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E12: The Art of War

An old enemy comes to town, and the Axe & Crown’s regulars prepare for battle.

With special guest Karim Kronfli — plus cameos by Jack Pevyhouse, Jake Song and the Aural Traditions cast!

Download MP3 (22 MB)


Episode Transcript

MUSIC—OPENING THEME

ANNOUNCER

The Axe and Crown. Episode Twelve: The Art of War.

INT. BAR—NIGHT

The bar is almost empty. Betula is putting the chairs up. Stan picks one up too.

STAN

Hey Betula. I can help you with those.

BETULA

No, Stan, let me do it. I’m stronger.

STAN

I can lift a chair, geez. What’s the matter?

BETULA

Nothing’s the matter.

(she lowers her voice)

That guy’s creeping me out.

STAN

Which guy?

BETULA

In the far corner? Watching everybody? No, don’t stare.

STAN

Oh, with the little hat! He seemed nice.

BETULA

Stan, you think I’m nice. You think my uncle is nice.

STAN

Yeah! Well, you know, deep down…

BETULA

Guy looks Meyurian. Did he have any kind of accent?

STAN

I dunno. All he said was “A beer.”

BETULA

Has he moved at all since he came in?

STAN

Nah, he’s just been reading his book.

BETULA

Pretty thin book.

STAN

I guess he’s savouring it?

BETULA

And he hasn’t touched his drink.

STAN

He’s savouring that too?

BETULA

It’s still full to the brim.

STAN

Maybe he doesn’t drink?

BETULA

Well, then, why order one?

STAN

To support our business?

BETULA

Right, because he’s nice.

STAN

Yeah!

BETULA

Or he doesn’t want to take his eyes off us to go for a pee. Quit looking at him.

STAN

Well, we are talking behind his back.

BETULA

Crap, he’s seen us.

STAN

Oh yeah, geez, whoops.

(calls)

Hey there, stranger!

BETULA

Stan, shut up!

STAN

Well, it is closing time.

(calls)

Sorry, friend, bar’s closing. We’re gonna have to give you the old boot.

MAN

(ominous)

Good night.

The stranger drops some coins on the table, then departs. The door closes behind him.

Stan goes over to the table.

STAN

See, he said good night.

BETULA

I know. So nice.

STAN

Left a good tip, too. Oh, and look! There’s a little carved figurine. Isn’t that cute?

He picks up the figurine and trots it across the tabletop.

BETULA

What did you say?

STAN

What is this thing? Is it a dog?

BETULA

It’s a message.

STAN

It is? Like, in code or something? What does it mean?

BETULA

It’s from Arvando Bassi.

STAN

Bassi… Like, your old boss, that Bassi boss Bassi? The art mobster guy Bassi?

BETULA

Yes, that Bassi! That guy was one of his, no question. Leaving figurines carved from bone is one of Arvando’s signatures. That’s how you know he’s marked you.

STAN

Oh. Oh geez.

BETULA

This is bad. Krispaar nukin, this is bad. I didn’t think he’d follow me all the way here.

Gubbin enters from the back.

GUBBIN

Eh, what are you guys up to?

STAN

Betula just got a message from her old boss.

BETULA

I’m gonna have to leave town.

STAN

Wait, what? No! Leave? Again?

BETULA

If I don’t, you’re all in danger.

GUBBIN

From your wacky little artist friend?

BETULA

He’s serious. He’s coming to deconstruct this place. He even left a bone figurine.

GUBBIN

Wow. That’s terrifying.

BETULA

That’s what he does when he’s marked you for death.

GUBBIN

Yeah, what else does he do? Draw a little frowny face on your door?

STAN

What do you think, Gubbin? Is it supposed to be a dog, or a horse, or—

GUBBIN

It’s a goat. A goat. DAMN that little bastard.

He smashes it to pieces with his fist.

STAN

Whoa, whoa, Gubbin! What’s wrong?

GUBBIN

How did he know?

BETULA

Uncle?

GUBBIN

Betula? Did you tell him? How did he know?

BETULA

Know what?

GUBBIN

About… goats.

BETULA

Do humans not know about goats? Stan?

STAN

I have seen goats.

GUBBIN

No. This was something from back during the war. That bastard. How did he know?

STAN

(lightly)

What, did you get attacked by goats?

(then)

Wait. You got attacked by goats?

GUBBIN

Yeah. Commandos. Three of them. Tore our unit to shreds. We lost a lot of good people that day.

STAN

Oh. I’m sorry, Gubbin.

BETULA

That’s Arvando Bassi. Always with the symbolism.

STAN

Is he sending commando goats?

GUBBIN

Ha! Let him try. Let him try sending the gruff little bastards with their pointy beards. Let him send dragons, tornadoes, let him unleash hell for all I care! No one’s losing anybody here. We’re gonna teach these Mellurian hacks a thing or two!

MUSIC STING

INT. BAR—DAY

High noon. Tense whispers as the regulars nail up boards and rearrange furniture to form a barricade, as they did in Episode 1. This time, however, everyone is stone cold sober.

GUBBIN

All right, everyone. This might be it. This time we’re not dealing with some two‐bit property developer.

STAN

Okay, ouch.

GUBBIN

This time our enemy is a truly deadly one. This is a man who’s murdered dozens of his foes and painted the walls with their blood.

BETULA

Canvases, actually. He had a fit if any blood got on the actual walls—

GUBBIN

The point is, he is a ruthless, scheming killer with delusions of artistic merit. But we will not let him win!

A cheer goes up.

STAN

Guys. Hostiles sighted!

The regulars go quiet again.

GUBBIN

How many?

STAN

I count five coming this way.

GUBBIN

What are they armed with?

STAN

I see swords. And everyone’s got… it looks like slings.

GUBBIN

It could be some kind of incendiary.

BETULA

Nah, that’s something the Magical Demolitionists would do. He’d die before he copied them. Those slings are full of paint.

GUBBIN

Are you sure?

BETULA

Gold paint. It’s his favourite. He always said it went so well with the blood of his enemies.

GUBBIN

Well, I’m sure his blood looks just as nice.

STAN

Who does he think he is, redecorating without asking us?

GUBBIN

You’re one to talk.

STAN

Okay, now it looks like a battering ram.

GUBBIN

Ooh, now we’re getting serious.

BETULA

Looks like they’re stopping there.

GUBBIN

Just five steps closer…

STAN

I think they figured it out.

GUBBIN

C’mon, I dug a tunnel all the way across the street and got it flooded with sewage. Don’t let it be for nothing.

They open the window.

BASSI

Hello! People of the Axe and Crown. I bid you a good afternoon.

GUBBIN

I know one way you could make it a better afternoon!

BASSI

Mister Gubbin, is it not? What a lovely place you have here.

GUBBIN

Aw, save your breath.

BASSI

I must say, however, that the colour does not please the eye. Salmon Sunrise is the colour of the weak and stupid.

GUBBIN

Take it up with the queen!

BASSI

I should like to repaint your tavern in gold and red.

BETULA

There it is.

GUBBIN

Get to the point, Bassi.

BASSI

If you insist. I believe you know the whereabouts of an acquaintance of mine. Miss Anna Betula?

GUBBIN

Doesn’t ring a bell.

BASSI

No? About this tall? Greyish blue? Tendency to steal and cheat?

GUBBIN

Sorry, I can’t hear you too well. Can you come a little closer?

BASSI

A little closer? So that we spring your inevitable booby trap?

GUBBIN

(under his breath)

Dammit.

(to Bassi)

What booby trap?

From around the corner comes the squeaking and rumbling of big wooden wheels.

BASSI

Luckily, I have no need to come closer. We brought this, you see…

STAN

What the heck is that?

GUBBIN

It’s a trebuchet.

BETULA

Also loaded with paint. It’s what he did when he laid siege to the Indecisionists’ headquarters.

GUBBIN

Close the shutters!

The regulars do, muffling the sounds from outside.

BASSI

Prenda viso! Tira! (“Take aim! Fire!”)

A distant thump and whistle, then a huge splat of paint against the wall. The regulars gasp.

STAN

Oh man, what did they hit?

GUBBIN

Who cares? At least it’s just a bag of paint and not a rock.

STAN

Aw man, we’re gonna have to redo the facade… again. Oh, and that sale on the pink paint, it’s totally over.

GUBBIN

You don’t have a coupon or something?

STAN

Nothing.

A series of smaller paint bombs smack against the shutters.

GUBBIN

That would be the slings, I’m guessing.

STAN

Why can’t people just make nice art?

Bassi’s crew ready another shot.

BASSI

Tira!

The trebuchet creaks and another blast of paint hits the wall. The sign outside clatters to the pavement. Groans from the regulars.

GUBBIN

That sounded like the sign.

STAN

They didn’t!

He yanks the shutter open.

STAN (CONT’D)

(leaning out the window)

Now see here, you… you big jerks!

BASSI

A vast improvement. No more of these sad old colours.

STAN

Do you know what this sign means?!

BETULA

Stan, quit leaning out the window!

STAN

It’s not just a tavern, you know. That is the arms of the Second Royal Engineering Battalion—

A volley of paint bombs catch Stan square in the face. He falls out the window with a scream.

BETULA

Stan!

EXT. STREET—CONTINUOUS

Stan lands in the mud and lies groaning while Bassi’s crew laugh.

STAN

Ugh…

BASSI

Well, hello. A hostage? For me? Betula, you shouldn’t have.

BETULA

(from the window above)

Don’t you touch him!

BASSI

And who might you be?

STAN

(panting)

I am Stanway Gerrard. I own the building.

BASSI

Ahhh, of course.

STAN

And you are an evil stupid head.

BASSI

You fell out of a window. Who is the stupid one?

STAN

‘Kay, that would probably be me. Although, I gotta say, it was a pretty good distraction, wasn’t it?

BASSI

Distraction…

A squad from the town guard has snuck up behind Bassi’s crew. They draw swords.

SERGEANT

Town guard! Freeze!

GUARD

Hands up! You’re under arrest.

Chaos reigns for a moment. The guards roughly subdue the goons.

STAN

The ELBO District Coalition is pretty uptight about vandalism and graffiti.

GUARD

Hey, watch the face. I’ve got a date tonight.

SERGEANT

All right, big guy. You’re coming with us.

Bassi draws a knife and grabs Stan.

BASSI

Oh, I think not!

SERGEANT

Whoa, okay!

STAN

Whoa, whoa! Listen, listen! We can work this out!

BASSI

Everybody, stay right where you are.

Silence falls.

BASSI (CONT’D)

(raises his voice)

Except for you, Betula. Where are you, troll?

The front door creaks open, and Betula emerges.

BETULA

Right here.

BASSI

Ah. How lovely to see you again.

BETULA

How have you been, Arvando? Sold any good paintings lately?

BASSI

You stole from me, Anna Betula Erfydsdottir. You stole something precious and irreplaceable.

BETULA

I stole some cash. It wasn’t even real cash.

BASSI

You know what I refer to.

BETULA

Uhhh. Your dignity? Your trust in your fellow people?

BASSI

My horse, you vile creature.

He tightens his grip on Stan.

STAN

Ooo, knife, sharp, knife.

BETULA

Your… wait, your horse?

BASSI

Do not pretend innocence. You stole Azandia when you ran away.

BETULA

No, I didn’t. Why would I do that?

BASSI

To make your escape. She was the fastest racehorse in the kingdom.

BETULA

(scoffs)

She wouldn’t be too fast with a troll riding her.

BASSI

Well, what did you do with her? By the gods—you didn’t… eat her?

BETULA

No, I didn’t eat her! Arvando—you really don’t know what happened to Azandia?

BASSI

What did happen?

BETULA

With this gang war going on, your family’s this close to broke. Your father sold her to some duke from Vaniacco. I dunno—I guess he didn’t want to admit it to you, so he blamed it on me?

BASSI

You lie!

He grips Stan even more tightly.

STAN

Ack!

BETULA

Seriously? No one told you?

BASSI

(breathes)

No.

BETULA

C’mon guys, back me up. Miguel, you used to take care of Azandia. Did I steal her or did Pops sell her?

MIGUEL

I—I am not supposed to say.

BASSI

Miguel!

BETULA

I’ll tell you, she’s probably safer in Vaniacco.

STAN

She’s got a point. Can we all be friends now? Please?

BASSI

You’re telling me my father lied to me. He betrayed me.

STAN

Friendly friends?

BETULA

Yup. I just borrowed a bit of cash.

BASSI

And abandoned me! When I needed you most!

BETULA

When you “needed” me to help you knock off one of your rivals.

BASSI

Who then made his escape! It would have been… a masterpiece.

BETULA

Oh well. There’s always the next idea. Can you let go of my friend now?

STAN

Yes please! Good idea.

BASSI

No… I still have a thirst.

STAN

Well, why don’t you come in? You could have a nice pint of—

BASSI

A thirst for art. And blood.

STAN

Right. Okay. We don’t have those in stock…

BASSI

You, Mister Stan. I shall paint your portrait and hang it in a special place of—

BETULA

Ugh, are you still on that blood portraits thing? Gods, get a new gimmick.

BASSI

It is not a gimmick!

STAN

Gack!

BETULA

It’s not even original. Sanguino da Laroncie did blood portraits. Hell, Claudia the Second was doing it a hundred years ago.

BASSI

Yes, well, my work is in dialogue with the art of past eras…

BETULA

Your work is a direct copy. Right down to those big splatters. Here we are in a different country and you can’t even come up with any new ideas? Come on!

BASSI

Don’t rush me!

STAN

Nghh!

BETULA

(realizing it’s backfired)

No, wait, wait!

STAN

Betulaaa! I don’t want to be art.

BASSI

Oh, trust me, you will be glorious.

(growls)

As soon as I figure out what to do with you.

BETULA

Arvando, look at me…

BASSI

Something new. I can do something new! I shall act on pure instinct!

BETULA

Arvando! It’s me you had a problem with, not Stan. Where’s the satisfaction painting with his blood?

STAN

Yeah, listen… Mister Bassi? I may not be an artist, but I have tons of friends who are artists.

BASSI

And?

STAN

(rapid fire)

And… I think you just have to give yourself a break. They do that all the time. They give breaks. You don’t always have to be creating.

BASSI

Yes, I do!

STAN

Exact… no! You could treat this trip abroad like a vacation. That’s what you need. You need a vacation. Or a, a, a spiritual journey. If you take a spiritual journey, and go to different places, in your spirit on a journey type even, you could take in the sights. You could meet new people. You could enjoy scenic Mud Street right here! That’s where we are. This is Mud Street. You could go to the cape. You could watch the dragons frolicking in the waves just like that… huh?

BASSI

Hmm. Go on.

STAN

Okay. So. I mean, for example, we’re here right now. Look at the sky. You see the sky right over there? You see?

BASSI

What about it?

STAN

Okay. So. Just really really really look at it…

BASSI

I am looking. What is—oof!

Betula downs him with one punch. He drops his blade and grunts as he slumps to the ground.

STAN

Nice one, Betula!

BETULA

Thanks. You okay?

STAN

Yeah! Whew. That was very educational. And very strenuous. I think I’m going to just have a little lie down too.

BETULA

Okay. Watch your step. No, watch your step!

STAN

I’m okay! I’m just a little tired—augh!

BETULA

Stan!

The ground gives way and he falls into a trough of muck.

STAN

Oh, geez. Again?

MUSIC STING

INT. BAR—NIGHT

The regulars are in a jubilant mood. Gubbin and Stan are pouring drinks.

GUBBIN

Oh, you should have seen it. It was a glorious moment, man! Right in the sewage!

(cackles drunkenly)

All that digging wasn’t for nothing after all!

STAN

(laughs along)

Heh, that’s a great story.

GUBBIN

It was so funny. You were so funny.

The crowd laughs.

STAN

Gubbin, listen. Listen, listen. All kidding aside. We, um, we all chipped in and we made you a little something.

GUBBIN

Made me what?

STAN

Just a present. From all of us.

GUBBIN

Oh… oh. What is it?

STAN

All right! Close your eyes.

GUBBIN

Why.

STAN

Because. It’s a surprise.

GUBBIN

I hate surprises.

BETULA

(serious)

C’mon, Uncle. Stan worked hard on this. Don’t spoil the moment.

The crowd quiets down.

STAN

I thought we should give you something to show our appreciation of you as an awesome bartender, tavern‐keeper and our friend.

GUBBIN

(actually touched)

Yeah, yeah.

STAN

Isn’t that right, everybody!

GUBBIN

Okay, get on with it. I ain’t closing my eyes.

STAN

It’s okay. You don’t have to. It’s in the kitchen!

GUBBIN

Betula, you didn’t cook anything?

BETULA

I’m telling you nothing.

GUBBIN

All right, all right.

He steps toward the door.

STAN

Betula and me and all your friends, we decided to give you… the night off!

Silence.

GUBBIN

That’s it?

STAN

Uh… wait, no, no, no, something should have happened…

GUBBIN

What?

STAN

Hold on. We moved the trigger under one of these floorboards…

GUBBIN

The trigger… oh no!

STAN

Whoaaa!

The kitchen booby trap springs and hauls Gubbin and Stan into the air. Ropes creak. The crowd roars with laughter.

STAN

Okay, that wasn’t quite how it was supposed to happen, but… okay, the booby trap worked, so… yay?

GUBBIN

Stan, was this your idea?

STAN

Heh. You know, one day we’re gonna look back at this and laugh…

GUBBIN

And in the meantime…

He strains at the ropes.

BETULA

To Gubbin and Stan!

The crowd roars.

GUBBIN

You’re all going to regret this!

BETULA

All right, everybody. Drinks are on the house!

GUBBIN

I swear! Every single last one of you!

MUSIC—CLOSING THEME

ANNOUNCER

The Axe & Crown!

Starring Hugo Jones, Art Carlson and Marisa King.

With special guest Karim Kronfli.

Written and directed by Eli McIlveen.

Recorded in Toronto at Trench Recordings.

Sound design by Eli McIlveen.

Produced by Sean Howard.

The Axe & Crown is a Forgery League production. To find out more, visit forgeryleague.com.

OUTTAKE

Gubbin and Stan are still stuck, while the party goes on around them.

STAN

Ow. Ow. Gubbin, you’re squishing me. It’s no fair—you’re bigger than me.

GUBBIN

I’m just getting comfy.

STAN

I never knew you had a tattoo.

GUBBIN

Eh, not many people see that in the light of day.

STAN

It’s a new angle…