Saturday, June 30, 2007

Script Frenzy: Excerpts a Go Go

Whee. Excerpt dump time!


Here's what I had up on my profile temporarily yesterday. But let's see if I can't get it properly formatted this time:

EXT. ERDANUS VALLEY - continuous

As the KNIGHT and LUKE reach their spot in the battle lines, a tall figure in elegantly etched armor and a great, flowing cape astride a giant warhorse is addressing the troops. The OLD KING, his long hair streaming behind him as he rides past and shouts encouragement. He tells them that this battle will be remembered through the ages. That Fresk will long count these men among their finest. That they will stand their ground and save the Kingdom here, on this ground, from the vile invaders from the West. Luke, by the side of the Knight's fierce charger, listens raptly. The King's voice is as golden as his hair. Almost musical as he spins his speech into the air. After a while, the words don't matter. Only his rich, commanding tone does. It bring certainty, surety that this battle will be won. He raises his arm in a flourish and the soldiers cheer as he continues. But his words fade away as a young woman's voice (Although we don't see her, it's the PRINCESS, his yet to be born niece.) begins to narrate over the scene of the Fresian army stretching up the hillsides.

PRINCESS

(v.o.)

On this mild, pleasant day in the height of summer, the forces of Gustavus Reius kahso Lionne, the rightful King, drew themselves up for battle on the gentle hills of the Erdanus Valley. The air was still and full of the scent of Oak and of the Cherry trees about to bloom.

The King had decided to make his stand. There, on those lush grass covered slopes.

The spring's thaw had brought with it invaders from across the desert wastes to the South.

Throughout the summer the defenders of the Kingdom of Fresk had fought indecisive battle after indecisive battle among the lowland flood plains. Sapping their strength and wounding their pride against the seemingly endless stream of invading troops. Steadily they were pushed back. Steadily they had lost ground as wave after wave of reinforcement poured across their borders.

Now, should this valley fall, the heart of Fresk would lay open to the invaders.

Should this battle be lost so, too, would the war.

And with it, the kingdom.



MONTAGE. THE CONTINENT AND THE GROWTH OF THE HUAN EMPIRE - cont.

A map shows the Huan empire, starting from the small, coastal city-state of Qhua, spreading and stretching across the continent. Overlaid with images of marching Huan soldiers marching. Of victory parades and burned out farms. Dead bodies sprawled on the ground. A forest of pikes moving towards the East. Towards Fresk. As the blood red borders of the Huan Empire reaches towards the coast, towards the Widdendahk Sea, it draws ever nearer to the small, isolated nation of Fresk. Dwared in size, the camera draws in on the looming border - now only miles from Erdanus Valley.

PRINCESS

(v.o.)

The invaders called themselve the Huan. They came from the far West. From distant lands with strange customs.

Through centuries of bloody warfare, already they'd carved an empire stretching from one end of the continent to the other. Each conquest, each nation which fell before them only swelling their treasury for the next war.

Now, they began to creep northward, ever closer to the idyllic country side. Fresk lay before them like a shining jewel ready to be added to their crown.



EXT. ERDANUS VALLEY - cont.

The rag tag peasant levies of the Fresian army run across the hills followed by the heavy cavalry. The sound of hoofbeats is like thunder as the ground roils and grass flies under their hooves. A solid wedge of horses stretches over the hills like a blanket of metallic ants. Banners of all sorts of colors and sizes snap crisply in the wind as the mounted knights trot forward at a brisk and determined pace. At their center, the Old King is surrounded by his Cavaliers, his heaviest, most elite cavalry dressed in ornate, crimson red armor embossed with gold leaf. Each mounted on a gleaming white steed. The King raises his sword arm, pointing the way forward, as the knights press forward. The charge is called. Pages, archers, and unmounted Men-at-Arms follow behind at a dead run, trying to keep up with the racing horses. In among their number is the odd robed figure, a wizard, each wrapped with their own unique blend of talismans, totems, and charms. As the trumpets blare, the army surges forward. Flowing down the valley and up the opposing hillside where the Huan army waits.

PRINCESS

(v.o.)

The Fresian soldiers were courageous. Men of valor and honor. Their knights were the cream of the land. Who'd stood watch over the land's defenses for centuries. Holding the borders against any and all threat. They were tested, trained, and hardened by the heat of combat from the earliest age. With their steel and their strength, they were determined to hold this line against the latest threat to their homeland.

Many of their number were eager, almost, to head into the fray. Much glory could be earned by those who fought well. Land and title awarded after a victory by a generous and grateful Lord. A brave man could make his fortune for generations to come. These Western invaders were nothing more than the latest challenge to Fresian pride.

The King had assembled his forces well. It was the largest army assembled since the time of legends. More Knights, more foot soldiers, more archers and more had answered the call to his banner than had ever been seen. They stretched across the land from horizon to horizon. Old arguments, old slights had been set aside to repel the outsiders.

And, unlike so many armies before them, they had fought the Huan to a standstill on other fields before. But always, the King's generals and advisors had urged him to pull back, to conserve his strength, to run and hide and chip away at the Huan's vast strength, before he could press his advantage home and end the threat.

No more.

This day would be the end of the war, one way or another. The King aimed his army like a dagger at the invading host and sounded the charge. The war bred chargers began to race across the hills towards their waiting enemy.

On the opposite side of the valley, the Huan army has lined up. A solid wall of pikemen, each dressed professionally in matching armor, their long spears waving gently in the wind, stand their ground as the drumbeat of hooves draws larger. Captains and officers stride amongst the troops, shouting orders. Beyond them, on a nearby cliffside, the MANDARIN - the Huan's general - sits in a sedan chair. Serenely, he watches the approaching army almost impassively, his long, flowing, finely tailored robes fluttering in the slight breeze. Three women in long robes, their faces covered by veils stand near him. As does the rest of the Huan's command staff. Below, the officers order the troops to hold their ground. To wait. To wait. Until finally, the order is given and they lower their pikes. Set to receive the charge, the wall of Fresian riders crashes into the rows of pikes. The battle is joined.

PRINCESS

(v.o.)

But the Fresians had never seen an enemy like the Huan.

They were not an army bolstered by peasants and farmers called to defend their homes and forged by the chains of noble pledges to serve.

They were a professional army.

One that had marched from one end of the continent to the other. Their boots had trampled over dusty sands and lush grass, an unstoppable force of inevitability. And Fresk was only the latest to stand against them.

The men who served the Emperor's throne had seen war before. They understood that there are setbacks in war. An opponent must be ground down by the millstones of time and steel.

A handful of bloody skirmishes, though costly against the unexpectedly resilient Fresians, hadn't changed that. They had been bloodied, shamed, but not intimidated.

They would not break.

They would not waver.

They would not bend.

Unable to break through the wall of pikes, the ranks of Fresian cavalry press in on them. Knights slash downward with broad strokes of their massive long swords as the Huan pikemen try to cut their horses out from under them. As the screams and shouts of battle rise to a fever pitch, horses rear up, tossing pikemen to the ground before crushing them with their metal clad hooves. Swords scrap along armor, pikes glance off of shield, bowstrings twang as arrows fill the sky, orders are shouted back and forth along the line. A Fresian knight is dismounted but, unfazzed, continues to hack away. Another is dragged from horseback by a group, crashing to his back in his heavy armor amongst a group of Huan who quickly stab him to death. The KNIGHT is in the thick of the fighting. With strong, quick sweeps of his sword he cuts down one opponent after another with one hand gathering up his horses reins. He screams encouragement at his fellow soldiers as the fighting continues.

Further behind the battle lines, a fierce melee has broken out as Huan skirmishers have descended on the Fresian footsoldiers. Armed with large, rectangular shields and lightweight curving swords, they're covered in light, loose mail and they've slipped past the Fresian flanks to threaten their rear. The Fresian unmounted knights and pages try to defend their archers who continue to launch volley after volley into the fray. LUKE is surrounded by the chaos of the fighting as bodies and weapons fly everywhere. Desperately blocking and parrying with the short sword, Luke is hard pressed just to stay alive. A wild slash and a Huan soldier goes down. Men are dying all around Luke. Luke's sword, Luke's clothes, Luke's face are splattered with blood. The fear at the pit of Luke's stomach wells as Luke's eyes grow larger. But Luke keeps swinging and blocking because there's nothing else to do but fight.

PRINCESS

(v.o.)

The mystic arts were not unknown to the Fresians.

A HEDGE WIZARD strides through the battle, in sandals, in measured, confident paces. His long, nappy beard streaming in the breeze, dressed in a ratty robe strewn with bits of herbs and leaves tied to it with coarse hemp string. He holds a long, gnarled staff over his head which is throwing lightning bolts in all directions. The earth explodes around his feet as the electricity grounds itself. Huan and Fresian soldiers alike are scattered as the beams of lightning slice through their ranks.

PRINCESS

(v.o.)

But the Huan had found new ways of harnessing it. Of controlling it.





That's the big prologue that sets up the movie. There's a bit before to introduce KNIGHT and LUKE – who goes on to become the SOLDIER of the main story which is set years later. But this is my big info-dump about where we are and what we're doing and so forth.


Here's what I'd like to put up but I'm not sure if it's in good enough taste:


Dawn has broken. MAGE is curled up behind a support beam. Safe in the long shadows still covering the floor. Her fingers grip tightly at her knees. Twitches and tics cross her face as she sleeps. Her dreams are troubled. SOLDIER is nearby on a pile of straw. Sprawling, she's half out of her clothing and slumbering heavily. The CAVALIER bursts through the door. Flooding the room with bright sunlight, he's fully dressed, his riding uniform hanging off his frame just right. His brass buttons polishedto a shine. He smiles broadly as he saunters into the room. His gregarious voice booming.

CAVALIER

C'mon, let's go. Rise with the morn. Why, when I was quelling the Heskhan Rebellion we'd roll out of bed at a moment's notice and stand at attention before we'd even opened our eyes. In fact, there was only one thing that could keep a good soldier abed.

(Claps a waking SOLDIER on her shoulder.)

Wipe the cunny off your face, lad, and let's be on with the day.



SOLDIER

I don't think I've ever been so tired before.



CAVALIER

That's the spirit, then. But, come there'll be time enough for loveplay when our work is done.



MAGE

Lass.



CAVALIER

Your pardon, lady mage?



MAGE

She's a lass, not a lad. And we weren't at... weren't at loveplay.



CAVALIER

(twirling his mustache between his gloved fingers.)

Is that so?


Yeah, I totally stole that line from Gangs of New York. But I can't help it. I've never understood those people who go “Oh, this character should be played by so and so.” Until I wrote the Cavalier. He's entirely Daniel Day-Louis as Bill the Butcher. Incredibly fun to write, too. Even though I was going more for a Baron M√ľnchhausen thing. But what can you do?


I'm totally going to put that up before long. But, for now, this is what's up at my profile page:


MAGE

You're a girl?!?

SOLDIER

Last I checked.

MAGE

You've been a woman this whole time?

SOLDIER

Pretty sure I always have been.

MAGE

But...but...but you're in love with me!

SOLDIER

Oh, so you've noticed?

MAGE

(Gapes.)

Don't be disgusting.

SOLDIER

Disgusting? You finally admit you're in love with me and I'm being disgusting?

MAGE

I never said that I love you.

SOLDIER

Oh, you never said it. But you don't have to. Not with me. It's alright, I know.

MAGE

You're in the military, for the king's sake. Don't they, you know, check these things?

SOLDIER

I'm a guard, m'lady, that's not the military.

MAGE

Do you dress in a uniform?

SOLDIER

Yes.

MAGE

Wave a big sword around?

SOLDIER

Uh, kind of.

MAGE

Kill people?

SOLDIER

Sometimes.

MAGE

Oh. What's the difference?

SOLDIER

A lot.

MAGE

Is it the pay?

SOLDIER

(Fixes her with a look.)

You're right, though, I did serve as a page in the Fresian army once.

MAGE

A page boy? And what, praytell, happened?

SOLDIER

Erdanus.

MAGE

Wait, you were at the Battle of Erdanus Valley?

SOLDIER

My leige lord had his horse cut out from under him. And...ah...and, well, after that I figured there wasn't much of a future in the army.

MAGE

You couldn't have been more than a small child.

SOLDIER

Old enough to lift a sword and strap down my master's grieves.

MAGE

But you were a girl!

SOLDIER

It's not like there's much of an entrance exam to become a page, you know.

MAGE

But you

(waves her hand around SOLDIER's face)

were a girl.

SOLDIER

I wanted to fight. I wanted to be a knight, to be a hero. Ran away from home. Cut my hair, found a spot in my liege's camp and that was all it took. Next thing you know, I had a job as a page and we were headed to war.

MAGE

No one...checked?

SOLDIER

I don't know what you think goes on around a war camp. But there's really not all that much reaching down the front of someone's pants to squeeze their goods.

MAGE

It's just surprising you weren't caught.

SOLDIER

Oh, I wasn't the only one. It's more common that you think.

MAGE

Really? I mean, alright, in stories, maybe.

SOLDIER

Sure, most women are content to stay home but there's really no rule against us picking up arms. It's just not done. But some noble girl wants to head off to war, nobody bats an eye. Some village twist wants to run after her beau what's joined up, as long as they can swing a sword, no one really cares. If you can fight, you can fight. I mean, you should see the Huan, they had these--

MAGE

What was that?



Always think it pays to have a bit of comedy to take the edge off the big moments. It's a bit of an extended play version here. But this is what comes immediately after what I like to call “The Big Reveal”. The revelation that the Soldier we've been following throughout the movie is a she. Not a he. It's the kind of crucial, important scene that I'm really not capable of writing. So I haven't yet. Maybe now you understand why the second half of my script is such a mess now.


One more quick one before I'm out:



SOLDIER

Oh hells, it's a Bladedancer.



MAGE

A what?



SOLDIER

Down!



Just so you don't think I always let the exposition fairies out to play.

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