EXT. VILLAGE ROAD - LATER
The blizzard abates. Ilka and Dominik ride, asleep. Mira leads the horse, exhausted.
They enter the outskirts of the village. Tiny huts, smaller even than Mira’s. Ramshackle. No smoke pours from the little chimneys. Everything cold and dark.
Into the village proper. It appears deserted - silent, no one to be seen.
Mira. What is it?
Everyone is gone. Left. Or...
No. They’re here.
The briefest glimpse of fear on the face, and then the curtains are snatched closed.
The Count will discover our absence soon. He
will send his men for us, if he does not come himself.
We need a fresh horse, warm food in our bellies.
Two stories tall, well-made. The biggest house in the village. Mira carries Dominik to the door, Ilka following.
Beat. Mira steels herself. Knocks.
Barely a moment passes before Miklos himself answers the door. He looks at her, surprised, and for a moment the child Mira used to be flashes in her eyes.
Mira, Ilka and Dominik bolt down food, while Miklos bustles about, packing a hamper. A SERVANT enters, breathing hard.
The horses are ready.
And you have packed the wagon?
Then why are you talking to me? Get to work!
You do not have to come with us, Papa.
I will make sure you cross the river and leave the Count’s
lands. You will stay with Bako Andreas. He is a good
friend, and trustworthy. His first wife was one of my cousins.
And when Samuel returns, you will tell him
where we’ve gone?
Samuel returned this morning.
He is here!
When he did not find you and the boy at the cottage, he came
to me. I told him what had happened. I told him you were
to be married to the Count, that there was nothing
to be done! But he swore he would retrieve
you, and left for your home.
He is still there?
The Count came for him first.
Somehow it looks worse by moonlight. A few charred timbers here and there, the melted slag of the stove. Mostly ash.
Miklos watches as Ilka picks her way through the wreckage. Mira stands alone - she turns to her father, face hard.
You let this happen?
By the time we saw the smoke, it was too late.
I...am sorry, Mira.
We will build it again.
Take the two of them to Andreas. Now - do not
wait till morning. I will need some things. Tell
your servants to give me whatever I require.
What are you talking about?
Bathory has taken my husband. I will
bring him back.
Look around! Your husband is dead.
Do you see his bones?
Daughter, this is madness.
If the Count did take your husband, then his purpose
can only be to lure you back to the castle. It’s a trick. A trap.
So be it. I won’t abandon him.
You can’t go!
You promised me that you would protect my son. That you
would love him as though he were your own.
Do you mean to break your promise?
Listen to me. No good can come of this. There
is a reason the people of this village have
always left alone the Lord of the castle.
And that is why all of this has happened! Why the
Count thinks he can come down and pick out a bride like
we were so much chattel! Why he can commit so
many vile perversions. By your sufferance!
And what do you propose?
Rise up against him.
And face the wrath of the King?
Maybe some day, Mira. Now we must think of our safety.
How can we be safe while that monster lives, lurking in the
mountains above our heads? Janos was right. He
must be destroyed.
If you return to the castle, you will die.
EXT. VILLAGE - NIGHT
Mira walks alone. Slow, steady. She carries no satchel or pack - her hands are empty.
EXT. ROAD - WAGON - NIGHT
Miklos drives, the horses clipping along at a quick pace. Ilka holds a sleeping Dominik.
The distant howl of a wolf.
Ilka hugs the boy close.
EXT. VILLAGE - ROAD TO CASTLE - NIGHT
Mira walks, shoes crunching through the snow. A knowing look on her face as she sees what’s ahead - almost amused.
The Count’s CARRIAGE. Waiting, outlined by the moonlight. Four horses, their breath steaming in the cold. No driver.
The road beneath the carriage is bare. As though there were never any snow.
Mira walks up to the carriage. The door slowly swings open on its own. She climbs up into the empty cab.
INSIDE THE CARRIAGE
Mira primly folds her hands in her lap. Waits.
The carriage begins to move.
EXT. RIVER - WAGON - NIGHT
Icy black-blue. Wide, the water moving quickly. A roar in the air. Ilka and a now-awake Dominik watch as Miklos drives the wagon up toward the STONE BRIDGE that spans the river.
What’s that? Ilka, what’s that?
That’s the river. Doesn’t it make a pretty sound?
The wagon makes its final approach to the bridge.
Suddenly the wagon CANTS hard to the right. The horses cry - Ilka screams.
Whoa! Hold, girls, hold.
Ilka leans over the edge of the wagon as Miklos inspects it. The right front wheel has BROKEN - the axle split down the middle.
LAUGHTER from behind Ilka. Dark, thick.
Ilka freezes. Then slowly leans back into the wagon, turns. Dominik GRINS at her, an alien look on his face. He stops laughing.
Oh, Ilka. Did you really think I would let you go?