At least, that is how she carried herself in her conversations with the king. However, in episode 2, both Dr. Ezekiel and Queen Rebekah allude to Abigail presenting a danger to the king. The queen even says blatantly to Asilas, “She will be your downfall.” But why? And how? It isn’t until episode 8 that we begin to see the other side of Abigail. In a twisted, bizarre chain of events, Abigail tells the king she was assaulted by a fellow Spartan named Nabal. Asilas isolated this young man, tortured him and then shot him (supposedly). But before shooting Nabal, he told the king he and Abigail were role playing and his roughness was at her request. When pressed about why she would do this, Nabal said while begging for his life, “I swear this was all part of Abigail’s plan!” Before Nabal could elaborate on the details of her “plan,” Asilas allegedly shot him.
We are certain about a few things. King Asilas was clearly interested in Abigail’s military progress and her role as a Spartan. Her development was clearly a part of Asilas’s master plan because Capone said in episode 7, much to the delight of the king, that Abigail was named First Captain and was “maturing right on schedule.” Right on schedule for what exactly? Capone does not say anything more about it after that. Later in episode 7, Abigail asked Asilas if he was in love with her, but he did not answer her. However, in episode 10, Asilas finally admitted he did love Abigail, but “in the way a father loves his children.” Hearing this, Abigail was crushed and shaken to her core as Asilas told her the truth about who she really was and why she was important -not just to Asilas, but evidently to the entire human race.
Abigail Sierra became the most powerful Spartan of all, even though it is revealed all Spartans were offspring of a ghoulish crossbreeding experiment between humans and a race of reptilians known as the Drax. Asilas told Abigail the Drax were from another world and essentially enslaved humans and created hybrids to keep as livestock for their purposes. However, there were limitations to their hybrids and they have to keep crossbreeding with humans continuously to restock their supply. Asilas and a group of humans were given the responsibility to oversee this ongoing project and managed to smuggle some of the “children” out and placed them with people to be raised as normal human children.
It isn’t mentioned in the audio drama show, but rather in the novel that Abigail’s true mother was a queen Drax, known as the “White Queen.” Of the White Queen’s offspring, Asilas only managed to smuggle one baby out of an underground base. Asilas entrusted his friend Quintin Capone, who served with Asilas in the Army until he was discharged after suffering an injury to his eyes. At the time, Capone had just become an administrator for New York City Public Schools. Capone brought the baby to a Puerto Rican woman named Carmen Sierra, who was one of Capone’s lovers at the time, and asked her to raise the child as her own. Carmen took the baby to Puerto Rico, as instructed by Capone, and was given a monthly stipend to help her financially to raise the child. Carmen Sierra was once an Army officer under Asilas Roman and Asilas visited her once in Puerto Rico to see the baby. At their only visit, Carmen told Asilas she named the baby Abigail Sierra. Every year after that, Capone was entrusted to check on Abigail’s progress, and he was responsible for making sure no harm ever came to her.
Then, America was entangled in its civil war, and Puerto Rico became overrun by ruthless gangs. Carmen made a desperate call to Quintin Capone as the island plunged into chaos and told him she was vulnerable and afraid someone who kidnap Abigail, who was only 12 at the time. Capone notified Asilas of the situation, even though the country was in the middle of an epic separation of states. Asilas sent Capone with a special ops team to Puerto Rico to find and secure Abigail. By the time Capone arrived on the island, Carmen had been murdered. He discovered Abigail was somehow able to fend off the assailants and hide until help arrived. She was sent to an Army base where she stayed until the end of the war. After Asilas became king, one of his first decrees was to make Puerto Rico a state of the New Kingdom of America. Abigail was placed with a foster family and later began high school. The next time Asilas saw Abigail was in a choreographed visit to her school. Abigail believed it was a chance meeting, but Asilas had anticipated their interaction, which was the moment he was waiting for. Abigail astounded him with her fierce words and heightened awareness. Those who witnessed their exchange watched in astonishment as young Abigail played a mind code game with the king that, unbeknownst to anyone but Asilas and Capone, set her fiery destiny into motion in a single moment.
While the show went through many twists and turns in the writing process, fans might be surprised to learn that some of those twists had a lot to do with variables in the real world. For example, many of the cast members are public school teachers in Baltimore City. We (meaning myself as the writer and main actor and my colleagues) have tried very hard to make our schedules flexible so we could record after a long day of dealing with middle school students. Sometimes, these schedules wouldn’t work and the availability (or lack thereof) of some of the actors forced me to re-write parts of the storyline all together -sometimes midway in the production of an episode. But, of course, I’m a well seasoned writer and these bumps actually made me think of more creative ways to make the story stay in rhythm.
But now that Season 1 is complete, I can honestly say much was learned from both the writing aspect and the production. Season 1 was way over budget and I blame my lack of experience in the production side of things for this. Next season, there will be less of a need to spend so much money on things I can do myself. Plus the publishing company that finances this show has put a cap on the budget for next season. Anyway, as the season progressed, there was more of a conscientious effort to streamline the production for a finer quality sound. The equipment wasn’t any different; the finesse in the production improved.
I’m certain Season 2 will be much more action packed and intense because there is so much conflict that needs to be resolved. Plus, I will spend a great deal of time over the summer planning the next two seasons and get a jump start on the production long before the next school year begins. You see, we can’t do Season 2 right now because the school year is about to end and we (meaning most of the cast) won’t have access to everything needed to produce the show. We want to preserve the environment as much as possible so when September rolls around, it’ll be like Season 1 -only we’ll be better prepared and more experienced. But like every school year, teachers move around and I am praying everyone stays at the same school when the fall session begins. If not, that would present a little problem in accessibility to some of the characters and thus I’ll have to work around that. Not to mention there will be more students who will want to be part of the show (as many have expressed great interest) and that will also be something to consider. The more staff and students participate, the cheaper the production because it’s essentially an after school project and there’s less money involved -just what’s spent on pizza and sound effects.
I don’t want fans to think I’m being cheap. On the contrary, the less money spent on actors, the more can be spent on the production -and that’s really what’s at the heart of this project. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be paid actors in the show -of course there will be. In spite of having a company finance the show, the truth is it isn’t a very large company and money is tight. Professionals and semi-professionals will likely join our cast because let’s face it -when you pay for an actor, you generally get good stuff. I literally had to shelve characters on the show because the (free) actors were so bad. Anyway, the storyline for Season 2 is quite ambitious, so there will be many late nights editing and fine-tuning every second and every sound effect. That’s really where my focus will be on. Oh yeah, and I’ll be finishing the novel while all of this is going on.