Read Beowulf Online

Authors: Neil Gaiman

Beowulf (14 page)

 

The flame hits his shield and is deflected by it. King Beowulf is not burnt, but he is thrown to his knees by the force of the flame.

 

Bushes and scrub trees in a rough circle around King Beowulf ignite. Burning, they will illuminate all of the following scenes.

The Dragon lands in the empty space and faces King Beowulf.

KING BEOWULF

You burned my home.

DRAGON

Yes.

KING BEOWULF

Ursula.

DRAGON

The pretty girl? Friend of yours? I am so pleased…

Goaded, King Beowulf springs at the dragon, and begins to hack at it with his sword. It swats him away with one huge blow of its clawed paw.

DRAGON

Oh. This is not even going to be any sport. And I've been waiting for this day for so long…let's even up the odds, shall we?

And with one mighty beat of the Dragon's wings it TRANSFORMS ITSELF INTO A GOLDEN MAN, in golden armor, but still with its great, golden Dragon wings and long, spiked Dragon's tail.

 

Beowulf's mouth drops open, agape at what he sees, for the face on the golden Dragon is familiar to him…it's his face when he was a young man.

KING BEOWULF

No! It's not possible! Demon!

Beowulf strikes at the Dragon with his sword, but it's to no avail as the golden man easily dodges him.

DRAGON

Not wholly a demon. But perhaps a half-demon. Born of hate. Born of lust.

KING BEOWULF

And I'll kill you by the same!

Beowulf, swinging wildly, is perhaps too old to kill this monster. His rage has unbalanced him.

 

The Dragon-man lands like a devil touching down onto Earth, wings extended and his fingers touching the ground for balance.

DRAGON

Such a brittle and old man you are. Not what I had expected. Not at all.

Beowulf is breathing heavily, unbalanced. He approaches the dragon.

KING BEOWULF

I'm sorry I have disappointed you. What did you expect?

DRAGON

I expected a man worth my hatred. I expected the worthy slayer of my half-brother, Grendel.

KING BEOWULF

Grendel -- was your brother?

DRAGON

We monsters are all born of the same mother, born of the same sin.

Beowulf hacks at the monster, who ducks and LAUGHS.

DRAGON

Do you know how long I have hated you? I have hated you so long…

KING BEOWULF

And I hate all monsters.

Beowulf swings again. The dragon catches the sword-blade with the palms of its hands, brings it close, and looks up mischievously.

DRAGON

Do you? Do you hate them all? Did you hate my mother?

The Dragon kisses the blade of the sword.

 

Beowulf pulls his sword out of the Dragon's grasp and swings it again, this time striking the monster in the nape of his neck. But instead of the blade digging deep into the Dragon's shoulder, it shatters into a thousand shards.

 

There is a brief moment where the words “oh shit” could be extrapolated out of Beowulf's eyes.

 

The Dragon grabs Beowulf by the neck with both hands and suddenly lifts him high into the air. With each strong beat of the Dragon's wings they lift higher into the sky. Beowulf

grasps at the Dragon's strong grasp, choking and turning blue.

DRAGON

When I was young, in the early years of my life, I would dream of this moment. I could hear in the minds of men as they sung the song of the “great” Beowulf. But I know the truth. Mother made sure of it. I know you are a coward and a lout. I know that you are a liar. I know you are not of the humankind, that your father, Edgethow, lay with demons. And that history is a lie. I know
what
you are--

He releases Beowulf's neck and says the word that King Beowulf has, deep down, known would be coming:

DRAGON

(continuing)

--father.

Beowulf falls.

 

He tumbles backwards and STRIKES the ground with great force.

 

Beowulf rolls over, the wind knocked out of him, his ribs broken.

KING BEOWULF

I am -- wounded. Where are my Thanes? Who will help me!

152 OLD WIGLAF

152

and the other thanes are lying on the ground beyond the fire-circle.

OLD WIGLAF

We have to go to him.

THANE

Against that? You're mad, old man.

The Dragon-man, directly above Beowulf, TRANSFORMS back into full Dragon form.

 

Beowulf tries to crawl away, but cannot. He does, however, reach back and find the bow he used against the Franks and his quiver of arrows.

 

The Dragon begins to dive, going in for the kill. It soars downwards, picking up speed.

Beowulf pulls the bowstring and aims the arrow.

KING BEOWULF

(to himself)

Forgive me.

He fires the arrow and sends it quick and straight upwards into the soft spot Hrothgar spoke of under the chin of the Dragon.

 

With a great SCREECH the Dragon recoils and pauses its descent…then, after a moments recognition of the wound, free-falls on top of Beowulf.

153 WIGLAF

153

watches as the Dragon lands on top of his King, not too unlike watching a bus fall on top of your best friend.

 

He runs toward the massive creature, and his lord.

154 THE DRAGON

154

lifts its head and looks at Beowulf.

DRAGON

You have wounded me, father. But did you really think that a mortal weapon could send me to the hereafter? No weapon made by man can destroy me.

KING BEOWULF

No…what about a weapon forged by the Gods?

And Wiglaf lunges the broken blade giant's sword into the base of the Dragon's neck.

 

The Dragon SCREAMS AND ROARS a Devil's scream, a screech that can be heard in all of Geatland, a screech that could be heard throughout the world. The scream of a Dragon dying.

 

The Dragon slumps to the side, dead. Its eyes glass over, and in the milky emptiness of them, Beowulf can see himself reflected back.

 

Wiglaf gets to his feet in the light of the burning bushes.

OLD WIGLAF

(to himself)

I told you we were too old to be heroes.

Wiglaf looks back at the death scene. The Dragon has once more become a winged human, golden and glittering, and dead: a symphony in crimson and gold.

 

Then, Beowulf does something Wiglaf would not have expected. He cradles the Dragon's head, and strokes it, and cries.

KING BEOWULF

My…son…

Wiglaf hears this and it sends a chill down his spine. Wiglaf then sees that Beowulf has been mortally wounded by the Dragon. He is a bloodied mess.

OLD WIGLAF

My lord, you're wounded.

KING BEOWULF

Yes…

OLD WIGLAF

We must get you to a healer.

He struggles over to Beowulf and tries to help him, but Beowulf resists.

KING BEOWULF

No.

OLD WIGLAF

My lord, I must insist--

KING BEOWULF

No!

(he winces in horrific pain)

It is a mortal wound. The same wound is killing us both. Leave me to my death, dear friend. It will relieve my pain.

(then, he seems to be hallucinating)

Do you hear it?

OLD WIGLAF

What, lord?

KING BEOWULF

The song. It's Grendel's Mother--

OLD WIGLAF

(crying as he watches his lord slip into death)

No, lord. Don't say such things. You killed Grendel's mother. She exists no

(more)

OLD WIGLAF

more. You are a great hero…a killer of monsters--

KING BEOWULF

I am a monster myself, dear Wiglaf, I am a monster myself--

And Beowulf is dead.

 

Wiglaf begins to SOB.

FADE TO BLACK:

155 INT. THE BARROW - DAWN

155

We see, from the inside, the thanes pulling open the barrow from outside, to allow them in. The grey-purple pre-dawn light shines in on them. Some of them hold torches. Wiglaf enters, holding a burning torch.

OLD WIGLAF

All of it.

Warriors begin to seize shields, statues and gold, and to haul it out of the barrow.

CUT TO:

156 EXT. THE GEAT MOORS - THE BARROW - DAWN

156

it's getting light, although the sun will not rise for an hour or so yet. We see a creaking wagon, being pulled by huge Shire horses, moving through the moors, away from the barrow. The warriors, thanes, Old Wiglaf, all walk along beside it, for it moves at a walking pace. It is piled high with gold. We move in closer, and see that on the top of the wagon lie King Beowulf's body, and beside it, the Dragon's body.

CUT TO:

157 EXT. THE GEAT CLIFFTOP - DAWN

157

They reach the clifftop. It's a fall straight into the sea from the clifftop. The CREAKING wagon stops.

 

Two Warriors -- Froda and another, on top of the wagon, toss the Dragon's body down, roughly, to the ground from the wagon, shouting first

FRODA

Watch out below!

The dragon's body falls to the ground like so much meat. Froda leaps athletically down from the wagon, beside the dragon, and meets Old Wiglaf, who has walked over to it. The dragon's body is face down. Froda reaches down with his foot and tips the body over, so it stares out, face up.

FRODA

So that was the dragon, eh? I thought he'd be bigger.

OLD WIGLAF

They are always bigger, in life. Grendel was…

(then -- realizing that the days of telling that tale has finished, for him)

Never mind…

FRODA

Does he remind you of someone?

Froda is genuinely puzzled. He never knew Beowulf as a young man, but Old Wiglaf did -- just as we did -- and he knows, just like we do…and he says:

OLD WIGLAF

Nobody at all. Let's get rid of it before the crowd get here.

And he and Froda roll the Dragon along to the cliff-edge.

 

PULL BACK TO REVEAL: The Dragon falls from the cliff into the waves, it's body pounded by, and then lost into, the surf.

 

From somewhere we hear what sounds like a WOMAN WAIL, briefly, then no more.

CUT TO:

158 EXT. THE GEAT CLIFFTOP - DAWN

158

A long line of Geats -- MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN, are lined up on the path up to the clifftop, watching a DOZEN MEN and a couple of shire horses dragging a longship up the path towards the clifftop.

 

We see a number of women and men from the front, but we stop behind A WOMAN IN A WHITE COWL, without seeing her face.

CUT TO:

159 EXT. THE GEAT CLIFFTOP - DAWN

159

It is the grey time before dawn.

 

The thanes have hauled a ship up to the cliff-top, just like the ship Beowulf went to Denmark in, at the start of the story.

 

And then, slowly, in a long procession, the Geats walk past the ship. Each of them throws a piece of wood into the body of the boat.

SLOW DISSOLVE TO:

160 EXT. THE GEAT CLIFFTOP - LATER - DAWN

160

The boat is filled with pieces of driftwood.

 

But the Geats are still walking past -- throwing golden things into the boat -- pulling off arm-rings, finger-rings, necklaces -- it seems like everyone has some piece of Gold.

 

The ship is hung with shields and armor, and all the treasure that was brought from the dragon's horde.

 

When the woman in the white cowl throws gold and wood, we only see her from the back.

 

Last of all we see Old Wiglaf. He holds the Dragon's Cup, and tosses it through the air.

 

It spins through the air until it lands on the firewood.

 

Only then do SEVEN THANES approach carrying a stretcher, on which Beowulf's dead body has been placed, arms folded across his chest. THE PEOPLE part to let it by, reaching out and calling and sobbing as they see King Beowulf's body. Eva Peron eat your heart out.

 

The Thanes tie Beowulf's dead body to the mast of the ship, facing out to sea. Then

A BURNING BRAND

being carried by Old Wiglaf.

OLD WIGLAF

I…he was the bravest of us. The prince of all warriors. His name will live forever. He

Wiglaf breaks down.

Wiglaf takes the burning brand and touches it to the side of the boat. Which begins to burn.

 

Soon, the boat begins to pour smoke out from its hull, and then it BURSTS INTO FLAME.

 

And we look at the faces of the Geats, Some of them are weeping, some staring, stone-faced.

 

The flames reach King Beowulf's body, and the woman in the white cowl begins to SING.

 

It's a SONG OF MOURNING AND MAGIC, a sad, wordless wail, tuneful and dark. The song of a woman mourning her sons…mourning her lover.

 

Her song is sad, beautiful and transcendent.

 

As the sky brightens, the woman in white walks down the path to the sea shore, still singing. The Geats do not follow her, but stand all around the burning ship.

 

Bits of burning wood and golden things begin to fall down the cliff as the burning boat begins to crumble.

 

We see Beowulf's body burning…

CUT TO:

161 EXT. THE GEAT SEA SHORE - DAWN

161

We are looking down from above as Grendel's Mother -- the woman in the white cowl -- begins to drop clothes on the beach, first her cloak and hood, then her skirt. She leaves the clothes on the beach behind her.

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