[personal profile] arthur_of_the_britons
Episode 1.10: The Slaves

Writer: Robert Banks Stewart


In open country. Sounds of thunder. Arthur is on horseback. Kai, who is leading his horse, stops to look at one of its hooves. Arthur rides back to him.

Arthur: I’ve got some news that’ll take the ache out of those feet of yours.

Kai: You gonna let me ride your horse for a while?

Arthur: There’s a village over that last ridge. Col, the blacksmith there’ll take care of your horse.

Arthur rides on until he is in sight of the village.

Arthur: [shouts] Col!

There is no answer; the village looks deserted. Kai catches up to Arthur, and they approach the village cautiously. Arthur dismounts and they go in on foot. One of the horses whinnies, warning of their approach, so they split up and run to scout out different areas. There’s no one around. Arthur finds a shield lying on the ground, and lifts the edge with his foot.

Arthur: Saxons.

An arrow hits Kai’s leg.

Kai: Ach!

Arthur draws his sword and ducks down. Kai pulls the arrow out.

Arthur: [whispers urgently] Kai!

Kai: I’m alright.

They run to the hut from which the arrow came, go in, Kai through the door and Arthur through the window, and find the archer: a small boy, Frith.



Frith points at Kai, and addresses Arthur, who is on his haunches facing the child.

Frith: He’s a Saxon, I can tell.

Arthur: His name is Kai. He won’t harm you.

Frith looks unconvinced.

Arthur: How would I know your father’s name was Col, that he’s built like an ox, with a red beard, or that your name is Frith? Now, won’t you tell us what happened?

Col’s wife Mair, appears, pacing.

Mair: They raided at night. They took us by surprise. Our men were out-numbered. They … they had little chance to fight. It was all over quickly.

Arthur: Cerdig’s men had orders not to kill.

Mair: A few men died. Including some Saxons.

Arthur: And Col?

Mair: Col’s alive. Or was. He was dragged away with thirty others roped together. They were warned, if they resisted the women and children would be put to the sword.

Arthur: Since when did Cerdig bother with prisoners? What would the Saxons want with them? Which way did he take them?

Mair: That direction. They’ve been gone three days. To follow a track that is three hours old is difficult enough. After three days it’s impossible.

Arthur: For you, yes. But Llud can follow a trail that’s three months old.

Llud, Kai and Arthur are on the trail; Llud, who is in the lead, dismounts, pulls a broken twig from a hawthorn bush, and sniffs it.

Llud: Still fresh. They came this way alright.

Kai: I couldn’t have ridden much further. We’ve been riding a day and a night.

Llud sees something up ahead, and signals. Kai and Arthur dismount, thether their horses to some bushes, and follow him. They find themselves looking at a quarry, where men are working at various levels on a rock-face.

At the quarry, the slaves, including Col, are working under the supervision of a foreman, Rodolf.

Rodolf: Put your back into it!

Col stops to rest, breathing heavily, evidently exhausted. Rodolf gives him a blow with his whip.

Rodolf: Keep that hammer swinging. I want more effort from all of you. You’re flagging. I said, more effort!

He beats another slave.

Kai, Arthur and Llud are still watching.

Kai: Those Celts will be made to work until they die. I’ll ride back and get some men.

Arthur: We can’t march a rescue force this far into Saxon territory.

Llud: No, it’s one thing for us to slip through.

Arthur: And we have no need for an army, when there’s one here already.

At the quarry, work continues.

Rodolf: Come on, move ahead. Faster. Come on. Put your backs into it. Put your backs into it! I told you to move.

Kai approaches, leading Arthur and Llud, who are roped together, and looking resentful.

Kai: Come on, you Celtic pigs, keep moving. You heard me – move!

Rodolf: What is this? Who are you?

Kai: I found them hiding back in the forest. You should be more careful with your labour force.

Rodolf: I’ve never seen these two before.

Kai: Then they must have escaped from one of the batches you had brought in.

Rodolf grabs Arthur by the shirt front.

Rodolf: You! There! Where you from? Answer me!

Rodolf thrusts the stock of his whip up under Arthur’s chin. Kai strides past him.

Kai: We’re wasting time!

Roldolf releases Arthur.

Kai: Neither of them will answer. But if their tongues won’t move, their legs and arms will, and you need every man you can get.

Rodolf: You haven’t explained who you are.

Kai: I’m here to get things moving.

Rodolf: That’s my job. I’m Rodolf, foreman. I work to Heardred, the builder.

Kai: And I am sent from Cerdig.

Rodolf: We had no news of your coming.

Kai: Cerdig has learned that this new venture lags behind. Everything must move ahead much faster.

Kai grabs Rodolf’s whip and marches off. On the work-face, a slave notices that something is happening.

Slave: Col!

Col looks over at the newcomers. While Arthur and Llud hang back, Kai approaches the cliff-face, with Rodolf tagging along.

Rodolf: There have been some delays, but – doesn’t he know that new prisoners take time to train? Look, I can assure you that things don’t –

Kai: Even now we’re wasting time. Some of these men aren’t working. [he cracks the whip] Move, you Celtic laggards! Move! Get those men up the face.

Rodolf has Arthur taken up the ledge.

Rodolf: [to Arthur] You, in there!

A Saxon guard pushes Arthur towards the rock-face, quite near where Col is working. Rodolf whips another of the slaves.

Rodolf: Come on!

The Saxon guard shackles Arthur in his place, and hands him a sledge-hammer. Arthur gives Col a reassuring nod.

Heardred the builder is showing Kai around the site.

Heardred: Yes, the Romans used this principle.

Kai: Did they.

Heardred: Yes. I – um – I trust that Cerdig will be pleased with my work here.

Kai: He may be. When it’s finished.

A horn is blown, signalling a break in the work.

Heardred: I’ll just show you our store room … then we shall have our midday
meal. There we are.

He shows Kai a room full of new weapons.

Kai: Why such a large armoury?

Heardred: Advance supplies. As you know, this will be one of our biggest supply bases.

Kai: Hm. Of course, of course.

Heardred: Well – let’s eat.

The Celt slaves are eating an un-appetising porridge. Some of them can be heard coughing.

Heardred, Rodolf and Kai sit at Heardred’s dinner table. Heardred’s daughter Thuna offers Kai some food from a platter.

Thuna: Would you eat some more?

Kai: Thank you, but – too much good food and drink at midday, and I might get soft with those slaves out there.

Rodolf: Not me.

Heardred: Sometimes, Rodolf, I think you overdo it. Of course it’s really no concern of mine. I’m a builder. But I need workers with stamina.

Thuna offers Heardred her platter of food. He waves her away, and she accidentally walks into Rodolf, who grabs her round the waist, and pulls her to him, leering at her. She looks disgusted.

Rodolf: It depends on how much stamina you can get your slaves to part with. Is that not right, Kai?

Kai: They don’t give it willingly.

Thuna and Kai exchange a look. She pulls free of Rodolf, and goes to sit near Kai.

The slaves are still eating their meagre midday meal. Some of them are coughing; none of them look healthy. A guard watches them from a little way away. Arthur and Llud are sitting one on each side of Col.

Arthur: [to Col] With Kai’s help, we’ll work something out. Don’t tell anyone who we are, but tell them that a bid for freedom is being planned. These men need heart.

Col: You saw my wife? And Frith?

Arthur: Yes. So will you.

Col coughs, obviously ill.

Back on the ledge, work continues. Rodolf whips one of the slaves.

Rodolf: Come on!

Col is on the point of collapse, leaning against the rock-face. Rodolf comes over.

Rodolf: [to Col] Get up, you lazy dog.

Rodolf gives Col a blow with the whip. Col falls to the ground. Rodolf prepares to hit him again. Arthur steps forward.

Arthur: [to Rodolf] Leave him.

Rodolf gives him a look of fury. As Arthur turns back to the cliff-face, Rodolf draws back his arm to strike Arthur with the bullwhip, but Arthur turns and hits Rodolf in the stomach with the handle of his sledge-hammer.

Rodolf: Agh!

Rodolf drops to his knees. Another Saxon pins Arthur against the cliff-face with his axe. Rodolf draws a knife, gets up, and comes towards Arthur. Kai approaches.

Kai: What is happening here?

Rodolf: This Celtic dog struck me.

Kai puts himself between Rodolf and Arthur.

Rodolf: And the penalty for that is death.

Kai stands between Rodolf and Arthur.

Kai: And lose a valuable man? Cerdig would be pleased. He will be lashed, and then made to work until he begs to die.

Rodolf: Then I’ll lash him now.

Rodolf picks up the bullwhip.

Kai: And the pleasure of restoring Saxon honour will be mine.

Kai puts out a hand and – with great reluctance – Rodolf hands Kai his whip.

Kai: Unshackle him – take him to the rock.

Thuna, Heardred, and all the slaves and their guards, watch as Arthur is tied, spread-eagled, to a large rock.

Heardred: What is the punishment?

Rodolf: Twenty lashes.

Heardred and Thuna exchange worried glances. Llud also looks concerned. Kai pretends he is checking that the ropes are secured, so as to get a private word with Arthur.

Kai: Arthur … it’s the only way I could save you.

Arthur: [smiling] I know.

Kai comes down from the platform surrounding the rock, draws back his arm, and begins Arthur’s punishment. Thunder rolls.



Saxons take Arthur by the arms and drag him away from the rock, followed by Heardred and Rodolf. The watching crowd starts to disperse.

Kai: Get these men back to work.

Saxons, variously: Come on, get to work! Come on, come on, move along.

Heardred: [to the Saxons dragging Arthur] Well, at least place him on a bale of hay.

Rodolf glares at Heardred. The Saxons kick a bale of hay into place.

Saxons: Come on, get to work!

The Saxons drop Arthur onto the hay.

Saxons: Come on! Come on!

Rodolf and Arthur exchange looks of mutual hatred.

Rodolf: Come on you lot, move!

Kai is left standing alone; he sees Arthur’s blood on his hand from the whip, and clenches it into a fist. He realises that Thuna is watching him; they exchange a look, and then he moves away. She gazes after him.

Kai: [to a sentry] Is this the way you keep guard? Stand up straight!

Kai and Llud approach the armoury and go inside. They set to work, concealing weapons inside bales of hay. Kai stops, and takes the blade of a sword in his hand.

Kai: How do you flay a man publicly, and soften the whip?

Llud: You had to do it.

Kai looks haunted.

It is evening. Rodolf and Heardred are sitting at the dinner table. Thuna stands near Heardred, and pours him a drink from a jug.

Rodolf: Where’s our busy friend Kai?

Thuna: He said he had no appetite.

She walks forward, away from the table.

Rodolf: Strange. A flogging usually whets mine.

Rodolf gets up and goes to stand looking down at Thuna.

Rodolf: I’ll wager there isn’t a prisoner who won’t slave twice as hard tomorrow.

Rodolf takes a drink, then leaves. Thuna looks after him with distaste.

Heardred: The soldiers must maintain discipline.

Thuna returns to the dinner table, and leans over the table, facing her father.

Thuna: Men die here!

Heardred: All across this land, men die in battle, on both sides.

Thuna: And you think that’s the same thing? You’re building your fortress, Father, with human bones.

She walks away.

Heardred: Where are you going?

She glances back at him, then leaves.

Llud and the other slaves are gathered around Arthur. Someone is putting leaves on Arthur’s wounds. Thuna brings a bowl of salve.

Thuna: [to Llud] This will ease the pain.

She starts spreading the salve on Arthur’s back.

Kai approaches one of the sentries guarding the Celts.

Kai: All well? You never know with these Celtic pigs – I’ll just check.

He walks past the sentry to where the Celts are gathered.

Kai: Llud – how is he?

Llud, Thuna and the other slaves turn towards Kai, who is disconcerted to see Thuna there.

Thuna: Don’t worry. I won’t betray you.

Kai walks away.

Kai: [to sentry] See that they’re all back on the ledge at daybreak.

On the cliff-face. The slaves are back at work. Col is trying to move a large rock, while Rodolf looks on.

Rodolf: [to Col] Come on, put your shoulders into it. [to other Celts] You, Slave, help him – you – come on – push!

They manage to push the rock off the ledge.

Llud, who is working down below, hears a new Saxon Supervisor, Ensel, talking to Heardred. Llud listens in.

Ensel: Whoever this man Kai claims to be, he’s not from Cerdig.

Heardred: But he told us –

Ensel: I am charged by Cerdig to take care of these matters, and I was sent here on his orders.

Thuna: [to Heardred] I told you I didn’t trust him in the beginning. [to Llud] You – come here!

Llud approaches.

Heardred: [confused] You – you told me?

Thuna: You obviously weren’t listening! [to Llud] Go up to the face of the quarry at once, and tell Rodolf that Kai is an impostor.

Llud hurries off.

Thuna: [to Ensel] You’ve had a long journey. You must be tired!

Heardred watches Llud go.

In the quarry. Llud has found Kai.

Llud: One of Cerdig’s men’s arrived. They know you’re an impostor. It’s now or never.

Near Heardred’s hut, Ensel looks at some plans laid out on a table.

Heardred: You don’t seem to understand the problems that I have building here. Why, only a few days ago none of this rock was ready.

Kai leans against the fence surrounding the Celts’ sleeping area.

Kai: Get these Celtic dogs to re-make their stinking bed. I want more bales here!

The Celts begin carrying bales of hay, containing hidden weapons, towards the sleeping area.

Kai: [quietly] Put the bales on all sides.

Near Heardred’s hut. Ensel and Thuna are sitting together.

Ensel: Rodolf should have reported by now.

He gets up and goes to find out what’s going on. Thuna watches, concerned. Heardred also looks worried, though work at the quarry seems to be continuing as normal.

Back at the sleeping area. Kai is supervising the Celts. Rodolf comes over.

Rodolf: You seem concerned over the comfort of these Celtic dogs.

Kai: The place stank like a plague pit. D’you want the work halted because of sickness?

Rodolf kicks at the bales of hay, finds a hidden sword, and draws it out. High up on the cliff-face, Ensel sees what’s happening.

Ensel: [yells] Guards! To the compound! The Celts are armed!

Arthur throws his sledge-hammer at Ensel, knocking him off the cliff.

The Celts and Saxons start fighting. During the battle, Kai makes sure he comes face to face with Rodolf, relieving him of his axe, and eventually strangling him with his own whip. The Celts win.

Arthur, Llud and Kai mount their horses and ride away, but Thuna appears through a gap in the hedge, and Kai comes back to bid her farewell.

Kai: Goodbye, Saxon.

Thuna: Goodbye, Saxon.

Kai rides away. Thuna looks sad.

The Celts walk home to their village, pondering their traumatic experience at the quarry.

At Col’s village. The families of the slaves are working. Mair looks up.

Mair: Horses!

Arthur, Kai and Llud ride in, followed by the freed slaves. A happy crowd runs out to greet them.



Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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