The W&W Episode That Never Was
[Establishing shot of Castle Baaldorf. Cut to interior of a luxurious sitting room, in which we find the greasy, grimy SHRIKER, who is obviously a villain -- black leather, spiky metal armbands, general air of muscular malice, the whole evil enchilada. From a certain point of view, he is handsome in a very raffish, biker-chic way. Thoroughly boiled, shaved, and stuffed in a tuxedo, he'd probably be quite a looker. He is sprawled comfortably in front of a crackling fire, his booted feet propped up on a plush velvet ottoman, thereby muddying said ottoman beyond the help of Scotch-Guard or dry cleaning. Raising a crystal glass of wine with one pinkie ostentatiously extended, he swirls and sniffs its bouquet appreciatively, then snorks the entire contents down in one gulp. Belching loudly, he wipes his face with the back of his hand and shatters the delicate goblet into the fireplace. When he speaks, it is with a wholly incongruous air of refinement.]
SHRIKER: Not bad, not too bad at all. Can't compare with the Sword and Skull, but one does have to make allowances, doesn't one?
[Cut to ERIK and JUSTIN, towels draped over their arms, waiter-style, bearing trays of hors d'oeuvres. JUSTIN appears more amused than anything, but ERIK is already gritting his teeth hard enough to spark the interest of orthodontists miles away.]
ERIK: Well, I did try, but we were all out of window cleaner. [dumps the tray on the table near SHRIKER] There's the carpacca balls you ordered, lightly browned, no cheese. Just like you said. Now, if we could get back to Dirk's plans --
SHRIKER [ignoring him and rubbing his hands together with glee]: Ahhh, do you have any idea how long it's been since I've had a decent, plain carpacca ball? Blackpool's damn cretin brother has the cook by the --
[ERIK coughs loudly, and shoots SHRIKER a pointed glare.]
SHRIKER: Well, by the carpaccas. [Popping one into his mouth, he chews and talks simultaneously, a truly repulsive sight.] You know what they need, though? A good paprika sauce. With just a touch of wild turmeric --
[ERIK has clearly lost it by this point. Clasping his hands on either side of SHRIKER's velvet armchair, he leans in close, doing his best Clint Eastwood hiss.]
ERIK: I don't think so. I think it's time to stop catering to your whims, and start hearing every useful thing you know about Dirk's battle plans.
SHRIKER [utterly unimpressed by ERIK]: But the catering to my whims part is so much more fun. You know, Dirk was right. You really do need to learn to relax.
JUSTIN: Hey, I been tellin' him that for years, but he never listens to me, either.
ERIK [shooting a duplicate glare at Justin]: The rest of the plans, Shriker. We're getting wiped out at Morris Field, and I'm losing patience.
SHRIKER: Tsk, tsk. And here they always talk about how perfect you are. Patience is one of the finer virtues, you know; no man is truly a gentleman without it. [The playful tone of his voice hardens into businesslike briskness.] You'd do well to keep in mind that you have no choice. You want the information, you'll have to pay for it . . . in a multitude of ways. I'm no fool, Greystone. I'm only valuable to you so long as *I* know something *you* don't. You two are bound to be more zealous about my protection so long as I'm meting out my inside information in . . . judicious portions, shall we say. Call it life insurance.
ERIK: Only problem is, there's one thing you're forgetting.
SHRIKER: Really? Oh, of course! [slaps forehead] What was I thinking? It's not wild turmeric at all. It's tarragon that makes a really premium paprika sauce.
ERIK [patently not amused]: No, that's not it. I was thinking more along the lines that Dirk doesn't take too kindly to top generals who waltz out on him. Wasn't General Rankoor the last turncoat who tried to defect? I get the feeling the only paprika sauce they'll be serving at Castle Blackpool is the one Dirk orders to go with dinner the day he makes you the main course. [He pauses for dramatic effect.] If we call your bluff, and say "Thanks, but no thanks," you're a dead man. No, you're a *charbroiled* man. [Leans in *very* close.] You need us more than we need you.
SHRIKER [Grinning evilly]: Ah, but there's one thing *you're* forgetting. You're the good guy. You assumed responsibility for me from the moment I walked into your camp yesterday. You would never let anything like that happen to me.
ERIK [stepping back and crossing his arms]: Try me.
SHRIKER: Very well.
[SHRIKER very deliberately rises from his chair, pushes past Erik and Justin, and saunters to the closed door, briskly unfastening the bolts. That accomplished, he lingers.]
SHRIKER [melodramatically, if a bit uncertainly]: I'm leaving now.
JUSTIN [pleasantly, with a little farewell half-wave]: Have a safe trip.
[Shrugging, SHRIKER opens the door. Almost immediately, a crossbow bolt whizzes past his left ear, close enough to draw blood, burying itself smack dab in the forehead of the portrait of King Baaldorf over the fireplace. JUSTIN reflexively hits the dirt, his tray of carpaccas rolling under the sofa. His inverted point of view reveals an ASSASSIN clinging Ninja-style to the ceiling outside. The Colter-style camouflage smoke bomb the ASSASSIN drops immediately afterward obscures him from the view of the guards directly beneath.]
ERIK: Get down!
[Hurling himself forward, Erik tackles the astonished SHRIKER to the floor just as a second bolt passes through precisely the airspace occupied by SHRIKER's head one instant before. This bolt imbeds itself deeply between the eyes of the portrait of Queen Lattinia. Shouting fills the outer hall as a phalanx of Baaldorf guards charge through the smoke in pursuit of the fleeing would-be assassin. Justin, still prone, slams the door shut with one well-placed side kick. For a moment, everything is silent save for the fading shouts of the guards; then all three struggle upright. Examining the crossbow bolts, Justin whistles at the damage.]
JUSTIN: And she just had those painted, too. Boy, is the Queen gonna be cheesed off.
SHRIKER: Don't say "cheese," I beg you. It gives me a nervous tic.
ERIK [smugly dusting off his gold lamé]: I'm betting crossbow bolts don't help that tic. I told you your life wouldn't be worth a wooden kolna out there.
SHRIKER [equally smugly]: Yes, and I seem to recall saying something about how you couldn't resist your princely obligation to save me. It would appear that I was right, and we are at an impasse with regards to the precise number and equipage of Prince Blackpool's archers. At least until some paprika sauce is forthcoming.
[Popping another carpacca ball into his mouth, he flops back into the velvet armchair, chewing happily. JUSTIN waylays ERIK right before he can move in for another tirade, steering him into the far corner of the room. There, they proceed to converse in low voices, out of earshot of SHRIKER.]
JUSTIN: Call me crazy, but I got a hunch it's time for a different approach.
ERIK: What'd you have in mind?
JUSTIN: We could torture him.
ERIK: Be serious, Justin.
JUSTIN: No, no, I *am* serious. Hear me out, here. There's already a harpsichord in that corner; all we need to do is bring in Ariel, have her tap-dance a little --
ERIK [in his usual disapproving hiss]: Justin!
JUSTIN: Okay, okay, it was worth a shot. I mean, *we* had to suffer through it. [Both men fall silent, a look of glazed horror testifying to the memories. Justin shakes himself out of his flashback first.] I got it! How 'bout a little ol' game of good cop, bad cop?
ERIK [still residing in tap-dancing purgatory]: With Ariel?!?
JUSTIN: No, no, on Shriker. Stay with the program, Erik.
ERIK: Oh, gotcha. Sorry. [Frowning, he considers Justin's suggestion.] I suppose anything's worth a try at this point. Okay, I'll be the bad cop -- [Here JUSTIN interrupts with a skeptical snort.] -- fine, *you'll* be the bad cop.
JUSTIN [rolling up his sleeves to reveal his metal gauntlets]: Just stand back and observe a master at work. I'm good at this.
ERIK: Done it before?
JUSTIN: Every Saturday night at the Winslows' place, regular.
ERIK [holding up his hand, palm outward]: *Not* wanting details.
JUSTIN [shrugging]: Your loss.
ERIK: You know, Justin, maybe they taught the rule about kissing and telling on one of those days -- well, months -- when you were playing hooky from the Royal School.
JUSTIN: Wasn't planning on tellin' about the kissing. It's the other stuff that comes after that's the interestin' part. You should try it sometime.
[With a sly wink, JUSTIN ambles over to SHRIKER, allowing the implications of his parting shot to sink into ERIK.]
JUSTIN [ignoring him]: So, Shriker, you should know I'm not nearly so nice as my little brother, there.
SHRIKER [unfazed]: Do tell?
JUSTIN: Yep. [He casually grabs the hors d'oeuvres tray and sends both tray and carpaccas Frisbee-ing into the fire with a single deft flick of the wrist.] But I make up for it by bein' a *lot* more patient. [Pulling a nearby carved chair in front of Shriker, he straddles it backwards, sitting astride as if he's mounted a horse, one leg on either side, both arms comfortably folded on the uppermost rung]. You might find yourself gettin' mighty hungry before too long. No skin off my nose, of course. I got nothin' better to do than wait till you feel . . . chatty. No hurry. As I said, I'm a patient man.
SHRIKER: Is that so?
JUSTIN: Mmm-hmm. I got remarkable stamina. I can hold out as long as it takes.
SHRIKER: Funny, that's not what Margaret and Lucille are telling tavern patrons about last Saturday.
[A complex barrage of emotions pass behind the formerly bland mask of JUSTIN's face, climaxing in a headlong leap at SHRIKER, which overturns the chair in the ensuing scuffle. ERIK quickly pries JUSTIN's fingers away from SHRIKER's throat and drags his brother out of maiming range.]
JUSTIN: C'mon, Erik. Lemme hurt him, just a little bit.
JUSTIN: I'm the bad cop! I should get to rough him up a little, just for credibility!
ERIK: Down, boy.
JUSTIN: And I mean, I'd had a hard day! I was tired! A man shouldn't be judged by one bad day, should he?
ERIK [grinning]: I think we both need to get some fresh air. Right now, before we kill him ourselves.
[Opening the door, ERIK looks around cautiously, then heads out into the hall, JUSTIN trailing behind. Turning, ERIK cuts through the group of guards and addresses MARKO.]
ERIK: Did you catch the assassin?
MARKO: Sort of. He tried to scale the East Tower to get away.
MARKO: Well, you know how slippery the East Tower is, what with all the moss?
ERIK: Ah . . .
MARKO: And you know those big old rose bushes at the base of the East Tower?
JUSTIN: That's gotta sting.
MARKO: Sting isn't the word. Let's just say Queen Lattinia won't be needing to mulch the roses this year.
JUSTIN: I tell you what -- I'm not likin' any of this.
MARKO: Me neither. I'm allergic to roses. I'm hiving as we speak. You sure this Shriker is worth it?
ERIK: Just the little bit he's given us completely turned the tide of battle at Clorrin Ridge. We heard from the messenger a half hour ago. Blackpool's lost an entire batallion.
MARKO: No wonder Dirk wants this guy dead. Deader than dead. Mulch-level dead.
JUSTIN: Well, if your top general defected to the enemy, and offered to sing like a stool pigeon about all your defenses, troop deployments, battle strategies, secret codes -- wouldn't you be just a teensy bit bent outta shape?
MARKO: And this is Blackpool, so we're talking origami-level bending.
ERIK: Right. [Gestures towards the guards.] Marko, these are all Baaldorf's elite?
MARKO: The cream of the cream.
ERIK: All trustworthy?
MARKO: I'd trust 'em with my own mother. Heck, I'd trust 'em with Margaret and Lucille, and that's saying a lot. [JUSTIN visibly winces at the mention of the Winslows, still a bit touchy about their loose lips. MARKO eyes him curiously.] What's eating him? I mean, I know what's eating me -- I haven't eaten, is what's eating me, I've been on duty since 6am without so much as a lousy cup of coffee. I may go in and scrape the carpacca balls off the carpet if I don't get a break soon.
ERIK: You've done a good job here, Marko. I always know I can count on you.
MARKO: You mean, except for the part where I didn't notice the ceiling assassin who almost got Shriker killed, right?
JUSTIN: I don't know if just lockin' Shriker up tighter than Tronin's fifth wife is gonna be enough, Erik. Dirk's desperate. He might do anything.
ERIK: You think I don't know that? What more can I do?
JUSTIN: Make him talk. I could beat the snot --
ERIK: I said no, and I meant no. That's not how we operate. He turned himself in to us unarmed, Justin. Maybe you missed that day at the Royal Schools, too, but under the Rules of War, that makes him our prisoner of war, entitled to our protection, whether he gives us any information or not.
[JUSTIN and MARKO exchange disbelieving glances at this suicidally idealistic little monologue.]
JUSTIN: Do the rules of war also entitle him to carpacca balls?
ERIK: Very funny.
JUSTIN: I ain't tryin' to be funny, Erik. I wish I was. If you're gonna be a boy scout, then you better be prepared for anything on this one.
ERIK: I'm doing the best I can. I can't keep an eye on *everyone.*
JUSTIN: Don't worry about it. I'll give you a hand.
ERIK [incredulous]: You will? You're actually *volunteering* for something?
JUSTIN: Sure thing. I volunteer to keep an eye on the women.
ERIK [dryly]: You're too generous.
JUSTIN [with a cocky grin]: Ain't I, though?
ERIK: And here I thought you'd bitten off more than you could chew with just the Winslow sisters.
JUSTIN [his grin vanishing]: Now, that was just plain mean.
ERIK [smiling nastily and turning back to MARKO]: I want you to keep a tight watch on the guards you've got for Shriker. At this point, I don't trust anybody but you.
JUSTIN: And me.
ERIK [Pointedly ignoring him while continuing to lecture MARKO.]: The secrets he's got could mean victory at Morris Field. It'd take Blackpool months to regroup and recover -- if he ever could. This is an absolutely vital task. I'm counting on you, Marko. Don't let anybody in there you can't trust completely. [Sighing, he waylays the servant girl walking to the door with a lunch tray of roasted tadmon, liberating her burden.] Not even a servant.
MARKO: So who's gonna be bringing General Jerkface his meals, then? Or do we get to starve him?
[Unceremoniously dumping the towel from his arm to MARKO's, ERIK hands him the lunch tray, points to SHRIKER's door, gives him the thumbs-up sign, and leaves.]
MARKO: I had to ask.
JUSTIN: Hey, don't look at me, I was all in favor of starvin' the guy.
[Patting MARKO on the shoulder in sympathy, JUSTIN disappears down the hall after ERIK, leaving the vassal with his full tray and his burgeoning resentment.]
MARKO: Shriker? I'm coming in with your lunch. [Grudgingly, he opens the door and enters, mocking ERIK's solemn tone]: 'This is an absolutely vital task. I'm counting on you, Marko.' Boy, what a load of --
[The slamming of the door behind him unfortunately muffles the final word of MARKO's rant.]
[Cut to ERIK and JUSTIN striding down the hall.]
ERIK: I gotta go. I'm supposed to meet Ariel for a walk in the rose garden any minute now.
JUSTIN: Might want to reconsider the rose garden.
ERIK: Oh yeah. Mulchy. [ERIK and JUSTIN exchange mirror-image, nose-wrinkling, "Eyyyeeewwwww, gross" expressions. ERIK contemplates his options.] Maybe she'll like a walk by the lake instead.
JUSTIN [with a mischievous gleam in his eye]: I'll come with ya, then. I love the lake. Good fishin'.
ERIK: No, you won't.
JUSTIN: Oh, so it's *that* kind of walk by the lake. I like *that* kind of walk even better, of course, but three's a crowd. [He reflects for a moment.] Unless it's the Winslows.
ERIK: I thought you were mad at the Winslows.
JUSTIN: I was. I'm just not good at stayin' mad. Besides, they'll owe me a heck of an apology this Saturday. Maybe we can take a "walk by the lake" too, eh? [He actually forms air quotation marks around the phrase, only neglecting to add "nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more" to make the graceless insinuation complete.]
ERIK: Justin, trust me, it's not *that* kind of walk. I just don't want you around.
JUSTIN: What, you think ol' Justin's not good enough to be around your future wife?
ERIK: First of all, the Princess Ariel is not necessarily my future wife. Second of all, I would never think you're not good enough to be around her. I don't have to think it, because I *know* it for a fact.
JUSTIN: Now you're just bein' mean again. Kick a man while he's down. What'd I ever do?
ERIK: What about that time you told her that off-color joke, and she spent the next month and a half asking everyone -- including the ambassador from the Haven Islands -- what it meant?
JUSTIN: Just shows her education's a little lackin.' The Royal Schools'll do that to ya.
ERIK: Or the time you forgot to buy a present for her birthday party, and tried to give her a bottle of gin?
ERIK: That you'd already half-drunk?
JUSTIN: All right, all right. No one ever said ol' Justin couldn't take a hint. I know when I'm not wanted.
ERIK: Could've fooled me. [Halting outside ARIEL's door, he knocks briskly.] Princess Ariel? It's Erik. [There is no answer. Time ticks uncomfortably by.] That's odd.
JUSTIN: Maybe she forgot. Maybe, amazin' as it sounds, she didn't mark "Walking with Erik!" on her calendar with a big pink pen as the highlight of her week.
ERIK: Princess? Are you decent?
JUSTIN: I hope not.
ERIK [paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to JUSTIN anymore]: Princess Ariel, may I come in?
[There is a conspicuous lack of an answer. Shrugging, ERIK finally opens the door. PRINCESS ARIEL's room is indeed empty. While ERIK peers in uncomfortably, JUSTIN, supremely at ease in any female boudoir, saunters in as if he owns it.]
JUSTIN: Nobody home. Looks like you got stood up, my friend. [He picks up one of several sheets of parchment lying on the bed and peruses it with interest.] And for shopping, of all things! Looks like Princess Airhead ignored the King's orders to stay in again.
ERIK: What do you mean? Is that a note?
JUSTIN: See for yourself.
[ERIK gingerly picks up one of the parchment papers, as if he's afraid he'll be caught and arrested at any moment for snooping like a pervert in a princess's bedroom. The parchments are actually flyers, upon which are written, in Gothic lettering: "SALE!!!!! Today only! Massive savings! Come to Krid's Traveling Outlet Faire! Gowns, shoes, jewels, and . . . HATS!!!! Hundreds of hats! All at massive savings!!!! Sunrise to sunset at Traitor's Pass. Don't miss the amazing bargains -- You can buy five times as much!!!!!!"]
JUSTIN: Odd place for a merchant fair. Rocky, narrow, not very nice.
ERIK: Odd time of year for it, too. Hot and muggy.
JUSTIN: Odd that I haven't heard a dang thing about it anyplace else.
ERIK: Odd name, "Krid." Strangely familiar.
[There is a horrified pause as the name sinks in, reverses itself, and smacks them over the head. At this inopportune moment, a SERVANT GIRL enters, oblivious to their presence.]
JUSTIN [grabbing her by the arm]: Hey!
[The GIRL shrieks and drops her armload of dresses, then relaxes after getting a good look at JUSTIN's face.]
GIRL: Oh, it's you! [looks puzzled.] Wait, I thought we played good cop, bad cop on Friday nights -- [ERIK firmly clears his throat, causing her to jump.] Your highness!
ERIK [gesturing with the parchment]: Do you know where this came from?
GIRL: Um, a man delivered them about an hour ago. Said the Princess would be interested. Boy, was she ever. Not that she bothered to tip me for going out of my way to bring 'em, or anything.
JUSTIN: A man. Was he by any chance yay tall, short blond hair, big ol' scar on his cheek?
GIRL: Yeah, that's him.
ERIK: Friend of yours?
JUSTIN: Nope. A friend of "Krid" and the East Tower roses. I got a good look at the guy who shot at Shriker in the hall, and that's our mulch man.
ERIK [running full-tilt out the door]: She's walking right into one of Dirk's traps!
JUSTIN [trailing after him]: She's *shopping* right into one of Dirk's traps. He's probably hoping to trade her for Shriker if he can't manage to get him bumped off.
ERIK: I'll get our men together. You get Marko -- but make sure he leaves the soldiers guarding Shriker in place.
JUSTIN: I'm on it.
[As the two of them charge down the hall, ERIK crumples the parchment in fury.]
ERIK: By the gods, how could Ariel be so stupid? [JUSTIN, one eyebrow raised, offers up his best "you've got to be kidding" look, the one he always uses when bookies and bartenders try to force him to pay up his tab.] All right, fair point, but how could Cassandra be so stupid? I thought she had more sense! Why didn't she try to stop her?
[Cut to ARIEL and CASSANDRA riding through a narrow mountain trail. An eager ARIEL is in the lead, mounted on her unicorn, Pumpkin, while CASSANDRA is the caboose on a nondescript, mouse-gray pony. CASSANDRA has clearly shot past "nervous" some time ago and is gearing up for an exhilarating championship round of "full-blown hysteria."]
CASSANDRA: My lady, I really, really, *really* don't think this is a very good idea.
ARIEL: It's a terrific idea. I haven't been shopping in a blue moon, thanks to this stupid war. All my gowns are worn, my hats are old hat -- I need new clothes before I start to look all drab and shabby like . . . [She casts about for an object of suitable disdain, and finally finds one]. Like you! [Anxiously, she examines her pert nose in the small mirror mounted on her unicorn's horn, imperiously snapping her fingers for service.] Cassandra, powder! I'm getting a shine.
[CASSANDRA dutifully digs a large container of facial powder out of her saddlebag and hands ARIEL the puff. Much primping commences.]
CASSANDRA: But the danger, my lady, think of the danger! Out here with no guards, what would the King say --
[With a high-pitched screech of exasperation, ARIEL swings around in her saddle and hurls the puff at CASSANDRA, who barely manages to catch it on the rebound. Coughing on the stray clouds of powder, CASSANDRA cringes at the outburst of pique she knows is coming.]
ARIEL: Just cut the lecture, Mama Cass, okay? 'Cause that's what you sound like -- my mother! And I already have one, and she's a queen, thank you very much, and you're not! I tell *you* what to do, you don't tell me! I'm sick, sick, *sick* of people telling me what to do all the time! "Ariel, don't leave the castle, you might get kidnapped." "Ariel, don't accept the gift from the nice man, it might be a Blackpool bomb." "Ariel, marry this boring hero prince who couldn't care less that you have the daintiest feet in five kingdoms." If I wanna put my life on the line for a killer fashion statement, then I will! It's *my* life, not yours, and people just better start remembering that! [She flounces back around in her saddle, still in a royal huff.]
CASSANDRA [very quietly and meekly, so ARIEL can't hear]: But you're putting *my* life on the line, too.
[Abruptly, a dozen black-clad Death Troopers emerge from their hiding places in the foliage and surround them. Cassandra shrieks and reins in her horse, which rears in panic. Wide-eyed, Ariel also reins to a halt, all the wind suddenly blown out of her sails (or veils, considering the size of her hat).]
ARIEL: I don't suppose you guys are just really overeager leather salesmen . . .
[Two ebony horses canter in from trailside, bearing DIRK and GEOFFREY BLACKPOOL, respectively. Both men look quite splendid in their respective leather outfits, and both display distinct expressions of lust -- DIRK's for blood, and GEOFF's of the more conventional sort.]
DIRK and GEOFFREY [in eerie unison, which GEOFFREY has obviously been practicing for months]: Hi.
ARIEL [gasping]: You!
DIRK: So sorry to disappoint you, your highness, but you've just missed the merchant fair. You're precisely on time for the kidnapping, however. I do so admire punctuality in women. Don't you, Geoffrey?
GEOFFREY [leering and waggling his eyebrows salaciously]: Ohhhh, yeahhhhh.
DIRK [sighing heavily]: "Punctuality" means "being on time," Geoffrey. Nothing more.
GEOFFREY [disappointed, and a bit abashed]: Oh . . . uh, yeah. I knew that.
DIRK [nodding to Cassandra]: You! Servant! Help the Princess off her unicorn and bring her to me.
GEOFFREY: Yeah! And be punctual about it!
[As DIRK assumes his best "Please, God, let Mother have been involved in an affair with the village idiot when this cretin was conceived" expression, a terrified CASSANDRA rides up beside ARIEL, preparing to dismount. At the last second, however, she suddenly yanks Pumpkin's reins and delivers a sharp slap to his rear, inciting him to wheel, rear, and buck. Although he nearly dumps ARIEL in the process, Pumpkin sends Death Troopers fleeing from his flying hooves and stabbing horn.]
CASSANDRA [urging her own horse to rear and take out two Death Troopers with a single kick]: Ride, my lady! Follow me!
ARIEL: Are you nuts? I nearly fell --
CASSANDRA: SHUT UP AND GO!
ARIEL [meekly]: Gotcha.
[The two of them take off at a breakneck gallop, with DIRK and GEOFFREY close on their heels. An exciting and scenic chase ensues, which would probably cost a mint to film. As DIRK nears ARIEL, CASSANDRA claws through her saddlebag and heaves the container of face powder at the dark prince, beaning him square in the face and turning him into a sort of grotesque, powder-white Pillsbury Leatherboy. In rapid succession, a cursing, powder-blinded DIRK is sidelined, GEOFFREY turns to laugh, turns back around, gasps, ducks, and narrowly misses getting scraped off his own horse by the old cliché of a low-hanging branch. As the chase continues with GEOFFREY in hot pursuit, he gradually passes CASSANDRA, drawing even with ARIEL.]
GEOFFREY: Surrender and I swear I won't harm a hair on your precious head!
ARIEL: It's not you I'm worried about! It's your maniac brother!
GEOFFREY: I'll protect you from him! Ariel, you magnificent creature, you must be mine! Stop your horse before you hurt yourself!
ARIEL: Weren't you listening? I *said* I was *sick* of *stupid* people trying to tell me what to do! Especially *losers* like you!
[ARIEL whacks at him repeatedly for emphasis, using violence in lieu of italics. GEOFFREY manages to duck her flailing arms and grab hold of her wrist, attempting to pull her off Pumpkin and on to his own horse.]
GEOFFREY: I've got you now. Let's just see who's a loser -- OOOF!!
[His words are cut off by the weight of CASSANDRA launching herself off her own horse and flinging onto his back. GEOFFREY immediately releases ARIEL to devote both hands to protecting his eyes from this screeching, clawing menace. After a brief struggle, he finally manages to restrain CASSANDRA's hands long enough to spare a glance at the trail ahead -- one instant before another low-hanging branch clobbers him full in the face.]
[Cut to a liberally powdered, red-eyed, inestimably pissed-off DIRK BLACKPOOL, galloping up the trail just in time to watch ARIEL break out into the open field, riding towards a huge and not-so-distant group of soldiers led by -- judging by the gleam of gold lamé -- ERIK GREYSTONE. Realizing he's lost ARIEL, the seething DIRK yanks his mount's reins and gallops back to the prone, groaning GEOFFREY.]
DIRK: Is anything broken?
GEOFFREY: I don't think so.
DIRK [dismounting from his horse]: Pity. Then perhaps I can *break* it for you! [He deals GEOFFREY a swift whack upside the head to punctuate the word "break."] You idiot! How could you let her get away?
GEOFFREY [whining]: I didn't see you doing any better! It was all that stupid servant's fault! Thanks to her, we've got nothing.
[Suddenly, both men do a double-take at the unexpected sound of a low moan. With an evil gleam in his eye, DIRK BLACKPOOL stalks to the side of the trail, thrusts one arm into the underbrush, and hauls out CASSANDRA, who is looking distinctly worse for wear. Her hat is askew, with one horn bent in half; her sleeve is scarred with a huge rip, and she's tangled in twigs. She shrinks back from BLACKPOOL like a rabbit threatened with a snake. No -- like a rabbit threatened with a microwave.]
DIRK: Well, well. What have we here? You spoke too soon, Geoffrey. [Towering over CASSANDRA, DIRK treats her to his most vicious, microwave-caliber smirk.] She's almost nothing -- but not quite. Not *yet.* But we could change that soon enough, couldn't we? [Drawing his double-pronged swordcatcher with a steely clang, he uses it to tip CASSANDRA's chin up towards him, forcing her eyes to meet his. She now looks frightened as a rabbit locked *inside* a microwave, with a snake thrown in for good measure -- and mulching rumored as a distinct future possibility.] What have you got to say for yourself, hmm?
[CASSANDRA's eyes dart from DIRK, to GEOFFREY, and back again. She takes a deep, trembling breath -- then shrieks loudly enough to cause DIRK to drop his swordcatcher on his own foot.]
[And at this inopportune cliffhanger moment, the episode fades into a graphic-novel-style close-up of CASSANDRA's panicked expression, and breaks for a commercial.]
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