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E4: The Artful Dodger

Betula spills the beans on her recent misadventures.

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Episode Transcript

INTRODUCTION (ELI)

Hi everyone. It’s Eli, writer and co-producer. Just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who’s been donating to our Indiegogo campaign for Alba Salix, Season Two, and to everyone who’s been spreading the word about it. We’re just past the halfway mark now, which is awesome! We really want to keep that momentum going. There’s about 00 still to go, so please do consider helping us out, either monetarily if you’re able, or if you use iTunes, you can rate and review us there, or share our show with your friends. Thank you! Now, on with the show.

MUSIC—OPENING THEME

ANNOUNCER

The Axe and Crown. Episode Four: The Artful Dodger.

INT. BAR, MORNING

The opening theme is rudely interrupted by the sound of twanging ropes, grinding wooden gears, and Betula’s holler of surprise as she’s caught in a booby trap and hauled off her feet.

BETULA

(winded, swearing)

Kakuten vilimat kruufen giss!

Ropes creak as she struggles, dangling upside down. Nothing.

BETULA (CONT’D)

Great. Dammit, Uncle…

Stan enters from the street.

STAN

Good morning! Oh my gosh, Betula! Are you okay?

BETULA

I’m fine.

STAN

That doesn’t look very comfy.

BETULA

I’m fine.

STAN

Hanging upside down like that?

BETULA

It’s fine. I was just looking around for something to eat and suddenly this rope thing went off.

STAN

That’s Gubbin for you. He’s got traps everywhere and never thinks to warn anyone.

BETULA

I should have known. The kitchen door, though?

STAN

Yeah. The kitchen is “off limits”, apparently. Don’t feel bad. I got caught in that one myself.

BETULA

That’s nice.

(straining)

I can’t reach my knife. Could you just…?

But Stan has started hunting around under the bar.

STAN

Oh no, no, you shouldn’t need to cut anything. When I set that one off, Gubbin had, like a release button for it. I think it was somewhere down here…

BETULA

No, Stan, please. Just give me my knife. It’s right here, you can see the sheath. Look. Look where I’m pointing. Stan. Here, Stan. Look.

STAN

No, I remember he reached under the bar… he must have flipped a lever or something…

There’s a thunk as a second trap springs, catching Stan’s arm.

STAN (CONT’D)

Ow!

BETULA

Oh gods.

STAN

Okay, so he’s got another trap under the bar. I was not expecting that. Wow. Okay. My arm is totally stuck now. How crazy is that?

BETULA

Great.

STAN

That Gubbin. What a smart guy!

BETULA

Yeah, what a guy.

STAN

(raises his voice)

Hey Gubbin! Are you up yet?

BETULA

Oh yes, let’s get Uncle in here so he can gloat. That’s a great idea.

The two keep twisting and straining throughout the following:

STAN

So. Is this your first time in Farloria?

BETULA

What? Yeah. First time.

STAN

Nice. Nice. How are you enjoying it so far?

BETULA

So far, let’s see… I had to drag my trunk all over town looking for this place, and now I’m hanging from the ceiling in one of my uncle’s stupid booby traps.

STAN

Right. Yeah. That’s a lousy start. Hey, if you’re free today, I can give you that guided tour of Grandville. Let you see the city properly.

BETULA

That’s nice of you, but I’ve gotta be on my way today.

STAN

Awww, no, really? Where you headed?

BETULA

Away. East.

STAN

Like, toward Mediocria? That’s a… nice part of the country.

BETULA

So I hear.

STAN

So you don’t even have time for a little sightseeing?

BETULA

Sorry, no.

STAN

Aw. Oh, by the way… you still gotta change your money, right?

BETULA

Right…

STAN

Well… I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you know that Mellurian coin you gave us last night?

BETULA

What about it?

As he speaks, Stan fishes in his pockets with his wrong hand, and finally comes up with the coin.

STAN

I took it to the bank this morning, and they showed me this really cool thing. See, here’s your coin. And if I weigh it… well, I don’t think we have a balance here, but apparently this coin weighs the same as two hundred and fourteen grains of barley.

BETULA

That’s fascinating.

She strains harder at the ropes.

STAN

But then, get this, you stick it in water, and then I think it’s the amount that spills out divided by the number of grains, something like that? Anyway. I didn’t want to tell Gubbin, since he would blow it out of proportion, but… the point is, it’s not real.

BETULA

What’s not?

STAN

This coin. I think someone back in Melluria gave you some fake currency—

BETULA

What do you mean, not real?

At that moment, Gubbin trudges in.

GUBBIN

What’s not real?

STAN AND BETULA

Nothing!

GUBBIN

Huh. Someone been trying to jimmy the lock on the kitchen door?

BETULA

I was hungry. I thought you might have some food around.

GUBBIN

Kitchen’s off limits.

BETULA

Apparently.

GUBBIN

Let’s see that coin, Stan.

STAN

I do not know what coin you are currently referring to—

(as Gubbin prises open his fingers)

Ow, ow, ow. Okay. Right. Yes. This coin right here.

GUBBIN

Huh. “Regna da Melluria—5 royales”. That look real to you?

(he taps it on the bar)

Looks like gold, doesn’t it?

BETULA

It is gold.

GUBBIN

Well, let’s just see here…

STAN

No, don’t! Aw, Gubbin…

Gubbin bites the coin in half and spits out the pieces.

GUBBIN

Well, would ya look at that. Solid lead! With a layer of brass, and just the tiniest little bit of gold leaf around it. Probably worth, what, about sixpence?

STAN

I heard lead isn’t very good for you.

GUBBIN

This ain’t legal tender. There or here.

BETULA

Well, how was I supposed to know? I’m not an alchemist.

(beat)

Can you let me out of this net?

STAN

Oh, while you’re at it, I’m kinda stuck too.

GUBBIN

This all the money you got?

BETULA

Yeah. I mean, I got more money, but it’s just more of these.

GUBBIN

Where’d you get ‘em?

BETULA

In Melluria. (pronounced “Meyuria”) Uncle, let me out of this stupid trap.

GUBBIN

Where in Melluria?

BETULA

It’s “Meyuria”.

GUBBIN

Where in “Meyuria”.

BETULA

A guy.

GUBBIN

What guy.

BETULA

Just a guy. An artist.

GUBBIN

Oh, here we go.

STAN

What, is there something wrong with artists?

GUBBIN

What was his name?

BETULA

(reluctant)

Arvando Bassi.

GUBBIN

Bassi!

BETULA

Yes.

STAN

Why do I know that name?

GUBBIN

What hell were you doing taking money from a Mellurian artist? One of the Bassis, no less?

BETULA

Let me down and I’ll tell you.

GUBBIN

(considers)

Fine.

He presses a hidden button and the trap dumps Betula out on the floor.

BETULA

Ow.

STAN

Betula! You okay?

BETULA

A bit of warning would have been nice.

GUBBIN

How did you get mixed up with the Bassis?

STAN

Also, who are they? Also, can you let me out next?

GUBBIN

The Bassis are the most notorious art cabal in Melluria.

STAN

Notorious how?

BETULA

Turns out they’re into art theft, forging sculptures and paintings, ancient relics… and I guess forging money, too.

GUBBIN

Won’t find a more subversive, transgressive band of hoodlums this side of the Pointy Lands.

BETULA

But I didn’t know any of that when I met Arvando.

GUBBIN

So what were you doing in Melluria?

BETULA

I was going to school there, working odd jobs to get by, and then one day this guy approached me, said he was a painter and a sculptor and wanted to hire me as his model.

STAN

You worked as a model?

BETULA

So I said okay. And so Arvando did a couple of paintings of me. But soon he had me helping him out with frescoes and installations, carrying his supplies, setting up scaffolding… and sometimes I’d just stand outside while he was chatting with someone, and make sure they saw me. The way he talked, I figured it was just because he wanted to show me off.

GUBBIN

Uh huh.

BETULA

Which was a little weird, but whatever. What can I say? He could talk anyone into anything.

GUBBIN

Especially with a seven-foot-high troll standing next to him. Can’t believe you were working for Arvando Bassi.

BETULA

I just thought he was a solid guy, okay? He paid me good money.

GUBBIN

Good fake money.

BETULA

Yes. Anyway. We spend weeks preparing for his next big show. Lots of pictures of the rich and famous, trying to win over new patrons. So this hall’s full of dukes and bishops and bankers, and when it comes time for opening night… this rival group called the Magical Demolitionists have vandalized every piece in the hall.

STAN

Oh no! Like, they smashed everything?

BETULA

Worse. They changed things. They took the heads off his sculptures and switched them. They cut up his paintings and rearranged them. And in doing so they recontextualized them in a manner that forced one to confront the paradoxical and hypocritical nature of power and legitimacy in modern society.

GUBBIN

(beat)

Frickin’ artists.

STAN

I don’t get it.

BETULA

Don’t you see? He invited all these nobles so he could flatter them, and instead, all they saw were paintings full of symbolism about how they were lying, and sleeping with each other, and stealing from everyone in the kingdom.

GUBBIN

Which was all lies, I’m sure.

BETULA

Oh, it was all true. But you still shouldn’t put it in a painting. They would have killed him for treason if his parents hadn’t stepped in.

But all of a sudden, every two-bit fresco painter decided they wanted a piece. All the movements and factions piled on, trying to get the upper hand. One day, all six members of the Maniacal Five had their heads mysteriously bashed in by gargoyles falling off buildings.

STAN

Whoa.

BETULA

That was the Demos, of course. The Demolitionists. Before long they had control of the trade in watercolours and miniatures. Then they got together with the East Side Post-Reasonablists to take on the Bassis head-to-head.

GUBBIN

Huh. And the Bassis?

BETULA

Arvando was laying low after the big fiasco. But that was before the whole Azandia thing.

GUBBIN

What’s an Azandia?

BETULA

His racehorse. She was a gift from his parents, I think.

STAN

Uh oh…

BETULA

Arvando loved that horse. Fed her on wine and pastries. He got me to install a toiletti for her in the stable.

GUBBIN

A what?

BETULA

A water closet. It’s like a chamber pot, but it’s got running water.

GUBBIN

What the hell for?

BETULA

For flushing it. It’s the latest thing in Melluria. Very expensive.

GUBBIN

He had you install a “toiletti” for his horse?

BETULA

I told you, Azandia was his little princess! Literally, he made her a silver tiara. But anyway, a couple weeks after the Demolitionists make their move, Arvando’s got an unveiling. Great big statue of the Duke, in the main square.

I’m working security, in case anybody tries anything creative. I catch a couple of Demos trying to sneak in with brushes and glue, so I knock some sense into them. And… that’s it. The unveiling goes off without a hitch. All his patrons are overjoyed…

GUBBIN

But…?

BETULA

But that night, Arvando comes home from the big party, goes up to his chambers…

STAN

Oh no. I don’t like this story.

BETULA

And finds the bedclothes all stained, and sitting right in the middle of the bed…

STAN

No, stop, seriously…

BETULA

Is Azandia the horse’s brand new toiletti.

STAN

Wait, what?

BETULA

And in front of it, there’s a little plaque, like in a museum. Says, “The Complete Works of Arvando Bassi”.

STAN

Wow. That’s… I guess that’s… terrible?

BETULA

Yeah, that was just way too on-the-nose. Arvando basically snapped. Started a new series of allegorical portraits of his enemies.

STAN

Portraits? Could have been worse! At least he wasn’t—

BETULA

Using their own blood.

STAN

O-kay.

BETULA

I kept thinking, these paintings smell weird. But I didn’t clue in until the night he had me line the floor and walls with canvases, gave me this big knife and asked me to help him “bring someone in”. So at that point I figured it was time for me to make an exit.

GUBBIN

You stole his money and ran.

BETULA

What else was I gonna do?

STAN

At least it wasn’t real money.

GUBBIN

Yeah, at least it was counterfeit that you stole. From a gangster. And paid your uncle with.

BETULA

Look, I’m sorry about the coins. I honestly didn’t know.

GUBBIN

You think he knows where you went?

BETULA

I covered my tracks pretty well. I mean, it’s always kinda hard being discreet in human country.

GUBBIN

Yeah. Well. I can’t guarantee you’ll be safe here, but if you need a place to stay…

BETULA

I don’t want to bring anything bad down on you guys.

GUBBIN

We’ll deal. Anyone shows up in town and starts asking about trolls, I’ll hear about it. Your artist friends come for you, they’ll have to come through me.

BETULA

Thanks, Uncle.

STAN

And me.

BETULA

…Sure.

GUBBIN

So? Anna Betula. You gonna be sensible about this?

BETULA

Yeah. I’ll stay.

STAN

Woo hoo!

BETULA

Thanks, Uncle.

GUBBIN

Yeah, you’re welcome. It’s two crowns a night. No meals.

STAN

Gubbin.

BETULA

No, it’s fine. I just need to find a place to change these coins…

GUBBIN

Stan tried to change one at the bank. Word’s gonna get out. No one’s gonna take those anywhere in town.

STAN

I can help you out with rent.

BETULA

No. I can pay my own way. I’ll find work and I’ll pay you back properly, Uncle.

Betula heads for the stairs while Gubbin goes outside.

GUBBIN

See to it. You got one week.

BETULA

Thanks.

Gubbin shuts the door behind him.

STAN

Yay! It all worked out.

He wrestles with the trap mechanism.

STAN (CONT’D)

My arm is still stuck. Hello? Guys? I’m still—guys? Can you come back? ‘Cause I’m still… in the trap…

MUSIC—CLOSING THEME

ANNOUNCER

The Axe & Crown!

Starring Hugo Jones, Art Carlson and Marisa King.

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

STAN

“I’m Arvando Bassi. I’m gonna come and I’m gonna beat up Betula.” “No! You’re not! I’m Stan and I’m here to protect her! I only have one hand left ’cause the other one got amputated because it lost all the circulation but still, I don’t care because I’m going to get you—” “Oof! Oh! Oh no! Please don’t—”

GUBBIN

(from the other room)

Stan! Stop your fooling! Get to work!

STAN

Sorry.