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THE LIGHT BEARER

by
JR Kambak and Donna Gillespie

A SCREENPLAY ADAPTATION OF
THE LIGHT BEARER
BY
DONNA GILLESPIE

Current Revisions by
JR Kambak/Donna Gillespie

JR Kambak
zentoro@fastmail.co.uk
WGA Registration: 1088479
"THE LIGHT BEARER"

FADE IN:

EXT. CHATTIAN LANDS - GERMANIC EUROPE - DAWN'S TWILIGHT

A lone wolf HOWLS, silhouetted against a full MOON.

A thick ground MIST fingers along a snow patched landscape;


wrapping itself around a bleached white animal SKULL half
buried in the ground next to a tall POLE to reveal...

A GERMANIC CHATTIAN SETTLEMENT - CONTINUOUS

Tribal Chief Baldemar's LONGHOUSE. The smoke hole hide is


thrust OPEN. Wispy smoke pours out in shining ribbons of
yellow firelight cutting into the moonlight darkness. The
hide flap is CLOSED.

INT. LONGHOUSE – MOMENTS LATER

A pregnant ATHELINDA (20), the wife of Baldemar, lying upon a


bed of furs. The Woman Thrall enters.

Athelinda tosses off the furs exposing a swollen belly


beneath a thin white slip. Her eyes are pain-fogged, copper-
red hair soaked in sweat. She bites her lower lip from a
gush of knife stabbing pain.

Hung on the walls are brightly painted Warriors' SHIELDS.


Nearby is a warp-weighted LOOM. Chickens roam. A youthful
MUDRIN, timidly looks on with other THRALLS amid grain-
storage JARS.
Baldemar's stern old mother, HERTHA (40), her rank designated
by the silver FIBULA inset with garnets fastening her CLOAK,
kneels next to Athelinda. It's Hertha's harsh black EYES
that speak of her stalwart pride.

HERTHA
Mudrin. Go to the lodge of
Thrusnelda. There’s a holy woman
there who can sing the child from
the womb.

MUDRIN
Sigdrifa may return, Lady.

Athelinda moans from another painful contraction.

(CONTINUED)
2.
CONTINUED:

HERTHA
No. She betrayed us – slipping off
like a cutpurse while we sleep.
We’ve little time. Take this for a
gift for the medicine woman.
Quickly.

Mudrin obeys tossing back the animal hide. Freezes. The


basket falls, spilling out the apples.

HERTHA (CONT’D)
You shy at your own footfall. What
is it?

MUDRIN'S POV.
Dawn breaks upon the thick ground mist. A dog’s threatening
growl turns into a cowardly WHINE.

HERTHA (CONT’D)
(standing)
Mudrin. Speak. What do you gape at?

Mudrin stands frozen in fear. Athelinda gives out a direful


scream.

Hertha stands, threatening.

HERTHA (CONT’D)
Speak or I will have your tongue.

From behind Mudrin approaches FREDEMUND (30), a wide-hipped


loom-woman, painfully walking toward the entrance.

FREDEMUND
Mother of the gods. Mudrin, what
mischief have you done?

Mudrin, inching back from the doorway, steps on a wandering


chicken that flaps noisily into the air crashing into a
WILLOW-WITHY SCREEN. Hertha sweeps past Fredemund.

MUDRIN
(underbreath)
No sacrilege. I committed no
sacrilege.

HERTHA'S POV.

A distant broken STONE WALL.

(CONTINUED)
3.
CONTINUED: (2)

In the morning mist appears the solitary RAMIS (40), ghostly


standing in a pure white hooded cloak, staff in one hand.

HERTHA
Ramis. The High One.

Athelinda MOANS O.C.

MUDRIN
Fredemund, draw the door.

HERTHA
Be still. You’ll not keep her out.
She sees right through your very
bones.
MOMENTS LATER

Ramis stands with deliberate pause at the doorway, holding a


staff of hazelwood; its brass knob inset with glowing AMBER.

HERTHA
The ax head. Mudrin quickly, dig
it out.

Mudrin, digs out the half-buried iron BLADE buried in the


doorway and tosses it aside when...

Standing over her; Ramis inclines her hooded head and crosses
the threshold. Many sickle-shaped tools of bronze hang from
her knotted belt. She pulls back her hood revealing dark
blond hair with long streaks of silver. On her forehead, a
delicately silver crescent moon.

RAMIS
(formal)
Greetings to the noble Hertha and
blessing on Chieftain Baldermar's
lodge.

HERTHA
(patronizing)
Greetings, High One. Stay as long
as we please you. Honor us by
sharing our meat and mead.

Mudrin and Fredemund peek from behind the warp-weighted LOOM.

Ramis moves next to Athelinda. Takes a leather POUCH from her


cloak. MOtions to a Thrall who comes to her side.

(CONTINUED)
4.
CONTINUED:

RAMIS
Put these herbs in goat’s milk and
boil them in a bronze vessel.

Athelinda opens her eyes. Terrified at the sight of Ramis,


she tries to crawl away. Ramis reaches out and puts her hand
on Athelinda’s forehead. Athelinda slumps still.

RAMIS (CONT’D)
Nar lagai Dia do lamh.

Ramis determines the position of the fetus, probing with


swift grace, massaging Ahtelinda's belly with an ointment,
then stroking her hips and lower back, beseeching the body to
release the child.
SMASH CUT TO:

EXT. GERMANIC FORESTS AND VALLEYS - THE CHATTIAN LANDS - DAY

A PONY’S BELLY. BRUNWIN. Next to his ribs, AMBER BEAD


EMBROIDERED DOESKIN LEGGINGS of AURIANE (16), giving Brunwin
a hard kick with her heels.

AURIANE (V.O.)
A raid.

INT. LONGHOUSE

Ramis puts a clay vessel to Athelinda’s cracked, trembling


lips. She sips the draught, too eagerly.

Ramis drags Athelinda to her feet, forcing her to take


staggering steps.
SMASH CUT TO:

EXT. CHATTIAN LANDS

Brunwin’s belly close to the ground. Thunderbolt strides.

AURIANE (V.O.)
I saw them first. I’ll be first
with the alarm.

INT. LONGHOUSE

Ramis supports delirious Athelinda, walking her around.

SMASH CUT TO:


5.

EXT. CHATTIAN LANDS

Brunwin gallops past the tortured shape of the LIGHTNING OAK.

AURIANE (V.O.)
Lady of the Bog, protect me from
the wrath of the living and the
dead.

Brunwin’s HOOVES, thunder upon the twisted narrow path of the


sandy forest floor.

AURIANE (V.O.) (CONT’D)


If one of our own is slain, I must
draw blood in return, even if it
takes to the end of my days.
Vengeance is holy; it gives life to
the clan.

INT. LONGHOUSE

Athelinda screams out, crouched over a bed of straw, pushing


her baby into Ramis strong hands.

Ramis, swiftly cuts the birth cord with her DAGGER, lifting
the wailing child's steaming body high above her head,
framing Baldemar's HIGH SEAT in the b.g.

RAMIS
A girl is born to Baldemar's clan.

SMASH CUT TO:

EXT. BLEAK FOREST - CHATTIAN LANDS


Auriane: Finely molded high cheekbones, clean brow, lucid
gray eyes; her long chestnut hair is pulled back in a
careless braid matted with leaf and bark; CLOTHED in a
sleeveless tunic of bearskin strung on a thong around her
throat is a Roman silver denarius, and the AURR, a pouch of
sacred earth.

Three hundred Hermunduran WARRIORS in deep blood red TUNICS


march in attack formation in the distant f.g.

INT. LONGHOUSE

The BABY is cradled in the arms of a flushed Athelinda,


exposing her breast for the Baby to suckle.

(CONTINUED)
6.
CONTINUED:

HERTHA
You have blessed us, Ramis. Mudrin.
Fredemund.
(clapping hands)
Prepare for the oracle.

A white linen cloth spread before the hearth fire. Mudrin


PLAYS a bone flute. Ramis sits on the white cloth's edge.

HERTHA (CONT’D)
Tell us first, what ancestor is
born among us? Whose name shall she
bear?

SMASH CUT TO:


EXT. PINE-CLAD RISE -- CHATTIAN LANDS

Auriane, struggling upon Brunwin, takes her CATTLE HORN from


her belt and gives it three strong BLASTS.

INT. LONGHOUSE

All are held in suspense.

RAMIS
There is but one name for her.
Auriane.

SMASH CUT TO:

EXT. HIGH-RIDGE - CHATTIAN LANDS

Auriane gives it three more BLASTS from her Cattle Horn.


A BEAT.

Distant droning and trilling of answering HORNS, so numerous


they melt into one powerful disharmonious CRY.

INT. LONGHOUSE - CONTINUOUS

HERTHA
(stifled protest)
But... that is not a name of our
family. You have given her a
priestess-name.

(CONTINUED)
7.
CONTINUED:

RAMIS
I have given her the name that is
hers.

SMASH CUT TO:

EXT. HIGH RIDGE

Auriane watches the Hermunduran WARRIORS, swarming in a dark


knot along the serpent shaped river, molten in the sun.

A SLINGSTONE grazes Brunwin’s rump. Brunwin kicks out and


bolts, nearly throwing Auriane over his head.

RIVER SHORELINE - MOMENTS LATER


A SPEAR darts across their path. Brunwin lunges into a knee-
deep river. Sharp shouts echo behind her. "Pretty wench.”
“Spirited and proud.” “Get her.”

RIVER’S STONE STREWN BANK – MOMENTS LATER

A SPEAR rips through Auriane’s bearskin TUNIC.

Brunwin pitches sharply down, skittering sideways, settling


into a lurching canter having lamed himself. Auriane turns
around to see...

THREE lightly armed Hermunduran Warriors, splashing into the


river at full speed. Two have dirty yellow hair, menacingly
long. The Third is smaller in stature, uncommon DARK HAIR,
clenching two SPEARS.

FOREST'S EDGE - MOMENTS LATER


Auriane bursts through the forest, lashing lame Brunwin
across his rump with the reins while coming upon a path along
the perimeter of a narrow wheat field. Across the field we
see a humble thatched HOUSE smeared with bright clay.

AURIANE
Herwig.

The short dark-haired Hermunduran Warrior is in pursuit of


Auriane. Rasping. Heaving breath. Powerful strides. His chest
strains against the close-fitting blood red tunic, his biceps
flexed so hard they could burst the brass rings that encircle
them. A spear balances in one hand as he takes deft aim.

The SPEAR whisks past Auriane’s head, piercing the ground


ahead of her, standing upright like a boundary pole.
8.

THE ASH GROVE - CONTINUOUS

Auriane grasps the spear, entering the darkening Ash Grove on


Brunwin. The Hermunduran Warrior is closing fast.

Auriane springs off Brunwin moving quickly behind an ash


tree.

A gust of wind sounding like a BONE PIPE out of nowhere.

Auriane's catches the glimpse of a priestly ROBE, spectral


white for a moment. It is HYLDA (50), most ancient of Ash
Priestesses.

Auriane is choked in terror.


AURIANE (V.O.)
What passes in the Ash Grove, is a
sign for what will pass in the
world.

Suddenly, the Hermunduran Warrior jumps out in full view of


Auriane. His spear-arm snaps. The SPEAR is skillfully aimed,
headed directly for her heart.

Auriane drops into a heap on the forest floor. The SPEAR


deeply embeds into the ash tree behind her. The husky
Hermunduran Warrior LAUGHS.

AURIANE’S POV.

The Hermunduran Warrior attacks with his hunting KNIFE.

Auriane grips her spear.


The Hermunduras Warrior runs at Auriane as she springs to her
feet, centers the weight of the spear in her palm, draws back
her arm and athletically whips it forward.

THE SPEARHEAD, gleaming, darts straight, tearing off a piece


of the warrior’s TUNIC as he dodges it.

The Hermunduran Warrior sees Auriane working feverishly to


free his spear embedded in a tree. He sprints to stop her.

Freeing the spear, Auriane spins around with razor edge


timing.

The Hermunduran Warrior springs forward, knife bared,


grinning, distended nostrils, sweat darkened-hair all lunging
as Auriane, in a leap, casts the spear.

(CONTINUED)
9.
CONTINUED:

The Hermunduras Warrior jolts backwards from the spear's


potent blow piercing his torso.

The Hermunduran Warrior staggers, seizing the spear in both


hands with a look of disbelief, falls heavily to his knees as
blood pulses out, darkening his tunic.

Auriane kneels over him watching his fluttery breath as he


dies with his eyes bulged opened.

AURIANE (V.O.) (CONT’D)


I killed.

Auriane reaches under her tunic. She retrieves a blood


smeared hand. Then, the distant thunderous sound of CATTLE
being driven off mixed with Women’s terrified SCREAMS O.C.
Much closer she hears the crackle of LEAVES. Auriane briskly
turns, the warrior's hunting KNIFE in her hand.

Hylda approaches with a flaming TORCH, her mouth a simple red


line, skin the color of hazelnut, eyes like a deer’s, liquid
and mournful. An etherial breeze keeps her silver hair in
ghostly motion, tugging at her clothes.

HYLDA
Let the fire cleanse!

Auriane numbly watches as Hylda circles nine times, passing


the fire close over the Hermunduran corpse.

HYLDA (CONT’D)
He died with open eyes. It
signifies that an enemy rises
within.
(beat)
And you, Auriane, are his slayer.
(beat)
Your lot is to protect your people
with your own body, to be a living
shield as long as your spirit is
clothed in flesh. Any weapon you
touch is blessed. Any weapon you
wield has thrice the war-luck in
your hand. The oracle commands you:
Marry the god, and victory will
be your fate.

AURIANE
Marry the god? You speak of
becoming a shield maiden?

(CONTINUED)
10.
CONTINUED: (2)

Hylda stoically stares upon Auriane.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Who is the enemy that rises from
within?

HYLDA
You will know him when he comes.

Auriane is distracted by the distant women SCREAMS. Toward


the EAST and WEST skyline, angry black SMOKE rises in thick
columns.

AURIANE
I must go. My mother is alone.
HYLDA
Go then, but never forget. You have
more kin in this grove than in any
chieftain's hall... and they will
claim you one day.

Auriane picks up Brunwin’s reins and turns to leave when the


HOLY ONES emerge from the darken grove.

Auriane impatiently mounts Brunwin, she looks back at the


Holy Ones flocking around the warrior’s corpse, speaking
excitedly in murmuring dove-soft SOUNDS of the rare omens, as
they cover the corpse.

AURIANE (V.O.)
Many saw, then. They will not let
me hide from this. I will deny the
kill was mine. I won’t live their
way.
CUT TO:

EXT. CHATTIAN HOMESTEAD - LATER

Without stopping, Auriane dismounts Brunwin. The game BAG and


SPEAR clinched in her fist.

ATHELINDA (O.C.)
Auriane.

AURIANE'S POV.

Athelinda (40), her face is taut and drawn. On her back a


sling holds a sleeping, ARNWULF (1) comes running around the
MEAD SHED passing Hertha, Mudrin, Fredemund, Field Thralls
and their Slaves all racing the other way.

(CONTINUED)
11.
CONTINUED:

ATHELINDA (CONT’D)
They’ve burned the house of your
father’s brother, Theudobald.
They’ll be here next.

AURIANE
Theudobald’s hall? How could they
dare?

ATHELINDA
Help me push the animals out.

The two quickly head toward the Long House.

AURIANE
Mother, what is happening to us?
ATHELINDA
The gods know. Perhaps it’s world’s
end.

Athelinda's attention first falls on Auriane, cut and bruised


with dried blood on her torn bearskin tunic, and Brunwin's
bloodied saddlecloth as he trots past, favoring his lame leg.

ATHELINDA (CONT’D)
Auriane, what has happened to you?

Panic surrounds them in the Chattian settlement panic.

AURIANE
I killed... one of the raiders.

ATHELINDA
Fria, Mother of Us All, have mercy,
you could have been killed.

Athelinda spies the enemy spear held in Auriane's hand.

AURIANE
What is it mother?

ATHELINDA
Nothing. Everyone’s underground but
you. Go now!

AURIANE
Mother, father’s weapons must be
gotten out.

ATHELINDA
There isn’t time.

(CONTINUED)
12.
CONTINUED: (2)

AURIANE
There must be time.

INT. HALL – MOMENT LATER

Auriane darts her way through the hall to the HIGH-SEAT, over
which Baldemar’s weapons are mounted; her hand closes around
the thick bone hilt of Baldemar’s SWORD, a surge of
thunderbolts up her arm. Then, the hunting SPEAR.

Auriane takes one last look of the Chieftain hall’s grandeur.

EXT./INT. BEHIND THE MEAD SHED – MOMENTS LATER

Auriane kneels next to a souterrain covered with wattlework


hurdles, passing down the weapons to Athelinda, then using
notches cut into the soil as steps, clinging to exposed roots
as she descends into the underground pit.

INT. SOUTERRAIN

Twenty bodies huddled together in darkness. Dead silence.


From a faint shaft of light, Athelinda holds a flask of mead
to Arnwulf’s parted lips. Auriane looks on.

Hertha, Mudrin, Fredemund and five women, are seated on a


ledge of earth. Beneath them, the Field Thralls are packed
together.

AURIANE'S POV.

An enslaved Chattian Warrior. Five Hermunduran WOMEN. A


Gallic slave TRADER, pathetic looking. And captured...

DECIUS (20), a handsome Roman legionary soldier full of


arrogance. His hair is clipped short, his face shaved in
Roman fashion.

Decius catches Auriane watching him and grins. Then, a blood-


chilling child's WAIL O.C.

AURIANE
(hushed)
Mother, that's Thusko. He's alive!

Athelinda scrambles up the dirt wall, pushing the wattlework


aside. Arnwulf on her back.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Mother, no!

(CONTINUED)
13.
CONTINUED:

HERTHA
Foolish woman. I command you,
Athelinda, come back!

DECIUS
(Latin)
Ignorant barbarian sow.

EXT. FEED TROUGHS

Athelinda chases blond-headed Thusko, aimlessly running along


a path beyond the feed troughs.

SOUTERRAIN

A trilling war CRY cuts through the stillness. Deafening


SHRIEKS from hundreds of Hermunduran Warriors stampeding onto
Baldemar’s homestead.

The earthen walls in the Souterrain rumble.

Auriane’s eyes dart back and forth from sounds of carnage.

A gush of hot air rushes upon her face. Crisp crackling


SOUNDS amplify above her.

EXT. YARD

Athelinda, holding Thusko in her arms, is quickly surrounded


by hordes of warriors.

SOUTERRAIN

Athelinda’s full-throated SCREAM inflames Auriane to her


feet, unsheathing her father’s sword, she scrambles up the
earthen wall.

YARD

A Hermunduran Warrior’s hand covers Athelinda’s mouth, an


iron ARM encircles her waist. She fights furiously, but is
dragged back by her captor, releasing Thusko who runs off.

SOUTERRAIN

DECIUS
(grasping Auriane by her
ankles)
Crazed whelp. You can throw your
life away if you want, but you’ll
not throw away mine.

(CONTINUED)
14.
CONTINUED:

HERTHA
Do not touch her, thrall! How dare
you lay a hand on a free woman.
I’ll see you flogged and drowned.

Decius pins Auriane down with her arms behind her back, his
body weighs on her back. A horse’s HOOF tears through the
wattlework. Everyone cowers, except Decius.

DECIUS
Ah, the mind of savages. I’ve given
up trying to puzzle them out. By
Jupiter’s thunderbolts, they fairly
lust for the chance to throw
themselves on each other’s
weapons.
Decius leans down to Auriane.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
By the way, my pugnacious pet,
that’s a sword not a garden hoe.

Auriane struggles. Hertha advances with her counting stick.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
(to Hertha)
I can't be expected to idly sit by
while this battle crazed filly
reveals our hiding place.
(to Auriane)
And as long as we’re on the matter,
here’s another bit of advice. A
smarter bitch would have picked up
the spear, not the sword – then you
wouldn’t have to get in so close.

Hertha’s counting stick CRACKS across Decius’ back. Decius


wrenches around to fend her off, giving Auriane a chance to
bite Decius’ hand down to the bone.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
Daughter of Hades!

Decius shakes Auriane off, allowing her to clamber up again;


sword in hand, forcing her head past the wattlework frame.

AURIANE’S POV.

Through the smoky haze, a yellow column of flame devouring


Baldemar's high seat.

(CONTINUED)
15.
CONTINUED: (2)

Hermundures swarm everywhere, scavenging the spoils of war.

A low rolling coil of SMOKE is chased off by the wind to


reveal Athelinda laying on her back on the scorched earth,
her hair fanned out like a silken coverlet. Her shift sliced
down the front baring her bloodied legs.

YARD

A Warrior lowers his tawny muscular tan body slowly over


Athelinda's limp white body, brutally raping her.

SOUTERRAIN

Auriane’s rigid fingers rake the ground under her, ripping up


the deep roots beneath. Decius grips Auriane’s ankles,
forcing her back.

In the smoky shaft of light, Auriane stares, burning revenge.

YARD - LATER

Auriane leans over Athelinda, covering her naked legs with a


cloak. Baldemar's longhouse is a raging inferno in the b.g.

Auriane presses her cheek to Athelinda's, shaking with hard


sobs. Hertha approaches in the b.g.

AURIANE
I should have come... I could have
saved you... I am cursed.

HERTHA
Auriane. Do not touch her. She must
be cleansed by sacrifice.
Auriane rises up and spins around to confront Hertha.
Thusko, unharmed, hides his face in Hertha's cloak. In
Hertha’s arms is lifeless Arnwulf.

Auriane takes Arnwulf from Hertha.

AURIANE
Mother shouldn’t know yet.

Decius, lingering behind the other Thralls, pauses to glance


at Auriane, silhouetted by a smoke darkened red molten sun
that casts a long shadow across the pillaged Chattian
settlement.

DISSOLVE TO:
16.

EXT. SOUTHERN CAMP

Beneath the dawn’s leaden gray skies, the Chattian Army is


camped on the slope of Sheepshead Hill.

Whole families lived in haphazardly spaced tents that leads


into a loose collection of WARRIORS; brashly roaming with
polished weapons, colliding with children and animals, all
headed toward the hilltop outlook of Baldemar’s camp; the
august black TENT of aurochs hides that remains covered in
ominous silence.

WARRIORS
(chanting)
Give us vengeance! Baldemar, lead
us out!
Among the milling warriors WIDO (35), brutish scoundrel,
jumps atop a cart, haranguing the warriors.

WIDO
The gods know a man’s end before he
knows it himself and they send us
signs. When Wodan takes a man’s
mother and takes also his son...

WARRIORS
(chanting)
Give us vengeance!

WIDO
Every moment we delay shames us
more!

WIDO’S COMPANIONS
Hail Wido, greatest of chiefs!

WITGERN (24), tall and strongly made with thick, red-gold


hair, makes his way along an irregular hillside avenue
between the common tents. One eye is freshly bandaged.

A hairy HAND reaches out from behind a deerhide lean-to,


tightly gripping Witgern’s arm. Witgern spins around to
see...

SIGWULF (25), coarsely built, toughened skin with a crooked


flattened nose, fiery black eyes, and black beard that
contains the remains of some bird he just ate, drunk.

(CONTINUED)
17.
CONTINUED:

SIGWULF
Hail, Witgern, whose abandoned
everyone. And how come he’s
summoned you and not us?

WITGERN
If you have words for me, say
them... you mead soaked mountebank.

SIGWULF
Help us. That’s all I have to say.
The burden’s on you alone. Tell
Baldemar his men are clamoring for
a word with him. Tell him that
weasel’s courting their hatred day
and night.
Sigwulf waves his croaked finger at Wido.

SIGWULF (CONT’D)
I'm sorry for your lost eye. Does
Baldemar know you can’t be joined
in marriage with Auriane now?
You’ve my word I’ll refuse her if
he offers her to me.

Witgern breaks free of Sigwulf’s grip. Sigwulf grabs


Witgern’s tunic, pulling him face to face.

SIGWULF (CONT’D)
I struck a blow for you today. I
hit a man villainous enough to say
you put that eye out yourself,
because Auriane doesn’t want you
anymore.
WITGERN
(softly, forcefully)
You’re drunk. If you’ve a wise
tongue in your head, you’ll be
silent before someone rips it out.

A startling horn BLAST reverberates through the valley.

Witgern turns to look down upon the base of the hill. In the
near distance Wido has mounted a horse, hoisting a Boar
STANDARD. About him, men are breaking camp.

A cacophonous arrhythmic SOUND rises from SWORDS pounded


against SHIELDS.

(CONTINUED)
18.
CONTINUED: (2)

Warriors in burnished bronze, blood-colored cloaks, shields


with yellow and blue splashes make up a gathering horde.

The provision’s CARAVAN, managed by the Romilda’s women, is


lined up in the narrow neck of the valley, ready to move.

EXT. BALDEMAR’S TENT

A cat's SKULL is mounted atop the center pole peering down on


Witgern. A lynx skin drapes the tent's entrance. Nine beastly
looking honor GUARDS are posted with spears. One, gives
Witgern a nod. Witgern pulls the Lynx skin back and enters.

INT. BALDEMAR’S TENT - CONTINUOUS

Between two torches, Witgern discerns the darker form of a


man. A HAND motions him closer.

As Witgern approaches he sees the outline of a kingly tangled


mane of hair, a chieftain’s cloak draped with casual majesty
over the high seat. Then, from the shadows, predatory EYES,
shining from the torch’s flame.

At the Chieftain’s side, are fire lit gems on the HILT of his
SWORD.

Behind the Chieftain’s high seat, hanging from the tent pole
is a great rectangular Roman SHIELD of a primus pilus, a
First Centurion. Baldemar scrutinizes Witgern for a moment,
while calmly rolling a gold COIN through his fingers.

BALDEMAR
Witgern, my boy, that grim look
would take the grin off a skull.
WITGERN
Baldemar, I greet you. You see how
I am maimed. I cannot live on alms.
And I cannot live away from battle.
I came too late upon... the
disaster that took your mother,
Hertha. My life is cursed. I will
die now, if you give me leave.

BALDEMAR
(laughing)
At last, I’ve finally found a
failing in Witgern the Good.

Witgern, bewildered, steps back.

(CONTINUED)
19.
CONTINUED:

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
(preoccupied)
Greed. Wido gobbles up all the
blame and shame. Save some for your
fellows. You will die now, you
say? At my order? Witgern, you
insult me. Wido is out there, not
in here.

WITGERN
I – I mean no insult. None. And,
happily, you have brought up Wido.
I beg you, go and put him in his
place. As we speak, he is making
off with the army that's rightfully
yours.
BALDEMAR
Is he? Wido is a noisy man of small
deeds, and he does not interest me
now. You interest me more.

Baldemar, squinting, leans forward, and frowns at Witgern.

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
Shadow.

WITGERN
I... I don’t understand.

Baldemar’s dark gemstones set in his cloak's eagle brooch


flashes into Witgern’s eyes.

BALDEMAR
Shadow. That’s his markings, I’d
know them anywhere. I never saw a
dog similarly marked, brown and
white speckles with a black toe.

Witgern reaches for the AMULET of a dog’s foot hanging about


his neck. Sweat beads on his face.

FLASH: Witgern slashes at a spotted DOG with his sword,


cutting its throat.

BALDEMAR’S TENT

BALDEMAR
Shadow was my hound. And he didn’t
bite. Witgern, you killed my dog.
(a flicker of humor comes
into his eyes)
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
20.
CONTINUED:
BALDEMAR (CONT'D)
You cleaver rascal, you weren’t
bitten at all, were you?

WITGERN
Where one man sees a paw, Baldemar
sees the whole dog.
(beat)
Your daughter, Auriane, refuses to
marry me. I thought the dog was
wild and tried to make it look as
if...

FLASH: Witgern, without hesitation, pierces his right eye


with his dagger.

BALDEMAR’S TENT
BALDEMAR
Stop there, I’ve caught your
meaning. I know, Witgern. You
should have trusted me to save the
honor of your name without having
to sacrifice your eye, and my dog.
Think no more of it – this secret
shall remain yours and mine.

WITGERN
You mean not to cast me off then?

BALDEMAR
For an eye? I think not. Your soul
still sees with two eyes. Just keep
a good grip on the one you have
left.

WITGERN
You are most nobly generous.

BALDEMAR
Witgern, you returned by much the
same route the raiders used. Did
any of your men see traces of
revelry, and rejoicing?

WITGERN
They left less trace than a fleeing
hawk.

BALDEMAR
The Hermundures on the scent of
booty are like flies around honey.
You can get them all at one swat.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
21.
CONTINUED:
BALDEMAR (CONT'D)
How come our people felled so few
of them?

Witgern shakes his head.

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
Is it not strange that this raid,
which so conveniently impoverishes
me, comes at the very time when
Wido and the Roman governor, Marcus
Julianus, are pressing me to marry
my daughter to Wido’s odious son -
which among other things would also
restore me to wealth?

WITGERN
Auriane spoke the very same
thought.

BALDEMAR
Did she! That alerts me the
question’s a good one.

Witgern starts to speak, but hesitates.

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
And Wido’s cattle were not driven
off, nor was his hall burned,
though it lay more directly in
their path. They came for me,
Witgern.

WITGERN
It is utterly impossible that Wido
could be in league with the
Hermundures.
BALDEMAR
Hasty words are as deadly as any
blade, Witgern. Be careful, nothing
here is as it seems.
(beat)
I mean for you to leave at once at
the head of twenty-five men I’ve
chosen from the Companions and take
Auriane to the place of the
Midsummer Assembly. Witgern, if you
get her to the Assembly healthy and
whole for the day she meets her
groom, there is no favor I will not
grant you.

(CONTINUED)
22.
CONTINUED: (2)

WITGERN
What?! Marriage for her? But she
refuses! Who then will she marry?
Sigwulf?

BALDEMAR
Sigwulf. Ha! Is that what you
think! I’d never see her married to
a man with such a rabid aversion to
water. If a dog shakes itself dry
near Sigwulf, he counts it a bath.

WITGERN
Not Sigwulf. Who then? A better man
than I?
BALDEMAR
Yes, I would say so. A better man
than us all.

WITGERN
I am not good with riddles.

BALDEMAR
By Helle, who else would she marry
on the night of the Assembly? I am
not immortal, my boy. You know she
must be pledged to god or man
before battle takes me.

WITGERN
So you and she decided a god it
should be... you marry her to
Wodan... I understand, and yet I do
not.
BALDEMAR
It is my sacrifice, Witgern. I will
give the god a greater thing than
what he took from me. He took my
son, Arnwulf. So I give to him all
hope of heirs. That should satisfy
heaven and earth, should it not?

Baldemar paces, becoming candidly solemn before Witgern.

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
And as for her prodigal deed in the
Ash Grove – Witgern, it is a sign
of battle luck so rare the She-Wolf
had not yet suckled Rome when last
it happened among us.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
23.
CONTINUED: (3)
BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
So you see, the god cast a lustful
eye on her already, before I ever
conceived of this divine marriage.
(in his High Seat)
Battling Rome is like carrying
water in a sieve. Perhaps she will
be the one to arrest the plague.
Sometimes I think her spirit is
mine, purified. What I do with
might, she does with innocence. And
she has no notion of it, none
whatever, no more than the doe in
the field. She might slay a dragon
with innocence…

A battle horn CRY rises up outside the tent.


WITGERN
Do you hear Wido? They are leaving.

BALDEMAR
Why yes, I do hear it.

WITGERN
Twenty more of your Companions
deserted you this morning.

BALDEMAR
Twenty-three, to be precise. When a
tree’s given a little shake, the
most rottenness fruit always fall
first.

WITGERN
Wido shames us every moment we
delay punishing the Hermundures.
BALDEMAR
A more intriguing question is one
you did not ask, "Where is Wido’s
wealth coming from?"

WITGERN
Curses, I do not know. The hoard, I
suppose, that he claims he found
buried. If you will not fight for
yourself, then I will.

Witgern wheels around to stride off, his sword drawn.

BALDEMAR
Halt. You’re an overeager pup that
needs a tight leash. Turn around.

(CONTINUED)
24.
CONTINUED: (4)

Witgern slowly obeys. Sheaths his sword.

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
Precisely. A hoard. A generations-
old hoard, he claims.

Baldemar tosses Witgern the gold coin that FLASHES in the


torches flame. Witgern is quick to catch it.

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
Well, I’ve had some of it brought
to me. Those coins have images on
them. Look for yourself.

Witgern holds up the gold coin for a closer look.


WITGERN
Nero.

BALDEMAR
By all the gods. What does Wido
take me for? It’s a fool that
assumes others are fools.
(sits forward)
We were not attacked by
Hermundures.

WITGERN
What? But – they were seen. They
were seen by many.

BALDEMAR
And what is more interesting is
that scoundrel, Wido, knows it.
DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. VILLAGE OF THE BOAR - NIGHT

Decius cooks dinner in a black pot over a campfire. On his


lap, a papyrus scroll with a Roman inscription. FOCUS: The
Art of Siege Warfare. (Subtitled)

A twig SNAPS.

DECIUS
Greetings. Do you speak? No?

Across from Decius, Auriane appears in fire light.

(CONTINUED)
25.
CONTINUED:

DECIUS (CONT’D)
What schemes drive the daughter of
Baldemar to have dealings with a
thrall? Did you like the taste of
my flesh so well, you’d like to try
a bite of my other hand?

AURIANE
I am sorry for the bite.

Auriane’s eyes are bold. Her movements are timid.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
It's the god’s will you stopped me.

Decius holds up his swollen purplish HAND.


DECIUS
Never mind. My hand is healing
well.

Auriane comes closer holding out a silver ARM-RING.

AURIANE
I give you this ring in payment for
the bite. Fria, Wodan, be witness
that I have paid.

Decius takes the ring and passes her his goatskin wine flask.
Auriane hesitates, then seizes it with both hands, gulping
down half the flask. Her face reddens. She spits into the
fire. A burst of FLAME.

DECIUS
(laughing)
It’s unwatered wine, my feisty
princess; did I forget to tell you?

Auriane sits near Decius, handing back the flask.

AURIANE
I have something to show you.
Perhaps you can explain it to me.

Auriane opens a linen-wrapped bundle, revealing an ivory-


handled dagger, a roll of papyrus, a heavy leather belt and a
broken-off head of a spear. Decius is remotely observing.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
These belong to a warrior of the
Hermundures... he chased me and
made a great effort to kill me.

(CONTINUED)
26.
CONTINUED: (2)

Decius picks up the long leather belt, studying the carved


letters on the backside, the heavy silver buckle inlaid with
black niello.

DECIUS
He chased you?

AURIANE
I killed him with his spear.

DECIUS
(disbelief)
You -- killed him?
(examines her with new
eyes)
Auriane, had he roughened skin,
here along the jaw, as if from a
childhood pox, a healthy head of
black curly hair and strangely
light eyes?

Auriane nods while reaching for the wine flask. Sips.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
This is a map. A thing no warrior
would have except Roman cavalry...
picked because they closely
resembled Hermundures in features
and size. The raid was a ruse.

Decius holds the BELT up as evidence.

AURIANE
We cannot live on this earth with
you Romans. We do not belong to you
nor will we ever, even if you
murder us all.

DECIUS
You’re right, but the world doesn’t
care that you’re right. See here,
the words carved name his cavalry
cohort, and here, Legio XIV, the
14th Legion. This man you killed
was Valerius Sylvanus, prefect of a
cavalry cohort.

AURIANE
I killed... a prefect?

(CONTINUED)
27.
CONTINUED: (3)

DECIUS
He must count for at least forty or
fifty common ordinary soldiers, no?

Auriane notices a half MOON as she guzzles more wine.

AURIANE
I want you to teach our armorers
how your swords are made, and the
far-flying javelins. I want you to
instruct me in the art of the
sword, exactly as your legionary
soldiers are taught.

Decius grabs the wine flask from a haughty Auriane.


DECIUS
No more of this for you, my
troublesome princess.

AURIANE
Ask me tomorrow, without the wine,
and I will speak the same words.

DECIUS
Nemesis. You’ve got it all
backwards. It’s not weapons. It's
our people. You’ll not chase the
Romans out of your country with a
few miserable copies of Roman arms.
We fight as one. We obey our
commanders. A thing your people
call slavery. We’re not hobbled by
sacred laws. We do whatever brings
results. It’s discipline, not
weapons. You might as well go to
the seashore and do battle with the
waves.

AURIANE
You will not sway my mind, Decius.

DECIUS
Of all the pitiful madness, give it
up. The whole world is with us now
and has been for a century. Certain
races were ordained by the gods to
rule, and others, to be used by
them and knocked about, and we poor
fools in the middle of it all have
little choice but to stand out of
the way and make the best of it.

(CONTINUED)
28.
CONTINUED: (4)

AURIANE
I want you to begin instructing me
at once.

DECIUS
I might as well be speaking to a
rock.

Auriane nails Decius with a captivating thousand mile stare.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
All right, you have it then. If I
turn one sparrow into a hawk,
where’s the harm? But here is what
I ask of you, in return. I want out
of this pestilential swamp.
AURIANE
Decius, I am wounded for you, but I
cannot do this thing. You belong to
the whole tribe. If I help you it
would be like stealing from the
tribe.

DECIUS
This is curious. Suddenly I’m for
getting everything I know about
swordsmanship, but who’s going to
instruct this barbaric she-wolf?

Auriane weighs the consequences.

AURIANE
I will help you then. I’ll get you
a horse and a guide. But not before
next spring. Be ready to travel
south with me and the Company of
Companions at the first cock crow.
What you know of weapons and
tactics, you will tell to my
father.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. BEWITCHING DARK FOREST - DAY

The Company of Companions ride behind Witgern and a


PATHFINDER in single file down a narrow twisting path, edged
with smooth stones. Among them, Auriane fighting the reins to
her gelding’s nervous snorts.

A rushing WIND. A myriad of bronze CHIMES in the forest.

(CONTINUED)
29.
CONTINUED:

Auriane, rounding the path, rides straight into a lichen-


covered stone carved with rune-signs traced in blood.

Witgern exchanges sharp WORDS with the Pathfinder O.C.

A Companion mutters: “Pathfinders do not get lost. Wido’s had


a sorceress bewitch him.”

A desolate SCREECH, either human or cat cuts through the air.

Suddenly, there is commotion at the head of the line. Terror


washes across the FACE of a Companion who traces the air with
a runic sign.

RAMIS (O.C.)
Halt and be at peace. Come forward,
Auriane.

WITGERN
Auriane. Stay there.

RAMIS (O.C.)
Choose, child. You cannot obey both
of us.

Auriane dismounts and approaches Ramis, astride an agitated


milky white mare turned broadside blocking the path.

Witgern, still mounted, seizes Auriane’s shoulder.

WITGERN
No closer.

RAMIS
Witgern, let her be.
WITGERN
She is mine to protect in the name
of Baldemar.

RAMIS
To protect? Can you protect her
from misfortune? Or from her
inevitable day of death?
Witgern, stand aside.

Witgern keeps his grip on Auriane’s shoulder.

Impatient, Ramis takes a pinch of black powder from a leather


pouch at her belt, flinging the powder into Witgern's face.

(CONTINUED)
30.
CONTINUED: (2)

RAMIS (CONT’D)
Sleep.

Witgern instantly slumps forward on his horse, limp. His


hands fall off Auriane’s shoulder causing Auriane, in a chain
reaction, to drop her spear.

RAMIS (CONT’D)
Come. You wear your mother’s fear,
not your own. Now bare your feet,
and unbind your hair.

AURIANE
I will not.

RAMIS
As you delay, a party of Wido’s men
approaches this place. Do as I
command or they will capture you.

Auriane looks back upon the Companions faces, contorted in


fear. Methodically, she pulls out the bone pin and her heavy
mass of chestnut hair falls down, then unlaces the leather
thongs on her calfskin shoes and shakes them off.

RAMIS (CONT’D)
Never forget the power of hair. It
is both a shield and a birth-
string, binding you to earth. Now,
my mare has taken a stone. Take it
out.

Ramis holds a bronze hoof PICK.

AURIANE
If you want to murder me, use
spells to stop my heart, not that
mare.

RAMIS
Perhaps you will not be so
fortunate. The smoothest of
lives is still more difficult than
death, and yours is set to be
anything but smooth.
(raising her voice)
In you dwells a spirit as old as
mine. I command you, give it voice.

Enchanted, Auriane takes the bronze hoof pick and lifts the
mare’s hoof.

(CONTINUED)
31.
CONTINUED: (3)
While prying out the stone the mare nuzzles her, pulling at
her hair as the STONE falls out into her hand.

Behind her VOICES cry, “Ganna, Ganna.”

AURIANE
Let me be. I am not one of yours.

RAMIS
Tell me Auriane, how did you know
which hoof?

Auriane reacts with a jolt.

AURIANE
I... I do not know. And I don’t
care. I’ll take my own life before
I’ll go with you.

RAMIS
It is time you know it, Auriane. I
come to cast light upon what you
will not know.

AURIANE
I choose not to be a ganna. Am I
free, then, to go on my way?

RAMIS
Free is an unfit word for it. Yes,
you are free – to take up your
bonds again. Or you can die now,
and let me show you life. You have
come to one of the times of
turning, when a new path may be
chosen. I was impelled to ask,
though I guessed you would refuse.
(a woeful voice)
Oh, yes. I see you now in a
necklace of bones a cloak of human
skin and corpses strewn at your
feet. At your side a bloody sword
hangs – the more it drinks the more
it thirsts.
(beat)
You flee catastrophe, but you
cannot see catastrophe is fertile,
it brings forth worlds. You flee
sorrow, all the while strewing it
in your bloody wake.
(voice rising up)
Off with you now, Priestess of
Death – go and play in the world.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
32.
CONTINUED: (4)
RAMIS (CONT'D)
I do not want you, and I sorrow for
you.

Ramis wheels her mare about to leave.

AURIANE
Why do you not help Baldemar?

Ramis pulls her mare to a halt, looking back at Auriane.

RAMIS
An empty question from one who
knows not what help is.

AURIANE
How could you allow Wido’s evil?
RAMIS
I am a mortal woman, Auriane, not
the Fates.

Ramis, again, turns the mare to start down the path.

AURIANE
You are a curse in the flesh.

Ramis pulls the mare to an abrupt halt.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
You started the tales I am ridden
with demon’s blood. And now you
come and tell me so... and then you
abandon me.
(enraged)
Yes, abandon me, casually as a
bitch-dog walking off from her
young. You speak of life, but all
that gives human comfort, you call
folly. You spew out words of
confusion while everywhere we are
dying of blows. Go and confuse the
Romans. You would do us more
good.

Auriane reels.

RAMIS
This is well. I am pleased with
you. When I had about as many
years as you, I spoke in that wise
to my own teacher.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
33.
CONTINUED: (5)
RAMIS (CONT'D)
Though I believe I called her a she-
ass instead of a bitch-dog, if
memory serves. Your spirit is great
and you progress well…
(sternly)
But it is not time. I must leave
you. We will meet again at the next
turning of the times.

Ramis gallops off. The stone in Auriane’s hand rolls out


onto the ground.

Auriane searches the Companion’s somber faces until she sees


Decius, grinning at her.

CUT TO:
EXT. ENCAMPMENT - NIGHT

Auriane shivers beneath a deerhide blanket, her hands bound


around the back of a rough pine tree. ULLRIK (25), the club
footed weakling son of Wido, feeds Auriane spoonfuls of gruel
from a steaming bowl.

AURIANE
Blessings on you, Ullrik. Once
again they forgot to feed me.

Ullrik leans close to Auriane.

ULLRIK
(childish whisper)
My brother, Odberht, comes for you.

AURIANE
What are you saying?
ULLRIK
My father, Wido, has made it known
that you are to be given to me, not
Odberht.

AURIANE
Is this true?

ULLRIK
No, Wido would never marry me to
you... but Odberht believes it and
comes for one last chance at what’s
to be taken from him.

Auriane’s eyes rest upon Ullrik’s belted glass drinking HORN.

(CONTINUED)
34.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
Ullrik, that drinking horn you
carry, it is of Ubian glass, is it
not?

Ullrik eagerly nods.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
I will give you my silver and
garnet necklet in exchange.

ULLRIK
Oh, but you cheat yourself. This is
worth far more.

Auriane sees TORCHLIGHT approaching from behind Ullrik.


AURIANE
But I fancy it, and I do not care.

ULLRIK
Here then, I wish you to have it.

Ullrik ties the glass horn to Auriane’s belt, fanning her


cloak to conceal it.

ULLRIK (CONT’D)
I want nothing in exchange.

The SOUND of leather-clad feet tramping in mud and leaves,


approaching, hastens their concealment.

AURIANE
Ullrik, if I live and Baldemar is
victorious, I will send for you.
You will be treated with kindness
among us.

Auriane and Ullrik are bathed in the light of FIVE lurching


torches. Ullrik crouches down frozen, tipping over the bowl
of gruel. Auriane looks up to see among the group of Wido’s
companions...

ODBERHT (24), thick sweaty face, pursed thin lips, a pig’s


snout, eyes that are flint-hard but vague.

ODBERHT
Look, Ranulf. I believe my wicked
little brother was ready to mount
the bride before the wedding. And
is this young cock to be blamed?
Look at her.

(CONTINUED)
35.
CONTINUED: (2)

Odberht raises his torch to show off Auriane.

ODBERHT (CONT’D)
Behold, the disputed maid, strong,
well-formed, firm of flesh. This
young mare’s still half wild. I
fear she needs a better rider than
you to tame her, little brother.

Auriane flattens herself against the tree, cringing. Odberht


hoists Ullrik to his feet, grunting with effort, heaving him
into the brush, and then turns to Auriane, hurriedly
unbinding her legs.

ODBERHT (CONT’D)
Brothers should share, don’t you
think? You’ll have her all the rest
of the nights. I promise to return
her just as I found her, well,
almost.

CUT TO:

EXT. FOREST - NIGHT

A muddy looking URCHIN clad in a bramble-dotted cloak


fastened with thorns emerges from the forest along a dirt
path leading into a village. It is Auriane. She approaches a
bearded BLACKSMITH.

AURIANE
Where is Baldemar?

The Blacksmith gives her a scowl and silence.


AURIANE (CONT’D)
I am his daughter, Auriane.

BLACKSMITH
(mocking laughter)
This little mud-hen Baldemar’s
daughter? A shame no one’s told you
she’s better guarded than a Roman
fortress. Off with you.

EXT. HILL OF THE MIDSUMMER ASSEMBLY - NIGHT

On a sacred promontory the Midsummer Assembly meets beneath a


huge gnarled old oak TREE, illuminated by a ceremonial ring
of torches and a full MOON.

(CONTINUED)
36.
CONTINUED:
The twelve HIGH PRIESTESSES and PRIESTS of Wodan, masked and
crowned with oak leaves, stand within this ring. Among them
is GEISAR (40), priest and SIGREDA (40), priestess and Hylda.

Just beyond them are Sigwulf and THORGILD (25), handsome,


with twenty-two surviving Companions of Baldemar and hundreds
of onlookers surrounding them. All eyes fall upon...

SIGREDA
(bell-clear voice)
Now we summon Wodan to lay a hand
on the head of the one who must
lead us out to destroy the traitor.
Who shall carry the standard?

A dozen AB LIB names are shouted bringing cheers and volleys


of gnawed bones and rotten fruit until we hear, “Sigwulf.”
Spears and swords are CLASHED against shields in approval.

Above the din someone shouts, “Thorgild.”

Geisar comes forward.

GEISAR
It is nearing moonset. We must
choose the standard bearer and
since we cannot agree, sacred law
demands I decide between them, or
offer you a third choice.

EXT. MIDSUMMER ASSEMBLY – SAME TIME

At the edge of the crowd at the bottom of the high hill,


muddy and fatigued Auriane struggles to get through. Then,
she comes face to face with HERWIG (50), the old farm woman.
AURIANE
Herwig.

HERWIG
Auriane, it truly is you. Your
father is well enough, but he’s not
here.

Others turn, gaping at the sight of Auriane. Someone cries,


“It’s a prodigy.” Another, “She cannot have escaped but she
has.” And another, “The Fates freed her to save us.” “She
rebuked Ramis and lived.” “She slew an enemy in the Ash
Grove.” “Baldemar’s ghost lives in her.” Another cries,
“Daughter of the Ash” that's chanted by others, over and
over.

(CONTINUED)
37.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
Let me pass. I’ve little time left.
I mean to take the oath before the
moonset.

EXT. HILLTOP – SAME TIME

GEISAR
Therefore…

Faint determined chanting from the back of the throng causes


Geisar to exchange an anxious look with Sigreda, who shrugs.

GEISAR (CONT’D)
Therefore... I name Unfrith.
UNFRITH (25), as if on cue, comes forward, a faintly amused
smile on his well-groomed face, wearing fine clothes missing
the slightest smudge of mud. The response is half-hearted. A
frenzied, “Daughter of the Ash! Lead us out!"

Sigwulf and Thorgild among the twenty-two Companions are


first to see Auriane’s face emerge as she is ushered by the
throng toward the gnarled oak.

SIGWULF AND THORGILD


(inspired chanting)
Ganna. Ganna.

The Companions protest at the sight of Auriane.

Geisar SHRIEKS for order. Unfrith wisely yields.

Hylda comes to Auriane’s aid, tightly taking her hand,


CURSING anyone who might stand in their way as they finally
gain entrance to the inner circle where Geisar stops before
them. All chanting and excited cries drop to dead silence.

GEISAR
(softly)
You are a fount of evil. You make a
mockery of sacred law. Off with
you, before I break my staff and
condemn you.

AURIANE
It was never in my mind to carry
the standard, only to take the
oath. And I mean to take it.

(CONTINUED)
38.
CONTINUED:

GEISAR
You are the last child of your
family. You are needed to produce
heirs.

AURIANE
It is not to be, Geisar. Baldemar
charged me to tell you, I am the
appeasement gift. This is our
sacrifice. We offer up all hope of
heirs.

GEISAR
Never on this earth. I will not
allow it.
MAN IN CROWD: "You will allow it!"

A SPEAR is cast and stabs deep into the earth, a finger’s


breadth from Geisar’s foot. Geisar, shaken by the near miss,
collapses to his knees.

TIME CUT:

Auriane is a veiled bride in the inner circle of torches.


Beside her is Wodan, in a BOAR’S MASK, holding a spear.

A PRIESTESS, in bloodied boar's hide approaches, playing a


bone flute in mystical tunes.

Another PRIEST takes the sacrificed boar’s heart from a great


bronze bowl atop its tripod, spits it, and thrusts it into
the sacred fire.

FRIA
(masked as a cat)
I am memory. I am Chaos from Chaos
in the time before time. I brought
the age of Ice then took it away.
I brought forth all that flourishes
in the Three Worlds. I create and
destroy with one hand. The Sun and
almighty Moon are my eyes. God of
War, I bid you, raise the veil.

Wodan lifts Auriane’s veil with the spear point.

WODAN
Now I mark her as my own.

Baring Auriane’s left upper arm, Wodan takes his dagger and
carves the runic SIGN of the God of War in her flesh.

(CONTINUED)
39.
CONTINUED: (2)

The PRIESTESS dips her fingers in boar’s blood and draws the
same rune SIGN upon Auriane’s forehead.

An assisting Priest holds out the boar’s charred heart on the


spit, still dark and bloody. Auriane eats it.

PRIEST
This heart gives her the heart of a
boar that never falters in the
charge. Now, draw forth a plait.

PRIEST AND AURIANE


I foreswear mead shed, hall, and
farm. I foreswear peace while my
enemy lives. I foreswear all mortal
marriage. Vengeance is my meat,
blood is my mead.

An OWL drops out of the night, beating its heavy wings just
above Auriane, triggering a...

FLASHBACK: Hertha and Auriane stand amid the carnage of


Baldemar’s homestead.

HERTHA
And who will avenge him, when he
dies by a kinswoman’s hand?

AURIANE
What are you saying? What
kinswoman?

Hertha turns, her long hair unbraided, walking directly into


the inferno that engulfs Baldemar’s hall.
AURIANE (CONT’D)
Grandmother no!

MIDSUMMER ASSEMBLY

AURIANE
In your name, Wodan. I redden my
spear with enemies’ blood. Bringer
of victory, I am your own.

SIGREDA
(wearing a silver cat’s
mask)
Hail, Day. Hail, Night. Hail, all
Hail.

(CONTINUED)
40.
CONTINUED:

ALL
Daughter of the Ash. Lead us out.

The Priest places a twisted silver RING on Auriane’s right


muscular bicep. Hylda swiftly moves forward with iron shears,
cutting Auriane’s long hair, weaving the remains into one
thick braid, and burning the cuttings in the sacred fire.

At the same time the STANDARD, a mountain cat skull mounted


on a short pole, is brought forward by an assisting Priest
who hands it to Sigreda. The crowd’s chanting is picked up
again: “Daughter of the Ash. Lead us out.”

Auriane takes the Standard from Sigreda. She sees in the


firelight playing upon the eye sockets of Sigreda’s mask, a
cold hatred staring back at her.
The crowd breaks into a excited thunderous CHEER as Auriane
raises the Standard above her head.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. ANTELOPE RIDGE – BALDEMAR’S CAMP - DAY

Standing atop the ridge, Auriane looks upon Wido’s stunning


timber and stone encampment on the grassy plain below.

The TROOPS’ numbers and supplies appear inexhaustible. Roman


wagons move in both directions through the fort’s main drop
gate. The Roman cavalry are engaged in a training exercise.

Behind Auriane, Baldemar’s TEN THOUSAND warriors camped among


the beech trees spanning to the far horizon.

INT. BALDEMAR’S TENT - MOMENTS LATER


Before a small yew fire cooking a kettle of herbs, Baldemar
sits, holding a birch rod in hand drawing symbols in the dirt
floor.

A shaft of sunlight streams through the tent’s smoke hole,


casting an eerie amber glow upon...

AURIANE
Father, I am here.

Auriane, moves closer, observing his battle plans drawn in


the dirt floor.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
The men are disheartened. They need
you among them.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
41.
CONTINUED:
AURIANE (CONT’D)
Did the bonesetter say how long
before this leg’s good again?

BALDEMAR
Surely the men know my ghost’s with
them always. Revenge on Wido is
what will heal me best.
(pointing to the dirt
floor)
Look at this.

AURIANE
The pits and the stakes in patterns
of five... so that is how they are
set out.

BALDEMAR
Your Decius showed me.

AURIANE
They must have crept out to dig
them on moonless nights. If that
is how they are dug, when we find
the first row, we know the position
of the rest.

BALDEMAR
Yes. They protect two gates, the
Main and the West. The Roman
governor, Marcus Julianus must have
gotten impatient and cut off their
money because Wido has not been
able to fortify the West gate as
the others. It is there we should
break in, of that I have no doubt.
But what I do not understand is...
Baldemar looks upon Auriane, regarding her for a long moment,
and then faintly nodding with a well-pleased look on his
face.

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
My little hunting cat. You have
done us great honor, great honor
indeed. The tales that have come of
you. I tell you, I do not like to
be outdone.

The kettle boils over, making the fire hiss and spit. Auriane
fills a clay vessel from the kettle, setting it down beside
Baldemar, stares at his bandaged leg.

(CONTINUED)
42.
CONTINUED: (2)

BALDEMAR (CONT’D)
It is nothing. It will heal
quickly.

AURIANE
Bones do not heal quickly at your
age, father. Drink.

BALDEMAR
Enough of such talk. I am more
pleased to see the god’s gift is a
gift to you.

AURIANE
Nothing has happened that is good
that was not brought with more than
we had to give.

Auriane’s eyes well up with tears.

FLASHBACK: MARSH - NIGHT

In the torchlight, Auriane, half naked, falls hard against a


rock causing her to cry out in pain.

Odberht pins her down with his bulk. Biting her about her
face, neck and breasts, bruising her lips, breathing heavily.

Auriane struggles as the black bog beneath seeps around her.

BALDEMAR’S TENT

BALDEMAR
I know. I ask it again and again of
the gods, why are we tormented so?
Why did they not take one of my
limbs instead of Arnwulf? Take me,
not my child, I would have said,
but the gods did not ask. I would
walk in fire myself, if I thought
it would bring an hour’s solace to
Athelinda. The beast strikes
hardest at the vulnerable and the
young. Day on day, I try not to
think of how we bleed. In the end,
fighting’s better than grieving,
sorrow keeps the wounds open. Ah, I
praise the gods for your
brightness. You, Auriane, are
shining proof we’ve life in us yet.

Baldemar perceives Auriane’s sorrowful gaze.


43.

FLASHBACK - CONTINUED:

Odberht rams his body, driving Auriane’s knees apart, trying


to enter her, as her hand finds the Ubian glass horn beneath
her cloak. Madly, she tries striking it hard against the
ground, searching for a rock.

BALDEMAR’S TENT

BALDEMAR
Auriane, tell me. How did you
escape?

Auriane faintly lurches from a sickness in her stomach.

AURIANE
I won Ullrik to my cause and he cut
my bonds. It was night and there
was carousing in the camp. It was
not difficult.

Baldemar shows a trace of wonder and pity.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
And... that was it. A simple matter
to get free.

BALDEMAR
You do not wish to tell me then.

Auriane’s gaze meets Baldemar’s, then flees back to the fire


pit.

FLASHBACK - CONTINUED:
Odberht is near ecstasy. Auriane strikes the glass HORN
against the ground. This time it finds a rock. The glass
cracks, leaving a jagged edge dagger sharp... driven into
Odberht’s neck. She rams it deeper. A gushing wound causes
Odberht to fall aside, clutching his thick neck.

ODBERHT
She-viper!

BALDEMAR’S TENT

AURIANE
(whispers)
How foolish of me to think I could
hide it. I beg you, don’t ask me to
tell it, let it die with me.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
44.
CONTINUED:
AURIANE (CONT'D)
You do not need more horrors to
bear in mind. And we have reason
enough already for vengeance.

BALDEMAR
My poor child, you do not suffer
alone. What befell you befell us
all. When vengeance is taken, the
memory will not hurt.

Auriane avoids her father's eyes. Baldemar covers her hand


with his; grateful, Auriane drinks in his strength.

CUT TO:

EXT. FOREST - DAY


WHACK. Two wooden SWORDS lock in mock battle. It is Decius,
robust with vitality, and Auriane, near exhaustion.

DECIUS
For the fifteenth time, or is it
sixteenth? You aren’t standing
right to execute the right diagonal
cut.

Decius thrusts his weight against Auriane, knocking her


backwards to the ground.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
Again.

Auriane, flushed, rises back up, regaining her posture at the


correct distance before striking again at Decius like a
wildcat. Decius, effortlessly deflects her sword strokes.
DECIUS (CONT’D)
There is a thing that troubles me,
my pet. What happens to the
fortunes of this miserable thrall
if your people do not win?

AURIANE
I will not speak of our defeat in
battle. It brings bad luck.

Auriane spins around, bringing her sword down upon Decius,


who is too quick, blocking her blow, knocking her off
balance.

(CONTINUED)
45.
CONTINUED:

DECIUS
All right then, I’ll speak of it.
Wido’s wild men will seize me in
one of your people’s blood orgies
and nail me to a tree as a gift to
his god.

Auriane, on her knees, breathing hard.

AURIANE
Or perhaps I’ll be more fortunate
and my own people will pick me up,
and torture me to death for
collaborating with the enemy.

Auriane rises, circles. Poised to strike. Their eyes lock.


DECIUS
Or perhaps a certain maid will pour
a horn of mead over your head for
using on purpose words she does not
know.

Auriane lunges forward, a feint move, then spins fast and


strikes with the right diagonal cut.

WHACK! The wooden swords strike hard. Decius’ reflex is


superior. Auriane grimaces.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
Frighten the enemy with your skill,
not your face. I am the enemy. I
will kill you.

Decius leaps at Auriane with a series of lighting-fast sword


cuts. Vengeance in his eyes, giving her a taste of a savage
sword fight.

Auriane deflects his sword cuts, clumsily but aggressively,


as he is relentless.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
Press on. Advance.

Auriane snaps back with exuberant imitations of two basic


cuts, but Decius, easily evading her defense, delivers the
point of his wooden sword into her gut. Auriane doubles over.

Gritting her teeth against the pain, Auriane redoubles her


effort lunging at Decius, pushing him back. They match blow
for blow.

(CONTINUED)
46.
CONTINUED: (2)
Auriane gains the upper hand, but Decius reaches out at her
blind side and jerks her hard in the direction she is going,
causing her to fall flat on her stomach.

AURIANE
That was unfair, treacherous and
vile.

DECIUS
All war is vile treachery.

MOMENTS LATER

Decius sits, tired, impressed by Auriane’s endurance.


Auriane, not dampened by her bruises and strained limbs,
gives Decius a spirited glance.
DECIUS
Now we will do the third attack.

AURIANE
That is enough.

Auriane's face softens.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
My father told me to send you away.
I’ve disobeyed him by keeping you
here to teach me.

DECIUS
Just don’t let on I was the one who
instructed you, and I’ll die in
peace.

AURIANE
Decius. I cannot be doing as badly
as you say. Am I?

DECIUS
You do not need to know if you’re
doing well or not. Praise makes for
laziness in the young. Praise would
only confuse you.

AURIANE
If I were a woman of your people,
you would want me.

(CONTINUED)
47.
CONTINUED:

DECIUS
That is silly, Auriane. It's
difficult enough alone out here
with you, day after day. Do not
make it impossible.

Decius draws Auriane close and kisses her, which she returns.

DECIUS (CONT’D)
Careful, least you betray your
divine husband.

AURIANE
My divine husband betrays me every
year at the rites of spring.
Then, a spy's scuffling SOUND from the rock outcropping.

EXT. WIDO’S CAMP - NIGHT

From the palisade, a SENTRY gazes out at the plain beneath a


clear night under a full moon. He bolts to attention, staring
hard into the darkness.

A white SHADOW descends from Antelope Ridge. Rippling like a


shroud, steadily it approaches defining itself into the SIX
Holy Ones, drawing more SENTRY's to the palisade, among
them...

WIDO
Ride out there and demand of them
their purpose.

SENTRY
That’s nothing human out there. If
I go, I want a rowan spear made
beneath a waxing moon and fifty
good men at my back.

GRASSY PLAIN SURROUNDING WIDO’S CAMP - CONTINUOUS

Hidden in the sedgegrass, Baldemar’s Companions are


positioned for a surprise attack on Wido’s camp.

Travelling through the camouflaged ranks of blackened faces,


passing Sigwulf, Thorgild, and Auriane holding the Standard
by her side.

Ramis, the lead Holy One, solemnly stands, masked.


48.

WIDO’S CAMP - PALISADE - CONTINUOUS

Wido’s Companions, fearful at the sight of the Holy Ones,


make signs against sorcery.

Suddenly, a wild warning TRILL is played by the Holy Ones


upon flutes and brass horns. A chaotic WAIL. The MOON is
eclipsed into a bloody shadow.

CRIES of terror. HOWLS of despair rise up from Wido’s camp.


Shadows dart across the palisade. Warriors fall prostrate,
others flee to their tents.

GRASSY PLAIN - CONTINUOUS

Auriane rises up with the Standard raised high, bolting out


across the grasses in mad flight.

Sigwulf rises, signaling the others to follow. Thousands


rise, torches lit; spears clashed against shields. They make
the CRIES of wild beasts.

WIDO’S CAMP PALISADE POV - CONTINUOUS

It appears as if demons have sprung from the grasses


surrounding the camp. Most of Wido’s men flee in terror. But:

ARABIAN ARCHERS hold their position on the palisade, lifting


their bows as one, judge the distance, taking aim. Shoot a
volley of ARROWS.

GRASSY PLAIN/WEST GATE - CONTINUOUS

Auriane leads Thorgild, fifty Companions and the ladder


bearers stealthily toward the West Gate.
Sigwulf leads a diversion of dozens of Companions. Some are
struck down by raining arrows. Dying SHRIEKS.

Auriane and others reach the West Gate, quietly putting the
ladders in place. Two WARRIORS hastily climb up.

WEST GATE - CONTINUOUS

A Warrior reaches the top of the ladder. His body suddenly


jerks, struck by an invisible force that plummets him back
down to the ground. Twitching in death at Auriane’s feet.

THORGILD
We are lost.

(CONTINUED)
49.
CONTINUED:

WARRIOR #1
It is the vilest of omens.

WARRIOR #2
The dark moon. It has been turned
on us.

Auriane inspects his gashed THROAT.

AURIANE
A ballista bolt.

Auriane tosses her spear and Standard to Thorgild, grabs the


ladder and moves it to the right of the gate.

THORGILD
(grasping her ankle)
You must not, Auriane. Do not curse
us with your death.

Auriane breaks free with vengeance in her heart.

Auriane swings over the top of the gate as bolts from the
ballista just miss her.

Her aurr amulet’s THONG gets caught on the TIP of the fort’s
timber, snapping off.

She drops hard to the ground inside the...

WEST GATE - CONTINUOUS

WIDO’S MEN dart down the palisade, rushing Auriane from all
sides.
A barrage of arrows tear through her hair, grazing her neck
and the flesh of her thigh as she leaps to her feet.

Auriane struggles with the gate’s bolt as a javelin tears


through her tunic, pinning her to the gate. She rips her
tunic to free herself as hundreds of Wido’s warriors storm
upon her. But the BOLT comes free. She falls sideways. The
GATE is forced open by Baldemar’s forces.

Sigwulf with HUNDREDS of Baldemar’s warriors storm through,


charging in the dark chaos, closely packed together like a
human spear thrust into the fort’s heart.

Thorgild reaches down and grabs Auriane by the hand, giving


her a spear.

(CONTINUED)
50.
CONTINUED:

The Archers along the palisade send a fresh volley of arrows


into the horde, blindly killing more of Wido’s men.

Auriane fearlessly races through the camp’s disoriented


resistance. A Man of Wido’s balances a JAVELIN. Auriane
slows, takes aim and fluidly casts her SPEAR killing him.

Quickly, she retrieves a spear from the ground.

Wido’s allies stampede off before Baldemar’s men. Horses,


blind with fright, trample Wido’s handlers. Dragging
overturned carts, crushing warriors, just missing Auriane.

Closer to the camp’s center, Roman cavalrymen hastily form a


rectangular formation, but Baldemar’s Companions, using
spears as lances, scatter the Roman formation.
Sigwulf, bloodied, searching the carnage for Wido and
Odberht, notices the mass of Wido’s men are headed toward the
East Gate. From behind...

GRIMELDA (40), lunges shrieking with her axe raised to hack


off Sigwulf’s head.

In a split second, a spearhead protrudes from her chest.


Grimelda collapses forward. Sigwulf sees Thorgild standing a
short distance behind her, silhouetted by the fires consuming
Wido’s camp.

Auriane and Thorgild race to the prisoner’s wicker CAGES,


releasing the prisoners where they find Witgern.

AURIANE
You’re alive.
WITGERN
Quickly, Wido escapes.

Witgern leads Auriane and Thorgild past burning Roman tents,


to the covered horse stables where...

Wido and Odberht wrestle with two Roman cavalry horses laden
with sacks of treasure.

Mounted, Wido and Odberht break into a gallop toward the East
Gate.

WIDO
I’ll see them roasted alive.

Auriane sprints, judging the distance to the East Gate,


measuring her motion against the Obderht's horse's gallop.

(CONTINUED)
51.
CONTINUED: (2)

She takes aim. Odberht turns, maliciously grinning at her.

The SPEAR throw arches down too soon, striking Ullrik,


hobbling next to Odberht’s horse.

Odberht bursts through the gate as a large NET just misses


snaring him, but engulfing Wido. Baldemar’s Companions cut
their way through, surging over Wido, dozens of swords
gutting him.

Auriane races to the East Gate and casts another spear that
falls short of Odberht. Odberht’s gray horse’s tail mocks
her.

AURIANE
Odberht. He gets away.
LATER

The morning sun sheds a sickly light from smoldering fires.


The air is thick with swarming flies. The victors loot the
enemy corpses. Some shout, “The traitor is dead!” “Long live
our people!” “Wodan is great!”

Auriane threads her way through the dead and dying. Kneeling
beside Ullrik, Auriane smooths back his hair. With blood on
her fingers, traces two plain crossed lines on his forehead.
Ullrik’s eyelids stir with a brief quickening.

AURIANE
Be born among us, be born among us,
live again. Drink our mead, eat
meat from our board.

A Companion stripping a nearby corpse causes Auriane to look


up. Her teary eyes calmly meet his fiercely bewildered gaze.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. MOGONTIACUM FORTRESS - DAY

A great Roman fortress on the Rhine. Gray light from the


clerestory fills the fortress’ stone vaulted headquarters.

LUCIUS ANTONIUS (40), is seated before the Standards of the


First and Fourteenth legions quartered there. RUFINUS (30),
his First Centurion, gives his report. Voices resonate.

RUFINUS
There is no change in the men’s
mood in the last hour, my lord.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
52.
CONTINUED:
RUFINUS (CONT'D)
We can only hope they’ll accept the
inevitable when they see Domitian’s
statues in place. There was some
trouble getting the heads to fit.

ANTONIUS
What? Damn them to Hades. Those
superstitious children will say it
means the state is headless. The
pay increase, did you announce it?

RUFINUS
“We will not be bought by a brother-
killer,” was the reply. That’s what
they think of our new Emperor.

ANTONIUS
I could enrich the donative from my
purse, but I will not toss a bribe
to a gang of mutinous wretches. The
prisoners go out tonight, whether
the men come to reason or not.

RUFINUS
I’ll see to it, but I cannot rid
myself of the feeling that wild she-
wolf has caught our scent.

Louis Antonius leans forward with a frown of distaste.

ANTONIUS
Rufinus, what is that about your
neck?

Rufinus quickly looks down, tucking the silver TALISMAN into


his tunic.
ANTONIUS (CONT’D)
You set a poor example with your
superstition. This she-wolf is
mortal. She eats, she sleeps, she
bleeds, and if she misbehaves
tonight, she dies.

RUFINUS
Why not employ every advantage for
the men’s sake?

(CONTINUED)
53.
CONTINUED: (2)

ANTONIUS
Do what you must then, Rufinus. But
get those cursed prisoners out of
here tonight and get Domitian’s
statute raised.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. ROAD - MIDNIGHT

Beneath a cloud-ridden moonlit sky, a procession of ten CARTS


carrying a hundred Chattian prisoners, guarded by a hundred
and sixty Roman soldiers passing underneath a twelve-foot
high statute of DOMITIAN, a stiff giant with one arm
paternally extended.
No one speaks. Only the muted CLINK of steel on steel, the
heavy-footed tramp of boots in mud.

Rufinus rides alongside the lead cart. We see THEUDOBALD


(40), Baldemar’s brother, bound as a prisoner in the cart.

Rufinus’ horse fights the reins; its coat shines of sweat,


its head held unnaturally high.

A cloud blocks out the moon. Pitch dark. Then, comes a bone-
chilling undulation. From the cavernous dark beneath the
trees, a single blotch of FLAME scatters into many.

RUFINUS
Centurions. Close quarters.

Rufinus dismounts, taking up a position along closed ranks of


locked shields.
Hundreds of Chattians come tearing down the slope in a
misshaped wedge formation, its apex aimed at the center of
the Centurion’s line.

The legionnaires answer with a volley of javelins, tearing


into the horde. Another volley drops even more Chattians.

The Chattians collide with those who have fallen but more
come streaming down, blindly rushing upon the Roman swords.

Rufinus looks triumphant. Then, another SHRILL, rattling war-


hum comes from the rear of the procession.

RUFINUS (CONT’D)
Diamond formation.

(CONTINUED)
54.
CONTINUED:

Thousands of Chattians storm the Romans like a roaring river.


The Roman lines have been cleaved in half. The prisoners are
freed. A SPEARHEAD embeds itself in Rufinus’ shoulder,
knocking him to his knees.

A pale STALLION rides with equine fury. Upon it is Auriane.


Regal. Statuesque. Riding to the first cart with Baldemar’s
sword drawn, keen eyed, she slices Theudobald’s bounds with
the TIP OF THE SWORD.

AURIANE
Theudobald, fight with us.

She guides the stallion near Rufinus, sheaths her sword,


takes up a coiled rope, loops it around the statue of
Domitian. Digging her heels into the stallion’s sides, the
stallion bolts, the rope is pulled taunt.

The head topples falling next to Rufinus. The headless stone


body is next. All comes to a dead silence as Auriane rides
with the fallen statute through the Romans’ broken formation.

Rufinus receives another fatal spear in his side from


Theudobald. Rufinus looks upon Auriane.

RUFINUS
Aurinia.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. RHINE - DAY

Autumn. Dense clouds. In the distance, Mogontiacum is glowing


in flames.
Auriane stands apart for the others in a drift of ocher and
vermilion leaves. Decius sits nearby, disguised with matted
tangled red-blonde hair, eating a bowl of stew.

DECIUS
The hospital buildings are going up
now. And if I’m not mistaken, the
armory. A good piece of work. This
is our victory.

AURIANE
But we lost four.

DECIUS
(standing)
And you rescued ninety-six. Why do
you think only of what is lost?
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
55.
CONTINUED:
DECIUS (CONT'D)
It was a fine end to the warring
season. We reclaimed all the rich
farmlands in the valley of the
Wetterau. And you. You are becoming
legend, as you father was.

AURIANE
The gods help us if we failed to
frighten their soldiers out of
accepting this new emperor. You are
certain this Domitian will turn all
his fury on us and make war?

DECIUS
(banishing venison)
I would wager my last piece of this
boot-leather you call meat. For
too many years he’s lusted for
battle like a hound for a fat hen.
And here we are, troublesome,
defiant, and primitive enough that
a good, solid victory is assured.
You’ve been baiting a bull, and
have been for years. But this is
just one camp. I’ve no idea what’s
happening at the others. Or in
Rome.

A BEAT.

AURIANE
(pensive)
My spies tell me the Romans are
trapping mountain cats. They’ve
built a vast stone temple in Rome.
On its altar, men fight men to feed
their blood to the sun god, and
sometimes men fight and are eaten
by... mountain cats.

Decius’ irksome, self-assured smile VANISHES.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
This altar rises up to the sky and
is called the Col... Col...

DECIUS
Colosseum.

(CONTINUED)
56.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
On the altar men fight to feed
their blood to the sun god, and
sometimes they are eaten by a
mountain cat, our sacred animal.

DECIUS
Auriane, promise me one thing. That
if ever you are captured by my
people and you are certain that
escape is impossible, you will find
a way to end your life.

AURIANE
You’ve no need to make me promise,
Decius. I would rather be sold into
thralldom to the poorest farmer of
the north than be taken alive by a
Roman. Why do you say that?

DECIUS
I just had a nightmare vision of
you in that place.

DISSOLVE TO:

FLASHBACK DREAMSCAPE:

Primal drums throb. In violet light, WE RACE through a ring


of pines into Baldemar’s stone inner sanctum infested with
Roman cavalry horsemen in the flickering torch light –- bound
priestesses are prodded into carts –- lichen-covered altar
stone dripping in blood –- the slain body of a Holy One –-
the solitary figure of a man seated on a horse: Baldemar is a
prisoner.
Baldemar turns, nodding.

BALDEMAR
You must kill me, Auriane. Do it,
beloved child. I cannot be taken
alive.

SUPERIMPOSE INSERT:

Hertha standing before flames.

HERTHA
Accused one. You shall commit a
crime so great there is no
punishment for it.

(CONTINUED)
57.
CONTINUED:

Baldemar (ghostly), ”Do it, beloved child. To be taken alive


would be living death. End my life so I can abide forever
with our people.”

ON AURIANE. Her spear arm shots forward. The spear strikes


Baldemar high in his chest, toppling him from the horse.

CENTURION
What is the meaning of this? She
slew her own father.

Within the ring of torchlight, Odberht is mounted on a horse


next to Baldemar’s body.

ODBERHT
She is a murderer of kin. There is
no cause, except that form earliest
days, she was inclined to evil.

INT. NORTH HALL – EARLY MORNING

Decius awakens Auriane, sleeping beneath a mound of


sheepskins, from her nightmare.

AURIANE
(sleep-groggy)
I did not kill him... I did not...

DECIUS
(whispered)
Wake up, my love.

Auriane arises with an unsteady look.

AURIANE
Decius, my father’s ghost visits me
until I avenge Odberht’s betrayal.
(beat)
The Assembly. We must hurry.

Auriane rises to her feet, purposely readying herself,


searching impatiently through an oaken clothes chest.

DECIUS
Look at me. Athelinda said you were
ill all night. What is wrong?
Decius pulls Auriane down beside
him, not letting go of her.

Auriane looks down, whispering quickly.

(CONTINUED)
58.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
Hear it then, Decius. I am carrying
our child.

Decius spins, looking around to see if anyone heard. Only


Mudrin is close at hand, stirring the hearth-pot.

DECIUS
If only this happened in another
country, I could rejoice. But here
it is forbidden to bear a child by
a Roman, a thrall at that. You must
go to Sigdrifa and have her rid you
of it.

AURIANE
(distant)
I know this child will have no kin-
fire. But life has become so barren
since Baldemar’s death. I would
rather have a child of split soul
than die without any issue at all.

Decius, shaking his head, notices Mudrin’s attentive


incurious look; the thrall-woman already knew. He reaches out
to Auriane, who turns away from him.

DECIUS
You’ll die if Geisar finds out.

AURIANE
(solitary)
I conceived this child amidst
victories, Decius. My time of
strength. This child will be potent
with the magic of victory. I’ll go
away in the last months, and hide
among Ramis’ apprentices.

EXT. ASSEMBLY CIRCLE - NIGHT

Torchlight illuminates the faces of the Chattian throng.


Among them are Geisar, Sigreda, Athelinda, Sigwulf, Witgern,
Decius and Auriane.

GEISAR
I relate to you now the law of the
Emperor Domitian, God-King of the
Romans. I ask your lenience to
allow the foreigner, Decius into
this holy circle, due to mischance
he reads their tongue.
59.

TIME CUT:

DECIUS
(reads scroll)
And fourth, for her long record of
criminal acts, and her abuse and
degradation of the Divine Image,
you will deliver up for punishment
the woman called Aurinia.

Someone yells, “Tell the swine we’ll turn in our own mothers
first.”

DECIUS (CONT’D)
(reading)
You will not cross the Rhine, by
day or night. You will leave 30
miles of land uncultivated, on the
east bank of the river. We wish for
peace, but its continuance rests in
your hands.

Raucous laughter.

WULFSTAN (30), tall, narrow face, mustache, a sour twist of


the mouth.

WULFSTAN
What do they propose to shackle us
with?

SIGWULF
Season after season we defeat them.
And they tell us where we many go,
like a mother to a suckling? I say
burn the edict. Let us swarm over
them like hornets.

There is a loud CLAMOR of clanging spears against shields.


Sigreda strikes a bronze gong for silence.

SIGREDA
Do any here speak against this
course?

Auriane rises.

AURIANE
Sigwulf is wrong. We are not
invincible despite our many
victories of the past years.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
60.
CONTINUED:
AURIANE (CONT'D)
I, as you, until recently believed
we had warred them down. But what
I’ve come to see is this: In all
these years, they have never
retaliated with all their strength.
I don’t think you understand the
might and size of this enemy, for
you have seen so little of him.
(beat)
And consider the character of this
new Emperor. He searches for war
desperately as a niding searches
for honor. Wherever in the world he
scents spirited disobedience, there
he will strike.
(beat)
I say we feign obedience for a
time, tell them we intend to yield
and come the day I must be
sacrificed to save us, I am
willing.

Shouts: “No. Never.”

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Our strength lies in not allowing
ourselves to be goaded into wrath.

COMPANION
She speaks the truth.

CHATTIAN
She speaks the words of Baldemar.

WULFSTAN
(defiant)
Where there is no war, there is no
life and no honor. Witness how
Auriane counsels us to spare our
enemy. It is because she beds with
him.

Wulfstan points at Decius.

GEISAR
Deny it, Auriane.

Time stands still. Then, MURMURS erupt.

AURIANE
The charge is true.

(CONTINUED)
61.
CONTINUED: (2)

Above the crowd’s murmurs, we hear a KINSWOMAN of Geisar’s


yell: “She is with child.”

From the throng: “Try her. She poisons us all.”

WULFSTAN
Geisar, give us judgment.

GEISAR
She is guilty. I condemn her to be
drowned. Seize her.

Decius and Auriane leap forward. In the turmoil of a vicious


sword fight, Auriane struggles alongside Witgern, Decius, and
Allies making their way to the horses.
Auriane vaults on her horse, slicing the tied reins with her
sword. Decius mounts a horse beside her when a SLING casts a
STONE that just misses her head.

Witgern appears, keeping Auriane’s horse from rearing.

WITGERN
Where will you go?

AURIANE
To Ramis.

FOREST STREAM – LATER

Auriane and Decius, riding at a gallop.

AURIANE
We must separate. My horse is
faster, so let’s pray they come
after me. Go north.

DECIUS
You saved my life, lioness. The oak-
leaf crown should be yours.

Galloping close together, Decius clasps Auriane’s hand


tightly; a quick, last embrace.

Decius wheels his mount north, following the stream. Auriane


fords the stream, emerging on the opposite bank, bolting off
into a wide meadow.

DISSOLVE TO:
62.

EXT. ALDER LAKE - DAY

Riding her gray stallion, Auriane breaks through snow covered


shrubs and trees to see far below Alder Lake, shrouded in
still vapor. In the center of the lake is a grassy island. On
it are three pinewood lodges; the grandest is the Temple
House in the center.

BOAT - NIGHT

Carved dragon’s head on a CORACLE’S prow, illuminated by


LAMPLIGHT. Twin fires reflected on the still waters, as a
single OARSMAN makes sweeping gentle strokes.

A dark island approaches. PANPIPES softly played. The


coracle BUMPS softly against the bank. Auriane steps out,
guided by two torchbearers and HELGRUNE (40), big-boned,
homely servant of Ramis.

TEMPLE-HOUSE

Auriane steps within a circle of human skulls, dyed red and


ocher, and sits. Ramis, imposing, is seated by the fire,
eyelids half closed. Slithering Adders freely roam about her.

RAMIS
Tell me child, why is there an egg
within each skull?

AURIANE
(enchanted)
Because... death holds always the
seed of new life.

The crackle of flames plays with the rustle of branches above


as Auriane stares deeply into the flames carrying her into
timelessness.

Ramis reaches for Auriane’s throat.

RAMIS
The pouch of earth I put on you as
a babe is gone. Your spirit is
ready for things now that before it
was not. It sorrows me, though, you
come here not for yourself, but for
the child.

AURIANE
My lady will you protect me here
until my lying-in?

(CONTINUED)
63.
CONTINUED:

RAMIS
Of course, you may stay. But I
desire a gift from you. The child
you carry is a girl. I want her.

AURIANE
I – my child is mine.

RAMIS
If you want that babe to live,
Auriane, you must give her to me.
You are destined to be led into
places where no child can survive.

AURIANE
The child is half-foreign.
RAMIS
To me, none are foreign.

AURIANE
I cannot give up my child.

RAMIS
As you say.

AURIANE
Can you tell me, is Decius safe?

RAMIS
Safe, but not content. But then he
is content to be not content.

AURIANE
Will I, will I see him again?
RAMIS
Some fates are not set and cannot
be known.

AURIANE
Will I ever be able to return to my
people?

RAMIS
There is your enemy.

AURIANE
What? Wanting to return to my
people?

(CONTINUED)
64.
CONTINUED: (2)

RAMIS
No. Not questioning what you
desire. Greatest for you is
vengeance against Odberht.

Auriane’s body tightens. A vast distance in her EYES.

EXT. ISLAND - DAY

Auriane, heavy with child, meets the coracle as it beaches.


Out step Helgrune and FASTILA (20), in gray robes and silver
torque of an Ash Priestess. Auriane and Fastila embrace.

MOMENTS LATER

The two are seated on a bearskin before Auriane’s lodge’s


fire.

AURIANE
What word have you of Decius?

Fastila produces a grimy roll of papyrus from a leather pouch


hanging from her belt.

Auriane seizes it out of Fastila’s hands, recognizing it as


torn from Decius’ book, The Art of Siege Warfare. An empty
coin POUCH falls out.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
He lives.

Auriane studies the writing.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
The words have been washed off and
rewritten by his own hand.

Auriane studies the words.

DECIUS (V.O.)
I am a prisoner of the Cheruscan
king, although he calls me guest. I
suffered capture after two days
riding. I live because of your
courage Auriane. I loved you before
and love you still. I beg you, stay
where you are. I am more certain
than ever a terrible war is coming.
Enclosed is a measure of the king’s
gold, a gift for the child.

(CONTINUED)
65.
CONTINUED:

Auriane picks up the flaccid pouch. Empty. There is a


melancholy attitude in Auriane’s eyes.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. HUT - DAY

Auriane’s face, distorted from labor pain. Her hair drenched


in sweat. We hear wolves HOWLING.

AURIANE
The child does not come. Where is
Ramis?

HELGRUNE
She attends a gathering of the Holy
Nine. She either comes or she
doesn’t.

Auriane casts Helgrune a look of reproach, lost in the pang


of terror and pain. Tentatively probes her abdomen.

AURIANE
The head is too high.

Helgrune puts a snakeskin girdle around Auriane’s waist.

TIME CUT:

At the hut’s doorway, a tall hooded figure stands. In the


foreground, Auriane weakly struggles in the direction of a
water jug. Turning, she sees it is Ramis, and collapses back
on the straw bed openly weeping.

RAMIS
(cradling Auriane)
Cry all you wish. It does not shame
you. It is far better, and relieves
the pain.

Auriane desperately clings to Ramis’ cloak, wincing from


intense pain. Ramis starts to rub Auriane’s abdomen.

AURIANE
The child... is turned around.

RAMIS
(soothing; kneads
Auriane’s stomach)
It is no matter. Breathe evenly,
and think on the flame.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
66.
CONTINUED:
RAMIS (CONT'D)
And this, too, is an initiation,
you see, as much as the first blood
or first battle for a birth tests
the soul in every way.

DISSOLVE TO:

HUT – LATER

Auriane lays exhausted. Helgrune plays an alder pipe. Ramis


has just delivered the fragile baby, steaming in the frigid
air. Swiftly cutting the birth-string with her bronze knife,
she lays the baby on Auriane’s belly. With gasping cries the
pliant creature stares with glassy orbs, steadily at Auriane.

AURIANE
Who are you? Someone from remote
times, I think.

Ramis kneels down next to Auriane and the baby, reading the
soul shape.

RAMIS
There is a strong and definite
presence here, dominating the
others.
(beat)
She is Avenahar.

AURIANE
Avenahar.

EXT. ALDER LAKE - DAY

Villager’s shouts, dogs barking, battering of horse’s hooves


as the CORACLE PROW is beached upon the lake’s shoreline.
Out steps Auriane carrying Avenahar tightly bound in her
arms. Helgrune follows behind.

A Chattian delegation of THIRTY with Auriane’s stallion await


her. The stallion’s mane and tail are braided with white
marguerite; sprigs of vervain woven into his forelock.

CONIARIC (30), robust, golden hair shining, speaks, smiling


broadly with perfect teeth.

CONIARIC
Long life and health to you,
daughter of Athelinda and Baldemar.
We have come from the Warrior’s
Council.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
67.
CONTINUED:
CONIARIC (CONT'D)
We bid you return with us and walk
once more with your ancestors.

Auriane braces herself for bad news.

CONIARIC (CONT’D)
Geisar and Sigwulf send locks of
hair, they are friends.
(beat)
Geisar asks only that you purify
yourself of your uncleanness before
you enter our lands.

Auriane smolders. Furious.

AURIANE
Tell Geisar he must first purify
his viper’s soul. How dare he! How
dare you all.

Auriane wheels about, Avenahar pressed closed to her chest.


Walks back to the coracle in a queenly gait.

WITGERN
Auriane. Wait.

Auriane stops and slowly turns around to see Witgern riding


out from behind of the others. His red-gold hair hangs to
his shoulders and his face has matured.

AURIANE
Witgern. Why did you not show
yourself at once?

Witgern drops from his horse’s mount. They embrace tightly


for a moment. He draws her away to talk in private.
WITGERN
Auriane, listen to me. Many spoke
against you but you must not forget
those who spoke for you. Half of
them do not even believe that...
that you...

AURIANE
Witgern, it is true. Decius is the
father and none other.

WITGERN
Disaster has come. Your warnings
were true. Now they call you a god-
sent seer.

(CONTINUED)
68.
CONTINUED: (2)

AURIANE
Curses on Helle, Witgern.

WITGERN
A mighty Roman force is assembled
at Mogontiacum.

Auriane shuts her eyes.

WITGERN (CONT’D)
Five legions are poised to strike
us. They have come with unnatural
speed under the command of Domitian
himself. All of them, Sigwulf, even
Geisar, say only the Daughter of
the Ash can deliver us now. They
say none who follow you die.

AURIANE
And they who say that were never
with me.

WITGERN
You are the Opener of the Gate,
Protector of the Host, they want
the sword of Baldemar to lead the
charge.

Auriane, miserable, looks at Avenahar, dressed in bearskin


clothes. Then, she surveys the taut, hopeful faces of the
delegation.

AURIANE
Would my ghost be able to visit her
as she grows?
WITGERN
All who are wise say so, Auriane.

A wind shifts across Auriane, blowing up her long hair,


drawing her in the direction of her people’s land.

Slowly she moves away from Witgern and stands before the
delegation. She holds up Avenahar to show them the baby’s
FACE.

AURIANE
This is my daughter, Avenahar of
the lineage of Baldemar and
Gandrida. She is one of us.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
69.
CONTINUED: (3)
AURIANE (CONT'D)
She will have lands and a husband
of this tribe if she wishes, and
the respect due to one of noble
blood.

CONIARIC
It is settled.

AURIANE
Then here is my answer. I will
return.

Auriane walks to Helgrune, pressing Avenahar’s cheek to her


own as a stiff wind mingles their hair. Avenahar reaches out
to where a shaft of sunlight plays upon Auriane’s warrior’s
arm ring. Seeing this, Auriane takes off the warrior’s ring,
giving it to Avenahar. She hugs Avenahar one last time,
gazing into her bright, inquisitive eyes.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
(to Helgrune)
Tell her who her mother was. Tell
her of her deeds. Let her know it
was not her mother’s will to leave
her and that she thought of her
every day until she died.

With all her courage, tears streaming down her cheeks,


Auriane hands Avenahar to Helgrune.

A sorrowful silhouette against the lake’s water, Auriane


walks away and vaults on her stallion. They are off at a
brisk canter, headed out of the village.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. MOGONTIACUM - DAY

A solid gold STATUTE of Domitian, to the fortress’ high


platform.

The Emperor of Rome DOMITIAN (30), bald, pugnacious, wearing


a purple-bordered toga, and crown of ivy stands above a sea
of men -- the four legions of Upper Germania, the First
Minervia, legions from Britannia and cavalry troops, all in
gaudy and brilliant armor. Two Cohorts of the Praetorian
Guard are on Domitian’s right, a thousand gold-breasted
soldiers.

A FLUTE BLOWER sounds a long wan note as the PRIESTS of Mars


lead a garlanded GOAT before Domitian.

(CONTINUED)
70.
CONTINUED:

Domitian washes his hands in a silver basin, then sprinkles


meal, wine and salt onto the goat’s head.

The sacrificing PRIEST fells the goat with a mallet. A second


PRIEST produces a knife and swiftly opens its belly.

Domitian, digging his hands into the goat’s belly, gravely


inspects the liver, intestines and gall.

He holds everyone in suspense, turning to the sea of soldiers


below him, the goat’s entrails gripped in his hands.

Then, in a grand flourish of throwing the entrails into the


altar fire…

DOMITIAN
(bloody hands held high)
Exta bona. The entrails are good.

A deafening, deep-throated frenzied chant of “Ave, Caesar,


Imperator.” The tramp of marching feet echo off the fortress’
walls.

VIEWING STAND

MARCUS ARRIUS JULIANUS, the Younger (30), wise eyes and fine
features, observes with a half dozen Senatorial dignitaries
the vast display of overwhelming military power.

EXT. VILLAGE OF THE BOAR - DUSK

Massed on the fields are tents for EIGHTY THOUSAND Chattian


warriors. Cookfires are lit. Dogs bark.

The DELEGATION approaches from the west, thundering down the


ragged avenue at an exuberant gallop. Holding torches aloft
they recognize Auriane, riding valiantly, her gray cloak
whipping free, loose hair flying.

Many leap to their feet crying out, “Daughter of the Ash.


Lead us out.” “Baldemar lives. Lead us to vengeance.”

Galloping up to the stone altar round, Auriane dismounts near


the Holy Ones. The ground is reddened with sacrificial animal
blood.

Thrusnelda comes to Auriane, dips her finger in ox blood and


traces the runic SIGN of Fria on Auriane’s forehead.

(CONTINUED)
71.
CONTINUED:

THRUSNELDA
Walk among your people, Daughter of
the Ash.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. HEADQUARTERS - NIGHT

Domitian’s austere dining chamber filled with dour-faced


busts, a charcoal brazier supported by a three goat-footed
satyrs, and a cluster of delicate flames from a candelabrum.

Domitian has just struck a silver bell, signaling his


servants to clear the dining table. Marcus Julianus is seated
across from him. The wine flows.
DOMITIAN
Tomorrow I would have you ride out
to the camp of the Eighth Augusta.
Ostensibly your purpose is to
inspect those new ballistae to see
if they’re properly tuned.
(beat)
But your true purpose is to see if
Regulus is committing treason
against me by stockpiling weapons
in a disabled fort above the camp.

MARCUS
I warn you, you will not like me in
the role of informer.

DOMITIAN
You read a man’s soul better than
anyone I know. Watch him.
MARCUS
What I fear is that the truth will
bore you. Uncovering a conspiracy
is so much more entertaining than
finding no conspiracy.

DOMITIAN
Risk boring me then. It will not be
the first time.

EXT. CHATTIAN FORT - DAY

Marcus rides ahead of a First Centurion up the twisting path


through scrub pine, approaching the burnt remains of a
hilltop earth and timber fort. A GOSHAWK shoots up from
behind the palisade.

(CONTINUED)
72.
CONTINUED:

Marcus enters through the charred gate. An ominous stillness


is cast upon a broken fort, with hazed violet hills beyond.
Birds peck at spilled grain. No weapons cache. A terrible
stench fills his nostrils. He searches for its source.

At the back of the fort, a timber shelter. In the sun-dappled


light gloom, mangled corpses. Terror frozen in their charred
faces. Eyes open. Cookpot still in the hand of one. Stave in
another.

Marcus trembles. Then, his horse’s ears perk up.

Suddenly the air is filled with trilling war CRIES, fierce as


a gale.

Marcus leaps from his mount, sprints with dagger between his
teeth to a sentry platform.

Laying flat, shielded by the palisade on one side, a sagging


grain bin on the other, he peers through the timber gaps.

MARCUS' POV. Hordes of Chattian warriors crowning the ridge


headed straight for the fort like turbid water. Blood-
thirsty.

Marcus is caught in the path. Chattians spill down the slope,


garishly painted shields held aloft, flowing around the fort.
Some stream through.

Marcus, hidden, fights terror. Nausea grips him.

In the next moment he peers down upon the Roman camp. The
Haycock is lit. Sentries CRY the alarm. Trumpets blast.
Centurions call the men to arms. Flag bearers signal
positions. Then, a half-dozen MEN fall from the ranks, dead.
The Chattians have fired a catapult into the Roman lines. A
second missile volley rips through the rank and file,
breaking their defense.

All are formed into one dark mass as the Chattians converge
in a wedge formation and ram through the front lines,
crushing their enemy. Iron against iron. Shrieks of agony.
Fire and smoke. Then, a group of legionaries drop their
shields and flee.

TIME CUT:

Mounted Roman reinforcements are seen cresting a far off


hilltop. The Auxiliary Cavalry followed by a hundred Arabian
BOWMEN. Trumpets blast. Thundering hooves.

(CONTINUED)
73.
CONTINUED:

A cattle HORN, summoning the Chattian retreat. They


disengage, quickly receding toward the fort like a wild herd.

Marcus hides, viewing the carnage -- a thousand Roman


casualties. Half as many are Chattian.

Shouting, Chattian warriors pass through the fort,


brandishing Roman swords. A Warrior on a gray stallion,
urging the others to go back for stragglers catches his eye.

In the distance, Arabian bowmen on horseback quickly ride


toward the Chattian retreat.

Marcus' line-of-sight sees Auriane in the mass of stragglers,


stately, head lifted with spirited innocence, carrying a
wounded companion. Marcus is intrigued.
Auriane’s horse toils up the slope at a labored canter,
ascending to the fort.

Instinctively, Marcus hastily fills the grain bin with


slingstones strewn about the palisade when Auriane gallops
past Marcus snaring him by her beauty. Immobilized.

Arab pursuers, whipping their horses.

Marcus gives the bin a heave. It tumbles over, spilling


slingstones on the path of the Arabian horses stumbling on
the stones.

Hidden to the Arabians, Marcus' attention is riveted upon


Auriane, passing through the fort's rear broken gate,
disappearing into the uncharted forest.

CUT TO:
INT. MOGONTIACUM - DAY

In the Principia. Domitian, rumpled, darkened about the eyes,


is slouched on the tribunal before the stone temple of the
Standards. In a gloom thick as fog, he eats a plate of
capons.

On the floor before Domitian, a dismantled CATAPULT.

A CENTURION ushers in Marcus Julianus.

DOMITIAN
I want these stinking beasts to
know we’ll win.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
74.
CONTINUED:
DOMITIAN (CONT'D)
I mean to flush the last of them
out of their hole, that place
they’ve scurried off to, an old
Gaulish fort at the far northeast
end... Five Wells.

MARCUS
You know that for certain.

DOMITIAN
Don’t pick at me with your doubts,
Julianus.

Marcus nods, feigning reluctant agreement.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
I have six, no, it is seven of
them, strapping specimens of
barbarian manhood. I’ve ordered
their interrogators not to break
any bones. They’ll make fine
gladiators after they receive
proper training.

Domitian nods impatiently toward the catapult.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
That thing there... tell me, he-who-
knows everything, could they have
others?

Marcus appraises the catapult.

MARCUS
I think not. All tribes of Germania
believe you can destroy a man if
you turn his own weapon against
him. This... they have done.
(beat)
The narrowness of the aperture...
the grip on the windlass... an
antique design.

DOMITIAN
From my brother’s reign?

MARCUS
No. Much older than that.

DOMITIAN
I have found a way to take their
fort without breaking in.

(CONTINUED)
75.
CONTINUED: (2)

Marcus is neutrally bored. Domitian finishes the capons.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
This Aurinia has a daughter hidden
away. I intend to assemble a
detachment unafraid of sorcery and
witchcraft... to take this child
from their prophetess.

MARCUS
(conflicted)
All the great strategists from
Frontinus back to Xenophon would
give you a nod.

DOMITIAN
This barbarian creature, will, I
hope, provide the cure for the...
the inability I’ve had with women,
of late.

MARCUS
Problem?

DOMITIAN
She will be the tonic that my
concubines fail to give me. What I
need is a simple woman not schooled
in feminine wiles, who will know my
majesty.

MARCUS
But she hardly deserves you.
Remember what she is. And who you
are. Would you reward her infamy by
elevating her to your divine bed?

DOMITIAN
Ah, late in life you’ve conceived a
fussy concern over my loss of
dignity.

MARCUS
The common soldier will think she
bewitched you.

DOMITIAN
Well then, no one shall know about
her, Julianus, old friend... except
you.

CUT TO:
76.

EXT. FIVE WELLS - DAY

The Chattian’s timber fortress. Four thousand WARRIORS all


pitiful skeletons hung with rags. On the palisade, Warriors
stand shoulder to shoulder. We pan their war hardened, weary
faces, coming upon Sigwulf and FASTILA (25), female warrior
and Auriane.

SIGWULF
A horseman comes.

In the distance, through the gauzy dawn, a Roman Legion.


Shields interlocked. Javelins form a bed of spikes. Roman
cavalry arrayed on the flanks.

Approaching the fort, a lone horse rider, SIGGO (25). Both he


and his horse are in parade armor. Well fed. Stops at the
fort’s gate. Removes his helmet.

SIGGO
I would speak to the daughter of
Baldemar.

Auriane appears from the palisade.

AURIANE
I am here, Siggo.

Siggo is taken back by the appalling appearance of his former


countrymen.

SIGGO
Auriane. It’s no use. Domitian has
your daughter.
Auriane reveals nothing of her heart clenching agony.

SIGGO (CONT’D)
Avenahar, that is her name, is it
not? A black-haired girl aged just
over a year?

A dozen Chattian warriors shout, “Liar.”

SIGGO (CONT’D)
Domitian promises to spare the babe
if you throw open the gate. Make
them force their way in, and
they’ll show no mercy.

(CONTINUED)
77.
CONTINUED:

SIGWULF
Look how pretty he is with his
sassy plume.

COMPANION
Go back to your hot baths, Roman
slave.

COMPANION #1
Siggo eats lying down.

CONIARIC
Wine swilling dog of a dog. Show us
your tricks.

COMPANION #2
(laughing)
And loves standing up.

AURIANE
Silence.

Fastila takes Auriane’s arm.

FASTILA
It could be a lie.

AURIANE
It could be true.
(closes her eyes)
True or not, there is only one
answer.
(to Siggo)
Go from us, Siggo. Do you think I
bargain for the life of my child
alone when children of every clan
have been murdered by you or taken
into slavery? Do you think I would
betray all these valorous ones by
opening the gates? You’ve lived
with them too long Siggo, their
ways have poisoned your blood.

A fresh cacophony of approving SHOUTS rise up from the


palisade.

Siggo’s courage breaks. He turns without bothering to put his


helmet back on.

Then, a Chattian hurls a SPEAR.

(CONTINUED)
78.
CONTINUED: (2)

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Do not. He is an envoy.

The spear strikes Siggo in the back of the neck, penetrating


through, toppling him off his horse.

The riderless horse canters back to the Roman lines.

CHEERS arise, all along the palisade.

ROMAN LINES - MOMENTS LATER

A brassy trumpet BLEATS. The first cohorts of the Legion


advance, SHIELDS interlocked.

Chattian fire a fusillade of ARROWS. They THUD harmlessly


against the heavy rectangular shields. The Legion halts.

FORT PALISADE POV.

In the near distance, a structure that resembles a great shed


on wheels is dragged into view.

AURIANE
Mantlets. Under their protection
they’ll most likely bring up
scaling ladders.

SIGWULF
What skulking cowards. Where is
there God-Emperor Domitian? They
have a chief who does not lead.

Chattian bowmen let fly a barrage of flaming ARROWS that


clatter off the mantlet’s iron sheeting.
Auriane’s gaze falls on a sinister activity at the wings of
the Roman formation. The sun momentarily blinds her. Then:

AURIANE
(instinctively)
Down.

Most drop in time to the floor of the sentry walk.

Above, the rushing SOUND of heavy missiles. Twenty-one men


are violently thrown back to the hard ground ten feet below.

The WOMEN stationed in the rear of the assembled fort raise a


CRY, dropping their staves and stones, sprinting forward to
see if their own husbands were among the fallen. Wailing.
Tearing at their hair.

(CONTINUED)
79.
CONTINUED:

Another barrage of missiles WHISTLE overhead. Judging it to


be safe, Auriane peers over the palisade for a quick look.

CATAPULTS, fifty or more among the Roman lines.

Dropping back down to her knees, Auriane looks alarmed.

FASTILA
What is it?

AURIANE
They’re bringing up some sort of
siege tower. A small one. It will
be filled with soldiers.

SIGWULF
We’ll have to set it afire.

Sigwulf signals to the archers.

SIGWULF (CONT’D)
Aim high.

The bowmen set their arrows alight, spring up, then fire. A
few hit their mark. Two more volleys.

Bristling with flaming arrows, the siege tower is


inflammable.

An irregular barrage of catapult missiles answer the arrow


assault on the siege tower.

AURIANE
Retire to the main body. We’ll
destroy them as they mount the
walls.

Sigwulf leaps to the ground, assembling the melee of warriors


into a wedge formation.

Auriane walks along the ranks reassuring her warriors,


cautioning them against bunching too closely together.

Auriane takes her place with Witgern, Sigwulf and Fastila.

All eyes are focused upon the scraping SOUNDS of scaling


ladders, and then the siege TOWER'S pitched hide-covered roof
lurches into position.

Auriane gives Witgern a brave smile.

The siege tower’s bridge CRASHES onto the palaside wall.

(CONTINUED)
80.
CONTINUED: (2)

Auriane, with sword drawn and all the men burst forward,
spears lifted high in the air amid SCREAMS of agony and the
THUD of falling bodies from the other side.

Auriane and Sigwulf charge the tower’s plank bridge, fighting


in hope-drunken madness, slashing flesh to bones..

The Romans advance slowly, methodical, four abreast shields


locked.

Witgern tips a bucket of boiling pitch onto a line of


legionaries ascending a ladder. Overwhelmed, he jumps.

Auriane leaps down to the yard. She sees that the Legionaries
have taken the sentry walk. They fan out along the palisade,
hurling javelins into the melee. Then they pull open the gate
and rush in as if a dam has burst. The timbers reinforcing
the wall are engulfed in flames.

Auriane and Sigwulf struggle to form a wedge formation with


the surviving tribesmen in the yard.

Two short Roman trumpet BLASTS. Every second soldier drops


into the yard and these form into ranks.

JAVELINS rain on the smoke engulfed Chattians. The black


thick smoke parts. Mounds of bodies are revealed. The Wall of
Shields inches forward like a many-legged beast.

Auriane vaults over two still-living men pinned together by a


javelin, signaling to her tribesmen to let arrows fly.

Roman swords are spiked tongues between their shields that


deflect the arrows.
Auriane desperately struggles in the path of the advancing
Legionaries caught in the mire of wounded tribesman. Through
the smoke Witgern is fighting to the death.

The two forces meet. Auriane deflects the sword of a


Legionary shield boss, but is knocked to her knees.

Her tribesmen flood around her. She is lifted back to her


feet.

Sigwulf, beside her, slips in the muddy gore.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Sigwulf. No.

(CONTINUED)
81.
CONTINUED: (3)

Auriane, with fierce determination blocks sword blows aimed


at him, but a Legionary’s sword comes swiftly down,
efficiently, across Sigwulf’s neck.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Sigwulf.

Auriane fights, crushed among her tribesmen, her eyes blurred


with tears.

Many drop their weapons and flee. Others rush into a thatch
hut that’s aflame, immolating themselves.

Among these is Thrusnelda. Her robes burning, she pauses to


look back at Auriane. Then she shrieks a curse and jumps into
the inferno.
The Chattian defense is broken. Some cry, “Auriane. Die with
us.”

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Leave me be. I am cursed.

Auriane runs against the tide of fleeing tribesmen not even


attempting to dodge a hail of javelins, fighting her way to
the animal pens where the horses are tethered.

Fastila finds her and runs to keep apace.

FASTILA
Auriane. Let me die with you.

AURIANE
If you wish to, then you shall
come.
They have not gone far when they find Witgern, lying face
down in the mud, dazed but without fatal wounds.

Together they pull Witgern up. He manages to walk by leaning


on their shoulders.

WITGERN
However you end your life, Auriane,
that way I will go, too.

AURIANE
I would be greatly honored,
Witgern.

(CONTINUED)
82.
CONTINUED: (4)

SHRIEKS of children cut through the battle din. Auriane is


seized with a need to hurry. The slaughter is slowing in the
b.g. Then:

Arriving at the animal sheds, Athelinda flings herself on


Auriane.

ATHELINDA
Child. You are alive.

AURIANE
You did not take it, thank the
gods.

Athelinda holds out a pouch.


ATHELINDA
Five and ten times I started, and
stopped. I could not leave you.

AURIANE
Mother, what will become of you?

They lock in a desperate embrace.


(AURIANE (CONT’D)
(to Fastila)
Go, and bring two horses from the
stalls, one for you and one for
Witgern.

Fastila darts off. Witgern follows.

ATHELINDA
Auriane, what are the horses for?
AURIANE
Mother, you must not watch.

Through the bellowing smoke, a lone Roman CAVALRYMAN


approaches at a gallop. His horse halts, rearing up before
them.

Auriane draws her sword.

CAVALRYMAN
You are Auriane.

AURIANE
(bewildered)
I am.

(CONTINUED)
83.
CONTINUED: (5)

CAVALRYMAN
(low voice)
I have come to release you from
your fate, if you would have it so.
I’m sent by one who wants only to
see you live free. Come quickly. I
have a horse ready for you outside
the gate – you must not ride your
own. Put on this cloak. I have a
pass to get you through. A fresh
horse awaits thirteen miles to the
east. Hurry. I bring you safety and
long life.

AURIANE
What is this? You mean to set me
free?

CAVALRYMAN
Not I, actually, but another.

AURIANE
This lone sample of kindness after
you’ve skewered children and put
whole villages to the sword must be
amusing to your gods. Are you mad?

CAVALRYMAN
No, lady, and you must hurry.

AURIANE
You should have come with a
thousand horses. Never would I save
myself alone. You insult me.
The Cavalryman looks offended. Nonplussed.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
(gentler)
Tell whoever sent you I am grateful
to him. I do not hate life. I truly
wish it were possible to live. But
my answer must be no.

ATHELINDA
(pleading)
Auriane, go with him. One of us can
live.

AURIANE
I cannot do it, Mother.

(CONTINUED)
84.
CONTINUED: (6)

A distant Roman trumpet sounds a fanfare of shrieking,


arrogant notes: the signal for retreat.

CAVALRYMAN
Lady, you are foolish.

The Cavalryman wheels his horse about and gallops off into
the fort's thick smoky haze.

Witgern and Fastila appear with two bony horses. An exhausted


Auriane turns away from Athelinda, sheaths her sword, and
grasping her stallion’s mane, mounts with difficulty.

Athelinda seizes the stallion’s reins.

ATHELINDA
Auriane, what is this? What are you
doing?

Auriane’s eyes are filled with tears. She cannot answer,


turning her head to an oily blackish red sky.

AURIANE
Lord of the Sky whose bride I am,
receive me on this day. Fria,
Mother of All, raise me up to your
sky domain, for I perish in your
name…

Witgern mounts his horse with noble confidence. Fastila


follows with some hesitancy.

ATHELINDA
(desolate howl)
No.
The stallion rears in fright. Auriane tries to wrench the
rein away from Athelinda but her fists are stone.

The three turn their horses toward the open gate. Auriane and
Witgern draw their swords. Fastila, in fright and misery,
readies her spear.

ATHELINDA (CONT’D)
(weaker)
No.

AURIANE
Mother, stand away. By this day’s
end, no matter how we die, we will
be together.

(CONTINUED)
85.
CONTINUED: (7)

Athelinda keeps a fierce grip on the rein.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
If I offer myself, it might undo
the fact that Baldemar lies
unavenged.

Auriane points her sword to the Legion in reserve, visible


through the open gate, standing at quiet attention. A dark
band of men on the brown earth mottled with old snow, half
hidden in a grove of spruce and linden, their upraised flags
whipping in the wind.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
(to Witgern and Fastila)
There is the enemy. We will die
striking them down and give
ourselves back to the earth.

They kick their heels against their horse’s bellies. Witgern


and Fastila’s mounts burst into a gallop. Auriane’s stallion
follows in a frustrated canter, half dragging Athelinda.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Mother. Let me go.

A party of Roman soldiers within the fort recognize Auriane.


One nods curtly. Another BARKS orders.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
(raised sword)
Beloved mother, forgive me.

Her sword slices the taut reins. Athelinda stumbles


backwards. The stallion bolts forward like a catapult.
ATHELINDA
Auriane.

Athelinda drops to her hands and knees before a muddy pool.


She scoops up a handful of mud and smears it over her face
moaning, “No... no.” Then, Athelinda reaches for the pouch
of poison from her belt, but the butt of a Roman javelin
knocks it from her hand.

ON AURIANE, WITGERN AND FASTILA - TRAVELING

Auriane, Witgern and Fastila bear down on the Legion. Raw


cries are torn from Auriane’s throat.

Auriane’s stallion takes the lead, furious in a headlong


rush. An equine storm.
86.

GATE - CONTINUOUS

Legionaries on the sentry walk are alerted to the breakout.


Five whirl around hurling their javelins at the escaping
trio.

A javelin penetrates Fastila through the back, piercing her


horse’s neck, causing it to throw its head up in a spasm of
agony, falling heavily to one side. Fastila dies instantly.

Witgern looks back. The other javelins fall short.

WITGERN
Fria, be gentle with her soul.

Auriane is far ahead, face pressed to the stallion’s surging


neck. Clamoring hooves. Upraised Sword of Baldemar. Outrage.

Witgern horse finds a rabbit hole, and cartwheels onto its


back. He's thrown free to the ground, stunned.

Auriane gallops alone.

The Legion stands at stony attention. Their COMMANDER on his


mount shouts rapid instructions. Signal flags whip about.

Auriane vaults into emptiness, fury and sadness in her eyes.

SUPERIMPOSE:

Decius hailing Auriane. Avenahar’s face. Baldemar, standing


before the Ester fire.

Auriane crashes into the first RANK, knocking Legionaries


backwards; one falls under the stallion’s iron hooves.
Trampled.

The second rank suddenly opens, then the third, and fourth,
in rapid succession.

Auriane brings down her sword in a furious rhythm, striking


helmets, crossed javelins, laminated iron cuirasses, and
occasionally flesh, but no swords. The Legionaries pull back,
evading her blows.

AURIANE
Fight me. Fight me. Give me honor
to die upon the blade of your
swords.
87.

A BEAT.

Auriane grasps her sword securely in both hands and raises it


high, meaning to plunge it into her heart.

AURIANE
Then it must be my own.

Swiftly she brings it down, but her sword strikes a calfskin-


covered wooden SHIELD that a Legionnaire managed to thrust
between the sword point and her breast.

Auriane struggles blindly, but is pulled from her horse, the


sword wrenched from her hand.

Auriane is pinned to the ground by her captors, her arms are


bound behind her back.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. SUN BURNED HILLS OF ITALY - DAY

A monotonous clatter, jingling of horses bits. A burning sun.


Some stir in painful sleep. Auriane, in iron shackles, rides
in a mule-drawn prison cart, with nine of her tribesmen.

VANGIO (30), lays next to her, his eyes in a milky incoherent


glaze. She grimaces at the foul odor of his infected wound,
tightly bound in blood soaked bandages.

Next to Vangio, is a surgeon’s curved needle sharp TOOL.


Auriane deftly covers it with her foot and drags it within
reach.

The cart JOLTS to a stop. SLAVES appear bearing skins of


water and grimy wooden bowls of grain.

AURIANE
(whispered)
Vangio.

Auriane holds water to his lips.

VANGIO
Auriane... it is you... you. How do
they dare...

AURIANE
Vangio. Drink.

(CONTINUED)
88.
CONTINUED:

VANGIO
It is no use. The pain rages like a
house afire. Give me what is under
your foot.

AURIANE
Vangio, don’t leave me.

VANGIO
A god could not endure this pain.
How can a man?

AURIANE
(resigned)
End your pain.
Auriane positions the surgeon’s tool between his knees.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Go in peace. Greet my father. Tell
him I tried to go to him, but Fria
closed the gate.

Auriane turns her head away as Vangio commits suicide.

CUT TO:

INT. PRAETORIAN CAMP - CELL - DAY

A stone prison outside the walls of Rome houses a cell not


much larger than a horse’s stall, with a moldy straw bed,
suffocating heat, holding five tattered Chattian women. Among
them Auriane and SUNIA (20), pale eyed elfin creature with
mouse brown hair.
AURIANE
(comforting)
Sunia.

Looking around her Auriane sees an adjacent cell crowded with


TWENTY women captives, then a small hole in the back wall.

Auriane peers through to see a larger cell of a HUNDRED or


more male captives.

SUNIA
Coniaric and Thorgild are with us.

AURIANE
The Fates be praised. We aren’t
alone.
89.

INT. CELL

Auriane playing dice with a BLACK-HAIRED GUARD and JUSTUS,


another Guard.

BLACK-HAIRED GUARD
Venus, again.

JUSTUS
If she wins any more from us, I say
it’s time for another search.

AURIANE
Who is this man I hear everyone
speaking of, night and day –
Aristos?
Auriane draws the dice up further from the cell bars,
refusing to throw until she gets an answer from the two
Guards.

BLACK-HAIRED GUARD
Persistent as rodents, are they
not? Aristos is a captive of the
war, who...

AURIANE
Of this war? He is one of us? But –
he dines with noblemen. He wins
battles. You speak of him as if he
were a prince of your people.

FOOTSTEPS on stone O.C. Both Guards spring to their stations.


Auriane grabs the cup, retreating into her darken cell.
ON FABATUS, husky. Their Centurion.

FABATUS
Aristos won.

JUSTUS
He saved us, and half the city,
praise to Nemesis and Mars.

BLACK-HAIRED GUARD
He’s signing on again, I hope.

FABATUS
Of course. Kings don’t step down.

Auriane's face appears, abashed.


90.

DAWN – SEVENTH DAY

Auriane asleep. The sun streams through the high narrow


window beaming down on Sunia, huddled in a corner in a dark
heap.

Both are aroused by the loud CLANKING of the cell door


opening. Two MAIDS, one ARABIAN, the other ETHIOPIAN,
brilliantly dressed, enter. Guards carry in a cedar CHEST.

ARABIAN MAID
(to Auriane)
We are ordered to prepare and dress
you. If you make it difficult for
us then we’ll have the Guards do
it.
AURIANE
Dress me? For what purpose?

ETHIOPIAN MAID
For the pleasure of a god.

A dark excitement falls across Auriane’s face. Her hand


fumbles in the straw for the surgeon’s tool.

CUT TO:

INT. DOMITIAN’S VILLA ON THE ALBAN MOUNT - DUSK

The rushing sound of water takes us to the five headed


Serpent Fountain, each emitting a thin stream of water into a
marble-bronze basin.

Domitian walks through his hunting. Low lamps are set at


intervals along the path. He startles a PEACOCK. The wind
rustles the cypresses. A marble SATYR, half clad in ivy,
leers approvingly of the lusty adventure to come, as Domitian
nears a small temple to Sylvanus, carved in white marble.

A detachment of GUARDS are posted within hearing distance.

DOMITIAN'S POV.

Auriane stands at the temple's doorway in a pale pink stola.


Necklace of pearls. Unapproachable. Illuminated by lamplight.

DOMITIAN
Who would have thought such a
pretty creature would have caused
me so much trouble?

(CONTINUED)
91.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
I challenge you, Emperor of the
Romans, to single battle. Wodan,
witness my words. Choose a weapon.

Drawing close, Domitian gathers up the stola.

DOMITIAN
I accept your offer, my pugnacious
little wood nymph, but I alone
shall have a weapon, and the combat
will talk place in the bedchamber.

AURIANE
Do you find willing women in such
short supply, ruler of the whole
world?

Domitian lunges at Auriane, knocking her backward upon


goosedown cushions inside the temple, producing a small whip.
Straddling over her, he whips her cheek. Bright red BLOOD.
Eyes locked.

DOMITIAN
How dare you, you mulish vixen. I
granted you a chance to atone for
your crimes and repair the insult
you gave my majesty.

Auriane's look of challenge melts from her eyes.

AURIANE
I beg you do not harm me. Please.
Terror has stolen my wits. I have
shamed myself. I have shamed my
people.

DOMITIAN
Who am I, then?

AURIANE
A divine ruler over rulers. A king
of kings. Our Lord and God.

DOMITIAN
Lord and God.

Flushed with pleasure, Domitian pulls Auriane to her feet,


burying his hands in her fine soft hair while loosening the
string of pearls.

(CONTINUED)
92.
CONTINUED: (2)

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
You must realize I cannot forgive
you completely. Smile for me now.
That is better.

Domitian pulls back the stola. His hand takes possession of


her shoulder.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
A woman should not develop her
muscles like this, but on you...

AURIANE
I am pleased if it pleases you.

DOMITIAN
Do savages kiss?

Domitian languidly presses his lips to hers. More pressure,


crushing his body against hers. Panicked, she wrestles away.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Pretty thing, I hurt you.

Domitian pushes her back, staining his tunic with her blood.
He seizes her mouth, gets a bruising grip on her buttocks.

A Guard COUGHS O.C.

Auriane goes limp, letting them sink together upon the


cushions. Domitian aggressively tears the stola down the
front and the thin woolen undertunica exposing Auriane’s bare
belly and thighs and crisscrossing battle scars.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
(shrewdly)
I have seen twenty-year veterans
with fewer scars. A pity. A true
pity. But do not worry, I still
find you comely.

Domitian moves to the bronze candelabrum and snuffs out all


the flames but one.

Auriane lifts her chin in defiant pride, moving a fraction


farther away from him.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
You incorrigible little nymph.

He grabs her by the undertunica, exposing a milky swell of


breast beneath the breast band.

(CONTINUED)
93.
CONTINUED: (3)

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
You do please me, and more than any
other, and I shall prove it to you.

Domitian eases himself upon her, moving rhythmically against


her with the probing insistence of an animal.

They roll over, toppling a lamp stand. Aroused, Domitian pins


her down beneath his weight, his blunt fingers bruising her
sex.

Auriane moans from pain. It excites Domitian. He extracts a


small gilt dagger. Starts to sever her breast band that sends
Auriane into a blind fright, getting free.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Poor creature... still frightened.

Reaching for a pitcher of wine on a nearby low cedarwood


table, Domitian pours them each a cupful. An instant of
inattention.

Auriane looms over him from behind. The surgeon’s tool,


viciously sharp, glints in the lamplight, reflected in the
silver pitcher.

Domitian, in the last second, catches her wrists.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Viper.

Slowly he forces her hand down, the surgeon’s tool rakes her
flesh. Locked in the struggle, they move out to the garden.

In swift assuredness, Auriane dives under his arm, wrenches


the weapon free, tripping Domitian as she comes up behind
him. He falls to one side. She springs on top of him.

With the surgeon’s tool raised...

AURIANE
In the name of Wodan, by Fria’s
grace, I now claim vengeance for my
mother, for my people, for
Avenahar...

DOMITIAN
(shrieking)
Guards.

Clamoring. Shouts. Jerking light of torches from every side.

(CONTINUED)
94.
CONTINUED: (4)

Too late. The surgeon’s tool flashes down. Then:

The blur of a CREATURE swiftly bearing down upon her,


deflecting her aim. The surgeon’s tool is embedded deep in
the earth, missing Domitian’s neck.

Domitian knocks Auriane to the side, into the arms of FOUR


officers of the Guard.

Pulled to her feet, Auriane glimpses an ostrich fleeing into


the darkness.

Domitian, on his knees, pulls the surgeon’s tool from the


earth, dazed, turns it over in his hand.

Auriane glares at Domitian. Her torn undertunica, fluttering


in the wind, exposes a breast.

Domitian approaches, his gaze locked onto her.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Why? How could one so tenderly
nursed by Venus be so violently
possessed by Mars? I suppose you
learned treachery at your mother’s
knee. Well, you will unlearn it.
(viciously)
You will be broken, like a mule, no
matter if it takes months. You will
learn to beg for my embrace.

The Guards are baffled.

AURIANE
You are no fit king. Your lowest
servant, the men who shovel dung in
your garden, would make finer
kings. Go and couple with pigs,
you...

Domitian’s hands leap for her throat. The Guards step back,
doing nothing. Auriane violently writhes in his grip.

MARCUS O.C.
Stop at once, in the name of all
you hold dear. She is not worth
this.

Domitian drops Auriane. She slumps half conscious in the arms


of the Guards. Turning around he sees Marcus Julianus.

(CONTINUED)
95.
CONTINUED: (5)

DOMITIAN
Julianus. What in the name of
Nemesis do you think you’re doing?

MARCUS
My apologies. I’m inexcusably late
for dinner. When our good Montanus
told me you were taking dessert out
in the gardens, I rushed to tell
you... this dessert is laced with
poison.

DOMITIAN
Clever. You mean to outthink me
even in matters of love. Arrest
him.
The Centurion of the Guard, PLAUTIUS (30), steps forward.

PLAUTIUS
I will arrest him if you wish my
lord. But you must know he saved
your life.

DOMITIAN
Saved my life, did he? How did he
do that?

PLAUTIUS
The ostrich that came at you.. he
thrust it at her to frighten the
woman and deflect her blow.

DOMITIAN
(less certain,
considering; turns to
Marcus)
Than, how dare you interrupt my
chastising this woman.

MARCUS
If I would say more on the matter,
we must speak in private.

Auriane opens her eyes. Before her stands Marcus, giving her
a guarded glance.

DOMITIAN
Secure her.

Two Praetorians fit Auriane with heavy SHACKLES.

(CONTINUED)
96.
CONTINUED: (6)

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Now get out. Go.

Domitian and Marcus walk away from where Auriane is held


prisoner, far enough not to be heard, close enough for her to
gaze upon Marcus.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Tell me why you made me look like a
fool?

MARCUS
I stopped you from looking more
like a fool. Had you disposed of
her that way, in a heat of rage, it
would have trumpeted to the world
that you feared her words and
believed them the truth.

DOMITIAN
That treacherous harpie boils my
blood. Anyone would have done the
same.

MARCUS
I tried for long to warn you she
was more dangerous than you know.
She is a prisoner of the native’s
code of honor. It demands the blood
of the best man of an enemy tribe.

DOMITIAN
(turns to Auriane)
Animal predator you may be... all
the more fitting you should taste
the whip. If you are fortunate,
I’ll stop before you die.

MARCUS
I would advise against that.

DOMITIAN
(to Marcus)
You wretched pedant. I’m in no mood
for some sleep inducing lecture on
stoic principles.

MARCUS
You are short of captives for the
procession. Harm her and you’ll be
shorter of them...
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
97.
CONTINUED: (7)
MARCUS (CONT'D)
for those captives you hold now in
the Guard’s camp will rise in
revolt and have to be killed. She
is their holy woman. If you want to
silence those who mock the war, I
would leave her be.

DOMITIAN
(disgusted)
I never despise you more than when
you make sense, curses on you.
(rubbing his temples)
My head. Loathsome woman.
Ungrateful city. Piggish populace.

A BEAT.
Turning to gaze at Auriane, a malignant smile comes across
Domitian’s face. Marcus reacts with a jolt of frustration.

DOMITIAN
I have it now, the perfect
punishment for her. In keeping with
her unnatural viciousness and her
love of war. And it will be carried
out after the procession, so we’ll
lose no captives.
(next to Auriane)
My sweet viper... I condemn you to
the arena. And since you show such
precocity in fighting men, you
shall be matched against men. You
will fight for your life until all
the fight is worn out of you.
(beat)
You will envy the dead.
Marcus appears horrified, helpless.

Domitian presses the palms of his hands against his temples.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Knives. Knives in my head.

MARCUS
Guards. Attend to your lord. I will
stay with the prisoner until you
return.

DOMITIAN
I scarcely know what I would do
without you. My great and good
friend. You saved my life.

(CONTINUED)
98.
CONTINUED:

MARCUS
It was nothing.

The Guards promptly assist Domitian out of the garden.

A three-quarter MOON has risen over Alban Mount, above


Auriane. She watches him, faintly shivering from the night
breeze.

Marcus unfastens his cloak and starts to walk toward her


slowly, fearful he will frighten her.

Coming up along her side, Marcus drapes his cloak about her
bare shoulders. She lifts her head slightly to hold his gaze.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
The swine.

AURIANE
That is an insult to swine.

MARCUS
Auriane. I mean to aid you. I mean
no harm. Do you understand? I would
have you count me a friend, but
that may not be possible. My name
is Marcus Arrius Julianus.

The name slowly takes possession of her memory.

AURIANE
The name is known to me. It is that
of my father’s old enemy, the
Governor.
MARCUS
I am his son. By your custom, I am
your enemy. Though for myself, I
prefer to select my enemies
personally, not inherit them.

AURIANE
I count you a friend, even as a
friend of old, though I cannot
account for this.

MARCUS
I too can account for none of this.
You must know your child is alive.
Domitian lied to you.

(CONTINUED)
99.
CONTINUED: (2)

AURIANE
(rejuvenated)
Avenahar. Blessed day. She lives.

Auriane, eyes filled with tears, is flushed with a


realization.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
You are the man who tried to save
me when they laid siege upon our
fort.

MARCUS
Yes.

AURIANE
At the risk of bringing your own
ruin for my freedom.

MARCUS
There were no other choices, then.

Auriane’s soul edges closer to Marcus with hesitation. Then,


swiftly she takes his hand, two hands intimately embracing.

Marcus raises her hand to his lips, gently kissing it.

Auriane moves her head inquisitively against his chest,


nuzzling, resting upon...

An earthen AMULET dangling about his neck.

Marcus takes the amulet and graciously places it about


Auriane’s neck.
AURIANE
Who are you, that you have this?

MARCUS
I am no more than who you see.

AURIANE
I had its twin, before I bloodied
my hands. I, I cannot keep it. I
lost the right.

MARCUS
Who has said so? I’ll not be
content unless you take it.

Auriane shudders. Accepts.

(CONTINUED)
100.
CONTINUED: (3)

Loud talk and clinking metal O.S. The Guards return.

Holding her tightly, Marcus presses his cheek to hers,


whispering...

MARCUS (CONT’D)
I mean to get you out of this
wretched predicament or die trying.
Be patient and do their bidding for
now. As I live, I mean to see you
free.

Torchlight pierces the oleander. The Guards are dangerously


close.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
Fall in a faint.

Auriane collapses into Marcus’ arms.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. LUDUS MAGNUS CELL

Murky light. Auriane’s face is pressed hard against bleak


gray wet stone floor.

Guards slam shut the iron door to the passage leading to her
cell. Roused rats scurry in a frenzy across her cell floor.

She detects a rich sweet odor. A bowl of boiled fruit lies


inside the bars. Steaming.

Struggling, she crawls with hunger-sharpened eyes, but an


impulse makes her wary.
A rat rears up as if warning her. Eyes glowing. Auriane
pushes the bowl closer to the vermin.

The rat scuttles forward. Pauses to clean its face.

Auriane curses under her breath.

The rat seizes a boiled fig, gnawing at its skin.

Before her eyes, the rat suddenly writhes in agony, jerking


briefly before it lays deathly still.

CUT TO:
101.

EXT. TRIUMPHAL GATE - VIA LATA - DAY

TWENTY-FOUR TRUMPETERS arrayed in scarlet and white play a


pompous FANFARE announce the Roman spectacle.

The city crowd, peering from balconies, rooftops, and windows


watch as the march begins, with the SENATORS and MAGISTRATES
walking with processional slowness.

Two-dozen FLUTE BLOWERS followed by a parade of PUBLIC


SLAVES, prodding one hundred white OXEN, horns gilded and
garlanded and hung with red fillets. Then, a cry, “They
come.”

A massive procession of FIVE THOUSAND Captives.


The whole CROWD cheers, “The captives come.”

From a BROTHEL ROOF where PROSTITUTES have gathered, MATIDIA


(35), the wealthy brothelkeeper, emits proud bearing, shouts,
“There she is.” “Look at her. So calm and brave, I pity her.”
The others push up against her to have a look.

In the last rank, Auriane walks, hair wild and loose, her
head held up in defiance, pride. Undaunted. Then,

Four milky white HORSES harnessed abreast emerge from the


shadows of the Triumphal Gate, where appears the jeweled-
bedecked HARNESS reins to Domitian, staring stiffly ahead,
majestically costumed, riding in a fantastic CHARIOT of
ebony, ivory and gold.

A prodigious ROAR swells up upon the sight of him.

Behind Domitian, follows a PUBLIC SLAVE, shouting, “Look


behind you, remember you are mortal.”

In the shower of rose petals, following Domitian are the


countless ranks and files of Roman Legionaries, their
upraised javelins green with laurel.

Auriane passes the Circus Maximus, the Palatine, past


columned temples, government buildings, vendor’s stalls,
filled with the echoing bestial ROARING of the multitude of
curious onlookers.

Then, as she passes the Basilica Julia, a hostile shout from


the crowd, “Go back and fight a real war.”

A hailstorm of pottery shards and fruit pits land upon the


pavement, at the feet of the Captives.

(CONTINUED)
102.
CONTINUED:

A REBEL in the crowd tosses a roof TILE, but his arm is


knocked aside as he releases it.

The TILE strikes Auriane’s leg, causing her to fall to one


knee. She clutches her bleeding ankle, not moving. The
procession comes to a halt.

ON DOMITIAN. Stopped. Enraged.

ON AURIANE. Onlookers charge the soldiers, swarming over


Auriane, protecting her from the armed CITY COHORTS.

ON DOMITIAN. Shouting orders.

ON AURIANE. A WOMAN bandages the bleeding ankle. She stands.


ON ROMAN SOLDIERS. Dispatched into the crowd. Swords drawn.

A faceless VOICE shouts, “Aurin.” Then hundreds.

Some in the crowd yell: “Go back and fight a real war."

A great GROAN is heard behind Auriane. CLATTER of horse’s


hooves, piercing SHRIEKS from punishing sword thrusts.

The crowd falls into a quiet murmur of obedience.

Auriane limps along as the Captives continue to move.

CUT TO:

EXT. LUDUS MAGNUS – YARD - DAY

Hundreds of captives from all corners of the Roman Empire,


practicing warfare in the gladiator school’s sandy yard
cordoned off by towering dun-colored walls.

Between the whip and brand, their punishment and training is


overseen by CORAX (35), short muscular bald-headed, ball
fisted, a barking bully walking among the sparring men with
heavy wooden swords, round shields. Alert, cracking his whip.

CORAX
A bout can be lost with a look.
Reveal nothing with your eyes.

Corax observes Coniaric fighting CELADON (25), intimidating


bulk with an executioner’s face.

CORAX (CONT’D)
Good man. That’s right, parry close
to the body.

(CONTINUED)
103.
CONTINUED:

The thunderous clamor of a titanic bestial war CRY washes


over the yard from the nearby Colosseum like a tidal wave.

CORAX (CONT’D)
Ah, the morning games. Someday
they’ll be screaming for you.
(beat)
Where are my Amazons? Corax storms
off.

INT. EQUIPMENT ROOM

A Syrian ARMORY BOY (15), fastens Auriane leather greaves.


His eyes meet hers.

ARMORY BOY
You are Auriane.

AURIANE
Yes.

ARMORY BOY
I have words from the one who gave
you that amulet of earth.

Auriane’s hushes him for a moment, afraid of eavesdroppers.

ARMORY BOY (CONT’D)


Caution’s necessary, I’m to report
and delays unavoidable. For
safety’s sake, do nothing to bring
yourself to the attention of those
above. Take heart, soon now he
comes for you.
AURIANE
Praise to sun and moon. Tell me...

From the corner of her eye, Auriane sees Corax standing in


the shadows, spying on her.

The Amory Boy, nimble as a monkey, moves on to his next


charge.

INT. PRACTICE ARENA - DAY

Chattian captives sit together on stone seats among hundreds


more. A lurid, sickly skylight amber glow falls upon the
arena sand being smoothed out by TWO Mauretanian slave boys.

(CONTINUED)
104.
CONTINUED:

Corax struts among the milling staff, shouting in comic


ferocity, giving orders to his five assistants who carry out
the preparations with precision and efficiency.

Curious citizens and fashionable nobility with their


prostitutes wander in taking their seats opposite the
gladiators.

Thorgild, Coniaric, Auriane, and Sunia sit in anticipation.

A pale, slender-boned girl from Albion is sparring with a


tall, closed-countenanced Sarmatian woman, nimble as a race-
bred mare.

With two clipped violent strokes, the Sarmatian knocks the


wooden sword from the girl’s hands. A backstroke knocks her
to her knees.

Laughter erupts from the visiting onlookers.

CORAX
Thorgild. Sunia.

Behind Auriane, a hushed exchange from a Numidian called...

MASSA
Tonight’s the night we avenge
ourselves on those villains of the
Second Hall. By the fleas of
Cerberus, once they’re disposed of,
I’ll wager a month’s wine ration
you’ll see no more rat dung in our
barley.

Sunia, overhearing Massa, rises then bends over retching.


CORAX
Nemesis. Douse that sickly cow with
water and be quick about it.

A bucket of water sloshes over Sunia.

MOMENTS LATER

Sunia makes a hesitant lunge at Thorgild with her wooden


sword. Thorgild bats his sword at Sunia, hitting her several
times on the shins and elbows with the flat of his sword,
enraging her.

(CONTINUED)
105.
CONTINUED:

With a two-handed sword hold, Sunia launches into Thorgild


with a series of wildly aimed vertical cuts like a madwoman
attacking a snake with a hoe. Thorgild is pushed back as she
rams his chest with her shield.

Delighted LAUGHTER erupts from the spectators.

Pulling at his flabby lip, Corax contemplates his decision.

CORAX
Thorgild. Sunia. Both pass.

TIME CUT:

The stone steps are nearly cleared of captives. A dozen upper


TRAINERS and SEASONED
FIGHTERS have collected about the ring. Among them is ERATO
(30), a formidable and handsome Greek trainer of the First
Hall. Corax casts a look of destain upon seeing Erato.

CORAX
(mutters to assistant)
Damn him to the nether depths. He
filches every good novice I get.
(to novices)
Celadon. Auriane.

Auriane eagerly goes to the stack of wooden swords. Beside


her, Celadon picks up the first one he comes upon.

But Auriane studies each sword for weight and balance.

CORAX (CONT’D)
What do we think we’re about here,
plucking posies for a spring
festival?

Defiant, Auriane chooses a sword. Two assistants strap on


their greaves and arm guards.

Auriane and Celadon enter the arena, making careful


deliberate moves, trying to draw each other out.

Celadon executes a deep attack nearly striking Auriane’s


side.

Aroused, she counterattacks putting herself in range. Both


are ignited to whip-crack speed.

Strikes. Counterstrikes. The loud hollow CRACK of wooden


swords.

(CONTINUED)
106.
CONTINUED:

Auriane whips about the sandy arena like a dancer, as she


moves around Celadon like a maypole, binding and unbinding
him.

Her deft strokes and anarchic parries are powerful, strong


and measured. She forces Celadon back on his heels, inching
backwards until he topples over a low barrier, falling to the
stone floor beyond.

Erato stares dumbfounded at Auriane’s agility.

CORAX (CONT’D)
Halt.

Auriane looks about, dazed. She extends a hand to Celadon to


help him rise.
She notices the odd silence all about. All are staring at
her.

The collection of veterans and trainers give her probing


looks; some speak in covered voices.

Torquatus’ SECRETARY pushes past Corax.

SECRETARY
Celadon and Auriane both pass.
Celadon, to your place. Auriane, to
the trainers’ offices.

CORAX
(irate; to Erato)
You’ll not get off with this, you
plundering schemer. I found her, I
trained her.
ERATO
(mocking)
You trained her? When I want comedy
I’ll go to the theater. You’ll ruin
her. Move out of the way or I’ll
have the guards drag you off. She
is now my charge.

INT. ERATO’S ACCOUNTS ROOM - LATER

ON ERATO AND AURIANE

ERATO
Corax never taught you to fight
like that. And you did not learn it
from your countrymen.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
107.
CONTINUED:
ERATO (CONT'D)
I saw you execute a maneuver called
the ‘trap’, followed by the
difficult forward falling attack
done so smoothly, so quickly, I
could scarce follow. Novices are
not taught these things.

AURIANE
I... did not know I did those
things.

ERATO
It sounds like utter madness as I
say it, but in my fifteen years of
training I’ve seen nothing like
this. It is more than skill...
something god-touched, like a
dancer’s art. If a cat had human
genius it might fight like that.
The perverse humor of Fortuna... to
find such bewildering skill in a
woman.

Auriane considers this, greatly affected, awakening to a


perverse desire to try her skill.

AURIANE
If you say it, I accept it as so.

ERATO
From this day forth I will instruct
you myself.
(beat)
Is there any favor you wish of me?

AURIANE
Protection from whomever is trying
to poison me.

CUT TO:

INT. LOWER HALL - NIGHT

One long table runs the length of this cavernous soot-


darkened den of novice gladiators. The smoky gloom is lit by
two leering Gorgon’s head lamps, hanging from the low
ceiling.

Echoing into the cavern is the distant First Hall din of a


banquet of celebration. Raucous shrieks. Women’s singing.

Cheers punctuated by the cry, “Aristos Rex.”

(CONTINUED)
108.
CONTINUED:

A Slave ladles cooked barley from an iron pot into wooden


bowls passed along to the Captives.

Auriane holds her bowl to the lamplight.

AURIANE
Wait for the beans.

THORGILD
Rat dung?

Sunia rises to her feet. Throws her bowl against the wall.

SUNIA
I cannot bear it. I want chicken. A
common ordinary chicken.
Auriane slowly rises. A slow burning rage in her eyes.

CONIARIC
Auriane, if you love life you’ll
sit back down.

AURIANE
I took food from our mouths to feed
the Roman captives at our mercy. In
return these people, the wealthiest
in the Three Worlds, throw filth at
us.

Auriane looks about the room for a weapon. None.

CONIARIC
This is madness.
AURIANE
(to Sunia)
I’m going to fetch you something to
eat.

Leaping up, Coniaric grabs Auriane’s tunic. She tears it


free.

SHORT BARREL-VAULTED PASSAGEWAY - CONTINUOUS

Auriane passes through the brown-and-gray gloom of the


adjacent chamber’s forbidden recesses.

She ascends a flight of marble steps flanked by winged


Victories decked in laurel. The cramped passage opens into a
mammoth cave, pulsing in ruddy light.
109.

CHAMBER OF THE MEN OF THE FIRST HALL - CONTINUOUS

Auriane sees the banquet hall through a bluish haze of


incense and lamp smoke: Courtesans, maids in fawnskins,
kithara music, floor-to-ceiling battle scene murals, platters
heaped with food.

Auriane is awestruck. The abundance rekindles her rage.

Beneath a great shrine to Mars set into a niche in the wall,


a low platform catches her attention. There sits...

TORQUATUS (35), pendulous profile, rapacious eyes, sprawled


out on a couch. To his left a WOMAN, bold, queenly. To his
right a massive MAN whose shoulder-length, red-blond locks
curl at the ends, crowned in a rose garland.
Auriane humbly seething, stands before Torquatus.

AURIANE
I am sorry to intrude upon you, my
lord, but I do so with a just
complaint. I beg of you to find us
edible food… and to punish the men
who are fouling it with rat dung.

The banquet guests stare, bewildered. Torquatus looks upon


Auriane with a cold, closed expression.

TORQUATUS
(signaling to guards)
Of course. You’ll get everything
you want.

Torquatus slowly reaches for his jeweled dagger, nodding to


his guards. Six Guards approach cautiously. Swords drawn.

TORQUATUS (CONT’D)
For now, why do you not take one of
those chickens?

With Auriane's reach serving GIRL is setting down a platter


of freshly cooked hens with a large CARVING KNIFE.

The Man next to Torquatus remains still, purposely turned


away from Auriane as all other's eyes fall upon her.

Auriane becomes aware of the powerfully-built man wearing the


rose garland, ignoring her.

The Woman on Torquatus’ left teases him.

(CONTINUED)
110.
CONTINUED:

WOMAN
Does she frighten you, Aristos?

A horrified expression washes over Auriane’s face. Aristos


is Odberht.

Sensing the approach of the Guards, Auriane lunges for the


carving knife, and makes her escape from pursuing Guards,
causing the banquet hall to be left in shambles.

VAULTED PASSAGE - CONTINUOUS

Auriane leaps in one bound down the flight of stairs. Running


hard.

The manic clang of the escape BELL follows.


NOVICES HALL - CONTINUOUS

Auriane bolts through the door.

Her CLAN pull her into their midst, forming a protective knot
against the Guards.

Torquatus appears at the doorway. Behind him is Erato.

TORQUATUS
Give her to me.

The Guards force their way into the Clan.

TORQUATUS (CONT’D)
When is the next date for
executions?
ERATO
My lord, please stop and consider.
I have seen her sword skills. I beg
you, she is valuable beyond price.
I have not seen a fighter of such
intelligence, since your own
favorite, Narcissus, back in the
time of Nero.

TORQUATUS
Whoever told you I enjoy practical
jokes cruelly misinformed you.

ERATO
This is not a jest, my lord. She’ll
draw crowds like any luminary of
the First Hall.

(CONTINUED)
111.
CONTINUED:

TORQUATUS
(enunciating)
I don’t care if she draws crowds or
flies. Revolts are met with swift
punishment. She will be executed.
At the noon recess of the animal
shows, she will be tied to a stake
and torn apart by bears.

INT. PALACE - NIGHT

Erato and Marcus. In lamplight chambers.

MARCUS
(agitated)
There is only one way to resolve
this matter.

ERATO
My lord, I begged Torquatus to
reconsider his decision.

MARCUS
Erato, if you had to, could you run
the school?

ERATO
I’ve always thought it idle to
speculate on things which are not
possible.

MARCUS
Let us not judge too hastily what
is not possible.
ERATO
Well, yes then… I could. I know
every rat hole in the place. And
I’ve the wit to know skill in a
swordsman.

Marcus shifts, showing Erato a swift, genial, knowing smile.

MARCUS
Good enough. You may go. And do not
be alarmed if you receive a rather
surprising message in the morning.

INT. CELL – SAME TIME

Auriane and Sunia.

(CONTINUED)
112.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
Sunia, it was Odberht, and he is
alive as the worms that animate
corpses. Doubtless he hoped I
would be killed before we
discovered him. He must have
been sent off to Rome with the
first captives.

SUNIA
Every breath he draws poisons our
blood.

AURIANE
Because of me, we are battered
down, and Odberht thrives. Because
of me, vengeance is impossible, the
tribe is scattered, and we are
mocked in this place where men are
trained to fight like dogs.

SUNIA
Perhaps it’s not your curse but
your great heart that throws us in
with Odberht at this time. Perhaps,
for you, he is a gateway to another
world.

INT. PREFECT’S OFFICE – LATE AFTERNOON

Erato, standing before a group of TRAINERS.

ERATO
As you now know, Torquatus, has
been removed, and I have been
appointed in his place.
(beat)
First, the execution of Auriane is
overturned. Second, I want a close
inspection of the rations being
given the men of the lower grades.

EXT. YARD - EVENING

Shadows gather at the base of the walls as the novices learn


their fate. ACCO (40), a placid beast, masticating his words
as he reads from a scroll. A TORCH-BEARER stands next to him.

(CONTINUED)
113.
CONTINUED:

ACCO
Let it be known that on this day,
the third before the Nones, you
have been consigned to appear in
the three days of games
commemorating the victory of the
Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus
over the rebellious Chattians.
(turning to the Novices)
In the next days we’ll select ten
of you to take part in the grand
chariot-procession on the opening
day, and these will be fitted out
with our colors of vermilion and
gold and…
DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. LUDUS MAGNUS - WEST YARD - NIGHT

Samnite armor worn by Auriane is illuminated in a ring of


torches. She holds a light shield and double-edged sword,
wearing greaves, arm guards, a plumed helmet. Her sword is
fitted with a leather guard for training.

Erato arrives, brusque, impatiently puts on his armor without


greeting her.

ERATO
(informal)
Someone at the Palace has a grudge
against you... you’re to be matched
with a man. A certain Perseus. I
know him. He’s more than good... he
won his first bout handily.
AURIANE
When have I not fought men?

ERATO
It’s past time you learned respect
for the dangers you face. Listen or
perish.

AURIANE
It is not meant to spite you. What
you call overconfidence I call the
grace of Fria.

ERATO
The only goddess I honor is Victory
and so should you.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
114.
CONTINUED:
ERATO (CONT'D)
(beat)
I will play the part of Perseus.
Begin by feigning weakness. My
guess is, with this man, it will be
the right way to open. He’ll draw
you out to see what makes you
parry. And you must lie.

Erato takes a position beside a bored Auriane.

ERATO (CONT’D)
Start by limiting yourself to the
first parry and the fundamental
advance. Let his confidence grow.
Soon, he’ll stop watching you so
closely. Remember, too, you’ll be
tiring him out, you’ll be facing a
Thracian sword, and your man will
be committed to broad sweeping
movements. Keep your parries
narrow. Don’t thrust.
(beat)
We’ll engage awhile, then I’ll cry
out a signal. When I do, come at me
as hard as you can. Spare me
nothing.

Auriane nods approvingly. They start to spar. She follows his


instructions precisely in an even rhythm that lulls both of
them into monotony.

ERATO (CONT’D)
Now.

Auriane hurls herself at him. A shock as their shields


impact. In whip-quick succession.
Auriane assaults Erato with baffling crosscuts.

Aware his strategy isn’t working Erato makes an upward cut.


Auriane intercepts, forcing his blade down with a stroke in a
hammer blow.

Tight, fast cuts. Vicious strikes. Erato retreats in a zigzag


path.

Erato trips, falling down hard. He is on his back, gasping


for breath beneath the naked steel BLADE poised...

MATCH CUT TO:


115.

EXT. COLOSSEUM - DAY

ON PERSEUS (30), a formidable opponent on his back fearing


the tip of a bloodied SWORD. His line-of-sight takes us
to...

Auriane standing over him, wearing a bloodied tunic,


helmetless, smoothed back hair burnished bronze.

The Colosseum crowd cries, “Habet.” “Aurinia, victor.”

HUNDREDS of Silken Handkerchiefs drift like butterflies from


the high places.

Auriane lowers her sword.


Cheers turn to murmurs of confusion.

Erato is seen standing at the Gate of Death.

ERATO
Auriane, no.

Auriane gasps for breath. She feels her bleeding stomach


wound. Vomits.

The crowd ROARS, approving her refusal.

Perseus staggers to his feet, exhausted.

An insistent clamor engulfs the Colosseum.

IMPERIAL BOX - CONTINUOUS

Domitian scowls, enraged by the throng’s praise of Auriane.


Marcus, standing behind him among the Emperor’s entourage,
looks on as...

Auriane and Perseus clash below, with less fortitude.

ARENA - CONTINUOUS

Random staccato of swords. Cross cuts. Upward slices.

Auriane’s blade whips about in a relentless blinding rapid-


fire series of savage backstrokes. He has no time to recover.

Auriane, with one fluid motion slides her blade along his and
feigns an attack to his right shoulder.

Perseus whips his shield laterally, exposing his chest.

(CONTINUED)
116.
CONTINUED:

Auriane wrenches her body to the left, thrusting the point of


sword into his chest. It is a fatal wound.

Quickly, Auriane turns and knocks his sword from his hand
with one hard downward stroke.

Perseus collapses to his knees. He twists, falling onto his


back.

A SLAVE garbed as Mercury runs out and removes the dying


man’s helmet. Exposing his throat for the finishing stroke.

The crowd chants, “Ave Aurinia, victor.”

Perseus’ right hand raised, trembles for mercy.


Auriane turns away, carried off by the strangeness of it all.
She sways, dizzied from her loss of blood.

From the lower seats, “Cut his throat. Kill the cunning wolf
that tried to murder our poor Aurinia.”

THUMBS rapidly turned downward.

AURIANE
(to herself)
A curse unto nine generations upon
one who strikes a foe who cannot
strike back.

Auriane stares with rage up at the Imperial Box, her back to


Perseus. Her sword dragging by her side.

IMPERIAL BOX - CONTINUOUS


Domitian. Pensive. Beckons to a SLAVE. Whispers something
that sends the Slave quickly off.

Domitian turns to Marcus, notices that he is not wearing his


AMULET.

Marcus notices Domitian’s perplexed unease.

ARENA - CONTINUOUS

An UNDERTRAINER runs out and unobtrusively dispatches Perseus


with a quick dagger stroke across his throat.

(CONTINUED)
117.
CONTINUED:

The crowd ROARS. Auriane whirls around to see the grinning


mask of CHARON, the Etruscan death demon, worn by a boy who
touches Perseus with a hot BRAND to make sure he’s dead as
FOUR morgue workers rush forward, hauling up the body and
dumping it into a wooden casket with habitual skill.

A white-liveried SERVANT approaches with mincing steps,


bearing the victory PALM. When Auriane reaches for it, he
drops it to the sand.

The crowd is hushed.

IMPERIAL BOX - CONTINUOUS

HERALD (40), girlish gold locks and rich feminine voice.


HERALD
This woman disobeyed the order to
kill. Let it be known, she shall
not have this victory. Let the
record read: Perseus, perished.
Auriane, defeated.

The crowd pauses, seemingly annoyed and perplexed. Then:


“Aurinia, victor. She needs no palm.”

HERALD (CONT’D)
And now we grant her yet another
chance to prove her mettle...
Enter, Antaeus.

ANTAEUS (25), towering muscular beast, quickly approaches


from the gladiator’s entrance, with TRIDENT and NET.

Erato is stricken with rage. Guards hold him back from


entering the arena.

ERATO
No, this cannot be.

The crowd AB LIB voices of surprise and outrage.

Auriane looks at Domitian as he returns her gaze with a smug


scowl. For an instant their gazes are locked together.

Noticing she is wearing Marcus’ AMULET, Domitian looks again


at Marcus, his expression sharp and dangerous.

From the high seats a purposeful chant, “Aurinia, victor. Ave


Imperator Domitinanus, Germanicus, Ruler of All, Lord and
God, Conqueror of Germania.”

(CONTINUED)
118.
CONTINUED:

Domitian is jerked from his sullen fog. Sits forward in


disbelief. Then scowls, pinned between rage and satisfaction.
He waves off the bout with the passing of his hand.

The crowd roars, “Lord and God.”

The SENATORS join in repeating: “Lord and God.”

Domitian appears smug and pleased. He gestures, limply, to


the Herald to call off the bout with Antaeus.

Erato breaks free of the Guards and runs out to Auriane, who
is near collapse.

VICTORY GATE - MOMENTS LATER


Aided by Erato, Auriane makes her way through a swarm of
fans, kissing her, clutching at her, tearing at her tunic,
her hair.

Erato hails TWO Greek physician’s assistants, who come to


Auriane’s side. One uses a pointed staff to fend off the
crowd.

ERATO
Take her quickly, before the gods
do.

The excitement suddenly becomes muted. The mass of people


ahead of them retreat, clearing a path for a party
approaching her.

A TALL MAN appears down the passage.

TALL MAN
Aristos. Stand off from him. He’s
in choleric temper.

The crowd clears the passage.

Auriane stiffens. Takes the staff from the Assistant. Then


she strides into the open space left for Aristos to pass,
body bent against the pain, leaning on the staff.

Aristos’ ruffians appear. An ACROBAT, juggling; a BOXER with


a face of baker’s dough; a Syrian CHARIOTEER, and assortment
of Cutpurses and Grave robbers. Imitating Aristos’ gait.

They call out, “Make way. Make way.”

Aristos appears wearing a leopard skin over his shoulders.


His gray-blonde hair hangs in ropes down to his shoulders;

(CONTINUED)
119.
CONTINUED:
his thick arms are mottled with scars. About his neck on a
greasy leather thong hangs a preserved wolf’s NUZZLE.

A slow, cruel smile, touched with urbane amusement at the


sight of Auriane.

ARISTOS
Greetings to Auriane. Daughter of
Baldemar of noblest rank, flower of
numerous illustrious kin, numerous,
that is, if she has not murdered
them all by now.

LAUGHTER.

Aristos breaks into a sharp barking laugh, along with the


others.
Auriane gazes in cold stone silence that enrages Aristos.

ARISTOS
Daughter of trolls. Get your
skulking shadow out of my path
before I twist your neck like a
chicken.

With her walking stick, Auriane starts to trace rune SIGNS in


the sand and dirt of the travertine floor.

ARISTOS (CONT’D)
Vile witch-woman.

AURIANE
Odberht, son of Wido I greet you.
Twice now, you tried to murder me
in the dark. I give you a chance to
try in the light, with honorable
weapons of war. In the name of our
whole tribe whom you betrayed,
before Wodan I challenge you to
single battle.

Auriane has completed drawing a glyph. Aristos looks down to


see the sign for TIWAZ, Spirit of Battle.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Choose your day.

ACROBAT
(crudely jesting)
How about today?

General laughter.

(CONTINUED)
120.
CONTINUED:

Auriane stands aside, deliberately daring Aristos to walk


over the rune symbol.

Aristos is stoic, disguising his anguish, as he hesitates


before the rune's symbol, then swaggers forth, his lips
muttering an incantation, his right hand clamped around the
wolf’s muzzle AMULET hanging from his neck.

INT. LUDUS MAGUS - MOMENTS LATER

Auriane, passing by her Chattian tribe member’s cells in the


darkened passage, ushered by Guards. Behind the bars are
Thorgild and Coniaric.

THORGILD
(strongly whispered)
Daughter of the Ash, lead us out.

Mustering all her strength she manages to exchange glances of


camaraderie.

CONIARIC
(building in momentum,
volume)
Daughter of the Ash, lead us out.

CHATTIAN CAPTIVES
(deafening)
Daughter of the Ash, lead us out.

The whole school erupts into a maddening ROAR.

Auriane stands empowered by their loyalty. Then, she


collapses to the floor.
DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. LUDUS MAGNUS

Aerial. A time lapse of autumn into winter into spring upon


the school, as we push down toward a cell window.

INT. CELL WALL - CONTINUOUS

As a HAND carefully draws the rune-sign of The God of War,


TIWAZ... in blood.

SUPERIMPOSE

"SERIES OF SHOTS:

(CONTINUED)
121.
CONTINUED:

A) Auriane fighting TARANIS in the Colosseum, knocking him


down with a powerful backstroke.

B) The crowd spares him, shouting, “Carissima Aurinia.”

C) Romans are placing offerings before an effigy of Auriane


erected before the TEMPLE OF VENUS.

D) Auriane THRUSTS her sword into an Bengal tiger as it leaps


upon her.

E) The crowd shouts, “Carissima Aurinia.”

F) Domitian, seated in the Imperial Box, reacts annoyed.

CELL - LATER
A torch held by Aristos is thrust into the darkened cell. The
sight of the upside down Tiwaz causes him to whimper in fear.

He looks on his sleeping mat to see a short SPEAR, neatly


broken in half. Between the broken spear is a small clay
FIGURINE of a goddess.

Aristos’ face recoils in trepidation.

CUT TO:

INT. BARRACK BLOCK - NIGHT

Aristos is seated in a dining hall with other trainers,


eating mutton stew.

METON (30), brash and Aristos’ trainer, is seated across from


him.
METON
The first day of the Games for
Augustus’ birthday – the Cleopatra
reenactment is utterly wasted.
(looking at Aristos)
Then there’s that foolish business
the next day when the fighters are
disguised and the people are
supposed to guess who they are. Who
cares?

ARISTOS
And how are these fighters chosen?

(CONTINUED)
122.
CONTINUED:

METON
They want volunteers. Volunteers of
status.

CUT TO:

EXT. PRACTICE RING - DAY

Auriane charges through Idlers, having finished her sword


fighting practice, when the Acrobat cuts her off.

ACROBAT
Antonius desires to meet Cleopatra
to teach her a lesson she’ll not
live to remember. That is if this
trembling ewe before me has the
mettle to play the part of a queen.

AURIANE
Tell him Cleopatra trembles with
gladness that he wishes to see
her... and she eagerly awaits the
day.

CUT TO:

INT./EXT. MARCUS’ HOUSE - NIGHT

DIOCLES (40), refined and wizened, looks upon Auriane


standing at the doorway, clad in her grimy cloak and mud-
splattered sandals.

DIOCLES
(delicate disdain)
I offer you to enter. Marcus
Julianus’ house is at your
disposal.

Diocles gives Auriane a caustic look as she walks past him.

A MAIDSERVANT quickly appears to take Auriane’s sandals,


giving her silken slippers to wear.

Auriane, lead by the Maidservant through a labyrinth of


hallways, stares in amazement at the opulent Roman
furnishings. She arrives at a vast moonlit...

GARDEN

Auriane walks alone, past a marble statute of DIANA. She


draws her cloak close about her, staring at the full moon,
clutching the aurr hanging from her neck. She enters a...
123.

GARDEN HOUSE

The moon appears through a Garden House window.

Seated next to a wine service, Auriane starts to mix water


and wine when she overhears a whisper from the maids: “She
belongs in a stable, not a house.”

Distracted with humiliation, Auriane tips over the delicate


ewer of wine, staining her tunica.

A Maidservant approaches.

AURIANE
I must leave.
MAIDSERVANT
But... you cannot.

AURIANE
I will leave. You will show me the
way out. Send for the guards.

MAIDSERVANT
I must speak with Diocles.

The Maidservant abruptly leaves.

Auriane decides to find her own way out.

VESTIBULE

Auriane, making her way through the house, comes upon a


luxuriant bath with a vaulted ceiling, Pompeian-red walls,
marine frescoes. Soiled from the honey wine she makes a quick
decision to wash herself.

BATH

Auriane surfaces, her hair sleeked back, swimming with


powerful strokes, her arms slicing the surface, lost in her
swimming when... the echo of FOOTSTEPS alarm her.

Auriane stops. Swimming in frenzied strokes, she bolts for


her clothes but... Marcus stands between them and her.
Auriane freezes.

MARCUS
Auriane. What is the meaning of
this? They’ve summoned the guards
for you.

(CONTINUED)
124.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
I want only to leave.

MARCUS
Any one of those guards could have
been agents of my enemies.

AURIANE
Let me leave. Please give me my
clothes.

MARCUS
(softer)
You don’t know how delicately
balanced are the forces about me.
Auriane, what is wrong?
AURIANE
(haughty)
Nothing.

MARCUS
All right, nothing is wrong. But
climb out before you get a chill.
Here are your clothes. I swear by
all my ancestors back to Aneas not
to look at you.

Marcus lays down a neatly folded white linen tunica and


drying cloths.

DISSOLVE TO:

GARDEN
Auriane runs erratically through pine branches. From
behind...

MARCUS O.S.
Auriane. Stop at once. You’re
headed for...
(splash O.C.)
A fish pond.

MOMENTS LATER

Auriane, dripping wet, crashes into an open wall of


latticework. Trapped. Fast steps from behind close in.

Marcus, holding a flaming torch, blocks her only exit.

(CONTINUED)
125.
CONTINUED:

Auriane, eyes bright, her breaths labored, shudders with


suppressed sobs.

MARCUS
Auriane, you must listen.

AURIANE
You will not make a laughingstock
out of me.

MARCUS
If you have been tormented by
anyone in this household, it was
done against orders and certainly
does not express my own...
AURIANE
(hoarsely)
I will not live among people who
despise me. Why do you pretend? You
know I will never be a woman of
your people. You left me here since
dusk. Now leave me here forever.

MARCUS
I was away on a grave matter that
arose suddenly. I sent a messenger.

AURIANE
(considers this)
No messenger arrived.

MARCUS
What?
(turns from her)
If no messenger arrived, I fear a
man has died tonight. I am in the
midst of a ring of wolves and daily
they move closer.

Auriane, visibly moved, goes to Marcus’ side.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
Auriane, you cannot believe I
turned from you. It’s a cruel
deception brought on by the
torments you’ve suffered.

Marcus places the torch in a sconce and approaches Auriane.

(CONTINUED)
126.
CONTINUED: (2)

AURIANE
(chastened)
Marcus, I have brought about your
ruin.

MARCUS
You must not think that. There is
no situation that cannot be turned
round, with diligent effort.

AURIANE
I brought about Baldemar’s end, and
now yours.

MARCUS
Not everything is predetermined.
You take away all the powers of men
and give them to gods. Think of it
no more.

Marcus pushes her long damp hair aside, exposing her bare
neck; languidly kissing the nape of her neck.

Auriane guides his hand to her breast. He lingers there,


caressing with pleasure, then with swift movement he gathers
her up into his arms.

LOW CEILING BEDROOM

Auriane tears at Marcus’ tunic, baring his shoulders and


chest. She lunges at him, scrambling with one hand into his
underclothing about his loins.

MARCUS
Slowly. There is one negligible
difference, if you’ve not been
told, between a bed and a
battlefield.

AURIANE
(smiling)
No, not really.

MARCUS
What happens on the battlefield
hopefully ends quickly. This, I
pray, not so quickly.

Marcus easily pulls down Auriane’s tunic, exposing her


breasts, her belly, as she flattens herself against him.

They fall upon the bed cushions.

(CONTINUED)
127.
CONTINUED:

Marcus takes Auriane’s face into his hands, muttering her


name as he enters her body; his movement within her becomes
her own as they melt together, bodies moving in relentless
rhythm.

One last time Marcus drives deeply into Auriane, and holds
there as long as possible, shuddering, then lies upon her
exhausted.

A BEAT.

Marcus struggles to one side.

AURIANE
Please, don’t move.
MARCUS
I’m crushing you.

AURIANE
I do not care.

DISSOLVE TO:

HOUSE KITCHEN - MORNING

Auriane stands hooded and cloaked, prepared to depart next to


Marcus by a doorway that opens to an alleyway. He recognizes
the now familiar look in her eyes.

MARCUS
Do not even think of ripping this
off, you destructive minx.

Auriane playfully nuzzles his neck.


AURIANE
Marcus, there is a thing I never
dared ask anyone, for fear of
speaking blasphemy.

MARCUS
Ask. I thrive on blasphemy.

AURIANE
What is the sacred meaning of the
sacrifices in the arena?

MARCUS
Long ago, pairs of captives fought
to the death to please the
underworld gods at funeral rites.

(CONTINUED)
128.
CONTINUED:

AURIANE
But now, we die for no cause?

MARCUS
I fear it is so.

AURIANE
This will curse you, you know, and
all of your kind.

MARCUS
I believe it already has. But a man
or woman doesn’t have to be of one
mind with his people.

AURIANE
All my life I have been reviled for
being of a different mind.

MARCUS
Well, then, could not that laudable
independence of mind be applied to
the rite of vengeance, as well?
Might not this, too, be death for
no cause?

Auriane reacts with a look of affront, then, confused


sadness.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
Auriane, you must give this up.
After last night I can endure it
far less.
(at Auriane)
You must not fight Aristos.
Troubled, Auriane avoids his eyes.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
Surely you know that after what has
passed between us, we must both
live, and live together. Does not
the passion of love heal the
passion of vengeance?

AURIANE
Holy vengeance is not born of
hatred. It is the seal of kinsmen’s
love.

(CONTINUED)
129.
CONTINUED: (2)

MARCUS
Or so you have been taught since
before you could talk.

AURIANE
(whispers)
Well then, I will think upon this
thing.

MARCUS
You’ve not much time to think about
it. If you want to leave with me,
you must be ready to do so just
after the Ides of Augustus, whether
Aristos is alive or dead. Four
months. Then I retire to my villa
in the north, on the river Mosella.
I must have your word upon what you
will do.

AURIANE
(cautious)
You have my word. I will leave with
you... whether Aristos is alive or
dead.

MARCUS
If things do not go well for me, my
property will be confiscated. In
that case, you must not come near
this house. They will get the
estates, but I have much that is
hidden away. I want a large share
to go to you...
AURIANE
You are in favor, still?

MARCUS
You’ve no idea how swiftly favor
can be turned around. Domitian
lapses into a rational madness.

AURIANE
You’ve some plan to rid the world
of him, haven’t you?
(beat)
You judge me for challenging one
man. Yet, you have set yourself
against the whole of his guard.

(CONTINUED)
130.
CONTINUED: (3)

MARCUS
I count my chances far better than
yours, against Aristos. If I did
not have an unusual gift for
staying alive, I would not be with
you, now.

CUT TO:

EXT. BROTHEL - DAY

A squat two-story structure of yellow stucco built over the


Great Drain.

INT. BROTHEL – UPPER ROOM


In a room filled with wigs, empty scent bottles, rusted
curling irons, and a broken clothes chest.

Marcus, APOLLONIA (30), wardrobe mistress with smooth


handsome features; PETRONIOUS (35), brawny; HERENNIUS, (40),
aristocratic; SENECIO (40), aristocratic senator.

All watch as SENATOR NERVA (45), aged and frail, is carried


in on a wooden pallet.

Once settled, Marcus gazes at the faces staring at him.

MARCUS
Do all who answer to you know their
places?

PETRONIOUS
(under breath; at Nerva)
Are you sure he’s going to be
standing on the final day? Look at
him. Life’s vital juices have been
squeezed out. To my mind, that
Greek charlatan’s giving him too
much of the sick-potion for a
fellow in his dotage.

SENATOR NERVA
I’m ill, not deaf, Petronius. If
you want to remain Commander of the
Guard after my succession, I would
advise you to at least learn to
imitate a man of manners.

(CONTINUED)
131.
CONTINUED:

MARCUS
(to Nerva)
I suppose we dare not ask you how
you fare.

SENATOR NERVA
I suppose you shouldn’t. This had
better bear fruit.

Petronius withdraws.

MARCUS
Your suffering’s not in vain,
friend, Domitian seems to be taking
the bait. The physician assures me,
after eight days of teasing the
Ferryman you’ll be hale and healthy
again and Emperor. At this time you
must free a quarter of your slaves.
It’s what a dying man would do.

SENATOR NERVA
You are right. It shall be done
tomorrow.

HERENNIUS
(interrupting)
It should be the bath, not the
bedchamber.

MARCUS
(conviction)
No, it must be the bedchamber. It’s
more private. The deed can be kept
secret a little longer. Time’s
against us the moment the deed is
done. Whether we’re condemned as
criminals or hailed as liberators,
all hangs on whether we get Nerva
confirmed before chaos erupts. We
need every extra moment we can
snatch if we’re to tie the
loyalists’ hands.

HERENNIUS
You seem not concerned that there’s
been no affirmative sign from the
Syrian legions.

(CONTINUED)
132.
CONTINUED: (2)

MARCUS
We’ll have to let it go. We’ve got
every Rhine commander, and they’re
much closer to Rome.
(looking at Petronius)
It’s our own Servilius who bothers
me more. You’ll have to contain him
somehow. Must he be assigned to the
private apartment that day?

Marcus notices Senecio, fretful and strained, faintly


repeating his words from the corner of his eye.

PETRONIUS
Servilius’ post never changes. If I
move him, it would rouse
suspicions.

MARCUS
Post him outside Domitia Longina’s
chambers. There’s an echo in that
passage, so it will be difficult
for him to determine the direction
of any shouts he might hear.

Marcus is alert to Senecio’s suspicious behavior.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
Now, the deed is set for the ninth
hour. Petronius, to you must fall
the task of drawing Domitian off
from the games, no later than the
eight hour. I want you to interrupt
him with the news that you’ve
uncovered a small Palace conspiracy
involving certain confidential,
high-placed servants of the
bedchamber.

PETRONIUS
Are you off your head? That runs
perilously alongside the truth.

Marcus searches the faces of everyone, noticing that


Senecio’s is mildly alarmed.

MARCUS
It is the best way. It vindicates
his fears. He will not be able to
resist examining the miscreants at
once. Tell him Stephanus organized
the plot.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
133.
CONTINUED: (3)
MARCUS (CONT'D)
The other three you will name are
his trusted chamberlain Parthenius,
Clodianus and Satur.

PETRONIUS
You are saying, these are the
assassins?

MARCUS
Yes. Assassins, and the lure. Each
loathes him, and for reasons
Domitian doesn’t want known.
Domitian won’t waste any time
ordering them assembled for a
private questioning in the
bedchamber.
PETRONIUS
Yes. He would do that. But he’ll
have them chained as he questions
them, and he’ll hold the fetters
himself, as always.

MARCUS
These fetters will be special ones
I’ve ordered from the armorer. Two
links near the wrist will be nearly
sawed through. And you, as Guards’
Commander, will have charge of
inspecting them the night before.

Marcus turns to Apollonia.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
Lady, I want Stephanus to begin
wearing that bandage three days
ahead of the final day. Can he wind
it so a dagger doesn’t show?

APOLLONIA
He rolls it expertly now.

MARCUS
Good. And now to...

Marcus’ eyes fall upon Senecio, observing his lips moving.


Senecio becomes panicked.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
Senecio, tell me, where do you
intend to sell what you learn here
tonight?

(CONTINUED)
134.
CONTINUED: (4)

Suddenly, Apollonia, Herennius and Petronius begin SHOUTING


as they lunge at Senecio.

Senecio CRIES out. Apollonia is atop him. Petronius hauls her


off, then draws his sword.

HERENNIUS
(whispered)
Finish the bastard. Like he would
have finished us.

Marcus comes swiftly up behind Petronius and seizes his arm.

MARCUS
Have you gone mad? Do this thing
and you’ll be no better than what
we replace.

PETRONIUS
How can you tolerate a traitor?

SENATOR NERVA
(stronger; enraged)
Sit down, Petronius, you rude,
boorish lout. In my reign the
charge of traitor shall be laid to
rest, and no man shall ever be
condemned unheard. And I will be
obeyed, you wild ass in soldier’s
dress, or you can do your fine
strutting in the festering swamps
of outer Britannia as a soldier of
the ranks.

Marcus grins. Petronius yields to Marcus, sheathing his


sword.

MARCUS
Put him under arrest. We’ll keep
him stowed in the brothel’s wine
cellars until after the
assassination.

Petronius, finding some cord lying on the room’s floor, binds


Senecio’s hands.

They resume their seats. Marcus searches their eyes. All have
a savage, hopeless look.

MARCUS (CONT’D)
When next we come together...
135.

INT. CELL - NIGHT

Auriane and Sunia hear sharp shouting from outside. “Free


him.”

SUNIA
All day I listened to that baying
and yelping. They must have
arrested someone important.
(beat)
I’m surprised there’s someone
important left to arrest.

Auriane peers from the cell window. Bottles and bricks crack
against the school’s monolithic wall between shouts of, “Doom
to us all. They’ve taken the only sane and good man in the
government from us.”

Auriane falls back, leaning against the cell wall,


disheartened. Sunia comes to her side, seeking comfort.

AURIANE
(under her breath)
He is at the mercy of a monster.
They will torture him.

Sunia quietly sobs as Auriane looks out the cell window onto
the street where..

A group of unruly CITIZENS with torches storm the mounted


STATUE of Domitian, pelting it with offal. City POLICE stream
in and begin arresting everyone, indiscriminately.

CUT TO:
INT. OLD PALACE CELL - NIGHT

Water drips down a fissure in an unspeakably foul cavern. It


is Marcus’ cell. A SHRIEK of agony echoes through the
subterranean passages.

Marcus lays, flesh torn and bleeding, in grief’s delirium.

A CLINK at the cell’s iron door.

CUT TO:

INT. COLOSSEUM VAULTED PASSAGE - DAY

FOUR IBEXES drawing Cleopatra’s chariot, crudely painted


fashioned in ebony and ivory, covered with clumsy Egyptian
magical symbols. The horns of Horus are affixed to the front.

(CONTINUED)
136.
CONTINUED:

Auriane is at the reins, in Cleopatra headdress, a voluminous


white linen robe bellows over her armor, among countless
polished ivory beads, bronze jewelry and heavy red, white and
black paint on her face. Her eyes are outlined with heavily
drawn black paint.

A BEAT.

FOUR MESOPOTAMIAN LIONESSES appear, elegantly dressed in gold


netting and collars inset with imitation rubies, guided by
the reins held by...

Aristos leather gloved hands, riding in a bronze plated


chariot with embossed scenes of Bacchic revels, heavily
disguised with a garishly painted wooden mask, the
countenance of Jupiter. His hair dyed black. A scarlet robe
embroidered with palms flows from his brutish shoulders.

Auriane and Aristos wait behind the iron-bound door that


opens onto the arena. The Ibexes are maddened by the smell of
death.

The GATES swing open.

They bolt forward. The crowd laughs as Cleopatra is nearly


thrown from her chariot. The Lionesses are calmly still.

COLOSSEUM ARENA - CONTINUOUS

TRUMPETS burst into a clashing FANFARE accompanied by the


WATER ORGAN’s shrill baying.

The crowd CRIES ecstatically: “Cleopatra. She comes.” “Hail,


Cleopatra, Daughter of Isis, Queen of the Nile.”
The lower tiers have been turned in to a banquet hall; the
people lounge on gaudy cushions; silver wine cups glint in
the sun. As Girls, dressed as sprites caper up and down the
aisles, a visible coiled tension is seen in the faces about
them. A lone shout rises up: “Free Marcus Julianus.”

Gradually, Auriane is recognized through her paint. They cry:


“Aurinia. Aurinia.”

ON THE HERALD in the Imperial Box.

HERALD
And who better to play the role?

Auriane and Aristos pull up before the Imperial Box.

(CONTINUED)
137.
CONTINUED:

Beneath the awning, Domitian with his entourage peer down


upon them. PLANCIUS (35), is seated next to Domitian. TEN
PRAETORIANS stand guard. The Herald comes forward.

HERALD (CONT’D)
Hail, Antonius. Hail, Cleopatra.

From the crowd: “Unmask that trickster. Who says he’s good
enough for our Aurinia?”

FRUIT is pitched from the Colosseum tiers at Aristos. A


broken PLUM slides down his arm.

Guards are dispatched, racing into the Colosseum tiers. The


commotion dies down.
HERALD (CONT’D)
If anything more is thrown from the
stands, these games will be
canceled. How dare you answer the
Emperor’s generosity with
unlawfulness and riot. The Guards,
with drawn swords, usher out a few
MEN in the crowd.
(jovial)
Now, friends, all wagers shall
stand. Despite that our Cleopatra
has been found out. And no more
shall be laid once they dismount.

Auriane looks upon Domitian who jerks away, not wanting her
to know he’s been staring at her.

HERALD (CONT’D)
And now, let the bout begin.
Auriane and Aristos step down from their chariots. TWO
Numidian Boys lead the chariots off, as TWO Undertrainers
present themselves.

Whisking off their cloaks with a flourish, the Undertrainers


place helmets upon them, but

Aristos’ mask is accidentally knocked off in the process. The


Undertrainer drops the MASK in fright.

ON AURIANE, alarmed. We follow her fixed stare to see


Aristos’ face exposed, revealing his identity too soon to the
crowd.

A great GROAN from the crowd, as the whole amphitheater now


knows.

(CONTINUED)
138.
CONTINUED: (2)

Those in the poorer sections climb onto their seats and stamp
their feet. The tumultuous cry, “No bout,” grows steadily
stronger.

Word of the match spread and soon the whole amphitheater is


ignited with chanting, “No bout.” “String up Plancius by his
thumbs.”

IMPERIAL BOX

Domitian appears puffed and bruised. His eyes are cold and
fixed, occasionally flashing with the manic light of one
close to delirium.

The Praetorians give Domitian tense, questioning looks,


poised for his orders to stop the bout or quiet the crowd.
Domitian remains passive. He beckons Plancius to lean toward
him.

DOMITIAN
Well, Marcus, you’re irksomely
silent, and you know how that
nettles me. I know you’ve got some
vile opinion tucked away to torment
me with. Speak.

Plancius, retracts, fearing Domitian has gone mad.

ARENA

From the gladiator’s entrance emerges, Meton, ACCO (25), and


FOUR burly UNDERTRAINERS armed with NETS, WHIPS and BRANDS,
sprinting toward Auriane and Aristos.
Simultaneously, Aristos and Auriane seize their swords and
shields.

METON
Aristos. No bout. I command you.
Throw down that sword.

Auriane moves sideways trying to lure Aristos to the center


of the arena, who stands perfectly still and poised.

The CHANTING of the crowd, “Aurinia” drowns out Meton’s


cries.

Acco strikes Auriane’s shield with his whip. She is thrown


off balance but quickly regains it.

(CONTINUED)
139.
CONTINUED:

The whole mass of them moves closer and closer to the Water
Organ. Laughter rises from the crowd.

A dark, lusty GROWL emits beneath Aristos’ helmet as he


bursts forward in frenzied motion.

An Undertrainer’s neck is half severed. A backstroke neatly


decapitated a Numidian boy. The Drummer is disemboweled.

METON (CONT’D)
Jove’s thunderbolts. He’s gone
berserk.

Meton, Acco and a Drummer run out of the arena.

A wounded armor-bearer, struggling to rise is quickly


dispatched as Aristos plunges his sword into the man’s chest.
Withdrawing the sword, he wipes his bloodied sword blade on
the victim’s hair.

ARISTOS
Clean for you, Aurinia.

With a growling grunt, Aristos slams down his visor. He kicks


aside a body.

ARISTOS (CONT’D)
Prepare to die, pestilential witch.

Auriane and Aristos slowly close in upon one another. The


crowd rises to their feet on the verge of a brawl. “No bout.”

IMPERIAL BOX

Bright malice returns to Domitian’ EYES.


DOMITIAN
(to Centurion)
You. Do whatever you must to
discipline those noisy miscreants.

ARCHERS creep down unobtrusively, selecting a dozen of the


loudest protestors. Arrows released.

Necks pierced. Scattered screams. Wails.

Hundreds rush for the exits but are turned back by Guards.
The crowd collapses into whimpering submission.

ARENA

The sun flashes from Aristos’ shield into Auriane’s eyes.

(CONTINUED)
140.
CONTINUED:

Aristos kicks his foot tossing sand at her, but misses.

Auriane arcs into the air, beginning a powerful cut in mid-


flight. Aristos lunges to meet her with his shield.

Auriane gives way beneath his weight. Then, comes the


piercing, arrhythmic CLANG of steel on steel.

Sparks shower down in a fiery rain.

Auriane and Aristos drop into stillness and draw apart.

A BEAT.

They engage with short brutal volleys. Auriane assaults


Aristos’ blade, pummeling it down, whipping her own blade
upward with a thrust for the throat.

Aristos feigned the first strike, allowing her to go off


balance as he strikes her shield with a terrific blow with
his left foot.

Auriane wobbles backward. Aristos charges with rage, roaring.

Her knees give way with his first blow. She blocks the second
blow by catching it with her shield. His heavy arm rises and
falls in relentless rhythm, leaving no chance for Auriane to
parry against his bestial strength.

Dancing backwards in manic speed, a follow-through cut


whistles past her shoulder, deflected by her sword as the
crash of steel on steel rings in her ears.

Taking nimble sideway leaps to avoid the barrier, Auriane


stumbles over a CORPSE, rolling over on her shield, then
springs up again as Aristos moves forward ponderously making
elephant-like steps that push her further back.

Aristos’ DEVOTEES break into APPLAUSE.

Auriane is pushed against the Water Organ, striking the


bronze windchest, rolling on the keys.

The multiple mechanisms are set into a rollicking motion:


bronze dolphins drop their valves into cylinders, air is
compressed within the windchest and resonant, jangling
screeches merrily pipe forth.

IMPERIAL BOX

(CONTINUED)
141.
CONTINUED:

DOMITIAN
(to Plancius)
Aurinia plays that thing better
than all your musicians, Plancius.
(aroused)
Aristos, give me now my omen.

ARENA

Auriane is pinned against the oak base of the water organ.


Aristos moves in for the kill with a flurry of stabbing
motions.

ARISTOS
Breathe your last, wretched father-
killer.
Each strike a finger’s width of missing Auriane as she
frantically heaves from side to side. Aristos blocks her
escape, then strikes her shoulder with a bruising blow from
the boss of his shield.

IMPERIAL BOX

Petronius arrives, waiting for Domitian to give him a moment


of attention, while trying not to stare at the Emperor’s
puffed bluish hands.

DOMITIAN
Shyness is no virtue in a Commander
of the Guard. Out with it,
Petronius.

PETRONIUS
Your Excellency, you must accept my
apology... if this did not concern
your mortal safety...

DOMITIAN
Why don’t you recite the Aeneid
before you tell me. Out with it.

PETRONIUS
A plot has been unearthed. They
plan to do you to the death within
the hour, right where you sit.

Domitian beckons Pertronius to come closer to speak in


covered voice.

(CONTINUED)
142.
CONTINUED:

PETRONIUS (CONT’D)
This villainy started among your
most trusted chamberlains. They may
have also seduced a few men of the
lower ranks of the Guard.

DOMITIAN
(mutters)
Just as Julianus warned me...

Domitian rises and orders the attendant Guard to close the


curtains.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Petronius, I go first to the
prisons. I must have a word with my
First Advisor before I interrogate
these criminals.

Departing along the carpeted steps from the Imperial Box with
Petronius and his Guards, Domitian hears the crowd's CRIES
rise to a tumultuous ROAR. He smiles, reassured that Auriane
has met her end.

ARENA

Aristos’ blade carves flesh from Auriane’s shoulder; she


bites back a cry.

Auriane beats his blade upwards and slips sideways, just in


time to break past him.

Collecting her balance, she leaps into a defensive stance,


disengaging her left hand from the shield strap, letting it
drop to the sand.
Aristos is perplexed; he pauses in mid-step. A crosscut fails
too high.

Auriane wrenches off her helmet. Then, reveling in her new


lightness, she attacks with new energy.

Aristos batters her exposed left side, ramming into her


bloodied shoulder with his shield.

Giving way upon impact, she lets Aristos hurtle past her.

Whipping around she quickly executes two deep diagonal cuts


to his back.

Aristos pivots about, only to be met with Auriane’s sword. A


chevron-shaped wound appears in his leather tunic.

(CONTINUED)
143.
CONTINUED:

In the amphitheater…

METON
One of them is hit. Aristos is hit.
It cannot be.

From the crowd comes a spontaneous shout, “Punish her. Run


her through.”

Furious, Aristos tosses down his shield, whips off his


helmet. He grins at Auriane. Charges. His sword’s point
pierces Auriane’s thigh.

ARISTOS
This is a little more difficult
than killing your father, is it
not? But then, his hands were
bound.

A faint shift comes to Auriane’s expression as she has a


great insight.

AURIANE
(quietly)
Odberht... you are the murderer of
Wido. You slew your own father. You
are the one who threw that hunter’s
net.

Aristos features contract. Hard. Blank look.

ARISTOS
(amelodic cry)
No.
AURIANE
Oh, yes. I see it as I see you.
What a clever murder. All close
witnesses were killed soon after...
then, you got off free. If a father-
killer can ever be said to be free.

ARISTOS
(furious)
I’ll cut out that lying throat.

Aristos lunges at Auriane in a blind rage.

CUT TO:
144.

INT. TORTURE CHAMBER

Chained to the wall, Marcus is stripped to his waist,


unconscious. His face misshapen from fist blows. Vicious
scarlet ruptures along the spine, purple-black welts, oozing
red sap. Domitian stands before him.

DOMITIAN
Rouse him.

INTERROGATOR (30), sloshes a bucket of scummy water on


Marcus’ face.

Marcus’ comprehension comes in blunt, lumbering starts.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Well, well old friend I trust
you’re enjoying the accommodations.
Are the brands not hot enough?

Marcus registers Domitian’s presence.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Marcus I’m begging like the blind
man that sleeps down under bridges.
Give me my half-measure of respect.
Confess your treason to me and I’ll
have you cut down. What base humor
caused you to spit in my face in
the matter of that barbarian woman?
I know you bedded her. Tell me I
deserve one golden statue, one
reverent mention in a history
text... and I’ll cut you down.
Marcus in a last reserve of strength.

MARCUS
(closes his eyes)
I will oblige you then, and tell
you what you deserve. But why
waste the question on me alone? Why
not ask it of your brother? It
would be edifying if we could ask
it of all your victims.

DOMITIAN
What is this filthy spewing?

(CONTINUED)
145.
CONTINUED:

MARCUS
How would you fare in Hades? For
wanton cruelty unbecoming of a
bandit... for displays of
ruthlessness that would make Nero
blush... coupled with a suspicious
nature that skirts madness... for
exercising a justice that is no
more than revenge... we condemn you
to the death you gave your
brother... to be packed in a chest
of ice.

DOMITIAN
I’ll pour molten steel down your
throat.
MARCUS
And still you imagine you can
obliterate truth by destroying the
vessel through which it speaks.

DOMITIAN
You are a scourge. How dare you
judge.
(beat)
You knew. All these years. Worm in
the cabinet. Fiend. You’ll die.
Unknown and forgotten.
(to Torturer)
The weighted whip. Twenty lashes.

The Interrogator lays on a seven-thonged lash fitted with


steel balls, upon Marcus’ torso.
CUT TO:

ARENA

Auriane draws Aristos on, draining him of his rage. His


strokes are wide and overstrenuous. His thrusts are vigorous
but poorly timed. Their hilts lock for an instant.

ARISTOS
(gasping)
Die. Die.

Aristos careens sideways. Auriane pulls him hard in the


direction he is already moving. As he staggers for balance,
she pulls back with a return stroke, slashing vertically up
into his ribs, lodging her sword tip into the breast. Black
BLOOD springs forth.

(CONTINUED)
146.
CONTINUED:

Aristos, in a spasmodic jerk, lashes out with his sword


point, inflicting a deep WOUND in Auriane’s shield arm.

Aristos never slows, heaving after Auriane, swaying slightly


as he runs.

Auriane responds by flinging herself at him with a final,


unbounded fury.

The sword-fighting tempo flashes at demonic speed. Auriane


keeps Aristos off balance by sheer force of mind. Crowding
him. Overstepping. Teasing. Sensing his careless openings.

The crowd is hushed. Spellbound. Aristos is seen giving


ground.
Then, Auriane and Aristos sink into a final exhausted pause,
glaring at each other over the corpses at their feet.

Suddenly Aristos picks up the CORPSE of the Numidian boy,


brushing aside the bloody hair with his sword hand.

Auriane is caught off guard by the ghastly sight.

Aristos erupts into motion, flinging the body at Auriane.

The corpse strikes her hard, causing her to buckle and fall
to the sand.

Simultaneously, Aristos lunges, his blade coming down hard


upon hers like a formidable hammer-strike, knocking the sword
from her hand.

CUT TO:
TORTURE CELL

The Interrogator sloshes a bucket of water on a delirious


Marcus, his flesh pulverized from the whip.

DOMITIAN
Your ineptitude surprises me,
Marcus Arrius Julianus. I always
thought that if ever you set your
hand against me, I would be a dead
man.

MARCUS
Poor is my opinion of you, Spawn-of-
Nero. Yet, there is still another
who loathes you even more than I.

(CONTINUED)
147.
CONTINUED:

DOMITIAN
Tell me. Who? Norbanus? That
shuffling fool who gives kindliness
a bad name, Nena?

MARCUS
I speak of... yourself.

DOMITIAN
Why do I waste time with a madman?

MARCUS
In spite of the fact that you’ve
taken your place on the world’s
highest throne, what you see in the
glass is a mean, unlettered lout, a
cross between criminal and slave...

Domitian ROARS in rage, and NODS to the Interrogator who lays


on more lashes.

Domitian then crouches at Marcus’ eye level, gripping him by


his shoulders.

DOMITIAN
Sorry to bother you again, old
friend, but it seems I forgot to
give you the news of the day.
Aristos chopped your Aurinia into
cutlets, as she begged him to. She
died slowly. I’m afraid he played
with her a bit first.

Marcus slowly realizes what Domitian has said. Anguish washes


over his face. His head falls limp.
Domitian rises to full height.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Feast on defeat, Marcus Julianus.
For all your conspiracies, I am
victor at the last.

CUT TO:

ARENA

Scrambling from beneath the corpse, Auriane narrowly escapes


a sword stroke that would have lopped off her arm.

Her hand scurries in the sand, seeking her sword’s hilt.

(CONTINUED)
148.
CONTINUED:

But it lies nearer to Aristos. Triumphantly he scoops it up


with his sword.

ARISTOS
Behold the fate of a false-
speaking, murdering kinkiller.

With Aristos distracted, Auriane instinctively reaches for


the amulet AURR about her neck, clutching it tightly.

Aristos’ followers shout, “Bravo.”

Aristos tosses Auriane’s sword far behind him. It strikes the


sand beneath the curtained Imperial Box.

Aristos advances with measured steps, herding her to the


barrier. Auriane backs away. Death hangs in the air.

Auriane’s eye paint streaks her face, making it appear she


wears a frightful cat’s mask.

She pulls out the bone comb from her hair, and shakes out her
long bronze mane.

ON SPECTATOR’S FACES looks of puzzlement.

Aristos’ body jerks. He is unnerved by this.

A few shout, “Clip it for her.” “Make us a wig of it.”

ARISTOS (CONT’D)
Lying whelp with poison in your
veins.

Aristos moves forward, slashing in greedy arcs.


Auriane dances away, seeing the rhythm of his cuts and
thrusts, shifting in time with them.

A lone shout O.S: “Spare her.”

Auriane springs, her leap precisely timed. She clings like a


monkey to the front of Aristos. They topple to the sand.

Aristos thrashes beneath her, trying to get away from her


hair, struggling to get his sword but has a weakened heart.

The crowd rises up, SCREAMING for both of them at once.

Aristos flips Auriane over on her back. Her hair fans out on
the sand dark, lustrous, dangerous.

(CONTINUED)
149.
CONTINUED: (2)

Aristos’ sword is poised to fall on her jugular when Auriane


kicks hard with both legs into his stomach.

Aristos grunts and crumples onto his side.

Auriane scrambles onto his back. He bucks like a frantic


horse.

Quickly Auriane sorts out a thick tress of hair, then loops


it around his bullish neck and pulls, pouring her last waning
strength into this final desperate act.

The crowd’s CRIES betrayed confusion.

Auriane’s masses of hair obscure them both, shrouding the


last moments of struggle.
Aristos drops his sword. He gives one final kick.

Auriane collapses on top of him, unconscious.

A BEAT.

From the crowd, sporadic shouts: “Aurinia. Arise.” “Aristos


Rex.” Then:

An unholy quiet settles upon the Colosseum. The awning high


above can be heard SNAPPING in the wind. A breeze wisps
through Auriane’s hair.

CUT TO:

PALACE - BEDCHAMBER

Domitian is seated on a gold and ivory curule chair set on a


dais near the east apse of the grand bedchamber. A shaft of
hazy illumination from a lightwell shrouds him in shallow
light.

Appearing waxen, preserved, he is a fine good mood.

Before him are FIVE PRISONERS. CYCLOPS (25), Gladiator.


STEPHANUS (30), Steward. CLODIANUS (30), Centurion. SATUR
(30), Libyan. PARTHENIUS (30), Chief Chamberlain.

DOMITIAN
Now I want you to tell me in your
own words how Marcus Julianus
convinced you to destroy your Lord
and God.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
150.
CONTINUED:
DOMITIAN (CONT'D)
If you’re honest and forthright in
your replies, you’ll get a quick
death and a decent burial.
Afterward I’ll meet with each of
you and you’ll give me the names of
others involved in the plot. The
man that gives me the fewest names
dies on a cross.

The Prisoners watch with intense patience, slowly bunching


together. Stephanus slowly, furtively unwinds the bandage
that binds his arm. In the corridor, a door SLAMS shut.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
(leaping to his feet)
Halt. You. What are you about?
All five spring forward. Their bonds break.

CUT TO:

ARENA

Aristos and Auriane lay limp as Meton pulls back Auriane’s


hair to see if she is still alive.

The crowd shouts, “Who lives? “Who lives?” “Aristos. Enough.


Get up.”

Acco, amid FIVE Undertrainers, stands over Auriane. Behind


him a TROUPE of Numidian boys approach at a trot with biers
for the bodies.

ACCO
Poor gallant creature, she’s done
the impossible and paid with her
life.

Meton reaches down to pull Auriane from Aristos. She moves.


But Aristos, his cheek purplish black, his tongue protruding,
is obviously dead.

METON
By the jowls of Cerberus... she
strangled him.

ACCO
This is a prodigy to match all
prodigies.

Crowd: “Aristos. Get up. He is the King."

(CONTINUED)
151.
CONTINUED:

Wearily Auriane pulls herself up as the crowd starts to hurl


shoes at Aristos, in a vain effort to make him rise. Auriane
staggers away from Aristos’ lifeless body. The crowd bursts
into a storm of jubilant noise: “Aurinia lives.” “Long live
Aurinia.” “Aurinia Regina.”

A HORSE is brought for Auriane, who is too weak to stand.


From the crowd comes a playful cry: “The king is dead. Long
live the queen.”

Then, all eyes fall upon the curtained Imperial Box.

CUT TO:

BEDCHAMBER
All is chaos. The five prisoners jostle each other in their
eagerness to strike blades at Domitian, who is held down by
the sheer force of the five prisoners.

DOMITIAN
Guards.

STEPHANUS
Die. Tyrant. Die.

His DAGGER whips down, tearing into Domitian’s groin. A CRY


of baleful agony.

The Dagger comes down in a fast irregular series of blows,


penetrating Domitian’s neck, stomach and thighs.

ON DOMITIAN

We follow his line of sight into the antechamber, where his


lovely wife, DOMITIA LONGINA (30ish), calmly stands in
flushed pleasure.

DOMITIAN
(gasping)
Foul bitch dog of a wife from the
sulfurous depths. You knew of
this. Medusa. Well-spring of all
womanly vileness.

ON PARTHENIUS using his weight to pin down a struggling


Domitian to the floor.

DOMITIAN (CONT’D)
Parthenius… why? What did you want
of me that I did not give?

(CONTINUED)
152.
CONTINUED:

PARTHENIUS
(dodging Domitian’s gaze)
Forgive me. It was not I who fated
you to die. You would know your
murderer? It was… Marcus Arrius
Julianus.

CYCLOPS
(to Stephanus)
He’ll see his hundredth birthday at
the speed you’re going.

Cyclops wrestles the dagger from Stephanus and neatly cuts


Domitian’s throat.

SERVILIUS (30), breaks into the room.


STEPHANUS
Servilius, no.

Sword drawn, Servilius dispatches Stephanus with a thrust to


the heart.

Petronius’ Guards rush in and wrestle Servilius to the floor.

The four remaining assassins rise flee the room.

Petronius bends over Domitian’s body, counting the wounds.

PETRONIUS
Twenty-seven.

SERVILIUS
Traitorous murdering swine.
PERTRONIUS
You are speaking treason, Lucius
Servilius. Whether they are
murderers or no, it’s not for you
to say, but a matter for our new
Emperor Nerva to decide.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. CELL - LUDUS MAGNUS - NIGHT

A Guard noisily slides back the bolt on Auriane’s cell door.

A SECRETARY enters holding a rolled DOCUMENT.

Sunia, wearing a rough weather cloak, appears behind him as


we see Auriane looking perplexed.

(CONTINUED)
153.
CONTINUED:

SECRETARY
We come to inform you that by the
order of Emperor Nerva, you have
been manumitted. You are granted
the status of one free born, an
honor not given to many. Here is
your proof of status and
manumission papers, signed by
Emperor Nerva himself, before
witnesses. You, Aurinia, are now a
citizen of Rome.
(beat)
It is unlawful for you to be held
here, and you must go.

AURIANE
What of Sunia? And Coniaric and
Thorgild?

SUNIA
Marcus Julianus has secured our
freedom, too. Coniaric chooses to
stay as a free fighter.

GUARD
There is a woman here who would
speak with you, sent from the
Palace.

The Guard half turns to reveal, Athelinda, stepping into a


beam of moonlight from the cell window.

AURIANE
Mother?
Flooded with emotion they embrace.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
Mother… do you forgive me? I left
you there in the mud. I did not
know they would take me alive.

ATHELINDA
Foolish are ever you are, to think
I would judge such a thing. Joy of
joy. You avenged Baldemar. The
heavens parted when you squeezed
the life out of the monster, and I
saw Baldemar on the high-seat. Are
you a woman, or a lioness? How
cunningly the prophecy at your
birth was played out.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
154.
CONTINUED: (2)
ATHELINDA (CONT'D)
(beat)
Your soul burns doubly bright. You
carry a child.

AURIANE
Yes.

Guard #2 enters the cell.

GUARD #2
Aurinia, you must make ready. We’re
charged to accompany you to the
house of Marcus Arrius Julianus.

CUT TO:

INT. MARCUS’ HOUSE - BEDCHAMBER


Wrapped in bandages, Marcus lies asleep as Auriane, laying
next to him, nuzzles him.

MARCUS
Auriane. Look at you.
(tears pool his eyes)
You came out of this far better
than I. I can scarcely stand. You
look hardly the worse for having
rid the world of that monster.

AURIANE
I am sorry I awakened you.

MARCUS
Perhaps you did not.

Weakened, Marcus sits up with Auriane’s assistance.


AURIANE
(holding the amulet)
Marcus, I must know how you came
upon this.

MARCUS
In Germania once, my father gave
audience to a tribal prophetess, a
Chattian woman named Ramis. She had
come petitioning for the life of
ten of her tribesmen condemned to
die and when he granted her her
wish, she gave him this.
(beat)
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
155.
CONTINUED:
MARCUS (CONT'D)
It is said to contain the earth
from a scared ground, called aurr
and is supposed to bring to the
wearer to his or her own true
destiny.

After a long moment of contented silence, Auriane strokes


Marcus’ face.

AURIANE
Marcus. There are two things I must
tell you. One is joyous. The
other... dark and marvelous.

Marcus’ curiosity is cued.

AURIANE (CONT’D)
The first is this... in about five
months, there are going to be three
of us.

Sharp dismay washes across Marcus’ face.

MARCUS
Is there no end to fortunes
inhumanity?

AURIANE
You do not want my children?

MARCUS
Of course, I want your children.
(beat)
You fought Aristos while you were
with child. It is appalling. You
should have sent word to me.
AURIANE
(uncomfortable)
And now, the other matter... I can
go with you. I can share a house
with you. But I cannot be a wife.

MARCUS
Well, that’s a departure from the
dull and commonplace. The city
swarms with women who stalk
husbands, preferably rich… women
with no intention of becoming the
mother of children. You have it all
refreshingly reversed.

(CONTINUED)
156.
CONTINUED: (2)

AURIANE
You are not angered by this?

MARCUS
Angered? Amused and amazed is
closer, and yes, saddened a bit.
Can you tell me why?

AURIANE
Since we last saw one another, I
have learned that our highest Holy
One will one day pass her staff to
me. I had a vision of her as I lay
near death after slaying Aristos.
This will not be for many years,
though... our High One still has
all her powers. Those who are to
administer the highest rites must
never throttle our goddess Fria’s
greatest gift… earthly love. Our
goddess despises the permanent
shackling together of women and
men.

MARCUS
The part of me that serves
philosophy understands at once…
what purpose can ever be set over
seeking divine knowledge? But it
presents problems. With
inheritance, with...

Auriane silences him with a long passionate kiss.

Marcus gently pulls Auriane into his arms.


DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. UPPER GERMANIA

A forested ridge. Auriane and Marcus on horseback look out


upon the vast horizon of the hills of Upper Germania. The
Rhine is bathed in a crimson sunset. In the far distance is
a magnificent VILLA.

AURIANE (V.O.)
Nature explains nothing, expects
everything, and swallows us all to
death. Nature dresses us, then
denudes us again, like the land
endlessly passing from winter to
summer.
(MORE)

(CONTINUED)
157.
CONTINUED:
AURIANE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
At least now I begin to know you,
life and death, as one. Walk among
your people, Daughter of the Ash.

Auriane and Marcus head off down toward the villa. Through
the forest trees...

A lone WOLF follows.

FADE OUT.
THE END

WGA REGISTRATION: 1088479

SEPTEMBER 15, 2005


1ST Revision: August 15, 2006

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