EXT. A MOUNTAIN FOREST – NIGHT [ESTABLISHING]
Once upon a time, on a starless, moonless night…
A slope – a GIRL (13) runs, crashing through underbrush, staggering. In both arms, she clutches a straw doll with a round belly, the kind made by tying and shaping straw. She and the doll wear white.
Heavy footsteps stamp after her. Metal clinks and leather creaks. A greasy torch sputters.
She keeps running, at times just a gasping shadow in deeper dark, stumbling on roots, dashing briars aside, wincing.
The forest robes a sheer mountain with a bald, stony peak.
A bad trip, a tumble. She rolls down the hill.
Splash: The edge of a still small pond. She’s panting fearfully, checks herself, her doll: All in one piece. Staggering, she stands. Silver light gleams. She looks across the pond:
A reflection: A door in the mountainside, blocked with fallen rubble. Something shines from the lintel.
A fearful look back, a curious look forward: The girl tests the water: Shallow. Hugging the doll, she splash-sprints across, climbs the rocks.
The heavy feet still stomp in the forest.
At the silent pond, the girls sits on the rubble, out of breath, looks around.
She turns and traces the oval light source: a silver mirror. Her hands explore either side. Carved in stone: two serpents twining tails. She picks at moss: two more heads on each snake. More moss: Three…
Crash. She yelps, turns, stumbles to her feet. Stones shift underfoot.
Splash: The pursuers have arrived: Two SOLDIERS. One carries the torch, the other a spear. One foot in the water already, the torch soldier hurries forward.
She scrambles to her feet.
He grabs her hand, drags her back across the pond. She pulls, but his hand’s so big that it’s holding a twig.
GIRL / PRINCESS
Mother! Help, mother!
Enough of these games.
He tugs, tugs again, finally flings her forward at the other. He catches her shoulder.
You’ve made your father very worried, princess.
She clutches her doll, bows her head. The other soldier nudges her towards the underbrush. She doesn’t move. Again, she hunches her shoulders.
Let’s go home.
Dark eyes in an aged face blink worriedly through a wall of ferns.
The soldiers and princess leave the glade. The pond water’s still.
The light is gone.
EXT. STOLIST, KULIPA – CONTINUOUS [ESTABLISHING]
At the foot of the mountain stands a city that glistens with gold, hung with finery.
SUPER: STOLIST, KULIPA CAPITAL
In a high tower with large windows and fine draperies, a YOUNG WOMAN (20s) holds back the curtain to stare out. Her long braid is paler than blond. She’s a grave sort of lovely.
She watches the soldiers lead the girl from the forest, drops the curtain and storms away.
EXT. THE GREAT ROAD – DAY [ESTABLISHING]
SUPER: THE GREAT EAST ROAD, MERYA
A dusty road by dusty fenced fields. The wind blows. Dry soil whirls in a cloud.
A colorful (and dusty) camp is packing up. Now and then CHARATERS (ND )pass in wigs or makeup: It’s a Fools’ caravan.
A WOMAN (ND) packs up costumes and wooden masks, an elderly MAN (ND) feeds a small animal for a trick. Children play with straw dolls. Two PARENTS lead a TODDLER across a balance beam.
At the fence: PAVEL ILMENOV (24) watches the dust clouds grimly. He’s a friendly, beardless soldier in plainclothes, good-looking and quite aware of it.
He smiles when he turns round.
A tent: GALEN DOMONOV (29) squints in the bright light as he steps out. He’s a thin, serious man with moss-green eyes and not enough sun. He wears sagely looking blue robes with hems that catch bits of silver.
His black hair is long, but the sides are caught up in a crown with strange knots and twists, like it’s traditional.
He squints a moment more, spots Pavel, crosses the camp. At the fence, they watch the goings-on.
Note: Galen is not a morning person.
How d’you sleep?
Couldn’t they have gotten us separate tents?
I’ve known Matilda since I was a boy. We got what she could spare. I snore?
No. You hug.
Oops. I guess I toss a bit. Sorry. (a grin) You know you love me.
(dry) Do I?
It’s been three years. I’m fond of you too.
“Love” is a bit of a strong word…
I only mean, if a lion attacked the two of us on the road, you wouldn’t run and leave me for dead.
No. I’d say, “Pavel, look out, a lion,” then I’d run…
See, you do care.
Galen scoffs, but twitches a passing smile when he looks away.
Watching the parents, Pavel’s gone a bit sad.
We’re on our own at the next crossing.
I know. But how d’you sleep?
The gods aren’t talking to me.
I don’t need their assurance. I want yours.
The toddler makes the end of the beam. The father sweeps him into a congratulatory swing. Pavel breaks out in smiles again.
I think this is a mistake.
He leans on the fence, stares across the dry fields.
It’s more up your alley than mine.
Locked up princesses, shoes worn out overnight… If anything’s walking through walls or spiriting these girls away, my sword’s not going to cut it.
He’s not wearing his sword now.
But there’s water in Stolist.
That there is.
That’s all King Liev and the rest of the Three Kingdoms can worry about right now.
If this is up my… “alley…,” why did you come along?
If I have to attend one more diplomatic dinner party, I’m going to choke on my starched collar.
You have your father’s skill at it.
No, he wore a collar far better. (sigh) He never came out this far. He was born a thatcher in Ilmen.
I’ve got things covered if this king needs us to climb on any roofs or stab something ugly.
For all we know, both are possible.
He looks up at the vast, bare sky.
Anything but rain.
Images by Pixabay.
- If you’ve followed awhile, you probably know that I’m self-studying screenwriting and the formatting thereof. On the way, I’ve found that graphic novel scripts are, essentially, the same format. I’ve been getting comfortable using this “script” language when blogging, though I format a little differently to make it more readable on the web. Programs, like WritersDuet or FinalDraft are designed to make the final formatting process (all those indentations) easier.
- This time around, I’m adding two new features I’ve read about: SUPER and INSERT.
- “SUPER” is when text is superimposed on the screen. It’s not to be confused with a chyron.
- “INSERT” is when the writer wants to the camera/viewer to focus on something up-close. Since Spec scripts generally don’t include camera directions, this is especially helpful to give the director hints in a detective story. A similar writing device is “POV” (Point of View).
- Be on the lookout for more fun add-ins. Coming up we have “over,” “pre-lap,” and “L-cut,” so stay tuned!