We're back! I promise on the souls of the little narn that I will try to update more frequently now. Honest!
We own neither Babylon 5 nor The Princess Bride. Please - do not sue us.
The Pit of Despair was a truly magnificent set. In fact, it wasn't really a set at all. The three directors had pilfered it from what Sythar repeatedly referred to as 'the funny Shakespearean place with all the severed hands'. It was what most people would consider a veritable monument to the art of 'dark, dank and nasty' (rats not included).
Constellation was seated next to the unpleasant looking slab where Marcus was currently reclining with a small glass of what he called 'Vorlon Liquer' and Ivanova called 'that damn bourbon'. Personally, Constellation was convinced that any self-respecting torturee shouldn't lie back on his slab with his legs crossed, his hands behind his head, singing Gilbert and Sullivan under his breath.
At least the wound on his arm looked relatively authentic.
"Now, you do understand what's happening, Mr Cole?"
Marcus blinked, stopped singing 'I'm a Waterloo House Young Man' and sat up. "Oh, relatively. Vir comes in, acts creepy, I am my usual nonchalant self, and the scene ends with me slugging Vir on the chin and escaping to rescue my beloved, right?"
Constellation sighed. "We have been over this several times, Mr Cole. You do not escape at this time. You do not slug Mr Coto on the chin, and I absolutely forbid you to rescue your beloved!"
Marcus sighed. "I still think it would be more dramatic the other way."
"No." Constellation valiantly resisted the ultimate power of Marcus's patented 'mournful basset hound' ™ look. "Besides, our sponsors assure us that any violence towards Vir would end in a savage drop in our ratings followed by the usual mobs, pitchforks, and burning down of our studio."
"Such is the price of art!"
"Mr Cole, this is a movie studio. What makes you think we're interested in art?"
"Logan's Run." Marcus had been doing his homework. It usually involved a VCR and a comfortable sofa. With Ivanova.
"And how much money did it make?"
"Ah." Marcus threw a hand over his eyes. "Money."
Constellation groaned and returned to her directors chair. At least they were getting to the 'exciting' part. She made a mental note to instruct Kosh to refrain from knocking out the 'Albino' in his scene, and nodded to Montana Jr.
"Places." The little man waved his golden megaphone. "Ready everyone?"
Marcus tossed off the rest of his drink and assumed a morose and helpless pose. "Just about. Want me to cry a few lonely tears?" He shook the loose chains thoughtfully.
"Mr Cotto? Would you mind securing Mr Cole?"
Vir scuttled in. His face was almost dead white and someone had somehow managed to disguise his hair in such a way that it looked like an abomination of a mutated skull. It was – disturbing. What was even more disturbing was the fact that it hadn't diminished his perpetually concerned and nervous expression one iota. He picked up the ends of the chains and began fussing around Marcus. "Is this right, Mr Cole? I've never – I mean – I've never done anything like this before and I'm not sure that I – are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? A plate of spoo?"
Marcus shook his head slowly.
"Are you sure? I mean – I make very good spoo."
"I don't like chilled meat jelly." Marcus said.
"Oh?" Vir looked politely lost.
"Spoo – tastes like chilled meat jelly."
"Oh." Vir fumbled the chains into a semblance of security and stepped back, clasping his hands together and cocking his head on one side. "Do you think that will – I mean, will it hold? Are you sure I can't get you anything?"
"Oh." Vir turned, and then paused. "Mr Cole? Please don't hit me on the chin. It hurts."
"I promise on the soul of your grandfather's uncle's great great nephew."
Vir smiled uneasily, and hurried off. There was a short pause. Then his head reappeared. "Mr Cole?"
"Yes?" Marcus looked innocent. It was something he did with immense panache.
"My grandfather's uncle's… so forth, that's me, isn't it?"
"Oh." Vir left again. He looked worried.
"Places everyone," Sythar said. "Mr Cole, please try to look a little less pleased with yourself! Action!"
Marcus relaxed in the pile of artistically knotted chains. The walls of the cell were grimy with moss and a strange fungal growth that was purple, smelt of coconut oil, and answered to the name 'Betty'. Shadows crawled across the floor in patches and herds, somewhere in the background something screamed periodically. It was not – Marcus decided – a place where he wanted to spend his honeymoon. This decision made, he took on a suitably uncomfortable expression and tried not to hum.
Vir entered, carrying a small tray on which resided three or four plates of steaming food, and several rags and bottles of medicine. He put it down and shuffled uneasily. Vir did not look comfortable. But then Vir didn't often look comfortable, so it was nothing new.
"Where am I?" Marcus asked. "Apart from the obvious, I mean. It's quite clear I'm in some sort of dungeon and that the owners of said dungeon seem to have a grudge against me. It would be particularly useful to know what the name of this place is, who owns it, and what I have to do to get a membership card."
Vir blinked. He seemed a little lost. "It's – the Pit of Despair."
"Oh, good." Marcus smiled happily. "I'm so glad it's not the Crevace of Calamity, or the Canyon of Irredeemable Lost Socks. I can live with Despair. After Minbari cooking, it's nothing new."
"I – Actually I like Minbari cooking." Vir produced a rag and dabbed at Marcus's shoulder virtuously. "Those little cubes of – what did they call it?"
Marcus sighed – and remembered to wince. "Flarn?"
"Yes." Vir looked like he was going to drool. Marcus thought that would be annoying, because he would be in no position to wipe it off.
"You like spoo. You are disqualified as a gourmet."
Vir ignored him. "Anyway… you shouldn't think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick. And don't dream of being rescued, either. The only way in is secret. And only the Emperor (may he live forever), The Count of Total Control, and I – the Albino of Amazing and Ultimate…" he paused, seeing the total disbelief in Marcus's face. "Well, everyone else had nice titles. Anway. We're the only ones who know how to get in. So there." Carried away, he leaned in close and waggled his fingers in front of Marcus's face.
Marcus studied them with scientific interest. "Then I'm here till I die?"
"Till they kill you, yes." Vir smiled cheerfully. He was obviously getting into his role. No one had the heart to point out to him that his natural bonhomie was ruining the effect.
"Not that I'm complaining," Marcus said. "But why bother curing me?"
"The Emperor (may he live forever) and the Count…" Vir paused. "Oh. No. It's just the Count. He insists that you be healthy before he begins. It's a fad of his. I wouldn't let it worry you." He checked over his shoulder. "Just – don't hum Mary Had a Little Lamb. He hates that."
"Does he really?" Marcus smiled. "How fascinating. So – it's to be torture?"
"I once survived a whole week in Vorlon company. I can take torture."
Vir shook his head. He suddenly looked rather mournful.
"You don't believe me? I'm shocked. Outraged. Such service here! I've a good mind to call the manager!"
"You survived Commander Ivanova. You must be very brave." Vir paused, and cocked his head on one side. "But nobody survives… The Machine…"
"The life-sucky-thingee machine? Déjà vu."
"The Machine," Vir repeated firmly. "And spoo." He produced a bowl and thrust it under Marcus's nose.
"Get that away from me!"
As the directors wrapped up the scene, they had to decide two things. One, if Marcus would try to kill Vir if he was released, and two, if Vir really should be smiling quite so broadly. In the end they followed Sythar's brilliant suggestion. They got on with the next scene.
xxx xxx xxx
Ivanova was arguing. She didn't see any reason why she should wear YASD (yet another stupid dress) and 'float miserably down the corridor, staring with sightless eyes at the walls'. She put forward that it was a far better strategy to take the castle by storm, corner Molari in a quiet room, and bash his head against the wall until he either told her where Marcus was, or the bit of his brain that contained that information became available for public viewing.
Montana Jr was getting rather annoyed. It showed in his violently smoking tail. "Miss Ivanova. Please just do as I say? If you do not, then you will have to wait far longer before you can be reunited with your paramour."
Ivanova scowled. She didn't like the word paramour.
Montana Jr. decided to pretend he hadn't noticed. "Now, places please… And Action!"
Ivanova wandered down the corridor. The expression on her face was very very far from 'sad'. It was more along the lines of 'mention the cut of my dress again and the crows will take three days to find your remains!'.
As she stalked by an intersecting corridor she turned and glared at the two men standing there. It was a glare of intense concentration. It telegraphed many things about the wisdom of hurting rangers and the dangers inherent in calling her 'my pet'. It also said 'Touch Me and Die.'
She passed quickly from view, and the two men heaved a sigh of relief.
Londo wiped his forehead. "She's – been like this everrr since the Firrre Swamp." He glanced at Bester. "It's my – er – fatherrr's health that's upsetting herrr."
The idea of Londo having a father seemed to make Bester choke. He stood utterly motionless for a few seconds, and then shuddered. One bad thing about being a telepath was the intensity of the mental images one could be plagued with.
He peered around the corner and watched Ivanova dismantle a guard and relieve him of his sword. "Oh yes. Your father. Anyone can see that." Bester peered closer and tried to pick up some of the thoughts in Ivanova's mind. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he ducked before the sword hit.
Though it disappointed all who watched.