Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 8 and 9

Published August 14, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


Scene: Cliff overlooking the sea (Night)

Queen Theaspe stands at the edge, leaning against a wall and staring sadly at the sea below. Patroclos enters, and approaches her.

Patroclos: Forgive me for interrupting you, but I seem to have gotten lost. Where am I?

The queen chuckles lightly.

Theaspe: This is the cliff where the Earth-shaker devours his own.

Patroclos: What?

Theaspe: There used to be more of the palace here, but an earthquake sent it tumbling down into the sea below. And some years ago, in this very spot, my husband…

She shakes her head.

Theaspe: But I shouldn’t say that. Terrible and unfaithful as he is, he is still my husband.

Patroclos: Unfaithful?

Theaspe: He thinks I can’t see what’s going on, but I know the signs all too well. But what he sees in that intemperate ragamuffin, I’ll never understand!

Patroclos: Ah…is there something I can do to help?

Theaspe: I doubt it. Though in truth, I was thinking more of my poor brother’s fate than my own just now. You really do look precisely like him. If only he had never marched off to war! I’ve always prayed to Eileithuia, begging her not to deliver any sons of my womb, so I won’t have to see them die on the fields of battle.

Patroclos laughs sadly.

Patroclos: That sounds much like what my mother said in begging me not to sail to Troy.

Theaspe: Why are you going? Surely it doesn’t matter to you whether or not the Laconian adulteress is returned? Or did your father move to Laconia when he left Locris?

Patroclos shakes his head.

Patroclos: No, we moved north when I—when my father left Locris for my sake. As I’m sure you know, my father sailed on the Argo along with Jason and his companions, so when we left Locris, my father thought we should seek shelter—a new home—with one of the others who had sailed to Colchis with him.

Theaspe: Then you went to Thessaly?

Patroclos: Yes, to the court of Peleus, in Phthia.

Theaspe: My! That’s certainly an improvement over Opoeis! I’ve heard many a rumor about Peleus’ marriage to the immortal Nereid. How beautiful she’s supposed to be, and how all the gods themselves came to the wedding, and gave their blessings to the couple and their children. Though I’ve heard there’s only the one son, isn’t there?

Patroclos nods. He seems about to speak, but the queen steamrolls over his words.

Theaspe: I’m sure a fine, noble young man like yourself must have instantly become the bosom companion of the young prince.

Patroclos: Sadly, the prince—and his mother—disappeared from the court about a year before our arrival there, so I’ve never met him.

Theaspe: Who leads his troops into this folly of a war, then? Surely Peleus himself is too old for battle?

Patroclos: Older men than the king are sailing with us to Troy. But he’s not going himself, no. He held games to determine who was the best warrior among those who volunteered to go to war, to see who would lead the Myrmidons in the absent prince’s place.

The queen smiles at him.

Theaspe: And you won them?

Patroclos coughs uncomfortably, looking embarrassed.

Patroclos: Most of them, yes. I did lose at archery, but…

Theaspe: That’s surprising. My brother was an excellent archer.

Patroclos: That’s why my mother tried to keep me from learning the use of the bow.

Theaspe laughs.

Theaspe: So typical of her.

Patroclos: I wish the king had let his grandson lead his troops, instead of me. I don’t feel myself worthy of such an honor.

Theaspe: His grandson? But I thought the prince was still but a boy!

Patroclos: I believe he’s still only about eighteen, yes. But Thetis was the king’s second wife. The first gave him only a daughter, and her son is actually a few years older than her currently missing half-brother.

The queen shakes her head.

Theaspe: (to herself) My husband shares Peleus’ ambitions…

Patroclos: What?

Theaspe: What did Peleus do with his old wife when he discarded her for his immortal bride?

Patroclos: His first wife committed suicide many years earlier. It’s rarely talked of, so I don’t know exactly what happened. Some kind of scandal in Iolcos, I think.

Theaspe: Fortunate for her that she didn’t live to see herself replaced.

There is a long pause as Patroclos looks at her uncertainly.

Patroclos: Your majesty, is something….wrong?

Theaspe: Don’t be so formal; we share the same blood, after all!

Patroclos: That isn’t the issue…

Theaspe laughs uncomfortably. They remain in silence until a servant runs up to the queen.

Servant: My queen! Forgive me for intruding!

Theaspe: What is it?

Servant: There’s been a theft from the kitchens.

Theaspe: Is that really any reason for such alarm? If some slave wanted a better class of food for himself, then—

Servant: It wasn’t so much the food as the silver vessel it was in.

Theaspe: Oh? Yes, I suppose we can’t have that.

Patroclos: Is there any way out of the palace?

Servant: Only that way.

He points down the cliff at the sea.

Servant: The gates have been closed for the night.

Patroclos: Then it’s simply a matter of searching the palace until the thief is found. I’ll help with the search. (to the queen) You should probably return to your chambers, where it will be safe. The thief might become violent if he realizes he’s trapped.

The queen nods. Patroclos leaves through one door, and the queen and the servant through another.

Scene: The royal garden (Night)

Deidameia is sitting on the bench, looking pensive. Pyrrha enters, carrying the silver vessel.

Pyrrha: Here, I’ve brought some sweetbreads.

She sets the vessel down beside Deidameia on the bench.

Pyrrha: With extra honey!

Deidameia: You actually convinced them to let you have these?

Pyrrha: What, and have to explain why I wanted them? I just took them when no one was looking.

Deidameia: You stole them?!

Pyrrha: What are you getting so worked up about? It’s just some bread and honey.

Deidameia: I’m not eating stolen food!

Pyrrha: You’re the one who said you were craving something sweet! Besides, what are you talking about ‘stolen’ food for? It all belongs to your father, so it all belongs to you, too.

Deidameia shakes her head, and turns away from the vessel.

Deidameia: I won’t eat it.

Pyrrha sighs.

Pyrrha: Fine, I’ll eat it myself, then.

She sits down on the bench, and takes a piece of bread out of the vessel.

Pyrrha: I had trouble getting to the kitchen unobserved.

She takes a bite of the bread.

Pyrrha: This creepy old man from your father’s court kept hounding me. Either he’s crazy or your father is.

Deidameia: Don’t call my father crazy to my face!

Pyrrha: It might have been the other guy! How should I know? But someone’s insane, that’s obvious. And it’s not me.

She resumes eating, and she’s still in the process as Patroclos enters. He approaches the bench quickly, focused on the vessel. Pyrrha watches him expressionlessly. Deidameia gasps, however.

Deidameia: What are you doing here?! Men aren’t allowed here!

Patroclos stops, and looks at the girls each in turn, as if he hadn’t noticed them before.

Patroclos: I…I’m sorry. I was trying to help the kitchen find the stolen silver…

Pyrrha swallows the bread she was eating, then laughs.

Pyrrha: I was going to bring it back when we finished eating the sweetbreads.

Patroclos: You should have told someone you were taking it. The servants all think some thief made off with it for the silver.

Deidameia: Good luck getting this one to listen to reason!

Pyrrha: I only took them for you!

Patroclos: It’s all right. I’ll explain the misunderstanding.

Pyrrha: It’s their own fault for putting them in silver when pottery would do.

Patroclos: They were probably intended for the banquet, if it hadn’t stopped so abruptly.

Pyrrha: Maybe so.

She takes out another sweetbread, and eats it, looking at Patroclos the whole time. The longer she spends looking at him, the more he starts squirming.

Pyrrha: So, who are you, anyway? You’re not Teukros. Are you from some other noble family in Salamis?

Patroclos: My name is Patroclos. I’m from—well, I live in Phthia now.

Pyrrha: Phthia!

She leaps to her feet, knocking over the silver vessel.

Patroclos: Ah, yes….is that…um…?

Pyrrha: Does Peleus still rule there?

Patroclos: Of course. With wisdom and compassion, as he always has.

Pyrrha: Are you part of the court? Do you know the rest of his family?

Patroclos: My father is part of the court; I’m merely a soldier. As to the king’s family, I know his daughter and her son, but I’ve never met the queen or the prince. They disappeared before my family arrived in Thessaly.

Pyrrha: That’s too bad. I’ve heard rumors about that prince, you know.

Patroclos: Everyone has. I’d love to meet him someday, and find out if any of them are true.

He laughs nervously.

Patroclos: Of course, more importantly, I’d like to return command of his Myrmidons to him.

Pyrrha: Command of—I thought you said you were ‘merely a soldier.’ That’s not a ‘mere’ soldier!

Patroclos: Perhaps not.

Deidameia: Pyrrha, this isn’t a very ladylike topic of conversation.

Pyrrha: So why did the king favor you with command instead of giving it to Menes—to his grandson?

Patroclos: I don’t know. He probably figured that his grandson would be too reluctant to return command if Prince Achilles is found before we sail for Troy.

Pyrrha: Troy? That’s a big trading city in Anatolia, isn’t it? Why are you going to war against a place like that?

Patroclos: It’s complicated, and I’ve never thought it was a very good reason to go to war, so I don’t think I’d be able to give a very good explanation of it. You can ask Aias if you want to know.

Pyrrha: (to herself) I wonder if I could? (to Patroclos) A city like Troy must have a lot of allies. If you can’t take it down quickly, you’ll get swamped with enemies.

Deidameia: Pyrrha! Behave like a lady!

Patroclos: King Agamemnon thinks that Hatti has enough troubles of its own right now, and won’t have any troops to spare to defend its allies. I don’t remember what he said their troubles were; their king might have gone to war against Egypt? (thoughtful pause) No matter what it was, Hatti controls most of Anatolia, so Troy’s allies are hopefully not too numerous at the moment.

Pyrrha frowns.

Pyrrha: I’m tragically out of touch…

Patroclos: Even a queen wouldn’t be expected to know so much about foreign policy. For that matter, a lot of kings wouldn’t even know much more than that.

Pyrrha shakes her head.

Pyrrha: Forget about that. Tell me more about Phthia. Have you been riding along the banks of the Sperchios?

Patroclos nods.

Patroclos: Of course. But the river has always seemed unsettled. Rumor in court is that the river god is angry, because he thinks he won’t get his due sacrifice.

Deidameia: His sacrifice?

Patroclos: Oh, forgive me, my lady! Of course an unmarried maiden wouldn’t know. You see, when a boy is born, his father often consecrates a lock of his hair to a river god, promising that if the river god protects him to manhood, then the lock will be shorn off, and given to the river along with a sacrifice, as an offering of thanks for protecting the young man’s life to that point. It was the River Sperchios who was to receive that lock of hair from Prince Achilles. The river has been riotous ever since the prince disappeared.

Pyrrha: (excited) How does a river run riot? Flooding his banks? Do the waters of the river chase people down and drown them?

Deidameia: Pyrrha!

Patroclos: Nothing so dramatic, my lady. The waters of the river merely churn between the banks. But everyone at court claims that the river was calm and quiet before the prince’s disappearance.

Pyrrha: Have you ever been further from the city? Say, as far as Mt. Pelion?

Patroclos: I’ve only been there the once. When King Agamemnon sent several of his fellow kings to fetch the prince to aid their war, I and a few of the other young warriors were sent to Mt. Pelion to speak to the wise centaur Cheiron, who was once the prince’s tutor, to see if he could offer any advice on where to look for the boy.

Pyrrha: You met Cheiron! What did he say?

Patroclos: He said that he had an idea where the boy was, but that he didn’t want to earn the anger of the boy’s divine mother by telling us.

Pyrrha: I never figured him for such a coward…

Patroclos: Surely it isn’t cowardice to avoid angering a powerful immortal like Thetis.

Pyrrha shrugs.

Deidameia: Centaurs are terrible, evil creatures. A lady shouldn’t discuss them, Pyrrha.

Pyrrha: Mast—Cheiron isn’t like that! He’s different from other centaurs.

Patroclos: I’m surprised you know so much about him, my lady. King Lycomedes said your mother left you in his care, but he didn’t say who your parents are. I take it you’re originally from Thessaly?

Pyrrha clears her throat.

Pyrrha: You could say that. (uncomfortable pause) Cheiron used to teach…someone I know very well.

Patroclos: Your acquaintance, whoever he is, is certainly in honored company. They say that Cheiron trained Asclepios himself, as well as—

Shouting voices are heard from offstage. Patroclos looks in the direction of the sound.

Patroclos: I forgot! They’re searching the whole palace, looking for this.

He stoops, and picks up the silver vessel.

Patroclos: I’d better return it for you, before you get in trouble.

Pyrrha: I’m not afraid of a little trouble.

Deidameia: Pyrrha!

Patroclos: It’s my duty to—no, it’s my pleasure to protect such a pretty girl from anything that might cause her any inconvenience. But I hope we’ll have the chance to speak again sometime.

Pyrrha: I’d like that.

Patroclos smiles, bows, and hurries out with the silver vessel. Deidameia scowls as soon as he’s gone.

Deidameia: It seems you’ve acquired a suitor.

Pyrrha: What? Don’t be stupid. I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that.

Deidameia: I don’t see anything else he could have meant.

Pyrrha: He just wanted to tell me more about Phthia.

Deidameia: Because he hopes to take you back there as his wife!

Pyrrha laughs.

Pyrrha: He’ll be disappointed if he thinks that’s going to happen!

Deidameia: The way you were fawning over him, it’s no surprise he thinks you’re interested in him.

Pyrrha: I wasn’t fawning! Wait, are you jealous? Of a man?

Deidameia gets to her feet.

Deidameia: Of course I’m not jealous!

Pyrrha laughs. Deidameia storms out of the garden.

Pyrrha: Deidameia!

She runs off after Deidameia.

I probably should have cut this off at one scene, but I couldn’t resist posting the meeting between Patroclos and Pyrrha as soon as possible.  Though Pyrrha’s way too transparent…Patroclos has no excuse (apart from the fact that I wrote him to be a bit dense in certain key areas, as are they all (well, they are men in an ancient Greek myth, how could they not be dense?))


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