7.08 Burying the Dead


ACT THREE

FADE IN

Afternoon. An army camp in a valley by a riverbank. Xena comes out of a tent in the company of Theseus, a tall, broad-shouldered warrior with ash-blond hair and grey eyes. Argo is tethered outside the tent.

XENA:
     Remember, Theseus, don't make a move until you hear from me. (she mounts Argo)

THESEUS:
     We'll be ready, Xena.

XENA:
     Thank you.

She rides away at a gallop.

CUT TO

The throne room in Creon's palace. It is richly decorated, with marble busts of Theban kings and queens lined up by the walls, large vases, and ornate draperies. To the right of the throne is a large brass gong. In the middle of the room is a mahogany table covered with parchments--various official documents. Creon is standing by the table surrounded by his advisors and government officials, mostly middle-aged men.

ADVISOR #1 (holding a parchment):
     And this is the trade agreement with Corinth. Now that the war's over, we can get that signed right away.

CREON:
     Good. Thank the gods, now merchants from other cities can feel safe enough to come here again.

ADVISOR #2:
     My Lord, there's still the matter of the damage to the surrounding villages--there are four that will need to be rebuilt almost from the ground up...

Creon shakes his head with a gloomy look. There is a loud and frantic knock on the door.

SERVANT (behind the door, off-screen):
     My Lord Creon! My Lord!

CREON (raises his voice):
     What is it? I said I didn't want to be interrupted until this meeting was over!

SERVANT (off-screen):
     It's Princess Antigone, sir!

CREON (worried look):
     Come in!

The doors swings open and a young servant rushes in. He looks scared.

SERVANT (stammering a little):
     M-my Lord...

CREON:
     Speak up, man! Is she all right?

SERVANT:
     She, she--she's been--arrested, sir.

A murmur in the room as the advisors and officials exchange glances; some look bewildered, while others have a look of understanding of their faces. Creon stares at the servant in shock, his mouth slightly open, as the realization of what has happened slowly dawns on him.

CREON (harshly):
     All right. Clear the room, everyone. We will continue this meeting later. (to the servant) Have her brought in.

The servant leaves as everyone files out of the throne room, leaving Creon alone. He stands by the table, looking blankly in front of him and rummaging pointlessly through some parchments as he shakes his head in disbelief. Then, his shoulders sagging a little, he walks to the throne and sits down. Davos and Guard #3 come in, leading Antigone by the arms.

She is handcuffed.

CREON:
     Close the doors. (Guard #3 goes over to shut the doors) Now. Tell me exactly what happened.

DAVOS (uncomfortably):
     Well, m' Lord...there we were, guardin' the body of Polyneices just like you ordered...

CREON:
     Were you standing right by the body?

DAVOS:
     W-well...no, m' Lord...we did sit down behind a hillock for a little while to play a coupla rounds of knucklebones...to tell ya the truth, m' Lord, the stink was gettin' pretty bad out there... (Antigone flinches visibly at his words) But we were keeping an eye on it, the whole time...

CREON:
     All right. Then what happened?

DAVOS:
     So then my buddy Nicos, he says all of a sudden, "Hey, you out there! Stop!" And Simon here (points to Guard #3) and I, we look over and we see this one. Down on her knees she was, diggin' and tryin' to cover up Polyneices' body... And Nicos, he goes over and grabs 'er and she starts wigglin' and fightin' like a crazy woman... (to Antigone) No offense, miss. (to Creon) You see, m'Lord, we didn't even know at first it was the princess...

CREON (to Antigone):
     Is it true, what this man is saying?

ANTIGONE (scornfully):
     It certainly is. What do you think--that these clumsy oafs deliberately concocted a conspiracy to frame me?

CREON (closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them):
     All right. You two go to the guards' room and wait there. And shut the doors.

DAVOS:
     Yes, m'Lord.

He and Simon leave, closing the doors behind them.

CREON (to Antigone):
     What am I going to do with you?

CUT TO

The hallway outside the throne room. Officials, advisors, palace servants, and courtiers are milling about; there is a buzz of conversation, and the tension is palpable. The camera pans over to an anxious-looking Gabrielle, pushing her way through the crowd.

CUT TO

The throne room. Antigone stands in front of the throne, her head thrown back slightly, her posture defiant.

ANTIGONE:
     What are you going to do with me? Put me to death, I imagine. Isn't that what your decree says?

Creon rises, comes down the steps of the throne and stands before Antigone. His face softens as he puts his hands on her shoulders.

CREON:
     Do you think I want to do that? By the gods...you're my own niece! The last of my sister's children left alive!

ANTIGONE:
     Polyneices was your own nephew.

CREON:
     Polyneices was a traitor.

ANTIGONE:
     According to your decree, so am I.

CREON:
     Was it you the first time as well?

ANTIGONE:
     Of course it was. You should have realized it sooner, uncle. You were the one who gave me that little shovel as a gift when I was five years old. (Creon's eyes widen as he remembers) And have no doubt--if you do not kill me, I shall do it again.

CREON (nervously):
     Antigone, you're just a child...

ANTIGONE:
     I'm old enough to scare you.

CREON:
     You stubborn little fool! Don't you realize that I'm scared for you, not of you? Listen to me. Do you know how traitors are executed by Theban custom? It's not a quick and easy death. (speaks slowly, quietly and deliberately) They wall you up in a windowless dungeon, alive...with just a little food and water and a candle to last you while you suffocate. That doesn't sound very appealing, does it?

ANTIGONE (quietly, a horrified look on her face):
     No.

CREON:
     I thought not. (he starts to pace around the room while Antigone follows him with her eyes) I want to find a way to save you, Antigone, but you have to help me! The whole palace probably already knows what happened...so there's no hushing it up. And I have to impose the law without bias, on a princess and my own niece just as I would on a barmaid. (he stops in front of her) All right. Listen to me. We can say that you lost your mind after what happened to your brothers...people will understand. All you have to do is make a public apology. Say that it was a moment's impulse, that you were mad with grief...anything you like.

ANTIGONE (listlessly):
     What do you want me to do? Get down on my knees in the palace square and beg forgiveness?

CREON:
     Come now, child...nothing so dramatic. I'll call in the people who are gathered outside the hall...my advisors, city aldermen, government officials...you can make your statement, and it will all be over.

ANTIGONE:
     All right.

CREON (breathes a sigh of relief):
     Well. Finally, for once in your life, you're listening to reason.

He goes over to the gong, hits it three times, and then ascends to the throne. The doors swing open, and the crowd streams in--including Gabrielle. Antigone stands facing the throne, with her back to the crowd, her shoulders hunched and her head lowered. There is a tense silence.

CREON:
     Good people of Thebes! Royal advisors, members of the government, lords and ladies of the court! You have heard, no doubt, that my niece, Princess Antigone, has been placed under arrest. (a murmur in the room; close-up of Gabrielle's worried face) She was caught trying to bury the body of the traitor Polyneices, in direct violation of my royal decree. You all know that the penalty for disobedience is death. (gasps in the room) And I tell you now that justice makes no exceptions for anyone--not even a princess and a king's niece. But a ruler must know how to be merciful as well as just. Antigone is barely out of girlhood (a close-up of Antigone, who looks up, frowns and bites her lips), and she has suffered losses that could drive a grown man to the brink of madness. (an audible sigh of relief runs through the room. A close-up of Gabrielle's face--she looks hopeful but still nervous.) The princess has something she wants to say to us all. (to Antigone.) Speak up, child.

Antigone turns around. She straightens out her shoulders and looks directly at the people in the room.

ANTIGONE (in a loud, clear voice):
     Good people of Thebes! I tried to bury my brother's body--because it was the right thing to do. (gasps in the room. Close-ups of Creon, who is horrified, and then of Gabrielle, whose face expresses shock but also a kind of understanding) Yes, I grieve terribly, but I am as sane as I have ever been in my life. I fulfilled my duty to my brother, and I am proud of it. I will not obey an unjust order. There is something higher than the decree of a king or the laws of a city, and I followed this higher law.

A horrified silence hangs over the room.

CREON (his face now cold and hard):
     Then, by the king's decree and the laws of the city, you shall die.

Antigone looks almost triumphant as her gaze meet Gabrielle's. Gabrielle shudders and closes her eyes.

CUT TO

The guards' room in the palace. The two guards we saw before, Davos and Simon, are at a table eating pottage.

SIMON:
     Say, Davos. Ya think we'll get a bonus for catchin' the girl?

DAVOS (lost in thought):
     Huh?

SIMON:
     What are ya, deaf? I said, d'ya think we'll get a bonus for nabbin' the girl, or not? I could use a bonus, ya know. The wife's got 'er birthday comin' up...maybe I'll buy a nice bracelet or somethin'. Think we'll get one?

DAVOS (absent-mindedly):
     I dunno...maybe.

SIMON (chortles):
     What'cha doin', thinkin' about poetry an' stuff? (Davos flinches and gives him a strange look) Man...when ya pulled out that scroll and started readin' to that blonde gal, what's-'er-name, ya coulda knocked me out with a feather.

DAVOS (snaps to attention and puts down his spoon):
     That's it.

SIMON (puzzled):
     What's it?

DAVOS:
     The blonde gal--Gabrielle. Don't ya think it's funny, the way she showed up just then and wanted to talk to us?

SIMON (snickers):
     I dunno, man...a pretty girl like that wants to talk to me, I got no problem with that.

DAVOS:
     Come on, Simon...right at the time when the other one, the princess, was tryin' to bury the body? Dont'cha smell a rat?

SIMON (guffaws):
     Hey, man, I know what we was smelling out there, and that wasn't no rat. (suddenly grows serious and stares at Davos) Wait a minute. You sayin' she was in on it? You mean like a, a--whaddaya call it--

DAVOS:
     Distraction.

SIMON:
     Yeah. (enthusiastically) Hey, I bet you're right. We gotta go tell the king about it--this time we'll get a bonus for sure!

DAVOS (regretfully):
     Damn...she was so nice to us...

SIMON (sneers):
     Nice? C'mon, the broad was playin' us for fools!

DAVOS (looks hurt as he reaches into his vest where the scroll is hidden--obviously thinking that Gabrielle only pretended to listen to his poem as a ruse):
     I dunno, Simon...I don't feel good about this one. She's with Xena, and Xena's the one who saved our city--

SIMON:
     Hey. Doesn't the rulebook say that (he looks up and moves his lips, trying to remember the words) any suspicious activity that occurs on your watch has to be reported?

DAVOS (looks at him intently):
     Yeah, it does. To the command.

SIMON:
     Well there ya go--the king is the highest command of all, isn't he?

DAVOS (sighs and pushes away his bowl):
     You're right. Rules is rules.

CUT TO

The now-empty throne room. Creon sits on the throne, leaning his elbows on an armrest, hiding his face in his hands. The camera pans over to Gabrielle, who stands on the other end of the room, hidden from Creon's view by a large vase on a pedestal.

GABRIELLE (steps forward):
     Creon...

CREON (looks up sharply):
     Who's there?

GABRIELLE (comes closer):
     It's me, Creon.

CREON:
     What are you doing here?

GABRIELLE:
     I stayed behind when everyone else left. I wanted to talk to you.

CREON (sits up):
     There is nothing to talk about.

GABRIELLE (softly):
     Yes, there is. What happened to the Creon I used to know?

CREON:
     He became a king, Gabrielle.

GABRIELLE:
     You just sent your own niece to a terrible death.

CREON (bitterly):
     I thought you and Xena were champions of justice, Gabrielle--champions of the common people. Would it be just if I spared my niece, a princess, even though she committed a crime for which a woman of the people would have died?

GABRIELLE:
     No, Creon. Princess or woman of the people, no eighteen-year-old girl deserves to die because she wanted to pay the last respects to her brother.

CREON:
     To a traitor!

GABRIELLE:
     He's still her brother. No one will see this as an act of treason...only as an act of love.

CREON:
     She publicly defied me, Gabrielle. She publicly defied and mocked her king. How can I maintain order in the city if I let her get away with that?

GABRIELLE:
     Creon, you are the ruler of a free city, not a tyrant lording it over slaves. You didn't consult anyone when you ordered to leave those bodies without burial. (pleading) Creon, you know that I'm your friend...I implore you, do not make another rash decision--one that you won't be able to take back! Will you at least consult your advisors and the city elders first, and see what they think?

Creon begins to waver visibly when there is a knock on the door.

CREON (raising his voice):
     Come in!

SERVANT (enters):
     My Lord...the guards who arrested the--the princess say they have something urgent to tell you...

CREON:
     Show them in.

The servant shows in Davos and Simon. They see Gabrielle; Davos looks away, embarrassed.

CREON:
     What is it, men? (they remain silent) Speak up.

SIMON (coughs):
     M' Lord...we figured out that the princess, she--she had a--what do you call it--well, she wasn't in it alone.

DAVOS (quietly):
     An accomplice.

CREON (his face darkens):
     An accomplice? Who? (an awkward pause as the two men fidget silently. Gabrielle lowers her eyes.) Well?

DAVOS (points at Gabrielle, without looking at her):
     It was her.

CUT TO

Outside the throne room. Xena is striding resolutely through the hallway, heading toward the doors.

SERVANT (at the door):
     I'm sorry, my lady...you can't go in there right now--the king is in the middle of some business.

XENA (grimly):
     Well, I have some business with the king. (she pushes past the servant in and stands in the doorway, holding the doors open) Creon! I'm told that you've arrested Antigone.

CREON:
     Not just Antigone.

The camera pans over to Gabrielle, who is handcuffed and surrounded by guards.

XENA (rushes toward Gabrielle and takes her hands):
     Gabrielle! (her face distorted by rage, she turns to Creon, snarling) Have you gone mad?

CREON:
     No, Xena--if anyone here has gone mad, it isn't me. Two of my men have just testified that Gabrielle was a part of my niece's plot. And she has confessed.

Xena looks at Gabrielle, her face full of shock and pain.

GABRIELLE (nods slightly in acknowledgment of what Creon said):
     I'm sorry, Xena.

CREON:
     Now, she dies with the other one.

Xena's hand goes toward her chakram. Creon hits the gong, and dozens of soldiers file into the hall. Xena finds herself facing a forest of spears and arrows pointed straight at her.

CREON:
     Xena, I have heard stories that you once took on an entire Persian army and won. But you took them by surprise. My men are ready for you. (there is regret on his face) Believe me, Xena, the last thing I would want to do is--hurt you after what you have done for our city. But I will not be defied.

Xena looking at Creon

XENA (in a low voice full of controlled rage):
     Creon...if you think that I'm going to stand by while you kill my friend...think again.

She storms out. Gabrielle looks bewildered, until comprehension that Xena must have a plan dawns on her face. Creon follows Xena with a worried gaze as we:

FADE OUT

END OF ACT THREE