Today was a glorious, productive day. Woke up and it was gorgeous outside, decided to pack a picnic lunch and write at the park. As so often happens, once I arrived at the park it was twenty degrees colder and super windy, so I ended up eating my lunch huddled over with my jacket all zipped up, then just walked for awhile. Went up to Starbucks to write, everything was flowing nicely, and they were giving away free pastries! Came home, wrote some more, cleaned house, KU won the Big 12 tournament, watched last night's Fringe. Awesome Saturday, just awesome.
EXT. CARPATHIAN MOUNTAINS - WOODS - DAY
Autumn. Dappled sunlight, fluttering butterflies, chirping birds. Beautiful, idyllic. The terrain here is easy to walk, the slopes gentle.
PETER (16), thin and gangly with patched clothes, doesn’t hear the bird song or notice the charms of the sylvan glade. Carrying a satchel, he hurries through the woods, darting nervous glances over his shoulder.
Scurrying over behind a huge oak, Peter checks a TRAP - a SQUIRREL caught inside, recently dead. Peter removes it, stuffs it in his satchel, checking the woods constantly.
Peter hurries forward again. Scared. He knows the woods well, though. Down a steeper hill, he doesn’t take the time to choose his route carefully. Peter trips and FALLS.
He looks all around, gasping hard, but the woods look peaceful, innocent. He stands, brushes himself off, picks his satchel back up. Prepares to continue.
Far ahead of him stands a FIGURE. So far away the face is not recognizable - just the shape of a man in a black cloak.
If Peter were scared before, now he is petrified. He can’t run up the hill so he heads to his right. Comes to a shallow creek. Peter runs along it, water splashing. He looks behind - nothing - and runs even faster. He drops his satchel.
Peter breaks free of the woods, onto a DIRT ROAD that weaves through the trees. A moment to pause, catch his breath. The sun shines down brightly, warmly.
A noise from within the woods. Perhaps a branch snapping. Peter spins, peers that way, but the undergrowth seems thicker, darker.
A noise from the OTHER side of the road, from inside the forest. Peter spins around again. Nothing. He pulls something out of his jacket - a BUNDLE OF HERBS tied with twine. Peter clutches it, holds it in front of him, as though it will ward off whatever he fears.
Silence. Peter turns, around and around, looking, looking. But there’s nothing.
Something unseen PUSHES Peter and he falls to the ground. He never loses his grip on the herb bundle, holds it aloft. But whatever he sees above him is terrible, and does not stop. Peter SCREAMS, a thin and pathetic sound.
Peter’s CORPSE on a bier in the apse. Clean, starched clothes a little big for him. His face is totally white.
The VILLAGERS file inside the church. Like Peter, they all bear haunted, paranoid expressions. Their faces are pinched.
The villagers climb the steps to the church doors, each passing by a wooden placard. Peter’s BUNDLE OF HERBS has been nailed to it. One young girl, LÉONE (14), touches the herbs with reverent fingers.
The villagers take their seats. Sturdy wooden pews, tall stone walls, stained glass. This is a church fit for a real city. The few dozen villagers huddle together, filling only a few pews. The church seems to swallow them up.
Blessed Saint Briccius was martyred here, right where
this church was built. Stoned to death by your ancestors! And
when the men and women of this village saw what they had
done, they cast aside their pagan superstitions
and finally accepted Christ’s redeeming love.
(quiet, almost to himself)
Have you all forgotten? Have I failed you? When this boy
found himself set upon by a wild beast
in the forest, he did not pray to God. He did not
reach for his rosary, but for...for that!
Magic! The folly of witches, the province of Satan!
The boy was killed by no beast of this world! The woods are not safe!
Nonsense! All of the Count’s lands - from the
castle and mountains to the river that surrounds us - are
safe! It is you who invite evil into our midst, foolishly
clinging to dangerous superstition.
Janos reaches down, retrieves a BASKET. He walks down, hands it to the old woman in the first pew.
You must trust in the Lord to protect you. Cast aside
the charms and trinkets of your ancestors.
The basket moves from villager to villager, like a collection plate. Iron rings, bundles of twigs and herbs, knots of hair, chunks of bone, carved pieces of wood - all are surrendered.
The basket comes to Léone. She hesitates, then drops in her charm.
EXT. CHURCH - DAY
The bells ring. In the middle of the dirt road in front of the church, the villagers cluster around the basket. It is ON FIRE.
Léone watches the flames, misgivings on her face. She looks up through the smoke to the snow-tipped MOUNTAIN that looms over them, and the CASTLE that stands upon its heights.
Small, with a thatched roof. One little window, the glass thick and bubbled. A few chickens here and there. Little vegetable garden, the plants left dead. An old mule eats hay in front of a tiny barn.
MIRA (25) leaves the house, tying her hair back. The dirt on her face and her threadbare dress don’t hide her beauty, or the imperious tilt to her jaw. She looks over the trees - a smudge of smoke. The church bells still ring.
Feed the chickens.
Mama, I’m playing.
And stay away from the well.
EXT. WOODS - DAY
Mira picks her way through the trees. Stops. Pulls an AMULET out from under her bodice. A piece of polished amber, strung on a delicate gold chain. Beautiful, worth a lot of money. Mira kisses the amulet, replaces it. She walks around a tree--
An animal TRAP. Empty. Mira purses her lips.
Deeper in the woods, on a narrow trail. A gust of wind blows red and yellow leaves across her path. Another trap. Sprung, but empty. Mira sets it again.
Still deeper. Mira’s bag is clearly empty. A NOISE up ahead. Perhaps a branch snapping. Instead of fleeing, Mira hurries toward the sound. She pulls a WOODEN CLUB from her waist.
She comes to a trap. A rabbit caught inside - a FOX tries to drag it out. Mira shouts, runs up, and the fox darts away, the rabbit hanging from its mouth. Mira throws the club and hits the fox, but it disappears into the forest.
EXT. MIRA’S COTTAGE - DAY
Dominik peers over the edge of the well. Drops a rock. His eyes grow wide at the SPLASH.
Dominik chases the chickens, hands hooked into claws.
I am the Count! You belong to me, chickens!
Feed the chickens.
I already did.
Dominik holds a BASKET OF EGGS, sitting on the old mule. Mira leads the mule, walking alongside. The road winds through the woods.
Tell me the story of the castle.
I’ve told you a hundred times.
The castle has stood on that mountain for centuries,
since before the Turks invaded. And for as long as
anyone can remember, the family Bathory has ruled these
lands, a Count the lord of the castle. The current Count
Bathory is a cruel man, who takes and takes from us
until we are poor and tired and sick.
But what will happen one day?
But one day, the men of this village will rise up
against him. Count Bathory will be thrown out
of his castle, and we will rule ourselves.
EXT. VILLAGE - LATER
Mira leads the mule into the CLEARING at the foot of the mountain, where the village rests. First, they must pass the CEMETERY. Large, filled with graves. A coffin is lowered into a gaping, dark hole as they watch.
Mira hooks her index and pinky fingers up, the fingers between held down by her thumb. She SPITS through the space between. Dominik copies her.
Why do we do this?
To ward off evil.
Father Janos says that only God can fight the devil.
Father Janos is a fool.
Freshly carved MEAT hangs, bloody mud underneath. Mira approaches, takes the basket from Dominik.
Todor, I have eggs.
Put them by the door.
(puts eggs down)
I’ll take that mutton shank.
Bring me another basket of eggs, Mira, and I’ll give it to you.
That’s never been the arrangement.
The arrangement hasn’t changed. That basket goes to the castle.
I sent a basket to the castle three days ago!
Mira, the whole village is prey to the
Count’s whims. We all must endure.
You seem to be eating quite well.
Go on and take the mutton. I don’t need any eggs.
And I do not need your pity, Todor.
Then have my affection. Didn’t I take you
in after your parents died? Didn’t I raise
you as one of my own?
Those are to go to the castle!
If the Count wants eggs, let him raise his own chickens.