Friday, November 9, 2012

Norman Invasion


Norman Invasion
by Marty Reeder

Scene 1: The crumbling walls of a courtyard with green fields leading off to the wind-battered, white-tipped sea in the distance, capped with gray clouds. Enter NORMAN, his wife, BEATRICE, and their daughter, MARY. All of them are clad in rags, appear exhausted, and seem disappointed with what they see upon entering and examining the courtyard.

NORMAN: Thunder and blazes, Beatrice! Do you know what this means?

BEATRICE: Ay, Norman, my husband. It means we’ll not get a warm meal tonight, and you’ll not get a position as Richard the Fierce’s newest laborer.

NORMAN: A shame! For there are many repairs my stone-laying hand could have mended. See there, gentle wife and daughter [he points to a teetering column of a once-strong wall], do not approach that, for my mason eyes detect that if you so much as breath on it, it could tumble down upon you.

MARY: It is not the only thing to tumble. My hopes at seeing Richard the Fierce’s elegant knight, Sir Francis the Competent have tumbled down to nothing.

NORMAN: If you ask me, Mary, anyone whose title is merely “Competent” doesn’t inspire any sense of enduring fame.

MARY: Perhaps not, Father, but the maidens at our previous abode spoke highly of his immaculate sense of fashion. They say he had a peacock feather in his helmet.

BEATRICE: Well, Mary my daughter, it appears that the peacock feather protected that competent knight just as well from a viking onslaught as our previous Lord’s defenses did our old home.

NORMAN: You believe that Richard the Fierce’s castle here was also attacked by vikings, Beatrice?

BEATRICE: Norman, you clearly have a mind only for masonry. If it were another marauding knight, would they not be occupying the fortress right now? Only the vikings attack, plunder, and then disperse. You should know this as well as anyone, considering the reason we were looking for a new place of labor was that we came from a decimating viking attack.

NORMAN: You make an excellent point, Beatrice.

MARY: Besides, Father, who else mightier than the savage viking could have desolated the fortifications of Richard the Fierce? I’ll grant you that his underling Francis the Competent may not have instilled fear into anything not arrayed with plumage—but Richard the Fierce was widely known by the maidens of our previous court to be entirely invincible! The only other knight to come close would be Alfred the Terror … and they say that even he would blink upon hearing the name of Richard the Fierce.

NORMAN: Ah, my fickle daughter, Mary. If I didn’t know any better, I might suspect that you have every knight’s coat of arms memorized and categorized by social standing!

MARY: Father! Not every knight … I could hardly know about the knights as far as the Tartar Steppes!

NORMAN: Regardless, child, we should get moving. I fear this place could be haunted by those fallen in battle.

BEATRICE: Husband, Norman. You can’t possibly think to leave here without first gathering some spoils.

MARY: Spoils! Mother, you are crafty beyond your years. In fact, [looking off stage] I think I see wardrobes over there that did not get burned. I fancy there will be some elegant apparrel there!

BEATRICE: You have such an eye for the frivolous, Mary. Besides 
women’s raiment, I think that some of the armor on those corpses over there [points off stage] could be worth a great deal.

NORMAN: I do not know the value of metal. I only know the value of stone as I lay it on top of another.

MARY: Mother is right, Father! I think I see the armor of Richard the Fierce himself. The maidens of our previous court have often spoken of its immense value.

NORMAN: What is the value of armor on a dead man?—If the dead could speak, surely he would say ‘twas worthless, e’en ‘twere made of solid gold.

BEATRICE: Quite poetic for a mason, dear Norman, but we are not dead, and though the armor be not gold, its metal holds a great value still.

NORMAN: Ay, Beatrice, I will grant you its value, but I think you forget that we have no pack animal with which to carry it.

BEATRICE: And you forget that I have a husband, which will serve just as well as any pack animal! Come, Mary, let us load up our animal with the armor.

NORMAN: I suppose you think that your allusion to me as a pack animal is humorous.

BEATRICE: “Practical” is more the word I would use to describe it, my dearest husband, Norman.

NORMAN: [looking back and forth between BEATRICE and MARY] Very well, my merciless Beatrice … and my daughter, I will carry the armor. But if that helmet is any indication, I will need you both to guide me, for I do not think I could see much through its narrow visor. The last thing I want is to slam into that poorly constructed wall over there and put an untimely end to your precious pack animal.

MARY: Father, we would never allow such a thing to occur! You know how fond we are of dumb animals!

NORMAN: Thunder and blazes, Mary, I think I’ve had all of the “practical” advice that I’ll ever need from both of you. Let’s go put the armor on before you have anything more to add.

[all three exit while ALFRED THE TERROR and an entourage of rough-looking knights, among them PHILIP THE FASHIONABLE, come from the opposing side]

ALFRED: Look at this waste! It cannot be that in the very hour I hope to destroy my mortal enemy, Richard the Fierce, someone has beat me to it!

PHILIP: Nay Lord Alfred the Terror, no one could have defeated the scoundrel Richard unless it was you. There is no knight in all the world so powerful.

ALFRED: Though I would have agreed with you only moments before, we see that every thing here is a ghost of past greatness. The mighty Richard has fallen before I could even draw my sword.

PHILIP: Who then could have performed such a feat, Your Most Terrible Lord?

ALFRED: I suspect that whoever it was has not gone far. Though he has razed the land, he will not be quick to abandon a spot so pristine that Richard the Fierce possessed. We should be on our guard. [he draws his sword warily]

[enter NORMAN, BEATRICE, and MARY. MARY is adjusting a new dress and NORMAN is bedecked in clunkish-looking armor]

NORMAN: [to his wife and daughter, not seeing ALFRED THE TERROR and his knights through his helmet] Thunder and blazes! This is indeed a most uncomfortable affair. A plague upon practical advice and Sir Richard the Fierce’s armorer!

ALFRED: [assuming that NORMAN was addressing him] Bold-speaking knight, you insult me by suggesting that I am Richard the Fierce’s lowly armorer. If my presence makes you uncomfortable, I shall be happy to ease your burden!

NORMAN: What? Who is that?

MARY: [awed] Why everyone knows that this is Alfred the Terror.

NORMAN: Alfred the Terror? Why … why … what in the world is he doing here?

ALFRED: Well, sir knight, I come to attack the despicable Richard the Fierce. I could not stand the rumors being spread that I quake before him. Pride demanded that I vanquish him or die trying—lest others accuse me of craven cowardice.

MARY: Sir Alfred, no one could ever accuse you of anything so base. Your reputation of terror precedes you wherever you go. Now, they might accuse you of being a tad insane considering your zealousness for death and destruction, but lacking in courage? Never!

ALFRED: Wench! Did you just accuse me of being mad!

BEATRICE: Considering your demeanor right now you have proven that you can be mad, even livid.

NORMAN: Beatrice, dear, perhaps now is not a good time to be clever. I don’t know that the man will appreciate your sense of the practical as much as your husband.

ALFRED: Enough talk! It is time for one of us to die, audacious knight. I think you will find that I may not be as skilled a warrior as Richard the Fierce, but this wench is right in suggesting that I will be a veritable maniac in my attack. [raises sword]

BEATRICE: [in a moment of realization] Oh, Mary! The brute is in earnest! [she stands in front of her husband] Thou are mistaken, Alfred the Terror … my husband is no knight. You cannot fight him.

ALFRED: No knight?! What then, a ghost? Nay, wench. I will fight this being before me whether he be knight, spirit, or shadow. He who overthrew Richard must now overthrow me!

MARY: Oh, Alfred the Terror, the rumors surrounding you do not hint of a merciful side, but surely you will possess one when you recognize that we are but poor scavengers—innocent passersbys, nothing more!

ALFRED: [adressing MARY] Passerbys dressed as nobility, fancy wench? [turning to NORMAN] Were I a coward whose horde fell before the onslaught of the mighty Richard the Fierce, and I only survived by mere fortune, I would also tell lies to expedite an escape. But I am no liar … and you, I suspect, no scavenger. Come, knight, I will speak to thee only, not the wenches who clearly adore you and rightfully suspect your demise at my hand.

NORMAN: You intend to fight then, regardless of what I—or they—say?

ALFRED: Fight? No. I intend to kill. But do not despair. As I am the challenger, I will allow you to choose the weapon you will die by.

BEATRICE: Husband, you cannot do this, plead for mercy before him!

MARY: Mother, Alfred the Terror will grant none. Father must fight or die!

BEATRICE: Before this monster are not those two the same?

NORMAN: Mary, surely this hunk of meat before us has a weakness. What does your memory of knight facts tell you?

MARY: Well, he has researched and mastered all the ways to effectively dismantle another human being …

NORMAN: You bring little comfort—I ask not for his weakness of moral character, Mary, but of his weaknesses as a warrior.

MARY [scraping] Well, if pressed I suppose I could confidently say that he … um … doesn’t have your abilities of construction.

NORMAN: Thunder and blazes, child, what shall I do, request that our weapon of choice be a trowel?!

BEATRICE: Surely, someone who builds has some sort of advantage over one who destroys!

ALFRED: Knight, I grow weary of your delays. If you do not engage in battle immediately, then I shall come after you with my bare hands! [ALFRED THE TERROR tosses his sword to the side and checks mobility in his armor]

NORMAN: Mary, Beatrice, I love you both, and I do not blame you for my death. … though my original advice might have avoided this situation—but ‘tis of no account. I will hold him off as long as I can for your timely escape. Just be sure to avoid fleeing past that weak wall—even the slightest breeze might topple it to the ground and produce irrevocable damage before—[struck by a plan]

ALFRED: Do you plan on clearing out the wenches or shall I bowl them over in the process?

NORMAN: That’s it! I have a plan. Make no escape, my practical maidens! Stand aside. [to ALFRED THE TERROR in a voice assuming bravery, though betraying hints of anxiety] Very well, knave, allow me to position myself! [carefully works his way directly in front of the weakened wall while speaking] If you prefer to call for mercy, I will not torture you as badly as I did Richard the Fierce before his violent demise.

MARY: Father, it is told that Alfred the Terror could punch a hole through a charging bear, let alone the armor of Richard the Fierce!

NORMAN: [to MARY] I sincerely hope so, my daughter. Come, Alfred the Terrified, will you not engage or do you wait for your armor to rust from your salty tears of fear?!

ALFRED: Insolence! [ALFRED THE TERROR charges in a fit of rage. At the last second NORMAN shuffles out of the way just as ALFRED hits the wall, which then tumbles down on him, crushing him completely. Scattered yelps and cries are heard]

BEATRICE: [dust settling] Norman, are you all right?

NORMAN: I’m doing alright, for a dumb animal and all. I suppose I should have warned him about the wall, shouldn’t I have, Beatrice?
[they turn to face the warriors of ALFRED THE TERROR, who pause for a moment before bending down on one knee]

PHILIP THE FASHIONABLE: Noble and brave knight who has conquered the fiercest and most terrifying knights in the known kingdoms, to whom do we owe our new allegiance?

NORMAN: As I was saying before, I am no knight, I am—

BEATRICE: Your new king! His Royalness, King Norman the, er, Builder … the Builder of Empires. And this new land shall hereby be known as … as … Normandy!

NORMAN: Beatrice, you can’t possibly—

BEATRICE: [cutting off her protesting husband] Furthermore, the Great King Norman accepts your offered allegiance, which will allay his urges to smite you off the face of the earth!

MARY: [adressing PHILIP] Also allaying any thoughts of violence is the fact that I recognize your coat of arms, good knight, as that of the quite well-regarded Philip the Fashionable. Maidens all over speak of your exceptionally good taste in raiment. Your current costume does not disappoint.

PHILIP: Maiden, you speak truly. And while I admittedly have an exquisite sense of fashion, such trends can only change with the wind … but your beauty is such that it could command the trends, the wind, nay, even the sun!

NORMAN: Philip the Fashionable, huh? More like Philip the Honey-tongued.

PHILIP: O Mighty King Norman, my tongue may drip of honey, but nothing would be as sweet to me as being able to take your stunning daughter’s hand in marriage.

MARY: [elated] O Father, please? It is told that he has a carriage adorned with the fur of leopards from Malay!

BEATRICE: [whispering to her husband] Norman, if you acquiesce to the marriage, even if they discover our deception, we’ll have inextricably sealed our family to nobility!

NORMAN: [pause, then speaking loudly to address the whole group] Knights, warriors, and my dear family. Your newly minted sovereign, King Norman, thinks that he would have to be a dumb animal to refuse the eloquent Philip the Fashionable’s offer of marriage to my daughter. In fact, I won’t stop there. I would offer the plume of a peacock, my noble heritage, all my worldly riches, yay, all the kingdoms I possessed before this one … as long as someone can find a way to remove this helmet from my head—thunder and blazes!