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Kingdom

A Drama in 3 Acts.

Dramatis Personae:

Roderigo; the King.
Persephone; the Queen and carrier of the Royal blood.
Sigismund; Captain of the Royal Guard and nephew to the King.
Hospitaler; a friar of the Order.
Ekhorn; a Councilor and nephew to the Queen.
Ariadne; the younger Sister of the Queen.
Various of the Royal Guards.

Act 1.
A Chamber in the King's castle.

King:
Humph. I fear I am no more for these times, my Love and my Queen. Where once I would do battle and subjugate mine enemy, now there is only confusion and one knows not one's enemy from one's friend.

Queen:
My husband, my only Love and my King; in your younger year, you did what needed be done to secure the land that my Mother and her Mother before gave to us - the severed heads and limbs are only the distasteful inheritance.

Be not disquiet in your heart, my Love, for, now, an entire land sings praises to a King, kind, just, and fair, who has both wrath and kindness - each in its balance and measure. Fear not for your fortunes as you have constructed, of yourself, a man of great dignity and one which any Queen would long to have at her side.

King:
There is no man - nor King nor pauper, nor rich nor poor - who could long, even in dream, for a greater Love than I have had from you, my beautiful Queen, Persephone. Without you at my side, I have no doubt, my heart and my strength would have flagged and failed in this burden many years hence.

Queen:
It has been this Queen's honour to stand at the side of such King as you and I... Guard! Guard! To the King! He is struck!

(Enter Guards)

Guard 1:
Our King is fallen with an arrow in his breast! What tragedy is this?

Guard 2:
Assassin! Assassin! Look! The casement is shattered! Our good Queen, the Mother of our land, weeps at the King's side.

Guard 1:
Raise the Captain! To Arms! Tend the Queen! Protect her with your lives – let your bodies be her shield such that no arrow can reach her and she may yet see another dawn! If we fail, our land is lost!

Guard 2:
Hark, our Captain! He comes with the steady step of vengeance and the rattle of armour. He will know what to do.

(enter Sigismund)

Sigismund:
You and you – to the door with swords at the ready. You and you – cover the casements. Send patrols to the battlements!
My Queen, I see from this wound - nor worse position I have seen in battle - that it is dire.
(aside to Guard) Bring Hospitaler, forthwith, as the breaths remaining in this man may be few. We have need of his skills.
Good Queen, has he spoken? Our land is without heir and he must name your heir in accordance with tradition.

Queen:
There is scarce breath which now passes his lips and no whisper of speech. He lies so still and pale, my King, and his visage is darkened with the shadow of Death.

Sigismund:
My King, my uncle, it is I, Sigismund. You are not yet a shadow that flits bringing fear in the night. Hearken, I beseech, for you are still our King and your duty calls to you.

Queen:
He stirs!

King:
Persephone...

Queen:
Yes, I am here.

Sigismund:
The Hospitaler arrives bringing his cures, uncle.

King:
Nay. I am pierced to the quick and I feel already the chill of Death enclosing my Soul which will soon fly free. I must make haste for the encroaching darkness – the perpetual night – arrives without remorse. I must appease my Soul.

Queen:
Speak and lighten your Soul. Let it be unencumbered.

Sigismund:
Name an heir, kind King, or we will remain as a ship without rudder tossed on angered seas.

King:
Persephone, my Love and my Queen, I must beg your forgiveness. If I have ever brought you offense or harm, please, let it pass from between us and let our Love be the one thing that has united us and which I may now take to warm and protect me on my journey.

Queen:
Roderigo, there is no offense or harm from you that resides in my heart. My heart is today, as it was the day I met you, filled only with Love, pride and respect for the man, husband and King that you are. Be not distraught. Let my kiss be the seal upon this truth that is ours now as it will be forever.

King:
The kiss of my Queen is as the caress of falling blossom petals in the Spring and brings no lesser scent of sweetness. I am content.
Sigismund, my boy...

Sigismund:
Yes, uncle.

King:
I took you from your Father, my brother, when you were small and taught you the art of battle. You are to me as my own son, a friend, and a man of honour. If there is some offense which you harbour toward me, please voice it – my time is waning.

Sigismund:
Dear uncle and King, there is not one thing that encumbers my heart against you.  Fear not for this.

(enter Hospitaler)


Hospitaler:
He speaks, I see. It is a good sign. Ora pro nobis. Cut away his doublet – I must study the wound to know its course. Yes, like that.
(aside to Sigismund) The Queen is in peril here – the Castle is compromised, my friend. You must soon spirit her to safety – it matters not what I find here – it is now the Queen we must protect.

Sigismund:
Aye. Your words ring true.

Hospitaler:
The arrow has entered him in an evil spot. Both Hippocrates and Aeschulus teach that an arrow, entering between here and here, must pass through or it is fatal. This arrow is stopped in the chest. If we leave it, he might live for a time. If I remove it, he will die now.

Queen:
My heart is rending to this pain!

Hospitaler:
He asked his forgiveness? I see that he did for his eyes are now turned to God. He will speak no more to mortals – he is preparing his Soul.

Sigismund:
There is nothing to be done?

Hospitaler:
The die is already cast.
Nay, I spoke to soon. His breath is stopped. The King is dead.
Sigismund, take the Queen now for to hesitate is to lose a battle which is already begun. Mark me.

Sigismund:
Guards to the Queen! She is our only hope and our salvation from this tragedy. Take her to the Castle Keep and let none enter but me. I will arrive presently.

Guards:
Aye, Captain.

Queen:
O trembling heart! O unending pain!
My King is gone and I am alone;
left widowed and threatened.
Would that the arrow which killed thee,
my beautiful husband, my love and my King,
instead touched my breast;
have fixed itself deep, scoured my bones,
than ever have brought this end -
to you, our love and my Kingdom.
What shall I do to repair
this ill-starred turn -
this fatal night?

(exeunt)

Hospitaler:
I will prepare the King's body. I will wash it with spices and dress him in his Regalia but, before he is entombed on the morrow, we must know the future of the Kingdom.

Sigismund:
The night is long and dark. There will be no sleep for us while the future hangs appended to the unfriendly stars.

(exeunt)

End of Act 1.


Act 2.
A parapet over the Castle Keep.

(enter Ekhorn)

Ekhorn:
A dead King. A dead King. A dead King!
O but for an errant breath of wind, we mightst have been free of a Queen. Instead this finger that did release the cross-bow's shot is now, and forever, cursed with regicide! How will I show myself d'avant God in this guise? Perchance, best it is already to fling myself from the icy cold of this parapet into the fires of Hell - the wrath of God could be no worse than the pit of suicides!

(enter Ariadne)

Ariadne:
Fool! Knave! What have you done?

Ekhorn:
It is what I ask myself.

Ariadne:
No matter - we must be successful or mine own head will join yours before the block!

Ekhorn:
You persist?

Ariadne:
I will be Queen - it is my fate and my right! If you want to be my King and my mate, this you will do for me.

Ekhorn:
What is it?

Ariadne:
Be assured that your dagger is honed.

Ekhorn:
Always.

Ariadne:
As Councilor to the dead King, you are above ulterior glances. For I rests the same measure.
The Queen is defended from without the Keep but rests sole within her Chamber. We have pretense to console her but we must be in haste.
If these be virtues that you wish, by which further to be entertained, you will be as ready to wet your blade as you have been to dig with your staff.

Ekhorn:
I am as hard for battle now as ever.

Ariadne:
Away! Away! Quickly to Queen! The Guard patrol approaches!

(exeunt)
(enter Guard)

Guard:
Rouse yourself! For the chill of the night is no worse than the chill in the heart when the King is dead. I must be vigilant. I know only that the good Queen is now my charge and aught would I do to see our noble Lady in peril – if the assassins come, they will speak their first and their last to my sword. But who must I protect her from? This is my quandary; a faceless assassin is, like the wind, never seen. Someone comes! If this be my last patrol then let it, at least, give birth to a hero song!

(enter Sigismund)

Guard:
Stay your pace or it will be your last. Who are you?

Sigismund:
It is I, Sigismund. You do well.
What news?

Guard:
The night, it is as cold as it is quiet, my Captain. Our Lady is within and safe – I only pray that, thus, it will remain.

Sigismund:
You have expectation that so it should not be? Villain! I will have your throat on my blade!

(enter Hospitaler)

Hospitaler:
Captain! Sigismund! Cease!

Sigismund:
This coward threatens the Queen!

Guard:
Nay, Captain! In your anger, you confuse my words. I pray and have done since the start of this terrible night only for the safety of our Queen. If this is not the truth spoken, I invite you to take my head.

Hospitaler:
Yours will not be the head that rolls this night. Rise and continue your patrol. I must speak in confidence to the Captain.

Guard:
My debt to you, good Friar.

Hospitaler:
If the treasonous dogs have their way, Sigismund, we will be at each other's throats like street curs. Let us not hand them their victory, my friend.

Sigismund:
Your wisdom, Hospitaler, is a beacon – you are correct. However, my fear for the Queen and for our Kingdom now is so great that my reason is clouded.

Hospitaler:
Fear? I could not believe, had I not heard it with mine own ears, such a blaspheme from the tongue of our brave Captain. Tell me, Sigismund – when you fought at the side of our King against the Moors, had you fear on the field of battle?

Sigismund:
Nay! Never on the field of battle; before the battle horns blow, I make my peace with God. If He wills it to be my blood which paints the ground, I will go to His beckoning. I will also take many Moors with me to be my guests at the Divine reckoning!

Hospitaler:
Then bide for I say this not in jest: so it is that you must make your peace with God now, for the battle horns have already blown. More of the just and the noble may yet fall, but distill from your thoughts, that we are not in battle, for we are. Therefore, you cannot have fear for the Queen, for yourself or for the Kingdom.

Sigismond:
Again, I am trumped by your words, kind Hospitaler. But, show me an enemy on the field and I will take up my sword and rip and slash until their line is in tatters of split flesh and spilled guts - here, I see not the enemy nor know who to kill.

Hospitaler:
Aye. This is why our faculties must be unclouded. Let your mind be calmed whilst we descend from this place of chill to see to the Queen's comfort.

Sigismund:
Nor greater light is found
in this night of dismal blackness;
if there was one star!
Sirius! Shine your beacon
upon us this once:
give us strength and direction
to save our Love - the Queen!

(exeunt)

End of Act 2

Act 3.
The Queen's Chamber in the Castle Keep.

Queen:
Pray as I might, this dream will not leave me - only hours ago I had at my side my King, yet, now his body is cooling for the tomb. To whom mayst I turn for remedy in this whilst my Kingdom is without heir and even my own body must next be the one to fall?

Of two, my fears are allayed: Sigismund is good, faithful and brave - a friend to my House; the Hospitaler serves only God and no man - no treachery can come from him.

Ekhorn, is blood of my blood, the son of mine own older sister and Councilor to my dead husband. I will seek what he may offer of sage advice.

What befalls me?  A weight arrives upon my body - a painful vision. Do I dream or does my mind find flight in dangerous fantasy?

King's Ghost:
Persephone...

Queen:
Yet a voice - a whisper ethereal? There mayst I find peace in swoon.

King's Ghost:
Nay, not shadow nor whisper but shade of what is done.

Queen:
O King and husband mine,
my one love true;
thine vision is to mine heart
as the fatal arrow's prick!
Pray! Let my spirit flee
this imprisoning flesh
and fly to your arms forever.
Let our eyes be as a new constellation
appended to the Glory of God's firmament!
For here, without you,
I am not a Queen;
without your love,
I am not.
These tears, wet upon my lips
and blessed by my sorrow;
they will be my passing rite -
the joining of my soul
with the soul of my soul
in embrace of eternal Love before God.
Here, I fall – my dissolution, I await.

King's Ghost:
Rise! For the dark shadow of Death, in whose hand the clessydra of our Time is clasped, has passed from these halls, my Queen. Rise! Attend my words – the waning night that will draw me away brings to this chamber what treachery as was my end. Beware it, my Queen and my Love.

Queen:
How will I know it, my love? Speak!

King's Ghost:
Your heart will guide you; when it speaks, you will know the truth.

Ah! Such brevity in a life!
Fear not for my love,
Persephone, my Queen -
On another night of cold and clear
in this norther kingdom,
you will rise and gaze heavenward,
beseeching our Creator,
His gentle hand to guide you:
Look westward toward the land of my fathers.
There, where the Hunter rises,
you will see my sign.
Know that my Love for you
will shine eternal.

My time is done! Adieu, my Queen.
Adieu!

Queen:
It is gone. How will I mark these words spoken by the shade of my husband? My heart now speaks naught but sorrow.

(enter Guard)

Guard:
My Queen. The King's councilor, Ekhorn, and the Princess Ariadne await, without, your audience. Will they have it?

Queen:
Make them enter, Guard, and have it quick - my solitude is burdensome.

Guard:
Aye! (exits)

(enter Ekhorn, Ariadne)

Ekhorn:
My Queen! I salute you.
Ariadne:
My sister and my Queen. We have come to ease your trouble and quiet your heart.

Queen:
Nor darker could this night be - forsaken now, am I, of my husband. You are welcome, my sister. Ekhorn. You that were councilor to my King – what say you of these dire turns?

Ariadne:
Let you, then, have the council of Ekhorn, whilst I tend your hair. Ekhorn – be ready to defend the Queen! We do not know the vileness of assassins.

Ekhorn:
Aye. My sword is at the ready, Princess. No other treachery will pass this threshold.

My Queen, this drama vexes me not slightly. With what courage would the assassin point his arrow at our noble King? It is this motivation that we must consider.

Ariadne:
Your long hair is the grace of our Queen: verse your head to the rear so the comb mayst fetch it all.

Queen:
Speak on, Ekhorn. Ariadne, your kind tending brings me comfort.

Ekhorn:
We must know that the Kingdom is without heir and only a King can name it. Without a King, the Queen is vulnerable. I suggest this game of draughts is an attack upon the Queen. Whilst she is castled, she may be safe but the attack will come.

Queen:
Is it not the King who is castled?

Ekhorn:
Here it is the Queen who is of the royal blood – the only link to the crown. Where the Queen falls – not the King – the Kingdom is thrown topsy-turvy.

Ariadne:
My Queen is so beautiful. Regard the regal grace of her throat.

Ekhorn:
If I am permitted, my Queen is only the most regal of creatures.

(enter Sigismund, Hospitaler)

Hospitaler:
Ekhorn draws his sword!

Sigismund:
Taste, rather, this steel, foul dog! Hospitaler! The Queen! (Ekhorn, Sigismund battle)

Ekhorn:
I'll not fall to you, Sigismund!

Sigismund:
You'll defend your head or search for it!

Hospitaler:
Princess, you will oblige me the knife in your belt. Most kind of you.

My Queen, if it is your will, do stand aside. I would not fancy your gowns besotted with the stench of foul blood.

Queen:
Hospitaler, what is this vileness?

Hospitaler:
It is no more and no less than the weakness of man, my Queen.

Queen:
Sigismund! He's touch'd!

Hospitaler:
Nay! Our noble Captain shan't fall before such that are marked.
On your word, I will dispatch your sister, the Princess, to count her sins.

Queen:
No. She will know the price to pay.
Ekhorn falls! He is pierced! The treachery is ended!

Sigismund:
The dog shall not trouble again.
My Queen, I have failed to protect you. Take my rank – it is all that awaits me.

Queen:
Good Sigismund, kneel before me that I pronounce.

My honour is protected and the treasonous are captured.
Captain Sigismund, you have done your duty and the Kingdom is safe. Now, there is one more duty that you will burden.

Sigismund:
Only name it.

Queen:
You will be the Royal Consort. You will honour and defend your Queen. You will defend this land by wit and by sword. You will be mindful of the Laws that have been brought down by those before us. You will name the heir to our land according to our tradition. Do you accept this charge?

Sigismund:
I am not worthy, dear Queen.

Hospitaler:
My friend – your worth is as of no other. Be at peace. This is the will of your Queen.

Sigismund:
Then I must accept.

Queen:
Rise, then, and be King. Let us find a measure of peace in these troubled times.
Rejoice! We are with King!

Guards:
Long live, King Sigismund!
Long live, Queen Persephone!

Hospitaler:
And so our ancient tale has ended: the kind Queen, Persephone, has taken the noble, Sigismund, to be her King. The Kingdom is saved and, the treachery of those who would have destroyed it, is exposed.
Good people, let not your hearts be blackened, as were those of Ekhorn and Ariadne, by ill-will and hatred for there is a Justice – you will know its might – that is only a breath away.
I invite you to remember this tale and, on a night cold and clear, look to the west to where the Hunter, Orion, rises. There, you will see two stars in eternal dance – they share their light and so they have for many, many years: they are Rogerigo, the King, and Persephone united in Heaven.
Thus, you will know the truth of the tale we have told.
God bless and protect you.

(exeunt)

Fin

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