SCRIPT, Page One Corresponding Gallery
Note: This is the original finished script for "Mists of Avalon", written by Gavin Scott, dated June 9th, 1999. There are many differences between this script and the filmed version.. To see pictures from corresponding scenes on each page of the script, click on the link Corresponding Gallery above or on the gallery links next to specific scenes. There is an excellent interview with the author about this project here.
EXT. TINTAGEL CASTLE - DAY
A wild, romantic castle perched on a cliff beside the sea.
The Roman empire had fallen, and Britain was alone, under siege from the barbarians as they poured across Europe. My father the Duke of Cornwall had taken up arms to hold them at bay - while at home in Tintagel, my mother sat in her chamber - spinning.
INT. tower CHAMBER (Tintagel) - DAY (gallery)
Tight on a spinning wheel, turning hypnotically.
But spinning was dangerous for Igraine of Avalon. That endlessly revolving wheel could bring on, unbidden, the Sight.
Pull back to reveal the wheel is a reflection in a moonstone pendant hanging from a silver chain around the neck of IGRAINE, DUCHESS OF CORNWALL: a beautiful, gentle woman in her early twenties.
MORGAINE (V.O.) (cont'd)
Igraine was closer to the doors of the other world than most mortals - closer, in truth, than she wanted to be.
The chamber is a tower room, with rough-hewn granite walls, softened by tapestries. Logs burn in the stone fireplace. There is a thick fog outside; tendrils of it creep in through the stone embrasures of the windows. Igraine's daughter, MORGAINE, a dark-haired, intense girl in her teens is studying a book. For a moment the scene is cosy, domestic, tranquil.
MORGAINE (V.O.) (cont'd)
She came of a line of women in whom the power of the Goddess ran strong. She thought she had already paid the price for that inheritance: but in reality, the payment was just about to begin.
When I think back on it, that afternoon at Tintagel was the last moment of real peace any of us were ever to know.
Morgaine looks up lazily from her book - and realizes something is wrong.
Mother! Look away! You'll go into the trance!
But Igraine does not respond. Morgaine jumps up.
A hand falls on her arm: it is her aunt MORGAUSE, Igraine's sister. At twenty Morgause has a soft, sensuous, catlike quality: she is lying on a couch now, and does not want to be disturbed.
Leave her be! Let her have her visions. There's little enough else here to amuse her.
(with some regret of her own)
Not even a man, since Duke Gorlois went to the wars.
But aunt, she hates it when the Sight comes on her: her head hurts for days. And my father will be angry if he hears she has gone back to the old ways.
Your mother is of the blood of Avalon, Morgaine; the Sight will come to her whether she wills it or not. And the Duke need never hear any of this.
(She grips Morgaine tight)
A clash of wills: then suddenly Igraine speaks out in a trance-like voice.
The Merlin is coming. And my sister Viviane with him. We must make ready.
Morgaine and Morgause look at her: although they are both familiar with the Sight, it still generates a tingle of supernatural awe.
They bear tidings. All our fates are in their hands: and all Britain's.
And what are they bringing for me, sister? A husband? Is Viviane bringing me a duke as she brought Gorlois to you?
Or am I to remain your unmarried sister forever?
Morgause's urgent questioning snaps Igraine out of her trance: she stares at her sister and daughter as if she had forgotten their existence - and then suddenly becomes utterly focused and businesslike.
Sister: see the kitchen-master - we must kill the calf from the north pasture. Daughter - tell the servants to prepare rooms for the lady and the Merlin both. And have the harper found - we must have music!
I have my harp, Mother. I can play.
You know what Father Cuthbert says about girls who -
Mother - I can play.
EXT. COUNTRYSIDE - DAY
A PEASANT is digging in his fields as a wind rises around him: a supernatural breeze we will always associate with the arrival of Viviane. The peasant looks up to see Viviane, Merlin and their servants riding swiftly by on their errand. He crosses himself in superstitious fear.
At the top of a rise Viviane reins in her horse and draws a deep breath. There before them, on the skyline, is Tintagel Castle.
And so - it begins.
And where will it end, lady?
In a future neither of us can know, Merlin. But that does not stop us trying to shape it.
And as she rides down towards Tintagel a bolt of lightning crackles across the sky.
INT. GREAT HALL (Tintagel) - NIGHT
The feast of welcome is almost over. Merlin, Igraine, Morgause and Viviane sit at the head of a table of about a dozen courtiers, with Morgaine playing on the harp. The hall, though its walls are massive and its beams ancient, isn't particularly grand; torches flicker against rough, undecorated stone; but the eerie sweetness of Morgaine's music seems to transport them into another world.
Does it not remind you of Avalon, Igraine?
Igraine looks at him sharply.
The memory of Avalon has been painful to me since you and Viviane cast me out, Merlin.
Cast you out? We gave you in marriage to a great Christian duke. You went forth as an emissary of Avalon, not an outcast.
You sent me into exile, sister, for the sake of the island of mists.
(She looks away from her)
You have done such things before, you will do them again. You are the High Priestess.
Has not Gorlois treated you kindly, child?
As kindly as a warrior lord twice her age can ever treat a frightened virgin. As kindly as a Christian ruler can ever treat a pagan.
Never use that word, sister. You are a follower of the Goddess, a devotee of the old religion: the true religion.
Are you so sure of that, Viviane?
There's a moment of shocked silence. Viviane's face hardens.
Have you turned apostate since you came to Cornwall?
Igraine gestures down the table to where a Christian priest, FATHER CUTHBERT, is conversing with TALBOT, the commander of the guard.
Father Cuthbert would have me believe that our only hope of heaven is through Christ.
Heaven! Have you forgotten the power that lies in Avalon?
Father Cuthbert breaks off from his other conversation to turn to her.
The world has moved on since the days of the Goddess, lady - since our Lord died on the cross to atone Eve's sin.
Suddenly we see Viviane assume the posture of the Lady of the Lake: larger than life; genuinely awe-inspiring: the very embodiment of the Goddess.
Eve committed no sin, priest. The story of the apple is a fantasy concocted by a tribe of desert nomads to frighten their womenfolk. Come to Avalon and you will see the truth.
Set foot on that island of sprites and evil spirits? Never!
Viviane stares at him: the priest - quails.
INT. tower chamber (Tintagel) - night (gallery)
Merlin, Viviane and Igraine are seated around the fire, watching the log disintegrate into ashes.
So Avalon crumbles, Igraine, drifting
away from the world of men and fading into the mists.
Unless we here prevent it.
We can turn the tides of history, can we?
If the Saxon barbarians overwhelm this island, the wisdom of Avalon is lost.
The Christians believe they can hold the Saxons at bay.
But they cannot do it alone, Igraine. This land needs a leader to whom both Christians and followers of the Goddess can give allegiance. Someone with the blood of Avalon in his veins.
Perhaps so. But the High King is too old to father a son, and even you cannot imagine -
Ambrosius will be dead within the month, Igraine. Viviane has foreseen it.
Igraine looks at them, shocked - and then thinks she understands.
You mean Gorlois, my husband, will become High King in his place? That I will bear the king you speak of?
You will bear that king, Igraine. Yes.
Viviane leans in close to her sister. Her hand moves in a strange gesture over a goblet.
But not to Gorlois. Gorlois will not be chosen High King.
A brooch appears in the water of the goblet with a curious dragon design embedded in it. Igraine stares at it, hypnotised.
You will bear the child to the man whose sign this is, Igraine.
And through your loins will come the future of Britain.
Igraine snaps out of the trance into which they are lulling her and rounds on them.
But I am married by your will to Duke Gorlois of Cornwall! I have borne him a child!
They stare at her implacably.
I will not betray him!
Igraine, willing or not we are the guardians of something so precious, so holy, we must sacrifice anything to protect it.
Then you sacrifice it, Viviane. You make the man who wears this brooch fall in love with you, and you bear this great new king. I have done my part: it is enough.
Once more Viviane seems to grow taller as she assumes the authority of the Goddess.
Would that I could do what is being asked of you, Igraine: would that I had that high destiny, but I know I do not. I know it is written in the stars that you should bear Britain's savior.
And I tell you this: if you seek to avoid your fate - it will pursue you for life after life, on into eternity - and I will not condemn you to that.
There is no need. I will bear the child, Viviane. I will find this man and make him fall in love with me and produce this new king for you.
Morgause emerges into the firelight.
I am of the same blood as you and Igraine. I have no husband to betray. Why not me?
They stare at her, taken aback: Viviane is the first to recover.
No man or woman can live another's fate, Morgause. There is a king in your future, and sons: but not this king or this son. Be content with that.
Morgause's eyes flash. She has as much steel as her sister - though perhaps it's more brittle.
Be content, sister? Because you say so?
(placing a hand) on her shoulder)
Because it is written, Morgause. And be gone: this matter is not for your ears.
She is about to flash back at him - but his steady goodness drains away her anger.
Come, Morgaine, they are sending us away.
And suddenly they realize that in sneaking into the room to listen, Morgause had brought her young niece with her.
What business had you bringing Morgaine with you, sister? That a child should hear such things ...
Morgaine goes to her mother and takes her hand.
It's all right, Mother. I know you will do what is right. Good night, Father Merlin. Good night, Aunt Viviane.
Viviane looks at Morgaine - and sees, in her, her own younger self. Of all the people in this room, this is the one with whom she feels the strongest emotional tie.
Little Igraine. Grainne, do you remember when I used to call you, Grainne, when we first did service together to the Goddess?
She touches a pendant around Morgaine's neck.
Do you remember when I first gave you this?
Of course, Aunt. It was the day I began to have the Sight.
And with this stunning revelation she turns and leaves the room leaving a small astonished group behind her.
EXT. DOWNLAND - DAY
Pouring rain. A little party of horsemen makes its way along a ridge of the downs, the rain streaming off their leather cloaks, pouring down the scabbards of their swords. As they come towards us we close in on DUKE GORLOIS OF CORNWALL - a handsome, strong-willed man of considerable authority and courage: a warrior of the old school. He wears a distinctive ring on his right hand.
Well, do you regret begging me to take you to the great council, Igraine? Do you miss the comforts of Tintagel now as we struggle the long miles to Londinium?
Igraine is riding beside him, soaking wet.
I was trained as a priestess of Avalon, husband. In Avalon we treat cold and rain as the illusions they are.
Cold and rain are sent by the heavenly Father to remind us we are mortal and sinful, my lady. It did not rain in the garden, before Eve tempted Adam with the apple.
Then how did the flowers grow, Father Cuthbert? Without any water to drink?
A flash of annoyance crosses the priest's face.
It is not a woman's place to question holy writ, Morgaine, and certainly not a child's.
Especially when she has the better of you, eh, Father?
Cuthbert bites back his anger - with difficulty.
Don't fret yourself, Father Cuthbert. Morgaine's a good lass - and sharp as a needle. Are you looking forward to the great council, daughter?
I'm looking forward to London, Father. I'm looking forward to meeting real people.
Suddenly a weird figure rises up from the bushes beside the path: the CRONE. The lead horses shy, and the party comes to a halt, gripped for a moment by superstitious awe. The old woman is blind, and for an eerie moment she feels her way along the horses - until she comes to Morgaine. One hand she places on her bridle - and the other reaches out to clutch at Igraine.
The mother, the sister, the mother of the once and future king. And would be king. May the Goddess protect you.
Gorlois stares at her in fear and horror - and then digs into his horse's flanks.
Begone, crone, begone!
And he spurs his horse away along the ridge.
EXT. CHURCH TOWER (London) - DAY
Tight on a great bell as the rope is pulled and it begins to TOLL. A slow tilt down the ancient stones of the tower towards the street below, with the noise of HOOVES, SQUEAKING CARTS, BARKING DOGS, SHOUTING street vendors and YELLING children GROWING LOUDER - and thus creating a soundscape of Dark-Ages London much larger than anything we will actually need to see. As the camera reaches the foot of the tower, the worshippers in the church are emerging into the crowded street - as Gorlois arrives.
Gorlois, it is good to see you. Has the wound healed?
EXT. STREET (London) - DAY
AMBROSIUS, the aging but handsome High King of Britain is leading the procession out of the church as the crowd outside presses forward, trying to touch Ambrosius's robe.
The wound is forgotten, Your Majesty. But the Saxons will not forget the blows you dealt them.
You and I, Gorlois, you and I. But I fear I will smite no more Saxons.
Nay, my lord, it will be many years before you -
(gesturing him to silence)
It is why I have called the council. Let us break fast together, and talk.
LOT OF ORKNEY steps forward: a dark-haired Scot in his thirties, intense and ambitious.
Your Majesty, you must rest -
There will be time enough for rest all too soon, Lot. Come, Gorlois. And bring the lovely Igraine with you. I would fain meet the sister of the Lady of the Lake while I have the chance.
As Ambrosius and the others disappear into the crowd, Gorlois turns to look for Igraine - who is taking a cloth-wrapped package from a MESSENGER dressed in travel- stained clothes. His eyes narrow.
(to the Messenger)
From the lady, ma'am.
Gorlois's hand closes around the package.
My wife does not receive gifts from messengers unknown to me.
He is not unknown to me, my lord. He is sent by my sister from the Isle of Avalon.
But Gorlois has opened the package - and exclaims in surprise.
But this is the stone you wore when we were wedded! How came this to Avalon?
For a brief instant we see panic in Igraine's face - and then she takes control of herself.
When my sister visited me, I gave her the stone to have the clasp put right. The goldsmiths of Avalon are greater than any in Cornwall.
(taking the pendant from him and putting it on)
Now it is returned to me.
Gorlois looks at her for a moment and then decides to drop the matter.
Come - the High King awaits us. He has heard you are come to Londinium with me and has named you as his guest. It does you honor, Igraine.
Suddenly, as Igraine looks at him, the living Gorlois is replaced by a corpse, a bloodied figure in battle-garb, his hair plastered with rain to his head - and a great sword slash right across his face.
She looks in horror at the vision - and then blinks. And Gorlois is before her again, just as he was.
It does us both honor, husband. I am ready.
INT. council room (London) - DAY (gallery)
Ambrosius is at the head of the table, with Lot on one side, the Welsh King URIENS on the other and Gorlois and Igraine beside him. Next to them, among the LESSER KINGS, is a lean, shrewd, weathered man in his forties: BISHOP PATRICIUS.
Ambrosius holds Igraine's hand with great tenderness.
So you are a daughter of the Holy Isle, Lady Igraine.
(With a look at Patricius)
My priests do not like it that your Druids should be placed on equal footing with them: but I tell them you both serve the Great One above us, by whatever name.
Of late, My Lord, it seems the Christians have begun to push Avalon away from Britain, into the mists.
If Avalon is drifting away, it is because the people no longer believe in it.
It is because you work night and day to pry lose its hold, Bishop Patricius. Because you stand in the pulpit and tell them the Goddess is evil, which is a lie.
Igraine - it is not for you to question an anointed bishop! Or for any woman to engage in religious debate before her king.
Your wife speaks for what she believes in, Gorlois, and I honor her for it.
As Gorlois is about to answer, the room is filled with the sound of YAPPING HOUNDS - and UTHER PENDRAGON comes in, dragged along by their sheer exuberance. A tall, broad-shouldered man in his thirties with a handsome, open face.
Quiet, quiet, you hounds from Hell. My Lord, forgive me.
Surprisingly, Ambrosius smiles indulgently and beckons Uther to join them. Uther gives the leashes of the dogs to a serving man and squeezes somewhat clumsily in on the bench around the table - finding himself directly opposite Igraine - and finds himself staring straight at Igraine's breasts, as if hypnotized. Between them lies the moonstone.
(with suppressed anger)
Allow me to introduce you, Uther Pendragon, to my wife, the Lady Igraine, Duchess of Cornwall.
But Igraine's eyes are fixed too.
Uther is wearing the dragon brooch she saw in Viviane's vision.
Your pardon, my lady. Your pendant ... it is as if I had seen it ... long ago.
In Avalon, my lord, it is said we lead many lives.
Patricius is about to interject, but Ambrosius speaks up.
My Lady Igraine - it has been balm to my heart to look upon the wife of my most loyal and valiant Gorlois. When you next see the Lady of the Lake, tell her the High King sends his greetings.
I will, my lord. With all my heart.
Her smile encompasses the whole table: but as it reaches Uther, his look seems to look with hers - and she has to tear her eyes away. Gorlois's face darkens in anger.
EXT. STREET (London) - DAY
Igraine emerges from the building and leans back against the door, fighting to control her emotions.
Viviane, Viviane - what have you done?
Her hand closes around the moonstone pendant and she looks at it as if she will tear it from her neck. An APPLE SELLER emerges out of the crowd.
Fruit for you, lady, red, ripe fruit. Only two denari.
Igraine looks at the apple as if it is the original temptation, looks at the masses of faces filling the street, and fighting her rising claustrophobia, flees into a gap between two buildings.
EXT. ALLEY (London) - DAY
Igraine runs down a narrow alley between tall stone walls.
INT. council room (London) - DAY (gallery)
The council is in the midst of its debate.
If Roman Legions are not to return to defend us from the barbarians, we must create our own.
It is horsemen the Saxons fear - we need cavalry to ride them down.
Commanded by a Caesar, as in the old days.
A Scottish Caesar, perhaps?
You have something against Scots fighting men, Uther?
I'm not sure I've ever seen one, King Lot.
As Lot starts to rise to his feet a GOBLET falls to the floor and SMASHES. It has fallen from Ambrosius's hand. When he speaks it is clear he is in the last stages of a fatal illness.
I have little time left, my friends. Listen, and listen well to what I have to tell you.
EXT. RIVERBANK (London) - DAY (gallery)
Igraine sits in an orchard running down to the river, hypnotized by the running water. A shadow falls on the grass, and someone slides into a sitting position beside her. She turns to see Uther: he too is staring into the river.
Where does it go to, Igraine?
To the sea, my lord. It flows down to the sea.
We should go with it, you and I.
She looks at him - and can scarcely breathe.
I have known you - in another life. Have I not?
Igraine still cannot speak.
You are the lost half of my soul. You know it.
With a great effort of will Igraine gets up and walks away from the river to a gnarled old apple tree, and leans against it as if for comfort.
Uther follows her.
I am the sworn wife of Gorlois, Uther, and so I will remain.
My heart reaches out to you, Igraine.
(with an effort)
Return to the council, my lord. And remember, for all his anger, Gorlois is a good man.
Uther pauses for a long moment. Finally:
As you bid, my lady.
And he then turns to go.
And comes face to face with - Gorlois.
Ah, my Lord Pendragon. I was looking for -
And then he sees Igraine, almost hidden among the blossoms - and his face sets into stone.
My lord -
But she is lost for words. Uther steps smoothly in.
I grew weary of the council, Gorlois, and came down to the river. Your wife urged me to go back to my duty.
Did, she, Pendragon?
Yes, my lord, she did.
To no avail. The council is over.
How so? We had not decided -
The council is over because Ambrosius is dead.
(trying to push past Gorlois)
I must go to him -
Gorlois grasps him.
Too late, Uther. He is gone. But he died with your name on his lips.
He named you High King after him.
Uther gives a cry of shock and grief, breaks free of Gorlois' grip and strides away across the lawn.
Gorlois turns to Igraine.
My lady - you should be more careful to avoid gossip. No chaste woman is safe with Uther Pendragon.
Is that what you think of me? That I am the sort of woman who would slip away to couple with a strange man like a beast in the field? Would you like to inspect my gown to see if it is rumpled from lying with him on the ground?
Gorlois strikes her across the mouth.
You will not play the shrew with me, madam. I told you to avoid him: obey me!
Touch me at your peril, Gorlois, or I shall teach you that a daughter of the Holy Isle is no man's slave or servant.
Gorlois opens his mouth to reply - and then thinks better of it.
Come, we must return to the church. They are saying a mass for the soul of the king.
(in an undertone)
And with Uther as his successor, they may well say a requiem for all Britain.
EXT. MOORLAND - DAY
A lone rider - UTHER'S CAPTAIN - gallops across bleak, dramatic moorland, with great prehistoric cairns on the skyline behind him. Ahead in the distance - Tintagel Castle.
INT. tower CHAMBER (Tintagel) - DAY (gallery)
Gorlois is being outfitted in his war-gear. Igraine, Morgaine and Morgause are in attendance. We note Gorlois' distinctive ring.
The Saxons will never dare attack Cornwall when they hear Duke Gorlois himself is coming. And looking like a Roman Emperor of old!
Ha! The Saxons care nothing for fine armor and great titles, Morgause. All that answers for them is cold steel.
But you have the cold steel, too, Father. I cut my finger on your great axe today.
May it be a lesson to you, Morgaine. War is for men, and for women - intrigue and the hearth.
And supplies, my lord. I have seen to it that the troop is provided with food for a week's riding.
The door opens and Talbot, the captain of the guard comes in.
A messenger from the High King, my Lord. He would speak -
But Uther's Captain strides in immediately after him and bows. Gorlois looks at him coldly.
I have come, my lord -
(Cutting him off)
You are come to ask for my troops to aid Uther.
It is the High King's bidding, Duke.
So it may be, but my troops are needed here in Cornwall. The Saxons are massing off the coast.
The High King believes it is but a feint, my Lord Gorlois. He has ordered all his war dukes to assemble on the South Coast.
Uther Pendragon cannot know the mind of the Saxons, Captain. And I cannot risk the safety of the Duchy.
My Lord - this is not a request: It is an order from your king. You are to bring your army to him at once.
I am Duke of Cornwall, Captain, not Uther Pendragon.
And as Duke you have sworn fealty to Uther, who now commands you. Will you betray him at the first test?
Gorlois grasps the Captain by the collar, lifts him off his feet.
If you wish to live, Captain, never let such words leave your lips again. When I have seen off the Saxon menace here, then I will consider whether I am able to aid the Pendragon in his schemes.
If you refuse the High King now, he becomes your enemy.
Igraine and Morgaine watch the battle of wills with horror; Morgause with just a hint of excitement.
If Uther Pendragon thinks he can fight the Saxons and the Duke of Cornwall - let him try.
And he lets the Captain fall, half-strangled, at his feet.
EXT. BATTLEMENTS (Tintagel) - NIGHT (gallery)
The noise of trumpets, marching men and galloping horses floats up from below as Igraine, Morgause and Morgaine watch Gorlois and his troops ride off.
They look so fine, riding off to battle.
Would that they were riding off only to fight the Saxons.
But that is who they're going to fight, Mother. Isn't it?
Your father has defied the High King, Morgaine. How long will it be before his men and ours are at war?
EXT. BATTLEFIELD - DAY
Morgaine's unbidden vision of the horrors of battle; she is in the thick of it, with swords and axes slicing through flesh and bone all around her.
EXT. BATTLEMENTS (Tintagel) - DAY
And it's all because of you, Igraine, isn't it? They lust after you, both of them, Gorlois and the High King. It sends thrills through my body to think of it.
It is not because of me! Gorlois hated Uther long before I ever met him. He hoped Ambrosius would name him High King.
But he might have accepted it if he hadn't caught you two making love in an orchard.
Igraine slaps her.
How dare you! That is a lie, and you know it.
You were seen! Gorlois saw you! He pulled you apart under an apple tree!
Who told you that?
(She backs Morgause up against a battlement)
No one knows what happened except ...
Gorlois told you, didn't he?
(And realising still more)
You and he -
She is pushing Morgause out over the sheer drop from the battlements.
Let go of her, Mother! She'll fall!
Fall? Do you think this witch would fall? She'd float.
You bewitched him, didn't you?
As you did Uther? No, there was no need: after you'd driven Gorlois from your bed why shouldn't he come to mine?
Igraine looks at her, appalled.
You want everything, Igraine! Gorlois, and the High King; Cornwall and Britain! And to be the mother of the King who is to come! Why should I be left out? Why am I the sister who gets nothing? Is my blood not as rich as yours? Go on - push me over. Add murder to your list of crimes.
Suddenly all the energy seems to have gone out of Igraine - and she lets Morgause regain her footing.
There are no crimes, Morgause. There is no ambition. Would that Viviane and Merlin had never taken it into their heads to make me their plaything.
She walks over to a turret on the far side of the battlements and gazes out over the sea.
Hear me, Morgause, and you too, my daughter. I have not lain with Uther Pendragon, nor have I betrayed my husband Gorlois. While we were in Londinium I spoke long with Pendragon, and know he is my soul's mate, and while we spoke Duke Gorlois came upon us and thought the worst, as is his nature. But my soul is clean, and you must know that.
(taking her hand)
I know it, Mother. And I love you.
(Gently, to Morgause)
Take my hand too, sister. Let not this stand between us.
A beat - and then Morgause obeys.
We three are alone in a cold world, and we must cling to one another. Come, put your arms around me. The darkness is deep now; it will grow deeper yet.
Continued on Page 2
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