7.08 Burying the Dead


TEASER

FADE IN

Night. A large army camp in front of a walled city. Torches are lit in the camp and up on the city walls, but everything is silent; the atmosphere is extremely tense.

Two night watchmen are warming their hands by a fire. In the background, the city walls loom large and dark.

There is a sound off-camera. The watchmen grab their spears, trying to look awake.

WATCHMAN #1:
     Who goes there?

A tall, elaborately armed man walks up to the watch post. The watchmen hurriedly lower their weapons.

WATCHMAN #2:
     My lord Polyneices. The city is asleep--it's just waiting...

POLYNEICES:
     I don't recall asking your opinion, soldier.

WATCHMAN #2:
     N-n-no, sir...my lord.

Polyneices ignores the watchmen and continues to walk past the fire. The camera focuses on his face as he looks towards the city walls. He takes a deep breath, savoring the feel of the air.

POLYNEICES:
     Thebes. My city. My city. How I have missed you.

CUT TO

The outside of the city wall. The camera focuses on two shadows, which seem to peel off from it; they turn out to be two cloaked figures. A gap in the wall opens up and they disappear inside.

CUT TO

The other side of the gap, inside the city. The wall is well-lit by torches. The two cloaked people climb through; behind them, someone swings a heavy metal plate back to close the gap. The first person lowers the hood of their cloak: it's Xena. Next to her, Gabrielle does the same and shakes out her hair.

GABRIELLE:
     That wasn't so bad. So much for the mighty army of Argos--those guards looked asleep.

XENA:
     They're very sure of themselves.

A richly dressed, middle-aged man with a retinue of servants hurries towards them.

XENA:
     Creon. We came as soon as we heard. (nods at the wall to indicate the army outside) How long have they been there?

CREON:
     Long enough. Xena, Gabrielle. (bows slightly) Without your assistance, I fear Thebes is going to fall before dawn.

The camera follows them as they walk briskly along the wall.

GABRIELLE:
     Why is Argos attacking? I didn't think they had any interest in Thebes.

CREON:
     The army is led by my nephew, Polyneices.

GABRIELLE (aghast):
     He's leading an army against his own city?

CREON:
     Worse, against his own brother. My other nephew, Eteocles, is organizing our defense.

GABRIELLE (shaking her head):
     Why would Polyneices do this?

XENA:
     The usual. His royal title, money, power...

CREON:
     He was exiled to Argos...

XENA:
     ...and the climate didn't agree with him.

Gabrielle worried

GABRIELLE:
     But he was brought up here. He must know this city like the back of his hand!

XENA:
     He does. That's what makes him so dangerous.

CREON:
     I was hoping...

He is interrupted by the sound of trumpets and battle cries. A gong sounds.

VOICES OFF-CAMERA:
     To arms! To the battlements! To arms, we're under attack!

There's a hissing sound and a series of loud crashes, as missiles from catapults hit the walls above. More screams from outside the city, presumably the Theban archers have responded.

CREON:
     It's started! This way, hurry!

They reach the base of a tower; a spiral staircase inside leads up to the wall.

XENA:
     Come on!

CUT TO

The top of the Thebes city wall. Archers are posted at every other crenulations; some have been wounded or killed by the most recent attack. Others hurry to take their position to hold off the attacking Argive army. Creon appears, followed by Xena and Gabrielle.

CREON:
     There are seven gates; we have captains at every gate, but the Argives have surrounded us...

XENA:
     Take cover!

She forces Gabrielle and Creon back as burning projectiles pelt the wall. There is a muffled scream off-camera; an archer slumps over. Another man grabs the bow from his hands and pushes him aside, aiming down.

XENA (yells):
     Where's Eteocles? At one of the gates?

VOICE OFF-CAMERA:
     No such luck, Warrior Princess.

Xena turns around to find Eteocles--a tall young man in bright, gaudy armor. The resemblance to Polyneices is striking.

ETEOCLES:
     If you're thinking of taking my command, think again. My uncle (he gives Creon an angry look) seems to think that I am not capable of leading my own city against our enemies. I disagree.

XENA:
     No one is taking your command, Eteocles--but these men can't hold the Argives off much longer.

ETEOCLES:
     The gates are fortified and well-guarded; my brother's dogs don't stand a chance.

XENA (trying to contain her impatience):
     Once they've weakened the archers, they're going to mount the wall, don't you see?

ETEOCLES:
     Good, let them come up here! I'll take on my traitor brother face to face!

CREON:
     You stupid boy! We're all going to die here!

Something slams into the wall below; the sound is repeated all along the battlements.

GABRIELLE:
     What was that?

XENA:
     Ladders!

GABRIELLE:
     They're coming up!

CUT TO

Soldiers climbing ladders

The outside of the city walls, soldiers are climbing the ladders.

CREON'S VOICE:
     Let Xena help us, Eteocles!

CUT TO

Back on the wall, a soldier points down.

A SOLDIER (calls out):
     There he is, lord Eteocles! Polyneices the traitor!

Eteocles hefts his spear.

CREON:
     Eteocles!

ETEOCLES (to Xena):
     Very well--but Polyneices is mine.

Eteocles runs towards the soldier who pointed out his brother.

XENA:
     We need reinforcements here--the gates...

GABRIELLE:
     Of course.

Gabrielle runs along the far side of the wall, in the direction of the top of a gate, where the majority of the troops are stationed.

XENA (to the troops):
     Get those ladders back! Push them back!

CUT TO

The Argive soldiers scaling the wall are close to the top; Xena and the Thebans are pushing the ladders back. A ladder teeters, then topples backwards slowly; archers from the city wall shoot at the men clinging to it. They scream, breaking the ranks of the troops behind them as the ladder falls. More arrows follow them.

CUT TO

On the wall, Theban soldiers cheer, heartened. Another ladder is pushed backwards. The cheer grows louder as reinforcements arrive.

GABRIELLE:
     The gate is secure; more men are on their way.

Xena nods, as Gabrielle and the others join the fray. A few men make it to the top of the wall before the ladders are pushed back; skirmishes break out.

A man comes up behind Xena, sword raised.

GABRIELLE:
     Xena! Behind you!

Xena swivels back, grabs the man's arm and twists it, forcing him to drop the weapon.

MAN:
     Xena?! (panicking) Warrior Princess!

Other Argive soldiers hear him; there are isolated exclamations among the soldiers in the vicinity.

XENA:
     Yeah, nice meeting you.

She knocks him out and continues fighting the others, as more reinforcements arrive. The battle has clearly turned to Thebes' favor.

CUT TO

Some of the soldiers scaling the wall panic, trying to climb back down; those below them on the ladders try to hold on.

SOLDIERS' VOICES:
     Xena! She's Ares' favorite! Ares is on their side; we can't win this!

COMMANDER'S VOICE BELOW:
     Retreat!!

CUT TO

The last few skirmishes are ending, the Argive army below is fleeing.

GABRIELLE:
     It's over.

XENA:
     Not quite.

The camera follows Xena's indication: Eteocles and Polyneices are fighting. The sound of their swords clashing continues after all other skirmishes have ceased. Two other men from the Argive army lie dead at their feet.

ETEOCLES:
     Why don't you follow your army and get out of here alive, Polyneices? Oh, I'm sorry---what army?

He throws Polyneices against a crenulations in the wall, then twists his head so he can see the Argive army retreating.

ETEOCLES:
     That army?

POLYNEICES (struggling):
     This is my city, brother!

He wrests his arm from his brother's grip and stabs Eteocles in the side with his dagger. Eteocles screams and releases him momentarily; in the next instant, he lifts Polyneices against the wall and hurls his body down. There is a distant sound as Polyneices' body hits the ground. Eteocles clutches his side, then collapses.

The camera focuses on his still form for a moment, then moves back. Behind a line of soldiers, Creon looks pale-faced and stunned. Soldiers stand aside as he makes his way to the body, followed by Xena and Gabrielle. He shakes his head in disbelief.

CREON (softly):
     Eteocles... Gods.

There is a noise as soldiers try to hold someone back; Xena and Gabrielle turn around. A slender girl in a richly embroidered tunic, with a diadem around her head, is trying to force her way past the soldiers.

CREON:
     Antigone, no!

Antigone

ANTIGONE (cries):
     My brothers!

She finally breaks through and falls to her knees near Eteocles' body, sobbing. She puts her arms around him, shaking him, trying to push his hair from his face.

ANTIGONE:
     No...no!

Gabrielle moves away from Xena and kneels beside the girl, trying to comfort her. Soldiers try to remove Antigone from near the body, but Creon stops them with a gesture.

CREON:
     No. Eteocles died a noble death, protecting our city from the worst kind of enemy--a traitor. His own brother! He came back from exile, intent on destroying his own city, intent on spilling the blood of his own kin...

Antigone sobs dejectedly, crumpled over her brother's body.

CREON (continues):
     Look at the anguish he caused, look at his sister! As I live, this city will not stand for treachery. (raises voice) Guards!

Guards appear.

CREON:
     Take our prince's body and give him a hero's burial. He deserves no less. But Polyneices... Leave his body where it is. (raises voice) This is what Thebes says to her enemies: the wicked will not stand with the just, even in death. Let the traitor's body lie unburied!

Gabrielle looks up at Xena, they exchange a troubled look as we:

FADE OUT

END OF TEASER