10: The Harper and the Sorcerer

Not sure what’s happening?  Here’s Chapter One.


EXT.  SKOMOROKH.  NIGHT.

FOREST INTERIOR

Startling quiet.

Sasha looks around.  Moonlight cuts the dark like bright needles sewing velvet.

 

SASHA

I’m here.

 

A few blue flowers open.  She sets out down…

A PATH

Sasha fumbles in the dark, at times on hands and knees, up…

A HOLLOWS, A SLOPE

Now and then, sifting sounds.  At times, distant lights from…

A COPSE, A SMALL GLADE

Rustling.  Sasha looks back.  A darker shadows slips between trees behind her.  She presses on to…

A BEND BY WILLOWS

She trips on the roots.  A rattle of thorns, and something small and white gleams in a ditch:  She plucks it from a thorn: the Ace of Hearts.

 

SASHA

(whisper) Pavel?

 

Rustling again.  She bristles.

 

SASHA

All right, if you want a harper to help Lady Irina, you can stop being so shifty about it!

 

A lantern light springs up in a tree.  Sasha yelps at the sight of a wolf’s mask.  

A dozen more wild beasts appear all around — masks.  Sasha cowers back, but voices laugh, all mischief.  It’s Gleb and his Glumy Men — though not all are men.

 

GLEB

You’ve missed the news, harper.  Our people are at war with a dead man.

 

The lights wink out and on, and the masks have all changed places.

 

SASHA

I might be on your side then.

 

GLEB

But who are you?

 

Sasha hesitates.  A woman, KATIYA, 18, calls from another tree.

 

KATIYA

He doesn’t know, Gleb!

 

They all laugh as Gleb drops from the tree.

 

SASHA

Are you thieves?  I have no gold.

 

More laughter.  The masks change again and again as the TROUPE speaks.

 

GLEB

We can mock thieves if you like…

 

TROUPE #1

…or scoundrels even…

 

KATIYA

…or damsels…

 

TROUPE #2

…or heroes…

 

TROUPE #3

…or beasts…

 

GLEB

…so long as it gets a laugh.

 

SASHA

(realizing) You mean that you’re clowns?

 

Patronizing applause.

 

GLEB

Clowns, tumblers, actors.  Very good, harper.  I’m called Gleb, and these are my Glumy men…

 

KATIYA

And maid.

 

GLEB

…and maid, while she is ours.

 

Teasing whistles.

 

GLEB

We are whatever will entertain, but what else might you be, harper?

 

SASHA

(seeking faces) I’m… what’s it matter?

 

KATIYA

Even an actor knows who he is once a day…

 

Laughter.

 

GLEB

We’ll let Galen decide.

 

SASHA

Wait, who?

 

GLEB

Lights off and let’s be off!

 

The lights go out.

 

CURVING PATHS

Whoops and hollers in the dark as Gleb and his men herd Sasha blindly through the wood and into…

THE GLUMY CAMP

Starlit:  A clearing, surrounded by tents and tree fortresses.  It seems empty, but for a bonfire pit with wood, unlit.

The disembodied laughter fades as Sasha staggers to a stop.

 

SASHA

Hello?  Gleb?

 

Nearby, a painful gasp.  Sasha looks.  By the firewood, a man lies on a pallet, shivering in his sleep.  She approaches cautiously, sees

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

Pavel?  My goodness… Pavel!

 

He tosses, sweating in his sleep.  She checks for fever, sees strange purple marks.

A pulse of red.  She pulls out the Stone, looks at it.

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

(softly) I don’t understand, what do you want me to do?

 

Galen’s behind her.

 

GALEN

You know this man, harper?

 

Standing she turns, holding the Stone.  Its light dims.

 

SASHA

(warily) Who are you, sir?

 

GALEN

You’re in my forest; I could ask you the same question.

 

SASHA

I’m called Siny, sir.

 

GALEN

And sometimes, I’m called “sorcerer,” but that’s only a word — at the moment.

 

SASHA

Are you the man who keeps this forest for the Silent King?

 

GALEN

(puzzled) That is not the rumor in Dolina.

 

SASHA

Another harper told me of you.

 

Galen hopes, checks it.

 

GALEN

He told you we have your king then?

 

SASHA

That’s why I’m here.

 

Mutual suspicion.

 

GALEN

But who sent you?

 

Sasha swallows a little.

 

GALEN (CONT’D)

(warning) I’ve dealt with liars from Dolina before…

 

SASHA

I’m not lying.

 

GALEN

Your kingdom declares war on us, then sends a harper.  Do you expect me to believe…?

 

SASHA

No one sent me but myself.

 

They study each other again.

 

SASHA

How old are you?

 

GALEN

Much older, and stronger, than the last time Dolina invaded.

 

The forest rattles ominously with thorns.

 

SASHA

(remembering) But the last time King Viktor was here was thirty years ago.

 

GALEN

I remember.

 

Galen holds up his tattooed arm.

 

GALEN (CONT’D)

It’s quite impossible to forget the day my father was murdered.

 

Sasha’s stunned again.

 

GALEN (CONT’D)

He passed the forest onto me just before Viktor stabbed him in the back.  I won’t be fooled again.

 

SASHA

You must have been only a child.

 

GALEN

“Sorcerer” is now more than a word, isn’t it?

 

Sasha is angry, then pities him.

SASHA

I promise, I’m here to help.

 

GALEN

I could turn you to ash in an instant if you’re lying.

 

SASHA

But you don’t want to.  (a beat) Otherwise you would have attacked Dolina long ago.

 

Galen is startled, then bitter.  He composes himself.  At a gesture, the fire leaps up.  Sasha gasps as she sees Pavel’s wounds more clearly.

 

GALEN

A test is in order then.

 

SASHA

What have you done to him?

 

Thorns by the glade clatter.

 

GALEN

I’ve done nothing.  The poor fool fell into a nest of snake nettles, one of the curses my father sewed into this forest.

 

Sasha winces as she studies the swollen wounds.

 

GALEN (CONT’D)

It took Gleb almost a week to find him for me, greedy things.

 

SASHA

You could have brought him back to Dolina…

 

GALEN

(coldly) Why?  Only two things can undo curses:  A god or the sorcerer’s kin.

 

SASHA

So you want me to cure him?

 

GALEN

If you know the song to lift my lady’s curse, you can lift this one.

 

She holds the Stone again.

 

SASHA

Does this have something to do with Veles?

 

GALEN

A soul hangs in the balance.  I would think that’s obvious.

 

He turns away.

 

GALEN (CONT’D)

Your question gives me little reason to trust you.

 

SASHA

I can do it.  How will I find you?

 

GALEN

I’ll still be watching.

 

He vanishes.

 

SASHA

Wait!

 

The fire snaps.

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

Were you just going to let him die?  Your mother would be ashamed of you!

 

PAVEL

(feverish) Who are you?

 

Sasha hurriedly kneels, unwraps her harp.

 

SASHA

A friend.

 

She calms herself.  She tunes a moment and he squints, confused.

 

SASHA (CONT’D)

It’ll be all right.  Just hold on.



Notes of the Week:

  1. As creepy as the word “Skomorokh” sounds, it actually refers to a band of Russian clowns, as does the term “Glumy men,” who were similar to jesters.  They tended to be anti-institutional or at the very least satirical, considering themselves outside the law.
  2. The idea that only a “fool” would enter Skomorokh is a pun on this idea.  Gleb and his clowns favor Ivan, but will happily help anyone, granted, only after giving them a hard time.
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