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17 January 2011 @ 08:53 pm
NaScreeWriMo - Day Seventy-Eight  
I have finally come to the end.  To nhpw, hollywobbles, and singer_shaper, as Sheridan said, "thank you" seems poor and inadequate.  (Holly is like, huh?  And I'm like, watch Babylon 5.)  We'll talk more later about how I can repay you three for all you've done.

INT. CATACOMBS - DAY

The only light comes from the torch Ilka still carries. Slimy stone walls, low arches.

MIRA
Why would he come down here?

ERZSEBET
It is old, and safe. This was here
before the castle, before the village.
 
The passage narrows, twists and turns. The stones become rougher. Older. One last turn--

A wider avenue. Alcoves on either side, hewn into the stone. Atop the bier in all but one is a SKELETON. Some have tattered clothes, wisps of hair. Some are nothing but bones with paper coverings of darkened skin.

ILKA
(whispers)
Who are they?

ERZSEBET
My family.
 
They move slowly forward. Mira and Ilka notice something else - each skeleton is held to its bier by old, rusty CHAINS.

Mira stops to get a closer look. The skeleton MOVES, turning its skull her way with a creak. It reaches a bony hand out and GRABS her skirt.

MIRA
My God!
 
She jerks back, but the skeleton’s grip holds. Ilka yells, brings her torch down on its arm. The bone breaks. The chains rattle, and then the skeleton lies still again.

ERZSEBET
The king gave this land to two brothers
and their sons. Father did not wish to share.
 
They continue on, being careful to stay in the center of the aisle. Another skeleton rolls its head to watch them pass.

They move from passages built from stone to passages tunneled through the mountain. The ground becomes more uneven, the passage twists more, and then they come to a FORK. Three different tunnels wind this way and that.

Erzsebet does not hesitate, but immediately heads down the right-hand passage. Ilka and Mira follow. But Erzsebet moves too quickly through the labyrinth, and Mira and Ilka fall behind. They lose her.

ILKA
Beta!

MIRA
Hush. We don’t want him to hear.
 
They keep running, until they come to another fork.

MIRA (CONT’D)
Left or right?

ILKA
(whispers harshly)
Beta! Beta!
 
Mira chooses the left passage. Ilka follows.

ILKA (CONT’D)
Did you hear something?

MIRA
We don’t want him to double back and escape
the catacombs. We must find him while
he is still injured, and vulnerable.
 
Through the twists and turns, until they hit a DEAD END. Whether the tunnelers just stopped or the tunnel collapsed is impossible to tell.
They turn back, panting as they run. Back to the fork. But once there, there are FOUR options to choose from.

MIRA (CONT’D)
That bastard. We’ll never find him.

ILKA
No, wait. It’s not real. Janos is making us
see it, but I can see what should be there.
 
Beat, as she looks, then Ilka takes Mira’s hand and leads her through one of the passages.

ILKA (CONT’D)
This is real.
 
They hurry, the tunnel angling downward. Around a turn, and there’s another dead end. This time, SPEARS jut out toward them, embedded in the wall ahead. Nasty, sharp tips.

Mira starts to turn back, but Ilka pulls her forward.

ILKA (CONT’D)
Not real.
 
They walk THROUGH the spears. Deeper into the mountain. A sound up ahead - fabric rustling.

MIRA
Hurry!
 
They run. The scuffling of footsteps ahead of them, closer. Then Ilka’s torch GOES OUT. Absolute blackness.

ILKA
Mira!

MIRA
It’s all right. I’m here.
 
The sound of their breathing seems louder in the dark.

MIRA (CONT’D)
We should turn around, go back the way we
came. I don’t wish to get lost down here.
 
The sound of their shoes on the stone, their dresses moving. Then Ilka GASPS.

MIRA (CONT’D)
What?

ILKA
Nothing. Just Beta - she took my hand.
Can you lead us out, darling?
 
The sounds of their movement resume. After a few beats, a dim GLOW becomes apparent up ahead.

ILKA (CONT’D)
What is it?

MIRA
Beta, stop. It might be him. Beta!
 
But they do not stop. Up the passage - the glow becoming brighter. The passage levels out. Enough light to see Mira and Ilka’s faces peering forward.

The alcoves and skeletons. On the last empty bier, Erzsebet lies in CHAINS. The other skeletons are on FIRE. Some jitter and shake. The flames crackle brightly. Sparks shoot closer and closer to Erzsebet.

MIRA (CONT’D)
Beta!
 
Mira runs forward. Ilka turns, slowly. For it isn’t Erzsebet who holds her hand, but JANOS. His skin is blackened and burnt, flaking off. But he seems as strong as ever.

ILKA
No!
 
She tries to pull away, but his grip is solid. Janos grins.

Mira reaches Erzsebet, tugs at the chains. She can’t find the lock. Erzsebet struggles, to no avail.

JANOS
I was so glad when you returned.
This is your home, Ilka.

ILKA
This was never my home!
 
The fires grow brighter. Mira must turn her face from the heat. She tries to pull Erzsebet off the bier, chains and all. But the chains are too heavy.

JANOS
But what else is there for you? A widow with dead
children. Erzsebet wants nothing to do with
you, and never will - you’re weak, Ilka. Weak and useless.

ILKA
Mira. She will take me.

JANOS
She will blame you for her husband’s death. Why didn’t
you return sooner? For that matter, why didn’t you kill
Bathory years ago? You had ample opportunity.
There was no excuse - you knew what
he was, for longer than you’d like to admit.
 
Janos’ voice is low and persuasive. Ilka’s face is a study in pain. Tears slide down her cheeks.

JANOS (CONT’D)
There is nothing for you. Only me.
 
The bottom of Erzsebet’s dress, the one Mira brought her in the tower, begins to BURN. Mira slaps at the flames. She turns to see Janos and Ilka, down the passage.

MIRA
Ilka! He cannot harm you! Come help me!
 
Janos strokes Ilka’s face.

ILKA
(wan)
You lied to me. You’re just like him.

JANOS
No, Ilka. Didn’t I always take care of you? Wasn’t I
always there, to listen to your worries,
to pray with you? I care about you, Ilka, and I always will.
 
She nods, wracked with sobs.

JANOS (CONT’D)
Sit down, and wait for me.
 
Ilka slides down the wall, sits. Buries her face in her hands.

Mira manages to work one coil of chain over Erzsebet’s head, giving her more slack to work with.

MIRA
Almost there, sweetheart.
 
Janos grabs Mira, pulls her up and shoves her against the wall. One hand on her throat.

ERZSEBET
(screams)
Mira! Mira!

JANOS
You were a useful tool, Mira, but you have forgotten your place.
 
Mira pulls the AMULET out of her bodice. Janos stumbles back, averts her eyes.

MIRA
That’s why you pretended to be martyred, to convert
the villagers - so we would forget the old ways!

JANOS
Blasphemer! Idolator!

MIRA
The crucifix, the Lord’s name, they mean nothing to
you. But this can harm you!
 
With a ROAR, Janos grabs the amulet, rips it away. His hand smokes and burns - he cries out. But he still reclaims his grip on Mira. His face right in front of hers.

JANOS
The Lord’s name means everything to me! I fought
for Him, killed countless infidels, reclaimed the
Holy Land in His name! I thought I would be rewarded,
but His face has always been turned away from
me. I have been cursed since the moment
of my birth. Cursed, and alone.
 
Beat. There might be compassion on Mira’s face.

MIRA
You must be alone. God never meant for you to exist.
 
Janos tightens his grip, furious.

JANOS
You think I don’t know that?

MIRA
(grits out)
You’re killing the only family you have left.

JANOS
She’s weak, like her mother. Like you. Like every mortal.
 
Mira struggles, bats at Janos’ arm, but her strength begins to fail. No air. Her eyelids start to fall--

Ilka DRIVES her sword through Janos’ HEART.

Janos stumbles back, trying to grab at the sword hilt sticking out of his side. He falls, black blood pouring from his mouth. Ilka helps Mira up.

MIRA
(gasps)
Beta.
 
They help Erzsebet slither out of the last of the chains. Her dress is scorched, but she is otherwise unharmed. The three of them run for the exit.

Erzsebet and Mira duck under the grate. Ilka trips, falls.

ILKA
Mira!
 
Mira turns to see Janos grab Ilka by the ankles and start to drag her back into the catacombs.

Mira and Erzsebet grab Ilka’s arms, pull her forward. Ilka screams.

JANOS
Mine! Mine!
 
The sword still sticks out of his side, and another gout of black blood spills from his mouth. He doesn’t let go of Ilka, is pulled forward as well.

JANOS (CONT’D)
I’ll eat you all! Mine! You’ll never
leave, never! I’ll make you--
 
Mira stands, grabs the iron grate, and PULLS it down with all of her might. It CUTS OFF JANOS’ HEAD.

Mira sits hard. Ilka crawls to her. They hold each other.

CUT TO:
 
INT. CASTLE - ENTRY - DAY
Most, but not all, of the flames have died out. Ilka enters from the Great Hall, carrying a pillowcase stuffed full. Ropes of JEWELS around her neck.

ILKA
This was all I could find. I was surprised they were real.

MIRA
That is plenty to sell. If anyone from the village wants to come
up and finish pillaging, let them.

ILKA
Is it...finished?

MIRA
Yes. Beta helped me secure him to the horse.
 
Mira heads for the doors.

ILKA
Mira? I’m sorry I didn’t come back sooner. No.
I’m sorry I didn’t do something long before you
ever came to the castle. I could have
ended it all and Samuel would still...you wouldn’t have had to...
 
Mira stops her, hands on Ilka’s arms.

MIRA
None of it was your fault. You were a prisoner up
here - you were lucky to keep yourself
alive. Come on. I don’t want to spend another minute here.
 
EXT. CASTLE - MOMENTS LATER

Mira and Ilka exit. They pass Erzsebet, sitting on the steps, watching the sunrise.

MIRA
Let’s go, Beta.

ERZSEBET
No.
 
The women stop, turn.

MIRA
You can’t stay here.

ERZSEBET
He’s not dead.

ILKA
What?

ERZSEBET
He’s not alive. He’s in between, but he won’t
stay that way for long. I must destroy his body.

MIRA
We’ll stay until it’s finished.

ERZSEBET
No.

MIRA
Then you’ll join us in the village?

ERZSEBET
No.

MIRA
Beta...
 
Mira sits next to the girl. Erzsebet puts her arms around Mira’s neck, whispers into her ear.

ERZSEBET
This is my home.
 
Mira nods, accepts is.

ERZSEBET (CONT’D)
Don’t forget. You’re mine, forever.
 
Mira jerks back. Erzsebet smiles at her, then gets up, goes back into the castle. The doors close on their own behind her.

ILKA
What did she say to you?

MIRA
(stands)
Nothing. Just goodbye.
 
They go to Ilka’s horse. A canvas-wrapped bundle - Samuel’s body - is tied over the horse’s back. Ilka gathers the horse’s reins, and they begin walking down to the village.

CUT TO:
 
EXT. MIRA’S COTTAGE - NIGHT

Peaceful and quiet. Behind the barn, a rectangle of freshly-turned earth. A wooden cross.

INT. MIRA’S COTTAGE - NIGHT

The bed in front of the fire. Mira lies between Ilka and Dominik. Those two sleep, but Mira is awake. She studies her son’s face, gently strokes his hair.

She cannot see the window behind her, or the white face that hangs there, looking in.

EXT. MIRA’S COTTAGE - CONTINUOUS

Erzsebet watches through the window. Longing on her face. She finally turns away.

She runs, past the barn and grave, through the tall dead grass beyond. In one instant, there is a running girl. In the next, a HAWK, flying.

The hawk flies up to a tall tree, rests on a branch. She surveys the land around the cottage, the road that passes by. No movement aside from a gentle, easy breeze.

Satisfied, the hawk takes flight again. She is beautiful, majestic. Soaring higher and higher, the hawk flies toward the castle on the mountain.

FADE TO BLACK.
 
 
 
nhpwnhpw on January 18th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
Very nice ending. Not really a "happily ever after" but then, it's not that kind of story.

OK. This is maybe a dumb question after all that, but what happened to the blank-faced man servant? You made specific mention, as I recall, of Ana being dead, but this guy was sort of omnipresent and then he was just gone. Was he not real?

(Or am I just not remembering the part where he was killed, maybe?)

I dunno why this strikes me as important... I think it's because, you know. Beta said at one point, "He's mine. I made him." And now she's staying. So, like. Is she ALLLL alone, or is he (and others?) still around?

And I don't know if you intended to leave the story open at the end like that with the creepy "you're mine forever" so that it could potentially (you know, in one of those "if the movie kept going" kind of things) tie out to the story of Elizabeth Bathory if the viewer knew that story? But it's a nice touch. If that WASN'T your intention, I'd call it a a happy accident.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on January 18th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
OK. This is maybe a dumb question after all that, but what happened to the blank-faced man servant?

Nothing is ever a dumb question! He was the wolf that Mira stabbed, that then dragged itself over to bleed on Bathory to get him going again. When Bathory "died," the magic that kept his servants animated ceased, which was why Samuel's wounds reappeared and he ate it. But since Erzsebet had made the blank-faced manservant, he was able to keep going long enough to feed Bathory. Maybe I'll have him turn back into a human? Although I'm not sure about that visual as opposed to a wolf, heh. But yeah, I'll make a note of this and see if I can make it clearer.

I was kind of keeping the story open just a little bit - they told us in school that's a good idea with certain genres, to leave that possibility there. Execs love the idea that they might have a ~*~franchise~*~ on their hands. And yeah, I wanted to keep Erzsebet alive and in her castle just in case someone looked her up or knew the story, for this to kind of be an "origin story."
Holly: A/R Love and Bulletshollywobbles on January 19th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
[makes mental note to look up Elizabeth Bathory]
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on January 19th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC)
singer_shaper: wheredeyatsinger_shaper on January 18th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
Congrats on the ending and thanks for the thanks!

I find it interesting that you end with Beta instead of Mira, the obvious protagonist. That ties in with nhpw 's question about the open-endedness of the ending. Do you think there's more of this story to tell?

Shannonkungfuwaynewho on January 18th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Yeah, I kind of wanted to keep it open-ended, and it's pretty common to end horror on the villain/what might happen next. It's not too open-ended, do you think?
singer_shapersinger_shaper on January 19th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
Upon reading your other comments, maybe not. Horror is not a genre I'm very familiar with, so I trust your instincts here.
Holly: Fight til we can'thollywobbles on January 19th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
(Holly is like, huh? And I'm like, watch Babylon 5.)

*g* lols :D

We'll talk more later about how I can repay you three for all you've done.

Stop that nonsense. It was fun!!

[reads]

LOVED IT! Loved it loved it loved it. The whole catacombs fire bier EVERYTHING. Love.

That’s why you pretended to be martyred

Is he what the village thought was their patron saint? I thought he was just hiding his own stuff in there instead of the patron saint's, which he'd just thrown out or something. Sorry -- it was probably clear, I am just so tiredeypants right now.

JANOS
The Lord’s name means everything to me! I fought
for Him, killed countless infidels, reclaimed the
Holy Land in His name! I thought I would be rewarded,
but His face has always been turned away from
me. I have been cursed since the moment
of my birth. Cursed, and alone.


THAT is fascinating. You're good at creating whole new mythologies. That's rare.

I liked the questionable exchange with Beta at the end. Is it going to be clear which parts are her speaking and which parts are Janos, not quite dead yet? (We're supposed to be assuming she does actually go back and finish him off, yes?) Or was it just meant to be reminiscent of him?

Although it's sort of sad, I liked Beta's ending. Things still ended generally well, but it sticks with you more than a perfect happy ending.

Have we seen before evidence of Bathory/Janos/Beta changing into an animal before? Maybe yes and I just forgot, but if not, the hawk bit seems a bit out of the blue, if really cool imagery.

[...]

Kaaayyy, sorry to be a broken record, but I'm still not convinced Samuel had to die. I could see him trudging back through the snow long about the time the women have just gotten back, this blessedly welcome sight, boggled and worried because there'd been some sort of wall of magic and he hadn't been able to get through to the village and was everyone all right? Like if he dies, he should be a *really* strong motivating factor, and I feel like Mira was already pretty motivated. If more motivatin is required, maybe rescue motivation, like if Janos had gotten ahold of Beta a little earlier or if he still had Dominik? IDK, I don't need to completely change your script. But Samuel's death seems maybe a little pointless.

...I am trying very hard to separate my hopeless romantic reflex from my artistic editing response. I think I've succeeded, but my motivations are I admit a bit convoluted.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on January 19th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
Is he what the village thought was their patron saint?

Yeah - some of the greater mythological stuff I came up with while writing, so the plants weren't there like they needed to be. I'm definitely going to move the exposition of Hados and Briccius up - but yeah, Janos was St. Briccius, who was martyred and in doing so finally converted the villagers to Christianity. The idea being that Janos worked to get them to give up their pagan rituals and superstitions that actually had power over him.

Is it going to be clear which parts are her speaking and which parts are Janos, not quite dead yet? (We're supposed to be assuming she does actually go back and finish him off, yes?) Or was it just meant to be reminiscent of him?


Hmm - I hadn't even thought that maybe it would sound like she was actually channeling him or something. I was trying to work in the theme of possession throughout - each of the three vampires is obsessed with possessing Mira in a different way. Bathory as his wife/mother of his son; Janos as a companion; Erzsebet as her own mother. Again, something that came to me during the process. So I think I'll have each of them literally say the same line to her throughout - with the last one being Beta.

Have we seen before evidence of Bathory/Janos/Beta changing into an animal before? Maybe yes and I just forgot, but if not, the hawk bit seems a bit out of the blue, if really cool imagery.

We hadn't, but it was implied when Dominik was "seeing" what Bathory saw when he came to the village to feed - he said he wasn't man-shaped anymore. I wanted to save the actual shot of that transformation till the end. (Weird what things you work out early on - I've had "Beta turns into a hawk and flies away" in my outline from the beginning.) We see the blank-faced manservant and then his wolf-form, though the actual transformation there takes place off-screen, too.

But Samuel's death seems maybe a little pointless.

It's really interesting - and gratifying - to know that his character resonated this well, because he was pretty much canon fodder when I started writing. I'd always planned to kill him. Have you read/seen Bram Stoker's Dracula? When I first outlined this, I set up as the basic structure just a kind of gender reversal of that, so I thought of him as the Lucy character - close to the protagonist, and a way to show the stakes. Dracula isn't just a romantic figure - he KILLS people. Originally Samuel died much earlier in the story, to fulfill that purpose.

(And, you know, character-arc wise I wanted to kill him just so I could have the "Dominik has two mommies" thing at the end, which I was keen on throughout. Ho-subtext-yay!)

But I see what you're saying. Mira's already committed; there doesn't need to be additional shit driving her to do what she was already doing. I think the only place I'm getting hung up is when she returns to the castle after they escape with Dominik - I can't think of any reason she'd do that otherwise. Now, I could have her never able to escape the castle for some other reason, but then that makes her passive, and while that can fly in the first half, you really don't want your protag being passive in the second half, when it should be all about them taking charge and doing the shit they couldn't do earlier. Plus, she needs a nadir at the end of Act Two - that lowest moment, so that she can rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

So I'm not discounting Samuel-staying-alive or anything, but his death is intertwined with a lot of major structural elements. And I'm always kind of wary of genre pieces, especially horror, where there are no major character deaths.
Holly: Mary/Eddie cuddleshollywobbles on January 19th, 2011 05:16 am (UTC)
I have a lot of thoughts and comments, but I HAVE TO GO TO BED. I'll be back.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on January 19th, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
I'll be back.


I like how that sounds like a threat. ;)
Holly: Laura Exodushollywobbles on January 26th, 2011 05:17 am (UTC)
I was trying to work in the theme of possession throughout - each of the three vampires is obsessed with possessing Mira in a different way. Bathory as his wife/mother of his son; Janos as a companion; Erzsebet as her own mother. Again, something that came to me during the process. So I think I'll have each of them literally say the same line to her throughout - with the last one being Beta.

Ooh, I like. I can definitely see that now.

[transforming into animals stuff]

Ok, now that you mention it, I remember each of those instances. I'm not sure I'd pick up on that when Beta turned into a bird necessarily, unless they each turned into similar animals -- some sort of bird each, or always into wolves, etc. -- or unless it was in some way clear previously that the kind of animal they turn into is representative of the individual somehow. Beta turning into a bird and flying off seems symbolic of her, but then I wouldn't have expected the blankfaced manservant to turn into a cunning wolf. Did we ever find out what kind of animal Bathory turned into? I forget now.

[Samuel stuff]

I guess the difference between him and Lucy is that with Samuel, not only is he Mira's main love (which isn't true of Lucy), but having that secure, stable, humble, loving home with him is Mira's primary motivation, so once it's gone, her motivation goes, and she's left with nothing but anger and trying to salvage *something* for Dominik. However, the two mommies thing is cool -- and actually I can now really see it working with Samuel gone if it's emphasized that in this new friendship/family structure there's now hope for Mira to regain that stable, supportive, loving setting that drove her from the beginning. Maybe if there's a specific emphasized moment of connection late in the screenplay where Ilsa's facing the fact that her world is upended and she doesn't know where to go next, at the same time that Mira's facing the fact that her world has been upended as well, and they realize all they have is each other, and there's a look, and a hug, or something. That way Mira's motivation would still be rewarded in the end in a way, even if she comes away pretty brutally wounded emotionally, and having to rebuild things quite a bit.

...

Heh, I read that article on Erzabet Bathory *right* before I went to bed that night and, um, ...MISTAKE!!! I stupidly tried to legitimately imagine how a person could get pleasure out of torturing someone, and I SERIOUSLY freaked myself out, lol! Some things are better left not thought about.
Holly: Bill I have seen the truthhollywobbles on January 26th, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
One last thought before bed: it wasn't 100% clear to me while reading what exactly Janos's motivation was in wanting Mira around. I mean, sure, he says stuff about companionship, but I wasn't sure I believed him. If you decide to emphasize that theme of possession, I'm not sure how, but maybe make sure it's really clear what his real motivations are as pertains to her. With Bathory and Beta it's pretty obvious, since she'd fit very clearly into certain roles in their lives.
Holly: Adama insignia bwhollywobbles on January 26th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
Maybe if he needs her in some way that's even more repulsive than Bathory's need/want, since he's supposed to be the more evil one? Companionship seems a little anticlimactic, almost.
Holly: Tigh - Salty Tighhollywobbles on January 26th, 2011 06:13 am (UTC)
Or (LAST THOUGHT FOR TONIGHT, REALLY), if you wanted to go for the Frankensteinesque need for companionship, maybe you could *really* emphasize other really horrible, awful, depraved things about him, then right at the very end he let slip that all he really wanted was companionship, something even God wouldn't give him.

K, BED FOR REALSIES.