Skip to content → Skip to footer →

RAYA E1 - Kumandra

Episode 1 - Kumandra Divided

Theme: The untrusting world of Kumandra - Past, Present, Future

Narrative sequence vs chronological sequence

  • The X-Men Days of Future Past movie alternates between the characters/plot in the past (1980’s) and the dystopian future (2100’s), so that one time continuity is actively changing the outcome of the other time continuity — the two continuities are happening in parallel
    • That’s one aspect of the storytelling effect I want to have with this cutting-back-and-forth style of Episode 1
  • The present-day Kumandra is so bleak — and in a sense, the past events already happened and caused the fallout
    • We slowly reveal the extent of the fallout according to past events
  • And yet, during the scenes set in the past, it’s almost as if the fallout could’ve been prevented, especially as present-continuity-Raya exhibits the distrust that saves her in the present, and it would’ve saved her in the past
    • It’s revealed at one point in the episode that present!Raya’s sword was originally her father’s, narratively while her father was still championing his cooperation ideals (as shown in the past). This causes the audience to wonder — what happened in between?
    • Present!Raya says she was betrayed, narratively sequenced in the episode for the audience, before past-Raya got betrayed
    • It’s mentioned in the present that Heart is in ruins, and that’s narratively arranged right before Namaari’s betrayal in the past

Names

I was quite particular on the consistency of naming. I’m going to stick to the original names where applicable in this rewrite for clarity. Ideally there’s more subtextual language distinctives between tribes.

Skip the Prologue

  • So, let’s rework the opening voiceover narration scene. Besides, Raya had no one to explain Kumandra to.
  • There are two “backstories” to exposition-dump.
  1. 500 years ago: Dragons defeating the Druun,
  2. “6” years ago: Druun returning with the separated shattered Gem
    • (Let’s dub this, “The Shattering”)
    • btw, retconning this to be 15 years instead of 6 years for the effects of the division to be more ingrained into the new culture
  • There’s just so much exposition to cover. But I think that the 500 years ago story is not as personal nor action-packed as opening straight away in media res.
  • “The Shattering” is just much more personal to the main characters, this is our media res.
  • Kumandra’s 500 years ago, can feed in MUCH later.

Hook: Can we trust other tribes?

Present: Establishing current-day/setting and the main character’s overarching goals

|250 |250 |250|250 |250

TAIL LANDSCAPE - DAY (PRESENT)

  • Establishing shots of Tail: it’s a southeastern wasteland. Not a typical American/African desert, but instead we have limestone cliffs, canyons and caves. The terrain is hilly, and the soil is caked, hard from the heat. The sparse and small vegetation all yellow up from dehydration. Small rats and lizards scuttle for cover from the heat of noonday.
    • Chyron: TAIL - CURRENT DAY
  • We have a masked lone adult rider, on an animal mount. Very quickly, let’s change Tuk-Tuk to be some panda-pangolin hybrid. A Pandolin.
  • She holds up a Map. X-marks litter the landscape. The camera focuses on a drawing of the complete Dragon Gem, circled and in the center of drawn pointed arrows.
    • This woman really wants this Gem.

Past: Establishing young Raya

DRIPPING CARVED-OUT TUNNEL PASSAGEWAY, HEART - NIGHT (PAST)

  • Chyron: HEART - FIFTEEN YEARS EARLIER
  • It’s bright and colourful, in contrast to the pale and lifeless Tail.
  • We introduce young Raya, in full stealth/combat gear. She also has a drawing of the mythical Dragon Gem, annotated with arrows in the same handwriting.
  • In a tunnel of sorts, she bypasses traps by identifying and working around rigged false-hopes and paths — with the help of her then-smaller mount, Tuk-Tuk.

CHAMBER OF THE DRAGON GEM, HEART

  • She enters the Chamber of the Dragon Gem, guarded by a silhouetted guardian.
    • There is a glowing blue Gem on a pedestal in the center of the room, the same one as earlier pictured in the Map in the first scene in the present-day.
    • The guardian calls Raya by name (establishing her name to the audience), and announces that he won’t let her step one foot into the inner circle platform where the Gem is.
    • The guardian never unsheathes his sword — we’re saving epic reveal for later.
  • They fight it out
    • Raya addresses the guardian as “Chief Benja” of the Heart tribe
  • Chief Benja would taunt Raya by saying aloud his moves ahead of time. Raya says she doesn’t trust him, moving in contrary. But Chief Benja always tells the truth, which causes Raya to fail her blocks and attacks.
  • Ultimately, Benja disarms her. However, Raya had actually won: she had one toe on the inner circle platform.
    • Chief Benja congratulates his daughter, revealing to the audience that he is her father who is training her.
  • Benja awards Raya’s success by promoting her to Guardian of the Dragon Gem, as her ancestors before her.
  • This original sequence was quite fun, especially the reveal that the masked guardian is her father, and then that Raya beats him and gets promoted. No critique here.
YOUNG RAYA
Anyone hoping to steal the dragon gem now has to face the fury of the TWO baddest blades in all the lands.

BENJA
I'm glad you feel prepared, dewdrop, because the other lands... they're on their way here as we speak.

YOUNG RAYA
They are?! Right NOW?!

BENJA
Yes. And we must prepare to meet them.
  • We end the scene ambiguously there, as if the other lands are about to lay siege just as they finished their training. And jump straight to:

Present: Raya’s current goal, ready to fight

TAIL LANDSCAPE - DUSK (PRESENT)

  • It’s approaching sundown.
  • The rider sees a purple energy glow just behind a nearby hill. She quickly veers in the opposite direction.
  • The rider then spots a small camp of wasteland nomads.
    • The camp is built on top of a small, pitiful water stream.
  • The rider pulls down her face mask, and it’s obviously adult Raya!
  • Raya glances at her map. She points at her current location via a nearby landmark, and finds that the camp’s location is over a circled river that is not checked off yet.
  • The rider dismounts, slouching bent-over and dragging her steps, her mount the same.
  • She approaches the camp, but a few figures notice her, and run out towards her.
    • She checks her sidearm — yes, Chief Benja’s whip-sword is there and ready.

Kumandra party

Past: Benja’s party

PALACE KITCHEN, HEART - DAY (PRESENT)

  • With Benja’s trailing sentence, “We must prepare to meet them. Are you ready to face the other lands”…
  • Raya introduces the lands, with flashcard-style overlays for each
    • “We’re from the tribe of Heart. Our rainforest rains all the time, which makes us the best for defending the Dragon Gem against the Druun.”
    • “The tribe of Tail. A vast expanse of limestone islands, made up of a wide network of villages of skilled navigators and infiltrators.”
    • “Then, Talon. A floating market famous for fast deals and fighters, with even faster hands.”
    • “Next, Spine. A frigid, bamboo mountain guarded by exceptionally fierce warriors and impenetrable fortress.”
    • “Finally, Fang, our most cunning enemy. An advanced city of scholars and builders, making their assassins frighteningly intelligent and sneaky.”
  • Raya, “And we’re going to use our secret weapon to defeat them, once-and-for-all, right?”
    • “That’s right, dewdrop.” Benja turns to a table as he constructs a stew: “Shrimp paste from Tail, palm sugar from Talon, bamboo shoots from Spine, chilis from Fang, and lemongrass from Heart… my secret weapon is a Kumandra feast.”
  • Raya is perplexed?? “Are we poisoning them?”
    • “No tribe can survive alone anymore. This is the first step to unite the five lands in the line of ten chiefs, since The Great Division.”
  • “But dad, what about all my training to become Guardian of the Dragon Gem? Who are we guarding against? Not the Druun, since they’ve been gone for centuries.”
    • Benja: “While we want to do the right thing, we can’t be sure that the other tribes might try something selfish. They think the Gem magically grants us prosperity.”
  • “That’s ridiculous. It doesn’t do that… does it?”
    • “They assume it does, just like we assume things about them. (offers a bowl of soup) Raya, there’s a reason why each land is named after a part of the dragon. We were once unified harmoniously as one. Kumandra.”
  • “That’s ancient history, bà.”
    • “But it doesn’t have to be. Listen, if we don’t stop and learn to trust one another again, it’s only a matter of time before we tear each other apart before the actual Druun monsters do. This isn’t the world I want you to live in.”
  • Raya nods.
    • Benja: “I believe that we can be One Kumandra again. Even if I have my second baddest blade in the land to offer a bit of wise precaution… someone has to take the first step. Trust me.”

Present: Tail trusts no one

NOMAD CAMP OUTSKIRTS, TAIL - NIGHT (PRESENT)

  • Three people from the camp arrive to meet Raya
    • They are armed with a spear and shield
    • They are in a poised stance, wary of this stranger and her huge mount
    • These are the Tail nomads.
  • “State your business!” the middle one exclaims. She’s holding a lantern; it’s getting dark.
    • Raya: “S’lam. I am Rahmidah, daughter of Hazim, tribe of Tail. We fled here after my village was destroyed by the Druun… I know we don’t trust each other, but I just need to set up camp for the night.”
    • The nomad is suspicious. “I’ve never heard of the family name ‘Hazim’. Besides, you’re at the far end of Tail, why aren’t you heading towards the other tribes? Fang has their intricate aqueducts, Spine has their mighty fortress, Talon has their busy floating market. You’d be better off even in Heart than here in this dried-up forsaken land of Tail.”
    • “Tail is supposed to be the one tribe that help their own tribe people.”
    • “Our own brother stole all our family wealth, and ran away to Talon. You talk about One-Kumandra? Hah!”
  • Raya: “I will set up camp there by that rock. It’s 200 cubits away from your camp.”
    • “You are too close to our river. We don’t trust you. Leave us, or we will attack.”
  • “I will fight to make camp. But let’s both agree that fighting would cost us both resources that we don’t have. I don’t even want to camp so close to you, I don’t trust you either. So I’ll be gone in the morning. Take these lemongrass herbs as a gift of peace. Or rather, a gift of non-aggression.”
    • They whisper amongst themselves, “Lemongrass! They’re so rare since Heart…”
  • The nomads warily take the lemongrass and back off, returning to their own camp, very on edge. “Don’t come near us, we won’t come near you.”

Past: Cultural exchange

BRIDGE, HEART - DAY (PAST)

  • Benja and Raya stand on the end of the main bridge leading into Heart. Four distinct factions stand arranged before them. Benja welcomes them.
    • Tail Chief: Nice speech, Chief Benja, but why’d you really bring us here? Are you gonna rob us?
    • Spine Chief: Why would he need to rob us? The land of Heart already has everything.
    • Dang Hai (Talon Chief): And what is there to rob? Even our rivers are drying up! (remember this)
    • Virana (Fang chief): It’s easy to champion “Kumandra” when you hold the mightiest weapon in all the lands.
    • Everyone argues.
  • Raya steps forward towards the only other kid in the rowdy pack
    • The kid steps forward from behind a woman. “S’lam. I’m Namaari. Daughter of the chieftess of Fang.”
    • They quickly fangirl together and connect over Naamari’s dragon pendant.
    • “Do you want to come eat my dad’s Kumandra stew?”
    • They go in together
    • The adults see this, lower their defences, and the chiefs decide to cross over too.

PALACE COURTROOM, HEART - DUSK

  • Later in the palace courtroom: it’s crowded but no one is mixing around.
  • On Young Raya and Namaari:
    • they chatter about their shared princess-ship.
    • Namaari takes a huge bite of the stew: she groans in delight
    • we see a bit of Naamari’s Fang-natural intelligence and sharpness
    • Naamari admits this is her first time having such a stew with so many different ingredients. Raya says she has this every day.
      • Namaari explains that while Heart still trades with other tribes, but the other tribes don’t really mix around
      • It’s not just stew, it’s the technology, the architecture, the knowledge. Just look at Tail, they’re still so backwards.
      • Raya exclaims! “That’s why Heart seems so prosperous compared to the other tribes: it’s not that the Gem gives some magic favour to Heart, but it’s that Heart trusts the other tribes.”
  • Namaari then brings up they’re both Sisu fans
    • Naamari: You know, Fang legend says she’s still out there. I’m not supposed to show you this, but…
    • Naamari pulls out a Scroll that she says she’s not supposed to show
    • (It’s the same scroll that adult Raya is using as her Map!)

NARRATED OVER STYLISTIC PUPPETRY

  • Namaari is the one to retell the legend, much later in the story (but not earlier than it needs to), as it comes to life stylistically in Southeast Asian-inspired puppetry:
    • Kumandra used to be lush when humans lived harmoniously alongside dragons - magical creatures who brought us water and rain and peace.
    • Then, the Druun monsters attacked: multiplying as they consumed life and turned everyone they touched into stone.
    • The dragons fought for us but lost.
    • Finally, 500 years ago, the mighty Sisudatu, the last dragon, concentrated all her magic into a gem and defeated the Druun.
      • Everyone that was turned to stone came back… except the dragons.
      • All that was left of Sisu was her gem.
    • Instead of uniting humanity, people fought to possess the last of dragon magic.
    • Borders were drawn. Kumandra divided. We all became enemies.
    • The Gem was secured by Heart for the past 350 years, and they prospered.

PALACE COURTROOM, HEART

  • Namaari expresses, “Though the Druun are no more, yet all Kumandra isn’t sharing the Gem like it was way before. It’s paradise for Heart, but not for us other tribes. Not that the Gem is magical, but sharing the Gem together is the first step in being united in recognition of what Sisu has done, equally for every person in every tribe. That’s what Sisu would have wanted.”
  • Raya points out on the scroll, that Sisu sleeps dormant at a river’s end.
    • Naamari says, if they could ever track down every river, they could bring back Sisu, and reunite Kumandra.
    • Raya looks at her dad, who’s juggling conversations from different tribes. Yes, this is what he’d want, no permission needed.
  • Namaari offers Raya her dragon pendant necklace.
    • It’s from a part of Naamari’s mother’s (chieftess) trishula-sceptre.
  • Raya says, “One day, we’ll track down Sisu together. But I know what we can do today. Follow me.”

Present: Raya lies to find Sisu

RAYA’S CAMP, TAIL - NIGHT (PRESENT)

  • Raya leaves Tuk-tuk and her supplies back in her own camp, and stealthily creeps towards the outskirts of the nomad camp

NOMAD CAMP, TAIL

  • She expects guards at every corner — none. She easily slips through their camp.

CAVERN, NOMAD CAMP, TAIL

  • She slips into a cavern where the stream ends
  • She doesn’t waste any time. She does a whole ritual.
    • “Sisudatu… I don’t know if you’re listening. I’m searching every river to find you. I really need your help. I made a mistake. I trusted someone I shouldn’t have.”
    • Raya sits. And waits. And waits. Nothing happens. It’s a bust.
  • “So did I.” The nomad leader appears behind her. “Your name is Raya.”
    • The other nomads hold up Raya’s supplies, and have Tuk-tuk guarded at spear-point. They had raided Raya’s camp.
    • The nomad leader continues, “Daughter of Benja. Tribe of Heart. Or what’s left of it.”

Betrayal causes Druun

Past: Raya vs. Naamari

CHAMBER OF THE DRAGON GEM, HEART - NIGHT (PAST)

  • Young Raya and Naamari enter the Chamber of the Dragon Gem.
  • Namaari is awed. “Thank you for sharing the Gem with me.”
    • “It’s what Sisu would have wanted.”
  • Suddenly, Naamari strikes out at Raya.
    • Raya dodges, but a branch scratches her bare calf.
    • Naamari smirks, “Padipepper brambles. Makes your muscles sleepy. 100% organic Fang produce.”
  • Raya limps. “What are you doing?”
    • “I’m doing what’s right for Fang.”
  • They take out their weapons and fight viciously.
  • Raya does get the upper hand, even with her growing cripple, and knocks Naamari backwards.
  • Naamari just smirks and shoots a whistling firework through the ceiling opening.

PALACE COURTYARD, HEART

  • At the palace, Benja is diplomat-ing with Virana.
    • “Chieftess Virana! I hope our daughters’ newfound friendship will foster a special bond between Heart and Fang.”
  • Through a window, the firework explodes and illuminates the night sky.
    • A line of torches head into the mountain of the Chamber.
  • Benja turns back, and Virana slips out. The other tribes start to catch on.

Present: Confrontation

CAVERN, NOMAD CAMP, TAIL - NIGHT (PRESENT)

  • Raya: “You already planned to raid my camp while I was asleep.”
    • Nomad: “And you already planned to sneak into our precious river.”
  • “Look, I just wanted to find Sisu from the myths, and you wouldn’t have let me near your river stream. She’s not here, I’ve done no harm, so I will leave your family alone and be on my way.”
    • The nomad leader blocks her with a spear.
    • “Not so fast. You think we’ll just let you go? You lied to us. We’re taking your jade pieces, and your animal mount…”
    • A nomad interrupts: “And her father’s chain-whip-sword-weapon-thing! It’s so epic!”
    • The leader, “…and your Dragon Gem piece, please. And then you’ll be on your way. You can take back your lemongrass too, it tastes nothing like they said.”
  • Raya: “But you’ve never seen lemongrass before, you wouldn’t be able to tell if it were actually padipepper?”
    • The nomads start to droop their limbs. Raya smirks. One by one, they all collapse. They mumble, “You binturi…”
  • A small crack forms in the ground…

Past: Druun unleashed

CHAMBER OF THE DRAGON GEM, HEART - NIGHT (PAST)

  • Young Raya and Namaari continue fighting, but Fang soldiers enter the room.
    • Raya backs up against the inner circle platform, ready to fight to the death with her newfound anger.
  • SWOOSH! Benja repels into the room, dispatching a dozen different adversaries in a short fight sequence.
    • His sword turns into a cool grappling whip which he uses to drive everyone back.
    • This is the same whip-sword that adult Raya has.
    • “You will not set foot on the Dragon Gem’s inner circle.”
  • The soldiers of the other tribes file into the room, in awe of the Gem.
    • “Fang’s making a play for the Gem!”
    • “We should take it for Spine, now!”
    • Everyone readies their weapons.
    • Benja readies too, but sees young Raya in the reflection of his sword…
  • Benja announces, “We have a choice. We can tear each other apart, or we can come together and build a better world. It’s not too late. I still believe we can be One-Kumandra again.”
  • Benja unsheathes his sword. “Shall we return to dinner?”
    • Tension fills the air. Eyes dart around, who’s making the first move?
  • An crossbow points at Benja’s heart.
    • He deflects it — it lands in his leg. He crumples.
    • “Bà!” Raya cries.
    • Everyone rushes past them into the Circle.
  • Hands grope at the Gem, until…
    • The Gem crashes onto the ground, breaking into five pieces.
    • BOOM! The ground shakes, the water in the chamber recedes, the floor opens up.
    • From the broken cracked Earth, a purple evil Druun monster emerges.
    • Benja: “Druun…”
  • A soldier rushes in towards the Druun, slashing at it:
    • the blade makes but a small wound in the semi-permeable creature
  • The Druun engulfs the soldier
    • turning him into stone
    • and mitosis-duplicating
  • It takes 3-4 more tough warriors to fell the original Druun,
    • but by then, they all turned to stone, and add 3-4 more Druun
  • A Druun rushes towards Benja and Raya
    • Benja rushes towards a Gem piece and holds it up
    • it repels the Druun
    • “There’s still magic in them!”
    • A mad scramble ensues as each tribe is snatches up a Gem piece for themselves
  • A Druun pursues, but is recoiled by a water stream
    • Benja shouts: “Everyone to the river!”
  • In the cave, the waterfalls start to dry up…

Present: Druun unleashed pt. 2

CAVERN, NOMAD CAMP, TAIL - NIGHT (PRESENT)

  • Raya collects her items back from each disabled nomad, packing them and readying to leave. “You’ll be back to normal by sunrise. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
    • The nomads try to chase after her, but they are lethargic, zombie-like.

NOMAD CAMP, TAIL

  • She exits the cavern and climbs up onto Tuk-tuk, surveying the map…
  • Suddenly, a purple tendril breaks out from the ground and wraps around her foot. A Druun.
  • Raya swings her whip-sword, the blade now glowing and infused with Heart’s Gem shard. It effortlessly tears through the Druun, compared to the ineffective simple weapons before.
  • She fights a few more, easily with the Gem-fused weapon.
    • Tuk-Tuk kicks some butt too — he’s a steady tank.
  • There are some purple glows that come out from the cavern: glows that meant someone was being petrified.

Past: Sacrifice

BRIDGE, HEART - NIGHT (PAST)

  • Heart is plunged into chaos
  • People flee out of the city via the main bridge
  • Benja is very injured
    • The road ahead is too far
    • The bridge shakes and partially crumbles
    • A Druun approaches
  • Benja hands his Gem shard to Raya. “Raya, don’t give up on them. Make things right for Heart. I love you, my dewdrop.”
  • Benja throws Raya off the bridge into the water with his Gem Piece and whip-sword
    • A Druun passes through Benja, turning him to stone
    • A current carries young screaming Raya away to safety…

Present: Just another Tuesday

NOMAD CAMP, TAIL - DAWN (PRESENT)

  • The Druun retreat from Raya, back into the ground.
  • Raya rushes back into the cavern: everyone’s turned to stone.
    • But Raya’s numb and indifferent to all of it, compared to her flurry in the scene before.
    • She takes a moment, then comes out
  • She raids the ghost-town camp, gets up, and gets on her way.
  • Business as usual. She crosses out a spot on the map, then looks up towards the next.

Present: Epilogue

NOMAD CAMP, TAIL - DAY (PRESENT)

  • A woman on a Serlot (some large tiger-wolf hybrid, like ATV’s) dismounts and enters the cavern.
    • She inspects the carnage left behind by the Druun
    • She picks up the Padipepper from the ground.
    • Some more armour-clad warriors on Serlots step out behind her.
    • “What are your orders, Princess Namaari?”