The sounds of LIGHT WIND through long grass and GENTLE
WATERS lapping on a shore.
"In that day the Lord with His severe
sword, great and strong, shall punish
Leviathan the twisted serpent"
~ Isaiah 27:1
EXT. MARSHLAND - DAY
Mist creeps in from the sea. A pale sun setting on a broad
no-man's-land of reed beds, dank ditches and dark pools.
GRAVEWICK, ENGLAND, 1535
The deep distant call of Bitterns -- BHOOOW! -- BHOOOW! --
BHOOOW! -- haunt the gloaming.
EXT. CREEK ROAD - DAY
The rutted track runs through wetlands alongside a dead-
straight waterway. Out of the mist appears a cloaked and
HOODED MAN, stout staff in hand, his clothes sodden.
He hurries past a small and deathly silent stone church --
and disappears farther into the grey fens.
A raven watches, hunched atop a roadside gibbet with its
hanging corpse not yet picked clean. The fast dying light a
pressing deadline -- the Hooded Man quickens his pace.
Stopping abruptly, he peers along a side path. Lowering his
hood reveals the stern face of ADAM SPEEDWELL, 42, a trusted
serjeant-at-arms of the county. His keen eyes spy yellow
glimmers through the mist.
KAAARR! KAAARR! -- The raven strikes Speedwell's head. He
cowers as the large black bird circles back and strikes
again. It turns and dives for a third strike -- but
Speedwell stands tall, swiftly scythes his staff through the
air and smacks the cursed creature to the ground.
The stricken raven flaps and squawks. Calmly, Speedwell
pile-drives his staff straight down on the raven's head,
killing it outright.
Raising his hood, Speedwell steps onto the side path in the
direction of those faint yellow lights.
EXT. 'THE SUN' ALEHOUSE - DAY
Set aside from a huddle of grim dwellings, the squat public
house, thatched with rushes, is marked by a crude painted
helios above the door, lit up between two burning torches.
The noise of REVELRY ebbs and flows from inside.
Speedwell scans the neighbourhood -- nobody in sight. He
unfastens the front of his cloak, revealing the hilt of his
longsword, and strides to the alehouse door.
INT. 'THE SUN' ALEHOUSE - NIGHT
The place is cramped, packed with commoners of every age,
shape and size. A central fireplace boils pots of stew and
roasts swine. Maids fill wooden mugs with flat brown beer.
The patrons' carousing hushes to a murmur. Speedwell stands
at a table occupied by three motly fellows. They know him
and clearly resent his presence.
Indictments have come from the King's
Counsel. The abbot Edwin Morton is
named. He'll have no trial, nor
torture. He's to die in Lychmere
DANIEL BALHAM, 55, a mild stout man, puts down his mug.
Our debt is paid, Speedwell. You've
no more claim on us.
Sat beside Balham is BEN PERRY, 22, a ruddy hefty man. He
grins, but his expression stays the same.
By law, your probations hold just
such a claim ... less you wish to
contest your liberty with the
magistrate and a noose.
Sat opposite Perry, THOMAS LOCKE, 37, a wiry rogue, sucks
his teeth, disgruntled. A black dog, SHADOW, 4, lean and
mean, slumbers at his feet.
So, Serjeant, when do we crucify this
papist antichrist? Come next Good
Speedwell eyes Locke with weary disdain, then catches the
arm of a passing maid.
Beer, bread and meat, good lass ...
and no damned eels.
Speedwell sits down on the bench next to Locke.
The cross will never expel Satan from
these Lateran cenobites ... nor fire
purge them. His head must be severed.
Balham and Locke exchange uneasy looks.
We leave at daybreak.
EXT. CREEK ROAD - DAY
Fog lies heavy on the marshes, no sun to be seen. Speedwell
leads the way ... Balham and Perry follow ... Locke trails
behind, eating an apple.
Where be your horse, Serjeant
Balham smirks and Perry sniggers.
She is lost! Drowned in the mire
between Feversham and Gravewick!
Shadow scours waterlogged ditches for carrion.
Shadow! ... Shadow! Get up here!
EXT. COAST ROAD
Mid-morning, clear and bright on the high-banked road
dividing marsh and tidal waters. KYOW! KYOW! -- gulls reel
and squabble way overhead.
Across the estuary's wide mouth, on the coast of another
county, black smoke rises from a church.
Balham, Perry and Locke sit on the roadside, sharing food
parcelled in cloth and drink from water skins. Shadow
paddles ashore, scrambles up the bank, and shakes himself
dry right beside Locke.
Speedwell stands apart, pissing, and gazes towards the
distant walls and bell-tower of Lychmere Abbey, which sits
back from the coast on the far side of a vast lake.
EXT. ABBEY ROAD JUNCTION
A branch off the Coast Road leads around the lake to
Lychmere Abbey. PEEE-WIT! PEEE-WIT! -- a flock of Lapwings
flitter over mirror-bright waters. Speedwell strides onward,
but the three fellows hesitate before taking the turn. The
fly-blown corpse of a horse festers on the verge. Locke
calls Shadow to leave it be.
EXT. ABBEY WALLS
A towering spur of black cloud reaches over the darkening
sea towards the monastery, and flashes with rumbles of
Around the base of high stone walls, a wretched sprawl of
half-derelict shacks, seemingly abandoned. Speedwell walks
on, but the three fellows loiter. Shadow sniffs through
scattered rubbish. Balham kicks at a dead camp-fire,
exposing charred bones.
Where in God's name are the beggars?
Does this damned abbot do no charity?
Shadow WHIMPERS at a broken doorway. Locke investigates.
INT. SHACK - DAY
Locke peers inside the shambolic murk. A pitiful child, in
rags and filth, cowers alone. Locke reaches out.
Hey, don't be afeared.
The waif recoils, HISSING wildly. Locke warily backs out.
EXT. ABBEY GATEHOUSE
A huge pair of solid gates hang open, unmanned. Speedwell
leads his recruits into the abbey grounds.
Watching from the bell-tower is a young NOVICE MONK with
cowled head and a solemn stare. The bell TOLLS six times.
INT. ABBEY REFECTORY - DAY
Tall double doors open inward and the Novice Monk, BROTHER
ENOCH, 14, leads Speedwell and the others into the high-
vaulted dining chamber.
Half-light from quarter-foil windows scarcely illuminates
the long rectangular dining-table at the centre, with seven
dour monks seated each side and a superior either end.
At the end nearest Speedwell broods PRIOR RANALD, 47, a sour
second-in-command. He turns, looks sharply, and moves to
stand, but Speedwell places a firm hand on his shoulder.
In a dark corner, Brother Enoch ducks out through a doorway
beneath a macabre crucifix.
At the far head of the table presides the ABBOT MORTON, 89,
a withered husk of incumbent piety. He lifts his hairless
head and stares down at Speedwell, a steel glint in his
still bright eyes. Speedwell returns the abbot's gaze.
Somewhat early for supper, Abbot
The feast day of Saint Anthony the
Great. It would be a grave sin to let
the bounty of our Lord's mercy go
unconsumed, would it not?
Speedwell slowly paces down one side of the table, scanning
the laden silver platters. He stops halfway. The monks' meal
is almost entirely steaming dishes of weird meat.
Perry glances at Balham and screws up his nose at the odious
smell. Shadow follows close behind Locke as he examines the
religious riches around the room.
The fruit of our garden is truly
(offers up his goblet)
... can I not tempt you, Adam?
Abbot Morton's inscrutable smile lingers.
Speak my Christian name a second
time, deceiver, and I'll feed your
forked tongue to that faithful dog.
But why should a sovereign's loyal
servant fear to learn of truths
I was taught such truths well enough
by your Catholic sisters ... and
their ready whip-hand.
And yet, your righteous thirst
Shut up your venomous pit. We come
with proper warrant to depose its
Speedwell nods to Balham and Perry in the direction of the
abbot, and they approach him from either side of the table.
Abbot Morton stands and drains his goblet.
As Perry reaches out first to seize him, the abbot spews a
mouthful of foul liquor in his face. Shadow BARKS then
quails behind Locke. Perry staggers back, eyes shut tight,
frantically wiping his face with bare hands.
Jesus, it burns!
Balham punches Morton hard in the face ... but the old abbot
I bloody knew it. The papist kunt
drinks from the serpent's cup.
Prior Ranald and several other monks stand up. Speedwell
reaches for his longsword.
Sit you down, brothers!
Please, brothers, be not disturbed.
It is gospel to forsake me ... and
the serjeant's vulgar treatment shall
prove itself an ill remedy.
Abbot Morton sits, and the other standing monks follow his
lead. Speedwell lets go his sword's hilt. The abbey bell
TOLLS six times.
INT. ABBEY CRYPT
Deep gloom. Echoes of FLOWING WATER. Brother Enoch kneels,
head bowed, WHISPERING a recitation. Rosary beads run
through his clasped hands. Before him, in an arched alcove,
is a small and strangely protean figurine that holds
something like a cruciform trident.
EXT. MONASTERY COURTYARD - DAY
An inner square with east and west archways. Along each
side, rows of columns support the dark cloister's sloping
roof. The court is wide open to the blackened sky and
Speedwell strides from the east archway to the centre of the
courtyard, plants his staff in the soft ground, and looks
skyward. The downpour washes over his face.
Balham and Perry bring Morton. Balham appears anxious, but
the abbot is calm. Perry seems oddly unsteady. He winces as
rain splashes his bloodshot eyes, a spidery white stain in
the pupils. Locke and Shadow wait by the archway they all
Speedwell nods to where he wants the abbot. Balham and Perry
oblige, then back away on opposite sides.
By my grace, you may speak your Pater
And, by my eternal vice, may your
Vicar General's putrid seed quench
your thirst in hell.
The old abbot, already drenched, kneels and bows his head
with his arms down-stretched sideways. Speedwell crosses
himself and draws his longsword.
The abbey bell TOLLS six times. Balham and Locke look
upward, unsettled by the bell's third time of tolling.
Two handed, Speedwell raises the severe blade to the raging
heavens -- mouths a brief lament -- and brings it down hard
and fast. SHWOOOTH! -- a clean cut. The abbot's severed head
hits the ground, but no blood flows.
Instantly, the headless Morton grabs hold of the blade with
both hands and, rising to his feet, wrenches the sword from
Speedwell. Using the butt of the hilt, headless Morton
strikes his executioner an almighty blow to the gut.
Speedwell flies backward across the courtyard, slams against
one of the cloister's stone columns, and lies unconscious.
Balham and Perry step back from headless Morton. Locke
dashes to Speedwell's aid, with Shadow close by him.
Brother Enoch darts out from the cloister, grabs Abbot
Morton's head, and hurries back into the darkness.
Morton's body convulses. Bent double, his backbone protrudes
from arse to vacant neck, then ruptures into a bony ridge
that rips through his habit. From his neck stump, the
severed end of spine jerks out several inches. Then again
and again -- SHLOK! -- SHLOK! -- ratcheting longer and
longer -- a thick twisted root of wedge-sharp vertebrae,
flexing more like cartilage than bone.
Holy Mother of Christ!
I can't see ... I'm blind.
Perry staggers, terrified, both eyes completely white. The
tip of headless Morton's snaking backbone slows and stops in
front of Perry's face -- stabs into his slack mouth -- and
bursts out the back of his head. Balham looks in horror.
Headless Morton's lethal spine jolts out from Perry with a
spray of blood. Perry's lifeless body drops to the ground.
Balham dashes towards his fallen friend, but headless
Morton's serpentine spine -- now twenty feet long at
least -- whips around and slices through Balham's neck,
lopping his head clear off. Balham's headless body runs on a
few feet, stumbling to the ground, blood gushing from its
Headless Morton's open gullet throbs and peels apart,
deforming into a monstrous gaping mouth studded with row
upon row of barbed teeth. His torn habit hangs down, baring
unnaturally sleek skin with an almost metallic glaucous
Speedwell comes round, much to Locke's relief. Monstrous
Morton lurches towards them, his searching spine reaching
out for more.
Have at him, boy!
(Continued in next post!)