(Narrator) 'In the 11th century, Europe was a patchwork of feudal states
'extending from the Mediterranean to the shores of the North Sea.
'Powerful dukes exerted life-and-death control over their primitive subjects.
'One such, Duke William of Ghent, held a coastal area in Normandy.
'To protect the fens and marshes of a troubled corner of his domain, 'the Duke sent a troop of warriors led by his most trusted knight, 'Chrysagon de la Crux.
'This Norman war lord was charged to impose the Duke's will on his vassals
'and to protect their settlements from Frisian raiders
'who crossed the waters to plunder and pillage.'
(Bors) Hey! You naked tower!
From here to the sea and beyond, it's yours!
From here to the sea, we're pilgrims to nowhere and we have arrived.
What's the matter, Draco?
Your belly hurt? Aye, my lord.
What is it, brother? What did you expect?
Whatever you want. Your wish is mine.
For myself, I expect nothing.
Queer, moody place.
Still, it's mine.
Given by the Duke himself.
A holding no man in all christendom wanted.
I want it. You have it.
And you'll keep it, brother, as the Lord kept Israel.
This place has the dimensions of heresy.
(Deep horn blows)
(Blows deep note)
Raiders from the sea.
Frisian raiders... they've sacked the village.
Taking women to the boats now!
To the boats!
Peasant pigs! Ha!
Come on, move on!
De la Crux... You!
Frisian butcher! I want you!
You are bloodied, Chrysagon.
I had him, Draco.
I had him in my fist and I lost him.
There's no one else worth ransom?
There's only one Prince of the Frisians.
So, they bring their heathen brats along to teach them murder.
Here's your lesson, boy.
Hold your hand, Bors. Let me have him.
Why? I'll make a page of him.
And being a page, he'll make a lord of me.
He will sting you with this.
Now where would such a scurvy ship's boy steal a blade like that?
You are the village elder? My name Odins.
And this my son, Marc.
You took that from a Frisian? Aye, lord. I fought.
Where are the men of the garrison? Gone, lord.
What do you mean, gone? Killed?
I mean gone. And the warden? Dead?
Last night I saw him very much alive.
Methinks we've truly got a seigneur now instead of just a warden in the tower.
What difference? This one saved thee, man.
This one can also hang thee. So could the other.
This one has the right. But he's a great knight.
Twenty years in the wars, the priest said.
Our lord, he is.
Our lord, perhaps, but not our master.
Nor master of the stone nor the tree.
(Soft chiming and tinkling)
Good, my lord. Good, Father.
Sir Chrysagon de la Crux?
Ugo de Bouillon, my lord. Servant of God.
My flock, sire. Your vassals.
A simple people, but pious in their fashion.
They were Druids here before Caesar's day.
Mere children who revered in all innocence the customs of their fathers before them.
Customs of the devil, sir priest! Not so, good sire.
To think such faceless brutes could sway a priest.
Oh, they have faces.
They all look much alike to me.
Let's move closer, let me touch.
That doorway has no protection.
No protection at all.
It stinks. You could find it blindfolded!
It stank before the raiders came.
My men marched 20 miles today. Now they must sleep in this.
My lord, when the Duke's messenger told our warden of his removal, he grew somewhat...somewhat lax.
I knew him at court. He was somewhat lax then.
A little disordered, I fear.
Where is he now, your lax warden?
It is to be hoped in heaven.
But I doubt it.
Your quarters, my lord.
Well, he was always chasing some goose girl up a hayrick.
He was bewitched.
Carried off by devils, he was.
These people here have ancient customs in which he may have unthinkingly have joined.
The tree and the stone? Worshipping the devil?
No, no. He damned the devil's flesh.
But women's flesh, he loved.
And devils dearly love to masquerade.
Are you saying she was a witch? Witch?
With white flowers?
What is this? Her bridal wreath.
Come, sir priest... was she a witch or a bride?
A virgin bride.
The warden's? A villager's.
A bee among the flowers. A mark of death.
There must be willing girls in this place enough for any man.
Why took he a virgin?
"Keep their good will," the Duke told me.
And him before me.
Yet this rapacious bastard...
Small loss when the Frisians killed him.
My lord, it was not...not rape.
You see, they liked the warden well.
Who liked him? These people here.
In olden times, they sanctified a marriage by giving the bride on her wedding night to...
Bors! Burn that bed.
Oh, yes, yes. Our fens and marshes attract them in great quantity.
I, with these eyes, have seen them.
I speak of different devils. The Frisians.
Oh, yes, yes, lord.
Er...might I offer you some meagre food and drink?
They'll be back.
I dare say, lord. Their land lies north across the sea but two days' distance.
I cannot serve you peacock... I know where their land lies.
And they do raid our coast this time of year.
I have a green cheese... Next time I'll hold him fast.
Two fishes, a garlic soup... As he held my father.
Taken in battle by the Frisians, I've been told.
And stripped bare.
Most extortionate ransom. They are a harsh people.
He came home broken and died so. A pauper knight.
It must be hard to lose your lands, I am sure.
We lost all.
That was a long time ago.
What were you saying? I said...
Tell me at table. We'll gnaw a bone tonight and hunt tomorrow.
Thank you, my lord. You'll enjoy our forest.
There's deer, wild fowl and tusky boar.
Off, you heathen hounds! Down!
Get off! Down, dogs! Get off! Get off!
Be still, woman. They won't hurt you. Get off!
She's all right. Counts as a kill, though!
Come on, pig girl. It's never as bad as all that.
(Rainault) Pig girl? No eyes in your head, man?
(Splash in river)
Here's the pelt and there's the otter!
I told you, I want no trouble with these people.
Handle them softly, I said! Just what I was going to do, my lord.
You are out to hunt, dog. Get on with it!
All of you!
Are you hurt?
Ah, nothing much.
Say your name.
Bronwyn, my lord.
From the village?
I own the village.
I know, my lord.
Odins', my lord, the elder. His foster child.
Speak up, girl!
May I dress myself, my lord?
Are you going to watch me?
Are you cold? No.
Are you afraid?
Yes. Why? I'm gentle with horses, hawks.
What is this? A wedding garland.
And you're a virgin?
What happened to you?
He did nothing.
A bee stung him.
I fell in the water.
And he did nothing?
They were hunting. Who?
Lord Chrysagon. And he did not touch you?
Am I hurting you by asking these questions?
Then why do you weep?
Marc, I love you.
I have since the day your father took me in.
Stay away from him.
Stay away from him!
God's great fist, I can see him! My lord and brother!
Planting himself in front of her and staring her down.
Giving her battle orders: "You go! Wheel around!
"Keep your flanks covered! Pull up your breastplate!
"Your rear echelon's exposed!"
You have not had the shirt off your back and that is why the wound frets you.
Frets me? You fret me like an old woman.
I told you, it's a scratch, nothing more.
You have a fever, brother? Can't sleep.
Maybe you took it from that girl. At the pond.
What's she like?
Oh...I don't know. A woman...
Tan hair, breasts, belly, legs...
A woman. She has a calm face.
So has a cow.
How was she?
I let her go. You let her go?
Small wonder you can't sleep! Why?
Ah, there's a strangeness in this place.
I've felt it since first we came here.
Nonetheless, I thought it mine.
Marsh, naked tower... The world's end almost.
But to have it, to hold it. If only...
What do you think of it, this land?
You deserve better. Much better.
What say you, Bors?
You are my lord. This land serves you, I serve you.
But if it should be a land unholy?
Do you feel nothing, hear nothing, see nothing?
I feel bored.
I hear the wind. I see fever burning holes in your head.
That speaks of spells.
Sire, all men have heard how, when the Lord Christ came, the old gods, demons and spirits with snakey hair were cast down into hell!
But some say they still linger, prowling the dark corners and unblessed places of the earth.
Changed to beggar men and goose girls.
Bors, you surprise me. You've produced a thought.
God help the man who meets one. The blood in his heart changes.
And what of that devil's dish he met today?
She's the cause of his fever and that's the truth.
How so? Because you let her go!
You know who she is?
Well, find out from Rainault and put her to work in the kitchen.
Why should she waste her charm on pigs in the swamp when there's use to be made of it here?
(Bors) Come here!
Now, girl, you will take his arms and hold him firm while I...
Lie flat, my lord.
Now you will hold him here and here.
And he will plunge like a gelded colt.
A trick I learned from the heathen Moor.
If a wench hold a warrior, he doesn't kick as much. Pride of manhood, I suppose.
Take ten men to hold my lord or one woman.
Sire, I shall count to five.
(Draco) Volc, call him down. Use your lure!
Damn falcon, he never knows what he wants.
(Volc) They're almost human that way, my lord.
(Draco) You know less about falcons than a flea does about Sunday.
In order to train a falcon, Volc, you must have a larger brain than a falcon.
Come down here or I'll wring your damn neck.
Devil damn me, but look at Sir Flea bristle!
I'll kill him.
By my faith, I'll kill them both!
I'll twist your nose with a slack in your belly!
Don't run from me.
Is that poppy? Yes.
What do you want with this? We call it oxeye.
We get camomile from it for seasoning.
It also has the power to rob men's minds.
And it can kill. Oh, no magic.
My foster father heals with these herbs.
Purple foxglove? A leaf or two for love sickness.
Three leaves or four can stop the heart. Witchery.
No, my lord. Not witchery.
They all kill.
Mistletoe. The golden bough that twines around the sacred oak.
Why is the oak sacred? It's connected by lightning to the gods.
You believe that? Yes.
Before I came here, they told me the Marsh People had spotted bellies and webbed toes.
Do you believe that? Not since I saw you in the lake.
We'll lie under that tree.
I feel good about you.
I've been fighting all year, I haven't had time to lie under trees.
Please, my lord, let me go. I fought all last year too.
I haven't even seen a girl with tan hair. I'm tired of fighting.
My lord, I... Shh! Don't talk, witch.
This is not lawful.
You want to serve in this troop? Ha-ha!
Aye, sir. I want to be my lord's man.
People of your tribe cannot bear arms in any service.
Besides, you have no skill with weapons.
I found these poachers in the glen, sire.
They are not poachers, my lord. With a pair of stags, Rainault.
You said two. Yes, sire.
These stags were lying dead already, my lord. Locked together by the horns.
They needed the meat surely.
The Frisians slaughtered most of the livestock in the village.
That be truth, lord. The Frisians killed our pigs.
And so, of course, they poach.
The woodland belongs to the lord.
These louts must be made to carry the stump of their right hand in the left.
The woodland belongs to the Duke. We keep it for him.
We keep the peace here too.
We share Lord Draco's outrage.
To kill the Duke's deer is a grave crime.
But there is no proof.
Proof? It is my considered opinion...
I too hold considered opinions.
I am a knight. And I can write letters!
The devil's tools! Enough!
Beware, my lord.
Another time these clods might take your compassion for weakness.
There will not be another time.
What in God's name are you doing with that boy still roped up?
Why, training him, sire. It's the only way.
See you keep to the tower now, boy.
My lord has spent the morning on you people, don't waste his time!
I speak for my son Marc who humbly beseeches our lord's grace and consent to wed.
To this girl?
The foster daughter of my house, called Bronwyn.
Tomorrow, my lord. So soon?
They've been promised since childhood. It's time, lord.
I give leave to your son to wed.
We thank thee.
Work on the moat goes well, lord. But the drawbridge, the blacksmith...
No more now! Get him out!
Bones of the saints! What's wrong with you?
Is it the wench? Draco, enough.
I'm only saying, if you want her, take her.
I told you...
I know it's not my business but you don't look at a woman every day.
She marries tomorrow. What's wrong with tonight?
She's not one of your she-goats, Draco.
I won't take a woman the night before her wedding.
You're right, it's wrong tonight.
I could bite my tongue for mentioning it.
But what about tomorrow?
Get the what's-his-name...the priest.
You have the right. The wedding's tomorrow, the right of the first night.
Ask the priest.
Of the seven golden virtues, I swear the most peculiar is chastity.
Look, you're the lord of this miserable place.
She belongs to this miserable place, therefore she's yours.
Dear learned priest, we need your counsel.
Such as I have to give.
Are you well versed in church law, Father?
Middling well, though my order runs not to law, it seeks rather to make amends for the evils wrought by men through the absence of love.
Splendid. It is of love that I would ask you.
Now, this noble knight has need of a little innocent pleasure.
There is no such thing as "innocent pleasure".
Certainly you have heard of the Right of the Seigneur to take a virgin bride on her wedding night?
The church does not admit it. It is pagan law.
And these are pagan lands.
Not of a Sunday morning, I assure you. These are evening matters.
We found the warden with a bride in his arms.
Was she not freely given by her people?
What do they say in Rome?
Jus primae noctis. That being the Roman for it.
You hear that? It's known in Rome.
And damned as heresy.
And yet...and yet...
Speak on, good Father.
Well, now, fertility...
Some say it's pagan. But who's not pagan in some matters?
I love the speech of scholars.
These young folks here think of nothing but frolicking.
"Desist!" I tell them. But they will go awantoning.
So, lest the devil take them, I preach them a text from holy writ.
"Increase and multiply," I say. "Replenish the earth."
And, oh, how they obey me.
But how this touches on your problem...
Oh, clearly, clearly.
The pagan part may honour pagan law. We ask no more.
What hour is the wedding? The wedding in church or the other?
We'll be at the church.
To claim that right?
War lords, forbear!
In this weak hand lie lightnings and I'll use them!
Ah, no, no sacrilege.
Not in God's church!
There's a... There's another wedding.
Their tribal way, that wedding's theirs.
Feasting, drinking, clowning, dancing...
Oh, lords, how they do caper.
(Music and cheering)
(Music and cheering cease)
(Speaks in tribal tongue)
Hold the boy.
You come to do us honour, my lord.
To claim my right.
He has the right. No!
No! Let it be my own son.
He has the right.
Not by his law, but by ours.
Long before the Norman came with his church and his tower, we worshipped at the stone and at the tree.
And in the fields we plant holy seeds.
Then as now, a virgin sacrifice was made for the fertility of our earth and the enrichment of our tribe.
To take her your way is rape!
It should be done our way, the old way. You accept this?
With a ring of fire.
The sacred way of the Druid. You accept this?
Prepare then a high place.
I have a high place.
Make it ready.
And your men wearing iron.
Wearing iron, Norman lord, and standing.
As the moon rises, the virgin bride shall be brought to you.
But hold! At the rising of the sun, I will reclaim her.
So be it.
I go, my lord, to wait the rising of the sun.
No, be still. Yes, my lord.
My lord speaks and all obey.
Is that not what you want?
No, I want you to be free to go or stay as you will.
But I fear you'd go, so...
Look at me!
I have the right to take you.
I have the right!
You want me to go?
Back to your pigs and your strange damned people, and your death-sucking bees, yes!
Go, and let me go!
I need you as I need breath...
...fire in the winter...
That's what festers.
I want my life in you.
Its truth. It goes beyond the blood, fever in the flesh.
They say it's a sacred thing to have a high-born man begin your life.
Are you afraid of me?
I cast no spells.
Better if you did.
Spells can be broken.
My lord, I too am bewitched.
You! You had them hold me!
Or see you cut to pieces. Better that!
Aye, and all the rest of us.
He's got my wife. He's touching her.
Oh, my God! He's touching my wife!
Bear it, my son. Slaves have no sons!
Who took my mother from you, coward? Who's my father?
Toughen up your heart.
If she'd been gored by an ox, you'd tend her.
Try and forget the pain.
Who knows her better than you do?
Ever since she was little, it was always Marc.
I couldn't sleep, it's cold out there.
I feel rheumaticky.
Good Father, you have pointy ears.
You have sneaky eyes.
How does that lie in your stomach?
I couldn't sleep either.
We are all of us, good Father, made of the coarsest clay.
You, me, my stern and glorious brother up there in bed.
Though I'm sure he isn't sleeping!
I wonder whether the louse wasn't created on the sixth day with Man.
You too are a party to it!
And undeserving of the frock I wear.
But you see, my lord, I too am a man.
And a louse.
Stand to attention! You are a guard of honour!
The sun, like every other day.
You cried out last night. I put my fingers to your lips and you slept again.
I dreamt of my father.
He died when he came home and found his lands sold for ransom.
And I took up arms for the Duke.
He died in two halves.
First his right side, then his left.
He had me set my hands between his...
...dead hand and his live one, and swear to keep his faith with the Duke.
I swore to protect my brother, to recover our lands.
But he was already dead.
From under his right hand, I took that sword.
And I've lived 20 years with that cold wife.
And off his dead finger, I took this ring.
What are you doing?
My lord, it's dawn.
They won't take you. Not the Duke, nor the devil, nor all...
It could never, never be.
It's daylight in the swamps.
Did you notice?
You look as though your fever's gone.
The elder...what's-his-name...Odins waits for her below there.
Don't you hear me, Chrysagon?
It's over now.
I'll talk to him.
That old clown, let him howl.
But there was an understanding with the Duke. Have you forgotten?
"Keep their goodwill," he said.
I'll not give her up.
Must you run stallion-mad and trample all our lives to pieces?
My life is my own!
Dear lord and brother, you were the Duke's most favourite jewel, his cosset.
Through you comes everything.
All we have.
And we must have something!
You've had the grain out of my horse's mouth.
And the new armour that should've clothed my men.
Their blood paid for your fineries! My blood too!
But... All bounty from the wars!
Each favour of the Duke I gave to you, all to you, awantoning at court, while I sweated inside that damned, dirty armour 20 years!
I've had nothing. Nothing! Nothing!
You are our lord!
You cannot be a slave of a slave!
It sets the whole world turvy!
And look at her, this flower face...
The sister of pigs!
This blazing whore!
That naked strumpet wears our father's ring!
Then honour it! And her!
She is mine.
You are bewitched.
You've had her.
Now keep her. And may your soul be damned for it.
Where is she?
He speaks of love. The sort of thing that songs are made of.
That means he's not yet tired of his toy.
I must see Lord Chrysagon...
Don't ever touch me!
Well, what are you waiting for? Can't you see it's over?
Where is she?
What I said last night, I'm sorry. He had the right.
But now I have her back, I...
He keeps her!
No! Don't tell me of his rights. He has none, not now.
What can you do? You want to be cut down with that sword?
They are warriors, boy. You won't get by the door.
I have a sickle.
I killed a wild boar in the marsh once, I can kill a horse and a man.
You'll never kill him, boy. Killing's his trade. He was born to it.
I'll sink my sickle in his chest like a hook in rotten beef.
I liked him. You know that? I liked him.
Norman or no, he seemed a man. I'd have served him.
I raged last night, but then I thought, "He's higher than I am, better.
I'll strangle him in his own stinking guts.
But not alone. Do what I told you, go to the Frisians.
Take the boat in the fen, bring them back with you.
And why should they come and help us?
Because this half-sized Norman says they will?
No, you ditch dog!
For the boy I told you of, the boy I took.
He's a prince of those people.
If they know he still lives held in that tower, they'll take it down stone by stone to have him back.
A Frisian prince? He told you that?
Take that to them.
I'll keep this to be a lord in.
Go, then, my son. It can't be mended now without blood.
I'll be back within the week.
She'll escape him somehow, no matter how close he keeps her.
All right, old woman, take it in.
Where are the men from the village to work on the moat?
None came today, lord. Yesterday, only two.
The village elder, I haven't seen him since...
It's cold here, love, you're shivering.
Do you know the stars? My father taught me to find my way by them.
I know only this village. And now, only this tower.
Do you want to go back?
But I can't leave you.
Well, the world's wider than this tower.
And I do know that road.
There's a place...a far place...
...where I can carry you.
When? Please... Oh, my love.
When? When all's done here.
I must hold this place a while yet for the Duke.
The Frisians, they're back.
Tybald, get oil and water to the roof.
Break some stones loose from the parapet.
The boy...or we cut your Norman throats!
Has the whole village gone over to them?
Nearly all, I fear, my lord. God save their souls.
Isn't...isn't that your falconer? The little man?
So, Sir Flea has deserted us.
Oh, well. Small loss, eh, brother?
Warlord! The boy! My son!
Your son, is he?
You gave my father back for a bucket full of gold pieces.
The same for your son, then. Or take him without his head!
Think you can put enough edge on that to cut your way out of this, brother?
Oh, I know we're all safe in your strong hand, and do but trust in you and all will yet be well, huh?
Lie here with your wench, then, Sir Chrysagon de la Crux, till those pirates pull the Duke's tower over into the swamp.
Draco, what would you do? If you break the Duke's faith...
I break his faith?
You're the lord of this place. "Hold it well," he told you.
And where are the dogs you hold it for?
Waiting outside your door with pitchforks!
But you plot... What, brother?
Will you chop me with this great sword?
Well...it might be.
You're a tall, strong man.
Or I might chop you.
But neither way would make you right.
Now! Open it!
My brother's ridden for help. To the Duke.
Now the tower door!
We need a grappling hook. There is none.
The boat... It could have an anchor.
Get me a rope!
Take a turn around that post.
Not you, Bors. Why not?
I would as soon die a wet death as a dry one.
(Bors) Pull! Pull!
Pull! Pull your heathen guts out!
(Cheering and shouting)
Will...will help soon come from Ghent?
Aye, if the Duke wills, it'll come, soon or late.
But...but will it be in time?
Ha! Look here, priest...
If they rise early, move fast and find us alive, then it will be in time.
Hey, up now.
Come, Morgo, up!
It's no use from here. We'll go below.
Barricade the stairs! If they overrun us down here...
Now the oil! Oil!
(Chrysagon) Block up that doorway. They haven't finished.
Tybald, sound the bell.
(Bors) It's Draco with thunderbolts!
Oh, not yet. Those wild men are still in the woods.
They won't leave. Not while we hold the boy.
They can't take him now, so they must buy him.
Our generous Duke gave me more than the men-at-arms I saved your skins with.
He promised me half the gold our captive princeling brings.
Oh, so the world turns, brother.
As his father held ours, so we hold him.
Perhaps we could sell him a pound at a time.
Hmm...pity he's so small.
Well, any ear should do to show we're honest traders.
Draco, let be. I've had a bellyful of blood over this.
"Let be", is it?
Oh, no, brother.
My glorious brother.
No more! The Duke's had a bellyful, too!
When I told him of the devil's brew you'd stirred up, he gave me your holding here.
Did I say it was a turning world?
You are lord here?
And that little insect is mine to kill, maim, ransom as I see fit.
This village is mine. As for the clods in it...
...they'll find what rebellion brings.
I'll give them empty sleeves and wooden legs...
For what I did? If you like, brother.
Carry it all on your broad back, then. Your sins and mine.
Carry them to a monkery and pray your way back to God's grace again.
Or go to hell.
I've been there.
Then go on a quest for the Holy Grail and take that with you.
But first, I'll have my father's ring.
The ring, I say!
Draco! Shall I take her finger with it?
I can't fight you, Draco.
Then I'll fight you.
While I ate the bread you earned in the wars, and rode the horse you gave me, and lived in the shadow of your sickening righteousness, because the Duke smiled on you!
Well, he's not smiling now, now I hold this place!
And you will all swear your fealty to me.
Not while my lord lives.
Then your lord shall die.
This thing must be settled.
I swear to you, Draco...
I swear by my father's...
If you prefer butchery to combat, then butchery it shall be.
My glorious brother.
Keep her with you here.
For this gift of my son, I'll give you all I can.
Rank, riches, land.
Cross the water with us.
Go with him. You and she get clear of this mess.
I can't give up this place.
This place is no longer yours to give up.
It was Draco's for a moment.
Soon the Duke will send another party.
Another lord to carry out what Draco promised, and what will you do to save her then?
Kill him? And then the next? And then the Duke himself?
If you'd give my lady sanctuary...
My roof is hers.
I'll bring her to you.
So you send her to the Frisians?
Such fierce nobility!
And then what?
I go to the Duke.
The Duke? Why? To make ghosts of us?
To put right somehow all I've set wrong here.
You talk like a ballad singer.
Do penance? Plead for these marsh rabbits?
The Duke will have your head on a pole and mine along with it!
Don't go, then, Bors. You get free of this.
Your father set me to ride at your back when you were too small to reach the saddle.
God help me, I've ridden too many miles there to leave now.
Listen to me.
I can't take you to that...
...that far place, not for a while.
I'll be with you, always.
Wherever you go.
So you go now to the north.
Oh, no! I want to stay with you.
No, you can't. I have to stay here.
But if you go, I go too.
You stand up now.
And we both go.
Hold this place till...
...till I come back.
You hold it well.