2: The King’s Tragedy

EXT.  DOLINA CASTLE.  DAY.

THE COURTYARD

morning.   Pomp and loose ceremony.  A crowd, the pageantry of knights and nobles.  A HERALD makes the announcement:

HERALD

Her highness, Princess Aleksandra Elenevna Tamanov of Merya,and her escort have arrived!

 

Cheers.

The wagons creak and splash in puddles behind, Sasha and her entourage halt.  Servants hurry to assist.  Sasha looks around nervously as her escort mingles with servants.  

 

SASHA

(to herself) Where will I find a moment in this place?

 

Liev spots Sasha as she’s looking around.  He stares in surprise.  Pavel moves to pass by and he catches his arm.

 

LIEV

Do I look alright?

 

PAVEL

You look like you.  Why are you…?

 

Liev has vanished into the crowd.  Pavel spots Sasha and chuckles.  

A page stumbles with a harp-sized chest behind Sasha.

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

Oh, be careful with that one.

 

LIEV

What’s that one?

 

She turns again and smiles, surprised.

 

SASHA

Who…?  Liev!  Of course, I mean, your highness.  

 

She curtsies.  He bows.

 

LIEV

(smiling) Princess.

 

SASHA

But you’re taller now.

 

LIEV

You stole my first compliment.

 

SASHA

(teasing) And you had no second compliment planned?  For shame.

 

LIEV

I had so many planned, but I don’t work well without a script.

 

SASHA

Best to fall back on formalities then.

 

LIEV

I suppose:  Welcome to Dolina, your highness.

 

SASHA

It’s a start.

 

LIEV

What next?

 

SASHA

I believe you’re supposed to be honored by my presence or something like that.

 

LIEV

No, I think we’re only supposed to talk about how honored we are with each other’s presence at the stair over there.

 

Sasha offers her hand.  

 

SASHA

We should go there then.

 

LIEV

But I’m pleased with your company here.

 

He still takes her hand, and she smiles.

 

SASHA

Would it please you to show me around?

 

LIEV

Very much so.

 

She glances back once at the chest.

 

INT.  DOLINA PALACE.  SAME TIME.

THE HIGH TOWER

Low light.  Viktor leans on his iron sword, grim.

Nikolai stands back, seeming small.  Viktor watches Liev.  Sasha speaks, a guest gawks, Liev smiles, they all laugh.  

 

NIKOLAI

This was supposed to be a procession, not a folk festival…

 

Viktor’s voice is muted thunder.

 

VIKTOR

Let them be, Nikolai.

 

Nikolai stiffens, waits.

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

Love has a price.

 

NIKOLAI

Of course, your majesty.

 

INT.  DOLINA PALACE.  NIGHT

THE THRONEROOM

A ball with prestigious guests.  At the end of the room is the carved throne on a plinth, empty.  Musicians tune up.  

Liev introduces Sasha to guests; currently in line are LADY ANNA, and LORD VADI.

 

LIEV

And this is Lady Anna.

 

SASHA

I love the tapestry you wove for the west hall.

 

ANNA

Why, thank you dear…

 

LIEV

And this is…

 

SASHA

(excitedly) Lord Vadi, of the music guild.  All Merya’s merchants praise your craftsmen.

 

VADI

(pleased) Your highness, you flatter me.

 

SASHA

Not at all.

They move on.

 

LIEV

(quietly) You took my letters to heart.

 

SASHA

It’s no trouble at all.

 

LIEV

My father doesn’t know the extent of my diplomatic interest yet.  He won’t, until I have something to show for it.

 

SASHA

Shouldn’t a king be open to the idea either way?

 

Pavel arrives, cards in hand.  

 

PAVEL

(to Liev) Your highness, the musicians are finally tuned.  I think a dance will soon be in order.

 

He bows to Sasha.

 

PAVEL (CONT’D)

This must be her mysterious highness.

 

LIEV

It is.

 

SASHA

(playfully) And this must be the court’s clown.

 

LIEV

Close enough.  Pavel, the Princess Aleksandra, Sasha to her friends.

 

PAVEL

Your highness.  I shall do my best to be deserving of friendship, if you would but choose a card…

 

Sasha smiles slyly and does.  He seems to shuffle it back in.

 

PAVEL (CONT’D)

Who knows where it’s gone?

 

Sasha steps around him and steals her card from his sleeve.  Queen of hearts.   

 

PAVEL

Bested by a stranger!  Prince Liev, you’ll stand for that?

 

LIEV

I think I will and so will you.  Our new princess is well-studied, Pavel.

 

SASHA

My mother always said better knowledge breeds affection.

 

NIKOLAI (OS)

Or annoyance.

 

They all turn to him, startled.  

NIKOLAI

Pavel, it’s just past sundown.

 

PAVEL

And the watch is in place, father.  (to Sasha) Princess, if you’ll allow me, this is my father, Lord Nikolai, head of the nobles.

 

He beams for Nikolai’s frown.  

 

SASHA

Lord Nikolai, Liev wrote you’re a close friend of his family.

 

NIKOLAI

(startled) All my life.

 

He bows, still frowning.

 

NIKOLAI (CONT’D)

Princess, do you think people like having all their lives bared before a stranger?

 

LIEV

Nikolai…

 

SASHA

(insistent) I won’t be a stranger long, sir.  I studied the ways of Dolina for as long as my own.

 

NIKOLAI

Admirable.  And you’ve studied the palace?

 

SASHA

Milord?

 

A gesture at soil on her shoes, a distant sniff.

 

NIKOLAI

You’ve already been in the back garden and… the kitchens.  You’ve met our hearth-woman?

 

LIEV

Sonya wasn’t in when we went by.

 

He taps one foot and Nikolai glances down, then up.  

 

NIKOLAI

That only helps my observations easier, your highness.  Knowing your favorite venues, I can now guess you’ve been to at least the armory, the library, the galleries, and the stables.

 

Sasha secrets a bit of straw from her hair.

 

SASHA

(to Liev) You were right, milord, he really does know everything.

 

Nikolai starts at the compliment, recovers.

 

NIKOLAI

But I only mean to make a point, your highness: I don’t see any of these things with affection, and I mean that most respectfully.

 

PAVEL

Now, father…

 

NIKOLAI

I only can’t guess about those callouses on your fingertips.

 

As if a guess has occurred to him, he steps forward.  Sasha wrings her hands.

 

NIKOLAI (CONT’D)

(knowingly) What do you say, Liev?  Perhaps from needlepoint?

 

Sasha swallows, suddenly nervous.

 

SONYA (O.S.)

Your highness…

 

They all look.  Sonya stands, hollow-eyed, a few feet away.

 

SONYA (CONT’D)

(to Liev) He’s asking for you, your highness.  I’m sorry, but I think you should come right away.

 

They follow her out.

 

THE HIGHEST TOWER

The high tower, moments later.  The moon rises again with its knife.  The king sits half-reclined in shadow, sword in hand, waiting for it.  

The ring is missing from the table.

An ELDER (ND) leaves troubled.  Liev enters and hesitates as others follow and ring the room. Sonya gently prods him forward.  Sasha stands back with the Ilmenovs.  

Liev crosses the room.  He kneels between the dark bed and the light.

Note: Throughout, Sasha is troubled by Viktor’s behavior while others take it as granted.

 

LIEV

Father?

 

Viktor draws a deep breath.  His speech is slow, firm, but sometimes difficult.

 

VIKTOR

Liev. (A pause) I know you are young.  I married your mother so late.  (sigh) I am sorry to leave you so soon before your wedding, Liev.  Of course, I wish you the happiness I never had.

 

Liev flinches.  

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

I’m sorry I could never love your mother.  A king must make sacrifices for his kingdom.  Remember that.

 

LIEV

Yes, father.

 

VIKTOR

Liev, I hope you will never have to sacrifice as I have.  All I can think of in these last moments is the burden I must leave to you, the shadow of the Silent King.

 

Nervous glances in the crowd, but for Nikolai and Sonya, who watch.

 

VIKTOR 

His enchanted forest of Skomorokh broods at our peaceful doorstep, but do you know how the Silent King became our enemy?

 

LIEV

You’ve spoken so little of it…

 

VIKTOR

I will tell you enough now. (a sigh) I can remember it clearly, though it was decades ago.

 

He opens his fist.  The ring is there.  Weakly, he passes it to Liev, folding his son’s fingers around it.  He holds tight.

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

I have kept this all that time.  It is too precious to lose.  You see, there once were two of them….

 

The broken stone catches moonlight.

 

EXT.  MEADOW HAVEN.  DAY. [THE DREAM]

THE MEADOW

Pastels.  Vague faces.  Matching rings.  This time, a black cat sleeps near the harp.

 

VIKTOR (VO)

(wistful) I was young once, and in love, with Lady Irina, the loveliest harper in all Dolina. 

 

The gray creeps in at another’s approach, then red as swords are drawn.

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

(grieved) But, before we could wed, my ally, King Ivan of Tishina, came to us at Meadow Haven, and kidnapped her.  

 

The cat springs away.  A vague clashing of swords.  A forest grows from a meadow as a looming wall.  A young Viktor stumbles.

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

It was how I was wounded, fighting for her.  I couldn’t stop him.  His sorcery was too great…

 

The vision goes black.

 

INT.  DOLINA CASTLE.  NIGHT

THE HIGH TOWER

A rapt audience.  Sasha sees Sonya clutch her own wrist.  Why?  Their eyes meet.  

 

VIKTOR

It is he who created Skomorokh between our two castles.  Not a day goes by, when I do not curse his name.  

 

His grip tightens until the iron sword rattles.

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

Not one of my people could ever make it through Skomorokh for me.  Not one could do this for me.

 

Nikolai bows his head.  He shakes off Pavel’s concerned hand.

 

VIKTOR (CONT”D)

(shrewd) It will take more than writing letters to rub out a sorcerer, Liev.  He is not like other men.  He is not reasonable, not peaceful.  You cannot fight him with “diplomacy.”

 

Liev expression is a marble of shock, shame, and confusion.

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

He must know by now, how weak I have become.  He will attack Dolina after my death.  I can sense it.

 

Viktor pushes the sword into Liev other hand.  Startled, Liev takes it.  They hold it between them.

 

VIKTOR

Promise me you will not let him do it.  You are strong, Liev.  By now, he is weak.  You are my only hope.  You must do this for me.  And — (a painful pause) — if Irina still lives…

 

LIEV

I’ll do whatever I can.

 

VIKTOR

(intensely) Promise me.

 

LIEV

I won’t fail you father.

 

VIKTOR (CONT’D)

You are my son.  I know you will not fail me.

 

Nikolai bows his head.  Liev drops the sword and reaches for Viktor, who seizes his wrist.

 

VIKTOR

But promise me.

 

SASHA

(as a gasp) Liev…

 

She steps forward.  Sonya catches her arm, shakes her head.

 

LIEV

(in pain) Yes, father.  I promise.

 

Viktor stares at him, then shudders, falls back, and lies still.

 

LIEV (CONT’D)

Father!

 

He drops to his knees, clutching the blankets to weep.



 

Notes:

  1. (ND) If you have a CHARACTER who has no dialogue, the mention of the name should still be in caps.  This helps when listing out faces for casting.
  2. The assimilation into the Eastern Orthodox Church was mostly a political decision, with Moscow once being called “the third Rome.”  From what I understand of before that, the population’s religious practices were often heterogenous from one region to the next.
  3. Intriguingly enough, there seems to be similarities between the proto-Russian regard for ancestors and some Shinto practices of Japan.

Questions:

  1. I’m aware that a lot of my length is because I haven’t honed my brevity skills yet.  A page of text (8.5″ x 11″) should take about 1 minute to go through on camera.
  2. Believable? Inconceivable?
  3. Interesting? Yawn-inducing?
  4. Intriguing? Confusing?
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