A Brief Play in five Acts

Act1

[Curtains draw back to reveal a stage with no light at all. Suddenly all the stage lights burst on in a harsh glare to reveal Mih stood alone, front and centre]

Mih: what is this? What thrusts me here, in frigid light, far from ever known comfort? What hateful demons have cast me from my heaven to languish here exposed and tormented, unknowing, but that this be nothing that I wish or care for. What evil have I done that brings me here to this punishment? Return me! I am innocent!

Efil: [Calls unseen from the wings] it is I!

Mih: [Turns in the direction of voice] Then come forth, that I may cast upon you my greatest wrath. Oh hateful spirit, at once, reveal yourself!

Efil: [Walks calmly onto the stage] What is to reveal? I am here and so are you.

Mih: To what purpose?

Efil: Purpose? [Turns to audience] He asks for purpose! The whelp! What impudence! What arrogance that one so young should so soon demand a purpose? [Turns back to Mih] A purpose must you yourself yet seek. It is neither mine to bestow nor recommend.

Mih: And how to seek?

Efil: Desist! This is no time for questions. Questions without answers rest dull and heavy on the breast and answers are not yet to be had. Better far, for now, to accept that which is unquestioningly given and lament not for that which is no more.

Mih: And what else?

Efil: [chuckles softly] This one last question I shall indulge. It is simple. Be! And with you and in you shall I also be. Together we are, apart we are naught. Nothing more, nothing less. [Gestures to halt Mih’s attempted question] Be! That is all.

Mih: To be? It appears a trifle. If this is all you ask of me, then easy is my lot. But know this, if there be truly more, then all the more quickly shall I turn to greater matters and cast aside this simple task and with it all thought of you. If a liar you prove to be, then ever henceforth shall my heart spurn you.

[Lights fade and curtains close]

Act2

[Curtains open to reveal Mih stood between Emit and Efil]

Emit: And? What say you now?

Mih: Of what?

Emit: Of your first task, of course!

Mih: To be? I had my doubts but now I see!

Efil: [Grins broadly] So I was right! For all of your cursing, I was right?

Mih: [Guffaws with laughter] Right? You crook! [Slaps Efil heartily on the back and turns to Emit] Do you know this rogue this vagabond?

Emit: Ay, he is a recent acquaintance but I fancy to know him well enough.

Mih: Well! [Throws his arms around both the other’s shoulders] This ACQUAINTANCE of yours is nothing but a trickster and a villain! Emit: Indeed?

Mih: For sure! He has taught me nothing, given me nothing, protected me from nothing! And yet, now here he stands in light of day and demands credit for all that I have become, all that I have achieved! Take care lest he take as much from you!

Emit: All he has taken, all he ever shall take from me, I give freely.

Mih: Give freely? To this burglar? Emit: I have want to be generous with him for his own generosity to others has earned it.

Mih: His own generosity? [Mih recoils from them both] What madness is this? I spoke to you believing that you understood!

Emit: And surely, I do!

Mih: Enough! Not one word! You understand nothing! I say this man has given me nothing and yet you exalt his generosity! What gifts, what great prizes has he bestowed on anyone? Come! At once! I demand, name but one, one sorry wretch, one pathetic, lowly, contemptible creature that in it its despicable wretchedness has benefited from this man’s charity!

Emit: Err, is it you?

Mih: [shouts outraged] ME?

Emit: Is that not the answer? I took it for a riddle.

Mih: A riddle?

Emit: Yes, a riddle. And that from the description I must guess of whom you spoke.

Mih: Of whom I spoke?

Emit: Yes, and the description fitted so well that I thought the answer to the riddle must clearly be, you.

Mih: Be me?

Efil: He believes you to be the wretched creature that has benefited from my generosity!

Mih: [stares aghast at the pair of them before bursting in outrage] ENOUGH! I have had it with both of you! I am done with your tomfoolery. I shall do without you as ever I have done before. [Mih storms from the stage and the other two gaze after him for a while]

Efil: He shall return.

Emit: Of course.

Efil: but not alone.

Emit: In that I entrust my greatest hope.

[Lights fade and curtains close]

Act3

[Curtain opens to an empty stage. Mih and Ega enter hand in hand from the wings and stop a little before centre stage]

Mih: A goodly day.

Ega: Indeed it is.

Mih: We have walked far. Further than I first intended.

Ega: Perhaps a little rest then? Lest we, in our weakness, stumble on our return.

Mih: Return? I have no want to turn back. My legs are strong and shall carry me ever onward.

Ega: Never to return? But, my Prince, what of all we have together? Our house and lands? If we are never to return who then shall tend them?

Mih: All that we have is nothing! Let those cheap chattels and goods fall from your mind. I care not for their future. We walk forward towards a greater estate.

Ega: What is this place?

Mih: A shining Palace I see and all around it great gardens and meadows, fields and woods, lakes and rivers.

Ega: And all this for one Prince?

Mih: This is no tenancy of Princes! This is the domain of Kings, nay of Emperors!

Ega: Then again I beseech you. If these lands you see and seek are so great in wealth then truly far must they also lie. Take now some rest or else the way shall prove too long.

Mih: I say it once again, my legs know no fatigue! It is my heart that droops tired and yet with each footfall it grows more rested and strong for it knows. Soon shall its time come to reign within that palace and across those lands utterly supreme.

Ega: How so? What time is this of which you speak?

Mih: Soon you shall see. Hark! [Listens to an unheard sound] Do you hear? It shall be here sooner than I hoped!

[Sounds of chatting voices grow in the wings before Reh and Esiw enter side by side.]

Mih: Hello! [Reh and Esiw stop startled and stare at Mih and Ega] It was a simple greeting I meant you only well.

Reh: then Hello to you back! [Reh, Mih and Ega walk cautiously forward to meet in centre stage whilst Esiw follows at a slight distance]

Mih: I trust the day greets you well?

Reh: With a better greeting than your raucous shouting by all accounts!

Mih: Again I beg your forgiveness for my uncouth approach [turning slightly to Ega] I was right, this is it, the time has come!

Ega: The time of which you just spoke? Are you sure?

Mih: Yes I know it. With all my heart I know it!

Reh: What is this talk of knowledge and the heart? To me they are but the greatest of opponents!

Mih: Surely not! And you are the proof! Just now I spoke of wealth beyond all measure knowing full well that it would come to me, and now here you stand!

Reh: Certainly this is an uncanny knowledge but what has this to do with the heart of which you spoke?

Mih: It is you again! You are the wealth of my heart! You are its palace, its castle, its fortress!

Reh: You speak of me as of a wife.

Mih: Indeed, that is exactly how I speak.

Reh: Absurdity! Have you not an adequate wife already upon your arm.

Mih: Indeed no! She is no wife but my housekeeper! The long trusted manager of my estate and companion in my travels.

Reh: How may this be true? She hangs upon you as some besotted child!

Ega: And is not the same true of you? Does not your attendant trail you just as I my master?

Reh: Her? [Waves disparagingly at Esiw] That maiden? Her occasional whims entertain me. That is all. Most often I tire quickly of her yammer and bid her be quiet!

Ega: Perfect! So can we best prove my Master’s devotion!

Reh: How so?

Ega: You and he shall go on ahead so that he may attend, without distraction, to your needs and I shall walk behind in the company of your maid, withstanding the tedium of her conversation.

Reh: This plan does have certain charms.

Mih: Then it is settled! [He holds out his arm for Reh to take] So shall we four walk on together through our estate and take stock of all our wealth.

[Reh reluctantly takes Mih’s arm and glances back at the other two as she and Mih begin to walk]

Mih: Still are you troubled?

Reh: I fear what plans those two shall hatch without our surveillance.

Mih: [Pats her arm comfortingly] Fear not what those two conspire and plot. Ever shall it be for the greater good, it is in their nature. [Over his shoulder to Ega] fall not too far behind in your gossiping! There shall be occasion enough for us to call upon your council! [He walks off into the wings with Reh]

Esiw: Is it true? Do you find me equally tedious?

Ega: My dear! Do not trust to judge every lie that is told by the words it employs. Some lies hide truths and are the greater lies because of it!

Esiw: And this was such a lie.

Ega: It was exactly in order to keep your company that I said what I did.

Esiw: So you do wish to converse with me!

Ega: for sure, yours is the most scintillating conversation of them all.

Esiw: But the others…..

Ega: The others grow distant and with it ever more ignorant. Come we must hasten our pace lest in their stupidity they wander so far away that we may never find them again.

[Ega strides from the stage (in the direction that Mih and Reh disappeared) dragging the scuttling and tripping Esiw along behind her. Curtains close]

Act4

[Curtains open to reveal Emit and Efil stood together to one side (same position as at the end of Act 2) looking across stage into the wings]

Efil: I see a man!

Emit: I see him too.

Efil: and his host?

Emit: His great entourage? Ay, that see I too.

Efil: Now! Here they come, as I said they must.

[Mih enters from the wings (the point he exited in Act 2) with Reh on his left arm and Ega on his right. Esiw hangs back a little behind the others]

Efil: Me thinks I like best the one on his left.

Emit: For me the wench on his right is most handsome!

Efil: Ah, and who is that that lingers in the shadows?

Emit: Clearly, it is she that he treats least well. A shame, for in her mayhap hides a beauty greater than the other two combined.

Efil: Attend! I fear he means to speak!

Mih: [Mih hails them from across the stage] Here I am!

Efil: [calls back] Indeed, of that there can be no doubt.

[The two groups cautiously approach each other]

Efil: And what pestilence drives you to our door?

Mih: I come freely.

Efil: Freely?

Mih: I wish to parley and put away old grievances.

Efil: Ah! So the pestilence is called guilt!

Reh: Watch your tongue!

Ega: Please, there is no guilt in our master.

Efil: Your master? This traitor?

Reh: I warn you a second time, watch your tongue!

Ega: Please, he means no ill. He comes in grace wishing only to forgive you.

Emit: Forgive us? What ill have ever we two wrought that begs his forgiveness?

Mih: Enough!

Emit: We’ve heard that cry before.

Mih: Ay, you have. But from another man.

Efil: How so? It surely sounds now as then to be carried on your breath from your tongue.

Mih: My tongue, my breath, my mind, my heart and yet another man still. Come let us fight no more. I am here in peace.

Emit: In peace you say?

Efil: Me thinks, here is a Man that has yet a whim to live.

Emit: Ay, and not the faintest notion as to how.

Mih: I have wine.

Efil: I was wrong. His plague is not guilt but desperation!

Reh: I’ll warn you this third and final time!

Mih: [waves Reh to be quiet] I come in peace and bring with me wine. [He beckons Esiw forward] We may drink instead of fight.

Reh: To this it has come? You choose to drink with this hated enemy?

Mih: Bride! Quit your rage. These ancient foes are yet even older friends. I see it now. So what better way to blunt my sword and spend my arrows than in their company? And they are kind enough to let me choose the field of battle. Let us drink this sweet wine and in its throws cry once more our battle cries, hoist once more our standards and look into the enemies eyes without shame or fear.

Emit: [takes a glass of wine from the tray offered by Esiw] Maid, I see you attend your master’s needs well. Pray tell, how well does he attend to yours?

Esiw: He is a kindly gent and my duties are light.

Emit: A kindly gent? So no attention to your needs at all then! [Turning to Mih] Sir, as ever you were, you remain a fool. Would this fine vixen reside within my household there’d be much for her to do [Emit gives Esiw a heavy slap on the rump] not least of all between my sheets!

Efil: Indeed, lurking unheeded in the shadows I took her for some desolate hag. But now in light of day I see her as she is, most comely of all his harem.

Mih: Ah yes, of all my consorts, she has given me the fewest of my generous brood but perhaps amongst them also the fairest.

Emit: To that I can drink!

Efil: Yes, to that we should all drink! Raise your glasses for each and every one of his repugnant little ugly hatchlings. May long we praise, rejoice and love each and every single wondrous one of them.

Reh: It is beyond me! You curse my mate and revile my children as though in full contempt. [Looks Efil closely in the face] But now I see, from me it cannot be hid, it’s in your eyes. You are a fraud! This vulgarity is a sham to cover over all the mourning that you feel. No threat of mine shall ever keep you from your hateful turn of phrase. [Turns to the others] See? It is his only shield and plate to save his ever open wound. Here maid! Pass me quick your fullest glass. If this pitiful beast can never learn to mind his woe begotten tongue then I at least must look to dull mine.

[They raise their glasses together. Great merriment and drinking amongst them all]

Mih: Enough!

Emit: Again you accost us in this manner?

Mih: This time the address is but to myself. I have drunk my fill and must now rest. My battle is done but you may continue yours. There is plenty more wine still.

[Mih lies down and goes to sleep as the others continue to party. They wander off into the wings. Reh has her arms around Emit’s and Efil’s shoulders. Emit has his arm around Esiw’s waist and Efil walks hand in hand with Ega. Lights fade and the curtains close]

Act5

[Mih lies unmoving on the floor (in the same place as at the end of Act 4) whilst all the others stand scattered around in individual dim spotlights. There is only silence to begin with]

Ega: the shortest act and with it the quietest. And in its silence is it not also the longest? For once this act is done comes not more silence and more silence again and ever on? A great marching regiment of never ending silences and who can tell when this first silence ends and those further silences begin?

Esiw: Ay, and so this least act is yet the greatest.

Efil: Indeed! How so?

Esiw: Is in silence not stillness? And in stillness rests not the greatest strength? Do massive cliffs gasp and shudder in winter’s tempest or stand strong in stillness shunning all?

Emit: Still stand they!

Esiw: And as those cliffs is also this act strongest most, in stillness. This is the pole, the stake, deep driven in rock and loam from which yon pennant [indicates the unmoving huddled form of Mih], once so fluttering and joyous, now limp and impotent hangs. None speaks of it or casts it care, and yet, without this stick that [points at Mih again] is but rag. No flag nor ensign ever could: its colours unfurl; its cry of battle in the winds o’er time shout if not that this solemn wood in silence stood and bore its load unflinching and un-bent.

Efil: I see it now

Ega: and I

Reh: [sighs and mutters resignedly] and I too!

Emit: As ever I did.

Esiw: [turns to audience] So mark this well, and bid good day. The play has ended but this final act never shall!

Next Chapter: Make me Dull!