The Tantalus Theatre Troupe is proud to present:

Melodies of Life

Our story begins in the far-off city of Fal Antel. In this sprawling metropolis, no man is king. A group of armed civillians patrols the streets, keeping order, and upholding justice. However… one's ideal of justice may be subject to change, with the right reasons, or the right coin. The noble lords of Fal Antel hold the ears and wallets of the peace officers, the city kept from tyranny of the rich only due to the feuds between houses, and an equilibrium of bribes. Now, we happen upon the home of Lord Bastion Artwright, one such noble who uses his immense wealth to protect the people of the city, rather than to subjugate them through greed.

Act 1

introduces us to the portly man (played by Baku), who would look almost jolly if not for the wear etched into his face from years of political strife between the houses of Fal Antel, his own included. He is speaking with an old friend, Bernard Wellington (played by Cinna). The two old friends are discussing the current state of the city, reinforcing the corrupted nature of the nobility, the merchant class, and the peace officers. Lord Artwright and Lord Wellington seem to imply the only ones who have paid heed to the plight of the common man have been themselves and lament this apparent fact. Lord Artwright then mentions how dangerous it's grown for people like them with many enemies, and how he worries for the safety of his daughter, Emilia.

Scene changes to the garden.

Here we see two people in a fencing match against each other, one being of lithe frame, the other sturdy. The match ends with the former's point, and the two bow to each other, the loser leaving the garden a moment. Just then, a young man (played by Blank) enters the garden from the other side.

Man: "Excuse me, sir, I've found myself a bit lost… my name is Cedric… I am the new assistant greenskeeper?"

The fencer removes their mask, revealing themselves as Emilia, the Lord's daughter (played by Ruby).

Emilia: "Think me a sir, do you? Do not fear, Cedric, I am unoffended. It is a testament to my form."

Cedric is startled, and quickly bows.

Cedric: "Oh! My gracious apologies! You must be lady Emilia. I did not expect such a rose to be hidden away in its garden, not the sharp thorn at her side. But the deadlier the prick, the more lovely the flower, hm?"

Emilia: *laugh* "Shameless flirt! I must keep my eye on you, indeed."

Cedric: "If I may ask, why does my lady know swordplay?"

They begin to walk through the garden together.

Emilia: "It began with father expressing an interest in me learning to protect myself. No, that's not quite right. I expressed to him the need to protect myself, and he agreed. You wouldn't believe the kind of things a noble must protect themselves from… brigands, thugs, assassins…"

Cedric: "Assassins?"

Emilia: "Unfortunately yes. When the great houses squabble, bitter rifts form, and sometimes assassins are imployed to kill a rival, their family or their employees, where the officers of peace might not be persuaded with coin. But now, even my friend Anthony, my tutor, can't best me with a sword."

Man: "What's that, Emilia? Do I hear you bragging over a lucky strike?" A grinning man walks back onto stage in fencer attire, sans mask, and holding a glass of water. The man, played by Lowell, is Anthony, Emilia's childhood friend.

Emilia: "A lucky strike, he says! A lucky strike would have pierced through heart and lifeblood same as a skilled one. But enough jest, have you met the new gardener?"

Cedric bows. "A pleasure, m'lord. I'm Cedric. And you must be the dutiful pruner trimming the roses."

Anthony: "Anthony Wellington… I am not sure what you mean by that remark, servant. Best mind thy tongue."

Emilia: "Hush, Anthony. We are not so formal with our help here. He was jesting. Come with us, I'll be showing him the grounds."

END ACT 1

Act 2

ONE WEEK LATER

Emilia and Cedric have become fast friends, and one day, excuses him from his gardening duties long enough to get him to take her shopping. Their trip takes them by the so-called 'peace officers' harassing a homeless man, before knocking him down and kicking him in the sides. Cedric quietly tries to lead Emilia aside, but the young noble woman refuses to hold her tongue and begins yelling at the peace officers. The armed men round on her with clubs, and she is forced to defend herself. Her shopping basket breaks against one of them, but without her epee she finds herself in a predicament. Cedric suddenly draws a dagger from his boot, however, and protects Emilia, grazing one of them across the cheek and forcing them to back off.

Cedric: *breathing hard* "Forgive me, m'lady, but if you do not actually remember to bring your sword, your lessons do you no good."

Emilia: "Cedric! I didn't realize an adder's tooth lay hidden in thy heel…"

Cedric: "It's as you said, m'lady. The city is a dangerous place for a noble or her men. Let us be off before they come back, your father will be able to placate their complaints with coin."

Emilia: "Those villains deserve the noose 'round their throats, not silver lining their pockets."

She goes to pick up her scattered things.

Cedric: "Be as it may, this is how our fair Fal Antel is."

He stoops down to help her, and Emilia sighs.

Emilia: "You are brave for helping me, if complacent with the city's plight. Thank you, Cedric."

Cedric: "Of course, m'lady. I couldn't stand it if someone marred any of my flowers, let alone my treasured rose."

He almost bumps into her as they pick things up, but she shoves him away, playfully.

Emilia: "Cad! Your compliments begin to lose their edge."

Cedric: *laugh* "Then I will have to retrieve a whetstone."

They quickly gather their things and retreat to the Artwright estate. The act focuses on other interactions the two have, with Anthony's visits becoming fewer and his attitude more jealous. Cedric and Emilia draw closer, and closer, and eventually she begins a relationship with Cedric - forbidden love between a noble and servant. Eventually, one night, it is consummated…

END ACT 2

Act 3

The candles in Emilia's room have gone out. There are loud noises. A crash. A male's scream, shouting. The sounds of many footsteps. She starts awake. Cedric is not there, and the door to her room is open. The epee next to her bed, gone. Throwing on a houserobe, she quickly dashes into the hallway, where a number of her father's men stand near the door to the lord's bedroom. She goes to meet them.

Emilia: "Guards?! What has happened??"

Guard 1: "Forgive us, Lady Emilia. Someone got inside the manor and tried to attack your poor father. We came runnin' but all we found was young Lord Wellington here, wounded."

Emilia: "Anthony? Where is he? Where is my father??"

She pushes her way inside to her father's room. The man has suffered a terrible wound, but is still breathing. Anthony is nearby with his own wounds, and blood covering him. A body lays on the floor of the room, dressed only in pants and clutching an unstained epee, and the large window by her father's bed is shattered.

Anthony: "Emilia…"

Emilia: "Anthony? W-what… what has happened?" She moves quickly to her father's side, taking his hand, but also finds her eyes drawn to the body on the floor.

Anthony: "There was an assassin. I was visiting this night, but I thought it was odd when your father decided to retire far earlier than usual. I believe someone planted sleeping weed in his meal. I remained vigilant during the night just in case, and my fears were confirmed. Someone broke into your father's room. Thankfully he woke and the attacker did not manage to land a fatal blow upon him. I came into the room, but he stabbed me and leapt through the window… …that body, isn't that…? His face and body are marred but… that is Cedric, isn't it?"

Emilia: "C-cedric…"

Anthony: "It looks like he got here before I did and died defending your father. Perhaps the only reason he still lives…"

The woman's eyes tear up as she's flooded with a mix of relief and grief. She simply throws her arms around her father, and begins sobbing uncontrollably.

Anthony: "You have no reason to fear any longer. I'll stay here and look after you both. It is the least I can do. You there! Guardsman! Fetch an apothecary or a white mage!"

A guard rushes out of the room while Emilia continues sobbing. The act continues with the doctor assuring Emilia that her father will live, though his wound will never fully heal and that he would have trouble even moving around. Cedric's burial happens as well, and Emilia grows quieter and more reserved, taking on her father's duties but also practicing her sword arts in secret, and growing even further apart from Anthony, to his dismay. The assassin is never found, but Emilia has her suspicions, and intends to act upon them.

END ACT 3

Act 4

A good thirty minutes of this act focuses on the political intrigue of the city. Rivalries worsen, the behavior of the peace officers begins to worsen, and the coffers of the Artwrights are beginning to grow light. Emilia is up to her neck in all of this, and longs to seek an escape. She turns to opium use and begins to refuse to see visitors, all to escape the stresses of her situation. Her plans for revenge are all but forgotten, but the audience is surprised when the suspected killer, Anthony, takes it upon himself to find out exactly who the assassins are. Journeying forth with his brother, he recounts how he saw an emblem like a raven on the would-be assassin's cloak. By chance, they happen upon a peace officer speaking with a hooded man wearing just such an emblem, and upon spotting the brothers, the cloaked man dashes away. Anthony proceeds to interrogate the officer mercilessly, and the broken man spits out a name.

"Bernard Wellington."

As Anthony hears the name of his own father, his brother is seen unsheathing a sword and goes to stab Anthony, but Anthony reacts quickly and parries the blow, then kills his brother. His entire world has been shattered in a matter of moments. His own father was responsible for plotting against Lord Artwright and putting Emilia in her current state! With a howl of rage, Anthony gathers some loyal men and heads for his home.

END ACT 4

Act 5

Upon getting home, Anthony and his men are met by the Ravencloaks and his father.

Anthony: "Father! What have you done?! What possessed you to turn on your best friend and attack his estate?"

Bernard: "Thy brother's blood weighs heavily upon thy sword, Anthony. You are not guiltless either. I am tired of fighting a losing battle weeding the corrupt from this city, when the city does nothing to stand up for itself. The people are either too afraid to take up arms against the peace officers, or tempted by gold to join them. There are no good, brave men left in Fal Antel. Not even Bastion, who was complacent in encouraging the system with his own coin. I am through with this, my son. My new alliances will reinforce your own safety and wellbeing for years to come. And would have your brother's too…"

Anthony: "Guiltless? To hell with your notion of guilt! A kinslayer I may be, but what matters this when the dead are not men, but monsters? I will still be guiltless when your blood joins his on my blade, old man. I had my doubts, but I believe in the city that Lord Bastion, and Emilia, can create, one bit at a time. Engarde, swine!"

Anthony and his men duel Wellington and his assassins. Most of them are killed, and Anthony and his father exchange brief, but final words before the former plunges his blade into his father's flesh. Suddenly, one last assassin drops down from the rafters, taking out all of Anthony's men in a flash. Anthony turns and the two duel in an extended battle that wears both of them down, until a lucky strike removes the assassin's garment, revealing Cedric as its occupant.

Anthony: "…you! By all gods and devils, it had to be you all this time… What trickery is this?"

Cedric: "…It was unfortunate, I really liked living as a servant boy in that manor. So much different from being born and raised in a league of assassins. Did you like my handiwork? The double I killed, then marred to appear as if I died? It would have been a perfect plan to relieve suspicion, if the old man hadn't woken prematurely. I spent months preparing for that night, and still…"

Anthony: "Like your handiwork? LIKE YOUR HANDIWORK?! You have RUINED the one woman who I have admired my entire life. You have left her a soulless lump of flesh that spends her days in drug-addled slumberland when not signing paperwork and delivering bribes. I will SLAY you, you insolent wretch!"

Cedric: "Also unfortunate…" the assassin shows pause as he dodges Anthony's blows, his wind regained. "She was indeed such a beautiful rose… I truly did love her, but assassins are not allowed to have hearts. I could not defy my fate…"

The assassin leaps backwards, and to the doors, kicking a chair at Anthony and tripping him up momentarily.

Cedric: "If you wish to finish this, kinslayer, then meet me in her gardens this night. Then we will see if you will put me to rest."

The assassin leaves, and the young lord drops his blood-stained blade to grieve over his men.

END ACT 5

Act 6

That night, it is to Cedric's surprise when Emilia emerges into the garden to meet him at the appointed time, bearing her epee. The assassin is momentarily paralyzed as she speaks.

Emilia: "So Anthony was telling the truth… what a wild lie it had sounded like. My lover, back from the dead, being the one who wounded my father…"

Cedric: "Emilia… I-"

Emilia: "Spare me your apologies, and DRAW THY BLADE!"

The young woman leaps at Cedric, weaving and striking with her sword. She proves to be just as nimble, if not more so, than the other, drawing blood on his shoulder. It's all he can do to defend himself, though after a minute it becomes apparent he isn't trying to fight back at all.

Cedric: "I said once before I would not be able to stand it if someone marred my precious rose…"

With a loud SHING, Cedric is disarmed of his dagger, and her epee is at his throat.

Cedric: "…and truly did I mean that. Emilia… I am truly sorry for breaking your heart…"

The woman is shaking, though with rage or from something else is unknown. After a moment, she manages to speak.

Emilia: "I have already forgiven you for that, Cedric. But what you did to my father, to Anthony's men is… irreconcilable!"

Cedric remains silent.

Emilia: "Why…? WHY?! If you loved me, why did you not stay and live with me, and never go back to them?!"

Cedric: "It's not that easy for someone who has been trained from birth to kill in order to live that kind of life… gods, I wish it was."

Emilia's sword wavers, and she quietly speaks.

Emilia: "I still love you…"

Cedric: "And I you. But I am scum that does not deserve to hold a beautiful rose… Emilia." He lets down his guard entirely. "…I grow tired of being an assassin. …With these hands, I will take but one more life - the life of the man that wronged you, your father, and many, many more. Perhaps we'll meet again if one day my soul can be purged of its sins." he removes a vial from his cloak and downs the contents. Panicking, Emilia drops her sword and grasps Cedric's cloak.

Emilia: "No! No!! I… Oh, what a wretched person I am for still loving the man who intended to take my father's life! But still my heart aches so. Cedric, please don't leave me again… Take me with you, this time!"

The assassin is shocked, but hesitantly he pulls another vial from his cloak and hands it it to her silently. She unstoppers it and takes the contents without regret. She slumps into his arms, and they slowly go to the floor together.

Cedric: "You are… a wonderful woman, Emilia. I am the only wretch here… I go now to my final judgement. You… will drift into sleep on the wings of sleeping weed, and wake up after I have departed."

Emilia: "…what? …no, no… cedric…" Her voice has been weakened as she begins to drift off.

Cedric: "Hear my last words, Emilia. Forget about the slimeball who betrayed your heart, who injured your father. Live on… you are stronger than you know."

And in her arms, the assassin passed away.

END ACT 6

Epilogue

Emilia is in her garden, as equally world-worn in appearance as her father was, but not unhappy. It's revealed a small grave was made for Cedric, where the unknown man who was murdered rests. She still speaks to the grave as if she was talking to Cedric, who admits she has begun to move on despite how hard it's been. She begins to sing Melodies of Life as she leaves the grave, Anthony joins her eventually, and it's revealed the two have begun a relationship, moving on with their lives. Though her father is still injured, she has quit her opium addiction, and has resolved to do what she can to try to cleanse the corruption in Fal Antel. And so it goes, on and on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye7BGnlTZmQ

Alone for a while I've been searching through the dark,
For traces of the love you left inside my lonely heart,
To weave by picking up the pieces that remain,
Melodies of life - love's lost refrain.

Our paths they did cross, though I cannot say just why.
We met, we laughed, we held on fast, and then we said goodbye.
And who'll hear the echoes of stories never told ?
Let them ring out loud till they unfold.

In my dearest memories, I see you reaching out to me.
Though you're gone, I still believe that you can call out my name.

A voice from the past, joining yours and mine.
Adding up the layers of harmony.
And so it goes, on and on.
Melodies of life,
To the sky beyond the flying birds - forever and beyond.

So far and away, see the birds as it flies by.
Gliding through the shadows of the clouds up in the sky.
I've laid my memories and dreams upon those wings.
Leave them now and see what tomorrow brings.

In your dearest memories, do you remember loving me ?
Was it fate that brought us close and now leave me behind ?

A voice from the past, joining yours and mine.
Adding up the layers of harmony.
And so it goes, on and on.
Melodies of life,
To the sky beyond the flying bird - forever and on.

If I should leave this lonely world behind,
Your voice will still remember our melody.
Now I know we'll carry on.
Melodies of life,
Come circle round and grow deep in our hearts, as long as we remember.

Fin