For a long time I've wanted to see a big screen or dramatic version of E R Eddison's novel, and have decided to begin work on it myself. This blog post marks my first 'sally'. In adapting the work I'm fully aware that its archaism and style mitigate against it ever being a film, nevertheless if they can not be retained in the greatest possible degree, to my mind the essential 'difference' of the film would be lost. In its inception then this screenplay will retain as much of the original as possible.
I have therefore resisted so far the temptation to rename E R Eddison's fabulous countries even though the effect of the country of the heros being 'Demonland' is almost certain to prevent any American fim-maker being interested. I would welcome comments on this project, it being a more serious writing project than much of this site: but if its just (a) 'I can't stand this fantasy stuff' or (b) 'drop the archaism' then, this isn't for you and I'm not going to. That said suggestions on whether certain archaisms work or not, or if the pacing works, and about the format layout of screenplays and so on would be great.
Nuff said:- and now the curtain rises:
THE WORM OUROBUROS
By Simon Bucher-Jones
Based on the novel by
E R Eddison
EXTERIOR SHOT, THE CASTLE OF LORD JUSS, DAWN IS IN THE EAST.
WINDING TO THE CASTLE FROM THE HARBOUR, WHERE SHIPS (GALLEONS) CAN BE SEEN, UP THE ROAD THAT CLIMBS THE HILLSIDE IS A PARTY SEEN BY THE EARLY LIGHT.
THE CAMERA MOVES PAST THEM (THEY BEAR BANNERS WROTE WITH THE GREEN CRAB SIGIL OF WITCHLAND), IT PASSES ‘THROUGH’ THE MASSIVE TIMBERS OF A BOLTED GATE THICKLY RIVETED WITH SLIVER AND THROUGH A COURTYARD INTO A LOFTY PRECENCE CHAMBER.
INTERIOR SHOT, PRESENCE CHAMBER. LIT BY SEVEN GREAT LAMPS.
THE CHAMBER IS SET FOR A GREAT BANQUET. ITS WALLS ARE MARBLE SET WITH RUBIES AND OTHER GEMS. SERVANTS LAY FINISHING TOUCHES TO THE FEAST ON THE GREAT OAK TABLE. AT THE HEAD OF THE ROOM IS A DAIS WITH THREE GREAT THRONES EACH HAVING THE FORM OF A HIPPOGRYPH.
LESSER LORDS & LADIES OF DEMONLAND ENTER AND TAKE PLACES AT TABLE
Oboes sound a second time
HERALD: My Lord Volle, who dwelleth under Kartadza, by the salt sea. A great sea-captain that did service to our cause, and of the whole world besides, in the late wars against the Ghouls. Honour to him.
LORD VOLLE TAKES HIS PLACE
HERALD: Lord Zigg, the far-famed tamer of horses. Well loved is he among us, for he is merry of mood, and a mighty man of his hands withal when he leadeth his horsemen against the enemy. Honour to him.
LORD ZIGG TAKES HIS PLACE PAUSING TO SHARE A JEST WITH VOLLE.
HERALD: Lord Brandoch Daha, to whom all west of Shalgreth and Stropardon oweth allegiance: the rich vineyards of Krothering, the broad pasture lands of Failze, and all the western islands and their cragbound fastnesses. Slayer in single combat of Gorice X. of Witchland when the Witches harried in Goblinland nine years since. Honour to him.
LORD BRANDOCH DAHA TAKES HIS PLACE, AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLES BUT BELOW THE HIPPOGRYPH THRONES.
HERALD: Lord Juss, lord of this age-remembering castle, than whom none hath more worship in wide Demonland. [to be moved to the mouth of Gorice XI later, and used ironically by him: 'Somewhat he knoweth of art magical, yet useth not that art; for it sappeth the life and strength, nor is it held worthy that a Demon should put trust in that art, but rather in his own might and main'.] Honour be his on this his natal feast.
LORD JUSS SITS IN THE CENTRAL THRONE.
HERALD: Lord Spitfire, impetuous in war.
LORD SPITFIRE SITS OF THE LEFTHAND THRONE
HERALD: The Lord Goldry Bluszco, captain of the hosts of Demonland.
ALL DRINK, LUTES STRIKE UP, A PAVANE IS DANCED FOR A BRIEF SPACE.
A Trumpet sounds three times
SPITFIRE: What kill-joy have we here? The trumpet soundeth only for travellers from the outlands. I feel it in my bones some rascal is come to Galing, one that bringeth ill hap in his pocket and a shadow athwart the sun on this our day of festival.
JUSS: Speak no word of ill omen. Whosoe'er it be, we will straight dispatch his business and so fall to pleasure indeed."
SERVING MAN, ENTERING:
Lord, it is an Ambassador from Witchland and his train. Their ship made land at Lookinghaven-ness at nightfall. They slept on board, and came to Galing at break of day. He craveth present audience.
JUSS: From Witchland, ha? Such smokes use ever to go before the fire.
SPITFIRE: Shall's bid the fellow, wait on our pleasure? It is pity such should poison our gladness.
GOLDRY: Whom hath he sent us? Laxus, think you? to make his peace with us again for that vile part of his practised against us off Kartadza, detestably falsifying his word he had given us?"
JUSS (to SERVING MAN) Thou sawest the Ambassador. Who is he?
SERVING MAN: Lord, his face was strange to me. He is little of stature and, by your highness' leave, the most unlike to a great lord of Witchland that ever I saw. And, for all the marvellous rich and sumptuous coat a weareth, he is very like a false jewel in a rich casing.
JUSS: Well, a sour draught sweetens not in the waiting. Call we in the Ambassador.
ENTER THE AMBASSADOR, FLANKED BY SOLDIERS OF WITCHLAND, IN ARMOUR MARKED WITH THE SIGN OF THE CRAB. The Ambassador is a nervous ill-favoured dwarf of a man, in ill fitting robes.
AMBASSADOR: Juss, Goldry, and Spitfire, and ye other Demons, I come before you as the Ambassador of Gorice XI., most glorious King of Witchland, Lord and great Duke of Buteny and Estremerine, Commander of Shulan, Thramnë, Mingos, and Permio, and High Warden of the Esamocian Marches, Great Duke of Trace, King Paramount of Beshtria and Nevria and Prince of Ar, Great Lord over the country of Ojedia, Maltraëny, and of Baltary and Toribia, and Lord of many other countries, most glorious and most great, whose power and glory is over all the world and whose name shall endure for all generations. And first I bid you be bound by that reverence for my sacred office of envoy from the King, which is accorded by all people and potentates, save such as be utterly barbarous, to ambassadors and envoys."
JUSS: Speak and fear not. Thou hast mine oath. And that hath never been forsworn, to Witch or other barbarian."
AMBASSADOR [The Ambassador shot out his lips in an O, and threatened with his head; then grinned, laying bare his sharp and misshapen teeth, and proceeded]:
Thus saith King Gorice, great and glorious, and he chargeth me to deliver it to you, neither adding any word nor taking away: 'I have it in mind that no ceremony of homage or fealty hath been performed before me by the dwellers in my province of Demonland----
UPROAR IN THE COURT, AT THIS AFFRONT.
SPITFIRE, [hand on sword] Province? Are not the Demons a free people? And is it to be endured that Witchland should commission this slave to cast insults in our teeth, and this in our own castle?
BRANOCH DADA : The Ambassador hath not ended his message, cousin, and thou hast frightened him. Have patience and spoil not the comedy. We shall not lack words to answer King Gorice: no, nor swords, if he must have them. But it shall not be said of us of Demonland that it needeth but a boorish message to turn us from our ancient courtesy toward ambassadors and heralds.
SPITFIRE: I am tame. Say thine errand freely, and imagine not that we shall hold thee answerable for aught thou sayest, but him that sent thee.
AMBASSADOR: Whose humble mouthpiece I only am, and who, saving your reverence, lacketh not the will nor the power to take revenge for any outrage done upon his servants. Thus saith the King: 'I therefore summon and command you, Juss, Spitfire, and Goldry Bluszco, to make haste and come to me in Witchland in my fortress of Carcë, and there dutifully kiss my toe, in witness before all the world that I am your Lord and King, and rightful overlord of all Demonland.
JUSS (Gravely) Thou hast delivered all?
JUSS: Thou shalt have thine answer. While we take rede thereon, eat and drink. [Offers cup from side]
AMBASSADOR : I thank your Lordship, but I am not athirst, and have store of food and wine aboard of my ship, which should suffice my needs and those of my following.
SPITFIRE: No marvel though the spawn of Witchland fear venom in the cup. They who work commonly such villany against their enemies, as witness Recedor of Goblinland whom Corsus murthered with a poisonous draught, shake still in the knees lest themselves be so entertained to their destruction.
[Snatches cup and drinking the wine, dashed it on the marble floor before the Ambassador, so that it was shivered into pieces.]
LORDS withdraw to consider.
SCENE TWO: INTERIOR A PRIVATE ROOM OF THE CASTLE LIT BY DAWN THROUGH OUTER WINDOWS.
SPITFIRE: Is it to be borne that the King should put such shame and mockery upon us? Could a not at the least have made a son of Corund or of Corsus his Ambassador to bring us his defiance, 'stead of this filthiest of his domestics?
JUSS : With wisdom and with foresight hath Witchland made choice of his time to move against us, knowing that thirty and three of our well-built ships are sunken in Kartadza Sound in the battle with the Ghouls, and but fourteen remain to us. Now that the Ghouls are slain, every soul, and utterly abolished from this world, and so the great curse and peril ended by the sword and great valour of Demonland alone, now seemeth the happy moment unto these late mouth-friends to fall upon us. For have not the Witches a strong fleet of ships, since their whole fleet fled at the beginning of their fight with us against the Ghouls, leaving us to bear the burden? And now are they minded for this new treason, to set upon us traitorously and suddenly in this disadvantage. For the King well judgeth we can carry no army to Witchland nor do aught in his despite, but must be long months a-shipbuilding. And doubt not he holdeth an armament ready aboard at Tenemos to sail hither if he get the answer he knoweth we shall send him."
GOLDRY: Sit we at ease then, sharpening our swords; and let him ship his armies across the salt sea. Not a Witch shall land in Demonland but shall leave here his blood and bones to make fat our cornfields and our vineyards.
SPITFIRE: Rather, apprehend this rascal, and put to sea to-day with the fourteen ships left us. We can surprise Witchland in his strong place of Carcë, sack it, and give him to the crows to peck at, or ever he is well awake to the swiftness of our answer. That is my counsel.
JUSS: Nay. We shall not take him sleeping. Be certain that his ships are ready and watching in the Witchland seas, prepared against any rash onset. It were folly to set our neck in the noose; and little glory to Demonland to await his coming. This, then, is my rede: I will bid Gorice to the duello, and make offer to him to let lie on the fortune thereof the decision of this quarrel.
GOLDRY: A good rede, if it might be fulfilled, But never will he dare to stand with weapons in single combat 'gainst thee or 'gainst any of us. Nevertheless the thing shall be brought about. Is not Gorice a mighty wrastler, and hath he not in his palace in Carcë the skulls and bones of ninety and nine great champions whom he hath vanquished and slain in that exercise? Puffed up beyond measure is he in his own conceit, and folk say it is a grief to him that none hath been found this long while that durst wrastle with him, and wofully he pineth for the hundredth. He shall wrastle a fall with me!
JUSS: So be it.
SCENE FOUR: THE AUDIENCE CHAMBER
The LORDS re-enter.
JUSS: Ye have heard the words which the King of Witchland in the Overweening pride and shamelessness of his heart hath spoken unto us by the mouth of this Ambassador. Now this is our answer which my brother shall give, the Lord Goldry Bluszco; and we charge thee, O Ambassador, to deliver it truly, neither adding any word nor taking away.
GOLDRY: We, the lords of Demonland, do utterly scorn thee, Gorice XI., for the greatest of dastards, in that thou basely fleddest and forsookest us, thy sworn confederates, in the sea battle against the Ghouls. Our swords, which in that battle ended so great a curse and peril to all this world, are not bent nor broken. They shall be sheathed in the bowels of thee and thy minions, Corsus to wit, and Corund, and their sons, and Corinius, and what other evildoers harbour in waterish Witchland, sooner than one little sea-pink growing on the cliffs of Demonland shall do thee obeisance. But, that thou mayest, if so thou wilt, feel our power somewhat, I, Lord Goldry Bluszco, make thee this offer: that thou and I do match ourselves singly each against other to wrastle three falls at the court of the Red Foliot, who inclineth neither to our side nor to thine in this quarrel. And we will bind ourselves by mighty oaths to these conditions, that if I overcome thee, the Demons shall leave you of Witchland in peace, and ye them, and the Witches shall forswear for ever their impudent claims on Demonland. But if thou, Gorice, win the day, then hast thou the glory of that victory, and withal full liberty to thrust thy claims upon us with the sword.
AMBASSADOR (cowed, but with defiance): Rashly and to thy certain undoing, O Goldry Bluszco, hast thou bidden our Lord the King to contend with thee in wrastling. For be thou never so mighty of limb, yet hath he overthrown as mighty. And he wrastleth not for sport, but will surely work thy life's decay, and keep the dead bones of thee with the bones of the ninety and nine champions whom he hath heretofore laid low in that exercise.
AMBASSADOR AND TRAIN DEPART.
[Here ends the first part of the screenplay, which covers chapter 1 of the novel.]