24: Plumb Line

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INT. TISHINA CASTLE – DAY

THE KEEP

On a raised walkway, Loren sits in a corner.  He’s hunched over a book, turning pages quickly.

Footsteps below.  He looks out into

THE THRONEROOM

Stacia’s returned.  Martin’s list is growing.  PALACE GUARDS and SERVANTS eye his pacing nervously.

Lisa swings on her new crutches.  The magic shoes glitter.

 

LISA

They fit perfectly.

 

STACIA

My apprentice’s worth his weight in gold.

 

MARTIN

Let’s hope his work isn’t.

 

The room cringes.  Stacia doesn’t.

 

STACIA

Any price for a bride’s happiness, your highness.

 

MARTIN

(to Lisa) Are you satisfied?

 

LISA

That depends:  Are you asking me as your hostage, or your fiancée, your highness?

 

MARTIN

Regardless, I did ask. (to Stacia) Seems like Baba Yaga’s got her own apprentice.

 

STACIA

(ignoring him) I’ll have the ring by tomorrow.

 

Martin stands, all business.

 

MARTIN

Good.  I’ll speak to the priest about tomorrow morning then.

 

LISA

What?

 

STACIA

So soon?

 

MARTIN

At dawn.

 

Lisa grasps at straws:

 

LISA

You want our engagement to last one night?

 

MARTIN

We can’t much afford extravagance when half the royal treasury’s stitched into your gown.

 

Another grasp…

 

LISA

But Baba Stacia hasn’t named her price yet.

 

MARTIN

Baba Stacia is lucky I don’t put her out on the street this instant for raising a sorcerer.  Besides… (smile on and off) …you don’t have much choice, so don’t be late.

 

…a straw:

 

LISA

You’re not really one for logistics, are you?

 

MARTIN

I beg your pardon?

 

LISA

You’re not welcome to it.  But logistics:  You have your lists, but do you know how to cater a party?

 

MARTIN

Not really my area of expertise.

 

LISA

How to declare a kingdom holiday?  Levy taxes for the expense?  Invite everyone who’ll be insulted if you don’t?  Manage the trade influx at the border?  Anything that doesn’t involve a troupe of soldiers and a lot of yelling?

 

MARTIN

Are you going somewhere with this?

 

LISA

Maybe you’re not ready to be king.

 

Martin glares.

 

LISA (CONT’D)

Sure, you can manage the ins and outs of killing a dragon—that’s what you do.  You’re the “hero.”  It doesn’t make you ready to take care of an entire kingdom.

 

His jawline ticks.

 

MARTIN

I’ll delegate.

 

LISA

“Delegate”?

 

MARTIN

Delegate.  Rule.  It’s what kings do.  You just have to know where everyone belongs.

 

LISA

Interesting.

 

MARTIN

What is?

 

LISA

Anyone can do that, even Prince Ivan…

 

MARTIN

Ivan is dead!

 

The hall goes quiet.

Martin closes the distance between them.

Loren peers over the rail, unnoticed, listening.

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

(hushed) He fell to his death.  If you want to wait, any day now Koschei is going to ride over that wall looking for his bride, ready to take over the world.

 

LISA

(aloud) You underestimate your brother.

 

MARTIN

This is the cost of the crown, your highness.  Not doing what we want, but doing what we have to.

 

A beat.

 

LISA

(realization) You don’t really want to be king, do you?

 

MARTIN

It’s nothing personal.

 

LISA

Funny you should say that.

 

They match glare for glare.  The servants and guards are watching Lisa now.

Martin turns away, gestures.

 

MARTIN

Guards, I think the princess is due back in her tower.

 

STACIA

Prince Martin!

 

The guards hesitate

 

LISA

I think I’ve made my point.

 

A beat.

Martin storms out.  

Lisa’s façade drops.  She’s shaken.

 

LISA (CONT’D)

Your apprentice better have a plan, Baba Stacia.

 

STACIA

You have more allies than you know.

 

ABOVE

Loren draws back with a determined stare and hurries out along the walkway.

 

EXT. TISHINA CASTLE – LATER

AN ARCADE

Soldiers in full armor march past by the gate to

THE GARDEN

Near the stables.  Slavic epics in frescos and fountains. 

King Symon sits at a fountain:  He’s weak and worn and looks ill.  He wears mourning black.  A few SERVANTS (ND) wait on him nervously.   

Diana waits by the gate, wearing a few sleepless nights.

A sparrow flits over the wall, lands close at hand, chirps.  Symon looks up, smiles and nods.

It chirps again and flits away.  He resets his frown.

Martin enters from the arcade, still in black.  He sees them and stops — surprised — turns to go…

 

SYMON

Martin?

 

…stops, caught.

 

SYMON (CONT’D)

What’s all that noise in the courtyard?

 

MARTIN

Diana, what is my father doing here.  He needs rest.

 

She turns away.  Symon takes his arm.

 

SYMON

This is rest.  Are you all right?

 

Martin dutifully takes a seat.

 

MARTIN

Don’t worry yourself for me, Father.

 

Beat.

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

Or the kingdom.

 

SYMON

You’ve never brought a princess home from your adventures before.

 

MARTIN

It wasn’t worth it I suppose, until now.

 

SYMON

I’m a bit puzzled at this courtship…

 

Diana swallows hard.

 

MARTIN

A slow one.  She’s still recovering from the shock.

 

SYMON

(trying) That is something you and Ivan always had in common:  Always taking care of everyone.

 

MARTIN

Ivan couldn’t… never mind.

 

SYMON

I was under the impression you’d miss your adventures stuck on a throne all day.  You were taking your time…

 

MARTIN

I’ve been irresponsible and selfish.

 

Symon’s surprised, then guilty.

 

SYMON

Martin, I’m afraid your mother and I put too much pressure on you.

 

MARTIN

No.

 

Surprise again…

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

I’m a hero.  I can handle pressure.  It comes with the dragons and damsels. (beat) You know what I could never stand?  The sphinxes.  All those riddles.  They could never just tell me what they want.

…and guilt again.

Martin stands, turns to leave.

 

SYMON

(standing) Do you love this woman, Martin?

 

Martin hesitates.  Diana’s bracing herself.

 

MARTIN

What does love have to do with it?

 

SYMON

(worried) I’ve made mistakes with you, haven’t I?

 

MARTIN

No.

 

SYMON

I taught you to take care of others…

 

MARTIN

And I have.  I always took care of Ivan, didn’t I?  I tried to take care of you, of Mother, of this kingdom, I…

 

SYMON

And yourself?

 

Martin’s confused.

 

SYMON (CONT’D)

(realizing) Did I teach you to take care of yourself?

 

MARTIN

No one takes care of kings.

 

SYMON

Family takes care of each other.  I’m sorry, Martin, I didn’t do better.

 

MARTIN

You’re not the one to blame.

 

A beat.

 

SYMON

Why not wait on this marriage?

 

MARTIN

Is that what you want?

 

SYMON

I want you to be happy.

 

Beat. 

Martin scoffs.

 

MARTIN

I wish I’d known.

 

All business, ignoring a hurt look:

 

MARTIN (CONT’D)

Do you know what happened to that ring Mother wore on anniversaries, the silver one?

 

SYMON

I’m afraid not.

 

Martin bows perfunctorily, heads for the gate, pauses to look at Diana, who’s stiff but shedding tears. Unmoved, he leaves.

Symon sighs again and sticks his hand in his pocket.  He pulls out a small silver ring, turns it. 

He stands, creaking.  Diana hurries over to help, wiping at her eyes.

 

SYMON (CONT’D)

Now then, don’t you worry. We’ll bring him back to us.  (towards a tree) You were right.

 

Loren steps out.

 

LOREN

I’ve let you down again, sir.

 

SYMON

No, Loren. I’m never not proud of any of you.

 

He squeezes Diana hand, sets a hand on Loren’s shoulder.

 

SYMON (CONT’D)

But we have to save him from himself.  You have a plan?

 

LOREN

I think I may know a trick. Diana, I’ll need your help.

 

DIANA

Of course.

 

SYMON

Then I think it’s time you both know what I know.

 

LOREN

(confused) About what?

 

A flutter of wings and they look to the fountain.  Symon smiles.

 

SYMON

About marriage.

 

The Raven spreads its wings in a bow.


Notes of the Week:

I almost left this one out, but it felt strange to put Symon on the sidelines, especially given the parallels between Martin and Koschei in this half of the story.  Since Symon featured as a factor in the differences between Ivan and Koschei, I felt it fit to take him back to the garden for his other two sons.  Even so, I wish there was some way I could think of to weave this arc in parallel with the previous one instead, I’m just not sure how to go about it.  

If all goes well, there are two chapters left, then I’m taking a break to plan my next project.  Still sending out query letters on Westfall.  Any advice to the process or revisions would be most welcome.

See you next week!

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