THE QUEENS VIEW AFFAIR - 4.6

[Book VI, Act I, Scene I. Outside Cachexia. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, STEPHEN, TAMSIN, MONTY and GENEVA are here, all on horseback. Everyone is back to full health.]

Alice : [Gives a shiver at Peter's words] I think I prefered him when he was sarcastic.

Tamsin : From within it consumes? What does that mean?

Alice : We don't know, but it's cropped up a number of times since crazy Jerome said it to us back in Ataxia.

Chastity : [Outraged] Mr. Giles, I can assure you that an entire populace understandably worshipping me like a god presents no temptation to resist. I would have thought that you'd have had a higher opinion of my moral fibre than that. I am most disappointed! [ Turns her head away from him in a huff. Looks ahead] Now, we've an appointment to keep half a mile south of here where there's a sanctuary. So if you don't mind...

Alice : Careful, Monty, less she smite you in her anger. Appointment, my Queen? With who?

Geneva: [Approvingly] Now that's more like the nuns I grew up with. [Grows slightly sombre] Santuary? How far away

Chastity : [Throws Alice a quick glare] Just a half mile down the road, south of [pauses with a faint smile] Queenstown. I don't know who we are meeting, Peter told me we had to go down there. At least we'll be safe once inside. It wouldn't suprise me if it was the no doubt indifferent father to be, Darius though. He does have a liking for sanctuaries, and he bring the cauldren to Cachexia to draw us here.

Tamsin: [Irritated and perplexed] Just to clarify here: this Peter guy is supposed to be on the side of good, right? Because he's an even bigger prick than Ivan, if you ask me.

Chastity : [Scolding] Watch your language, young girl. Especially as you are grossly misrepresenting a great knight. His standing on the side of good is without question. He has helped this party on a number of occasions to numerous to count. [Smiles] He's also hilarious.

Tamsin: [Grudgingly] Well, I can't dispute that he's helped you people out of trouble from time to time since I'm new around here, so I'll take your word on that. But [huge incredulous emphasis] hilarious?! [Shakes her head and looks at Geneva to back her up on this]

Geneva: And he eats icecream even quicker than Alice does! So he's ok for now. [Her hand goes to the hilt of her dagger unconscioulsly.]

Austin : [To Geneva] But Peter is, without doubt, the funniest man alive.

Tamsin: [Frustrated, through gritted teeth, to Austin] Could you please give me one example of something genuinely funny he said or did?

Austin : [To Tamsin, shaking his head] You see, you just can't do it like he does. That was fairly deadpan, and nearly convicingly sincere, but it didn't have that two-way-leaves-you-feeling-a-little-uncertain-thing, and so it you're just not as funny. [Ponders] An admirable attempt, otherwise.

Alice : [To Tamsin] He's an idiot, the unfunniest man in the whole realms, but, for some reason, plenty of otherwise intelligent people think he's great. And I'm not talking about Austin and Chastity! [The group approach the sanctuary, a small, particularly lush area that seems to be about twenty foot square. From the centre comes the sound of someone singing what sounds like a drinking song about rape and pillage.]

Alice : [Furrows her brow] You know, there's only one person who sings songs like that!

Tamsin: [Looking at Alice expectantly] Well, who?!

Chastity : Well two actually, but the Archbishop doesn't like to travel so it can't be him! [Looks to Alice] Could Sven be back? [Dismounts and walks into the edge of the sanctuary] Hello?

Alice : [Excited] It has to be! [The party enter the sanctuary, and, sure enough, SVEN is here, lying back on a bearskin rug, smoking a huge cigar and drinking a mug of beer. There's an icebox beside him and he's singing away, but stops when he sees the party.]

Sven : [Laughs] About time! Pandering to the Queen's whims, no doubt!

Tamsin: [Extends a hand to Sven and says] Sven, is it? I'm Tamsin. [Surveys his set-up approvingly, eyeing the icebox with some interest]

Chastity : [Jovially] Oh, Mr. Goring, you know that I have no whims to pander to. How did you get here. [pauses] and I don't want to know if you walked.

Stephen : [Sarcastically] Boom boom, very good, your majesty. Any more of those and you'll have me out of a job as your damned jester! [To Sven] Well hello, again! You've been waiting for us have you?

Sven : [Grabs Tamsin hand and shakes it vigorously] Haw! What awful crime did you commit to be stuck with this bunch of wasters! [Smiles broadly at Chastity] Walk? Ha! Not even if the only driver available was Shooter here! [Grabs Alice in a headlock and ruffles her hair playfully before turning to Stephen] Indeed I have my friend, I'm here to help you on your way.

Stephen : [Obviously smitten] Oh...well...[giggles]. All the help you can give us would be most appreciated...my friend.

Sven : [Seeing the glint in Stephen's eye, and laughing] Easy, my friend, I'm afraid you're not my type. [Seeing the glint in Tamsin's eye] Please, forgive me. [Bows down low and picks up a can of beer which he throws to her, before looking around the others and taking on a serious look] Austin, my friend. Lucy? [Steps over and gives him a hug that clearly almost crushes Austin]

Stephen : [Sighs despondently, but waits for the hug to draw to a close] My granny died recently!

Tamsin: [Catches the beer and raises it in salute to Sven with a big grin] Thanks! [Grows silent and watches soberly as Sven comforts Austin]

Austin : [Gasping for breath as Sven lets him go] Thanks, Sven.

Sven : [To Stephen, in horror] Again? How many times as that poor woman died? Haw! [Grabs Stephen and holds him in a headlock] Looks like we'd better be careful with this one. [Looks at Alice] Hey Shooter, I hardly recognised you without a cheeseratte and can of beer!

Alice : [Helping herself to a can] That's the Queens fault! [Pretend glare at Stephen]

Chastity : [Looking round at all the beers suddenly being produced] Before the majority of the group get too distracted, intoxicated and incapable, what have you got that will aid us, Sven?

Tamsin: [To Alice, amused] Shooter?! Well, it's got more zip than Princess, I have to admit.

Austin : [Straightens his suit after the uber hug and helps himself to a beer and lights up a cheesearette, taking a few long draws and blowing some smoke rings, before passing it to Alice. To Sven] Are you expecting anyone else to turn up? What's the plan?

Sven : Haw! Old Shooter's got a few interesting skeletons in her cupboard, don't you?

Alice : Want to be the latest addition, Sven? [Knocks back her beer, clearly showing Tamsin how quickly she can drink, only for it to foam up all over her mouth, nose and down her front] Gah!

Sven : I like it, Chas, straight to the point. The fact is, I haven't got anything for you only advice.

Tamsin: [Stifling a laugh at Alice's beer-guzzling skills] All right, Sven, what's the advice, then?

Chastity : Any advice would be most welcome, as we're running a bit blind at the moment. [Pauses thoughtfully] Is this you back among the living for good this time, or is it another temporary visit. Oh, [reaches into her bag and produces "The Sun" tarot card with Sven's image on it. Showing it to Sven] and does this mean anything to you?

Sven : [Takes the card] Ugly looking brute! [Hands it back] It's from the Deck of the Path. My advice is to find the Heart, it's just south of here.

Tamsin: [Nods] Solid advice. Now what the hell is the Heart, and what are we supposed to do with it? Or at it? Or whatever.

Austin : [To Sven] Well, it's good to see you again. [Sips his beer] We could use all the advise you have [Nods to Monty] Old Monty here is still trying to shake off the 'watch and listen' attitude and get into the 'let's just go and save the world' mentality.

Monty : Ahem. While I have no issues with saving the world, I do have some with attempting to blindly save the world without any plan or preperation.

Sven : [Stands up and looks Monty directly in the eye as he pumps Monty's hand] Well said, sir! Failing to prepare is preparing to fail! [Sits back down] Okay, I can't tell you what the heart is [holds a hand up] I know, I know, that's annoying and frustrating, but this is something you need to figure out yourself. Once you do, you'll understand what all the secrecy was about.

Tamsin: [Disgruntled] You're right. That's pretty annoying. [Brightens and takes a swig of beer] Good beer, though. So, Sven. Heard you were dead before. How'd you get outta that, if you don't mind me asking?

Geneva: So, you [weary emphasis] can't tell us what the heart is, but you can tell us exactly where it is?

Geneva: Arrgh! Do you know her too? [Fumes.] That awful woman precedes me everywhere! [Her hand tentatively moves to her dagger hilt but stops. Shakes her head.] No, that's too creepy. Even for someone like me who like stabbing people!

Sven : [Looks at Geneva with a raised eyebrow and an amused expression] Haw! What a temper! If I didn't know any better I'd say you've got to be Spruce's younger, better looking sister! I'm afraid your wrong, through, I can't tell you what it is, [emphasis] and I can't tell you exactly where it is. [To Tamsin] Not at all Tam, [drinks some of his own beer] the Path came to my rescue. [Looks around at the others, with an even bigger smile than usual] I'm immortal, it's great! Go on, someone stab in the belly [lifts up his shirt to reveal his rock hard six pack] go on, it'll be great fun!

Sven : [Laughs at her] Come on! You know you want to! [Mischeviously] Spruce'd do it! [To Alice] What about you Shooter? You're good at this kind of thing, aren't you?

Alice : Sigh. You kill one butler, and years later you're still hearing about it!

Geneva: [Crossly] Spruce does a lot of things I don't. Now be quiet or I'll stick a dagger in your .... errr... I'll get cross!

Sven : [Claps his hands together happily] What a personality! You know something, if you did, I'd deserve it! First, for bringing it up, and second [seriously] and much worse, for not offering you a beer. [Tosses her a can] I've a sister too, I know what's like.

Alice : What do you mean? Braiding her hair? Borrowing her clothes?

Sven : [Laughs] That kind of thing, although, between you and me [looks from side to side, as though he's about to reveal some amazing secret] her clothes weren't really slutty enough for me.

Tamsin: [Intrigued] Not slutty enough for you to borrow?! [Flops down next to Sven, all ears] What sort of thing are you into, there, Sven?

Sven : [Looks Tamsin up and down] Well built women who can hold their beer.

Tamsin: [Playfully] That much I already knew. I was talking fetishes, kinks, that sort of thing. Here are some excellent examples, just in case you lack imagination [digs through knapsack to find a handful of bawdy limericks, which she hands to Sven with a mischievous grin].

Sven : [Reads the first one and guffaws with laughter, which he stifles when he sees Chastity's disapproving glare, and turns to Tamsin with a mock serious look] That's outrageous, Tamsin. I'll thank you not to peddle that sort of filth around here, in a Sanctuary of all places. [Holds his finger up, as though something just occured to him] Actually! I've got one for you. There once was a young lady named Tam, Who was as innocent as newly born lamb She met a nice doctor named Sven, Who got his really big pen, And gave her a quick medical exam!

Tamsin: [Smiles appreciatively] Not bad. You've got some of the facts wrong, though. Not [emphasis] all of them, I hope [drops her eyes suggestively for just a moment, trying not to let the looks of mortification from various members of the party distract her from her fun].

Geneva: [Chokes. To the others.] Is she serious? This message is in MIME format. The first part should be readable text, while the remaining parts are likely unreadable without MIME-aware tools.

Sven : [Leans his head back and guffaws at Monty's indignation] Haw! What a sense of humour! [Still with a big smile, and genuinely meaning it] I love these uptight guys, man, what would we without you to keep us in check. [Becomes serious] Sir, you shame me with your words, and I humbly apologise for my outrageous behaviour, and hope that you can forgive an old viking getting carried away in his enthusiasm.

Geneva: [Sputter.] Unhand me now or I'll stick my dagger through your belly.

Sven : [Does let go, but pulls up his shirt] Come on! It'll be great fun! I've been dying to show this mob!

Chastity : Stop that now. We are in a Sanctuary. Stabbing someone, invited or otherwise, would be most ill advised. I'm sure those who witnessed the death of Dobbin would agree. [Looks round at ALice and Austin]

Geneva: [Grumbling, letting go of the dagger hilt.] Well, okay, but only because you asked.. Sis... errr Queen.

Chastity : Stop that now. We are in a Sanctuary. Stabbing someone, invited or otherwise, would be most ill advised. I'm sure those who witnessed the death of Dobbin would agree. [Looks round at ALice and Austin]

Geneva: [Grumbling, letting go of the dagger hilt.] Well, okay, but only because you asked.. Sis... errr Queen.

Sven : [To Monty] Well, that and to let Geneva burn off some steam, I think we got off on the wrong foot. [Puts down his top] Good point, Sister. Gen, if you want to stab me, best we step out of the Sanctuary.

Alice : So, Sven, not that it's not great to see you again, but what are you doing here? Are you going to travel with us to find the heart?

Sven : 'fraid not, Shooter. I was sent to point you in the right direction, but that's all I'm allowed do. If I give you any more help it'll hold you back.

Austin : [To Monty] Well, if Darius spent more time considering what he was wearing rather than plotting and scheming the world would be a much better place. [Adjusts his cuff. To Monty] You could do with a new suit or ten too.

Geneva: [Musing] A lot like Alice, really.

Alice : [To Geneva] What's that supposed to mean?

Sven : Darius is the least of your worries. Believe it or not, for some reason, he actually likes you bunch of reprobates. In fact, he wanted to get this gig, but we settled it in the time honoured fashion.

Stephen : A duel?

Sven : Cream cracker eating contest. [Leans in confidentially to the group] The trick, you see, is have a tiny bit of milk in each cheek before you start.

Geneva: [Pfffffing.]Pffffft. Should at least been with daggers at dawn! [Considers.] Or at least with pillows!

Tamsin: [Chuckles] Or a dance-off! Take it, Stephen! [Points at Stephen to cue him dancing, providing a funky hip hop riff to get him going] Geneva: [Slyly] Ok, Tam, you can have Sven here, and I'll have your share of treasures we find, ok? [Even more Slyly & Chirpily. *is that a word?*] I think [Emphasis] You'll get the better end of the stick. [Pauses] So to speak.

Chastity : [Nodding] Quite right, Mr. Giles. [Looks round the group, clapping her hands loudly] Come along now children, this no time for distraction. There will be plenty of time for that after we have defeated the emerging evil that threatens to crush the world.

Tamsin: [Annoyed] Loosen up, Churchy. It's not all about struggle and sacrifice. [To the rest of the party, suddenly worried] It isn't, right?!

Chastity : [wagging her finger at Tamsin] Don't take that tone with me, young girl. Struggle and sacrifice is precisely what it is about at this moment in time. This group is on a holy mission to defeat a terrible evil, no to idly waltz round the land find nice safe places to relax and enjoy ourselves. On Fri, 3 Dec 2004 05:10:45 -0800, Heather wrote:

Geneva: [Wickedly.] Yes it is! [Softens.] Aww go have your fun. It's got to be better than searching so hard.. so hard.. for that false treasure. [Almost starts to drool] Gold and gem-encrusted.mmmm [Snapping out if it.] But Tam, what do you seee in [Disparagingly] in him?

Sven : [With a grin] The secret, Tam, is to learn to enjoy the sacrifice and pain. [Takes a drink of beer] Learn to laugh in the face of death, like this bunch of weirdoes.

Alice : [Turns to Geneva] What the hell is wrong with him? and >enjoy ourselves.

Tamsin: [To Chastity, pragmatically] Look, I'm right there with you in the trenches, Churchy. I just think you gotta enjoy the life you're trying so desperately to preserve, you know? [To Geneva] Who, Sven?

Tamsin: [To Sven] Oh, so it's pain you're into, then? [wiggles her eyebrows suggestively and winks]

Geneva: His helmet! To begin with!

Austin : [To Tamsin] Perhaps you should know that kind of level of pain Sven is refering to includes death, being roasted and baseted and fed to demons. [Casually checks his nails]

Tamsin: [To Austin, chuckling] Thanks for the clarification. [To the group] On that cheerful note, what now?

Austin : [Nods. To Sven] Now, can you tell us the meaning of 'From within it consumes'? It sounds like some manical religeous ranting to do with becoming aware of God or at one with [Does anoying finger quotes] 'god', or achieving, errm, thingy, oh yes, enlightenment. It could also be the fail to do so. [Ponders. To Sven] Any ideas?

Alice : [Rolls her eyes at Geneva's words] You're an idiot.

Sven : Haw! She's got plenty of spunk, that's for sure.

Alice : [Under her breath] Or maybe not enough, and that's what the problem is.

Sven : Now you head south and see where The Path takes you.

Geneva: Yep! Stop those annoyihg finger habits before I slice 'em off

Austin : [To Sven] I know it's to do with the path gallant or whatever it's called, but is it part of the path itself or a separate, perhaps living entity?

Sven : [Getting up on his horse, as do the others] You're getting there, Aus, but it's to do with the Path. Once you figure out what it really is, it'll make more sense, and the best way to do that is to find the heart. [Shrugs] Sorry I'm not of more help, but this is my only my second job with the PGs, so I'm still kind of new to it all.

Sven : It is separate, but that's all I can tell you now. The Path Gallants are an organisation of do-gooders who try to guide the likes of you along The Path.

Alice : Are you one?

Sven : [Flashing his Path Gallant id card at her] Yup. It's not easy though, because the amount of information you get depends on how far along the path you are. Too much information too soon will stop you dead in your tracks, too little, and, well, we all know what Jerome ended up doing.

Stephen : So, south of here we'll find the heart. And the path. And answers. And hopefully a bar selling outrageously overpriced coctails with umbrellas in them!

Tamsin: Not me. Or Red, either, I'll bet. What did Jerome end up doing?

Austin : [To Sven] And just what exactly did Trindle do, did he sell his soul to Seth or something?

Alice : He killed Lucy on her and Austin's wedding day.

Sven : No, Aus, nothing like that. I guess Bumblebore told you already, so there's no harm in me repeating it, and that's that although the Path chose you, it is you who chooses the path. [Looks at Tamsin] Everyone's on the path, Tam, it's just that most don't know it.

Tamsin: [Cringes at Alice's words and says genuinely to Austin] Sorry, Austin. The name isn't familiar to me yet. [Ponders Sven's words and responds] So what does knowing about it get you?

Stephen : Sounds like a bunch of gibberish to me, Sven! Sounds like a plot hole in a movie explained with a bunch of gobbledegook!

Alice : Yeah, it does sound a bit like one of your movies, Stevie.

Sven : [Shrugs at Stephen] What can I say, Stevie? It's not meant to be easy. [Looks at Tamsin with a big smile] More than anyone can possibly imagine. Invulnerability is one, but it doesn't end there. [Waves his hand across Alice, Chastity and Austin] Ask this mob, they've already got some benefits.

Tamsin: [Looks at the group and asks curiously] What benefits?

Austin : [To Tamsin] You get various benefits, special powers, Sister Chassers here can heal the sick and wounded, Alice gets glimpses of the future. It's also usful knowing about the path as it helps you along the way, but more importantly I don't think any of us have a choice, you are on the path, it's part of life, and you can choose to go one way or another, but to deny it, I think that might be something to do with the 'from within it consumes'. [Ponders] And there's this soulmates buisiness, and of course they are on the path too, and some may die, some may have more power than others it seems, but I'm not sure about that.

Alice : Sometimes I get flashes of things that will happen in the future, although [reproachfully to Sven] they've never been particularly useful. Chastity can heal people by laying her hands on them, [again a bit irritated to Sven] although not always, and Austin, well, he well, maybe he might want to keep that private.

Stephen : [Glares at Alice] As my movies were never cartoons, I'd doubt if you've ever even seen one. Plus, I'm sure you're far too busy with whoever pays your entrance fee to even see what movie is on!

Chastity : He gets to steal things and not get put in prison this time.

Sven : Every time you go further on the path, you get something new. An aspect of the path.

Alice : Cool. [Thinks for a moment] Hey! It's not a boy path, is it?

Austin : [To Tamsin] I get to be riddiculed by senile nuns. [Sticks his tounge out at Chastity]

Tamsin: [To Austin] What about you? Didn't you score a special power, too? What do you mean, 'soulmates'? Like hearts and flowers and 'til death do us part and all that?

Stephen : Well I'm sure the price you charge is certainly a stronger eye opener than even the strongest coffee!

Alice : True, it can be a tough job keeping someone awake during one of your movies.

Austin : [To Tamsin] I have the power to convince the leader of the Elves that they were junkies, and under the influence of evil powers, and subsequently they freed their human slaves and gat up the highly addictive psychoactive Louis XV, thereby saving the world, as you don't know it.

Alice : Hey, if I have to sit through one of your movies, Stephen, I think it's only fair that I charge you.

Stephen : [Guffaws] Sit? I'd have thought you'd spend all the movie on your back, Alice.

Tamsin: [To Stephen, mock scolding] Now you leave her alone. You're just jealous that she's adept at multi-tasking!

Alice : [To Tamsin, nodding at Austin] You'd be surprised at how often he gets to do that. [Turns and sniffs haughtily at Stephen] No, no, just when I was being stretchered out of there, having over dosed on bad plot lines and poor direction.

Alice : Careful, Tam, he's probably not capable of speaking and being jealous at the same time.

Austin : [To Tamsin] Alas, as you can see, with great power does not come humility, wisdom, dignity or any other virtue that I can think of. I believe Trindle took the dark path though. Why I'm not sure, but perhaps it was because he murdered and innocent sometime in the past, just as Alice killed the butler.

Tamsin: [Curious] Why did you kill old Jeeves, anyway?

Alice : Hey! That was totally different, and you know it!

Stephen : [Sniggering] Service wasn't good enough.

Alice : It wasn't really me, it was a soulmate. We've figured out that souls are spread across very many different people, different people, same soul, hence, soulmates. Sometimes people find theirs, and, er, what happens then, Sven?

Sven : Then it depends. [Surprisingly serious] Sometimes they get on, sometimes not. Sometimes they are so like you that when you see things in them you don't like, you need to get away from them. [Brightens up again] Sometimes they're members of the opposite sex! [Holds up a hand] Sorry sister.

Tamsin: [Smirks, pondering the implications of Sven's last remark] Wait, why should Alice take the rap for her soulmate? It's not like she did anything wrong. Or do all souls bear responsiblity for the actions of the others? [looks miffed at the unfairness of that notion]

Sven : There's just one soul, Tam. It's not so much responsibility as experience.

Tamsin: [Stubbornly] Well, you can just forget about that. I'm not taking the rap for anything someone else did, even if we share the same soul [crosses arms defiantly before remembering she's on a horse, at which point she scrambles to re-take the reins].

Sven : Haw! Everyone reacts like that! Don't worry, you don't take the blame for what they do, but all soulmates do affect each other. [Smiles at her] Come on, Tam, if these three got through the first stage, so can all of you.

Geneva : And what if we don't want to?

Sven : I'm afraid that doesn't matter, the path chose you, my angry young friend. Come on, this is something that's powerful enough to disrupt the Cachexian locater spell and drag you mob hundreds of thousands of years in the past. You gotta learn to go with the flow.

Chastity : Its alright, no-ones asking you to. [Looks round] Well if there is nothing else, shall we head south to the Heart? [To Sven] I'm happy to see you back in the land of the living, Mr. Goring. Take care.

Austin : [To Alice] Sorry, I forgot it was your soulmate. [To Tamsin] You don't have a choice, people often mistake you for your soulmate, especially if they look identical to you. It may be that 'there can be only one', i.e. as soulmates die or are 'consumed', the remaining souls get more powerful as they absorb the soul of the deceased soulmate, as they progress along the path [Shrugs].

Alice : [To Sven] Is that it? Is that what it means?

Sven : [Shakes his head slowly] Nope, but the further along you go, the more you'll realise how right I am about it. My time with Peter was the best time of my life, a man couldn't have a better friend.

Alice : [Leans over to Tamsin] Yes, that's the same Peter.

Sven : Excellent, Sister, you're always the voice of reason. I'll take my leave from you, but first, let me give you some advice. [Clearly addressing Alice, Austin and Chastity] Stay together. Some of the path you do by yourself, some with someone else. [To the others] And you lot, you're with these wasters for a reason, so you'd better have a very good reason to leave them if you do.

Tamsin: [Baffled] You've got to be kidding [looks at Sven a bit suspiciously].

Austin : [To Tamsin] Peter is a great guy! You'll realise that someday. [Sighs at the thought of Peter, shaking his head in disbelief. Sighs. To Sven] Well thanks for clearing the whole path thing up a little, I'm glad that my soulmate death hypothsis wasn't true. I am right that Trindle took the dark path though, yes?

Sven : [Nods at Austin's words] They'll never make another Peter. No, Austin, you're wrong about Jerome. [Looks at the party] I've got to go, but I'll see you all again soon. [More serious than anyone has ever seen him before] Remember, stay together, you're strongest as a group.

Alice : Why is that important? Is there a fight ahead of us?

Sven : [Breaking in a big smile as he shakes his head] Not like you think, Shooter. Just remember, stay together, because [smiles a smile that shows he knows how much this annoys the party] From Within It Consumes. [Rides off into the sunset]

Tamsin: [Groans] You people hang out with the biggest drama queens I've ever seen in my life. Nobody ever just gets to the point. That's why you gotta love Red, here [grins at Geneva and mimes a dagger jab to the gut].

Austin : [Watching Sven dissapear over the horizon] I think I prefer his smutty limericks. So 'from within it consumes', sounds more like a reference to the party unity, in that context. We must not let our differences and opinions drive us appart, or something [Shrugs. Frowns] Hard to believe that Trindle is on the path of light though. A little odd considering that he's a cold blooded murderer and traitor. [Looks at Chastity] Then again, perhaps it's not so hard to believe [Smirks] [The party ride on.]

Alice : No, that's why we love Stephen. Well, why some of the others do. And not exactly love, maybe tolerate. Okay, so maybe tolerate is too strong a word, but -

Stephen : [Theatrical sigh and yawn] If that sentence gets any longer, Alice, you'll have forgotten what it was about by the time you get to the end.

Alice : As long as it was about you, I don't mind forgetting it. [There is a small town in the distance, just a few minutes away.]

Alice : I think she's bluffin', she's no more a queen than any of us here. [Looks at Stephen] Well, most of us. We should at least check out the place, after all, it is south, and it is a town, and it is getting dark. [The party are soon upon the town, which looks fairly small, and has a wall around it.] Alfred wrote: #098

Geneva: [Gesturing] My dagger is at your service, Sister. [Book IV, Act VI, Scene II. At the gates of Euneirophrenia. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY, TAMSIN and STEPHEN have just arrived. There is a guard outside, BRAVIS TICKLE, and small, person sized gate is open in the main, shut gates.]

Alice : Hail there, simple southern peasant, [holds an arm out to Chastity, smiling brightly] behold, the Queen! [BRAVIS says nothing, and just stands there, arms crossed, leaning back against the gate.]

Chastity : [to Bravis] I say, should you be greeting us or something. I hope this complete apathetic attitude isn't prevalent throughout this town.

Bravis : [Looks up at Chastity] You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?

Alice : Well, you're the only one here.

Bravis : [Angrily] Who the heck do you think you're talking to?

Chastity : Or at least let us enter the city.

Bravis : Now, why would I want to do that? [Enter JANEY BABY, a crazy looking old woman with a lot of cats.]

Janey : [Points at the party] This is wrong, wrong! [Mad cackle, before throwing one of the cats at the party, fortunately missing everyone.]

Austin : [To Bravis] We have come to see the Heart. May we enter your town?

Bravis : Heart? I don't know what kind of horse puckey you're selling, boy, but I'm pretty sure we don't want it.

Alice : [To the party] Everyone else can see Crazy Cat Lady, can't they? [JANEY throws another cat, hitting AUSTIN with it, but surprisingly, doing no damage other than the infliction of cat hairs to his nice jacket. The cat falls on his feet, and runs back to JANEY.]

Janey : You're not meant to be here!

Chastity : [To Janey] What do you men we're no meant to be here? Who do you think we are? And can you please desist with the feline bombardment.

Janey : [Slowly puts down the cat she was about to throw, and puts him in an old cloth sack that appears to be full of cats] I mean this whole town is wrong, and you're going to make it worse! Worse! [Starts hacking and coughing, eventually spitting out a hairball]

Bravis : See? Even the crazy old knows you shouldn't be here, now push off.

Austin : [To Janey] If you don't think we are supposed to be here [Gets out his sticky roller thingy and starts rmoving the cat hair from his suit] Then where are we supposed to be?

Tamsin: [Kneels down and tries to befriend a nearby cat] Here kitty, kitty!

Tamsin: [To Austin, amused] Thanks for the warning. I don't think a little cat hair will kill me.

Austin : [To Tamsin] Watch out, they're shedding. [Visibly holds himseld away from the cat] [The little cat walks up tamely to TAMSIN, only to hiss and snarl at her as soon as she reaches out to pet him, making a roaring noise more normally associated with a lion, and scratching her hand.]

Bravis : [Steps closer] Look, I want you to leave, all of you! [Takes out his sword] We don't like your gosh darned type around here.

Bravis : [Steps close to Monty's horse, looking up at him] Whatever the heck your type is.

Austin : [Gets his sling shot ready to fire. To Monty] I think he means traveler types. [To Bravis] Do you have a wife and family, expensive thing a family [Flashes a gold crown deftly at Bravis from between his fingers]

Bravis : [Turns to Austin] Huh? You - you want to buy my family? I couldn't do something like that, [thinks for a moment] although, my teenage daughter is a bit of a handful at the moment, and I could use the - hey! [Shouts] What H E double hockey sticks kind of place do you think this is? [The small gate is pulled in, and an attractice and concerned looking woman in her mid twenties comes out, before closing the gate behind her with a bang, causing everyone to look to her. This is GRACE MARLOW.]

Grace : [Frowning] Bravis Tickle! What do you think you're doing to these people?

Austin : [To Grace, most politely] Madam, Mr Tickle was just politely refusing my overly subtle bribe. Admirable I think. [Puts his sling away] Allow me to introduce the party. I am Austin Sleaze, and this is Sister Chastity, [Gesturing to the others] Steven, Alice, Monty, Tamsin and Geneva.

Grace : [Eyes widen in annoyance] Bribe? [Turns to Bravis] Oh, Bravis! Apologise this instant.

Bravis : [Looks down at his feet and mumbles] I'm sorry.

Grace : [To Austin] I'm terribly sorry about this, Bravis often gets this way with strangers, particularly ones as well dressed as you. [Flashes him a warm smile before looking around at the others] My name is Grace Marlow, I'm very pleased to meet you all.

Tamsin: [Waves to Grace when Austin introduces her by name and says in a friendly tone] Nice place you got here.

Grace : [Clearly a bit embarassed at Bravis' behaviour] It is, it's a lovely town, I hope you were on your way in.

Chastity : [To Grace] We were hoping to.

Austin : [To Grace] We were hoping to gain entry. [A faint hint of a smirk at his own comment]

Tamsin: [To Grace] Matter of fact, we were. Any advice for tourists?

Grace : [Not noticing Austin's smutty remark, and giving a big smile to Chastity and Tamsin] Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. The first place you need to go to Bridgers Bakery, that's the nicest restaurant in Euneirophrenia, and the coffee's on me, to make up for Bravis. [BRAVIS says nothing, but sighs, leaning back against the wall looking unhappy.]

Stephen : [Sticks his tongue out at Bravis and turns to Grace] Now that's a wonderful idea! But I think our shredded nerves need something a little stronger than coffee! The abuse we had to put up with was quite shocking!

Grace : [Shrugs apologetically] I can only imagine. [Glances over at Bravis, before leaning a little confidentially to the party] Between ourselves, there have been a number of complaints about him, and he's on his final warning. One more complaint and he loses his job as official weclomer.

Alice : How on earth did he get the job?

Grace : I don't know, apparantly he gave a great interview, and didn't have a mohican then. I think he was watching too much Bavid Deckham.

Stephen : [Looks dreamy for a moment before snapping back to reality] He'd probably be much better suited to a job as an official denier. Perhaps as a bank loan manager or something.

Grace : Well, he was offered a job as the town's official Naysayer.

Alice : What happened?

Grace : He turned it down.

Stephen : Well, how about that coffee, my dear? And perhaps you could show us the key parts of your town en route?

Grace : Of course! However, I warn you, this is a small town, so it won't take too long to show you the key parts. [Heads to the gate] Come on then!

Bravis : Er, Miss Gracie [lowly, but still audible to the party] do you think you could see your way to not saying anything to the Captain about this? He said I'd lose my job if there was one more complaint. Please, Miss Gracie, running a family, it's expensive, you know, and it's little Hildebrand's birthday tomorrow.

Grace : Look Bravis, I'll say nothing, but I can't promise that these nice people won't. [Somewhat sternly] But, you've got to promise me to stop behaving like this to strangers and to get some proper conditioner for your mowhawk. [Takes a gold piece out of her purse and gives it to him, turning to try and stop the party from seeing] Get something nice for Hildebrand.

Chastity : [Looking from the gold piece to Grace, smiling. To Grace] You are indeed a polite, well meaning, charitable young lady. I take it you don't hold high office in the church. May I ask what you official capacity is?

Grace : [Smiles selfconsciously] Well, thank you, sister. I don't hold any official capacity, but I do help out Daddy sometimes. He's the captain of the local guards, and we often have guests, and I like to cook for them, although I'm not sure they like it, it's all a bit [smiles] modern for them, I'm afraid! [BRAVIS opens the gate to let the party in, and everybody starts to dismount.]

Alice : Hey! Where's crazy cat lady gone? [JANEY has disappeared, as have all the cats, sometime since GRACE arrived.]

Chastity : [With some degree of interest. To Grace] Too modern, you say. Why what kind of dishes are you preparing? [With a degree of modest smugness] I've been know to spent the odd hour or ten dabbling in the kitchen myself, you know.

Grace : Well, Sister, I'm a big fan of Canny Fraddock's, she's just so wonderfully adventurous. My favourite is - oh, I'm sorry, I don't mean to go on so much [to Alice] I'm sorry, crazy cat lady?

Alice : There was a crazy lady here a second ago, throwing cats at us!

Tamsin : One of them even scratched me! Vicious little brutes.

Geneva: Lucky it didnt' come near me - I would have stabbed it in the belly! But she was very adamant that we weren't supposed to be here!

Grace : Did you recognise her, Bravis?

Bravis : No, Gracie, never saw her before in my life.

Geneva: [Quietly, to the party.] She might have been timetravelling like we have been lately. Therefore she'd know the way things should turn out, or at least remembered things. Like Chastity did.

Chastity : [To Geneva] That hardly explains the sack of cats though. [To Grace] Has there been anything unusual going on in the town rece...[Looks at Graces fetching cardigan, excitedly] Is...is that a Tabitha Wood pattern? The sequining is most distinctive.

Alice : [To Geneva] Or she could just be a crazy old lady with lots of cats who sneaked away when Grace came out.

Grace : [Getting all bashful] Why, Sister Chastity, yes it is! I know it isn't that popular with people my age nowdays, but I'm such a fan of knitting, especially Tabitha's exotic patterns!

Chastity : [To Grace] Well some other youngsters [glances at Alice] would do well to follow your daring lead. If you wouldn't mind, could I have a copy of that pattern, it's missinf from my collection. The cuff work screams earlier Wood, but the collar looks like Tabitha's third stage development. It's so unusual to find a girl who's collar and cuffs don't match.

Geneva: [To Alice.] Regardless, she didn't want us here. [Muses] I wonder what she uses when she runs out of cats...

Alice : So what you're saying is that unless an elephant rampages into the town and spontaneously catches fire, we've nothing to worry about?

Geneva: Figuratively speaking.

Austin : [Smirks] It's not that unusual to find a girl who collar and cuffs don't match [Glances directedly at Alice, Geneva and Grace, then checks his nails]

Grace : Right, let's get that coffee. Bravis, could you look after the horses.

Bravis : Yes, Miss Gracie.

Alice : Is it Grace or Gracie?

Grace : Grace, but I used to be called Gracie when I was younger. I prefer Grace, as it's the name of two of my all time heroines, Grace Kiely, the actress, and Grace Stubbs, the all time greatest female knife fighter! [Tails off, a little embarassed at her enthusiasm]

Alice : [Pointedly] Yours don't, Austin.

Austin : [To Alice] But I'm not a girl.We were discussing girls.

Geneva: [Excitedly.] Stubbs! She was amazing! I only saw her in action once, in a distant port, but it's a sight that I'll never forget! [To Grace] Have you seen her?

Alice : [Peers at Austin for a moment] Oh. My mistake.

Grace : [Mouth drops open in shock] You saw her? Aw, wow! [Shakes her head, still smiling] I never got to see her live, I'm afraid, but I still have the Grace Stubbs sticker book from when I was a kid! [Notices the surprise of the others] I know, I know, it's a strange hobby, but I've always been fascinated with knives, I'm a regular reader of Knife Fighters Quarterly and Knife Sharpeners and Maintainers Monthly, although, there are a few too many medical ads and not enough skin care ads in that one.

Austin : [Snaps out of his conversation with Alice. To Grace] Knife Sharpeners! So that was your article on the Burringer reflex method! Fabulous illustrations of the metal fold and burring problems that you experience with a feather tempered blade. It is a profound pleasure to make your aquaintance. [Bows to Grace, tenuously] Did you happen to see my article on the Bribb-Flescher method? I'd be most interested to hear your opinion.

Grace : [Takes the dagger and balances it sideways on the tip of her finger] Very nice! [Feels the blade as she speaks] No, I don't fight, I'm more of a spectator and collector. [Hands it back] If you'd like, you could try out my sharpening tools, I bet we could make that even sharper. [Looks around the rest of the party] I hope you don't mind me going on about this, I know it isn't very ladylike, but we're all permitted some little madness, and you know from Geneva that it isn't [emphasis] that crazy for a girl to like knives.

Alice : [Coughs] Yeah, she's definitely sane.

Geneva: No Way! Me too! [Pulls her dagger from her belt and proffers it to Grace, handle first.] This is the dagger that came with the 10th Anniversary Edition of KFQ. Check it out. The balance and handling is better than any dagger I've owned. Do you fight?

Austin : [Snaps out of his conversation with Alice. To Grace] Knife Sharpeners! So that was your article on the Burringer reflex method! Fabulous illustrations of the metal fold and burring problems that you experience with a feather tempered blade. It is a profound pleasure to make your aquaintance. [Bows to Grace, tenuously] Did you happen to see my article on the Bribb-Flescher method? I'd be most interested to hear your opinion.

Grace : [Takes the dagger and balances it sideways on the tip of her finger] Very nice! [Feels the blade as she speaks] No, I don't fight, I'm more of a spectator and collector. [Hands it back] If you'd like, you could try out my sharpening tools, I bet we could make that even sharper. [Looks around the rest of the party] I hope you don't mind me going on about this, I know it isn't very ladylike, but we're all permitted some little madness, and you know from Geneva that it isn't [emphasis] that crazy for a girl to like knives.

Alice : [Coughs] Yeah, she's definitely sane.

Geneva: No Way! Me too! [Pulls her dagger from her belt and proffers it to Grace, handle first.] This is the dagger that came with the 10th Anniversary Edition of KFQ. Check it out. The balance and handling is better than any dagger I've owned. Do you fight?

Austin : [Snaps out of his conversation with Alice. To Grace] Knife Sharpeners! So that was your article on the Burringer reflex method! Fabulous illustrations of the metal fold and burring problems that you experience with a feather tempered blade. It is a profound pleasure to make your aquaintance. [Bows to Grace, tenuously] Did you happen to see my article on the Bribb-Flescher method? I'd be most interested to hear your opinion. [Ponders] You're right about the lack of skin care articles though, strange that they don't have more [Looks momentarily puzzeled]

Grace : [Clearly delighted] Gasp! Did I read it? That was the article that inspired me to write mine! [Looks around the party with a big smile] You know, I think we're all going to be great friends!

[GRACE escorts the party through the now open gates. The town is quite small, and is walled, with the gate near a corner. To the left are some stables where BRAVIS is bringing the horses, while right ahead is a Guardhouse, and to the right a large factory, "Cratchett's Teddy Bear, Novelty Items and Greeting Card Factory".]

Grace : [Proudly] This is the biggest factory of its kind in the South.

Alice : What do they make?

Grace : Teddy bears, novelty items and greeting cards. I actually work there one day a week. Their filing was a disaster, and I just love helping people getting organised, setting out rotas, all that kind of thing.

Grace : Oh no, Mallhark would be their competitors. I'm afraid I don't really like the Mallhark ones, I just think it's a little inappropriate to send risque greeting cards. Don't get me wrong, I think it is wonderful that people send each other cards to mark such occasions, it really is the only thing to do when one has a proper sense of duty, responsibility and propriety.

Austin : [To Grace] What novelty items do they make?

Grace : Oh, the usual things, fancy dress outfits, rubber chickens, that kind of thing.

[The party turn right, and walk passed a closed wine bar, heading towards the coffee shop, which is the next building.]

Alice : Yay! Wine bar!

Grace : I'm afraid that's shut until later, but the coffee in here is terrific! [Stands at the door and gestures the party to enter]

Chastity : [Entering the shop] I do hope they have their token box of specialist teas at the counter.

Aileen : [Impatiently rolls her eyes] Of course we serve tea. This is a [slowly and loudly] coffee shop. [Looks at Monty] Black, white. That's it.

Grace : [Gently touching Monty's arm as she steps defensively in front of him] Please, Aileen! These are my guests.

Aileen : [Glares at Grace for a moment] Okay, fine. [Opens a press behind her where the party can see that there are hundreds of different types of teas and coffees] What would you like?

Grace : Mr. Giles? Any particular favourite?

Chastity : [To Aileen] Do you server tea? And maybe oversized muffins with exotic but tastless ingredients?

Grace : Oh yes, this is a lovely place. [Enter AILEEN BRIDGER, a tough looking waitress.]

Aileen : [Stomping over to the party] What?

Tamsin: [To Aileen, friendly] Hey, there. Which one's your favorite?

Austin : [To Grace] I think old Monty here is a bit of a Lupsung-soushing fan. I'd like a cappuchino please.

Aileen : [Eyeballing Tamsin] I don't like tea or coffee. I think it's all a bunch of horse poo.

Grace : Er, Aileen, maybe we might sit down, and you could bring us over a house special mix? [GRACE guides the party to a table. There are a number of people around, including IAN and ROSEMARY LOVEJOY on one side, and TOBEY PARKER and MADCHEN LYNCH on the other. There are also a few people sitting at the counter, but they have their backs turned to the party. All four smile and wave at GRACE.]

Grace : These are friends of mine from out of town, Austin, Alice, Tamsin, Geneva, Stephen, Sister Chastity and Mr. Giles. [Indicating each of those sitting down, who give a pleasant wave and smile as they are introduced] This is Ian and Mrs. Lovejoy, and Tobey and Madchen.

Tamsin: [To Grace's friends] Hey, there. How's it going?

Austin : [To Aileen] Did you take classes in rudeness or were you born like this? You could try to be a little more polite to Grace, I'm sure she would appreciate it. [Follows Grace to the table]

Ian : Pretty good. Are you in town for long? You should take a look at my antique shop. There's ten per cent off for all friends of Grace!

Grace : [Smiles a warm smile at Monty as she takes the seat] Thank you Mister Giles.

Madchen : [To Tamsin] Are staying for long?

Tamsin: [To Madchen, shrugging good-naturedly] No idea. Seems like a nice place, though. What's your line of work? [AILEEN says nothing, but just glares at AUSTIN, as everyone sits. ALICE, CHASTITY, GENEVA and STEPHEN are facing the counter, while GRACE, AUSTIN, TAMSIN and MONTY have their back to it. One of the men at the counter slowly turns around. This is LOUIS KESHER, and he turns around very slowly, as though he thinks he's heard something behind him, and gives a somewhat puzzled look at the party members that he can see.]

Alice : [Looks up at him, and gives a little shiver, before turning to Grace] So, what's to do in this town?

Madchen : I work in the factory, my father owns it. It's a whole lot easier since Grace came in and sorted us out.

Grace : [Doing a "Ah go on" hand wave to Madchen, before answering Alice] We have a wonderful library, some nice stores, oh, and a fine church. [AILEEN approaches, and puts a tray of mugs on the table with a bang.]

Aileen : [A little louder than is necessary] That must be her.

Alice : [Looks from Louis to Aileen] Er, thanks.

Grace : You flatter me, Mr. Giles! I studied at Langra Sha university, for both my degree and PhD, but I'm really just a small town girl at heart, so moved back here when I was finished. I love it here, it's like a dream really.

Aileen : [Again rather more loudly than necessary] Yeah. Nice house.

Austin : [To Aileen, indgnantly] Is that tone really necessary? [Rhetorically] What has Grace ever done to you. [Looking concerned] You appear most aggressive for someone who is running a coffee shop.

Aileen : [Leans in close to Austin, leaving him in no doubt as to how much she is perspiring and what a stranger she is to deodrant] I don't run this gosh darned coffee shop, that idiot Charlie does.

Grace : Aileen, please! [AILEEN grabs the tray from under the mugs and whips it away, like a magician might do with a tablecloth.]

Chastity : Austin is correct, there is no need for that nonsense! [AILEEN stomps away in a huff.]

Tamsin: [To Austin and Chastity, irritated] Lay off her, would ya? It's hard work, waiting tables, putting up with snooty, slave-driving assholes all day long. [To Chastity, defiantly, before she can say a word] No, I will NOT watch my language!

Austin : [Nods to Chastity] That's something we agree on. [To Grace] It is admirable how you manage to maintain such a plesant demeanour amongst such unrully people. [Sips his capuchino carefully, just incase of nasty suprises. Then to lighten the tone. To Grace] So, which way do you go, Illy-churns face mask or Gewel cleansing cream?

Chastity : [To Tamsin] Watch your language, young lady!

Tamins : It's okay, she does have a difficult job, and Charlie, well, apparantly he's not a nice person. [To Austin] Oh come on! [Smiles] Gewel of course! What are we? In the 1250s! [Notices the scratch on Tamsin's hand] Oh! What happened? [The scratch from the cat seems to be festering, with tiny bubbles of pus coming out of it.]

Alice : [Looks at the hand] Eauh!

Tamsin: [Looks at hand in horror and frantically shows it to Chastity] Uh, Sister?

Chastity : [Takes her hand] Oh dear, I hope it wasn't caused by your bad language, Tamsin. [Gingerly touches some of the pus] Hm.

Grace : [Blushing] Oh, Mister Giles! [Looks at Chastity] Can I see? [Takes Tamsin's hand and looks closely] I've seen anything like it. [Rubs the cut gently with her thumb.] [GRACE's eyes roll back into her head, and her body begins to convluse with some kind of fit. She straightens out and shudders violently, knocking cups and such off the table, and foaming at the mouth, slightly.]

Alice : Grace!

Tamsin: [Quickly pulls her hand close to her body to avoid anyone else touching it and awkwardly digs a sock out of her knapsack to slip over her injured hand]

Austin : [Quickly moves away from the table to avoid getting any spills on his clothes. Checks that he is clean. Frowns, then gets out a spare pair of calf hide gloves - by Edan Smurly - and offers them to Tamsin]

Chastity : [Quickly wipes her hand on a napkin and rushes to Grace's side. Calling to Aileen] Quickly, we need some wet tea towels here.

Stephen : [Shrieks] Oh my God, the coffee is poisoned!

Alice : [Angrily] Shut the hell up, Stephen! Can't you see she's in trouble? [A soaking wet tea towel is thrown by AILEEN from the counter onto the table.]

Aileen : You're going to have to pay for any broken cups. [MONTY eases GRACE onto the floor, where she continues her fit, which is slowly subsiding.]

Grace : [Slowly calming down, and flickering her eyes open] Mis - Mister Giles? Is that you? [Everyone, including her other friends, crowd around her.]

Grace : What's happening?

Geneva: [Slowly, as if Grace was a child.] You have fainted. Have you fainted before?

Grace : [Slowly recovering] I'm not sure, I don't know what happened, nothing like this ever happened before.

Tamsin : [A bit guiltily] I'm sorry Grace, are you okay?

Grace : Oh, Tam, it isn't your fault. [Looks around] Is everyone alright?

Chastity : [Handing Grace the dampened tea towel to mop her brow] It's Ok, everyone else is fine. We're just concerned about you.

Geneva: Sweet tea! Sweet tea will help her.... [To Aileen.] Would you mind bringing some fresh sweet tea?

Grace : [Gratefully takes the towel and mops her brow] Thank you Sister. [Tries to look around, but everyone is crowding in so much on her that she can't]

Aileen : [Theatrical sigh] I already gave you tea! [Points at the spilled cups, but starts pouring out some more] [MADCHEN, IAN and company are all equally concerned, and each is trying to offer her towels, water etc.]

Alice : [Almost kneeling on Grace] Hey! Give her some space!

Geneva: [Retreats reluctantly, but because she too can see it's best for Grace.] Air, give her air!

Aileen : [Slams the cup of tea on the counter] Air? Air? This is a coffee shop, we don't sell air here! [The crowd move back slowly.]

Grace : [Leans on Monty and retakes her seat, clearly very shaken] Thank you Mister Giles, but I think I'd better go home.

Aileen : [Approaching the table with a mug of air] Oh for God's sake! [Pours the air down the sink]

Grace : Oh, that would be most kind, thank you, Mister Giles. [Exit ALL.] [Book IV, ACT VI, SCENE III. The Street. ALICE, AUSTIN, GENEVA, TAMSIN, MONTY, STEPHEN, CHASTITY and GRACE are here, walking towards GRACE's house. GRACE is okay now, but still a little unsteady.]

Grace : You're all so kind, I really appreciate this. [The party turn left out of the shop and up another street towards a large, impressive looking house. On one side is a building that is totally black, with the doors and windows bricked up. On the other is a Jewellers shop, and further down another black building.]

Alice : Hey, look at that, a Jewellers!

Chastity : [To Grace] What is that black building?

Austin : [Slightly anoyed, assisting Grace] Perhaps we can just get Grace home and let her rest before bombarding her with questions. The black building isn't going anywhere [Looks at it hopefully] And you can all go and check it out later.

Tamsin: [Absently rubbing her cat-scratched hand and looking worried] Austin's right. Leave the poor woman alone. On Fri, 10 Dec 2004 12:35:44 +0000, Dominic Job wrote:

Austin : [To Tamsin, looking at her rubbing her hand. Gets out an small tub of skin ointment and hands it to Tamsin] Perhaps you should apply some of this balm, it not only smells nice and hydrates the skin but it is also mildly antisceptic due to it containing Seatree oil and Geko's Bilobas. [Gently to Geneva] It's that nice hand made one you can get from Newton's herbalists. [Frowns momentarily at Grace's pink cardy, uncertain as to why she hasn't burnt it, but shakes off the frown and smiles genuinely at Grace]

Tamsin: [Takes the ointment from Austin] Thanks. It will nice that the skin around my gaping, pus-filled wound, will at least be soft and fragrant [tentatively removes the sock from her hand to examine her scratch, self-consciously attempting to keep the hand hidden from view of anyone else].

Alice : I don't know, Tam, it looks pretty horrible, I bet it smells pretty disgusting too.

Grace : [As the party approach the large house] Oh, they're just old unused buildings. I don't ever remember a time when they were occupied. [Looks over at Tamsin] Are you going to be okay?

Tamsin: [To Grace, feigning nonchalance] I'm fine, thanks [scowls at Alice and quickly slips the sock back on her hand].

Alice : Maybe Austin could give you more of that balm for the smell. [Nods at the sock] [The party reaches the door, which GRACE opens. Inside is GEOFFREY MARLOW, a well dressed, dapper looking gentleman.]

Geoffrey : Grace, are you okay?

Grace : I'm fine, Daddy, my friends here are looking after me.

Grace : [Smiles back] You're too kind.

Geoffrey : [Very concerned] Are you sure, Grace? [Squeezes her hand reassuringly, before looking at the party] I am Captain Geoffrey Marlow, and it seems as though I'm in your debt.

Tamsin: [To Geoffrey] No, you're not. Not mine, anyway. It's all my fault [looks quite miserable].

Grace : [Steps over to Tamsin] That's not true, it wasn't your fault.

Tamsin: [Smiles ruefully at Grace] It was, but thanks for being nice about it. It was my bright idea to pet the toxic kitty of doom. I mean, that WAS what caused your, er, reaction, wasn't it? [looks at the rest of the party quizzically]

Alice : It looked like that to me - after all, you were fine until you touched it, weren't you?

Geoffrey : Toxic cats? What's that about?

Tamsin: [To Geoffrey] There was this crazy old lady at the city entrance, hurling cats at us. Ever seen her before?

Geoffrey : [Bewildered] Cats? No! What did she look like Grace?

Grace : I don't know, I didn't see her.

Austin : [To Geoffry] Well sir, no one seems to have known who she was, but we had best get Grace inside and sat down, so that she may relax. We can investigate the mysterious old woman later.

Geoffrey : No, I never heard of her. Bravis is here though, I can get him to take a look for her. In the meantime, perhaps you would be kind enough to join us for dinner?

Chastity : That would be lovely, thank you.

Stephen : [Gives Geoffery two thumbs up] Very decent of you,would love to! [To Grace] My, but your family are a sociable lot!

Austin : [To Geoffrey] Why thank you, we would be delighted to join you for dinner.

Tamsin: [To Geoffrey, looking a little ill-at-ease] Uh, sure--thanks for the invitation. [Eyes the sock on her hand dubiously and mutters as discreetly as possible to Austin] Still got that spare pair of gloves? Last from Conor #26

Geneva: [Drawing her dagger.] What the hell was that? [Cautiously pokes her head out into the hall.]

Grace : [Takes each of Austin and Monty by the arm and leads them towards what is clearly the dining room] Oh, Mister Giles! [Gives Tamsin a concerned look] Oh, Tamsin, why don't you let me bandage that for you? [The party hear a loud crash from a room across the hall.] Last from Conor #26

Geneva: [Drawing her dagger.] What the hell was that? [Cautiously pokes her head out into the hall.]

Grace : [Takes each of Austin and Monty by the arm and leads them towards what is clearly the dining room] Oh, Mister Giles! [Gives Tamsin a concerned look] Oh, Tamsin, why don't you let me bandage that for you? [The party hear a loud crash from a room across the hall.] [Enter BRAVIS, coming from the room where the crash was. He is carrying a broken statue and looking a bit sheepish.]

Bravis : Er, sorry Captain.

Geoffrey : [Annoyed, but trying to disguise it] Oh, Bravis.

Austin : [Discreetly slips Tamsin a pair of gloves whilst everyone is looking at the shameful sight of Bravis and the broken statue. To Bravis] That is most unfortunate.

Geneva: How on earth did you manage to do that?

Chastity : [Looks at the shards of boken statue, in case anything out of place was there] Such a shame. What's it of?

Tamsin: [Accepts the gloves from Austin with a grateful smile and rejoins the party to check out the broken statue]

Austin : [Sighs.] Oh well, no point in crying over spilt milk. [To Geoffrey and Grace] Was it a priceless masterpiece?

Tamsin: [Accepts the gloves from Austin with a grateful smile and

Geneva: How'd it break?

Alice : [Looks at the statue] Ew! What piece broke off it?

Monty : I believe it is one of the arms.

Bravis : Sorry, I was just looking at it. [Looks at the party, clearly a bit nervous at their presence]

Alice : Apparantly he looked at it and it broke.

Bravis : Er, I picked it up, and my hands were slippy. I'm sorry.

Geoffrey : No harm done, I'm sure it was an accident, [nods an acknowledgement to Austin] nothing that can't be replaced, my lad. I say, Bravis, have you heard anything about a crazy old woman with lots of cats?

Bravis : No, sir, I haven't seen anything like that.

Tamsin: [Looks at the rest of the group incredulously and says to Bravis] What?! You were right there with us when she started hurling cats at us!

Bravis : Cats? I'm sorry, but I'm sure I'd remember something like that.

Austin : [To Tamsin] It looks like only we saw the old lady, possibly something to do with the lightening and all that stuff, Chastity feeling odd and who know what else. We just need to make sure that cut on your hand is properly attended to.

Tamsin: [Looks at Bravis suspiciously and says to Austin] Guess so. [Looks at injured-but-stylishly-gloved hand and asks Grace] Got anything I could use to patch myself up?

Grace : Of course, just let me get something. Nice gloves, by the way! [Exit GRACE.]

Monty : [To Geoffrey] Captain Marlow, allow me to introduce our group. We had the good fortune of meeting your daughter earlier today. [Goes through the group] Chastity, Alice, Tamsin, Geneva, Stephen and Austin. I am Mr. Montgommery Giles, I have a good, well paid job with excellent prospects and a secure pension plan.

Tamsin: [Chimes in to "help" Monty] AND he's as pure as the driven snow!

Monty : [Looks at Tamsin with an expression that's somewhere between embarassment and annoyance] Ahem. [Enter GRACE, with an assortment of bandages and ointments.]

Chastity : Oh, such a well stocked first aid kit, my dear. Perhaps you should allow me to do it, just in case.

Geoffrey : Has any one else touched the wound?

Chastity : Only myself, I think. I don't seem to have had any ill effects from it, though.

Tamsin: [To Geoffrey] Just Chastity. [To Chastity] Wait, did you touch it, or did you just take a look?

Stephen : Not to worry, not to worry, I'm sure we can fix the statue with some double sided sticky tape and a toilet roll! Give me the bits! [Holds his hands out to examine the statue]

Grace : Oh, Stephen, you're ever so clever, I bet you're just great with your hands.

Alice : I'm pretty sure Chastity did touch it.

Stephen : Well, I had no complaints about my banana technique yet. But, I'm even better with my eye and my mind! [Holds his hands together forming a rectangle and looks through it at Grace] Hmmm, some potential!

Grace : Banana technique?

Stephen : Well, yes, banana technique! [Puts up the statues arm between his legs and effortlessly displays the technique]

Austin : [Watching Stephen. To Grace and Geoffery] The war and all of the fights and struggles we have been through have affected his mind somewhat. He says alot of odd things but he's quite harmless, and we couldn't really leave him to fend for himself. I hope he doesn't offend you.

Chastity : [To Stephen] You know I doubt if the kind gentleman will want his statue repaired now. His memory of will now forever be clouded!

Stephen : Well, part of our reason here is to educate and enlighten, and I think job done. [Puts the statues arm back on the ground] Crikey, I could do with a cigarrette!

Geoffrey : [Face grows dark] How are you sir! I'll thank you not to behave in such a disgusting manner in front of my daughter! [To Austin] I quite understand, but please, try and keep him under control.

Grace : [Looking quite ill at Stephen's behaviour] You're so kind, Austin, so patient. [Face lights up] Wait a minute! He's just joking, aren't you, Stephen? I knew you couldn't do something like that!

Tamsin: [Snaps out of her reverie and looks a little embarrassed] Right! Old Stevie here's just a joker. He didn't mean anything. [Tries to change the subject quickly] Oh, thanks for the bandages, Grace. Very nice of you. Churchy, could you give me a hand wrapping this up?

Austin : [To Grace] Well, I'm sorry, I wish I was joking. I'm no psychiatrist, and have we have not had Stephen assesed by a profesional doctor, but his behaviour is often rude, crude and innapropriate, and as you have just witnessed, not actually funny. That's the trouble, knowing when he's serious and when he's having one of his turns. [To Geoffrey] I appologise for Stephen's behaviour, [Gestures to Monty] Monty here is supposed to be keeping an eye on things like this, it is his, [Pauses for effect] profession with good prospects. [Sighs] Anyway, a difficult task indeed. [Frowns as Stephen steps away from the statue]

Tamsin: [Whispers to Austin angrily] And when we take Stevie in for his mental evaluation, perhaps we can get you to a proctologist to see about YOUR condition!

Stephen : Many have tried, Tam, but none have successfully removed his head from there.

Chastity : [Frowning at Stephen and Tamsin] You two behave yourselves! [Ties the bandage on Tamsin's hand, knotting it unnecessarily tightly] And my name is Chastity.

Geneva: [Shocked] Sister! They were only talking! And besides, Tamsin was only trying to be nice to that cat!

Austin : [To all] Well, I expect we'll find out about the crazy old lady later. No one that mad [Glances at Stephen] could go unnoticed for long.

Chastity : [To Geneva] You know full well, young lady, that I wasn't objecting to Tamsin playing with the crazy lady's pussy, rather Stephen's display.

Austin : [Cringing a Chastity's double entendre. To Grace] Anyway, enough chatter about mysterious old ladies. You must tell me more about yourself, your travels, adventures, [looks at Grace with those 'I know you like a sharp knife' type eyes] short blade or stilleto? Feather tempered or a nice wave! So many questions.[Sighs]

Geneva: [Interjects] And who is your favourite knife fighter? I know who's got the skills, but I also know who has the smarts!

Tamsin: [Giddily scribbling down limerick ideas] Quick! I need words that rhyme with 'blade'! And 'nun'! [grins delightedly at Chastity]

Chastity : [Cutting off Alice, who was just about to say something] Don't you dare!

Grace : Well, Grace Stubbs is my all time favourite. Now, while I do appreciate her use of the stilleto, I prefer tempered blades myself.

Geoffrey : [To Bravis] Well, Bravis, I must admit, I'm confused over this old lady situation, but keep an eye out for her.

Bravis : Of course, Captain. [Makes to leave]

Austin : [To Tamsin] Laid and spun [To Geneva] Who is your favorite all time knife fighter? [Ponders] I reckon Pleasing Shegull, the cook on the Ti-tan Ic is quite amusing, and has a certain style, distinctly rythmic, though grossly lacking in swashbuckle, and his pony tail doesn't help. [Chuckles] Grace Stubbs, [Chuckles] Yes, she is good.

Alice : Laid doesn't rhyme with nun.

Bravis : Well, goodbye. [Exit BRAVIS, while everyone else goes into the dining room. A large meal is laid out, consisting of steaks, chops, a soused pigs head, complete with apple, golden honeyed locusts, jellied eels, thrushes ankles, snakes feet, crispy popadoms and curried brussel sprouts.]

Geoffrey : [Genially] Please, help yourselves. [As everyone approaches it, he leans in menacingly to Stephen] You behave yourself in front of my daughter, young man, or you'll be sorry.

Stephen : [Terrified] Gulp!

Geoffrey : And watch your table manners, too.

Tamsin: [To Austin, writing furiously] Good suggestions! [Pauses and looks thoughtfully at Chastity for a moment before being struck again by inspiration] Oooh, I know! Habit/rabbit [gleefully begins scribbling again]. . . .

Alice : [Helping herself to some snakes feet] Mm-mm! Did you cook all this, Grace? It's wonderful, you're a really good cook.

Grace : [Modestly] Oh, I like to be prepared, in case company drops in. Daddy's always entertaining, isn't he?

Geoffrey : That's what the audience say, anyway. [The two burst into fits of giggles at this.]

Grace : Anyway, it's so exciting having visitors from out of town.

Tamsin: [Reluctantly puts aside her poetry and checks out the spread, wide-eyed and intimidated] Er, looks good [tentatively tries to tug the apple from the pig's mouth, looking very awkward].

Austin : [To Grace and Geoffrey] And very plesant it is to be your guests. [Takes a seat, takes a locust and nibbles at it a little. Ponders] I think I prefer the old fashioned knife fighter though, Bluebeard the pirate knew how to swash his buckle. [To Grace] He use to fight with a double edged dagger in one hand and a broad-short blade in the other, quite the master of the offhand jug manoever. I doubt he looks after his hands though, pirates are all callouses and scars, probably. [To Geneva] What's your favorite knife manover then?

Geneva : The smooth hand stab. It's much favoured amongst pirates.

Geoffrey : [Laughs] Haw! No wonder you get on well with them, Grace!

Chastity : Captain Marlow, perhaps you could give us some advice on where to stay? It is getting quite late.

Geoffrey : Good lord! Sister, please, I hope you will do us the honour of staying here!

Tamsin: [To Geoffrey, looking at the party with uncertainty] Well, it seems like a lot of trouble for you to put us all up like that. We're used to roughing it, anyway, so it's no problem for us to camp out [surveys the party skeptically as she makes the claim that they're used to roughing it].

Grace : Oh, I wouldn't hear of it, Tamsin! Think of al the time we'll have to look at your poetry. [Looks around at the others] What do you say?

Alice : Well, I'll only stay if you promise to show me your hair colouring materials.

Grace : Of course!

Alice : [Dead serious to the party] I think we should stay.

Austin : [Smiling] Excellent! [To Geoffrey] You are most generous. So, tell us about your adventures then Captain, you must have been in some interesting situations, are you navy or army, army I presume? [Looks at Geoffrey expectantly]

Tamsin: [To Grace, surprised and excited] You want to read my poetry?! That's great! SOME people have no appreciation for the written word [nods pointedly at Alice, Chastity, and Monty].

Chastity : [Pointedly looking at Alice's hair for a few second. To Alice] I agree.

Stephen : [Munches on a brussel sprout] You know, I've always thought about making a movie about a knife throwing heroine who battles her way through a male dominated world and ends up slicing her way to feminine liberation. Well, until she meets the right man and gets married and has kids and all that stuff. I thought about calling it "Mrs Femme Fatale"! [Looks around the table before looking at Grace] What do you think?

Tamsin: [To Stephen] Great idea! And the sequel writes itself: ten years later, we catch up with our heroine just as she's about to snap and go on a mass killing spree! We'll call it "Call Me MS. Femme Fatale, You Soul-Sucking Bastard!"

Grace : I think that sounds really keen! It would be very exciting, although, you might want to call it Ms. Femme Fatale. [Looks over some of the others with a smile before turning to Tamsin] Oh, I'm sure that's not true. How about you give us a reading later on?

Geoffrey : Well now, sir, I am indeed an army man, but I doubt a young firecracker like you would want to listen to an old windbag like me! You should get Grace to take you all out for a drink after dinner, I'm afraid I'd only bore you.

Grace : Oh, no, Daddy. Tell them about the time you killed those awful robbers. [Proudly to the others] They were trying to steal the widows and orphans fund - it's used to help people living in the tenements - and Daddy took them all on, a gang of six!

Alice : [Returning Chastity's look, clearly not sure what it's about] It's okay, we're used to listening to an old windbag.

Stephen : [Surprised, looks at Tasmin] You know missy, you just might have a future in the movie business, if you don't mind me saying! However, your idea of a sequel would never work! Prepostorous! [Whips out a note book and starts scribbling furiously]

Grace : [Stifles a laugh at Tamsin] Jeepers, Tam, we could be sisters!

Alice : Preposterous? Then it's not as unlikely as some of your other plots?

Stephen : [To Alice] About as unlikely as you pretending [glances at her hair] that you're still blonde.

Grace : [Looks at Alice's dismayed look before putting on a big smile] Oh, Stevie, you really are the joker, aren't you? [Smiles warmly at Alice] How's this for a deal? You and the others can only stay here if you show me your hair care products, I just love your colour.

Alice : You'll show me yours if I show you mine? Sounds good! I never leave home without my L'Oreal Feria Hair Colouring kit.

Tamsin: [Assesses Alice's hair for a moment and then says to Stephen] I think you were right the first time. Nothing is more unlikely than a woman ending up on top in any of your--endeavors.

Monty : Please! I'm sure that the Marlows aren't used to this sort of base discussion.

Geneva : Do you have a knife range? I bet you I'd be a better shot than Austin.

Austin : [To Geneva] The problem with throwing knives is that you need alot of them, then there's all that running around retrieving them afterwards. [Shakes his head at the concept] Okay if the enemy don't mind hanging around whilst you collect you knives! [Smiles to Geoffrey] I prefer a slingshot for long range work as the dagger is much more fullfiling when it remains in the hand during the strike. [Looks into Geneva's eyes] But I'll meet your challenge anyway.

Tamsin: Sounds like fun! My money's on Red [gives Geneva a hearty backslap of encouragement]!

Geneva: [Eyes gleaming!] Challenge met! But I must warn you [a little louder so everyone can hear her well] I have thrown a dagger into a pirate's belly from 50 paces on a vessel pitching about in a storm on the sea. In the dark!

Alice : Well, Geoff, do you have any pirate bellies that they can throw things at?

Geoffrey : [Laughs good naturedly] None that I can lay my hands on tonight, but perhaps tomorrow afternoon?

Tamsin: [To Grace] Well, then, if we're not going to have a knife-throwing challenge tonight, how'd you like to read some of my work after we eat? [Smiles proudly] I have an entire special collection devoted to especially tricky rhymes. I'll show you that one first! Here's a little tease: I've found no fewer than thirteen ways to rhyme the word "orange" [looks very pleased].

Alice : Well, Geoff, do you have any pirate bellies that they can throw things at?

Geoffrey : [Laughs good naturedly] None that I can lay my hands on tonight, but perhaps tomorrow afternoon? Tamsin: [To Grace] Well, then, if we're not going to have a knife-throwing challenge tonight, how'd you like to read some of my work after we eat? [Smiles proudly] I have an entire special collection devoted to especially tricky rhymes. I'll show you that one first! Here's a little tease: I've found no fewer than thirteen ways to rhyme the word "orange" [looks very pleased].

Geneva: [To Geoffrey] Tomorrow afternoon it is then! I've had an itchy dagger hand for a while now! [To Tamsin.] Got any words that rhyme with "dead pirate"?

Alice : I can keep the scores, Grace, because I'm really good at math. Ask me anything, go on, anything.

Monty : What is contained in rule 43, section c, paragraph 2 of the watcher's code?

Alice : Huh?

Monty : [To Grace and Geoffrey] : No watcher shall wear leather trousers. [Somewhat proudly] I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the watcher's code, amongst other factual and useful texts.

Geneva: [Frantically, and none too subtlely] Well, *I* have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every issue of Knife Fighter's Quarterly ever issued! And the pro's and con's of every dagger ever manufactured by KFQ[TM]! Including the twin and triple blade variants!

Grace : Gosh, you're all so clever! Daddy, aren't they clever?

Geoffrey : You're lucky to have such good friends, Grace. Why don't you take them out and show them the sights?

Chastity : Excellent idea, Captain Marlow. Perhaps I could offer a prayer of thanks, for both this wonderful meal and for the new friends we have made. I was the winner of the Best Thanksgiving Prayer two years in a row at the O'Scares, the annual awards ceremony for the church of Phili. [Looks around, awaiting silence from the others]

Austin : [To Grace] Perhaps you could give me your opinion on Maplin, the most beautiful forearm in existence. [Furls up Maplin's sleeve with suprising speed and shows Maplin to Grace] Only the world's finest skin care products have ever touched him, oil of Amorica, dew of Nurberry. [Smiles gleefully at Grace, carefully watching her reaction]

Grace : [Raises her eyebrows with a smile and gently runs her finger down Maplin, nodding her head in appreciation as she does] Oh my! Austin, that is just so smooth.

Chastity : Oh, Lord Phili, we, your humble servants thank you for this bountiful feast, for your blessing of us with new friends, and for helping us stay modest even though some of us have been declared holy icons. Amen.

Geoffrey : Amen. Holy icons?

Chastity : Oh, it's nothing really, just that I appear to have been declared a religious icon in the next town over.

Grace : Sister! That's wonderful! [Looks at Geoffrey] I wonder why we never heard about that.

Tamsin: [To Grace] But enough about Churchy and the creepy cult that sprung up around her recently. Do you write poetry, Grace?

Austin : [Quickly] I wonder. [To Grace, enthusiastically] I'm going to buy a yatch once we have finished saving the world, perhaps you'd like to come sailing sometime? We could sail to Monacow, Mingapure, the Catcursers Islands, all around the world. [Keenly] Beautiful places, I could show you all of the most beautiful spots. I'm in the Great Outdoors Nature And Beauty Society, GONABS, we explore distant lands in search of the world most beautiful natural scenery.

Grace : [Modestly] Well, I'm not sure about that, Mr. Giles, but I really admire people like Tamsin, who can write it. [Smiles over at Austin] That all sounds wonderful, Austin. I've never been sailing, but I'd love to.

Chastity : [Snaps at Tamsin] It is not a creepy cult, it is a society of people concerned with others.

Geoffrey : [Clearly sensing a little tension around the table] Perhaps you'd all like to take a walk? Get some fresh air?

Tamsin: [To Grace] Speaking of walking, did I ever tell you about the time I marched in the Chimney-Sweepers Rights parade? As a direct result of our protest, dozens of sweepers were promised an all-expenses paid funeral upon death! [Shoots Chastity a smirk and adds] And THAT's what a society of people concerned with others does. Not follow around self-righteous old biddies!

Austin : [To Geoffrey] I think that your suggestion is an excellent idea, my companions [Glances at Tamsin] appear to be getting a little, over excited. [Austin stands up and gets ready to assist Grace by doing the gentlemanly move the chair for the lady as she gets up thing]

Tamsin: [Snaps at Austin] Ha! You really expect us to believe you've had any experience whatsoever with excited women?!

Grace : [Gets up] Why, thank you Austin. [Smiles at Tamsin] That sounds very supportive of you Tam, I think it is very important to look after other people.

Chastity : [Glares back at Tamsin] And what about a society of people concerned with showing off?

Geoffrey : [Laughs good naturedly] Oh, you lot are something else! Grace, you be careful with them tonight!

Alice : Come on, let's go out for that walk. You can borrow my jacket if you like, Grace.

Grace : Super! You can have my sequined cardie! [Exit ALL.] [Book IV, Act VI, Scene IV. Outside Marlows. ALICE, AUSTIN, GENEVA, CHASTITY, TAMSIN, MONTY, STEPHEN and GRACE are here. It is about

Stephen : Well, I suppose considering it's such a strange day, how about we try to track down that crazy cat lady? I mean, surely someone here knows who she is. [Snaps his fingers] Is there a Chineasy restaurant around here? That's always a source of cats!

Stephen : Well, I'm surprised to hear you say that, Monty old bean, as your only duty seems to be sitting back passively and watching other people partake in the great theatre of life! Ahem.

Austin : [To Grace] Do you get to travel often?

Grace : Oh, not as much as I'd like, and not really at all since university. [GRACE leads the party away from the direction of Bridgers, and turns left at the big black building, which leads to a church.]

Chastity : Oh, what a lovely church. Do you come here often?

Grace : Oh yes, Daddy and I are sticklers for Sunday worship, although we're not into the kind of oppressive religion that some people are. I suspect you're like us, Chastity, in that you see religion as a tool to console and comfort.

Tamsin: [Eyeing the church unhappily] We're not going there now, are we?

Grace : [Takes Tamsin's arm, laughing at her] Oh, God no! [The party turn right at the church, which has a large paved area in front of it, and start heading towards a large tenement block, which looks much cleaner and well cared for than one would normally expect.]

Alice : Wow, is that where the poor people live? It looks very clean. I thought they normally lived in much smellier conditions.

Grace : [Nudges Alice playfully] Oh, you're just too much, Al. Honestly, for a moment I nearly thought you were serious! [ALICE gives a nervous and clearly false laugh.]

Austin : [To Grace, chuckling] I thought she was serious too!

Alice : I was [short pause, but a pause nonetheless] n't! [The party reach the tenements, which are genuinely well kept, before turning to the left. There are quite a few people walking around, many of whom salute GRACE. These include several from earlier, such as ROSEMARY, MADCHEN, TOBEY and LOUIS.]

Stephen : [Peering to the right] Look, there's another one of those black buildings.

Tamsin: [To Grace, puzzled] What's with the saluting? What is this place, exactly?

Grace : [Stopping near Tobey, Madchen and Rosemary, who are talking together] It's just a nice town, I guess. I suppose I know a lot of people here. [LOUIS walks passed, watching the group as he does so.]

Chastity : [Keeping her eyes locked on Louis, but talking to Grace] It's no wonder you're so popular, my dear, what with your lovely demeanour. I know of several other young ladies who could learn from you.

Tobey : [Loudly and distinctly] She's out cold.

Alice : [Gives Tobey a curious look before turning to Tamsin] People often do that to ladies of noble birth. [Gives a big smile, look of recognition and wave to someone standing behind Tamsin] Hi! [Looks over Tamsin's other shoulder] Hello!

Tamsin: [Casually] Oh, right, I knew that [clearly didn't]. [Turns around to see who Alice is greeting]

Tamsin: [Shoots Chastity a dirty look and says to Grace] It does seem like a very nice town. Really clean. Who's running the show here, anyway? Got a mayor or something like that? [Although there are people behind TAMSIN, they are just walking around minding their own business, and no one seems to be returning ALICE's wave.]

Grace : I suppose it's Daddy who runs the show, he's the captain of the guards. Mr. Lynch, who owns the factory is also very important, isn't he Madchen?

Madchen : Ever since you helped him get his books in order, anyway! [GRACE is suddenly soaked to the skin by a massive downpour, apparantly located solely on her.]

Grace : Glug!

Geneva: Arrrrgh! [Pulls her a large red hanky with little pirates bearing daggers embroidered on it, and tries to dry Grace off.]

Tamsin: [Looks around for the source of the downpour] What the hell?! [Everyone looks up, and it seems as though this is genuine rain, just coming from a tiny area, which quickly expands soaking the party too.]

Alice : Hey! Who turned on the rain?

Geneva: Arrrgh! [Quickly checks her dagger is in her belt, to stay as dry as possible, and puts away her sodden hanky. To Grace.] Does this happen often? [Tries to step out of it]

Austin : [To Grace, drying her with a spare silk hanky] How strange, does that happen often?

Grace : [Pointing at the tenements] Let's shelter in there! [Everyone rushes to the large, common doorway, and stands beneath it, looking out at the now torrential rain which is now covering the entire street. The hallways are beautifully decorated and immaculately clean, and there is a large sign with the words "Welcome to the Paradise Housing"]

Grace : I've never seen anything like it! This is awful.

Monty : Yes. [Briefly glances Grace up and down] Ahem. [Mops his brow] This is indeed a most disturbing meteorological phenomena, Miss Grace.

Austin : [Drying himself down. To Grace] I wonder why this unusual down pour his occuring right now? It seems most unnatural.

Geneva: [Putting on a cheerful face.] Awww it's not so bad. [Dabs ineffectively at Grace with her hanky to dry her off.] Beside's we're in Paradise Housing! How bad could that be? [Tries the doorknob to the common door]

Grace : [Shakes her head] I know, I've never seen anything like it. [Peers out from under the shelter] It looks to be all over the town now but [puzzled look] did it start on just me? [CHERYL opens the door, to reveal a large courtyard in the middle of a four story tenement. The courtyard is full of plants and exotic looking fountains, and scruffy yet cheerful children are either sheltering from or playing in the rain.]

Chastity : [Distributing tea towels to those who need them] I must say, this is a very well appointed tenement.

Tamsin: [To Grace, impressed] So, this is how the poor are treated here?

Grace : [Drying her hair with a tea towel] Oh, yes, Tam. Everyone here tries to help them. [Enter DARTFUL RODGER, a chirpy faced young scamp.]

Rodger : Wotcha, Miss Grace, it sure is sugar and spice ter clock ya. Would ya or your lovely jubly friends loike ter clock me darts? [Opens his jacket to reveal an array of nice darts] I can make ya a very special Ian Beale today.

Tamsin: [To Rodger, friendly] Yeah, I'll take a look.

Austin : [To Dartful, trying to do a friendly local accent] Hello there young scamp, what's your very special Ian Beale then? How much for three of your jam tarts?

Rodger : [Smiles at Tamsin] 'ere ya are, my good Plates and Dishes, the bleedin' points finer than the bloomin' tip of a weasel's finger Monkey's Tail wot 'e uses for pickin' 'is Fireman's Hose, and flights truer than a cockney on oath. [Gives Austin wink and a cheeky grin] You've got a 'eaven and 'ell Robin Hood mince pie, sir. These normally sell at a gp each, but for friends of Miss Grace, carpet for Bo-le Of Glue gp.

Alice : [Not understanding a word he says] What? What are you?

Rodger : I'm a cheeky cockney conman, ain't I? I dodge and I weave [does a quick doge and weave on the spot] and I sometimes sweep chimneys. ya can make a Hoppin' Pot of Bread and Honey sellin' soot ter field of wheat urchins. [Nods at Austin again] We got an Ian Beale, or wot?

Austin : [Takes three darts and inspects them casualy. Smiles to Grace, then to Rodger] We've got and Ian Beale, me boxin' champ! [Gives Roger two gps]

Rodger : I'm very 'eaven and 'ell chuffed ter 'ear that sir, it was a pleasure doin' business wif ya. [Hands over the darts] I'll clock ya folks mashed potato. i've got a shipment of new dvd players fresh Frank Bough the bloomin' Hammer and Tack of a lorry. Ta-ra! [Exit RODGER. There are a few other people around, all of the positively irritating chirpy types rather than the dodgy pickpocketing type.]

Grace : Isn't he just adorable? They're all like that here, so perky and full of life. [A voice can be heard shouting from the next floor up.]

Voice : You stupid bitch! Just how fucking dumb are you? You whore!

Grace : [Face pales as she looks up] Oh my goodness, what was that?

Tamsin: [Watches Austin in surprise] Well, who knew Austin had layers?! Too bad you can't relax and be like this all the time [attempts to playfully ruffle Austin's hair].

Grace : [Looking a little frightened] I've never heard anything like it! What do you think is going on?

Alice : [Draws her sword] It's okay, Grace, we're used to this sort of thing. [Starts heading up the stairs] Come on troop, follow me! [By way of explanation to Grace] I usually lead them into battle.

Tamsin: [Draws sword and follows Alice, remarking to Grace] Actually, we don't so much follow her lead as follow behind to pick up the pieces.

Austin : [Nod] Yes, Alice usually leads us into battle, [pauses] or trouble. [Escorts Grace up the stairs]

Stephen : Or pick up the items of underwear.

Alice : [Now up on the landing] Don't listen to them Grace, they rely on me to point them in the right direction. I'm always the most alert one and oh! [Gets cut off as a man, Richard Skeith bangs into her]

Richard : Get the hell out of my way.

Tamsin: [Attempting to block Richard's path] Hey, there, buddy. Where's the fire?

Richard : [Looks Tamsin up and down] In my pants after seeing you lot in wet clothes. [Glances over Austin, Stephen and Monty] Not you. [There are eight or nine doors on this floor, one of which is open.]

Richard : [To Grace] Hey sweet cheeks, looking for work? [GRACE says nothing, but looks down, embarassed.]

Tamsin: [Looks at Grace, wide-eyed, then says to Richard] Burning genitals--not a good sign there, buddy. Might want to look into getting an ointment for that.

Richard : [Checking out Geneva and Alice, clearly not listening to Tamsin] Yeah, sure. Anyway, let me guess. You're here for Cici, for [looks around, and laughs and points at Monty] him? Like a little bit of rough, eh? [Sneers at Grace's obvious discomfort] What's wrong, Princess? It's just commerce.

Tamsin: [Enraged, getting right in Richard's face] Leave her alone or I'll take care of those burning genitals myself--for good [brandishes sword threateningly]!

Austin : [Who was already escorting grace, move's Monty's hand from Graces shoulder. To Monty] No, why don't you go and check for a change. [Comforts Grace. To Grace] What an incredibly rude man! Are you alright?

Richard : [Sneers in Tamsin's face] Yeah, baby, you looking for a job? We got plenty of punters looking for a spanking.

[GRACE puts her hand on MONTY's, but doesn't say anything.]

Richard : [Looks at Austin] Knock yourselves out, you're welcome to her. She's worth nothing to me now. [Loudly, in the direction of the open door] She's a crazy, filthy bitch, too dumb even to be ridden.

Alice : [Who's look of digust almost matches that of Grace, who looks like she's about to throw up] You're just a perfect gentleman, aren't you.

Grace : [Holds Monty's hand, so it stays there] I think so, Austin, but what an awful man!

Alice : I'll check out the place, Grace, I'm not afraid. [Starts heading down]

Richard : [Turns and checks her out as she walks away] Oh, yeah baby. Do you like wearing school uniforms?

Tamsin: [Abruptly takes a swing at Richard while he's distracted by Alice's schoolgirl charms]

Austin : [Sighs. To Grace] I'll have to leave you in Monty's [Pauses, looks doubtful] Capable hands, he's good at watching, I can't let Alice go in alone [Follows Alice to cover her back]

Grace : Oh, Austin, you're just so brave! [TAMSIN cracks RICHARD on the jaw just as he turns smugly to her, knocking him back against the wall.]

Richard : Ow! You bitch! [Punches her back, right between the eyes]

Grace : [Covering her eyes] Oh no!

Stephen : [Takes out his knife] Hey! I realise this is a knocking shop, but that's one knock too many! [Attacks Richard] [STEPHEN tries to stab RICHARD, who parries, but receives a cut to his hand.]

Richard : Ow! You fucker! [Pushes Stephen back into the others, before making a break for it]

Alice : [Turns around] What the hell?

Stephen : [Watches Richard leave, before shouting] Well, I hate to see you leave, but I love to see you go! [Checks Tasmin] [RICHARD disappears down the stairs as STEPHEN verifies that TAMSIN is just momentarily stunned, with a bloody nose, but not hurt.]

Grace : Oh, Tamsin! Are you okay? [Goes up to her with a tissue]

Chastity : [Outraged] Mr. Hitchberg! How dare you brandish a weapon like some common criminal! Yes, he shouldn't have punched Tamsin, but what kind of party do you think this is? [Casts an eye over the others] Hrm.

Stephen : [Angrily to Chastity] And what if his next action was to pull a sword and chop you in two, sister! What then? Who knows what kind of sordid, diseased, ill begotten creatures visit these types of places! I was protecting a member of our party from further attack, that's what I was doing!

Chastity : Don't you raise your voice to me, you naughty little man! In this party we only use weapons when we have to. [Pats Grace's arm] There, there, my dear. I know, it's awful.

Grace : I've never seen anything like it, Sister. [Gives an uneasy look down the corridor] I've got a really bad feeling about that door. Let's just go home and get changed.

Grace : I'm sorry, Mr. Giles, this whole thing has really shaken me.

Geneva : Well, I say well done, Stephen, he was asking to be stabbed in the belly!

Austin : [To Alice and Party] Well, let's just go and check that the lady he was shouting at is okay. [Walks over to the open door and looks in] Hello? Is everything okay? He's gone now, whoever he was.

Stephen : [Flabbergasted] Naughty little man? Well sorry for trying to protect a member of your Phillidamned party, sister! Philli almighty, probably the first selfless brave thing I've ever done in my life and I get attacked by the gormless theatre goer and the penguin! [Stamps his foot and turns away from them both in a huff]

Chastity : Just be thankful we didn't attack you with daggers. [Sniffs haughtily] Good idea, Mr. Sleaze. [The rest of the party follow AUSTIN to the door, with GRACE hanging back, clearly very uncomfortable. The room is dark and filthy, stinking of stale urine and cheese.* There is a girl in the sitting in the corner, head leaning on her pulled up knees.]

Alice : [On seeing no response to Austin] Hello? [The girl, CICI MERTEUIL, slowly turns her bewildered look on the party. She as obviously recently been punched hard several times.]

Stephen : Anyone who would do that deserves to be disemboweled!

Cici : Who are you? What do you want? [There is virtually no furniture in the room, except for a filthy mattress off to one side. The floor is littered with cigaratte ends and all sorts of other trash.]

Tamsin: [Glaring at Chastity and Monty pointedly] I agree! [Goes to Cici and asks gently] Can I do anything to help you?

Cici : [Shakes her head] No. No one can help me, no one. I'm wrong, I've got everything wrong.

Alice : [Puts her sword away and starts to walk in, but almost steps on a carelessly discarded can of cheese whip, before looking closely at it] Ah.

Tamsin: [Observes the can soberly and moves closer to Cici] How can it be too late? You're still alive, right? Let me try to help you.

Cici : [Looking down, shaking her head] No, no, I'm a bad person. I don't want any help.

Chastity : [To Grace] Why don't you speak to her, dear? Everyone in the town holds you in such high regard.

Grace : I'll try, Sister. [Puts on her warmest smile and steps forward, seeing Cici for the first time, and her face drops, but Cici doesn't look up]

Tamsin: [To Grace, concerned] What's wrong?

Grace : I - I don't know... [CICI looks up, and their eyes lock, with definite recognition on both sides. GRACE steps back, with her face a mixture of shock and horror, before turning and running out the door, colliding with LOUIS, who has just appeared at the doorway. She gives him a shocked look, but he just looks back impassively, before she runs out.]

Cici : [With her look of recognition turning to puzzlement, speaking much more slowly and clearly than before] Fucking junkie.

Geneva: What the hell was that? How dare you speak to Grace that way! I outta stab you in the belly!

Alice : Junkie? [Looks around at all the empty cans of cheese whip on the floor] You've got gorgonzola in your hair! There are enough cans here to build a small fort, and [points at a bucket in the corner] I don't even want to think about what's in there!

Cici : [Looks from Alice to Geneva, and backs into the corner further] I'm sorry. [Glances over at the mattress for a moment, before looking down again]

Geneva: [Sypathetically.] It doesn't have to be this way. The people in your town seem really helpful and nice. And I'm sure Grace would help you, even though you were mean to her. [Walks over to look at the mattress.]

Cici : Leave that alone! [There is a small metal box pushed in under the mattress, but not far enough to be properly hidden. It looks about three inches square.]

Austin : [Goes over to Cici and crouches down extreemly carefully avoiding all filth. To Cici, softy] You know Grace don't you, but you called her a junkie, why?

Cici : [Shakes her head several times] I thought I did, but I don't. No, no I don't. [Looks back to where Geneva is standing by the box that's tucked under the mattress and shouts] Get away from there!

Austin : [To Geneva] Must you antagonise this young lady? Don't you think she's been through enough today without you trying to pilfer her belongings and Tamsin threatening to stab her in the belly, just after being beaten up? [Sighs, turns back to Cici] Sorry about that. Do you want to get out of here? We can help you if you like, we could certainly use your help, you're the only one in this place that admits it's all very odd, appart from the crazy old cat throwing lady, of course, but she wasn't much for conversation. [Muses] Why is it that, even though Miss Grace is really nice, all of the towns people seem to resent her? [GENEVA steps back from the mattress, glaring at AUSTIN.]

Cici : No, leave me alone. If you want to do business, fine, but it's going to cost extra for the others to watch.

Alice : Resent her? Who resents her? I thought she was really popular. Maybe it's you who resents her, Austin?

Austin : [To Alice] No, that's ridiculous, Alice. We have encountered several towns persons who seemed to be unpleasant to Grace, perhaps you didn't notice. [To Cici] Well, we shall leave you to get on with buisness then. [Austin gets up and walks to the door]

Alice : [Regarding Cici doubtfully] I guess we're just going to have to leave her here, then. [Turns to Austin] No, I didn't notice, except for that cranky waitress. Who else?

Tamsin: [To Alice] How about that prick Stevie took a chunk out of, not five minutes ago? [Gives Stephen a hearty pat on the back with a big smile] By the way, thanks for jumping in there with me. I won't forget it.

Alice : [Sigh] Okay, that's two people, but everyone else seemed to really like her.

Stephen : Not a prob, Tam. At least [glares at Chastity] some of us try to help each other. [Holds his nose] Now can we please leave here?

Tamsin: [Sighs and answers Stephen, looking at Cici reluctantly] Yeah, I guess we'd better. [Everyone leaves the room, with CHERYL giving a glance back to the box, but not saying anything. It is raining lightly outside, but the party are all absolutely soaked.]

Alice : There's no sign of Grace. And what happened to that other guy?

Tamsin: [Surveying the scene] I don't know about the other fellow, but don't you think Grace probably headed back to her place?

Chastity : Yes, and that's probably where we should go too, we could catch our death of cold in these clothes, and all of our equipment is back there. [As the party make their way back to the Marlow's]

Austin : [To Alice] Cici also called Grace a 'fucking junkie', which she did retract, admitedly, but it was still very unplesant. [Ponders] And it did look very much like they recognised eachother, which would explain poor Grace's extreem reaction. That's three of the towns people who have been rude to Grace, and for her sake we should endeavour to find out why [Emphaisis] some [Normal] of the proles speak to her in such an innapropriate way. [Muses] We should visit the factory perhaps. They at least should be most gratefull to Grace as she sorted out their books so well. [Looks slighty perplex at the whole situation] This place is very odd.

Stephen : Perhaps her house is a trap, and the reason they wanted us to stay the night was to kill us in our sleep! I mean, when you think about it, Grace did turn up at just the perfect moment, when Bravis wouldn't let us into the town. And where else did Bravis work? Only at Graces house, that's where!

Tamsin: [Chuckles at Stephen's theory] I doubt they'd need to go to those lengths to trap us, what with the power they seem to have in this city. But I gotta admit, Grace does seem a little too good to be true, doesn't she? I hate to say that because she's such an all-around great gal, but--doesn't seem natural. Does it [looks at the party quizzically]?

Austin : [To Tamsin] Everyone has some secrets, but i don't think Grace is the one to be particularily suspicious of, it's the whole town that is generally odd. [Muses] What are those black buildings about, for example? The mad cat woman that only we can see, the first rate slums with oddly filthy proles occupying them, that just doesn't fit.

Austin : [Goes over to Cici and crouches down extreemly carefully avoiding all filth. To Cici, softy] You know Grace don't you, but you called her a junkie, why?

Cici : [Shakes her head several times] I thought I did, but I don't. No, no I don't. [Looks back to where Geneva is standing by the box that's tucked under the mattress and shouts] Get away from there!

Austin : [To Geneva] Must you antagonise this young lady? Don't you think she's been through enough today without you trying to pilfer her belongings and Tamsin threatening to stab her in the belly, just after being beaten up? [Sighs, turns back to Cici] Sorry about that. Do you want to get out of here? We can help you if you like, we could certainly use your help, you're the only one in this place that admits it's all very odd, appart from the crazy old cat throwing lady, of course, but she wasn't much for conversation. [Muses] Why is it that, even though Miss Grace is really nice, all of the towns people seem to resent her? [GENEVA steps back from the mattress, glaring at AUSTIN.]

Cici : No, leave me alone. If you want to do business, fine, but it's going to cost extra for the others to watch.

Alice : Resent her? Who resents her? I thought she was really popular. Maybe it's you who resents her, Austin?

Austin : [To Alice] No, that's ridiculous, Alice. We have encountered several towns persons who seemed to be unpleasant to Grace, perhaps you didn't notice. [To Cici] Well, we shall leave you to get on with buisness then. [Austin gets up and walks to the door]

Alice : [Regarding Cici doubtfully] I guess we're just going to have to leave her here, then. [Turns to Austin] No, I didn't notice, except for that cranky waitress. Who else?

Tamsin: [To Alice] How about that prick Stevie took a chunk out of, not five minutes ago? [Gives Stephen a hearty pat on the back with a big smile] By the way, thanks for jumping in there with me. I won't forget it.

Alice : [Sigh] Okay, that's two people, but everyone else seemed to really like her.

Stephen : Not a prob, Tam. At least [glares at Chastity] some of us try to help each other. [Holds his nose] Now can we please leave here?

Tamsin: [Sighs and answers Stephen, looking at Cici reluctantly] Yeah, I guess we'd better. [Everyone leaves the room, with CHERYL giving a glance back to the box, but not saying anything. It is raining lightly outside, but the party are all absolutely soaked.]

Alice : There's no sign of Grace. And what happened to that other guy?

Tamsin: [Surveying the scene] I don't know about the other fellow, but don't you think Grace probably headed back to her place?

Chastity : Yes, and that's probably where we should go too, we could catch our death of cold in these clothes, and all of our equipment is back there. [As the party make their way back to the Marlow's]

Austin : [To Alice] Cici also called Grace a 'fucking junkie', which she did retract, admitedly, but it was still very unplesant. [Ponders] And it did look very much like they recognised eachother, which would explain poor Grace's extreem reaction. That's three of the towns people who have been rude to Grace, and for her sake we should endeavour to find out why [Emphaisis] some [Normal] of the proles speak to her in such an innapropriate way. [Muses] We should visit the factory perhaps. They at least should be most gratefull to Grace as she sorted out their books so well. [Looks slighty perplex at the whole situation] This place is very odd.

Stephen : Perhaps her house is a trap, and the reason they wanted us to stay the night was to kill us in our sleep! I mean, when you think about it, Grace did turn up at just the perfect moment, when Bravis wouldn't let us into the town. And where else did Bravis work? Only at Graces house, that's where!

Tamsin: [Chuckles at Stephen's theory] I doubt they'd need to go to those lengths to trap us, what with the power they seem to have in this city. But I gotta admit, Grace does seem a little too good to be true, doesn't she? I hate to say that because she's such an all-around great gal, but--doesn't seem natural. Does it [looks at the party quizzically]?

Austin : [To Tamsin] Everyone has some secrets, but i don't think Grace is the one to be particularily suspicious of, it's the whole town that is generally odd. [Muses] What are those black buildings about, for example? The mad cat woman that only we can see, the first rate slums with oddly filthy proles occupying them, that just doesn't fit.

Tamsin: Not to mention the strange rainstorm and Grace's reaction to this [lifts injured-but-stylishly-gloved hand]. Yeah, there's plenty of weirdness to go around here, you're right about that. [Ponders the weirdness for a moment then laughs and says sheepishly] You know, we haven't exactly been shaking the trees to find the Heart since we got here. Maybe we're getting a little off-track? Unless the Heart is what's making everything loopy here?

Chastity : I have no idea, Mr. Giles. You all have the same information as I do, which is that the Heart lay south of where we met Sven. Perhaps we could ask Grace or her father? [The party are nearly back to the MARLOW house.]

Alice : [Stepping ahead of the party and turning and pointing at the angrily] Oh, I see what's going on here! [Incredulous smile] You're jealous!

Geneva: [Incredulously.] Iam jealous?!? On the contrary, Princess, i think it is you who is jealous!

Alice : [Gives a snort of derision] Me? You're the ones who are all suddenly down on her! Why don't you just leave her alone? [Dismissively to Monty] Sure you don't.

Geneva: [In a desperate, high pitched voice.] I defended her.. against

Alice : [Folds her arms with a satisified look] Yeah? And who's going to protect her against [clearly meaning the rest of the party] you? [The party reach MARLOW's house.]

Chastity : Oh, do stop, the two of you! You'll only annoy Grace with your witless chattering. Save it until the morning.

Austin : [To Alice] What the hell are you talking about? You're just jealous! You, Monty and Geneva have be groveling at her feet like braindead lap dogs all day! [Snort in derision] You're disgraceful, [Scoldingly] most embarrasing and I'd very much appreciate it if you all stoped it right now!

Stephen : [Does a handbags at twenty paces move on Austin] Oo-ooh! I read your article Grace, I use the same women's moisturising creams as you! Good God, I'm just surprised you haven't started dressing like her. [The front door opens, and GEOFFREY stands there, not looking happy.]

Geoffrey : Please! Keep the noise down! Grace is trying to rest!

Alice : [Bitchily to the others] I told you not to make so much noise.

Geneva: Alice! Alice! Just shut up! It's not your fault you're not as good as Grace!

Alice : Geneva, Geneva, just shut up. It's not your fault that your not as good as anyone else.

Geoffrey : [Glaring menacingly at Stephen] Grace returned very upset. Now, while she said it had nothing to do with your group, [narrows his eyes at Stephen] I have my doubts.

Austin : [To Geoffrey, Sighing] We're all very sorry that that man and girl were so horrible to Grace. Grace was showing us around town, and, well we bumped into some very nasty people. I hope Grace is alright.

Geoffrey : [Nods to Austin] She's fine. [Steps back to let the party in] What nasty people did you meet?

Alice : [Counting on her fingers] Well, there's Austin, Geneva, Stephen...

Chastity : [Slaps Alice on the arm] Oh, hush up child!

Austin : [To Geoffrey, with an exhausted and woeful sigh of fatigue] Well, there was, err, well I can't remeber his name exactly, I think it was 'Brief Pilchards', and then there was a girl called Cici, in a very squalid room in a rather plesant block of flats, and the waitress in the coffeshop was none to pleasant eariler on. [Muses] Altogether three very odd people.

Geoffrey : Cici? Ah, that poor girl. The man was probably Richard Skeith, an entirely unpleasant individual. I will pay him a visit in the morning, and sort him out once and for all. In the meantime, there are bedrooms prepared for you upstairs, please make yourselves comfortable, and I'll see you all in the morning. [Exit ALL, upstairs.] [Book IV, Act VI, Scene V. The Marlow's Dining Room. AUSTIN, TAMSIN, MONTY and GENEVA are here, sitting at the table, glaring at each other. The table and sideboards are absolutely full of fantastic looking food, all of which was clearly baked the previous night. Each of them has a nicely wrapped parcel in front of them.]

Monty : [Disapprovingly to the others, with his hands laying on top of his present] I do hope there will not be a repeat of that unpleasantness last night. I will thank you not to harass Miss Grace.

Geneva : [Glares across the table] And what cheap trinketry have you got there to harass her with?

Tamsin: [Smugly gesturing to the parcels in front of the others] What, are you people trying to bribe Grace? Getting a little desperate, there, aren't you?

Monty : [Eyeing the parcel in front of Tamsin] Trying to project your own desperation onto us? I have merely brought a token of my affection for Grace. In fact, I suspect we may take a walk alone together today. Perhaps the rest of you could use that time to see if you can find out more about the Heart. [The door leading from the kitchen to the dining room opens, and CHASTITY pops her head in.]

Chastity : [Covered in flour and with smears of chocolate on her face, looking like she got no sleep last night] Coo-eee! Grace! [Face drops when she sees the party] Where's Grace? I've just finished my signature dish and I want her to be the first to taste it.

Tamsin: [To Chastity, annoyed] You, too?! [To the party, dismissively] Look, Grace probably doesn't want to come out here and have to pretend not to be frightened by your sad little attempts to get her attention. Why don't you people give her a break and go explore the town for a while? Grace and I will catch up with you later.

Chastity : I think, Tamsin, that she will be too busy sampling my delightful cookery.

Monty : I believe that she will be taking a walk with me.

Geneva : Uh-uh, I've got some knife throwing practice planned! [Everyone degenerates into an argument, which stops abruptly as GRACE enter, and gives everyone a big smile. She is dressed similar to last night, but is now wearing a brooch about three inches across, with six points coming out of it.]

Grace : [A bit sheepish] Hi, everyone. I'm sorry about last night.

Tamsin: [To Grace, apologetically] They're the ones who should apologize [gestures at the party] for greeting you with this nonsense after you had such a trying night! Feeling better, I hope?

Grace : Oh, much better, thank you, Tam. [Looks around, with a big smile] Presents?

Austin : [To Grace] Yes, we were all so sorry that we thought we would get you some small presents. [Get's up swiftly before the others can react, walks over to Grace and offers her his present] This one is from me [Stands so that he is obsucring the others from Grace's view] I hope you're feeling better now. [Casually] That's a rather beautiful brooch you are wearing. [Smiles as he waits for Grace to open the present] [The others immediately stretch to try and see what's happening, with the result that GENEVA's and MONTY's heads appear on his left, and CHASTITY's and TAMSIN's on the right.]

Grace : Oh, Austin! Thank you so much. [Kisses him on the cheek] This is the second present I've got today! [Displays the brooch to him] [Just as GRACE starts to open the present the door opens, and enter ALICE. She has cut and coloured her hair so that it is exactly the same as GRACE's, and has clearly borrowed some of GRACE's clothes, so the two now look uncannily alike.]

Alice : [Grinning from ear to ear] Ta-da!

Austin : [Looking shocked and furious at the same time. Trying to stay calm.] Oh, my god! [Composes himself a little more. To Grace] I'm so dreadfully sorry, but you seemed to have made quite an impression on certain members of the party, and [Blushes] Well, I'm more than a little embarresed by their behaviour. [Looks at Alice again. To Grace] I hope you take Alice's poor attempt to copy you,as a complement.

Monty : [Glaring at her] Ahem. It is all a bit single white female, Alice.

Alice : Nonsense! Isn't it, Grace? [ALICE stands beside GRACE showing that they almost look sisters.

Grace : I think you look lovely, Alice. Look, Austin got me a present, I was just about to open it.

Alice : Face drops as she looks around at the others, all of whom have gifts] Presents? I didn't know there were going to be presents! [Angrily to the party] Why didn't anyone tell me there were presents?

Chastity : [Muttering under her breath] Probably because we were afraid you might copy them.

Tamsin: [Squeezes in closer to Grace and advises] I wouldn't waste my time opening Austin's gift, if I were you. It's probably just sketches of his damn forearm. Here's something you'll actually like [hands Grace her gift].

Grace : [Takes Tamsin's gift] Oh, thanks Tam! Now, if I could just open Austin's. [As GRACE struggles with the two, ALICE takes TAMSIN's one from her and holds it, seething.]

Grace : Thanks Al! [Opens Austin's to reveal it is a beautiful platinum anklet, with several diamonds hanging off it] Oh, Austin! It's beautiful! [Gives him a hug and a kiss on the cheek] [Bang. ALICE drops TAMSIN's present.]

Alice : [With a smirk] Oops.

Tamsin: [Glares at Alice and angrily grabs the dropped gift, saying to Grace] Not to worry. It isn't as fragile. [Hisses to Alice] Unlike your mental state, you damn freakshow.

Austin : [Sneers at Monty] Could you grovel any lower? [To Grace] I'm very sorry about this, but their atrocious behaviour has just gone too far! [To Tamsin and Alice] You two stop fighting now, you're guests in this house so please behave as such. [To Grace, carfully holding a chair back] Perhaps you would like to sit down whilst you open your presents?

Chastity : [To Monty] Oh, what foolish tosh you do speak mister Giles, honestly! Notes and apocrypha indeed! I'm sure Grace would much prefer nibbling on my wondrous dumplings to reading your scribbles in the margins! [Brandishes a huge plate of dumplings to Grace] They're something I just knocked together with a little help from Cranny. On Mon, 20 Dec 2004, Colin Dinan wrote:

Grace : [Clearly a little overwhelmed at all the attention] Er, yes, Austin, that would be very nice. [Takes Monty's gift, narrowly avoiding being decapitated by Chastity's silver tray] Thanks Mister Giles, I can't wait to read this, and Tamsin, how thoughtful of you to get something unbreakable.

Geneva : [Trying to elbow her way in] I got you something too Grace, and I think you're [emphasis] actually going to like mine!

Alice : [Angrily] Hey! Can't you all just back off and give her some space?

Tamsin: [Tries again to hand Grace her gift, rolling her eyes at Monty as she does] I got you a book, too, Grace! Mine's not boring, though. It's a rare first edition of "There Was a Fair Maiden of Exxxeter: The Complete Works of Alan Smithee" [smiles proudly].

Austin : [Sits down in the chair that Monty pulled out for Grace. To Geoffrey] Oh, well we all got Grace a little present to make up for yesterday. [To Monty, aside] Thank you. [To Geoffrey] How are you this morning?

Geoffrey : Not too well, Mister Sleaze, it seems there was a robbery last night.

Alice : [Makes a big fuss of looking at the anklet Austin gave Tamsin] A-ahem. Ahem.

Geoffrey : [Turns to look at Alice] Is there something - yikes!

Grace : Doesn't she look great? And look at all this wonderful food that Chastity made, this beautiful piece of jewelry from Austin and these lovely books from Monty and Tamsin.

Genvea : [Thrusting her present into Grace's hand] And mine, don't forget mine, it's the best of all of them. [Stands on one of the books as she hands it over]

Tamsin: [Noticing Alice draw attention to the anklet] Say, Austin, that's an awfully nice piece of jewelry you picked up [emphasis] in the dead of night! Where'd you get it, anyway? [Raises her eyebrows and looks at Austin suspiciously]

Grace : [Carefully puts Monty's present on the floor beside her before taking Tamsin's] Oh, you all do tease each other so much! [Opens the book, before laughing out loud] Excellent! Excellent, Tam! [Takes her hand and squeezes it warmly] [Enter GEOFFREY, who stops in surprise when he sees everyone gathered around GRACE.]

Geoffrey : I say! What's going on here?

Alice : Ye-es. It must have been [huge emphasis] awfully difficult to find a jewellers shop open, Austin.

Grace : [Opening her present, clearly touched at all this] This is all so wonderful, first the present from you this morning, Daddy, and now all of this!

Geoffrey : From me? I didn't give you anything.

Grace : [Puzzled, as she touches the brooch] Where did this come from, then?

Geneva : [Practically growels at Monty] She's not finished opening my present yet!

Grace : [Pauses unwrapping Geneva's present, looking uneasy] It appeared on my bed, in a silver case. [Looks around] Maybe Stephen put it there? Where is he?

Geoffrey : He had better not sneaked into my daughters room! [Exit MONTY.]

Grace : Oh, Daddy, I don't think it could be Stephen, he wouldn't do anything dishonest, [looks at the party] would he? [A short, awkward silence passes, as MONTY can be heard coming back down the stairs.]

Geoffrey : [Shaking his head in disbelief] Incredible. There was a break-in in the jeweller's shop last night too!

Alice : [Looks at Austin] Oh, really?

Tamsin: [Needling Austin quite smugly] Any theories, Austin? I mean, you DID get that anklet from the local jeweler, I assume? See any suspicious characters while you were there?

Geneva: Hah! It's just what you'd expect from a lawyer!

Tamsin: [Nods in agreement and says to Geneva] Though, you think he'd be a little better at getting away with ripping people off! [Grows serious when Monty's words sink in and says to the party with some alarm] How the hell did we lose Stevie?!

Geoffrey : I think we had all better go to the Jewellers, don't you, Mister Sleaze?

Austin : [Smugly] That sounds like an excellent idea, Captain. I'm sure I can help you capture whatever brigand is responsible for this atrocity. [Looks over the party meaningfully] [Enter BRAVIS, a bit breathless.]

Bravis : Captain! Sorry for disturbing you, but I think the thief is still at the Jewellers! He was trapped by their anti-theft device and [points at the window] who's that guy? [Everyone turns to see that LOUIS KESHER is standing outside the window, with his right hand flat against it, and the same expressionless look on his face. He pushes hard against the window, with the result that the entire house shakes from side to side like there's an earthquake, sending everyone crashing to the ground, and all sorts of ornaments and cakes flying from their places.]

Chastity : Noooooooo! My extra double chocolate fudge chocolate fudge cake!

Geneva: Oh Boo to your extra double chocolate fudge chocolate fudge cake!

Austin : [In amazment] How on earth is he moving the house? [Grabs a chair to hold on to]

Austin : [Looking over to Lewis] He doesn't seem to realise what he is doing! [Looks worriedly at Grace] Why do you have such a preoccupation with stabbing people in the belly? The throat and heart are much more efficient targets! Last from Cheryl #033

Geneva:

Geneva: [Holding onto a three legged chair] I'm gonna stick a dagger in the belly of whoever's responsible for this! [To herself] I hope it's not Grace! fried mars bar

Tamsin: [To Austin] She's speaking figuratively and in the grand tradition of her people, the pirates! Have you no respect for other cultures?! [The shaking stops, and, although a lot of items have been displaced, there doesn't appear to be any structural damage. However, GRACE looks particularly shaken.]

Alice : Grace! Are you okay? [Rushes to Grace's side, sticking her tongue out at the others as she does] There there, I'll look after you.

Bravis : [Shocked] What the heck was that? [GEOFFREY and BRAVIS rush out, as LOUIS steps to the side, out of view of the window.]

Austin : [Goes over to help Grace too. To GRace] Are you alright? This is all most odd, [Comforts Grace, clasping her hand] I wonder it it was Lewis that left the brooch you are wearing?

Grace : [Very unsteady] I don't know. I just woke up and found the silver box on my bed. [Tries to get up, but sits back down heavily, looking very, very tired] I don't feel so well. I think I need to get some sleep.

Alice : [Tartly to the others] And if you could all stop making so much noise, maybe she could get some?

Tamsin: [To Alice, irritated] We didn't cause the damn earthquake, you know!

Austin : [Nodding in aggreement with Tamsin. To Alice] Yes, Alice, stop making up stories about us that aren't true, you're making Grace unwell! [To Grace] I'll help you to your room.

Alice : There there, Grace, we'll get the awful woman to leave and then we can have some peace and quiet.

Grace : Actually, Al, I think I might just go up to bed

Alice : [Glares at Tamsin] Now look at what you've done!

Tamsin: [To Grace, embarrassed] I'm sorry these two keep harrassing you [gestures to Austin and Alice]. Let me put you to bed. I'll read some poetry to you as you drift off!

Grace : [Barely conscious] No thanks, Tam, I'll be fine.

Geoffrey : [Looks around the room, taking in all the cakes and presents] What is wrong with you people? [Exit GEOFFREY, carrying GRACE.]

Alice : [To the others] Now look what you've done! [Enter GEOFFREY, just as GRACE swoons back onto her chair. With a surprising show of dexterity, he catches her.]

Geoffrey : Grace! [Picks her up] What is going on here?

Tamsin: [Glares at Alice and says to the party] I say we go look for Stevie. Who's with me?

Chastity : That's a good idea, Tamsin.

Geneva : I think we should check on Cici, and stab her in the belly unless she talks. She knows something about this - look at the way Grace reacted to her, and didn't Grace say the mysterious brooch appeared in a silver box? Cici had one hidden under her bed.

Tamsin: [To Geneva, a little angrily] We're not gonna threaten Cici, Red. But I agree we should check her out. [Looks at the party] Agreed?

Austin : Agreed. But there will be no stabbing in the belly, or any other body part, for that matter. [The party slip out, and quickly head back to CICI's house, finding themselves outside the door, which is ajar.]

Alice : What do we do? Kick it in and start threatening to stab people in the belly? Laset from Neutronium Dragon #06.05.047

Austin : [To Monty] Hold on, we are here now so we may as well chack on Cici first. [Knocks on the door, deliberatley hard enough to push the door wide open] Hello, Miss Cici? [The door swings in easily, revealing that CICI is sitting on the mattress, and quickly hides something underneath it when the door opens. She looks a bit better than the previous night, but not much.]

Cici : What do you want?

Tamsin: [To Cici] Look, we need to know about the box you've got stashed under your mattress. We don't want to hassle you, but it might be important.

Cici : [Looks away as she answers] What box?

Geneva : [With a snort of derision] The box that's open on the bed beside you! [This is true, the box the party saw last night is beside her on the mattress, open and empty.]

Cici : [Nervously] Who are you people?

Geneva: No one of consequence. [Taps her dagger threateningly] So... What was in the box?

Tamsin: [To Geneva, in an angry whisper] Red, put the damn dagger away!

Geneva: [Reluctantly sheathes her dagger.] We'll chat about this later, Stretch!

Austin : [To Cici] Well, we're not going until you show us, so you might as well do so whislt Red here has her dagger in it's sheath [Juts a thumb towards Red]

Cici : [Looks towards the door for a moment as though considering the possibility of escape, before giving a sigh] Okay, but when I do, you have to get the heck out of here. [Pulls something out from beneath her thighs, and shows it to the party. It is the exact same brooch that Grace had]

Alice : Hey! She must have stolen it off Grace!

Geneva: [To Austin.] Thank you!

Austin : [Curteously to Geneva] That's quite alright, anytime. [To Cici, frowning] What does that brooch do? Grace has one just like it.

Cici : [Glaring at Austin] I don't know, but [looks down and continues quietly] I know I'm not supposed to have it, so I suppose you're going to take it away.

Chastity : Hm. Where did you get it, dear?

Cici : I don't know, honestly! Someone put it under the mattress last night.

Geneva: [Suspiciously] And who do you suppose could have done that?

Cici : [Indignantly] I don't know! Look, just take it and get out. [Adds in a small voice] And please don't tell Richard about it>

Alice : Richard? About [holds her hand up] this high? Unpleasant demeanour, tendency to punch women and looks like a bit like the picture Grorian Day?

Cici : [Nods] That's him.

Geneva: [Darkly, tapping her dagger hilt, but not removing it from her belt.] He's got a hankering for a dagger in the belly if I ever saw one!

Alice : [To the party] Too right! Let's get her out of here, even if we have to drag her, it's for her own safety. To leave her here would wrong, so very, very wrong. [Brightly] Then maybe she'll give me her brooch, so both Grace and I will have one!

Geneva: [Mischeviously] Perhaps it will make you knock you out aswell the way it did Grace!

Alice : I think had less to do with her lovely brooch than the embarassing way you all behaved. [Snorts with derision] Presents? Come on, what are you trying to do? Bribe the poor girl into liking you?

Geneva: [Indignantly.] Bribe? Me? I don't need to bribe people. If you weren't so good at maths, I'd stab you in the belly!

Tamsin: [To Alice] Our gift-giving was a lot saner than your stalker-like obsession!

Alice : Hey! There's nothing wrong with having nice hair and wearing nice clothes. You should try it some time.

Austin : [ Takes the Brooch from Cici and offers her a gp] It's not much, but then again I think this brooch is probably cursed. [Shrugs. To Alice] Grace obviously likes me and has, [Pauses] feeling for me, and it's really anoying that the rest of you are trying to spoil it for us, [Shakes his head in disgust] You're all really mean.

Cici : [Grabs the GP from Austin and lets him take the brooch] Don't tell Richard, okay?

Alice : Spoil it? Rescue Grace, you mean!

Chastity : [Claps her hands together sharply] Children, please! You're all behaving like, well, like you normally do, so please stop. I'll have a word with Grace when we get back and explain that you're all just a little jealous of our relationship, and that's why you're all so over the top. Now, the question is, [looks to Cici] what do we do with her?

Austin : [Angrily yo Chastity] I might have known you'd want to ruin my relationship with Grace, you si [ Goes to say something but stops and turns away. To Cici] If you come with us we can protect you, we wont tell Richards. [Starts to examine the Brooch casually]

Cici : [Suspiciously] Why would you want to do that? [The brooch is surprisingly heavy, and appears to be made of some very hard material.]

Alice : I think we all know who'd look best wearing that brooch.

Austin : [Puts the brooch on and shoves it under his shirt. To Alice] I don't care if you think you should wear it. [Builds up some steam] I can hardly believe the way you behaved, making yourself look just like Grace. You're sick Alice. Sick. Like some freaky stalker, obsessed, trying to be her. Well I'm certainly not going to induldge your twisted obsession. [Strides over to near the doorway. To Cici] Are you comming with us or not?

Tamsin: [Glares at Austin and offers Cici a hand] Come on. We'll look out for you.

Alice : That's right, don't mind him, he's an idiot. Even we don't like going with him.

Cici : [Slowly and hesitantly reaches up and takes Tamsin's hand] Why are you doing this?

Austin : [To Cici] Because we're the good guys and we are going to sort this weirdness out. Let's go and find Stephen. He's probably dressed up like Grace too! [Sighs. Strides out of the door]

Cici : [Allowing herself to be lead out onto the landing as everyone exits] What do you want in return?

Tamsin: [To Cici, soothingly] We're not after anything, I promise. [Looks to the others and prompts] Right? [There's a general murmer of consent.]

Monty : Yes, that is correct. Helping you is it's own reward.

Cici : [Not believing a word of this] Yeah, sure.

Alice : Well, where do we think Stephen is? Trapped in the jewellers?

Austin : [To Cici] You don't have to do anything, but you could help us solve the cause of the strange happenings in this town, if you like. [Ponders] Perhaps you could answer some of our questions, if you are able?

Tamsin: [To Alice] Might as well start there, I suppose, if no one has a better idea. [The party continue towards the jewellers, and, despite it being early morning, the sky is getting quite dark, as though dusk is coming up very quickly.]

Cici : I'll try, but, what strange happenings?

Chastity : Well, your reaction to Grace, for one.

Cici : I don't know what that was, for a moment I just knew there was something very wrong with her - and maybe me, I think. We connected on some level, and I know she felt it too, but I don't know what it was. [The party near the jewellers, which has a small group of people outside it.]

Cici : Oh, everyone wants to be Grace's friend. [Not sounding too jealous, more resigned] That's the way it's always been, she's the golden girl of Euneirophrenia. [Looks at Monty] What's so curious about having the main industry of the town be a Teddy bear, novelty item and greeting card factory?

Alice : Now that you say it like that, it is pretty curious, isn't it? There can hardly be a huge demand for that stuff given that there's been a war going on for two years, can there?

Cici : War?

Austin : [To Cici] The war between the north and the south? [Looks at Cici]

Cici : North and south? [Shakes her head] That's the first I heard of it. [The party approach the jewellers, and can see that STEPHEN is trapped in a small cell between the main door and an interior one, which is obviously some kind of anti-theft device. There is a man here, FITZ, dressed in a similar uniform to the one BRAVIS had, and he is being remonstrated with by a man who appears to be the owner of the shop, FRANKY FENSTER. FITZ is clearly trying to defuse the situation, while FRANKY is pretty annoyed.]

Fitz : I'm sorry, Mister Fenster, it's just that we've never had a break in before, I'm not entirely sure what to do. [Gives a smile] Maybe it's best that we wait for the Captain to come.

Franky : Wait? Wait? Why do you want that I should wait? Do you want to see my customers turn away because there's a criminal blocking the door? Do you want me to lose sales? Do you want me to make no money to bring home to my wife? Why do you want my children to starve, Fitz? Why? Look, he doesn't have anything, I don't even want to press charges, just let him go.

Stephen : Yeah, let him go! [Suddenly spotting the party] Hey!

Cici : [Stopping to watch the commotion] I'm not stupid, you know. I'm pretty sure that I'd have heard about it if there was a war on. [There are a number of people in the crowd that the party recognise, including AILEEN, IAN, ROSEMARY, MADCHEN and TOBEY.]

Stephen : [Calling to the party] Come on! You've got to get me out of here! I can't do time in the big house, I'm too beautiful!

Alice : [Makes to say something, but stops for a moment, before giving a shiver] Well, that's fine image to give us!

Stephen : [Points out through the bars at Austin] You!

Austin : [Calmly flicking a spec of unseen dust off his jacket] You. Speaking as a lawyer, I advise you to remain silent lest those who are in the best position to facilitate your removal from this incarceration be less inclined to help you.

Fitz : [Turns to Monty with a smile, and shakes his hand] You won't believe it, sir, there was a robbery!

Franky : Oy! An attempted robbery, let him go already!

Austin : [To All] If I were acting as a lawyer on behalf of Mr. Hitchberg i would point out that does note appear to have stolen anything. [To Fits and Franky] Is this the case? If so I suggest that Mr. Hitchberg be released, or at least moved to a different venue so that Mr Fenster may continue with his buisness. [Checks his nails] I'm sure that Mr. Hitchberg has a perftectly innocent reason for being in this situation, and will pay for any damages.

Franky : Ah! An intelligent suggestion at last! I thank you my friend, my family won't starve tonight!

Fitz : Okay, I suppose I could take him to the guard house. [Opens the gate and takes Stephen out, holding him gently and firmly by the arm]

Stephen : [Glaring at Austin] Thank you, counsel.

Austin : [To Stephen] No trouble at all Mr. Hitchberg. But, I have not yet been officially appointed as your counsel.

Fitz : [Still holding onto Stephen] I think you'd better get him on your case, son, we've never seen anything like this before. The people will be particularly angry. [Suddenly, RICHARD SKEITH appears from the crowd, his face contorted with rage, and slaps CICI hard across the face, almost making her lose her balance.]

Richard : What kind of horse puckey is this? What are you doing with these people?

Tamsin: [Pulls out her sword and takes a swing at Richard] [TAMSIN swings and cuts RICHARD on the right side, as ALICE punches him hard on the jaw.]

Richard : Ow! What's wrong with you?

Chastity : What's wrong with you? How dare you behave like that!

Fitz : [Sighs unhappily, and lets go of Stephen, before stepping, hold a hand up to the party] Alright, alright! That's enough.

Tamsin: [Angrily, to Chastity] What's wrong with us?! Didn't you see this asshole slap Cici?!

Chastity : [With a face like thunder] I was talking to him, you idiot! [RICHARD tries to take a swing at TAMSIN, but is prevented from doing so by FITZ.]

Fitz : [Easily holding him, as he is much bigger, but still fairly genial] Ah, ah, now Richard, that's enough. What you do in your own home is your business, but not out here.

Richard : [Pointing angrily at Tamsin] I'm going to kill you!

Alice : Do you want her to put down all her weapons and get thrashed on cheese whip first?

Austin : [To Richard] Well, I think we have plenty of people that have just witnessed your assault of Cici and threat upon Tamsin [Makes some notes] You'll get at least two years for that.

Tamsin: [To Fitz, glaring at Richard murderously] Let him go! I can handle him!

Fitz : I'm sure you can, but that's not how we do things here, I'm afraid. [RICHARD struggles some more, but FITZ has him in a firm grip. However, he looks at STEPHEN with some concern.]

Fitz : Oh, where on earth is the Captain? Franky, can I put [nods at Stephen] him back into the cell while I get rid of this? [Tightens his grip on Richard]

Franky : [With the shop open and already full of customers] A thousand times no!

Tamsin: [Nods in enthusiastic support of this plan] Yeah, Stevie's one of the good guys. In fact, he tried yesterday to teach this prick [makes an obscene gesture toward Richard] a lesson! [RICHARD makes another lunge at TAMSIN, but is dragged off by FITZ.]

Cici : [With a very confused look] Why did you do that?

Fitz : [Not entirely happy] Well, I'm not so sure about that.

Ian : [Who was in the crowd] It's okay, Fitz, they're friends of the Captain's, they're staying in his house.

Fitz : [To the party] Okay, I'll release him into your custody.

Alice : Cool! Does that mean he's our prisoner? Can we torture him?

Stephen : Just keeping talking, that's torture enough for anyone. [Looks her up and down] Amazing, that something that works so well on one girl, doesn't work at all on someone else.

Cici : [Still confused] But what do you want from me? [Takes out the GP she got off Austin and holds it out to Tamsin, not looking her in the eye] There. Thanks.

Stephen : It wasn't my attempt to infiltrate, Monty, rather the backstabber who trapped me in there, don't you think, Austin?

Austin : Certainly not! I happened to be out for an evening walk, when I saw what appeared to be a brigand, breaking and entering. It was nothing more than my civil duty to spring the burglar alarm.

Stephen : And you knew the alarm was there how? [AUSTIN says nothing, but gives STEPHEN an enigmatic smile. It gets very dark, very quickly.]

Cici : [To Monty] But I've always been with Richard. This the way things always were, what am I going to do now? [Gets panicky as she looks around and notices the darkness] What's happening?

Tamsin: [To Cici] Monty's right. [Takes the GP with a sigh and says reluctantly] Look, Cici, I know what it's like, to live the way you do. I've been there. So, I'd like to give you a hand, if you'll let me.

Cici : [Face softens momentarily, but is clearly freaked out by the darkness] No! You're not supposed to help me, no one does. That's the way it's supposed to be. [Runs off in the direction of the factory]

Alice : [Raises an eyebrow at Tamsin for a moment, before turning to the others] There's something seriously wrong with that girl. [Enter LOUIS KESHER, who steps in front of the party, with the same expressionless look he wore before.]

Austin : [Approaches Lewis and tries to poke him in the belly with his index finger. To Lewis] And just what are you up to?

Tamsin: [To Louis] Good question. You're always skulking around!

Louis : [Just as Austin is about to poke him] About fucking time. [Everybody collapses unconscious.] [Book IV, Act VI, Scene VI. Outside the gate of Euneirophrenia. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY, STEPHEN and TAMSIN are here, all in a pile just outside the gate. Everyone is slowly waking up, and is feeling quite disoriented. The party are dressed as they were before entering the town, and ALICE's hair is back the way it was before. Enter SARAH MARLOW, who bears more than a passing resemblance to CICI, peering out the gate.]

Sarah : [Looks surprised at the party] Oh. Hey there, I'm Sarah Marlow. [Her eyes roam over the party, before asking a little sheepishly] So... watcha you doing down there?

Geneva: [Springing to her feet, checking that her dagger is safe in her belt.] How's that working out for us? Apart from waking here from unconsciousness fine! [Narrows her eyes.] Now who, or what is an Euneirophrenia?

Alice : [Sits up, immediately checking the length of her hair giving a big sigh of relief] What happened? Where are we?

Sarah : [Getting a little wary] Er, you're piled up outside the gate of Euneirophrenia. [Smiles a bit nervously] How's that working out for you?

Sarah : [Leans back, startled] Er, it's a town. Right here, see? [Juts her thumb behind her] That's why the name is on the wall there. Unconscious, eh? [Gives them a curious look] Do I know you?

Geneva: I don't know! Do you? Did you see us arrive here? Where's uh... [Looks vaguely embarrassed] Grace and the rest of them?

Sarah : Grace? [Shakes her head] I don't any Grace, and I this is the first time I've seen you. [AUSTIN finishes dusting himself off, and leaps dramatically to his feet.]

Austin : Good evening, Miss [raises an eyebrow] Marlow. I fear we aren't entirely sure how we ended up in this position.

Tamsin: [Offers a hand to Sarah a bit warily] I'm Tamsin. What're you up to tonight?

Geneva: And just how did you see us arrive?

Sarah : Actually, a [emphasis] lot odd has been happening, It - do you know what date it is?

Chastity : [Dusting herself up] Why, yes, dear, it's the 19th July, 1280.

Sarah : Hm, now that is odd. I think you better speak to Daddy. [Turns and waves at someone unseen at the other side of the (solid) gate, as she only as the small gate open, before looking at Geneva] I didn't see you arrive, I just found you in a pile a moment ago. [Enter CADY MARLOW, a distinguished looking man with a nice suit, bow tie and hat, holding a cup of tea. He gives SARAH a frustrated look.]

Cady : Sarah! You know you shouldn't have opened the gate. [Looks at the party] Hello. I am Captain Cady Marlow, of the Euneirophrenia guards. [Looks the party up and down]

Sarah : They think it's the 19th!

Cady : [Drinks some of his tea] Ah. You'd better come in.

Sarah : It's the 19th.

Alice : [Puzzled] Yes, I can see how that's odd. [SARAH and CADY step back to let the party through. They can see through gate that, although the town has pretty much the same layout as previously, it is a lot less cleaner and brighter. Immediately opposite is the guard house as before.]

Cady : Well, it's odd when most people in the town thinks it the 16th. [Dramatically sips some tea]

Tamsin: [Groaning] Great. This happens everywhere we go! [To the party, frustrated] Don't you think it's a bad sign that time doesn't stay put around us?!

Cady : [Glares at Monty with a baleful eye, taking another sip of tea] No. [The group head towards the guardhouse, which looks similar to before, although not as well maintained. The stables on the left is virtually identical, while the factory has "Lynch's Weaponry" written on the side.]

Alice : A weapons factory?

Sarah : Yes, during the war, this was one of the most important supply towns. That's why we're kinda surprised to see a bunch of Northerners. You are Northerners, right?

Alice : I think it's a bad sign that the Teddy Bear factory has turned into a weapons factory! Grace was going to take me on a tour of it today.

Chastity : [To Sarah] Yes, dear, we are Northerners, but, of course, we all know the war is over, [a little hopefully] don't we?

Cady : [Opening the door of the guardhouse] Indeed, Sister. You will find that the people of Euneirophrenia are well informed, so you will be okay. [Gestures to a table] Please, be seated.

Stephen : Well, yes, yes we are. But what did you mean when you said that the rest of the town think it's the 16th? Do they think every day is the sixteenth?

Austin : Perhaps you could tell us of any calamitous events which have occured in the previous three days?

ady : No, they usually only think it's the sixteenth on the sixteenth.

Sarah : Well, except for in March, of course.

Cady : Of course. [Looks at Austin] It appears as though the entire town has been asleep for the last few days. Can you tell me how you came to be asleep at our gate? [CADY pulls a candlestick, and an otherwise innocuous looking fireplace swings around, revealing a massive tea bar, with all kinds of tea imaginable on it. The lights go down and some Indian music, which is strangely reminiscint of seventies porn music, starts to play.]

Cady : Tea, anyone?

Chastity : [Wide eyed in astonishment, and giggling coquettishly] Oh Captain Marlow!

Cady : [Leans on the table, laughing good naturedly at Tamsin] Actually, my dear, you'll find that it's tea. [Turns to Stephen with a icy cold glare] And who would do that to you? Why would anyone want you asleep outside our city? [Leans in quite close] Don't you like tea?

Stephen : [Leans away from Cady] Er, I don't know. I don't know. And no. Thank you. I'm more of a coffee person, actually.

Cady : [Narrows his eyes a bit at Stephen and speaks in a menacing tone] I'll be keeping an eye on you. [Turns to Alice with a bright smile] How about you, Miss? What kind of tea would you like?

Alice : [Nervously] Surprise me!

Cady : [Starts pouring out some tea from the bar, chatting away in a nice friendly tone] So you folks have just been sound asleep the whole time since you arrived? Do you remember falling asleep?

Tamsin: [Perking up and checking out the groovy set-up with enthusiasm] Sure, I'll have some tea! [Looks hopeful and asks] Or is it "tea"?

Cady : [Passing out tea to Tamsin, Chastity and Alice] It is completely unique sir. [Serious face] Everybody woke up where ever that were at 8pm on the night of the sixteenth. The town is being searched, but nothing seems to be missing or damaged. [Big friendly smile directed at Austin and Monty] Now, how would you folks like your tea?

Chastity : [Tasting the tea] Oh, Captain Marlow, this is delicious. Please, let me introduce us. I am Sister Chastity Browne, [gestures to the others as she goes around] Tamsin, Geneva, Alice, Stephen, Monty and Austin.

Cady : What do you mean? He's the mayor, and owns the factory.

Cady : [Giving a nod of appreciation at Austin's order, and pours out two cups, one for him, and one for Monty] Ah, I fear I may have given you the wrong impression. We thought it was the sixteenth too.

Alice : When did you first suspect there was something wrong?

Sarah : For me? When I woke up in the middle of main street.

Alice : [Nodding] I hear that!

Tamsin: [Looks at the regular old tea with some disappointment before taking a swig] So, what's the deal with this Lynch guy?

Alice : Only if I've had to sleep in the room beside you Stephen, with all those disgusting noises going on.

Cady : [Glares at Stephen] Yes, caffeine will do that. [Big smile at Geneva] And you, Miss?

Geneva : Er, I rarely wake up in the middle of main street.

Cady : Okay, but would you like some tea?

Geneva : Sure! Whatever [waves at Monty and Austin] they're having.

Stephen : But that's a usual sunday morning for you Alice!

Austin : Perhaps an earl grey, please. [Looks at his reflection in a convenient shiny tea pot] So, I take it everybody but your good selves, awoke thinking it is the sixteenth. Do you have an idea why you and we were immune? Perhaps neither of you are from the town originally? Or perhaps you were away from the town at the time? Buying tea, perhaps?

Geneva : [Glares at Austin, fingering her dagger] I've got a tip here that I think belongs in your belly, lawyer.

Cady : [Gives Geneva the tea] I'm sure there'll be no need for that. So, why are you folks here? You're the first Northerners we've seen for a long time, since before all that nonsense about the war started.

Tamsin: [Sizes Cady up for a moment and then says cautiously] We're just passing through. Anything interesting to see in this area?

Stephen : How many times have I to tell you, I always do a hundred push ups before going to sleep!

Austin : [To Cady] Earl grey should only be drunk by those who appreciate the finer things in life, don't you agree? Perhaps she [waves at Geneva] would be happier with a PG Tips pyramid bag, or somesuch.

Cady : There aren't a whole of touristy things to see here, I'm afraid. Sarah?

Sarah : There's crazy old cat lady. [Looks at the party] She's a lady with a lot of cats. She's old. And crazy.

Cady : [Rolls his eyes] No there's not. Please forgive my daughter. The crazy cat lady is nothing but a silly legend, of interest only to foolish young girls.

Alice : [Leans across the table to Sarah with a serious look] What can you tell us about this old crazy cat lady?

Sarah : [Delighted someone's interested] Well, for a start, she's not an old crazy cat lady, but a crazy old cat lady!

Stephen : Wait, we saw her! She threw a few cats at us! She seemed both old and crazy, as well as crazy and old! But everyone we spoke to told us they knew nothing about her!

Sarah : [Excitedly] You saw her! [Gives Cady an "I told you so" look]

Cady : [Coldly to Stephen] Who did you speak to?

Tamsin: [A little angrily, to Cady] Hey, watch the tone, there. What did Stevie ever do to you? [To Sarah] We saw her, and one of her damn cats even scratched me! Though, that seems to have--healed up? [looks at her now unscratched and un-stylishly gloved hand, perplexed, and shows it to the party].

Stephen : [To Cady] We spoke to the guard at the gate, Bravis. He claimed he didn't see her!

Cady : [Turns to Tamsin] I didn't like his tone, nor do I like yours. If you've got a problem with me, then you fuck off.

[A brief but tense silence descends.]

Sarah : [Looking around at the party] Er, Daddy doesn't really like coffee drinkers. What did she look like? There have been stories about her as long as I can remember, she's supposed to be a powerful witch.

Tamsin: [Glares at Cady and says to Sarah] There wasn't anything special about her, really. Just a regular old crazy cat lady, except she chucked the cats instead of knitting sweaters for them. As far as I know. [To Cady, trying to keep calm] With that, I believe I'll fuck off now. [Gets up to leave and says to the others] I'll wait outside, if you don't mind.

Cady : We don't have any town guards called Bravis. In fact, I don't think there's even anyone in the town called Bravis. You said everyone. Who else do you claim to have spoken to?

Sarah : [Annoyed] Daddy! Please! This isn't an interrogation!

Cady : [Nods at her, before turning to Stephen looking a bit more relaxed] Who else?

Stephen : [To Tamsin] I mind! Now is definitely not the time for us to be separated, especially when we don't know what's going on around here. Don't worry, you get used to being abused right left and centre when you stay around this party for a while.

Sarah : Please don't. [To Cady] Please apologise Daddy, everyone is a bit tense at the moment, and I'm sure it's no different for them.

Cady : [Calmly to Tamsin] I would like you to stay. However, this is my guard house and I do not like being told how to conduct myself.

Sarah : [Emphasis] That's an apology?

Cady : [Looks Tamsin up and down, before looking her in the eye] Sorry.

Stephen : [Quietly to the others] Does anyone else notice a startling similarity between Cady and Bravis? Or is it just me? [Turns around to Cady] We also spoke to the Marlow family. They also knew nothing about this crazy old lady.

Austin : And it's quite possible that this Bravis person pretended to be a gate guard, duping us tourists in the hope of financial reward to a less than savoury manner. Perhaps we was going to offer his services as a guide, then rob us of all our worth.

Cady : The Marlow family? What? [Points to Sarah] That's us!

Sarah : What did this Bravis person look like? Did he have any distinguishing features?

Tamsin: [Accepts Cady's apology with a dismissive shrug and then says to Stephen] No, it's not just you. Also, Sarah's a dead ringer for Cici.

Austin : [Examines his nails closely before turning to Sarah] Hmm, either we were duped by Grace and her father, and the town guard into believing they were something they were not, or, things are even stranger here than they appear. Tell me, are you the only Marlow family here?

Stephen : [To Sarah] Well, Bravis looked very like your father, only younger, and didn't seem obsessed by tea.

Alice : Well, other than his mohawk haircut, wearing of sunglasses even indoors and surly attitude, not really.

Sarah : Cici? Who's that?

Cady : [Pouring some tea from his hip thermos flask] I'm not obsessed, I just really, really, really like it. And yes, we are the only Marlows here.

Chastity : [Sipping her tea] I fear that something very peculiar may have been going on with Grace.

Sarah : Wait a minute, I'm confused. The Marlow family were Bravis, Sarah and Cici?

Stephen : No no no! The Marlows were Grace and her father, Geoffrey. Bravis was the guard in charge of the towns gate, who also worked in the Marlows home. The crazy old cat lady was the old crazy cat lady and Cici was a prostitute we stopped from being beaten by someone else. See, couldn't be clearer!

Tamsin: [To Sarah] No, the Marlows were Geoffrey and Grace. Bravis was the town watchman or something, I think. Cici was--uh, well, let's just say she was not related to the Marlows, that we could tell.

Sarah : A prostitute? [Bursts out laughing]

Cady : [Outraged] A prostitute? And where did you meet these Marlows and prostitutes?

Chastity : Tamsin! Please! Mind your manners!

Cady : [Drinks some tea, before looking at Tamsin] I think you'd better leave.

Stephen : Er. [Carries on] We met Grace outside the town just after ducking the chucked cats, when we were with Bravis, we met Geoffrey at their home and we met Cici in somewhere called Paradise Housing.

Alice : Look, Tam, why don't you just calm down?

Sarah : [A little awkwardly to Stephen] So this Marlow home, where was it? [Tries to avoid looking at Tamsin and Cady]

Tamsin: [To Cady, getting angry again] Right here in this exact damn town. That's what we're telling you, asshole. Try and keep up.

Stephen : [Stares at Sarah and carries on quickly] Well, it was a big old house next to a totally black house. And oh my, isn't this weather delightful! Especially for this time of year.

Cady : And was it in this town? I thought you said you didn't come in.

Tamsin: [Slams down her teacup, purposely sloshing tea all over the place, and leaves the room] Sorry, Stevie, but I'm gonna pop this guy [gestures dismissively at Cady] if I don't get out of here, and that wouldn't do us any favors [glares at Cady and storms out].

Chastity: [Appalled] Young lady, you get back here and clean up this mess! [Looks in dismay at the tea puddles and reluctantly risks permanently staining her tea towels to clean up the mess].

Austin : We said that we woke up outside the gates, and were possibly drugged and dumped there. At no time was it said that we hadn't previously been inside the city. We are of course sorry if you misunderstood, but we are all quite shaken after these recent events. [Sups his tea]

Cady : [Softly to Chastity] That's okay, Sister. I'll get that. [Slips out a teatowel from a previously unnoticed pocket and starts drying the table] I think it would be easiest if you just told me what you know, and exactly what happened to you since you arrived, as I think we've all been under some sort of spell.

Alice : Well, that's pretty easy. Sarah met as at the gate, then you did, then we came here.

[CADY stirs his tea thoughtfully as SARAH lets out a sigh, and rubs her eyes with her hand.]

Cady : [Clearly quite annoyed, but staying very, very calm] Why don't you just tell me everything that happened? This conversation has been like getting blood out of a stone.

Chastity: [To Cady, still a little flustered by the recent unpleasantness] There isn't much more to tell. We arrived here yesterday, or what we thought was yesterday, and the city was the same--but completely different. It was a cleaner, happier place then, I'm afraid. For example, the factory manufactured pleasant things like teddy bears, not weaponry. Even the poor lived comfortably and seemed well cared-for, though we did meet some unfortunates, like poor Cici [glances at Sarah].

Cady : [Gives a relieved sigh] Thank you, Sister. [Goes quiet for a moment, pondering this]

Sarah : This Cici, did she look exactly like me? And where did you say she lived? Paradise Housing? Never heard of it.

Stephen : Well, she looked like you apart from all the bruises and split lip. Can't help you about Paradise Housing. That's what they called it. Where do the poor people live?

Cady : That would be the Langra Sha tenements, they're over on the east side of town.

Alice : Langra Sha? [To the others] That sounds very familiar, for some reason. Did we hear that before?

Chastity: [Nods slowly, thinking back] Wasn't that where Grace said she went to school, Mr. Giles? Well, not the tenement, of course, but rather the university?

Austin : Exactly so, sister. [To Sarah] Is there a university of that name in this vicinity?

Monty : Indeed she did, Sister. Captain Marlow? Are you familiar with that University?

Cady : No, never heard of it.

Alice : What about Sarah?

Cady : Yes, I've heard of her. She's my daughter.

Alice : Er, I meant, has Sarah heard of it?

Sarah : Nope, never heard of it. Sounds like someone was pulling your leg. [Gives Alice a curious look] You know, I'm sure I recognise you lot, but your hair seems different somehow.

Geneva: [Dismissively.] It's probably her root growth. What conditions do your poor live in? Is there a university here at all? What's it's name?

Cady : No, this is a small town. The nearest university is a few hundred miles away.

Sarah : [Brightly] But the tuition fees are very reasonable if you live in a house off campus with all your friends!

Cady : [Glares at Sarah for a moment, before turning back to Geneva] It's very expensive. I think it's safe to say that this Grace person was lying about it.

Geneva: [Looks suspiciously at Cady for a second, then back to Sarah.] Have you seen the campus? What's it called?

Stephen : What I want to know is, what on earth is going on? We've been to this town, but nothing in this town is as we remember it! How could things have changed so drastically while we were asleep?

Chastity: [To Sarah] Did you really think you might have seen Alice before? Can you think where? Are any of the rest of us familiar to you?

Cady : [Rolls his eyes at Geneva] Didn't we just say there's no such university as Langra Sha? She's talking about the nearest university, which if she does attend, is located conveniently near her stern aunt's house.

Sarah : [To Chastity] Not sure if I've seen here, but you all seem slightly familiar, it's just that Alice seems different. I'm not sure where I could have seen you though, I've never been any further north than here.

Chastity: [Gives Alice a good, long look] Hmmm. . . .

Alice : [Looks back at Chastity] What?

Cady : [Tops up his tea yet again, and sips some more thoughtfully] Well, I'm quite sure this is the real town. If what you say is correct, I wonder why only your group experienced this. Heart of the Beast? No, I'm afraid not. Sarah?

Sarah : [A little petulantly] Maybe it's referring to a mean Daddy who won't let his attractive yet responsible daughter stay in a house with some friends near university.

Alice : [Sympathetically] Oh, I know what's that like. Daddy wasn't happy with me when I stayed in a house like that.

Sarah : Oh, you went to university?

Alice : No.

Cady : [Drinks yet more tea] Indeed. Perhaps you should take a look around the town to see if anything else seems different or similar? In the meantime, I need to visit the bathroom.

Geneva: I wonder what the time and date is in Grace's Town?

Austin : [Using his reflection in the teapot to smoothen down his hair] That is correct, Mr. Giles. In fact, if I recall correctly, the delectable down who did know the correct date. Is that, or is it not correct?

Sarah : [Not realising for a moment that Austin is talking to her] Er, sure, why not?

Alice : [To Cady and Sarah] He meant yes.

Stephen : God, it's almost like an episode of the Nearly Dark Zone, where strange forces cause a town to change its appearance and population every few days! No doubt it's a sinister governments experiment!

Alice : Or like an episode of [puts on scary, dramatic voice] The Scary Train. You know, where someone steps onto a train, and suddenly they realise that they're the last person alive, and in a library, and can't read, or suddenly turn into a frog and find themselves at their favourite French restaurant!

Chastity : [Looks from Alice to Stephen] Yes, thank you, Agents Mouldy and Sully. [To Cady] Perhaps it might be a good idea for us to take a walk around.

Cady : [Dancing a little on the spot] Yes, Sister.

Geneva: And no doubt nothing that a stab in the belly wouldn't fix up!

Cady : Just a moment. [Rushes into another room and slams the door behind him]

Sarah : Well, I'm just on the way to Bridger's Bakery to meet some friends of mine, that might be a good place to [blushes a little and raises her voice to be heard over the unnatural sounds of pleasure coming from the other room] to start your search.

Austin : Well, that seems fair, as our previous visit to this town which may not be this town started also at a bakery.

Stephen : [To Sarah] Oh, does your father do push ups too?

Sarah : [Waiting for one final sigh of pleasure to come from the other room, which tails off after a good few seconds] Er, yes, yes he does. [Enter CADY, looking as calm and unruffled as before.]

Cady : [Pouring himself some tea] I will be co-ordinating the search of the town, but will be back here for much of the day, so you can call here if you want to discuss anything. Now, unless there's anything else you'd like to discuss?

Geneva: [Exitedly] Oh yes... little ginger bread men, with patches over their eyes and daggers made of candy in their belts! [Pulls herself together] Why don't we try to find the first place we knew in Graces town, as Austin said, the bakery here?

Austin : Nothing that springs to mind. [Looks down at Cadys hand] You'll forgive me of course if I don't shake you by the hand, sir, but I am not a tactile man.

Stephen : Well, I think we should definitely start at the bakery! I'd kill for a double espresso mocha latte capo double chocco. [Glances suddenly at Cady] Or perhaps a cup of tea.

Cady : [Looks as though he's about to shout and roar at Stephen, but suddenly calms down] That's a good man. [Claps him on the back] See you all later.

Sarah : [Gives him a kiss on the cheek] Bye, Daddy, don't forget to dry your hands! [Exit ALL, but CADY.] [Book IV, Act VI, Scene VII. Outside the Guardhouse. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, STEPHEN, MONTY and SARAH have just stepped out of the Guardhouse, where TAMSIN is waiting.]

Alice : [To Tamsin] Nice work, Faetan.

Tamsin: [To Alice, irritated] I'm sure that's supposed to be an insult, but I got no idea what you're talking about. [To the rest of the group, sulkily] Sorry to make a scene, but that guy was a real prick. [Quick glance at Sarah, to whom she says] Uh, no offense.

Sarah : [Gently] He's not, he's a really nice guy, he can just be a bit difficult to deal with sometimes. [Looks at Stephen] You know, you did make it sound like you thought he might be about to poison you, and, if that wasn't bad enough, it seemed like you thought he might use tea. [Short pause] And he really likes tea!

Alice : [Nudges Austin and points at Stephen's back] Look! Stevie's got a big hand print on his back!

Stephen : [Takes off his coat and sniffs suspiciously at the back] Hmm.

Austin : Well Ms Marlow, could you show us the way to this bakery? Who by the way, are you hoping to meet at that establishment?

Sarah : Oh please, just call me Sarah. I'm going to meet my boyfriend, Richard, he's really dreamy. [The party take the same route as before, passed the winebar, which looks identical to before, and arrive at BRIDGERS, which also looks the same.]

Sarah : Here we are! Recognise anything?

Tamsin: [To Stephen, shuddering] I hope not! I don't wanna have to make friends with someone who looks like that prick. [Add hopefully] Of course, none of the other lookalikes have the same name, so maybe it's someone else.

Stephen : Well, yes, most certainly. This place looks identical to the previous bakery! [To the others] What's the betting that this Richard is identical to that bully who beat up Cici!

Austin : Who owns this establishment, Sarah?

Stephen : This is really spooky! It's almost like waking from a strange dream where everything was similar, yet completely and utterly different at the same time!

Sarah : [Opening the door] You're going to love this place. Charlie, the owner is great! [The party enter, and the interior is essentially the same as before, although without the huge tea bar. There are several people here that the party recognise, including IAN LOVEJOY, ROSEMARY LOVEJOY, MADCHEN LYNCH and TOBEY PARKER. All four look exactly the same as before, although they are dressed differently, albeit in the same style as before.]

Alice : [Slowly looking around] Hm. [To the others] I wonder if Aileen is here, remember, she was giving out about the owner, Charlie.

Sarah : Charlie Bridger. I'll introduce you in a sec - oh! There's Richard! [SARAH gives a big smile and waves to a man sitting at the counter, RICHARD KEITH. He smiles back and approaches, giving her a kiss.]

Sarah : Richard, I'd like you to meet some new friends. Everybody, this is Richard, [doesn't take her eyes of Richard as she speaks] Richard, this is everybody.

Richard : [Gives the party an easy smile] Hi folks, new in town, huh?

Stephen : [Quietly to the others] Told you so! [To Richard] Well I suppose you could say that, yes. I'm Stephen, this is Alice, Chastity, Austin, Tamsin and Cheryl. Oh, and Monty.

Stephen : He's the image of the guy who beat up Cici, isn't he? Well, I'm parched, and could do with a cup of coffee! [Goes up to the counter]

Tamsin: [Nods a lukewarm greeting to Richard] Hey, how's it going?

Chastity: [Smiles politely at Richard and asks] Have you lived here all your life? It's a lovely town!

Sarah : [Taking Richard's hand] They had something strange happen too in the last few days, but they woke up just outside the town, right up against the gate.

Richard : [Shrugs] Man, what was going on there, eh? It seems like we were all asleep for the last few days!

Alice : [To Stephen] Told us what?

Alice : [Peers at Richard] No!

Richard : [Gives Tamsin a friendly wink] Heya! [To Chastity] I sure have Sister, although [gives Sarah a friendly nudge] this one might be dragging me away soon.

[Enter CHARLIE BRIDGER, a beautiful looking young woman, who appears behind the counter as STEPHEN approaches, and gives him a big smile.]

Charlie : Well, hello there!

Charlie : I sure do, Hon. Coming right up.

Sarah : Charlie, these are some friends of mine, they're new in town, do you think you could look after them for a while? [Smiles apologetically at the party] I'd like to talk to Richard for a bit, but I won't desert you, I promise.

[SARAH and RICHARD go to where he was sitting initially, and sit down, engaged in a very intimate talk.]

Charlie : [To the party] Why don't you all take a seat? [Gestures to a table similar to the one the party sat at before] I'll be down to get the orders from the rest of you in a minute. without fear of being

Tamsin: [To the group] Just to let you know, there were more black buildings when we were here before. I noticed at least one isn't this time. I'm thinking we need to check out these damn buildings, once and for all.

Chastity: [To Tamsin] Language! Also, I agree.

Stephen : Hi! Do you sell coffee? Even more to the point, do you sell double espresso mocha latte capo double choccos? I'll have a large if you do!

Geneva : Too right! There's something really strange going on here.

Alice : Well, I know she's hardly been mentioned, but was Grace responsible? After all, you all did behave pretty strangely last night and this morning.

Stephen : Sounds good. There must be some reason for blacking out windows, unless of course the occupants are all suffering from scarlet fever!

Austin : [Dusts down the seat with a napkin before sitting] Charlie certainly is an improvement over Eileen, it must be said. I wonder if Sarah is a soulmate of Cicis? I wonder if everyone in this town is a soul mate of everyone in the previous older, or possibly newer incarnation of the town?

Monty : Ahem. I believe it was more than a case of blacked out windows for those buildings. The entire buildings were black, there was surely no one living there.

Alice : Soulmates? It could be, but they'd have to be in a different time then, wouldn't they? Unless the town existed almost exactly as it does now in a different time? [Tails off as she says this, obviously not even convinced herself]

Tamsin: [To Alice, incredulous] WE were behaving strangely, Miss Clairol?!

Chastity: Perhaps we could make a sketch Grace and see if anyone here recognizes her? [Looks at the party] Who's our best artist?

Stephen : Not me, the last crayon I touched when I was three burst into flames and burned down the nursery school!

Austin : [To Chastity] Perhaps you could embroider a tea towel with her image, sister?

Chastity: [To Austin, haughtily] I most certainly could, Mr. Sleaze, but it would take far too long to collect threads in the proper color palette and time is of the essence. [Looks at Alice and Monty for a moment, then says] Mr. Giles? Any artistic talent?

Tamsin: [To the group] What a waste of time! Let's just check out the black buildings. If Grace is involved, we'll trip over her eventually, knowing us.

Alice : Yes, Tamsin, you were, frankly it was all a bit shocking.

Geneva : Maybe we could get Alice to dress up like she was earlier, and see what kind of reaction she gets?

Alice : Hey! Changing my hair had nothing to do with Grace, I was thinking of doing that anyway! What I'm concerned about is how you lot went all psycho with your presents and bribery!

Monty : Ahem. I fear not. However, I -

Alice : [Interrupting] I'll do it! I'm brilliant at drawing! [Takes out some crayons and starts drawing on a napkin, face wracked with concentration]

[CHARLIE arrives over, with STEPHEN's coffee, and places it in front of him.]

Charlie : [Warmly] Hi everyone. What would you like to drink? Our black coffee is particularly good today, but if you'd like anything else, just say the word.

Stephen : I'm not stirring from this building until I've had my double espresso mocha latte capo double chocco.

Austin : [To Chastity] Ha, sounds like an excuse to me. And a poor one at that.

Geneva : I'll just have a black coffee, please.

Monty : Ahem. A glass of cold water for me, if you please.

Alice : [Holding up her drawing, beaming with pride] Ta da!

Stephen : [Coughs a mouthful of coffee across the table]

Austin : Wonderful likeness, Alice. No doubt that was the same drawing you took to the hairdressers as an example?

Chastity: [Looking at the drawing with a pained expression] Yes, thank you, dear.

Tamsin: [Admiring the artwork with glee] Nice work, Alice! Would you be interested in illustrating my next book of poetry? I'd like for the illustrations to be really smutty, yet ambiguous. I think you just might be perfect for the job!

Alice : [Smiles happily at Austin] Thanks Aussie! Actually, I did my hair myself that time for - for [struggles to think of something] for it's the best way to do it. I'd been planning it for a long time, and, what a coincidence that Grace had something vaguely similar. [Holds up the picture to Charlie] I'll have a double double espresso please, and have you seen this girl?

Charlie : Let me just get my glasses. [Goes back to the counter]

Alice : You'd think she'd have cups, wouldn't you?

Alice : Sure! I'd love to! I can be very subtle. Hey, I just noticed, subtle is an anagram of be slut, isn't that strange?

Monty : Ahem. No.

Stephen : [Mopping the table with a wad a napkins] Well, armed with Alices er, picture, I'm sure we're bound to track down Grace, or at least, this towns version of her. [Downs the remainder of the drink without looking at the drawing] Let's ask Charlie when she comes back is she knows anything about these blacked out houses.

Stephen : [Quivering with supressed laughter] Tell me Charlie, do you know anything about these blacked out houses in town? Do people live in them or what?

Charlie : [Arriving back with drinks for the rest] Here we go, everyone! [Hands around the cups, before taking a look at the picture] Erm, no, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with him.

Alice : [Annoyed] Her!

Charlie : Sorry, I mean, I'm not familiar with her.

Charlie : Blacked out houses? [Shakes her head] I'm not sure I know where they are.

Chastity: [Puzzled] No? They seem to be all over the town. You've never seen them?

Tamsin: [To Charlie] Hell, I'll show you one right now, if you can take a minute to step outside!

Charlie : I'm afraid I can't, I've got to look after the coffee shop. [Goes back to behind the counter]

Alice : We really should take a walk around, and maybe try to get into one of those buildings.

Austin : Agreed, Alice, there is no use sitting around here speculating on what may be contained within these premises. [Stands up] Let us arrange to meet Sarah here at a later time.

Alice : [Knocks back her coffee and stands up] Good idea.

[SARAH spots the movement, and comes over.]

Sarah : Hey. Leaving so soon?

Stephen : Indeed we are, Sarah. We thought we'd give you some personal time with Richard and go out and have a look around ourselves. Let's meet back here a bit later, shall we?

Tamsin: [Crankily] Yeah, I'm not much in the mood for coffee and chit-chat. This place bugs me.

Alice : Sounds like you've already had too much coffee! [Notices Madchen looking over] Hi Madchen!

Madchen : [Betraying no recognition] Er, hi.

Sarah : Sounds like a good idea, Stephen. If I'm not here, I'll probably be either in the guardhouse or at home - I guess you lot know where I live, right?

Stephen : If it's the big old house near the blacked out one, then yes. I'm sure we can find it by asking around, anyway. Or we can follow the tea delivery carts, perhaps.

Sarah : Blacked out ones? Remember we said that we didn't know of any houses like that in town? Now, there is a big old house near here, but that's the mayor's house, that's just south east of here one block. Our house is way over near the tenements.

Stephen : Hmm, well, let's take a look around the mayors house, then. At least we'll be able to verify if it's the same building as Graces house.

Chastity: [To Sarah] Thank you, dear. I'm sure we'll be able to find you. [To the party, somewhat anxiously] Shall we go? I'm beginning to question whether or not I've actually seen these blacked out buildings myself!

Alice : Good idea. Monty, will you pay for the coffee? Thanks!

Monty : Ahem. I - [is almost stampeded by the rest of the party charging out] Hm. Yes. [Pays Charlie] I'd like a receipt for that, please.

Charlie : Of course! Thank you very much.

[MONTY rejoins the party outside, and they head to where GRACE's house was. The house looks exactly as it was, but, instead of there being a blacked out building beside it, there is a shop with the name "Taylor's Tailors" above the door, and it is open.]

Alice : [Looks at the shop for a while, before turning to the others] You know what's been bothering me for a while? I meant to say it before, but it was Cady who reminded me just a while ago - did any one else notice that no one swore the last time we were in the town? Except for that guy right at the end, yet we were hardly here two minutes before Tamsin made Cady swear. course, the party

Alice : [Gives Chastity a curious look] What blacked out buildings?

Stephen : You know, Alice, now that you mention it, that's true! At the time I just thought they were an incredibly polite bunch of people! Perhaps it's only Cady who swears though? Hmm. [Stops a passer by] Excuse me, would you like to support our Concerned Citizens Against Poverty fund?

Chastity: [Sniffs] Merely refraining from using profanity does not make one "incredibly polite," Mr. Hitchberg!

Tamsin: [To Alice] YOU don't see the blacked out buildings, either?! [Scans the area, looking for blacked out buildings]

Alice : Blacked out buildings? What on [huge emphasis] earth are you talking about? the Marlows

Tamsin: [To Alice, getting frustrated] The ones that we saw before! That aren't here now! [To the party] Anyone else feel like dropping in on the Mayor? This Lynch guy seems to be in the middle of everything.

Austin : [Smirking] Well, he certainly doesn't seem to be in the middle of one of these black buildings you persist on mentioning. [Turns to Alice and holds his finger to his head, twirling it slowly]

Geneva : What the hell? [To Tamsin] Well, I remember them!

Chastity : [Giving Austin a slap on the arm] Don't encourage her! [To Alice] You wicked girl! Apologise immediately!

Alice : Ah, calm down, Chas, I was just making a joke! [Gives Tamsin a big smile] I mean, come on, you have to admit, that was funny! [Looks at the mayor's house] Let's give him a call - but what are we going to ask him?

Chastity: [To Austin] That's quite enough, Mr. Sleaze. The last thing we need is another ill-timed outburst from Miss Laveau [first looks disapprovingly at Austin and then turns her disapproving gaze to Tamsin].

Tamsin: [Mutters through gritted teeth] Stevie remembered them too, you know [crosses her arms and sulks a bit]. . . . Let's just assume

Geneva : [Glaring at Alice and Austin] Let's demand he tells us what the hell is going on, and if he refuses, [pause] we'll stab him in the belly.

Stephen : [Alarmed] Well, lets try the peaceful route first, shall we? I'm sure the mayor would prefer his entrails remain where they are.

Monty : Indeed, Mr. Hitchberg. Very good advice. [Knocks on the door.]

[The door is opened by ARNIE LYNCH, a man with an unfeasibly large head. The entire party gasp with surprise.]

Arnie : [Blaringly loud] Hi!

[Everyone is too shocked to say anything.]

Arnie : Yes? Does anyone have a question?

[Slowly, everyone puts up their hand.]

Arnie : A question that's not about my head?

[All the hands slowly and sheepishly go back down again.]

Alice : [Unable to take her eyes off him, muttering to the others] For God's sake, someone ask him something!

Stephen : [Shocked] Could we come in for a cup of teeth? We'd love to ask you a few questions about this wonderful town?

Tamsin: [To Arnie] Um, OK, I got one! Know anything about The Heart? [Looks at party and shrugs] Gotta start somewhere!

Stephen : Body? What body? No, we're not here about any body, just to ask you about strange goings on in this town lately. [Pauses for a moment] Is there a body in the basement?

Arnie : A cup of teeth? Sure, sure. Come on in, I've been looking for something to do with all those teeth left over from - I mean, [tries to look nonchalant] teeth? [Addresses Tamsin as he does] What heart? The heart buried beneath the basement?

Geneva : [Shocked] What?

Arnie : I mean, won't you please come in? We can talk in my office.

Alice : [Steps in] Where is it?

Arnie : What? The body?

Chastity: [Alarmed] WHAT body?!

Arnie : No! [Laughs] Of course not! [Pause] Not in the basement.

[The party are all hovering in and around the doorway, and this is definitely the same house that GRACE brought them to.]

Alice : [Very nervous] Er, you're not going to kill us and give away cups of our teeth, are you?

Arnie : [Laughs] Oh, God no! [Deadly serious] They're far too nice to just give away. [Shows them an inside open door that leads to an office] Let's go into my office, it's much more private there.

Austin : [Quietly] Perhaps the more public the better.

Stephen : Well, at least the office isn't in the basement! [To Geneva] Keep that knife handy! [To Arnie] Have you always lived in this house?

Tamsin: [Eyes the office suspiciously] I'm a firm believer in keeping things out in the open, myself. Big Government's always hiding behind closed doors, looking for ways to screw the working man. You aren't one of those fat cat types, are you, Arnie?

Arnie : [Takes out a huge cigar and lights it] Of course I am. [Big puff] Although, I prefer to screw the common woman.

Geneva : You don't seriously expect us to go into your office, do you?

Arnie : Not at the moment, but I bet you're not thinking about my head any more, are you? [Gives a cheesy smile] Sorry folks, I couldn't resist! [Walks into the office] Come on in.

Stephen : Well thank you, I think. [Enters the office]

Austin : [Nods his head at Arnie and enters]

Geneva: Aarrgh! If Stevie and Aussie can do it so can I. [Stalks into the office, one hand on the handle of her dagger. Wags her finger at Arnie.] Now no funny business!

Arnie : [Holds his hands up with a grin] I promise! [Sits behind his desk] Now what did you folks want to talk to me about? Which hat should I be wearing? Mayor or Industrialist?

Geneva: Don't attempt to baffle us with political talk and jargon! [Taps her dagger threateningly.] Just answer our questions!

Stephen : Well, what she means in her blunt, overbearing manner is that we'd really appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions we have about this town. Firstly, do you know anything about the townsfolk falling asleep for three days?

Arnie : [Looks at Geneva and bursts out laughing] Excellent! Excellent! Now, maybe if you actually ask a question, I will! [Walks over to a large cabinet and opens it, taking out a trolley full of weapons, which he starts arming himself with, as he chats pleasantly to Stephen, putting on a Mexican bandit style chain of crossbow bolts over each shoulder] Not a whole lot, I'm afaid, just that everyone was asleep. I woke up this morning in the clock tower, slumped over my high powered crossbow.

Stephen : Oh-kay! Slumped over a high powered crossbow. Right, I see. Secondly, have you ever head of a Grace Marlow?

Austin : Thirdly, why are you arming yourself to the...teeth?

Arnie : [Checking a crossbow's aim] Grace Marlow? No, is she a relation of the Captain? [Puts on a pair of shades and looks at Austin] Just in case. [Looks over the top of the shades at Geneva] What's your question?

Arnie : A man's gotta have a hobby, doesn't he?

Alice : And yours is shooting people with a high powered crossbow?

Arnie : Good lord, no. It's sitting in the clock tower looking at people through the the telescopic lens. The people love it. They think I'm a character. [Straps a few knives to his belt] You'd imagine they think I'm a psycho, but [starts putting on some facial camouflage] no, they love me.

Stephen : [Getting nervous] Do you know anything about these blacked out houses in town, Mr Mayor? And by the way, I'm not sure that jungle camoflage is very effective in an urban environment.

Arnie : [Tying a filthy headband on] Blacked out houses? In my town? I think not.

Stephen : Fine, thank you. [Quietly to the others] Any more questions or should we just run away screaming right now?

Alice : [Watching Arnie take out a huge metal suitcase, and open it] I think we should get ready to do some screaming.

Arnie : [Taking out a bunch of toy soldiers from the box] Well folks, it's been nice chatting with [looks at Geneva] most of you. Anything else?

Austin : I am curious as to how and when you became mayor of this town? I would presume your election posters had to be much larger than most.

Arnie : [Setting out two armies of soldiers] Actually, that's an interesting story. I accidently released a genie from a magic lamp, and he gave me three wishes. One was to become mayor of this town, and another to be the owner of the biggest factory in the town. [Puts on a huge, fifteen gallon hat, that barely fits on his giant head]

Alice : What was the third wish?

Arnie : [Looks at Alice in surprise] To have a giant head!

Stephen : Well I suppose it definitely would raise your public profile above the others.

Austin : [To Arnie] I could ask why you wanted a giant head, but I always find it best not to dwell on, or ridicule peoples obvious mental afflictions. [Buffs his fingernails against his lapel] Well, if that's all, we'd like to thank you for your time and we'll leave you to carry on with your important civic [looks at the soldiers] duties. [To the others] Are we finished here?

Chastity : Yes, I believe we are. Thank you, Mister Mayor.

[Exit ALL.]

[Book IV, Act VI, Scene VIII. Outside the Mayor's House. ALICE, AUSTIN, TAMSIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY and STEPHEN are here, having just left ARNIE's house.]

Tamsin : This place is starting to piss me off. What the hell is going on here?

Austin : [Eyebrow raised] Starting?

Stephen : God, it's just all so strange! Are we even sure that we were all here before? Could it have been a shared dream, but this is the reality? Or even vice versa. Oh well, might was well check out where Paradise used to be.

Alice : A dream? It could have been, but why would we dream about these people? And why would we get it wrong?

Alice : But what is our task? To find out where the Heart is? Or to find out what the hell is going on here?

Tamsin: [To the party] To find the Heart, right?! But what now? Should we try to find Grace? Get a look at that factory? And you're out of your mind if you think I'm going to bring up the blacked out buildings again [glares at Alice and Austin], but it seems like they mean something in all this.

Alice : [Confused] What black buildings? [Normal, slightly less confused demeanour] I think we should look for Grace, I mean, we have to find out what's going on here, don't we?

Stephen : They must! How about we check out the area where the tenements were. Also, keep an eye out for anyone wearing the same type of pendant that Grace and Cici were wearing. I'm sure that's important too!

Austin : [Once again looking in distaste at the Tailors window] That is indeed correct Alice. Perhaps as Sarah seems to have taken Graces place in this town, it's quite possible that Grace may now be found selling herself in the tenements. Remember, they both wore those gold pendants.

Chastity: Perhaps we should make a sketch the pendant and [trails off, looking at Alice]. . . . Ah, why don't we just rejoin Sarah!?

Stephen : Why sister? Why not check out the tenements first, get something concrete before meeting Sarah and her father and being forced to drink copious amounts of te...ah, you sly old nun, you!

Chastity: [Flustered] Mr. Hitchberg, I'm sure I don't know what you mean! Furthermore, Sarah mentioned that her home is near the tenements, so there's no reason we can't do both.

Alice : The brooch was black, Austin! [Heads back to Bridger's, but doesn't go in] So, are we going to pick up Sarah?

Tamsin: Sure, why not? Getting Cici and Grace together last time has a weird effect on both of them, remember? Let's hook 'em up again. Well, the different thems. You know what I mean.

Stephen : If we do find Grace, do we want Sarah to meet her immediately? Before we can even ask a few questions? Remember Grace was none too happy when she saw Cici!

Austin : One can but imagine, Alice. Alright so, let's get Sarah and visit the tenements.

[Just as the party are about to enter BRIDGER's, RICHARD and SARAH come out, holding hands.]

Sarah : Hi! Were you looking for me?

Alice : [Holding up the drawing] Do you know this girl?

[RICHARD and SARAH exchange a look.]

Sarah : [Suppressing a laugh] I don't think so. She shouldn't be too difficult to spot though.

Tamsin: Say, Sarah, would you mind showing us around the area a little? We were heading to the tenements and could use a good guide. It'd really be a big help to us.

Sarah : Sure. No problem. [To Richard] You don't mind, do you?

Richard : 'course not. I'll catch up with you later. [Gives her a quick kiss before turning to the others in a friendly manner] You lot look after here, you here?

[Exit RICHARD.]

Sarah : [Gives him a wave, and then falls in step with the party, heading across the front of the Mayor's house] We live right beside the tenements. It's a nice place to live, but sometimes we get a little hassle, what with Daddy being the Captain of the guards and all. Are you going to meet someone there?

Sarah : [Smiling] Ah! The mysterious Grace! Any idea which flat she's in?

Alice : Number 13, on the first floor, I think.

Sarah : [Eyes widen as she pales] Oh. [Rubs her mouth with her hand] I think we might have a problem.

Stephen : Possibly, if we can track down Grace.

Austin : Oh, and why is that, Sarah?

Sarah : Come on, let's go to my house. I'll tell you on the way.

[SARAH leads the party towards the tenements, and pass where one of the blacked out buildings was previously. This time, however, it is an ordinary house.]

Alice : Who's house is that?

Sarah : That's where the local clergy live. Anyway, I can tell you who lives in number 13, and it isn't anyone called Grace.

[The party reach SARAH's house, which is another of those that was one of the blacked out buildings, but is now an ordinary looking house, which she unlocks.]

Sarah : Come on in, I'll explain everything.

Stephen : This is getting curiouser and curiouser. So far, the houses blacked out in the previous town were the tailors, the clergys house and this one. [Enters Sarahs house]

[Everyone is soon in the house, sitting around the kitchen table drinking lemonade.]

Alice : So what's the scoop? Who lives in number 13?

Sarah : A man called Albus Spica, and his daughter, Azrael.

Geneva : And why is that a problem?

Sarah : [Unhappily] Because until recently, Azrael was my best friend, and now she doesn't even speak to me. [Looks very sad]

Chastity: [Sympathetically] What happened, dear?

Tamsin: [Rolls her eyes]

Sarah : She just totally changed. She managed to lose two jobs, became totally withdrawn, [looking down, almost whispering] became a hooker, and, well, to make matters worse, Richard is her ex-boyfriend.

Alice : What? No wonder she hates you!

Sarah : [Nearly in tears] No, honestly, it wasn't like that. He stayed with her far longer than she had any right to expect him to. It was a big decision for us to get together, as, despite what she's turned into, I still love her.

Austin : [Interest piqued] In a physical way?

Tamsin: [Snaps at Sarah] Of course you'd still love her. What difference does it make how she pays the bills!?

Chastity: [Pops Tamsin with a rolled up tea towel] Behave!

Chastity : [Glancing at Austin disapprovingly] Please, Mr. Sleaze, keep your mind on the job in hand. The girl is baring her torment. [To Sarah] It must have been quite a quandary, my dear. Do you have any idea what caused her change?

Sarah : About five days ago. I tried to call to her house, but she wouldn't let me in the door, and got very abusive. As for Richard, it's probably at least a month.

Alice : [Pretend dramatically] Or so he says!

Sarah : [Gives a surprisingly cold look at Alice] It's the truth.

Alice : Sorry! Just trying to lighten the mood!

Chastity : And what is she doing living with the clergy? I take it she's been taken in for shelter and to prevent her from erm...trading.

Sarah : Clergy? Huh? She lives in the tenements - number 13. Only the priests live in the Clergy house.

Austin : So, Ms Marlow, it seems to me that we should help bring closure on your current disagreement with your childhood friend, and the only way to achieve this is to confront her. And spank her if she's very, very naughty.

Tamsin: [Getting angry] You know, Sarah, you're starting to remind me a lot of your old man. That ain't good, in case you haven't been paying attention.

Alice : [Before Sarah has a chance to react] Austin, you're an idiot.

Sarah : [Shakes her head sadly] I've already tried to. But the last time I spoke to her she was out of control, I've never heard such vitriol. She hates me, and was talking about some awful revenge she was going to get on me and Richard.

Stephen : Calm down Tamsin! There's no call for aggravating an already tense sitation! [To Sarah] Did she say what form this revenge was going to take? A horses head in your bed? A lighted turd through your letterbox?

Chastity : [To Tamsin, in a calm and soothing voice] Please have some patience, child. The poor girl is distressed over the loss of her best friends. Surely you felt loss when your friends left you? Have a little empathy. [To Sarah] Did she elaborate on her threats? Bearing in mind the towns recent sleepiness.

Tamsin: [Takes a deep breath says reluctantly] Look, I've turned a trick or two in my time, OK? I just don't have a lot of patience for people who look down on gals who make a living like that. Usually, they just don't know what the hell they're talking about, and it pisses me off [pointedly avoids looking at the rest of the party].

Sarah : [Shocked at Tamsin] What? What the hell is your problem?

Alice : [Handing a tissue to Sarah] There you go. [Glares at Tamsin] Take it easy, will you?

Sarah : Thanks. [Looks at the filthy hanky, and slowly hides it under the table] Er, anyway, no she didn't say what it would be [looks taken aback] you think [emphasis] she was responsible for the sleeping? But, that doesn't make any sense, what kind of revenge is that?

Stephen : Hmm. I'd also have a quick check to see if you woke up with BITCH tatooed across your buttocks.

Chastity : I don't think you should transfer all your own experiences to others Stephen.

Alice : Hold on a second, can we all just calm down? [To Stephen] And that includes you, bitch.

Stephen : [Animated] You can imagine my relief when it faded after a month and I realised it had been done with magic marker! I mean, whatever do you mean, sister!

Sarah : [Composes herself] Look, I don't know what kind of history you have, Tamsin, but Azrael was my best friend, all I want to do is help her. I don't look down on her, I feel sorry for her.

Alice : Tamsin, we don't care about people's pasts! I mean, come on, we've got a laywer in the party! If we can take someone with a past as dark as that, we'll take anyone!

Geneva : [Stands behind Tamsin and squeezes her shoulder] No need to be embarassed, my friend.

Austin : [To Alice] At least some of us have an attention span long enough to remember our pasts.

Stephen : [To Tamsin] Nothing to be embarrased about! I once had to [conspiratorily] eat at MacDonals.

Alice : To be perfectly frank, Austin, I don't want to remember your past.

Tamsin: [A little embarrassed] Wow, thanks, everyone. [Glances at Chastity tentatively] I wasn't sure you'd want me to stick around if you knew.

Alice : [Gives Tamsin a genuine sisterly hug] Aw, come on, Tam, give us more credit than that. We really like you, you know? And we can be a surprisingly sensitive bunch. [Pauses for a moment, debating whether or not to ask something] Just out of curiosity, how much did you charge?

Stephen : [Shocked] Alice! That's a terrible thing to ask! Look, are we going to pay Azriel a visit and find out about her revenge?

Alice : Oops. No offence, Tam.

Sarah : [Shrugs sadly] I'm not sure what you'll be able to find out, but I hope you'll understand that I can't come. I can show you her flat, but there's no point in me going in.

Austin : Very well, we can ask no more, neither shall we. [Checks his appearance in the nearest shiny surface and adjusts his tie] If you'd be so good as to lead the way?

Tamsin: [Nods] We'll take what we can get. Lead the way. [Winks at Alice and says] No offense taken, Princess. You probably couldn't afford me, anyway!

Alice : [To Tamsin] Actually, it wasn't for me but - [halts, and gives a big smile] Thanks, Tam.

Sarah : No problem. [Pauses briefly to dry her eyes] Let's go.

[The group head to "Langra Sha" tenements, which is an absolute kip. The place is very dilipated and filthy. SARAH brings them to the same location where CICI's flat would have been. While the general geography is identical, the place is pretty squalid. SARAH doesn't come as far as the door, however, and is waiting back at the stairs.]

Monty : Ahem. Perhaps we could all conduct ourselves with some decorum this time?

Stephen : [Big cheesy smile] Hey Monty, you don't have to worry about us, we're the very essence of decorum! [Looks around] Hey, this place is pretty rank! [Suddenly shrieks loudly as he spots a spider]

Tamsin: [Rolls her eyes at Monty and asks the party] Want me to do the talking? You know, considering?

Alice : Considering what? The way you reduced Sarah to tears?

Monty : Actually, I believe Miss Laveau is referring to something else.

Alice : What? [Realisation dawns] Oh! Good idea, Tam!

Tamsin: [Cringes and says defensively] Hey, you gotta admit Sarah's a little on the sensitive side! So's her old man! [Knocks on the door and wait for a response]

[The door opens just as TAMSIN tries to knock, and she just barely avoids hitting a man who's coming out, CARRELL FOLIN, who almost collides with her, as he is looking back.]

Carrell : [On realising there's a group of people outside] Woah! I, er, was just in the, uh, wrong house.

[Someone from inside throws a cup at CARRELL, which smashes against a wall just inside the flat, causing him to flinch, and a female voice shouts out.]

Voice : Get the hell out of my house, you scabby bastard!

Stephen : Eugh! I wonder if he arrived with a free garlic bread!

Tamsin: [Looks at the scabby bastard with disgust and notes sagely] In my experience, scabs like that aren't a good sign.

Tamsin: [Snidely] Brilliant AND handsome. Quite a winning combo you got going on, party boy. Where'd you pick up the scabs?

Carrell : [Juts his thumb back towards the door] From that!

Alice : [Who's standing in the line of thumb] Hey!

Carrell : Not you, her. [Looks her up and down] Mm-mm. Wanna do some business, baby?

Alice : [Outraged] I'm not a - [catches Tamsin's eye, and calms down] I mean, no. Away with you, spotty fellow.

[Enter AZRAEL SPICA, an angry looking young woman in a filthy dressing gown, about to slam the door.]

Azrael : Look, I need a few minutes to get washed up before - [looks up and gives a sigh] what the hell is this? How many times do I - [breaks off as recognition shows in her eyes] huh?

Stephen : [Gasps] It is Grace! And she looks like she recognises us? [To Azrael] Do you?

Azrael : What? [Steps back, a bit freaked out] Who are you people?

[The room is not quite as filthy as it was when CICI was here, but is still pretty bad, and is littered with trash and discarded cheese paraphenalia. The only decoration in the room is a battered and stained "Grace Kiely" (the actress) poster on one wall. There is a bed in the corner, with a man, ALBUS SPICA, in it, and, against the opposite wall, a pretty filthy mattress.]

Albus : [Not looking the healthiest] Azrael? Who is it? Another customer?

Tamsin: [To Azrael, rather impatiently] Come on! You recognized us, right?!

Stephen : [Looks admiringly at the poster] It's strange, we met you recently, but you were called Grace and lived in the house where the mayor now lives! Next thing we know we're here, and everything is different! [Points to the poster] My goodness, Grace can light up any room, can't she!

Azrael : I think so.

Monty : [With an irritated tone] You think? Madam, please. This is of the utmost importance! How do you know us? For I can assure you, we know you!

Azrael : [Snaps] I don't know, okay? [Shrugs] I don't know, it's, it's like the strongest deja vu I've ever got. [Looks at the group, and points at Alice] There's something different about you, though.

Alice : [Exasperated] Why does everyone keep saying that?

Austin : If you know anything about the strange goings on this town over the previous three days, now is the time to tell us, Azrael, do you mind if I call you Azrael?

Azrael : [Tartly] That's my name, isn't it? I don't know anything about the last few days. I was asleep. Now I'm not.

Albus : Who's there, Azrael?

Azrael : [Rolls her eyes impatiently] No one, Daddy, stay in bed. [Looks at the party aggressively] What do you people want? [A little less sure] And who are you? [Glances at Stephen, before asking very, very tentatively] Stephen?

Stephen : [Nods] Yes, yes I am! [Claps his hands together] You do remember! May we come in?

Azreal : Okay. [Sits on the mattress, and lights up a filthy cheeseratte, kicking a few empty cans of Cheese Whip out of the way] Who are you? What do you want?

Tamsin: Where have you seen Stevie before?

Azrael : [Taking a smoke] I don't know, honestly, I don't even know how I know that's his name.

Alice : [Frustrated] God! Do you think you could vague that up a little, Azrael?

Azrael : [Looks down for a moment, and then back up at Tamsi] Are you Tamsin?

Tamsin: [Nods] Bingo. Can you tell us what you remember happening, just before you fell asleep?

Stephen : [Softly to Azrael] It's important that you try.

Azrael : [Gets up] I don't remember, okay?

Albus : [After a brief but disgusting coughing fit] If they're not customers, throw them out, Azrael.

Tamsin: Look, yesterday we saw someone who looked exactly like you, but she was completely different. And we saw someone who looked exactly like your friend Sarah, but she was completely different, too. Doesn't that freak you out? Don't you want to know what the hell that's about?!

Austin : If we have to pay you for you time, then we will. That way your father may at least be content with our presence.

Azrael : Of course it freaks me out, what do you think?

Albus : [Gives another disgustingly phlegmy cough] Good idea, that man. Ten GP an hour.

Alice : [Shocked] Ten GP! [Whispers to Tamsin] Is that a lot? very, very cheap

Tamsin: [Shakes her head to answer Alice and says to Azrael] Well, then, why don't you try to think back? Do you remember anything strange happening before this? Anything at all?

Geneva: [Looking around the apartment.] Any strange boxes or brooches?

Azrael : [Sarcastically] Yeah, we've loads of brooches here. [Sourly to Tamsin] You mean other than my life going shit because of that bitch Sarah Marlow? Not a whole, lot, really.

Stephen : She said you'd planned to get revenge on her. Did you?

Azrael : No, but it would serve her right if she did. Look, who are you people? What do you want with me?

Geneva: [Annoyed.] Look! We're only trying to help you alright! Why are people so damned suspicious these days?

Azrael : I don't know, why the hell are you so suspicous? [Sinks back down onto the mattress] Look, who are you people? Have I met you before? What's going on here?

Albus : [Yet another phlegmy cough, followed by a spit into an overflowing phlegm cup] I'll need that ten GP now. Az, my cup's full.

Geneva: And we've been through a thousand times worse than this! Imagine if you were in a cave and Stretch here [Indicates Tamsin] nearly lands on you from out of the blue! And if then you had to endure a fellow's endless talking about [lowers her voice] masturbation while you were in the cave and then in a mental institution, where you were wrongly. And then if [emphasis] that's [/emphasis] not enough, the guy who kissed Alice all the time MURDERED the ice cream man to steal his van! [Her voice goes dreamy but quiet and embarrassed at the same time] You meet someone like Grace!

Azrael : [Looks at Monty with barely concealed contempt for a few moments] Pay my father the money. [To Cheryl] What? What are you talking about? Is this a sex thing?

Geneva: Hhhrrumph! I grew up on a pirate ship you know! Like you grew up here. Only there's no sex thing on Pirate Ships! Only Daggers!

Chastity : For the sake of her soul it had better not be. [To Azrael] Not that you are in any better position. [Take a cheese slice wrapper off the bottom of her saddle] You should tidy up if you're expecting visitors!

Geneva: [Arms akimbo.] No-ooo. It wasn't the Good Ship at all!

Stephen : Hmm...sure. [To Azrael] Perhaps you father remembers something about the last few days.

Stephen : No sex thing on pirate ships!!!!! What did you sail on, the Good Ship Lollipop?

Alice : Well, I think what she meant was that there was probably no sex between men and women on the ship.

Albus : I remember something. [Quick coughing fit] I still haven't been paid.

Austin : What a touching display of parental concern for their childs financial well being. I'm sure Monty will do the honours.

Geneva: Oh! For goodness sakes! Can somebody please grease this man's palm?

Chastity : [Coughing in alarm. To Austin] I'm sure Mr. Giles will [emphasis] not. He'll just pay so that we can question this [waves her hand towards Azrael] person. [To Geneva] I think some moisturiser would be better for him.

Alice : [Looks disgusted] Why? What's he going to do?

Austin : [Smirks at Monty] I shall pay. [Hands 20GP to Albus] We would like to talk with her outside of this [looks around as he wrinkles his nose up in disgust] place.

Albus : [Laughs with glee, only for it to degenerate into a disgusting cough, that goes on and on, before he can finally squeeze out a word] Fine.

Azrael : I need to get cleaned up. Why don't you lot wait at Gonzo's for me? I'll be there in ten minutes. [Snaps] And no, the time doesn't start until then.

Geneva: Oh for goodness sakes! [Reaches into the pocket of her KFQ pants and retrieves a very dusty and tattered KFC wet towel which she deposits onto Albus' hand.] Right. There you go.

Chastity : [Looks Azrael up and down] Best make that 12 minutes, [almost spitting out the word] dear. You'd better turn up, we don't have all day to go chasing around, you know. We have the world to save. [Turns to head to the door] [Book IV, Act IV, Scene IX. The Tenements. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY, STEPHEN and TAMSIN are here, having just left. SARAH is still waiting, further down the corridor near the stairs.]

Alice : Phew! What a bitch! She can hardly be the same person as Grace, can she? If she is, I bet you're all really embarassed about the foolish way you behaved.

Albus : [Face lights up with delight] Excellent! 30GP! You all run along now, you hear? The bar is just one block north of here. [Exit the party.]

Azrael : Right, I'll get ready.

Albus : [Holds up a digustingly filthy mug] Don't forget to empty the phlegm cup!

Geneva: Oh you can't talk, Ms Cardigan!

Chastity : Well I think you were all a bit brisk with her. I'm sure it's difficult looking after her ill father.

Alice : [To Geneva] Hey! I already told you, I was planning on doing that anyway. In fact, I think I might do it anyway!

Austin : Indeed, Sister. Your patience with the girl was an inspiration to us all.

Geneva: [Mistily remembering her conversations with Grace] No one knows the ins and outs like Grace did about knife fighting... without ever touching the blade!

Stephen : [To Alice] Sure you did. [Under his breath] Psycho.

[SARAH gives a tentative wave to the party, but doesn't approach.]

Austin : Well said, Monty old bean, although there were some people who were the same, wasn't there? That bunch in the coffee shop? Everyone else so far has been the opposite. Who haven't we met?

Alice : It's the same with the jeweller and the other cop - what were their names? Fenster and Fitz? [Glances over at Sarah] We shouldn't really just leave her there, should we?

Chastity : There's been no evedence of the mad old woman yet.

Austin : [Looks up at Chastity briefly before returning to brushing his sleaves. Smirking] Presumably you are refering to the one with the cats, Sister. No her lore does seem to have transfered into this version of the town though.

Geneva: [Practically snarling.] Why not? She didn't want our help to begin with!

Alice : [Wiping an imaginary piece of Geneva's saliva off her (own) face] It was Azrael who didn't want our help, not Sarah. She's really nice. [Thoughtfully] And I bet she's got a bunch of hair care products.

Austin : [Running his fingers through his own hair] Unfortunately good hair is not always indicative of the quality of the beholder.

Chastity : [Glancing at Austin] Quite. [To Alice] No, best not keep the poor girl waiting. She may not want to be present when Azrael comes out. It would probably be a bit counter productive.

Austin : I think it fair to say that she still harbours some grudging feelings towards your good self, although she claims to have not pursued any revengeful acts. Tell me, what do you know of her father, whom is living with her.

Alice : [Watching Austin play with his hair] Too late!

[The party approach SARAH.]

Sarah : [Nervously] Well? How did you get on? Did she say anything about me?

Sarah : Not a whole lot, but he's not a particularly nice guy. He used to be a small time criminal, but turned more serious when he got that awful disease, as the medication is pretty expensive. Unfortunately, it was Daddy who foiled him, but persuaded Arnie to be lenient. It's Azrael who pays for all his medication now. She's telling the truth about the revenge thing though - nothing bad's happened to me.

Sarah : Sure. Where are you meeting her? Gonzo's? [Points towards a building just north of here] that's it over there.

Alice : [To Sarah] Hey Sarah, I need a favour. [To the others] I'll catch up with you later, okay?

Chastity : As ever sensible words, Mr. Giles. [To Sarah] Maybe we'd best meet you back at your house, my dear. Azrael is a troublesome girl.

Tamsin: [To Fitz, approvingly and with a friendly smile] No problem whatsoever. Name's Tamsin [offers her hand].

Fitz : [With a big gruff smile] Good to meet you, Tamsin. [Reaches out to shake her hand, but notices that it's covered in pus, presumeably from Carrell, which he wipes off Carrells jacket, before giving her a vigorous shake] New in town, eh?

Chastity : [Gesturing round the group] We all are. [Looking down at Carrell] Why is he being treated this way, may I ask?

Fitz : Because he's an idiot with a big mouth.

Carrell : You bastard! You know she's nothing but a -

Fitz : [Throws a pretend punch at Carrell, sending him running] Sorry, Sister, but I didn't like the way he was speaking about a friend of mine. Please, come on in.

Tamsin: Thanks! Join us for a drink?

Fitz : Fraternise with the customers? [Big smile] Sure!

[The party enter the bar, which is empty, except for the barman, FRANKY GONZO, who's sitting on the bar, looking pretty trashed.]

Fitz : Gonzo! We've got some customers!

Gonzo : [Very stoned] Customers? [Sways a little] You mean students. Welcome to Dr. Gonzo's University of Drinking. Barman! [Hammers on the bar] Barman!

Fitz : [To the party] You folks sit down, I'll get some drinks. Beer okay for everyone?

Chastity : [Slightly hesitantly] You don't have tea do you?

Fitz : [Laughs] I'll see what I can do, Sister!

[Everyone sits around a table.]

Austin : Hm. Another pair of familiar faces. I believe they were Fenster and Fitz. Interesting.

Stephen : Comparing them with their natural selves... what? Sure, Fitz has a little more facial hair and a few more chicken bones in his beard, and Gonzo has less hair and looks a little drunker, but they seemed like decent types then, and seem like decent types now.

Geneva: Arrgh I like them better that way! More pirate-like, ye know!

Tamsin: [Listening to Monty, sighing and shaking her head] I think I'm gonna need more beer.

Stephen : Well, let's see, who has changed? The idiot Bravis into Captain Cady, Lovely Grace into a stinky prositute [glances at Tamsin] no offence, Captain Geoffrey into a flaky disease, Pyscho Cici into the fine if somewhat emotional Sarah, and awful Richard into Sarah's boyfriend. There are these two, they don't seem to have changed as much, have they? [Thoughtfully] Although they did have better jobs last time around.

Austin : [To Stephen, whilst checking his nails briefly. Casually] Pitty you didn't change for the better, after all, you have a plethora of flaws that you could improve upon.

Stephen : I know, Austin, while you, on the other hand are now a pompous ass in denial of his true sexuality who spreads ill ease and anger everywhere he goes. Man, you sure have changed for the better!

Austin : [To Stephen] You can wish all you like, but I'll always be hetrosexual. [Smirks] I always change for the better, why else would I bother changing? [Checks his hair in a mirror]

Austin : [To Stephen] You can wish all you like, but I'll always be hetrosexual. [Smirks] I always change for the better, why else would I bother changing? [Checks his hair in a mirror]

Stephen : Maybe because of that suit?

[FITZ arrives back with drinks for everyone, including tea for CHASTITY.]

Fitz : Here we go!

Tamsin: [To Fitz] Hey, thanks, buddy. Pull up a chair and tell us about yourself!

Fitz : Sure! [Drags a chair over and squeezes in between Monty and Austin] Not a whole lot to tell. I've been the bouncer here for a few years, working for [waves his mug at the almost catatonic Gonzo] that reprobate. [GONZO stirs, and mumbles something incomprehensible, before barking like a dog and lapsing into apparant catatonia again.]

Fitz : [With a smile] Don't worry, his bark's worse than bite, and he's got a heart of gold, even though most customers don't get to see it. What about you folks? What brings you to town?

Tamsin: [Shrugs and says casually] Just passing through! This seems like a pretty decent place to live, though people keep talking to us weird things have been happening here lately. You hear anything about that?

Fitz : Ah, the sleeping? [Shrugs] No idea what was going on there, but it was pretty freaky all the same. [Enter MADCHEN and TOBEY, tentatively peering in the door.]

Gonzo : [Jerking awake] Get out! [Throws a glass of beer at them, which hits off the door as they shut it and run off.]

Fitz : [Watching the party look at Gonzo] But things here are pretty much the same. [Wipes some beer off his beard before taking another drink] Did you get caught up in it?

Chastity : [Putting down her tea, with a look of disgust] Mr. Fitz, this appears to be beer in a teacup.

Tamsin: [Watching Gonzo's reaction, says to Fitz] What'd those guys do to make him so mad?

Chastity : [Still looking distastefully at her cup] Perhaps they are tea drinkers.

Fitz : Nah, they really didn't do anything - Gonzo just isn't the best at customer relations.

Tamsin: [To Fitz] Guess not. [Takes a swig of beer] Say, ever seen a crazy old cat lady around here?

Fitz : Nah. I've heard of her though, but I think she's just a legend.

Austin : [To Fitz] We'd like to meet a man that we saw recently, but I don't know his name.

[AUSTIN gives FITZ a brief description of LEWIS]

Austin : I believe that he may have some idea of why the sleeping took place.

Fitz : [Shakes his head] 'fraid not, my friend. Doesn't sound like anyone from this town, and I know 'em all.

[Enter AZRAEL, now properly dressed and cleaned up, but still looking a bit surly. GONZO immediately lights up.]

Gonzo : Hey! Azrael!

Fitz : [Gives Azrael a big thumbs up, before turning to the party] That's Azrael. Her manner is even worse than Gonzo's, but don't let that put you off.

Chastity : We'll try.

Azrael : [Looking a little uncomfortable as she stiffly waves back to Gonzo, before coming over to the party] Fitz? Do you know them?

Fitz : Just met 'em. [Looks at the party] You're friends of Azrael's?

Chastity : More brief acquaintances. We've only just met her and her sick father.

Fitz : [Stands up] Take my seat, Az!

Azrael : Thanks, Fitz. [Sits down, looking around the party with a look that's a strange mix of sheepish and annoyed, before looking down] Sorry about earlier. What do you want to talk to me about?

Austin : [To Azrael] Well, a number of things, but have you seen a brooch like this one before? [Shows Azrael a picture of one of the brooches, drawn in his note book]

Azrael : [Gives a big sigh, and rubs her forehead for a moment, looking down] Yes, yes I have.

Stephen : Where?

Azrael : [Snapping] Give me a minute! [Looks at Austin] I don't know, but I know it has something to do with you lot.

Stephen : [Hurt] No need to snap, I was only asking!

Azrael : [Rolls her eyes] Alright, I'm sorry, okay? [Big sigh] Where did you see that brooch?

Stephen : It's strange, but when we met you previously, but you and a girl called Cici had one. Except Cici was really Sarah.

Azrael : What? What are you talking about? [FITZ, who's still standing behind AZRAEL, puts his hand hands on her shoulder and gives a gentle squeeze.]

Fitz : Easy, tiger.

Azrael : [Curtly to Fitz] I'm fine. [To Stephen] I don't know, okay? I don't know what the brooches mean.

Stephen : [Takes a drink] Okay, you're not alone there, Azrael! [Clears his throat] Um, we were talking to an old friend of yours lately, who is really worried about you, and she was also worried that you might try to get some form of revenge on her...did you?

Fitz : [Calmly, yet firmly, to Tamsin] Azrael's my friend, I don't like people speaking about her like that.

Azrael : I don't need you to stand up for me, Fitz. [Snatches the drawing from Austin, nearly drawing blood with a savage paper cut] Wait a minute, I know what this is!

Stephen : [Suddenly excited] What? What is it?

Azrael : [For once sounding like Grace] It's a map, I just bet it is! Look, aren't they arrows? Pointing into the centre? [Turns to Austin with a sour look] Unless it's a crap drawing.

Austin : [Flicking away an imaginary dust spec] My, but you are delightful, aren't you.

Tamsin: [Checks out the drawing] Huh! I guess it could be. Kinda vague, though. Not much good if you can't tell where it is, is it?! [To Azrael] YOU don't know where it points, do you?

Azrael : [Sourly] Do you?

Geneva: [To Azrael] At least she's trying to help! The least you could do is answer nicely!

Tamsin: [To Geneva] Thanks, Red! [shoots Azrael a dirty look and then says in a lower voice to Geneva] Any idea what that thing is? [gestures to the brooch sketch]

Geneva: [Shaking her head.] None. [Considers.] Wonder what stone the heart of the beast is made of? weeks away [Enter RODGER, the kid from the tenements that AUSTIN bought the daggers from. He looks pretty much the same, except quite a bit unhealthier, and is on crutches.]

Rodger : [Looks over at the group] Hey Fitzy, Azrael. [FITZ gives him a big wave, while AZRAEL just looks over at him for a moment and gives a barely perceptable nod.]

Gonzo : Get out! Get out, you dirty little whelp!

Rodger : [Shuffling up to the counter] Yeah, yeah. Give me some soup.

Gonzo : [Pouring out some soup from a nearby tureen, drunkenly spilling quite a bit of it over himself and the counter] Okay, but this is the last time.

Azrael : [Snottily] Hey! I've told you what I know. So far, you've told me nothing.

Fitz : I have to say, it doesn't look like any map I've ever seen, but maybe General Store?

Geneva: [Grumpily.] Oh for heavens sake! We are trying to figure out what use it is not only to tell you but to help you!

Chastity : [To Geneva] Calm now, dear. I know things are trying [glances at Azrael], but we must be objective here, [Looks back down at her cup] despite the difficult conditions.

Azrael : [Exasperated] Okay! I'm [exaggerated] sorry! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

Geneva: [Slightly mollified.] Alright then. [To Monty] An excellent idea of yours, to find the map shop. [Pauses for a moment.] I wonder if Alice would be able to glean anything from a maths point of view from it?

Azrael : [Momentarily dropping her guard] Look, I really am sorry. I know you're trying to help, [shakes her head] sometimes I just can't help myself. You seem like a nice bunch of people. [Looks around the group with a tentative smile, before adding conversationally] You know, it's strange to see a party with no real men, I mean, three women, two gays and [looks Monty up and down] you.

Chastity : [Glances from Azrael to Austin and back to Azrael, with a faint amused smile] You know dear, maybe you were a bit hastily judged earlier. [Absent mindedly takes a sip from her cup, before suddenly coughing. Turns towards the bar, shouting through the cough] What, in Phili's name, happened to my tea?

Austin : [To Azrael, casually] I'm not gay [Sighs, checks his nails. To Azrael] I may be well dressed and handsome, but I'm not gay. [Nods towards Stephen] He is though, despite the fact that he has no taste whatsoever.

Azrael : Whatever.

Stephen : [Mouths the following words at Azrael] He is. [Out loud] So, are we going to the map seller?

Austin : [To Azrael, nodding towards Stephen] Please excuse him, he's terribly boring, obsessed with trying to turn the world gay. It's all he ever does. [Looks at Azrael, then Fitz] Have you seen anyone with one of these brooches? [Beckons Roger over] Could I ask you a question or two? Have you seen anyone with one of these brooches? [Holds up the picture of the brooch]

Rodger : [Looks up from the soup that he's hungrily devouring] Nope.

Tamsin : Right, let's go. [Flips a GP to Rodger] Here, kid, you can pay for your soup next time.

Rodger : [Catches it] Yeah, right! [Catches sight of Gonzo's glare] I mean, yes, of course, thanks very much, Miss. [The party all get up, just as ALICE arrives at the door. She has cut and coloured her hair the way she did previously, and is dressed in similar, but not identical clothes. She approaches the party, beaming.]

Alice : Well, I guess you all feel pretty silly now after the way you all behaved with the presents, after all, now you can see that I really was going to try out this look anyway. [Gives a twirl and finishes with a flourish, giving everyone a good look, before adding somewhat smugly] Who's the psycho now?

Austin : [Looking at Alice, frowning] Are you feeling alright? [To the others] It seems as though some of us have not yet overcome the odd psychotic episodes that we experienced over the last few days. [To the party] Perhaps we should have Alice sedated?

Austin : [To Azrael] Well, she looks very nice anyway, not everyone can be as slim and beautiful as Sarah and myself.

Alice : Idiot. Of course I feel alright. I [huge emphasis] told you that I was planning on doing this anyway.

Azrael : [Leans back to take a look, and gives Alice a sincere smile] Well, I like it. It's just a pity you're so fat.

Geneva: [Snorting derisively.] Jeez! [To Alice.] Anything mathematical about this? [Indicates the drawing of the brooch.]

Alice : [Shakes her head] Don't think so.

Stephen : We think it's a map.

Azrael : No, I thought it was a map, you had no idea at all.

Alice : [Shrugs] It's pretty low on the landmarks, isn't it?

Chastity : [To Alice] We're hoping it's an overlay to a map. That's why we're off shopping for one.

Geneva: [Just about exploding.] You're looking for a stab in the belly! [Touches her dagger hilt for reassurance.] I guess anyone who does what you do for a living at the request their own father is going to look as great as you do! [Nods to Alice] Quite right, I'm sure the company is less insulting out there.

Austin : Well, it could be a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional map, the brooches were, afterall, three dimensional. [Ponders the picture. To Alice] There are six lines of different lenghts and at different angles, could they represent some kind of coordinate system, or navigation points?

[Book IV, Act VI, Scene X. The General Store. AZRAEL, ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, GENEVA, MONTY, STEPHEN and TAMSIN are here, having just entered. The store seems to stock just about everything, from food to books, and everything in between. Sitting on the counter is a puppet, GROVER.]

Grover : [With a squeaky voice] Hello boys and girls! My name's Grover, what can I do for you today?

Alice : [Stepping up to the counter] Hi Grover. We're looking for a map.

[Notices that GROVER is checking out her chest, looking directly at it.]

Alice : Hey! I'm up here!

Grover : [Looking up] Sorry.

Chastity : I wonder if there is a rough guide to The South. [Goes over to the books]

Tamsin: [To Grover, arching her back more than strictly necessary] Hey there, uh, Blue! Bet you've got some really rare maps around here, eh? Anything really special you could show us?

Geneva: I bet he could sing us a song. [Walks over to the book section as well to investigate.]

Azrael : You idiots! That's just a puppet!

Grover : Uh, oh! The mean girl is back! [Looks over in the general direction of Tamsin] 'fraid not, Miss, just modern ones. [There's a fine selection of maps, varying maps of the town to more general ones. Several of the party members flick through some, but no one finds anything that's obviously relevant.]

Alice : [Reading the Rough Guide to the North] Hey, let's see what it says Queens View. [Reads] Tacky tourist town that boasts superb views of Kings Reach, but little else other than sleazy bars. [Looks up] Hey!

Tamsin: [To Grover] What, have you seen me before?!

Austin : [Checks through the sight seeing type maps] Maybe the tourist maps of some old castle or something ...

[A man, GENERAL STORE, pops his head up from behind the counter for a second, before disappearing back down again.]

Grover : No.

[MONTY finds some star charts, but nothing that corresponds to the brooch design.]

Alice : There are hundreds of maps here! Come on, let's think. Which one is it likely to be?

Austin : [To the party] Well, it's quite possibly going to be someplace ancient, perhaps an archealogical dig, or and old tomb, castle or somesuch place. [Keeps looking]

Chastity : This all seems to have something to do with this town, so lets look at the maps of Euneirophrenia.

Alice : Why don't we start with a map of somewhere we know? Like this town, for example?

Tamsin: [Joins the others in looking for maps after her failed attempt to arouse a muppet] Anyone find anything interesting, yet?

Austin : [Sighs] You mean none of you have looked at a map of this town yet? [Sighs and gets a map of the town and studies it carefully] I wonder if there are tunnels and caverns beneath this town?

Tamsin: [To Austin] Don't your people instinctively know about those kinds of things, ratboy?

Austin : [To Tamsin] How unplesant you are. Were you abused as a child. [Goes back to studying the map] My instincts tell me that there are probably some subterranian spaces. Cellars and wells at the very least.

[AUSTIN folds out a map of the town, which everyone gathers around.]

Azrael : [To Tamsin] You should punch him. He's an idiot.

Tamsin: [To Azrael, gravely] Violence is never the answer. [Looks at map] Hey, do the blacked out houses match up with anything on the brooch?!

Azrael : Typical. The church has to be the focus, doesn't it?

Alice : Let me see the map with the black buildings. You know, if you extend all the lines, and if there was a black building here [points to the top right hand corner, which relates to part of the town the party didn't see] then each of them would be linked by the sign.

Chastity : Almost, I think. Lets see the brooch picture again? [Looks at the picture when produced] Hmm. Well if the central hub of the brooch is put on the church, the lines all point to blacked out buildings, except for the bar. Unless its pointing to a house behind the bar?

Chastity : [With a smile] Well there is only one thing left to say - lets all go to church. [Looks round the group] I'm sure it's been a while for some of you.

Austin : [Smiling gleefully at Chastity] Excellent, I never thought I'd get an invitation! [To the others] Let's go shoppi ... to church. [Smiles and wiggles his eyebrows] Then to the Clergy, since it's the closest. Perhaps each of the blacked out buildings has a clue or a switch that must be activated to open the churches crypt or something [Waves his hand in a generally wavey fashion]

Alice : Actually, Chas, it looks like it points to the front of the church. [To the others] Looks like we might get away with not going in!

Tamsin:[Pokes around in her knapsack and comes up with a handbound book of limericks. To Grover] Can you break a book? I'm out of singles?

Austin : [To Grover] Why, what a polite glove puppet you are. Is it easy to sew your head back on?

Store : [Standing straight up] Hey! It's two GP for the map.

Azrael : Oh, for God's sake, just pay him, will you? [Slight pause] And yes, his head has been sewn back on several times.

Chastity : [To Austin] I would have thought you'd learned by now that you just can't take other peoples belongings that you fancy, Mr. Sleaze, it's called [speaking slowly in a patronizing manner] stealing! And threatening violence is most certainly a most unpleasant new addition to your other unpleasant side. Just pay the man and lets be off. You can pop into the church to repent while we're in front of it [looking towards Alice] as we apparently don't have to go in. Tut!

Tamsin: Well, no way in hell am I going in, so feel free to join me outside the church, Austin. I can show you the latest draft of my series on saucy dominatrix nuns!

Alice : Oh, for God's sake. [Gives Store two GP] Come on.

[The group make their way to the front of the church, which looks as it did before, with large paving slabs in front of it. ALICE uses the map to choose one, and stands on it.]

Alice : Right. If we're right about the black buildings, this is where they point to. [Stamps on it] I wonder if it's solid.

Azrael : It must be if it can hold you.

Austin : [Laughs] Repent! Ha, you must be joking [Gives the map back to Store] That maps filthy, someone's scribbled all over it. You can keep it. [To Chastity] So it's okay for the church to brainwash the proletariat into giviing it all their money, but taking something from the church to support the proles is stealing? Ha [Laughs dismissively] Aaah, well, you'll find out what it's all about eventually. [Tuts]

Tamsin: [Examining the slabs] Think we can move 'em? Maybe there's something underneath?

Alice : Maybe we could try prising one up?

Azrael : If only there were any men in the party, they'd surely be able to do it.

Tamsin: [Nods regretfully at Azrael's words and says] Well, Alice, Red and me are pretty strong, at least. Join me, ladies? [Reaches down to get a grip on the slab]

Chastity : The brooch seemed to indicate that the blacked out buildings all point to this spot, or underneath here. Perhaps there are tunnels from these places to a chamber underneath our feet, and we should look there [Looks at Tamsin grapping a stone] before we get arrested for vandalising the town square. [Looks round the rooftops] I'm sure the mayor will be able to see us from his vantage point.

Alice : [Helping Tamsin] Don't be ridic -

[ALICE is interrupted by a high powered crossbow bolt pinging off the ground near the party.]

Alice : Let's just get it up.

[MONTY and STEPHEN also join in with them, and the slab is soon up high enough for the party to see that there is a hole going down into the dark.]

Alice : Yes, but [pant] what do we do with this stone? It's really heavy.

Azrael : At least, it would be if you weren't just pretending to lift it.

Chastity : [Looking down the hole] Or there could just be a hole under the stone. Lets get going before the mayor gets his eye in. [Looks round the rooftops again] So much for the inadequacies of jungle camouflage in an urban environment! [Enters the hole]

[ALICE and the others throw the flagstone to one side, smashing it.]

Alice : Oops. Let's go!

[Everyone races down the tunnel, which is quite dark. As soon as the last person is in, another flagstone appears, covering the hole.]

Stephen : Hey! We're all gonna die!

Austin : [Follows Chastity down the tunnel. To Alice] Just drop the stone on the ground someplace!

Tamsin: [To Stephen] Yeah, this is not shaping up to be our best plan ever, is it? [Looks around, squinting, trying to see anything] Anybody got a light?

[A voice answers from further up the tunnel. This is COOP DALER.]

Coop : Yep. I've got one. Just a moment. [He lights a torch, which illuminates the tunnel, showing that there is a door behind him, and that he is sitting in an alcove, not all of which is visible from where the party is. He addresses someone sitting out of sight] Looks like I owe you fifty GP. [Gives a smile] Hi everyone. Hi Azrael.

Azrael : [Takes a look at him, clearly irritated] Do I know you?

Coop : Nope.

Chastity : [To Coop] Who are you, may I ask?

Coop : The name's Coop Daler, and I've just lost a bet.

[Enter LOUIS KESHER, peering around the corner. He smiles and gives the party a big wave.]

Louis : Hey there! I'm Louis, and I knew you'd find us.

Tamsin: [To Louis, skeptically] Oh, yeah? How'd you know that?

Louis : Because if I'd slept for two days outside a strange town, I'd try to find out what was going on.

Coop : But how'd you know they'd find us? [Gives Azrael a wink] You sure do scrub up well, Azrael.

Azrael : Look, who are you people?

Louis : We work for the lady that your potion was stolen from.

Chastity : [Looking at Azrael] What lady? [To Louis] This lady didn't happen to like cats alot by any chance ?

Louis : [Smiles and chuckles] She sure does. Do you want to meet her?

Tamsin: [Rubs her hand and says wryly] Sure, why not?

Louis : [Hand on the door, but doesn't open it yet] The potion that sent everyone to sleep, of course. The one that [nods at Azrael] she took.

Azrael : You liar! I never took any potion! [To the party] You have to believe me, I never did!

Austin : [To Louis] You're the guy that was behind the weird forcefield thing, and no I don't really want to meet her. [To Louis, quizzically] What potion are you talking about?

Tamsin: [Confused] Wait, how'd you get everyone to take a potion?!

Austin : [To Tamsin] It was just Azrael who took the potion, allegedly. However, we have not yet seen any proof of this allegation.

Azrael : I doubt that's possible.

Louis : Actually, it makes a whole lot more sense. Some of these potions are pretty strong.

Tamsin: What?! That makes even less sense than what I said!

Tamsin: [To Louis] All right, then, buddy. You seem to have all the answers. What the hell is going on here, anyway?!

Louis : I think you'd better talk to Janey.

[LOUIS opens the door, revealing a large and surprisingly comfortable looking room. Sitting on a couch, surrouned by cats, is JANEY BABY.]

Janey : [Smoking a cigarette with a ridiculously large holder] Hello darlings.

Austin : [Stepping into the room, suprised] Indeed, greetings Janey, I'm glad you're feeling more amicably disposed towards us this time.

Janey : Darling, please! Don't take our earlier meeting as anything other than me trying to protect you. Please, come on in and take a seat. Coop, be a doll and fetch some drinks for these lovely people.

Tamsin: [To Janey, eyeing the cats uneasily] So, mind telling us what's going on?!

Stephen : [Attempts to lift a cat from a chair before giving up the feline tug of war] Do you know what all this is about a sleeping potion?

Janey : As a matter of fact, darling, I do. First of all, it wasn't a sleeping potion, but it was one of my potions. Stolen from me. [The party turn and look at AZRAEL.]

Azrael : I didn't take your potion!

Stephen : [To Janey] Are you sure it was Azrael? She seems not to know what's been going on here.

Azrael : Because I want to know what the hell is going on. [Much to AZRAEL's obvious disgust, glasses of champagne are handed out. After a few moments, everyone has one.]

Janey : I do know who he was, an odious little twerp of an illusionist who came to work for me. When he realised that he actually had to do work, he stole a bunch of sleeping potions and left. [Laughs] I mean, who did he think was going to clean up the kitty litter?

Stephen : Did you ever think of creating a potion that, well, disolved the kitty litter itself? Who was the odious little twerp?

Janey : A most unpleasant individual named Stump. [Cue the sound of both ALICE and AZRAEL slapping their foreheads.]

Janey : Ah! [Big smile] \> Janey : A most unpleasant individual named Stump.

Tamsin: [Looking at Alice] Uh, Stump?

Austin : [Smirks] Odious little twerp of an illusionist, [Chuckles] Well there cannot be many of them around. [Sips his champagne] I'd completely forgotten about him. What was his name again [Ponders] Lumpy? Or was it Stumpy, [To Janey] Did he have a peg leg? Stumpy George [Becomes disinterested and turns back to Janey to see what she has to say next]

Janey : [Nods at Austin] Indeed he did.

Alice : [Highly annoyed at hearing the name, glancing at Tamsin] A horrible little runt that travelled with us for a while.

Chastity : [To Tamsin] He gave Alice a love potion, and she behaved awfully foolishly and embarassingly as she try to win his affections, but it was all for nothing, as he had originally intented it to be taken by another. Poor Alice, making a fool of yourself like that for someone who didn't even want you in the first place.

Azrael : [Even more annoyed than Alice] Stump? That little bastard!

Tamsin: [With mock sympathy, to Alice] Tough break, kiddo. [To Azrael] What'd he do to you?

Azrael : He drugged me and robbed me.

Alice : [Gives a shiver] Was he a customer?

Azrael : Yes.

Tamsin: [Eyes narrowed] Sounds like a real prick.

Geneva: No doubt. [To Janey Baby.] So, do you know where he is now?

Alice : Yes.

Azrael : Yes.

Janey : The potion he slipped you, sweetie, was a dream potion, very powerful. When someone takes it, they can take energy from those around them to have very powerful dreams which can even be shared. You took so much you knocked out the whole town, and even this lot, who came along after you had taken it. I've rarely heard of anyone taking so much before, but is has been done [smiles] and I've heard it's so powerful that it's like making a dream come true. [To Geneva] On his way to the Bringer, I believe. [Big smile to everyone] Well, I hope that explains everything, do call again.

Azrael : [Thoroughly confused] Huh? That explains nothing!

Austin : [To Janey] We were rather hoping you may be able to tell us about the Heart of the Beast or the meaning of the phrase 'From within it consumes'.

Azrael : Forget that! [To Janey] Why didn't I remember any of the dream?

Janey : I didn't want to attract attention to our little home here, so we cast a forgetfulness spell on the town. Unfortunately, your friends here weren't in the town when we cast it, so weren't effected. [Holds up a hand] I know, Honey, it was your wish, but, because they arrived after you took the potion, their presence would have messed it up, as did Louis and Coop's presence when they went into the town to wake you.

Azrael : [Thoroughly confused] What wish? [To the party] What the hell happened in the dream?

Geneva: [Mightly confused.] Could have the other town with Grace have been a dream?

Geneva: [Looking incredulously at Monty.] Others? I seem to remember someone puffing up and proclaiming "I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the watcher's code, amongst other factual and useful texts. " in a bid to impress Grace.

Alice : You have to admit, Monty, you and the others did behave pretty strangely.

Janey : You are correct, Mr. Giles, probably on both counts. You and the others entered the dream, and became part of her wish. [Gives a smile] There was so much power needed for Azrael's wish that it became distorted when you arrived, but it wasn't your fault, so much changed that it couldn't be sustained. Anyone that Azrael liked benefited, anyone she didn't suffered, [smiles at Azrael] perhaps more than you expected.

Azrael : [Really pissed off] Wish? I didn't wish for anything.

Alice : [Exasperated] Look, let's just pretend you had a wish. What would it be?

Azrael : That Sarah would be dead.

Janey : No it wouldn't. What do you really want, Azrael?

Azrael : [Glares at Janey for a moment, before looking down] I just want to be loved.

Alice : [Rolls her eyes, muttering to the others] Maybe if she wasn't such a bitch.

Geneva: [Lowly to Alice.] You loved her as Grace! Boy I thought I had some issues with this dagger fixation, but this really takes the cake! [Louder] But we loved... er held Grace in such high regard because she was a nice person!

Azrael : No! What they learn there is buggery and the best way to clean up parrot shit!

Geneva: [Very Offended] I don't know what boats you've been on! But I can tell you, in reality there are very few parrots on a boat! At least it's a damn site more than you've learnt in a dingy back room!

Azrael : [Picks up a vase to throw it at Geneva] And what did you learn?

Tamsin : [Stepping in front of Azrael] Back off! [Draws her sword] I mean it.

Louis : [Who's been standing at the back, watching the last few minutes with his arms folded and a fairly expressionless face] Why don't you tell her, Janey?

Chastity : [To Geneva] I know I'm a bit of a landlubber, but I didn't think dingies were big enough to have back rooms.

Azrael : [Sharply] About what?

Janey : The curse.

Azrael : Curse? Someone put a curse on me? Why? Why would anyone put a curse on me?

Alice : Because you're a bitch?

Geneva: Thanks Stretch. [To Chasity] I'll explain all about it later sister! You see it really depends on the type of the dingy... [To Azrael.] Can you think of anyone you've really annoyed... er.. apart from well... anyone before you met us?

Azrael : No.

Chastity : [To Janey] Would this curse need something that was stolen from you? Or might it be connected with something Janey used? Or is it connected with that odious Mr. Stump.

Austin : [To Azrael] Who in this town hates you most? Perhaps they put the curse on you.

Azrael : Everyone hates me.

Alice : Can you lift the curse, Janey?

Janey : Indeed I can. [Holds up a potion] This will dispell it.

Geneva: [Not rudely, to Janey.] If it was that simple, why didn't you offer it to her before?

Janey : Because I wasn't sure until I met her that she had been cursed. Someone sure went out of their way to make you unappealing, darling.

Azrael : Do I get the potion?

Austin : [To Azrael] I hope so, because you really are a very nice person [Emphasis] when you are not under a curse.

Azrael : Yeah? And what's [emphasis] your excuse?

[JANEY hands AZRAEL the potion.]

zrael : [Makes to take a drink, but stops, and looks at Austin, before taking in all the party] Look, there's something I need to say to you, and I want to say it while the curse is still in effect, to show you I really mean it. Thank you. If it wasn't for you'd I'd never have known, and, despite what it might have sounded like, I really do like you.

Alice : That's okay, Azrael. [Squeezes her arm] We understand, [to the party, a little doubtfully] don't we?

Azrael : Thanks. You know, I really do like your new look, Alice, I don't care how fat you are. And you, Austin, it's fine for a guy to be that effeminate. Likewise, Chastity, I think you're really brave to not shave. Gen, it doesn't matter that everyone else thinks the pirate stuff is stupid, if you like it, you keep doing it. Monty, it's okay that no one thinks you've any personality, as long as you're happy, and that goes for you, too, Tamsin, it doesn't matter that your poems are crap, what matters is that you enjoy writing them. [Looks at Stephen] Well, I'm sure there's something nice about you too. [Knocks back the potion.]

Tamsin: [Seething] That damn potion better fix you up.

Azrael : [Curls her lip up in disgust at Tamsin] Yeah? What if it - oh! [Drops the phial, and staggers, before looking up] [AZRAEL's demeanour slowly, but visibly changes, e.g. her shoulders are no longer hunched up, her head is up, and her face is no longer hard and cold, now being much warmer than before.]

Azrael : [With a warm, Grace-like smile] Wow! [All the party members give a slight shudder as the spell's effect disappears. Everyone remembers everything that happened, and how they felt, but can now react objectively.]

Geneva: Aarrgh. If she wasn't going to drink her potion she'd have a dagger in your belly now. [Quietly to Tamsin.] And I like your poems! Especially the ones about pirates!

Geneva: [Genuinly touched.] Thank you Austin. Though I couldn't see you as a pirate - even they couldn't do the dirty deeds of a lawyer!

Azrael : [Holds her hands up and speaks gently] Hey, I'm sorry about all that stuff, I didn't mean any of it, I don't even know why I said it. [Looks sad all of a sudden] Oh my God, what have I done? I've hurt just about everyone who tried to help me. [Tears start pouring down her cheeks]

Alice : Er, there there. [Gives Azrael a hug]

Azrael : It sure is nice hugging a fat chick.

Alice : [Pulling back] What?

Azrael : [Smiling yet crying] Hey, I do have a sense of humour, you know!

Austin : [To Azrael] There is a difference between effeminate and graceful, but I expect you'll understand that now [Watches Azrael drink the potion. To Gen] I think pirates are inspirational, advernturous, swashbuckling, fearless and free! [Swipes the air with his dagger and a glint in his eye. Then camly] A little unwashed though. [Frowns as if possibly considering the difficulties of being a extreemly good looking, well dressed and clean pirate].

Azrael : [Sitting down] Who did this to me? Who could possibly want to turn me into ... well, that.

Tamsin: [To Azrael] You'd know better than us, wouldn't you? Pissed anybody off recently?

Austin : [To Azrael] Perhaps it was, erm, Sarah? Do you two get on well?

Azrael : Sarah? [Big depressed sigh] Oh God. She must hate me. You wouldn't believe the kind things I said to her.

Alice : [Some way sympathetically] You know, I think we would!

Janey : This was a very, very powerful curse. It must have been someone who really hated you, because, in some ways, this is even worse than killing you. [Thinks] The only person associated with this town who would have access to such a curse is me.

Austin : [To Janey, sipping his champagne] Did you curse Azrael? Or help someone else? [Looks doubtfully at Janey] Someone out of town then, perhaps old Stumpy was good at curses, it's not the kind of thing you'd tell people about. [Checks his hair in his pocket mirror. To Geneva] Do all pirates have beards? The male ones that is. I'm sure that many of them are clean shaven.

Tamsin: [To Austin, slyly] I could be your beard, for the right price.

Alice : [Nearly chokes on her champagne] Cough!

Janey : I didn't cure her, nor were any of my potions used. I can, however, identify who did. [Pause] If you really think knowing would be a good thing.

Tamsin: [To Janey, exasperated] Why wouldn't it be a good thing?! Hell, yeah, we want to know!

Austin : [Strolls over to Tamsin. Nonchalantly to Tamsin] Well, I was considering growing my own, but since you offered ... up to much later this evening? We could check out a few of the local bars, perhaps find a knife throwing competition or two.

Louis : [Still calmly standing at the back of the room] Easy, Tamsin. It's just that you'd be surprised at how often the truth can be unpleasant. [JANEY steps in front of a cauldron, and sprinkles some herbs into it, mumbling an incantation as she stirs it around.]

Janey : Now, when the surface comes to rest, the image of the person responsible for cursing you will appear.

Azrael : Oh, I can't wait, I can't wait to see what kind of sick, evil and twisted person would do this to me! [Everyone gathers around in anticipation, as the liquid slows, and a muddied image appears, which begins to clear. When it settles, it is the unmistakable likeness of SVEN.]

Janey : [Looking at the shocked faces of the party] Ah, darlings! I think this might be one of those times that Louis was talking about.