The W&W Episode That Never Was
[Fade back into the close-up shot of the moat monster swallowing the COLTER STATUE, then gliding back into a dark underwater cave. The unmistakable sound of a belch echoes from its lair.]
[Cut to the sitting room in CASTLE BAALDORF, where KING BAALDORF, the WIZARD TRAQUILL, and SHRIKER are playing cards around a low table, a pile of coins in the center. SHRIKER is slouched low in his seat, looking morose. A profusion of decanters, bottles, and jugs near SHRIKER indicate that he's been passing time with the aid of ample liquid refreshment from BAALDORF's wine cellars.)
BAALDORF: It's your move, Shriker.
SHRIKER [throwing down his cards]: Move? That's a laugh. I'm not moving *anywhere,* am I?
BAALDORF [very wearily]: We've been through all this . . .
SHRIKER: Yeah, yeah, gotta wait for the return of the Golden Boy. I can't believe it. No one in his right mind would put up with this. Take . . . I dunno, take Colter, for example.
BAALDORF: So he's your idea of a man in his right mind? I think I see your problem right there. Are you two friends?
SHRIKER: We share a common philosophy. We don't work for good *or* evil, really, not in the greater existential sense.
BAALDORF: So what do you work for?
SHRIKER [with a canary-eating grin]: Money. [Thinks for a bit, then amends the statement.] And a really good paprika sauce.
BAALDORF [disgusted]: So long as there's a higher purpose.
SHRIKER: Anyway, you wouldn't catch *Colter* sitting around like a statue.
TRAQUILL [privately amused]: You might be surprised . . .
SHRIKER [suspiciously]: What?
TRAQUILL: Er, nothing. Ramblings of an old man. Wizard talk. Access to a vision scope. Pick a reason, I've got plenty.
BAALDORF [excited]: Your vision scope? Have you seen something?
TRAQUILL: I have indeed.
BAALDORF AND SHRIKER: What?!
TRAQUILL: I have seen that Aces beat Queens. Time to pay up, sucker. [Tossing down his winning hand, he rakes in the pile of coinage scattered on the table.] Come to papa.
SHRIKER: You know, Baaldorf, if your troops played at war half as dirty as your wizard plays at cards, you'd be winning right now.
BAALDORF: You think war is a game to be played? How morally bankrupt are you?
SHRIKER: Better morally than fiscally -- although if I keep playing cards with this devious old fart, I may end up that way. [Losing his humor, he takes a moody swig of wine and lurches to his feet, pointing an accusing finger at BAALDORF.] I may also end up very dead. That piddling group of guards out there is *nothing*! An assassin could break in just like *that*! [He snaps his fingers to emphasize his point.]
BAALDORF [very heatedly]: Those are my best guards. [Throwing down his cards, he too rises to his feet and gets in SHRIKER's face.] Nobody's getting through that door!
TRAQUILL: I wouldn't bet on that, Edwin . . .
[As they both turn to look at TRAQUILL, the door bursts open. SHRIKER immediately dives under the table, while BAALDORF ducks in anticipation of an assassin's crossbow bolt. TRAQUILL remains perfectly calm and collected as ARIEL flounces in.]
ARIEL: Daddy! Erik's back!
BAALDORF [hand over his heart]: Thank the gods. Traquill, how'd you know?
TRAQUILL: It's a gift. When my wizard senses are up and running, I can hear people moaning, "Oh, no, it's Ariel!" while she's still halfway down the hall.
BAALDORF: No kidding?
TRAQUILL: Of course, when they're *not* working, I can't hear your wife shouting right in my ear.
BAALDORF: That's a gift, too . . .
TRAQUILL [kicking under the table]: Come on outta there, Shriker. It's just Edwin's daughter.
SHRIKER: You don't know that. It could be a clever disguise. Could be a very effeminate death trooper in a silly hat. [He begins to crawl out from under the table, leering at ARIEL suggestively.] I should frisk her just to make sure.
[Before BAALDORF or ARIEL can react, the door bursts open again, and SHRIKER immediately dives back underneath the table. ERIK shuffles in backwards, the JUSTIN JUG slung in a saddlebag over one shoulder, dragging the unconscious MARKO along. He is clearly beyond exhausted.]
ERIK: Traquill! Needing some help, here!
TRAQUILL: Looks like a major understatement. Okay, get 'em up on the table in front of me.
ERIK [with one of his patented looks]: You've *got* to be kidding.
TRAQUILL: Hey, are you a hero or not?
ERIK: Shriker, get out from under there and give me a hand.
SHRIKER [getting out from under the table]: So I guess the answer would be "not"?
[Grumbling under his breath, ERIK shoves the bottles aside. SHRIKER joins him in heaving MARKO's bulk up onto the tabletop. ERIK deposits the JUSTIN JUG beside him, next to the other bottles.]
TRAQUILL [lifting his monocle]: Sorta hate to bother him. Probably the first break he's had all year, knowing how you are. [As ERIK glares, the monocle glows yellow]: Wakey wakey . . .
MARKO [stirring and mumbling]: Not there, Margaret, you know I'm ticklish . . . no, not a tadmon feather! [With a lurch, he comes fully awake. Gradually, with growing horror, he looks around and sees everybody staring at him.] Please tell me this is still a dream. Or a nightmare, actually.
SHRIKER: Nope, you're wide awake, and we now know a *lot* more about your fantasy life than we ever wanted to. And just for your information, it's Lucille who's got a thing for feathers. [He lifts a jug of wine, ready to pour a gobletful.]
ERIK [snatching it away]: NO! You can't drink that!
SHRIKER: Geez, whatever happened to sharing, Mr. Selfish?
ERIK: That's no ordinary jug of wine. That's Justin! There was this wildmage . . .
[Gasping at the revelation -- except for SHRIKER, who cracks up, and TRAQUILL, who's never overly fazed by anything -- they all leave off staring at MARKO and crowd around to stare at the JUSTIN JUG instead. MARKO takes this opportunity to get up off the table.]
BAALDORF: That jug of wine is your brother?
ARIEL [thoughtfully]: I wonder what he tastes like . . . [As everybody leaves off staring at the JUSTIN JUG and stares at ARIEL instead, she stares back defensively.] Come on, you know you were all thinking the same thing.
ERIK [looking deeply disturbed]: Not really, Ariel, no.
ARIEL [in a very small voice]: Oh.
TRAQUILL: Shape-shifting magic's a bugger, isn't it? Really messes with wizard senses. I can't even feel Justin's life-force in the room. Could be a regular jug of wine, for all I can tell.
[ERIK thinks about this for a moment, then quickly stops SHRIKER from drinking from another, almost identical jug on the table. Examining them carefully, he eventually chooses the second jug.]
ERIK: Whoops. It was the darker blue one.
SHRIKER: We all make mistakes.
ERIK: Just to be safe, don't drink anything yet.
SHRIKER: Wouldn't dream of it.
ERIK: So Traquill, can you help him?
ERIK: No? What do you mean, no?
TRAQUILL: Wasted effort.
MARKO: Now, come on, Uncle Tray, I know the guy sees the world through the bottom of a wine bottle most of the time, but this is a bit extreme.
TRAQUILL: No, dummy, I mean the enchantment's already due to wear off right about . . . now.
[A blue glow envelops the jug in ERIK's hands. He hastily sets it back on the table, where, by means of a cheap dissolve shot, it morphs back into a very stoned-looking JUSTIN.]
ERIK: Justin! Are you all right? Speak to me!
[ERIK hastily helps JUSTIN to his feet, where he wavers a bit, smiles a goofy, happy smile, opens his mouth to speak, and promptly falls over. MARKO grabs him before he hits the ground.]
JUSTIN [very sincerely, to MARKO]: I love you, man.
TRAQUILL: It may take a little while for him to get completely back to normal.
SHRIKER: Actually, that *is* normal, if it was 4:30 in the morning at Dunfirm Tavern.
BAALDORF: Wait a minute. Where's Cassandra?
[ERIK and MARKO both look shamefaced. JUSTIN still looks stoned.]
ERIK: I'm sorry, your majesty. We failed.
[Amidst the chorus of upset "Oh, no's" and "That's awful's" and "What can we do's", CASSANDRA enters unnoticed, a pile of ARIEL's veils in her arms. They have been starched to the consistency of plywood, and now creak to rival DIRK's leather.]
CASSANDRA: My lady. Your veils. [Tapping ARIEL on the shoulder, she hands the crunchy fabric over to the dumbfounded princess.] Was there anything else you needed? There always is.
ARIEL [jumping up and down, screaming and pointing]: Cassandra! It's Cassandra! [As everyone turns in astonishment, she stares down at her sorry veils.] And these are totally screwed up.
MARKO: Cassandra! Are you all right? [He rushes over, obviously intending to embrace her, but her aloof stance stops him in his tracks. Behind him, now completely unsupported, JUSTIN gently topples over, the goofy smile still plastered on his face.]
CASSANDRA [very coolly]: I'm fine.
SHRIKER [throwing up his hands in disgust and stalking away]: That's just great. Terrific. Who needs security? Let's invite the whole damn castle in. Have a party. I'll just be over here in the corner, painting a giant freaking target on my forehead.
ERIK [ignoring him]: How did you manage to escape the clutches of Blackpool?
CASSANDRA [with a small smile]: Prince Geoffrey let me go.
MARKO [taken aback]: Geoffrey?
ARIEL [still looking at her veils]: Maybe she hit her head when she lost her hat, and forgot how much starch to use. [Looking up, she notices the fancy gold circlet on CASSANDRA's head.] Where'd you get that thing, anyway?
CASSANDRA [even more coolly]: It's a gift from Geoffrey. A very *special* gift.
ARIEL [jealousy rearing its ugly head]: Okay, what's with all the Geoffrey this, and Geoffrey that? [She tosses down the veils, hands on her hips in an aggressively confrontational stance.]
MARKO [also in touch with his inner green-eyed monster]: Yeah. I'd sorta like to know, too.
ERIK: Um, Ariel, Marko . . . I think we need to keep in mind that Cassandra has just had a *very* bad experience, and isn't feeling quite herself? We're all grown-ups, and can make allowances, right?
ARIEL AND MARKO [chastened]: Sorry.
CASSANDRA: Actually, it wasn't bad at all. Geoffrey was very, very . . . nice. [She smiles dreamily. This throws both ARIEL and MARKO over the edge.]
ARIEL: Hey, let's get one thing straight here -- Geoffrey may be a loser, but he is only nice to *me*!
MARKO: Get a grip! Geoffrey's not nice to anybody, he's a Blackpool!
CASSANDRA: Will you both just *shut up*! [As everybody falls into a stunned silence, she tosses back her hair flamboyantly. She's obviously enjoying *having* hair.] I got here over an hour ago . . . and *nobody noticed.* I passed Princess Ariel in the hall three times, and she never noticed. Prince Erik walked right by me to come in that door, and he never noticed.
ERIK: Well, I sort of had my hands full with --
CASSANDRA: I'm still *talking*!
JUSTIN [slightly slurred, from the floor]: You tell 'em, darlin'!
CASSANDRA [warming up to her anger]: Nobody ever notices me. But Geoffrey . . . Geoffrey noticed me. He cared about me. Which is more than any of you can say.
MARKO: Now, wait just a minute . . .
CASSANDRA: I wish I could've *stayed* with Geoffrey. I wish he hadn't made me come back!
[They all stare in shock. SHRIKER breaks the silence with mocking laughter.]
SHRIKER: Well, I'll be damned. I never thought Geoffrey had enough guile. Let the record show that Shriker was wrong.
TRAQUILL: I'm betting the record shows that an awful lot.
CASSANDRA: You're General Shriker?
SHRIKER: I am indeed, and you, dear lady, are generally gullible. You've fallen for the oldest trick in the book. You've been seduced. Lothario'ed. Loved and left to sow dissention in the southern ranks. The only things Geoff cares about are winning Dirk's approval and amassing the single largest stockpile of cheddar in the north -- not necessarily in that order.
CASSANDRA [seething with rage]: Geoffrey should've told me just what a horrible man you are.
ERIK [aghast suspicion sinking in]: Did Geoffrey talk to you about Shriker?
[CASSANDRA is advancing on SHRIKER, anger loading her words with an unintended threat.]
CASSANDRA: He asked me to come see you.
SHRIKER [echoing ERIK's horrified realization]: He wanted you to come see *me*?
CASSANDRA: And give you a message.
[CASSANDRA has now drawn near enough to SHRIKER to cause the gem on her gold circlet to glow. ERIK and SHRIKER notice it at the same moment. ERIK leaps forward as SHRIKER tries to duck -- too late, as a green death-ray bathes him in its baleful glow. As ERIK tackles CASSANDRA to the floor and snatches off the circlet, SHRIKER, glowing radioactive green, twitches rigidly, teeth clenched and eyes bulging. TRAQUILL immediately twists in his chair, hitting SHRIKER with the yellow light of his monocle.]
MARKO: Cassandra, what have you done?
TRAQUILL: I can't hold it! Get out! He's gonna blow!
[A horrified CASSANDRA runs from the room. BAALDORF follows, ARIEL in tow, pausing for an instant at the door.]
BAALDORF: May the gods go with you!
[He slams the door shut behind him.]
[Cut to a shot of the door opening again, this time leading into a large hall, revealing people in fine clothes making uncomfortable small talk. A servant comes through the door with wine and hors d'oeuvres, crossing over in front of ERIK and MARKO. They've both changed clothes.]
MARKO: I hate death ceremonies.
ERIK: I know.
MARKO: At least we've got snacks. And Baaldorf's eulogy was short. "That Shriker, what a jerk. Now, who wants a drink?"
ERIK: I think this entire ceremony may set a record for brevity. We really had to scrape to round up mourners. Most are just here for the free food. [Looks around a bit, frowning] Did Justin show up?
MARKO: Are you kidding me?
ERIK: Yeah. [He sighs.] No sign of Dirk yet, though?
MARKO: You really think he'll show?
ERIK: I'd bet my sword on it. [Screams of horror sound from off to one side.] And unless my ears deceive me, he's just arrived.
[Cut to a shot of DIRK and BETHEL sauntering over, arm-in-arm, with an uncomfortable GEOFFREY trailing behind. BETHEL is wearing an even skimpier outfit than usual, comprised of tiny strips of shiny black fabric.]
ERIK [between clenched teeth]: Dirk. How . . . *polite* of you to come.
DIRK: How *polite* of you to invite me.
ERIK: *Politeness* demands it.
MARKO: Sometimes being rude starts looking really good. Don't you think so, Geoffrey?
[GEOFFREY looks away. A servant offers them drinks. ERIK and MARKO accept. DIRK, BETHEL, and GEOFFREY decline.]
ERIK: Not thirsty?
DIRK: No, I just came from the drinks sideboard.
[The surrounding conversation stops. ERIK and MARKO look at one another. Immediately, everybody in the room dumps the contents of their goblets out onto the floor.]
DIRK: Now, that's blatantly insulting. Assuming I'd be gauche enough to poison drinks at a death ceremony.
BETHEL: Dirk has a great appreciation for the finer points of etiquette.
MARKO: It's the big points he has trouble with. Like not killing people.
ERIK: Bethel, I see you dressed for the occasion. More or . . . less.
BETHEL: It was such a terrible death. I wanted to pay my respects.
MARKO: Yeah, you and Shriker were real close, weren't you?
[BETHEL bristles, her cheekbones tightening for the kill. DIRK eyes MARKO appraisingly.]
DIRK: You're in a rare mood, peasant. Feeling a bit . . . lovesick?
ERIK: Drop it, Dirk.
DIRK [with a nasty smile]: I haven't seen Cassandra anywhere about -- is she quite well?
MARKO [barely controlling himself]: Just dandy.
DIRK: Such a relief. I thought perhaps you might have locked her in the dungeon.
ERIK: To punish her when Geoffrey obviously set her up? [He glares at GEOFFREY. GEOFFREY shuffles awkwardly.]
DIRK: Why, no -- to keep her from returning to him.
MARKO: That's a laugh.
GEOFFREY: Yeah, well, we weren't laughing last night. We were *kissing.*
[ERIK's hand tightens on MARKO's arm as his vassal twitches with jealous rage.]
ERIK: Way to go, Geoffrey. Manipulate the emotions of a frightened prisoner -- boy, chalk one up for you, Mr. Smooth.
[GEOFFREY looks briefly guilty, then goes on the defensive.]
GEOFFREY: Look, I really did like her -- and hey, she kissed *me* first!
DIRK: Are you so sure she played no active part in this, Erik? Your faith in her innocence is heartwarming, but her loyalties are allied to her passions -- and both, I fear, are now devoted to my brother.
GEOFFREY: Yeah, what he said!
DIRK: She is, in short, a traitor.
[MARKO launches himself at DIRK and GEOFFREY. ERIK yanks him back while DIRK feigns indignation.]
ERIK: I think you should leave.
DIRK: Tsk, tsk. An act of unkindness at a death ceremony -- and you call yourselves the "good" side.
MARKO: That was not unkind. Lemme show you unkind. I'll unkind you from here to next Tuesday.
ERIK [barely restraining him]: I think you should leave *now.*
DIRK: All in good time -- once I obtain what I came for. Bethel?
[He nods at the witch. She closes her eyes and concentrates, her monocle glowing purple for a second or two. Opening her eyes, she smiles.]
BETHEL: Shriker's definitely gone. No sign of his life-force anywhere. Not in this castle, not on this continent.
GEOFFREY [fist punching the air in triumph]: Yesss!
DIRK: And *that* is what I came for. I hate to leave before the burial, but -- oh, that's right, there won't *be* one. [His ensuing smirk is a masterpiece of smirkdom.] Send the cleaning bill to me, and we'll call it even.
ERIK [skeptical]: You'd pay it?
DIRK: No, but it's only *polite* to offer. Tell Cassandra that the Red Room is always ready for her . . . [He winks at MARKO.] . . . and that Geoffrey and I said . . . bye.
[As DIRK, BETHEL, and GEOFFREY walk away, the camera tracks them, allowing us to hear their murmured voices.]
DIRK: Precisely how did you come to know Shriker's "life force" so . . . intimately?
BETHEL: Oh, Dirk. You're so sexy when you're jealous.
GEOFFREY: Oh, brother.
[They leave. MARKO turns to ERIK.]
MARKO: What's the penalty for an act of unkindness at a death ceremony, anyway?
ERIK: The wrath of all your ancestors.
MARKO [thinking about it]: Oh, yeah, it'd be worth it.
[He starts after DIRK and GEOFFREY. ERIK restrains him again, but his tone is kinder.]
ERIK: Still no sign of Cassandra?
MARKO: No one's seen her all day.
ERIK: She hasn't gone back to Karteia. I'm sure of it.
MARKO: Wish *I* was.
ERIK: She's no killer. You know as well as I do that she must've been duped into wearing that magic gem.
MARKO [bitterly]: You mean Geoffrey's "special" gift? Even if she was duped, it's *how* she was duped that worries me. Looks like she ditched us all for Geoffrey in a heartbeat.
ERIK: It's not what it sounds like. It can't be. Dirk was right about one thing, though.
MARKO: What's that?
ERIK [a steely glint in his eye]: There *won't* be a burial today.
[MARKO and ERIK exchange conspiratorial grins.]
[Cut to the sitting room. TRAQUILL is seated behind the table, waiting expectantly. ERIK, MARKO, and BAALDORF enter, closing and locking the door behind them.]
ERIK: Dirk's come and gone. All clear.
TRAQUILL: You think I don't know that? I can smell Bethel a mile away.
BAALDORF: Wizard senses?
TRAQUILL: No, she wears the most god-awful strong perfume. [He rubs his hands together gleefully.] All righty then, time to get with the abra-cadabra. I ain't getting any younger.
[He raises the monocle and irradiates one of the wine jugs before him with its amber glow. In another cheap morphing effect, SHRIKER appears. He does not look happy.]
TRAQUILL: It worked! I'd say I earned my nap today.
SHRIKER: Don't *ever* do that to me again.
BAALDORF: Take it easy, Shriker. Turning you into something else was the only way Traquill could break Vector's spell. He saved your life. In more ways than one.
SHRIKER: What do you mean?
ERIK: Dirk thinks you're dead. So does Bethel, thanks to the lack of life force in a wine jug.
MARKO: And thanks to the death ceremony we just staged, so does the greater population of Aperans.
SHRIKER: Wow. My own death ceremony. There's a sobering thought. Did anyone say anything nice about me?
MARKO, ERIK, BAALDORF, AND TRAQUILL: No.
SHRIKER [disappointed]: Oh. [With effort, he manages to sit up.] Still, I gotta hand it to you. Faking my death was a stroke of pure genius. Was that your idea, Golden Boy?
ERIK [uncomfortably]: Well, actually . . .
MARKO: It was Justin's.
SHRIKER: But he was blotto!
MARKO: Justin does some of his best thinking when he's blotto.
SHRIKER: Go figure. [Turning to BAALDORF, he flashes his most ingratiating grin.] So, Golden Boy's here, Dirk thinks I'm dead, guess there's nothing keeping me from a sunny future on the beautiful Haven Islands.
ERIK: Only one thing. [He hands SHRIKER a quill and a stack of parchment.] How fast you can write out every military secret Dirk's got.
MARKO: And embarrassing personal secrets too, if you know any we don't.
[His back to the wall, SHRIKER automatically goes into Haggling Mode.]
SHRIKER: You'll get me first-class accommodations in the Havens, right?
ERIK: Only the best.
[SHRIKER picks up the quill, then pauses.]
SHRIKER: With a personal cook?
ERIK [grudgingly]: All right, a personal cook.
SHRIKER: And a gambling allowance?
ERIK: Get writing!
[Grumbling, SHRIKER complies, then pauses again.]
SHRIKER: What about that girl who tried to kill me? You had her executed, right?
[MARKO and ERIK look at one another.]
ERIK: Don't worry about Cassandra. She's not a threat.
MARKO [sotto voce]: We hope.
[Cut to the darkened street. A cloaked figure carrying a pack is scurrying along. A stray beam of light from a window falls upon her face for a moment, revealing it to be CASSANDRA. Shrinking back into the darkness, she keeps moving. Suddenly, a commotion erupts from the house ahead.]
FATHER'S VOICE: You! Greystone, I told you to stay away from my daughter!
JUSTIN'S VOICE: Now, that's right, sir, those were your very words. Trouble is, your daughter doesn't seem to feel the same way about the situation --
[The door bangs open, spilling forth a rectangle of golden light, and a
bikini-brief-clad JUSTIN is ejected out into the street. His shirt, boots,
and sword follow, all hurled by the unseen, angry FATHER. We are allowed
one glorious, unspoiled shot of JUSTIN's shirtless -- nay, near-naked --
manliness, spotlighted by the open door. Then, for comic
FATHER'S VOICE: I'm warning you, I'll be lodging a complaint with King Richard!
[With an easygoing grin, JUSTIN removes the pants from his head and slips them on.]
JUSTIN: He's got a nice pre-printed form you might wanna use . . . all ya gotta do is fill in the blanks, and he'll file it in the pile with the rest of 'em.
FEMALE VOICE: Goodnight, Justin!
JUSTIN: Sleep tight, darlin'. Don't let those bedbugs bite. That's my job.
[The FEMALE VOICE giggles. The door slams shut. As JUSTIN pulls on his boots, humming a bar of what sounds suspiciously like the "I'm Too Sexy for My Shirt" song, CASSANDRA turns to retreat the other way, but accidentally kicks a loose stone. The sound alerts JUSTIN, who immediately stands upright, sword in hand, his swashbuckler pose the antithesis of his usual playfulness.]
JUSTIN: Who's there? [As he takes a few cautious steps forward, CASSANDRA scrambles backwards, only making more noise in the process.] Ya never find anybody sneakin' around at this hour of the night who's up to any good . . . I mean, look at me. I'm a prime example. [As he speaks, he has been moving forward, past the spot where CASSANDRA is cowering. Abruptly, he spins, grabs, and yanks, hauling her out into the light with his sword at the ready. In the process, the hood of her cloak falls back, revealing her face.] Cassandra! [Exhaling heavily, he lowers his sword.] Why didn't you answer me?
[CASSANDRA just squeaks, still overwhelmed by sword-terror. Shaking his head, he lets her go. When she turns to run, he catches her by the arm and pulls her back.]
CASSANDRA: Let me go! Please!
JUSTIN: Not unless you talk to me for a minute. Deal?
CASSANDRA [reluctantly]: All right.
JUSTIN: That's more like it, darlin'. [He sits down comfortably on the stoop of the house he's just been thrown out of, pulling her down to join him.] You won't regret it. I'm good company. Ask anyone -- except Erik, of course. And that gal's father. [He jerks his head to indicate the house behind them.]
CASSANDRA: He's angry at you?
JUSTIN [shrugging philosophically]: Coulda been worse. He coulda come home five minutes earlier. Woulda taken some fast talkin' to explain the handcuffs.
[CASSANDRA wisely refrains from comment. Digging in his pocket, he retrieves a small metal flask, sips, and then offers it to her. Shivering in the night air, she accepts.]
JUSTIN: Keep it. I've got plenty, and by the looks of it, you're plannin' a long trip. [He nods at the pack she's carrying.]
CASSANDRA [defensively]: Maybe.
JUSTIN: Wanna tell me where?
JUSTIN [grinning]: You've probably heard by now that I don't take no for an answer very easily. As an answer to anything. [His charm falls flat. Sighing, he tries another tack.] So you're going to Karteia, back to Geoffrey?
CASSANDRA [indignantly]: What? Of course not! After what he did to me? I thought he . . . [Swallowing hard, she takes a long swig from the flask.] I'm just running away, anywhere I can get a handmaiden job without references. Never mind what I thought about Geoffrey. You all laughed at me enough already.
JUSTIN: No one was laughin.' Well, 'cept for Shriker, but he's an all-around rotten guy.
CASSANDRA: Shriker! [Her eyes well with tears.] I killed him. I can't believe I killed someone! Geoffrey said they were friends, and he just wanted me to say hello-oo-o-o . . . [Her last word dissolves into hiccupping sobs.]
JUSTIN: Aw, come on, now, darlin', don't cry. C'mere. Tell Justin all about it.
[He holds her close and pats her on the back as she snivels. Since he is still bare-chested, the JUSTIN fans out there are no doubt seething with jealousy.]
CASSANDRA: Am I going to the dungeon?
JUSTIN: Well, I seriously doubt that. First off, I don't think you had any idea what that jewel would do. And second -- now, this is a big secret, you understand . . . [He whispers in her ear.] Shriker's not dead.
CASSANDRA: What?! But, but there was a death ceremony! I heard people talking about it!
JUSTIN: Big fake. Threw Dirk off the scent.
CASSANDRA [helplessly]: I don't understand.
JUSTIN: That makes two of us. But I think we're confused about different parts. If we just put our heads together over another drink, I think we're sharp enough to figure anything out. 'Cept why Erik wears that stupid-looking gold thing all the time. I think that's just one of the mysteries of life.
[He smiles reassuringly as he takes back the flask, swallows, and hands it back. She finally smiles in return.]
CASSANDRA: I'm sorry I said you didn't care. I just -- I really thought you all would try to rescue me, or at least Marko might. And then when he didn't -- I mean, I should never have expected . . . not expected, really, more like hoped, but . . . How could I be so stupid? Like I'd be worth that much trouble. And then when Geoffrey let me go, I thought -- gods, I'm an idiot. I'm so sorry.
[JUSTIN has been looking increasingly alarmed during this self-abnegating apology.]
JUSTIN: Wait a minute. We *did* try to rescue you. Hell, Marko practically ran over Erik to get to you.
CASSANDRA: It's okay. You don't have to lie to me. Vector showed me in the vision scope, when Marko said they didn't have time. [Bitterness seeps back into her tone.] And Princess Ariel wanted me to starch her veils. I starched 'em, all right.
[A trace of rebellious satisfaction lingers there. JUSTIN winces as the truth finally hits home.]
JUSTIN: Oh, darlin' . . . I think you and me need to see a wizard of our own. Vector only gave you half the story.
[CUT to ARIEL, ERIK, MARKO, and BAALDORF gathered around the sitting-room table. ERIK is studying page after page of SHRIKER's documents, as are MARKO and BAALDORF. Even ARIEL is reading raptly.]
ERIK: Look at this! *This* is why their crossbows always out-shot us. I gotta hand it to Shriker, he's a good strategist.
MARKO: And a great cook. This recipe for paprika sauce really does look mouth-watering. [ERIK stares in disapproval.] What? I figured, so long as the guy was writing, why not have him put his kolnas where his mouth is? You know, since he kept bragging about that sauce . . . okay, I'll be quiet.
ARIEL: I like this one. It tells all about how he got together with Bethel one night and --
[BAALDORF snatches it out of her hands.]
BAALDORF: Unless the conclusion to that sentence is "they made paprika sauce," I don't want to hear it.
ERIK: Your majesty, I have to get this information to Morris Field right away.
BAALDORF: I'll have preparations made for you to leave at first light.
MARKO: So much for sleeping late.
BAALDORF: Will Justin be going with you?
ERIK [laughing]: You won't be seeing Justin anywhere when there's a mission brewing. You can bet on it.
JUSTIN [leaning against the open door]: It's a good thing you're not a bettin' man, little brother.
JUSTIN: The one and only.
BAALDORF [dryly]: Fathers everywhere give daily thanks for that singularity. [He eyes the door suspiciously.] I could've sworn that was locked.
JUSTIN: It was. I picked it in about 20 seconds flat. Shriker was right, your security *is* lousy.
BAALDORF: You're a man of many talents, Justin.
JUSTIN: Why, thank you.
BAALDORF: Most of them illegal or immoral.
ERIK: What are you doing here?
JUSTIN: Wanted to have a little talk with you about Cassandra.
BAALDORF [half-rising from his chair]: What, is she here?
JUSTIN [holding up one palm]: Now, just settle down, everybody. Sit down. We just paid a little visit to Traquill, and his vision scope. Now she's here, and she's fine, and she's no threat to anyone, or anything. Even the rest of Ariel's veils.
MARKO: You sure about that?
JUSTIN: I'm sure. Cassandra's no traitor. She had good reason to think we were, though.
ERIK: What are you talking about?
JUSTIN: Vector was kind enough to show her bits of us talkin' in the vision scope. Talkin' about not rescuing her, bein' how busy we all were, and how she was only good for starchin' veils.
ERIK: Oh, gods.
JUSTIN: So when Geoffrey made all nice to her . . . [He shrugs.] She didn't know the headband was anything but a gift. Geoffrey told her Shriker was a friend, and asked her to drop by and chat awhile. None of this was her fault.
MARKO: Except the part where she thought we'd betrayed her.
JUSTIN: Wanna run that by me again?
MARKO: Come on. We're her friends, right here. She believed something *Vector* showed her, over what she knew about us? She rushed right into Geoffrey's arms?
JUSTIN: Kinda like you believed she might be a killer and a traitor, after everything you knew about her?
MARKO: That's different.
JUSTIN: Wanna tell me how? And make sure you explain it real slow, since I must be too dumb to understand. If it looks like a tadmon and squawks like a tadmon, then I say break out the tadmon gravy, you know what I'm sayin'?
MARKO: Look, Justin, I --
JUSTIN: And how could she have fallen for Geoffrey, when you've been so open all along about how nuts you are about her? Right? Tellin' her all the things you feel? Or maybe you've been talkin' to your *horse* more often than you talk to her? Or moonin' around after Margaret and Lucille, who won't give you the time of day?
[MARKO swallows hard. Justin crosses over and leans in close.]
JUSTIN: She's in her room. If you got an ounce of sense, get up there and -- aw, hell, if I gotta tell you what to do, then there's no hope for ya.
[With a determined set to his chin, MARKO gets up and marches to the door.]
[JUSTIN nods as MARKO exits. ERIK halts ARIEL as she attempts to follow.]
ERIK: I think he wants to be alone right now.
ARIEL: But I want to apologize to Cassandra. About the whole veil-starching thing.
ERIK: That's very nice, but I think it'll wait.
ARIEL: And I need to give her a new hat.
JUSTIN: No hurry. It's about time she let her hair down.
ARIEL: And I want to find out if, you know, with Geoffrey, if there was any leather involved --
BAALDORF: That can definitely wait. Forever, if possible.
[BAALDORF and ERIK regard JUSTIN as if they've never seen him before. He grows uncomfortable under this scrutiny.]
ERIK: You know, you give pretty sound romantic advice, for someone whose personal life is so . . . so . . .
ERIK: That too.
JUSTIN: You know the old sayin', do as I say, not as I do. Marko couldn't do as I do anyway. Probably sprain somethin'.
ERIK: Ah. [discreet pause.] Is that what happened last Saturday with the Winsl--
JUSTIN: Drop it.
ERIK [with a broad grin]: Consider it dropped. [Suddenly, his grin fades.] Oh, no! Colter! We forgot Colter!
JUSTIN: Not to worry, little brother. That wildmage magic has to have worn off by now.
ERIK: But we should go back and help! There's a ton of death troopers around there!
JUSTIN: Why? The death troopers deserve whatever Colter does to 'em.
ERIK: You really think Colter can handle anything anybody throws at him, don't you?
JUSTIN: It's one of the three certainties in life.
ERIK: What are the other two?
JUSTIN: They involve the Winslows, and I don't think you want me sayin' em in front of Ariel.
ERIK: Still, I feel like there's something more I should be doing. Smack Geoffrey around, for one.
JUSTIN: I got a feelin' Dirk masterminded this, not Geoffrey. If only 'cause the words "mastermind" and "Geoffrey" don't belong in the same language, let alone the same sentence. [He sprawls out comfortably in MARKO's chair, propping up his boots on the table.] Geoffrey's a lousy liar. For what it's worth, he probably really liked her. In a way.
JUSTIN [placatingly]: Although not as much as he likes you, Ariel.
ERIK: How about smacking Dirk around, then?
JUSTIN: Just relax, little brother. They'll both get theirs one of these days.
[Cut to a shot of a frightened Karteian PEASANT being harassed by DIRK and GEOFFREY and a brace of DEATH TROOPERS, their swords drawn, at the edge of the moat. The PEASANT has COLTER's horse by the reins.]
DIRK: You honestly expect us to believe you just "found" this fine horse?
GEOFFREY: My brother brands horse thieves with a red-hot horseshoe. Brands 'em right on the --
PEASANT [panicked]: Okay! No need to draw me a picture. [Sweating profusely] I know it sounds unlikely, but I really did --
TROOPER [interrupting, his nose wrinkling]: Something smells fishy here.
PEASANT: No, I swear! Look, just *take* the horse, it matches your outfits --
TROOPER [sniffing the air]: No, I mean literally. Like sushi.
[A squelch alerts everyone to turn and behold the seaweed-festooned COLTER. He is not a happy man.]
COLTER [removing a miraculously dry and burning cigar from between his teeth]: Don't touch the horse.
[The PEASANT immediately drops the reins and flees. The DEATH TROOPERS are too perplexed by this new threat to pursue him. DIRK appears uncertain underneath his usual menace. GEOFFREY is downright confused.]
DIRK: You dare to issue a command to *me*?
GEOFFREY: You were a statue! We dropped you in the moat!
COLTER: I swim. [There is a heart-stopping pause as he blows a contemplative smoke ring.] Can you?
[COLTER smiles. DIRK and GEOFFREY look uneasily at one another. Fade to black. The sound of assorted explosions, screams, and hearty splashes fill the black space entertainingly.
Fade back into CASSANDRA's room, where she is sitting dejectedly on her narrow bed. MARKO, a bouquet of roses in hand, knocks on the open door.]
MARKO [sneezing]: May I come in?
CASSANDRA [rising from the bed]: Marko! Of, of course you can come in.
MARKO [sneezing again]: Thanks. [He sneezes even more violently.] Um, these are for you . . . since, you know, you've had a rough day.
MARKO [sneezes helplessly]: Please take them. Put them someplace far away.
CASSANDRA: Um . . . [She takes them hesitantly, then sneezes even harder than MARKO.]
MARKO: Don't tell me. You're --
CASSANDRA: -- allergic, too. [She smiles, then sneezes.] But it was awfully nice of you.
MARKO: Live and learn. Next time, I'll just bring daisies.
[He chucks the bouquet out the window, then stands uncertainly next to her.]
CASSANDRA: Next time?
MARKO: I mean, assuming you wouldn't mind if I dropped by sometimes. You know, just to see how things are going.
CASSANDRA: Of course I wouldn't mind! [She takes a deep breath] I mean, if you wanted to, after I made such a fool of myself.
MARKO: You didn't make a fool of yourself. I think we all needed to hear the things you said.
CASSANDRA: But still . . . thinking Geoffrey liked me. He said my hair was pretty, and I believed him. How dumb is that?
MARKO: Not so dumb. You're a . . . you're a pretty girl. [As she blushes, he plunges forward.] Especially with your hair loose like that. [He reaches out to touch it. The gesture is tentative, but she draws closer.] I bet he really meant what he said. Even though he's a jerk. [He takes a deep breath.] Cassandra, there's something I want to say to you.
CASSANDRA [eagerly]: Yes?
MARKO: While you were gone, I realized something.
CASSANDRA [even more eagerly]: Yes?
MARKO: I . . . I know I'm not as good-looking as Geoffrey, but . . . what I'm trying to say is . . . oh, the heck with it!
[Abandoning all attempts at verbal communication, MARKO grabs CASSANDRA and kisses her passionately. She kisses him passionately right back. Finally, they come up for air.]
MARKO: Do you like to dance?
CASSANDRA: Oh, I love to dance!
MARKO: There's this party at Dunfirm Tavern next Saturday --
CASSANDRA [looking aghast]: Oh gods! I have to go, I just remembered something.
[She turns to run. MARKO restrains her.]
MARKO: Hey, wait! If you don't like Dunfirm Tavern, just say so.
CASSANDRA: No! No, it's not that! I just remembered, when I was starching Ariel's veils . . . I was really angry, and I had all that extra starch, and . . . well, I've got to get to her lemon hair rinse now before she does.
[ARIEL's screech of horror echoes up into the room.]
MARKO: Too late.
CASSANDRA [shrugging]: So what. Her hair'll have extra body. *Lots* of extra body.
[They grin and kiss again, as the screen fades to a graphic-novel sketch of their embrace, and TRAITOR'S PASS arrives at . . . ]
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