23: Learning to Stand

Read Chapter One: Here

How long am I going to leave them in misery?  Long enough for someone to find his courage at least.


INT. TISHINA CASTLE – NIGHT

THE LIBRARY

A thin rod of wood snaps over the arm of a chair. 

Lisa’s in her wheelchair, scraps of cloth and sticks across her lap: the makings of a pair of crutches, but she’s fumbling.

On the table, Loren stands at a mountain of tomes, scanning a storybook.

PICTURE

The egg silhouette.

 

LOREN

You don’t have to go through with this.

 

LISA

Don’t you trust your brother?

 

LOREN

I… I used to.

 

LISA

That’s not what I meant…

 

Her hold slips.  She drops sticks and cloths both, sighs.

 

LOREN

Here, let me.

 

He hurries over, pulls up a chair.  Next he speaks, he’s deftly assembling a sturdy crutch:

 

LOREN (CONT’D)

The truth is, Koschei did something to Martin.  I shouldn’t have left.  It’s obviously only gotten worse.  He’d never leave Diana for a thousand treasure troves…

 

LISA

Prince Loren…

 

LOREN

I’m sorry you’ve been pulled into this.

 

LISA

Prince Loren, I’m not worried anymore.

 

LOREN

You’re not?

 

LISA

I trust Ivan.  You should too.  Even if you can’t trust Martin anymore.

LOREN

What changed your mind?

A beat.  

LISA

Just…  Have faith.  You’ll see.

 

LOREN

I’ve failed him, all of them.

 

LISA

What could you have done?

 

He starts busily on a second crutch.

 

LOREN

I just sit back and think when everyone else is already fighting…

 

LISA

So you can’t think and fight at once — Most people are like that.  Choosing to think isn’t a bad thing.

 

He shakes his head.

 

LISA (CONT’D)

You know, you’d probably make a good king.

 

LOREN

Me?  Um, that’s not an offer, is it?

 

LISA

You mean there’s not some girl in town who’s interested?

 

LOREN

No — I mean, that is, I don’t know, I’ve never checked.  I’m…  not.  Interested, I mean.  Never have been.  I like it here, with my books.  It’s strange.

 

LISA

I don’t think so.  You’ve been exactly where you’ve needed to be so far.

 

He almost smiles.

 

MARTIN (O.S.)

Not to mention, there’s less competition this way.

 

Martin’s in the doorway.  A pair of nervous HANDMAIDS (ND) stand behind him.

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

It’s time you were back in your tower, princess.

 

LOREN

She’s not a prisoner, Martin.

 

Martin enters, beckoning the maids.

 

MARTIN

I’ll do what I think is necessary to keep the last princess of Khazarim safe.  Koschei’s still out there somewhere, and until we’re married, he’ll stop at nothing to get her back, isn’t that right?

 

LISA

Unless he’s dead.   You know, now I realize what this courtship reminds me of.

 

MARTIN

If familiarity helps you sleep, princess.  Goodnight.

 

Lisa squeezes Loren’s hand before she’s wheeled away.  Loren storms back to his book.

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

So, what’s this you’ve found out about Koschei?

 

LOREN

Martin, what is the matter with you?

 

Martin picks up a crutch, twirls it.

 

MARTIN

I have a sorcerer breathing down my neck and a princess robbing me blind —

 

A hiss.  He drops the crutch.

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

(re: his hand) — and splinters.  But let’s deal with these in order.

 

He kicks the crutch aside.  Loren shows him the page.

 

LOREN

(re: the picture) Beating Koschei’ll be harder than stabbing him.  We need to find this thing, and then maybe you can consult your list.

 

MARTIN

(hand in mouth) Why?

 

LOREN

Because apparently only someone with magic in their blood can put it back, make him mortal again.  It needs a “spell of restoration.”  Not too technical, but most ne’er-do-wells don’t study it…

 

MARTIN

And then we kill him?

 

LOREN

And then we do what we have to do.

 

MARTIN

And what do we do with the other one after?  They’re like rats.

 

He flips the books shut.  Loren grabs his hand, examines it —

— yanks out a splinter the size of a toothpick.

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

Watch it!  You’re a lousy surgeon.

 

LOREN

I knew you wouldn’t listen…

 

MARTIN

(snatching his hand back) I have a better idea.  We take four boxes and four swords, and we’ll cut Koschei up into four pieces and bury them at the four corners of the kingdom.  Forever.

 

Loren’s looking at the splinter.

 

LOREN

Martin?

 

MARTIN

And, of course, we’ll give him the option of dying if he prefers that instead.  It’ll be less than he deserves.

 

He starts to leave.

 

LOREN

Martin.

 

MARTIN

What?

 

A beat. 

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

What?

 

Loren closes his fist around the splinter, pale.

 

LOREN

What would you do, if you could live forever?

 

Another beat.

 

MARTIN

Don’t ask stupid questions.

 

He leaves, and Loren stares at the splinter again.

There’s no blood on it.

 


Fun Facts of the Week:

The bird in the featured photo is called a white wagtail.  Both it and the Wren are “passerine” birds, the “perching” order of the Avian species, which account for more or less half of all birds.

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