Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (10 page)

 

In his other hand he holds Hrunting out of the water. Occasionally the sword dips into the water, causing it to sing.

The light from the blaze of the torch illuminates the causeway several meters in front of him. There seems to be no end in sight.

 

Then the torch begins to go out as it touches the water.

 

There can't be more than 7 centimeters between the surface of the water and the mountain of rock above it. Soon, the entire channel will be submerged.

 

Beowulf begins to breathe rapidly…in gulps. His face is now kissing the ceiling of the dank cave.

 

The torch, now completely immersed, extinguishes itself.

 

Beowulf is now…

UNDERWATER

It is dark and blue. Beowulf, still holding Hrunting, begins to swim down the channel of stone.

 

Through the murky water Beowulf sees the bones of many a Thane dragged into this liquid crypt and left to be picked by the eels living here.

 

His feet kick and push at the floor and ceiling of the channel, aiding his desperate swim.

 

But no end is near.

 

In fact, the further Beowulf swims the closer the floor seems to be coming to the ceiling.

 

Beowulf scrambles through the narrow causeway, scratching at the crevices in the stone for a finger or foot hold.

 

His armor has become an encumbrance in the tight crawlspace. Beowulf claws at the straps which hold it on, desperately trying to undo the yoke. Finally, he manages to rip his armor from his body. He lets it fall behind him as he advances.

 

Beowulf is underwater spelunking. The chamber has become a slate coffin with no sides. A watery crypt.

 

He is squeezing his way through. Birthing through stone. Scraping for air on the other side.

 

And he finds it.

104 INT. THE GREAT CAVE - GRENDEL'S MOTHER'S LAIR - DAY

104

The lair of Grendel's Mother once belonged to the Nibelungen, a race of Dwarfen craftsmen. They and their treasure long gone, all that remains here is their one time kingdom. A great underground temple on it's side, half submerged by the icy waters which flow into the great cave.

 

Beowulf emerges into this tabernacle underneath the mountain from between two steps on an immense busted up stairway. The steps lead to a huge statue of Odin, the gems once inlaid into it long stolen by thieves.

 

Beowulf coughs as he gulps in the dank, stale air of the great Dwarfen hall. In his hand he still holds Hrunting, the sword Unferth gave to him.

 

Beowulf, standing to his waist in the water, takes in his surroundings.

 

It is a bizarre chamber. A sideways world of mythic origin. The air of magic still haunts this hall. Great fallen pillars lay in busted up heaps. Runic writing of some ancient long dead language are inscribed about the cracked walls.

 

There are also the BODIES OF DEAD THANES scattered pell mell about the room. Their armor ripped open like sardine cans. Their insides spilt in hungry haste by the monster that could be lurking in the dark shadows. On the ground lies GRENDEL'S BODY, one arm missing. It is quite dead.

 

Beowulf slowly climbs out of the water and onto the collapsed stairs. His armor was left behind in the crawlspace, and now he only wears his soaked tunic. His teeth chatter in the cold air, giving him away to anyone who might be listening.

 

From the shadows a giant lizard crawls up one of the walls of the ruin.

 

Beowulf hears the scratching of it's talons against the heavy stone walls. He spins to face the sounds, holding Hrunting before him.

 

Then, it crawls into the shaft of light crossing the ceiling. In the firelight he sees glimpses of it. Her golden skin…shark-like, its glistening surface reflecting a deep flaxen spectrum. Gills run the length of her shimmering back. Her hands and feet are only parodies of human form, they more resemble a birds.

 

She lifts her head to gaze more fully on Beowulf beneath her.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

Are you the one they call Beowulf?

She lets loose her hold on the ceiling and drops to the floor with a thud. This startles Beowulf a bit, he steps back and grips his sword tighter.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

The Bee-wolf? The Bear-wolf? I have seen the future Beowulf. When they sing your song they will have sung about your strength. But when they sing about me…it shall be a lie.

She steps closer into the light. Beowulf steps back, his sword is aimed directly at the sea witch.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

It has been a long time since a man has come to visit me.

BEOWULF

Stand back, witch!

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

As you can see, my suitors are all brave men like yourself…but they were brought to me by my son…Grendel is
his
name. And without an arm today, is he. But…of that I'm sure you know. If you've come to finish him, you're too late for his wound was mortal.

BEOWULF

I've come to finish
you
.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

And finish me you shall. But first a
little death
. You shall give me your seed of life. You shall give me back the son you stole from me.

BEOWULF

Nothing will bring your demon child back.

Beowulf lifts his sword to strike the monster.

 

In an instant she has TRANSFORMED HERSELF into a beautiful woman. Her long hair is now silken, her skin like golden milk. She seems to radiate from within, like the moon. She has transformed from a hideous lizard demon into beautiful goddess of shimmering golden flesh. It is perhaps more terrifying to Beowulf that she isn't a gruesome monster, but

a beautifully sexy siren with firm breasts, long legs, and full lips.

BEOWULF

Demon!

He raises his sword to strike her, but cannot.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

Not a demon, but a woman of many names. Lorelei to some. Calypso to others. My song brings death to men driven by their loins…sea-men…like yourself.

She approaches Beowulf like a cat descending on its prey. Her long fingers, webbed like a fish, caress the sides of Beowulf's face.

 

He drops the sword. It shatters like glass into a million shards.

 

Fear has paralyzed the great warrior. All he can do is stare into the eyes of his enemy. Eyes that reflect a thousand starry nights, eyes as full as the night sky. Mesmerized, Beowulf's eyes dilate. She has hold of him.

BEOWULFI…

I should…I should kill you…

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

But you don't want to, do you, my love? If you wish to kill me, though, you may.

She walks over to the wall, and pulls down a huge sword -- a giant's sword, -- that is hanging on the wall.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

This blade is old, and not of this world. It will even end the life of such a thing as me.

She passes it to Beowulf.

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

I'll even show you where to plunge it…

She begins to unfasten her top, displaying her chest. Beowulf swallows, holds the huge sword, breathing heavily, and then, suddenly, turns and crashes the blade down on Grendel's dead neck. The blade severs Grendel's huge head from its body, but the blood of Grendel turns much of the sword blade to liquid mercury, which dribbles and rolls away. We are left with only a couple of inches of blade and the huge hilt.

BEOWULF

Why?

GRENDEL'S MOTHER

You took a son from me. Give me a son, brave thane. Stay with me. Love me.

This really seems to send horror into Beowulf's heart. Beowulf shakes his head, but is still walking towards her.

 

She leans forward and after a moment's hesitation gently kisses him with her full, golden lips. Beowulf closes his eyes…

CUT TO:

105 EXT. THE GREAT CAVE - MORNING

105

Beowulf's remaining Thanes have set up camp and look to be living off the land fairly well.

WIGLAF

It's been eight days.

(pause, as he's coming to a decision.)

I think we should go in after him.

Consensual groans come from the group of Thanes. The men start to stand up and strap on their weapons.

CUT TO:

106 INT. THE GREAT CAVE - UNDERWATER - DAY

106

Beowulf is swimming through the murky causeway, in his hand he holds a sack.

CUT TO:

107 EXT. THE GREAT CAVE - DAY

107

Beowulf's men are now fully dressed and ready for battle. They all have lit torches in their hands and are preparing to enter the cave. One particularly NERVOUS THANE looks at Wiglaf, who is heading them in.

NERVOUS THANE

Creatures like this eat men whole. The hands and feet as well. I don't like it at all.

WIGLAF

Neither did Beowulf.

NERVOUS THANE

Ha! He couldn't wait to get in.

Just as they approach the cavern's lake, something starts to emerge. The Thanes all prepare to hack whatever it is to bits.

 

Beowulf emerges from the water, soggy and wet. No armor, no weapons…just the sack.

BEOWULF

I hope you're not planning on hacking off my head?

They all lower their swords, joyous to see Beowulf.

WIGLAF

You're alive!

(to the other men)

Beowulf lives victorious!

They CHEER and help him out of the water.

WIGLAF

Eight days, to slay one monster. What took you so long, Beowulf?

They all start LAUGHING. But Beowulf seems a different person. No sense of humor at all.

CUT TO:

108 INT. HEROT - THRONE ROOM - DAY

108

Everyone is assembled in the throne room of Herot. Hrothgar sits on the throne. Wealthow stands beside him. Everybody seems on tenterhooks. Then Beowulf enters, carrying his sack.

HROTHGAR

Well?

In reply, Beowulf grins, and opens the sack he is carrying over his shoulder. Grendel's huge head (and the hilt of the giant sword) tumbles out onto the floor.

 

An excitable woman SCREAMS.

BEOWULF

(calming the lady down, and talking about the head)

He's dead, my lady. Nothing to worry

(more)

BEOWULF (CONT'D)

about. I cut the brute's head off, after I finished off his monstrous mother.

HROTHGAR

Then our curse has been lifted!

Hrothgar looks the happiest we have seen him since Grendel's first attack.

 

Everyone CHEERS.

HROTHGAR

So tell us the tale Beowulf! Tell us so my scop can weave a song of your battle. I want to be able to hear it every night of every day for the rest of my years. Tell us the tale.

Beowulf looks around the hall. Everyone is silent, waiting for him to begin.

BEOWULF

Well…I dived into the pool, and immediately found myself surrounded by loathsome water-beasts. Each time one would get close to me, I would crush its skull with my hands. After 24 hours of swimming, I found myself deep in the underground cavern in which Grendel's mother made her monstrous home…

As Beowulf continues to lie -- or tell the version of the truth that he thinks will go down best in history -- his lips move but we no longer hear a word he says. Instead, the SOUNDTRACK gives us the movements of the people we are looking at, enormously magnified: Hrothgar SCRATCHES HIS NOSE; Unferth PICKS AT HIS NAILS with a dagger; the SWISH as Wealthow shakes her head and her hair swings back and forth; the CLATTER as a small boy drops his wooden ball.

BEOWULF

…and with that, the hell-spawned creature lay dead on the body of her monstrous son, and I alone remained to tell the tale.

CUT TO:

109 INT. HEROT - MEAD HALL - NIGHT

109

We are in the final festivities at the mead hall (our fourth by my count) and it has the atmosphere of a real party. People are enjoying themselves, secure in the knowledge that no monsters will be coming.

Beowulf holds his golden goblet (the one he was given) out for mead, and Yrsa pours him some mead, with a grin. He walks

110 OUTSIDE IN THE STOCKADE

110

The night is clear and warm. Beowulf stands on his own, just listening -- as Grendel once did -- to the sound of the revelry. Unferth comes out of the door, looks around -- he's looking for Beowulf -- and heads over to him.

UNFERTH

My lord Beowulf. Our people shall be grateful until the end of time. And, um, as for me, I want to make it clear that I believe all nine of those sea-monsters.

BEOWULF

Thank you, Unferth.

UNFERTH

Did Hrunting, my father's sword, did it help you destroy the witch?

BEOWULF

It…it did. The demon would not be dead without your father's sword. High on the wall was a giant's sword, forged by magic and sharpened by dwarfen whet stones…but with the strength of your father's sword I had no need of such sorcerous weaponry. I plunged Hrunting into the chest of Grendel's Mother. And there I left it, to keep her dead until the sun falls into the sea.

Unferth nods, it is a noble enough image for him to relay to his children's children.

UNFERTH

Thank you, so much, Beowulf. Thank you.

He goes. Beowulf downs some mead. Pull back to reveal Wealthow standing beside him. She holds a jug of mead.

WEALTHOW

I thought you might need some more to drink.

BEOWULF

Aye.

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