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Rated: E · Script/Play · Gothic · #1152716
The doomed love affair of nobles belonging to rival clans.
The following is a selection from my screenplay “Annabel Lee,” which was inspired by the well-known poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The story is tragic, set against the Gothic backdrop of war-torn Scotland in the 14th century, Poe’s “kingdom by the sea,” as I interpret it. Guy MacArthur and Annabel Lee, prince and princess of feuding clans, have been carrying on a furtive love affair at great peril to their lives as bloodthirsty kinsmen, especially Annabel’s vicious brother Malcolm, are willing to resort to any means to put a stop to it.

EXT. A MEADOW IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS – DAY

Late afternoon, Guy trots his stallion down a path towards a group of grazing cattle which are being herded along by Malcolm mounted on a black mare.

When he sees Guy, Malcolm wheels about and spurs his horse to a gallop, headed straight for him. At the last instant he halts right in front of Guy, but Guy is unafraid.

GUY: Must you always be sullen and discourteous even in greeting, Malcolm? Why can’t you treat me like a brother?

MALCOLM: Because I am born your enemy.

Malcolm rises in the saddle and places his hand on the hilt of his dirk. Guy smiles mirthfully.

GUY: Should that be taken as a threat? Why don’t you draw?

Malcolm enviously eyes Guy’s sword.

MALCOLM: You have the advantage of me; if I had armed myself better, you’d not escape without doing me the honor of a duel.

GUY: What is the cause of your ill temper?

Malcolm’s eyes flare, then he tremblingly points at the grazing cattle.

MALCOLM: I have it in mind to confiscate these cattle in payment for the use of my land and water.

GUY (laughing): Both the water and this land, like the air we breathe, belong not to thee, but are free to everyone. However, those cattle must be returned to the herdsmen who raised them up from little calves.

MALCOLM: And was my sister, Annabel, also raised up from a little calf by herdsmen from your clan? Or will your return her to me when you have had your fill of her?

Guy tenses and his stallion starts.

GUY (warning): I believe your sister to be a lady of virtue and would not hear her so roughly used, not even by her brother.

The heat of Guy’s emotion makes Malcolm flinch.

MALCOLM: You are not so cowardly as to attack me now. At least let me speak.

Guy quickly cools himself down.

GUY (apologetically): Speak freely.

MALCOLM: Don’t deny it, at dawn, morning last, my kinsmen spied you with Annabel!

GUY: I feel only love for Annabel, which should please anyone who cares for her as I do.

MALCOLM: By taking my sister without my permission, you have insulted the honor of every member of my clan.

GUY: I am at great pains to avoid insulting you and your clan.

MALCOLM: Can you call your sinning righteous when you must hide it the way that you do?

GUY (ironically): And was it righteous, Malcolm, last sabbath eve, for you to hide in the shadows behind my castle with that little dagger of yours in hand and ready to plunge in between my shoulder blades?

MALCOLM: I deny that it ever happened.

GUY (enraged): False knight!

Malcolm quickly spurs his horse until his knee roughly collides with Guy’s.

MALCOLM: I could have killed you before and I might easily do so now.

He rapidly draws his dagger and aims it at Guy’s chest, but in an instant, Guy’s sword is out and upon the point of Malcom’s chin. Malcolm cringes weakly.

GUY: I’ll bear your threats no longer.

MALCOLM: I yield until I am better armed.

Guy reluctantly sheaths his sword.

GUY: It cannot be good.

Malcolm cautiously reins his horse away and then speaks again at a safe distance.

MALCOLM: I will punish you for your arrogance.

GUY: Name the time and the place.

MALCOLM: When we are closer to the day.

GUY: I shall not fail you. (a pause) Malcolm, we could still make a peace – for Annabel’s sake, if not for mine.

Frustrated, Malcolm wheels his horse around and gallops away. Guy groans unhappily and then shouts at the cattle, moving them down slope.

FADE TO:

EXT. WASTELAND – DAY

A gray landscape of bare crags and lifeless dun colored hills.

Guy canters his stallion down a rough track that winds around a sheer cliff. He pauses on a ledge above a deep rock gorge.

Further down the trail, it becomes very steep and Guy slows his horse to a walk until he arrives at a rugged ravine.

SLOW DISSOLVE:

EXT. GLEN – DAY

Guy rides through a meadow between steep hills until he reaches the entrance to a rocky gorge.

Suddenly, a shower of rocks comes roaring down the hillside; Guy’s stallion shies about wildly, narrowly escaping the falling missiles, then careens up the gorge at the gallop.

The jittery mount finally calms, only to be startled again by the thundering sound of pounding hooves.

Two pairs of hooded riders charge around a blind corner with their lances aimed straight for Guy’s chest.

Guy’s stallion whirls around and they race back down the trail at top speed, just inches ahead of the lances.

Back at the rock slide, the stallion leaps the pile of stone, and flies up the end of the valley, with the lancers hot behind.

They race up a long slope to the top of a hill, with Guy widening the gap every step of the way, until suddenly he halts, wheeling around to face his pursuers with a battle cry and a flourish of gleaming steel.

Daunted, the lancers slow and Guy instantly charges back down at them.

His first sword blow cleaves a lance in two, the next blow sends a rider tumbling from the saddle.

He yells fiercely at the other riders and their horses collide with each other as they shy away.

The fallen rider, Malcolm’s vassal, stands and draws, but Guy slaps the flat of his blade against the vassal’s shoulder and shouts.

GUY: Yield or die!

The trembling vassal drops his weapon and cowardly falls to his knees pressing his palms together and begging for mercy.

At that instant, the three other lancers renew the attack upon Guy, forcing his stallion to stumble downslope – long enough for the vassal to quickly remount and escape.

Guy threatens violently with his sword and the three other attackers spur their horses away.

EXT. MOUNTAIN PASS – DAY

The four escaping riders gallop along a precipice as Guy races after them, steadily gaining ground.

He is nearly upon the last one when suddenly he pulls his stallion to a skidding halt.

As the dust clears, Guy leaps from the saddle to kneel by the body of a slain horseman.

The escaping riders disappear down the trail that leads to Lee castle.

Guy moans ruefully as he studies the dead man’s gaping wound.

GUY: My messenger? This is his reward for serving me?

Guy brushes the dirt from the brow of his kinsman and meditates long.

GUY: If ever you loved me well, your death shall be avenged!

He looks murderously in the direction of Lee castle, then mournfully down at his slain messenger again.

GUY: But not today.

Cradling the body, he lifts it on to the pommel of his saddle, then mounts up behind it and sadly turns his horse back up the trail.

The sun sets gloomily over the snowcapped mountains.

EXT. CHAPEL, LEE CASTLE – TWILIGHT

The escaping riders gallop up to the arched entry, where they dismount exhausted.

Friar Alasdair furiously pulls the cord to a service bell, which brings grooms running to tend to the horses.

As the riders enter the chapel, Malcolm appears, anxious in anticipation.

MALCOLM: Brother Alasdair! What news of Guy? Is he –

Alasdair motions violently.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Inside!

Malcolm quickly enters the chapel ahead of him.

INT. TORTURE CHAMBER – NIGHT

Alasdair and Malcolm rapidly descend a narrow staircase to join the others, who have removed their mantles by fireside.

MALCOLM (whining): What news?

The friar has to restrain himself from striking the cringing prince.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Guy is more dangerous now than ever before!

Malcolm implores the others with a wide-eyed fearful look, but they turn away. Malcolm yelps with disappointment.

MALCOLM: You let him escape!

FRIAR ALASDAIR: We cannot fail another time. He will surely avenge himself upon us now.

MALCOLM (pleading): Not Guy, he’ll wait for you to challenge him again. (laughing) And then let him wait forever.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: No! He discovered the body of his slain messenger where we left it.

Malcolm wails with fear.

MALCOLM: And I am the one he will make pay for the murder that you committed! You must hide me, you must protect me, or I will –

FRIAR ALASDAIR: If you betray us, you will be the first to die!

Malcolm stares threateningly at the others and they return his stare with added menace. He turns away bitterly and crosses to the stairs, which he begins to climb.

MALCOLM (tearfully): Betray you? I am betrayed by everyone, even by my own sister!

He looks down hopelessly and trudges further up the steps, then halts and pauses for a pregnant moment.

MALCOLM: The stairs!

FRIAR ALASDAIR: What nonsense is this?

MALCOLM (excitedly): The stairs! There is a hidden staircase that leads from Annabel’s study to a secret exit behind the castle!

The friar angrily rushes him.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Why did you not mention this to me before?

MALCOLM: I had forgotten. Annabel revealed the passageway to me long ago, when we were children, and she made me swear never to tell anyone about it.

They hastily exit.

EXT. COURTYARD, LEE CASTLE – NIGHT

Alasdair tightly grips Malcolm’s arm as the whining prince leads the way with a flaming torch. They stop outside a heavy oaken door.

MALCOLM: Here!

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Are you sure?

MALCOLM: How can I be sure after so many years?

The friar roughly pushes Malcolm aside. He grabs the door handle, and the door slowly opens, creaking like an ancient coffin lid.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Bring your torch.

Malcolm enters the staircase and the friar follows.

INT. HIDDEN STAIRCASE – NIGHT

MALCOLM: There are two flights up to Annabel’s study.

FRIAR ALASDAIR (whispering): Quiet, or she’ll hear us.

They stealthily climb the stairs.

INT. STUDY – NIGHT

Sitting at her desk, sickly and pale, Annabel lovingly pours over Guy’s letters yet another time.

INT. HIDDEN STAIRCASE – NIGHT

Malcolm stops at a landing and leaves his torch in a sconce, then silently motions Friar Alasdair up behind him to a shaded archway.

Malcolm very carefully pulls back the edge of the tapestry, revealing Annabel with her back turned.

Alasdair is enraged. Malcolm pulls his dagger and grins evilly, but the friar impatiently signs for him to put his weapon away and move back down the stairs.

INT. STUDY – NIGHT

Annabel senses something is wrong and gets up to walk to the tapestry, but just then a gust of air blows out a candle. Satisfied that it must only have been wind from the open window that distracted her, she pulls the window shut, then returns to her letters at the desk.

INT. HIDDEN STAIRCASE – NIGHT

At the base of the stairs, Malcolm and Friar Alasdair furtively exit into the night.

EXT. COURTYARD, LEE CASTLE – NIGHT

The friar quietly shuts the oaken door.

MALCOLM: Are you pleased?

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Not at all. This news comes much too late.

MALCOLM: But what if we post a guard here? Then when Annabel tries to sneak away, the guard will stop her and we'll force her to tell us where she holds her meetings with Guy.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: What if she refuses to tell?

MALCOLM (confused): She is stubborn.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Idiot! I will post a spy nearby where he cannot be seen. This spy will secretly follow Annabel wherever she goes and report her movements back to me.

MALCOLM: Yes, that is the way.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Be careful not to let Annabel know what we have guessed.

Malcolm agrees and Alasdair sneers at him. Malcolm starts to leave, but the friar motions him over to the gate.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Come this way – we’ll get ready for tomorrow night. Next time we confront Guy, it will be when he least expects it, immediately after he has been with your sister.

MALCOLM: But mother insists that Annabel not be harmed.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: What does it matter now? Leave your mother to me!

They creep back through the gate.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. LEE CASTLE – DAY

Atop a turret, Annabel looks lonely out to sea with the wind blowing through her hair, while nearby a blind harper plays a melancholy tune. A pair of maidens watch her sadly.

MAIDEN: Is there anyone who does not weep for her?

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. STUDY – NIGHT

Dressed for the night and the cold, Annabel draws back the tapestry, and exits down the hidden staircase.

EXT. COURTYARD WALL, LEE CASTLE – NIGHT

Annabel passes through the gate and is met by her servant, who has her horse ready.

ANNABEL: God bless you.

Annabel mounts up and canters down the trail; the servant passes back through the gate.

Lurking unseen in the shadow of a hazel tree, monk no. 2, mounted on horseback, waits an instant more, then quietly reins his horse down the trail after Annabel.

EXT. BY THE SEA – NIGHT

Guy leads Annabel down the steps in the cliffface.

Atop the cliff, monk no. 2 creeps to the edge. He stealthily spies down upon the lovers as they cross the lagoon and enter the sea cave, flickering with firelight.

After a little while, Guy’s servant comes out of the cave and crosses the lagoon.

The monk draws his dagger and conceals himself behind a boulder.

The servant tops the cliff and passes by without seeing him.

INT. THE CAVERN – NIGHT

Annabel and Guy embrace by the fire, until a cold gust of wind nearly blows it out.

Guy adds wood to the flames and Annabel coughs uncontrollably, finally spitting up a handful of bright red blood.

Dismayed, Guy rushes to hold her and fearfully wipes the blood from her cheek with a kerchief.

ANNABEL (gasping): It is nothing, my love.

GUY: But blood? Not blood! For how long have you been like this?

ANNABEL: Please –

GUY: From this foul weather. For how long?

ANNABEL (shamefully): For some time.

Guy looks in horror at the stained kerchief.

GUY (tearfully): Then you are deathly ill!

ANNABEL: Nothing can ever take my love away from you.

Supporting her with his arm, Guy leads Annabel to their bed, makes her lie down and covers her with blankets and his mantle.

GUY: Rest quietly for a while.

ANNABEL: And you by my side.

Guy lays down beside Annabel and hugs her against his chest. She gratefully clasps his hand and shuts her eyes contentedly.

Guy’s face clouds with guilt.

EXT. TRAIL – NIGHT

Monk no. 2 whips his horse as it gallops upslope towards Lee castle.

INT. TORTURE CHAMBER – NIGHT

Friar Alasdair and seven others have assembled to hear monk no. 2’s report.

MONK NO. 2: We have until dawn.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Fetch Malcolm here, right away. Also, have the grooms prepare horses for us all.

MONK NO. 2: Aye.

Monk no. 2 quickly exits up the staircase. Alasdair crosses the room to a rack of weapons.

FRIAR ALASDAIR: Now, the rest of you, listen closely to me.

The other monks gather around.

EXT. TRAIL – NIGHT

The party of armed monks gallops down the trail from Lee castle to the sea.

INT. THE CAVERN – NIGHT

The lovers are lying peacefully on the pallet when there is the distant echoing sound of a yell. Guy stirs.

ANNABEL: What is it?

The yell again. Guy jumps up from the pallet and hastily walks over to listen at the cavern entrance. Annabel regards him anxiously.

JUMP CUT:

EXT. BY THE SEA – NIGHT

Annabel rushes out of the cave and wades knee-deep into the lagoon. Guy rapidly climbs the cliff face.

ANNABEL: Guy!

Guy looks back over his shoulder, but hears a bone-chilling yell from above.

VOICE: Help me! Oh Jesus, help me please!

Guy calls to Annabel –

GUY: Turn back!

– then quickly returns to his climbing.

In a panic, Annabel rushes the rest of the way across the lagoon and runs to the base of the cliff.

Guy tops the cliff and scrambles madly upslope. He looks all about and sees a figure lying on the ground.

GUY: No!

He rushes over to it and finds his servant lying on the ground, gruesomely gashed and bloodied, his eyes staring emptily up at the moon. Guy desperately tries to revive him, but he is dead.

VOICE (mocking): Help!

It is Malcolm on horseback further upslope, armed with a flaming torch.

When Guy sees who it is, he growls and draws his sword. Just then, Annabel, soaked and feverish from her climb, appears at the clifftop.

MALCOLM: Help!

ANNABEL: Guy!

Guy sees Annabel but cannot control his rage. She waves to him desperately, but he turns and races towards Malcolm, his sword ready to strike.

Suddenly, horsemen armed with torches and lances come galloping out of the shadows.

* * * *

I won’t give away the ending, but if you enjoyed this excerpt and are a motion picture industry professional who would like to read a full-length screenplay written by me, please write to mpbuchwald@gmail.com.
© Copyright 2006 Matthew Buchwald (mbuchwal at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1152716