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10-Page Treatment 3 - Adversary

The first thing you should notice here is that I'm officially bumping the page length down to 10 pages. After three treatments, all of which are in the 10-page range, I decided to embrace that rather than try to, apparently, completely change what I was trying to do.

Also, as long as we're talking about structure rather than content, I've been thinking it may be good to break up the 10-pagers somehow. Not, like, into chapters or anything. But maybe into acts? I don't know. It's just a lot of text to assume someone would read in one sitting on the internet. I'll think about it for the next one.

As for the treatment itself, I like it. I think it's the first of the 10-page treatments that I can say that without any reservations. I really like the way it came out. I still haven't picked a single protagonist, but if/when I do, it just means I'll have plenty of B-plot material. 

The logline:
In ancient times, a pair of prisoners from different cultures codify a system of combat techniques based on animals' movements, accidentally creating the first martial art. But when they use their skills to escape captivity and return to their peoples, they know that their greatest threats are now each other.

And a link to the 3-page treatment.

Adversary


Eitan and Farah are two of hundreds of slaves serving in a Sukhe work camp, building a massive wall. Though there are slaves from many different peoples in the camp, Eitan and Farah belong to two of the larger groups, both from the same region.

Eitan is a Prutan, and Farah a Taelite. Pruta and Tael are ancient enemies; their cultures have been warring against each other since before they had the name Pruta and Tael.

The Sukhe are a warlike steppe culture that Pruta and Tael, along with many other nations, managed to push back after an unexpected massive expansion. The Sukhe lost pretty definitively, but they maintained many of their slaves.

Eitan and Farah were both stolen relatively late in the war; they’ve only been slaves for four and five years, respectively.

Eitan is a big guy, at least 6’3”, and looks like he could bench press a truck. Over dinner, he talks with his fellow Prutans about the possibility of escape. He’s been counting guards and watching their cycles, and there’s rarely more than one guard for every ten of them. Even considering the guards’ weapons, if they coordinate a surprise attack, they should be able to kill enough guards to have a reasonable shot without taking too many losses. Plus, once they get going, he’s certain that the other slaves will rise up with them, so-

He’s interrupted by laughter. It’s easy for him to talk about revolt; he’s the biggest guy around by about a head and 50 pounds. And that’s including the Sukhe guards. If he were a normal size, the size of everyone else, he wouldn’t be so quick to want to fight. His brother, Carmi, speaks up in his defense, but everyone laughs him off, too; he’s only a couple inches smaller than Eitan, also way bigger than most of them.

Half of the Prutans encourage patience and caution, advising that they try to sneak away rather than fight their way out; the other half think it’s best to just accept life where they are. There are many stories of good slaves being taken into Sukhe households to serve as house servants, and they manage to make pretty good lives for themselves.

Eitan refuses to accept slavery, though, and doesn’t think there will ever be a good time to sneak away in the night; the guards may be spread thin, but they’re legendary riders; as soon as they realize you’re missing, they’d track you and run you down in no time. They need to cripple the Sukhe enough that they’re incapable of pursuit, or at least willing to take a loss in slaves rather than hunt them all down.

Farah independently shares similar goals with Eitan, but she has the opposite problem compared to him. She’s five-foot-nothing and weighs a hundred pounds tops. While working one day, she notices how little attention the guards are paying to them. She mentions to a nearby Taelite how easy it would be for them to overtake the guards. He laughs it off. “Just focus on your work.” When she persists, saying that if they all worked together it would work, the guy gets snarky, and asks if she’d be the one organizing all this. When she says yes, he just laughs harder. “They could knock you over with a big enough sneeze.”

Nearby, one of the guards asks Eitan for help carrying some supplies. Eitan mocks him for needing help, and suggests he actually do some of his own work for a change. That pisses the guard off, so as revenge, he gives Eitan a ridiculously heavy two-man task with the smallest girl around as his only help.

That smallest girl happens to be Farah.

Eitan is annoyed, but realizes that it’s kind of his own fault, so he accepts it and doesn’t dig himself deeper. What really gets his goat, though, is that the girl he’s been paired with is a Taelite. Farah’s not exactly pleased to be working with a Prutan, either. Eitan tries to tell her to just stay out of his way and let him get the work done, but she refuses. Eitan actually is a little impressed at how hard she’s willing to work. She’s still not terribly helpful, but she’s trying hard enough that it’s hard for him to be mad at her.

They don’t talk much at first; mostly they just swap orders. “Get this end.” “Hold this up for a second.” “Help me with this.” But as things go on, they do share a little bit of small talk, even if it is racist and insulting. “You’re a pretty hard worker. Too bad other Taelites aren’t more like you.” “You’re a pretty big guy. You must be absolutely incompetent in a fight to get captured by the Sukhe.”

Later, though, when the Sukhe guards are noticing the odd couple and laughing, the pair finds common ground in talking about how awful the Sukhe are. Eitan asks Farah to stumble and falter when they’re carrying something, for the Sukhe’s benefit. Farah refuses to make herself look like a fool for them. Eitan insists, saying that the dumber they think you are, the less negative attention you’ll get. Farah still says no, pointing out that it’d be funnier for them if Eitan was the one to stumble. “You’re right!” Eitan says, and he trips himself and narrowly avoids crushing his foot. The Sukhe burst out in laughter and walk away.

Farah’s actually a little impressed at Eitan being willing to put himself down for their amusement. Impressed, and disgusted. “Do you like being their monkey?” Eitan is annoyed. He says that he’s willing to do anything it takes to give himself the advantage over the Sukhe. If that means making them underestimate him by becoming a laughingstock, he’ll do it. Farah asks what he wants to use that advantage for, and Eitan shrugs. “Same as everyone else, right? Escape. Someday.”

Farah reveals that she wants to fight her way out, but nobody will follow her. Eitan laughs and says that even if she was big, nobody would; everyone just tells him it’s easy for him to say. They realize they could help each other, and very, very briefly consider it. But then they remember they’re mortal enemies and just get back to work.

Days pass. Maybe a couple weeks; time moves weird when every day is the same.

During a Sukhe religious ceremony, the guards abduct and kill dozens of prisoners, and make the other prisoners watch.

The Sukhe gear up for some big religious ceremony. The atmosphere among the slaves is actually a little lighter than usual, because of the reduced guard presence. The guards start moving through the slaves, though, picking out some of the bigger and stronger ones from all different groups, Prutan, Taelite, and others. They almost grab Eitan, but one of the guards who was laughing at him and Farah says no, “This one only looks strong.”

The guards take the chosen slaves and bring them up on a massive altar in the middle of the slave camp. They start sacrificing them one at a time. When they try to resist, they’re beaten. When the rest of the slaves start to freak out, a unit of armed soldiers marches in to keep order. The Sukhe warden announces that being sacrificed to the Great Sky Eagle is an honor, as all those sacrificed will attend to him forever.

Someone shouts that if it’s such an honor, why don’t they sacrifice themselves? This leads to a lot of unrest among the slaves, threatening to break into violence. Before it can, though, the warden finds the man who shouted and brings him up on the stage. He announces to everyone that this man would suffer for any noise or disturbance that is raised during the ritual sacrifice. When the crowd starts to get upset, the warden carves a strip of flesh off of the man’s back. He tosses the strip into the crowd. Things quiet down.

Eitan restrains Carmi from fighting; “Now’s not the time.”

The warden carries on the ritual, and slits each of the chosen slaves’ throats. A deathly silence hangs over everything. After the sacrifices, everyone is sent back to their tents.

That night, Farah sneaks out of her tent and into the Prutan sleeping area. She finds Eitan’s tent and wakes him up. Eitan almost reacts with violence, but restrains himself. She summons him away to somewhere they can talk.

Farah tells Eitan that she would rather die to the Prutans that to the Sukhe. The Prutans may be evil, but the Sukhe aren’t even human. If Eitan feels the same, she’d be willing to work with him to escape. Eitan resists; certainly, he wants to escape, but it’s not that he’d rather die to a Taelite than a Sukhe; he’d rather not die. And he doesn’t think he can trust her. He’d rather figure out an escape plan with his own people.

Farah reminds him that ever attempt he’s made at convincing his people to escape has failed. Survival is all well and good, but if he waits for his own people, he’ll live out his entire life as a slave.

Eitan tells her to meet him again in a week to discuss it again.

Eitan discusses his ideas with Carmi. The best idea is teaching Farah to fight; if she can fight, the Prutans won’t be able to say that it’s easy for Eitan to want to fight, given his size. Carmi is completely opposed to the idea; teaching a Taelite to fight is bad enough, but specifically teaching them how to fight you, in secret? It’s practically suicide. Eitan understands Carmi’s concerns, but he feels that the risk is worth it. He’s willing to risk his life for the possibility of saving his people. And besides, Carmi’s seen how the other Prutans refuse to follow them. If a tiny Taelite girl is willing to fight, what will their excuse be? Carmi can’t think of any better ideas, and is forced to agree.

The next week, he and Farah meet again. This time, he’s naked. Farah is a little shocked at this, but he explains that if he sneaks out naked, everybody just assumes he’s going to the bathroom and doesn’t pay him any attention. He gets down to business, and explains his plan to her. She agrees to the plan, though again, she’s a little surprised that he’s willing to do this, for the same reasons Carmi was opposed to the idea. Eitan tells her he doesn’t trust her as far as he can throw her; he could kill her easily right now, and if at any time he thinks she’s going to do anything illicit with this training, he’ll kill her without a second thought.

They start training at night, after everyone, including most of the guards, are asleep. They have to hide not only from the guards - who would obviously not be too thrilled with the idea of prisoners training for battle - but also from their people, who wouldn’t want them fraternizing with the enemy.

One night, Farah is caught by one of her people, who’s wondering why she’s sneaking out. She tries to say she’s going to the bathroom, but the person who caught her knows it’s a lie; why would she bother putting on clothes to go to the bathroom? She’s forced to explain what she’s doing to the women sleeping in her tent. Some of them fear for her safety, some are certain it’s a trap, but all of them admit that, if it is on the level, it’s pretty fantastic. She is, after all, learning how to fight Prutans - the biggest Prutan, too. They think the plan is ridiculous and dangerous, but it also could work, so they promise not to tell anyone. Farah later warns Eitan, though, that it’s likely word will get out.

She stops wearing clothes when she’s sneaking out, too.

Sure enough, it’s only a matter of time before the Sukhe catch wind. A guard catches Eitan sneaking around at night, but Eitan is able to convince him he’s going to the bathroom. As soon as the guard leaves, though, he has to sneak right back out to warn Farah that they’re being looked for. He doesn’t find her, and is convinced she’s been caught. The next day, it turns out she just figured it out herself and stayed in bed that night.

One day, after months of training, Carmi and Farah accidentally trip into each other while working. Farah blames him, and he blames her, and neither of them is willing to back down. Before Eitan can catch what’s happening, Carmi has already erupted, and starts taking wild swings at Farah. The only thing that stops the other Taelites from getting involved is that every one of those swings misses. Then Farah starts swinging back, and she takes him down, hard.

Everyone notices; by the end of the fight, there’s a massive crowd. Some of them are cheering, some of them are just flabbergasted. The Sukhe guards are mostly laughing; all but the Warden. He has the guards grab Farah, and he interrogates her. “Where did you learn to fight like that? Who taught you? Who have you taught?.” She doesn’t answer any of his questions.

Carmi and Eitan fight; Carmi blames Eitan for training Farah how to kill Prutans, and Eitan points out that if she wanted him dead, she could’ve killed him easily. He also notes how Carmi was the one who raised it to the point of combat. “How was I supposed to know she was the one you were training to kill?” “You weren’t!” Eitan says. “Nobody was supposed to know about that! Thanks to you, everyone does!”

Eitan storms off to wait for Farah to be released. It takes hours, but eventually the Sukhe throw her out, beaten, but not broken. She tells Eitan she didn’t tell them anything, and they both try to hope that it’s over. But they know it isn’t.

It’s not all bad news, though. Now that Farah’s training is starting to become common knowledge, the Prutans and Taelites both are more open to the idea of escape, and some of them even come to Eitan and Farah for training. They can’t train too many people all at once, but they do start spreading some of the basic tenants of combat that they’ve learned, as well as some ideas for escape.

A few days later, the Sukhe announce a holiday for everyone, guards and slaves alike: come watch the freaky warrior girl fight for her freedom! Farah is seized as they make the announcement, and the Warden announces that she’ll be put into a gauntlet of combat. If she can beat all comers, she’ll be released.

Eitan visits Farah to discuss it. They don’t think it’s a trick, because as it is, it’s win-win for the Sukhe; if she dies, they’re rid of her; if she wins and leaves, they’re rid of her. However, it seems unlikely that the Sukhe will let her survive; they’d gain much more from showing how ineffective she is at combat than from showing the prisoners that a little girl can beat the guards. They both agree that she’ll probably die in the arena, so she should try to take as many of them with her as possible.

But when the gauntlet happens, she doesn’t die. She wins pretty hard. Every warrior the Warden throws at her is beaten. Even when he makes her fight two guards at once, she wins. He’s about to reluctantly let her go, when she starts shouting to the slaves, “See? They are not immortal! They’re barely competent! You can beat them!” The Warden has her seized by a dozen guards at once, and throws her into the dungeon.

This almost sparks a riot among the prisoners watching; Eitan realizes that the time for escape is now. The prisoners are already almost rioting, the Sukhe are demoralized, and a dozen of their best warriors just had the snot beat out of them. If ever there was a time, it’s now. He encourages the riot as he seeks out the Prutan and the Taelite leaders to get them prepared.

Meanwhile, Farah isn’t just going to take everything lying down. Once she’s been locked up in a cell, she starts taunting the guards, trying to get them to come closer to her. They’re preoccupied with what’s happening outside, and don’t pay quite enough attention to her, but she keeps trying.

The Taelites are only willing to escape with Farah; they aren’t going to leave behind the person who enabled their escape. The Prutans, meanwhile, aren’t willing to put off the escape in order to rescue Farah. Eitan tries to tell them they’re both being stupid - the Taelites because now is their best and maybe only opportunity, and the Prutans because without the Taelites they’ll fail - but they’re too busy hating each other.

Eitan finally gets them to shut up and work together by proposing that he go, alone, to rescue Farah, while everybody else fights to escape. The Taelites are still not sure; what if he just runs off and hides for a while, then comes back and says he couldn’t get to her? Eitan swears that the only way he’ll return to them is with her. If he can’t find her, he won’t bother coming back. Even if she’s dead, he’ll carry the body back with him for a proper burial in their homeland. That mollifies them, and they agree to work together.

As he runs off to find Farah, though, Carmi follows him. “You don’t really think I’d let you go on a suicide mission like this alone, do you?” Eitan resists, saying the Prutans and Taelites need all the help they can get, but Carmi reminds him that he does, too. They go off together.

Meanwhile, Farah finally manages to convince one of the guards to get within arm’s reach by taunting and goading him. She kills him and takes his keys. The other guards in the room attack her as she escapes, and she has to fight for her life.

Etian and Carmi storm the dungeon where they’re keeping Farah. Side by side, they fight their way through the guards. Eitan is bigger and has been studying combat, so he expects to be carrying most of the weight, but Carmi has more guts, it seems, and ends up doing more of the fighting than Eitan.

When they reach the area where Farah is being kept, Eitan charges in alone while Carmi guards their escape route. Eitan breaks in just in time to see Farah finish killing the last guard on her own. “I, uh… I’m here to rescue you.” “Oh, good. I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”

Carmi stops Eitan as they leave, and tells him that now is the perfect time to kill Farah. Nobody will blame them if they come back with her corpse; they’ll all assume the Sukhe did it. Eitan freaks out a little at him; no, they’re not going to kill Farah. They might not be able to even if they did.

Farah tries to threaten Carmi, but Eitan stops her. He orders Carmi to go back ahead of them, away from Farah. Carmi won’t listen; he charges Farah. Eitan stabs him in the back, takes Farah by the hand, and walks away. He cries as they leave.

When they get back to their people, the fighting is already almost over. They’ve rounded up what seems to be every last one of the Sukhe horses, not only giving them a hasty escape, but stopping the Sukhe from being able to follow.

Before they can take off, though, the Sukhe launch one final attack against the slaves. The fighting is fierce. When Eitan is distracted by soldiers trying to kill the horses, Farah is ambushed by the Sukhe Warden, and finds herself outmatched. She holds him off, but it’s clear it’s a losing battle.

The Warden disarms her and knocks her down. She looks for Eitan; he’s too far away to help, even if he noticed.

Suddenly, Carmi comes out of nowhere, Eitan’s sword still in his back. He tackles the Warden, giving Farah the opportunity to kill him. As he lays dying, he swears to Farah that he’ll see her in hell… but hopefully that will be many years from now. He dies in her arms.

The slaves break the Sukhe attack and force them off, and they ride away from the camp. Still, they fear retaliation; Eitan and Farah agree that the safest course of action is to stick together until they reach the border of their homelands, and then split up.

Things are fine for the first couple days, when everyone fears pursuit. But as they get further away, with fewer signs of pursuit, the Prutans and Taelites start saving some fear and hatred for each other again. Fights start breaking out between the two groups. At first they’re arguments, but before long they’ve graduated to brawls, and Eitan and Farah both know they’re not far from bloodshed.

Farah and Eitan discuss things alone. They try to figure out how to get the two groups to get along just for a little while longer, but realize it’s impossible. They need to split up now. They agree that it doesn’t seem like they’re being followed anymore, if ever. And besides, if they stick together, they’ll all kill each other before any Sukhe that are hunting them are even within sight.

Eitan idly muses about the idea of taking Farah as his wife; his first wife - who died in the same attack that saw him captured - was a kidnapped Taelite. And if he took Farah, after everything everyone had seen her do, it’d do a lot to establish him as successful. His tone, though, is less pragmatic, and more probing; “Is this a possibility? There is reason for it to happen.” Farah shuts him down, though, warning that she would fight, and she very well may win. He understands, and they separate, a little disappointed that they’re now enemies.

Farah returns home to find that her husband has taken a new wife. He begs her not to return to him, because he can’t afford a second wife, and frankly, that level of mewling kind of disgusts her after everything she’s been through. So, they get an official divorce, and she returns to her father’s household. She trains his fighting men into an elite unit of guards.

Eitan, upon returning to his home, fulfills his duty as Carmi’s brother and takes Carmi’s household (and family) as his own. He can’t help but confess that he killed Carmi, though, and even though Carmi’s wife understands, she still can’t forgive him. There’s little love lost between him and Carmi’s family.

Eitan lives in a town near the Taelite border, so the town’s militia is organized and fierce. As a man in the community, he has a responsibility to the militia, and he throws himself into his duties there. He has an impressive reputation, and the soldiers there either respect him for it, or want to prove how tough they are by putting him down. He quickly proves himself deserving of his reputation as a fierce warrior, and before too long, he finds himself leading and organizing the entire militia.

Meanwhile, Farah’s guards develop quite a reputation themselves, and she along with them. After they fight off a band of Prutan raiders twice their number, Farah finds herself noticed by the Taelite military and the King himself. The King is impressed with how she’s trained her men, and he gives her a military command and a detachment of soldiers to train for him.

She recruits a number of the men from her time as a slave, as well as from her father’s guard, and she trains her men into a fighting force to be reckoned with. As her list of military victories grows, so does the number of men under her command. Eventually, she’s in command of her own legion, and is in charge of a number of great military victories against the Prutans.

There comes a time when she’s sent to attack a small border town. It’s not a terribly important target, but it’s one that other units have had trouble taking, so the king sends her to do it. She goes to the town, and finds it defended by Eitan and his men. She knows that Eitan would give even her army a strong fight. While she would probably win due to numbers, she knows the losses she would take would make the fight not worth it.

Some of the King’s men accuse her of being soft towards the Prutans, but she has a number of men in her service who were with her in the slave camps and know that Eitan is the one who trained her, and they shut everyone up. The king sides with her.

In recognition of his heroic defense of his town, Eitan is chosen to lead the honor guard at an upcoming Prutan religious festival. It’s mostly a ceremonial role; the Taelites celebrate the same festival, so both sides know they other wouldn’t profane it with an attack. It is a great honor, so Eitan accepts.

Whereas his role is supposed to be mostly ceremonial, Eitan does take the time to plan how he would defend the territory if they should be attacked. He knows that they have enemies other than the Taelites, enemies that don’t follow their customs, who would find this to be a great time to attack. And if his defenses help in the unlikely event of a Taelite attack, all the better.

The Taelite king summons Farah to discuss the nature of war and peace with her. He asks her if she thinks that they at the Prutans will ever have peace. She admits that it doesn’t seem likely, but notes that peace is the only admirable goal in their conflict. The king agrees. He tells her, with that in mind, that he’s going to break the taboo and attack the Prutans during the upcoming festival. And she’s going to lead the army.

Farah’s army marches on the festival, and everyone breaks into a panic. Eitan rallies the few men he has, who luckily he was able to hand-pick. The festival is held in an open plain with little defensibility, but he planned for an attack, and he diverts a nearby river between his army and the fleeing Prutans, forcing the Taelites to go through him.

The two sides draw up battle lines facing each other. Before the battle begins, Eitan comes out alone to parley with Farah. He begs her for peace, tells her that this is out of line, and not worth the risk. She completely agrees with him, but warns that there will be no peace. She tells him that the king intends to break the back of the Prutans here, and will take no prisoners - so he should not surrender. She would rather kill him in battle than see him executed like an animal. Eitan understands, and thanks her for the warning, but warns that his men will just fight that much harder.

As promised, the fighting is intense. The Prutans are outnumbered, but their morale is bolstered by the belief that the gods are one their side - after all, they were trying to appease the gods, whereas the Taelites profaned them. And likewise, the Taelites are fractured by the knowledge of their sins. The Prutans manage to hold the line until nightfall, when the fighting stops until morning.

Eitan visits Farah at night, stripping naked to avoid suspicion, just like back in the slave camps. They discuss the battle and its inevitability; they both agree that one side was always destined to kill the other, eventually. Farah asks Eitan to slip away in the night with her, but he says it wouldn’t change anything. She says that’s the point. But he still refuses; if he’s not there to lead his men, they’ll all die, and then the Prutans will all die. He can’t accept that. They share a tearful goodbye.

The next day, Farah holds off on attacking for hours. The two sides simply draw up battle lines, then stare at each other. Eitan’s men get antsy; it has to be a trick. Farah’s lines seem smaller than they should, even after for accounting for their losses. What if Farah sent men around the long way to attack the Prutans? Eitan isn’t worried; if she did send men, the bulk of her force is still here, and he’s confident the men he sent with the fleeing Prutans can handle whatever attacks come. He tells his men the delay is good for them; even if she’s waiting for reinforcements or something, the important thing is that the Prutans they’re defending get away.

Farah’s men get antsy too, but she reminds them that they can’t keep taking losses like they did the day before. Even now, the Prutans could be out of reach; if they take too significant of losses here, and then the Prutans survive and come back ready to fight, they’ll be crushed. The correct tactical choice is either to retreat or to wait for reinforcements. Retreat isn’t an option, so they’re waiting.

When her reinforcements do arrive, hours have passed. She parleys with Eitan. She tells him that, at this point, it’s unlikely that she’d catch the fleeing Prutans. She could attack his men, but she would take unacceptable losses if she did. She asks him for surrender. He reminds her that she said she’d take no prisoners, and she agrees; if he did surrender, the king would execute them all. Eitan apologizes, but tells her that they’ll fight to the death.

Farah reiterates that she’d take unacceptable losses in that case, so that’s not acceptable. She tells him that she knows he’s the most important part of the Prutan military; she’d accept his surrender alone, and let his men leave. He accepts.

As they ride away, Eitan thanks Farah for sparing his men, and assures her that he doesn’t hold anything against her; she’s doing what she has to do. She says it’s good that he doesn’t hold anything against her, because it’d likely make things awkward in the years to come. He’s confused; isn’t he going to be executed? Farah assures him, yes, all prisoners are to be executed. And yes, he’s the only prisoner. However, as a soldier, she’s allowed to claim a spouse from the captives. And there is one captive that’s caught her eye. She idly muses about leaving the country and travelling to somewhere more peaceful; she hears it’s nice out west.