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Episode 2.6: The Marriage Feast

Writer: Terence Feely


OPENING SCENE


Kai rides into the village.

Kai: Some news.

Kai dismounts. Arthur and Llud approach.

Kai: Rowena’s to marry Mark of Cornwall.

Arthur looks troubled.

Llud: Never! Rowena could never stomach a man like that. Besides, her father can’t stand the sight of him.

Kai: Ah, it’s true I tell you. I just heard it from one of Mark’s men.

Llud: When’s the wedding to be?

Kai: Soon.

Llud turns to Arthur.

Llud: You’d better go down there and do something about it.

Arthur: Why should I do anything about it? Nothing to do with me.

Arthur walks away.

Kai: [amused] Oh, I see.

Arthur walks towards the longhouse.

Arthur: If she can’t see what a pig the man is ...

Kai: True.

Llud turns his back to Arthur; he is laughing.

Arthur: And if her father’s willing to deliver his daughter into the hands of a man like that, that’s his business.

Kai: [innocent] Of course.

Llud smirks.

Arthur: It’s their choice.

Kai: Right.

Arthur: If she wants to ruin her life, that’s her funeral.

Arthur starts up the ramp to the longhouse.

Kai: Er … will you be going then?

Arthur turns back at the longhouse door.

Arthur: Hmm?

Kai: You’ve been invited to the marriage feast.

Arthur: [deadpan] Oh.

Arthur disappears inside the longhouse. Kai slaps Llud on the shoulder and they burst out laughing.

[OPENING CREDITS]



PART 1


Arthur is on the rampage. He inspects the warning system outside the village and throws all of the leaden balls out of their wicker basket.

Arthur: Too slack! This is supposed to be a warning system. One of these nights we’ll all be slain in our beds. Get it seen to!

The sentry nods. Arthur strides off toward the village. He takes a few sticks of firewood from a cart.

Arthur: Is this all the kindling wood we’ve got?

The villager standing behind it nods. Arthur throws the sticks back on the cart.

Arthur: Get it seen to!

Arthur grabs a handful of straw that is hanging out from the thatch of a nearby roof.

Arthur: [furious] And get this place tidied up at once!

He flings the straw at another villager, strides over to the sentry leaning on his spear in front of the longhouse, bangs the man’s shield with his sword, then points the sword at him threateningly.

Arthur: Wake up, Guard.

Arthur shoves another villager out of the way, and storms past Kai, doing some maintenance on his axe, and Llud, messing around with a dagger. Kai smiles to himself because Arthur is in such a foul temper.

A Messenger rides in and dismounts.


Llud: What news?

The Messenger approaches Kai and Llud, leading his horse.

Messenger: Nothing much. The cousins, Garet and Gawain, are feuding again.

Kai: When are they not?

The Messenger passes his horse’s reins to another villager, and leans on a post next to Kai and Llud.

Messenger: Half a dozen Saxons slipped in from the coast, through Yorath’s territory.

Llud: [casual] Yeah.

Arthur: What was that?

Messenger: Hmm?

Arthur comes up to him.

Arthur: About Saxons breaking through Yorath’s territory?

Messenger: [dismissive] Oh, nothing. Five or six of them.

Arthur: ‘Nothing’? What do you mean, ‘nothing’?

Kai: [amused] Half a dozen Saxons?

Kai continues working on his axe.

Llud: What about the scores who come in from the east? [He looks along the edge of his dagger, one eye closed.] What’s suddenly so important about a handful from the north?

Kai: A few have been slipping past Yorath for years. They’re harmless cattle traders.

Arthur stalks past them.

Arthur: Gap like that could alter the whole balance of our defences.

Kai: [amused] The whole balance of what?

Arthur: It must be plugged! The rot must be stopped!

He storms off.

Kai: Oooooo!

Kai and Llud chuckle.



Llud and Arthur are riding out to visit Yorath.


Llud: [shouts] What’s the hurry? Yorath isn’t gonna run away.

Arthur just keeps riding.



In Yorath’s longhouse.


Yorath: Arthur. My borders stretch for scores of miles. [He rises from his throne and crosses the room.] I can’t stop every Saxon cattle herder who comes through. Besides, I’ve got more pressing problems.

Arthur looks up, as if he has no idea what Yorath is talking about.

Arthur: Oh?

Arthur rises from his seat.

Yorath: Oh. My daughter Rowena … is hell-bent on marrying Mark of Cornwall. [to Llud] Mark of Cornwall! She knows I can’t stand the fellow.

Arthur: Very irritating for you.

Yorath: Mmm. And there’s more. Once, in a moment of weakness – I was drunk. For once she had cooked a half-decent meal, so, I bestowed on her a large parcel of land.

Llud: You could say you didn’t mean it.

Yorath: [humourless] Hehehehehe. The she-fox thought of that. The very next day, while my head still felt like the anvil of a blacksmith, she had the monks round, with their pens and parchments, getting everything down in writing. There’s nothing I can do about it.

Arthur: [nonchalant] Yes. That is difficult.

Yorath: And that’s not all. If she marries Mark of Cornwall, the land goes to him. [Pointing angrily at his own chest] My land! To that filthy barbarian!

Yorath snorts, and flicks snot on the floor with his fingers.

Arthur: Yorath. These are personal matters.

Yorath: [pacing] Aaah! That’s not the worst of it either. Once Mark has got my land, he’ll be more powerful than I am.

Arthur: [irritated] Now look! I came about the gap in your defences.

Yorath: [annoyed] Oh confound your gap! [humble] You’ve got to help me Arthur. You’ve got to break up their betrothal.

Arthur: It’s none of my business. I can’t interfere. Now we must talk seriously about the gap in your defences.

Yorath: I don’t suppose I … could make a bargain with you, huh?

Arthur takes a bite out of an apple.

Arthur: A bargain?

Yorath: If I agree to attend that … mouse-hole of a gap – would you break up the betrothal?

Arthur: It’s none of my affair.

Yorath looks crestfallen.

Arthur: But I’ll try.

Yorath: Oh good! Good!

Yorath hugs Arthur, who grins, while Llud shakes his head in amusement.



Llud is sitting by the fire in Yorath’s guest quarters; Arthur is sitting behind him, in semi-darkness. Llud gives a slight laugh.


Llud: You two-faced fox. You don’t give a rotten apple about the gap. You just want to stop the marriage. And you want to make it look like you’re doing it as a favour to someone else.

Arthur: I’m doing it for the common good.

Llud: What makes you think you can do it at all?

Llud takes a drink.

Arthur: Rowena’s at Mark’s village, preparing for the wedding. It’ll be an easy matter to show her what an animal the man is.



In Mark of Cornwall’s village. Mark and Rowena emerge from Mark’s longhouse, arm in arm, to greet Llud and Arthur.

Mark: Arthur! Llud! How welcome you are! Isn’t it good to see them, Rowena?

Mark is speaking and behaving as a gentle, polite, parody of his usual self.

Rowena: [smiling falsely] It is.

Mark claps his hands.

Mark: Some refreshment for our guests! They’ve come a long way, to offer us their good wishes. You’ll stay for the wedding, of course.

Llud: [trying to keep a straight face] Oh, of course.

Mark: It’s the … er … day after tomorrow.

Mark pats Rowena’s hand. A serving girl brings drinks.

Arthur: Thank you.

Mark: Oh, therefore make yourselves at home. My village is your village. And now, if you’ll forgive me, arrangements, you know. [He gives a polite little laugh] A bridegroom has so many arrangements.

Mark kisses Rowena’s hand. Arthur smiles mischievously.

Mark: Will you look after our guests, Rowena?

Rowena inclines her head in assent.

Llud: [aside, to Arthur] An animal, is it?

Arthur: [aside, to Llud] It’s all an act, for her sake. She can see that.

As Mark walks away, Rowena calls out to him.

Rowena: Look to the wine, Beloved! We must not run short.

Mark turns back.

Mark: I will, My Sweet.

Mark continues walking away, but Rowena calls out again.

Rowena: And don’t forget my cousin comes tonight!

Mark turns back again, smiling.

Mark: No, Belovèd.

Mark continues on his way. Arthur has a fixed smile on his face.

Rowena: And, you will not forget the minstrels.

Mark’s face shows him to be at the end of his tether, but he turns back, careful to look, and sound, like a man in love.

Mark: I will not – Dearest Dove.

Mark blows Rowena a kiss, and departs. Llud smirks.

Arthur: Rowena!

Rowena goes into the longhouse. Arthur follows her. Rowena dismisses the servant girl. Arthur comes in.

Rowena: I did not expect to see you at my wedding.

She pours drink into a goblet.

Arthur: What sort of a game is this you’re playing?

Rowena turns around to face him.

Arthur: The man’s a pig.

Rowena: I do not find him so. Men can change. [She comes closer.] Women do the changing.

Arthur smiles in disbelief as she hands him the goblet.

Arthur: Mark of Cornwall? He can no more change than a wild bear.

Rowena: Love can do strange things, even to wild bears.

Arthur: Love? He’s after your land, Woman.

Rowena: [upset] Thank-you. [She walks away, then turns back.] You’re very flattering.


Mark returns, and lurks outside the longhouse, listening to their conversation.


Arthur: Once you’re married, he’ll be as crude and as coarse as he’s always been.

Rowena: He’s got a temper, yes. But that’s because he’s never had any affection in his life.


Outside, Mark looks amused.


Rowena: Mark has a lot of qualities that do not show on the surface.

Arthur: That’s certainly true just now.

Rowena: And he is a king. I was born to be a queen.

Arthur: Queen? Queen of the hearth stones and the cooking pot. Queen of wash-day on the river-bank. He’ll use you as a skivvy, Woman.

Rowena: Why the concern? Anyone would think you had a personal interest.

Arthur: I just don’t like to see you making a fool of yourself.

Arthur turns, and takes a few steps away.

Rowena: Why should you care? A girl might almost think you were jealous.

Arthur: Why should I be jealous?

Rowena: You storm in, breathing thunder, determined to stop my marriage. If it is the reason, why not say so?

Rowena approaches Arthur; he smiles.

Rowena: It might be a better argument than anything you’ve said so far.

Arthur: ’Tis not the reason.

Rowena: No? What is it then? Tell me. Tell me the truth.

Rowena comes up very close to Arthur, expecting to be kissed.

Arthur: I made a deal with your father.

Rowena nods, wide-eyed.

Arthur: He will put more of his men, to stop the Saxons entering through his territory, and in return, I will stop Mark laying his hands on your land.

Rowena slaps Arthur’s face, hard. Arthur gives a satisfied smile.

Rowena: [shouts] Get out! Get out!

As Arthur leaves, Rowena follows after him. She throws two items of crockery at him as he escapes out of the door.

Rowena: Get out! Get out! Out! And stay out!



Outside, Mark is still leaning against the longhouse. He laughs at Arthur.

Mark: No luck?

Arthur: You don’t want her.

Mark steps in close to Arthur.

Mark: You know that … and I know that. But she won’t know it till she’s married. Until she gets the bridle on, I’m going to be as sweet as hazelnuts, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Arthur: Oh? We shall see.

Mark stalks off. Arthur watches him go.

[INTERVAL]



PART 2


In Mark’s village, the wedding celebrations have begun. A wrestling match is in progress, as well as a tug-of-war, in which three villagers are competing against a shirtless Mark of Cornwall. Mark wins, pulling all three over, and raises his arms in triumph. The audience, including Llud and Arthur, clap, cheer, or slap their thighs in appreciation. Mark hauls two of the villagers to their feet and sends them on their way.

Mark: Your beauty inspires me, My Lady!

Mark bows extravagantly to Rowena. Rowena laughs, and Mark blows her a kiss.

Arthur: [to Llud] I’ll inspire him.

Arthur gets up and walks over to Rowena, leaning in close to her so that only she can hear.

Arthur: I’ll show you what a swaggering hulk that man really is.

He walks over to Mark.

Arthur: Alright Mark. Let’s see how you’d fare against someone who’d dare to pull you off your feet.

Mark: [to the audience] A challenge from Arthur!

The audience cheers. Rowena looks concerned. Arthur picks up the end of the rope, spits on one hand, and wraps the rope around his waist. Mark stands ready.

Mark: Your own time.

They begin to pull against each other, accompanied by cheers and exhortations from the crowd.

Mark: [yells] Yeeeaar!

Llud: Hola! Hold him! Hold him!

Mark: Yeeeaar!

Llud: Pull him! Pull him! Hold him!

Arthur seems to be losing, but he looks across at Llud, and smirks.

Rowena: Come on, Mark!

Mark laughs, and takes one hand off the rope, and raises it in the air, mainly holding Arthur with the weight of his body. Then he continues to pull Arthur along.

Rowena: Come on!

Without warning, Arthur lets go of the rope, and Mark topples backwards through a fence, down a bank, and into the river. Llud and Rowena both rise to their feet, Rowena looking very annoyed. Arthur stands there laughing, while Mark splashes around furiously.

Mark: Ruaaarh! Give me that rope!

Llud strides over, looking concerned, while Mark is hauled out of the water. Arthur is still laughing. Rowena looks anxious. Soaking wet, and ferocious, Mark marches up to Arthur; suddenly, Mark smiles.

Mark: Well done. [He claps Arthur on the shoulder, then pinches Arthur’s cheek.] Very amusing. I like a man with a sense of humour. [to the audience] Where would we all be, if we can’t laugh now and again?

Mark blows a kiss to Rowena; she blows one back. Mark pats Arthur on the shoulder, and walks off.

Arthur looks meaningfully toward Llud, and walks over to him, arms folded. They wear public smiles as they watch Mark depart. Llud sighs.


Llud: Well?

Arthur looks at Llud; his smile has faded.



A feast is being held in Mark’s longhouse. The festivities are well underway. The tables are laden, and the room is noisy. Mark and Rowena are sitting together at the head of the table. As Arthur and Llud walk in, Rowena feeds Mark a grape, and he kisses her.


Mark: Here, Arthur. Here, by my beautiful bride.

Mark indicates that Arthur should sit beside Rowena.

Arthur: No thank you, I don’t deserve such honour.

Mark: Aahh, come now. We’ve had our differences, but on my wedding-eve I want all to be friendship. Come.

He does an encircling gesture with his huge goblet.

Arthur: No. Here will suit me very well.

Arthur takes a seat at the far end of the table.

Mark: Ahh.

He and Rowena look playfully at each other.

Mark: Llud then. The only man ever to defeat Mark of Cornwall in single combat, even if it was with an iron hand.

Llud walks up to the head of the table, waving his silver hand, while the crowd applauds.

Llud: How can I resist such a picture of loveliness?

Llud leans over and kisses Rowena on the cheek. Mark chuckles. Rowena puts an arm around Mark, and strokes his hair.

Rowena: Take note, Mark. Llud can show you the soft way with a lady.

Mark: Ah – your beauty teaches me, my love.

He kisses her cheek.

Rowena: Hmmm. You’re sweet. I do like you so much better with your beard trimmed. [She runs her fingers over his beard] Don’t you think so Llud?

Llud: [dryly] Most becoming.

Rowena runs her hand across Mark’s head. Mark strives to hide his irritation.

Rowena: Next I think we have to do something about your hair. What do you think?

Mark seethes.

Arthur: Little curls, I should think. Coming down over his forehead.

The room erupts into laughter. Mark joins in.

Mark: Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow, Rowena becomes the Queen of the South.

Arthur raises his cup.

Arthur: Here’s to the Queen of the South.

The crowd takes up the toast.

Arthur: And the times we had together.

Silence falls. Mark looks a little uneasy.

Mark: Eh … Eat, drink, Llud, Old Enemy. [the servant] Bring him a man-size cup!

Llud, is handed a huge goblet, like Mark’s.

Arthur: Rowena! Do you remember the time you saved my life?

Mark: [bemused] Er … you saved his life?

Rowena: [nervous] Oh, it was nothing.

Mark: Ah, heh. Aah, well, here’s to the brave maiden. We could have done with her at Modred’s field, eh, Llud?

Llud: There’d have been nothing left for us to do.

Some of Mark’s men are drunkenly fooling around with one of the serving girls.

Mark: Hey Fergus! Does your wife know you’re here?

Mark breaks into peals of loud laughter, as Fergus falls backwards off the bench. Arthur raises his cup high in the air.

Arthur: Another toast!

Everyone falls silent.

Arthur: To the time you ripped off your dress to bind my wounds.

Mark freezes: his goblet raised high in the air. He looks completely out of sorts. Rowena looks uneasy.

Rowena: Come on! Nobody is eating. I want to see nothing but bare bones when we’ve finished!

Mark: Ye…es. Nobody must leave the table while they can still stand straight!

Arthur: Rowena! Do you remember when I had to tie you to your horse, chase you into the woods for half a mile, and how you thanked me, afterwards?

Mark spits out a mouthful of drink, then manages to regain a brittle sort of composure.

Mark: The minstrels! Bring on the minstrels!

Llud smirks.

Arthur: You’re a lucky man, Mark!

Mark nods.

Arthur: Believe me. I know.

Mark glares. Arthur raises his cup again.

Arthur: To the long days, and the long, long nights we had together!

Mark’s goblet clatters to the table. Llud draws his knife. Mark rises to his feet, hand on his sword.

Rowena: [anxious] Mark ...

Mark furiously draws, and stabs his sword into the table.

Mark: Yeaaarghhhh … a toast! A toast. To the fair Rowena. Tonight a princess, tomorrow a queen. Rowena!

The crowd raise their cups and join in.

All: Rowena!

Mark and Arthur look steadily at each other.



Arthur and Llud are getting ready for bed.


Llud: Perhaps he has changed.

Arthur: Changed? No. He’s just a lot cleverer than I thought.

Llud hangs up his sword.

Llud: This time tomorrow, they’ll be husband and wife.

Arthur: I know that.

Llud: And Yorath will refuse to close the gap.

Arthur: The what?

Llud: The gap. That is what it’s all about isn’t it?

Arthur: Yes. That is what it’s all about.

Arthur unfastens his sword belt.

Arthur: Have you ever seen a Saxon longboat, Llud? How big is it?

Llud: Well it’s … er ...

Llud sits down.

Arthur: How many Saxons does it hold?

Llud: Fifty … sixty?

Arthur drops his sword belt, and sits down on his bed.

Arthur: Those handful of Saxons that break in through Yorath’s territory, they didn’t swim across the sea to get there, you know. And for every handful that sneaks in, there are fifty more landed, on other parts of the coast.

Llud nods, but still looks amused.

Arthur: If Yorath’s men kept a proper watch, they’d find that boat, and destroy it.

Llud: I cannot fault your thinking.

He goes to sit beside Arthur.

Llud: But you cannot fault my understanding of human nature. Now you love the girl. Go and tell her so.

Arthur: [quietly] She’d expect me to marry her, then.

Llud: So, she would. What an unreasonable girl she must be.

Arthur: Well … [he smiles] you know what I mean.

Llud: I don’t know. I’ve always had the idea that if people loved each other, they did get married.

Arthur: I’m not so sure I want to get married. Anyway when I do it won’t be under pressure.

Llud: So, what are you going to do?

Arthur: I’m going to pick a fight with Mark.

Llud snorts.

Llud: Hmph! It’s very hard to pick a quarrel with a man who’s determined to avoid a fight at all costs.

Arthur: No it’s not. It’s the easiest thing in the world.



It is morning. Mark, wearing a coronet, a white long-sleeved shirt, and a cloak, and Rowena, in a white wedding dress, with a wreath of flowers around her head, stand looking at two thrones, set in an artificial grove, surrounded with flowers. Mark’s throne is quite large with a cow hide thrown over it. Rowena’s is smaller, and covered in sheepskin.

Mark: Beautiful, My Love. [He kisses Rowena’s hand.] And now, if you’ll forgive me a moment My Dear.

He leaves her side, but turns back to blow her a kiss; she reciprocates. Jauntily, he approaches Arthur and Llud.

Mark: I’m glad you could stay. For the wedding.

As Mark, chuckling, starts to walk away, Arthur deliberately trips him. Mark falls flat on the ground. Arthur boots his behind, so that Mark lands with his face in some mud (or worse). Mark gets to his feet, looking in disbelief at his ruined wedding finery. Arthur waits, his arms folded.

Mark: Geaargh!

Mark clenches his fists, and charges at Arthur, who steps aside and shoves him through a flimsy screen. Mark, enraged, gets to his feet, and peers through the gap he has made in the screen.

Arthur: Come on, You Clumsy Ox! Show your bride what you can do!

Mark roars, and hurtles toward Arthur, who dodges, and kicks his behind again. Mark lands on a trestle, which collapses.

Arthur: Come on! You can do better than that! Having your beard trimmed that’s done it, you know – it’s taken all your strength.

Mark gets up, and draws his sword; Arthur draws as well, and they fight, Mark, shouting and slashing wildly, and Arthur on the defensive. Rowena looks worried. Llud begins to draw his sword.

Villager: [to Llud] What’s the matter with Arthur? He’s got Mark so mad he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Arthur could have killed him three times b’now.

Arthur and Mark continue to fight.

Villager: If he’s not careful, he’s gonna lose.

Llud glances at Rowena, who is watching the fight with great anxiety, and with her hands over her mouth.

Llud: No. He’s going to win.

Llud smiles, and sheathes his sword. Arthur and Mark lock swords up against a post.

Arthur: You know what they call a man that marries for land, don’t you?

Mark: Rat!

Mark shoves Arthur away. They carry on fighting. Rowena bites her lip. Finally, Mark drives Arthur to his knees, but as he raises his sword to finish Arthur off, Rowena leaps between them.


Rowena: No!

Mark looks on in disbelief as Rowena slides her arm around Arthur’s shoulders, and the two of them smile at each other.

Mark: [quietly] Get out! [He nudges Arthur with his foot, then wallops Rowena across the behind with the flat of his sword.] Get out! And take that she-wolf with you!

Mark brandishes his sword as Arthur and Rowena depart, then throws it on the ground, followed by hid coronet and cloak. Llud follows Arthur and Rowena.

Mark boots one villager and throws him to the ground, picks up a second and throws him down too, boots a third, and chases a fourth through the palisade and out of sight. The other villagers laugh.



Llud, Rowena and Arthur are riding away from the village.


Llud: We better be off. See what Kai’s been up to.

Arthur: I think I’d better escort Rowena back to her father’s. You go on. I’ll be back soon.

Llud: As you wish.

Llud and Arthur smile at each other.

Llud: Goodbye Rowena.

Rowena: Goodbye, Llud.

Llud canters off.

Rowena: You could have been killed.

Arthur: I could have, but I wasn’t.

Rowena: I suppose you know, you have ruined my life. What now?

Arthur: It’s two days ride back to your father’s. We’ll discuss it on the way.

They smile at each other.



Llud arrives back in the village, dismounts and goes into the longhouse. Kai is sitting by the fire, having a drink. Llud nods at him and warms his hand by the fire. Kai gets to his feet.


Kai: Well, what of the marriage?

Llud: No marriage.

Kai: And Arthur?

Llud: Stayed with Rowena. To escort her home.

Kai: Didn’t she have her attendants with her?

Llud: [very serious] Yes, yes.

Kai: Well, couldn’t they have escorted her home?

Llud: Perhaps he wanted to talk to Yorath.

Kai: What about?

Llud: The gap in our defences, of course. The terrible threat, of Saxon cattle herders, pouring in …

Kai: Three or four at a time …

Llud: Running amok in our meadows.

Kai: Terrifying the buttercups.

Llud: It’s too terrible to think about.

Kai: Yes. Thank heaven we have a leader who thinks of such things for us!

Llud nods solemnly.

Llud: Mmmhmm.

Kai: Arthur.

They knock their mugs together.

Llud: Arthur.

They laugh.

[ROLL THE CREDITS]
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Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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