"In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don't ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story." - Ben Bova [ more quotes ]

"EXCALIBUR"

Screenplay by

Rospo Pallenberg and John Boorman

Adapted from "Le Morte D'Arthur"

by

Thomas Malory

Final Draft



FADE IN:

EXT. FOREST - NIGHT

Darkness. The sound of battle cries and the clang of metal
upon metal. The forest lights up with huge sparks flying
from sword and ax as armored knights hack and swing at each
other. Mounted knights collide head-on at full gallop, their
armor made incandescent in the clash. Sparks eddy in their
wakes and float to the ground. The forest catches fire.

MAIN TITLES on the flames. Out of the sounds of ancient battle
grows music, heroic and barbaric, shot through with
melancholy.

Two crazed eyes reflect the fire. The eyes belong to a man
without age, at once ancient and boyish, female and male;
his eyes are pained from the burden of too much knowledge.
So close is he to the flames that a lock of his wild hair
sizzles alight. He slaps at the fire as if it were an annoying
insect. He wears a cloak of black trimmed with silver. It is
Merlin. The wizard weaves a path through the burning forest,
dodging the combatants, searching.

MERLIN
Lord Uther! Lord Uther!

The forest around him weeps softly with the sounds that follow
slaughter. Patches of undergrowth are smoldering. Small flames
lick bark and branches.

Smoke floats through the trees and hovers over the bodies of
the dying and the dead.

A huge knight reins up beside Merlin on a lathered horse.
His armor is blood spattered. He is weary from battle. He
looks down at Merlin, his countenance fierce. The blade of
his sword glows with an unnatural aura.

MERLIN
It's done. A truce. We meet at the
river.

UTHER
(disgusted)
Talk. Lovers murmuring to each
other...

EXT. RIVER, FOREST - DAY

Waiting on one bank of a small river that flows through the
forest is a warlord, the Duke of Cornwall. He is flanked by
his armored warriors. Lot of Lowthean prominent among them.
They are battle-weary and bloodied, but they look ready to
fight. Behind them is an army of lesser knights.

To the opposite bank come Uther and Merlin, a much smaller
force of knights, including Uryens, Lord of Gore, surrounding
them.

DUKE OF CORNWALL
I spit on your truce, Uther. If you
want peace, throw down your swords.

Uther and the Duke of Cornwall glare at each other in silence
across the river. Uther strains forward, burning with anger;
but Merlin restrains him.

UTHER
I should butcher all and every one
of them. Merlin, what is this wagging
of tongues?

MERLIN
Just show the sword.

Uther unsheathes his mighty sword, and brandishes it in the
air high over his head. The blade hums disquietingly and
leaves a lingering electric hue upon the air. The marvel
instills dread in all present.

MERLIN
(waxing eloquent)
Behold the sword of power, Excalibur.
Before Uther, it belonged to Lud,
before Lud, to Beowulf, before Beowulf
to Baldur the Good, before Baldur to
Thor himself and that was when the
world was young and there were more
than seven colors in the rainbow.
(and in an aside to
Uther)
Speak the words.

UTHER
(bellowing)
One land, one king! That is my peace!

The Duke of Cornwall looks around nervously as some of his
knights fall to their knees in awe.

DUKE OF CORNWALL
Lord Uther, if I yield to the sword
of power, what will you yield?

UTHER
Me, yield!?

Merlin urges Uther hard.

MERLIN
(a whisper)
He has given. Now you must.

The two knights glare at each other, rage contending with
anger.

UTHER
The land from here to the sea is
yours if you will enforce the King's
will.

The enemies lock eyes and Merlin watches anxiously.

DUKE OF CORNWALL
Done!

All men from both sides break out in wild cheers.

DUKE OF CORNWALL
My Lord King Uther, let us feast
together. To my castle. Lord Merlin,
you must join -

But Merlin is nowhere in sight.

INT. TINTAGEL CASTLE - HALL - NIGHT

Drums and wailing flutes fill the banquet hall with a lusty
rhythm. Armored warriors watch a lone woman dancing. She is
very beautiful, both sensuous and innocent.

Uther sits at the long table beside the Duke of Cornwall
with the barons and dukes of the land, and the lesser knights.
The table is stained with wine and littered with bones and
half-eaten fruit.

Uther's eyes burn with lust as he watches the dancer.

DUKE OF CORNWALL
I would wish you such a wife, Lord
Uther, as my Igrayne. So innocent,
but in bed, a furnace...

The Duke rises and goes to his wife, be-striding the center
of the hall and Igrayne weaves circles of dance around him.
He gloats with pride.

The words escape his lips:

UTHER
I must have her.

Lot spins to face him.

LOT
What? You're mad! What about the
alliance?

UTHER
(oblivious)
I must have her.

LOT
And risk all you've won? This castle
commands the sea gate to the kingdom.

Uther is not one for politics, and Lot's words sail past
him. The King lusts for Igrayne.

A bell is struck not far away. The music ceases and the hall
falls silent. The great door creaks open, revealing the dawn
light, and a monk steps into the hall and waits by it. Muffled
by corridors of stone, a choir of monks can now be heard
singing the high, ecstatic harmonies of the Te Deum. Those
who have fallen asleep at the table are roused, those drunk,
helped up.

INT. PASSAGEWAY, TINTAGEL CASTLE - DAWN

The monk leads the party down the hallway of the castle.
Thin shafts of dawnlight filter through archers' slits in
the thick walls onto stone floors. Otherwise, it is dark.
Each person, lady and knight, proceeds alone, head bent,
some crossing themselves.

Uther is among them. He stops in a dark alcove, breathing
heavily, waiting.

As the lovely Igrayne drifts past him, he pulls her out of
sight of the others.

In a shaft of pale light Uther clasps Igrayne to his
breastplate, his iron arm wrapped around her frail body. So
violent is his embrace that she cannot breathe, her mouth is
wide with fear, and her feet do not touch the ground; an
impaled butterfly.

UTHER
You will be mine. Wife and queen,
bed and crown.

His face is close to hers, looking as though he would devour
her tender whiteness with his kiss. She doesn't answer; she
can't. Even Uther understands this and lets her go.

IGRAYNE
(a fierce whisper)
I want no other crown and no other
bed than those I have.

Her gown and her fragile skin torn on the spikes of his armor,
Igrayne backs away and joins the procession.

Uther trembles with unreleased passion.

INT. PASSAGEWAY OUTSIDE CHAPEL, TINTAGEL CASTLE - DAWN

Igrayne enters the candlelit chapel from which issues the
chant, calling the castle to worship. She rushes to her
husband's side, kneeling next to him and whispering. The
Duke of Cornwall looks back at Uther, hatred in his eyes.

EXT. WAR CAMP - BEFORE TINTAGEL CASTLE - DAY

Uther is in a towering rage. Sword drawn, he stalks among
the biers of fallen knights. Squires and clerics keep a
healthy distance. The sky is lowering, pregnant with rolling
thunder. Beyond his encampment, high on a cliff rising out
of the sea stands the impregnable Tintagel Castle, seat of
the Duke of Cornwall, now under siege.

UTHER
(bellowing in all
directions)
Merlin! Where are you!?

Just then a knight rides up and dismounts. It is Ulfius, a
lieutenant.

UTHER
Have you found him?

ULFIUS
No--

But he cannot finish. He is taken aback by the sudden
appearance of a hideous hag who approaches, rattling a
beggar's pan.

HAG
What a hurry you were in this morning,
good sir. You forgot to give this
old woman a coin.

ULFIUS
I saw you half a day's gallop from
here. I asked you if you had seen
Merlin. I returned here straight
away. How did -

HAG
--I heard. I have come. I am also
Merlin.

The figure straightens, the filthy rags become a flowing
cape, and the hair is swept back by the wind, andóit is
Merlin, laughing.

MERLIN
I have walked my way since the
beginning of time. Sometimes I give,
sometimes I take. It is mine to know
which, and when.

UTHER
(exploding)
Dumb riddles, Merlin. I am your King.

Ulfius edges away.

MERLIN
I know the storm inside you, and
what it has wrought. The alliance I
forged is wrecked.

The Duke of Cornwall under siege. All this for lust. Selfish
lust.

Uther grabs Merlin.

UTHER
For Igrayne. One night with her. Do
it. Use the magic.

Merlin frowns pensively, his gaze searching strange distances
and wandering; then focusing, blazing straight at Uther.

MERLIN
You will swear by your true kingship
to grant me what I wish. Then you
shall have it.

Uther kneels and draws his sword and holds it up by the blade,
a cross.

UTHER
I swear it. By Excalibur and the
holy--

MERLIN
--What issues from your lust will be
mine. Swear it again.

UTHER
I swear it.

Merlin looks down sorrowfully at the kneeling King.

EXT. BATTLEMENTS, TINTAGEL CASTLE - EVENING

The Duke of Cornwall watches a force of armored knights riding
forth from Uther's war camp, with banners flying. It passes
beneath the castle and on toward a distant cliff.

DUKE OF CORNWALL
(to a lieutenant)
It's Uther and all his best knights.
He leaves behind little more than
fledglings to guard his camp.

His eyes are as cold and as pale as ice.

EXT. CLIFF ABOVE THE SEA - TWILIGHT

Uther and his knights, and Merlin on a mule, ride to the
high promontory and dismount. Here, overlooking the sea, is
a circle of ancient stones, carved with strange runes and
hieroglyphics, and as the wind moves through them it moans
and sighs.

The knights watch as Merlin and Uther, leading his horse,
walk toward the stones. Merlin strides into the circle,
turning to look at Uther, who hesitates.

MERLIN
Come.

Uther starts to make the sign of the cross, but Merlin halts
him with a gesture. Uther's hand drops, and he enters the
circle with his horse.

Merlin and Uther look out across the sea, to Tintagel Castle
high upon the cliff.

Merlin solemnly raises his arms toward that distant castle,
and chants in an ancient language, the sounds of which he
marries to the roaring and whining of the wind. The wind
becomes stronger, and Merlin's incantations become more
intense, and the wind in turn becomes wilder still. Until
Merlin is charged with a fierce, nonhuman power, as the wind
buffets his slight frame.

And then, for all to understand:

MERLIN
I hold the balance of all things in
my summoning. Arise mists. Come fog.

EXT. VISTA FROM THE CLIFF - TINTAGLE CASTLE - TWILIGHT

From the horizon a front of fog advances toward the castle
to envelop it, and continues across the gulf to the circle
of stones.

EXT. GATE, TINTAGLE CASTLE - TWILIGHT

The portal opens and a small force of armored men, led by
the Duke of Cornwall, exits. A fog is thickening all around
them.

EXT. CLIFF ABOVE THE SEA - TWILIGHT

The advancing front envelops Merlin and Uther, eddying around
the stones. All else is obliterated.

MERLIN
Mount your horse.

The King does.

MERLIN
Ride straight to the castle, across
the sea of fog.

Uther spurs straight for the edge of the cliff, then reins
in his horse abruptly.

UTHER
But the cliff, the sea...

Merlin rages, crazed.

MERLIN
Ride across! Across the bridges of
desire. Your lust will hold you up.
For I have just woven it into the
fabric of the world. This is magic -
making solid what is in the mind,
and unsolid, that which is already
solid.

He gives the horse a stinging blow with his staff.

The horse and Uther charge forward into a gallop and stepping
off where the hidden edge of the cliff would be, hoofbeats
ceasing and the horse dropping for the blink of an eye, they
gallop across the fog.

EXT. MERLIN'S FOG

Galloping on no visible terrain, Uther and his horse advance
through the restless fog, and as they recede rider and animal
become a wavering, changeable form within the cloud.

EXT. GATE, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

Horse and rider pull up at the gate.

RIDER
(calling)
Wake up in there. It is I.

If it was not for the electric blue hue burning in the eyes
of the man entering the castle, the same magic hue that
Excalibur left upon the air when wielded, the resemblance to
the Duke if Cornwall would be perfect.

After a moment the portal opens.

INT. INNER GATE, INTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

He passes into an inner court, the portal closing behind.
Armed men emerge cautiously. Thinking that it is their Duke
they help him dismount.

'DUKE' OF CORNWALL
Have the horse ready. I ride out
before sunrise.

An inner gate opens and the 'Duke' goes through it.

EXT. UTHER'S WAR CAMP - NIGHT

The real Duke and his men ride through the fogbound camp,
cutting the ropes of the tents, stabbing the men trapped
beneath the canvas. When a frightened crow flies squawking
into the face of the Duke's horse, which rears. He is unhorsed
and falls, and impales himself on a tent stake.

Dying, the true Lord of Tintagel Castle rises and staggers
forward, blood pumping from him.

INT. CHAMBER, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

A little girl of four awakens from a nightmare, a small lone
figure in her canopied bed. Her eyes are ice, like her
father's.

MORGANA
Papa... Papa...

Igrayne is soon at her side, lifting the child from the bed,
holding her tight.

MORGANA
My father is dead...

INT. IGRAYNE'S BEDCHAMBER - NIGHT

The 'Duke' enters. The room is empty, but the door to
Morgana's room is open.

INT. MORGANA'S CHAMBER - NIGHT

The 'Duke' stands in the doorway. Igrayne herself is
surprised.

IGRAYNE
Look, here is your father. It was
just a dream, little one.

'DUKE' OF CORNWALL
Come Igrayne.

Igrayne kisses Morgana, tucks her in and returns to her own
room, closing the door. The child doesn't know whether to
believe the truth of the dream or the waking truth.

INT. IGRAYNE'S BEDCHAMBER - NIGHT

In full armor, the 'Duke' bears down on the naked Igrayne on
her marriage bed. She stares at him, wondering. But his eyes
are closed, and finally he carries her in his wild passion,
her white limbs tangling around the lustre of his armor.

EXT. CLIFF ABOVE THE SEA - NIGHT

And Merlin is jolted awake from deep within himself, coming
out of a trance.

MERLIN
It is done. The future has found
root in the present.

He lifts himself up on his staff. He stands in the midst of
the ancient stones, bristling with excitement. Uther's mighty
knights are asleep, a deep unnatural sleep, huddled together
and surrounded by their horses. And then Merlin swoons,
collapsing to the ground.

INT. HALL, TINTAGEL CASTLE - DAWN

His lieutenants deposit the Duke of Cornwall's bloodless
body upon the long table. His eyes are wide open, icy and
cunning even in death. The ladies of the castle support and
comfort the grief-stricken Igrayne as she approaches the
body of her husband. Morgana hangs onto her mother's gown.

IGRAYNE
When did it happen? Where?

LIEUTENANT
In the camp of Uther, my lady, just
after nightfall.

IGRAYNE
It can't be. He came to me, to his
bed, last night.

LADY
It was his spirit, yearning for you
in his hour of death, that visited
you.

IGRAYNE
His spirit?

Pale with grief, Igrayne stares at her dead husband in
silence.

Then her hand drifts to her stomach. When she talks again,
undone and resolved, it is to all and herself:

IGRAYNE
Tintagel Castle falls to Uther. But
what shall become of me, and the
child I bear?

Morgana shows no distress. She runs her baby hands across
her father's face and closes his eyes. The intensity that
was frozen in them is now added to her own pale and cunning
eyes.

EXT. CLIFF ABOVE THE SEA - DAY

Merlin has been propped up against one of the stones. He is
in a deep trance and Uther is attempting to shake him awake.

UTHER
I want her, Merlin. I cannot be
without her. Tintagel is mine. Can I
take her now? Tell me!

Merlin's eyes open but he sees nothing, and only a puzzling
squeal issues from him.

INT. IGRAYNE'S BEDCHAMBER, TINTAGEL CASTLE- EVENING

Morgana watches from a corner. The ladies of the castle
surround Igrayne who is giving birth.

Noisy crows alight on the windowsill. Only Morgana notices.

INT. PASSAGEWAY, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

Uther strides to Igrayne's bedchamber, his warrior knights
following. He is dirty and his iron dress is blood-spattered.

UTHER
(bellowing)
Three horses died under me, so hard
did I spur them here. Is it born? Is
it alive?

INT. IGRAYNE'S BEDCHAMBER, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

At his approach and entrance the ladies shrink back, and
Morgana edges closer to her mother, and seats herself on the
bed beside her. Ingrain holds her newborn baby in her arms,
the blood of birth still wet upon it.

UTHER
Out!

The ladies slip past him to the door, and he goes up to
Igrayne.

UTHER
What is it, lady?

Terrified of him, Igrayne faces him the best she can.

IGRAYNE
A boy, sir. Rest yourself.

Uther waves away her words but does sit down on the bed,
exhausted. He notices Morgana, who stares at him.

UTHER
Send the girl away.

IGRAYNE
She is just a child -

UTHER
Out!

Igrayne draws the child to her and kisses her cheek.

IGRAYNE
(whispering)
Go now. Come back later.

The child leaves silently, hatred in her eyes.

UTHER
She watches me with her father's
eyes.

He grasps the newborn baby with his iron hand, and pulls it
to himself. He looks upon it with wonder, with a gentleness
that is unexpected.

UTHER
Igrayne, is he mine, or -

He can't bring himself to say his name. She hesitates on the
edge of tears, worried for the infant lying in its iron
cradle.

IGRAYNE
The night he died, a man loved me
with great fierceness. He looked
like my husband, spoke like, smelled
like, felt like my own husband. But
it was not he, for he was already
dead. It wasn't his spirit, for this
child, who was conceived that night,
is flesh and blood. I know nothing
more.

Uther draws a dagger. He lifts it.

IGRAYNE
No--

But he uses it before Igrayne can move. He severs the leather
thongs that bind the iron breastplate to his chest. He casts
it to the floor. His chest is smooth and milk-white in
striking contrast to his creased, weathered face. And beaming,
he holds the baby to it.

UTHER
Through him, I will learn to love
them, for I am tired of battle. I
will stay by his side and
(looking shyly at
Igrayne)
his mother's...

Igrayne's hatred for the man is at the very edge of becoming
love. The baby starts to cry.

UTHER
Here. It's hungry.

And his free hand opens her shift, and he holds a swollen
breast in his gloved hand, squeezing gently. Milk bubbles
from it and he thrusts the baby's mouth onto it.

Igrayne weeps and Uther watches proudly as the baby suckles.

Merlin advances from the window, his cape the same iridescent
green-black as the feathers of the crows that were perched
by the window.

UTHER
Merlin! Out of the sick sleep at
last.

MERLIN
Doing what I did for you, it wasn't
easy, you know. It takes it's toll.
It took nine moons to get back my
strength.

Uther avoids looking at him.

MERLIN
Now you must pay me.

UTHER
I?

MERLIN
The child is mine, Uther. I have
come for him.

Uther is shaken to his roots. Igrayne watches, trying to
understand.

UTHER
The oath. You didn't say--

MERLIN
You didn't ask!

IGRAYNE
Uther, is it true? Don't let him
take the child.

UTHER
I swore an oath, Igrayne. I made a
pact with Merlin.

Igrayne suddenly understands. She glares at Uther.

IGRAYNE
It was you? You came to me that night.
You are the father.

Uther is caught, and turns to Merlin who is harsh and
unswaying.

MERLIN
It's not for you, Uther, hearth and
home, wife and child.

UTHER
To kill and be king, is that all?

MERLIN
Maybe not even that, Uther. I thought
once that you were the one to unite
the land under one sword. But it'll
take another, a greater king...

UTHER
You strike me with words as hard as
steel.

MERLIN
They are not weapons, my friend, but
truths. You betrayed the Duke, stole
his wife and took his castle, now no
one trusts you. Lot, Uryens, your
allies will turn against you. Give
me the child, Uther, I will protect
him. Go back to your war tent.

Uther wrenches the baby from it's mother's breast and hands
him to Merlin.

UTHER
(in torment)
By the oath, take the devil child.
Take him!

With the bawling baby under his cape, Merlin exits. Igrayne
pulls herself out of the bed, weak, her legs giving under
her. She starts after Merlin.

IGRAYNE
WHY?... Why must he have the baby?

Uther stops her with his bulk and she claws savagely at his
chest to get past him. He weeps as he folds his arms around
her.

INT. PASSAGEWAY, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

As Merlin walks through the castle, the baby crying in his
arms, the knights and ladies step back, afraid to intervene
in royal matters.

INT. HALL, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT.

Merlin comes across the empty banquet hall, cooing to the
baby, strangely pacifying him. Morgana steps out of the
shadows in his path, and Merlin stops at the sight of the
little girl, her pale eyes glaring at him.

She speaks haltingly and clearly while far-off Igrayne cries
out her distress.

MORGANA
Merlin, are you now the father, and
the mother, of the baby?

Staring at her, Merlin shudders and without answering he
continues away, faster now, and into an unlit passageway,
disappearing from sight a bit sooner than an ordinary mortal
would have.

EXT. FOREST - DAY

The forest is dark and shiny with rain. An unseen battle
rages.

The first combatant in sight is Uther, who swings the mighty
Excalibur, cutting an attacker in half at the waist. Uther
and a small force of knights, Ulfius among them, are
retreating through the slippery wet forest, completely
outnumbered.

Lord Lot of Lowthean and Lord Uryens of Gore are the leaders
of the attack.

URYENS
(to his men)
The King's sword. I must have it.

Ulfius and his men stand their ground so the King may escape
the onslaught. They are hacked down.

Uther flees alone, severing the limbs of any man and tree
that stands in his way.

EXT. STONE IN THE FOREST - DAY

Uther has gained on his pursuers. He comes to a small clearing
where the spine of a buried boulder rises through the forest
floor. He stops upon it, breathing hard, dripping blood. He
rages aloud, but his throat is raw and cracked and only a
whisper comes out.

UTHER
Merlin, where are you? To weave a
mist, to hide us...

He hears his pursuers closing in.

UTHER
No one shall have the sword. No one
shall wield Excalibur but me.

He holds it by the hilt with both hands, the blade pointing
to the ground of stone. He flexes his knees. He lifts up his
hands above his head. And with all the strength that rage
and pain can muster, and more, he drives the blade of
Excalibur into the stone, nearly to the hilt. His mouth widens
in an awful silent scream, and then the foam of saliva pink
with blood issues from deep within him, so violent was his
effort.

As the sword cuts into the rock, the earth shudders.

EXT. FOREST - DAY

The forest quakes. The knights searching for Uther halt in
fear.

EXT. FIELDS, WOODS - DAY

And far away, a caped figure is crossing a field toward a
wood, when the earth shakes, stirring animals and birds. The
man turns. He is Merlin, the two day-old baby peeking from
his cape. Merlin is amazed at the phenomenon, he puts his
ear to a rock protruding from the earth.

MERLIN
Into the spine of the dragon!
(and then he is
saddened)
Uther... I loved you, mighty child.

And tears welling, and giggling at the same time, he whisks
away into the woods.

EXT. STONE IN THE FOREST - DAY

Uther staggers away, colliding with trees, staggering,
crashing to the ground. Until the only life left in him is
the coursing of his blood, flowing from his gaping mouth
onto the leaves on the forest floor.

The enemy knights advance through the trees. They prod at
the fallen leviathan, they roll him over to get at his
scabbard. Only then do they see the sword in the stone, and
they stop, amazed and afraid. Their captains appear. Uryens
sees what they are staring at, and races to the sword and
attempts to pull it out.

He strains with all his might, but it is immovable.

LOT
Let me.

He shoves Uryens aside, but he can't loosen the sword either,
and he rages with frustration.

FADE OUT:

LEGEND APPEARS:

"Fifteen years passed and the land was without a king."

FADE IN:

EXT. FIELDS - DAY

Peasants spill over the crest of a hill. They are fleeing a
force of armored knights, their plumed helmets forged in the
semblance of predatory animals. The knights thunder past the
peasants, trampling the ripening crops. Sir Uryens is their
leader, his hard face indifferent to the havoc he leaves in
his wake.

The peasants watch in mute anger.

EXT. FARMYARD - EVENING

Sir Lot leading another group of mounted knights comes
galloping into a small hamlet, panicked chickens and pigs
scattering at their approach. The farmers run for their lives
as the steel men dismount, leading their horses to water and
hay, and searching for vittles. A knight spots a woman who
stands frozen with fear, and he drags her into the barn as
her crying child watches.

EXT. COUNTRYSIDE - NIGHT - MOONLIGHT

A farmhouse is burning nearby, and three mounted figures
make their way along a trail at a walking pace - an old knight
in leather and mail, a young knight proud in gleaming new
armor; and on a farm horse, a squire with baggage and jousting
lance. The old knight, Sir Ector, is troubled by what he
sees.

SIR ECTOR
It is a dark hour... everywhere
lawlessness and destruction, and no
one to lead us out of it.

Just then, ten crazed peasants emerge from the darkness,
hurling stones and armed with clubs and pronged sticks. They
surround the three riders. Sir Ector wheels around and slices
the air with his sword to ward off the ambushers.

SIR ECTOR
Listen all. I am Sir Ector of Morven
and these are my sons. You would
wrong me, for I have never stolen
from others, or destroyed the fruit
of the land.

The peasants edge closer, working up the nerve to rush the
horsemen. The sound of thundering hooves cuts through the
clamor.

A cavalcade of riders, armor gleaming in the moonlight,
advances across the fields at a gallop. Immediately the
peasants scatter. The old knight is on the verge of tears.

SIR ECTOR
The people's anger is just. It is
sad that for our own safety, we will
have to ride to the tournament with
these robber knights.

EXT. SITE OF THE SWORD IN THE STONE - SUNRISE

Red with the first light of day, Excalibur rests in the stone
as King Uther left it. The field is itched with tents, each
flying its heraldic banner. Knights and squires are
everywhere, preparing horses and armor for the joust. A burly
man in religious robes harangues the crowd, vying for
attention.

BISHOP
This is Easter day, when Christ rose
again. Who will find strength in
victory of arms? Who will draw the
sword?

The Bishop goes among the tents, through the teeming throng,
solemnly casting holy water upon man and horse, armor and
banner. The knights kneel at the Bishop's transit, but
ceremony does not lift the air of grimness that lies over
the event.

EXT. JOUSTING GROUND, SWORD IN THE STONE - DAY

Their armor ablaze with sunlight, two mounted knights thunder
toward each other at full gallop, lowering their long jousting
lances. As they meet, the lance of each knight is deflected
by the shield of the other. A gasp goes through the crowd,
and the two knights charge past each other. They wheel around
at the end of the jousting ground and go at each other again
from the other direction. Again lances strike, and this time
one of the men is hit in the chest and violently unhorsed.
The crowd cheers.

EXT. THE SWORD IN THE STONE - DAY

The victor, Leondegrance, rides up to the stone and dismounts.
Each great knight with his coterie of lesser knights comes
to watch. A charge of expectation is in the air, although
most knights are glowering with envy.

Leondegrance of Camelyarde ascends to the sword, grabs it by
the hilt, and begins to tug with all his might. Excalibur is
immovable. The moment of tension passes. Leondegrance staggers
toward his waiting squires, who lead him away. All the others
return to the battle sport.

EXT. JOUSTING GROUND - DAY

At the edge of the jousting ground Sir Ector's son Sir Kay
is getting ready for a bout. His brother Arthur is buckling
the new armor while his father fusses about him, making small
adjustments when he notices that Kay's scabbard is empty. He
turns to Arthur and grab's him by the ear.

SIR ECTOR
Arthur, where is Kay's sword? A good
squire doesn't forget his knight's
sword.

The fifteen year-old boy blushes.

ARTHUR
I left it in the tent, sir.

SIR ECTOR
Well hurry then, and get it.

The boy dashes off as Sir Ector shakes his head, not without
affection beneath the sternness.

EXT. TENTS - DAY

Arthur runs in search of their tent. He finds it.

INT. TENT - DAY

He enters. The saddle trunk has been emptied on the floor,
equipment is scattered all over. Arthur is shocked,
nonetheless he rummages madly. Finally he stops, on the verge
of tears.

ARTHUR
It's been stolen....

EXT. TENTS - DAY

He comes out, utterly defeated, and frantic. He stops by two
knights who are arguing angrily; and one of them has left
his sword in the grass.

Arthur looks at it. He is tempted to steal it, but he can't.
Head down, he wanders off.

EXT. JOUSTING GROUND - DAY

Sir Ector and Sir Kay are waiting.

SIR KAY
Father, I'll go and see what's keeping
him.

EXT. THE SWORD IN THE STONE - DAY

Arthur stops at the edge of the dark forest, totally dejected,
when he sees the sword in the stone. He walks up to it, his
face lighting up, brimming with innocence. He is alone, as
everyone has returned to the jousting ground.

ARTHUR
If only Kay could have it...

He smiles, forgetting his troubles, a boy again living in a
fairy tale. He grasps the sword by the hilt and it comes
away easily from its stone lock.

Not expecting it to, he nearly falls. He stares at it,
terribly excited and surprised: he tucks it under his arm
and rushes back.

EXT. TENTS - DAY

He bumps into Kay.

ARTHUR
(breathless)
Your sword was stolen, Kay, but here
is Excalibur. Is it too late? I
hurried--

Kay takes it. He cannot believe what he's holding in his
hands. He starts to talk but he is so agitated he can only
stutter.

EXT. JOUSTING GROUND - DAY

Kay, with Arthur in tow, rushes to Sir Ector and shows him
the sword; he trembles with excitement.

SIR KAY
Look, Father. Excalibur. Does that
mean that I am to be king?

Sir Ector is dumbstruck.

SIR ECTOR
Did you free the sword, boy?

SIR KAY
I... did, Father.

Ector looks at his son amazed, wanting to believe but not
able to.

SIR ECTOR
We must go to the stone at once.

With Excalibur in hand Ector of Morven heads for the stone,
Kay following, and Arthur too, the boy flushed with excitement
but a little worried, not understanding what is happening.

The exchange between Sir Ector and Sir Kay has been overheard.
Some have seen the sword in Sir Ector's hand. Rumor spreads
like wildfire.

EXT. THE SWORD IN THE STONE - DAY

As Sir Ector ascends the stone, from all parts of the jousting
ground knights and squires, the Bishop and the clerics, and
peasants too, press around.

Ector lowers the blade into the tight cleft and Excalibur
sinks to its original position.

SIR ECTOR
Draw it, son!

Sir Kay grabs the hilt and pulls without conviction, and the
sword doesn't give. Eyes downcast, he lets go.

SIR KAY
Sir, I didn't draw the sword. Arthur
gave it to me.

SIR ECTOR
Arthur ?!
(spinning around to
face him)
How did you get the sword, child?

ARTHUR
(frightened)
Sir... Kay needed a sword. His was
stolen. I saw Excalibur, and... I
took it.

SIR ECTOR
You freed it, son?

ARTHUR
I did, Father. I beg your forgiveness.

He starts to kneel but Ector pulls him up.

SIR ECTOR
Try the sword, Arthur.

Arthur is about to grasp the hilt when Uryens and Lot, and
other nobles, Leondegrance of Camelyarde, and Sir Caradoc
and Sir Turquine among the younger, stride up.

URYENS
Stand back, Sir Ector, and take your
children.

LOT
We will try again.

Uryens, Lot, Leondegrance, Caradoc, Turquine - each in turn
grapples with the sword, only to be defeated by its
immobility. The crowd around the stone is thickening with
common folk.

SIR ECTOR
Let the boy try the sword.

BISHOP
Let the boy try...

The demand is echoed by peasants and serfs. The great knights
remain silent and bitter in their defeat. Sir Ector pushes
Arthur to the sword.

SIR ECTOR
Go ahead, boy. Don't be afraid.

The boy hesitates shyly, and then takes the hilt of Excalibur
and pulls out the sword with a great sweep.

The throng is stunned. Silence falls. Some kneel, following
the example of Sir Ector and Sir Kay, of the Bishop and
Leondegrance. The other nobles stay back, confused, afraid,
angered.

Arthur stands there, little more than a boy, his cheeks
flushed, his soft hair ruffled by the wind, his eyes shining
with exultation, awe, and fear. Then, as if gaining confidence
from the sword itself, he turns it in arcs above his head.

BISHOP
We have our King, thanks be to God.

The commoners and some of the knights react with roaring
enthusiasm. The others draw closer to Uryens and Lot and
their supporters, closing ranks around them.

ARTHUR
Please, Father, rise up. I was your
son before I became your King... if
I am King.

Sir Ector rises, tears streaming down his cheeks.

SIR ECTOR
My Lord, you are King, all the more
because you are not my son, and I am
not your father.

This is quite a shock to the boy king, and to the onlookers.

ARTHUR
Who is, then?

SIR ECTOR
I don't know. Merlin brought you to
me when you were newly born and
charged me to raise you as my own.
At first, I did so because I feared
Merlin, later because I loved you.

Merlin's name is on the lips of all those close by.

ARTHUR
Who is Merlin?

MERLIN
Speak of the devil!...

From out of the forest strides Merlin, dramatic, cape flowing,
eyes crazed as ever, laughing at his own entrance. A crow is
perched on his shoulder, and it squawks loudly. Annoyed with
it, Merlin swooshes it away.

MERLIN
I am Merlin. Counselor to kings.
Wizard and beggar. Prophet and...
(he drops it)
I have feasted on thunderbolts, I
savored my death before I got myself
born. I--

Merlin interrupts himself when his eyes fall on the boy, who
is taking in his performance raptly, half awestruck, half
amused.

ARTHUR
Whose son am I?

MERLIN
You are the son of King Uther, and
the fair Igrayne... you are King
Arthur.

The suspicion and confusion and envy of the lords erupts.

LOT
Merlin, we haven't forgotten you.
This is more of your trickery.

URYENS
You're trying to foist a boy of
dubious birth upon us. You want to
shame us?

LOT
Lord Leondegrance, join us against
the boy. Surely you can see he is
only Merlin's tool.

LEONDEGRANCE
No. I, Leondegrance, Lord of
Camelyarde, saw the drawing of Uther's
sword, and witnessed no trickery. If
a boy has been chosen, a boy shall
be king.

The crowd of serfs and peasants cheer wildly, and their long
suppressed anger against the nobles comes to the fore. They
dare to press up against them, fists hammering on their
shields as the chant Arthur King over and over. Dark and
scowling, full of rebellion, all the lords except Leondegrance
begin to withdraw their iron men surrounding them.

EXT. CHAPEL, JOUSTING GROUND - DAY

Bells toll the good news. People stream by to see the new
king and join the celebration.

EXT. SITE OF THE SWORD IN THE STONE - DAY

Uryens and Lot, and Caradoc, Turquine, and the other lords
have mounted, and are moving out, when from the rear guard a
bowman in Lot's service draws upon the unarmored figure of
Arthur across the cheering crowd. The bowman lets the arrow
fly.

It flies over the heads of the crowd, unseen.

Except by Merlin at Arthur's side. He extends his arms halfway
up, his fists clenched tightly as if drawing urgently on the
power within himself. The sound of wings is heard as he flaps
his arms.

The arrow flies toward Arthur.

Arthur sees the arrow coming right at him, when a swooping
crow plucks it out of the air.

Arthur watches the crow flapping its wings, climbing swiftly,
the arrow in its beak, disappearing over the forest. Only he
has noticed.

When he turns Merlin is no longer at his side; to the
puzzlement of all. And Arthur is all of a sudden terribly
alone and afraid, as people from all sides clamor for his
attention and guidance.

EXT. FOREST - DAY

Arthur charges through the shadowy forest. He is in armor,
but it is only a light tunic of mail. Excalibur is sheathed
in a leather scabbard by his side. He is frantic and he calls
urgently.

ARTHUR
...Merlin... Merlin...

His face shines with sweat, the horse is lathered. He
dismounts and continues on foot into denser, more tangled
undergrowth.

ARTHUR
Merlin!

A huge eye opens in the foreground of what had appeared to
be shadow, bark and tufts of weeds is really Merlin's head.

MERLIN
You called, sir?

His voice is thin as he is awakening from a deep, exhausted
sleep. Arthur finds him lying within the large gnarled roots
of a great tree. The boy kneels before Merlin and lifts his
hands and kisses them.

ARTHUR
You saved me from the arrow...

MERLIN
(a flicker of mischief)
But not from your destiny.

ARTHUR
I want to thank you.

MERLIN
That's not why you came.

Arthur blurts it out:

ARTHUR
Merlin, help me. I need your help. I
don't know how--

MERLIN
(irritated)
'Help me, Help me.' Help me get up.

Arthur helps Merlin up and the wizard stands unsteadily.

MERLIN
I'm tired. Doing magic takes its
toll, you know. My arms ache
terribly...
(he makes flying
movements with his
arms and grimaces)
Once--or is it yet to happen--I stood
exposed to the Dragon's breath so
that a man could lie one night with
a woman. It took me ten moons to
recover. I'm sure that story would
interest you, since... Well, we'll
have to talk about it another time.
You're too busy now.

The forest groans and creaks, alive with murmurs and shrill
calls.

MERLIN
It is whispered in the forest that...
(he cups his ear with
exaggeration)
...Leondegrance's castle is under
siege by Lot and Uryens.

ARTHUR
(pressing)
Yes, yes, I know that. Everybody
does. Lord Leondegrance is my only
ally among the barons and the great
knights. I can't lose him.

MERLIN
Well there. You don't need me half
as much as you think you do. You
already know what must not happen.

ARTHUR
(exasperated)
I must find the means to save him,
then. I was hoping I could ask you
for a little magic help, but if it
makes you so tired...

MERLIN
Thank you.

Silence. Arthur tries again.

ARTHUR
It's just that I have no experience,
and no men to speak of. How can I--

MERLIN
(suddenly fierce)
Because you must! You and only you.
Have you forgotten that it was you
who freed Excalibur?

Just as suddenly, he is his amused, ironic self again.

MERLIN
Besides, it will be a good lesson.
(giggling)
The best, if it's not the last.

Arthur bows his head, confused and almost defeated. Merlin
steals a look at him, and puts his arm around the boy.

MERLIN
Maybe you'd like to meet the power
that gave you the sword?

He enjoys being cryptic.

ARTHUR
How? Where?

MERLIN
In the great book.

ARTHUR
What book is that?

MERLIN
(melodramatic)
The book without pages. Open before
you, all around us. You can see it
in bits and pieces, for if mortal
men were to see it whole and all
complete in a single glance, why, it
would burn him to cinders.

ARTHUR
What?!

EXT. FOREST AND ELSEWHERE - DAY AND NIGHT

MERLIN
The dragon! There...

A deep cleft at the edge of the forest, where far below lava
boils with a phosphorescence that lights up a great cloud,
billowing upward.

MERLIN
Coiled in the unfathomed depths, it
emerges...

Merlin points to the sky where roiling clouds appear to be
unfurling of immeasurable wings.

MERLIN
...It unfolds itself in the storm
clouds...

A terrific wave batters a coastline, spray shooting up, and
as the wave recedes it exposes dark rocks and deep crevices.

MERLIN
...it washes its mane sparkling white
in the blackness of seething
whirlpools...

Merlin spins Arthur around, and they are transported into a
storm swept forest. Lightning strikes.

MERLIN
...its claws are the forks of
lightning... its scales glisten in
the bark of trees...

The trees shine with wetness, as a great wind tosses their
crowns, the branches groaning against each other.

MERLIN
...its voice is heard in the
hurricane...

Arthur is awestruck.

EXT. FOREST - DAY

Arthur and Merlin are back in the same spot, having in fact
never moved at all, but traveled on the spell of Merlin's
words alone.

MERLIN
...it is so much more than a scaly
monster. It is Everything!

Arthur's eyes shine with the brilliance of the vision.

ARTHUR
And if I am to be King of everything,
lord and commoner, beast, leaf and
rock, I must use its voice, its claws,
its power.

EXT. BATTLEMENTS, CASTLE OF CAMELYARDE - NIGHT

Leondegrance, Lord of Camelyarde, is shocked by what he sees
in the distance. His daughter Guenevere, a beautiful girl of
sixteen, draws close to him, terrified. With his surviving
knights, Leondegrance is making his last stand. The walls
have been breached, parts of the castle are burning.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

A bellowing dragon advances. Its eyes burn, its scales gleam
from light shining from within. It snorts fire from its
nostrils.

Uryens and Lot, Caradoc and Turquine, the great knights in
command of the siege of Leondegrance's castle, back away
speechless as the monster descends upon their unprepared war
camp. All around them, squires and lesser knights flee in
panic and confusion.

Only a dozen or so remain with their leaders. The group backs
up against the swampy moat that surrounds the castle, waiting
with swords drawn.

The dragon moves closer, and now it becomes apparent that it
is nothing more than a force of knights and footmen. Their
shields glinting in the moonlight are the dragon's scales,
torches its burning eyes. And the snorting flames from its
nostrils are only Merlin doing a fire-eater's trick.

The dragon form dissolves, and a banner rises bearing the
emblem of the Dragon, and under it, Arthur and Ector and Kay
lead a charge of twenty knights.

In Arthur's hands, Excalibur leaves an electric glow upon
the air.

EXT. BATTLEMENTS, CAMELYARDE CASTLE - NIGHT

GUENEVERE
Father, it's the boy King.

LEONDEGRANCE
It is. I will fight my way to his
side.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

Arthur and his men charge into the enemy ranks. Lot's and
Uryens' people are pushed into the moat. Although the water
is only waist-deep, the fallen, weighed down by their armor,
drown. The horses of the attackers are brought down, Arthur's
among them. He pulls out from under it, limping. Bleeding
form wounds, cutting, slashing, thrusting, he falls back
from the havoc of the charge.

A small distance exists now between the foes, a brief respite.
Uryens and Lot, exhausted, bleeding, and fierce in their
rage:

URYENS
War-wise fighters, grown gray in
battle, checkmated by a boy.

LOT
It's Merlin's trickery, nothing more.
I won't swear faith to that wizard's
brat.

Arthur and his men have been joined by Leondegrance and his
knights, few in number.

ARTHUR
Let's finish this with a show of
force. We have no more tricks and no
more advantages.

He rushes alone at the enemy, shouting at the top of his
lungs, Excalibur flashing over his head, prepared to die.

EXT. BATTLEMENTS, CAMELYARDE CASTLE - NIGHT

Guenevere watches...

GUENEVERE
No...

EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

SIR ECTOR
No... Arthur--

The old knight rushes after the boy, sword drawn, to defend
his flank, and the others follow, a battle cry issuing from
them that is terrifying in its fierceness.

EXT. BATTLEMENTS AND BATTLEFIELD BELOW - NIGHT

...and when she can't watch any longer, she buries her face
in her hands.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

Arthur fights like a wounded lion at the center of the savage
melee of sword and shield, and once again the two sides fall
apart.

Uryens and Lot are standing in the moat among the bodies of
their men, are reduced to eleven knights, all wounded.

Arthur is flanked by twenty men at arms, most of them wounded,
and trembling now beyond exhaustion with blood lust. Arthur
steps forward alone, and addresses his opponents.

ARTHUR
You are in my hands, to slay or spare.
I need battle lords such as you.
Swear faith to me and you shall have
mercy.

URYENS
Noble knights swear faith to a mere
squire?

Arthur turns, searching for Merlin. He spots him watching
from a distance. They stare at each other, Merlin implacable,
Arthur's eyes pleading. It's obvious that Merlin isn't going
to help.

ARTHUR
You are right. I'm not yet a knight.
(gaining strength)
You, Uryens, will knight me.

He unsheathes Excalibur and goes forward, kneeling before
Uryens and offering him the sword.

ARTHUR
Then as knight to knight I can offer
you mercy.

MERLIN
(to himself)
What's this, what's this?!

Arthur, kneeling, bows his head and Uryens steps up to him,
his features set. He accepts the sword. Lot watches, a mad
hope dancing in his eyes.

EXT. BATTLEMENTS, CAMELYARDE CASTLE - NIGHT

Guenevere watches, frightened for Arthur, not daring to
breathe.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

Uryens stands towering above the boy. He smiles enigmatically.
He lifts Excalibur.

Merlin is attempting to push through the crowded ranks to
get to Arthur.

He's frantic and worried for once.

MERLIN
I never saw this...

Uryens swiftly lowers the sword on Arthur's neck; with the
flat of the blade he gives Arthur the three strokes.

URYENS
In the name of God, of Saint Michael
and Saint George, I give you the
right to bear arms, the power to
mete justice.

Arthur looks up.

ARTHUR
That duty I will solemnly obey as
knight and King.

Uryens is deeply moved.

URYENS
Rise, my King. I am your humble
knight, and I swear allegiance to
the courage in your veins, for so
strong it is, it's source must be
Uther. I doubt you no more.

Arthur rises and Uryens kneels and kisses his hands. Sir
Ector turns away to hide brimming tears. Merlin pushes through
finally, out of breath. Uryens embraces Leondegrance while
Lot and the other enemy knights kneel in turn and kiss
Arthur's hands.

EXT. WOOD BY CAMELYARDE CASTLE - DAY

The castle can be glimpsed through the trees. A clear spring
bubbles from the ground, and the sun splashes leaf, bird,
squirrel, and bee with golden light, and Arthur and Guenevere
too. Guenevere is serious and intent on her work.

ARTHUR
Owww...

With water from the spring, she is bathing a large cut on
his chest that has been stitched closed. Wounds on his arms,
and one on a calf also show evidence of her neat sewing.
She's just finishing, and she dabs his chest with a dry cloth.

GUENEVERE
It didn't hurt too much, did it?

ARTHUR
Ye...

GUENEVERE
--I'm pretty good at stitchery. I've
sewn my father's wounds more than
once.

He starts to get up.

GUENEVERE
Careful! You'll have to stay still
for a few days or you'll tear them
open.

Arthur shivers at the thought.

ARTHUR
But I have to leave tomorrow. The
forests are thick with rebels,
invaders plunder our shores...

GUENEVERE
--And damsels in besieged castles
are waiting to be rescued?

ARTHUR
I didn't know Leondegrance had a
daughter.

GUENEVERE
Well, then, I shall tell you which
knights have maiden daughters, so
you can avoid their castles.

Arthur smiles at her, enjoying her jealousy, and it irritates
her a little.

GUENEVERE
No, I think it's better if you just
stay here to heal. At least a week.

ARTHUR
I'm going.

GUENEVERE
Quiet, or I'll sew up your mouth
too.

She touches his lips with hers, her eyelids fluttering shut.
He stares at her young beauty, and draws her into a long,
slow kiss.

A shrill almost human squeal pierces the air not far away.
Arthur pulls away startled, half-rising. Guenevere giggles.

GUENEVERE
Would you rescue me from a fiery
dragon, sir?

She puts her arms around him, drawing him close again,
speaking in a half-whisper.

GUENEVERE
It's just a furry little rabbit that
took the bait and sprung the trap.

They smile at each other, about to kiss. As they come closer:

GUENEVERE
You'll find him served up to you
tonight, cooked in a most excellent
sauce...

INT. BANQUET HALL, CAMELYARDE CASTLE - EVENING

The soft beat of psaltery and the liquid flow of lute. A
serving platter bearing roast rabbit in rampant position is
carried across the hall. It is laid on the long raised table
before Arthur, who presides in the middle. He looks at it
suspiciously and blushes, remembering the afternoon; and it
looks back at him accusingly with its cherry eye.

Guenevere is dancing around her father, lovely, gliding,
sensual. She sees Arthur and the rabbit and laughs out-right.
He twists off a leg of the rabbit and sinks his teeth into
it to hide his embarrassment. Guenevere passes to another
partner, smiling at him, radiant. Arthur watches her, his
heart breaking. He is in love.

Merlin leans close.

MERLIN
A king must marry, after all.

ARTHUR
...of course...

Only then does he realize that Merlin has understood
everything. He is annoyed at being so transparent.

ARTHUR
I love her. If she would be my queen,
my dreams would be answered.

MERLIN
(mischievous)
There are maidens as fair, and fairer
than Guenevere. If I put my mind to
it, I could see them now, many of
them, weeping for love of you,
watching the hills for you coming
from the high towers of their castles.
Offering you their every favor. Rich,
clever--but if it is to be Guenevere,
so be it.

A shadow of doubt crosses Arthur's brow.

ARTHUR
Who will it be? Put your mind to it,
then.

MERLIN
Guenevere. And a beloved friend who
will betray you.

ARTHUR
(smiling)
Guenevere...

MERLIN
You're not listening. Your heart is
not. Love is deaf as well as blind.

Guenevere approaches, smiling and coquettish. She slaps her
hands, and a servant sets down a tray of pastries before
Arthur.

GUENEVERE
They are only for you, for in them I
mixed things that heal, but not too
quickly; and things that make limbs
sleepy, preventing escape, but keep
one's mind sharp.

She smiles at Arthur's embarrassment and confusion.

ARTHUR
What's in them?

She takes a cake and bites into it.

GUENEVERE
It is an ancient mixture, containing
only soft, unborn grains, and flavored
with roses. The rest is secret.

Guenevere offers one to Arthur, and he hesitates, looking at
it.

MERLIN
Looking at the cake is like looking
at the future. Until you have savored
its bitterness and its sweetness,
its texture and its perfume, what do
you really know? And then, of course,
it will he too late.

Arthur bites into the cake, and Guenevere looks deep into
his eyes.

MERLIN
Too late...

FADE OUT:

A LEGEND APPEARS:

"...but for years war kept Arthur from thoughts of marriage."

FADE IN:

EXT. OAK FOREST - DAY

War tents have been pitched beneath the majestic trees. Near
the banner of the Dragon a doe grazes. Arthur is older, in
battle-scarred plate armor, pacing and angry. He is watched
by his wounded and bruised knights--Kay, Uryens, Lot,
Leondegrance, Caradoc, and some new young faces among the
ranks. No one talks.

The harsh clank of its battle trappings announces the arrival
of a horse. All eyes watch it walk into the camp. A knight
is slouched in the saddle.

Arthur runs to meet the horse, followed by squires and some
of the knights.

He eases the rider to the ground, unlaces his helmet. It is
Sir Ector, and his hauberk is badly dented. Tears burn in
Arthur's eyes.

SIR ECTOR
He is the mightiest and fairest of
knights.

ARTHUR
We fought and won battles, and now
one man defeats all my knights? I
will go.

He pushes past the knights and goes to his horse. Kay steps
in front of him.

SIR KAY
A king must not engage in single
contest. I'll go again.

Arthur rises into the saddle and takes a jousting spear from
the rack.

ARTHUR
Where is Merlin?

The squires are silent.

Arthur gallops off in the direction Sir Ector came from. His
knights are afraid for him.

EXT. COUNTRYSIDE - DAY

His countenance grim, Arthur gallops along a trail bordering
a plowed field when in it a scarecrow moves. It starts to
run as stick-wielding farmers pursue it. It is Merlin. Arthur
turns off into the field, and at the sight of an armored
knight on a war horse, the farmers turn and flee. Merlin
stops to catch his breath.

ARTHUR
(angry)
I should have left you to fend for
yourself.

MERLIN
I had to weave a little enchantment
on the bees so I could get some honey,
and I didn't feel up to using any
more magic just yet. Anyway, I was
in less danger than you'll be in
today.

Arthur's hand is clenched tight around Excalibur's hilt.

ARTHUR
So you were stealing their honey.
They should have killed you.

MERLIN
Come now. So much anger for such a
little crime? Are you sure there is
nothing else troubling you?

ARTHUR
You know full well there is, and I
go to meet it now. Come witness my
revenge.

He offers his arm and Merlin hoists himself up behind the
King.

EXT. GORGE THROUGH THE HILLS - DAY

A waterfall cascades into a pool. The spray casts a rainbow.
Beneath it is a colorful confusion of flowers and budding
trees, a place dreamlike in its beauty.

Arthur, with Merlin behind, gallops along the edge of the
pool. The trail widens into a field of grass. Arthur reins
beside a pile of broken lances and twisted shields. Across
the field, pitched upon the trail is a war tent made of
diaphanous white silk, a sky blue banner above it. Merlin
slides off and Arthur continues.

From the tent, a knight with jousting lance rides forward to
meet him. His armor is so shiny it is a mirror. His eyes,
seen through the open visor, seem to laugh. His speech is
foreign, from across the sea. He is Lancelot of the Lake.

LANCELOT
Good day to you, sir.

ARTHUR
Move aside. This is the King's road,
and the knights you joined arms
against were his very own.

LANCELOT
I await the King himself. His knights
are in need of training.

ARTHUR
I am King, and this is Excalibur,
sword of kings from the dawn of time.
Who are you, and why do you block
the way?

LANCELOT
I am Sir Lancelot of the Lake, from
across the sea. I am the best knight
in the whole of Christiandom, and I
look for the king who is worthy of
my sword's service.

ARTHUR
--That is a wild boast. You lack a
knight's humility.

LANCELOT
Not a boast, sir, but a curse.
(a cloud passes over
his innocent face)
Never have I met my match in joust
or duel.

ARTHUR
Move aside!

LANCELOT
I will not. You must retreat or prove
your kingship in the test of arms,
under the eyes of God.

He crosses himself.

ARTHUR
Then may He give me the strength to
unhorse you and send you with one
blow back across the sea.

Arthur wheels away, trembling with anger, and gallops to his
edge of the field. He sees that Lancelot has already
positioned himself and is waiting, lance down.

Merlin watches, a spectator, as the two charge at each other.
They collide with great force, their spears shattering. Arthur
is jolted but stays in the saddle. Lancelot's jousting is
impeccable. Arthur draws Excalibur.

LANCELOT
Hold! I offer you another lance.

Pages come forward with new lances for Arthur and Lancelot.

LANCELOT
You joust well, sir. Battle learnt,
but tournament fancy. You should
ride more forward in the saddle,
though.

Arthur grabs the spear from the page's hands, and circles
back to work the horse up into an all-out gallop. Lancelot
spurs forward to meet him. Arthur is neatly unhorsed. He
picks himself up from the ground in a rage, drawing Excalibur.
Lancelot on his horse weaves circles around him.

LANCELOT
Yield. I have the advantage.

ARTHUR
I will not.

Arthur charges Lancelot, a raging bull, but cuts and slashes
only at the air as Lancelot stays clear of him.

ARTHUR
Fight me from your horse or on foot,
but fight me. Your avoidance mocks
me.

LANCELOT
I sought only not to harm you, sir.

He dismounts and draws his sword, and they clash. Shield and
sword and armor against shield and sword and armor. The
swordplay is furious, Arthur attacking, slashing, hacking,
Lancelot parrying effortlessly, elegantly defensive. Arthur
breaks the onslaught to catch his breath. Lancelot lifts his
visor. His eyes are calm, laughing.

LANCELOT
Sir, your rage has unbalanced you.
It seems you would fight to the death
against a knight who is not your
enemy, for a length of road you can
ride around.

ARTHUR
So be it, to the death.

LANCELOT
It is you, sir, who knows not the
virtue of humility, as a true king
must.

Arthur goes forward attacking with terrible blows upon
Lancelot's shield, and Lancelot holds his ground, shield
high. And in its mirror-like metal Arthur can see his own
reflection, a face distorted by uncontrolled passion.

Arthur discards his own shield, grabs Excalibur with both
hands, and with a frightening shout that speaks of all his
rage, he swings a terrific blow upon the shield, cutting
through his own reflection and the metal. And Excalibur snaps
in two.

A blinding blue-green light explodes from the broken sword.
Lancelot, knocked back by the force of the blow, is stunned
by the blast and falls to the ground unconscious. Arthur
backs away, horrified, half of Excalibur in his hand.

ARTHUR
What horror is this?
(calling)
Merlin!

Merlin approaches, pale, gripped by dread.

MERLIN
The sword is broken. Hope is broken...

Arthur picks up the broken blade, utterly undone.

ARTHUR
My pride broke it, my rage broke
it... Humiliation and defeat lie in
ambush even for a king.
(looking at Lancelot)
This excellent knight who fought
with fairness and grace was meant to
win. With Excalibur, I tried to change
that verdict.

Merlin stands there, drawn, defeated, his hopes dead.

ARTHUR
I have lost for all time the ancient
sword of my fathers whose power was
meant to unite all men, to serve the
vanity of a single man.

Despairing, he flings the two parts of Excalibur into the
pool. He kneels at the waters edge, and he cries.

ARTHUR
I am nothing.

Then Arthur sees something that startles him. Beneath the
surface, suspended in the blue-green water amid the dancing
weeds, he sees Excalibur, intact.

It is held by a maiden in flowing gown the color of water,
her long hair rippling across her face, obscuring it.

ARTHUR
Excalibur! Is it true?

MERLIN
The Lady of the Lake. Take it. Take
it, quickly!

Arthur dips his hand under the water and grasps the hilt and
the moment he does the vision in the blue-green water fades.
He rises with Excalibur in hand, and Merlin speaks before
Arthur can ask the question.

MERLIN
There are infinite worlds within the
infinite coils of the Dragon. In one
of them, which I have not traveled,
the sword was forged. I only know
that the King is returned to us
through the instrument of his power.
The game continues!

And he laughs.

Just then Lancelot stirs. Arthur rushes to his side. He
loosens his helmet and removes it, uncovering damp curls.
The young knight's eyes open, and his laughing charm once
more animates his face.

ARTHUR
Thanks to God, you are alive.

LANCELOT
(sitting up)
I, the best knight in the world,
bested! This is a great day, for my
search is over. I love you, my King.

He embraces Arthur, who is overwhelmed by his childlike
directness. The King helps him to his feet.

ARTHUR
You are still the best knight in
Christiandom. You gained a hundred
advantages over me. It is I who must
love you, for through your courage
and patience you taught me a bitter
lesson.

LANCELOT
Then make me your champion and I
will always fight in your place.

ARTHUR
But your life and lands are far from
here.

LANCELOT
I gave up my castles and my lands!

He thumps his breastplate.

LANCELOT
My domain is here, inside this metal
skin. And I would pledge to you all
that I still own: muscle, bone, blood
and the heart that pumps it.

ARTHUR
And a great heart it is. Sir Lancelot,
you will be my champion.

Lancelot draws his sword, holding it by the blade, a crucifix.

LANCELOT
In the name of Jesus Christ and His
holy blood, I swear eternal faith to
Arthur, King.

They embrace, and Merlin watches.

EXT. ARTHUR'S WAR CAMP - NIGHT

Converging from different directions parties of mounted
knights enter the war camp. Lancelot among them. They
dismount, battle-weary and burning with the excitement of
victory. They quench their huge thirst from buckets carried
by squires. They rip off hunks of meat from carcasses sizzling
on spits over a roaring fire. And they join the throng of
knights, where stories of deeds of arms of the day are
enthusiastically exchanged.

A great number of knights are packed tightly around King
Arthur, each man anxious to tell of his victories. One of
them has the King's attention.

KNIGHT
...We killed every one of them. Burnt
their ship...

Arthur sees Lancelot in the throng and moves toward him.
Merlin follows Arthur and is pushed and knocked around in
the crush of spikes and iron. The only unarmored man in the
crowd, he glares at the excited knights irritably.

ARTHUR
Lancelot, how did you fare in the
North?

LANCELOT
We spared the lives of a few, so
they could sail home and tell their
fellows what fate they met at the
hands of King Arthur's knights...

Arthur turns toward Uryens.

ARTHUR
And you, Uryens?

URYENS
Victory!

ARTHUR
Lot, and you?

LOT
We drove the invaders into the sea.

ARTHUR
You, Gawain, the East?

GAWAIN
The East is ours again.

Cheers greet each declaration.

ARTHUR
The war is over. One land, one King.
Peace.

Amidst the celebration, a fracas is heard. A knight pushing
forward to talk to Arthur has entered a shoving match with
those in front of him.

KNIGHT
Let me through. I fought the King's
battle too. He must know my story.

Merlin is brutally jostled. He draws a fistful of powder
from his cape and he tosses it into the air above him. He
raises his staff into the cloud, cracking it like a whip.
The tip of the staff catches fire, and the fire spreads
through the powder in the air, stunning all into silence.
Merlin shouts and snarls.

MERLIN
Chaos... confusion... brutes...
savages... troglodytes... Stand
back... make space.

Merlin swings his burning staff into a wide arc. The knights
back away, amused at first, then a bit afraid.

MERLIN
The moon... the sun... the stars...
they spin... they turn... they
circle... around us... us...

The knights have fallen back. Merlin stalks past each man,
and Arthur too, holding the flaming tip of his staff before
each pair of eyes, and staring into them with his gimlet
gaze.

MERLIN
You, and you, and you, take up your
place. Be wedded to the world. Respect
its perfection. All of you, together,
be one.

The knights have formed a circle. They realize this.
Awestruck, they whisper in astonishment, looking up at the
sky burning with stars. Merlin brims with pride as he waits
for Arthur to recognize his handiwork.

ARTHUR
Your ancient wisdom and infinite
sight have forged this circle, Merlin.
Hereafter we shall come together in
a circle, to tell and hear of deeds
good and brave. I will build a table
where this fellowship shall meet.
And a hall around the table. And a
castle about the hall.

A cheer rises. Arthur strides into the ring of knights.

ARTHUR
And I will marry.

Another bout of cheers goes up, and Arthur stops before
Leondegrance, resting his hand on the old knight's shoulder.

ARTHUR
And the land will have an heir to
wield Excalibur.

Leondegrance's eyes fill with tears of joy. A roar of cheers.
Arthur draws the sword of power.

ARTHUR
Knights of the Round Table, good
friends, brothers in arms. I send
you on a quest harder by far than
the battles we have fought together,
a quest to uphold always, and
everywhere, justice, honor, and truth.
Each day shall bring forth a cause,
and may each cause bring forth a
knight.

Lancelot is drawn in by the King's enthusiasm. He unsheathes
his sword and swoops it low in salute.

LANCELOT
I swear never to rest twice on the
same pillow till all men live at
peace.

In quick succession all knights draw their swords, following
Lancelot's example.

Merlin struggles to put out the flame on his staff. He finally
does it by smothering it with earth. When he looks up again,
he sees the knights galloping off in all directions.

INT. FARMHOUSE - DAY

Terrified women, a screaming child, cowering men, old or
made old by the hard labor of the fields. Armored men are
ransacking a farm, looking for grain, and gold which they
find among the votive objects of a little house altar. A
woman is dragged away to be raped.

Through a window, a knight in shining armor is seen emerging
from the adjoining woods. The plunderers are all of a sudden
apprehensive, and fall silent. One of them grabs the crying
child and covers her mouth with his iron hand.

EXT. FARMYARD - DAY

The knight is Lancelot, in his mirror-like armor. He rides
into the cluster of houses and barns that make up the farm.
There are other armored men there, around a cart half-loaded
with loot. They smile nervously at Lancelot. The farmers are
blank with fear.

Lancelot stops in the middle of the yard. A knight among the
armored men comes forward.

KNIGHT
Good day, sir.

LANCELOT
Good day to you.

And he also acknowledges with a nod the ashen-faced patriarch
of the community.

Lancelot spurs his horse on, and the knight sighs with relief.
But then he reins his horse to a stop. He has sensed
something. He turns his head, his hooded eyes on the knight
and his men, and they squirm inwardly.

INT. FARMHOUSE - DAY

The child, her mouth covered by the armored hand.

EXT. FARMYARD - DAY

Lancelot, listening, watching.

INT. BARN - DAY

The woman, a blade flashing next to her eye.

EXT. FARMYARD - DAY

Lancelot, immobile. Behind him, the knight, his face shiny
with sweat. His minions inch forward, hands moving slowly
toward sword hilts.

Lancelot wheels his horse around.

LANCELOT
I hear the stifled cry for help, I
smell the reek of fear...

With a shout the knight and his men draw their swords and
rush Lancelot. He reins in his horse, causing it to rear and
break their attack. He slides off, falling on his feet with
sword drawn, already fighting. In an extraordinary show of
sword play he cuts down six men.

INT. FARMHOUSE - DAY

Hearing Lancelot storm in, the man holding the child hands
her to a woman and kneels before the altar, just as Lancelot
bursts into the room, sword high and already swooping down
on the man's neck. Lancelot brings the sword to a halt mid-
air, his fury held in check. The repent man is spared. The
woman kneels to kiss Lancelot's hand.

EXT. SITE OF THE SWORD IN THE STONE - DAY

The field is pitched with war tents and pavilions decked for
holiday. Nobles and knights flank the King and Guenevere, a
beautiful vision in white samite, a wreath of flowers around
her head. Lancelot leads a long file of prisoners to the
King. They fall to their knees, begging forgiveness; among
them is the man whom Lancelot had spared before the altar.

LANCELOT
These men repented before God for
their evil deeds. Those who would
not, met their fate at the end of my
sword.
(he kneels)
Accept the fruit of my first quest
as my wedding gift.

ARTHUR
I do. Rise, Lancelot, come with me.

He rises and follows Arthur and Guenevere into the central
pavilion. Pages draw its curtains closed as they pass inside.

INT. PAVILION - DAY

Guenevere is surrounded by a group of ladies and maids who
fuss over her dress and her hair. They eye the great knight
and whisper about him, Guenevere laughing with them.

Arthur sits, excited and happy.

ARTHUR
Sit beside me, Lancelot.

Lancelot sits, stiff and upright.

ARTHUR
Your deeds set an example for all
other knights. For your gift, ask a
gift of me.

LANCELOT
Only give me leave to ride out again,
to do what I am most able to do, and
happiest doing.

Guenevere overhears. She approaches and Lancelot jumps to
his feet.

GUENEVERE
(to Arthur)
He must stay for the feasting days
of our wedding, and tell his deeds
himself.

ARTHUR
(to Lancelot, smiling)
I grant you your wish if you grant
Lady Guenevere hers.

LANCELOT
I will stay Madame.

Merlin leans close to Arthur.

MERLIN
The knights of Galys approach the
camp. It would be politic...

ARTHUR
...to ride out and meet them.

He rises. Lancelot, who was about to sit again, straightens.

ARTHUR
I will ride with Sir Kay. Lancelot,
rest here.

GUENEVERE
Don't start a war on my wedding day!

ARTHUR
Without Lancelot?!

Arthur and Merlin exit, leaving Guenevere and Lancelot. She
looks at him, lively and amused, and he can't help smiling.

GUENEVERE
Look Lancelot. The maids and ladies
whisper about you. They all dream of
winning you, young and old, fair and
ugly.

Lancelot blushes.

GUENEVERE
But surely that's no secret to you,
dear Lancelot. You're the bravest
and strongest knight they've ever
seen, and beauty has kissed your
brow.

He can't look at her.

GUENEVERE
The well-kept secret is whether any
of them has won your heart.

LANCELOT
No.

GUENEVERE
Why?

LANCELOT
I am a fighting man and I am married
to the quest. That is enough.

GUENEVERE
And there is no maiden in the whole
world who inspires you?

LANCELOT
There is one.

GUENEVERE
Who?!

LANCELOT
You.

GUENEVERE
Me?

LANCELOT
Yes. I would swear my love to you.

GUENEVERE
To me? But why?

LANCELOT
I cannot love as a woman the lady
who will be wife to my King and my
friend. And, in pledging my love to
you, I cannot love any other woman.

Guenevere smiles, moved by his blunt innocence.

LANCELOT
I will see you in all women, and I
will defend them as I would defend
you.

He kneels, kisses her thigh, rises and leaves.

INT. CHAPEL - DAY

A chorus of children sings. The Bishop waits at the altar
with his friars and altar boys. Cornucopias overflowing with
vegetables and wildflowers adorn the church, which glows
with the light of a thousand candles. Sir Kay is satisfied.
He comes back up the petal-strewn aisle.

EXT. CHAPEL, SITE OF THE SWORD IN THE STONE - DAY

Arthur and Guenevere are ushered in by Kay. They are flanked
by Leondegrance and Sir Ector. Lancelot and Merlin follow,
leading the cortege of knights and ladies.

Merlin is incapable of entering the chapel, as if at the
threshold there is an unseen force that repels him.

LANCELOT
Lord Merlin, are you ill?

MERLIN
No, no, I need air.

Strangling a laugh he wrenches himself away. Just then Uryens
and a small party of knights rides up through the tents and
dismounts in front of the church. Uryens helps a lady off
her horse and joins the cortege on foot.

URYENS
Merlin, don't you join the
celebration?

Merlin, who was slinking away through the throng of
bystanders, looks up. What he sees sends a chill through his
body.

At Uryens' side stands a young woman of sinister beauty,
with bewitching eyes of ice. Merlin just stares at her, and
she smiles back at him faintly.

URYENS
My wife, Merlin. Lady Morgana of
Cornwall.

MORGANA
I remember you, Merlin. I was a child.
You took my brother away.

Merlin laughs. Uryens shrugs and continues into the chapel
with Morgana. As she enters she glances back, and just then
Merlin steals a look, their eyes meet.

INT. CHAPEL - DAY

Uryens and Morgana take their places near the altar. Arthur
and Guenevere kneel before the Bishop, and Arthur takes her
hand. The clatter of armor mingles with the enthusiastic,
happy singing of the children, and seems to strengthen their
song.

EXT. SITE OF THE SWORD IN THE STONE - EVENING

The chorus carries across the field to the dark wall of trees
from which issues another chorus, of hoots and squawks and
howls. Merlin advances along the edge of the forest. He stops
by the stone that once held the sword, his eyes wild. He
forgets his inner torment when he sees a plant at the base
of the stone. He kneels beside it and plucks it. He admires
its strange flowers; he smells them.

Two feet appear at his side. He rises to be face to face
with Morgana. They look deep into each other. Then Merlin
breaks the silence.

MERLIN
You left your husband's side? You
left your brother's wedding?

MORGANA
Is that Mandrake, Lord Merlin?

MERLIN
It is.

MORGANA
Can it truly be used for magic?

Merlin smiles at last, and Morgana does, her eyes piercing,
cruel and lovely.

MERLIN
Yes... sometimes...

His gaze drifts toward the chapel.

MERLIN
...There are many powers in this
world.

INT. CHAPEL - EVENING

Arthur and Guenevere are radiant with joy, and Lancelot behind
them mirrors the ceremony of their joining in his armor; and
the sweet voices of the children fill the chapel as the Bishop
pours the wine into the chalice, and lifts it up before him,
blessing it.

He turns to the royal couple.

BISHOP
Drink this the blood of Jesus Christ
our Lord.

The chalice seems to burn with a mystical light; and as the
chorus soars:

FADE OUT:

A LEGEND APPEARS:

"And Arthur built his castle, Camelot. And one day, in the
far reaches of the Kingdom..."

FADE IN:

EXT. FOREST, STREAM - DAY

It is shadowy and dark; ancient trees creak, unseen animals
cry out. A rabbit hops into view and a boy leaps forward,
grabbing the animal by the ears before it can move. He--
Perceval--is a wild boy of seventeen, dressed in skins with
an endearing and childlike smile.

PERCEVAL
(to the rabbit)
Sorry. Hungry.

A din is heard to the forest, and it grows. Perceval glances
around, panicked. The sound is the rubbing of leather upon
leather, of metal on metal, for now a mounted figure in armor
hovers over the terrified boy.

PERCEVAL
(stuttering)
Have I taken too much?

He lets the rabbit go free. The threatening figure dismounts.
And Perceval, cartwheels backward, landing in the stream and
scooping a fish out.

PERCEVAL
(desperately trying
to ingratiate)
I had rabbit yesterday. Today I'll
eat fish... No?

He returns the fish to the water. The figure steps into a
pool of sunlight and a glorious halo streaks from the armor.
It is Lancelot.

LANCELOT
Don't be afraid.

Perceval is overcome with astonishment, and he kneels.

PERCEVAL
You're an angel! Not a devil...

Lancelot laughs and pulls the boy to his feet.

LANCELOT
Just a man. A knight in the King's
service.

PERCEVAL
You're a man?!
(he reaches out to
touch Lancelot)
...with metal skin!

Perceval is beside himself with enthusiasm.

PERCEVAL
Can I grow metal skin?

Lancelot rolls his eyes, amused.

LANCELOT
You've got a lot to learn.

EXT. SPARSE FOREST - DAY

Lancelot is cantering and Perceval is running alongside,
shouting in gasps.

PERCEVAL
I'll learn... take me... to the
King... What's a... King?

Lancelot shakes his head and spurs the horse into a gallop.
Perceval lengthens his stride, and keeps up! Lancelot reins
to a halt.

LANCELOT
Very well. Climb up.

PERCEVAL
I will run.

LANCELOT
Listen, boy, it's more than twenty
days from here.

PERCEVAL
Twenty days!? The world is that big?

EXT. OUTSIDE CAMELOT, FOREST - DAY

Perceval cannot believe his eyes. As Lancelot and Kay talk
about him out of earshot, he sees things that he's never
seen before; and he gapes like the country bumpkin that he
is.

Dragon-like kites sweep low, maneuvered by children. In a
meadow among the trees, knights hone their skills with lance
and sword, and ladies watch and their "bright eyes rain
influence and judge the prize." And then, there is Camelot
itself; the great gate and the drawbridge; the massive walls,
and the soaring towers and spires above.

Perceval rushes up to Lancelot and Kay.

PERCEVAL
Who will give me my sword?

Kay is not at all pleased; nonetheless he takes the boy by
the ear and leads him across the drawbridge and into the
castle.

KAY
Kitchen knives and greasy spits will
be your weapons, boy.

Lancelot smiles to himself, hesitation, lingering before the
great gate of Camelot.

There is a walkway suspended in the trees above, that also
leads to the castle, and promenading on it is a group of
women, Guenevere and her ladies-in-waiting. The Queen sees
Lancelot and hastens toward him.

Lancelot sees her, and mounts his horse and heads back into
the forest. She stops, somewhat ahead of the ladies, and
watches wistfully.

Lancelot turns back and seeing her one last time, draws down
his visor and spurs his horse into a canter.

He passes two commoners who are heading for the castle, one
fat and the other thin, and they are locked in hot dispute.
Their wives keep them from coming to blows and their children
spur them on, enjoying the excitement.

Lancelot is swallowed by the forest.

INT. HALL OF THE ROUND TABLE, CAMELOT - DAY

Guenevere, bearing a bowl of perfect, deep red apples,
approaches the Round Table, where Arthur sits and Merlin at
his side, attending to the affairs of the kingdom. Quite a
few of the knights occupy their seats, talking with each
other, drinking and laughing, attended by ladies and pages.
Guenevere places the apples at Lancelot's empty place and
takes her seat next to Arthur.

In the archways that lead into the hall, petitioners wait,
eating, drinking, talking among themselves. In the din, no
one pays attention to the vehement arguing of the fat man
and the thin man, which continues even here. The hall is the
burgeoning, happy center of the kingdom.

But Merlin is oblivious to the lively clamor. He gazes like
a lovesick puppy across the table at Morgana, who bends over
whispering to a knight at the table, the young Sir Gahalt,,
while his older brother Sir Gawain listens. Morgana notices
Merlin's stare and smiles at him, and then resumes her
flirtation with Sir Gahalt, much to Merlin's annoyance.

Sir Kay ushers the thin man and the fat man into the open
space at the center of the table for their audience with the
king. They quarrel even as Kay tries to present them, and
the attention of the hall gradually focuses on them.

The two men talk at once, interrupting, overlapping.

FAT MAN
I brew ale, sir--from
old shoes--I am an
honest tradesman sir.
I must sell what I
produce. He won't buy
ale and he won't pay.
Pay up! He leans over
the barrel and sucks
in the vapors. The
vapors are mine.

THIN MAN
How would you know I, sir,
have the misfortune to
live next to this
criminal... What loss in
that? Not to me! Pay for
what? Why?! They are
floating on the wind.

Arthur is both amused and exasperated.

ARTHUR
Enough!... What is a fair price for
the smell of your ale?

FAT MAN
That's why we have come to you, sir
There's no one else who can tell us.

ARTHUR
What does it cost to get drunk on
your ale?

FAT MAN
At least three shillings, sir.

Arthur addresses the Thin Man.

ARTHUR
Give me three shillings.

The Thin Man is crestfallen, the smile gone from his face.
He reluctantly hands the coins to Kay, who gives them to
Arthur. Arthur tosses them in the air and lets them fall on
a metal plate. He hands them back to the Thin Man, who is
totally confused now, as is everybody else.

ARTHUR
For the smell of your ale, the jingle
of his coins.

The knights roar with laughter and the Fat Man and the Thin
Man look at each other in astonishment. Perceval lets out a
raucous laugh that wins him a glance of disapproval from
Kay.

INT. HALL OF THE ROUND TABLE - NIGHT

The din of the petitioners is replaced by music. It is the
hour of the evening feast, and all knights are present, except
Lancelot. Whole tree trunks burn in the great fireplace, and
lambs roast on spits in the flames. Pages run to and fro
with trays of food and wine, Perceval among them.

Morgana stops beside Merlin.

MORGANA
What did I see today in the wizard's
eyes? Censure, because I enjoy a few
words with a young handsome knight?

Merlin is in agony, a bug stuck on a pin.

MERLIN
No, no, of course not. You are
young...

MERLIN
I'm not jealous!

MORGANA
It's clear you are, and it irks me.

MERLIN
No. Yes, I am. I am jealous. I want
to write poems about you with
moonbeams, make the sea sing your
name...

MORGANA
A lovestruck page!

MERLIN
Shh... yes, yes. Sit with me,
please... Morgana.

She does, laughing and in complete control. His hand
immediately slides onto her thigh. She removes it, but holds
it in her hand, toying with his fingers.

MORGANA
A steamy, panting, lovestruck page.
But what good are songs and poems to
me? They are the barter of ordinary
love. A gift that reflected your
greatness is the only one worthy of
your love.

Merlin looks at her, knowing already, sad yet eager.

MERLIN
I showed you all my conjuring
tricks...

MORGANA
The deepest secrets, the forbidden
formulas...

MERLIN
Maybe... maybe...

Merlin's thoughts have carried him far away, when he realizes
that Arthur is addressing him.

ARTHUR
Merlin, are you counselor to the
King, or to my sister?

Some knights laugh.

MERLIN
At your service, sir.

ARTHUR
Then answer me this. For years peace
has reigned in the land. Crops grow
in abundance, there is no want. Every
one of my subjects enjoys his portion
of happiness and justice, even those
whose tiresome misunderstandings we
must resolve here each day. Tell me,
Merlin: have we defeated evil, as it
seems?

MERLIN
Good and evil; there is never one
without the other.

Arthur is taken aback.

ARTHUR
Where hides evil, then, in my kingdom?

MERLIN
Never where you expect it, that's
all I know.

He chuckles softly and Arthur is puzzled. A knight speaks
out, the young knight with whom Morgana was flirting. His
manner is sarcastic.

SIR GAHALT
If we have peace and justice, why is
Lancelot never with us? Why is he
always riding out on his quests? He
must know where this evil is.

SIR GAWAIN
Could there be evil within Lancelot
himself? To live above human folly,
as is his aim, is to be overly proud.

SIR GAHALT
He pays no heed even to the Queens
longing for his company.

The hall falls silent, all eyes upon the Queen.

GUENEVERE
(lashing out)
What is it you would have your words
mean, Sir Gahalt?

Frightened, Gahalt doesn't answer. Morgana has slipped to
Guenevere's side.

MORGANA
Don't listen to him. You are the
Queen.

Arthur, ashen-faced, turns to Merlin for help, but he has
escaped into sleep...

ARTHUR
Sir Gahalt, answer the Queen.

GUENEVERE
No. I meant not to be angry with
you, Sir Gahalt. In the idleness
that comes with peace gossip has
bread its own evil. You merely repeat
it. Please, sir, have one of those
apples that Lancelot loves, and in
that gesture partake of its goodness.

Morgana picks the bowl up and as she does so, unseen by any
and with a magician's dexterity, she thrusts her fingernails
deep into the top apple. She gives the bowl to Guenevere,
who takes it and sweeps around to where Sir Gahalt sits,
followed by Morgana. The young knight jumps to his feet.

GUENEVERE
Take one, Sir Gahalt.

SIR GAHALT
I am most honored, my lady.

He is too shy to take the shiniest, most beautiful apple on
top, and goes for another one. Morgana giggles, and he looks
at her. She looks at the apple on top and then smiles
encouragingly at him. Sir Gahalt takes it and starts eating
as the Queen returns to her seat.

With the third bite his is unable to breathe. His face goes
red and he rises to his feet, attempting to call out.

He falls, dying immediately. All leap to their feet, and
Arthur rushes to the young knight. Merlin is asleep and far
from human affairs.

Arthur and Sir Gawain rise from the body of the young knight.
Sir Gawain backs away from Arthur and points at Guenevere,
trembling with cold rage.

SIR GAWAIN
Hear me, Lord Arthur, and knights
and chieftains: I charge Guenevere
with the murder of my brother.

Guenevere, white and with a broken voice, turns to Arthur.

GUENEVERE
I didn't... I am innocent.

She begins to swoon and Morgana keeps her steady on her feet.
Arthur slumps into his seat and Sir Gawain kneels before
him.

SIR GAWAIN
I champion this truth: That Queen
Guenevere murdered Sir Gahalt with
the aid of sorcery.

Enraged, Arthur reaches for Excalibur. But with effort he
checks his impulse.

ARTHUR
The Queen will be in my charge till
a champion steps forward to fight on
her behalf.

GUENEVERE
Not you, my husband?

Arthur cannot look at her.

SIR GAWAIN
She must be burnt at the stake. That
is the sentence for murder done with
magic.

ARTHUR
It is. Lords and knights of the Round
Table, as her husband I say that
this deed was not done by Guenevere.
Who among you will champion this
truth?

No one responds. Guenevere falls into her seat. Arthur
searches the eyes of his knights and they evade him.

ARTHUR
Sir Caradoc! You!

The knight looks up.

CARADOC
I am torn.

Sir Ector, old and feeble, weeps for Arthur. Someone speaks
up. It is Perceval, who kneels before the Queen. His voice
is unnaturally loud, and his eyes shine with held-back tears;
he stutters.

PERCEVAL
I will champion you, my lady.

He is overwhelmed by his own boldness. He looks around. All
eyes are upon him. Guenevere smiles at him, sadly.

GUENEVERE
I thank you, but you are not yet a
knight.

PERCEVAL
I will find Lancelot! He will come!

Perceval hurries from the hall. Arthur looks away, ashamed,
and his eyes fall on Merlin, twitching and mumbling in his
sleep.

MERLIN
Boys!... boys will be boys...

EXT. HOVEL - COUNTRYSIDE - DAY

In full armor but for his helmet, Lancelot is seated at a
small table in the shadow of a tree, eating an apple.

A young girl is turning a chicken on a spit, and her mother
is removing freshly-baked bread from an oven. It is very
peaceful and silent until, galloping all out, Perceval
arrives. Frantic, out of breath, he leaps from his lathered
horse.

PERCEVAL
I have found you. The Queen. An apple.
Tomorrow. Sir Gawain...

LANCELOT
--It must wait, child. These good
ladies, for whom I intervened once,
will honor me with a meal. I am
beholden to them now as I was when
they begged my protection.

The two women set the chicken and the bread before the great
knight, and stand back to watch him eat, flushed with
excitement. Perceval falls silent, in awe of Lancelot.

INT. BEDCHAMBER, CAMELOT - NIGHT

Arthur stands hunched over the fireplace, staring into the
flames. Guenevere paces back and forth to a window.

GUENEVERE
Why can't you be my champion?

ARTHUR
If I am your judge, I cannot be your
champion. When I act as your King, I
cannot be your husband.

GUENEVERE
And you cannot love me...

ARTHUR
The laws, my laws, must bind everyone,
high and low, or they are not laws
at all. Lancelot will come...

GUENEVERE
And if he cannot be found, no other
knight will champion me, though you
beseeched each and every one of them.
Why be king if there is no one you
can call loyal subject but an eager
boy?

He hides his anguish from her. Numb with hurt, she goes to a
tall curtained window, and draws it open, and stands there
looking out upon the surrounding forest, silent and still
beneath the moon.

EXT. WINDOW - NIGHT

She cries softly, and she whispers the name of the great
knight.

EXT. EDGE OF THE FOREST, WALLS OF CAMELOT - NIGHT.

A mounted knight stands motionless at the edge of the forest,
his armor gleaming with dark lustre. It is Lancelot. His
eyes are raised to the high window, where he sees Guenevere.
He watches her in silence. In the high window Guenevere draws
the curtain and Lancelot reins back into the forest.

EXT. FOREST - NIGHT

Lancelot has unsaddled and tethered his horse in a small
clearing. He sits, resting back against a tree. He removes
his helmet; he plants his sword before him, like a cross. He
loosens the ties of his breastplate. He waits for day,
yawning, tired. But his eyes burn, and he closes them and
nods off to sleep.

A knight appears silently hovering over him. Lancelot looks
up, and his eyes go wide with fear. The knight towering above
him wears armor identical to his, and he raises his sword,
and the blade is descending upon Lancelot. Lancelot draws
his sword from the ground and rolls away, but the knight's
sword slices through his shoulder joint. Lancelot attempts
to rise but already the knight, Lancelot's mirror image, is
upon him. From the ground, Lancelot parries the blow and
slashes at the opponent's knee, cutting through the joint in
the armor and severing the leg.

The knight doesn't fall, doesn't bleed, doesn't cry out. On
one leg he comes forward, a horror. Lancelot is paralyzed by
fear. As the knight leaps upon Lancelot, Lancelot rises to
meet him, impaling himself on the knight's sword below the
hauberk. He throws the knight to the ground, and comes down
upon him. He rips off the helmet and the breastplate. The
armor is empty and Lancelot rolls over on his back, awakening
from the nightmare with his own sword deep in his stomach,
and in his hand his own helmet and breastplate, while other
parts of his armor lie strewn around him.

Only then does he become conscious of the terrible pain and
the shock of the truth. He grabs the hilt of his sword and
draws it from his stomach. He curls up in agony, clutching a
fistful of leaves to the wound.

LANCELOT
Guenevere, I fight against myself...

He loses consciousness.

EXT. JOUSTING GROUND OUTSIDE CAMELOT - DAWN

The Bishop blesses the field. Guenevere, numb and
disbelieving, is being led to the stake, which rises from a
bed of straw and wood. Arthur watches, in shock. Other knights
and ladies keep their distance, watching darkly, stealing
glances at Arthur, mumbling disapproval of his refusing to
defend Guenevere. In battle dress, Sir Gawain rides up and
down the jousting run on a snorting and powerful horse,
practicing. Perceval, in a mail doublet, waits beside a mangy
roan, his face burning with anxiety.

Guenevere is tied to the stake. All eyes watch for the
approach of her champion. Arthur goes to Perceval.

ARTHUR
Is he coming?

PERCEVAL
He heard Lady Guenevere's request
and he said nothing. That is all.

Arthur hides his pain behind a rigid mask.

EXT. JOUSTING GROUND - DAY

The sun has risen shining cruelly into Guenevere's eyes; the
queen is alone at the stake. Sir Gawain rides up to King
Arthur, who waits alone, separated from the others.

SIR GAWAIN
My Lord, the sun is upon the field.
The Queen has no champion. I demand
justice, as is my right.

ARTHUR
So it is.

Perceval leaps onto his horse.

PERCEVAL
Let me champion the Queen!

Sir Gawain looks at the squire with contempt.

SIR GAWAIN
(to Arthur)
Since no knight comes forward, I
demand justice--

Arthur is in anguish. He searches the tree line for a sign
of Lancelot. He looks from Guenevere at the stake to his own
knights watching him. He draws Excalibur. A gasp goes through
the crowd of onlookers.

ARTHUR
Boy, kneel.

Perceval leaps from his horse and bends his knee before the
King. Arthur brings the sword down on the boy's shoulder,
giving him the three strokes.

ARTHUR
In the name of God, of St. Michael,
and St. George, I make you a knight.
Rise, Sir...

PERCEVAL
...Perceval!

Gawain shakes his head disdainfully as Perceval mounts back
into the saddle, his eyes burning with fervor.

Sir Gawain and Perceval ride to opposite ends of the field.
The spectators fall silent, all staring blankly, their senses
dulled by the tragedy, at the uneven combatants.

A cry goes up. Lancelot rides out of the forest. He rides up
to the King and salutes him. Arthur smiles at his old friend,
tears of joy in his eyes. Lancelot bows toward Guenevere and
rides on to where Perceval waits.

Lancelot reaches out to touch Perceval's cheek.

LANCELOT
It's my task to prove the Queen's
innocence.

Perceval cannot reply, his eyes affixed on the blood that
trickles from Lancelot's hauberk. Lancelot raises his lance
in salute to Gawain across the field. Gawain salutes in
answer.

The two huge knights charge at each other, each man's spear
tip making contact with the other's armor, and in the violent
collision both are unhorsed. Lancelot is slower at getting
to his feet and drawing his sword.

He is bleeding below the hauberk from his self-inflicted
wound.

In the first onslaught Lancelot fights defensively, falling
back. He has to toss aside his shield and hold his stomach
with his shield hand.

Morgana watches with Merlin. Every terrible blow of sword on
sword reverberates through her body pleasurable. Merlin is
captivated by her cruel sensuality.

EXT. JOUSTING GROUND - LATE DAY

They swing and thrust at each other with slower but bone-
crushing force, both unsteady now. Blood seeps from Lancelot's
feet, leaving awful footprints on the earth. Finally, with a
daring thrust, Lancelot lifts Gawain's visor and the sword
tip is before his eyes. Gawain drops his sword and shield,
kneels and speaks in a voice hoarse with weariness.

SIR GAWAIN
The Queen is innocent. I yield to
your mercy, Sir Lancelot.

Lancelot collapses in a dead faint.

INT. CELL, CAMELOT - EVENING

Eyes closed, Lancelot lies on a bed, naked but for a cloth
across his loins. His minor wounds have been dressed, and
Merlin is kneading the huge gash in his stomach, working the
severed flesh together. Guenevere stands on one side of the
bed, Arthur on the other, both looking down upon Lancelot,
relieved and not daring to look at each other.

MERLIN
Flesh on flesh. You must press on
the wound, Guenevere, hold it, and
it will begin to bind.

Guenevere kneels, and at her touch Lancelot's eyes flicker
open. Merlin exits, and draws Arthur away with him.

Arthur is deeply tormented.

ARTHUR
Merlin, tell me. Now that Guenevere
is returned to me...

MERLIN
What is it my child?

Merlin appears moved by the predicaments that Arthur has to
face.

ARTHUR
Will I have a son?

Merlin stares off into the evening sky, where a lark sings
high up.

MERLIN
Yes.

ARTHUR
Just yes? No mad laughter, no riddles,
nothing but a simple yes? That
frightens me.

MERLIN
A king should be afraid, always. The
enemy is everywhere. Waiting in ambush
in the dark corridors of his castle,
on the deer paths of his forest, or
in the gray and winding paths of a
more tangled forest, in here.

He taps his skull and smiles.

INT. CELL - EVENING

Lancelot is staring into Guenevere's eyes. She opens her
shift, baring a breast with the innocence of a mother
preparing to suckle a child. She presses her breast to his
wound, her face to his chest, her arms enfolding him. She
whispers.

GUENEVERE
Flesh on flesh. I will heal you.

His body trembles and his eyes brim with tears. He is lost.

INT. HALL OF THE ROUND TABLE, CAMELOT - NIGHT

The court is assembled, for the evening feast. There is music
and heavy drinking. Some knights are slouched across the
table. Lancelot, still weak, takes his seat, looking at the
drunken and frivolous knights. Arthur catches it, and they
smile at each other.

ARTHUR
They miss the battlefield. I think
we do too.

LANCELOT
But one can still keep a sword sharp
riding out in the name of the King's
law.

Guenevere cannot tear her eyes from Lancelot. He avoids her
look. Arthur looks from Guenevere to Lancelot, and speaks
softly to him, across her, and with stabbing directness.

ARTHUR
It is not easy for the young ones to
learn knightly virtues without the
hard teaching of war and quest. It
is only your example, Lancelot, that
binds them now.

Then, addressing the hall:

ARTHUR
Which is the greatest quality of
knighthood? Courage? Compassion?
Loyalty? Humility? What do you say,
Merlin?

He is bent close to Morgana, whispering. Only when the hall
rings with laughter does he look up.

MERLIN
What?
(then seeing he has
an audience)
The greatest? They blend together
like the metals we mix to make a
good sword.

ARTHUR
I didn't ask for poetry. Which is
it?

Merlin looks from Arthur to Guenevere to Lancelot to Arthur.

MERLIN
All right. Truth. It must be truth,
above all. When a man lies he murders
some part of the world.

An uneasy silence falls upon the feast. Guenevere and Lancelot
cannot look at each other, and Arthur feels it. Lancelot
jumps to his feet.

LANCELOT
Conversation and court life don't
suit me. I must take my rest in the
forest.

Guenevere stifles her dismay.

ARTHUR
Hasn't Merlin mended your wound?

LANCELOT
It is deep...

Arthur is about to rise to embrace him, but checks himself.

ARTHUR
You will be sorely missed. Heal
yourself and come back.

The exchange has become closely intimate, even though they
stand apart and speak before everyone in the large hall.
Lancelot leaves. Only Guenevere cannot watch.

EXT. FOREST GLADE -DAY

Water gurgles from a rock that is captive in the roots of an
ancient oak. Lancelot, in armor, reclines against its trunk,
the roots cradling him. He is perfectly still, drawing life
from the vibrant, all-enfolding forest.

Flower petals drift on the breeze. Trees sigh. Fox and rabbit,
sparrow and hawk, at peace with each other, watch over the
knight.

EXT. FOREST -DAY

A horse and rider tear through the thick undergrowth. It is
Guenevere. The forest races past her as she gallops toward
the glade, brambles tearing at her flesh and clothes.

EXT. FOREST GLADE - DAY

Lancelot gets to his feet, tense. Guenevere dismounts and
approaches. She is flushed and breathless from the wild race.
Her horse, left free, wanders over to his and grazes beside
it.

LANCELOT
Why? You will destroy Arthur, and
us...

She moves closer and he thrusts out his mailed fist to keep
her away. She clutches it and presses the metal to her soft
tear-streaked cheek.

LANCELOT
The law forbids it.

GUENEVERE
Love demands it.

Hungry with passion, she embraces the cold unmoving armor,
kissing it.

LANCELOT
There are things about love--

GUENEVERE
--Nothing!

He steps back, drawing his sword. He holds it up by the blade
between them.

LANCELOT
By my knight's sword, I swore faith--

And before he can finish she grabs the blade to push it aside.
He holds it fast. Blood streams from her bare hands. He cannot
prevail without cutting them deeply. He lets go of the sword,
and she lets it fall to the ground.

She embraces his still and defeated hulk. She kisses the
metal, and sensation shoots through him, dizzying him.

LANCELOT
Guenevere...

He folds her in his arm, and their bodies lock together as
though a trap had sprung. Their mouths meet, each devouring
the other...

EXT. BATTLEMENTS, CAMELOT - DUSK

Arthur and Merlin, the King desperate, the Wizard overwhelmed
by compassion:

ARTHUR
I am alone and betrayed. By my wife,
by my beloved friend, by my knights.
And by you. Perhaps most of all by
you. For you made me, you forged
this wretched life. And like a child
tired of a toy, you toss me aside, a
babbling lecher trotting after my
sister...

MERLIN
That is my destiny. I have a destiny,
too...

ARTHUR
With all your powers, you are content
to be ridiculed, laughed at...

MERLIN
My powers fade, Arthur. I resort to
cheap tricks...
(with sudden enthusiasm)
Yes! I enjoy every moment of my
foolishness, I join in the making of
it, so no one can betray me. But
you! You betray yourself.

ARTHUR
Me? I have lived by the oath of king
and knight.

MERLIN
You betray the boy who drew the sword,
the boy who saw the Dragon... the
Dragon who moves close by, coiling
and uncoiling, restless, looking
down, waiting for the King to be a
king...

Arthur looks up and in the rolling clouds maybe, just maybe,
the form of a dragon is taking shape. Arthur draws Excalibur,
intensity animating his dead features.

ARTHUR
I must do it myself. I must kill
them both. Lancelot and Guenevere.
Will you ride with me, Merlin?

MERLIN
I cannot. I must not. Here I must
stay.

They embrace. Merlin is on the verge of tears, his face
immediately sad and finally ancient. Arthur exits.

Morgana, who has been watching from the shadows, watching
from the shadows, slinks up to Merlin's side.

MORGANA
Crazy old fool. You think yourself a
kingmaker. Ha! A meddler, more likely.
Look what a mess you've made of
things.

Merlin smiles knowingly at her.

MERLIN
I? Perhaps, perhaps. I'm losing
interest, Morgana... I have helped
men--or meddled in their affairs, if
you would have it that way--since
the dawn of time. Now let them live
by their own laws. Let them stand on
their own feet. The gods of once are
gone forever, it is time for men...
Morgana, make a man out of me. Kiss
me.

He reaches to touch her lips. She cradles his hand in hers
and doesn't allow Merlin to kiss her. She kisses his knuckles
and stares into his eyes, stoking his desire.

MORGANA
You know what I want. I want the
secret of true magic, how to thicken
the stuff of dreams and wishes with
the flesh of the world.

MERLIN
That I cannot.

She breaks away, provocative, alluring.

MORGANA
Then I will not.

EXT. FOREST - NIGHT

Arthur and Sir Kay gallop through the forest, silently. It
is not a dream. Their armor and the hooves of their horses
are muffled with pieces of cloth.

EXT. FOREST GLADE - NIGHT

Only Nature will ever see their love; the creatures of the
air, tree and ground witness the final reality of their
passion and sense its unfathomable depths, singing of it in
a hundred languages. Lancelot and Guenevere are naked and
interlocked, one being, suspended in the darkness in the eye
of the forest.

EXT. FOREST - NIGHT

Arthur walks soundlessly through the trees, approaching the
glade. The forest falls suddenly silent.

EXT. FOREST GLADE - NIGHT

All passion spent, locked in each other's arms, Lancelot and
Guenevere drift off into sleep.

Arthur comes upon them. He stands over them. He draws
Excalibur. Checking all emotion, he holds it above his head.
The ancient steel glows darkly.

The lovers faces are serene and innocently beautiful. He
hesitates, tormented. His mask of anguish gives way to
determination and calm. He strikes the sword home, letting
go of it.

He backs away, turns and disappears into the forest.

EXT. FOREST GLADE - DAWN

The sky is red; so is the steel of Excalibur. Lancelot awakens
and starts at what he sees. His cry stirs Guenevere. They
are horrified to see Excalibur impaled in the ground between
their entwined bodies. It has pierced their union without
grazing their flesh. They leap up and back away, unable to
speak at first.

LANCELOT
Why didn't he kill us?

GUENEVERE
He has given up.

She kneels before the sword, embracing the hilt to her breast.

LANCELOT
The King without his sword, the land
without a king...

GUENEVERE
We are to blame.

Lancelot stumbles into the forest, berserk with guilt. He
rages against a small tree, crying out, and he rips its roots
from the ground, the terrible tearing and renting the symbol
of his own inner torment.

Guenevere sinks to the ground next to Lancelot's empty armor
and his abandoned sword.

INT. DUNGEONS OF CAMELOT

Merlin and Morgana descend winding steps cut out of rock.
The only light comes from the glow of Merlin's staff.

MERLIN
When Arthur built the castle, I carved
out a place for myself, where I could
laugh or sleep, and no one would
bother me.

MORGANA
People make you laugh?

He laughs.

MERLIN
They do.

MORGANA
Why?

He leans close to her ear, whispering into it.

MERLIN
They don't know how close they live
to the edge of delight or disas...

He is about to kiss her when he slips. He laughs.

MERLIN
Happiness or horror.

INT. CAVE BENEATH CAMELOT

They pass through jaws of stalactites and stalagmites. Merlin
cracks his staff whip-like and a ball of fire billows up
from the tip and illuminates a cave wildly veined and
filigreed with minerals and crusted with growths of crystals.
The light goes out but the malachite and the gold, the quartz,
diamond and beryllium burn dully. He turns to her, suddenly
tall and unstooped, younger, sleek and evil.

MERLIN
In the folds of the earth where the
forces that hold the world together
are more alive, my power is strongest.
Here I will possess you, as a man
possesses a woman. And the god, the
eunuch, the mule that I was, will be
no more.

He sweeps her up into his arms.

MORGANA
You are truly magnificent!

MERLIN
Flattery! Do you think I am ignorant
of your stupid little games? Preying
on you weakness of others. That's
your power, a petty evil. Mine is
great. Great plans. Impossible dreams.
Laughable endings...

He deposits her on bare rock. He kisses her. She pushes him
away.

MORGANA
Merlin, the powers of Summoning, the
true Name of the charms of Doing and
Undoing. Show me!

MERLIN
I won't. You would misuse such power.
I have paid enough for you, and I
will have you.

She leans forward and kisses his ear and whispers.

MORGANA
Make magic, my foolish wizard. For
our love. Weave a marvelous room
around us, a room worthy of our
coupling.

She draws closer, kissing him deeply. He breathes heavily.

MERLIN
What do you want? You must desire it
for me to weave it.

MORGANA
Walls of shining crystals, burning
with red fire, furnishings of metals
and jewels never seen by man...

Morgana falls silent as Merlin raises a hand, majestically
intoning a harsh repetitive charm. The mineral veins of the
cave begin to glow and fog seeps out from them enveloping
the couple.

MERLIN
Desire it and it will be as you
desire.

Morgana burns with intensity. Merlin utters a formula and
the fog coalesces around them into the shimmering presence
of crystal walls, fountains raining jewels, flowers made of
scented air, a bed of glass shot with light and covered with
skins of animals dead before the time of man, goblets of
ruby, tapestries woven of golden hair. She reaches out to
touch the wall and her hand plunges through the unmaterialized
illusion.

MORGANA
It's only a semblance. You disappoint
me.

She begins lacing up her loosened gown.

MERLIN
Don't touch the walls. Come close to
me.

She does, a mad hope in her eyes. She kisses his chest.

MORGANA
Do it, Merlin, the deepest secret.
Fix it with the charm of Making, for
our endless pleasure.

He utters the ancient charm, Morgana listening closely,
memorizing it. The illusion is all of a sudden solid.

MERLIN
For you...

She runs her hand across the hard crystal surface, her eyes
gleaming.

From outside the wondrous room they can be seen to embrace.
He carries her to the magical bed where he makes love to
her, as they disappear from view in its effulgent light.

She comes out through the crystal door, burning with evil
intent. She turns to watch him asleep in the bed.

She utters the charm of Summoning learnt from Merlin, and
the room melts into an eddying carmine fog. Within it, Merlin
struggles to awaken from the torpor of love, alarmed.

Outside, Morgana utters the charm of Making and the gaseous
mass begins to crystallize.

Inside, Merlin is rising to his feet, breathing the red fog,
his movements slowing to a standstill, his mouth opening in
a scream of horror.

The cloud has metamorphosed into a magnificent cluster of
red crystals. Morgana peers into its facets and there she
sees, in fragments, Merlin's terror... an eye, the gaping
mouth, a clawing hand--as he is entombed in the stone. She
laughs in triumph.

EXT. FOREST - CAMELOT - DAY

Surrounded by forest, the spires and battlements of Camelot
rise under black storm clouds. Arthur and Kay ride back to
the castle.

INT. HALL OF THE ROUND TABLE - DAY

The great hall is in gloom. Few knights are in attendance at
the table.

Some sleep off last night's wine. Arthur approaches, haggard,
searching.

ARTHUR
Has no one seen Merlin?

Knights look up; those who meet Arthur's reddened eyes shake
their heads.

Arthur leaves. A knight whispers to another.

KNIGHT
Did you see? The King was without
Excalibur...

INT. PASSAGEWAYS, CAMELOT - DAY

Echoing in the vaulted corridors outside the hall, the
knight's whisper stabs Arthur.

The words now seem borne on the whistling wind and follow
the King wherever he goes in search of Merlin. He comes upon
a knight seducing a lady in a dark corner by the chapel door,
his hand under her gown. Arthur notes the sacrilege in
silence, and continues on his way.

INT. BEDCHAMBER - DAY

The wind keens. Thunder rolls overhead. Arthur enters his
bedchamber. He sits by the empty fireplace, a broken man.
Feminine hands light on his shoulders. He starts. He looks
up. It is Morgana. He smiles and grasps her hand.

MORGANA
I'll weep for you, brother, for a
King must not weep.

She comes around and she kneels in front of him. Before he
can talk she silences him with a tender caress.

MORGANA
Do you know what Guenevere's maids
have whispered?

He shakes his head.

MORGANA
That when the King returned from
battle...

She begins untying the laces of his metal thigh and shin
guards.

MORGANA
...Guenevere would unlace his armor
and massage the burns where metal
rubbed on flesh...

She is stripping his legs naked, gently touching the flesh
with her fingertips. He stares off, remembering.

MORGANA
...She would prepare a bath for you,
mixing special ointment in the
water...

Arthur's eyes brim with tears. Morgana weeps, embracing his
knees. He rests his hand gently upon her head, choked with
remembrance, soothing her. But as she weeps, she incants a
charm.

Arthur looks down upon her, and the woman who looks up at
him is Guenevere, a Guenevere with cold ice eyes. He is made
weak by desire and weakened further by magic. He holds her
face adoringly.

ARTHUR
Guenevere! You are--

"GUENEVERE"
--Don't speak. A thousand words, a
hundred thousand words, would only
be prologue to the truth that must
be. That you, King, and I, your Queen,
beget a son to bond our love and to
strengthen our weak kingdom with a
successor. Come, my lord...

She draws him to the floor and upon her body, holding him
tightly to himself. Arthur trembles with excitement, pathetic
in his desperate passion.

As he takes her, she shudders, losing control of the charm,
and her features change till once again "Guenevere" is
Morgana. She holds him in a tight embrace so that he may not
see her. She whispers in his ear.

MORGANA
The moon flows in my blood to meet
your seed. And already I bear him
who will be King.

Arthur wrenches himself away so he can see her, her arms
still around his neck. He looks down upon her, aghast,
incredulous.

MORGANA
I could easily kill you, brother.
But I want you to live to see our
son be King. In me, the blood of
Cornwall will have its revenge; in
me, the blood of Uther will show its
dark side.

She presses her thumbs into his neck and he faints.

EXT. FOREST - CAMELOT - DAY

Morgana, with a small party, rides away from the castle
through the lashing storm, till they are taken from sight in
the folds of the forest...

INT. CHAPEL, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

Lightening forks across the sky, illuminating the interior.
The chapel has been transformed into a place of satanic
worship. Held up and surrounded by hooded figures, Morgana
lies on the altar, her pregnant belly huge; and her features
are fierce with passionate intensity. She writhes in the
pangs of childbirth.

MORGANA
Stand back, all of you. Through my
own body I have nurtured him with my
potions. I made him. I alone can
give him life.

INT. CHAPEL, CAMELOT - NIGHT

Arthur enters, pale and haunted. Mass is being celebrated,
and some knights are present. Those not asleep whisper to
each other about the King. The sound of an approaching storm
is heard.

As the priest raises the chalice to consecrate the wine.
Arthur comes down the aisle and steps onto the altar. He
reaches out to grasp the chalice from the priest's hands.

INT. CHAPEL, TINTAGEL CASTLE - NIGHT

Morgana holds aloft her beautiful newborn baby, his body
glistening in a flash of lightening. She is triumphant.

INT. CHAPEL, CAMELOT - NIGHT.

A bolt of lightening strikes the chalice, rocking the chapel,
and Arthur is knocked back violently.

Rain lashes in through the shattered window upon the terrified
knights. They and the priest back away. Arthur is left alone.
He rises and goes to the chalice, which is bent and cracked.
He kneels before it. Steam hisses up as rain falls on it.

INT. HALL OF THE ROUND TABLE - DAY

Sun streams in. Many of the knights are in attendance, in
full armor.

Ladies and pages watch from dark corners. Arthur addresses
the fellowship.

He holds the cracked chalice in his hands. He burns with a
new-found fervor.

ARTHUR
Who will ride the labyrinths of the
forest, to the very root of his soul,
to the very ends of the earth, to
find the secret that will redeem us
from the evil that has fallen upon
us, and make this chalice, and
ourselves, whole again?

Gawain rises and draws his sword in salute.

SIR GAWAIN
I will ride forth in the name of
that quest, and commit my strength
and my soul to it.

Perceval, Kay and a few others draw their swords and touch
their lips to the blades in oath. Sunbeams splash off their
armor.

PERCEVAL
I will go.

The rest of the fellowship draw their swords in imitation,
but the resolution within them is not strong. Arthur comes
forward to Gawain.

ARTHUR
Gawain, a dreadful fear is upon me,
that we may never meet again, that
the fellowship will be no more...

He embraces Gawain, tears in his eyes. He turns to Perceval,
and Perceval kneels.

PERCEVAL
We will find the secret or die.

Arthur kisses the young knight's brow. Then he turns to Kay.

ARTHUR
Kay, I know your heart yearns to go,
but I am prisoner to my duties, and
you must be to yours, at my side.

Arthur and Kay watch the knights file out till the hall is
empty, the harsh song of their armor growing distant.

FADE OUT:

A LEGEND APPEARS:

"For nine years they searched. Morgana's power grew in the
land."

FADE IN:

EXT. SNOWSCAPE - DAY

Under a leaden sky, Gawain drives his horse through swirling
snow. He comes upon a mounted knight who is frozen in his
tracks. He brushes the snow from the man's face. The frozen
features belong to Caradoc. He slowly continues on his way.

EXT. DEAD FOREST - DAY

Dangling from the branches of a dead tree are a dozen dead
knights of the Round Table, crows pecking at the rotting
flesh in the chinks of armor. Perceval rides up, cries out
in horror, and spurs his horse away.

EXT. MOORS - DAY

The rotting carcasses of sheep. The crops blackened and
withered on the stalk. Hungry peasants head for a distant
hill.

EXT, HILLSIDE, MOORS - DAY

A giant head has been carved out of an outcrop of rock, its
stone mouth gaping toward the sky.

People are congregated around the mouth. Peasants and farmers,
they are wild with excitement, responding to drums throbbing
and bagpipes wailing.

They watch Morgana, who is surrounded by knights in dark
armor. At her side is an angelic boy of eight, his eyes cold
as his mother's. Morgana is more beautiful than ever, in
flowing druidic robes, the gossamer silk clinging to her
sweat-drenched body.

She is standing by the deep hole which forms the giant's
open mouth. It is covered by a tooth-like grating acting as
a drain for the blood of human sacrifices made there. Before
her is Gawain, chained and struggling against five strong
men who hold him. Morgana lifts a dagger and plunges it into
Gawain's chest. The fountain of blood that gushes from the
great knight's body drives the crowd into a frenzy.

MORGANA
(intoning)
The blood of this knight will feed
the god in the earth, he is weak
with hunger, and he will be made
strong by this blood. Then he will
plant his seed, and the land will be
fertile once again.

Gawain, his blood flowing from him and into the giant's mouth,
looks up in anguish. His bellowing voice is echoed and
amplified by the hollow beneath the drain.

GAWAIN
Arthur, forgive me. I die without
the secret. I have failed.

EXT. MOORS - DAY

Gawain's death cry and the din of the ritual carries to
Perceval's ears as he wanders through the wasteland. He draws
down his visor and spurs his horse forward.

EXT. HILLSIDE, MOORS - DAY

He gallops toward the giant's head. He checks his sword and
lowers his lance.

The knight charging forward on his war horse is an awesome
sight, but the crowd around the giant's mouth is strangely
unfrightened. Morgana is excited; she turns to the boy.

MORGANA
Look, Mordred, a true prize for the
giant. The lamb rides into our jaws.

Perceval is galloping toward them when the ground gives way
beneath the horse, and he and the animal plunge into a pit.
The cheering crowd rushes to the edge of the trap.

MORGANA
(to Mordred)
You must kill him, for this knight
is dear to your father. You must do
it and learn to enjoy your father's
pain.

Her knights drag Perceval, unarmed, into Morgana's presence.

MORGANA
Have you found what you search for?
Have you found what Arthur seeks?

Perceval doesn't answer, defiant and hiding his fear.

MORGANA
You haven't, or you would be smiling
now in the face of death. Your quest
is an impossible one.

PERCEVAL
That it might be impossible makes it
all the more necessary.

MORGANA
Fool!
(to the men holding
Perceval)
Uncover him. I'll show you the mystery
of life. It's death...
(to Mordred)
Do it, Mordred!

Holding Perceval by his limbs and hair, the men force him
down on the bloody grating, drawing back his head, exposing
his throat. Morgana kneels by his head, and draws the boy
beside her. She holds the tip of the dagger to Perceval's
neck and takes Mordred's hand and wraps it around the handle.
Perceval is choked with fear, his heart pounding in his
throat.

MORGANA
Feel the life through the dagger,
child. It belongs to you.

The boy looks up at his mother. The vein in Perceval's neck
pushes against the dagger's point.

MORDRED
I feel it, Mother. I will give his
blood to the giant.

The boy raises the dagger, and hesitates just a bit. Perceval
resigns himself bravely. He looks the child calmly in the
eye. Mordred brings down the blade without strength, just
piercing the skin with the tip. He lets go of the dagger,
afraid now of his mistake.

The dagger clatters to the grating and slips away down the
drain, before Morgana can retrieve it. She rages against
Mordred. In the confusion, Perceval tears loose, the men
holding him slipping on the blood-wet stone.

Perceval runs through the crowd. Immediately, lance lowered,
a knight is upon him. Perceval leaps toward him, catching
the lance in his hand, and pulling down the rider with it.
He jumps the rider and draws the knight's sword. Whirling
the lance and cutting the air with the sword, he keeps back
the other knights for a moment, giving him time to see his
chance. He leaps onto the riderless horse and charges off
through the crowd. He reins in abruptly, the horse rearing.
He is wary of the ground before him; there could be a hidden
pit. But there is no time to think. Knights and men on foot
are rushing him. He spurs forward into a gallop, the horse
striding mightily And its hind leg sinks into a pit, the
animal losing its gait. But the momentum carries the horse
forward, and it recovers from the stumble.

Perceval gallops away.

Morgana is enraged. She shakes Mordred by the hair.

MORGANA
You didn't kill him! You didn't kill
him!

But suddenly she begins kissing him tenderly.

MORGANA
My dear, sweet boy...

He just stands there emotionless, the dead center of her
turbulent passions.

EXT. DEAD FOREST - DAY

Perceval gallops down a trail. The black-armored knights of
Morgana chase him.

Perceval reins into deep cover alongside the trail. The
pursuers thunder past and the sound of hooves recedes.
Perceval checks his newly found sword, slashes the air to
feel the weapon's balance. He re-sheathes it. He pats the
horse.

PERCEVAL
We'll become good friends.

He starts off again, into the patchless forest of dead trees.

He is suddenly set upon by a wildman who, swinging a small
uprooted tree, knocks him off his horse. Perceval crashes to
the ground and before he can use his sword the wildman has
knocked it out of his hand.

It is Lancelot, demented, who furiously rains battering blows
on Perceval's armor, bellowing with rage. All that Perceval
can do is attempt to avoid the blows. Lancelot addresses
Perceval as if the young knight were Lancelot himself.

LANCELOT
Where are you going, Lancelot, in
your iron tomb? Still trying to save
the world?
(He hammers blows
into Perceval's armor)
The best... the bravest... the
greatest... fool that ever lived.
Now the world rots. Death is king of
the earth. And it is you who make it
so, Lancelot.

Before Perceval can speak, Lancelot disappears again into
the forest, his eyes blank, as though his encounter with the
young knight had never happened.

A knot of pain, Perceval pulls himself up. He tries to rise
into the saddle. He is too hurt to do it. He starts off on
foot, slowly, leading the horse.

EXT. DEAD FOREST AND STREAM - NIGHT

It is very dark and Perceval has to feel his way.

He comes to the edge of a stream. He kneels to drink, and
the horse drinks beside him. Then he rests back on his heels,
brooding, too tired to rise.

He lowers his eyes, staring into the dark water, defeated,
empty.

Before him in the water a long thin bar of light appears. He
looks at it amazed. Voices are heard singing very far away.
He reaches out to touch the long strip of light but his hand
just disturbs the water. It is a reflection. The strip grows
wider and the ethereal music is closer.

Perceval looks up. The strip of light is before him,
suspended, thirty feet above. It continues to grow wider. A
drawbridge is being slowly lowered, allowing a powerful light
to escape from within.

Perceval is terrified. In pain, he slowly rises into the
saddle, ready to gallop off; but fascinated, hypnotized by
the sight, he cannot, and he stays and watches.

The dim outline of a castle becomes visible as the drawbridge
is lowered across the water to the ground at his feet. At
the center of the blast of light coming from the castle,
Perceval can make out a burning chalice. The music swells to
a terrifying pitch, searing the forest.

EXT. ENTRANCE TO CASTLE - NIGHT

At the sight of the chalice, Perceval masters his fear. Bathed
in light and music, he spurs the horse forward onto the
drawbridge.

Once he is on it, the bridge begins to rise. Unsure of its
footing and blinded by the light, the horse becomes skittish,
and Perceval has to struggle to control it. He dismounts to
lead it, but the horse is terrified, rears up and jumps off
the bridge, which continues to rise, drawn up by unseen hands.

Perceval hesitates, then advances down the sloping drawbridge
into the castle courtyard. All details are bleached out by
the blinding light. The chalice appears suspended in space,
and now the figure of a man can be glimpsed standing behind
it.

Enchanting music from unseen singers grows and weaves.
Perceval looks back to see the drawbridge slowly closing,
trapping him inside.

He approaches the figure, his courage ebbing. Hands cupping
the chalice, it speaks to him.

FIGURE
What is the secret of the chalice?
Who does it serve?

Perceval doesn't understand. He glances back again. The
drawbridge is nearly closed. Terror seizes him.

Panicked, puzzled, baffled, he backs away. He scrambles up
the drawbridge desperate to reach the top before it closes.
He claws his way up till his hand grasps the top. He heaves
himself through the narrow closing slit which is about to
crush him. He screams, and with a final effort he wriggles
free and topples over crashing into the water below.

EXT. DEAD FOREST AND STREAM - NIGHT

He looks up. The drawbridge thunders shut, the last thin
strip of light disappearing; and now he is surrounded only
by the silence of the forest.

Where there was a castle, now there is darkness. Perceval
wades through the water. He has crossed the stream and all
he can see and feel are tree trunks. The castle has
disappeared. He is utterly defeated.

PERCEVAL
The chalice. The secret was in my
grasp. I let it slip, afraid for
myself. A question was asked. I didn't
understand. I didn't try. I failed...

FADE OUT:

A LEGEND APPEARS:

"Nine years passed."

FADE IN:

INT. CAVE BENEATH CAMELOT.

Dripping water is steadily encrusting the crystal with
limestone.

INT. HALL OF THE ROUND TABLE, CAMELOT - DAY

Dead knights lay on biers. The once glorious seat of power
is falling into decay. Few are in attendance around the table.
Agitated, Kay enters and goes to Arthur, who is worn and
haggard, and aged.

KAY
Your son Mordred is at the gate.

Arthur comes alive.

ARTHUR
At last...

KAY
Don't recognize him. You were trapped
by Morgana's sorcery.

ARTHUR
(staring off)
...Gawain and Perceval, Bors and
Bohort, Caradoc and Ector, and all
the others--lost to me. Only the
echo of their voices remains in this
empty hall. All I have left is the
memory of their fellowship. Echoes
and memories. I am a ghost of the
King that once was...
(he turns to Kay and
with sudden harshness)
...Mordred is real, alive, my own
flesh and blood. I will see him, I
must.

EXT. GATE, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE CAMELOT - DAY

The drawbridge lowers slowly, and Arthur moves away from Kay
and the other knights, and advances across it.

Rooks wheel over the dead trees of the forest that surrounds
Camelot. A group of armed men waits at the edge of the forest.
One steps forward, a huge knight in black armor, the metal
defining and exaggerating the powerful musculature of his
body. He is Mordred, a young man of eighteen, and of
extraordinary beauty. A page follows ten steps behind him
bearing an enormous spear, its points hooded. Arthur stops
at the edge of the drawbridge, the huge knight a few steps
from him. Kay, ready for anything, moves halfway across the
drawbridge.

Mordred kneels on one knee.

MORDRED
Father...

ARTHUR
Rise, Mordred.

MORDRED
I have come to claim what is mine,
Father.

ARTHUR
I recognize you only as my son, no
more.

MORDRED
(his tone is scathing)
And you are the great King? The lords
have rebelled. Invaders attack the
coasts. Crops don't grow. There is
nothing but plague and hunger in the
land. Only I am feared. I will be
king. You may have lost Excalibur,
but I have found my own weapon of
power. There.

He points to the huge lance. The page pulls a string and the
hood drops, revealing a diabolically sharp spear tip, its
metal glinting menacingly.

MORDRED
The very spear that pierced the side
of Christ as he died on the cross.

ARTHUR
Your mother told you that?

Mordred is thrown off by the doubt Arthur has cast. Arthur
looks upon his son, desperately trying to read him.

ARTHUR
I cannot offer you the land, only my
love...

MORDRED
And I offer only this, Father. To
commit with passion and pleasure all
the evils that you failed to commit,
as man and king.

Arthur goes forward to embrace his son, a desperate attempt.
Mordred recoils.

MORDRED
We will embrace only in battle.
Father, and I will touch you only
with the blade of my spear.

Arthur is on the verge of tears.

MORDRED
I will muster a great force of
knights, and I will return to fight
for what is mine.

ARTHUR
So be it.

He turns and re-enters the castle, the drawbridge pulled up
immediately behind him. He is hunched over, broken.

EXT. BARREN LAND - EVENING

Asleep in the saddle, Perceval rides across burnt and
smoldering fields. The horse walks aimlessly; it is the same
animal, mangy and old. A hoard of children in filthy rags
closes in on him, begging, pulling at the horse's trappings.
He bolts awake and reins away. His eyes are red and feverish.

Wild hope grips him when he sees a glinting light by a
farmhouse. He spurs the horse forward into a gallop.

EXT. FARM - EVENING

He leaps from the saddle and a terrified woman backs away.
Perceval plunges his hand into the source of light. It is
nothing but the reflection of the dying sun in a bucketful
of water. Perceval covers his face.

PERCEVAL
Illusions. I will never find it
again... I am sorry, woman, that I
frightened you.

Peasants have emerged, surrounding him, and they hold axes
and pitchforks.

PERCEVAL
Good woman, do you have any food?
Some water?...

PEASANT
The little we had, we gave to
Mordred's knights. He has taken this
land. Tell the King that now we must
look to Mordred.

SECOND PEASANT
But we will give you some water...

At least ten peasants encircle Perceval and he is too
exhausted to put up a fight. They grab him and carry him
away. Other peasants pull his horse to the ground, and one
raises and ax to kill it.

EXT. STREAM, BARREN LAND - EVENING

They throw Perceval down an escarpment and he rolls into the
fast-moving water. He is swept downstream and thrown
ferociously against the rocks in the stream bed, crying out
in pain.

EXT. RIVER AND UNDERWATER - EVENING

The water is deeper and Perceval is dragged under by the
weight of his armor. He struggles desperately to shed it,
half drowning.

Exhausted, he pulls himself up onto the muddy shore beside a
rotting sheep carcass, and around him, the daylight dies.

EXT. RIVER - NIGHT

Ragged and bruised, lifeless, he stares into space.

PERCEVAL
I have lost my horse, my armor, my
sword. I have lost my way. I have
lost my strength. I have lost
everything... I will not lose hope.

A light bursting through the trees shines on the mud,
wordless, harmonies sound somewhere in the forest. Perceval
sets off toward the source.

The burning light blasts into his face but he doesn't flinch.
The chorus builds in power. Before him, a drawbridge lowers.

EXT. CASTLE GATE - NIGHT

He steps onto the bridge and walks in. He crosses the
courtyard as the drawbridge closes behind him. All details
of the castle are bleached out by the searing light.

EXT. CASTLE GATE - NIGHT

He steps onto the bridge and walks in. He crosses the
courtyard as the drawbridge closes behind him. All details
of the castle are bleached out by the searing light.

INT. CASTLE, VARIOUS

Heading for the source of the light he ascends what seem to
be a staircase. He enters a hall where the chalice stands
suspended, burning with light, and the mysterious music swirls
and grows.

Perceval approaches the diaphanous and featureless Figure
who stands over the chalice.

FIGURE
Who does it serve?

PERCEVAL
You, my lord.

FIGURE
I have waited long for you. Once you
almost saw, but fear blinded you.
Why am I served from the chalice?

PERCEVAL
Because you and the land are one.

FIGURE
I am wasting away and I cannot die.
And I cannot live.

PERCEVAL
You and the land are one. Drink from
the chalice. You will be reborn and
the land with you.

Perceval cups his hands around the chalice to lift it. But
they close on nothing, and he draws back. The Figure's hands,
although insubstantial, grasp Perceval's and appear to hold
his hands around the cup.

FIGURE
But who am I?

Perceval begins to kneel.

PERCEVAL
You are my lord and King. You are
Arthur.

The blinding light vanishes, the music drifts away.

INT. HALL OF THE ROUND TABLE - NIGHT

Perceval falls to his knees before Arthur and he holds the
chalice, now whole again, up to the King. It fills with blood
from within and Arthur takes it from Perceval. He drinks.
And having done so, he seems to become younger and to grow
in strength.

ARTHUR
I didn't know how empty was my soul
until it was filled.

Sir Kay stands by the vast fireplace where a small fire burns,
and only now looks up and is aware of Perceval.

KAY
Perceval, you have returned!

ARTHUR
Ready my knights for battle; they
will ride with their King once more.
I have lived through others far too
long! Lancelot carried my honor and
Guenevere my guilt. My knights have
fought my causes. Mordred carries my
sins. Now, at last, I will rule.

EXT. WOODS AND FIELDS - NIGHT

Arthur at the head of a small force of knights, their armor
shining beneath the moon, gallops through the land. Where
hooves thunder, the ground becomes alive with sprouts and
tendrils, and bare trees start to bud, and grasses to blossom,
the power of Nature exploding into life.

INT. CONVENT - DAWN

An old nun approaches the doors, upon which someone is
pounding loudly. She opens the peephole. It is Arthur.

NUN
Go away. No man is allowed beyond
these doors.

ARTHUR
I am Arthur.

The old nun is amazed and starts pushing open the many bolts,
mumbling and agitated.

INT. CONVENT COURTYARD - DAWN

She leads the King, his footsteps ringing in the silent
cloister, past the doors to the cells. His armor is wet with
dew and it shines with a dull and deep luster. Nuns whisper
at his transit. She opens the door to a cell and Arthur steps
inside.

INT. CELL - DAWN

Candles flicker on a small altar before which a nun is
praying. She turns to see who has entered. It is Guenevere,
older, thin with self-denial, all the more beautiful. She
looks up at the majestic figure who stands before her. She
nearly swoons. He helps her to her feet, and words rush from
deep within him.

ARTHUR
Guenevere, accept my forgiveness,
and put your heart to rest. We have
suffered to long. I have always loved
you, and I still love you.

She weeps.

GUENEVERE
I loved you much, as King, and
sometimes as husband, but one cannot
gaze too long at the sun in the sky.

ARTHUR
Forgive me, my wife, if you can. I
was not born to live a man's life,
but to be the stuff of future memory.
The fellowship was a brief beginning,
a fair time that cannot be forgotten;
and because it will not be forgotten,
that fair time may come again. Now
once more I must ride with my knights
to defend what was, and the dream of
what could be.

GUENEVERE
I have kept it.

She draws back the covers of her pallet, and there is
Excalibur. Arthur is overwhelmed by emotion; he can barely
speak

ARTHUR
I never dared to hope all these years
that it was in your keeping.

He kneels before her and kisses her thigh. She gazes off,
remembering the life of long ago. He rises and looks off
into her eyes, unable to find the words; he finally does.

ARTHUR
I have often thought that in the
hereafter of our lives, when I owe
no more to the future and can be
just a man, that we may meet, and
you will come to me and claim me as
yours, and know that I am your
husband. It is a dream I have...

He takes Excalibur by the hilt and exits.

INT. CONVENT COURTYARD - DAWN

The nuns scatter before him in awe and terror. He strides
forward, Excalibur in hand. He stops and tests its balance,
and he draws force from it.

ARTHUR
Guenevere...

EXT. WOODS - DAY

Excalibur gleams in the sunlight. Arthur holds it high, at
the head of a small force of knights under the banner of the
Dragons. Kay and Perceval ride at his side. Plumed helmets,
shields blazing with armorial colors, pennants flying in the
clean wind from their lances; it is a brave sight. The trees
are in blossom and dandelion fluff billows up at their
passage.

EXT. PIT, MOORS - DAY

Arthur's group comes to a halt. Two knights and a few squires
galloping from the opposite direction rein in before the
King. The knights draw their swords in homage, and the older
one addresses Arthur.

KNIGHT
It is only me and my son. All other
knights of the dukedom have rallied
to Mordred.

Arthur smiles hiding the hurt. He points to an open pit, a
huge devastation.

ARTHUR
What horror is that?

KNIGHT
Mordred, sir. He digs for precious
metals, with which he buys the loyalty
of men at arms, binding them to his
side.

EXT. THE MOORS - ARTHUR'S WAR CAMP - LATE EVENING

It is a clear night and the sky blazes with stars. A crescent
moon casts its silvery light upon Arthur, who wanders from
his camp alone.

EXT. STONEHENGE, THE MOORS - LATE EVENING

He stops in the ancient circle of Druidic stones.

ARTHUR
I am outnumbered ten to one by
Mordred's forces. Merlin, I need you
at my side as you were once, my
friend, to give me courage. There
are no war tricks that will fool
Mordred. He was weaned on blood.

He falls on his knees in front of the stone, tired, between
thinking and dreaming, and he bangs his mailed fist against
it.

ARTHUR
More than I ever did, I need you
now. Where are you, Merlin? Is it
true that Morgana has trapped you?

INT. CAVE BELOW CAMELOT

The veins of crystal glow darkly, and the hammering of
Arthur's fist upon the stone is dimly echoed here. In the
red crystal, fragments of Merlin can be glimpsed, trapped,
frozen.

EXT. STONEHENGE - LATE EVENING

Arthur slips off into sleep. The stones around him distort.
He speaks softly, but then though the words continue, his
lips are closed.

ARTHUR
...If only you could be at my side,
Merlin, to see me wield Excalibur
once more...

INT. CAVE BELOW CAMELOT

The crystal is cracking, shards falling to the cave floor.

EXT. STONEHENGE - NIGHT

Arthur is still on his knees, and he sits back, looking up.
But the atmosphere is different, within a dream, and the
stones of the henge loom larger over him now.

ARTHUR
What is this place? It is rumored
Merlin, that you drew your power
from these circles...

A hand ruffles the King's hair. He turns, and is face to
face with Merlin, standing over him. Arthur looks at him
without surprise, as though the intervening years never were.
Merlin begins to laugh his hideous giggle. Arthur rises.

ARTHUR
Quiet. You'll wake the men, and they
must fight tomorrow for their very
lives.

MERLIN
I know. I have heard noises and echoes
through the stones...

ARTHUR
What is this place, Merlin?

MERLIN
It is like a tree. The roots of the
stones spread out across the land
and they draw on the thoughts and
actions of men. Like sap those human
matters course through the stones
feeding the stars that are the leaves
of the tree. And the stars whisper
back to men the future course of
events.
(becoming passionate)
But the earth is being torn apart,
its metals stolen, and the balance
is broken and the lines of power no
longer converge. In fact, I nearly
didn't make it in one piece.

He limps affectedly and stretches with exaggerated pain.

MERLIN
But, I'm here.

ARTHUR
Where have you been these many years?
Is it true that Morgana--

MERLIN
--Stories... You brought me back.
Your love brought me back. Back to
where you are now, in the land of
dreams...

ARTHUR
Is this a dream? Tell me, Merlin!

Merlin smiles, turns and leaves, heading for Arthur's camp,
giggling. Arthur starts off after him and awakens from the
dream when he walks into one of the stones. It takes him a
moment to realize that Merlin has vanished.

ARTHUR
Merlin?!

He hurries away toward the camp.

INT. KAY'S TENT, ARTHUR'S WAR CAMP - NIGHT

Arthur shakes Kay awake, and as the faithful knight comes
out of a deep sleep, he clutches Arthur's arm.

KAY
Merlin, will I live...?
(he shakes away the
dream)
...I was dreaming...

ARTHUR
Of Merlin?

KAY
Yes. He spoke to me. He said I would
fight bravely tomorrow. I have never
dreamed of Merlin before.

ARTHUR
I dreamed of him too... Merlin lives!
He lives in our dreams now, in that
dark and shadowy place that is as
strong and real as this more solid
one. He speaks to us from there.

EXT. MORDRED'S WAR CAMP - NIGHT

Cape flowing, Merlin sweeps between Mordred's war tents, and
in the logic of dreams, unseen by the guards. He passes a
tent where the huge shadow of Mordred is thrown on the canvas,
as he sharpens the blade of a fearsome spear.

He enters a tent.

INT. MORGANA'S TENT - NIGHT

She is stunningly beautiful in her sleep. Merlin leans over
her lovely body, kisses her softly on the lips, and waits
for her to awaken.

MERLIN
I have returned, enchantress. You
are beautiful, magnificent. Have you
used up all the magic you stole from
me to keep yourself young? Have you
any magic left to do battle with
Merlin?

INT. TENT - MORGANA'S DREAM

She rises from her sleeping body.

MORGANA
You provoke me, Merlin.

MERLIN
What's behind that beauty? A wizened,
cold-hearted snake.

Merlin steps back, grandiose and melodramatic.

MERLIN
You are a snake about to strike!

He raises his staff.

MERLIN
And I am the staff that drives the
snake back.

He lowers the staff with dreamlike slowness and she slinks
right up to him.

MORGANA
Burning with the fire of desire, I
am the flames that consume the staff
to ashes.

She winds her fluttering hands around the staff, and the
shadows they cast upon the tent give the illusion of licking
flames.

MERLIN
I am the cloudburst that quenches
the flames.

MORGANA
I am the desert, where water
disappears--

MERLIN
--I am the sea, which covers the
desert forever under its weight.

MORGANA
--I am the fog and mists that rise
up from the sea, escaping...

She laughs at her cleverness.

MERLIN
Fog and mist! You couldn't be that.
You don't have enough magic.

INT. MORGANA'S TENT - NIGHT

Morgana tosses and mutters in her tormented dream.

MORGANA
...I have the desire and I have the
magic...

INT. TENT - MORGANA'S DREAM

Merlin, huge, magnetic, enfolds Morgana in his cape.

MERLIN
You are mine at last. I am the sea
and you will never escape me. Fog
and Mist...!?

And he laughs at her, suffocating her. Morgana begins chanting
the charm of Making, desperate--

INT. MORGANA'S TENT - NIGHT

--and she finishes uttering it in her sleep. Her eyes spring
open, and vapors issue from her gaping mouth. She screams
and the fog gushes out filling the tent.

EXT. MORGANA'S TENT, MORDRED'S WAR CAMP - NIGHT

Fog billows out of the tent, spreading through the camp.

INT. MORGANA'S TENT - NIGHT

LIEUTENANT
A fog is rising, sir.

MORDRED
That cannot be.

He rises and goes out with the lieutenant.

EXT. MORDRED'S WAR CAMP - NIGHT

It is fogbound, the campfires yellow smudges within it.

MORDRED
(to the lieutenant)
My mother has a sense for such things.
She said there would be no fog.

Mordred enters his mother's tent.

INT. MORGANA'S TENT - NIGHT

Mordred enters.

MORDRED
...Mother?

Morgana, withered, old, lies dead in the bed, wisps of smoke
rising from within her ruptured body.

EXT. MOORS BY THE SEA - FOG - DAWN

Arthur, with Kay and Perceval, canters through the white
fog. They are flanked by a phalanx of knights in silver armor.

ARTHUR
Kay, you will lead the attack.
Perceval, you will stay with me.

Kay draws his sword in salute, elated.

ARTHUR
Be cautious, my brother.

He spurs forward, while Arthur reins to a halt, watching him
disappear. Perceval and a few knights stay behind and surround
the King.

ARTHUR
In this battle there is one thing I
must do, that no one else can. Find
Mordred and kill him.

Ahead, the horrible din of joined battle.

In the swirling fog, clash of arms follows clash of arms.
There is confusion, for each knight is unable to see if he
is fighting friend or foe until they are upon each other.

The battle becomes a series of vicious duels, a knight in
silver armor against a knight in black-burnished armor, just
glimpsed in the fog that is alive with the clang of sword on
shield, the pounding of hooves, the cries of the dying.

Squires drag away their wounded knights, their young faces
pale at the sight of the carnage.

Kay is unhorsed but picks himself up and mounts a riderless
horse, rejoining the combat although he is bleeding.

EXT. MOORS BY THE SEA - FOG - DAY

It is full day, and the fog blinds with its painful glare.
Arthur with Perceval at his side rides through the fog,
searching. Perceval takes up a challenge against the King.
He unhorses this opponent, piercing him with his lance. He
returns to the King's side.

PERCEVAL
There are too many on Mordred's side.
We cannot hold out much longer.

Kay is glimpsed fighting on foot, hurt, barely holding his
own, but then the sight is hidden in the fog.

Kay overcomes his opponent and stops to catch his breath. He
is amazed by what he sees. A knight, in old, battle-scarred
armor whose pieces don't match, cuts down the knights in
black in foray after foray, wheeling and turning in a
brilliant and ruthless spectacle of martial arts. He fights
without a shield, a lance in his left hand and sword in his
right.

Kay moves away in search of Arthur.

Arthur and Perceval watch the lone knight meting out death
with such terrible beauty, weaving in and out of the fog.

KAY
He can be no other.

ARTHUR
Lancelot?... It is Lancelot!

He spurs his horse forward to join him, but Perceval is quick
to stop him.

PERCEVAL
No, my lord. We seek Mordred.

KAY
I will join him.

Kay rises onto a fresh horse and gallops away.

EXT. MOORS BY THE SEA - FOG - LATE DAY

Arthur and Perceval ride alone, the accompanying knights
gone, the dying and the dead and the crazed horses all around
them.

Squires are carrying Kay upon his shield. He is dead. Arthur
leaps to the ground and reaches out to touch his face, and
closes his eyes. He stifles his tears.

ARTHUR
Has anyone seen Lancelot?

SQUIRE
He lies over there, sir.

Arthur rushes off, Perceval following on horseback.

Lancelot is mortally wounded, blood flowing from his abdomen,
his eyes open but his gaze dead. Arthur falls to his side.

ARTHUR
Squire! Here!

But there is no one now except the dead and wounded, and
Perceval, who dismounts to watch over the King, sword drawn.
Desperate, Arthur stops the wound with his hand. Lancelot's
eyes are sightless, but tears spill from them.

LANCELOT
Arthur.

ARTHUR
Lancelot, I will save you... Don't
die.

He tears off a piece of his tunic and staunches the wound
with it.

LANCELOT
My salvation is to die a Knight of
the Round Table.

ARTHUR
You are that and much more. You are
its greatest knight, you are what is
best in men. Now we will be together--

LANCELOT
--It is the old wound, that has been
opened. I have always known it would
be the gateway to my death, for it
has never healed. Let my heart do
its job, my King, and pump me empty...

Arthur takes Lancelot in his arms and rests his lips against
the knight's brow.

LANCELOT
(a death whisper)
Guenevere, has she come to you, is
she Queen again?

He lies, closing his eyes, unable to look at Lancelot.

ARTHUR
She is, Lancelot.

A boyish smile settles over the features of Lancelot's face,
and he dies. Arthur holds him to his breast, his eyes shut
tight.

A strong wind rises. Perceval kneels beside Arthur.

PERCEVAL
The fog is lifting. Only we remain
alive.

EXT. MOORS BY THE SEA - EVENING

Arthur and Perceval rise, and as far as they can see across
the green hills that roll down to the sea lies the aftermath
of the massacre. Hacked bodies, abandoned armor, steaming
horse carcasses, everything still. The murmur of the dying
is carried on the wind to the soft roar of the sea. The
squires have fled the scene of horror.

ARTHUR
But for Mordred. Where is Mordred?

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Mordred searches the dead,
accompanied only by his lieutenant, who turns over the bodies
of Arthur's knights.

MORDRED
Where is Arthur?

One of Arthur's knights reaches out blindly for help. Mordred
crushes his skull underfoot. The shaft of his huge lance is
caked with blood, as are his hands.

Arthur and Perceval see Mordred and his lieutenant, and the
King restrains Perceval from going forward.

ARTHUR
No, Perceval. Now it is time for me
to raise my sword.
(he bellows out)
Mordred, prepare to meet your death.

Shield on his left arm, and Excalibur in his right, he starts
toward Mordred.

MORDRED
I wait for you, Father.

Mordred advances forward, the huge spear in both hands and
parallel to the ground.

Arthur goes straight for him, shield ready to receive the
blow. Mordred keeps walking, his arms now tensed back and
ready to strike.

Once they are within weapon's reach of each other, Mordred
dashes forward and thrusts the spear. It glances off Arthur's
shield, slides under his hauberk and penetrates the King's
body, and so powerful was the blow that the blade pierces
him right through.

Mortally wounded, Arthur's scream of pain becomes a horrible
war cry, and he drives himself forward with all the strength
he has along the spear shaft almost to Mordred's hands.
Mordred is knocked back and to the ground and Arthur presses
down on him, the butt of the spear pinning Mordred. Arthur
lifts Excalibur. Mordred attempts to free himself, as the
blade of Excalibur descends upon him and cuts through metal,
flesh and bone.

Mordred's head falls to the ground, rolling away.

Mordred's lieutenant flees. Perceval races to Arthur's side,
and supports the King who has fallen on his knees. Arthur
speaks through the pain:

ARTHUR
Draw the spear from me. Do it.

Perceval holds the King tight to himself with one arm, while
with the other he draws the shaft through and out of Arthur's
body. Arthur sags but doesn't fall. Perceval begins to remove
his armor to get at the gaping wounds. The King speaks slowly,
softly, from outside his own pain-wracked body.

ARTHUR
There is one thing left to do...
Excalibur... And you must do it,
Perceval. Leave my wounds, I command
you.

PERCEVAL
I cannot--

ARTHUR
--Take Excalibur. Find a pool of
calm water and throw the sword into
it.

Perceval, stunned by the command, doesn't move.

ARTHUR
Obey me, Perceval. You must act for
me. It is my last order as your King.
Do it, and be back!

Perceval picks up the sword, mounts his horse and rides
inland. Arthur watches him go, struggling with the pain,
still kneeling, and then his head falls to his chest.

EXT. POOL, MOORS - EVENING

Perceval steps through tall reeds to the edge of a pool. He
cannot bring himself to throw Excalibur into the water. He
examines the blade, and it is haloed with a faint iridescence.

PERCEVAL
It is too precious a thing. I can't...

He backs away from the water and hides the sword in the reeds,
and starts back.

EXT. MOORS BY THE SEA - EVENING

Perceval dismounts, rushing to kneel at the King's side.
Arthur looks up, calm and intense.

ARTHUR
When you threw it in, what did you
see?

PERCEVAL
...I saw nothing.

The King looks at him with piercing power. Perceval blurts
it out.

PERCEVAL
My King, I couldn't do it. Excalibur
cannot be lost. Other men--

ARTHUR
--By itself it is only a piece of
steel. Its power comes from he who
wields it. For now there is no one.
Do as I have ordered!

Perceval leaves once more. The daylight is failing, the sun
is near the horizon over the sea, bursting through clouds.

EXT. POOL - EVENING

He picks up the sword and looks at it for a long time.
Finally, with great misgiving, he hurls it into the middle
of the pool. As Excalibur is about to touch the water a
woman's hand reaches and grasps it by the hilt. It holds the
sword aloft for a moment and then draws it under.

Perceval backs away from the pool stunned by the marvel.

EXT. MOORS BY THE SEA - SUNSET

Perceval returns to the King, terribly excited, shouting
from his horse:

PERCEVAL
Arthur!

But Arthur isn't there. Perceval looks around him, he doesn't
understand. He sees a trail of blood. He spurs his horse and
follows the trail down to the sea.

EXT. BEACH - SUNSET THEN NIGHT

There is a trail of blood and prints upon the sand left by a
man crawling.

Perceval follows them toward the sea. He looks around,
searching, terribly distraught.

Where the blood and prints cease, there are many footprints
coming from and returning into the sea. Perceval looks out
across the waves.

He sees a sailing vessel rising on the swell. On its deck he
can make out the distant figure of Arthur, lying surrounded
by women, their gossamer robes rippling in the wind. The sun
hovers on the horizon and the ship is heading for it.

He gallops into the waves until his horse will go no further,
calling out with all his strength, a futile attempt:

PERCEVAL
Arthur! Will you return?

The sun slips below the horizon. Night is falling, and the
wind whips the wavecrests. He turns from the sea and wades
back.

PERCEVAL
All the knights of the Round Table
are dead. Excalibur is returned.
Arthur is gone. Maybe he lives, maybe
he will return...

He stops at the edge of the water. In the uncertain light
sky and sea become one. He draws the chalice out of a pouch
on his saddle, and he holds it up before him.

PERCEVAL
Only I remain, and this...

The wind swirls and whistles mysteriously in the hollow of
the cup. Music grand and melancholic grows from it. The
chalice, etched in starlight, is the last thing that is taken
from sight in the enfolding darkness.

FADE OUT:

THE END

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