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Episode 1.5: People of the Plough

Writers: Bob Baker and Dave Martin


OPENING SCENE


Kai is riding beside a river, when he sees an isolated homestead beside a partly-ploughed field. He approaches, tethers his horse, and bursts into one of the huts. A hooded figure comes up behind him, and taps him on the shoulder with an axe. Kai lowers his own weapon.

Kai: I saw your plough. I too am a Saxon.

He turns and punches the hooded figure. They briefly fight, and Kai knocks his opponent unconscious. He turns them over, and finds that he has been fighting a beautiful blonde woman.

[OPENING CREDITS]


PART 1


Kai stands outside the hut.

Kai: I am sorry!

The woman, Freya is angrily sweeping the floor and kicking rubbish out of the hut.

Kai: Can I not do something to help?

Freya: No.

She continues sweeping.

Kai: To make amends … anything –

Freya gives him an assessing look.



Kai has a yoke over his shoulders, and is pulling a plough; Freya is holding the handle, pushing from the back.


Kai: Your husband … where is he, then?

Freya: He went hunting. Should have been back.

Kai: So you’re alone?

Freya: Clearly … until he comes back.

Kai: Why don’t you go back to your own people?

Freya: Why don’t you?

Kai: I’m a wanderer. What’s his name, your husband?

Freya: Rulf.

Kai sees a grave, marked with a cross, at the edge of the field.

Kai: You sure he went hunting?

Freya: Rulf dug that grave. He buried his brother there.

She jerks the traces. Kai grins, and carries on ploughing.



Later in the day. A lot more of the field has been ploughed. Kai is now stripped to the waist, his shirt draped around his neck. He stops to rest.


Freya: Since his brother was killed, he’s not raised his axe, save for felling trees. That’s why we’re here. Our own people turned us out because Rulf refused to fight.

Freya jerks the rope. Kai moves off.

Kai: How long since Rulf left you?

Freya: A season.

They reach the end of a row. Kai stops, exhausted. Freya takes the yoke from Kai’s shoulders.

Freya: Come on, Ox. Back to the stall.



At the dinner table. Freya is using her fingers to eat from a bowl. Kai spears a chunk of meat from the stew-pot with his knife, and eats off the blade.

Freya: Celt.

Kai looks startled.

Freya: You eat like a Celt.

Kai laughs, picks up a beaker, and drinks, dribbling ale down his chin.

Freya: But you drink like a Saxon.

Kai: And work like an ox.

Their eyes meet. Kai puts a hand over Freya’s. She withdraws it, gets up and walks away from the table. Kai follows and stands behind her, with his hands on her waist.

Freya: Do you think, because Rulf is away, I will succumb to you so easily?

Kai: [smiling] Yes.

Freya: You’ve ploughed the field for me, now you expect to get paid.

Kai: [grinning] Yes.

Kai takes Freya’s chin in his hand and kisses her; she breaks off the kiss, pushing against him.

Kai: You’re afraid.

She walks away.

Freya: I’m afraid that the Celts have killed him.

She goes outside; Kai sits down, and heaves a sigh.



Freya collects a bucket of water from the river, and sets it on a table. Then she loosens and arranges her hair, while looking at her reflection. She goes back inside, and finds Kai asleep, with his head on the table.



Next morning, Freya takes some bread from where it is heating on an open griddle, and brings it to Kai, along with a pitcher. She kneels beside him, and gives him a gentle shake, waking him.


Freya: Hey! Ox!

Kai looks around, momentarily confused, then smiles and sits up.

Kai: All that ploughing tired me. But this morning, I feel refreshed.

Freya: Well, first you must eat and drink.

Kai: And then?

Freya: And then, when you’ve done the harrowing, we could start sowing.

Kai: [Kai’s face falls] Harrowing?

Freya: Oh, it’s far lighter than the plough. We have seed corn. I’ll show you.

She gets up and goes out. Kai flops back on the bed with a groan.



Freya is contemplatively sorting seed corn outside. Kai comes out of the hut, wearing his studded tunic once again. Freya looks disappointed.


Kai: I cannot help you any more. I must move on.

Freya turns away, almost in tears.

Kai: I’ve no choice. I’m no farmer, but – I’d like to stay.

He turns Freya to face him.

Kai: I want to protect you. God’s teeth, you …

He walks away.

Kai: There’s something I have to do. When it’s done, I –

Freya comes towards him.

Freya: Why must you go?

Kai: Freya, you know of me. I’m the Saxon who rides with Arthur.

Freya: Liar!

Kai: No. I’m riding to fetch arms for him now.

Freya: Arms to kill Saxons? Traitor!

She slaps his face. He turns slowly away, and leaves.



In Mordant the Armourer’s village. Mordant and his second-in-command, Kyn, examine some swords. Kai arrives at the entrance to the palisade. He and his horse are brought in.


Kai: Greetings.

Mordant picks up a sword, and inspects it.

Mordant: The same.

Kai takes the sword from it and inspects it, in his turn.

Kai: A fair piece of work.

Mordant: Fair? [he takes the sword] You won’t find a better-forged blade, if you travel this land from now till the snows come.

Kai: Then you are the best man to supply our needs. Swords.

Mordant: I sell swords, for gold.

Kai: Arthur is forging an army, but not for gold.

Kai and Mordant walk together through the village.

Mordant: And Arthur … how’s Arthur?

Kai: He is well.

They pass a big cage, hanging over a fire. Kai points at it.

Kai: For a bear?

Mordant: A Saxon.

Kai: A Saxon? Why would you cage him?

Mordant: I would roast him.

They look at a lot more swords, lying on a table.

Kai: Good. But if we have no gold …

Mordant: Then you have no arms.

Kai: The foundry can be taken.

Mordant: But can it be worked? Can you smelt, cast, forge, temper?



At dinner, in Mordant’s longhouse. Kai sits at the table with Mordant, Kyn, and some of Mordant’s men.

Kai: There’s a Saxon spy you would roast in that cage of yours?

Mordant: What else? A man of peace. He claims he was turned out by his own people, because he would not fight.

Kai chuckles.

Kyn: You are of his blood, are you not?

Mordant: Your powers of observation, Kyn, are incredible.

Kai: Saxon blood, but of Celt persuasion. Why not put me in there with him?

Mordant: In the cage? To roast? A pleasure.

Kai: In the hut where you hold him prisoner.

Mordant: What for? To comfort your Saxon brother, perhaps? Prepare him for his ordeal?

Kai: He could have valuable information. The position of these Saxon encampments that we know are threatening your territory.

Mordant: Could be of use to me.



In Mordant’s prison hut. Kai and Rulf are sitting together.

Kai: Are you saying that you don’t want to escape?

Kai gets to his feet.

Rulf: I am saying, I will not fight and kill.

Kai: Ach, I do not understand you.

Rulf: Nor have you made the effort to. I dug his grave with my own hands. Then I looked at my brother for the last time. The scar from the axe, still a line of dry, red blood across his chest.

Kai sits down again.

Kai: We’ve all lost someone we loved in battle. It hurts, for a while.

Rulf: He did not die in battle. He – he died of a – a blind rage that overcame me. We quarrelled. We fought. And suddenly he was lying at my feet, the blooded axe still in my grasp. Never again can I raise my hand in anger against another man.

Kai sighs.

Kai: I must escape. Do you understand? I must. Would you not help someone of your own blood?

Rulf: I will help, if I can.

Kai goes to the door.

Kai: Guard!

The guard comes over.

Kai: That man has a dagger concealed in his tunic.

Two guards come in, one after the other; Kai fights, and defeats them both.

Kai: [to Rulf] Come!

Kai drags Rulf out of the hut, after him. They try to sneak through the village, but they are spotted. Kai fights, and gets knocked out with a log. Mordant and Kyn arrive.

Mordant: So. Two for the cage. One a Saxon spy, the other a traitor to the Celts. Instead of swords, we’ll send Arthur a different kind of present.

[INTERVAL]


PART 2


The next day, in an open area of Mordant’s village. The villagers have constructed a makeshift ring using rope, with rags and skins hanging from it. Kai and Rulf stand in the ring, armed with swords and shields.

Mordant: So. You will fight. Let no man here say we are not civilised. You are gladiators, and will provide our sport. Whichever survives, will work for me, in chains, at the forge fire. You will not fight? The cage. [He points to it] Take your positions at four paces.

Kai backs away from Rulf and prepares to fight.

Mordant: [aside to Kyn] I’ll burn the victor either way. [to Kai and Rulf] Now – when I drop my sword.

Mordant lowers his sword. Rulf just stands there, and lowers his sword. Kai approaches, and launches a token attack.

Kai: God’s breath, Man, fight!

Rulf: Never.

Kai: Do you want to make a murderer of me?

Rulf: Strike ‘twixt jaw and shoulder – ’tis the gentlest.

Mordant: The gentlest? What’s he talking about? [he stands up] Fight, you peasant, fight! Before God I’ll roast you alive!

Rulf drops his shield.

Mordant: This is nothing! Put him in the cage.

Kai: No, wait! I understand this man. You will have your sport. Just give me time.

Mordant takes his seat again. Kai hits Rulf with the flat of his sword. Rulf falls to his knees; Kai drops his sword and shield, and pulls Rulf to his feet. Bystanders variously call out, “Get up!” “Fight!” etc.

Kai: Fight, while you’ve still got a chance!

Kai has Rulf by the throat.

Kai: I shall kill you. But before Mordant deals with me, I shall tell him where your homestead is. And your wife, Freya.

Rulf: What was –

Kai: Freya.

Rulf: What was that? What do you know of her?

Kai: Oh, I know Freya very well. No one could know her better.

Rulf throws Kai over his back. The two of them take up swords and shields. Rulf attacks. The crowd yells encouragements.

Kai: [whispers] Easy, you dolt!

They continue fighting, with Rulf on the attack.

Rulf: Before God, no man touches my wife!

The fight continues. Kai knocks Rulf – and then one of the guards – over, breaks through the rope, and escapes.

Mordant: [shouts] Get him!

Rulf gets up and runs after Kai, followed by more of Mordant’s men. Kai runs to the horses, followed by Rulf. Kai rides off; Rulf leaps on another horse,and gives chase. Mordant’s men follow on foot, armed with spears.

Mordant: God’s blood!



Rulf rides after Kai; the rest of their pursuers are nowhere in sight. Kai brings his horse to a halt, letting Rulf catch up.

Kai: It’ll take them a day or two to find their horses.

Rulf attacks Kai, knocking him off his horse, dismounts, and draws his sword.

Rulf: We are not yet finished!

Rulf attacks, but Kai surrenders, holding out the hilt of his sword.

Kai: Don’t you understand? I had to make you fight. God defend me, I didn’t touch her.

Kai throws his sword away.

Rulf: Liar! As God is my witness, you shall die. Fight!

Kai: No, I will not fight. I have no quarrel with you.

Rulf: Then you will have me kill you in cold blood.

Rulf roars in fury and raises his sword. Kai just stands there. Rulf stops, and lowers, and then drops his sword.



Back at Freya and Rulf’s homestead, Freya is sorting seed corn when she hears a horse neigh. She hides, until she sees who it is, then comes out as Rulf and Kai dismount, and approaches them.


Rulf: You know this man?

Freya: Yes.

Rulf: You may thank him for my life.

Rulf walks away.

Freya: I do thank him.

Rulf turns back.

Rulf: He made me fight.

Freya: I thank him for that, too.

Rulf: Do you have anything else to … [he stands behind Kai] thank him for?

Freya: I don’t think so.



Later, Freya and Rulf are walking through the ploughed field, sowing seeds. Kai walks beside them.

Kai: Do you think you can live in our time, without defending your wife and your homestead?

Rulf shakes his head, uncertain.

Kai: Huh. You would depend on others to defend you?

Rulf: There are people of war, and people of the plough.

Kai: And if you had children? Would you plough, whilst their lives were in danger?

Rulf: I would want to be a man who never again took up a sword – never again struck a deadly blow and took away a life given by God. But I have a weakness inside me that would make me sin – that troublesome temper that will flare up, and however hard I pray, it sometimes gets the better of me.

Kai: I must leave you now.

He clasps hands with Rulf.

Rulf: Go safely.

Kai goes to Freya and puts his hands over hers.

Kai: Look after this fool of yours.

Kai walks towards his horse.

Rulf: If you ever need my help – you will come and seek me out?

Kai turns and grins.

Kai: That troublesome temper of yours that makes you sin. Could it be roused for a little honest thievery?

Rulf smiles.



It is night. Rulf approaches Mordant’s village. A sentry comes out and Kai, who has been hiding next to the palisade, hits him over the head. Kai and Rulf run into the village, steal as many swords as they can carry, then return to their horses.


Kai: [to his horse] Easy now, easy. Easy my darling, come here.

They load the swords onto their horses.

Kai: [to Rulf] Wait for me.

He starts to head back into the village.

Rulf: We’ve got as many arms as we can carry.

Kai: I haven’t properly thanked the man who forged them for us.



Morning in Mordant’s village. Kyn comes out of the longhouse and runs to the cage, where he finds Mordant held captive, trussed up, gagged and enraged. Kyn laughs. Mordant makes sounds of fury.



Back in Arthur’s village. Arthur walks along a row of swords laid out on the grass, then looks up at Kai, and smiles.


Arthur: Their workmanship is magnificent. [He picks up a sword, and manipulates it] This sword is the work of a craftsman. And they’re a gift, you say?

Kai: Mordant’s a changed man. You might even say, ‘reformed.’

Arthur: Yet he wanted no gold?

Kai: Not an ounce would he take.

Arthur launches a mock-attack; Kai responds.

Arthur: Such a tone comes only from the best-tempered metal.

Arthur puts that sword down, and picks up another.

Arthur: I asked you to strike a good bargain, but I never dreamed …

Kai launches a mock-attack; Arthur responds, and ends up looking Kai straight in the eye.

Arthur: He wanted nothing else as payment? No favours?

Kai shakes his head.

Arthur: His generosity moves me.

Arthur hands his sword to Kai and walks away.

Arthur: In two days, I’m riding out near to his territory. I will call in Mordant’s camp, and thank him personally.

Kai weighs the two swords in his hands.

Kai: Arthur?

Arthur turns round.

Kai: Where would you like to be buried?

[ROLL THE CREDITS]

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August 2015

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