Dulce Et Decorum Est

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By: Sauti Posted on: February 23, 2007

(Adapted from 'Final Resting for Travian Shea' by Tancred Lasalle.
The author has taken a few liberties with the plot as the material available in the histories and the song proved scant, at places. The play is thus not intended to be historically accurate.)


Travian Shea Darius Ralston Anna

[A statue of Zarathustra can be seen in the middle of the room, placed on a platform on wheels. A few crates have been stacked to one side of the stage. Weapon racks have been placed at the back beside pegs with armour hanging off them. A wardrobe has been pushed against the eastern wall with its doors open. A few training dummies are left lying on the ground near the wardrobe. An orphan boy and an orphan girl are seen sitting on the ground near the Statue, playing with a set of marbles. Two chairs placed at either end of a a table can be seen behind the Statue. A big, beefy man can be seen seated on one of the chairs filing his nails with a dirk, shifting his gaze to the children from timt to time. The middle portion of the table is hidden by the Statue and on the other side, another man can be seen frowning at the set of cards he holds in his hands. In the centre of the stage, contemplating the Statue, stands Travian Shea. He is dressed plainly and isn't noticed by either the children or the card-players. The stage is well-lit and the rear wall is covered with a pictorial map of Ashtan.]

Travian : [anxious gaze around], "Where is everybody? Less than an hour till midnight and no one's here." [sighs, turns to audience], "Some times I wonder if all this effort is necessary. I'm sure you lot have better things to do than watch a history lesson."[pause] [looks around again and faces the Statue]

[Darius enters from the east. He is tall and fair, with a bored look. He saunters over with a grin and stands behind Travian.]

Travian : [shakes head and steps back. Darius skips back a step in time and winks at the audience] "I better get in role and be ready, I guess." [turns to the audience. Darius steps to his side so he's just behind Travian's left shoulder], "I'll explain what all this about to you first. I wager not many of you have been to one of these, have you?"

Travian : [doesn't wait for response. Continues in a strident tone], "In a while now, when all of us are assembled here, we will be enacting the events that led up to our freedom from the tyranny of Shallam and that dog Darius. A saga of love and betrayal, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, a new beginning for our glorious city of Free-"

Darius : [growing increasingly impatient with this monologue. Clears throat and says], "Yes, yes, it was quite something when your knights went around disemboweling priestesses and hanging everyone who could be a political threat to Zarathustra as a Shallam sympathizer. Now, are you done with your rambling?"

Travian : [starts at the sound and turns violently. Steps to his right, gazing wide-eyed at Darius before running his hand ovr his hair. Deep breath and speaks], "Darius." [Inclines his head in greeting.]

Darius : [takes a step back and makes an extravagant bow],"Sir Shea." [straightens up and turns to face the Statue], "So, there is our fearless general?"

Travian : "His hour is not yet come." [Concerned gaze towards the Statue. The guards at the table throw their cards down, stand and stretch languidly. He turns to face Darius and glares at him], " And neither has yours, Warmaster. And it never will, not tonight."

Darius : [smiles and shakes his head in amusement], "You sound so certain every time we do this." [turns to the audience and grows increasingly pensive as his speech progresses], "We desired nothing but peace, an end to these wars that have been a blight upon this land for eight centuries now. One land, one kingdom..one Emperor." [turns to face Travian], "That's what we bring you. One Empire under Heaven."

Travian : [smirks], "And there lies the heart of it. One Empire, the Shallamite Empire. One Emperor, in your Imperial Palace. And his lapdog", [inclines his head in Darius' direction], "watching over Ashtan. We don't want anything to do with your people, Darius. Our father, Glanos set the founding stone for his city as far as he could from yours for precisely this reason. Ashtan takes pride in being different, Warmaster. Take your ambitions elsewhere, they'll bear no fruit here."

Darius : "Surely, you see your errors now. You have seen the strife that the ages have unleashed upon the Land. The endless wars one after the other. The centuries-long conflict between our states, then the Black Wave, the Wars of Succession, and later the War of the Divine Child, the Vertani incident... We have it in our power to change this tonight. Travian, we will redress the balance. All the pettiness, the bickering and the politics over the next centuries will be done away with one act of acquiescence on your part. A worthy sacrifice. For Order, Shea, for the future. "

Travian : [vehemently shakes his head and turns away], "No, not now, not today, not ever. Your lies mean nothing. I've heard them before. I have seen the sacrifices made in the name of Order. Ashtan stands on her own, Darius. Go sound your trumpets over the hovels in Jaru or Shastaan." [growls], "This time, we do things right. This time, you'll never cross the Zaphar." [looks to the western exit and mutters], "Where is Ralston? And the rest of the 4th?"

Darius : [shrugs his shoulders slightly before wandering over to the guards. The guards come to attention when they see him. He bids them at ease, with an insolent wave of his hand. Three of the guards begin to gear up, getting their armours from the pegs on the wall, and their weapons from the rack. The other two walk down to stand on either side of the statue, with cudgels in their hands.]

Travian : [wrings his hands], "Surely, it hasn't started, has it? Everyone isn't here yet." [turns to look at Darius nodding and gesturing furiously at the soldiers,] "Halt, Darius! It isn't time ye-" [Sound of someone humming from the western exit, growing increasingly louder. Travian rushes over to the western exit madly and totters back a step.]

[Darius falls to attention and raises his right hand before him, in a straight-arm salute. The soldiers form up in a line in front of him. The two thugs flanking the Statue start pushing it to the back of the stage near the soldiers. The orphan girl watches this with a frown, sighs, and runs over to the straw dummies. She picks them up and sets them neatly before the three soldiers and Darius. The other orphan walks over to centrestage and puts on a white wool herald's cap. He pulls out a sheaf of papers from his shorts and clears his throat.]

[Travian shakes his head at the happenings on stage. The lights at the back of the stage start to turn a dim red, with a spotlight on the orphan centre stage. Anna walks in from the western exit, fanning herself with a painted fan. She walks over to Travian and stifles a yawn. Ralston enters furtively from the western exit, grimaces at Darius and walks over to the Statue. He enters in a whispered conversation with the thugs, shaking his head violently and growing increasingly restless as the scene progresses.]

Anna : [looks around and casts a cursory glance at the herald centrestage,] "Well, I've given Madeleine the day off. Poor thing's worn herself thin after that tart she has for a daughter, Rania." [sad shake], "Let's hope we do better when we-" [furrows her brow, worried. Closes her fan with a snap of her wrist], "What's wrong? Is he-" [turns sharply to the Statue, the closed fan held before her.]

[In the background, Ralston remonstrates with the thugs near the Statue. They shrug and shake their heads, pointing occasionally at the Statue. Darius nods and the soldiers advance on the straw dummies. A mock battle follows where the soldiers feint and lunge at the dummies, as if they were real combatants. Ralston shakes his fist at the thugs and motions at them to turn the Statue around. The thugs hesitate, flexing their hands and looking down at their palms.]

The orphan-herald declaims, "Escalating tension at the border due to a decisive build-up of armed forces near the Vundamere. Archon Zarathustra urges the Senate to declare a state of emergency. The proposal is vetoed 4 : 2, with a null vote cast by the Prelate Augustine. Archon Petain urged the people of Ashtan to remain calm and accused Archon Zarathustra of 'warmongering and inciting the Ashtani people to civil war.' Archon Zarathustra declined to comment."

Travian : [places his hands on Anna's shoulders and turns her around to face him], "It's nothing, my dear. Just..a passing fancy. You heard the herald. It's not war, yet. We still have time." [Cups her cheek with his right hand. Whispers], "And this time, it will be different, love."

[Anna pulls away, pensive. Darius barks an order and the soldiers stop their feints. They promptly knock down the dummies with their halberds and then stand back to attention. The orphan girl runs over to the dummies and pulls them back to set them up again near the western wall to the rear of the stage. The thugs push the Statue against the western wall, behind the dummies. Ralston walks over to the dummies with a tool box, patching the dummies wherever they have been damaged. Travian mutters under his breath and takes Anna by the hand.]

The orphan-herald declaims, "This just in. The Shallamese cavalry ambushed our guard patrols near the Vundamere. Warmaster Darius claims it was an act of defense. Archon Zarathustra vows reprisal claiming "ten Whitecloaks for one Eagle. No less." Early last morning, the Shallamese 5th Infantry marched against the border outpost guarding the Shunai bridge. After three hours of heavy fighting, the outpost fell to Shallamese hands. In a public speech, Archon Petain urged the Ashtani people to remain deaf to Archon Zarathustra's propaganda. Archon Petain further maintained that talks were ongoing between the respective Ambassadors and soon the matter will be resolved."

Anna : [walks over to the wardrobe on the eastern wall], "I'll mail Celana that we'll be coming. Get Arosin to help me with the packing and saddle the horses." [Taps her chin thoughtfully], "We should be in Delos if we leave now." [opens the wardrobe and kneels before it, rummaging through its contents.]

[Darius orders his soldiers forward. They march slowly towards the dummies. The thugs hold a discussion, throwing apprehensive glances at the advancing soldiers and Ralston. When the soldiers get close to the dummies, they fall to attention. The thugs shrug their shoulders and start wheeling the Statue about. Doing so, they knock down a dummy. It is set right by one of the soldiers. The Statue is wheeled slowly away from its position in the back to the front. It is wheeled downstage. Ralston wipes the sweat off his brow with his neckscarf. He unhooks his belt and wields it in his right hand as a whip. He wields the sewing needle he was using to patch the dummies, in his left.]

Travian : [bites his lips, impatient], "This is madness. We have them beat this time." [turns to look at Ralston who nods in acknowledgement at him.], "Zarathustra is personally leading-" [notices the Statue downstage. Pauses, undecided for a moment. Looks up and ], "No matter. The 4th will rout you, Darius. And your imperial ambitions."

Darius : [waves a hand at the soldiers to stand to attention.], "They will fail and you know it. Why do you persist in this folly, Shea? Let us end this now before..." [face tightens as he glances at Anna], "before things go too far. Surrender now, Travian. This mad heroism won't get you anywhere. Cast off his shadow." [points to the Statue], "While there is still time."

Anna : [straightens up with two full kitbags and wearing a canvas backpack. She leaves the kitbags at Travian's feet and presses close to him, listening intently to the conversation on stage.]

Ralston : [chuckles], "Spare us the sermon, churchie. Aye, we will lose this battle and the next one. Ashtan will fall. But later, it will rise again and all your warmongering will be for naught."[grins, betraying his fangs], "The measure of the swing to the west will be the measure of the swing to the east. Rhythm compensates. Remember that, Warmaster when you fasten that noose on me."

[A whisper is heard from the west and the thugs leave through the western stage exit,.]

Darius : [now pale with rage, as the situation seemingly spirals out of control], "Quit your heathen lies, snake. Ignore him, Shea." [withering glance at Ralston], "His kind revels in subterfuge and deceit. The poison is in their blood." [walks over to Travian, avoiding all contact with Anna], "We are not heroes, Shea. The ages will not remember us. They'll remember Zarathustra as their liberator, their saviour Dragon. Your.." [turns away, flushing with emotion], "Your sacrifices, my sins will be for naught. And this madness will merely go on and on till the end of time. Acquiesce now, and you offer all of us-" [waves towards the audience], "stability, peace and a chance to build a better life for ourselves."

Ralston : [laughs from his corner], "He offers stagnation, decadence and a a life spent in slavery. Be good or be dead. Not much of a choice, is it? This conflict cannot end, Darius. Not if Travian surrenders now. Not if you hang Zarathustra. Somewhere, sometime, there will be a reckoning." [pauses], "History never repeats itself. It is a river flowing onwards to merge with the greater Ocean; and you never step twice in the same river. What is fated to happen, will happen. Reconcile yourself to your role in history, Travian..and you too, Anna. We will never gain renown, but we will have done our bit." [nods empathically.]

[The thugs enter from the west, nodding to someone in the wings. They start rolling the Statue upstage.]

Darius : [grits his teeth], "This is madness"

Ralston : "So it usually seems to those who refuse to see."

Anna : [wan smile], "So, do I start unpacking?"

[The thugs start gesticulating to the soldiers to move. The soldiers remain at attention. One of them shrugs and points to Darius. The thugs mutter amongst themselves and continue pushing the Statue,. The Statue bumps against one of the soldiers and he falls down, clutching his knee.]

Darius : "My army grows impatient. Decide now, Shea."

Ralston : "The decision is already made. Nothing can change it."

Anna : "Let's get it over with, love."

[The soldiers gang up and an argument develops between the thugs and the soldiers. The soldiers charge at the thugs. Ralston intervenes. Soon, the situation degenerates into a free-for-all. The thugs retreat under the assault. The soldiers turn on the dummies. Ralston holds on for a bit before retreating to the centre near Travian. Darius sighs and walks over upstage and commands his soldiers at attention. The orphan girl dutifully picks up the dummies and brings them to centrestage.]

The orphan-herald declaims, "In a flash raid, the Shallamese army surprised our forces camped outside Thera while talks between the ambassadors were still in progress. Though Captain Ralston and his team of snipers put up a valiant effort, the day went to the Shallamese. Thera has fallen and Archon Zarathustra, who was personally leading the ground forces, is presumed to be dead or in hiding. Sir Travian Shea has been deputed to look after the defense of the city. The Archons have unanimously voted to not surrender and urge all citizens to participate in the resistance. Philippe Petain has formally resigned from his post as Archon, citing reasons of ill health. The city gates have been locked and barred."

Travian : [bows his head], "There's your decision, Darius." [rubs his temples tiredly, then looks up], "Anna, I'll arrange matters with the gate guards to let you out later this evening. Make for the plains and stay clear of the highway. Mail me when you reach Delos..." [ignores Anna as she shakes her head and turns to Ralston], "I need you to go find what became of Zarathustra and the remnants of the 4th." [beckons to the orphan-girl], "We'll try to hold out as long as we can, till the General gets here. For Ashtan."

[A series of desultory replies are heard from Anna, the thugs, the orphans and Ralston, "For Liberty."]

[The thugs wheel the statue back downstage near the western stage exit, barring it. Ralston walks over to the Statue, leans on it and lights his pipe. The orphan-girl sets the dummies up around Travian. Anna opens a kitbag and gets a suit of armour from it. She places it aside and gets two sheathed longswords from it. Darius gestures at the soldiers to advance centrestage.]

Travian : [picks up the armour and starts wearing it], "You should get going now." [reaches out behind to fasten his breastplate,] "Darius will be here in less than a day."

Anna : [stands on tiptoe and fastens his helmet's chin-straps], "It's no use, my leaving. We know how this is going to end, Travian."

[The thugs start shifting the crates towards the eastern wall. They start stacking the crates one over the other to form three tiers, one above the other. They place a sign below it saying "The Tower of Crows"]

Travian : "Stand back." [takes a practice swing with his longswords, narrowly missing Anna as she ducks, shearing off a lock of her hair. Grins sheepishly], "Ah, heh..sorry, love."

Anna : [runs her fingers through her hair and shakes her head, smiling], "Well, at least your blade is sharp. I was afarid it'd rusted from being sheathed all these years." [Smiles sweetly.]

[Darius orders his soldiers to stop and walks over to the Tower. He ascends it to the top and stomps down on the topmost crate, nodding his appreciation. Ralston takes a long puff off his pipe and sighs in contentment. The thugs return to their position near the Statue.]

Travian : [laughs and pulls Anna close], "What am I ever going to do without you?" [Pulls back at a squeal of pain from Anna], "Oops..this just isn't our day, is it?" [rubs the ruby-studded ensign on the front of his breastplate and gives a half-hearted chuckle.]

Anna : "It never was our time, Travian." [takes his gauntleted hand in hers], "Let's just get this over with..I..I'm tired of waiting.."[Looks at the Tower with wide, terror-filled eyes], "Hold me..one last time, please?"

[Darius steps down and walks over to the soldiers. He halts them when they prepare to march and waits patiently for Travian and Anna.]

Travian : [carefully wraps one arm around Anna as she leans her head against a shoulder plate], "Ah, love, I can offer you nought but the cold, dead kiss of steel." [His shoulders move slightly as he sobs], "I have failed..failed..failed my duty. I should have surrendered when I had the chance. I should've fled to Delos when you asked. I should..I should.."

Anna : [pulls away and raises a finger to his lips], "Many things beyond expectation do the Gods fulfil. That which was expected, hoped and prayed for by us, has not been accomplished. For that which was unexpected, the Gods have found a way. If such is the end of the story, so be it" [takes a step back], "I await you in the Halls."[wan smile], "Don't be too long."

[Travian takes a step forward to stop Anna, but is impeded by Darius and his soldiers. Travian starts swinging madly at the soldiers. The soldiers stay out of range and knock down the dummies with their halberds, before encircling Travian. Travian kneels and sweeps one of the soldiers off his feet, parries another with a longsword. The third soldier stays clear out of range. Darius walks over to Anna and takes her by the arm.]

Darius : [head bowed], "This..I.."[takes a deep breath], "You know what is to come and you know how hard I've tried to avert it." [Ralston chuckles from near the Statue. Anna nods at Darius and gives her his arm.]

Travian : "Anna..No..Darius" [Starts swinging in a frenzy. The soldiers content themselves with standing at a distance and stabbing every time they see an opening. He empties a vial in his mouth and throws it down], "Don't do this...I'll tear you to pieces, by Aegis..Darius." [He's visibly tiring and the soldiers close in on him. He is blocked from view and his panting is heard and a few murmurs], "Anna..no..summon...Zara..No, no." [His longswords are kicked out to the side near the Statue. Ralston picks them up], "NO!"

[Darius escorts Anna to the top crate, lending her a hand to help her climb up. The orphan-herald flings his papers to the winds. The soldiers prop up a sobbing Travian between them. Darius descends from the crates and walks over to the orphan-herald, and waits behind him. The lights brighten on the whole stage. ]

The orphan-herald declaims, "My fellow citizens, Ashtan has fallen. Sir Shea and the Council of Archons have been placed under house arrest. The Warmaster-General has declared a state of emergency and requests the the people of Ashtan to keep the peace. Later in the day, he will be meeting with the Archons to negotiate the terms of surrender." [pauses and licks his lips nervously, sneaking a peek at Darius. QUickly], "Our last hopes rest with the Dragon and the snake. Zarathustra has been found. He seeks-"

[Darius grits his teeth and pushes the orphan-herald out of the way. Two of the soldiers holding Travian Shea lead him upstage. They remove their armour, hang it up on the peg on the wall and return their halberds to the weapon racks. They seat themselves at the table while Travian leans against it, listening morosely. Ralston pulls the orphan-herald towards him and whispers furiously to him. The orphan-girl gets the dummies and sets them up centrestage behind Darius. The thugs go stand beside Darius between the dummies.]

Darius : [salutes the audience], "Salutations, my Ashtani brothers. For brothers we are, though sundered for a long time. Today, we make history. An hour ago, a delegation of your Archons agreed to our terms of surrender. We are honoured to welcome Ashtan to the fold of the Shallamite Empire. Together, we shall shape the destiny of the realms. As brothers, as comrades-in-arms."

[Ralston walks over to the table, pausing to look at the thugs. They avoid his gaze, nodding their heads at Darius. Ralston wraps an arm around Travian and speaks in an undertone, inaudible to the audience.]

Darius : "Too long have our fates been at cross purposes, too long have we wracked these lands with our never-ending war. It is time for peace, a time for our peoples to rest easy from the constant care of wartime. The curfew imposed by the Illuminati has been lifted. Further, I hereby declare an end to all rationing within Ashtan. We shall throw open the military stores for public use."

[The thugs nod at every word and give a round of applause at the end. Ralston throws his hands in the air and walks back near the Statue and nudges the orphan-herald.]

The orphan-herald declaims from the corner, "The Dragon is here, the Dragon is safe. Arise, Ashtan, for freedom! For Vengeance! The blood of your fallen calls out from the earth. These Shallamese banners are a thorn in my vision. Cast them out! Cast them out! Arise, awake, blood calls for blood."

[Anna stirs at these words and shudders. She takes a step ahead, as if to descend the crates, but stops at a glance from Ralston. The thugs appear shaken by the orphan-herald's words and whisper furiously among themselves. Darius glances at the orphan-herald, irritated. The soldier standing beside him, shoves the orphan-herald backstage forcefully. Ralston pleads with the soldier, clinging to his sleeves, weeping exaggeratedly. The soldier kicks him out of the way. The thugs comfort Ralston, frowning at Darius.]

Darius : [sighs], "Do not fall for the serpent's lies, my brethren. Zarathustra seeks nought but power for himself. Would you welcome a warmonger, a backstabber, a..an unscrupulous dog like him as your savior? This is folly, my brothers. Your best interests lie with Shallam. For justice, for peace, do not fall for the serpent's guiles."

Ralston : "Freedom first, all else is secondary. We shall raise a new Ashtan with Zarathustra." [with an arm around each thug], "For A new Bastion from the ruins of this derelict, with the blood of our fallen, with the bones of our foes. For the Bastion, comrades."

The orphan-herald yells, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! Arise, O children of the Fatherland, the day of glory has arrived. To arms, citizens! Let us march, let us ma-"

[The two seated soldiers leave their seats and join Darius. They are unarmed and unarmoured. The third soldier bears down on the orphan-herald. The thugs frown darkly and walk over to the weapons rack at the back to retrieve two stout cudgels. They then pull the orphan-herald out of harm's way and brandish the cudgels at the soldier. The soldier makes a half-hearted attempt at defense before dropping his halberd and fleeing through the western exit.]

Darius : [turns to the two soldiers], "Quick, organise the defenses. Thera is under siege." [grumbles], "We should never have relaxed that curfew."

The orphan-herald : [helps the thugs push the Statue upstage of the western exit. Ralston walks over and pats Travian Shea on the back], "In a daring raid, General Zarathustra has reclaimed Thera from the tyrannous clutches of Warmaster-General Darius. Meanwhile, efforts are on to enlist the assistance of our valiant knight Sir Travian Shea who still lies in occupied Ashtan. Overseer Petain, who has declared solidarity with the Warmaster-General, has tabled a motion in the senate declare our brave Dragon a 'terrorist and a menace to Ashtan' and has personally announced a bounty of 30,000 gold sovereigns on the head of our beloved General."

Ralston : "It is time, Travian."

Travian : [stands up and totters downstage near Darius, as if in a daze], "Time, Ralston? It was...never our time."

[The two soldiers set up the combat dummies around themselves haphazardly, so that some of them are standing, some bent to the side and some fallen. They shrug sheepishly at Darius. The orphan girl watches their efforts and giggles. Darius sighs and walks over to the Tower of Crows.]

Ralston : [gets the two shining longswords from his backpack and gives them to Travian], "Our fathers were sybarites, we are martyrs. We are not the stuff of legend, no. That distinction belongs to the General and his ilk. Let Zarathustra remain trapped in that Statue, comrade, his fame is not for us. I cannot answer for you," [turns to Darius], "Or anyone else here. Our deaths are paving-stones on the path of History, the path to deliverance, to wisdom, to Truth."

[A whisper is heard from the western stage exit and the orphan-herald and the orphan girl leave through it.]

Darius : [chuckles half-heartedly, in resignation], "Quite the rambler, aren't you?" [ascends the Tower], "We can still avoid this, Ralston, Travian. The Dragon can be stopped, history re-written...if you'd only reconsider."

[The orphan-herald enters from the west and gives a note to the thugs. The orphan girl appears after some time, lingering for a moment near the exit nodding, before walking over to Ralston. She pulls at Ralston's shirt. Ralston frowns and leans towards her, while she whispers to him.]

Travian : [sheathes his longswords behins his back. His gaze drifts to Anna], "Oh, what I'd give for a chance to reconsider."

[Ralston snaps his head up abruptly and glances towards the western exit. He mutters under his breath before giving a slight nod to the orphan girl. The orphan girl runs to the weapon rack and gets a whip and a dirk from it, and delivers them to Ralston. The thugs start to push the Statue downstage. They push it near the Tower and stop to taunt the soldiers. The soldiers take a step forward to rush the thugs, but the thugs flee upstage. The soldiers climb up the lowermost crate and smirk. They spit on the Statue and dent it with kicks.]

Ralston : "You will get your chance to re-consider. Anna will be with you before dawn, this I promise." [He sprints lightly to the Tower and flattens himself against it, as if hiding.]

Travian : [yells out to Ralston], "Ralston, no! We'll find another way. We-watch out!"

[One of the soldiers spots Ralston and raises an alarm. The two soldiers descend the crate. Ralston lashes out with his whip and yanks one of the soldiers down while he is descending. He dodges the other and begins to ascend the Tower. He reaches the topmost crate and greets Anna with a smile before turning to Darius.]

Anna : [pleading] "You don't have to do this, Ralston. Flee, and return to fight at dawn."

Ralston : [turns to see the Statue], "I gave him my word. This is how it is supposed to end." [He flings himself at one of the soldiers and plunges his dirk into him. The other soldier pummels him with his fists. Darius descends and unsheathes his sword. Together, Darius and the soldier beat Ralston down. The fallen soldier crawls down the Tower and lies face down at its base.]

Darius : [snarls], "String him up. Now." [The soldier gets a crafted noose from Ralston's backpack and slings it around Ralston's neck. He strangles Ralston with the noose. Ralston thrashes around with his arms and leg, trying to get at the soldier.] "Hmpf, there's no scaffold here. Fine, I'll hold him down"[Darius holds Ralston's legs down. Slowly, Ralston's efforts get less frantic till he is still. The soldier pulls Ralston down and leaves him leaning against the eastern wall. He notices the other soldier lying face down and pulls him out of sight, through the eastern stage exit.]

[ The orphans kick the dummies placed centrestage to the ground, and beckon to the thugs. The thugs push the Statue centrestage. Travian kneels before the Statue. Darius turns to Anna and extends his trembling hand towards her. Anna looks to Travian and takes Darius' hand in hers.]

The orphan-herald declaims, "Victory is at sight, citizens. The Dragon has reached the city gates. He is joined by the Glimmering Knight, our brave Sir Travian Shea. Darius and his defenders are holed up in the Tower of Crows, where he holds Sir Shea's betrothed, Anna, hostage. One final push and Ashtan will be free again. Hail Zarathustra, hail Ashtan."

Darius : "Hold, Travian. As you no doubt are aware, Ralston failed. Leave the field now or.." [closes his eyes and breathes hard], "or your lover sees heaven."[in a softer voice], "Don't make me do this, Shea. Leave, please. Anna, talk to him, convince him, for all our sakes."

Travian : [grim, with a cracked voice], "I don't see her."

Darius : [pulls Anna to the fore], "Give us the field, Travian and she'll walk free, you have my word."

Anna : [extends her arm in Travian's direction], "You take too long. Come for me, Travian Shea." [turns to Darius], "We've already said our goodbyes." [in a trembling voice], "What the Gods have willed must be accomplished."

An orphan-herald declaims, "Shallamese reinforcements are on their way. They will be here within the day. General Zarathustra beseeches teh Glimmering Knight to advance. All of Ashtan waits but for you, Travian. Choose wisely, choose loyally. Choose liberty, choose Ashtan. For Ashtan and Liberty."

Anna : [whispers], "For Ashtan and Liberty."

Travian : [turns his back to the audience and bows his head, his shoulders shaking with sobs. When he looks up, his eyes are red. He raises his swords above him and howls], "For Ashtan and bloody liberty."

[Travian charges towards the Tower. Darius's sword flashes and blood streaks the Tower as Anna falls from the topmost crate. She lies in a heap at its foot. Travian meets the soldier's attack with a deft parry, reverses his blade and punches him in the face. He carves a swathe through the soldier with a backhanded slash. He lets him fall and runs up to meet Darius.]

[The thugs pull the soldier down. They lift him and lead him through the eastern exit, leaving a bloody trail behind.]

[Darius meets Travian's slash with his shield. He parries a few blows but he soon starts struggling, falling to his knees. He makes a half-hearted attempt at a jab, but Travian dodges and slaps his sword away. Darius loses grip on his sword and drops it.]

[Travian laughs maniacally, raising his sword above his head for the killing blow. Darius cringes away from him. Travian changes his mind and pulls Darius up and pins him to the wall. He draws his sword back and drives it deep into Darius and leaves it there. He then drives his offhand sword deep into Darius, leaving him pinned to the stage wall. Darius writhes and screams in pain for some time before collapsing. Travian retrieves his swords, climbs down and leaves through the western exit.]

The orphan-herald declaims, "Citizens, we are free. Hail our saviour, General Zarathustra who led the final assault that laid the tyranny of the Warmaster low. It is a time for rejoicing, and so the General would have it." [A series of agonizing screams are heard offstage, west.] "The Glimmering Knight, Sir Travian Shea, has been deputed to weed out all remaining Shallamese and Shallamese sympathizers. Philippe Petain and his party, numbering 37, were executed this morning. When asked about his methods, Sir Shea refused to comment. Meanwhile, the revels continue. General Zarathustra was appointed as our new Overseer in a unanimous vote. He will be sworn in tomorrow. "

[Travian enters from the west, his armour soaked in blood. He drops his longswords and takes Anna in his arms. The thugs dismantle the tower. They open one of the crates and get some firewood from it. They pile the firewood before the statue. Travian places Anna on the pile of firewood.]

[The orphans and thugs gather around the Statue. Travian nods at the thugs. They leave through the eastern stage exit.]

Travian : [kneels besides the pile of firewood and takes Anna's hand in his, kissing it], "I failed you when you needed me most. I chose my city above you, my love…Forgive me, for soon we will meet. Soon we will meet in the world beyond this one."

[The thugs return with a torch. Travian takes a torch from one of the thugs and lays it in the pile of firewood. The thugs and the orphans step back as the lights fade out on the stage. A spotlight shines down on the slowly burning pyre. Travian closes his eyes and ascends the pyre, flinching at the heat. He lies down besides Anna. The spotlight fades out. The curtains start to close.]

[The curtains draw to a close slowly and stop as a shrill "Oww!" is heard from the stage. The curtains pull back to reveal the stage. The pyre has been removed. Travian and Anna are centrestage Ralston and Darius are near the eastern stage exit.]

Anna : [running her hand through her hair, examining the edges. Glares at Travian], "You burned my hair, you..you goon!"

Travian : [bites his lower lip and spreads his hands apologetically], "It isn't really visible." [turns to glance at Darius and Ralston who avoid his gaze.]

Anna : "Oh, it isn't, is it? So, it's just me seeing things? Maybe I hurt my head falling off that Tower? Is that what you're trying to say, Travian Shea?"

Travian : [takes a step back], "All I'm saying is..well.." [shuffles his feet uneasily and darts an uneasy glance at the audience], "Can't we do this somewhere else?"

Anna : [turns around. Her eyes go wide when she sees the curtains open], "Gods! Who opened those?" [glares at Ralston]

[Ralston and Darius walk over to centrestage. The lights go up on the whole stage. The map of Ashtan can be seen on the rear wall and the Statue of Zarathustra centrestage.]

Ralston : [throws his hands up defensively], "It wasn't us." [turns to regard the Statue], "Quite a fine piece of work, don't you think? Who'd ever have thought the old Dragon could look so fine?"

Darius : [sullen], "I see they took some liberties while carving him." [peers at the Statue], "They removed his mole, the one on his left cheek. You know the one, with two grey hairs popping out of them?"

Travian : [wryly], "I don't remember seeing Z wield a sword..ever." [shakes his head], "Whoever sculpted this never met the General."

Anna : [studies the map on the rear wall], "I see the Tower is no longer there."

Ralston : [walks over to the map], "We have an orphanage now? Poor herald." [chuckles], "Porridge three times a day."

Darius : "Far more humane to let them join the choir, I know."

Anna : [starts to walk towards Ralston], "Oww!" [leans on Travian. Whines], "My ankle. Think I sprained it in the fall."

Travian : [wraps one arm around her], "I told you to take care while jumping."

Ralston : [rubs his chin thoughtfully], "Looks like they did a really fine job. Don't recognise any of these names here." [walks back to centrestage], "Seems Zarathustra is the only representative of our times now."

Darius : [glowers], "Not a word about me. Not even in the histories."

Ralston : "The history of our times was centred around Zarathustra, my friend. It could have been you, it could have been me. But it wasn't. It was Zarathustra who was there at the right place and the right time in the right epoch. Did Zarathustra know his deeds would be recorded for posterity? I doubt it. Why, he'd never have ordered Travian to purge Ashtan if he knew his actions were being recorded for posterity"

Travian : [cringes], "I was...not in my senses." [concerned look at Darius]

Darius : [flashes Travian a smile], "I'm fine, don't worry. Just a pain in my back, that's all." [stretches]

Anna : "Hush now, no use talking about what's past now, is there? I see we still have some time left before the next show." [links arms with Travian], "What do you want to do?"

Travian : "Well, I'm starving. All that swordplay took a lot out of me. I should practise more."

Darius : "Sahart's sound good?"

Ralston : [eyes Darius suspiciously], "What's the big idea?"

Darius : [grins at Ralston], "My treat."

Ralston : [nods], "Sounds good. Let's go."

Anna [shrugs and leans her head on Travian's shoulder], "Sounds fine to me."

[Anna, Travian, Ralston and Darius exit the stage through the eastern exit. The stage remains empty for five minutes before the curtains close]