The intrigue is executed
|Act 1 Scene 3 Atop the High Wall|
Scene: The guard house on the high wall, full of Greeks awaiting the spectacle. An armed guard stands alert checking. Enter Briseis and Philistes.
Hold lady...The chamber fills and there's scarce room for the honored guests.
Don't you know me lieutenant? I'm Briseis, the woman of Pyrrhus. This is a friend, Philistes. We bring my man's dress and armor.
Forgive me that I forget your face. I'm distracted by the weight of unaccustomed responsibility. My duties are not well practiced and the role's uncomfortable.
Why all the security?
There's still desperate fugitives about who would stop at nothing....
Let him keep his sword, he's vouchsafed and might be useful. May I be of further use?
I require a table, there by the back will serve, on which to place these belongings.
Hoplite! Find a table for the mistress and whatever else she requires.
(Enter Menelaus and Orestes.)
This tower reeks of death
There was a skirmish here last night.
Aeneas and a band of his followers encountered my men securing the wall. They escaped, but not before a spirited fight. We disposed of the bodies, but why scrub what's soon to be razed?
The smell is strong. You could have done more.
Forgive me sire, but I hardly noticed. No one else has mentioned it.
Too late now for amends, otherwise all seems in good order. A fine gathering.
There's hardly enough room and many are forced to seek a different vantage point.
Has Pyrrhus arrived?
Not yet but he's expected any minute. His mistress arrived moments ago with his armor and dress, there by the table.
I'll be surprised if he shows up at all.
What makes you say that?
Because I know him. He has his father's strength, but a woman's heart.
A family trait.
What did he say when you told him to do it?
He was evasive at first... as I expected
Well, he shuffled about, mumbling in a low voice.
Perhaps you misunderstood him.
No! Because I looked him straight in the eye... and asked it again!
What did he say then?
Now what do you think? He said, "Yes Sir."
Well, if I didn't see Briseis over there, I 'd say you had some cause to worry.
As I recall you and Pyrrhus had a fight over her.
It was my father who wanted her... I was just the messenger.
Pyrrhus took his anger out on me.
I did hear you got the worst of it.
In truth it didn't last long.
You hate him don't you?
I understood his jealousy. Just look at her. What man wouldn't be?
I'm engaged to your daughter. Why would I be interested in her?
I wasn't born old, Nephew.
(Turns to guard and points towards Briseis and Philistes.)
Who's that with her?
She told me a friend.
Strange then that I don't know him; How about you Orestes?
(Officer, worried, reaches for his sword.)
Easy there lieutenant, no cause for alarm.
Uncle, I know him, even if it has been five years.
Dear gods! It's Philistes... has he ever aged.
He'd be dead if it weren't for you.
And you too. Troy wasn't take by force but by guile. Soldiers get the glory but spies do the thankless work and you, my young friend, are a master of espionage. If you hadn't gotten the word to Helen, he'd be one more sad memory.
And none too soon. Your nephew was nearly dead. Will you tell him that you're his Uncle?
Certainly not, and lower your voice. He's Seneca's bastard and we went to great lengths to keep it secret, sending him off to Thessaly. My honor couldn't abide the scandal. Keep it to yourself.
Why should I tell him anything? He's a friend of Pyrrhus.
Good, then let's socialize
(Begins mingling when suddenly distracted by cheering. Enter Pyrrhus carrying the baby)
Well look who we have here.
(Walks up to Pyrrhus speaking in loud rhetorical tones.)
Welcome Pyrrhus, we salute you!
(Takes his hand raising it like a champion)
The Wild Islander!
(Cheers get louder as Menelaus incites crowd.)
"Son of Achilles! First to enter the Wooden Horse! First to venture forth! Hero of the Palace fight! Slayer of Priam! Bane of Apollo! Man of the hour!"
(Shakes free hand and embraces him as applause dies down.)
A reputation well deserved!"
(In gracious response)
Were it not for you I would not be here to enjoy it!
(More cheering, Menelaus motions silence)
My part was small! You take the glory. You deserve it!
(More cheering. Menelaus goes to daiss and gives speech)
My comrades in arms.
In a few minutes we'll bring to a close our terrible struggle.
For ten long years we've waged a bitter war on the plains of Troy.
Many of our best have fallen and their recollection moves us to grief.
Petroclus, who dared face Hector, Ajax ever in the front,
and Achilles who turned the tide in our darkest hour.
None of us has been spared the loss of dear friends
and their memories will remain forever in our hearts,
living on as warriors sit about the campfire,
telling the tales of great battles and fearless men.
As years pass and the sages look back,
as those who lived these hard times pass into legend,
as the suffering of our days is forgotten,
there'll remain only a few sterile facts
and in these, history will see only the ashes.
Men will note the sacrifice of Iphigenia,
Agamemnon's daughter, and say we were cruel...
but they didn't see the winds that dashed our ships on the rocks.
Men will remember Hector, dragged by Achilles, and call it atrocious...
but they didn't see the violence he suffered so many.
And men will look back on the fate of this boy,
thrown from the wall, and say we were heartless,
but they didn't know the specter of Troy and abide its infamy.
Never again must our sons endure what we did here,
facing the endless days and lonely nights,
the blistering heat, the chilling cold, and the mournful sorrow.
Tonight we must steel our hearts and bear that brief strike of pain.
For in its spark, a flame will be kindled
that'll light the hope for future generations.
(Loudly to Pyrrhus.)
Have you brought Hector's son?
I have him here!
Hold him up for all to see!
(Pyrrhus holds up boy)
Now hand him to me!
How can he sleep through all this racket
and what's this jewel about his neck?
An emerald pendant. Do you suppose it's a good luck charm?
If it is what say we put it to the test?
See how it glows brightly to his every heartbeat?
Have you ever seen a stone that so behaved?
It must be valuable for I have never seen the like.
Take it Pyrrhus, as a memento.
The sight of it's unsettling
and I fear it might be enchanted.
Take it yourself.
I think not.
It's better carried off by the scavengers,
for it does them no harm.
Now, lets discuss the program
and allow me to explain the details of your role tonight.
What's to explain? I take the boy and throw him off the wall.
As a soldier I feared you might see it thus,
for you have no appreciation for
the importance of the spectacle.
Listen now, and when the time comes,
do exactly as I say.
I'm all ears.
When the trumpets blare and drums roll, that will be your cue.
With measured pace and grim look, begin ascending the steps,
climbing slowly the wall, to the top of the high parapet.
The base drum will give cadence to your step.
When you reach the summit, unwrap the babe
and brandish his body over your head.
Push him up and down while looking sideways over the wall,
as if searching for hard rocks to throw him on.
When you have your mark, turn once more,
your countenance wearing the cruelest of looks.
Step towards the crowd, nodding your head.
Then, turning slowly about, stride to the edge...
pause as the excitement builds to a frenzy...
until the thunder of the screaming crowd
resonates the very stones beneath you.
Then, at that moment, heave him high into the air...
so he flails about, while falling from view.
Can you do it?
It'll be as you say.
Good! Come now and get changed as the time draws near.
(Goes to table where Briseis and Philistes wait.)
How fares Pergamus?
Better sire, the fever broke and he begins to rally.
How can she speak such a bald lie? Her son lies dead back at the tent, in a basket, like the one there, holding his cloak, fresh scrubbed and perfumed.
Now that's welcome news and you, looking so glum and Briseis here fidgeting nervously about.
(Aside, slaps head)
Great Zeus, the basket, the perfumed cloak, a dead babe here, the child of Hector there. It all adds up to intrigue, desperate beyond wildest imagination, and Menelaus, in the midst, drawing ever closer.
(Steps over to the table)
You've shined these well.
They'll never pull it off. Menelaus is on the cusp of discovery. She looks at Pyrrhus, he at her, his hand moving for the sword.
And this cloak, a fine garment, well suited to the occasion.
(Reaches towards it)
Does it hide some fruit? I'm hungry and could eat an apple or a pear.
They're about to be undone. I must act quickly!
(Pauses looking at Briseis)
You're troubled by this, as any woman should be. Don't stay and watch if your stomach's too weak.
(Turns to Pyrrhus and sees him white.)
Are you fit to go through with this? The Wooden Horse, the Palace Fight and now this? Are you bearing up under the strain? There's still time to find someone else.
Allow me the honor, great King, for I've a long score to settle with these Trojans!
(Menelaus turns and faces Philistes.)
This is Philistes Sire, boyhood companion and old friend of my master, taken captive the fifth year of the war, most sorely treated and but this day returned from imprisonment.
He's my dearest friend!
See, how you're blessed this day? I concede this a hard role but you've much to be thankful for. Loosen up, think of your blessings. A beautiful woman, a brother new lived and a friend rescued from bondage.
If I look spent, it's the demands of recent days, but I'll surrender the task to no other.
"Philistes," I remember now, you're the son of Ramos the cook.
The same, you know my father?
Indeed I do. He served me once and served me well.
(Laughs holding belly)
And Achilles spoke to me of your plight and asked my help. It was little enough, but perhaps it saved your life.
Saved my life?
Stand closer lad, so I can get a better look. Here Briseis, hold the boy.
(Looks long into Philistes' eyes placing both hands on his shoulders... wistfully)
Perhaps I did, but that's a story for another time. For now we must get our warrior dressed. Give me the helmet, you the breastplate. Now give me the sword, you the cloak.
(Philistes picks up the cloak, spreading it. It screens the basket. Briseis makes the switch... Menelaus turns to Pyrrhus.)
I'll introduce you now. Once I present you to the crowd go and do as we agreed.
(Steps back up onto diais.... applause)
Tonight there's a sign from the gods,
reminding us how we do their will.
At the peak of our struggle, a child was born to our midst.
Pergamus, son of Achilles, made orphan by that archfiend Paris.
Oh, do we remember Paris.
A most inferior fellow!
Hector, his own brother, called him "handsome but unwarlike."
We remember how his treachery started this war,
how he conspired with a god, whose name I won't mention,
to steal my wife Helen, and blemish the honor of all Greeks
who hold marriage sacred.
How he fled before my wrath on the battlefield,
saved only by divine intervention,
and how with the most unmanly of weapons, a bow and arrow,
brought to death the greatest hero who ever lived.
But as I said, Achilles left behind a final legacy,
Pergamus, who drew his first breath in or midst,
born to the trials of our campaign, sharing its dangers;
the youngest of our comrades.
For two weeks he has fought, brave like his father,
the insidious fever that has claimed so many.
But rejoice! Tonight he's triumphed over death,
the gods returning his life in trade for Hector's son.
Isn't it justice that the fates should so decree?
Neoptolemous, the first son of Achilles,
who'll raise his half brother to the glory of his father,
will have the honor this night to repay the gods
and hand deliver the ransom.
I give you Pyrrhus.
(Cheering... bugles blare, drums roll and Pyrrhus carries out his part.)