CONAN THE ADVENTURER

THE BIRTH OF CONAN
(rev G2)

by
Steve Block & Brian Bevel

Screenplay copyright 1998 Steve Block and Brian Bevel

FADE IN TO VIEW FROM SPACE:

The Earth as seen from near space, as if from a satellite camera, to the accompaniment of a march, with emphasis on drums, trumpets,  and deep-toned horns, suggesting the relentless tread of sandaled feet.  Clouds are carefully arranged to avoid obscuring continental outlines and other necessary details.  As continental Europe rotates into view, the Voice over begins, and Europe slowly begins to morph into Robert E. Howard’s map of Hyborea;  an ice age intervenes; when the glaciers clear, we see the continental outlines of the Hyborean Age.

 

VOICEOVER:

Know, 0 Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of,

 

[the morphing is complete]

when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars –

[the continent darkens, as if by nightfall; points of light spring into being, one by one, representing the major Hyborean capitals, in the order given]

– Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia,

[the view brightens again]

reigning supreme in the dreaming west [all the capitals fade by “daylight”, except Tarantia].

Hither came Conan the Cimmerian,

[music builds to crescendo; partial fade to close-up of Conan, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand.]

thief,

[Cut to Conan plucking jewel from setting, ala The Eye of the Serpent in CTB movie.]

reaver,

[Cut to Conan in battle in full armor.]

hero,

[Cut to Conan, semi-armored, freeing bound maiden from altar.]

with deep melancholies and gigantic mirth,

[partial fade to a Conan laughing in raucous tavern-fight, then back to the map]

to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.

[Crescendo fades to a more melodic, yet nonetheless ominous, theme. The view starts to zoom in on Aquilonia and Cimmeria, then northward on to Cimmeria, then on northwestern Cimmeria, zooming down to a view of the rugged, pine-forested hills and snow-capped mountains of Cimmeria.]

In Conan’s veins flowed the blood of ancient Atlantis, swallowed by the seas eight thousand years before his time.

[The view zooms down to a stockade- walled village of small log cabins, in the foothills.  It is early Spring; there are still patches of snow visible.  The pastoral melody becomes more brisk and cheerful.]

Son of Connell, Conn’s son,

[Pan and zoom to a log cabin about 50% larger than most; additions have been built onto it; icicles are melting on the eves.]

Conan came into this world at his clan’s winter village in

[Zoom through the open front door: we see Conn, Conan’s grandfather, a large, bulky, robust, exceptionally vigorous, older man, standing next to a hot forge, pounding hot iron on an anvil.  He looks like a cross between George C. Scott and Kirk Douglas, with long gray hair clubbed up at the back of his head and a neatly trimmed full gray beard.]

Northwestern Cimmeria, near the borders of the lands of the fierce Vanir sea-kings and the savage Pict wilderness; the first sounds to strike his ears the clash of blades and the clamor of battle.

EXTERIOR: CIMMERIA — NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS — THE “WINTER VILLAGE” OF CONAN’S TRIBE — SPRING.

The village consists mostly of sturdy, small log cabins grouped around a central green, all surrounded by a stockade.  Two cabins are much larger: the Men’s Lodge and the Women’s House.  The smithy is about 50% larger than the other cabins, with additions built on.  Two women are sitting on the front porch of the smithy, processing wool.  Marigan, a large-framed, tough-looking middle-aged woman with gray hair and a stern demeanor, is combing raw wool.  Brigidda, a pretty, black-haired, blue-eyed young woman, is spinning wool on a spindle (no spinning wheels in the Hyborian Age).  Casual bystanders are walking around on various errands, working on various tasks, or just plain standing around, enjoying the fine weather  and gossiping.  The predominant physical type is athletic, black-haired, and blue-eyed.

MARIGAN

Feels good to have the sun on my face again. I hate winter.

BRIGIDDA

Yes, it was a cold one this year.

MARIGAN

Dram’s been hunting up near the border. Says it was exceptionally harsh on the Vanir this year.

BRIGIDDA

Oh? It’s always bad, but it wasn’t that much worse here.

MARIGAN

Oh, yes. Dram ran into an escaped thrall, and he said the Tromkund fjord froze solid, and Clan Kern couldn’t fish or go sea-raiding.

BRIGIDDA

Humph. Those sea-wolves don’t grow enough food to feed themselves without fishing. They’ll be hungry in Kernholm, no doubt. Wonder what they think of their frost-giant god now!

MARIGAN

(Grins ferociously)

Aye, and if they don’t go sea-raiding, they may go land-raiding. Been a long winter with no one to fight. Let ‘em try it here!

(She pats the gutting knife at her belt longingly.)

BRIGIDDA

Land-raiding!  But what of Connell?  If he passes near their holdings . . .

MARIGAN

Now, he’s been out two weeks. He’s a wily one, that man of yours. I’m –

(fade to close-up of  Connell being strangled.)

MARIGAN  (OS)

– sure he’s fine, lass.

EXTERIOR: SOMEWHERE IN THE NO-MAN’S-LAND BETWEEN VANAHEIM,  ASGARD AND CIMMERIA — A MOUNTAIN PASS.

Connell is locked in close combat with a big – but gaunt – red-haired, red-bearded man.  The Vanirman has a bloodthirsty grin and his hands locked around Connell’s throat.  Connell smashes his sword-pommel down into the Vanirman’s face, and he falls away. The camera zooms out to show Connell and two Cimmerian companions, dressed in furs and chainmail and helmets, their backs together, facing outward in three directions as they fight for their lives against four similarly dressed Vanirmen.  The Cimmerians are all using swords and bucklers, the Vanir are all using axes and bucklers. The Vanirmen all wear beards, or at least heavy mustaches, and their armor and clothing are loose — about one size too big — as though they’ve lost a good deal of weight over the winter.  Two Vanirmen and one Cimmerian lie in the red-splashed snow.  Connell lands a short, vicious chop into the neck of the Vanirman on his left, then instantly reverses the stroke and backslashes into the neck of the young-looking Vanirman on his right.  They both stagger back and fall.  Suddenly the odds are  reversed, and the three Cimmerians start to fan out to envelope the two surviving Vanirmen, Stalgrim and Ubbi. Ubbi wears chainmail like the Cimmerians, but Stalgrim wears ring-mail.

STALGRIM

(Shouts in anguish.)

Vidkund! My son!

(He howls in rage and, disregarding the odds, starts to square off against Connell.)

UBBI

(Grab’s Stalgrim’s cloak)

No, Stalgrim!  We must flee! 

Stalgrim hesitates, then both Vanir turn and flee, running in different directions.  The Cimmerians show no inclination to follow them.

CONNELL

(Panting for breath)

Let them go.  Let’s get away from Vanaheim as quickly as possible.

EXTERIOR: VANAHEIM — OUTSIDE A MOUNTAIN VILLAGE.

The Vanir village consists of stone huts with thatched roofs.  It is located in a tiny box valley with an earthen rampart closing off the open side. In the vast glacial fjord Tromkund below the entrance, we can see the a few longships, and the masts of a couple poking forlornly up out of the water where they sank, their hulls crushed by the expanding ice of the past winter. Stalgrim and Ubbi tramp listlessly through the snow, up to the only opening in the wall, where a tall, thin guard (Horst) stands in an attitude of utter dejection.

HORST

(Desperately hopeful)

Anything?

Stalgrim just stares at the guard, something dead in his gaze.

UBBI

Be silent, Horst.

Stalgrim’s eyes begin to protrude as his jaw works. Clearly he is VERY upset and about to go berserk on Horst.

UBBI

(Looks meaningfully at Horst, and tugs lightly at Stalgrim’s sleeve, speaks in gentle, cajoling tones)

Hey, Horst’s an idiot. Don’t waste your strength on him. Come on, we have to report.

HORST

(Obviously not getting it, looks around blankly.)

Where’s. . .

(Comprehension dawns on him.)

HORST (CONT’D.)

Oh. I’m sorry, Stalgrim. It is an ill thing to see your son killed before your eyes.

STALGRIM

(Growling)

Not as ill as it will be for the Cimmerian dog who killed my son!

EXTERIOR: VANAHEIM — THE VILLAGE.

The village  is squalid, the goats are thin and bony. The women and children are dirty and listless. Desperation and hunger mark every face. Stalgrim and Ubbi slog their way through the muddy streets. Behind them, a warrior uses a whip to goad a gang of iron-collared thralls dragging a sledge filled with fresh-cut timber. Stalgrim and Ubbi come to a lodge with an elaborate knotwork-carved wooden facade. This is the lodge of Bolverk Ymrisson, their war-chief. The split shields of Bolverk’s fallen foes decorate the walls of his home, and their skulls adorn spikes along the eaves and around the doorway. Stalgrim and Ubbi pause at the unguarded doorway, look at each other, then enter.

INTERIOR:  THE WAR-CHIEF’S LODGE

Inside the lodge it is dark and gloomy. Bolverk sprawls in a massive stone throne atop a small dias at the far end of the lodge. More a giant Neanderthal than a human, Bolverk claims kinship to Ymri, the dread Ice Giant worshiped by the Vanir. A truly massive war hammer leans against the throne, within easy reach of Bolverk’s equally massive hand. An emaciated shaman in bloodstained robes leans to whisper in his ear as Stalgrim and Ubbi approach.

BOLVERK

How went the raid, Ubbi?

UBBI

A failure, Bolverk Ymrisson. We marched to prey on the Dornholmers as planned, but before we got there we came across that Cimmerian smith, the one who plays at being a merchant. We thought they’d be easy pickings, but . . . The Cimmerians killed Brekkun and Rorri and –

(pauses, looks sideways at Stalgrim)

UBBI (CONT’D.)

– Vidkund.  If only we hadn’t been weak from hunger. . . By Ymri, we had to flee or they would have killed all of us!

BOLVERK

(Glowering)

Humph. You disregard the task I sent you on. You send three of my warriors to toil in my father’s mines ­— and with so many lost to hunger and the cold already. Worst of all you return empty handed. And THAT is unforgivable. You have failed me.

The shaman leans in and whispers something to Bolverk. Bolverk mutters back, thinks for a moment, motions the shaman back, then eyes Stalgrim slyly.

BOLVERK

Tell me, Stalgrim, would you have vengeance for Vidkund?

STALGRIM

(With burning intensity)

My life has no purpose now, save to avenge my son!

BOLVERK

And tell me: What would you do to win his soul free from the slave gangs in my father’s mines? To have his soul on the right end of the whip, and have his slayer feel its sting forever?

STALGRIM

Anything, Bolverk Ymrisson! Anything!

BOLVERK

Then you will do this: Wait.

STALGRIM

Wha – ?

BOLVERK

Let the Cimmerian dogs forget you. Let them and their goats grow fat. The fjord will be clear soon, and my new ship, Ymristurm, will be ready to sail. You will hone yourself and your blade with me when we raid the South, Zingara and the Pictlands. You will be my berserk. My shaman Offi will fashion the bearskin for you.

(Eager comprehension slowly dawns on Stalgrim’s face.)

BOLVERK (CONT’D)

Come next Spring, the Cimmerian fools will drive their fat goats into the highlands, to their summer pastures. We’ll be strong again by then, and we can strike and get enough livestock, slaves and food to make us the mightiest of my father Ymri’s tribes. Your hatred, your berserk, will give you strength. But remember this: The tribe comes first. Your first goal must be to bring back wealth for our clan. Then let the Cimmerians feel your wrath.

STALGRIM

(Pauses, thinking. He seems to let go of the immediacy of his grief and rage and accept the inevitable.)

Aye, Bolverk, The tribe comes first. But I’ll not forget this day, and the Cimmerians WILL pay.

BOLVERK

You, Ubbi!

UBBI

(Palls, fearing the worst.)

Yes, my war-chief?

BOLVERK

YOU were in charge of this raid, and bear responsibility for its failure. Normally, I’d have your guts in payment, but we’re too few now. Your doom is this: You will learn from this mistake, and you will lead the vengeance strike against the Cimmerian dogs.

UBBI

Yes, my war-chief!

BOLVERK

But your lesson must be driven home with pain. The price for this wisdom: An eye. So be it.

(Bolverk motions for guards, who grab Ubbi’s arms and frog-march him away. Bolverk motions for Offi, the shamman. In the background, the two guards hold Ubbi down, while a third heats a poker in the firepit.)

OFFI

Yes, O Terrible One?

(Cut to closeup of Bolverk.)

BOLVERK

Prepare for the berserking. Tomorrow Stalgrim takes the bearskin.

UBBI (O.S.)

(Screams)

AAAAAAH!!

BOLVERK

And pray to my father we DO recover from this winter.

Ubbi’s screams fade into choked off sobs as he fights to control the pain.

BOLVERK (CONT’D.)

Or your price for wisdom will be more than you can afford.

EXTERIOR: CIMMERIA — NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS — THE “WINTER VILLAGE” OF CONAN’S TRIBE — FALL.

Marigan and Brigidda are again working wool in front of the smithy; they are dressed for cooler weather now.  A small pack train comes in to view.  It consists of three riders on horseback, followed by an extra horse and four pack mules, all heavily, but not excessively, laden.  They are heading slowly toward the smithy.  About half of the villagers start ambling to intercept the train; the rest trot or jog much faster and more eagerly.  Brigidda jumps up and runs towards one of the riders, who dismounts as he sees her.  The villagers get out of her way with good-natured bantering.

(“Better get out of the way!” ”Don’t stand between Brigidda and her man!”)  She flings herself into his arms with enough force to rock a lesser man, but he hugs her and lifts her off the ground.  He is Connell, her husband, and the son of Conn the village smith.  He is a huge, powerfully muscled young man with an unruly mane of black hair, cheerful blue eyes, and an open, sunny disposition.  He has a several-days growth of black stubble, but no well-defined beard.  They kiss exuberantly, then break apart, and he holds her at arms length.  The other two riders have also dismounted and are engaged in similar happy reunions.  But a middle-aged couple stands at the fringes of the crowd, staring at the riderless horse.

BRIGIDDA

Connell!

CONNELL

Brigidda! By Crom, I missed you!

He continues on toward the smithy, much more briskly than before, dragging his horse and mule along willy-nilly, talking of his trip. The older couple, Odda and Segg, stop him, concerned.

ODDA (WOMAN)

Connell . . . Hensey?

CONNELL

I’m sorry, Odda . . . the Vanir . . .

Odda sobs. The man — Hensey’s father, Segg, — looks intensely at Connell.

SEGG

Did he . . .

CONNELL

He died sword in hand, Segg. He did you honor, Crom keep him.

Segg seems relieved, reassured in his grief. He leads Odda away, comforting her. Brigidda smiles up at Connell, proud of her man, yet sympathetic for his loss of a comrade. They continue on to the smithy, where Marigan is waiting on the porch. Connell bounds up onto the porch.  Marigan stands up just in time to be seized and hugged.

CONNELL

Mother!

MARIGAN

(Hugs him back.)

Welcome home, son!

Connell steps off the porch and over to the mule and rummages through a pack, a grin on his face and a merry twinkle in his eye.

CONNELL

Let’s see, what first?  Right!

He pulls out two small packages and hands them to the women.  As they unwrap them, he watches their faces with a mischievous grin.

BRIGIDDA

(Holds up a necklace of transparent blue beads, overwhelmed.)

What is it – blue amber! Oh, Connell!

They kiss deeply for a moment, then Connell returns to his gift-giving.

CONNELL

(Rummaging)

From Kush in the far South, if the Ophirian trader I got them from is to be believed.

MARIGAN

(Inspecting a silver cloak clasp set with deep blue stones, she is genuinely pleased)

Very nice; thank you, son.

CONNELL

The gems are from High Ridge, and I had a silversmith in Dawnsgate mount them.

Connell pulls a long, narrow, hide-wrapped package from the pack, kisses Brigidda again, bounds back up on the porch and strides into the smithy.

CUT TO:

INTERIOR: CONN’S SMITHY — THE FORGE.

The front room of the cabin of Conn, the village blacksmith and a tribal elder, is occupied by the forge.  Two back rooms are the bedrooms of Conn and his wife Marigan, and Conn’s son Connell and his wife Brigidda, respectively.  These doorways are screened by leather curtains.    There are scarred, charred, scorched workbenches arranged near the forge, along with several anvils of different shapes and sizes mounted on treestumps.  Tools and incomplete pieces are strewn about on the workbenches.  Additional tools are hung about the walls, or on shelves.  There are about a dozen buckets and vats of various shapes and sizes on the floor, some empty and some full of water.  On one bench are displayed finished, or repaired, pieces waiting for owners or customers to pick them up.  On one of the walls is an ordinary hearth, for cooking.  Lined up along another wall are bins containing nails of various sizes, Conn and Connell’s staple product.  Some small boxes are stacked on one of the shelves.  These contain the source of Conn’s prominence in his village and throughout the region: sewing needles.  Conn is perhaps the only smith in Cimmeria, Asgard, or Vanaheim who knows how to make sewing needles, a skill he picked up during his journeys in the south. Conn is a large, bulky, robust, exceptionally vigorous, older man.  He looks like a cross between George C. Scott and Kirk Douglas, with long gray hair clubbed up at the back of his head and a neatly trimmed full gray beard.  He looks up as Connell comes in through the door.  The door swings shut again.

Seeing his beloved father, Connell bellows like a bull, dumps his bundle on one of the workbenches with a loud thump and bearhugs Conn.

CONNELL

Father!

CONN

HAH-HAH! Welcome home, son!

(Clasps arms with Connell and slaps him mightily on the shoulder.)

How was your trip?, eh?

CONNELL

(Sadly)

We lost Hensey about two weeks out.  We were skirting Vanaheim, and a party of Vanir jumped us. We killed a couple and scared the rest off. I brought his belongings back for his parents.  Otherwise it was the usual.  Through the East Pass, traded needles and nails for gemstones at High Ridge in the Eiglophians, east through Asgard trading needles and nails for furs, then south into Cimmeria again, trading for furs at Winterkill, Hardscrabble, Grimfells, and so on, ‘till I ran out of nails and needles.  Feann met a girl in Stoneyfield, and they got betrothed.  He arranged with her family that next year he’ll return and marry her, and then bring her back here.  Then we headed on south to –

(Grimaces with distaste)

CONNELL (CONT’D.)

– Venarium, traded the furs and gemstones for iron pigs, Zingaran flux as you requested, assorted steels, copper,  spices, dyes, salt, some jewelry . . .

CONN

Venarium? That city is a blight on our lands. Damn Aquilonian invaders!

(Sighs wistfully)

Still, there are times when I wish I was still traveling…

CONNELL

Hah! I’ll trade you.  I want to be with Brigidda.

CONN

No, I turned the trade route over to you because I was getting too old.

(Gestures at the bundle)

And that is. . . ?

Connell unrolls the bundle onto the workbench with a dramatic flourish, causing yard-long steel rods to clatter noisily out onto the workbench.

CONNELL

(With exultant relish)

The STEEL!  Hyrkanian, Akbitanan, Aquilonian, Zingaran, Cimmerian from right here…

CONN

So you’re really going to do it.

CONNELL

Yes!  I’m going to make the finest sword that any Cimmerian has ever made!

(Suddenly catches himself)

Except yourself, of course, sir.

CONN

(laughs)

No need to be modest, son.  You’ve set yourself quite a task.

CONNELL

I know.  But you’ve shown me the technique of folding steel to make a sword that’s stronger than any blade made of a single alloy.  And I’ve brought back a few NEW tricks I picked up on the trail. I know I can do this.

Connell turns and goes out the door.  Conn follows to help him unpack.

CONN

(As they disappear through the door)

I have no doubts. So tell me, what’s a pound of nails selling for these days?

INTERIOR: THE FORGE.

Connell is stripped to the waist; both men are wearing leather aprons and heavy leather gloves.  Connell — his beard a little heavier than in the last scene — gives a last few pumps to the leather bellows at the side of the forge, which is glowing brightly, then turns to a workbench where the steel rods are lying next to two pairs of tongs.  The bundle of rods has already been welded together at both ends, so they are joined at the ends in two flattened stubs.  He picks up the tongs, a pair in each hand, and uses them to pick up the  bundle, gripping the bundle at each end, carries it over to the forge, and positions it carefully on top of the glowing charcoal, then steps over to the bellows to pump some more.  Both men step back to a comfortable distance to watch.

FADE TO LATER.

The men have shifted position.  They are standing near opposite ends of the bundle of rods, which is now glowing redly.  Each man is holding a single pair of tongs.  They look at each other, nod, then each grips one end of the bundle with his tongs, and they quickly lift the bundle over to an anvil.  They shift the position of their tongs, Conn gripping at a “9 o’clock” angle, and Connell at a “3 o’clock” angle.  Then, watching each other and the steel, they twist their ends in opposite directions, twisting the bundle into a cable.  Conn sticks a hand into a box of white powder and sprinkles a handful on the rods, then steps back, and Connell grabs a large hammer and begins furiously pounding the twisted bundle, flattening out the cylindrical cable of steel and sending showers of scale and sparks in all directions.  Conn watches judiciously from a safe distance.  As Connell pounds, the steel cools and darkens.  When it begins resisting his efforts, he deposits it back in the forge and resumes pumping the bellows.

FADE TO LATER — NIGHTTIME.

It is dark outside.  The smithy is lit by a couple of torches, and the light from the forge.

Connell, pouring sweat, removes a long, flat, slab of steel from a corner of  the forge.  It has the approximate dimensions of a sword, but somewhat thicker and stubbier.  It is glowing in the middle, the part that had been resting in the forge; the ends are dark.  As Connell lays it on an anvil, the camera zooms in for a close-up view of the glowing center of the slab, and we can discern the twisted rods, each glowing with a slightly different degree of brightness, making a pattern in the steel.  Working quickly, gripping one end of the slab with the tongs in his right hand, he picks up a small hammer in his left hand, and, while gently but firmly tapping the center of the slab with the hammer, lifts the right end of the slab, bending the slab at the red-hot center where he is tapping it, folding the slab double.  When he has folded the slab into a hairpin, he prepares to return it to the forge, but Conn intervenes.

CONN

Enough.

Connell stops, and looks at Conn questioningly.

CONN

You can’t do it all in one night.  If we try, you’ll just kill yourself — or even worse: Me!  You have a beautiful wife who’s too young to be made a widow. As do I, for that matter.

CONNELL

(Shakes his head and blinks like someone coming out of a trance, then grins and wipes his forehead with his forearm.)

You’re right.  It’ll still be here tomorrow.

EXTERIOR: THE VANIR VILLAGE

Stalgrim sits on the edge of a bear pit, stripped to the waste, his face painted with crude Vanir runes in red and black ink. Around him the clan is gathered to witness his taking the bearskin, to become a berserker. In the pit below, a massive polar bear is being goaded and prodded with spears and insults from the crowd above; with the intent of enraging the doomed beast.

Ubbi, a bandage over his ruined left eye, stares at his friend intently from across the pit. Bolverk approaches Stalgrim, claps his shoulder and hands him a short sword. Stalgrim stares at the blade, then the bear, then looks back at Bolverk with a grim, determined cast.

Offi, the shaman of Ymri, steps up to Stalgrim’s left and holds out a drinking horn brimming with a noxious potion. Stalgrim quaffs the brew in one draught, and casts the sword into the pit, where it sticks in the ground, point first, quivering. The crowd cheers, and chants his name. Suddenly, Stalgrim’s face goes flush and he staggers near the edge as the potion begins to take effect. Hands reach out to grab him before he can fall, then lower him down into the pit where the bear awaits.

The bear, maddened by the taunts and prodding spears, launches itself at the staggering Stalgrim, who only just manages to roll out of the way and grab the sword. His breath is coming in pants now, and the bear rears up before him. To Stalgrim’s drug-addled eyes, the bear’s face seems to begin to resemble Connell, his son’s killer.

The bear roars at Stalgrim, in full attack position. Stalgrim roars back, cursing the bear, which he now thinks is Connell.

The bear attacks.

CUT TO BOLVERK, OBSERVING THE FIGHT, A SMILE ON HIS FACE. BLOOD squirts up into frame.

The crowd roars approval. The bear roars in anguish. Stalgrim, hacking away like a madman, roars in victory.

CUT TO STALGRIM, POSING VICTORIOUS OVER THE FALLEN BEAR, COVERED IN GORE AND GASHES FROM THE BEAR’S CLAWS.

INTERIOR — THE SMITHY.

It is morning.  The family is sitting around one of the workbenches, which has been cleaned off and pressed into service as a breakfast table.  They are just finishing breakfast.

BRIGIDDA

(Diffidently)

The Goddess came to me in a dream last night.

Conn snorts. He doesn’t want to hear about goddesses. Marigan glares at Conn.  Connell says nothing, but watches Brigidda with intense interest.

BRIGIDDA

She told me I would bear Connell a son.

CONNELL

(Sits up straight, looking embarrassed and proud at the same time.)

What!  You mean already!  I mean . . . A son!

CONN

(Rolling his eyes and suppressing laughter; under his breath)

Good work, m’boy!

CONNELL

(To Conn)

I believe it!

Everybody is looking at Conn.

CONN

All I said was ‘Good work!’

EXTERIOR — ABOARD BOLVERK’S SHIP, YMRISTURM

The ship is full of Vanir in all their martial glory. Bolverk mans the rudder, and his warriors sing as they row the ship south with deadly grace. Stalgrim stands alone at the prow, staring ahead. He still wears the facial runes from his battle, though they are faded and dirty now. He is dressed only in woolen breeches and boots, the bloodstained bearskin wrapped around his shoulders like a cloak. Ubbi sits amidships, out of the way of the rowers, resting until his turn at the oars.

INTERIOR — THE SMITHY

Connell removes the glowing hair-pinned slab of steel from the forge and carries it with two pairs of tongs to an anvil. Brigidda is sitting by one of the workbenches, watching him. Connell sprinkles some of the white powder over the slab, then, clamping one end of the slab to the anvil with one pair of tongs, he twists the slab with the other pair of tongs, until it looks like a licorice stick; then he pounds it out flat again.  The camera zooms in for a close-up, and again we see the twisted rods within the steel, in a much finer and more intricate pattern than before.  He carries it back to the forge to re-heat, then pumps the bellows.  After a while, he stops to rest and wipe his face with a rag.

BRIGIDDA

(Smiling.  She is beginning to show her pregnancy.)

I love to watch you work.  You are forging that sword while I am making our son.

Connell picks up a leather jack to drink, then pauses, looking thoughtful.

CONNELL

At birth, Crom breathes power to strive and to slay into a man’s soul.  Just think, even as I forge strength and toughness into this sword, Crom must be forging strength and courage into our son.

(He looks at the forge, then back to Brigidda.)

And his earliest memory will be of the ring of steel on steel.

BRIGIDDA

What do you want to name him? 

CONNELL

After Father’s father: Conan.

INTERIOR: THE SMITHY.

FADE TO a montage of scenes of Connell working at the forge: heating, folding, pounding, sweating, stretching,  heating,  twisting,  pounding on the steel.  Every once in a while we see a close-up of the sword: each time the pattern in the steel is more intricate and complex, until it is no longer possible to see any trace of the original rods – all we see is a pattern reminiscent of the wavy, scalloped pattern seen in Damascus steel or in Japanese blades.  And still the pattern grows more complex.

(Music: powerful, repetitive, energizing, like a work song.)

Intermingle these cuts with cuts showing Connell and Brigidda in day to day life, loving, Conn winning an arm wrestle at a celebration, Connell carrying an elk through the village gates on his shoulders, Conn getting in an argument with a customer over the value of a plowshare, which quickly  develops into a shoving match, then a slugfest until Conn decks the unruly customer, etc….

Intermingle the Cimmerian scenes with those of Stalgrim, Bolverk and Ubbi in battle, mainly Stalgrim. He wears no armor, other than his bearskin, and is truly berserk in battle, a whirling dervish of death. In all his foes he sees Connell, who becomes more and more evil in appearance. As Connell is transformed in Stalgrim’s mind from defender to vile murderer, so Stalgrim is transformed on the outside. As spring fades into summer, summer into fall, Stalgrim becomes stronger, his muscles more defined, his face losing humanity.

EXTERIOR: INTERLUDE — A FROSTY, GRASSY HILLSIDE SOMEWHERE IN CIMMERIA — NIGHTTIME.

It is dark.  Conn, Connell and ten other villagers are sneaking through the grass in a crouch-walk.  They are lightly armored. Eight of the villagers are carrying cudgels; Connell and two others are carrying center-grip bucklers and heavier clubs.  Conn is carrying a woodsman’s axe in one hand and a buckler in the other; he appears to be the only one carrying steel.  Although they are being quite stealthy, they are all wearing excited grins, like boys on a prank.  They come to a makeshift fence, and communicate with each other with nervous hand signals.  It is a pen; some goats are confined inside.  Conn braces himself and raises his axe on high.  The others wait tensely, crouched to move in any direction.  With one chop, Conn cleaves through all the rails of the fence in a single motion.  Instantly, the eight villagers without shields leap into the pen and snatch a goat apiece; then they charge out, knocking over the remains of the fence.  The remaining goats run through the hole and scatter noisily in all directions, while the goat-laden men sprint hell-for-leather down the hill.  Conn, Connell, and the other two shield-bearers trot after them, looking over their shoulders, sometimes turning to run backwards.  Dark shapes rise out of the grass: goatherds who were sleeping with their charges.  They grab steel weapons and, yelling angrily, chase after the goat rustlers.  Conn, Connell, and the other two shield men intercept and engage the leading goatherds.  The goatherds, who appear to also be Cimmerians, although with different hair styles (black hair braided) are fighting in earnest, to kill, but they have no shields, and Conn and his companions club them down, Conn using the shaft of his axe, or the flat of the blade.  Then Conn and his companions turn and run full speed down the hill after the rustlers, while confused goatherds bumble around in the grass, trying to round up the escaped goats.  The rustlers all start whooping as we fade out.

EXTERIOR — VANIR RAID ON A PICTISH VILLAGE — NIGHT

Bolverk and Ubbi pick their way through the bodies of their fallen foes by the light of the burning huts. Ahead in the central village clearing is a large bonfire. To one side, adult surviving Picts are chained in a line to be sold as slaves later in Zingara. On the other side, their surviving children are corralled. Stalgrim stands by the children, a mad look in his eye: This battle did not sate his bloodlust. Suddenly he grabs a baby from the arms of a small girl and pitches it into the flames. Then another and another. The adult Picts strain at their bonds and scream in anguish, but can do nothing.

UBBI

(Horrified, looks pleadingly at Bolverk)

He’s mad!

BOLVERK

Aye, but his madness won us this day, and many others. Let him vent his rage on the babes. There are always more.

 

Ubbi turns back to the fire, face aghast, the fires flickering in his single eye.

 

INTERIOR — THE FORGE.

The montage resumes, then, after a while, changes to show Connell grinding the sword to shape, then polishing it.

EXTERIOR: THE “WINTER VILLAGE” – SPRING – IN FRONT OF THE SMITHY – DAY.

Connell has stepped out of the smithy for some sunlight and fresh air.  Brigidda (in a much more advanced state of pregnancy) and Marigan are sitting on the front porch working.  Connell steps off the porch to walk around a little and stretch his muscles.  A small group of men step up to talk to him.  They all nod and exchange friendly greetings.

CIMMERIAN #1:

Connell, are you coming up to the high pastures with us this summer, or going trading again?

CONNELL

Neither.  I should stay down here and help look after Brigidda; she’s due soon.

CIMMERIAN #2

(Joshing, not hostile)

Sounds like an excuse to laze around in the summer sun!

Everyone laughs at the jibe.

CONNELL

(Taking no offense)

And I’m still working on the sword; I’d like to have it finished by the time the baby is born.

CIMMERIAN #3

A nice cradle-toy for any newborn!

CONNELL

(Smugly)

Maybe. For MY son, absolutely!

EXTERIOR: THE “WINTER VILLAGE” — SPRING — JUST OUTSIDE THE STOCKADE GATE — MORNING.

Conn and Marigan are standing just outside the gate, with some other villagers, watching as their fellow-villagers (men and women carrying heavy packs on their backs) drive flocks of goats up the slopes.  The Village Headman, walking by, stops to talk to them.

HEADMAN

Master Conn, you’ll be in charge of the Village this summer.

CONN

I’m used to it.  And it’ll be easier this time, with Connell to help out.

HEADMAN

(Grips forearms with Connell)

Crom grant your grandson strength and long life!

CONN

(Smiling)

Thank you, Headman.

The Headman walks on upslope.  Conn and Marigan stand and watch as more villagers walk by, on their way to the High Pastures and the Summer Village.

INTERIOR — BOLVERK’S LODGE

Bolverk sits in his throne eyeing Stalgrim, who stands seething before him with Ubbi.

STALGRIM

I will be heard!

BOLVERK

Well?

STALGRIM

(Confident, no longer afraid of Bolverk.)

You asked me to delay my vengeance, Bolverk Ymrisson. Spring is here.

STALGRIM

I have done as you bid!

BOLVERK

Not now. Ubbi?

STALGRIM

NO! It is time! I will have the Cimmerian’s blood or I will have yours! I will have my vengeance!

BOLVERK

(Angered)

You will have it! Now be silent, dog! Ubbi, report!

UBBI

Our scouts have found the village of the trader who killed Vidkund. The main group of Cimmerians will be leaving for their summer grounds any day now.

BOLVERK

Ubbi, your wisdom-debt is nearly paid for the failed raid. The final payment is due. Take Stalgrim and 50 others with you. Crush the Cimmerian dogs. Make them pay.

Stalgrim smiles maliciously; and he and Ubbi turn and leave. Bolverk motions Offi over to his side.

BOLVERK

See to it no one truly valuable goes with them. Send troublemakers and fools only.

OFFI

(Puzzled)

Master?

BOLVERK

Ubbi, he is too soft. I need men of iron.

OFFI

And Stalgrim?

BOLVERK

He is getting too good with that axe of his. And too hard to control.

OFFI

And what good is a weapon you cannot aim?

BOLVERK

See to it.

Offi bows and withdraws to prepare Bolverk’s betrayal.

EXTERIOR: THE FOOTHILLS ABOVE THE VILLAGE — DAY.

Villagers are trudging up a rocky slope.  Many adults are bearing packs; unladen adult and teenage males are herding goats up the slopes.  Children and some teenagers do not appear to be working, but are skipping in and out amongst the adults.  There are always several unladen teenage and subteen males near the Headman.  These are scouts and couriers.

The Headman pauses at the edge of a plateau and looks down toward his village.  We get a view over his shoulder.  From this height the village is a collection of tiny model houses, the stay-at-home villagers appear smaller than ants.  The Headman’s (and our) view scans north from the village, and we spot a small group of ants in rugged terrain, separated from the village by several ridges and  creeks and small woods.  The distance is so great that at first it is hard to tell what direction the ants are moving, or if they are moving at all.  After a moment, it becomes apparent that the little cluster is moving southward towards the village.

HEADMAN

(Calling)

Harah, over here!

Harah, a sub-teen boy, runs over to the Headman, who carefully positions him and points an arm over his shoulder to direct his gaze.

HEADMAN

Look.  Tell me what your eagle-eyes see.

CUT TO:

EXTERIOR: NORTH OF THE VILLAGE — DAY.

Four dozen men are marching easily and relentlessly through the jumbled, rocky terrain north of the village.  All of them are wearing armor of chainmail, ringmail, or leather jack; most have conical helmets many of which are decorated with horns or nasals or goggle-like visors.  They are all armed, mostly with swords or axes, some with spears.  Many of them carry center-grip wooden bucklers.  They are big, hard-faced, muscular men; most of them are bearded and have reddish hair of one shade or another.  These are the Vanir of Stalgrim’s village, hereditary enemies of the Cimmerians.  Among them is Stalgrim himself. Leading them is Ubbi.

CUT TO:

EXTERIOR: THE FOOTHILLS ABOVE THE VILLAGE — DAY.

HARAH

(Looking hard.)

Men.  40 or 50 of them.  In armor.  Moving toward the village.  Red hair . . . beards — Vanirmen!!  We’ve got to warn the village!

He shifts his balance as if he is going to start running right away.

HEADMAN

(Concerned, puts a hand on Harah’s shoulder.)

Hold, brave one.

(Turns around and calls out to the other Cimmerians.)

Keilly!  Mally!  Rork!

Several beefy Cimmerians trot over to him.

HEADMAN

(Points at village.)

Vanirmen are sneaking up on the village! I think we can stop them at the Blackwater Creek Ford.

(The men watch him intently.)

Spread the word, get the men armed and meet me back here.

The others run in all directions back to the rest of the villagers.

KEILLY, MALLY, AND RORK

To arms, to arms, Vanir attacking the village!

All of the male Cimmerians set down their packs and immediately start rummaging through them.  Meanwhile the Headman reaches inside his coat and pulls out a steel mirror.  He begins signaling in the direction of the village.

EXTERIOR: THE “WINTER VILLAGE” — OUTSIDE THE SMITHY — DAY.

Conn is standing near his house, at the edge of the village green, enjoying the weather.  A subteen girl runs up to him, slightly out of breath.

GIRL

Master Conn, Master Conn, there’s a sun signal from the mountain, they’re signaling us!

CONN

Where?

She points up the mountain, and Conn stoops behind her so he can sight along her arm. He mumbles to himself under his breath as he reads the flashes. His eyes go wide, alarm written on his face. He pulls out a steel mirror and signals back.  Then he puts his cupped hands to his mouth, and rotating in a circle, yells at the top of his lungs.

CONN

     Alert!  Alert!  Assemble!  To me!  To me!

EXTERIOR: THE FOOTHILLS ABOVE THE VILLAGE – DAY.

The Headman is talking to Harah.  Harah is totally focused on him.

HEADMAN

Run back down to the village, tell them we’ll join them at the Blackwater Creek Ford.  If the men have already left, tell whoever’s left to hold the village if the Vanir get through, then you chase and find the men! Now GO!

As Harah turns to leave, the Headman slaps him lightly on the shoulder.  Harah starts running down the mountain slope, leaping and bounding like a young mountain goat, letting gravity add to his speed.  The Headman turns and faces a dozen or so teenage and subteen boys.

HEADMAN

Brion, head straight for the ford, hide in the woods on our side of the creek, and wait for the men to arrive.  Report to their leader, and be ready to scout for him or carry messages.  The rest of you, head for the route between the village and the Ford, and find or join up with the men.

BOYS

Yes, Headman!!!

They all turn and go flying down the slope.

EXTERIOR: THE “WINTER VILLAGE” – THE VILLAGE GREEN -DAY.

Conn is addressing a group of villagers, including his son Connell.  The other villagers consist of about two dozen adults of both sexes, an equal number of elderly people, and some children. The elders and the women all bear weapons — mostly spears and long knives, but there are some swords, axes, the occasional bow or sling — and here and there is a helm, shield or ringmail jacket to be seen. While the warriors are clearly the main defense, the elders and women are no cowards.

CONN

. . . about 40 or 50 Vanir approaching from the north.

VILLAGER

We have to man the walls!

CONN

No.  There aren’t enough fighters among us to hold the walls against so many  attackers.  They would simply come over some undefended part of the wall, and then they’d be all over us.  We have to stop them at a choke point: the ford.  The Headman and all the other warriors are coming down to meet us there, but they won’t get there in time to stop the Vanir.  WE will have to hold the Vanir at the ford until the others can reinforce us there.  Now don you your  armor!  We don’t have much time!

All the adult men, and some of the older men, too, run to their homes.  Connell remains.

CONN

You women and elders bar the gate, and be prepared to hold the walls against any stragglers that might get through us.

All the others go. Only Connell remains.  He appears anguished.

CONN

Connell?

CONNELL

(He appears truly agonized.)

I can’t go with you.  Brigidda’s water has broken: She’s starting labor!  I HAVE to stay with her. 

CONN

(Shakes his head, incredulous.)

Your son comes now?  I can’t order you to leave your wife.  But if any of the Vanir break through . . .

CONNELL

Then my battlefield will be right here.

CONN

And remember to have a chat with him about timing in a year or two.

Conn claps him on the shoulder, and they head for the smithy together.

EXTERIOR: NORTH OF THE VILLAGE – DAY – THE VANIR RAIDING PARTY.

The Vanir are advancing southward, picking their way carefully when the terrain is particularly rugged, jogging when it is smoother.  They reach a ridge, climb it, slide down through the dirt and gravel on the other side, and resume jogging.

EXTERIOR: THE FOOTHILLS ABOVE THE VILLAGE — DAY.

All the adult men (including older teens), 20 or 30 of them,  are gathered around the Headman at the edge of the plateau.  They are throwing on their armor, adjusting straps, testing the balance of their shields and weapons.  The Headman is already wearing a chainmail shirt and a horned helmet, and has a scabbarded sword buckled at his waist.

HEADMAN

Is everybody ready?

The men have finished donning their armor.  They stand.

WARRIORS

AYE!!!

They are wearing leather or chainmail (product of Conn’s smithy) and plain conical helmets, and carry center-grip bucklers.  They are armed similarly to the Vanirmen, except more of them carry spears.

HEADMAN

For our homes and families — to battle!

With a shout (“CROM AND BLOOD!”), they leap down the slope, angling north.  They are not nearly as light-footed and graceful as the youngsters were earlier.  They run, leap, stumble, and slide.  Some lose their footing, and either slide on their butts as they swear loudly, or tumble and roll.  But they let their momentum help them regain their feet without pausing.

INTERIOR — THE SMITHY.

Connell is talking to a very pregnant Brigidda lying in bed in a shift. Conn comes striding out of his bedroom, fully armed and armored.  He is wearing a long-sleeved chainmail shirt, and is carrying a wicked-looking spiked, double-bladed battle-axe.  With greaves and vambraces, he is undoubtedly the best-armored man in the village.  Marigan follows him into the bedroom, carrying an ornately goggled helmet and looking serious.  She hands it to Conn, he tucks it under the arm that is carrying the ax, and puts his other arm around Marigan’s waist and kisses her.  She embraces him as best she can considering that he is bristling with steel.  Connell rises and clasps forearms with Conn.

CONN

Take care of the women. And my grandson!

CONNELL

Aye!

Conn claps on his helmet.  In the helmet and full armor he looks like an elder war-god.  He hurries out the door.  It swings shut again.

EXTERIOR: THE “WINTER VILLAGE” — THE VILLAGE GREEN — DAY

Conn is striding toward the gate of the stockade.  Armed men come running from all directions to join him; they are outfitted as were the Cimmerians on the mountainside.  They all jog for the gate, where a dozen or more women and children wait.  The warriors jog out the gate, accompanied by cheers from the children.  Conn spots a lone figure running toward the village from the mountain.  It is Harah.  He runs up to Conn and tries to speak, but is out of breath.

CONN

(Claps him on the shoulder.)

I know.  That was quite a run.  Go, drink some water, and rest up.  Then hide in the woods north of the village and watch for Vanirmen.  If you see any, run back to the village and warn them.

Harah nods and trots in through the gate.  The gate closes behind him.  The warriors jog north, into the woods.

INTERIOR — THE SMITHY.

Connell is standing in the doorway, looking out in the direction of the gate.  Suddenly, off screen, Brigidda cries out as the first REAL contraction hits her.

BRIGIDDA

Oh!

Connell and Marigan hurry over to her.

CONNELL

(Anxiously)

What? … is it …?

BRIGIDDA

(Smiles shakily.)

I think our baby wants to be born in time to join the fighting.

MARIGAN

(Puts her hand on Brigidda’s stomach and concentrates, a far-away look in her eyes.)

You stay in this bed, girl!  I’ll be back in a moment.

Marigan hustles into her and Conn’s bedroom, and comes out a moment later with an armful of clean cloths and blankets. Connell follows.

MARIGAN

(To Connell, as she is hurrying into Brigidda’s bedroom.)

We need hot water.  Lots of hot water.

She disappears into Brigidda’s room.

Connell goes over to the forge, picks up a hot coal with a tongs, and carries it over to the hearth, where an unlit fire is laid.  He ignites the fire, hangs a large cauldron on a hook over the flames, then picks up a bunch of buckets and hurries out.

EXTERIOR: THE FOOTHILLS ABOVE THE VILLAGE — DAY.

Running, leaping, stumbling, tumbling, the Cimmerian reinforcements are scurrying down the mountain at breakneck speed.  They are raising clouds of dust and showers of gravel as they descend like a human avalanche.

EXTERIOR: THE WOODS NORTH OF THE VILLAGE — A PATH.

Conn and his little band of warriors are jogging along a path in the woods.  Two boys pop out of some bushes alongside the path.  They fall in beside Conn and jog along with him.  He talks to them, and one of the boys puts on a burst of speed and runs off ahead of the band.  The other boy stays with Conn.

INTERIOR — THE SMITHY.

Connell hurries back into the smithy with full buckets.  He fills the cauldron with several of them, then stands back, fidgeting.  Brigidda can be heard groaning in the bedroom.  He paces, wincing every time he hears a cry from Brigidda.

EXTERIOR: NORTH OF THE VILLAGE — DAY — THE VANIR RAIDING PARTY.

The Vanir are jogging through woods.  They emerge from the woods to find a deep, swiftly flowing creek.  Ubbi and the forerunners stop and look at it as the rest of the Vanir column catches up to them and spreads out along the bank.

EXTERIOR: THE FOOTHILLS ABOVE THE VILLAGE — DAY.

The Cimmerian warriors from the mountain have reached the foot of the slope.  When the leaders reach level ground, they stop and wait for the rest to catch up to them.  They regroup, then set off again, trotting northeast.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK FORD —  SOUTH SIDE.

Conn and his warriors emerge from the woods, which on this side of the creek grow almost to the water’s edge.  On the north side of the creek, there is a cleared area in the vicinity of the ford, containing only treestumps and underbrush.  The men throw themselves down to drink after their long run, but the boys (half a dozen of them now) gather around Conn.

CONN

They’re going to strike the creek west of here.  You boys work your way west – along THIS side of the creek – and when you spot them, one of you come back immediately to tell us.  The rest of you shadow the Vanir, and send runners back here to tell us which way they’re moving, and how fast.

The boys head west, melting into the woods.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK —  NORTH SIDE.

The Vanirmen are clustered at the creekside.  Some are drinking thirstily from the creek, some are sprawled on the ground, resting.  One man — stripped of his armor — is entering the creek, clinging to a rope held by the raid chief and a couple of his henchmen.  The man sinks to his waist almost immediately.  Another step and he is up to his armpits.  He loses his footing and starts to float downstream, but is saved by the rope.  They pull him back, and he climbs back up the bank.

UBBI

There’s supposed to be a ford somewhere along this creek.  Svein!  Njals!

(Two men run up to him.)

Svein, work your way upstream.  Njals, go you downstream.  If you find the ford, come back and tell us.  If you don’t find it after an hour, come back anyway.

As the two men run off in opposite directions, our point of view pans backward across the creek, away from the Vanir, to the south side.  As we pan backwards, we see a boy hiding in the bushes on the south side of the creek, watching the action.  He starts sneaking eastwards, downstream, and melts into the woods.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK FORD —  SOUTH SIDE.

The Cimmerian warriors are waiting by the ford.  The same boy from the previous scene comes trotting out of the woods and speaks to Conn, gesturing upstream.  Conn and his warriors all conceal themselves in the woods.

INTERIOR —  THE SMITHY.

Connell is still pacing.  Marigan sticks her head out the door of the bedroom.  Brigidda can be heard groaning in the background.

MARIGAN

What are you doing?  Where’s the water?

Connell goes over to the hearth and fills a bucket with the boiling water from the cauldron.

CONNELL

(Handing her the bucket.)

What’s happening?  How fares Brigidda?

MARIGAN

It’s a big baby, but she’ll be all right.  She’s doing as well as can be expected for a big baby and a first birth.  And you heat more water! 

Connell gestures at the fireplace, where many several smaller pots have joined the cauldron simmering over the fire.  Marigan snorts and withdraws back into the bedroom. Connell follows her, looking anxious. Brigidda is reclined, panting and doused with sweat, her face flushed. Connell gives her a little wave. Brigidda explodes.

BRIGIDDA

You! YOU did this to me!

From under a pillow she produces a knife and hurls it at Connell. It sticks in the door frame less than an inch from his face. Connell’s eyes go wide as he stares at the blade.

BRIGIDDA

(Digging through sheets and pillows)

Bastard! Where’s my other damn knife?

Marigan hurries over and shoves Connell out.

MARIGAN

And this time stay out! Go . . . play with that sword of yours or something, but stay OUT!

CONNELL

(To himself:)

Well, here I am, with nothing to do, and no place to go, except crazy.

(Looks at the forge.)

I don’t HAVE to be doing nothing.  I don’t HAVE to go crazy. Good idea, Mom!

He walks over to one of the benches and picks up the sword.  It is shaped and polished, and looks like a sword, except it has no hilt or quillions, just a naked tang.  He holds the blade up by the tang, and looks at it lovingly.

CONNELL

Crom, if you do as good a job on my son as I did on this blade, I’ll have a son to be proud of . . . Only the final quenching and tempering left now, then I can affix the hilt.

(Looks up at, or through, the ceiling)

Crom, may my son be as hard, and as strong, as the steel in this sword!

He places the blade in the forge, then starts pumping on the bellows.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK — SOUTH SIDE.

There are now several boys on the south side of the creek, observing the Vanir.  We see Njals trotting back to rejoin the waiting Vanirmen.  He talks to Ubbi and gestures downstream.  The Vanir all get to their feet, and after a few words from Ubbi, they start moving downstream.  They leave one of their number behind, to collect Svein when he returns.

EXTERIOR: THE FOOTHILLS ABOVE THE VILLAGE — DAY.

The Cimmerian warriors from the mountainside are trotting northeast, through woods and over hills.  They are getting tired, starting to pant.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK FORD — SOUTH SIDE.

A boy comes trotting out of the woods.  The fordhead seems deserted.  He looks around.  An animal call is heard.  The boy goes over to some brush near a tree, where we now see Conn hiding.

BOY

The Vanir are all coming now.  They should be here in about half an hour.

CONN

Go, hide.

(He stands up and addresses the seemingly empty woods.)

They’ll be here in about half an hour.  You all know what to do.  They outnumber us three or four to one.  That means we have to stand our ground and fight, but we can’t afford to trade our lives for theirs.  We have to kill, but not die.  We can’t afford to die, or they’ll be in the village by the time our reinforcements get here.  We have to hold them here.

He is answered by bird calls.  He nods and conceals himself in the shrubbery again.  The boy trots into the woods to the west, and disappears.

EXTERIOR: THE WOODS NORTH OF THE VILLAGE —  DAY.

Wheezing, gasping, stumbling, rasping, the warriors from the mountainside continue their run for the ford.

INTERIOR — THE SMITHY.

Connell is standing, wearing heavy leather gloves now, watching the sword.  The bedroom curtain starts to open, and he goes over to the hearth and takes down a simmering bucket.  He hands it to Marigan as she sticks her head through the door.

MARIGAN

(with a smirk)

Sometimes I think you’re too efficient for your own good. Crom knows you didn’t get that from your father!

She withdraws into the bedroom and pulls the curtain shut behind her.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK FORD —  NORTH SIDE.

The Vanir arrive at the north side of the ford.  No one else is visible.  They regroup, test the ford with spear butts, then start walking across the ford, two abreast.  Just as the leading pair of Vanir are about to reach the south bank, thrown spears arc out of the woods, falling among the Vanir.  The two in the lead go down, pierced by several spears.  Others go down; some stumble off of the ford.  Those who fall off the downstream side are swept away downstream.  As the surviving Vanir sort themselves out, Cimmerian warriors sprint out of the woods for the south end of the ford, where they immediately form up into a shieldwall on the bank.  The center consists of four shieldmen.  Additional shieldmen, and men with two-handed weapons, like Conn and his battle-axe, stand immediately behind them, pressed up against their backs.  Spearmen anchor the flanks of the wall, lining the creekbank on either side of the ford.  The Vanir on the ford charge the line as soon as they get themselves organized.  But the area immediately in front of the shieldwall is a killing zone.  The ford is only two men wide, but two Vanirmen find themselves facing four Cimmerian shieldmen, and the Cimmerian spearmen on the flanks can stab them from the sides, utilizing their superior reach.  After losing several of their number, the Vanirmen fall back to the north end of the ford and taunt the Cimmerians.  The Cimmerians stand fast, grimly ignoring the Vanir taunts, except for Conn.

VANIRMEN

Cowards!  Come out and fight us, dogs!  Come and play with us!

CONN

(Shouting back at the Vanirmen.)

Come ahead, then!  Which of you motherless curs wants to die next?

In the bushes, a young Cimmerian readies his sling as Stalgrim steps forward to challenge Conn.

STALGRIM

You, I think.

Stalgrim hurls himself at Conn, axe swirling in deadly patterns. Just before he reaches Conn, the stone from the Cimmerian boy’s sling strikes his temple and he goes down, falling into the swift current and sinking. Vanir dead litter the ford and the creek, but not a single Cimmerian has fallen.

As Stalgrim drowns, he sees Vidkund, his son, in chains in Ymri’s mines. A cruel-looking goblin-like dwarf flogs him incessantly as he digs in the sweltering dark. Vidkund turns to Stalgrim, despite the lashing he is receiving.

VIDKUND

Father . . . why . . .

The goblin-dwarf shoves Vidkund aside and leers in Stalgrim’s face. The goblin is Connell.

CONNELL-GOBLIN

He’s mine, dog! Forever! And soon you will be too!

EXTERIOR:  BLACKWATER CREEK — DOWNSTREAM FROM THE BATTLE.

Stalgrim’s hand bursts up from the surface and grabs a handy root. His axe attached to his wrist by a lanyard, Stalgrim pulls himself out of the water on the Cimmerian side, well downstream from the battle. Pausing to rest moment, he gazes upstream at the battle. He can see the raid is doomed, even though his companions feel they still stand a chance. The only thing left now is vengeance.

Stalgrim stumbles off southwest, towards the Cimmerian village.

EXTERIOR: THE WOODS NORTH OF THE VILLAGE.

The Cimmerian reinforcements are running heavily and mechanically now, their mouths are hanging open and their faces are slack with exhaustion, but still they run, and they do not slow.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK FORD — SOUTH SIDE.

The Vanir manage to arrange themselves three abreast on the ford, then advance slowly, picking their way through the corpses.  When the three leading shieldmen are a couple of spear-lengths from the Cimmerian shieldwall, the Vanirmen immediately behind them begin dragging the bodies of their fallen comrades back to the north end of the ford.

A CIMMERIAN IN THE SHIELDWALL

They’re going to charge.  Let’s attack them now!

CONN

No!  Stand fast!  It is we who call the dance here.  Keep formation!

The Vanir retreat almost to the north end of the ford, arrange themselves in a column of threes, and charge.  They race across the ford, hitting the Cimmerian shieldwall hard.  The Vanir in the second and third ranks throw themselves off the ford to the sides, trying to engage the spearmen.  The Cimmerian line is rocked backwards, and some of the spearmen fall, but more Vanir die; they are unable to follow through, and have to retreat.  Cimmerian replacements move to the front to replace their fallen comrades, but their numbers are so small that they cannot afford to lose many more.

EXTERIOR: THE WOODS NORTH OF THE VILLAGE.

The Cimmerian reinforcements are pounding methodically through the woods, running like zombies, but not slowing.

EXTERIOR: JUST NORTH OF THE VILLAGE.

Stalgrim, the side of his face marred by a livid bruise and a clot of blood where the sling stone struck, is lurking in the woods, observing the village. He has been joined by another Vanirman, Karli, who also made it across. They can see figures patrolling along the top of the stockade.

KARLI

I thought there would be no one here but women and children.

STALGRIM

Let’s split up and see if we can find a way in.  There can’t be very many defenders left here.

They separate and begin moving through the woods around the walls. Stalgrim is a bit unsteady on his feet.

EXTERIOR: COLEY CREEK FORD — SOUTH SIDE.

The weight of superior Vanir numbers has forced the Cimmerian line back into a “U” shape. It is stretched to only one man thick.  Their are still Cimmerian spearmen on the flanks; the interior of the “U” is still a killing zone, but if the Cimmerians lose any more men, the Vanir will pour through.  Blows are exchanged hard and fast as the Vanir, sensing victory almost within their grasp, throw themselves desperately at the Cimmerian line, and the Cimmerians grimly stand their ground  and fight back.  This is toe-to-toe fighting; the Vanir don’t have room to maneuver, and the Cimmerians don’t have the option.  From time to time we see close-ups of Conn grinning ferociously, fighting and killing Vanirmen, his battleaxe ceaselessly whirling and chopping as he parries and strikes.

EXTERIOR: THE WOODS AROUND THE VILLAGE.

Stalgrim is hiding in the woods near the south wall of the village, where there are fewer defenders watching.  He sees a boy moving at the edge of the woods.  The boy lifts, by one corner, a rock that ought to be far too big for him to move, climbs down, and disappears.  The Vanirman sneaks over to the same rock, grasps one corner, and lifts.  The rock tilts easily; it is hollowed out inside.  He climbs down into a hole concealed beneath the rock, and finds a tunnel. 

INTERIOR: THE TUNNEL.

In the dimly-lit tunnel we can just barely see Stalgrim crawling along on his hands and knees.

EXTERIOR: THE VILLAGE — BEHIND ONE OF THE CABINS.

A round section of earth pivots up.  Stalgrim pokes his head out.  He climbs out of the tunnel, and sticking close to the cabin wall, looks around.  Looking at the front section of the stockade, he sees, up on the parapet and by the gate, some women and boys, and some adult male figures in armor.

EXTERIOR:  THE VILLAGE — THE PARAPET BY THE GATE.

We can see that the parapet is manned by boys and women and ancient white-bearded Cimmerians in full armor.

EXTERIOR: THE VILLAGE — BEHIND ONE OF THE CABINS.

Stalgrim is still hanging out behind the cabin, holding his head, listening and looking.  He hears the sounds of a woman screaming.

STALGRIM

(To himself.)

Someone is having fun, and it isn’t me.  This could be worth looking into!

He moves off  toward the sounds.

INTERIOR:  THE SMITHY.

Connell is standing by the forge, watching the blade.  It is glowing bright orange-red.  We can hear Brigidda and Marigan through the closed bedroom door.

MARIGAN

Push!

BRIGIDDA

UNNGGHH!!!

Connell looks at the door, then picks up a pair of tongs.  He appears to be trying to shut out the sounds emanating from the bedroom.  Using the tongs, he rearranges the coals around the blade.

CONNELL

(To himself.)

When it’s hot enough, it will be time to quench it.

(looking at one of the tanks.)

And then maybe I’ll even have time to temper it before Father gets back.

The front door bangs open, and Stalgrim bursts in, axe at the ready, a glazed look in his eye and blood running down the side of his face.  Connell flinches, startled.  He looks at his own sword, hanging on the wall clear across the cabin from where he is standing.  The two men stare at each other.  Recognition dawns.

STALGRIM

You!  You killed my son!

(Looking at the ceiling.)

Thank You Ymri!  Surely You guided me here to punish Vidkund’s murderer!

Stalgrim laughs evilly and advances, taking a line that blocks Connell’s access to his own sword.  The door swings shut. 

CONNELL

I remember — the raid on our caravan!  I murdered no-one!  You and your son took your chances, and he lost!

Stalgrim roars and charges Connell.  Connell picks up a hammer in each hand and throws one at Stalgrim.  Stalgrim deflects it with his axe. Connell hurls the other hammer at Stalgrim, who ducks under the throw. This gives Connell time to pick up a long-handled (2½ ft. long) two-handed sledgehammer.  Now it is an even fight.  The hammerhead is not excessively large, but it will certainly pulverize anything in its path, and it is fast, Connell whirling it in tight circles and figure-eights, trying to keep it in constant motion.  The two warriors circle and feint. Stalgrim can block some of the blows with glancing contacts off his axe, and must dodge the rest.  Connell can block cuts from the axe with the head of his sledgehammer (tricky), or with the shaft (like a short quarterstaff), as long as he is careful to catch the SHAFT, rather than the blade, of the axe on the shaft of his hammer.  At one point, Stalgrim evades a swing from Connell’s hammer, which crashes into one of the workbenches.  The workbench collapses, and the tools on it hit the floor with a tremendous clatter.  Connell jumps back to avoid a counterattack by Stalgrim.

INTERIOR: CONNELL AND BRIGIDDA’S BEDROOM.

Brigidda is in bed, sweaty, panting and disheveled, semi-reclined on a pile of furs with her knees up near her chest.  Marigan is sitting on a stool by the bed, wiping Brigidda’s brow with a cloth and encouraging her.  They both look toward the curtained doorway as a tremendous clatter is heard.

MARIGAN

(Indignant.)

What IS he doing?

Marigan gets up and stalks determinedly to the curtained doorway, intending to chastise Connell severely.

INTERIOR:  THE SMITHY.

The two men are circling in their deadly dance, their attention totally focused on each other.  Marigan pokes her head past the curtain, and her indignant expression changes to one of shocked surprise, then to a look of keen concentration as she watches the fight and assesses the possibilities.  After a few seconds, she slowly withdraws her head and discretely closes the curtain.

INTERIOR: CONNELL AND BRIGIDDA’S BEDROOM.

Marigan returns to the bed.

BRIGIDDA

What’s happening?

MARIGAN

It’s just that man banging around his forge, trying to keep busy. Never you mind.

Brigidda moans as a contraction hits her.

EXTERIOR: BLACKWATER CREEK FORD — SOUTH SIDE.

The Cimmerian line is dissolving.  Vanirmen are penetrating the line and pressing their advantage.  (Close-up of Conn fighting three Vanirmen at once.  He is no longer grinning, he is snarling as he frantically blocks and dodges.)

Suddenly 20 or 30 staggering Cimmerian warriors crash into the Vanir flank, seemingly from out of nowhere.  Too exhausted to slow down and regroup, or even to shout battle cries, they simply ran into the Vanirmen without breaking stride.  But although they are on  their last legs, their arms and shoulders are in fine shape.  That, plus the momentum of their charge, breaks the Vanirmen, who have already suffered heavy losses.

The three Vanirmen that Conn has been fighting are suddenly swept away by a group of charging Cimmerians.  Conn steps back and catches his breath as Vanirmen are being cut down without mercy all around him.

CONN

(Yells over the noise of yells and screams and clash of arms)

I think some of them got through.  They may have gotten through to the Village!  Follow me when you’ve finished these bastards off.

He turns and starts jogging toward the Village.

HEADMAN

(Shouting from the midst of the battle)

Go on!  We’ll take care of things here.

INTERIOR — THE SMITHY.

The dance of death between Connell and the berserk Stalgrim continues. Connell seems to have the advantage with his whirling hammer of death, when he misjudges a shaft block, and blocks the axe-edge with the shaft of his sledgehammer, and the axe cuts clean through the shaft of his hammer.  Stalgrim now presses his advantage and Connell scrambles back to avoid a blow from Stalgrim’s  axe and slips on one of the spilled tools. He lands on his back, banging the back of his head on the base of the forge.  The force of the impact bounces the glowing sword over to the edge of  the forge where it teeters with the tang sticking out over the edge.  Stalgrim grabs his axe with both hands for a mighty overhead swing that would split Connell like a piece of kindling. Connell shakes his head to clear his vision, and twists his head aside just in time, losing some hair to Stalgrim’s axe, which gets imbedded in the floor.  Stalgrim struggles to free his blade, stepping on Connell’s chest to hold him in place.

Connell (still wearing his heavy leather gloves to protect his hands from the heat of the forge) reaches for the only thing he can see: the tang of the glowing blade.  As Connell grasps the glowing tang, a puff of smoke erupts from the glove (it was never designed for this kind of abuse), and Connell yells in pain, but gritting his teeth, he follows through on the motion with the red-hot sword gripped in the smoking glove.

CONNELL

AIIIIII!!! CROM!!!

 Stalgrim frees his axe, rears back again, and Connell rolls to one side and quenches the blade in Stalgrim’s guts.  A frying, sizzling sound is heard, and a wisp of steam escapes from the wound.  As Connell stops yelling, we hear a terminal scream from Brigidda,

BRIGIDDA(O.S.)

UUNNNHHHGGHH!!!

 which is in turn drowned out by a throat-tearing scream of agony from Stalgrim.

STALGRIM

ARRRGGGHHHHggg!!!

 As soon as the blade is lodged in Stalgrim’s body, Connell lets go of the tang, frantically rips the blackened, smoking glove off and plunges his hand in the nearest bucket of water.

CONNELL

 (shaking his hand and cursing) Crom, Crom, CROM!

When he pulls his hand out, he examines his hand, and there is a red mark where he gripped the tang; the glove saved him from a crippling injury.  As Stalgrim’s death-scream ends, we hear the extremely loud birth-cry from Conan.

BABY CONAN (O.S.)

WAAAHHHHH!!!

  Connell stands and stares stupidly  at the Vanirman  twitching on the floor, steam still rising from the hot blade imbedded in his belly.  From the bedroom an infant’s cry is heard.  There is no fear or pain in the cry, only surprise and  rage.  Connell dumps some water on the tang sticking out of the body, tests it. It is cool enough now to grab with a naked hand; he reaches for it, and…

The door bangs open, and an armored figure bursts in.  He is covered with blood, his two-handed battleax is dripping gore.  Connell instantly yanks the sword from the corpse, trailing a rooster-tail of gore, and drops into guard position with his hiltless sword.  The intruder sweeps the visored helmet off  his head, dashing it to the floor, and it is Conn, wild-eyed and panting. 

CONN

(He tries to take in the scene.)

I heard screaming — What the Hell happened here?  Your sword…

Connell gestures incoherently with the sword, his jaw works as he makes an effort to speak.  Marigan enters from the bedroom, carrying a swaddled infant.  The swaddling cloths are partly open so that Conn and Connell can see the gender of the baby although the camera can’t.

CONN

(Grinning.)

Nothing wrong with HIS sword!

Connell’s grin widens. He is amazed and surprised and tired and elated all at once. Conan wails in rage and surprise.

MARIGAN

(Wincing at the babe’s bellows)

Nor his lungs, for that matter.  Never heard one bellow like this one before.

CONNELL

Brigidda?

MARIGAN

She’s fine, which is amazing, after passing this little ox. Even more amazing, she forgave you once she held him. Here.  Meet your son, Connell.

Marigan puts the still-crying babe in Connell’s arms. Connell is still holding the sword in his right hand, so he accepts the baby with his left hand, and rotates his body toward his right so he doesn’t bash Marigan with the sword as he brings his right arm up to help support the baby.  The baby focuses first on Connell. Then his watery vision alights on the blade. His cries still, and a look of wonder crosses his face. He reaches out towards the blade and his future. Conn and Connell exchange a knowing look; Marigan grunts and nods to herself.  Zoom in on Conan’s tiny hand clasping the end of the tang. Fade into massive adult hand wrapped around the hilt of an equally massive sword. Conan’s theme soars triumphantly.

END

Stephen Block                     Brian Bevel  

5530 Lindell, Apt 3W              435 E. Park Ave.       St. Louis, MO 63112              Apt. 2

                                  Port Angeles, WA 98362

“Conan” ©Copyright, Conan Properties, Inc. “Conan The Mighty” ©Copyright 1996, William Galen Gray.

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