Steve Block & Brian Bevel
Screenplay copyright 1998 Steve Block and Brian Bevel
Conan and other characters their ©®? respective owners.
Special thanks goes to Emerald who made several excellant suggestions for improvement which we gladly implemented. – Steve and Brian
FADE IN FROM STANDARD INTRO:
EXTERIOR: BIRD’S-EYE SHOT — CIMMERIA – NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS — THE “WINTER VILLAGE” OF CONAN’S TRIBE.ZOOM down to a stockade- walled village of small log cabins, in the foothills. It is late spring; hardly any snow is left. As we draw closer, we see that the village is under siege. Picts swarm around the outside of the stockade. Some of them are throwing ladders against the stockade and starting to climb up. The parapet is lined with armed and armored Cimmerians.
Howling Picts, muscular brown men of medium height, decorated with war paint but no armor, are swarming over this section of the stockade. Roaring Cimmerian defenders are fighting back, thrusting with spears, chopping with swords and axes, killing Picts or shoving them back off the wall; they show no fear, only anger, no thought of retreat, only the desire to kill, and the determination to stand their ground. There is a deafening clamor of shouting and screaming and the clash of arms. Among the defenders is a big, muscular youth wearing a chainmail shirt and a plain helmet. He moves with the springy grace of a young panther as he uses a spear to impale Picts or shove them backwards, parrying with the shaft as necessary. Unruly black hair escapes around the edges of his helmet; his blue eyes blaze with volcanic fury. This is CONAN.
He spears another Pict; as he strains to pull the imbedded spear out of the sagging body, a group of Picts vault over the wall. One of them raises his sword and launches a blow at the youth. The young Cimmerian instantly releases the spear, and with his left hand seizes the descending wrist of his attacker while his right hand clamps on to the attacker’s throat. He lifts the attacker bodily off the catwalk and bears him backward against the sharpened stakes of the palisade. He bends the screaming attacker backwards over the stakes, until suddenly a loud crackling SNAP is heard. As the attacker collapses, the youth rips the sword from his dying grasp, turns, and begins raining blows two-handed on the nearest Picts. With the aid of this violent counter-attack, the Cimmerians start to clear the parapet of this latest Pictish incursion. Conan sees another Cimmerian, a big burly young man named BRAN, locked in combat with a Pict; each gripping the other’s weapon arm with his own left hand.Meanwhile a second Pict is sneaking up along the parapet behind Bran, knife raised for a stealth strike.
Bran, look out!
Bran glares momentarily at Conan, then back at the Pict he is fighting.
I’M BUSY, BOY!
Conan can’t get at the second Pict, who is on the other side of Bran, and is raising his knife to stab Bran from behind. Conan picks up a loose spear, and, leaning as far out as he dares, he throws the spear at the second Pict.
EXT. THE PARAPET — CONTINUOUS.
Bran sees the spear heading straight at him and the Pict he is fighting, and his eyes bug out with shock.
The spear barely grazes over the shoulders of Bran and his Pict.
EXT. THE PARAPET — CONTINUOUS.
The spear strikes home in the chest of the Pict who was sneaking up behind Bran, wounding him mortally. The Pict falls off the parapet, into the village. Conan moves up on the first Pict, who is between him and Bran, and still grappling with the latter. Conan twists the sword out of the Pict’s hand and immediately smites him with it, cutting a huge horizontal gash between his neck and shoulder. Bran is outraged as the Pict collapses.
Damn it, Conan, I was winning! That was my kill! And you could have KILLED me with that spear throw!
(Just as angry)
I wasn’t throwing at you OR your Pict, dolt! I was throwing at the Pict behind you.
Bran quickly looks over his shoulder – the parapet is empty behind him. He turns angrily back to Conan.
There’s no Pict there. You can’t get enough glory stealing my kills, you have to make up stories, too?
Fool! We don’t have time for this. There are still Picts up here!
He turns away from Bran and runs to where a fresh incursion of Picts is threatening a section of parapet. He attacks the Picts with concentrated ferocity.
This isn’t over, Conan!
When there are no more Picts on the catwalk, Conan grabs a ladder they had been using to mount the wall. Instead of pulling the ladder up and over the palisade, as the other Cimmerians have been doing, he brandishes the ladder over his head at the Picts outside the wall and taunts them in loud, scornful tones.
(In Pictish, subtitled)
Is that the best you can do? Send more Picts! Look, it’s only I, Conan. Surely the Picts are not afraid of a mere boy! A Cimmerian boy!
The other Cimmerians look at Conan in surprise.
EXT. THE PARAPET — ANOTHER SECTION.
Bran is watching Conan with a look of outrage and disgust.
(Growling angrily under his breath.)
Look at that glory-hog! No, this isn’t over!
EXT. CONAN’S SECTION OF PARAPET. But this attack was, in fact, the last hurrah for the Picts. Discouraged, they retreat from the wall.
(In Pictish, subtitled)
Come back, brave Picts, courageous Picts! Don’t be afraid! Try again, I haven’t killed enough of you yet!
The other Cimmerians happily join Conan in hurling taunts and insults at the Picts.
FADE IN: EXT. CONAN’S VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — EVENING. Starting with a full shot of the Men’s Lodge, the camera slowly zooms in on the door. The Men’s Lodge is the most impressive building in the village. Taller and wider than any other cabin, it is longer than four cabins placed end-to-end, although its construction is based on the same principles: a log cabin with a high-peaked, thatched roof. It is fronted by a roofed veranda as long as the Lodge itself. We are already hearing the voices of the men inside as we zoom in on the door. As our viewpoint zooms through the front door, we see that the interior of the lodge is one large room with stout wooden pillars holding up the beams that support the roof. There is a hearth at each end of the Lodge, and a big firepit in the middle; the hearths and the firepit each have their own chimney. The hearths are both equipped for cooking; only embers burn in them now, after the Victory Feast. Pallets piled with hides and furs are arranged near the hearths; this is where the unmarried men sleep. Benches and stools are arranged around the central firepit. This is the social and political arena, where the men sit to eat, drink, palaver, hold council, tell tall tales, and sing. The dividing line between social, political, and administrative activities ranges from thin to nonexistent, and it is not unusual for some or all of them to take place at the same time.
CONN (Connell’s father) and Connell are talking with DORBHA the Headman and several of the tribal elders. All are equipped with drinking jacks of ale; one of the elders is still gnawing on a meaty bone.
Any of you lot notice my grandson Conan on the wall today? What a lion!
Notice? He even scared me! I think that boy has some berserker in him.
No. He always knows what he’s doing. His battle-rages are not blind rages. Today he strode through the Picts like a god of destruction, but not once did he even accidentally slash a Cimmerian, even in the thick of battle.
ELDER WITH BONE
(Mumbling around his bone.)
I was impressed by his taunts. Very artistic. His Pictish is a little rough, but excellent use of irony for one so young. Good presence.
(Speaking with grave formality over the murmur of crowd.)
Conan is fourteen, and I think it is time for his Ordeal.
Dorbha The Headman stands to address the room.
Attend! Give ear! Hey, I said shut up!
(He waits for the dull roar of conversation to die down, then continues in Formal Mode.)
Connell, Conn’s son and father of Conan, has requested the Ordeal for his son. Be there any man here who would speak against this? I declare that you may speak on this matter without risk of offense or feud.
The crowd of Cimmerian warriors roars its assent, all except Bran, Conan’s rival. Bran, as one of the youngest men, is sitting near the back of the circle. He stands.
He was inexcusably reckless today! I was fighting a Pict on the wall, I had the situation under control, and Conan threw a spear at us. It missed the Pict, and missed me, too, fortunately, but I might have been killed! And then he…
ERIM (a warrior)
Bran, you idiot, he saved your life. I saw the whole thing. You weren’t watching your backside and a Pict was sneaking up on you. If Conan hadn’t speared him, we’d be lighting your pyre tonight.
I looked, Erim, there was no dead Pict behind me!
Of course not, addle-wit. He fell off the wall.
(Confused and angry)
Jeers rise from the assembled fighters, drowning out Bran’s complaints.
Sit down, Bran!
Shut up, fool!
Ingrate! He saves your life, and you slander him!
Dorbha the Headman waits a moment longer, until a few greasy bones join the flight of insults at the scowling Bran. Although there is some dissent, the majority clearly approve.
I hereby declare that the Men’s Assembly has approved Conan Connell’s son for the Ordeal of Manhood!
Cheers and grunts of approval fill the Lodge. Bran is still standing, fuming silently.
INT: CONN’S SMITHY — EARLY MORNING. Conan is sleeping on a pallet by the hearth, rolled up in a bearskin. Connell steps up to the pallet, and, without touching Conan, speaks.
Conan wakes instantly.
Father. What is it?
Put on a tunic and come with me.
Conan crawls out of his bearskin. He is wearing only a breechclout. He rummages in a pile of stuff next to the pallet and pulls out a tunic, which he puts on. With a curious look on his face, he follows his father out the door.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — THE FRONT PORCH OF THE SMITHY — CONTINUOUS.
It is still dark. The sky is just beginning to show a glow of light in the east, precursor of dawn.
Conan follows Connell out the door, then halts when he sees that his grandfather and all the village elders are waiting for him in front of the porch.
(Eyes shifting to possible exits.)
Unhh – hello! Umm, is something wrong?
(Sizes Conan up, but pointedly ignores his question)
Come, boy, walk with us.
The adults all head off towards the Men’s Lodge. Conan trails along, his eyes darting in all directions, looking for a trap. He manages to stroll alongside his father.
(Whispering to his father.)
What’s this all about? Did I do something wrong again? Is it something to do with the battle yesterday? I thought I did well. Was it that quarrel with Bran?
(Speaks firmly, trying to appear impassive.)
Don’t whisper. Speak up like a man or don’t speak at all. Try to comport yourself with some dignity, not like a child.
Conan’s eyes are rolling with dismay and nervousness. He has been in trouble before for high-spirited pranks, but never anything like this. They approach the Men’s Lodge. Conan looks to his father and grandfather in mute appeal, but he can’t seem to catch their eyes. Dorbha the Headman steps up onto the veranda, and turns to Conan, pointing forcefully through the doorway.
Conan takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders, and follows the men in with the air of a doomed soul marching in to Hell.
INT.: THE MEN’S LODGE — CONTINUOUS.
The men lead Conan to the central firepit. He is looking everywhere at once, intensely curious; he has never been in here before. After all, he is just a boy, and this place is reserved for men only. The men sit on benches around the firepit; Conan remains standing.
Conan, it is the considered opinion of the Men’s Assembly, in solemn deliberation, that…
Conan steels himself, looking as though he’s waiting for a sword to fall on him as he mentally enumerates the various fates worse than death that these, the most powerful men in the tribe, can mete out.
. . . . that you be offered the opportunity to undergo the Ordeal of Manhood. This was at the request of your father. You may refuse this offer once and only once. If you refuse, you will receive the offer a second time in one year. If you refuse again, you will forfeit forever the right to be a man of the tribe; and be cast out from your family, clan and tribe. What say you, boy?
Conan’s jaw works silently for a moment as he tries to find his voice. Then he takes a deep breath and …
(Loud and proud.)
Your father, and an elder of your choice, will instruct you in the duties and perquisites of manhood.
I choose my grandfather, Conn.
Very well. Elder Conn will instruct you in the Mysteries of Crom and the Mysteries of Manhood. The first Trial begins now, the Trial of Silence. Speak not to any, save your instructors and at ceremonies until you return from Crom’s Shield and can speak as a man among men!
(Dorbha cracks the butt of his staff sharply against the floor three times.)
Let the Manhood Ordeal of Conan, son of Connell, son of Conn commence!
THE MEN, IN UNISON
So be it!
EXT. CIMMERIA — A MOUNTAINSIDE –A WIND-SWEPT ROCKY LEDGE — DAY
Conn and Conan are sitting on a pair of boulders, overlooking part of the white-capped mountain range to the northwest of the village. To the east and south are endless, rolling, forested hills. Conn has been talking, and his words gradually fade in:
Chief of our gods is Crom, who dwells on the great mountain. There is no use in calling on him. Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, BUT at birth he breathes the will to strive and the power to slay into a man’s soul. What else shall men ask of the gods?
DISSOLVE TO LATER, SAME SCENE:
. . . and after dying, the souls of the dead enter a gray, misty realm of clouds and icy winds, to wander cheerlessly throughout eternity. Therefore, Conan, while you live, you must LIVE! Revel in the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on your palate, the hot embrace of a woman’s arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson!
EXT. CONAN’S VILLAGE — THE STOCKADE PARAPET — NIGHT.
Connell and Conan are standing guard on the stockade parapet. The village is dark, only a couple of watchfires are burning on a distant part of the parapet. They are talking quietly while they keep watch on the countryside.
What do you know of the Ordeal of Manhood, Conan?
I know I must speak to no one but you and Grandfather. I’ve seen the Candidates come running out of the Men’s Lodge, barefoot and clad only in a breechclout. They run all the way to the foot of the cliff we call Crom’s Shield, and climb it. And then they usually come back a few days later with food they’ve caught, and there’s a big feast. That’s all I’ve ever seen, and that’s all I know.
Hmph. That’s enough for any boy to know. Now I will tell you why it is an ordeal. Before you can assume the responsibilities of Manhood, responsibilities for the welfare of the Tribe, you must be tested. You must prove that you have the wisdom, strength, courage, endurance, and skills to carry out those responsibilities. You must spend all day in a sweat bath, purifying yourself. You must then dance all night long around the fire in the Men’s Lodge, reciting the history and lore of the tribe. During this time you will eat nothing, and you will drink only enough water to wash your childish ways out of your body.
History and lore – I’ve been singing those songs since I was a little boy.
Of course. You will sing of the creation of the world and of the Cimmerian people and of the heroic history of our clan and tribe, praising the exploits of your lineage and forebears.
Including you and Grandfather?
If I’m to do it all in one night, I’ll have to leave out a lot of Grandfather’s exploits.
That will test your ability to organize your thoughts. If you get through the Test of Lore without serious error, you will be allowed to begin the Second Day of the Ordeal: clad only in a breechclout, carrying no weapons or tools, and with nothing in your belly, you must climb the sheer cliff of Crom’s Shield, find a place to camp, and sit and wait for Crom to send you a Spirit Guide.
Your Spirit Guide will appear in the guise of some animal, usually something on the order of an elk or a mountain goat. It is expected that a Candidate will in some way partake of the qualities of his Spirit Guide. But if Crom chooses to send you a ground squirrel or a coney or a sparrow, you must accept it as Crom’s will. On the other hand, it is a great honor to be visited by a predator like a fox or a lynx, indicating that you will be a true warrior. To be visited by a large beast of prey, like a wolf or an eagle, is an indication that you are destined to be a great hero. Your grandfather was visited by a great gray wolf. My Spirit Guide was a cliff eagle. Your Spirit Guide will give you a gift or tell you a secret —
— or kill you if you are unworthy.
Conan looks surprised, then thoughtful at this news.
Only then are you free to hunt for food, armed only with your bare hands, and whatever you can make with them.
So that’s why you taught me to shape flint like a savage, even though we know steel.
That’s right. You will start with nothing but what is in your mind and heart; you will repeat the achievement of the First Man, who started with nothing and became lord of the world. But what you catch, you may not eat by yourself. You must carry it back to share with the men and women who will be waiting for you at the Men’s Lodge, where it will be ceremoniously eaten as part of your Celebration of Manhood. This will test your ability to provide for the welfare of the village, even when your own belly is empty.
But suppose I only catch a rabbit? I remember the Manhood Celebrations of the older boys. There was always plenty to eat.
There will be food enough for everybody, but your contribution must be the centerpiece of the feast.
What if I catch two or three rabbits? Could I eat one then?
Conan! This is not a game of wits! This is your ORDEAL! You are on your honor! And if you lie about your Spirit Guide, or about your catch,
(He violently grabs Conan across the mouth and makes HARD eye contact with him.)
then Crom will rot your bones for a base-hearted nithing!
Conan’s eyes get big, and he swallows hard. He nods. He has gotten the message. Connell nods and releases him.
Now remember, above all else, if you speak of this to anyone but me and your grandfather, ANYONE, you will forfeit your Ordeal and bring shame on our family.
Not even Mother?
Especially not women. They have their Rites of Womanhood that are taboo to men; we have our Ordeal. It will be hard, my son, but speak to NO ONE.
EXT. CIMMERIA — JUST OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE WALLS — THE NEXT DAY.
Conan is walking up to the stockade gate with an elk draped over his shoulders. A youth of about his own age runs up to him. This is PADRUIG, a friend of Conan’s. He is about Conan’s height, but slimmer, although still athletic-looking.
Conan, is it true? Are you a Candidate? Are you going to have an Ordeal and become a man?
Conan, under the Trial of Silence, can only smile and nod.
What’s it like? What are they going to do to you?
Conan rolls his eyes and shakes his head at Padruig’s silly questions, and shrugs under the weight of the elk.
Yes, Conan, why don’t you tell him? Go on, tell him.
Conan and Padruig whirl around; it is Bran. Bran slowly circles Conan, taunting, trying to get Conan to speak and invalidate his Ordeal.
What’s the matter, little boy? You’re always so full of words, what’s different now? Oh, that’s right! You think you have it in you to be a man? Ha! You’ll never make it, boy.
Padruig steps forward, fists balled up, ready to fight for his friend.
You leave Conan alone!
Bran ignores him and keeps circling the plainly angry Conan.
You know, lots of little boys like you never come back from their Ordeals. They DIE! You can die on your Ordeal!
Bran stops and stands nose to nose with Conan. Snarling silently, Conan refuses to give so much as an inch to his tormentor.
Even when we were boys, you were always able to out-wrestle or out-box me. You always won, because you were stronger than me. Then, just as I got strong enough to beat you, they made me a man . . .
Bran steps back and looks Conan up and down contemptuously.
Well, a MAN can’t go beating up on little boys. But if you survive – IF – then I can fight you, and at last I’ll be able to crush you as you deserve! But . . .
(Bran pauses with a sly look)
. . . you can refuse the Ordeal, boy. If you never become a man, you won’t have to fight me.
(Interrupts, sneering back at Bran)
And here we all thought you’d stopped picking fights with Conan because you were a coward!
Bran ignores the pest.
What’s the matter, Conan? Do you need another, even littler, boy to defend you?
Conan, his lips white with compressed fury, abruptly turns towards the gate, so suddenly that Bran has to dodge the elk’s antlers. Conan and Padruig continue towards the gate. Bran yells at Conan,
You’ll never make it, boy! Maybe you’ll get lucky and die!
(Muttering as Conan and Padruig walk away)
Maybe I’ll even help you.
INT.: THE SMITHY — EARLY EVENING.
It is almost supper time. Conn, Connell, Marigan, and Brigidda are already there. But Brigidda is setting the table for two only. Conan comes in the front door looking hungry. He stares at the table, surprised.
You won’t be eating here tonight, Conan. It’s a meeting night tonight, and we men will be feasting at the Men’s Lodge.
Conan casts a questioning glance at Connell.
As one who is about to become a man, you need to become familiar with a man’s duties.
Marigan snorts. Conn glares at her.
Keep your ears open and your wits about you. Learn how men conduct business. You won’t be allowed to say anything, but you can listen and learn.
Conan grins, clearly pleased. He follows the men out of the cabin, swaggering. Marigan and Brigidda roll their eyes at the silliness of men, sit down to eat.
I wish a few more of my children had survived. Maybe a daughter . . .
Marigan puts a hand on Brigidda’s forearm. She smiles.
Conan will bring you home a daughter. And if she’s as wonderful as the daughter that Connell brought home for me, you’ll be happy enough.
Brigidda puts her free hand over Marigan’s hand, and smiles back at her.
Thank you, but no, not that one. There’s too much wildness in his eyes, too much of his grandfather, I fear.
Marigan smiles ruefully and nods. They both know it is not Conan’s fate to settle down.
The sounds of their eating, and conversation, seem to become drowned out in much noisier sounds of eating, and masculine conversation as we . . .
INT.: THE MEN’S LODGE — LATE EVENING.
The men are sitting or squatting around the central firepit. The most important men are closest to the fire. The youngest men, and Conan, are in the outermost ring. They are mostly finished eating, and are noisily sucking bones, or their fingers. But the ale is passing freely, and everybody is in a very good mood.
Conn stands up near the fire, and, at his gesture, another man stands up. By his size, coloring, and build, he is also a Cimmerian, but his black hair is cut in a Mohawk, unlike anyone in Conan’s village, and his clothing is of a different style.
(Banging a battered metal shield with the bone he was just chewing.)
All right, you louts, this is a friend of mine from one of the southern tribes, Donall of Rocky Valley. He’s making a circuit of the clans, and he has something to tell you. It’s important, so be silent and give ear.
(Serious, with a slight accent.)
My home, Rocky Valley, is near that damned Aquilonian “trading post”, Venarium. I tell you, it was bad enough having those people living practically next door to us, even though some thought it convenient to trade with them, but lately they’ve gotten out of hand. They’ve started hunting in our territory, instead of just trading with us for food. And they’re starting to clear the forest around Venarium for farming, driving away the game!
Well, that’s what Aquilonians are like, always wanting to grab dirt and grub in it.
Leave them alone; let them get their fingers dirty!
I wouldn’t want to get in a feud with those Aquilonians. They look soft, but when they get together, they’re damn tough!
Why should we listen to this fellow? I never heard an accent like that before.
That’s a long way south of here. What’s all the excitement about, anyway?
Who is this fellow with his funny hair-do? I never saw anybody wearing their hair like that. Are you sure he’s a Cimmerian?
You want to know what all the excitement’s about? And you want to know who I am? I’m Donall of Rocky Valley, and two months ago I was hunting in my own clan territory, when I came across a party of Bossonians from the western marches of Aquilonia. I told them politely they were on Rocky Valley land, and they laughed at me! They said it was empty land, and anybody could hunt there who wanted to.
(Gasps and growls and other expressions of disapproval from the crowd, at such inexcusable rudeness.)
So I ordered them off, as is my right and duty, and they aimed their bows at me! On my own territory! I saw that I had to teach them some manners, so I attacked them.
Then what happened?
They shot at me!
He pulls down the front of his tunic, revealing a livid, ragged, puckered scar on the front of his left shoulder.
Here’s where one of the bastards hit me.
Well, you’re still standing, so I gather they aren’t?
Donall reaches down and picks up a long, narrow bundle of hides. With a flourish, he discards the wrappings, revealing four Bossonian longbows, the six-foot longbows that have terrorized Hyborean armies for generations.
Let’s just say they don’t need these anymore.
There are murmurs of appreciation and awe from the assembly. Then a grizzled oldster speaks up.
Four archers? You killed four archers and you think that’s something to be proud of? Is this the kind of Cimmerian they’re breeding in the south? You think four archers, men – if you can call them that – who aren’t even willing to trade blows toe-to-toe, are worth boasting about?
Donall is confused and at a loss for a moment, then he brightens up as inspiration strikes him.
I only slew the brave ones! The other ten ran away!
The Lodge erupts in rowdy cheers and laughter. They don’t believe it for a minute, but it was a good save, and makes a great story. But Conan’s eyes are shining. He believes. Conn stands up to regain the men’s attention.
(Sarcastic, then serious)
HEY! If I could have your attention for a while longer, there’s something I would like to point out to those of you who think that the doings of the Aquilonians around Venarium are no concern of ours. If the squatters at Venarium start raising their own food instead of importing it from the South or bartering with neighboring Cimmerians, pretty soon Venarium won’t be a trading post any more; it will be a colony, and the Kingdom of Aquilonia will claim the territory occupied and farmed by Venarium as part of Aquilonia. Then they’ll move in women to further expand the colony, and troops to defend it, and before long, a big chunk of Cimmerian land will belong to Aquilonia. And that will just be the first step in the conquest of Cimmeria!
The men are outraged; shouts and threats fill the air. Everyone seems resolved that something must be done about this land grab. However, the evening, and the drinking, are already advanced, and any possibility of concerted planning against Venarium soon degenerates into drunken rambling and extravagant boasting.
We should send those land-grabbing Aquilonians back where they came from . . .
Help the Rocky Valley people . . .
Aquilonians aren’t so tough . . .Kill ‘em all . . .We can do it . . .
Let’s march down there tomorrow . . .Wars are even more fun than bloodfeuds . . .
Been a long time since we had a good bloodfeud . . .
Reminds me of the time we . . .
Remember when . . .
A Pict with a club this long . . .
An ape-man with a member this long . . .
A saber-tooth tiger with fangs this long . . .
A snake-headed demon with claws this long . . .
Conan tires of the aimless, drunken boasting and slips out of the Men’s Lodge.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — NIGHT.
Conan ambles through the village, then takes to the shadows as he approaches a particular cabin. Trying to act casual while being stealthy, he sidles over to one side of the cabin, by a window. He listens, with his ear against the wall close to the window, for a moment, then taps lightly on the window frame.
He appears poised to take off at a dead run at the slightest provocation.
A pretty teenage girl, DIEDRA, sticks her head out of the window.
Conan turns to her, smiles and winks. Diedra smiles delightedly and vaults out the window, and, giggling sotto voce, embraces Conan. They kiss. Arm-in-arm, they walk away from her cabin, and continue conversing in whispers as they stroll.
What kept you? I thought you weren’t coming.
Conan shrugs and gestures towards the Men’s Lodge proudly.
Then it’s true! You are going to have your Ordeal! That’s why you’re not speaking!
Conan looks surprised and concerned that she, female, knows of this part of the sacred ritual. Diedra sees his concern and dismisses it with a wave.
Oh, of course I know about it. We women aren’t stupid. Three of my brothers have gone through it, and Padruig will in a year or so. It’s not like the Silence Trial is any big secret.
They walk on, hand in hand.
I can hardly wait! Once you’re a man, you can get married.
Conan is startled and a little worried. He tries to do some fast, clear thinking, but doesn’t get anywhere. Diedra continues, planning their life and the changes she wants to make to Conan. As she talks, Conan’s expression gets sicker and sicker.
My father can build us a nice cabin, but of course you’ll have to cut your hair and you won’t hunt so much anymore . . .
EXT. THE VILLAGE — IN PARTIAL SHADOW NEAR THE WALL –CONTINUOUS.
Bran is leaning agaist the wall in the shadows. He has a big jug of ale which he swigs from, from time to time.
(Whispering bitterly to himself.)
I suppose everybody knows, now. That show-off, that puffed-up glory-hog! I can’t BELIEVE they can’t see through him!
(Swigs some ale.)
Well, I’m not going to take it. I won’t STAND for it!
(Swigs some more ale.)
He spots Conan and Dierdra walking down the lane between cabins, holding hands.
LOOK at that! He gets the glory AND the girls! And he isn’t even a man yet!
I can’t kill him.
(With bitter, resentful determination)
But I’ll think of something.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — THE MAIN VILLAGE LANE –CONTINUOUS.
— and you won’t be a smith, no, too smelly. A carpenter, like my father! And we’ll have lots and lots of —
Conan is almost in a panic now and, since he can’t talk and fleeing would be cowardly, he does the only thing he can to shut Diedra up. They have come to a very heavily shadowed place between the stockade wall and a storage shed. Conan grabs her arms, stares deep into her eyes and they kiss. As the kiss becomes more passionate, they move into the shadows and become lost to sight. We hear another giggle from Diedra.
EXT. A CREEK NEAR THE VILLAGE — EARLY MORNING.
A group of Elders accompany Conan to a creek near the village. While the Elders watch, Conan shucks all his clothes and steps into the water. He wades out until he is neck-deep, then submerges.
EXT. THE WOODS NEAR THE VILLAGE — MORNING.
The Elders conduct a dripping, breechclout-clad Conan from the stream to a small, earthen dome-like building. Attached to the outside is a small fireplace, designed to heat a pit of rocks inside the building. This is the sweat lodge. Bran is in the crowd outside, glaring at Conan.
INT. THE SWEAT LODGE — CONTINUOUS.
One of the Elders pours a bucket of water on the pit of hot rock, filling the room with steam. Conan enters the sweat lodge, and they close the door after him.
INT. THE SWEAT LODGE — MOMENTS LATER, AND ALL DAY.
Conan is sitting cross-legged in the small, close, steamy sweat lodge. He is wearing nothing but a breechclout, and his muscular body is slick with sweat.
INT. THE MEN’S LODGE — THE FIRST NIGHT — EVENING.
Conn conducts Conan out of the sweat lodge, through the woods and into the main part of the Men’s Lodge. Conan staggers a little at first, as circulation returns to his legs. His attention is involuntarily riveted by the remains of dinner which some of the young men have been finishing up. He almost stumbles again as his head rotates irresistibly to stare at the leftover food. Conn whispers at him:
Conan stares straight ahead at the central firepit, which they are approaching.
Close-up of Bran among the men, fuming with suppressed rage.
The space around the firepit has been cleared. Dorbha the Headman addresses Conan in a tone of formal, ceremonial solemnity.
Art thou he who seeketh to become a man?
Then dance thou for us!
One of the Elders begins beating a bodhrán to provide a primitive rhythm. Conan begins to dance around the central firepit. It is a high-stepping dance, with acrobatic leaps; from time to time he pirhouettes and dances backwards; all steps designed to display his athletic ability and test his stamina.
Thou who seekest to become a man: tell us of the creation of the World, and of Man.
Conan chants in heroic strophe, in time to the bodhrán, and his own dancing:
Before the Beginning, bereft was the World/
of warmth, light, and life; only Crom was.
For eons Crom slept, dreaming the World/
then . . .
MONTAGE of scene dissolving into scene, showing Conan dancing and chanting, interspersed with close-ups of Bran glaring resentfully or sneering with surreptitious contempt, and close-ups of Conn and Connell proudly and raptly watching Conan. From time to time we catch snatches of Conan’s chanting.
CLOSE-UP OF BRAN.
Scowling fiercely, he looks around, scanning the crowd.
Conn and Connell. Their attention is totally riveted on Conan.
Bran, showing sudden, grim decision, begins casually snaking his way through the spectators, gradually working his way to, and out, the door.
Then Crom, World-Creator, wielder of weapons/
named Strength, Courage, and Power
to strive and to slay: the gift of a man,
Thus gave He the Gift to the newly-wrought Man,
to witness the power of Great Crom, the World-Maker.
Dorbha the Headman stands up and raises his arms.
Thou who seekest to become a man: tell us now of our own past; tell us of the heroism of the forbears of our own clan and tribe.
Conan begins to chant the heroic history of his clan and tribe.
Sired in Atlantis, soil drowned ‘neath shining seas,/scions in Cimmeria’s harsh land did grow….
EXT. THE VILLAGE — NIGHT.
Bran, sneaking through the shadows, towards Conn’s smithy.
INT. THE MEN’S LODGE — CONINUOUS.
Then came Kull, mightiest of kings,/
Son of Atlantis, Steel of Atlantis.
INT. THE MEN’S LODGE.
Now sing to us of thine own lineage and forbears.
Conan begins to chant of his own ancestors, starting with his earliest-known forbear, and working forward to his own grandfather and father, as we dissolve through scene after scene.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — NIGHT.
Bran has reached the Smithy. The windows are dark, and no sound comes from the cabin. Bran looks in all directions, listens a moment at the door.
INT. THE BEDROOMS IN THE CABIN — CONTINUOUS.
Marigan and Brigidda are sleeping in their respective beds.
INT. THE MEN’S LODGE — CONTINUOUS.
Now sing I of Conn, far traveling Smith:/
from southern Cimmeria exiled by bloodfeud,
Searching the World for secrets of smithcraft,/
he seeks to decipher the riddle of steel.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — CONTINUOUS.
Bran enters the cabin.
INT. THE SMITHY — CONTINUOUS.
The interior of the cabin is dark except for some dim, red coals in the hearth. A shaft of moonlight briefly lances in as Bran stealthily comes in through the door, then closes it carefully behind him. Gliding catlike, he slinks around the cabin, conducting a swift search. He sniffs the air, then heads towards the pallet by the hearth where Conan is accustomed to sleeping. Throughout this action, he has been utterly silent, making not a sound. But now his tunic sleeve accidentally catches on a piece of furniture, making a slight metallic scraping sound. Bran instantly freezes motionless, his face betraying a tremendous increase in tension.
INT. MARIGAN’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Marigan’s eyes snap open. She lies motionless for a moment, while her eyes flicker in all directions. Then she slowly, carefully, silently pulls a short leaf-bladed sword from next to the mattress and gets out of bed.
INT. BRIGIDDA’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Brigidda’s eyes snap open. She lies motionless for a moment, while her eyes flicker in all directions. Then she slowly, carefully, silently reaches for a pair of knives sheathed on the bedpost near her head and gets out of bed.
INT. THE MEN’S LODGE — CONTINUOUS.
Conan is dancing and chanting.
Thus Connell the Smith, in defense of Brigidda
quenched fiery blade in berserker foe.
INT. THE SMITHY — CONTINUOUS.
Bran has reached Conan’s pallet, and is rifling through Conan’s belongings with frantic, silent speed. Bran, momentarily displaying all the elation of Little Jack Horner pulling a plum out of his Christmas pie, pulls a big knife out of Conan’s stuff.
INT. MARIGAN’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Marigan, sword in hand, is creeping silently toward her bedroom door.
INT. BRIGIDDA’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Brigidda, knives in hand, is creeping silently toward her bedroom door.
INT. THE SMITHY — CONTINUOUS.
Bran sticks the knife in his belt, then hurriedly rearranges Conan’s belongings, smoothing the bearskin, etc.
INT. MARIGAN’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Marigan carefully puts an ear to her door and listens.
INT. BRIGIDDA’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Brigidda carefully puts an ear to her door, but her door is not as well mounted on its hinges as Marigan’s and there is a barely audible scrape as the door settles slightly.
INT. THE SMITHY — CONTINUOUS.
Bran looks up, alarmed.
INT. MARIGAN’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Marigan steps back and grasps the door latch, sword ready.
INT. BRIGIDDA’S BEDROOM — CONTINUOUS.
Brigidda steps back and grasps the door latch with the little finger of one hand, the thumb and forefinger still lightly holding the knife. She is ready to attack with her other knife.
INT. THE SMITHY — CONTINUOUS.
Bran looks to the door, but he can’t make it in time.
THE BEDROOMS – CONTINUOUS.
Marigan and Briggida stand poised just inside their doors to the smithy.
INT. THE SMITHY — CONTINUOUS.
Desperate, Bran takes four great strides across the room, almost too fast for stealth, and dives past a leather flap and out an open window.
INT. THE SMITHY, CLOSE UP OF BEDROOM DOORS — CONTINUOUS.
Marigan and Briggida burst into the smithy, Marigan leaping left and Brigidda somersaulting neatly right. They check their headlong entrance and scan the room, weapons at ready. After a long pause, they relax, but only minutely.
I heard something.
Marigan nods agreement, then motions to the front door with her sword. With Brigidda covering her, Marigan goes to the front door, opens it and steps to one side. She pauses, then looks out cautiously. She closes the door and turns back into the cabin, shaking her head.
Brigidda sniffs the air lightly.
Not now, but someone was here.
Marigan and Brigidda look at each other. Both are a little rattled. They perform a quick search of the smithy, but nothing seems out of place.
Maybe we’re both just a little too nervous about Conan’s Ordeal. Why don’t you keep me company until the boys get home?
(Thinks for a minute)
The two women exit from the smithy into Marigan’s bedroom.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — CONTINUOUS.
Bran is walking normally through the village, as a faint glow begins to light the eastern horizon. He reaches the Men’s Lodge, and enters.
INT. THE MEN’S LODGE — PREDAWN.
Bran makes his way through the crowd, toward the back of the Lodge, occasionally displaying the slightly embarrassed look of a man who is back from answering a call of nature.
As the sun rises, Dorbha the Headman clasps a groggy Conan by both shoulders and in formal language congratulates him for successfully completing this part of the test.
Conan son of Connell, thou hast passed the test of knowledge. Thou art ready to endure the last part of thy Ordeal, and may the day come when thy son will dance in this House in praise of thine exploits!
The Men’s Lodge erupts in cheers. Connell hands Conan a waterskin.
Drink, Conan, but not too much. There isn’t much water atop Crom’s Shield, but you don’t want to weigh yourself down.
Conan drinks sparingly, then hands the waterskin back to Connell. Elders step forward and paint Conan’s body with symbols in white, black, and red patterns.
(Lapsing back to the vernacular)
Now, Conan, it is time for the tests of strength, courage, resourcefulness, and responsibility.
Everyone heads for the outer door.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — OUTSIDE THE MEN’S LODGE — MORNING.
A multitude of women and children are gathered outside the Men’s Lodge, but clear of the door. The men escort Conan out the door; clad in a breechclout, covered with black, red, and white patterns, he pauses a moment and blinks in the bright sunlight. The onlookers are mostly silent, except for a very low buzz of conversation. As the camera pans the onlookers, we see Brigidda, Marigan, Deidra, and Padruig, looking hopeful and proud. Random boys in the crowd are watching with intense curiosity; they know that they will go through this some day. Random teenage girls in the crowd are watching Conan with speculative interest.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — OUTSIDE THE MEN’S LODGE — CONTINUOUS.
Conan starts jogging towards the stockade gate. Most of the men, and most of the onlookers, jog right along with him.
EXT: OUTSIDE THE STOCKADE — MOMENTS LATER.
Conan jogs out the gate, accompanied by most of the village.
EXT. CIMMERIAN COUNTRYSIDE — MORNING — CONTINUOUS
A montage of Conan running through the countryside, through various kinds of terrain: forest, hills, brooks and creeks, etc. As he jogs north, the countryside becomes hillier and more rugged. Most of the young or fit adults jog along with him.
Eventually they reach Crom’s shield. It is a gigantic sheer cliff, 500 feet high, with no easy way up. It is vertical all the way up, except at the top, where it is mostly overhung. Dorbha the Headman addresses Conan in his formal, public voice:
Boy, today you die. Return as a man of the tribe, prepared to fulfill the responsibilities of a man!
Conan begins to climb. Steadily, he inches his way up, his fingers and toes seeking, and finding, every minuscule crevice and irregularity in the rock. The camera pans to Conan’s family. Marigan is serene. Brigidda is biting one of her knuckles. Conn and Connell are watching Conan with concentrated attention. Their lips are moving as if they were talking to themselves. One might think they were praying, except that no one prays to Crom. Perhaps they are whispering advice that Conan cannot hear. Muscles twitch involuntarily in their shoulders and calves as they unconsciously try to “help” Conan. Every once in a while we cut to a close-up of Conan, breathing hard as he inches his way up the cliff, literally hanging on by his fingers and toes. Everyone at the base of the cliff holds their breath as Conan reaches the overhang. Hanging on by his fingertips only, his legs swinging freely in the air —
EXT. THE ONLOOKERS — CONTINUOUS.
Brigidda is chewing on her whole fist as Marigan rubs her neck; Conn and Connell are staring wide-eyed, twitching and swaying in time to Conan’s movements as they “help” him with all their might.
EXT. CONAN ON THE CLIFF — CONTINUOUS.
— Conan brachiates like a spider monkey past the overhang and over the edge. Everyone heaves a collective sigh of relief. Conan reappears briefly, waves, and disappears. Talking quietly, the crowd turns to walk home.
As they depart, Bran is revealed, leaning against a tree trunk in the shadows, cleaning his fingernails with Conan’s knife, looking wickedly smug.
(Talking to himself)
(Reciting in sarcastic tones)
“clad only in a breechclout, carrying no weapons or tools, and with nothing in your belly, you must climb the sheer cliff of Crom’s Shield, find a place to camp, and sit and wait for Crom to send you a Spirit Guide… then you are free to hunt for food, armed only with your bare hands, and whatever you can make with them.”
(With thoughtful determination)
So – I follow Conan atop Crom’s Shield, and blood his own knife with his own kill. Then I’ll bring the knife back down and return it to his cabin. When the elders examine his kill, they’ll find marks of a steel blade. Then I’ll – regretfully – suggest we look for Conan’s knife. They’ll find the bloody knife: evidence that Conan slew or butchered his prey with a steel knife! Oh, the horror! The dishonor! His Ordeal will be invalidated, and he’ll be disqualified from manhood and exiled. As he deserves.
Bran turns to leave.
EXT. ATOP CROM’S SHIELD — DAY.
Conan pauses to admire the extremely impressive view of:
Dark woods, masking slopes of somber hills;
Vista upon vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
endless vista–hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.
(Excerpted from Cimmeria, a poem by Robert E. Howard)
Then he turns and begins trotting easily uphill from the cliff-edge.
EXT. ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — LATER.
Conan has been trotting uphill for some time now. He finally finds a rocky overlook, with flint outcroppings, above a stand of pine trees, with a view of the entire nearby mountain range.
(To himself, as he examines the outcroppings.)
Flint. I’ll be able to make tools and weapons after I’ve seen my Spirit Guide. But by Crom, I’m hungry!
He gathers firewood, lays kindling for a fire, and starts it by rubbing sticks together. He feeds larger pieces wood onto the fire until he has a small blaze going, then sits to await his Spirit Guide.
EXT. THE BOTTOM OF CROM’S SHIELD — DAY.
Bran, in full kit: steel cap, light chainmail shirt, spear, sword, and assorted gear, and a light backpack, is trotting northward along the bottom of the face of Crom’s shield. He doesn’t give the mountain a second glance.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — OUTSIDE THE MEN’S LODGE — AFTERNOON.
The crowd arrives at the Men’s Lodge and immediately breaks up, the women and children splitting up and going their separate ways to whatever activities await them. Brigidda and Connell grip each other’s hands, look into each other’s eyes, and part. The men stand aside and allow Connell and Conn to enter the Lodge first.
INT. THE VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — AFTERNOON.
The men enter the Lodge and sort themselves out. Connell and Conn are granted a place of honor by the central firepit. Some of the men begin carrying in goat carcasses for Conan’s Feast of Manhood. They impale four of them on spits and begin roasting them in the two hearths.
EXT. ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — LATE AFTERNOON.
Conan is sitting by his fire, awaiting his Spirit Guide. From time to time he adds more fuel to the fire. He looks relaxed yet alert, in a glassy-eyed sort of way.
EXT. THE BACKSIDE OF CROM’S SHIELD — LATE AFTERNOON.
On the backside of Crom’s Shield, there is no steep cliff, just a moderate wooded slope leading up to the peak.
A small hunting party of four Picts enters the picture, moving carefully, looking for spoor.
(In Pictish, subtitled)
We haven’t found any game yet, and we’re well into Cimmerian territory.
Bah! Are you a coward? If we meet any Cimmerian hunters, we’ll slay them, and take their kill, if they have any.
I’m no coward! I hope we do meet some the pigs! We’ll beat them! We’ll humiliate them! We’ll stake them out and flay them alive! And then we’ll…
Hsst! Silence! Someone comes!
The Picts halt, and switch to terse, rapid sign language.
(In sign language, subtitled.)
Hide. If Cimmerians have game, we ambush and kill. If no game, we follow and kill later.
The Picts fade into the underbrush and disappear.
Bran enters the picture from the north, jogging south, and exits south. The Picts reemerge from the underbrush.
(Sign Language. Subtitled)
They jog stealthily after Bran.
EXT. FURTHER SOUTH ALONG THE BACKSIDE — A LITTLE LATER.
Bran turns left, and starts jogging up the slope.
After an interval, the Picts appear, trailing Bran. Without hesitation, they turn where Bran turned, and ascend after him.
INT. THE VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — EARLY EVENING.
Meanwhile, the men wait at the Men’s Lodge, drinking ale and snacking on the goats that are being slow-roasted for Conan’s Feast of Manhood. Connell is chewing his goat meat mechanically. He is not having a good time.
Connell, don’t worry so much! Conan will make it. There’s never been a better-prepared boy as far back as I can remember.
Worried? Who’s worried?
(He drains half a jack of ale in one gulp.)
I have complete confidence in Conan. I’ll just get another goat chop.
He gets up and heads for one of the hearths, where goats are roasting. Conn accompanies him.
EXT. ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — NIGHT.
It is a clear, starry night atop Crom’s Shield. Conan is sitting by his fire, awaiting his Spirit Guide. From time to time he adds more fuel to the fire. He looks relaxed yet alert, in a glassy-eyed sort of way.
EXT. THE BACK SLOPE OF CROM’S SHIELD — NIGHT.
Bran is jogging up the slope. He halts. He is panting lightly, barely aerobic.
I should be above him now. I’ll start working my way around, until I find him. Maybe he’ll get a pig for a spirit guide, he’s such a glory-hog. Heh-heh.
He resumes jogging, traversing the slope. Moments later, the Picts appear, still trailing Bran. Looking at the ground, but also scanning alertly for a counter-ambush, they turn where Bran turned and continue trailing him.
INT. THE VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — NIGHT.
Connell is looking bleary-eyed as he quaffs his ale. Conn is being fairly non-indulgent (for him) so he can comfort Connell. The crowd in the Lodge has gotten pretty rowdy. There is a dull roar of talking, boasting, and singing.
When I had my Ordeal of Manhood, you didn’t tell me that there was also an Ordeal of Fatherhood!
You wouldn’t have believed me if I had told you! Even if you had, you wouldn’t have cared. And if you tell Conan about it, he won’t understand or care what you’re talking about, any more than you would have.
One of the men staggers by and slaps Conn on the back.
Don’t worry about him, Conn.
The father is always the gloomy one at these things.
EXT. ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — DAWN.
The glow of dawn is just beginning to touch the sky above Crom’s Shield. Conan is sitting by his fire, awaiting his Spirit Guide. He looks relaxed yet alert, in a glassy-eyed sort of way. As the sun’s fiery limb lifts above the horizon, the light suddenly changes, imparting an aura of unreality to the surroundings. The view of the mountain range seems to become a limitless vista, mountain range after mountain range, beyond the limits of sight to the edge of the universe. Shadows disappear in a misty, sourceless glow. All sound dies. Conan observes this with interest, but no fear. Then, in the midst of the silence, the sound of a shifting pebble is heard, and from around a huge boulder, with majestic tread, there steps a LION. It is a huge cave lion, almost twice the size of the tawny lions of the southern veldts, glossy black all over, with a coal black mane, and fiercely glowing blue eyes. Conan’s jaw drops as if completely unhinged, and he stares in admiring awe. The lion props itself up on a stone outcropping, lifts its great head to the sky, and ROARS, a roar that shakes the world and makes the mountains dance.
EXT. SOMEWHERE ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — CONTINUOUS.
Bran is walking through the sparse woods, when the ROAR hits him like a solid wall of sound. He jumps, startled, then draws his sword and drops into a wary crouch. Eyes wide, looking in all directions at once, he slinks into the brush and out of sight.
EXT. SOMEWHERE ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — BRAN’S BACKTRAIL — CONTINUOUS.
The four Picts likewise jump when they hear the ROAR. They cluster together, back to back to back to back, weapons pointing outwards, as they scan the surroundings.
INT. THE VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — CONTINUOUS.
Connell is gazing into his alecup as Conn gnaws a bone. Suddenly the roof beams of the Men’s Lodge are shaken by a thunder roll of sound. The assembled men look around nervously and Connell jumps to his feet.
What the Hell was that?
(Reassuringly, but worried too)
Sounded like thunder.
Thunder my ass! That came from Crom’s Shield.
Connell starts for the door. Conn grabs him and pulls him roughly back onto the bench.
And what if it is something else? He must face whatever the gods send by himself. You go up there and even if whatever that was doesn’t kill him, you’ll ruin his Ordeal. And then to the tribe – and that includes you and me, son – he will be dead.
(Grabs a jack of ale from a passing man and thrusts it into Connell’s hand.)
Would you try to relax? It was thunder. A little rain won’t hurt him. I did my Ordeal in a blizzard! And I’m here to tell about it.
(Visibly worried, but trying to calm down)
Again and again.
Again and again. And some day Conan will be boring his sons to tears telling them how he did his Ordeal in a thunderstorm.
INT. AQUILONIA — TARANTIA — THE ROYAL PALACE — THE ROYAL BEDCHAMBER OF THE KING OF AQUILONIA — EARLY MORNING, CONTINUOUS.
ONSCREEN SUBTITLE CAPTION: “AQUILONIAN ROYAL PALACE – THE ROYAL BEDCHAMBER”
The KING of Aquilonia and a gorgeous, voluptuous royal CONCUBINE are asleep, seminude amidst tangled sheets in the king-sized royal bed. Suddenly the King gasps in his sleep, then sits bolt upright in bed, wild-eyed, white-faced, sweating.
(Panting in terror. Subtitled.)
(Aquilonian is a Latin-esque tongue.)
(Waking, stretching, sleepily sensuous. Subtitled.)
Didn’t you hear it? Its roar shook the pillars of heaven!
(Stretching and yawning. Subtitled.)
I didn’t hear anything.
It stalks me!
There isn’t any lion. Why don’t you stalk me for a while?
She pulls him down onto her.
EXT. KUSH — JUNGLE — CONTINUOUS.
ONSCREEN SUBTITLE CAPTION: “A JUNGLE SOMEWHERE IN KUSH”
Two Black Kushite hunters are stalking through the jungle. They are tall, slim, and muscled, like basketball players or Watusi warriors. One of them is almost middle-aged, the other is a youngster. An ear-shattering roar blasts through the jungle, and both hunters jerk to hyper alertness, eyes scanning in all directions, spears at the ready.
Lion! A big one, but far away.
No, not just any lion.
The younger hunter looks at the elder, puzzled.
It is Amra. He wakes!
EXT. ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — CONTINUOUS.
The lion drops back to the ground, and paces towards Conan. Conan experiences a flashback, remembering his father telling him:
CONNELL (O.S. / AUDIO FLASHBACK)
Your Spirit Guide will give you a gift or tell you a secret -(Pauses dramatically.)– or kill you if it judges you unworthy.
And it seems to him that surely he will die now, for how could SUCH a beast find him worthy of anything but a quick snap and a gulp? But the face of the lion betrays no hostility, only a great, calm wisdom. Conan remembers the formula he had been taught.
(In formal, archaic Cimmerian, concealing his nervousness)
O Spirit Guide, be thou welcome at my fire. I await thy judgment.
As it approaches him, it seems to stumble slightly, as if it had stepped on something uncomfortable. With a growl, it lowers its head and seizes the offending object in its jaws. It raises its head and continues toward Conan, and offers the glittering object to him: it is a bejeweled crown of gold. As if of their own volition, his hands reach out and accept the gift.
Conan does not even breathe as his hands raise the crown to his head and place it on his …
as the crown touches his brow, the light changes.
Conan blinks. The world looks real again. It is dawn, the sun is clear of the horizon, and shadows have returned. The wind rustles the pines and sighs over the mountainside. The lion and the crown are both gone without a trace; not even a pawprint remains. Conan is in control of his body again, and he has seen his Spirit Guide. Suddenly a thunderous growl is heard. The camera zooms in on Conan’s startled face, then quickly pans down to his chiseled abdominal muscles. When the camera pans back to Conan’s face, his expression is one of avid eagerness.
Food! Now I can hunt!
EXT. THE VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — MORNING.
Back at the Men’s Lodge, the men are still drinking ale and snacking on the last of the barbecued goat. They really know how to appreciate a youngster’s Ordeal of Manhood. But Connell is not having a good time.
Do you think he was ready? Maybe we let him go too soon.
(Blatantly displaying the long-suffering patience of a saint.)
Connell, he was as ready as he could be. It would have been a travesty to keep him waiting any longer.
But what about that …
Thunder. Nothing you can do anything about.
EXT. ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — MORNING.
Back on the mountain, Conan is weaving bark fibers together to make rope, and tying sticks together to make a trap, which he baits with wild grain and berries. Then he turns his attention to the flint outcropping. He selects a large stone, knocks off a large piece of flint, which he chisels into a hand ax/hammer. With this he flakes off a series of flint knives.
EXT. NEARBY ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — MORNING.
Bran is sneaking through the brush. Suddenly he straightens up and sniffs the air.
He glides stealthily through the brush until he spies Conan knapping flint. He settles silently into the brush, prepared for a long boring wait.
EXT. BRAN’S BACKTRAIL — MORNING.
The four Picts have lost Bran’s trail and are casting about for it as they argue in whispers.
(To Pict #1) You were tracking the Cimmerian. You shouldn’t have lost the trail! Are you a child, to lose a trail when a lion frightens you?
Cimmerians aren’t that easy to track. Have you found his spoor yet?
Silence! Are you both children, to quarrel in the land of our enemies? Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouths shut!
EXT. CONAN KNAPPING FLINT — CONTINUOUS.
Then Conan is distracted from his labors by some snorts and scraping noises. He looks up, and there is a bull Cimmerian mountain aurochs, snorting and pawing the ground as it glares at him. It looks like a cross between a bison, a yak, and a longhorn steer, only much uglier. As the bull prepares to charge, Conan springs to his feet and waves his arms at it, yelling.
No! I already have a Spirit Guide. I don’t need you! Go away! Shoo!
His efforts are useless. The bull charges. Conan looks at the puny flint chopper in his hand, and tosses it away. With a disgusted oath to Crom, he sets himself. As the bull is about to impact him, Conan pivots counterclockwise around his right foot, evades the left horn as the bull hooks at him, and locks his arms around the bull’s horns as it passes him. Suddenly, Conan is being propelled forward with terrific speed and force. He tries to dig his heels into the ground to slow the bull down, but the bull is ten times his mass, and it is hopeless; he has no effect on the bull’s forward speed. He tries a different tack, throwing his body from side to side with all his strength, trying to get the bull off balance. Running along with the bull, he rocks back and forth a few times to set up a rhythm, then with all his might he throws the entire weight of his body to one side. The bull stumbles and goes down in a cloud of dust, and a loud, dull SNAP is heard. For a moment, Conan and the bull both lie both lie motionless, but Conan is panting, a grimace of effort still frozen on his face, while the bull twitches and shudders, then lies still, its eyes glazed. After a moment, Conan moves cautiously, testing his limbs for breaks. He is covered with dust and bloody scrapes.
EXT. BRAN IN THE UNDERBRUSH — CONTINUOUS.
Bran’s body is concealed in the underbrush, but we can see his face. His mouth and eyes are gaping in total disbelief.
EXT. CONAN AND THE BULL — CONTINUOUS.
Conan climbs slowly to his feet, as if every joint in his body hurts. He raises his face to the sky and yells. It is a yell that fills the sky and shakes the world. Then he looks down at the bull.
Crom’s bones! How am I going to get this overgrown meat-mountain back to the village? Shove it over the precipice? No, that would ruin it.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — DAY.
Back at the village, the Men’s Lodge is a scene of happy conviviality, except for Connell, who has stopped eating and drinking, and Conn, who has cut down his consumption in order to stay in good enough shape to reassure Connell.The rest of the men are starting to set up more goats on the hearths.
…Hurry up with those goats!
…Don’t you know anything? You can’t hurry meat! Do you like it burned?
…Aw, just relax and have some more ale.
EXT. ABOVE CROM’S SHIELD — DAY.
(Looking at the bull and musing to himself.)
I have to gut it and drain the blood or the meat will be ruined. Crom blast you, why couldn’t you have been a mountain goat?
Conan weaves some stout rope from vines. Then he ties the rope to the bull’s hind legs and throws the rope over a stout tree branch. He tugs on the rope and succeeds only in lifting himself several feet off the ground. (Close-up of Conan hanging from the rope, looking disgusted.) He shinnies up the rope until his hands are almost to the branch. Then he jackknifes his legs up to the branch and plants the soles of his feet against the underside of the branch. There he is, standing upside-down on the underside of the branch, held there by the tension he is exerting on the rope. Now, with much grunting, groaning, and grimacing he starts hauling the bull up by sheer strength.
(Grinding the words out through his teeth.)
MOVE, you hell-spawned hunk of beef!
It no longer matters that the bull outweighs him. He crouches there upside-down, holding the rope in place with one hand, while with the other he flips the free end of the rope over the branch again, guides it through the loop, then grabs the free end with both hands. He relaxes and lets himself fall, tightening the loop into a knot. The bull falls a foot or two, then stops when the knot tightens. The branch creaks ominously as it bobs up and down for a moment, but it holds. Conan lets go of the rope and falls a few feet to the ground, landing on his feet. He is panting and pouring sweat. He sucks air for a while, while his face fades from purple to its normal color.
EXT. BRAN IN THE UNDERBRUSH — CONTINUOUS.
Bran, concealed in the underbrush, looks absolutely sick as he watches this exhibition.
EXT. CONAN — CONTINUOUS.
Conan slits the bull’s throat with one of his flint knives, then makes a long incision in the belly; guts spill out of the bull’s abdomen. Standing back to watch the blood drain, he wipes his forearm across his forehead.
WHEW! I wonder if everybody’s Ordeal is this much of an ordeal! Now, while he’s draining, I’ll get ready to move him.
He picks up his chopper and flint knives and goes into the woods, in a different direction than Bran.
Bran comes out of the underbrush and walks up to the bull. He walks all the way around it, looking at it from every angle, while shaking his head in disbelief.
I got a rabbit on my Ordeal. If he returns with this, I will be less than the dirt beneath his feet.
Well, that’s why I’m here.
He pulls Conan’s knife out of an extra scabbard at his belt. He moves the knife up to the bull’s throat. Then he suddenly stops and puts the knife back in the scabbard.
He pulls an arrow out of his pack, and breaks the steel head off the shaft. He moves the arrowhead up to the bull’s throat, but before he touches the bull, Conan emerges from the woods with an armload of vines and branches.
BRAN! What in Crom’s blue-blazing hells are you doing here? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MY BULL?
Bran jumps two feet into the air, startled and guilty; the arrowhead goes flying.
K-keeping you from being elevated to the status of Crom’s Sacred Avatar on Earth, you – you puffed-up blowhard!
Conan drops his armload of vines and branches and advances on Bran empty-handed, his eyes blazing like the blue flames of hell. Bran backs up and draws his sword, waving it at Conan.
Stay away from me! I’m warning you!
You just couldn’t wait, could you? Go ahead, try to use that sword on me, you loud-mouthed sniveling coward! I’ll wrap it around your neck and rip your heart out with my bare hands.
Without warning, the four Picts step out of the woods.
CONAN AND BRAN
Automatic reflexes take over, and Conan and Bran turn away from each other and back up until they are back-to-back, and keeping their eyes on the Picts. The Picts circle them, taunting in heavily accented Cimmerian.
Well, well, well. What have we here?
The one we were trailing and another one, with a lot of meat.
I recognize the paint on that one. He’s doing the Cimmerian rite of Passage – their manhood ceremony.
This Cimmerian obviously needed some help to become a man!
Let’s kill them both!
No! I recognize these two now, from the last raid. We kill the younger one, the one with the sharp tongue, and cripple the other. Then he’ll have to explain what happened when they find him. They’ll exile him for interfering in a manhood rite.
Yes! They lose TWO men, their sacred ritual is ruined, and one of the lost men is to blame!
Then we attack the village again while they weep and gnash their teeth!
Bran! Run for the village. You’ve got to warn them!
And let you have all the fun? And four more kills all for you?
With high-pitched yells the Picts attack. Three of them go for the armed and armored Bran, and one of them goes for the unarmed Conan. Bran rips into his three Picts with a slashing counter-attack, and downs two. Conan’s Pict, armed with a spear, jabs at Conan from spear-distance. Conan dances and jinks to avoid the jabs, then suddenly grabs the spear-shaft and jerks it out of the Pict’s hands. He instantly jabs the butt-end of the spear into the Pict’s belly. As the Pict doubles over, Conan reverses the spear with a twirling motion and smashes the spearhead up into the Pict’s face, gashing his face and forcing him back up into a standing position. Then Conan lunges, driving the spearpoint into the Pict’s chest. The mortally wounded Pict crumples to the ground. Still holding the spear, Conan looks for the action and spots Bran, dueling with the last surviving Pict. Conan starts towards the battling pair, as if to intervene, then suddenly stops, grounds his spear, and stands, watching, as Bran kills the last Pict.
Whoosh! I saw you kill that Pict … out of the corner of my eye … and I knew I had to kill this one in a hurry … or you’d steal another kill!
Conan stands still for a moment, trying to master his temper. Then he strides rapidly to Bran, grabs the neck of Bran’s chainmail shirt in his right fist, twists, and hauls Bran to within an inch of his own face. With a hard left backhand he knocks the sword out of Bran’s hand.
Just what were you up to? Why did you lead those Picts up here?
I didn’t know they were trailing me!
Well, that’s just great! You left a trail that even a Pict could follow. But WHAT WERE YOU DOING UP HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
(Camera zooms in for a close-up of their two faces)
Save your lies! I’m no fool; you were going to spoil my kill somehow – to ruin my Ordeal! And you led a band of Picts right into the middle of one of our tribe’s most sacred ceremonies. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE ELDERS WOULD DO TO YOU IF THEY FOUND OUT?
Bran’s eyes get very big and his mouth works soundlessly.
(His lips draw back in a mirthless grin)
A week ago you were saying how you wanted to fight me and crush me once I became a man…
Bran’s lips start to tremble.
…so here’s your opportunity.
Bran starts to whimper.
You can try your best to crush me – if you still think you can. That means only one of us walks off this mountain alive, little man.
Your other choice is to take a long trip. I care not where you go, but if you set foot in Cimmeria within the year . . .
Conan hurls Bran bodily to the bloody ground at the base of the tree, a good ten feet away, then bends and picks up Bran’s sword as Bran shakes his head clear.
Conan advances on Bran, sword in hand, snarling as his rage cracks through his composure. Bran scrambles backwards on all fours until he is up against the tree, his face betraying his utter terror.
Conan stands over Bran and bends Brand’s sword over one knee, folding the blade into a U shape. The blade, incapable of taking such abuse, snaps. Growling, he tosses the useless hunks of metal in Bran’s lap. Bran stares at the remains of his once-beautiful weapon in horror.
Chose now, Bran, or I chose for you.
Bran looks from his ruined sword to the carcass above him, to the dead Picts. After a long moment, he seems to collapse in on himself.
Very well. I know I can’t beat you. I’ll go.
Snarling, Conan reaches down and hauls the broken Bran to his feet.
Oh, you’ll go. But I’m not done with you yet, dog!
Bran blanches at the renewed danger.
First, you are going to clean up your mess! Three of these scum were killed with a sword, but not one of them bore one. You are going to drag these bodies away and dump them and their weapons down a gully.
S-sure, Conan, I’ll do it!
And then I don’t want to see your face for a year. Do I need to explain what will happen if I do? Or if anyone hears of this?
Conan releases Bran; the two stare at each other for another moment, then Bran breaks, looking down and shaking his head.
No, no Conan.
Then clean up this trash, boy.
As the day advances, Bran disposes of the Picts’ remains while Conan weaves more ropes and cuts and trims some tree branches with the aid of his flint hand-axe and knives, tying them together into a large, rude contraption. He positions the flat contraption under the bull, climbs up the free end of the rope, and cuts the rope holding up the bull with one of his flint knives. The bull drops onto the contraption. He ties the bull to the contraption, kneels by it, and places a rope harness around his own shoulders. With a grunt of effort, he stands up, partially lifting the contraption, now recognizable as a crude travois, off the ground. He starts to lean into the harness, ready to haul the carcass back to the village, but he pauses to take another look at the bull’s head. A mischievous grin creases his face as he fingers his flint chopper, and we . . .
EXT. THE VILLAGE — THE MEN’S LODGE — EVENING.
Back in the Men’s Lodge, Connell is very worried. It has been two full days since Conan scaled Crom’s Shield.
It’s been two days! He wasn’t ready. We let him go too soon.
Two days is nothing! Hell, your uncle Terli took the better part of a week!
Connell is not to be placated, and is slipping into a real funk. The other men are more concerned over whether to put another goat on the fire.
Suddenly a commotion, consisting mainly of fearful childish and feminine voices, is heard outside the door of the lodge. One of the men opens the door and looks out.
Some… something approaches!
Connell and Conn leap to their feet.
Is it Conan?
(Looking fearfully over his shoulder)
No! It’s . . . Crom! I don’t know what it is!
A murmur arises from the crowd. Several grab their weapons. This is highly unusual, and despite the party atmosphere, the supernatural roar has them all a little on edge. Connell leaps to his feet and dashes for the door with the speed of a starving leopard, followed by the other men. Conn is a little bit slower, but when he reaches the door, he elbows everybody else out of the way, and shoves himself to the front of the crowd at the door.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — RIGHT OUTSIDE THE MEN’S LODGE — VIEW LOOKING IN THE FRONT DOOR — NIGHT.
From outside the door, we see Connell and some other men, looking out the door with amazed and horrified expressions on their faces. Conn shoves his way through the crowd and elbows his way to the front, and looks out. An amazed look dawns on his face, too, but he doesn’t reach for his ax. Slowly he smiles.
INT. THE MEN’S LODGE — VIEW LOOKING OUT THE DOOR — CONTINUOUS.
Approaching down the dim, torch-lit path is a nightmare figure, a giant bull-headed demon. Its body glistens with thick, drying blood, and it is slumped over as though pulling a heavy load. Huge black flies swarm and buzz about its head, attracted by the growing scent of blood and death that hovers over the hell-spawn like a sickening cloud. As it gets closer, it becomes clear to us the “demon” is Conan, wearing the bull’s severed head like a foul helmet or mask, tatters of its hide draped about his shoulders like a cape, dragging the headless carcass of the slaughtered bull on the travois behind him by main strength alone. Two tribesmen who had been guarding the Village gate follow at a respectful distance, faces grim and swords at the ready.
EXT. THE MEN’S LODGE — VIEW LOOKING IN THE DOOR — CONTINUOUS.
It’s deadly quiet. No one says a word, some almost not breathing. Conn elbows Dorbha and Connell in the ribs. The two do a subtle double take. The three meet eyes, then struggle to hide their grins.
EXT. THE VILLAGE — RIGHT OUTSIDE THE MEN’S LODGE — VIEW AS IF LOOKING OUT THE LODGE DOOR — CONTINUOUS.
When he gets within 10 feet of the nervous crowd, the figure drops the travois with a loud thud. He stands erect and stretches dramatically, his joints popping loudly in the still night air. Slowly he turns, giving the effect that the “demon” is scanning the crowd. The bull’s dead eyes stop when they find Conn.
With a dramatic flair and a muffled howl, the demon reaches up with both hands and pulls off its own head, revealing a grinning Conan, covered in gore.
Augh! It’s hot in there!
The crowd gasps, then laughter breaks out as Conan tosses the bloody head to an abashed Cimmerian #2.
(Formally, in a booming voice)
A man returns! The hunter returns to feed the clan! The hunter returns a man!
Several men run forward with yells of delight and pour pitchers of ale over a laughing Conan’s head, washing away the body paint, sweat and gore.
The men see Conan, surrounded by a respectful circle of admiring villagers, mostly women and children. He is talking with Brigidda and Marigan and Diedra. Strapped to his shoulders is a harness, attached to a travois bearing the carcass of a bull Cimmerian mountain aurochs. Deep drag marks in the soil extending backwards from the travois testify to the weight of the burden. Conan looks up at his father and grandfather.
Where would you like this?
Conn’s and Connell’s faces light up like the rising sun._
By Crom, you stink! Run and get yourself cleaned off, boy – Man! – and be quick about it. You don’t want to miss your own feast!
With a ferocious, joyful howl Conan runs off amid the cheers of his tribe.
(Yelling into the Lodge.)
Make some room on that fire! My GRANDSON has brought a little something for us to eat!
“Conan” ©Copyright, Conan Properties, Inc. “Conan The Mighty” ©Copyright 1996, William Galen Gray.