Just got here? Here’s Chapter One.
Update: 9 Aug 2018 – This scene’s been heavily altered to reflect the new themes, character arcs, and accentuate the teacher-student dynamics introduced earlier.
INT. DOLINA CASTLE – NIGHT.
THE BACK GATE
Shadowed figures talk.
(passing a letter) Lana’s caravan leaves at dawn. Don’t be seen. My brother will welcome you.
I won’t forget this kindness, milady.
THE WORKSHOP – SOON AFTER
Sasha enters quietly, dressed in her disguise, 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…
You need something?
Sasha jumps and looks to the hearth. Sonya folds her arms.
Sasha pulls off the cap and lifts the mirror’s veil, frowns at her reflection.
(recovering) Sonya… I’m going to ransom Liev.
Word’s already gone out against all harpers. No one’s to risk Skomorokh.
Sasha swallows nervously, lifts the mirror’s veil.
As yourself, I hope.
Harpers in Dolina used to disappear, but only the women.
Sasha, remember what I said about stories…
I’m the only one who can do this. You said I have the gift.
She drops the veil. Sonya sighs.
You do. (a beat) All right.
Sonya pulls the red Stone from under her collar. Sasha faces the mirror.
(joining her) Against my better judgment.
Sasha puts the stone on, braces herself.
(whispered Russian, no subtitles) <Slepym ti rodilsya i bud’ slepyum>
Sasha frowns at the mirror, lifts the veil:
THE MIRROR: A young man’s staring back at Sasha with her eyes.
The real Sasha’s still herself though.
THE MIRROR: The man touches his hair, peach fuzz, flat chest.
How…? Is this real?
From now on, you are under the protection of Veles.
But no mortal can wear two faces.
What do you mean?
It’s about truth, Sasha. And lies.
Sasha looks puzzled.
Tell anyone who you are, and the spell becomes permanent. Do you understand?
A flicker of light catches in the Stone’s surface.
The gods will not be mocked.
Sasha checks her reflection again.
I know who I am, and so do they.
EXT. DOLINA PALACE – NIGHT.
THE GARDEN GATE
At a fountain, Sasha still examines her reflection. Sonya packs the music.
This gate — and only this gate — will undo the enchantment on the way back. I’ll be sure to leave it open for you.
What was something like this doing in the palace?
The Kings of Dolina used to walk closer to the gods.
A light in a window. They duck into shadows.
(a whisper) Now only the Folk are trusted with their secrets. Keep that out of sight.
The light passes; they step out. Sasha tucks the Stone away, adjusts her cap.
I guess I’ll need a new name.
I went by “Siny,” myself.
It means ‘stranger’ in the Folk’s old tongue, a password from less friendly times.
I guess I could get used to it…
You’ll have to get used to more than that.
She ahems and taps her throat.
(tenor) Is this better?
Note: Hereafter, Sasha will speak in a tenor unless otherwise noted.
Then I’m ready.
Sonya hands her the pack, holds back a strap.
Sasha, it would be better if you did this as yourself.
It’s too dangerous, and Lord Nikolai will be looking for me.
I’ll try to buy you time, tell them you’re sick.
Sonya still hesitates.
I will tell Liev after. I promise.
a worried beat.
Then Veles be with you.
She releases the strap.
Watch your words and mind your manners.
Note: From now on, unless otherwise stated, Sasha will appear male (but be referred to in text as she).
I will. Farewell. And thank you.
Sasha pats her face, scratches a bit, then turns and crosses through the garden gate.
She hurries away, leaving Sonya alone.
God of souls… does tyranny make liars of us all?
This Weeks Notes:
- Update: 9 Aug 2018 – Portraying magical gender swaps!
- The change from physical to visual change was made on the suggestion from a friend regarding the concept of “feeling” like female while being viewed as male from the outside, and the sense of dysphoria that results.
- Sasha’s arc in this redraft is more paralleled to Viktor’s in terms of stories vs. lies. Originally I had her clashing more with Nikolai, and so there were mroe confrontations to that effect, some of which I’ve given to Sonya.
- I’ll say no more here for the sake of first-time-readers, but those who’ve been through once probably already understand the parallels.
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.