The Abyss Stared Back
Script Frenzy 2007
The Abyss Stared BackScript Frenzy 2007
The challenge: write a 20,000 word screenplay in 30 days!
EXT. VILLAGE in GERMANIA – NIGHT
A PEASANT runs along a muddy track into the middle of the
village shouting between ragged gulps of air, his eyes wide with panic.
Distant hoof beats approach.
They’re coming! They’re coming!
Faces of women and children appear at windows. Men carrying pitchforks, clubs, knives and axes run toward the shouting peasant.
Riders sweep into the village, two abreast, with swords
drawn. The LEAD RIDER rides past the peasant and with an uppercut of his
sword beheads him, silencing the shouting.
Legionaires, hear me! The iron fist of Rome can and
crush this uprising. Leave nothing alive!
INT. VILLAGE IN GERMANIA – NIGHT
A MOTHER and her CHILD are pulling at furniture trying to get
to a particular patch of floor. Steps are advancing outside.
SUCCESS! A trapdoor is exposed.
Carl, hide in here. Whatever you hear do not come
The child, Carl, jumps into the space and pulls the trapdoor
closed as his mother pulls the furniture back into place, moments before the
door SPLINTERS and a legionaire steps into view, his sword dripping with blood.
INT. CELLAR – NIGHT (CONTINUOUS)
The young boy sits shivering in a closet sized dark space.
(Muffled, coming from above)
By the gods, no! Get your hands off me! No!
(Stifled fearful whimper)
EXT. VILLAGE IN GERMANIA – NIGHT
The Lead Rider dismounts and pulls off his helmet as he
surveys bodies and burning buildings. Slowly two dozen legionaires return
to the middle of the village.
To me men!
The soldiers form up into military precise lines. The
Lead Rider stalks to and fro across the line.
Two better equipped legionaires step forward.
Select two each from your octets, we ride, they stay.
The two legionaires pause to scan the lines and pull four men
out of formation.
(to the four men)
None must survive this night. Dispose of any who return
follow us in two days.
(to the troops)
Tonight we sent them a message. Tomorrow we rejoin the
century, and prepare for their response. We ride!
The Lead Rider mounts his horse and turns for the road out of the village, his troops rapidly following him, leaving four men and horses the only visible sign of life in the village.
EXT. VILLAGE IN GERMANIA – DAWN
Drifting smoke blurs the outline of ruined buildings.
Three legionaires sleep beside a low stone wall, while another scans the road
and buildings for signs of life.
A small shape, looking more like animated smoke than the
naked young boy that he is, moves through the vegetable garden on the other
side of the stone wall. His body is smeared with ash; camouflage patterns
drawn with charcoal on top of random patches of grey. In one hand he
carries a butcher’s knife, with his teeth clamped fiercely onto the blade of
another, smaller knife.
He freezes, pressing himself low against the ground, as the
guard scans toward him. Once the gaze is lifted he inches forward to the
wall. In a flash he’s over the wall and the butcher’s knife SLAMS down
into the eye of a sleeping soldier who dies without a sound. With the
smaller knife the boy CRUNCHES through the middle finger of the soldier’s right
hand taking both the finger and the silver ring it sported.
In silence he slips back over the wall with his prize and
heads for cover.
EXT. VILLAGE IN GERMANIA – MIDMORNING
Flies are buzzing around the corpse of the dead Roman
soldier. Then remaining soldiers, CRISPUS (the guard on watch when he had
died) STEPHANUS and ALERIC are arguing.
Could have been me. Did you think of that?
Gods above and below Aleric, dont you think of anyone but
yourself? Is is any wonder they left you behind?
Think about it moron! Three octets of trained
legionaires dispatched to wipe out barely armed peasants. We’re not
exactly cream of the crop. Then they leave us behind to deny us the glory
of the upcoming battle, and we still manage to lose one of our own.
Arguing wont bring him back. We have to think what to
Yeah, think. I wasnt paid to do that.
(imitating a commanding voice and putting on a swagger)
Hey legionaire, carry this. Go there. Do
that. Die horribly.
Both Crispus and Stephanus laugh.
No-one will know what happened here.
What? Four of us left and three return.
(turning to Aleric)
What did you say?
Two. Two will return. Im not going back, not to
die. There’s plenty of stuff in the village, I can set myself up as a
farmer. Im not going back.
Fine. Two return. Same problem just an octet of
extra lashes when they beat us for our failure.
What do we say, Aleric deserted and spirits came in the night?
Spirits dont carry knives. Or take fingers.
Then what? Decurion was right, leave us here because
someone would return.
Right or wrong, Im not going.
Aleric starts stripping off armour, then walks off into the
village. A few yards from away he pauses to pick a straw hat off the
ground, dusts it off and puts it on, then resumes his walk toward a new life.
We stick together. Aleric and whats-his-name …
Aleric and Nicolas were killed in a fair fight while we were
searching the village, two-by-two. We came on their bodies, found the
killers and dispatched them.
OK. Sounds plausible. You’re trying to cover for
Aleric then? So he wont be hunted down as a deserter?
Got it. We still have a problem of who killed …
(shouting from some distance away)
Crispus! Stephanus! Come quickly!
INT. VILLAGE IN GERMANIA – MIDMORNING
Aleric, now dressed in plain peasant garb, is eating a
freshly baked raisin cake. Behind him a fire is burning in the hearth and
water is heating in a pot. The rest of the raisin cakes are on a table
next to him.
Stephanus and Crispus arrive at a run with swords drawn.
You called us here to cook us breakfast?
Aleric, finishing his cake starts into another and offers one
to Crispus and Stephanus. Crispus reaches for one only to have Stephanus
SLAM the plate out of Aleric’s hand, scattering the cakes.
Aleric goes to speak and only offers a strangled gasp.
His eyes widen and he drops the remains of the raisin cake. Without a
sound he falls to the ground and begins to twitch.
Poison? This was a trap?
Exactly. Whoever killed Nicolas laid the trap, and
Aleric was fool enough to fall for it.
Aleric lies still on the ground. Stephanus stalks
angrily around the room searching.
What are you doing?
Who are they? Is there more than one of them? Did
Nicolas’ killer lay this trap?
I dont care. Let’s get out of here.
Stephanus reaches the pot of water, now boiling, on the
One. We’re dealing with one killer…
With a spoon he reaches into the pot and lifts out Nicolas’
…and he left this as a message.
EXT. VILLAGE IN GERMANIA – AFTERNOON
Crispus and Stephanus are searching house to house in the
village, looking for the killer.
Did you hear something?
No … I mean yes … I dont know what I heard.
Sounded like a cry.
I think it came from that way.
Both men ready themselves to face the killer then stalk along
between buildings. They pause before walking into the open.
Do you hear?
Its a man, yes. Who is he talking to? Do you
understand the gods forsaken language of this country?
Both step out into the open with a warcry and charge the
frightened peasant standing in a nearby doorway. The peasant drops the
club he’s carrying and turns to run, and is cut down by the soldiers.
We got him. Now … who was he talking to?
Crispus steps into the building warily to see a young boy
crying and holding onto the body of a dead woman. The child, Carl,
shrinks back as he approaches.
I dont understand.
(in broken latin)
Dont … hurt … me.
EXT. VILLAGE IN GERMANIA – LATE
Leading one horse each, Stephanus and Crispus prepare to ride
out of the village. Carl sits in front of Stephanus.
They begin to ride at a reasonable pace, to catch up with the
rest of the soldiers. Unseen to Stephanus, Carl grins as he feels wind in
his face, and Nicolas’ stolen silver ring bounces at his neck on a long leather
MONTAGE: INT. A TENT SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – DAY
Stephanus and three other soldiers bend to enter the tent and
start pulling off armour. The pieces of Stephanus armour are roughly
thrown at Carl.
MONTAGE: EXT. A CAMP SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – NIGHT
Soldiers sitting around eating, joking and drinking from a
wineskin passed from hand to hand. Carl is creeping up to the fire and
steals a piece of bread and is cuffed around the head for his trouble. He
retires to the tent with the bread, wearing a look of triumph.
MONTAGE: INT. A TENT SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – VARIOUS TIMES OF DAY
Stephanus pulling his armour on, adjusting buckles and
straps, nodding to himself. Carl watches.
MONTAGE: EXT. A CAMP SOMEWHERE IN GERMANIA – DAY
Soldiers returning from battle, Carl sees them and ducks into
the back of the tent. Stephanus and another battle weary soldier both
toss their armour to him.
MONTAGE: EXT. A CAMP SOMEWHERE IN GERMANIA – NIGHT
Joking around the campfire is muted, men eating and drinking,
gaps in their ranks. Stephanus looks over to Carl who’s hiding in the
shadows and tosses him bread.
MONTAGE: INT. A TENT SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – MORNING
A soldier has died in his sleep. The DECURION and
Stephanus are looking down at the body. In the shadows, Carl is hiding a
small bag of herbs, trying not to be noticed.
A good man, and a loyal second. We’ve lost too many to
war, may we return home before Winter comes to claim any others to herself!
(turning to Stephanus)
Until you’re killed, or I find someone better, I’m making you
Thank you, sir.
In the corner of the tent, Carl smiles triumphantly, eyes
fixed on the DECURION.
MONTAGE: EXT. A CAMP SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – DAY
Carl finishes cleaning and sharpening a gladius (Roman short
sword) and hands it back to Stephanus blade first. By instinct Stephanus
knocks it out of his grasp and cuffs the boy angrily.
No! Do you wish to kill me?
(eyes blazing with defiance but speaking
Turn the blade, offer it hilt first. Show respect to
the blade and its wielder.
MONTAGE: EXT. A CAMP SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – DAY
Carl hands a cleaned and sharpened gladius back to the
Decurion, hilt first and dipping to one knee. The Decurion nods.
MONTAGE: EXT. A CAMP SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – NIGHT
Around the campfire there’s talk, rumours of an end to the campaign. Stephanus tosses meat to Carl who’s hiding in shadows nearby. The Decurion sees him and cuffs Stephanus roughly, then beckons Carl to join them at one of the empty spots, vacated weeks before by a dead soldier.
MONTAGE: EXT. A CAMP SOMEWHERE IN
GERMANIA – DAY
Tents are being broken down, commanders are directing troops
to load wagons and start the a long march. Stephanus divides his gear and
tosses a pack to Carl to carry.
MONTAGE: EXT. ON THE ROAD SOMEWHERE
IN GERMANIA – AFTERNOON
Stephanus finishes up shaping a stick into roughly the shape
of a Roman gladius short sword. He tosses it to Carl who fumbles the
catch. Picking up his own wooden sword, Stephanus advances and delivers a
couple of stinging blows.
MONTAGE: EXT. A ROAD SIDE CAMP
SOMEWHERE IN GERMANIA – EVENING
Carl catches the wooden gladius when it’s thrown. He
parries a series of blows before Stephanus manages to disarm him and land a
stinger of a blow to his rear-end.
MONTAGE: EXT. ON THE ROAD SOMEWHERE
IN GERMANIA – DAY
Carl is marching alongside Stephanus, wooden gladius hanging
from his belt mirroring the real soldiers. Stephanus glances down, smiles
and ruffles his hair.
EXT. Farmhouse in Italy – DUSK
With a spectacular late-summer sunset in the background Carl
is playing at swordsman on the flat roof of the farmhouse with APOLLOS, son of
his Greek tutor. Stephanus is walking up the track to the house leading a
donkey laden with farm implements and bundles of harvested vegetables.
The joy of the moment is broken by an angry cry from the roof.
Ha! Keep the sword up.
More blows are exchanged and Apollos finally tosses his sword
aside and charges at Carl, wrestling him to the dust of the rooftop.
Wriggling free, Carl RACES for the discarded wooden gladius, SCOOPS it up and
TWIRLS one sword in each hand. As Apollos charges him, Carl laughs,
delivering a pair of stinging blows and steps out of the way.
Cut that out will you?!
“Cut that out will you?!”
Apollos charges again, and this time Carl dazes him with a
blow to the back of the head. Apollos lands on his face in the dust.
Will you two cut that out before someone gets hurt?
Carl walks to the edge of the roof and looks down.
Behind him, unseen, Apollos shakes his head throwing off the
daze. His eyes BLAZE with hatred and he rises and THROWS himself at
Carl. Apollos jumps and plants both feet in a KICK to the small of Carl’s
back, sending him arcing over the edge, and Apollos onto his back on the
roof. Carl lands face down on the ground near Stephanus, with a sickening
CRUNCH of breaking vertebrae.
EXT. A ROAD in Italy – DUSK
A HEBREW Priest sits in the dust a few yards from the
intersection of a farm track and the road. He occasionally glances up
the track that leads to Stephanus’ farmhouse. Finally he sees Stephanus
running toward him, and he gets up, dusts himself down and starts walking along
the road, clearly aiming to intersect the path of the running Stephanus.
The two men collide in a tangle of limbs.
(wind knocked out of him)’
Out of my way stranger, I’m in a hurry.
The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness, but everyone who is impatient and hasty heads only to poverty.
I dont have time for riddles. Out of my way.
Then, perhaps, you might have time for a healer?
Stephanus looks at him in shock then grabs his collar to drag
him up the farm track.
The gods be praised!
(smiling like the cat who got the canary)
INT. FARMHOUSE IN ITALY – NIGHT
Carl’s body lays on a large wooden table. Stephanus and
the Hebrew are nearby.
He’s dead. Gone.
I will need to examine him before making that decision.
I’ve seen enough death. Killed my share of men and
boys. I tell you he’s dead.
My order has healing power that can still reach him, but you
will need to leave me to my craft if you wish me to access the deeper magick.
You’re like no Hebrew I’ve ever met – they shunned magick in
all its forms.
Do you wish me to continue, or not? Every moment we
waste lets his spirit drift further away.
Stephanus leaves the room.
The Hebrew leans close to Carl’s still form, rolls him over
and tears his shirt open to expose his spine.
Long have we waited for another Watcher. Fear not
little one, you will rise from your slumber soon.
The Hebrew begins to pray and pulls a ceremonial knife from
his robes. Reaching the apex of his prayer he slices into his palm
letting the blood run freely, directing the crimson flow across Carl’s neck and
In places the blood pools, at the sites of broken vertebrae
it’s absorbed, hungrily, without a trace. He concentrates the blood flow
Where … what …
Dont try to move little one.
The Hebrew takes a cup and fills it partially with
blood. From his robes the takes a small pouch and sprinkles white powder
liberally into the cup.
He turns Carl, supports his head and puts the cup to his lips.
“For the life of a creature is in the blood…”
I give of myself, that you may live little one.
You come to us from a distinguished line. I had to step
in, I couldnt see the line falter, not after so long.
Well, yes. To the eyes of mere man you were dead, yet
you were not beyond reach. Your true nature sustained you. Of that
I cannot talk, you must seek another for the answers you crave. Get
up. You have a long journey ahead of you.
(calling to Stephanus)
You may enter.
Stephanus enters and shock gives way to a smile as he sees
Carl is alive.
Who else witnessed the incident?
The son of the Greek tutor. Why?
None must know he still lives. You cannot remain here,
in this place. Your life here has ended as surely as his did when he hit
What are you saying?
“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”
Your boy died today, in the company of others. They
will tell of a resurrection if he returns. To all others he must remain
dead. You must leave this place, seek answers, and never return.
Take new names. Live a new life.
I seek another Watcher, one who lives far from here.
You seek the hermit of Qumran – on the north shore of the
Dead Sea. More than that I cannot tell you. He will answer your
MONTAGE: INT. FARMHOUSE – DAY
Stephanus and Carl packing to travel. Carl moves with
MONTAGE: EXT. FARMHOUSE – DAY
Carl riding the donkey, between bulging bags, Stephanus
leading the way.
MONTAGE: EXT. ROAD IN SOUTHERN ITALY
Carl and Stephanus have set up camp and are roasting a rabbit
over the campfire. Carl moves without pain but wears a sombre, haunted
MONTAGE: EXT. DOCKS in SOUTHERN ITALY
Stephanus and Carl survey the available ships traveling East
along the coast. Several conversations later, people pointing them up and
down the dock they finally find a ship. The CAPTAIN is missing his left
So, just you and your son making the voyage? I need
names for the ship manifest. The harbour-master is clamping down.
My name is Bastian, and this is my son Car…
…Cartaphilus, of Rome.
Well Bastian and Cartaphilus, whoever you are, so long as
your silver is good I’ll give you berth on board. You’ll need to pull
your weight – I’ll have no freeloaders on my ship!
Stephanus and the Captain shake hands.
MONTAGE: INT. SHIP – DAY
Carl and Stephanus man the oars alongside the rest of the
crew as the ship navigates out of the harbour.
MONTAGE: EXT. SHIP – DAY
Stephanus is ill, not found his “sea legs” and throws up over
the side of the ship into the ocean. Carl sits nearby laughing at his
MONTAGE: EXT. SHIP IN THE MIDDLE OF
THE SEA – DUSK
Carl is talking to a sailor who is pointing out features of
the ship and naming them in Latin, Greek and his own (Phoenician) language.
MONTAGE: EXT. SHIP At SEA in A STORM
Stephanus is sleeping, Carl is talking a badly woven mix of
Latin and Phoenician to a sailor who is teaching him knots. A sailor
calls that land is in sight and points.
MONTAGE: EXT. SHIP – CLOSING IN TO
PORT AFTER THE STORM – AFTERNOON
Sailors are getting the ship ready for dock, stowing ropes
and other tackle. Others are below in the hold sorting trade goods.
Carl is speaking to a sailor in Phoenician. An atmosphere of relief to be out
of the storm and almost in port pervades the buzz of conversation.
Behind Carl two burning arrows SLAM into the wet deck, and a
third strikes a sailor the the middle of his back. The sailor goes down
SCREAMING and WRITHING, his back a mass of flames. A bucket of water is
tossed over the flames but there’s no saving the sailor. Carl scrambles
for some cover at the ship’s rail.
Three more non-burning arrows land, one missing the ship
having gone over Carl’s head, one hitting the deck near him and the third
impaling his right calf. Around the ship sailors are a frenzy of
activity, turning the ship and running for open water. Their swift
response causes the next volley of arrows to land in the water to the stern of
Stephanus rushes to Carl’s side and examines him, the eye of
a trained soldier.
Hold still. This isnt the worst I’ve seen. It’s
gone right through and into the deck. This is going to hurt, ready?
Stephanus breaks off the arrow as close to Carl’s leg as
possible. The boat pitches and rolls causing Carl to shift, the arrow
anchoring him to the deck causes him to cry out. Stephanus pauses then
grasps the boy’s ankle and knee and nods.
Count of three.
He nods to Carl.
Carl closes his eyes and grits his teeth. Without
warning Stephanus lifts his whole leg, sliding the broken arrow right
through. Carl SCREAMS then falls silent. Stephanus binds the wound.
There’s a healer on board. I’ll take you to him.
He lifts the boy and takes him below decks, casting a glance
at the arrows, at the path the volleys had taken and where Carl had been
He looks down at Carl with a questioning look.
INT. SHIP’s HEALER’s QUARTERS – NIGHT
Carl is laying with a dirty, blood soaked bandage on his
leg. Sweat covers his brow. His eyes are closed tightly. The
HEALER and Stephanus are talking in hushed tones.
It was a clean wound, and your battlefield medicine should
have been enough.
They were trying to kill him.
Whoever it was firing the arrows. I didnt see the ship
they were on.
Pirates, after our cargo, that’s my guess.
No. It was more than that, there were two volleys and
the target each time was in a different place. They were aiming for him.
From that distance?
Archers from my unit in Germania could take a running rabbit
distance. Would pirates have theat accuracy?
For that matter, how could they see him
Whoever hired trained archers probably used a seer to guide
Magick like that and military grade archers wouldnt come
Who? Who has resources like that to squander on a mere boy?
If they were trying to kill him then they could afford poison
too, which would explain the fever. I could take the leg right now but I
fear the poison has taken hold of his whole body by now anyway.
EXT. SHIP – NIGHT
Stephanus stares out to sea, scanning the rearward horizon
for signs of pursuit. The ship captain steps up behind him and he turns.
He may not last the night.
You have powerful enemies Bastian which places me in a
dilemma: I have a full cargo hold and must make port, I have a dead crew member
to replace, and I have living and half-dead passengers. Seems to me we
could toss the boy overboard and take you as crew and all would be square.
Your crewman was a casualty of war. No more, no
less. At the wrong place at the wrong time. I lost men from my
the very same way.
Veteran of Germania.
Then you should know that a few might need to be sacrificed
to win the battle, if this truly is a war. Did your healers never
Our healers were butchers in healer’s robes. They
killed those they couldnt be bothered to treat.
I am a simple man, profit and loss, profit and loss. I
am out of pocket one crew member, damage to my deck and a hold of cargo.
Taken in two parts
you and your boy solve all my problems.
With a start Stephanus finds his arms grabbed from behind by
several of the larger sailors.
You have strong arms and a good back. I’ll take those
as payment for the lost crew member and additional damage to the ship.
Another crewman steps out from below decks carrying a
cloth-wrapped bundle the size and shape of Carl.
And that deals with the cargo in our hold.
With a SPLASH the Carl-bundle is hurled overboard.
Stephanus struggles and cries out then goes limp in the sailors grasp.
INT. SHIP AT SEA – MORNING
Stephanus, now a crew member, is manning an oar as the ship
maneuvers into the harbour. An overweight, BALDING SAILOR cracks a whip
across sailors who’re slacking as they fight against bad-weather and the sea to
pull into the harbour.
Put your backs into it, or the sea will take us for sure.
Of all the places I thought I would be…
The whip lashes out and strikes him across the shoulder
If you have something to say, say it for the rest of us to
I said, of all the places I thought I would be…
Our company not good enough for you?
Shut up, or you’ll not be seeing daylight for the next
month. I pick who loads and who unloads the ship. Anyone not on
those crews, stays here. So, who’s staying here?
Silence falls and the men bend themselves into rowing harder and avoiding the ire of the balding sailor.
INT. SHIP IN PORT – AFTERNOON
The fat balding sailor walks between rows of oarsmen and
picks men, seemingly at random for the crew to unload the ship cargo. He
looks Stephanus in the eye and steps past him. The chosen men hurry off
into the cargo hold and there’s soon a bustle of activity and voices.
Three sailors join the fat balding guy, two carrying tools, and they begin
working in pairs fixing metal shackles around each of the remaining oarsmen’s
right ankles. A soft metal rivet is hammered through the clasp to hold
the manacle closed and Stephanus sighs as he realizes the futility of trying to
EXT. the ocean DEPTHS OUTSIDE TYRE
The Carl-bundle – the cloth wrapped body of Carl – sinks toward the depths. Colour is leached out by the depth of the ocean, silt stirred by the current makes it seem cloudy. The bundle sinks into depths where day and night cease to have meaning; the depths where weather and storms above cannot reach. The depths where a powerful undercurrent suddenly catches the bundle, spinning it end over end, dragging it against protruding rocks. The water rushing past tugs at the edges of the cloth pulling them free and slowly unwrapping the body within. Carl’s eyes flicker open and he gasps for breath filling his lungs with icy cold sea water. Silently he screams as death takes him. His eyes close and a peace descends. Across exposed areas of skin areas of light and dark begin pulsating rhythmically. Moving in closer, the pores of his skin have enlarged and are opening and closing, rhythmically, in waves that pass across his body.
INT. SHIP IN PORT – EVENING
Stephanus nods in appreciation to a sailor who hands him
water to drink. Outside the crew area voices can be heard talking.
Conversation falls quiet as coordinated heavy footsteps approach.
Stephanus waves away the crew member’s offer of stale bread in favour of
concentrating on listening to those outside.
EXT. SHIP IN PORT – EVENING
Most of the crew have taken off into the port city of
Tyre. A skeleton number are occupied with tasks around the deck of the
ship. Three stand guard and are talking. Their conversation falls
silent as a four-man squad of Roman Legionaires board the ship. At the
head of the squad, an older and more care-worn CRISPUS pulls off his helmet as
he prepares to speak with the sailors.
Where is your captain.
Dont rightly know.
Havent seen him for a while.
(looking at Sailor-1)
The captain? Thought he went into town.
What do you need him for?
What was your cargo?
Boxes, lots and lots of boxes.
I had to carry most of them when we unloaded. Heavy
(about to speak)
In annoyance, Crispus holds his hand up for silence, cutting
off further speech.
Ohhh, let’s think about that. No … only passengers I
saw got off before we arrived here.
And these passengers, a man and a boy?
All three sailors shrug. Crispus suppresses anger,
clearly trying to stay within externally imposed limits. His hand
twitches close to his sword hilt as his angry look is pushed from view.
I will return in the morning. I expect to see your
captain and your manifest. Should you sail in the night, I will see to it
that you’ll never trade these waters again. Good night.
Crispus turns on his heel and strides back off the ship, his legionaires following him.
EXT. SHIP IN PORT – MORNING
The three sailors on watch and playing dumb the night before
are now asleep, having been relieved by three others. The Captain strides
out from his cabin, where he’d been all along, with a mid-twenties Greek slave
The fat, balding Oarmaster hurries from below decks.
(pushing the slave)
Another one for you. I see cant see why the new
governor wouldnt have kept him around, he’s …well versed … but I’ve had my
fill of him. Put him to work.
Oh, dont spare him the lash on my account, could be he might
enjoy it given his performance last night.
The Oarmaster roughly grabs the slave and pushes him below
decks. The Captain turns and looks at the sleeping sailors.
On your feet dogs!
All three sleeping sailors respond, but far too slowly for
the Captain’s liking. He kicks one of them as an encouragement to all.
(doubling over in pain)
We had visitors last night?
Yes sir, we did. Four Romans.
And? What did they want?
They wanted the passengers, the man and boy. I told the
lead soldier that the passengers had “got off before we arrived here”
(nodding to himself)
They had powerful enemies. Rome doesnt usually sell
herself to the highest bidder. Did they say they would return, these
Yes, and we are not to sail to avoid them, or we’ll never
trade these waters again.
Fury seizes the Captain at the threat. The three
sailors scuttle away before any harm can come to them.
INT. SHIP IN PORT – CONTINUOUS
The fat balding Oarmaster has dragged the GREEK SLAVE down
into the dark, slumbering men all around lean on oars or have tried to get as
comfortable as their manacled feet will allow. Stephanus watches the
newcomers through heavily lidded eyes, noting where the Oarmaster keeps the
hammer and soft metal rivets used in the manacles. Once the Greek
slave is shackled to an oar, the fat man leaves.
(speaking in Koine Greek)
Psst! You there.
The slave turns to face him. Black make-up around his
eyes has run from tears.
Yes? What do you want? Have you been sent to make
my misery complete?
I am Stephanus. Do you have a name?
I am called Dymas.
Well met Dymas!
(waving a hand)
What news do you have of out there?
I was lover of Publius Sulpicius Quirinus, Governor of the
province of Syria, and now this? Are the gods punishing me?
Yes. He’s been replaced, of course. In the
household purge that followed I found myself in the slave market and purchased
by your Captain. I clearly didnt please the new governor.
Not two nights ago I slept by a fire and was drinking
wine. Now this? What next?
I, myself, was something else before being pressed into service. I have hope that I will yet return to the life I left behind. Sadly, the son I had taken for my own will never have that luxury.
Dymas stifles a look of interest, pushing it down, trying to
You had a son? Down here?
No. We were passengers. He’s dead and I now serve
Dymas nods sagely, and turns back to his oar in silence.
EXT. THE OCEAN DEPTHS OUTSIDE TYRE
Carl is still trapped by the current against a rock.
The wound on his leg has gone green and small sea creatures are darting to and
fro, picking at its edges.
In the semi-darkness two shapes swim up, using the current to
gain extra speed. Out of the cloudy silt they appear: arms pressed to
their sides, legs kicking fluidly in unison, hair and loose gauzy clothing
trailing. Sailors on the surface would have called them mermaids, they
refer to one another as EURYBIA and TANIS.
It’s true, I tell you, he swam with me last night.
You know it’s forbidden!
Yes, I know but he looked so good in that uniform! But
are you going to tell the Elders?
If I tell them that, who knows what they will find out about
me? No, your secret is safe, as I trust mine are?
Eurybia’s laugh is cut short as she notices Carl’s form
pressed to the rock nearby.
No, I dont think so sister. Look!
The current has tugged Carl’s shirt loose and patterns of
light and dark, matching the mermaid’s own, are passing across this torso.
He’s dressed like a surface dweller. You know they’re
only good for one thing!
Alright, maybe two then.
Look below the clothing, dont you see he’s one of us?
(with a sigh)
Yes, I do. Cant I have any fun?
Uhh, last night?
They pause near Carl’s prone figure, arms and legs now
working independent of one another, much as any other human would if they were
We cant eat one of our own.
Why not? Who will know?
(looks at her sister with a frown)
Oh, alright. We take him back and let the Elders decide
He looks so young, dont you think?
Tanis swims closer and the filmy, gauzy edges of her
billowing shirt brush across Carl’s face. His eyes open in panic and his
mouth moves, with no effect.
(closes his mouth and looks at her with raised
eyebrows and a pleading look in his eyes)
Sleep little one!
Tanis reaches out and brushes fingertips across Carl’s
eyes. He goes limp and sleeps. The two mermaids take an arm each
and swim off into the deeper ocean with Carl in tow.
EXT. SHIP IN PORT – AFTERNOON
Crispus and three Roman soldiers arrive at the ship, and his
existing frown deepens as Crispus notices the activity going into preparing it
The Captain walks out of his cabin eating a fig.
Ahh, sir, welcome aboard. What can I do for Rome?
I’ve seen the manifest you lodged with the harbourmaster, and
it didnt mention half of what people saw you unloading…
Oh? Who were these “people” you speak of?
…and there was no mention of your passengers.
You’re right, of course, I had no passengers when I docked
Crispus grunts with annoyance and walks to the ship’s rail to
look out to sea.
Far be it from me to doubt your official papers,
Captain. I had it on good authority that you were transporting enemies of
A young boy runs up and kneels to offer a small parchment
sealed with wax to Crispus. He takes it, breaks the seal and reads.
As he reaches the end, his screws it up in an angry fist.
It would appear that my prime informant, the seer Eurybia of
the temple of Poseidon, has thrown
herself off a cliff into the sea. Why would one so young take her own
The soldier to Crispus’ right pales and takes a sharp intake
of breath at the news.
(to the soldier)
You knew her?
Knew? In a certain sense, yes, sir.
Well, spit it out man!
We were lovers. The last time I saw her was when we
were making love in the ocean … last night … a sacred offering under the
full moon, to Poseidon
Crispus turns back to the Captain who seems amused by the
Crispus angrily pushes past him and starts searching the
ship, finding nothing in the crew quarters, hold or passenger quarters.
(pointing to a closed door)
The slaves – oarsmen – I have a bill of sale for all of them
in my cabin.
The men set off back up to the deck.
INT. SHIP IN PORT – CONTINUOUS
Stephanus perks up as he hears the Latin speaking group
That voice – its familiar.
Sounds like the captain of the governor’s household guard.
This captain have a name?
Crispus, I believe, a war veteran. Why would the
governor be taking an interest in this ship?
I have no idea. Powerful enemies…
He falls silent as the voices stop outside, then recede again
Stephanus angrily punches the wall.
EXT. OCEAN DEPTHS OFF THE COAST OF
The mermaids Eurybia and Tanis arrive at an area of
cultivation: coral grows in a semi-circle around a cave mouth, with various
coloured plants in beds inside the coral wall. A pathway winds between
flowerbeds, past a decoratively arranged ship’s anchor up to the mouth of the
Eurybia betrays nervousness as she approaches the cave,
adjusting her skirts and hair and hanging back to allow Tanis to enter first,
still towing the sleeping form of Carl between them.
INT. MOTHER’s CAVE, OFF THE COAST OF TYRE
MOTHER is waiting in the depth of the cave, bathing in a
current of hot spring water coming from the sea bed. Mother is quite
literally the largest woman on the planet, her bulk offset by its inherent
buoyancy in the seawater. Dark waves of opening and closing pores pass
across the undulating folds of flesh.
Mother? Are the Elders not meeting here today?
Greetings, youngest. No, no Elders. A delegate
from our separated brethren brought news that our goal is almost in sight.
The two girls deposit Carl on the sandy floor by Mother.
You’ve done well! Is this the one we seek?
Mother moves close to Carl and examines him, stopping at the
infected arrow wound on his leg.
Oh no. No, no.
She reaches down, lifts him by the leg an begins to GNAW on
the infected flesh until bone is exposed along most of his lower leg.
Scraps of meat float past Eurybia and Tanis. They grab and eat them
making sure that nothing leaves the cave.
(looking up from her meal)
He’s under-nourished and the wound hasn’t regenerated.
infection is stopped for now. Hunt for me. Bring fresh man-meat and
bones. He must be strong to meet the Elders. Go!
The two mermaids squeal with delight and flit from the cave
at top speed.
EXT. SHIP AT SEA – AFTERNOON
A sailor on lookout duty spots an approaching ship. The
Captain looks and calls the crew to arms. Four men armed with bows take
station facing the other ship awaiting orders. The Captain waits,
allowing the other vessel to close.
Steady men, wait for them to announce themselves and make
Half a dozen arrows impact the deck and side of the ship. the Captain orders his men to return fire. The rest of the crew stand ready, eyes on the sky, to avoid getting shot.
Let them close, then see to it that they get what they
deserve. If these pirates are carrying anything, I want it.
Whatever happens, their captain is mine alone, got that?
The two vessels approach close enough for men to leap from
the pirate vessel and engage the defending crew in hand to hand combat.
The fights are brief, brutal and bloody. Soon the defending crew find
themselves on the defensive.
Arm the slaves, they’ll only be butchered anyhow.
Men vanish below deck.
INT. SHIP AT SEA – CONTINUOUS
Stephanus looks around as he hears the battle cries from
above. Other slaves share a mixture of fear and disinterest until crew
members burst in, dumps a motley assortment of weapons on the floor and and
free them one by one.
Get something to fight with and defend the ship, or I’ll kill
What’s going on?
Pirates, here to plunder our cargo and sell it at port.
(testing the balance of the sword he pulls from the
It’ll do. Now where are they?
Three slaves, including Dymas cower in the corner and refuse to fight.
EXT. SHIP AT SEA – CONTINUOUS
Stephanus starts into the pirates, swift and mechanically
efficient, his soldier training clearly evident. Several of the
oar-slaves die in the battle but they are quickly avenged as Stephanus’ body
count rises by the minute. He sizes up the situation and vaults across to
the pirate ship bellowing a warcry.
INT. SHIP AT SEA – CONTINUOUS
Dymas, now unwatched, searches through the storage area and
finds an old knife which he conceals on his person. The other slaves are
too busy cowering to notice.
EXT. PIRATE SHIP – CONTINUOUS
Stephanus stands at the centre of a ring of carnage. As
fast as pirates come forward to meet him, his blade finds a vital organ or
limb, and they go down either dead or maimed. Finally the crowd thins and
the PIRATE CAPTAIN steps through and the crew fall back. The pirate
captain is armed with a pair of swords and wears a leather breastplate –
strips shaped to look like leaves – with leather wrist and shin guards.
So, you came here to die instead of staying at home did you
My name is Stephanus and you’re the one who is destined to
Battle is briefly joined with a clash of swords. They
part and Stephanus deftly scoops a small buckler (small metal shield) from one
of the corpses and continues circling his opponent.
In the next clash, Stephanus barely escapes, with a critical
blow from the pirate captain glancing off the buckler. Then he spots an
opening and drives forward using both shield and sword in an impressive display
of raw brutality, finally thrusting his sword upward through the pirate
captain’s palette and out of the top of his head.
Looking around he gets nothing but downcast eyes from the assembled crew, shock dawning on them at the death of their captain.
Stephanus looks the two swords over and unbuckles their
scabbards from the captain’s body. He unbuckles and removes wrist and
lower-leg armour before returning to his own ship.
EXT. SHIP AT SEA – CONTINUOUS
The Captain is furious at Stephanus and circles him.
I said that their captain was to be left for me.
So? He brought the fight to me.
He was mine, his ship should have fallen to me. Who do
you think you are?
Just an old soldier. Keep the ship, I just want my
The captain dismisses him with a wave of his hand, far more
interested in the three cowering slaves that the sailors are dragging onto the
Found them hiding. Didnt even lift a finger to help.
The Captain stalks over, his anger already burning brightly.
You did nothing?
We stayed safe, Sir.
(delivering a stinging back-handed blow to Dymas face)
Coward. Men of worth died today so you useless rodents
could stay safe. I would gladly trade all of your lives for just one of
theirs, ten times over.
One of the crew steps up with a flask of oil, another with a
Crew members grab the three slaves and force them to extend
an arm. In sickeningly swift succession three severed hands land on the
deck, the stumps are doused with oil and set alight to cauterize the
wound. Two of the men scream. Dymas looks with silent contempt
first at the
then at the Oarmaster who’d been holding his arm. All the slaves except
Stephanus are rounded up and forced back to the oars.
You did well, but the price of disobedience must still be
paid. You’ll pay just as any other rest of my crew would.
Two sailors tie Stephanus to the main mast, his arms extended over his head. The Captain proceeds to deliver ten lashes with a knotted rope before walking back to his cabin, kicking one of the severed hands out of his way as he does so. As crew members clean up the deck, tossing bodies overboard, Stephanus is left hanging.
INT. OCEAN DEPTHS OFF THE COAST OF TYRE, IN A CAVE
Carl wakes up to see Eurybia at his bedside. At first
he’s confused, trying to speak and finding no words coming out, then it dawns
on him that he’s under water and panic begins to rise.
Hold still little one. You’re safe. You’re among
your own kind.
(mouth moving but silent)
No. Like this …
She shows him how to make sounds without air in his lungs,
how to force water in and out past vocal chords, how to form words.
How … long … have … I …
How long have you been here?
Almost a half cycle of the moon. When you’re ready you
will meet with Mother and the other Elders.
Tanis glides in hauling something behind her.
It took forever. He almost resisted my song. I
cant remember the last time that happened.
I can …
… but you’re not going to embarrass me in front of our guest are you? You always were the most beguiling hunter of the family
Tanis deposits the body of a dark-skinned sailor on the
ground before Carl.
Oh dear gods, has no one taught you?
(looking at Eurybia)
There wasnt time.
Tanis sighs and advances on the corpse.
Mere mortals have been our food source since … well,
forever. See your leg?
(glancing down and looking startled)
I was wounded, poisoned! It looks perfect now.
What happened? Are you a healer?
Nothing of the sort little one. Your flesh will
regenerate, even after losing a limb. Their life to support yours.
We fed you while you slept.
A wise man said “For the life of a creature is in the blood…”
Yes! And the marrow of his bones is even more potent.
While they’re speaking, Tanis tears through the skin and
flesh of the sailor to expose ribs. With a few swift blows she breaks
them and extracts
three of them.
Here, start with this.
Carl and Eurybia accept the offered bones and Carl looks at
its core, then at the two mermaids. Following their example he eats with
some trepidation. This falls away as he feels his body’s metabolism
process the marrow, enthusiasm for the meal replacing the tentative
beginnings. Between the three, the corpse is reduced to scraps, all flesh
and major bones eventually consumed.
INT. SHIP AT SEA – MORNING
The Captain has split his crew between his own and the pirate
ship, taking former members of the pirate crew to fill his own oar-slave
positions. The two ships limp slowly into harbor at Ashdod in southern
Israel. Taking a moment to himself, Stephanus heads below decks and looks
in on the oar-slaves.
The fat, balding Oarmaster stalks up and down delivering a
beating to anyone not pulling hard enough in his opinion. His attention
seems focussed on Dymas and the newly acquired ex-pirate crew.
Pull, you lousy sewer rats!
The whip lands a blow across Dymas’ already lacerated
back. He pushes the oar away from himself in silence and stops working
entirely. The Oarmaster’s face starts to turn red and the whip lands
another blow, this time across Dymas chest. A defiant look and more
silence from Dymas prompts two more blows across his torso. He slumps,
though from Stephanus vantage point it’s clear that Dymas is fully alert and
there’s fire in his eyes.
A look of horror crosses Stephanus face as he hears the
unmistakable sound of metal CLEAVING flesh and bone, the CRUNCH of breaking
bones and a metallic clank … the sound of an ankle shackle hitting the floor.
The creature that stands looks like Dymas and yet isnt.
Gone is the cowed slave. Gone is the gay-lover of the Roman
governor. In the moments between the last whip blow and standing up Dymas
has shed the persona as a snake sheds its skin. He stands in one fluid
movement, an old knife in his right hand. Blood runs freely from his hand
and the blade. He steps out of his position by the oar with the limp of a
man with one functional foot … and a SEVERED, BLEEDING stump where the other
had been. He LAUNCHES himself with a ROAR at the Oarmaster and the two
men go down in a tangle of limbs. The Oarmaster’s screams are cut off as
Dymas tears his throat out and hungrily plunges his face into the crimson flow.
Stephanus steps closer and Dymas’ head snaps up greeting him with a FERAL SNARL. Stephanus takes an involuntary step back and looks shocked as Dymas teeth visibly transform into something far more predatory, becoming pointed, canine. He plunges into the Oarmaster’s corpse tearing flesh out of his thighs, exposing the femur then with a wet sucking noise the bones themselves are pried free. Dymas pointed teeth make short work of cracking through the bone and after consuming the marrow he sits back, sated. He closes his eyes and stretches, working kinks out of shoulders, arms above his head. Stephanus watches in wonder as bones thrust themselves out from the severed forearm, raw flesh knits itself into being across the bones followed by skin regenerating. In mere moments the severed hand is restored.
Dymas stands and turns toward Stephanus, walking on two fully
functional feet, a snarl on his face and murder in his eyes.
EXT. OCEAN DEPTHS OFF THE COAST OF TYRE
Carl is alone, laying on a shelf of rock, eyes heavily lidded
as he watches currents slowly stirring the golden sand nearby. He lets
his hand dangle down and starts tracing patterns in the sand. His eyes
Some time later he is awoken by Eurybia.
(pointing to the sand doodles)
What’re you drawing little one?
(looking at what he drew)
My old Greek tutor told me stories of the Fates. Do you
know of them?
Carl sits up and looks at the drawing in the sand – swirling
lines, tracing an elaborate double-helix reminiscent of DNA.
Of course I know the Fates! Clotho, the beautiful
maiden spins the thread of life. Lachesis is in middle age and measures
the span of thread, measures out the duration of your life.
Atropos, the crone, cuts the thread to determine your fate. What of them?
I was dreaming of Clotho as she spun the thread of
life. She was young and beautiful, like you.
How old do you think I am?
I, Uhh, I dont know.
What would you say if I was to tell you … that I saw the
migration of the Hebrews into the land? I was trapped in the Jordan river
when it parted to let them pass.
I dont know. You dont look that old.
No, I dont. Remember well: all the while you live by
your true nature, it will keep you from aging. Almost nothing can kill
you. Why else would you be breathing down here, under the water, with
Why else would your leg have regenerated?
That was in my dream!
What, your leg?
No! The issue of our true nature. Clotho was spinning the thread and it was like I could see into it. I could see the double-twist of the thread of life. Lachesis measured every thread with her rod, but they were all the same length.
But it’s Lachesis that determines a man’s days. She
measures the span of his life.
In the dream she measured every thread the same length.
And you’re going to tell me that Atropos didn’t cut the
threads at their appointed length?
Well, no. I mean, she examined the thread of life,
parted the twists, and made adjustments to the way the threads were
constructed. I don’t know how, but that determined when Thanatos would
visit the person to take their soul.
You still haven’t said, how was our true nature in the dream?
Some of the threads were different. They looked
different to the rest but similar to one another. Atropos looked at them,
even adjusted them, but something about the threads rejected her tampering.
You think so?
Yes, I do. You have come to a realization that we have
to explain to most. You discovered it yourself. We all have to go
through Atropos’ and her attempt to cut the thread of our life, or in
your dream, her tampering tampering
with it to discover the truth of our existence.
Yes, the truth that we cannot die. The truth of our
higher nature. Living here makes it so much easier! Our true nature
needs to manifest or we are lost forever.
Eurybia and Carl stare at his double-helix diagram for a few
moments in silence.
Mother sent me in here to get you. We are going to
visit the elders now that you are strong enough. Come with me.