THE QUEENS VIEW AFFAIR - 4.8

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene I. The Forest. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, GENEVA, MONTY and STEPHEN have just appeared. Also here are BODDY, ARAMIS and DARIUS, sitting around drinking wine and eating eggy bread*. ARAMIS leaps to his feet as he sees the party.]

Aramis : [With a big smile] By the saints! I -

[There is a quick burst of the blue lightening seen before, and ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT and MONTY disappear.]

Aramis : Hey!

Darius : [Rolling up a whole slice of eggy bread and popping it into his mouth] Welcome to the Path, Aramis.

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene II. The Farm. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT and MONTY are here, having just appeared. The party are outside a small farmhouse, with various farm animals walking around, although there are no obvious signs of people. The same carriage that BJORSETH and APHI had is parked outside the door.]

Alice : [Looking around her, bewildered] Huh?

Chastity : Well I hope it doesn't compare with the bridal bunker, poor Alice still looks quite pale after looking in. Although it may just be her makeup in this light, [Looks around, stopping at Clint] Oh, so you did make it, but we do seem to have lost a couple of other party members! [Sighs] We'll never get anywhere if we need to keep chasing around looking for estranged colleagues.

Alice : You mean, like masturbation?

Alice : Don't worry about it, Monty. Nothing could surprise me now.

[CLINT walks up to knock on the door, but it opens just as he's about it make contact, and he narrowly avoids hitting the person who opened the door. It is HARVEY.]

Harvey : [Ducks] By the saints sir! What are you - [realises who's there] Good lord!

Austin : [To Harvey] Colonel! We have tracked you down at last, good to see you alive. [Gives the Colonel three honey eyed locusts carefully wrapped in a napkin, from his satchel. To Monty] Do we still have that orb or were you foolish enough to leave it with Dolorion?

Chastity : [Overjoyed] By the glory of Phili, you're a sight to gladden sorry eyes, Colonel. [ALICE tries to speak a few times, but nothing comes out.]

Harvey : [Takes the locusts from Austin] Good job, that man! [Walks out and gives Alice a huge hug]

Chastity : [Wiping away a tear] Aren't family re-unions wonderful?

[ALICE and HARVEY slowly let each other go, without saying anything, but are both clearly very happy.]

Harvey : [Taking out a huge handkerchief and giving a deafening blow into it] Private Scar! Good to see you, man. [Gives him a vigorous shake of the hand, but glances at Monty as he does so] Doctor Trindle! You have a lot of explaining to do, sir! [Loudly] A lot of explaining, I say!

Clint: Glad to find you in one piece, Colonel! [Nods toward Monty] That's not Jerry, though. New guy.

Harvey : [Leans in close to Monty] Nuguy, eh? Well, pleased to meet you, Nuguy.

Harvey : Balderdash, Nuguy! It had - oh, maybe he was the one who dropped the walls for a moment? Yes, yes. That was it. [An awkward silence descends.]

Alice : Er, walls?

Harvey : Yes, walls. That's how the others managed to get me back. And not before time, I can tell you! Trapped in a hell dimension with Dangsten, and not a honeyed golden locust in sight.

Clint: [Nods in agreement to Monty] He sure as hell does. Hey, any idea why Hinchberk and the red-head disappeared, egghead?!

Chastity : No, Colonel. I do believe that your dear niece freed you with an act of directed vandalism. [To Alice] When you smashed the cauldron that you say your uncle in.

Alice : [To Harvey] The others?

Harvey : That Aramis chappie, Boddy and that complete and utter bounder, Darius. [Muses for a moment] He's actually quite a likeable chap. Even more arrogant than Private Sleaze, of course, and sneaky as bedamned, but this old soldier couldn't help but like him. The fact that he saved your life, dear niece, also stood him in good stead.

Alice : I did? I mean, I did!

Harvey : Excellent niece! No one can quite smash up a place like an angry Short, eh? The others had an Orb of Arais, which somehow brought me back as the dimension walls were temporarily brought down. [Turns to Monty] Excuse me sir. I am Colonel Kingston Short III. [To the party in general] How did you get here? One moment I was sitting with Boddy and the others, and the next I was transported to this place. It was lucky I met Bjor and Aphi.

Austin : [To Colonel] I trust that Bjorseth and Aphi are alive and well?

Harvey : Indeed, Private Sleaze, indeed! They're as right as rain! [Gives Alice a wink] Don't say anything, but I think Bjor might be a little sweet on you. [Pushes open the door to reveal a small kitchen where there are two unrecognisable bodies that have been hacked to pieces]

Chastity : Er, Colonel, please tell us that wasn't you. [Looks around, calling loudly] Trindle? Are you there?

Harvey : Eh? [Looks in and gives a laugh] Good lord, no, Sister! [Enter APHI, from a different door to the kitchen.]

Aphi : Colonel, what's - ah! [Face lights up] It's Spinster Chastity and the others! We thought we'd seen the last of you. Who are you looking for? Jerome?

Chastity : [To Aphi] Can you explain [points to the mess of body parts] this mess?

Aphi : 'fraid not. It's all pretty shocking, isn't it? We think it was done by humans, can you believe it?

Austin : [Looking at the mess. To Aphi] yes, it's all too believeable, unfortunately. Even nice girls like Geneva are somewhat overly keen to stab their foes in the belly. [Frowns] At least that's what she oftens says. Empirical evidence is less abundant. [Checks his nails]

Alice : [Peering over Austin's shoulder] Gee, Aus, with that sharp tongue and those nails you could have done this yourself!

Austin : [To Alice] Thank you, but I would never have made a mess such as this [Gestures towards the mess]

Austin : [To Alice] Thank you, but I would never have made a mess such as this [Gestures towards the mess]

Alice : [Nods in agreement] True, true.

Aphi : [Spots Clint] Calm day sir. [Stretches out his hand]

Clint : [Shaking the hand] Er, yeah. Calm. Last Conor #26

Austin : [Casually, doing a brief introduction. To Clint] Clint, meet Aphi, [To Aphi] Aphi this is Clint.

Aphi : I'm really glad you folks are here. We've never encountered anything like this. To be honest, we just don't know what to do. We would welcome your expertise and your focus. The Colonel was just telling us some of his army stories, weren't you, Colonel?

Harvey : [Totally distracted] I say! Did you cut your hair, Alice?

Alice : [Sighs as she points at the others] They made me do it! We had a bad experience in a town called Euneirophrenia.

Harvey : Ah yes. Cady told me all about it.

Austin : [To Colonel] You met Cady? Where did you meet him, did Dangsten kill him too?

Alice : Cady?

Harvey : Well by the saints dear niece, it suits you down to the ground! Both you and the good sister are looking the perfect picture of rude health! [Crunches noisily on a honeyed golden locust]

Chastity : [Looking disapprovingly at Alice] Rude being the operative word. Excuse me, Colonel, but did you say you met Captain Marlow?

Harvey : Indeed so, dearest sister, indeed so! [Face darkens] He's living now with a girl called Sarah, whom I believe you met. And of course, poor Azrael is there too, after...but I say, you don't know that of course! That blackguard Jerome visited the town and caused ructions! He murdered Azraels father, Albus, rape... [goes red faced] er, forced himself upon Azrael and made her with child! Now, there's something rightly unnatural about it, for it looks like she's already three or four months pregnant! Everyone says it's unnatural! [Roars] Unnatural I tell you!

Alice : What? [Reeling from this] He raped her? When? Where was Tamsin?

Harvey : Only a few weeks ago, dear Alice! What girl Tamsin had been in a coma since you'd left the town, only waking a few days ago, but the poor thing, eager though she was, was far too unwell to acompany me when I left. She's sworn revenge on the doctor though, and will never rest until she exacts it! [Scratches at his sideburn] I don't know if I should say this or not, but I think I must. The whole time during poor Azraels ordeal, Jerome called her this and only this...Alice. [Thumps the door with all his might] By the saints I'll twist his head off his neck the next time I see him!

Alice : You might want to start by twisting something else off! How could all this happen? [Thoughtfully] Unless the dimension where Clint was had time moving at a different rate like in the Interior. What date was it for you Harvey?

Harvey : I got to Euneirophrenia around the 15th of August, Alice, and I left on the 17th and have spent the last three days with private Bjorseth and private Aphi. [Gestures towards the bodies] This is the third such murder we've come across.

Clint: [Looking at the bodies, disturbed] Where'd you find the other bodies? How many total?

Aphi : Seven in total my friend. [Squeezes Clint's shoulder reassuringly and stands very close to him] My but you have a distinctive body odour. You're not related to Alice, are you?

Clint: [Nods knowingly at Aphi] We've got the exact same smell, don't we? I noticed that, too. [Steps back from Aphi but gives him a polite arm-punch to show it's nothing personal]

Harvey : I fear Dr. Trindle may be stronger than imagine, sir. The last we heard he had crossed into the Bringer's territory, and defeated the bounder! He must have found some way of weakening him.

Harvey : Explains what sir?

Austin : [To Monty] Yes, do share your enlightenment with us, what exactly does that explain? [Smirks as he checks his nails briefly]

Austin : [To Monty] An interesting hypothesis, but the empirical evidence is a little thin on the ground. You have little more that circumstance and guesswork, your evidence is weak. [Puts a cigarette in a long holder and lights it, blowing a few smoke rings]

Harvey : [Outraged] Mister Short? Who the bally hell is Mister Short? You had better not be referring to me, chappie! Short? You

Clint: [To Harvey, chuckling] Told ya, he's new. Also, kind of a twit. Seems pretty smart though [shrugs]. Alright, the theories are all just fascinating, but what the hell do we DO now?!

Austin : [To Monty] Please refer to the Colonel as Colonel. You would know that if you had paid attention and watched us more carefully. It seems that it is the Heart istself that consumes from within, and it seems that a world is seeded from good and evil, mixed in with the Heart somehow, and that is where we, or at least our souls come from. [Takes a few procrastinating paces] Next I suggest that we try to stop Athlacca from invading our world. [Flicks some ash from his cigarette and blows a smokering]

Clint: [Sarcastically, to Monty] Thanks for the re-cap, egghead. How the hell do we do that?

Harvey : [Peers at Monty] A twit, eh? I can't say I approve, but if he's part of the troop, I suppose we'll put up with him.

Alice : Didn't Dolorion say that from within it consumes referred to the heart? That it's the Heart that consumes?

Aphi : But you already know where the heart is, don't you remember?

Chastity : And it would appear that there is perhaps more than one heart. One for each world, maybe?

Alice : That would make sense - after all, the Brides had one. So, from within it consumes, means that from within the heart consumes, but the heart also seems to be the source of life. Hm.

Aphi : And what would you do with it? I mean, we found it, and we're still none the wiser.

Austin : But even if we do find the Heart in out own time period, what would we do with it? I guess that all of the hearts in each world could be connected to each other.

Clint: [To Austin] You think "from within it consumes" is supposed to a warning? Or just an FYI?

Alice : [With a tut of annoyance] Hey, Stinky, no TLAs, okay? It sounded more like a warning to me, but how does it consume? What does it consume?

Harvey : Gah! I'm getting hungry!

Austin : [To Alice and Clint] It could also be a statement of fact. We all die eventually, some of us more than others. It could refer to the 'evil' aspect of the heart killing or 'consuming' you, or perhaps the 'good' and selfless acts of self sacrifice that the like of Sven and Marasmus gave.

Chastity : [Honestly] Why, Mr. Sleaze, that in most morally philisophical of you. We'll make a churchman of you yet.

Clint: [To Alice] Some of us prefer to keep it simple, Bimbo. That's why I like YOU! [To Austin] I was just wondering if we were supposed to be against the consuming or for it, you know? It sounds bad, sure, but what if it's consuming something worse?! [Grabs head in pain and bellows] Dammit, you people didn't hire me to think! I'm with the Colonel! Let's get some food!

Alice : Well, Jerome did seem [finger quotes] consumed by evil, and Dolorion said that our world was attractive to Athlacca and his ilk because we have a balance.

Alice : We didn't hire you at all, Stinky, you just follow us around! [Enter BJORSETH, coming from another door to the kitchen. He is dressed as he was before, but is wearing leather gloves, and has a bright red and yellow bowtie on him.]

Bjorseth : [Holds up his hand] Calm day, everyone. [Nonchalantly gives Alice a nod] Alice.

Bjorseth : [Nonchalantly] I don't know what you mean.

Aphi : [Turns and looks at Bjorseth, giving a laugh] Where are you going with the bowtie?

Bjorseth : [Annoyed] Can't I just try to look good? I mean, it's not like I'm talking about masturbation or anything, is it?

Alice : [Rolls her eyes, before turning to Bjorseth] I think it looks really nice, Bjor. Very, er, um, distinguished. It makes you look like a professor.

Bjorseth : [Gives a big smile, but slowly returns to his normal demeanour] Thank you. [Addressing the party in general] We are most pleased to see you. We are trying to establish how these people died.

Clint: [Checks out the bodies. To Bjorseth] Found anything so far?

Bjorseth : I'm afraid not, friend. [The bodies have clearly been hacked up in a frenzied attack.]

Bjorseth : There are two more bodies in the next room, [distastefully] in a similar state. We were hoping to prove that it wasn't a human, but I doubt that we'll succeed.

Clint: [To Bjorseth] Mind if I take a look at those, too?

Bjorseth : Not at all. [Holds open the door he came in from to show that there are two more bodies there, also adults, killed in a similar way]

Aphi : Surely humans couldn't be capable of such an act?

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Are there any messages, scraweld by the victims in their last moments? [Adds] This reminds me of the descriptions of Faern's death, as if a human with big claws had hacked him to death. He managed to write the words "from within it consumes", in his own blood, moments before he died. [Shrugs. To Chastity] I take it that church men are paid well?

Austin : But even if we do find the Heart in out own time period, what would we do with it? I guess that all of the hearts in each world could be connected to each other.

Clint: [To Austin] You think "from within it consumes" is supposed to a warning? Or just an FYI?

Alice : [With a tut of annoyance] Hey, Stinky, no TLAs, okay? It sounded more like a warning to me, but how does it consume? What does it consume?

Harvey : Gah! I'm getting hungry!

Austin : [To Alice and Clint] It could also be a statement of fact. We all die eventually, some of us more than others. It could refer to the 'evil' aspect of the heart killing or 'consuming' you, or perhaps the 'good' and selfless acts of self sacrifice that the like of Sven and Marasmus gave.

Chastity : [Honestly] Why, Mr. Sleaze, that in most morally philisophical of you. We'll make a churchman of you yet.

Clint: [To Alice] Some of us prefer to keep it simple, Bimbo. That's why I like YOU! [To Austin] I was just wondering if we were supposed to be against the consuming or for it, you know? It sounds bad, sure, but what if it's consuming something worse?! [Grabs head in pain and bellows] Dammit, you people didn't hire me to think! I'm with the Colonel! Let's get some food!

Alice : Well, Jerome did seem [finger quotes] consumed by evil, and Dolorion said that our world was attractive to Athlacca and his ilk because we have a balance.

Alice : We didn't hire you at all, Stinky, you just follow us around! [Enter BJORSETH, coming from another door to the kitchen. He is dressed as he was before, but is wearing leather gloves, and has a bright red and yellow bowtie on him.]

Bjorseth : [Holds up his hand] Calm day, everyone. [Nonchalantly gives Alice a nod] Alice.

Bjorseth : [Nonchalantly] I don't know what you mean.

Aphi : [Turns and looks at Bjorseth, giving a laugh] Where are you going with the bowtie?

Bjorseth : [Annoyed] Can't I just try to look good? I mean, it's not like I'm talking about masturbation or anything, is it?

Alice : [Rolls her eyes, before turning to Bjorseth] I think it looks really nice, Bjor. Very, er, um, distinguished. It makes you look like a professor.

Bjorseth : [Gives a big smile, but slowly returns to his normal demeanour] Thank you. [Addressing the party in general] We are most pleased to see you. We are trying to establish how these people died.

Clint: [Checks out the bodies. To Bjorseth] Found anything so far?

Bjorseth : I'm afraid not, friend. [The bodies have clearly been hacked up in a frenzied attack.]

Bjorseth : There are two more bodies in the next room, [distastefully] in a similar state. We were hoping to prove that it wasn't a human, but I doubt that we'll succeed.

Clint: [To Bjorseth] Mind if I take a look at those, too?

Bjorseth : Not at all. [Holds open the door he came in from to show that there are two more bodies there, also adults, killed in a similar way]

Aphi : Surely humans couldn't be capable of such an act?

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Are there any messages, scraweld by the victims in their last moments? [Adds] This reminds me of the descriptions of Faern's death, as if a human with big claws had hacked him to death. He managed to write the words "from within it consumes", in his own blood, moments before he died. [Shrugs. To Chastity] I take it that church men are paid well?

Bjorseth : No, but these people would have had no chance to leave any messages.

Aphi : Many of our people are hearing that phrase on a daily basis since the deaths started. More and more since as they have got worse.

Austin : It seems as though it is the Heart that consumes from within, and since we all came from the Heart, probably with another set of brides and grooms laying eggs or what ever, I shouldn't think there's much we can do about it. [Shrugs] So why don't we have a party or something to cheer us up? [Smiles gleefully at his genius idea, sees the lack of reaction and flicks some ash off his cigarette] If all life comes from the Heart, and therefore returns to the Heart when we die, why is it catching these poor souls so quickly? [Gestures at the mess]

Alice : Why should life return to the heart? And anyway, surely there is something we can do about it - didn't Dolorion say that the Heart is made up of both good and evil? And that our world has a better balance than others? Maybe that's what from within it consumes means? That even though things start out balanced evil [dramatic wave of her hands] consumes the world?

Alice : Are you sure it's really called The Heart of the Beast? Sven said it was just called the heart. [To Aphi] Why do you call it the heart of the beast?

Aphi : Because it's a heart, and it was in a volcano called the Beast.

Clint: [Frustrated] This is getting us nowhere! I say we go find Jerry and get to the bottom of this. Who's with me?!

Chastity : [Sighs] And would that be forwards or backwards in time, dear.

Harvey : By the saints, Private Scar! You haven't changed a jot, a jot I say! You are correct, sir. It is time to confront the once good Doctor and demand an explanation. Now, where is the bounder?

Alice : About 300,000 years [twirls her finger around her watch clockwise] that way.

Austin : [To Clint] That has to be the best plan I have heard in aeons. Kill Trindle. I bagsy first, last and all of the inbetween stabs cut and bludgeonings. You lot can all hold him down. He may well be imortal, but if I stab him enough I am sure that he will tell us how we can kill him.

Clint: So, we use that orb everyone keeps talking about. Jerry sent you to get me and the Colonel, right? Well, you got us. Time for a reunion, don't ya think?

Alice : When the hand goes clockwise, it means forwards, Sister. And the big hand points at the hour, and little hand indicates the minute.

Alice : What orb?

Aphi : Actually, we were really rather hoping you might stay and help us find out what is going on with these killings.

Austin : [Sighs. To Aphi] Okay, well I suppose we have thirty thousand year to hang around any way. [To Alice] The short hand points to the hour and the long hand points to the minute, and the the orb was the one that Lewis gave us, a small red on that could take us back if we were all touching it at the same time or something. [Looks over to the bodies] It looks like this "evil" may have consumed them form within.

Clint: [Looking at the bodies] Uh, you don't mean that literally, do ya? [takes a closer look at the wounds]

Alice : [Stares at Austin for a few seconds before speaking petulantly] It was three hundred thousand years, Austin!

Harvey : [Harrumphs] Either that or it consumed whoever did this.

Austin : [To Alice, casually] Thirty what ever, the cpoint was we have plenty of time. [Austin looks around carefully for any footprints or evidence. To Aphi] Have you notice any trails leading to or from the crime scenes that may have been left by our suspect? [Looks to see if there is any broken orb glass etc]

Chastity : [To Aphi] And where were you before here?

Aphi : On the other side of Serenity. That's where the first one was too. They've got worse as we've gone along, I'm afraid, and none of them had any trails whatsoever. Whoever did this was really careful. [Gives a shudder]

Chastity : [To Aphi] And where were you before here?

Aphi : On the other side of Serenity. That's where the first one was too. They've got worse as we've gone along, I'm afraid, and none of them had any trails whatsoever. Whoever did this was really careful. [Gives a shudder]

Harvey : Well, whoever did this, certainly takes pride in their macarbe work, eh! It must take quite some time to hack a body into pieces!

Aphi : It must have been terribly painful, too. What kind of person could stand to do that?

Harvey : Unfortunately, too many, dear sir! Why we ourselves have met dozens of people capable of such a heinous act! I think we should all search the home, incase there are any clues as to who or what committed the acts!

Bjorseth : Of course, of course. We would welcome your help.

Aphi : [To Harvey] You and your ilk might be used to meeting people like that, but we're not. We're good people here. [Short pause] Bam! Just kidding, Harv!

Clint: [Nods] Let's get started. I'll look around outside.

Harvey : [Laughs long and loud and alone] By the saints sir [wiping tears from his eyes] that's just the best thing in the world! Oh dear! [Laughs again] Ha, me and my elk! Well, sir, I have this to say to you in response! The sun is shining now, but judging by those clouds, it might soon...[goes red in the face and begins shaking with supressed mirth]...rain, dear! [Burst out laughing]

Aphi : [Bursts out laughing] And poor old Vidi will be soaked, he's Veni's son! [Everyone backs slowly away from the laughing figures of APHI and HARVEY.]

Alice : You know what, Clint, I think we'll all search outside. Except for [points at Aphi and Harvey, covering her pointing finger as she does]

Austin : [Nodding vaguely] Any strange lightning storms? [Catches a reflection of himself in the window, smiles and adjusts his collar slightly, turning sideways on to the window to check it further. Once satisfied with his perfect visage, strolls around the place looking for clues, blowing a few smoke rings here and there]

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene III. Outside the house. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, HARVEY, MONTY, APHI and BJORSETH are here, having searched the house, stables and gardens thoroughly. No one appears to have found anything of note, and it seems that the motive wasn't robbery, are there are plenty of valuables, such as candlesticks, cutlery and an antique enema kit. This is about an hour after the last scene.]

Alice : [Holding the nozzle of the kit in one hand and the bag in the other] What's this? Some cool way of drinking beer?

Bjorseth : No! [Calmly] I mean, no. It's um, it's, well, no it's not.

Clint: [To Alice, matter-of-factly] It's for smoking cheese. Haven't you seen one before?

Alice : Huh? [Composes herself] Of course I have! [Takes a good sniff of the nozzle, before her face goes all twitchy and a tear comes to her eye, and she continues hoarsely] Pretty strong cheese around here, eh?

Bjorseth : [Gives Clint a cold look] Did anyone find anything?

Clint: [To Bjorseth with a sigh] Not me. Anyone else?

Austin : [To Clint] Suspiciously little, a clue in itself. What could do this an leave no trace whatsoever? [To Monty, matter of factly] Did your keen sleuthing eyes spot anything, old chap?

Alice : Nope, nothing other than the cheese pipe.

Aphi : We're going to head back to Serenity. Would you like to come? I know Marasmus is keen to meet you.

Clint: [Dubiously] How far is it? I'm not sure we got time for a detour at the moment.

Austin : There is suspiciously little evidence, a clue in itself. What could do this an leave no trace whatsoever? [To Monty, matter of factly] Did your keen sleuthing eyes spot anything, old chap? [Ponders] Perhaps Merasmus will be able to help us out here. do this an

Aphi : Oh? Are you in a rush somewhere? Got an appointment with a scrubbing brush?

Harvey : It is suspiciously clean, Private Sleaze. Not as suspiciously clean as you, of course, but still pretty suspicious. I'm sure a human could have done this, but it would take a pretty sick individual to be able to clean up so well after having committed such an act.

Aphi : [Smiles at Clint] Bam! Just kidding!

Austin : [Looking at Aphi with disbelief] One thing that has become apparent is that this world is very out of balance towards good. There is the distinct probability that these killings are due to that imbalance. You could call mother nature redressing the balance, though the instrument of the rebalancing remains mysterious.

Austin : Indeed. Though I suspect that Trindle himself is the purpetrator of these henouis murders. Dangsten, Darius, the horsemen all leave calling cards of various kinds.

Alice : It's not really Jerome's style to keep quiet about it, though, is it? I mean with, well, with the last time, he wanted us to know who did it. And Darius? Who did he murder?

Harvey : By the saints, that Darius is a queer fellow and no mistake. Selling his soul to Phili? [Laughs] Preposterous, eh, Sister?

Chastity : [Darkly] Yes, Colonel. Preposterous.

Clint: [To the party, getting impatient] So what now?! Head to Serenity?

Aphi : Jerome is responsible for sending you here? I thought it was the heart - in fact, you were asking if we had seen any lightning, we've only seen it twice in the recent past, once before the good Colonel arrived, and again just before you arrived. Do you think he sent you here?

Austin : [Nodding in aggreement with Monty] Yes, and it looks to me as if trindle is leaving a trail of destruction for us to follow, in a manner of speaking, a trail that will lead us to the smug and selfsatisfied monstrosity that is Trindle. [To Aphi] It is the heart that transported us here, of that I am pretty sure, but by no means certain. We should go and mee Marasmus imediately.

Alice : [To Austin] You're sure but not certain? Right. [Everyone gets onto the carriage, and head towards Serenity.]

Aphi : So, you lot find out any more about the heart? That whole coming back to life thing was pretty gear, wasn't it?

Austin : [To Monty] Indeed, a point worthy of further investigation. [To Aphi] Does the trail of destruction lead away from the town or towards it?

Aphi : It's not so much a trail as a scattering. There have been three incidents so far, although Marasmus thinks there will be more.

Alice : [Frustrated] What? Another brilliant idea you can't tell us about?

Austin : [To Monty] You do hope that what is not the case? Are you alluding to an invasion?

Clint: [To Monty, helpfully] Take hit off Alice's special cheese pipe. That'll loosen you up [winks at Alice].

Alice : [Not too happy] Okay, but let's not have everyone just passing it around, I bet that wouldn't be hygenic.

Bjorseth : [To Monty] Good fortune from ill deeds? How does that work?

Clint: [Vaguely] Some whole thing with keeping things balanced. Egghead here can explain it to you [jabs thumb toward Monty] but you'd probably better get something to drink, grab some chow and take a leak before you ask him 'cause it'll probably take a while for him to answer. [Suddenly indignant] Hey, wait a minute! Doesn't my recent horrific death count for anything in all this good news/bad news balance?!

Alice : Yeah! [Dramatically] After such good news, something awful is surely going to happen!

Aphi : [Looks Clint up and down] Dead, huh? How's that working out for you?

Clint: [To Alice] Now, Bimbo, let's not fight. Say, why don't you light up that peace pipe and start smoking? I'll be with you in a sec. [To Aphi, smugly] I bounced back. [There's a brief but awkward silence, before everyone starts talking at the same time, completely overcompensating.]

Alice : Oh, it was terrible!

Harvey : By the saints, sir! It was a disaster!

Chastity : [Sniffs haughtily] A tragedy.

Austin : [Who was looking at himself in his mirror, making the occasional happy sigh at the wondrous vision that is reflected back] Hm?

Aphi : [Does a pretend punch on Clint] Bam! They're pretty vicious, my friend!

Harvey : [Laughs loudly] And that, my friend, is why I think the world of them! So troop, what do you think of that scoundrel Trindle making that girl pregnant, eh? And what will become of the child?

Alice : [About to light up the peace pipe, and slamming it down on her lap in frustration] Tut! Harvey, I thought we had already that he wasn't responsible for this! [Is clearly talking about herself]

Harvey : But dear niece, he most certainly was! Azrael herself named him as the bounder who did the deed! That poor girl! As if having her father murdered by that eggheaded scoundrel wasn't enough!

Alice : [Getting embarassed as Aphi and Bjorseth turn and look at her] Er, I mean, we had already established that he [huge emphasis] was responsible!

Chastity : [Rolls her eyes] Yes, yes, very good Alice. [To Harvey] I fear I have a bad feeling about it, Colonel. Despite the awfully wicked way in which it was done, the fact that the pregnancy seems to be moving at an accelerated rate surely has to mean something bad.

Harvey : Now I'm no expert in these womanly matters dear sister, and who knows but Phili himself how long a normal child stays in the womb, but it did seem to grow uncommon quick! And what of poor Azrael if Trindle returns to reclaim the child when it's born? [Face goes dark] I for one would like to be there to tan his hide! Yes indeed!

Clint: [Grimly] Good idea, Colonel. Maybe we should all be there for the happy occasion.

Alice : So are we going to try and go back straight away?

Bjorseth : [Urgently and loudly] No!

[Everyone turns and looks at BJORSETH.]

Bjorseth : [Calming himself down but still looking a little panicky] What I mean is that we need your help to stop these awful crimes.

Austin : [Sighs, smiling into his mirror. Puts his pocket mirror away. To the party, scoldingly] So are we going to go and visit Marasmus or what! [Walks over to the carriage and peeks inside to see if it is clean]

Bjorseth : [Bows slightly to Monty] My apologies sir, I let my keenness to see this business sorted out overcome my inner calm.

Alice : [To Austin] Calm down, sir. There's no need to be ... ah... un-calm about this.

[A town comes in to view.]

Aphi : This is Serenity, the wildest town around!

Clint: [Looking out the window to see the town. To Aphi] Oh, yeah? How'd it get that rep?

Aphi : [Roars with laughter, even though everyone else is dead calm] Haw! You've got me pegged alright, Monty!

Bjorseth : [Rolls his eyes] Yeah, no one else here is wise to your tiresome jokes.

Austin : [Gets his pocket mirror out again and smiles at himself, winks and puts the mirror away. To Bjorseth] Roughly how old is Marasmus?

Bjorseth : I don't think anyone knows. She looks about twenty five or so, but she was enormous wisdom, and has lived in Serenity for as long as anyone can remember.

Alice : Do people in Serenity have good memories?

Aphi : I don't remember.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Are we nearly there yet? [Sighs] We should have got Alice to drive, it would have been much quicker.

Bjorseth : [Slowing the carriage as it approaches a figure standing outside the town gates] You should have told us that before we left.

Chastity : That may be true, Mr. Sleaze, but we would also almost certainly be dead.

[The figure is MARASMUS, looking exactly the same as when the party last saw her. If ALICE's figures are to be believed, that was almost 300,000 years in the future.]

Marasmus : [With a warm smile and holding her hand up] Calm day.

Chastity : [To Marasmus, holding her hand up] Yes Hello, although the day is far from calm. But we hope that you can help us rectify that.

Austin : [Nonchalantly decending from the carriage. To Marasmus] Hi Marasmus, good to see you again. [Nods with approval at the calmness of the day. Walks over to Marasmus] A little too calm, if I may be so bold.

Marasmus : A little too calm? How can that be? [Gives a slightly curious look at Austin] Do you know me?

Clint: [To Marasmus] Don't feel bad. We'd all forget him if we could.

Chastity : [Giving Austin a dirty look] Forgive my colleague. You have yet to meet us, Marasmus. These two gentlemen have been telling us about you. [Gestures towards Aphi and Bjorseth]

Alice : [Looks at Austin] Yes, quite unpleasant. The bodies were pretty unpleasant too.

Marasmus : [Warmly to Chastity] I'm sure you don't mean that. Please, come into our town. You are some of the visitors that Aphi and Bjorseth spoke of. [To Alice, after giving a quick glance at Bjorseth] And you must be Alice, right?

Alice : [Folds her arms defensively] Yes.

Clint: [Puts his arm around Alice and gives her a smelly squeeze] Quite a catch, isn't she? [Releases Alice and offers a hand and a cheesy smile to Marasmus] How you doin'? I'm Clint.

Marasmus : [Gives Clint a bright smile back] I'm very pleased to meet you, Clint. I hope Aphi hasn't been too unclam.

Chastity : All things considered, he's been remarkably calm, I'd say.

Austin : [To Marasmus, sincerely] Oh, I do appologise, it's so very tricky to keep track of who knows what, where and when with all this time travel shenanigans. Also my comment about it being overly calm has been misinterpreted in a most egrigious manner. [Appologetically to Marasmus] I was refering to the possibility that the outrageous murders may be a result of this wolrd being overly calm, out of balance towards good if you see what I mean. I has assumed that you would be a step ahead of us in understanding the ways of the heart and how it consumes from within, the balance of good and evil etc etc [Dismisses the whole issue with a wave of his hand]

Marasmus : [Bows slightly to Austin] Please, do not think that you offended me. I apologise if I gave the impression taht you did. It seems that we may have discovered who's behind these awful crimes. [With a sad face, addressing Bjorseth and Aphi] And, my friends, I'm afraid it is a human.

Bjorseth : [Grimly, as he grips his sword] Who?

Marasmus : We're not sure what her name is.

Clint: [Surprised] A broad did this?! What can you tell us about her?

Marasmus : We're not sure it was her, but she turned up earlier today, threatening to stab everyone in the belly. She seems like the most likely candidate so far.

Austin : [To Clint] I have a nasty feeling she will be someone we have met before. [To Marasmus] By the way name is Austin Sleaze, and it is a pleasure to meet youi once more. [Turns to the others] And this is Chastity, Clint, Alice, Colonel Harvey and Monty. All of us bar Monty have met you before.

Marasmus : This time travel business sounds awfully complicated, but I am pleased to meet you. I trust we were friends when we last met?

Chastity : [Absently to Marasmus] Yes we were. [To the group] That sounds an awful lot like Geneva, doesn't it?

Clint: [Incredulous] The redhead?! Why would she do something like this?

Alice : [To Marasmus] Did you see her stab anyone in the belly?

Marasmus : No, but her behaviour was quite out of the ordinary, so we felt it best to detain her.

Clint: Could you take us to her?

Austin : [To Marasmus] If it is Geneva that you hold captive then I don't think you have the right person. I might be wrong of course, but although Geneva talked about stabbing people in the belly alot, she never actually did much of that, infact never except in self defence.

Harvey : Hmm, I can see how her general behaviour would startle these gentlefolk though, if she does go around threatening to stab people in the belly all of the time. [Bows low to Marasmus] I, my dear woman, am Harvey Kingston Short the third, ex colonel in his majestys Kings Reach Fourth Mounted Regiment, and this is my dearest niece, Alice Basset Short.

Marasmus : Perhaps. Please, follow me.

[MARASMUS leads the party into the town, which is spotlessly clean. There are a few people walking around, all of who stop and look at the party, making no effort to disguise this.]

Marasmus : I am most pleased to make your acquaintence, Colonel. I'm sure you can help us straighten out this matter. [Everyone continues walking, even though virtually all the passers by have stopped to take a look]

Harvey : [Noticing all the people staring] I say dear woman, do you not get many strangers in town, or is this troop causing more of a stir than usual?

Marasmus : [Gently touches Harvey's arm] I'm sorry Colonel, they are being very uncalm. It's partly that you are strangers, but also partly because we've heard so much about most of you. When Bjorseth first met you all he just went on and on about how great you all were and how much he admired you all, you were very excited, weren't you Bjor? [To the party] He likes people to call him Bjor now.

Bjorseth : [Absolutely dead calm] Yes. I was very excited.

Harvey : Oh indeed! Well then dear sir, you will be private Bjor from here on in! [To Marasmus] After we've seen this stomach stabbing person, could you direct us to a local eatery, for I'm almost wasted away with the hunger!

Bjorseth : [Bows slightly to Monty] My apologies sir, I let my keenness to see this business sorted out overcome my inner calm.

Alice : [To Austin] Calm down, sir. There's no need to be ... ah... un-calm about this.

[A town comes in to view.]

Aphi : This is Serenity, the wildest town around!

Clint: [Looking out the window to see the town. To Aphi] Oh, yeah? How'd it get that rep?

Aphi : [Roars with laughter, even though everyone else is dead calm] Haw! You've got me pegged alright, Monty!

Bjorseth : [Rolls his eyes] Yeah, no one else here is wise to your tiresome jokes.

Austin : [Gets his pocket mirror out again and smiles at himself, winks and puts the mirror away. To Bjorseth] Roughly how old is Marasmus?

Bjorseth : I don't think anyone knows. She looks about twenty five or so, but she was enormous wisdom, and has lived in Serenity for as long as anyone can remember.

Alice : Do people in Serenity have good memories?

Aphi : I don't remember.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Are we nearly there yet? [Sighs] We should have got Alice to drive, it would have been much quicker.

Bjorseth : [Slowing the carriage as it approaches a figure standing outside the town gates] You should have told us that before we left.

Chastity : That may be true, Mr. Sleaze, but we would also almost certainly be dead.

[The figure is MARASMUS, looking exactly the same as when the party last saw her. If ALICE's figures are to be believed, that was almost 300,000 years in the future.]

Marasmus : [With a warm smile and holding her hand up] Calm day.

Chastity : [To Marasmus, holding her hand up] Yes Hello, although the day is far from calm. But we hope that you can help us rectify that.

Austin : [Nonchalantly decending from the carriage. To Marasmus] Hi Marasmus, good to see you again. [Nods with approval at the calmness of the day. Walks over to Marasmus] A little too calm, if I may be so bold.

Marasmus : A little too calm? How can that be? [Gives a slightly curious look at Austin] Do you know me?

Clint: [To Marasmus] Don't feel bad. We'd all forget him if we could.

Chastity : [Giving Austin a dirty look] Forgive my colleague. You have yet to meet us, Marasmus. These two gentlemen have been telling us about you. [Gestures towards Aphi and Bjorseth]

Alice : [Looks at Austin] Yes, quite unpleasant. The bodies were pretty unpleasant too.

Marasmus : [Warmly to Chastity] I'm sure you don't mean that. Please, come into our town. You are some of the visitors that Aphi and Bjorseth spoke of. [To Alice, after giving a quick glance at Bjorseth] And you must be Alice, right?

Alice : [Folds her arms defensively] Yes.

Clint: [Puts his arm around Alice and gives her a smelly squeeze] Quite a catch, isn't she? [Releases Alice and offers a hand and a cheesy smile to Marasmus] How you doin'? I'm Clint.

Marasmus : [Gives Clint a bright smile back] I'm very pleased to meet you, Clint. I hope Aphi hasn't been too unclam.

Chastity : All things considered, he's been remarkably calm, I'd say.

Austin : [To Marasmus, sincerely] Oh, I do appologise, it's so very tricky to keep track of who knows what, where and when with all this time travel shenanigans. Also my comment about it being overly calm has been misinterpreted in a most egrigious manner. [Appologetically to Marasmus] I was refering to the possibility that the outrageous murders may be a result of this wolrd being overly calm, out of balance towards good if you see what I mean. I has assumed that you would be a step ahead of us in understanding the ways of the heart and how it consumes from within, the balance of good and evil etc etc [Dismisses the whole issue with a wave of his hand]

Marasmus : [Bows slightly to Austin] Please, do not think that you offended me. I apologise if I gave the impression taht you did. It seems that we may have discovered who's behind these awful crimes. [With a sad face, addressing Bjorseth and Aphi] And, my friends, I'm afraid it is a human.

Bjorseth : [Grimly, as he grips his sword] Who?

Marasmus : We're not sure what her name is.

Clint: [Surprised] A broad did this?! What can you tell us about her?

Marasmus : We're not sure it was her, but she turned up earlier today, threatening to stab everyone in the belly. She seems like the most likely candidate so far.

Austin : [To Clint] I have a nasty feeling she will be someone we have met before. [To Marasmus] By the way name is Austin Sleaze, and it is a pleasure to meet youi once more. [Turns to the others] And this is Chastity, Clint, Alice, Colonel Harvey and Monty. All of us bar Monty have met you before.

Marasmus : This time travel business sounds awfully complicated, but I am pleased to meet you. I trust we were friends when we last met?

Chastity : [Absently to Marasmus] Yes we were. [To the group] That sounds an awful lot like Geneva, doesn't it?

Clint: [Incredulous] The redhead?! Why would she do something like this?

Alice : [To Marasmus] Did you see her stab anyone in the belly?

Marasmus : No, but her behaviour was quite out of the ordinary, so we felt it best to detain her.

Clint: Could you take us to her?

Austin : [To Marasmus] If it is Geneva that you hold captive then I don't think you have the right person. I might be wrong of course, but although Geneva talked about stabbing people in the belly alot, she never actually did much of that, infact never except in self defence.

Harvey : Hmm, I can see how her general behaviour would startle these gentlefolk though, if she does go around threatening to stab people in the belly all of the time. [Bows low to Marasmus] I, my dear woman, am Harvey Kingston Short the third, ex colonel in his majestys Kings Reach Fourth Mounted Regiment, and this is my dearest niece, Alice Basset Short.

Marasmus : Perhaps. Please, follow me.

[MARASMUS leads the party into the town, which is spotlessly clean. There are a few people walking around, all of who stop and look at the party, making no effort to disguise this.]

Marasmus : I am most pleased to make your acquaintence, Colonel. I'm sure you can help us straighten out this matter. [Everyone continues walking, even though virtually all the passers by have stopped to take a look]

Harvey : [Noticing all the people staring] I say dear woman, do you not get many strangers in town, or is this troop causing more of a stir than usual?

Marasmus : [Gently touches Harvey's arm] I'm sorry Colonel, they are being very uncalm. It's partly that you are strangers, but also partly because we've heard so much about most of you. When Bjorseth first met you all he just went on and on about how great you all were and how much he admired you all, you were very excited, weren't you Bjor? [To the party] He likes people to call him Bjor now.

Bjorseth : [Absolutely dead calm] Yes. I was very excited.

Harvey : Oh indeed! Well then dear sir, you will be private Bjor from here on in! [To Marasmus] After we've seen this stomach stabbing person, could you direct us to a local eatery, for I'm almost wasted away with the hunger!

Austin : [Looking at Harvey] I don't think we're in any danger of that happening before we see this detainee.

Clint: [Digs through pockets and comes up with a small, hard, dark object, sort of roundish. To Harvey] Rolo?

Harvey : Why thank you private Scar! [Pops it in his mouth and chews thoughtfully] Mmmm, reminds me for some reason of the coffee we used to drink back in Vietnumnum! '67 it was, and the supply cart was late by two weeks, but somehow, even though the cupboards were as bare as that womans who lived in a oversized novelty footwear shaped house, the mess officer managed to supply us with an almost unlimited amount of freshly brewed coffee!

Harvey : [Still chewing on the item] Nonsense, sir, nonsense! My unit never lowered itself to unloading its own supplies, never, I say! We had the local widows and orphans do that type of work for us. It's not like we were savages, what!

Marasmus : [Gestures at a reasonably large and comfortable house] I'm afraid we've had to resort to desperate measures to detain her. Do you think you might know the person we have detained?

Marasmus : Of course. Now, please don't be too shocked when you see the desperate measures that we've stooped to, to ensure she doesn't escape.

Alice : What have you done? What awful, unspeakable depths have you plumbed?

Marasmus : [With a guilty look] We left a bad smell to prevent her from leaving the house. [Opens the door, and an incredibly disgusting smell almost knocks the party down]

Clint : [Inhales deeply] So, where's the smell?

Austin : [Donning a surgeons face mask with some strong peppermint scent. To Clint] How does it feel to be only the second most stinky thing in the world?

Clint : I don't know, how does it feel to be only the second most stinky thing in the world?

Alice : [Covering her mouth too, but also trying to speak] Mumble mumf, mumph mumf mumble mumble mumble.

Harvey : [Also covering his mouth with a hanky, but bursts out laughing at Alice] I say, niece! Excellent one! Excellent! [Shakes his head smiling] A cat with a fountain pen, haw!

Alice : Huh?

[The party successfully negotiate the bad smell, and walk down the hallway, which is very plain. They soon come to an ordinary looking door and, while the smell is much less pungent here, it is still pretty bad.]

Marasmus : She's in here. [Looks down] I know, you must be very shocked at what we've had to do.

Austin : [Looking from Monty to Clint. To Clint] That didn't really work, but it was quite a good try though. [Nods and looks around]

Alice : [To Marasmus] Er, what else do you have to stop her getting out?

Marasmus : It is a very bad smell.

Alice : But what's to stop her just climbing out the window?

[MARASMUS, APHI and BJORSETH all exchange annoyed looks.]

Marasmus : You see, it's a [emphasis] very bad smell.

Chastity : All the more reason to keep the window firmly bolted shut, I'd say. [Takes out a tea towel and applies some essence of peppermint to it from her bag] Well shall we see if she's still there? [Puts the tea towel up to her nose and mouth and carefully enters, being wary of any sudden belly stabbing attacks]

[CHASTITY opens the door and reveals that it is a small drawing room. GENEVA is here, sitting on a couch looking very, very disgruntled. Sitting across from her is KRAFTY GIFFIN, a perky looking girl with a zany shirt.]

Krafty : [Very excited and speaking very quickly] And, oh my God, it was just great, because Sam and Dom were there, and then like, Cheryl came along, but she weas still annoyed with Conor over that whole no pants thing [quick pause for a breath] but it was like [huge emphasis] so funny, because then Alfred came in [hugely excited] carrying an aardvark! And, oh my God, isn't it just amazing how many he finds?

Geneva : [Shouting] I don't know these people! Stop talking about them like I know them!

Krafty : [Gives a giggle] Oh my God! That's such a Heather thing to say! And hey, isn't it funny the way some names go for both people and plants? I mean, who decided which names do both? Why can't I pick a Colin? [Massive snorty laugh] Although, you know Colin, so I guess I'd have to be crazy to pick him!

Geneva : [Sees the party] Please! Someone stab me through the belly!

Austin : [To Monty] She might just want to stay here if you talk to her like that [To Geneva] Lets go, we can leave your [Looks at Krafty] new friend here. Hopefully.

Chastity : [To Marasmus] Why is the girl here? Apart from her being quite, as you would say, uncalm?

Krafty : [Still very excited] Calmly and quietly? [High pitched shrieking laugh] Some hope! She hasn't stopped talking since I got here, she's all, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat! [Pauses for breath]

Geneva : That's okay, Monty, I -

Krafty : Chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat, chat! [Breathlessly] She's just like my friend Sarah, well, she's not really my friend but Toby's friend's neighbour Doug is like the best friend ever of her cousin Joe, the one who had that carriage accident a few years ago? When all the frogs got loose and people were slipping and sliding all over the place? And Dave said it was like being in the bath, but then Mary said "How would you know?" and we all laughed and laughed! But Sarah, she sure does know how to talk and talk doesn't she? And sometimes she even talks and talks and talks!

Geneva : [Zooms across the room in a blink of an eye, so she is suddenly standing behind the party, with all her stuff packed up] Let's get the hell out of here!

Krafty : [To Austin] That's like, such a totally cool suit. One day, when I was in town with Dom we went to see Sam's Suit Shop, and Conor was there, trying to buy a suit without any pants and then I told Cheryl about it she asked if it was the suit or Conor that had no pants and it was so funny!

Alice : [To the party] Perky, isn't she?

Clint : She's so perky she makes me want to puke.

Marasmus : We thought that putting someone so uncalm in here would transfix the prisoner with horror, just in case she could get passed the smell.

Krafty : Isn't funny the way people say that smell and taste are two different things? I mean, they're like, totally the same thing - have you ever tasted something awful that smelled nice? Hey, wouldn't it be funny if they sold fart flavoured ice cream that smelled like normal ice cream? Or maybe normal flavoured ice cream that smells like farts? Oh! Or even normal smelling ice cream that tasted like farts? They'd make a fortune on that with the joke shops! I hope someone's writing these down - oh! Oh! I got it! Forget the farts, if they sold ice cream that tastes [huge emphasis] and smells like ice cream, that would be way more popular than the fart flavoured or smelling ice cream, I mean, who on earth wants something that tastes of fart?

[Everyone looks at KRAFTY with a strange combination of fear and horror.]

Alice : [Sulkily folding her arms] I could do perkier than that.

Harvey : Of course you can, Niece, why you're just a ball of sunshine!

Austin : [To the Party] This woman is quite clearly unwell, she seems unable to stop talking nonsense. Let us leave this uncalm person. [Goes over towards the door and waits for the others to follow]

Chastity : [Outraged] We shall not leave Alice behind. We have come a long way together, and by Phili we won't drop her like a soiled undergarment just because she can get a little excitable at times!

Alice : [Follows slowly] That doesn't stop us from having you around, does it?

Krafty : Isn't funny that people don't eat giraffes? It would be really easy to make burgers out of their necks, and did you ever see how long their tongues are? It's just amazing! It's like anteaters, and isn't it funny how they're named after what they eat? I mean, what if they ate poop? Why does poop smell so bad and -

[Slam. ALICE shuts the door.]

Harvey : For the love of God, Alice! Let us get out of the room first!

[ALICE opens the door and lets everyone out, before shutting it after them.]

Alice : [Glares at Chastity] Know a lot about leaving soiled undergarments behind you, do you, Chas?

Chastity : [Smiles patronisingly back to Alice] Not as much as you, my dear, I suspect. [To Austin] You referred to a woman, Mr. Sleaze, and she was quite clearly a girl. Quite frankly you're difficulty in telling the two apart causes me some concern.

Austin : [To Chastity] I was quite clearly refering to Krafty. Why are you being so nasty to Alice? [Shrugs, lights up two cigarettes and offers one to Alice]

Alice : [Takes the cigarette] Thanks, Aus. What should I do? Burn her with it?

[MARASMUS gives a sharp intake of breath, clearly shocked.]

Aphi : It's okay, Marasmus, they're always like this, but they really all do like each other, except for Monty, of course. [Gives Monty a friendly punch on the shoulder] Haw! I'm just kidding you, they don't like Austin either!

Alice : Why? In case I might end up staying awake when you're talking?

Austin : [Smirking with a warm inner glow. To Alice] I can see the de-caf adverts now [Chuckles]

Alice : [Unimpressed] No quantity of stimulants would be sufficient to render me alert when discussing anything with you, Monty. [Flicks an imaginary piece of dust of her sleeve, Austin-style] Anyway, who the hell is Ken?

Geneva : Sure, I'll take a look.

Marasmus : We apologise for detaining your friend, it's just that she was rather threatening, and everyone is somewhat on edge here at the moment. It's getting late now, so perhaps we could arrange some accomodation for you?

Austin : [To Geneva] The cuts and lasserations look rather like those made by very large sharp claws, or possibly an odly shaped scarificial dagger, by the bodies are so badly mutilated it's hard to tell.

Geneva : I'd have to see them to comment, but if they're as badly mutilated as you say, it'll be impossible to tell.

Marasmus : Let me take you to where you'll be staying, you can continue your conversation there.

[Exit ALL.]

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene IV. A House in Serenity. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, GENEVA, HARVEY and MONTY are here, as are MARASMUS, APHI and BJORSETH, all standing outside a house that looks very similar to the one they just came from.]

Marasmus : This is Aphi and Bjorseth's house, I'm sure you'll be very comfortable here.

Aphi : Wait until you see the crowd with live with, they're just craaaaazy!

[APHI opens the door and leads the party to a kitchen. Sitting here are HANK TOMS, CASPER CASPERSEN, J. JACK JACKSON and MARGE GROENING. They are all sitting around a table eating what appears to be dry bread and water.]

Hank : [Holds up his hand] Calm day.

Jack : [Wearing a pair of pitch dark glasses even though it's quite dim inside] Calm day.

Marge : Calm day.

[CASPER holds up his hand, but doesn't say anything. ALICE looks around slowly at the four, before turning to APHI with an inquisitively raised eyebrow.]

Aphi : Nah! I'm just kidding, they're all dead calm. Bam!

Alice : [Glares at Chastity] Know a lot about leaving soiled undergarments behind you, do you, Chas?

Chastity : [Smiles patronisingly back to Alice] Not as much as you, my dear, I suspect. [To Austin] You referred to a woman, Mr. Sleaze, and she was quite clearly a girl. Quite frankly you're difficulty in telling the two apart causes me some concern.

Austin : [To Chastity] I was quite clearly refering to Krafty. Why are you being so nasty to Alice? [Shrugs, lights up two cigarettes and offers one to Alice]

Alice : [Takes the cigarette] Thanks, Aus. What should I do? Burn her with it?

[MARASMUS gives a sharp intake of breath, clearly shocked.]

Aphi : It's okay, Marasmus, they're always like this, but they really all do like each other, except for Monty, of course. [Gives Monty a friendly punch on the shoulder] Haw! I'm just kidding you, they don't like Austin either!

Alice : Why? In case I might end up staying awake when you're talking?

Austin : [Smirking with a warm inner glow. To Alice] I can see the de-caf adverts now [Chuckles]

Alice : [Unimpressed] No quantity of stimulants would be sufficient to render me alert when discussing anything with you, Monty. [Flicks an imaginary piece of dust of her sleeve, Austin-style] Anyway, who the hell is Ken?

Geneva : Sure, I'll take a look.

Marasmus : We apologise for detaining your friend, it's just that she was rather threatening, and everyone is somewhat on edge here at the moment. It's getting late now, so perhaps we could arrange some accomodation for you?

Austin : [To Geneva] The cuts and lasserations look rather like those made by very large sharp claws, or possibly an odly shaped scarificial dagger, by the bodies are so badly mutilated it's hard to tell.

Geneva : I'd have to see them to comment, but if they're as badly mutilated as you say, it'll be impossible to tell.

Marasmus : Let me take you to where you'll be staying, you can continue your conversation there.

[Exit ALL.]

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene IV. A House in Serenity. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, GENEVA, HARVEY and MONTY are here, as are MARASMUS, APHI and BJORSETH, all standing outside a house that looks very similar to the one they just came from.]

Marasmus : This is Aphi and Bjorseth's house, I'm sure you'll be very comfortable here.

Aphi : Wait until you see the crowd with live with, they're just craaaaazy!

[APHI opens the door and leads the party to a kitchen. Sitting here are HANK TOMS, CASPER CASPERSEN, J. JACK JACKSON and MARGE GROENING. They are all sitting around a table eating what appears to be dry bread and water.]

Hank : [Holds up his hand] Calm day.

Jack : [Wearing a pair of pitch dark glasses even though it's quite dim inside] Calm day.

Marge : Calm day.

[CASPER holds up his hand, but doesn't say anything. ALICE looks around slowly at the four, before turning to APHI with an inquisitively raised eyebrow.]

Aphi : Nah! I'm just kidding, they're all dead calm. Bam!

Harvey : [Bows to the four] Good afternoon one and all. I am Harvey Kingston Short the third, ex colonel with his majestys Kings Reach Fourth Mounted Cavalry, and this is my dear niece, Alice Basset Short! Also among the troop I have the pleasure to introduce Sister Chastity Browne, Clint Scar and Austin Sleaze, Mr Giles and Geneva! [To Aphi] I say sir, I certainly hope there's more than bread and water available to refresh the troop!

[All but JACK nod and smile. While he does acknowledge them, he maintains his serious look.]

Aphi : [Bursts out laughing at Harvey] Haw! What a character! Harvey, it's going to be a pleasure having you around.

[CASPER sneaks a piece of bread under his sheet.]

Harvey : [Whispers to Aphi in true Harvey style] I say fellow, why is that chappie hiding under a sheet? Most unusual behaviour!

Aphi : [Troubled] Yes, yes it is. [Looks closely at Casper for a moment] Actually, it's okay, that's a blanket.

Alice : Why is that chappie hiding under a blanket?

Aphi : He was a little uncalm earlier and felt it was better to reduce his exposure to external stimuli. How are you feeling, Casper?

[CASPER gives two thumbs up.]

Aphi : [Sadly] Looks like he's still got a way to go.

Harvey : So it would seem, dear sir, so it would seem! [Scratches at a sideburn and looks at the others] Er, well, we don't wish to inconvenience you by putting us all up for the night, surely there's a hotel or bed and breakfast, or even a hostel or campsite available nearby?

Marge : Oh course not! We wouldn't hear of it! We can just double up! Harvey, you and Chastity can go with me and Casper, Geneva and Monty can go with Aphi and Bjorseth, and Jack and Hank can take Austin and Alice.

Aphi : Maybe not, Marge. These are our friends from a different time, they have different views on sharing.

Marge : Oh. [Recognition dawns] Oh! [To Alice] So you're the Alice?

Alice : [Defensively, after a quick glare at Bjorseth who has a look of practiced nonchalance on his face] Well, I'm [emphasis] an Alice!

Geneva: Relax, Alice. They haven't mentioned masturbating yet! Errr. who was I going with again? [Looks to Alice.] So... wanna swap groups?

Chastity : [To Monty] A spillage, perhaps, Mr. Giles, but I fear it would be no accident.

Geneva: Pillage, Spillage what's the difference. Ok I'll go with these guys [indicates her group] Just no sharing ok??

Geneva: Oh Monty, you can share all you want! I just meant that I wouldn't be.

Alice : [Watching the discussion with an irritated look] Do you people think about anything other than masturbation?

Bjorseth : [Scolding tone at the others] Alice is correct. Please stop speaking of such things.

[Everyone, even CASPER, who's beneath the blanket, looks surprised.]

Bjorseth : [Indicates himself and the others] We can share two rooms. The rest of you can share the other two.

Clint : No problem, Monts, as long as I don't have to share with you. So, I guess I'll bunk down with the [ostentatious bow and wave of his arm to Harvey and Austin] gentlemen.

Austin : [Sniggering. To Clint] It sounds like Monty has something special in mond for you, [Emphasis] Mr. Scar.

Clint : [Takes out a cigar and lights it, much to the dismay of the those in the room] I don't think so, [emphasis] Mr. Sleaze. I suspect he has something special in mind for himself.

Austin : [Smirks with glee at Clints comment, starts to add something but thinks better of it, composes himself] Well, as the Colonel said, we should eat before we starve.

Marge : [Holding up a large plate of dry bread] Tuck in!

Alice : [Taken aback, and whispering to the party] That's very uncalm talk isn't it? What kind of language is that to be using at the table?

Chastity : [To Alice] That was tuck with a [emphasis] "T", my dear. [Looks round the table and sighs] Unfortunately it would appear to be the only tea we'll experience this evening.

Geneva: [Tucking into the plate with glee, and using her dagger to rip off bite sized chunks.] Well I'm betting no one here has spent a year lost at sea and had to eat the first mate!

Alice : Need to build up your strength for tonight, eh, Monty? [Sits down and takes a bite of some plainbread] Mm-mm! [Chews on the bread, causing her smile to slowly disappear, with her obviously having difficulty getting any of it down, but somehow squeezing out an almost intelligible word] Tasty.

Chastity : [To Genena] It's just as well Stephen isn't here to contradict you. [Picks up a slice of bread and chews on it, taking regular sips of water]

Austin : [To Geneva] Have you. Just what is the nature of your corsair heritage? How long were [Pauses] have you been a pirate?

Aphi : No fear, Sister. A fresh delivery of plaintea will be arriving tomorrow morning!

Alice : [To Geneva] That's nothing, we once went on a family picnic and, because someone forgot to pack any of those little pork pies that Daddy loves so much, we had to eat one of the servants.

Marasmus : Really?

Alice : Well, we didn't [emphasis] have to.

Harvey : [Tastes some of the bread, and tries to put on a brave face] Mm-mm! It mightn't be deep fried first mate, but it is very er, tasty.

Geneva: [Testily] He wasn't deepfried! That's bad for the cholestrol. And the last thing you want is deep vein thrombosis at sea!

Alice : [Still trying swallow the piece of bread] No, apparantly the last thing you need at sea is some idiot girl who cries when shouted at, who doesn't like ruining her hands pulling ropes and who has somehow got the idea that sailing was supposed to be fun, not work. [Swallows hard and painfully, getting a large piece of bread down] Well, that's what I heard, anyway.

Geneva: [Drops a very small unfinished crust on the plate,] Obviously a second 1st mate. Hope you dont have Beer Wenches Brew (TM) to wash it down with?

Aphi : [Eating a huge chunk of bread] 'fraid not, but we've got plenty of water!

Chastity : [Looking aorund at the mess resulting for people talking with mouthfuls of chewy bread] Hmmmm, calmness does seem to rank over ettiquette here. [To Aphi] Is there ever anything else to eat apart from dry bread? [Hopefully] Maybe when the tea arrives tomorrow?

Aphi : [Smiling at Chastity] Haw! You know what? I bet there's some really nice stuff just hidden away!

Tom : [Puts on his hat] It is getting quite late, I believe it is time to retire. Aphi, perhaps you might show them to their rooms? [Takes the hat off]

Aphi : Sure, unless you want to do it?

Tom : [Puts the hat on] No, that's fine. [Takes the hat off]

Austin : [Frowning at the bread, sips his glass of water, nibbling a bit of bread. To Aphi] I think Geneva and I should show you how to brew wine, beer and distil some form of liquor before we leave. [To Tom and Caspar] Can you tell us anything about the killings?

Geneva: [Grinning madly] Is that an order? [Salutes Austin] Now if they could just point me in the direction of the parrots and the hops, we'd all be happy!

[CASPAR shakes his head.]

Tom : [Putting his hat on] No. [Takes it off again]

Chastity : [To Geneva] Just hold it right there, young lady. The last thing these simple people need in their lives is the evil of alcohol. [Gestures round the room] Look at the effect of just water and bread has! Last from Sam #31

Geneva: Awww. [ Quickly adjusts] Well I guess since birds and beer are out you should tell us then about the killings.

Harvey : Well said, Sister, well said! [Leans in to whisper to her] Although, I must confess, I'm partial to the odd parrot leg myself!

Tom : [Puts his hat on and turns to Clint] Do you realise that the item you are holding is on fire and that it's noxious fumes are poisoning the rest of us? [Whips the hat off]

Clint : [Looks down at his cigar] Yep. [To the party] Can we just go to bed now?

Marge : I'm afraid there's very little to tell. The first was discovered about a week and a half ago, just after the first eruption.

Alice : [Almost choking on her bread] Eruption? What the hell are you all doing sitting around here so calmly when there's a volcano about to pour molten lava on us?

Marge : [Dead calm] Because it's over twenty miles away.

Alice : [Still panicky] Is that far?

Marge : Yes.

Alice : [Suddenly as calm as Marge] Fine.

Marge : Yes. It has been rumbling for a few months, but there have been a number of minor eruptions in the last two weeks.

Austin : [To Marge] Is that the volcano you call the 'Beast'? The one where the heart is?

Austin : [Nibbling his bread] And ech time there has been an eruption there has been a killing?

Aphi : Indeed, my friend. Of course, we're not sure which happened first, as none of us were there when the deaths happened.

Alice : [Shaking a metal tray to sound like a clap of thunder, and speaking dramatically] Or were you?

[All those from Serenity turn and glare at ALICE, highly unamused.]

Tom : [Puts his hat on] Please don't do that. [Takes it off again]

Alice : Sorry. [Puts the tray down]

Marge : It was our pleasure, Monty.

Harvey : [Also rising] One last question - are there any other towns near here?

Aphi : Not for hundreds of miles. There are, of course, people living outside the town, but they are from Serenity. That's why all this is so puzzling.

Harvey : Any strangers around recently?

Tom : [Puts on his hat] Just you.

Austin : [To APhi] If you could show me to the bathroom I would like to prepare for bed. We can discuss this all in the morning.

Jack : [Still with his shades on and still deathly serious] Going for a poo, huh? Nothing makes a man sleep better than a robust bowel movement before going to bed.

Austin : [To Jack, humerously serious] Amongst other things, yes. You seem to have a remarkable informal manner in Serenity. It would be considered most rude in our world, just as some of our action must seem most rude to you. I hope we can all put our differences aside, [looks towards Clint] Although I must say that smoking a cigar during a meal is not appropriate or polite behaviour in our world either.

Clint : [Produces a massive burp] Too right, Sleaze!

Jack : [Nods at Austin's words] I see. So talking about masturbation is probably inappropriate too?

Alice : Yes!

Aphi : Would you like to see your rooms?

Austin : [To Jack] Yes, we consider that talking about masturbation is highly inappropriate at certain times, meal times being one of these times. [To Aphi] Yes, we could all use a good nights sleep, thank you.

Aphi : Come this way! [Heads back to the hallway and up the stairs] Lucky for you lot we can open up those two rooms into one, and make one huge bed, it'll be really cosy.

Austin : [Looking at Alice and Geneva and smiling, then at Clint and Harvey and frowning. To Aphi] You don't happen to have a spare hammock or two do you?

Aphi : [Laughs out loud] Bam! Gotcha! Just kidding, there are separate beds here.

Chastity : [Tutting disapprovingly at Aphi's uncalmness] Why don't you have to wear a blanket over your head to ward off your rumbunctious behaviour?

Aphi : Don't like 'em! [Opens up two doors, one on each side of the corridor] Here we go. [Points at the end of the hallway] That's where the bathroom is, Austin, but hey [deadly serious] you might want to get in there before Jack.

Harvey : My thanks to you sir! [Enters the room on the left and chooses his bed] At least there seems to be a matress, and not just a hard wooden board! [Mutters] By the saints, bread and water for supper!

Aphi : Oh, we can have that mattress taken out, if you'd like, just let me know. Good night all!

[Exit APHI, leaving just the party standing in and around the room that HARVEY is in.]

Alice : Well, what do we think of Serenity? It seems a lot less calm than I expected, and a lot more, well, strange.

Harvey : As usual, dear niece, you've hit the nail on the head! There is something quite odd about this town, and the people within it! I mean, those people downstairs are a bunch of freaks and no mistake! Why does that man put on his hat everytime he speaks? The guy in the sheet? The blue hair? Odd I say!

Geneva: [Testily] He wasn't deepfried! That's bad for the cholestrol. And the last thing you want is deep vein thrombosis at sea!

Alice : [Still trying swallow the piece of bread] No, apparantly the last thing you need at sea is some idiot girl who cries when shouted at, who doesn't like ruining her hands pulling ropes and who has somehow got the idea that sailing was supposed to be fun, not work. [Swallows hard and painfully, getting a large piece of bread down] Well, that's what I heard, anyway.

Geneva: [Drops a very small unfinished crust on the plate,] Obviously a second 1st mate. Hope you dont have Beer Wenches Brew (TM) to wash it down with?

Aphi : [Eating a huge chunk of bread] 'fraid not, but we've got plenty of water!

Chastity : [Looking aorund at the mess resulting for people talking with mouthfuls of chewy bread] Hmmmm, calmness does seem to rank over ettiquette here. [To Aphi] Is there ever anything else to eat apart from dry bread? [Hopefully] Maybe when the tea arrives tomorrow?

Aphi : [Smiling at Chastity] Haw! You know what? I bet there's some really nice stuff just hidden away!

Tom : [Puts on his hat] It is getting quite late, I believe it is time to retire. Aphi, perhaps you might show them to their rooms? [Takes the hat off]

Aphi : Sure, unless you want to do it?

Tom : [Puts the hat on] No, that's fine. [Takes the hat off]

Austin : [Frowning at the bread, sips his glass of water, nibbling a bit of bread. To Aphi] I think Geneva and I should show you how to brew wine, beer and distil some form of liquor before we leave. [To Tom and Caspar] Can you tell us anything about the killings?

Geneva: [Grinning madly] Is that an order? [Salutes Austin] Now if they could just point me in the direction of the parrots and the hops, we'd all be happy!

[CASPAR shakes his head.]

Tom : [Putting his hat on] No. [Takes it off again]

Chastity : [To Geneva] Just hold it right there, young lady. The last thing these simple people need in their lives is the evil of alcohol. [Gestures round the room] Look at the effect of just water and bread has! Last from Sam #31

Geneva: Awww. [ Quickly adjusts] Well I guess since birds and beer are out you should tell us then about the killings.

Harvey : Well said, Sister, well said! [Leans in to whisper to her] Although, I must confess, I'm partial to the odd parrot leg myself!

Tom : [Puts his hat on and turns to Clint] Do you realise that the item you are holding is on fire and that it's noxious fumes are poisoning the rest of us? [Whips the hat off]

Clint : [Looks down at his cigar] Yep. [To the party] Can we just go to bed now?

Marge : I'm afraid there's very little to tell. The first was discovered about a week and a half ago, just after the first eruption.

Alice : [Almost choking on her bread] Eruption? What the hell are you all doing sitting around here so calmly when there's a volcano about to pour molten lava on us?

Marge : [Dead calm] Because it's over twenty miles away.

Alice : [Still panicky] Is that far?

Marge : Yes.

Alice : [Suddenly as calm as Marge] Fine.

Marge : Yes. It has been rumbling for a few months, but there have been a number of minor eruptions in the last two weeks.

Austin : [To Marge] Is that the volcano you call the 'Beast'? The one where the heart is?

Austin : [Nibbling his bread] And ech time there has been an eruption there has been a killing?

Aphi : Indeed, my friend. Of course, we're not sure which happened first, as none of us were there when the deaths happened.

Alice : [Shaking a metal tray to sound like a clap of thunder, and speaking dramatically] Or were you?

[All those from Serenity turn and glare at ALICE, highly unamused.]

Tom : [Puts his hat on] Please don't do that. [Takes it off again]

Alice : Sorry. [Puts the tray down]

Marge : It was our pleasure, Monty.

Harvey : [Also rising] One last question - are there any other towns near here?

Aphi : Not for hundreds of miles. There are, of course, people living outside the town, but they are from Serenity. That's why all this is so puzzling.

Harvey : Any strangers around recently?

Tom : [Puts on his hat] Just you.

Austin : [To APhi] If you could show me to the bathroom I would like to prepare for bed. We can discuss this all in the morning.

Jack : [Still with his shades on and still deathly serious] Going for a poo, huh? Nothing makes a man sleep better than a robust bowel movement before going to bed.

Austin : [To Jack, humerously serious] Amongst other things, yes. You seem to have a remarkable informal manner in Serenity. It would be considered most rude in our world, just as some of our action must seem most rude to you. I hope we can all put our differences aside, [looks towards Clint] Although I must say that smoking a cigar during a meal is not appropriate or polite behaviour in our world either.

Clint : [Produces a massive burp] Too right, Sleaze!

Jack : [Nods at Austin's words] I see. So talking about masturbation is probably inappropriate too?

Alice : Yes!

Aphi : Would you like to see your rooms?

Austin : [To Jack] Yes, we consider that talking about masturbation is highly inappropriate at certain times, meal times being one of these times. [To Aphi] Yes, we could all use a good nights sleep, thank you.

Aphi : Come this way! [Heads back to the hallway and up the stairs] Lucky for you lot we can open up those two rooms into one, and make one huge bed, it'll be really cosy.

Austin : [Looking at Alice and Geneva and smiling, then at Clint and Harvey and frowning. To Aphi] You don't happen to have a spare hammock or two do you?

Aphi : [Laughs out loud] Bam! Gotcha! Just kidding, there are separate beds here.

Chastity : [Tutting disapprovingly at Aphi's uncalmness] Why don't you have to wear a blanket over your head to ward off your rumbunctious behaviour?

Aphi : Don't like 'em! [Opens up two doors, one on each side of the corridor] Here we go. [Points at the end of the hallway] That's where the bathroom is, Austin, but hey [deadly serious] you might want to get in there before Jack.

Harvey : My thanks to you sir! [Enters the room on the left and chooses his bed] At least there seems to be a matress, and not just a hard wooden board! [Mutters] By the saints, bread and water for supper!

Aphi : Oh, we can have that mattress taken out, if you'd like, just let me know. Good night all!

[Exit APHI, leaving just the party standing in and around the room that HARVEY is in.]

Alice : Well, what do we think of Serenity? It seems a lot less calm than I expected, and a lot more, well, strange.

Harvey : As usual, dear niece, you've hit the nail on the head! There is something quite odd about this town, and the people within it! I mean, those people downstairs are a bunch of freaks and no mistake! Why does that man put on his hat everytime he speaks? The guy in the sheet? The blue hair? Odd I say!

Alice : [Nods in agreement] True, although the hairstyle is kind of nice. Would any of them have killed those people though?

Geneva: While that hairstyle might be practical onland, it would get blown about in a boat? As for if they have killed people - well if the beast could change anyone the way Azrael's dreams could, who knows? It's quite possible.

Alice : True. Of course, maybe the Heart is involved too? It is inside the Beast, after all, isn't it?

Geneva: Arrrgh that is a good question, Mont! Could the volcanic eruptions be a diversion from the real issue - ie. the heart and it's intentions?

Alice : Maybe the Heart is causing the eruptions? Didn't Aphi and Bjor say that it used to be dormant until everyone started having those heart dreams?

Geneva: I think you're right, Alice. If only we could get our hands on it. Or our daggers...

Alice : Eccentric behaviour doesn't necessarily mean that they're murderers, though, Monty. I mean, look at you lot! You know, any other time we've come across the Heart, it's just been The Heart, and not the Heart of the Beast, so maybe you're right.

Chastity : [Quick disapproving glance at Alice, before turning to Geneva] If we could get our hands on it, what then? Look at what happened to poor Austin's finger, on his favourite hand. How awful it must be for you Austin.

Geneva: I wonder if there's more than one meaning to the name? If it's one of those metaphor thingies. [Absently taps her dagger] I hope not. You can't stab metaphors.

Austin : Touching it certainly seemed to save Aphi's life, Mr. Giles. Or don't you remember how Bjor put his hand in too?

Harvey : By that saints, Monty, that's a capital idea. If only we had managed to get a proper feed, what? Still, as long as this old soldier's rumbling stomach doesn't keep the whole household awake, we should all get some sleep. [Exit CHASTITY, ALICE and GENEVA to the other room, and AUSTIN to the bathroom, with each of AUSTIN, CLINT, HARVEY and MONTY manage to find a bed in the current room.] [Book IV, Act VIII, Scene V. The Kitchen in Aphi and Bjorseth's House. ALICE is here in her dressing gown, smoking a cheeseratte and looking in the fridge. The lights are off, and she is scratching her ass quite unselfconsciously, making a surprisingly loud noise. The inner door to the kitchen opens.]

Alice : [Looks around her quickly] Gah! I'd better hide. [Jumps into the fridge and shuts it after her] [Enter CHASTITY, also in her night clothes.]

Chastity : Tea, for the love of Phili, they must have some tea! [Checks through some of the small cupboards, before being distracted by a noise from the fridge, which she opens] [ALICE is inside, shivering with the cold, but still smoking the cheeseratte. She hands out a loaf of plainbread.]

Alice : There.

Chastity : Thanks. [Shuts the door, before thinking for a moment, and opening it again] What on earth are you doing in the fridge?

Alice : [Stepping out] Freezing!

Chastity : You stupid girl, you're supposed to be asleep. It is an invasion of these peoples' privacy to spend time in their fridge.

Alice : What are you doing down here?

Chastity : I'm going to search every inch of this kitchen until I find some tea.

Austin : [Stepping out of a large cuppboard] What was that odd sawing sound I heard? [Looks at Chastity and Monty] What one earth are you two doing up at this time of night?

Alice : [Momentarily stops her teeth chattering] What sawing noise? I didn't hear anything. [Teeth chatter again as she looks around the room] Let's turn on the light. [Steps over the large lamp in the corner] Hey! Either the lamp is on fire or it's not a lamp at all, and is, in fact, Clint, with a lampshade on his head!

Clint : [Lifts up the lampshade to reveal that this is true. He is wearing his shirt and a pair of filthy underwear and socks, and, of course, is smoking a cigar] Just as well you didn't try to turn on the lamp, Bimbo!

Austin : [To Monty] Me too, lets search the room [Begins searching the room, turning every light on that he finds]

[Everyone joins in the search, but almost immediately, HARVEY and GENEVA appear, each coming out of a different cupboard.]

Harvey : I say! What's all the commotion here? [Looks around] Ah. I see we're all here! All starving, eh? You look cold, Alice, what - oh! [Averts his gaze and looks rather uncomfortable]

Alice : What? [Thinks for a moment] Oh. [Folds her arms across her chest] Er, yes, it's a little cool alright.

Alice : [Still with her arms folded, and annoyed with Monty's looking away from her] What's wrong with him?

Chastity : [To Alice] Your constant pointing is making us all uncomfortable.

Clint : Not me!

Chastity : Mr. Giles, did you say something about hearing seven entries? [Looks around the room] Who else came in, I wonder?

Austin : [Continues searching around for any clues, in cupboards draws, secret hidden entrances etc] Perhaps we should go and see if the others are all asleep.

Harvey : [More than a little disturbed at the expert way in which Austin searches the room] What? Disturb the others? [Loudly] Outrageous! [AUSTIN has searched a number of cupboards, etc., and found nothing of interest, but is disturbed by a huge bang from far off in the distance, which causes the entire house to shake.]

Clint : What the hell was that?

Austin : [Rushes to the door and looks out to see if he can see where the explosion came from] It might have been the volcano, or the killer.

Austin : [Dashes back in through the kitchen towards the bedroom. To Monty] You're right there, we don't want to be caught short in our night wear again. [Dissapears with a flash of silk night gown and panda skin slippers, to get changed]

[Everyone rushes upstairs to the bedrooms, almost colliding with HANK, who's completely naked, but holding his hat in his hand.]

Hank : [Putting the hat on] What's going on? [Takes it off momentarily, but puts it back on again] Where are you coming from? [Takes it off again]

Austin : [To Hank] There was a big explosion somewhere outside, you had better wake the others! [Heads off into the bedroom to get changed]

Hank : [Puts his hat on to answer the disappearing figure of Austin] I'm sure they will be up soon. [Takes the hat off and runs out into the street] [A few minutes later, the party are dressed and back out on the street. There are quite a few people still here, most of them naked, but some have dressing gowns on and some are dressed. Those from the house are all present; MARGE, APHI and HANK are naked, while each of BJORSETH, JACK and CASPER are clothed, CASPER with another blanket over him. Also here is MARASMUS, naked and in quite some distress.]

Clint : [Not even bothering to suppress his smile] Looks like it's time for some of Clint Scar's patented hugs!

Hank : [Puts on his hat] I believe I need one. [Steps forward and gives Clint a good, firm hug, to Clint's obvious dismay]

Harvey : [Whips off his jacket and holds it towards Marasmus] My dear woman, you seem to have wandered outside without a stitch on, so allow me to offer you my jacket! [Blushes furiously] What on earth was that explosion, eh?

Marasmus : [Holds up her hand] No, I'm fine, Harvey. Thanks. [Points behind the party]

[Everyone turns and looks.]

Alice : [Shocked] It was Aphi?

Aphi : [Steps out of the way] Sorry, Alice.

[Now even ALICE can see that MARASMUS was pointing at the volcano. Even though it was claimed to be twenty miles away, the party can clearly see that there is a strong orange glow around it.]

Harvey : By the saints, now that's something you don't see every day! [To Marasmus] Have you ever seen that glow before?

Marasmus : [Sadly] I'm afraid so, each time one of the murders happened.

Alice : Are you sure it just isn't sunrise?

Hank : [Lets go of Clint, before putting his hat on and pointing] No, that's where the sun rises. [Takes off his hat]

Alice : [Looking a little ill] Er, in future, um, would you might pointing with your finger?

Hank : [With his hat on again, and barely audible over the sound of Clint's shiver] Sure. [Takes it off and hangs it on a convenient peg]

Harvey : [Outraged] Sir, remove that hat from my nieces chest this instant, or by thunder, you'll feel the wrath of the Shorts!

[Everyone gives HARVEY a puzzled look.]

Aphi : Er, Harvey, his hat isn't on her chest - that's a grey dressing gown she has over it.

Alice : [A little annoyed] It's a [emphasis] white dressing gown.

Geneva: [Taking a bite out of a piece of bread.] So we obviously all couldn't sleep, let's get moving!

Alice : Moving where?

Monty : [To Alice] Why are you still wearing your dressing gown?

Alice : Tut! Do you have to be so picky? [Takes it off, revealing that she is wearing her ordinary clothes beneath]

Chastity : [Turning away from Alice and slowly looking back. With obvious relief] For a horrible moment I thought you were going to unnecessarily review yourself. [looks at Alice's normal clothes] Oh. [pauses] Anyway, perhaps we should go back to the house. Austin reported some sawing noises that could do with some investigation. Lets just hope it wasn't the sawing of limbs!

Austin : [To Chastity] I think that we might be better of finding out if anyone has been attacked. The sawing noises could have been anything. Someone cutting a particularly crusty loaf, for example.

Harvey : [Guffawing] Or some bounder scratching his ass! [Gets all embarrassed] Er, I mean, possibly a sheep, or something.

Alice : Well, I was in the kitchen, and I didn't hear anything.

Chastity : Well if Austin DID hear a murder going on, it would answer the question of which came first, the body or the volcano. [Looks round the group] Unless anyone has any better ideas?

Alice : And what kind of murder was it? [Theatrically] A woman sawn in half?

Clint : When I was in the kitchen I heard it too. I think it came from the general direction of the fridge.

Austin : [To CLint] Hmm, I thoughht it came fromt he general direction of the fridge also.

Monty : I concur, Mister Sleaze, that's certainly how it appeared to me too.

Harvey : [Nodding] Indeed, indeed! A terrible noise it was, terrible!

Alice : [Rather miffed] Look, I thought we were going to solve a murder?

Chastity : OK, so the sawing noise was a bit of a red herring. But Alice is correct, eruptions and murders have been reportedly close, so we really should look around now. [Dramatically] It could be a matter of life or death!

Clint : Good idea, Chas, but where are we going to look? [Shrugs] What are we going to do? Stumble around into houses surprising naked chicks? [Big smile] Excellent idea, Chas!

Austin : [To Chastity, curtly] That's what I said in the first place, but you wanted to investigate the sawing. [Looks all huffy. To Marge] Do you have any clue as to where may be best to look for another attack?

Marge : Not really, I'm afraid. The other murders all took place outside the town. It was only a few days later that we discovered the bodies.

Clint : [Looking at Austin with some amusement, before turning to Hank] I think Austin needs a hug.

Austin : [To Hank] I don't require a hug.

Hank : [Puts his hat on] Sure? [Takes it off again]

Harvey : Perhaps we could check if anyone in the town has been injured? It might be best to start our search here, and slowly work our way out.

Marasmus : [Nods] Of course, Mr. Giles. I'll arrange it.

[MARASMUS calls over a group of SERENETINITES, and has a quick conversation, before they rush off.]

Alice : So, if we do find some bodies, what will that tell us?

Marge : It will tell us that the murderer is almost certainly in the town, as the town gates are always locked at night.

Marge : This is the first one to happen at night, all the others were during the day.

[There are more and more people quickly, but calmly appearing, standing in an orderly fashion to be counted.]

Harvey : [Thoughtfully] And the gates are open during the day?

Marge : Yes.

Marge : This is the first one to happen at night, all the others were during the day.

[There are more and more people quickly, but calmly appearing, standing in an orderly fashion to be counted.]

Harvey : [Thoughtfully] And the gates are open during the day?

Marge : Yes.

Marge : Well, yes, but are you suggesting that it could be someone from Serenity?

[Many of the people who are gathering around demonstrate their indignation at MONTY's question.]

Marasmus : [Holds a hand up to the crowd] Please. They are just trying to help us.

Chastity : [Looking round at the gathered townsfolk] What Mr. Giles means is that the murderer may be hiding here, using the town good, calm name to shield themselves from discovery.

[The people don't seem particularly convinced by this, and the grumbling continues, in a distinctly uncalm fashion.]

Tom : I think it is highly inappropriate for you to come into our town throwing these kinds of allegations around. You know nothing of our people and town. It is simply unimaginable that it is someone from Serenity who is responsible. [The crowd loudly agree with him] In fact, it is entirely more likely that it is one of [points dramatically at the party] you! [Angrily] What do you say to that?

[There's a brief but tense stand-off.]

Alice : Hmm? Are you talking to us? It's just that we couldn't hear you with your hat off.

Austin : That really wont be necerssary. [To the Serenetinites] We only arrived here last night, therefore it is unlikely that we commited any misdeeds that happened before last night. Further to this, we are trying very hard to find the murder or murderers, as the case may be, and our chances will be greatly improved with your cooperation. You want the killings to stop, and so do we, so let us put our differences aside, for a while at least, and work together on this. Before we're all dead and spread around in little gooey pieces.

Aphi : [Coming from where all the rest of the people are standing] Everyone's here except for the Merriweathers.

Alice : Merriweather? Is that a real name?

Aphi : They used to be the Calmweathers, but changed it recently.

Tom : [To the party] And what do you think happened to them? [Glares at the party for a moment, before putting his hat on] And what do you think happened to them?

Hank : [Getting right in Monty's face, and speaking loudly] I am not getting worked up! I am exceedingly calm!

[BJORSETH steps up and roughly smacks HANK'S hat off him and onto the ground, much to the loud and obvious dismay of all those around.]

Bjorseth : Shut the hell up. Don't you dare insult Alice's friends, you could learn a lot from these people.

Aphi : [Gives Bjorseth a reproachful look] I'm not sure that's the case, Monty.

Marasmus : [Holds her hands up in a placating way] Please. We may be panicking about nothing. [Points to a nearby house] That's the house where -

[Bang. CLINT has the door kicked open.]

Marasmus : [Sigh] I was going to say, that's the house where the used to live, they now live over there. [Points to another one.

Bang. CLINT has the door kicked open.]

Clint : [Glancing inside and stepping back] Oh. Wow. [Takes out his sword] Doesn't look good.

Chastity : [To Alice] That'll be those mirrors hung in the hallways again! [Pulls out her mace and joins Clint at the door] Good to have a real door-kicker back in the group, Mr. Scar. [Carefully looks into the house]

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Have many of the towns people changed there names from the likes of 'calm' to such names as 'merry' recently, and why did they move house? [Wanders over to the newer house]

Bjorseth : [Shrugs] I don't know.

Marge : [To Austin] Why? Does that make you [finger quotes] suspicious?

[Everyone looks in to see that there are six bodies in the hallway, four of them children. They have clearly been killed very recently and, although they are cut up, it isn't as clinical as the last time.Written on the wall in blood is "From Within It Consumes".]

Casper : [Stepping back] Oh my.

Alice : [To Casper] Are you okay? You look as white as a sheet!

Austin : [With a fresh surgical mask on. To Bjorseth] I have heard of a similar thing happening before. This happend to a friend of ours called Faern, he too scrawled the message on [Pauses] the floor, I think it was. I may recall the name of the town that he was in. [Ponders. To Marge] Yes the name change is most suspicious, as are all of the townspeople except Bjor and Aphi. [To Caspar] How can you expect anyone to trust you if you are hiding under a blanket all of the time?

Casper : It's not a blanket, it's a sheet.

Alice : Are we sure they wrote it themselves? Maybe it was the murderer?

Geneva: [Pulling a face at the murders]Maybe [Indicating the bodies] that was a pact, and that was the note. [Indicates the writing on the wall] do you think?

Alice : Plus, they'd surely leave a better note than that!

Clint : What? Like putting little smiley faces in the dots over the eyes?

Alice : Don't be silly Clint. It's a suicide note, they'd be frowny faces.

Marasmus : [Nods] Good idea, Monty. [To the crowd] Please, to help us verify that it is not one of us, could everyone stand in groups with people they shared a room with last night?

Marge : What? We're under suspicion? That's ridiculous! [The townspeople agree, and make loud assenting noises.]

Hank : [Puts on his hat] It's crazy! What about people who got up first? I was with Aphi and Bjorseth, but when I heard the noise, I got right up. [Points dramatically at the party] Where I met all of you!

Austin : [To Hank] Your accusations are ridiculous, but I do not take offense. As I previously declared, we only arrived here last night and therfore could not have commited the previous murders, which were obiouvsly perpetrated by the same person or persons, the modus operadi being the same. In addition to this I should like to point out that none of us have any motive whatsoever, to kill these unfortunate people, and are in fact, putting ourselves in great danger by persuing the perpetrators. Your own resentment to our investigations is suspicious in itself. Why is it that you don't want to investigate these murders Hank? Why is it that you are trying to get rid of us and stir up hatred and mistrust, when we only seek to help, and we have a better alibi than anyone else in this town.

Hank : [Points at Austin] Lie.

Alice : [Who's standing beside Austin] Er, okay. You look good naked, Hank.

Hank : [Sigh, before pointing at Austin] You're a liar. You were all here before. How do we know you haven't been going back and forth? I want these murders investigvated, but not by those who are the one most likely to have committed them. Great danger? How could you be in great danger when you yourselves are the most likely perpetrators? [The crowd, which is growing ever restless all show their approval.]

Aphi : Let's all calm down a moment.

Hank : So you say, but can we believe you? No one here had even heard of the concept of lying until Aphi and Bjor met you.

[The crowd are now getting very restless.]

Aphi : [Positions himself between the crowd and the party, now calmer than the party have ever seen, and addresses the crowd] Calm yourselves. Let us all return to our homes, and we can talk to the strangers in more conducive surroundings than this. As soon as we know anything, we will tell you.

Hank : [Getting right in Monty's face, and speaking loudly] I am not getting worked up! I am exceedingly calm!

[BJORSETH steps up and roughly smacks HANK'S hat off him and onto the ground, much to the loud and obvious dismay of all those around.]

Bjorseth : Shut the hell up. Don't you dare insult Alice's friends, you could learn a lot from these people.

Aphi : [Gives Bjorseth a reproachful look] I'm not sure that's the case, Monty.

Marasmus : [Holds her hands up in a placating way] Please. We may be panicking about nothing. [Points to a nearby house] That's the house where -

[Bang. CLINT has the door kicked open.]

Marasmus : [Sigh] I was going to say, that's the house where the used to live, they now live over there. [Points to another one.

Bang. CLINT has the door kicked open.]

Clint : [Glancing inside and stepping back] Oh. Wow. [Takes out his sword] Doesn't look good.

Chastity : [To Alice] That'll be those mirrors hung in the hallways again! [Pulls out her mace and joins Clint at the door] Good to have a real door-kicker back in the group, Mr. Scar. [Carefully looks into the house]

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Have many of the towns people changed there names from the likes of 'calm' to such names as 'merry' recently, and why did they move house? [Wanders over to the newer house]

Bjorseth : [Shrugs] I don't know.

Marge : [To Austin] Why? Does that make you [finger quotes] suspicious?

[Everyone looks in to see that there are six bodies in the hallway, four of them children. They have clearly been killed very recently and, although they are cut up, it isn't as clinical as the last time.Written on the wall in blood is "From Within It Consumes".]

Casper : [Stepping back] Oh my.

Alice : [To Casper] Are you okay? You look as white as a sheet!

Austin : [With a fresh surgical mask on. To Bjorseth] I have heard of a similar thing happening before. This happend to a friend of ours called Faern, he too scrawled the message on [Pauses] the floor, I think it was. I may recall the name of the town that he was in. [Ponders. To Marge] Yes the name change is most suspicious, as are all of the townspeople except Bjor and Aphi. [To Caspar] How can you expect anyone to trust you if you are hiding under a blanket all of the time?

Casper : It's not a blanket, it's a sheet.

Alice : Are we sure they wrote it themselves? Maybe it was the murderer?

Geneva: [Pulling a face at the murders]Maybe [Indicating the bodies] that was a pact, and that was the note. [Indicates the writing on the wall] do you think?

Alice : Plus, they'd surely leave a better note than that!

Clint : What? Like putting little smiley faces in the dots over the eyes?

Alice : Don't be silly Clint. It's a suicide note, they'd be frowny faces.

Marasmus : [Nods] Good idea, Monty. [To the crowd] Please, to help us verify that it is not one of us, could everyone stand in groups with people they shared a room with last night?

Marge : What? We're under suspicion? That's ridiculous! [The townspeople agree, and make loud assenting noises.]

Hank : [Puts on his hat] It's crazy! What about people who got up first? I was with Aphi and Bjorseth, but when I heard the noise, I got right up. [Points dramatically at the party] Where I met all of you!

Austin : [To Hank] Your accusations are ridiculous, but I do not take offense. As I previously declared, we only arrived here last night and therfore could not have commited the previous murders, which were obiouvsly perpetrated by the same person or persons, the modus operadi being the same. In addition to this I should like to point out that none of us have any motive whatsoever, to kill these unfortunate people, and are in fact, putting ourselves in great danger by persuing the perpetrators. Your own resentment to our investigations is suspicious in itself. Why is it that you don't want to investigate these murders Hank? Why is it that you are trying to get rid of us and stir up hatred and mistrust, when we only seek to help, and we have a better alibi than anyone else in this town.

Hank : [Points at Austin] Lie.

Alice : [Who's standing beside Austin] Er, okay. You look good naked, Hank.

Hank : [Sigh, before pointing at Austin] You're a liar. You were all here before. How do we know you haven't been going back and forth? I want these murders investigvated, but not by those who are the one most likely to have committed them. Great danger? How could you be in great danger when you yourselves are the most likely perpetrators? [The crowd, which is growing ever restless all show their approval.]

Aphi : Let's all calm down a moment.

Hank : So you say, but can we believe you? No one here had even heard of the concept of lying until Aphi and Bjor met you.

[The crowd are now getting very restless.]

Aphi : [Positions himself between the crowd and the party, now calmer than the party have ever seen, and addresses the crowd] Calm yourselves. Let us all return to our homes, and we can talk to the strangers in more conducive surroundings than this. As soon as we know anything, we will tell you.

Austin : [To Hank] What do you mean we've been here before? I don't recall visiting Serenity before [Looks suprised but thoughtful] but I am very forgetful, so I'll check with someone who never forgets [Turns to Alice] Alice?

Alice : [Thinks hard] You could try asking Harvey, he never forgets.

Harvey : Why thank you, young Agatha!

Alice : I'm Alice.

Harvey : Of course, of course! [To Hank] Private Sleaze is correct, we have never been to Serenity, although some members of the troop were in the Beast.

Hank : [To Austin] Mere pedantry is not enough to convince us of your innocence.

Hank : [To the assembled crowd] Curious, isn't it, how he simply repeats the pedantic remarks of the other one? [Unimpressed, to Monty] So simply because you didn't write down in your little book that you had been here and murdered people, we have to believe that you are innocent?

Alice : [Shrugs] He is pretty anal about things, Hank, it's probably a good defence.

Aphi : [Does a calming gesture with his hands] Please. Let us return to our house.

Geneva: [Tapping her dagger.] Yes let us. Monty may be a lot of things, but he doesn't lie. And neither do we for that matter!

[The party head back to the house, with APHI, BJORSETH, HANK, MARASMUS, CASPER, JACK and MARGE.]

Bjorseth : [To Geneva, but not loud enough for the general crowd to hear] That's a lie, isn't it? Remember when we first met you? I think most of you told at least one lie then. Maybe they were lies by omission, but they were lies nonetheless.

Geneva: [Fussily, but quietly back.] Yes, yes, ok. But we wouldn't lie about something like.. murder!

Hank : Another lie?

[The party and the others arrive at the house, and start to go in.]

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene VI. The Kitchen in Serenity. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, GENEVA, HARVEY, MONTY, MARASMUS, MARGE, TOM, CASPER, JACK, APHI and BJORSETH are here.]

Chastity : It'll certainly be a relief to be able to speak in privacy.

[Everyone turns to the window to see that there are hundreds of people there, crammed up against the glass, trying to see in.]

Alice : [Closes the curtains] Right, so where we. Oh that's right, Hank, you were blindly accusing us without proof, correct?

Hank : Yes, I was correct. For you are not trustworthy.

Austin : [To Hank, nonchalantly] You don't know the meaning of the word 'trustworthy'. You seem to have a fairly nasty streak yourself, accusing you guests of murder, without a shred of evidence. I have risked my life trying to save Aphi, my fiancee was recently murdered by a man named Jerome Trindle in a similar way to those dead we have seen here. Even if you don't want to help us we will be investigating these murders as best we can, and we 'll attempt to stop them, and save you even if you don't want to be saved, tough.

Hank : I know the meaning of the word untrustworthy, though.

[JACK, MARGE and CASPER all nod in agreement.]

Alice : Hey! What's happened to all the calmness?

Marasmus : I'm afraid things have started to get decidedly uncalm in the recent past.

Jack : [To Austin] And who's going to save us from you?

Geneva: Well, no one has to! We're not here to hurt you! [Thoughtfully] Have the victims all something in common? Last from Conor #5

Geneva: [Rolls her eyes.] Apart from being dead, I mean?

Alice : [Tuts at Geneva's naivete] Well, obviously.

Geneva: Well that's not exactly going to cause anyone to kill them, or be consumed from within is it?

Marasmus : [To Hank] Hank, do you have any reason to believe that our new friends could be involved?

Hank : They were all up when the volcano erupted.

Geneva: Yeah! I wasn't even carrying my real dagger. I was carrying my sleeping.. err.. dagger

Marge : [Glares at Monty] What's that supposed to mean? The decency? Who the hell are you to look down on us? Just because you're ashamed of your body doesn't mean everyone else has to be.

Alice : [Quick glance at Hank] While some of us should be.

Hank : And you had your weapons in your room?

Geneva: [Just as calmly] See we are unarmed. How could we have committed these callous murders?

Austin : [Indignantly] This is silly. There is no evidence to suggest that we had anything to do with the murders. [Sighs] We could have traveled in time from the future and commited the crimes, or paid someone else to do so, or by some action of lack of action in this world or another, caused the crimes to occur, deliberatley or without our knowledge, [Waves a dismissive hand] But as far as we know we didn't. [Looks around the party] Agreed?

Alice : Agreed? I didn't even understand it!

Hank : If your weapons were in your room, one or more of you could have simply slipped out and committed the crime while the others kept me busy on the stairs.

Clint : Oh for God's sake! And what's to stop any of you having done the same thing?

Hank : That fact that all our weapons are locked into a press in this very kitchen.

Clint: [To Hank, skeptically] Oh, yeah? Let's take a look.

Hank : [To Monty] You really are a snotty little shit, aren't you? [Gets up and walks to a closet] All our weapons are kept padlocked in here.

Alice : Where's the padlock?

Hank : What? [Looks at the cupboard, which has no padlock] What the hell?

Clint: [Opens the cupboard to check out the weapons stash. To Hank, annoyed] Watch you mouth, bub. Egghead's all right.

Hank : Why? What are you going to do, murder me? [There's quite an array of weaponry there, including swords, bows, daggers etc., but nothing out of the ordinary.]

Hank : That cupboard was locked when we went to bed. Yet it is now open, [emphasis] after you people have been in.

Austin : [To Hank] So now you are accusing us of stealing your weapons and murdering strangers? [Smirks] And of course someone must therfore have told us where you stored your weapons.

Aphi : [Looking through the weapons] No, everything seems to be there.

Marge : At least it is now.

Hank : [To Monty] So you say. Of course, the security was perfectly adequate before you entered our house. [Unimpressed with Austin's smirk] Either that or you searched our house until you found them.

Jack : You have admitted to all being downstairs during the night. Anyone of you could have gone into the kitchen, taken our weapons, killed the Calmweathers and returned here, using your comrades to cover your absence.

Clint: [To Jack] And [huge emphasis] why would we do that?!

Jack : [To Clint] I don't know. Then again, I don't even know why you're here, other than to [looks at Monty] frown on our ways and to [quick glance at Alice] make people feel guilty for talking about masturbation.

Bjorseth : [Slams his fist on the table and leans in close to Jack] Shut the fuck up! [Steps back] This whole argument could be pointless. Why don't we get Marasmus to test if one of the weapons in the house was used?

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Good idea Bjor, but could Marasmus not also use her powers to see who the murderer(s) is or are as the case may be?

Clint: [Unimpressed] Well, you don't return weapons you've used to commit a murder! You get rid of 'em!

Austin : [To Clint] Unless you want to plant them in order to incriminate someone.

Aphi : [To Bjorseth] Calm down, friend.

Marasmus : I'm afraid I can't do that, Austin, all I can do is tell if a weapon recently hurt someone.

[MARASMUS starts with the party, standing in front of each of them in turn.]

Marasmus : No, none of these weapons have been used.

Hank : Sounds like you two know plenty about murdering!

Alice : [Muttering to Clint and Austin] Maybe you might put that knowledge to good use.

Harvey : [To Hank] My dear sir, the very idea of us murdering any of these people is absolutely ludicrous! None of our weapons were used in these crimes and I can vouch for my troop that no one here would even contemplate doing such a thing! Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com

Clint: [Nods at Harvey's words] Damn right! We're here to help, so you'd better watch the accusations [scowls at Hank]. [To Harvey, impatiently] Where do we start? Go house-to-house looking for suspects or what? [flexes door-kicking foot in anticipation]

Hank : Oh, well that's okay so. Let's call off the investigation!

Harvey : [To Hank] Now sir, there's no need to call off the investigation, as these people have been murdered after all, but we should perhaps try to find the real culprits! [Scratches his sideburn] Now the night in question I woke up feeling famished and went to the kitchen to find anything other than bread to eat, but didn't see anyone else about. Did anyone else? Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com

Alice : How about checking the other weapons?

[MARASMUS looks over the weapons, and quickly points to one.]

Marasmus : This, this one! [Touches it, and shudders all over] Who owns this?

Bjorseth : [Grimly] Casper.

[Everyone turns at and looks at CASPER, who's turned even paler.]

Casper : I didn't do it!

Harvey : Harumph! Why don't you tell us where you were exactly during the murder, and do you have any witnesses? Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com

Casper : I was upstairs, asleep, in the room with everyone else. I woke up when I heard the volcano, everyone was moving around at that stage. Anyway, one of you could have taken it and put it back here, knowing that Marasmus would be able to identify it!

Clint: [To Casper] How about taking off that sheet or blanket or whatever the hell it is you're hiding under? Makes it seem like you got something to hide.

Harvey : We didn't know where you kept your weapons! And surely if we were the murderers, why would we stay around town after doing the deed? We could quite easily have slipped away and never be seen by anyone here again! Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com

Casper : I am not taking off my sheet.

Alice : I thought it was a blanket.

Casper : I don't care.

Alice : [Whips the sheet off him, like one would pull a tablecloth off a table, somehow leaving the hat and glasses on him] Ta-da!

Casper : [Sourly] No.

[The party all give each other sceptical looks.]

Alice : That sounds a teensy bit like a lie to me.

Hank : Yeah? Well, you'd know all about that, wouldn't you?

Geneva: But there's good lies too! Like err... [Spots Alice] I really love your hair like that!

Alice : [With a big smile] Aw! Thanks Gen! And I don't think your hair makes you look like a man at all.

Austin : [Smirks. To Hank] Of course we know lots about murder and lies, we spend our time trying to stop murder and discover the truth. [Looks thoughtfull] Although we're much better at saving people that discovering the truth. It's quite the slippiest rascal, the truth, just when you think you've got it .. zap [Smacks his fist into his hand] a ton of lies appears from nowhere and the truth vanishes like a hat in a hurricane. [Frowns at the odd expression he just came up with, then checks his nails and smiles]

Geneva: Arrrgh. [Smoothing her hair down defensively] That's what you get for cutting your hair with daggers! [Beams at Monty] I couldn't have put it better myself! Even with a dagger! [Considers] And a belly to stab it in as well!

Bjorseth : Lies about masturbation and love are good too, aren't they? Last from Conor #46

Geneva: No! That's called a hidden truth

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Lies about masturbation and love? I'm not sure what you mean?

Bjorseth : Don't you remember what we talked about when we first met? Both you and Alice advised the use of lies in the early part of love particularly prior to engaging in sexual relations.

[ALICE and AUSTIN exchange a surprised look.]

Alice : That's not what we meant at all!

Bjorseth : [Smiles] Oh come, on. I know fully what you meant. A lie by omission is still a lie.

Marasmus : [Nodding at Monty's words] Indeed. We have established that Casper's sword was used, but what else? It doesn't really mean that he has anything to do with it, [a little hopefully] does it?

Alice : [Looks down at the sheet she pulled off Casper earlier] Weren't you wearing a blanket last night?

Casper : Yes. [There's a quick discussion amongst the others.]

Aphi : Probably last night. Where's the blanket, Casper?

Casper : [Very calm] I don't know. I couldn't find it this morning.

Austin : [To Monty, distracted] Yes, circumstantial evidence Monty [To Bjorseth] Your concept of a lie by omission is misconstrude. Just because someone does not tell you something does not mean that they are lieing, by ommision or otherwise. A lie by ommision is when you are asked directly about something, for example, ypothetically, a murder, and you deliberatley tell only half of what you know, concealing the other half of what you know in order to protect yourself or other persons. [Muses] For example, if I asked you what you knew about the murders, and you didn't tell me about the fact that you masturbate when you think of Alice sometime, then that wouldn't be a lie, as it's irrelevant as far as I can see. However, if the murder victim had threatened to kill or blackmail several people, including Alice, then your sexual pastimes may be relevant as you yourself could be a suspect, having motive to protect Alice. [Smiles satifactorily at his brief summary of the concepts. Checks his nails and nods]

Casper : And what about all the lies you've told, Monty?

[ALICE rolls her eyes, clearly unhappy with AUSTIN's example, but BJORSETH speaks before she does.]

Bjorseth : Your example is irrelevant, Austin, because the context was different. If I did think of Alice when I masturbate, and kept that information from her over time, that would be a lie, because she would think that I'm not thinking of her when I masturbate. Therefore, my refusal to give her this piece of information would mislead her. A lie.

Austin : [To Casper] Oh shut up, I'm trying to talk to Bjorseth. [To Bjorseth] But that's hypothetical, as you have no evidence to suggest that Alice thinks of you masturbating, or want's to know what you are thinking about when doing so.

Clint: [Annoyed] You people are getting way off the subject, here. What's important is [to Casper] what the hell got you so worked up you had to hide out under a blanket?!

Bjorseth : [To Alice] And do you think about me masturbating?

Alice : Now I can't think about anything else!

Bjorseth : [To Austin] Keeping information from people might be second nature to you, but not to those of us from Serenity.

Casper : [To Austin] Shut the hell up yourself! You claim to be investigating the murders, but you're so far off topic I suspect you're trying to distract us. [To Clint] I felt somewhat excited. It is an uncomfortable feeling for those of us who are usually calm.

Clint: [To Casper] Yeah, I got that part. But [emphasis] what got you worked up?!

Casper : I do not know. I experienced a general feeling of unease, like many people in Serenity have recently.

Marasmus : Serenity has become somewhat unsettled since the murders.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Well, telling everyone everything you think may be second nature to you and those people of Serenity, but it certainly isn't where we come from, in fact you could be arrested for that kind of behaviour where we come from. [Sighs] So, as I said before, we will just have to put our differences aside and cooperate in an atmosphere of tollereance of eachothers differences.

Harvey : [To Marasmus] I can certainly imagine that, my dear! Terrible business! Absolutely terrible. [To Casper] So, it was your weapon used, and you cannot find the blanket you were wearing last night, possibly because it's covered in blood, what! Hmm, I think sir, that you are being set up and that someone is trying to implicate you in the murders! Do you have any known enemies?

Casper : [Gives Monty a superior look] You are a fool. [To Harvey] Of course not, this is Serenity.

Chastity : But there murderer is likely to be one of us? [Indicates everyone in the kitchen] Or could someone have sneaked in from outside and taken the sword?

Aphi : It's possible, Sister, but they would then have to have sneaked it back in and slipped out unnoticed.

Harvey : I think the best place to start is for each of us to give an account of what we did last night between going to bed and the eruption of the volcano.

Marge : Should we include accounts of masturbation and other bodily functions?

Clint: Of course! Who knows what might be relevant to cracking the case? [smiles expectantly at Marasmus and wiggles eyebrows]

Harvey : [Goes bright red] Good heavens no, madam! We only need to know if you left your room, or if one of your roommates left!

Marasmus : [(Still naked!) Leans in close to Clint and smiles] Of course. [Turns to Jack] Would you like to start?

Jack : [Leans in close to Clint] Well, it started with the most enormous bowel movement that I've had in months. Here, I kept a sample cross section. [Takes a small box out of his pocket]

Aphi : It was probably common knowledge that the weapons were there, but I doubt anyone in Serenity would have been able to remove the lock without breaking it. [Thoughtfully] Possibly the locksmith, but, no, I don't think so.

Harvey : [Steps smartly away from Jack] So, the thief would have to have had a key for the lock. Do you all carry keys for the cupboard?

Clint: [Takes box from Jack and examines contents thoughtfully] Hmm. Really into corn, I see. [To Aphi, irritated] Why not the locksmith?! Isn't he any damn good?

Jack : [Nods at Clint] I find it good for the digestion. [Takes the box back]

Aphi : He's excellent. It's just that he's in a wheelchair, and couldn't get into this house without help.

Marge : [To Harvey] No, we keep them up there. [Points to a key on a hook that's up quite high] We only keep them locked away to prevent children getting at them.

Alice : Or dwarves.

Marge : [Thinks for a moment] Well, not intentionally, but, I guess so, yes.

Alice : Or the locksmith?

Marge : The point is, the keys are there.

Austin : [To the party] I see no reason why we should not include the bodily functions in this discussion of events leading up to and includeing the supposed time of the murders, that assumed time being the time of the eruption of the volcano. It may be relevant and do to our immense cultural differences it may be easier if we, as guests, attempt to communicate in the fashion that is comonplace in Serenity. [Looks over to the back door] However time is of the essence and the suspect may have left some form of clue at the back door .

Harvey : I see, so anyone could have opened it, apart from children, dwarves and the locksmith, of course. [Scratches at a sideburn] When I came into the kitchen to get some food, I heard someone come in after me, but couldn't see them due to my frenzied search for food stuffs.

Marge : [To Monty] When I said "them" I was referring to the weapons. [To Harvey] That's true, but I doubt everyone knows where we keep the key.

Clint: [To Marge] Who'd know about the key?

Marge : [Shrugs] I haven't a clue. It wasn't a secret, it's not like we didn't want people to know.

Chastity : We're wasting out time on this. At this rate, everyone in the town will become a suspect. Perhaps we should search the kitchen for further clues?

Alice : [Quietly] And maybe some food!

Marge : I told you, I was referring to the keys. Are you stupid? Did you think I was lying?

Aphi : You know what, I think searching the room might be a great idea. [Gets up, but turns back to Monty as he does] No, Monty, we never lock our doors here.

Marge : I think it is only you who is confused.

Clint: [Reaches up to get the keys from the hook. To Marasmus] Think you'd be able to tell anything by checking these out?

Marasmus : I'll try. [Takes the key and concentrates for a moment] Nothing, other than the fact that it hasn't recently been used to kill someone.

Alice : But it could have in the past?

Marasmus : Possibly.

Chastity : [To Monty] Mr. Giles, while I do applaud your attention to detail, I fear this line of inquiry is getting us now where. Perhaps we should leave the fruitless nit-picking arguments to the lawyers amongst us, and focus on searching for other clues within this very room. [Starts to look in some cupboards]

Aphi : [With an audible sigh of relief] Good idea, Sister. However, I'm not sure we'll find anything. [APHI opens a cupboard and immediately a blood soaked blanket that bears a startling resemblance to the one used last night.]

Alice : [Flipping open her "My Little Pony" notebook in the same manner that Monty has been opening his] Looks like the number of suspects just dropped. [MARASMUS is clearly too shocked to answer.]

Bjorseth : There is one other copy, Monty, and that's with the locksmith for safe keeping.

Austin : [To the party] What happend to the intimate discussion of our ... alibi's?

Alice : Unless it was possible for one of us to sneak into their room and steal the blanket, I don't think we need to provide alibis.

Clint: [Checks the area around the cupboard containing the blood-stained blanket] Anyone see any drops of blood anywhere else? [Those in the room all exchange glances. APHI and BJORSETH are quite calm, JACK and HANK reasonably so, and CASPER and MARGE are both looking very unhappy.]

Aphi : It's impossible to tell. I just remember meeting everyone downstairs. [The kitchen is quickly but thoroughly searched, with nothing else of interest turning up.]

Alice : What now? It is [looks for her watch, which isn't there, before looking out the window] the middle of the night.

Harvey : Well, is someone going to take Caspar into custody for the time being?

Casper : No! Certainly not!

Hank : Search our things? No way.

Bjorseth : I think they should.

Hank : Why? What the hell do they expect to find?

Casper : What about [points at Monty] your unusual behaviour?

Bjorseth : [Still nice and calm] You're not taking anyone into custody Monty.

Clint: [Annoyed] How abo \ No newline at end of file --- suggest that open divulgence would be imprudent shoul \ No newline at end of file

Casper : Maybe for your world and time it's normal, but not for ours.

Bjorseth : [Calmer now than he's ever been] I really don't give a shit what you said, Monty. I was telling you how it's going to be, not debating with you. You are correct, we have nothing to hide. Nor, I suspect, do you. [To Clint] Let's start by searching Monty's stuff, shall we?

Clint: [Watching Bjorseth warily] No problem. You can check out my stuff while we're at it. We got nothing to hide. [Nods at Bjorseth] Lead the way.

Bjorseth : Right, let's go.

[Pairs are formed as follows, CLINT and BJORSETH, APHI and CHASTITY, HARVEY and MARGE, JACK and ALICE, HANK and AUSTIN, CASPER and GENEVA, and MONTY and MARASMUS, with each pair heading off to search.]

Aphi : Okay everyone, stay sharp, and stay calm.

Casper : [Angrily] I am calm!

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene VII. The Kitchen. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, GENEVA, HARVEY and MONTY are here, as are BJORSETH, APHI, MARGE, JACK, HANK, CASPER and MARASMUS. It is now about two hours later, around 6AM, and the house has been thoroughly searched.]

Alice : Well, we found nothing, despite a suprisingly thorough search of my underwear bag.

Jack : [Moving to take his seat] I like to do a proper job. [To the other Serenitites] It was all so silky, and there were so many straps! I'm just surprised I didn't masturbate in the middle of it.

Hank : In the middle of the search? Or the middle of the -

[HANK is interrupted by BJORSETH punching JACK hard in the face, knocking him on to the table and causing everyone to lift up their drinks in western saloon style as he slides along it and falls off the other side. The SERENITITES all makes shocked noises.]

Bjorseth : Shut the hell up.

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene VII. The Kitchen. ALICE, AUSTIN, > CHASTITY, CLINT, GENEVA, HARVEY and MONTY are here, as are BJORSETH, > APHI, MARGE, JACK, HANK, CASPER and MARASMUS. It is now about two > hours later, around 6AM, and the house has been thoroughly searched.] > > ;;; Unless you've heard otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary was found > > Alice : Well, we found nothing, despite a suprisingly thorough search > of my underwear bag. > > Jack : [Moving to take his seat] I like to do a proper job. [To the > other Serenitites] It was all so silky, and there were so many straps! > I'm just surprised I didn't masturbate in the middle of it. > > Hank : In the middle of the search? Or the middle of the - > > [HANK is interrupted by BJORSETH punching JACK hard in the face, > knocking him on to the table and causing everyone to lift up their > drinks in western saloon style as he slides along it and falls off the > other side. The SERENITITES all makes shocked noises.] > > ;;; Lose 5hp Jack > > Bjorseth : Shut the hell up.

Geneva: [Shocked, but amused.] So uncalm Bjorseth! Feel better now?

Bjorseth : Marginally.

Marasmus : Bjorseth! What are you doing? [Helps Jack up]

Bjorseth : Keeping everyone focused.

Chastity : [In a teasing tone] A hint of jealousy there, I think. [Glances at Alice and smiles. To Bjorseth] Please try to stay calm. This infighting is just what the murderer would like to see. [Helps Jack up] Although, a ladies undergarments are her own. No man should have anything to do with them.

Geneva: [Approvingly.] Well it seems to have worked! [To the party] Well did anyone find anything interesting?

Bjorseth : [To Chastity] Of course, Sister. I just want to make sure everyone else does too. [JACK takes his seat, nodding a thanks to CHASTITY before glaring at BJORSETH. Meanwhile, everyone indicates that they found nothing.]

Harvey : I suggest we get some sleep. There's nothing to be achieved at this hour of the morning, especially when we're all this tired and hungry. [Stomach growls a bit to reinforce this]

Chastity : A capital idea as ever, Colonel. We can't do an more tonight, and some of us are obviously a little grizzly for lack of sleep. [Looks at Bjorseth]

Clint: [Pretends to be jolted awake] What?! What's that? Hey, why'd you stop yammering, Egghead? That was the best sleep I'd had in years!

Alice : [Looking from Bjorseth to Monty] Yes, and some of us have been more far more cranky than others. Make sure you get some rest Bjor.

Bjorseth : [As everyone gets up] I'm feeling fine Alice. [Glances at the key] I'm just wondering where the other key is.

Aphi : What? What other key? There's only one key!

Bjorseth : Bam! Just kidding!

[APHI is not amused.]

Hank : [To the party] I have another lock. Once you put your weapons into the cupboard, I will lock it.

Clint: [Nods at Monty] Good point. [To Hank] Got anywhere else we could stash them?

Austin : [To Monty] Indeed. [To Hank] The murderer has already breeched the security of the cupboard, and if you think I'm going to sleep unarmed when a murderer is at large you're very much mistaken.

Hank : If you think we're going to sleep with you armed, you're very much mistaken.

Marasmus : I can take them back to my house, if that's what you want.

Austin : [To Hank, smiling] If you don't want to sleep that's fine. [To Marasmus] Your offer is most kind and I accept it, thank you very much. [Looks much happier than he was]

Hank : If I don't sleep, I'll be not sleeping with you.

Marge : [Gesturing to the door behind Alice] There's a wheelbarrow outside there, could you bring it in? I can use that.

[ALICE goes out and comes back in with two wheelbarrows, one inside the other.]

Alice : Here you go!

Austin : [To Hank, insincere smile] Great! [To Monty] Like I said Monty, old chap, I'm not sleeping without my weapons, neither am I placing my exquisitely crafted weapons in a filthy wheelbarrow.

Harvey : Er, Alice, why did you bring two wheelbarrows? We only need one.

Alice : [Tut of frustration] You hardly expected me to carry it, did you!

Hank : [To Austin, smiling] If you don't want to sleep that's fine. [To the others] He's basically trying to get everyone except him to give up their weapons. Hardly the actions of an innocent man.

Austin : [To Hank, with a venomous tone] I am going to sleep, perhaps you need to have your hearing checked. It was you that said that you wouldn't sleep. And you're completely wrong about the weapons. I have not asked anyone to give up their weapons, so you're a liar, and infact I think everone should carry their weapons so that they can defend themselves and assist others.

Clint: [To Hank] Nah, he's just a damn lawyer. You know how they are. [To Austin] C'mon, hand 'em over. I got your back [gives Austin an arm-punch of reassurance].

Hank : Perhaps you need your hearing checked, I never said that you said I wouldn't sleep. You're the liar. Just because you didn't say that we should give up our weapons doesn't mean that's what you want. I think we should all keep our weapons, [points at Austin] because I don't trust him.

Chastity : [To Monty] As I was pointing out, best leave the pedantic arguments to the lawyer. He enjoys it.

Hank : And what about weapons? Does he enjoy those too?

Chastity : I think it's fair to say that Mr. Sleaze has handled his fair share of [pauses] swords in his time.

Chastity : [Taken back] Really, Mr. Giles. I've just met the man, much less know much about him. Lawyer is hardly a label I could tarnish him with.

Clint: [Reasonably] Come on, now. It's bad enough we got people calling each other murderer. No need to escalate the name-calling! [To the party] Enough of this crap. Are we gonna give up our weapons or not? [looks at Austin pointedly]

Austin : [To Clint] No, don't be ridiculous! What good did it do them in the first place? None! [Rolls a cheesearette and lights up, blowing a three smoke rings]

Alice : Ah, poor sweet, naive and innocent Clint. Just imagine how much safer we'll all be if everyone, including the murderer, is armed!

Clint: [To Austin, annoyed] What's gotten into you, Lawyer?! Even a ditzy broad could see we gotta go along with turning over our weapons! [nods supportively at Alice]

Harvey : Well I for once am on private Sleazes side in this. There is a murderer on the loose, and we are only speculating that it is someone here in this room. If it's not, then we need to be able to protect ourselves should he or she come a hacking.

Alice : [Nods at Clint's words] Yeah!

Austin : Well said, Colonel. It is up to us to protect ourselves.

Hank : So what do you suggest? We all sit around armed to the teeth?

Harvey : Well actually I was thinking more of lying around armed to the teeth.

Hank : Preposterous.

Bjorseth : I think Austin and Harvey are right. Suspicion is healthy.

Aphi : [Looks around] Well, if that's what you really want?

Harvey : I believe it is, yes. At least this way we'll know if one of the weapons is used in another murder, it could only have been used by the murderer!

Marge : I'm sure that will be much consolation for whoever gets murdered.

Clint: [Shrugs] I'll be damned if I'm going to be the voice of reason in this outfit. Let's hang onto 'em, then.

[Everyone heads back to the room that they slept in, after locking all the doors and windows, with MARASMUS going back to her house. All the party go to the room where HARVEY, CLINT, AUSTIN and MONTY slept.]

Alice : What on earth is going on here? What happened to all the calmness? [Time passes as everyone realises that MONTY is finished.]

Alice : What?

Chastity : [To Alice] I think he means that the townsfolk are a bit rattled by the murders, and the heart is influencing matters as well. [Sits down on the edge of the bed]

Austin : [To Alice] It's the balance thing. The murders cause uncalmness which in turn has started a process of rebalance. [Checks his superbly clean shave in his pocket mirror, smiles at himself then puts the mirror away]

Alice : Actually, Monty, I think you'll find that the problem is that you forgot you were addressing someone other than yourself, because who else wants to listen to you ramble on at this hour of the morning when we've been up since four? [To Austin] Maybe, but there are murders all the time back where we come from, and they don't seem to have the same effect, do they? Oh, and what about the volcano?

Austin : [To Alice] But that's missing the point, our world is already balanced. Perhaps the volcano and the Heart are the instrument of the rebalance?

Alice : [Ignoring Monty] Well, Dolorion did say that the heart represents good and bad, and it makes sense that it's getting angsty with these murders going, especially if nothing like this has ever happened before.

Austin : [Chuckling. To Clint] Oh you really know how to sweet talk the girls don't you. [Smirks, starts getting ready for bed] Bed time it is then.

Clint: [To Alice, getting cranky from a lack of food and sleep] Let me save us all some time and say: gruesome unexplained murders freak people out. Nothing mysterious about that. [Bellows] Now, let's go to bed!

Clint: [Smirks at Austin and shoots him with a finger gun] Click-click! [heads to bed, stripping down to his underwear on the way, leaving a trail of clothes behind him]

Alice : [Holds her hands up to Clint] Alright, alright, calm down. [Starts getting into Clint's bed]

Harvey : [Horrified] Alice! What are you doing?

Alice : [Stops and looks up somewhat sheepishly] Sorry, it was hab - er, I mean, I'm tired and confused, and going to bed.

[Exit ALICE, CHASTITY and GENEVA, while the others eventually bed down for the night.]

Harvey : Ah! This old soldier could do with some sleep. [Lies down and closes his eyes, a peaceful look on his face] [Bang. The door is opened almost immediately. It is MARGE.]

Marge : Bjorseth's gone!

Harvey : [Sits up] Eh?

Marge : [Getting caught up in Clint's carelessly discarded pants] He's disappeared, did you see him?

Harvey : Eh? How could we see him if he's disappared? Last from Conor #49

Austin : [Lifting his Chuckso Verboosi sleep mask. Sleepily to Marge] No we haven't seen him, recently.

Marge : We have to find him! Maybe the murderer got him!

Chastity : [Rushng back through, still clothed] Perhaps we should check on Hank on the way. After their little tête-à-tête earlier.

Clint: [To Marge] Sure he's not in the can or something? Or maybe off spending some quality time with Little Bjor?! [snorts in amusement]

Austin : [Really sleepilly] He's probably just gone for a wank.

Alice : [Also appearing, with Geneva just behind her] You mean Jack, don't you? [To Marge] Who else is missing?

Marge : No one, everyone else is there.

Alice : [Smugly] Then I guess he's not with the murderer after all, is he?

Clint: [To Alice, equally smugly] Not unless [emphasis] he's the murderer himself!

Austin : [Chuckling at Clint] Death and ressurection appears to increase one's IQ, [Frowns] Or perhaps it just makes peolpe more talkative [Glances at Monty, then shakes his head] Nah [Puts his sleep mask back down and lies down again]

Marge : Come on! He could be in trouble! I know he's not out masturbating!

Alice : How do you know?

Marge : Because he left that picture of you behind.

Chastity : [Gasps] Then he must be in trouble. That picture is usually stuck to him like glue. [pauses] At least I hope it's glue.

Clint: [Nods sagely at Austin] Yeah, you're never the same once you cross over the other side. [Pauses] Where were we? Oh, yeah! [To Alice, with a smirk] So, think old Bjor's off spanking the monkey? Now that I think of it, I did give him a pair of your undies, but he told he was just going to use them to polish some silver.

Alice : [Horrified] Just how many people know about this picture?

Marge : [Shrugs] If you include everyone he gave a copy of it to, several hundred.

Chastity : [With a worried look] I hope his spurned love hasn't turned him all trindle. [To Alice] And by the way that was [speaks very slowly and clearly] spurned love.

Clint: [Snorts] That doesn't prove anything! Why the hell would he take the bimbo's picture along to commit a murder?! [Hops out of bed] We aren't getting anywhere yammering about it. Let's go find him! [heads out the door with his sword, still in his underwear]

Austin : [Sighs, gets up and dressed ruthlessly quickly, into a dark blue snakeskin suit by Eve Stirwin, with matching shoes and silk shirt and trilby by Rennate Dae. Heads after Clint. To Marge] You are quite correct, he would probably never leave without his picture of Alice.

Chastity : [To Marge] Who's house is that?

Alice : [Shielding her eyes] Oh, God, Clint! I know we might be going to try and stop a murder, but come on! [Everyone heads out onto the street, both party and all the SERENITITES who were in the house.]

Harvey : Gah! Well, where can he be?

Alice : [Points behind the party] Maybe that house that's on fire might be a good place to start?

Clint: [To Chastity] What does it matter?! [runs to the burning house and attempts to kick the door in]

Marge : [As everyone follows Clint] That's the orphanage! [The party round a corner to see that the building is completely engulfed. There are a number of SERENITITES here, and some have obviously rescued some children, but it is clear that there is no way of getting in.

Harvey : By the saints! What has happened here?

Austin : [To Marge] Is there a large source of water nearby? With enough buckets we could put the fire out.

Harvey : [Looking at the blaze] We'd need a million buckets and more just to make the fire hiss, private! [To a bystander] Are there any children trapped in there?

Marge : [Nods] I'm afraid so, and I'm afraid you're right, Colonel, we'll never get that fire out.

Marge : You mean someone could be doing something awful to Bjor while we're all here?

Alice : Just how dark would the other deed have to be to distract us with a burning orphanage?

Marge : [Points her out in the distance] Over there, I'm afraid she's very distressed.

[MARASMUS is there, and, like most of the SERENITITES around, is very upset. She spots the party and comes over.]

Marasmus : This is terrible! All the orphans were in there, there's nothing we can do.

Marasmus : Oh no! Do you think he might have tried to get in to save some of the children? It would be just the kind of thing he'd do. [Enter BJORSETH, around the corner of the burning build, wheeling one of the wheelbarrows from earlier. There are a few cannisters of oil in it, and his clothes and skin are blackened from soot.]

Bjorseth : [With a big smile] Hey everyone!

Chastity : [looking at the barrow contents] Where have you been and what have you been doing with those, more to the point.

Bjorseth : [Puts the wheelbarrow down] I've just burned down the orphanage. [All of those within earshot turn in horror.]

Alice : [Shocked] Bjor? [Looks at the burning building] Bjor, what did you do?

Bjorseth : [Laughs] Not only will I tell you, Monty, I'll show you! Better than that, I'll show you, [theatrically] in song!

[BJORSETH opens a door of a nearby house and heads through it, followed by the party. It leads into a long corridor, and chants of "Bjor! Bjor!" can be heard from up ahead. BJORSETH emerges from a door which leads onto a huge stage, with the entire population of Serenity in the audience, all very restless, but quiet, and certainly not doing the chanting that was heard earlier. BJORSETH is now wearing an Austin Powers style velvet suit, although he still has a his straw boater on, and holds a hand to the audience.]

Bjorseth : Friends, be calm for just another two minutes and fifty nine seconds, and then all will be revealed.

[Enter AUSTIN and MONTY, wearing Beatles type suits, followed by HARVEY wearing a Seargent Pepper style suit. Each of AUSTIN and HARVEY take a guitar, while MONTY takes a bass guitar. Soon after, ALICE and GENEVA emerge, now dressed in sexy sixties babes type clothing, pursued by CHASTITY who's in long flowing Momma Cass type robes, and then CLINT who's only wearing a leather pants and a lot of beads. CLINT takes up position at the drumkit, CHASTITY at the keyboards and ALICE and GENEVA at a pair of microphones beside BJORSETH. CHASTITY plays some chords, and then the band burst into life, with ALICE and GENEVA dancing as the light shows starts up, with a Doors-style trippy video slowly playing on the giant screen behind BJORSETH.]

Bjorseth : I thought love was only true in future tales Meant for someone else who wasn't calm Ah, calm was out to get to me Alice and Geneva : De de, de de

Bjorseth : That's the way it seemed Alice and Geneva : De de, de de

Bjorseth : Disappointment haunted all my dreams Then I saw my fate Now I'm the redeemer Not a trace Of doubt in my mind I made love I'm the redeemer I brought love into this world [HARVEY plays a cool riff.]

Bjorseth : I thought calm was more or less a giving thing Seems the more we gave the less we got What's the use in tryin'? Alice and Geneva : De de, de de

Bjorseth : All you get is calm Alice and Geneva : De de, de de

Bjorseth : When I needed sunshine in my brain

Bjorseth : Then I saw my fate Now I'm the redeemer I'm the trace Of doubt in your mind I brought lies [throws his hat into the audience] I'm the Deceiver, I brought love into this world. [The party all go for it on their instruments, with ALICE and GENEVA do a funky sixties dance waving the arms out in front of them, while the video behind BJORSETH speeds up.]

Bjorseth : Ah, calm was out to get to me Alice and Geneva : De de, de de

Bjorseth : Now, that's the way it seemed Alice and Geneva : De de, de de

Bjorseth : Disappointment haunted all my dreams Then I saw my fate Now I'm The Deceiver I'm the trace Of doubt in your mind I brought lies I'm The Deceiver, I brought love into this world [HARVEY plays his riff again.]

Bjoserseth : Yes, I saw my fate Now I'm The Deceiver And I'm the trace Of doubt in your mind Well, I'm the redeemer Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ah-uh-uh Alice and Geneva : He's The Deceiver.

[The song finishes, and the SERENITITES all look on in shocked silence.]

Bjorseth : [Enthusiastically to the party] Don't you see? I've done it! I've brought love to Serenity.

Harvey : [Taking off his guitar] Eh? Love? Then what was all that stuff about lies and deceiving, eh? Eh?

Bjorseth : It's just like Austin and Alice said, you can't have one without the other!

[ALICE and AUSTIN exchange a shocked look.]

Alice : [Horrified] No! [Shakes her head] No! That's not what we said at all!

Chastity : [To Bjor] Are we to take it that to maintain the balance that Austin and Alice have described, you are trying to bring love into Serenity by [plays a dramatic cord on the keyboard] burning down the orphanage to create the counter-balancing [plays a series of dramatic descending chords] murder, pain, horror, despair, grief and hatred. That's despicable. [To Alice] I think you should stay away from men in future, young lady.

Alice : [Indignantly] I didn't tell him to burn down the orphanage!

Bjorseth : That's precisely what I did, Chas. I knew I could rely on you lot to understand. Old Bjor has brought love into the world!

[The SERENITITES in the audience are remarkably quiet, clearly in a state of shock and not understanding what's going on.]

Chastity : [Shaking her head, with a look of horror] No,no,no! [Loudly to Bjorseth] You don't understand at all. You have only brought horror, dead and pain to Serenity.

Austin : [To the party] I had a nasty feeling something innapropriate like this was going to happen. [Looks at his Beatles clothes in disgust. Sighs. To Bjorseth] I am sorry to tell you this but you seem to have completely misinterpreted what Alice and I said. [Shrugs] Quite how you managed to equate love with the mass murder of orphans I just don't know.

Bjorseth : Not true, Chas, I've also brought the ability to lie, and you can't have love without lies, isn't that true, Alice?

Alice : No!

Bjorseth : [Laughs] See? [Gives Austin a wink] I hear ya, buddy, no problem. I don't mind taking the flak for this, because when people look back on this, they'll describe me as Bjor The Redeemer, the man who brought love to the realms.

Clint: [To Bjor, angrily] How does burning down the orphanage bring love to the realms?!

Austin : [To Bjorseth, briefly checking his nails] Did you commit the other murders too?

Bjorseth : Sure did! [Calmly to Clint] It's the Heart, Clint, it needs a price. The cost of love is lies, you can't have the first without the second.

Aphi : [Steps forward and speaks calmly, but angrily] Answer his question.

Bjorseth : [Smiling, and spreading his hands wide] Everything comes from the Heart, my friends, and I had to get close to it, it's like being on a path, I just made sure my path went close to it.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] So if you got love for lie, what did you get for mass murder?

Bjorseth : Close to the Heart.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] So have you killed enough people now or do you intend on killing more people?

Bjorseth : I don't know, Aus, with all the frowny faces I see, I think we might have to kill off some more!

[Realisation is dawning on the crowd, who begin to throw rocks and bottles at the stage.]

Clint: [To the party] Let's get the hell out of here! [attempts to grab Bjorseth by the arm and lead him off-stage]

Bjorseth : [Steps away from Clint] Hey! What's going on here? [To the crowd] What is wrong with you people? What the hell do a few scruffy orphans matter when I'm offering you the chance to experience love?

Hank : [Throwing a bottle at Bjorseth] You bastard! One of those orphans was my son!

Bjorseth : What was he doing in an orphanage if he's your son?

Hank : Hey, I'm not on trial here!

Austin : [Starts making for the exit] This is all getting pretty twisted, let's go!

[The crowd turn ugly, and everyone retreats up the tunnel they came through initially.]

Bjorseth : Man, they're kinda crazy, aren't they? I guess they don't understand it like you guys do.

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Was there no other way to get close to the heart? And how did you know that killing all of those people would get you close to the heart?

Clint: [Snaps at Bjorseth] What makes you think WE understand it, you sick fuck?!

Chastity : [Shaking her head] You'll be explaining to Seth for eternity if the mob catches up.

Bjorseth : [Taken aback] Fuck you, guy! What the hell is wrong with you? Alice, you explain it to him.

Alice : [Reeling] What? Oh, okay. [Turns to Clint] He's a sick fuck. And he's crazy.

Bjorseth : What? Come on, Sister! You were married like, a hundred times! If you really are from my future then none of that might have happened if it wasn't for what I've just done. Alice, don't you see? I did it for you, for us, for lovers everywhere! Just imagine what your world would be if it wasn't for lies, there'd be no flirting, no banter, no mystery, why, it would just be a bunch of people talking about wanking!

Austin : [To Bjorseth] Killing anybody is never a good idea, it should be avoided if at all possibly, even in self defense. [Sighs] And I do not understand why you had to kill anybody to get close to the heart. We've all been close to the heart and we didn't commit mass genocide to get there.

Alice : He's right, Bjor, how on earth could killing those people be a good thing?

Bjorseth : [Getting frustrated] Don't you understand? There's a price for [emphasis] everything, and simply standing beside the Heart doesn't mean you're close enough to it to use it's power. Come on, Austin, you of all people should know what I'm talking about, look at the price you paid, walking around for the rest of your life with a skeletal finger, but look at all the good that you can do because of it.

[A short silence descends as everyone tries to understand what BJORSETH has just said.]

Alice : Er, precisely what can you do with your magic finger, Austin?

Harvey : [Looks at Bjorseth with anger] You utter bastard, sir! Burning all those children and murdering entire families! Have at you sir! [Swings at Bjorseth]

Harvey : By the saints, you have murdered all of these people and don't even seen you've done wrong! What manner of monster are you sir?

[Ker-rang! HARVEY smashes his guitar over BJORSETH's head in pure SNAGGLEPUSS style.]

Bjorseth : Come on, guys! What's wrong with you? It's me, Bjor! How can you do be this way with me after all we've been through.

[Enter APHI, with a face like thunder, but he doesn't say anything.]

Aphi : Er, no, just that it was Bjor and not me who got hit by El Harvong.

Bjorseth : What manner of monster am I? What the hell is wrong with you people? [Frustratedly waves his hands around] Bigger picture, here, people! [Turns to Harvey] And, ow! That really hurt!

Austin : [Looks from Monty to Aphi. To Bjorseth] Just what great things do you suppose that I can do with my skeletal finger?

Clint: [To Austin] Want me to try pulling it?

Austin : [Looks from Monty to Aphi. To Bjorseth] Just what great things do you suppose that I can do with my skeletal finger?

Clint: [To Austin] Want me to try pulling it?

Aphi : [Thunderously to Monty] Certainly not!

Bjorseth : [Gives Austin a smile] An open mind, I knew I could rely on you Austin. I can't tell you that, though, but what matters is that you're open to it. [Appeals to the others] Now come on, surely you can see why I had to do it?

Austin : [To Bjorseth] There must have been another way, a good, non muderous way, a heroic way? [Looks forlornly at Bjorseth] You have chosen a dark path, apparently.

Bjorseth : What the hell is wrong with you people? Come on, Alice, let's leave this bunch of losers.

Alice : Don't drag me into this Bjor!

Aphi : [To the party in general] What should we do with him? Are you used to dealing with this sort of thing?

Austin : [To Aphi] This is just the kind of thing we deal with all the time. [Sighs] Unfortunately. [To Aphi] It's too late for Bjor to turn back now, and {wighs sadly he's one of the bad guys now. His only chance is to sell his soul to Philli, which really never appealed to me. [To Bjorseth] So, big fella, what are your plans?

Bjorseth : [Shocked at the lack of support, and draws his sword] I'm going to get the hell away from you losers for a start! [Starts backing towards a window]

Aphi : Come on, Bjor, you've nowhere to go.

Bjorseth : [Shouting] Stop calling me that! [Points his sword angrily at the party] This is all your fault! You and your uncalm ways and fishnet stockings, your lies and your love, I'm going to make you bastards suffer!

Austin : [To Bjorseth. Deadpan] Suprise suprise. [Checks his nails briefly. To Bjorseth] How do you plan on making us suffer?

Bjorseth : You smug little shit. [Takes off his glove, revealing that his hand is still skeletal from the episode in the volcano] How about this?

[A burst of energy flies from BJORSETH's hand and hits AUSTIN full force in the chest, sending him crashing against the wall, and knocking everyone else to the ground.]

to full hps

Alice : Bjor! Stop this!

Bjorseth : [Points a bony finger at Alice] Don't call me Bjor. That name will forever remind me of your squeaky voice and the rest of those short sighted hypocrites. From now on, I will go by the name of Seth. [Opens the window and vaults out]

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene VIII. A room. APHI, ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, HARVEY, GENEVA and MONTY are here, just recovering from the blast of energy from BJORSETH. Only AUSTIN was hurt, and the air hangs heavy with the stench of burnt flesh and Beatles jacket.]

Aphi : [Runs to the window and looks out] He's gone.

[There is a huge explosion from the direction of the volcano, which shakes the entire building.]

Harvey : [Holds a hand out to Austin] Quick smart, Private Sleaze, we better get out of here.

Aphi : I understand, Monty, but evacuate to where? What do you think he's going to try and do?

Austin : [Smarting horrifically from the pain, clutching his chest] Thank Philli it was just a Beatles suit, a fitting ending [Coughs and chokes in pain]

Chastity : Who can say. With the orphanage attocity and his sudden new powers and his evil pseudonym he has proved himself a very dangerous young man. [Goes to Austin] Hold still there, Mr. Sleaze. [Lays her hands on Austin and murmers a prayer] Oh blessed Phili, grant some healing, so Austin may continue your fight against evil.

Aphi : [Leans back against a wall, clearly shocked] What happened? Why did he do it? [Looks on in interest at Chastity]

[CHASTITY says a short prayer, but nothing happens. Enter MARASMUS, as the volcano continues erupting.]

Marasmus : What's going - oh! [Looks around] Bjor?

Alice : Seth.

Marasmus : Huh?

Austin : [To Marasmus and Chastity] Bjorseth is Seth, it's no psudeonym sister, that the point, and I don't think Philli is Philli yet, if you catch my meaning [Coughs up some blood, and some blood bubbles from his nose as his eyes roll in pain]

Marasmus : Ah. Then he's found the Path?

Clint: [Watching Austin's nose bubbles with concern] We gotta get the town evacuated! [To Marasmus] We need to get people moving away from the volcano, and [emphasis] now!

Alice : Seth? Then who was Seth before Bjor became Seth? Hey, are you okay, Aus? [Scoldingly] Have you been at the uncut Parmesan again?

Marasmus : [Shakes her head] No, Clint, this is the safest place - the volcano is the least of our worries.

Austin : [To Chastity] No no [Coughs up some more blood] You're missing the gravity of the situation. There was no Seth before Bjorseth-Seth. [Chokes a bit more and dribbles some more blood on the burnt smouldering Beatles suit. To Aphi] Aphi, what is your full name?

Marasmus : I doubt it will. There's more than just lava coming from the volcano, there's also Nascency Fluid.

Aphi : [To Austin] Aphi Liburni, why? elves and Morcs

Clint: [To Austin] You're not really suggesting that [jabs a finger at Aphi] this guy is--uh-- [looks at Aphi dubiously] the big guy, right? [Confused] Just how the hell far back in time did we go, again?!

Aphi : [Returns Clint's dubious look] What big guy?

Alice : I reckon we're about 300,000 years in the past. Of course, if he is [finger quotes] the big guy, well, [gives Chastity a look] um, well, I wouldn't fancy having to deal with the metaphysical, philosophical and morale implications of that.

[Everyone gives ALICE a curious look.]

Alice : [Big smile] That's what's written on Marasmus' book! [Points at a notebook in her hand which has "Metaphysical, Philosphical and Moral" implications written on it]

Clint: [To Alice, incredulously] You mean like whether or not you and the lawyer teaching the sick fuck to lie somehow brought evil into the world?!

Alice : What? [Indignantly] Telling him not to talk about masturbation is hardly the same as teaching him to lie, is it?

Austin : [To Aphi] You may well become the big guy, Phili, drop the a from Aphi Liburni, and the [Chokes up some more blood and ooze] burni, and you have Phili. [Looks at Aphi. Then touches his own skeletal finger to his chest and tries to heal himself with it]

Alice : [Folding her arms] And what about you, Monty? What did you do to prevent him from taking this course of action? Aren't you a metaphysical, philosophical and morale progenitor of Seth?

Chastity : [Standing up and folding her arms tight] Well I, for one, don't believe it all. Here we all are musing over the philisophical ramblings from a singed [looks down at Austin] well, lawyer and there's a dangerous maniac running free round the town under the backdrop of an exploding volcano!

Alice : Not to mention the [indicates Monty] dangerous maniac running around in here, casting aspersions on our morales.

Marasmus : It's morals.

Alice : What did I say?

Marasmus : Morales.

Alice : [Blank look] Oh-kay!

Marasmus : No, we've nothing like that. Of course, we don't even know how powerful he really is, nor what he's likely to bring back with him.

Alice : Well done, Monty, way to bring down the [special emphasis for Marasmus] moral of the group.

Clint: [Pacing the room restlessly] Then why are we just waiting around?! Let's go stop him so he doesn't get a chance to bring anything back with him!

Geneva : Yeah, let's stab him in the belly!

Harvey : Good idea, Private Scar. [To Aphi] We'll need your fastest carriage, sir! [Sees Alice's face light up] Actually, maybe we should go on horseback this time?

Harvey : [Laughs at Monty] Not if the carriage collision is into the back of police carriage like that time when - [breaks off as he sees Alice glare at him] Yes. Maneuverable. Good thinking, Mr. Giles.

Marasmus : [Hands over a potion to Austin] Here, this will make you feel better.

Clint: [To Austin] Think your finger's got some kind of firepower? Maybe you should try it out before we hit the road. Might come in "handy"! [snorts in amusement nudges Alice to make sure she doesn't miss the pun]

Austin : [Austin holding out his hand to accept the potion from Marasmus] THanks, will it heal me too? [Drinks the potion, just as some blood trickles from his ear]

Alice : [Still annoyed with Harvey, but turning to Clint and, with a whiney voice] Ow!

[AUSTIN knocks back the potion, and it clearly is a healing potion, and all those ear and nose bleeds thankfully stop.]

Aphi : Right. To the volcano?

Chastity : Yes, with haste. If Bjorseth is correct, and his murders allow him special bonding with the heart we must get to it quickly. And make sure that those who can handle it are available. [Looks round the group]

Austin : [Looking suprised at the healing from the potion. To Aphi] Just let me compose myself for a moment then we can go [Austin nips into the bathroom and a minute later returns wearing snug fiting silk dancing suit by Tickle Jakeson, panda skin dance shoes with a chrome worthy shine, and a remarkably clean and fresh appearance, as if he had 'just stepped out of a salon'. To Aphi] Ready when you are Aphi.

Aphi : What are we going to do? Try and get a date with him? [Gives a smile] Bam! Just kidding, you look very smart, Austin.

[Everyone hurries outside to see that there is no sign of the stage from before, and that the fire is now under control. HANK approaches the party wit a number of horses.]

Hank : Marasmus has told us what happened. I bet you all feel pretty foolish now for thinking it could have been me. However, this is not the time for recriminations, here are our fastest horses.

Chastity : [Taking a horse] Thank you, Hank. If it's any comfort we hadn't actually given you a second thought. [Smiles warmly] We will stop Bjorseth and end this slur on your lovely town.

Hank : Excellent! I knew you didn't think I was guilty!

[Everyone (the party and APHI) grabs a horse and races off into the distance, towards the still erupting volcano. A few hours later, they arrive, and stop about three hundred metres from it. It is no longer erupting, and there is surprisingly little damage down to the surroundings.]

Aphi : This is strange, surely the lava would have caused a lot more damage than this?

Austin : [To Chastity] Sorry to put the dampners on your gunho optimisim, but we know from history that we are very unlikley to stop Seth. [To Hank] But we shall try our best. [Picks the smartest looking horse and mount it]

Alice : Didn't Marasmus say it was Nascency Fluid.

Aphi : Yes, yes she did. [Nods]

[Time passes.]

Aphi : What's Nascency Fluid?

Austin : [To Aphi] It is the fluid of life, and as such it has exceptionally powerful regeneritave healing properties, but I expect Marasmus knows alot more about it than we do.

Alice : [Folding her arms] And what about you, Monty? What did you do to prevent him from taking this course of action? Aren't you a metaphysical, philosophical and morale progenitor of Seth?

Chastity : [Standing up and folding her arms tight] Well I, for one, don't believe it all. Here we all are musing over the philisophical ramblings from a singed [looks down at Austin] well, lawyer and there's a dangerous maniac running free round the town under the backdrop of an exploding volcano!

Alice : Not to mention the [indicates Monty] dangerous maniac running around in here, casting aspersions on our morales.

Marasmus : It's morals.

Alice : What did I say?

Marasmus : Morales.

Alice : [Blank look] Oh-kay!

Marasmus : No, we've nothing like that. Of course, we don't even know how powerful he really is, nor what he's likely to bring back with him.

Alice : Well done, Monty, way to bring down the [special emphasis for Marasmus] moral of the group.

Clint: [Pacing the room restlessly] Then why are we just waiting around?! Let's go stop him so he doesn't get a chance to bring anything back with him!

Geneva : Yeah, let's stab him in the belly!

Harvey : Good idea, Private Scar. [To Aphi] We'll need your fastest carriage, sir! [Sees Alice's face light up] Actually, maybe we should go on horseback this time?

Harvey : [Laughs at Monty] Not if the carriage collision is into the back of police carriage like that time when - [breaks off as he sees Alice glare at him] Yes. Maneuverable. Good thinking, Mr. Giles.

Marasmus : [Hands over a potion to Austin] Here, this will make you feel better.

Clint: [To Austin] Think your finger's got some kind of firepower? Maybe you should try it out before we hit the road. Might come in "handy"! [snorts in amusement nudges Alice to make sure she doesn't miss the pun]

Austin : [Austin holding out his hand to accept the potion from Marasmus] THanks, will it heal me too? [Drinks the potion, just as some blood trickles from his ear]

Alice : [Still annoyed with Harvey, but turning to Clint and, with a whiney voice] Ow!

[AUSTIN knocks back the potion, and it clearly is a healing potion, and all those ear and nose bleeds thankfully stop.]

Aphi : Right. To the volcano?

Chastity : Yes, with haste. If Bjorseth is correct, and his murders allow him special bonding with the heart we must get to it quickly. And make sure that those who can handle it are available. [Looks round the group]

Austin : [Looking suprised at the healing from the potion. To Aphi] Just let me compose myself for a moment then we can go [Austin nips into the bathroom and a minute later returns wearing snug fiting silk dancing suit by Tickle Jakeson, panda skin dance shoes with a chrome worthy shine, and a remarkably clean and fresh appearance, as if he had 'just stepped out of a salon'. To Aphi] Ready when you are Aphi.

Aphi : What are we going to do? Try and get a date with him? [Gives a smile] Bam! Just kidding, you look very smart, Austin.

[Everyone hurries outside to see that there is no sign of the stage from before, and that the fire is now under control. HANK approaches the party wit a number of horses.]

Hank : Marasmus has told us what happened. I bet you all feel pretty foolish now for thinking it could have been me. However, this is not the time for recriminations, here are our fastest horses.

Chastity : [Taking a horse] Thank you, Hank. If it's any comfort we hadn't actually given you a second thought. [Smiles warmly] We will stop Bjorseth and end this slur on your lovely town.

Hank : Excellent! I knew you didn't think I was guilty!

[Everyone (the party and APHI) grabs a horse and races off into the distance, towards the still erupting volcano. A few hours later, they arrive, and stop about three hundred metres from it. It is no longer erupting, and there is surprisingly little damage down to the surroundings.]

Aphi : This is strange, surely the lava would have caused a lot more damage than this?

Austin : [To Chastity] Sorry to put the dampners on your gunho optimisim, but we know from history that we are very unlikley to stop Seth. [To Hank] But we shall try our best. [Picks the smartest looking horse and mount it]

Alice : Didn't Marasmus say it was Nascency Fluid.

Aphi : Yes, yes she did. [Nods]

[Time passes.]

Aphi : What's Nascency Fluid?

Austin : [To Aphi] It is the fluid of life, and as such it has exceptionally powerful regeneritave healing properties, but I expect Marasmus knows alot more about it than we do.

Harvey : She's certainly to, private Sleaze! [Jumps down from the carriage] Well, onwards and upwards!

Alice : Certainly to what?

Harvey : [Pats his horse] Good Carriage, good boy! Have a sugar lump! [Turns to the others] We must try to stop that madman from bonding with the Heart.

Clint: [To Alice] Hey, give him a break! The poor man's starving to death. Besides, HE didn't introduce evil into the world like some ditzy broads I know [looks first at Alice then at Austin, shaking his head].

Alice : [Pats her horse] Good, crazy old man, good boy. [To Clint] Poor, confused Clint. You don't know what you're talking about. We didn't introduce evil to the world, Bjor did. Now, [becomes increasingly oratorical and starts walking up and down] the fact that I'm so devastatingly attractive that the calmest man from the calmest town in the calmest country in the calmest year decided to - hey! [To ALICE's dismay, everyone else has moved up behind a tree to try and get a look at the base of the volcano.]

Aphi : I don't see him, but - wow, look at that! [APHI points at some Nascency Fluid on the ground that seems to be moving of its own accord to the far side of the volcano.]

Harvey : By the saints, I didn't realise it could move around! Do you think we should follow it? See where it's going?

Aphi : I don't think we've got any choice - if it's the source of life, maybe we can get some to help the orphans?

Harvey : I honestly don't know if that would work, Aphi, but you never know! [Begins to follow the fluid]

[The party follow, taking their horses with them, and slowly round the volcano. The fluid is move quite slowly, and could easily be touched. As the party work their way around, they can hear what sounds like a lot of wild animals, just out of sight, all growling and snarling.]

Aphi : [Reaches down] Let's see.

Alice : Hang on, Aphi! The last we heard touching it could kill you!

Harvey : [Looks around at hearing the noise and takes out his sword] Everyone keep on the ready, troop!

Alice : [Folding her arms] And what about you, Monty? What did you do to prevent him from taking this course of action? Aren't you a metaphysical, philosophical and morale progenitor of Seth?

Chastity : [Standing up and folding her arms tight] Well I, for one, don't believe it all. Here we all are musing over the philisophical ramblings from a singed [looks down at Austin] well, lawyer and there's a dangerous maniac running free round the town under the backdrop of an exploding volcano!

Alice : Not to mention the [indicates Monty] dangerous maniac running around in here, casting aspersions on our morales.

Marasmus : It's morals.

Alice : What did I say?

Marasmus : Morales.

Alice : [Blank look] Oh-kay!

Marasmus : No, we've nothing like that. Of course, we don't even know how powerful he really is, nor what he's likely to bring back with him.

Alice : Well done, Monty, way to bring down the [special emphasis for Marasmus] moral of the group.

Clint: [Pacing the room restlessly] Then why are we just waiting around?! Let's go stop him so he doesn't get a chance to bring anything back with him!

Geneva : Yeah, let's stab him in the belly!

Harvey : Good idea, Private Scar. [To Aphi] We'll need your fastest carriage, sir! [Sees Alice's face light up] Actually, maybe we should go on horseback this time?

Harvey : [Laughs at Monty] Not if the carriage collision is into the back of police carriage like that time when - [breaks off as he sees Alice glare at him] Yes. Maneuverable. Good thinking, Mr. Giles.

Marasmus : [Hands over a potion to Austin] Here, this will make you feel better.

Clint: [To Austin] Think your finger's got some kind of firepower? Maybe you should try it out before we hit the road. Might come in "handy"! [snorts in amusement nudges Alice to make sure she doesn't miss the pun]

Austin : [Austin holding out his hand to accept the potion from Marasmus] THanks, will it heal me too? [Drinks the potion, just as some blood trickles from his ear]

Alice : [Still annoyed with Harvey, but turning to Clint and, with a whiney voice] Ow!

[AUSTIN knocks back the potion, and it clearly is a healing potion, and all those ear and nose bleeds thankfully stop.]

Aphi : Right. To the volcano?

Chastity : Yes, with haste. If Bjorseth is correct, and his murders allow him special bonding with the heart we must get to it quickly. And make sure that those who can handle it are available. [Looks round the group]

Austin : [Looking suprised at the healing from the potion. To Aphi] Just let me compose myself for a moment then we can go [Austin nips into the bathroom and a minute later returns wearing snug fiting silk dancing suit by Tickle Jakeson, panda skin dance shoes with a chrome worthy shine, and a remarkably clean and fresh appearance, as if he had 'just stepped out of a salon'. To Aphi] Ready when you are Aphi.

Aphi : What are we going to do? Try and get a date with him? [Gives a smile] Bam! Just kidding, you look very smart, Austin.

[Everyone hurries outside to see that there is no sign of the stage from before, and that the fire is now under control. HANK approaches the party wit a number of horses.]

Hank : Marasmus has told us what happened. I bet you all feel pretty foolish now for thinking it could have been me. However, this is not the time for recriminations, here are our fastest horses.

Chastity : [Taking a horse] Thank you, Hank. If it's any comfort we hadn't actually given you a second thought. [Smiles warmly] We will stop Bjorseth and end this slur on your lovely town.

Hank : Excellent! I knew you didn't think I was guilty!

[Everyone (the party and APHI) grabs a horse and races off into the distance, towards the still erupting volcano. A few hours later, they arrive, and stop about three hundred metres from it. It is no longer erupting, and there is surprisingly little damage down to the surroundings.]

Aphi : This is strange, surely the lava would have caused a lot more damage than this?

Austin : [To Chastity] Sorry to put the dampners on your gunho optimisim, but we know from history that we are very unlikley to stop Seth. [To Hank] But we shall try our best. [Picks the smartest looking horse and mount it]

Alice : Didn't Marasmus say it was Nascency Fluid.

Aphi : Yes, yes she did. [Nods]

[Time passes.]

Aphi : What's Nascency Fluid?

Austin : [To Aphi] It is the fluid of life, and as such it has exceptionally powerful regeneritave healing properties, but I expect Marasmus knows alot more about it than we do.

Harvey : She's certainly to, private Sleaze! [Jumps down from the carriage] Well, onwards and upwards!

Alice : Certainly to what?

Harvey : [Pats his horse] Good Carriage, good boy! Have a sugar lump! [Turns to the others] We must try to stop that madman from bonding with the Heart.

Clint: [To Alice] Hey, give him a break! The poor man's starving to death. Besides, HE didn't introduce evil into the world like some ditzy broads I know [looks first at Alice then at Austin, shaking his head].

Alice : [Pats her horse] Good, crazy old man, good boy. [To Clint] Poor, confused Clint. You don't know what you're talking about. We didn't introduce evil to the world, Bjor did. Now, [becomes increasingly oratorical and starts walking up and down] the fact that I'm so devastatingly attractive that the calmest man from the calmest town in the calmest country in the calmest year decided to - hey! [To ALICE's dismay, everyone else has moved up behind a tree to try and get a look at the base of the volcano.]

Aphi : I don't see him, but - wow, look at that! [APHI points at some Nascency Fluid on the ground that seems to be moving of its own accord to the far side of the volcano.]

Harvey : By the saints, I didn't realise it could move around! Do you think we should follow it? See where it's going?

Aphi : I don't think we've got any choice - if it's the source of life, maybe we can get some to help the orphans?

Harvey : I honestly don't know if that would work, Aphi, but you never know! [Begins to follow the fluid]

[The party follow, taking their horses with them, and slowly round the volcano. The fluid is move quite slowly, and could easily be touched. As the party work their way around, they can hear what sounds like a lot of wild animals, just out of sight, all growling and snarling.]

Aphi : [Reaches down] Let's see.

Alice : Hang on, Aphi! The last we heard touching it could kill you!

Harvey : [Looks around at hearing the noise and takes out his sword] Everyone keep on the ready, troop!

Clint: [Sword out] What the hell is that?! Can anyone see anything up ahead?

Geneva: [Somberly] My dagger is ready.

Aphi : No way, Monty, [Draws his sword] Bjor was my best friend, I'm at least some way responsible for what he's done.

[The party move around the base, and see that a major chunk of the volcano is missing from about halfway up. On the ground beneath is BJORSETH, surrounded by about fifty MORCs, with new ones emerging from the larger puddles of Nascency Fluid. As each one appears, the puddles get a bit smaller, but, at this rate, there could be thousands of them.]

Aphi : What the hell are they?

Geneva: [Blanching] Naught that was ever born, that's for sure! [Looks around at the party] I don't think they're here for party tricks, thats for sure. [Has her dagger at the ready]

Alice : They're Morcs - we met them in the Interior, and they seemed to live just to kill things. Everytime they see another living thing, they kill it.

[The MORCs are appearing faster and faster, and clearly don't mean any harm to BJORSETH.]

Alice : Well, almost every time.

Geneva: But he's a maturbator!

Alice : [Squints to see better] Is he masturbating now?

Geneva: {Covering her eyes while she marches to the beat I hope not!

Austin : [Touches the nascency fluid carefully with just the tip of his skeletal finger and tries to will it to become on hug anti-morc] I think Seth may be controling this.

[Everyone holds their breath as AUSTIN touches it, but nothing happens.]

Alice : Well, if he's not controlling it, he seems to be at least benefitting from it, and that's probably almost as bad!

Austin : [Stands up, a little disgruntled, points his skeletal finger at the nascency fluid and tries to 'zap' it] Stop!

Alice : [To Austin, loudly] Sh! Keep your voice down or they'll hear us.

[It would be a miracle if they could hear the party, as there are now over a thousand of them, all screaming and roaring, and show no signs of stopping. AUSTIUN's attempt to stop the Nascency Fluid, unfortunately, has no effect.]

Austin : [Sighs, takes out his hip flask, drinks what's left and then very carefully fills the flask with Nascency fluid] Well what are we going to do now? [To Harvey] Colonel, we are severely out numbered and I suggest that the enemy may be amassing to attack Serenity. We should return to the town to warn them.

Harvey : Gah! I fear you're correct, Private Sleaze, we have no choice but to retreat, although, what chance the town has against these animals is anyone's guess. Even those Elves in the Interior were struggling against them.

[The party turn and head back to the horses, but a small rock comes loose and rolls down to where the MORCS are. Everyone freezes for a moment, but the MORCS don't react.]

Alice : I think we might be okay.

Alice : Not as unlikely as myself and Austin being to blame for Bjor coming over all evil, yet still you insisted on saying it, Monty!

[As the party edge their way back towards the horses, the MORCs suddenly go quiet.]

Bjorseth : [In a singsong voice] Who's there?

Chastity : [Whispering to the party] Perhaps if we make noises like mountain goats we'll be OK?

Alice : Hey! Good thinking, Sis. [Cups her hand to her mouth] Moo! I mean, [hand to mouth again] Bang, ow, ow, ow, bang, ow, whoaaaa, [loudly] bang!

Austin : [To Chastity] Perhaps you could suggest a farmyard animal that is easier for Alice to impersonate next time.

Alice : What? Like, mountain goats never fall?

Chastity : [To Monty] That would just be silly, Mr. Giles. Who ever heard of a mountain hen? [Glances back towards the Morcs] Although I must agree on the hasty retreat. [Looks around] Wasn't there an entrance to this volcano?

Alice : Or how about a headless chicken for Monty? [Nods at Chastity's words] Yep, but it's just where they are.

Bjorseth : [Talking to the Morcs] I think I heard someone, go and find them.

Aphi : [To the party] We need to get back and warn the town without him knowing, that'll give us some chance of preparing, and maybe even surprising him.

[The party are now very close to their horses.]

Chastity : Perhaps some of us could ride away from the town to divert the Morcs attention, allowing Aphi to get word to the town.

Austin : [Gets up on his horse, looks very suprised at Aphi] I hope they bury his in the fluid! [To the others] Come on! Lets go while we have the chance!

Aphi : [Getting up on his horse too] Good idea, Chas, but whoever does it, well, there's no coming back. [Thinks for a moment] I want you all to go back to Serenity, and I want you to do your best to protect it. [Races down towards the Morcs, sword drawn] Yeeeeha!

Alice : But what about Aphi?

[APHI reaches the first of the MORCs and slices the heads off two of them in one go, but will clearly be smothered in them before long.]

Bjorseth : Excellent! I knew you'd come! Looks like we'll have plenty of time to prepare for the attack.

Harvey : Private Sleaze is right, let's get back to Serenity as we can. [Revs up his horse and heads off]

Alice : Okay, let's go!

[The party tear off into the distance, with the sounds of mayhem in the background.]

[Book IV, Act VIII, Scene IX. Approaching Serenity. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHASTITY, CLINT, GENEVA, HARVEY and MONTY are here, riding fast towards the town. The ride has taken a few hours, and the volcano erupted again on the way, this time ever more loudly than before, but the party did not stop to look. Although the gate is shut as they approach, it is quickly opened. Enter JACK and CASPER, both a lot more agitated than previously.]

Jack : What happened?

Jack : Holding them off? How the hell is he going to hold them off? What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Casper : [Gives Jack a shove] Hey! Calm down! At least let them answer before you attack them, you stupid bastard.

Austin : In other words you have about 3 hours to completely evacuate the town and get to saftey, wherever that is.

Clint: [To Jack] We gotta get people moving NOW. Where we can we take 'em? Better grab some weapons from the blacksmith on the way outta town, too.

Austin : [Sagely] Of course there is the outside possibility that Aphi is now Phili and the morcs have been destroyed, all be it temporarily.

Alice : [Glancing at Chastity] Oh, I'm sure that's not possible, Austin.

Jack : Evacuate? Evacuate where? There's nowhere we could reasonably hide for miles and miles around! We're all gonna die!

Clint: [To Austin, sarcastically] Yeah, that seems likely. Quit your yapping and make yourself useful, lawyer!

Harvey : [To Jack] Eh? Surely there's somewhere everyone can go?

Jack : Well, there's one place, but that would really only suit one person. [Thinks] Hmm. [Face lights up] I got it! So long, losers! [Runs off into the distance]

Chastity : [To Austin] As I lawyer I could have thought you would rush to conclusions based on coincidence, but that doesn't matter now. [To Jack and Casper] Bjorseth has raised a savage army thousands strong. We must either evacuate, or shut fast the town and send for help from neighbouring towns and cities. Are you on friendly terms with them?

Chastity : [Looking after Jack] I don't think he's off to get us anything, Austin. But I agree, a messy business indeed. [To Casper] Any idea where he's going?

Austin : [To Chastity snidely] That's because I wasn't talking as a lawyer, I was talking as someone trying to save lives! [Tisks at Chastity as he watches Jack run off] I can see that this is going to get messy pretty soon. Helpful chap that Jack.

Casper : [Points to a huddle of people over near Aphi and Bjorseth's house] Over there.

[MARASMUS looks up from the group and sees the party.]

Marasmus : What happened? Aphi?

Clint: [Disgusted, watching Jack flee] Who the hell cares?! [To Casper] Where's Marasmus?

Austin : [Sighs. TO chastity] I was being sarcastic. Of course Jack isn't going to get anything! He's a complete coward and a selfish on at that, and he's gone to hide and save himself. [Nods to Clint] Yes, where is Marasmus?

Casper : A cave in the woods.

Alice : Yay! Let's all hide there, how big is it?

Casper : Not big enough to hide Jack particularly well. [To Austin] The nearest town is about four or five hours away, but is smaller than Serenity.

[The party dismount and enter the town.]

Casper : Marasmus has us getting ready to defend the town - she said that you would probably be able to help us.

Marasmus : [Sighs] What are Morcs?

Austin : [To Marasmus] They are evil creatures that Bjorseth or Seth as he is now known, has created from nascency fluid. Seth is amassing an army and it seems likely that he will attack Serenity. [Ponders] What do you know about nascency fluid, it could be very useful.

Marasmus : I don't know very much, I'm afraid, but it is supposed to be like the blood of the Heart, part of its life force. It doesn't suprise me that creatures, evil or otherwise could be created from it, but it does surprise me that Bjor knew how to do it.

Clint: [Snorts] Yeah, old Bjor is just full of surprises. [To Marasmus] Know anywhere we can evacuate people?

Austin : [To Marasmus] We cannot assume that Bjorseth did not have outside help. As you point out he seems to know alot more than you would expect. [Ponders] Is nascency fluid safe to drink?

Marasmus : I doubt it. [To Clint] There will be no evacuation. We're going to stay here and fight. I hope you will fight alongside us.

Alice : And, er, the rest of us, we can just slope off, can we?

Marasmus : Actually, I mean all of you.

Clint: [Nods at Marasmus] We're in. Let's start rounding up weapons and warm bodies!

Casper : Everyone in the town has some weapons, mainly for hunting and the like, but what do we do?

[The town is walled, with the wall made of thick logs and about twenty feet high, with a parapet. The gates are made of similar material, and open by swinging inwards. The houses inside are a mix of wooden and stone, but all have either thatched or wooden roofs.]

Alice : [To the party] That's not a bad question. Do we stay here and defend? Or send some cannon fodder - I mean, some brave Serenitites out to attack them? Serenitites

Clint: [Eyes gleaming] I know! How about we get everyone out of the town and have 'em hide out. Then we [gestures to the party] can go after the baddies and get them to chase us back into the town. THEN, we shut the gate, trapping 'em inside, and set the whole place on fire! [crosses arms and looks very satisfied]

Alice : [Gives Clint a long look] Good idea, Monty.

Casper : Militia training? Is that like adding really big numbers together?

Harvey : Hold on troop, remember the Morcs main enemys were the Elves, who were also possibly created from nascency fluid, eh! If Bjorseth managed to create the Morcs, then possibly someone else in the town can create the Elves, to help defend us!

Alice : Maybe, Unc, but there are three problems with that. First, we have hardly any fluid, second, no one seems to know how to use it, and thirdly, even if we could do it, [dramatically] is our survival really worth putting up with them?

Harvey : By the saints, you are correct, dear niece! There's nothing worse than being sneered at by a group of people made from a puddle of goo! [To Marasmus] Madam, how much food and water is stored within the town, and is the fresh water supply from a river or an underground well? We could perhaps hole up here if the Morcs lay siege, but if they have access to our water and can easily poison the river, then we must leave now, and quickly! We should also send riders to ask for help in the next town and all outlying farms and villages!

Austin : [To Marasmus] The nascency fluid is the key here. If we cannot separate the morcs from the fluid they will be able to regenerate or heal rapidly, more quickly than we can kill them. We will all die in that event. [Ponders] We should have the best archers on the parapet, those best and strongest to fight and the weak and poor fighters to form fire teams to dowse fires and supply the fighters with ammunition, care for the wounded etc.

Marasmus : We could probably hold out for a few days with the food supplies, and the well is pretty safe. [To Casper] Can you get Jack to arrange some riders like the Colonel suggested?

Casper : Er, I'm afraid Jack ran off into the distance screaming. cannot separate

Harvey : [Surprised] By the saints private Sleaze, we just might make a soldier of you yet! [Shakes his head in wonder and turns to Marasmus] Are there hidden entrances into the town that only a townsperson would know about? Unfortunately, our main enemy knows as much about this place as you do! We should also begin reinforcing the gates, sharpening the weapons and begin wetting down any straw roofs to prevent fires from burning missles.

Marasmus : Yes, yes, excellent. I'll arrange that immediately. In the meantime, is there anything else you need?

Alice : [Stomach makes a growling sound] How about some breakfast and some sleep? We've been up since about four! What time is it now? It must be [shrugs] nearly thirty or so.

Marasmus : Actually, it's just after mid-day.

[Time passes.]

Casper : [Whispers] I think they're all asleep.

Marasmus : Standing up?

Casper : Well, they were up very early.

Alice : [Gives a shake, and then wakes up] Sorry, what time is it?

Marasmus : Now? It's half past two.

Chastity : [Coming out of a daze] Hmmmmm, food. [Looks around] Will these walls be enough to hold them back? And shouldn't we get something behind those gates. Like a spare house, or something.

Alice : Hey, that's a great idea, Chas! If we push all the houses to the edge, it'll make a lot more difficult to get through the walls. [To Marasmus] How many of the houses are on wheels?

Marasmus : Er, none, but we could probably put a huge beam of wood across the gate, and maybe a chair to reinforce it.

Chastity : Best make it two chairs, there are alot of Morcs. Tradional has it that the children shelter in the church. Where is it?

Casper : Church?

Alice : Big dreary building, bored people, angry man complaining about inappropriately dressed girls tempting men?

Casper : Don't really have one of those, but we do have a town hall, which might be useful if you want a convenient place to put all the kids to facilitate their killing.

Clint: [Taken aback. To Casper] What the hell are you talking about?!

Clint: [Looks at Casper suspiciously] All right, egghead. How about we put the broads in charge of rounding up the brats? [Nods at Alice and Geneva] Hop to it, girls!

Casper : [Holds his hands up defensively] Sheesh! Sorry! It's just that we've never been through this sort of thing before, I thought that's what you were trying to do!

[ALICE and GENEVA give each a look.]

Alice : [To Geneva] Can I say it?

Geneva : Sure.

Alice : [Turns aggressively to Clint] Say that again and I'll stab ya in the belly!

Clint: [Snorts in amusement] All right, Bimbo, would you rather lug water around and douse the buildings? Might break a nail, ya know!

Austin : [To Alice] Is there alot of paper that requires relocation?

Alice : Actually, I had more of a managerial role in mind, you know, doing a little bit of pointing and waving, moving paper around, giving stuff names, that kind of thing.

Alice : I hope not!

Austin : [To Marasmus] But what do you know about the Nascency Fluid, other that it is like blood form the Heart?

Alice : [To Monty] What accident?

Marasmus : No, I'm afraid I don't really have any information on how to control Nascency Fluid.

Marasmus : It's just like the heart, in that it can be a source of both good and evil. It can give life to both.

Alice : [Folds her arms in disgust at Monty] You're an idiot, Monty.

Alice : [With a big smile to Monty] Wow! All your friends must have thought you were the greatest wit ever! [Less of a smile] When you were six. [Frown] That's if you ever had any. [Enter MARGE.]

Marge : They're coming! On foot, and there are thousands of them! [Points towards a watch tower] You can see them from there.

Alice : [As the party head to the tower] If it's a proven fact, then I must admit that I'm surprised you're aware of it. [Everyone goes into the tower, and can see that there are thousands of MORCs heading this way.]

Harvey : [Looking through a pair of binoculars] It's Bjorseth, alright. He's leading them. [Puts them down] It looks like they'll be here in just a few minutes.

Austin : [To Alice watching Monty head off. Very sarcastically] He makes such worthwhile contributions to society. [Checks the shine in his shoes]

Alice : [To Austin] I simply don't know what we would do without him.

[The MORCs advance surprisingly quickly, given that they are on foot, and proceed to surround the city. BJORSETH is there, on horseback, a few hundred metres from the gate.]

Alice : Should we shoot him?

Alice : It's a long distance, is anyone likely to get him from here?

Marasmus : [To Monty] Yes, we're as ready as we'll ever be, but look! There are thousands of them, we haven't a chance.

Chastity : Normally I would offer a rousing hymn, but considering the lack of religion here, perhaps I'd better choose a different emotive figure. [Clears her throat] Come men and women of Senerity, Fight, for good, the evil entity. Avenge the death of poor Aphi, He died to save us. For his memory, For Aphi, For Aphi, Smite the evil for his memory, For Aphi, For Aphi, And good shall for all this day. [Turns to Austin, pointing] And not a blasphemous word, Sleaze.

[The MORCS start to close in slowly, all growling and snarling, and thumping their swords against their shields.]

Harvey : Good advice, Mr. Giles. They strike me as the type to over react to being shot in the eye.

[The MORCS start to close in slowly, all growling and snarling, and thumping their swords against their shields.]

Marasmus : [Wiping a tear from her eye] Why, Chastity, that's just beautiful!

Alice : I'll take a shot. Give me the binox please. [Short pause] That means binoculars, it's a word us snipers use in the biz. [Takes a look] What's all the panic? They're miles away.

[HARVEY adjusts the binoculars so she's looking through the ride side.]

Alice : Shriek! [Moves the binoculars to take in the view] Oh, what's that? Oh. [Puts the binoculars down] I suppose we should have expected that.

Austin : [Taking off his glove govering the skeletal finger, ready for action. To Bjorseth] What do you want? I thought you didn't like us anymore!

Harvey : Well I don't think he's here to ask you out to dinner and a game of bowling, private!

Austin : [To Harvey] No Colonel, it's an old lawyers trick. If one engages one's opponent in conversation about their relationships and loved ones, it can often begin the process of reuniting the aggreved parties and begin the reconciliation process. Thus stopping the fight before it starts. I thought it worth a try since we are hopelessly outnumbered.

Clint: [Snorting in disbelief] Great. Now not only are we gonna die, we're probably gonna get sued, too!

Austin : [To Clint] Oh contrary Mr Scar. I do believe that I am probably the only lawyer in this entire world, at the present time. These people have only just found out about lies and deceit.

Clint: [Impressed] Good point! How much you think we can take 'em for? Papa needs a new pair of shoes! [gestures to his ratty pair of snakeskin boots held together with duct tape, wads of chewed gum, and rubber bands, wiggling his exposed left big toe for emphasis]

Alice : [As the party head to the tower] If it's a proven fact, then I must admit that I'm surprised you're aware of it. [Everyone goes into the tower, and can see that there are thousands of MORCs heading this way.]

Harvey : [Looking through a pair of binoculars] It's Bjorseth, alright. He's leading them. [Puts them down] It looks like they'll be here in just a few minutes.

Austin : [To Alice watching Monty head off. Very sarcastically] He makes such worthwhile contributions to society. [Checks the shine in his shoes]

Alice : [To Austin] I simply don't know what we would do without him.

[The MORCs advance surprisingly quickly, given that they are on foot, and proceed to surround the city. BJORSETH is there, on horseback, a few hundred metres from the gate.]

Alice : Should we shoot him?

Alice : It's a long distance, is anyone likely to get him from here?

Marasmus : [To Monty] Yes, we're as ready as we'll ever be, but look! There are thousands of them, we haven't a chance.

Chastity : Normally I would offer a rousing hymn, but considering the lack of religion here, perhaps I'd better choose a different emotive figure. [Clears her throat] Come men and women of Senerity, Fight, for good, the evil entity. Avenge the death of poor Aphi, He died to save us. For his memory, For Aphi, For Aphi, Smite the evil for his memory, For Aphi, For Aphi, And good shall for all this day. [Turns to Austin, pointing] And not a blasphemous word, Sleaze.

[The MORCS start to close in slowly, all growling and snarling, and thumping their swords against their shields.]

Harvey : Good advice, Mr. Giles. They strike me as the type to over react to being shot in the eye.

[The MORCS start to close in slowly, all growling and snarling, and thumping their swords against their shields.]

Marasmus : [Wiping a tear from her eye] Why, Chastity, that's just beautiful!

Alice : I'll take a shot. Give me the binox please. [Short pause] That means binoculars, it's a word us snipers use in the biz. [Takes a look] What's all the panic? They're miles away.

[HARVEY adjusts the binoculars so she's looking through the ride side.]

Alice : Shriek! [Moves the binoculars to take in the view] Oh, what's that? Oh. [Puts the binoculars down] I suppose we should have expected that.

Austin : [Taking off his glove govering the skeletal finger, ready for action. To Bjorseth] What do you want? I thought you didn't like us anymore!

Harvey : Well I don't think he's here to ask you out to dinner and a game of bowling, private!

Austin : [To Harvey] No Colonel, it's an old lawyers trick. If one engages one's opponent in conversation about their relationships and loved ones, it can often begin the process of reuniting the aggreved parties and begin the reconciliation process. Thus stopping the fight before it starts. I thought it worth a try since we are hopelessly outnumbered.

Clint: [Snorting in disbelief] Great. Now not only are we gonna die, we're probably gonna get sued, too!

Austin : [To Clint] Oh contrary Mr Scar. I do believe that I am probably the only lawyer in this entire world, at the present time. These people have only just found out about lies and deceit.

Clint: [Impressed] Good point! How much you think we can take 'em for? Papa needs a new pair of shoes! [gestures to his ratty pair of snakeskin boots held together with duct tape, wads of chewed gum, and rubber bands, wiggling his exposed left big toe for emphasis]

Chastity : Hmmmm, reuniting aggrieved parties to begin the reconciliation process and avoid fighting. I'm not so sure. Isn't that what show host Jeremiah Springboard was trying to do?

Austin : [To Chastity] There was always super sized helping of irony in Jerry's show titles. [Frowns at Clints boots, with a little shudder] I wonder where Phili is now [To Chastity] A quick prayer may prove fruitful, even though you song we [Pauses] Really unblasphemous.

Austin : [To Chastity, smirking] Genuine and Sleaze in the same sentence! You could learn alot from this guy! [Examines his skeletal finger carefully, frowning occasionally] Anybody got a plan?

Chastity : [To Austin] Putting those two words in the same sentence is no big deal, Mr. Sleaze, the achievement comes in actually giving the phrase a positive tone. A unique accomplishment I believe. [Looks out across the sea of Morcs] Nothing short of a volcanic explosion may help us.

Austin : [To Chastity] So you don't think Phili will help us [Sniggers] is your faith waining? [Tries to zap the morcs to death with his skeletal finger, with a theatrical swashbulckling action] Die fiends!

[Everybody looks on to see how AUSTIN fares, but nothing happens.]

Alice : You know, I really think someone should ask me what I was so surprised about.

Chastity : [In a laboured voice] Ok, dear. What were you so suprised about.

Clint: [To Alice, patronizingly] Sorry, we been ignoring ya, Bimbo?! Well, spit it out. What'd ya see?

Alice : I'm not so sure I want to tell you now.

[Everyone turns away from ALICE to look in the opposite direction, not in the slightest bit bothered.]

Alice : Okay, okay! If you're all going to make such a big song and dance about it! Look! [Points in the direction she was looking, to show that there are hundreds of horsemen approaching]

Clint: [Watching the horseman approach] Think maybe they're on our side?

Chastity : I hope so. [To Alice] May I borrow those binoculars to see, please?

Alice : [Hands them over] Sure, but be careful that you look through the right side. [To Clint] Well, given that Aphi is at the head of them, and that they are all elves, I think it's pretty safe to say - [frowns] hm, actually, I'm not sure what it means.

Clint: Means we got ourselves an epic clash of good vs. evil a'brewing, if you ask me. Anyone wanna bet? I got a bunch of rolos I can wager!

Chastity : [Looks through the binoculars] Oh, yes. There's Aphi now. Shouldn't we try and fire on some of the morc in range?

Alice : I'm in! I bet five GP that they aren't rolos at all, and are, in actual fact, just some horrid brown stuff you found either in your pocket, stuck to your boot or in some disgusting orifice of yours.

[The horsemen are approaching the perimeter of the MORCs, and will soon be upon them.]

Clint: [Hands Alice a handful of "rolos"] Congrats! [Watches the horsemen approach the MORCs] We're not just stand by and watch?! I say we go help out Aphi!

Alice : Hooray! [Looks at her hand] Eauh!

Harvey : Missile weapons, everyone! Fire at will!

Alice : Who's Will? One of the Morcs?

Harvey : Er, yes, that's right.

Clint: [Disappointed] Missile weapons?! The epic battle of our time is taking place right over there, and we're fighting like a bunch of laywers?!

Harvey : [Angrily to Clint] I didn't say anything about screaming like girls and hiding, did I? [Points out at the about to start battle] Private, if we went out there, we'd most likely be the only ones without any Nascency Fluid, so I don't much fancy our chances.

Austin : [To Harvey] We'll make a lawyer out of you yet, colonel! [Fires his sling at the closest morc]

Austin : Who knows, Monty, we might even be able to make a man out of you!

[All the party members and townspeople with missile weapons open fire, with many of the MORCS and only a few of the ELVES being hit. HANK, who is close to the party somehow receives an arrow in his right buttock, and turns and glares at the party.]

Hank : Ow!

Alice : Hey, it could have been anyone, maybe even the Morcs!

[APHI and some of the elves have burst through the MORC line, as they are stretched all around the town. He and a small group of ELVES will be at the gate soon.]

Chastity : [Shouting to encourage the Serenites] Come on, fire on the the forces of darkness. [Emotionally] Think of the still smoldering orphans Bjorseth burnt to a crisp!

Marge : [Turns from her position] Now I can't think of anything else, I won't be able to shoot straight!

Hank : [Mutters] You won't be the only one.

[Another hail of missiles is fired down, as APHI approaches the gate. The MORCS are right at the edge of range, so most shots fall short.]

Marasmus : It's Aphi - should we let him in?

Chastity : [Tuts] Now is not the time, Mr. Giles. [Shouts down] Let Aphi in, but be quick to close the gates after him.

[The gates open just in time APHI, and swing shut again almost immediately, hitting several ELVES it does. Only APHI and one elf get through, while those attacking the MORCS all pull back. The SERNETITES all rush out to meet them.]

Alice : I guess now we'll find out if he's here to rescue us or not.

Chastity : [Rushing down to the gate] Aphi, How did you escape Bjorseth's morc army? And where did you get the elves?

Chastity : Yes, OK, but [emphasis] how? [To Aphi] Oh, anh how rude. We're glad to see you. Thank you.

Aphi : [With a big smile] Nascency fluid! [To Chastity] I didn't escape, they killed me. I was pretty surprised when I woke up a bit later, I can tell you! [Gestures to the elf] This is Siegfried.

Siegfried : [With a friendly smile and a big wave] Hi! Great to meet you all!

Aphi : [Gets down off his horse] Glad to see you too, Chas! It's that pesky Heart, Chas, it's the source of everything.

Siegfried : [Also getting off] Now and in the future? Hey, [laughs] you're funny, I like that!

Chastity : [With a look of suprise] Hmmm, an elf withh a sense of humour. How strange.

Siegfried : Haw! Excellent, Sister!

Aphi : [To the party] Well folks, looks like it's time for you to go. I think myself and [with some distaste] Seth have some business.

Clint: [Gives Aphi an arm-punch of encouragement] Give him Hell, big guy!

Aphi : [Startled, draws his sword] Hey! I'm a dangerous leader of thousands of elves and with super human powers, attack me again and I'll cut your arm off! [Glares at Clint, but is clearly only pretending, as a smile flickers about his lips] Bam! Just kidding, but I had you going there, didn't I?

Siegfried : [Roars laughing] Cut your arm off! Brilliant!

Clint: [Chuckles at Aphi] Uh, yeah. So, can we do anything to help you out?

Aphi : No, my friend, you need to return to your own time. This isn't your fight.

Austin : Perhaps, Aphi, you could tell us how to find the Heart?

Aphi : [Shakes his head] No need, you have already found it, because you know what it does.

Alice : [To the party] Do we?

Clint: [Confidently] Yeah, from within it consumes. [Less confidently] Right? [Confused] Uh, what the hell does that even mean?

Aphi : The Heart contains all that is good and evil, but the more you use it for selfish reasons, the more evil you release. There's part of it in all of us, but we start out with more good. Unfortunately that pesky evil tempts us throughout our lives, and if enough of us give in, not only will individuals be consumed by the Heart's evil, but also our entire world.

Chastity : So the all important "it" is literally "evil".

Aphi : Indeed it is, Chastity, and it's up to us to prevent it from taking over.

Austin : And the Path?

Aphi : The Path is how you learn to use the Heart.

Chastity : We're all used to telling what is good from evil [glances at Austin] most of the time, and working with the good, but hope do we use, or tap into, the heart to help empower the good over the evil?

Aphi : The Path's a tricky thing, Chas. It's something you need to learn on your own, but you're already well on the way.

Austin : [To Aphi] Thanks for charging in like that and giving us a chance to escape and warn this lot, [To Aphi and Seigfried] Do you think you will be able to defeat the morcs and Seth? [Quietly to Seigfried] Nice to meet you.

Seigfried : [Loudly] Hi! Nice to meet you, too!

Aphi : I don't know, Aus, but I think so.

Clint: [Still confused] Wait, what happens if you kill Seth here? Doesn't that throw the balance all outta whack?

Harvey : I suppose there will always be another ne'er do well to step into their shoes, private Scar!

Aphi : [Shrugs] Idunno.

Alice : [Meaningful glare at Austin] But who could that be?

Clint: [To Alice] I seem to recall you and the lawyer teamed up to bring evil into the world, Bimbo!

Alice : [Does a quick, Austin-style examination of her well bitten nails] When was that, Stinky? When we [theatrically] brought you back?

Clint: [Clumsily pats Alice on the head, purposely mussing her hair as much as possible] Now, now. Everyone knows that the source of all the world's evil has [huge emphasis] got to be a woman. [Looks at the men in the party] Am I right, or am I right?

Harvey : Nonsense, Private Scar, nonsense! Why, we all know that ladies are too genteel for that! Anyway, I'm sure their heads are too full of romance and homemaking for that kind of thing!

Alice : Thanks, Harvey. Good to see that feminism is alive and well in our party. [To Aphi] So, Aphi, [glances at Chastity] are you really Phili?

Aphi : Sure, am! The one and only!

[Everyone turns and looks expectantly at CHASTITY.]

morning, I'll

Chastity : [To Monty] We don't know that yet, Mr. Giles. We can't tell for events not told yet. If Aphi here does elevate to become the one true Phili then it is indeed a unique standpoint for the order. If this is the case, the consequences of the failure to meet his destiny don't bear thinking about.

Alice : Gee, Chas, you're taking this all pretty well, aren't you? It kind of runs against everything you've ever believed, doesn't it?

Aphi : [Laughs] Bam! I'm just kidding, folks. [Gives Chastity a big wink] We all know there's only one true Phili.

Chastity : [Smiles for once to Aphi] Of course, Aphi, thank you. [To Alice] I don't know what your talking about, girl. This man [points to Aphi] is about to lead an attack on an army of evil, and Mr. Giles has, quite inconsiderately, in front of him asked if I was looking forward to seeing him brutally mown down in his defeat of Bjorseth. Someone has to show some compassion and tact!

Alice : [Fighting back a smirk] I'm sorry Chastity.

Aphi : [Wags a scolding finger] You kids play nice now. When you get back, things will be slightly different, so be careful how you use the powers, as there's always a cost. Now [dramatically] return!

[There's a huge flash of light, and all the party but GENEVA disappear.]

Geneva : Huh? What happened?

Aphi : [As he and Siegfried get on their horses] This is where your journey on the Path ends, Geneva.

Geneva : What do you mean?

Aphi : There's always a cost, and I'm afraid you're the cost of sending them back. [Gestures to another horse] What do you say?

Geneva : [Leaps on the horse and takes out her dagger] Let's find Seth, I'm gonna stab him in the belly!

[Exit APHI, SIEGFRIED and GENEVA, riding through the gates and into the MORCS.]