8: The Harper’s Road

Just got here?  Here’s Chapter One.


 

INT.  DOLINA CASTLE.  NIGHT.

SASHA’S ROOMS

Darkness.  A key turns in a lock.  A chest lid creaks and the darkness breaks.  Sasha’s grave face appears as she reaches for her harp.

THE BACK GATE

Shadowed figures talk.

 

SASHA

(passing a letter) Go as far as Merya and my brother will welcome you.

 

PYOTR

I won’t forget this kindness, milady.

 

He departs.

THE WORKSHOP

Sasha enters quietly, dressed in the harper’s cleaned clothes, her hair all capped, and carrying her harp and a pack.  She hurries to the dresser (the mirror’s still veiled), opens drawers:  

Recipes, blank sheet music, nothing she’s looking for…

 

SONYA (O.S.)

Nikolai will know you in a heartbeat, your highness.

 

Sasha jumps and looks to the hearth.  Sonya’s bundling herbs.

 

SASHA

(recovering) I know.

 

She pulls off the cap and lifts the mirror’s veil, frowns at her reflection.

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

I’m going to ransom Liev.

 

SONYA

(joining her) You understand the danger?

 

Sasha swallows nervously.

 

SONYA

What it would mean is something happened to you…

 

SASHA

I know I can’t go as myself, or a princess… or a woman.

 

She drops the veil.  Sonya sighs.

SONYA

So you need my help?

 

EXT.  DOLINA CASTLE.  NIGHT.

THE BACK GARDEN

In shadow, Sonya and Sasha slip from the workshop.

THE GARDEN GATE

At a fountain, Sasha examines the Stone of Veles. Sonya packs the music.

 

SASHA

How does it work?

 

SONYA

You’re certain you want to?

 

SASHA

Yes.

 

SONYA

You put it on.  You cross this threshold — (snatching her arm) — wait, wait.  There are conditions.

 

SASHA

Because of Veles?

 

SONYA

Because of magic.

 

SASHA

What do you mean?

 

SONYA

You can only change here at this gate and only with the Stone.  And until you return, you must never reveal who you are.

 

SASHA

Would that break the spell?

 

SONYA

It would make the change permanent.

 

A flicker of light catches in the Stone’s surface.

 

SASHA

Such a high price…

 

SONYA

The gods will not be mocked.  A mortal cannot wear two faces.

 

Sasha considers this.

 

SASHA

So be it.

 

She puts on the Stone, adjusts her cap.

 

SONYA

And you’re certain?

 

A light in a window.  They duck into shadows.

 

SASHA

(whisper) Yes.

 

The light passes.

 

SONYA

Even so, you’ll have to leave your name behind.

 

SASHA

What did you go by?

 

SONYA

I went by “Siny.”

 

SASHA

Siny?

 

A glance into a fountain.

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

I guess I could get used to it…

 

SONYA

You’ll have to get used to more than that.

 

SASHA

(naive) I have a brother, Sonya…

 

SONYA

(not) There’ll be a couple of surprises.  Just try back and forth once and see.

 

Sasha eyes the threshold. 

 

SONYA (CONT’D)

Best to do it the first time with a jump.

 

Sonya eyes the windows as Sasha jumps.  Behind her we see the glow of red stones and hear the ping.

 

SASHA (O.S.)

(tenor) Yah!

 

Ping.

Sonya turns.  Sasha’s back across the threshold, looking embarrassed.

 

SONYA

It will take some getting used to.  Now, you are certain?

 

SASHA

(rallying) You keep asking.

 

SONYA

Sasha, this Stone will protect you in some ways, but it’s a big risk.

 

SASHA

I’m certain.

 

SONYA

Then Veles be with you.

 

A beat.

Sasha slips over the threshold.   At the ping, Sonya hurries after her.

Sasha stands hunched, beardless, boyish, and shivering, checking what’s there and what’s not.

Note: from now on, her voice will be a tenor.

 

SASHA

(tenor) Of course, I’ll have to…

 

She coughs, touches her throat in surprise.  

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

I’ll have to get use to one or two… things.

 

SONYA

You will still be yourself, other than the obvious.

 

SASHA

What if someone knows it’s me?

 

A step, stagger, correction…

 

SONYA

I don’t know.  Keep the stone hidden whenever possible.

 

SASHA

Thank you, Sonya.

 

SONYA

I’ll tell everyone you’re not feeling well, give you a head start at least.  Watch your words and mind your manners.

 

SASHA

I will.  Farewell.

 

Sasha pulls awkwardly at her own skin, then turns and hurries away, leaving Sonya alone.

 

SONYA

(to herself) My hope can be so selfish.

 


This Weeks Notes:

  • Sorry it’s short this week.  Since this is the midpoint I’m taking a one-week break to work on the next part.  In theory, the next post will be up on August 2nd.
  • Fun Name Facts: The name “Siny” is from Old Greek, rather than Russian, though it’s considered a Russian name by the online dictionaries I’ve looked at.  Some say it means “stranger” and others that it’s a derivative of “Cynthia,” which alludes to Artemis, who among other things was the protector of young girls.  I chose it because it begins with an “S” as “Sasha” does and can be a boy or girl’s name in this form.
  • Close second in the name bank was “Micha,” the shortening of “Mikhail,” which means “Who is like the L-rd.”  By reason of the shortening technically “Micha” could mean, “Who’s like?” which would be a fun running gag.
  • Fun Adaptation Facts:  In the original story (spoilers in the link), the queen simply disguises herself as a harper and goes on her journey.  Her husband, due to partial blindness or manwashing, doesn’t recognize her in men’s clothes.  Great premise for a fairy tale in a book, but it doesn’t really work on screen without feeling contrived or like everyone has astigmatism.
  • Fun Language Fact:  In Russian, certain words are gender specific.  For example, a woman and man can both say “I’m happy,” but they’ll end the adjective with a different ending (w = ya schastliva, m = ya schastliv).  Sonya’s admonition that Sasha “Watch her words,” is my small nod to that and, if I can dream, any language this is ever translated into that does the same thing.

Questions for This Week:

  • This is the midpoint.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t.
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One comment on “8: The Harper’s Road

  1. RJ Eddystone says:

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