The Alchemist's Daughter
EXT. LONDON 1543 WAREHOUSE AREA NARROW LANE-NIGHT
Pouring rain. A window is open and a rotten shutter lies against a dilapidated building as rain sheets off the lead roof. A pool of light spills onto the muddy lane.
Watching from an alcove is BIANCA(20)slight build, thick wavy black hair, vivid blue eyes. She is calm but serious, slightly agitated.
Through the window haughty ALBERN GODDARD(50)thin build, gray hair,black coif, pointed beard,chemistry stained gown, removes a crucible from a fire and places it in a pan of water. SIZZLE, STEAM rises. He works to pry off the lid burning his fingers. Finally he peers expectantly into the crucible. Nothing.
Albern drops onto a stool in defeat. He stares out the window and Bianca jerks her head back fearing he has seen her.
She needn't have worried. CRASH, SHATTER, Albern pushes his experiment and crockery off the table.
In a moment a hand reaches out the window and slams the shutter closed. A rat skulks along the periphery of the building and disappears around a corner. The door CREAKS open and Albern exits. He secures a chain and walks toward Bianca.
Bianca plasters herself against the alcove and Albern walks past without noticing her.
'Tis ten the hour, good citizens of fair London!
The rain 'tis fierce. The innocent sleep, and hear me not.
But those of poor conscience swither beneath a guilty brow.
Tis ten the hour.
Bianca peeks around the corner, hurries to the door. She works the padlock and with a quick glance around, enters.
INT. ALCHEMY ROOM
Bianca takes a candle from a wall sconce and lights it. She picks her way through the room to a table piled with alchemy equipment.
There is an unusual stove with an alembic(a copper still with a long snout)on top. The embers in a firebox smolder and barely glow. A couple of barrels sit against a wall. A stuffed alligator hangs from the ceiling.
Bianca scans the table and moves on, sees the mess of broken crockery on the floor next to a cleared table.
A mouse lets out a SQUEAK and hides.
Shelving lines a wall filled with alchemy equipment, glass, and pottery jars. Jars are labeled with "bat butter", "bottled breath of grasshopper", "pigeon hearts," and "snouts of moles".
Bianca grabs a stool and reaches to the back of a high shelf. She retrieves a jar and removes the cork. She sniffs, dips in a finger, rubs it between her finger and thumb. Satisfied,she drops the jar into a cinched leather purse dangling from her waist.
She finds a bowl of cinnabar and picks out the stone turning it in the dim candlelight. She stuffs the ore into a shoulder satchel.
The wind RATTLES the shutter startling her, and rain streams down the wall. Bianca steps off the stool.
She comes to a dais with a portfolio on it. She studies the most recent entry--a typical alchemy text, with symbols and pictorial representations of Albern's latest experiment.
Bianca is engrossed until,BANG--the door swings open and smacks the wall. The candle snuffs and rain blows into the room. Papers scatter. Bianca scurries about collecting the pages and an alembic falls off a table. She picks it up to weight them down then decides to keep it, dropping it in her satchel.
Bianca replaces the candle in the wall sconce and leaves.
EXT. NARROW LANE
As Bianca heads down the lane, unbeknownst to her, the Watchman has noticed.
Halt! Stop! Who goes there?
Watchman gives chase
Thief! Thief! Stop thief!
Bianca slips in the mud but catches herself. She heads toward the river, turns a corner, and navigates the planks down a muddy lane.
The Watchman is in hot pursuit. He shouts, making a commotion.
A second WATCHMAN hears the calls and Watchman #1 stops long enough to direct him to head her off by circling around.
A STRAY DOG barks as Bianca runs past. Beneath a second story overhang, A HOMELESS MAN looks up.
Bianca sees Watchman #1 gaining. She turns onto Old Swan Lane with the river in her sights. As she nears the end, a YOUNG MAN leaves a tavern and watches her run past. He sees her drop the alembic. He also sees Watchman #1 shouting after her.
At the end of the lane, Bianca hesitates. To her left, the portcullis of London Bridge is closed. To her right, Watchman #2 runs toward her though he's still a bit away. In front of her is nothing but dark water.
Heaving for air, Bianca glances back as Watchman #1 bears down on her.
Bianca darts to the right where a set of stone stairs leads to a wood pier. There are no wherries (small boats) waiting to take passengers across. It appears she has no escape.
CUT BACK to Watchman #1 near the end of the lane. A snide grin spreads across his face as he realizes she has nowhere to go. He slows to catch his breath, still galumphing through the mud and rain toward Bianca.
WHUMPH! Watchman #1 is thrown off-balance and falls in the mud. The young man from the tavern has knocked into him, pretending to be drunk.
Ye should be mindful where ye step sirrah. The streets are full of sots and ne'er do wells.
Ye among them--ye deboshed cullion!
(offering a hand up)
I will pretend you are sorely mistaken, and be about my merry way,
'elst I will assure that the mud be your bed this night.
Bianca trundles down the stone steps, slipping and hurries partway down the pier. She searches the water for a boat and sees nothing.
She looks up at the lane and Watchman #2 approaches the steps.
Bianca looks around in desperation. Her only choice for escape is to jump in the river.
She looks back at Watchman #2 beginning down the steps. He slips then slows to make his way down.
Bianca takes out a knife and steels herself. At the bottom, Watchman #2 looks up and sees the knife. He raises his hands.
(nodding at the knife)
Now lass, let it not come to that.
Bianca breathes heavily but does not answer. She keeps her eyes on him.
WATCHMAN #2 (cont.)
The watch of Billingsgate ward has reason to think ye be thieving.
He steps forward and Bianca backs away.
WATCHMAN #2 (cont.)
Now why would a young wench be creeping around warehouses
on such a frightful night?
He slowly advances.
Bianca retreats. A boat appears, but too far to be of help. She knows she must stall long enough for the boat to cover the distance to the pier.
I'm on my way home.
Ha! And where be home?
It is no concern of yours, sirrah.
So says a lass who runs when told to halt.
Running is not an admission of guilt.
Bianca reaches the end of the pier.
Watchman #1 arrives at the steps. He sees Bianca at the end, brandishing a knife.
Another step and she goes for a swim. Let us
be quick about it.
Lass, give over. Drowning is a fearsome end.
Again Bianca glances at the wherry inching toward the pier. In exasperation she threatens the watchman with the knife.
Watchman #2 knows she has run out of options. She must either fight or jump. The corner of his mouth turns up.
Bianca again threatens and just over her shoulder the bow of the wherry comes within five feet of the pier.
Without warning Bianca leaps for the boat, an awkward desperate act. Her kirtle drags in the water and she struggles into the hull.
An oar stops the forward motion and immediately reverses the boat's direction.