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DishingDirt

Dishing Dirt

Based on the story "The First Caress" by Melva Gifford

Screenplay By Tarl N. Telford

 

FADE IN:

 

INT  CASTLE - GREAT HALL - EVENING

 

Great banners and displays festoon the walls. Everyone revels in their latest victory. KING TIASON lifts his goblet to toast his GENERAL.

 

MERI (late 20's), a serving girl, hurries to fill the King's goblet with wine.

 

The doors burst open. Two SOLDIERS drag an unconscious WIZARD, KOREV (60's), into the room.

 

Meri gasps. The wineskin slips, pouring into the King's lap. He rises, furious.

 

                                    KING TIASON

            Insolent wench!

                        (to guards)

            Get her out of my sight!

 

Two guards grab Meri roughly and drag her away. She steals one quick glance over her shoulder at the defeated wizard.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  DUNGEON - CONTINUING

 

A blinding shaft of light pierces the darkness as the heavy outer door opens. The guards shove Meri into the darkness. The thick door slams behind her.

 

Meri shivers, the chill of the dank stone penetrating to her very core. She wraps her arms around her thin frame, more to protect herself from the unknown darkness than to ward off the cold.

 

A large shadow rises up in front of her. BELMOTH, a fellow prisoner, grins a gap-filled grin. His fetid breath waters Meri's eyes.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            'Ello. What're ya in for?

 

Meri shies away from Belmoth. She backs into a corner, her eyes still not adjusted to the blackness of the dungeon.

                                    BELMOTH

            All right, then. Sit there. I'll wait.

 

Belmoth settles himself on a rough pine bench. He runs his hands through his long, scraggly hair.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            I was a soldier. Ran away when I saw the wizard. That was half a  year ago. Never seen a more fearsome creature than him. Killed half the army before noon, he did. But not me. I ran away ... and then ... here I am.

 

Meri draws her knees up to her chest, giving her some small measure of protection. Her eyes dart around, surveying her surroundings.

 

Belmoth watches her closely. He picks at his teeth idly.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            You and me, we're all that's here. 'Cept that cell over there. But no one's been there for a couple o' fortnights.

 

Meri breathes deeply, mustering her courage.

 

                                    MERI

            I spilled wine on the king.

 

Belmoth raises his eyebrows slowly. His mostly toothless grin widens unexpectedly. A sharp staccato laugh pierces the silence.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            What I wouldn't've given to see his royal fatness get doused.

 

The door flies open, bouncing against the wall. Meri shields her eyes from the glare. Two guards drag an unconscious body through the middle of the dungeon. They pull open the cell door and unceremoniously dump the wizard on the floor.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            Child of the devil. Couldn't've beaten you without the ticks. Here, have some more.

The GUARD tosses a cloth bag onto Korev, the Wizard. Small dark ticks scuttle out and disappear into the folds of his robe.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            Rot in peace.

 

The cell door closes sharply. The guards turn to the other two prisoners. Belmoth grins happily at them.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            What are you grinning at, idiot?

 

                                    BELMOTH

            I knew yer daddy. Back when you was just a twinkle.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            So what do you want?

 

Belmoth gestures to Meri, who shivers against the cold stone.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            She's a serving wench. She don't belong here. Let her get a blanket.

 

The Guard grunts.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            All right. Come on. But you're coming right back.

 

Meri steps up the few stairs to the light. She casts a thankful glance back at Belmoth. The door closes.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  SERVANTS QUARTERS - NIGHT

 

One week later.

 

Servants of all sizes bustle about busily. Meri, looking thinner and more pale, smiles wanly as she walks toward the kitchen.

 

INT  SERVANTS QUARTERS - KITCHEN - CONTINUING

 

Meri pauses over a bubbling pot of stew. She breathes deeply of its spiced aroma. That brings a bit of color back to her drawn face.

 

The COOK, MERCKUS, welcomes her warmly. He gestures her close.

                                    MERCKUS

            I heard something. That wizard of yours, his name's Korev. Could've stopped King Tiason, but they somehow infected him with Tenacian Ticks.

 

                                    MERI

            He's still got them on him.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            It's gonna take a lot of work to get 'em off. Here.

 

Merckus slips Meri a paring knife, a candle, and a pouch of herbs.

 

                                    MERI

            I can't do it.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Do you want to die down there? It's only because Leiza bribed the guards that you can even come here.

 

Merckus touches his hand to Meri's forehead.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            You'll get the ague if you stay down there much longer.

 

Merckus spoons the thick stew into several bowls.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Take these to the guards. It's extra, so they should let you keep yours.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  DUNGEON - LATER

 

Meri spoons some stew into Korev's mouth. She forces small bits of vegetables in. Korev's eyes flutter open and dart wildly about, then close again. His breathing comes quickly, in small, labored gasps. Meri touches her cheek to his forehead. His fever has increased.

 

Tears roll down Meri's dirty cheeks.

INT  DUNGEON - MORNING

 

Belmoth holds the small knife in the flickering candle flame. The blade brightens in the heat. Meri holds her hands near the flame, trying desperately to warm them.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            You'll cut out the ticks.

 

                                    MERI

            I can't.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            You're not strong enough to hold him down.

 

Meri reluctantly takes the knife. Belmoth takes hold of Korev, holding him still.

 

Korev's eyes dart madly beneath his eyelids. The candle's flame casts a queer pallor over the wizards wrinkled visage.

 

Meri gingerly touches the hot blade to Korev's neck. A strangled sob bursts forth from his cracked lips.

 

Tears roll down Meri's face as she continues the gruesome work.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  DUNGEON - NIGHT

 

Two days later.

 

Meri curls fitfully on the floor in her thin blanket. Her bare feet rub against each other on the stone floor, trying to get warm.

 

Belmoth snores loudly in the corner. His heavy arms lie folded across his chest.

 

The cell door creaks quietly open. Korev shuffles out. He kneels down next to Meri. A long bony finger reaches out and brushes a lock of hair away from her face.

 

                                    KOREV

                        (whispering)

            Meri.

 

Meri smiles softly, then her eyes flash open. She jumps back against the wall with a start. Like a trapped animal she scrambles backwards. Her eyes widen in fright.

Korev drops his hand back to the floor. His eyes reflect only kindness.

 

Meri calms herself. She reaches out and touches Korev's forehead.

 

                                    MERI

            Your fever's gone.

 

                                    KOREV

            Thank you.

 

                                    MERI

            For what?

 

                                    KOREV

            For saving me.

 

Korev stands and opens the door to his cell.

 

                                    MERI

            Korev ...

 

He pauses. Meri holds out her thin blanket. Korev takes it from her trembling hand.

 

                                    MERI

            Sleep well.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  CORRIDOR - DAY

 

The dungeon door stands open. Belmoth tosses dice with the guards.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            She's dying down there.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            Not my problem.

 

Belmoth picks up the dice and shakes them in his hand.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            How 'bout a little bet?

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            You got nothing to bet.

                                    BELMOTH

            You've got a wizard down there. He listens to me. I can get you whatever you want.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            And what do you get?

 

                                    BELMOTH

            Let her go to the servants quarters. Just until she gets better.

 

The guards look at each other. The first one shrugs.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            Fine with me.

 

Belmoth looks heavenward. He rolls the dice. Two sixes.

 

The guards laugh and slap their thighs in disbelief.

 

INT  DUNGEON - CONTINUING

 

Korev and Meri sit across from each other on the hard floor. Meri traces the lines in Korev's aged hands.

 

                                    MERI

            What does this line mean?

 

                                    KOREV

            That means that I will live until I am old.

 

                                    MERI

            But you are old.

 

Korev's smile shines in his eyes.

 

                                    KOREV

            There are things you don't know.

 

                                    MERI

            Why are you a wizard?

 

                                    KOREV

            Outside my homeland, I am just a man.

 

                                    MERI

            An old man.

 

                                    KOREV

            Yes. An old man.

                                    MERI

            So your land makes you a wizard?

 

                                    KOREV

            I get my power from the earth.

 

Belmoth enters, his shadow falls over Meri and Korev.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            Meri, you can go.

 

                                    MERI

            What about Korev?

 

                                    BELMOTH

            The guards said you stay with the servants 'till you're better.

 

Meri's eyes plea with Korev for the answer.

 

                                    KOREV

            I will live.

 

Meri exits into the light. The door closes behind her.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  SERVANTS QUARTERS - KITCHEN - AFTERNOON

 

Meri enters timidly. Merckus roars at the other servants in the kitchen. His intensity causes Meri to back up several steps.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            I wanted fresh Kissip fruit! These are no good!

 

Merckus hurls the rotting Kissip fruit at the other servants. They flee in terror.

 

Merckus grimaces in disgust at their ineptitude. He turns around and sees Meri.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Meri.

 

Meri runs into his outstretched arms. She coughs weakly as he squeezes her tight.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            We've missed you.

                                    MERI

            The guards said I could stay here until I'm better.

 

Merckus sits Meri down on a stool and immediately commences cooking a hearty meal for her.

 

Meri picks up one of the rotted Kissip fruits.

 

                                    MERI

            What is this?

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Kissip fruit. From Angar.

 

                                    MERI

            That's where Korev is from.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            The king delights in his spoils of war. But these ...

                        (he picks up a fruit)

            These are not good.

 

Meri looks out the window toward the orchard.

 

                                    MERI

            Couldn't you bring a tree here?

 

                                    MERCKUS

            That would take a dozen men weeks to get it here.

 

                                    MERI

            But the King could have fresh Kissip fruit for the Feast.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Hmm. I'll see what I can do.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  DUNGEON - EVENING

 

Three weeks later.

 

Meri hands a bowl of stew to Belmoth. She knocks softly on the cell door and enters. Korev sits cross-legged on the floor. Meri sets the bowl of stew down in front of him and shakes the caked mud off her sandals.

 

Korev opens his eyes slowly.

                                    KOREV

            The floor is dirty anyway.

 

                                    MERI

            I want my feet to be clean for you.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

EXT  CASTLE - ORCHARD - DAY

 

Meri digs her toes in the soft soil around the Kissip tree. Merckus approaches, basket in hand.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Every day you come to this tree, Meri. Why?

 

                                    MERI

            Korev likes to hear about it.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            The Feast is tonight, Meri. They're going to kill him.

 

                                    MERI

            Why?

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Because King Tiason is a fool. He wants to show all the lords how strong he is.

 

                                    MERI

            But Korev is just an old man.

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Korev is a wizard. They'll mock him, and then they'll kill him. I'm sorry.

 

Merckus turns away from Meri. He picks a Kissip fruit and puts it in his basket.

 

                                    MERI

            What if he gets his power back?

 

                                    MERCKUS

            Then Heaven help us all.

 

                        CUT TO:

INT  DUNGEON - CONTINUING

 

Meri rushes into the dungeon. She crashes into Belmoth and bounces right off. He catches her before she falls to the ground.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            You're too late, lass.

 

                                    MERI

            What? Why?

 

                                    BELMOTH

            They've taken him already.

 

Meri shakes her head slowly, realization dawning on her.

 

                                    MERI

            No. They can't. Not yet.

 

Meri moves to run back up the stairs. Belmoth catches her around the waist. She kicks and fights, but she can't break his grip.

 

She collapses sobbing into Belmoth's chest. He strokes her hair gently, comforting her the best he can.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  DUNGEON - LATER

 

Meri rocks back and forth in the middle of the floor. Her mouth moves, but no sounds emerge.

 

Belmoth paces around the room.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            There has to be a way for you to see him. Y'know, every prisoner gets a last request. You could be his last request.

 

Meri looks up from her trance for the first time.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            You go there and tell the guards that you want to make his last hour mean something.

 

Hope sparkles in Meri's eyes.

                                    MERI

            Yes. Yes, I could go see him. Then he could get his power back, and-

 

Meri rushes into Korev's cell and scoops up two handfuls of dirt.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            That's awful presumptuous of you.

 

She shoves them down the front of her dress.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            That's awful peculiar ...

 

Meri rushes back into the cell, a newfound determination driving her actions.

 

                                    MERI

            No. Don't you see? This is soil from his homeland. Here. Help me.

 

Meri dumps more dirt down her dress and packs it tightly with her hands.

 

Belmoth grins awkwardly but raises his hands bashfully.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            I'll probably kick myself later, but no.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  GUARDHOUSE - CONTINUING

 

The lone door in the room opens. Korev stares out the small window. Meri enters. The door clicks shut behind her.

 

                                    MERI

            It's a beautiful day.

 

                                    KOREV

            I had forgotten how sweetly the birds sing.

 

                                    MERI

            I have something to give you.

 

Meri wriggles and jiggles, dirt falling out from her dress. Korev turns around, bewildered by the peculiar sounds.

 

Meri grins excitedly.

                                    KOREV

            No. Meri. You saved my life. That's all I can take from you.

 

Meri jumps up and down, knocking more dirt loose from inside her dress. She bends over and scoops up the dirt from the floor. She places it in Korev's hands.

 

                                    MERI

            This is soil from Angar.

 

Korev looks at the mound of soil in his hands. His eyes raise and meet Meri's. A glow of power shines in his eyes. The soil glows brightly, then disappears.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  CASTLE - GREAT HALL - EVENING

 

King Tiason sits at the head of the table. Lords and ladies from across the realm fill the room to capacity.

 

The guards place Korev on a raised dais in the center of the room.

 

                                    KING

            Well, Wizard, you honor us with your presence.

 

Boos and hisses erupt forth from the assembly.

 

                                    KING

            Nothing to say? Don't you even wish to say goodbye to your wench?

 

Meri looks up at Korev. His eyes grow hard as he stares unflinchingly at King Tiason.

 

                                    KING

            The hour is come, and you must ...

 

The king gasps. His breath gurgles in his throat. His face turns purple.

 

Worried murmurs buzz around the room. Korev narrows his eyes. King Tiason collapses backwards into his chair. A rivulet of blood trickles from the corner of his mouth.

 

The lords and ladies gasp and look at the wizard. He raises his hand and the ceiling collapses in the room.

The screams of the dying echo throughout the castle.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

INT  DUNGEON - CONTINUING

 

The door opens. A shaft of light falls on Belmoth. He looks up expectantly. The Guard stands in the doorway.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            You hear about your friends?

 

Belmoth's head drops silently. He turns back to the wall.

 

                                    GUARD ONE

            They're waiting for you. Come on.

 

                        CUT TO:

 

EXT  CASTLE - STABLE - SUNSET

 

Belmoth emerges into the brightness of daylight. He rubs his eyes in amazement.

 

Korev and Meri sit astride beautiful horses. A third horse is saddled, waiting for Belmoth. He turns to look back at the castle - most of the roof is gone, caved in.

 

Belmoth laughs, in relief, and in pure joy.

 

                                    MERI

            Come on. We've got a long way to go.

 

                                    KOREV

            The dawn of a new day is just over that horizon.

 

Belmoth leaps onto his horse.

 

                                    BELMOTH

            Lead the way, old man.

 

                                    KOREV

            That's Wizard to you.

 

Korev spurs his horse and rides toward the setting sun. Meri and Belmoth follow close behind.

 

                        FADE OUT:

 

The End

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