Rhún by Rilla Bretz


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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


Dramatis Personae

The High Queen
A magical tyrant who rules the land with ruthlessness. Cold and
powerful.

Lor
A shepherd, who is secretly a leader in a resistance group against the
Queen.

Snorri
A housekarl in the Queen's army who secretly works for the
rebellion.

Sven
Snorri's manservant.
Brynjar
One of the Queen's housekarls, highly trusted but morally
conflicted.

Olaf
A powerful man who is sworn to silence. A member of the rebellion.

Alvar
A shapeshifting monster disguised as a thought dead member of the
rebellion.

Blodsugan
A sentient magical sword, who manifests itself as an executioner.

Tyr
A strong, mighty warrior and leader within the rebellion.

Bjord
A frail, but incredibly wise leader in the rebellion.

Gunni
A sadistic housekarl in the queen's court who delights in
torture.

Guard
A low-paid everyday guard whose job is to patrol the town.

Castle Guard 1
One of the Queen's elite housekarls.

Castle Guard 2
One of the Queen's elite housekarls

Man in the Crowd
An outspoken member of the crowd gathered to watch Lor's
execution.

ACT ONE
Scene 1

The stage is dimly lit. Two hooded people, SNORRI and SVEN enter stage
left, glancing left and right. They whisper indistinctly, SVEN nodding
enthusiastically and deferring to his superior SNORRI. SVEN is holding
a wrapped up package containing a broken sword. After a count of
three, two other hooded people walk in: OLAF and LOR. OLAF moves
stiffly, his back straight but his head slightly bowed, trying not to
attract attention. He is walking behind another figure, LOR, whose
movements are loose and relaxed, as if he were taking a stroll. SNORRI
and SVEN stop whispering and SNORRI addresses OLAF.

SNORRI: (gruffly) Took you long enough. What kept you? I know you're
no slouch when it comes to timing, Olaf.

OLAF dips head and writes on parchment

SNORRI: Patrollers, eh? They are a nuisance. Ah, well. Perhaps it is
better that we arrived separately. Makes it harder for the Guard and
all their little spies.

LOR: You are so paranoid, Snorri. Honestly, they would never suspect.
There hasn't been any trouble for decades! They've all gotten lazy.
At the worst, a Patroller will look down this alley and see a few
farmers meeting with a shepherd.

SNORRI: (condescendingly) Oh, really? And what if we were discovered
because some bumbling idiot was stupid enough to think that they were
safe? What would become of our campaign then? We would be ruined! No,
it can never hurt to be too careful, but it can hurt all the world if
you're not careful enough. (suspiciously) If I didn't know you since
you were a lad, I'd think you were a spy in disguise, trying to lull
me into a false sense of security.

LOR: (mutters sarcastically) Next thing you know there'll be spies
under our cloaks and we'll have to show you we haven't got anyone
in our underwear.

SNORRI: (straight-faced) Hmm. Not bad thinking, son. Not bad thinking
at all. I'll make a soldier of you yet. But we better get down to
business- (interrupted by a nervous cough from SVEN)

SVEN: Um, sir? If I may be so bold as to interrupt sir, (SNORRI turns
toward SVEN, annoyed) I mean, uh, I mean absolutely no disrespect-

SNORRI: (bursts out) Oh, get on with it Sven!

SVEN: Sir, I think we should ask Lor and Olaf a few questions first.

LOR: Oh, come on, Sven. You're not serious, are you?

SVEN: (indignantly) I am! (glancing sideways at SNORRI) Well, it is
protocol and (puffs out chest) as members of the revolution, we should
set an example and follow it.

LOR: I understand questioning new recruits, but me and Olaf've been
part of this since the beginning! What in the world would you suspect
us of?

SVEN: Easy. Mind control. Or Nysse.

LOR: Are you serious? Mind control? Nysse?! Shape shifters haven't
been seen for a thousand years. The Nysse are long gone! The Queen
hunted them to extinction!

SVEN: (Huffily) Nobody really knows that for sure. How do you know
they're all dead?

LOR: Well if you know so much, why don't you go first!

SVEN: (proudly) I already did.

SNORRI: (sighs) That's enough. Even though I hate to admit it, Sven
does have a point. Lor, what did you do when first you saw me when I
knocked on your door demanding taxes?

LOR: This is absurd.

SNORRI: (impatiently) What. Did. You. Do?

LOR: Fine. I attacked you with my wooden sword.

SNORRI: (amused) Really? I remember something a little different.

(LOR mumbles)

SNORRI: Sorry, what was that? You'll have to speak-

LOR: Fine! I ran at you, tripped on my own scabbard and slammed into
the doorframe. There! Happy?

SNORRI: (chuckles) Very. I was laughing so hard if anyone wanted to
kill me, they could've done so easily. An efficient tactic, to say
the least. I know talent when I see it! I knew I could take you far,
and now look at you! (claps LOR on back) One of the best we've got!
(turns to OLAF) Okay Olaf, your turn. What was the last word you spoke
to me?

(OLAF scribbles something on parchment with precise efficiency and
jerks the parchment to SNORRI who nods)

SVEN: (trying to peer around SNORRI) I can't see what he wrote. It's
too dark! Let me see!

SNORRI: Blubbering fool! Mind your own business!

SVEN: (stands at attention) Yes sir! Will do, sir!

SNORRI: (SNORRI turns to LOR and says eagerly) We found it. We finally
found a way to defeat her once and for all!

(There is a shocked pause)

LOR: (slowly in disbelief) That's ... not possible.

SNORRI: Don't gawk at me like one of your little sheep, Lor. My mind
is not addled! About three years ago, a myth of a sword that could
kill necromancers and sorcerers reached my ears. Of course, it was
only a myth, but if there was even the slightest chance that it were
true, it would be the end of the Queen's rule! (Begins to pace) We
followed the trail, interrogating any and all persons involved,
listening to village folk stories, and even snuck into the royal
library of the Queen herself! We chased each and every lead regarding
this object. (proudly) It took years, but young Alvar (voice falters.
A long pause. LOR inhales sharply. OLAF's jaw tightens. SVEN face
screws up, trying not to cry. SNORRI continues his voice heavy with
grief) Ah, as I was saying, he finally struck gold. He followed a
thread that seemed to lead nowhere, but nevertheless lead him to a
hermit who told him where to find this sword. Blodsugan, he called it.
(LOR's face darkens at the mention of “Blodsugan”) Said he'd been
waiting for thousands of years. Complete rubbish, if you ask me. Only
the Queen can live that long now. He must've elaborated a few details
here and there. But if what he said about the broken sword was true…


LOR: And what did he say about this… sword?

SNORRI: Hmm? (dismissively) Oh, he used a lot very high-minded and
elaborate language, talking about making not and magical siphons and
whatnot. But the gist of it is this; apparently this sword is somewhat
alive and feeds on magic, seith magic. If it touches the skin of any
who uses the seith, it will, in his words, “make him not”. (SNORRI
becomes feverishly excited and grabs LOR in his intensity) Don't you
see? If Blodsugan were to touch the Queen's skin, it will be as if she
never existed!

(All shocked, except LOR who remains frowning)

SNORRI: What is the matter with you, Lor? (angrily, gripping LOR hard)
Now I know you're not a spy, because no spy would be so ridiculously
obvious and stupid enough to expose themselves like this!

LOR: (Angrily breaks SNORRI's hold) Let me go! What's gotten into
you, Snorri? Look, it's not you I don't trust, it's that sword,
it's this Blodsugan that I don't trust. You know anything that
has to do with magic can't be trusted! At least test it first before
we stake everything we have on it.

SNORRI: (throws up hands) Look, we know all about you and your absurd
grudge with magic!

LOR: Seith is evil! It's-it's a parasite! A plague! Death!

SNORRI: The hermit told us the magic that made Blodsugan was not
seith!

LOR: That's not possible.

SNORRI: You'd better start rethinking what's possible and what's
not, Lor. He also said that it was more powerful than seith. How else
do you think it could kill a necromancer?

LOR: If that's true, then I'd trust it even less than if it was
full of seith!

SNORRI: (SNORRI advances on LOR threateningly, hissing) Do you really
think you're the only one here who knows what it's like to lose what
you love to magic? Do you forget the reason I joined? (Suddenly grabs
LOR by the shirt and shakes him. Furiously) Don't lecture me about
magic-don't stand there like-like-

(GUARD enters stage left with torch, and everyone freezes)

GUARD: (with a drunken slur) Everythin' all right 'ere?

SNORRI: (SNORRI stiffens and does not face guard to keep face hidden
in cloak, and forces a convincing hearty laugh) Oh ho, don't worry
about us! I was just teaching this whelp what happens to
pickpocketers! (forces hearty laugh again)

GUARD: (relaxes and laughs with SNORRI) Shore you don't need a
'and? I could get him screamin' for 'is mother faster 'an you
say "scum." I'm popular with the torturers, yah? (laughs
raucously and SNORRI joins in. OLAF remains like a statue, except for
a raised eyebrow. SVEN joins in late, and artificially laughs until
SNORRI silences him with a glance)

SNORRI: No, it's fine. See, this is a little personal. (pointedly)
It's not the first time.

GUARD: Ah (clicks tongue and winks at SNORRI) I see. Well, don't see
no trouble 'ere! (exits stage left. Then, yelling from offstage)
Give 'im hell fer me!

SNORRI: (A long pause. Turns back to LOR and releases him roughly,
takes a deep breath and begins to pace) Believe me, I have every
reason to distrust this sword too. But I hate the Queen more. What she
did ... there is no forgiveness for. I am prepared to make sure she
pays for all she has done, even if it means we must fight fire with
fire! We will make her taste her own poison! (breathes deeply, and
turns suddenly back to LOR) In war, we do what we must. And what's
necessary is not always what's pleasant. Are you prepared to do what's
necessary, Lor?

LOR: What's gotten into you, Snorri? You're acting like a madman.


SNORRI: (furiously) There's nothing wrong. You have no- (Stops
himself. Takes a deep breath) I'm sorry. You're right. I don't
know why I'm being so ... I'm sorry. (trails off and continues
feverishly) It's just now we finally have a chance to beat her. To
make her pay. And I need to know that you're with me, Lor. Please.

LOR: (sighs resignedly) You know I am, Snorri. Until the very end.
I'm just saying that we should be careful with Blodsugan. If it's
alive, as you say, then it might have a will of its own. And who knows
what it wants? It might not want what we want.

SNORRI: (nods approvingly) I know; I was thinking the same. But the
hermit assured us the sword's will is only to destroy magic. It
can't harm anyone who doesn't use the dark arts. This brings us to
what we want from you, Lor. Sven?

SVEN: (produces a parcel wrapped in patched up and tattered cloth)
Here's the sword, Lor. (hands to LOR who, after a brief hesitation,
takes it)

LOR: (to SNORRI) But why are you giving it to me?

SVEN: It is your birthright. Everyone knows this. Because of what the
Queen did to your ancestor, Aflor.

LOR: Oh, please. Don't tell me you actually believe that myth of
Aflor being flayed alive. That was just what some farmers used to get
people to rebel against the Queen. (looks at them all with a grin, but
falters as everyone is deadly serious) Right?

SNORRI: That's what I thought, too. Until I saw it for myself in the
royal records a few years back.

LOR: But, Snorri ... of course the right lies with you. Out of all of
us, she wronged you the most.

SNORRI: (waives LOR's protest away as if it is of no concern) The
Queen already knows my face, and would kill me before I could say a
word, much less get close enough to stab her. But you, you are Lor, a
simple sheepherder. Never in her wildest dreams would she suspect you
could pose a threat to her. There is a chance you could get close
enough to get her with Blodsugan. Tactically, it makes perfect sense.
(softly) Besides, she only took my father, and he was getting old.
Asta was a different story. (briskly) The right lies with you, and
that is the end of it.

LOR: But-

SNORRI: (loses temper) Do not argue- (sound of armor clanking and
guards talking and raucously laughing emanates from offstage then
fades and SNORRI takes two quick deep breaths and speaks quieter
again) Lor, son of Lorn, descendant of Aflor, do you or do you not
accept this responsibility bestowed upon you?

LOR: (pauses, then speaks his voice grave and heavy with the weight of
what he is about to say) Yes. (he uncovers Blodsugan, speaking
formally) I so choose to honor you Snorri, and to honor your father,
Steinarr of the Queen's personal guard, who nevertheless died by the
hand of the Queen, and Alvar, (voice catches and he continues his
voice tight with emotion) who was slain by her torturers but faithful
to the end, and Olaf, and his daughter Sigfrid, and Sven, and his
people massacred by her dark arts, and my (voice tightens) father,
Lorn who was taken from me and died in the Queen's war, and my
mother Asa, slain by grief, and -Asta. (pauses pulling himself
together) And all others, though unnamed, no less important and
forever carved in our hearts. (grabs Blodsugan by naked blade with
only one hand and holds it out. The others take out their own knives
and grip them in the same way.) By the blood of our fathers, and by
the blood of all the slain, my blood will burn hot and will not rest
until their blood is avenged. (The others slit their palms. LOR is
still holding Blodsugan by the blade with one hand. He then grabs the
handle with his other hand and slits his palm, their blood mixing on
the ground) Aflor shall be avenged.

SNORRI, and LOR: Aflor Skulu Hfnast!

SVEN: (at same time) Aflor Hfnast Skulu!

(Everyone looks at SVEN)

SNORRI: (dangerously) Sven ... (SVEN squeaks and hurries offstage left
and SNORRI runs after him) Sven, so help me I'll- (offstage, but
can still hear him yelling "bumbling idiot" and "ruined sacred
ceremony" while SVEN yelps in pain)

(LOR and OLAF look at each other and OLAF scribbles something on
parchment)

LOR: (laughs as he wraps Blodsugan) Don't let Snorri see that! Come
on, hurry up. I don't want to miss this!

(As they exit left, LIGHTS)

Scene 2
LOR is brought from stage right struggling between two castle guards
(CASTLE GUARD 1 and CASTLE GUARD 2) who are wearing masks of grotesque
human faces with tongues out, into an empty throne room. The throne
sits stage left. The door is not closed behind them. The only other
people in the room are the housekarl BRYNJAR and the QUEEN disguised
as a housekarl, both of them wearing identical uniforms; including
concealing red cloaks with masks. BRYNJAR is standing at lower stage
right corner and the QUEEN is standing at the upper stage right corner
on either side of the door. The guards release LOR roughly before the
throne, then stand at attention. LOR falls face first right before the
empty throne.

LOR:
(to himself) Where is she?

CASTLE GUARD 1:
Her highness the High Queen appears when she wishes.

LOR:
Appears when she-oh, of course. (to himself quietly aside) She's
invisible. Everyone knows how she can use the shadows to hide her
herself. I bet she's sitting on that throne right now trying to
figure me out. No doubt she is ... no, I need her to appear first to
be absolutely sure.

(LOR rises to his feet and makes a sweeping bow before throne, walking
up to it with dignity)

LOR:
(grandiosely) Your Majesty! I am a bard in search of another tale and
have heard much of your fame throughout the lands, many different
stories, and have traveled far and wide to see if the rumors are true.
But I'm afraid the key word, your most illustrious and heinous
highness, is see. (as LOR is speaking the QUEEN moves quietly behind,
in between CASTLE GUARD 1 and CASTLE GUARD 2. Without looking back
CASTLE GUARD 1 and CASTLE GUARD 2 smoothly turn and walk towards the
door on stage right.) How can I possibly confirm and testify to your
greatness if I can't see you? (waits, and QUEEN raises hand and
BRYNJAR bows and exits as QUEEN moves to stand right behind LOR. LOR,
attempting to be casual) Well, perhaps the tales of your majesty were
mistaken- (LOR is cut off as the throne room doors are closed by
BRYNJAR. Startled, LOR whirls around and finds himself face to face
with QUEEN. LOR yells in surprise and stumbles back onto throne)

LOR:
(hastily scrambles out of throne and looks furtively at QUEEN) You
don't think she'll mind, do you?

QUEEN:
(Moves center stage, and puts hands behind back and turns ninety
degrees left so that she is facing the back of stage) Of course I
don't mind. (she lets red cloak fall around her feet) I never use
that thing anyway. I find it much more comfortable and productive to
simply pose as one of my elite.

[end of extract]



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