Rune (Part 2 of 2)
CURSE OF RUNE
inventory script by Paul O’Connor
second of two parts
First Draft: April 23rd, 1995
(for more info about publication history of this issue, see blog post here)
(FULL PAGE SHOT — SPLASH PAGE): This issue opens on a high angle shot of the townspeople carrying Rune on their arms and shoulders. Dozens if not hundreds of hands hold Rune aloft. Rune is nailed to a cross, and from our angle he is inverted. His horrible chest wound still leaks black blood, his sightless eyes stare at us.
CAPTION: His name was Rune.
CAPTION: He was many things in his day —
CAPTION: — King —
CAPTION: — exile —
CAPTION: — Prince of Void —
CAPTION: — devourer of Worlds —
CAPTION: — and finally lord of this pitiful medieval town.
CAPTION: He used his wisdom to protect his people from the Black Plague —
CAPTION: — expecting only blood and total obedience in return.
CAPTION: His town thrived while others died —
CAPTION: — and they killed him for it.
PANEL ONE: Silhouette shot of the procession carrying Rune’s cross to a hill overlooking the town. The figures are limned against a setting sun. Several crosses and stakes are already erected here; we see twisted figures hanging from them.
CAPTION: Reprisals are swift in the wake of Rune’s fall.
CAPTION: Collaborators are quickly rounded up and impaled on stakes atop a hill outside of town.
CAPTION: It is an age of excess and horrific brutality.
CAPTION: If the innocent are swept onto the cross with the guilty, no one spares it a second thought —
CAPTION: — no one is innocent, in a world forsaken by God.
PANEL TWO: Rune’s cross, still inverted, is planted in the moist soil. Some throw garbage at Rune, or spit on him. Rune is dead (or appears so); several of those impaled beside him are horribly still alive. The victims are mostly soldiers and minor functionaries from Rune’s administration. One stake is conspicuously empty, but the BURGHER’s distinctive, pompous hat — established last issue — is placed atop it, like a name card at a formal dinner.
CAPTION: If the townspeople remember they were willing accomplices to Rune’s tyranny, they are likewise unconcerned —
CAPTION: — obsessed instead with bloody recriminations, delighted the mob has blamed others for Rune’s terror, and all too happy to demonstrate their innocence by the sincerity of their outrage.
PANEL THREE: Remember Manny, Moe, and Jack, the fledgling revolutionaries from last issue? They’re on top, now. With Rune’s cross planted, they lead the mob back toward town. A dying prisoner calls from a stake — Jack shakes his fist at him.
IMPALED PRISONER: Water . . . for the love of God . . .
JACK: You’ll slake your thirst, come dawn, with a taste of the fire you’ll feel forevermore in Hell —
JACK: — you and your demon master, both!
PANEL ONE: The baleful sun is replaced by a full moon. The BURGHER crawls out of hiding somewhere atop the hill. His face is a ruin from where Rune bit him last issue. His clothes are torn and soiled — he’s been hiding from the mob.
BURGHER: They’re gone. It’s safe for me, I think.
PANEL TWO: High angle shot from above the stake reserved for the Burgher. The Burgher reaches for his hat, perched atop the stake, but he can’t quite touch it.
BURGHER: My hat!
BURGHER: They must have reserved that stake for me, but I was too clever for them.
BURGHER: They’ll pay — they’ll all pay — when my Lord Rune returns!
PANEL THREE: The Burgher kneels down beside Rune’s cross. Rune’s dead head hangs close beside the Burgher. The Burgher weeps.
BURGHER: Oh Master, what have they done to you?
BURGHER: I am nothing without you — nothing!
BURGHER: What am I to do — ?
PANEL FOUR: Just on the edge of the panel, where Rune’s head is partially visible, we are afforded a suggestion of movement. The Burgher is startled. He snaps his head around suddenly, looking at Rune, an expression of horror stealing over his face.
BURGHER: Eh — ?
PANEL FIVE: In a long, silhouetted shot of the cross and stakes against the full moon, we frame the sound effect of the Burgher’s soul-lost scream.
BURGHER: AAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHH . . .
PANEL ONE: Adrian Beuthen (Crusader in is mortal identity) stands framed in the window of the same throne room seen on page two of last issue. The final strains of the Burgher’s scream hang on the night air.
SFX: . . . HHHHHGHK*!
CAPTION: In the throne room where Rune once ruled his city of the damned, Crusader hears the final strains of the Burgher’s cry.
CAPTION: Not for the first time, he reflects how this new golden age is scarcely less dark than the horror that came before.
PANEL TWO: Begin flashback. Show Rune and Crusader in their death struggle from last issue — maybe the scene where they’re bashing on each other with weapons and armor.
CAPTION: Crusader thought his life’s quest was at an end when found Lord Rune.
CAPTION: Rune seemed to be Satan himself, and with his death, this terrible age of evil triumphant must surely end.
PANEL THREE: Continue flashback. Crusader cuts Rune nearly in half, again as seen last issue.
CAPTION: But when Crusader cut Rune nearly in half, no angels sang —
CAPTION: — the heavens did not part —
CAPTION: — radiant light did not pour upon the earth.
CAPTION: The dark thing died, was all —
PANEL FOUR: End flashback. Long shot across the throne room, Crusader still in the window.
CAPTION: — and the world spun madly on, as evil and diseased as before.
CAPTION: If this is triumph over Satan, it feels no different than defeat.
PANEL ONE: The sun rises over a procession of townspeople stalking out from the village toward the hill. They bear flaming torches.
CAPTION: Morning breaks on townsfolk eager to burn their neighbors.
CAPTION: Amazing what a little bloodshed will do to improve the spirits.
PANEL TWO: The townsfolk set fire to the various stakes and crosses. Most of the victims are still alive. They struggle and scream.
CAPTION: Most of the victims are still alive, and though half-mad from pain and thirst . . .
PANEL THREE: On one of the victims as the flames climb about him. He screams, horribly. The villages cavort and wave their torches around.
CAPTION: . . . they are all too conscious of the fire that sears their flesh.
PANEL FOUR: On Rune’s face, as the flames surround him. He’s half-smiling.
CAPTION: No screams issue from Rune, the guest of honor at this auto-da-fe. The villagers suppose him long dead.
CAPTION: If anyone notices that he seems to smile as the flames lick about his head, no one mentions it . . .
PANEL FIVE: Longer shot, of several stakes. The fires have burned low. Few remain to view them. Blackened skeletons hang from those stakes that remain upright. Rune’s distinctive, inverted cross is empty.
CAPTION: . . . just as those few who remain when the flames have burned low choose to believe the fire has completely consumed the dreaded Rune —
CAPTION: — rather than admit any other — more disturbing — possibility.
PAGES SIX & SEVEN
Two-page montage shot. I’ll describe the images; you frame them on the page as you think appropriate. Overall, we want to show the town backsliding into the grip of the plague.
– Adrian sits upon Rune’s throne, looking every bit as bored as did Rune. He should slouch and prop his chin exactly the same way Rune did last issue.
CAPTION: Crusader found himself a King, a job he did not covet —
CAPTION: — but the snows came before he could move on, and truth to tell, he wasn’t sure what to do next. After all, his quest was over.
CAPTION: Wasn’t it?
– Peasants dressed in sack-cloth huddle against the wind as they wind their way through narrow city streets choked with snow.
CAPTION: In the winter that followed, Rune’s incomprehensible laws were reversed–
CAPTION: — for was he not the Devil himself?
CAPTION: The people no longer bathed, and lived close together in the crowded city. The bounty for killing rats was rescinded.
– Flagellants whip themselves bloody in the city square. At the very least, we should recognize the old crone from last issue.
CAPTION: Come spring, pilgrims and merchants were once more welcome within the walls.
CAPTION: Flagellants begged Christ’s forgiveness for the evil that had ruled the town.
– Crusader’s squire, Ione, stares in mute horror at a black blotch forming on the inside of her left wrist.
CAPTION: The rot returned when the snows melted, appearing first upon Ione, Crusader’s young squire.
– Adrian holds Ione in his arms as she dies from the plague.
CAPTION: She was dead in a day.
– Bodies are heaped high in the city square as the plague strikes the town.
CAPTION: Next: apocalypse.
CAPTION: The Great Mortality returned, with redoubled fury —
– An image of death triumphant . . . a ghostly, vindictive Rune stares down on the ruined city.
CAPTION: — and any means of stopping it had gone to the grave with Rune.
PANEL ONE: Several townspeople gather near midnight in the town’s unfinished (or partially ruined) cathedral. Cathedrals took generations to complete — the sight of a half-finished cathedral was a familiar one in the middle ages. Many projects were abandoned and never resumed during the plague. Anyway, several townsfolk are gathered in the cathedral. They wear robes obscuring their features. The slanting rays of a full moon pass through a large stained-glass window and play upon the floor, where a pentagram has been inscribed with chalk. A nude (or mostly nude) woman is staked out in the center of the pentagram.
CAPTION: Once more the pathetic victims of the plague turn to insane measures for salvation.
TOWNSPERSON: We are convened here to beg forgiveness for our sins —
PANEL TWO: One of the townsfolk holds a knife above the victim while the others kneel around the circle.
TOWNSPERSON: — sins against our Lord Rune, whom we thoughtlessly sought to overthrow.
TOWNSPERSON: It was by His sufferance alone that the Pestilence was abated —
PANEL THREE: The coven throws back their hoods. Leading the ceremony is Manny, while Moe holds the knife. Jack’s here, too. These guys are about as constant as a weather vane.
MANNY: — and by His grace alone shall this madness end.
MANNY: Hear us, O Rune, as we offer this precious gift of Blood —
PANEL FOUR: The knife catches a glint of moonlight as it speeds towards the woman’s breast.
MANNY (OFF-PANEL): — take pity upon our wretched souls, and deliver us from the fury of the black death . . . !
(FULL-PAGE SHOT): Rune bursts through a stained glass window. Moe’s knife hovers just inches from the woman’s chest, halted in it’s fatal plunge. No one can quite believe what they see — they wanted Rune’s forgiveness, but they didn’t bargain on getting him back in the flesh.
RUNE: Mere death cannot bind the Dark God!
RUNE: RUNE LIVES!
CAPTION: These pitiful fools sought Rune’s forgiveness, not the return of Rune in the flesh —
CAPTION: — but now, it seems, Rune is back in full . . .
CAPTION: . . . and there will be Hell to pay!
A full-page shot shows Rune slaughtering the coven. Small inset panels show Rune’s memories:
1) How he sucked the life from his flunky the Burgher, then used that power to bring himself back from the brink of death.
2) How he used the licking flames as cover to make good his escape.
3) How he spent a humiliating winter in exile, living in caves and feeding upon the feeble game that survived the killing snows.
RUNE: I thirst not for the blood of a helpless sacrifice —
RUNE: — but for the marrow of the deluded beasts who dreamed they could slay a god!
CAPTION: Rune’s soul sings with dark music, banishing craven memories from his brain —
CAPTION: — memories of how he sucked the life from the Burgher, restoring the flagging spark of his soul —
CAPTION: — then used the roaring flames to cover his escape.
CAPTION: More painful still are memories of a humiliating winter of exile —
CAPTION: — living in caves, feeding on what feeble game survived the killing snows —
CAPTION: — an image Rune gratefully washes away with a tide of blood-red slaughter!
PANEL ONE: Adrian rushes into the cathedral. Rune pauses from rending victims limb from limb long enough to gloat over Adrian’s dismay.
ADRIAN: I know not how you returned from death —
ADRIAN: — but I count it a blessing.
PANEL TWO: Adrian transforms into Crusader.
ADRIAN: For by slaying you I might yet drive evil from this world —
CRUSADER (BALLOON FX): — and Crusader’s quest will at last be complete!
PANEL THREE: Rune tackles Crusader. Momentum carries them toward the church doors.
RUNE: I, too, count it a blessing that you yet live —
PANEL FOUR: Rune and Crusader fly out of the church and into the courtyard beyond.
RUNE: — that I might feast upon your steaming heart!
PAGES TWELVE & THIRTEEN
Another two-page montage. As before, I’ll identify the images that must occur, and provide appropriate dialogue and captions, but it’s up to the artist how to actually lay out the page.
– Rune gets the upper hand on Crusader. Maybe Crusader is stunned from being knocked into the street, or maybe Rune lays a good one on his chin. Either way, Crusader is temporarily defenseless.
RUNE: Perhaps, as well, I should thank you.
RUNE: All life — all ambition — had left me, until you arrived, and showed, in your own crude way —
RUNE: — that I was as much slave as I was master to these mindless cattle.
– Rune sinks his fangs into Crusader’s armored neck.
RUNE: Never again will I settle for mere survival. Rune must hunt!
RUNE: And when my fangs find your throat —
RUNE: — the brilliant energy within your armored shell will make me all-powerful!
– White energy erupts from Crusader, and coruscates all up and down Rune.
RUNE: The power . . . flowing into me . . .
RUNE: . . . it is — TOO MUCH!
– Rune falls back, overwhelmed by Crusader’s energy.
CAPTION: Memories assail the Prince of Void, memories of two hundred years of warfare —
– The main image bleeds into a memory Rune absorbed from Crusader. We see a mortal Adrian tossed upon the shore of a desolate isle, the survivor of a shipwreck.
CAPTION: — of how a young knight, shipwrecked on his way to crusade in the Holy Land, was tossed up on a desolate shore.
– Adrian enters a temple on the isle, and speaks with a brilliant white light.
CAPTION: The knight found an ancient temple, and heard the voice of God . . .
VOICE: I seek a Crusader, who will fight until the Beast is driven from Jerusalem.
– Adrian surrenders to the light . . . it surrounds him in brilliant bands.
CAPTION: The knight accepted, little knowing what he’d done —
– Adrian stands transformed into Crusader for the first time.
CAPTION: — abandoning his humanity, and embarking upon a quest that could not end until the earth was literally free from evil —
– The flashback bleeds into the present. Crusader is on one knee, gathering the strength to rise. Rune is still disoriented from the memory; he holds his head, and steadies himself against the wall of the church. A crowd of townsfolk have begun to gather.
CAPTION: — a quest he’d despaired of completing, until he discovered Rune.
RUNE: I see now why you fight with such fury, foolish knight —
PANEL ONE: Rune winds up —
RUNE: — but while to you I may seem the embodiment of all things sinister —
PANEL TWO: Rune follows-through, striking Crusader a vicious upper-cut. Crusader is knocked flying through the air. The gathering crowd is larger, forming a torch-lit circle around the two warriors.
RUNE: — I am more — far more — than your simple morality can account.
PANEL THREE: Crusader recovers. He holds his hands as if cradling an invisible sword.
CRUSADER: Perhaps I was a fool to believe I could rid the world of the likes of you —
PANEL FOUR: Detail of Crusader’s hands. His blade of living fire has appeared in his now-full hands.
CRUSADER: — but if my life has been a lie —
PANEL ONE: Crusader charges at Rune, his flaming blade cutting a bright arc through the night air.
CRUSADER (BALLOON FX): — then let the lie end, by fire and steel!
PANEL TWO: Crusader swings wildly. Rune easily evades his slash.
RUNE: Shall I kill you as you killed me?
PANEL THREE: Crusader’s follow-through carries him stumbling past Rune. Rune follows easily in his wake.
RUNE: Shall I split your body in half, then hang you on a cross to drain —
RUNE: — then feed you to greedy flames?
PANEL FOUR: Worm’s eye shot, below and behind Crusader. Rune strides forward, confident, cruel. Crusader’s fire blade fades to nothingness.
CRUSADER: Lord give me strength for what I must do.
RUNE: Call upon your God, it will avail you nought . . .
PANEL FIVE: Reverse angle, on Crusader’s face as Rune shatters his beliefs. Disbelieving horror steals across Crusader’s features.
RUNE: . . . for while your primitive mind interpreted the white light that awarded your powers as the voice of God —
RUNE: — I know it was something far, far different.
RUNE: Oh yes, I have seen that light before —
PANEL SIX: Rune looms above Crusader like an evil shadow. His eyes are blazing slits in the darkness.
RUNE: — and when I find it again, this charade of my exile will be at an end!
PANEL ONE: Rune rakes Crusader’s chest with his claws. Crusader’s armor is breached. White light pours from him like blood.
CAPTION: Rune’s claws slash deep into the living armor that is Crusader’s flesh —
PANEL TWO: Crusader is on his knees, clutching at his chest and stomach. The white fire is now substantial, streaming from his body like fiery ooze. It drips through his fingers and runs down his forearms.
CAPTION: — and the brilliant fire of his faith vomits forth, dispersed in steaming rivulets on the ground.
PANEL THREE: Crusader calls to the crowd for help. They seem ready to intervene.
CRUSADER: Join me —
CRUSADER: — together we can still win the day.
PANEL FOUR: Tight on Rune. Sneer of contempt.
RUNE: Oh, you are a rare fool . . .
(FULL-PAGE SHOT): Rune laughs while his herd surges over Crusader, pounding him with fists and feet. They rip at his armor. The bite and claw him. Whoever has survived of Manny, Moe, and Jack should lead the way. Crusader does not resist. His spirit is broken.
CAPTION: They surge over him like a living wave, venting all their anger, frustration, and fear —
CAPTION: — for fear is all they have. Fear of God, fear of the Devil, fear of burying another child, dead from the plague —
CAPTION: — fear that God has truly forsaken them, and that in this age of Satan —
CAPTION: — it is better to be on the side of might.
CAPTION: Rune offered them order, and safety from terror of the random sort —
CAPTION: — while Crusader offered only human dignity, and an example of how courage might hold back the dark . . .
CAPTION: . . . qualities that count for little, in a world gone mad.
PANEL ONE: Rune holds one fist aloft. The crowd
falls back from the dying Crusader, forming a path for Rune.
PANEL TWO: Rune feasts on what’s left of Crusader’s life energy.
PANEL THREE: Rune stands atop the city walls, Crusader raised above his head.
RUNE: Farewell, fool —
PANEL FOUR: A long, vertical, silhouetted shot, of Crusader’s body plummeting toward a river gorge far below.
CAPTION: “ — you knew me not half so well as you knew yourself.”
(FULL-PAGE SHOT): The townsfolk drop to their knees before Rune, and beg his forgiveness. Manny, Moe, and or Jack should be in the front row. I love those guys. In another six hundred years they’ll be wearing suits and running large companies. Rune spreads his wings and bares his fangs. They’re gonna get it . . .
MANNY (OR WHOEVER): Forgive us, my Lord Rune. Have mercy.
RUNE: Mercy was invented by the weak to protect themselves from the strong.
RUNE: You deserve my mercy —
RUNE: — no more than you deserved my wisdom.
For this final page we return to the “medieval” art style that opened last issue.
PANEL ONE: In abstract medieval rendition, Rune falls upon the villagers, slaying and rending.
CAPTION: Not all the many horrors we had endured could prepare us for the wrath of Rune —
CAPTION: — he harvested our flesh and bathed in our blood.
PANEL TWO: An image of the city in ruins, bodies strewn across the landscape, others impaled on church spires or hanging from gallows.
CAPTION: Our town, for which had sacrificed our souls, did Lord Rune destroy.
CAPTION: You will find it on no map; even the stones are scattered.
PANEL THREE: Another swipe from “Danse Macabre”, similar to the first panel of last issue. Skeletons dance with the Reaper.
CAPTION: Those few who escaped fell prey to brigands or disease.
CAPTION: Young and old, priest and layman, we all joined the Danse Macabre —
PANEL THREE: Rune laughs, shakes his fist, or otherwise lords it over the page.
CAPTION: — while Rune returned to the hunt, his heart made whole through annihilation of our hope.
PANEL FOUR: In a river gorge, the remains of Crusader’s armor lay rusting atop a grassy river bank. Weeds grow from joints in the armor. A flower creeps from the visor, or shattered helmet.
CAPTION: Only I remain, to tell the tale, and know that with Crusader died something precious —
CAPTION: — that when evil might have been destroyed, we proved all too fearful —
CAPTION: — and too human —
CAPTION: — to recover the destiny Adam sacrificed in Eden.
CAPTION: The Crusade continues.