THE QUEENS VIEW AFFAIR

> > [Book IV, Act III, Scene I. The Suite. ALICE, AUSTIN, HARVEY, > EVAN, STUMP1,34713d0 [Book IV, Act II, Scene I. The Suite. ALICE, CHASTITY, HARVEY, STUMP, EVAN, AUSTIN, SNYDER and LUCY are here, having just arrived back from room 108, which is just down the corridor. ALICE is just recovering from the shock.]

Alice: A spell? [Swallows nervously] I hope I didn't do anything embarrassing.

Austin: [To Alice, positively, but regretfully] Hope is a good thing. [Nods allowing the silence to answer Alice's question]

Harvey: So, niece, you don't remember anything?

Alice: [Shakes her head vehemently] Nothing. One minute we were drinking wine downstairs, and the next thing we're in room 108. [Looks down at herself] I mean, where did I get this dress from?

Stump: [In a sad voice noticing her different behaviour] You don't remember anything, my love? [weakly said]

Alice: [Embarrassed and stilted] No, I don't remember anything.

Snyder: That's strange, Jusilla didn't say anything about memory being affected by the spell.

Alice: [Defensively] Maybe that awful Bally did something to change it?

Snyder: Yes. I'm sure she did. I'm sure the spell was different for you. you.

Stump: [sits down on the ground with the heart broken look of dispare, and starts mumbling softly to himself] Chastity hates me. Alice hates me. We had so much love for each other. Over. [snaps finger] Just like that. [Puts hands over face and sits quietly]

Chastity: [Puts her arm round Stump] But it wasn't true love, Mr. Stump. Its was false. Magic cast on innocent Alice by that evil Bally. In the end it would have been exposed as a sham and had no hope of being fulfilled.

Evan: [Eyebrows raised, seemingly serious.] Y'know, there *is* a pretty big middle ground between "irrationally amorous" and "hates you". Not being one doesn't automatically make 'em the other...

Alice: That's a good point, Stump. I mean, it's not like you knew I had taken the potion or anything, or were deliberately trying to take advantage of me. I don't hate you at all.

Austin: [TO Stump] Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, etc [Waves a hand dismissively. Examine Maplin to check that he is okay. To Stump] This'll will cheer you up! Marvel in the wonder that is Maplin [Austin generously show Stump Maplin, but doesn't get too close in case Stump cries tears of joy and gets blubbly and huggy]

Chastity: [Deadpan to Stump] I'm sure you'll be as impressed and excited as the rest of us. If not a little scared and worried as well.

[STUMP gives MAPLIN a look of disdain and rolls his eyes.]

Lucy: You're a pig, Austin.

Evan: [Smirking] Pigs 'round the world have just been insulted by the comparison. [Grins at Austin] No offense, a'course.

Austin: [To Evan] What? [Laughs] I do not care what you think. [Turns away. Walks over to Lucy, looks her over] Well, at least I'm not ugly. [Looks Lucy straight in the eye]

Stump: Well, at least I can say looks like everybody is back to their normal selves. So, what evil do we face next?

Harvey: Hah! Easy there lad, I'm sure there's no evil about to arrive on us so soon! A bit of r and r is what the troop needs.

Lucy: [Looking Austin right back in the eye] Maybe not in looks, but certainly in behaviour.

[The two embrace and kiss passionately for a few moments, before breaking off again. Enter PETER DEADPAN, just as they finish.]

Peter: [Curling his lip up in disgust at Lucy and Austin] Wonderful. Now they're going to start procreating.

Alice: [To Harvey] I guess that's the end of the r and r!

Chastity: [Brightens up immediately] Peter! At last you're here. What kept you? [To Stump and Evan] Now we'll see some action. [Glances at Austin and Lucy. Back to To Stump and Evan] I mean some tangling with evil entities. [Glances again at Austin and Lucy. Back to To Stump and Evan frustratedly] Oh, you know what I mean.

Peter: [Looks at Chastity without a flicker] I met someone outside who is ranting incomprehensibly. I suspect he wants to speak to you about Jerome.

Evan: D'y'suppose it can wait until we've had a bit of doctoring? [Looks around at the badly-manged group.] We're not exactly in tip-top shape t'be getting into another argument, here.

Peter: [With barely concealed contempt] I [as though the word causes him physical pain] suppose.

[PETER puts a large, open bag on the floor, it contains a number of potions, all of brightly coloured green.]

Peter: I hope no one chokes on them.

Austin: [Nods in aggreement with Peter] Yes, libel cases are best avoided, they can be very, very costly. Of course I could defend you at a more freindly rate, but good lawyers don't come cheap.

Chastity: [Looking between Austin and Lucy] I'm just hoping we don't see any come at all! [Takes a potion. To Peter] I take it these are healing potions.

Peter: No. They're fast acting poison. [Looks disdainfully at Austin] Then you must be very, very cheap.

Stump: Maybe love potions?

Peter: [Looks Stump up and down] I'm sure you've no need for anything like that.

Evan: [Rolls his eyes] Yeah, you're spreadin' enough love and good cheer on your own already. [Shakes his head, amused again.]

Harvey: [Picks up a potion and sniffs at it] Tell me Peter, have you heard anything about our good doctor Jerome? Did you understand anything this man was saying? Thanks for these, by the way! [Drinks the potion] Chat instantly with your online friends? Get the

Peter: No. [Looks at Evan for a moment, and then back to Harvey] No.

Snyder: [Laughs good naturedly at his, and is clearly hardly able to contain his enthusiasm at seeing Peter again, rocking back and forth on his heels with excitement] Isn't he just great?

Chastity: [Beaming widely. To Snider] I know. Fast acting poison. What a wag! [Drinks one of the potions]

Snyder: [Still rocking back and forth on his heels, beaming at Chastity] What a guy!

Alice: [Grumpily] Yeah, what a guy. [Drinks a potion]

Austin: [Looks at the others in disbelief. To Peter] Well it's nice to see you again Peter, even if you do hate me [Smiles at Peter]

Peter: I don't hate you. You're my favourite of the whole group.

Snyder: So, this incoherent madman, what was he saying?

Peter: He was incoherent, so I was able to understand him only slightly more than I do you.

[SNYDER laughs at this.]

Peter: There was something about daggers and chins. Dire warnings, imminent death, torture, maiming and the occasional reference to cuddly puppies with bows around their necks for Christmas.

Chastity: [Shocked] That sounds like the Arch-Bishop! What's he doing here?

Evan: [Quaffs a potion, then shakes his head as if to clear it.] Y'right, that is pretty incoherent. 'Course y'can usually find some meaning in that sorta thing after the fact if y'care to, since they're always so vague.

Austin: [To Chastity] Just exactly which bit of that sounds like the Archbishop??

Alice: Yes Chastity, exactly what bit does sound like the archbishop?

[Each of ALICE, HARVEY and CHASTITY give a slight tingle, as the potion takes effect.]

Snyder: [Still all giggly] Maybe it was the long hair and big starey eyes, Peter?

Peter: No. That's what reminded me of you.

Snyder: [Roars with laughter] Reminded me of you? Excellent! [Claps his hands together] Excellent!

Chastity: Why the occasional reference to cuddly puppies with bows around their necks for Christmas of course. [pauses thoughtfully] As well as the dire warnings, and mention of imminent death, torture, maiming. [pauses thoughtfully again] And come to think of it the mention of daggers and chins strikes a chord. The Arch-Bishop is a real [emphasise] font of knowledge. [Giggles to herself at her little pun. To Peter, brightly] Get it?

Peter: Yes.

Alice: [Looking through the potions] Hey, can we take more than one? We did get a bit of a kicking.

Peter: Yes, take them all, for there are no other injured people in all of Asphyxia.

Alice: [Momentarily surprised] Cool. [Starts loading up with health potions, sticking them in various pockets, down the front of her dress, etc., until she has taken eight of them] Thanks Uncle Pee. [Gives him two thumbs up]

Chastity: Well, as the party's main healer, it would be remiss to not take the opportunity use these. [Goes to the bag to take a number of potions]

Evan: [Follows the lead of the others and procures a few for himself - leaving sufficient for everyone else!]

Alice: [As Chastity discovers that there are none left] No problem, Chas, I can look after them. [Gives a little squirm] Oo! [Looks down the front of her dress] Cold bottle gone south.

Snyder: [To Peter] Will I let the madman in?

Peter: I thought you already had.

Harvey: [Watching Alice squirm a little more as Evan also discovers the bag is empty] Perhaps, niece it might be better to [pauses and blinks as Alice catches one slipping out the bottom of her dress] er, let Sister Chastity look after them?

Alice: [Sigh] Okay. You and I had better take another one, though Harv. [Passes six to Chastity, keeping two, deciding which she'll drink] I think I'll take the warm one. [Passes the other to Harvey]

Chastity: [To Alice] Thank you, dear. [Looks round the party] Is anyone else needing any healing help? No? [Puts the six potions carefully in her bag. To Peter] Best let the man in to the room. It would be rude to keep hm waiting.

Austin: [To Chastity, deadpan] Yes, and we wouldn't want anything to blemish our reputation of perfect politeness [Looks at Alice. Sighs]

Alice: [Nods seriously] I know what you mean Austin. Oh! I think there's another potion in there somewhere!

[As ALICE and HARVEY drink back their potions, enter TOMMY ROTTEN and HORATIO BRATWURST, bringing in CRAZY JAKE CHIN, who's struggling a bit.]

Tommy: Stop the struggling or I'll stick my hand so far up your ass I'll be able to pick your nose! [Glares at the party, but his face lights up when he sees Peter] Hey! [Big friendly wave] Peter's here. How are you? [Holds out his hand to shake it]

Peter: [Disdainfully looking at Tommy's hands] Disinclined to shake the hand of a man who picks another's nose through his rectum.

Tommy: [Clearly not understanding a word] Yeah! That's great! [Points at Crazy Jake] This here is Crazy Jake Chin. [To Crazy Jake] You'd better not do anything to Peter or [waves a threatening fist at him]

Jake: [Clearly very excited as he looks around the party] I've got a message for [points at Harvey] you and [Alice] you and [Chastity] you and [Stump] you and [to Austin] for you, I've got a hug. [Moves with surprising speed and grabs onto Austin, hugging him, but not doing any obvious harm apart from creasing his suit.]

Lucy: Austin, no! Your suit!

Chastity: [To Alice] I don't think that Austin has ever had so much passion expressed to him in one room before. Not by other people anyway. We may never get him out of here. [To Jake] What messages do you have for us.

Austin: [To Jake] Thank you! I think that's probably a manly enough hug to last me several lifetimes. [Nods gretefully at Mad Jake, hopeing that he'll never tough him again. To Lucy] Never mind, it was nearly a day old anyway. [Starts straighting out the creases and folds, removing fluff, grimacing as he does it, in a tearful way, as one would comb the hair of a newly deceased realtive in preparation for a funeral. Sighs!]

Jake: [Stepping back from Austin, but giving Chastity a quick glare] Hey! We're in the middle of reunion here, a bit of privacy please? [Turns to Austin] Just because you don't know me doesn't mean I don't know how many daggers your father had.

Peter: [To Snyder] It looks like he's going to fit right in.

Austin: [Goes pale, shocked, gasps in horror, panic, shock, amazement, excitment] Uncle Jake?

Lucy: [Goes pale, shocked, gasps in horror, panic, shock and amazement] Uncle Jake?

Jake: [Gives a crazy laugh] That's me! [To Lucy] Who are you? One of his bitches?

[ALICE stifles a laugh.]

Jake: Well, I know you're one of them!

Alice: Hey!

Chastity: [Barely able to fight back a grin] Austin, are you related to this gentleman?

Austin: [To Chastity, recovers, laughs heartily] No of course not, My father never had any brothers! How could this foul mouthed scum bag possibly be related to me? [To Jake] If you ever refer to Lucy in any derogatory manner ever again I shall slit you from head to toe and let the crows pick at your corpse until only your bones are left [Stands between Lucy and Jake, dagger in hand, looking sharp] Who are you, and why are you trying to impersonate non-existant members of my family?

Chastity: [Completely failing to fight back a grin] Lucy, are you also related to this gentleman? Aren't family reunions joyous occasions.

Jake: Ha! You certainly are your father's son! [Looks around the party] Jeromitus sent me. [Flicks away some imaginary spiders and shouts] Get your damned webs off me you eight legged bastards!

Peter: The family resemblance is startling.

Alice: [Nods] Yes, and coming from a very close family myself, I find it a little sad that Austin and Crazy Jake here aren't bonding a little better. Hey Evan, you want this last potion I have? It's nice and warm!

Austin: [To Chastity and Alice] You should be on your guard! Not laughing and joking at this impersonator's claims! [Looks displeased. To Jake, scornfully] My father was a tax collector, and a very efficient miserly one at that, and could never have had a brother like you, and he would never have wasted his money on daggers either, he made his tweed suits last five years for heavens sakes, [looks disgusted at the memory, almost as if he wants to spit but thinks better of it. Flashes his dagger threatingly] and as much as I hate him and what he was, you are no brother of his! He went to Sweeton College! Look at you, I'll wager you never set foot in an educational establishment!

Jake: Not true, my friend! [Smiles proudly] I've looted more than my fair share of convents - some of them had schools. I can see you want to travel incognito, so I won't spill the beans [lowers his voice] but I can't speak for what Mr. Bumblewarbler will do. [Points to some blank space]

Harvey: [Steps forward, looking briefly at the blank space] Excuse me sir, but I believe you mentioned Jeromitus! What news have you of him? Chat instantly with your online friends? Get the

Jack: Arr, Jim Lad, he be stolen, by buccanears, no less, they be holding him to ransom right now, torturing information out of him about all of you. They will soon be knowing all your secrets. [Smiles to himself] Who's got her belly button pierced, who was arrested on her sixteenth birthday, who has a court order preventing her from driving until she's twenty five. That be the kind of thing.

Evan: [Having watched the exchange with growing humor.] Uh, so he's incriminating 'em with things the gossip crowd's probably already making up without 'em? Doesn't seem too threatening t'me.

Alice: [Indignantly] Seems pretty threatening to me! [Calms herself] I mean, yeah, that's just all made up. [Stilted] What tosh the crazy man does speak Evan.

Evan: [To Alice] Aww, y'don't care what the gossips say anyway, d'you? 'Course not, you're more sophisticated than that. Doesn't matter what your buddies think, 'cause you're above all that peer pressure stuff, aren't'cha?

Chastity: [To Evan] Well some people in the group may have more skeletons to hide there closet than others. Not all gossip is fatuous, you know.

Austin: [To Chastity] Skeletons in your clost Chassers, so that's what happened to Georege, Georege and George. [Grins]

Chastity: [Scornfully to Austin] Making fun of my poor beloved deceased husbands. You really are stooping to new low levels, Sleaze.

Austin: [Laughs. To Chastity] No Chassers, I was making fun of you, not your poor deceased long suffering late husbands. [Checks his nails. To Jake] Do you know where they took Jerome?

Alice: [To Evan] I suppose you're right, I'm way beyond all that peer pressure stuff. [Thinks for a moment] I mean, if all the cool kids are, then I am too. [Hands over the potion] You'd better drink this.

Jake: [Clearly enjoying Austin's ribbing of Chastity] They're holding him in a farmhouse a few miles out, and are going to send someone in tomorrow morning to negotiate with you, but it's a trap, and they'll kill you all. Something about you having tortured their brother, killed their parents and kidnapped one of their lackeys. [Winks at Austin] Sounds like your work alright, cousin.

Austin: [To Jake, wincing when Jake says 'cousin'] As I have already said, I am not realted to you. My father was an only child, fortunately. [To Harvey] If we attack now they wont be ready for us. Last by Dom #63

Harvey: Good plan, Private Sleaze. [To Jake] You there, crazy fellow, show us where the good doctor is being held.

Snyder: That is not a good plan. [Points at the healing potions] Although you can feel the effects of these already, you all need a proper night's sleep for them to have their full effect. Any damage inflicted on you will be far worse until you get a chance to rest. Last by Conor #64

Chastity: That doesn't leave much time tomorrow, but we will obviously need to be in tiptop shape for this encounter. I hope the good doctor will understand. I dread to think what the relatives of Dobbin are capable of?

Alice: I know! They've probably already accidently tied themselves up and set Jerome free!

Chastity: I doubt we could be so lucky. I takes a special sort of person to accidentally to themselves up.

Alice: True, true. [To Evan, irritably] Come on will you? Drink the potion, what's wrong with you?

Harvey: Er, Alice, he already drank one. Look, the fellow is obviously in fine health.

Alice: [Looks Evan up and down] Alright, whatever. Anyone could have made that mistake. [Gives the potion to Chastity]

Evan: Don't know what that says about my appearance, but then again, I'm not Mr. Fastidious like Sleazy over there. [Points at Austin with a thumb.] Guess I could do with a shower to clean all the blood off...

Chastity: [Takes the potion and adds it to the ones in her bag] Thank you, dear.

Alice: Me too. [Tries to stretch behind her] And there's something really gooey down the back of my dress, too.

Snyder: Right. I want everyone up early tomorrow, no lazing around. Horatio, you and Tommy stay here with Crazy Jake and guard him. [Big smile again] Hey Peter, how about you and I hit that karaoke bar I was telling you about?

Peter: I would rather eat off my own left arm.

Snyder: [Roars with laughter at this] Brilliant! [Beams at the party] No one can sing "I will survive" like Peter!

[Exit SNYDER and PETER. The party bed down for the night, with each member having a separate bedroom, except AUSTIN, who is sharing with LUCY, while HORATIO, PETER and CRAZY JAKE take room between them.]

[Book IV, Act II, Scene II. The Suite. SVEN GORING is sitting on one of the huge armchairs, with his feet on another one, drinking a huge mug of beer, raucously singing (quite out of tune and somewhat drunkenly) a song about rape and pillage. Enter ALICE, staggering out of her room still wearing her cotton Prupert the Beer pyjamas and with a severe case of bed hair.]

Alice: [Rubbing the sleep from her eyes] Sven?

Sven: [Stops singing and turns around] Hey, Shooter! I wouldn't have expected you the first to be up.

Alice: I needed to go to the toilet.

Sven: [Drinks some beer] Why don't you just use the one in your room?

Alice: [Dopey (dopier) with sleep] Oh, okay. [Goes back in and closes the door.]

[SVEN counts down from five in silence, mouthing the words and putting up his fingers.]

Alice: [Coming back in, shocked] Sven?

Chastity: [Emerges from her room looking angry, dressed in an white ankle length nightgown which fastens right up to the chin and a lace edged night hat] Really, Mr. Snider has the worst alarms! [Sees Sven, and looks down] Oh, my. [Covers herself with her arms as if she were naked and rushes back into her room, slamming the door, re-emerging with an additional full-length white dressing gown, and a pair of red tartan slippers. Obviously still a bit shocked] Mr. Goring? What are you doing here? Why are you making such a racket? Do you know where the morning tea is? [pauses] I'm pleased to see you.

Stump: [walks out without a shirt, only in skivies] What in tarnations is going on out here! Can't a person get a little sleep.

Sven: Haw! Still haven't kicked that tea habit, I see! [Looks Chastity up and down and gives a sexy growl] Well, Sister, if you were just a few years younger, and I was just a few years older [slight pause] and not dead, well. [Gives a big smile] I'm here to make the trip with you. It's-

[SVEN is interrupted by a kettle whistling.]

Sven: Ah, here we go. [Starts making a pot of tea] Make yourself comfortable, Sister.

Sven: Afraid not, my friend.

[ALICE makes to say something, but thinks better of it.]

Sven: [Strides across the room to Stump, big smile and booming voice] You're Stump, right? Good to meet you, my friend! [Extends a hand to Stump]

Alice: [Very confused and very disturbed] You know, I think I'm going to get my slippers.

Chastity: [Settling into a chair next to the table] Sven, I thought you were dead? What happened? [Looks over at Stump] Oh, I am sorry. Mr. Stump, may I introduce Sven Goring. Another Knight, and erstwhile companion on Peter, whom you met yesterday.

Austin: [Enters the room, wearing shades, a Max Nimbus evening gown, a hair net and black leg warmers, whilst smoking a cheesearette in a long cigarette holder] Whats all the noise about? [Lifts his shades up] Sven? Is that you? I, we, you're dead aren't you? [Realises that he's still wearing his hair net, and dissapears backing into his room, reemerging without the hairnet and legwarmers] Great to see you again Sven! Wow, what happend? Where have you been etc [Sits in the chair beside Sven and offeres him the cheesearette]

Sven: [Shakes hands vigorously with Stump, leaning in confidentially to him] Nice moves on Shooter, by the way. [Goes back to the others, taking the cheeseratte from Austin] I was dead. Still am, as a matter of fact. [Smokes some of the cheeseratte] We can get the occasional day pass. [Turns in the direction of Harvey's room, from where an enormous foghorn type sound can be heard] What's that?

[Enter ALICE wearing her big monster feet slippers.]

Alice: That's Harvey, I'll wake him up. [Goes into Harvey's room]

Sven: [To Austin] Nice cheese, but nothing like the extra extra mature cheddar they've got upstairs. [Contented smile] You know what they say, "Blessed are the Cheesemakers".

Stump: [accepting Sven's greetings but puzzled] Shooter? I'm a bit tired.

Sven: [Points towards Harvey's room] Our Alice. [Gives Stump a wink] She's got a bit of a dark past.

[Enter ALICE and HARVEY, the latter wearing a dressing gown over his canon gun pyjamas.]

Harvey: I say! What's all this about? Sven? Sir, what are you doing here?

Sven: I'm here to help you find Jerome. [Looks around at the tired looks on everyone's face and smiles] Haw! That's the old enthusiasm I remember! Come on folks, get your stuff together and we'll get moving.

Stump: We can't just yet. I haven't taken my morning doo yet. And if I don't, well, you don't want to go there.

Alice: Actually, Sven, if he does do his doo, then you don't want do go there.

Sven: Well Stump, you get your newspaper or whatever it is you need to do the doo, and do it, because we've got to go.

Austin: [Grimaces at Stump. Goes back into his room, reappearing a few minutes later in a Daschan Pfilghuger dancing suit, in blue, with a bergundy silk shirt by Smelvin Jyne and tie, a dazzling pair of aligator skin shoes and some rather nice looking dodo skin gloves. To Sven] Ready when you are Sven ol' buddy! [Does a few shadow knife fight manovers] Let's hope we're not too late [Watches Stump leave]

Sven: Haw! That's the spirit my friend - nice work with Lucy by the way, [gives Austin a wink] very nice. Now, that's the action of a rampant heterosexual if ever I saw one|

[ALICE and HARVEY return to their rooms, just as EVAN comes out of his.]

Evan: [Already dressed] What's up?

Sven: We're going for a ride, to find Jerome, Evan.

Chastity: [Takes a cup of tea back into her room and appears a few minutes later dressed in her usual nun's habit] That's better. Can't efficiently battle evil without a cup of tea.

Alice: [Reappearing in her normal clothes] So, Sven, I can't help but noticing, you're a whole lot less dead than before.

Sven: Sure, but why are you so surprised? You knew this was going to happen. "The dark place"?

Alice: Huh? [Looks out through one of the curtains, and it is absolutely pitch dark outside, even though it is about 7AM, when it is normally light around here]

Sven: Dark enough for you?

Austin: [Pleased at Sven's compliment] If I'd known you were watching I'd have hired a waitress to serve you beer! [Looks outside at the unusual darkness] I wondered why I felt like wearing an evening suit at this time in the morning! [Does a quick flashy dance twirl back to center of the room, to stop perfectly infront of the mirror. Checks his hair and overall look, and looks very pleased with himself]

Harvey: [Returning from his room, now dressed] Right, shall we wake the others? Lucy, Horatio and the other chaps? We will probably [stops as an enormous splash sounds from Stump's room] er, we will probably need Crazy Jake to show us how to get there.

Chastity: [Glancing at Austin] Good idea, Colonel. If anything is to quell the lawyer's intolerable mood, the appearance of his relative may just do the trick!

Stump: [Rushes out of the room, slamming the door shut, as though something was chasing him while buttoning up his shirt and pulling up his pants at the same time] Man, I'm ready now.

Harvey: [Suppresses a smirk] Oh no, Sister, I'm sure you misunderstood, they are not related at all. [Knocks on the door] Rise and shine! [Opens it] I say! They're gone!

[There is no sign of any of HORATIO, TOMMY or CRAZY JAKE, and the bed is unmade.]

Alice: [Peering in behind him] At least that suggests they didn't share the bed!

Sven: Haw! I like a man that can handle a large bowel movement, especially first thing in the morning, [gives Stump's shoulder a friendly squeeze] now there's a man with his digestive system under control!

Stump: Then you should try my 5 alarm dragon flamer chilli with just a hint of voidka. If you haven't moved, it will move for you.

Sven: I'm sure it will. When we get through this, you make the chilli and I'll provide my special, extra dry beer, I'm sure it'll be a meal fit for a king.

Alice: [Turns to the Sven] Where are the others?

Sven: [Shrugs] Don't know. I got here about five minutes before you got up, and no one left in that time.

Stump: Your on! Finally, somebody who appreciates the finer things in life. [listens] Maybe they got a different room due to all the snoring going on next to them.

Harvey: [Laughs] Hah, no one likes a snorer, eh! Can't abide them myself! [To Sven] By the saints, it's good to see you, man! Confusing, but good all the same! [Scratches at a sideburn] But how can it be, eh? How come you're here! Chat instantly with your online friends? Get the

Sven: [Laughs at Stump] Haw! By the time they're finished our fine meal, master Stump, they'll all be sprawled out, full and content! [To Harvey] I don't really understand myself. All I know is that it's really important I help you find Jerome.

Evan: S'now we've got how many people we're out rescuing? [Looks at Harvey.] Y'guys seem to have a lotta captive contacts.

Harvey: I'm not sure, Private. It all depends on whether Horatio and that Rotten fellow have been kidnapped by Uncle Jake. [Pause] I mean, by that crazy man who is in no way related to Private Sleaze.

Chastity: Well one would be more likely to kidnap their belongings anyway. The man had already confessed to stealing from convents. [Shakes her head] Deplorable! He's obviously not to be trusted.

Evan: Uh huh. And who's more likely to kidnap 'em, a crazy man, or a relative of good old Sleazy?

Alice: [To Evan] Or both!

Sven: [Tutting loudly] Oh, for shame Sister, that such a man was in such close proximity, it makes the blood run cold. [Turns to Austin and does few pretend boxing moves on him] Poor old Austin, you've saved the world a few times, and the lives of half a dozen of your party mates dozens of times, but you liberate items from one convent, and they hold it against you forever!

Chastity: [Awkwardly] Erm, for once I wasn't meaning Austin, I was actually talking about Mad Uncle Jake.

Sven: Ha! Of course you weren't Chastity, you're too forgiving in nature for that kind of thing. [Bows in front of her] I apologise if I suggested otherwise. [Straightens up] Right, let's go.

Alice: But, what Crazy Jake and the others? [Turns to Austin] Where's Lucy?

Evan: [To Alice] Probably kidnapped and divulging everyone's secrets, just like the rest are doin'. [To Austin] 'Course, I'm sure y'don't have any secrets she might know, so I guess y'don't mind...

Austin: Lucy was not kidnapped.

[A short pause follows.]

Sven: Right! [Clapping his hands together] Looks like we've got a lot of hostages to free.

Austin: [To Evan] Like I said, Lucy was not kidnapped. I don't know where she is. She's probably gone home to recover from last night. [Smirks, checks his nails]

Sven: Haw! Takes the ladies a while to recover from a shot of vitamin A, eh?

Chastity: [Looks confused. To Alice] What's he talking about? Vacinations? No time for that. We'd best get going.

Sven: That's the spirit, Sister!

[SVEN leads the party out into the corridor, which is deserted, talking away at the top of his voice as usual.]

Sven: Right, the black hats have Jerome in a farmhouse just outside of town. Their plan was to ambush you when you arrived later, let's take them unawares.

[The party arrive into the foyer, which is completely deserted.]

Stump: My senses tell me we are not alone but my gut says I'm hungry. Well. Nobody here. Let's get a bite to eat.

Sven: [Puts his arm around Stump and squeezes hard, almost crushing Stump as he does so] I love this guy! [Lets him go] You should never go on a mission without getting that whole hunger situation sorted out first. No worries, my friend, I've got something to eat in the carriage. What are your feelings on steaks, chops, a soused pigs head, complete with apple, golden honeyed locusts, jellied eels, thrushes ankles, snakes feet, crispy popadoms and curried brussel sprouts?

Chastity: [Moves to the side to avoid being trampled by Harvey or Stump on the way to the carriage] Apple? At this time in the morning?

Sven: [Opening the front door] Oh, you ladies, always thinking of your figures. [Thinks] Or is that mathematicians? [Laughs] Ah, it'll be good to have Jerome back, I can't stand to be the only geek in the party.

[SVEN has a large open carriage, which will easily accomodate everyone. Outside it is pitch dark, and there are absolutely no lights whatsoever on anywhere.]

Alice: [Almost tripping over the huge picnic basket in the back] Ow.

Austin: [Sarcastically to Stump] As long as Jerome's life doesn't get in the way you your breakfast I don't care. [Pauses. To Stump] You are insane, our friend could be dieing whilst you do you bowel movements and have breakfast!

Stump: [Looks at all the food and pulls out a huge slab of meat] What you don't realize Austin [chewing while talking] is that if we get caught and haven't eaten, then we might die also. [finds an oily sausage and gives it to Austin] Eat up. Mmmmmm. This is fantastic food. [grabbing various other items and chowing down, occasionally putting one under his jacket for later]

Chastity: [Looks at the oily sausage Stump has given Austin. To Stump] Austin isn't going to eat that here. With Sven around he's doing his best to shake off any past rumours of sausage munching! [Cuts off a pigs ear and scoops up some jellied eels in it takes a bite]

[ALICE looks at the greasy sausage and gives a shiver.]

Alice: [Muttering to herself] Lucky escape.

Sven: [As the carriage slows down] Alright, almost here. [Turns back to the others] I'm afraid I can't go any further with you, rules and regulations and all that kind of thing, but I'll wait here for you. [Points into the darkness, where someone is clearly waiting for the party and smoking a cigarette] There's another old friend there to bring you up the path.

Austin: [Looks in disgust at Stump's outsteched greasy sausage, covers himself with a clean picknick cloth to protec him from the messy Stump and nibbles on a honeyeyed locust whilst lookng towards the pipe smoker in the darker corner]

Sven: [Skidding the carriage to a halt, still out of view of the smoker] Okay folks, I'll be here. [Gives them a wink] Look after yourselves. Stump, feel free to take whatever you want from the basket.

Alice: [Stepping out of the carriage] So, who's the smoker? [Trips and falls flat on her face, crying out in genuine pain] Ow! That really hurt!

Stump: Well thanks [starts loading up, realizing he doesn't have the room] I'll just take the basket [puts all the food back into it and walks off like he's on a picnic, basket in hand]

Alice: Well, thanks for your concern, Stump! [Glares at him, with tears in her eyes]

Harvey: Niece, are you okay?

Alice: No. I think I've broken my left wrist!

Chastity: [Finishes what shes eating, wipes her hands and mouth with a napkin and peers into the dark.] Who is that out there?

Chastity: [Darkly] Yes. [To Darius] Where's your little friend? [Tries to help Alice up, pull on her uninjured arm.]

Darius: Which little friend is that? I've got [emphasis] so many friends, [earnestly] and I hope you're one of them, good, kind and forgiving Sister Chastity. is included in all mails

Austin: [To Darius] We might have know that you'd be involved in this. Have you come to try and get us all killed again?

Darius: [Surprised] Again? Woah, woah, woah, the way I remember it, I actually saved all of your lives. [Gives Stump a friednly wave] Hey Stump!

Stump: Good thing I packed a good meal. Looks like another wild ride. [To Alice] You look sexy when you rub your arm like that.

Alice: You're a pig, Stump.

Stump: You know, Alice. A while back you wanted to throw me on the ground. Rip off my clothes. And screw my brains out. Now you are being a snobby stuck up little school brat. And yes, I am a pig. One who likes to eat food and other [smiles] specialty items. But you are not willing to induldge yourself. Are you? [To Darius] How's it hang'n? tears

Alice: [Holding her hand to her chest] What? Hello? Have I just turned invisible?

[Enter DARIUS, who is clearly the smoker.]

Darius: I'm afraid you are Alice, no one can see you or hear you. [Pats her on the uninjured arm and takes a drag of his cheeseratte, before giving the party a friendly wave] Hi folks.

Sven: [Still turned around on the driver's seat] You remember Darius, don't you?

Alice: [Indignantly] A snobby stuck up little school brat with a broken arm!

Stump: Ok. Hotlips.

Harvey: [Hugs Alice gently] By the saints, dear niece, are you alright? Looks like a nasty sprain there, my dear! [Rips a sleeve from his shirt and begins wrapping it around her wrist] We must get her to a doctor as soon as possible!

Austin: [To Darius] I seem to remember that you have nearly got us killed more times than you have saved us. [Looks at Alice's arm carefully and makes her a sling from a beautifully embroidered silk scarf]

Darius: [Helpfully] Jerome's a doctor.

[ALICE's arm is definitely broken.]

Sven: It's okay, it's not like it's your shooting arm, [gives a big smile] you'll be fine, I promise.

Alice: Well, I suppose I'll be okay for a while.

Darius: That's the kind of enthusiasm I like. Want a smoke? For purely medicinal purposes, of course.

Alice: Thanks, Austin. [Puts on the sling]

Darius: Must be all that cheese you're smoking, Austin, plays hell with the memory. Now come on, let's go find Jeremiah.

Harvey: Eh? Don't you mean Jerome?

Darius: Sure. [Gives the cheeseratte a disgusted luck] Confounded short term memory loss! [Watches the party get out of the carriage] It's okay Stump, I'll see if I can keep Alice away from you. [Looks at Evan] So, you're the guy who's going to be killed, eh?

Evan: [Raises eyebrows, smiling.] Kinda a prerequisite to be a part of this bunch, isn't it?

Austin: [Points to the Alice's sling] That's a Tusomi Sugozi scarf by the way, probably the greatest designer sling ever. [Looks at Alice from a feew angles, checking her 'look'] It suits you, very ruff and tumble looking mixied with a sort of veunerable charm. [Nods, very pleased with the image. Looks at Evan briefly, then to Darius] SO are you going to help us again?

Stump: Don't worry Evan, I haven't died yet and I had one of the evilest dudes cut my stump off and basically disemboweled me, but I'm still here. He considered me his brother. The other one he killed.

Chastity: [To Stump] I wouldn't go around telling everyone that Pestilence said he considered you a brother. Even if he did. [To Darius] What did you mean by that comment to young Evan here? The one to be killed? Last Post Gary #61

Austin: [Nods] Yes, this whole pretending to be a member of you family thing is a bit weird. Pestillence looks nothing like you either. [Shrugs]

Darius: Man, that Pestilence is one sociable guy. You know, he once even thought I was his brother. [To Chastity] Ah, then I guess you didn't talk to Jusilla before coming. It's always helpful to talk to someone like her before being lead up the garden [gestures at the nearby pathway] path by a confirmed evil double crosser. I mean, by me.

Chastity: [Sighs with frustration. To Darius] Yes, well as helpful your advise is, it's a bit late now. Can you elaborate your comment? [Looks to Evan] Or even you?

Evan: [Smirks] Nah, I think he can elaborate on his own comment.

Chastity: [Tuts] Elves! [turns to Darius] Well? And don't reply [mock imitation voice] Yes, thank you. [normal voice] This is serious.

Austin: [To Chastity] It's worth a try. [Checks his nails] But probably not.

Darius: [Looks at Evan's smirk] You know, now I'm kind of glad he's the one. [To Chastity] I don't have that much information about it, just that he's probably going to die during this trip. [Shrugs] He doesn't seem too bothered about it, so why should you?

Evan: [To Darius] 'Course, I notice that y'haven't said anything 'bout the rest of them *not* doing so... [To Chastity] But I figure that life's kinda like money. Easy come, easy go. [Peers at Austin] S'pose that kinda describes him last night, too. On Thu, 3 Jun 2004 conor@waldo.csis.ul.ie wrote:

Darius: With a hooker again, Austin? [Starts walking, and stops to see if the others are coming] Oh, it's okay, as far as I know only Evan is going to die, although [gives Chastity a wink] you all might want to keep an eye on the Sister.

Austin: [To Darius] No, she was not a prostitute. I have never paid for sex. [Looks to Chastity then to Darius] If you know they are goin to die why are we gonig in at all, how can the death of two party members be less important than the potential rescue of one? [Frowns]

Darius: First of all, I don't know that any one is going to die. Second, I didn't say it was foretold that Chastity would die. Third, [gestures to Evan] if even he doesn't care whether or not he lives or dies, why should you? [Becomes a little emotional] We're talking about the sanctity of human life here, for Phili's sake! [Calm again] Well, half human, anyway.

Harvey: Besides, putting our lives on the line in the cause of good is what we do every day, private Sleaze! [Turns to Chastity] Worry not, dear sister, anything that tries to get to you must first try to get past me! And by the saints, that will not happen!

Chastity: Thank you, Colonel. I would have expected no less from an retired Officer, Gentleman and dedicated group member.

Darius: What about from someone who was dishonourably discharged, uncouth and who has constantly plagued the group with lies, danger and verbal humiliations?

Evan: And these're bad things?

Chastity: [To Evan] Of course they are! [To Darius] I hope your not trying besmirch the name of the Colonel with your rumours and lies. The man is a paragon of virtue and manners.

Austin: [Smirking] Dishonourable discharge, I hope you got some anti-bitics for that colonel [Chuckles at his own joke] Anyway, none of us would be here if we were all paragons of virtue, none of us would be able to get the job done if we were. We'd all be frantically running a soup kitchen in the prole area of Queensview, collecting discount coupons off tins of beans and holding tea and cakes afternoons to raise money for charity.

Darius: Woah, woah, woah! [Puts a placating hand up to Harvey] Sister Chastity, I hope [emphasises] you aren't trying to besmirch the Colonel's good name with your assumption that I was talking about him. [Puts his hand to his mouth] I am shocked. [Glances at Evan] I didn't say they were bad, I just asked how she'd feel about them.

Harvey: More of your little mind games, Darius? More of your attempts to drive wedges between this group? Enough I say!

Chastity: [Nodding her head] Well said, Colonel. Let's go. The good doctor requires our assistance and we have been delayed enough.

Harvey: [Bows to Chastity] But of course, dear sister! [Looks at Alice] I also want to find someone to mend that break! The good doctor may be a doctor but not the right type of doctor, what!

Darius: [Smiles wryly] Oh-kay!

[DARIUS continues up the path, with the party just behind him.]

Darius: Better get your weapons out. They're not expecting us, but there could be something lurking here.

Evan: Time *is* kinda a-wasting. 'Course, he's also gone on about leading everyone to their doom and all that, s'maybe we ought to head back t'the inn and get her [Nods at Alice] arm treated.

Darius: [Stops and looks back] Not everyone, just you.

Alice: [Draws her sword] I'll be fine Evan. If Jerome is here, we're better of suprising them.

Harvey: [Draws his own sword and stands next to Alice]

Darius: [Amused] What? No one standing up the front with Darius?

Stump: [Squeezes passed Alice and Harvey] I'll do it.

[The party head along into the darkness. It is quite difficult to see, and the path is very windy, with a number of other paths leading off. However, DARIUS keeps up a pretty brisk pace, occasionaly taking one of the other paths, but never stopping for a moment.]

Alice: Could someone light a torch? I can hardly see where we're going.

Darius: Keep up with me, don't stray from my path or something bad could happen.

Austin: [Brandishes Beaucaphalus and stands carefully behind Alice and Harvey, making sure he's protected] Going in the front door is a bit obvious isn't it?

Harvey: Believe me Darius, I think that's inevitable at this stage! Dear Sister Chastity, would you be so good as to stand behind me, and I'll make sure that you'll be protected to the best of my ability!

Darius: It is, that's we're not going to -

[DARIUS stops abruptly, as a man in dark armour appears up ahead. The STRANGER is clearly walking towards them, but he stops a few feet from them.]

Darius: Everybody get ready! [Swipes his sword around a few times] Whatever you do, don't stray from the path.

Darius: I think you're right, Harvey.

Stump: What the hell is it?

Alice: What's he going to do? Stare us to death?

Harvey: [To the stranger] I say there, you fellow! Stand aside as of the now! Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com

[The STRANGER picks up pace and walks straight into the party.]

Darius: Stop him! [Hits him with his sword.]

[The STRANGER takes the blow without reacting, and slashes his own sword across DARIUS' chest, knocking him to the ground, and simply pushing STUMP onto the ground. The STRANGER is know immediately in front of HARVEY and ALICE.]

Alice: [Hitting him with her sword, doing no damage] What the hell is it?

Evan: [Mutters] Don't stray off the path, he says. The sure sign that we're going to. [Draws a dagger and takes up a middle position.]

Harvey: By the saints, is it one of those infernal machines? [Swings at the stranger] Hold there, fellow! Stand aside I say!

[Both ALICE and HARVEY hit the STRANGER, who is clearly very different from the UNITs. HARVEY's blow just bounces off, while ALICE's cuts through his armour and draws blood.]

Alice: Yay! I got him! [Bang. He punches her in the face and knocks her to the ground.]

[The STRANGER continues, so he is now directly in front of AUSTIN.]

Chastity: I don't like this [mutters incanation]

Evan: [Sighs] I should be the one sayin' that, 'cause I think he's after me.

[AUSTIN swings BEAUCAPHALUS at the STRANGER, and breaks it off him, just as CHASTITY trips and falls, for no apparent reason.]

Beaucaphalus: Ow!

[The STRANGER doesn't even flinch, but suddenly reaches out and plunges his hand deep into AUSTIN's chest, causing AUSTIN to scream in pain.]

Alice: Oh my God! Stop him!

Chastity: [Trying to get back on her feet. Shouting at the Stranger] Stop that now! You'll find nothing in there anyway!

Evan: [Hesitating] I think my best trick right now'd do more damage to Sleazy than it...

Austin: Yeaaargh! Get him out!

[The STRANGER pulls his hand back out, with AUSTIN's still beating heart in it, before bursting it in front of him, showering AUSTIN, CHASTITY and EVAN with blood and bits of ventricle. Incredibly, AUSTIN is still not only alive, but conscious, but clearly in huge pain.]

Alice: I don't believe it! Get him! [Stabs the stranger again, cutting his leg.]

[HARVEY swings his sword at the exact same area that ALICE wounded earlier, and, although he hits, the sword just bounces off.]

Stranger: Argh! [Glares down at Alice]

Austin: [Tries to grab his heart back from the stranger, wincing in pain] Give me my heart back!

Evan: [Ducks down as he casts a spell, releasing it at an upward angle from down low to reduce collateral damage to the party. Lightning Bolt.]

[The lightning bolt hits off the STRANGER with a bang, sending everyone, except the STRANGER to the ground. Alas, AUSTIN's heart is now but a smear.]

Stranger: [Draws a huge kick on Alice, speaking in a voice that's quite muffled, so impossible to identify] You bitch, soon you'll never be able to hurt me again.

Alice: Ow! Hey! Everyone else tried to too!

[The STRANGER turns and walks off.]

Chastity: [Watching the stranger walk off. To Alice] Another one of your nightlong relationships, dear? [Painfully picks herself up]

Alice: [Staggers to her feet] You know, Chastity, not all of my relationships lasted that long. [Huffily turns away, only to turn back again] I mean they last longer than that! [To Austin] Er, Austin, are you okay?

Harvey: By the saints private, how can you still be living and breathing? It's unnatural!

Evan: Ah, y'know that the only kinda wound that bothers him is somethin' that blemishes his skin...

Alice: [Annoyed] Oh, shut up, Evan! He's hurt, can't you see that? Are you just too self absorbed to see how hurt he is? [Pause, before she turns to Austin] You are hurt, right?

Austin: [Pespiring and spasming in pain, panting rapidly] Of course I am hurt, are you blind? [Falls to the ground, fast breathing growing weaker]

Darius: [Standing up and dusting himself off] Right, we ready to go on? [Leans in and takes a look at Austin] Still beating heart pulled out, huh? Ah, you'll be fine.

Evan: [Growing serious again, plucks a healing potion from his pouch and kneels down next to Austin, uncorking it and offering it to the stricken man.] Dunno if this'll help, but it's worth a shot...

Alice: Er, does anyone else think this is a little strange? Not that I'm not pleased your still alive, Austin, but if you look at how much your heart has been spread around, I think you'll agree it's kind of surprising.

Chastity: Could it have anything to do with the fabled path we weren't allowed to talk about? [Indicates to the path they are on. To Darius] Is that why you said not to leave the path?

Harvey: [To Darius]Did you know that this was going to happen? Did you know that private Sleaze was the target, and not Evan, or even the dear sister?

Chastity: [To Harvey] I think, Colonel, that Darius took one of the first blows from our mysterious assailant. I doubt I he knew what its intentions were.

Harvey: Perhaps so sister, perhaps so. [Looks at Darius] I apologise for my outburst, sir! [Bows to Darius] Tell me this, do you know what that creature was?

Darius: Correct, Sister, that's the first time I've ever seen him. I've no idea who or what he is, but he does seem pretty pissed off at you lot, [glances at Austin] and you in particular. [Thinks for a moment] Although, I can't really imagine why. [Back to Chastity] Everything is related to the path.

Austin: [Drinks the healing potion. To Evan] Thank you, stranger. [Looks down at the hole in his chest, Winces in pain] Another suit ruined! [Gets up, clearly in immense pain, gritting his teeth] Tidys up the loose bits of flesh around the hole where his heart used to be and straightens his suit, mopping up the blood with a handkerchief which he then throws away, forlornly

Alice: [Looking after where the stanger went] Is it a good idea to just stand around here?

Darius: [As Austin drinks the potion] Yes.

[The potion doesn't seem to have any effect on AUSTIN.]

Harvey: [To Austin] I say private Sleaze, you seem to be taking this whole heart ripped out thing surprisingly well! Most people who find themselves in your circumstances tend to lie around not doing very much of anything!

Alice: [Sighs] This is hardly the time to bring up his lying, Uncle! Come on, the guy's hurt!

Darius: Come on, there's a small shed up here, we can go in there to regroup.

Harvey: Very well! [To Austin] Private Sleaze, is Beaucauphalus broken? Last Colin #116

Alice: [Looks at Beaucaphalus] I'm afraid so, he's broken clean in half. Beau? Can you hear me?

[No answer.]

Alice: Oh no! Swords must go deaf when they break!

[Exit ALL along the path, lead by DARIUS, with AUSTIN taking the two pieces of BEAUCAPHALUS.]

Austin: [To Darius, mockingly ] Regroup? In a shed? What benefit is that going to have [Shakes his head. Looks at the empty potion in disgust and throws it away. Sighs. Picks up the broken pieces of Beaucaphalus, wraps them up carefully an puts them in his bag]

[Book IV, Act II, Scene III. A small shed. ALICE, AUSTIN, EVAN, CHASTITY, STUMP, HARVEY and DARIUS are here, having just entered. AUSTIN is limping badly, and is clearly badly hurt. Worse, his suit is completely ruined. There is a table and some chairs here.]

Darius: Right, now it's my turn to ask you lot for information - who was that?

Alice: With the whole heart ripping out thing?

Darius: Yes.

Alice: That was Austin.

Darius: [Angles himself slightly away from Alice] Right, well done. I'm impressed you remembered his name this long.

Evan: [Sighs] I'll give y'guys credit for one thing, y'have a way of making interesting times out of the most ordinary things...

Evan: Who's name? [Smiling] Just kidding. 'fraid I can't help with the who bit, though; these fine folks seem to know a lot more unusual people than I do.

Alice: [As everyone sits down] Well, this has been a little too interesting for my liking. I mean, what is going on here?

[The door opens. Enter THE MONK, who walks up to EVAN, holding a symbol of PHILI.]

Monk: [With his face partially visible] You are unclean! You must be removed!

Harvey: [Sighs] By the saints, can we not have a minutes peace! [Looks at the monk] I say fellow, of course we're unclean! Just been through a battle and being drenched by private Sleazes blood, what! The laundry facilities are a tad lacking in this shed!

[The MONK ignores HARVEY, before turning and walking out.]

Darius: [To Evan] Friend of yours?

Harvey: [Sniffs at his armpit] I say, we got used to that sort of a reaction when private Scar was around, but that's definitely a first in his absence! What a damnably odd fellow all the same! [To Chastity] Well sister, did you recognise what order that fellow was with?

Darius: What I want to know is who was that guy who attacked us outside? We need to find that out.

[Enter the STRANGER, who strolls in and leans against the back wall behind EVAN.]

Alice: I don't know, I never saw him before.

Darius: But he knew you - and you were the only one able to hurt him.

Harvey: That certainly was true, dear niece! [Scratches at a sideburn] But we've been doing so much time hopping, it's certainly a possibility that we've not met him yet, whereas he's met us at some time in the distant past, or future, or even alternate present!

Darius: [Surprised] Check out the lateral thinking of Harvey!

[The STRANGER takes out a huge machete, and stands a bit closer to EVAN.]

Alice: That doesn't explain why Austin's heart could be taken out not kill him. I mean, it's not like he doesn't use it or anything. Oh.

Evan: Was kinda a funny way for him t'be acting if he was a friend, don't'cha think? But I don't think I've met him b'fore. [Glances back at the stranger, then leans against a side wall )and not in front of a window) so as not to have strangers behind him.]

[Just to be clear, this is the SAME stranger who just plucked out AUSTIN's heart.]

Alice: I don't know, Evan, you might be kind of surprised at the type of friends we have!

[The STRANGER swings his machete and hits EVAN, knocking him to the ground and spattering the others with blood.]

Harvey: Indeed so, dearest Alice! [Laughs loudly] Remember that silly old fat man who always wears his military outfit, shouts and yells and snores louder than a thunderclap! Hah, what a bilious old fool he was! [Scratches at a sideburn before gasping] Oh wait, that was...Gah!

Evan: Argh! [Tries to get away from the Stranger, reaching for his dagger as he does]

Alice: [Leans in to listen to Harvey] Who? Who was it?

[The STRANGER catches EVAN's ankle and pulls him back, slashing him again with the machete.]

Harvey: [Pulls his shirt collar away from his throat, avoiding Alices eyes] My isn't it hot in here! By the saints, I know dear Alice, why don't you tell us all about your pony!

Chastity: [To Alice] No doubt your Uncle realised that he could not remember the man's name.

Alice: Oh, I don't think so, Harvey just loves my stories about King Horsikins the III! [Does a sudden double take on Chastity] Oh!

[EVAN screams in agony as the STRANGER continues to hack away at him]

Darius: Well, if everyone is ready, we'd better keep going.

Harvey: [Glad of the distraction] Certainly, yes! Come come troop, time waits for no man!

Chastity: Yes, I agree. This shed, whilst making a convenient place to gather ourselves does leave us vulnerable to being surprised and cornered. What with Alice's injury and Austin's poor state we can ill afford another casualty so soon in the expedition.

Alice: [Shielding her eyes from Chastity] Yes, let's go.

[ALICE walks out just as the STRANGER finishes killing EVAN.]

Harvey: [Following Alice] Now be careful, dear Alice, who knows who might be lurking outside, ready to pounce! Let me go first!

Alice: [A little pale] It's what's lurking inside that I'm concerned about!

Stump: [Making himself comfortable, pulling his seat up in front of Chastity] Hey, what's the rush? Come on, let's have some of Sven's great food. Want a banana, Chastity?

Chastity: [Getting up] No thank you. Not before encountering the evil foe. Also, my mother warned me of strange men offering out their stumpy banana's in dark places. I don't know if this is what she meant, but I'd best stay true to her advise. [Looks to the door]

Austin: [To the others] Yeah, what's the hurry? [Looks at Stump. Very clearly, slowly, and aggressively] Look shorty, our friend has been kidnapped and his life is in danger, that's what the hurry is! [attempts to slap the bananna from Stump's hand]

Alice: [Peeks into the room, her good hand covering her eyes, but cracked so she can still see] Phew! [Puts her hand down] Right, let's go.

Harvey: Well good sister Chastity, it sounds like you certainly inherited your mothers common sense! Come, let's be away from this place!

[AUSTIN takes a swipe at the banana, but STUMP pulls it back in time.]

Darius: [Rolling up a cheeseratte] Evil must be quaking in its boots.

Chastity: [As she walks though the door, to Darius] As it should be. Although its probably too busy being foolishly arrogant and making wise cracks.

Darius: Okay, let's get the marching order together, and be careful folks, we don't want to lose anyone at this stage.

[Someone begins to approach the party from up ahead.]

Alice: Oh no! I hope it isn't that stranger again, imagine how awful it would be if he turned up.

Darius: [Nodding at Chastity's words] Not to mention smoking. [Earnestly] Evil masterminds often spend a lot of their time smoking. [Lights up his cheeseratte]

Harvey: [Gasps suddenly and beetroot red] By the saints, dear sister! [Averts this gaze and removes his coat, handing it in Chastitys direction] Surely you must be freezing! Please, take this!

Austin: [Looks at Alice blankly. TO Alice] Yes, just imagine. [Pauses] I don't think you are in any danger.

Chastity: [To Darius] It gives them an excuse when they're made to choke on their words[Turns to see who Alice is talking about] We'll all go down the next time. All for one and one for all. And all that.

Austin: [Brandishing his dagger, lights up a cheesearette and blows some smoke rings. To Chastity] All go down where? Down on what?

Chastity: [Looks at Harvey in confusment] No, I'm alright, Colonel. You'd best keep look after it for now. It is you coat after all.

Stump: [Wipes the drool from his lips looking at Chastity] In your current state, Chastity, I would not talk about all going down. You might find yourself in a compromising situation. [Clearly just a tad disappointed with the coat going around her] Good idea Austin.

Alice: [To Austin] What's that supposed to mean? [Turns to Harvey and Chastity] Did he just insult - oh! [looks away from Chastity again] Oh.

[Enter WADSWORTH, dressed in a smart butler's suit, wearing a big smile.]

Wadsworth: Good evening, everyone. It is most gratifying to see you all again.

Alice: [A bit urgently] No! Chastity, you really should take the coat!

Darius: Hey Wadsworth.

Wadsworth: [Bows smartly] Mr. Darius.

Chastity: [To Alice] Why? I feel quite comfortable as I am. [To Harvey, sighing] Very well, Colonel, if it makes you happy. [Takes the coat] But I must point out that it will be uncomfortable as the sleeves of my habit always bunch under a coat. [Brushes her arms as to smooth out any crumples]

Wadsworth: Oh, Sister, please let me help you with that. [Helps Chastity put the coat on, and smiles at the others in the party] How nice to see you all again. [To Alice] How are you, Miss?

Alice: [A bit embarrassed] Fine. Er, sorry about shooting you.

Wadsworth: Oh, don't worry, Miss.

Harvey: [Blushing furiously, turns to Alice] Obviously not a problem in the current circumstances, I would have thought, dear niece! [To Chastity, gaze still averted] I thank you dear sister!

Harvey: [Gaze still averted] Please sister! What with the warnings we received, you really should wear at least some form of protection! Please, you'd make this old soldier a happier man by accepting his coat!

Stump: You know Chastity, you may be setting a fashion statement. But I have one question. Why the natural look? I mean, it didn't offend me at all. Had I been quicker, I would have given you the shirt of my back. On Mon, 7 Jun 2004, [iso-8859-1] Colin Dinan wrote:

Darius: [Lets out a sigh of relief] For a minute there I thought I was the only one who could see that.

Alice: [Nods] Me too. [To Chastity] Well, Chastity, what have you got to say for yourself?

Harvey: Please troop, let's just carry on, obviously stress and pressure reacts differently with different people. Let's say no more about it and spare everyones blushes! [To Wadsworth] I say there fellow, what are you doing here?

Austin: [Turns away from Chastity, as thought he's about to vomit] And I thought having my heart ripped out was bad!

Alice: [Annoyed, to Austin] At least now she's got Harvey's coat on! [Takes a look at Chastity again] Gah!

Wadsworth: Why, I'm here to help with your journey. [Holds up a picnic basket] I've brought snacks.

Austin: [To Wadsworth] Well thatwas most kind of you Wadsworth. Could I have a glass of Louis XIV, if you have any, please? I could use a good drink.

Chastity: The natural look? Oh, you must mean my lack of make-up. The church of Phili forbids the use of make-up, saying "Only the wanton and whores wear make-up to hid the blushes from their sinful deeds and thoughts". [Finishes putting on the coat] It's a nice coat COlonel, but a bit tight across the chest, so I'll just leave it open. I wouldn't want to pop any buttons, would I. It'll mean that the evil ahead will see my cross. [Adjusts her pendant necklace.]

Harvey: [Eyes light up] Snacks you say! Wonderful! Just what we need to take our minds off...erm, other things. And perhaps you have a tartan blanket in your basket? [To Chastity] Surely dear sister, you'd feel warmer with a blanket wrapped around your lower extremities? Damnably drafty around here, what!

Alice: [Panic stricken] For the love of God, no! [Tries to calm herself] I mean, I - I wouldn't advise that, Sister. I'm sure we -

[ALICE breaks off as she sees WADSWORTH serving AUSTIN a glass of Louis XIV.]

Alice: Hey! This is hardly the time to be - well, maybe just a small one.

Harvey: Troop, now is most certainly not the time for alchohol! Who knows what perils lie ahead of us! Who knows what dangers lurk around every corner, behind every door, beneath every army coat! [Looks at the bottle] Well, perhaps just one or two, eh!

Wadsworth: [Pouring out a drink for each person] An excellent choice, if I may say so, Sir.

Darius: [Now eating Stump's banana] A toast, to the path ahead! [Holds up his glass, which Alice clinks]

Austin: [Slowly drains his glass in one go, savours the taste and then takes a big drag of his cheesearette. To Harvey] Just one or two colonel, good for moral. [Pats the colonel on the back] Not so good for the eyesight [Looks at Chastity, scrunching his eyes as he does so] But that's probably a good thing at the moment. [Hands his glas back to Wadsworth] Thanks.

Harvey: [Looking anywhere but at Chastity, downs his drink in one large gulp] Cheers, troop! Here's to the path ahead! By the saints, I think a refill is in order!

Stump: Yeah, this stuff is all right, but do you have anything with a kick? Like a voidka or a stout beer?

Austin: [Recieves a second glass from Wadsworth] Thank you. [Drinks it down in one. Looks at the path ahead] I hope it's better than the one behind.

Wadsworth: Of course, sir. [Pours out Harvey another measure]

Alice: Harvey! Come on, we don't have anytime for drinking now, we've got a mission!

Darius: [Also taking a second glass] Things you thought you'd never hear Alice say.

Alice: [Glares at Darius for a moment, before turning to Stump] Hey Stump, what happened to your shirt?

[There is a large black stain appearing in STUMP's shirt, just behind the left breast pocket.]

Wadsworth: [To Austin] I think that's pretty much up to you, Sir. [To Stump, with a smile] Ye-es. I'm afraid not. I had to pack light for this. Perhaps sir would like a napkin for the black ooze pouring through his shirt?

Harvey: There'll be no more talk about behinds, private Sleaze, and that's the end of it!

Alice: [Firmly to Harvey] I think you've had quite enough for now, young man. Put the glass down and get your sword. We have a Jerome to find.

Harvey: [Hand the glass to Wadsworth] You're right, dear niece! We must rescue the doctor! [Stops and looks at Stump, pointing towards the stain] I say, what is that stuff?

Alice: [Quickly] Just tell us, don't show us - [lowly to the others] I think we've had quite enough of people taking their clothes off for the time being.

Chastity: [To Stump] Have you a pen in your pocket? [Opens up the front of her coat and pats her left breast] Thats why church garments don't have pockets. So we don't look silly.

Chastity: [Leans in to Alice] Why? Whose been doing that?

Alice: [Gives a little scream] Please! [Closes her eyes to try and calm herself] Okay. [Looks Chastity right in the eye] You have. Are. You.

Harvey: [Suddenly] Well, time to move on, eh! Can't leave the doctor languishing in some rank cell! [To Wadsworth] Thanks for the refreshment, sir!

Stump: Uh, yeah. It's kinda wet under the shirt. [Takes it off to clean it with the napkin, to Chastity] You are looking mighty perky today.

Austin: [To Wadsworth] Why is the path ahead so dependent on me?

[STUMP's chest, around the heart area has turned black, as though there is something in there rotten. The centre is also black, with tinges of purple and some dark ooze slowly seeping out of it.]

Alice: Ew! What happened? [Picks up a stick] Can I touch it?

Wadsworth: [Smiles nervously] Not just you sir, on all of you.

Chastity: [To Alice] Me? What are you talking about. [pauses] Oh, I know. You've got the words mixed again. No, I put the jacket [emphasise] on! [Opens the jacket up] Look and I'm still clothed underneath!

Harvey: That certainly doesn't look natural! In fact, it looks like your heart has rotten itself right out of your chest!

Stump: [Watching his heart rot] Oh great. What else could this day bring? Why can't I be like Chastity and just bare all. [Grabs his heart, trying to keep it together]

Austin: [To Wadsworth] So, am I supposed to be really compassionate and careing or something like that?

Alice: No you don't, Chastity! Please, please, for the love of God! [To Darius] Tell her she's got no clothes on and is scaring me.

Darius: You've no clothes on and are scaring Alice.

Wadsworth: I don't know sir, are you?

[STUMP's description seems to be accurate, as there is definitely something seriously wrong with his heart, although it doesn't look like it's going to come out.]

Chastity: [Confused] What do you mean I've no clothes on? [Looks down at herself]

Stump: Don't scare Chastity like that. You might give her a heart attack. She looks very natural and surreal in her current state. Boneable too.

Alice: Big boneable, you mean.

Harvey: I'm afraid my niece is correct, good sister! You certainly do seem to be unclothed, but for my jacket, at the moment! In fact, you have been since you walked out of that shed, what!

Stump: [staps back] Hey, they look delicious. Like soft pillows to lay your head against. Unlike your perky, hard-as-rock ones.

Austin: [To Alice] Unfortunatley it's not just bone. [Grimaces at Chastity, looks her in the eyes] You are naked Chastity, this is why every one, except Stumpy here, is averting their eyes.

Darius: [Munching on the banana] I'm not averting my eyes either.

Alice: [Speechless at this revelation from Stump] You're a pig, Stump. [To Chastity] You were naked before you left the shed, in fact, your clothes just disappeared!

Stump: [to Austin] Natural beauty should not be embarrassing. It should be embrased. She is beautiful in her own right. [To Alice] You should take a lesson from Chastity and show your beauty as well.

Stump: [to Alice] To each their own. [To All] Maybe it's just an illusion?

Harvey: [Outraged to Stump] How dare you sir! I will put that comment down to the fact your festering heart seems to be seeping through your shirt, but one more like that, and I'll have to take you to task for it!

Darius: Maybe you're just an illusion?

Wadsworth: [Big toothy grin] Yes. Of course. This is all fascinating, but there is the small matter of Dr. Trindle.

Austin: [To All] Well, that would certainly explain why I'm not a corpse.

Alice: [Gives Stump an inscrutable stare] Right. To each his own. Fine. [Turns to Wadsworth and gives him her brightest smile] Hi Wadsworth! [Takes his arm] So, where's Jerome?

Alice: [Before Wadsworth can reply] Cool! So my arm isn't broken either? Great! [Takes it out of the sling] Ow! Hey! That's not an illusion at alL!

Harvey: Indeed so, where can we find the good doctor? Do you what else lies ahead on this path?

Stump: [To Chastity] It only hurts when I look at your beauty. But no, doesn't seem to hurt one bit. Just feels like my insides are being eaten out, but nothing unusual since a bowl of my Chili has the same effect.

Wadsworth: He's just along this way. [Leads the group along, with Darius staying behind]

[The group soon come to a small wooden house, approaching from the rear. In through a back window, they can see JEROME, bound and gagged on a seat.]

Wadsworth: As far as I know, all the guards are concentrated at the front.

Harvey: [Looking through the window] All at the front, eh? So, if we could prise off a few of these panels, we might be able to squeeze through, resuce the good doctor and be off on our business before anyone was the wiser!

Stump: So, that means there are some in the rear that are going to ambush us. Sweet.

Chastity: [Peering at the window] This looks like the job for our rear entrance expert. Show us your stuff, Austin. I'm sure you'll have us in a heartbeat! [Looks round to give everyone two thumbs up] Hey, where's Evan gone?

Chastity: [Looks round the group] You have all gone quite mad or been bewitched. I am fully clothed under this coat. Mr. Stump is rotting as we stand, and all you can think about is continuing some sort of practical joke. It's deplorable! [Closes the coat] Well, for the moment I shall [emphasise] humour you, just to attend to the main affairs in hand. But I don't want to here any more about it. [To Stump] Especially from you! No wonder your innards rot so. Does it not hurt?

Evan: I'm here sister. [Puzzled] Where else would I be?

Wadsworth: [To Stump] No, I think you misunderstand me, sir. When I say the guards are at the front, I mean they are at the front.

Chastity: [To Evan] Good. I didn't see you behind the Colonel.

Harvey: [Takes out his sword and attempts to prise a few boards apart]

Evan: That's probably because I wasn't there.

[HARVEY easily opens a few of the boards, so someone can slip in. The room seems to be empty except for JEROME.]

Alice: Well done, Harvey, we'll soon have Jerome back.

[JEROME is gagged, but gets very excited, shaking his head a lot, but not moving the chair.]

Harvey: [Watches Jerome before holding his hand up] Okay troop, it looks like the good doctor is trying to warn us against entering the room. It must be some sort of trap!

Stump: It's ashame none of us can fly.

[The STRANGER appears at the window, holding a pitch fork, which he plunges into HARVEY's eyes.]

Alice: [Screams] No!

Harvey: [Falls back, yelling in pain]

Stump: [Stump grabs a chunk of meat and throws it at the Stranger] Here, let's see what you do with this! [As it is released, realizes that it is half a duck and tries grabbing it unsuccessfully] Blast it! [a light bulb appears over his head] Alice, you were the only one to hurt it. Nobody else could. Maybe it's because you are female and have a nice body. You should do the attacking...unfortunately.

Alice: Or maybe it's because I'm just really, really good. [Dramatically pulls out her sword, only to get it caught in her sling] Gah! [Frees herself and stabs the stranger]

Stranger: You bitch! You always hurt me, always! [Swings and hits Alice, knocking her back away from the wall]

[Just to be clear, the STRANGER is on the inside, and everyone else on the outside.]

Stump: [To Alice] Are you going to take that name calling?! Kill that pittily-ass son-of-stranger! [Grabs Alice under arms, helping her up, of course copping a feel, and pushes her towards the opening]

Harvey: [On the ground] Alice, be careful! He might kill Jerome if he starts losing! Try to draw him out of the room!

Alice: [At the same time being pushed, pulled, groped and swung at] I'll sort him out! [Swings at hits him again]

Stranger: Soon you won't be able to hurt me ever again! [Strikes Alice with his sword, knocking her to the ground again]

Alice: [Lying on her back] Ow. There's got to be an easier way than this.

Wadsworth: [Standing impassively by] Might I suggest a tactical withdrawal?

Harvey: Yes, yes, that's what we'll do. Please, someone help me! Dearest sister, could you take my arm and lead me?

Chastity: Yes, of course. [Takes Harvey's arm] This way. [Move back from the window] Austin, if you could help Alice?

Evan: [Keeping well back.] Least you're paying attention this time...

Harvey: [Holding onto Chastity] My thanks sister! [To Wadsworth] Do you know of a place around here we can go?

Alice: Paying attention to what? Honestly Evan, we're being attacked here!

[The STRANGER doesn't follow, but returns inside to JEROME, and stands blocking him from the party's view.]

Wadsworth: Sirs. Ladies. Might I suggest running screaming in that [points] direction?

Evan: [Pauses] Depends on whether we're supposed to stick to that path bit still...

Harvey: I think at this moment, the path is whichever way we decide to strategically withdraw, what! Dear sister, do please lead the way!

Wadsworth: Sir may do as he wishes. However, I suspect that if Sir stays on the path at this time, he will soon be dead. This will, of course, facilitate you staying on the path, as you will be dead and unable to move. However, you will also be dead.

Alice: I'll lead the way. [Heads down the direction that Wadsworth showed them]

Wadsworth: [As the rest of the party pass by] Good evening. It was a pleasure to meet you again.

[ALICE leads the party through a smaller path which opens into a larger clearing. MILICENT FLUFF is here, tied to a pole, with a fire prepared (but not lighting) around her feet with the MONK standing nearby.]

Monk: [To Milicent] Unclean!

Harvey: [Leaves go of Chastity, suddenly shocked] No! No! Alice, my Alice! [Takes out his sword and swings it around] You fiends! You bastards! [Begins stabbing the air in front of him] I'd promised to protect you and now I've failed! Take that you filthy beasts!

Alice: [Dives to the ground] Harvey!

[HARVEY's sword cuts both EVAN and STUMP, sending the latter flying to the ground.]

Milicent: Help! Help!

Monk: [Turns to face the party] You corrupt this place with your filthy presence. You are no worthy to be here.

Harvey: Take that you devils! You have robbed me of my eyes, denying this old soldier the possibility of shedding even one tear for his dead niece! [Swings his sword and thrusts and parries] Die vermin!

Chastity: [Trying to shout over Harvey's bellows whilst avoiding his sword] Colonel, Colonel! Alice is not dead. Alice is not dead. Stop swinging!

Monk: [Lights the fire] This is for trying to interfere with the natural order of things. Know that it is not your place to petition the Lord for intervention! [To Chastity] You hypocrite, you will be the first to die. [Draws a huge mace and smashes it against her.]

Alice: [Still on the ground to keep away from Harvey's sword] Someone free Milicent!

Harvey: [Screaming] Enough of your trickery fiends, is it not enough that you kill my niece, but to taunt me in the voice of the good and holy sister Chastity! You will pay!

Chastity: [Attempting to defend herself from the monk] Someone do it now, whilst the twisted monk is distracted.[Tries to draw the monk in the range of Harvey's swipes]

Monk: You travesty! You bastardisation of all that is good! [Follows Chastity and swings at her] I will smite you but good, I will -

[Thump. HARVEY cuts his head off, as ALICE cuts the ropes that hold MILICENT.]

Milicent: Ow!

Alice: Stop squirming!

Milicent: I'm only squirming because you stabbed me!

Alice: And I'll stab you again if don't stop!

[MILICENT is soon free, and leaps away from the flame, before taking a long look around the party.]

Milicent: Tough trip, eh?

Austin: [Tries to free and untie Millicent, and kick any burning logs etc away. Scolding mimicing CHastity] How did you get yourself into this mess?

Harvey: Ha! Take that you foul fiend! [Suddenly drops his sword, falling to his knees and crying out in anguish] Oh Milicent, they have killed my dear niece! My only pride and joy lies dead at my feet! [Screams in rage]

Milicent: I was just waiting here to bring you to the big man, when that moron jumped out, claiming I was a witch.

Alice: But, you are a witch, aren't you?

Milicent: Yes, but he said it was like a bad thing.

Milicent: [Looks at Harvey kneeling over the body of the dead monk] Ah. I see. [Takes out her wand and waves it in front of Harvey. Immediately, his eyes come back]

Alice: Harvey! I'm here! It's okay! Everything's going to be okay! [Leans in to hug him but accidently pokes him with her sword] Oops!

Chastity: [Puts an arm round Harvey] She is not dead, Colonel. [To Austin] Who am I guess a mad monk. It wouldn't be the first time that someone has twisted the holy word of Phili into something hateful.

Harvey: [Looks around, blinking in the light] Alice, you're alive! By the saints, you're alive! [Hugs her massively] I thought I'd lost you! What is this place that can trick your mind into believing the worst nightmares are true! [To Milicent] My thanks, dear lady! My eternal thanks!

Alice: Ow. Ow. Broken arm! [Disentagles herself from Harvey, and turns to a Chastity] Who are you guess a what?

Milicent: And my thanks for my release.

Harvey: What is this place, dear Ms Fluff? What type of place can a man have his heart ripped out of his chest and have it crushed before his very eyes? What place can a mans heart rot through his chest and still be alive? [Gestures towards Stump and Austin] Who is this stranger who has the good doctor held captive?

Milicent: Good questions all. I don't know the answer, but I guess you'll be going there pretty soon.

[Enter BODDY, into the clearing, sword drawn.]

Boddy: Milicent! [Looks around at the party] Oh. [Realisation about something dawns] Ah, you're here. That might explain why he was so pleased with himself.

Chastity: [Correcting Alice] Who are you [emphasise] to guess a mad monk. You seem to have misheard in all the commotion. [To Milicent] Your welcome, dear. You'd have don ethe same for us I'm sure. May I just enquire as to which big man you refered to? you'll

Alice: [Confused] Oh. Right. Sorry.

Milicent: The big man with the beard of course. God.

Harvey: [To Boddy] Why who was so pleased with himself? This mysterious stranger? And what are you doing here?

Chastity: [Chokes in excitement. Speaking slowly and clearly to Milicent] You are taking us to Phili?

Boddy: Phili, of course. You were a bit late, and I'm already cleaned out, so instead of doing a beer run, I figured I'd come down here and see what was keeping you. [To Milicent] You're pretty lucky that they came along when they did.

Harvey: [Stares at Milicent in amazement] Did you just say God? You're taking us to see God?

Boddy: [To Chastity] Sure. He's just down that path. [Juts his thumb back at a path apparantly made up of diamonds] I know, I know, it's a bit over the top, but he is God after all.

Alice: [Checking herself out in her compact] Do I look okay? [Starts touching up her makeup]

Boddy: [Lighting up a cheeseratte] All the make up in the world won't cover the fact that he knows you didn't change your undies this morning.

Alice: Hey! How did you know - I mean, what's that supposed to mean?

Boddy: [High fives Milicent] There's always one that falls for that! [Heads down the path] Ready to meet your maker?

Harvey: [Stands up] But what about Dr Jerome? Do you think he'll be alright for now? Then again, surely if there's anyone on the planet who could help him, Phili would most definitely be the one, eh!

Chastity: As ready as I'll ever be. [Looks down] Although I'm not sure its fitting that I'm wearing a soldiers coat to meet Phili. [To Harvey] Maybe you should have it back, Colonel. [Starts to take off Harvey's coat]

Alice: [Panicked] No! [Tries to stop Chastity, but is too late]

[CHASTITY removes the coat to reveal that she is wearing a stunning new habit, of brilliant white and with incredibly starched collars]

Boddy: Looking good, Sis. Looking real good. [Gives a sexy growl]

Chastity: [Modestly] Why thank you. [Gives a slight disappoving look at Boddy as she hands the coat to Harvey]

Harvey: By the saints, sister! It's worth having my eyesight back to see you in all your holy glory!

Boddy: [To Chastity] Click-click! [Leads the party along the diamond path a short distance, before they come to another clearing.]

[This clearing is very bright, and looks like a forest glade. GOD, DARIUS, SVEN, PETER and COCAN are here, sitting around playing cards. Each of GOD and SVEN have an enormous pile of chips in front of them, while the others have a very small amount. GOD is just pulling a large amount of cash to him.]

God: Come to Papa!

Peter: What a pleasure it is to be in the presence of such a wonderful poker player.

Cocan: You've gotta admit, God, that whole omnipotent thing is kind of tilting the balance of the game in your favour.

God: Well, Sven isn't doing so bad.

Sven: That's because I'm almost as good at cheating as you are! [Catches God in a headlock and rubs his knuckles against his head] Haw! I love this guy!

God: [Looks up at the party and smiles, a startlingly beautiful and peaceful smile] Hi.

Austin: [Sighs] Oh dear, everyone has gone completely insane. [Looks at the others. Laughing] Holy glory? [Shakes his head]

Harvey: [Feeling warm and content] By the saints, now theres a sight and no mistake! [Bows extravagantly to God and gives a smart salute to the others]

Chastity: [To Phili] It is an honour, your ubiquitous-omnipotent-ness.

God: [Nods back to Harvey] Help yourself to a drink, Harvey. Whatever you'd like.

[GOD waves his hand, and everyone's injuries are cured, including AUSTIN and STUMP's hearts.]

Alice: [Stretching her hand] Wow, that was cool. Can you do any more tricks?

Darius: [Rolls his eyes] Don't get him started.

God: [Standing up and taking Chastity's hand] Chastity, the honour is mine. Your steadfastness and morality warms my heart.

Chastity: [All shy and bashful] Oh Gosh.

Harvey: Well, perhaps I'll just try a little of this golden ambrosia! [Pours himself a glass and takes a sip] Ah, that hits the spot troop! But tell me this private God, how is it we come to stand here before you?

Chastity: [Coughing. To Harvey, with emphasis] Private God?

Austin: [See that his heart has been healed and his suit fixed. To God] Oh, thanks, most kind. [To God] So are you Phili?

Harvey: [Looks around, a bit lost] Gah, force of habit! [Bows to God] I meant captain God at the very least! Commander God? I must admit I'm a little lost when it comes to the military ranking of omnipotent deities!

God: What else did you expect to be at the end of The Path? Everyone takes a different route, but all end up at the same place. Now, does anyone have a question to ask me? Don't worry if you don't, but sometimes people do.

Alice: Can I be good at maths?

God: Hey, I'm not a miracle worker, you know.

God: [Does a dismissive wave to Harvey] No problem, Colonel. Private God is fine. [To Austin] That's me. [Hands over his wallet to Austin]

Evan: Well I, for one, wouldn't mind knowing what happened back in the shack and why the others couldn't quite see it. 'Course, there're plenty of other questions, but that one's rather topmost right now...

God: Good question, Evan. Unfortunately that's one of the few -

[Gets interrupted by a cough from DARIUS, and gives him a dirty look.]

God: One of the few I can't answer. I'm sure you'll figure it out when you take the Path, though.

Harvey: I thought we were on the path, in fact, I thought this was the end of the path, private God?

God: You are on the path. Several of you have been on the path for quite a while now [juts his thumb at the card players] you might remember these jokers being here at the start. This [gestures towards the direction that the party came in] is just a hint of what's to come. [Goes bone chillingly serious] The Path is not easy, and it is not set. Usually everyone takes their own route - don't forget that you are strongest together.

Chastity: [Looking at Stump] Don't you have a question? A number related question? One you've been asking just about everyone else?

Stump: [Who's been busily helping himself to some of the wonderful food off to one side] Actually, Sister, I do. [Licks his fingers] My question, Mr. God, is what does one hundred and eighty mean?

God: [Smiles] Ah, that Pestilence. He's such a tease. Unfortunately I can't tell you, but I can tell you that he's now counting down from one hundred and seventy two. [Goes serious] You'd better be ready for him.

Evan: Uhmhum. Well, how 'bout this: Does my father factor into all this... [Waves his hand to indicate the group and situation in general] In any meaningful way, or do I get to wait 'till it's all over to finish that bit 'a business?

God: All business is connected, Evan. Just remember that only you can make sure you're connected to this group. [Is clearly talking about the rest of the party]

Alice: [Who's been writing down the answers] So, that's a yes, right?

God: Right. Here, let me write it down for you.

[There's a flash of lightening, and a huge stone tablet appears in front of ALICE with "yes" written on it. ALICE tries and fails to lift it up, much to the amusement of the card players.]

Alice: Hey!

God: Sorry, just funning around. [Clicks his fingers and it disappears]

Evan: [Smirks] Gets boring 'round here, huh?

Harvey: Well, I have a question for you, but I'm not sure if this is the time or the place. But then again, when would I get ever to chance to stand face to face with God. So, my question is this, and it has plagued me since I first read Darles Carwins book on natural life. Whats up with the duck billed platypus, what?

God: [To Evan] Well, I think Harvey just answered your question there! [Takes a drag of a cheeresatte from Darius] You know Harvey, I just don't know what I was thinking of there! [Exhales] I guess it's time to send you back now.

Austin: [To God] Is Lucy okay? [Helps himself to a drink]

Harvey: Wait, what about doctor Jerome! We must try to rescue him! Will you help?

God: [To Austin] She's fine, don't worry about her. For the time being. [To Harvey] No need to worry about Jerome, he'll be fine. Now, before you go, let's get a picture. [Puts his camera on the table and presses the button.] [Everyone lines up, with BODDY, DARIUS, COCAN, SVEN, MILICENT, STUMP and EVAN at the back, and AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GOD, ALICE and HARVEY in the front. Everyone smiles and holds their pose for a long time.]

God: Gah! I can never work that confounded timer. [Fiddles with the camera, and returns to the line up] [Click. A picture is taken, just as the party begin to fade away.]

God: [To Milicent] That wasn't a very big smile.

Milicent: I'm not in a mood for smiling. I was almost killed by that monk. You could have helped me.

God: Didn't I, Milicent? Didn't the party come along at just the right time?

Milicent: [Sulkily] Yes, very fortunate.

God: [To the party] When you do things right, people are often not sure if you've done anything at all.

Alice: But you didn't do anything, you just sat back and did nothing while we went through all kinds of torture.

God: Didn't I, Alice? Didn't I?

Alice: No! You just sat there playing cards with your buddies.

[The party vanish altogether.]

God: [To the card players] When you do things right, people are often not sure if you've done anything at all.

Darius: Of course, it's also cool when you don't do anything and people think you did do something.

God: When did you become so cynical, Norville?

Darius: Around the time I sold my soul.

Cocan: Come on! Are we playing cards or are we discussion theology? [Book IV, Act II, Scene IV. The Suite. SNYDER is here, talking to HORATIO, TOMMY ROTTEN and CRAZY JAKE. It is now morning time.]

Snyder: Where are they? They are already two minutes late. Scumbags. They have no respect for anything.

[Enter ALICE, staggering out of her room still wearing her cotton Prupert the Beer pyjamas and with a severe case of bed hair.]

Alice: [Rubbing the sleep from her eyes] Sven?

Snyder: I am not Sven! Please clothe yourself immediately! There is a madman about.

Alice: I don't think you're mad.

Snyder: [Clenching his fists] But I'm getting there!

Harvey: [Walks into the room, obviously hastily dressed] I say, I say, what's all this kerfuffle about madmen, what? [Looks at Alice quietly] I say, what a strange dream I've just had! We just met God!

Evan: [Enters, dressed in his customary casual fashion.] Y'too, huh? I hope your version got'cha slightly more informative answers. [Stretches slightly.] S'where's breakfast and all that? Don't want t'go out on another rescue mission without eating properly this time.

Alice: Wow! I dreamt I met God too, and that the rest of you were there!

Chastity: [Emerges from her room looking angry, dressed in an white ankle length nightgown which fastens right up to the chin and a lace edged night hat] Really, Mr. Snider has the worst alarms! [Sees Snider, and looks down] Oh, my. [Covers herself with her arms as if she were naked and rushes back into her room, slamming the door, re-emerging with an additional full-length white dressing gown, and a pair of red tartan slippers. Obviously still a bit shocked] I've just had a dream where we all met Phili. [Quietly to Harvey] And you all thought I was naked!

Alice: [In horror] But, you are naked!

Chastity: [Sighing] Only in so far as we all are underneath our clothes.

Alice: [Mischevious smile] You were much more fun in that other place.

Stump: [Staggering out of his room] Hello everyone [smiles at Chastity] hello Sister. [To Snyder] I think my toilet is blocked.

Snyder: So this is the famous Queens View party, eh? [Knocks loudly on Austin's door, calling out] Get up! Get up! We have a mission, or don't you remember?

Jake: It's a dream mission!

Evan: Just what we need. Another one. S'long as we only get dream injuries again, I s'pose it's alright.

Snyder: What on earth are you talking about?

Alice: I think we had a shared dream. [Points at Harvey] You were there [Chastity] and you [Stump] and you [Evan] and you. We met God, and he cheats at cards and smokes cheese!

Snyder: My God, blasphemy! [Looks at his watch] At this hour of the morning!

Chastity: Yes Alice, shocking. Nearly as much as Austin in his undergarments.

Alice: [Stilted] Yes. It was shocking to see Austin in his underpants. That's the most shocked I've ever been.

Snyder: Let me get this straight, you had a shared dream?

Chastity: [Looking round the group] It would appear so, Mr Snider.

Snyder: Well now, that's interesting. A shared dream is usually a prophecy. [Getting into this] Whatever happened to you in the dream is an indication of something that will happen to you soon - did it give an indication of some kind of mission?

Austin: [To Snyder] I have God's telephone number if you want to call him and check? [Blows three smoke rings, then goes back into his room] I'll get changed [Closes his door]

Chastity: Yes. We were told to follow [Leans closer to Snider, giving paranoid glances around] the path. [Leans back again] Oh, and Austin will have his still beating heart ripped from his body. [Various sounds of grunts and other noises come from Austin's room.] [Sometime later]

Austin: [Opens his door, wearing a Ely Greenitch silk eveninggown, and of course, a leopard skin thong. To Snyder] What is it now man?

Evan: Right. And I get hacked apart while no one notices, Alice gets her arm broken, someone's nearly burned at the stake, and a whole lot of other fun stuff. If, a'course, that's how it turns out again this time 'round.

Snyder: [To Austin] Well, let's hear God's phone number, for a start! [To Evan] The things that happen in these kinds of dreams are not to be taken literally - there's usually all sorts of twisted imagery.

Austin: [Shouts from his room] 555-1279!

Alice: [Shakes her head] That's not his number. Surely if it's anything, it'll be 555-1729?

Austin: [Shouting from his room, amidst squeals and laughter from Lucy, and various shower noises] Well that's true, it could be anyone's number, I found it in God's wallet!

Snyder: You stole God's wallet? [To the other (non party) knights] We're all gonna die. [To Alice] And you, what do you mean God's number is more likely to be 555-1729?

Alice: [Wearily rolls her eyes at Snyder's stupidity] Well, it's a long established fact that everyone's number starts with 555, okay? Now, if the other four digits were 1, 2, 7 and 9, then of course he's going to use

Stump: [Falls to his knees] Oh God WHY!!!!! She was a great bubble head. Now you filled the void!!!

Austin: [Shouting from the shower still] I didn't steal God's wallet! He gave it to me to save me the trouble! [Pauses] Why would God choose the smallest sum of two different pairs of cubes for a phone number? [Muffled complaints from Lucy, folowed by more squeals]

Alice: The guy gave you his wallet, so why are you asking me why he does something? God clearly works in mysterious ways. [To Stump] If that's another remark about Chastity's nudity, I'll thank you to stop.

Stump: [to alice] No. I was lamenting about you. But hubba hubba. Chastity did look quite the sex kitten, didn't she. [growls]

Alice: I suppose, in a kind of - hey! What do mean, lamenting about me?

Harvey: [Gives Alice a big hug] My dearest niece, you with all your mathematical skills! Looks like private God was a miracle worker after all! [Turns to Snyder] So, are you saying that the dream we all shared is some sort of portent of things to come, but not to be taken literally? I had my eyes plucked out, so perhaps I'll become blind to something important! [Scratches at a sideburn] By the saints I'm famished! Where's breakfast? Aha, I'm not blind yet then!

Stump: Hmmmm. That means my heart is going to rot out, thus I guess I'm never going to have a love of my life. Either that, or I've got a foul inner soul that will be eaten away. Oh crap. One hundred and seventy something somethings til Pesty arrives again. [Grabs his stomach and looks at his stump] But on a good note. Lots of food fortold in our future. Hurray!!!!!!!!

Evan: 'least yer priorities are still straight. [Glances towards Austin's door] But let's not wait on him. I don't wanna think about what he's havin' for breakfast.

Alice: [Gives Evan a disgusted look] Now I can't think of anything else! [Shiver, before turning to Stump] You know Stump, in my new position as Party Mathematician, I couldn't help but notice that God said a hundred and seventy two, and a hundred and eighty less a hundred and seventy two is eight, which is the number of days that it has been since Pestilence fell into the mine. Maybe that's what he's counting?

Lucy: [Staggering out of Austin's room smoking a cigarette and wearing one of Austin's shirts, and apparantly very little else] Good morning everyone.

Austin: [Strolls out from his room wearing a cobra skin suit, black silk shirt, aligator skin shoes, panda skin gloves and a gold thread tie, all by Eve Stirwin. Kisses Lucy passionately] Good morning everybody. [Checks to see if his heart is still there and smiles]

Evan: [Cheerfully] Mornin'. We heard y'slept well.

Chastity: [Somewhat disapprovingly] Or to be more precise we heard you when you should have been sleeping well.

Lucy: [Smiles at Chastity] And didn't we should have been sleeping very, very well?

Jake: Yeeeha! She's been chinned alright!

Chastity: [To Jake] I don't think that promiscuous physical relations outside of wedlock is a cause for celebration. It's only place is to provide procreation functional within the wedded environment. Now if you don't mind I will get changed and washed. All this sordid discussion so early in the morning has made my stomach turn. [Goes back into her room]

Evan: [Raises eyebrows] Not exactly a morning person, is she?

Alice: Not really. Then again, she's not so much of an afternoon person either. [Thinks] Come to think of it, evenings aren't really her thing, and as for nights, well, let's just say she doesn't like them.

Jake: Let's save Jerome! Let's save Jerome! Let's save Jerome! Let's save Jerome! Let's save Jerome! Let's save Jerome!

Snyder: [With a baleful look at Jake] We need to study this dream, to ascertain what the hidden messages were. It shouldn't take more than a few days.

Jake: [Calmly] Will you be doing that while we're saving Jerome?

Snyder: No. Before you save him.

Jake: [Falls to his knees] Noooooooooooooo!

Chastity: [Emerging from her room, wearing her usual brown habit and carrying her bag and mace.] Mr. Snider, we have no time to wait for your half guessed dream interpretations. Our comrade is in the desperate clutches of evil. We have already been forced to wait longer than we wanted to to let the healing potions take effect. They may have been the root of the dreams in the first place. It is morning, and time for action is now! [Thumps the handle of her mace down on the floor for effect. Pauses and looks at the breakfast table] Oh, or maybe after a quick cup of tea.

Evan: Good idea. [Turns talk into action by seating himself at the breakfast table and helping himself to moderate portions of what's available.]

Austin: [Nods at Evan's swift action and helps himself to a slice of toast, fois-gras and a nice cup of lapsang-sousoing.] Ok, let's grab a quick breakfast and then rescue Jerome. [Munches a bit] The most interesting point of the dream taht I remmember was that only Alice could hurt Stranger, and now she has remembered maths. Not the easiest thing to interpret.

Chastity: [Sipping on a cup of tea] Where as you all saw me na-[glances at Snider and corrects herself] in a state of undress when in fact I wasn't. I have no idea what that means. I can assure you that won't happen. Not again. [To Snider] You may want to get the sheets on Mr. Stump's bed laundered , by the way.

Stump: Quite right. [sitting down at the table] We need a small breakfast. Ohhh. Look [starts grabbing food] Eggs, easy over, over easy, sunny side up, scrambled, bacon, sausage, duck, pork, beef, cheese, bread, lamb, grain, pancakes, popovers, spotted dick, bangers, biscuts, gravy, and a small piece of bananna. This should do it. Oh yeah, need something to drink [looks around] Hmmm. Water I guess will do. I wonder if they have any lobster?

Alice: [Having the traditional breakfast of a double double espresso and cheeseratte] Maybe the maths is something different? After all, I did ask God for it. As for hurting the stranger, that's true, and he claimed that I hurt him before, and made it sound like something I'd done a number of times. Who have I ever hurt?

Harvey: [Gorging himself on black pudding and beans] All rum and uncanny. I remember seeing the sister na-, well, shall we say, differently to how she saw herself.

Horatio: I say, this is all very exciting. So, Sister Chastity appeared naked, then the Colonel was blinded? [Shocked] Oh!

Stump: [Mumbling with a mouthful to Horatio] Personally, it was very arousing.

Austin: [Looks at Stump and shakes his head in disgust] It's a pitty your vast sense of taste extends no further than your tongue, Mr. Stump. [Ponders] Wdsworth aslo said that all the guards were at the front, then the stranger attacked us by suprise from within the room the good doctor was being held in.

Stump: [back at Austin] Its ashame you don't recognize true beauty when you see it.

Chastity: [To Austin, glancing at Stump] I can assure you that some of Mr. Stump's tastes shall never reach his tongue. [To Alice] The attacking stranger actually seemed very emotionally hurt by you, my dear. Then he ripped out Austin's heart. The connection between love and the heart cannot be ignored. It's as if the Stranger was taking some sort of action regarding a relationship or emotional event between you and Austin. [Looks between Alice and Austin]

Evan: If I was gonna bank on who'd end up rippin' his heart out - in *any* use of the phrase - it would be someone else 'round here. [Thinks back] Huh, who was that monkey, anyway? Y'know, the one who kept goin' round accusing me and whatsername of being unclean and all that.

[At CHASTITY's words, ALICE and AUSTIN give each other a quick glance, before quickly looking away.]

Alice: I haven't a clue, Evan, but, in fairness, nothing happened to you. That's strange, isn't it? [To Chastity] Anyway, if it is someone who's going to do something emotional to Austin, it's hardly like to be me, is it? [Points at Lucy, but covering her pointing hand to try and prevent Lucy from seeing]

Lucy: Normally people try to prevent the person being pointed at from seeing.

Alice: [After a short pause] I knew that.

Chastity: [To Alice] I suppose so. And who could you have emotionally spurned over and over. [Gasps] You don't think that the stranger was some sort of dark manifestation of the Doctor, do you? You have to admit he has displayed a bit of a crush on you from time to time. And it would also explain how the stranger suddenly appeared in the hut when you tried to get in.

Alice: Maybe, but Jerome was also in the hut. [Shrugs] I don't know.

Harvey: [To Jake] You sir, crazy fellow, what is your connection to Jerome?

Jake: Old Jake never forgets a favour, no sir. The Doc sure did help out old Jake, [nods his head gravely] there are not too many men who'd stop and help a guy dressed as a hooker, with a blonde wig on and trashy leather dress with big buckles on the front, not to mention the fishnet tights and stilletoes. The man has a heart of gold.

Chastity: [Thoughtfully] Hmmm, that clothes description sounds awfully familiar. [Glances at Alice] Two questions spring to mind. Why were you dressed like that? And how did the Doctor [quotes] help you?

Stump: [Hocks up a piece of meat] Oh. OH! Ewwwwwww. Nahhhh. That's just not right. [shakes head, looks at both Alice and Austin] Oh gross. They? Oh man. [briefly pauses eating as though sick, then promptly resumes]

Austin: [To Jake] I expect he had a purse of gold too. [Checks his nails. To Jake] So why were you dresse ... [Tails off as he realises that he doesn't want to know why Jake was dressed as a hooker] If the Stranger was some manifestation of Jerome, then who was the Monk chap, and why was he trying to burn Millecent [Nods at Evan's query]

Jake: [To Chastity] What? So suddenly it's not [finger quotes] normal for a guy to wear a leather dress? What's next? It won't be normal for a guy to take beer anally? Or use his buddy's pubic hair to clean between his teeth? [Theatrically] Well, you can keep your normality, Sister!

Alice: This, er, pubic hair. When you use it, is it, well, you know!

Jake: Of course it is, what do you think I am, crazy? [To Austin] Old Jerome saved Uncle Jake from a bunch of stinking Adamites.

Stump: [Laughs] Yeah, them Adamites are quite characters. I like to create havoc with various illusions. Makes it all the more interesting.

Snyder: The Adamites might be idiots, but they're dangerous idiots. [Sternly to Stump] I'm warning you, there is to be no unnecessary public use of magic. [Calmly] It's not like we don't want anybody to ever use magic, we just want you to make sure there are no witnesses.

Stump: Fine. No more moving the door slightly so that somebody walks into it. No making somebody fall down and laugh hysterically until they are bent over in agony. No more bowel sounds. Man. No more fun.

Harvey: So, crazy fellow, how did the good Dr Jerome help you out, and did he himself ask you to seek us out?

Jake: [Gives Harvey a double take] The Doc sure did help out old Jake, [nods his head gravely] there are not too many men who'd stop and help a guy dressed as a hooker, with a blonde wig on and trashy leather dress with big buckles on the front, not to mention the fishnet tights and stilletoes. The man has a heart of gold.

Alice: [Gasp] I think I just got deja vu!

Evan: [Murmurs to no one in particular] What's that thing creeping along there? Oh yeah, it looks like suspicion...

Snyder: [Gives Evan a look of digust] Speak up, and talk sense. What are you on about?

Chastity: I wonder if the monk in the dream was a sign of Adamites to come. He certainly fitted the bill of twisted religious madman.

Alice: Yeah, and speaking of twisted religious, what about - [catches Chastity's glare and looks away]

Evan: Well, y'were just on about how what was in the dream might be repeated in reality. [Nods towards Jake.] Now here he is repeating reality. If it was anyone else, it'd be coincidence. [Smiles.] But with this group?

Austin: [To Jake] How, exactly did the good doctor help you? [Checks Maplin to see if he has had a good night's sleep, strokes him and puts him away, under his snake skin jacket, in the Napoleon style]

Jake: [Big, enthusiastic smile] It was great! He totally rescued me, I mean, it's not too many men who'd stop and help a guy dressed as a hooker, with a blonde wig on and trashy leather dress with big buckles on the front, not to mention the fishnet tights and stilletoes. The man has a heart of gold.

Evan: [Brow furrows.] Broken, burst, rotten, n' golden. I'm sensin' a recurrin' theme of hearts here.

Austin: [Nods at Jake] I see. [To the other] Well, moving swiftly on, shall we gone and rescue the good doctor Trindle, with the heart of gold. Do you think that's why the stranger took my heart? Maybe he thought my heart was gold too. [Shrugs] Easy mistake to make. [Checks Beaucaphalus, holding him up in the air so that the light shines of him] Did you dream our dream too, Beaucaphalus, sword of wonders?

Chastity: [Aside to Alice] More like he thought Austin would be in posession of Jerome's heart of gold. [Putting down her cup of tea. To the group] I agree, it's time to get the Trindle Liberation Force into operation.

Austin: [Pondering] Maybe the stranger was Jerome's dark side, something to do with the secret that he was hiding, [Looks at the others] Remember how he was somehow indestrucatable when in the interior, but would not tell us how or why. Perhaps he too sold his soul, just as Norville did. We should go now, without further delay! [Looks Lucy in the eye, goes to her and gives her a passionate kiss ....]

Alice: Good idea, but there's still one thing I'm confused about. [To Crazy Jake] How exactly did Jerome help you?

Jake: [Sighs wistfully] Ah, Dr. Jerome. You know, it's not too many men who'd stop and help a guy dressed as a hooker, with a blonde wig on and trashy leather dress with big buckles on the front, not to mention the fishnet tights and stilletoes. The man has a heart of gold.

Alice: Oh. Fair enough.

[Exit the party, accompanied by CRAZY JAKE, TOMMY and HORATIO.]

Snyder: [Picking up a huge crem donout] Scumbags. [Shiftily looks from side to side to make sure he's not being watched, before stuffing the whole thing into his mouth and biting down so the cream comes down his nose]

Lucy: [Narrows her eyes at Snyder] Precisely what are you doing?

Snyder: [Embarrassed, swallows the donut and wipes his face] Nothing!

Lucy: Idiot.

Snyder: Harpy.

Lucy: Insectoid.

Snyder: Slut.

[The two glare at each other for a few moments.]

Snyder: Wanna have a go?

Lucy: [Big smile] Sure! [Picks up the donut]

Evan: [Having finished breakfast, stands and taps a foot in mock impatience, waiting for Austin.] And here I thought he didn't want any delay... [Book IV, Act II, Scene V. The Carriage. AUSTIN, ALICE, CHASTITY, EVAN, HARVEY, STUMP, HORATIO, TOMMY and CRAZY JAKE are here. HORATIO is driving, with ALICE in the passenger seat, while everyone else is sitting in two rows behind. HORATIO is quite the most cautious driver anyone has ever seen, and is driving painfully slowly, making sure to obey all the rules of the road, as well as slowing down everytime another carriage approaches. The carriage is currently at a T-junction, trying to get onto the main road.]

Horatio: [As the traffic keeps going passed] Ah! There's a spot. [Inches forward] No, not big enough. [More passes] I'm sure someone will let us out soon.

Alice: [Clearly itching to get at the reins] Come on! You have to be more aggressive than that, look, you can easily get into that spot there, just force your way out!

Austin: [To the others] I have the sneaking suspicion that Jerome is currently safer than we are [Looks at Alice's back, nervously]

Chastity: Well, Phili did say that the path would be perilous.

Harvey: [Gripping the seat with fear] I believe you are right, Private Sleaze.

[The carriage slowly crawls out into traffice.]

Tommy: [To Jake] Hey! Why the hell should we help you? Did Jerome help you or something?

Jake: Yes, and it's not too many men who'd stop and help a guy dressed as a hooker, with a blonde wig on and trashy leather dress with big buckles on the front, not to mention the fishnet tights and stilletoes. The man has a heart of gold.

Chastity: [Cringing at Jake's repeated speech.] Oh, for the love of Phili, give the reigns to Alice, we're in a hurry. [To Horatio] Is doesn't matter about the brake pedals, she doesn't use them! [Quickly holds on for dear life]

Austin: [To Chastity] But Jesus didn't say anything about the road being perilous! Let alone suicidally wreckless high speed driving.

Evan: [Looks at Horatio, then Alice, then everyone else grabbing hold of whatever available surface presents itself. He follows suit without hesitation.] [Helpfully.] Uh, Alice, maybe y'can use yer new mathematical skills to chart a safer course or somethin' like that?

Chastity: [To Austin] Who? Jesus? We're talking about religious personages here, Austin! Now hold on. [Glances round] Any maybe close your eyes!

Alice: Yeeeha! [Grabs the reins] I mean, yes, that's a good idea Evan.

[The carriage races off, with the horses legs spinning for a few seconds, as ALICE mounts the central reservation and crosses over to the wrong side of the dual carriageway.]

Alice: [Turning back around on the seat to the screaming party] As Evan guessed, the traffic is really just a harmonic form of Gabor Wavelets, and, because each lane has a different frequency a simple undulating approach to lane discipline is likely to yield a relatively slow average speed. The other side has a considerably lower frequency, which, even when scaled up by the inverse of our speed given their reverse polarity, will give us a higher speed even after the lane changing has been factored in.

Harvey: [Eyes closed and teeth gritted] I'm so proud of you, Niece.

Alice: [Happily] Well, the truth is that they're all so terrified of a carriage speeding the wrong way down the middle of the road, so they'll all just scatter. [Turns back and starts to put on her lipstick using the rearview mirror, pausing only for a second as the carriage veers to one side and smashes the wing mirror off a stationary police carriage, much to the shock of the waiting policeman] Yeah? Fuck you, Piggy, learn to park! [Calm and happy again] Wow, it's great to be driving again, isn't it? [Turns back once more] Hey, anyone got any cheese?

[Meanwhile, the carriage veers back across the road to the central reservation, causing all the other carriages to take evasive action, which causes many of them to spin around, roll, hit each other, drive over cliffs or simply explode, for no apparant reason.]

Evan: I thought destroyin' everything was the job of the bad guys, not us?

Stump: Then you haven't been around this group long enough.

Chastity: [Looking back at the carnage] The worst part will because we're on a mission from Phili the poor souls' insurance won't pay up. The acts of god clause. [looks forward again, whincing] Are we nearly there yet?

Jake: Stop! Stop!

[ALICE plunges through the central reservation and pulls over on the hard shoulder of the correct side, miraculously avoiding several crashes.]

Alice: Looks like we are here, Chas. Jake?

Jake: [Leans over the side of the carriage and throws up] Okay. I'm okay. You can park just over there. [Points at a huge carpark with only two cars in it]

Alice: No problem. [Heads into the carpark, scraping the side of the carriage off the gate as she does]

Chastity: [To Harvey] You know, I do believe Alice's driving's getting better.

Austin: [To Evan] Well, Evan, we were being followed, and Alice is a master at loosing tails. [Holds on for grim death as Alice pulls a handbreak turn] No one can follow Alice's driving, not even the big A, P, J, B, G [Looks upwards] Or whatever name he has chosen today.

Harvey: [Opening his eyes in the momentary stillness of the aftermath of the handbrake turn] Yes, Sister, she has made great strides in her road manners.

[ALICE reverses into the space between the two parked carriages, somehow managing to not only scrape both of them, but also to smash the rear indicator, and leave the carriage at an impossible angle in the parking space.]

Alice: [Climbs across one of the other carriages to get out, before turning back and beaming with pride at her parking job] Hah! Now who's unfit to drive?

Jake: [Falls out of the carriage] Please! No more! No more!

Harvey: [Gets shakily out of the carriage, before brushing pieces of tree from his jacket] Very well done dear niece, you got us here in record time! [Looks at the two cars] Damned selfish of those carriages to park so close together what! Barely left enough room for us!

Jake: [Dusts himself down] Now I know what Delerium was like!

Evan: [Squeezes carefully through the partially-blocked door.] Least our breakfast got a chance to settle at the T-junction b'fore all that...

Tommy: [Shouting] That's the worst god damned driving I've ever seen! Are you completely blind, you crazy bitch? [Normal voice, and surprisingly earnest] What about the safe cross code? Little kiddies trying to get to school? Old people on a zebra crossing? Mutual respect for other road users? Consideration for cyclists? A nice wave for the friendly policeman who's only there to make it safer for everyone? [Roars] I hate you and your driving!

Alice: [Unimpressed, folding her arms] You know, the way this is going, some people might be walking home.

[Behind ALICE, HARVEY tentatively raises his hand, as though volunteering, but quickly puts it down again.]

Chastity: [Getting off the carriage and taking a slug from her emergency tea flask to calm her nerves. To Tommy] One thing at a time. We're here in one piece, and no local businesses have been devastated. After all this perhaps you'd care to give young Alice a series of instruction, sitting next to her driving for hours on end. [Puts away the flask]

Tommy: [In a nice, calm and friendly voice] Hey, that's a really good idea, Sister. I could talk to her about driver ettiquette, explain to her how her actions can affect others and give her some tips about driving safety. In fact, I can give her some hints now, on the way to the hideout, so the drive home will be more comfortable for all of us. [Saunters up to Alice and shouts] Listen maggot! The safety belt is there to prevent your thick head from going through the windscreen, and the mirror isn't just there for you check your make up with. I hate you and your red lipstick, you look like a hooker!

Alice: [Tearing up in joy] It's just like when Daddy taught me to drive! [Gives Tommy a hug, much to his dismay]

[The party walk on about ten minutes, and come to a hill overlooking a small wooden shack. There is a man sitting outside it, and no obvious signs of anyone else around, although there is smoke coming out of the chimney.]

Jake: That's where they're holding Captain Jerome.

Evan: [Gazes ahead at the ramshackle structure.] Uh, wasn't it s'posed to be guards out front? Y'know, plural of guard? S'either the dream was wrong there, or there's literally more t'this than meets the eye. [Pauses] Not that tryin' to avoid 'em really helped us in that little dream...

Jake: They're all probably asleep - the instructions were to bring you here in the afternoon, but ol' Jake, he's too clever for that.

Chastity: Perhaps we should make our way round the back anyway. [Looks for available cover to use ]

Harvey: Good idea, Sister.

[The party slip around to the back, almost certainly unnoticed. The hut is in a wooded clearing, of about twenty feet radius. From the back the hut looks quiet.]

Jake: Father Jerome is in the basement. There are six of them.

Alice: Six Jerome? [Rolls her eyes] Surely the dream would have told us about this!

Evan: [Stares at Alice for a moment.] Looks like yer maths're slippin'. Six guards, not six Jeromes. [Looks at Jake.] Unless these guys are really into clonin' people.

Alice: [Narrows her eyes and draws her sword] I hate clowns.

Jake: They sleep in two rooms, one at the back, and one at the front. The way down into the cellar is in the front.

Austin: [Nods] Why don't we just torch the place and call the firebrigade to rescue Jerome?

Chastity: That's a bit risky. The hut may collapse into the cellar killing the doctor. And as well as his capters, we would have to deal with the group of youths who always turn up to throw stones at the firemen. [Looks around nervously] Much safer to blunder in with little or no planning not knowing who or what we face.

Evan: I s'pose I could pull a little disappearing act on someone, but since we've got t'go through a door, window, or wall anyway, it probably wouldn't add much t'the surprise.

Alice: [In the middle of picking up some stones] Aw, I thought that was a great idea, Austin!

Harvey: Invisibility eh? Well, I hope no one sees that, Private Starglow! Starglow!

Stump: Some good illusion might work. Any suggestions?

Austin: [To Harvey] That's the point colonel. [Austin carefully sneaks up to the door, dagger at the ready and checks the lock / door for traps]

[AUSTIN makes it up to the back door without any problems, and doesn't appear to find any traps.]

Alice: [Whispering to the others] What's the plan? Do we all go in the back? Some in the front? Maybe Austin might know, he's really good at this stuff? [Shouts] Hey! Austin!

[Incredibly, there is no movement from inside.]

Chastity: No, we'd better all just go in the back door. Remember we were warned to stay together. We have no idea what we might meet in there.

Stump: [quietly to Alice] hey brainiac. What are the first 100 prime numbers? And if they are summed together, then divided by their parts, what is the answer? Think about that for a while.

Alice: The first 100 primes are 2 3 5 7 11 13 17 19 23 29 31 37 41 43 47

Evan: [Listens for a response from within that never comes, then rolls his eyes.] And after that, y'can calculate the odds that this isn't all a great big set-up.

Austin: [Beckons Evan and the others up to the door. Tries to open the door] This could still be a set up, just not the one we were expecting.

[Everyone else creeps up, so the entire group is spread either side of the door.]

Horatio: Well, what's the plan chaps? You lot want to stay together, right? Myself and Tommy will take the other flank - it's up to you. [Looks at Alice] Would you like the back door?

Alice: [Looks around her for a second, before speaking indignantly] No! [Calms down] I mean, let's see what the others say.

[Time passes.]

Horatio: Perhaps we should ask them a question?

Alice: Good idea. [To the party] Do we go in the back or the front?

Chastity: Back

Stump: Behind it all the way!

Evan: [Smiles.] I'll back that choice.

Alice: Back it is. [Thinks for a moment] What does that mean?

Harvey: Right troop, the plan? Do we burst in, all guns blazing?

Tommy: Good plan! Horatio and me'll take the front.

Austin: I've never been particuarly fond of the back door, I prefer a window, but needs must!

Alice: [Sigh] So what's the plan? We all try to squeeze through the door in one go?

Evan: The lack of guns notwithstandin', it sounds 'bout right.

Evan: [Smirks] Oh, yeah. I'm sure that Stumpy'd love squeezin' in next to you.

Harvey: Private Stump will most definitely not be squeezing anywhere near my niece, private Starglow, what! Let's get some form of marching order going and enter the building that way! I'll go first!

Alice: [Petulantly to Evan] Yeah, and if he's going to be squeezing in beside me in anything, it won't be a tunnel. [Looks pleased with herself, before realising what she's just said] Hey!

[ALICE and HARVEY enter the room, followed by STUMP and EVAN, with CHASTITY, AUSTIN and CRAZY JAKE still outside.]

Jake: [To Chastity] You'd better go in on your own, [looks around before leaning in confidentially] it's not the widest of tunnels.

Chastity: Well we wouldn't want some crazy oaf breaking my potions, would we! [Goes into the room, mace readied]

Jake: [To Austin] Just you and me, now, cousin.

Austin: I am not your cousin.

[JAKE leans into AUSTIN and whispers something. AUSTIN stares at him for a second, before looking in the door.]

Austin: It's a trap! Get out of there!

Chastity: [Whirls round to Austin] Trap? I thought you'd checked? [Whirls back round, frantically looking about for signs of a trap]

Austin: [Points into the room] Inside, not here!

[JAKE swings and hits AUSTIN.]

Alice: [Looking around the room] Where? What are we looking for?

[There doesn't appear to be anyone in the room. It is empty, except for a large cupboard, two medium size chests and a table, with one door leading out. The cupboard is large enough to fit someone in, but the chests are probably too small.]

Jake: [Leaning into Austin] Traitor. Your father would be so ashamed of you.

Chastity: [Rushing back out of the room. To Jake] Hardly breaking news. Look at him! [Attacks Jake with her mace]

[Each of the chests and cupboard burst into flame, not enough to injure the party, as they aren't close enough, but the flames will soon overcome them. Meanwhile, CHASTITY crashes her mace against JAKE's head, while AUSTIN stabs him with his dagger.]

Alice: [Turns from the flames and tries to push out] Come on! What's the hold up?

Evan: [Turning towards the back entrance.] Uh, did she just say somethin' 'bout breakin' pews? Guess the whole religion thing finally got to her.

Alice: But did it really have have to get her when she's standing between us and a fiery death? Wait a sec, that's not right. [Thinks hard] We're between her and a fiery death? Hm. Ow! Hurry up, Chas, it's getting hot in here!

Jake: [Swings at Chastity] You know nothing about his father! [Misses]

Chastity: But I know enough about him to guess he'd be ashamed! [Tries to knock Jake out of the way with her next attack to clear an exit from the room]

[CHASTITY hits JAKE again, and sends him staggering.]

Jake: [Bleeding badly] Is this what you want, cousin? Is this what your father would want?

Austin: [Stabs Jake in the throat] You're not my cousin!

[The rest of the party pile out, narrowly escaping the flames.]

Alice: What the hell happened? [Sees Jake on the ground, with blood spurting from his throat, clearly seconds away from death] Oh.

Evan: [Dusting himself off.] Now that was kinda excitin'... wait, wasn't there a guard 'round the front? [Draws his dagger.] Probably a dressed-up scarecrow or somethin', but just in case...

Alice: [Drawing her sword] That's right, let's check it out.

[The party creep around the side of the house and see that the front is on fire too, and that it was a dummy outside.]

Austin: Where are the other two?

Harvey: What the blazes is going on here, and why did that madman relative of yours try to kill us? [Scratches at a sideburn] Perhaps the other two have run off to alert others?

Austin: Surely they would have alerted us first?

[The party round the corner, and see that the front of the house is on fire too. TOMMY is here, completely consumed by fire and staggering around outside, while what appears to be HORATIO's body is at the doorway.]

Alice: Oh! [Covers her eyes] I knew I should have brought the glass of water.

Chastity: [Looking at Tommy] Quick, who can put out fires. [Glances at Stump] Even you're prefered method.

Stump: Sorry Sister, I went during the carriage ride. [Pause] Hey, it was scary!

[Even if STUMP was full to the brim, it's unlikely he'd be able to help, as TOMMY is completely engulfed in flames.]

Tommy: I hate burning to death. [Dies]

Chastity: [To Austin] Well it looks like you got your plan after all. [Looks around] I wonder where the fire brigade is? [Goes to drag out Horatio's body, trying to avoid catching fire]

[Unfortuntely, the heat from the flames is far too strong, and it isn't possible to get near HORATIO.]

Harvey: Most rum and uncanny! Private Sleaze, how did you know it was a trap?

Austin: Jake told me.

Harvey: What did he say?

Austin: [With finger quotes] It's a trap.

Chastity: What about Jerome. I hope reports of his presence are as false as the other information we were fed.

Harvey: [Solemly] I hope so. We'd better return to the hotel, troop.

Alice: [Also somberely] You know what would cheer us all up?

Harvey: [Shouting] No! [Calmly] I mean, I think I'd better drive, beacause of the [mumbles]

Alice: The what?

Harvey: The [mumble]

[The party walk off towards the carriage, with ALICE and HARVEY repeating the last exchange.]

[Book IV, Act II, Scene VI. The Carriage. AUSTIN, ALICE, CHASTITY, EVAN, HARVEY and STUMP are here, with HARVEY driving. The carriage is approaching the hotel, outside of which SNYDER is waiting, looking very nervous.]

Alice: [Starting to get annoyingly whining] But why? Why couldn't I drive Harvey?

Harvey: [Clearly at the end of his tether] Ah, look, it's Mr. Snyder!

Snyder: [Looks over the carriage to see who's in it] Are they dead? Are Horatio and Tommy dead?

Stump: [to Alice] Because we want to get back in one piece?

Chastity: [To Snyder] Yes, I'm afraid so. It was a trap. Crazy Jake attacked Austin, the shack burst into flames, and Horatio and Tommy were burnt to a - [points to their bodies] well, see for yourself.

Stump: Go ahead. Say it. They were burnt to a crisp. Charcoaled. Smoked.

Alice: Crisp! [Gives Stump a baleful look] We all made it there in one piece, didn't we? [Mutters] More's the pity.

Snyder: [Shakes his head] I told you to wait, I told you we needed to study the dream, but no, you had no [mimics someone, although it's not clear who] time to wait for half guessed dream interpretations.

Chastity: They are not burnt to a crisp. [Look. Prods Tommy with the end of her mace] The 100 percent burns have left him raw, gooey and puss ridden. [To Snider] It's easy for you to say now. We were trying to save our friend.

Austin: [Sneers at Snyder] And what would have happened if we had?

Snyder: We would have known that Horatio and Tommy, and that long haired scumbag -

Alice: [Offended] Hey!

Snyder: Not you! Crazy Jake. We would have known that they would all die on the mission. As it was, we were certain. One hundred percent sure. [Pause] Did Crazy Jake die?

Harvey: Yes.

Snyder: [Clenches a fist in triumph, but keeps a lid on it] Yes! I mean, yes, I expected as much.

Snyder: And what about these two brave knights? [Gestures at the unrecognisable bodies, before muttering to Alice] That is them, right?

Alice: We're pretty sure that one is Tommy, but the other one, well... [does a "maybe" wave of her hand]

Chastity: We did our best to save them, but they were engulfed in flame, we had no fire extinguishers and Mr. Stump had already gone in the carriage!

Snyder: Gone where? [Sniffs the air suspiciously before giving the carriage a look] Hm.

[Enter SPRUCE and JUSILLA, arm in arm.]

Spruce: [Sniffs the air] Crispy Knights?

Jusilla: [Slowly wags her finger at the party] Naughty, naughty, you of all people should have known the importance of a shared dream.

Stump: Quite right. Speaking of going [starts holding himself and figgeting] Back in a second [goes behind carraige and the tell tell sound of pee] Ahhhhh.

Alice: [Wrinkles her nose up in disgust and gives a shiver] Is it just me, or does he get his penis out way too often?

Spruce: I seem to remember you feeling that he didn't get it out often enough. [Sexy pout] You dirty girl.

Alice: [Getting flustered] Er, so anyway, how did you know that the others would die?

Jusilla: A shared dream is a powerful thing, and those who weren't invited to the game never get to play again.

Evan: So d'you think the stranger in the dream was Jake, or is that just another mixed metaphor this little mess?

Spruce: Well, not having had the dream, I suspect Jusilla doesn't know what stranger you're talking about.

Harvey: Eh? [To Jusilla] What game?

Jusilla: The dream, anyone who was there but wasn't there won't be there.

Harvey: [Blinks in complete misunderstanding] Oh. Well, that's much clearer.

Harvey: [Scratches at a sideburn] Do you mean that anyone who didn't appear in the dream, or game as you so unusually put it, can die if they travel with us?

Jusilla: Not exactly, they [emphasis] will die. [Makes as if to say something else but stops short]

[Time passes.]

Alice: And?

Spruce: And then eternal life, meeting their maker, all that sort of thing. Anyone who is in the room as someone else having a shared dream will die, usually in some horrible fashion. But you already knew that, right?

Harvey: We most certainly knew no such thing, madam! If we had, we would have travelled to that shack unaccompanied, and not lead two knights and one madman to their deaths, what!

Spruce: [With a big sad face] That wouldn't stop it from happening, fate has a nasty of sneaking up on you and catching you when you least expect it. Don't be all cranky with me. Bringing them with you today didn't kill them, they would have died anyway. Everyone in the room who didn't have the dream will die soon.

Evan: Uh, by "in the room", y'mean the suite we were in at the time, right? Not everyone in *this* room.

Spruce: [Sympathetically] You're not really the sharpest tool in the box, are you, Evan? This isn't a room, we're outside.

Alice: [Stepping in front of Evan defensively] Hey! He's as much of a tool as the rest of us! [Gives Evan two thumbs up]

Spruce: I'm sure he is.

Harvey: [Disturbed] Do you mean they'll die quite soon?

Chastity: [Gesturing towards Stump] And some try to demonstrate their tool at every opportunity!

Spruce: [Looks at the bodies] I think they're dead already.

Austin: [Snapping] He meant the other people in the room.

Spruce: Oooh! Anger! Yes, they will die [serious face] probably within twenty four hours of the dream.

Harvey: But, that's terrible! Is there any way we can stop this from happening? Or is their fate sealed?

Snyder: But who else was in the room? Surely it was just you lot, Horatio, Tommy and Crazy Jake?

Chastity: Hmm, I think Austin might know of one other person who was in the room!

Austin: [With a face like thunder] Chastity is correct. Lucy was in the room.

[For once, SPRUCE looks serious, and turns to JUSILLA.]

Jusilla: There is one way. When two become one, the second is protected by the first.

Spruce: [Dramatically] If Lucy and Austin are married with twenty four hours, the curse will be broken.

Snyder: [Getting all teary] A wedding, for my party, it's going to be beautiful!

Harvey: [Gives Austin a big clap on the shoulder] Well done there, private Sleaze! Very well done! I always knew you'd be made an honest man of eventually!

Chastity: [Smiling] And being the only member of the church here present, I can offer my services as the wedding minister! [To Austin] Why Austin, you must be overjoyed. Would you like a quick run through of the ceremony?

Evan: [Smiling and giving Alice a thumb's up in return.] Just doin' my bit t'fit into the blunt instrument style 'round here, y'know. [Peers at Spruce] 'course, since y'favor people makin' points, I noticed that y'didn't say that that people who were in th'dream wouldn't end up dead too.

Evan: Uh, I think you'd better skip the rehearsal and get straight to the real thing. It's not like time is on their side, here.

Stump: Oh, this is too much. I will cater the whole thing. I have a great recipe for slam!(tm) beer and I can make the most incredible cake, white of course, with sugar flowers of various colors, and a topping to die for. Then there is the food. Yes. Need something that will stay. A roast with all the fixings, some duck. Fish goes well if in a white sauce. [Looks at everybody] I have to go. To much to do. [Shakes Austins hand] Congrats man. At least one of us got a little. Now, where was I. Oh yeah, the...[trails off]

Alice: [Hugs Austin] Congratulations, Austin! That's wonderful.

Snyder: You know, I think you're all forgetting one thing.

Alice: What's that?

Snyder: The proposal? Surely Lucy should be consulted on this matter?

Stump: Technicalities. Don't ruin the moment. She must like Austin for some reason. They slept together and made sounds.

Alice: I wouldn't be so sure, Stump. I've slept with loa- [breaks off abruptly] Sh.

[Enter LUCY.]

Lucy: On what matter does Lucy need to be consulted?

Austin: If you don't marry me today you will be killed. Some sort of prophecy.

Lucy: [Dryly] Why, that's just about the most romantic thing I've ever heard.

Evan: [Nods.] Good point. [Smirks] I know it's about what it'll amount to, but I sure hope Sleazy here can come up with something that sounds a bit more suave than, "Marry me or die."

Snyder: [Wiping a tear from his eye with his handkerchief] It's all so beautiful.

Alice: It sure is. Now, who's got the shotgun?

Harvey: By the saints, what a happy day this is! I must admit to being quite down after the knights deaths, but now the thought of a member of my troop getting married, well, it's just wonderful, what! [To Lucy] Tell me my dear, do you require someone to give you away? I'll quite happily offer my arm!

Chastity: [To Lucy] Was that an acceptance? [To Austin and Lucy] Considering the short time scale involved I presume that you'll be wanting the traditional ceremony to speed things up?

Lucy: [Takes Austin's hand] Yes, of course it's an acceptance, I would love to be married to my Aussie Poo. [To Chastity] Sister, there will be no speeding things up, I plan to only marry four or five times in my life, so I want to make each of them count.

Austin: And I would love to be married to my Lucy Poo. [To Harvey] Colonel, while I'm sure Lucy appreciates your offer, I was rather hoping you would step in as best man.

Harvey: [Taken aback] Well, Private Sleaze, I - I would be honoured.

Austin: [To Chastity] And you, old woman, will you do the ceremony? [Mouths so Lucy can't see] A short one?

Chastity: [Glares at Austin's remake. Loudly for Lucy's benefit] What was that? A short one? You'll have to speak up, Austin, when you talk to an old woman! [Looks round the group] If everyone would like to get into position, we can start. [Takes out a copy of the holy book of Phili from her bag and flips to the relevant page]

Lucy: [Holds a hand up to Chastity] No, no, no, no! There are dresses to be made [gestures at Stump] food to be prepared [gestures at Harvey] suits to be hired and [gestures at Alice] bridesmaids to be humiliated. We shall have the wedding in three hours time.

Evan: [To Snyder] Do y'have a proper venue 'round here for this kinda thing? Or somethin' that can fake it in a pinch? Either way, we'd better get it ready while they work out the details.

Chastity: Do we have three hours to spare? OK then, let meet again here in three hours.

Snyder: [To Evan] This is a hotel, of course we have somewhere. [Shakes his head] Scumbag.

Lucy: Right. That's settled. Evan, you may look after the decorations. I'll talk to Peter about getting some dresses made. [Hands out a wad of forms to Austin] Pre-nuptial agreement.

Austin: [Holds out his own wad] I prefer to use my own.

Lucy: [Happily to the others] That's why I love him!

[Exit ALL, in various directions.]

[Book IV, Act II, Scene VII. The Suite. AUSTIN, ALICE, CHASTITY, EVAN, HARVEY and STUMP are here. Each of AUSTIN are wearing morning suits, while HARVEY is dressed in his formal military attire. CHASTITY is in her ceremonial habit, while ALICE and STUMP are dressed as before, the latter wearing a chef's hat. It is now around three hours later.]

Harvey: Well, Private Sleaze, I must say I never thought I'd see the day that you would settle down. With a woman!

Austin: Yes, it was always going to take someone special.

Harvey: Yes, special.

Chastity: I'm surprised we're ready. Two lawyers reading each others Pre-nuptial agreements and finalising in three hours! Are you sure we're not still in a collective dream?

Austin: Sister, we are about to listen to you go through a ceremony that's important to you, perhaps you should show the same forebearance when we go through ours.

[Enter LUCY and PETER.]

Lucy: Peter's finished the dresses, [squeezes his arm] he's such a whizz on the sewing machine!

Evan: Hope you'll like the decorations. Too bad I don't know origami; flowers made'a legal documents would've been pretty appropriate t'you guys.

Chastity: Now we are gathered, we can begin. [In a loud clear, official voice] We are gathered here today to witness the coming together of two people, Lucy and Austin, whose hearts and spirits are entwined as one. They now desire to profess before all the world their intention henceforth to walk the path of life together. If anyone knows of a reason why these two may not be joined in holy matrimony, please make it known now. [Cue tense pause as everyone looks around for an objector]

Stump: [Sneezes] Sorry.

Lucy: I object! I'm not even dressed yet - I just came to drop off Alice's bridesmaid's dress.

[With more than a hint of an evil smile, PETER holds up a horrific green and purple abomination.]

Alice: That's, well, very flouncy.

Lucy: See you crazy kids downstairs in a little while.

[Exit PETER and LUCY.]

Chastity: [Frustratedly] Oh for goodness sake. I thought there was a time limit here. She'll be dead if this continues!

Austin: [As Alice disappears into her room to change] Sister, as a veteran of countless marriages, I would have thought that you would have understood her desire for this day to be perfect. Furthermore, it is traditional for the bride to be the best looking person at her wedding [checks out his bow tie in a convenient mirror] the poor girl will have her work cut out for her today.

Stump: [looks around, perplexed] How so?

Chastity: [To Austin] I have also been in attendance to enough shotgun weddings to know that time must take priority over perfection in certain cases. The Bride's possibly dropping dead after a certain time today would seem to put time very much in the picture. [To Stump] Austin is quite plainly refering to himself, although I hesitate to use the word plain with a phrase about Austin refering to himself.

Austin: [Looks Stump up and down] How on earth will she be able to dress better than that?

[Enter ALICE, with a face like thunder in her awful bridesmaid's dress.]

Harvey: [Shielding his eyes from the dress] Ah, niece, what a fine frock. Very, er, green.

Austin: [Suppressing a smirk at Alice's dress, before turning to Chastity, apparantly in earnest] How many of those shotgun weddings were your own, Sister?

Chastity: [Indignantly] None of course. My marraiges were well planned and done for all the right reasons.

Stump: I object to that inference, Austin. Just because Chastity has broken her vows several times because she found another man doesn't mean anything. Shoot, maybe the right George will come along and sweep her off her feet. [Smiles lovingly at Chastity]

Evan: Dealin' with him, in the honeymoon suite.

Chastity: [Outraged] How [Emphasis] dare you suggest I have broken any vows. My husbands met their sad demises separately in tragic circumstances and unfortunately the 'til death do us part sentiment came about. Much to my distress. My husbands were all good, kind, caring family men. First name is the only thing you will ever have in common with them.[Turns and storms off a few paces before turning back to Stump] the [emphasis] only thing. [Turns and storms off a few more paces before turning back again to Stump] Ever! [Storms off out a door]

Stump: [yelling in a begging voice] I didn't mean it like that! I didn't know. I'm sorry. [chases after her] Women [mutters outloud]

Harvey: [Getting all sentimental as he puts his arm around Alice] You know, niece, throw in a few drunken spinster aunts, and it'll be just like your Uncle Keith's wedding. Do you remember that? When some awful person got sick in the punch?

Alice: Um. Yes. That was awful. A terrible thing. Who could have done such a terrible, awful thing?

Chastity: [Opens the door briskly and shouts into the room] Ever! [Slams door shut again]

Stump: [Meekly knocking on the door] Chastity? You misunderstood me. It came out wrong. You are a perfect woman. A perfect person who deserves more than life has given you. You have found your place in life, have somebody else better than anyone can imagine. [puts head against door] Please. I'm sorry. I'm just a rotten little fat man. [waits, then walks away, head low, not looking at anybody]

Alice: [Helpfully] You've also only got one leg.

Chastity: [The door opens and Chastity emerges from the door, all smiles and walking briskly] I do love a good wedding. The start of a new life. A new family. [Beams with brief nostalgia and continues briskly walking up to Austin, brushing past Stump and completely ignoring him. To Austin] Any possibilities of the pitter-patter of small print?

Austin: Not for at least five years. [Adding by way of explanation] That would section 3, paragraph A of my prenupt. In fact -

[AUSTIN is interrupted by somebody smashing through the window, having clearly swung down from above using a rope. He rolls into the middle of the room, and gets to his feet quickly, but is plainly disoriented. This is STEPHEN.]

Stephen: [Waving a bit as though he is about to faint] Alright, you bastards, this is where it all ends, I'm going to kill you like the scum you are, I'm going to rip out your organs and feed them to you, I'm going to - hey, what are you lot all dressed up for?

Evan: What does it look like? Gettin' ready to assassinate someone else, just like Dobbin. Or not. [Rolls his eyes] [To the party] This's one'a the four fine folks who feel yer felons. Y'know, the ones who were sobbin' over Dobbin and all that.

Stump: [To stephend in a pitiful voice] Have at it. Kill me first. [Throws himself in front of Stephend, spralls on the floor, rips open his shirt, takes a bit of hidden cream puff and smears an X across his chest]

Harvey: [Suddenly outraged] You sir, who do you think you are crashing this wedding? A jealous boyfriend perhaps? A jilted lover?

Alice: [Turns to Austin] Well?

Stephen: [About to plunge his sword into Stump's chest] Wedding? Oh. Who's getting married?

Austin: I am.

Stephen: [Big smile] Wow, congratulations. [Puts away his sword and shakes Austin's hand] I hope you'll be very happy. [Steps back and takes out his sword again and shouts] In the few seconds you have left to live! I am Dobbin's brother, here to avenge his death!

Alice: I thought we were supposed to have killed all his family?

Evan: Uh, wait, didn't you guys talk about time traveling or somethin' like that, when y'founded the knights and all that ages ago and now yer here? Y'sure y'didn't meet him after this, or somethin' like that?

Chastity: [To Alice] I think we are relying in Dobbin to have been in hold of all his facts. Something is retrospect we shouldn't really have expected. [To Stephen] I must insist that you put away your weapon. This isn't an Irish wedding you know!

Stephen: Are you sure? [Gestures at Alice with his sword] Pregnant bridesmaids! [At Stump] Ugly guys with their shirts off? All you need now is to have the toilet blocked up with puke and two best friends fighting because each wanted to buy the other a drink and it'll be like we're back in the old country!

Chastity: Thankfully the final elements will remain as missing as there aren't any best friends about. [Points at Stephen's sword] Now you kindly put away you sword. No-one here is responsible for the death of your brother, it was a being of evil called Darius.

Stephen: Liar!

[Three more men swing into the room in quick succession, colliding with each other in an untidy pile on the floor. These are MIKEY, KEITH and SHANE.]

Mikey: [Pulling himself up] Oh, there they are, the meanies who killed Dobbin.

Keith: [In a completely unintelligible accent] Sure, yeah, know what I mean? Yeah? Right. Yeah, you know?

Shane: [Does a rapper type pose] You. [Thinks for a moment] I mean, [puts on a scowl] Yo.

Chastity: [To Alice] Now there's an undiluted gene pool if every I saw one! [pauses awkwardly for a moment and gestures towards Stephen, Mikey, Keith and Shane] Erm, I mean this lot and Dobbin obviously.

Stephen: [Sings] For shame!

Mikey: [In harmony] Shame!

Keith: Oh yeah, shame!

Shane: [As the other three stop singing] Yo, word.

Stephen: We were about to hit the big time, and become the bestest most beautiful boy band in all the realms until you killed Dobbin. Now, we kill you, and then see if we can find a fifth good looking boy to help us pursue a record contract.

Austin: [To the loosers, calmly] We have not killed Dobbin. This is my wedding and if you don't leave now I shall be forced to have you removed! [Austin brandishes Beacaphalus, who is also wearing a sword tailored evening suit]

Chastity: [With an air of realisation] Oh, I see. Dobbin was a brother in the way a desperate collective seeks to bind and uses the family image to bring cohesion and a sense of belonging

Austin: [To CHastity] I think there is a good chance that they all have the same mother, or father, if indeed Dobbin himself is not their father and brother.[ Ponders] Anyway, it's my weding and you lot are not invited. Please leave swiftly. I expect that idiot Dobbin is still alive somewhere, if you'd only care to look.

Stephen: Er, hold on a second.

[The brothers form a huddle.]

Beaucaphalus: [To Austin] Are you sure my bow tie is straight? I don't mind turning up splattered with blood, but a crooked tie would be awful.

[The huddle breaks, and the brothers draw their swords.]

Stephen: [Uncertainly] Yes. [Pokes Stump with his sword, but doesn't draw blood] Put on a shirt, for God's sake.

Stephen: You bastard! [Turns from Stump and swings at Austin, who parries the blow with Beaucaphalus]

Harvey: I say, sir! [Draws his sword]

[All the party draw their weapons]

Alice: Let's kill them before they sing again.

Chastity: [Attacks Stephen] Mr. Stump, put your clothes on! This is a wedding.

Austin: [To Stephen] How dare you attack me on my wedding day! In a chuch too! [Tries to kill Stephen in a swashbuckling swipe of Beaucaphalus]

Stephen: At least you got a wedding day, unlike poor Dobbin! [Attacks Austin]

[STEPHEN misses AUSTIN, and gets hit by both CHASTITY and AUSTIN, much to his obvious and loud dismay.]

Alice: [Attacks Shane] Sorry, but we've got a wedding to go to!

[ALICE hits SHANE, sending him staggering back, while MIKEY swings at HARVEY, and accidently lets go of his sword, sending it flying across the room and almost hitting EVAN, who ducks at the last moment.]

Harvey: Hah! Thrashing these blackguards will leave us plenty of time for the wedding, Private Sleaze. [Slashes Mikey, who gets a little tearful] No groom has ever been late on my watch!

Keith: [Calling out to the brothers] Right, yeah, d'you know what I mean? I mean we like got 'em on the like ropes now, d'you know I mean? That'll teach them to infringe on our rights, power to the people, one love, live for the moment!

Stump: [Calmly, though a bit sadly, puts on his shirt, then shouting] Why can't they sing at the wedding? Then for sport afterwards, everbody finishes this little game?

Chastity: [Shouts at Stump] For the love of Phili no! Whose side are you on? [Attacks Stephen again, with slightly more vigour if anything]

[STEPHEN parries CHASTITY's blow, but comes nowhere near hitting her himself.]

Stephen: Hah! I've got you now, you bitch!

[AUSTIN slashes STEPHEN across the arm.]

Alice: [Catching Shane in the midriff] Come on, Stump! You kept saying you wanted us to do things together!

[HARVEY swings at MIKEY and misses, as MIKEY has jumped back out of the way.]

Mikey: Ha ha! Can't catch me!

Austin: [Takes another dashing and swashbuckling swipe at Stephen] You are as stupid as your brother Dobbin!

Harvey: [Suddenly lowers his sword] By the saints, private, you are quite correct! These people are as imbecillic as their brother! It's almost like fighting a group of defenceless children...again. Surely there's some other way of working this out without having to kill them!

Evan: [Mutters something, then pats Stump on the shoulder, giving him encouragement and a Cat's Grace spell.] Good idea, but a bit too late. Let's make the best've it! [Draws his dagger, but hangs back.]

Mikey: [Points at Harvey] Oh! You big fat coward!

Alice: Good point, Harv, they haven't a chance.

Shane: [To Alice] You look like a rotting meringue in that dress.

Alice: Let's kill them.

[ALICE swings and hits SHANE, gashing him across the leg. Like the rest of the party members and their opponents, ALICE is clearly outmatching SHANE.]

Stephen: [Quite upset] Hey! There's two of them attacking me!

[Both AUSTIN and CHASTITY hit STEPHEN.]

Stump: I'm not much for fighting idiots, but the wedding must go on [casts Magic Missle on Stephen]

Harvey: [To Mickey] Look, the man is delusional, all the more reason to attempt to disarm or knock them out! Time for me to try my other skills, what! [Sheaths his sword and attempts a roundhouse kick at Mickey]

Chastity: [To Stephen] Language! There never is a good excuse for lowering the tone! [Attacks again]

Stephen: [Receiving a blow from the magic missile, as well as a blow from Chastity] Ow! Hey, that's not fair, they're all attacking me. [Slips to one knee for a moment, but pulls himself back up, clearly in major difficulty]

Mikey: [Laughs at Harvey] It's Tubby the Vampire Slayer! Ah ha, ha, ha! Ha, ha - ow!

[HARVEY connects with him, sending him crashing back against the window, while ALICE strikes SHANE again.]

Keith: Alright! That's enough, know what I mean? Let's split!

[MIKEY jumps out the window, while STEPHEN and SHANE both retreat towards the windows, even though the party are on the third floor.]

Harvey: [To Stephen] Listen fellow, we didn't kill Dobbin, understand!

Evan: Eh, well, let's make their bodies match their minds. [Casts Slow on the antagonists.]

Stephen: Sure you didn't, I just know you and [pointedly at Chastity] that bitch were to blame. [Leaps out the window]

Keith: [Now the only one left, and is half in and half out of the window] You call us stupid? You're the stupid ones. [Laughs] He knew you'd be too busy trying to kill us to realise what was really going on. [Leaps out the window]

[There is an enormously sickening sound of flesh against concrete outside]

Keith: [From without] Hey! I told you not to move the carriage until we were all down!

Alice: [Looks out the window, to see Keith clumsily trying to get into the carriage] Looks like you got him, Evan. [Turns to the others] What's really going on? What was he talking about?

Harvey: [Speechless for a few moments] How dare he refer to the good sister Chastity as that, the lilly livered cur! By the saints, save someones life and look at the thanks you get troop, eh! And what did he mean by not realising whats really going on?

Alice: I don't know, but they were even more incompetant than Dobbin! And why did they just run off again almost as soon as they came in? If I didn't know any better, I'd say they were just trying to distract us from something.

Chastity: And I won't who is being refered to as he? [Carefully looks out the window]

[All that the party can see is the carriage being driven off, and the boys in the back, singing an awful version of "I feel love".]

Alice: [Gives a shiver] Hey! [Turns to the others] Maybe they were trying to distract us from Lucy?

Harvey: Indeed so, my dear astute niece! Indeed so! But what? [Looks around] By the saints, perhaps they've kidnapped the privates bride to be? Or worse!

Alice: Let's check her room!

[The party rush out the door, and into the corridor, lead by AUSTIN wielding BEAUCAPHALUS, followed by HARVEY, then ALICE and CHASTITY, the former scooping up her dress in one hand to enable her to run, while EVAN and STUMP are right behind, weapons drawn. They quickly get to her door, which AUSTIN tries, and finds locked.]

Austin: [Bangs on the door] Lucy?

[There's no reply.]

Chastity: [To Alice] What? Lucy is a he? [Looks round at Austin] Really?

Harvey: Out of the way troop! [Backs up and runs, shoulder forward, towards the door]

[The double doors smash open, and everyone looks in to see that the room is simply covered in blood. LUCY is on the floor, with her back against the end of the bed, with her entire body covered in knife wounds, and her wedding dress almost completely red from the blood. Standing over her, cutting, is the STRANGER from Scene III. He turns to the party, still wearing his helmet so his face isn't visible, and holds out LUCY's (non beating) heart. He doesn't speak, and simply stands there.]

Stump: [watery eyed] Bastard [casts Tasha's Uncontrollable Laughter on the person]

Harvey: By the saints, he's murdered Lucy! [Outraged] You treacherous fiend! Vile villian! [Draws his sword and steps into the room]

Alice: [Steps in, pale and looking like she's going to throw up] Oh my God!

Austin: What the? [Shaking with anger] Who? Who are you? [Points his sword at the Stranger] Who the fuck are you?

[The STRANGER holds his hand up to STUMP for a moment, before lifting his helmet completely off, leaving no doubt that it is none other than DR. JEROME K. TRINDLE, BSC, PHD. The quantity of his acne leaves no doubt that this is no shapeshifter.]

Jerome: [Gives a big smile to the party] Welcome to The Path!