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Episode 2.3: The Prisoner

Writer: Robert Banks Stewart


OPENING SCENE


A Celtic warrior is standing watch, within view of Arthur’s village. He sees an escaping Saxon stagger from hiding, fall, and then run across an open space, back to cover.

Celt watchman: [mouths] Hey …

He blows a horn to summon help.


The Saxon, Roland, clearly wounded, leans against a fallen tree, gets his breath back, looks at his injured hand, then tries to move on.



Kai canters up to the Celt watchman.

Kai: What is it?

Celt watchman: Down there. I saw … saw a Saxon run into those trees.

Kai: Only one?

Celt watchman: Yeah.

Kai: I’ll deal with him.

Kai goes down a slope in the direction the Celt watchman indicated.


Roland continues his laboured progress through the trees.


The Celt watchman looks on as Kai dismounts at the edge of the wood. Kai takes his axe from in front of his saddle, and goes in among the trees.


Roland continues his halting progress.


Kai leans against the same fallen tree and finds Roland’s blood on his hand. He continues his pursuit up a wooded slope.


Roland runs down the other side of the hill, and comes out into the open. He reaches a small river, looks back, and sees Kai emerging from the trees.

They meet on open ground. Roland throws his axe at Kai, and misses. Roland runs; Kai follows and brings him down with a trip and a push. He is about to despatch Roland with his axe, but stops, and examines a medallion he has seen around Roland’s neck.


[OPENING CREDITS]


PART 1


The Celt watchman is waiting for Kai to emerge, but then is distracted by four riders – Mark of Cornwall’s party – noisily galloping off.



Back at Arthur’s village; Llud is washing his face in the trough. Arthur emerges from the longhouse. Llud looks up, and sees riders approaching.


Llud: Mark of Cornwall.

Arthur comes out to greet Mark and his three companions as they ride up.

Arthur: What’s happened?

Mark: While you sit and laze, like old men, I fight.

Mark dismounts. He has bloody wounds on his arm.

Arthur: And get the worst of it, by the looks of you.

Llud chuckles.

Mark: We took on a party of Saxons, three times our number, and slew them. Save for one man.

Llud: Four mounted men couldn’t catch one lone Saxon on foot. [he chuckles]

Mark: This barbarian can ride. He made off with a horse. He’s wounded. Now we know we’ve got him.

A girl comes out of the longhouse and hands Arthur a goblet.

Mark: We found the horse lamed, not far from here.

Pethik: He must have skirted your village.

Mark: Which means he’s hiding somewhere over there. I need food and horses.

Arthur hands him the goblet.

Arthur: Why come so far for just one survivor?

Mark: I lost several men in the skirmish, among them, my best battle leader, Agdor. Killed by the dog that we’re now hunting. And for that reason … I want him.



By the river. Kai is tending to Roland’s injuries. He rips some cloth from Roland’s attire and dips it in the river, then goes back to clean the wound on Roland’s shoulder.

Roland moans.


Roland: Why ... why didn’t you … you use your axe? Finish it?

Kai: Do you know who I am?

Roland: Yes. Saxon who kills Saxons. You’re Kai, who rides with Arthur.

Kai: And you?

Roland: Roland.

Kai takes hold of the medallion.

Kai: Where did you get this?

Roland: Ooh …I’ve worn that since I was a boy. It was given to me as a keepsake.

Kai: By another Saxon boy.

Roland: How did you know that?

Kai: What was the name of this other boy?

Roland: Friends … played together in the same village.

Kai: Would you remember his name?

Roland: Yes. It was Brett.

Kai: Brett.

Roland: Why do you ask me all these questions?

Kai: Because you can help solve the mystery … my Saxon childhood. [he sighs] The medallion was mine. That I do remember. I gave it to you. Now do you understand why you still live?



Back in the longhouse. Arthur and Llud are entertaining Mark and his men.

Arthur: The Saxon escaped … [gets up to stand behind Mark] After you’d taken him prisoner?

Mark: Slackness … stupidity. [he throws a bone at Pethik] Pethik has a dent in that thick skull of his to remind him of it.

Pethik: His flight’s almost ended. He’ll not escape for a second time.



Back at the river bank.

Kai: I call Llud my father. He found me after a raid. Brought me up. Gave me a new name. Everything before that’s faded in my mind. But your memory’s better than mine.

Roland: All very dim …

Kai: [insistent] Try. My father and mother – who were they? This village you speak of ...

Roland: It was on the coast … where a river flowed into the sea. And there were cliffs.

Kai: A river and cliffs … We had a little boat on that river. And there was a rope to swing across.

Roland: Yes …

Kai: Your father and mother – would they not know mine?

Roland: No … they … they moved to another village. My mother and father were killed [bitter] … during an attack by the Celts.


The Celt watchman is joined by another. They look towards where Kai left his horse. The first watchman draws his sword and starts down the slope.


Roland is now on his feet, and Kai is supporting him as they make their way.


Kai: I have a hiding place nearby. You’ll be safe there.


The Celt watchman continues following Kai’s trail up the slope.


Kai: I’ll return for you when it’s dark.

Roland: What then? Will you give me a horse?

Kai: You’re in no state to ride.


The Celt watchman comes down the slope and out from among the trees, and finds Roland’s axe buried on the ground, from when he threw it at Kai.


Kai is still helping Roland along.


Kai: I’m going to hide you in the village.

Roland: What, in Arthur’s encampment?


The Celt watchman looks around, concerned.


Kai and Roland continue towards the hiding place.


Kai: I can only clean that wound. But in the village there is a girl who has the skills of healing.

Roland: Huh!

Kai: It’s alright – she’ll do as I bid.

Roland: What? For a Saxon?

Kai: Ssh!

Kai looks around, listening, then hurries Roland in among the trees.


The Celt watchman comes past, but doesn’t see Kai and Roland hiding in the bushes.



Back in the longhouse.


Llud: Why d’you (sic) put him to death when you caught him?

Mark: ’Cos he slew my best battle leader, Agdor. A warrior with a reputation second only to my own. He must be properly avenged.

Arthur: [concerned] A life for a life is usually enough.

Mark: I want more than that flaxen-haired barbarian’s life.

Arthur and Llud exchange glances.

Llud: More?

Mark: I’m gonna snare him out there … I’ll take him back to my village to be executed in front of my people. A stoning will make Agdor’s death easier to take.



Kai and Roland are nearly at the hiding place.

Kai: Down here.

Kai helps Roland down a slope to the hiding place.

Kai: It’s not very comfortable … least you’ll be safe.

Kai turns to leave.

Roland: Kai …

Kai turns back.

Kai: Yes?

Roland: Thank you

Kai laughs nervously. Then he comes out from among the bushes; the Celt watchman, who has just gone past, turns, his sword in one hand, Roland’s axe in the other.

Celt watchman: I was worried … I … I found this.

He shows Kai the axe.

Kai: It’s alright … the Saxon is dead.



Back in the longhouse.

Mark: [incredulous] Dead? ... [threatening] I wanted him …

Kai drops the Saxon’s axe on the table in front of Mark, and walks away. Mark bangs his fist on the table.

Mark: [angrily] Whose idea was it to pause in the hunt?

Arthur: [deadpan] Yours.

Llud, Arthur, and some of Mark’s men laugh, then Mark smiles.

Arthur: Where did you fight?

Kai sits down and leans back, goblet in hand, trying to appear relaxed.

Kai: The far side of the east hill. One of our sentries spotted him running for cover. He wasn’t hard to deal with.

Kai takes a drink.

Mark: Yeaah … well …

Mark gets out of his seat.

Mark: It’s over and done with now. But I will still make the gesture.

Arthur: Gesture? What gesture?

Mark: My people must see how Mark of Cornwall takes his revenge. I want that Saxon’s head on a spear.

Kai: You can’t have it.

Mark: What d’you mean?

Kai: I threw him in the estuary.

Llud looks up.

Mark: [incredulous] You did what?

Mark, starting to look suspicious, comes to stand over Kai.

Mark: Why?

Kai: We don’t like bodies buried so near our encampment.

Kai takes another drink. Pethik, too, is looking suspicious. Kai gets up and leaves. Llud follows him.

Arthur: Kai did right. How could he have known how much this particular Saxon meant to you? How could he?

Outside the longhouse.

Llud: That Saxon must have been easy meat. Depending on his axe arm.

Kai: Some men can fight with either.

Llud: Why did you come out just now? Are you tired of Arthur and his guests?

Kai: I don’t think I’m welcome company since I cheated Mark of his prey.

Llud: The estuary’s a long way from the forest. The sentry could have helped you dig a grave.

Kai: And leave his post?

Llud: Where did you say you disposed of the body in the water?

Kai: At the deepest point opposite the flat rock.

Llud: Your strength must be greater than we know. To hurl a weighted body so far … but at this time of the year the shallows go out for a long way. You waded in?

Kai: Yes … I waded in.

Llud looks down.

Llud: Your boots are bone dry.

Llud takes the haft of Kai’s axe in his hand and looks at the head.

Llud: The axe so clean, after the kill? What is it, Kai?

Kai turns and walks away.



It is night. Inside the longhouse, there is a feast. Outside, Kai is trying to sneak Roland into the village, supporting him on one side. Pethik and Celt Watchman tumble out of the longhouse, laughing.


Celt watchman: Sorry.

Kai and Roland pretend they are just two drunks on their way home. They sing incoherently: something about a fair maid.

After giving Kai and Roland a number of suspicious looks, Pethik and the Celt watchman laugh and go back inside the longhouse.



Inside Lenni’s hut, Lenni is making a bed. She looks up and sees Kai and Roland come in, and immediately goes to Roland, helps him to the bed and starts taking a look at his injuries.



It is day. Roland’s medallion is lying in the grass outside Lenni’s hut. Pethik spots it, picks it up, looks at it, then towards Lenni’s hut, then runs to the longhouse with the medallion.


Pethik: This belongs to the Saxon that we’re looking for.

He shows the medallion to Mark, Arthur and Llud who have just come out.

Mark: Are you sure?

Pethik: When we had him captive, I saw this round his neck.



Pethik throws Lenni to the ground at his leader’s feet.

Lenni: Argh.

Pethik: [indignant] I found her tending his wound!

Mark glances at Arthur, then pulls Lenni to her feet.

Mark: No need to ask you who brought him to be nursed.

Arthur: Lenni can’t speak.

Arthur grabs Mark’s shoulder, and draws him away. They approach Lenni’s hut.

Kai comes out of the hut and faces off with Mark.


Kai: He’s my prisoner.

Mark: Out of my way! He’s mine and I’ll have him.

Kai raises his axe.

Kai: You’ll have to kill me first.

[INTERVAL]


PART 2


Mark turns to Arthur.

Mark: You see?


Roland is lying inside the hut on the bed, listening.


Mark: Blood protects blood. A Celtic name does not make him a Celt. One day he was bound to turn traitor.

Kai: I’m no traitor.

Mark: Then stand aside!

Kai: [very softly] No.

Mark turns to Arthur.

Mark: [shouts] Order him to! [more quietly, but still threatening] What’s happened to the mighty Arthur? Isn’t he leader here any more? I warn you … if I fail to take this man, I’ll send a messenger to every kingdom, telling them Arthur harbours Saxons, and tends their wounds as he would his own kind. And what about your treaties then?

Arthur steps forward towards Kai.

Arthur: Why didn’t you kill him?

Kai: I had good reason.

Arthur: What reason, Kai?

Kai: He belongs to one of Cerdig’s advance armies. The Saxons are planning a big offensive.

Mark: Huh!

Kai: When he’s fit enough to talk, we can learn much. The size of Cerdig’s forces. His battle plans. No sense in killing him yet.

Mark: Arthur … he’s my prisoner. I want him … and demand him.

Arthur turns a look of affront on Mark.

Arthur: Nobody demands, from Arthur.

Mark: If you will not surrender my prisoner, you’ll lose your treaties with me and my kinsmen. Make your choice … and quickly.

Arthur turns to look at Kai. Llud is also looking at him, stone-faced.

Kai: Of course, if Mark feels so strongly, he must have the prisoner. I thought we had much to gain by keeping him alive. But if you don’t agree, let Mark have him, of course.

Arthur looks perplexed. Mark chuckles. Llud is the last to stop staring at Kai and turn away.



Roland is brought out, with his hands bound. He moans in pain. Two of Mark’s men put his foot in a horse’s stirrup. Kai stands watching. Mark and Arthur come out of the longhouse, followed by Llud.


Mark: Make sure he’s comfortable. I want him to last the journey.

Mark’s men finally manage to get Roland onto the horse.

Mark: If I did not need to make an example of him before my people, perhaps Kai would have slain him … as a loyal gesture, for your benefit.

Kai runs towards Roland’s horse, and leaps on from the rear, landing behind Roland.

Kai: Jeeearrr!

Mark: I told you he’d turn traitor!

Kai and Roland gallop off.

Mark: After him!

Mark – yelling encouragement to his horse – and three of his men, gallop out of the village.

Llud: We’d better follow. If Mark catches them, he’ll kill Kai.

Arthur: He can’t get far, with that wounded Saxon. He’s bound to make for the hiding place by the river. We’ll let them get well ahead.

Arthur and Llud gallop out of the village, and across an open space.

Mark walks his horse out from where he has been waiting, in hiding.



Arthur and Llud cross a small bridge and arrive at the hiding place.


Arthur: Kai?

Kai emerges from hiding, axe in hand.

Llud: We thought we’d lost you.

Arthur: [to Llud] Perhaps we have.

Kai swings his axe limply in one hand.

Arthur: [to Kai] Where’s the Saxon?

Kai: He stays with me.

Arthur: For how long, Kai? Mark won’t rest until he finds you.

Kai: I’m moving on at nightfall.

Llud: Where?

Kai: To return the Saxon to his people.

Arthur: What about all that valuable information you were going to get out of him? Cerdig’s movements? His strength in numbers? His battle plans?

Kai: Your reputation as a leader is no longer at stake. The treaties are safe. We’re not in Arthur’s village, so Arthur is no longer responsible. You are no longer affected, Arthur.

Arthur: By Mark’s threats? No. But what about Kai, who can no longer kill one of his Saxon friends?

Llud: Why?

Kai: The medallion he wears? The one that Pethik recognised? I recognised it too, from a long time ago. I gave it to him. We were small boys together, in the Saxon village that was once my home. [clearly upset] He was not just a friend. He was as a brother to me.

Arthur and Llud turn their horses and ride away, leaving Kai, alone and forlorn.

Kai takes a few steps away from the hiding place.

Mark rides into view. Kai turns and walks towards him. Mark dismounts.


Mark: I take that Saxon with me.

Mark draws his sword.

Kai: No.

They advance towards each other. Mark yells; they fight. Kai seems to be getting the worst of it.

Roland emerges from the hiding place.

Mark starts backing away, and Kai swings and embeds the blade of his axe in a tree trunk. Mark smiles, and swings at Kai, forcing him to leave his weapon, and continues his attack.

Roland hobbles towards Kai’s axe, frees it, and comes to assist him. Mark runs him through, and Roland falls, dead.

Kai looks down at the body for a moment, as does Mark, who looks perplexed, and perhaps a bit ashamed.


Kai: He sacrificed his life for mine. You’ve killed him. That’s enough.

Mark walks away.

Kai kneels beside Roland’s body.



Kai has built a huge pyre, on which Roland’s body now lies. Kai covers him with an animal skin, then sets light to the pyre.

As the pyre burns, we see Kai’s memory of his childhood.

Two young boys, Kai and Roland as children, play-fighting with axes, on a wooden bridge. One of the railings comes away from the bridge, and young Kai falls into the water; he obviously can’t swim. Young Roland jumps in, and helps young Kai to the bank, and out of the water. Young Kai puts the medallion around young Roland’s neck, and they shake hands.

Kai watches the pyre as it burns.


[ROLL THE CREDITS]

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