The Heart Of The Matter

Written by:  Caina Q.  Fuller

The Messenger

Copywright:  Caina Q.  Fuller 2001.

 

Fade In-Rome, Day

 

Roman Arena.  Two men fight in the arena.  The better of the two warriors is LEDRICLES, the man who wants to be the next champion of Rome in Liviaís place.  Augustus Caesar and a couple of his lapdogs watch the battle.  Caesar doesnít seem to have much of an interest in the young warrior, and we will soon learn why.

 

Praetorian #1

My Lord.  Ledricles is quite the warrior.

Do you think he will be Romeís

next champion?

 

Augustus

Weíll see.

 

 

Ledricles sweeps his opponentís feet from beneath him then quickly runs him through.  The crowd goes wild and Ledricles raises his blood stained blade toward Augustus, who gives only a small nod of acknowledgement.  This seems to hurt Ledricles, but he bows with deep respect anyway.

 

 

Ledricles

Hail Caesar! Hail Caesar!

 

The crowd picks up his chant and goes wild with it.

 

 

Int. Caesarís Baths

 

 

Augustus enters his private baths and removes his robes, then sinks into the steaming water.  Before him is a magnificent view of the city of Rome. He  does all of this under the openly lustful stare of Ledricles.

 

A female attendant enters to wash Augustus, but Ledricles intercepts her and takes the tray she carries, which is laden with a sponge and exotic soaps and oils.  Augustus leans forward for his back to be washed.

 

Augustus

My back first.

 

Ledricles begins to wash his lord, but it isnít until his hand sinks inappropriately below the water and Augustus sees the obviously male hand bathing him that the emperor knows something is amiss.  Augustus grabs Ledriclesí hand and twists it back painfully until the young man cries out in pain.

 

Augustus

What the hell do you think youíre

doing? 

 

Ledricles

Bathing you my Lord.

 

Augustus

No, youíre overstepping your boundaries

and you know it. 

 

Ledricles is on his knees behind Caesar, his hand twisted back painfully, almost to the breaking point.

 

 

Ledricles

I only want your favor my Lord.

 

 

Augustus

If you didnít have my favor, you

wouldnít be commanding my legions,

would you?  Make no mistake:

You will never have my favor the

way Livia had my favor. Got that?

 

Ledricles

I only want to please you.

 

Augustus

Not like this you wonít.

 

Augustus les go of Ledricles, and the younger man rises to his feet.  His body is lean and muscular, and his movements are sensual.  He paces back and forth behind Augustus.

 

 

Ledricles

I helped you take Rome back

after Caligula died my Lord.  I feel

Iíve more than earned the honor

of being named Liviaís official

successor as Champion of Rome.

 

 

Augustus stares out of the window before him.  He has a wistful expression on his face as he remembers sharing this tub, as well as this city, with Livia. 

 

Augustus

Sheís out there somewhere.  Right

now.  I wonder what sheís doing.

 

Ledricles rolls his eyes, disgusted by Augustusí love for Livia.

 

Ledricles

Probably giving up her last bite of

food to a kitten or some such painfully

stupid thing.

 

Augustus

Livia became Romeís champion not

by my word alone.

 

Ledricles

What do you mean by that?

 

Augustus

I mean she earned her position.

She won the people Ledricles.  Even

though she has deserted Rome to

become the pacifist she is today, the

people loved Livia.  Possibly more than

they love me.  The only way they will

ever truly accept you as their championÖ

 

Ledricles is hanging onto every word now.

 

Ledricles

Yes?

 

Augustus

You have to show the people how

weak sheís become.  Kill her in the

arena, and the people will love you.

 

Ledricles

You mean to tell me the that all

I have to do to win the people

is to kill some sniveling religious

zealot in the arena?  Fine. I will find

her and bring her here. Iíll kill her in

the arena.

 

Augustus

(disgusted by his stupidity)

Fool.  Itís not that simple and you

know it. You will have to kill the

warrior they knew her to be as

Livia, and thatís not going to be

as easy as youíre thinking it is.

 

Ledricles

What you propose is impossible.  Eve

will never pick up the sword.  Not to

defend a title she cares nothing about.

 

Augustus leans back and closes his eyes, relaxing.

 

Augustus

Youíre right.  Thatís why youíll have to

encourage her.

 

Ledricles

How?

 

Augustus

Take someone she cares deeply for

and put their life in danger.

 

Ledricles

(a little sarcastically)

And who would that be?  You?

 

Augustus chooses to ignore this insult, for he needs this arrogant idiot to get the woman he loves back in his clutches.

 

Augustus

How do you feel about poetry Ledricles?

 

Fade Out

End of Teaser.

 

*******************************************************

 

 

The Heart Of The Matter-Act One

Fade In

 

Ext. Wedding celebration-Night

 

Virgil stands beside a couple who is getting married.  A priest blesses their union.

 

Priest

May the God of Eli watch over

this union and bless these young

people with a long and fulfilling

life of happiness and prosperity.

 

The priest turns the couple around.

 

Priest

I now give you Nestor and his

wife Iphegenia.

 

The young man turns to Virgil, a look of incredulity on his face as the crowd cheers.  He canít believe heís married.

 

Virgil

Youíre looking the wrong way buddy.

 

 

The crowd laughs, then cheers even more as Nestor and Iphegenia kiss.  The crowd disperses as a lively tune kicks up and everyone leads Nestor and Marcus toward one of the houses.

 

Virgil

Iím happy for you old friend.

 

Nestor

When Iphegenia and I return from our

honeymoon, Iím going to teach you a

couple of things about shoeing a horse.

 

Virgil

Uh, if Iím not mistaken, I can out shoe

you blindfolded.

 

Nestor

Only in your dreams.

 

Iphegenia

Speaking of dreams Nestor, itís

time you made a few of mine

come true.

 

Virgilís mouth drops open as his friendís new wife leads him into the house and closes the door.

 

Ext. Field

 

In the darkness of the night, Ledricles and about twenty Roman soldiers ride full speed over a grassy plain. In the distance we see the lights of the small village where the wedding is taking place.  Ledricles is on his way toward Virgil.

 

Ext. Town Square-Night

 

Virgil and the rest of the wedding party eat, drink and dance.  One particularly pretty young woman with Spanish features eyes Virgil as he talks with a group of his friends.

 

Friend #1

Hey Virgil.  Youíve got a babe with her eyes

all over you.

 

Virgil looks over at her and offers her a smile.

 

Friend #2

Go talk to her.  Go on.

 

Virgil tosses back the rest of his drink, then follows his friendsí advice. 

 

 

Ext. Field

Ledricles and his men are still riding for the village, only this time they are very close.

 

 

Ext.  Wedding

Virgil and the young woman talk as they dance to a slower tune.

 

Virgil

So youíre Maria from Spain, and

you work in your fatherís shop

making candleís?

 

Maria

Thatís right.  And youíre Virgil, the

poet.  Iíd love to hear some of your

work. 

 

Virgil

Anytime.

 

Maria

How about now?

 

Virgil

I only have one scroll with me,

and itís in my cabin. 

 

Mariaís hand finds itís way to Virgilís rear and she squeezes.

 

Maria

No time like the present.

 

 

Virgil looks around, to see if theyíre being watched.

 

Virgil

I donít usually move this fast.

 

Maria

Neither do I, but tonight is a

night for love.  Wouldnít you agree?

 

He looks at his cabin, which sits in the distance.  Heís had too much to drink so heís open to suggestions.

 

Virgil

I do tonight.

 

Ext-Road-Ledricles

 

Ledricles and his men are now on the road, practically on top of the village.  He stops his men and motions for them to line up around the gate leading to the village. All of the men do so, taking out bows and arrows.

 

Ledricles

Iím riding in.  If I give you the signal,

light the place up. Got it?

 

Men

(in unison)

Yes sir!

 

Ledricles kicks his horse into a run and continues on for the village.

 

 

 

Int-Virgilís cabin

 

Virgil and Maria are kissing passionately.  He picks his new lover up and she wraps her long legs around his waist.  Virgil lays Maria on the bed, then straightens, with her legs still wrapped around him, and pulls off his shirt, exposing his well-muscled body.  He then leans back over her and runs a hand up her dress to do who-knows-what, kissing her passionately once again.

 

 

Ext. Town square

The villagers are dancing and partying when Ledricles rides in to town with two men, and the people slowly begin to stop dancing and the music dies down.

 

 

Ledricles

People!  My name is Ledricles, the

future Champion of Rome.  Iím looking

for one of your own.

 

 

Int.  Virgilís cabin

Virgil and Maria have even fewer clothes on than before when suddenly Virgil pulls back.  This confuses Maria and slightly irritates her.

 

Maria

Whatís the matter?  Why are you

stopping?

 

Virgil

Do you hear that?

 

Maria

(listening)
I donít hear anything.

 

Virgil

Thatís right.  Thereís nothing.

 

Now Maria picks up on what he is saying and they sit up. 

 

Maria

What do you think is wrong?

 

Virgil

I donít know.

 

From outside he hears Ledricles call for him. 

 

 

Ledricles

Virgil!

 

Virgil pulls on a shirt and pants, then grabs his fathers sword.

 

Maria

What is it?

 

Virgil

It looks like trouble. A Roman

soldier is almost always trouble.

 

Maria

Donít go out there. It could be

dangerous.

 

Virgil

If he doesnít get what he wants

heíll start hurting people.  They always

do.

 

He leaves, not bothering to close his shirt, and runs into town. 

 

Ledricles

Virgil of Torone?  Friend of Eve,

the Messenger of Eli?

 

Virgil

Thatís me.  Who are you?

 

Ledricles

Ledricles.  I want the title of Champion

and to get that, Iím going to need your

help to get Eve into the arena.

 

Virgil

Well you can forget it.

 

Ledricles

Thatís too bad you feel that way.

 

 

Ledricles nods his head and his second in command lights an arrow.  Instead of shooting it at Virgil, like Virgil is expecting, he fires it into the air.

 

Ledricles takes in the sight of Virgilís sword, and the body thatís wielding it, and a devilish grin spreads across his face.

 

Ledricles

Donít make me hurt a pretty face Virgil.

Come quietly.

 

Virgil

Everybody.  Run!

 

Instead of obeying, the people only stare in bewildered silence.   However they get moving when flaming arrows begin to rain from the sky.  Ledricles flips from his saddle and starts a sword battle with Virgil, who handles his own only for a little while.  Ledricles is clearly a superior fighter over him.  Maria comes running toward Virgil when an arrow hits her in the chest.

 

Virgil

No!  Maria!

 

Ledricles

Oh, did I kill your ladylove? Thatís too

bad.  She was quite prettyÖ  for a girl

anyway.

 

Ledricles knocks Virgil out, then motions for another arrow to be fired.  The assault stops and Ledricles mount back up.

 

Ledricles

You know the plan.  Iíll see you

in Rome in a couple of days.

 

Ledricles rides off into the night as his second, lets call him Cyprian, picks up Virgilís unconscious form and slings him over his horse.

 

Fade out.  End of Act One.

 

 

*******************************************************

 

The Heart Of The Matter-Act Two

 

Fade In-Eve

 

It is early morning and Eve lies asleep I her rooms at a temple to Eli being rebuilt.  It was destroyed by Ledricles and his men a couple of months before during his quest to take the title of Champion.  Eve tosses and turns in her sleep as she sees visions of what will be her future, though she doesnít realize it yet.

 

 

Vision 1-Eve and Augustus are kissing while she is wearing Roman finery.

2-She watches Virgil fight for his life against a skilled Gladiator..

3-She sees herself wearing the uniform of the Champion of Rome.

4-She sees herself run a sword through a manís gut, though she is unable    

   to see the manís face.

 

 

Eve sits up from these visions, covered in sweat.  She quickly pours some water and washes her face.  Outside her window the sun is rising, promising to be a beautiful day.

 

Another image comes to mind as she watches the sun rise:  Virgilís hatred for her in a temple to Eli as Xena stopped him from killing her at the end of the episode ďEve.Ē

 

As she tries to shake away these images, a knock sounds at her door.  Eve opens it to find a sweet old woman outside.  The woman has managed to retain some of her beauty, and her hair is thick, long and snow-white. Her name is ALTHAIA, and she sees that Eve is disturbed immediately.

 

 

Althaia

Eve? Whatís the matter sweetheart?

 

Eve

Just a bad dream is all.  Iím fine.

 

Althaia

The same dream youíve been

having for the past couple of nights?

 

Eve

Yes.

 

Althaia

The strain of losing your mother is

really having an effect on you.  Why

donít you stay in today and rest?

 

Eve is grateful for the womanís concern, but she doesnít wish to talk about it now, and resting is the last thing she needs.

 

Eve

Actually, I think some good old-fashioned

work is just what I need to take my mind off

things.  Come on.

 

 

The two women walk amongst the Elijanís as they work to clean up the ashes of the ruined temple.  Some of the carpenters fashion a new structure for the temple. Eveís eyes now wander to the only thing left undamaged:  the church graveyard.  Each grave has the Christian fish symbol over it, and sadly a lot of the graves are fresh.

 

Althaia

Why donít you talk to me? Sometimes

it helps to share your pain with another.

 

 

Eve is reluctant at first but the woman insists.  Finally they take a seat on a log, which is next to one of the graves and a young girl brings them some fruit for breakfast.

 

Eve

Every time I see a grave IÖI

 

Althaia

You think of your days as Livia?

 

Eve

Yes.  I canít begin to count the number

of graves that exist because of me.  What

makes it worse is remembering how much

I used to enjoy it.

 

Althaia

I canít begin to imagine what youíre going

through as far as the sin of murder, but I do

know a thing or two about guilt. I know what

itís like to do something so bad you can never

go back to what the way life was before you

did it.

 

Eve

You?  I canít imagine you doing something

to hurt another person Althaia.

 

Althaia doesnít have a smile for Eve this time.  Instead she looks off into the steadily brightening sky, and deeper still into her youth to tell her story.

 

 

Althaia

When I was younger, I had a best friend. From the

day we met as children we were inseparable.

You never saw us apart, and strangers passing

through our village just assumed we were sisters.

As you know, itís customary for fathers to arrange

Their daughterís marriages.  I hated the young man

my father chose for me but my friend was luckyÖ

 

Adara falls into silence and Eve gently touches her shoulder, urging her to continue.

 

Althaia

She loved her betrothed, and I was so jealous.

Every day I would see the two of them walking

through town, or swimming in the pond

together. I began to feel things for Adaraís husband.

I know now that those feelings were born out

of spite for the love Adara had found, but I didnít

know that at the time.  It took a long time, but I

finally seduced him. 

 

Eve

Oh, AlthaiaÖ

 

Althaia

I havenít talked about this with anyone

Eve.  The first night I lay with him, she

came home and caught us.  She wasÖ

 

Althaia dissolves into tears and Eve holds her, trying to be a comfort.

 

Althaia

She was bringing me a gift.  She had a

talent for drawing and had this beautiful

locket her grandmother had given her

that Iíd always wanted. 

 

Althaia pulls out half of a locket.  Inside is a tiny drawing, very clear, of a young woman.

 

Althaia

Sheíd drawn these tiny pictures of us inside.

She was bringing it to me and sheÖcaught

me betraying her.

 

Eve

What happened after that?

 

Althaia

She ran out and, later that evening

I found half of the locket, this half, on

my doorstep. Itís an image of her.  I never

saw her again.  Rumor has it that she

had moved to a neighboring

village but died when a fire swept through

the town.  So you see Eve, I know

something about guilt.  What do you

think youíre your sweet little Althaia now?

 

Eve wipes the womanís tears away with her own handkerchief, still holding an arm around her.

 

Eve

I think youíre a woman with a good heart

who made a mistake in her youth.  Youíve

been paying for your sin against your friend for

too long Althaia.  I think itís time you forgave yourself.

 

Althaia

And what about you?  Are you willing to

do the same?

 

Eve

Iím not so sure my crimes deserve

to be forgiven. By me or anyone else.

 

Joxerís sword suddenly plants itself into the ground dangerously close to Eveís feet. 

 

Ledricles

Iíd tend to agree with that statement.

 

 

 

Eve and Althaia look up to find Ledricles grinning down at them.  Althaia reacts with fear of him.

 

Eve

What is it?

 

Althaia

Thatís him. Thatís Ledricles, the one

who destroyed this temple.

 

Eve yanks Joxerís sword out of the ground and looks it over, then eyes Ledricles suspiciously.

 

Eve

The man that carries this sword.

is heÖ?

 

Ledricles

Dead?  No, heís very much alive.

For now that is.

 

Eve

What do you want?

 

Ledricles

I want everything you walked away

from in Rome.  I want to get you in the

arena and fight you to the death so

I will be hailed as Romeís Champion.

 

Eve

You want the title of Champion?  You

can have it. And trust me when I say

the positions not all its cracked up to be.

 

Ledricles has had enough talking.  He wants Eve back in Rome.  The sooner he can kill her in battle, the sooner he will win the people.  Or so he believes.

 

 

 

Ledricles

Enough talk.  Come with me now.

 

Eve

Iím not returning to Rome and Iím

not fighting you to the death in

the arena.  I wonít kill again, for any reason.

 

Ledricles

(draws a crossbow and aims at Althaia)

Yeah?  Well Iíve always been taught

that to stand by and do nothing,

thereby allowing someone to murder

an innocent is the same as committing

the crime yourself.

 

Eve

Eli has written:  ďGuilt cannot fall

upon those who refuse to shed blood,

or refuse to go to war in the name of

peaceĒ.

 

The people have stopped their work and have gathered around to watch what is happening.  Althaia steps bravely forward.

 

Althaia

Thatís right Eve. If this man kills me or anyone

else here, you are not responsible.  He is.

 

Ledricles gives them a ďif-you-say-soĒ sigh and pulls the trigger.  Eveís reflexes are still warrior sharp, and she catches the arrow just before it hits Althaia.  She tosses it aside.

 

Ledricles

(laughing)

If Iím not mistaken, you just got involved

in my little dispute with your friend here Eve.

You just ďwent to warĒ with me. Is that not

hypocritical or what?

 

 

Eve

Like I said.  Iím not fighting you

in the arena.  You can have the title

as Champion. I gladly give it to you.

 

Ledricles angrily dismounts and draws his sword. Itís obvious itís taking all of Eveís willpower not to defend herself.  He puts the sharp end of the sword to her throat.

 

Eve

Go on.  Kill me.

 

Ledricles

Iím sorry sweetness, but itís not

that easy.  If you donít come back

now, Iíll return to Rome without you,

and Iíll kill that gorgeous little poet

friend of yours.  If you come with

me and sacrifice yourself in the

arena thereby giving me your title-

 

Eve

Youíll kill Virgil anyway.

 

Ledricles

Iím a man of my word.  Come back

and he will live.  I know your history

with Virgil, Eve.  Youíve killed the

father.  Will you kill the son as well?

 

This time his argument hits a tender spot with Eve and she agrees.

 

Eve

Fine.  Iíll return.

 

Althaia reacts in panic.

 

Althaia

If you go Eve, heíll kill you.

 

 

Eve

I donít have a choice Althaia.  I canít let

you die, and I canít let Virgil die.

 

Althaia hands Eve her half of the locket.

 

Althaia

Iíll be praying for you Eve.

 

Disgusted by all the emotion, Ledricles mounts up and literally pulls Eve into the saddle in front of him.  He pulls the horse around and rides off with her.

 

Althaia

God bless you Messenger.

 

Ext. Rome

 

Virgil is led past the Senate Hall in Rome, where Augustus is coming down the steps.  He sees Virgil and stops, a look of mild shame coming over his face.

 

Virgil

Caesar!  Caesar!

 

One of the guards cracks a whip across Virgilís back and it rips the material of his shirt.

 

Guard

Bow before the Emperor!

 

Virgil is pushed to his knees before Augustus. 

 

Virgil

My Lord.  Thank Eli.  You have to

help me.  Iíve been kidnapped.

 

Augustus

I know.  I ordered your capture.

 

Virgilís face is a mask of shock and hurt by this revelation.

 

 

Virgil

ButÖwhy?

 

Augustus

(arrogant)

Because I felt like it.

 

Virgil

My father knew you.  He called friend.

How could you do something like this

to his son?

 

Augustus

I am not the same man your father knew.

Take him away.

 

Virgil struggles uselessly in the guards grip and they drag him away.  Augustus looks to the men walking with him, and their confused expressions.

 

Augustus

Ledricles has given me Virgil.  Eve isnít far behind. 

 

Augustus continues on with his advisors in tow. 

 

Cut to the sky over Rome.  A storm is brewing and lightning flashes.  Thunder rolls as rain begins to pour in torrents.

 

Fade out.

End of Act Two.

 

 

*********************************************************

 

The Heart Of The Matter-Act Three

Int.  Prison

 

Virgil is led through the prison, soaking wet from the storm they were caught in.  Some of the men hoot and holler at him, saying how pretty he is.  One particularly ugly man grabs his bars and begins to rattle them.

 

Prisoner

Hey!  Look at that.  Put him in here with me.

 

The prisoner wipes drool from his mouth and Virgil looks away in disgust and fright.  The soldiers transporting him stop and grin.

 

Soldier

Wanna make a bet on who wins?

 

Soldier 2

Sure.

 

Virgil

No!  Donít put me in there with him!

 

The guards only laugh and shove him toward the doors.  Virgil struggles and as he does, a key falls lose from one of the guards belts.  Virgil grabs it and hides it in his palm, with the point end of the key sticking between his forefinger and middle finger.

 

The guards shove him through and slam the gate locked.  The male prisoner wipes his lips again.

 

Prisoner

Come to daddy, pretty.

 

Virgil

Keep your distance or I will hurt you.

 

The big man laughs and lunges at Virgil.  He punches the guy as hard as he can and the key puts a nasty gash below his left eye, and blood pours.  The prisoner screams in rage and comes at him again, and Virgil attempts to kick him.  This time the prisoner is prepared and he grabs Virgilís foot, shoving him against the wall.  Everyone cheers and laughs, except Guard 2, who has his money on Virgil.

 

Prisoner

(up in Virgilís face)

Youíre a regular spitfire ainít ya?

Thatís ok by me.  I like Ďem spicy.

 

Virgil

Get off me or I swear Iíll kill you.

 

Prisoner

I like spicy, I donít like rude.  I think itís

time I showed you whose boss in her, bitch.

 

Virgil

Iíve got your bitch right here.

 

Virgil head buts the man and he falls back, then Virgil kicks him across the jaw, stoops and swipes his foot under the man, knocking him to flat on his back and the prison goes wild. The big prisoner is embarrassed now.

 

Prisoner

Iíll kill you!

 

He comes at Virgil one last time and Virgil drives the key into the mans right eyeball, then punches the key back into his head as far as he can get it.  The man falls to the floor dead.  Because the prisoner fell with his head near the bars, one of the guards reaches in and pulls the key from the prisonerís head.

 

Guard 2

Iíll take that.  We wouldnít want you

escaping, now would we?  Nice job

by the way. Ok, pay up.

 

They leave as Guard 1 pays Guard 2.  Virgil goes to the bars which affords him a view of the road.  His cell is underground so the high window affords a view of the road at eye level. 

 

 

Virgil

EveÖ

 

Cut to:

Caesarís Palace-Night

 

Eve is led by Ledricles through the halls of the palace until she comes to her old quarters.  He shoves her inside where an old woman is laying out clothes for Eve to wear with her first meeting with Augustus. 

 

Ledricles

Get dressed.  You look like the peasant

you are.

 

Eve

If Augustus wants to see me, he can see

me as I am.

 

Ledricles

Youíre being awfully familiar with our

Emperorís first name, donít you think?

 

Eve is tired and in no mood for his attitude.  Itís time she gave some back to him.

 

Eve

Well I was his champion, wasnít I?

 

The dig hits home and stands before her, fuming helplessly.  She had everything he wants now:  the title and the emperor.  He hates her for it.

 

Ledricles

Get dressed Eve.

 

Eve

Not until youíre out of the room.

 

Ledricles

Trust me sugar.  I wonít get any

vicarious thrills from the sight of your

naked flesh.

 

Eve

Fine.

 

Eve pulls off her clothes, staring him in the eye the entire time.  Finally he canít stand it anymore and he turns around, slightly embarrased.  Eve winks at the old woman who gives her a nod of approval. Then the servant notices the half of the locket when Eve lays it on the bed.

 

Adara

Where did you get this, my lady?

 

Eve

A friend gave it to me for good luck.  Why?

 

Adara

Oh, nothing. Just curious.

 

Eve

I donít recall seeing you here when I lived

in the palace.  Whatís your name?

 

Adara

Adara.  I was here. 

 

Ledricles

Are you finished yet?

 

Eve

Yes.

 

Ledricles turns to find Eve dressed in Roman finery but her hair is still down.  Even still, she is stunning in the blue material. It sets off her eyes.

 

Ledricles

Letís go.

 

Int. Dining Hall

 

Augustus and two of his closest advisors dine on rich foods and wine while they talk.

 

Augustus

I am considering hosting 100 days

of Gladiator games.

 

Advisor 1

Excellent idea sire.  The people could

use the distraction.

 

Augustus

I think so too.  They have beenÖ

 

Augustusí voice trails off when Eve enters the room with Ledricles gripping her arm painfully.  They stop half way into the room and Ledricles bows.

 

Ledricles

My Lord.  I bring you Eve.  Traitor

of Rome as well as the gods. 

 

Augustus ignores Ledriclesí petulant attitude and dismisses his guests.  Ledricles however, remains, gripping Eveís arm.

 

Augustus

Get out Ledricles.  I wish a private

audience with my lover.

 

This obviously pisses Ledricles off but instead of arguing he bows and turns to leave the room.  However, Ledricles looks down at Eve hatefully.

 

Ledricles

Donít get too comfortable in Caesarís

Bed Eve.  You wonít lie in it long.

 

Eve

You wonít get to lie in it at all, will you? 

 

For a moment we wonder if he will strike her, but he storms out, slamming the door behind him.  Now itís just Eve and Augustus.  When she looks from the door Ledricles had left, she turns and is surprised to see Augustus practically on top of her.  She steps back surprised.

 

Augustus

(runs a finger down her cheek)

Your beauty is astounding.  It always

has been.

 

Eve

I am not your lover Augustus.

 

Eve goes to the window and looks at the sky.  Itís pitch black and stormy.  Rain falls angrily from the sky and lightning flashes.  A breeze blows through the air as Augustus comes to stand beside her, and he watches her hair pull away from her face in the fresh breeze.  Itís obvious how much in love with her he still is.  Below the window, Ledricles gets soaked, hoping to eavesdrop on their conversation.

 

Augustus

Was there a moment, even in itís

smallest measure, that you loved me?

 

Eve looks deeply into his eyes.  Now is her chance to clear the air with him.

 

Eve

When I was a child I did. I could

have loved you like a father, which

would have made me an even

more loyal ally to you.

 

Augustus

I mean as a woman loves a man.

 

Eve

No.  Never.

 

Augustus flinches from the pain her words have caused. 

 

Augustus

Youíre words are like a dagger through

my heart Livia.

 

Eve

My name is Eve.  Not Livia.  It might

help you to remember that.

 

Augustus

You were lying the entire time? Even when

we were making love and you would whisper those-

 

Eve

It was all a lie.  You wanted me and I wanted

your empire.  I gave you what you desired

and told you what you wanted to hear as a

means to an end.  Thatís all you were to me.

 

Augustus

Why are you being so cruel?

 

Eve

Iím being honest.  Thatís why you used Ledricles

to bring me here isnít it?  To get the truth? To force

me back into your palace?

 

Augustus

Yes, and nothing hurts quite like the truth,

does it?

 

Eve

No, I suppose not.

 

They listen to the rain and below them, Ledricles strains to hear.

 

Augustus

What about now?  You no longer have your

former thirst for blood and power.  You have a

good heart Eve. You could do for Rome what a

thousand Caesarís never could:  You could make

her honorable and loving.  You could teach her

how to conquer with love and mercy instead of

the sword.

 

Eve shakes her head no, looking almost as if she is going to laugh out loud.

 

Eve

A loving Rome is not what you want Augustus.

Maybe at one time, but not anymore.

 

Augustus

Why donít you tell me what I want then?

 

Eve

Me.  You donít just want my flesh you want

my soul.  Youíve always tried to possess me,

and twist me into-

 

An argument is coming and their voices are rising. 

 

Augustus

I saved you from the gods-

 

Eve

-Only to leave me in the care of a hateful

nanny who showed me nothing but contempt.

Then you dumped me in some academy to

be raised by strangers while you forged

your career!

 

Augustus

I placed you in the Academy so you

could be taught to be a proper Roman woman-

 

Eve

-Where I was taught to hate and driven to kill!

 

Now Augustus and Eve are nose to nose in an argument, shouting at one another.

 

Augustus

Driven to kill? I drove you to rise beyond your

station as a woman! I gave you the opportunity

to become as great as any man in history!

 

Eve

When you should have been my father!

not my general, and sure as hell not

my lover!

 

They step back away from one another, panting from their argument.  When they speak now, their voices are softer.

 

 

 

Augustus

I wanted you to have it all Livia. Eve.

I meant Eve.

 

Eve

I had it all.  I had the privilege of losing

everyone who ever showed me love

and kindness. I had the honor of being

pushed into Aresí arms.  I had the good

fortune to become a bloodthirsty, murderous

monster for Rome. All with your loving

approval.  And for what Augustus?  What?

 

 

Augustus

For Rome.

 

Eve

No.  For you.

 

Augustus is ready to change the subject now.  Heís tired of being shown his faults.

 

Augustus

There is another who wants what you

walked away from. 

 

Eve

Ledricles.  Why did you have to drag

Virgil into this?

 

Augustus

(incredulous)

I canít believe you of all people

would ask that question.  Tactical

advantage.  Heís your incentive for

cooperation.

 

Eve

I would have come to Rome willingly. You know

that.

 

Augustus

Yes, and you would have died in

the arena just as easily.  You religious types always

need an excuse to stand up and fight for

something, so Iím giving you one.  Marry me and

I will see to it Virgil returns home safe and sound,

and Iíll make Ledricles disappear.  Otherwise

Iíll turn you over to Ledricles and let him do

as he pleases with you.

 

Eve

Considering his type, thatís not much of

a threat for a woman Augustus.

 

Augustus

You know what I meant. 

 

Before Eve can protest Augustus wraps an hand behind Eveís neck and pulls her into a passionate kiss (just like in her prophetic dream), and for some unknown reason Eve allows it without struggling.  Under the window, Ledricles storms off angrily into the night.  He now knows Augustus is willing to betray him to get Eve back. Itís time for countermeasures.

 

 

Augustus

(takes her by the shoulders)

Eve, it could be like old time again.

 

Eve

For you that would be a dream come

true. For me, thatís a nightmare.

 

Augustus

You will stay in your old quarters.

right next to mine.

 

Eve

And if you had your way?

 

Augustus

If I had my way, you would spend

this night in my bed.

 

Eve turns and walks away, leaving Augustus behind.

 

 

Int. Ledricles Quarters-morning

The next day eve is dragged into Ledricles quarters. She now has a beautiful white toga with rich red trim, and her hair is pulled up into a classic Roman hairstyle.  Her face has also been beautifully painted. Eve is led through the quarters and into the gardens just outside his rooms. The guard shoves her into a seat next to Ledricles. 

 

Ledricles

Sit.  The day is unseasonably cool

since the rains yesterday, wouldnít

you agree?

 

Eve

Yes, itís cool today.  Why am I here?

 

Ledricles

A real get to the point kind of girl.  I like

that in a woman.

 

Eve

Really?  I never would have guessed

that about you.

 

Ledricles

Eat. I assure you, itís perfectly safe.

 

Eve

You keep barking commands at

me like Iím a dog. 

 

Ledricles

You believe yourself to be a woman of

power.  Letís test that theory, shall we?

Guard!

 

A gladiator enters the garden before them and bows.  Next, Virgil is pulled in and his chains broken.

 

Ledricles

Letís see if you have the power

to sit there and watch your little

friend die.

 

Virgil looks up at Eve in her Roman finery, wondering if heís been betrayed.

 

Eve

Virgil.

 

Close up on Eve.

Fade Out.  End of Act Three.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

The Heart Of The Matter-Act Four

Ext. Garden.

 

Virgil is tossed a sword and the Gladiator attacks.  Virgil is a good fighter but heís no match for the seasoned gladiator.  The fight doesnít last long before Virgilís sword is broken and the gladiator begins to beat him to a bloody pulp. 

 

Eve

Call him off!

 

Ledricles only laughs as Virgil falls to the ground in a beaten, broken heap.  The gladiator raises his sword and prepares to deliver the deathblow. Eve notices a warrior standing next to her with a spear.  She yanks it from his hand, kicks him in the gut to shove him back so sheíll have room to throw, then throws it at the gladiator. The dull end hits his unprotected head and he falls to the ground, unconscious. 

 

 

Ledricles

Put Virgil back in his cell.

(to Eve)

You wonít always be able to save

the innocent by such non-violent

means Eve.  One day you will either

pick up the sword, or you will die by it. 

 

 

Eve pushes past the guards, heading to Augustus.

 

Cut to: Augustusí chambers.

Augustus sits behind his desk with his advisors standing around him when Eve bursts into the room. 

 

Eve

You bastard!  How could you!

 

Augustus and the others are shocked that she would speak to him in such a tone.

 

Augustus

Everyone out. And you will do

well to remember who youíre talking to.

 

Eve

You liar! You never had any intentions

of letting Virgil live, did you?

 

With the room empty, Augustus comes around the desk, trying to calm her down.

 

Augustus

What are you talking about?

 

Eve

Your boy toy almost killed Virgil.  Iím

telling you right now. If anything happens

to my friend Iíll leave Rome and I will

never step foot in this city again! 

 

Eve storms out and Augustus follows, though he heads in an opposite direction.

 

Int. Ledricles quarters

Augustus enters Ledricles quarters with guards just as Ledricles exits his baths.  Without word, Augustus goes to the weapons wall and pulls down a set of chobos.  He then proceeds to kick Ledricles around a little.

 

Ledricles

My Lord!  What are you doing?

 

Augustus gets Ledricles down on the floor and puts one of the choboís under his chin. He hoists Ledricles up, almost choking him.

 

Augustus

You almost ruined my chances with

Eve with your little stunt today.  Give

me one good reason why I shouldnít break

your neck.

 

Ledricles

Iíve dedicated my life to you and to Rome.

Iím the one man who can help you keep

Eve hereÖ

 

Augustus stands and turns to the guards.

 

Augustus

Detain him here until I say otherwise.

 

Guards

Yes, sire.

 

Int.  Eveís quarters.

 

Eve is terribly distraught when she enters her quarters, and Adara watches her every move.

 

 

Adara

My lady? Is something wrong?

 

Eve

I used to keep a medical kit under

my bed.  Itís gone now. 

 

Adara

Iím sorry.  I donít know what

happened to it.

 

Eve sees the locket on the bed, before her eyes. Only this time, itís whole.  She opens it and looks at the picture of Althaia, then at the old woman, and puts 2 and 2 together. 

 

Eve

YouÖyouíre Althaiaís friend?

 

Time Elapse

Eve and Adara stand beside the window, Adara holding the locket.

 

Adara

How is she?

 

Eve

Sheís missing you.  Sheís been hating

herself all these years.

 

Adara

I allowed everyone but my family

to think Iíd died in a fire.  I hated

her for so many years untilÖI found

Eli and his message.  Now I see you

in the same situation.

 

Eve

(confused)

What?

 

Adara

You have changed from the woman

I knew as Livia to the Messenger of Eli.  Now

youíre faced with a decision to either kill,

or allow innocents to die. 

 

Eve

I know. I donít know what to do.

 

Adara

You must look at the heart of

the matter to find your answers Eve.

 

Eve

What do you mean?

 

Adara

Iíve heard so many stories about your

mother Xena.  She was evil once, but she

did so much good.  She turned her life around

and made the world a better, more peaceful

place to live, and she did it with a sword.

 

Eve

Are you saying I should pick up the sword?

Iím not my mother Adara. Iím the Messenger

of peace. I canít preach a message of peace

and wield a sword at the same time.

 

Adara

And who told you Eliís Messenger canít

follow the way of the warrior?  Iím

not saying you should make this decision

in haste, but Eve, donít deny your warrior

heart.  You may find your path in life

is to be a defender of the innocent.

 

 

Ext. The Arena

Augustus walks to his box and looks down into the empty arena.  He has several flashbacks of Eve fighting four gladiators in her past.

 

Augustus

Iím never going to have her back.

 

As Augustus is lost in his reverie, he doesnít see Ledricles enter below him.

 

Ledricles

I gave you everything and it means

nothing to you!

 

Ledricles executes the perfect flip and lands before Augustus.  He shakes with rage and hurt before his emperor.

 

Ledricles

When are you going to wake up and

realize Livia is dead? When are you

going to see that you will no sooner have her

love than I will have yours? 

 

Augustus

You want your fight to the death

with Eve, Ledricles?  Youíve got it.

You see I have woken up, and I

do realize she will never be mine. And

if I canít have her, no one will.

 

Cut to:

Eveís quarters.  Augustus enters with guards.

 

Augustus

Marry me or die in the arena with

Virgil tomorrow.  This is your last chance.

 

Eve

You want me to give up my future for

a life of misery with you? I refuse.

 

Augustus

Guards, take her.  Put her in chains and

put her in the cell with Virgil. Iíll give

you one last night with him.  Make it count.

 

Eve looks back to Adara, who gives her a knowing nod. 

 

Int. Prison.

 

Eve is tossed into a cell with Virgil, who lies on the floor, half unconscious.  She rips pieces of her toga and wets the strips in the basin, then goes to him and cleans his wounds.

 

Eve

Virgil?  Hey, can you hear me?

 

Virgil

Whatís going on?

 

Eve

Augustus has given me a choice.

I can either marry him or watch you

die in the arena.  Or I can fight

Ledricles for you.

 

The tension of the past couple of days is too much and Eve begins to cry.

 

Virgil

If you do neither, I die, right? The choice is

simple. Donít marry him, and donít fight.

Your mission as the Messenger is more important

than me.  It must be continued for the sake

of the greater good.

 

Eve

Youíre more important to me than you

give yourself credit for.  Virgil, I killed

your father.  I wonít kill you as well.

 

Virgil

Eve, you canít allow guilt to cloud

your judgment.  You have a mission

that you must continue.  Donít let me

stand in the way of that.

 

Virgil is too weak to go on, and he collapses back.  Eve struggles to get him into the bed and tucks him in.

 

Eve

Sleep now.  Weíll discuss this later.

 

She climbs into the top bunk, and stares at the ceiling.

 

Int. Halls of the palace.

 

Adara makes her way through the halls of Caesars palace, avoiding the guards as she goes.  She is just about to turn a corner when she hears Ledricles and Augustus coming toward her.  She ducks into a corner and prays they donít see her.

 

Ledricles

Iíve finished the preparations for the

battle tomorrow.

 

Augustus

Youíre enjoying this, arenít you?

 

Ledricles

Immensely.

 

Augustus

Continue on. I have only one order

for you.  When you kill her in the

arena tomorrow, make it a quick death.

 

They continue on through the corridors and Adara moves on as well.  She comes to a wall and pulls the torch.  A door opens and she disappears inside.  When she exits the tunnel, she is in the darkened arena.

 

Adara

Perfect.

 

Int. Prison

 

Eve is sleeping restlessly.  In her dream we se she is running through a bright and beautiful forest, but there is a sense of foreboding as she makes her way through the dense foliage.  Finally she stops to rest, and through her gasps of air we hear laughter.  Eve turns to find Livia leaning against a tree, laughing at her. 

 

Livia

Running from your problems Eve?

 

Eve
Oh God.  Not you.

 

Livia

You hate me, I know.  I hate you too. I

especially hate this cage you have me

trapped in. 

 

Eve

Cage?

 

Livia

Yes.  See, this is your soul since you

found Eli. However I am still here. Iím a part

of you.  And the only way to save Virgil

and yourself if to use me.   To accept that

I am a part of you.

 

Eve

Not a chance.

 

Livia

Are you afraid if you use me you

wonít be able to lock me back up in here?

I hope so. 

 

Eve

Iím not afraid of anything because

youíre not real.  You died in Eliís temple

when he reunited me with my mother.

 

Livia

(mocking)

ďReunited me with my motherĒ. Please.

Thatís a little trite, donít you think?

You of all people should know

(Livia puts her lips to Eveís ear)

I donít die easily.

 

Eve turns from Livia and walks from the trees to a clearing, which features a magnificent waterfall and a beautiful lake.  She goes up to the water and kneels down to wash her face.  Livia soon reappears in the surface of the water.

 

Livia

You canít escape me that easily Eve.

 

Eve stands and backs right into Livia.  She jumps and Livia laughs at her fear.

 

Eve

Go away!  I will not give in to you

at the firstÖ

 

Livia

First what? First bit of trouble without

mommy and Aunt Gabrielle to come bail

you out?  You donít need Gabrielle, Eve.

You need me.  Iím the only one that can

save you and Virgil and you know it.

 

Eve

If I use you now, Iíll owe you.

 

Livia

Damn straight you will.  Thereís a lot of

evil in this world, and you just canít handle

it.  Not without me that is.  Give us a

chance Eve.  We can do a lot of good

together.  A fight is a fight and I donít

care which side Iím on, as long as Iím free.

Too bad you donít have Eli to pray

To.  Heíd tell you what Iím telling you.

 

Eve

Whatís that?

 

Livia

That the way of the warrior is the

only way for his Messenger.

 

Eve

Youíre trying to trick me.

 

Livia

(grabs her by the shoulders)

Iím trying to save your pathetic life!

If you die, I die, and Iím not ready

to go out yet.  Release  me Eve.  Like

it or not, Iím our salvation.

 

Livia draws back her fist and punches Eve.  When her fist connects, Eve sits up, panting for air.

She gets down from the top bunk and strokes Virgilís face gently.  Daylight has come, though the sky is still threatening a storm, like the one in her soul. 

 

Eve

Sheís right. I killed the father.  I

wonít kill the son.

 

The guards come and begin pulling them from the cell.  As Eve passes a mirror she looks at her reflection.  

 

Eve

Good-bye, Eve.

 

 

They yank her out of the cell and into the hall.

 

Ext. Arena-Day

 

There is a low rumble as the crowd waits for the festivities to begin.  Augustus watches them cheer when Virgil is led into the arena in chains.  He is tied before a cage with a lion in it.  The door of the cage has three ropes tied to it, and a soldier standing under the ropes with a torch.  Each rope had a different thickness, from thin to thick to break at different times. Augustus nods and the soldier lights all three.

 

Next Eve is led into the arena.  She is wearing her old Roman chapions uniform, and her hair has been pulled back into Liviaís style.  Ledricles follows, wearing a masculine version of Eves outfit.  They face Augustus.

 

Eve

Iíll never forgive you for this Augustus.

 

Ledricles

You will address him as Caesar!

 

He moves to hit her but Eve catches his arm.  They look into one anotherís eyes as the people cheer.  Eve then searches the crowd and sees Adara, who nods at her. She looks to Virgil and he shakes his head in a ďno, donít fightĒ look.  Now Eve hears Liviaís voice.

 

Livia

Set me free Eve.  Only I can save him.

 

Eve

Alright.  I set you free.

 

Ledricles

(confused)

What?

 

A visible change comes over Eve.  She looks him in the eye and gives him a wicked smile.  For the first time, Ledricles is meeting Livia.  Augustus sees it too and sits forward in excitement. 

 

Eve

You want to fight me? Youíre gonna get it.

 

Augustus

Begin!

 

The crowd goes wild as Ledricles throws punch after punch at Eve, and she ducks every one. 

 

Ledricles

Youíre better than I gave you credit for.

 

Eve

Oh, I can do more than dodge punches.

 

They fight visciously, hand to hand, but Ledricles canít best her.  In fact, eve gets in several good blows until he falls back, panting for air and holding his side, Eve doesnít notice that the first rope has broken and the lion has a paw out, swiping at Virgilís feet.

 

Eve

Looks like Iím winning Ledricles.

 

Ledricles

Not for long.

 

He draws his sword and Eve follows suit.  They fight again, fast and hard, but neither fighter can best the other.  The second rope breaks and the cats whole arm is out.  This time Eve sees the cage door raise.

 

Virgil

Nice kitty.  Youíre a good boy, right?

 

He gets a nasty, hungry roar in answer, and Ledricles laughs.

 

Ledricles

You canít defeat me and youíre still

gonna have to watch your precious

boyfriend die.

 

Virgil

(afraid)

Oh, God.  Eve!

 

Eve

Iíll be right with you Virgil.

 

Ledricles

Youíll be right with him in Tartarus.

 

Eve

We donít have to do this Ledricles.  You

can have the title.

 

Ledricles

I wonít be champion until youíre dead

by my hand.  Now shut up and fight!

 

Once again they fight, and Eve knows Ledricles is beyond words.  She looks to the cage, to Virgilís fear, to Adara in the stand, to the blood-thirsty crowd, to Augustusí greed, and she knows what has to be done.

 

Eve

Forgive me God.  Forgive me mother. 

 

In slow motion we see Ledricles lunge.  She drives her blade down, knocking his sword to the ground, kicks him in the gut to put some space between them, then runs him through, just like she saw herself doing in her dream.  The look into each others eyes.

 

Eve

Iím sorry Ledricles.  I wish it didnít have to

end this way.

 

The crowd roars Liviaís name, but Eve isnít finished yet.  She sheathes her sword and runs for Virgil. 

 

Virgil

Eve, Iím so sorry. 

 

Eve

The important thing is, youíre alive.

 

She breaks his chains then stands before him.  When the final rope breaks and the cage door lifts, Eve does one of her motherís tricks.  She stands before Virgil, wraps one of his arms around her neck, then flips into the crowd just before the lion can devour them.  They land safely in the stands (see Vanishing Act, Season Three with Xena and Autolycus), and the lion finds Ledricles body to chew on.  Augustus, seeing his girl getting away from him, yells for the guards.

 

Augustus

Stop them!

 

Eve and Virgil follow Adara into the tunnel we had seen her in earlier. 

Fade Out. End of Act four.

 

*******************************************************

 

The Heart Of The Matter-Epilogue

Fade in-Temple

 

Adara, Virgil and Eve ride into the temple courtyard to find the Elijanís praying.  Althaia recognizes Adara immediately, and notices the locket around Adaraís neck.

 

Eve

Go on Adara.

 

Adara

I canít.  I can only imagine what she

thinks of me.

 

Eve

She thinks youíre a long lost sister.

Itís time to forgive each other.

 

Adara dismounts and slowly walks to Althaia.

 

Althaia

Adara, youíre alive.  Iíve been wanting

to tell you for years that Iím sorry.

 

Adara

And Iíve been waiting to tell you thatÖ

I forgive you.

 

The old women hug, to the cheers of the Elijanís.   Virgil follows Eve over to the shade of a tree, next to the graveyard.

 

Virgil

For what itís worth, thank you for saving me.

Even though it meant you had to kill again to

do it.

 

Eve

Itís worth a lot Virgil.

 

Virgil

I heard you say something in your

sleep before they Came and took us

to the arena.  You said, ĎI killed the father,

I wonít kill the son.í  I never told you

before but, I forgive you for killing Dad.

 

Eve

You do? 

 

Virgil

I do.  I see you as my friend andÖ like I said.

I forgive you.

 

Virgil walks away, and Livia holds up her blood-soaked sword.

 

Eve

If only I could forgive myself.

 

Close up on Eve.

Fade Out.

The End.