Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
A Play by Tom Stoppard
Now an award-winning film
The two Switchblades seemed to be riding the in the wake of a great beast. The winds twisted and battered the skimmers, pushing and pulling them but always guiding. Southeast they soared, talk was minimal between the two Talons, not just because it would have been near impossible to hear each other, but because every breath was needed to fight the winds for control.
Something could be heard over the howling wind, a single clear note. Other notes joined the first as they flew. Soon a symphony of sound echoed all around them, beckoning them to its source.
Guil blinked back tears and stared through the harsh wind. An enormous colossal structure could be seen in the thickening cloud fog. It was also getting warmer, a fact that intrigued him. After he was sure the formation was not a trick of the weather, Guil carefully wrestled his skimmer closer to the other and signalled Roz, gesturing to the Terra in the distance. Roz nodded and the two separated before a rogue breeze decided to slam the skimmers together.
Aiming their skyrides for Terra Typhon, the two Talons gunned their engines. The wind was becoming increasingly frantic as they approached the hidden terra, the mystifying music screamed with the wind, and just when Guil thought he would give in to exhaustion his skimmer broke through the wind's grip and the world was bright with sunlight. The Talon squinted in the sudden glare, the air was now perfectly clear, not a breath of wind, even the odd wind-song had gone quiet. Guil turned, behind him rose a vast wall of dense fog that followed the terra's edge like it had been drawn with a knife. Guil then spotted the source of the music; huge columns of porous rock grew out from the terra's edge, twisting their way in and out of the fog and wind like snakes, creating terra sized flutes. Roz soon emerged through the wall, also having luckily avoiding the hidden rock serpents, and joined his companion.
Before them lay the terra, the snake wall encircled the edge as did the fog which stretched upwards for miles, straight as an arrow. The source of the heat, and most likely the mist wall, was a result of multiple geysers and hot springs that dotted the hilly surface. Various shades of yellow and peach streaks ran downhill on the bare rock near the geysers while thick lush grass and moss covered everything else. No trees grew on the terra that they could see so it was easy to spot the castle-like fortress situated near the center of the terra. That was their destination.
The two landed their skimmers in the large stone courtyard located in front of the building, as soon as they touched down three stooped figures glided towards them. All three individuals stood at least seven feet tall and were reptilian in form; they had thick strong tails, long limbs with webbed digits, and to top it off, a long maw packed with wicked teeth. Gators.
The lead Gator reached the Talons and spoke to his companions in a harsh guttural language filled with much hissing, and gestured to their switchblades. Immediately the two retrieved the vehicles and began wheeling them to a smaller building.
The lead Gator turned back to the Talons, grunted and hissed, then marched towards the main building without a backward glance. Roz and Guil looked at each other with blank expressions on their faces before hurrying to catch up with the creature.
The Talons were led into the fortress's entrance hall and were told to wait. – At least that's what they both assumed the Gator was trying to tell them when it suddenly whipped around and growled something unintelligible before stalking off the way they had come.
The room was vast and empty, the silence pressing down upon the occupants, making them edgy.
"I want to go home." Roz whispered.
"Don't let them confuse you." Guil answered, but also kept his voice low. "We'll soon be home and high – dry and home – we'll-
"I'm out of my depth –"
"– We'll high be home –"
"– Out of my head –"
"– Dry you high –"
"– Over my step, out of my bounds! I'm telling you it's all stopping to a step, heading to a death, stepping to a head, it's all heading to a dead stop –! "
Guil clapped a hand over his friend's mouth, letting Roz's last wail echo to silence inside the grand hall. "There now… Better?" Roz nodded, blue eyes wide and Guil removed his hand. "Now, we'll soon be home, high and dry. Keep your eyes open, your ears sharp, and tread carefully. We'll be all right."
"For how long?"
"Till events have played themselves out." Guil answered simply.
The sound of footfalls and quiet hum of conversation reached them a moment before a small procession of people streamed into the hall through a side corridor. Two dignitaries stood out in front, both man and woman wearing elaborate dress with long capes that had to be held by a pair of attendants lest they drag on the ground. The Lord and Lady Aetna. The two strode purposefully toward the two Talons with their small parade trailing behind.
Roz and Guil quickly straightened and saluted.
"You are the envoy from Cyclonia, yes?" Cilici Aetna asked, she spoke clearly but was not unpleasant.
Roz answered, "Yes my lady."
She broke out into a smile. "Wonderful!
"Welcome, welcome both of you!" Arim Aetna said happily, shaking their hands vigorously. "Allies of the Cyclonia Empire are always welcome to Terra Typhon."
Cilici took up their hands and shook them as well. "In addition, we have been anxious to see you, the need we have did prompt our hasty request."
Bewildered by their warm welcome the two Talons could only nod in agreement.
"You have heard then, something of the Commander's… change?" The lady worded carefully. "He has visited this Terra many times in the past and neither inwardly or outwardly does he resemble the man we knew."
Her voice grew sad and Arim took her arm in a soothing gesture. "More than the deaths of those he commanded has distanced him from what he knows as himself." He said gravely. "Though I could not imagine what he has gone through." Now Cilici was patting her husbands arm to comfort him. Both were looking to each other as if they had forgotten the Talons completely.
"Good gentlemen." Arim started, addressing them once again. Roz and Guil saluted reflexively. "You have served under the Commander before?"
This time it was Guil's turn to answer, "Yes my lord."
"We thought that the company of a few familiar faces could help draw him out of his state, such that it is, and perhaps find the cause."
"Your majesties, have no worries, we shall do whatever we can." Guil replied.
"We both obey and give our services freely." Roz added.
"Thanks be to you good sirs." Cilici nodded to them politely, "Rest here as long as you need, and I encourage you to visit the Commander as soon as possible."
Both Roz and Guil saluted as the procession exited the room, their footsteps fading down the hallway.
"I want to go home." Roz said, breaking the silence. "Which way did we come in?" He moved off to the side. "I've lost my sense of direction."
"It's too late." Guil said, not bothering to try to hide the bitterness he felt. "We're caught up in it now."
"We don't owe anything to anyone."
"The smallest of actions has set off another somewhere else, and is, in turn set off by it." Guil stated dramatically.
Roz stared at the ceiling, thinking, "What was at the beginning… I can't remember. What have we got to go on?"
"We have been briefed; the Commander's transformation, what do you make of it?"
"Well… he's changed hasn't he? Both inwardly and outwardly he fails to resemble the man he was."
"Give him company – draw him out of his state and find the cause."
"Cheer him up? Find out what's the matter?"
"Exactly, it's just a matter of asking the right questions. It's all a game."
"And then can we go?" Roz asked hopefully.
Guil clapped his friend on the shoulder. "And be given such recognition as befits a Hero's tribute."
Roz smiled, "I like the sound of that." They then walked off down the corridor in search of their Commander.
The two wandered aimlessly, not sure where to go and ending up back where they started at twice before finding their way outside.
"See anyone?" Guil asked, searching the simple garden.
"No, you?" Roz was gazing in the opposite direction.
"No." Guil sighed and sat down on a nearby bench, Roz joined him soon after.
Silence once again stretched between them.
"Has it ever happened to you that all of a sudden and for no reason at all you haven't the slightest idea how to spell the word – 'which' or – 'horse' because when you write it down you just can't remember ever having seen those letters in that order before…?
Guil turned his head and stared at Roz with an unreadable expression.
Roz in the meantime was peering ahead with interest. "What's that?" he said to no one in particular, and got up to see for himself.
Guil sat there for a moment staring at the same place, and then looked up to the heavens, "Consistency is all I ask."
Guil found Roz standing before an empty badminton court that obviously hadn't been used in a while; the poles leaned inward making the net sag to the ground.
"How very intriguing, I feel like a spectator!" The dark haired Talon said gleefully and began searching for equipment.
Guil stood at the sidelines, "Shouldn't we be doing something constructive?"
Roz gave up his search, "Like what?"
"We could go." Guil suggested.
"Why? They've got us placed now, if we start moving around we'll be chasing each other around all night" Roz stated logically
Guil hung his head and rubbed the back of his neck despairingly.
"We could play at questions." Roz offered, wanting to cheer him up
Guil raised his head, crossed his arms in front of his chest and walked into the service court opposite Roz "What good would that do?"
Roz shrugged "practice!"
"Statement! One – love." Guil called, and moved into the other service court.
Roz stared at him, open mouthed. "That's cheating!"
"I hadn't started yet!"
"Statement. Two – love." He said, and then once again moved to the other service court.
Roz glared at him, "I'm not going to play if you're going to be like that!"
Guil spread his arms in defence and inclined his head, indicating Roz to continue.
Roz readied himself. "Are you counting that?"
"What?" Guil asked innocently.
"Are you counting that?"
"Foul! No repetitions, three – love and game, first one to–"
Roz marched over to bench at sidelines and sat down.
Guil slowly walked over and sat beside his sulking friend. Both sat quietly for a few seconds when Guil suddenly rose and strode into a court and took his place. Roz quickly ran over to the court opposite him.
"Whose serve?" Guil asked him, confused.
Roz's brow furrowed in concentration, "uhh…"
"Hesitation. Love – one." Guil said with a quick wry grin.
Roz stood there stunned before moving to the other service court, a determined look on his face. "What are you playing at?" He asked.
"What's the game?" Guil countered.
"What are the rules?"
"Does it matter?"
"How do you win?"
"Can you win?"
"Foul! No synonyms! One – all." Roz called happily.
Guil moved into place, "What in the Atmos is going on here?"
"Foul!" Roz exclaimed. "No rhetoric. Two – one."
Guil frowned, "What does this all add up too?" The fair haired Talon wondered.
"Can't you guess?"
"Were you addressing me?"
"Is there anyone else?" Roz pointed out, looking around.
"How would I know?"
"Why do you ask?" Guil enquired curiously
"Are you serious?" Roz asked, unsure.
"Was that rhetoric?"
"Statement! Two – all. Game point.
Roz stamped his foot and hurried into other service court, "What's the matter with you today?"
Guil leisurely walked into position. "When?"
"Are you deaf?"
"Am I dead?"
"Yes or no?" Guil asked, walking closer.
"Is there a choice?"
"Is there ever?"
"What do you mean?"
"What does life mean?"
"Foul! No non sequiturs. Three – two, one game all." Roz said enthusiastically.
Guil tramped up to the net, "What side are you on?" He demanded seriously.
"What's your side?"
"I asked you first!" Guil snapped, flustered, walking away from the net.
"Statement! One – love."
Guil spun around, "What's your name?"
"When I'm at home?"
"Is it different when you're at home?"
"Don't you have one?"
"Why do you ask?" Guil asked curiously.
"What are you driving at?" Roz wondered, equally curious.
"What's your name?!" Guil said with more emphasis.
Roz pointed at him, "Repetition! Two – love, match point, to me.
"Who do you think you are?!" Guil shouted over the net.
"Rhetoric!" Roz shouted back with a grin. "Game and match!"
The two Talons paused, a low voice could be heard, and getting louder. They both looked around to see the Dark Ace stride around a corner into the garden before disappearing through a doorway leading back into the building.
Roz and Guil looked at each other then ran to the doorway where he vanished but he was no where in sight. With no other obvious choice, they continued on at a brisk walk.
"Who was that?" Roz questioned his friend.
Guil glanced at him, "Didn't you know him?"
"He didn't know me." Roz replied quietly a little crestfallen.
"He didn't see you." Guil said simply, then more to himself; "I hardly recognized him, he's changed"
"You could see that?"
"How do you know?"
"Inside and out"
There was a pause. "I see." Roz said at last.
"Find the cause!" Guil stopped and faced Roz. The two had exited the narrow hallway and were standing under a covered walkway against the building near a small, partially enclosed orchard.
Roz looked around, "Me?"
"Question and answer." Guil stated.
"He's suffering, afflicted." Roz said, not following.
"You question I'll answer." Guil cleared his throat. "I'm him, go."
"Who am I?" Roz asked, still confused.
"And he's you?"
Guil stared at him, "No."
Roz's expression became concerned, "Are you afflicted?"
Guil smiled encouragingly, "That's the idea!" he said clapping him on the shoulder. "Are you ready?" He asked again.
"Let's go back a bit here." Roz said, even more confused.
"I'm afflicted." Guil explained patiently.
"Glean what afflicts me."
"Question and answer."
"How should I begin?" Roz asked more confidently.
"My dear Guil!" Roz said formally.
Guil inhaled slowly, "I don't think you quite understand." He said with great control, "What we are attempting here is a hypothesis in which I answer for him, while you ask me questions.
Realization dawned. "Ah! Ready?"
"You know what to do?" Guil asked him doubtfully.
Guil gazed at him intently, "Are you stupid?"
"Are you deaf?"
"Did you speak?"
Guil rolled his eyes, realizing what his companion was doing, "Not now –"
"Not! Now!" Guil's shout echoed around them, startling them both. Guil looked back to his friend, "Perhaps he'll come back this way." he said more quietly when he saw the hurt expression on his face and moved into the orchard. Finding a comfortable spot on a bench under one of the apple trees, Guil sat down and stretched out.
Roz, seeming to have brushed off the situation, walked up to another tree and began searching for an apple to pick, finding one he then sat on the bench under the tree. Roz munched thoughtfully on his apple, a look of great confusion and concentration on his face. Guil looked over and noticed the look on his friends face and sat up expectantly, hands clasped on lap, and waited.
The look of confusion cleared from Roz's face, "Oh! You mean you pretend to be him, and I ask you questions!" he said, pleased with himself.
"Very good." Guil said with a dry smile.
"You had me confused." Roz added, standing.
"I could see that."
"So, how should I begin?" Roz said with poise.
"Address me." Guil said, leaning on one elbow and striking a regal pose.
Roz began, "My honoured Lord!"
"My dear fellow! Guil said gallantly
"How are you?"
"Really? In what way?"
"Inside or out?"
"I see." Roz paused, "Not much new there."
Guil jumped up from his seat. "Well go into detail! Dig!
The two Talons turned their attention to the covered walkway; another voice could be heard coming from the doorway.
"He's coming." Guil whispered. A moment later the Dark Ace appeared and began to wander into the orchard.
"What's he doing?" Roz whispered back.
"Talking," Guil watched the Commander carefully. "To himself."
The Dark Ace suddenly changed direction.
"He's coming this way." Roz's voice grew a little worried. "Should we go?"
"Why? We're marked now."
Roz lowered his voice even more as the Commander approached, "I can't for the life of me see how we're going to get into conversation."
Both Talons quickly moved to the side and saluted as he passed.
"Good afternoon Sir!"
"How are you today Sir?"
The Dark Ace simply glared at them as he stormed by, leaving the Talons as he rounded another corner and was gone.
Roz and Guil stood silently, both reluctant to speak.
"I thought you…" Roz started
"No." Guil finished for him.
"Ah." Roz stared at his feet.
Guil gazed at the sky thoughtfully for a moment, "I think that went rather well!" he said, nodding decisively.
Roz stared at him blankly.
When I finally managed to get back onto writing this it was a lot of fun. I ended up watching a couple scenes over again as well as the movie. It's just so funny! There's no way I can accurately describe their facial expressions from the movie. They are priceless. Anyway I think that's it for this, unless I happen to think of a good reason to continue it… open to suggestions. Hope you enjoyed it!