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Season 1, Episode 3: The Challenge

Writer: Terence Feely


OPENING SCENE


A wood. Two men fight fiercely with short swords.

Garet: God! I’ll kill you!

Gawain: As your father tried to kill mine! But you will meet with no more success than he!

They continue fighting.

Garet: Who was it who stole my father’s inheritance? His own brother, the brigand who spawned you.

Gawain: He took back what was his by right

Garet: To my father they were promised. And this quarrel is settled now.

A spear lands in the trunk of the tree that stands between the two of them. Arthur, Kai and Llud have arrived, on horseback; it is Arthur who threw the spear.

Arthur: Animals!

Arthur dismounts, and stalks towards them.

Arthur: Not even wolves in winter do this to their kin.

He begins removing the spear from the tree.

Arthur: You’re cousins. Your fathers were one flesh, one blood.

Garet and Gawain look sheepish.

Arthur: Yet you act like sworn enemies.

Arthur tosses the spear to Kai.

Arthur: Your men butcher one another.

Arthur takes Garet and Gawain’s swords from them.

Arthur: And now you look for death by your own swords.

Arthur tosses their swords to Kai.

Gawain: I don’t know how it comes to this.

Garet: It all starts from nothing.

Gawain: Then the feud that lives deep in our hearts takes us over.

Arthur: For my part you could kill each other any day you wish.

Arthur pulls them by their shirt fronts, then walks away.

Arthur: But I gave you the command of the two villages guarding me from the north. Three times now, the Saxons have swept through and been at my throat before I knew it, because you were too busy fighting each other to stop them. You’re a broken shield at my back. What I need is men at my shoulder blades, not murderous squabbling boys.

Garet: Arthur, we know we’ve put you in danger.

Arthur: You’ve put all my people in danger.

Gawain: It won’t happen again, I swear it.

Arthur: No, it won’t happen again, I’ll make sure of that. You’re banished to Gaul, both of you. Get on your horses.

With great reluctance, they obey.

[OPENING CREDITS]


PART 1


The party, consisting of Arthur, Kai, Llud, Garet and Gawain, is on the move, riding through open country.

Garet: Gaul … What will we do in Gaul? It’s a land of savages.

Arthur: And you should do very well there.

Kai chuckles.

Gawain: Take away our commands, give the villages to others – but we don’t deserve banishment.

Arthur: Your kind of fever spreads. When the arm is poisoned, the arm is cut off. You go to Gaul.

Garet: Arthur … you’re a man who uses his mind. Tell me if what I say is true. The poison is my cousin and I together. Is this what you mean?

Arthur: I do.

Garet: Then all you have to do is send one of us away, not both. Send me to Gaul. Leave Gawain here by his own hearth.

Gawain: Arthur – let me go to Gaul. Leave Garet with his family.

Kai: These are the two who were trying to kill each other a moment ago.

Garet: I spoke first!

Gawain: I am the elder, therefore the senior.

Garet: My father was the elder, therefore the senior brother. I inherit that privilege.

Gawain: He was the elder by twelve months. And that only meant that he was one year slower.

Garet: Slower than yours? He could split your father’s skull before he could blink.

Gawain: He couldn’t split an apple with a new-forged blade!

More reproachful looks from Arthur, and sheepish ones from Garet and Gawain. They ride on peacefully for a while. Gawain and Garet manoeuvre until they are riding alongside each other, behind Arthur and Kai.


Gawain: All those who are close by blood ties have their differences. Only holy men and cowards agree all the time. We can work together when we have to. Isn’t that so, Garet?

Gawain mugs furiously at Garet.

Garet: Yes. Yes, that’s so.

They ride past Arthur and Kai, knocking them from their horses, and then back past Llud, knocking him off too; then they make off at a gallop.

Arthur: [to Llud] Are you hurt?

Llud: Only my pride is hurt.

Kai, already mounted up again, gallops after the miscreants.

Arthur: Not that way!

Kai turns back.

Kai: Not this way? What are they? Eagles? They can fly back over our head?

Arthur: No. Foxes, that will split up and circle behind us.

Kai: They’ll fly as straight as two arrows. [to his horse] Yah! Hoo, yah!

Arthur: [to his horse] Hoo! Yah! Hoo!

They head off in pursuit of Garet and Gawain, through some woods, Kai first, Arthur following. They come out onto a clear track, where Garet and Gawain have indeed split up.

Arthur: They’ll try to head back to their camps. You take the west, I’ll go east.

Kai: This new spear against your dagger that I get mine first.

Arthur: Good, I need a new spear.

Kai: [to his horse] Hah! Ya!

Arthur: [to his horse] Haaar!

Kai chases Gawain. Arthur chases Garet – though at a much more leisurely pace.

Arthur: [to his horse] Hoo yah!


Kai is catching up with Gawain in the open; he readies his spear.


Arthur waits in hiding, to ambush Garet. Garet rides into view. Arthur appears suddenly, Garet’s horse baulks, and Garet falls off. Arthur points his spear at Garet. Garet looks annoyed, but accepts defeat with reasonably good grace; Arthur smiles.



Kai is still chasing Gawain.

Kai: I’m within distance Gawain.

Kai holds his spear above his head; when Gawain doesn’t surrender, he launches it.

Kai: Yah!

The spear lands in front of Gawain’s horse. Kai retrieves it, and Gawain gives himself up.


Arthur, Llud and Garet ride up to Kai and Gawain. Garet and Gawain have their hands tied behind their backs.


Kai: We became impatient, waiting for you.

Arthur: I captured mine first. Then I went to find Llud.

Kai: Llud, you were up on the ridge, you had a bird’s eye view.

Llud: Nothing to choose between you.

Kai: But who made his capture first?

Llud: It’s of no importance.

Kai: Who?

Reluctantly, Llud indicates Arthur with a slight movement of his head.

Llud: By the time it takes one wave to roll onto the beach.

Kai takes his spear from where it hangs from his saddle.

Kai: I owe you my new spear.

Arthur: Keep it. I had the unfair advantage. I knew their minds.

Kai launches his spear over their heads, to land some distance away.

Arthur: You must be tired. It’s been a long day.

Arthur throws his spear – in truth a shorter distance than Kai’s.

Llud: It’s time to go.

Kai: I didn’t know it was a contest.

Kai dismounts, as does Arthur. Closing shot of their two spears, side by side.

[INTERVAL]


Part 2


Kai throws a spear – it lands further away than the one already in the ground.

Kai: [to himself] Not bad for a tired man.

Arthur throws his spear. Again, it travels a shorter distance than Kai’s.

Kai: What’s the matter? You break an arm?

Kai throws again – again his throw is longer than Arthur’s, landing in the same place as his last.

Arthur: Distance isn’t everything. It’s accuracy that counts.

Kai: Huh! [He laughs and walks away] I was pinning frogs’ legs before I could talk.

Arthur follows him.

Arthur: It must have been irksome – not being able to tell anyone about it.

Kai: [unfazed] I can tell them about it now.

Llud: Come on! This is no feast day. We have work ahead of us.

Kai: He’s calling me a braggart. Let him stand to his word.

Llud looks on, worried. Garet and Gawain, somewhat bemused, sit down to watch. Llud goes back to his horse.



Arthur and Kai have fixed a target to a tree.


Arthur: You first.

Kai: No, you first.

Arthur: I give preference to the man who claims the eyes of a hawk.

Kai: I waive the preference. I wouldn’t want to discourage you.

Arthur throws twice; both times, he hits the middle of the target.

Arthur: Should I take them out? I would not want to disturb you.

Kai: So long as you don’t mind having your shaft split.

Kai throws twice; both shots are less accurate than Arthur’s.

Arthur: Your man would be wounded – mine, dead.

Kai: [putting on a brave face] Yours would have taken them on his shield. Mine would have surprised him.

Arthur: Wouldn’t have surprised me.

They walk towards the target.

Kai: I see. So you have a better shield arm too, have you?

Arthur: I did not say that.

Kai: No, nor should you.

Arthur: Nor should I. To state the obvious is a tedious pastime.

Kai, taking one of the spears from tree, turns to glare at Arthur.

Kai: Would you care to prove that?

Arthur: I see that it is necessary.

Kai: Yes. I think it is.



Arthur and Kai are both tying some fleece around the points of their spears.

Llud: You behave like children – both of you.

Arthur: Don’t be so grim, Llud. [looks at Kai] Ready?

Kai nods.

Arthur: Young men must have their sport.

Arthur goes to collects his shield.

Llud: Sport? What do you know about sport? I trained you both for battle!

Kai puts out his hand, and Llud reluctantly throws him his shield.

Arthur and Kai stand a distance away from each other, vying for position, each with two spears and a shield.


Kai: Huh!

Kai feints, to throw off Arthur’s timing, then throws. Arthur takes Kai’s spear on his shield. Arthur throws, Kai dodges. Then they throw again, both taking the spears on their shields, then going to retrieve the other’s spears and throw again and again.

The order changes: Arthur, then Kai, Kai, then Arthur; then Kai throws, hitting Arthur on the shoulder. Arthur throws, hitting Kai’s shield, then throws again before Kai is set, falling over with the effort; his spear hits Kai’s leg. Kai throws again.


Arthur: Without the binding, your leg would be out of action.

Kai: But I could still ride.

Kai runs for his horse. Arthur looks desperate, and does the same.

Llud: Now, no more, Kai. You’ve had your fun.

They get themselves set for jousting. The sheepskin binding is no longer covering the point of Kai’s spear.

Kai: [to his horse] Jer!

Arthur: [to his horse] Hah!

They make two passes against each other. Garet, Gawain and Llud continue to look on in concern.

They go again; on the fourth pass, Kai’s spear hits Arthur’s shoulder, wounding him, and drawing blood.

Arthur then starts belabouring Kai with his spear; Kai responds in kind.

Garet and Gawain look as if they think Arthur and Kai have gone mad.

Eventually, Arthur knocks Kai’s spear from his grip. Kai gallops off and draws his axe. Clearly, Arthur’s spear outreaches Kai’s axe, so Arthur abandons his spear, and draws his sword.


Llud: Arthur. That’s enough!

Arthur: It’s a game, Llud. Only a game.

Kai: [to his horse] Kah!

Kai swings his axe. He and Arthur fight like sworn enemies.

Gawain looks like he has something to say, but doesn’t say it. Garet gets to his feet. Gawain does too.

Kai smashes Arthur’s shield. Arthur does the same to Kai’s. They ride apart and then come at each other, at speed; their weapons clash. On the second pass, Arthur cuts Kai’s stirrup, and he falls from his horse. He gets to his feet. Arthur dismounts.


Arthur: I wouldn’t want you to say that my horse beat you.

Kai: Your horse would have a better chance.

They fight – sword against axe. Kai catches Arthur’s sword between the blade and haft of his axe, and – with a circular movement – disarms Arthur, whose sword flies off, out of reach. Arthur runs to his horse, and fetches a short sword.

Kai: Give me one of those. A fair exchange – the advantage of my axe, for your horse.

Kai flings his axe away to land in the mud by the stream. Arthur throws him the short sword, and gets another.

They fight – Kai, defensively; Arthur, like he wants to kill Kai. Arthur draws blood on Kai’s flank.


Arthur: You forget – the Romans taught me the short sword.

Kai: I’ve killed Romans with it.

They continue fighting; Kai wounds Arthur on the arm. Enraged, Arthur fights more fiercely.

Llud approaches them.

Arthur falls over, dropping his sword. Kai leaps at him, meaning to stick his sword into him. Arthur trips Kai, and jumps on him. They throttle each other.

Garet and Gawain come to join Llud.

Arthur and Kai roll down the bank into the stream, still fighting. They battle in the mud and water.

Llud and Garet and Gawain watch from the top of the bank.


Garet: [to Llud] You must stop them.

Llud: Had to come. Now they must fight it out.

Gawain: [fearfully] It’s to the death …

Llud: If what you say is true, then it’s more than the death of one man. It’ll destroy the other. It will destroy this land.

Arthur knocks Kai into the mud, seizes Kai’s axe, and brings it down. Kai rolls out of the way just in time to avoid having his skull split, then leaps to his feet, and draws a dagger.

They look at each other. Arthur throws the axe away.

They climb up the bank together, helping each other.

Llud cuts Garet and Gawain’s bonds, and the two parties go their separate ways.


[ROLL THE CREDITS]

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Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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