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EXT. WALLED YARD - DAY
We see a large enclosed yard. The ground is sandy and flat, and the wall is approximately ten feet high all the way around, built of thick gray stone. All across the yard, soldiers are paired off, sparring with various weapons - swords, staves, javelins, battleaxes, and maces.
Mid-yard against one side of the wall is a tall wooden observation platform with steps up on each side and a bell hanging from a rope on a pole. Standing atop the platform are several men dressed in armor that is more ornamental than that worn by the soldiers on the ground. They appear to be leaders.
At one end of the yard is a heavy wooden gate. It opens and Xena walks in, followed by Lancelot. Lancelot does not appear to be happy, and Xena has a practiced impassive expression on her face as her eyes flick around, taking in the scene before her.
King Uther and Arthur came up
with this practice formation.
Xena stops beside the wall, leaning against it in a casual stance. Lancelot stops as well, but stands away from the wall in a more rigid pose, just out of Xena's reach. Eye contact and facial expressions tell us these two have not exactly made nice with each other.
Tell me about it.
What's the drill here?
The men start out in groups of eight, with
four pairs of men sparring. The winners
of those rounds then pair up into two pairs,
and then the winners of that round face
off to determine a winner for that group.
Let me guess, then they form groups of
eight out of all the winners, and start over.
They keep it up until there is one winner
overall. Winner gets some special privilege.
Why, yes, as a matter of fact.
How did you...?
I've led armies before.
Used this same set-up myself.
And what did your winners get?
They got to live.
Lancelot's eyes grow wide at this, and Xena grins wickedly.
Gotcha. Actually, they got to sit at
my left hand at dinner, and got
first place in the chow line.
Her expression grows sorrowful for a moment.
Some of the losers
didn't get to live.
The sorrow disappears from her face, and she pushes purposefully off the wall. She moves to the center of the yard, mounting the platform. Lancelot follows her, trotting swiftly behind to keep up. Xena taps one of the soldiers on the back, who turns with a disgruntled face until he sees who it is. Then he snaps to attention, holding a megaphone at his side.
At your service, my queen.
I'm not your queen.
But I need that.
She takes the megaphone and moves to the edge of the platform, ringing the bell to get the men's attention.
Xena yells into the megaphone.
All right. Listen up! Everyone form up
in regiments in front of the platform.
She waits, nodding with approval as the men quickly form neat even rows of ranks before her.
All right. As you probably all know,
I took possession of this....
She holds up Excalibur.
... last night. Before I agree to lead this
army, I need to see what you're made of.
I want you to finish out your rounds of
sparring until you're down to eight winners.
Then send the eight winners this way.
I'm going to take them on, one by one.
The men murmur among themselves, and the word "Excalibur" can be heard prominently among the murmurs. Many of the men appear to be afraid, eyeing Xena with great trepidation.
Listen up. Most of the men have heard of
Excalibur for years, though very few have
seen it. Its legend is great. You've got them
terrified. If you're trying to prove something,
fight me. Other than Arthur, I've the most
victories for these sparring matches, not to
mention the games we play once a year.
Xena spins around to face him, looking him up and down. Finally, she steps into his space and stares him down at very close range.
I'm not trying to prove anything. If I'm
going to lead these men, I need to see
first-hand their strengths and weaknesses.
She steps back toward one corner of the platform, twirling the sword a few times.
However, before I spar with
them, I accept your challenge.
She looks around at the leaders on the platform.
Better clear this space.
The leaders high tail it down the steps, taking their places in front of their perspective regiments. All the men look up expectantly at the platform, where Xena and Lancelot are facing off.
Bring it on, my Lady.
He draws his sword and he and Xena begin to circle. Xena is in typical fighting mode, a smile on her face and a gleam in her eyes. She holds one arm out toward Lancelot, while holding Excalibur up and ready with the other.
You gonna fight or dance?
Lancelot's face clouds in anger and he makes the first move, lunging forward and slicing toward Xena's middle, which she easily deflects, almost disarming him.
You're the best?
We may be in trouble.
Lancelot grows even angrier, and his face becomes a study in concentration. He engages her in a series of swift exchanges, all of which she continues to easily deflect. Finally, Lancelot cuts loose, and the fight begins, as their swords clash over and over again. At first Xena appears almost bored, allowing him to back her around the platform. After a bit more of this, she suddenly jumps up, turning a flip and landing behind him, tapping him on the behind with Excalibur. He turns around quickly.
Game's over, Lancelot.
She goes on the offensive, forcing him to make tight turns, as he fights her off. He never seems to know what is coming next, as she sometimes slices down from overhead, sometimes from the sides, and at others swipes at his ankles, making him jump the blade to avoid being cut. Her blade moves so swiftly it's a blur, and it is all he can do to deflect her blows.
You're no lady.
What was your first clue?
She spins, nailing him in the gut with the butt of the sword, then spins back and gives him a little kick. She swings around with Excalibur, catching his sword and twisting her wrist, disarming him. His sword goes clattering across the platform and she backs him into a corner of the railing, forcing him to bend backward as she holds Excalibur at his throat.
I can see I have my
work cut out here.
She steps away and turns her back on him, tucking Excalibur into her belt, eyeing it with a new appreciation. Lancelot gets up, rubbing his throat, although she didn't actually touch it. He glares at her as he straightens out his armor.
Everyone knows Excalibur
is enchanted. Bet you'd not
win so easily without it.
Xena grows completely still and then slowly turns, facing him with an icy expression. She takes Excalibur from her belt, negligently tossing it aside, as she draws her own sword.
I'll take that bet.
She walks over to his sword and with a casual step of her foot against the hilt, pops it into the air, catching it and twirling it before she tosses it to him. Lancelot barely manages to catch it, juggling it a bit before it settles in his hand. He appears completely surprised before he recovers, and they both face off, as we....
INT. CASTLE ENTRY CHAMBER - DAY
Gabrielle enters the chamber, followed by Arthur and a couple of his men. They mingle around talking. Gabrielle walks around the room, studying the few tapestries on the wall. Arthur is at her side.
These are gorgeous.
Thank you. They've been in
our family for generations.
He looks around.
We're still waiting on Galahad and a few
others. Can I get you anything, Lady
Gabrielle? Some water or wine, perhaps?
You can just call me Gabrielle, and no
thank you. Xena and I just finished
breakfast a little while ago. My
compliments to your cook.
Thank you, I'll be sure to
let him know. He....
Arthur pauses and looks across the room where Galahad is entering. The few pieces of armor Galahad is wearing are polished like mirrors. His hair is long and blond and shining, and his shirt is crisply white, tucked neatly into perfectly-fitting white trousers. He practically glows.
Ah, Galahad! Pardon me for
a moment, La… Gabrielle.
As Arthur greets Galahad in the background, Gabrielle moves to a side table that bears a single large goblet which is illuminated by a torch. The table is covered in rich red velvet, the goblet the only item on the table. The goblet is carved from dark wood, with a few chips in its rim.
Hmmmm. Wonder why this is
on such prominent display?
She lifts the goblet and releases a quiet gasp, as it turns to gold in her hand. A wary expression on her face, she slowly peers inside. At first it is filled with murky tendrils of fog, but they gradually clear, and several scenes of breath-taking beauty appear inside it, reflected off its now gold interior.
Across the room, Galahad and Arthur are talking and gesturing, when Galahad notices Gabrielle and abruptly stops talking, shoving Arthur aside.
The grail. No!
He dashes across the room, waving his arms wildly.
My lady, you must put it
down. It is sacred.
Gabrielle turns to face him, her expression one of dazed serenity. She shakes her head, still holding the goblet.
Excuse me? I'm sorry, did
you say something?
Galahad continues to gesture, his face growing red.
The grail. Put it down
at once, please.
She looks at the goblet in her hands.
You mean this?
She waves it casually back and forth, and Galahad nods adamantly, holding out his hands as if to catch it in the event she drops it.
It's one of the most beautiful
things I've ever seen. When
I looked inside it....
She shakes her head, at a loss for words.
Back home, they call me a bard, but there
are no words to describe what I just saw.
It was a thing of such beauty it brought
tears to my eyes. I’m sorry if I wasn't
supposed to touch it. It's magical.
It must belong to Merlin. Here....
She delicately places it back on the velvet-covered stand. As she turns her back on it, it turns to wood again, chips and all. Galahad is speechless. His eyes are wide as saucers, and he appears as if he is about to blow a gasket.
I apologize. Come on.
Join us at the table. We'll
begin our meeting shortly.
She smiles innocently and pats him on the arm before moving toward the table. Galahad slowly reaches out, his hand trembling as he lifts the goblet. He waits expectantly, but nothing happens. He cautiously peers inside, but all he sees is the scratched interior of a well-used wooden drinking utensil. He drops it back on the velvet and covers his face with his hands for a moment.
No. It was mine.
He is almost sobbing, and Arthur comes up beside him.
Galahad, you look rather pale.
Galahad’s hands and voice are shaking.
The grail … she touched it. She saw
visions. I've been preparing for months,
ever since it was recovered. Fasting and
praying, waiting for a sign it was my time
to touch it, to look inside it and see its
great mysteries. Now it's all... wasted.
Come now, Galahad. Surely you didn't
really believe all those old myths. Perhaps
she was merely exaggerating. It's just an
old wooden cup. Maybe now you can
move on, and concentrate on the battle
at hand. We're getting ready to meet.
Join us when you're ready.
Arthur claps his friend on the shoulder and moves to the table.
But... but it turned to gold.
At the table, Arthur and a few men are taking seats. Gabrielle spots a chair, rather ornate, and padded in beautiful shining satin. Arthur takes a seat next to it.
Guess this is for the leader,
and since Xena isn't here....
She pulls the chair out and plops down into it, looking up as everyone at the table gasps in shock.
What is it?
One of the soldiers across the table leans over and whispers to his companion, out of Gabrielle's hearing.
She sits in the Siege
Perilous, and yet she lives.
I thought Galahad had the
purest heart in Camelot. It
appears he's been unseated.
Indeed, it does.
He leans back, crossing his arms smugly.
I was rather tired of the self-righteous
Sir Goody Two Shoes lording it over
us. Good on the lady, I say.
He bows in deference to Gabrielle, who, not hearing what he said, merely smiles slightly and ducks her head in return. She looks at Arthur.
Did I miss something here?
Arthur glances over at Galahad.
Ah. No. Everything is
Galahad looks up at this moment, and shrieks in indignation.
He runs to the table, stopping just short of Gabrielle.
I'm sorry. Did I take your
seat? I can move.
She starts to get up, but Arthur holds her back.
No. Really. Galahad can
take another chair.
It's no trouble. I'll just....
Galahad cautiously reaches out and touches an ornate arm on the chair, leaping back and shaking his hand as if he's been shocked.
He tries to touch it again, with the same result. He steps back and looks at Gabrielle in horror, then runs screaming from the room like a mad man.
Geez. It's just a chair.
She shakes her head as she watches him leave, then turns to face the table as if nothing unusual has happened.
I wanted to meet with you, Arthur, and
your highest-ranking men. Xena is with
your army at this moment, and I'm speaking
on her behalf. Before Xena came here, when
you thought you were going to rule Camelot,
what was your vision for your people?
Arthur appears caught off guard, and he rests his chin on his upraised hands for a moment, lost in thought. Finally, he looks her in the eye.
Merlin has told you of the fracturing
in our land, of the religious factions
and the in-fighting?
Yes, he did.
I wish to unite the followers of the new
and old ways, to teach them to live
together in harmony... to respect one
another. I want them to move past their
differences, and concentrate on working
together for the good of our country.
Go on. What of the Saxons? If you
were to defeat them in battle, what
would become of them?
I have no wish to disturb their lands. The
common soldiers, I would send home to be
with their families. If there were any who
wished to join our army, I would allow them
to do so, on a trial basis. As for their leaders,
any who have committed crimes against us,
I would see that they receive a fair hearing.
Gabrielle nods in agreement.
Good. Now... if Xena leads your men in battle,
and if she wins, she wants a plan in place as to
how to deal with the aftermath of the battle.
What you want to do with prisoners and the
wounded, and how to implement the very
things you just mentioned. Let's put our
heads together, and come up with that plan.
They all lean in close, their voices murmuring together, and we....
EXT. WALLED YARD - DAY
Xena and Lancelot are circling each other on the platform. Xena is holding her own familiar sword and appears completely at ease.
You wanted a fair fight?
You got one.
Quit talking, Xena, and
let's get this over with.
Xena goes completely silent and watches him like a panther watching its prey. With a sudden snarl she lunges, taking the offensive and engaging him, their blades connecting over and over as she backs him toward the stairs on one side of the platform. She slowly forces him backward down the steps, as they continue to fight.
As they reach the bottom steps, she leaps up in the air, flipping over him and landing on the ground behind him. He spins around and she takes him on again, their blades flying in a blur as she works them around in front of the platform, where the men can watch. Lancelot is sweating, while Xena is calm and cool, obviously in her element enjoying the fight.
He begins to falter, his parries becoming sloppy. She sees an opening, taking it and knocking his sword from his hands. It goes flying through the air, landing several yards away. Xena leaps up, kicking off with both feet from one of the platform's pillars, and turns another flip, kicking Lancelot on his back as her feet connect with his chest.
She lands next to him and places a foot on his chest. Her eyes are wild and she raises her sword with both hands, twirling it once and impaling it into the ground a hair's breadth from his head.
Yes, my Queen.
Xena appears to consider his words, then shrugs, and offers him a hand up. He warily takes it, standing and brushing himself off. The soldiers in the ranks break into thunderous cheers and applause for their presumed new leader.
Remind me to commend you
to Arthur for your loyalty.
I know where your loyalty lies.
She peers toward the gate where Gabrielle is entering.
Your devotion to Arthur is admirable.
But believe me, Lancelot, we're
on the same side. I have no
desire to take Arthur's place.
Lancelot bows slightly.
I'll try to remember that from now on.
Um, can you show me how you do that
backward spinning move with your sword?
She leaves him, and makes her way toward Gabrielle. Gabrielle takes one look at her, and then at Lancelot beyond, and shakes her head.
Been showing 'em who's
boss, I see.
I'm just getting started. What
did you find out from Arthur?
Gabrielle reaches out, brushing some dirt from Xena's face.
Xena, Arthur's heart is in the right
place. He cares about his people.
And his advisors?
She looks thoughtful, and we see an overlaid vision of Galahad running from the room again.
A few of them are a bit odd, but they're
good men, and they came up with sound
plans to deal with the aftermath of battle.
Xena, Arthur has the potential to build a
great and peaceful nation. I can feel it.
From what I've seen of his army, it's more
of the same. Good men... good fighters, loyal
and ready to follow their leader into battle.
They exchange a long glance, and Gabrielle touches her on the arm.
Are you going to be that leader?
Yeah. The sooner we get this over
with, the sooner we can go home.
Gabrielle strokes Xena's arm with her thumb.
What about dying in battle?
We'll get to that. First, I promised
these men some more sparring.
Xena, you need to talk to Merlin.
You've been at it all morning here.
She stops, as Xena smiles at her charmingly.
All right. But we need to talk to Merlin.
Tell him what we've decided.
Merlin appears in a sparkling flash of light and steps forward, as the soldiers murmur excitedly at his appearance.
No need. I heard it all.
He moves to her side, walking with his staff.
You may want to cancel sparring, and
concentrate on preparing for battle. The
Saxons are re-grouping, even as we speak.
Gabrielle curls her hand around Xena's arm, and stands next to her, her expression worried. Xena's gaze falls on her and she reaches across, tracing Gabrielle's face with her fingertips.
One battle, Gabrielle,
and we can go home.
I'll be there at your
side, you know.
I wouldn't have it
any other way.
They walk to the gate in silence, followed by Merlin. Xena opens it and looks out toward....
EXT. SEASCAPE - DAY
Just outside the gate is a cliff, and below it is the shore. Xena looks down at the waves crashing on the shore, then stares out to sea.
(quietly to herself)
Always one more battle.
END OF ACT THREE