I find that the copyright in the Worm Ouroburos doesn't expire until 2015, (even though the text of the book is freely available online)I therefore affirm that I am not attempting to breach copyright here, and that my copyright in this version consists of the abridgement and conversion to screen play form and that no attempt will be made to use this work commercially without either a) agreement of the copyright holders or b) its lapse in 2015.
I'm finding the challenge of turning this work into dramatic form interesting. Those familiar with the book will see I have already elided the elements linking this work to the later trilogy, and removed the sequences in the Red Foliot's palace that are to THE WORM OUROBUROS what Tom Bombadill is to THE LORD OF THE RINGS. When I have finished draft 1, I will also - it is clear - need to rework the whole screenplay for length, pacing, and clarity. It is possible that it may be better to remove the whole of part 1 previously posted and begin with the Wrastling. For now though: enjoy part II of The Worm Ouroburos:-
SCENE FIVE: THE WRASTLING GROUND APPOINTED, OUTSIDE THE BOOTHS AND TENTS OF THE HOSTS OF WITCHLAND. CORUND A|ND HIS FIVE SONS, DICING OUTWITH THE BOOTHS. NOON.
CORUND: (to one of his sons) Go in and seek out Gro that I may speak with him. (to GRO on his arrival) How is it with the King?
GRO: He chafeth to be at it; and to pass away the time he playeth at dice with Corinius, and the luck goeth against the King."
CORUND: What makest thou of that?
GRO: The fortune of the dice jumpeth not commonly with the fortune of war.
CORUND: Darken not counsel,to me and my sons. Have I not these four years past been as a brother unto thee, and wilt thou still be secret toward us?"
GRO: Why should we by words of ill omen strike yet another blow where the tree tottereth?
CORUND: (groans) Omens, increase upon us from that time forth when the King accepted the challenge, evilly, and flatly against thy counsel and mine and the counsel of all the great ones in the land. Surely the Gods have made him fey, having ordained his destruction and our humbling before these Demons. Omens thicken upon us, O Gro. First, the night raven that went widdershins round about the palace of Carcë, that night when the King accepted this challenge, and we were all drunken with wine after our great feasting and surfeiting in his halls. Next, the stumbling of the King whenas he went upon the poop of the long ship which bare us on this voyage to these islands. Next, the squint-eyed cup-bearer that poured out unto us yesternight. And throughout, the devilish pride and bragging humour of the King. No more: he is fey. And the dice fall against him.
GRO: O Corund, I will not hide it from thee that my heart is heavy as thy heart under shadow of ill to be. For as I lay sleeping betwixt the strokes of night, a dream of the night stood by my bed and beheld me with a glance so fell that I was all adread and quaking with fear. And it seemed to me that the dream smote the roof above my bed, and the roof opened and disclosed the outer dark, and in the dark travelled a bearded star, and the night was quick with fiery signs. And blood was on the roof, and great gouts of blood on the walls and on the cornice of my bed. And the dream screeched like the screech-owl, and cried, Witchland from thy hand, O King! And methought the whole world was lighted in a lowe, and with a great cry I awoke out of the dream."
CORUND: Thou art wise, and belike the dream was a true dream, sent thee through the gate of horn, and belike it forebodeth events great and evil for the King and for Witchland.
GRO Disclose it not to the others, for none can strive with Fate and gain the victory, and it would but cast down their hearts. But it is fitting we be ready against evil hap. If (which yet may the Gods forfend) ill come of this wrastling bout, fail not every one of you ere you act on any enterprise to take counsel of me. 'Bare is back without brother behind it.' Together must we do that we do."
CORUND: Thou hast my firm assurance on't.
THE RED FOLIOT (THE NEUTRAL LORD) AND HIS RETINUE ASSEMBLE. THREE HORN BLASTS, JUSS GOLDRY, SPITFIRE AND BRANDOCH DAHA COME FORTH FROM THE DEMONLAND TENTS
THE LORDS OF WITCHLAND ALSO AND THE KING GORICE.
THE RED FOLIOT: O Gorice XI., most glorious King of Witchland, and O Lord Goldry Bluszco, captain of the hosts of Demonland, it is compact betwixt you, and made fast by mighty oaths whereof I, the Red Foliot, am keeper, that ye shall wrastle three falls together on these conditions, namely, that if Gorice the King be victorious, then hath he that glory and withal full liberty to enforce with the sword his claims of lordship over many-mountained Demonland: but if victory fall to the Lord Goldry Bluszco, then shall the Demons let the Witches abide in peace, and they them, and the Witches shall forswear for ever their claims of lordship over the Demons. And you, O King, and you, O Goldry Bluszco, are likewise bound by oath to wrastle fairly and to abide by the ruling of me, the Red Foliot, whom ye are content to choose as your umpire. And I do swear to judge justly between you. And the laws of your wrastling are that neither shall strangle his adversary with his hands, nor bite him, nor claw nor scratch his flesh, nor poach out his eyes, nor smite him with his fists, nor do any other unfair thing against him, but in all other respects ye shall wrastle freely together. And he that shall be brought to earth with hip or shoulder shall be accounted fallen. Have I spoken well, and do you swear to these conditions?
GORICE and GOLDRY: We swear.
THEY ENTER THE RING
GORICE: Rebellious hound, it is fit that I make demonstration unto thee, and unto these Foliots and Demons that witness our meeting, that I am thy King and Lord not by virtue only of this my crown of Witchland, which I thus put by for an hour, but even by the power of my body over thine and by my might and main. Be satisfied that I will not have done with thee until I have taken away thy life, and sent thy soul squealing bodiless into the unknown. And thy skull and thy marrow-bones will I have away to Carcë, to my palace, to be a token unto all the world that I have been the bane of an hundredth great champion by my wrastling, and thou not least among them that I have slain in that exercise. Thereafter, when I have eaten and drunken and made merry in my royal palace at Carcë, I will sail with my armies over the teeming deep to many-mountained Demonland. And it shall be my footstool, and these other Demons the slaves of me, yea, and the slaves of my slaves."
GOLDRY: Oh Red Foliot, I am not come hither to contend with the King of Witchland in windy railing, but to match my strength against his, sinew against sinew.
THEY WRESTLE, BUT ARE SO EVENLY MATCHED THAT THE BOUT ENDS INDECISIVELY.
THE RED FOLIOT: I proclaimed you even in this bout, and attest that each returned to his fellows to take breath and rest for a space.
A BAT FLIES WIDDERSHINS AROUND THE WRASTLING GROUND.
GRO: Needs must that I make trial even at this late hour if there be not any means to turn. the King from further adventuring of himself, ere all be lost.
CORUND: Be it as thou wilt, but it will be in vain.
SCENE SIX INTERIOR GORICES PAVILION
GRO: [to GORICE] Lord, give over this wrastling. Great of growth and mightier of limb than any that you did overcome aforetime is this Demon, yet have you vanquished him. For you did throw him, as we plainly saw, and wrongfully hath the Red Foliot adjudged you evenly matched because in the throwing of him your majesty's self did fall to earth. Tempt not the fates by another bout. Yours is the victory in this wrastling: and now we, your servants, wait but your nod to make a sudden onslaught on these Demons and slay them, as we may lightly overcome them taken at unawares. And for the Foliots, they be peaceful and sheep-like folk, and will be held in awe when we have smitten the Demons with the edge of the sword. So may you depart, O King, with pleasure and great honour, and afterward fare to Demonland and bring it into subjection.
GORICE: Thy counsel is unacceptable and unseasonable. What lieth behind it?
GRO: There have been omens, O King.
GORICE: What omens?
GRO: I will not hide it from you, O my Lord the King, that in my sleep about the darkest hour a dream of the night came to my bed and beheld me with a glance so fell that the hairs of my head stood up and pale terror gat hold upon me. And methought the dream smote up the roof above my bed, and the roof yawned to the naked air of the midnight, that laboured with fiery signs, and a bearded star travelling in the houseless dark. And I beheld the roof and the walls one gore of blood. And the dream screeched like the screech-owl, crying, Witchland from thy hand, O King! And therewith the whole world seemed lighted in one flame, and with a shout I awoke sweating from the dream.
GORICE: [in anger] Well am I served and faithfully by such false scheming foxes as thou. It ill fits your turn that I should carry this deed to the end with mine own hand only, and in the blindness of your impudent folly ye come to me with tales made for scaring of babes, praying me gently to forgo my glory that thou and thy fellows may make yourselves big in the world's eyes by deeds of arms."
GRO: Lord, it is not so.
GORICE: Methinks it is for loyal subjects to seek greatness in the greatness of their King, nor desire to shine of their own brightness. As for this Demon, when thou sayest that I have overcome him thou speakest a gross and impudent lie. In this bout I did but measure myself with him. But thereby know I of a surety that when I put forth my might he will not be able to withstand me; and all ye shall shortly behold how, as one shattereth a stalk of angelica, I will break and shatter the limbs of this Goldry Bluszco. As for thee, false friend, subtle fox, unfaithful servant, this long time am I grown weary of thee slinking up and down my palace devising darkly things I know not: thou, that art nought akin to Witchland, but an outlander, a Goblin exile, a serpent warmed in my bosom to my hurt. But these things shall have an end. When I have put down this Goldry Bluszco, then shall I have leisure to put down thee also.
SCENE SEVEN, EXTERIOR WRASTLING GROUND. THE HORN FOR THE SECOND BOUT IS BLOWN, AND AS THE CYMBALS CLASH GORICE AND GOLDRY WRESTLE.
CORUND: The Demon is sped already. By this hold hath the King brought to their bane more than three score famous champions. He delayeth only till his fingers be knit together behind the neck of the accursed Demon to draw the head of him forward until the bones of the neck or the breastbone be bursten asunder."
GRO: He delayeth over long for my peace.
THEY WRESTLE AND AGAIN COME TO A STALEMATE OF STRENGTH
GORICE: I will loose my hold on thee and let thee up, and we will stand again face to face. For I deem it unworthy to grapple on the ground like dogs.
THE KING CLAWS GOLDRYS FACE AND NOSE WITH HIS NAILS
GAINING, UNLAWFULLY THE MASTERY.
THE RED FOLIOT: I proclaim Gorice the King victorious.
GORICE (to GRO): It is as I have spoken: the testing first, next the bruising, and in the last bout the breaking and killing.
GRO [is silent, but is grieved that the King has been forced to this]
GOLDRY: [to the Red Foliot, on his recovery] This devil hath overcome me by craft, doing that which it is a shame to do, in that he clawed me.
CORUND’s SONS: Quiet thou liar and dastard.
GOLDRY: O Red Foliot, judge now fairly betwixt me and King Gorice, as thou art sworn to do. Let him show his finger nails, if there be not blood on them. This fall is void, and I claim that we wrastle it anew.
CORINUS (at the Red Foliot’s ear) Beware lest thy mind be swayed by the brow-beating of the Demons. Rightfully hast thou adjudged the victory in this bout unto our Lord the King, and this talk of thrusting of fingers in the nose is but a pretext and a vile imagination of this Goldry Bluszco, who, being thrown fairly before thine eyes and before us all, and perceiving himself unable to stand against the King, now thinketh with his swaggering he can bear it away, and thinketh by cheats and subtleties to avoid defeat. If, against thine own beholding and the witness of us and the plighted word of the King, thou art so hardy as to harken to the guileful persuading of these Demons, yet bethink thee that the King hath overborne ninety and nine great champions in this exercise, and this shall be the hundredth; and bethink thee, too, that Witchland lieth nearer to thine Isles than Demonland by many days' sailing. Hard shall it be for thee to abide the avenging sword of Witchland if thou do him despite, and against thy sworn oath as umpire incline wrongfully to his enemies in this dispute.
THE RED FOLIOT (fearful) : Sound the horn for the third bout!
GOLDRY IN HIS ANGER KILLS THE KING OF WITCHLAND.
SCENE EIGHT, PALACE OF THE RED FOLIOT, THE CHAMPIONS OF BOTH SIDES SIT IN HALL.
THE RED FOLIOT: A great champion hath been strook to earth this day in fair and equal combat. And according to the solemn oaths whereby ye are bound, and whereof I am the keeper, there is here an end to all unpeace bettwixt Witchland and Demonland and ye of Witchland are to forswear for ever your claims of lordship over the Demons. Now for a sealing and making fast of this solemn covenant between you I see no likelier rede than that ye all join with me here this day in good friendship to forget your quarrels in drinking of the arvale of King Gorice XI., than whom hath reigned none mightier nor more worshipful in all this world, and thereafter depart in peace to your native lands.
LORD JUSS: O Red Foliot, as to the oaths sworn between us and the King of Witchland, thou hast spoken well; nor shall we depart one tittle the from the article of our oaths, and the Witches may abide in peace for ever as for us if, as is clean against their use and nature, they forbear to devise evil against us. For the nature of Witchland was ever as a flea, that attacketh a man in the dark. But we will not eat nor drink with the lords of Witchland, who betrayed and forsook us their sworn confederates at the sea-fight against the Ghouls. Nor we will not drink the arvale of King Gorice XI., who worked a shameful and unlawful sleight against my kinsman this day when they wrastled together. Rather to our booths we go and on the morrow back to Demonland.
CORUND: (aside to GRO) Were't not for the privilege of this respected company, now were the time to set upon them.
GRO: I prithee yet have patience. This were over hazardous, for the luck goeth against Witchland. Let us rather take them in their beds to-night.
THE RED FOLIOT [to a servant] Fete thou the Lords of Witchland and offer them all honour and display before them my minstrals, I would walk for a time on the cliffs to think on’t’ the great King as is dead.’
GRO SLIPS OUT AFTER THE RED FOLIOT
SCENE NINE, NIGHT, THE CLIFFS OF THE FOLIOT ISLES
GRO COMES BEHIND THE RED FOLIOT IN HIS MUSING: Consider how as day now dieth in yonder chambers of the west, so hath the glory departed from Witchland. Though Demonland lieth where thou sawest the sun descend, yet eastward out of Witchland must thou look for the morning splendour. Not more surely shalt thou behold the sun go up thence to-morrow than thou shalt see shine forth in short season the glory and honour and power of Witchland, and beneath her destructive sword her enemies shall be as grass before the sickle.
THE RED FOLIOT: I am in love with peace and the soft influence of the evening air. Leave me; or if thou wilt stay, break not the charm.
GRO: Art thou in love with peace indeed? So should the rising again of Witchland tune sweet music to thy thought, since we of Witchland love peace, nor are we stirrers up of strife, but the Demons only. The war against the Ghouls, whereby the four corners of the earth were shaken, was hatched by Demonland.
THE RED FOLIOT: Thou speakest, clean against thine intention, a great praise of them. For who ever saw the like of these man-eating Ghouls for corruption of manners, inhuman degeneration, and deluge of iniquities? Who every fifth year from time immemorial have had their grand climacterical year, and but last year brake forth in never-imagined ferocity. But if they sail now, 'tis on the dark lake they sail, grieving no earthly seas nor rivers. Praise Demonland, therefore, who did put them down for ever.
GRO: I make no question of that, but foul water, as soon as fair, will quench hot fire. Sore against our will did we of Witchland join with the Demons in that war, foreseeing (as hath been bloodily approved) that the issue must be but the puffing up of the Demons, who desire no other thing than to be lords and tyrants of all the world.
THE RED FOLIOT: Thou,wast in thy young days King Gaslark's man: a Goblin born and bred: his very foster-brother, nourished at the same breast. Why must I observe thee, a plain traitor against so good a king? Whose perfidy the common people then did openly reprove (as I did well perceive even so lately as last autumn, when I was in the city of Zaju Zaculo at the time of their festivities for the betrothal of the king's cousin german the Princess Armelline unto the Lord Goldry Bluszco), they carrying filthy pictures of thee in the street, singing of thee thus:
It was pittie
One so wittie
Should to treason
So be bent.
But his gifts
Were but shifts
Void of grace:
And his braverie
Was but knaverie
Vile and base.
GRO: The art of it agreeth well with the sentiment, and with the condition of those who invented it. I will not think so noble a prince as thou art will set thy sails to the wind of the rabble's most partial hates and envies. For the vile addition of traitor, I do reject and spit upon it. But true it is that, regarding not the god of fools and women, nice opinion, I do steer by mine own lode-star still. Howbeit, I came not to discourse to thee on so small a matter as myself. This I would say unto thee with most sad and serious entertain: Be not lulled to think the Demons will leave the world at peace: that is farthest from their intent. They would not listen to thy comfortable words nor sit at meat with us, so set be they to imagine mischief against us. What said Juss? 'Witchland was ever as a flea': ay, as a flea which he itcheth to crush betwixt his finger-nails. O, if thou be in love with peace, a short way lieth open to thy heart's desire.
GRO (softly, as a cat purring): Where softening unctions failed, sharp surgery bringeth speediest ease. Wilt thou not leave it to me?
THE RED FOLIOT: What have I to do with your enmities? You are sworn to keep the peace, and I will not abide your violence nor your breaking of oaths in my quiet kingdom.
GRO: Oaths be of the heart, and he that breaketh them in open fact is oft, as now, no breaker in truth, for already were they scorned and trampled on by his opposites.
THE RED FOLIOT: What have I to do with your enmities that set you by the ears like fighting dogs? I am yet to learn that he that hath a righteous heart, and clean hands, and hateth none, must needs be drawn into the brawls and manslayings of such as you and the Demons.
GRO: Thinkest thou that the strait path of him that affecteth neither side lieth still open for thee? If that were thine aim, thou shouldst have bethought thee ere thou gavest thy judgement on the second bout. For clear as day it was to us and to thine own people, and most of all to the Demons, that the King played foul in that bout, and when thou calledst him victorious thou didst loudly by that word trumpet thyself his friend, and unfriends to Demonland. Markedst thou not, when they left the hall, with what a snake's eye Lord Juss beheld thee? Not with us only but with thee he refused to eat and drink, that so his superstitious scruples may be unhurt when he proceeds to thy destruction. For on this are they determined. Nothing is more certain.
THE RED FOLIOT: Witchland lieth at my door. And Demonland: how stand I with Demonland?'
GRO: Also to-morrow's sun goeth up out of Witchland.
GRO: The harvest of this world is to the resolute, and he that is infirm of purpose is ground betwixt the upper and the nether millstone. Thou canst not turn back: so would they scorn and spurn thee, and we Witches likewise. And now by these means only may lasting peace be brought about, namely, by the setting of Gorice of Witchland on the throne of Demonland, and the utter humbling of that brood beneath the heel of the Witches."
THE RED FOLIOT: Is not Gorice slain, and drank we not but now his arvale, slain by a Demon? and is he not the second in order of that line who hath so died by a Demon?
GRO: A twelfth Gorice, at this moment of time sitteth King in Carcë. O Red Foliot, know thou that I am a reader of the planets of the night and of those hidden powers that work out the web of destiny. Whereby I know that this twelfth King of the house of Gorice in Carcë shall be a most crafty warlock, full of guiles and wiles, who by the might of his egromancy and the sword of Witchland shall exceed all earthly powers that be. And ineluctable as the levin-bolt of heaven goeth out his wrath against his enemies.
THE RED FOLIOT: What would you have of me.
GRO: Swift surgery. Needs must that we take them in their beds to-night; so shall to-morrow's dawn bring glory and triumph to Witchland, now fixed in an eclipse, and to the whole world peace and soft contentment."
THE RED FOLIOT: My Lord Gro, I see that I must pledge support to Witchland and thereby stand I bound in enmity to Demonland. But I will not betray my guests that have eaten my salt, be they never so deeply pledged mine enemies. Be it known to thee, I have set guards on your booths this night and on the booths of them of Demonland, that no unpeaceful deeds may be done betwixt you. This which I have done, by this will I stand, and ye shall both depart to-morrow in peace, even as ye came. Because I am your friend and sworn to your party, I and my Foliots will be on your side when war is between Witchland and Demonland. But I will not suffer night-slayings nor murthers in my Isles.
GRO (suppressing anger): Righteously hast thou decreed and wisely, O Red Foliot, for that which we sow in darkness must unfold in the open light of day, lest it be found withered in the very hour of maturity. Nor would I have urged thee otherwise, but that I do throughly fear these Demons, and all my mind was to take their plotting in reverse. Do then one thing only for us. If we set sail homeward and they on our heels, they will fall upon us at a disadvantage, for they have the swifter ship; or if they get to sea before us, they will lie in wait for us on the high seas. Suffer us then to sail to-night, and do thou on some pretext delay them here for three days only, that we may get us home or ever they leave the Foliot Isles.
THE RED FOLIOT: I will not gainsay thee in this, for here is nought but what is fair and just and lieth with mine honour. I will come to your booths at midnight and bring you down to your ship.
SCENE TEN: THE WITCHES BOOTHS, NIGHT.
GRO RETURNS STEALTHILY.
CORINIUS: Here is the Goblin, father and fosterer of our misfortunes. Come, let us slay him.
GRO: We of Witchland are not run lunatic, my Lord Corinius, that we should do this gladness to the Demons, to bite each at the other's throat like wolves. Methinks if Witchland be the land of my adoption only, yet have I not done least among you to ward off sheer destruction from her in this pass we stand in. If ye have aught against me, let me hear it and answer it.
CORINUS: Harken to the fool! Are we babies and milksops, thinkest thou, and is it not clear as day thou stoodest in the way of our falling on the Demons when we might have done so, urging what silly counsels I know not in favour of doing it by night? And now is night come, and we close prisoned in our booths, and no chance to come at them unless we would bring an hornets' nest of Foliots about our ears and give warning of our intent to the Demons and every living soul in this island. And all this has come about since thy slinking off and plotting with the Red Foliot. But now hath thy guile overreached itself, and now we will kill thee, and so an end of thee and thy plotting. DRAWS SWORD.
GRO (unafraid): Hear mine answer first. All night lieth before us, and 'tis but a moment's task to murther me.
CORUND (interposing himself): Whoso shall point weapon 'gainst him, shall first have to do with me, though it were one of my sons. We will hear him. If he clear not himself, then will we hew him in pieces.
GRO: First behold this parchment, which is the articles of a solemn covenant and alliance, and behold where the Red Foliot hath set his sign manual thereto. True, his is a country of no might in arms, and we might tread him down and ne'er feel the leavings stick to our boot, and little avail can their weak help be unto us in the day of battle. But there is in these Isles a meetly good road and riding-place for ships, which if our enemies should occupy, their fleet were most aptly placed to do us all the ill imaginable. Is then this treaty a light benefit where now we stand? Next, know that when I counselled you take the Demons in their beds 'stead of fall upon them in the Foliots' hall, I did so being advertised that the Red Foliot had commanded his soldiers to turn against us or against the Demons, whichever first should draw sword upon the other. And when I went forth from the hall it was, as Corinius hath so deeply divined, to plot with the Red Foliot; but the aim of my plotting I have shown you, on these articles of alliance. And indeed, had I as Corinius vilely accuseth me practised with the Red Foliot against Witchland, I had hardly been so simple as return into the mouth of destruction when I might have bided safely in his palace.
Little gain have I of all my pains and thought expended by me for Witchland. And better it were for Witchland if my counsel were better heeded. Corund knoweth how, to mine own peril, I counselled the King to wrastle no more after the first bout, and if he had ta'en my rede, rather than suspect me and threaten me with death, we should not be now to bear him home dead to the royal catacombs in Carcë.
CORUND: Truly hast thou spoken.
GRO: In one thing only have I failed and it can shortly be amended. The Red Foliot, albeit of our party, will not be won to attack the Demons by fraud, nor will he suffer us smite them in these Isles. Some fond simple scruples hang like cobwebs in his mind, and he is stubborn as touching this. But I have prevailed upon him to make them tarry here for three days' space, while we put to sea this very night, telling him, which he most innocently believeth, that we fear the Demons, and would flee home ere they be let loose to take us at a disadvantage on the high seas. And home we will indeed ere they set sail, yet not for fear of them, but rather that we may devise a deadly blow against them or ever they win home to Demonland.
CORINIUS: What blow, Goblin?
GRO: One that I will devise upon with our Lord the King, Gorice XII., who now awaiteth us in Carcë. And I will not blab it to a wine-bibber and a dicer who hath but now drawn sword against a true lover of Witchland.
CORINIUS JUMPS UP IN ANGER BUT IS RESTRAINED BY CORUND.
SCENE ELEVEN: LONG SHOT, EARLY MORNING, WITCHES SHIP DEPARTING.