Adaptation of a Literary Text

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High King Cardan

by

Trisha Erica Allanigue

Based on

The Wicked King

by

Holly Black


FADE IN:

  1. EXT. – ELFHAME PALACE GARDEN – NIGHT

High King Cardan, a faerie boy of eighteen, walks through the palace garden full of night-blooming flowers. He creeps to the rocky shore, peering over the cliff at the waves below.

He is thinking about his seneschal, Jude, a mortal girl of seventeen, who is being held captive by the Queen of the Undersea. She’s been gone for a month, and he wants nothing more than to hurt those who took her away from him.

BOMB

It’s not safe for a king to wander about on his own.

His body startles. The Bomb comes out of the dark so silently that King Cardan begins to doubt his own skill. She stands there with a cowl covering her head.

KING CARDAN

And here I thought no one heard me. . . .

BOMB

You did very well.

King Cardan is annoyed with her response, as though he was a child in need of encouragement. He looks toward the sea, at the crash of waves. He’s on land, but he feels as though he’s drowning anyway.

BOMB

There’s someone at the palace who has information. You should come.

KING CARDAN

Is it Nicasia?

Nicasia, the beautiful daughter of the Queen of the Undersea. He ought not to have been high-handed with her after the Undersea’s first strike on the land. But it’s not too late for him to change his approach.

BOMB

No. It’s Lady Asha.

His mother. For a moment, King Cardan wonders if the Bomb knows who Lady Asha is to him. But of course she does; she is just too discreet to say.

BOMB

Lady Asha was in the Tower of Forgetting and the last person to speak with Jude before she disappeared.

The Bomb gives him a sympathetic look.

BOMB (CONT’D)

And she will answer only to you.

KING CARDAN

Well then… I have heard it said that one ought not to keep a lady waiting.


2. INT. ELFHAME PALACE PARLOR – NIGHT – CONT.

When King Cardan enters the parlor, her mother, Lady Asha, gives him a courtier smile. She is dressed in a magnificent purple gown. It’s obvious she dressed up for her audience with him.

KING CARDAN

Mother.

He walks toward her, and she stands from the couch and makes a low bow.

LADY ASHA

I wondered if I would find myself in disfavor.

He is ashamed by how much reason he’s given her to wonder. After all, he didn’t let her out of the Tower. He didn’t think he could, didn’t really consider himself the High King at all.

KING CARDAN

And yet you still asked for me and me alone.

She smiles at him in a new way, a bit like a predator about to go in a strike.

LADY ASHA

Your seneschal offered me an escape from Elfhame. But she’s gone. And so I’ve come to see if you have any mercy for me to throw myself on.

Her words sting. They’re intended to. But he is expert at absorbing blows, at giving nothing in return.

KING CARDAN

I hope you aren’t going to ask me for your old rooms in the palace. I’m afraid I’ve set them on fire.

Lady Asha speaks again, but it’s hard for him to concentrate. He realizes he doesn’t want to play this game. He has no interest in trading barbs. He’s not even interested in protecting himself.

KING CARDAN

Just tell me what you wish of me. Jewels? Gowns? A comfortable manor? This is dull. What possible value is there in a contest over which of us has a heart most like a withered little pit?

He burns a stare at her.

KING CARDAN (CONT’D)

All I want is to know when you last saw my seneschal. For that, I would give you much and I would threaten you if that failed. Let us confine ourselves to the former.

Lady Asha seems diminished, but then she turns petulant.

LADY ASHA

You’ve always had a capricious nature.

He says nothing. He waits. After a moment, she sighs and begins to speak.

LADY ASHA

What I know is very little indeed. The Undersea came to free your brother Balekin from his cage. I saw the sea Folk on the stairs with their wet, slapping feet and their strange voices, heard the crash of waves soar to a cacophony, heard guards cry out.

She stops to level her gaze with her son.

LADY ASHA (CONT’D)

And then the girl came. She unlocked the door of my cell and told me to go.

KING CARDAN

Go where?

His mother shakes her head, dismissing his question as ridiculous.

LADY ASHA

Up the stairs. I passed a guard on the way, with hair the color of wheat in autumn, but he didn’t stop me. I didn’t look at his face. There was nothing important. I didn’t wait to see if she followed me. I was just glad to be free.

KING CARDAN

Did Jude say anything?

He leans forward to scrutinize her mother’s face. To see any trace of deception and secrets lying under her mask.

KING CARDAN (CONT’D)

Anything at all.

LADY ASHA

Only that she freed me for your sake…

Her lips curl into a sneer.

LADY ASHA (CONT’D)

Which only goes to show how little she knows you.

FADE OUT:


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