CONAN THE ADVENTURER


THE SACK OF VENARIUM

REV.F2, copyright 7/4/98, 8/15/98

by
Steve Block & 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 Voiceover 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. CONAN logo comes up.)

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 zooms in to a closer view of the border area between the settled cities and farmlands of Aquilonia, and the rugged, pine-forested hills and snow-capped mountains of Cimmeria.)


In Conan’s and his fellow Cimmerians’ veins flowed the blood of ancient Atlantis, swallowed by the seas eight thousand years before his time. Descendants of the refugees from that deluge, the Cimmerians evolved into fiercely independent barbarians, continually feuding with each other, and with their neighbors, the Vanir to the northwest, the Picts to the southwest, and the Hyperboreans to the east. But the feuding clans and tribes could unite against a perceived general threat, such as the Gundermen of Aquilonia, who had pushed across the Aquilonian frontier, built the frontier post of Venarium, and begun to colonize the southern marches of Cimmeria.

(The view zooms in further to center on a log fort which bears a superficial resemblance to a Cimmerian village: log buildings surrounded by a log stockade. But the walls are twice the height of a Cimmerian village’s walls, and the buildings are larger and more complex in construction, and include dressed lumber, and shingled rather than thatched roofs. Both the outer walls, and some of the buildings, have a course of large, fitted stones around the base. It is late summer, and crops are growing in the plowed land close by the outpost. A small caravan of five heavily laden horses, and their riders, who are leading them on foot, is just entering the gate.)

EXT. THE CIMMERIAN/AQUILONIAN BORDER — THE AQUILONIAN OUTPOST OF VENARIUM — THE MAIN GATE — SUMMER — DAY.

FADE IN:


Venarium is basically a log fort which bears a superficial resemblance to a Cimmerian village: log buildings surrounded by a log stockade. But the walls are twice the height of a Cimmerian village’s walls, and the buildings are larger and more complex in construction, and include dressed lumber, and shingled rather than thatched roofs. Both the outer walls, and some of the buildings, have a course of large, fitted stones around the base. These stones are eroded and discolored, as if they were very old.
A five-horse caravan of Cimmerians, consisting of CONNELL, blacksmith and part-time trader, his 15-year-old son, CONAN (considered an adult in Cimmerian society), and two young men, DONNER and MORG, have stopped at the gate to be interviewed by the officer of the guard, an armored Aquilonian soldier, PENCALVUS. All four Cimmerians exhibit the typical large, athletic, muscular build, black hair, and blue eyes of their people. Conan is the youngest of the four. Morg is an unusually handsome young man, almost pretty. His clothes are cleaner and more highly decorated than the others’. Donner is another rarity, a fat Cimmerian. Not obese, but a wall of meat and tough gristle. Built like a barrel, his reddish hair and fairer skin reveals a touch of Vanir in his heritage.
Connell and Pencalvus are conversing in a Latin-like language. Their dialogue is subtitled (S.T.).

CONNELL (S.T.)
(Patiently, tired but not hostile.)
You know me, Captain Pencalvus. I’ve been coming around here since before you were stationed here.

PENCALVUS (S.T.)
Connell, you know I have to go through these motions, even though I’d rather be sitting in the tavern, sharing a pitcher of ale with you.

CONNELL (S.T.)
(Sighs.)
Fine. I’m Connell the trader. That’s Donner and that is Morg. They were here last year; and this is my son Conan, it’s his first trip.

Conan nods stiffly; he can barely follow the conversation. Donner and Morg nod and mumble greetings in friendly, easy-going fashion.

PENCALVUS (S.T.)
Your son, eh? I remember you talking about him last year. And what have you got for us?

CONNELL (S.T.)
The usual: uncut gemstones, gold dust, and furs.

Meanwhile, two of Pencalvus’ men make a token examination of the packs on the horses. Under the sharp eyes of the Cimmerians they open some of the saddlebags and inspect their interiors, being careful not to touch any of the contents. Conan appears to resent this; he tries to get his father’s attention, but Connell makes a shushing gesture at him. Pencalvus’ men finish their inspection and nod at their commander.

PENCALVUS (S.T.)
(To Morg)
And no more trouble from you this year, right?

Morg looks sheepish and nods.

PENCALVUS (S.T.)
Then enter, Trader Connell, and be welcome. How long do you think you’ll be staying with us?

CONNELL (S.T.)
Three or four days, long enough to trade all this stuff.

The little caravan starts to pass through the gate.

PENCALVUS
(Lapsing into accented Cimmerian.)
Maybe we can get together for that pitcher of ale.

CONNELL
Sure!


CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE MAIN COMPOUND — DAY.
The caravan is proceeding across the main compound toward a log warehouse. Some of the Venarians ignore the caravan; others show considerable interest in Connell and the caravan, even following them toward the warehouse.

CONAN
(Indignant.)
Father! You just let those Aquilonians paw through our goods!

CONNELL

They weren’t “pawing,” they were inspecting.

CONAN
(Glowering)
What’s the damn difference? It’s our stuff!


MORG
(Patronizing)
It’s sort of a game they play. They don’t let us into their town unless we let them inspect our wares.


DONNER
(Casting a disapproving look at Morg)
Aye, they say there are some things they don’t want their people to have, so they have to make sure we’re not trying to sneak them in.

CONAN
(Disdainful)
The people let their priests and rulers tell them what they can have? That seems kind of childish.

CONNELL
Maybe it is, but it’s their town, so we play by their rules. That’s why I never go south of Venarium – all those rules and regulations would drive me crazy!

CONAN
Hmpf. They should pick new kings and gods. Well, it won’t be their town for long! And did you see that farmland? They’re plowing up Cimmerian soil!

They have reached the warehouse, where some large, sturdy tables are set up in front.

CONNELL
(Hushed)
Shhh! Watch what you say. You never know who might understand Cimmerian in a crowd like this.

Donner and Morg start unloading the horses.

DONNER
(Smirking)
Yeah, that’s what got Morg here in so much trouble here last year.

MORG
(Pained)
Shut up, Donner.

CONAN
(Eager)
What? Is that what Pencalvus meant? What’d Morg do?

Morg casts an angry glance at Conan.

DONNER
What was it you said about that priest’s robes? Oh yeah –

CONNELL
(Interrupting)
That’s enough, you lot. Morg almost got all of us banned from here because he didn’t watch his tongue, Conan. Remember that.

Conan helps Connell lay the goods out for display on the tables. When the horses are unpacked, and the tables set up, Donner, Morg, and Conan start to head for the small tavern, carrying a couple of furs, then pause as some Aquilonian traders come over to examine Connell’s wares.

MERCHANT #1 (S.T.)
Furs look kind of skimpy.

CONNELL (S.T.)
Had a warm winter. You won’t get better than these anywhere.

MERCHANT #1 (DRUSUS) (S.T.)
Well, I’ll give you four kegs of brown Gunderland ale for 20 of these furs.

CONNELL (S.T.)
(Laughs.)

That’s what I like about you, Drusus – your fantastic sense of humor!

(Connell’s face goes stone cold.)

Eight kegs for 20 furs.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
I wouldn’t pay that for the best of furs, Connell, and these are not the best. You said yourself, warm winter.

CONNELL (S.T.)
Warm winter all over. You won’t get better furs anywhere!

He stares impassively at Drusus.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
Six kegs for 20 furs.

CONNELL (S.T.)
(Looking sly.)
Nineteen furs – AND the next round of ale for my men here.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
(Jovial appreciation of Connell’s skill.)
Damn you, Connell. You bargain like a civilized man!

They laugh and shake hands.

CONNELL
(In Cimmerian)
I bargain like a Cimmerian. We’re a tenacious lot.

Drusus tosses a couple of coins to Donner, then takes out a piece of parchment and scribbles some notes. Connell picks up a waxed board, about 24″x18″, and makes some scratches with a stick.

CUT TO:
INT. VENARIUM — TAVERN — CONTINUOUS.


Everything is split log finish. There is a bar, and a few tables with crude benches or tree-stump stools. Morg is talking to the tavern keeper and passing a couple of furs to him. The tavern keeper immediately hands Morg a few worn silver coins, then yells an order at one of the serving wenches.

CONAN
(To Donner)
Hey, what about the money that merchant just gave us?

DONNER
We’ll hold on to it for now. Easier to carry than furs, and this barkeep trades honestly.

Conan and Donner are rubbernecking and gawking at the other customers. These consist mainly of Aquilonian soldiers in undress uniforms (chainmail shirts, but no greaves, vambraces, or helmets), and some Aquilonian civilians. Then two strangers walk in. We can tell they are Cimmerians by their size and build and coloring, but they are wearing shiny Aquilonian armor over Cimmerian-style tunics. Conan registers surprise at their appearance.

CONAN
Donner, how do those two Cimmerians dare walk in here like that? Won’t the Aquilonians try to punish them for stealing Aquilonian armor, maybe murdering the original owners? Better get ready for a fight!

Donner is amused at Conan’s mistake.

DONNER
(Chuckling)
Take another look and tell me what you see.

Conan scrutinizes the two newcomers. They ignore Connell’s party as they joke with the serving wenches.

CONAN
The armor…

DONNER
Yes?

Donner and Morg share a look of amusement behind Conan’s back.

CONAN

It doesn’t look like it’s been in a fight. No blood or rust, no broken links – it’s as shiny as if it was fresh from the forge.

DONNER
Right . . .

One of the Aquilonian soldiers slaps one of the strange Cimmerians on the shoulder in friendly fashion as he walks past. The Cimmerian and the Aquilonian exchange banter.

CONAN
(Starting to get excited.)
And they’re awfully friendly with those Aquilonians!

MORG
That’s because they work for the Aquilonians, as scouts and guides. The Aquilonians issue them brand new armor, and pay them in Aquilonian silver. And the shame of it is that those two don’t even know how to wear that nice, shiny armor properly – no sense of style. Now, if I had armor like that, I’d REALLY look impressive.

Conan gives Morg a concerned look and shakes his head. Who cares about how armor looks, so long as it works? Morg is weird.
A serving wench comes out with a pitcher of ale and two mugs. As she sets them down at the table occupied by the two Cimmerian scouts, one of them flips her a shiny, newly minted silver coin. Morg displays, for Conan’s edification, one of the worn, tarnished coins the tavern keeper had given him. Conan starts breathing hard, as if he were working himself up into a rage.

CONAN
How can they do that? Those…

Morg grabs his arm.

MORG
Calm down, hothead! They’re not our tribesmen, and we didn’t come here to get thrown out before we even have a chance to get into legitimate trouble!

Conan, still breathing hard, masters his anger.

MORG
(Serious)
Believe me, Connell’s son. I learned this lesson: In Venarium, keep your yap shut. You learn it, too.

Two serving wenches approach them, one carrying four pitchers of ale in her two hands, the other staggering under a huge platter of bread and sausage and cheese. Donner and Morg – Morg with a flashy smile – relieve them of their burdens, and carry them easily out the tavern door. Conan follows, glancing surreptitiously at the two Cimmerian scouts.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE WAREHOUSE — CONTINUOUS.
Connell and Drusus are concluding their deal, putting their records away, and shaking hands.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
My man will be by this afternoon with the kegs.

The camera follows Drusus as he walks off with one of the other merchants. We can still see Connell over Drusus’ shoulder.

MERCHANT #2 (S.T.)
That Connell fellow seems a decent sort for a barbarian.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
He’s as smart as his father, and I never could get around old Conn.

They turn to watch as Donner and Morg and Conan exit the tavern and rejoin Connell. Donner is carrying four pitchers of ale, and Morg has a huge wooden platter heaped with bread, cheese and sausages. With huge grins on their faces, they distribute their largesse amongst their companions.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
And they’re honest. But don’t be deceived. They can be ferocious when crossed. Did you ever hear of Clavus?

MERCHANT #2 (S.T.)
The mute potion-seller?

DRUSUS (S.T.)

He wasn’t always mute.

Odium crosses Merchant #2’s face as Drusus continues.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
Seems he cheated one of the locals back when Venarium was little more than a stockade. They cut out his tongue so he’d lie no more.

Donner and Conan chug ale directly from the pitchers. Morg shakes his head ruefully at his companions’ lack of sophistication and chugs his from a tankard that is nearly as large as the pitchers. Connell picks up one of his waxed boards and shows it to his fellows. Suddenly Donner notices Merchant #2’s scrutiny and glares at him. Merchant #2 flinches, turns his head and quickens his pace.

MERCHANT #2 (S.T.)
(Shuddering)
The barbarian trader, what was he doing with that board?

The other Cimmerians cluster around Connell, quaffing ale.

DRUSUS (S.T.)
(Dismissively)
Some sort of primitive tally system. I don’t pretend to understand it.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — CONNELL AND HIS FRIENDS IN FRONT OF THE WAREHOUSE — CONTINUOUS.
Zoom in for a close-up of Connell scratching on his board, surrounded by tall, ale-guzzling Cimmerians. The camera pans in over his shoulder. We get a good view of Connell’s board, containing a crude diagram of Venarium. Connell is sketching in details of the fortifications and the archery emplacements.

CONNELL
(Close-up of his finger pointing something out on the map.)
This is the Commandant’s Headquarters Building,

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — MAIN COMPOUND — RIGHT OUTSIDE THE COMMANDANT’S HEADQUARTERS — NIGHT.


CONNELL (CONT’D.) VOICE OVER
. . . where the Commandant has his offices.

Connell and Conan, wearing light armor (blackened chainmail tunics) are standing in the shadows next to the Commandant’s Headquarters. The compound is deserted. There are sentries on the parapet of the stockade, but their attention is directed outward. There are also sentries at the front entrance to the Headquarters building, but Connell and Conan are in back, hidden in the shadows. Connell has a small pack on his back.

CONNELL
(Whispering.)
The public offices, and the offices of his subordinates, are on the first floor. But his private office is on the second floor. He invited me in there once, to sample his private stock of wine, and I’ll wager he keeps his most important writings in there, too. If I remember the layout correctly, it should be right above us.

CONAN
(Whispering.)
Sounds awfully complicated. Why do Aquilonians pile their houses on top of each other, anyway? To keep people from getting in? It wouldn’t stop a Cimmerian.

CONNELL
I think it’s to save space. Come on.

The two Cimmerians start climbing straight up the wall. It is easy going for them, as the logs are laid horizontally. Connell reaches the window. He cautiously peeks inside. The room is empty. Connell climbs through the window, followed by Conan.


CUT TO:
INT. THE COMMANDANT’S PRIVATE OFFICE — CONTINUOUS.
Once they are inside, Connell unrolls his pack; it is a hide, which he fastens over the window.

The Commandant’s office contains a large desk, some chairs, a bookcase on one wall and a scroll case, consisting of many square cubbyholes, on another wall. The walls are adorned with a large Aquilonian flag, a royal insignia (Gold serpent on a black background), the unit banner of Fort Venarium, a map of Aquilonia, and a map of Cimmeria. A finely-made wooden chest is tucked away in one corner. Coals glow in the hearth.
Connell pulls a straw from the kindling bucket next to the fireplace, touches it to a hot coal and uses it to light a candle and the candle to light an oil lamp.

CONNELL
Let’s start looking through these parchments. Any maps I find, I’ll give to you to look at, and any writings you find, give to me to read.

CONAN
Maps?

CONNELL
(Points at the maps on the wall.)
Remember my drawing of the fort’s defenses? A map is like that: A picture of a part of the world, or a country. This shape is a map of Aquilonia;

(Points at the maps on the wall)

this shape is a map of Cimmeria. See, here’s Venarium, and up here in the northwest corner is where our village is. If you see any map with the shape of Cimmeria on it, pull it out and save it for me to look at.

They start hauling parchments out of the cubby-holes as fast as they can pull them out, open them, and examine them. Connell is tracing lines with his fingers, and moving his lips to sound out the words to himself. Whenever he finds a map, he gives it to Conan for closer examination. Conan is shoveling text scrolls at Connell, examining maps, and dividing the maps into two piles.
Connell suddenly straightens up in surprise.

CONNELL
Women! They’re going to ship women to Venarium!

CONAN
What does that mean? They’re lustful for women?

CONNELL

No, they’re not for prostitution, they’re young widows, girls without dowries, women who want to get MARRIED!

CONAN
I think women always want to get married. . . what’s “prositu-ition?”

CONNELL
“Prosti-” . . . Never mind. No, the idea is that all these unmarried Aquilonian men at Venarium will get married and raise families here, raise lots of little Aquilonians. They’ll move out of the fort and start homesteads. That’s how they’ll convert Cimmerian territory into Aquilonian territory!

(He reads farther)

And Gundermen! They’re going to transport whole families of Gundermen to Venarium!

Connell notices Conan’s blank look and explains.

CONNELL
You see, Aquilonia sort of has a problem with the Gundermen. They’re too independent. But they make excellent soldiers, and they tend to be tough, independent farmers.

CONAN
They sound like good people.

CONNELL
Well, yes, but because they’re not dependant on the comforts of civilization, they make good pioneers; they’re ideal for settling new, untamed lands – like Cimmeria!

CONAN
(Seething)
Those greedy, land-grabbing sneaks!

CONNELL

Exactly! Here, let me have some of those maps.

Conan shoves a small pile of maps over to Connell. Connell starts shuffling through them. Conan does the same, but pauses after a moment, gazing thoughtfully at a map.

CONAN
Um . . . Father?

CONNELL
(Distracted)
What?

CONAN
Where on the map did you say our village was again?

Connell puts his maps down and leans over Conan’s shoulder. The map is painted in an ornate style rather like a medieval tapestry.

CONNELL
See, right about here, where that little square is.

He’s about to look at his stack of scrolls again, but a look of growing dread begins to cross his face. Conan looks concerned as well. Conan points to some elaborately painted figures on the map.

CONAN
Don’t these look like a little like groups of armed men?

CONNELL
Yes, son. They certainly do.

CONAN
Father, I think those are supposed to be armies.

He and Connell continue to gaze at the map in dismay.

CONAN
And I REALLY don’t like the way this arrow goes from one of them towards our village!


CONNELL
Those are troop movements. They’re going to invade Cimmeria!

CONAN
Grandfather was right! Look at that! They’re going to try to take our village – our whole country!

CONNELL
(Shaken.)
Yes, well. We’ve got what we came for. Time to go. But first we have to cover our tracks.

Conan starts putting scrolls back into the cubby-holes.

CONNELL
Don’t bother. We can’t be sure we’re putting the scrolls back where they came from. And if they notice which particular scrolls are missing, they’ll figure out that we took them, and, what’s worse, they’ll know we know their plans.

He stares at the scrolls and the desk, and rubs his chin.

CONNELL
(Suddenly decisive.)
Conan! Keep those two scrolls.

He grabs the lamp and blows out the flame. Only the original candle provides illumination. Then he pours lamp oil over the desk, the leftover scrolls and the scroll cubby. He strides over to the chest in the corner, opens it, and pulls out two jugs of wine.

CONNELL
(Grinning.)
The finest Poitainian vintage. We can enjoy it on the way home. We deserve it!

CONAN
And these invading sons of goats certainly don’t!


Conan, clutching the scrolls, goes to the window, looks out, then swings over the sill and drops out of sight. Connell, holding the two jugs in one hand, backs up to the window, then tosses the lit candle into an oil puddle. He swings over the sill and drops out of sight, as the oil ignites.


CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE HEADQUARTERS BUILDING — MOMENTS LATER.
Connell and Conan are trotting away from the Headquarters Building, then they slow down to a brisk walk.

CONAN
Now what?

CONNELL
I don’t want to risk being here when they notice that fire. They might connect us to it. Of course, if we flee, they’ll suspect us anyway, but by then we’ll be beyond their reach, and they’ll never figure out why we did it. They’ll just put it down to barbarian vandalism. Now let’s get Donner and Morg.

CONAN
We’ll never have time to pack all that stuff on the horses.

CONNELL
To the hells with that stuff, we’ll move faster without it.

CONAN
Over the wall?

CONNELL
Yes.
(He pauses and grimaces.)
I do hate to leave the ale, though. But we’ll get it back.

CONAN
(Grinning fiercely.)
With interest.


By this time, they have reached the tents they had pitched by the warehouse. Connell goes to the tent where Donner and Morg are sleeping, and sticks his head in the entrance.

CUT TO:
INT. VENARIUM — INSIDE THE TENT — CONTINUOUS.
From the entrance, without touching either of them, he speaks in a low voice.

CONNELL
Donner. Morg.

The two young Cimmerians sit up instantly, as if they had been waiting for Connell.

DONNER
Trouble?

CONNELL
Yes. Get your armor, weapons, food and water. We’re leaving NOW, on foot. Leave the tents, leave the horses.

MORG
We’re sneaking out? What about the money? If we leave it, the gold-grubbers will think we were up to something.

CONNELL
(Grinning)
They’d be right. All right, take only the most valuable stuff. We can always hide it and get it when we come back.

The two men instantly start throwing their armor on and packing. Connell withdraws from their tent.


CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE TENTS — CONTINUOUS.
Connell turns to the tent he has been sharing with Conan, just as Conan exits the tent, with a pack on his back, and carrying a pack for Connell.

CONNELL
The scrolls?

Conan gestures at his own pack, then hands Connell the one in his hand.


CONNELL
Good!

As Connell is strapping on his pack, distant voices are heard yelling off screen.

DISTANT VOICES (O.S.)
Fire! Fire at Headquarters! Fire!

MORG
So that’s the trouble. But I thought we weren’t supposed to burn this viper’s nest until later.

CONNELL
Just a little distraction we arranged. Head for the wall, lads, we’re going over!

Connell starts sprinting for the nearest wall. The others follow. Donner points off in the direction they originally came from.

DONNER
The gate’s that way!

CONNELL
Too many guards that way.


CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE HEADQUARTERS BUILDING — CONTINUOUS.

GUARD (S.T.)
Hey, look! Those Cimmerians are fleeing!

CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD (S.T.)
Stop them!

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — A SECTION OF THE STOCKADE WALL — CONTINUOUS.

The Cimmerians reach a section of wall that has a stairway going up to the parapet. A guard tower is near the head of the stairs. A small force of soldiers has managed to reach the foot of the stairs ahead of the Cimmerians.


Without slowing, Connell, sword slashing, hits the small group of soldiers. There is a spray of blood, and soldiers seem to bounce off of him like ninepins off a bowling ball. Instead of running up the stairs, Connell stands by their foot and gestures frantically for the other Cimmerians to go ahead of him. The three young men run up the stairs without breaking stride. Donner is involved in a brief struggle with a surviving soldier, then runs on up the stairs, leaving his sword behind, imbedded through the chest of the soldier and into the log wall. Morg, on his way up the stairs, yanks the sword out of the wall, allowing the dead soldier to flop to the ground. Connell backs up the stairs one step at a time, fighting a rear-guard action against more soldiers.

At the top of the stairs a small group of spear-bearing soldiers is holding the Cimmerians at bay. Morg tosses Donner his sword, but the Cimmerians can’t force their way past the spear points on the narrow stairway. Conan grips his sword between his teeth and swiftly climbs straight up the wall to the parapet, then charges the spearmen from the flank. They tumble, screaming, to the ground below.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARAPET — CONTINUOUS.
On another section of the parapet, we see more soldiers running along the catwalk towards the Cimmerians.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE STAIRWAY — CONTINUOUS.
Conan sees the soldiers running from another section of the catwalk. He looks down and sees his father backing up the stairs, battling soldiers with every step.

CONAN
(Calling down.)
Father! Hurry!

CONNELL
(Calling up.)
Fast as I can, son.

If Connell turns around to run up the stairs, the soldiers will kill him. Conan runs along the catwalk until he is above and behind the soldiers, then jumps off the catwalk, landing behind the soldiers. Conan’s aerial attack tips the balance. Between Connell and Conan, they manage to dispatch the soldiers quickly, then they run up the stairs and rejoin the others. Just as the soldiers from the catwalk are about to reach them, they vault over the wall and drop out of sight.


DISTANT SHOUTS (O.S., S.T.)
They’re getting away! Open the gates! Stop them!

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE GROUND RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WALL — CONTINUOUS.
The four Cimmerians land outside the walls on all fours from their 20-foot drop. They spring to their feet and take off running.

CUT TO:
EXT. THE WOODS OUTSIDE VENARIUM — MOMENTS LATER.

The Cimmerians are concealed in the brush; we can barely see them. Aquilonians on horseback go thundering by, raising vast clouds of dust. Connell makes some hand signals, and the Cimmerians fade back into the foliage.

DISSOLVE TO:
INT. VENARIUM — THE COMMANDANT’S OFFICE — DAY.
The office is a smoking, sodden ruin. The walls are only partially burned through, but the floor is littered with charred furniture and the blackened, sodden ashes of scrolls. Atrius, the Commandant, and several officers, including Pencalvus, and Grennus, are surveying the wreckage. Jord and Fergal, the two Cimmerian auxiliaries that Conan had encountered in the tavern, are standing off to one side, observing but not participating.
(Whenever the Aquilonian officers speak English, they do so with cultured British or Mid-Atlantic accents. Common soldiers speak with cockney accents.)

ATRIUS
(Shaking his head in puzzlement)
I just don’t understand! Connell, and before him his father Conn, have been trading here for almost forty years. Their visits were an annual event. And now…

GRENNUS
Well, I suppose we just can’t expect barbarians to understand the meaning of gratitude. They’re so unpredictable . . .

Every time an Aquilonian casts a slur on Cimmerians, Jord and Fergal register it with eye movements, but remain otherwise impassive.

PENCALVUS
We don’t KNOW that Connell’s band did this. Nobody saw them here before the fire.

GRENNUS
Why else would they be running away?

FERGAL
Maybe they had some sort of crazy idea that they would be blamed for it whether they did it or not.

GRENNUS
(Glaring at Fergal)
If we want your opinion, barbarian, we’ll ask for it!

Fergal studies the ceiling. Atrius makes a shushing gesture at Grennus.

PENCALVUS
Maybe we insulted them somehow. You know how touchy these savages are about their “honor.”

Fergal and Jord roll their eyes in the “Oh, spare me!” expression.

ATRIUS
At this point it doesn’t matter. No one can set fire to the Commandant’s office and go unpunished.

(Turns to Fergal and Jord.)

I’m attaching you two to Badger Company. You will lead them to Connell and his band so they can be brought to justice.

FERGAL
(Angry.)
You expect us to track Cimmerians? I have no quarrel with the Blackwater Creek tribe.

ATRIUS
(Growing angry.)

Do you think you can pick and choose which orders it pleases you to obey! You are ordered to track Connell and his band!

FERGAL
(Determined)
I don’t think so.

Atrius is almost apoplectic at this breach of discipline. But his desire to punish Fergal is warring with his knowledge that Cimmerians don’t submit meekly to discipline, and he reins in his rage.

ATRIUS
You – you – you’re discharged! Turn in your armor and equipment and get out of Venarium!

FERGAL
Fine! Where I come from, a man doesn’t have to obey the orders of fools!

Fergal spins on his heel and stalks out of the room. Atrius turns to Jord.

ATRIUS
Are you going to give me trouble?

JORD
(All innocence)
Who, me? They’re not in my tribe. Now that Fergal’s gone, you can take his salary and add it to my own.

ATRIUS
(At first speechless at the effrontery, then impatient at having to explain economics to a barbarian.)
It doesn’t work that way, Jord. You can’t extort…

JORD

No extortion. Value given for value received. You want me to track Cimmerian fugitives. There’s no one else in this fort that can do that. As well ask them to track yesterday’s breeze! But I can get them for you.

Atrius thinks for a minute.

ATRIUS
Very well. I’ll pay you a bonus equal to one month’s extra pay, provided you lead my men to Connell. But I won’t pay you in advance. I’ll hold it against your successful return. And for every day it takes you to find them, I’ll subtract one day’s pay from the bonus.

JORD
(Bewildered by this exercise in higher mathematics)
Huh?

ATRIUS
(As though speaking to a particularly slow-witted child.)
The quicker you find them, the more silver you get.

A couple of officers snicker surreptitiously at this demonstration of barbarian stupidity.

ATRIUS
Now go and get your gear, then report to Badger Company. Lieutenant Morvian will be getting their orders in a few minutes.

Jord leaves the office.

GRENNUS
Sir, do you think it was wise to let Fergal just leave without punishing him for insubordination?

ATRIUS
(Starting to write something on a piece of parchment.)
It wouldn’t have been worth the lives of half a dozen Aquilonian soldiers just to teach manners to one barbarian.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. SOMEWHERE IN THE FOREST NORTH OF VENARIUM — DAY.

The Cimmerian fugitives are sitting underneath a tree in the forest, munching on dried meat, roots and berries.

CONAN
(Through a mouthful of root.)
Won’t the Aquilonians track us?

DONNER
(Laughing scornfully.)
They can’t track us. They’re too “civilized!”

CONNELL
It’s true. They have forgotten how to track. They have forgotten many things. They’ll stumble around in the woods outside of Venarium for a couple of days, then they’ll give up.

(He pauses.)

Now, listen to me. Conan, you still have the scrolls?

CONAN
(Pulls them out of his pack.)
Yes, Father.

CONNELL
Spread them out so the others can see them. Gather ’round while I tell you what we’ve discovered.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
SAME SCENE — LATER.

Connell is rolling up the scrolls. He returns them to Conan.

CONNELL
… At this very moment Conn is trying to recruit the northern tribes to join in the attack on Venarium, and these scrolls may be indispensable for his success. Even if three of us die, the last survivor must get these scrolls to Conn. Swear it!


CONAN, DONNER & MORG
So we swear, by Crom!

Connell opens a bottle of wine and sprinkles some of it on the ground.

CONNELL
(Solemnly)
This oath is sealed to Crom.

FADE OUT:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CUT TO:
EXT. NORTHERN CIMMERIA – HIGH RIDGE VILLAGE — THE MAIN GATE — SUMMER — DUSK.

High Ridge is a heavily stockaded village near the borders of Asgard, Cimmeria and Vanaheim. The Cimmerians of High Ridge are fairer of skin than the Conn’s tribe. They decorate their armor and clothing differently, Celtic dragon motifs being most common, and they favor plain woolen kilts with rudimentary, crude plaids, but their fierce blue eyes and black hair reveal them to be undeniably Cimmerian.
CONN, Connell’s father and Conan’s grandfather, stands outside the closed gate, shouting to a suspicious guard on the parapet.

CONN
(Angry.)
Crom blast you, boy! Can’t you see I’m Cimmerian, not a Vanirman?

GUARD
(Scoffing.)
Of course you’re not, old man. But how do I know you’ve not hired yourself out to scout out our defenses for them?

CONN
(Furious.)
I don’t have time for this, boy! Tell Headman Erin that Conn of the Blackwater Creek tribe is here to see him. He knows me.

GUARD
So you say. What if you are lying?

CONN

(Nearly choking on his tongue at the accusation.)
Wha – Boy, if I’m lying Erin will probably have you try to kill me. But I MUST see him now!

The guard motions to the other guards to keep Conn covered with their bows. Conn seethes and waits.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:

EXT. VENARIUM — THE GROUND RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WALL — DAY.
Jord is walking around, stooped over and taking very small and careful steps as he scrutinizes the ground. Lieutenant Morvian, the head of Badger Company, and some of his under-officers, are watching Jord, standing where they won’t get in his way. The rest of Badger Co. may be seen at some distance, on horseback, where they won’t interfere with Jord’s work.

JORD
This is where they landed after going over the wall.

(He wanders aimlessly away from the wall, eyes glued to the ground.)

They went this way . . . they hid in these bushes here . . .

(Smirks at Morvian.)

And here’s where their tracks were obliterated by a squad of your horse-brained Aquilonian cavalry.

MORVIAN
(Exasperated)
Barbarian…

JORD
(Amused)
And here’s where I earn my bonus! No one but another Cimmerian could pick up their trail from here. So I guess I should thank your cavalry for my bonus.

(He wanders aimlessly off the road, eyes on the ground, as Morvian fumes.)

And here’s where they turned north after watching your cavalry gallop by.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
INT. VENARIUM — THE COMMANDANT’S OFFICE — DAY.
Soldiers are cleaning up and restoring order to Commandant Atrius’ office under the supervision of Grennus and Pencalvus, who are in turn being supervised by Atrius himself. The officers are giving orders to the soldiers as they carry wreckage out of the office or rearrange some of the less-damaged furniture. Suddenly a soldier enters the office.

SOLDIER
Sir, a royal courier from Tarantia…

The courier barges impatiently in after the soldier. He is an aristocratic-looking young officer in what must be a custom-tailored uniform, of fine quality but covered with road dust. He starts talking as soon as he locates Atrius.

COURIER
(Officiously)
Commandant Atrius, I bear greetings from His Royal Majesty. I am directed to, uh . . .

(For the first time, the condition of the office registers on his consciousness. He stumbles to a halt as he tries to figure out how this might affect his mission. Finally he gives up on this, decides to leave such problems to the higher-ups, and resumes his spiel, although with somewhat less assurance.)

. . . uh, I am directed to convey to you these tokens of the confidence His Majesty reposes in you.


(He opens the saddlebag he had been carrying over his shoulder, and begins pulling out goodies: a couple of parchments and an ornate collar of metal medallions, one at a time and handing them to Atrius. He appears somewhat embarrassed by the circumstances.)

This is your appointment as Royal Governor of the Province of Cimmeria. This Royal Patent confirms your elevation to Baron of Rocky Valley. And this is a Governor’s Collar of State for you to wear on ceremonial occasions. A baronial coronet is being made, which the King himself will present to you in person after the conquest of Cimmeria is complete.

(He reaches deeper into the saddlebag and begins pulling out golden torques, large open rings about 12 inches in diameter, with knobs on the open ends.)

His Majesty expects many Aquilonians will distinguish themselves during the campaign, and here are 30 knight’s torques, so you can bestow knighthoods on those soldiers who are especially valorous in the fighting.

Atrius hides his own embarrassment and accepts the goodies with aplomb.

ATRIUS
Thank you. Just leave the torques where they are. We’ll issue you a new set of saddlebags. Stay and rest overnight, and I’ll have messages for you to take back with you tomorrow. Trooper, take our guest to the visiting officers quarters.

The soldier and the courier leave.

GRENNUS
(Shamelessly sucking up)
Sir, allow me to congratulate you on these well-deserved honors!

ATRIUS

The honors may be somewhat premature. I don’t know what the Emperor would say if he knew – and I’m sure he will as soon as that courier gets back to Tarantia – that I let some barbarians set fire to my office. Still . . .

GRENNUS
You will make a proper example of them!

ATRIUS
Right! And for that I’ve got a whole company of cavalry chasing all over hither and yon. This whole operation could come apart! No, I can’t wait for the invasion force to get here! I’m going to request some early reinforcements. A legion of infantry! Fetch me some blank parchment. I’m going to draft the request now.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
INT. HIGH RIDGE VILLAGE — HEADMAN’S LODGE — SUMMER — DUSK.

ERIN, the High Ridge Headman, is an old rival of Conn. He sits next to his hearth where a small fire crackles merrily as the guard enters and ushers Conn inside. A long tube of hardened leather hangs from Conn’s belt. Erin does not turn at Conn’s entrance, but only scowls at the flames. He is not happy to see Conn.

CONN
(Formally.)
Headman Erin, I bring you greetings from Dorbha, headman of my tribe.

ERIN
(Still not looking at Conn.)
But not from Marigan, I take it.

CONN
(Shaking his head.)
Are you still nursing that old wound?

Erin holds up his right hand towards Conn. The ring finger and pinky are missing, the scarred stumps covered with a partial leather glove that leaves the remaining fingers free.


ERIN

Oh, the wound itself has healed, but it still hurts in the cold and damp. And when I think of her.

CONN
That was settled a long time ago.

ERIN
Perhaps. But if not to torment me, then why are you here?

Conn reaches into the tube at his waist. He removes an oversized arrow, its head of polished obsidian, shaft painted black and carved with intricate runes and sporting raven feathers for fletching. He tosses the ceremonial arrow onto Erin’s lap.
Erin looks down at the arrow, then up at Conn for the first time, dismay crossing his face.

CONN
To collect a debt.


FADE TO:
INT. THE HIGH RIDGE MEN’S LODGE — EVENING.

Conn is standing in the middle of the room, near the fire pit, ready to address the assembled High Ridge men. Erin sits on a tall bench at one end of the long lodge.

ERIN
This is Conn, of Blackwater Creek. He has something to say.

CONN
Thank you, Headman.

Conn turns to address the crowd of suspicious High Ridge Cimmerians. He holds aloft the Black Arrow. The men murmur uneasily at the sight.

CONN
Warriors of High Ridge, I am Conn, Conn the Slayer some call me, Conn the Smith others. I come at the behest of my tribe’s headman, Dorbha, to call on you to honor the blood-debt: The Pledge of the Black Arrow.

 


The men shift uneasily, some mutter darkly, in fear and trepidation. One calls out to Conn.

VILLAGER #1
Why, Conn of Blackwater Creek? What threatens your village so to make you call for this ancient debt? Is your tribe so weak it cannot defend itself?

CONN
This is not about my tribe alone, but about all of Cimmeria. Dorbha, acting on my advice, calls for you to send your headman and five warriors to gather in Blackwater Creek for war council. Yours is the first village I must call upon. Aquilonians threaten us from their foothold in Venarium. They –

The men of High Ridge laugh at that.

VILLAGER #2
(Openly scornful.)
You call for us to honor the Pledge over those silly city-folk in their little trading post? You would invoke the Fathers for that? HA!

VILLAGER #3
(Indignant.)
You waste our time, Conn of Blackwater Creek. Conn the Slayer? Conn the Coward, I say!

Conn has a hot retort ready, but Erin intervenes, holding up his left hand for order.

ERIN
Hold!

The crowd settles down, but anger and tension are evident just below the surface of their thoughts.

ERIN
It is not for us to decide here. The blood-debt of our ancestors is called upon. We will dishonor ourselves by not answering, even if the threat is trivial.


CONN
On my honor, on the honor of my family, it is not trivial.

The crowd mutters disdainfully at this. How much honor can a clan have if they seriously think city-folk threaten them?
Once again, Erin holds his hand up for order, but this time it is his damaged right hand.

ERIN
Know this, my tribesmen. I know this Conn of Blackwater Creek. I do not like him. It was his wife’s blade that cost me two fingers from my sword hand.

This angers the men, and several stand, ready to beat this interloper who calls on them to honor ancient pledges, and had hurt the man who now leads them.

ERIN
Aye, we have had bad blood between us. But I also know he is no coward and would not call on our honor lightly. If he says the Aquilonians at Venarium threaten even us here in High Ridge, he honestly believes it true.

The men settle down a little on hearing this.

VILLAGER #1
Aye, Headman. He may believe, but that doesn’t make it so.

ERIN
That is for the council to decide. We must honor the Pledge, or no one will honor it if we send out the Black Arrow in our own hour of need.

The men grudgingly nod assent at this.


CONN
Thank you, Headman.

ERIN
(Ignoring Conn.)
I need five men.


A few hands shoot up immediately, then a few more, then a few more rise even slower. Soon, at least 50 hands are up.

ERIN
We leave at dawn. The first five at the gate come with us. Now, go home. Gather your arms and supplies. Love your women tonight, for some may not see their husbands in this world again.

Erin stands and the men file out, leaving Conn alone in the middle of the room. Erin turns to go as the last man files out.

CONN
(To himself, but loud enough to be heard.)
So much for High Ridge hospitality.

Erin pauses, then turns back to Conn.

ERIN
If you wanted hospitality, you should have stayed home. Why did you come here, and first at that?

CONN
You said it yourself: You know me. You know I would not come here lightly, given our bad blood. The other Headmen in this area don’t know me. But they DO know you. On our way back to Blackwater Creek, we will pass several other villages. I must call on them all. Will you back me up before their assembled men and Headmen?

ERIN
(Staring at and flexing his damaged hand.)
Do you really believe the Aquilonians are a threat to us all?

CONN
Yes. Or I’d not have come here and risk opening old wounds.


ERIN
(Looks hard at Conn.)

No, you wouldn’t. Yes, I will back you up. You can sleep here tonight; someone will bring you food and drink.

Erin walks out. Conn gazes after him for a moment.

CONN
(Smiling sadly.)
Good to see you, too, old friend.

CUT TO:
EXT. NORTHERN CIMMERIA – HIGH RIDGE VILLAGE — INSIDE THE MAIN GATE — SUMMER — DAWN.

Ten warriors have assembled for the expedition southwest to Conn’s village, four of them women. The warriors are all armed and armored. AILVI, a well-muscled young woman of 16 or 17, has appointed herself the women’s representative and is locked in a bitter argument with Headman Erin and his assistant, an older warrior named Goll. Ailvi is fully armored with chain mail and a small buckler. She carries a longsword, but the hilts of the broken swords of several foes dangle from her belt.
Conn stands to one side, observing the bickering with carefully hidden amusement.

ERIN
No! That is final! You cannot go with us!

AILVI
(Keeping her cool)
You cannot stop us. Either we travel with you, or we follow on our own. Either way, we will be going to Blackwater Creek.

A pained look crosses Erin’s face. He is about to speak when Goll interrupts.

GOLL
(Livid with anger)
No, woman! Only warriors may answer the call of the Pledge of the Black Arrow! Now get you back to the kitchen and leave us to our work. Men’s work! Women are not warriors and a woman cannot do men’s work!


Ailvi’s eye’s go hard at this. She takes one step forward, drawing back a gloved fist. Goll sneers his derision and lifts his arm across his chest to deal her a backhanded slap, but the slap never lands. Ailvi has stepped inside his reach and now lays into him with several jabs to the face.
The assembled warriors cheer and urge the fighters on.
Surprised at the suddenness and power of the blows, Goll staggers back, his nose and forehead bleeding already. He takes a clumsy swipe at her, striking her mouth and forcing her to jump back for a second. Ailvi pauses and spits blood. In that moment, Goll shakes his head to clear his vision, bellows with rage and pulls a studded club – about the size of a T-ball bat – from his belt and starts swinging wildly.
Ailvi dances around, dodging the club and looking for an opening, but luck betrays her for a moment and she slips in a patch of mud and stumbles. Goll seizes the opportunity and swings at her, but Ailvi twists aside and the blow only glances off her left shoulder. Still, the blow further cuts her rhythm, and she stumbles again.
Goll steps in for the kill, but Ailvi rolls and plants a booted foot in his groin. Goll staggers, drops the club and falls to one knee in pain, his hands cupping his groin. He gasps and blinks a couple of times and groping for where the club fell, but it’s gone. He looks up and Ailvi is standing there, club in hand. She swings the club down toward Goll’s unprotected head, but he raises an arm, deflecting the blow. But Ailvi follows through with a vicious left uppercut, decking him.
A hush falls over the assembled warriors, male and female alike as Ailvi drops the club and advances on the fallen Goll. Goll scrambles backwards, reaching for his knife, but Ailvi is standing over him. She has made no move for her sword, but now reaches toward her belt. Goll blanches and Conn steps forward to intervene, but Erin gestures for him to stop.
Instead of drawing her sword, Ailvi grabs one of the heavy trophy hilts from her belt and hurls it onto Goll’s chest, winding him.

AILVI
(Still cool)
The Vanirman owner of that blade thought it mens’ work, Goll. I made WARRIOR’S work of him.

She drops another hilt on his chest.

AILVI
His shield-brother sought vengeance – and found only death.

(She gestures to the five or so other hilts remaining on her belt.)

All of these thought a “mere” woman an easy victim. Now their burning souls warm Crom’s toes.

Ailvi pulls open the collar of her mail tunic, exposing the area just above her left breast, where we see an elaborate tattoo of an axe, surrounded by runes.

AILVI
I took the warrior’s trial. Crom is my god, and I bear the warrior’s mark. Do not tell me what I can and cannot do, Goll Hardfist, lest you discover what I am truly capable of.


Ailvi steps back and turns to join the other women, but Erin steps forward and puts a hand on her shoulder.

ERIN
Very well, you and your shield-maidens may travel with us. But we have more than enough warriors here to fulfill the Pledge honorably. Why are you so adamant in coming?

AILVI
(Not turning around.)
I have no choice. I must come.

ERIN
But WHY?

AILVI
Because Cailte would have, father.

Erin goes stiff at the mention of that name, and Ailvi walks on, shaking his hand from her shoulder. Erin stares after her for a moment, then turns and helps Goll to his feet.

ERIN
Are you alright?

Goll grunts and nods an affirmative and tries to gather his dignity and breath. Erin stands back, then addresses the crowd of warriors. He singles out two of the males, Goll and the group of females.


ERIN
You three and you shield-maidens. Make ready, warriors!

He turns and addresses the guards at the gate.

ERIN
Throw open the gates! For Crom and honor!

CROWD
CROM! HONOR!

Conn and Erin jog out the gate, and the warriors follow.

FADE OUT

FADE IN:
EXT. SOMEWHERE IN THE FOREST NORTH OF VENARIUM — DAY.
This is the same clearing where we earlier saw the fugitives munching roots. Part of Badger Company is resting near one edge of the clearing. Jord, Morvian, and some of the under-officers are near the very tree where Connell and company were talking. Jord is on his knees, examining the grass minutely and even sniffing the ground.

JORD
They paused here, to rest and maybe to eat. (He sniffs.) Wine? They spilled some wine here. (Sniff) Poitainian white.

MORVIAN
(Sarcastically)
Excellent! They interrupted their flight to throw a bender! They should be easy to find now, as they stagger drunkenly through the forest, singing their raucous barbarian ballads!

Jord glares at Morvian. He has had just about all he can stand.

JORD

No. We Cimmerians have too much respect for good booze to waste it carelessly. This must have been deliberate, part of a sacred oath to Crom. Such an oath would be sealed with a sacrifice, for instance by sprinkling some wine on the earth.

MORVIAN
(Mockingly)
And what kind of barbaric oath could possibly be sacred enough to require the sacrifice of good Poitainian white?

That pushes Jord past his limit. His glare seems to ignite as he tosses restraint to the winds.

JORD
Maybe Connell promised to return and give your mother the most exciting night of her life!

Morvian and the under-officers gasp at this unexpected insult. Jord grins as he sees that he has scored.

JORD
Give you a little Cimmerian half-brother, eh?

Enraged, Morvian takes a deep breath, preparatory to doing something drastic and dangerous. Jord rises to his feet, still grinning. His hands are not near his weapons, but he is at least six inches taller than Morvian, and outweighs him by almost a hundred pounds of iron-hard muscle. Morvian, backed up by 60 cavalry troopers, is not intimidated, but he is conscious that his mission cannot succeed without Jord’s continued aid.

MORVIAN
(Growling through clenched teeth.)
Just get on with it, barbarian, if you want to earn your bonus.

(Under his breath as Jord returns to his work.)

And I’ll deal with you after we find Connell and his band.

JORD
(Disappointed and grumpy as he casts about from the tree)
They went northwest from here.

FADE OUT:


CUT TO:
SERIES OF SHOTS:

– Connell and Co. jogging through deep forest.

– Jord walking through the same forest, scrutinizing the ground. Badger Company is following him.

– Connell and Co. fording a shallow stream.

– Jord standing in the middle of the same stream, walking up and down the streambed as he examines the far side. Badger Company is drawn up on the near side of the stream, waiting for word from Jord before crossing.

– Connell & Co. sitting around a small campfire at night, eating and talking. As the camera pans back from the group, we see a shadowy, broad-shouldered figure spying on them from the woods.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:

EXT. DEEP IN THE CIMMERIAN FOREST — NIGHT.
Badger Company has made camp and is turning in. Lieutenant Morvian is discussing sentry placement with some under-officers. The troops are under noise discipline, so they are not partying, just some quiet talking and drinking by the off-duty troops. As the camera pans around, we see that some soldiers are doing sentry duty. The camera pans in on Jord, then past him to a couple of troopers who are sitting at a small campfire, sharing a wineskin.

TROOPER #2
I just don’t believe it. He squints at some grass and bushes, and spins elaborate stories about what Connell’s band is doing. And there’s nothing there! I don’t believe it for a minute. He’s just leading us around all over Cimmeria.

SARGENT

Well, these Cimmerians are uncanny woodsmen. They’re just as good at tracking as they are at hiding their tracks. It’s for certain that we wouldn’t have a chance in Zandru’s Hell of tracking them without our own tame Cimmerian.

TROOPER #2
Not so tame! Did you hear what he said to Captain Morvian yesterday?

Their conversation fades into inaudibility as the camera pans away from them and back to Jord. He is looking morose as he swigs from a wineskin. A birdcall is heard from the woods. Jord is instantly all attention. He cocks his head, frowning, then gets to his feet and glides into the woods. We see him ghosting past an inattentive sentry. Once he is well into the forest, he slows down, looking in all directions. Suddenly a brawny arm snakes out from behind a tree, wraps itself around his neck, and drags him backwards into the brush. There is a furious thrashing in the brush, then silence.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
EXT. EASTERN CIMMERIA – HILLTOP NORTH OF HELLSMOUTH VILLAGE – SUMMER – MIDNIGHT.

KOIVOINEN, a wiry old man clad in wolfskins with wavy, almost curly, white hair sits in a lotus position surrounded by black candles that burn with an eerie green light. His lips are stained with the blood of the freshly-killed infant that lays on the ground before him. The shaman’s eyes are closed and he chants to himself in low, guttural tones reminiscent of the prayer chants of Tibetan Buddhist monks. The stars above are brilliant and seem to swirl in strange patterns as Koivoinen works his seeing-spell. With a gasp, the shaman’s body stiffens as his every muscle goes taut. His legs unfold from the lotus position as he slowly levitates to about three feet off the ground, surrounded by green flames. His head and arms are thrown back and his eyes spring open. They are white-less, mirroring the swirling sky above.

KOIVOINEN
They come! The hour is at hand! MY hour is at hand!


The candles flare briefly, then the green flames sputter and die as the vision fades. Koivoinen collapses to the ground with a thud, then moans and blinks a few times. His eyes return to their true color, jade green. He is clearly not Cimmerian. The camera pulls back from his face, and we see the Hellsmouth villagers lining the ridge behind him. Their faces are slack and expressionless, for they are all under Koivoinen’s control. The shaman stands and walks towards them, carrying the corpse of the child he has killed.
A woman, UILEA, stands at the forefront of the crowd, next to OIN, the Hellsmouth headman.
Koivoinen hands the mutilated baby to her and addresses the crowd.

KOIVOINEN
(Pointing to a nearby warrior)
Urli has found the body of the missing child. It was taken by wolves and killed.

He gestures, lifting the trance from the crowd. Muttering, they blink and come to their senses. Uilea looks down at the corpse of her firstborn son and wails. Oin, her husband, is stricken with grief himself and hugs her, nearly sobbing himself. The whole village is horrified, but none seem to question, or even notice the blood that covers Koivoinen, nor the candles and sacrificial knife on the ground behind him.
URLI, a stocky warrior, looks down at his clean hands in dismay, then rubs them repeatedly on his shirt, as though trying to wipe the baby’s blood from them.
The crowd begins to disperse, heading back to the village, several women weeping, but no-one seems to wonder what they were all doing on the hilltop.
Oin, his face wracked with grief, turns to Koivoinen.

OIN
We’ve lost seven babes this summer alone, shaman, and now my own son! Why do these wolves plague us so? And why can our hunters never find them?

KOIVOINEN
(Grins and wipes the blood from his lips onto his sleeve.)
The wolf is a tricky beast, Headman Oin, always hungry and hard to catch. Often he is right under your nose, where you least expect him.

OIN
(In hushed tones, so his wife and the other villagers don’t hear.)
Have we offended Crom? Are we accursed, Koivoinen?

KOIVOINEN

No, Headman Oin, you’ve not offended Crom.

He smiles a predator’s grin as Oin leads his wife away to mourn their child.

KOIVOINEN
(To himself)
But you ARE accursed, fool. I make sure of that.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
INT. A LUXURIOUS BATHHOUSE IN TARANTIA.
Lieutenant Morvian is luxuriating in a bathtub full of hot, soapy water. Beautiful, seminude women are scrubbing his shoulders and washing his hair, and he is really enjoying it. The woman who was washing his hair takes a ewer of hot water and begins pouring it over his head as the other women giggle. As the camera zooms in on Morvian’s head, the stream of water on his head slows to an annoying drip, drip, drip. Morvian looks up, irritated.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. DEEP IN THE CIMMERIAN FOREST — THE AQUILONIAN CAMPSITE — DAWN.
Lieutenant Morvian is asleep in his bedroll. A dark liquid is drip, drip, dripping onto his head. His annoyance increases until he wakes. As the camera starts to pan back, he focuses on the source of the drips, and screams in fear and revulsion. As the camera zooms further back we see that the liquid is blood, originating from the body of a very dead Jord, without armor, hanging upside down by his ankles, which are tied to a treebranch directly over Morvian’s bedroll. Blood is drip, drip, dripping from a big gash in the corpse’s throat. Morvian scrabbles out from under the corpse on his backside, heedless of dignity, then scrambles to his feet. He is furious, scared, and angry at himself for having shown fear, as curious and fearful soldiers gather around.

MORVIAN
(Almost incoherent)
What’s that doing there? How’d it get there? Somebody cut it down!

(He grabs a rag from his gear and begins furiously scrubbing his head and face.)

And somebody get me a wet towel!

A soldier climbs the tree and cuts the rope tying the corpse’s ankles to the treebranch. The corpse falls with a squelching thud onto Morvian’s bedroll.

MORVIAN
No, not there! Aaaghh! Fools! I’m surrounded by idiots! Where are the sentries who were supposed to be on duty? I want them here, right now!

Soldiers are running confusedly in all directions as they try to obey Morvian’s various orders. Someone hands him a wet towel and he begins wiping his face and head.

We overhear some of the troopers talking to each other.

TROOPER #2
So, how do we track the Cimmerians now?

SARGENT
We don’t. Without the scout we’re blind.

TROOPER#2
Mitra! Can we even find our way home?

SARGENT
Oh, we’ll be able to follow our own back-trail, I’m sure. After all, 60 horses leave quite a trail. It ain’t exactly bread crumbs, but . . .

TROOPER #3
How’d they DO that? Hung him up right over the Captain’s bedroll without waking anybody?

TROOPER #4
And him right in the center of camp!

TROOPER #3
(Fearful)
Is this going to be like one of those stories where a demon follows a group of men and picks them off one at a time?

SARGENT
(Tense)

Don’t talk like that! You might panic some of the recruits.

One of Morvian’s sub-officers marches up to the captain. His face and attitude bespeak the grim dread of someone performing a hated, but necessary, duty.

SUB-OFFICER
Sir! I’ve determined who was standing sentry duty when this atrocity occurred. They were Hannus and Pilentes of Troop One, Rocus and Tylerus of Troop Two, and Nonnes and Photorus of Troop Three.

MORVIAN
Well? Where are they?

SUB-OFFICER
Sir, all six of them were found dead, with their necks broken.

For a moment, there is total silence from everyone who is close enough to have heard this news. Then everyone begins talking at once. Morvian is shaking his head, rubbing his eyes with his hands. His spirit is broken.

MORVIAN
We have to go back. We have to go home. And I have to report my failure to the Commandant. We have to go back.

(He stares at his hands, then shakes his head.)

No. NO! I can’t go back, not like this. My honor – and the honor of the Aquilonian Empire – deMAND

(Morvian’s officers stare at him as he works himself up into a towering rage.)

that we continue on. The losses are still at an acceptable level.

SUB-OFFICER
But sir, we have to go back! We’ll never catch them now.

MORVIAN

(Snarling)
We’ll catch them or die trying! I won’t allow those goat-sucking savages to mock me – to mock the Empire – this way. I won’t! I will catch them, and I will bring their heads back to Commandant Atrius!

The camera zooms out from Morvian and his immediate companions, revealing all of Badger Company talking and arguing with each other, some yelling and gesticulating.

MORVIAN
And where the hell is my helmet? Somebody find my damned helmet!

The camera continues to pan away from the soldiers, revealing the entire camp to be a scene of anger, fear, and confusion. As the camera continues to recede, the camp shrinks in the distance, and the sound of talking and yelling fades away. Finally, the camera pans back far enough to reveal, standing in the foreground and watching the excitement, five Cimmerians. The fifth man is Fergal, wearing Jord’s armor.

FERGAL
(Ironically)
Look at that! Who’d have thought to ever see Aquilonians express such grief over the death of a Cimmerian?
(Laughs bitterly)

CONNELL
Thanks again for warning us. It never occurred to me that they would send a Cimmerian tracker after us. We weren’t making the sort of effort to hide our trail that would have deceived a Cimmerian, we were just trying to move as fast as possible

FERGAL
You were moving fast, all right. The only way I caught up with you was to go without sleep. No one but a Cimmerian could have tracked you, and they

(indicating the Aquilonians with a toss of his head)


would never have caught you at the rate they were traveling!

CONNELL
Not until we got home. Then they would have caught up with us. That’s what you prevented. You want to come with us? I guarantee the hospitality of the Blackwater Creek Tribe!

FERGAL
Well, I’d like to take you up on that, but after looking at those parchments of yours, I think I’d better head back to my own tribe, the Blasted Pines.

CONNELL
I’ll send word to Blasted Pines when the northern tribes are ready to move.

FERGAL
We’ll be waiting.

The camera pans to Conan, Morg, and Donner, who are having a conversation of their own. Morg is displaying an elaborately decorated helmet to Conan and Donner. It is a large barbute, all of gleaming steel and covered with an ornate floral design in polished brass.

MORG
Look what I lifted from their captain’s gear before we left their camp!

CONAN
I never saw a helmet like that before. Could I look at it?

Morg passes the helmet to Conan, who begins examining it.

DONNER
(Munching on a sausage.)
That’s a parade helm. Only worn on ceremonial occasions. Why would he have brought a parade helm with him when he was chasing us?


MORG

Probably intended to wear it on his triumphal return to Venarium with us as prisoners.

Conan is holding the helmet upside-down, looking at the lower edge, so he can estimate the thickness of the metal. It appears quite thin. He places the palms of both hands against the cheekplates of the helm and squeezes, compressing it with the power of his pectoral muscles. The metal flexes inward, then springs back when he releases the pressure.

CONAN
Uh, Morg…

MORG
Hey, what are you doing to my helmet? Give it back!

He snatches it away from Conan and inspects it for damage.

CONAN
It seems kind of flimsy…

MORG
What do you mean, flimsy? Aquilonians don’t make flimsy stuff!

He dons the helmet, and strikes a heroic pose. In truth he looks quite dashing and impressive in the helmet.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
SERIES OF SHOTS:

– Conn and the High Ridge warriors jogging through the
forested hills of Cimmeria.

– Conn holding aloft the Black Arrow in front of the
Men’s Council at another village, Erin, Gol and Ailvi
standing behind him in support.

– The warriors jogging through yet more forested hills,
this time their band larger by five.

– Another Men’s Council, a man shouting and shaking his
fist at Conn. The man turns to Erin and says something,
pointing angrily at Conn. Erin merely nods and the man
settles down, clearly surprised at Erin’s support of
Conn.

– More jogging.

– A bird’s-eye shot of the warriors crossing a clear hilltop reveals there are at least 50 Cimmerians now.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARADE GROUND — DAY.
Commandant Atrius and a group of his officers are standing in the foreground, reviewing the newly arrived regiment of Gunderland pikemen. 180 Gundermen, in gleaming chain-and-plate half armor, stand at rigid attention in precise geometric array, their 18-foot pikes all sloped at one precisely identical angle, their overlapping scutums (large rectangular shields) resembling the scales of a giant reptile. At the corners of the formation stand halberdiers, without shields, presenting their nine-foot halberds, held two-handed, at the same angle as the pikes. The long, narrow pikepoints and the wickedly edged and spiked halberd heads glitter in the sun. The banner bearers and regimental officers stand proudly in front of their men.

PENCALVUS
Didn’t you ask for a legion, Sir?

ATRIUS
I had to request a legion to get a whole regiment. If I really wanted a legion, I would have had to ask for three legions. But if I had asked for three legions, ahead of the actual invasion, they wouldn’t have taken me seriously. They would have questioned my competence. No, I’m afraid a regiment is the most I could expect ahead of the actual invasion.

REGIMENTAL COMMANDER
(Attenuated by distance)
Third Gunderland Pikes: Presennnnt PIKES!

REGIMENTAL OFFICERS
(Echoing their commander)
Unicorn Companyyyy…
Elk Companyyyy…
Eland Companyyyy…

PRESENNNNT PIKES!!!

With a synchronized clatter and thud, in perfect coordination, the pikemen advance their pikes to a horizontal position, as if threatening a foe, and the halberdiers spin their halberds through a 360 degree vertical moulinet, then the pikes and halberds snap back to a perfect vertical orientation.

Atrius and his officers are favorably impressed.

ATRIUS
As an incentive, they’ll be permanently stationed here, and when they retire, they’ll receive land grants.

(He takes a big breath and sighs.)

My only regret is that if I had gotten a whole combined-arms legion, it would have included a regiment of Bossonian archers. I’ve had a bad feeling ever since that bastard Connell set fire to my office, and an extra regiment of archers manning these walls would really make me feel a lot better.

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
EXT. EASTERN CIMMERIA – HILLS SOUTH OF HIGH RIDGE, A HALF-DAYS MARCH TO HELLSMOUTH VILLAGE – WARRIORS’ CAMP – SUMMER – EVENING.

Conn and the warriors have stopped for the night beside a small stream. Cook fires are burning merrily while the men make camp and prepare their evening meals. One fire – that of the shield maidens – is apart from the others, but visible from the leaders’ fire. Erin watches his daughter Ailvi with a resigned look while Conn de-feathers a brace of game hens he bagged earlier on the trail.


CUT TO:
EXT. EASTERN CIMMERIA – HILLS SOUTH OF HIGH RIDGE – WARRIORS’ CAMP – SUMMER – LATER SAME EVENING.

It is a typical evening in a Cimmerian war-party camp. In the background, we can here warriors chatting, bragging, joking and arguing. Someone has brought some wine, and is singing drunkenly. Conn and Erin sit at the fire, chewing on bones quietly. Unlike the other warriors, they do not make small talk. A small pot sits in the embers of their fire: water is being heated for bark tea.
The clear notes of a harp drift from the shield maidens’ camp, then a woman’s voice lifts in song. It is a slow, sad tune, full of sadness, loss and death. Erin stiffens at the sound, as though in pain. The singer is Ailvi.
Conn looks quizzically at Erin. Erin catches his eye and grimaces.

ERIN
(Petulantly)
What?

CONN
(Trying to draw Erin out.)
She called you “father.”

Erin glares at Conn.

ERIN
What of it?

Conn sighs.
CONN
Erin, we used to be friends. I have no argument with you anymore, nor does Marigan.

(Looks meaningfully at Erin’s maimed hand.)

Those debts were paid long ago, and perhaps too harshly.

ERIN
(Sighs, massages his damaged hand.)
I never expected to see you again. I have been rude, I know. My anger is not with you or Marigan, but myself.

Erin pauses and stirs some shredded bark into the boiling water. Conn waits patiently.

ERIN
(Not looking at Conn.)
All was not well with me when you showed up at my door, Conn. My wife, Sive, died a year ago.

CONN

The Vanir?

ERIN
(Shakes his head.)
The wasting disease was in her womb, the healer said. There was nothing to be done but hold her hand as she died.

Erin sighs and stirs the pot a little more and pulls it from the coals to let the tea steep and cool.

ERIN
I wish it had been the Vanir. It would have been quicker, and I’d have someone to strike back against. But how can you take vengeance on a disease?

CONN
That is a heavy burden.

ERIN
(Smiles ruefully.)
Would that it was all I bear. Ailvi, you’ve seen her. She’s been like this for years. Her heart is frozen, even to me. Sive was the only one who could break through the ice, draw her into other things than battle. Now . . .

CONN
She mentioned someone named Cailte?

Erin pauses, staring at the dying flames.

ERIN
My son. Cailte was my son. We’d tried for so long to have children, Sive and me, but her womb only quickened three times in all those years. The first died in his crib before his second year, the second never saw the light of day. Sive was nearly crushed.

Conn sighs. Death is the constant companion of all in the Hyborean age.

ERIN

I know she tried to hide it from me, but I could tell. For fifteen years, I think we both gave up on ever having children, when the gods smiled on Sive. Cailte was a beautiful boy, all the things men want in a son: Smart, fierce in battle, gentle in the home. Strong, too, but not a braggart or bully. He was a joy. And then, six years later, we were blessed again when Ailvi came to us. For ten years our home was happy beyond anything I’d ever known. Ailvi and Cailte were inseparable. She idolized him, and he loved her, too. Taught her how to hunt, how to use weapons. He was so proud to be her big brother . . .

CONN
Was?

ERIN
(Hate rising at the memory)
He was 16, already man for a year, out hunting alone. Ailvi followed.

CUT TO:
FLASHBACK:
EXT. NORTHERN CIMMERIA – HILLS SOUTH OF HIGH RIDGE – SUMMER – DAY.

A young Ailvi, about ten, steals through the forest, a toy bow in hand. She sneaks up behind some underbrush and peeks through. In a clearing is CAILTE, a handsome Cimmerian youth, clad in only a loose kilt and boots. He bears a short sword and a long hunting spear. He squats to inspect a wild boar’s tracks, but glances with a smirk over his shoulder at Ailvi’s hiding spot. He knows she’s there, but he doesn’t mind. He turns his mind back to the tracks, and trots off in pursuit of pork chops.
Ailvi watches him leave, then trots out to inspect the tracks like her big brother.

She takes longer to inspect the tracks than Cailte did, and when she stands, her head is clear above the long grass of the clearing.

ERIN (V.O)
A group of Vanir was out hunting as well, and caught her.


Across the clearing, a Vanirman appears. He sees Ailvi, whose back is to him. She hasn’t heard him yet, and he sprints in pursuit. She hears the stomp of his boots and the clatter of his armor, and turns to flee, but trips over her toy bow.
She struggles to rise and flee, but the Vanirman is there, hauling her roughly to her feet, twisting her arm painfully. Other Vanir step out of the woods to examine their captive.

ERIN (V.O.)
She was too young for rape, even for the Vanir, so they decided to make her a slave.

The Vanir argue amongst themselves over the girl, who struggles and yells defiance and for her brother.

ERIN (V.O.)
Cailte heard her screams, and came to her rescue, as any brother would.

Cailte, who has spotted the wild boar, is lurking in the bushes, making ready to spear the beast, when the boar is spooked by Ailvi’s cries. Cailte eyes go wide in fear as he realizes what the yells mean. He runs back to the clearing, and bursts from the forest just as one of the Vanir, annoyed by Ailvi’s cries, brutally backhands her across the mouth, stunning her. Cailte is enraged and charges.

ERIN (V.O)
There were eight of them, but that didn’t stop Cailte. He tore into them, killing six and driving off the last two.

Cailte sprints across the clearing and hurls his hunting spear, killing one of the Vanir. As he goes down, four of the remaining warriors charge him as three hang back to guard the still stunned Ailvi. Cailte reaches the first Vanirman, who is swinging a massive two-handed sword at him. Cailte ducks under the blow, comes up inside the Vanirman’s reach and rams his short sword up through the Vanirman’s jaw and into his brain. As the first Vanirman goes down, Cailte draws his hunting knife and hurls it at the second, who is closing with a longsword. The knife flies true, and strikes the Vanirman squarely in his chest, piercing his heart. The second Vanirman goes down, but twists as he does, and so strikes a glancing blow on the back of Cailte’s thigh as the youth leaps past him. Cailte stumbles from the blow, but rolls with the fall, coming up in front of the third Vanirman.

The third Vanirman has just seen three of his friends die at the hands of this Cimmerian boy and is mad with rage. He launches a flurry of blows at Cailte with his sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. Cailte dodges and twists, looking for an opening. The fourth Vanirman has closed by this time, and gets behind Cailte with an axe. The fourth Vanirman swings to decapitate just as Cailte’s injured leg gives. The third Vanirman jumps in to gut Cailte with his dagger as Cailte drops, but loses his head to the fourth Vanirman’s axe. He drops his weapons and dies.
A little stunned by this gaffe, the fourth Vanirman stares as the headless corpse of his friend drops. Cailte rolls to one side, avoiding the body and grabbing the fallen dagger and hamstringing the fourth Vanirman.
The fourth Vanirman drops, screaming as his now useless legs fold under him. Cailte gets to his feet, picks up the third Vanirman’s longsword and limps towards the remaining three Vanir, dropping the dagger.
Two of the remaining Vanir look at each other in amazement, then charge, swords raised high. Cailte blocks the first blow, dodges one from the other Vanirman, then swings in return.
Their blades clash again and again, and blood drains relentlessly down Cailte’s leg. Cailte is visibly tiring and weakening. The fifth Vanirman swings low. Cailte barely deflects the blow, but on the heels of it is one from the sixth Vanirman, which snaps Cailte’s sword and slides between his ribs. The fifth Vanirman steps back and waits for Cailte to go down, but Cailte barely acknowledges the wound. He steps forward and smashes the pommel of his broken sword into the fifth Vanirman’s nose then spins and lodges the broken blade in the throat of the sixth warrior. The fifth Vanirman drops his sword and stumbles off into the forest, his face bleeding profusely. The sixth Vanirman falls.
Cailte bends and picks up a sword. He stumbles a bit, and has gone deathly pale, but turns anyway to face the remaining Vanirman.
The eighth Vanirman looks at his fallen comrades, then the Cimmerian specter of death that is advancing on him, then the child all this fighting was over.
She isn’t worth it.
The final Vanirman drops Ailvi’s arm and flees into the woods after his friend with the broken face.
Seeing this, Cailte lowers his sword and smiles at his sister. Ailvi runs towards him.
The fourth Vanirman, unable to walk or even stand, picks up a fallen dagger and hurls it.
Cailte’s smile turns into a grimace as Ailvi reaches him. He turns, falling, and Ailvi sees the hilt of the dagger protruding from his back, just under the left shoulder blade. Ailvi screams as Cailte falls at her feet.

She kneels by him to hold him, tears starting to run down her face. She puts her hand on the knife protruding from Cailti’s back, but looks up, and her eyes fall on the Vanirman who just killed her brother. The Vanirman, his face clenched in a grimace of pain and hate, unable to climb to his feet, is hobbling on his hands and knees towards one of the loose weapons, clearly intending to pick it up and complete his slaughter of the children of Erin.
Aivi’s face congeals into a mask of hatred, and she rises to her feet. Still grasping in her right hand the knife that killed her brother, she pulls it from his back as she straightens, then begins walking toward the Vanirman. The latter, seeing that he won’t be able to reach the weapon he was crawling toward before Ailvi reaches him, straightens up to kneel erect on his knees, and spreads his arms in a wrestler’s stance. He grins evilly, anticipating ripping the silly girl apart with his bare hands, and makes beckoning gestures with his fingers.
Angry determination joins hatred on Ailvi’s face as she speeds up her walk, then converts it to a trot. Just before she comes within range of his long arms, she skips sideways, to her right, then pirouettes clockwise, so light-footedly it almost seems like a dance step. As she momentarily passes within range of his arms, she is already passing him on his left, and he cannot easily turn to grab her. Her face bears the exalted expression of a singer or dancer executing a particularly difficult and beautiful passage. Her right hand, bearing the knife, licks out for a brief instant, hardly seeming to touch him as she passes behind him. But blood suddenly spurts from his neck.
He clamps his hand to the wound, but blood continues spurting between his fingers. Painfully, he turns on his knees to face the girl who has just killed him.

CUT TO:
Ailvi, out of range of any possible dying lunge from the crippled Vanirman, is standing crouched forward glaring at him, watching him with hateful avidity, greedily drinking in every instant of his death, savoring it, committing it to memory so she can savor it again at her leisure.

CUT TO:
The Vanirman, staring in horror back at Ailvi, is excruciatingly aware of his situation: ignominiously slain by a slip of a girl, who is enjoying his death as high entertainment. Then his face goes slack, his eyes glaze and roll up, and he topples to the ground.

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT.

The “high” fades from Ailvi’s face, to be replaced by anger and disgust. She sinks to her knees, picks up a rock, and begins banging it against the knife that killed her brother. After some hard work, she succeeds in breaking the blade. She rises to her feet, contemptuously tosses the broken blade onto the corpse of the Vanirman, and drops the hilt into her belt pouch as she trudges back to her brother’s body. Again she kneels by Cailti, but her cheeks are dry, her face is empty rather than grief-stricken. All is ashes.


END OF FLASHBACK

CUT TO:
EXT. NORTHEASTERN CIMMERIA – HILLS SOUTH OF HIGH RIDGE – WARRIORS’ CAMP – SUMMER – EVENING – CONTINUOUS.

ERIN
We found Cailte’s body the next day, but Ailvi was missing. We feared she had been taken as a slave, as we later learned the Vanir had intended.

Conn is appalled. Death and war are common in Cimmeria, but such a thing to happen to a little girl is horrible.

ERIN
Two days later, she came home, covered in blood and carrying a sword. She told us everything. How she’d held Cailte as he died, then killed the crippled Vanirman as he tried to crawl away. How she cut his throat. Then pulled Cailte’s short sword from the head of the first Vanirman and hunted the other two down, gutting each and leaving them to die slowly.

CONN
Crom’s blood!

ERIN
She’s been like this ever since. Cailte may have saved her from the Vanir, but in the end, he failed. When he died, Crom’s frost fell on her heart. Now only the heat of battle thaws it, and that less and less each time. Sive was the only one who could reach through the ice, to the place where my little girl still lived. And now she’s gone, and the ice claims my daughter.


They sit silently for a moment as Erin pulls two wooden cups from his pack and pours tea into them.

ERIN
So when you showed up at my doorstep, all those memories came back as well, and threw their weight on my already grieving heart, I, well, I was not hospitable.

CONN
I’m surprised you didn’t kill me.

Erin shakes his head.

ERIN
I couldn’t, much as I wanted to strike out at someone, anyone. Conn . . . I cannot face this life alone, without my son, my wife, and this ice statue who was once my daughter . . .

CONN
What of your people, your men?

ERIN
They respect me, some fear my ill fortune, but on the whole, they do not like me. I am a good leader, but I have never been completely accepted by the High Ridge tribe. Except by Sive, and now . . .

Erin looks at Conn, his face completely controlled.

ERIN
Is there still bad blood between us, Conn? We’ll visit Hellsmouth village tomorrow, then the holdings of the Fieldstone Clans, then your village in another week . . . Does Marigan hate me still?

CONN
(Sighs.)
That was long ago. And I don’t think Marigan ever really hated you. I even think she missed you, once the anger wore off. Mind you, that took a few years, but . . .

 

ERIN
Heh! That sounds like Marigan.


He looks at his hand for a moment.

ERIN
You know, I think she actually did me a favor that night.

CONN
What do you mean?

ERIN
(Grins)
I learned a few things: I’m not Crom’s gift to women, and I’m a real ass when I’m in my cups.

CONN
Ha! I could have told you either of those!

ERIN
You did, several times, I believe. But I didn’t learn the truth behind your words. It cost me two fingers to earn that wisdom.

CONN
And?

ERIN
(Imitating a younger Marigan)
And to keep my hands to myself and stay out of the ale-pot!

The conversation pauses as they both sip their tea.

ERIN
That’s why we’re drinking tea. Because I don’t like myself when I’m drunk. And it’s too easy to drink too much.

CONN
You’ve grown wise, my friend.

ERIN
Friend. I think I’d like that. Friends!

CONN
Aye!


With that they clack their wooden cups of tea together in a toast.


CUT TO:
INT. EASTERN CIMMERIA – HELLSMOUTH VILLAGE — INSIDE THE MENS’ LODGE – SUMMER — EVENING.

Oin, the Hellsmouth headman, and the Hellsmouth men sit around the central firepit of the lodge. They are oddly quiet and orderly for Cimmerians: There is no boasting, no clamor of voices for Oin to silence, indeed, the men don’t seem very curious of Conn and the High Ridge warriors.
Conn and Erin stand across the pit from Oin, addressing the men. Koivoinen lurks in the shadows behind Oin, watching the visitors. Erin spots Koivoinen, and notes his non-Cimmerian heritage with a start. Erin looks quickly about for other foreigners, and Koivoinen scowls. There are no other foreigners, but when Erin looks back at Koivoinen, the shaman has changed. His almost-curly hair is straight black, shot through with streaks of white, and his eyes are now a Cimmerian ice-blue. Puzzled, Erin studies the shaman for a moment longer, but now Conn is speaking.

CONN
Men of Hellsmouth, I bring you greetings from Blackwater Creek Village. Greetings and this –

Conn reaches into the tube at his waist and brings out the Black Arrow. The crowd mutters to itself, shocked, as the men of other villages have, but there is something muted about their reaction. Conn and Erin note this and exchange a glance. Conn opens his mouth to continue, but Oin interrupts.

OIN
(In a friendly, almost charming tone.)
It’s those damned Aquilonians at Venarium, isn’t it?

CONN
(A little surprised.)
Ah, yes. We think they –

OIN
(Interrupting again, still a little too friendly.)
Yes, I’m surprised no-one has done anything before. But the Arrow is whole, are we not at war with them yet?

CONN
No, my headman, Dorbha, is calling for council first to –

OIN
(Interrupting yet again.)
Wise, very wise. Well, I don’t think we need to hear any more. I’ll need four warriors.

Four warriors immediately stand.

ERIN
Headman Oin, the Pledge calls for FIVE warriors to accompany the headman from each tribe for council.

OIN
I know what the Pledge calls for. There will be five there. Now, you and your men may bed down here. It is warm and dry, and some maidens will bring you food shortly.

Conn and Erin exchange another glance as the warriors file out. There is something very strange going on, but neither wants to discuss it here.


CUT TO:
EXT. EASTERN CIMMERIA – HELLSMOUTH VILLAGE — INSIDE THE MAIN GATE — SUMMER — DAWN.

Conn, Erin and the High Ridge warriors wait while Oin and the other Hellsmouth villagers see them off. Ailvi is clearly uncomfortable and anxious to leave.

CONN
We’d be honored by your company, Headman Oin, but we have a few more villages to visit before we return to my village for the council.

Oin nods, smiling ruefully. He’s still just a little too disarming, a little too eager to please them and set them at ease.

OIN

That’s quite alright. My men and I have a few things to take care of before we can leave anyway. We will meet you in Blackwater Creek Village in a week, then?

CONN
Yes, all the headmen should be have arrived by then.

OIN
Well, I’m sure you’re anxious to be off. Let’s get those Aquilonian bastards, eh?

CONN
Um, aye. See you in a week, Headman.

Ailvi has had enough. She turns with a derisive snort and stomps out the gate. Conn and Erin nod to Oin and follow.
As they disappear into the woods, Conn looks back over his shoulder. Oin is still standing there, waving in a most friendly, most un-Cimmerian way. Soon the Cimmerians are lost in a sea of green. As they tromp down the twisting trail at a steady jog, Ailvi drifts back from the head of the column to have word with her father.

AILVI
I did not like that place. There is a smell there, as though something foul has been disturbed.

CONN
I noticed it too, lass.

Ailvi bristles a bit at being called “lass,” but says nothing.

AILVI
They did not act as they should, either. They were too . . . friendly. Too ready to join your cause, Conn of Blackwater Creek village.

ERIN
I’d heard some strange rumors about that clan, old wives’ tales mostly, but now I wonder.

CONN

Old wives sometimes let on more than we know in their tales, old friend. What have you heard?

ERIN
We had good relations with them until a few years ago, but then their headman, Colin, was killed by a wolf, maybe three years ago.

CONN
A wolf?

ERIN
Aye, there’s something odd about it, though. Colin was a mighty warrior, and a good leader of men, but he died in his bed, his throat torn out.

CONN
How many others did the pack kill?

ERIN
Now, that is the strange part: he was the only one. No one raised alarm, nor were any wolves killed. It’s as though a lone wolf snuck into the village, killed Colin, then snuck back out.

CONN
(Puzzled)
Crom! And Oin, he’s the new headman?

ERIN
(Snorts.)
Son of Brion the hunter. His father was a good man, but Oin is weak of spirit and suspicious, easily cowed – or at least he used to be. Never thought much of him, can’t understand why he was chosen to lead.

AILVI
He will bear watching, then, at council.

With that, Ailvi steps up her pace and heads towards the front of the column.


ERIN

It’s odd, all right.

CONN
The Hellsmouth clansmen?

ERIN
Aye, but more so my daughter. Since you came with the Black Arrow, she’s spoken to me more than she had in the last two years.

CONN
Maybe this is what she needed: To get away from the bad memories your village holds of the deaths of Sive and Cailte.

ERIN
Maybe. Whether the Aquilonians are the threat you believe them to be or not, if your calling forth the Pledge of the Black Arrow can give me my daughter back, then I’ll have much to thank you for, my friend. More than you can ever know.

They jog on through the dark Cimmerian forest in thoughtful silence.

FADE OUT

FADE IN
EXT: CIMMERIA – NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS – Blackwater CREEK VILLAGE – SUMMER – NOON.

Conn and the Northeastern Cimmerian headmen and warriors are walking through the gates in disorganized clumps. Many of the warriors are rubbernecking and gawking at how things are different here from their own villages. The male warriors leer at the women, and the female warriors leer at the men; and the leer-ees often leer back. Some of Conan’s tribesmen and women are anxious, and regard the visiting warriors and headmen as rivals and threats. Glares are exchanged, but no harsh words or blows are exchanged – yet.
The headmen – Erin, FITHEL, LUGAID the Bald, MADAN Hammerhand, AED and AEBBIN – are all together, following Conn towards the Men’s Lodge, where DORBHA, the Blackwater Creek headman, stands waiting. A group of ten other headmen are grouped behind him, sizing up the Northeastern headmen.

DORBHA
Greetings, headmen and warriors of Cimmeria. I thank you for coming.

FITHEL
(Intoning)
Greetings, Dorbha of Blackwater Creek. We have come in answer to the Call of the Black Arrow. I pray you did not issue this call lightly.

DORBHA
(Ignoring the near accusation.)
We have much to discuss, but first –

(Gestures to a small group of Blackwater Creek tribesmen.)

– my kinsmen here will show you and your men to your quarters, where you will be given wine and ale to clean the dust from your throats. We will meet back here for the evening meal and begin our deliberations. In the meantime, be welcome with full hospitality, fellow Sons of Crom.

The headmen nod approval at Dorbha’s hospitality, and each – except Erin, who stays with Conn – pairs off with one of the Blackwater Creek villagers, who lead them away.

CONN
Come, Erin. You’ll stay with me and Marigan.

ERIN
(Uncomfortable.)
Is that wise, Conn? What if –

CONN
What if. If she still holds to her grudge, then we’ll find someplace else for you to stay.

ERIN
But –

CONN

But nothing. If there’s going to be trouble, we might as well dive right into it.

ERIN
Ha! You haven’t changed a lick, Conn. Facing Marigan again won’t be as hard as that time we crossed paths with that mother cave bear!

Conn looks askance at Erin.

ERIN
Well, maybe the bear was a LITTLE less dangerous.

CONN
Believe me, I know. I married her.

ERIN AND CONN
(In unison)
Because the bear already had a mate!

Laughing, they head off to Conn’s smithy. Ailvi dismisses her shield maidens and, with a curious look on her face, follows Conn and Erin. Noises of a fistfight breaking out and headmen trying to quell the altercation drift in from off-screen.

CUT TO:
INT: CIMMERIA – Blackwater CREEK VILLAGE – CONN’S SMITHY – SUMMER – EARLY EVENING.

The interior of the smithy is as seen in BIRTH, stock set. Conn sticks his head in through the door to the smithy, casting a cautious eye about. Sounds of someone clattering around come from an off-screen room.

CONN
(Pulling Erin inside. Whispering)
Wait here.

Ailvi stands in the doorway just behind her father, her curious expression juxtaposing his uncomfortable demeanor.

ERIN
No, maybe I ought to stay somewhere else, Conn.

AILVI

(Startling her father, who didn’t realize she’d followed.)
No, father, I want to meet the woman who chased you out of this village.

Conn and Erin exchange glances, and Erin is just about to speak when Marigan walks into the room, her arms full of furs. Picking her way through the smithy, she doesn’t notice who is there at first.

MARIGAN
(Distracted)
Brigidda, is that you? I need your help, Conn will be back any moment and . . .

Marigan looks up, notices Conn and his guests, but doesn’t recognize Erin. A wry smile crosses her face.

MARIGAN
Speak of the devil.

She and Conn both break into grins as he steps forward to give her a passionate kiss and hug her around the furs. They break apart, clearly having missed each other dearly, and Conn steps back, a mischievous look in his eye. She catches it, and raises an eyebrow at him.

MARIGAN
All right, you old pirate, I recognize that look. What are you up to?

CONN
Nothing! Here, these are our guests –

Marigan gives him one last suspicious look and steps forward to greet Erin and Ailvi.

CONN (CONT’D.)
– from High Ridge. This is Ailvi, and her father –

Marigan recognizes Erin, drops her load of furs and leaps into his arms with a shriek of joy. Erin isn’t sure of her intentions for a moment and cringes, but her laughs, sisterly hugs and pecks on the cheeks convince him. Years of care drop from his face as he roars with laughter and good cheer, twirling and dancing with his old friend around the smithy. Conn joins in the laughter, glad that the reunion is going so well.

Ailvi blinks. She hasn’t seen her father like this since before her brother died. Slowly, a small smile cracks her face, and a chuckle escapes her lips.

FADE OUT

FADE IN:
EXT: CIMMERIA – NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS – A CLEARING OUTSIDE Blackwater CREEK VILLAGE – SUMMER – EVENING.

The headmen and warriors of the neighboring Cimmerian tribes sit around the remains of a large firepit, where their earlier dinner had been cooked. The Blackwater Creek men and a few female warriors stand behind Dorbha, who is answering questions from the crowd of some 100 warriors and headmen, mostly hostile to the idea of the threat of Aquilonians at Venarium.

DORBHA
– and others have had worse run-ins with them. Donall, here, of Rocky Valley, found a half-dozen of them hunting on Rocky Valley land –

DONALL
Aye, and when I told them they were poaching, they said it was EMPTY land, as though the Rocky Valley clan didn’t even exist!

MADAN
Bah! What are six archers to the Clans of Cimmeria? They pose no threat.

DORBHA
Six archers alone, no, but more and more Aquilonians move into Venarium each year, hungry for our trees for timber. Hungry for the pelts we sell them. Where will their hunger end? Ten years ago Venarium was little more than five small cabins, a wall and a well. Now it is larger than some of your own clanhomes!

The crowd murmurs uneasily at this thought.

LUGAID

Madan is right, we’ve no reason to suspect they want more than to trade with us. Are we cowards, then, to fear these soft cityfolk? Are YOU a coward, Donall of Rocky Valley?

The crowd murmurs even louder at this, and a few warriors shout in agreement.

DONALL
(Bridles at the near accusation.)
No, and I’m no fool, either, unlike –

Suddenly there is a disturbance at the edge of the council circle as Connell, Conan and their companions burst run up, panting. Morg is wearing his new helmet. Conan and Donner seem faintly embarrassed to be with him.

CONNELL
(Trying desperately to catch his breath.)
Hold!

The assembled warriors react with indignant alarm.

MADAN
Who is this? What is this interruption?

Dorbha gestures for everyone to settle down.

DORBHA
This is Connell, son of Conn; Conan, Connell’s son, and Morg, son of Padruig the Elder. They have been spying in Venarium on my orders.

WARRIOR 1
Spying? The work of sneaks and cowards!

WARRIOR 2
(Pointing at Morg.)
And what in the seven hells is that thing on his head?

Dorbha glares at Morg, who can’t see him because of the cheekplates on the helmet. Conan catches the look, reaches out and pulls the helmet directly off Morg’s head. The indignant expression leaves Morg’s face immediately when he sees Dorbha pointing an angry finger at him.


LUGAID

Is this what the men of Blackwater Creek have fallen to, skulking like thieves? Have you not –

ERIN
Do you sound a war horn when stalking an elk, Lugaid? Or tell the Vanirmen how many warriors you’ll be sending against them and on which day? Knowledge of your enemy is as much a weapon as a sword, Lugaid of Fell Hollow!


MADAN
But the Aquilonians are not our enemies!

Conan steps forward with a dangerous glint in his eye.

CONAN
They are, Headman. I have seen with my own eyes their foul plan, and they must be stopped. Now. As you will soon see.

LUGAID
(Contemptuous)
What is this boy doing here, in a meeting of warriors?

Conan bridles at the slur on his manhood and, knotting one huge fist, takes a step toward Lugaid.

CONNELL
My son is a man, and a blooded warrior with more kills than you have missing hairs, Lugaid the Bald!

AILVI
Men! Always fight each other first, enemies second – if they remember!

DORBHA
The shieldmaiden is right. Let us at least hear what they have learned before we let this council break down to trading blows.

Lugaid starts to say something nasty back to Dorbha, but is drowned out by the others voicing approval. Lugaid and Madan exchange a glance, then reluctantly give in.

MADAN
Very well, but I don’t see what words they could speak to move me to take warriors away from my clanhome to attack a bunch of merchants.

CONNELL
(Glowering)
We have more than words, Madan Hammerhand, –

He reaches into his pack and removes the map stolen from Venarium.

CONNELL – CONT’D
– we have proof!

Connell throws the map at Madan’s feet where it unfurls, face up.

MADAN
(Confused.)
What is this? I don’t understand.

LUGAID
(Pointing at the map where a large seal is stamped in the corner.)
I know one thing: THAT is the Imperial Seal of Aquilonia. I saw it when the city folk made treaty with us when they first set up the trading post. Where did you get this, Connell?

CONNELL
From the office of the garrison commander himself! My son, Conan, found it when we –

MADAN
(Interrupting.)
That’s fine, but what is it? A decoration of some sort?

The headmen gather around Madan to look at the map.

CONNELL
(Moving to point out features on the map.)

It is a map, a drawing of the whole of Cimmeria. See, here is Venarium, here Rocky Valley, here Grimfells, here –

LUGAID
(Pointing to the troop-movement symbols Conan noticed earlier.)
And what are these, then? They look like little groups of people.

CONAN
That is the proof we spoke of: Those are troops, and the arrows show where they Empire plans to move them when they invade!

AED
What!?

AEBBIN
Don’t be silly, those could be anything. They could be . . . merchants! This could show where they intend to send trade missions!

MADAN
And that’s assuming you are right about this being a, what did you call it? A “map.” I still say it is some sort of decoration.

Conan has had enough.

CONAN
Are your clans choosing fools for headmen now? Have you grown so soft with the Aquilonian luxuries that you’d trade your freedom for them? Are you blind to what is going on here?

Madan, Aed and several of their supporters glower and bristle at this accusation.

MADAN
(Jerking a thumb at Connell.)

HE says you are a man, but you speak before thinking, like a boy. It is you, all of you who would divert our strength from the Vanir to chase off these fat, idle merchants, all on the idea that this is more than some store-clerk’s wall-hanging!

AED
No, Madan, I think they may well be right. I’ve been to Venarium. I’ve seen how they decorate their homes, and nothing, but nothing gets the Imperial Seal unless it is very, very important. And if I read this right, they’ll go on to take Asgard and Vanaheim!

HEADMAN #1
Vanaheim they can have!

A few warriors and headmen chuckle at this small joke, but they are met with many glares. The crowd is starting to get serious, and tempers are heating up.

LUGAID
I agree, those are NOT merchants pictured there –

MADAN
Maybe the merchant is in the middle, those COULD be the bodyguards

LUGAID
Then where are the pictures the pack animals, and of trade goods?

FITHEL
Aye, and even if you’re right, Hammerhand, do we want Aquilonians traipsing about our lands with armed bodyguards?

MADAN
So we send ’em packing. Come on, headmen, these are AQUILONIANS we’re talking about. They’re no match for our warriors.

CONN
One on one, true. One of us against ten of them, true again. But there are a LOT of them.

CONNELL

From what I’ve heard, and from what I’ve seen, they outnumber us about 200 to one.

Madan begins to look concerned, and an uneasy murmur runs through the assembly as Connell drives his point home.

CONNELL
And that’s their young warriors facing all of us, warriors, wives, elders and children.

Madan pales visibly and looks to Aed for support. There is a disturbance near the entrance to the hall.

AED
But how can we face those kinds of numbers?

The disturbance intensifies as Oin and Koivoinen make their way to the middle of the gathering. Oin is a glassy-eyed picture of Cimmerian hero-hood, and Koivoinen is in his Cimmerian “shaman” form. Ailvi spots him immediately and bristles.

OIN
We face them as Cimmerians, standing our ground and we send their souls screaming to the devils!

LUGAID
(Pained)
Who the Hell is THIS?

CONN
This is Oin, Headman of Hellsmouth, though I don’t know who –

OIN
(Gesturing to his crew)
These are the chosen warriors of my village, and our shaman, Koivoinen.

AILVI
Shaman?! What good is he?

CONAN
Isn’t he kind of scrawny for a war council?

MORG

(Nods in agreement.)
Shabby, too. Needs some new clothes.

OIN
He is a wise man, and has led us in the ways of Crom!

AILVI
Leads you? Crom needs no one to lead his people. We choose our own paths!

MADAN
The shieldmaiden is right, we’ve no time for more nonsense –

DORBHA
(Getting hot)
I didn’t call on the Black Arrow for “nonsense,” Madan!

Cimmerians are a headstrong bunch, and this group more cantankerous than most. Koivoinen senses the meeting turning against him already, and knows he must act quick or never gain control. His eyes glow faintly, but no one seems to notice.

KOIVOINEN
(Interrupting)
True, Madan Hammerhand, but some of us can see deeper into the spirit world than others. I did not choose this, but my spirit guide sends me visions, and I have seen what will become of Cimmeria if we don’t act now. Venarium will become the capital city of the newest Aquilonian province: The hills of Cimmeria! Crom’s name will be forgotten and those of our children who are not made slaves will forget our ways and grow soft in the decadent cities! All this I have seen, but it need not be if we fight! Now!

The crowd of warriors is silent, contemplating his words, their eyes glassy as his spell sinks in. A loud CLANG! rings out, breaking the spell as Morg’s helmet drops from Conan’s numb fingers to clatter on the ground. Morg yelps and scoops up his prize, alternately inspecting it for damage and glaring at Conan. Koivoinen, too, glares at Conan, and a murmur arises from the crowd. The spell is broken, but they are convinced.

MADAN
(Nods his head.)
I still say we’re overreacting, but, maybe you are right, shaman. There IS a danger.

FITHEL
Aye, it’s time for action. If nothing else, it’ll be a good fight!

Ailvi and Conan nod in agreement, and a rumble of approval rolls through the clearing.

DORBHA
(Formal, holding a Black Arrow above his head.)
Under these stars, before the eyes of Crom, are we in agreement that Venarium must be destroyed?

ALL
AYE!

Dorbha flexes his still-powerful arms and the Black Arrow shatters.
The various chieftains and headmen split off with their men, issuing orders. Each headman breaks his own Black Arrow and gives it to his men who will return to their villages to summon all the warriors to war. Erin gathers his group about him. Ailvi, who is certain she will be sent with the messengers, has her arms crossed and a sour, surly look on her face. Erin toys with his tribe’s Black Arrow, looking alternately from it to his daughter’s face and back again, saying nothing. Goll breaks the silence.

GOLL
(Grim.)
So it’s war, then.

ERIN
Aye. We’ll need just about everyone.

GOLL
But what about the Vanir? What if they attack while we’re away fighting these outlanders?


Erin casts a sharp glance at Goll then nods. He’s made his decision. With a quick movement, he snaps the arrow in two.

ERIN
I think we can deal with that. Moreover, I think you will handle it very well.

Erin hands the broken arrow to a very surprised Goll.

GOLL AND AILVI
What?!

ERIN
Goll, I need you to go. Take two of the men, and two of the shieldmaidens, Daila and Gwern, I think.

AILVI
Daila and Gwern? But –

Erin nods as Goll stares dumbfounded at the Arrow in his hands.

ERIN
Yes, Tarth of the Aesir knows them to be of our tribe, and he trusts you, Goll. Ask him, in my name and on my honor, to harass the Vanir mercilessly. Make them forget the Cimmerians for awhile, just a short while, so we can deal with these outlanders. Tell them all you have seen and heard here. They hate the Vanir as much as we do, but if they hesitate, tell them the Aquilonians plan to invade Asgard as well.

AILVI
So Daila and Gwern are to be hostages for your good word?

ERIN
(Sighs)
No, daughter, they are to be emissaries. They will act as sub-commanders under Goll. The Aesir know no difference between men and women when it comes to battle, but Tarth knows Daila and Gwern are daughters of two of our most important families.


GOLL
And what if something goes wrong?

ERIN
Ailvi trained them. They can handle themselves.

Ailvi is surprised again at her father’s recognition of her prowess as a warrior, and the abilities of her friends.

AILVI
You said as sub-commanders?

ERIN
Tarth knows and trusts Goll, well, as much as he trusts anyone who isn’t Aesir. We’ll send ten of your warriors, Ailvi, and another ten of the men to support the Aesir. That will convince them we’re serious. The remainder of your warriors will guard the village, just in case. The remaining men warriors will return here immediately. Goll, I’m trusting you with the safety of our village. Get the Aesir to keep the Vanirmen’s attention. Make sure we have a home to return to.

Goll is torn. On the one hand, he wants to join the war against the Aquilonians, but on the other he is flattered by the trust and responsibility Erin has given him. He merely nods, smiling grimly, and withdraws to carry out his orders. Ailvi turns to one of her warriors.

AILVI
Tell Daila and Gwern.

SHIELDMAIDEN
You’re going along with this?

AILVI
It’s a good plan. Go.

The shieldmaiden runs off, leaving Ailvi and Erin, momentarily alone in the crowd of warriors and headmen. Ailvi turns back to her father, a little concern and confusion – but only a little -showing on her face.

AILVI

Father, I –

ERIN
I know what you are going to ask. Ailvi, I’ve been talking to Conn and Marigan, my old friends, and thinking a lot. About Sive, about Cailte, and about you. The simple fact is they are dead, and you are not. You are not the little girl I still see you as, and you never will be again. What you are is an excellent warrior, one of the best. If this path makes you happy, I cannot stop you, nor should I try. But ask yourself, daughter, if you are truly happy on this path, and know that I will always love you.

With that, Erin turns and heads back to the inner circle, where the headmen are reforming to discuss strategy.
Ailvi watches him go, her emotions in turmoil.


FADE OUT

FADE IN

INT: CIMMERIA – Blackwater CREEK VILLAGE – CONN’S SMITHY – SUMMER – THE NEXT MORNING.

Spirits are high in Blackwater Creek village, and the smithy is bustling as the Cimmerians prepare for war. Conn and Connell are beating dents out of armor, mending chainmail and repairing weapons. Conan pumps the bellows, totes firewood and generally helps out much as an apprentice might. Erin is meeting with the headmen, so Ailvi is helping Marigan sharpen weapons in a corner while Brigidda minds the customers. Ailvi is working hard, but she’s distracted. Marigan studies her as she sharpens a battle-axe. Ailvi lost in her thoughts, smiles to herself.

MARIGAN
You have a pretty smile, but I get the feeling you don’t use it much.

AILVI
(Startled, frowns at the intrusion.)
No. Not much to smile about.

MARIGAN

(Smiles knowingly.)
Hmm.

They work on in silence for a moment.

AILVI
(Looking at her work, not Marigan.)
I . . . You know my father, don’t you?

MARIGAN
Oh yes, he wanted us to marry, once, but I loved Conn, and, well, things got a little ugly.

AILVI
You were the one who took the fingers from his sword hand?

MARIGAN
(Sighs, rueful at the memory.)
Yes . . . The night before I was to wed Conn, something in Erin snapped. He’d always been such a hothead, and I’m afraid I’d broken his heart. Conn and Erin were great friends, but they’d been arguing a lot since we were betrothed, and Conn refused to invite him to the bachelors’ celebration; not that Erin would have gone anyway. You know how some people get jolly when they drink, and others get angry?

Ailvi nods.

MARIGAN
Well, your father gets angry, and that night he got drunk, and angry, then drunker and angrier. Conn was drinking as well – it was his bachelors’ night – and I guess Erin decided he wasn’t going to let our wedding happen. He burst into the Men’s Lodge and knocked Conn out with one blow. Conn’s friends tried to stop him, but Erin fought his way out and burst into my maidens’ celebration.

Ailvi’s eyes are wide, she had no idea her father was capable of such brash idiocy.


AILVI
MY father?

MARIGAN
Oh aye, he was a different man then. And there he was, burst into the Women’s Sacred Circle, drunk, angry and covered in blood and bruises. Before anyone could do anything, he scooped me up – I’d been drinking, too – and ran off into the forest.

AILVI
Crom!

MARIGAN
He didn’t get very far, though. The shock wore off pretty quickly and I hit and bit him until he dropped me.

AILVI
So how did he lose his fingers?

MARIGAN
He wouldn’t believe me when I told him I didn’t want to go with him. I’d pulled out my knife as soon as he had dropped me, and when he tried to grab me, well, I stopped him. I think that’s when he knew he’d gone too far. I ran back to the village, and he never came back.

AILVI
He did all that, and yet you forgave him?

MARIGAN
Don’t be mistaken, it took years. But he’d been a good friend for years as well. He was the first to befriend Conn when he came here. Forgiveness doesn’t come easy.

Ailvi is silent for a moment, then a tear tracks down her cheek.

AILVI
No, it isn’t. Some don’t deserve it. Ever.


MARIGAN
The Vanir, for killing your brother?

AILVI
No. Me. I killed him.

MARIGAN
What are you talking about, girl?

AILVI
I wasn’t supposed to follow him on hunts, I knew that! If I hadn’t been there, the Vanir wouldn’t have caught me, and my brother would still be alive! And then maybe my mother would be alive as well!

Ailvi cries quietly to herself. Marigan waits a moment or two, then puts down her whetstone.

MARIGAN
Ailvi, look at me.

Ailvi looks up, tears streaming down her face.

MARIGAN
If you hadn’t been there, then the Vanir would have been on him all at once, and he’d have died anyway. People die, Ailvi, and not you, me, Crom or the Goddess can stop it when it’s a person’s time.

Ailvi tries to speak, but only sobs.

MARIGAN
You’ve been carrying this for a long time, haven’t you.

Ailvi nods.

AILVI
Since my brother died. I tried to talk to my mother about it, but it hurt too much. Then she died. I’ve tried so hard to avenge him, to be everything he could have been, to be the warrior he was supposed to be. But it still hurts so much!

MARIGAN
Your brother died so that you might live YOUR life, not his.

Marigan gestures to a well-used sword hanging above the doorway to their living quarters. It’s blade is nicked and the leather on the hilt is stained with sweat and blood, yet it is well cared-for and deadly.

MARIGAN
You see that blade? That is “War Witch,” and she is mine. I too walked the warrior path for many years, until I met Conn and settled down.

AILVI
(Slightly offended.)
So you’re saying all I need is a good man?

MARIGAN
No, what I’m saying is when I met Conn I took stock of my life, where I was going, what I wanted. And I decided it was time for me to step onto a different path. What YOU need to do is look at your life and decide what YOUR path is, not what Cailte’s might have been. If you are to be a warrior, be one for yourself, not for him. He gave his life for yours. Don’t throw that gift away.

Marigan squeezes Ailvi’s shoulder, stands, and carries the battle-axe she’s been working on to the front of the shop. She gives the axe to Brigidda, smiles at Ailvi, then goes into the living quarters. Ailvi gazes after her, then, as Marigan walks through the doorway, Ailvi’s eyes travel up to the sword over the doorway. She stares for a moment at the sword, then, sniffling, she stands and wipes her nose on her arm. She gazes around the smithy for a moment and sees no one is looking at her. She sniffles one last time then strides directly to the trough where hot pieces are quenched and dunks her head. Spluttering, she comes up to see Conn, Connell and Conan staring at her. Conn is holding a red-hot spear head in tongs.

AILVI
What? It’s hot in here.


She tosses her head back, and, gathering her hair to wring it out, steps out into the village square. Conan and Connell look at each other and shrug.

CUT TO:
EXT: CIMMERIA – Blackwater CREEK VILLAGE – OUTSIDE CONN’S SMITHY – SUMMER – MIDDAY.

Ailvi is walking out through the village square when Conan bursts from the smithy, calling after her. He’s got a big basket in one hand and a couple of wineskins in the other.

CONAN
Hey, Ailvi! Wait up!

Ailvi turns and pauses, waiting for the young barbarian.

CONAN
(Smiling broadly.)
My grandmother thought we could use some lunch. C’mon, I know a great place to eat!

Conan turns to go, but Ailvi pauses, unsure. Conan looks back over his shoulder.

CONAN
Hey, c’mon! My mom makes the best sausage. You’ll love it, I promise!

Ailvi cocks her head to one side and studies Conan.

AILVI
All right, I could use something to eat.

Conan laughs and runs back around the smithy, Ailvi chasing after him. They get to the back of the smithy and Conan hands the wine skins to Ailvi.

CONAN
Here, hold these for me.

Ailvi looks at the wineskins, then back at Conan, but he’s already half-way up the wall, the basket hanging from a strap over his shoulder. Quick as a cat, he’s on top of the roof and sets the basket down. The roof is steeply pitched, but there is a flat platform that extends out on one side from the ridge pole near the chimney. Conan leans back over the roof edge.


CONAN
Hold on just a second!

He ducks back and grabs a knotted rope, but when he turns back to toss one end down to her, he finds her pulling herself up over the edge, wineskin straps between her teeth. Conan laughs and sits heavily. Ailvi stands for a moment, admiring the view. The whole village and the surrounding hills can be seen from the rooftop. Smoke trails up from the cookfires of the encamped warriors in the forest around them, and people mill about in the streets below. Ailvi gazes a moment longer, then sits.

CONAN
My father and I put this up here two seasons ago to repair the chimney. I was supposed to tear it down, but isn’t it a great view?

He digs through the basket and pulls out two massive sausages, each as thick as a loaf of bread and twice as long. He hands one to Ailvi and takes a huge bite from his. He grins charmingly, but the effect is lost somewhat by his open-mouth chewing and the sausage juices dripping down his chin.

CONAN
(With his mouth full.)
I love to come up here, especially at night. The stars, the moon, naked against the sky . . .

Ailvi chews and looks pointedly at several daisy-chains dangling from protuberances on the chimney and gestures at them with her chin.

AILVI
I bet that’s not all that’s naked up here. A bit feminine for you, aren’t they?

Conan coughs, nearly choking on his food, looks at Ailvi questioningly, then roars with laughter.

CONAN
Ha! I like that!

Chuckling, he settles back and takes a pull at a wine skin.

CONAN

Aye, I’ve had a “friend” or two up here, from time to time.

(Scratches at his armpit.)

It IS a great view.

(Leers, with bits of sausage stuck between his teeth.)

And very private.

Ailvi stares at Conan, with his greasy, sausage-speckled grin, his face and chest smeared with soot from the forge. Slowly a chuckle bubbles up, and soon she’s rolling on the small platform, roaring with laughter at a very puzzled Conan.

CUT TO: INTERIOR: MEN’S LODGE, CONTINUOUS
Erin and several other headmen are in strategy, planning their attack. Ailvi’s laughter drifts in, and Erin slowly looks up from the map. The laugh is vaguely familiar, like the tune to a song learned in childhood, but long forgotten. Realization and recognition dawns on him. He smiles to himself for a moment, then returns to planning the attack with renewed vigor.


FADE IN:
SERIES OF SHOTS:

– Cimmerian warriors from different tribes jogging through
the forested hills of Cimmeria.

– Morvian and his war party, wandering through the forest, trying to track down Connell and his band.


– Cimmerian warriors presenting broken Black Arrows to their tribesmen.


– More warriors, donning armor, sharpening weapons,
parting with loved ones, sacrificing goats or pigs to Crom to bless their war parties.

– Morvian, threatening an elderly Cimmerian couple they’ve caught near a pond. We can’t hear him over the music, but his gestures make it clear he’s searching for the Cimmerians, and, more importantly, his helmet.


– Cimmerian warriors, some riding, most jogging, traveling through the dark woods of Cimmeria, bound for Blackwater Creek Village, and then to war.

– A shot from over the shoulders of Troopers #1 and 2 as they stare at Morvian screaming and stomping and gesticulating madly under the hanging corpse of another of his men. After watching Morvian for a moment, they face each other, fear etched on their faces.

– A dozen Cimmerian warriors are manhandling two four-wheeled cages up a slope. The cages are basically large stout wagons, with a superstructure of heavy wooden bars on top. The bars are so thick, and set so close together, that we do not have a good view of the interior of the cages.

CIMMERIAN #1
Look out!

An enormous, tawny paw, with claws extended, swipes with lightning speed through the bars at Cimmerian #2, who barely manages to dodge the slash.

CIMMERIAN #2
(Shaken by the close call)
Crom! That was too close! I’m not so sure this was a good idea. Crom knows I’ll be glad when it’s done!

CIMMERIAN #1
Relax! It’s a great idea! You’ll see!


They continue wrestling the wagons uphill; some of the Cimmerians are pushing or pulling the wagons; some are actually wrestling with the wheels, forcing them to turn. It is hard, grueling, sweaty labor, even for the big, powerful Cimmerians. Finally, they reach the ridge that forms the top of the slope. As the camera angle changes, we can finally see through the bars of the cages: inside each cage is a huge cave lion, twice the size of their southern cousins in Kush. The lions don’t have room to pace; they barely have room to stand; their snarling and growling reveals that they are very unhappy.


The camera pans over the ridge, and we see that on the other side it slopes down to the banks of a dried ravine. The camera pans down the length of the ravine, and we see Morvian’s now greatly depleted detachment marching along the ravine, towards where the Cimmerians wait in ambush. The Aquilonian soldiers are all haggard and weary, and their spirits are strained to the breaking point. They reach a point below the Cimmerians.

CUT TO:
THE CIMMERIAN AMBUSH PARTY — CONTINUOUS.

CIMMERIAN #1
(Having waited until exactly the right moment)
Now!

All of the Cimmerians pull axes out of their belts, and each takes a few short, sharp blows at the cage bars, or at the sides of the wagons where the bars are inserted. Then, before the lions have a chance to react, the Cimmerians get behind the wagons and shove them over the ridge top. The wagons, each bearing an enraged, hysterically roaring cave lion, go rolling and rumbling and bumping down the slope toward the startled, bewildered Aquilonians.

CUT TO:
THE RAVINE — LION’S-EYE VIEW OF THE AQUILONIANS –CONTINUOUS.
Rapidly zooming, bouncing, shot of Aquilonian soldiers looking upward at the camera, their rapidly expanding faces showing surprise and fear.

CUT TO:
THE RAVINE — THE FRONT OF THE AQUILONIAN COLUMN — CONTINUOUS.
Longer shot of the cages impacting among the soldiers and shattering, releasing a pair of enraged and hysterical cave lions whose only desire is to escape from the irritating primates that surround them.

CUT TO:
THE RAVINE — THE REAR OF THE AQUILONIAN COLUMN — CONTINUOUS.

Troopers #1 and 2 are at the rear when the cave lions hit the front of the column. The Sargent and Troopers 2-4 look at the slaughter of their comrades ahead, then at the silent Cimmerians standing on the rim of the ravine above, then turn to face each other.

TROOPER #3
I was wrong, it’s not like one of those stories.

TROOPER #4
No, this is worse. Much worse.

TROOPER #2

I hear Stygia is quite lovely this time of year.

SARGENT
I hear the Emperor likes to hang deserters, and Stygia is full of serpents.

TROOPER #4
I had a brother who kept snakes. Personable animals, really. Very clean.

SARGENT
Now look, you —

The sargent is cut off by the screams of another trooper fleeing towards them from the battle. The squad turns to look as the fleeing trooper has his head crushed by a flying boulder.

TROOPER #3
Is that another cave-lion I hear?

The four troopers pause. The cave-lions have been driven off, but now the Cimmerians are hooting and tossing insults and large rocks down on the troops ahead.

SARGENT
No . . . no, I think that was some Cimmerians fleeing the battle. Behind us somewhere.

TROOPER #2
Should we investigate?

Some Cimmerians are still throwing rocks, but the others are just pointing and laughing, or calling out insults. Morvian is livid, ordering his troops to scale the ravine walls and kill the Cimmerians. A few try, but are quickly and messily dealt with.

SARGENT
(Nonchalant)
Yes, our comrades seem to have things well in hand here. Wouldn’t want anyone to sneak up on the commander, now.

TROOPER #2
Hey, I think I hear them running away! We’d better get after them!


SARGENT
You’re on point. Let’s go, men!

The four troopers turn and head back down the path, out of the ravine.

SARGENT
Forget about Stygia with its heat and its serpents. Some place like Brythunia, now, that’s not so different from Aquilonia. They’d love to hire some well-trained mercenaries, and the women…

FADE OUT

CUT TO: INTERIOR, MEN’S LODGE, BLACKWATER CREEK VILLAGE, AFTERNOON.

Erin, Dorbha, Conn and Ailvi and the other headmen and war chiefs are seated around the firepit. There is a crude map of the land surrounding Venarium drawn in charcoal on a bull’s hide stretched on a rack next to Madan.

AEBBIN
(Tapping a point on the map with a long twig.)
We can’t get any closer to the walls than this small ridge line here. There’s about a league between that crest and the walls, all of it with only scrub grasses for cover. There’s no way we can sneak this many men across that space without them spotting us.

MADAN
I say we wait for the treasure caravan to leave and the caravan of women to return. They’ll be saving the best stuff to offer to the women as bridal gifts, so we’ll get all that and enough women for all our sons!

AED
(Exasperated)

What, so they can murder us in our sleep? I’ve seen you when you’re in your cups, Madan. A woman could have you gutted and dressed for roasting before you’d even stir.

Madan bristles at this as the other headmen hoot with laughter.

AILVI
And what of us women warriors? A few may like that idea, but that’s no incentive for me and my shield-maidens!

Madan shrugs, conceding that point.

CONNELL
Besides, the longer we wait, the more likely Atrius is to get reinforcements. He’s no fool, and he won’t risk the invasion by counting on our stupidity.

CONN
Besides, if we attack now, we can take the goods meant to bring the women here, as well as their bride-gifts. And how many of those women would be killed by accident, or suicide if we wait? We attack now, we lose fewer men, and we gain more plunder.

MADAN
Fine, fine. So we attack now. But we can’t get our men across those fields without them sealing their gates up tight. I don’t know about your men, but mine will be in no mood for an extended siege.

CONNELL
(Sighs)
Aye. They have an excellent well, and it’s well protected, too, so we can’t count on fouling their water. The walls are thick, and made of stone and ironwood, and that takes forever to burn, especially since it’s been rainy lately. It’s at least two miles of grasslands and to the west and east, and then there’s The Shelf a half-mile south, and that’d take us several days to get around.

AEBBIN

They chose a good defensive spot, didn’t they?

CONN
Aye, but they weren’t the first. Used to be a city there, ages ago. They built on the rubble.

Koivoinen, who has been sitting quietly in the background, starts at this. How much do they know? Do they suspect him?

AED
All well and good, but that still leaves us with the matter of the attack. If we can’t get there in any strength without being spotted, and we don’t want a siege, how do we deal with the gates?
CONN
(Smiling grimly.)
Simple: We don’t.

As Conn begins to speak, outlining his plans we

CUT TO:
EXTERIOR; MENS LODGE; ZOOM OUT

The camera zooms slowly out from the entrance as the headmen inside begin to roar with laughter. As the scene fades out, we hear Madan, off-screen.

MADAN
(Incredulous.)
Crom! It’ll be glorious!

FADE OUT

FADE IN:
EXT., Blackwater CREEK VILLAGE, MORNING.


The visiting warriors and the Blackwater Creek warriors are filing out of the town, saying goodbyes along the way. Ailvi is marching with Conan, who yawns constantly. His face is haggard, there are dark circles under his eyes, and it’s plain he didn’t get much sleep the night before. As they work their way through the town, people come up to greet their loved ones as they go off to war. Women and men embrace departing spouses and lovers, children cheer for their parents, elderly parents bid their children good luck. There no weeping, though. Any who might weep, hold back until they are in private, as not to bring ill luck to the war band.

AILVI
You look tired. Rough night?

CONAN
(Yawning)
You know, lots of preparations, last minute things to do.

They round a corner, and Morg is there, embracing and saying goodbye to a ravishing young woman. Both are decked out in their finest, and Morg is wearing his captured helmet.

AILVI
My, don’t they look good together.

CONAN
(Smirking)
Aye, they think so, too.

As they pass, Conan catches the young woman’s eye, and her gaze goes soft over Morg’s shoulder. She mouths “I love you” to the passing Conan.

As they walk through the streets of Blackwater Creek Village, maiden after maiden pull Conan aside to deliver a quick kiss or passionate embrace. One after another put daisy chains around his neck.

CONAN
(Pulls daisy chains from around neck and hands them to Ailvi.)
Crom! Here comes Kelli, here, take these.

KELLI, a compact, wiry woman, maybe 4½ feet tall with raven-black hair, strides up to Conan with a dangerous glint in her eye.

CONAN
(Grinning disarmingly.)
Kelli, my sweet!

KELLI
Don’t you “my sweet” me, you lummox! I saw that.

(Glares at Ailvi.)


So is this why you didn’t come to my house on what may be your last chance? Or maybe it was one of the other cows here in town?

Ailvi bristles and begins to snap back but Kelli cuts her off with a glare.

KELLI
Save it, sister. If you make it back, remember this: This one is MINE.

With that Kelli leaps up, wraps her arms and legs around Conan and gives him a kiss of such passion it leaves Conan staggering as she drops down.

KELLI
(A little more gently.)
And don’t you forget it either, Conan, son of Connell.

She glares at the stunned Ailvi one last time, then stomps away. Conan shakes his head as though to clear it, then grins sheepishly at Ailvi. A noise in the crowd draws their attention: Several maidens saw what just passed between Conan and Kelli and are stomping their way towards him, glaring alternately at him, Ailvi and each other. Conan catches Ailvi’s eye, and begins backing away from the growing gang of disgruntled maidens.

CONAN
Can I help it if I’m friendly?

AILVI
We’d better get you out of here, Master Friendly!

They pick up their pace, heading for the village gates with a small mob of grumbling, screeching, jilted maidens hurling daisy chains, mud and dung at Conan.

CONAN
(Muttering.)
Maybe it’s time to do some traveling.

Ailvi ducks and a clump of mud and daisies strike Conan square in the chest, splattering his otherwise clean mail.

AILVI
(Grinning.)

You think?

Conan ducks as another clump of mud hurtles by, striking an outraged Morg (who just had his mail polished.)

CONAN
Couldn’t hurt!

Conan and Ailvi break into a run for the gates as the camera fades out.

FADE OUT

FADE IN:

A three-day forced march brings them to within sight of Venarium. They spend the next day hiding in the woods north of the line of hills north of Venarium, sleeping and constructing scaling ladders. The Rocky Valley Tribe links up with the northern Cimmerians.

CUT TO:
SMALL CLEARING NORTH OF THE RIDGE LINE NORTH OF VENARIUM; MID-DAY.

The forest is unusually quiet, especially for such a large group of warriors. There are no campfires to be seen, and the warriors are all business now that the attack is imminent. The headmen are gathered in the center of the clearing, crouching and talking in muted tones. Donall arrives, his face grim.

DONALL
Bad news: They’ve been reinforced with Gunderland pikemen.

CONN
Fire and death! How many?

DONALL
Looks like just one regiment.

CONN
“Just one regiment” could blow the whole attack. Crom’s bloody beard! Well, we knew this wouldn’t be easy.

(Standing, speaking in normal tones.)


Listen up, warriors. We’ve got a problem. Their commander is smarter than we might have hoped; and he’s gotten reinforcements of at least one regiment of Gunderland pikemen.

HEADMAN #2
So? What’s another 180 city-men?

CONN
These aren’t city-men. Let them get organized and they’ll cost us more warriors than we want to spend. I saw Gunderland pikemen in action when I was a mercenary for the caravan-lords of Shem, and again in Hyrkania. Individually, they’re easy to beat if you can get inside the reach of their pole-arms. But if you let them get in formation, they can withstand a concerted attack for days on end.

AED
Right, so we’ll just have to get them before they can regroup, then.

CONN
We’d better, Aed, because attacking a Gundermen shield-wall is no-one’s idea of fun.

FADE OUT

CUT TO:
EXT. CIMMERIA — THE FOREST NORTH OF VENARIUM — NIGHT.
A bird’s-eye shot of Oin and his sleeping Hellsmouth warriors. All are tossing restlessly, and Koivoinen is nowhere to be seen. Fast zoom into Oin’s eye as it jerks open.

CUT TO:
SERIES OF SHOTS: DREAM SEQUENCE: INT AND EXT OF HELLSMOUTH.

— Oin bursting into Colin’s bedroom. Colin’s throat is torn out and the bedding is covered in blood. A robed figure is squatting in the window, ready to leap out and escape, but it pauses and looks back over it’s shoulder at Oin. For a moment the image wavers between Koivoinen in his true form with bloody knife in hand, and a white wolf with glowing green eyes and a bloodied muzzle, then the image steadies on the wolf, which then leaps away, leaving a stunned Oin.

— Urli handing the dead baby to Uilea. The image wavers to the truth of the earlier baby sacrifice, then back.

— A montage of images, a wolf’s face fading in and out between images of both of Koivoinen’s human forms.

CUT TO:
EXT. CIMMERIA — THE FOREST NORTH OF VENARIUM — NIGHT.
The camera fast-zooms out from Oin’s eye as he jerks awake. Madan is standing above him, shaking him awake.

MADAN
Hey, Hellsmouth! Wake up, it’s almost time.

Oin looks around, confused. He shakes off the dream, grunts and stands.

FADE IN:
EXT. CIMMERIA — THE FOREST NORTH OF VENARIUM — NIGHT.

A small Aquilonian mounted patrol is picking its way through the forest. They look tired and bored as they scan the terrain from left to right and back. Suddenly, silently, a dozen Cimmerians drop out of the tree branches above them. Some of the Cimmerians drag the soldiers off their horses while others get the horses under control. There is no sound except grunts and muffled blows; the horses do not scream or even neigh. As some of the Cimmerians rise from the bodies of the Aquilonians, more Cimmerians steal out from the surrounding forest. Among this latter group are Conn, Erin, Aed, and other chieftains and war leaders. The ambushing group includes Donall of Rocky Valley.

DONALL
That should be the last patrol. They won’t be expected to return to Venarium until dawn.

CONN
Right. Get your warriors now. We’ll use the remainder of the night to assemble on the north side of the ridge. Be ready for battle – we attack an hour before dawn.

FADE OUT.

CUT TO:

SERIES OF SHOTS: EXT. THE WOOD NORTH OF VENARIUM — THE REVERSE SLOPE OF THE RIDGE LINE — NIGHT.

— Fully armed and armored Cimmerians are walking or jogging
south through the forest, toward the northern slope of the ridge line. Some of the faces are familiar to us; some we have never seen before.

— Cimmerian women from Blasted Pines moving massive drums carved from 10ft-thick tree trunks on small wooden carts.

— Cimmerian men and women in war paint carrying aurochs’ horns, didgeridoos and primitive bagpipes.

— Cimmerian warriors blackening their armor and weapons with pitch and soot brought down from Blackwater Creek village.

— As the Cimmerians reach the northern slope, they stop advancing and start sorting themselves out by tribes, and organizing themselves by groups.

— Conan, surrounded by others wearing the square-cut manes of the Blackwater Creek Tribe, is adjusting his armor, a blackened chainmail shirt and splinted vambraces, and checking his weapons, as are the others. Conan applies red slashes of war paint to his face, then settles a blackened steel conical helm atop his head. He is fairly glowing with anticipation.

— Brief glimpses of other tribes: the Rocky Valley Tribe, with their Mohawk crests. Other tribes, with distinctive hairstyles (braids, etc.), or war paint in various colors and patterns. Some of the patterns are simply decorative, others make faces look flayed, or skull-like.

– Ailvi, in crimson and black enameled plate and silver chainmail armor and a horned helmet, eyeing a bull aurochs speculatively. Her face is painted with intricate black and red runes. A red banner with the warrior’s mark embroidered in black flies above her head from a 7-ft pole stuck in a socket on the back of her breastplate.

— The chief war-leaders are striding from group to group, talking quietly, making sure that every group is ready, and understands the plans.


— Finally all the war-leaders make a few concerted gestures, and the first wave of Cimmerian warriors stride silently up the slope. They crest the ridge, then start cautiously down the southern slope.

CUT TO:
EXT. LONG VIEW, AS SEEN BY THE CIMMERIANS, OF HIGH-WALLED VENARIUM LOOMING BLACKLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PLAIN — CONTINUOUS.

A few torches are seen burning atop the walls; there are also some flambeaux attached to the outside of the walls. Lightning flashes in boiling clouds to the south, and a mild breeze is picking up.
Aed and Conn step into the frame, barely visible except in the occasional lightning flash.

AED
(Grinning)
Storm brewing up from the south. Crom is with us tonight!

CONN
Aye, let’s hope he stays that way. Come, it’s almost time.

Aed grunts and nods affirmative, acknowledging Crom’s fickle favor as they step out of frame.


CUT TO:
EXT. THE SOUTHERN BASE OF THE RIDGE LINE — CONTINUOUS.
The Cimmerians are slinking quietly through the grasses of the plain. Some have covered themselves with dark cloaks disguised with prairie grasses, others have merely blackened their armor and gear.

CUT TO:
EXT. THE SOUTHERN BASE OF THE RIDGE LINE — CONTINUOUS — CLOSE UP OF CONAN.
Conan worms his way through the waving grasses, his face lit by the occasional flash of lightning. Around him, other warriors squirm through the waving grasses, their passage disguised by the darkness and the breeze.


CUT TO:
EXT. THE TOP OF THE PALISADE, VIEWED FROM OUTSIDE, AT THE SAME LEVEL.

A bored sentry is pacing the parapet, dutifully trying to scan the almost pitch black terrain outside the walls. Torches sputter behind him in the rising breeze. Suddenly the sentry stops, squints, and then stares hard into the blackness for a long moment, trying to focus.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — OVER THE SENTRY’S SHOULDER — CONTINUOUS.
A flash of lightning reveals the blowing prairie grasses, and stark against it are hundreds of shadows sliding forward.


SENTRY
(To himself)
What is — Mitra! Mitra save us all!

He turns and sprints along the parapet, yelling.

SENTRY
To arms! To arms!

He reaches a bronze gong hanging from a frame, and begins banging on it with his sword pommel as hard as he can, while continuing to yell at the top of his lungs.

SENTRY
Attack! Attack! The Cimmerians, they’re attacking! Thousands of them! To Arms!

CUT TO:
EXT. THE PLAIN — CONTINUOUS.

The sentry and his gonging and yelling can be heard over the distance still separating the Cimmerians from the walls. Instantly, the main Cimmerian force behind the ridge light their torches while the drummers, pipers and horn players begin to make an incredible din. The first wave, with their camouflaged and blackened armor, continue to sneak forward as the main force mounts the ridge.

CUT TO:
EXT. THE RIDGE — CONTINUOUS.

Madan and his men are mounted on full-grown bull aurochs. The bulls wear blinders, but the noise of hundreds of howling warriors, massive drums pounding madly, pipes and horns wailing drive them forward in an enraged stampede straight for the walls of Venarium.


For a moment, the bullriders are silhouetted against the ridge line.

A wave of fire seems to roll down from the ridge as the Cimmerian warriors charge in attack.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM; BATTLEMENTS.

CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD
(Irritated.)
Who sounded that alarm?

SENTRY
(With his back to onslaught.)
I did, sir! I thought I saw something and . . .

The sentry pauses, noticing the strange shadows crossing the Captain’s face, then turns and notices the charging Cimmerians for the first time. Only now does he hear the din of the pipes and drums above the general alarm.

SENTRY
(Face going pale in the torchlight.)
Mitra! The Hordes of the Damned are on us!

The captain and the sentry stand in stunned silence and dismay watching a spectacle straight from the mouth of Hell descend upon them.

CAPTAIN
By the gods . . . ARCHERS! Archers to the walls, damn you!


CUT TO:
SERIES OF SHOTS — CHARGING CIMMERIANS.
The wailing pipes, pounding drums and the mass howling of the Cimmerians is all that is heard, regardless of which of them the camera happens to be focusing on.

— The bullriders overtaking the rear of the first wave, who join in the howling charge.

— Conan, fairly flying along in chainmail and helmet, carrying a sword and buckler, mouth wide open as he yells, a wild gleam blazing in his blue eyes.


— Ailvi, a torch mounted above the banner on her back, bellowing as her barely-controlled bull aurochs barrels down the slope towards Venarium, her face alight with anticipation.

— Donner, likewise. He is sprinting as fast as anyone, despite his bulk.

— Morg, running and holding his shield high, while waving his torch in circles over his head.

— Connell, not yelling as he runs. He is concentrating on breathing, but he is as fast as anyone; there is a look of grim determination on his face.

— One by one, the other war leaders, looking grim, conserving their energy like Connell.

— Conn, pounding along, breathing hard, a look of desperate effort on his face behind his goggled helm. Younger and fleeter warriors are continually passing him, their torches flaring in the breeze of their own passage.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE WALL — CONTINUOUS.

The leading edge of the first wave reaches and begins to scale the walls, unnoticed by the Aquilonians who are distracted, waiting for the howling horde.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARAPET — CONTINUOUS.

Large numbers of soldiers are continually arriving at the parapet, positioning themselves and setting their weapons. As the Bossonians arrive, they immediately begin arching at the charging warriors. Somewhere, someone is still banging madly on a gong, and trumpet calls are blaring back and forth. On the parapet, these can actually be heard over the din of the Cimmerians.

SERIES OF SHOTS.

— Aquilonian soldiers at the parapet, cutting from one close-up to another. Some look scared, some look grimly determined just like Connell, some look professionally interested. They are armed mainly with swords and shields.


— Gundermen at the parapet. Pikemen with their pikes sticking out over the wall ready to poke and shove, and their scutums strapped to their backs; halberdiers with their halberds grounded in a vertical position. Some regard the onrushing Cimmerians with cool confidence; some look like they can hardly wait to see what happens next.

— Bossonian archers shooting at the Cimmerians. Every time an archer fires an arrow, the camera immediately cuts to a Cimmerian warrior being struck down by a yard-long arrow, creating the impression that the Bossonians never miss, that every arrow finds its target, and that Cimmerian armor is not proof against the Bossonian shafts. The Bossonians are shooting preferentially at the Cimmerians that are carrying torches. Soon there are not nearly as many torches being carried toward the walls. Some of the Cimmerians throw down their torches when they see what is happening, but they keep coming.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARAPET — CONTINUOUS.

Several of the Cimmerian first wave are half-way up the walls before they are noticed.

SENTRY #2
(Panicked.)
Oh gods! They’re on the walls! They’re on the walls!

CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD
Stand fast and repel them, men! By Mitra and the Emperor, these savages cannot withstand us! Cimmeria will fall to the manifest destiny of Aquilonia!


CUT TO:
EXT. THE PLAIN — CONTINUOUS.

The Cimmerians continue their charge, undaunted by the arrows falling among them, or by the warriors falling with arrows in their bodies. There aren’t enough Bossonians to stop them.


CUT TO:
EXT. THE PLAIN — CONTINUOUS — CLOSE UP OF CONAN.

Conan is running forward, snarling at the bull-riders who pass him left and right. HE wants to be first to the wall!

Behind him, Ailvi is catching up quickly on her maddened bull. As she rides closer, she calls out his name, laughing. Conan turns to look over his shoulder.
As Ailvi passes, she leans over and reaches out her left arm to Conan. He grabs it and swings up behind her in the classic horse-stunt. The sudden extra weight on his back spurs the bull on even faster and soon they are near the front of the pack.
As they near the wall, Conan stands on the bull’s back, surfer-style, yanks the banner from Ailvi’s back. Ailvi stands as well, yanking the blinders from the bull’s head and taking the banner from Conan. Seeing the wall coming up in front of him, the bull veers suddenly to the left, as Ailvi and Conan spring from his back. As Ailvi flies from the bull’s back, she hurls the banner, spear-like, at one of the lightly-armored archers above, who is run-through by the banner. Conan and Ailvi somersault and roll as they hit the ground, coming to their feet a good 20 feet before the wall.
Above, the impaled archer grabs at the banner-staff, turns, stumbles and falls backwards, his body lodging between the battlement’s crenelations. A cheer goes up from the Cimmerian horde as they see one of their banners, torch still alight, atop the invaders’ walls.


CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARAPET — A WATCHTOWER — CONTINUOUS.

Commandant Atrius is in the watchtower, scrutinizing the approaching Cimmerians amid the lightning and thunder. His cloak whips dramatically and the bannerman’s banner snaps in the wind. Grennus, Pencalvus, a bannerman, and a trumpeter are with him. Many of the advance Cimmerian attack force are dropping from the walls as the Bossonian archers concentrate on them instead of the approaching horde.


ATRIUS
Too many! Too damn many Cimmerians. I didn’t know there were that many Cimmerians in the world! And not enough of us to hold the walls. Captain Pencalvus!

PENCALVUS
(Stiffening to attention.)
Sir!

ATRIUS

Get down there and take direct command of the north wall. That’s where they’ll hit first and hardest. With luck the rain will break soon and make the wall to slick to climb. Delay them as best you can, and make them pay for that wall!

PENCALVUS
Yes Sir!

Pencalvus hurries down a flight of stairs leading to the parapet.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE BASE OF THE WALLS — CONTINUOUS.

The main force of the Cimmerians arrive at the base of the walls. As the bullriders arrive, they leap from their enraged mounts, directing the wild beasts away from the Cimmerian forces. Rather than all trying to climb the north wall, they fan out and begin climbing all four walls of the fortress. Those carrying ladders throw them against the walls and immediately begin climbing, shinnying up the ladders as fast as squirrels. The extra Cimmerians, for whom there is no room on the ladders, rather than waiting around, shuck their sandals and boots and begin climbing directly up the walls. The Bossonians lean out over the edge of the parapet and turn their bows sideways so they can shoot straight downwards. Some of the soldiers drop big rocks on the climbers. Soldiers with spears or pikes or halberds use these to push the ladders away from the walls and cause them to topple. This is no great inconvenience to the Cimmerians on the ladders; they let go of the ladders, land on their feet, and commence climbing the walls directly as the first few fat raindrops splatter around them.
Conan and Conn meet briefly below the wall. Conn is winded, but grinning like a madman with glee.

CONAN
What happened, grandfather? I thought we in the first group were supposed to take out the archers before the rest of you arrived?

CONN
(Panting.)

First rule of war, boy: No plan survives contact with the enemy intact, ever! Damn bulls were faster than we thought, and so were the archers! Now get your butt over that wall!

Grandfather and grandson grin at each other, then turn back to the matter at hand.

CUT TO:
Close-up of Conan, sword clenched in his teeth, his buckler slung over his back, climbing the wall. Arrows, rocks and raindrops whiz by him, and he looks like he is having the time of his life. As he nears the top, a spear pokes down at him. Hanging on to the wall with his toes and one hand, he grabs the spear shaft with his free hand and suddenly yanks hard. Then he releases the spear and hugs the wall as a screaming Aquilonian soldier plummets past him.

CUT TO:
Morg is starting to climb the wall, when a rock strikes his helmeted head, leaving a dent in the helmet. He leans against the wall, shaking his head. A second rock bounces off the crest; it seems to rouse him. He shakes his head one more time, then commences to climb.

CUT TO:
Conan is among the first Cimmerians to reach the top of the wall. Hanging on to the edge with one hand, he takes the sword out of his mouth, parries a spear-thrust (incidentally severing the spear-shaft) and begins slashing at the defenders. After killing one soldier and driving the other nearby soldiers back out of his sword-range, he vaults one-handed over the top, and is at last able to stand on the parapet. He is too pressed to unlimber his shield, so he uses his sword two-handed to lay about him at every Aquilonian soldier he can reach. Soldiers tumble, screaming, from the parapet. It is the same story all over the wall. As soon as the Cimmerians reach the top, their superior strength, speed, and ferocity are irresistible.

CUT TO:
Morg reaches the top of the wall. At the instant when he is supporting his weight with both hands, a soldier takes a swing at his throat with a sword. Unable to defend himself, Morg lowers himself down a few inches, hunching his head between his shoulders. The soldier’s blade glances off Morg’s helm, leaving a big crease and knocking off some of the inlay. As the soldier winds up for another swing, Morg surges up and punches the soldier in the face. The soldier staggers back and sits down suddenly; Morg vaults over the parapet onto the catwalk, and kicks the soldier, then draws his sword and finishes him off.

CUT TO:

Several Cimmerians hurl heavy iron grapnel hooks over the top of the battlements. Some defenders try to dislodge them, but the sharp iron hooks quickly dig too deep into the wooden walls under the weight of the clambering attackers. Other defenders chop at the hooks, hoping to cut the cords, but the first three or four feet are actually iron chain. Soon it is apparent the walls cannot be held, and the storm breaks in earnest. Rain pours from the sky like blood from an open wound.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARAPET — ATRIUS’ WATCHTOWER — CONTINUOUS.

Grennus is panicking.

GRENNUS
They’re taking the walls! What are we going to do?!?

ATRIUS
(Still calm)
Our duty, I hope. We’re stretched too thin to hold these walls – not enough soldiers. We’ll have to contract to a smaller area.

(Commences barking out rapid-fire orders)

Bannerman!

BANNERMAN
(Stiffens to attention.)
Sir!

ATRIUS
Hustle your banner down to the parade ground, set up, and stay there, no matter what!

BANNERMAN
Yes, Sir!
(He bundles the banner, turns to the steps, and runs down.)

ATRIUS
Trumpeter! Sound “Retreat and Regroup!” Repeat it twice, then switch to “Rally to the Banner!”


The trumpeter puts his horn to his lips and begins blowing signals.

ATRIUS
Grennus, get down to where the bannerman is setting up, and direct the reforming.

GRENNUS
(Able to control his nervousness once he has orders to follow)
Yes, Sir!
(He hurries down the steps)

Atrius stands in place, scowling down at the action, while the trumpeter sounds his signals. When the trumpeter stops, Atrius claps him on the shoulder, gestures at the stairs, and they both hurry down the stairs.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARAPET — CONTINUOUS.

As the trumpet calls are heard, the soldiers suddenly turn and jump off the parapet into the interior, or run down the interior stairs, if handy. Once at ground level, they sprint for the muddy parade ground, the compound in front of the Commandant’s headquarters.

The Cimmerians, not expecting this tactic, do not follow the retreating soldiers, but stay on the parapet, capering and hooting and shouting insults at the soldiers. Conn, huffing and puffing, comes clambering over the top of the parapet with other latecomers. As soon as his feet are planted on the catwalk, he sizes up the situation, and begins shouting orders at the prematurely celebrating warriors.

CONN
(Angry)
What are you DOING!?!? Don’t just stand there! Pursue them! Follow them down! Don’t let them get organized!


CIMMERIAN WARRIOR
(Puzzled by Conn’s tirade)
What’s the problem? We broke them. They’re trapped in here now; we can kill them at our leisure.



CONN
(Even angrier)
Trapped? Broken? You fool! They’re more dangerous than ever! They…

Conn stops as a Bossonian arrow suddenly transfixes the other warrior through the throat. That warrior, with the arrow entirely through his throat, turns angrily toward the interior, takes a step off the catwalk, and topples to the ground below, where he bounces once, then lies still.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARADE GROUND — CONTINUOUS.
The retreating soldiers have coalesced as if by magic, like a crystal out of a fluid, with the drilled precision of a well-oiled machine, into a hollow square, armored with tall rectangular scutums that overlap like the scales of a giant reptile, and bristling with 18-foot-long pikes sloped outward at a 45 degree angle. Halberdiers, and ordinary soldiers with swords and shields, reinforce the corners of the formation. Inside the square, the few remaining Bossonians are standing in a much smaller circle, facing outward, and are peppering the Cimmerians on the parapet with arrows.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARAPET — CONTINUOUS.

CONN
(Dismayed, quieter than before)
… they got organized.

(Pauses, then louder again)

C’mon – let’s get down there. At least they won’t be able to shoot at us then. Everybody down!

The Cimmerians begin hopping down from the catwalk. As they approach the Aquilonian formation, other war leaders join Conn. A trumpet call sings out from inside the hollow square, and all the pikes instantly drop from the 45 degree angle to horizontal. The halberds rise to vertical, and the Bossonians shift to indirect fire, arching high over the heads of the pike wall; the arrows drop amongst the Cimmerians. It is no longer aimed fire, but whenever an arrow hits, it is just as deadly as direct fire.

CONN
I told you not to let them get organized!

By now the rain as petered out as the rapidly moving storm works it’s way north and west.
The Cimmerians hesitate and dither in the drizzle; the Gundermen’s wall of scutums and pikes looks impregnable. A group of warriors work themselves up into a berserk fever pitch of bloodlust. Howling, they charge the scutum wall. The pikes dart and jab, and most of the warriors sag to the ground, speared many times before they even reach the scutums. The Gundermen pull their spears out of the twitching bodies. One warrior manages to evade the pike-points and reaches the scutum line; a halberd descends like the edge of Doom, and cleaves through his helmet and skull as if they were made of papier-mache, finally lodging between his shoulder blades. A moment later, all the weapons are repositioned and ready to deal more death. There is a groan of dismay from the Cimmerians.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARADE GROUND — CLOSEUP OF CONAN — CONTINUOUS — SUNRISE.
Conan is outraged at the puny soldiers being able to mount a defense and kill Cimmerians. With a yell, he charges the scutums, just as the first horizontal rays of the rising sun clear the east palisade.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARADE GROUND — CLOSEUP OF CONN — CONTINUOUS.
Conn is horrified as he sees his only posterity charging to certain death.

CONN
Conan! NOOoooo!

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARADE GROUND — LONGER SHOT OF CONAN AND THE SCUTUM WALL — CONTINUOUS.
But Conan, with the quickness of a mongoose attacking a cobra, in a display of the incredible reflexes which will become his hallmark, batters the darting pikes aside with his buckler and sword, REACHES the scutums, leaps, and as the pikemen desperately try to shorten their grips, clambers OVER the scutum-wall. As a couple of scutums start to topple under his weight, he disappears behind them.

A moment later, he reappears, dancing and spinning amongst the pikes, his sword rising, falling, rising, falling, amid sun-illumined clouds of dust, splinters, and sprays of blood.


CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARADE GROUND — CLOSEUP OF CONN — CONTINUOUS.
The expression of anguish on his face changes to an ecstasy of relief. He turns to the other Cimmerians.

CONN
(Exuberant)
What are you waiting for? Do you wanna live forever?

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — THE PARADE GROUND — LONGER SHOT OF THE BATTLE — CONTINUOUS.
Conn, a look of wild joy on his face, charges for the hole that Conan has made in the scutum wall. With an earth-shaking roar, the rest of the Cimmerians charge the disorganized wall. Deprived of the integrity of their formation, the Aquilonians disintegrate.

CUT TO:
SERIES OF SHOTS — CONTINUOUS — SUNRISE.

— Conan, dancing and dodging among the soldiers, his sword twirling and slashing, is killing soldiers wholesale, but is never a stationary target.

— Several Cimmerians wrenching the main gates open, allowing their comrades to flood inside.

— Conn, striding through the soldiers like an irresistible god of destruction, whirling his battleaxe in a glittering wheel of death. A random arrow strikes him in the arm; he impatiently yanks it out, producing a gout of blood. Then he gets back to business.

— A group of merchants and servants fleeing through the sodden prairie grasses south of Venarium, showing horror and dismay as the leave everything behind.

— Morg is involved with a cluster of soldiers, trading blows at a furious rate, as sword-blows rain down upon his head. His once-beautiful helmet is accumulating damage, but it doesn’t slow him down.


CUT TO:

Connell, working his way through the soldiers, comes face-to-face with Captain Pencalvus. In a frozen, timeless instant, they recognize each other.

CONNELL
(Surprised.)
Pencalvus!

Pencalvus’ tired, grim features kindle to rage, as he telegraphs the shot he is about to take at Connell. But with a sudden movement, Connell clubs Pencalvus in the head with the pommel of his sword. As Pencalvus falls, Connell catches him and drapes him over his shoulder. He carries Pencalvus around behind a nearby building, then lowers him gently to the ground.

CONNELL
I’m afraid this is the best I can do for you, old friend. Good luck.

Spying a nearby empty cart, he overturns it on the unconscious Pencalvus to hide him from the others, then leaves to rejoin the battle.

CUT TO:
Atrius and the Bannerman are fighting back-to-back amidst a confused mixture of soldiers and Cimmerians. The Bannerman is using the iron-splinted shaft of his banner like a tall, skinny shield, blocking blows or dancing from one side to the other of the banner pole. Atrius is fighting with two swords, defending with quick, deft, skillful moves and killing a Cimmerian or two.

Conn emerges from the melee, shears through the banner-pole with one sweep of his ax, continues the sweep through a full circle, and decapitates the Bannerman the second time around. Atrius senses the sudden loss of the Bannerman’s presence and spins around. The two old fighters yell at each other as they try to catch their breath.

ATRIUS
(Angry)
Conn, you bastard, I should have known you were behind this!

CONN
I wasn’t behind it, you were, or at least your Emperor was.


CUT TO:
CLOSE-UP OF ATRIUS’ FACE AS THE ACCUSATION STRIKES HOME — CONTINUOUS.

Surprise, then anger passes over Atrius’ face.

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT OF CONN AND ATRIUS — CONTINUOUS.
With a yell of rage, Atrius leaps desperately at Conn, both swords slashing in attack. Conn steps back, parries, and launches a tremendous ax blow at Atrius. Atrius tries to block, but both his swords are battered aside. Conn’s ax cuts deeply into Atrius’ shoulder and drives him to the ground.

FADE TO RED.

FADE TO:

EXT. VENARIUM — MORNING.

Exhausted Cimmerians are standing, some leaning on their weapons, amidst the carnage of Aquilonian soldiers who are lying where they died. Gradually, as they recover, the Cimmerians begin to get motivated. At first, they wander aimlessly, and some of them take off all or part of their armor in order to get more comfortable. Some of them attempt to wash themselves in whatever sources of water are available.

DISSOLVE TO:
SERIES OF SHOTS.

— Morg is tugging at his badly battered helmet, trying to get it off.

— Conan washing himself in a horse trough.

— Conn wrapping his injured arm in a piece of cloth. Blood immediately soaks through the cloth.

— A group of shield maidens, fully armored, gathered around another horse trough, shielding it from view, facing outward and glowering in an exceptionally menacing manner. We catch a glimpse of a nude female washing herself in the trough.

— Morg is still tugging at his helmet.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. — VENARIUM — CONTINUOUS.

Conn, his arm still wrapped in a bloody bandage, and the other war leaders, are taking command. Connell is pointing out the likeliest places to contain treasure. We see the leaders directing Cimmerians in various activities.

CUT TO:
EXT. — VENARIUM — CONTINUOUS.
Koivoinen is picking his way through the victorious Cimmerians, looking for something. The warriors eye him suspiciously, and one cuffs him contemptuously as he wanders too close. The shaman bows and scrapes, ducking around a corner and out of the way.

KOIVOINEN
(Under his breath)
That one dies last!

A battered Oin and his troops spot the shaman and approach.

OIN
Ho! Koivoinen! We’ve won . . . but what now?

KOIVOINEN
(Irritated at this interruption of his search.)
Heh. Well, you survived, which is more than I expected. Why don’t you join your drunken fool countrymen and let me be?

OIN
(Confused)
Yes, but . . . I didn’t get to talk to you last night before the battle. The dreams, they’ve returned.

His men nod, they were troubled by dreams and visions as well.

KOIVOINEN
Fool, I don’t have time for you anymore! You want help with your dreams?

The shaman looks around. No other Cimmerians are in sight. Suddenly he grabs Oin’s head with one hand, and sweeps his other at the massed Hellsmouth warriors. A green energy ripples out from him over the warriors, who gasp, grunt and collapse, many bleeding from their noses or ears. Oin, betrayal and sorrow etched on his face as he stare up at the grinning Koivoinen, goes down to his knees. With a disdainful laugh, Koivoinen shoves Oin’s face away, and the Hellsmouth headman collapses.

 

DISSOLVE TO:

SERIES OF SHOTS, AS AFTERNOON ADVANCES:

–Cimmerians carrying the bodies of their slain comrades to one of the palisade walls and lining them up neatly, in composed positions. The dead Aquilonians are dragged into a single pile near a group of wooden buildings.

— Some of the younger Cimmerians are trying to help Morg get his helmet off. One of them tries to drag the helmet off, but simply drags Morg around. Then several of them hold on to Morg, while two others try to pull the helmet off, until Morg’s yells of pain make them stop.

— Trooping happily out of the Commandant’s Headquarters, and some of the warehouses, laden with treasure of various sorts.

— Trooping happily out of other warehouses with food and barrels of ale and jugs of wine.

— Tearing down some small buildings to build bonfires, and funeral pyres for the dead Cimmerians.

— A carefully selected mix of members of various tribes, under the supervision of several leaders, organizing the treasure and dividing it up.

— A small group of merchants and soldiers fleeing furtively southward across the steppes, smoke arising from Venarium in the background.


DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — AFTERNOON ADVANCING ON TO EVENING.

SERIES OF SHOTS:

— Cimmerians standing respectfully as their dead compatriots burn on their pyres.

— Cimmerians cooking food over the bonfires. They are already starting to consume ale and wine.

— A tall, white-haired, intelligent-looking Cimmerian (Healer) confronting a wan, exhausted-looking Conn. The Healer is gesturing indignantly at the blood-soaked bandage on Conn’s arm.


— Connell is examining Morg and his impacted helmet, while shaking his head ruefully.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — A VICTORY BONFIRE — FULL DARK.

A drunken celebration is well under way. Conan is dancing around a bonfire with other young warriors to an insistent beat established by several drummers. He is stripped to the waist and carrying a wine jug in each hand, and is trying to make up a song about his own exploits. He already has a buzz on, and staggers occasionally, but never misses a step or loses the beat; if he does stumble, he somehow manages to convert it into a step in the dance.

CONAN
…then charged he the shieldwall,/ Shplattered the shpearpoints,
…uh…
Shattered the spearpoints,
…or maybe…
Shattered the shieldwall,/ Splattered the spearmen…
…no…

He swigs from one of the wine jugs, upending it.

CONAN
Hey! This’n’s empty! How’m I s’pposed to compose a song without insp’ration?

(He tosses the empty jug into the bonfire, then, to some Cimmerians sitting around the fire…)

Toss me another one.

One of the Cimmerians tosses Conan a full jug.

CUT TO:
Close-up shot of Conan’s hand snagging the jug out of the air with perfect accuracy.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — FULL SHOT OF CONAN BY THE BONFIRE — CONTINUOUS.
Conan swigging from the jug without interrupting his dance.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — A VICTORY BONFIRE — CONTINUOUS.

Full shot of several Cimmerians sitting around the bonfire, passing a jug back and forth while watching Conan’s song and dance.

FERGAL
He’s a better dancer than he is a poet.

DONNALL
Ha! He’s a better fighter than he is a dancer!

FERGAL
Aye! I saw him this morning. Now that was good fighting and good dancing! Thank Crom he’s on our side!

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — FULL SHOT OF CONAN BY THE BONFIRE CONTINUOUS.
Conan looks at the two jugs he is holding, and steps out of the way of the other dancers.

CONAN
I shouldn’t be so selfish. I’ll look up Father and Grandfather and share some of this wine with them.

Conan walks away from the bonfire and starts wandering around the compound. He comes upon Dorbha and some of the other chieftains at another bonfire.

CONAN
(to Dorbha, politely)
Excuse me, Headman, but have you seen Conn or Connell around?

DORBHA
Well, I know Conn has business with the Healer, over by the tavern, and I think Connell was going to the smithy to do some work, although I can’t imagine why anybody would want to interrupt such an outstanding Victory Celebration to pound iron! Wait ’til tomorrow morning, and our heads will be pounding hard enough for anybody!
(Laughs)

CONAN
Thank you, Headman.


Conan walks off in the direction of the smithy.

FADE OUT.

FADE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — AILVI AND HER SHIELD MAIDENS BY A BONFIRE — CONTINUOUS.

Searching for his daughter, Erin is more than a little shocked to see her actually having a good time.
Drunk on more than the glory of victory, Ailvi and her shield maidens dance around a roaring bonfire. Several male Cimmerians dance with them as others mangle a festive song on their bagpipes and captured drums, harps, lutes and horns. Ailvi has stripped most of her armor and is wearing little more than a leather kilt and her breastplate. She’s gotten her banner back, and it flaps merrily above her head as she cavorts around the fire.
Perhaps even more shocking is who she is cavorting with: a very drunk Donner! Donner has shed most of his clothing, including his shirt, revealing his chest covered with bright red hair. His face ruddy in the firelight and from drink, he booms out a bawdy song in a surprisingly smooth and deep baritone.
Erin makes his way near front of the crowd around the fire, his grin getting wider and wider.
Suddenly, he catches Ailvi’s eye.

AILVI
(Squealing with glee)
Daddy!

She runs and throws her arms around him in a massive hug. Erin booms with laughter: His little is back!

AILVI
(Giddy and more than a little drunk.)
Oh, Daddy, didja see it?! Wasn’t it glorious? Th’ storm, and th’ arrows! Weren’t those archers magnificent? Crom, but I’d love to fight them again!

She lets go of him and grabs the banner, yanking it out of the socket on the back of her breastplate.

AILVI
An’ didja see this? Right as I jumped offa that bull – Crom, but that thing stank! – I threw it at one of those archers and WHAM!


With that she rams the sharpened end of the banner-staff into the drying mud.

ERIN
(Laughs)
Ha! Yes, I saw, I saw! I was about 100 paces behind you when you let fly. You have no idea how proud I was to see your banner atop the wall so soon in the battle!

Donner wanders up and hands a jug to Erin as he puts his other arm around Ailvi.

DONNER
You’ve got one hell of a daughter here, headman! And one hell of a warrior, too!

Erin goggles at this brash warrior, and starts to say something, but Ailvi interrupts.

AILVI
(In a conspiratorial stage-whisper.)
Y’know, Daddy? I think he likes me!

Donner guffaws and turns back to the dancing. Erin just stares, jaw agape as Ailvi pecks him on the cheek and follows Donner. He’s fumbling for his sword when Aebbin wanders up behind him and puts a hand on his shoulder: He’s seen the whole thing before.

AEBBIN
(Gesturing at the jug.)
Ain’t gonna do you any good, my friend. She’s her own woman. You might as well use that jug and get used to it.

Erin looks back and forth between Aebbin, the jug and Donner and his daughter. Finally, he sighs and takes a deep pull. He turns to leave, but Aebbin is looking at him expectantly.

ERIN
(Surly)
What?

AEBBIN
(A wounded look crosses his face)
I gave you some excellent advice! Aren’t you going to give in return?

Erin glares at Aebbin for a moment, but the headman’s pout is so comically overdone, he can’t help himself.

ERIN
(Sighs and hands the jug to Aebbin)
All right, all right. Crom, what a day!

The two headmen wander off, Aebbin regaling Erin with tales of his own wild daughter.

FADE OUT:


FADE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE SMITHY — NIGHT.

As Conan approaches the smithy, he hears metallic tapping noises, and strange groaning sounds. He enters the smithy.

CUT TO:
INT. VENARIUM — THE SMITHY — CONT.

This is a large, very well-equipped smithy, as well it should be, designed to serve the needs of the Aquilonian garrison in Venarium, normally 100 – 300 soldiers, but sometimes many more. The forges are cold, but light is provided by some torches.

Connell is standing by a large anvil, applying his talents to an individual who is bent over with his head resting on the anvil. This individual is, by his size and muscular build, a Cimmerian. By his clothing, and the ruined helmet on his head, we recognize him as Morg the Vain. Connell is very carefully, and with the utmost delicacy and precision, tap-tap-tapping on Morg’s helmet with a hammer and chisel. As the camera zooms in on them, we see that Morg’s helmet has been form-molded to his head and face by many weapon-blows. Connell is carefully removing the helmet from Morg’s head one section at a time.

CONAN
Hello, Father. What’s . . . Morg?!

MORG
(Muffled)
Shut up, Conan!

CONNELL

Hey, boy. He just had to wear that Aquilonian parade helm into battle. Then he got so busy defending his own skin, he left the helmet to take care of itself. Fortunately for this dunderhead, his thick Cimmerian skull was tougher than Aquilonian mild steel. So now I’m supposed to peel the damn helmet off him without harming his good looks!

MORG
(Muffled)
Not a word, Conan. Not a word!

Conan battles manfully to keep a straight face, then allows a mischievous grin to take control.

CONAN
(In a completely serious tone of voice despite the grin on his face.)
You know, if you heated the helmet in the forge, it would soften the metal and make it easier to peel off.

CONNELL
(Entering into the spirit of the joke.)
You know, I think you’ve got something there.

MORG
NO, NO …
(The rest is unintelligible, but very loud.)

CONAN
(Voice elaborately serious, face expressing the humor of the situation)
Of course, his face would probably never be the same.

CONNELL
Not to mention his brains!

CONAN
Probably an improvement on both counts, though.

Morg protests loudly and tries to stand up, but Connell leans on his head, holding him to the anvil.


CONNELL
(Barely keeping from laughing out loud.)
Conan, I think you’re getting him over-excited. Perhaps you’d better leave.

CONAN
(Holds up one of the wine jugs.)
I brought this for you, Father. Don’t drink it all at once; save some for Morg.

CONNELL
(Laughs)
Maybe I’ll work on the section covering his mouth; that way he’ll be able to drink some of the wine without waiting for me to get the whole helmet off.


MORG
(Unintelligible but enthusiastic)

Still smiling, Conan leaves the smithy and heads for the tavern.

FADE OUT.

FADE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE TAVERN, NEAR THE DOOR — NIGHT.

Conan reaches the tavern, which is full of carousing Cimmerians, and finds Conn seated on a bench outside. The scene is illuminated by a torch impaled on an Aquilonian spear, and a nearby bonfire, as well as light coming from inside the tavern. Conn looks haggard and drunk at the same time. The healer is also seated on the bench, but he is straddling it, facing Conn’s side, and working on the arm that had been struck by an arrow. The bandage has been removed, and the Healer is probing the bloody wound with a couple of small knives. Conn seems to barely feel the probings. There is one wine jug on the bench, which is surrounded by an improbably large number of empty wine bottles strewn about the ground.

CONAN
Hello, Grandfather.

(Concerned)

Are you all right?


CONN
Jus’ a few scratches. Ask the Healer.


CONAN
(To the Healer)
Is he all right?

HEALER
(Professionally indignant)
Of course he’s all right! He’s Conn isn’t he? Gets an arrow in the arm, and does he break it off near the skin and push it through, like a sensible warrior? NOOoo! Big bad Conn has to just rip it right out! Leaving splinters and fragments in the wound where they can mortify!

CONN
(Defensive)
It was in the way! Cramping my style!

HEALER
So instead of getting drunk like any decent Cimmerian, I have to stay sober and extract the splinters and clean out the pus, just so he won’t be known as Conn One-Arm! Anyway, an arm this big and tough would be sheer hell to amputate!

The Healer picks up the wine jug that had been standing on the bench, and upends it over Conn’s wound.

CONN
Ow! Hey, wait a minute, that’s the last of the wine!

(He focuses on the wine jug that Conan is carrying.)

Conan, lad, you wouldn’t happen to have some wine for a poor old wounded warrior on his bed of pain, would you?

CONAN
Of course, Grandfather, I brought this just for you.

He hands the jug to Conn, who swigs sloppily from it.


CONN
(Getting more maudlin by the minute)
Thanks, Conan. You’re a good boy. Always been a good boy. A credit to the family and the Clan . . . the whole damned Cimmerian nation! You were magnificent this morning. Reminded me of myself when I was your age. Hell, better than anything I ever did when I was your age. I’m proud to be your grandsire. Always been proud of you.
(Takes another swig.)

Conan at first glows under the praise, then gets uncomfortable as he realizes what condition Conn is in. The Healer is probing in the wound again, ostentatiously not hearing what is being said.

CONN
I know I can count on you, Conan!
(Sets the winejug down on the side away from the Healer.)

CONAN
What do you mean, Grandfather?

CONN
(Sighs.)
I’m getting old, Conan.

Conan doesn’t want to hear this. But when he makes as if to take a step backwards, Conn reaches out and grips Conan’s arm hard.

CONN
(Continuing)
I really thought this would be my last battle! A chance to go out in a blaze of glory! But I was invincible (‘cept for that pesky arrow)! No one could kill me!

(Strangely, Conn does not seem happy about this.)


Now here I am, another day older, and maybe another ‘nother piece of me lost. And if no one kills me, then there’s nothing down the road but the Straw Death!

The Healer momentarily jerks to alertness at this, then resumes resolutely ignoring the conversation.

CONAN
Straw Death?

CONN
(Maintaining an iron grip on Conan’s arm.)
That’s what the Aesir call death from sickness or old age. They stuff their mattresses with straw, so when some poor, feeble sod is confined to bed to die of old age, that’s the Straw Death.

(Shakes Conan’s arm)

Conan, you won’t let that happen to me, will you? If it comes to that, you won’t let me lie helplessly in a bed of straw, waiting for an ignominious death?

By now, Conan would rather be staked out in Zandru’s lowest Hell than be right here, right now.

CONAN
(This is ripped from his very soul; it is not just a token statement to humor the old man – it is an unbreakable promise he is honor bound to keep.)
Anything you want, Grandfather. I will never abandon you to the Straw Death.
(His face as well as his voice is strained, as if he were grieving in advance.)

Conn lets go of Conan’s arm, and subsides, muttering unintelligibly. During this discussion, the Healer has finished his probing, washed the wound one last time, and is now sewing it up with a coarse needle and thread. Conn doesn’t even notice.

HEALER
(To Conan)

You know, he won’t remember any of this tomorrow. And I’m telling you now, on my honor, I won’t remember it either.

CONAN
Thank you, but I have no choice but to remember it.

HEALER
(Shaking his head ruefully)
He shouldn’t have done this to you; you’re too young!

CONAN
No, I’m not. I took on adult responsibilities a year ago.

HEALER
Well, rest assured that Conn has a lot of years left before he has to worry about the Straw Death. And a lot can happen in the meantime.

CONAN
I can only hope you’re right.

Conan turns and leaves. Conn seems to be falling asleep as the Healer sews up his arm.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. THE STREETS OF VENARIUM — CONTINUOUS.
Conan, a brooding scowl on his face, is wandering through the streets of the settlement, such as they are. In the mood he is in, he is avoiding the celebratory bonfires. As he wanders, he spots a tall skinny figure, a wiry old man clad in wolfskins, with wavy, almost curly white hair.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — STREETS — CLOSE UP OF KOIVOINEN — CONTINUOUS.
Koivoinen is peering in all directions as he walks, as if he were looking for something; his lips are moving as he mutters inaudibly to himself.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — STREETS — CLOSE UP OF OIN — CONTINUOUS.
A warrior is prodding Oin with his toe.

WARRIOR
Hey. Hey, get up, you.


Oin struggles awake. Several other Cimmerians are helping his men up and leading them away.

WARRIOR
C’mon, headman, we’re torching these buildings next. You wanna burn?

Oin struggles to his feet and shakes his head clear. Behind him, a building goes up in flames. He turns, and as he stares at the flames, memories come rushing back. Enraged, he turns to one of his men. It’s Urli, the warrior from the baby sacrifice.

OIN
(Seething)
Where is he? Where’s that little pipsqueak shaman?

URLI
(Shaking his head)
I don’t know. Last I remember was . . .

Odium crosses the warrior’s face as he realizes the truth of Koivoinen’s secret.

URLI
Oh, Crom! That little bastard!

He looks around wildly, but the shaman/wizard is nowhere to be seen. Oin draws his sword and grabs up his shield.

OIN
Gather up the men, Urli. Let’s find that murderous runt and roast his sorcerous ass!

The men are already gathering, hatred and rage building as Koivoinen’s spell fades and they realize the extent of his betrayal and manipulation. With a shout, they spread out to find and kill the erstwhile shaman.


CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — LONGER SHOTS — CONTINUOUS.

Suspicious, Conan shadows the figure stealthily, and is led to the Commandant’s Headquarters building. As Koivoinen noses around the building, Conan abruptly changes direction and fades into the shadows. A moment later, he steps out of a different set of shadows, directly in Koivoinen’s path. As Koivoinen starts in surprise, Conan squints at the unfamiliar, yet half-remembered, appearance of the shaman. Koivoinen quickly morphs into his Cimmerian guise: tall and rangy, hair straight black, shot through with streaks of white, eyes now a Cimmerian ice-blue.

KOIVOINEN
(Friendly, neither frightened nor angry)
By Crom, you startled me! You must be a matchless hunter!

CONAN
(Suspicious, and in no mood to accept praise or anything else from this man)
What are you doing here? I thought you had agreed to stay out of our way!

KOIVOINEN
Of course!
(Ingratiating)
But the battle is over now, thanks in no small part to your valor this morning!

CONAN
You know about that? But you weren’t even there!

KOIVOINEN
It is given to me to know many things, Conan of the Blackwater Creek Tribe. But in this case, I would have to be deaf not to know of your exploits of this morning; they are on everyone’s lips!

CONAN
Enough flattery! What are you doing here?

KOIVOINEN
(Reasonably)
Why, looking for treasure, of course, just like everyone else! But not any ordinary treasure, not any treasure of the Aquilonians, but a treasure immeasurably older and more precious than anything the Aquilonians could have brought here.

CONAN
(Suspending judgement)

Tell me more of this ancient, precious treasure.

KOIVOINEN
(Points to the course of ancient stones that forms the foundation for the Headquarters building.)
See these stones? The Aquilonians didn’t put them here. They were here before Venarium was built. They were here long before there was a Kingdom of Aquilonia!
(Increasingly enthusiastic)
They are part of the ruins of a city that flourished here before the Hyborii, the ancestors of the Aquilonians, came down from the North to plunder the Empire of Acheron! Who knows what treasures might still be buried here, left over from that ancient civilization?!
(He looks speculatively at Conan.)
Treasures that might be too heavy for one old man to carry by himself.

CONAN
(Greed is warring with suspicion, and winning.)
Ancient, weighty treasures, eh? And where do you think these might be?

KOIVOINEN
This building here…

CONAN
The Commandant’s Headquarters.

(Bragging)

I was actually in here when my father and I were scouting out the town a few weeks ago.

KOIVOINEN
Excellent! That could be helpful!

Anyway, my studies indicate that this headquarters building was built on the site of one of the principal buildings in the ancient city. I have reason to believe a truly fabulous treasure is buried right here, beneath this building.


CONAN
(Makes an expansive gesture at the building.)
Then lead on, O Shaman!

They enter the Headquarters building.

CUT TO:
INT. VENARIUM — COMMANDANT’S HEADQUARTERS GROUND FLOOR — CONTINUOUS.

The ground floor is a wreck; Cimmerians have already searched through here and removed everything of value. Conan looks skeptical, but Koivoinen searches purposefully. He heads towards a door in back.


CONAN
That door leads to a stairway that goes down to the dungeon. We’ve already been down there; there’s nothing there.

KOIVOINEN
You didn’t know what to look for. That’s why you need me. Bring some torches, it’ll be dark.

Conan, after a moment’s search, finds a couple of torches. Meanwhile, Koivoinen goes through the door and starts down the stairs.


CUT TO:
INT. VENARIUM — COMMANDANT’S HEADQUARTERS — STAIRWAY TO DUNGEON — CONTINUOUS.

Although the stairway is pitch black, we can see, by a trick of the camera, Koivoinen descending the stairs unerringly, his eyes glowing green in the dark. A moment later, an orange, flickering glow heralds Conan, descending the stairs with a lit torch.


CUT TO:

INT. VENARIUM — COMMANDANT’S HEADQUARTERS — DUNGEON — CONTINUOUS.

The dungeon is a medium large, squarish, stone-lined underground room with a couple of barred cells, empty, along one side, and some crude, broken furniture in the middle. The stonework has the same weathered, ancient look as the stone foundations of several of the buildings in the settlement. The cells appear of much newer construction. Koivoinen stands in the middle of the room, slowly rotating around, looking at the walls and floor.

KOIVOINEN
This room is part of the original construction. The Headquarters building above was added by the Hyborians, I mean Aquilonians, when Venarium, as they call it now, was founded.

The mage pauses to examine a section of wall. Conan can see no noticeable difference between it and the rest of the room, but Koivoinen isn’t fooled.
He points at the wall.


KOIVOINEN
(Scraping at the mortar.)
There used to be a doorway here. See how the stones don’t quite overlap the same way the rest of the wall does? It’s probably not very thick, but maybe we should get some others down here to help break through.

Conan has been watching the shaman very suspiciously during the last monologue, but this last is almost insulting. Snorting in derision, Conan picks up a bench made from a split log. Taking a moment to size up where Koivoinen has indicated the doorway was, Conan wedges one end of the bench in the crook of his arm and charges the wall, with the bench as a battering ram. The first blow dislodges a few stones, which clatter down into the darkness behind the wall. Sizing up the wall again, Conan charges a second time, and manages to take out a considerable chunk of the ancient masonry. He pulls the remaining stones out of the way, revealing a doorway in the stone wall, and more stairs leading down. Koivoinen immediately starts down the stairs.

KOIVOINEN
(Grinning over his shoulder to Conan)
Come along, if you dare.


Conan, looking extremely disturbed, lights the second torch from the first, puts one of the torches in a wall sconce, and, carrying the other torch, starts down the stairs after Koivoinen.

FADE OUT.

FADE TO:
INT. VENARIUM — COMMANDANT’S HEADQUARTERS — SUB-BASEMENT — CONTINUOUS.
Koivoinen emerges from the bottom of the stairs into a pitch-black chamber, followed a moment later by Conan, bearing a torch which floods the chamber with warm light.

It is a round chamber with a vaulted ceiling, all lined with black marble; black marble pillars are positioned around the sides to help support the ceiling. There are torch sconces in the walls. Walls and pillars both are carved with representations of coiling serpents. Conan examines these decorations with extreme misgivings. At one side of the room is a small white marble altar capped by a stone slab with a pattern of channels carved in its upper surface. The channels are discolored by brown stains, and the ends of the channels, at the outer edges of the slab, disappear into the gaping jaws of carved serpent heads. Koivoinen hurries to the altar and attempts to shift the covering slab. He can’t budge it.

KOIVOINEN
(To Conan)
Help me with this.

Conan looks extremely disturbed, even fearful, but he puts the torch in one of the sconces. He takes but a moment to size up the altar, gestures Koivoinen out of his way, squats by the altar, and grasps the slab. With a tremendous bulging of muscles, he partly lifts and partly slides the slab off the altar, revealing that the altar is hollow.
(SOUND FX: stone scraping on stone)
Conan straightens and steps back from the altar, breathing hard. Koivoinen quickly steps forward, reaches inside the altar, and pulls out – a sword! The hilt is in the form of a serpent coiled in an ascending spiral. The serpent’s gaping jaws and fangs form the quillons, as if the blade were sprouting out of its mouth. Cackling maniacally, he grasps the hilt and lifts the sword, and as he straightens, he morphs back into his true form. The eyes of the serpent glitter like tiny green sparks, then green sparks fly from the sword and seem to envelop the shaman’s hands.

KOIVOINEN
(Gloating ecstatically)

The Invincible Sword of Acheron! Mine at last, after lifetimes of searching! Did you know, barbarian, that this sword was forged by the wizard-smiths of Acheron, and no weapon or armor can stand against it! Of course you didn’t. When the barbarous Hyborii swarmed down on Acheron from the north, the Sword’s owner attempted to flee, but he was killed by a Hyborian chieftain, who then took the Sword north to display to his flea-ridden companions. But he in turn died here, in a ruined Acheronian city. He was buried here, but a heroic Acheronian priest stole the Sword from the barbarian’s dead grasp, and brought it to a proper resting place in this ruined temple. For almost three thousand years, barbarian, the Sword lay here, forgotten. Then, a few years ago, the Aquilonians, still hardly any better than their barbarous ancestors, or you idiot Cimmerii, for that matter, built Venarium on the site, not realizing what a treasure lay beneath their rotten little village. I am a direct descendant of the priests of Acheron. My sires told me of the Sword, and I have been searching for it ever since I reached manhood. With this Sword, I am impervious to all weapons. And tonight, barbarian, tonight I will sacrifice a thousand Cimmerians on the altar of Set! I will bring back the glory of Acheron and send all of you barbarians howling back to your wilderness! And you, young fool, for helping me, have earned the honor of being the first man in three thousand years to taste the bite of Acheronian steel!

He clumsily raises the sparkling Sword over his head two-handed, with the clear intent to cleave Conan in half. The youth jumps back, drawing his sword, then with a yell leaps forward to attack, his sword whirring viciously through the air with such speed that the shaman barely has time to interpose his Sword in an inept attempt to block the furious attack. As Conan’s sword makes contact with the Sword of Acheron, his own sword explodes into a cloud of steel shrapnel.

(SOUND FX: Metallic explosion)

Koivoinen doesn’t even seem to feel the impact, but Conan’s face, throat, and chest are scored by dozens of steel shards. Conan jumps backwards, desperately trying to wipe blood out of his eyes and put distance between himself and the shaman to avoid being blindly slaughtered. His backwards leap carries him against one of the pillars with such force that he shatters the ancient marble. The section of ceiling that had been supported by the pillar collapses, spilling chunks of marble and hundreds of pounds of dirt on top of Conan, who disappears in a cloud of dirt and stone and dust. The rest of the ceiling shows signs of joining in a general collapse, but Koivoinen points the Sword at the ceiling and speaks a Word in an unknown language. A fat green spark leaps from the Sword to the ceiling, and the ceiling suddenly freezes in place, re-stabilized. Koivoinen strolls over to the pile of dirt and stone, from which Conan’s feet protrude about half way up to the knees. He casually kicks one of Conan’s feet.

KOIVOINEN
(Shaking his head sadly)
No one could have survived that. Too bad. But other sacrifices await.

He takes the torch down from the sconce with his free hand, and turns toward the stairs. As he starts up the stairs, and light fades from the chamber, we see Conan’s foot twitch.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN:
EXT. VENARIUM — IN FRONT OF THE COMMANDANT’S HEADQUARTERS — NIGHT, MOMENTS LATER.
Koivoinen, in his true form, walks out of the front door of the Headquarters Building. He no longer has the torch, but is still carrying the Sword of Acheron. He pauses, takes a deep breath, and stands tall, as if already savoring victory. Then he saunters towards the nearest bonfire.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — A BONFIRE — CONTINUOUS.
Koivoinen arrives at a bonfire, but some time passes before the revelers even notice that they are being watched by a stranger, a non-Cimmerian, armed with a sword.

CIMMERIAN #1
(Rising from a sitting position; hostile)

Who are you?

KOIVOINEN
(Grinning, insolent)
Your Death, barbarian pig!

CIMMERIAN #1
(Angry, taking this boast with the utmost seriousness)
The hell you say!

The Cimmerian quickly draws his sword and rushes Koivoinen, swinging his sword as soon as he gets in range.
Koivoinen seems unprepared for the speed and fury of this attack, but the Sword whips up into a defensive position, and the Cimmerian’s sword shatters explosively against the Sword of Acheron. As the Cimmerian totters, stunned and blinded by the explosion, Koivoinen swings his Sword clumsily at the Cimmerian. Somehow, his clumsy swing transforms itself into a swift horizontal slash which severs the Cimmerian’s neck cleanly. The rest of the Cimmerians around this bonfire draw their weapons and charge the stranger, yelling their battle-cries. Koivoinen erupts in a flurry of lightning-fast parries, ripostes, blocks, and counterattacks, and the Cimmerians die amid metallic explosions and fountains of blood, except for one Cimmerian who flees, screaming.

Other Cimmerians, around other bonfires, see that someone is attacking their comrades, and come running to rescue, or avenge, them. A horrible, bloody slaughter ensues, in which dozens of Cimmerians attack Koivoinen, and die by the dozens, as the Sword drags Koivoinen hither and yon in defense and counterattack. No weapon, whether sword, ax, hammer, or spear, whether made of steel, bronze, stone, or wood, can survive contact with the Sword of Acheron, and Cimmerians who take the time to don armor before attacking discover that the Sword penetrates armor as easily as naked skin, and shields explode with the same disastrous effect as weapons. Nor is Koivoinen always on the defensive; sometimes he attacks, forcing a Cimmerian to defend. The scenario is always the same: a Cimmerian’s weapon explodes, on contact with the Sword of Acheron, in a shower of razor-edged shrapnel, and the attacker is either mortally wounded by the explosion itself, or is rendered helpless (usually blinded) by the explosion and unable to defend against Koivoinen’s counterattack, or flees, screaming in terror. Even thrown or arched weapons are ineffectual: the Sword always manages to whip around in defense, causing thrown axes to explode into steel splinters, and arrows to disappear in flares of green fire. And all the time, Koivoinen is cackling in maniacal glee.

Suddenly, Oin and his men are there. Oin spots the wizard, and points his sword at him.


OIN
You! For all our children you have killed, for our headman Collin and for all your betrayal, now you die!

KOIVOINEN
(Laughs)
Fools, take me – if you can!

Oin and his men rush in. Trying to overwhelm their foe with sheer numbers, they bodily pile on top of the little man, who seems to fold under their weight.
For a moment, there is silence from the surrounding warriors, as they watch and wait. Grunts of exertion from the Hellsmouth warriors punctuate the air as their weapons rise and fall. The scrawny wizard cannot be seen for the press of the Hellsmouth Cimmerians bent on his destruction.
Then beams of green energy seem to lance out from between the warriors and cries of pain are heard over their war cries. From the middle of the pile of Cimmerians, the leering and unharmed Koivoinen suddenly stands erect, as Hellsmouther bodies are hurled aside like bloody rags.
Kneeling before the wizard in a pool of his own blood, his weapons broken and useless on the ground beside him, is Oin.

KOIVOINEN
Idiot! Did you really think you could stop me? Set himself has proclaimed this to be. What chance did you ever have?

OIN
(Grimacing)
You . . . you . . .

But Oin never finishes his final words. With a graceful pirouette and a mighty sweep of the Sword, Koivoinen lops the fallen headman’s head clean off.

KOIVOINEN
(With wonder and glee – to himself)
These barbarians have been right all this time . . . this sort of slaughter is fun!


With that, Koivoinen bellows and charges the warriors in his best Cimmerian imitation.

The killing continues anew.

There comes a moment, amid the slaughter, and the unaccustomed spectacle of terrified Cimmerians screaming in fear and running around in mortal panic, when all those who have not yet closed with the shaman suddenly realize, almost simultaneously, just what they are up against. Then there is a general drawing back and away from Koivoinen, and a moment of awed, horrified silence. Koivoinen himself breaks the silence, taunting the Cimmerians.

KOIVOINEN
(Prancing and brandishing the Sword)
What’s the matter? I thought Cimmerians were supposed to be fearless warriors, terrible in battle! Are you afraid of one old man? Come to me, my brave barbarians! The blood you shed will feed my power!

Even after Koivoinen’s terrifying display of lethal power, there are some Cimmerians who can conquer their superstitious fears, and challenge certain death.

 

CUT TO:

— Ailvi, drawing her sword as she marches forward to her doom, a grim, fatalistic expression on her face.

— Connell, his face a study in hatred: he hates Koivoinen, he hates himself for responding to the taunts, and he hates leaving Brigidda a widow.

— Conn, looking haggard but sober, a feral grin on his face and a mad light in his eyes, strides eagerly forward, swinging his ax in lazy circles.

Suddenly a hoarse bellow rings out over the parade ground, halting the braver Cimmerians as they converge on their doom.

VOICE (O.S.)
(Loud and hoarse, but commanding)
WIZARD!


All eyes turn to the source of the voice. It is Conan, standing in front of the doorway to the Headquarters Building, swaying on wide-braced legs. He is a mess. His face is a mask of blood, only his eyes and teeth showing white; blood mantles his shoulders and drips down his bare chest. The blood is all crusted in dirt. He looks exactly like someone who, after surviving an explosion, and burial beneath hundreds of pounds of dirt and stone, revived and clawed his way out of the dirt with his bare hands, only to discover that he was in a lightless sub-basement, and who then had to grope his way up two flights of pitch-black stairs.

CONAN
I’m not that easy to kill, wizard. Your turn, now!

KOIVOINEN
I’m glad you didn’t die uselessly under the cave-in. Come to me, and I promise you that Set himself will feed on your soul!

Conan strides forward, scowling. Suddenly his face lights up as he sees an abandoned sword lying on the ground. He quickly stoops to pick it up, then continues forward, grinning wickedly.

CUT TO:
CLOSE-UP OF CONN — CONTINUOUS.
Conn’s face takes on a look of horror as he sees Conan, in the worst shape he has ever been in, marching toward certain death.

CONN
(A desperate yell)
Conan! No! Get away from him!

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT OF CONAN — CONTINUOUS.
Just before Conan, still grinning, gets to within fighting range of Koivoinen, he casually tosses his new-found sword high over his shoulder.

CUT TO:
CLOSE-UP OF KOIVOINEN — CONTINUOUS.
This was the last thing in the world Koivoinen could have expected. His jaw drops open as he looks up in the air, following the path of the tumbling sword.

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT OF CONAN AND KOIVOINEN — CONTINUOUS.

Conan suddenly darts forward and punches the shaman full in the face with a quick left jab, sacrificing power for speed. Koivoinen totters, his nose a bloody mess, but before he can fall or drop the Sword, Conan follows through with a tremendous right cross…

CUT TO:
SLOW-MOTION CLOSE-UP OF KOIVOINEN’S JAW DEFORMING UNDER THE FORCE OF THE BLOW, LIKE A SNAPSHOT OF THE KNOCKOUT PUNCH IN A HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING BOUT — CONTINUOUS.

(SOUND FX: A dull, wet pop.)

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT — CONTINUOUS.
…which sends the old man flying in one direction as the Sword of Acheron goes flying in the other.

CUT TO:
SERIES OF CLOSE-UPS OF VARIOUS CIMMERIANS – CONTINUOUS.

— Koivoinen lying in the dirt, motionless, his head at an extreme, odd angle. His neck is obviously broken.

— Several Cimmerians watching with expressions of stunned awe.

— Conn with an expression of ecstatic relief, looking like he is about to start laughing.

— Ailvi, Erin and Donner stepping forward, weapons ready.

AILVI
Is it dead?

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT OF CONAN AND KOIVOINEN — CONTINUOUS.
Conan looks down at the shaman on the ground.

To the surprise of the assembled warriors, Koivoinen twitches and gasps for breath.

CONAN
Crom’s bones!

Slowly, Koivoinen rotates his head to face Conan.

(SOUND FX: A series of sickening wet snaps and pops.)


Desperate, the warriors scramble backwards, nearly falling over themselves in their haste to get away from this nightmare. A grin washes over Koivoinen’s face as he makes eye contact with Conan.

KOIVOINEN
(Rasping.)
Not so easy to kill either, barbarian!

Conan’s eyes go wide as Koivoinen’s arm flails out towards the Sword.

CONAN
(at the top of his lungs)
NO!


He kicks the Sword out of Koivoinen’s reach. Koivoinen cackles as his body twitches.

KOIVOINEN
(Drooling and sputtering.)
Give it to me, barbarian! It is mine! You are all mine! For all the years I fed on those Hellsmouth fools, enduring their stench, their crude servility. For all the ages I have waited, I will not be denied! By Set and all that is unholy, I will not be denied!

With that, the wizard wrenches his head into proper position and struggles to sit up.

Conan is desperate. With a bitter determination, he grabs the Sword with both hands. As he picks it up, the Sword rebels against him, for he bears no Acheronian blood, and green sparks and bolts of energy spatter from the blade down Conan’s arms.
Grimacing against the pain, Conan turns to Koivoinen.

CONAN
You want it so badly, wizard? Then take it!


With a roar, Conan reverses his grip and lifts it over his head, holding it two-handed, point down, pommel aimed at the sky. He rises on his toes, then suddenly squats, and, with a terrific contraction of his stomach and chest muscles, drives the blade through the body of the shaman and into the ground beneath him, all the way to the cross guard, stapling the body to the ground. Conan releases his grip on the Sword and straightens up, his chest heaving as he frantically scrubs his hands on his trews, trying to wipe the “magic” off.
Koivoinen wails and writhes mindlessly for an unbelievably long moment, then lies still.
But the shower of sparks issuing from the Sword does not cease. Instead it expands to cover the shaman’s whole body.

CUT TO:
SERIES OF CLOSE-UPS OF VARIOUS CIMMERIAN FACES SHOWING SHOCK AND DREAD — CONTINUOUS.

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT OF KOIVOINEN’S BODY SURROUNDED BY A CIRCLE OF CIMMERIANS — CONTINUOUS.
Then the shaman’s hands rise off the ground, grasp the hilt of the Sword protruding from his chest, and start tugging at it.

CUT TO:
SERIES OF CLOSE-UPS OF VARIOUS CIMMERIAN FACES SHOWING FEAR AND HORROR — CONTINUOUS.

CUT TO:
FULL SHOT OF KOIVOINEN’S BODY SURROUNDED BY A CIRCLE OF CIMMERIANS — CONTINUOUS.

But his undead strength is not equal to the task of pulling the Sword from his body and the earth beneath it. His face remains expressionless, as in death, but he begins arching his back and bucking his hips to aid his efforts. This is entirely too much for the circle of Cimmerians, and they all recoil in horror, cursing and moving away from the body.

ERIN
Crom, Mannanan, and Lir! What – what are we going to do with – that?

CONN
(Grim)
We have to destroy it.

AED
And how do we do that?

CONAN
(Vehemently)

Burn it! Pull down one of these wooden buildings, pile it on top of him, soak it with oil, and set it on fire, like a funeral pyre. In fact, we should burn down the whole town around him, leave nothing standing.


MADAN
But we haven’t finished looting yet!

CONAN
(Pointing at Koivoinen, still vehement)
Do you want to wait around for THAT to get loose?!!

There is a moment of silence while everyone watches Koivoinen tugging mechanically at the Sword of Acheron. His eyes and mouth are pools of green hellfire.

MADAN
Right!
(Loudly, to everyone.)
All right, everybody, let’s get to work tearing this place down! And find some oil!

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — CONTINUOUS.
Montage of Cimmerians tearing down buildings, and carrying wood to pile on top of Koivoinen’s body.

DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. THE FOREST NORTH OF VENARIUM — NIGHT.
A small group, about half a dozen, of Aquilonian soldiers is plodding southward through the woods. They have no horses; their uniforms are ragged and dirty, their armor, what is left of it, is rusty, fragmented, and dented. They are gaunt, haggard, exhausted-looking, and dispirited – all except their leader, Lieutenant Morvian. He is animated by febrile energy; a crazed light gleams in his eyes. Suddenly he stops, looking southeast, and points.

MORVIAN
Look!

The camera pans southeast to show what Morvian is seeing: a fire-lit pillar of smoke.

CUT TO:
CLOSE-UP OF MORVIAN — CONTINUOUS.
He turns to the men while continuing to point southwards.

MORVIAN

Venarium – it’s burning. It must be Connell! He must have circled back! Come on, men – we have to save them!

Morvian starts to jog, then almost immediately slows to a walk that is only slightly faster than the previous plodding pace. His men follow, picking up their pace only slightly. They do not have the energy to look excited, or even fearful.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE BURNING SETTLEMENT — NIGHT.
The Cimmerians are standing outside Venarium, oddly quiet as they watch it burn. They seem tired, and are watching the spectacle with interest or anxiety, but no excitement or rejoicing.

CUT TO:
EXT. THE RIDGE LINE NORTH OF VENARIUM — CONTINUOUS.
Morvian and his handful of men emerge from the woods and reach the crest of the ridge line, from which they can see an unimpeded view of Venarium, and several hundred Cimmerians standing around outside the burning settlement.

MORVIAN
They’re still there. Come on, don’t let them escape!

Morvian starts running for Venarium. His men look at each other, shrug, turn their faces south, and resume trudging southward.

CUT TO:
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE BURNING SETTLEMENT — NIGHT.
Morvian arrives at Venarium, still running and yelling. Various Cimmerians turn and look at him, not very interested. But Morvian spots Connell and charges at him.

MORVIAN
(Screaming)
You! Connell! I’ve caught up with you at last! You’ll pay for this!

Connell looks around and sees Morvian charging him, waving his sword.

CONNELL
What? Morvian? Aw, hell!


He draws his own sword and with a quick, negligent thrust, runs Morvian through.


MORVIAN
(Stops, looking surprised)
But . . . no . . .
(He topples.)

FADE OUT:

FADE IN:
EXT. VENARIUM — OUTSIDE THE RUINED SETTLEMENT — DAWN.

The surviving Cimmerians, most carrying backpacks, are departing for home.

Conan, Connell, and Conn, and other Blackwater Creek tribesmen, are setting off together. Conan has washed the blood and dirt off, and is wearing a tunic, but his face and neck are covered with a network of fine cuts.

CONN
(Looking at Conan’s scars)
Conan – what happened to you in the Headquarters Building?

CONAN
What? These? Just a few scratches. The wizard tried to kill me and botched it.

CONNELL
Well, we’ll be home again before long, and we can put all this behind us and get back to our normal lives.

Conan blinks rapidly and scowls thoughtfully. Conn observes him with a knowing, amused expression.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN.
EXT. THE RUINS OF VENARIUM — DAY.

Venarium is nothing but charred, smoking wood and ashes. From a distance we see a lone figure picking its way through the charred ruins and piles of ashes. As the camera gradually zooms in closer we recognize Pencalvus, grimy and still wearing some of his armor. His face is covered in soot, except where tears have tracked down from his eyes. In his wandering, he comes across the remains of the Headquarters Building. Picking through the ashes, he finds a saddlebag. He fishes around in it, and pulls out a gold torq.

PENCALVUS
What’s this? The knight’s torques! How did the Cimmerians miss this?

When he tries to pick up the saddlebag, he discovers it is extremely heavy. With an effort he slings it over his shoulder, and resumes his wandering, still holding the torq in his hand. He comes across a charred body, and looks closely at it.

PENCALVUS
(Muttering to himself)
Grennus?

He holds up the torq so it catches the sunlight.

PENCALVUS
(Proclaiming)
Right mindful of the valorous service you have performed for the Kingdom of Aquilonia, Grennus…
(He leans down and gently places the torq over the neck of the corpse.)
We dub thee knight.

He resumes his wanderings. There actually aren’t very many bodies recognizable as such in the cinders and ashes. He pulls out another torq.

PENCALVUS
Right mindful of the valorous service you have performed for the Kingdom of Aquilonia, Philestes,
(He tosses the torq, like a frisbee, at random into the ruins.)
We dub thee knight.

He continues wandering, and tossing torques into the ruins, naming each of his fallen men as he does. As he wanders and sees the full scope of the carnage, his recitation becomes more and more disjointed until he is merely screaming his comrades’ names and flinging torques by the handful, at random, tears streaming down his face.

PENCALVUS

Right mindful of the valorous service you have performed for the Kingdom of Aquilonia, Orotus,
(He tosses the torq, like a frisbee, at random into the ruins.)

INSERT LIST OF NAMES HERE.

Traejus . . . Lorum! . . . Ipsum! . . . Dolon! . . .

He fishes in the saddlebag, but it is empty. Frustrated beyond bearing, he hurls the empty saddlebag away from him.

PENCALVUS
Antelope Company!
Elk Company!
Eland Company!
Bear Company!

(And so on…)

WE DUB THEE KNIGHTS!


Weeping openly, Pencalvus wanders southward through the ruins towards Aquilonia and home.

As he makes his way through the devastation, he passes a blackened skeleton, impaled through its ribcage with a blackened sword, its charred arm- and hand-bones still gripping the hilt. As Pencalvus walks by, oblivious to this single corpse amongst the hundreds, the skeleton’s arms and shoulders twitch and shudder as thin tracings of green energy sparkle over them. Then the energy sputters, fails, and the wizard’s corpse collapses into a heap of powder.

THE END

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

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